Beauology 101: Comic Books: If You Are Ever Lucky Enough To Find A Weirdo Friend Never Let Them Go

Beau Smith and Randy Watts Circa 2020

Beau Smith and Randy Watts Circa 2020


by Beau Smith

Circa 1964. Just moved. New kid in a new school. I was lucky enough to have had the whole Summer in the new neighborhood to get to know all the kids in my area. Got to dip my toe in slowly, so it wasn’t like instant new guy trauma. Back in 1964 there were a lot of families, a lot of kids, and generally a lot of fun. It was the height of a Baby Boomer’s childhood. Great time to be growing up. We had three TV channels, so that part of pop culture was easy to keep up with. AM radio was your main source of music. If you were really lucky, you had or had access to a radio with FM on it. Then you could really listen to that mysterious world of after-hours deep cuts from albums you were saving your money up for. Movies were kinda expensive, and you had no transportation, unless you rode the city bus, but nine time out of ten, your parents weren’t gonna let you get on a bus and depend on you to figure out what route you were gonna take. So your movie going was limited to having your mom or dad take you and pick you up, or getting stuck with going with the whole family to the Drive-In, and then the chances of you seeing a monster movie were pretty slim. You’d have to sit, or sleep, through some adult drama with old people wearing suits and pearls.

When you’re in the fourth grade in 1964, your pop culture entertainment was limited to baseball/football cards at 5 cents a pack, or comic books that ran 12 cents or 25 cents for an annual. (Double sized, yearly event comic) That kind of money I could come up with doing house chores, mowing grass, or method acting whining to my mom and dad to the point where they would give me a quarter just to shut up and go away. We would also take glass pop bottles to the store and cash them in for cash. I will never forget the thrill of walking through a parking lot and finding coins on the ground occasionally. That was a big deal. Even today I still feel that same rush when I find a coin on the street. For those few seconds, my reptile brain repeats what it did in 1964—and I find myself thinking of buying a comic book….or candy.

The Fantastic Four #13

The Fantastic Four #13


Getting back on point, as a kid, I loved comic books. I had since I was 4 years old. Even though I couldn’t “read” the words at 4, I was mesmerized by the pictures and the fact that they told a story, even without me knowing what the words said. So, in 1964, when my brothers and I weren’t burning down fences, throwing milkweeds at cars driving down the street, or sliding down the floodwall in cardboard boxes, I was reading comic books.

I loved the continuity of Marvel Comics. They were the comics I spent my money on first or traded for first. I liked DC Comics, but they weren’t on the same platform of Marvel in the ’60s. They still wrote comics with a goofy lean to them. I appreciate and enjoy that now more so than when I was a kid and wanted a more adult action story. What I didn’t realize then was that I was a little boy that liked the soap opera part of Marvel Comics. Stan Lee knew what he was doing. He was sneaky like that.

Sorry….gotta get back on point. At the new school I didn’t broadcast my love for comic books because girls thought they were a silly boy thing, and the other guys liked comics okay, but to them they were throwaway entertainment. And they really did toss them after reading them. I kept mine and read them over and over until the next new one came out. I kept them in pretty good shape because the paper then was newspaper stock and the covers chipped easily. I was a collector and didn’t even know it.

One day on the playground, after lunch, a bunch of us guys were playing army, annoying girls, or each other, and I remember making a reference about something I had recently read in a comic book about The Hulk tossing a tank across the New Mexico desert. One of the other kids that we were playing with turned to me and asked, “Do you read comics?”

I paused for a moment, not knowing if it was some sorta trick question, and then replied, “Yeah, I do.” With a slight tone of defiance.

The barrier was broken. I could see it in the other kid’s eyes. He had found a kindred spirit among the playground of savages. A fellow comic book reader.

Randy Watts and Beau Smith Circa 1967

Randy Watts and Beau Smith Circa 1967


The kid’s name was Randy Watts. He was from another tribe that lived on Carrington Court, about 5 blocks from where I lived on 6th Street West. The bowling alley and the supermarket separated our designated turfs. Randy was in my fourth-grade class. From that moment we started talking comic books. Like me, he really liked the Marvel Comics they best. He was a big Iron Man fan, whereas Daredevil was my favorite. My thoughts on who you pick as your favorite plays out like who your favorite sports team is, whoever you see first and if they win. With me, Daredevil #15 was what got me hooked on ol’ Horn Head. A stand alone issue with Daredevil fighting The Ox with art by John Romita, Sr. With Randy, it was an early issue of Tales Of Suspense with Don Heck pushing the pencil on Iron Man.

Daredevil #15

Daredevil #15


I can remember so many conversations over the season of Randy and I talking comics, storylines and going over who was our favorite artists and characters. We traded comics, we also went on Comic Book Safaris, where we would hear of some other kid reading comics, or someone who used to read comics, having a box stashed somewhere. That is the prequel to our greatest find.

One of the older kids at school that lived in our neighborhood told us he used to read comic books and still had a box of them in the garage. He said he would sell them to us if we wanted them. Needless to say, our eyes lit up like Time Square. We met with the older kid, Robert Yost, at his house one afternoon after school. After some small talk, he took us to the garage. Both Randy and I had let our imagination go crazy in the days before thinking about what Robert might have in that box. We had visions of what were known as “Golden Age” comics from the time of WWII. Could we be THAT lucky? Robert moved some stuff and there it was….The Box!

The box was cardboard and roughly the size of orange crate. Typical grocery store size. Randy and I began looking through the box. There were Marvels, DC Comics, and an equal amount of Gold Key, Dell, Tower, and ugh….the dreaded Classics Illustrated. While we were pretty excited, of course, we didn’t wanna tip our hand at how excited we were.

