Thursday, March 31, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Jim D.

My very first memory of Jim D. is from an evening when I waiting for my Intro to Screenwriting class to start, and this guy behind me said "Hey!  Hey!  Are those comics?" about a pair of comics I had out on my desk.  No idea what they were.  Probably JLA, Invisibles or Preacher at the time.
"Yeah," I said, holding them up.  In film school, I was not much of a talker with people I didn't know.  UT is large, often impersonal and the film department could be competitive in the way everyone scrambling for scraps can be a bit un-fun.
"I used to read comics!" this guy said.  "Marvel!"  I think he mentioned Avengers by name.
This piqued my interest.
We began chatting and the guy was decidedly talkative in a breezy way, and decidedly not a blowhard film school jerk.
After that, we sat together in class, and pal'd around in the subsequent class, and then we both graduated.  He went to law school, I remained in Austin, being a non-lawyer.

As has been mentioned before, Jim and I kept up after graduation via email, and he got me started on all this blogging business.  After years of legal blogging, he's recently returned to blogging about pop culture, music, etc..., and we highly recommend his site.

This is a cross-post from Jim's blog, so if the formatting is a bit wonky, I'm tried of playing with the html he sent my way, but I'm glad he sent it.


A few years ago, I found myself wandering the streets of downtown Athens, Georgia on a lazy Saturday morning. After dutifully visiting the local record shoppes, I chanced across Bizarro Wuxtry, an old school comic book store located on College Avenue. A wonderful mess, the place offered its customers the opportunity to sift through immense piles of back issues, nostalgia drenched toys and collectibles, and other miscellaneous pop culture debris. As I strolled through the store that day, I suddenly caught sight of an issue of Elson's Presents Super Heroes Comics, the cover of which is depicted above. I was instantly taken aback, as I had been searching for this particular comic book for a number of years. This issue - apparently published in the very early 1980's when "Elson's Gift and News paid DC to repackage some of [its]√°comics" - was the very first comic book I owned. I don't recall very much about the circumstances surrounding its initial acquisition, but I suspect that my father purchased it for me as a gift during one of his business trips. Some Googling confirms that the Elson's franchises catered to business travelers during that time period. Somewhere along the way, my original copy of the issue was lost to the ages (likely misplaced during a move or otherwise purged from my possessions during some vainglorious effort to achieve a more minimalist existence). But three decades later, there it was again, sitting atop a pile of comic books and beckoning to me. Of course, I bought it and relived a few moments of my lost youth.


Shortly thereafter, I realized that in my late thirties, and now, in my early, early forties, I have been attempting to assemble a collection of pop culture relics from my childhood. Perhaps "reassemble" is a better term, as I continue to purchase items I once owned long ago, whether they be comic books, novels, cassette tapes, or even vintage toys. For example, I recently reacquainted myself with the works of Stephen King and Robert McCammon, two of my favorite horror writers from days gone by. Perched atop a coffee table in my office is an original Millenium Falcon spaceship toy (the one once manufactured by Kenner). Not too long ago, I reacquired a copy of DC Comics Presents #69 which, if memory serves, was an early addition to my nascent comic book collection all those years ago. (Published in 1985, the cover of that issue is at left, and yes, that's the face of Albert Einstein to the right of Superman.). Sometimes, I wonder what has prompted the rekindling of my interest in these bygone artifacts. Although simple nostalgia prompts the search for such things, the quest becomes an effort to recapture that wonderful sense of possibility that permeates youth. This curious habit occupied my mind again recently because my old friend, the indefatigable blogger Ryan Steans, recently embarked upon something he has dubbed The Gen-X Recollection Project, an effort to gather together the childhood pop culture memories of those who came of age in the 1980's. In a recent post at his fine blog, The Signal Watch, he asked his readers and friends to recount their childhood experiences with comic books, science fiction, and the like and compare them with today's far more tolerant environment of such diversions. As Ryan suggests in that post, while knowledge of comic book lore might earn one "indie street cred" in today's environment, the culture was not as permissive of those pastimes during the Reagan years. As you might expect, Ryan's invitation to participate in this undertaking prompted some reminiscences of the 1980's, the era when I first became an avid comic book reader. As a part of his project, he has asked a number of specific questions of the contributors to this effort, several of which I've elected to answer in this post (which will be published both here and at Ryan's site).

Editor's Note from Your Usual Blogger:  

And, here we break.

For the rest of this interview, which is well worth a read, please visit Jim's site at:  We think you should be reading Jim's site, and we want to make sure he gets hits and relevant questions at his home base.  So, head on over there.


    Phillip said...

    OH MY GOD. I have been trying to figure out what that goddamned pink comic book I had as a kid was for SO LONG. I have no idea where it came from, (I don't think there were Elson's in Los Angeles) and I haven't seen it probably since 1983 maybe. Man. Thanks for these recollection project posts, but especially thanks for this one.

    Phillip said...

    And of course I got excited and commented before reading the whole thing. It was one of my first comics, as well. The first one that wasn't my dad's before it was mine, maybe? First DC book definitely. Now, off to ebay!