It is a point of pride for me that I like comic books, and ludimagist has suffered through my attempts to dredge up details and put the bits and pieces I have read into order. In truth I know just enough to be trampled by true aficionados. It's the circumstances under which I read comic books that makes them special to me.
I lived in Boxford for ten years and while I did, I would have given anything for 20 minutes alone. The attic was a tricky yet satisfying hiding place. There was a trap in the center of the upstairs hallway. Somewhere hidden in my mother's domain was the pole with the hook so one could reach up and pull the trap down. After that was found, the hook caught, and all my weight was applied directly down, a metal folding ladder emerged which had to be caught in hand lest it clang to the ground (though I covered its feet with my father's socks.) Upon attaining the opening, one had to climb the boxes of Christmas ornaments to reach the light, and then retract the ladder system without leaning through the hole and falling to one's death.
The house wasn't old, so the attic wasn't creepy, just dark (thanks to a single 60 watt bulb.) Some incompetent builders had insulated it when it should not have been insulated, so all the pink fluff was later ripped down, leaving the air thick with itchy dust. The temperature was always unpleasant. Still, I loved it up there. Even at 11 and 12 it was full of memories for me (old clothes, furniture from Cambridge, the remains of my mother's sewing business.) It was also full of my father's senseless and neglected collections- Sets of MacDonald's happy meal toys, Cabbage Patch dolls actually signed by Xavier Roberts, a coin collection... and comic books.
They were in a box longer than I was tall. The disorganized, mostly unsheathed comics had once been owned by a boy with energy and interests who grew into a man with neither; a man who regretted that they had been enjoyed past mint condition. They were packed so they all stood upright. This made browsing them by issue a nice pastime unto itself.
My education in comics was piecemeal since my reading was unsystematic, conducted in short spurts, and pumped full of the possibility of being caught.
There was no line between DC and Marvel, between the silver and bronze age. There was only the box sprinkled with pink particles and the caped characters who lived inside.
In well-lit life Batman was my favorite because he was my father's favorite. We saw the Batman movies together as they came out (and saw the fallout of the Batsuit Nipple Controversy.) However in my Fortress of Solitude, I secretly preferred Spider-Man.
So, from Marvel- I read as much Spider-Man as I could find. I read some of The Fantastic Four but was not so impressed (Susie Storm's invisible and her husband is stretchy. Whoopdeedoo.) I remember very little plot from the X-Men comics but I know I read them because I can list random characters off the top of my head- The Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Caliban- but without really remembering their details. I only remember two Daredevil comics but I thought the concept of a blind superhero was brilliant. There were lots of Hulk comics, but green brute force did not appeal to me- not when I could have Spidey's agility and witty retorts. I didn't read Iron Man, and couldn't get into the propaganda that was Captain America. I don't remember any Silver Surfer, though I know I saw him with the Fantastic Four.
From DC I read a lot of Superman but certainly more Batman. There were some comics featuring the Justice League but I didn't enjoy them so much because I wasn't familiar with the characters Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman or the Green Lantern.
There were other, random comics too- graphic treatments of classics like A Christmas Carol, Tom Sawyer,...and then a comic about a mutant teddy bear that ate children.
My knowledge gleaned from comic books felt illicit- not just because the attic and the box were forbidden, but because, yes, comic books were for boys. I might have felt like an actual tomboy if I had reveled in the fight scenes, but I admit I never did enjoy the graphics of Our Hero taking it on the chin or subsequently of the Super Villain going up in flames.
Then again, everybody has their "thing." Some people lust after those Super Villains. Some like to see badass skillz in action. Some indulge in the abandon of a good swoon (it was fascinating for me to discover that rescue fantasy is not unique to little girls!) I personally liked back story, mild-mannered alter egos, and onemonepia (my favorite being Spider-Man's "THWIP!")
If I heard someone calling me while I read, I'd have to open up the trap and peek to make sure no one was around. Then I'd have to get the ladder unfolded quickly and quietly, scurry down, fold it, and shove the apparatus back up hoping it wasn't too noisy. Then I'd have to pretend to be coming from somewhere else in the house (preferably I'd go out through the front door and run in through the back, giving me a chance to rid myself of fiberglass.) Once or twice I got a caught coming down the ladder, but my involvement with the comics themselves was never discovered.
When my folks split my Dad called me to whine about his legal fees. He incidentally bemoaned the fact that he'd had to sell his comic books, and moreover that he hadn't gotten nearly what they were worth. On the other end of the phone I bit my lip against my own secret sense of loss, and contemplated larger injustices here that no man in tights could ever rectify.
Since then I've made another piecemeal study of "graphic novels" conducted in less itchy environs- libraries, bookstores, and friends' collections. I filled in some gaps in Spider-Man, thoroughly confused myself over Batman, and thumbed some newer fare- namely Maus, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, and Runaways. I'll never have the time or stamina to be a true comic book geek, and I run a great risk of embarrassing myself while discussing the topic. My badge of honor is really just a fiberglass rash. But...
...Holy Swiss Cheese, Batman!- I once had a secret identity as an XY mutant anti-hero in a shadowed lair full of secret documents, and that'll always make me just a little bit...super.