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More on the DaHeidi Code

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Okay I can’t resist posting another one of my old comics cycle sheets; this one two sided and from 1984.

This is interesting for several reasons. For one, by now I was now writing about comics, so I was a “pro” of sorts. For another, as opposed to the Marvel hegemony of the chart from 5 years prior, now we have things from Thriller to Cerebus to American Flagg to Amethyst to Journey. “indie” books like Cerebus sold in numbers that Marvel or DC wouldn’t be surprised at nowadays; I think you would be hard pressed to say that there wasn’t a promisingly diverse range of material beginning to emerge and it had emerged in a mere five years. This stuff had been itching to get out.

1984 was also an interesting year because about halfway through it my family had to flee the house we were living in in Owl’s Head, ME. It’s a long story that involves dead chickens, a scrofulous St. Bernard, an old pet cemetery, old pickling jars, a business selling plastic hinges, and a family of grifters who went by the name of Thompson. An interesting tale, but for another time, perhaps.

I went to stay in Los Angeles for a little bit, a time that coincided with the Olympics. Upon returning home I lived in a tent with my grandmother for 3 months or so. I worked during the day, transcribing tapes on a manual typewriter, sometimes sitting in my sleeping bag when it was particularly cold and miserable. By some weird coincidence we found a pay phone that would make free long distance calls at a racetrack that was closed for the season. While my grandparents filled up gasoline jugs with drinking water (they didn’t have Sparkletts then), I would use the phone to call Gary Groth, Mark Waid or David Olbrich, my editors at the time.

What’s interesting about all this is that I kept up my chart! I did abandon the odd numbering system, whatever it meant, though. This puzzles me even more in some ways. There were no comics shops nearby in Maine. I had a subscription service at a store in Portland, but could only get to it every month or two. (There was a closer store in Lewiston, but that was truly the most wretched comics shop I had ever been in, before or since.)

I can’t imagine that I used the sub service too much, though. I think I was on the mailing list for most First, Eclipse and Pacific comics, for instance. I know I was on the Cerebus mailing list. I believe that in 1984 you could still walk into the LaVerdiere’s drug store in Augusta or Rockland and buy Marvel comics right off the rack. The condition may have been appalling, but I can’t see why I would have objected to purchasing my comics on the newsstand, when necessary. I dunno, obviously my memory for much of this isn’t too good.

So anyway, the coding here is very odd and makes no sense. What does P1 and P2 mean? What does MP mean? Whatever this system meant, it must have been a good time filler for me. During the long, long winter of 1984, when I do remember having bronchitis for two months solid, I was religious with my coding. After the challenges and adventures of roughing it for three months…not so much.

By then, I must have had other things to think about.

I started a chart for 1985, but then I moved to LA and my time became taken up with all sorts of other things. After a a few months, the chart ends, forever.

BONUS PAGE! Here’s a page from the old notebook that shows my interpretation of how to write in Tengwar from The Lord of the Rings. I had written something in Tengwar in the margin but I blanked it out; I didn’t have time (or perhaps the skill any more) to translate it, but I often wrote my most private observations in my diaries in Tengwar, so just in case anyone can read it, I don’t want to be embarrassed!

This is my own interpretation of the English values of the script devised by Tolkien based on Appendix E of LotR. I don’t know how it matches up with the generally accepted one. I do know that I never learned how to write in Cyrillic, but I learned Elvish just fine.

  1. This sounds like the kind of source material that would make one of those Chris Ware-esque comics actually interesting. The Olympics, living in a tent, race tracks, using PAYphones, grifters, dead chickens, and then the truly confounding plastic hinges!!! THAT is a story that I want to read. Come on now, The Beat KNOWS there’s plenty of their friends that would jump at the chance to illustrate The Beat’s formative years. But what to call it? Hmmm….

  2. One day archaeologists will discover these charts buried beneath post-apocalyptic New York City, and offer as meticulous a dissection of their surreptitious content as Egyptian hieroglyphics command today…

    Well, either that, or you’ll perplex somebody with your uber nerdiness. ;-)

    Wonderful post, Heidi! Bravo!

  3. Okay, still think you were doing week of the month the book came out, but quickly lost track of it and gave it up. Eventually you resorted to check marks of books you got and Xs for books you didn’t get and – for books you have no interest in.

    The real mystery is what do the letters represent, P, A, M and Z.
    I’m thinking the Z are actually 2’s. It could be they came out twice that month, one in 2nd week, the next in week 5 like with Thriller or New Mutants. One of them could be the annual.

    The P could stand for Probably or Possibly. Like you didn’t know for sure it came out that week (or month) but you think it did.

    M could be Missed. Something you didn’t get, but wanted to.

    A I’m still unsure about. The obvious answer is Annual, but Camelot 3000 didn’t have an Annual so that doesn’t make any sense.

  4. See, I’ve always suspected that The Beat had enough material in her life to make one of the best autobio comics on the planet and this just proves it. Orson Welles would have had a field day putting this story to celluloid!

  5. You write about all this wild and crazy stuff, but I’ve always felt that you must have a more interesting story of your own. I wish you’d write stories again.

  6. By crazy stuff, I mean stuff about comics and the industry. This “DaHeidi Code” just comes out of nowhere! I hope you spill the beans on your life’s story someday.