Home > Commentary and Features
Five For Friday #79—And The Livin’ Is Easy
posted June 8, 2006
Five For Friday #79 -- Name Five Comics-Related Summer Memories
1. Reading DC Super Specials on the porch of dad's lakehouse.
2. The summer of 1978, when we found out that old wicker basket at my third cousin's house was full of Marvel comics, 1968-1972, which was the time period right before our collection started so it might as well have been comics from 1945.
3. Passing around Claremont/Byrne-era Uncanny X-Men
comics at Camp Crosley during rest hour, after lunch.
4. Buying comics at the huge amish outdoor flea market at Shipshewana, three for a dollar.
5. Hiding good comics from the spinner rack at Klink's Drug Store in the magazine section so we could get them next time we came downtown.
1) My first trip to Florida in 1974, going to 7-Elevens for comics and DC Comics Slurpee cups. Shazam! had brought me into superhero comics earlier that year, and this sealed the deal.
2) Marvel Annuals, before they became crossover events and extinct.
3) Captain Canuck Summer Special. On the cusp of the rise of the independents in the '80s, the Captain was a rare alternative to Marvel and DC on the newsstand. The Summer Special was an anthology of stories, some with CC, and some different ones. Pity the second one didn't come out, that was supposed to feature this other Canadian creation Cerebus the Aardvark.
4) Buying the Marvel Super Special adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back
at the Eastwood Theatre, who was showing the film in full 70mm stereo glory.
5) The annual trips to Chicago Comicon, back when it was held at the Ramada O'Hare. It truly jumped the shark the last year it was there, with the Image tent and all.
1968: Not Brand Ecch #7 makes Superman look so silly I become a Marvel Zombie. Aged 6.
1969: I'm such a Marvel Zombie, I'm living somewhere in Stan Lee's head. Spider-Man Annual 6, reprinting Annual 1, with the Sinister Six, is a particularly vivid memory
1981: George Perez's beautiful work on JLA brings to an end 13 years of Marvel Zombiedom
1985: I discover Viz (the UK toilet humour mag, not the Manga publishers) and laugh so much I genuinely think I'm going to die
1988: reading the full Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing in the black and white trades Titan published for the UK. Despite all the horror and darkness, the overall humanity makes it perfect summer reading
1. Waiting for the mail lady to drive up everyday so I could check to see if I got any of my Marvels shipped in a brown sleeve.
2. Paying said mail lady extra money for FF 236 and Uncanny 137 because Marvel didnâ€™t pay the postage on double-sized issues.
3. Riding my 10-speed to Shinders over by Ridgedale Mall when I was 15 every Thursday for new comics. I lived about 20 miles away. Sad, but I was fit and tan! No helmet either.
4. Riding my bike to the local drug store about 7 years earlier to get comics off the rack. This was only a mile or 2 (in terms of kid memory.)
5. Taking those drug store comics and trading them with a group of neighborhood kids. The method of trading was putting them in a pile, mixing them all up, closing our eyes and picking 1 at a time. (Hint: squint as hard as you can with your eyes open a slit.)
Since it still appears to be open...
1. Circa 1996-99: Scouring the back issue bins of Western NY comic shops with my friend Josh in my return to comics' collecting. I remember the genuine excitement when we would discover a new comic shop in the area---and the knifing disappointment when that shop would eventually morph into a "Magic:The Gathering/Pokemon" club house before closing forever.
2. 1996: Upon my return to comics I discovered Evan Dorkin, specifically Milk and Cheese/Dork, which forever altered how I looked at the possibilities of comics. I had been out of the game for awhile, and wasn't really aware of the variety of material.
3. 1998: Asking Howard Porter to do a sketch at a convention in Buffalo: he asked me who I wanted and I jokingly suggested Mark Waid, since he was seated to Howard's left at the table. He agreed and actually started to do it, but feeling Waid's gleeful watch he erased everything and asked me to pick somebody else. So I picked Metron from the New Gods, which was kinda weird.
4. 1988: Finding G.I.Joe #1 and several first printings of Eastman and Laird's TMNT at a comic shop display in a Pennsylvania mall while on a family vacation. It was totally unexpected, and the best bargain I ever stumbled upon. Plus fantastic reading material for the drive back.
