Today I learned that you can go home again.
I would have been eight years old when I first saw the ad pictured above. I didn’t know Michael Golden by name, nor his inker Neal Adams, but the cover pictured here knocked my socks off (and even the copy on the ad rocks). There’s only one test for an effective comic book cover, and that’s if it makes you want to read the story inside; this one made a gigantic impression on young Craig. I had only picked up the first couple issues of Micronauts, and I was not yet the Man-Thing fan I would become about a decade hence, but the sheer coolness of this cover art filled me with nothing less than a burning desire to read this comic, it just looked so friggin’ awesome.
Marvel Comics was even kind enough to provide the date the issue was going to go on sale– right there near the bottom of the page, it says April 10th. I had a couple weeks to wait, but I marked my calendar and endured the days of anticipation that followed. While I looked ahead to that day, my older brother said something odd: “They probably won’t have it”, he told me. What a cruel thing to say to an eight year old who had been promised such a treasure. I don’t know what prompted him to tell me that. He had no special insight into Marvel’s network of distributors, the comic book ordering practices of the Groveport Pharmacy, or the demand that might await the copies of the magazine in question when it was removed from the bundle of new comics. Nevertheless, his pronouncement gnawed at the back of my mind even while the approaching date stoked the fires of my excitement at the thought of getting my hands on this beautiful, beautiful book.
Sure enough, I showed up at the store early on the appointed day and there was no Micronauts #7 to be found. I’m sure I found something to take home in its place, but the fact of my writing this passage three decades on illustrates the depth of the disappointment which filled my young heart. In 1979 there were no comic stores with back issue bins to be found, no conventions in the small burgs here in flyover country. A missed comic was lost to time, a dim memory of promise unfulfilled. At least that’s how it felt.
Years later I would occasionally find this ad in an old comic I was reading, making note of it with more than a little interest. I never actually got around to tracking down that particular issue, though it was always in the back of my mind that I had to one day. Recently while browsing eBay for something to spend a buck or two on, I came across a listing for this very book from Mile High Comics and decided to take the plunge. I would grant that saddened eight year old kneeling at the magazine rack his wish, albeit many years late, to finally hold that comic in his hands.
Of course, the intervening years bring a more jaded sensibility even to the most idealistic of fools. I knew when I placed my order that the renewed feeling of anticipation I felt would far surpass the actual payoff of reading the book. Built up in my mind as such a milestone in my earliest years as a comic reader, the actual comic was bound to fail to live up to the excitement I felt rippling through time. I only hoped it made for an enjoyable enough diversion when it arrived.
Today I came home after picking up my daughter from preschool and found the package from MHC waiting inside the door for me. More than a little delighted, I tore it open and pulled out the books inside. There was part three of the first JLA/JSA crossover I ever read, there was the first issue of Night Force… and there was a note from Mile High Comics, printed on a dot matrix printer, telling me they did not have Micronauts #7 in stock. For just a moment I thought I heard my brother laughing.
Nostalgia distorts memory, adding a rosy glow or exaggerated significance to all manner of experiences. Nevertheless, I’m remembering April 10th, 1979 with a powerful clarity on this day which so perfectly evokes the memory of not getting the same book as a child. Maybe I’ll try again when I’m 68.
(It’s worth noting that MHC gave me a refund and an additional credit for my troubles, so I could pick up another handful of books for the same price. I’ll hardly complain about the service itself… though a quick peek on eBay shows they returned Micronauts #7 to their active listings the very same day.)