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#540394 - 04/06/09 03:37 PM ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School!
Jennifer M. Contino Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA

ORIGINS OF A COMIC BOOK JUNKIE: No Comics In School!?
BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO

I've joked before that comic books were like my drug addiction, but, in a way, there were more parallels than just my willingness to lie, steal or borrow to get enough money to buy my comic books. I soon discovered that like most drug users, I had to hide my love of comic books from most people or be labeled with a scarlet letter C on my head. In elementary school, none of the other kids seemed to care too much that I liked superheroes and read comic books. When I changed schools though, that was all about to change.

When I was in fourth grade, it was decided that a school a few blocks from where I lived, across the street from my grandmother's house, was going to be reopened, and that those of us who lived in the park should now attend this school. I didn't mind, I was terrified of the woman who was supposed to be my fourth grade teacher at the old school. I saw her in the halls, and she never smiled. Worse, our classroom was next to theirs, and she was constantly screaming and yelling at the class. Just looking at her was terrifying. She reminded me of a female Darth Vader. So when we were told that we could go to this school, I was looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, I went from being one of the most popular girls in third grade, to being a relative unknown factor at this new school; because it wasn't just people from the park who got to go to this school, they were bussing in kids from a nearby town to go here as well. I didn't know any of these kids, and they all came from farms and other rural areas. Worse, they all were really tight, good friends. I went through most of fourth grade being the odd kid out of my class. There were only four other girls in the class. At my old school there were an equal number of girls and boys per class. Here, we were in the minority. Also at my old school, the boys thought it was cool that I knew all the superheroes and most of the girls were also fans of Lynda Carter's version of Wonder Woman and Isis.

That wasn't the case here. It was fifth grade when my comic book troubles really began. In fifth grade my teacher noticed me reading a comic book during free time, and she was quite perplexed. Really. You'd think she saw me eat a live mouse or something. She was just in shock that I had some Legion of Super-Heroes and Justice League of America issues in my desk. She didn't know if she should let me bring my comic books to school. Now, her book shelves were filled with the old Dynamite Magazines, Jack and Jill and other kid staples, which students were allowed to read during "free time;" but she seemed to have a real problem with my comics. I didn't see the difference between those 'tween magazines and my comic books. But she asked the rest of the class what should be done about it. I remember a girl said, "Mr. M. [our fourth grade teacher] didn't allow her to bring comic books to school." That wasn't true. I had comic books in my desk in fourth grade, and read them all the time, but after she shouted that out, my teacher took it as the truth. So she decided she should follow his example and not allow me to bring comic books to school either.

I wasn't quick enough on my feet to tell her to ask Mr. M. if he let me read comic books. I just accepted her telling me I couldn't read them in school and went from there. Luckily, this school library had a few comic books in it that I could check out like my old school library. Since they were library books, there wasn't much the teacher could do about it. But fifth grade was when the rest of my new class started to really think it was too strange for a girl to be reading comic books that weren't Archie or Disney. I got teased more than a few times and saw my place in the pecking order slowly sinking lower and lower -- all because I loved comic books.

I only knew one other boy in my class who read comic books, but he wouldn't admit to it. He was terrified of being teased for reading comics, like I was being teased. I'm sure the kids would have thought it was "normal" for him to be reading comics, much more normal than I. But, he just wouldn't admit it, even though we traded more than a few comics on occasion.

I found it funny that there was this "no comics in school" kind of policy being enforced, especially when I learned that The New Teen Titan Drug Issues were supposed to be given away in school. All of the teachers got a copy of the first comic book, but we didn't. Now, as just about everyone knows, I was obsessed with The New Teen Titans. Pre-Crisis Donna Troy/Wonder Girl is my favorite comic book character of all time. So, I had to have this comic book. I knew my fifth grade teacher had children at home, so I figured she'd give her copy to one of them. But Mr. M. was, to my ten year-old mind, an old man. He had to have been in his sixties. I also knew he wasn't married, so I figured he didn't have any little kids at home to give the book to. So, after school, I went to his classroom, and asked him if I could have his copy of the comic book.


I was brash then, a lot braver and figured the worse he could do was say "no," but I hoped he'd say "yes."

I always liked Mr. M.. I thought he was a good guy. There was no hesitation on his part, he said I could have it, but it was in one of many stacks of things he had on and around his desk, so we had to find it. Mr. M. was a little sloppy. You could hardly see him through the piles of stuff on the desk at all times. I didn't mind having to sort through things if it meant in a short time I'd get my comic! We began to go through piles of papers. I think it was five or ten minutes later when my fifth grade teacher stormed into the room and demanded to know what I was doing. I guess it looked bad, I was on my knees behind the desk going through a stack of books and papers, and he was sitting at the desk going through another stack of papers. At ten, I had no clue what the fifth grade teacher was thinking. I innocently looked up at her and said, "He's going to give me his comic book!" with a big grin on my face. She came over and stood there until we found the comic book and I left.

