Friday, March 7, 2008

Peter Byrne - 1940s/1950s

sgPeter Byrne I was thinking of doing a nostalgia piece on "trading comic books." In truth I don't have a nostalgic bone in my head, believing that the only element that makes the past seem attractive to older people is that back then, they were young.

When comics were a dime in the late forties/early fifties, kids in row-house, city neighborhoods would become aware of other kids who were into comics, even if they didn't personally know those kids. Early on a week-night, there might be a knock on your door and a kid you might only by sight would be standing there with a stack of comic books. A simple "wanna trade?" was enough.

The kid would come into your living room and lay his pile down. You would get your pile, and each of you would go through the other guy's pile, picking out the ones you wanted. Each would then count the ones he wanted and whoever had picked out more would discard the least desirable. With that the transaction would be over, often without another word exchanged. Other nights you would be the one walking in the dark to a house on another street to initiate the trades.

Your own "keepers" would always be kept separate and not even put out on display, unless the other kid had something you had to have and that trumped your own "never trades." It was a way to maximize your comic book experiences while not having to plunk down any additional hard-earned dimes.

I mentioned that Wings was favorite of mine as was everything in the EC line, but I also like a couple called Jumbo, Jungle, and a spin off of those called Sheena of the Jungle that featured a shapely, long-tressed blond in leopard skins doing the Tarzan vine thing. Another that came back to me was called Tomahawk, a square-jawed Daniel Boone hero with the expected kid side-kick.

The whole homo-erotic aspects of the sidekick business never entered our minds. But if you look at Red Ryder, he does bear a striking resemblance to Randolph Scott who was outed after his movie career ended. You have to wonder what role Little Beaver really played in that scenario. Coincidentally, the diminutive Mother Superior of our parish school picked up the Little Beaver tag, and among alumni half a century later it still sticks.


Rick said...

I never did too much trading but I did let people borrow them. However, I let one boy that I just met borrow Iron Man #5. I never saw him or the book again. Since that day if I didn't know you well I never let anyone borrow anything. When I started getting movies on VHS I would always make a copy on a blank tape and give them the copy. My trust in human nature was hurt a little the day that, in good faith, I let that boy "borrow" Iron Man and lost it forever.

Larry E said...

Yeah, I lost some Doc Savage paperbacks loaning them out.

Comics trading-2 regulars equal one annual. When the first round of Marvel Mania hit, our neighborhood had a 2 DC=1 Marvel policy that I never bought into.
Some kids would want 2 coverless for 1 with cover. Sometimes to make that last trade, you could throw in an extra Dell or Archie to sweeten the deal, but Harvey was for babies.