Soul Coughing = fantastic.
I dreamed of getting my hands on copies of these episodes, but of course I never did, which was probably a good thing. …One of my most-anticipated comics purchases of all time was the conclusion to the Englehart/Milgrom run on Captain Marvel, but at the time when it came out I somehow missed picking it up…maddening, but then when I finally got it, after years of searching, I found that it had actually been written by Chris Claremont, filling-in for Englehart, and it fell flat. Likewise with the Holy Grails of my missing comics stack, Avengers #100 and whatever it was that was the conclusion of the Avengers/Defenders War…sometimes these things are better left as tantalizing cover-pictures on the rack that you just can’t afford at the time. Stories without stories. One of the first Avengers comics I ever owned began with a splash page of the Avengers and the FF shaking hands on the roof of Avengers mansion, with everybody saying “that’s the most bizarre wedding I’ve ever been to, how ’bout you? Well, gotta go now…” Reading the comic they had all just came back from somehow was never as good as not having read it.
It seems to be customary, in this circle of self-psychoanalytic comics critics, to relate everything to one’s childhood. So let’s start there. My brother and I used to go to Toys R Us a lot. It was pretty much my favorite store in the world to go to, because we could play video games on systems that we would never own (i.e. all of them). Anyway, at Toys R Us they sold comics, by the pack. 10 or 20 or 30 Marvel books for something like a dollar an issue. You could see the two comics on the outside (luckily both facing out), but everything in between was a mystery. Apparently back in those pre-Jemas days Marvel had piles of overprints lying around and would send them to toy stores to be sold in bulk. We probably bought a dozen of those packs, and they were full of completely random issues from the last few months. None of the storylines connected, but we got a really broad survey of the State of the Marvel Universe circa 1992. Also, on the rare occasion that we ordered from direct-mail retailer American Entertainment, they would package every order with “bonus” comics, whatever overprinted schlock they had lyng around the warehouse (I remember a lot of Ultraverse). And of course, buying comics from the spinner rack at the drugstore was a guarantee that you’d get a bunch of scattered issues from all over the place.
Moreover, we had a long-standing subscription to WIzard magazine, which regularly emphasized not only the “hottest” events of the day but also classic storylines from superhero history. I also collected Marvel Universe trading cards – 2 or 3 years of complete sets – and between that and the grab-bag comics, there were a hell of a lot of titles I was vaguely familiar with, many more than the number of titles I knew well. We had subscriptions to a couple series (always the offbeat ones, for some reason), but even with books we really cared about, we usually had to piece things together from the fragments that we had (and what we could borrow from our neighbor Richard).
Then Toys R Us stopped carrying comics, and so did the drugstore, and we gradually stopped going to the comic shop. Occasionally Jonathan or I would bring home something from a bookstore, and I read Scott McCloud and Watchmen and Sandman: The Kindly Ones quite a few times. But in general, I was not big into comics when I arrived at Reed.
Suddenly I found myself surrounded by forty years of continuous comics. All of the storylines I had ever heard of were at my fingertips.
And I was, as you might guess, often disappointed…
TO BE CONTINUED