By Philip Schweier
July 3, 2013 - 14:57
Recently, the Fearless Leader here at the Bin wrote an
article detailing the loss of his collection in the wake of the Calgary floods.
Despite a total loss, he conveyed a (mostly) positive attitude, resulting in a
number of people, some he’d never met, stepping forward to lend support in the
rebuilding process. This led our Fearless Leader to encourage the staff of the
Bin to apply a personal spin to stories (when applicable), then sit back and
watch the results.
So, just when I thought I’d run out of anything new to say, a number of serendipitous “moments” occurred in recent days leading me to take pen in hand – or keyboard, to be precise.
Ghoul-meister Sammy Terry
My family lived just outside Indianapolis back the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and independent stations such as WTTV had to cultivate their own programming. Sometimes they would create it on the cheap, as with Sammy Terry and cartoon host Cowboy Bob Glaze. Otherwise, they would broadcast reruns of older programs
It was on WTTV that I was first exposed to reruns of Batman and the Adventures of Superman. Batman was in color, which was lost to me on our massive Zenith black & white TV. But Superman was originally made for black & white, and it was much more action-packed. This was the start of my comic book fandom.
In July of 1973, my family moved to another town 100 miles north, staying in a Holiday Inn for the transition. That night, I had the opportunity to A.) stay up well past my bedtime; and B.) Catch Sammy Terry in color, ghastly green face and all.
The next day, late in the afternoon of July 2, we pulled up in front of our new home, located on a corner lot in a small town just south of Fort Wayne. Somehow, I managed to slip away, across a neighbor’s yard to an alley where I found a small group of kids playing at another house. There, I met someone and formed a life-long friendship.
And little did I know the influence his mom would have on mine, as the two of them chatted over coffee about their respective Larrys (our dads). “I just wish Philip would read something other than comic books,” my mother lamented. “Hey,” said Tony’s mom, “At least he’s reading.” She was the high school librarian, and as such, my mom bowed to her authority.
So while Mom actively discouraged my older brother from wasting his allowance on comic books, she kept silent with me. It may have prevented me from being another victim of the old “my mom threw away my comic books” scenario. I graduated from comics to Hardy Boys to Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek novels, Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, and then back to comics. Nevertheless, the seed was planted and I am an avid reader, currently with list long enough to last a lifetime.
In 1978, my family moved again, 50 miles north, and I saw Tony only sporadically throughout high school. I remember one of our last meetings: he was in a high school production of South Pacific. Shortly afterward, I moved to Georgia. My family back in Indiana sent me the occasional update, as Tony’s dad entered local/state politics.
But thanks to the Internet, we managed to reconnect. He’d carved a respectable career for himself in the field of philanthropic management, while making the time to indulge in his other passion, music. I can’t count the number of times, as kids, he couldn’t come out to play because he had piano practice. But he stuck with it and it brings him and others joy. More power to him.
In 2008 he announced he was moving to the Pittsburgh area, where his wife is from (mine too, by coincidence) and asked me if I was interested in any of his old comics. I wasn’t until he mentioned it. Had I been, I could’ve bought them off ebay or through an online dealer, but that’s not the point. These were Tony’s comics, ones I remember borrowing as a kid, and some I even remember trading to him.
In August, 2008, my 25-year high school graduation rolled around, and I made plans to fly up to Indianapolis, visit my sister, then drive up to the Fort Wayne area for the reunion. Tony was still in the Indy area and I suggested we get together, but he said he was due to leave for Pittsburgh the day after I arrived. I suggested we meet for breakfast, if he had time before leaving town. We did, and it was by far a better reunion than the one with my high school classmates.
Since then we’ve kept in touch, and when July 2 came around this year, I sent Tony a happy anniversary e-mail. His reply cited, “And then you mentored me into the ways of comic books, drawing, other fictional heroes, and the sound effects action figures should make when running and fighting :-). Double cool!
“As it turns out, a couple days ago my younger cousin sent me a photo of a box he pulled out of storage that held Superman comics and an action figure I had passed down to him – passing down the fun you and I had :-)”
So like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, we just never know the trickle-down effect our passions have on others, whether those passions are comic books, music or home-brewed beer. And even if someone fails to respond right away, a little gentle nudging eventually pays off.
So if there’s someone in your past who introduced you to comics, reach out and thank them. Or if you did the mentoring, touch base and see where it has led. You’ll be surprised. And even if it led nowhere special, it’s good just to reconnect with an old friend.