I still remember my first comic book. I think I was five or six years old. My grandparents came to visit from Nebraska and when it was time for them to leave my Dad got up early to take them to the train station. He got back about the time I was getting up, and he handed me a stack of wondrous, colorful magazines the likes of which I’d never seen. Now, I’d learned to read sitting on Dad’s lap, reading the funnies in the paper, so I quickly learned how these books worked.
They blew my little mind.
I only really remember one of them, a copy of Robert Kanigher’s The Losers. I remember staring at the Joe Kubert cover, just tripping out on the detail. Then, there was the story. I don’t remember that specific tale, but DC put out some great WWII comics. In addition to The Losers, there was The Haunted Tank, The Unknown Soldier, and perhaps the best of them all, Sgt. Rock. These were all so long ago, all I remember are the characters, but they were fine characters indeed.
Based on that foundation, I began my long career of loving and reading comics. It lasted throughout my life. My first job was sweeping out a comic book shop. I got paid one dollar, which I quickly converted into whatever issue of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos or The Amazing Spiderman came out that week. I got older, got better-paying jobs, and bought more comics. The war comics faded away, replaced by sci-fi and superhero titles. Spiderman got joined by The Avengers, The X-Men and others.
This went on well into my adult years. It would still be going on today, if not for something terrible. Something so monstrous that it killed my desire to read comics any more.
DC killed Superman.
Now, I was never a big fan of Supes. I’d pick up a copy from time to time, but it never really hit with me. He was too powerful for my taste. I like my heroes scarred. The worst Superman ever got was a torn costume. Sure, maybe the bad guy would manage to get his hands on some kryptonite, but that always seemed like a dodge. But, when DC announced they were killing off this character, I added the title to my buy list, just to see how they did it.
If you’re not familiar with the storyline, here’s a video explaining it. I’ll warn you, the guy’s a millennial, and as such, can’t form a sentence without dropping the F-bomb, but if you can get past that, the video’s pretty good.
So, up through the main event, it was a good story. Superman was finally up against a villain who was up to the task. There are problems, but let’s face it, it’s a comic. It’s best not to think about it too hard.
What killed it for me was what happened outside the comic. At the time, I was living in Torrance, and The Comic Vendor was my second home. I was there every week. I was single, pretty much undateable, and made pretty good bread back then, so I probably dropped about $1-200 a week at that place. But, when the final chapter in the story came out, the black covered issue #75. I added it to my stack and went to the register.
The store wanted $125 for it.
Now, I was used to how they jack up the price on a comic later on when it turns out to be popular, but this was on release day. How could this be? I argued with the clerk and later the manager. They knew I was a regular and eventually relented and gave it to me for cover price, but I left feeling like a chump anyway.
I continued reading comics for a few months, but the feeling didn’t go away. When DC inevitably brought Superman back to life, I wasn’t surprised. I saw it coming.
The whole industry was becoming about collecting. Foil covers. Card inserts. Big, overarching storylines that required you to read every title in the catalog to follow.
So, I gave up.
To this day, I miss my comic book fix. The urge is still there, unquenched. I have a Comixology account. Occasionally, something will be on sale and I’ll pick it up. But, it’s not like before. Everything’s a movie or TV show tie-in. There are so many Spiderman titles out there, I don’t even know where to start. DC just rebooted their universe for, what, the third time now? It just feels wretched. I don’t want to submit myself to the con again.