since 1998

personal website: joe crawford. code. occasional comics. toy robots. bodysurfing. san diego. california. say hi.

Remembering Comic Gallery

“Everything in Comics & Fantasy”
New & Collector’s Comics — Fantasy & Role Playing Games
Miniatures – Japanese Animation
Sports and Non-Sports Cards

4224 Balboa Avenue, San Diego CA 92117
9460-G Mira Mesa Blvd. San Diego CA 92126
322-J W. El Norte Parkway, Escondido, CA 92016

I went to the Balboa Avenue Comic Gallery. It was next to a sewing machine shop that’s still there. I don’t know when it closed but it’s at least 10 years ago.

It was halfway between my Grandparent’s house and Pacific Beach.

I went a lot.

I remember vividly picking up Iron Man issue 196.

…something about that image hit me hard in the Summer of 1985. I think it’s to do with identity. Who am I? Who claims to be me? I was 15 years old. And I had a job, working in a bank making $3.35 an hour doing clerk type work. I had enough to spend 65 cents on a comic book. I wasn’t driving yet but I could take the bus or I could get a ride with my Mom who was supportive of whatever I wanted to do.

In 1985 and in the following years I fell back in love with comic books. I’d had had a smattering of comics since I was 5 or 6 years old but they didn’t stick with me. I remember a treasury oversize Batman comic with the origin story, one of those huge things. I remember a Marvel Fun Book which made my head spin with how many characters Marvel had who I had no idea who they even were. I remember picking up an X-Men comic from a friend when I was 12 and living in New Orleans. Who are all these characters? Who is who’s parent? What are they talking about? What’s a mutant? I was lost.

And 5 years later, in San Diego, I discovered comics better suited to me. More self-contained. Beanworld by Larry Marder loomed large. It was weird and spiritual and sort of like a board game and iconic but very much a contained universe and I loved it. Soon enough Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns would blow my mind in their intricacy and ideas and huge dystopian action. I followed Thor by the Simonsons and Iron Man and I also picked up Who’s Who in the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe Encyclopedia. I got a real sense of how many stories had been told in the decades of DC and Marvel.

I subscribed to the Comic Buyer’s Guide. It was a newsprint weekly newspaper about comics delivered to home. I loved learning about the comics business and saw how nutty and tenuous an enterprise it was. I learned how creators would miss deadlines. How talent would ping pong between places. How some people were jerks. How all the companies hoped to cash in with movies and animation and how often that failed. In those pages I remember reading how James Cameron of Aliens wanted to make a Spider-Man and thinking if anyone could, he could.

And I attended San Diego Comic-Con. What a luxury to be in 8th-12th grade in a place with SDCC? I lucked out big. I could just walk in. What an astounding privilege to have! Some people around the world can only dream of attending.

And yet I never made comics.

I created a character or two. I made some drawings to make my classmates laugh. Made drawings for greeting cards. Made lovely maps. I never tried to tell a story. Not the smallest narrative. I had no story to tell. Though that’s not true, I could tell amazing stories: but I didn’t realize that my own history could be what I could tell. Diary comics seemed like something other people could do. Not for me.

I’m learning in the past 2 years that I do have stories to tell. I make comics now.

It only took 35 years to get started.


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