So yesterday was Free Comic Book Day, and due to a variety of circumstances (ice show season, my own forgetfulness, being sick, and the fact that there isn't a comic shop around us that I know of) I didn't get my free comic books. However, I have been thinking a lot lately about comic books and their role in my life.
I got my first comic book when I was somewhere around the age of ten. My older brother, who I idolized at the time, took my younger brother and me to a little comic shop in East Dundee in a strip mall near Route 72 and Route 25. I don't recall the name of the shop, and it is long since gone. What I do remember is my brother bought me my first comic book. It was some mid-90s issue of Wolverine. I don't remember what number it was, and I traded it long ago to a school friend who was trying to get his hands on as many issues of Wolverine as he could. There was one panel where Wolverine was in his civilian clothes, riding his motorcycle, and I thought he looked like a child in that image. Maybe some day I will come across that issue and I can have it once again.
My older brother is about ten years older than I am, and he is an avid comic book collector. Since he was often away at high school or his job, I would try and sneak into his room and see what issues were laying around that I could flip through. Not having the money or the means to get my own comics, I would have to make do with what my brother would let me read or what I could flip though when he wasn't around.
There's something about the marrying of words and images in that way that draws me in. At first I only read superhero comics. The clash of heroes and villains who wielded enough power to rip the world apart was, and is, the purest form of escapism. I would often wonder, if I had such power at my disposal, would I use it for good or evil? I wasn't one of those people who gained life lessons from comics (like Spiderman's line about power and responsibility) I had my parents for that.
I was always disappointed that I couldn't get out to get comics whenever I wanted. If I saved enough allowance money and there wasn't something going on that weekend, maybe I could get my parents to take me to Comic Quest on a Saturday, but it was so sporadic that I couldn't keep up on story lines. And then a few years after my older brother bought me my first comic, for my birthday he got me my first graphic novel. He got me one of the greatest graphic novels ever, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.
It was all over from there. I found out that I could get an entire story line collected in one volume. Even if I couldn't get to the comic shop regularly, I could still get pivotal story lines all at one go. I continued on the super hero vein for a while, collecting mainly a mix of Marvel and DC books. Eventually I began to branch out and started reading a variety of other stories, fantasy, sci-fi, samurai rabbits, ninja turtles, you name it. From that point forward, comics, well graphic novels, have been a big part of my life. I even got Brandi to read the entire run of Preacher, which was a feat all in itself.
The other night, I was trying to make up a list of my graphic novels since the shelves I put them on was moved upstairs and I figured, what better time would I have to try and make up a list of everything? I found out that over the course of about 14 years, I've accumulated approximately 234 graphic novels. I say approximately, because I know I have a few in the basement yet in box somewhere.
In the last couple years, I've also discovered web comics, which has its good and bad just like everything else. It's not quite the same, though, and I do prefer my comics on the printed page.
I feel like I'm rambling, so let me just say, that if you've never read a comic book, or it's been some time since you've read one, go out and give it a try. Libraries are carrying graphic novels more and more now (I have four from the library in my backpack now). There's a whole world of stories out there that people will sometimes pass over because they think of it as some kind of lower form or literature, and that just isn't so. And if you need a recommendation, I might be able to give you a couple titles, but I warn you, sometimes when I get going, I can't stop.