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How this all started
by Branden Hart
My parents didn't raise me to be ashamed of the things I liked to do. My dad probably would have liked me to play more sports, but he never pushed me. He always gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted, as long as I was serious about it. When I was 3 or 4, my folks signed me up for soccer at the local Y. If I remember right, I played for two years. Whether it was practice or an early Saturday morning game, one, if not both of them, were out there cheering me on. Every time I was picking flowers by the sidelines as the ball rolled past me and my coach was screaming at me, they were cheering me on. Every time I kicked the ball at the goal and somehow ended up kneeing myself in the crotch, they cheered me on. My dad used to treat me like I had won the entire game by myself, even though I usually got most excited about eating orange slices and drinking Hi-C during halftime. I think he knew from the beginning that sports weren't for me. So every day after those games, he would make me feel like a champion by taking me to Dallas. And that's where I found most of my true loves—the hobbies that really spoke to me.
We lived in a small city about an hour south of Dallas. There was shit-all to do in the town I was raised. Whenever we needed anything out of the ordinary, we had to go to Dallas. Every Saturday, we'd jump in his car and head up there. When I was really young, the best part of these trips was going to Toys R Us and finding the newest Transformer or a really cool Lego set. I'd rip open the packaging on the way home, too anxious to wait the hour it took to get back to Corsicana. As I got older, Transformers turned to video games (which my parents definitely didn't care for).
Then one day, my dad came home from work with a thin brown bag. He tossed it to me on the couch. Comic books. I fucking hated comic books. And Spider-man? That was kids stuff. I'm sure I said "thanks" in a way that made him think he had just shat on my foot. That Saturday, my dad and I made our usual trip up to Dallas. I went ahead and brought my comic books with me—after all, I had to read something on the drive up there, and I had read his Supra's owners manual from cover to cover.
I was floored. This Spider-man happened to be right at the beginning of the Venom story arc. Not only was the art amazing, the story was dark and moody. As a boy on the verge of becoming a teenager, it was right up my alley. When I finished, I asked him where we could get the next issue. He told me it wouldn't be out for awhile, but he'd take me to a comic book store where I could find some other stuff to read.
Lone Star Comics was in a strip mall. The first time I walked in, it smelled wonderful, a smell I would later come to recognize as fading pulp mixed with the Mylar bags it was stored in. I began browsing the stacks, all the time becoming more and more frustrated. There were all sorts of comics—comedy, drama, science fiction, horror—mixed in between the regular DC and Marvel fare I had so long associated with the word "comic." Why the hell hadn't anyone told me about this?!?
I don't remember what comic I bought that day. I just remember feeling like a new world had been opened to me. My dad and I continued to take our trips to Dallas, and soon, he told me we'd be spending a weekend up there to go to a comic convention called Fantasy Fair.
Before I went to Fantasy Fair for the first time when I was thirteen, I had never seen a man on a leash being held by a leather-clad woman with tits up to her chin. I had never seen anyone carrying around a three-liter bottle of Mountain Dew like it was a water canteen. At Fantasy Fair, my eyes were opened to the world of geeks. And I realized that, in their own way, they were pretty fucking cool.
My love for comics has risen again, as most of you know. And as I finished the last pages of Preacher last night, my eyes were opened another time. Today, I go to Austin, to a book store called Book People. I will browse their shelves of graphic novels, and even if I don't buy anything, I know I'll find something that I want to read, that I'll buy in the future. I can't help but thank both my parents for teaching me to love the written word, but I have to specifically thank my dad for teaching me what wonders can happen when the written word is combined with art. And for showing me that chick with tits up to her chin.
We all have hobbies. I know Michele likes comic books, she and Shawna love photography, and turtle builds things and burns Peeps. Tell us how you first fell in love with the things you love to do. Well, maybe except you turtle. I'm not sure I want to know why you like burning things so much.
Uberchief is a closet cosplayer. Whatever that means.