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Editor’s Note: With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we’ve declared this the week of Robot Love and resurrected I ♥ Comics. In one of our favorite features, various comics creators, bloggers, retailers and fans discuss the things they love about the medium.
Today’s guest contributor is comics retailer James Sime, owner of Isotope Comics in San Francisco.
by James Sime
Hello, I’m James Sime. I sell comic books for a living.
My life-long love affair with funnybooks started way back in the ’70s with a second-hand issue of Daredevil #154 purchased at my friend Joel Patterson’s yard sale for a nickel. I’ll never forget the way Joel’s eyes sparkled or his sly car-dealer smile as he put it in my hand and said, “You know you want it!” And I will always remember sitting there on a park swing hunched over reading it for the first of thousands of times. I fell head over heels right then and there for Roger McKenzie’s writing and Gene Colan’s amazing art. That one moment of hucksterism has proven to be one of the most important moments in my life. It was then, sitting on that plastic park swing, that I first knew a strange, new, overwhelming passion I had never felt before. I didn’t understand the feeling at the time, but I do now. Baby… James Sime was in love. And I knew I had to get more comic books.
But more importantly, I knew I had to become better friends with Joel Patterson.
Joel was on to something that was good. Better than good, it was great! He had a whole box of those things with a whole variety of other characters and even stuff from other companies. He had mystery comics and horror comics and superhero comics and war comics and weird comics that I honestly didn’t know what the heck to make of. I had to know more! And Joel knew all sorts of things about this blind superhero, he even knew of more comics drawn by that Gene Colan, he knew who the Purple Man was and why his power wouldn’t work on our hero, and he even knew who the heck that pretty blonde was. It felt that he knew more about these comic things than I ever would. And I wanted to soak up as much of that knowledge as possible. And, it occurred to me fairly quickly, I wanted to find out who else was reading these things too.
I had discovered the fellowship of comics. As much as it might have been The Avengers who were filling boxes in my comics collection, I also found myself collecting fellow comic fans at an ever-rapid pace. I was (and still am) thrilled by this vast, secret world of people who loved comics just like I did, who felt that same burning passion for “stupid comic stuff” like me. I wanted to meet a hundred thousand Joel Pattersons so I could have even more people to talk to about Daredevil and Bullseye, Steve Ditko’s art on Doctor Strange, the Unknown Soldier stopping Nazi super-weapons, or whether the Human Fly actually was a real guy or not.
As a funny-looking guy with goofy clothes, silly hair and that special something that makes it impossible to blend in with the crowd no matter how hard I may try, it wasn’t an easy thing to make new friends. And as anyone who has ever met me will tell you, I really like making new friends. But how could I ever hope to strike up a conversation, what did I have in common with the Jimmy Millers and the Geri Ryders? Damn little. Without a way to meet people, life really would be a King Sized Special of isolation or Giant-Size Annual of alienation. I’ve got the fellowship of comics to thank that it’s not.
Each and every time someone new walks into my shop, I get a special thrill, because I know we are all part of the same family, and it is these common interests that open the door for all of us. This fellowship of comics that could possibly set us down the road to being great new friends. I still want to become better friends with the Joel Pattersons of the world, and that comics have diversified so much over the last ten years that finding a good read for even those people who have never picked up a comic book in their lives means so many exciting new members to the fellowship of comics.
My first brush with comic retailing and connecting to the fellowship was actually as a kid in those early, early years of my comics love affair. My folks didn’t do much to help fund my comics addiction, which was ever-growing, so I had to find other means of getting them. My young self made the same decision my older self would eventually make: to both share my enthusiasm for comics with others and to get a chance to read a whole lot of books my pathetic allowance could never afford me. I went into the funnybook business. Each kid in my neighborhood had picked a favorite superhero and it was understood that that was “their guy.” There was the Spider-Man collector, the Master of Kung Fu collector, the Batman collector, the Conan collector, and many more. I would trade a couple Spideys to Ben for his “junk” comics, sort out the Batmans, the X-Mens, the Teen Titans, the Power Man and Iron Fists, and ride my bike over to Colby’s, Andrew’s, Todd’s and Joel’s houses to trade for more “junk.” But not before I read them! The rest of the flotsam and jetsam was my collection, which was perfectly alright with me! Honestly, back then (and now) I didn’t really care if it was another crummy issue of The Hulk, a surprisingly awesome issue GI Combat, a coveted Daredevil or even the bicycle safety superhero Sprocket Man… if it was comics, I just wanted to read it.
So thanks to the fellowship of comics both then and now for helping me do just that. I am forever in your debt.
Just this last weekend I attended the New York Comic Con. And like the thousands of others there, I caught up with friends old and new, met some great new people, and I stayed on the sofa of one of my best friends in the world that I wouldn’t even have if it wasn’t for comics. So for me it was a truly unforgettable weekend filled with happiness, and lots and lots of comics, and lots and lots of fans. If you haven’t been to a convention, I definitely think you should go sometime. It’s really incredible to see a whole convention center filled with people connecting over comic books and the fellowship of comics in all its glory like that.
Today I’ll probably spend no small amount of time with more Joel Pattersons doing what you’re doing right now, connecting to the fellowship on the internet. To me there are few things more remarkable than being able to make friends with fellow comic nerds from all over the world, so if you’re out and about on the virtual comics circuit, you’ll probably run into me.
And I also have that funnybook business to run, so you know I’ll be the one behind the counter here at the Isotope connecting with hundreds of fellowship folks and hopefully meet some more awesome new ones this week. Over the years experiencing that instant fellowship on a daily basis has been a real dream come true. The sheer number of best friends who have met at my shop, or the romances I’ve seen spark up over those four-color pages, or the bonds that I have seen formed that stretch over years and continents is really staggering. The fellowship of comics is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
I’m going to leave you with a quote from a truly wise man, who just so happens to be Brett Warnock of Top Shelf Comics. Brett ends each and every email with a small nugget of truth that I desperately wish I could just steal from him and pretend it was my idea all along. Because more than anything else I think it sums up and distills down the very best aspect of the comics industry and community.
“Your friend through comics.”