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e-mail: joe@keatinge.com

Happy 35th Birthday, Hi De Ho Comics!

or, What The Local Comic Book Shop Means To Me

If Facebook’s to be believed, today’s Hi De Ho Comics’ 35th Birthday

I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Santa Monica, CA, which put me in a close proximity to the now legendary Hi De Ho Comics. Growing up around Hi De Ho was a godsend for forming me into a young comics fan. There were other comic shops - great shops - but from the ages of 0-19 it was my local mecca for finding comics. 

I can’t say with absolute certainty which comic shop was my first, but I’m fairly confident in saying it was Hi De Ho. My memory’s not the best, especially from when I was a kid. But as I recall it was the first non-711 I would go to buy comics. There were certainly others - Santa Monica was also home to now sadly defunct Superior Comics (where I had my heart shattered by not pre-ordering a Unity #0, but had that more than made up many times over by being the shop where I first bought a copy of Madman #1 [yeah, the Tundra one] and Art Adams/Walt Simonson’s New Fantastic Four run) which later became the also sadly defunct Cool City Comics. Nearby in Westwood I had a few choices, the one I remember best being Graphitti Comics, where I saw a dude buy an entire stack (we’re talking like fifty comics) of Cable to flip on the secondary market (thereby making sure I couldn’t get a copy), disgusting 10-year old me so much I promised to never become a comics speculator. Golden Apple and Meltdown were in this weird dead zone for me since neither of my parents lived near them, so I didn’t even get the chance to stop at either one until I was an adult. When we moved out East, places like La Crescenta’s WOW! Comics and Glendale’s Legacy Comics became regular shops. There was also one in Eagle Rock whose name is alluding me, where I purchased a copy of Youngblood #1 and had my life forever changed.

But yeah. Hi De Ho was different.

Like I said, it was mecca. It was where I wanted to go any time I wanted to go to a comic book shop. I’m not trying to suggest those stores paled in comparison - that’s certainly unfair, but Hi De Ho contained a unique cross section of every type of comic, from every type of publisher. The other shops I’d go to would just lean towards one or another.

On the other hand, Hi De Ho had everything. They had super hero comics. They had alternative comics. They had issues of Zap! mere shelves away issues from Secret Defenders. They had a lot stuffed into boxes you had to walk over yet despite all the chaos it was displayed in a way that invited you to discover.

And discover I did. I first saw so many creators I’m now obsessed with there. It’s where bought my first Kirby comics (two issues of his Jimmy Olsen run), saw my first Moebius, started my collection of underground comics and saw that Matt Groening did a comic strip I liked even more than the Simpsons. It’s where I went to discover more about Robert Crumb after seeing the documentary he hates so much. It’s where I first saw anything resembling manga and was then really confused/entranced by a comic called Mickey the Rat. I first read names like Los Bros Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, Will Eisner, Dave Sim, Frank Miller, Winsor McCay, Herge and Hugo Pratt.  The list goes on.

Becoming a fan and being inspired to be a creator formed out of many, many drives my parents put in to taking me to Hi De Ho.  My tastes are so wildly eclectic and some might say contradictory (Yes, I actually do simultaneously love the work of Rob Liefeld AND Seth) because of this shop. Coming here and seeing this huge mix of comics in one building for the first two decades of my life formed this. To those of you who hate my comics, you can go ahead and blame these guys in part for them existing.

It’s going to Hi De Ho for all those years that gives me an eternal faith in the comics medium to evolve and for the industry to evolve with it. In one store I’ve seen good times, hard times, times where it seemed everyone loved comics, times where it seemed like the industry might be doomed. I saw it all and in the end my hope was lit eternal by coming in, flipping through bins and talking with the employees there about what else I should be reading. 

So, thank you for everything, Hi De Ho. My parents may not have enjoyed driving me down there (although I suspect my dad somewhat enjoyed the excuse to go to the nearby cigar shop), but every single trip meant the world to me. 

Happy Birthday.