Just A Thought | Going Hardcore!

What I mean by going hardcore was the moment you crossed from casual fan to that guy who came in to the comic shop on a regular basis. Where you stopped buying from the corner store and started buying comics on Wednesdays at a comic shop.

Okay, for everyone who got here by the title coming up in their porn search, sorry to disappoint you, there will be very little sexual intercourse of any sort taking place. Or for wrestling fans, I won’t be putting anyone through a flaming table.

What I mean by going hardcore was the moment you crossed from casual fan to that guy who came in to the comic shop on a regular basis. Where you stopped buying from the corner store and started buying comics on Wednesdays at a comic shop.

For me it was the summer of 1991 and I saw the very first issue of X-Force at the corner store.

Now I had been buying comics on a semi regular basis for years but up until that point I had never collected an actual series; I had issues of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, what ever caught my fancy. I had quite a few but X-Force #1 sealed the deal.

Problem was, I then had to find a comic shop that I liked…and that my folks would drive me to.

I first tried two shops in downtown Barrie. As anyone who ever shopped for comics during that time period would tell you, these shops weren’t exactly great for younger readers. Long standing convention rumors have had it that one of the shop proprietors was the basis for Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons.

It might not be true and but it’s a pretty close resemblance.

A comic shop opened in Bradford not to far from my Mom’s work. Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a shop in terms of product.

Next was a shop in downtown Newmarket. Better than both the Barrie stores by far but unfortunately for a kid who didn’t drive and didn’t take bus, it was pretty awkward to get to.

And then my shining light opened: Triple Play Comics and Cards.  Just on the outskirts of Newmarket, right on the way to the mall or on the way back home so it was pretty easy to convince a parental unit to drive to.  Triple Play is kind of the minimum standard I set for comic shops from there out. Knowledgeable staff, comfy atmosphere, clean and bright lighting.

It wasn’t a dingy hole.

One of the guys who worked there, Ryan, hooked me up with my first pull box and with issue 6, my collection was on its way. I ended up buying X-Force 1- 32 but it was also during that period my tastes discovered other comics. There was this awesome show on TVO called Prisoners of Gravity and this dude named Neil Gaiman kept popping up on episode after episode. The comic he wrote, The Sandman, sounded interesting so on a whim, I bought the first trade from the cute blond that worked there (hi Joanne!) and was instantly hooked.

Soon after X-Force, Sandman trades were added to my list as was Grendel Tales (a Grendel spin-off book). This was followed quickly by Preacher trades.

Can you now see how comics can be like heroin?

Triple Play is now gone sadly. The original owners sold off and went on to other ventures and the new owners couldn’t quite cut it. I still maintain a bit of contact with two of the store’s workers. Joanne and I chat via Facebook and actually meet up in person about every couple of years or so. She went on to self publish her own comic Rummblestrips (and on the off-chance you ever meet the lovely Joanne, bug her about it and then we might get another issue). Ryan still works at conventions so I see him once a year. Which usually has him remind me how old I am by telling me how old his daughter is.

Why I ask and punish myself with this, I’m still not sure.

I floated between shops for a while afterwards finally settling down at The Blue Beetle where my pull box calls home.

Now I look for it in the eyes of customers at the shop; the moment they are going to crossover from regular reader into hardcore mode. It makes my heart smile a little.

Now for your turn.  Do you remember what comic it was that turned you into more than a casual reader?  Or a particular moment?


Brent Chittenden
Brent Chittenden

Brent Chittenden is a Canadian freelance writer currently writing for alancross.ca, geekhardshow.com and his own pop culture podcast, TATANS. He is readily available for writing and speaking gigs. Brent like sandwiches.

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13 years ago

This is a bit of an odd answer, but for me it was Avengers #272.
I had been picking up comics at a variety store in Orillia where my parents and I would go to rent VHS tapes.  I was doing pretty good, picking up the Avengers monthly off the newsstand there.  Then, from out of seemingly no where there was this whole other team of characters crossing over with Captain America and his gang.  Who was this “Alpha Flight”?  I’d never heard of them!
That summer while on a family RV trip to Northern Ontario, I was hanging out in the snack bar/camps store of the campground, and what did I find?  Alpha Flight #39!  The first part of the Avengers crossover.  That opened my mind to the whole universe of comics.
Back in Orillia that September, on the first day of Grade 9, we were given a half day off.  I found myself downtown, at Mike’s Bookstore. A used books store run by a friendly couple that would order comics for you!  My first ever pull list was made that very day, and I remember buying a copy of Legion of Super-Heroes #17 “We want YOU to join the Legion!”
Several stores and a whole lotta comics later, I’m still here!

