What Is Once Upon A Dime?

When Don Swan and I were growing up in Wisconsin, we couldn't believe how much each of us knew about comics. He knew the DC, Charlton and Amazing Comics stuff better than I did. But I knew the funny animal books and the Timely Comics stuff better than he did. The other kids in the neighborhood (those that had any interest in comics, and they were few) would try to stump us. As a team we were unbeatable.

Don grew tired of explaining the relationship of Bruce Wayne to Selina Kyle and to Kathy Kane and the difference between earth one and earth two. So he wrote some of the basics down. Like his own mini-encyclopedia. Then when a too-frequently-asked-question would come up he would pull out the appropriate tattered page of loose leaf and offer it to the novice comic fan. Don began to decorate some of these pages with his drawings. I liked the pages and asked if I could borrow them so my dad could make copies at his office and I could keep a set.

I had a cousin in Cohoes, NY my mom would make me write letters to three times a year. Until we stumbled on the topic of comics those letters were a chore to write. Once I began relating some of the conversations Don and I would have, my cousin Mark started asking a lot of question about comics. Our letters increased to weekly. I began to send Mark copies of the pages Don created. Once he had all there were he still wanted more. So I started writing some of my own. I think my first was "Captain Marvel is just a big baby".

It didn't take long before Don and I decided we needed more copies of our essays on comic books. Don's mom was a teacher (Don would later follow that path too) and showed us how to type on mimeo paper. Remember that? Blue-ish "ditto" copies rolled off a print drum like carbon copies. We drew heroes and a logo in addition to the text. Don coined the name of our newsletter "Once Upon a Dime". I think our first print run was 20 dittos. Most of those were handed to disinterested schoolmates and promptly fashioned into paper airplanes. Of course I sent one to my cousin Mark.

He wrote back asking for six more copies for friends of his. That was when we first realized our audience might not be the kids we knew personally. It was exciting to believe there were kids like us out there beyond the reaches of our bicycles. Soon we had a small network of friends or relatives to whom we would mail five or ten copies of the latest issue of Once Upon A Dime. And yes we dreamed of the day we'd get a female subscriber. Of course she would be so charmed by our wit, knowledge and artistic ability that she would fall in love with one of us, probably me.

Eventually we upgraded to photocopies - sometimes hand colored with crayons. And by the 80's we had a computer with desktop publishing. We never really stopped publishing but often the frequency of our output sometimes slumped to one issue a year (college years were the worst offenders).

Years later as adults (but never grown ups) Don and I were ready to open our own comics shop. There was no question that we'd call it Once Upon A Dime.

This past year (2002) we got to know Derek McCaw and Daniel DeFabio and they offered to lend their web publishing skills and editorial oversight to create this online version. It's becoming a bit like our greatest hits archive. We hope you have a Golden Time here.

-- Derek Sprang

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