Make Mine Marvel 4
Face front true believers, this is NLogan bringing you the latest edition of Make Mine Marvel!
By the time I picked up my first comic book I had
already long been a fan of Marvel. I never achieved all of these titles
in the hallowed ranks of Marveldom but I did have at least two of them,
R.F.O. and K.O.F.!
One fateful day in June of 1988 after a successful
dentist's visit with no cavities, Mom promised me and my twin brother a
treat as a reward (in addition to being able to select a small toy from the dentist's treasure chest of goodies that had everything from finger puppet monsters, bouncy balls, erasers, mini slinkies, plastic fangs, and silly putty). I was 11 years old so while I secretly loved still rooting through the treasure chest, I considered myself a little too old for a pocket skeleton or plastic spinning top. I had the same dentist all growing up and we had our picture on his wall with all the other kids from 1982 to 1996.
While at a 7-11 we had stopped at to get gas afterwards, my brother and I eyeballed the candy section looking for said promised no-cavities reward, but something else caught my eye on the comic book rack.
It was a copy of Uncanny X-Men 232 with an Alien called the Brood on the cover that looked to my mind's eye like it came straight out of the movie Aliens.
We had seen the movie Aliens a year earlier in 1987 while at a friend's house during a sleepover. They had a VHS copy and we watched space marines get slaughtered by the xenomorphs. We came up with a new game that was a combination of hide and seek, tag, and playing guns. The space marines (all the kids at the sleepover packing squirt guns) ran around the dark house looking for the alien (one kid who was hiding). The alien hid somewhere in the house and if he could he would reach out and grab a space marine infecting them. The infected marine then became an alien also and they both ran to hide in another spot to infect more space marines. The game progressed until either all the aliens were dead (squirted) or all the marines became infected. As we played into the night (their mom was gone on a late night date and their older brother was in charge hence the movie choice) just like the movie, more often than not the marines were slaughtered and it became a losing run and gun battle just to survive a little longer. My brother and I, already being masters of the craft of hide and seek, honed during early years of night time neighborhood games like kick the can and steal the flag, quickly emerged as especially crafty and dangerous aliens. We hung from the open attic crawl space door to catch passers-by. We removed some drawers in a dresser that had a robe hanging from it and pushed them under the bed. When the unsuspecting marines looked under the obvious spot to hide (the bed) they exposed their backs to the dresser. Before they could comprehend where the drawers came from we were on them from out of the seemingly solid walls reaching around the hanging robe. We scaled the walls in a stairwell by stemming across and dropped on the unsuspecting. We shifted the mattresses on beds slightly around 8 inches from the wall and lay in the space provided between with the blankets draped over us and over the protruding edge of the mattress for what seemed like an unoccupied bed. They never stood a chance. Good times.
So while standing in the 7-11 and looking through the comic book I could quickly relate to the storyline with an alien menace infecting others with eggs that incubated in their chests. I selected my no cavities reward right then and there. I knew who the Uncanny X-Men were through watching appearances on the cartoon Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends while growing up and a coloring book I had from when I was younger. Their current line up was a little different but I recognized the heavy hitters Storm, Wolverine, and Colossus. The artwork was dark and moody with a manhunt through foggy streets. I was further introduced to mutants and their powers through the eyes of a seemingly innocent man who was being hunted and was on the run from the Uncanny X-Men. Not knowing he was infected by the Brood and was unaware when the brood inside him took over his persona and that he was infecting others. The X-Men are shown appearing mysteriously out of nowhere. The man had escaped some of the X-Men with abilities he wasn't aware he possessed (due to the brood infection). But Wolverine was on his scent and hunting him down. Wolverine was well aware of the danger that a Brood infestation posed. He had fought them before on one of their home worlds where they had infected all of the X-Men and he was willing to kill all of his friends before they transformed into the Brood. The Broods' modus operandi was to colonize a world by destroying all of the indigenous forms of life on the planet.
The infected man runs through a random neighborhood looking for escape. But he can't escape the inevitable. Wolverine tells the man,"You got any beliefs... Now's the time.. to make your peace with them". Wolverine has the man cornered in an alleyway just as two police officers fortuitously showed up. Wolverine quickly dispatched both officers knowing through his heightened senses that they were no longer human and had been infested by the brood. Much to the horror of Rogue who had arrived in time to see it thinking Wolverine had gone berserk and was slaughtering innocents.
The Uncanny X-Men are quickly surrounded by a whole neighborhood of Brood the man had infected. I was entranced. I had to find out what happened to them. But I would have to wait a full month for the next issue. I read and re-read the book over and over. Wolverine became my favorite immediately. Meanwhile my brother following my lead had selected an old favorite the Incredible Hulk as his own no cavities reward. He was busy with the mystery of why the Hulk was currently gray instead of green. He continues with the Hulk as his favorite to this day. Me however, I transitioned my predilection to a nearly indestructible mutant with razor sharp adamantium claws that is the best at what he does but what he does isn't very nice.
