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Comics

I’ve already said I enjoyed comic books. Were they not a staple of every child’s life in the 50’s and 60’s?

Comics were not just for the reading pleasure, they were also a communal event, as one would meet up with friends and exchange or read them together. Beyond the Classics Illustrated series (see my post on being a fantasy writer), I was a DC fan (rather than a Marvel devotee, although I read some of these too). What’s not to like about Superman and Batman? (And every proud Canadian knows Superman was actually created by one of ours; see the Wikipedia page on Joe Shuster.)

I devoured them all, but my real favourites were the Flash and Green Lantern rather than the more famous duo, which possibly speaks for my desire to tread a slightly different, less popular path in life than that of my peers.

As I’ve said before, my parents threw nothing out, so I still have a few from these years lying around. Here are a couple from my collection, back from the day when comics only cost 12 cents.

I also consumed a whole bunch of Dell’s Disney and Yogi Bear comics and a few of the cowboy genre (Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid), though there were fewer of these available. I recall one particular Gene Autry comic that I was especially fond of, although – all these years later – I can no longer remember why.

I can also recall the shocking day when the price of comic books went up from 10 to 12 cents, taking an ever-larger bite out of one’s meager allowance. After that, the price rose to 15 cents, never looking back. Of course, inflation continued to take its toll in the years since then. I hate to think what they cost now.

Because of my Anglophile parents, for several years (late 50’s and early 60’s), I also enjoyed a subscription to Eagle comics, the British series (published originally by Hulton Press and then Odhams press) featuring both humorous and adventure strips amongst more serious young male-oriented material (sports, scouting, racing cars, trains, hobbies).

The star of Eagle was the space explorer, Dan Dare, but there were many more to read (e.g. Riders of the Range, Luck of the Legion, PC 49, Waldorf and Cecil, Harris Tweed). They also published a Christmas annual (I still have about five of these).

My sister received their accompanying annual, Girl, but I don’t think she ever subscribed to the weekly magazine. Both publications were typical of that era – wholesome, moral, preaching the right values but in a most entertaining way.

Sadly, Eagle fell by the wayside, stopping publication in 1994 after more than one attempt at a reincarnation. Like so many others it couldn’t keep up with the public’s evolving tastes.

I began frequenting the library on my own when I lived in Whitehorse, Yukon. There I discovered Hergé’s Tintin series. The drawing of these cartoons was exceptional, the storyline original and fast-paced, the characters funny and appealing. I can see why Steven Spielberg was attracted to making a movie of them and hope he is able to continue.

The series has stood the test of time, still widely available in print and been made into an excellent television series, completely faithful to the original artwork. (It must be said, though, that some of the earlier works in the series portrayed stereotypical, if not objectionable caricatures).

Only when an adult did I discover the Asterix series (originally authored by René Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo), which I read with my daughter. The characters’ names and gentle humour (terrific puns) poking fun at classic national stereotypes and sayings are delightful. Not surprisingly, I especially liked the edition where Asterix visits England, where typical English sayings (“jolly good idea”) are translated directly into French (“joyeuse bonne idée”).

Eventually – like most teenagers, moving into adulthood – I outgrew comics, first moving into Boy’s Own Paper and, then, into Mad and Cracked magazines, as the British era faded and the American one began to dominate my reading.