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The Evolution of Comic Book Collecting – The Origin

A comic book collecting journey and how comic buying habits have evolved over the years.

Every comic character has an origin story. Every great comic character has a memorable origin story. But what about us, the readers, the purchasers, the fans. What are our comic book collecting origin stories? Specifically, how did we begin our journey with comics? How did we first get our grubby little hands and fingers stained with the ink of our favorite writers and artists?

For some of us, it began at the supermarket check out with an Archie Digest. For others, perhaps a Toys “R” Us. Or if you’re of a certain vintage, Kiddie City, with a Whitman’s Sampler. (And no kids, I’m not talking about the chocolates!) But most of the examples I’ve just laid out involved a parent buying a comic for you. What I’d like to explore are some of the ways we obtained comics ourselves.

Let’s face it, today everything is a click away. Information, enjoyment, distraction, even comics. But growing up, specifically when I was growing up, you had to work to ease that comic fix. And that’s what this series of articles is about… my comics collecting origin story!  Who I am, how I came to be.

The classic Batman Year One by Frank Miller...Mike's inspiration for his own year one.
Frank Miller’s Batman Year One…perhaps inspiration for Mike’s own year one. 🙂

Slurpees, Valhalla and…

It all began with a Slurpee. I guess I’m lucky in that regard. My origin story didn’t involve a bite from a radioactive spider, being rocketed to another planet or having my parents gunned down before my eyes. All I wanted was a cherry Slurpee, at least initially. Was it 1984???? 1986??? Most likely the year was 1985, and I had made the ten minute walk from my row home in Southwest Philadelphia to our neighborhood 7-11. For an 11 year old in 1985, this was Valhalla. This is where we got our candy, our bags of chips, our soda, and most importantly, our Slurpees!

When you’re 11 in the 1980’s, you don’t want for much. Perhaps a Members Only jacket to wear as you ride your Huffy bike before going home to watch G.I. Joe. Simpler times. A Slurpee however, a Slurpee was different. It was a treat from the Gods themselves. And so I found myself in that 7-11 on that fateful afternoon in 1985, believing my quest was over. Not realizing, my origin story was about to begin.

Green Lantern!

It was all very mundane. Most life changing events are, really. As I walked through the grimy swinging doors with my mind set on slushy goodness, my eyes caught something else, and my life was changed forever. Green Lantern # 191, cover dated AUG 85. 75 cents. “Revealed this issue!” the cover blared, “THE SECRET OF THE PREDATOR!”. The cover was a striking bright yellow, ironic for a comic titled Green Lantern. A man holds a gun in one hand, his other arm shielding his face as a figure looms before him in a strange costume with wing-like attachments on his arms, his back to us. By Steve Englehart and Joe Staton the cover told us. I had no idea who they were, had no particular interest or appreciation for Green Lantern. I knew however, I wanted this comic.

Green Lantern #191 (1985). The beginning of a journey.

Things were never the same.

It sat amongst other titles along with a myriad of magazines. 3 shelves of random printed goodness at the front of the store, greeting you as you walked in. Suddenly, thoughts of sugary liquid treats abandoned me. Suddenly, I was transfixed. I was mesmerized, I was hooked. I had to have this comic. This was going to be THE comic. The title I would collect for years, lovingly board, bag, and read over and over. I quickly plucked the comic from the shelf, strode to the counter, plunked down my 75 cents, and walked out of the store in a haze of satisfaction and excitement. I was now a comic buyer, a comic collector! Green Lantern #191 was the beginning of my journey!

To be honest, I never bought a copy of the Green Lantern title again, but I purchased many others from that 7-11. Some titles that were actually milestone comics, some that now sit in quarter bins all over the country. I never forgot that cover and how good it felt to use my own money to buy a comic I wanted.

As I stated, I was well and truly hooked to the medium. Addicted to thought balloons and splash pages. As my addiction grew, the need for a fix grew as well. My taste grew beyond the limited selection of the local convenience store. But how to satisfy these urges? Where to find more comics, different comics, old comics, weird comics? They were out there in the wild, somewhere, but where?!? Stay tuned…after every good origin story, the adventures continue!

a young Mike Jamison early on in his comic book journey
A young Mike Jamison early on in his comic book collecting journey.
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