6: CBSI WRITER WARS : Writer Wars Entry by Chris Giarratano
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Seventy-two different comics displayed on an ad-hoc shelving unit. Half wood – half metal basket. That distinct smell of cardboard and inked paper in the air.
The first comic that jumped out at my ten-year-old sensibilities was the debut issue of The Saga of Swamp Thing. However, it was the phrase NO.1 that resonated with me. I could only afford two comics.
So I grabbed it and the other cover that jumped out at me.
Daredevil #181 – it had to be great because it cost a whole dollar and it said, “Special double-size issue!”
I walked up to the counter and the ancient owner without prompt told me that “Frank Miller is the best. Keep it in shape. Comics are investments.”
Investments?!? This sucker doesn’t know that after I get through reading these comics, I’m gonna use them to smack my brother upside his head.
I went home and the world of comics opened up to me. It was glorious. I did not acquire my nuanced taste for what I liked or what was good. I just loved the way Swamp Thing looked and Daredevil sounded. And even though it was DC and Marvel they felt like characters way outside the mainstream of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man.
Later, I was read the riot act when I brought the comics to school and was forced to hear an impromptu lecture of the Grand difference between the cutting-edge Marvel and the dull butter knife known as DC.
But what about this Frank MIller guy? No one in my school knew the name of a single artist or writer. We were entirely focused on the characters and their powers. We had no idea there was real live working stiffs making these things happen.
I simply thought they appeared.
With much consideration, I asked my parents to amp up my allowance to two dollars. Without any consideration, I then started collecting The Fury of Firestorm because it also was NO.1 and went to the back issue box and picked up Iron Man #153
And that is how the rest of the year went, I collected Swamp Thing, Firestorm, Daredevil and Iron-Man.
I collected what I could afford and what spoke to me. The story and art brought me in and welcomed me. I did not care for condition.
Frederick was the other comic geek in my class and he happen to live in my building. He had an entirely different point of view. He had a comic book price guide, and he knew who Frank MIller was and more importantly he claimed to have a super power.
“I can open up any door on any floor,” he whispered.
Breaking and entering, burglary were foreign terms to me. I wanted to believe I personally knew someone with super powers. I was naive.
Allegedly on the 14th floor of the building he lived in there was a collector who had a stash of “Fifty mint copies of Dazzler number one and we’re gonna take them tonight.”
“Count me out, Freddie.”
“Nah. We’re gonna get five. He’ll never know they’re missing. He wouldn’t even know we were there.”
“But what’s the point of stealing them?”
“Real simple. We sell them back to the store so I can get my hands of Hulk 181.”
I thought to myself – Hulk 181 must be important.
But even more intriguing to me than that was – How can be open any door?
Then it dawned on me.
“Fred, do me a favor. Open up my door, I want to see your power.”
“Sure thing,” replied Fred.
We walked up to my door which I knew to be locked, my ma and pa were not back from work. I paid close attention and to my surprise and before my very eyes, my own apartment door opened!.
I’ll be damned. Freddie is a bona-fide superhero.
But there are so many possibilites. My head was spinning. However, Fred was hell-bent on making sure we got those Dazzlers.
I didn’t know the term “fall guy” I just knew my friend could open any door to any apartment.
And then at 9pm he buzzed my door, he motioned me outside and we took the elevator up to the 14th floor, Frederick opened the door as he did mine and we walk through a long hallway and started rambling opening closets and drawers. I was terrified.
After a few tries, I found the mother lode. This was a collection that rivaled anything on the wall at the comic book store. I’m pretty sure it was the first issue of every comic you could possibly have.
And sure as he told me – there was a stack of Dazzler number one and it was far beyond fifty. It was more like two hundred. Where does someone even get the money for this?
I watched Fred take those five Dazzler right from the top pile.
I was scared. He was cold as ice. He even took a bottle of gin and took a few sips and put it back.
Man…I don’t even think my dad drank gin.
As we were walking out of apartment, I noticed the living room wall was completely bare. The rest of the place had paintings or a clock and other whatnots but the living room was blank as a canvas.
I just so happen to always carry my vic markers and I said, “Wait!”
I pulled out my marker and tagged the lower left-hand corner of the wall.
Frederick saw the immense stupidity of this. I just left a mark at the scene of the crime. He may not have noticed five copies of Dazzler were gone but he was definitely going to notice a graffiti tag.
But Frederick was a cunning version of superhero. In the truest sense of the word, which is to say, he was quick on his feet.
“Well, Ceeg, you done messed up but I have the solution? Can you draw?”
“Yes I think I’m okay.”
“Well, Ceeg, you better draw your best Hulk on that wall. Because my guess is if he sees a rad Hulk on this white wall then he may not know what to do. It’s our only chance.”
I got marking as fast as I could and within twenty minutes, I had a Hulk up on that wall.
We admired the work and knew it was a pity we didn’t have a camera. A real masterwork childhood drawing. If I had more time maybe it could’ve been something but there was no mistaking it was Hulk.
Frederick never got rid of those Dazzlers because no one would trade five in or even five hundred for Hulk 181.
Years later, I realized Fred’s super power was his dad was a custodian to the building and he simply had a set of keys that opened all the doors. As long as it door wasn’t chained, Fred was looting apartments without incident.
His real super power was taking what someone wouldn’t notice was missing.
I never heard of what came of the guy who lived in the 14th floor to return to his apartment to see Hulk on the wall. It wasn’t newsworthy.