Much like many couples, when I first met and married my husband, there were things about him I simply did not know until after we were married. Most of the things were just little habits or nuances about his personality that really were no big deal. One of the things, however, was his collection (I call it an obsession) with comic books. It seems my darling husband began collecting comic books at about the age of twelve. When I married him, he was twenty-seven, and still collecting, very proud of the fact that he had been collecting for a total of fifteen years. My husband was in the Navy when we first got married, and he spent between ten and twenty dollars each week going to the local comic book store in the various towns in which we lived. He had special white boxes, about the size of shoe boxes, only taller, that were made especially for storing comic books. Not only that, but each and every comic, after he had read it, was put into a special plastic sleeve that would protect it as it spent the rest of its life in one of the many white boxes.
At first, I thought it was sort of cute how every Thursday afternoon, after the new comics arrived at the local store, he would come home with his bag of comics and read them diligently. I recognized many of the names of the characters: the Hulk, Superman, the Fantastic Four. He introduced me to the ones I had never heard of: the X-men, and various others. There were times when money was a bit tight, but the comic books were always, without fail, part of our budget. It was simply something that was part of our lives. Twice my husband left for 6-month deployments with the Navy, and during the duration of the deployment, dutiful wife that I am, I visited the comic book store once a week, picked out my husbands favorite comic books and sent them to him in care packages once a month. I got to know the owner of the store and I found that my husband was not the only adult who collected comic books. In fact, it seemed that more adults were collecting than kids. This was fascinating to me.
As the years passed, the comic books kept coming. As the children came, my husband educated them on the importance of the comic book characters and how we can learn from them. He bought the children X-men and Hulk figurines and tried to get our son interested in collecting. Our son is now nineteen-years-old, but never seemed to latch on to the hobby like his dad. Whenever a comic book movie came out, we were the first ones in the theater to see it, and I have come to have an appreciation for the movies and the characters, because I have an expert who sits next to me as we watch the movie; he keeps me informed about the history of the characters, the sometimes hidden meanings behind issues they face, and of course he points out when something is not quite accurate. Our biggest inside joke is to watch one of the "less than accurate" comic book movies and point out how unrealistic it is.
I will never completely understand the hold these comic book heroes have on my husband. I know he is a romantic at heart and today, well into his 40s, he is still visiting the local comic book store every week. We have one entire closet filled with boxes of comic books. About once a year, he takes many of them out and re-reads them or re-organizes them. I have learned that the comic stories my husband reads are more like graphic soap operas with very real and sometimes tragic themes. These are not the funny books of the past, but a very clear parallel to what is going on in our society today. Comic book collecting is more than just a hobby of collecting colorful books; it is keeping up with an awareness of what is going on around us politically, socially, and culturally.
Yet, I do not know what we are going to do in a few years when we run out of closet space. Maybe the comic book heroes will help us?