Friday, December 5, 2014

Reading Recollections

Doug: When you were a tyke, did you have a certain place where you liked to go to read your funnybooks?

Doug: Today we'd like some reminiscences from our fans and foes as to the places and spaces in which or at which you read comics back in the Bronze Age. For me, there are really two distinct places I can recall reading comics. At one time my sister had a wooden headboard for her bed. It did not attach to the bedframe, but was more like a raised cabinet with sliding doors on the front. I am pretty certain that my grandpa made it. Anyway, when I was around 7 or 8 I remember on several occasions taking a stack of books and crawling under her bed and then into this large space that existed between the head of the bed and the wall. In hindsight, that space may have been only 12-14 inches deep, but it was enough to sit sideways underneath, with a flashlight, and hide out for awhile. Again, I didn't do it more than a handful of times, but it's a vivid memory.

Doug: My other main reading spot was in my own bedroom. I had a pretty cool set-up along two walls. Again, my grandpa had crafted a bookcase with all sorts of different sized cubbies. The left end of it had a large compartment that would hold board games and other large toys. It was about 3 1/2 feet tall and about that wide. Atop that long shelf, coming out perpendicularly, was a wooden door laying flat for a table, braced at the far end. Where the hole for the doorknob was located, my grandpa had affixed a table lamp. So I had a work space/reading space literally the size of a door! Man, I used to read and re-read my comics, and of course like a little dummy cut them up sometimes. I traced them, and learned to draw freehand, too. It was also a space to sort cards like my Planet of the Apes wax packs and to work and paint model kits, such as the Aurora superhero models. I can see it now, still.

Doug: Your turn - go!


Redartz said...

Nice idea for a topic! That shelf/space your Grandfather made sounds pretty impressive; always admire good woodworking. Any photos available?

As for me, most of my reading was done in the bedroom. The rest of the family bedrooms were upstairs, but mine was downstairs at the end of the hall. This allowed me to stay up and read later than I should have (after homework was done, of course). Plus I had a cassette recorder; back when WGN was showing the 1967 Spider-Man cartoons I recorded a few episodes. Always loved the incidental music on that show. I'd actually play it sometimes while reading Spider-man comics, and thus provided a cool soundtrack to the read!

When I was younger and just starting into comics, My brother and I shared a room with a bunk bed. Mine was the bottom bunk, which worked great for making a hiding space in which to read. I'd pull down the upper covers to completely enclose my bed, then when the lights were out, produce a flashlight and some comics (or Peanuts paperbacks, or a book about dinosaurs- I just loved reading).

Edo Bosnar said...

I agree, this is wonderful topic. There were a few favorite reading spots I had as a kid. Like Doug and Redartz, the bedroom was the primary sanctuary for me. This was particularly true during those cold and rainy winter days - curled up either under or on top of the covers with a stack of comics, digests or a good SF novel.
Since my family had a place on a 12 acre piece of land in a pretty rural area in Oregon (30 m. south of Portland, about 15 m. north of the capital, Salem), and my dad occasionally liked to keep cows or sheep, we had a barn with a hayloft. So I was often up there sitting on a comfy chair made of hay bails when the weather was nice, or even when it was rainy but not too cold out - the roof was covered with corrugated metal sheets, so the sound of rainfall on it made this splendid, almost hypnotic sound (I actually fell asleep like that more than once).

Anonymous said...

In the summer months I'd sometimes read comics in my father's shed which had two rows of windows so there was plenty of light. The shed also doubled-up as a kind of HQ for the kids in my street where we'd meet up - my father didn't mind as he never used the shed for anything much. In my bedroom I had a genuine school desk with a seat attached all-in-one (this is not the same as the American school desks I've seen in the movies). I don't know where the desk actually came from but it was useful for sitting at and reading comics etc. Are Planet of the Apes "wax packs" anything like bubble gum cards because I had a pack of 50 POTA cards - we all used to collect them in the first few months of 1975 :)

Doug said...

Hi, Colin --

Yes, wax packs are indeed packages of "bubble gum cards". I am not certain of the derivation of the term -- my guess is that because that hard piece of gum left a waxy residue on the card it touched that maybe that's why. But I couldn't swear to that.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Doug - looking at my comment again that bit about our garden shed sounds like the plot of a crappy kids' TV show where all the kids hang out in a gang but we did do that :)

Humanbelly said...

Ha! Colin, it put me exactly in mind of "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators"-!

Doug, perhaps the, uh, "quality" of the enclosed bubble-gum-like-substance was the origin of the name "wax packs". . . ?


Edo Bosnar said...

Don't know about the rest of you, but to me that almost ceramic "bubble gum" in those card packs did not bring to mind wax so much as something that could be used to make a shank to take out the neighborhood bully...

...and I see I misspelled hay bale above. Oh, curse the English language and its homophones!

William said...

