So here’s how I spent my Saturday afternoon: kicked out of my own house by my wife and baby boy, missing the crucial Game 7 of the East Coast NBA Finals, and babysitting my sleep deprived three-year-old in the middle of a claustrophobic antique shop in South Pasadena. Man, if my teenaged self could see me now, he would shake his head in somber disdain.
But I was having the time of my life.
Let me backtrack. As any parents out there can attest, sometimes – when your kid won’t take a nap even though he really needs to – you have no recourse but to seal yourself into the family SUV and drive around, praying to God that the gentle rocking of rubber on road is enough to coax the little bastard to sleep. So it was with some ulterior motive that I found myself driving along the 110 North, in the general direction of South Pasadena.
It was a pleasant ride, made all the sweeter by the fact that my son had, indeed, fallen asleep during the drive over the hill. I could have turned around at this point, but we were just entering the Golden Hour and, as if compelled by some unseen force, I found myself guided down Orange Grove to Mission Street, the very heart of South Pass.
Transferring my boy from his car seat to his stroller in a feat of parental legerdemain, we quietly, but determinedly, made our way along the storefronts until I spotted a dollar books cart parked in front of the cramped unassuming Hodgeson’s Antiques.
It was only when I started flipping through the titles, though, that I realized I had hit Indie Paradise. $1 Valiant Comics. $1 Image Comics. $1 Ultraverse Comics. Heaven.
And then we went inside and found a treasure trove of beat-up, cast-off longboxes. As my boy slept the sleep of angels, I made a few other discoveries that held a value for me both intrinsic and extrinsic: DC’s Demon Annual #2 featuring the first appearance of Hitman (probably the closest DC Proper has ever gotten to an Indie character; also – Bloodlines!!!); back-issues of Dark Horse’s non-starting Comics’ Greatest World; and the crown jewel in any Indie comics collection, VALIANT Comics’ Unity #1 signed by Jim Shooter. For. Only. Four. Dollars.
At first, quarter bins used to depress me. I would come across them at my LCS or conventions or even when my parents used to drag me along on their antiquing excursions in South Florida. As much as I liked coming across comics on the cheap, some part of me would always be saddened by the site of these unwanted books. Maybe because I could empathize with the talent and hard work that went into making them (even the bad ones). Maybe because I’ve since seen some of my books in quarter bins, too.
But then I think about how much joy I derive from finding and reading (and rereading) these comics that someone else no longer wanted. Sure, there are some real dogs in those water-damaged longboxes, but there are also some real ahead-of-their time gems in there, too. And when my son finally woke up an hour later, I was able to share with him the G-rated finds from Hodgeson’s, making the experience even more meaningful for me.
Many times, when we talk about Indie Comics, we talk about the future – what’s coming up next in terms of content, distribution, digital vs. print, etc. But, sometimes, it helps to go back to our progenitors, even the failed ones, and learn from their efforts. And, sometimes, it’s just plain fun to find and read weird comics for a quarter a piece.
Richard A. Hamilton is a Los Angeles resident for 12 years running and the writer/publisher of Return of the Super Pimps and Miserable Dastards. On his free time, he seeks out new Indie comics, local beers, and –on good days — both.