Friday, February 21, 2014

I’m a Comic Nerd, and I’m Okay

I have issues.  Lots and lots of issues. 

You don’t typically have to be around me for very long before you learn a few key things: 1) I’m vision impaired, which leads to many comical situations like slipping off curbs into traffic and stumbling over small children, 2) I have Musical Tourette Syndrome which causes me to spontaneously burst into song- often crass, inappropriate parodies replacing the word “you” with “pooh,” and 3) I am an incurable and unrepentant four-color funny-book fanboy!  Yes, comic books and the convoluted lives of mutated, radioactively-enhanced or otherwise empowered fictional people consume an inordinate amount of my time and energy.   And unless you have several hours to spare, I’d recommend AGAINST casually asking me about things like ‘The Clone Saga,” the Summers/Grey Family Tree, the pros/cons of DC’s New 52 relaunch, or whether or not I think CCI has become a whoring ground for the film/TV studios and a Mecca for wanna-be-seen posers who don’t READ or COLLECT comics and who likely don’t know the difference between cosplay and the Cosmic Cube.

ROM Spaceknight #9
It started innocently enough; when I was just six years old my aunt handed me and my cousin each a diabetic nightmare pile of candy and a comic book for Halloween.  I got “ROM Spaceknight” #9 and my cousin got some issue featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost and Spooky.  I remember being peeved because I was ACTUALLY DRESSED UP AS CASPER that year while my cousin was a break-dancer, or terrorist, or something, and he wouldn’t trade me!  I remember liking the story even though it was a little scary and I wasn’t at all familiar with ROM at the time.  I did know about some other DC and Marvel superheroes- thanks mainly to Saturday morning cartoons and Underoos commercials, but it wasn’t until I read that issue and saw all the house ads that I discovered there were so many other titles and characters and that most of them inhabited a shared comic book universe.  Also, I learned that like me, the Incredible Hulk had a hankering for Hostess Fruit Pies and that he was liable to thrash any roller disco hooligans who might prevent him and any similarly oppressed children from obtaining their real fruit filling and great crust.

Over the next few years I would mostly read from the rack, occasionally purchasing an issue of “Iron Man” or “Amazing Spider-Man” as my paltry allowance would allow.  I remember finding a 3 issue multi-pack of the “Star Wars” ongoing (#25-27) at a local toy shop and obnoxiously begging my parents to buy it for me until they caved.  I read the issues I did own a lot; they did NOT remain NM, that’s for sure. 

Wolverine #12
It wasn’t until a few years later that the comic collecting (amassing?) bug really bit me.  I was older, had steady “junior-high-appropriate-job” income and could get around town by myself to the sordid locations where purveyors of mind corruption set up shop.  On one such occasion, some friends and I had biked downtown and we found ourselves parked in front of the recently relocated and re-opened (only) comic shop in Idaho Falls.  We ducked in and started looking around.  I was stunned to find even more tomes that I’d never heard of- far more than the couple dozen titles and handful of publishers’ offerings I was used to seeing on the spinner rack at Waldenbooks or the magazine section of Smith’s Food King.  Glancing ‘round the shelves I came across a number of newly launched Marvel books that were being printed on a glossier paper stock which appealed to me quite a bit at the time.  My eye was immediately drawn to the cover of “Wolverine” (Vol. 2) #12 which I thumbed through and bought, despite its being part 2 of an in-progress story arc and having no real idea who Wolverine even was.  I started picking up titles like “Marc Spector: Moon Knight,” “Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme,” “Excalibur” and “The Punisher War Journal” and before long I was scrambling for back issues to complete not only my fledgling runs, but diverse volumes spanning the Modern, Bronze and Silver Age.  I’ve been reading/collecting ever since.

So yeah, I’m mostly a Marvel guy, but I have read a LOT of DC over the years as well; some favorites being Robinson’s “Starman,” Gaiman’s “Sandman,” David’s “Young Justice,” Abnett & Lanning's "Resurrection Man," Marz’s “Green Lantern” and Goyer and Johns’ “JSA.”  However, I have an aversion to ultimately unsatisfying, redundant crises and DC’s tendency to conveniently shed its continuity, so I pick up very little from them these days.  I’ve read a fair amount of Image and Dark Horse, and a variety of smaller independent titles, but I’ve been burned by inconsistent publishing schedules in the past and would rather trade-wait for proven properties rather than be strung along issue by unpredictably forthcoming issue. 

