The next milestone in my history as a reader was in August of 1974. My mom had breast cancer (though she didn’t know about it yet), and Nixon had just resigned.
My family was in North Carolina visiting my grandfather, and I had run out of books to read. We were in some kind of convenience store/ice house place. I think the building was painted red and it had a screen door.
Anyway, I told my parents that I’d run out of books. There was a rack of comics there and one of them (I think it was my dad) said, “Buy a comic book.”
I felt really uncomfortable, almost like I was doing something wrong, or someone was playing a practical joke on me. But I took a Superman comic book and we paid for it. The story in the comic book wasn’t really gripping to me, but the ads had something that made a big impression on me. Super heroines. Supergirl in particular at first. So I mentioned that Supergirl stories sounded like they’d be interesting.
My dad worked in the circulation department of a newspaper and when he was making his rounds, he saw a Superman Family comic book that featured Supergirl. So he picked it up and it was all downhill from there.
Soon my dad was buying me any comics he saw with female leads, or groups with multiple female characters — Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, Justice League . . . . Also Howard the Duck, which is awesome, even if it didn’t fit the theme. This lasted about eight years? 10 years? Until pretty late in my high school career, at least.
In 1991, I married Thomas. He’d seen my comic book collection and wanted to start collecting as well. When we first got married, we’d occasionally go to the 7-11 and get two Slurpees and a couple of comic books.
On or around our first anniversary, Superman died. I knew there was no way they’d leave him dead, so even though I was tempted to bite on those comics, I figured I’d wait until they brought Superman back.
As fate would have it, the first of the Return of Superman storyline came out just before I moved to Texas. Thomas was already here and I was living alone while I got to the midpoint of my final semester of paralegal school, at which point I would take incompletes and have the rest of that semester and all of the next to write papers to finish up those classes.
I went to a comic book store on Jackson Street just around the corner from the Sears Tower and picked up the first of the comics in the arc. I felt very conspicuous, as I was the only woman in there. But I got the comic and reading comics was just as much fun as I remembered.
Once Thomas and I were reunited in Texas, we decided to really commit to collecting comics. There was a comic book store not too far from where we were living, and when we went in there, they didn’t stare at me like I was some kind of alien lifeform. They treated me like a customer.
So, for the next 10 years, Thomas and I had a date night to go out to the comic book store and then go out to dinner. We had pull lists and when the daughter of the man who owned the store got married, we sent her a wedding card. When I was pregnant with Alex, she sent us a card, as well.
Eventually, it just wasn’t as fun as it had been, so we stopped. Then, like, six years later, we got divorced. I asked for my pre-marriage comics and a couple of other series that I really loved in the divorce. Thomas got the rest of the comics.
The post-2003 break from comic reading ended up a bit longer than my first break. In the late 20-teens, I began to hear new things about comics that sounded interesting. Specifically, the comics that sounded good were the new Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Since I came into these series pretty late, rather than going back to my old comic book store, I started buying the compilations as ebooks.
Squirrel Girl is over and I’m putting off buying that last compilation. It’s weird, I know, but I don’t want it to end. Once I can face the ending I’ll get it. I was waiting for the next volume of Ms. Marvel to come out and apparently with COVID and everything else, I missed it entirely. The latest volume came out in April. So that’s probably next on my list of things to buy.
Will I keep buying comics or will I enter a new break? I don’t know right now. I do know that it’s likely that even if I do take another break, I probably will never stop reading comic books entirely.
As for my mom’s cancer, it was Stage 2, and she needed some pretty exciting surgery for it. She found the lump on Thanksgiving of 1974 and had the surgery on Christmas Eve. She was fairly traumatized by the whole experience and used to go into a depression during the holiday season every year. 27 years later, when I got my diagnosis, I started seeing a psychiatrist so that I wouldn’t end up as emotionally scarred as my mom did. I’m pretty sure it worked.
Oh, and 1974 was momentous for another reason. Not too long after we got back from North Carolina, my mom, who was a preschool teacher, had a very important preschool student. Thomas.
Now, for the Gratuitous Amazon Link. Let’s go for it. Ms. Marvel: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona.