Monday, October 22, 2007

Sean Tiffany - 1982

sgSean Tiffany It’s hard for me to remember when comic books first entered my life. I can remember a specific moment when comics captured my attention and imagination and I started collecting them, sure. But, before that, there were instances where I remember knowing about comic books and cartoons and superheroes.

My first cartoon memory was my love of the Flintstones. Every night, before going to bed, I would change the TV to the channel The Flintstones aired on in the morning since I didn’t want to waste a second in finding my favorite cartoon. When the local station cancelled (or moved)The Flintstones, my father tells the tale of how I made him write the TV station a letter with a simple phrase on it, "Free Fred Flintstone!" (I guess I thought someone had imprisoned him or something.)

I know I had knowledge of Superman and an actual comic at one point since I made my grandmother sew me a Superman costume, complete with the cape and the yellow "S" on back. I remember her taking the image of the "S" from a comic where Supes must have been move at super-speed, hence there being multiple Supermen in the same panel.

I read comics as a kid, having them bought for me for those long car treks or plane rides across the country. But, I was never allowed to read super hero comics. It seemed the likes of Spider-Man and Batman were deemed too scary for me(this from parents who pre-screened the first Star Wars before I saw it and thought the cantina scene in Mos Eisley might be too scary for me, and then let me see it anyway.)

Instead of super-heroes, I got books in the vein of Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, and Casper. Nothing too serious but fun nonetheless. It wasn't until I went back in my mind and tried to remember my comic book history that I remembered even having these books. I loved them, but, because they were taboo, I still wanted to see what was happening in the more "adult" and "scary" world of super-heroes.

Unlike most fans, who could easily pop down to the local 7-11 spinner rack and see what new issue of Justice League they could find, I spent, from age four until I was eighteen, growing up on an isolated island off the coast of Maine. It took a twenty-minute ferry ride to get back to civilization. So, I never had those great experiences of spinner racks and trading friends comics that so many people seem to have these days.

That first moment where comics really captured my attention and imagination came, when I was in the fifth grade, and our whole class(maybe twelve of us) were signed up for one of those kid things where you go door to door, bug your neighbors, and sell magazines. If you sold enough subscriptions then you were awarded some prize. Well, somewhere in that catalogue of People and Time magazine was a section for Marvel Comics. Wanting to win a prize, I signed my brother(who was three years younger than me at the the time...not like he's caught up to me in the last thirty years) for two twelve-issue year-long subscriptions to Marvel. I chose Amazing Spider-Man. My brother wanted Spectacular Spider-Man but I wanted Spidey to be all mine so I made him get Captain America.

I can't even remember if I ever got a prize from selling those subscriptions. But, the real gift for me was getting that first issue in the mail. It was Amazing Spider-Man #227 and featured art by John Romita Jr. It had Spidey facing off against the Black Cat on the cover and included bits of story(that I still remember) which referenced Indiana Jones(which I loved) and actually had ol' Spidey getting shot in the leg while trying to protect the Black Cat(a super-hero shot! I’d never seen such a thing!) I loved it.

That twelve issue run included great art and great stories. It had Spidey in a two-parter face off against the Juggernaut all by himself. That story is still one of the best in my memory. Throwing all he had at him, and with no chance of winning, Spidey never gave up. Of course, in the end, he found a way to defeat the Juggernaut and still make it home, beaten and bruised, but with still some photos taken of the event by his trusty belt camera (does he even wear the belt with all his gear on it anymore?)

Thus started my love of continuing comic book stories. Later, at the end of that year long subscription, I was shipped "uptown" to go to middle school(the island school only went until fifth grade and then you were sent to school by boat, every day, until you graduated high school). It was up town(or Portland to you people looking to google map it) that I found my very first comic book specialty store. It was in the basement of a string of shops called The Exchange. As you walked by you could see, down below, some of the newest comics in the window. To my amazement, they had issues of my Spidey subscription in the window even before I had received them in the mail.

So, of course, once my subscription ran out it was easy to just go get my monthly comic fix there. Of course, it didn't remain monthly for long and was soon weekly and maybe even daily. I collected all things Marvel, back when that was possible. I fell in love with comics, with the art and stories and all the possibilities. I was there to see the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come out and see that it was possible to do a comic yourself and get away with it.

I miss those days, miss the island, and miss my travels "uptown" to see what new comic adventures I could find. But, it has set up a habit of, every week, hitting the local comic shop, and seeing what new goodies have come out. It's no where near as magic as it used to be back then but I still get the same rush walking into a store and seeing what new things this world has in store for me.


Doug Slack said...

I've never seen a better Juggernaut story than those two issues. It's also a quintessential Spidey tale- it's got Spidey's determination, his guilt issues and some excellent one-liners.
"Suck an egg, Juggy!"

Anonymous said...

Great story, Sean. I think those of us who grew up within pedalling distance of a spinner rack be it at the local 7-11, druggist, or stationary store, should count our lucky stars. If there was a 20 minute ferry ride between me and a new comic book I probably would have drowned!

rob! said...

having gone with Sean to visit the island once, i can testify that it was an AMAZING place--a wonderfully charming place with a view of the ocean from almost everywhere.

but maybe if i had grown up there as Sean did, it would all get a little old after a while.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but that twenty minutes on the boat and all that time waiting for the boat gave me a lot of free time to sit and read my comics peacefully.

And, it is an AMAZING place...I need to get back there for a visit soon. And Rob, you're invited!