Over the decades I’ve resorted to all the things you might expect in order to support my habit and ensure that the titles I crave make it into my hot little hands: mail-order subscriptions, pull lists, back-issue bin diving, eBay, etc.  For a time, I even used to help out at my LCS in exchange for store credit after getting off work from my “real” job at Disney.  I currently get my books through Discount Comic Book Service ( – check them out!) and it’s always a happy day when my monthly stash arrives.  Sure I miss gathering together each Wednesday with my fellow nerds down at the LCS for new book day, but since I don’t drive, front door delivery is my preferred solution.  Plus, you can’t beat the discounted prices!  The only drawback is that once my books show up everything else stops; household chores go unfinished, productivity levels diminish, I neglect my family…

“But, Brett,” you ask, “If you are legally blind, how do you read your comics?”
I use magnifiers, primarily, a photography loupe that I liberated from my dad’s darkroom years ago.  Sure, I have to lie on my stomach on the floor in a sunny spot, but most word balloons and captions fit snugly inside the field of view. 

“What about digital comics?  Couldn’t you use your giant screen ‘blind-man phone’ or a tablet?”
I have read some free digital comics by this method.   It’s nice to look at for the art, but I find that in order to actually read the text I have to continually fiddle with the size and position and it’s just easier to read a hard copy. 

“Can’t your wife just read them to you using different voices for each character and acting them out in dramatic fashion?”
We tried that once.  Never again.

“Do you ever close your eyes and pretend you are Daredevil or Dr. Mid-Nite?”
No. Moving on.

These are exciting times for comic nerds!  Never before has our hobby received so much mainstream attention.  Movies, TV shows, video games, toys and myriad licensed products are found just about everywhere you turn- and much of it is tolerably good!  Wow, even the PUBLISHING side of the equation seems to be benefiting from the exposure of the properties it originally spawned!  New titles, imprints and editorial initiatives, along with big story events and the celebration of character anniversaries all offer new and longtime readers some exciting choices.  Up on the rack, there is truly something for everyone.

Obviously, I love comics.  I relish reading, collecting, discussing, debating and even arguing about pretty much anything relating to the medium.  Since I don’t get down to the LCS very often to mingle with my peeps, I’m hoping this blog will provide a forum for interaction amongst like-minded (or not) souls.  Each month I will list what I got around to reading along with any pertinent praise or criticism.  I’ll also be posting about my opinions on current comic-related trends, news and rumors.  Don’t worry, there’ll be lots of complaining- ‘cause that’s what us REAL fanboys do! 

Man, I could totally go for a Hostess Fruit Pie right about now.  How about you, Hulk?

            Me too, big too.


  1. Great Post! One thing I am looking forward to with this new job I took is having 4 uninterrupted hours a week (I'll be flying) for uninterrupted comic book reading. And I plan to come here to discuss them.

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  3. I cannot tell you how much I love this post!! Who doesn't love an origin story, especially the birth of a comic collector. This totally takes me back. I loved heading to the spinner rack whenever we were getting groceries, flipping through the lastest issue of ASM, Punisher War Journal and Wolverine. It's so funny because I was also the same with paper stock. When some comics started printing in the glossier format the ooooohs, aaaaahs and eventual paper snobbery overtook me.

    Even though I watched the old spider-man cartoons especially Spider-man and his Amazing Friends, it wasn't until Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles that I started collecting. When I found out TMNT was originally a comic, I started trying to find issues either the original or the animated series and then got into ASM, Punisher War Journal and X-Men.

    Seriously, excellent post man. It was really fun an entertaining. Keep it up!! Also, whenever you have a chance, could you please explain what sets apart a break-dancer from a terrorist? I still have difficulty differentiating between the two. Looking forward to the next entry!!

    1. In the 80s, I think the only distinguishing difference between a break-dancer and a terrorist was hygiene; terrorists tended to bathe more frequently and wore deodorant.

  4. This was great fun to read. All of us who enjoy comics have our own origins stories, right? I think a lot of them must involve an unknowing parent or relative who innocently handed a comic or two to someone with a young, impressionable mind. Little did they know...

    I can't help but notice that Hellboy was not listed among your preferred titles. I just got into Mignola's trades this last year. Are you a Hellboy fanboy?

    1. Seriously...comics can really suck you in. I have some early Hellboy TPBs but very few issues. In fact, I think the only ones I still own are from the crossover mini with Starman and Batman.