Aug 11, 2010

Cardboard Gods

I just finished reading the most interesting book. Well, it was interesting to me because it was one of those things that you read sometimes that feels like it was written by you. And by "you" I mean "me".

Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker refers to the author's baseball heroes found on trading cards in plastic packs with a stick of gum, but it's really about growing up in the 1970's and beyond. The baseball cards themselves, although extremely important to the author, are a device. Something to pull the narrative along. And it's a fascinating tale, told by someone growing up around the same time as yours truly.

The book grew out of the Cardboard Gods website that Mr. Wilker has been running for a while now.  I believe most of the chapters were blog entries at some point and the book was arranged in chronological order afterward, but I can't be entirely sure.  There is definitely some new stuff in there.

I didn't collect baseball cards when I was a kid.  I was familiar with them through friends and some cousins, but I was more into comic-books.  But I didn't really collect those either.  I didn't bag them with cardboard backing, no sir.  I read them.  Sometimes I rolled them up and stuck them in my back pocket before riding my bike to a friend's house.  The comic-books from my childhood were dog-eared, tattered, wonderful things. 

I didn't keep any of them.  When I grew to an age when superheroes were no longer part of my life, I threw them away.  Or gave them away.  It wasn't until many years later that I regretted both the handling of those treasures and the eventual disposal of them.  I used to go to comic-book conventions or stores, looking through back issue bins and I would get so angry when I ran across something that I owned and mistreated as a child.   Maybe a Giant-Size X-Men #1 or the incredible Marvel/DC crossover Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man (the Battle of the Century!).

But now that I look back, I think I enjoyed them as a child should enjoy comic-books.  I remember nights when I would grab an old issue of The Fantastic Four or Iron Man or Marvel Team-Up, and I would fall asleep while re-living the heroic acts contained within.  Sometimes I fell asleep clutching the fragile issue in my hands, awaking the next day to see it a little worse for wear with no regrets.  To me, that's what comic-books were all about as a child.

Josh Wilker knew that same magic.  Instead of superheroes in comic-books, his gods were real.  Captured for a brief moment in a goofy pose on a trading card.

___________________________________________________
Note: Remember to play the Badgerdaddy Trivia Challenge every day. Hey...I've got an idea.

16 comments:

white rabbit said...

I collected just about anything as a boy from the inevitable stamps and coins to beer mats and cigarette packets. I've still got a few packs of stamps knocking about in a box somewhere alone and ignored. There were sporting cards too but I never collected them.

I've still got a pile of old Zap comix from the early 70s somewhere. Does that make me a pornographer? Don't answer that.

RW said...

Comics and baseball cards for me. Also Mars Attacks cards. And a Davy Crockett lunch box. Also coonskin hat. What exactly happened to that kid, I dunno...

Paticus said...

I had some of the same feelings when I started to see what Star Wars action figures were selling for out there in the world. "Dammit! Why did I throw that Milennium Falcon off the porch? Why did Han Solo have to be tortured on the stove top?" But hell, they were TOYS, and I had a damn lot of fun playing with them. And I still have most of them...Alas, not in mint condition.
I never got that into comics though...My brother was a big collector...I remember borrowing(and being VERY CAREFUL with his Howard the Duck and "What If?" comics...I think the What ifs were always my favorites.
I also really liked the gum that came in baseball cards.

B.E. Earl said...

Wabbit - Those are some of the early R. Crumb stuff, right? Very cool!

RW - Yeah, I missed the Davy Crockett thing by a few years...

Paticus - I never liked Howard the Duck or the What If...? series. I preferred my comics to be a bit less silly.

downtown guy said...

Ever read the book Fortress of Solitude by Lethem?

B.E. Earl said...

Hank - No, but I'm guessing you are recommending it?

Slyde said...

My friend used to collect stamps and i could never understand why. What the fuck do you do with a stamp once you bought it? at least with comics you got a story out of it.

and my very beat-up, much-read-as-a-child first appearance of Wolverine weeps that i didnt take better care of it.

downtown guy said...

I sort of am. I think you may enjoy it, but it could have used a little better editing.

B.E. Earl said...

Slyde - Yeah, I don't get stamp collecting either, but to each their own.

Hank - I'll check it out when I have some time.

Water Logged Canine said...

The only thing I've ever collected is dust.

B.E. Earl said...

Doggie - You should have your maid feather-dust you more often.

Nej said...

I grew up with the "anti-packrat." My dad kept nothing that wasn't needed in the current time, or near future. He was an organizational fool...so I was never able to have a "collection." On a positive note, I always knew where everything thing if I needed it. :-) :-)

Kevin Spencer said...

I was never all that fond of comic books as a kid. Sure I read them but it never really grabbed me in the same way it did other people. Video games though - you couldn't pry me away from my Commodore 64.

Paticus said...

Earl- Silly, eh? So I take it you never liked Captain Carrot either?

B.E. Earl said...

Nej - My father was the ultimate packrat. When he passed away we needed to rent one of those industrial garbage bins to throw all that shit out.

Kevin - I hear ya. A lot of my friends were big-time video game geeks.

Paticus - No sirree.

Always Home and Uncool said...

Told you you'd like it.