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To boldly go where nostalgia begins

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

Disneyland may be the happiest place on Earth, but I’d make a case for Sequim being the most nostalgic.

 

We have a number of thrift stores and antique shops, historical sites, an “oldies” radio station, ongoing traditions and festivals, and a population that loves to reflect on the better days.

 

To me, memory lane is thoughts of 1980s cartoon shows, Mr. T cereal, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas — and comic books, which remain an outlet for me nearly 30 years later.

 

I’m sure many readers have laughed at Jughead’s burger-eating ways in “Archie,” or seen Batman fight the Joker in a comic at least once in their lives.

 

Most comic book connoisseurs can tell you their first comic book. I still own mine — “Captain America” No. 323 — with a tattered front, torn edges and purple crayon and black ink scribbled on Marvel Comics’ patriotic hero’s teeth.

 

It’s a comic many moms would throw out, but this comic survived Nash family purges of junk and unwanted G.I. Joe’s melted with a magnifying glass. I love this comic and find it to be a sturdy bridge to my younger days. No. 323 is framed and sits near my computer.

 

Like you, I want to be reminded of the big fish caught in Florida, going down Splash Mountain with family, and/or baby’s first steps.

 

Comics take me to a place of peace and I have boxes stacked high in my house. There are thousands, maybe millions of adventures, ideas and wonderful pieces of art in them. Saying I’m passionate about the medium is obvious, but I’m not alone. People love pop culture and comics especially.

 

I recently attended the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle where hundreds of comic writers and artists network, sell art, announce new projects and humor thousands of geeks like me. It was one of the greatest days of the year so far.

 

People love escapism. This held true through the weekend as attendees dressed as Spider-Man, Superman, Vulcans, robots and obscure characters appeared in things you wouldn’t dare wear anywhere else.

 

A group of teens from the Seattle area, dressed as characters from the recent “Scott Pilgrim” series and movie, told me they changed their costumes several times over the three-day event. They stood in the lobby with a number of other characters waiting for photo ops.

 

Another group of friends from Bellingham, dressed as “Star Trek” characters, said they aren’t particularly comic fans but enjoy dressing up and getting their photos taken.  

 

Some outfits are common, especially Jedi robes — with lightsabers — from the “Star Wars” franchise.

One Seattle group, the 501st Legion, Garrison Titan, partners up to do photo ops for fans, such as Darth Vader doing the force-grip choke — jokingly, of course — to support local charities.

 

Bottom line, the geek community is vast and covers nearly every niche and series. The Internet bridges this gap to bring fans of the incredibly obscure together. Events like Comic Con are a celebration and the environment is inspiring.

Reading between the panels

The comic book, funny book or — to the trendy reader — graphic novel medium has been relevant for a century in the U.S. and continues to make a mark in movie theaters, stage productions and TV shows.

The blatant commercialism of my youth continues today, with every basic household item imaginable available with a Spider-Man logo. Vibrating spider toothbrush, anyone?

 

Superhero comics have been best-sellers in the medium for more than 40 years, despite a time after World War II when horror, romance, western and sci-fi comics were all the rage.

 

More recently, some other great non-superhero comics have crossed over to a larger audience through film and TV such as “The Walking Dead,” “The Road to Perdition,” with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, “Ghost World,” “Persepolis,” “Sin City,” “A History of Violence,” “Men in Black” and several more in production or available on DVD and VHS.

 

Comics as a whole have gone from being available for a penny at the drugstore to $4 for 22 pages available only online or at niche stores. The industry has fluctuated several times — from selling millions of copies in the 1990s to the top-selling comic barely scratching six-figure sales.

 

Despite trends pointing to digital distribution, the graphic novel and Japanese manga market continues to grow and broaden. Readers like the collected books over the monthly series because of look, cost and time.  

 

On the peninsula, a few bookstores sell graphic novels and the North Olympic Peninsula Library system has created special graphic novel sections for children, young adults and adults. An array of topics is available, ranging from war to sports to current events to biographies to environmentalism to romance.

 

Taking a plunge into a supposedly juvenile medium might deter some. People sometimes are afraid to explore past loves because the charm might be gone. We often remember things differently as adults than as children.

 

I’d make the case that there’s a comic for anyone. It’s a matter of exploring the genre.

 

A common plug for comics is that they are a half-medium between books and TV. We get the best of both worlds. Comics also can appeal to struggling younger readers who might be more visual learners.

 

So, at the minimum, I’d recommend people visit the library or search www.nols.org for “comic books.”

 

There’s no catch here or funny hook to add. Comics are another kind of book and I recommend you read a good book. Comics made a great impact on my ability to read and create. My first comic was a treat on a family vacation from the Circle-K convenience store after visiting an Oregon wax museum. Something so small helps me realize that my childhood was fantastic and comics still bring me someplace fantastical.

 


Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

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