Comic Books At A Yard Sale

#0 Origin!

Long before the MCU brought cinematic superhero joy to my life. Well before the series that debuted on streaming platforms and TV. And the so many many winters before the video games and cartoons were even an idea. Almost all of the world’s mightiest heroes(and villains) made their debuts in comic form. Specifically comic books. Those flimsy paper books of illustrated stories that move from panel to panel. With their onomatopoeic words superimposed over the action to provide atmosphere. [POW!] Many of these characters date back to pre-World War II times(The Pre-Golden Age of Comics). And some, like Popeye the Sailor Man, Captain America, Superman, and even Wonder Woman, were used in a very propaganda-esque fashion during the war. In fact, following WWII, there was a long history of using comics as propaganda.

Now, as cool as it would have been to have seen the birth of some of these iconic characters, I don’t think I would have had the constitution to survive in an age such as the first half of the 20th century. And in fairness, not many of us would. The Greatest Generation were superheroes in their own right, in my opinion. I mean think about it for a second. They ate bloody steaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day. Walked barefoot uphill in the winter to and from everywhere year-round. Chain-smoked unfiltered cigarettes from toddler-hood. Walked through the gates of hell and back(WWI/WWII) without so much as a vest of body armor(save their meager helmets). Drank like a parched fish in the ocean(prohibition be damned). Digested plague regularly. And they never wore seat belts. Ever.

I jest, sure. But there is absolutely some truths in each of the above statements. To support my hypothesis; many of the Greatest Generation lived well into their 90’s. Which is insane to think about considering today’s outlook of human longevity. I’ll be lucky to push 70. Thanks, GMO-infused, artificially processed, pesticide covered-EVERYTHING THAT’S DELICIOUS IN THIS WIDE WIDE WORLD, OH FUCK MY LIFE, I WANNA LIVE!!

So, if I were to use my stellar imagination, I would surmise that comic books were an escape for many people during the bleak age of war time Earth. Man, woman, and child. Everyone needed an escape. I think they must have been a source of inspiration and wonder for children during those ages particularly. Much like every generation, the children needed heroes to look up to. Then the most, really. I mean, think about it, these kids were born under a bad sign, amirite? In a matter of a few decades there was; a great depression, prohibition, a dust bowl, sickness abound, and TWO fucking World Wars!

Not one, but TWO World Wars!

I mean… What the hell, right?! I’ve known war and conflict(and now plague) in my time. So much more than I’d like to, that’s for sure. But to say I’ve known A World War in my time(let alone two)? Thankfully, no. So yeah, I think these kids needed some serious heroes, right now-time! USA was unfortunately a Patriarchal Society then, and most of these kids father figures, role models, and sports heroes were off to various theaters of conflict. Many of their mothers took up the call for action in their own way and were toiling away for untold hours a day in the factories making planes, bullets, weapons, etc. Just to make ends meet and provide for their children. All while boosting the war effort from home.

Get out there and collect that scrap metal, Timmy! Grab your riveter, Rosie! It’s for the men fighting over there!

It was all hands on deck. For everyone. So, during World War II, who better to look up to than a character like Superman. The guy is more or less invincible. Unless, of course, you have a radioactive green rock to throw in his face. Then it’s over. Or, perhaps, why not look up to the man wearing the Stars and Stripes himself.

Captain America.

I mean, come on. You want inspiration? Captain America, in his first issue: he jumps through a barred window and gives Hitler-himself a cold-cocking right-cross to the face. All while being shot at by flabbergasted Nazi’s[look at the Nazi by the window. “URK?!” Frozen. He wee-wee’d in his Nazi underoos]. This was all right there on the damn cover of issue number 1. It was pure propaganda. And it apparently worked. Captain America No.1, and the regular monthly releases beyond that, constantly circulated 1 million copies or more. [according to the Wikipedias]

Awww! Who’s a cute Winter Soldier?

Now that we’ve established some of my thoughts regarding comic book history, let’s bring this into my generation and make it a bit more personal, shall we? Because, as much as it may seem so, this is not a historical entry on the origins of comics. Rather, it’s about me and the effects comics(and some linked cartoons) had on me. I bring all of the above up, because even after those almost fifty years since Cap’s debut, somehow even I got hit with a bit of the propaganda tied to him.

#1 One Faithful Weekend!

I would guess that for most of my existence, I’ve read comic books in some form. They’ve always been entertaining to me. But I have never been that comic book guy. You know the one. Only reads the books with gloves on. Owns numerous cardboard crates of hermetically sealed individual issues that have never known the stale air of a dark basement apartment with blacked out tiny windows. There are a bunch of stereotypes, and I don’t think I really meet any of them. ‘Mint’ doesn’t mean much of anything to me. Well, with the exception of having something to do with being refreshing when added to iced-rum and soda water. And it’s also great in ice cream. Regardless of what my wife says…

Reading was an escape from many things for me. And comics were just another tool for a kid that needed to forget some stuff for a while. They fit in there with movies, cartoons, video games, toys, sports, falling out of trees head first, and regular books. I had flipped through various comics in my single-digit youth, usually in places like doctors offices, grocery stores, and whatnot. But the first comics I can remember owning were bought around 1989. Probably in spring or summer. They were not store bought.

