By The Groovy Agent
I can't remember a time when I wasn't getting comic books. Not a lot early on, but here and there, and by the time I was 6, I had a couple shoe boxes full of them. A few Batmans here, a couple Archies there, an occasional Spider-Man, JLA, Iron Man, or even Richie Rich. Just random stuff picked up on various whims. One spring day in 1971, when I was in the second grade, that all changed.
Several of my friends and I had taken to trading comics at recess. One of them had a copy of Avengers #88. Now I had a couple of Avengers comics and thought they were cool, but this one looked extra cool. I didn't know a thing about Harlan Ellison, Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, or Jim Mooney at the time, but I did know that the Avengers crashing into an ugly evil-alien's lair to save a swiftly shrinking Incredible Hulk made -- dare I say it -- my pulse pound. Yea and verily it did! So I went into as full-on trading mode as my 7 year-old self could. I was willing to trade anything (a-ny-thing) to get that copy of Avengers #88.
I wound up talking my friend into trading me his Avengers #88 for my copy of Amazing Adventures #7 (featuring the Inhumans and Black Widow--yeah, Inhumans with Neal Adams art). My friend already had a copy of AA #7, but somehow I managed to convince him to trade me. My mind is blurry as to the details, but I think it had something to do with another friend (who wasn't with us at the time) needing that ish and he'd probably trade this friend for something cool -- or some sort of scheme. I wasn't really a schemer, but, baby, that day I was!
Flash forward a few weeks. School was out. A bunch of neighborhood kids had come to my house to trade comics. We spread our wares out on my back porch and started dickering. It was like a miniature auction house, or even a junior stock market floor. Kids pairing up, trading, pairing up with someone else, trading...we were having a blast. One of the kids had a coverless copy of Captain America Special #1. The origin of Cap and Bucky along with some more cool-looking WWII stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Again, my young pulse was set to pounding (no wonder I developed high blood pressure at an early age!). I was willing to trade most anything to get my hands on that Cap Special! Since the special was double-sized, that meant I'd have to trade two comics--unless my trading partner had something he was willing to trade for one-to-one. What would nab my trading partner's eye? My copy of Avengers #88.
I did not want to part with my Avengers #88.
Nope, not even for the origin of Cap by Lee and Kirby. This is what I get for trading with older kids: he promised to trade me back the next week. I was a sucker. I traded. A week came and went, no sign of the kid. Another few days, I saw him riding his bike and flagged him down. "No trade-backs!" he hollered as he coasted by.
Comic book fans wouldn't lie, would they? I was heartbroken. (I often imagined that older kid went on to start his own over-priced, short-lived comics shop in the '80s and had to sell that copy of Avengers #88 on the cheap before filing bankruptcy. That would be the greatest revenge, mwhahaha! Ahem. Sorry.)
Later that summer my family visited my dad's family for a week. My youngest uncles and aunts always had lots of comics and would always trade me. Would you believe it? One of my uncles had Avengers #88! I told him I'd trade him every comic I had to get that comic (okay, except for Incredible Hulk #140, since it was the rest of the story). He just gave it to me. Just like that. "Ah, you can have it. I already read it." He's still my favorite uncle. Well, one of 'em.
I learned something the day my uncle gave me his copy of Avengers #88. There were two kinds of people who bought comic books. Readers and fans. My uncle was a reader. I was a fan. It wasn't long before I found copies of Avengers #86-87, then #89-91. Suddenly, I was buying Avengers off the spinner-rack month after month missing only two issues (#109, which eluded me for years and #136 which re-printed Amazing Adventures (!) #12 (which I already had).
I still have that copy of Avengers #88. And I still buy the Avengers (well a couple of their millions of titles). I probably always will. Once a fan, always a fan, huh?
Read more of the The Groovy Agent on his long-standing blog, Diversions of the Groovy Kind.