Comic books were a big deal when I was a kid in the 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t mean they were a big deal as far as collectibles go. They may have been. For me and my friends, however, every new issue of Spider-Man came with the excitement of a new season of “Ozark” dropping on Netflix or “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu.
Back then, we didn’t have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Fox, Cartoon Network or … OK, we had like six channels — and two of them came in clearly. We were desperate for entertainment.
And the movie theaters back then didn’t have a new superhero movie coming out every weekend like they do these days. The only superhero movie I recall from the 1970s was “Superman: The Movie.” (I’m not sure why it was subtitled “The Movie” — guess they thought it’d be hard to get kids to watch if they mistakenly thought it was “Superman: The Ballet.”)
I wasn’t even a Superman fan. We were Marvel guys. We were fans of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers and the Fantastic Four long before there was a movie about any of those folks. While it was a thrill to see a superhero on the big screen at last with Superman, they ruined the whole movie by having the Man of Steel simply fly in reverse around the Earth until he reversed time and got a second chance to fix things.
I mean, well, why didn’t he just do that every time there was a problem? Plane crash? Just reverse time again and stop it. Assassination? Just reverse time again and stop it. It’s bad enough that the guy had virtually no weaknesses except kryptonite and bad taste in women, and you’re gonna give him the ability to go back in time, too. Lame.
So, we went back to the convenience store and our preferred literature. In my hometown of Oglethorpe, Ga., there was only one convenience store. Of course, there was only one anything in that town back then. One grocery store. One flower shop. One pharmacy. One town drunk. For us, the convenience store was the “Suwannee Swifty,” one in a chain of Swifties in Southern small towns back then.
I’d ride my bike to the store and leave it on the sidewalk near the pay phone. As soon as I entered the store, the rack of comic books was on my right. I’d spin it around in hopes of finding a new Spider-Man. “Nope, already got that one. Guess I’ll take this new “Power Man and Iron Fist.” (They were kinda minor-league superheroes, but this was Oglethorpe, after all.)
You’d have to fill in the blanks between still images with your imagination. That was easy. Imagination was one of the few toys we all could afford back then. Too bad not many kids have it now. They just have “Avengers End Game Infinity 17” blasted straight into their brains with too much computer-generated ridiculousness.
I’m not sure when I gave up comic books, but my imagination could use that helpful nudge comic books once provided. Unfortunately, they don’t really produce comic books for cynical guys who are more than halfway to dead.
Perhaps I should write a comic book series myself. I wonder if DC Comics would let me produce a Superman spinoff. It’d be about Superman, but not the young, invincible version. He’d be about 51 and go by Uncle Rusty instead of “The Man of Steel,” Superman or Clark Kent. He’d be unemployed because the Daily Planet would have had to cut staff in this era of propaganda trumping journalism. He’d still have X-ray vision, but only when he looked through the bottom portion of his bifocals. And he’d have given up on fighting crime on Friday and Saturday nights when Lex’s Bar & Grill had its margarita happy hour. Those are just wild ideas off the top of my head, from outta nowhere in particular.
Let’s hope DC Comics gives me permission. Grab one at your local Suwannee Swifty, and then look for the series of movies starring Zach Galifianakis. It could happen. Use your imagination!