Thursday, March 4, 2010

The 1970's, Comics, and Me

sgMike Mitchell - There are many comic collectors who can tell you the first comic book they ever remember reading. There are some who can rattle off the names of writers and artists who have profoundly changed their way of thinking. There are some who can tell you the number of any issue some big shot comic character appeared in and even on which page they showed up on.

Some collectors are fanatical about their comics, they keep extensive lists, and meticulously sort their comics, still others pay particular attention to the grade and condition of the comics they buy. Some people speculate even on the future worth of comics.

I'm afraid I don't fit into any of these categories... love affair with comics is just as rock solid as that of any other comic fan.

Instead of having strong memories of certain individual comics which served to turn me into a life long fan, I have very deep impressions of comics just being a part of growing up in the 1970's. The town where I lived was a Paper Mill town in Western Maine. We didn't know it then, but we were really quite isolated from the rest of the outside world.

In my town almost all my friends had cardboard super market boxes filled with comics under their beds. We traded comics and often kept them rolled up in our back pockets, our worse yet folded over in lunch boxes. To us there was no value to comics at all.... outside the pure entertainment of them.

I read all comics as a kid, anything that was in reach was consumed and absorbed with equal pleasure. I remember the guys up the block were heavy into DC, their stash was a bunch of Superboy, World's Finest, and Detective Comics.

sgI had an older foster sister who had loads of romance comics that I would swipe in some futile hope of mine that I could better understand the wiles of femininity. My school chums were all over Marvel titles like Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, and Fantastic Four. Another friend had a nice big box of comics like Ripley's Ghost Stories, Magnus Robot Fighter, and Boris Karloff Mystery.

What did I bring to the mix? Well...I had an okay assortment of the above mentioned comic fare, but I was more taken in later years by comic magazines such as Mad, Tales of the Zombie, Eerie, Creepy, and Vampirella.

Yes it's true...I was one of those weird, "black and white kids." While everyone else was ohhing and ahhing about their favorite super-somebody, I was going ga-ga over art by Frazetta, Mort Drucker, and Angelo Torres. I just couldn't get over the intricacy of linework, the essence of expresion, the raw power these and many other talented artists from the B&W crowd could cram into a single panel. Sometimes I would get so lost in the art I would totally forget what the story was about.

sgHowever, it was comics like Howard The Duck, Vampire by Night, and Kirby's 70's run on Captain America that brought me a little back to the spinner rack.

As far back as I can remember I was drawing, usually I found myself drawing comic book characters. Most often these were the three inch tall, wooden knock-offs of the caped crusader variety, floating on an empty page of white. By the time I reached High School however, I began to create my own comics into which I would occasionally insert my friends, and even myself as either heroes, villains, or the occasional mad scientist. I began to have serious aspirations as a comic book artist.

The year I graduated I was accepted to Joe Kubert School of Art, (which at the time was mecca for aspiring comic artists it was the crucible that gave us Steve Bissette, Lee Weeks, and Rick Veitch...just to name a few) unfortunately I was unable to attend, mostly due to financial concerns...and alas my comic artist aspirations then withered, and died.

20 years later however, my dreams of comics were renewed. I attended a small press comics convention in Baltimore around 2004 and was amazed at the work average Joes like me were turning out practically all by themselves. Since then I have gone back into comics full swing. Drawing, collecting, and enjoying comics just like back in the day.

Today I create small press comics, some B&W and others color, that reflect the flavor of comics back when I was a kid,...back in what I think was the very best time to enjoy comics...the 1970's.