Everyone who loves comic books has their own unique story of how they fell in love with them. This is mine.
I was a hyperactive kid. At the age of 3, when I could read most of the comic strips in the daily newspaper, write the alphabet A to Z, and count to 100, I decided it was time to start school. After mother and the nuns discussed it, they relented and I was allowed to begin the following year. I remember walking up to the front door with my mother and, with my right hand on the door handle, turning to her and waving her off with my left, saying; “I got it from here.” Later, she told me she went home and cried until it was time to pick me up after school. Unlike the super cool stars of most angst ridden teen flicks (not to mention my real life friends), I loved every minute of school. Like Lisa Simpson, I even had my own emergency school desk set up at home in case I ever had to miss a day. To this day, I love the smell of new office supplies.
As in many classic kid stories, I read under the covers with a flashlight. My mother would regularly take away the flashlight, so until I could find or buy another one, my late night reading habits would cease.
We moved the summer after 4th grade. I was unhappily riding my bicycle around the new neighborhood to scope things out. As I rode by her house for the third or fourth time, a lady called out to me; she had a box of stuff her grown children had left behind. Being the typical suspicious city kid, I stared at her for a few seconds, peddled my bike home, then jumped off, not watching while it continued to roll before falling onto the grass as I walked back. She had placed a lidless worn cardboard box at the bottom of her porch steps. As I cautiously walked towards the box, she told me through the screen door that it was all mine if I wanted it. I noted two stacks within. One was a pile of comic books, with a copy of Jonah Hex right on top. I had never owned a comic book before then, but with the gorgeous face of Jonah Hex staring at me from the top, I instinctively knew I wanted them. Next to the stack of comics was a stack of Motown 45s. I took the box and walked home with my new treasure. I don’t remember if I even said, ‘thank you’ to that generous lady, (probably because I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers) but I do remember being really happy. She changed my life forever with one act of kindness.
At home, I found a quiet corner to explore my treasure box. I resolved to read only one new comic book a day and listen to one new 45 each day. Raised Catholic, I had already learned about depriving oneself and to instinctively feel guilt if I enjoyed anything too much. Granted, I would listen to that record over and over all that day or to the ones I’d already listened to the previous day. I would reread comics I’d already read, but kept to allowing myself one new comic book and record a day. I was careful to study and appreciate each item slowly. At least that is what my 9-year-old brain thought was appropriate at the time. I may have had a bit more patience back then.
I fell in love with Jonah Hex. He reminded me of those Clint Eastwood movies my parents would watch at the drive-in while us children were supposed to be asleep in the back. I, however, did not fall asleep with my siblings; I would watch the movies. As I grew older, my kid brain wanted more comics, more books and more music. To this day, that zombie-like hunger has never been sated.
So I took jobs babysitting, mowing lawns and by 11 years of age, I was delivering 141 newspapers, seven days a week. I needed the money to buy what I could not check out from the local library and I had discovered MAD Magazine.
In the years that followed, while working for Hasbro Toys in Providence, Rhode Island, my husband and I visited a comic book shop, named Starship Excalibur. My husband picked out his weekly comic books and I noticed Swamp Thing #36. I had read the Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson Swamp Thing issues, but this was something different. When we returned the following week, my husband picked out his usual while I eagerly looked for more Swamp Thing and picked out one of everything they had. The pile was a bit of a shock to my husband, when I decisively plopped them all down on the counter, but there was no turning back. That same enthusiasm has carried me from Alan Moore, to Frank Miller, to Frank Beddor with many wonderful stops in between.
Two years later, when asked to choose between buying a house, a Corvette, or opening a comic book store, the answer was a no-brainer. I no longer read under the covers with a flashlight, but I do manage comic book stores.
My love of comics has grown deeper than just my appreciation of the artists I personally treasure. From those first few days after opening Night Flight Comics, there were many opportunities to work with educators and librarians. In the fall of 1987, Paul Levitz and Bob Wayne stepped up to help with our first classroom presentations for ninety 12-year-old students. The 90s brought help from Bill Morrison, Dr. Robyn A. Hill, Batton Lash, Jackie Estrada, Mike Carlin, Karen Berger, Vince Letterio, Mike Richardson and Jim Valentino. Then Matt Hawkins, Alan Payne, Dave Hawksworth, Frank Beddor and others joined in. The desire to share our mutual love of comics runs through many of us working in this industry. For the help I receive in sharing my love of comics, I will always be grateful.
And the moral of this story… sometimes taking candy from a stranger can be a good thing.
Night Flight Comics
Salt Lake City, Utah