Ahhh. The smell of comic book newsprint in the morning. My earliest comic book memories are of Kamandi (The Last Boy On Earth), Defenders, The Witching Hour, The Haunted Tank and my all-time favorite, Richie Rich. There was a bus station in Athens, Ohio that had a comic book stand and there was a newsstand in Hanover, New Hampshire where I would get a hold of these titles. Those places of magic exist now only in my mental archives. They shall remain a lost wonder of the world to inspire my thoughts in this adult age of my existence.

Then came the Tintin books, starting with Red Rackham’s Treasure. That wrapped Christmas present started a revolution in my psyche that has remained with me to this day. The ripples are still being felt and absorbed by my brain. Back then, I started drawing them to learn how to make my own comics. That’s really where I found out what the power of comic books to tell a story could be. I wanted to be Tintin, and in my crude comic books I was, or he was my sidekick and his adventures were really my adventures.

It would be many years still before words like “trade paperback” and “sequential art” would enter my personal space. Even as I struggled to copy Tintin’s distinctive tuft of hair, amazing work was being done in the field that I wouldn’t find out about until much later on down the line. People like Crumb doing underground comics, people like Eisner doing mainstream comics. It boggles my mind to think of the titanic work on culture and civilization that was being done at the time.

My dedicated comic collection phase came after a trip to Austin, Texas. I picked up issue #182 of The Uncanny X-Men. The one where Rogue switches personalities to Carol Danvers and goes after S.H.I.E.L.D. to rescue an old lover of Carol’s. The art and the story were top-notch. My cousin had collected X-Men and I’d read a few, but this is where it connected and I was hooked. From then on, I’d begin my collection phase, which is a whole story in and of itself. The Uncanny X-Men lead the way, and it’s still a huge influence on me as to what superhero groups should be about.

I outgrew my comic book collection phase. Too expensive to maintain a subscription box. Too many titles to keep track of. A decline in quality by mainstream titles from Marvel and DC. I’ve entered a state of mind where I expect a certain level of maturity and deeply moving story that I just don’t get these days. I refuse to put up with never-ending storylines and lack of continuity any more. I’ve also grown tired of the mindless sexism and racism of mainstream comics. You could say I’ve entered the treasure hunt era for comics, with an emphasis on graphic novels, or “trade paperbacks” that resolve what they put forward.

K gave me the hook-up. The three Courtney Crumrin books by Ted Naifeh, published by Oni Press. The artwork turned me off at first. Just because I’m looking for new and different, doesn’t mean I can handle it off the bat! But it’s grown on me, and the story of young Courtney learning the ways of magic in her warlock uncle’s mansion, while dealing with everyday growing up issues, has moved me. I’m blown away, and never get tired of reading it. This is what gets me up in the morning, the Richie Rich at the dawn of time to the Courtney Crumrin of today. I’m looking at the monolith.