‘It’s not that bad, darling. It isn’t as if they’re going to ban them.‘ Mary placed her hands on her hips and stared out at the row of comics. In the dim light of the corner shop, the garish covers almost seemed to glow.
Her eyes settled on the latest issue of The Haunt Of Fear, the cover showing an Egyptian mummy looming large over some gaunt unfortunate who was searching an old crypt for treasure. Beside it, another comic cover proclaimed CRIME DOES NOT PAY above a picture of a handsome gangster tommygunning his way out of a bank vault with sacks of cash under his gun arm. His other arm was, of course, around the shoulders of a beautiful cabaret dancer.
Beside her, Clive let out a sigh: ‘They are banning them in America and that’s the problem. Of course, we get them a few months later. So, we’re fine for now… I think‘ He leant over and opened a comic.
A full-page spread proclaimed THE HOUSE OF DEATH in dripping red letters above an illustration of the Grim Reaper towering above a bucolic landscape whilst a couple, not unlike Clive and Mary, calmly strolled towards a crumbling manor house.
‘They’re banning them in America?‘ Mary stuttered ‘I thought they were just putting an age limit on them like parliament are going to.‘ She permitted herself a small laugh ‘As if people somehow grow out of these wonderful things when they turn sixteen.‘
‘It could be that we’re a little immature, dear.‘ Clive chuckled, as he picked up another horror comic. The strapline proclaimed THE BARONS OF EVIL and, to his delight, he noticed that the cover showed no less than three giant Grim Reapers standing tall against the midnight moonlight.
‘Does this mean that we’ll have to buy the Telegraph or those awful gossip magazines now?‘ Mary frowned ‘I’m certainly going to miss comics.‘
‘Worse.‘ Clive sighed ‘By my guess, the only comics that will be left are The Beano and those ones with people in silly costumes. Of course, no-one reads those.‘
To prove his point, he knelt down and rifled through the rows of comics until he found one and plucked it out. The cover proclaimed ACTION COMICS # 1 and showed a strongman in blue overalls holding a car above his head. As Mary leaned closer, Clive tapped part of the cover.
Mary raised her eyebrows and smiled: ‘1938?‘
‘Rather proves my point, doesn’t it?‘ Clive sighed. ‘The only comics that will be left are these children’s ones. Once they don’t sell, old Beale and a thousand others like him will decide that the shelf-space will be better served with periodicals, almanacks and journals. Our comics, my dear, will die a slow and painful death.‘
An impish grin flickered across Mary’s face, followed by a sombre frown: ‘It’s kind of fitting, I guess.‘
Clive tried to think of a witty retort, but he couldn’t. She was right. If popular comics were going to die, then it was only fitting that they went out in a grasping, drawn-out fashion with the Grim Reaper cackling loudly in the background. Or, for the glorious gangsters that graced the covers of the crime comics to be gaoled for life in a cardboard box in a warehouse somewhere, before unceremonious burial in a rubbish tip.
Mary dipped her hand into her bag and opened her purse. Coins clinked in the silent shop. Finally, she said: ‘I’ve got six shillings to spare. You?‘
Clive rifled his pockets ‘Four and sixpence. I must save the rest though.‘
Their eyes met and they smiled. Like the last page of every crime comic, they were ready to go out in a blaze of glory. One last triumphant hurrah of comic-buying, before the implacable, zombie-like forces of law and order closed in on them. This was going to be a trove of comics to remember, a purchase of such magnitude that the memory of it would be whispered about in news-stands, tobacconists and corner shops for years to come.
But, they just stood there. Finally, Mary turned to Clive and said: ‘I’m sorry, darling. I just can’t choose. If it’s our last time, then it matters so much more. Whichever ones we leave behind, we’re sure to regret it.‘
Clive let out a sigh and put on his best Hollywood gangster movie accent: ‘Yeah, doll. Me too.‘