HEROLAND

By: Michael Hempen

Brought to you by Cous’n Hemp’n Entertainment

Cous’n Hempen Entertainment: Where quality is of minor concern!

 

Heroland Issue 4: Beginnings and Endings

R.I.P. (Rest in Piss) You Cheap Fat Fuck

In 1996 Paul had been the proud owner of Heroland for 2 years. He still did business with Lee as he purchased Lee’s brand of comic book bags and boards to sell at the shop; Paul also helped Lee with his mail order business. I’m not sure why Paul still worked with Lee, but I do know that Lee tried ripping off Paul on several occasions, including the sale of Heroland, but Paul was smarter than Lee and never fell for his dastardly ploys. Paul wasn’t even worried about being ripped off by Lee because he knew who he was. I’m sure people have asked, over the years that I’ve known him “Why does Mike hang around with Action Jim”, but much like my relationship with Jim, Paul knew that as long as you never counted on Lee for anything or thought of him as anything other than what he was, he was OK to keep around.

One morning, early in ’96, when Jim and I brought in an action figure haul for Paul, he told us that Lee was sick. Apparently he had a liver problem and needed a transplant. Over the next few months Lee rapidly lost all of his grotesque weight and was remanded to a wheelchair. His skin couldn’t keep up with his weight loss and hung off of him in thick flabby sheets. Paul kept us updated over the next few months and eventually Lee succumbed to his illness. Apparently nobody would give the fat fuck a liver. After he passed away, Lee was buried at a cemetery not far from his home in Worth. The weekend after he was buried, Jim and I made plans to visit him at his forever resting site.

Jim and I decided to meet there and under a haunting full moon we approached Lee’s grave from opposite ends of the grave yard. Without saying a word, Jim and I stood shoulder to shoulder in front of Lee’s grave. If you stood behind us, you’d see the stoic reserved stance of two men with their heads bowed and their hands folded neatly in front of them while saying a silent prayer. You might imagine our tears glowing in the silvery moonlight as we quietly observed respect for our fallen ex-boss.

However, if you stood in FRONT of us you would be met with a more believable reality as Jim and I looked down on Lee’s grave with huge grins on our faces while that same silvery moonlight gleamed off of our piss streams and our joy at Lee’s passing filled us with a warmth I have yet to experience again in my lifetime. Fuck you Lee; you were a bad, bad guy. You go to hell.

Paul on the other hand DID observe a modicum of respect for Lee. Being an older and more reserved gentleman, Paul attended Lee’s funeral, comforted Louisa in her grief, and even offered to buy Lee’s comic book collection from her to help her with the huge debt Lee had left behind.

Lee made so many enemies that Paul was one of about 10 people at his funeral. A few attendees were comic book dealers who actually liked Lee, mostly because they were as big an asshole as he was, like: Friendly Frank, whose comic shop was closed down because he sold porn to kids. And there were some people who simply hated Lee. Paul told us that at least 3 of the 10 people in attendance spit on his grave, including Louisa’s mother who Lee would regularly beat back when I first started working for him.

Back at the warehouse, Louisa was having trouble keeping up with the orders as Lee had taken care of the shipping and receiving end of their business. He’d left her with nothing other than his collection so she took Paul up on his offer of buying it from her. After that, Paul did what he could for Louisa, helping her keep the business alive. In fact, through Paul’s help it thrived and she began paying him a regular salary for his efforts.

I’ve read a lot of articles about Lee recently as I researched him a bit more and looked for a picture of him for this story. The amazing thing to me is that everyone outside of our circle seemed to like Lee. I imagine that’s because they really didn’t know him. I haven’t seen anything written by the artists and writers that Lee ripped off, but believe me when I tell you that Lee was as pathological a backstabbing piece of shit as one will find on this planet. The people whose articles I’ve read about the man are ALL people somehow involved in the comic book industry who Lee needed something from, or whose association with him gave Lee something to brag about, or information that would somehow make him more money. I stand by everything I’ve written here about the man. He beat the shit out of his midget wife AND her mother on more than one occasion when I worked for him in the late 80’s, he ripped off me and everyone else I talk about EXACTLY as I describe here, and there are probably a shit load more stories about his nefarious dickheadedness that I don’t even know.

Paul Again

Although Paul was much more responsible than Jim, he could be just as mischievous at times without going to the illegal lengths that Jim would go to. Paul could also be very aloof, but I knew that it was just because he was always juggling a lot of things. That being said, Paul has been there for ME on countless occasions over the years. He’s helped me a great deal through difficult times, even recently setting me up with a dentist friend of his who charged me next to nothing for some expensive dental work. I didn’t have a father growing up and I feel fortunate to have met Paul in my early twenties. He’s been someone that I can look up to as a business man, a friend that I can laugh with about these exploits of Jim’s, and a he’s been a father figure when I’ve needed advice on women or money.

Much like Jim Paul doesn’t sound like, nor IS he like any comic book collector you’ve ever heard of. Paul could be super charming and he is extremely funny. I credit a lot of my current sense of humor to him.

