Dad and comics

It’s amazing the little things–or seemingly-little–that stick with a person. For one thing, back in kindergarten, I was in Mrs. Greenlee’s class (how I remember that name, I don’t know). She introduced us to a secondary way of learning the alphabet: “The Letter People.” For some reason I wound up completely enamored with the “Mr. S” character. His “theme song” in particular. And I don’t know now if it’s my 41-year-old-brain with flimsy memories from being 6 or 7 years old, but I have this vague notion of Dad having borrowed that RECORD with the Letter People theme songs and being able to take it to work with him to use something there to record stuff to an audio cassette. Whether that’s what REALLY happened or not, in my memories it makes sense; and I “remember” this sense of picturing some mythical huge MACHINE that would have a record put in and transfer a copy to a cassette. Of course, as an adult, I realize it had to have simply been some stereo system that had both record player and cassette deck that allowed one to record to the cassette while a record was playing. And while I loved having all those Letter People songs, it was absolutely the Mr. S one that most held me.

Flash forward a year or two or few (surely what seemed like a REALLY LONG time to a kid could’ve been just a few months) and we’d moved to Eastlake. It was Fall, October, and the elementary school was doing some sort of wear-your-costume-to-school day thing. Well…7-year-old me had to be Mr. S for Halloween. Of course…a mostly blue costume, a cape (albeit yellow), a BIG RED “S” on the front…people kept thinking I was “Superman,” whoever the heck THAT was.

As I remember it, that afternoon after school, back at home, I flat-out asked Mom: “WHO is ‘Superman’?” She’d tried to describe him, I’m sure, but I didn’t really “get” it. (LATER I’d eventually remember that my friend Jason in the Base Housing had had the original Superman movie on, and had told me some guy “turns INTO” Superman, but it was boring to me…all he did was catch some lady and a helicopter!). From that question/etc, Mom had talked to Grandpa and when he and Grandma next visited, he brought with him a stack of comic books. While there may have been others, I definitely remember the (I know now they were ‘Silver Age’) DCs, particularly Superman stuff; though also Batman (and Robin) in the mix.

Further, it was Mom who–the next spring/summer–bought me my first four comics at a Waldenbooks. (Superman #31/Adventures of Superman #453/Batman #439/Detective Comics #604).

But while she STARTED me on the path into comics…

It was Dad who kept me going.

Whether it was getting that Superman issue with the split cover and skier on the cover; that issue with the brick statue of Jimmy Olsen; the issue with the “ex pal” stuff; I associate Dad with a lot of those early issues. (Mom for my first issue of Action Comics–#653–though). It was also Dad who bought me that issue of Secret Origins (#46?) with the blue cover, the Justice League story, and I believe it even turned out it was one of Grant Morrison’s earliest DC stories.

There was also that issue of TMNT Adventures–#25–that he got me (I remember he had us kids at the mall for something, along with our friends that he was watching at the time). I remember him buying me the thick (turns out it was 3 issues in 1!) Mighty Mutanimals issue that was published as a TMNT Special.

And then he became my primary driver for going to get comics. Whether it was Capp’s Comics or Comics and Collectibles.

It was at Comics & Collectibles that he pre-paid $25 or so for 100 25-cent comics, figuring that’d last me quite awhile on that “credit.” I remember him being rather surprised when I blew through all 100 in a very short time!

I also remember one day before school, he and Mom called me out to see something on a news segment on tv…where I found out about the then-upcoming “Death of Superman” that was going to happen.

On one of our visits to Capp’s, we found out that for The Death of Superman, you could order a copy of the story IN ADVANCE to know you’d GET it. Apparently buying into some of the speculation stuff of the time…Dad ordered 3 copies. And since we had the choice to get the issues as they came out, or wait til the end, we (Dad?) elected to wait for the whole story.

WHILE that story was coming out, I’d separately gotten a copy of Justice League America (no “of”) #69 that also had the character Superman was going to be fighting. Whether I read that issue at the time or “saved” it, I don’t recall…but that comes into play in a moment.

The day Capp’s was to have Superman #75–the final issue of The Death of Superman–I got sick at school. I don’t remember being overly bothered by THAT so much as I was upset and worried that I couldn’t get the comics that day because of being sent home from school. Dad went WITHOUT me, and picked them up, though! And so that evening, I got to read The Death of Superman story. And what has ALSO stuck with me big-time through the 29+ years since…DAD READ THEM, TOO! He let me read “first,” so after I read Man of Steel #18, I gave it to him to read, while I went and dug out that Justice League issue. And so we went–I finished an issue, then handed it to him. While he read that, I was on to the next chapter. Until we’d both read the story.

