I had a great time Saturday night at OtherWorld Books and More in Sturgeon Bay, the first gig in my not-exactly-a-book-tour since publishing Full: Rockets, Bells & Poetry earlier this summer. A rainstorm canceled the sidewalk sale at the last minute, but the folks at Park Place mini-mall had fun bringing the event indoors.
Margaret Magle and her husband, David, have created an otherworldly mix of new and used books, gaming supplies, comic books and even train sets and other toys that takes up about a half-dozen units of the mall, which David can tell you was a theater in the early 20th century before being converted into a mall, then offices, then headquarters of the Peterson Builders shipbuilding company, and then back into a mall recently after standing empty for about 15 years after PBI folded up its tents.
The slow traffic gave me a chance to explore the store, and although I don’t really collect old comics anymore, I couldn’t resist a quick exploration of the wall of comics boxes in the back. More or less at random, I started thumbing through a box that had some old Adventure Comics from the 1960s in front — that was “my” era.
A few books in, I found a copy of Dynamo #3. What are the odds?
Dynamo was the lead hero in a superhero series called T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, published by an independent publisher called Tower Comics in the late 1960s. Each of the agents was given possession of a device that gave them superpowers. I loved Tower in part because I like an underdog, and they were entering a market then dominated by DC Comics and an upstart disruptor called Marvel Comics. Tower had tremendous art by the likes of Wally Wood and Steve Ditko, among many notable comic book artists of the era.
Although their distribution was spotty, I managed to buy almost all of the original Tower Comics at the stands, beginning with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, which had a striking Wally Wood cover that drew me in right away. After a year or so, they were successful enough to spin off some of the characters in their own titles, including Dynamo.
Here’s why I said “What are the odds?” When I was 13, I wrote a letter to Tower Comics critiquing Dynamo #1. A few months later a friend told me I had a letter published in Dynamo #3. Unlike Marvel Comics, Tower didn’t have a Fabulous Flo who sent a postcard to kids whose letters were going to be published, so it was a surprise. I can’t remember if I was ever able to find and buy Dynamo #3, although I do remember seeing my letter somewhere along the way.
So what are the odds that I would accept the invitation to sit and sign books at OtherWorlds, the first time I ever ventured out of my turtle shell to appear as a guest author anywhere, that the rain would give me a chance to wander around the store, that I would decide to look through a comic box even though I don’t really collect these days, and that of the several dozen boxes of comics to browse through, I would pick the box that contained a comic book with my letter in it?
I had a small handful of letters printed in comics back then — my earliest published work! — and of those Dynamo #3 is probably the rarest book. (My most proud accomplishment among them is having my excerpt picked as the lead-off to the Amazing Spider-Man #100 letters column — check it out, I’ll wait.) And I managed to find it in the first box I browsed.
When I told Red this story, she sent me back into the night to buy a lottery ticket. Sadly, I had apparently used up almost all of my luck for that day, although I did win my dollar back.