The Long Run


If I ramble a bit this week and my mind wanders, chalk it up to the ravages of age.

As it happens, today is my birthday. I am 35 years old. (Waitaminute… aren't I? Hang on. Yes! 1975. That has to be right. President Ford evacuates Danang by sea as the nation dances to "Lady Marmalade." I never dreamed there'd come a day when I'd lose track of how old I was, but entire years do go missing after a while.) Maybe it's because I spent so many years as a comic book collector, always on the lookout for those landmark milestone issues, but the years with fives or zeros on the end of them always look like they should be more momentous than they end up being. I thought that 35 would have extra pages and a hologram on the cover, but it turns out it's just a Monday, still just 35.

"But Jim," many of you on the other side of the site's median age are saying, "is this not a big deal, in the sense that you are now almost unimaginably old?" Well, sonny, I always felt old. Now, I just feel right.

While it's very easy for me to see myself as 35, it's more mind-boggling to think about the stuff that's been there aging along with me. Things we take for granted as pop culture institutions were just blooming that year. I'm sure no one asked about Saturday Night Live in 1975 would have predicted it would be on the air in 1977, but it has kept growing from an edgy, fly-by-night operation to an almost critic-proof, uncancelable corporate behemoth that simply Is, forever moving forward like Bruce the Shark (who is also 35 this year).

For that matter, I doubt anyone had any idea what they were unleashing on the world when Giant-Size X-Men #1 hit the stands a few weeks before my birthday. (With a cover price of $0.50, it nows appears to be available on eBay for $150 or so for those of you still shopping for that last minute gift.) After the original book was canceled due to low sales– it only managed to move a million copies a month– Giant-Size offered up a new team of X-Men, a team that Marvel was so excited about that Giant-Size X-Men #2 consisted entirely of reprints of the old canceled book. That fall, Chris Claremont began writing an ongoing series featuring the new X-Men, and when I was a junior in high school he was still writing it every month. Every… single… month. Can you even imagine writing for the same cast of characters every month without a break from the Chevy Chase era all the way up to the David Spade era? A dozen fictional people relying on you to shepherd them through a universe full of shape-shifting aliens and demonic intrusions for seventeen years? It's like raising children, except with hundreds of strangers writing you letters every few weeks to tell you how you're ruining the kids. When does it go from "classic run" to "past the edge of reason"?

Actually, now that I think about it, Chris Claremont wrote that book for my entire childhood and adolescence, and for all intents and purposes he's still writing it right now. Is X-Men Forever a title, or some kind of old-world curse? I can't even believe I've been doing this for two years, and Claremont is on Year 36 with Wolverine and Kitty Pryde. I'd love to hear what that guy has to say about "work for hire" when he's got a few drinks in him.

Wikipedia also tells me that, in terms of comic book debuts, I'm roughly the same age as Jamie Madrox. It seems the Multiple Man first showed up as a misunderstood opponent of the Fantastic Four, and has since gotten about as far from that origin as he could get without fighting crime in cutoff flannel as Jamie the Cable Guy. I can relate to Madrox, both in terms of feeling like I'm going in ten different directions at once and in terms of being in an almost unrecognizable place compared to just a few years ago.

When I was 25, I was not into comics in the slightest anymore. The nineties had convinced me I had outgrown them in the decrepitude of my twenties. By the time I was 30, the bookcase in my office had a "graphic novel" section on the bottom shelf. I'm in my office looking at that bookcase right now, and the comics have swallowed it. What did I do with the "real" books that used to be on those shelves? I guess they're in a box somewhere. Probably in my parents' basement. I wonder what birthday I'll hit before I stop having boxes in my parents' basement.

Scanning the spines peeking out at me from the shelves, I see that copy of Maus I bought in college. Technically, I wasn't "into" comics at all during the nineties, but Maus was one of my inner child's many attempts to lure me back in. (Yes, Maus is somewhat heavy reading for an inner child, but he knew his audience.) Even in high school and college, during that decade when I was Out For Good, the landscape was dotted with these little relapses. Maus. Marvels. My forever cherished copy of Star Trek vs. X-Men, somehow a shining example of both the reason I left comics and everything delightful about them at the same time. I guess I never wanted to stop reading them, but back then everything I tried just insisted on being terrible. I can still remember idly picking at the spinner rack in the Galleria Waldenbooks, having unfortunate encounters with Heroes Reborn and Zero Hours and Clone Sagas. Still, now that I'm sitting here in a reflective mood, I see that comics are one of the few things that come close to a constant in my life. There are people who are scandalized that comics aren't for kids anymore, and I certainly wish the industry was doing a little more to bring kids to the medium, but as an old man with a weekly habit I'm also glad comics went ahead and grew up right along with me. Damned glad. Damned-ass glad to hell.

