A life spend in comics and how TV got me to read…
Television got me to read.
Growing up, there was a show on PBS called The Electric Company. On that show there was a character named ‘Easy Reader’. He was played by a very young Morgan Freeman (yes, that Morgan Freeman). Most problems he encountered could be solved with a relaxing read. There’s some truth in that, but that’s not what got me interested in reading.
Spider-Man was on the Electric Company.
Spider-man (yes, that Spider-Man) was often featured in segments on the show. Unlike what you’d expect (given that it is television)…he couldn’t talk. His dialogue turned up in word balloons, and the only way to know what he was saying to his enemy of the week was to read along. I loved Spidey, so suffice it to say, I was going to need to be able to read.
After seeing Spidey there, my mom got a subscription to ‘Spidey Super Stories’. It was the comic equivalent of his appearances on the Electric Company. Each book was ‘Easy Reader Approved’, so you knew it was good. By the time that subscription ran out, I knew everything you could know about Peter Parker, Spider-Man, and what comes with great power.
Or so I thought. I was 6. It was time to graduate.
I was thrown for a loop when I saw Amazing Spider-Man #169 on the newsstand at Jewel. Knowing everything there was to know, I knew Spidey’s biggest nemesis was J.Jonah Jameson. He was a publisher of the Daily Bugle, which just happened to be the newspaper Peter Parker took photographs for. The only thing keeping Peter’s closest family and friends safe was keeping his identity safe. Someone who is trying to destroy Spider-Man knew who he was?!? I was beside myself. That was where I would have to stay. I must have looked at this one book 15 times w/out ever getting to peek behind the cover. It haunted me for years to know what happened. Surprisingly, when I finally did track one down later in life, everything turned out just fine for both Peter and Spidey. There was a break here for me and reading. If I wasn’t going to be reading about things I was interested in, I wasn’t going to be reading. It took 3 years for things to change. This time, the change stuck.
The same Jewel/Osco, but now I’m 9 years old. I can still see it. The Jawa Express. There were Star Wars comics. Star Wars was the most important event of my childhood (and was for plenty of other kids as well.) I had no idea that there could be Star Wars outside of a movie theater. This was a year before the second movie came out, and I was finding out that I had missed almost 3 years’ worth of Star Wars stories. It simply couldn’t happen again. My mom, encouraged by my interest, got several subscriptions for different comics at that point. 8 to 10 times a month, they would arrive in my mail box. Not only would I get to go off with my favorites from Star Wars, or Spidey, but a whole new cast of characters, ever growing in size and complexity. Putting all of this in order in my head very much led to what I’m doing today.Managing a comic store really does have a bit of ‘dream job’ in it. Taking something I’ve loved for over 40 years and turning it into how I spend most of my time can be beyond lucky. I get the chance to provide that same excitement for people every day that I’ve had for over 4 decades. Reading at work is actually part of my job. I write reviews that go out to thousands of people who subscribe to our newsletter, because THEY want to read about what they’re going to read. In that way, I’m a little like TV…which taught me to read.I’m rambling a bit here, but the big takeaways here are:
1. Comics Are Great.
2. Spider-Man Rules.
3. Um…Morgan Freeman?
4. Comics Are Great.
–Kevin Healy, 2019