The First Voyage – Japer Recalls Buying His First Comic Book

This past weekend saw the J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise at movie theatres everywhere. When I initially heard that this film was going to happen, I’d be dishonest to say that I didn’t have a sense of despair and animosity toward the idea. I didn’t have a problem with the reboot of the franchise per say – in many ways, Star Trek needed it. In fact, I’ve been clamouring (to no avail) for a new television series based on Starfleet Academy, a veritable Dawson’s Creek in space. Who wouldn’t want to see that?!?

No, my misery arose from the proposed characters in the new film.

You see, my Star Trek will always be Shatner, Nimoy and Kelly; their relationships with each other; their individual personality traits that the legendary actors created for their classic characters: Kirk’s-stocatto-speech-pattern-and-pregnant-pauses-and-ascending-tone, Spock’s raised eyebrow and propensity to feel “pain” and McCoy’s constant reminder that he is nothing else but a doctor. And now here we have the young and brash J.J. Abrams making the decision to cast these iconic characters using – get this – young, relatively unknown actors! What arrogance! What bravado! What boldness!

And, in the perfect Star Trek tradition, without giving away any real spoilers, the film follows the franchise’s time honoured, time-hopping tradition. Like our star-trekking heroes, let me take you back in time for a short while. I promise you that the trip won’t change your ongoing continuity.

It was 1984 and I was ten years old when I bought my very first comic book.

Roughly a ten-minute walk from my house was a strip mall that had a grocery store, a pharmacy, a pizza joint and two convenience shops. It also had a store called Towers which some of you of a certain age and others with even longer memories, may recall. Towers was, I suppose, the late 1970’s and early 1980’s version of Wall-Mart. If you want a throw-back comparison, think Woolco. Inside the Towers, right next to the toy section, was a small cubicle with 3 shelves of intermittent height on each side of the display. The contraption was used to house various magazines with a myriad of topics. The top shelves would find the Cosmopolitans and Red Books. The middle shelves had Sports Illustrated and OMNI. But it was the bottom shelves that were the interesting ones. They contained a bounty on each of the fours sides which were at the perfect height for a ten year-old boy. Comic books of all kinds were found here, mixed in random order and thrown together in a messy newsprint calamity – a treasure trove of childish exuberance!

I can distinctly recall kneeling at this pop-culture altar and digging my way through the Power Pack, ROM and The New Teen Titans titles, fingering through the The Incredible Hulk and the Fury of Firestorm issues, stopping only at a light blue and red coloured cover, an image of flailing human bodies slipping through a giant man’s hands. There was a crazy look in the main figure’s eye. Was he a god to make these other people seems like mere dolls, simple play things to him? The title Star Trek was printed boldly on the cover – a television series I had watched on many occasions with my father and older cousin. Although I had missed the previous four issues, I bought issue five anyway, paying 95 cents worth of loose change in my pocket and hurriedly running home to read my discovery.

That single, meagre comic book issue would open up a whole new world for me.

Towers didn’t have those first few issues of the monthly series nor the subsequent ones and, looking back, I can see now that Star Trek, published at the time by DC Comics, fashioned in me my current “completionist” personality trait.

I immediately researched comic book stores in the Yellow Pages and found that there actually was one in my suburban city. I was elated! The Comic Den was helpful over the phone, letting me know that they had the whole collection of the Star Trek series. The whole collection! It sounded magical, unbelievable, a fantasy tale to my mind! I hastily scribbled down the relevant information on the back of a Star Trek drawing I had made depicting the USS Enterprise, my new, favourite space ship, in battle with their arch-nemesis, the Klingons in deep space. (Incidentally, you can see what that drawing looked like here.)

It was a long way to peddle on my electric blue, banana-seat, “goose-neck” handle bars bicycle. The comic shop was a good fifteen kilometres away, but I travelled there anyway, mapping out my path with the help of CAA and a few friends, traversing over road-side hills and busy intersections, boldly going where no ten-year old child had gone before.

The Comic Den lived up to their promise. They had all of the back issues I was looking for along with so much more. Batman was here! So was Superman! And I started to collect them all, bypassing Towers in favour of the local comic store, who had every issue of every title that I could imagine – all in alphabetical and numeric order! No more rummaging on shelves for the ten year old me! I was a collector now.

I currently own thirteen long boxes of comic titles plus many more on various book shelves throughout my house. They are, of course, all in systematic order.

As we got closer to the release of J.J. Abrams Start Trek, I’ve found myself more and more anxious to see it, to see what he’s done with my beloved characters. I think I’ve warmed up to the idea a new start – a new adventure. The movies and television series with Shatner, Nimoy and Kelly will always be there. I’m ready to see what a new crop of actors can offer the story, the history and the legacy that is Star Trek.

The story inside Star Trek #5 does not live on in my memory. Everything else that surrounds that one issue, the experiences of adventures with friends both past and present, does. That one issue helped guide me in my creative pursuits of drawing and writing and sharing fantastical stories of science fiction and super heroes with like-minded people. That one issue helped shape the person I am today.

Isn’t it amazing what a comic book can do?

Leave a Reply