My first comics were actually found at a yard sale.

Ah, yard sales. Magical places. You don’t see them much anymore, if at all. As the internet has killed most things by now. Including yards. These yard sales were crazy popular when I was young. Think eBay, but everyone’s listings were laid out on tables and tarps in their yard. There would be signs tacked to light poles and road signs all over residential neighborhoods and left there for weeks on end. Usually until the weather removed them by force. Hell, if you go out into your neighborhood right now, and walk up to an old telephone pole at an intersection, there is a great chance that there would be hundreds of rusted staples and nails still stuck to it. Those are probably from people’s yard sale signs. Clues about life from ages ago. When the ice caps melt and the floods come to bury the world, distant-future historians trying to piece back together our everyday lives will study those staples and nails.

Ah yes! Of course! Look here! This is where they advertised their ritualistic goods swaps! Note the placement of these metal posting devices! See how they overlap? This must have been a very popular area!

You’d also see massive listings for upcoming yard sales in the newspaper classifieds. There was a section devoted just to them. People paid money to get their info out there. All so that they could have absolute sketchy-ass strangers show up to their personal abodes and hopefully buy their garbage. A typical classified entry would look something like this(though often they used a lot of abbreviations to save money on character costs):

MASSIVE Multi-Family Yard Sale! Saturday Only! Everything Must Go! 9am to 6pm!

37 Bymyshid Way (Corner of Oldundies Rd) (Rain Date Sunday)

People were so eager to sell their junk back then. And junk, there was aplenty. You want a 1960’s gaudy pea-green couch encased in plastic that is missing a leg? How about a possibly-broken black and white TV from 1975? We got one! Looks great, right! $50.00 firm! Sorry no, you cannot test it before buying. No electricity here. It’s a yard, and the house is only for show!

You could occasionally stumble upon diamonds in the ruff, though. Usually in the form of collectibles and/or antiquities. People sold everything, even used clothes, and you could regularly find some gems there too. I found a mid-80’s Monsters of Rock tour shirt once. It became my favorite shirt for a while. It was way too big, was really faded, and smelled bad even after washing. But I still loved it.

Many people also wanted to sell their used underwear at yard sales. You would regularly see old baskets of used granny panties on a table and people would paw through them. Nowadays, people still sell used underwear. Though usually online. And it’s both less weird, and more weird at the same time.

To begin, the prices are too damn hi… [cough] [insert uncomfortable silence here]

Anyway, we’re here to talk about comic books. Definitely not sexy purple lacy mail-order used und… MAN, DAMMIT!

So, I like to think I found a jackpot at a yard sale one day, when I found this musty old cardboard box.

#2 Holy Underwear! 

So yeah, a yard sale was where I got my first comic books. I found a whole box of comics one weekend, it was full of various comic publishers works. After working up the nerve to approach the seller, I indicated that I was interested in just some of them. The seller told me they would give me the whole box for something like 10 dollars. Now, I was in the ballpark of 7 or 8 years old at this point, and I knew that this was a steal. I mean, there were probably more than 50 comics in the box that dated back a long time before I was even a sliver of a thought. So, me thinking I was a shrewd business man on this day, I begged my mother for 10 bucks, and she relented. With ten bucks in hand, I moved in to close the deal.

Inside the box was a mishmash of Marvel, DC, Archie Comics and some others. All in various states of care(or disrepair). Some were relatively crisp(though not minty ice cream fresh). Some were very used. A few were unreadable and had to be thrown away. Some had missing pages. Some were missing part of some pages. They weren’t kept in slip sleeves with card stock. Okay, I think you get the picture, they were used. The box that they were stored in reeked of mildew, and so did most of the books for that matter. Thinking back, that box was probably stored in a basement or garage. Nevertheless, I was wicked hyped to have them and started thumbing through some in the car ride home.

That box’s contents was my introduction to characters such as: Batman(at least in comic form. Adam West was my image of the character prior to when Tim Burton took the reigns), Captain America, Hulk, The Uncanny X-Men, Archie and his pals, and many more. I spent weeks pouring through them. And found myself more drawn to the Marvel books. The DC stuff didn’t really appeal to me at that age. The Archie stuff was just too… silly. Like newspaper comic stuff. But I still gave them a try.

Who hurt you?! He’s come a long way from that rosy cheeked cherub, as he was seen in Captain America #1(shown above).

