Originally published March, 2007:
There are so many moments in our everyday lives. There are mundane moments, moments of contentment, moments where you wonder, “Shit, did I have dirt on the back of pants all day?” We don’t remember half of the everyday moments – the thoughts and images and people you run into in a lifetime. For everyone, though, there are a handful of defining moments in the mix. These are the moments where you arrive at a switch in the tracks and you choose, albeit consciously or not, to go in a certain direction. These are the moments that change our lives.
Last week I was thinking about putting this blog together and thinking about all of the things that I absolutely love. In the process I uncovered one of these moments. I was 13 years old and working in a comic book store. I fell into the job, not by choice, but by association. My Mom was managing the store for friends of the family as they recently had found themselves without any trusted employees. So there I was with my first job in a place that I knew absolutely nothing about surrounded by books and shirts and things that people were crazy about that I just couldn’t relate to. I was there in my New Kids on the Block loving/MC Hammer dancing glory (my early choices of fandom were obviously questionable). I was an awkward just-turned-teenage girl to the core. Seriously. We’re talking bad perm, Skidz, shirts purchased at Oaktree and these pointed leather shoes that resembled creepers but were bought at Merry Go Round with metal embelishments on the toe that could poke a hole right through the side of a comic book box. I went through my weekends trying to answer fanboy questions, my only real interest being in the cute young boys that continuously walked through the door. I collected comic books after I started, mind you – mostly Archie.
Soon it was the summer of 1990. I was beginning to understand the customers and the nuances of collecting (and that some people would always twitch and flinch when you handled their books regardless of how careful you were). I worked with the guy who would become my surrogate big brother, one of my best friends for 15 years now, and talked to him only in passing when I would get a break from working the register and he would get to come out of the backroom for some fresh air. I could recognize the major heroes in the Marvel Universe and knew the difference between Marvel, DC and small press books. The pump was primed for my big breakthrough.
One evening, I was working with the owner getting the books ready for the week. As I scanned the table a cover caught my eye.
“What’s this?” I asked as I picked up the book.
“Ah, you wouldn’t really like that,” he answered.
I flipped through the pages a bit, not really registering much. (Somewhere in the back of my subconscious a slight girl with short hair and a black t-shirt claiming “Someday I’m gonna love Joss Whedon” looked up from the book she was reading. “Is it time?!” she exclaimed. “Almost”, a distant voice echoed back.) I put it down and went about finishing the table so we could get home. This was June. By the end of the summer I picked up what I consider to be my first comic book – Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1. I bought one of each cover.
Around the same time, our schedules at the store started to shift. Instead of the owner being in on Saturdays my Mom took over. All of a sudden I was talking to the guy who worked in the backroom and we were all hanging out and having fun and I went back to the title I had picked up only a few months earlier. I devoured it. It was different and exciting – every issue was a new experience. I let go of the hip-hop music and the NKOTB comics. As I entered high school, I had bought my first “alternative” album (NIN-Pretty Hate Machine) and started to wear more black. I was never a goth or a punk but I did own a pair of black Chuck Taylor hightops. On many a Halloween I dressed all in black and wore an ankh around my neck. I was “the girl at the comic book store” and I learned to embrace it. I loved every minute of it.
My life today would be completely different if I that book hadn’t caught my eye. The writer has become my all-time favorite author. Some of his more recent works continue to help me shape my own belief systems and sense of self. The comic series has long since ended, with most of my other favorites in its wake. When that moment jumped out at me last week, though, I knew it would be the starting point for this blog. It’s the story of how I became a fangirl.
(By the way Neil, if you ever see this, thanks for helping me dream.)
And, as if you haven’t guessed – the book to end all books was the Sandman. Number 16 to be exact.
(Since it’s too late for me to dig out my originals I’m left posting this Essential Vertigo version of