The Lincoln Building on Malta and Milton avenues was established in 1892 and now houses several apartments and businesses, including Coffee Planet, Excellent Adventures Comic Books, Wild Thyme Whole Food and Tea Co., [Read more…]
The first Saturday in May has really become one of my favorite days of the year. The Kentucky Derby of course is contested, always. Some years, as in 2012, it is Cinco de Mayo, a fiesta grande. This year it was May The Fourth Be With You Day; this is either a new, clever play on words, or something thought up by a seemingly lisping Star Wars geek.
And to further the joyous occasion for geeks everywhere (your columnist included), it was Free Comic Book Day, which has now been in existence for more than a decade.
As I point out each year at this time–when I have an great excuse to write about my favorite works of literature–Free Comic Book Day is a nationwide event held in hopes of drawing new fans (read: young kids) into the wonderful world of comic books. Publishers provide comic book retailers with several titles from all genres, and customers get to choose three free books each.
Those of us in the 12020 are quite lucky to have Excellent Adventures Comic Books on Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa serving as one of those retailers.
This is due to the fact they have been around for well over a decade (not any easy feat for this profession any more), and also because they have participated in Free Comic Book Day each year it’s been around.
And so have I. As I walked into Excellent Adventures with my kids at 11 a.m., the “official” starting time, it was already packed. There were plenty of parents with their kids, some folks dressed up for the occasion in costumes, not to mention some great national comic book creative talent, such as Chris St. Pierre and Ron Marz.
This is all standard fare. This year, however, Excellent Adventures pulled out all the stops, as they managed to have legendary artist Joe Sinnott present. This kindly, 86 year old gent has merely been the best inker of comics for sixty years. If you have not heard of him, perhaps you may know of some of the characters he has drawn: X-Men, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Spider-Man, and most famously, The Fantastic Four.
On the latter title, his bold embellishments of co-creator Jack Kirby’s pencil art set a standard which has yet to be matched. He worked on that particular book from 1965 through 1981. When he stepped aside from comic books in 1992, he took his brush and India ink to the Spider-Man Sunday strip. Fortunately for all of us, he continues there to this day. More often than not, the Spidey strip is the first item I turn to when the Sunday newspaper is delivered.
Sinnott was born in Saugerties, and still lives there. As I approached him Saturday, I was in awe, but he quickly brought me back to earth with his easy going style and ever-present baseball cap. He told me he loved both Excellent Adventures and the other shops he had seen in the village. And, bless his heart, he then reminisced with me about Bob Cousy; how the heck did he know I was a Celtics’ fan?
He was clearly at his happiest around the kids, though. Kids who could not possibly know about his legendary place in comic book history. I purchased a few signed prints of his work, and he made sure he signed some for my own children. As I gushed to my offspring when explaining about Sinnott’s career, they laughed at their dad’s hero worship, er, excitement. But, they clearly loved the artwork.
One person who knows all about Sinnott’s career is Excellent Adventures’ owner John Belskis. John and I have spent many a Saturday afternoon in his store chatting about comics, politics and/or baseball. Anyone who succeeds in this industry, the way John clearly has, needs to love it. He does. And he clearly loves Free Comic Book Day as throngs of excited kids streamed through his store.
And, in a nice touch, Belskis may have now even been immortalized by Sinnott. One of the giveaway books featured Sinnott’s newest creation, Captain EA. Appearing quite a bit like World War II era Captain America, Captain EA under the mask looks suspiciously like a certain local comic book store owner. I won’t say for sure, as secret identities are in place for a reason.
But, it is no secret how much I loved this day; one is never too old to be around comics, or to meet a hero.
To contact Sam email email@example.com
To comment on this article please log in and use the comment box below.
By SAM CAPUANO
Two Mondays ago, I started my morning off as per usual, and turned to the “Doonesbury” comic strip. There have been several instances over the past 30 years where I got more news from Gary Trudeau’s four panels than from the rest of the newspaper. At any rate, in this particular strip there was some weird dialogue going on between Zonker and his neighbor. Something about the world coming to an end.
Now, while I like to think I am up on current events, I confess I was not aware some California dude named Harold Camping was telling everyone the Judgment Day was going to be on Saturday, May 21, and everything would come to an end at 6 p.m. I had actually thought the big event going on then was the running of the Preakness Stakes. Nope, it seems there was something called Rapture. A Google search for “Rapture 2011” generated 17.2 million hits. That’s a lot of hits; almost as many as I got for “Arnold Schwarzenegger Love Child.”
Now, I will say I was tempted to go on a wild spree (something I guess Ol’ Arnold apparently had done a little while ago) in the days leading up to the big day, so as to leave nothing in the tank. But discretion was the better part of valor, and I was a good boy. But, it got me to thinking about all of the things I might do if I knew the end was near. Especially at a point in my life when I can still enjoy them.
