Retcon Punch, Episode 05: Stuff

Retcon Punch, Episode 05: Stuff

Nov 03

New to Retcon Punch? Start at the beginning.

“Here’s what I was thinking.

“Basically, we’re dealing with a big-ass safe, that’s like decades old, right? So it’s not too big a problem because it’s old. Old means, if you break in, it just sits there broken into. It’s not going to start shouting and inform the authorities.

“So all I really need is A, the proper equipment, which is basically a trip to Home Despot”—she actually said “Despot instead of “Depot”—“and then time. A nice, solid, clear chunk of time.

“If, for example, I were to come in tomorrow night while you were in the store anyway, doing whatever the fuck it is you do, then I could torch away in the back room while you do that stuff. A few hours later, we’re open. I grab the comic and it’s bye bye Superb Comics, I’ve become airborne.”


“Chuck Berry,” she says. “Buy a CD once in a while.”

“I do.”

“Okay, what was the last CD you bought?”

“Um…the soundtrack to The Dark Knight.”

“You mean, like, the strings and orchestra and shit?”

“Yes, the strings and orchestra and shit. Hans Zimmer. James Newton Howard. Legendary.”

“No, Chuck Berry is legendary. Movie music is for…well, people like you.”

She’s busting my chops, but not in a mean way. More in a slightly flirty way that allows me to believe I have a one-in-a-thousand chance at making time with the abnormally cute girlfriend of my boss, who is a vindictive, petty man-child, and as we’ve already quite clearly established, a huge douchebag.

But first, I’ve just got to put my livelihood on the line to help her steal a very old comic book out of a very old safe.


I stumble into my one-bedroom apartment at about 11:30, flip on the TV, collapse into my crummy recliner.

A stranger would not be misguided in assuming my hovel was scheduled for an appearance on one of those cable hoarding shows. The line between kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom is blurry when there’s comic books and toys everyplace. Also blurry: The line between garbage and collectible, trash and treasure, worthless curio and precious memory.

For me, it started at a spinner rack when I was thirteen; for you, maybe it was a pack of baseball cards from a pharmacy up the road, or a Star Wars action figure you begged your mom to buy for weeks before she finally gave in. Something small, packed with meaning as your age advances, a reminder of how you imagine things were, even though they weren’t at all that way. Nostalgia. Oh, how the ghost of you clings.

Eventually, if you’re not careful, the act of saving itself becomes a way of fueling a nostalgia machine that constantly demands something new so you can eventually pretend it’s something old. So I collect comic books, even though the issue of Hulk that I pick up at work for $2.39 with my employee discount isn’t worth the energy I spent to carry it from the shop to my car. It gets read, which is fine, and then it gets bagged and boarded—a comic book geek term that conjures images of corpses zipped up tight and shipped carelessly to waiting graves—and it gets saved, filed, catalogued, and forgotten about. That issue of Hulk will exist for years, maybe decades, in a box in my home in my life, not as a single item for which I have any concern whatsoever, but as part of a larger entity for which I have an irrational attachment. They are My Comics.

My Comics, rather than an active thing I enjoy on a regular basis, are more like this huge heavy pulpy albatross hanging constantly around my neck. Every six months or so, I try to corral them into some kind of semblance of order, and it stays sorta-tidy for a week or two before every available surface is once again saturated by ephemerea.

In spite of debt, in spite of loneliness, in spite of becoming bitterly resigned to their awfulness years ago, My Comics continue to grow. They enter my home in stacks fresh from the shop; they slip into my hands at yard sales, thrift stores, and conventions. Friends I’ve had since high school stuff them into envelopes and mail them to me unannounced, with a simple note inside: “Do you have this one?” My great aunt still buys me a subscription to Amazing Spider-Man every year for my birthday.

Comics, and toys and books and DVDs and all the other detritus that attaches itself to the geek lifestyle, like barnacles on a Titanic plummeting endlessly into a bottomless ocean—they follow me around. They’re my past that devours my present. If I’m not careful, they could become my future. You might say they already are.

Next Week: Ripoff!

Retcon Punch, Episode 04: Strategery

Retcon Punch, Episode 04: Strategery

Oct 27

New to Retcon Punch? Start at the beginning.

