Re-reading Eddie Campbell’s How To Be An Artist and After The Snooter recently — well, relatively recently — got me thinking about how surprisingly clear my memories are of formative comic buying experiences from my youth. For all that my memory is unreliable overall, which is to say, it’s a mess and in some cases almost entirely non-existent, there are certain experiences that I’ve internally mythologized to such a degree that it’s as if they happened last year, as opposed to three decades or more ago.
(I know, rationally, that this doesn’t mean that my memories are any more reliable, or even consistent; it’s almost guaranteed that what I think I’m remembering is actually more than slightly fictionalized or mis-remembered and just fueled by a sincere, misguided sense of belief and “realism.” Nonetheless, it feels real, and that’s what counts, deep down.)
When I was a kid, there was a store that my dad and I would go to every Sunday morning to buy newspapers and bread rolls; it was a weekly tradition, to go together to buy those things for that day’s lunch. The entire family would gather and eat sandwiches and read newspapers together, each of us grabbing one of a stack of papers — for some reason, on Sunday, we got five or six different papers — while the television played behind us, no-one really paying attention. The store was called “The Tuck Shop,” and I loved it not for the bread rolls or the newspapers, but because every month, they’d get a literal stack of DC comics for me to choose from, all available for relatively cheap. Before too long, I’d convince my dad to let me get one each week alongside the papers and the rolls.
When I say “a stack,” I mean that, each month, the store would get an entire month’s worth of DC releases, or thereabouts, all at once. They’d be dead stock from somewhere else, three months behind release in comic book stores, but I didn’t care. For 30 pence, I could pick up issues of Superman or Batman or Justice League of America or whatever; at times, I’d save up my own money and go in and just buy four or five at a time. I was in heaven.
I said it was “an entire month’s worth” of releases; that’s not entirely true, because the selection was unreliable and almost certainly missing at least two or three titles randomly every single time. There would always be the “big” books, but more obscure favorites would come and go without rhyme or reason, resulting in a frustratingly incomplete collection for the me I was at the time. I didn’t really care, though, because the lure of the Tuck Shop remained impossible to resist.
Sometimes I think about that shop, and how central it was not just to my weeks at the time, but to who I ended up becoming. Without the Tuck Shop, I’m not sure my comic fandom would have turned out the way it did. Without those weekly visits, without the excitement of having a literal pile of comics to pick through and find new favorites, would I be the person I am with the job I have today?