Funny books

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. I’ll probably go over to Earthworld Comics in Albany and pick up SOMETHING. For me, going into a comic book store is often like going to see an old girlfriend. Will I remember why we fell in love? Will I be reminded why we broke up? Or will it be more like, “I’m happy for you in your new life. I’ll see you in another decade or two”?

I fell in love with comics fairly later in the game. In 1971, my new best friend in college, Mark Klonfas, was into comic books. I wondered why an adult would be into “funny books.” (I won’t say he was a grown-up; he used to perch on the end of his desk like Peanuts’ Snoopy, feigning to be a vulture.)

But get into comics I did, first with Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1, then Sub-Mariner #50. Luke Cage (Nicholas Cage’s namesake, REALLY) appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #122. Then I noticed that Cage appeared in shadow at the end of #121, and I picked THAT up. That happened to be “The Death of Gwen Stacy.” I got particularly hooked on the web-slinger, and much of the Marvel Universe. (Curse you, Klonfas!)

Eventually, I worked at FantaCo and for a brief time at Midnight Comics in Albany. This is where the romance soured. There were all of these #0s, and silver and gold “special” editions. I’d be asked, “Is ___ any good?” but it wasn’t about the artwork or the story, it was about whether it would increase in value. Bollocks! When I left Midnight to take my current job in 1992, I quit comics cold turkey.

I always read in the entertainment press to see how comics are doing, seeing them get reviewed regularly in Entertainment Weekly and the like. And I’m very happy for the industry. But I can’t afford to get into it like I used to, so I view the trip to the store warily, fearing the siren will suck me back in…