After my big interview with Mark “Funky Bunch” for a special episode of Talking Joe (between episodes 103 and 104, December 2020), Mark told me that the podcast was at a crossroads. After two years of hard work, founder Chief Stride was retiring, and Mark was considering a change in format or was a looking for a new co-host. And would I be interested? I’ll go into this more in a week or two in my big A Real American Book! year-in-review post, but the answer turned out to be yes.Continue reading
Tag Archives: Back issues
In our last episode, Tim and his brother Kevin placed their biggest mail order of G.I. Joe comics yet, and the excruciating wait began…
My grade school had half-day Fridays every single week, so I would have lunch at Roy Rogers with Betty, my family’s housekeeper/nanny/second mom, on the way home. And my brother, in 9th grade at a different school, didn’t get home until 4 or 5pm, whereas I was already playing Dig Dug on our IBM XT and watching Dennis the Menace at 1. On a Friday after what felt like months, where every day I longed to see a package awaiting me at my front door, Betty and I pulled into the driveway, my neck still careening for an angle on the screen door in case THIS WAS THE DAY.
Indeed the screen door was just a tad ajar, but in no way the amount needed to make room for an eight-foot tall box of comics. And there had been a few false alarms — small packages for my mom, or all our regular mail bundled together with a rubber band, so I wasn’t going to get my hopes up again on the short flagstone walk to the front stoop. But there it was anyway, another modestly sized, tightly taped East Coast Comics box!
I have no recollection of getting it inside, or forming half-words to Betty to express its significance, but soon I was kneeling on the bed in my parents’ room, an odd place for the unpacking operation, but one that makes its own sense. Betty watched soap operas downstairs in the family room, and from an early age my brother and I knew we weren’t allowed to join in. (At the time soap operas showed the occasional sex scene, all tastefully under the covers, really nothing more than prone kissing – tame by today’s standards. But nonetheless we were chased out of the room if we lingered too long while fetching an action figure or an afterschool Pudding Pop.) So that room was out.
My room was too narrow for stacks of loose comics so large they threatened to asphyxiate me should they topple over. What I needed was a big space to spread out so I could take in all the G.I. Joe goodness at once. We watched TV on our parents’ bed, and sometimes read for school there, so it was atop the brown 1970s bedspread and before the orange, brown, and white tulips of Vera Wang’s wallpaper that I gingerly dumped 40 new G.I. Joe comics out in front of me.
I’ve alluded to this a few times before here at Real American Book, the unattainably nostalgic feeling of reading during that first year of collecting comics. This was when a comic took 45 minutes to finish, when I would read every page three times, and then read the comic again. When I was legitimately concerned that whatever deathtrap or point blank pistol promised inescapable death to Snake-Eyes, to Ed Marks, to Daredevil on the cover might actually happen. I was worried Snake-Eyes would step on that landmine on the cover of G.I. Joe #63 even though I had already read issue #s 90-95 — starring an alive and well Snake-Eyes! (Okay, not always well, since he got hot ash thrown in his face in #95.) But here now was an almost overwhelming tableau of those images, Marvel’s 1980s cover stock and color saturation popping off that bedspread, yellows that blinded, red that promised of blood, white in the steely eyes of determined heroes, flamboyant purples for villains, dangerous green jungles, ultramarine skies. Like an amateur card dealer I shuffled the comics around with the palms of my hands, over and over, prepping for a game of Go Fish that would never finish, would never start. These cover images, most drawn by Mike Zeck and Ron Wagner, are indelibly burned into my brain, and the power they hold, supported by the interior narratives, multiplied by the unassailable guilding of nostalgia make most other comics dissatisfying by comparison.
There would be no buyer’s remorse for this splurge. Only the satisfaction of having half-completed an entire run of Marvel G.I. Joe in one fell swoop.
I must have spent a half hour just looking at them, moving them around, arranging them, picking some up, flipping through them. Looking at them. Looking at them.
