- Books, Literature, and Writing
Comic Book World - One Man's Long Journey
To get my hands on a poor condition of Thor's first publication in Journey into Mystery, I traded with a friend and ended up the probable loser in the deal, as it meant my giving him a good-quality issue of the first Spider-Man comic. Spider-Man became enormously popular whereas Thor was a second tier title in Marvel's offerings.
Once Kirby stopped drawing Thor, I lost interest even though I kept buying. I was mainly attracted to the artwork in comics. I bought a lot of stuff that I never bothered to read.
In the early 90's I found a huge repository of comics on Ebay for dirt-cheap prices, and I spent a few thousand bucks in uncountable auctions. At the same time I also began buying $2.99 comics from a local store then found a site where I could order a ridiculous number of titles -- not just Marvel and DC but also the independent publishers such as Image and Dark Horse. I was shelling out close to $200 per month.
Most of that stuff just ended up being bagged and boarded and placed into comic-sized boxes. My inadvertent compulsion to buy, buy, buy has left me with a stack of boxes that nearly reach the ceiling in double rows.
In the 70's I basically gave up on my Silver Age comics because I developed an interest in science fiction, and I binged on that for several years. I sold my entire comic book collection to a store for about $700.00. I needed the cash for college tuition, and I thought it was high time to unload three multi-level bookshelves.
Even in the 70's the market for buying "collectible" material seemed juvenile. At that time the market was small. I had an almost complete collection of Magnus, the Robot Fighter (because I thought the painted covers and artwork were outstanding) and bought some from a seller. In this era there was no Internet, no Ebay, so I think I pulled up the seller's offer from an ad placed inside the Gold Key comics itself.
The prices for the first few issues of Magnus seemed ridiculous to me. I looked at asking prices for the first Superman and Batman as being simply absurd. In hindsight I wish I had forked out the cash to buy these still affordable comics... I had no inkling that they would one day in the future be worth a king's ransom.
Most buyers would simply discard a comic after reading it. I was much kinder to my fragile books. I'd merely leaf through them to enjoy the artwork then it would go in still near mint condition into my stacks. Nonetheless, I never thought any of them -- even the stuff from the 60's would become like gold bricks.
It pained me to basically give them away -- but not so much as a little. I actually felt a sense of embarrassment by holding onto them for so long. I was finally confident enough to start dating, and I thought, I'd better get rid of this stuff before my girlfriend found out about me childishly holding onto old toys.
In the day, comics were a clear sign of being a kind of loser or a sort of pansy, mommy's boy. So by the time I was in high school (with stacks of comics neatly stored away at home), I had no qualms about my classmates seeing me nose deep into Bradbury, Clarke, Asimov, Ellison even though I got ridiculed by a girl I admired while getting into the "Lensman" series by E.E. "Doc" Smith. Though the criticism stung as I had a thing for this particular girl, I acted aloof and unconcerned about what she considered to be low-level reading material.
I was so turned on by science fiction writing that by the time I was two-years into earning a bachelors degree that I gave up my dreams of becoming a comic book illustrator or even a commercial artist that I switched my degree options and decided to major in English. I was used to earning straight "A's" as an artist (that got me own the dean's list) so when I made the switch and had to go through the grueling task of reading the early British writers, I wondered if I had plundered because none of these works stimulated me, and my essays about them were terrible. My test scores made my overall rating plummet.
I didn't raise my score until my senior years in college, wherein I discovered the Russian writers (in translation). And for two years I was able to qualify for a "special" degree in English by being accepted into UCLA's exclusive class of creative writers. I think the whole class consisted of only ten students. You could only get into this "special" status by submitting a short fictional story to the instructor who decided who qualified or not. Once again I was getting "A's" and my grade point average finally escalated. The class was expected to produce one short story per week, and this was no problem. Even though my stories came back filled with red ink (no computers, no spell checkers), the instructor was still grading the material with high marks. My fanciful hopes of making it as a science fiction writer were seemingly being affirmed.
At the same time I was able to choose select courses, and I did much better reading 20th Century American writers and my involvement in odd classes such as "A Crisis in Consciousness in 20th Century Literature." As an option for the final and only exam, I selected the option of writing a fictional piece that displayed some kind of crisis in consciousness. I wrote a Kafkaesque piece that wasn't masterful, so I ended up with only getting a "B" in this particular class. I graduated with a decent overall GPA. But more importantly, I was honing my writing ability.
After graduating, I submitted a story to a local magazine, which they published. I started sending out vasts amount of work to small publishers. Meanwhile, I concentrated on my first novel that took me years to complete. It was a tome -- an unwieldy product that was half Dostoevsky and half Ray Bradbury or Harlan Ellison.
The novel was over 1,000 typed written pages, with material that might have been found in an anthology like "Dangerous Visions" if it were not so long.
I got nothing but rejections on my short story barrage, but I re-wrote the novel once the 512k Mac was born. The chapters had to exist on several floppy discs as this early Mac contained no hard drive. In fact I had to periodically swap floppy discs just to keep MS Word functional. When the novel was finished, I submitted it to several publishers who all rejected it.
Meanwhile, I had to work. I met a guy -- also a would-be writer -- who was equally as unsuccessful as myself. I read his work. He was good. We had completely different styles and "talents" but like me, he had a few lucky publishings with small presses. We supported each other and commiserated. When the rejection drafts piled up, I gave up.
I believed then (as I do to this day) that when it comes to writing fiction, you don't stand a chance without knowing someone on the inside of the biz or getting someone to recommend you. Despite the rejections, I continued to write -- just for myself. I wrote several short stories and another novel. I never tried to solicit them.
I eventually got into the the technical writing field and made a 30-year long career out of that. It's not something I could recommend to others -- even though the pay can be pretty good once you work up the ladder. It's dull stuff for anyone with a creative leaning.
Another friend of mine got into proposal writing/editing, and that can be even more grueling and unrewarding. Once you put in some years doing tech writing, proposal writing, marketing, policies and procedures in any given industry, you get stereotyped. You can change jobs for better pay or benefits, but you only reinforce your qualifications in a specific industry. This is probably applicable to everyone. Employers are all alike in that you must have a resume that reflects you have been doing the same bloody thing forever.
We make the best choices we can at any given time during our development, and so often the choices are naive and based on immediate circumstances. I've made so many wrong choices over the years. I always seemed to need to learn lessons the hard way, take the blows as they were consistently delivered, recover and just move on -- because what else can we do?
But, the point behind this long discourse is that comic books set me up to go in a particular direction. I barely knew anything about reading and writing until I started to get into comics. My initial attraction was the art and I became pretty good at creating a variety of art in different venues.
I preferred classes wherein I could let my own imagination roam, but I eventually wanted to communicate an exact message, which you can only do by using language. I could create impressive paintings and designs, but I wanted to communicate on a more controlled basis -- thus my early decision to switch majors.
So now I am resigned to writing a few Hubs -- mostly for myself. When I set up my account I did something incorrectly, and as a consequence I've never received a single dime from HubPages or their advertisers. And I really don't care.
In my mind comics used to be better. I don't buy anything these days because they are ridiculously over-priced and their content changes every few months. A new writer gets assigned to a character, and he or she will want to re-draft him/her from top to bottom. There is no consistency. Instead, the major publishers just offer us alternate universes or some other crap.