No, seriously. I was an Avenger. I had the identification card to prove it. It was this beautiful blue and white ID card, you know, like adults had for their workplaces, except mine said I was a member of the mighty AVENGERS, with full security clearance granted by the National Director of Security, or Tony Stark, or Nick Fury, or whoever.
The ID card came free as an insert within an issue of WIZARD–the magazine that once served as the required reading for every comic book fan on the planet. As soon as I showed my dad the card, he immediately offered to have it laminated with my picture on it. I imagine he was excited that his son was going to be a superhero.
Two days later, I had in my hands certifiable proof that I was a member of the greatest superhero team on the planet, and I showed it off proudly to my classmates. Most everyone thought it amusing, I think, and everything went well. The world accepted my new status as one Earth’s mightiest heroes. That is, until, I showed my ID to the cool kids.
The bastards. They made fun of me for having the audacity to become one of Earth’s mightiest heroes. They preferred their Mikey to be less dork, more “normal”. They wanted me to be more like them… so I obliged. I tossed my ID card–my superhero identity–into the garbage bin. And with it, a big part of my childhood.
Years passed. Life happened. Found new friends. Refound old friends. Found gifts. Found applause. Found wrestling (many times). Found Jesus. Found Char. Found sheer brilliance in the most unlikely places. Found sadness is the most colorful of places. Found life. Life happened. Life happens.
You see, the truth is I quickly got over the aversion to geekery soon after I graduated from high school. I could’ve reclaimed my comic book childhood, my “superhero identity”, heck, even the old Avengers ID card, much earlier on. The problem was that there was no such thing as a Center of Relapsed Geekery–no place for me to come back and catch up and find out everything I needed to know about the ongoing storylines, the state of the Multiverse, and the Comic Book industry. Geek communities are notorious for being exclusive, especially these days when geekery and hipsterdom are culturally relevant, as evidenced by all the loveable-geek protagonists in movies and TV shows these days.
(By the way, remember my friends who made fun of my Avengers ID? They’re big fans of “Big Bang Theory”.) (I love you guys.)
Unfortunately, the impression that true-geek culture is impenetrable is perpetuated by most of the comic book shops I’ve come across. One of the shops I used to go to especially irritates me, not only because the salespeople aren’t very friendly, but because they are seemingly out-of-touch with geek culture. I doubt they’d be able to explain to me why one cover of Superman/Batman #1 is a thousand bucks, while the other is only eight hundred pesos. And why is it so expensive, when it’s such a new comic book?
They’re salespeople, and they look like they wouldn’t give two shits about what they’re selling. It was very discouraging. And discouraged I was.
Until one night a few months ago.
Char and I were out on one of our evenings together, and we walked up to Fully Booked, in Bonifacio High Street. There were signs all over the place, telling us that that there was a comic book shop on the fourth floor. When we got there, we saw a big sign plastered across long panes of glass. “Comic Odyssey”, it said. I wish I had noticed then how apropos it was.
I entered, expecting to find the same inaccesibility and hoity-toity attitude that I found in other comic stores. Instead, I found my childhood.
It was a back-issue bonanza. Dozens upon dozens of copies of comic books I had owned when I was younger, for reasonable prices. My heroes, villains, covers, writers, artists–they were all there! Wolverine, Thor, and Captain America; Scott Lobdell, Kurt Busiek, and Chris Claremont; Jim Lee, George Perez, and Jim mother-fricking Madureira. My raw, unmuddled youth, in comic book-sized clear plastic bag-and-boards.
And the walls! Good heavens, the walls. Lined with framed genuine collector’s items. Todd MacFarlane’s iconic Spider-Man covers. Iron Spider’s first appearance. Various #1′s of different comic books from wide range of eras. The same stuff I’d read about in old Wizard Magazines and only dream of seeing in person, let alone possibly purchasing myself.
I was delighted. It was like being a kid in a candy(-flavored comic book) store. After a few minutes of pulling out a stack of comics I was considering to buy, the lead sales guy introduced himself to us. I almost expected Simpsons-Comic-Book-Guy snobbery, but instead he engaged me at my novice has-been geek level, and helped me touch base with the goings-on in the comics world these days. I was thrilled not just because I felt like a comics dork coming out of my dork-averse shell, but because Kevin, Menchie, and co. were and are the nicest comic books sales staff I have ever met. Seriously, guys. Head on over there and introduce yourself, and tell them Mikey says hello.
So anyway, needless to say, I was hooked. I bought two comic books that night, and made a mental note to myself that this was going to be new habit. After all, buying a couple comic books a week are certainly cheaper than, say, buying a new gadget or iPhone case a week. Hell, they’re cheaper than lunch at Starbucks.
It must be said, though, that along with new friends, old favorites, and fresh takes on classic stories, what I received upon finding Comic Odyssey was the sense of warmth you get when you are transported to happy moments of youth. It was like finding an old favorite pair of jeans I thought I lost. I’m glad I can get that feeling again every week.
Now all I need is that Avengers membership.