Comic books became the new craze, and in fact, nationwide, they were receiving a huge popularity surge in the eighties. We scoured 7-11 and Circle K spinning racks for the latest issues. We invaded grocery stores to see if they had the ones we wanted.
Finally I was able to complete the story arc with the next two Uncanny X-Men issues. Wolverine becomes infected with a brood parasite but his adamantium laced skeleton stops the transformation long enough for his healing factor to kick in and destroy the infection.
Wolverine ends the infestation by killing the host of the queen egg in a mercy killing. Through this story arc I was introduced to that infamous snikt sound as he extended his claws and the fact that Wolverine is willing to do whatever is necessary.
For the rest of the summer the hunt was on. We soon amassed a decent quantity of issues by collecting comic books wherever we found them. We traded our friends that had them. We pleaded with an uncle that had some comics nestled among the Playboys in his garage that we noticed while my dad was there hoisting an engine with a chain hoist. We were actually more fascinated by the comics than the nudie mags although we perused both while my dad was occupied. We bought back issues from yard sales collecting titles like Marvel Two-in-One, the Defenders, Thor, the Fantastic Four, and of course every back issue of The Incredible Hulk we could find. We were being introduced issue by issue, page by page, and panel by panel to the characters of the Marvel Universe. We could not get enough.
Comic book stores
My mom saved the
day again by taking us to a comic book store in the mall in search of a
box or something to place our collection in. One glance at my brother as
we scanned the walls covered in comics and posters, and the tables of
boxes after boxes of back issues, and I knew he was feeling exactly what
I was feeling. We had entered into
a little piece of heaven on earth. That day I walked away with an acid
free box, cardboard backing boards, and mylar bags to store my comics
in, as well as a stack of comics.
As I gazed at the wall of higher priced dream items, I came away with new knowledge pumped into my ear by the proprietor lady who knew a ready sucker and easy sale from a mile away. I quickly found out that in addition to snatching up current Uncanny X-Men, and all the back issues that I could afford. I could catch up with their story by purchasing Classic X-Men that told the story of the new team from Giant X-Men 1 and Uncanny X-Men 94 onward in a more affordable manner.
In addition to being a reprint of the older stories Classic X-Men also included a new short story with the back cover showing a glimpse. She didn't have to tell me twice! I ended up collecting all of them over the years. After mentioning that I thought it was cool that there was artwork on the back and not just an advertisement, and knowing that I was infatuated with Wolverine, she led me over to where she had some newly acquired weapons in her war to win wages at the helpless hands of the public.
Holy Mother of Pearl, Wolverine was now in his own monthly solo comic book! I would later find that the first 10 issues also had artwork on the back cover, a Wolverine Gallery showcasing Marvel's top talent's takes on the short tempered walking razor blade himself. My favorite was on the back of Wolverine issue number 4 by Barry Windsor-Smith that was a precursor to the Weapon X series he would illustrate (and write) in 1993.
I now had several new titles to follow the current and past adventures of my favorite mutant heroes: the Uncanny X-Men, Classic X-Men, and Wolverine. You can guess what I spent my time doing for the next little while, all thanks to this store.
Nightflight comics in the Cottonwood Mall
Cottonwood Mall is now long gone having been demolished, although Nightflight has moved locations a couple of times since and still exists. It is not like the store I remember. There are very few back issues and it is dominated by card games and comic related toy collectibles. I have stopped in from time to time to reminisce and left empty handed because the comics of today do not pull me like those of yesterday. In fact my quest to know the story of the Uncanny X-Men spanned clear into adulthood trying to collect every issue of the above three mentioned titles at least up until a certain cutoff year when life was pulling me another direction and it was easy to leave seeing what had been done to my beloved superheroes. But that story is best saved for later.
D&D Comics and Collectibles in Carriage Square
I had already explained how my brother and I came across a new comic book store much closer to home than the mall while eating at Godfather's Pizza in a previous Make Mine Marvel article. Just a few doors down from the restaurant (about where the yellowish building is prior to the white and brown Germanic looking one) was a dimly lit enclave among the other stores in the strip mall that housed comic books in all their goodness. It was about as different from Nightflight comics as one could get while still selling the same product. The owner was always there and being far less glamorous it felt far more personal.
We would soon become regulars with holds and pull lists for our favorite popular titles and known by name (in infamy) by the owner Dick who looked a lot like the TV artist Bob Ross complete with afro hairdo. It was there that we were able to amass back issues by the dozen while listening to the friendly banter of Dick as we thumbed through the boxes.
