I read a LOT when I was a kid. After my dad died (just before I turned 8, so not much older than Modest) people started giving me books. I guess they wanted to keep me busy. I’d read anything I could get my hands on. Novels like Where the Red Fern Grows and and Huck Finn where what people gave me, but I was more interested in collections of short sci-fi stories that my aunt read, and sometimes left for me. I remember finding the Hobbit at around age 10 and just being transformed by it. I had never read anything like it, and from that point I was totally obsessed with fantasy and sci-fi fiction. I was reading a few books a month, mostly borrowed from my school library. But I didn’t read comics.
For some reason I was under the impression that comics were for little children. Like, 5 and 6 year olds. I know my mom didn’t think much of comics. I had a friend who sometimes brought Captain America comics to school, and I was always curious about them, but I was convinced I was too old. One time I was home sick from school and a friend of my mom’s brought me a stack of Goofy comics to read. I didn’t even look at them. I did really like Calvin & Hobbes and The Farside. But those were acceptable. They were in the newspaper, and adult read them too. I was a very serious kid.
My first comic was a Don Rosa Donald Duck adventure called “The Crocodile Collector”. I asked my Mom to buy it for me at the grocery store because I was into the Ducktales cartoon. I remember she wasn’t very enthusiastic about buying it, but it was only 75 cents. I was immediately obsessed. It was like nothing else I had ever read before. I loved drawing and telling stories, and I loved reading, and this was all of that put together. I immediately decided I wanted to make comics. Both right at that moment, and also as a career when I grew up. My mom was not excited about this. My mom is a painter and sculptor, and for years she tried to convince me to pursue more traditional art.
Over that summer I bought ever duck comic I could get my hands on. Mostly Carl Barks and Don Rosa stories. I started drawing my own duck comics too. Later that year my stepfather took me to a flea market and bought me a $5 box full of old Marvel comics. Some Hulk, some Thor, some Fantastic Four, but mostly Marvel Double Feature, a reprint collection of Jack Kirby Captain America stories. I was hooked. Just like with the duck comics, this was just something I had never, ever seen before. I started drawing my own superhero comics soon after that.
In hindsight, it was weird that at age 9 and 10 I thought I was too old for comics. Especially since that was a time when comic’s readership was starting to skew older, towards teens and adults. When my niece Marah was little I would give her comics to read. She especially liked Azumanga Daioh and One Piece. Over the years we’ve seen that fictional Jake leaves comics all over the house, and Modest has grown up with them. She learned to read by trying to read manga, and she knows all about Batman, Sailor Moon and the X-Men. But she probably hasn’t tried to read any actual books.