The fan boy in me was born when I was 10 years old. That’s when I started going to the local 7/11 store and spending any money my parents gave me on comic books. That’s when I learned how to escape into another world where men could fly, women were warriors and strange beings from other worlds could invade and conquer if not for the heroes.
My father just could not get into my new hobby. He was a sports kind of guy who couldn’t understand what his only son saw in these books of fantasy. Understand, also, that being 10 in 1976 meant your fun was limited if you didn’t go outside to play. We didn’t have cable TV to watch for countless hours with multiple stations that played 24 hours a day. We didn’t have internet, Wii, Xbox, Playstation, Facebook, Myspace or cell phones to text our friends. We played outside; all day. However, there were often times when my friends were outside I was in my room engrossed in a comic.
At first I would get random comics. I would get books if the cover looked interesting and not even worry if I was following the storyline. Then as time went on I would start to purposely read certain books and follow consecutive issues. I would start to follow certain characters even if they made guest appearances in other books. By the time I was about 14 or 15, I had the start of a good collection. I had boxes of books in my room that were in individually placed in plastic covers in alphabetical order and posters all over my walls. At about 16, my grandfather helped me make a wooden case that would hold about 1,400 comics. I would start collecting for certain writers and artist. I was very proud of my collection. Dad still didn’t get it.
My father had a childhood friend that he remained close to in adulthood who happen to be a very popular teacher and coach in the Philadelphia area. When my father complained to him about what he thought was an obsessive hobby, his friend, Mr. E, looked at him with pause.
“Is he reading?” Mr. E said.
“Yeah”, my father said.
“How is he scoring on comprehension in school?”, Mr. E inquired.
“Yeah, he does good in literacy and comprehension in school”, my father answered.
“I don’t see what your problem is. I have kids I teach that don’t read half that much. As long as he’s reading you really don’t have a problem”, Mr. E said.
This conversation gave my father something to think about. What he failed to realize is that I was reading. He was thinking comics as something very remedial and childish. However, he never realized that reading the scientific discoveries of a man who could stretch his limbs after being hit with cosmic rays could be so complex. Nor did he realize the intricate plot lines of an adventure of the world’s greatest detective dressed as a bat. As for educational lessons, I often read of a society of heroes who fought during World War 2 and although their adventures were fantasy there was some truth about history among the pages. In short, I was getting some history lessons, learning deductive skills, improving my reading comprehension, and getting some good lessons on how to be a hero and do the right thing by just sitting in my room with a comic book.
Some 35 years later, I still read my comic books. If I accumulate enough, I sell them back to a store and get credit for new ones. No more individual plastic cover or categorizing alphabetically. The majority of my collection is sold and my posters folded up in my attic. I now consider myself a historian when it comes to comic book characters because I have been reading for so long. My eyes did well up a little the first time 12 years ago when I heard my then 6-year-old son read a comic book for the first time and I’m always trying to buy a comic book for my little girls. I catch a convention whenever I can. We didn’t have such great comic movies when I was a kid so that whole world is exciting to me now. I have been a fan boy since I was 10 and I guess I will always be a fan boy.
I still don’t think my father gets it, though.