When Paul introduced me to Jim outside of Heroland Comics that day in ‘94, he was helping Jim with some advice on what to do with the money Jim would be getting from his father’s will. Jim wanted to open up his OWN comic book store and although Paul advised him against this course of action, Jim’s mind was made up. Paul warned Jim about the capital involved in such a venture. You had to buy collections for back stock, you had to get a Tax ID for your business, you had to pay rent at a location, there were electric and utility bills, you had to buy the new comics every Wednesday for your customers AND drive a good distance to pick them up. There was the cost of comic book boxes, bags and boards, fixtures, display cases, a cash register, a point of sale counter. There was location to consider, a customer base, you had to stock expensive statues and action figures, you had to hire a staff, and so on and so on. Although Jim’s father left him some money, it wasn’t a LOT of money. Enough to maybe start out a business, but Paul warned Jim that it would NOT be enough to keep it going.

The only reason Lee had been successful at owning a comic book store is that he supplemented it with income from OTHER jobs. In fact, if you ask ANY one who owns a comic book store, they’ll tell you that they have another source of income. Owning a comic book store is more of a hobby than a career.

However, Paul’s advice fell on deaf ears.

 ‘Lina’ OR ‘She-Jim’

Pic Lina

Before we get further into Action Jim’s Comic book store, we need to talk about Lina.

Action Jim broke up with Carrie a few weeks after I met her. Jim told me that the reason why stemmed from a night they spent together at the J.C. motel. This story, like many stories is not for the faint of heart. Action Jim and Carrie had gotten a room at the J.C. to fuck. Jim wanted to take a shower with her so they could clean up before the fuckery began. Carrie turned him down, opting instead to wait for Jim in bed with a ‘big surprise’ as she put it. Jim hopped in the shower, did a quick hose down of his naughty bits, and came back into the room with his wet dick swinging. As they lay in the bed together nekkid, Carrie told him that she was going to let him go in ‘the back door’ that night. Ever ready for an opportunity to degrade a woman, Action Jim excitedly kissed Carries body as he headed south to perform some cunnilingus.

What Jim didn’t know is that Carrie, knowing how big Jim’s dick was, had used a sex toy on herself while he was in the shower…I assume to widen the ole’ dirt tunnel before Jim went a drillin’. But what Carrie didn’t know…is that wasn’t such a good idea. While Jim was chin deep in Muff city, he told me that he smelled something foul. A disgusting stench that filled his nostrils with doom. He sat up, and the smell followed him. When he looked down at Carries who-ha, it and the white sheets under her posterior were wet and brown. Jim grabbed at his chin with his fingers and when he pulled them back they were brown and smelly as well. Anal leakage. That’s right folks, Action Jim had Carries shit all over his mouth and chin like he just dove face first into a chocolate cake eating contest. And that was the end of Carrie.

In ’95, after I’d been working at Waldenbooks for a little over a year as the assistant manager, my boss hired a woman named Lina. Lina was GORGEOUS and just oozed a natural sexuality that made men whimper with desire for her. Lina was the same age as me but you couldn’t tell that by looking at her. She carried herself like a woman in her 30’s and she always dressed for success in a blouse and mini skirt; not in a slutty way, but in a HOT professional way. Lina was also ambitious. She was in college studying something or other, I don’t remember what, but the combination of her looks, her dress, and that ambition made her extremely desirable…until I realized that she was a fucking flake.

The other assistant manager at Waldenbooks was named Ian. After about a week Ian and I fucking HATED Lina. In fact, because it was so easy to do, we’d often make her cry by berating her minimal efforts at work, her CONSTANTLY being late, and her general idiocy at forming coherent thoughts. Even Sara A. (whom I’ll get into later) hated Lina. NOBODY at Waldenbooks seemed to like her except our boss, Mara.

Whenever Jim would come into my store to bullshit or just hang out, Ian and I would tell him how awful Lina was as a human being. We told him of her stupidity and her horrible work ethic and when Jim MET Lina and started working his Jim charm on her? We tried to warn him away from her…to no avail.

As I’ve said before, Jim looks for ONE thing from a woman; what he can get from her, and the ONLY thing Lina had to offer, which was enough for Jim…was pussy. I was already working at Waldenbooks when I met Jim and after our friendship was well established, Jim would show up while I was there to get away from Granny. One night, when Jim KNEW I wasn’t working, he went in looking for me. See, Jim knew that I wasn’t fond of Lina, hell I hated her, so he couldn’t very well hit on her while I was there. Using an inquisition as to my whereabouts…Jim went in to hit on Lina. And of course she fucked him. Mainly because she was atrociously stupid, but as it turned out; she and Jim had a lot in common. NEITHER of them could show up for ANYTHING on time. In fact, after her torrid affair with Jim began, she went from being slightly late for work every day to being HOURS late for work every day. BOTH of them were consummate bullshitters as Lina would tell our boss that her car broke down or her sister passed away, or whatever excuse popped into her mind. And finally? Both of them were irresponsible fuck tards whose dalliance with each other cost Jim the last and only fortune he would have…until Granny passed away.

