Feb 22, 2016

Why is a Comic Book Store like a Gay Bar

Remember the Summer of 1976?

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!

Bicentennial celebrations in every city.

Silent Movie, Murder by Death, The Omen

Welcome Back Kotter, Barney Miller, Bob Newhart, 

"Afternoon Delight," "You Should Be Dancing," "Shake Your Booty"

The Heritage of Hastur, A Midsummer Tempest, Interview with the Vampire

Camping in Minnesota, where I got on my knees in a cute boy's room.

My first sexual experience, with Todd the Violinist at music camp.

And this issue of Uncle Scrooge, with Scrooge and company traveling to Unsteadystan in search of "The Treasure of Marco Polo."

But it was impossible to get in Rock Island.  The price of new comics had gone up from 15 to 30 cents in just two years, and would double again by 1979.  Schneider's Drug Store and Readmore Book World no longer stocked them.

If you managed to get a ride to the Mall, you could find a few scattered titles at the Waldenbooks, but  nothing reliable - and you had to listen to a clerk's snarky "Going to do a little heavy reading tonight?"

Then I heard through the grapevine that a store specializing in comic books, the Comics Cave, had opened on 19th Avenue in Moline, about a mile from my house.

An easy summer walk.

I didn't have any friends who were still into comic books, so one Thursday afternoon in August, I walked down by myself: 20th Avenue to 46th Street, up to 19th Avenue, across the border into Moline, past the A&W, the Eagle Supermarket, the Belgian Village where we often stopped for Vander Reubens, and finally to the Comics Cave.

A storefront with rows of old and new comics in boxes, and new issues in a display rack.  Mostly Marvel and DC, but a whole section of "Kid's Comics," with Archie, Harvey, and all the Gold Key titles.

Plus a box of discards, including a lot of Four-Color Dell titles from the 1950s.

I was in heaven!

I brought a pile of comics, enough to clean out my allowance, up to the counter.

Moment of truth: would the clerk let me buy Archie, Harvey, and Gold Key comics without ridicule?

Yep -- no jabs, no digs, no "got some heavy reading to do tonight?"

I became a regular, stopping in at least once a week, usually on Thursdays when the new issues came out, through high school and college, until I moved away to go to grad school in Bloomington.

There was another reason to go to the Comics Cave once a week: the beefcake

Chad, the owner, wasn't really attractive, a little chunky, with a sharp face, an intolerably big nose, and a red beard.

But the customers were exclusively male.  A scattering of little kids and adults, but mostly high school and college-age boys.

A science major in tight jeans leafing through back issues of The X-Men.

A skittish football player picking up the latest issue of

Two tall, thin, androgynous guys, obviously boyfriends, making plans to go to the Chicago Comic-Con and meet Stan Lee.

Chad and a cute redhead discussing whether the new Captain America tv series lived up to the comic book.

No discussions of girlfriends, no interrogations about which actress you would like in your bed, no "isn't that woman hot?"

A roomful of guys looking at, thinking about, and talking about muscular men.

It was like a gay bar, without the hookups.

No wonder I went back week after week.

The uncensored post, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.