I was particularly drawn to Captain America’s stories. And he is still my favorite Superhero today. I read his comics over and over. I was interested in military and war from a very young age. It came from growing up as a Navy-brat, living in and around many bases in the US, and watching war movies with my grandmother (who was a child of that era I spoke about in the intro of this piece). So Captain America’s exploits through World War II were right down my alley.

Reading about Cap and Bucky, and how they stuck it to the Red Skull and Baron Zemo was great. As I discussed in the intro, the leftover propaganda of Cap got me because the subject matter appealed to me. Nazi’s, bad. Freedom, good. I got that early on. And to this day, I still agree. Nazi’s, bad. Freedom, good.

Though, the volumes included in my yard sale score were numerous, they were few and far between. Definitely not sequential. So the adventures jumped around a lot. It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned about the fate of Cap. And Bucky for that matter.

I also read some of the old X-Men stuff. These guys were cool. I dug the mutant powers thing. My true introduction to them would come from the outstanding 1992 X-Men cartoon though. I can still hear the theme song in my head today. Seriously, that cartoon was ahead of game. All the kids I knew watched it. Missing an episode hurt in the deepest recesses of my being. I may still be scarred to this day. It was also around that time that I started buying my own comics with my allowance. Here and there, of course. I had video games to save up for! One of the first comics I bought was Weapon X #1. Wolverine has always interested me. I remember then being a little disappointed because it was nothing like the cartoon. But I was also, like 10 or 11, so… I would return to his story in print form much later in life, following the twilight of Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character.

Because I was a child, I also loved Disney. Now, we all have differing feelings about this company nowadays. But this was a time when Disney was pretty much just in it for children and families. Not so much for the cash-grabs of scooping up media rites. At least that’s how it felt to a jaded child/pre-teen. Don’t get me wrong. I still do enjoy many Disney things today. My wife and I have pictures from all over Tokyo Disney. And yeah, we were wearing our Mickey Mouse ponchos in the rain like champs. It is not much of a stretch to say that the Disney Channel raised me, for the most part. From morning before school to evening. It was the Disney Channel on our TV.

I grew up in an absolutely great time for children’s cartoons. The 80’s and 90’s were magical years. Other channels had some great stuff. But Disney(partnered with ABC) really was the driving force. DuckTales, TaleSpin, Chip and Dales Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck. This list could go on… Gargoyles! All outstanding. I regularly read Disney comics too. Donald Duck(another character that was used for War propaganda, by the way!), DuckTales, TaleSpin, etc. They were fun. And related well to the cartoons. My favorite was TaleSpin, and I regularly picked up TaleSpin comics from the grocery store. I loved the aviation aspect of that comic/cartoon(another bit of foreshadowing in my life). Disney Adventures Magazine had a lot of comics. I always looked forward to picking up a new copy, and I was rather pissed off when I missed an issue.

There were other forms of comics as well in my life as well. I absolutely destroyed my copy of Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles graphic novel in those late early 90’s days. I read that thing so many times that the pages were actually falling out. I was a major fan. The first movie I ever saw in a movie theater was actually the first TMNT live action movie. I had a bunch of the action figures and played with them almost exclusively. I still have nightmares about that first video game for Nintendo though. I don’t think I ever finished it. Stupid fucking water zone… You have to save the dam from the bombs… And electrified seaweed, plankton, or whatever!(?) You have my support. That game was awful! And the refresh rate was shit.

Seriously, I am talking about refresh rates in a game that was played on an 8-bit console… WTF… If you played it, you know!

You and your support can go all the way to hell, April. All the way. Take the dam with you. Let the waters wash you and this cursed game away! I’m going to get a pizza.

Though not completely, I got away from comics and shifted more towards actual novels in the mid 1990’s though. Times were getting tougher in my life. Fantasy novels were now piquing my interest more and more. I found it easier to get swept away into a world of fantasy with novels, vice comic books. The latter are only released in small doses. So you always had to wait for the next installment. And you may miss said installment do to stock issues at your store or lack of funds. Novels gave you everything, right now. The trade off was the lack of flashy pictures. So now I would have to use my imagination to see the hero burst through a window into a heavily guarded room, and deliver a haymaker to a genocidal madman. My imagination was up to the task. I had the tools. Nazi’s, bad. Freedom, good.

I did keep up with the X-Men via the cartoons. And I would occasionally pick up a comic that looked interesting from the grocery store, here and there. My first Ghost Rider and Spawn comics were from this era. Now there were some badass creations. Both were dark, and were perfect for where I was. Hell. (mmm, melodrama)

It wouldn’t be until after graduation that I would really get back into comic books again. Though, not quite in the format that I was accustomed to. A storm from the far east was brewing!

#3 Enter MANGA!

This shelf is full of manga in both Japanese and English. As well as light novels.

I have been heavily influenced by Japanese culture since I was about six years old. And it was entirely done through media. I first saw The Karate Kid Part Two* in those early years of my life. When they went to Okinawa and I saw a bit of the Japanese way of things, it kind of triggered something deep inside me. Something that would last from then onward. Slowly building up to a boiling point.