While I was still curious how 40 comics hadn’t needed a box bigger than a coffin, that concern faded, and the entire stack went with me into my bedroom. I sat propped up against two navy blue pillows on my lower bunk bed, Prince’s Batman soundtrack playing on my boom box. (Oh, how I’ve tried to keep the ‘80s from overwhelming every paragraph of this blog. Oh, how I failed on that last sentence.) And there I read comics for hours.
I should note here once again how memory misaligns. For years I’ve remembered this big order as my second, but the date (12/15/89) on the one I showed in part 14 of this story means this bigger order had to be our third. And I remember it arrived in the spring of 1989, but the Batman album didn’t street until June 15 of that year. And I wouldn’t have bought it opening day. But school got out in early June, and not only did I come from school that East Coast day, I must have told Will all about it the following Monday. Right? So how was I listening to an album that I hadn’t bought yet? Could I be conflating a later reading session with this victorious day of postal receipt?
Regardless of the answer, I have no memory of Kevin coming home later, and me telling him the good news, and him sorting through the stack, taking in the pulp bounty for himself. But I do remember both of us spent hours that weekend reading, me prone on the family room floor, elbows digging into our soft yellow shag carpet, and Kevin lying on the couch, a tall pile of comics on the coffee table between us. The coffee table where my father kept his coffee table books, the ones that indirectly seeded the idea for A Real American Book.
And though the dual afternoons offered us much in the way of thrilling narratives, double crosses and death-defying escapes, it doesn’t quite compare to that break in the tension storm when my months-long anxiety at last broke, and that giant East Coast Comics order finally arrived, on a spring Friday afternoon at the end of 6th grade.
I still think about that day when I listen to Batman.
In our last episode, Tim stretched out this story of getting into G.I. Joe comics by also including Marvel super-hero books like Uncanny X-Men. This week he gets back to G.I. Joe. Sort of.
After that first mail order in the early summer when my brother Kevin and I got 11 G.I. Joe back issues for $22, we were hooked on the process. New Jersey-based East Coast Comics, the fine retailer that had filled that first order, was smart to include an updated catalog (a pamphlet, actually) with it, and some months later we gathered our pennies and plotted to fill more holes in our G.I. Joe run. At this point, the series is on issue #95 or thereabouts, so we’ve got 70 comics or reprints to track down. Several options offered opportunities to get those comics, each just uninteresting enough that I will probably blog about them individually on upcoming Fridays – finding other comic book stores, attending our first comic book convention, sampling a mail order company beyond East Coast Comics. But for today: Our second and third mail orders.
This probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but for me this image is all nostalgia: The handwriting of my 11-year old self, my mom’s signature, specific G.I. Joe gaps we were attempting to fill, the fact that I still didn’t understand what “Alternates” were – (second choices in case a comic was sold out, so East Coast didn’t have to issue credit slips), and the fact that we were trying out a new series (Nth Man, Ninja Turtles Teach Karate).
Also, memory is funny in how often it turns out to be wrong: This scan concretely places when we bought issue #36 of The ‘Nam, meaning I was incorrect a few weeks back in this very blog. I must not have bought that issue at the Montgomery Mall Waldenbooks as 6th grade began. Apparently it arrived by mail a few months later. I have no recollection of receiving this box, although I do remember thinking Solson’s TMNT book was an amateurish affair, remarkable considering how amateurish the production in Mirage Studios’ actual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was. So this must have arrived right around Christmas of 6th grade. Anyway, there it is, what was probably our second ever mail order.
But let’s skip a few months ahead to spring of 6th grade. The first two mail orders have arrived quickly. Kevin and I have saved up enough money to place a big order, and with East Coast selling many issues for less than a dollar, this was not going to be 10 or 15 comics. No, this time we ordered 40 G.I. Joe back issues. It was bold, exhilarating, and nerve-wracking. Even though we were clearly comics buyers by now (Joe, The ‘Nam, Marvel super-hero books, Ninja Turtles), it’s still a transition from being boys who spent money on toys to boys who with our own money bought things to read. (Chapter books and the occasional Garfield collection were paid for by our parents.) This shift represented, in a very real sense and not just symbolically, us growing up and away from childhood. We bought toys and played with them for a few more years (me much longer than Kevin), but toys’ days were numbered the moment I bought that first Joe comic. (Except for me becoming a vintage toy collector, another topic for another day.)
