Friday Flashbacks: Your Friends in Comics
By Troy Brownfield
This one’s probably a little more autobiographical than I normally lean, but I think you’ll see the relevance. Let’s kick off with setting the Wayback machine for August of 1983 . . .
August 1983: I was about to turn ten on September 1st. Lucas Siegel was just over a year old. David Pepose was just a creeping fear that his mother had. Big TV included “Dallas”, “The A-Team”, “Magnum P.I.”, and “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” (it was a Top 20 show!). The biggest movie was “Return of the Jedi”, while the distant second was “Flashdance”; other hits were “Trading Places” and “Vacation”, though remarkably, the awful “Staying Alive” managed to be #8 for the year. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police edged out “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson as the number one song; other artists making noise were Culture Club, Duran Duran, Hall and Oates, David Bowie, Men at Work, Prince, Rick Springfield, and Human League, among others.
What I was doing . . .: In addition to being on the cusp of 10, I was starting a new school. I’d entered a kind of honors program and had left my regular school to go to a different one where the program was housed. A couple of people made the transition with me, including my friend Jason Kuckewich. Jason was into comics like “Conan the Barbarian”, and he was a pretty fair artist, too.
One interesting thing that I recall from that period of time is that it seemed liked most boys read some kind of comic. I knew a few girls that did as well, but there were generally a lot of kids that seemed to be reading “G.I. Joe” or “Spider-Man”. My tastes, as we’ve noted, drifted toward team books, and my favorite at the time was definitely “Uncanny X-Men”.
It turns out that several of the boys that wound up in that class were into comics, some more than others. Since we were coming from several different schools, the first few days were a kind of tentative “get to know you” period. I actually knew a couple of the guys from different local activities, but there were certainly people that I didn’t know. One guy was a brown-haired kid with glasses that I noticed drawing anthropomorphic cats as super-heroes during a particular art assignment. I asked him about that later. We began an animated discussion on comics that continued through music class, if I recall correctly. It turned out that he shared my favorite book, “Uncanny X-Men”. Unbelievably, he was into the “Legion of Super-Heroes”, too. That kids name was Shawn Delaney.
If you’re one of the half-dozen people that’s read my work since the early Shotgun days or one of those out there that knows me personally, then you know who Shawn is. In addition to being the founding webmaster of ShotgunReviews.com, Shawn’s been my lifelong best friend. Outside of my wife, nobody knows me better. We went through the rest of school together. We attended, for a time, the same college, until he transferred in a change of specialty. We were in bands together, and I managed other bands in which he played. He was the best man for my wedding, and I was his. We have a lot of things in common, but that first, foundational bond, was formed over a love of comics.
I’m sure that a lot of you can say the same thing. Within your fandom, you’ve met people. You’ve made friends. You may have even met your spouse. Long before there were electronic forms of social media, comics was the social media. The fans interacted with the creators. The fans promoted discussion. The fans interacted with other fans. And they often became friends.
When I think about my closest friends, from the obvious suspects here like Lucas and OJ (and Kevin and David and the rest that I’m too lazy to type) to my colleague Terry McCammon to Bill and Matt Brady and Scott Licina and many more, they’ve all had a similar love for, or connection to, comics. Granted, I’ve made friends from school and being involved in music or sharing the same floor in a dorm or any other number of reasons, but a common bond is a common bond. And quite frankly, if I were you, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Shawn Delaney show up around here one day, taking a break from his network administration powers in the Pacific Northwest to talk a little bit about something that we both still enjoy. I’ve always thought that my general discovery and involvement with comics has made my life better. Taking a longer look, I know that it’s not just the stories, but the people.
So I put it out there to you, today. What kinds of friendships and relationships have you built via your love for comics? Are there more than you realize at first glance? How long have you known them? Hell, who met their spouse/partner/etc. within this world? Talk about it, and that’s your Friday Flashback.