I can’t tell you much about what my life was like as a 12 year old. I have snippets of things from back then, a fun vacation to Niagara Falls, some trips to Ipperwash and Grand Bend, some great birthdays, lots of terrific times at my grandparents farm…but I can vividly tell you exactly what I did and what I had for lunch the second Saturday in May, 1984.
It was a beautiful warm day, super sunny, with just a hint of spring chill still in the air. I rode my bike to Les’ Variety in Old Wortley Villiage. The comics were at the back of the store on a low shelf. Les had a ton of comics, probably consistently the biggest haul of anyone around, and his was the shop I would go to when I was looking for something in particular.
I picked up three comics that day. Batman Special #1, featuring a new character called “The Wraith” who was basically the bad guy version of Batman (his parents were killed in front of him as a child by police officers in a very Bonnie and Clyde reminiscent scene). Blue Beetle #1, featuring a brand new super-hero who was really a stuntman who gets trapped inside of his special effects costume.
The third comic was Saga of the Swamp Thing #25. I bought it because the cover was striking, it had an image of the swamp monster crawling out of the muck and grabbing a white haired girl by the leg. The title was formed out of the negative space in the vegetation, and the design of everything really appealed to me. Of course 12 year old me just thought it looked cool. The interior art was really creepy and awesome too.
I didn’t know it at the time, but 12 year old me was about to be introduced to both Alan Moore and John Totleben. Names that years later would mean a lot more to me as I got to learn more about the British invasion of comics, and Miracleman in particular.
I went a couple of doors down to the Wortley Road Diner and ordered a plate of french fries with gravy and a Coke. I sat down and started reading Swamp Thing #25. Here’s the brief description from ComicVine.
Paul’s parents, Chris and Jenny have accidentally released the Monkey King using a ouija board, they both get killed by him and his son is taken to Elysium Lawns, a center for autistic children, the Monkey King has adopted Paul as his master and is using him and the rest of the kids in the center to feed.
Jason Blood, The Demon, gets to Baton Rouge, where he has tracked the demon, to haunt and destroy him; he and The Swamp Thing have felt trouble ahead. Meanwhile, Abby has gotten a new job at Elysium Lawns, as she is shown the place she knows Paul, who seems to be very disturbed by the thing that has happened to him and his family. The Monkey King is ready to attack again and he’s getting stronger.
I had read some Demon stuff from Jack Kirby. The character was kind of goofy, with primary reds and yellows, and a cute little rhyming gimmick. I had seen some Swamp Thing stuff before by Bernie Wrightson. What I had never experienced before though was Alan Moore’s storytelling.
It starts with Jason Blood telling a travelling salesman that at 5:32pm the salesman would be impaled by a swordfish, and ends with that story coming true.
The final scene is of the Monkey King cuddling up to the little boy in the story, its muzzle wet and warm with blood.
I was both terrified…and hooked. I really enjoyed comics before then, but that day, with a fresh out of the fryer plate of brown gravy topped fries and a Coca Cola, I fell in love with the medium of comics.
For some reason, the Monkey King reminded me of a Work Sock Monkey, and from that day on I was terrified of them.