This Lester moment comes cheap

By Kevin Wilson: PNT columnist

One of my favorite movies is “American Beauty.” Not for the acting, or gratuitous shots of Mena Suvari. It’s all about the Lester Burnham moment.

There are plenty of times where Kevin Spacey’s mid-life crisis character gets the victory. But none resonate more than midway through the film, when his wife asks who owns the sports car in the driveway.

“Mine. 1970 Pontiac Firebird. The car I’ve always wanted and now I have it,” Lester says as he raises his fist. “I rule.”

My Lester moment germinated with Comedy Central reruns, as the network saturated commercial breaks with clips of its new series, “Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire.” My deja vu reading was off the charts.

“An ignorant version of Conan the Barbarian with “oo” in his name,” I thought. “They’re ripping off ‘Groo the Wanderer.’”

“Groo,” a creation of Mad Magazine artist Sergio Aragones, was a comic I read for a few months in my pre-middle school days. I enjoyed the comic, but started reading it about 100 issues in and felt like I missed out on years of entertainment. I’d see advertisements in “Groo” offering back copies of the No. 1 issue and others. But I wasn’t pulling a 40-hour work week and I felt foolish asking my parents to spend $10 on a comic book when a postage stamp was 25 cents and only the crazy gas station charged $1 a gallon.

I shelved the comic book life around junior high, when I discovered girls. And in the decade between then and when girls discovered me, my paychecks would go to music, video games and Gatorade runs. Still a great adolescence, but there were holes.

Until my deja vu. I hit Wikipedia and stoked some memories. And I found issue No. 1 on eBay. For $6. Shipped.

I wasted no time clicking “Buy It Now,” but I admit I felt guilty. Somebody purchased the book in 1985 for 75 cents, and 24 years of work protecting it netted a McDonald’s combo meal. It wasn’t because interest in Groo had fallen off — the Wikipedia article also referenced production starting in 2008 on an animated “Groo” film.

I theorized that auction sites like eBay flooded the collectible market (which also explains my $3 Pat LaFontaine rookie cards). I asked Marc Schoder, a former coworker and sports memorabilia collector, how he felt about eBay. He confirms my theory, but also likens it to Wall Street.

“For me, this is a market where if I want it, I will buy it,” Marc told me via e-mail. “It comes down to the idea that collectibles are like commodities and since prices are down, like a stock broker, it’s time to buy.

“On the flip side, as a seller, I have come to realize that you can’t expect the world.”

Instead, buyers like me get the world. Or at least the part I couldn’t acquire as a youngster, whether it was an issue of finances or how I appeared to the opposite sex.

I thumbed through my new purchase when it arrived Monday. I had my chuckles and put it back in its plastic bag. Next stop, a craft store, where I will buy a frame thrice my original purchase price for my own miniature Lester moment.

A friend will someday visit, spot Groo framed with photos of treasured memories and favorite movie posters, and be too stumped not to ask.

I’ll say, “1985 ‘Groo the Wanderer.’ The comic I’ve always wanted and now I have it.”

And I will raise my fist as I say, “I rule.”

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com