My friend Will (Hi, Will), also in 6th grade with me, was becoming a comics reader as well. And comics had a certain currency in my tiny classroom. One friend talked about Wolverine. I drew a cutely terrible Batman parody in my notebook. And new G.I. Joe issues did appear each month concurrent to all this. But as the weeks went by, I got anxious about this big mail order. Why was it taking so long? Why was it taking weeks when the earlier order had only taken one? Was the package lost somewhere en route? Did East Coast abscond with our money? Was the parcel stolen from our front stoop? During lulls in class I would fantasize to Will about what it would be like to open a box with 40 comics in it. To instantly more than double the size of our collection.
The specific scenario I kept painting went like this: Arriving home one day, I’d notice our screen door propped open, even though it always closed shut on its own. Something must be in the way, something I couldn’t see from the car. We parked. I approach cautiously. Now the box is revealed: It’s eight feet tall, cardboard, sealed with packing tape. It can only be one thing. It can only be an East Coast Comics parcel bursting with comics. Literally, the box edges are no longer straight, parallel, and perpendicular, as if the comics are forcing their way out, the packing tape starting to tear, like a cartoon container for some magical energy, some tazmanian devil, some pressurized tank ready to explode. Inside the house I cut it open, but a tidal wave of newsprint pages and glossy covers, G.I. Joe comics the likes of which I’ve never known, surge out as if from a fire hose, like an avalanche, pushing me back, smothering me, the sound like the crash of beach surf!
Will and I said this to each other in a stage whisper, as I’d act it out in my seat, making the rumbly sound effect for the shower of comics. It was a vignette we’d quietly pantomime for each other, sitting in our seats during a lull in class. Will’s enthusiasm only reflected back on me, and the wait only became more difficult.
WHEN WOULD THE BOX ARRIVE?
In our last thrilling episode, Tim bought G.I. Joe issue #93 and saw Snake-Eyes’ face!
Just below issue #93’s great cliffhanger was the “next issue” blurb, one that promised the beginning of “The Snake-Eyes Trilogy.” My brother and I owned enough issues of G.I. Joe by now to know that the series had never been delineated with story arcs. Chapters weren’t branded as “part 1,” or “part 2.” It was all an ongoing story, with some characters and plotlines taking the spotlight and others moving to the back or dropping out for stretches at a time. So combined with the fact that this “Snake-Eyes Trilogy” was about the mystery man, and that we had just seen his scarred face for the first time, here was ample evidence that #94 and beyond were a big deal. The tiny preview of next month’s cover showed a healed Snake-Eyes pulling the bandages off his head and brandishing a pistol, a steely look of resolve over the NINJA COMMANDO’s face.
Oddly, when that issue did arrive at Waldenbooks in September, the cover was different. The earlier image had been redrawn, and much of the space was now taken up with giant type that read “SNAKE-EYES GETS A NEW FACE!” And “THE SNAKE-EYES TRILOGY PART 1: WARRIOR REBORN!” And “TOP SECRET.” One of the important factors that separated the monthly G.I. Joe from almost all of Marvel’s other output was the lack of type on its covers. Marvel super-hero comics (and some of the licensed books) regularly had dialogue on the front, and copy that sought to pull in young readers, a decades-old remnant of once head writer and editor Stan Lee’s hyperbolic writing style (“The Day Kitty Pryde Leaves the X-Men, is the Day the X-Men Fall!”) In fact, only 16 out of the previous 93 issues of G.I. Joe had cover copy. This point is worth spending some time on. By way of example, note how impactful this random cover by Mike Zeck (issue #62) is:
There’s tension. You’re worried about the prisoners. One looks injured, one looks seriously ticked off. Maybe he’ll try to escape! Visual cues let you know they’re out of their element: barbed wire and AK-47s particularly. These guys are prisoners behind the Iron Curtain. That’s a scary thought for a soldier in 1988 or so, or a boy following his exploits. But the cover loses all its power if there’s copy:
So when Kevin and I found issue #94 at Waldenbooks, with its leading cover text, even if we didn’t consciously realize it, the “part 1 of 3” and the mere presence of a blurb meant that something was different. Now it may have just been Editorial trying to goose sales — Read this issue or you’ll miss out! – but the cover treatment, whether it pulled in additional readers or not, was an accurate reflection of the heightened stakes in this run of issues. I mean, last month the Baroness just blew up the Dreadnoks’ van. In this new issue, she shoots Scarlett point blank in the head! I’m not a bloodlustful guy, but I do appreciate edgy kid entertainment, and stories that don’t talk down to me. This kind of violence could never have flown on TV, but we knew that in war, people get hurt. People die.
