I was too poor to buy comic books new off the rack when I was growing up. It might sound funny today, especially when you compare modern-day prices to what the floppies cost in the 90s, but when you have nothing but a few cents in your pocket every dollar on a price tag might as well be a hundred. I remember seeing comic books in kids’ bedrooms on television and it striking me as so unnatural. Glossy new comics belonged on the spinner rack at the convenience store. For me those make-believe bedrooms might as well have been decorated with cash registers and cigarette signs.
I had one window a year to buy comic books – every year my parents would take us to the Sussex Flea Market, this huge sprawling swap meet that drew people from all over southern New Brunswick to buy and sell. There my father would give me a few meager dollars that, to me, might as well have been a pocket of gold bullion and then set me loose to entertain myself for 10 hours so he could pick through vendor stalls for a good deal on a hood ornament or bootleg VHS porno or whatever else.
I would barely eat over the next three days. All of my money was rationed carefully until I finally found one of the handfuls of vendors out of hundreds that had a cardboard longbox on display. COMICS: 25 CENTS EACH/5 FOR A DOLLAR the good ones would read. Looking back, though, the best sellers were the ones who would have grab bags: super-cheap, but you had no idea what you were getting. Those grab bags were my introductions to pretty much every comic character aside from Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman.
I struck gold in those grab bags over and over, but one book held me fast and showed me a whole new dimension. THE MIGHTY THOR #275, by Roy Thomas and John Buscema. On the eve of Ragnarok, the end of the world, Thor and his evil brother Loki clashed over the body of the betrayed Balder the Brave. Everything was turned up to 11 – huge, operatic, Shakespearean and absolutely breathtaking. It was the perfect introduction to Thor and it inspired a flat-out religious reverence for the entire mythos that I still carry today.
Some people use bags and boards to preserve their comics in pristine condition. I had to start using one just to keep THOR #275 all in one piece. I read that baby to tatters and beyond. Every bad day I had would end with me taking it out to compare my dumb problems with the world-ending ones that Thor faced in that comic with a set jaw and an unbreakable resolve.
I only had the one issue. It ended on a cliffhanger, naturally. The final words, spoken by Allfather Odin, still ring in my ears after all these years. “And Loki – Damned LOKI – Shall WIN, AFTER ALL!” It still chills me. For years I didn’t know how that story ended.
I make comics for a few reasons. This book isn’t one of them. It was what made me fall in love with the medium in the first place, though, and that’s got to be worth something.