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Comic Relief

The internet says that a lectiophile is a person who loves to read (lectio from Latin for reading.)  The only thing missing from the definition is a picture of me. Yep, I read the cereal box every morning—even when it’s the same box.

As a young reader, I focused on those tales of mayhem and mischief in the turning kiosk at the drug store:  comic books. I’d browse under the watchful eye of a store employee, who made sure I wasn’t reading for free. Eventually, I’d make my choice and plunk down the required ten cents on the counter.

My favorite was Donald Duck, especially if his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie were in the story. Even better if Uncle Scrooge, the Warren Buffet of comics, was in it, too. The man had money galore which got those guys out of more than one scrape.  Eventually thicker comics, with longer stories, appeared, cost 25 cents, and were worth every penny. Then Uncle Scrooge and crew could travel to foreign lands, like to an Egyptian tomb, filled with gold and jewels. But comic books weren’t just for reading in those days.  They were serious currency, too. We were avid traders: “I’ll give you one Donald Duck for two Little Lulu’s,” but we never traded our favorites so we could read them again and again. A big collection also added to your social cachet. Call it the “mine is bigger than yours” syndrome.

We all learned the hard way never to loan our books to the kids next door since their mother didn’t allow them. She was famous for raiding their rooms and throwing out the comics hidden under their mattresses.   

Remember Classic Comics?  I knew more than one Jock who passed high school English by reading Romeo and Juliet in the, uh-hum, “abbreviated” version.  

By my teenage years, I had deserted the ducks and fallen in love with Archie and his friends.  I adored blond Betty and was always rooting for her against the spoiled, not-always-nice Veronica.  Archie, Reggie, and even poor clueless Jughead had to be on the lookout for their disapproving teacher, Miss Grundy.  

Those inexpensive books had the elements of any good story:  a hero and a villain with a happy ending. And besides, how else would I know that “Huey” was the answer to the recent “Washington Post” crossword puzzle clue: a duck nephew who wore red?  

We Old School types need all the help we can get.    


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