And some wars come to a premature end. Which one was it, metaphorically? Tune in next week to find out!
In our last episode, Tim and his brother Kevin ordered G. I. Joe back issues by mail!
Exactly 7 days later, Betty (our housekeeper/nanny/second mom) was taking Kevin and I miniature golfing. It was a perfect early summer day. Blue sky, bright sun, green grass, low humidity. On our way out, I noticed a light, slim, cardboard parcel wedged between our heavy front door and the screen door. It had my name on it, which was odd since 10-year olds don’t get mail, but putt-putt beckoned, so whatever this was could wait. On our return I opened the box. Kevin and I were thrilled. It was the mail order! East Coast Comics was real! Inside were our 11 comic books, all in pristine condition, along with a giant, updated fold-out order form, and three coupons! One was for a free “grab bag” of 15 comics for a purchase of $30 or more. (Again with these terms we didn’t understand! What was a grab bag?)
Kevin and I spread out our booty over our yellow shag carpet, ah-ing and gawking at the saturated colors and compelling cover art. (Betty sat in her chair, watching soap operas or folding laundry. We had played with our action figures, sound effects and all, in front of her for years, so she paid us no mind.) Overnight the two of us had gone from owning the one newest issue of a comic book to having ten times that amount in back issues. We were now collecting a series. We were on our way to having a run. Someday, somehow, a complete run! (That was a daunting task since East Coast didn’t even have about 15 issues in stock, and we would soon learn that issues #1 and #2 were valued at over $40 each.)
Reading these comics piecemeal, #54, #77, #84, was tantalizing. No consecutive issues to link story threads together. We had to do that ourselves, or live with the pleasant anxiety of not knowing the whole story. This is an anxiety I miss in the age of graphic novels reprinting whole comic book arcs and DVD box sets (or Hulu) laying out for me everything start to finish. Before on-demand and MySpace Music, if you didn’t own an album you only heard a song when it played on the radio. Before home video transformed itself from just top movies to everything ever, you only caught an episode when it premiered on TV, when it reran later in the season, or if you were lucky, when it was syndicated. But half that was random. It’s a topic for another blog post, but the serendipity of hearing/seeing just what you need when you least expect it is a tremendous feeling, and a rarer one when you can watch or listen to anything anytime you’re near any electronic device. And that carries over to sequential storytelling. To get those G.I. Joe issues we didn’t have, we’d have to save up and order again from East Coast Comics. But to track down the ones East Coast didn’t have… we’d have to… Well, we didn’t know.
After issue #90, it would be safe to assume Kevin and I returned to Waldenbooks the following month to pick up issue #91. (And that was a weekly trip anyway, so we were on the lookout.) But summer camp happened instead. My budding interest in comic books was frozen, pushed aside by four weeks in the woods of Cedar Mountain, North Carolina. Besides regular outdoor camp stuff, I drew, and read prose books, but didn’t ask my parents to mail me care packages of comic books, and didn’t know anyone at camp who had brought any. This wasn’t a hobby or an obsession yet. It was still just an engaging lark. Kevin and I would get the next issue of G.I. Joe when we could, but we had no concept that five years later we’d own 10,000 comics and I would work in a comic book store. For now, it was just a G.I. Joe thing.