And then, for the next 8 weeks…he took me to the comic shop every week for each new chapter of Funeral for a Friend as it came out. Not long after that, he even let me get the collected volume of the story, even though we already had the individual issues. But regarding the single issues…I remember that he read those, too. I don’t think he ever read any of my comics AFTER Doomsday! (The Death of Superman) and Funeral for a Friend. But those 15 issues across 9 or so weeks…I got to “do comics” with my Dad. And I’ve never forgotten that.

Even though he didn’t continue READING comics with me…he was still my go-to for getting new comics. Being driven to the comic shops. I was far more likely to get him to take me than Mom…and thinking back, he probably let me go beyond my “allowance” a number of times. I also remember him picking up/buying an issue of Kid Eternity and being warned that it was an “adult” comic. And Dad was the one who discovered X-O Manowar #0 for me. I think I remember that HE was taken in by its shiny cover, so chances are, he probably got that FOR me because of his own curiosity. He was also the one to notice the shiny foil cover of a catalogue–the July 1993 edition of Advance Comics. (Yeah, back in the ’90s, cover gimmicks were such that even a freaking catalogue did it!).

While I have no actual/conscious memory of it myself, he long swore that he had seen the ad for Magic: The Gathering in one of those and that I wasn’t interested, so he didn’t pursue it. So there’s the possibility that–had I shown interest–he might’ve gotten me into MTG in its infancy, at least with “Unlimited” if not “Alpha” or “Beta.” (I would eventually get into the game in 1995 a year and a half or so later, at the end of Revised Edition and Fallen Empires). And there again, Dad was often the one that would get me Magic cards.

There was also that August we were delivering phone books and happened across some random-seeming comic shop, and he got me that week’s Superman issue (Action Comics #692, I think?).

And so it went.

I also remember that it was Dad who picked up Marvels #1 (for me). I would not have gotten the issue/series otherwise.

Dad was the one that took me to Capp’s I think the actual day he and Mom also took me off to college. Or the night before.

And then throughout college, it was primarily Dad who would go to Capp’s for me (though Mom was the one who went and got Wolverine #145 for me). He’d occasionally flat-out CLEAR my pull-box for me, and I was always astounded when he had.

When I got interested in The Sandman, it was Dad (with Mom) who got me the entire 10-volume series for Christmas 2001. One of the very few times they ever got me actual comics for Christmas or such.

AFTER college, he wasn’t nearly as “involved” in comics with or for me; cuz I was able to drive myself, I was working and so had my own money to buy comics myself.

But he was always amazed at how I kept on with comics. He’d often ask me about them; listen when I’d ramble about them; etc. The comics, the toys, etc.

As I mentioned in a previous post, he was just tickled at how he had HIS Man-Cave; and my once referring to the basement as my “Comic Cave.” That stuck with him more than me; but the way he was, I know that had to mean a lot to him. And he was always wanting pictures of “the comic cave,” since he physically couldn’t come down here himself.

And I’d intended to do some re-arranging and organizing and neatening up, that week between Christmas and New Year 2021. I was gonna get everything properly situated, and do a nice VIDEO walk-through for him, to show him all my then-latest changes to the space, some shelves I’d added, etc.

Obviously never got to do THAT for him.

Throughout last year, he even offered a number of extra times to make a point of having Mom swing by Comic Heaven for me if I wanted, since they’d be out shopping or going to appointments or such. Toward Fall I kinda shifted to taking him up on that when they’d be over there anyway for his blood tests ahead of Chemo every 3 weeks. And several times he insisted Mom use his card to buy them rather than mine.

I lost him just before 2am that Thursday morning…but never having made it to bed or such, it was really Wednesday night. Just hours earlier I’d been to Comic Heaven, gotten my usual stuff for the week; and because he would only be allowed ONE visitor ONE time per day…because it was supposed to be like any of the too-many-other-times he’s been in the hospital the last few years, etc…we’d decided that Mom would be his visitor, at least that first day. Wednesday.

But I was RIGHT THERE; drove past the hospital each way. And far more important than “that week’s new comics,” I would’ve been there visiting him. But if I went in, Mom wouldn’t be able to. And it was supposed to be “normal.” Just another hospitalization. But I didn’t get to visit him there.

So New Comic Day…Wednesdays…now have this other “feel” to them. Guilt? Hurt, for sure. A “shadow” over them?

Dad was there and part of my beginning with comics. With the catalyst of the Letter People to my earliest days getting my own comics in 1989…through all the years to and including December 2021. He’s been there, been part of it all. Except for these last six weeks.

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