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Tales of The Comic Book That Got Away

Every comic book collector experiences a certain moment. Maybe after a long, complicated move, one of our long boxes is a little lighter than it was in the old apartment. Maybe after a visit from nieces or nephews our coffee tables aren’t as crowded with comics as they once were. Or maybe the experience is as simple as a skip in the sequence of numbers as we flip through a series of issues.

We had an issue. Now it’s gone. For the most part it doesn’t matter when a collection shrinks by an issue or two. With comics shops online and trades all over the place, not to mention digital comics on the horizon, it’s not that hard to replace a lost issue. Let’s face it. Most of the time, we don’t even want to replace what we’ve lost. Not all issues bear reading twice. Every now and again, though, there’s a lost issue that really hurts.

My comic book that got away is “Robin #141.” Stop laughing. It’s not a particularly special issue, nor is it signed, sketched in, or in any way enhanced. It’s not even a storyline I would read again, if I had the choice. I don’t even think I could. This was just before the OMAC storyline, leading into it indirectly, and I still haven’t figured out what the hell was going on in that arc. I wish I still had this issue only because it just happens to be the first comic book I ever bought.I really couldn’t say what exactly made me buy that first comic. I’d been living in the neighborhood and happily walking right past the comic book store without looking in for years, but for some reason I decided to go in and browse. Not yet comfortable enough to do the really hardcore grazing that a lot of comic book fans do, John Byrne’s disapproval notwithstanding, I flipped through a few pages and bought it. I watched the clerk put it in a bag, and put that bag in another bag, and I took it home.

My initial impression was not favorable. I thought of comic book singles as they were back in the Golden Age. I expected comprehensible, complete stories about the same Batman and Robin that I’d seen in the movies and on the animated show. Once I’d finished reading, and made sure that I hadn’t accidentally bought an issue that had been ripped in half, my reaction was, “What’s going on? Who are all of these people? Where’s the rest of the book?” I tossed it on my bookshelf, and thought I was done with comics. If it weren’t for online resources, I would have been. Instead I got online, read up about that storyline, got interested in a featured character, read about a different story with that character, bought those singles, found another character I wanted to read about in those, and the rest – was a rapidly growing pile on my bookshelf.

I’m not sure when I lost it. Maybe I thought the pile got too big and decided to cull it of all the stories that I wasn’t interested in. Maybe it fell between the boards on the shelf and I tossed it out when I got a bigger bookshelf. Maybe termites ate it. All I know is I don’t have that first book that I bought anymore. I shouldn’t care, but at the same time I feel a twinge whenever I see that issue of “Robin” wrapped up in Mylar at cons or in stores. But I don’t buy it. It wouldn’t be the same.

Do you have your own tale of your comic book that got away? Below, share your stories of love, loss, and nostalgia.

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