I often disdain the unworthy enthusiasm of those who reserve early seating for release dates of today’s superhero movies. Not a one of you have forgone the kiss of a girl or endured a wedgie for your crimes. I do so wish you all could have felt what it was like to read these stories in 22-page installments with a month between issues, and experience what we all had to go through for the privilege. There was a line outside C.A.V.E!, the comics shop I owned immediately next to the Keswick Theater in Glenside PA, almost every Wednesday, or New Comics Day. (C.A.V.E! stood for Comics, Games, Video, Excitement! Lit by flourescent tubes, my sign adorned a near monastery to spandex-clad imagination, decorated in the manner of the Batcave. The name was sculpted with the help of my friends. To us, it was a perfect description.)
Similar to the way in which fans will attend midnight premiere movie screenings today, people did a lot to try to accelerate their first glimpse of a new story. My friends Jim, Kurt, Mo, Mike, and others often pulled all-nighters on Tuesdays and took the 2 am journey with me in the Batvan — yes to what you’re thinking — toward my distributor in center city Philly. All this just for the joy of fighting motion sickness while they, with neither seats nor windows, were first to read their fave titles as I zigged and zagged back home along Lincoln Drive. Worse, they’d help me sort the hundreds of titles and get them on shelves by 11 a.m., a deadline so difficult to meet that all hands, nauseated or not, were welcome.
I remember one such morning when only my not-a-fan wife-at-the-time could be cajoled into losing sleep and helping me pick up, sort, and display the week’s haul. A couple of C.A.V.E.men (as we called our subscription club members) showed up early to buy their X-Men issues. They were 9-year-old kids, playing hookey. As was the case each Wednesday, we couldn’t allow them in ‘til 11 so everyone could have a fair shot at something that might sell out. I was well practiced at rejecting protestations and smiled at them sympathetically as we stood on the inside of the locked glass door.
One of them huffed in resignation, then threw up his hands and said, “Ugh! Middle-aged people!!” We were 29.