Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My Introduction to Comic Books

This is the story I was looking for. I wrote about this in my Creative Writing class in my first year of college. I have not been able to find the original so this is drawing completely from my faulty memory. My apologies if I accidentally mix up comic book artists or names of comic books.

When I was 18, I met my first boyfriend, Mark, while visiting a friend at the Maplewood Mall. Mark worked as a security guard for the Mall and, in the way that most high school romances seem to start; ours began with him telling my friend that he thought I was cute. He got my phone number from her and called me shortly after we met.

Mark was, well, kind of different. He introduced me to a world I had never experienced before, the world of comic books. On one of our dates, we were supposed to go to a movie. He picked me up early because he wanted to go to a couple of different comic book stores. The first store was in Willernie, only a hop, skip and jump (I don’t get that expression. Who goes hopping, skipping and jumping to measure distance) from Mahtomedi, my home town.

He parked the car a few blocks away from the store and we started walking. About halfway there, Mark stopped abruptly. I turned to look at him and became a bit worried.

His nose was twitching rapidly, his eyes were narrowed in concentration and he looked as though he might start convulsing any moment.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Shhh!” he shushed me. “We’re almost there. I can smell them.”

“Ooookay,” I said, in that calm, don’t upset the lunatic voice I’ve had to use a few times in my dating history.

“We must be very quiet,” he continued. “We have to sneak up on the comic books or else they will escape.”


“Shhh!” he shushed me again. “Be very quiet.”

The next few minutes were some of the oddest that I have ever experienced on a date. Mark ducked behind buildings and signs, peered around corners and acted like he was a detective stalking his prey while I walked along, trying to think of how I would explain this if I happened to run into anyone I knew. “Hi. This is my boyfriend. He’s insane” just didn’t seem to have the right ring to it.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, we did reach the shop. Mark threw the door open, looked around the room and announced dramatically “See? They didn’t escape.”

As he engaged in a conversation with the proprietor (who I am quite certain that Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons was based on) about the merits of one artist opposed to another, I wandered around the store. I was fascinated by the bright colors and the short text and was beginning to see the appeal, until I glanced up and saw a copy of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle hanging on the wall. You can imagine my shock when I saw that it was being offered for $500 (and this was in 1985. God knows what it’s valued at now).

After Mark finished the discussion, we headed back to the car and off to the next stop on our journey. This was downtown Saint Paul. Mark pulled into a parking lot and turned off the car.

“We’re here.”

I looked around. There was no comic book store in sight. “Mark,” I said gently. “This is a hotel. And, as much as I like you, we’ve really only been dating for a short time…”

“No, Dana. The store is across the street.”

“Oh.” I followed him to the end of the parking lot. We stood in the middle of the block, watching traffic whiz by.

“We cross here,” Mark said and darted across the street.

“Here?” I said faintly. Was he insane? Well, obviously with the whole incident of the Great Comic Book Safari. I girded my loins (mentally. Does anyone actually physically gird their loins now? Why do these phrases bother me so) and ran across the street, expecting to be hit by a semi at any moment.

Fortunately I survived (because if I hadn’t, that would so put a new twist on ghost writing) and caught up with Mark.

“Don’t you ever do that again,” I hissed, only to see him disappear into a shop. Sighing to myself, I followed him.

Surprise! It was a comic book store. It looked very similar to the previous one, right down to Comic Book Guy. Although this one was thin, pasty and wore the most awful glasses I have ever seen. Mark wandered around, asking the clerk questions that I could not interpret, flipping through bins filled with garish comic books. I amused myself by wandering around and found some old Supergirl comics (in horrible shape which, as I know now, is the only reason why they were out in the open without being covered in 5 miles of Mylar plastic). Supergirl, by the way, is pretty boring. Her adventures were not overly exciting but hey, it was something to read. This was before I started carrying around a purse that many have compared to a suitcase (Dana Rule #1: you must always have a book and, in some cases, a backup book (if you are nearing the end of the first book)).