5. Circa 1982-89: My cousins' Eric and Natalie had a massive back issue collection, mostly old DC's and MAD mags, courtesy of their father. They would lug the huge box over to our grandmother's house every other weekend or so (after much pleading by me), which is where I gained my comics' education. Definitely my fondest comics-related memories.
1- eight years old playing dungeons and dragons in the back room of a closed comics shop... I never really got into Dungeons and Dragons but I loved walking around in a closed comics shop feeling like I had the place all to myself.
2- visiting my mom, hanging out at the convenience store where she worked and reading comics all day long. namely Byrne Fantastic-four and heavy metal.
3- twelve years old, sitting under a tree convincing my first girlfriend to read some of my comics... she liked Howard the duck and the Hulk but she said the rest of them were kind of dumb.
4- getting so high I couldn't read any of my freak brothers comics but still thinking they were really funny.
5- Working a slow day at the cafe in Seattle and one by one every cartoonist I knew stopping in just to say hi.
1. Going to a mall con with only about 14 bucks and coming home with dozens of comics from the quarter boxes, mostly old BATMAN 80 page giants and 100-page "SUPER SPECTACULARS"
2. Reading the "Death of Phoenix" issue of X-MEN in my friend's basement while we were filming some kid-type horror movie and being genuinely surprised by the ending.
3. Buying the first issue of AMERICAN FLAGG the summer it came out and reading it at least once a day until the second issue hit the shelves.
4. Bringing several issues of CRACKED to summer camp and losing them when we got caught in a rainstorm. (I also had an iron-on CRACKED pillowcase that week.)
5. (Much later than the previous 4): The summer of 1992, when the Image comics first broke big, coming back to the Chicago Con at around 2 in the morning after hitting the bars in the city and seeing lines of hundreds of fans still lined up to get the autographs of the Image crew at outdoor tends set up by the con. Wotta sight!
1. 1989: The excitement of watching Batman, knowing it was my first PG-13 movie.
2. 1994: Driving directly to the park from the comics store to read each installment of Zero Hour, as it was released.
3. 2002: Devouring Chabonâ€™s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay on a houseboat.
4. 2005: Re-reading Ostranderâ€™s Spectre in its entirety. (Harkens back to #1!)
5. Timeless: Tony Millionaireâ€™s Sock Monkey. Every summer.
Michael J. Grabowski
1. Flying to New Jersey from CA to spend vacation with an uncle who worked in advertising and had The Superhero Shop/Heroes World as a client, and getting to meet Ivan Snyder aka SNYDERMAN when we visited one of the stores (itself something like a dream come true to a ten-year-old superhero freak). I bought the FF Treasury reprinting the Galactus Saga, the Conan and Capt. America Pocket Book reprints, and a Micronaut, none of which I still own. We went to Washington, D.C. too but that wasn't as special.
2. Reading a stack of old Charlton comics my grandmother had given me for the plane ride on that trip, and discovering all these heroes I'd never heard of (Peacemaker, The Question, Blue Beetle, and... was it Mr. Atom?) AND being thrilled to see that Steve Ditko had drawn some of them.
3. Walking to 7-Eleven every few days to trade in my grandmother's Pepsi bottles for all the Archies I could get.
4. Marvel & DC souvenir Slurpee cups!!!
5. Whitman Samplers my mom would suprise me with on road trips. The random nature of the 3 comics included in each package never ceased to surprise and frustrate.
1. Staying up all night with a friend drawing comics, around age 14.
2. Getting busted for shoplifting at a convention, with same friend, same summer.
3. The summer after graduating high school, hanging out at the shop that was two blocks from my house. There were always around twenty kids my age there, up to no good, spending as much time getting drunk and stoned as talking comix.
4. That same summer, going to Chicago for the first time, and all on my own, for the big convention. My hotel was downtown, so I got to have fun getting lost on the train system and walking all around town. Totally awesome experience.
5. Last summer, shooting reference for a graphic novel, putting together a troupe of about thirty models and making them do all sorts of goofy stuff around town, including getting chased by security guards.
