My mom’s family is from Murphysboro in Southern Illinois. I grew up mostly in and around the confines of Southern, IL for this reason. Well, that, and because I was born with Cerebral Palsy. Once I was diagnosed with CP, my mom made sure I had every opportunity that she could give me to live a normal life. This included several corrective surgeries, all performed free of charge at the Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children in St. Louis, MO.
Family in Murphysboro, hospital in St. Louis, and us mostly somewhere in between. Which brings me to: comic books. For a kid who spent a good portion of age 8 and 9 in a hospital bed, there wasn’t a lot of entertainment options. No internet or Facebook. Three or four TV channels. My mom got me comic books. This was greatly helped along by the fact that comic books in our part of Southern, IL were plentiful. Sparta, IL was home to the comic book factory, otherwise known as World Color Press.
Read about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldcolor
They printed all the comic books for DC and Marvel. And folks that worked at the printing press were allowed to bring home spare copies to their kids. If your mom happened to know someone who worked there who didn’t have kids, she could bring their copies of free comics home to you!
Most of my comics back then had a stamp on them that said, “Complimentary Copy” or “Not for Resale,” but I didn’t care. I just liked reading them, and collecting them. Even when mom didn’t have access to free comics, she continued to provide me with comics to read from the local grocers. I was hooked. My passion for comics lasted from the time I was about 9 and stayed with me until I left my hometown of Coulterville (only 9 miles from Sparta) when I was 21. After that, lots of life happened.
I “lost” my comic book collection to the sands of time, neglect, and many moves from place to place as I tried to find my way in the world. As I got older into my 30’s, I gave up collecting, buying, and reading comics altogether in favor of more “grown-up” pursuits. Then, in December of 2013, for Christmas, I got some comic books. The sister of a friend was helping someone settle the sale of an estate. The person in question had some comic books and she remembered that I had talked about collecting them. She took the opportunity to snag a few for me as a gift. They were Captain America issues by Lee and Kirby from the late 60’s.
I remember as I looked over the issues, I visibly shook. I was so overcome. I can’t explain it. I wasn’t just looking at some old comic books. I was looking at my childhood. Suddenly, everything that I had experienced as I was growing up came back to me in a rush. Comic books had meant so much to me. I drew them. I wrote them. I imagined them. I dreamed them. I read them, over and over and over again. They were my escape. Comic books were my safe place. They were my home. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about them.
It was then that I decided to collect comic books again, but, I wasn’t going to collect just any comics. I wanted to rediscover the comics from my past, to reclaim the memories of my youth. To that end, I began to plan. I constructed a list of comics carefully researched and considered. These are the comics that I owned when I was younger, or in many cases “wanted to own.” Thanks to the internet and eBay, it’s actually possible for me to build the dream collection of my youth. My dream collection (when it’s complete) will consist of 2000 comic books: 1000 DC and 1000 Marvel. I am about halfway there, and I am having the time of my life!