By Christina Williams
The garage in my childhood house was dark and somewhat dusty, at least that’s how it I remember it.
As a kid, I hated going there for anything other than to get into the car. But one day it was decided that it had to be organized. It was the tail end of the 1970s, my aunt who lived with my family spearheaded the occasion. Being nine or ten at the time, I was recruited to help her get into the hard to reach areas.
I still remember opening one of the boxes off by the wall and peering in. Most of what I saw seemed like useless desk junk, but tucked along the side were some comics. At that age I hadn’t read too many comics, just a couple issues of "Casper" and "Ritchie Rich" that my aunt had bought for me from a store called GET. The ones I discovered that day looked decidedly different; with curiosity I pulled one out and read the title: “Betty and Veronica."
The honest truth is that I can’t remember what really happened after I pulled them out of the box. I want to say I continued to help my aunt sort through the boxes but I wouldn’t be surprised if in actuality I took the stack of comic books and holed myself in my room. What I do know is that “Betty and Veronica” opened up a whole new world of comic books to me. The two main characters were female! They loved and hated one another and defined “frenemy” before it was even coined. They were older, chic, and most importantly they were socially cool.
7-11 was only a mere two blocks from my house. On the weekends and during school vacations I would ride my bike around the neighborhood with the other kids on my block and we’d comb the streets for fallen change. I’d ride down to the mini mart, peruse the comic section and purchased one or two issues with the money I had found. Combined with my meager allowance, I usually had enough to buy a couple of Jolly Ranchers, too. I’d pedal back, curl myself up somewhere and read. I would absorb each image and every word. I felt like I knew Betty and Veronica; I had my favorite, Betty. I wanted so desperately to like Veronica because she was a brunette, like me, but I just couldn’t connect with her. I thought she was a spoiled, boy crazy (ick!) brat. Betty on the other hand was sweet, and came from a humbler background -- someone I could relate to.
I read with abandon but I didn’t collect. In fact, I hadn’t even known of such a practice.
That summer my cousin flew out to spend a week with my family. He was my annual summer week-long younger brother. He read a lot of comics, and enlightened me about the art of collecting. He explained how one was for reading, and the other was for his “Collection," which he slipped into a plastic sleeve and stowed in the recess of his closet.
“Crazy.” I said. “Why would you buy a comic if you can’t even open it and fold the cover?”
We debated the merits and drawbacks of having a comic you would never crack open, and about spending hard earned money to buy two copies of one issue rather than getting two different comic books. It just didn’t make sense to me. Why have a copy that I wasn’t supposed to touch?
I continued reading “Betty and Veronica” for another year and then stopped altogether. A few years after my hiatus I got seriously sucked back into reading comics with the introduction of “Calvin and Hobbes” and again, my interest in it waned. But it has never truly left me. As a teacher now, I use comic books in class. And though I rarely read comics or graphic novels for pleasure, every once in a while something piques my interest and I get sucked into reading those word bubbles again.
My daughter turned eight recently. Perhaps it’s time to jump-start the cycle once more, introduce her to the world of comics, and see where she goes with it.
Christina Williams isn't a writer, or a comic collector. She is, however, a mother, wife, daughter, friend, teacher, and artist who geeks out over typography and fish tacos. She contributed in hopes of encouraging other females to share as well.