Secret Origin part 1: They Make Me Think of You

This series of three “Secret Origin” essays were originally written as part of the monthlong feature “A Life in Comics” on my blog During that month I wrote essays nearly every day, breaking my then-rule of not writing much about myself or the the job I had at Dark Horse. It was an exercise in self-promotion, which has never come naturally to me, and along the way I took several trips down memory lane to tell, among other things, the story of how I got into comics and broke into comics. All three Secret Origin entries are represented on this site, and the rest of the Life in Comics series still live on the blog.

I came to comic books slightly later than many do, and I came to them backwards, by way of a younger sibling rather than an older one. Before that, my interest was exclusively in newspaper comic strips, and as late as high school I likely expressed a preference for strips, my ambition at the time to be a newspaper comics artist. I grew up surrounded by Calvin and Hobbes books, and that strip in particular was among the most important things to me in the world.

I distinctly remember my sixth grade classroom getting a daily copy of The Oregonian, which we students completely ignored, except for the comics. My best friend and I would both race into the room in the morning to be the first to get it. Probably most of the time one of us walked in to see the other already reading, but my mind latches onto the times that it came down to seconds, both of us risking censure by running, and who prevailed could be decided by where exactly the paper had been placed.

The Oregonian ran two pages of comics, but at that age and after that level of competition, sharing was unthinkable for either of us. When I lost, the wait before my turn was excruciating, more to do with the loss than the comics themselves, which even then I knew mostly didn’t deserve the love I heaped on them. My very first website, made around this time, when I was learning HTML, contained my first piece of criticism, a condemnation of Jim David and Garfield. It would later house some of my first tries at comics, and for that I am glad no trace of it remains.

By now I had started reading comic books as well, but only just. My first comics purchase had been the previous year, when I was 11 and my brother Dylan was 9. We both attended the same school, after which we would be picked up by Nick, the au pair who lived with us, and taken to Sandy Grand Slam, our long-gone first local comic shop. I was merely dragged along at first, staring into space while Dylan bought X-Men and Spawn, until one week out of boredom I selected one Batman comic and one Superman one, neither one anything special, yet somehow capturing my imagination.

Despite not being that great, these two comics are probably the reason I’m not a lawyer.

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