Putting the ‘Action’ in Action Jim

After refusing to heed Paul’s advice or even attempting to find a job to supplement his income before he started his venture, Jim decided to take what little money he had and invest it in his own business. However, before he started…he needed a name for his store, and a location. He came over to my house one night to discuss these two crucial elements to his campaign of life changing success.

Paul talked to us about location because he was pretty fortunate with his. Heroland was set up a few blocks from a community college on a major road, so his traffic was pretty good. Paul TRIED to talk to Jim about business realtors, neighborhood demographics, and business models, but Jim was having none of that. ALL he knew and all he wanted to know was that he could sell Batman stuff to the potential and future Jims of America. He could eat pizza when he wanted, show up for work when he wanted, and nobody could tell him what to do.

On to the name. Jim, Jackie, Paul and myself sat in my bedroom throwing out ideas (and let me just say that considering that Paul was the same age as my mom? It WAS kinda weird when he was over):

“Jim’s comic book Emporium”? I suggested.

“Jimmy’s Comics” Jackie followed.

”Jim-Man’s Comic Cave”? Jim tried.

“The Man Hole”? Paul joked.

As we laughed, my mother came in the room. She’d overheard our conversation from her room. She stood there in my doorway with a cigarette in her hand and simply said; “Action Jim’s Comic Book Store” and walked away. And Jim became ‘Action Jim’ from that day forward.

The Set Up

Ok, next Action Jim went location scouting. He would drive around for hours looking at places to open his business…but everyplace he looked at was along the same route. See, I introduced Action Jim to a place I’d been going to for a LONG time; Merichka’s in Crest Hill. Action Jim LOVED this place because of their garlic bread and he would often take Lina there (keep in mind that he’s slowly chipping away at that inheritance while doing so as he doesn’t have a job still). If you remember, I said earlier that Action Jim would ONLY take women to places that HE would eat at and since Merichkas is a nice restaurant, isn’t too expensive, and has garlic bread, this was Action Jim’s go to date place at the time.

Now, the thing to consider here is that Merichkas is a LOOOOONG way away from Action Jim’s Grannies, and since Lina lived at home and he wasn’t able to weasel his way in there, the two of them stayed at a motel almost 7 days a week. (Chippin away man, he’s chippin away at that inheritance). While Action Jim was telling EVERYBODY, including me that he was spending all of his time looking for a location for his new business, I knew the truth. He would hang out at the mall all day until Lina got out of work (stalker), take her to Merichkas, and then to a nearby motel; repeat day after day for over a month. His consummation with new pussy, and from what he told me; GOOD pussy took away from any initiative he might have had towards his ambitions…and then the money started to run out.

Action Jim new that his lifestyle was about to take a serious nose dive. He couldn’t fuck Lina at Granny’s, he couldn’t fuck her at HER place, and soon he wouldn’t be able to afford these hotels. His solution? And I could almost SEE the idea form behind his eyes…he’d open up a comic book store and sleep in the back. “WHY NOT GET A JOB AND A FUCKING APARTMENT!” I screamed in my mind, but Action Jim was FINALLY ready to commit. However, a few problems stood in his way.

 How Owning a Comic Book Store Works (or Worked Back Then Anyway)

The first thing you have to do when you open ANY business is get a tax license. Fine, Action Jim had no problem with that. He had to pay a fee, but as long as he had a name for the business? He was golden. Now, with a comic book business in particular, you have to open up a line of credit with Diamond Distributors.

When you own a comic book store, you get a catalogue from Diamond Distributors every month. This a big thick ass catalogue that shows shop owners (or ‘dealers’) everything that’s available for them to order including comic books, t-shirts, statues, general toys, movies, and of course…action figures. The way the catalogue works is that if YOU as a dealer order a certain amount of merchandise; you are obligated to pay for that merchandise before you pick it up. If you don’t pay? You’re blacklisted from Diamond Distributors and your shop goes out of business because, as it STILL is to this day, Diamond Distributors is a monopoly and there’s nowhere else to turn for product. 90 percent of business a comic book store does happens on ‘New Comic Book Wednesday’. I think you see where I’m headed with this, but hold on…there’s a twist.

Now, as a dealer/owner, you’re entitled to certain perks. First of all, you of course are buying the comic books for your store wholesale, with a percentage off of the cover price. With other merchandise including toys and such, the discount is slightly less than full price. If you buy in bulk? You get a bigger discount and ‘specialty’ items. Example; if you buy 100 copies of a particular comic book, you’ll get one ‘Limited Silver Foil Cover’ edition that in reality is worth fuck all, but you can sell to fat nut jobs for an outrageous mark up…especially considering you got that shit for free. Hell, even if you sell it at the COVER price of $2.95, you’ve made a 300 percent profit on that mother fucker.

Now the way to be successful at owning this particular type of business is to KNOW what your customers want. If your store sells more D.C. comics than Marvel Comics, you order 10 to 20 copies of each D.C. Comic and 5 to ten of the Marvel titles. Plus you might order a case of Justice League Action Figures but none of the new X-Men line. If you own a successful store, like Heroland, you order more. Any dealer worth his or her salt will tell you that they have to mark up the price of action figures and toys in general, in order to make ordering them worthwhile. There’s just no profit in that; especially when you consider that Toy’s R Us, Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, etc. will have the SAME toys at much lower prices because THEY can buy huge bulk amounts of them at tremendous discounts.