I also saw Akira one faithful day on the Sci-Fi Network(No not SYFY! Seriously WTF?! To this day W.T.A.F?! SIFFI!? AHHHH!!). I was blown away. While watching Akira, I was filled with feelings of “What the hell is this?!” and “I want, nay, need more of this!”. Ghost in the Shell would come around a bit later. And, wow. Those feelings were amplified. Both were terribly dubbed for the American audiences. These dubbings made the old Godzilla dubbings look acceptable. But it didn’t matter. I also saw many of Akira Kurosawa’s movies on TV in the wee hours of the mornings. I’ve been a night owl since as far back as I can remember.

*One of my first actress crushes was actually Tamlyn Tomita, who played Kumiko in Karate Kid pt 2. Well, it was her and(much like Peter Quill) Alyssa Milano.

So yeah, thanks to the likes of: A rubber dinosaur with a man trapped inside and the zipper showing, the ever-wise Mr. Miyagi, the adorable Kumiko, the live wire Kaneda, The Major, and the silver screen samurai himself Toshiro Mifune, Japan always felt like something that I needed in my life. That is no exaggeration. So I worked to fill that need, when I could. And The Karate Kid, Part 2 is still my favorite movie to this day.

Given my exposure to Japanese movies and the couple anime I had seen, It goes without saying that got heavily into anime in high school when the internet became more “predominant”. However, before that there was VHS, and MANGA Entertainment. They were the leaders in bringing poorly dubbed but amazing anime to the west. What they lacked in quality voice actors, they made up for with outstanding promo trailers, proper use of KMFDM, and great anime from Japan. If you were watching an anime in the 1990’s it probably had that burning MANGA Entertainment logo in it somewhere.

Things like bulletin boards, FTP’s, fansubs(fan added subtitles), and later Napster or Limewire made watching these brilliant cartoons that much more easier to enjoy. They also made our PC’s full of backdoors, malware, and viruses, but it was worth it. Probably. I also knew a guy that knew some guys. So the CDs were burned regularly and slid my way like a dealer that just got a new shipment of ”Some Epic Shit, that I know you’ll like” (probably whispered to me in a school bathroom between classes while I was nervously scratching my arm).

MANGA entertainment Promo, circa 1998. Featuring KMFDM – Ultra.

Some of the allure of anime and manga was their complete contrast to American cartoons and comics. It was like night and day. American cartoons and comics were often so, well… cartoony and comic-ey, right? All sorts of bright and childishly playful. They were made for children. That was the shape of it. Disney was the image.

Japanese anime, mostly originating from manga, on the other hand was… cool, dark, crisp. Like a late autumn midnight set in a waking cyberpunk dream. They were adult.

The subject matter was indeed usually much more adult oriented, containing themes like giant oedipal-undertone themed robots bringing on the end of the world, post-apocalyptic gang wars, murderous samurai/ninja, and drug using cyborgs. And of course a lot of nudity and sex. Outside of Heavy Metal magazine, I hadn’t really seen much of any of that. Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga(graphic novel in USA), along with the anime, were eye opening in terms of contrast to US comics and cartoons. This was not something you would see Saturday mornings on ABC, CBS, or NBC. And this was absolutely not Disney.

During that time there were two particular anime series that hooked me like a marlin. Neon Genesis Evangelion and Rurouni Kenshin. Evangelion had me in an unbreakable stranglehold, with one arm around my neck and a gun jammed into my kidneys. Daring me to look away. It took me for a ride, and is still my favorite anime franchise today. I even got the Spear of Longinus tattooed down my spine in 2003. Something I still do not regret to this day. I first saw Evangelion with a group of friends on VHS. We had a connection with someone at Blockbuster, so he had first dibs on the tapes when they came in. We had viewing groups every so often. It took one episode to hook me. Well one episode and my first waifu, Misato.

At this point in history, English translated manga was a thing. But rare. And the ones that were available were quite expensive. With books costing almost $30, if memory serves. They were specialty books of an imported variety, so they were never going to be cheap. In my opinion, it wasn’t until after 2001, with the help of Adult Swim making their debut and showing anime in the dead of night, that the popularity of anime really took off. From there you could find manga in book stores semi-readily. Well, usually tucked away in a back corner somewhere. Maybe on one shelf. At the bottom. Covered in dust. And the pimple-popping staff have no idea what you’re talking about, when you ask them where the “manga” are.

“Oh! Comics are in the periodicals sections”

Thanks for nothing! You brace-face knob! Where’s my Dragonball? *

*I’ve never read Dragonball, nor have I seen the anime. Not my thing.

Sights like this still surprise me. My local Barnes & Noble, present day. The full stock of English translated manga used to be just one or two shelves.

