In the early spring of 1976, I discovered my very first comic book. I was nine years old and hanging out at the corner convenience store with my best friend, Stevie. While the clerk had his back turned, I dared my chum to steal something.

He stole a two cent piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum.

He then dared me to steal something, but it had to bigger than his.

This was exactly the kind of crap I was always getting myself into! It had never occurred to me that Stevie would rip something off. After all, we had never stolen anything other than cookies from his mom’s kitchen. If I’d ever thought that he would follow me up on the dare, I would have known that I would be forced to reciprocate – and thus would NEVER have dared him in the first place.

whitman-walt-disney-scamp-132Still, a dare is after all a dare.

My eyes swept across the store for a suitable item. I stepped over to the comic book rack, checked over my shoulder, and once assured that I was not observed; I stuffed the comic under my windbreaker and exited the store.

I stole the very first comic book I would ever read.

When I returned home, I deposited the stolen article on my night stand where it remained for several weeks. I hated to read back then. Reading is what ‘They’ made you do at school, not something you did in your free time. It wasn’t until the next rainy day that I would actually pick the thing up out of boredom.

The title of the comic was SCAMP.  Scamp was the child of Disney’s doggie lovers, Lady and the Tramp.  I though Scamp was cool. The comic was cool. I read that one comic over and over. Finally, I decided that I needed another.

superman-family-2091So, I was off to steal my second comic book.

I had stolen probably eight comics over a three week period before it dawned on me that I should really be purchasing my comics. Thus, my life as a hardened criminal ended and my life as a comic book addict began.

The summer of 1976 came. My father decided to take my brother and I on a trip to Gulf Port, Mississippi where there was to be some kind of huge Bicentennial celebration. Dad wanted to buy a game or something for me to mess with on the long drive. I talked him into buying me comic books instead.

It was at this point that I made the transition from  Disney Comics and over to Marvel and DC’s hero comics. I still remember the books that he bought me that day. I picked up those great SUPERMAN FAMILY and BATMAN FAMILY $1 comics, the price of which my father complained loudly.

463-5Most memorable of all of the books I got that day was the story arc in the Superman books that involved him getting hit so hard by some outerspace alien that he wound up being knocked back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Now, my brother is five years older than me and he had hit me pretty hard before and I never got knocked through time. I thought, this alien guy must be bad news.

I read that comic backwards and forwards.  It was never bagged nor boarded.  It was read.  It was loved.  I wore the cover off that book!  Still have it, tattered and beaten as it is.

I have cultivated this habit of mine for over thirty years now.

Comics have been a constant for me, an unchanging element of my life.  Through good times and bad, they’ve been there.  The comics I’ve read have marked the milestones of my life.  Epic Illustrated with Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey got me through high school whereas Starlin’s Dreadstar and Eastman & Laird’s TMNT saw me through college.

Vertigo’s 100 Bullets debuted shortly after I met my wife (I try not to draw any significance from that).

Kurt Busiek annd George Perez’ JLA/Avengers provided diversion when my father died.

Comics have seen drastic changes over the last three decades, yet my love for them remains undiminished. Through great times and bad times, comics have been a source of hours of fun and enjoyment.

Loves me some funny books.  And I haven’t stolen any in a long, long time.

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