For me, moving to Florida from Michigan in 1972 at the tender age of fourteen was, at first, an assumed nightmare. I was about to go into ninth grade, which would have put me at the top of the social heap in junior high school, and I had just started going steady with my first girlfriend. Now I was being told that we were moving to Florida. I would have to forget about being among the scholastic social elite. I would now be the "new kid" at school. I would have to say goodbye to my very first ever girlfriend and all the new experiences that went along with that. Worst of all, I would not be allowed to take my comic books with me.
Clearly, my parents were trying to ruin my life, having plotted this insane move to Florida, a place where, for all I knew, comic books would be unobtainable. However, things are not always what they seem, and events and experiences can give us new perspectives on life, which is exactly what was soon to happen to me.
The future prospects of a young man growing up in the suburbs of Detroit in the early 1970s weren't particularly bright. Most of my friends, at least the ones who weren't already becoming involved in drugs or other criminal activities, were anxious to graduate high school and get a job in any one of several automotive, chemical or steel factories.
I'm sure some kids there went off to college and careers that would take them to new and better lives, but not most of the kids I knew. Not in that town. Not at that time. For them, nothing had changed except that some of them had replaced their Superman and Amazing Spider-Man comics with underground comics or "comix". (I, too, ventured into the comic book counter culture of underground comics, even before they did, but I'll leave that story for another time.) About then it started to sink into my superhero-addled juvenile mind that my life in Florida wasn't such a bad thing after all. For me, things had been quite different over the past year.
I had never seen a store like it. It was rather dark. The wooden "fixtures", which looked to be homemade, were strewn with comic books of all genres. There were dozens of comic books inside plastic bags pinned to the wall behind a card table that served as the store's check out counter. Its "cash register" was a small metal lock box. The teenager who was apparently operating the store on his own smiled at me briefly before returning his attention to the comic book he was reading.
"Do you have the new Superman comic book by John Byrne?" I ventured.
"Not out yet," came the reply from behind the comic book.
I glanced up at one of the many comic book pinned to the wall behind the young manager. It was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. On the bag hung a handwritten price tag. "$15", it read.
Something twitched in that back of my brain. Fifteen dollars? I owned that comic book. It was sitting in my closet in the box of comics that my brother had given back to me. The cover price was 20 cents. From 20 cents to $15. The twitch in the back of my brain moved forward.
Comic books had value?
I looked around the store and realized that, with few exceptions, the only thing this store was selling was comic books. Wow. A store that could make a profit solely on the sales of comic books? It was an enlightening experience, another in a string of situations and influences that would continue to steer me down the path to the life of a comic book pusher.
Next time in "Confessions":
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