Friday, July 27, 2007

Comic Book Friendships: These people are fact, not fiction

 

Have you ever seen or participated in an online message board?  I have.  I do.  A LOT.  (I don't want to say how much.) 

Jeph from Boston & "LikeAlways" in her New York kitchen during the 2007 NY Comic-Con

It's strange how it all started.  Back around 2003, I stumbled across a collection of early Superman comic book reprints, assembled in a handsome volume called "DC Archives".   As a kid, I owned literally THOUSANDS of comics, before--choke! forcing myself to walk away from them in the 1980s.   Anyway, it looked like a nice book & so I ordered it for sentimental reasons, as a reminder of a hobby I once loved.

Of course, after I got it--I loved it, and wanted more.  I began doing some online investigating, & soon began amassing quite a collection of these "Archives".   (I currently own around 80 volumes.)

One night while looking for more information on them, I stumbled across an online message board (at the DC Comics website) devoted to--what else?  The discussion of these books.   And I discovered that there were hundreds of adult fans who shared the same love for these comics as I once did.  (Of course, some a lot more than others--I soon realized I was a greenhorn on a website full of pros.)   I eventually became a member, and for several months joined in various discussions about the artists, classic stories, personal histories, and speculation about upcoming releases.   (You're right--it was about as nerdy as one can get.)

One of my favorite "incidents" there was the "Silver Age Superman Debate".  THIS was the book everyone wanted to see published, a collection of Superman stories from the late 50s/60s.   And the more it was discussed, the more that one member named "Swatteam" laughed & ridiculed everyone, as he anxiously waited to see "which one of you losers are going to tie a towel around your neck & jump off the roof when you learn DC isn't doing this book".  (It eventually arrived of course, but not before weeks of anger, shock & outrage ensued on those boards at his gallows humor;  I took it all in good fun & laughed myself silly at the daily drama.)  I guess you had to be there.

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Other books from the DC Comics Archives collection

(Sadly, it was around this time that my mom found out she had cancer.  And as my family's hopes for her survival began to lessen, these message boards became more and more a refuge of sorts for me, late at night when I was alone with nothing but my worries....there was always someone to talk to.)

But one can only talk about comics so much--and I soon "met" other members who shared similar interests in other things--science fiction, movies, etc.; and I began paying visits to other boards.  (Eventually I never went back to the old DC site.)  So where do I wind up?  At a website pretty much devoted to Marvel Comics!   (To this day, I’ve never read a Marvel Comic book; when I was a kid, you were DC or Marvel—not both.) 

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Rhett "Gormuu" Thomas, who created 'The Marvel Masterworks Boards'

And the next thing I know, I find myself involved in daily discussions of various topics-- sharing "adventures in the office", upcoming vacations or even upcoming marriages.  I became a fixture on that board, and it soon became a part of my daily life.  And the names I saw out there everyday--Visual Fiction, Gormuu, Interstate Shogun, Indefatigable Fjor--begin looking a lot less like strange names, & more like actual people.

It was also around this time that Mom died.  I suddenly had so much free time on my hands it seemed, and I felt lonelier than ever.  I began to spend a lot of time there, at first for the company, then for the camaraderie.  (Strangely enough, I didn't talk about my mom's passing with these other "posters" for nearly a year.  It was something I didn't need to dwell on.)   Was it a healthy way to spend my time?  I don't know.  But it helped me thru many a rough patch.

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Rich (Indefatigable Fjor), center—who is this man & why do we share such a kindred spirit?! 

 

I think things really took off (for me personally) when I began posting about a friend & co-worker of mine, Karyn.  I wrote this post titled "You Can't take Kar-Kar to the Ghetto" that seemed to get a lot of positive attention.  And the next thing I know, I am suddenly sharing a lot of personal information (okay, too much) & enjoying all the feedback.  It was also around this time I started a discussion devoted to Star Trek, which really took off--I had no idea that so many other members even shared an interest in it.  (And I think it helped that I couldn't shut up about it for months!  Eighteen months & thousands of posts later, it's still going strong.) 

 

My friend & coworker, Karyn (aka "Kar-Kar" on the boards) whom I've known since 2001--has it really been that long?  

There's so many people I've gotten to know online, it'd be too difficult to talk about them all here.  People like John "Rhett" Thomas, a smart & friendly guy from Georgia who makes the whole thing possible.

He didn't just create a website devoted to 'Comic Collections', he created a real phenomenon.  On the Trek 'Chat' alone, I've gotten to know people like carabimero (David), a writer & filmmaker from Calif; JadFlores, a Filipino orchestra conductor from San Diego.  Queen of the Geeks (Robin), a gay Trekker from Minneapolis, JephYork (see first picture) from Boston, DavidTai from Virginia--Visual Fiction (Jon) from Chicago--SamyMerchi from Finland, and one of our more knowledgeable Trek fans--Aayjay, a thoughtful woman who lives in Texas.  It's been a fun ride.

The people in the first picture (Jeph & "Like"--that's not her real name, but I hesitate using it here) are two of the members I've talked with outside of the message boards--which doesn't happen all too often.  It's one thing to exchange thoughts on a topics board, or even email.  But with these two, we've shared some pretty lengthy phone chats--I know for a fact that if I was to run into either one of them on the street tomorrow, I'd feel completely at ease with both. 

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(Left to right:  JJJ, Martin, Eric, Alex "Bricky" Lear)

There are other members who I have a genuine fondness for:  guys like mcmaenza (Martin), someone close in age & background (and in fact, his website is one of the links on my page).  Others like LK1966 (Larry), another guy around my age with a VERY offbeat sense of humor.  (He also has a very big heart.)  JJJ, a lighthearted soul from Canada, Dave "Doc" Bromberg (a quiet but funny child psychologist who's been brave enough to share his recent separation with us).  There's also Alex ("Bricky"), a songwriter/musician from Maine and srca1941 (Eric), a young man from the South who delights in "tormenting" me with altered pictures of myself.  (It's all in good fun, of course.)

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(Ross aka “Larry”, Dave "Doc" Bromberg and "Aussie Stu" with their kids)

What also helps (IMHO) is actually "seeing" who you're talking to.  Back in March of this year, I pushed n' prodded for a "Members Gallery", which was even more successful than I'd expected.  We currently have around 50 members photos on there.  (I realize that part of the attraction of such an online message board is the ability to have true anonymity; and you have to respect the members who don't want their images online.  But personally, I think it's a lot more fun--and more "real"--when you've seen the person, so to speak.  Besides, I've posted more darn pictures of myself than anyone else there!)

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