Friday, January 16, 2009

Turning Point

Batman Annual #3 was with me at a turning point in my young life. All these years later, my recollection is of sitting on the living room floor, when I was 10, kind of in the dark and staring at the cover of this comic, not really focusing. It was the night before we got in a broken down old Dodge hooked to a U-Haul trailer to head west from Ohio. To start over, as my parents put it.  They tried to convince me of how great it was going to be, but even if I was dead set against it, it wouldn't have changed anything. We were going and the trailer was packed.

I was pretty secretive with my packing, cuz I didn't want anyone to know what my passion had become. I was already an image junkie, and I had all the comics and books and magazines I had saved and some new ones that I had bought as well. And I already had a morgue going, even though I didn't know that was what it was called. Clippings of all kinds, but they were neatly organized and filed.

Imagine a 10 year old hiding a secret like that. I was afraid someone would talk me out of it, or worse, just arbitrarily toss it out and tell me to straighten up and suck it up. So I pretended it was toys and games, even putting a few on top to camouflage the contents of the (big) box. What a dork I was.

So that day, the last day of my childhood in Ohio, I spent a quarter on a comic that I could take with me, out in the open, to keep me company on the long drive out west. And it was this Batman annual. Who could imagine then that years later I would have the means to scan it and post it on a world wide network. But that night I felt a bit sad for some reason and I stared at the cover and fixated on the Human Firefly, and the colors were bright enough, even in the semi-dark that the image was somewhat comforting. 

The interior artwork on that story was by Dick Sprang (but who knew that then?). He was the good Batman artist of that era. And it and the whole comic kept me going for our 3 day drive. The cool thing for me in this comic was that the villain made a diagram of himself, planning his cool features. I liked the idea of planning like that. In my inner sanctum box I already had a cover that I had rescued of Batman and Robin planning out and building their new batplane, as they did again, with the rest of the batcave, in 1968. That was my favorite kind of cover, not the beat-em-up kind. But they were pretty rare—those planning ahead kind.

Superman had his Fortress of Solitude, Batman had his Batcave. I was pretty envious.

We sort of ran out of money during the trip and food became scarce for us. Bless their hearts, but my parents hadn't planned ahead very well. When we arrived at our destination, my brother and I were actually light-headed from hunger. My dad pawned my mom's sewing machine down on skid row and then we had a blast eating a bagful of White Castle burgers and that orange soda--what was the name of that? Fanta or something like that. Food had never tasted that good in my young life.  And that was my first turning point in life. Life would be starting fresh and new--according to my parents. And why should I doubt them?


Captain Blog said...

Did it get better?
Just curious.

Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Oh yes, things got better, with a few roller coaster ups and downs. The years have been pretty swell.