When I was in junior high school, I started secretly collecting superhero comic books. I was too embarrassed to do it openly since my parents were down on superheroes and I was a good kid. So I’d make my weekly pilgrimage to the comic book store, a dark musty place piled high with comics old and new, and come home with the latest issue of Spiderman or Dr. Strange or Howard the Duck rolled up inside a newspaper or tucked inside my jacket. I kept them all in drawers in my desk, in neat stacks by title, each stack in issue number order. (Collectors might be interested to know that just by chance, the first issue of Spiderman that I bought was #129, which just happened to introduce The Punisher and is now worth a lot of money. Total chance.)
Reading Spiderman and the other titles, I was enchanted by the fact that these were continuing stories. The authors would plant a clue in one issue and not develop it until several months later. There were mysteries which ran for a year or more. Sometimes they’d draw out multiple plotlines at once. I loved it! And I wanted to do it.
At the time, I was telling stories to my brother Andrew who was about seven and my sister Laura who was about four. Laura had originally asked for a story about Aquaman. I thought she said Appleman, so I created a costumed superhero with an apple helmet and started telling stories about him. Then I wove in members of our family and The Adventures of the Litzkys was born.
As I read more Marvel comics (including some really thoughtful ones by Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber, which I still have), I started making my Adventures of the Litzkys continuing. When I found that I couldn’t remember where I’d left off last time, I started keeping notes. Once I started keeping notes, it was a short step to plotting future stories. I worked out plotlines and mysteries that lasted for months and years, just like the comics I loved. I brought the story to a grand finale on the day my family drove me down to college.
I still have the notes I kept. In fact, I recently transcribed them into the computer (and I couldn’t help embellishing them and fixing errors and inconsistencies). I’ll probably pick out some story ideas from those notes: there’s some good stuff in there. But I miss telling a continued story. I’m going to try to get a continuing saga going online.
That’s how Spiderman and friends helped me be a storyteller. And yes, I eventually “came out” about reading comics. It was kind of an open secret and one day Mom just said, “You like to go to the comic book store, don’t you Michael?” Relieved, I answered as though I’d never been hiding it at all, “YES!”