Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

'Nuff Said!

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"Popular culture is that which is most used, enjoyed, purchased or practiced by a large number of people." That is a definition that was given to me in a popular culture class, but I never fully fathomed its implication until I attended the Science Fiction and Comic Convention last weekend at the Holiday Inn.

I have never been a science fiction fan. When most of those people were following Star Trek, I was watching Adam-12. Comic books have never been my specialty. Like most, I occasionally indulged in Archie or Richie Rich, but before I experienced the seventh annual Floridacon, I had never even heard of the X-Men, Teen Titans or the New Mutants.

Having been warned about the enthusiasts who frequent these conventions, I was understandably nervous about talking to ardent science fiction and superhero devotees when I knew next to nothing about their fanatical hobby. But I also realized that I stood to learn a great deal about a phenomenon that is getting bigger and more popular every year.

It was in that frame of mind Saturday morning that I approached the convention receiving table, paid $3 and entered the main selling and trading room.

The number of comic books on the walls, on the floor, in boxes, on tables and generally scattered everywhere was overwhelming. What little space wasn't occupied by comic books was filled with T-shirts, jewelry, posters, buttons, books and virtually every science fiction and comic collectible imaginable.

Sales stands were pushed against the walls and packed together in the center of the room, leaving only a narrow square walking space in which to maneuver. I walked slowly around the square once, all the while being jostled about by overly zealous collectors eager to get the right comic book at the right price.

Comic book and science fiction fandom is not discriminatory — it crosses social, economic, racial and age distinctions. The large assembly of people in the room was a virtual representation of American society. They were young, old, black, white, well-off and not-so-well-off, but all were pursuing the hobby they shale.

I surveyed the room once again and then stepped back out into the lobby to find some breathing space. There in the lobby. Convention organizer Robert Zarrillo explained that the convention sold primarily comic books and science fiction collectibles, such as Dr. Who and Star Trek memorabilia, and suggested I go back into the chaotic main room and talk to some dealers and collectors.

Entering the room for the second time, I scanned the crowd for a friendly face or a kindred soul — I saw none. These people were entrenched deeply in their comic books. Then I spied a young businessman behind a table sporting a hat, a vest covered with tags and buttons, a pencil-thin mustache and wearing an Elfquest T-shirt. One of his tags bore the name Phil Boyle.

Boyle opened a comic book store in Orlando when he was 19 years old. Now at 22, he's doing quite well for himself, and although everyone was betting against it, his store has become successful.

"It seems like anyone who sells comics for a living can't be living too much, but you'd be surprised," Boyle said with a gleam in his eye. "It's gotten into big business proportions. At retailer conventions you'll have as much as $200,000 changing hands. And I don't care what business it is, a couple hundred thousand in a couple days is big business."

There is a new awareness now in the comic book field, and people are realizing the collection they've had in their attic for years could be worth a lot of money.

Comic books are produced and distributed once a month, and competition between stores to get the books first has become a rat race. If one store gets a book before another, the other loses out.

"You'd be surprised at people, it's almost like a fix," Boyle said. "There are people who have to have that issue, and they have to have it now."

A portly, middle-aged man who was eavesdropping on our conversation while leafing through a comic book said, "I go into shakes if I don't get it, I'm not kidding. That weekend over Christmas when no one got 'em — that was the worst weekend I ever had."

The whole idea was absurd and amusing at the same time. But the more people I talked to, the more I began to realize what motivates them and why it's so important to them.

UF sophomore Jeff Delaney, 19, began collecting comic books when he was eight. Now his collection is worth thousands of dollars, and he buys between 10 and 20 books a week.

"I started when they were still 20 cents," Delaney said. "I didn't plan on buying anymore, but I got to the last page of my first book, something bad was happening to Spiderman, and it said, 'To be continued.' I was hooked."

Delaney said although there is a lot of money to be made buying, selling and working (he hopes to become a comic artist) in the comic book industry, he still believes, for the most part, that people-buy comics to be entertained by the fantasy in them.

"For some people, it's a need to fill the boring parts of their lives," he said. "It's kind of like having a friend who does all this exciting stuff, and sitting down to have him tell you all these things he did and going — 'Wow! That must've been great!'

The most popular superheroes now are five young mutants with divine powers who make up a super-team called the X-Men. X-Men paraphernalia was visible all over the main room, and the majority of people milling about had either an X-Men T-shirt, button or comic book somewhere on their person.

"X-Men has a wide variety of characters people can identify with," said Pat Henry, owner of an Atlanta comic book store. "They try to keep it somewhat believable — nobody flies. Instead a character can defy gravity by riding the currents of the wind. It's more acceptable than just jumping in the air and taking off."

Although the science fiction and comic book craze has been going on since early in this century, only in the last few years has the mania really caught on and become serious business.

"After Star Wars, science fiction became an acceptable fantasy. The Trekkies could come out of the closet — it became something people could own up to," Henry said. "It's not generally the dumb kids that get involved, they don't have a chance to deal in fantasy. It's the more intellectual kids, those who are pointed out as the eggheads, the real zeros."

Henry laughed as he explained how, when he was a child, his mother burned five copies of Spiderman #1, which sell for about $700 to $800 in mint condition

now. He said six months ago Marvel Comics #1, which was 10 cents in 1939, sold for a record $38,000.

While reflecting on the magnitude of that figure, I wandered over to inspect one of the few stands specializing in Star Trek memorabilia.

Mike Kott is the owner of the Intergalactic Trading Co. Inc., the self-declared largest selection of science fiction collectibles in the galaxy. He has a warehouse in Longwood, Fla., and sells through the mail, advertising in science fiction fanzines. Kott started as a Star Trek collector and now deals in collectibles related to science fiction movies and TV shows.

"Star Trek is still enjoyable today. There's a whole new generation of kids watching it now," Kott said. "In a lot of cities it's the highest rated show. It's the same with Dr. Who. In a lot of cities there's just a phenomenal following."

As he rambled on about Dr. Who, I spotted the closest to what I'd been trying to find all day: a person in a costume. Pulling away from my friend, I began trailing the college-aged male who was proudly displaying his version of the famous multi-colored Dr. Who scarf, which hung to around his ankles. I caught up with him, and he was eager to explain his "Who-mania."

Sophomore Greg Plantamura is president of the UF Dr. Who Club, Tempus Fugit, Latin for "time flies." (Dr. Who is a British science fiction series in which the doctor travels around in a time machine.)

He started watching Dr. Who three years ago, and when he found no fan club at UF, he formed one himself. The club, roughly 15 members, meets every Friday night to watch and discuss the show.

"The neat thing about science fiction conventions is that you meet all these other crazy people who are into the same things," Plantamura said. "It's really great, you can relate to them — you know — like that woman there is wearing horns on her head."

I glanced over to see a slightly chubby woman with small horns protruding from her head, grinning at me over a pile of books. I recalled a more appropriate definition of popular culture from class: "Popular culture is all those things man does and all those artifacts he creates for their own sake, all that diverts his mind and body from the sad business of life." That, in my estimation, was the essence of the convention."

I thought how fortunate the people around me were to have something in their lives that would always give them pleasure and excitement, and if they were sad or lonely, would cheer them and give tham a sense of companionship. It's a place they can escape to, and they're welcome anytime. More than a mere hobby or interest, it's an integral part of their lives. Serious business indeed.

Caption: This man would only identify himself as being from Bill's Comics. He said he travels to all the conventions to sell, trade and collect comics.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Waresh, Julie (1985-02-01). 'Nuff Said!. The Independent Florida Alligator p. Applause, p. 1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Waresh, Julie. "'Nuff Said!." The Independent Florida Alligator [add city] 1985-02-01, Applause, p. 1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Waresh, Julie. "'Nuff Said!." The Independent Florida Alligator, edition, sec., 1985-02-01
  • Turabian: Waresh, Julie. "'Nuff Said!." The Independent Florida Alligator, 1985-02-01, section, Applause, p. 1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title='Nuff Said! | url=! | work=The Independent Florida Alligator | pages=Applause, p. 1 | date=1985-02-01 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 December 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title='Nuff Said! | url=! | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 December 2023}}</ref>