I mostly used to read laying on my bed in my room, or sometimes I'd sit in a chair in the living room.

I do remember that I hated reading comics on school nights, so I used to save all my week's reading for the weekend. I guess I did that so I could completely soak in the joy of my comics without having to worry about getting up and going to school the next morning.

Humanbelly said...

My primary comic-reading spot, too, was certainly in my room, sitting on my bed. Often eating something chocolate (still come across the occasional bit of chocolate chip cookie pressed into the pages of an old issue every now and then). A favorite alternative, though, weather-permitting, was to take a stack out into the back yard and plant in one of those vinyl-strapped lounge-style beach chairs-- usually in a late afternoon after I'd struggled through mowing our enormous lawn. Our living room couch got a fair amount of use, as well-- a very well-lit room that NO ONE ever really used that much. So I took full advantage.

And more than a few lunches on my own at the kitchen table. That'd be where the spaghetti stains came from. . .


Anonymous said...

I never had a special reading place, just the bedroom, away from my noisome little brother. For some reason, I have very happy memories of lying on the bed reading Treasury editions, especially Thor and Cap’s BB, and being utterly immersed in them, which I think was partly to do with the single plot and partly just because the sheer size of the things when you were that age literally immersed you in it. Especially Kirby’s big splash pages.

In my new home set up, there will be an actual library for the first time ever. Can’t wait.

Ref. the bubble gum cards, this was that hard yellow gum, the corners of which were so sharp that it was actually possible to cut yourself on a piece of gum, right?

I don’t remember the POTA ones, but I’m sure we must all have collected the Topps Marvel ones with their funny captions?
I particularly liked Werewolf By night ( ‘Only my hairdresser knows for sure’ ), Ghost Rider referring to Peter Fonda and Deathlok to Steve Austin.
The Shang Chi one about aspirin seemed like a slightly nasty reference to Bruce Lee.


david_b said...

HB, LOVE the 'Three Investigators' series..

Not sure if it's a favorite spot or not.., but I typically recall the backseat of the car or van I was in being driven on long car trips as the typical spot.

Else my bedroom.

Doug said...

Richard, to the very best of my knowledge the gum in our cards (baseball, movie tie-ins, whatever) was always pink. Well, pink coated in some nasty white powder. It wasn't sugar, so I'm not exactly sure what it was or what it's purpose might have been.

I do recall sometimes using the blunt side of a kitchen knife to scrape that residue off the facing card.


Anonymous said...

When I first got the comics home, I read them on the couch or in my room; later I stored them in the basement, so any re-reading was probably down there.

Don't get me started on that powdery gum from baseball/hockey cards...I couldn't stand that stuff, so I always gave it to my friends.

@HB: I love the Three Investigators!

Mike W.

Humanbelly said...

This is an embarrassing admission, but my buddy Bryan and I were the sort of youth who would doggedly eat ANY candy if it were available, no matter how distasteful or vile. There's MANY a card-pack gum-tile that we forced into unwilling submission via grim, determined mastication.

(Lord, the horrible, crumbly dryness. . . )


Humanbelly said...

And now I've got a hankering to go dig out my old Three Investigators books and settle in for some California fun with three teenage boys w/ WAAAAAY too much personal freedom-! Heh. . .

(SECRET OF TERROR CASTLE scared me to DEATH when I first read it-- esp. the illustration w/ the ghost girl in the mirror. . . brrrrr!)


Karen said...

I love this topic and reading everyone's experiences. HB, I must confess I too sometimes find food stains in my old books and it takes me back. Without getting too deep into it, there was a period of time, from about the age of 8 to 13, when my Mom was ill and unable to cook for us. My Dad, being eminently practical, went out and bought a freezer, and kept it filled with frozen food for me and my brother. Let me tell you, from about my mid-teens to my mid -thirties, I couldn't even look at a frozen dinner without wanting to puke, but I've finally gotten past that. Anyway,for a couple of years one of my favorite things to have for lunch on the weekend was a frozen submarine sandwich; I think it was called 'Oh Boy!' or something like that. Came two to a box and was wrapped in a light foil. No microwaves -heat up the oven, and wait! I'd get a stack of comics and read as the sandwich got all nice and toasty in the oven. Then when it was done, I'd sit at the kitchen table and eat it, my greasy little paws getting all over my books! Oh well...

My room was probably where I read the most, but like David, I also read comics in the car a lot; just couldn't wait. I also liked to read outside. There's nothing better than being out on a pleasant day with your favorite reading material. Sometimes on a Saturday after I had made my rounds by bike to all the stores where I could find comics, I'd stop in a near-by park and read. But only if it was vacant or nearly so. I didn't want to have to deal with anyone hassling me over my comics!

Edo Bosnar said...

