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Thursday 23 May 2024

Comics at the Wigwam
AJ Robinson

There are certain events that a person remembers fondly.

A first kiss.

A first love.

Girls may remember the first time they got their ears pierced, or the first valentine they got from a boy.

Boys often remember the first girl that smiled at them, or the first fish they caught, the first time they got a hit in baseball or sank a basket.

I have quite a few of those; among them was a first that may not mean much to many people, but it was pretty significant in my life:

There was my first comic book.

Yeah, like I said, not your typical important first in a persons life. Yet, for me, it was, and the memory burns bright in my mind. This is despite the fact that its not the memory of a first issue of Superman or Batman," or even Spiderman. No, it was just a simple comic, and it came from a little place called the Wigwam Paper Store," right on Circuit Ave in Oak Bluffs. My earliest memory of the place was going there with my Dad to get the Boston Globe on Sunday. The store had one of those split doors so they could open the top and leave the bottom closed. Most days they opened it all the way up, but on Sundays, they kept the bottom half closed, and the clerk would stand there to pass out the newspaper. My Dad and I would join the line of people, and wait our turn to get our copy of the Globe.

It was quite the big deal; the first time he let me carry the paper back to our cottage. Now, me, I didnt know a classified ad from an editorial, but I did know about the comics; it was the one section of the paper I wanted to see. It was also a pretty big deal when I got old enough to read it on my own. Id read Mutt and Jeff," Momma," Blondie," and all the others. Of course, I generally didnt get the jokes in some of them, but they were bright and colorful, and I loved them.

My only regret was that I had to wait all week to get the next instalment!

And then came the comic book.

One of my friends I dont recall which one brought a copy of Our Army at War Featuring Sgt. Rock to one of our cottages, and I read it. I was totally floored a Sunday comic that was pages and pages long, and you didnt have to wait until Sunday to get! I mean, wow; did everyone know about these things? I asked where it had come from, and the answer was the Wigwam.

Well, that was all I needed to know; I set off there at once. Upon my arrival, I wandered through the store; it was a long narrow shop with two aisles, both lined with all the usual sort of things you found in a paper store. There was the magazine rack, the souvenirs for the tourists (I avoided those), the toys and beach stuff, and some magazines in a high rack that were sort of off limits to us kids. They were called mens magazines," but that didnt make sense to me they always had women on the covers.

Then, back in the corner, was the comic book rack. It was there that I found that issue of Sgt. Rock," and bought it. Ah, I must have read that comic a dozen times that first week, and still today I can recall the story in great detail. Of course, these days, such a comic would not be politically correct. No, not because it was violent; heck, the graphic novels and comics of today are ten times worse than anything I read in my youth! No, it wouldnt work today because it showed American men fighting on the side of truth and justice they were fighting the Nazi in World War II the last so-called Just War. Todays comics are full of dark and foreboding characters, no more good guys; no, such things are childish and unrealistic as if a comic is supposed to be about reality? The buzzword of today is edgy; everything has to be edgy and tough, gritty and malevolent. If a comic like that came out today it well, it wouldnt come out! No, not unless it showed the Americans being evil and destructive.

But, I digress.

After that, I became a regular fixture at the Wigwam. I would buy all manner of comics: war comics, Disney, sci-fi, and so on. I didnt much like a lot of the super hero comics, as the stories were open-ended I didnt want to wait to know how it turned out! As I got older, my interests grew; I started in on the magazines and no, I never had the nerve to buy one of the mens magazines the lady behind the counter could be so disapproving with her glares. But, I did notice the first issue of a little magazine called Starlog," and bought it. It was about Star Trek," so I just had to have it!

I eventually stopped buying comics, but not before the Wigwam went out of business. It wasnt for lack of interest, it was a growing distaste for the quality of the stories I saw being presented. I suppose tastes must change, but as for me give me an old-fashion story any day. I suppose that contributed to me becoming a writer I wanted to see more of the stories Id grown up with.

Strange the things that contribute to a mans life and psyche. For me, a few well-told stories from some old comics made all the difference in the world.

Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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