We never grow up.

At least, we shouldn’t. And if we try to — you know, really become an “adult” — we allow a dark, empty force to enter us. Like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or by watching the finale of Lost — it’s easy to let it happen. It actually takes effort to keep the child who dreams inside of you alive.

And when you don’t honor your dreams by giving them a fighting chance, you build up a collection of regrets. They are often catalogued, filed and brought out for examination in those awful private moments. Indeed, we are collectors by nature. Which brings us to Dealers, a story about collections: About trading, selling, working angles and systems for profit and gain.

Yes, grown men who will stop at nothing to make a buck off of a child’s toy.

But it’s also about handling your business like an adult. Even if your business, as in Dealers, is selling action figures. It’s important to do what you say you are going to do. Make an effort, even if all you’re doing is making sure a C-9 condition 12-Back Darth Vader is carefully placed into a star case for display. People notice that kind of stuff, even on the smallest of levels. The attention to detail. And in collecting that’s the conundrum. The eternal question and quest for immortality. For perfect condition.

But life is not perfect. And you shouldn’t want it to be.

So Dealers is about dreams that become your business. It’s about doing your best to remain true to your childhood whilst living as an adult. It’s also about moving on. And yes, although I told you not to do it, it’s about growing up.
Co-writing Dealers was a very personal exercise (and exorcism of sorts!) for me. It is based during the period of time I spent living in a Chicago suburb in the late 90s. This was pre-9/11, pre-Great Recession and pre-Phantom Menace. It was also post-Nirvana, post-Comics Bust and post-Pulp Fiction. It was a weird bubble where people actually were concerned about the Y2K virus and the first texts were going out on cell phones. Civility still existed for the most part, but we could see the societal cracks forming. We were headed towards something but were uncertain what it was.

There was loads of talk about the internet paving the path to the future, but information back then wasn’t as available as it is now. When you wanted to know more about toys or comics or movies you picked up a magazine. This was how you knew what was coming out and how to track trends. Wizard, Toyfare, Tomart’s Action Figure Digest — these were the places you went to when you wanted to glean those kernels of knowledge that would help you achieve your dreams, goals, monetary rewards — many times they were all one and the same.

Ebay and online shopping was just emerging. Not many people were using these platforms, so if you wanted to get something you had to hop in your car and go to a place to pick it up (if it was even in stock) or mail order it, which took time and involved looking through a paper catalog or calling an ad in the aforementioned magazines. There were more gatekeepers for products and in a strange way everything made more sense.

The world seemed a tad bit more ordered. But as you can see in Dealers, it was all starting to slowly fall apart. And on a personal note, so were many parts of my life.

Everything was harder to obtain then and for that reason everything seemed to be worth more. And it’s not just the monetary value behind an item, it was nostalgia. You see, nostalgia in the late 90s was a bigger commodity than it is today. I also think romance was too.

When I fell in love it wasn’t via these mysterious texts we were just starting to use. It wasn’t a badge of honor to post “In A Relationship” on a social network — because that idea didn’t exist in the general consciousness like it does now. And although we weren’t as connected as we are now thanks to our smartphones and tablets, we were indeed connected.

When people made personal decisions they mattered. They weren’t shrugged off so callously like we see today. It was the last stand of many ideals. Sadly we may never see them again.

It took me ten years to get enough distance from the real events that transpired to be inspired and have a clear enough mind to write this story. It also took mixing in Tony DiGerolamo’s experiences as a comic book shop dealer during those days to provide a much needed comedic element. And I can’t say enough about the work of artist Nicholas Raimo. He’s Italian and never been to America, but he totally captured the city of Chicago in the late 90s. His meticulous research coupled with the reference material Tony and I sent him (along with countless hours discussing on Google Chat) equaled an unparalleled realization. He’s a true craftsmen whom I hope to work with many times again.

No one else but Nick could have drawn this. When each page came in I would call Tony and say: “That’s it. I don’t know how he did it, but it’s like he peered into my mind and drew those memories.”

From a storytelling standpoint we were wise to begin the tale way after Gary and Tamara met. Tony always says: “It’s best to get in late and out early.”. No one likes things to linger, especially not in this day and age. We need to get the information in a way that resonates, but it doesn’t need to be spoon fed. Audiences these days are more savvy than those hapless souls who walked into The Phantom Menace expecting for their childhood dreams to come to fruition. Instead they realized it was all just about business.

I was one of those souls. It was an important life lesson. I dealt with it.

And even though it is important to deal with things, I do hope that we can one day get back to that joyous innocence we used to feel. Maybe now thought through clearer eyes. We long for those moments like when a kid gets a new package with an action figure inside and rips it apart. Why? Because we all still want to play. We all want to dream.

I recently spent Christmas with my brother and his family. His two daughters, 7 and 5, cared not for mint condition boxes or variant differentialities in paint design and other nonsense. They tore apart their presents with wild abandon and then pulled the packages open to get to the toys inside. They marvelled and smiled and laughed. For a moment I lived vicariously through them. I was in that brief time a child again.

I cared not for my work, my past relationships, money, ambition, those who wronged me and those I disappointed. For a gloriously instant I was completely immersed in joy.

So I invite you to rip life open. Look it in the eye and mean business. Deal with what you have to. Move on. And most importantly…


–CB January 19th, 2013