On a recent trip for family business I returned to Quincy, IL, one of the two towns I consider home. Predominately settled by German immigrants, the western edge of town squarely sits on the Mississippi and many of its original buildings and mansions proudly stand today and are on the National Register of Historic Places. Quincy once gave refuge to Joseph Smith and his band of Mormons on their flight across the country, was a stop on the Underground Railroad to Chicago, and a few miles south across the river lies Hannibal, MO, home of Samuel Clemens (or Mark Twain).
I knew none of these facts as a child though. As it is now, family was my foremost connection during my life there throughout the 60’s. I remember as a five year old telling my mother I wasn’t going to eat any “damn succotash” that one aunt had brought over and getting a good ol’ soap mouth wash and not being allowed to watch the Mickey Mouse Club show as punishment. Several years later another aunt tried to persuade my mom to dress me up in a Nehru jacket and love beads, an idea I loved. Numerous visits with my grandmother, playing croquet, piddling in her garden, finding a stash of antique books in the attic stairway, a made from scratch German chocolate cake for my birthday, the gift of a spirograph for another one. Finding a military serviceman’s manual for Japanese that belonged to an uncle now deceased and trying to teach myself. It’s also where I first picked up a pencil to draw, became interested in mythology, and where my comics interest grew by begging my mom for a new comic every trip to the grocery store on Harrison street and where I stole a copy of Spectre #3 from Kresge (the predecessor of K-Mart) and faced my mother’s anger.
Those are good memories. If your family is like mine, then the relationships and memories are often complicated.
Comics were furthest from my mind on this trip and yet became a touching experience. With input from my brother Jeremy, my youngest cousin Russell presented me with a copy of My Greatest Adventure #80, the first appearance of the oddball Doom Patrol. It was quite a surprise, moreso because this copy is professionally graded VG 4.0 and slabbed. Sure, it isn’t a pristine copy, and it’s literally sealed so it can’t be opened and read, but that’s hardly the point. There was another surprise waiting for me after an early dinner. Russell retrieved and handed to me a copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #11. More accurately, it’s “Mighty Midget” Captain Marvel Jr. Fights for Victory #11, a mini comic (just under 4 X 5″) that sold 2 for a nickel back in the day. Before this I didn’t know these “Mighty Midget” comics existed and now one sits on my desk, prompting me to learn more about this piece of pop culture history.
I’ve an idea why my cousin surprised me. He was at a very personal and very important point and all I did was listen when he came to me. Nothing was ever expected from that day, except going forward and engaging life.
Thank you, Russell and Jeremy. I love you both.