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Night of the Reaper
A teenage comic book heist!
Firstly, R.I.P. Neal Adams. June 15, 1941 - April 28, 2022.
This particular Neal Adams cover evokes strong memories of my childhood and my determination to collect comics despite the odds.
Back in the mid-seventies it took a great deal of effort to find places that actually sold American comics, but I’d seen advertisements for a shop called the Popular Book Centre in Balham, a part of London that was quite a long train journey from where I lived in Carshalton.
During the summer school break I decided to take a wedge of cash I’d earned as a newspaper delivery boy on an early train to Balham to see what I could find. On arrival I was fairly disappointed because the place really was geared towards books, mostly paperback books, but there was a section for comics. There weren’t many of them and they were pretty battered looking with a great big ‘Exchange for half price’ ink stamp on the covers. I did however find a couple of large format Marvel Preview issues which I’d never seen before. One featured the first appearance of Star-Lord, and another was The Savage Sword of Conan, which made the excursion totally worthwhile. As I stepped out of the shop I bumped into another kid my age who was also looking for comics and he was keen to see what I’d found.
For both of us, meeting another comics fan was kind of exciting and we enthused about our own comic collections, so we decided to exchange phone numbers and our home addresses. After a couple of weeks and a phone call later, this boy (whose name I can’t remember) travelled to my house to check out my collection and brought some comics he wanted to swap. He was impressed with what I’d managed to find and was keen to do some swaps, but I didn’t want or need any of his comics.
After a while my Mum called up from downstairs to ask if we wanted orange squash and biscuits, so I ran down to the kitchen and brought them up on a tray. On entering my bedroom I sensed that something wasn’t quite right, but we carried on talking about comics until it was time for him to leave.
After he’d left, my Spider-Sense was still tingling, so I ran back upstairs and frantically started sorting through my comics and comparing them to the handwritten checklist that I’d made. To my abject horror, two of my favourite comics were missing, and the one that pained me the most was the loss of Batman #237 with the amazing Neal Adams ‘Night of the Reaper’ cover.
I told my mother what had happened and she looked pretty angry despite the fact that she kind of tolerated my comic book obsession.
The next morning she said ‘Right, what’s this boy’s home address?’ and without further ado she got the car started and we departed on a journey to his house a good one hour’s drive away.
When we arrived she knocked on the door and it was promptly opened by the kid’s own mother. ‘I think your boy has something of Steven’s, and he’d like it back’ said my mum. The woman didn’t seem too surprised for some strange reason and let me go upstairs to the boy’s room. He’d obviously heard what was going on, and as I entered his room he was guiltily holding the comics and sheepishly handed them to me.
I never spoke to, or heard from the boy again but I was so pleased to get my comics back.
When I look back now, this little episode is something that I really respect my mother for, because she loathed comics, she really did, but she stood up for me in one of my darkest hours as a teenage comic book collector.