(I did draw a comic at camp, but I believe it was actually the summer before, and it feels as disconnected from me being a lifelong comics maker as much as those first two Yearbooks feel disconnected from me being a lifelong comics reader. Like a prehistory thing, and not a part of a changed mindset. It was called “Thorax the Ant,” and is about an ant on a quest. But it’s more connected to me reading newspaper comics and occasionally illustrating story drawings than wanting to draw comics. So it was also a lark. Which is to say that after I finished drawing it, I didn’t have strong feeling to make more comics.)
But when we returned to suburban Maryland, and made our Wednesday rounds at Montgomery Mall, issue #91 was nowhere to be found!
What did we do? Tune in next week to find out!
Sorry for the missing weeks. Things have been crazy, but I’m back on schedule with more art, memories, and anecdotes.
Today’s post is a photocopy of Herb Trimpe’s pencils to Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe issue #1, cover dated March 1982. Click to enlarge.
Trimpe clearly put a lot of effort into this, as evidenced by the distinct facial types, lush backgrounds, and dense spotting of blacks.
Here’s the page as printed, now with inks by Bob McLeod and colors by Glynis Oliver. Notice how much McLeod has redrawn and softened the organic stuff.
When Marvel issued its G.I. Joe Volume 1 graphic novel in 2002 (reprinted more recently by IDW Publishing as Classic G.I. Joe Volume 1), a friend re-read the issues contained therein — #s 1-10, and made an observation. He remarked that early G.I. Joe was very much a weird Marvel ’70s-post Silver Age comic book, what with Trimpe’s Kirby faces and invented Kirby technology. That it didn’t become the familar ’80s G.I. Joe we know until late in or after the first year. (Issue 6 is another good example, with the Joes building a weird desert dune buggy.) Just look at the tech framing on the top and bottom of panel 1, and the computer in panels 4 and 5. And not that it carries through to the inks, but look at Austin’s cheekbone in panel 3 — a Kirby line! — and his eyes as well.
What other artistic influences do you see?
In our last episode…
In addition to all those other thrilling attributes of G.I. Joe issue #90, there was also this:
A full-page ad for a mail order comics retailer. My brother and I were a little confused – comics by mail? Or anything by mail, really. How did we know this operation was trustworthy? So, what, we just send them money and they send us comics? What if they ran off with the money? My 11-year old brain tried to reconcile the risks. I had subscribed to a magazine or two, but that was direct. Mad Magazine sent Mad Magazine. (Not really, but play along.) This third-party could be anyone. My mom, who had done her fair share of mail order shopping (and whose father had owned a department store), didn’t see a problem. My brother and I would give her our money, and she would write a check or provide her credit card information with our order. But again, what if our letter was intercepted? Or what was stopping this company from racking up excess charges on Mom’s Mastercard? It’s funny to me that compared to today’s world of internet banking, online credit card purchases, and PayPal, I was so hostile to this by-then already old-fashioned mail order concept. It seemed like a step was missing, like they should tell us they’d received our order, or we should call and confirm our wants were in stock.
Also, there was no individual’s name on the ad. And no phone number. Just the company moniker and a PO Box. I only ever had positive experiences with East Coast Comics in the ten or so years I ordered from them, but at the start it looked entirely shifty. I mean, Trenton, New Jersey? Come on!
The first thing Kevin and I noticed was that the prices were low for the most recent thirty issues. But there was much that didn’t make sense. What was “Tales of G.I. Joe”? What was “G.I. Joe Digest”? What were “2nd prints?” What were “alternates,” and why did we need to list them? Instead we focused on what we did know, that we couldn’t get all of the regular back issues, so we’d have to pick and choose. We retrieved Yearbooks #3 and #4. What I didn’t mention earlier was that those Yearbooks had cover galleries showing thumbnails of a year’s worth of the monthly G.I. Joe. At the time we first read the Yearbooks, those galleries didn’t mean much, but now they offered a roadmap. We picked the issues with the most compelling covers, the ones with favorite characters or dire situations, and added on the one cited in issue #90’s footnote. All tallied it was 22 comics for $11. I typed a letter in Word Perfect, but I didn’t know how to frame the order, so I awkwardly wrote “Dear East Coast Comics, I would like to ask you to send me the following issues.”
