Monday, January 18, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 33


At this point in my “story” I’d like to explain a few things. Although this story is about the history of my comic book shop and my life-long interest in comic books, it’s also about people and events that had a major impact on my life in regard to the story that I wanted to tell. This doesn’t mean that if I haven’t mentioned you that you had no impact on my life. I believe that everyone we interact with is important and affects us in some way. It’s just that I actually have a reason for the inclusion of each part of this story. Hopefully it will all become clear by the end. I also know that many of you have little interest in my personal life and many of you have little (or no) interest in my business of selling comic books. I’m considering a change in format in future chapters. I may separate each chapter into a personal section and a business section so that you can skip over the section that you’re not interested in reading. Please feel free to give me your opinion on this change. Now, on with the story.

When my son, Adam, was four years old he was able to read books on his own. Adam learned new things very quickly. He had a very advanced vocabulary and he was almost always well behaved. My wife, Mal, and I spent as much time as possible with him trying to teach him new things and playing games together. We’d play “Go Fish” and “Candyland” quite often. One of my favorite games to play with Adam came to be called “Hey Buddy.” We would set up small roads on a rug in our family room and use Adam’s toy cars and pretend to drive around “the town.” As we would pass each other Adam and I would say, “Hey Buddy.” We would also build small houses using Lincoln Logs so we’d have actual destinations to drive to. Adam loved this little game.

One of my many character flaws is my lack of patience. I saw how one of my friends interacted with his children and I was actually envious of his relationship with his kids. When he was home, he spent most of his time with his wife and children. It seemed as if he actually enjoyed including his kids in almost every activity and his love and patience was most evident when he was doing yard work. He would frequently be cutting the grass with one or more kids sitting with him on his lawn tractor. He never seemed to be irritated or lose his patience with them. I was amazed at his devotion and dedication to his family. I wished that I could be like him.

I later learned another important life lesson. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t make assumptions based on outward appearances. I found out that the man I held in such high esteem wasn’t perfect, after all. I had been unaware that he was having trouble in his marriage. He was still a man who possessed a lot of great qualities but I learned that things are not always as they appear to be.

It was around this time that my main employee, Steve Wentzell, decided that it was time to leave. I wasn’t paying him as much as I should have been and he could make enough money to live on by selling records at a local flea market. Thankfully, I had enough part time employees to keep the store running smoothly and David Lynch was willing to work for me full time.

David Lynch had a great knowledge of comic book history. He also loved movies, music, and old television shows. He was a talented writer. We also got along really well. He was willing to adapt to my way of doing business and he was a good steady worker. When I would leave instructions and projects for him to work on when I wasn’t there, he always worked hard to complete these tasks. In our business, it’s important to make the shopping experience pleasant for our customers and a good personality makes this much easier. Most of our customers liked David.

A customer, David Hartwell, had been recently laid off from his full time job and when I offered him some temporary work, he accepted. David Hartwell was one of the most laid-back, easy-going guys I’d ever met. He wasn’t the fastest worker I had, but he was diligent and he always finished every task he started. He did quality work, not quantity. He would frustrate me at times, but I eventually learned that it was better to get the job done right, as David Hartwell would do, than rush through it. Although David Hartwell only worked as a temporary, part-time employee during 1983, he would eventually come back a few years later as a valuable full time employee.

In 1965 I had created a comic book super-hero called “Insect Man” and I had written and drawn quite a few small comic books that featured his adventures. One of my customers, Peter Fries, asked if I’d be interested in resuming publication of the comic book series. He had created a new super-hero team called “The Defensors” and he wanted to feature them in the new Insect Man comic books. Peter wrote and drew a three-issue story line and we began publishing Insect Man again after a five-year hiatus. We had these offset printed in black and white and we sold about one hundred copies of each issue in my store.

Some of my other customers began to write stories too. Dan Courtney and Chris Coleman wrote a few issues about a new super-hero named Silverlion. I enjoyed publishing these stories but these issues didn’t feature my character of Insect Man. Another customer, Larry Young, wrote and drew a story that would feature the exciting return of Insect Man. He designed a new costume and this issue was an instant hit. We sold out of every issue we had printed. Larry didn’t have time to do any more issues because he was a hard working college student but David Lynch stepped up and began writing the new Insect Man comic books. The local newspapers wrote articles about “Worcester’s own super-hero” and the sales increased on our little Insect Man comic books.

Larry Young eventually worked at my store for a couple of years and he now makes his living writing, drawing, and publishing real comic books!

Next chapter: Atlantic City!

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I think you should just keep the personal/business combined...they're bound to have had influences on each other and, if someone only reads on aspect of the story, they'll be missing out. Just my two cents.

    (I've met Larry...he's awesome.)