12: CBSI WRITER WARS Round 1 : Genesis/Renaissance by Wells Johnson Floyd

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Genesis

For those of us who collect comic books, I believe that there are many factors which come
into play that engender the affinity we have towards our collections. In my case, I attribute my
love of them to the wonderful time I had in my adolescence. I should note that I have memories
of my mother teaching me how to read at a very young age with Superman comics. I can recall
learning how to pronounce the word “clothes” correctly. In the Superman issue we were reading
together, Clark’s costume had been ripped during his brawl with some super villain, and as I
read the words, “I need to change my clothes,” I pronounced the word “clothes” as “cloths.” My
mother taught me the correct pronunciation, and I never mispronounced it again. In my
preadolescence I read many Archie comics. Until today, I read them insatiably, for I never tire of
them. My brother loved to make fun of the “serious” Archie storylines, ones in which Archie and
the gang had to catch a thief, or Archie had to train extremely hard in order to beat the school
bully in a wrestling match. The difference between Archie comics and my other comics is that
Archies were and are still to me reader books. Despite the recent explosion of several titles,
such as Betty and Veronica 261, or Afterlife with Archie, I will always see Archie titles as pure
readers and a kind of refuge from the problems of life. Traveling to Riverdale with the gang
always elicits a feeling of happiness within me. And I believe that is what comics are supposed
to do: carry us into a world that’s not our own, where we find characters we can relate to on
some level or another, whether they be simple humans like Archie Andrews, or gods like
Galactus. The ability to identify with these illustrated souls is the essence of the comic
experience.

As I mentioned earlier, my adolescence was fantastic. And it was during this time that I
finally branched out from reading Archies and throwing them into a basket to buying comics
from Marvel and DC, and carefully placing them in bags with boards. I often close my eyes and
imagine that I am back in 1992, when I was 12. I like to make lists. This has no bearing on any
of the material here, but as I am a person who enjoys making lists, I must note that I have made
a list of the best years of my life. 1992 was the best year of my life, hands down. I remember
that MTV actually played music videos. I remember one afternoon I was watching MTV and
Pearl Jam, The Chili Peppers, and Queen were played one after another. I was discovering
new music, and I was learning about who I was.
Finally, I started seriously getting into comics. At the tender age of 12, I remember
buying ASM 361 in a grocery store when my mother asked me to help her shop. I remember
buying Uncanny X-men 266 in a comic book shop. It’s a curious story, the story of my purchase
of X-men 266. I walked into a comic shop and there before me stood a rack. On this rack were
two books. One was The Infinity Gauntlet 1, and the other was X-men 266. I decided to go with
the X-men, and it’s a decision I’m happy with until today. I remember the man at the counter
told me the Infinity Gauntlet would be a better investment. Keep in mind, at that time I had no
idea of how a person could “invest in comics.” So, I dismissed him but at least now I finally
understand what he was talking about.

I discovered Valiant and Image around the same time. I was fascinated by Harbinger
and all things Image. As I had already been collecting Marvel and DC for about a year, these
new publishers intrigued me. I remember being terrified of Harada, and being in awe of Sting.

After their final confrontation in Harbinger 25, I cried because Sting had lost his powers. Todd
McFarlane is my favorite artist of all time. So, once Spawn emerged, I was totally enamored
with what I was reading, but my adolescent mind was too inexperienced to understand the
gravity of Al’s situation: selling one’s soul and all that didn’t really make much sense to me
because I wasn’t a church-going kid, and I didn’t understand why it was so important for him to
get his revenge against Chapel. As I got on into my adolescence, I eventually grew tired of
holographic covers, broken backs, dead supermen, Marvel universes moving all over the place,
and just the sheer volume of Image titles that Rob Liefeld had created, but never bothered to
finish. So, at the age of 15 I was done, but everything that I had purchased, excluding Archie
comics, I bagged and boarded.
As time moved on, I occasionally bought comics at local stores, mostly just out of
curiosity. I remember entering college and I went through a brief period of collecting again, as
my roommate was a big fan of comics. The books that I bought at that time were not taken care
of, as pizza and beer were all over the place. Pizza, beer, and comics you’re hoping to keep at
9.8 do not mix. In the year 2016, my mother fell ill, and everything changed.

