25 September, 2015

Comic Book Day

Today is National Comic Book day, and in most parts of the United States, if you visit a bookstore or outlet that sells them, you're liable to take home some freebies!

It's been awhile since I last read a comic book, but that doesn't mean I don't want to anymore.

Like most kids of my generation, we grew up on comics -- whether they be in the form of Sunday Funnies that we eagerly slipped out of our father's newspaper after church, or the store-bought kind we always had spare allowance change to buy.

For me, it wasn't about superheros or the standard favorites and all about love.

I'd be hard-pressed to give you the exact date and time of my first glimpse into one of these charming, old relics, so let's just say I was still in elementary school and leave it at that.

What I can say with definite certainty is that, for me, it became the equivalent of an old Lay's potato chips slogan: you can't read just one.

I poured over these things with about as much gusto and interest as I did and still do romance novels.

When I was little, it was okay and safe to wander the neighborhood alone and even knock at doors of houses that had people in them we'd never met . . . yet.

My younger brother did that and ended up with three much older 'foster brothers' as it were. They were from another decade and another era, with the oldest son being in Viet Nam, but their father did things that interested my younger brother and so the strange kind of friendship grew.

One day, I accompanied him to that house on the corner curve of our horseshoe shaped block and that was when I first laid eyes (and hands) on comic books.

I remember sitting in their basement for hours reading everything from Archie (PEP) to MAD to Katy Keene and Josie and the Pussycats (JOSIE at the time).

It was also my introduction to Grand Funk Railroad and Jimi Hendrix, but that is another story for another blog post.

I didn't know it at the time, but later discovered how visually involved I am, which would explain my fascination with and total absorption in these types of reading materials.

Which probably explains my preference for PEP and Josie and so-forth over the darker, more sinister-type comics involving guys like Superman, Dick Tracy, Batman, and the like.

When I enter a clothing store, my eye does not zero in on the perfect dress, shoe, or accessory but always the shiniest, brightest colored, glowing garment or bauble on display.

And, speaking of fashion, Katy Keene was probably MY first superheroine.

She was pretty, a fashion model, and had lots of guys drooling over and wanting a piece of her action.

My kind of gal ;-)

And, yes, Veronica Lodge fit that bill as well, but Katy wasn't a stuck-up snob who dragged the boys through the mud and left them in her non-committal wake, though.

I thought that Josie was a little weird and not as likely to be so popular and the leader of a rock band as I admired Melody for all her curves, hair like mine, and that silly ditz quality so stereotyped back in the day.

Yes, she was a bona fide idiot who loved to mix her metaphors, but it just seemed to me like she was more real than Josie -- and maybe that's because I knew a lot of girls who resembled both characters and had them backwards in my head, which didn't compute when reading any of the Josie comics.

It also upset me when the writers of this particular comic changed things up and got rid of Pepper, Sock, and Albert.

Not cool.

Pepper was great, and I liked her best.

The stories themselves were hardly compelling, and in the early days, they were very stereotypical but not entirely as predictable as you might think.

Take Betty and Veronica, for example.

Just what was it that Betty needed to do in order to turn Archie's head anyway?

How many stories had I read over the years where I figured this was it; this is when that redheaded lunkhead of a freckle-faced dork is finally going to see the light and switch gears, falling for Betty instead of that annoying Veronica??

It never got old, though.

I still like watching Jughead (my favorite of all the characters in this series) eat and eat and eat without gaining an ounce.

I still think it's funny that Reggie never ends up on top despite his cunning and effortless attempts to bring Archie down.

I liked that Betty shed tears and showed frustration instead of always smiling, shrugging it off, and adopting the Japanese Ganbatte spirit when things go from bad to worse.

If anything, it taught me to recognize, admit to having feelings at all, and acknowledge them by expressing myself as the mood strikes.

There is nothing wrong with this despite today's 'pull up your big girl panties' mentality.

Crying, venting, moping, wallowing, and pitying NEED to be expressed at one time or another if you have any hope of letting go.

Heck, it is becoming even more apparent that expressing emotion is somehow seen as being weak in our eyes when friend after friend posts a death on their Facebook timeline, and if it is a human and not an animal, they will always add the words "She is in a better place" or "He lived a full life" and "It was her time to go"

This indicates their inability to admit to sadness. They are being stoic and brave in the face of permanent loss, and I, for one, am baffled by it.

Which leads me right back to bright colors, happy outcomes, and cool clothing.

Life does suck, and it does work effortlessly to get you down.

Reading is probably the best medicine to help cure the blues, too.

Reading a comic book every now and again is probably the Mary Poppins ideal!

Comic books are colorful, there is no doubt about that, and the comics I preferred were excessive at times but still rather detailed and not at all like cartoon characters seen on TV -- two dimensional like The Flintstones and The Jetsons -- but more life-like and with better personality.

Superhero comics, on the other hand, seemed dark and dreary to my young mind.

I did read them, though, but only because I loved to read and found myself more often than not reading just about anything I could get my hands on.

Especially the Spiderman series.

As for dark and dismal, even in the movies, Batman is and was a little depressing.

I have to wonder why everything has to be so dark when Gotham is probably one of the coolest cities known to man. Just not in black with the occasional yellow window signaling life occurring elsewhere in a scene.

Spiderman was cool.

There was much more to the story of Peter Parker than his ability to transform and flop his way toward danger. It was a love story that played out and never really amounted to anything . . . for decades.

MAD was probably my first and only introduction to truly irreverent social commentary.

I have yet to come across anything (well, perhaps there is The Onion) that spoke to me on a higher, more intellectual level than MAD.

And, even if I didn't quite get it at the time of my being completely absorbed in them, there were still things like Spy vs Spy, and those hilarious asides that were drawn on the lip of a few pages to make me giggle.

And, who can forget the stickers?

Yes, I kick myself severely for having never saved any of these things for the sake of posterity AND big bucks!

After getting married and settling down to raise my family, I picked up my first Archie Digest at the checkout of a supermarket and got re-hooked on comics for another decade.

When I held my first garage sale one summer, there were enough of them to fill an entire table, which I sold for .10c each, and believe it or not, they went like hotcakes.

I remember getting nostalgic, too, and ended up on E-Bay looking for those old, vintage comics books from my childhood, which I found with little difficulty and purchased for reasonable sums.

My son had permission to re-sell them on E-Bay twenty years later to help pay for college :D

The comic book superheros are much more relate-able (to me) in their live-action movie series than they are in comic book form, and I prefer comic book form Archie and Company to the cartoons and live action attempts from just a decade or more ago.

However, if I find a comic book of any variety at my fingertips, I am going to read it cover to cover and become just as absorbed in the plot as I would reading a romance novel.

Your comments, thoughts, suggestions, issues, and insight are always welcome. Please feel free to reply to any of my posts.

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