I had sent away for a few premiums in my young life – t-shirts and pencils from cereal boxes, G.I. Joe toys from Hasbro Direct Mail, and the aforementioned subscription to Mad. And everything took 4-6 weeks. It was as if all the mail order retailers, warehouse workers, and courier and postal delivery people of America had united to make the nation’s kids wait in agony. No matter the distance or the complexity, no matter the item, you wouldn’t see it for at least a month. So after Mom fired off our order to East Coast Comics (from the office, by phone, with credit card – probably early in the morning before anyone else arrived, when she was most productive), I put it out of my mind. It was summer vacation! That meant bike rides and Slurpees and gameshows on TV.
But something arrived exactly seven days later.
What was it? Tune in next week to find out!
Note for last week’s readers: The part two chicken scratch doodle of Another World has been partially updated.
In our last episode, Tim bought his first comic book ever, G.I. Joe Yearbook #3…
Then, what I believe is one year later, but could have been only half that, we returned to Another World. I bought G.I. Joe Yearbook #4, looked at but passed on another Mad, and Kevin bought two back issues: G.I. Joe #61 and #62. (Or maybe he’d bought them on that first visit? Memory’s funny that way.) At home he promptly put them on a high shelf in his room where I couldn’t reach them. He never offered them to me, and I never snuck a peak when he was elsewhere. I didn’t even touch them until later when we were regular comics readers and those two issues were incorporated into our burgeoning G.I. Joe collection. This should demonstrate the strange disinterest I had in comic books at that initial point. (It is also indicative of our overly strong sense of personal ownership. My toys were mine, Kevin’s were his. We didn’t share, and we didn’t much trade. This is not meant to sound mean, it’s just how our personalities worked. We played with our G.I. Joe toys side-by-side, my characters and vehicles interacting with his, but him only holding and role-playing with his, and me with mine. Weird, I know. It’s worth an entire blog post, how we played with our toys.) By then we had found D&D wares at the Waldenbooks at our mall (an important location that I’ll come back to in a later blog post), and rarely returned to Another World. In fact, I don’t think Kevin ever went back. I did go every year or three — it was friend and future editor Nick Nadel‘s local shop once he entered the picture, but until I had a driver’s license there was no point in shopping at this third-closest store. It did move and renovate, and finally closed when parent company/comics mail order giant American Entertainment went belly up a decade later.)
But back to those two issues–
Before Kevin whisked them away I do recall seeing these two covers, which by themselves form a kind of contained story, and being worried for the protagonists. This is a point I’ll come back to at a later date on the blog — the power of the cover image — but for now you can likely acknowledge that even if you’re not a G.I. Joe fan or a comics reader, these guys are in trouble. The barbed wire, the handcuffs, the menacing weapons. Trouble!
As with the first comic I’d bought, Yearbook #4 did not turn me into a lifelong reader. I just recall thinking there weren’t enough Joes in the lead Oktober Guard story, being confused by the recap pages that mixed narration with word balloons, and wishing the Joes in the back-up yarn wore their regular costumes and not their civvies. Years later Tony Salmons would give me some original art from that story.
So here’s where the biography stands: Kevin and I have been buying G.I. Joe toys and watching the G.I. Joe cartoon for four years — half a lifetime. For me it vies with Transformers as my favorite thing ever, for Kevin it’s no contest. We read books and newspaper comics, and now own four actual G.I. Joe comic books. But we’re still not readers! What’s missing?
Tune in next week!
In our last episode, Tim’s parents took him and his brother to their first comic book store…
But this is where my memory gets fuzzy. I believe we went to Another World one more time, six months or a full year later. As best as I can piece it together, on the first visit, in addition to the Dungeons & Dragons set, I bought two periodicals: I saw an issue of Mad Magazine and had to have it. Mad was still a kind of forbidden fruit, and we had just gotten into it a few months earlier, but our subscription hadn’t kicked in. For now it was the serendipity of seeing one on a newsstand, having the money, and getting the parental permission. My other buy was G.I. Joe Yearbook #3. (I should here define the series “G.I. Joe Yearbook” as an annual run of double-sized specials that complemented the regular, monthly G.I. Joe series.) Interesting, Kevin also bought a copy. Why did it grab us? Probably because the cover showed favorite characters in distress, a scenario I was intrigued to see to its resolution.