(Swearing is also something that is as much fun now as it was when I was twelve.)


Don't actually buy Jim Mroczkowski anything. You want Jim Mroczkowski to have a happy birthday? Follow him on Twitter. The state of his little bonsai follower list is a goddamned disgrace.


  1. Happy Birthday sir!

  2. Happy damned birthday! (You’re right about the swearing)

  3. I didn’t know Star Trek vs. X-men existed.  Who wins (other than the reader)?

  4. There’s a pros version of Xmen Star Trek TNG. Never read it but it always baffled my mind that it existed.

  5. Speak the truth, Jim!

    You’re still young, but beware: 35 is when you have to check off a different age bracket on survey forms. That hurts like a bitch.

  6. @lantern4life: I loved that X-Men/TNG novel! I read it before I was a serious comics fan but was still a massive Trekkie, but still dug the X-Men in it.

  7. I had a the same mixed reaction of joy and revulsion you described upon seeing the cover to Star Trek/X-men.  It has to be one of my last books I picked up as I was trying to "grow up" in high school.  I found it not too long and and reread it, laughing all the way.  I remember trying to explain to my dad, a staunch Trekkie for decades, how the two fit together, and what episodes of the series it referenced for the villain.  

  8. Happy birthday!  1975 birthdays are awesome.

    I feel compelled to mention that both Springsteen’s "Born to Run" and Fleetwood Mac’s "Rumors" came out the year I was born, but when I looked went to that website that tells you what song was #1 the week you were born, it turned out to be "Jive Talkin’" by the Bee Gees.  I feel this is significant in some way.  (Jimmy Hoffa disappeared that year, too.  A lot happened during the Ford Administration, somehow).

  9. @stuclach As I remember it, the X-men are mysteriously transported onto Kirk’s Enterprise, and they have to fight the bad Shi’ar (Deathbird, etc.) who have teamed up with Gary Mitchell (from the ST:TOS episode "Where no man has gone before" – He’s basically a god).  Hijinks ensue.  So Star Trek and X-men win.

  10. @uvayankee1 – Thank you, sir.  That title is a bit misleading.

  11. And then ther’s Stan Lee who has the whatever age he happens to be the new 35.  EXCELSIOR JIM, EXCELSIOR

  12. Happy Birthday!!!

  13. Happy Birthday! Just remember: when Stan Lee turned 35, he  hadn’t even told Jack Kirby to invent the Marvel Universe yet!

  14. Well, brands have a balancing act to perform. Following their demographic and gaining new ones.

  15. Happy Birthday!

  16. "Heard you swearing. Mind if I join in? Crap, boobs, crap."

    By the way, I attempted to interlibrary loan STAR TREK / X-MEN a few months ago and it didn’t go through. I would love to read that thing some day.

  17. I’m working my way through Claremont’s entire run right now. Currently in the middle of the Proteus arc and for my money it holds up pretty well and by pretty well I mean awesome. (For those interested I just turned 30 in February).

  18. I was thinking about this and comics are probably the only constant in my own life, through both the big changes and small.  Through several school ages, onto university, work, marriage, raising a small person comics have always been there, first on a monthly and in the last 17 or 18 years almost weekly.  They’re an escape still in many ways, but they’re often inspiring and sometimes just beauties to behold. Alongside that, they’re a touchstone to the past.  I have so many comics in my collection where I remember the day I bought them.  Maybe not the specific date, but the place, the weather, what it made me feel at the time.  I know it’s no different to music, novels and movies (which also hold a special place in my heart) but comics and me certainly have the longest history.  Comics, people – they’re more than just paper and staples!

  19. Happy Birthday Jim!

  20. Happy Birthday!

  21. Happy Birthday you crabby old man!

  22. Star Trek X-men??!!!!! O=!!!!

    Why didn’t you post this PRE-ECCC!!!!! >_<*

    Can’t find it on instocktrades =/

  23. Happy Birthday!