or What I Learned When Superman Died
Do you remember where you were when Superman died? I’ve never been a serious reader of any of the Superman titles, but his death marked an important moment for me and my relationship with comic books. The year was 1992 and I was in my second year of college. I had been a pretty serious reader of comic books for several years, but by the fall of ‘92 I had cut down the number of titles I was reading for a couple of reasons. One reason was due to a lack of money needed to keep reading all the titles I wanted to follow (the rising cost of comic books is worthy of its own post). The other was due to feeling a bit self-conscious about reading comic books. The college crowd I was associating with tended to look down on anything that wasn’t ‘serious’ literature. I allowed their opinions to give me cause to doubt the relevance and value of comic books.
That changed while I was browsing the back issues at All American Comic Shop way back in 1992. Superman was dead. For a brief moment comic books were in the mainstream media, and some people saw the death of a superhero as a way to make a buck or two. While I was looking through some old issues and talking with the clerk, Kevin, a couple of people came in and asked if he had the issue where Superman dies? Kevin sold each of them the issue and they went on their way. I asked Kevin if they knew that the issue they bought was just one part of a larger story arc involving the death of Superman. Kevin shrugged his shoulders and said they, and a whole bunch of people before them, weren’t interested in the story. They just bought the issue thinking that it would be valuable someday. Kevin and I got to talking about the types of people who bought comics. He said that some people were primarily investors, not concerned with story as much as resale value. Other people were fans, more concerned with the value of the story being told than how much the issue would be worth in five years. We wrapped up the conversation by exchanging what we felt were some of the most important story arcs in comic book history and how they compared to the death of Superman.
After I read the books I bought that day I got to thinking about those people I associated with who didn’t think comic books were ‘serious’ literature. Those investors I saw at All American Comics shared something in common with my college associates. Both viewed literature as an investment of sorts. One looked to make a quick buck and the other looked cash in on some sort of intellectual superiority. Unfortunately the latter made this decision without thinking about the relevance and impact comic books have had on our culture. What was worse is that I allowed their opinions to influence me. I resolved that day to not let anybody give me cause to question what I read, and I’ve held true to that resolution for over fifteen years. Now if only could just do something about the cost of comics.