by Adam Besenyodi
Wired Magazine’s GeekDad blog claims that “for a book about collecting and re-connecting with comics, [Deus ex Comica is] a great study in emotional psychology and the things in life that really get our brains ticking and our hearts pumping.”
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About Deus Ex Comica:
For twenty-odd years, Adam Besenyodi’s comic books sat in a closet in his parents’ house, untouched since he’d read them as a young fan coming of age in the 1980s.
Then in 2006, two things happened: Those nostalgia-filled long boxes showed up on his doorstep, and a friend offered a guiding hand back into the four-color wonder of the comic book world. The convergence both rekindled a love for the stories of his youth and sparked a full-on immersion in the current comic book culture as well.
Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan traces Adam’s journey and explores how the Marvel Comics stable of titles influenced his pre-teen and adolescent years in Northeast Ohio, his rediscovery of sequential art as an adult, and the pleasure of watching his own son’s first steps into the comic book universe.
The Latin theatrical phrase “deus ex machina” tells us “God is in the machine,” behind the scenes and inextricably linked to all players and backdrops. Adam’s Deus ex Comica is a loving reference to the wonder and excitement that comic books contribute to popular culture at large. The details may be specific to one Midwestern boy’s journey from child to husband and parent, but it’s a truly identifiable chronicle of a pop culture junkie who has reawakened the long-dormant comic book fan within.
David Giffels, author of All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-down House, says “Adam Besenyodi dons the mask and cape of nostalgia, allowing him the power we all crave – to find our way back through the myth of our own self.”
Chris Neseman, host of Around Comics, calls Deus ex Comica “A Marvel(ous) read. You can’t help yourself from digging through boxes of old comics after reading this!”
An excerpt from the chapter “A Real American Hero”
I was never one to leave things in their boxes and not play with them, but enjoying my toys never equated to destroying my toys, so like my Star Wars guys, my G.I. Joes are pretty well-preserved. I still have all the accessories that came with each figure, along with the file card dossiers carefully clipped from the cardbacks. The bulk of my G.I. Joes are from 1982, and I know this because I only have two guys with “swivel-arm battle grip” – Doc and a mail-in offer Duke – which came out in ’83. This makes sense: The toys would have had a very limited shelf life as I entered my teens and became more self-conscious about fitting in.
Where my interest in the toys burned intensely but quickly and the television cartoon never made it on my radar, my love for the comic books lingered. When I purchased my last G.I. Joe comic book, I was 16 years old. (Seriously?! I was buying comic books at 16?) I have no idea how I was able to sustain that habit for so many years beyond what might seem a realistic sell-by date, but I somehow pulled it off without damage to my high school reputation.
So, yeah, I was collecting comics in high school even after I was old enough to drive, but I could get it past my other friends who knew about my habit by pointing out that these were testosterone-filled stories about stuff like guns and ninjas and Special Forces and explosions! This was all very manly, I swear!
That first issue of Marvel’s G.I. Joe, cover-dated June 1982, set me back a buck-fifty when the going rate for comics was just 60 cents. But, oh was it worth it! Produced on heavier Baxter paper, the two stories are nestled between weapons and vehicle profiles, a classified file on the G.I. Joe Command Center (“The PIT!”), and dossiers on four of the Joes on the team. There are only four ads in the whole thing – one for the G.I. Joe Mobile Strike Force fan club, one for Hasbro’s mail-in offer for a Cobra Commander action figure (got it!), and two ads for Marvel Comics – none of which interrupt the storytelling.
The main story in that first issue, “Operation: Lady Doomsday,” is about a nuclear physicist peace activist who is captured by the Cobra terrorist organization to exploit her knowledge. The Joes are called in to rescue her, sparking dissent among the rank and file about the captive’s motives and individual rights versus the safety of the whole, to the point where head honcho Hawk has to remind this elite strike force that they swore to defend the Constitution, which “guarantees the right of every citizen to disagree with the government.”
That’s some heady stuff, man, especially for an 11-year-old to get his head around when he’s just trying to get to the part where they blow stuff up!
Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan
Copyright 2009 by Adam Besenyodi
With a Foreword by Tom DeFalco, former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics and the co-creator and writer of The Amazing Spider-Girl
Original Cover Art by Dave Wachter, artist of Scar Tissue, Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, and his new Western series The Guns of Shadow Valley
158 pages, 6” x 9” trade paperback
Adam Besenyodi is a Northeast Ohio-based writer who has been fortunate enough to take part in the larger cultural argument through his work with PopMatters as an editor and writer, regular contributions online and in-print, participation in the Pop Conference, as well as freelance writing and editing. He is an active blogger and frequent contributor to the Marvel Noise weekly podcast and online forum, and has been a guest author at the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University.