When I say Spider-Man was my favorite comic book superhero, I want to emphasize “was”. I gave up on comic books in 1977 after amassing a collection that modern-day comic book enthusiasts would salivate over.
I had every Spider-Man comic ever published up to that time. Yes, I even had a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first time his origin story was published, before he got his own comic book series.
I didn’t have every comic book that featured Spider-Man (you can find a list here) but I had every issue of the “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man”.
I grew up in the small city of Coolidge, Arizona (well, until the age of 13) and I used to walk home from school on most days because it was quicker than riding the school bus. I took various routes just to break up the monotony but on most days, Main Street was along the route. Main Street had existed since the 1920s, when horses and stagecoaches traveled along its dirt road. It was extra-wide with extra-wide covered sidewalks on both sides of the street.
I would pass by a small store called the “Quonset Hut”. It was years later that I found out it was named as such because it was built inside a converted Quonset hut obtained from a military compound after World War II. Anyway… every time I passed the store, I would go in and rifle through their stack of secondhand comic books. I ignored the ones missing part of the cover (stores could mail back parts of the covers to get refunds from the distributors for unsold comic books).
I would snatch up the Spider-Man comics, along with any other titles I could afford. Those used comic books cost me five cents each, when new comic books cost 12 cents each (and later, 15 cents).
My family moved all of our household goods to Hawaii through a cargo company in 1974. When we flew from Arizona to Hawaii, we had a bunch of aluminum footlockers (there was 13 of us altogether) and I kept one for my personal use.
Every week, I would beg my parents to take me to a bookstore in Kapaa on the island of Kauai. It wasn’t far from where we lived — we lived in a rural area and the city was tiny — but it was too far to walk and it was before I owned my bicycle. Well, it wouldn’t have mattered because I had to get my money from them anyway. I remember when the comic book prices increased and the last one I bought was 25 cents.
I was a Spider-Man fanatic back then. Variety shows for children existed in both states. In Arizona (Phoenix), it was “Wallace and Ladmo”. In Hawaii (Honolulu), it was “Checkers and Pogo”.
I don’t know why I didn’t watch the original Spider-Man cartoons in the late 1960s, when they first aired. I still got to see them all because they were broadcast daily on the Checkers and Pogo show.
Later, I watched a kiddie show called “The Electric Company” on PBS, solely because they had a non-talking Spider-Man featured for a few years. I saw the Spider-Man television series when it was aired on broadcast TV, as disappointing as it was (the Hulk series with Bill Bixby later was much better).
Although I’ve seen every movie with Spider-Man in it, including the latest Captain America movie, I only watched three on the silver screen – the first two Spider-Man movies and the latest Captain America movie.
I must not have argued long enough or strongly enough when my family moved away from Hawaii in late 1977. I was forced to give up the footlocker with all the comic books in it because my parents weren’t going to pay to ship anything that time around and it would cost too much money to take it on the plane. It was full and it was extremely heavy.
While I was living there, I used to trade comic books with another kid that lived about a block away (I only remember his first name, Michael). His parents were Filipino immigrants but he was born and raised there.
About a week before we left, I gave him the footlocker, with all those comic books inside of it. If I had known what I was doing, things could have turned out differently. Amazing Fantasy #15 alone is selling for over $5000 on eBay (the prices fluctuate from $5000 to $25,000, with those autographed by Stan Lee being worth $80,000 on up).
Just guessing by all the early titles and #1 issues I had, and if I had them today, I’d have a collection valued in the hundreds of thousands. Even if I hadn’t given them away in 1977, I seriously doubt I would still have them. I was 16 back then and I joined the military about a year later. They would have ended up in someone else’s hands or would’ve been thrown away (most likely used to entertain young children who would then destroy them).
By: RT Cunningham
May 7, 2016
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