With the exception of the Ghost in the Shell graphic novel, the first manga I ever bought was Rurouni Kenshin, and it was something like 2002. It took forever to find a shop that actually had volume 1 in stock. That struggle was real! I had watched all 99 episodes of the anime and all the OVA’s(Samurai X) almost religiously, like 4 or 5 times straight by that point. So I really wanted to read the manga. When I did, I was instantly surprised at how the artwork was almost the exact same as the artwork in the anime. That’s something you didn’t see in American cartoons. The artwork tends to vary quite a bit.

I had no idea then how many manga volumes Rurouni Kenshin had. But about ten years later I would finally own all 28 volumes. And I’ve read them all numerous times. The live action movies that came out in the past ten years or so were outstanding as well, and very well cast. I saw most of them in theaters in Toyko, Japan. The manga-ka(manga artist) made an attempt to start a new Kenshin series in the recent ten years, and it looked promising. That was before he was arrested and charged for being pervert. A charge that he got away with by paying a fine apparently.

I love Japan. I truly do. But their legal system has some serious issues.

Moving on.

My Navy years kept me from buying too many manga and comics. This was mostly because the landlocked-Sailors life was not a lucrative one, per se. But I did manage to pick up a few here and there. I read a knock off Evangelion series and most of Gunslinger Girl, but not all of it. I had never seen a comic/cartoon story like this before. This was a Japanese story that takes place in Italy about school age assassins. Pretty crazy stuff. And it was fucking tragic at times. I definitely watched more anime during this time and eBay was my dealer when I could afford it.

It was also around this time that I finally began to actually study Japanese. My personal life had just taken a turn, and I was in a bad spot mentally and emotionally. So I figured this would be a great way to focus my thoughts elsewhere. My ultimate goal was to speak comfortably in conversation, watch movies without subtitles, thoroughly enjoy Japanese music, and read manga in the original Japanese. Not lofty at all, amirite? Like in anime and Japanese movies, sometimes a lot gets lost in the English translation. So I wanted to experience it all as it was meant to be.

But that ultimate goal would not be realized for many many years to come. Learning a new language on your own, as an adult, is not as easy going as Rosetta Stone claims. The new wet sponge of a brain a child has is perfect when it comes to learning things. My adult wet-in-the-middle-only brain-sponge was more like a 30 year old oily paper bag that had been wadded up and run over by a car a few dozen times. Going, was indeed not easy, Rosetta Stone*.

*I did try Rosetta Stone, and I did learn stuff. Though back then Rosetta Stone was not exactly known for Asian languages. I would say it was good for learning some vocabulary. But if you wanted to learn the finer grammar points of Japanese, it wasn’t the right tool. Japanese grammar really needs more explaining.

#4 Back to my Comic Roots!

Following the transition to post-Navy life, I began to pick back up on many things I had set aside. One of them being comic books. This was honestly triggered by the MCU hitting their stride, and me finding one of the best comic shops in New York City by accident one day.

I stumbled into Midtown Comics one faithful day after dinner, spent an hour or so stalking the aisles like a deranged child in Wonka’s chocolate factory, before an Oompa Loompa made a song about me. I was touching everything and exclaiming to myself when I found something that triggered nostalgia. “AHH! No Way!” I would walk out of there with nearly $250 worth of collected Captain America and other characters volumes weighing my backpack down like ballast in the back of a pickup truck in winter time Maine. Seriously, had I fallen into the Hudson river, I would have sank to the bottom.

On the rush hour train ride home, I settled in to getting caught up with what Cap’s been up to since the War as the throngs of people made their commute home. And boy had he been busy since getting un-thawed. Also, the artwork had been refreshed. This was not the Cap I was used to. He was much more three-dimensional and dark, as compared to the old comics I had read. He wasn’t talking like a 1940’s business man anymore either. HEY CHUM! LET’S GO PAL! ( I know some people that use the word chap in a sentence regularly. It triggers me for reasons I cannot convey.)

I powered through these collected books like a hungry beast tearing through a small mountain town on a full mooned night. And before I knew it, I was a bi-monthly, or so, customer at the shop, taking full advantage of their points system to get massive discounts on these collected versions. I found these graphic novel type versions much easier to read than the single issue versions of comics. Mostly because you can get the whole story in one sitting. We are in a binge-now-culture nowadays. The single serving episode life is dead to me.

Midtown Comics. Some of the best bookmarks in the game

When I needed breaks from Captain America, I picked up some new material. This was mostly triggered by the Netflix Marvel series. Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage. I never read The Punisher in my youth. I had only seen the terrible movies. But after seeing Jon Bernthal’s version of anti-hero Frank Castle, I was reading that shit for sure! They were published under Marvel’s more gritty MAX series. And they didn’t pull any punches. Dark. I want to see the Explicit Content sticker on there. I grew up in the Bush Sr. presidential years, when he and his wife attacked the music and gaming industries. If it had that Parental Advisory Explicit Content Warning, I wanted it.