So when opening up a NEW comic book store in a location with little to no competition, you have to start slow to see what your customer base will want. Paul’s advice to Action Jim while going through the Diamond catalogue with him was ‘NO action figures, a FEW statues, 5 copies of each Marvel and D.C. title, and 2 copies of everything else.’ Action Jim couldn’t be bothered with the advice of a successful business man, and as usual; went his own way.

 The Stage is Set

Action Jim found his new store front in Lemont, on a stretch of Archer Ave. somewhere between Granny’s house and Merichkas. Jim told me about his new location and bragged about its potential. He told me that the strip mall had just been built and that the realtor assured him that this would SOON be a bustling community. There were houses being built across the street and a school would soon be going up not 2 blocks from his store. Now, keep in mind that Action Jim was STILL busy with Lina and I had a full time job while living at my mother’s condo with Jackie. I didn’t get to see Action Jim’s location until the day he opened, and what a fun romp into reality THAT was. But Action Jim was my friend and I assured him that I would be his FIRST customer on opening day.

The week before he opened Action Jim’s Comic Shop, Paul was nice enough to give Jim some comic book racks and a cash register that he had in storage. Also, since Jim had the worst credit on the planet, even back then, Paul was nice enough to let Jim order his product off of HIS Diamond credit line. Also, because Jim was late in ordering for his opening day, Paul floated him part of HIS product shipment those first few weeks so he’d at least have new comics to sell.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about Paul here. Paul KNEW Action Jim as well as I do. Paul is NOBODIES pushover and even Action Jim doesn’t have the ability to sweet talk or bullshit Paul. But I think that Paul was hoping that this venture might in some way turn Jim around. I’m pretty sure Paul KNEW this wasn’t going to go well, and maybe some small part of him did it for the story, but I truly think that as shrewd a business man as Paul can be, he’s just genuinely a great fucking guy.

The Grand Opening!

Z Action Jims Opening Day

Action Jim with the mayor of Lemont for his grand opening!

Action Jim’s Comic Shop was all set to open on a Saturday morning in August of 1996. It was fall and a crisp wind blew into my car as I drove to his new store at 8 in the morning for his 9 o’clock opening. The Mayor of Lemont was to be there and the newspapers were there for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Seriously, that DID happen, check out the picture. I wore a suit to the occasion and Jackie was by my side as we BOTH hoped to be in the papers with Action Jim.

Jim was supposed to be there at 8 o’clock to meet with the mayor and give a few quotes to the papers, and when we arrived at 8:15? He hadn’t shown up yet. I spoke with the mayor and explained who I was. She was PISSED. It was great seeing this dignified elected official cursing Action Jim for standing her up at a “fucking COMIC book store opening” as she put it. I told her I’d see what was happening and ran up to the gas station to call Jim (yes, this was BEFORE every fucking body had cell phones). I called Granny and got “Mike? Where’s my Jimmy? He didn’t come home again…have you seen my Jimmy?” I hung up and called Paul at Heroland. When I told him what was happening, Jackie could hear the laugher from 10 feet away in the car with the windows rolled up. What could I do? I went back to Jim’s comic shop hoping that he was there. STILL no Action Jim. By 9:10 the newspaper people had left; there went his free fucking advertising. By 9:20, the mayor was steaming mad. Apparently there isn’t much to do as the Mayor of Lemont because I was surprised she was still there. At 9:32 Action Jim came SCREECHING into the parking lot. He jumped out of his car, shirt half untucked, fly down, hair a mess and ran up to the only people left; Me, Jackie, The Mayor, and a chick on her staff.

When Jackie and I got there, there were maybe 30 people including a few mothers who had brought their kids to buy stuff from Jim on opening day. Now there was just the 4 of us. Jim lied to the mayor of course, making up some regurgitated excuse that I’d heard him use a thousand times, and convinced her to cut the ribbon as I took the picture for the wall of his store. She was nice enough to do it, and then she screeched the fuck out of there almost as fast a Jim had pulled in.

Action Jim’s tardiness cost him customers that VERY first day AND lost him free publicity. Why was he tardy? He stayed in a hotel with Lina not 3 blocks away and as always, slept through the alarm.

I couldn’t fathom that. I mean, Jackie and I went to bed at fucking 10 the night before just so we would be well rested and ready for the event.

Not only was Jim late to OPEN his new store, but he hadn’t done ANYTHING to prepare for his opening. We soon found that out as we went inside with him. The three comic book racks that Paul had given Jim were bare. There were NO posters on the walls, although he had at LEAST put posters up on the windows. He had TWO boxes of back stock, which were all Batman Comics. He had bought NO collections as Paul told him to do, and because he was with Lina, he never picked up the stock of new comics from Paul the day before. It was a fucking comic book store with NO comic books.

