Comic Relief

It began with a battle between Spider-Man and the Juggernaut.

Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1. Issue 230. Late spring 1982.

I was seven-and-a-half, sick with some virus or other. I begged to get out of the house for a few minutes, and Mom agreed to let me go with her to the Waterville Market – back then it was called Reggie’s – to stock up on more Ginger Ale and Jell-O to treat my ailment. While she shopped, I combed through the magazine rack for something to read.

Where it all began.

And there it was. My first comic. I’ve been thankful for them ever since.

It wasn’t an instant addiction, but I’d pick up others here and there over the next seven years. Then the first Tim Burton Batman movie hit, and I was all in. At least as far as Batman was concerned.

Leading up to June 23, 1989, merchandise for the film was everywhere. I’d been reading about a more realistic take on superheroes that was trending in comics, and on a shopping trip to Morrisville, I found Frank Miller’s instance classic, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, at Kinney Drugs of all places. It blew my mind, seeing the Caped Crusader I knew from the Adam West TV series portrayed as a grim avenger on the verge of a psychotic episode. I loved it. I still have that copy of the graphic novel, and I’ve read it pretty close to annually since I bought it.

In 1993, for whatever reason these sorts of things happen, my interest in comics went from casual interest to intense hobby. 

I bought new releases each week, figuring out what sort of genres I enjoyed most. I developed a familiarity with the blending of words and art, determined what worked and what didn’t. Became aware of the actions taking place between the panels. Learned about creators and who had what sort of storytelling skills.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve grown quite a collection, and I can associate pretty much every individual issue, trade paperback (TPB), and original graphic novel (OGN) with a time and place. Maybe where I bought it. Who I was with. Something going on in my life. I remember the last comic I read before I became a father, as well as the first after I held my first child. 

Comics have guided me through growing up, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, deep depression and extreme anxiety, getting remarried, and experiencing middle age. 

My relationship with the medium is very similar to the one I have with music. I read them based on my mood. They change my mood. They make me smile sometimes, and at others, they make me cry. I go on as deep and rich a journey reading Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s Daytripper as I do listening to Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. And I have as much shallow, pop fun reading the ridiculous Spider-Clone Saga as I do listening to the Spice Girls sing Wannabe.

For the past few years, I’ve stepped back from the weekly grind of collecting comics, shifting to building a more curated collection of TPBs and OGNs as the industry has also shifted to pretty much collecting everything that’s ever been or will be released.

I can and will go on about comic books at greater length at some point, but not right now. Thanksgiving is three days away, and I need to sort out my menu and figure out my cooking and baking plans. Plus, those comics aren’t going to read themselves.

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