Gray Matter


Comic Books and Comic Book Fans

comic bookLet’s get something straight. The word “fan” is short for “fanatic”, but carries a less negative connotation. Being a fanatic isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when it concerns a worthwhile pursuit. Comic book fanatics are no worse than fanatics of anything else that’s culturally significant.

I was once a comic book fan myself, abruptly terminated as such when I was forced to give away the comic books I’d been collecting for years. My family was moving back to the mainland in 1977, to the home my parents still owned. I had a foot locker filled with comic books and my parents refused to ship it, even as airline luggage.

Reading and Collecting Comic Books

I started collecting comic books when I was old enough to read and understand them. That was in the 1960s, and I’m guessing I was around the age of eight. I collected comic books of all sorts. Sometimes one or more of my four brothers would contribute to the cost of buying them. My four sisters never contributed to anything.

I didn’t keep the “unsold” comics that cost me only five cents each at a store called “The Quonset Hut” (a surplus Quonset hut from World War II) in my hometown, but I still bought them for reading enjoyment. An unsold comic was identified with the banner portion of the front cover cut off. Retailers could get refunds from the distributors for unsold comics back then. Now that I think about it, it probably wasn’t legal to sell them that way.

When my family moved to Hawaii, I accidentally found a place that sold comic books. We lived a few miles from downtown Kapaa, and traveled through that area all the time. We stopped to get soft drinks one time and that was it. I made sure my mother took me to that store at least once a month. Comic books weren’t expensive back then. If I remember correctly, they were 30 cents each in 1977.

The Entertainment Value

While comic books have always been culturally significant, having been introduced in 1933, me and my brothers (and sometimes even my father) read them solely for the entertainment value. My brothers and I preferred superhero comics and my father preferred soldier stories. One of my sisters (now deceased) liked comedic comic books published by Harvey Comics. One other sister liked Archie Comics.

I only bought Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Where all the other comic books came from, I don’t know. I have no recollection of who bought them or where they bought them. Regardless, I read them when I had nothing else to read. I didn’t have a lot of entertainment alternatives in the 1960s and 1970s.

We were lucky to have 10 television stations to choose from in Arizona (due to our proximity between Phoenix and Tucson). Two were PBS stations and one was a Spanish language station. If I remember correctly, we had a whopping two television stations to choose from in Hawaii. I didn’t experience cable TV until I was in the military, and that was in 1980, two years after I joined.

Despite whatever entertainment options I had back then, I spent most of my time outdoors. Until I was grown, I really didn’t know what it was like to spend more than a couple of hours indoors without sleeping.

The Monetary Value

Every time I read a news article about some comic book being sold for some astronomical amount, I mentally kick myself. It seems like every other time, it involves a comic book I had at one time. When I was collecting those comic books, I had no idea they would be as valuable as they are today.

I had the first issue of many comic books, for superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman. When I was in Hawaii, I spent considerable time trading comic books with other neighborhood teenagers (we were all high school students) until I had up-to-date collections. As I mentioned earlier, I was forced to give them all up when we left Hawaii. I was just telling my older son about it and how he was born just three years after that. He’s 40 now.

Digital Comic Books Online

I’m aware of two sources of digital comic books online. One is Marvel, and the other is DC Universe Infinite. Both are available by subscription. If I’m correct, you can only view them online. The comiXology company allows you to buy individual comic books for viewing on any device. I’m not aware of any place where you can legally download them, other than moldy oldies at the Digital Comic Museum.

My attention span is not what it used to be. I’m afraid I’ll never read comic books ever again, unless someone throws one down in front of me while I’m sitting at a table.

Marjory Collins, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Author: RT Cunningham
Date: June 11, 2021 (UTC)
Categories: Culture, Entertainment

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