The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:
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So, I found this while researching the following.
Researching. So pompous. I was checking an issue number. For a comic book. This is not research.
And it turns out that I was one off. How embarrassing.
For a long time, my father worked for the Los Angeles Times, both in LA and in my native Orange County. He specialized in crime reporting, which was an unpopular subject in that part of the world. Mostly because folks didn’t want to think about it and his editors really didn’t believe that it needed to be covered, but he covered it nonetheless. I seem to have inherited his stubborn streak, which he made manifest on a number of occasions when it came to reporting.
As a result of his area of expertise, he was exposed to some interesting sides of the community and spent time in parts of the county that really didn’t get much attention from lots of other folks. For instance, I learned early the joys of the carnecería on 15th Street in Santa Ana (he covered immigration as well as crime, which led him to the border and points south). I also was introduced to Vietnamese food at restaurants in Garden Grove, ones he learned about while researching gangs in the community.
You’re waiting for the comics content, I can tell. Be patient. It’s just around the corner.
It’s 1981. My family is out to dinner at one of the many Vietnamese restaurants that my father knows. Coincidentally enough, it’s next door to Brookhurst Comics (which may or may not exist at this point, though I’m fairly sure it’s gone now) and I’m able to excuse my thirteen year old self long enough to sneak next door and pick up some comics.
You have to understand, this is in the days when specialty comics stores simply didn’t exist unless you were in a big city (or a sprawling suburb). You got your comics at the 7-11 or the grocery store out of a spinner rack or a haphazardly assembled set of shelves. They had what they had. Sometimes they missed a month, and sometimes the comics were mangled. If you were smart, you got there the day they were put out.
But a specialty comics store, where all the books were displayed face-out and kept in neat stacks? That was an amazing thing. I’d been to Brookhurst Comics once before (I might even be remembering the name wrong, now that I think about it), the summer previously, where I paid the princely sum of five dollars for a copy of Uncanny X-Men #137. Five dollars may as well have been fifty, but I managed to scrape it together so that I could have a copy of the story that had shocked so many readers.
These days, it’d be another comic store, probably not a great one. It was a little on the dingy side and the guy behind the counter was more stereotypical than not, gruff and warily watching you was you pawed through the back issue bins. But back then, it was the comic book promised land. They had comics I’d never even seen or heard of before (you know, ones made by people other than Marvel or DC). They had back issues from years before I was born. When an old comic meant finding something from three months ago, it was like getting a glimpse of ancient history.
So that night, I only bought three comics, and one of them wasn’t actually a comic. It was a fan publication called The X-Men Chronicles, though they did manage to get a Dave Cockrum cover for it, so they were connected at least.
I also picked up the reprint of the Claremont/Byrne/Austin Star Lord, which I got based on my love of Byrne’s art more than anything else (I know, not necessarily a popular view to hold today,) I rather liked it, though looking back on it, it was really nothing special, other than being a well-executed space opera (and I wondered why there weren’t more comics like it.)
But the real winner, the one that stuck with me from that night was Fantastic Four #240. It’s the story called “Exodus”, which found the Inhumans literally moving the city of Attilan from the Earth to the Moon (the Blue Area, where Jean Grey killed herself, y’know?). I was just blown away by the audacity of the whole thing. Here’s a bunch of misfits getting together and using their unique abilities to do this immense, impossible task.
And that cover. Even if I hadn’t been regularly reading Fantastic Four since John Byrne had taken over, I’d have picked up that comic. There’s Black Bolt lifting and guiding the city out of the grasp of Earth’s gravity. Right there.
There’s the awesome moment where Black Bolt literally lifts the weight of a city with a single syllable. Here’s a man burdened with tremendous, unthinkable power, perpetually silent out of sheer force of will, for to do otherwise would destroy anyone in the range of his voice. Even a whisper.
Just wow. I knew nothing of the back history before then, but Byrne had been able to convey the sense of it. I was enthralled. And here was one time that this curse could be turned around and used as a gift in this crazy, insane undertaking. Moving a city to the moon. Nuts.
Having absorbed the gist of it in the store, I paid the baleful comic shop owner behind the counter and left, to enjoy a meal that was both sweet and hot and unexpected while my brain was still wandering the dark side of the moon.
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