Today, you can buy a small fry or cheeseburger on most fast food chain’s drive-thru menu with a dollar. We have stores devoted to the dollar. Stores with aisles filled mostly of useless items, begging for us to buy and put on a shelf somewhere in our house to collect dust. While there are lots of things a dollar will still buy you, the value of those items don’t always match the bargain their price tag was.
This wasn’t always the case. At one time, a dollar packed quite a value. For me, as a kid, a $1 was priceless. Because as a kid, $1 could buy me a comic book.
I have been a fanboy, or geek, or dork, or any other name commonly attached to comic book fans for as long as I can remember. I’ve owned and worn Underoo’s. I’ve made my very own Mjolnir out of a tissue box, duct tape, and a plastic sheath to a plastic toy sword. In 5th grade I wrote a paper on Captain America for our ‘Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up’ assignment. I could rattle off my favorite issues to each character and love a good debate on who is the “best” hero.
One of the past times I enjoyed as a kid (when girls still had cooties), was going to Golden Eagle Comics at the Fairgrounds Square Mall with my Dad. Once a month, twice if I were lucky, my Dad would drive me to the mall to Golden Eagle. Golden Eagle was my Holy Land. A comic book store filled with my favorite characters and a center island of long boxes arranged in a tight square, stuffed snuggly with one dollar back issues of the classics (Amazing Spiderman, Detective Comics, World’s Finest, Fantastic Four, Invincible Iron Man). One dollar comic books whose value far outweighed their price tag.
Friday night, after dinner, my Dad and I would jump in to his car (I jumped, I think he just got in) and ride over to the mall. I would talk to him about issues I was going to be searching for, why I thought Batman didn’t need powers to be considered a superhero, and why Alpha Flight was awesome. I don’t know if he cared. I don’t know if he even knew what I was talking about. What I did know was he listened which stoked the fire of my enthusiasm.
Getting to the mall, he would release me in to Golden Eagle to dive in to the thousands of bagged comics and back issues. All of which cost just one dollar a piece. My Dad would stand outside the store and wait. The man had the patience of a sea turtle on Quaaludes. I would glance over at him from time to time to see if he had had enough. He never did. Sometimes I would even call him over to the front of the store, where it met the rest of the mall, to ask his opinion on which comics I should spend my money on. I looked for his approval. I craved his input and felt good knowing he was close enough to call for help.
On the way home, I would go through each dollar comic I bought and go on about why it was so valuable. Why, for costing only a dollar, it was a good deal. I would read parts of the story to my Dad as he drove then summarize what I read. I don’t know if he cared. I don’t know if he even knew what I was talking about. What I did know was he was still listening. He always listened. He was always engaged in what I was saying which only added to the entire experience.
Today I could go through the thousands of comics I have in boxes occupying my basement and identify the books I bought with my dad. I could tell you about Iron Man #165, or Alpha Flight #12, Batman #408, and the Avengers #231. I could tell you about hundreds of other books that all were collected with my Dad by my side. Every now and again, I do pull out those issues. I read some. I page through others. Sometimes I just look at the front covers but I value them all.
At the time, I valued those comic books in the dollar boxes for the reasons any pre-pubescent fanboy would value his comic books. But looking at them today, I value them for a different reason. Reasons stemming not from being a fanboy, or a geek, or a dork but from being a son who misses his Dad. Each and every comic I pull from the boxes in my basement, comics I bought with a dollar as he stood in the mall waiting, are a reminder of Friday nights with my Dad. They bring back the memories and feelings that, at the time they happened, only cost me a dollar but today are priceless.