(How people of my childhood saw comic book readers)
In pondering the many influences in my life, I find it hard, at first, to dig up the past. Not that I had an awful childhood; nothing of the sort. I grew up in the idealistic nuclear family with both a mom and a dad (I know right?) and two kids counting my sister who came along 7 years after me. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that my parents were perfect. But, despite their issues with each other and the world surrounding them, I grew up in a rather normal home.
So what happened to me?
I laugh when I write this, but I often wonder. You see, when I was growing up, it wasn’t normal for older kids and, especially, teens to read comic books. And I didn’t just read them, I caught Saturday morning cartoons about them, the live action tv shows about heroes like Spider-Man and the Hulk and, once they started hitting the theaters, I gladly watched movies about them. There were others out there, obviously, but most of the older fans covered their tracks better than I did mine.
It was also not normal to obsess over ‘true’ stories about ghosts and aliens. I remember fawning over my dogeared copy of CHARIOTS OF THE GODS. As I became further and further entrenched in my Christian faith, I began to question my fascination for those things more and more. But I can’t deny that I had my ‘faze’.
Most normal kids didn’t stay up late on Friday night to catch the weird movies. You know them; the wild and woolly horror and scifi movies of the time. Everything from Godzilla to Frankenstein to THE BIRDS to giant Japanese robots fighting to save all of Tokyo were my obsession after midnight every weekend night.
Normal kids also didn’t read the dictionary.
You heard me right. I scoured the sea of words for some sign of cool names to call comic book characters. You see, I not only wanted to read comics. I wanted to write them. And I will soon, I promise you (as soon as I find an artist). And between the World-book and its dictionary, I found no better source for character names. Yeah, encyclopedias; LONG before the internet.
So, I still find myself wondering where it was I took a detour from the mindset the rest of the world. During my teenage and college years, once I wondered among my supposed peers, I really wondered what was wrong with me. I’m sure my parents did just that day after day as I grew up. But now, looking back, I realize it wasn’t a matter of what was wrong with me but was what was different about me and how I got there.
I’m not even sure that matters anymore. In this day and age, I’m not sure kids wonder so much about that. Today, weird and strange is the matter of everyday life. In fact, the different is celebrated more and more and those who chastise the weird and unusual are chastised themselves. I’m oversimplifying things of course. For, as long as man is on this planet, they will find ways to ostracize the different.
But, I digress.
Yeah, I was weird and I struggled with it through the 70s and 80s and, yeah, even to adulthood. But, looking back, it was just the building blocks of who I was to become for good of for ill. And those days of reading comics, idolizing writers and peering through dictionaries were just part of the journey.