The Not-So-Secret Origin of Joe Gushue

Talking comics with the Philly patent lawyer

Published in 2021 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine

By Ross Pfund on May 26, 2021


Joe Gushue still remembers the day in 1984 when his dad bought him his first comic book straight off a spinner rack in a mall bookstore. The Amazing Spider-Man #255 features Peter Parker contending with moldy bread before tangling with the evil Red Ghost and his Super-Apes. It might not be high on the list of storylines likely to be adapted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it captured 4-year-old Gushue’s imagination.

That was likely his dad’s plan all along. A long-time comics fan, “[My dad] had the first appearances of many Marvel characters,” Gushue says. But, like many childhood treasures, his father’s collection was unceremoniously tossed by Gushue’s grandparents. 

Gushue’s own collection has thus far avoided a similar fate. Now almost 7,000 issues strong, including more than one copy of Spidey #255, the collection is safely bagged and boxed in a dry spot in his basement. “They’ll last longer than me,” he says with a laugh. Gushue has also branched out into more literary fare, like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but still has a soft spot for super heroics. Recent highlights for Gushue include Matt Fraction and David Aja’s 2015 Hawkeye series; and Invincible by Robert Kirkman. 

An IP attorney with Volpe Koenig, Gushue has found a work-related outlet for all that comic knowledge: making several guest appearances on the firm’s pop culture podcast, IP Goes Pop!, where he talks up the big-screen versions, too. His favorites include Spider-Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. “For a character like Captain America, who isn’t anyone’s favorite in the comic books—he’s fighting the same people all the time—it’s tough to give him a whole lot of depth,” he says. “They did an excellent job.” 

With great power comes great responsibility, as Spider-Man knew, and with a great comic collection comes great reading skills, as Gushue knows. “At a young age, I was introduced to complex ideas and I was also able to improve my vocabulary reading about my favorite heroes,” he says. He’s now passed along that tradition to his 7- and 5-year-old daughters. “I can’t think of a better way to instill a love of reading in children than comics.”

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