Letters to Holly

Tuesday, April 22

The Story of My First Comic Book

So, you can say you ran in the Boston marathon. And I, the itinerant jogger, can only claim measly local 5ks.

Fine. I see how it is.


I'll go to Chicago or New York and sneak into their marathons too. Or I'll run in drag in the women's Olympic race this summer.

I'll show you all.

Your Mom, you should know, is tickled that her daughter and son-in-law are doing any kind of running.

During a downtown stroll this weekend, we ducked into the local antique store. They sell old magazines and whatever comics someone has brought in. While the comics are usually piddling, they all sit on an old-fashioned spinner rack -- the kind that used to stand in grocery and drug stores -- and I would kill to have one. The store won't sell theirs though (I've asked), and it taunts me whenever I walk by the front windows of the store.

I checked the rack this weekend, and someone had brought in their load of 1970s horror comics: Godzilla, Man-Thing, Tomb of Dracula, and assorted others. I didn't really care for them, but I will keep my eyes open for work by particular artists. When Marvel started their horror comics, they were handing them to whoever could slap together a script and dribble ink on an artboard. I never heard of some of these folks, and the comics didn't crank my engine.

However, I did find something I never, ever thought I'd find. It was so random and weird that I had not once considered I'd ever find it. I've scoured back-issue bins for decades, looking for bargains and specific titles to complete my collection. But I never looked for this issue, and here it was, in my hands just after I had eaten lunch and shopped for shoes for Your Sister. It's a copy of the oldest comic I remember owning. As far as my brain is concerned, it's my first comic book.

The copy I had was so beaten up that I don't ever recall seeing the cover. It was gone. The pages were battered from being shoved and piled in a cardboard box from the grocery store. My grandparents used to babysit me while my parents were at work, and I kept a pile of comics at their place instead of schlepping comics back and forth. This comic was one of those. I don't think I have that original copy anymore. I hadn't thought of it for at least 15 years.

I, of course, bought this new one, and I read it that night as Your Sis cracked open a Wonder Woman. It's bizarre. In this 1975 comic, a pan-dimensional demon tries to invade our world but is denied by a centuries-old Scarecrow who lives in a painting. The Scarecrow leaps from the painting to fight demons (who just happen to stroll by the framed art), and his presumably straw-packed gloves dispense justice with fisticuffs. There's also a giant mutant fish and a fight in a lab. I'm not sure the artist and writer spoke the same language, and I'm convinced drugs were imbibed before and during this comic's production. It's pretty damn crappy. It's a bad comic. It's a dopey premise. We can't tell if the title character is a good guy or not. The magic has no rules.

I had to be three when I first got this comic, and I probably asked for it because there's a scarecrow on the cover. He was my favorite character from The Wizard of Oz. This comic, you may have guessed, has nothing to do with the Emerald City or Ray Bolger. And I think the comic scared me as a kid because it was so weird and unexpected. If I had read it now for the first time, I would have disregarded it. It has no value except sentiment. But it was my first, and now I have a decent copy of it.

You may also have heard that the three presidential candidates taped messages to appear on the WWE show last night. Obama may have won me over by cribbing The Rock's catchphrase: "If you smell what Barack is cooking."

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