Friday, August 26, 2005

My Love Affair with Comics

I figured I'd give some background since I'm a bit behind in my comic book reading and don't ave anything to review right now.

My earliest memories of reading comics is from when I was 7. That was uh, *cough cough* 45 years ago. The dentist had them in his waiting room. And my parents bought me some and I saved up my allowance and bought more. They were 10 cents for a short while, then 12 cents. When they went to 15 cents, then 25 cents, they started to become a real expense, but my allowance kept up well enough. I'd buy them in a drugstore that sold candy and toys and magazines. We weren't allowed to skim them. "No reading!" the man at the counter kept telling me, but how would I know if I wanted them if I didn't peek inside?

I loved cartoons and comic strips, too. The Long Island Press was a newspaper the size of the NY Times and it had two full pages of comics. When it folded in the early-70s, some of its comics went to the NY Daily News. Between the Daily News and Newsday, I had plenty of comics to read.

I traced the cartoons in my father's books (books from the '30s and '40s which he finally let me have a number of years ago) and then, I started copying them freehand. They were collections by Charles Addams and Whitney Darrow, Jr. and Peter Arno, among others. If it was graphic art, I loved it.

In the '70s, with my comic book purchases up to 20 per month, I discovered comic book stores and comicons. Back then, NY had the Phil Seuling Comic Arts Convention and one year, DC Comics threw a birthday bash for Superman. That was fun. I started reading zines and semi-slick mags about comics and related media. The Comic Reader. The Menomonee Falls Gazette. The Monster Times. Amazing Heroes. I discovered wonderful characters like Modesty Blaise.

I read DC Comics mostly. Back when I was a kid, the whole Batman and Superman lines were it for me. I adored Lois Lane, a human woman I could become. I loved Supergirl, who was only a few years older than I was. I adored the other teen characters. The Legion of Super-Heroes. The Teen Titans. Dick "Robin/Nightwing" Grayson and Roy "Speedy/Arsenal" Harper became lust objects along with flesh and blood characters on TV like David McCallum/Illya Kuryakin.

My collection grew. I added most of the rest of DC's line, including the anthology series House of Secrets and House of Mystery. I read a lot of short runs like Sheena and Ragman. It wasn't just superheroes for me, anymore. I added Marvel titles to the mix. Howard the Duck. War of the Worlds/Killraven. Man-Thing (which never could outdo DC's Swamp Thing). Spiderwoman. I was buying a minimum of 30 comics a month.

And then, as often happens in love affairs, things soured between us. Crisis on Infinite Earths happened. When Supergirl was killed, I quit. Not cold turkey, though. I just couldn't. So I kept reading Titans for 6 more years, until finally, annoyed with the book beyond belief, I gave up that, too. Up to then, I'd had a few LoCs printed. My farewell letter to Titans was the last one printed. And for 5 or 6 years, I was comic free.

Until I fell off the wagon. I got curious. I'd started reading about all the new artists and exciting thing going on in comics. I read about graphic novels and new comic book companies. So I ventured back into a comic book store and took a look. I started with a non-DC book, Witchblade. Then I saw a new Nightwing mini-series, then an Arsenal one-shot and I still adored those characters, so I bought and read those. Next came the Arsenal mini-series and before I knew it, I was hooked again.

I'm not sure what will happen with my comics reading after DC's new Crisis. I've spent most of the last decade tryng to ignore all the changes from the Crisis of 1985 that I didn't like, mainly the end of the multiverse and the new Supergirl who had nothing to do with the original. Now, a version of Kara Supergirl is back and things are looking up. I'll give the new Crisis a try. I'll buy 52 and will continue with the books and characters I'm reading now. I won't buy all the related comics for characters I'm not reading. That means no Superman, no Batman, no Wonder Woman. I'll have to manage without them. How many DC Comics I keep reading after February will depend on DC.

I admire their daring. As a writer who hopes to be a pro someday, I can appreciate the creative leaps they're making, the risks their taking, the excitement they're generating for themselves and the readers. I don't have to like the results, but I have to applaud them for taking the chance.


  1. Anonymous10:01 PM EDT

    Always cool to hear people's comic book "origins":):)

  2. Hi, H,

    You ever post yours? :)