I once told a coworker I read comics. She gave me a funny look and said “But you don’t live in your mom’s basement.”
Things took a stranger turn a month later, when someone I’d never met called me at work and said they had a box of comics I’d love. He dropped the box off at my house a week or so later, and he told me it was all great old stuff from the 50’s and 60’s. If I found anything of value, I was welcome to it.
I doubted it. But hey, comics are comics, right? I opened the box and sifted through it.
Yeah. Comic fans start knife fights in the convention aisles over adaptations of The Scarlett Letter and The Courtship of Miles Standish. I could probably talk a kid into Romeo & Juliet or Last of the Mohicans, but if I tried to hand them Silas Marner, they’d roll it up tight, shove it up my ass, and light the end on fire.
And I would deserve it.
If Frank Miller adapted it, that would be different. Maybe. Or hey, what about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Mitty at the end, standing in the rain with his cigarette in that wicked-cool Sin City style…
I digress. I brought the box to the school I worked for at the time, thinking it would be a quick and easy way for the scholastic bowl team to choke down some literature at practice or before matches. It had to be at least as good as a Cliff’s Notes volume, no?
Non-dweebs assume if a man reads comics, he must be an expert on the subject. Their expression when I say I don’t read superhero comics must be the same stupefied expression I gave an older gentleman when he found out I was a writer and asked if I’d ever submitted anything to Reader’s Digest. If I read comics, I must reliably be able to appraise their collection.
Just like another co-worker who brought me a box of comics. She knew next to nothing about them, only that they were from a relative who used to have a newsstand at a store she owned and this box contained a couple months’ worth of comics from that newsstand. I doubted there was anything of value in there, and if there was, it was probably crushed and mangled beneath the unbagged, unboarded, sloppy pile of crap on top.
But hey, comics are comics, right? I opened the box and sifted through it.
Ah, Brigade and Youngblood, twin scourges of the industry. I’d probably get another fiery comic book enema for those. Beneath them were more and more comics from the era, the first few months of 1993. These were during my Dark Ages, right before I got a new job and stumbled back into a comic shop for the first time in two or three years.
I did find some fun stuff, though. Lay your peepers on this:
Yeah! Bust out the Mr. T cereal and Mr. T cartoon and we’ll have ourselves a massive nostalgia deathtrip. In fact, I think I’m going to give my dog a mohawk right now. Gotta love that bling on the cover, too. He looks like a disco ball with muscles.
Next I found a hero I’d never heard of:
Dom assures me he was a successful cartoon character, but I can’t shake the feeling he belongs in a bad WB sitcom. With that hat, he looks like Spike Lee in a Black Bolt costume minus the wings. “You don’t start none, there won’t be none?” Sounds like good advice to make sure the book fails.
Then I discovered Marvel may be mining their archives for current storylines:
See, Captain America is dead (for the moment). One of the characters to pick up the shield? That’s right, the Punisher. And here we are with What if The Punisher Became Captain America? from 1993. I wonder if that writer got any royalties. No? Oh, yeah. Work-for-hire contracts rock like that.
In the end I advised her to take the box to a comic shop down near her place. There were some Batman books in there that might raise an eyebrow, but most of it was quarter box fodder. Even if the owner gives up twenty bucks for the whole box, he could come out ahead and the teacher has less clutter in the house. Pack it up and good luck.
Worst. Appraiser. Ever.
On a side note, I just had to give her a hard time for unwittingly bringing six of these into an elementary school:
I’m still trying to puzzle out the subliminal message behind the pearl necklace. I can see the smokes thrust in the player’s face, but the pearls? What’s Joe doing here, offering a woman a choice? Telling guys to give their lady a necklace and enjoy a smoke? Now with that mindset, take a closer look at the car. One’s blowing a harmonica, and the other’s slyly pointing at his crotch. Are they telling me I’ll get a hummer if I smoke a Camel, or do I have to smoke a camel to get a smoke? Either ad people are weird or I need to get more sleep.
I can’t wait to see what comes my way next. I just know someone somewhere is dying to show me their old collection of Strawberry Shortcake comics.
If I have to peel the pages apart, I will call the police.
About Mike Oliveri
Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.