Written By Ralph De La Cruz

I was stuck between a Rock and a Hard place.

To be more precise, somewhere between the Sgt. Rock and Hard Boiled Comics. Inside Tate’s, a comic-book emporium in Lauderhill.

My journey to this place actually began about six years ago in the bedroom of a duplex we were renting. Alexander was only 3 then.

He waddled in front of the television, where I was playing with my new Nintendo 64.

“Hey look, son,” I pointed to the TV. “I can make the cartoon man move.”

I moved the joystick left, and with a “Woohoo,” Super Mario ran left. I moved him right. Made him long jump, break dance and crawl like a baby.

Alexander giggled.

“Here,” I inexplicably said, “you can do it, too.”

I put the controller in his little hand.

Eve bit into the apple. Pandora opened the box. And Alexander maneuvered Super Mario toward the castle.

From then on, Alexander has had an ever-increasing infatuation with video games. Game over for leisure reading.

Needless to say, Super Maria was not at all pleased.

We’ve dealt with the situation by seriously restricting TV time. And we religiously schedule reading time every day. Alexander, in turn, protests with rolling eyes and exasperated sighs. It’s not that he can’t read. He’d just rather not. And I feel bad.

Not only for having been the one to plant the demon video-seed in his mind. But because now reading has become a chore for him.

Enjoying reading, in my view, is important in order for him to become a well-rounded person. I want him to know the feeling of getting to the last 20 pages of a book, and he can’t wait to find out how the story finishes, but can’t bear to have it be over.

So, I figured the way to make reading more enjoyable would be to introduce Alexander to that timeless bit of American kid lit: comic books.

But what would be appropriate? What did I read at 9? I jumped into the way-back memory machine…

Superman? Fantastic Four? No. I think that was later.

Way, way back …

Archie? Richie Rich? Donald Duck and those three little insubordinate ducks, Huey, Dewey and Louie? Those were Donald’s nephews, right? Or were they his children?

The way-back memory machine was sputtering, sparks were flying, smoke belching.

I went to Tate’s, which has thousands of comic books, featuring every freak, superhero and weapon of mass destruction-toting villain imaginable. There are high-minded satires and sexually charged tomes. Lots of vivid violence. But no Richie Rich.

Archie’s still around, but filled with romantic references to Betty and Veronica. I could almost hear Alexander saying, “Eeewww.”

I did find a Dexter’s Laboratory comic. And the amazingly knowledgeable folks at Tate’s told me there are Power Puff Girls comics, but they were out. They turned me on to some reasonably priced Disney comics in the collectibles bins.

I paid a dollar each for two Huey, Dewey and Louie comics. Which might seem like a lot for comics that once sold for 15 and 12 cents each. But, when you compare it to current prices of between $2.50 and $3 per comic book, it was a steal.

I also picked up a couple in the 25-cent bargain bins: Wild West Cow-Boys of Moo Mesa, about some do-gooding calves. And to try to maintain some comic-book integrity, grabbed a not-too-violent superhero comic, Legend of the Shield.

“Cool,” yelled the kids when I showed them the comics.

“Daddy, can you read me …” Alexander began. I beamed, waiting for the moment when my hour and a half at Tate’s would be rewarded. Would it be Disney, Dexter, the Cow-Boys or the Shield?

” … the book about Navy SEALs?”

Ralph De La Cruz can be reached at rdelacruz@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4727.

Published: 6/24/03 
Publication: Sun-Sentinel – Lifestyle section

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