I found out recently that volume 3 is out. Gotta pick that up.

I also got back into Wolverine and his story. Again due to the great work put into his on-screen character. The 2000’s X-Men exploits were… not so good, but not terrible. They finally locked him down into something worthwhile a bit later. So I picked up a bunch of his books. Starting with Weapon X, of course. Which took me back to that grocery store bought comic in the early 1990’s. The Origin Series was hit and miss with me. But I’m due to revisit it. Wolverine had long had ties to Japan. Which in turn brought my interest up more. 2013’s live action movie, The Wolverine, was an incredible entry into the series. It actually triggered my travel-lust for Japan. Because I had seen many of the locations in the movie with my own two eyes by that point. The Wolverine brought Logan back to Japan, and I loved just about every minute of it.

Well, except the logistics of how Logan and Mariko navigated Tokyo on foot so quickly. Seriously, Zōjō-ji Temple in Minato City to Ueno Station, in Taito City, in a matter of minutes? No, I think not.

The Origin covers are badass
How about an hour and a half. Minimum. HOLLYWEIRD!!

The Marvel Ultimates series(Earth-1610) is interesting, and I picked up a lot of them. Some are great. Others, just filler in my opinion. They give you a look at your favorite heroes in a much more powerful and grittier/darker light. They made Thor look more like a Swedish Death Metal front man, and I am here for it. Captain America is a lot more hardwired than his Earth-616 self. Kind of gives off Frank Castle vibes. And he uses the ‘A’ word. Potty mouth.

Thor will be opening for Amon Amarth this weekend.

I was mostly only living my Marvel life at this point, and was looking to branch out a bit. I tried some DC stuff again. But just wasn’t feeling it. Guess old feelings don’t die that easy. At some point, I heard something about a comic about messed up superheroes, and the anti-superhero vigilantes that hunt them. Which sounded pretty damn interesting. So, I thought to myself, “why not?” and on my next trip to the shop I picked up the first two volumes of The Boys. The Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson’s love song to hating Supes.

And holy hell does it bash Superheroes. Graphically so. No seriously. It is about BASHING Supes. To death. Like, with a crowbar to the side of the skull. The only good Supe is a dead Supe, after all.

The Boys is very graphic, in every sense of the word.

You can totally see which characters the Supes are portraying, which is hilarious. You have your Superman with Homelander, Wonder Woman with Queen Mauve, Aquaman with The Deep, The Flash with A-Train. Some of them are blatant shots across the bow. Of course there were Marvel character equivalents as well. But while the target is superheroes in general, I found the DC characters to be holding the larger bullseyes.

The character Hughie was modeled after actor Simon Pegg. And Pegg had a cameo in the Amazon Prime series.

By the time this article is released, the episode of The Boys live action series on Amazon Prime that deals with Herogasm will have dropped already. Herogasm is a Supe cool-down party, designed to calm down the ”super stressed out Supes” and keep them focused on their jobs. Which is, of course, selling merchandise and promoting movies. Let’s just say I was, and was not ready for all of that when I read that volume. That said, I loved it! But, was not ready for it. And I hope that the series’ episode is that graphic or more. Given what’s been shown thus far, I think my hopes are well protected. (I will watch it when the entire season is released. Single serving episode life is dead to me, and yadda yadda yadda)

Around the time I discovered The Boys, I would also pick up some various other collected comics from makers other than Marvel. I found a comic version of Dragonlance one day and was blown away. I had no idea that it existed. Dragonlance has been one of my favorite fantasy settings(and D&D campaigns) since I branched out to reading novels. They even turned my favorite novel into a comic. The Legend of Huma. The Mass Effect comics were all outstanding as well. I love that video game series, and have read all the books and comics. The massive collected edition holds all of the released volumes. So I have the original four volumes and the big book. Which has the the contents of the original books and stuff I do not have.

Oh, and I did not forget manga. Not by a long shot. I was reading manga just as much as American comics at this point. I was reading some form of comics just about every single day. And it was excellent. The first manga series I picked in my post-Navy years was the one that I was waiting to read in a collected form for about 15 years. Neon Genesis Evangelion. Still my all time favorite anime series. And it did not let me down. I re-watch the original series and the remake movies almost yearly. Now having these in my arsenal brings it all full circle. I love every single word and picture. And the collected versions are much large print and format. So it makes it that much easier to enjoy. I got older. Bigger print is better for the eyes. I’m coming for you Large Print Readers Digest!

I also read the entire run of Death Note in the Black Edition larger format books. Another of my favorite Anime(and live action movie/drama series for that matter). The manga was one of the most wordy and in-depth stories I have ever read. Sometimes it was more like reading a novel than a comic. It really explores some deep thought processes. You know, holding the power of a god in your hand and all. The relationships in that story are so difficult, it’s amazing.

