Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Traffickers of Wistful Afternoons

“There are people who carry calm in the folds of their sweaters. People who
breathe deep while others drown. Margaret was one of those people and you knew
it right away. One day, I’d be asked to call her “Peg." All her friends do.

Standing in the farthest corner of my store, between Modern
Classics and A-Z, Margaret opened her heart. She told me about Aaron. How he
grew up in her living room. How her daughter worked two jobs and how her
son-in-law was hardly home, then not at all. It was hard, she said, but they
were happy together and made a family of it. She and Aaron did everything
together. They took long walks every day. She taught him difficult words and he
told her how he dreamed of flying.”

- excerpt from “Connections” by Jud Meyers, Columnist, ReTales,

I read this well written article a few days back and I have to say that it really left an impression on me. It made me think of how I got into reading comic books all those years ago. While it was not as heart tugging as the one described in the article, my relationship with comic books started as a means to keep me occupied on long train journeys between where we lived and where my late grandmother lived in KL. I think it was a 4 or 5 hours journey back then so I usually get around 3 or 4 old comic books to read each way. Back then they used to sell old copies of overstock comic books at the railway station news vendor and my dad would get me some from there. I don’t think they cost that much since they were usually the second hand comic books resold to the news vendors in bulk. Looking back, I wished that I had kept the ones my father bought during this period as they might be quite pricy nowadays to obtain but like many things from my childhood, I had to pass them down to my younger siblings as I grew older.

For nearly half of the 25 years that I have been collecting comic books, I’ve always got my comics from the neighborhood news vendors. Direct store specializing on selling comic books was unheard of outside of KL. I remember walking to the news vendor opposite the bus station in Kota Bahru every week to check if they had any new comic books to buy. I would usually have saved up all of my allowance, which was not that much, and buy as many second hand comic books that I could afford. I didn’t really mind it that some of it were not in the best quality as long as I could get my 10 year old hands on it to read. Once in a while, I get myself a treat buy buying a new copy of a comic book. Those were rare occasions when I get extra money for either Hari Raya or my birthday. I tried to look for that old shop the last time I was in Kota Bahru but the town has changed so much since then that I could no longer recognize it.

After the family moved back to KL, I continued to get my comic books from news vendors. I remember going to the ones at Ampang Park and Central Market to look for new comic books. By that time, my weekly allowance was already increased to the point that I could afford buying new comic books instead of only the second hand ones. In spite of that, the best times that I remember back then was the afternoons that I spend in their comic book bargain bins looking for old copies of the series that I was reading at the time. By this time I was already a seasoned collector looking for better quality comic books to buy, read and add to my growing collection.

It was after The Mind Shop open a branch at KL Plaza when I first got a taste of the comic specialty shop. I remember reading about it opening in the Star newspaper and going to find the location a few weeks before it opened. It was my first trip to KL Plaza alone and I distinctly remembered seeing the half finished shelves and the promotional posters on the door of the unfinished shop when I got there. The Mind Shop already had a branch in PJ at the time but it was too out of the way for me to go to. I waited instead for the KL Plaza branch to open and I got my membership card to the store the moment I had money to go and shop for comics there. They changed their location several times before I left to continue my studies in the US but I stayed with them throughout those years.

While I was in the US, the main comic book shop that I went to was Capital City Comics at Monroe St in Madison. It was my first introduction to a more sophisticated comic book culture and an experience which was very much different from the one I had back home. Not only did I get to fill up gaps in my collection from their selection of back issues but I also got to connect with like minded collectors who were similarly passionate about their comic books. I remember walking to the store after class every week to check out the new shipment of comic books. Through rain, shine and snow, the trek up from my apartment several blocks away to Capital City Comics was always one of the highlight of my week that I look forward to most.

I’ve been back to The Mind Shop ever since I came back after I graduated. They are now operating at Damansara Centerpoint and you would invariably be able to find me there around the end of the month to pickup my monthly pull-list. After 20 years of going to them for my comics, I keep telling them that I should be entitled to a lifetime membership to their store by now. Not that it would make any difference since my yearly membership fees are practically free now for me considering I spend what most people would pay for a house installment monthly at the shop. I guess eventually I would stop going there, either because I lose interest in adding more to my comics collection or the shop goes out of business – which ever comes first, but till then I would can always look forward for my monthly trip to the shop to get my monthly sequential art fix.


William said...

You must a comic library by now!

Nickxandar said...

A library assumes that I made some effort to catalog the comics I have :p Unfortunately that it far from the truth ...

I usually read them then put them in back in the bag I got them in and put them away in a plastic bin.