Comic Book Friday!

Today mysteriously turned into Comic Book Friday!

I was running an errand in an unusual area, and remembered that this unusual area was also home to my city’s longest operating comic book shop – a place that’s been around for at least twenty years.

I decided to drop by. Maybe they’d still have Mortal Kombat rigged up in the back.

It’d changed a lot since my last visit, which, if I have it right, was more than ten years ago. The store seemed smaller and wasn’t as packed to the brim as it used to be, but I still felt that shockwave of nostalgia as I walked through the door.

As a kid, this was one of my many meccas. It’s where I used to buy back issues of Dazzler for fifty cents a pop, just to get at those glorious old classified ads. It’s where I spent at least ten afternoons buying pack after pack of Marvel Universe trading cards, praying for that elusive Silver Surfer hologram. Above all else, it’s the store that introduced me to The Infinity Gauntlet.

I was glad to see this big side room open for roleplaying games. That wasn’t there on my last visit. For all I know, the setup is just a temporary measure meant to feed into some big event, but in my happy fantasy world, guys and girls gather here once a week to roll weird dice and save weird kingdoms. I was never really one of those people, but I very easily could’ve been.

This is a pretty straight-played comic shop, free of the dusty bric-a-brac that makes so many other comic book shops feel like nerdy attics. Maybe that’s why their box of twenty-five cent Hershey’s bars stood out so much. Krackel, represent!

I fully expected to leave with nothing, but then I saw this. It’s Marvel’s Essential Warlock! 576 pages’ worth of old school Adam Warlock battling afro-era Magus. FUCK YES.

I mentioned The Infinity Gauntlet. That is and will always be my biggest comic book “thing.” I read that, and I read everything surrounding that. To the point where I get gleefully snooty whenever someone brings up The Infinity Gauntlet but has never read The Thanos Quest.

Those books were all made in the ‘90s, but the starring characters made their first big strikes decades prior – particularly during the ‘70s. Essential Warlock collects many of those early stories, and I am absolutely salivating at the thought of reading this book tonight. I have little doubt that I’ll get through all 576 pages by dawn. Then I’ll eat a grape and pretend I’m Drax on Gem Day.

Two people will get that. Still so worth it.

Surprisingly, Comic Book Friday did not end there. After leaving the comic shop, I had to stop at Dollar Tree to pick up some materials for a Top Secret Project™. There I noticed that Dollar Tree now sells V8, so today came with the great bonus of lots of salty tomato juice. And then I found this:

It’s one of those cheapo dollar store comic book packs, this time including two comics and a random trading card! It would’ve been a steal no matter which issues were stuffed inside, but look close and you’ll see that one of them was a major, mayyyyjor find.

Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1, from 1992! What are the odds that I would find THAT comic in a freakin’ Dollar Tree no more than twenty minutes after picking up Marvel’s Essential Warlock? There are big huge words for that sort of coincidence. Words with at least four syllables a pop. Since they’re also words I tend to misuse, I’ll leave them to your imagination.

As I tore open the bag, the familiar stink of “fresh comic book” made my privates do a jig. What a smell that is! Like milky cardboard mixed with stale glue. It’s much better than it sounds. Not at all like strawberries and cream, but just as good.

The second comic was some shit I’d never heard of before, so if “Saurians” was any good, I guess I’ve been outed as a comic book frontrunner.

I originally got Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1 on the day it came out, or at least close to it. It was required reading for Infinity Gauntlet fans, showing us a world where Adam Warlock was no longer God, but instead the den mother to a ragtag bunch of psychopaths who all lived with Mole Man.

I don’t know the general fan consensus on this series, but holy cow, it’s aged beautifully. Best ensemble cast of any comic book, ever. Even the 25,000+ that I’ve never read. I am that certain.

And hey, I remember this, too! The issue had an ad for the BMG music club, complete with that “tape a penny here” bullshit that somehow made subscribing that much more irresistible. Sadly, BMG shared Columbia House’s lax approach to identity checks, and so it is another company that would have every right to sue my ass if the statute of limitations hadn’t already caught fire.

Just to make Comic Book Friday even more perfect, that “random trading card” turned out to be one from the little-collected Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend series. Trust me, you cannot possibly get more random than this card.

Comic Book Friday was a smash success. I got a Warlock book, and then I got another Warlock book, and somewhere between those events, I got many cans of cheap V8. I even learned something on the drive. Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is like forty fucking minutes long.

Okay, this post ended up being too Warlock-centric for me to avoid including this. You may think of me as the great exaggerator, but I’ve never overstated my love for The Infinity Gauntlet.

Back in the early ‘90s, I was so obsessed with the lore that I’d often draw comic books that shamelessly ripped it off. Most famous was Cantaargo #1, a book “inspired” by The Infinity War.

I wrote and illustrated this masterpiece in 1993. Cantaargo (pretty obviously aping Magus) was an ancient demon trapped inside something called the “Cosmic Amulet.” After freeing himself, superheroes from across the universe must band together to thwart his plans. If you know anything about the comic books I was reading at the time, you know that Cantaargo paints me as a ratty hack.

Below are a select few pages. I can’t show you all of them, because I’ll seriously look like a lunatic. You’d think it’d be tough to sexualize a story about a madman laser-pointing at various superheroes, but there was Cantaargo, trying to bone my version of Mistress Death. If the cops ever call me in for questioning, Cantaargo #1 is the first thing I’m burning.

Summary: Cantaargo kills everyone except Gimlette Stellix, my go-to mega hero. (Essentially pro-wrestling’s Undertaker, but with no eyes, mouth or nose.) Gimlette manages to suck Cantaargo back into the Cosmic Amulet, and sets out to rebuild the universe with him as its god. I don’t think it occurred to me that I was so brashly copying the Infinity books, but man, I sucked.

I also misspelled “villain” on that last page. Arrrgh.

Happy Comic Book Friday!