Sunday, January 22, 2012

Open Sesame

Partly because I'm running out of new topics, and partly because I have more to say on an old one, this blog is about a magic carpet ride that only cost a dime: the comic book. In the dark days before television, computers and video games, kids had few options outside their own imaginations, to help them fantasize. I'm not saying that was a bad thing, quite the contrary, a fertile imagination can open the door to new worlds for young and curious minds. Maybe that's why comic books were so popular with children of my generation. They gave us new doors and new worlds to peek behind, allowing our imaginations to do the rest.

If you didn't grow up loving comic books, as I did, it will be hard for you to understand what they meant to me. The first level of appreciation came from my physical senses. The candy stores where they were sold displayed comic books arranged neatly on shelves so that the titles could be read. They had glossy, brilliantly illustrated covers that shouted their titles: Archie and Veronica, Little Lulu, Red Ryder, Superman, Batman, Lash Larue, Donald Duck...all familiar characters to comic lovers. We stood mesmerized, shiny dime clutched in sweaty palms, eyeballing the new arrivals to see which would come home with us. It took a while.

Once we got our treasure home, the sense of smell kicked in. Nothing smelled like a newly opened comic book. Whether it was the paper, the ink or both, we inhaled that smell like older guys who experience the rapture of that first new car smell. Maybe there a connection. Since new comics were always read in private, we could enjoy the smell without people looking funny at us. Once a new comic had been read, it was as if something went out of it. It sat there begging to be read again, but it wasn't the same comic anymore. The only analogy that comes to mind is from the great Dom DeLouise movie 'Fatso" when he asks Candy Azzara if she's a virgin and she replies: 'almost.'

Other than stimulating the senses, comics took you away. They made you laugh, sucked you into great adventures, and generally stretched the limits of 'the possible.' We knew they weren't real, but for fifteen minutes or so, we allowed ourselves to go along. We shook our heads at Uncle Scrooge's miserly ways, marveled at Lash Larue's skill with a bullwhip, and worried ourselves sick as Superman unwittingly exposed himself to Lex Luthor's kryptonite trap. Today, preserving comics in plastic sleeves and hoarding them as collectibles is in fashion. We put them to better use, sitting on the stoop and trading them among ourselves to get comics you wanted to read, but not badly enough to part with a dime.

Comics were also the gateway to miracle products that would change your life. Charles Atlas invented the dynamic tension system to help build up muscles on skinny guys so they wouldn't get sand kicked in their faces at the beach while their girlfriends laughed. How about the pet monkey that was almost human and, for the paltry price of $18.99, would be mailed to you from the Animal Farm in Miami, live delivery guaranteed. All boys, if they had two dollars, would send away for the amazing X-ray vision glasses that allowed you to see through anything. The leer on the face of the kid wearing them in the ad told us all we needed to know.

They still sell comics today, but they can't compete with Wii or X-Box for kids' attention. For me, that shoe box full of comics under my bed was my 'open sesame' to escape the streets of Brooklyn for a little while. Here's my first blog on comics in case you missed it.
Ten Cent Fantasy


 LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

No comments: