Comics back then were mostly sneered at by teachers, librarians and parents as lowbrow time wasters, corrupters of cultural taste. When it came to filling up the empty hours of childhood, they were maybe one step above stuffing Black Cat firecrackers into unsuspecting ant hills. Maybe. We hadn’t yet reached the moment when graphic novels like Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” and Craig Thompson’s “Blankets” had ascended to literature.
The hundreds — O.K., thousands — of comic books that I devoured as a boy in the 1960s and ’70s were crucial in shaping my budding life as an artist. They nudged me along the road toward becoming a journalist, novelist and memoirist, sharpened my eye for the visual arts and whetted my appetite for popular culture. To be blunt: Comic books, in all their pulpy glory, constitute my secret origin.