Carolina Fandom

Interview by Ray Franks

I thought it would fun to do a series of interviews with many of the interesting personalities that you may bump into at any given comic book or multi-fandom convention.  This is the first interview on a mysterious path.  I plan to end each interview by allowing the interviewee to suggest the next personality to be spotlighted.  As you’ll see at the end, Chris Rigo has already thrown the first curve ball.

RF:  Who is Chris Rigo?
CR:  I’m 30 years old and I’ve collected comic books since I was 8 years old.  I grew up in the very rural outskirts of Waxhaw, NC and as a kid my two favorite shops to frequent were Dave’s Comics (RIP) in Fort Mill, SC and Collector’s World (RIP) in Pineville, NC.  I played in the band, Sugar Glyder, from the age of 17 to 27.  We got a record deal and played in nearly every state in the USA and released an album in Australia and New Zealand.  I currently play guitar & sing in Solar Cat and I also play drums in The Kodiak Brotherhood.  I graduated from UNCC in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and I currently reside in Concord, NC.

RF:  Comic book collectors often have fond memories of their first comic books.  What were some of your favorite books as a kid?
CR:  The first comic book I ever read as a kid was X-Men #36, not Uncanny X-Men… but, Jim Lee era X-Men.  Of course, it came complete with holofoil cover!
It was shiny and featured Sabertooth on the cover, which blew my 8 year old brain.  This was when comics were still a pretty common thing at most grocery stores.
X-Men #36 wasn’t the best comic ever made, but that comic and the original X-Men animated TV series made me very curious about what other X-Men related stories were out there to check out.  I went to my local library and found a reprinting of the entire Phoenix Saga, after that I was hooked.  John Byrne is still my favorite artist and the bronze age X-Men stories are my favorite ever.

RF:  Since I’ve known you, you seem to gravitate towards bronze age Marvel comics.  Has it always been that way and why do those books have so much appeal to you?
It really goes back to those classic Chris Claremont X-Men stories from the mid/late 1970s, amazing storytelling and timeless artwork. When I was a kid in the mid 1990s, I thought it was incredible to find a low grade Marvel bronze age book in a cheap sale box buried in the box of a store.  I still really just like the way a 20 cent cover price looks on a bronze age comic.  Also, some of my favorite characters were created during the bronze age, like one the first popular anti-heroes, Wolverine!

RF:  I noticed that you started setting up as a dealer at some comic book conventions this year.  Did you have some successful cons?
CR:  Yeah, after collecting comic books steadily for around 20 years, I figured it was time to set up at a convention and in 2016, I set up at a convention nearly every month.  My friend and I basically said, “If you do it, I’ll do it.”  So, we both tried it out and I have to say, I’m hooked!  I did have some pretty surprisingly successful conventions in 2016 and have even more lined up for 2017.  I’ve also met some great collectors and I’ve been able to do some great trading for comics I need for my personal collection.  If your setting up a convention, the goal is to make some money but I really like the chance to trade too.  No cash, just comics for other comics.

RF:  Interest in comic books has had highs and lows since Superman first appeared, back in 1938.  Currently, how do you feel about the comic book industry?
CR:  I think the comic book industry is in a very healthy high point currently.  The successful comic book based films have really brought a tremendous amount of attention and interest to comics. This trend has been going strong and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.  Marvel (studios) has done a pretty good job at consistently putting out solid films, so until they start putting out duds people will still be very interested in comics.  I do think its a little odd how both of the two biggest publishers keep rebooting everything.
Even though I’m not a fan of the variant cover trend, I do think variant covers have rejuvenated the interest for new collectors that are jumping into collecting right now.

RF:  Some collectors enjoy following particular characters and some collect work from their favorite artists or writers.  Which is it for you?
CR:  Well, I think its pretty clear I’m a fan of John Bryne and Chris Claremont but at the end of the day, the X-Men are my favorite characters of all time.  A goal I set for myself in 2015 to finish up my bronze age X-Men run and upgrade any low grade issues I already had.  I did that, plus I now have incredibly high grade personal collection copies of Giant Size X-Men #1 and Incredible Hulk #181, the two most significant X-Men related issues from the 1970’s.

   

RF:  You seem to have an uncanny ability to track down some rare comics “out in the wild”.  Have you just been lucky or is there a secret, super power that we need to know about?  Tell us about some of your finds.
CR:  Well first of all, I want to say thanks for the kind words!
I feel very privileged to have found so many great issues over the years out in the wild.  When I say “the wild,” I don’t mean conventions, stores or online auctions… I mean the spots where they are hidden away… yard sales, flea markets, storage lockers, basements, attics.  There’s something about actually having to dig and psychically work for those significant key issues and when you actually find them, its a serious rush.
I do feel like I have had some “luck” but I personally think it has a lot more to do with the level of effort I put into to finding each collection and the subtle skill I have to identify the important key issues.  There have been countless mornings I’ve gotten to a flea market or yard sale before the sun came up in hopes of finding something great.  Like most things in life, its all about putting yourself out there and most importantly, just showing up.  Oh and if you are checking out someone’s collection, it always helps to be nice and respectful.  No one likes a snobby jerk.

RF:  Art inspires art. Your band, Solar Cat, has obviously been inspired by comic books.  Tell us about some of your songs and where your music can be found.
CR: Yeah, Solar Cat was a fun side project my girlfriend and I started a few years ago.  The goal of the band was to be weird and write simple garage rock/stoner rock style songs about science and comic book themes.  I was touring hard with Sugar Glyder but when I had any downtime at home, I wanted to write odd music and just get really strange.  Some of my favorite songs are about Fin Fang Foom and Doctors Strange’s Eye of Agamotto. Our latest EP, “Tales from the Savage Land” can be found on bandcamp along with ALL of our other releases.  We’ve also released two music videos. Here are some links to our bandcamp page plus both of our music videos.

Bandcamp – https://solarcat.bandcamp.com

RF:  Finally, if you could think of one interesting personality in the Carolinas, who creates a form of art and enjoys fandom, that you would like to see interviewed next, who would it be? Why?

CR:  Well, there’s this guy named Ray Franks…you might have heard of him.  He owns this store called The Comic Monstore and also plays in a band called The Graveyard Boulevard.  I’d like to hear more about him and how he got his start in the comics business.