Superhero-Sunday: Comicbooks and Me (Part Two)

I grew up reading comicbook superheroes from Marvel and DC Comics. Having been weaned on cartoons / animes and live-action serials like Ultraman being dubbed in Malay on TV3 (I don't know what the heck was playing on Singaporean channels), it seemed like a right "fit" with superheroes printed on the 2D-page (from vertical viewing on the telly to horizontal viewing of the comicbook LOL).

One of the first times I remember ever experiencing holding a comicbook, was sitting in a barber's chair when I was a young'un having my hair cut - my dad must have bought the comic for me in the neighborhood ma-ma shop, to placade my incessant wails, while having my hair trimmed. I remember it being a Marvel Two-In-One (pictured here). I also remember vividly pencil-tracing marks on some pages later, as I attempted to draw comicbooks. (Years again later I would pause a VHS of A-Ha!'s "Take On Me" to trace the comicbook style drawings seen on the television screen LOL). I still have that book in my collection. But no worries, I have since stopped the act of tracing others' work :)


Then came upon a time when I realized they were all Caucasian or African-American, and I found myself turning to look for heroes of Eastern or Asian heritage - but soon found near everyone to possess the skill of kungfu, but count not send energy bolts out of their hands (well, perhaps some Shaolin-Palm kungfu-skill does anyways ;p) or read minds. And then it was back to American comicbooks, which till this day, I insist educated me in the English language (imagine a Chinese boy from a Mandarin-speaking household speaking like a Charles Dickens novel - not gonna happen) and shaped me into who I am this day as an adult (or "kidult" as some might insist, it matters naught to me ;p).


Then when I hit puberty and eventually adolescence (aka "The Dark Period"), the thought and strength of comicbook superheroes helped made the transition smoother than the rocky road it was meant to be. The allure of "duo-identities" soothed the notion of being a geek in school, while being picked on by ruffians. The shyness amongst the female students was but a ruse to disguise my true powers … (Although the pimple-clusters around my nose held NOT super-power serums…) … Within me held the secret, that I was "better" than who I show myself to be in public … or at least I convinced myself I was, so that I could survive thru the anguish.


And while I never did wear a Superman-t-shirt underneath my uniform - I am not disillusioned to think I actually HAD a super-power, you know? I might be delusional but not wholly insane LOL … Or maybe I did but had forgotten them all and survived till today without needing to invoke the torrid past (like blogging about geekery toys and whatnot is not a life-scarring journey in the first place these days LOL). Ironically, I have a cupboard-full of superhero-emblems on tee-shirts that I procured as an adult now. "Affordability" over "dreams", perhaps?


I remember a period as a student buying comicbooks. I was literally counting coins/cents - and 5-cents short meant I would be without a comicbook. I am the shy bloke who does not know how pucker-up to folks, so that I could score freebies or excuses (never have been, never will be), and the agony of missing a comicbook, meant I had to ration which ones to get, while letting go what others I "prayed" might not raise in price the following week, so that I could still afford to buy them if I had missed buying them this week.

Most times that notion is moot, as most comicbooks raise in price the week afters, regardless of market-force (or inclusive of market-forces, i wouldn't really know). Maybe it was the shops I went to, but it did not matter as much as the value of comicbooks in my eyes - not the dollar-sense, but the sense of wonder and adventure they possess (some of them slways :p) even until this day for me.


In my life, I had but won the lottery that one time. I had scored SGD$1000.00 in a single swoop - and that's a whole darn hefty sum for a poor Corporal in the Army! I remember heading out one fine morning and spending near half of the loot before heading into Army-duties by lunch-time. Most memorable day EVAH! I actually do not know what were the titles I scored tho and where the other half of the lottery-money went into hahahaha.


The days when I could save up money from part-time jobs and spurge on comicbooks, was one of the most enriching period in my life. Not only were getting the comics as sweet, I was also able to procure titles outside of my regular comfort-zone. Independent comics were in, and black-n-white was the new "4-Color". Dark Horse stood out and lasted longer than anyone I know of. Other issues came and invigorated my world, but somehow never lasted more than two or even three issues published. Til this day, more memorable indie comics for me include Stray Bullets, Eightball, Baker Street (seen below) et al - titles that do not necessarily follow a "trend" (thing Animal-human-warrior-hybrid comics lol) and instead set a pace of their own. Anthology-fanzines made everything cool, especially the sole RAW collection I had.


And due to being able to accept comicbooks and "manhua", I discovered "manga" (ironically after the dubbed-animes on tv). But the allure could not last as well, for the torrid storylines of the "Big Two" turned much tastier and I turned again to the mainstream.


Creator-owned concepts bashed the way thru for the general acceptance indie low-brow art culture, I reckon. Names like Frank Miller and Alan Moore shone for their ability to craft stories and characters of their own creation. To mention "Watchmen" being a pinnacle of change, is an understatement, as well an overstatement - as there are numerous other titles that had pathed the public for the acceptance. We already have been weaned on creator-owned characters in eastern comics like A Chinese Hero, and even western anthologies like the weekly 2000A.D. - and even the advent of IMAGE Comics proved that it was not just the conglomerate of the "Big Bad Company" that ruled the roost, it was the creators, writers, artists, colorists and letterers than made the stories and concepts memorable, beyond the printed page - ever caught in respect-limbo - between the respected novel and the commercial-juggernaut of the silver-screen, IMHO.


