Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

sg 1983 - I've had this story rattling around in my head for a long time, and never got it down. Since today is Father's Day, I figured now was the perfect time.

A few years after moving to New Jersey in 1979, my comic book buying choices expanded exponentially when I discovered my first comic book specialty store--El Dorado, located just a few miles from my house.

Having subsisted off the vagaries of newsstand distribution before then, finding a whole store devoted to comics was like manna from heaven. I begged my parents as much as they could stand (and then past that) to take me there.

Unfortunately, not too long after I discovered the store, it closed down. Luckily, just before I was sent back to the sad spinner racks of my local 7-11s, I came across another store--Comic Crypt, located in Oaklyn, NJ, which was considerably further away (a 20 min. drive compared to the 5 min. one for El Dorado), but it was an even better store--more back issues, more new titles, more everything.

One of the titles I discovered via a comic book store was Marvel Fanfare, a direct sales-only "experiment" which featured the top creators of the day in a book that had no ads, and was printed on glossy, high-quality paper. The book cost $1.50 (horrors!) compared to the standard 60 cent comic of the day.

I loved Marvel Fanfare--the different creators and characters, editor Al Milgrom's sense that this book was a personal mission for him--I never missed an issue and I had managed to find the ones published before I discovered the book, except...#2.

Marvel Fanfare was one of those titles that most retailers didn't think would sell that well, so after ordering the standard amount for a first issue, they cut their orders for #2, since there's usually a big drop off in sales after the first.

But Marvel Fanfare sold well right off the bat, making #2 nearly impossible to find. As the series wore on, and I bought issue after issue, #2 still eluded me. To a twelve year old comic book collector, having the complete series was nearly as essential as Life Itself. The missing second issue nagged at me like the Tell-Tale Heart, instead the sound came from my long box, not the floorboards.

Then, one night, after making my Dad drag me to Comic Crypt one night, I was wandering the store, looking to spend every cent of the measly couple of bucks I had in my pre-wallet-days pocket.

Just before I left, I checked the Marvel Fanfare back issues, expecting to find nothing...and of course, there it was. Marvel Fanfare #2. Hark, the angels sing!

Unfortunately, it was stickered with a price tag of $6.00. Which meant, if I wanted to get it, I would've had to put back every other book in my hand. That was too tough a hill to climb, so I put the book back.

I walked out of the store, looking more dejected than I normally do when leaving a comic book store. I climbed into the back seat, and my Dad asked me something. I guess he noticed my mumbled, oh woe is me answer, and he asked me what was wrong.

I then told him The Tale of The Unpurchased Comic: A Tragedy in Two Parts. At that age, I just this side of being too young to try and angle for things, at least as consciously as I would later on. I was genuinely sad, figuring the book would be bought by someone else before I ever had the money to get it myself.

"How much is it?", my Dad asked.

"Six dollars," I said, as if that was the sum total of Croesus' fortune.

My Dad paused, then reached into his wallet, handed me the money, and said "Go get it."

I bounded into the store, the six dollars actually burning its way through my hand. I went in, bought the book, and walked out, feeling like a Big Time Spender.

I thanked my Dad profusely, and spent the rest of the ride home diving into its pages, lost in the tale of Spider-Man and the X-Men trapped in the wilds of the Savage Land. It was the Best Comic Book Ever, at least for those 20 minutes.

I'm sure there were many moments in my Dad's life where he metaphorically scratched his head, wondering who this kid of his was. I could care less about sports, and his attempts to play catch with me were met with grudging acceptance, and all the enthusiasm you'd have for an IRS audit. But hand me a pile of comics and I simply was in my element.

I guess, as a parent, you hope there are moments you have with your kids where you get to show them how much you love them, and they recognize that.

I'm sure my Dad would've never have guessed one of those moments would come sitting in a darkened car in Oaklyn, NJ, outside of a comic book store. But there you go.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. And thanks for the six bucks.


Anonymous said...

Great story, Rob - thanks for sharing it.

A truly blessed Father's Day to those of you who are Dads, and those who, as we say in our prayer at church, "give fatherly care."

-Craig Wichman

Anonymous said...

You made me tear up, Rob. I have similar memories with my dad...especially the "metaphorically scratched his head, wondering who this kid was" part. My dad never "got" me, but he did love me, and helped me get lots of comics and super-hero loot. I think I'll go call him right now. Thanks, Rob.

Anonymous said...

Great story, Rob. Add my dad to the list of those who supported his child's comic book collecting without really understanding it. Oh, he read some comics as a kid but my all-consuming mania went way beyond his fleeting interest.

Luis said...

What are you trying to do to me Rob? *sniff*sniff* That story really hit home. Thanks for sharing it.

Swinebread said...

sorry I'm late to respond, but that was wonderful story about your father and comics.

It's funny because I had gotten into comics hardcore about that same time but hadn't realized that there places like comic book stores yet. Once I did I was floored by the prices of the back issues but I have a lot great memories of my Dad taking me to the comic store when I did fine out about them.

Joseph Brian Scott said...

That story deserves to be re-run every year, like a Rankin-Bass holiday special!

Long before I learned how to myself, I would sit in my Dad's lap and he would read comic books to me. I suspect that may just have something to do with why I still buy them, though at my age it's no where near "seemly." Happy Father's Day.

rob! said...

That story deserves to be re-run every year, like a Rankin-Bass holiday special!

Quite possibly the greatest compliment I have ever received.