The Comics Empower Project has almost almost 100 personal stories!
This time, Gene tells his story, which began in the 1950’s!
As a kid growing up in the late 1950’s, I paged through the comic books that were available at the time, “Richie Rich”, “Archie”, “Plastic Man” and other child oriented comics. Of course they all were imprinted with the Comic Code Authority seal of approval. I remember seeing a few “Superman”, “Aquaman” and “Tarzan” books.
There was something visually appealing about the bright colors and stories told in a sequence of panels.
In small town America, even if there were other books to choose from, they didn’t show up at our little corner store.
At nineteen, I returned home from college to find that my folks had moved—without telling me. Some frantic phone calls located them in a slightly larger town in West Virginia. A bus trip brought me to the new house.
Downtown was a gaudy city compared to the little place we had lived before and I soon discovered a newstand/bookstore called, Bobet News. It was a classic hole in the wall, stuck between a jewelry store and a sandwich shop, if my visual memory is correct.
It was a dim, tight little space full of delight and wonder. Bobet News carried newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal but more importantly, on a low shelf just above the science fiction magazines was a row of comic books. The usual DC fare such as “Superman” and “Detective Comics” (Batman), lived there on the shelves, but there was also something new, a different brand with exciting titles.
My delighted eyes were greeted with the likes of,“The Amazing Spider-man”, “Iron Man”, “The Incredible Hulk” and “The Fantastic Four”.
The stories were all about scientists and as an engineering major there was a very strong appeal to the nerdy, brainy characters. I wanted to be a superhero but lacked the muscle and the powers but science might get me there.
In those ancient days, the backs of the books still carried the Charles Atlas ads featuring a muscular man in a leopard skin speedo and promised to help us get that superhero body.
What can I say about the stories?
All of Stan Lee’s characters had issues with girlfriends, issues with teachers and issues at work. Sure Spidey could swing from buildings but he had to build that web shooter. Tony Stark had to build the Iron Man suit. They weren’t born with powers. They had to work hard to develop into the superheros. In short, the characters were like us—they weren’t born to greatness as Superman and Aquaman. To make the stories even better, Stan Lee imbued his creations with attitude—Spidey was a wise ass.
Fast forward to 2015.
I still read comics but now there are hundreds of titles and series. It takes effort to find the ones with that special twinge of excitement, the story arc that grabs you and won’t let go, the artwork that is a visual feast for the eyes.
These days I look for the hungry artist and writers who are not afraid of risk and who want to tell a story.
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