A good while back, a very very good while back – sometime around 1990, maybe ’91 – I was a comic-book collector. A collector, a hoarder, an enthusiast, all of the above. Ardent, and dedicated. I was 10-ish. I spent a whole bunch of money, time, and effort on all kinds of comic-books, first appearances, merchandise, collector cards, the whole deal. But somehow I never became the expert I should have been. I should have been Comic Book Guy , I could have been him. But at that point for me – and this is the first time I’ve admitted this to anyone – it all became more about the collection, the accumulation, and the digging. This is where the hoarder characteristics shine through everything else. I had a keen interest in the drawings and the characters but for some reason I never even bloody read the things. Seriously – even the characters that I was interested in like Lobo and Spawn – I didn’t read one of the comics, seriously. What’s that about? Who knows. All I know is I have a big box of mostly unread comics and a lot of sealed up special editions and unopened box sets. Come with me while I try and find out what the fuck I was doing with my time and money, won’t you…?
We start things off with the usuals – I had a passing interest at the time in Spiderman and Batman. I was well into the first Batman film which if memory serves was the first film at the time to carry a 12 certificate. I wasn’t 12 but being of robust build I had no problems sneaking in with my folks. I was mental for Prince too, and at the time ‘Batdance’ was just running things for me, hard :
This Youtube link might dissolve at any time so keep checking. Anyway, the fact that Prince had produced the film’s soundtrack was reason enough to act on my growing interest so from that point a ball was set in motion. Plus the computer game on the Amiga500 (our computer of choice back then) was sick as hell. All good. It was a natural progression from then on. Around then I had this friend at school who was mad rich and was able to afford all kinds of glamorous stuff a kid his age probably shouldn’t have had access to, and he was buying up comics and merchandise like crazy, just because he could. He was alright but pretty odd for the most part if I’m honest, but I liked playing on all his expensive computers so it was cool for a young kid back then. We watched wrestling, Simpsons and played computer games. I was pretty dazzled by all this comic book action though, and the fact that as kids of 10 or 11 we could take control of our own destiny and start to choose properly the kinds of things we were into… We could have hobbies goddammit. Proper past-times. What better than to collect comics! You weren’t spending money on random crap that you’d probably throw away and you weren’t getting in with the wrong crowds and picking up smoking or any of that mess (I did though, so ultimately it didn’t really prevent anything). So we would go out on comic buying missions here and there and between us we got some pretty sweet finds. As far as I could tell, I mean. I was just going on “Oh shit, that’s issue ONE! How is this still in the shop!!! That must be worth crazy loot…” instincts. At that point I didn’t realize just how many branches and sub-stories were achievable through one character, and how many different series would come out, so these purchases form a pretty big chunk of my overall purchases. I slowly fell out of contact with the rich kid by the way, who became pretty arrogant and a bit too into his toys and gear. He had an arcade machine in his bedroom though, come on. Dude could look after himself.
At this point, I still wasn’t reading comics. Just collecting. It was weird, I’d flick through them and absorb something, but I rarely read them and took in the story.
Well, times moved on and I became friends with this kid called Imran who was utterly ridiculous at drawing. Completely prodigious. And an absolute mathface with it too – I’m not lying, he came up with a perfectly serviceable sequel to Akira in comic book form. No shit. Akira was just about out then too, so we were super obsessed by that. Well I didn’t understand the graphic novel but I loved the film.
It was around here when things started to change though…
We tried working together on some stuff, and I would ink and colour his drawings. Some of the ideas he had were just too advanced for me – I’d be going over the lines with pen thinking “I can’t do this, I don’t understand anything about this story at all…”, but I persevered, and assumed I would just absorb it all. I didn’t. Dissolusionment started to set in and I began to wonder why I was involved in all this comic book science at all… I didn’t read the comics I was buying so I didn’t have a grasp on the stories (I just didn’t understand, I never shook that block), and even when I vaguely understood the stories I didn’t feel at the time that I had the commitment to stay with them for all that time. I knew that they would go on and on for issue after issue… And this was all in my early teens so I had all that other shit to think about too, let alone worrying what I would do when I got older if I wasn’t a comic book artist and collector. One of those times when reality starts to become something you have to deal with. They were DEFINITELY not as easy as I thought they would be to draw, let alone come up with these crazy technical storylines… I realized then that all the time I’d been fronting so very hard and wasn’t actually getting what I should have out of comics. I felt like I’d let myself down hard, as it always seemed like such a dope world and so interesting – conventions, collections, fairs – the kind of thing that gets frowned on these days but always used to trip me out as a young’un.
Well, I kept on drawing but it gradually morphed into pad and pen graffiti stuff, outlines and characters and all that business. Imran moved away to Malaysia years and years ago and I haven’t seen him since. I wish I had that Akira sequel though, I’m sure that could have been animated… The changes in me at that time coincided well with the start of my record buying, as my brother just got our first turntable and we both went head on into the digging world. So with that, my comic book collecting energies flowed into my crate digging life and it made so much more sense to me. I was listening to the records, I was mixing with them (Badly of course… Really badly… I have lots of proof!) and I had something that I really valued and wanted more of for all the right reasons.
It was kind of fun at the time I guess. You have to collect something, right. It was really savage at that age though, it hit me hard. My collecting habits were out of control and I’d buy up so many comics and toys at a time. It always felt kind of like something I needed to hide as I knew it was a bit excessive but I couldn’t stop it. There were so many sick toys though – I think that was what also drew me to the comics. The toys looked so dope and so I felt like a phoney if I didn’t buy into the comics too.
There is a lot that my collecting habits brought me though. I remember I went to a comic fair (which was also a record fair too I think – like a real life physical eBay but back in 1992) and bought Ice T’s ‘Escape From The Killing Fields’ on CD promo and two sealed boxes of Yo! MTV Raps collector cards. I’m sure there are a lot of you who have received one or more of these cards in some of my old mixes I sent out a long while back. I’ve only got a precious few these days so that’s your lot of those! I never shook off the love for Akira either, which has stayed strong. I don’t look forward to the prospects of a live action version but who knows, it could be decent. Don’t fuck this one up Leo. There’s a lot riding on this.
I have absolutely no idea of what goes on these days in the world of comic books. I’ve seen the odd glimpse here and there but I don’t know if the same comics are being made or who’d died of any of that stuff. I’d probably understand the stories better these days but when records turned my head my attentions were completely diverted for good. Like I say, I still love Akira and Manga in general, but I don’t think I’ve got it in me to go back to the world of comic books. Collecting them, anyway…
Chris Ware is superb though…
Well, a very rambling account I know, but I just thought I’d open things up to the comic book folks out there… It’s a crazy world, a fascinating one for sure, but I’ll have to resign myself to being a mere passenger these days. Although I’ll probably hit the comic crates again at some point… I’ve got a box full of unread comics to get through…
A FEW FAVOURITES :
1. Robin III : Cry Of The Huntress
Case in point : I bought every single issue of this series, which came in regular newsstand edition and two special edition reversable covers. I bought one of each display cover of the special editions, one to open and a newsstand one. See what I mean? That’s fucked up.
2. The Omega Men
This was the first appearance of Lobo. I liked Lobo. I have this.
3. Silver Surfer all prism collector cards
I got a whole set of these. They’re pretty. But I have no Silver Surfer comics. A weak effort, no?