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 Image: Bridge City Comics

Image: Michael Ring, OwnerABOUT BRIDGE CITY COMICS

You could say that Bridge City Comics started back in the early 1980's. I was young, six or seven years old, when my brother let me read his Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes comics. Marv Wolfman's well-written and mature scripts, coupled with George Perez's stunning pencils, showed me that comics were nothing like the Richie Rich and Archie comics I'd grown up with to that point. Paul Levitz (now President and Publisher of DC Comics) deftly handled the Legion of Super-Heroes and its cast of 30 (sometimes more) characters, weaving together complex storylines that challenge, stimulate and still manage to entertain.

From there, I began to search out titles of my own. Booster Gold, GI Joe and Blue Devil were three early favorites with the always-present Superman, Justice League and Batman comics that always seemed to pop up on those trips to the grocery store with my mom. Bless her for putting up with me and my incessant begging for comics because once I started turning those pages, I couldn't stop. And still can't to this day!

Time went on and the number of titles I read grew. In junior high and high school, I met others who shared my passion for graphic storytelling (AKA "comics"). We enjoyed hitting the local comic shop on Wednesdays after school, we'd lend comics to each other and invariably get into heated "Marvel vs DC" arguments. Of course, I always won the arguments. (For the sake of this being posted on my website, at least).

The collection grew and I graduated high school. I moved out of my folks house, went to college, got a couple of jobs and then the dreaded event happened that occurs to many people at that age: my passion for comics began to wane. Coupled with a lack of money (I had two jobs, sometimes more, but was trying to pay for college all by my lonesome) and the comics glut of the early '90s, fewer and fewer books appealed to me and I had less and less money to buy the ones I did like.

So my weekly trip to the comic shop became a bi-weekly trip, then a monthly trip, then stopped all together. I still re-read the comics in my collection but wasn't as into it as I once was. I had friends, school, girls (gasp!) and a million other things to occupy my time and limited funds.

I graduated college, got a job and a cozy little one bedroom apartment. I bought a car and began to assume my "adult" lifestyle. But something was nagging at me, something I couldn't put my finger on.

Life was pretty good. I had a steady job doing (something that thankfully didn't involve me wearing a paper hat and asking if you wanted to supersize your meal). I had great friends, a cute girlfriend and a little bit of money in my pocket. I had my freedom.

Those days in your early 20s are something to behold. Footloose and fancy free. Answering to no one but yourself while trying to find your way through a world that consisted of partying and paying bills. Pretty much, Life (with a capital "L") was happening.

And then everything started to change. The job began to suck, the routine got boring, and I began to get restless. I'd grown my hair long, roughly shoulder length, and in West Michigan, that's a no-no. Pretty much anything that separates you from "normal" gets you ostracized. And frankly, I didn't care too much to be grouped into the same category as a lot of the other "freaks" (again, remember we're talking about Michigan here) who tended to be freaks for the sake of trying to make some statement. I was just a guy who was trying to live his life. Unfortunately (sometimes), I'm a pretty obstinent, stubborn guy. People would say to me: "If you don't like it, just cut your hair". That's not the point. The point is that I began to see just what an oppressive, stifling place I was living in. I always knew it but when you're on the receiving end of it, it opens your eyes a little more widely.

I actually had the president of the company I worked for, prick that he is, say to me: "I can't fire you for having long hair, but I can make your life hell."

I mean, seriously, what's that about? Who cares? I wasn't an unkempt hippie. I was well-groomed (if I do say so myself) and took care of myself. I washed my hair, wore clean, professional clothes and pulled my hair back at work. And yet this douchebag (and others like him) treated me different because of long hair (that, frankly, the ladies loved).

Trust me, this will all come back to comics and me starting Bridge City Comics. Stay with me. It's a beautiful, interwoven tapestry, etc, etc.

So after putting up with this for as long as I could, I finally snapped. My brother had moved from West Michigan to Portland, Oregon for a job. I needed to clear my head so I went to visit him and some friends I had made previously.

Lo and behold, I found paradise.

Portland was, and still is, the best city in America. Yes, I love New York City and Chicago and San Francisco but dammit, Portland is the perfect place for me. I immediately fell in love with Portland, in no small measure for the weather (no more shoveling snow!) but also for the people. It was a big city with small town feel. Plenty of friendly people, tons of great food and music, affordable living and just plain fantastic. Portland was everything I was looking for. Portland was home.