One winter-y day we were tasked with slogging through the snow to pick up the Avon money for the Christmas orders from the neighbor lady. My mom sold Avon and this was the biggest haul of the year as people geared up for Christmas presents for relatives from stinky old cologne to the latest gaudy jewelry. We dutifully collected checks from old ladies but to our surprise many gave us cold hard cash. At the time it was possibly the most money we had ever held in our hands at once. My brother and I mulled over the cash as our greedy and wicked hearts grew darker and darker, clouding our judgement with a blanket of thick stupidity. Of course mom would know the totals didn't add up. We would blame it on dropping some in the snow, and if we had to go back, we wouldn't be able to find it of course. We then made tracks directly to the to D&D Collectibles and Comic Books.
There had always been these coveted books displayed on the shelf that were out of our price range, the fantastic back issues of yore.
The unscrupulous proprietor didn't bat an eye when we flopped down way too much money for any children to be carrying on the counter and made our demands for the elite out of reach books. We foolishly spent the wad of cash on a few high priced comics and made our way home. Of course my mom came unglued and we were shortly following our footprints back in the snow retracing our steps looking for the "dropped money". What we hadn't counted on was that our footprints led past the route we were supposed to take and led directly to the comic store! Mom, being no dummy, quickly deduced where the trail would lead and where the money had gone. She stormed in dragging us along and told her story of woe to the owner. He flatly refused a refund unless he received his books back. By then they were safely nestled in with our collection already. When we got home we feigned ignorance by not remembering which ones they were. The owner would have known for sure but my mom was in no mood to return anyways and confiscated the whole lot. We received one of the only spankings I can remember from my mom (usually dad issued the corporal punishment) then she telephoned my dad (remember they were divorced) to make sure we would get our just deserts from him as well (we did in spades!). She ended up balancing the Avon funds with her own checkbook. Christmas was nearly cancelled. We did in fact receive coal in our stockings, but it turned out to be gum. It took months and months to get our comics back, held in ransom for good deeds and withheld allowances. We paid back every nickle and then some, I can assure you. But we kept the books. Not sure I learned the right moral lesson that time.
We were eventually allowed to go back to D&D Collectibles and Comics after my mom told the owner over the phone that we were no longer banned for life. He eyed us with suspicion on every purchase we made. We never again spent a large amount before moving to a new apartment and too far away to return. Now it is long since gone, but my memories remain of it and my idea of how the ideal comic store should be, even if the memory is slightly sullied by my misdeeds. We had been regulars. We had been greeted by name coming in the door. We had been banished forever by the owner and my mom. We had returned with tucked tails and lowered heads with guilty consciences. But it didn't last long.
Over time we sallied forth to new comic stores but we always felt like outsiders. Or like we were sneaking into enemy territory. It no longer felt like home.
Dr. Volt's Comic Connection at Evergreen Plaza
My brother managed to fill several holes in his collection here. Although sadly there are very few back issues prior to 1990 and it is also mostly relegated to gaming.
It would be several years before I returned to collecting and as an adult I found a place that reminds me of the comic book stores of yesterday.
Black Cat Comics at Sugarhouse
The place looked like I expected a comic store to look with new issues on the walls and back issues galore on tables in long boxes. I was greeted by the owner as I came in the door. Greg the owner decided to only carry comic books and to focus on back issues in what he calls, "the pure comic shop experience".
While I was perusing the back issues in my anonymity, the owner Greg addressed some newcomers shuffling in the door by name and my heart smiled. I have been back a couple of times but, because of distance, fairly infrequently. Months had passed and while not remembering my name he did remember me and what books I was interested in. I almost felt home again. I definitely filled several holes in my collection. That is Greg behind the counter.
Over the years I became disenchanted as first my favorite character Wolverine's adamantium claws and skeleton were ripped out by Magneto and then he reverted into a no nose weird looking pirate beast pig monster thing with bone claws?
I don't think so. He is a man, a skilled warrior, a covert government agent, and an X-Man. Reducing him to a laughable beast thing kills everything that the character was, is, and was working for. We were shown his claws and skeleton in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphernalia. There were no stupid bone claws then.
That feral bone claw crap signaled the death of Wolverine to me (in my mind he died because of the catastrophic damage Magneto caused ripping out his skeleton and his regenerative powers were unable to cope) and the death of my interest in comics. I haven't been convinced I was wrong yet with so many retcons and changes to the character's history and personality. Besides being in high school I had other interests of the feminine persuasion to occupy my time and I parted ways with comics in exchange for dating and a girlfriend. I still have my comic collection and treasure it, occasionally I fill a hole in it. But I no longer collect like in the glory days when I amassed near complete runs of several titles, and I collect nothing from the 90s. My interest lies in the glory days of Marvel Comics the Golden, Silver, and Bronze ages of the heroes and the books their stories are told in. So fans and true believers until next time, Make Mine Marvel.