13 years ago

1991…? Is it possible that I’m actually older than you? For me it was the Snail! Our librarian took us there on a field trip in grade school and I loved it. This was before Queen Street was hip. Bakka, the Sci Fi book store was across the street and Dragon Lady further east. Not as good lately but still I like browsing around from time to time. I’ll be sorry to see them go…

Kevin Boyd
13 years ago

While I was hooked on comics long before March 1982, it was the purchase of  Marvel Fanfare #1 (March 1982), which I picked up on my first trip to a comics specialty store  (a place that I think was called Comics Unlimited on Keewatin, north of Eglinton, east of Yonge).  That book with it’s slick paper, stunning art by Michael Golden and the fact it was only available in comics shops that got me even more hooked on “comics culture”. By that time I had my first Overstreet guide (the 1981 edition with it’s creepy cover by L.B. Cole) and was busy learning about comics lore. I started going to the store every week from then on – and started going to stores all over the city of Toronto. They say your “golden age” is when you are twelve, and for me, the summer of 1982 was definitely mine. I wouldn’t get my first pull list until I was in my 20’s, but throughout the 1980’s I was a comics junkie — hooked on the early alternative scene with books like Cerebus, Elric, Mage, American Flagg!, Dreadstar, The Rocketeer as well as Marvel and DC. John Byrne, Frank Miller and George Perez were the kings of mainstream comics. What a great time!

Ed Campbell
13 years ago

Ahh the comic book shops in Barrie back in the early 90’s.  They were a real treat to go into (you can inject my sarcastic tone in there).  If I didn’t love comic books, I wouldn’t have gone in.  I don’t think the Simpson’s stereotype would work for that store, it was much worse.

The store that helped convert me to a hardcore collector was Redd Skull Comics in Calgary.  I didn’t just go in on Wednesday, I would stop by 3 times a week.  It was more for the store culture than the books.      When I moved back to Barrie in 2002, I shuddered the thought of having to go back to buying comics at the corner store, or the old stores in Barrie.  I even contemplated opening my own store.  Fortunately the old stores in Barrie were gone, and Blue Beetle Comics was open.  I have been a regular customer ever since.

The comic that changed everything for me was G.I. Joe #53.  From there it led into X-Force, Superman, Spider-Man, etc.

13 years ago

I was introduced to comics by my grade school friend… He let me keep some books but the very first one I ever bought on my own FF#185 (1977) from Macs Milk (Variety Store). Back then, we’d return Coke bottles and get back a nickel (or was it a dime). The book cost 30¢ and it was raining that day so it got all wet by the time I got it home. I still have that book… wrinkles and all.

Kevin, my first CGC book I picked up from you… New Frontier, triple signature… (it’s like we’re almost blood brothers). You should see the collect I’ve amassed since…


I, Warren
I, Warren
13 years ago

I got hooked early (under age 5!!!). I remember having Brave & the Bold # 123 (Batman, Plastic Man & Metamorpho) and Brave & the Bold #126 (Batman & Aquaman).  I was too young to read them (they were read to me), but the stories and characters captured my imagination.  A little while later I remember having Avengers #165 and being absolutely riveted by the story.  What was with this guy called The Vision and why was he in a coma (or “sleeping”, as my aunt explained it to me)?  From then on it was practically any and every Marvel & DC title I could find at the local drug stores (San Pharmacy near my house on the Hamilton mountain, or the United Cigar Store in the Centre Mall near my grandmother’s house), garage sales and flea markets.
When I got older, I learned there was a Silver Snail downtown (Chris hepped me to it).  I made weekly (often more than once a week) trips.  Can’t remember what the first thing I bought there was, but once I knew it existed it became my “Go To” destination.