For the Love of Comics

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with comics. I was born in Afghanistan, and when I was around 5 or 7 years old, my father went on a business trip to India. While there, he picked up a few comics for my brother and me. We were so excited when he came back because he always brought something for us. It usually was toy cars and candy. This time he had some magazines of some kind. He gave them to us, and both my brother and I were glued to the pages. They weren't magazines. They were something else that had colorful artwork, pages of it. We, of course, had seen Tarzan movies and recognized that it was a tale about Tarzan. Later that evening, we asked him to read the word balloons. We sat quietly as he patiently read the book more than once, and that was the moment I fell in love with comics.

When we were done looking at the comic, we tried to copy the images and draw as much as possible. Once father realized how much we loved comics, he asked some of his American friends who had kids about comics and where to get them.

I couldn't believe their generosity as they donated a few to us. These comics were not about Tarzan, but the Phantom.The guy in purple with a skull ring-as he punched villains, it left a skull impression.

As we grew older, we kept looking for places to get more comics. We lent a few to some friends who also fell in love with them. Comics, to our little community of friends, become something like gold. Everyone had to have one. I am not sure how but my brother found a small shop where he purchased comics at a bargain. In today's value and considering the equivalent of money where we were, 25 cents could buy around 100 comics. It turned out that Afghanistan, being a third world country, would get donations. Comics and other magazines were not a necessity, so they were given away to folks who would store them in their little shops along the streets.

Our little comic universe exploded. We were introduced to Spider-Man, who became everyone's favorite. Then Superman, Batman, Flash, and Wonder Woman. Beyond Marvel and DC, there were Tintin and Asterix and Obelix and a few more like Lucky Luck. Most of these comics were in pretty bad shape, but we didn't care. We would try restoration by finding another comic with the same issue, picking out its clean pages, and putting together a new one. When we couldn't find a duplicate, we would use scotch tape and paper and use the little talent we had to restore the covers and interiors as best we could.

In 1978 the Soviet occupation happened. It was crazy times-a story for another time. My brother was shot in the arm. My father decided to raise us in a safe environment. We left Afghanistan as immigrants to West Germany, but sadly we had to leave our comics behind. When we landed in Frankfurt, Germany, they turned us away as we had one-way tickets. My father asked for asylum:"We are refugees, we are refugees." Everything changed, and we were interviewed and allowed into the country.

As we explored our new world, we couldn't believe our eyes: there were comics everywhere. In the department stores, groceries, and mom & pop shops that would sell newspapers and cigarettes. Once again, we started collecting. Sadly we had to leave them behind, too. My father could speak fluent English and read and write as well as type very fast. He knew we would have a better chance in the United States, so he applied to come to the US. Our application was approved.

We had to leave our comics once again.

One thing is universal in comics: Sequential Art. Even though we didn't understand the language in Afghanistan or Germany, we were able to follow the story.

For the love of Comics II
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