I feel if we’re going to start a journey, no an adventure together then we need to know a few things so we’re all on the same page. Allow me to set the table for this adventure.
The first question that needs to be answered is “why are we doing this?”
The simplest answer is “because I want to”. That answer doesn’t have a very robust foundation to support it. It actually sounds more like I got bored one day and said, “let’s buy some comics I don’t own.” The reason is a lot more than that and there’s a lot of history behind it. I won’t go into a full origin story, but I do want to give you some background that you may, or may not, have heard before.
I started buying comics in the mid-1980s as a kid because I wanted references for drawing. My cousin is just a couple months older than me and was a far superior artist than I was at the time (or ever became). We had turned 11 in late 1985 and were really focused on art. He and I had an amazing art teaching in elementary school who saw something in us and helped nurture that interest and the talent that we both had at a pretty young age. My cousin was light years ahead of me in the ability to put his imagination down on paper with a pencil, pen, marker, or whatever else you gave him to create. I had a lot of imagination, but never had the ability to freely put it down on paper. My real skill was to copy other artists work with extreme precision. I feel if I had remained focus on art I would have loved to work with art galleries that restore aging pieces of art.
My cousin didn’t need the references to help him, but he did like to watch TV and movies, and find magazine or books that gave him some inspiration. One weekend, my brother and I went over to my grandparents house and my cousin was there. He showed us some comic books that he had bought at the corner store earlier in the day and what he had begun drawing after looking through them. I immediately sat down at the kitchen table and started flipping through the books looking for my own inspiration, but found myself reading instead of just staring at the art. My cousin had bought a couple of issues of ELFQUEST that was being reprinted through Marvel’s Epic line of comics. My brother, cousin, and I walked down to the corner store that same day and started to look through all of the comics on the spinner rack. We had come to the store so many other times growing up, but I had never paid any attention to this spinner rack until now.
Side note: This was not the moment I fell in love with comics. Sure, I read those ELFQUEST issues my cousin bought, and I read the ones I picked up along with the G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO, DREADSTAR AND COMPANY, ALIEN LEGION, and GROO THE WANDERER. All of these had covers that blew my mind and so I bought the following books:
Some of you who know me and know my buying history might not be surprised by the picks, or it may reinforce why I buy the comics that I have over the years. Keep in mind, I am still not buying comics because I want to explore new worlds and new characters. I am only looking for references to draw, but that would change pretty soon after buying all of these comics. I didn’t know that these comics came out on a regular basis. I would find myself paying more attention when I went into other mini marts and stores. I would see books from each of these series that I didn’t know existed and convince my parents to buy them for me to read.
ELFQUEST, G.I. JOE, GROO, and DREADSTAR would become the first comics I would read over and over again. I don’t remember how much time was between buying these first books and when I became aware of my first comic shop, but it couldn’t have been long. Where I grew up there was an indoor/outdoor mall that had a Roses retail store as the anchor store and dozens of smaller stores inside and outside building. This was the hub of local shops people would go to if they didn’t want to deal with the mall traffic. Keep in mind, at this time I’m 11 years old and I have been inside this shopping center at least once a week since I was a toddler. I don’t know how many times I walked by Tales Resold and never paid any attention to it, but one trip inside that shop – my first comic book store experience – would alter my life in profound ways.
Mrs King and her husband (soon to be ex-husband) had two shops locations, but to this day I have never been to the second location. I bought comics from Mrs King every week until my senior year in high school. I didn’t know that there were other comics shops in the area. The idea never even entered my mind. I only had a handful of friends who collected comics like I did, and we all bought them from Mrs. King. This loyalty I had for her and her store has stuck with me, and even to this day I feel slightly guilty when I have a pull list at one store and I shop at another store. I love going into new shops when I visit a city, and I always try and buy a few comics from them to offer some support, but I still feel just a little guilty that I didn’t give my local shop that purchase.
Well, I’ve fast forwarded a little here. Let’s back up to my exposure to a comic book store that had a lot of comic racks and something called “back issues”. I don’t want to overwhelm you, so we’re going to do this in parts. In the next part of this origin tale, I’ll talk about those early series that I began to collect, the back issues I discovered, and my introduction to the DC Universe by a childhood buddy of mine.
Thank you for reading, and if you’re interested in discussing any of what you read or have questions you can find me on Twitter at @ChrisPartin.