Vertigo appealed specifically to the benign deviant in me, with commercial titles like Sandman and Constantine mixed in with the X-Men and a myriad other spandex-clad powered-folk. And my new heroes were comicbook-illustrators who painted, names like Dave McKean and Bill Sienkiewicz hung from my lips. Ohters followed suit thru the years, from James Jean, to Dan Brereton, from Jon J Muth to so many others, this single post cannot contain them all.


These days? Movies are adapted from comicbooks, and there never has been an even awesome time to be a geek! Thor. Green Lantern. X-Men. Superman. Batman. Spiderman. The list goes on, the results a mixed bag of exception (like Nolan's Batman) and a slap-on-the-fanboy-face (Fantastic Four comes into mind) - but nevertheless fanboy-movies galore, accepted now to be money-spinners - hey, I'm not complaining! I follow them as much as I can on this blog too!


The 80s showed it could be done (Burton's Batman, and even an earlier Superman starring Christopher Reeve - yes only "Superman 2"), and yes, we can try to forget the 90s (i have no issue with nippled Batman and Robin suits - just that they needed to be on Batgirl's suit too, ya know? … but that's just me…). The days past the new millennium saw the proliferation of comicbook heroes on television instead of the silver screen - which made evolutionary sense, so I shall not quibble much.


Actively collecting comicbooks, was the last time I had done, when I upped and changed careers and headed further into blogging. There were no savings to be had (and I am not being coy here), and I had already given up on design magazines (Wallpaper, FRAME, idN, a hell-load of interior design magazines), and street magazines from the East (MiLK, East Touch etc). Weekly comicbook runs was the last thing I had to let go, in lieu of daily survival. Somedays I really miss the camaraderie of fellow connoisseurs at weekly runs. It was the yakking with likeminded folks until the store closed for business, that got my blood pumping as well LOL


I survived by tradepaperbacks for a while too, learning to embrace the stories moreso than a single printed mag (different feeling as most folks might understand), but that too soon turned to a faded dream. (Although I still try to collect the odd "The Boys" whenever I can find them). The last title ever made me tear like a wee-boy back-in-teenage-shorts, was Joss Wheldon's final run on The Astonishing X-Men. Nothing much could compare, even the later Warren Ellis series (and I heart WE). Hell, the entire run by Joss was legendary in my book!


These days, to stay sane and away from heartbreak, I stay clear of comicbook shops. The only other online comic I ever follow is Warren Ellis' Freak Angels, and that is it. Every other time a brand new action figure is released based from a particular storyline, I have to grapple with what it might entail story-wise (especially the Green Lantern-lore! I stopped basically where "Blackest Night" begun) and be able to offer more than just product snaps and cursory introductions. I deplore that, frankly speaking. But better exposure for others to others, than my own ability to geekout, I suppose.


These days, I have my memories now to keep me company instead, and along with them "questions" that need answering … Peter Parker bitch-slapping the Kingpin (but I read Aunt May survived because he made a deal with the devil?). Kitty Pride engulfed in a giant bullet heading into outer space (will she ever survive?). Bruce Wayne died and his body reanimated by "The Blackest Night" (did he ever make a comeback?) while Dick Grayson took over the mantle with Bruce's son with Talia become Robin (gawds but the kid need a constant barrage of slaps). What's up with the multicolored Lanterns? Was there ever a third series to Bryan Hitch's run on Fantastic Four? (After Doctor Doom's "Masters" came to play) … I try not to question or think too much, but sometimes I am weak and lapse, but for the good old days of comicbooks … And by the 4-Color-Gawds do I miss COMICBOOKS!


EPILOGUE: I had first posted about my affinity with comicbooks HERE in 2006. This is the second time I go into length about reading and collecting them. As well CLICK for earlier blogposts about comicbook specific on this blog - all images you see above (excluding movie images & Freak Angels) are from previous posts :)


krakit said…
Nice post about comics. Over here on
May 7th the entire United States had
a FREE COMIC BOOK DAY ... so combine
that and your post and I'm hungry to
try collecting a few comics again.

We must have stopped collecting about
the same time since I backed off just
before the Blackest Night story line
came along. I was choosing between toys
and comics and the toys won :D but it
looks like I'll be dipping my toe back
in the comics after seeing an ad for
IDW's comic titled, "GODZILLA Monster World"
I hope it's good -- or maybe I hope it's
bad so I can spend the money on more toys
ha ha ha

Marvel and DC are at the edge of pushing
comics over $3 each for the monthly titles,
but I think one of them has been advertising
that $3 is the limit. Yeah, we'll see.

I agree with you about keeping your sanity
by staying far from comic book shops, but
some of them have some cool toys too!
Abe Lincoln Jr. said…
Andy! That Marvel Two in One was one of my favorite comics as a kid! I read it about a million times, I had plenty of access to em but there was something about that one that just plain ruled. Thanks for reminding me!
toysrevil said…
Spencer: We had Free Comic Day here as well apparently, but I am homebound due to Stroke, so only saw images online of folks walking away with free comics ggrrrrr - i had to look away man :/

I remember when stores used to go by currency rates of the day, and that determined the cost of comics for me - back in the day - or becoz I was a young kid, they felt they could do it ... the store is no longer around tho lol
toysrevil said…
Abe: Nice! I felt the same way too! the rest of the two-in-ones I bought later (both before and after the issue number) was just somehow "cheesier" and less robust than this one! lol