On top of that, the floors hadn’t been vacuumed, there were light bulbs missing overhead which made the store dark even in the daytime, and as I stood in front of his store looking out at the customer base the realtor had promised him, I was greeted with the sound of crickets and crows cawing overhead. I realized as I scanned the vast expanse of Lemont’s empty fields, why the mayor had been there to begin with. This ‘grand opening’ was as much a push for the mayor of Lemont to get businesses in her town as it was a missed advertising opportunity for Action Jim. There was NOTHING but deserted fields as far as the eye could see, in FACT, if I were to take you to the strip mall that Jim’s store was in NOW? NOTHING has changed. There are no schools, there’s no community. Just fucking crickets, crows, and tall fields of grass.

Month One

After paying first month, last month, and a security deposit, Action Jim was broke. He had no stock, no customers, and no money. He promised Paul that he’d pay him for his orders as soon as business picked up and for the first month, I went to Action Jim’s Comic Shop almost every day to try to help him out. He couldn’t afford a staff, and I knew Lina was worthless. She was a hot chick, but what did she know about comic books. And folks, believe me when I tell you that EVERY fucking day I went there? The store was closed. Jim MEANT that shit when he said he didn’t want a ‘boss’ telling him he had be at work on time. For the first few weeks I would show up at 4 or 5 in the afternoon. The store would be closed, but Jim’s car would be parked out front. The first few times I went to some of the other shop owners in the strip mall to ask them if they’d seen Jim, and they’d tell me his car was there when they got to work in the morning. I would bang on the front door for a half hour, fearing that I might break the glass. Then I would go around to the back and bang some more on the back door. Eventually, Jim or Lina would come out of the small office in their underwear or with a tit hanging out and let me in begrudgingly as if I were disturbing them.

Jim had a small cot set up in his office, which was about the size of a small bathroom, for him and Lina to sleep/fuck on. After 2 weeks, the store was STILL barely lit and it smelled like people with no shower were living in it. Eventually this ended for Jim because the cops came one day and told him that it was illegal for him to be living in a business. After that? Forget about it. Jim showed up at that shop maybe once or twice a week and always late in the evening. PEAK hours for a comic book store are between 3 and 5 when kids are getting out of school, or all day Saturday and Sunday, but Jim had a very strict policy about not working weekends.

I was actually pissed off. Every time I went to his shop all I could THINK about was the opportunity this guy had and how he was pissing it all away. I was trying to come up with sales ideas; I was actually out putting up posters and handing out flyers in the main town. I WANTED that store to succeed and so did Paul, but Jim just refused to put any effort into it. Not the TINIEST bit of effort. Paul and I BOTH told him to get a job and have Lina watch the store while he was at work. This was actually brilliant because Lina was a hot fucking chick and dorks LOVE to buy comic books from a hot chick.

And it’s not like he was sitting around lamenting about what a good idea it was and how it just wasn’t working out. Jim can’t SEE things in that way. In Jim’s eyes he was a successful business man simply because he OWNED a business. It didn’t matter what was GOING to happen to it in the FUTURE, the point of pride was in the NOW of it.  Nothing ever was or is his fault. There was ALWAYS an excuse. “Lina kept me up late”, “Nobody is hiring right now”, and the best one, which I will explain at the end of this; “It’s all Paul’s fault”.

 Month Two

While I was at Action Jim’s Comic Shop I saw things that STILL baffle and befuddle me to this fucking day. One time a kid came in with his mother and was looking to collect old Batman comic books. The ironic thing about Action Jim is that when he’s THERE, he’s the best salesman in the world. He took the kid over to his 2 boxes of back issues, which again, were ALL his collection of Batman and went through it with the kid, explaining each issue as he went through them. The kid was enamored of Jim and I actually felt proud of my friend in that moment. Jim had created a bond with this child that would bring him and his mother back for a long time to come. Repeat business is GOOD business. As Jim reflected on what these comic books meant to HIM, and how the subtle nuances of each story filled HIS childhood with wonder, you could almost hear him getting choked up. After he had spent a good 20 minutes with the boy, his mother who had bonded with Lina in the meantime was only too happy to buy whatever her child wanted. Everyone was happy EXCEPT Action Jim.

Jim brought a fucking STACK of Batman comics to the register and began ringing them up. The total came out to 117 dollars. As the mother pulled out her credit card, Jim told her that his credit card machine was down and that she’d have to come back another time. I’d JUST seen him use that credit card machine 40 minutes before to sell some lady a superman comic book for her kid. And then I noticed it, Jim had been open for over a month…and hadn’t sold ONE Batman comic book from his collection. He simply couldn’t part with them even though he had NO money for his next month’s rent, and he had no money for his first batch of new comic books.

Another thing I came to learn during that second month was that Jim would often come into the store and stay open JUST long enough to get about fifty bucks in his register, then he’d close and use the money he made that day to take Lina out and get the two of them a hotel.

 The End of Action Jim’s Comic Shop

Near the end of his second month at that location, Jim realized that he didn’t have ANY money for a third month’s rent. So, ever the shrewd business man, he found a location in the main town of Lemont that was cheaper, and he convinced Granny to put up the money to move in. Now, before Jim moved there, which required little effort as he NEVER put up any posters, never put in any new light bulbs and pretty much only had 3 empty racks and a cash resister still, he failed to take heed of the warnings that Lemont was issuing to EVERY business that the main road would be closed off for construction for the next month. Even though Jim would use this fact AND Paul as the impetus for his business failing, you’ll see that road construction had little to do with it.

Jim got lucky in getting Granny to post up the dough for his new store front, but he still wasn’t working and so didn’t have the money to pay for his books at Diamond Distributors. In fact, I found out later that after his first batch of merchandise? Jim continued to order, but never picked anything up, which put Paul in an awkward position because Jim was STILL using Paul’s business license to place orders.

The thing about Jim’s orders was that, as always, he NEVER listened to Paul. Jim would order 2 cases of each action figure line so that he could keep ONE case for himself. He would order 100 copies of each Batman title so he could have the limited edition cover issues, which as a dealer he should fucking KNOW are worthless. In most weeks, Paul didn’t order a hundred comic books ALL TOGETHER, and Jim was getting 300 BATMAN comics alone. Jim would rack up THOUSANDS of dollars worth of orders from Diamond, and then in order to NOT get blacklisted? Paul would HAVE to pay.

Paul let this go on THREE times, each time warning Jim that he HAD to pay him something towards the balance he was racking up. Jim would beg and plead and promise Paul that he’d BE at his store, that he’d STAY open all the time, he’d do whatever it took, but just PLEASE don’t stop getting my stuff for me. In reality, Jim could give a shit about his store or his customers, he just wanted his toys. I felt bad for Paul and so whenever I’d go to Jim’s store at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and it was closed? I’d give Paul a call. As it turned out I didn’t have to because Paul was SO fucking nice that he even sent Jim a shit ton of customers who would then call Paul to complain that Jim’s store was never open. Jim would of course have an excuse like “Oh, they must have tried coming in while I was in the bathroom”, but Paul wasn’t buying it. So after 3 weeks? Paul just cancelled ALL of Jim’s orders AFTER Jim had put them in.

Now, I didn’t know that Paul was doing all of this in the first place, so when Jim called to tell me that his shop was closing down? His version was that it was ALL Paul’s fault because he wouldn’t let Jim make orders on his business license anymore. Jim failed to mention that Paul was paying for the stock that Jim was basically keeping for himself.

And that’s another thing about Action Jim that I never quite understood. Why lie about things that you can so EASILY be busted out for lying about? Paul told me what really happened and showed me invoices and payments to back it all up. To this day Jim owes Paul over 6 thousand dollars from just THREE weeks worth of orders, which is probably why Paul hasn’t heard from him in over 6 years.

I forget why Jim and Lina broke up soon after his shop closed, but I think she started cheating on him. Without the adventure of fucking a guy in his comic book store, what’s the point anymore I guess. With her no longer dating my friend, Ian and I went out of our way to get her fired and Lina was gone in the next week. However, with his business failure behind him now, no money, no job, and having to spend his time back at Grannies…Jim needed a woman who offered him MORE than just pussy.

 The End of Heroland Comics

Between running his own store, trying to help Action Jim, helping Louisa with the warehouse, AND continuing to work as a teamster…Paul had a pretty full plate. He was relying on Anna more and more because I couldn’t always be there. The problem with Anna was that I wasn’t the only person who found her intolerable…apparently Louisa couldn’t stand her either. Ugly chicks don’t really get along with hot chicks anyway, but you put a MIDGET ugly chick in the same room with a Polish princess? Oofa, get the fuck outta their way.

Not long after Action Jim’s shop closed down for good, Paul’s juggling act came crashing down on his head as well. Usually Anna would pick up Paul’s check from Louisa at the warehouse for him, but for some reason, this particular week, Paul’s wife went to get it. I still can’t fathom why Louisa did it, maybe it was out of spite for Paul’s happiness, maybe it was more a slight against Anna, or maybe she’s just a short miserable cunt…but when Paul’s wife went into the warehouse to get his check from Louisa? Louisa told her about Paul and Anna. As far as Paul’s wife knew, Anna was out of their lives when she kicked her out of the house years ago. Paul’s wife NEVER went to the comic book store so she never knew that Anna was working there. Sure, everyone in the world knew that Paul was fucking her, but like I’ve said; Everyone LIKED Paul. Plus his comic book life was miles apart from his home life, both physically and mentally. It was almost a full on double life.

I’d always kept in touch with Paul’s wife, occasionally doing odd jobs for her or driving back out to Lemont to watch the kids…and I’ll never forget the day she called me after finding out. After leaving the warehouse and having had this truth dumped all over her head, I was the first person Paul’s wife called. “Did you know?” she asked me, already knowing the answer. With a heavy heart and nearly sobbing, I half whispered “yes…” My part in the betrayal was complete. Paul’s wife hung up on me and I never heard from her again. She divorced Paul and took him for everything she could get. He had to close down Heroland Comics and I lost an icon of my youth.

