It just dawned on me last week, after driving to work on my current route for six months, that I go vaguely by the comic book shop I’ve mentioned before. So this week I decided to drop in one day on my way home from work.
I wasn’t really looking for comic books, actually, I was interested in maybe picking up some old D&D book; nothing particular, just anything missing from my collection. I entered the store and the two guys up at the counter greeted me. The guy on the customer side of the counter was a young kid, maybe 16, maybe younger, (probably younger). They guy on the employee side of the counter was maybe 20.
I returned their hellos and then turned onto the aisle where I previously had seen a shelf of old D&D books. I stood in the area for a minute, looking around, not finding the books I expected, and then the teenager walked up beside me.
“The best graphic novels are all over on this side,” he said, pointing to some shelves. He added a comment that I didn’t catch.
“I was looking for the old D&D stuff,” I said. “It used to be in this area.”
“Oh,” he said, “that’s all back here.” He waved for me to follow him, and he took me to the back of the store. “This is where I buy a lot of my D&D material,” he added. Actually, he added a lot more — he was a talkative kid — but I wasn’t really paying attention to his jabber.
I’m not a real sociable guy to start with, and I was in the store just to look at some old books, in peace and quiet. I may have come across as rude with the kid. I just tuned out most of his talking. When we were standing before the shelf of gaming books, he pointed out, “I’ve been thinking about getting that set of second edition. I bought . . . ,” I wasn’t really listening.
I saw the AD&D [1st edition] Oriental Adventures book that I’ve been wanting for a while, but the spine was damaged. I took it down, looked through it, and found it also had a bit of discoloration in the pages. I put it back on the shelf. The kid was still talking.
He was a nice guy. He just wanted to talk about something he was interested in. Sadly, though, he was chatting up a guy who’s just ass enough to not really care.
He pulled a pristine AD&D1 Fiend Folio off the shelf. “This is the worst cover art of any D&D book,” he said. The way he said it, he was just continuing his chatting, not really being mean.
I just replied, “That’s the first D&D book I ever bought.” That’s true. It was the first D&D book I bought after the Basic D&D boxed set game. It’s a treasured part of my D&D collection, although I didn’t make my comment in defense of the cover art; I just said the first thing I thought when the kid showed it to me.
The kid froze for a moment, then put the book back on the shelf. He turned and walked away, and banged himself on the forehead with his fist. Damn, I’m an ass, I thought. He was just trying to chat, and I made him think he offended me. He hadn’t offended me, (because he hadn’t meant to offend me), even with a negative comment on one of my favorite books.
Alone, with peace and quiet at last, I continued looking through the gaming books. I found the boxes with old Dragon magazines, and started flipping through the oldest issues. The oldest Dragon I own is #68, December 1982. In the box I found a #62 and #55 for cheap. (There were a couple of older mags, but the marked price was too high.)
I took my choices up to the front of the store, but before checking out, I looked over the selection of new comics on the front shelves. (There were a couple more guys in the store at this point, college age guys — the state college is literally across the street.) Nothing on the comics rack jumped out at me.
I heard the kid and the employee talking about Magic: the Gathering. Is that still in print, I wondered. The employee introduced the kid to Feldon’s Cane. “For one colorless mana!?” the kid exclaimed. He’s pure gamer geek, God bless him.
I took my two magazines up to the counter, and the employee rang them up on the register. I handed over my debit card, and the kid looked over at my choices.
“You’re buying back issues of Dragon?” he asked. I smiled and nodded. “Do they still publish Dragon?”
“Not in paper form,” I answered.
The employee quipped at the kid, “These issues are older than you are.”
“Yeah,” I said, smiling, “number 55 is . . . about 1980.” (It’s November 1981.) I didn’t add, Your parents were probably still in puberty when this was published. I was liking the kid. He was interested and enthusiastic. I can’t fault him for being sociable; it’s a good thing. I felt bad for being a surly old man.
With the purchase complete, I picked up my old magazines to leave. As I started walking away, I turned back to the kid to say, “And you’re right. That cover art on the old Fiend Folio is kind of bad.”
I don’t really think the FF cover art is bad, per se. It’s a very different style than is in vogue nowadays. I might not care much for the style, myself, if it didn’t have a strong nostalgic tie for me. But I threw the kid a bone to make up for being gruff earlier.