What the fuck did I do?

I wake up in my recliner way too late, and feel like garbage–not physically, but mentally, like someone took a shit in my head.

“I’ll think about it.”

I’ll think about it?!

What the fuck I was thinking when I tentatively agreed to participate in a fucking heist at my job with a total stranger?

Let me tell you what I was thinking. When I was in fourth grade, I love love LOVED my teacher, Ms. Mendelbaum. She had big poofy red hair and wore lots of pencil skirts. I actually wrote her a letter when June came around–I told her very seriously that I loved her, and I always would, and I hoped that someday we could meet again, when we were older. I enclosed a picture of myself, and she moved to Cincinatti that summer, with her husband.

You will think me a fool, but I tell you true: Every relationship with a woman I’ve had is just a pale echo of Ms. Mendelbaum.

Agreeing to help commit a felony, however, is beyond the pale. I’ve sat through Vonda Shepard concerts, and I’ve purchased maxipads, and I’ve even read The Bridges of Madison County, all for the love of a girl…but I’ve never broken the law.

And I don’t even know this girl, so it’s not that quite yet; I know she dates assholes and I’m pretty sure I’m not one. I do know, however, that I’ve had fucking credit debt looming over my skull since I was nineteen years old, and to be free of it forever without taking a handout from my parents or declaring fucking bankruptcy…I think I’d steal a dickwad’s comic book to pull that off.

This is all swirling in my head as I arrive at Superb to open for the day; there’s a note on the door, and as soon as I’ve read it, I swipe it off and stuff it crumpled into my pocket.

It says, “Ercoles, 9 p.m. tonight. –V”

So much of the commercial space down by the ocean has been taken over by mainstream yuppified touristy bars and restaurants, barely a step above Applebee’s. Joints like Ercoles that have served mostly locals since the 1960’s are a rarity.

I like it because the rum and cokes are strong, and because there is next to zero chance of running into a client from the shop. With televisions perpetually tuned to any kind of conceivable sporting event and weekend nights full of trashy twentysomethings in clothes their mothers would not approve, it’s not a geek hangout.

Tonight, I order a Miller Lite and grab the first booth I see; it’s 9:30 before Veronica shows. The black jeans remain, topped off by a vintage Boy Scout uniform shirt; her hair’s up in a ponytail. She spots me, grabs a beer of her own at the bar on the way in. She sits down across from me and gives me a warm smile, like we’re old pals and she’s meeting me for drinks to tell me all about her crummy boyfriend. At least I have no doubt that her boyfriend is indeed crummy.

“Does Sid know you’re here?”

“He’s in Anaheim at some shithole, seeing a band.”

“That’s what he does.”

“Don’t I know it.”

We drink in unison, almost as though we’re relieved neither of us has to follow up on that classic bon mot. It’s like a very small and shitty Algonquin round table.

“So like I said,” she says. “I owe my ex-boyfriend twenty thousand dollars.”

“He can’t give you a payment plan for old time’s sake?”

“He froze the vig for old time’s sake. That’s the best I could do.”

“And what, he’s going to break your legs if you don’t pay him back?”

“Eventually. His patience is wearing thin. I can tell.”

“That’s a bullshit story,” I spit. “You expect me to believe that you’re in debt to some thug you used to date, and if you don’t get him paid he’ll rough you up, like some low-rent Sopranos parody?”

“Believe it or not. I’m telling you. I can’t control what you do with the information.”

“I should tell Sid about your little visit to the shop last night.”

“You won’t.”

Pause. “Yeah, I won’t,” I say.

She’s done with her beer, and the waitress brings her a second without her asking. I wonder if she’s a regular.

“So, did you think about it?” she says.

“I suppose I did.”


“I’m just–I’m having a hard time getting my head around it.”

“You said it yourself–it’s easy. I have a buyer lined up for these comics, the Fantastic Four and the Batman. He’s going to pay me $60,000 for the pair. We split that, and I still have enough to pay off Hector and maybe buy a shitty used car so that I don’t have to rely on the fucking Sidster to get me around South Bay. You can do…whatever it is that people like you do with a lot of money, I have no idea. But I’m serious, and this is real. This could get scary and ugly if I don’t take care of it, and I think quietly stealing a few comic books from a piece of shit former Rude Boy who spraypaints his bald spot–“

“I fucking KNEW it. It never looked real.”