“Well, do ya want ‘em?” Robert asked, obviously bored with watching us finger through the dusty comics.

We told him there were some we wanted, then he let us know he wanted to sell us the whole box. He really didn’t want to just sell a few. Randy and I hadn’t really thought out the big picture of this business deal. We had some change, but nothing that computed up to paper money. The box had about 40-50 comic books in it. Mostly Silver Age ranging from 1958-1965. We asked him how much. Then can the crash-down news—“Five dollars for the whole box.”

We were crushed. We had less than a dollar in change between the two of us. No stash of cash at home, and there was no way our parents were gonna give us $5.00, or even half at $2.50 each, just for a box of comics. Robert hinted that there might be other interested buyers and that he wanted to get the box out of his garage. Randy and I explained that all we had right then was what was in our pockets. After a little negotiation Robert said he would sell us the comics we wanted today for 5 cents each and then we could come back when we got the rest of the money and get they rest. We said okay, no knowing how we were gonna make the $5.00 amount, but at least we weren’t gonna walk away empty handed.

Amazing Spider-Man #7

Amazing Spider-Man #7


Both Randy and I wanted the copy of Amazing Spider-Man #4 where Spider-Man fought Sandman for the first time, a true Steve Ditko treasure. We worked that out with no problem and Randy walked away with that book that day for a nickel. I in turn took the next best thing, Amazing Spider-Man #7 where Spidey faces off against The Vulture. Another nickel spent. If memory serves me correct, I walked away with Avengers #5, #15, and #16 as well as The Fantastic Four #10 & #13, Journey Into Mystery #88 Strange Tales #104 and Tales To Astonish #42.

My memory isn’t good enough to remember what issues Randy walked away with that day, other than Amazing Spider-Man #4, but he did equally as well as I did. Our bottom line was, “Hey, I never read this one!”

We made one more trip back to Robert’s and bought a few more comics each, but he told us after that it was the rest of the box, or nothing. By then, we had gotten most of the Marvel and DC comics we wanted. The rest were what we called “Barber Shop” comics, meaning comics you’d read for free at the Barber Shop, but wouldn’t spend your own money on at the drug store.

Tales To Astonish #42

Tales To Astonish #42


In reflection, Randy and I left a real gold mine of other Silver Age comics in that box, but it is what it is. We didn’t have the cash, so we didn’t get the stash. We still came out pretty good and best of all, the memories of those days. As we got older, junior high, we continued our quest for comic books and pop culture. We used to walk a few miles to Nick’s Newsstand in downtown Huntington to buy new comic books. We would really treat ourselves when we would go to White Cross Pharmacy and buy a couple of comics off the rack, sit at the counter and enjoy a dish of ice cream as we talked over comics on a hot Summer day. That truly was “The Life.” Our love for music brought us to form a Junior High Rock Band, called The Purple Haze, with fellow friends and school mates, Mike Phillips and Mike Meade. We had a good two-year run playing local school dances and practicing in Mike Meade’s garage where all the kids would come and listen to us.

The band broke up in 1969. We were getting ready for high school, and sadly Randy was moving to Ohio. His dad was opening up a new Volkswagen dealership, and they would be living in Gallipolis, Ohio. It was about 45 minute or so away, but when you aren’t driving yet, it might as well be on another coast. Of course, Randy and I kept in contact through the years and would see each other from time to time. The college and family years tend to get really busy, so less communication, but the thoughts are always there. Randy and his wife moved to the Dallas Texas area around 40 years ago and he has been a true Texan since. He and his wife have a son, Evan, that has grown into every bit the smart, mannerly, and delightful man that his father is. Like me with my son, Nick, Evan is about six inches taller than the old man.

Evan Watts, Randy Watts, Beau Smith, Nick Smith

Evan Watts, Randy Watts, Beau Smith, Nick Smith


This past week, Randy and his son, Evan, were in town for a few hours, and my son Nick and I were lucky enough to have an extended lunch with Randy and Evan at my favorite place in town, Central City Café. (Heart Of The West End) It was the first time Randy had been back in his hometown since 1990, and Evan’s first time ever to see the city his dad grew up in.

The four of us had the best time every talking over old times, dealing with the present and discussing the future. We hope that Nick and Evan weren’t too bored by the tons of old man stories that Randy and I shared at the table. All Randy and I know is that our sons have grown into so much more than we could ever be, and we are so thankful for that. The boys are smarter, nicer, better looking and much taller than us.

In all my years of working in comics, I have always said, comics are the bond that ties us together. So many of us from so many different walks of life are bound together by the love of comic books and creativity. We learn from each other and we appreciate more of what’s outside our tribe. Thank you comic books for being our four color guide to the world. Thank you, Randy for going on those adventures with me.

Your comic book guide,

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @BeauSmithRanch

USER COMMENTS4 Responses

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  1. Mark Ellis Says:

    I closed my eyes while reading this a I was suddenly transported back in time. Great memories of the places I knew too.

  2. Randy Watts Says:

    Beau I couldn’t have said it any better. Having a lifelong friend like you is more than anyone could hope for. As Stan used to say “Nuff said”

  3. Beau Smith Says:

    Mark,

    Glad to be able to trigger those memories, my friend. Best part is, I think we all knew how good times were…even then. 🙂

  4. John Swisher Says:

    Beau, thanks for sharing.. As for your story took me back to a time I will never forget as well.. growing up in Carrington Ct with Randy, Brad & our gang as well as meeting Mitch in my class & meeting you & Gig.. those times were the best.. going to Lucy’s for candy & letting pick out what we could for a quarter, bowling at Colonial Lanes & eating a hotdog @ Midway.. I as well as Mark can close my eyes & go back to that time & smile..