Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Box O' Marvels

sgGeorge Rears - It seems every comic collector of a certain vintage has a story about how at one point their mother threw out/donated/sold their comic collection. Not me. In fact, I am actually the beneficiary of one of those poor mothers who was probably disowned by their child oh-so-long-ago.

I come from a long line of comic collectors. My sister, who is eleven years older than me, paved the way for us by reading comics as through her pre-teen years. I can just imagine here reading Supergirl stories in the back of Action Comics after bedtime by the light of a flashlight.

My sister did quite well in school, eventually becoming Valedictorian in her high school class, so that when my brother, seven years older than me, picked up the habit, my parents if not actively encouraged reading comics, they did not discourage it. My brother bought books in late 60s and early 70s. His era was the "Kirby is Coming" DC, as Jack Kirby introduced the world to the New Gods. He saw first hand the O’Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow series that introduced relevancy to comics, and the "Amazing New Adventures" of Superman produced by Julius Schwartz.

Sometime in 1973 or early 1974, (my details are sketchy on this, as I have not wanted to bring up painful memories) my Mother accidentally sold all my brother's comics at the military base. Apparently there was some misunderstanding, and only some of the books were to be sold. Regardless when my brother came home from school one day, his collection had been re-booted.

Never wanting to make the same mistake twice, my parents actively supported my comic collecting. Never asking me to sell my books, nor complaining about shipping heavy books around when we moved. In fact, in 1980, my mother went above and beyond the call of duty.

My mother for a long time volunteered with the Officers Wives Club of Fort Dix, which ran a "Thrift Shop". The store featured used items ranging from clothes, furniture, and comic books that soldiers could buy when they arrived on a new base, or sell when leaving. The seller took a share of the proceeds, and the other part of the proceeds was used to fund scholarships. By the late 70s, my mother became the manager, and had an advance look at all the incoming merchandise.

Comics were in a sad state during the late 70s and very early 80s: The DC implosion, Marvel running fill-in issues every third month due to the "Dreaded Deadline Doom", The Human would be a year or so before Shooter's ascension saved Marvel (and DC, for that matter, as defections such as Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, and Roy Thomas helped shaped DC during the 80s).

This is the era where I started buying Marvel books. I had been buying the Avengers and Fantastic Four, along with Captain America and Iron Man sometime in 1978. I didn't quite get Spider-Man, as he was so different from anything I had read as a DC addict. They were OK, probably even better than the DC books I was buying. However, it seemed comics weren’t quite as fun to collect anymore...until I came home from school one day to see a long box full of late sixties Marvels!

In this treasure chest were classic comics...S.H.I.E.L.D by Steranko, Lee and Romita Spider-Man, Kirby Captain America, Colan Daredevil, and Tuska Iron Man...curiously, there were no Lee and Kirby Fantastic Four...

I was never a fan of reprints, but these were back issues! I'd like to think I dove right in and read them all, but I didn't. For days, I would just thumb through the books, looking at the covers. It took me a while to get the courage to actually read them, but when I! The old comic smell, letter pages, goofy advertisements that were probably dated when they first appeared, not to mention the great stories--Marvel Soap Opera. Kirby action. I think these were the books were I actually "got" Marvel.

The collection had many gaps, so as I read each book, I craved to know what would happen next, only to be disappointed to see a three issue jump and all the sub-plots already neatly wrapped up. I knew from reading the current books that Spidey was able to pay the rent, but how did he do it? How? How?

These books helped keep my passion for comics alive until I was reinvigorated by The New Teen Titans a few months later. For that, I have to thank my mother, the woman who actually bought the box of comics, rather than selling mine.

I do feel bad for that kid somewhere, though.


David said...

Maybe it'll ease your conscience a bit to hear that I knew more than one kid who voluntarily gave up their collections, for one reason or other. Easily the most common motivation was "discovering girls," but there were others, like moving on to collecting something else, some insult or other suffered at the hands of a publisher (like rising prices) or, on occasion, just wanting to escape the "dork" label. Let's just imagine that the previous owner of your Box O'Marvels was fine with letting them go. Then everybody's happy.

Except me, 'cause I didn't get 'em.

Fanboy Wife said...

My husband didn't really get into comics until he was an adult, but he still laments the day him mother threw out his Ghostbusters toys.