I (HEART COMICS)
Anyhoo, below the cut is my entry. If you offend easily or, for that matter, UNeasily, don't bother reading this cherished, cherished memory.
I (HEART) COMICS
BY CHIP ZDARSKY
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love comics, but that’s mostly due to the fact that I can’t remember anything that happened to me before the age of eleven. There are flashes of events and feelings, of course, like seeing Uncle Alan and Crazy Carl wildly swinging knives at each other on our front lawn, or the sense memory of my mother’s wine & corn dog breath as she would lick my face to wake me for school in the afternoons.
But those aren’t strong like real memories (or like real boys as my mother reminded me). My first full, vivid memory was the summer when mom was on tour and I was left at my Uncle Melvin’s place, out Minnesing way, around the corner from Barrie, Ontario, on his fertilizer farm. Uncle Melvin was divorced from his wife but strongly attached to crying most days, so his son, Big Chip, would take me to the fields to work every day, putting the proverbial shit-dollars on the table.
Big Chip was, as his name implied, big. He was tall and slender, my head just barely coming to his hip bone, and his hair had gone completely white at the age of seventeen, like a young Magneto, sans the overwrought Claremont dialogue and Malcolm X comparisons. During those hot, summer days, he would always have two comic books sticking out of his tight acid wash jeans, one for him and one for me. We would take long comic book breaks under the haunted tree and lose ourselves in the Marvel Universe. The haunted tree was called that because even the slightest wind would create an ungodly low-pitched whistle as it made its way through its tangled, hollow trunk. The noise was distracting, for sure, but it was the only spot downwind from the mountains of shit that eventually spawned several by-laws named in our honour.
Ever day was a new adventure, as I lost myself in the “Secret War” series where Marvel heroes fought valiantly on Battleworld, and Magneto boned the Wasp. I eagerly awaited the climactic issue twelve while I caught up on the rest of Big Chip’s collection, his run of Roger Stern Spider-Mans, the John Byrne She-Hulk-fetishized Fantastic Fours, and the forever maligned X-Men. A lot of people criticize superhero books as escapist literature, but is there anything wrong with that, really? If, for a second, I could imagine myself as the stoic, mentally challenged X-Men leader, Cyclops, and not as an anemic, rash-covered boy sitting in a field of shit, was that really a problem?
One fateful day, late in July, Big Chip and I made our daily trek to the haunted tree, that day’s comics gingerly poking out of his pocket, invariably placing them at a CGC 1.5 rating. When we finally reached our favourite spot, Big Chip pulled out exactly what I had been desiring all month long: The final issue of Secret War. I squealed with delight and devoured it, paying little attention to the shoddy, sparse artwork that would always accompany a double-sized issue. Big Chip just stared and smiled, watching my cherubic face as I gasped and moaned at the climactic events within. When I was done, he quizzed me, as if we were in our own two-man book club.
“What did you think of the heroes’ wishes at the end?” he asked, referencing the Beyonder’s gift to the victors. I told him that I thought they were pretty good and I was glad to see Captain America’s shield back in one piece, because it was a good shield, a fine shield. Big Chip smiled at my answer and asked me what my greatest wish would be if I had beaten Dr. Doom on Battleworld.
“I don’t know,” I lisped. “I guess it would be to never go home to mom again and just stay here reading comics upwind from all of the shit.”
Big Chip laughed. Then he stopped and stared at me, smiling, for what felt like 30 seconds.
“I’ve got another comic for us to read, together,” he said as he pulled out another rolled up Marvel masterpiece. It was a special one-off issue featuring Spider-man and Power Pack. I was intrigued! He opened the comic up and slid over to me as he started narrating it. Funnily enough, there was a character named Chip in it, who babysat Peter Parker! I never noticed it before but I looked an awful lot like a young Peter. And, coincidentally (fatefully), the “Chip” in the comic looked just like Big Chip!
Halfway through the main story, Peter and Chip were in Chip’s basement, which looked pretty awesome. Then Chip started showing Peter dirty magazines and asking him if he’d like to do the things that were in the magazine. I never got to see what happened next, or Peter’s response, because Big Chip began the long process of raping me under the haunted tree. There wasn’t a lot I could do, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do anything without knowing how my favourite character, Peter Parker, would handle the situation. Maybe this was how he got his spider-powers (I hadn’t read Amazing Fantasy #15 yet, true believer!). Instead, I imagined I was the Invisible Woman, able to hide myself and repel the world with my awesome force fields. The next day when it happened again under that bellowing tree I imagined myself as the Hulk, so very strong and able to withstand almost anything the military forced down his throat.
Eventually I went to Uncle Melvin and told him that Big Chip and I had been having these relations and that I didn’t know how the comic ended. He stopped crying for a moment and began laughing, telling me that I’d been working the shit-fields for too long and it was practically falling out of my mouth. I imagined myself as Ant-Man just then, shrinking so tiny that no one could see me cry. I ran out and down the street until I came across a house that had a “Block Parent” sign, where I would be safe to tell my story. The woman inside heard me out and gave me cookies to calm my trembling lip. She asked me where Big Chip had touched me, so I told her.
“Here?” she asked, as her hands slowly made their way up my thigh. I shut down like the Vision in Avenger #233 as she had me reenact the previous two weeks of Chip-on-Chip action. I had nowhere to turn to so I walked back to the haunted tree and gave myself over to Big Chip, my only friend, imagining myself as Wolverine, able to regenerate my innocence when that summer was over.
Eventually I went home to mother, back from her tour, and tried to tell her all about my experiences. She called me all sorts of names I can’t repeat here, and three drinks later she hallucinated that I was her ex-husband, “father,” and tried to tongue-kiss me.
After that summer, it was rare that I didn’t pretend I was a superhero, repelling advances and having a secret strength that only I knew of. The next year when the school principal spanked me without paddle or hand, I was Quicksilver, running from my problems/pain. When that police officer arrested me and searched my mouth for hours, planting evidence, I was Hawkeye, ineffective and unpopular. And when, as an adult, my john pushed me out of his moving vehicle, leaving me paralyzed and crawling off the highway, I was Professor X, unable to climb stairs, but still a powerful asshole.
This is why I love comics. No matter how hard life or Big Chip was, comics took me away to a safe place where I had power, where I could soar high like that DC Comics version of Sentry. Comics took away the pain, even if for just a second, and I can’t thank them enough. I’ll cherish those memories until the day I finally commit suicide, like Colossus did in that shitty, shitty Scott Lobdell comic from Uncanny X-Men #390.