Mark did not find what he was looking for and we soon left, although I did put up a bit of a fuss, since I had began to get involved in one of the adventures (okay, not overly exciting but I hate not finishing something I’ve started. Wait. Let me rephrase this before Beth bursts into hysterical laughter. I hate not finishing something I’ve started reading. Drives me crazy. I spent all this time wondering what happened to the characters) of Supergirl.

We were off to the last store and Mark solemnly swore we would then go to the movie after that. The store in question was Shinder’s, near Maplewood Mall. It is the only store that is in still in business out of these three. I was happier here because Shinder’s also sells actual books so I was happy wandering in and out of the racks. I was in Heaven when I found they actually had Doctor Who books (used to collect them) and I found one I did not yet own.

While I was perusing the racks, Mark found me. He looked somewhat guilty.

“Hi,” he said, casually.

“Hi,” I said back. “Are you ready to go?”

“Well, here’s the thing. I found what I was looking for but…” He looks even guiltier.


“Well, if I buy it, I won’t have enough to take you to the movie.” He shows me his find. It is a copy of The Fantastic Four. I am somewhat intrigued until I see the price tag on the Mylar plastic.

“Fifty bucks?” I am appalled. For a comic book? This is horrible (anyone who brings up the fact that I paid five dollars for a Styrofoam coleslaw container from A&W will be in BIG trouble (and to be honest, I don’t remember how much the comic book was, this is a complete guess. It sounds right, though)).

“Yes but it is the first issue of The Fantastic Four ever drawn by John Byrne.”


He gaped at me in dismay. How could he possibly explain the value of this comic book if I didn’t understand the importance of John Byrne? My eyes fell on the display of Doctor Who books. Here was something I enjoyed that many others didn’t get. Was I going to be a total bitch and insist that he take me to the movie or would I be kind and understanding? Kind and understanding won out.

“Okay, fine. Get your comic book. I’ll buy this. Everyone is happy.”

Over the next six months that we dated, I learned much more about comic books. I was even allowed, under Mark’s eagle eye, to read a few (after a long lecture about the importance of washing my hands, only touching the edges of the page, etc.) of his precious books. This is also the guy who taught me how to play Dungeons and Dragons and also the robot game that was like D&D but not (in other words, a pencil and paper role playing game). I didn’t start playing Magic (strip or regular) until years after our time together but I know he would have enjoyed the game

He was a complete and total geek. I adored him. We had fascinating conversations about everything and anything. He loved movies. He was intelligent and funny and a little bit nuts.
Are there any questions as to why I am so crazy about Gil? I didn’t think so. And Gil has the added bonus of not being the completely conceited, manipulative and arrogant ass that Mark was on occasion. Who also turned out to be cheating on me with three other women (I actually didn’t find this out until long after we broke up).

Speaking of Gil, I lost a bet to Beth on Saturday night when we were playing pool. I am supposed to uberflirt with him. I do not know how to flirt, let alone uber. Any suggestions? Keep in mind that I completely freeze when talking to a guy I’m interested in. Absolutely no problem otherwise. I can tell Andrew that he needs to wear tighter jeans so I can ogle his rear and be completely joking. I can tell a co-worker that I like that he is scruffy and mean just that. But can I string together two words that might say “Hey. I like you” to Gil. Of course not.

It has been suggested that I break the touch barrier. How the heck do I do that? Rachel and I were discussing this today and she, like many others, suggested I laugh and touch his arm when he says something funny. I told her I would, in my nervousness, probably end up punching him in the eye. My life would be so much easier if they would just bring back arranged marriages. Sigh.

Joe, I know it is not the requested pictures but Keem did just buy a digital camera and we have been on an excursion to a scenic overlook overlooking (couldn't resist) the Mississippi River. That will be posted soon.

Oh, and speaking of The Fantastic Four, I just said to Matt (my boss) the most awful sentence ever. "I used to have a thing for The Thing." But hey, he was kind of hot for a large rock-like creature.