Days of Chimps and Roses

I never read comic books growing up. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in superheroes, it was just that I prefered getting my caped crusader fix via afternoon and Saturday morning cartoons. I used my imagination via action figures and created my own world, as opposed to following the classic storylines of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. I did occasionally pick up a Batman or Hulk rag, but most of the newsstand fare I bought on the regular was MAD Magazine, Metal Edge, Guitar World, and Fangoria.

I didn’t start collecting comics till The Walking Dead. I ventured into Chimp’s Comix in town in late 2011 with my three kids. I’d decided I wanted to start reading Robert Kirkman’s major pay day after falling for the first season of AMCs adaptation of the comics. While we were in there, my son who was 6 going on 7 at the time, walked over to the .25 and .50 comics bins and started leafing through and grabbed a handful of Spiderman, Batman, and Thor comics. He was just starting to get into superheroes via Lego sets and wanted to have some comics of his own. Had it not been for him, that may have been my only trip to Chimp’s, but since he seemed interetsted we kept making trips to our town’s only stop for comic books.

From then on Chimp’s was at least a monthly stop for us. As my son got older he started to actually read the comics instead of just enjoying the art and quickly went all in. New Marvel and DC movie drops added more interest in digging into the storylines that helped mold the MCU. Seeing the newest movie on opening day was a big thing for us. So much so that I’d pick the kids up on the Friday a flick was dropping and we’d catch the 3:45 or 4pm show. Afterwards we’d hit up Chimps and look for something new to dive into.

Typically we’d buy graphic novels, or follow newer comics via trade copies as opposed to buying monthly. My son did do a few of the Star Wars comics monthly. We also did a Black Bolt run that was really great. I’d actually snagged every copy of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast run as well. But mostly it was trades. We liked having a good chunk to read at a time. I think our favorites were the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale Batman stories, as well as Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo runs. Between 2016 and 2019 we pretty much devoured those stories. Nick, the owner of Chimp’s was happy to tell us what Loeb/Sale stories to head into after we’d finished The Long Halloween. Nick knows his stuff and is happy to lend his comic book knowledge when asked. He’s a fan first, business owner second.

Through my son’s interest in comics I found a love for them as well. While he dove into classic Marvel and DC tales, I began to get into more of the alternative comics. Paul Pope, Brian K Vaughan, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Garth Ennis are a few writers I’ve fallen hard for. Pope especially captured my imagination with his dystopian tales and Manga-inspired art. Batman Year 100 might be one of the great unsung Batman stories that had nothing to do with Bruce Wayne. I even started getting quarterly editions of Fangoria thru Chimp’s Comix a couple years ago(maybe 2019?) It’s been great digging back into horror in print. Only if they’d have a pull-out poster like they used to do(or was that Gore Zone?)

It seems now we don’t hit up Chimp’s like we used to. With my son getting older, the library carrying a pretty decent selection of graphic novels, and just the fact that time isn’t there like it was when the boy was 12, 13, and 14, our trips to Chimp’s have dwindled. Since 2020 there have been six month gaps between trips and I feel really bad about that.

This past Friday I headed in to Chimp’s to grab what Fangoria he had for me. Turned out he only had one, which was January’s edition(the new one just dropped.) I came in and Nick was waiting on customers so I perused the new releases and trades, as well as checked out some of the collector’s figures he had in. Nick grabbed my Fangoria and put it on the counter and went back to helping the customers he was ringing up.

As I stood there looking around Chimp’s I had a wave of nostalgia and melancholy come over me. From the action figures we’d go through when my son and I would visit, to the discounted trades and .50 comics, the last 10 years of visits with my son came roaring back. I never realized how much of my son’s formative years were spent in that building, filling his mind with fantastical stories and feeding his brain with amazing ideas and new worlds. Even when I barely had enough in my wallet for a single trade, I’d take him in on a Friday afternoon so he’d have something new to read for the weekend. I looked forward to these visits as much as he did. I was reminded of Sunday morning trips into town with my dad to Readmore Books so he could get the Sunday edition of the South Bend Tribune and I’d get a MAD Magazine, then later on Fangoria. And hopefully there’d be a dozen donuts from Tom’s Donuts as well.

I paid Nick for the Fangoria, exchanged pleasantries, and was on my way.

I’ll still keep visiting Nick and Chimp’s. I still have a subscription for Fangoria, and there’s still plenty of trades I want to get. I suppose I have my son to thank for that. His love for comic books opened a portal in my brain that led to the world of stories and illustrations that wasn’t there before that first trip well over ten years ago for a Walking Dead trade. I hope my son can have something like this with his son(or daughter) someday. A road they can both travel together and find common ground. Stories they can share for years to come.

Until then, Excelsior!

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