The Attack on Titan manga was very well done and I own and have read much of the series. The resulting anime was as well done. Almost a carbon copy of the manga. I am waiting for the anime to FINALLY be finished before I finish watching and subsequently finishing the manga series. It’s unfortunate that this franchise has been drawn out as long as it has with their multiple production issues. But what can you do? Apparently wait ten years or so, that’s what! Four seasons over the course of ten years. That is kind of brutal.

One series in particular that I enjoyed was the science fiction horror manga GANTZ. A story about people getting a second chance at life after dying. But there is a catch! Said catch is that they have to defend the world from an alien invasion. As you die, you are chosen. One second you are experiencing your death. The next, you are in an empty apartment with a giant black sphere that “speaks” to you strangely in serial kidnapper, cut from magazine letters, type text. The sphere also provides your weapons. And there may or may not be someone inside. They may or may not be naked. They may or may not be alive.

It is very graphic and pulls you into the story. The alien monsters are very creepy. It is also just a bit hentai. Which I can co-sign on. I own all 37 volumes of the original-run manga(as well as the anime and movies). Though admittedly, I have not read the last four or five volumes yet. I get side tracked easily.

From here, my comic journey takes another turn. One that I had been preparing for for quite a long time.

It was finally time to spread my wings.

I did not bring the Third Impact upon us. Wasn’t for a lack of trying though…

第5番: 日本語の漫画の登場!

#5 Enter Manga, IN JAPANESE!

Neon Genesis Evangelion volume 1, in Japanese
Neon Genesis Evangelion volume 1, in English

My studies in Japanese picked more up after my first trip to Japan. Prior to 2010, I was doing my best. But to say that the progress was slow-going, would be a stretch. To say it was fucking awful, yeah that would be spot on, baby. Almost as soon as I returned home from a trip abroad, a couple things dawned on me. The first was, “my current studies just aren’t cutting it”. And second, “I live in a metropolis, and it would be stupid easy to find a Japanese school or teacher. That would surely take my studies to a level I could not reach alone.” Ahh, internal pep talks! Get out there and DO IT OTAKU BOY!!

So over the course of a few weeks of online searching, I found a nice small school that offered group classes and private lessons. After some back and forth emails with the owner, I decided to sign up for private lessons once a week. And I was a bumbling mess the first few times. But my teacher was really sweet, and very patient. She was receptive to the fact I was not starting from the beginning. So I think that made things easier. Things went so well that I have been taking lessons with this school ever since. Over 11 years now. I’ve had half a dozen Sensei’s, and they have all taught me great stuff. I upped the classes to twice a week shortly after, and it stayed that way until COVID took the world. At one point I was taking 4 hours worth of lessons a week in two two hour sessions. All while working six days a week. Nowadays I am doing only a couple times a month online at a couple hours a pop. 

As soon as I was getting more comfortable in reading the various forms of the printed Japanese language, I began searching for intro-level manga to read. New York City, being the melting-pot it is, has stores where you can buy Japanese language books. I spent hours in BookOff(a second hand book store), and Books Kinokuniya(a Japanese bookstore). I selected manga that were for younger ages(because I had the mind of a child. Well, in terms of speaking Japanese). Ones that didn’t have too many difficult kanji. And also ones that provided helper-characters(furigana) for difficult kanji. My vocabulary was no where near where it should have been for reading these. But I could read them. I would just have to translate the words. It took time, and was tiring.

In doing this I read parts of many great manga series. Like: BLEACH, Yotsuba To!(よつばと!), Bakuman(バクマン), and Rookies(ルーキーズ). I haven’t read all of the volumes I bought all the way through yet, because at the time I ran into many language roadblocks and had a lot of tiredness from concentration. Someday I will take a step back and read them all the way through.

As you can see at the start of this section, I picked up Evangelion in Japanese. Though not the full collection as of yet. My manga shelf is kind of overflowing at the moment. Kind of hoping for a collected version to help save space. But you don’t see that too often in the Japanese books. If at all. English translated ones, yeah.

The first manga series I read, entirety in Japanese, was a series called Koe no Katachi (聲の形(こえのかたち)). In English it is titled “A Silent Voice” (but the direct translation would be “The Shape of a Voice” which I find quite poetic). It is a slice of life story, which is generally not my cup of tea. But this type of story tends to be much easier to read. No crazy action sequences or made up difficult to pronounce names. Reading westernized names in Japanese, particularly the made up fantasy style ones, is still quite tough.

Koe no Katachi is a story about a young man trying to atone for his absolutely terrible bullying of various people while in grade school. In particular though was the bullying of a deaf girl named Shoko. This kid was awful to her. You feel absolutely terrible for this poor girl, and the story takes you for a loop in terms of emotions. You really do feel for these characters, as it was so very well written and well drawn. I haven’t seen the anime movie yet, but I do own it. It’s the kind of story that I have to be emotionally prepared for to watch, I think.

