SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
I love comics so much, I have to make my own.
In the summer of 1973, our family moved from Dallas, Texas to rural Vermont. To say that it was a culture shock would be understating the situation. In public school in Texas, for example, we had etiquette lessons; the correct way to answer the phone, the respectful way to address your elders, that sort of thing.
The first day of school in Vermont, however, both my sister and I ended up at the principal’s office for being extremely sarcastic to our teachers. Our crime? In answer to a direct question, I had said, “No, sir” to my teacher, and my sister had said “Yes, ma’am” to hers.
We got in trouble for that.
Before the school year started, though, we stayed in an apartment complex a few towns over from where our house was being built, and from where my sister and I would be going to school. So we didn’t have a chance to meet anybody we’d be going to school with, and there weren’t really any kids in the apartment complex besides us. My sister and I got along pretty well, but there wasn’t a whole lot of things we could do. We got bored pretty quickly.
Down at the end of the street, though, was an old-fashioned general store. A rickety old ramshackle house, with the front part of it expanded to an all-purpose supply store. Quaint and pretty much as bucolic as you’re probably imagining. Picture a Saturday Evening Post cover starring Vermont hippies, and you’ll be on the right track.
Whenever we got bored with trying to spot minnows swimming by in the small stream or tired of biking around the woods or flying kites or looking for a good place to build a tree house, we would end up down at the general store and buy some maple sugar candy which was nearly the most exotic thing we had ever tasted. We could buy 45s for our turntable… I still have the AM radio versions of “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Uneasy Rider” that I bought there…
…or we’d load up on comic books.
Now, I’d already been a big fan of World’s Finest and Adventure Comics and Captain America, but I also liked those Charlton hot-rod comics and Gold Key Westerns. I’d read anything, really. I could take comics or leave ‘em. Even as a kid, I knew the difference between real and make-believe, and these four-color adventures were cool, and all, but obviously made-up.
I mean, Spidey swinging through New York City may well have been King Arthur riding to Camelot for as much as it meant to me. They were just stories.
Then, one day, we rolled into the General Store to get some comics, and one had been separated from all the rest at the spinner rack, and had been set up in a pile next to the cash register. A little sign said that the story in that comic took place in Rutland, the town just up the road.
I remember thinking, “Whaaaaat?” There was no way that a made-up story could take place right up the street.
So, I bought the comic. It was Avengers #119, and the Collector had come to Rutland to kidnap the Avengers, who were in town for the Halloween Parade. And there really was a Halloween Parade in Rutland! This story could have actually happened!
It was right then that I realized that wondrous and magical things could happen in comics.
Twenty-eight years later, give or take a month or two, and I found myself out to dinner with my pal Selby and his friend Steve Englehart. We talked about this and that, until Steve asked me where I grew up and I answered, “Mostly in rural Vermont.” “Oh? Whereabouts?” says Steve. “Near Rutland,” I say. “Ever hear of the Halloween Parade?” says Steve.
Whereupon I launched into a much grander version of the story you’ve just read, while a slow Yoda-like smile spread over Steve’s face as I told it.
“And that’s the one comic that really, really got me into the whole art form,” I end up. “I doubt I’d be doing what I’m doing today if I hadn’t got such a big kick out of that book at just that time.”
Steve looked at me and said, “I wrote that.”
And that’s one of the things I love about comics. Something that Steve worked on for a month or so back when Nixon was still President had a positive and lasting effect on at least one kid, out in the world. And that’s a pretty powerful thing, making comics.
And so ten years have passed since you could first walk into a comic shop and buy yourself a copy of Astronauts in Trouble: Live from the Moon #1. Mimi and I would just like to thank all of you in comics for letting us entertain you and for welcoming us into your world. All the readers who savor our stories, all the creators who work hard to bring you their tales, all the retailers who keep the faith by putting good comics into your hands every week, all the printers who make the books, and all the good folks at Diamond Comics who keep everyone connected together: thanks for being a part of us making comics.
Making Comics Better.