So when I got back to Michigan after my visit, I quit my job, packed up everything I could fit in my car and made the cross country trek. I lived with my brother for 3 months until I could find a job. I snagged one at Dania, working in their warehouse. Hey, it was a fun job and I met some great people. Sure, it wasn't the most mentally challenging job in the world but I loved it. I ended up splitting a two-bedroom apartment with a guy that worked there, my first "place" since moving to PDX.

I settled back into life, happier than I had been in quite a while.

On a day off from the furniture place, I went for a walk around my neighborhood. Unbeknownst to me, there was a comic shop a few blocks away from my apartment! I stepped in, feeling a little nostalgic. I didn't even know where to start. Luckily, they had a few spinner racks full of 25 comics. I grabbed a few stacks and hastily beat feet home. I sat there the rest of the afternoon, reading comics. Just like the old days.

It was a slow progression, but I managed to find my way back into comics. I wasn't buying the number of titles that I used to but was coming to re-familiarize myself with this lost love of mine. Cautiously, at first. And then something happened.

I was reading through the classifieds in Willamette Week (Portland's weekly music/culture/lifestyle paper). I wasn't really looking for a new job but I simply wanted to see what was out there. I found something intriguing... an ad reading something along the lines of: "Local publishing company seeks someone with online marketing experience."

"Hmm," I thought. "I have experience with that from my Michigan days."

I faxed in my cover letter and resume and promptly forgot about it.

A week later, I got a call from Dark Horse Comics. They wanted me to come in for an interview.

Color me dumbstruck.

One of my favorite publishers from back in the day was calling me. I had no idea it was Dark Horse that placed the ad but as luck (maybe fate?) would have it, I now had a job interview with them.

Long story short (ha, I know), I went through a couple of interviews and landed the job. My previous dalliance with relearning my appreciation for comics exploded almost overnight into a fiery, tempestuous love affair. Not only was I surrounded by comics every day (free comics as far as the eye could strain!), but I was actually working in the industry! I was a mover. A shaker. I was making things happen.

Six or seven years passed while I was at Dark Horse. It seemed like no time at all but in that time, I met dozens upon dozens of people in the industry. I met Frank Miller and Sergio Aragones. I met Mark Waid and Mark Millar. I met John Romita... junior AND senior! And yes, I met Paul Levitz, Marv Wolfman and George Perez. I was able to meet and interact with so many people, big and small, in the field. I met other publishers, fans, retailers, people who ran comics fan sites and people who hadn't read a comic in years but were interested in what all of the fuss was about. It was like one big family. It was one big, four-color whirlwind that will be permanently imprinted on my heart and mind.

I worked at Dark Horse through comic's great renaissance. In my time there, comics experienced an upswing in popularity, a resurgence of "cool" which, in my not-so-humble opinion, was the result of mislabeling. Comics were pretty much always cool. The big difference now is that this confluence of events happened at just the right time.

Publishers were beaten down after years of slumping sales, almost to the point of giving up. In some ways, a lot of people in the industry felt they didn't have anything to lose. So damn the torpedoes! Try something new and daring! New writers and artists began popping up as publishers decided to take more risks. Books became more cutting edge. New characters were developed and new storytelling methods were tried. Comics had an injection of adrenalin and things started to take off, in a creative sense. Throw in Hollywood's new love affair with making comic book into movies, the explosion of manga in "traditional" bookstores and you've got comics seeping into the collective consciousness, the likes of which haven't been seen since the 1960s.

And then I began to get a little restless. While I loved my job at Dark Horse, I began to think of the future.

And that's where it all came together.

Everything in my life had been leading me to this point. Comics, my life-long passion, my career, my profession, would now become a new, integral part of my life. I had something I could build into my future. Spreading my love for comics, helping people find a new passion, re-igniting in people their love for the medium and introducing people to comics has become that thing in my life that will carry me until I'm old and gray. It's not easy, not by any means, but it sure beats doing just about anything else.

So technically, Bridge City Comics started on April 1, 2005 in the Mississippi neighborhood of North Portland. But it was born a long time ago.

Comics for the people,
Michael Ring
Owner, Bridge City Comics

Home 503-282-5484  |  3725 N. Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227