My earliest memories are intertwined with comic books. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Justice League of America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men - for years, these and other superheroes were more real to me than some of the flesh-and-blood mortals I encountered on the playground. By the time I was 8 or 9, I owned so many comic books that when we got a new refrigerator, I salvaged the packing box and turned it into a storage vault. I spent countless pulp-powered afternoons sitting by that box, plunging my hands into the multicolored stacks to pull up an Amazing Tales, a Challengers of the Unknown, a Thor, an Action Comics.

My comics lust cooled in high school and college, but I kept much of the collection into the late '70s when, to my shock, I found there was real money in these precious pieces of childhood. At the time, I needed money more than memories, so I gradually liquidated the set - a major mistake, I've come to see, but at the time, $25 or $50 for a 12-cent comic book proved irresistible.

By the early '80s I'd drifted away from Comics Land, always intending to make my way back. From time to time I'd hear rumblings from that colorful universe, and comic-based movies starring Spider-Man, The Hulk, Daredevil, X-Men, brought me fits of nostalgia. Once in a while I'd remember Green Lantern's oath, curious that it stuck in my mind after all that time.

Recently I got the opportunity to spend several weeks exploring the new world of superhero comics. I wanted to see how much had changed (and what, if anything, had not) since I last spent time with Cyclops, Iron Man, and the rest. Did fans still memorize GL's oath? Did he even take an oath anymore? Did anyone care?