Man of Steel Mondays
Me and Superman, Superman and Me Part 2
“How My Jacked Up Grill Led To Me Collecting Superman”
In our last installment I related the story of “the one that got away”. We’re going to jump ahead a little bit in time to the spring or so of 1987.
By this point my family had made the move from Mountain Top to Wescosville and we were settled into the house on Promise Lane. It was me, my Mom, my previously mentioned Dad and the three older sisters, Mary, Ginny and Jane.
Yes, I was the youngest of four and the only boy. Some might think that this would be a terrible way to grow up and if I wanted to get the sitcom type laugh I would riff on how terribly oppressive my upbringing was but frankly I can’t. In retrospect and through the 20/20 of hindsight I can’t think of a better way to grow up. We were all two years apart, so it may not have been the tightest knit of families but we got by. My sister Jane and I fought like cats and dogs, but she was closest to me in age so that seemed natural.
We all had varying degrees of jacked up grills as well. I am not one to point fingers but considering my mother had to have braces when I was a wee lad I think it is pretty safe to say that it was probably her side of the genetics that caused this. Mary, the eldest, didn’t have too much of a problem and Ginny had a very limited time in braces and from there it was a sliding scale of dental horror. Jane had an overbite best described as unfortunate and my teeth stuck out like God was daring people to hit me in the face. Oddly enough I was never punched in the face as a child or had a soccer ball hit me square in the jaw as my mother was perpetually afraid of, though I did go over my handle bars when I was about eight or so and chipped the hell out of my two front teeth.
Basically Jane and I had teeth that your average orthodontist would look at and immediately hear the “cha ching” of a cash register.
Shortly after moving into the house on Promise Lane we, as a family basically, started going to Dr. Tighe’s office. Dr. Tighe was the orthodontist that saw my mother through braces the first time we lived in Allentown back in the late seventies and so it makes sense that he would be the one to be entrusted with the oral modification of her children. I did not enter braces right away. They wanted to wait another year or so to make sure that my teeth had settled into “adulthood” so my time in iron would wait. That didn’t mean I didn’t go to the orthodontist’s office, though. There would be many a time where I would join my mother and sisters as they went to their appointments, which may sound boring and if memory serves it pretty much was.
Well, it mostly was and if life has taught me anything mostly boring is slightly exciting.
See, Dr. Tighe’s office was LOUSY with comics.
DC books mostly and the vast majority of those were Superman books. Up to this point my entire Superman experience consisted of (say it with me if you’ve heard this before) the Super Friends, the Christopher Reeve movies and a copy of this hardcover collection of Superman books called Superman: From the ’30s to the ’70s, which as you might imagine was comprised of hand selected Superman books from the thirties to…well, the seventies. There was also a copy of Superman #411 that was in my collection thanks to a friend of mine from Mountain Top1. Other than that I had a small stack of Marvel books.
Oh, and I liked Batman over Superman.
It was just one of those things. Adam West and Burt Ward were important to my formative years and Batman was always my favorite. This was driven home the Christmas of 1985 when my most prized present was the Super Powers Batmobile along with the Batman and Robin figures2. Batman was it for me. Top dog. Big cheese. Most awesome super-hero EVER right in front of the Hulk and Superman.
So the plethora of Superman books really didn’t have much of an effect on me while sitting in the waiting room at Dr. Tighe’s. They were just what were available.
Two particular issues stick out more than any others. One was this issue of Superman that had an odd looking cover and promised an interesting and exciting story. Inside the tale was billed as an “imaginary story” and I was down with that. Having read Superman: From The ’30s to the ’70s from cover to cover I knew what an “imaginary story” was; a Superman tale where anything could happen and it didn’t quite matter because in the end it was only just a “what if” deal. Superman could die. He could marry Lois Lane. He could grow a tenth head and get elected President for Life of the Lollipop Guild. There were no repercussions. There were no consequences. The thing was out of continuity.
Not that I thought in those terms at the time. I was eleven and not familiar with such concepts. I just knew that at the end of the day what transpired didn’t matter.
It was an odd story though and strangely compelling. A few pages in Bizarro goes on a rampage, Clark Kent is revealed as Superman and all sorts of messed up things keep happening. It was To Be Continued so I never found out what the ultimate outcome of the story was, but I liked it in a weird sort of way. Years later I would discover that this was the first part of the legendary Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow written by Alan Moore and was, in fact, the last Pre-Crisis/Silver Age/Bronze Age Superman story. This was the one that closed out that era before Man of Steel kicked off. For quite some time that book was worth a good deal of bank and it shocks me to think that some kid hadn’t swiped it already. It also shocks me that it sat in that waiting room for so freaking long. It had to be at least a year since it had come out but again the waiting room’s kid’s corner was STACKED with comics.
The second comic that I remember sitting down and leafing through was this weird issue of Action Comics where Superman fought, of all people, Superboy.
Wasn’t Superboy simply a younger version of Superman? That’s what I was led to believe at any rate. I didn’t have time or the will at the time to investigate the matter further but I think something about that book stuck with me because sometime later…days…weeks…years possibly…I found that same comic at the Super Fresh in Trexlertown while shopping with my Dad3. While waiting in line I noticed that the comic rack was about ten feet away4 and sure enough there was that issue of Action Comics right above a copy of Superman #8. I asked if I could check out the comics while we waited in line. Dad said fine and I walked over to that spinner rack.
If was I was a better writer I would have written, “Dad said fine and I walked over to that spinner rack…and my ultimate destiny.”
I am, however, not that good of a writer.
I mean this is what passes for a cliffhanger ending around here.
NEXT WEEK: Superman. Hairy chests. An allowance is needed.
More to follow…
- And boy was that a confusing book to jump into. For those not in the know Superman #411 is a birthday tribute to then Superman editor Julius Schwartz. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great issue. Well written and the art was by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson but at the same time you had to understand who Julius Schwartz was and why he was important to truly appreciate the story. I still did but it would be years later before any of it meant something beyond, “Why the heck are we spending so much time talking about this old guy?” ↩
- I don’t have any of those anymore and even though the character paradigm has changed I’d still like to get those back some day. ↩
- It’s interesting how my Dad was there for so many of these “big moments”. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that I tagged along with him a lot while he ran errands, but still. Kind of…interesting when you consider he really didn’t understand my collecting obsession. ↩
- That rack would move several times. For a while it dead in the center of the frozen foods section, which baffled me as a kid. Why here? As an adult I see it as a ploy to keep kids like me from standing for long periods of time just reading the books because this ain’t a library and all. I have no proof of this but what are you going to do? They also kept it by frozen foods by a bunch of other junk. I wasn’t really picky nor was I deterred by the cold. I just wanted to check out the comics. ↩