Comic books have been an important part of my life for over thirty-five years now. The things that I have read and seen in those pages affect things in my mind and outlook that most people might not expect. Large parts of my worldview have been shaped by the topics and interesting characters that I have been exposed to by reading comics. Often, I find that pieces of information in my mind come directly from knowledge gleaned from the pages of the fantastical stories that I read growing up. Weird things that make no sense. For example, whenever I hear the word “oblivion”, there is some small part of my mind that remembers that I first learned that word reading J.M. DeMatteis’ Iceman mini-series as a kid. The villain in the story was called Oblivion, and it has stuck with me. These type of odd combinations of knowledge and memory happen all the time. As my friend David, from my Local Comic Shop, reminded me once, “Everything comes back to comics.”
I’d like to share a strange set of circumstances that combined to bring comics from the past right to the present day in an amazing moment of coincidence. This event happened this past December. I think it was a Wednesday. (My favorite day of the week.) I had been looking on the website that I use to see which comics are coming out each week. As usual, I was going down the list and marking off all the books that I wanted to pick up for my wife Shari and myself that week. As I got near the bottom of the list, I was struck by memory. That week Marvel was releasing a new True Believers issue. If you are not familiar with it, Marvel has been reprinting classic comics under this banner as a way of exposing important issues to readers without putting them in a more expensive collection. Often the issue has something do with a present-day event going on.
This particular issue was a reprint of Bizarre Adventures #27. I was stopped in my tracks. Waves of memory washed over me. I used to have that issue! I remembered that, and I remembered the cover well. It was one of the most beautifully painted covers that I had ever seen as a boy. Bizarre Adventures was part of Marvel’s magazine line and collected a few short black and white stories in each issue. This was the only issue of the series that I owned, but I could remember everything about it.
The cover had three X-Men standing facing the reader. Phoenix, Iceman, and Nightcrawler. Each figure was etched in my brain for distinct reasons. I have already mentioned that I had a fondness for Iceman, could be that he has a great first name. This image always fascinated me because the artist made him translucent. As a boy, I thought, “Is he living ice? Can you see through him?” I wasn’t sure of the answers, but I thought that image was amazing. Nightcrawler looked so incredibly human-like. His physical mutations seemed much more plausible in this depiction, and those abs were stunning. The image of Jean Grey as Phoenix was gorgeous in every way. The fact that the artist clearly did not include a bra under Jean’s costume may have contributed to burning the image into my fourteen-year-old brain.
Once all these memories came flooding back, I wondered who the artist was. Back in the 80’s, we didn’t have this gift of the internet which puts all answers at our fingertips today. So, a quick search of my trusty comic book database and the name Paul Gulacy was delivered. I didn’t immediately recognize it, but it was now another little tidbit of comic related trivia to be filed away in my mind. And so, my day went on.
That night at home, Shari was making cupcakes to take the office for a holiday party the next day. She had planned to frost the cupcake with the company’s colors. At the time the colors were blue and red. Not any shade of blue or red. Just plain blue and plain red. I don’t know why, but when Shari mixed the frosting with food coloring the colors did not come out the way she had hoped. As she was frosting, she asked me if the colors looked OK. I laughed a little, because I felt no one would care what color the cupcakes were anyway. These cupcakes were neon versions of what she had tried to make. Bright cyan and magenta instead of deep blue and red. I looked at them, and for some unexplainable, comic related twist of reason, I said that they reminded me of the cover to a Slash Maraud comic book.
Where did that come from? I wanted to show her that I was right and whipped out my phone quickly looking up the cover, and man, I was right-on. I had remembered owning the mini-series Slash Maraud as a kid. It may have been that it was “Suggested for Mature Readers” that drew me to it, but another quick look at my phone, and I was stunned for the second time that day. The artist for the cover and the series that had leapt into my head was none other than the same Paul Gulacy.
What kind of craziness was this? I had not had conscious knowledge of Mr. Gulacy’s name prior to that day. I was familiar with his frequent collaborator, Doug Moench, but the artist’s name and style had never stuck with me. And now, here twice on the same day, he was brought to the front of my consciousness for completely separate reasons.
This is a perfect example of the wonderful experiences of coincidence that brings everything back to comics. This cosmic happenstance was truly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it made me smile and laugh. Having comics in my life often does that. Hopefully, I am not the only one who finds comic books creeping into the mundane daily events in my life. (If I am, well I guess it’s too late now.)
If you, have any similar experiences please feel free to share in the comments.
Post Scripts: I have subsequently reacquired both the original version of Bizarre Adventures #27 and the Slash Maraud mini-series, because of course I did. But that cover…. Wow.
For the record, Paul Gulacy is a fine artist and was prolific enough in the late 70’s and through the 80’s that I should have known his name. So, that is my bad.