Wednesday, November 08, 2006

99¢ Adventure

We found ourselves in the 99¢ Store Sunday night, looking for some deals, looking to walk off a particularly greasy meal. I find walking around a store for an hour or so, looking at all the gee gaws, is good for the the old digestion.

The 99¢ Store always looks bright and clean from a distance, but like the storefront version of Jekyll soon reverts to the Hyde reality of the interior. I don't know how they do it. They always look inviting, but then something happens when you cross the automatic-door threshold. They seem uniformally dirty and depressing once I get inside.

We picked our way through the isles, scrutinizing every potential purchase. It's surprising what you won't buy, even for 99¢. As Kirsten put it "That's how they get you. A little here, a little there... before you know it, you've got a hundred things in your basket which probably cost them five bucks."

Suddenly, I was confronted with a spinner rack. I didn't know they carried comics. Confronted by such an unexpected sight, I couldn't process what I was seeing. Kirsten knew from experience that I needed to be alone, and she continued without me.

I was bouyed by the rush of discovery. I've have dreams like this, finding a hidden cache of comics in an unexpected environment (what does that say about me?). There were comics on the spinner rack, but my back-issue-bin sense tingled... I knew there had to more nearby. I found a pile of more comics stacked with the coloring books not four feet away.

What did I find? Well, it was mostly DC Comics Who's Who, issues #1 & 2. The comics seemed well preserved, but not in a bagged & boarded kind of way, but more like inventory that's been hidden in a warehouse for the last twenty years kind of way.

I was hit with such a sense of nostalgia. I've written about Marvel's Handbook before, and Who's Who was DC's answer. It came a few years after, but like OHOTMU, it seemed perfectly timed. It came out right at the point that I was starting to become interested in things that weren't Marvel. DC's continuity had about 40 years more depth than Marvel's, so it seemed inpenetrable to a new reader. Who's Who provided an entry into this world.

It's ironic though that just as DC was ready to write down a definitive guide to their shared universe, they were also thinking about simplifying it. Crisis of Infinite Earths started shortly after and with that, history was being radically rewritten. Who's Who straddled pre- and post-Crisis, perhaps featuring the last appearance of many characters and concepts.

Who's Who is graced with gorgeous art. Like OHOTMU, artists who were most associated with a character (for the most part) provided the art. Unlike OHOTMU, artists either inked themselves or were teamed with an inker that conplemented their unique style. OHOTMU relied on Joe Rubinstein to ink the lion's share on entries, giving the appearance of a house style while DC's reflected the sheer diversity of their line.

The excitement of seeing these comics again soon gave way to a certain dread. To be honest, it was like finding an old friend homeless on the street. To find these great comics of my youth stacked willy nilly in a 99¢ Store, awaiting certain doom or eventual disposal saddened me. I wanted to rescue them, but I couldn't save them all. Finally, I decided to buy a handful of each issue and hopefully pass them on to someone.

Also, I scored this:

I never got into this series back in the day, though I thought the toys were cool. I don't imagine the story holds up, but still, how could I refuse. Such a deal at 99¢... wait a minute... cover price 35¢?

Oh man.



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