In a previous lifetime, I was a reporter for a daily newspaper in Stamford, CT. Stamford was a relatively small, but business-centric city located in Connecticut’s “gold coast” of Fairfield County, but for my friends and family, who were primarily all from New York, the city might as well have been on another continent – often confusing the Connecticut city with the California university Stanford.
Meanwhile, inside the newsroom in this city that no one had heard of, I worked side-by-side with a number of geeks who could quote The Simpsons or Family Guy, collected Pez dispensers and read comic books and graphic novels. And while I never did anything to separate myself from the pack, I also never went around promoting my slightly obsessive attachment to all things Spider-Man. Honestly, I’m sure this sounds weird coming from someone who now blogs about his comic books all the time, but up until very recently, my Amazing Spider-Man collection was always on a need-to-know basis. And before you tell me I have/had nothing to be ashamed about, let me respond with, “I know, but that’s just the way I operated anyway.”
What I always loved about ASM #532 is that it unexpectedly brought a number of my worlds together at one time. As the kick-off for the Civil War saga within ASM, Stamford is actually leveled during a battle between heroes and villains, leading to the controversial Superhuman Registration Act. Among the city’s wreckage was the signage from an actual local comic book shop in the city, A Timeless Journey, which was a two-minute drive from the newsroom. And while the fictional destruction of a small city in Connecticut was understandably ignored in the Ivory Towers of the New York Times and the Washington Post, to a small community newspaper that covered the city that was fictionally destroyed, this was an event worthy of a cover page spread.
Of course, at this point in time, I was a home delivery subscriber to ASM, so there was always a bit of a lag between the actual release date of the comic, and the point where it was delivered to my home. It what must have been moments after receiving the shipment of comics for the week, the owner of A Timeless Journey called somebody up in the newsroom and mentioned that his shop had been fictitiously destroyed. And thus a Sunday feature was born.
The newspaper would often earn scorn from readers who would mock some of the stories that got primo play on our front page because there were “bigger” things going on in the world, like wars, poverty, national politics, etc., but in the paper’s defense, our responsibility was to cover the city of Stamford, not the world. If the paper couldn’t produce content that was unique and specific to the city itself, then we had no business operating (which, based on the failure of the print medium is a whole other story). So yes, there was a lot going on in the world in 2006 – I explicitly remember having to cover a Congressional campaign that seemingly never ended – but the Civil War’s shout-out to the city of Stamford, was a fun, pop culture moment that was very typical of a weekend story. Add in a photo of the owner of the comic book shop in question, and permission from Marvel to reprint a few panels showing the destruction of the city, and we had a great story.
Personally, the one problem was I wasn’t asked to write the piece. All of us in the newsroom had our assigned beats and for all of the miscellaneous pop culture stuff, our editor seemingly typecast us based on what he knew about us. He knew about my interest in professional sports and theater, so when there was a news feature that incorporated a famous stage actor or athlete, or some kind of crossover that wouldn’t be picked up by the Sports or Arts section, I was the guy. There was another reporter who had done a story earlier in the year about a local Superman artist. And thus he was the comic guy.
I didn’t push too hard on this – again, my Spider-Man obsession was need to know. But again, I was amongst other geeks. I had to say something at some point. So when my editor announced that he was going over to the comic book shop to pick up a copy of ASM #532 so he could scan in some of the images for the paper, I asked to accompany him. And while I don’t remember the reveal of my Spidey fandom as being some kind of pinnacle moment, I’m pretty sure I made it clear going forward that if there was ever a Spider-Man angle for a story again, that I would love to be the point person. Sadly, the city was never blown up in a comic book again as far as I know. However, it was featured in a series of episodes in The Office a year later – though again, I missed out on that story.
So #532 will also be known as the Stamford issue for me – a reminder of a different time in my life when the monthly issue of Spider-Man was a potential news story. Working at the newspaper brought me experiences that were unlike any other – from co-piloting a blimp, to being kicked out a book signing by Don Imus for standing to close to him. It’s nice that there can be one distinctive issue of my favorite comic book series that can bring it all back to me. And it’s nice to see Stamford get a little mainstream publicity.
All images from Amazing Spider-Man #532: J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney, Bill Reinhold & Matt Milla