Epic Storytelling at 10 Cents a pop

Thanks to Waldemar Brandt for sharing their work on Unsplash.
Thanks to Waldemar Brandt for sharing their work on Unsplash.

My family home was a boxy old turn-of-the-century three-story-turned-student rooming house two blocks from a lively state university campus—Pig Heaven for a shy introvert who craved intellectual stimulus and some elusive beauty amid the drab and the ordinary surroundings of a working class upbringing.

So it was that I spent most weekends at the movies, or in campus bookstores and record shops, or checking out the latest DC and Marvel comics at the corner drugstore.

Comic books were a dime in my earliest youth, then maybe a quarter, back when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby scribbled and sketched their way through a revolution at Marvel. Little could I know that my chiefest guilty pleasure was entering a >Golden Age that would forever alter popular storytelling, for both better and worse.

If only I’d hung on to even a small stack of the classic (especially inaugural) issues I once owned! It grieves me to think of those fragile treasures now decomposing in the local landfill, when an X-MEN #1 from 1963, which I once owned, can fetch $50K on EBay.

But a Movable Life gets in the way of Collecting.

Still, my money was well spent. For what I didn’t know then was that those dime comics were teaching me, issue by issue, how to tell the kind of “epic urban fantasy” stories I’m now, in my more mature years,  passionate about writing—stories sprinkled with faery dust, to be sure, but also molded by an observant life rich in the experience of many classic themes: Good vs. Evil, of course, the hoariest chestnut of them all, but also…

  • The tendency for Power to corrupt
  • The perils of Us vs Them thinking
  • The costs of Technological Progress
  • The human heart’s capacity for Growth and Evolution
  • The human heart’s capacity for Corruption and Degradation
  • The eternal lure of the Quest for meaning and something larger than self

Not a bad education, that.