Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hyper-Active 5 Year Olds

I originally wrote this piece nine years ago when I was writing for a webzine called Tangmonkey. You can find the original article here. I cleaned it up and edited it a little bit, but it is essentially the same story.

This one has a little more to do with me and why I love comic books more than comics themselves. It's also a little sappy. Be forewarned.


I still have the first comic I ever read.

It is the Justice League of America issue #102.

I was five years old when I read it for the first time. I was visiting my grandparents in Sherbrooke, Quebec (a smaller town, about two hours east of Montreal). I was tearing their relative peace to shreds, the way five year olds are apt to do. I was running around, banging pots and hollering, when my grandfather, a little desperate to calm his sugar-high grandson down, went into the storage closet and pulled out a box of comic books that my uncles had left behind when they moved out, decades earlier.

That is when I saw it.

The cover had Superman on the cover. Batman too. I instantly became the model grandchild, sitting quietly reading for the rest of the weekend. I was transfixed by this comic. I didn’t really understand it, yet this didn’t matter to me. There were words, and I read them, and there were pictures, and I loved them. There were heroes, and they wore brightly coloured costumes, and there was action enough to go around for everyone.

Over the years, my trips to the Sherbrooke continued. My Father would drop my sisters and I off with his family often enough, and every time I went, be it Christmas, summer vacation, or March break, I knew that I would have those comics waiting there for me. I’d sit out on the patio or in the guest bedroom and read them and reread them. There were about a hundred comics in total, and a great many of them had been scotch taped to hold the covers on. My uncle Bruce apparently had a penchant for drawing beards on the Archies and the Justice League, but my issue, the beloved Justice League 102, was spared this fate. It was worn, but it was whole and unsullied.

As I got older and grew into my teens, I metamorphosed into what most teens do, a wise-assed brat. I really didn’t see the need to have to go visit my grandparents for the weekend when there was a chance I could “hang out” with my friends. I would sulk in the car for the two hour drive over Mount Orford, antagonizing my sisters who were trapped in the back seat with me as much as possible to ensure that the entire car was as miserable as I was for this trip. I would get there and be as anti-social as I could possibly be, hiding in the back room with the comics, trying to avoid human contact and express my opposition to this oh-so-unfair punishment I was being put through using a social strike.

Me and my sister Katie. You can see the issue in my hands.
These trips, my grandfather would come in back to ask me to come to the Depanneur with him so he could get his lottery tickets. My Grandfather had led a hard life, one where many of his hardships were self inflicted. He had turned it all around with age, though, and became one of the most genial and gentle people I have ever known. He didn’t smoke or drink anymore, so his one vice was a few bucks a week on scratch tickets, hoping to win. He would promise me a new comic, if I came along with him, and for that thirty-minute ride, we would chat. He was a big baseball fan, avidly following the Montreal Expos beck when they still wore their baby blue road uniforms. Even in my most angsty teen-aged years, he was a man that was impossible to be catty with, and his ability to be social is something I covet to this day. When we would get to the store, I’d study which comic I wanted the most while he grated off a few tickets with a penny.I would choose the one (looking back at these comics, I’ll accept that as a child I had dubious taste), and we’d be back in the car. It was good.

Well, My grandpa died a few years later. He had a heart attack and didn’t make it. I life lived hard is rarely one lived long, so they say. My Grandmother gave me the box of comics to take home with me as she cleaned up and cleaned out their apartment. When I moved out, and took them with me.

I don’t really get to talk to that side of the family anymore, but I still have that box of beat up and battered comics, and reading them every now and again makes me feel like a hyper-active five year old calming down quietly in that guest bedroom, distracted and happy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that's a great story. Maybe because my own grandparents were so influential to me. Or ...I'm a sap. Either way - kudos. ^_^