All About Memories

Over at their new blog, the crew from comics retailer, All About Books, in Phoenix have put up an opportunity for people to talk about their first comic bought. You get some free comics in exchange for your story, and just reading them all is a really great reflection on the industry.

Anyway, I have had this story of my first contact with the collecting addiction that I now suffer for many many years, but have never really shared it. It's not embellished at all, and it really is how I remember it.

So, let me share, children of the night, and read on:

I don't actually remember the first comic that I read, since I read quite a few as a kid - mostly in passing, just looking at the pictures and whatnot at friends and in my uncle's old room when we stayed at my grandmother's house on holidays growing up.

But the first book that made me a collector was on the racks sometime in 1986. I was around 13 or so, at the mall on a Friday night with a bunch of friends. One of our parents had dropped us off and between hanging at the arcade, sneaking into and getting kicked out of movies, and cruising the foodcourt to meet girls (Yeah, like that was going to happen!), we passed an old Waldenbooks. From out on the concourse I could see this really distinct book on a spinner rack near the magazines. We walked by pretty fast, but I couldn't turn my eyes away. I told my friends I saw something and that I would catch up with them at Orange Julius'.

I broke off from the group and made a b-line for the book. It was The Dark Knight Returns, book 4 -- The Dark Knight Falls. It was that sick, mostly black and sunset reds/oranges cover. Batman in silhouette with the big gun and spike-knuckled knife just about to get into it with Superman! It was so striking. I clearly remember thinking "Man! This is what comics are like now! I have to get this!" It was just an incredible cover and had such an immediate effect on me.

I started to reach for it, when suddenly a hand fell on my shoulder. It was one of my friends. He was trying to figure out what I was doing and I made up some excuse about seeing someone I knew. I don't know why but for some reason, I thought comics were just for little kids, but looking at that cover I knew that they weren't (plus I still was a kid!)

Anyway, I never did get the book that night, but I couldn't stop looking at it. The very next week was Thanksgiving and we were off to NY again for a visit to the grandparents. The day after, I begged my dad to bring me and my younger brother to a local 7-11 wannabe store to search out comics. We found a great place and I bought a ton of Batman and Detective comics and even the old History of the DC Universe Portfolio (I still have all of them in my collection.) But I couldn't find that Dark Knight book anywhere. That trip made me an addict, and except for some time in college when I was buying sporadically whenever/wherever I could find them, I haven't missed a Wednesday since. I am now pushing 35 years old.

My dad died 13 years ago this past Sunday. He fed my habit quite a bit those first few years I was collecting, until I got my license. And when I was away in school, he sometimes sent me a book or two, and always put one in my stocking at Christmas. They were usually titles I wasn't collecting, or issues I had, but I always liked those books more. To this day, I can't go to a new comic shop without thinking about him and that first trip he took me and my brother on.

It was about a year later that I finally found a regular comic shop near my home and had educated myself enough from letter columns and ads from places like Mile High Comics that I was able to track down the whole Dark Knight mini. It was worth the wait.
And that cover -- man -- it is still my favorite cover of all time.

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