Never forget your stories
It’s the time of year for reflection as I wait to see if it will be a wet or white Christmas. Finishing up the old year and a new one just around the corner, my thoughts are headed farther back than than one year.
This year was the year we lost Stan Lee. Better words than mine from those who loved the man’s work and felt his influence have been spoken on his passing. He was an icon not only in the industry, but throughout media and around the world and in our own lives. Segue to… decades earlier and a visit to my grandparents. I wasn’t old enough yet to have learned to appreciate my grandparents (a flaw I was fortunate to have the chance to overcome), so I was roaming through their house. It wasn’t a very large house, but I was small and going room to room managed to occupy some time.
Enter The Box
Then I found: The Box. I’m certain many others have similar tales of discovery. The Box was half-hidden underneath a bed in a corner room. It was just an old cardboard box, not particularly sturdy. The sides bowed out and the top flaps had long been removed. I tugged it out a little. It only moved a little at a time because it was very heavy, but eventually I could peer into my new treasure chest to see what it held. A moldy wooden chest full of gold and jewels paled beside what I found within.
The Box was full of color and smelled like books, but not like any of the books I’d seen before. These were no two-dimensional drawings with a bold, but limited, palette. These were no simple sentences designed around gently educating the reader. These were three-dimensional wonders full of vivid color and shadow and light and movement and explosions, oh my! These were words that challenged and expanded horizons. On the top of the pile, a man wrapped head to toe in (what the uninitiated might call gaudy) red, white, and blue burst from the cover. He carried a round shield like the knights of old in my other books. He wasn’t lost in the dim mists of history (class), however. He was was battling evil on streets not unlike mine. He was the defender and champion for any who needed his help!
He was Captain America, of course, and he would be my ideal of a hero for years to come.
Enter The Future
Collectors today will cringe at my tale of The Box. Mylar sleeves and backing boards? Not hardly. It was a literal pile of comics that had been read lovingly long before I found them dropped into a box. The Box weighed more than I did. As I know many others have said… “if I still had those comics, I’d be rich!” That would be decades later, though. At the time, paying a quarter for a “kids picture book” was still expensive, even if you did get change sometimes. Later I would discover F.O.O.M! (Friends Of Old Marvel), animated cartoons, and collector’s stamps. Eventually the movies and special effects caught up to what Stan Lee and a myriad of pioneers had created to stimulate the imaginations and aspirations of teen-age boys and girls for decades previously. New generations of fans may only know their heroes from movies and digital editions of comics. That’s the way progress works, but I wonder what form their The Box will take. Will it have the same impact as the slick feel of color covers, the smell of pulp paper, and the rush to turn the page? I hope it does. Everybody should have Their Box.
The contributions of Bob Kane and Dr. William Moulton Marston cannot be over-estimated; but Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, whom we lost years earlier, were the heroes behind my first heroes. I may not have the comics that filled The Box to finance a trip around the world, but the trip through my memories is a treasure trove that no one can ever buy. A treasure that I hope never to lose.