By Mercel Meyers
Walking into his local nail salon, Casey’s an upright and handsome fellow, his giant black afro and well muscled frame put off a very masculine demeanor, yet his eyes hold a quiet kindness. He wears a red Wolverine shirt, the yellow spandex guy ripped up and fighting in a Canadian forest. He’s collected the first 100 issues of the Wolverine comic book, not recently. But set out to do so when he was only ten.
What drove you to collect 100 issues at such a young age?
“It didn’t start that way. I was familiar with Wolverine in the comics, but before he was allowed to kill anybody. I remember being in a supermarket and seeing his own series, issue number 14. I bought it out of competition with my friends. They all had their series- there was something where part of your personality was associated with the comic book you collected. Originally Wolverine wasn’t that interesting. He was just another X-Man.”
Our manicure begins, hands vibrating over a tiny pillow, bits and scraps of flesh and nail are cut filed and cleared away. A very bizarre experience. I ask how the story might have correlated to other things happening at that point in his life.
“Probably around nine or ten I began to noticing girls…the idea of fear of being hurt was already very prevalent, even at that young age, of putting yourself out there. Also dealing with bullies and stuff like that. Wolverine wasn’t immune to pain, he wasn’t like Superman where he just didn’t get hurt- no he hurt a lot, but he had the balls to just keep fighting. So I really related to that, it’s like oh I get hurt too, maybe I can keep going against a bully, or to talk to a girl.”
Did you talk to girls because of Wolverine? I had to ask.
He cracks a half smile and rolls his eyes up in a laugh, “I remember, vividly, a girl I had a crush on in like third grade or whatever. I pulled her aside and was like, I have to tell you a secret, I can pop metal claws out of my hands. And I really thought, that that would impress her if she knew I was a mutant. She was like ‘OK show me’, and I was like, no I can’t I’ll go berserker.
“And I did the pencil claws: sharpen up a bunch of number two pencils and hold them in a fist through my fingers and then take two, three swipes at my desk breaking one of the pencils off and be like aww shit, detention.”
So when did you decide you’d collect the first 100?
“I got hooked once they really started to expose the Weapon-X project. Issue fifty was the yellow one filled with classified files and stuff like that. Back in the day before Google, really, internet, you couldn’t order comic books off the web, the only way to get issues was to go to comic book stores… By that point I’d been collecting for several years and I was only missing one issue. I was with my dad at a random comic book store and they had out on display a copy of issue number 10, which is his first fight with Sabertooth. This was the issue I had trouble coming across, and I mean for years! And it was like, fourteen dollars, which at the time was a lot of money! I mean I was still a kid, I didn’t have fourteen dollars, and I turned to my dad, a very serious eleven or twelve year old, and I said ‘Dad, I’ve never seen this issue before, and I have a feeling I’ll never see it again, can you please front me the money, it would mean the world to me.’ And he could just tell. I spent the next four weeks of allowance paying it back. But honestly for the next ten years after that I never saw another copy of it, for the times I mean that was a real score, diamond in the rough.
“So somewhere between finding issue ten, and getting some exposure about his past and having friends actively looking for issues, it became very cool- and I would definitely say once I completed the top ten and had the solid run of one through fifty it became a very cool, oh I gotta keep this going. Until issue 75 that is.”
“This is right after he fought Magneto and had all the metal ripped out of his body and he has these bone claws, and I was thrown off by that twist. It just didn’t really ring true to me. So I actually stopped collecting.”
Because they removed his metal skeleton?
“No, that was a legit thing that I think Magneto would do. The thing that threw us, was explaining the bone claws. For a long time he’d wrestled with what he’d called the implants, not wanting to pop his claws, that being a very foreign and invasive thing, the idea that he was succumbing to the weapon X project. But he’d just always had them apparently. And I grew to except that, but I never really connected with Wolverine the same way. It didn’t make sense. There was also something more sinister if the weapon X project had altered his bone structure by putting those claws inside of him- again that sense of transformation, and being a monster, and him fighting for his humanity seemed not as powerful when he had apparently been struggling with that his whole life.
“But I did go back and find all the issues from 75-100 before I stopped collecting.”
“Wolverine. The idea of seeing things through to the end, and knowing when something has completed, when it’s no longer what it once was. It taught me how to have a relationship, in a way. You meet somebody and it works and you’re about it, you want your family involved in it. You want your friends involved in it. You want everyone to know about it. It’s a healthy part of your life, it’s something you look forward to. And when there’s problems, I tried to work through it, and then I had my like Wolverine breakup or whatever- go away, come back -try to really finish it out and then realizing that I’m the only one trying to continue it because of the idea of it, no longer what it is, but what it was. So recognizing that because it had shifted into something that was no longer what had brought me there and that it no longer served me, how I was at that age, I was able to let it go. I have no regrets about Wolverine. I have one to a hundred, always will.”
We’re shaking hands in front of the tacky salon. Any final thoughts?
“I don’t despise that Wolverine has evolved. When they reboot the Wolverine movies- I would love to see them do something daring with it. To treat him in a way that we didn’t imagine. Like Christopher Nolan Batman vs. Michael Keaton/Tim Burton Batman.
“His struggle for humanity with his animal nature, and his unrelenting pursuit of the pieces that made that humanity real.”
Indeed it doesn’t feel too far off from any of us.
© 2015 Mercel Meyers. All Rights Reserved.