1. Heading out of town for our family vacation in the station wagon fully stocked with comics and finding my letter printed in the latest Flash (can't remember the ish # but during the Bates/Novick era).
2. Creating super heroes with my big brother - an SF fan - conceptualizing characters and me designing costumes. Three I remember: Tachyon (like the Atom), Spirit (more Bernard Baily than Will Eisner) and . . . wait for it . . . COSMIC CRUSADER!
3. Finding comics sold 5 to a bag (for maybe a quarter?) in a drugstore in a little lakeside town. I still have a coverless Flash Gordon I bought then that was drawn by Al Williamson - gorgeous.
4. Seeing my first Conan comic at camp. I think it may have been a Windsor-Smith issue and I don't remember liking it very much.
5. Writing a letter to Walt Simonsen (around the time he was drawing Hercules Unbound) c/o DC Comics with a bunch of dumb questions. A few weeks later I received a very gracious typewritten reply answering all my stupid questions. My brother told me Simonsen must have had a secretary who answered his fan mail since he was such a famous artist. I told my brother he was full of crap and we got in a big fight over it. I lost the fight but I was right.
1. Summers spent in Crystal Lake, OH, with my grandparents. Long days and nights at a lake. Grabbing comics in drug stores and gas stations-- an Iron Man annual of some sort-- and trying to learn how to draw from the comics I brought with me. I remember trying to draw Baron Zemo and wondering if, in fact, he was an actual Nazi, and maybe my Grandfather would see it and get angry. Maybe my Grandpa took some shots at Zemo. It was a mystery. I was at that age where I knew, when I was having those thoughts, that they were silly, and soon they'd be too ridiculous to consider. But, then, there, it was still okay to wonder-- to yourself, at least-- if maybe your Grandpa fought with Captain America. Is it weird, being aware of that? Like, those first moments where you suspect it's time to put the toys away?
2. I'm in San Francisco, sitting in the courtyard outside of my friend Peter Rose's place. It's June, but it's June in San Francisco, so that means it kinda feels like early April anywhere else. It's the building where they shot the interiors of Gene Hackman's apartment in THE CONVERSATION which I'm obsessed with, at the time, and want so very badly for Pete's place to be Gene's place. It's not, but I still stare at the floorboards a lot. I just did my first in-store for LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS at the infamous Isotope and had an unforgettable time. Pete tells me Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio spent some of their honeymoon there, and we sneak into what used to be, what, like a ballroom or something, underneath the building. If you squint, maybe you can see them slow-dancing there, I dunno. And, I know this sounds like a dream, but it really happened. All in all, not a bad way to see your first graphic novel brought out into the world.
3. It's the end of my first year at film school and they gave me a huge merit scholarship-- hurrah, I get to come back next year! By the end of the summer I'll have elected to not return anyway, but at the moment it's all high spirits and celebration and GPA standoffs and SEASONS IN THE SUN. Also: I am nearly totally broke. Somehow, though, I was able to rationalize spending like five bucks on some comics? My girlfriend rationalizes the same, and we rochambeau over who gets PREACHER #1 (i think 2, and maybe even 3 were out then. Definitely 1 & 2) and who'd get KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND. She won the former; me the latter. It's the start of an awesome, miserable, awesome summer.
4. Me, Mark, and Harold go to HeroesCon... '94, I think? Michael Carbonaro-- you know, the guy what kinda looks like Mick Jagger, if Mick Jagger was a comics dealer from Brooklyn?-- sells me a stack of Kirby Fourth World books for 20 bucks. Ten comics-- NEW GODS 1-4, MISTER MIRACLE 1-4, and FOREVER PEOPLE 1 and 2? He's... like, I know he's watching somebody else's table, some dealer had to hit the can and he got Mike to watch his shit. I know I'm paying way to little for the books, or at least I gravely suspect I am, but whatever. Twenty bucks! Come on. A smile, a wink, the books are mine and bathroom boy is none the wiser. I dig for those bright, bright, baxter-paper reprints of NEW GODS later that day and get 'em all for like three bucks. That night we're all over at Dave's place. Danyon, well in his cups, will yank a spear off the wall-- Dave's dad teaches African art and history-- and try to stab me with it. Or at least menace me with it. There's a spear chase, I remember that much. We watch CONGO, and I make up the CONGO drinking game: every time you see a monkey, shout MONKEY! and drink. But I start reading the comics and ignoring Ernie Hudson's comeback vehicle and... I dunno. I completely and totally fell in non-ironic love with that stuff. I sleep on Dave's back porch. Too hot inside. The night is gorgeous and I dream about Jack Kirby.
