The Comic Book Shop

Yesterday a kid came into the store, maybe 6 years old, for the first time. He asked if we had any MAD Magazines and I showed him the newest one, and he looked a little disappointed and said “But… do you have any more?”. I told him we did, we had hundreds of them, and showed him the bins. His eyes got real wide, he freaked out a little “All… of these?” Yup. He ran downstairs to tell his mom, then ran back upstairs to go through every MAD we had, pulling out his favourites and laughing.

It’s an amazing thing when you discover a comic store for the first time, that there are all these comics you never knew existed. It reminded me of my first time in the comic book store. I just posted that story to Twitter, and I thought I would share it here as well.

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but my first comic book was Transformers #3, which had Spider-man on the cover. I loved Transformers, and didn’t realize that there were comics. I knew that there WERE such things as comics, I’d see them in the Beckers’ convenience store across the street from my house, but I wasn’t really interested.

I was 8 at the time. I’d just changed schools and it was a bit shocking. Class went from ridiculously easy to challenging, all of my childhood friends had disappeared… I just became obsessed with Transformers. I asked (probably demanded) that my mom get it for me, that there are TRANSFORMERS ADVENTURES NOT ON TV AND LOOK IT ALSO HAS SPIDER-MAN IN IT THAT’S CRAZY. She relented.

(I did know Spider-Man from the old cartoon though, it aired at lunch time, and so I’d see it any time we spent the week at my grandmother’s house–cheap babysitting in the summertime. Spider-man and Transformers crossing over probably added a bit more unreality to the whole situation, made the comic seem more… mythical.)

Of course, of course, it ended on a cliffhanger. We went back to the store the same day I think, and asked the man behind the counter when the next one would come out. Transformers was on TV every day at 3, and I’d gotten used to that sort of schedule. He said “probably 1 month…” Insanity. I was beside myself for three days waiting for it, then promptly forgot, then my mom reminded me it’d been about a month and we should check the store to see if my comic book was in.

We got to the store, and found… Transformers #5.

We’d somehow missed #4 completely, AND I was holding #5 “of a 4 issue limited series”. Lessons learned?

  1. You won’t get every issue.
  2. Comic books fucking lie all the time.
  3. So do clerks at the convenience store.

Needless to say we bought #5, which had the most amazingly bad-ass cover, and the story inside was even crazier. Issue #4 haunted me… I didn’t know what the cover looked like, I didn’t know what had happened (all of the Autobots had been beheaded!?). I would try to get the issues every month, and I’d miss three or four over the next few years, and it was incredibly frustrating.

(My mom would try to ease the pain by getting me started on another series, “Planet Terry” from Marvel’s STAR line… and I liked it, at the time, but it was just as problematic in its way because I’d miss issues of that as well! I never did find out how that ended until Marvel reprinted it a few years back. It was a terrible non-ending, I should have guessed.)

When we moved to another suburb a few years later, my biggest concern was where I was going to get my Transformers comics. Not my friends (I learned the hard way about making friends that when you move, you lose them) not my meighbours, who were moving as well a few months before us. Just where to get Transformers every month.

Apparently, comic books were available at every convenience store, not just the Beckers by my old house. Who knew?

Then, for Christmas that year, when I was maybe 10 years old? Best Christmas ever.

My parents got me every single issue of Transformers I was missing, including issue #4. Including issue #1. It was magic. That cover to issue #1 is amazing too. I still remember that #4 ends with “Definitely NOT the end…!” and it goes into a letter column explaining it became an ongoing series. Amazing.

I asked my parents how… where they could find older issues of comics? And they said that they had found a store that sold nothing but comic books. A comic book shop. My mind was completely blown. I asked that they take me. Immediately. They explained it was closed Christmas Day, like everything else.

I contented myself with reading all of my comics for the first time, in order. 21 of them! IN a row! It was unbelievable to me. #21 even introduced the Arielbots, and I had gotten the toys that year for Christmas, and they formed Superion which held together WAAAAY better than my brother’s Devestator! Hah!

The next day, we went to the comic book store, and it was amazing.  It was called “Your Friendly Neighbourhood Comic Shop”, in Brampton, about 15 mins drive from my house. We’d been living there 6 months and I had no idea that there were comic stores that close, or even comic stores at all.

It was a clean, organized, well-lit store. The owners were kinda grumpy but it had everything you could want and more. Hundreds of comics, racking lots of indies, black and white comics, Marvel and DC, stuff I’d seen on the spinner and magazine racks at stores, but also so many more I’d never even heard of. It had statues and posters too, and boxes to store your comics in! (I used to keep mine on my book shelf, standing up). It had specially sized bags to put your comics in, and cardboard to put into the backs to keep them straight. You could never miss a comic again because they had every issue! It had everything.


Except it didn’t have any more Transformers comics. I asked at the counter and they said #21 was the newest, and #22 would be out in about a month.

That Christmas I had achieved my goal, I now had every issue of The Transformers that had been published, which meant as magical as the shop was,  it wasn’t magical enough.

I’d gotten everything I wanted and I was still disappointed.

And on that day, I truly became a comic book fan.


4 Replies to “The Comic Book Shop”

  1. Ah, so much that is familiar in this story; only the pieces have been slightly rearranged.

    I got onboard this series about, hm, two and a half years after you I guess. So I had even more to track down, but didn’t discover “the comic book shop” until a few years further on.

    Instead I ordered from catalogs. Who remembers those days? Listing a range of acceptable grades, plus “alternate choices” because by the time your order reached the store it would be long after the stock-taking which informed the printed catalog (assuming there was one). Fun, fun.

    And I also vividly remember the moment when, after years of its eluding me, I finally held Transformers #1 in my shaking adolescent hands. The cover really does make it worthwhile. That may still be the most excited I’ve ever been about any single comic acquisition in my life.

  2. My comic shop surprise? Discovering they shipped three weeks ahead of the newsstands.

    So when I finally walked uphill, both ways (there was a big hill between my house and the shop) in the snow (January in Nebraska) to visit Dragon’s Lair for the first time, I left with a huge bag of comics.

    My first issue of MAD (July 1979) I read until the covers fell off. A few years later, my mother discovered a huge box at a garage sale dating back to 1974! And then, one day, I walk into the comics shop, and see copies from the 1950s and 1960s priced at $1!

    I started collecting comics in 1984, with Amazing Spider-Man #254. I was 15.

  3. I can’t even remember my actual first comic 🙁 it would have been Thunderbirds (1960’s-vintage reprints from TV21, most likely) or Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (US strips reprinted, probably chopped about into halves so it could be released weekly). I can remember getting my first Beano in about 1991, though. It became my weekly must-read until about 1998

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