Blame it all on Steve Gerber. If it hadn’t been for him, my life may have taken a radically different turn. But, such as it was, my father bought me an early copy of HOWARD THE DUCK, probably just to stop me from whining, and I was hooked. In retrospect, I’ve tried to figure out just what it was about that Howard comic that made me want it. Perhaps it was the bright colors, or the concept of a talking duck. Perhaps my father mistook him for another, more child-friendly (read: Disney) duck. Whatever the case, as soon as I got that comic book home, I knew that comic books and I were a match made in heaven. I read the comic so many times it literally was shredded. The cover was scattered to the four winds, pages were lost, the comic was taped and stapled, lent, borrowed, lost, found, and finally, thrown away.
(True confession time: In 6th grade, several years later, I won first place in a creative writing president with a story about a duck, named “Leonard,” who talked and ran for president. Yes, I copied the idea directly from Steve Gerber’s issues of HOWARD THE DUCK. In a weird twist of fate, Gerber would, in his final duck story years later, use the name “Leonard” for a clone of Howard. Coincidence? Karma? Cosmic Joke? You be the judge.)
Even though that initial comic book was gone, the effect on my psyche was incalculable. Soon, my entire world was comic books. Everywhere I went, I looked for them. I read comic books based on movies. I read comic books from any company I could find. I read Charlton, I read Marvel, I read Whitman, I read DC . . . I spent all of my allowance on comic books. I’m pretty sure I drove my parents insane with my insatiable hunger for funnybooks.
But it was more than just comics. Since it was the mid-1970’s, a whole world of comic character merchandising had just begun to boom. As a result, my room was decorated in super-heroes. My sheets were super-heroes. I had super-heroes on my folders, on my notebooks, on my walls, just about everywhere it was possible to have super-heroes. I had super-hero toys, I watched TV shows based on super-heroes, I wrote and drew my own comic books.
Almost thirty years have passed since my father bought me my first comic book, but they’re still a huge part of my life. I have Elfquest and Avengers posters hanging in my bedroom, and wife is gracious enough to both appreciate and encourage it. I have a whole room in the basement filled with comics and comic book memorabilia. And to be honest . . . I wouldn’t want it any other way. Heck, the first thing my wife asked when we were discussing names for our upcoming baby was if there were any good comic books names we should consider. (By the way, we’re still open to suggestions!)
So, in the end, consider me a life-long comics fan. I love the medium, plain and simple. I have flipped through literally thousands of boxes at conventions to complete my runs of what I call “failed experiment” comics: all the comics companies that tried and failed to make it work, like Malibu, Continuity, Tekno, etc. I’ve read them, and can almost always find SOMETHING worthwhile. I keep piles of comic books in my classroom, just in case some of my students share my comic book fascination. Heck, I’m even a member of CAPA-ALPHA – the longest running (and FIRST!) of the comic book amateur press organizations. You want opinions? I’ve got a million of them. But snark? No way, I don’t have any time for snark – I’m too busy trying to complete my run of PORTIA PRINZ, QUEEN OF THE GLAMAZONS.