5. Did the company that eventually became Wizard used to be called American Entertainment? Someone told me that once and I never quite forgot it, apocryphal or not. Anyway: they used to advertise in comics, and you could trade in YOUR stuff for theirs. By mail. I orchestrated a ridiculously large trade, plotted as carefully and fastidiously as my almost-sixth grade mind would allow, methodically recorded on graph paper in different ink colors-- MY stuff, THEIR prices, the exchange rate, what I wanted, etc etc. I engineered it down to a one cent difference (in my favor!). So I boxed up a bunch of my old shit that, ho ho, had worth!, and off it went. I believe the company line was 'please allow ten to fourteen business days' for delivery. And this was summertime-- ten business days may as well have been a year. On the ninth day, I was at a water park with some friends and, I suspect, talked about nothing else BUT what was coming in that box. Looking back on it now, I suspect it must've seemed like I had some kind of aphasia, as none of them gave a shit about comics. The only thing I remember concretely as being in that box was ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN. Yeah, I know.
So anyway. On the tenth day I waited. All day. And the eleventh and twelfth. Agony. It would end up taking months. Dad had to call. And call and call again. In the end they didn't even send me what they were supposed to, but it was late fall then and I was glad enough that I had my crap. I wonder now if Dad just bought the shit to get it over with?
During that first day of waiting, my mom told me "A watched pot never boils." Today, when I watch and wait for water to boil, WHICH I DO ALL THE TIME, I think about the ever-illusive UPS trucks of Burlington, Iowa, and how they never, ever turn down your street.
* Eagerly awaiting JLA / Avengers....in Summer of 1983
* Getting my weekly comics mailed to me at sleepaway camp, savagely ripping open the envelopes, and hiding in the bunk to read. Some notable 82/83 summer readings... Teen Titans/X-Men, JLA/JSA crossover that brought All-Star Squadron into the mix, Vigilante # 1, Teen Titans issues w/ Omega Men
* Being 10 years old, at camp, in arts & crafts w/ Marvel's David Bogart, me compiling a definitive list of superheroes pre-Contest of Champions, which included one of the first such lists......getting up to 749 listed, the two of us forcing our arts & craft counselor to draw Captain America, Wolverine, Timber Wolf and other character for us as our co-campers did lanyard
* Working for "credit" in sweltering heat at Collector's Kingdom on Long Island, Saturday afternoons,... going on runs for KFC nuggets 20 packs for the guys who actually worked at the store...
* Reading an issue of DC Comics Presents to pieces on the beach, on a fishing boat, everywhere, I think issue 36 Superman with the Shazam Family, '82ish... for some reason I couldnâ€™t read that issue enough...
Visiting my aunt in Halifax, N.S. and dropping $50-$60 at an actual comic shop (which, at the time, bought me close to 50 comics).
Finding Giant-Size Marvel Triple Action #2 at my uncle's cottage and reading it on the lazy drive home (I still have it).
The big New Teen Titans story arcs that occured for a couple of summers in a row (one involving Starfire's sister and the other Deathstroke the Terminator (I think)).
Buying The Dark Knight Returns #1 at a Coles' Bookstore.
Buying newstand mint copies of Amazing Spider-Man #129 and various issues of Plop! at a store in Bangor, Maine in the early eighties for cover price.
1988 - Go to work with my Dad. He buys me my first issue of X-Men at a 7-11, annual #12, all Arthur Adams art. I read it until the cover fell off.
1991 - A record store that also carried comics opening two block from my school, right before the end of the school year. They carried Rock and Roll comics and 2000 A.D., and was my first exposure to Madman.
