Saturday, July 9, 2011

Comics Relief: Part Two - The Early Childhood Trauma Defense

When we last left off, we were all having a good laugh at Jaybee’s expense, trying to eavesdrop on his visit to the “doctor” who we can’t quite hear, but we somehow know has an Austrian accent.

Doctor, I was only trying to give you some insight into my motivation for reading comic books. There were some traumas I experienced…

Some muffled words and laughter.

Well, I guess I do sound funny using those big words. Yes, I’ll leave them for adults like you and I’ll just keep to the comics. Thank you.

As I was saying, I was trying to explain why I still read comics. But it’s a little like explaining why I still can’t dance. What’s that? Yes, I’m sure there’s no connection.

Anyway, back when I was a kid in the sixties, aside from the vast netherworld of gory horror, Classics Illustrated and Archie, there stood the two comic titans, DC and Marvel. You were either into one or the other, not both. There were actual factions (along with the Yankee/Met and Keds/PF Flyer factions. The neighborhood was pretty united on Coke against Pepsi , though.)

My brother and I started out with DC. That’s where Superman was, so where else would we go? One of the great things about DC was that they didn’t go in for that “To be continued…” crap. You bought a comic and you got a story. It was rare indeed for Superman to not kick Lex Luthor’s ass within twenty pages. We thought Marvel was just a rip off, with their multi-part stories, which were clearly just a gimmick to get you to buy more comics. The kids who bought them were suckers. But for some reason, they made fun of us.

What’s that, doctor? You’re not surprised?

Anyway, this was during the Marvel “golden age”, with Fantastic Four, Thor and, of course, Spiderman. So how long could we resist? I think it was my brother who eventually broke down and got Spiderman #40. From that point on, we were completely hooked.

But now we would have to face the Continuity Issue. In the Marvel Universe (there were several, actually) it was impossible to know the whole story, unless you bought every single issue, starting with #1. It was where last month’s issue – the one I didn’t get, of course - is already being referred to as “legendary” this month. I’d be haunted by this, which was, of course, what Marvel was counting on. And I responded by loyally buying the next twenty issues of Fantastic Four, etc. I’d become one of the suckers, except without the making fun of other people part.

So the comics would pile up. My brother and I had a system, but it was somewhat ethereal to the uninitiated, with some comics laying on the back of the couch, others on the kitchen table, still others in the bathroom. Mom and dad would complain, not so much about the mess, but about how we were being distracted from our studies.

With a vague feeling of unease, my brother and I eventually threw all of the comics into a box, and kept them in our room. Again, not so much for the mess, but for protection. We must have thought that the box/room combination would act as a force field a la Sue Storm, protecting our precious collection from harm. But we were wrong. We didn’t realize that we were up against a greater foe than any we had ever encountered in the Marvel universe.

Mom. (Yeah, her again.)

Our super heroes could usually count on a speech ahead of time from the super villain which would give them a heads up that they were in danger. And mom would probably say that she had given us such a speech on several occasions, but we didn’t remember.

Anyway, one day, we came home from school and the comics were all gone. When we asked her where they were, she announced with relish that she had thrown the out (“Every single one!”). It would go down in family lore as the Great Purge.

So you see, doctor, the root of the problem, as I prefer to see it, is when my mom threw away the box. Although my brother and I felt we had it under control, mom and dad could see the steady progression from Superman to Spiderman, Daredevil, etc. Clearly, heroin was next. So she tossed them. I’d like to think that they are now worth the GDP of a small country. And I take pains to remind her of this whenever I can.

A muffled remark.
What do you mean, is that all? Of course not.

There was also that time during our trip to Ireland in 1971. My brother and I were rebuilding the collection, indeed peaking, at the time, and brought several of our favorites for the trip. Comics were in short supply in Ireland. So short, in fact, that while stopped at a light, the driver in the car behind us noticed all of ours stacked up blocking the rear window (it was the new system). The guy walked up to us and asked for some for his own kids. We were still in our pre-rebellious stage, and for some reason, gave them all to him! The best of the best. We’re still smarting over that one.

Then there was the extended family squabble regarding the comparative merits of Spiderman vs. Daredevil, who, according to my cousin, could leap “one eighth of a block!” Said cousin is now a major contributor to Wikipedia.

So that’s it, doctor – traumatic and unresolved issues from childhood. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Doctor: That’s your trauma? From the way you express yourself, I was sure the trauma had been from a blunt instrument.

You’ve clearly not met my mother.

So I guess I’m cured, right?

Doctor’s Voice: Mr. Jaybee, one is never actually cured. One is merely in recovery. But go on. I’m anxious to hear about the blunt trauma.


Doctor: Never mind. Go on.

To be continued…

No comments: