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Omaha Magazine

Collecting Memories: Comic Book Fans Remember Artwork, Childhood

Jul 01, 2022 11:02AM ● By Terry Jensen

Wednesday might have been Comic Book Night for the gang in the popular TV show Big Bang Theory, but during the Silver Age of comic books —the late 1950s to approximately 1970, according to various sources—Thursday was the best day of the week for comic book collectors. Young readers who dreamed of saving the world were eager to discover their next great adventure. In Omaha, Thursday was new comic book day.

Omaha collector David Parsow discovered his first comic book by accident. When he was about 8 years old, Parsow went shopping with his mother and somehow wandered into a Salvation Army store. As he explored the aisles, he noticed a small magazine with a brightly colored cover. The image of a man dressed like a spider caught his attention. Parsow went to his mother and asked her for a dime. “I must have read that Spiderman book 5,000 times. It was the only comic book I had, and I didn’t know what comic books were. It was just so cool,” he said. Young Parsow was hooked. 

Shortly thereafter, Parsow went with his family to the Country Club Grocery at 50th and Hamilton streets. “I walked in there the first time and this guy had a rack of comic books, apparently the new comic books, and there must have been 100 different titles.” So he grabbed one of each and asked to buy them all. Parsow’s mother suggested he put them back and see if he earned his allowance for the week. “So I got home and started mowing the lawn, even though it was probably already cut, and shoveled, and whatever, and then finally I earned enough that I could go and buy those comic books,” Parsow explained.

When they were older, Parsow and his brother would ride their bikes to Cris’ Rexall Drug on 50th and Dodge Streets. “We’d go in and grab the new comic books and sit at the soda fountain. We’d be reading the comic books and drink cherry phosphates and just have a blast. It was just, you know, like we lived for that first Thursday of every month,” he said.

Parsow still believes there was a deeper meaning in the stories he read. “I just thoroughly enjoyed them and they gave me life, the big strong guy, the good guy always winning. Aspirations of being strong and powerful and being able to fly through the air, big muscles and such, and the hero always got the girl. Those were things a young child wanted or needed to know, that there was hope and something to look up to,” he recalled.

Comic books were such a huge part of Parsow’s life, in fact, that even when he followed his father’s footsteps as a clothier, comic books—or at least one creator of them—played a role. Parsow attended several comic book collector conventions over the years, including one in 2007 at which he missed meeting Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee because the program was incorrect. Parsow had just left the hospital against his doctor’s wishes due to chest pains. His gumption to risk a heart attack to attend a comic book signing impressed the notable writer, who arranged to see Parsow shortly thereafter. The meeting eventually led to a business deal—rare, signed comics in payment for bespoke suits.

Comic book collector Glenn Joy first discovered comic books when he was about 5 years old. The Adventures of Superman was his favorite television program, and one day Joy spotted his hero on a comic book at Gibson’s, a local mom-and-pop store. The rest was history. “Back then they didn’t have a comic book store, so you just kind of went wherever you could find the comics. Of course, I didn’t have the money all the time, so I could go when I could get the money scraped up or my parents would buy some for me,”Joy said. 

As with many boys, pocket money wasn’t always easy to come by. “I used to collect pop bottles because back then they didn’t have litter laws, so people threw pop bottles everywhere. And so you collect them and take them back to the store and they’d give you three cents for each bottle, so if you get three bottles, right there you’ve got like nine cents. If you got four bottles you got enough to buy a comic book,” Joy remembered.

Joy and his siblings shared the comics they bought. “Back then, we didn’t have central air, so it got hot in the summer so you’d just go outside on the porch or something and look at the comics. I’d read them on the porch, or in the basement where it was cooler,” Joy said. Some of the books were lost over the years, but he still has nearly all of his original collection.

Joy said the biggest change in comics over the years came when story lines extended through several issues. “They’re all continued now. You know, it used to be a one shot deal. You’d get three stories in one comic book and that was it. Since they started continuing everything, you have to get, like, every issue or the story lines are hard to follow,” he explained. 

Now, new comic book day in Omaha is Wednesdays, and although both Parsow and Joy continue to shop for new titles, they are just as likely to return to favorite comics in their collections. Kept in the pages of those treasured magazines are fond memories of summer adventures with old super-friends. 

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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