Renaissance

In early 2017, my mother was experiencing intense pain in the right side of her face, which
was finally diagnosed as trigeminal neuralgia. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s basically
an affliction of the trigeminal nerve, which runs into the forehead, toward the nose, and down
towards the mouth. It’s sometimes referred to as “the suicide ailment,” as it’s very difficult to
cure and the pain is just sheer torture. Seeing her suffering instilled such dread into me, for we
always have had such a close relationship. I think a psychologist would explain my reaction to
her suffering as a form of therapy. My reaction was to completely engross myself in comics.
I should state that I don’t live in the United States. I moved to Brazil in 2009 to start my
new career as a teacher of English as a second language. It’s something I always wanted to
do, and when the housing crisis started in late 2007, I became convinced that life in the United
States would only get more difficult, so I decided to fulfill my childhood dream of moving abroad
to teach. Anyway, as I was home in the United States visiting for Christmas from
December-January of 2016-2017, I entered the comic game once again.
This time, there would be no messing around. I found a ton of speculation websites, and at
first I bought everything that was recommended by the speculators. I believe the first book I
purchased was Heathen 2. As I had no idea what I was doing, I believe I grabbed it on a
Tuesday night for 30 dollars, only to see the price cut in half the following day. This persisted
for several months until I started to contact various people in the speculation game in order to
find out what I was doing right and wrong. I learned a lot. I learned that in reality, it’s nearly
impossible to predict a sure thing. This realization of uncertainty bothered me, but it did not
deter me. I was back in Brazil, ordering these books on ebay or other online sites and having
everything shipped to my parents’ house. Finally, my mother told me I had to stop sending so
many packages to their home, for there was simply not enough room to store the comics.
So, this is when I discovered one of my favorite things about collecting in today’s market:

the camaraderie that exists among collectors. For the sake of respecting the privacy of the
person I’m about to discuss, I will not say his name. There is a well-known speculation site and
occasionally I e-mailed the guy who runs the site just to ask questions about future releases, et
cetera. I sent him an e-mail bemoaning my situation about my parents forbidding my shipping
any more packages to their home, and he responded to me, saying the following: “Just send
them to my house, and when you come home again for Christmas, I’ll mail them to you in one
big box.” And sure enough, that’s exactly what I did. He even remarked, and I laugh until today
when I think about it, “Man, I can see why your parents decided to prohibit you from mailing stuff
to their house. You order a lotttt of stuff!”
The favor he did for me was so generous and I will never forget his kindness. As I got
more into collecting, I made several other contacts. I made friends through ebay, speculation
sites, comic pressing sites, and I loved it. Most important, I felt the same warm sensation in my
soul that I felt all those years ago, back in 1992. Comics were new and exciting again, and I
had fallen in love with them again.

The road has been bumpy since my return. I remember passing on the Thanos 13
Albuquerque book when I could have had it for 15 dollars. I remember when Redneck released
its issue with the pink signature cover, I was so convinced that it was going to skyrocket, that I
immediately spent 100 dollars on just 2 copies. I could kick myself in the head for doing that. I
have gotten much more wrong than I have gotten right, but I’m happy because I’m doing
something that I love. I am obsessed with it, yes. I spend too much money on it, yes. Did I
reenter to the game to avoid dwelling on my mother’s suffering? Yes, but it made this sad life
tolerable.

The connection between adolescence and adulthood is fascinating. When I got back into
collecting, I became obsessed with finding a copy of Harbinger 1, 9.8. I searched day and night,
online and at every store possible. Just the site of its beautiful cover immediately transports me
back into my life in the early 90’s, and I remember. I remember feeling happy. I remember
spending time with so many loved ones who have long since died. I remember everything from
that wonderful part of my life that will never return, but will always live inside my mind. It’s just
so amazing that the cover of a comic book can elicit such a powerful emotional response.
I must state, however, the closest thing I’ve found to a 9.8 in the wild was recently graded by
CGC as 9.4. So, one day I will find it and complete my mission.

My mother had surgery on her trigeminal nerve recently, and while she’s not 100%, she’s
improved dramatically and is no longer suffering. As I live in Brazil, it’s difficult for me to see her
very often, but just knowing she’s better makes me feel better. I could not have gotten through
such a tough time without the help of the comics. And I am so grateful to all of the people who
have helped along the way. If there’s one thing we all have learned through our years of
reading comics, it’s that good sometimes prevails, and other times it’s crushed by the most vile
villain possible. Comics are a reflection of the psychology and culture of mankind. My mother
is well, but my renaissance has just begun, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon. Life is so
short, and rather than just working, coming home, and sleeping, I want to live my life reveling in
the nostalgia of the early 90’s by way of the comics of the late 2010’s. Comics and the fantastic
people involved really saved me from entering a deep depression. For that, I am eternally
grateful. And yes, 1992 was the greatest year ever.

-Wells Johnson Floyd

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