Monday, October 29, 2007

A Life in Four Colors (Sidebar)

Ten valuable childhood lessons learned the hard way:

(1) When your comic books get dirty, you can't wash them.
Don't ask me why this seemed like a good idea, but it did... for a brief time. I had a copy of an issue of the Flash that had something dripped on it (probably ice cream, but I don't remember for sure what it was). Anyway, I decided that, if water was good enough for washing dirt off me, then it was good enough to wash dirt off a comic book. I got the book wet, and I actually did succeed in getting the spot off the comic (more or less)--but I then ended up with a soaking wet comic. I put it in the sun to dry, which it did--but I then had a wavy comic book that was about five times as thick as it had been prior to the whole book-washing experience.

(2) Before cutting a coupon from a comic book, check the other side.
I really wanted to join the Supermen of America Club, so I cut the coupon out to mail it in. Problem was, the coupon was on the back side of a story page, and I lost a key panel to the comic. I had three other books with Superman of America Club coupons that had nothing but ads on the back page... but I discovered that a tad too late.

(3) Never believe anyone to whom you trade a comic book on the promise that they will trade it back.
If they didn't want it, they wouldn't have traded to start with. Bobby Ware, I'm talking about you!...

(4) Basing your allowance on the price of comic books is valid only when the price of comic books remains stable.
When I first began talking with Dad about an allowance, I carefully negotiated for a dime a day. That meant one comic book a day. After a while, I noticed that the publishers seemed to be aware of my allowance, because they began running "still only 10¢" blurbs on their covers. Little did I know that "still only" translates to "not much longer only." Suddenly comics went up to 12¢ and I was only able to buy one two comics every three days, with a little left over. Thankfully, Dad was open for renegotiation, and I upped my allowance to 15¢ a day--that was enough for one comic (a total of 13¢ with the one penny tax that kicked in over a dime) and a couple of pennies left over that added up to a nickel ice cream cone every third day.

(5) Scotch tape isn't the all-purpose solution for damaged comics.
Yes, I occasionally tore a comic book cover or interior page. Yes,I tried taping 'em with Scotch tape (and this was in the day before invisible tape when all we had was that glossy stuff). And yes, I discovered that the tape would turn yellowish brown and sometimes would even get gummy after a while. Even worse, removing the tape didn't restore the book to its pre-taped condition...

(6) Comic book publishers don't keep an entire line of back issues on hand for customers like me who missed (or misplaced) an issue.
I figured that, if I was missing a bunch of Batman and Superman books, I'd just buy them from DC. Well, it turned out that DC did have some back issues... but the selection was very spotty, and they actually wanted me to pay postage! Didn't they know that I was a kid who couldn't afford postage?

Marvel was actually more helpful. When some of my early issues of Fantastic Four mysteriously disappeared (only to appear in the collection of a friend), I wrote to Marvel's offices with my sad tale of loss. Not only did Stan Lee personally send me a selection of back issues (they had no FF #1, but they had a perfect copy of FF #2 and some pretty fine copies of almost every other of the first fourteen issues), but he also wrote me a personalized note and didn't even charge me for the comics! He also sent me a list of other books of which they had a few office copies lying around, and he let me order some of them. But even then, they didn't have every issue.

Charlton? They never answered my letter.

(7) Words aren't always pronounced the way you'd expect.
I kept reading about Wonder Woman's unique invisible plane. Of course, I read "unique" as "you-knee-cue." I thought I was quite bright for knowing the word... and of course, I found a way to use it at school soon after. Alas, my teacher was much less impressed with my mispronunciation, and corrected me before the entire class. *sigh* And even worse, she didn't appreciate my childhood attempt at humor when I told her that my pronunciation was a "you-knee-cue" one. (I believe that was my first attempt at semantical humor, and it was a flop.)

(8) Not all comics are created equal.
Even as a child, I could tell that the ACG weird fantasy books were somehow second-rate compared to Marvel and DC. Same for Charlton, even though they did have a few good stories by the same guy who did stuff for Marvel (some Ditko guy).

(9) Don't store your comic books outside.
For some reason that eludes me now, I decided to store several of my comics in a large pine-straw fort I had built in the back yard. I diligently buried 'em in the pine straw... but the next day, they were damp and dewy and even had a bug or two in them. Forget the outdoors--comics are an indoor hobby!

(10) A towel tied around one's neck does not bestow the ability to fly.
How I managed to avoid breaking an arm, a leg, or my neck, I'll never know. I tied that cape on and confidently leapt right off the limb of a large willow tree in my grandmother's back yard, only to plummet to the muddy ground. (That was the only warning that the tree gave me, unfortunately; a couple of years later, I tried to climb that tree sans cape, slipped, and fell to the ground once again... and that time, I broke my arm so badly that the bone projected through the skin just below my right wrist.)

1 comment:

Tredekka said...

I'm really enjoying your comics autoblography. (10) sounds terrifying, while (7) is too funny, because I still vividly remember the moment I was reading a Masters of the Universe mini-comic that came with the toy where I read the word "unique" (which I pronounced You-Nee-Kwuh in my head) and realized--holy cow! That word means "unique"!