I ran across the above photo from of a Minneapolis comic convention from 1982, taken by Comics Buyer’s Guide founder Alan Light. Denis Kitchen is seen digging through comics on the left, and I am pretty damn sure that is a very young Michael Drivas, proprietor of the excellent Big Brain Comics on the right. You can see all of Mr. Light’s photos from the Minneapolis 1982 Comic Con here, a set of photos from the 1982 San Diego Comicon here, a set of old photos of cartoonists here, and the rest of his photo sets here.
When I was a kid (and for that matter, ten years ago) if you wanted to read comics, you had to buy them. They were rarely reprinted and if you didn’t buy them when they came out, they only got more expensive in the back issue bins. When they were reprinted as books, libraries rarely carried them. If you wanted to read old comics, they were rarely reprinted and you to pay out the nose for original copies.
Today comics are frequently reprinted as books to the point where it rarely makes sense to buy comic books in “pamphlet” format (with the notable exception of anthologies, which are rarely reprinted).
If I miss a comic in the store when it comes out, it usually gets less expensive to buy, and then I can frequently buy it in a superior book format. If I use the internet to buy comics (not recommended… support your local comic shop!), it can get ridiculously cheap, particularly if the book isn’t new.
A lot of libraries now do a pretty good job of stocking comics. There are numerous comics I wouldn’t consider buying, but don’t mind reading for free courtesy of the library.
Old comics are currently undergoing a golden age of reprinting projects, and items that were previously seen only by handfuls of people are now seen by thousands. Although the vast majority are still not reprinted, and probably never will be, there is an amazing wealth of old material available in new books in print.
If you can’t find examples of an old comic in print, it is not unlikely you may be able to find scans of it on the internet… more are out there all the time, usually for free. You can find the new stuff out there too for free too, of course, if you’re inclined to do so and not inhibited by the idea of modern cartoonists needing to make a living.
It has never been easier to have access to so many fantastic comics. Those of you new to reading comics can be thankful you will probably never have to lift a long box of comics.
UPDATE: I emailed Michael Drivas and he denies the young imp in the above photo is him, as he was reading all his comics for free and returning them via the distributor via his old man’s drug store at the time. However, he also said I could start whatever rumors I wanted… so it is Drivas all right.