All you need are comic books…
UPDATED 6/18/17: Paul McCartney turns 75 today. Couldn’t think of a better time to revisit this piece I wrote in the early months of 13th Dimension. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. — Dan
So, we’re midway through BEATLES WEEK, and it’s been a splendid time for all, as John Lennon guaranteed. I recognize, however, that it’s a bit of an odd mix. APES WEEK? Sure! BATMAN ’66 WEEK? Absolutely! But we’re not a music site, so …
Now, it’s my turn. Because in my mind, the Beatles and comics are inextricably linked in a very important way:
When I was about 10 (maybe 11 or 12), my mother took my sister and me into New York City one night for Beatlefest, which is exactly what it sounds like – a Beatles convention.
My sister, who’s 4 ½ years older than me, was a Beatles fanatic (obsessiveness being a family trait) and I tagged along. I loved the Beatles too, having been exposed to their countless revolutions on Paula’s stereo.
So there we were at the once and future Hotel Pennsylvania across from Madison Square Garden. Now, I don’t know if we got off on the wrong floor or what, but I saw that at the same time Beatlefest was going on, there was a big ballroom stocked with tables and tables of comic books.
And SHAZAM! Captain Marvel zapped me right between the eyes!
Really. It’s as if everything in my world were white-hot brighter right then — such was the electric physicality of that moment.
This, I quickly learned, was a comic-book convention, something I had no idea existed. A place where dozens (hundreds?) of dealers sold back issues protected in plastic sleeves. This was an impossible smorgasbord of everything I loved in the world.
I ran back to my mother and begged her to let me go in — and to give me some money to buy stuff.
Now this was tricky.
“Daniel,” my mother told me, “we’re here for Beatlefest.” And, she murmured, “We don’t have a lot of money.”
This was true. This was the recession late-’70s so Mom was always trying to piece it together.
But I must have had some serious mojo that night because Mom relented and gave me the admission plus $10 — which I knew wasn’t enough but that was all I was getting.
So in I went and browsed and coveted and glanced and basked and I can still feel myself vibrating from it across the decades.
Finally, it was between two back issues: Batman #180 and Batman #186. Back and forth I went. One had the Joker prominently in action. The other had this epically dramatic scene starring one-hit-wonder Death-Man, who became a cult-favorite villain decades later in the ’00s.
In some versions of the memory, I bought #186 and then tried to trade it back to the guy for #180. In other versions, it’s the other way around. He wouldn’t go for it, either way. “Sales are final” and all that.
Then I went back and found my mother and sister watching “Yellow Submarine” in a giant ballroom filled with cigarette (and other) smoke. My mother and I couldn’t breathe and waited outside. My sister stayed inside.
“I have to come back to another one of these!” I told my mother. “I HAVE to!”
And so I did. And I got that other comic, and many, many more.
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