In our last thrilling Blog entry, I had just discovered the wonderful world of comic books in the Fall of 1966. But, except for a Batman 80 Page Giant from May 1965 and a World’s Finest from January 1966 (both coverless), bought for a nickel at a local Mom & Pop store, plus some various and sundry Disney Duck books (I wanted to live in the fine trimmed lawn suburban environs of Duckburg) and the occasional Little Lulu and Alvin comics, my comics obsession was still mostly relegated to Children’s Digest serializations of Tintin and the Sunday newspaper funnies. That all changed in the Spring of 1967.

Easter came early that year (March 26th), but for some arcane meteorological reason, the temps soared into the upper 70’s, so it was like having Easter in mid-April (although it would cool down again and mid-April was actually in the mid-50’s). I was enjoying the holiday AND the weather allowing me to play outside when my parents dropped the bomb. We were MOVING!

My maternal grandfather had passed away the previous November and my mom didn’t like the idea of my grandmother living alone, so we were going to move in with her. Her house was only about a mile or two away from where we were currently living, but it would be in a new school district and a lot more suburban/borderline rural than our firmly-in-the-city current digs. My sister was a little upset to be leaving her friends but I was ecstatic! I had a good friend in my old school who was moving, as well, and the news of both our impending moves meant there’d be “no man left behind”. After that school year, I never saw that kid again. C’est la vie!

Anyway, we would be moving in mid-May (May 20th, to be precise). But, at that time, the Pittsburgh public schools went until mid-June (June 22nd). My new school district would let out on June 8th, so there was no sense in my switching schools for about a week and a half (including Memorial Day). That meant we (my sister and I) had to finish out the last month of that school year walking home most days about a mile, mostly ALL uphill. Seems those “uphill to school both ways” stories parents tell their kids were sort of true in my case! Today, no one would ever even think to let seven and nine year old kids walk a mile unsupervised… but, my parents weren’t heartless… they gave us rides some of the time, mostly when it was raining, but we walked the majority of the time. But, here’s where the confluence of events reached its tipping point…

On that arduous uphill trek, we passed a Red & White grocery store and the local drug store, both just about at the crest of the final hill, so either one made for a good stopping point for a short rest. They BOTH sold comic books and, while my sister usually opted to spend whatever money she had on penny candy or ice cream, I opted for the comics. The drug store, Huy Pharmacy, sold the new comics while the Red & White was a glorified Mom & Pop store and sold the coverless back issues for a nickel each.

Now, even at age nine, I read the indicia of the comics (yeah, I was THAT kid) and I saw the part about “this periodical shall not be sold with any part of its cover or markings removed”. But, I figured it was like those “don’t tear the tags off your mattress” warnings… a guideline and nothing more. Most people followed the rule mainly because it was too much like work to defy it. What did I know? I had no idea that distributors routinely took back the unsold books, sent the covers (or part of them) back to the publisher for a refund and then turned around and sold the unsold books to Mom & Pop outfits for a penny or two each rather than destroying the books as they were SUPPOSED to do. They were “double dipping” and, essentially, using a nine year old kid to launder mob money. But, I didn’t care. I figured if I had 15 cents, that would get me A) a 12 cent comic and some penny candy or B) THREE nickel comics. To a comic lover, the math was in the Red & White’s favor. Plus, in typical kid logic, I simply thought that I was being charged an extra seven cents just for the cover. What a rip off!

So, at first, ALL my comic purchases on my walk home were at the Red & White. I like to call these “The Original Eleven”. There was a Mickey Mouse that I can’t remember anything about beyond Mickey and Goofy battling The Phantom Blot. And there was an issue of The Blackhawks that touted “The New Blackhawk Era”. Now, generally, Blackhawk bores the snot out of me, but I have to admit some fondness for these books. I mean, c’mon! They feature a guy who runs around in pajamas covered with little pictures of human ears called “The Listener”! I bought this one, though, primarily because it guest starred Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern. Turns out, it was a brief cameo, at best. Last Blackhawk I bought for the next ten years or so.

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Anyway, the next three books I bought, coverless, for a nickel were two Batmans and an Action Comics.

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Batman versus The Scarecrow and Batman versus The Eraser! Holy Escapist Entertainment, Caped Crusader! And Allen Funt meeting Superman. My family watched Candid Camera fairly regularly, so I thought this was a cool way to inject Superman into “the real world” AND do a riff on the old “changing clothes in a phone booth” routine! Needless to say, these captivated me and fueled my lust for more.

 

To be continued…