From The Rack To The Screen

When I was a kid, my cousins collected comics. Jeff had his bagged, boxed and stashed away, with an offer of several thousand dollars on it when the comic market took off. Steph kept hers in a cardboard box under the bed and let me read them. I liked Steph’s collection better, but then she didn’t have to worry so much about her books – she wasn’t a collector.

Her dad owned a pharmacy.

No visit to the pharmacy was complete without a good long look through the big, round rack of comics. Everything from Superman to Spiderman to Archie to Muppet Babies to Scrooge McDuck. My brother even bought Casper sometimes.

Comics were always our treat – our little payment for suffering through a usual mandatory activity (church) before the fun (swimming in the lake) began. My issue of Wonder Woman (which I recently found again) was read until dog-eared, mostly due to the incredible first few pages atop Mount Olympus, where Wonder Woman is being healed in large lagoon by some of the residents. The Muppet Babies was dog-eared, too – it was our favorite Saturday morning cartoon and the comic more than satisfied a midweek jones for our Saturday morning fix. The rack at my uncle’s store managed to survive well into the days of the direct market. It was a little skimpier, but it was there…

…until the Death of Superman came out.

The hype around that comic was undeniable – as a dealer, my uncle had the right to order three copies. He put out a list by the cash register, and asked people who were interested to sign up. The backstabbing, infighting and nastiness began immediately. The pharmacy is in a very small town, but people came from miles around (literally) to sign up on this list… and to cross off other people’s names. My uncle got so fed up that he took the list away and decided not to sell the comics. It was too late to cancel the order, so when they arrived they went into the office safe and stayed there. A few years later, not long before the market dropped out, I heard him talking about how he’d heard the comic was worth upwards of $50 mint. He never sold them, and as far as I know they’re still snug in the store safe, wrapped up in the black bag stamped with the trademark S, pristine.

Comics lost some of their fun for me then – though I kept reading Archie Digests until I realized how much of it consisted of recycled repeats. I stopped reading comics through high school and most of university, until a friend of mine – a self professed geek – sent me a Sluggy strip about spamming Satan, and gave me an issue of Strangers in Paradise to read.

Two months later, I had three times as many bookmarks, an account at the comic book store and a project on comics for a university course.

Old habits die hard.