My Comic Book DNA, Part III: The College Experience

From Part I of my essay on how I came by the comics hobby, we know I started with hardbound albums in all genres, superheroes a minority. Part II detailed how I plunged into the Big 2's shared universes and lost myself. My college years would add the last pieces of the puzzle and make me the comics reader I am today.

Three things happen in the space of a year to change EVERYTHING. One is that I come of age, which means I can purchase "Mature Readers" material. At the same time, I gain access to comic book stores where such material, and more besides, is sold. Though my first year at university is spent at my home town's campus, a small hobby/comic book store opens in the area. It has a major impact on my role-playing game hobby, but as for comics, it might mean a copy of The Killing Joke or Arkham Asylum, not much more. It's when I move to Moncton that I start going to real comic book stores and actually dip into new material. Oh and the third thing? It's the 1990 and Marvel Comics have recently become nigh unreadable. I end up quitting every book I was buying, which gives me a lot a comics cash to spend on other stuff!

Though the best store by far was a place called Wilky's, a friend of mine had heard about a going-out-of-business sale going on a the local "1,000,000 Comics". We went and found that all back issues were 50% off. Even better was the fact that a lot of their more recent back issues weren't bagged, boarded and priced, so the clerk was giving us 50% off cover price! We bought entire runs of books (or close to it), whatever seemed interesting, and for me, it meant books unavailable at newsstands - Baxter books, New Format books, etc. There were gaps, but not a lot. My friend got himself Hellblazer, Sandman and Swamp Thing, while I grabbed Animal Man, L.E.G.I.O.N., Shade the Changing Man and Morrison's Doom Patrol. And man, there wasn't a bad series in the bunch! THEY BLEW MY MIND! (We went back the next day to take advantage of those unpriced books, but the owner was there and looked everything up in his Overstreet Price Guide - no way was I going to pay 16$ - or 8$ - for the death of Superboy.)

My mind had been opened to new possibilities. From then on, yes, I was still reading lots of mainstream superhero books, from DC and Valiant, but I was also reading everything Vertigo was putting out, and lots and lots of indie comics, from Dark Horse and Caliber to Innovation and Tundra. Just like I'd done in high school, I was trying everything I could. And I still am. Over the years, Marvel got out of the 90s and I started reading their Kool-Aid again, and for a while, I had to quit comics for financial reasons. When I came back, I opted for trade paperbacks only, then slowly got back into monthlies, and now digital releases. My diet consists of superhero fare, but also humor and all ages books, horror and SF, fantasy and crime drama, licensed properties and creator-owned comics, art house indie comics, new and vintage, and in all formats. And now you know how it got that way.

How about you? How did growing up change your comics hobby?


Toby'c said...

August 2009, about a week shy of my 20th birthday, I walk into Vagabond Games, Sturt St, Ballarat, where I had previously bought a DVD box set of half a dozen Dragon Ball sagas at a great price (I must get around to finishing that one). So I'm browsing there when Dragon Ball volume 1 catches my eye. I bought it, read it, snapped up the next four over the following weeks. Around the same time, I discovered two other series at my campus library - One Piece (which I quickly lost interest in) and Mahou Sensei Negima (hilarious and awesome, though, as I later found out, quite badly translated). Four years later, my manga collection has over 100 individual volumes, mostly Negima, Bleach and various stuff by Rumiko Takahashi.

It was in early 2010 that I read and watched Watchmen, which I bought from Minotaur (Elizabeth St, Melbourne) in late June. V For Vendetta followed around November, and the Death of Superman in December (after watching and loving Superman: Doomsday). Since then I've picked up a variety of Superhero trades, either stuff I'd seen adapted (The Long Halloween, All-Star Superman), was expecting to (Knightfall, Winter Soldier), or otherwise had been recommended by Linkara (Kingdom Come, Crisis on Infinite Earths). I don't buy anything regularly, though.

Martin Gray said...

Ah, what' a great time to discover comics. I'd forgotten all about the New Format cover slug. Keep the stories coming !

Doctor Futurity said...

Great read...ah, the memories! I started collecting comics quite young (I think I was about 8 when I discovered X-Men, Rom, Micronauts and others) but my epiphany hit around the same time your outlining out here....Morrison's Doom Patrol permanently changed what I thought comics could do, as did others like Miller's Dark Knight and just about everything post-Crisis DC. I was still in high school, college years were all about Image omics...!

Unknown said...

Well, as I was growing up it became a lot harder to FIND comics; I used to get them at the grocery store when my mom went, and then at Borders, and I think we all know what happened there.

jdh417 said...

Price increases drove me out of collecting. The DC's went first. Then the price of Spider-Man went up and I suddenly had that epiphany that all collectors have: I'm not enjoying reading these anymore; I'm just collecting them. So I stopped.

I had a brief resurgence picking up Sandman and also some back issues of X-Force, the on the road issues where they went to places like Burning Man. Those were fun. It was David Mack's Kabuki that broke me. His Alchemy series took so long to come out, I couldn't take monthlies anymore.

Austin Gorton said...

I came into comics early enough in the 90s that the price increases were gradual enough to match my rising disposable income - at $1.25 I could get four for five bucks and still have some of my $10 allowance left over for other stuff (like back issues), and by the time the prices bumped up noticeably from there, I had a part time job, then, in college, a full time one, and by then I was well beyond hooked.

The big thing that changed for me as I came of age was the discovery of comic book conventions - at first, just a one-or-two a year shows held in a room at a local hotel, but eventually a larger bi-annual show with actual creator guests and art auctions and the like (the same show I now volunteer at every year).

I was able to fill in a lot of runs thanks to those early cons, stuff my local shop didn't have, or that the cons were selling for cheaper. I checked out a ton of new stuff thanks to quarter boxes, and looking back, for a kid getting into comics in the early 90s, those con experiences were probably the closest I could come to recreating the experience of going down to the local drug store and being able to randomly sample stuff on the cheap.


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