It has been popular lately to reminisce about personal early comic book reading experiences. We all remember the moment that our imagination was permanently captured by the medium and, of course, the experience is unique for everyone. Don Lomax who’s CAPTAIN OBESE comic is a feature here at CO2 Comics recently talked about his early comic reading experiences and how they influenced his comic creating in this interview.
As for my own experience, comic strips were my first introduction to sequential art. I remember, when I was a very young child, anxiously looking forward to the Sunday paper each week so I could sprawl out on the floor and be mesmerized by the colorful pictures that seemingly came to life on the expansive sheets of paper. I couldn’t read but I had a good sense for what was going on especially in the action comics I was drawn to like Buck Rogers, Prince Valiant, Popeye, Alley Oop and Dick Tracy.
Silly Putty made reading the comics more tactile as I was fond of capturing the images on the rubbery clay and distorting them with seemingly limitless possibilities. This was probably how I conjured the first notion that I could exercise my creative urges with comics. A long weekend afternoon of rolling gleefully on sheets of newspaper would leave me fully smudged with cheap ink, my toddler’s clothes permeated with the musty odor of newsprint and my imagination broadened with the endless creative potential that was exhibited in those color drenched comics.
My local newspaper, the Norristown TIMES HERALD had a weekly supplement for children, it was a four-page, black-and-white, pull-out called TINY TURTLE that was mostly a cartoony activity sheet that encouraged children to color, draw, do puzzles, read and learn. It featured a monthly calender and was always specific to the season. This came in the Saturday edition of the paper ensuring that my childhood weekends were fairly occupied by my local press.
Collections of Charles Schulz’ PEANUTS were my first recollection of enjoying comics bound by covers. My uncle would bring the pocket book size collections over to amuse me while I recovered from open heart surgery. I was nine years old and I would read them front to back before ever putting them down. They were the best distraction from my physical ailments and proof that laughter was, in fact, the best medicine. Nothing was funnier to me than the exploits of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang and I would torture my family by reading the gags aloud and describing the pictures. Somehow the jokes were never as funny when I retold them but my own sides still split with laughter upon each retelling.
I was an avid reader in grade school and gravitated toward adventure and mystery stories. I remember enjoying series books like The BOBBSEY TWINS, The HARDY BOYS and TOM SWIFT. During this time I remember Big Little Books capturing my attention as well. Big Little Books were chock full of illustrations on every other page and I found myself just as drawn to the images as I was toward the words.
Trips to the barber shop were where I first encountered comic books. I remember there being two magazine racks in the back of the shop, one for the men and the other for the boys. The men’s rack was chock full of PLAYBOY magazines and the best way to get a glimpse of their voluptuous subject matter was to spend as much time as possible by the other precariously close rack that contained comic books.
Though the comics were at that point a precocious end to a means, I would spend a lot of time thumbing through them and I soon discovered that there was a difference between the Marvel and DC comics. The DC comics at the time had a lot of short stories in them and I found that I could enjoy them more because I could get a full story while I waited. The Marvel comics always left me hanging and though I found the images and story more dynamic, I would always be left disappointed, not knowing how the story ended.
As I became a little more independent I would make frequent trips to the local 7-11 convenience store that could be reached through a network of shortcuts through neighbors’ yards. The mission was always the same, milk and bread for Mom, baseball cards and Slurpees for me and my brothers.
The Slurpee cups at the time had images of baseball players on them and my brothers and I were avid collectors, especially hunting for cups of our beloved Phillies. We were always on the prowl for cups featuring our heroes Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt. Inevitably we had stacks of those baseball cups featuring stars from every team in MLB. This went on for a couple of seasons then one day everything changed. The Slurpee cups featured something different… Marvel characters!
I had already been picking at comics and had, despite my earlier convictions about Marvel comics, recently been enamored with issue #167 of CAPTAIN AMERICA and the FALCON by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema. I remember rushing home and reading it beneath a peach tree in my back yard on a particularly balmy fall day, I then spent the afternoon recreating the cover while sitting at the dining room table.
The Slurpee cup completist in me along with the Marvel story arcs fueled my need to collect the comics and soon I was a master at knowing the delivery dates of the magazines of every convenience and drug store in my immediate area. I started collecting only CAPTAIN AMERICA then titles that featured CAPTAIN AMERICA soon I found Cap crossing over into title after title and before I knew it I was hooked on the whole Marvel Universe.
In the process I was collecting those Slurpee cups too and found that I loved to copy the classic images off the cups. I probably learned more about drawing the human figure from those images on the cups than any single other resource at the time.
By the time I got to high school my fate was sealed. I knew I wanted to make comics when I grew up and that became the focus of my education until I left college to co-found COMICO the Comic Company.
Making Comics Becuse I Want To