My love affair with comics started during the summer. Every year, my family would go on a camping trip for several weeks. My mom knew that she had to find ways to keep us kids occupied for several hours in the car while we drove from the city to one national park after another. She’d buy us hidden ink books and crossword puzzles. She’d make sure the car was stocked with snacks like red licorice. She taught us the classic road games, like keeping track of license plates from different states and provinces, or seeing if we could read through the entire alphabet on billboards. And she bought us comic books.
She started out with kids’ classics like Richie Rich and Caspar the Friendly Ghost. As we got older, she’d start to buy us Archie and Jughead digests. And as we started to enter those pre-teen years, my mom would buy superhero comics for my brother and me. She’d buy us Batman and the Outsiders and the New Teen Titans. She’d buy us Spectacular Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men. I blame her for my ongoing comic book obsession- but in a good way. We would read and re-read those comic books during the long hours in the car. They’d come home from the camping trip dog-eared and tattered. And then I’d read and re-read them more. Getting new comics were some of the highlights of any family vacation.
My love affair with comics reignited when I was in college. And it reignited during the summer. I moved out of the dorms after my sophomore year and into a house off-campus that I would live in for the next three years. One of my first roommates had his old collection of comic books with him. He let me borrow them. I’d read them during the evening and on the weekends. I read them on rainy days when I wasn’t able to go to my summer job painting houses. I read Justice League and Excalibur and a whole bunch more.
The next summer, I started going to a local comic shop on Saturdays to buy comics for myself. I had a whole routine. If it was a sunny day, I’d hop on my bike. I’d weave through local neighborhoods on the back roads. I’d stop in at an ATM that was on the way, getting out ten or twenty bucks. I didn’t buy a lot of comics at the time: one, two, maybe four a week at the most. I’d take the comics across the street to the local ice cream store. I’d buy a vanilla malt or milk shake and read my comic books. Then, I’d bike home. If I hadn’t read all of my comic books at the ice cream shop, I’d climb into a huge tree in my front yard and finish the last one or two while sitting on a branch leaning against the trunk.
My love affair with comics continued through the summers of adulthood. Now, I was the dad taking my family on a vacation. I remember one trip when we stopped at a roadside flea market just for fun- get out of the car for a little while and stretch. I discovered one stall that had a bunch of old comics including random stuff like the British comic Slaine the Barbarian and an authentic Charlton Yang.
I remember another summer in Charleston, South Carolina. I took one of my daughters with me for a drive, searching for a local store that was celebrating Free Comic Book Day. I even remember specific summer purchases. I bought Fantastic Four #500 to take with me for one summer trip and read Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score on the plane ride home from another.
My love of comics started during the summer and it seems like its renewed every summer as well. I sit out on the porch, enjoying the warmth of the sun, drinking lemonade or a beer and reading some comic books. Summer is a great time for comics.