There was a Plinky prompt the other day:
Name something intangible that you never want to lose.
For me, it was how I learned the definition of intangible — Kitty Pryde of the Uncanny X-Men.
As a kid, I discovered a love for comic books. First it was comics that my father would buy for me from the newstand racks, usually Superman, who was a favorite of his from his own childhood. I remember that I had maybe 25 comics that I’d read over and over and over as a kid, most of which I still have stashed away in spite of their poor condition… covers ripped or missing altogether, water damage, creases.
The condition of these books makes me cringe, but it also shows how inseparable they were from me. Wherever I went as a kid, my comics were tagging along. Anytime we got into the car to drive anywhere, my nose was buried in a comic book, or some other “traditional” book. I read, and read, and read…
Unlike the “traditional” books, my comic books used bigger words than my grade level, helping me expand my vocabulary. For instance, what book was school encouraging me to read that would teach me the word “intangible”?
Some of them explored more adult themes than good old Encyclopedia Brown or the Hardy Boys — Peter Parker was struggling with love and money; the X-Men were fighting against intolerance; Iron Man was an alcoholic.
My love for comics increased exponentially when I was away at summer camp when I was 10 or 11, and a fellow camper gave me his copy of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe trade paperback, issue #3. There were so many more characters than I knew existed! There was so much technical detail in these handbooks! Here was how strong The Hulk was compared to Hercules. Here was how Iceman’s powers worked compared to the Human Torch’s powers. Why would the Invisible Woman’s costume also go invisible? How many different kinds of arrows did Hawkeye have in his quiver? Heck, even Howard the Duck was in it!
When I got back from summer camp that year, I started buying comics on a regular basis, truly collecting for the first time. I set up my first pull list at Newbury Comics, back when they actually cared about selling comics. Once I was old enough to get a job, my paychecks went to two things — comics, and saving for a car for when I would turn 16. It’s not like I was getting girls!
I put my comic book collecting on hold in 1993 when I went off to college. In 2000, I was re-introduced to comics, and started collecting again in earnest. The big difference now was that I was an adult, with a real income, and a completely different perspective on what I was reading. Over the next four years, I filled in my collection, going back to buy entire series that I missed, picking up the more expensive issues in the runs, even issues from before I was born! Every issue of Uncanny X-Men from December 1975 to July 2004, for example. When I lost my job in 2004, I went cold turkey and stopped collecting once again. While I went back for trade paperbacks for a couple of years, my monthly issues collection stopped for good in 2004.
Today, I have nearly 12,000 comics packed away in a storage unit. As a collector, I’m quite proud of that collection. More importantly, though, comics was a big part of my education and the fuel for my imagination. That feeling of wonder I get when I look through the covers, remembering all those thousands of stories, that’s the intangible feeling that I never want to lose.