Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Forgotten Joy of "Long Box Surfing"

You remember when you were a kid, and you would spend hours sifting through every single long box at your local comic shop? Remember how you had that ragged "want list," folded carefully in your back pocket, of issues you needed to complete a run, or the obscure first appearance of some random character. Remember how you would pull out comics you might want and hide them in the back of the box, hoping that no one else would snatch them up while you were looking in another box in the back of the store? It’s been a long time since I felt that pure joy of collecting. These days, if I want something bad enough, I just go onto E-Bay and buy it. If it’s not there, I just set up a search and wait for it, and soon enough, somebody will list it. I haven’t lost myself in a comics shop in years, and I had almost forgotten how much fun it can be.

In NYC, of course there are the big shops – Jim Hanley’s Universe, Midtown Comics, Forbidden Planet and Rocketship, but if you’re looking for the most eclectic assortment of new and old, mainstream and alternative, comics and magazines, the best place to shop is Roger's Time Machine on 14th and 7th Ave. Too old school to even bother with a proper website, this shop is exactly like the old comics stores I used to love in St. Louis, only filled with a much broader assortment of items than just superheroes. The guys behind the counter are the same guys you remember, hard core comics fans who will sit there and chat away about any obscure artist or topic you can think of, and rather than simply scoop up your cash, they’ll force a discount on you to ensure that you come back and visit again.

The best approach is to go in without anything specific in mind. Just lose yourself in the store for an hour or so and I guarantee you’ll find something interesting. In my case, I have obviously been seeking out anything and everything to do with the Hernandez Brothers and I did not walk away disappointed. First, I found a copy of Brain Capers #1, a comic by Mario, published by Fantagraphics in 1993. I didn’t even know this comic existed, so I was more than pleasantly surprised to find it. I also spent a full half hour combing through boxes of old comic fanzines, most of which I'd never even heard of, some that were little more than hand-stapled relics, searching for any article or interview with Los Bros I could find. And sure enough, I landed an obscure fanzine called Greed Magazine, the fifth issue of which contained an 8 page article/interview with Jaime and Gilbert.

It had been so long, I had almost forgotten what a pure joy long box surfing can be, and while I'm still trying to catch up on all the stuff that I bought and never read, I have to admit, I'm looking forward to my next visit to the Time Machine.

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