What Comics Taught Me

My father called them funny books.

He was a lot older than my friend’s dads. He grew up as a child of the depression, and I was born late in his life. When he called them funny books I used to chafe at that name. The phrase ‘funny books’ sounded silly and childish to me then but now… I think it’s cute. Of course I’m 40 years old now, married with a daughter, so some things change.

But seriously. Funny books. Pissed me off.

Didn’t he know that the mutants had to fight to preserve their rights in a world that wanted them gone? There’s nothing funny about that. Didn’t he know Frank Castle’s family had been killed, and that Frank couldn’t move on until he found a justice that he never would? Didn’t my dad know The Tick and Arthur needed to be friends to conquer the ninjas?

Maybe that’s why he called them funny books. He saw my Tick collection.

What my dad did know, was that reading each comic sent his son to a different world for half an hour, sometimes more if I read them and re-read them. He also knew that if he told me I could earn money to buy more funny books of my own, I would do almost anything, whenever asked. So he asked.

I started mowing the lawn. I did the dishes, I helped with laundry. I did everything asked of me at first for the quarter, then because I wanted to. My dad knew that eventually I’d realize that the things he asked me to do he needed help with. And if he needed the help, I didn’t really need the quarter.

Through my voracious appetite for Moon Knight, Punisher, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the X-Men, X-Factor, Spawn, Aliens, Predator, New Mutants, and a hundred more titles, my father taught me that a hard day’s work netted me the enjoyment I deserved. He taught me that when I did good things for others, I had a good time.

The first good friend I made when I moved to the town I lived in from 8th grade to graduation liked comics too. Courtland and I would have sleepovers where I’d bring my white comic box, adorned with a hundred stickers my local comic shop gave out, and we’d read everything. We did this multiple times over years. He and I would walk the five miles all the way to that comic shop in the cold of late fall with five bucks burning a hole in our pocket just to pick up a couple new issues, or a bag of polys, or a package of boards. We’d laugh and joke, and be young and happy the whole way.

We didn’t feel our fingers or noses for days, but you gotta break eggs to make an omelet.

Through long, late nights and action-packed weekends reading, my friends taught me that the artwork and stories inside the comics we loved brought me friendships. My friends and I built memories, hundreds of memories. Days and nights where through our shared love of comics we grew vulnerable and genuine until we reached a point where we knew we’d crossed that threshold from friend to new family member.

I’m a meticulous collector. It all started with comics. My dad told me, “Better take care of your funny books, Chris. The old ones are worth a lot of money now, and who knows what your books will be worth when you’re older.”

I listened. I loved the idea of having something special, and keeping it in good condition. I was the guardian. The protector of sacred geek knowledge. I would be the adult who kept his comics in pristine shape so one day I could pass them along to my children. I bought bags and boards, comic boxes and scotch tape. I kept them dry, out of the sun, and I only read them flat on tables, protecting the spines with my life.

I’m writing this in my office. Against every wall but the one my back is to, there are comic boxes. (Wouldn’t do to have me roll back in my chair, and hit a box, ya know.) New comic boxes, because that white cardboard doesn’t hold up to multiple moves over 30 years, no matter how well you handle them. Same comic books inside. Not a one has been sold since my childhood. I’m thankful that at some point my love for collections moved on to other things and back again.

Through patience, a need to preserve the past, a willingness to be excited for the future, and a sense of a job well done, collecting taught me satisfaction. It taught me to take care of things. It taught me about gloss paper, newsprint, and the 24 point thickness and relative acidity in the right kind of cardboards. It taught me to plan for purchases. It taught me that value can increase over time, and it taught me how to find a good deal on something I’ll treasure forever.

Or at least until I pass it all off to my kids.

You know, the more I think about it, the less comics may have taught me.

No, wait. Comics taught me how to read. Or at least, how to read things I love. I struggled to read anything resembling a book for a long time. Teachers and family put novels and stories in front of me that collected dust. Page after page filled with boring words (NO PICTURES!) about boring people doing boring things. But if you stuck a drawing of a hero in… and let my brain fill in the blanks, boy could I devour some comics. And once I started to love the story being told with the words just as much as I loved the artwork that bridged the gap, my love for comics grew into a love for books.

A love I maintain to this day.

A love that’s grown into a love for writing. Writing that’s good enough to pay my bills, and give me a career. Writing that’s good enough to feed my family, and give us a home to live in (and store comics, priorities, people) and give me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment I never truly dreamed could happen.

Come to think of it, comics taught me a lot. A whole lot. The more I think about it, the more I realize.

And maybe one day, they’ll help me teach my daughter a few things too.

I’m saving my quarters.


Chris Philbrook is the creator and author of the urban fantasy series The Reemergence, as well as the dark fantasy series The Kinless Trilogy and the post apocalyptic epic Adrian’s Undead Diary.

Adrian’s Undead Diary, the story that got Chris on the literary map now has all eight titles available in print, eBook and audio. In order, they are Dark Recollections, Alone No More, Midnight, The Failed Coward Wrath, In the Arms of Family, The Trinity,and Cassie.

Chris’ first book in print was The Wrath of the Orphans, the initial book of The Kinless Trilogy, set in his Elmoryn fantasy world. You can get it here on Amazon in print and for the Kindle as well. Book two and three are The Motive for Massacre, and The Echoes of Sin. All three books are available via Audible Studios.

Tesser: A Dragon Among Us is Chris’ first foray into the world of urban/contemporary fantasy. It’s the story of an ancient dragon that is misplaced somehow, and wakes up underneath the city of Boston. The sequel, Ambryn & the Cheaters of Death is out.

Chris is the owner of Tier One Games LLC, his game development company.

Chris calls the wonderful state of New Hampshire his home. He is an avid reader, writer, role player, miniatures game player, video game player, painter and procrastinator. He and his wife welcomed their first daughter Willow to the world in April of 2016.


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