I like to talk about local things, so let’s start off in Saratoga County. As such, I’ll first spend a day (at least) at Brookside Museum with their always interesting Executive Director Joy Houle, going through the thousands of artifacts of the Saratoga County Historical Society. And, if Ballston Spa historian extraordinaire Chris Morley was along for the ride, well that would be all right, too.
In no particular order then, here are the rest of the items in my own little Bucket List.
Head over to Milton Avenue and write one check to buy the entire inventory of Excellent Adventures Comic Books, and another one made payable to Out of the Park Sports Cards for the same reason.
Spend a full day (and maybe book a room for the night), and get the full treatment at the Medberry Inn and Spa.
Take six weeks over one summer sitting in a clubhouse box at the finish line at Saratoga Race Course; perhaps even one night get all duded up and hit the Whitney gala.
Kayak the Kayaderosseras Creek from end to end.
Hike all 46 of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.
Take a boat along the entire Erie Canal system.
Play in one major league baseball game.
Go on one of Kevin McKrell’s tours of Ireland; maybe even hit a pub or two.
Visit the castles off England and Scotland.
Talk music and song writing over beers one night at a table with Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Gregg Allman, and Paul Simon.
Golf at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, with Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson rounding out my quartet.
Spend a month in Italy, drinking the wine, eating the food and touring the Castel Capuano in Naples.
Watch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park from the Monster Seats.
Spend the entire month of March in Florida and go to at least one Spring Training game a day.
Be in a James Bond movie.
Have dinner with Muhammad Ali.
Spend a day at the Louvre.
See the beloved Cleveland Browns win a Super Bowl. Or at least play in one.
Write the Great American Novel. But, until that time, or when it all ends, writing this column will have to do.
BY SAM CAPUANO
The first Saturday in May is a big day in these parts. No, horse racing lovers, I am not referring to Kentucky Derby, so take another sip of your mint julep and relax. No, what this day means for many of us is the nationwide Free Comic Book Day.
For the past ten years, Excellent Adventures Comic Books & Collectibles on Milton Avenue has participated in this event- ditto for your columnist. Oh, sure, I bring my kids every year, and they get excited to walk out with their free stash of books. And, I continue to tell them it is for them, not their dad, we are making the visit. So, it was with great satisfaction that I saw the huge crowd at Excellent Adventures when I arrived with the kids last Saturday.
But, I do not need a special occasion to visit a comic book store, or to read a comic. For, I am a comic book geek. There, I said it. And, to my parents, who thought it was embarrassing I still enjoyed comics while I was in college 25 years ago, I apologize (but only because they read this column.)
This time of year is an exciting one for us comic book geeks. Not only for the aforementioned Free Comic Book Day, but it’s also the dawn of the summer movie season. And, the Summer of 2011 is the Summer of Superhero Movies. A comic book geek’s dream, as there are four, count ’em four, super hero movies opening between now and Labor Day.
It all started last week when Thor opened up, and from the looks of the crowd at the Malta Drive In, it’s going to be a popular one. Thor was always an interesting hero, as he combined power (he was “mighty”) along with origins in mythology. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I will have already seen his exploits on screen.
There are three other super hero flicks coming up as well: Captain America, Green Lantern, and another X-Men movie. I’ll see them all, at least once.
The love of comic books started decades ago, long before it became an obsession, er hobby. I seem to remember the earliest ones were Disney and Richie Rich. Then the Archie series became a favorite, as my friends and I continued the never-ending debate of Betty or Veronica (by the way, it’s really no contest: Betty wins in a landslide.)
Then, it was on to the super heroes. The DC Universe was where it was at in those days. There were the basics, of course, namely Superman, Batman and the Justice League. While I could never figure out how taking off a pair of eyeglasses and adding a spit curl could make someone look any differently, I still loved the whole Clark Kent secret identity thing.
The onset of my teen years coincided with my awareness of Marvel comics. There was something in the way Stan Lee wrote which resonated with me and my friends, especially when it came to Spider-Man. Peter Parker was an angst-ridden teen, to whom bad things would happen. Just like us. Only thing was, we did not have the proportionate strength of a spider, nor did we date that hottie, Mary Jane Watson.
Back then, we would buy comics all over the place, as specialty stores were not yet around. Then, FantaCo opened up in Albany, and it quickly replaced Record Town as my favorite Captial Region store. In more recent times, I would frequent Petrie’s Variety Store on Front Street for my stash. When they closed up shop years ago, I quickly swooped in and bought their comic book spinner rack. It is now proudly displayed in my man cave, with hundreds of books jammed into it.
Then, a dozen or so years ago, I was walking on Milton Avenue when I saw a sign saying, “Coming soon, Excellent Adventures Comic Books.” I froze, got a tingle through my body, and may have even wet myself. A comic book store, right here in my town. Since then hardly a week has gone by when this comic book geek has not visited his favorite store in the Village.
As I did last Saturday. Excellent Adventures owner John Belskis said Free Comic Book Day’s purpose is to lure a new generation of comic book readers into the fold- those who are younger. Well, for some of us who have never quite grown up, this is not a problem.