1992 - My comic shop was about three miles away. I had to ride up this enormous hill, than come careening down like a rollercoaster into a dangerous intersection. On the way back I would stop at a convenience store (where I would discover HEAVY METAL), get a slush puppie, and read whatever books couldn't possibly wait until I got home in a schoolyard near the top of the hill.
1994 - While avoiding looking for a summer job, I rode my bike to a creepy, deserted shack and read all my issues of the MAXX.
2003 - With a small buzz on, read all of the One Piece from a stack of Shonen Jump on a sweltering day. For the first time since I was a teenager, it feels like summer.
1. Waiting in the barbar's chair for a haircut while reading year old Archie comics that, no matter how many times I'd been there, I'd never get a chance to finish.
2. Digging through the neighborhood recycling bins to collect all the weekly comics sections from the newspapers that my family didn't subscribe to.
3. Taking the three hour drive up to my grandparents house in the back seat of the station wagon eagerly anticipating the inevitible gas station pit stop where I'd have the chance to pick out my choice of three comic books from the corner spinner rack!
4. Walking three miles to the local drug store in the blistering heat at the age of 9 to buy the latest copy of Secret Wars.
5. Drawing and assembling homemade comics with my best friend on the living room floor and giggling maniaclly at the potty jokes we'd each incorporate into the story.
Thanks for the memories.
K. Thor Jensen
1: Debuting the FEAR anthology at the MoCCA convention, carrying around an unmarked cardboard box and as word spread as to what I had, cartoonists sneaking up to me to buy a copy without the titular subject noticing.
2: Up at the lakehouse last summer with a few sheets of typing paper, a straightedge and a Sharpie, like God's in my hand I kick out a four page story in a day and a half without any fuss or hassle and then go swimming.
3: My first San Diego, I'm 18 years old, a drunken Megan Kelso comes back from Tijuana with a bunch of other cartoonists and tells me I'm "getting husky." Develop weight-related complex for next few years.
4: Going to a Jim Woodring/Pete Bagge/Julie Doucet/Mary Fleener signing at Fallout in Seattle in June or July of 1992 and, feverish and inspired, drawing my first minicomic that night.
5: Running my hand along the filthy underside of the counter at 7-11 to get enough change to buy the new issue of Alpha Flight and a Slurpee.
1. Reading memories: Reading "Tintin the Secret Of The Unicorn" so many times in a row... All I can remember is it was in the countryside, sunny and warm, I was maybe 6 or 7 years old...
2. Professionnal memories: Summer 2000 - editing "From Hell" from June to August, guts and murders from 6 AM to midnight. My worst/best summer...
3. Discovering Moebius through "l'Incal" at age 16 in the countryside again...
4. Rediscovering the joy of reading comics in French newspapers with Riad Sattouf's "No Sex in New York", two or three years ago.
5. I had a master's thesis to write, due on September, the subject was "something+comics", and I lost so much time just reading comics instead of writing it... I almost missed the deadline...
1. The daily summer ritual from 3rd to 5th grade for my summer vacations in Pocasset, Cape Cod: get up, take out garbage, walk dog one mile (some of it involving short cuts through woods and along train tracks) to general store. Get mail from PO box, buy milk and orange juice (and other groceries as needed), cream soda, and cheese crackers and a comic book. Read comic book sitting in bleachers of nearby little league field while drinking soda and eating crackers. Walk home.
2. Around 2nd or 3rd grade? Getting water on my Nova issue #1, putting it out to dry in the sun, only to find it very, very wrinkled from the drying process.
3. In later summers when not at Cape Cod, going to the cool basement in Winchester, Massachusetts to read comics gotten during sweaty trip to Millionaire Picnic in Harvard Square.
4. Summer of 5th grade: Drawing issue after issue of Liquid Man, Omicron, Captain Canine, and the short lived Sensors (all copyright and TM Duff Comics) and mailing same to best friend who had moved to Ireland.
5. Carsick dog (Jezebel, a lab mutt) puking on my Pizzazz magazine during the trip to summer cottage. My mom chucking the magazine out at a rest stop to my protests ("I could clean it.") That issue had some great Hey Look reprints in it!!!
