It's been a long, strange trip since the newspaper comics!
I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia to parents immigrating to the United States from the Philippines by way of the U.S. Navy. How'd I get into comics? My mom and dad read comics in the Philippines growing up. They saved some of them and put them in a box in the attic when they moved to their home in Virginia. Growing up, I LOVED cartoons. I used to watch Super Friends, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men pilot (whenever it came on), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe... basically any super hero show that would come on network television in the 1980's Saturday morning cartoons!
My parents caved in and started buying me toys when I would throw tantrums in the toy aisle at stores. Thank you Mattel for putting minicomics in all of the He-Man action figures. The Masters of the Universe minicomic was my first exposure to comics, and I really didn't know what to do with them as a young kid. All I knew was that I loved the cartoon, and the way I relived the show (before my family had VHS) was to re-enact the comic panels with my army of toys. My parents eventually had to start putting excess toys in the attic.
When my parents were getting his toys out of the attic one day, I noticed that there were big comics like the ones that came with my He-Man action figures. Those were the very same comics my parents had put away that were in a different language (Tagalog). My parents wished for me to stop watching television so much and begging for toys. They were very supportive of my education and wanted me to start reading more, so at age 7, my parents bought me my first comic book at a Navy Exchange. Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 # 312. Green Goblin vs. Hobgoblin in "The Goblin War!" I will never forget that issue. I even developed a fear of seeing something other than myself when looking in a mirror from one of the panels in the comic. Todd McFarlane is sick. 'Nuff said. After collecting a couple of different comics, I learned how to trade comic books with my friends for different ones.
My first mutant comic was Excalibur vol. 1 # 31. I remember seeing "X-Men" on the front, and I remembered how much I liked that pilot episode and wondered why I didn't see any more new ones from Saturday morning cartoons. Dave Ross introduced me to Nightcrawler, and the elf's been high up on my favorite hero list since. I learned about the X-Men when I picked up my first issue of The Uncanny X-Men. Issue # 272 was part 7 of his first X-Over, the X-Tinction Agenda, and of course I fell in love with Chris Claremont's writing. Jim Lee's art also gave him a lifelong crush on Psylocke (thanks Jim).
I started getting the other issues of that crossover, which really broadened my exposure to writing styles and art work. My dad was deployed to Operation Desert Storm, and people would send my dad's unit comic books through care packages. My dad sent those comic books to me attached to the letters to keep in touch. That's when I learned more about the DC Universe. I was die-hard X-fan since I was a kid, and I followed their publisher's battle cry of "Make Mine Marvel!" My parents grew tired of buying comic books for me at the store, so they let me get two subscriptions. Thor starting with issue 430, and Avengers starting with 344. It wasn't until Image formed that I truly started branching out from the world of Marvel.
Around his 8th grade of school, my parents separated from each other and my mother left me and my little sister in the care of our father. I read the Age of Apocalypse x-over, but stopped reading comic books regularly for a long time. I graduated from Western Branch High School, then went on to further my education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1999. I wanted to pay for my own way through college, so I decided to join the U.S. Army in April 2003. In December 2003, I was pulled out of school by the U.S. Army Reserves and deployed overseas to Operation Iraqi Freedom. I got promoted to the rank of sergeant (E-5) in Iraq, then switched components to the Virginia National Guard on Halloween 2005. I did a stint as an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet when I returned to ODU. After returning from the war, I battled with alcohol abuse, eventually dropping out of college in 2007. Since then, I have done a lot of soul searching, found recovery in March 2008, and regained my rank of sergeant. I went back to school, started working in the mental health field, and had advanced my military career. I have experienced being a lower enlisted soldier, an ROTC cadet, and a non-commissioned officer, as well as being a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserves, a citizen soldier in the Army National Guard, a full-timer as Active Duty Operational Support, and got promoted to staff sergeant (E-6) in September 2010.
I still have my comics from when I was 7 years old. I always had an affinity for comic books and have never strayed too far away. Over 20 years later, he still reads and collects comics! I started reading the Civil War story arc, and then ran into a priceless tool for any comic book aficionado. Way back in June 2008, I had found an aspiring website called Comic Vine dedicated to comic books, and in May 2010, I recommitted to helping it grow. I picked up X-Force Vol. 2 # 26 after hearing something tragic happened to one of my childhood heroes and had decided to jump back into the X-Universe. I dream of opening my own shop one day, and hopefully to even start writing my own comic books! Who knows?
In 2010, I was called upon to deploy in support of Operation New Dawn. I wasn't looking to get into a relationship, but in early 2011 I met my soon-to-be wife. She is the best thing ever to happen to me! We got married before I deployed to Iraq, and came home two days before our daughter was born! I plan on raising my daughter to love comic books too! In true fashion, my wife, daughter and I went to Heroes Aren't Hard To Find's 30th annual of HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC -- our first convention as a family!
Well, that's my ever-growing story and he's sticking to it. No retconning here!
My favorite way of closing is as follows: