I can hardly recall a time in my life when comics weren't present. At a very early age, perhaps even before I could read, my parents would set aside the funny pages of the newspaper for me every day. I'd look forward most to the Sunday paper, which had the biggest section of comics, and in full color, which I'd pore over and eagerly try to decipher.
I specifically remember loving Gary Larson's The Far Side, which managed to pack so much profundity into one understated and idiosyncratic panel. Calvin and Hobbes was also an early favorite. I loved Marmaduke and was fascinated with the seemingly impenetrable sagas of Mark Trail and Prince Valiant. Out of my love of the Sunday funnies grew a natural interest in comic books. I started early, buying the comics from the most readily available source for a child: the supermarket. I'd go with my mom to buy groceries, but instead would end up devouring Archie digests, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and the occasional issue of Richie Rich.
One day, bored in the waiting room at a car-repair shop, I found a copy of something called MAD magazine buried underneath old sticky copies of TIME and PEOPLE. I couldn't fully understand the subtle and brilliant humor at 7 years old, but I also couldn't put it down. I felt like somehow the entire secret to life was encoded in its amazing pages. Even just Al Jaffee's back cover fold-in was enough to change my imagination forever.