“Sorry to shatter the illusion,” she smirks.

“Why are you with that asshole? No offense, I don’t really know you, and I’m not sure I care, but I just have to know.”

“He has a massive–“

“Stop. No need. I knew that too.”

“You think I’m too good for him?” She puts on an expression of mock sexy that reads as real sexy to me. It’s been a while, and I’m surprised at how hard it hits, how lonely I am.

“I know you’re too good for him.” I blush into the bottle.

“He’s tried, you know. Telling me my ass looks fat in jeans, ogling skinny fake boob bitches at the beach, that sort of thing.”

“And yet, you stay.”

“Well, there’s his…you know, and then once I decided to pull this caper, it made sense to stay close, to read the situation and gather as much info as I could. Why are YOU still around, anyway?”

“Me? That’s a big question.”

“We have time.”

I contemplate telling her about that mild warm glow that comes deep in Wednesday evening when I’m working customers, rattling off wisecracks about ROM Spaceknight and Gorilla Grodd, but I’m not quite there yet.

What I actually think about, in the tiny span between her words and mine, is why I haven’t bothered leaving. Ennui, I guess? Getting stuck in a moment, in a place, in a job and a mildly addictive hobby that only provides redeeming moments deep in the dark black of a long night spent alone with an ever-growing pile of STUFF. Bad reasons, but reasons.

Then I remember this one time when Sid happened to be in the shop, pretending to rack some new trade paperback stock, and a very recognizable geek filmmaker walked in, alone and undefended. I knew who he was instantly, and so did Sid; I greeted him with my usual, “Welcome, let me know if you need anything,” and Sid POUNCED. This guy was submerged for at least fifteen minutes in this bizarre mix of fanboy worship, pathetic salesmanship, and mock-humble recitation of Sid’s slight resume of pop culture success.

Which was sad, sure, until it got mean, and he started talking about how he opened the shop to meet “cool geek chicks with low self-esteem” and hired “losers like this flabby asswipe” (meaning ME) to keep it running. I turned red and left the room; I saw the filmmaker guy turning red too, but unfortunately he could not escape as easily, and it was at least another ten minutes before Sid slammed open the door of the back room and started bragging and berating me at the same time.

“Where the FUCK were you dude? You know I can’t work the cash register. What the FUCK am I paying you for? That guy was awesome and he was totally into a collabo.”

(Sid called “collaboration” a “collabo.” That goes on his douchebag list, for sure.)

“You’re a worthless piece of shit and I should fire you right now,” Sid finished up. “Good thing you’re so pathetic no one else would hire you and I’m a decent guy.”

Suddenly, leaving seems like the best idea I never had before. Back at the bar, I finish peeling the label off my beer bottle.

“I’m due for a job change,” I say. We spend the next few hours plotting our crime.

Next Week: Stuff

Retcon Punch, Episode 03: Baby’s In Black

Retcon Punch, Episode 03: Baby’s In Black

Oct 20

New to Retcon Punch? Start at the beginning.

We close at 8 on Wednesdays, but it’s inevitably 8:30 before we get the last customer out the door. Fortunately, it’s the more sane and hospitable customers who tend to show up late in the day, as they are the ones who have day jobs and can’t run out at 11 a.m. in the middle of the week to buy funnybooks. So there’s almost a small glow between Tara and I as the weekly Day Of New Comics comes to a close; even though I still have a bit of back issue inventory to process before I can go home, I’m not in the worst mood. I shut off the lights in the front and work by the dim glow of a TV playing a VHS tape of some old Captain America cartoons.

A few minutes after Tara heads home, the phone rings.

“Mr. Eisenhower?”


“This is Visa calling.”

FUCK. How did they get my work number? Why didn’t I check caller ID?

“Hi, Visa.”

“Um…hi.” The lame joke throws her off her game, but just for a second. “Mr. Eisenhower, we’re showing that your current payment is overdue by a few days. I just wanted to make sure everything is okay?”

Retcon Punch, by Matt Springer - A Thrilling Tale of Sex, Betrayal and Comics

Yeah, everything’s okay, except that I’m absolutely penniless right now. That’ll happen when you regularly deduct hundreds of dollars from your own paycheck to purchase comic books, toys, and DVDs.

In fact, as Visa is telling me about their convenient payment plans, I’m looking at the stack of twenty or so comics I’ve squirreled into a pile next to the register over the course of the day. My face is flushing red as I remember that I still have to buy a plane ticket for my mom’s birthday next month, and pay the plumber for that emergency visit he made three weeks ago, and get caught up on my student loans.

“Mr. Eisenhower, I can process a payment for you right now if you like.”

“Uh&KRRRK&you’re breaking up&KRRIRRRK&I’m on&KKKRR&tunnel&KRIRIRRIK&tomorrow&”

I hang up the phone, amazed that trick still works. At least, it works to end phone calls with Visa people; it does absolutely nothing for my credit rating. In fact, I’m pretty sure it makes things worse.

As the phone hits the receiver, I hear a banging on the back door. Not a “Hey, let me in” type banging. More of a “Hey, let me jimmy this crowbar into the doorjamb here so I can pry this fucker open” banging. I know this from watching too many episodes of The Rockford Files.

The banging intensifies as I quietly flip off the TV. I crouch like a cat burglar in a cartoon, and I walk slowly toward the closed door into the back room. A louder bang indicates that the mystery invader has made their way through the store’s back entrance. Beneath the shut door appears the sickly yellow glow of the back room’s ancient fluorescent lights.

I make the dumbest of many dumb choices presented to me by my dimwit brain; I slowly creak the door open.

Then the loose doorknob snaps off in my hand, and the door is splayed open, and I teeter on my legs, almost falling on my ass. Standing before me is Sid’s latest fling, a black hoodie ineffectually laced tight around her chin. She looks like she’s going to bolt, but she doesn’t; she sits down in the nearest folding chair.

“Fuck me,” she says.

A few moments pass.

“I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen next here,” I admit.

“Do you have any alcohol?”

“I keep beer in the minifridge.”

“I’ll take two.”

I twist the caps off two Miller Lites and set them on the table. She theatrically winces as she looks at the label, then she shotguns the first one. Twenty seconds easy, if that. The second one she nurses.

“Do…do you need a key? I can ask Sid to…”

“Dude, where do you park?”

“Park…my car?”

“I didn’t see anyone in the lot. Lights looked out. I thought I was clear.”

“On Wednesdays, I park across the street. It gets busy.”

“I saw. You were hopping today.”


“You put up a fake comic for the one I took.”

“Uh—yeah. Yeah.”

“So you caught me. What are you going to do?”

This is unusual.

This whole time, she’s been sitting in essentially the same position, slurping beer in an uncomfortably loud way, breathing heavily from the exertion of beating the door down. Her legs are akimbo, if that’s the right word; she’s leaning back and alternately staring at the ceiling and staring at me.

“What should I do? Tattle on my boss’ girlfriend?”

“I guess not.”

I take the seat across from her; I push aside a small stack of old Wizard magazines so I can put my elbow down and rest my head on my hand.

“Sid’s an asshole, isn’t he,” she says.

“He’s my boss, so…”

“He’s an asshole. I know it. I’m gonna take care of that, but first…”

Now she sits up and puts her head down on her arms onto the table, like a kid in school taking a nap on her desk. She looks up at me. Her eyes are brown.

“I owe my ex-boyfriend twenty thousand dollars.”

“Wow. Well, he’s your ex, but I’m sure you can work something out, right?”

“He’s a loan shark. He’ll break me.”


“I’ve got a buyer for this shit; I just need the Batman thing in the safe.”

“Batman thing?”

“Sid says he has some old Batman comic in that safe over there.”

I’ve worked at Superb Comics for ten years; I’ve spent more time in this place than most of the cockroaches. I’ve never heard about an “old Batman comic” in the safe…

…except that one time a couple years back, when I was working late to prep for Free Comic Book Day, and Sid came over on his way to a show, and he was drunk, and he started bragging about all the cool old shit he bought with his dumb pop ska money, and how he had “one special thing, brah, for a rainy day. I keep the Caped Crusader in the safe.” He had repeated that last line about fifteen hundred times before he left.

The safe in question had been in the building for at least thirty years. The old guy who owned the nail salon next door said there used to be a credit union in the space. It’s not a great safe, one of those old monstrous things.

“What were you going to use to get into the safe tonight?” I ask. “Your charm and good looks?”

She does this cockeyed grin for a second and in spite of myself my guts get a little melty. But just a little. She’s Sid’s girlfriend, so she’s lame enough to date Sid, and she just broke into my place of business to ostensibly pry open a safe with a crow bar and a black hoodie. I quickly freeze my guts up again.

“I was hoping to scope it out.”

“Wait, how did you get in here to steal the Fantastic Four comic if you needed a crowbar to get the door open tonight?”

“That weird mom lady forgot to lock the door yesterday, dude.”

Fucking Tara.

“I think you’re going to need a blowtorch to get through that thing, and probably a few hours in the clear, so someone decent to work lookout…”

“Wow, you’re kinda good at this. I suck at it. I just got caught.”

“I’ve seen too many heist flicks. This is easy.”

“You want in?”

My head starts racing; I’ve never been offered the opportunity to participate in a crime before. I’ve never even committed a crime before. Of course, I think about the almost-too-convenient call from Visa of a few moments ago, and realize that if we split the profits from a Fantastic Four 1 and a Batman 1, we could both handily pay off our debts and have a bit more left over for whatever. It might be months or years before Sid realized they were missing. I’d have to quit this place but I hate Sid anyway so that might not be such a bad idea?

She is giving me this look. It’s like evil bemusement. I don’t know how to describe it; I’m doing a shitty job.

“I’ll think about it.”

“I’m Veronica,” she says. She finishes her beer with one gulp.

Next week: Strategery!

Retcon Punch, Episode 02: Douchebag Ascendant

Retcon Punch, Episode 02: Douchebag Ascendant

Oct 13

Catch up on Episode 01

Before I can realize the extent to which my ass truly is grass over the missing copy of Fantastic Four #1, I first panic over the missing shipment of new comics. I’m on the phone with my Diamond rep when Tara arrives for work.

Tara has three teenage kids, a husband who’s a bit of a dick, and the most obnoxious collection of seasonal T-shirts and sweaters ever assembled. She hasn’t read a comic book since the Nixon administration; she works at Superb for the pocket money. She’s a master of passive aggression.

“Hey, boss,” she says; every time she calls me “boss,” she sneers the word. “Did we sell that really old comic and I missed the party?”


Retcon Punch, by Matt Springer - A Thrilling Tale of Sex, Betrayal and Comics

“Ha ha, no,” I reply over the hold music in my ear. Boomtown Rats, if you can believe it. “Just moved it into the back to rebag it. Hey, can you bitch out this Diamond rep when he comes on? We still haven’t gotten our books for the week.”

“Oh Christ.” Tara knows what that means—gritting through her teeth at hysterical nerds all day and a tightening in her neck that would make her head throb for the next two days.

Tara picks up the phone; I casually step into Superb’s back room, home of several thousand pounds of decaying newsprint. I close the door behind me.

I begin thinking, not overthinking or freaking out, but thinking. I Google my missing comic; I find the highest-resolution cover image I can. I print the cover, then I cut it out and slip it into a high-end Mylar sleeve. I calmly take it back out to the store and hang it in the open spot on the wall. No one notices, not even Tara, who once complained that I was “eating lunch too loud.”

My most immediate problem temporarily solved, I turn to the issue of the missing shipment. I soon notice Tara yelling into the receiver in a way that I don’t believe is designed to help create a positive working relationship with her counterpart on the other end of the line.

“I’m TELLING YOU. I’m TELLING YOU NOW. We are in HERMOSA Beach in CALIFORNIA and we do not have NEW comic BOOKS for to sell. If you can TELL ME PLEASE what might be the problem.”

I hear a tapping on the door and pray a quick silent prayer that it’s not one of the regulars hoping they can get in and out early to post a spoiler review on their message board of choice.

Miraculously, it’s the UPS guy, sheepishly pushing a cart stacked with boxes.

“Sorry, my kid had a thing at school, and I wanted to see it but I know you guys need this stuff ASAP…”

“Don’t worry, Gary. We’re just glad you made it. Right, Tara?”

“WHAT. Please tell me you are NOT blaming the WEATHER. Hold ON.”

“Tara? The books are here.”

Tara hangs up the phone without so much as a “get bent.”


Even the worst jobs have their moments, and at Superb, even the most horrific Wednesdays eventually hit their flow, when the tempo of the movement of the people creates a momentum that can actually convince me I’ve found a halfway decent way to earn a living.

Usually, that’s when Sid shows up.

Sidney Stone owns Superb Comics. He spent the better part of the mid-eighties and nineties as lead guitarist in a pop ska band that had five top forty hits in the UK. He poured his first major advance into opening Superb and now is one of those semi-retired former rockers who goes to shows six nights a week and records aimless bullshit in a “home studio.” As most of the customers know, I do the actual “running” of Superb Comics; Sid does the spending, the abusing of employee time and goodwill, and the conceptualizing of idiotic events that only lower the shop’s standing amongst the geek community of the Southland.

Sid always enters the shop like he’s about to be mobbed by teenybopper fangirls and paparazzi. Neither ever happens. With one arm around the latest girl, he saunters over to the main rack and walks excruciatingly slow between the paying customers and their precious comics.

We’ll get back to the girl. Promise.

“What’s the haps, Ike?”

“Not much. Just, you know, selling comic books.”

“I can see that.”

Sid’s a douchebag. I have evidence, your honor.

He is perpetually unable to conduct a true conversation, in that he never really responds to things someone else is saying. He comes sideways at every dialogue in which he is engaged because he is incapable of experiencing a world that contains anyone but himself.

To the extent that he does respond to an actual statement or question, it’s always to shut things down, like “I can see that.” Okay, asshole, you can see it; no shit. I’m trying to INTERACT WITH YOU AS A SEPARATE HUMAN BEING, not question the efficacy of your eyeballs. Jesus. I don’t know how anyone sleeps with him or even manages to spend more than ten minutes in his immediate vicinity.

And that’s the other thing that makes him forever douche: He manages to score amazing-looking women who could clearly do far better, but never do.

Take for example the girl standing idly under Sid’s arm while he prevents the paying customers from purchasing their comics. Long black hair in a ponytail, Tina Fey glasses (standard issue for his ladyfriends; he told me once he had a “librarian/whore complex,” which is so perfect he doesn’t even realize it), a slender frame but not too slender. Tight black jeans and a form-fitting Black Flag T-shirt.

Usually, the women who slither into the store under Sid’s arm are repellant simply by virtue of the company they keep, but I have to admit, this particular girl has something about her. I think it’s the expression; most of Sid’s girlfriends look like they’re disgusted by spending time in a comic book store, but this is the first one that looks disgusted by spending time with Sid himself. Her expression says, “I smell a fart.”

It makes me curious; I have always dismissed the rumors that Sid’s male appendage rivaled James Woods’ unit in scope and capacity, if only because said rumors were inevitably initiated by Sid himself. But maybe there’s something to them?

Then I follow the fart face over my shoulder and realize she’s staring blankly at the Fantastic Four fake, like she knows exactly what I’ve done, and my heart drops to my shoe.

“I’m here to pay now.”

The soft-spoken nervous college kid has been standing at the register for at least a couple minutes when he finally speaks and shatters my paranoid musings.

“Sorry. Let me ring you up.”

“Asleep at the wheel, eh, Ikester? That’s not the way to keep your job.”

Sid smirks in my general direction; I glance up to return a tight smile, just in time to catch his lady rolling her eyes so far back into her head that she can stare at her own brain.

Next week: Baby’s In Black!

Retcon Punch, Episode 01: He Don’t Like Wednesdays

Retcon Punch, Episode 01: He Don’t Like Wednesdays

Oct 06


Superman’s head shatters.

A bullet breaks the Man of Steel’s plastic noggin and continues into the back wall of the shitty little closet, packed to the rafters with toys for grown men.

“Ike, come on out. Let’s do this face to face. I get that you’re scared.”

“I should be! You’re shooting at me!”

Ike hears a small distant thud, a pistol hitting the worn carpet. Then, silence.

Ike looks down at Veronica’s unconscious form, her body sprawled uncomfortably over two large cases of Witchblade maquettes. He takes in the large bump on her forehead, shiny even in the near-darkness. He stares at the small of her back and the visible bit of her underpants.

“Ike? Don’t test me.”

It occurs to Ike that this was never supposed to happen—but then most of the time, when one is being shot at, it’s not supposed to be happening. Ike wishes he was at home in the crummy recliner he pulled out of his neighbor’s trash six years ago, settling his ass cheeks into the cushion’s familiar imprint for a night of Twilight Zone reruns. He has wished this same wish about seventy times over the course of the past fifteen minutes. It has yet to come true.

Instead, he’s here, and he’s shaking a little but it’s to be expected, because he can see through a bullet hole in the shitty little closet’s thin door and his adversary is closer than Ike thought, arms extended forward into pudgy claws like Batman crawling out of the Batmobile in that full-page Frank Miller splash from Dark Knight Returns…

Ike opens the door.

Retcon Punch, by Matt Springer - A Thrilling Tale of Sex, Betrayal and Comics

One Week Ago Yesterday.

I don’t like Wednesdays.

They always make me think of that song by the Boomtown Rats, where the girl has the chip in her head and she goes crazy because she don’t like Mondays. I actually bought a Boomtown Rats greatest hits in college; I wondered if they had any other good songs. They don’t.

Yes, I went to college, and now I sell comic books for a living. I try not to think about it.

Unlike the crazy chip head girl in the Boomtown Rats song, I’ve almost always preferred Mondays over Wednesdays. I manage Superb Comics at Sepulveda and Aviation in Hermosa Beach, and only the saddest of sad sacks would spend time in a comic book store on a Monday.

Whereas Wednesday is “new comic book day” to a salivating legion of fans, all of whom descend upon the store at exactly 11 a.m. and file nervously inside as fast as I can unlock the deadbolt. Then they form a line at the register, waiting for me to hand them a stack of 32-page pamphlets containing the latest installments in the ongoing adventures of intellectual properties concocted by brilliant Jewish men many decades ago.

On this particular Wednesday—the Wednesday when the giant penny in my personal Batcave flips, and suddenly heads is tails and black is white and dogs and cats are living together—the weekly comic book shipment to Superb Comics is late.

Comic book fans are tightly-wound people; they do not react well to change. Alter the shade of yellow on Batman’s belt buckle for one issue and the letters will pour in for months decrying the “new look” and longing for the halcyon days when Pantone 101 graced the waistband of the Caped Crusader.

When comic books arrive late, it is a cataclysmic event on par with a kidney arriving late for a transplant surgery. To say that “it sucks” is an understatement on the highest order. It sucks, in fact, the most massive of suckable items.

This is why it takes me upwards of an hour to notice the giant gaping hole where the store’s Fine/Very Fine copy of Fantastic Four #1 once hung. Like most comic book stores, Superb has its most expensive old comics displayed on the wall behind the register, which serves the dual purpose of attracting buyers and allowing an employee to always be standing in front of these pricey bits of pop ephemera so that no one can stuff a copy of Avengers #57 down their shorts and walk out with it.

This particular copy of Fantastic Four #1 had a $17,000 price tag plastered upon it. The tag was more of a joke than anything else—none of the clientele had the cash on hand to buy a comic book worth more than their annual salary. Instead, they’d just come in and ogle it as they made their purchases. Occasionally, some pimple-clad pre-teen would notice it and ask to hold it, and I’d always oblige. I don’t care if an extra half-ounce of fingerprint oils could over time deteriorate the precious paper slightly—it was worth it for the awe-filled expressions.

Still, the fact that Superb Comics wouldn’t be selling it anytime soon for $17,000 didn’t mean it wasn’t WORTH that much. It easily was. Any enterprising nerd could have moved it at a convention or on eBay for that amount.

So for those keeping score at home: It’s a Wednesday, the new comics are AWOL, and Superb Comics’ most valuable back issue has gone poof.

A single word runs through my brain, over and over. It starts with an “F.” It has four letters. It isn’t “fart.”

Next week: Douchebag Ascendant!