I began reading and collecting comic books when I was 8 years old in 1981. I would get comics from my Aunt’s convenience store in Seaside Heights, NJ. For the next few years, I would pick up comics from local convenience stores with spinner racks. For those who are from New Jersey or the Northeast, names like Krausers and Cumberland Farms were havens of comic goodness. One day, I found out that there was such a thing as a comic book store. A whole store devoted to comic books. I was in awe. By this time, at about 12 years old, I had started working in my Aunt’s store on Sunday mornings. I would put the Sunday newspapers together for $5 bucks per hour. I had found that there was a Comic Shop in Lakewood, NJ. It was only in the next town. I somehow managed to convince my mother to take me to this magical place so that I could spend my hard-earned dollars on comic goodness. I am sure I spent way longer than my mom would have liked perusing the stacks and boxes to find a few bits of awesomeness. Most likely, I picked up some New Teen Titans that I had not read or old copies of the Legion of Super-Heroes. At one point, I saw a flyer on the counter for a “Comic Convention” in Toms River, NJ. That is when my fandom for comics hit the accelerator and stayed glued to the floor.
By the time I found out about this strange thing called a “Comic Convention”, I had had my Bar-Mitzvah and still had a good portion of my allowable spending money. Of course, the majority of it, I never saw. Straight to a mutual fund for college. UGH!!! Anyway, this show was held at a VFW Hall near my best friend’s house. We planned a sleepover for that weekend at his house and our dreams were about to come true. My friend Erik’s mom dropped us off at the hall and we went inside. There was this room filled with tables and table of comic books. We had never seen so many comics. There were boxes of old comics and spinner racks of new ones. There were some behind the tables in bags on walls that were way older than we were. We walked around for a couple of hours looking at and buying comics. There were comics that we had never heard of but we listened to the older people talking about them. Things like Grendel, and Cerberus, and something called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which sounded silly. Convenience store spinner racks only carried Marvel, DC, and the occasional Archie comics. And there were special boxes to hold your comics. That seemed a lot better than old plastic milk crates.
After some time, I made the decision to spend a lot of my money on a copy of X-Men Giant Size #1. At the time, it was one of the most expensive and desirable comics that I could imagine owning. It was selling for about $100, but I found a dealer who was selling one for only $75. I made my purchase and couldn’t be happier. (When I got home and opened it, I found that someone had cut out an ad and that was the reason for the low price. Oh Well, lesson learned at young age.) Along the way, we each bought a long box to hold our comics, and we soon were running out of money. At that point, these two thirteen-year-old boys realized that together we only had $17 left between the two of us. We looked at each other with a sense of dread because we both knew that we had made a grave error.
The New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez was by far our favorite comic book, and we both wanted to get a copy of the first issue of that series. We had never read it and had no idea how this amazing team of heroes got its start. Early on in the day, when we saw that so many of the dealers had the comic for sale, we made a resolution to make it ours. However, most people were selling it for $25. We were now screwed. We had overspent. What could we do now? Not to be defeated, we made our way to the back of the show. There was this one guy who had a copy of NTT #1 for $20. We asked to look at it. We looked at each other, and I don’t remember which one of us said it, but I remember it being said. “We only have $17. Would you take that for this comic?” The vendor hesitated. Maybe it was our age and obvious desire, or maybe it was the lateness of the day, but he relented and let us have our prize for the $17. Joy, pure joy was what we felt.
After being out of money and satisfied with our haul, Erik and I packed up our long boxes and walked about a mile back to his house. Now, what I haven’t mentioned is that the $17 was twelve from Erik and five from me. Therefore, it was only fair that Erik keep custodial possession of our baby. And so it was… for thirty-three years.
I moved away, and Erik and I spent High School away from each other. Eventually girls and other things got in the way of a friendship in the late 80’s. We graduated High School and went to college without knowing what the other was doing. When my first marriage broke up, I used the fledgling internet to find his mom and asked her if she could give me Erik’s phone number. In 1998, he was living and working in Philadelphia. It was only a little over an hour from where I was living. When we were kids, Erik was the George to my Marv. He was always a supremely talented artist and knew that was what he wanted to do with his life. (He even painted the Titans Tower portraits for me to hang on the wall at my Bar-Mitzvah.) Now, I found out that he was a tattoo artist. I went down to Philly and spent the afternoon. I got him to put a Nightwing symbol on my right arm, and we had a great time reminiscing. Soon after, he was going to Europe to study and get his arms done; so, I was lucky to have caught up with him when I did. Erik and I drifted apart again.
When my second marriage was in its death throws, I reached into the trusty internet and found Erik again. By now he was owning his own Tattoo shop in San Francisco. Man, I was proud of him. Erik and I stayed in internet contact over the next five years over Facebook, Instagram and phone text. Over that time, I remarried once again (to the right woman), and he moved to Boston. This spring, I made a resolution and bought tickets to go to Boston and see him. My new wife and I got tattoos from him, and we had a great time catching up on the past twenty years of not seeing each other. As I knew that he hasn’t been reading comics anymore, I brought him a signed copy of Tom King’s novel A Once Crowded Sky, and he said he had something for me as well.
He handed me our copy of New Teen Titans #1 and said, “I’ve held it for the last 33 years. You can hold it for the next.”
Therefore, while I do own comics that are older, this is the comic that I have owned the longest, although I have only had it in my possession for less than month in over three decades of ownership.