Friday, October 26, 2007

A Life in Four Colors (Part Six)

Oddly enough, I don't remember the very first time I met David Lynch; we were in school together at Garden Lakes Elementary, so we were acquainted with each other before we became friends. David and I were both in Mrs. Solomon's class--she was an amazing teacher, compassionate and motivational and enthusiastic and wise, and I was lucky enough to have her as my first and my third-grade teacher--but because we sat alphabetically, we didn't sit close enough to actually talk to one another. We played in the same groups at recess, but I don't remember the names of the kids I played with at recess because that was pretty much every kid in my class... recess was the great equalizer in that regard.

(The only other child from my Garden Lakes class whose name I remember was a boy named Boris. Yes, I actually went to school with a child named Boris... and yes, he was bad enough. Boris was constantly in trouble--and not the sort of trouble that kids usually get into. This was a kid who had a reputation as a thief, a vandal, and an "ambusher"--the name we gave to kids who fought by sneaking up behind someone and hitting them from behind with a book or some other object, then running. Boris was only with us for a couple of years, though; there were rumors that Boris was responsible for putting dangerous objects on the railroad tracks near the school--some said it was unused railroad ties from a storage area near the tracks, others said it was a steel rod--and one day some ominous-looking strangers showed up with the principal, who called Boris out of class. We never saw Boris again after that...)

What brought David to my attention was a comic book he was reading at recess. I couldn't help but notice, in fact--it was a stunning book that depicted the Justice League in the depths of space, rowing a boat at the command of a strange pink alien. Who could resist such a cover? Even though I didn't know David, I had to ask him, "where'd you get that comic?" I had never seen Justice League of America #3 before that day, but I had to have a copy.

(How did I miss that book? Well, that was simple: finding every issue of a comic book in the early 1960's was almost an impossible task. There were no comic shops at this time, so we had to rely on drugstores, grocery stores, and convenience stores for our comics. These stores were serviced by rack jobbers who saw their primary duty as filling the racks on each trip. Some stores got their comics every week, some got them every other week, some got them every month. Rack jobbers had a color code that allowed them to look for the "pull color of the week"--for instance, all books with a red ink stripe on the top edge--and remove those books, replacing them with that week's color. For weekly stores, red would be replaced with red, for instance; the code was more complicated for biweekly and monthly stores. Since comics were a low-budget item, little time was put into ensuring a full title representation; the rack jobber would just fill up the racks with new comics. This meant that Garden Lakes Pharmacy might have comics that Conn's Grocery never received, and Candler's Drugs might have comics that neither of them had, and the EZ Shop, with their once a month delivery, often had books that were older, meaning you might find stuff you had missed the month before. Being a comic book collector required a lot of trading, ideally with people who shopped at different stores than you did...)

David had finished the comic, and he was willing to trade; we made arrangements to meet during the weekend. David lived at the other end of Garden Lakes from me--too far away to walk, since my parents wouldn't let me hike more than two miles to the west side of the big lake. We both made plans, and then we each begged our parents to let us get together. My parents agreed to take me to David's house that Saturday, and I sorted out my trade stack in preparation for the trip. David promised to hold that Justice League of America for me--and he was true to his word.

Oh, what a glorious trip it was... David and I shopped in totally different places, and some of his books even came from distant lands like Alabama, where his grandparents lived. There were books I had never seen, including several IW horror comics reprints that intrigued me... and a Steve Ditko Space Adventures with Captain Atom. I didn't know Ditko by name, but I could tell that the book was drawn by the same artist who drew some of the weird fantasy tales I loved so much in the pages of Strange Tales and Tales to Astonish.

We were kindred souls from the very start; each of us enjoyed the same sort of comics (my taste was centering more and more on superhero and fantasy/SF comics, as was David's), and we could spend hours recounting plotlines of favorite stories from books we no longer had, often embellishing them to make them sound even more exciting. Within weeks, we were making arrangements with our parents to spend the night at one another's homes--David at my house one week, me at David's house the next. And of course, comics were always a focal point of our get-together.

My friendship with David would last for years--and for the first time, I had found a comic book buddy who was such a kindred spirit that we remained friends even when both of us moved from Garden Lakes a couple of years later...

1 comment:

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Ah ha. That rack jobber thing explains a lot. I always wondered why different stores had different comics. Blair's Food Town, the only supermarket in Canton was the best place for comics in the 1970s. They had the widest selection of comics and they never seemed to send anything back. If you suddenly discovered a new (to you) comic, as I did with Jack Kirby's Kamandi, you could usually find two or three previous issues by a careful search through the rack. Blair's also got the Marvel Black and White Magazines lie Savage Sword of Conan and the Marvel and DC over sized Treasure Editions.
There were three Drug Stores in downtown and Canton and all of them carried a smattering of comics, but none a wide selection. Later there were two convenience stores in Canton with comics racks and an Eckerd's with a good selection. In the days before I could drive I drove my parents and grandparents crazy getting them to take me around to the various places that sold comics.