I am a fan of comic books. I wouldn't call myself a collector, since I haven't bought or sold a comic in years. I have hung on to a large box of what could be considered by some collectibles in vinyl covers. I find myself poring over these in our basement from time to time when I am down there looking for a box full of Christmas decorations or T-shirts I thought had gone missing. I thank my older brother for having the foresight to protect my comics, the ones I held onto, way back when I moved to California. It is through his efforts that I have a preserved legacy of my youth spent looking through the racks at convenience stores and smoke shops. The comics I bought back in the day weren't from comic book stores. Those came about in the eighties, and by then I had already amassed the sequential issues I would own.
For the most part.
I had a subscription to Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider Man, not to be confused with The Amazing Spider Man. I made this commitment in my teens to one title because I was invested in Peter Parker the person, not the super hero. I was always impressed by Marvel's commitment to characters who happened to have incredible powers, rather than caped crusaders with incredible powers who occasionally interacted with normal humans. It wasn't a stretch for me to connect to Peter and his youthful angst as he worked through the struggles of being a nerd who just happened to have the proportionate strength and agility of a spider. I stuck with Spidey for years after that, even though I didn't renew my subscription. I picked up an issue (ish) here and there, happily noting how much things changes while staying the same.
And I grew up.
As a young man preparing to get married, I tried to lift the way Peter Parker proposed to Mary Jane Watson and drop it into the real world. It didn't work out too well. My own proposal to my wife took a bit of rewriting and negotiation to make it work in three dimensions. Years later, when I saw the romance between Pete and Mary Jane unfold on the big screen, I was swept up again. I started buying action figures from the Spider Man universe for my son. Then I decided to roll out the old comics to get him hooked. He had the toys. He had the movies. He looked with great appreciation at the art and stories I set in front of him. But he never made them his own.
It wasn't until Robert Downey Jr. showed up as Iron Man that the Marvel Universe opened up completely for him. He still didn't buy the comics. That is not how his world unfolds. He doesn't wander through the aisles or racks, thumbing through the stacks looking for that title that had eluded him for all these years. He has Al Gore's Internet. He keeps track of the wikis and the release dates and the spoilers in ways which the Mighty Marvel Bullpen could never keep up.
Next week, Iron Man squares off in theaters against my first comic fixation, Captain America. My son and I haven't had much discussion about which side we come down on, but the lines are already somewhat crudely drawn.
But there is a bright side.
Spider Man makes his first foray into this movie world with the rest of the Avengers and their hangers-on. I got a text right after the first TV spots showing Spider Man mixing it up with the others, cracking wise. It was from my son, quoting a line that came straight from behind the webbed mask: "Hey, you've got a metal arm! That's awesome!"
We can't wait.