You know you are getting old when the
stuff you played with and read as a kid is now referred to as "collectible".
Things like Lionel trains, Dick and Jane books, PEZ dispensers,
Barbie dolls, and comic books.
Where do you buy comic books today? Probably in a specialty comic
book store like the ones I see every now and then squeezed in among
other little stores in older shopping districts. Until a few years
ago, there was a large store on Broad Street in downtown Newark
not far from my office, but it went out of business.
At these modern day comic book palaces you can buy the new versions
of the books as well as their older more pricey volumes from yesteryear.
Often I have seen young boys and their parents visiting the stores
on a Saturday. These stores carry all sorts of other marketable
things like posters, novelties, or statues depicting favorite characters.
Many old/used bookstores now have a comic book section where you
can purchase the revered old ones. They are usually wrapped in heavy
protective plastic. They did not use the best, most durable paper
What did we know about collecting them for their future value?
We just strolled into the corner candy shop or soda fountain and
had our pick of funnies, mysteries, adventures, war stories, or
Walt Disney comics. My favorite comic book-luncheonette store was
on the corner of Roseville Avenue and Second Avenue. There were
racks and racks of those great color comics, ready to transport
you to a very different place, limited only by your imagination.
You laid down your dime or fifteen cents and off you went to another
all expenses paid dimension.
“Hey Slim (all Newark candy store owners were named Slim),
did the new Supermans come in yet.”
“No kid (all kids are called kid by the Slims of the world),
maybe on Thursday.”
“How about the Fantastic Four?”
“You’re in luck. I got a new batch in the back this
morning. Hang on and let me take care of my counter customers and
then I’ll get you the latest copy.”
Do kids today follow the monthly issues and stories like we did,
waiting for them to arrive? Are there even monthly changes to the
magazines any more? I must admit, I have lost touch with the genre.
I read quite a few in my day, and a wide variety it was:
The Fantastic Four
Archie and Jughead
MAD magazine was something of a new trend when it arrived on the
scene, with its political overtones and sophisticated humor-- definitely
suited for the discriminating palate of the pre-pubescent, rebellious
type. Saw a recent issue and it still has the same anti-establishment
tone and pages jam-packed with humor and irreverent pokes.
I am sure the girls had their comics, but I must confess I cannot
remember a one. They also had those movie and romance magazines
to keep them occupied, and the fashion and beauty ones too. Real
he-men didn’t read that stuff in my neighborhood, unless you
wanted a kid named Rocky to stuff you down a sewer.
I did not save a one of my boyhood comics. I probably traded them
away for others; and when I got married and moved out, Mom most
certainly tossed any remaining ones that could have been lingering
in some forgotten pile in my room. What a shame. Those old vintage
editions are worth some fine coin today. Over the last 15 years
I have collected the old Dick and Jane school readers; and comic
books have increased in value just like those old readers. Comic
books are a nice business, maybe even a nice retirement avocation.
I enjoyed being whisked off from one adventure to the next with
each monthly installment. Whenever we went on vacation or down the
shore, it was reason enough to raid the old piggy bank and make
a quick visit to the comic stands, loading up with the latest adventures
to keep me fortified and up to date while away from home.
There must have been 50 or 60 different ones you could choose
from every month. And that smell of a new comic book when you opened
the colorful pages! It was probably un- healthy back then to inhale
those petroleum-like smells from the inks, but that’s what
gave it an almost forbidden ambiance, along with some scantily-clad
maidens in distress, about to be rescued by some over-muscled super
hero. Supergirl…….now there was a girl who knew how
to dress! The places those comics took me I have not re-visited
in many years. I wonder if they seem the way they did back then?
Is Slim still behind the counter?
Looking back, there was an awful lot of violence and fighting
in those books (conflict-as the politically correct writers refer
to it today). But our generation didn’t seem to produce an
overabundance of violent people, or drive-by shootings. I like to
think the comics stimulated our imaginations, much like radio did.
We seemed to know the difference between fantasy and reality. And
if we had any doubts, our fathers could focus us with a good swift
kick in the pants (amazing how therapeutic those swift kicks were!).
Comic books could be read in school if you were creative. You
could always slide an issue inside a nice big history book in school
if the lesson for that day was particularly boring. Nah……nobody
ever did that…right?!