Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tales of The Bad Comic Shop: The King Of The Silver Age

Here is a story about Alvin, who collected rare silver age DCs and wanted to break into comics.

I hung out with Alvin when I was a teenager. He was at least ten years older than me, but I guess mentally we related to each other.

Alvin compulsively collected silver age DC comics. Oh sure, he had his eye on the jewels of any silver age collection -- first appearance of the JLA, first appearance of The Flash. But, he was not a snob about it. He dutifully filled out long, dogeared runs on Doom Patrol and Adventure Comics. When he upgraded, he gave me the doubles. It was awesome.

Alvin would walk in to the Bad Comic Shop in which I worked with an air of an entrepreneur. He always made my boss go up on the ladder to take down the expensive comics from the case. Alvin would then pick this Green Lantern or that Adventure Comics and say, "here's 5 bucks -- put it on the side for me." This pile of comics, reserved for Alvin with a stack of $1 and $5 bills paperclipped to them, began to grow.

"Alvin, when you're gonna pay for these books?" my boss would ask every time my friend came in.

"Just hold them for me! I've got money coming in soon!"

Like many of my adult friends and associates at that time, I had no idea what Alvin actually did for a living. I just knew that Alvin's biggest goal was to become a professional comic book writer.

Alvin knew people in Comics. He told me stories of being friends with X, Y, and Z -- names that, if I told you, would be quite familiar to all of you. Alvin apparently worked these contacts hard, until one day an editor gave him a small assignment.

But, that was the only assignment he ever got.

In the meantime, he always had his job as an assistant on a political campaign. One night he asked me to out driving with him so I could help him rip down the opponent's posters. When I refused, he said that this was the way all campaigns were run, behind the scenes. That there was nothing personal in ripping down the posters; and, besides, the opponent was a bad person anyway.

When I refused to assist him in this endeavor, he took it really personally. We had a fight, and I never spoke to him again. It was probably for the best; a week before, I had found out that he told his mother we were "steady," when we weren't even dating. Never mind that I was 17 and he was staring down the barrel of 30. His mom was ecstatic at the news, by the way.

The years passed, and I lost touch with him. Eventually, I started work in the comic book industry. Nearly eleven years after the last time I saw Alvin, a mutual acquaintance mentioned that he had spoken to him. Alvin told him that he knew all about my job in comics.

Further, Alvin said that the reason he never got a job in the industry again was because of me; because I "bad-mouthed" him in the biz.

Mind you, I had barely thought about Alvin in years, much less talked about him to others. He was simply not on my radar.

And yet I was apparently on Alvin's radar. And he believed that the reason he was not a big name in comics was because of me. It was my fault.

It was not his fault -- perhaps a defect in character, or not a good enough writer, or simply not at the right place at the right time.

It was because -- he imagined -- I set out on a campaign to ruin him in comics.

And this was not the last time I heard this story from people who knew Alvin; Alvin was happy to tell it to anybody that would listen; at the video store counter, at a party. In fact, he apparently tells this story to this very day -- 18 years since the last time I saw him.

For some reason, whenever I think of Alvin, I always think of this:

In a comic shop that was not the Bad Comic shop, in this very very old comic shop that I think is still around, there might be this old brown paper bag with a selection of 1970s Marvels in it. Attached to the bag with a paperclip are the three dollars I put down, with the promise that I would be back to redeem the books. I went with Alvin to that shop, and he convinced me to put down the money.

I'm sure it's a long shot, but if I went into that ancient comic book store today, I swear to God that bag of old comics would still be there. Seething.

Image from Satan's Laundromat


  1. Anyone else can pretty much sum it up better than me when it comes to Alvin and so I shall not speak to that point on his conspiracy theory about you.

    However, I will point out how bloody angry I am that he's proud, PROUD to be one of the people who rips off political posters and signs. I hate those jackasses. Sure, as a conservative I dislike signs that compare Bush to Hitler or talk about how the Iraq War is the most horrible event in the full and complete history of the world, but it's just a high level of jackassery to go out onto someone else's property and defame or rip off their signs. Glad to see you didn't participate in it, Val!

  2. Well of course you spent the last 18 years sabotaging this fellow's career. That's the way all campaigns are run, behind the scenes.

  3. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Regarding Alvin's mom...

    As a teacher, I continually find it borderline-shocking how willingly naive people are in this society, and how they are willing to pass this on to kids. At 17, there's an argument to be made that you were innocent enough to not ascribe boy-motivations to Alvin. That said...

    Teenage girls need to be told several thousand times that boys don't want to BE your "friend". I do so in my professional role just because I want them to be safe (physically and emotionally), but girls just generally don't want to believe that. I get an argument every time and then a month or so later...suddenly I'm like The Oracle at Delphi or something because the guy finally screwed up the courage to ask the girl out, not understanding that there is no escape from the dreaded FRIEND ZONE.

    (That's another thing that I have to explain...the Friend Zone. Even though I still fall victim to it as well.*^_^*)

    Now, this Alvin cat was some kind of crazy perv, this is true. I'd imagine that you met him before you were 17, but even if you weren't...eww. I mean, for one thing, that's not cool. For another...teenage girls are GROSS. I don't mean the concept, I mean that if you spend any time at a high school (or, god forbid, go on a field trip) you learn that teenage girls are burp/fart/snot/slobber machines the likes of which boys only dare DREAM of being.

    Thankfully, most of you seem to grow out of it by your mid-20s... ^_^

  4. Anonymous11:48 AM

    Sadly, I know about 5 "Alvin's". Most of them came into my life from my time as a comic retailer. You occasionally hear someone mention them in a conversation. Then someone drops the bomb on you that an "Alvin" has slandered you in some way for a transgression you were unaware even existed.
    The great thing about my "Alvin's" is that I occasionally run into them. I still live in the same general area. My parents still live in the town I grew up in. So once every 2-3 years I bump into one of them.
    For some reason, no matter how much they seem to hate me, they still act like I am such a pal when they see me. I bet your Alvin would too.

  5. Rotsman's comments are right on! FRIEND ZONE. It sounds like the place Lana Lang would be bansihed.

  6. for the record...
    that really is how political campaigns are run and it's nothing personal. I've done a lot of sign ripping down myself.

    yes, this is right on point with what you were talking about, I know. I know. I'm really helping to focus on the key issues.