Ask Mike Cote how long he has enjoyed comic books, and he answers, “Since I found out they existed.”
And what he enjoys about the comic book is its fun escapism with characters and storylines that are larger than life.
“That’s what I dive into,” he said. Some people, he noted, read novels or watch television. He prefers the comic book.
Cote, who owns DJ’s Comics at 116 North Plains Industrial Road, said the first comic book he read was Captain America — this, the long-running tale of a man named Steve Rogers who becomes the robust, shield-bearing defender of American values.
“Then, I saw Iron Man and The Avengers,” he continued.
“They’re doing all these huge things. It was just better than anything I could imagine,” he said, adding that he found the comic book “a TV in my hand.”
“Comics took you to places you couldn’t go then.”
When he finally saw “The Avengers” on the big screen — the hit super hero flick that came out in 2012 — he said, “It was everything you wanted it to be.”
Over the years, the comic book has passed through many phases. Although the Golden Age of Comic Books ended, according to Cote, in the mid-1950’s and the Silver Age in the 1980’s, the comic book is now in its Bronze Age.
Comic books that tell the tales of superheroes, he said, remain his bestselling titles.
And, Cote affirmed, “They’ve never done them like they do now.”
Of the thousands of comic books that fill his shop, he said he finds today’s comic books a little darker, with storylines that are more complex , than the comic books that appeared years ago. He also finds them better written because their subject matter now has the potential to loom large — and lucratively — as films.
Today, actors, novelists and television writers write comic books, Cote said. He termed some of the comic book writers themselves “extraordinary.”
“It’s the writing talent,” he said of what distinguishes the comic book now. “Some people have this amazing way with words.”
And while many comic book characters that end up invigorating the big screen, such as Batman or Spiderman, are household names, others, Cote pointed, are not. The film “Road to Perdition,” whose all-star cast included Paul Newman and Tom Hanks as members of an Irish mob, began as a comic book before its author turned it into a graphic novel.
Cote said movies constitute one reason why comic books still exist.
“It’s a great, easy platform to launch ideas,” he said. “Next thing you know, it’s on the screen.”
Since he became the owner of DJ’s Comics in 2001, he said the audience for comic books has become more mainstream. He said it includes doctors and lawyers, and he said his clients range in age from 90 down to three.
He also shrugged off phrases such as “comic book nerd” or “comic book geek” that, over the years, individuals and even websites have applied to staunch fans of the comic book genre.
“Nerds are nerds, and geeks are geeks,” he said, acknowledging that he had heard the terms while growing up. “I guess it was [other persons’] way of saying ‘reading comics is not cool.’”
Yet, he said, the “geeks” took over the Internet and founded many of the companies that thrive there, in addition to producing well-known video games. In the process, he noted, they became socially acceptable. As for the “nerd” — the young person, Cote said, with tape on his glasses — well, Cote has an antidote for that description as well.
“I never paid heed to titles . . . At the end of the day, we’re all one people,” he said.