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Ten Comics, Ten Memories
posted March 13, 2005

imageA Charlton Flintstones Comic Book -- I'm sitting in Chicago's Union Station ready to make a train trip to Denver to meet my grandparents. I'm wearing a rainbow-colored shirt and some sort of jumpsuit with a zipper. This thing they got me confuses me because it doesn't move and there are white spaces where there are no cartoons but I know there very well could be. Or even should be. It reminds me of a monster board game we play where I want to move my piece to the drawings on the side and wonder why I can't. I will become violently sick on the trip, where I will lie and fixate on the strange lighting system in the upper berth of the sleeper car in between reading and re-reading the comic book. I dream of Pebbles.

Thompson is in Trouble, Charlie Brown -- I spend the entire drive to the store with my Mom worried that Peanuts won't qualify as the one book I'm allowed to pick. I spend the rest of the afternoon in a hallway despite every attempt to get me to move, reading and re-reading the title sequence, trying to figure out just where Snoopy's world begins and ours ends and how a creative person, because I know about creative people, makes that decision, whether it just comes to them or if they're sort of putting me on.

The Passport -- It's sort of like comics, or at least it's close enough I can't complain. It sits in the dining room under the silver service between the Monet and Edward Hopper books, as far away from the copper coffee table in spirit as if it were physically in the house across the creek. The rows march and march and march, mouths open up and speak squiggles, words wander around lonely landscapes as if to make a point. I make sure the book is put back by the time my dad gets home.

Uncanny X-Men #125 -- I buy this at the drug store because I'm fat and I'm afraid people will make fun of me if I use the entire dollar to buy candy. I devour it on my parents' porch, carpeted with yellow and white shag, my bare feet banging against the painted wicker furniture. I'm staying inside while people are swimming less than 200 feet away in a big, lovely lake on a 80-degree summer day. I'm listening to a Kansas album, and wear a bracelet I wove from plastic strands around my right wrist. My brothers and I haven't read comics in almost two years. I will never stop reading comic books again.

imageX-Men #59 -- I get this from my best pal for my birthday on another train with my family on our way to Chicago; it's the only birthday present I remember receiving from a pal until I'm in my mid-20s. I spend hours looking at the cover. Roy Thomas and Neal Adams take the weird geo-political horror show elements introduced some fifty issues earlier and ratchet them up about ten thousand degrees, the melodrama of genocide. I will wonder for the next twenty years why this brief run of X-Men comics isn't more widely acknowledged by superhero fans, but not as often as would make folks worry about me.

Zot! #12 -- I'm in high school, and a friend of mine has been dead a year and I know this appeals to something in me that's five years younger but I don't care because I want to go there and live this life instead of mine. I want decency and direction and people who understand me; I want an event that makes me special without my having to work for it. I sit in an apartment in Syracuse, New York above a deli watching Larry Mize win the Masters and even though I'm a bit drunk it dawns on me that most of my older brother's friends are just as miserable as I am.

imageThe Death of Speedy -- In the summer between my junior and senior years I read this story over and over again. I'm stuck in a one-bedroom apartment on Jackson, babysitting my friend's pot plant, without wheels because of bad choices made at school over a half-bottle of vodka. The book is cracked and warped from my leaving a window open and this book beneath it. It shouldn't work on me the way it does. I spend every afternoon running on a wooden outdoor track on the roof of the YMCA, the planks covered in bird shit, and I spend the evenings eating sandwich spread sandwiches, drinking mountain dew, and decidedly not looking forward to my last year in college.

Schizo #1 -- I sit at my desk in Gary and Kim's basement trying not to bother Eric when it hits me this is really good and I've never heard of this guy before and I'm probably the only person in the office who has figured out this is the Real Thing and I write my review out of a selfish desire to be the one who gets there first.

The San Diego Union-Tribune -- It's the first time I've ever seen a comic with my name on it; it's different than seeing my name in print. It feels like I'm cheating.

The Early Morning Milk Train -- It's in my dad's books, with the railroad timetables, between a copy of Sick, Sick, Sick and a few Prince Valiants he asked me to send him once, above a Peter Arno in a bookshelf with glass doors that he bought using his Amoco card. I'd never heard of it. Thin wispy lines build ridiculous engines that totter from town to town, making light of a fact of life that barely exists anymore. The drawing is beautiful, and the jokes are obviously fragile. I move it from one pile to another.