I used to read it on the train rides home, and I would get funny looks by the people sitting next to me. I took my time reading the manga, so I could process everything. I still had to take breaks often and look up words and whatnot. But I did it. All seven volumes. This manga will forever have a place in my heart. It will always be the first manga I ever read 100% in Japanese.

#6 Now!

Nowadays, I am not reading as many comics as I would like. That’s largely because my time is placed elsewhere. Not out of disinterest in the least bit. Man, Getting older kind of blows, you know? Time seems to go by quicker. You spend a lot more time working and less time doing the stuff you want to be doing. Stuff starts breaking inside you more often(read: you start breaking stuff easier). Then, before you know it, you’re 40 years old and trying to figure out shit like: “What is trying to kill me now?”, and “Why does this hurt today?”. That’s life. Apparently…

I am still buying new comics and reading occasionally. I am one of those guys that picks up the collected versions of a comic prior to a new series coming to streaming or a new movie to theaters. And the comic shops cater to those types now. Often setting up displays with suggested reading when something new is coming to theaters or streaming. So, while I don’t fit the demographic of; comics must be individually wrapped, give me minty fresh or give me death, comic book collector. I do fit A demographic of comic book collector, it would seem. Go, me!

Hell, typing this up, coupled with a trip to the book store, actually triggered me to buy my first copy of Heavy Metal magazine in about 20 years. That was nostalgic. It’s only one issue, but the magazine appears to be a lot less, ”OOH look, NAKED BIG BOOBIES!’ nowadays. Sure it is still graphic, but back when I was younger it seemed borderline pornographic. Every page seemingly had some form of naked woman on it. Quality stories were few and far between then. But it always had big breasts and nudity. It was like a prerequisite.

A couple of the stories in the current issue are pretty good. Very Cyberpunk. However, I probably won’t be buying Heavy Metal regularly. That whole having to wait for the continuation of a story thing again. Also it’s a damn expensive magazine now. While pretty good, I wouldn’t call it worthy of almost $15 per issue.

The MCU is throwing so many newer characters at us, and I love it. Many of which came around when I was out of touch with the Marvelverse. Or perhaps they did a revamp of the franchise. So getting to know these characters, either before or after their screen debut is fun. I recently did that with Kate Bishop for the Hawkeye series. Obviously, I knew Hawkeye. But had little clue about Kate Bishop. Ms Marvel is cute, and at the time of typing this, I am enjoying that series on Disney+. Next up in my reading queue(which is constantly in a state of flux) is the Jane Foster/Mighty Thor arc in Thor. Seeing as Thor: Love and Thunder is upon us. I’ve never really read Thor’s original stuff, with the exception of Ultimate Thor. So this should be fun. Got to get on that.

For Christmas last year, I asked my wife for the massive Marvel coffee table encyclopedia. It is a tome! And I absolutely love that book. It is full of info about every character in the marvel universe. I can’t recall looking up a character, and not finding something. Sometimes I just flip through it and read up on obscure characters that I knew nothing about. One of the best presents ever. Some characters have multi-page spreads. Some only a few blurbs. But it is all so very well done. If you are looking for a massive book that does not fit on a shelf, but has a ton of information about comic book characters, then this is for you!

In the end, I hope comics and superheroes, be they Marvel or characters from Japan, will be a part of my life until the end. The MCU has been a wonderful thing in my life. I watch these movies every time they are on TV. It doesn’t matter which one, or which order. And I seriously think it is unfortunate that these movies get so much flack by “critics”. These movies, and their source comics are meant bring you to these new worlds, make you think, expand your imagination, and can give you various feelings. Like hope or inspiration. Much like comics were back in the early 20th century. As I mentioned three years ago, back in the beginning of this novel…er, article.

Hope. Inspiration. Imagination. Some things that this broken world needs so much more of now.

Much like movies and books, comics can also open eyes and show you a bigger picture. Because a lot of the subject matter is taken from actual history. It may have been changed a bit to make it fit the medium. But there are elements of Truth in there.

Comics are novels with pictures. Movies on paper. And I hope that in the future they survive as a form of print media. While I have accepted digital books(I love my Kindle), comics, graphic novels, and manga just do not have that same feeling in digital form. And I have tried. It’s just too strange. That feeling you get as your thumbing through a paper comic or manga, just before something major happens, and you know it’s coming on the next page. It’s exciting stuff.

Or, you know. You are completely intrigued/scared(but really really intrigued) to see what happens next at Herogasm. And it’s happening on the next page.

[sweating] Oh, yeah. Here we go! [flips page]

Oh… damn… WOW!

Okay. Well, spoiler alert, It’s coke.

A whole lot of coke.

And A LOT of Supe sexual debauchery of all shapes and sizes.(emphasis on the shapes and sizes)


All of these are true except for one:

Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

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