Friday, August 19, 2022

Insight: Recalling treasures of bygone days

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

A selection of comic books that Ed Pierce collected as a 
child growing up in the 1960s and still has today.

Tucked away in one of my closets is a colorful stack of cherished reminders of my youth and items I refuse to let go of for sentimental reasons.

Growing up in the 1960s, in exchange for helping my father with his household chores each week, he would often give my brother and I each 25 cents to spend any way we chose to. It wasn’t an allowance, he would say, rather it was compensation for performing necessary duties, like taking out the trash or raking leaves that had accumulated in the yard.

When I had saved up $3 from his generosity, an advertisement caught my eye, and I asked my father to help me spend my windfall on something I had never done before – purchase a subscription to a comic book. We carefully cut out an order form from the back of an old comic and he filled in the name and address for me.

He showed me how to address an envelope and we placed three $1 bills inside, along with the order form. I applied the postage stamp and put it in the mailbox the next morning,

About three weeks later, my mother informed me that I had received a piece of mail. It was a brown tube with a sticker on the outside that had my name and address on it and inside was the next month’s issue of “Adventure” comics. 

For a 10-year-old, it was exciting to receive any mail whatsoever and about mid-month I would eagerly await my next comic book. The covers were magnificently drawn, and each issue contained a complete story that held my interest to the very end.

The stories themselves were what captivated me the most. I always tried to figure out how the villains would be defeated, and world order restored through the intervention and heroism of the superheroes described in the comic books.

When I would go to the dentist or physician’s office, they would always have plenty of reading material for children such as Highlights magazine or funny comic books such as Little Lulu, Donald Duck, Casper the Friendly Ghost, or Archie. Every so often they would have comic books featuring Western stories such as The Lone Ranger, Kid Colt Outlaw, or Thunder, but to me, those stories weren’t as appealing as the ones that arrived at my house monthly by subscription.

I’d scour each Adventure comic from cover to cover and that would include reading the mailbag at the end of each issue and perusing all the advertisements, which were well worth the $3 subscription cost alone.

There would be ads for sea monkeys that grew mysteriously from a powder you could add to a bowl of water; joy buzzers that you could hold in your palm and shock your friends when you shook their hand; whoopee cushions that would emit a socially unacceptable sound when someone sat on them; boomerangs; x-ray spectacles that would allow you to see inside of sealed boxes or supposedly underneath clothing; a secret system described by Charles Atlas to build incredible muscles in just 10 days; or a special secret agent pen that could write messages with invisible ink. There were ads for a squirrel caller, a hypnotic whirling coin, or a self-contained ant farm. Nothing was priced more than $3.99 making them affordable for teenagers.

Most of my time reading comics though was spent on the stories themselves. I considered myself a “DC Comics” person, preferring Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and The Flash to the “Marvel” comics my brother liked, such as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Silver Surfer or the Fantastic Four.

I particularly enjoyed stories that evolved beyond the typical scope of DC Comics, such as when Dick Grayson, also known as Batman’s sidekick Robin, would join Superman’s pal, cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, and travel to the lost Kryptonian city of Kandor, which had been miniaturized by the evil villain Brainiac. Grayson and Olsen became superheroes themselves under the artificial red sun of Kandor and had adventures as crimefighters Nightwing and Flamebird.

My brother and I would take our comic books along on long car trips with our parents and sometimes we’d acquire more comics after visiting our relatives or friend’s homes. For the most part these were hand-me-down comic books no longer wanted by teens going off to college or the comics were in poor shape such as missing covers or having a page torn out.

The hand-me-down comic books were issues deemed not worthy of being collected. I typically ended up with unwanted editions of Sgt. Rock, Blackhawk, Green Arrow and Tales of the Unexpected.

Once my subscription ended about 1966, our family moved, and I didn’t renew my monthly Adventure issues. About that same time, I started buying Classic Illustrated comics as I was moving into junior high school. I thought reading those comic books would give me an advantage in seventh-grade English class where we were assigned novels such Ivanhoe and The Three Musketeers, which were adapted by Classic Illustrated.

My comic book days seem so far away now, but the stories and lessons I learned from them have stuck with me for a lifetime. <

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