October 4, 2010

MORAL CODEBOOKS:

Comic book collector learns fine art of letting go (MARTHA IRVINE, 10/03/2010, AP)

One of the 10 comic books Alaniz is holding on to is the one that started his obsession in rural south Texas in 1974: “Marvel Two-in-One Presents The Thing and The Guardians of the Galaxy.”

He’s not really sure why his mom bought it for him. Maybe it was because his older brother had comic books.

“For him, they were kind of a diversion,” Alaniz says. “For me, they became much more than that.”

Many nights, he would lay in his bedroom, alone, devouring each issue his mother bought for him. She only spoke Spanish, couldn’t read them herself. But they kept her younger son out of trouble, he says, and she liked that.

Even if she didn’t realize it, she also was introducing him to a whole new world, one that would teach him English and how to read. The comic books even helped instill an understanding of right and wrong, he says, a “moral code” he carries with him to this day.

They also helped him make sense of his brother, whom he looked up to but whose bursts of anger and run-ins with the law confused him. Was it any wonder, Alaniz now says, that the Hulk, who exhibited both reason and rage, was the character who most fascinated him?

“I realized there was something very special going on here,” says Alaniz. “This was not something to just read and throw away.”

Sal Buscema, a longtime artist for Marvel Comics who worked on the Hulk series, always knew there were kids out there who were devouring his work and that of other comic artists and writers.

Those kids wrote fan letters, some that were published in the comics. But Buscema could not have predicted that some of them would help propel his work into special collections, as Alaniz and others have done. That still amazes the 74-year-old artist, who lives outside Washington, D.C., and still works for Marvel.

In the early days, “If you were a serious artist, you certainly didn’t go into comic books,” Buscema says. “That changed over the years to a point now where we are extremely respected, something I never dreamed would happen when I got into the industry in 1968.”

He’s never met Alaniz, a professor of Slavic languages and literature at the University of Washington who’s among a growing corps of scholars who are teaching university-level courses on comic books.

But Buscema has met many like him.

“I’m so glad there are people like him out there because they kept me in business,” Buscema says, laughing. “I’m joking — I really do appreciate what he has done.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2010 6:24 AM
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