Monday, June 29, 2020

Comics/R. Crumb

For me it started in the very early 1960s. A relative had a summer rental on Long Island, and we spent a couple of lazy weeks on the East Coast shore. I was 6 or 7. In a drawer in a night table I found a small stack of comic books. The two I remember were The Brave and The Bold #28 which featured The Justice League of America, and Showcase #4 which had the first appearance of the Silver Age (1956-1975) Flash. I was pretty new to reading, but these were just at my level and any words I didn’t know my brother would tell me, or I could just look at the pictures. During those couple of weeks comics opened up a secret, private world for me, that I would immerse myself in for much of my childhood and teenage years. The Brave and The Bold book had The Justice League fighting a villain named Starro, a giant starfish from outer space. Super heroes, giant starfish and my Mother didn’t approve-what could be better? Sadly, I had to leave those two books behind, but they set me off on a years long search for those them and hundreds more. There was something so comforting and empowering about letting myself “go there” for a whole rainy afternoon. Once The Beatles invaded and Rock music became part of the equation, my young life was set.

The Justice League Of America and their yearly team-up with the Golden Age (1938-1956) Justice Society of America became my reason to live. For me the magic was connected to the bridging of the mythical heroism of World War II, as endlessly described by my father, and the bright, colorful young world of the early 1960s that I was experiencing every day on the schoolyard, on TV and on the radio.

My next obsession with comic books came with artist Jack Kirby. A world War II vet, Kirby wrote in The Golden Age, but then in the 1960’s created heroes like The Fantastic Four, Hulk and Iron Man for Marvel Comics. In 1970 Kirby left Marvel and went to DC and created The Fourth World, a universe of futuristic adventure that fit beautifully into the youthful mindset of science fiction and social upheaval we were all living every day. It sprawled over a couple of years in the mid 70’s and fit me to a T.
The fourth world was sort of my swan song to super hero books because at around the same time I discovered underground comics.
R. Crumb and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers became my thing at this point. I went from wanting to help Wonder Woman to wanting to sleep with her almost overnight. Underground comix opened my eyes to all sorts of “grown-up” stuff I didn’t really understand, but I sure wanted to be part of. Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll replaced Truth, Justice and The American Way.

I still love comics. Just seeing those pages quickens my pulse. I ended up becoming a high school English teacher and a true lover of literature, but I understand clearly, that comic books got me started. That special connection I still enjoy with art began with those first two books I found in a drawer.

Here is a sample of my collection.

- Paul Epstein

No comments: