Earlier, a 70 year old woman came in to get her grandson’s bike fixed. She saw my Flash shirt, got this look on her face, proceeded to dig around in her purse for a minute, then pulled out her keys. On her keyring along with her keys and a couple of little scanner tags were a really battered looking metal Wonder Woman symbol, and a newer looking metal Loki’s helmet.
She then told me a story that I’m pretty sure will stay with me the rest of my life.
She had been born at the tail-end of 1944, one of the original baby boomers. She was the eldest of three kids, and the only girl in a house of brothers. Her brothers were five and eight respectively when their classmates introduced them to comic books and she, at ten, used to take them to the dime store to blow their allowances. That was where she discovered that Wonder Woman existed, as she hadn’t been one of the comics that her brothers would bring home. After that, she worked out a pooling system for the three of them, to ensure that they got the most comics for their money with enough left over for sodas and candy, if they wanted them. The woman then paused in her story and laughed, saying that she should have spent fifty years as an accountant, instead of a nurse.
By the time she was fifteen, her middle brother had left comics behind, and their allowance pool had shrunk just in time for superhero comics to really make a comeback. She remembers getting yelled at for reading the first appearance of Barry Allen at the corner store, and deciding not to buy it in favor of a Superman story. “I never liked the Flash much.” She confided in me, looking nervous, as if I’d tell her to leave. “My brother loved him, though. Flash and Thor were always his favorites. I liked Wonder Woman, and the X-Men.”
Unfortunately, her youngest brother had been the keeper of their comics and went he went to fight in Vietnam in 1968 and never came back, their mother had been so consumed with grief that she burned everything of his other than his baby blanket, his high school diploma, his wallet (which contained various identification cards), his birth certificate, and a handful of family photos. The woman was devastated, both by the loss of her brother, and the loss of the collection that had kept them close for so many years, and didn’t speak to her mother, or pick up another comic, until the late 1970s.
She fell out of comics again in the early 90s when she retired, saying that she found so much of the art ugly and the stories angry. It wasn’t until her first grandchild was born, a girl, that she decided to start again. It was 2003, and she, a 59 year old woman, went into a comic shop and bought the latest issues of Wonder Woman and X-Men.
It took me a second to dig through my mind and remember who was on what at that time, but then it clicked. “Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman run!” I said, and she nodded excitedly. We then spent a few minutes talking about the things that we’d liked about that run, and a few more talking about the things that were still in continuity that came out of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, and then her phone rang. She, at 70 years old, had a Captain America phone case!
She apologized, that was her son. She was supposed to be meeting him at the theater with his kids to see the new X-Men movie. I warned her that there was some gore, and a couple of bad swears, and she laughed again. “They know that if they try and copy the things they see in movies, nana will wallop them, but thank you!”
I told her that I’d try and get her bike done as soon as possible, and she left.
I should have gotten a picture to go with this story, because that was the raddest old lady I’ve ever met in my life.