The first costume I remember is a Morris the Cat outfit my mom had sewn for me when I was 3 or 4 years old. She had made the whiskers out of coffee stirrers which consistently dug in to my face and made me somewhat cranky. It wasn't fun. A year or so later I wore one of the few store-bought costumes I've ever owned, a W.C. Fields costume. My parents had picked it out and I had no idea who the actor was. I don't think they make plastic masks with woefully small “nostrils” anymore thankfully--it was hard to breath with that thing over my face, and I think at one point the rubber band holding it on snapped. No, the first few years of my life I didn't love Halloween.
It wasn't until I started choosing my own costumes that I began getting in to it. In second or third grade at my elementary school's Halloween parade, I proudly showed up in a homemade Robin costume. I had a black mask, and my mom made an “R” for my red t-shirt as well as a yellow cape. I enjoyed watching the ’60s Adam West Batman series which reran every day in the early ’80s. I didn't think a boy could be a superhero but when I saw Burt Ward, I knew here was a superhero that I could actually BE. The cape didn't go to waste either--a year later my mom modified it to cover my whole body, and made a Pac-man head out of yellow cardboard. I also enjoyed the year I dressed as a police officer and even got to have a “mustache” drawn on by an eyebrow pencil. It wasn't until college that I finally got a mustache of my own, and another four years before I realized how stupid it looked with the unavoidable part.
There have been very few years that I haven't dressed up. Sometime around High School I stopped trick-or-treating, but the annual college Halloween party was something I looked forward to every year. Art majors were very creative and most of the homemade costumes rivaled if not surpassed my own. To this day I occasionally get teased for the year I decided to go as one of my own comic characters, “Coldsnap”, wearing a ski mask and hooded sweatshirt and carrying a black Spring Baton. I think that was the year I got mad at one of my friends for going trick-or-treating with some of our female classmates and not inviting me. Years later I mentioned it to him and we had a good laugh over it. Perhaps the most memorable college Halloween party though was the year a group of us went to the Limelight in Manhattan. I had been to see some minor bands at Long Island clubs with my friend Mike, but had never been to any of the major city ones before, let alone the Limelight. As colorful as the crowd must normally have been, it couldn't have compared to the sights I saw that night. It was like being inside a very loud comic book set in an old cathedral, and populated with numerous Crows given the popularity of the movie that year.
I dressed as Bill Gates the first year I was at my first job out of college, donning glasses, a blonde wig and a suit. Another year a ski cap, goofy glasses and my old red-and-white striped pep band shirt served to transform me into Waldo of Where's Waldo fame. Later that same evening I switched to all-black, wore a single black glove, donned my blonde wig and dug out my old Lightsaber to become Luke Skywalker and go trick-or-treating with my girlfriend, who made for a very attractive vampire. After our inevitable breakup, I vowed to “grow-up”, as I had unsuccessfully done so many times before. No longer would I wear costumes and act like a child, but become an adult worthy of love and concentrate on saving my money. That didn't last more than a year or two and after I started a new job, I eagerly looked forward to the next Halloween. That was the year of my surgery, but during my two weeks in the hospital and three weeks recovering at home, I intentionally didn't shave despite my dad's daily assessment that I looked like “a bum”. I had a clear vision of what I was planning and returned to work on October 30th with a full beard. The next morning I shaved my mustache and chin but kept the big sideburns and, dressed in black and armed with “claws” made from tinfoil, plastic knives, and fireplace matches, I showed up as Wolverine. I had had my triumphant return to wearing costumes planned for so long that a month prior, as I lay on a table facing surgery and drifting off from anesthesia, I weakly told my surgeon, “I'm going to be okay. I'm Wolverine.” The last thing I remember is his sarcastic, “Yeah. You're Wolverine.”
The following year I was stuck in jury duty but in the years since I've been Mario, Neo, and this year Clark Kent. One of the things I always loved about comics was how the secret identity could be surpassed by something greater. My secret identity kind of sucks at times, but it's nice that once a year I get to be something more than what I am. I love Halloween.