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Franck Cordes

Blockbuster First Issue!

My Friend Casper

In 1975 my father and I suddenly moved to America. I had just turned five a few months before. I came with just a small suitcase of clothes. My teddy bear wouldn’t join me till a few months later. Overnight all my family and cousins that I saw every weekend were far away. From my grandparent’s elegant home filled with French antiques, paintings, and crucifixes in every room, we moved to an apartment in downtown Washington D.C. The 1930s apartment was in shambles. The ceiling in the living room had collapsed and there was plaster rubble and dust everywhere. The only furniture were the two bed mattresses that were on the floor of one of the two bedrooms. At the foot of the mattresses was a small black and white TV on an old stool.

It’s on that TV that I saw Casper the Friendly Ghost for the first time. I was still just learning English, but I could see that Casper was lonely and wanted to make friends, but everyone was afraid of him. Casper lived in a rundown house, like our apartment. I told Casper I would be his friend. I, too, was lonely. The kids at school didn’t understand me, and I didn’t know how to be friends with them. I watched that Casper show every chance I could.

Over the course of that year my father worked on fixing up the apartment. We got furniture, and a bigger TV. It felt like home, but being far from my family in France still made me feel lonely. Those Casper shows were always there for me.

Casper is riding a ghost horse. He is welcomed to America by Richie Rich dressed as Paul Revere.

Re-creation of Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost # 12 from June of 1976 by Franck!

One day in 1976 my father and I walked into a main street convenience store and sandwich shop in a small Maryland town on the Chesapeake Bay. In the far back corner, I saw my first rotating comic book rack. There on the rack, at eye level, was Casper! He was flying on a ghost horse over some kid in American colonial garb. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I grabbed the comic and ran over to my dad, “Look pappa! Look, look! Look, Casper has a book!” My father smiled, and bought it for me.

As we drove home, I flipped through the pages over and over again. I figured out the other kid on the cover was Richie Rich. I didn’t like him, I thought he was a big show off, but since Casper was his friend, I thought I should try to like him too. That night I fell asleep with that comic book at my side.

I had a difficult time reading. I didn’t enjoy it for many years. I think in part it was from learning French and English at once. It was all so very complicated. So, I never read my Casper comic, nor the subsequent ones. I looked at the pictures and made up my own dialogue. In my stories, I was Casper. I was a lonely misunderstood ghost who never gave up trying to make friends by being nice to everyone. I never read a word in that comic. I almost bought a copy on eBay the other day, but my memory of it still makes me smile, and I don’t want to change it in anyway by reading it now.

In time I made best friends. Best friends I still have to this day. Casper’s example helped me to overcome my fears of people being afraid of me during those difficult years of moving to America. Without knowing another’s language, a smile is a universal welcoming, “hello.”

All that being said, I still think Richie Rich is a show-off.


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