ON COLLECTING COMICS
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2009
From an email posted to erb-list July 31, 2009
Marlon Brando, precursor of the James Dean Wannabes. Most of the boys back then were riding Ducati motorcycles, low-powered imports which hit the American market after World War II.
Tangor and Barney started collecting comics in 1957 (me first by 14 months, he because scamp little brothers have to do what elder brothers do). We had a 25 cent allowance per week. We supplemented that by collecting pop bottles on the roadside, tossed in trash bins, etc (nickel a bottle back then). In the "old hood" of our littlest days it was seven urban blocks to the U-tot-em (a 7-11 type convenience store... that also had an ice house aspect (beer and sausage, short bar, and much smoking and imbibing of peanuts in the shell discarded on the concrete and hard-boiled eggs) where every one was a gent and rug rats spinning a comics rack were largely ignored though the early James Dean wannabe ducktailed cigs rolled up in their white t-shirt sleeves sixteen year olds were the worst with their sneers while trying to be cool to pick up the giggle gals migrating from pink petty coat skirts to toreador pants.
Started with Superman/Batman...and Walt Disney (though we didn't let the punks see THAT when we paid with sweaty dimes and nickles and got a pack of baseball cards, too!). When we moved to the "new hood" Marvel was on the scene and our "fix" was only two blocks away (another convenience store ala 7-11). The U-Serve was run by a grand old gent who grinned as two imps sat tailor fashion around the comic rack reading, reading, reading... and after an hour or so approached the register with four comics to purchase, a pack of gum, and two soda pops. Every Thursday when the racks were serviced. That went on for a few years until we were big enough (and trusted enough by parental units) to mow a yard here and there for a few extra bucks... and allowance had reached an astonishing $1.00 per week. Somewhere about that time I picked up the smoking habit... cigarettes were 20 cents a pack, which cut into my comics purchases something awful.
Adventure 148 (1950). We did get this issue, but didn't obtain it until circa 1960.
Sometime in 1963 the comics phase began to slow down... ERB was in paperback print at 35 cents a pop and guess where the limited income went! :)
By 1964, however, The Men From M.U.S.I.C. (first band) was making serious money ($12.50 a night each...Barney and I taking $25 between us, sometimes two nights each week). That income was plowed into comics by Barney... I saved my music money to put back into music (Had a Gibson ES 335-12 I lusted after, saved it up, and ordered that custom finished guitar). Yet, at the same time, our allowance had increased to $1 a day (school lunches) and when mom found out we were skipping lunch to buy ERB and other books from the school's distributive education program (sourced by the same guys that did drug stores with comics and PB's) and heard about titles we had seen but had not purchased... there might be another fiver inserted on Friday so we could pick up books for her.
We, as a family (Mama Tangor, Tangor and Barney) would hit used bookstores about once a month...where PBs were 10 cents and comics were a nickel. About once a month we'd hit a different set of book or stationary stores and nearly always we'd each walk away with two or three "brand new" titles each. Barney was into Doc Savage at the time... I was reading Heinlein and Norton.
By 1968 Barney and Tangor's PB collection had reached 1,000 titles, MOST OF THEM READ, requiring new book shelves to be installed in the room to accommodate them. The closet, which was originally designed to hold clothing, had been converted by junior engineers into a comics larder with generous wide horizontal shelves holding perhaps 800 issues.
As for Korak's inquiry regarding Tarzan/Korak comics, Manning, et al... Tangor and Barney read and collected them... and scowled: "That's not the way ERB wrote it!" And as I recall, I think I said I liked the Jesse Marsh comics better... but I've slept since then. James and I had, of course, learned about Tarzan from the movies FIRST. Then found ERB in the Ace/Ballantine reprint wars.
What that "golden memory" of reading has bequeathed is an everlasting love of literature, be it prose, comics, or daily journalism. Don't get me started on the latter since my opinion has changed SLIGHTLY in the last few years as regards the benefit of THAT!... but a love of reading remains nonetheless.
Does texting qualify as literature? Inquiring minds want to know! :)