Monday, February 25, 2008

The Comic Book That Made Me Who I Am Today Or Wow, That's A Depressing Thought

While I was sitting at my desk this afternoon my boss came by to ask if I had a minute.
I’m always wary when I hear this question; on too many occasions it’s led to a conversation that resulted in me no longer having a job.
Such wasn’t the case today, though the point of the conversation was that after the next few weeks I will no longer be working…for him.
There’s been a reorganization, the end result of which for me is that I will soon be reporting to a different boss.
My current boss isn’t going anywhere, it’s just that some of his responsibilities (the ones under which I fall) are being handed over to someone else.
From the perspective of what I do, nothing is actually changing, I’m just going to be giving status updates to and receiving project assignments from someone else.
I’m pretty well used to this sort of thing, so it’s no big deal. In 5 years in the NOC at AOL I had 6 different bosses. In 6 years total at AOL, I had, I think, 10 different bosses.
Over at Polite Dissent the good doctor posted an example of bad medicine in comics from a story in Superman Family #171.
From an objective viewpoint, there’s nothing special about this particular comic. It’s just another collection of Silver Age silliness that is no different from any other comic of the time.
For me, however, it has a great deal of significance.
Why? Because, when it comes to the comic book reading habit, this comic was my “gateway drug.”
When I was a kid my parents would occasionally buy comics for us kids to read on camping trips, rainy days, and whatnot, and this particular comic happened to be one of them. When I was probably around 4 years old – before I’d started school or learned to read, in any event – I stumbled across the family’s tattered copy.
I distinctly recall being utterly baffled by what was going on in its pages, and while I attempted to create my own interpretation of the events depicted, it was clear that pictures alone weren’t enough to convey what was happening, and I resolved to learn to read ASAP so that I could find out what was being said in the word balloons.
In particular, I was baffled by this page:

I knew, in the vaguest of terms, who Superman was, but having no idea who Supergirl was before seeing this comic, I assumed that she was Superman’s girlfriend or something. Why, then, was he helping to toss his girlfriend off of a bridge?
I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to ask anyone to read it to me, but I decided that when the day came that I could read it on my own, I would do so.
That day didn’t come until over 30 years later, as the comic in question disappeared before a newly-literate Jon could get his hands on it.
Still, the comic was the catalyst that sparked my lifelong love for the medium, and it’s because of that crappy comic that, as Scott put it, we have the Jon that we know today.
Throughout the years I would periodically think back on that comic, wondering what issue of what title it could have been. Somewhere along the line I figured out that it must have been Superman Family, which I by then knew that from the early 70s to the early 80s was the only place in which Supergirl stories appeared. Then one day a couple of years ago someone posted a bunch of Superman Family comics to a comics newsgroup and I skimmed through them all to find that scene – Supergirl being tossed off a bridge – that had been haunting my consciousness for decades.
Once I found the comic, I downloaded it, and with some trepidation finally read the story behind that image.
And it was utter garbage.
Still, that’s precisely what I expected, and the sub-par quality of the story didn’t diminish my enthusiasm, or my appreciation for just how pivotal a role this comic played in my development, and today, when I saw the Polite Dissent post, I couldn’t help but be a little pleased to see some sort of recognition – even if not the most positive recognition – for such an important relic of the History of Jon.
(While I have a digital copy of the comic, I don’t have an actual physical copy of it, and I would like to actually own it. Not to drop any not-so subtle hints or anything, but Milehigh Comics does have a copy in Very Fine condition available for sale – cheap! – and I do have a birthday coming up soon…)

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