SideLines: Comic books a pleasant reminder of youth

When I was growing up, I was a big comic book reader. It started with my mother reading to me until I became old enough to read them myself.

From cowboys and Indians, I slowly segued into war. I’m not sure if that’s because I was a typical red-blooded American boy or if it was a reflection of the culture. Back then, westerns were the most popular shows on TV and the movies. John Wayne and Matt Dillon were the heroes of everyone I knew. Plus, World War II was still fresh in everyone’s minds, so there was a plethora of books and movies on that as well.

I eagerly devoured such comics as “Our Fighting Forces” and “Our Army at War.” My favorite was a Dell series called “War-Stories Combat,” each one featuring a World War II battle, like the Battle of the Bulge or Okinawa.

To my innocent mind, war was glorious, even glamorous. Of course, all the characters, regardless of how badly they got shot up in one issue, always returned full strength in the next. Sort of like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon or a Bruce Willis movie. The fictional soldiers were so good, I often wondered why the enemy didn’t run out of troops and equipment.

The comics that caught my eye the most were the ones with dramatic covers, like
Gunner and Sarge balancing themselves on the wing of a Japanese plane, dodging the pilot’s bullets while trying to drop hand grenades into the smoke stack of an enemy destroyer. In another, Sgt. Rock tried to save Easy Co. by hanging on the barrel of a tank while shooting his machine gun at an enemy plane bearing down on him.

Unlike some of my friends, I was never into the superheroes, but I did like something called “Tomahawk,” in which a group of Revolutionary War soldiers fought off giant prehistoric birds. I don’t know why, but they did.

To tell you how long ago all of this was, comic books cost 12 cents.

For all those horrified mothers out there, I should probably note that all that violence didn’t warp my mind. You can probably blame that on rock and roll. I am now a middle-aged man who sees war for what it is – something that is unfortunately necessary at times, but should be avoided if at all possible.

From comic books, I progressed to sports books and then more traditional literature. Comic books always remind me of an innocent time in my life when the good guys always won over evil.

I hadn’t really thought about comic books in years until I got a press release about a free comic book giveaway on Saturday, May 4. Comic book stores throughout the nation, including Graham Crackers Comics, 901C Lucinda Ave. in DeKalb, will give away six comics to each customer free of charge, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to the website, this is an annual event in which 27 million books have been given away in the last decade. The main purpose is to get people interested in comics.

I don’t know if this will revive my own interest or not, but it has certainly aroused my curiosity. If I get a chance, I’m going to swing by and get a few copies. Even if I don’t read them myself, this may be a good thing to send to the real-life soldiers who are fighting real-life battles overseas. Maybe it can bring back a few nice childhood memories for them. They probably need them a lot more than I do.

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