1) Reading a huge collection of Asterix books (hardcover no less) at my mom's cousin's farmhouse in Maryland.
2) Reading the Daily News Sunday Funnies on the floor of my living room.
3) Constantly rereading my copy of Defenders #125 at summer camp till it became dog-eared, so bored and homesick was I.
4) Conning my dad into buying copies of Superman Family at the local stationary store.
5) Attempting to sell copies of my pathetic self-published anthology at a local con while sitting next to Adam Kubert.
1. Buying cheap comic-book two-packs during a layover at O'Hare en route to summer camp in Indiana. Coming from Canada, I couldn't believe how cheap those comics were. I bought enough to last the entire summer.
2. Reading the Fantagraphics graphic-novel collection, 4-5 books a night, during my summer as an intern (1995) to the Mighty Spurge and Rockin' Reynolds. The Mighty Spurge was mightily unimpressed with my attempts to engage him in late-night chats concerning said graphic novels and assigned me to weekend duty organizing the FBI comic-book longboxes to get me out of his hair.
3. San Diego Comic-Con 1995. In particular, driving there with an FBI artist and a fellow intern in a rusty old van filled with FBI's display material. On the way home, the van spun out of control, nearly killing us, but, hey, our San Diego trip was comped!
4. Working nearly every day at a comics shop during my summer between 10th and 11th grades so I could save up to buy a motorcycle.
5. The following summer, driving from one shop to another (in this comic-book chain) on my motorcycle, with a pile of comics (in boards and bags, natch) stuffed under my jacket, trying to keep them from falling out as I struggled to keep the bike on the road.
1. Being bored one summer day stuck at my Dad's office. I walked to the corner store, saw Avengers #276 sitting on the rack. I had recognized Thor from cartoons (but he had a beard?) and Captain America. I didn't recognize any of the characters in other comics so I picked up that one. It was the first comic I bought.
2. A year later I was still buying Avengers, but never did find #277, the conclusion of the Masters of Evil storyline. I was on a bus talking to a friend who mentioned he had 1 Avenger comic, but didn't know the number. I begged him to show me it. He brought it with him the next day and sure enough it was #277. He took full advantage of my fanboy need to have that specific comic and I traded like 3-4 books for it, then he felt guilty asking for any more issues, despite my willing to fork them over.
3. A friend told me Evolutionary War story line running through all of Marvel's annuals was going to be huge and I had to buy every single one of them. Which I did. Including the Alf annual. My friends didn't believe me when I mentioned the Alf annual was part of the story line so I brought it to school and showed them.
4. I graduate from college and now I'm out of college loan money and don't have any work yet (hello welfare). I have to cut down on my comic buying quite a bit. Sitting in my bachelor apartment I start re-reading my back issues for a fix. I begin to pay attention to which stories stood the test of time and who wrote them. Roger Stern in particular stands out as a favorite writer.
5. I get one of those 7 books for a penny junk mail and respond to it. One of the books was this Sandman thing I had heard about. I order it, discover it's the hardcover of The Kindly Ones storyline. I start reading it and get so pulled into the story I do nothing but read it until I sleep. Upon waking up I begin reading again until I'm finished. 2 days, nothing done but read that one book. Later on that week, I go to put the book away, as I'm handling it, it flips open and I read a panel. BAM! I'm pulled in again and I spend the next two days doing nothing but re-reading the book. I now handle that book like it's radioactive material.
Sean T. Collins
1. Buying a copy of "Death: The High Cost of Living" and reading the "how to use a condom" lesson, completely coincidentally on the day I first bought condoms
2. Reading "Squadron Supreme" anyplace I could find air conditioning during a visit to the residential treatment facility where my wife was being treated for anorexia
3. Bringing home about $400 worth of comics from my mind-blowing first trip to the San Diego Comic-Con, 2001
4. MoCCA--sticky floors, broken air conditioning, seemingly inevitable drizzle and all--every summer since its inception
5. That one building whose oddly chlorine-scented air conditioning spills out onto the sidewalk like an oasis during the beastly hot walks from Penn Station to Jim Hanley's Universe