She never said a word to me about it. But her tone of voice, and the look on her face are something I haven't ever forgotten. Even if I really didn't understand her concern until I was much older. She didn't need to worry though, Mr. M. never did anything inappropriate with me or anyone else I knew. Her concern might have been because of another incident that happened in fifth grade around the same time, but I'm not sure. I kind of had tunnel vision. I just wanted my comic book.

And I was so excited to get that comic, I ran all the way home from school. I was surprised that Robin, a staple in The New Teen Titans wasn't in the issue, and that this other guy, The Protector, seemed to be taking his place here. I was also surprised by Starfire's new "outfit" which, again at ten, I never realized her costume might be considered inappropriate for school children. But it was a good story.

I often wondered though if Mr. M. got in trouble for giving me his comic book, or if he got some kind of chastisement for having me in the classroom alone like that. I didn't think anything about it at the time, but it's crossed my mind since.

Fifth grade was one of the last times I ever brought comic books to school, but it wasn't the last time I would become known for comics in school. However, that's a story for a future column ....

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#540437 - 04/06/09 10:44 PM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: Jennifer M. Contino]
Steve Chung Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 3800
Loc: San Bruno
Dynamite used to reprint parts of old Marvel and DC stories.

Jenette Kahn was with them before she came to DC.

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#540498 - 04/07/09 09:06 AM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: Steve Chung]
Jennifer M. Contino Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA
I used to have a few issues of Dynamite, but I don't still have them. I remember liking it a lot and there always seemed to be someone cool on the cover.
Jen

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#540505 - 04/07/09 09:23 AM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: Steve Chung]
die-yng Offline
Member

Registered: 09/10/02
Posts: 107
Loc: Mannheim, Germany
Man, it's a real shame that the first thing that will come to somebodies mind would be there was something bad going on. I really don't think teachers deserve thatkind of thinking even if it comes from other teachers.
To be honest I was never picked upon because of comicbooks, even when I was much older. all I got was a few surprised glances.
Perhaps it is really the case, that comicbooks as art are a bit more respected in Europe. I'd guess about a third of the people in my class read one or another form of comics, wethe rit were franco-belgian Graphic novels or the occasionall Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse, one of the early german manga editions or US-Comicbooks.
Many older people collect comics like Tin-Tin or Asterix..
Still even in Europe superhero comics are considered the silliest comicbooks.
Often people would smile about me, because of my Marvel Comics, that wouldn't have if I'd only collected Disney stuff or Spirou etc..

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#540549 - 04/07/09 05:10 PM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: die-yng]
Jennifer M. Contino Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA
Like I said, I didn't really get it then why she was so upset/concerned. I get it "now", but there was never anything inappropriate going on there.

Jen

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#540598 - 04/08/09 01:21 AM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: Jennifer M. Contino]
Peter Urkowitz Offline
Member

Registered: 08/28/00
Posts: 3231
Loc: Salem, MA, USA
When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I lent about half a dozen of my Claremont/Byrne X-Men to a friend in school. His History teacher (who was also the middle school principal) caught him reading them in class, and THE TEACHER TORE THEM UP RIGHT THERE! I wasn't there when it happened, but when I heard, I just couldn't believe it, it was like a bad dream come to life.

Now, the teacher didn't know those were my comics, or how valuable and hard-to-find those issues were even then. And when he did find out, he was fairly apologetic to me. Of course, my friend was mortified and very sorry.

I eventually did replace those comics, without too much difficulty, actually, so no long term harm done. But lord what a shock that was at the time!

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#540629 - 04/08/09 09:40 AM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: Peter Urkowitz]
Jennifer M. Contino Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA
Yeah. I was amazed that I couldn't read my single issue comic books, but the school library HAD comic book collections in it that I could check out every week -- go figure!
Jen

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#544650 - 05/16/09 03:59 AM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: Jennifer M. Contino]
The New Gerald Offline
Member

Registered: 10/26/08
Posts: 1159
That sucks that you couldn't read any comics back then.

I got into comics in 2nd grade, and while I didn't bring the couple I owned, I drew pictures of the characters to show my friends. The Punisher one was a hit. Then the teacher would snatch them up and crumple them.

3rd grade it wasn't cool but I wasn't teased either. Luckily my friends read comics too. It became more acceptable when the Marvel cards came out and everyone had started collecting them.

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#544660 - 05/16/09 09:38 AM Re: ORIGINS OF A CBJUNKIE: No Comics In School! [Re: The New Gerald]
Jennifer M. Contino Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: The New Gerald
That sucks that you couldn't read any comics back then.

I got into comics in 2nd grade, and while I didn't bring the couple I owned, I drew pictures of the characters to show my friends. The Punisher one was a hit. Then the teacher would snatch them up and crumple them.

3rd grade it wasn't cool but I wasn't teased either. Luckily my friends read comics too. It became more acceptable when the Marvel cards came out and everyone had started collecting them.


I had many drawings crumpled up by the teachers as well.
Jen

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