You may see Paul as an asshole for what he did and you may see me in the same light for the part I played. But things in life are complicated. People fall in and out of love every day. There is no moral high ground in love and the entanglements of life are made even tighter through opportunity and desire. Which one of YOU has never hurt someone you cared for? Paul has always been a great guy and there was no reason for Louisa to do what she did. She slammed the door shut on the one person who might have helped her in her time of need, but it was the ghost of Lee, fucking over Paul from the grave that made her blurt out Paul’s secret to his wife. Why she would continue to do the bidding of a horrendous man who beat her and her mother…we may never know. But I do know this; fuck you Louisa you short midget fuck.

The news wasn’t all bad for Paul as a few years later he married Anna and they live happily together as husband and wife to this day.

Welcome to Dumpsville, Population: Me

Jackie (21)

Jackie

I talk about Jackie a lot in these stories, but not long after Paul closed down Heroland, my relationship with her came tumbling down around me.

During the time we were together, Jackie and I became inexorably entwined in each other’s lives. Not only did we share our friends, but they began sharing each other. My friend Smart Jim from Waldenbooks went to Peru with HER friend Karen, her gay friend Phil would go shopping with my straight friend Pete, and I began looking at her brother and sister as my own. This was the best relationship I’d ever had on more levels than could be counted. I was in love with Jackie and everything and everyone in her life

Jackie made me a better person, and more than that she made me WANT to be a better person. Jackie inspired me to dress better, cut my hair, and make a resume that people would actually look at. She made me get my GED and helped me to get my job at Waldenbooks, but KEEP that job for almost 10 years. In many ways Jackie helped me become a responsible adult…but in many ways growing up wasn’t something I was willing to do. And in my youthful exuberance toward collecting toys and comic books, I pushed her away without even knowing it and ruined what could have been a lifelong relationship filled with the mutual adoration and harmony that I’ve always wanted.

My Room (20)

Offa

After a few years of living with my mother, Jackie wanted us to get our own place. However I was trapped in my complacency. Living at home afforded me every luxury and I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I always had money, I had the woman I loved, and I could afford my hobbies. By that time, Action Jim had gotten me deep into collecting toys. I collected just about any kind of action figure you could imagine…and if that’s not dork enough for you, if you’re sitting there saying to yourself “so what, everyone has a hobby”…well look at the attached photo…yes, that’s what the bedroom looked like that I lived in with Jackie. It’s a wonder she put up with that at all. What started as a simple hobby at first turned into a full blown obsession over the years. I began spending every dime I made on these plastic statues and although Jackie tried to get involved in my addiction by going to conventions with me…she began seeing them as something that I was choosing over her desire to get our own apartment…and rightfully so.I suppose that a woman can only take so much, and after telling me to stop, begging me to save, and putting up with my dorkish behavior…Jackie had enough. I’ll never forget the day I found that out.

It was 1998 and Heroland had been closed for a few months. The Friday before my life changed forever, I stood up at my friend Ian’s wedding. I met Ian at Waldenbooks and he and Smart Jim had become 2 of my closest friends over the years we’d worked there together. I was honored to be standing up for Ian at his wedding and Jackie went with me. After the reception ended at midnight, Jackie told me that she was going to spend the night at her mother’s house and then hang out with her brother on Saturday. This was no big deal, and it was something she did quite often, so I thought nothing of it. We kissed each other goodnight and went our separate ways.

That Sunday, while I was working at Waldenbooks, putting away the new shipment of Science Fiction books, Jackie’s brother came into my store. He was shopping in the mall with my friend Nicole and thought he’d come in and bullshit with me for a bit. I told him about the wedding and we talked about some new books that had just come out…and then I asked him what he and Jackie did on Saturday after she’d gone home on Friday night. Chris looked at me in stunned silence, and in that look we BOTH instantly knew that I had been lied too. Chris was put in a terrible situation that I don’t envy him for, and as he groped for the words…my heart sunk like the titanic.

He told me that he knew Jackie was hanging out with another guy, but he thought I knew as well. He didn’t think anything of it because he and Jackie had known this guy since 3rd grade and he played the bass in Chris’s band. But if she didn’t go to her mother’s on Friday night and Chris hadn’t seen her all day Saturday…that meant she was with him.

The combination of anger, rage, jealousy, pain, and betrayal all hit me at once. I couldn’t breathe and had to take a knee. My face turned blood red and Chris said he could see the veins in my neck and forehead pumping blood through me furiously. I couldn’t work anymore. How can you with news like that? I walked out and went home to confront Jackie.

In my head, ONLY in my head, Jackie had sex with this guy. She HAD to have. You don’t spend the night with another man and NOT have sex with him. If you don’t…what was the point of spending the night with him? I found her in my bedroom and immediately confronted her. During our relationship, one of the things Jackie complained about was the fact that I never argued with her. She felt that you HAVE to argue sometimes and whenever she was mad at me, my response was simply ‘yes dear’. I’m not a confrontational person and I don’t particularly care for drama…but all the arguments that Jackie ever wanted to have with me came out in those last five minutes. I’ve never been as embarrassed or ashamed of my words and actions as I was when Jackie left that day.

