My father was huge into comics. He lied about his age and became a waiter at the age of 16. If you aren’t familiar with how tips work in tourist towns, waiters usually make good money in a city like Las Vegas, and my dad was no exception.
He worked at the Steakhouse at the top of the Mint. His regular customers included all kinds of celebrities, wealthy (or lucky) gamblers, and casino bigshots (aka criminals at the time) who would go to the fancy steakhouse at the top of the Mint to eat great steak, look out upon the Las Vegas valley from the awesome view, and of course, incidentally, give my father lucrative amounts of tips. You can still eat that that restaurant, but now its Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse and is at Binion’s Horseshoe.
With the constant flow of cash, my dad lived a pretty decent lifestyle. He bought things like cars, a cool van (with a bed and a fridge in it! I had no clue why his van had a bed in it when I was a kid), and of course, comics. Tons of comics. He would buy every #1 of every comic (because they’ll be worth something someday! They mostly weren’t…), and every issue of the 15-20 comics that he followed at any given time.
He had one of those big waterbed setups, and the shelves behind it would always have the latest issues. If I missed some of the new ones, they’d be moved to the box in his closet. From his closet, once that box was full, the box would go to the garage and then he’d get a new box for his closet.
It was a cycle of comic life that I assumed everyone had. I knew my friends didn’t have a warehouse of comics out in the garage to pick through, but didn’t really think about it much (especially due to moving so often that I never really knew many other kids). I never had any restrictions on what I could read either. Whether because this is Vegas, because of my advanced maturity level, or because my dad was the kind of guy who owned a van with a bed in it, I could read it all, no restrictions.
You might be thinking I was reading violent comics like Wolverine or Punisher as a kid. Heck no, well yes, but no I’m talking about dark/creepy/scary comics like Tales From the Crypt, Creepy, Eerie, and all of the other non-superhero comics that were pretty popular in the 1960s. As I got older, I would get more interested in the big book comics like Vampirella, Conan, or Heavy Metal. When I was approaching puberty, those boxes were my equivalent of what the internet for kids is now… 😉
I read through all of these comics, comics from the 1960s onward, unwittingly experiencing the full timeline of comics. My “comic maturity” advanced the way the comic industry did, but in the span of my childhood instead of decades. I went through a serious/dark phase leading me to read stephen king at 6ish. Later I would go through a silly phase, reading Archie comics, Richie Rich, then serious story, and finally the cynical 90s as I approached being a teenager. Sure I would go through the older comics (and Vampirella) whenever I was in the mood to visit old delights, but I experienced generations worth of comic influence in the span of my childhood.
Between comic books and cartoons like He-man with strong moral lessons, I have strong beliefs in “how people should be”. I also understand that there are corrupt people out there, I just don’t understand why you’d choose to be part of the losing side. I refuse to believe that the “villains” win in real life, mostly because of many comic lessons. Also, those old horror stories always punished the wicked, often with very poetic, very gruesome justice, so no way, I’ll live the life of the challenging (but winning in the end) hero.
With all of the comic experience with all heroes (Superman, Batman, X-men, Casper, Ironman, Justice League, whatever), it makes me a little sad when people talk to me so excited about “their” history of comics and it turns out to be the early 2000s. I want to talk to people about the old comics. Commiserating questions like “Do you miss comics like Tales From the Crypt?”. “Weren’t the old Conan comic magazines the best?” I don’t want to hear about how Venom came from a moon meteorite or whatever. He came from Secret Wars 1 people! Spiderman wished for a new costume out of an alien machine!
But now, nowadays the best I can do is read new(ish) comics and talk about them. Because the reality is, my dad was pretty cool and different in a way that I haven’t met anyone else having a similar childhood. I rarely got to talk to him about comics. I was probably too young to geek out with, and by the time we could hang out, comics were different and he wasn’t as interested (he would read them if I left them out, however). To be honest, I took about a 15-year sabbatical from comics, so I get it. The closest to geeking out together would be us in the same room when I was a kid, reading comics together. I can remember hours with the only sound being the flipping of pages. So freaking cool!
We’ll be posting my first comic review up soon enough, Lydon and I sit and talk for about an hour or so about the He-man Volume 1 book. It was pretty awesome. Makes me wish I had made more of an effort when I was younger.
I wanted to find a picture of my dad in his waiter outfit. But here is a pic of me and him. Yes, thats Panthro. He was the best because he fixed things (with Tyra), invented things, plus nunchucks. Ninja weapons were awesome even before TMNT.