17th Sep2010

Origin: The Final Frontier

by Will

By this point, we’ve covered how I found comics, how I came to love comics, as well as the memories and experience they provided. Back in Origin Zeo, I mentioned the time I discovered the sense of community that surrounds comic books. That might sound lame to some, but it is almost like a family in itself. We rarely agree on anything, but we’ll defend the medium to the bitter end. For me, comics have been an important means of social outreach. I’m a bit introverted, though you might not think so, what with me having a blog named after myself and all. I’m actually pretty shy, so I don’t just put myself out there to make friends. I will say, however, that most of my enduring friendships have been the result of my love of comics.

When I was in middle school, I attended a school for 6 weeks before we all realized that it wasn’t “the right fit”. I ended up enrolling in public school (for the first time, mind you), 6 weeks into the semester. It was hard enough being the new kid, but it was even harder being the late new kid. As dorky as I was, I didn’t get beaten up or anything, but I can’t say I had any friends, either. That all changed when I noticed a kid from my church, and we found ourselves talking about X-Men and Power Rangers. That kid was Brett King, and that conversation led to 10 years where we dissected X-Men developments, and debated new Zord combinations. We traded Marvel Masterpieces, created our own battles with our action figures, and even attended Professor Xavier’s funeral together (it was an event sponsored by a local mall). Up through college, he was truly my best friend, and it was all built on the foundation of a shared love of comics. I don’t know how I would’ve survived that period without him.

Once I got to college, I met James Lamb. To call him “interesting” or “complex” wouldn’t even come close to describing the man, as he’s an enigma. Passionately political one minute, and hardcore Marvel fanboy the next.  He’s gonna kill me for this, but he’s basically an amalgam of Malcolm X and Stan Lee (“Excelsior, crackers!”). I always tell people that I majored in “A Cappella”, as that was my primary focus while in school. Sad, but true. When I wasn’t singing, however, I was with James, discussing the nuances of “Hush” and “The Age of Apocalypse”. Once we both graduated, and found that we weren’t the Captains of Industry that the world expected us to be, we had MANY 4 AM conversations where the topics would range from Jason Todd to Jim Crow. Those conversations kept me sane in my years as a “boomerang kid”, back living in the room in which I’d grown up.

Eventually, I found myself actually living the dream, when I was hired by Diamond Comic Distributors as a Purchasing Brand Manager. Basically, we created Previews – the catalog that all comic shops use to place their orders. My job was to gather information for a particular part of the catalog, while also seeking out new “small press” creators who might have projects that they’d like to have promoted to retailers.

Diamond was a great opportunity, as it allowed me to learn the other side of comics. Up to this point, I had simply been a reader/fan/collector, but now I was working alongside creators/publishers/newcomers. I had some great experiences, like hanging out with a former Batman editor, being starstruck at SDCC, and even being drawn into a comic. I felt honored by the opportunity, but I also met some great people from that job.  Jim Kuhoric: all-around good guy/comic creator (and greatest boss). Steve Leaf: the fanboy I’d like to be when I grow up. Jay Spence: the filmmaker who’s the gonna be the next Kevin Smith. Then, there’s one fellow who’s gonna need his own paragraph.

When I first met Keith Davidsen, I didn’t quite know what to make of him. He seemed to be vying for the “class clown” position, which made me a bit competitive, as that’s the slot I like to have. There was no rivalry, however, as we ended up as a pretty good duo. I can’t even remember our first “adventure”, as we basically lived at Diamond. We’ve had craziness from San Diego to Miami, but it’s all based on a shared love of comics. Nobody loves 90s comic gimmicks like this guy. Rob Liefeld, Ghost Rider, X-Force – they were all created for Keith Davidsen. Since these were prevalent when I was getting into comics, it’s almost like we grew up in the same town, but went to different schools. For the better part of 5 years, he has been one of my best friends, and that’s all traced back to comics.

After comics, I worked at one of the (allegedly) shittiest companies ever, where we were all basically telemarketers. Under the guise of “research associate”, I dealt with a lot of people who begged me to stop harassing them. My God, did I hate that place! Anyway, I had one real friend there, and wouldn’t you know, he was a comic fan: Jason Larbi. While this analogy might offend an actual veteran, working at that place was akin to being in battle, and Jason was right there in the trenches with me. Whether we were discussing “Old Man Logan”, or he was trying to make me believe he had found a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 in his alley, he was the only thing that got me through the day. That was also the saddest part about leaving that place: I got discharged on Section 8, while he’s still in the fight.

I’d also can’t forget about Toys “R” Us. While I’ve written about it quite a bit, I worked at that place for 10 years. My first store was full of characters, but it wasn’t until I got to the Columbia store that I actually made friends. Once that happened, it didn’t even feel like “work”. Sure, it got rough during summer and right before Christmas, but most of the time it was just like hanging out at a friend’s house – except you wore a uniform, there were shelves, and strangers were constantly going in and out of the place. Anyway, I looked forward to going, and discussing Batman Begins and Iron Man with Amy, “Special Forces”, Patty, and the late, great Lenny. I really should have quit that place years before I did, but I kept going back for the camaraderie and the geeky atmosphere. It was my Geek Barbershop.

At the end of the day, what I’ve been trying to say here is that comics have been my gateway for the past 18 years. Whether as a form of entertainment, or as a source for conversation fodder, I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have them in my life. Some people might think it’s sad, but everybody’s got something. I just wanted to let you guys in on what comics have meant, specifically, to me. They started out as just “something to read”, but later turned into an instrument in the creation of a make-believe family, which eventually gave way to be replaced by a surrogate, comic reading family. We get a bad rap as anti-social nerdlings, but I think that’s incorrect. Comic fans are some of the most social people I’ve ever encountered. In some cases, they might even be too social. That said, there is an almost overwhelming sense of community that surrounds comics, and I think that’s a big part of their charm. Just like you can strike up a conversation with the guy wearing the McNabb jersey, I can do that with someone I see reading DMZ. For example, I recently started a job at a school, and one of the principals is a comic fan. We often have conversations about Wolverine or Walking Dead. Just another example of how pervasive the community can be.

This is the first time I’ve ever taken a look back over the course of my comic fandom. It was certainly more emotional than I ever thought it would be, but it included some stories that I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to tell. Taking it all in, it’s clear that comics have been very influential in my life, and I can’t wait to see where they take me next. Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four