About the gum: the only cards I collected, for about 2 years, were the Star Wars cards that came out after the first movie (I actually diverted comics money into those!). And the single stick of gum that came with each pack was much as Doug described: sort of medicinal (like Pepto-Bismol) pink in color, with this white powder on it. And as I said above, really hard. And HB, yes, I also quite dutifully chewed, or tried to chew, each one of those miserable things...

And man, this conversation has meandered into some interesting directions, hasn't it?

Redartz said...

When i wasn't reading comics as a boy, I was often buying baseball cards or Wacky Packages. The petrified gum everyone is talking about seems to have been a Topps specialty. If you bought a new wax pack and one several years old and opened them both, you couldn't tell the difference in the gum! Perhaps it's a good thing nobody ever packaged gum with comics...

David_b and Karen, I too was a backseat comic reader. One summer we had a family trip to Missouri; a rather unremarkable 6 hour drive from home. Fortunately, a travel case filled with comics (including, memorably Dr. Strange #1) kept me well occupied.

MattComix said...

Two places come to my mind for me. First and foremost the living room floor of my Grandma's house. I'd have comics spread out to one side and a piece of paper or cardboard on the other where I would draw little sequences or make up my own covers.

The second was in middle school during the time the Jademan Kung-Fu line was bringing over translated Hong Kong comics like Oriental Heroes and Force of Buddha's Palm. Myself and one other guy in our group still collected superhero stuff to. Near the school was a pizza joint called Sal's that had an arcade. We'd have comics on the table, everybody looking at what issues everyone else had in between playing Double Dragon or Roadblasters and actually getting a pizza so the owner didn't throw us out.

david_b said...

I was big into the Star Wars card collecting for the first year or so after the first movie.

But the first sci-fi card set I was rabid for was Space:1999 two years earlier.

The most obtuse manner of collecting cards when I was young was buying an entire box of Galactica cards from the department store I worked at. It seemed extreme at the time, but kinda cool. Oddly, the box I bought had nearly 2 and one-half complete cardsets, but without stickers.


Anonymous said...

Well the first place I usually did all my reading was the bedroom, followed by the couch!

- Mike 'couch potato' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Rip Jagger said...

I stashed my comics in a big wooden box which I got hold of. It was fashioned out of plywood for tools or something, but I cleaned it up and painted it gray (the paint Dad has around). It became a rough and tumble chest for my comic book treasures. All my comics fit within it and I wish today with my back bedroom overrun with books that was still the case sometimes.

Rip Off

The Prowler said...

Colin, before I forget, your comment about the shed brought to mind the scene from "The Commitments" where you had to climb over the fence to get to the garden shed.

The town where I grew up was also the town where my mother grew up which was the town that my grandmother would come into to buy supplies for their farm. One the major changes that happened was that all the roads were paved. No sidewalks but everything got a nice asphalt black top.

The store in our neighborhood was my main source for comics. I would walk down and buy my Spider-Man and then sit at the end of the concrete walkway over to the left. There was a drop off of about a foot or so so your knees were relatively flat. I don't know if this was common for everyone else, but I would read out loud. Sometimes if the owner's grandson was there, he would sit next to me as I read. When I was done, I'd take my stack and head home. I don't think I has one special place to read at home, just where ever was available.

We took one of Dad's old footlockers, painted it deep blue (Spider-Man blue) and that's where I kept my comics. I also covered it with all those Marvel stickers. And I collected the KISS cards. You could make a special puzzle poster when you flipped them over.

And I was a gum eater.

Hey, look no exclamation marks!!!


(Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down. Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down. You been running all over the town now. Oh! I guess I'll have to put your flat feet on the ground).

Kid said...

When I was a kid, I used to sometimes go into our garden cellar (which wasn't underground, despite the name) when it rained, and sit on a deckchair reading my comics. I would leave the door ajar so that I could watch and listen to the rain pitter-patter outside. Ah, memories.

Robert L. said...

I used to read them in my room...which was a shrine to all things Marvel and DC. I used to have a stereo that I bought in 1977 and I would play Star Wars the sound track on my record or 8 Track player while I was reading comics. Treasury Editions were the best for me for coping drawing from my favorite artists.

At the time there was some Incredible Hulk adhesive sticker paper and I made my own slipcase to hold all my Treasury editions. I learned to draw cartoons through my comic books and still draw today because of them years ago. There are a lot of good memories of me reading the Annuals and Giant Size Marvels because they had the appeal of a longer story.

I used to collect them and put them in binders until my collection grew so much that I was forced to put them in those white long boxes ...of which I ended up with at least thirty of them until I had to get the smaller ones because the long boxes would hurt my back.

Comics introduced me to the world of reading on a regular basis and I have to thank my grandmother and mother for. We used to go each week to a now defunct coffee shop/diner called, "Ann's Coffee Shop" to get comics. There I'd get all my comics, Treasury Editions and Marvel $1 Black and White comics for about ten years until the owner decided it wasn't profitable to carry comics anymore.

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