I came into the bedroom and immediately began yelling and screaming at her. She tried arguing back at me, but I think she realized that she wasn’t going to win this one. I wouldn’t let her get a word in, and I shouted until I was blue in the face. I punched holes in the walls and flipped over the bed. I was in complete rage mode and when the red finally began to clear from my eyes and the pain in my hand began to take hold from punching the walls, I looked down to see Jackie cowering in the corner crying. That was the worst feeling of my life.

She thought that I was going to hit HER and all the angry jealousy I felt a minute before, evaporated into a feeling of shame and pity. I knelt down beside her and tried to apologize but she cowered away from me. I was the villain and everything I’d done to drive her into the arms of another man became clear. I helped her pack that night and we made love one final time. In the morning she moved back into her mother’s house and I never saw or spoke to her again.

She tried calling me a few times and wanted to come back, and even though she said that she didn’t fuck that guy…I found that hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, I WANTED her back like nothing I’d ever wanted in my life, and the fact that I passed up that second chance haunts me to this day, but my pride kept me from forgiving Jackie and pride? Pride is the true bane of youth.

But it wasn’t ONLY pride that stayed my hand in taking Jackie back. I felt a deep and profound shame at the way I treated her that last night. I was always told about my father’s temper tantrums which often led to my mother and sister being beaten. This is why I don’t argue and fight, because I don’t want to be my father…and that night I was him. Even though I didn’t hit her, I can still see the image of Jackie cowering from me in the corner of our bedroom, fear and panic in her tear streaked eyes, and the shame of that thought will live deep inside me forever.

Jackie showed me the value of love and I will be forever grateful to her for that. She showed me that sex is so much more than just fucking and to this day I can’t bring myself to fuck someone unless I have a modicum of feelings for them. However, I had nobody to blame but myself. I became complacent in my relationship with Jackie and instead of moving our lives along a path that could bring us BOTH closer together; I drove us apart with my selfish addiction and dorkish demeanor. I was the luckiest geek in the world and I threw it all away for toys and comic books.

In the summer of ‘98 I sold off my entire collection of toys and comic books because I didn’t realize until it was too late that Jackie made me happier than any ‘thing’ that I could own. The happiness I found in comic books was only there because I had Jackie by my side and without her? Nothing else seemed to matter. I put all of my action figures up for sale on eBay and got lucky in that ONE guy offered to buy everything I had for five grand. He bought them all for his kid, and he lived in Chicago so I didn’t have to ship all that shit out. My collection was huge, but with Jackie gone because of them AND me, they had to go.

I packed up everything in 30 boxes from shipments we had received at Waldenbooks and had it all waiting by the back door of my mother’s condo. The man showed up, gave me the money in cash as we had agreed, and off went the last 5 years of my life. I remember watching this older guy from my bedroom window carrying those boxes to his truck with his 10 year old boy following closely on his heels. It was raining out and the two of them were hurriedly packing them away. I felt a deep sense of sadness thinking of the care I put into that collection and the painstaking lengths I went to in order to keep everything mint and collectible, and I just knew that that little 10 year old was gonna open EVERYTHING up when he got home and play with them. Oh well.

By the time I realized that I had lost my best friend, my sexual partner, and about 10 people who became the most important  chess pieces on my board…most of my non comic book friends had run off and gotten married and had kids. Other than Action Jim and Paul, I was completely out of ancillary characters in my life, plus, I had gotten so used to sex on a regular basis that masturbation seemed like a distant memory.

As if blaming myself wasn’t a hard enough cross to bear, I also had to live with the fact that Jackie left me and ran into the arms of a man who, to me, even in the deepest pits of my self deprivation, seemed like an even bigger loser. Jackie looked like Jennifer Aniston, and if she had left and run off with a Brad Pitt, I think that I could’ve lived with that. But she didn’t. Her new lover was 10 years older than me, a hundred pounds heavier, he wore thick coke bottle glasses, he was balding on top of his head like a Franciscan monk, and worst of all? He played base in a Rush cover band. My fucking DOG can play a 4 string bass guitar in a shitty Canadian rip off band.

Paul and Action Jim did their best to comfort me and keep me out of the house. Paul and Anna would take me out to dinner and Action Jim and I would go out to bars. They comforted me in a time when I needed it the most and I’ll always be grateful to them for that. Jim couldn’t understand why I sold off my collection of action figures, and he was a bit heavy hearted that I no longer went with him to toy hunt early in the mornings, but Paul understood.

I couldn’t date for awhile after Jackie left, not only because I was depressed, but because my ego had taken a nose dive into a mountain side. Who the fuck was I that my woman of nearly five years had to run off into the arms of THAT? How bad must I have been to be around? How ugly must I be? These questions haunted me until I finally did get laid again while working at the Ford City Mall. And while the thought of Jackie was still sending shards of glass through my brain and heart, I buried myself deep in a pile of pussy for years to come. Soulless excursions into the heart of Vagit Nam emptied my mind of the horror and confusion left behind by Jackie, but it left my heart empty as well. Sure I had relationships which slowly built my ego back up, but I always found an excuse to end them before they could end me. This was no way to live, and THIS…this is why love is such a complicated mother fucker.

Don’t worry true believers! Mike and his merry band of comic book cohorts will return later this week in “Heroland Issue 5: Life After Heroland”