Confessions of a comic book geek


I don’t remember my first comic. The likelihood seems to be it would have been ‘Rupert the Bear’ of all things. I know I was soon getting the Beano on a weekly basis in lieu of pocket money and graduated to Victor (where Alf Tupper was my hero) pretty quickly after that. Some of my fondest childhood holiday memories are of the newsagent at the holiday camp we always attended (Sandy Bay in Exmouth) and its seemingly endless supply of Commando and Starblazer books.

The Starblazer books were a prelude of what was to come but for the immediate future my heart belonged to sports focused comics with ‘Roy of the Rovers’ becoming my Saturday morning reading. By this time the split personality that was going to define me for life was already in place — comic book geek & footy playing townie 🙂

During this entire period of my childhood I was pretty ill. I was diagnosed with a kidney ailment called ‘nephrotic syndrome’ when I was 6 or 7. I spent time in hospital — was a regular outpatient for years and at times undertook some pretty severe drug regimes (anabolic steroids made me a mood swinging mess and cyclophosphamide was pretty brutal & led to hair loss which was wonderful at a particularly rough school.)

I’ve read a lot over the years about how adults reading comics is related to being bullied or other traumas in childhood. I’m not sure about this to be honest at least in relation to me. I certainly had a couple of rough years as far as my health was concerned but was rarely bullied — the one major time it happened was related to my loss of hair and my cousins (at same school but older, less concerned with the authority of teachers or consequences of actions) ensured it didn’t happen again.

I discovered 2000AD a few years after it launched — and it soon made all other comics seem childish and pointless. I was already becoming obsessed with science fiction (which those Starblazer book on holiday had introduced me to — along with seeing Star Wars on my first ever visit to the cinema) and was reading books at 10 and 11 that looking back I couldn’t possibly have understood. I was never a massive fan of Judge Dredd but as the Ignite talk I gave a couple of years ago proved it had an impact on me that I never really forgot. It also introduced me to writers whose entire careers I would follow.

At some point in my early days at secondary school though I found myself less interested in British comics, even 2000AD, and instead had discovered US superheroes & especially the newly rebooted DC Universe where thanks to the ‘Crisis’ it was like being in at the beginning of something.

As anyone who knows me can testify to I like a drink. In my circle of friends and family I am not really considered a heavy drinker but I think that says more about the people I grew up with than anything else. The thing is though despite all the jokes about my boozing my only real addiction started the day I discovered US comics — and DC stuff in particular.

I was pretty obsessed from the start and every penny I earned from part time jobs or paper rounds pretty much found its way to Forever People (the much missed comic shop on Park Street in Bristol) — at least until pubs started serving me.

In the late 80s DC released the collections of the holy trinity of comic books — Watchmen, V for Vendetta and the Dark Knight Returns. For a short time this made reading comics something resembling ‘cool’ and meant that the time I was most likely to find something more ‘grown up’ to get in to it was no longer a dirty little secret.

While at university I pretty much kicked the habit but as soon as I was home and earning it ramped up again. At one point I had a standing order in a local store for *every* comic DC was publishing — which was in the region of 30 or 40 at the time — plus miscellaneous others. Given they were running about two quid each at the time it was a hefty monthly bill (averaging out at about £150 a month.)

That wasn’t sustainable and over time I pretty much got things under control — without ever really going cold turkey. Birthdays and Christmas gifts are pretty much dominated by my Amazon wish lists, Comixology on the iPad & Nexus7 means I can dip in for the occasional single that it getting hyped (how I discovered Saga, the new Wonder Woman, Hawkeye and Glory in the last couple of years) and I still have an uncanny ability to find comic book stores in any city in any country I rock up in (I’ve bought comics in Paris, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Helsinki, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Melbourne, Sydney as well as just about every city in the UK I’ve ever visited.)

I guess as far as these things go it isn’t a bad ‘addiction’ to be lumbered with. Sure it hasn’t done my bank balance much good over the years but other than the odd paper cut it hasn’t exactly damaged my health — well until one of these book cases collapses and I get crushed by all the collections. Until that day 🙂