I don’t want to undersell that point. The cover made me worried about the characters. Snake-Eyes is in trouble! Scarlett defends him! Storm Shadow — a villain — is also helping? (This is a stark contrast to many comic book covers nowadays that feature glamor poses with little drama or story content.)
So Kevin bought Yearbook #3 as well – we were occasionally selfish and territorial about our possessions, and didn’t consistently share everything.
Yearbook #3 was just a curiosity. It did not turn me into a lifelong comics reader. That would happen two years later. But it was still an entertaining book, with a wordless story told only in pictures and pantomime that did in fact follow up on the cover image. My aversion to newsprint was abating. (I can’t reconcile how newspaper comics were fine but comic books printed with the same palette on the same stock were not. It might be that I was used to higher quality color and printing from glossy magazines like Hotdog and Dynamite, that I was already picky and fetishizing the bound periodical as a keepsake.) (I mean “festishizing” in the general, non-sexual sense of the word.) But as much neat content as it had, like a fun “Kitchen Viper” joke, and an article on the TV show, Yearbook #3 was still this weird… thing I didn’t entirely love. It’s like an album you don’t appreciate until months or years later, but in this analogy, it wasn’t a single album, it was the entire pastime of listening to music. I liked prose books, I liked magazines, I liked Garfield collections, I liked cartoons, but comics still hadn’t clicked.
I recall pulling Yearbook #3 off my shelf and reading it a few times afterwards, one time lying on my brother’s bedroom floor. But it sparked no storylines for our G.I. Joe toy games, and no discussion of buying additional comic books.
What was the comic that changed Tim’s life forever? Tune in next week to find out!
I should have become a comic book reader two years before I did.
I was reading newspaper comics in the Washington Post for years before I picked up my first Marvel or DC. And in those two years, the only parts of Mad Magazine that mattered were the comics – the movie and TV parodies, Spy Vs. Spy, The Lighter Side, and A Mad Look At. I even scanned through a few comic books one day probably in 1987 – and a G.I. Joe issue to boot! – but put it down with disinterest: Whereas the TV cartoon was saturated full color, the comic was limited four-color printing, and it looked dull on beige newsprint. This was at the house of a friend from school, and I believe my brother read several of his G.I. Joe comic books. But not me.
Soon after, my brother Kevin immersed himself in Dungeons and Dragons, and brought me with him. While we could potentially play with friends using their materials, and even though this board game without a board mostly took place in our minds, we knew we had to buy a few essentials – dice, a rulebook, perhaps a module. I think what happened was that our mom looked up “gaming” in the yellow pages, and found a store in Washington, D.C. It was half-hour drive in the “wrong” direction since we always drove north and west to shop at our local mall, and parking in Georgetown (that particular section of D.C.) was difficult, but Mom and Dad were up for it . And so we visited Another World, a comic book shop with a large back issue selection (whatever that was – it smelled old), new comics, and some gaming.
We procured the red boxed Advanced Dungeons and Dragons starter set. Georgetown wasn’t going to be a weekly trek like our mall (or downtown Bethesda, two miles from our house) were. And it wasn’t going to be monthly. Perhaps Mom and Dad liked to stay out of D.C. on weekends since they were there Monday to Friday for work. Or perhaps they were willing, but Kevin and I didn’t realize we merely needed to ask. Whatever the case, my sense was that this was a special trip, not the start of something. Adding to my disorientation was that Another World had two entrances and a quirky layout. The store straddled two sides of an acute street corner without having the corner itself, was small and cramped, had two different “rooms,” and was on two different levels, one a few steps higher than the other. And again, it was filled with comic books, which I didn’t understand or like, even if I had been seeing Griffin Bacal’s wonderful animated television commercials for Marvel’s monthly G.I. Joe series for years.
But we went back months later and Kevin actually bought some G.I. Joe comic books.
What happened at Another World? Find out next week…