I am a geek, and proud of it. I always have been and I always will be.
Let me explain:
I returned home to Blackpool on leave in the spring of 1971 after six months apprenticeship training at RAF Hereford. It was my second home leave, the first being at Christmas and New Year, where I spent two weeks catching up with old school friends. When I left home to return to RAF Hereford everything seemed normal, nothing seemed amiss or out of the ordinary. I was surprised then, after ringing the doorbell on that bright April afternoon, to be greeted by a man with a mynah bird perched on his arm standing on the threshold of the house that I’d lived in with my mother and brother and baby sister before I signed on the dotted line and promised my undying loyalty to Queen and Country. My mother was divorced and, although I thought it odd that the man should answer the door with a mynah bird perched on his arm, I naturally assumed that he was a new boyfriend that she hadn’t told me about. I wrong. I stood on the doorstep in my No. 1 uniform, staring at the mynah bird, my kit bag slung over my shoulder, with a confused and stupid look on my face.
“Errm,” I said, “Is my mum there?”
“I don’t think so, son,” he replied.
“Is she out?”
“No, son, I live here by myself.”
And, of course, his mynah bird.
“But my mum used to live here.”
“Oh, you must mean Margaret. No, son, she moved about two months ago.”
“No idea,” he said, closing the door on me. I stood on the doorstep for a few moments before I turned around and walked down the path toward the gate. As I reached the gate I heard a squawk and a high-pitched “Bugger off!” I assumed it was the mynah bird, unless the man inside was a ventriloquist.
My mum had sent me half a dozen letters prior to my return home on leave and not once had she mentioned that she was moving house. I was sixteen years old and I tried not to cry as I desperately attempted to recall my grandparents address. They had also moved. After selling their three bedroom house they had moved to a ground floor flat in North Shore. They had had the foresight to tell me where they had moved to and after a few panicky moments the address came to me.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Grandma asked. She looked surprised to see me.
“Mum’s never mentioned that she’d moved in any of her letters to me. I didn’t know anywhere else to go.”
“Oh, the daft bugger,” Grandma said, “She’d forget her head if it were loose.”
She told me that mum had moved to Mereside, which was on the other side of Blackpool, and after two buses and a short walk I finally arrived at the house.
After ringing the bell two or three times, mum opened the door and looked me up and down. “You found us, then,” was all she said, before ushering me into her new home.
Mum showed me to my bedroom which had a sign on the door that read: SUSAN’S ROOM. “I’ll go and put the kettle on,” she said, and went downstairs. After dropping my kit bag on the floor I started to scan the room for the things that were precious to me, but after an extensive search I found they weren’t there.
I went downstairs and into the kitchen, where mum was pouring me a cup of coffee. “Where’s my comics, mum?” I asked.
“What? Oh, those things. I gave them to a jumble sale. They were just cluttering up the place. And besides, I thought you’d grown out of them, you being in the RAF and all.”
Now I’m not talking about a small pile of dog-eared Beano and Dandy comics here. I’m talking about a huge collection of pristine Marvel and DC comics that I had bought with the hard earned money from my paper round and the time I’d spent as a pan scrubber and trainee commis chef in the Stuart Hotel. I’m talking about early to late 1960s DC and Marvel comics. I’m talking about the No. 1 of The Amazing Spider-Man! Not only that, mum had also given away my complete sets of Topps bubble gum cards that I had feverously swapped with my mates in the school playground: Batman, The American Civil War, The Outer Limits and Mars Attacks! The loss of my Mars Attacks! cards was the most devastating of these sets as I had managed to collect them all two days before they were banned and withdrawn from all the shops following complaints from parents associations concerning their lurid and violent content.
The bitterest blow of all though was the loss of my comics. I’ve managed to replace some of them but because of their ephemeral nature they began to soar in price. The Amazing Spider-Man No. 1, which cost me mere pennies when I first bought it with my pocket money is now worth an estimated one and a quarter million pounds!
Of course, I wasn’t aware at the time that the comics I had in my collection would one day fetch unbelievably high prices. What hurt me the most was that I loved them. They were mine.
I’ve been a fan of American comics since 1961. I was seven years old when I held my first Batman comic in my grubby little mitts. British comics at the time offered nothing remotely comparable because every page within the shiny covers of their American counterparts was in full colour and the panels of fast-moving action and dynamic storylines were brilliantly drawn and executed. My first comics were DC’s Superman, Batman and Detective Comics, but after them came Marvel’s Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, The Uncanny X-Men, Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos and The Silver Surfer. But Batman was, and always has been, my first love.
I have never grown out of them.
I have all those lost comics in digital form now and although I get great pleasure from reading them, it’s not the same. There’s something wonderful about holding one of those early comics in your hands, touching those shiny colourful covers, feeling the pulp paper pages inside, bringing them up to your nose and breathing in the 1960s American optimism.
I dread to think what my girlfriend must have thought when she entered my flat over two years ago now and was confronted with, what can only be described as, a shrine to Batman.
I know quite a few men (and women) of my age who are still into comics. We are a select band of brothers (and sisters) who live in GeekLand and speak fluent geek whenever we meet. One of my friends, who has a vast collection of DC comics, was in a serious relationship and he and his partner were on the verge of moving in together when she politely said: “You know you’ll have to get rid of all your comics when we move in together.”
“Well,” he replied, “it looks like we won’t be moving in together, then.”
We’re a strange bunch.