Every week CBD’s Editor in Chief Pete DeCourcy asks the question and the crew (and special guests) give their answers, we’ll be doing this for 52 weeks. Tip of the hat goes to the gang at Scans_Daily for the inspiration.
Today’s Question: “What was the first comic book that made you realize you’d be a comics fan for life?”
Shelley Smarz (Comic Book Daily’s resident Comic Book Goddess)
When I was really young (and, boy, oh, boy, am I gonna age myself here), I had a variety of those Fisher Price Storytape and Books. Well, I had the books; I don’t remember what happened to the cassette tapes, nor did I really care. I was, and still am, only interested in the books. Anyhow, a set of these books featured the DC superheroes: the JLA, Batman and Robin, and Superman. My favouite, by far, was the Wonder Woman offering: Cheetah on the Prowl (written by Andrew Helfer; illustrations by ross Andru, Dick Giordano, and Carl Gafford). I read that thing (and had it read to me), like, a zillion times. I still have it. And, while most people wouldn’t classify it as a comic book (it’s more like an illustrated story), I still consider it to be the first comic book that I ever collected and is probably one of the main reasons why I’m such a comic book nerd today. Keep in mind that this pre-dated the Archie books for me, which is usually most people’s first experience with comics.
As for first issue, I’d have to say that it would be Uncanny X-Men # 247. (I bet you thought that I was going to name one of the issues in the Dark Phoenix Saga, weren’t you. Nope. Those issues came later.)
A little backstory: when I was a wee lass, I used to spend a good portion of my summers with my grandparents at my great-grandmother’s house in St. Catharines. It was the early 1990s, before the speculation bubble burst and people were “investing” in comic books with the hopes that they could retire from the proceeds. On one sunny Saturday, my grandmother, her mother, and her sister and I would all go to the local flea market. Located just off of Hartzel Road, I remember it being quite small for a flea market, but it was full of finds. Looking for books, I meandered over to a stall that was selling both novels and comic books. I found an issue of Uncanny X-Men (the aforementioned #247) and purchased it along with a couple of issues, long since forgotten. The reason why I remember this particular book is that it has a lot of great action, amazing writing (Chris Claremont) and art (Marc Silvestri), and I HAD NO CLUE what was going on. Then and there, I knew there was no going back; that I was hooked.
I owe it all to Mickey Mouse and G.I. Joe. My earliest experience with a comic book, not newspaper comic strips, was a Star Wars comic that came from a hospital gift shop to keep me amused while visiting some relative. (an early Marvel issue, maybe 7?)
It wasn’t till a few years later, while on a car trip to Disney in Florida that I got a G.I. Joe comic on a newstand and then the next issue from another newsstand a few days later that it began to sink in that these things came out regularly, and the stories continued. On the drive home, we stopped at a mall or plaza and they had this store. It was full of comics. You could get comics from months past. I got the next couple issues of G.I. Joe, (somewhere in the 20’s I think) and shortly thereafter came Transformers, and then a friend who knew all about comics, and had even drawn some of his own, loaned me Contest of Champions. Then X-Men and Crisis and it’s been a weekly trip to the shop ever since.
David Diep (News Editor, Part time Comic Shoppe Employee, All Time Sexual Dynamo)
My interest in comics has been like a roller coaster ride, it’s gone up and down in cycles. The first comic books that made me a comic fan were the Archie digests I read through the local library. I read those things everywhere including the bath, which I guess made me a bad kid because I was taking library books with me into a bathtub and getting them wet. But the allure of Archie and Jughead’s teen antics wore off after 2 or 3 years and I only kept a marginal interest in them by reading stuff I could get from the library while never really making an effort to go to a comic book store to get my own books. What hooked me back in and kept me locked in was the launch of Ultimate Spider-Man. With the launch of that book, it changed everything. I started going to the local shop to pick up issues, I started a subscription with them and from there I jumped onto other series like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Y The Last Man, and Fables. So yeah, Ultimate Spider-Man even though it’s only about 10 years old now is what dragged my childhood obsession back into the limelight.
The comic that made me a lifetime reader and fan, not a collector, was Uncanny X-Men 175. It was the finale of the Dark Phoenix storyline with Scott Summers new girlfriend: at the time I didn’t know this was the second Dark Phoenix and the big reveal was that Mastermind was behind the whole thing. I had been following the past ten issues and had been stunned by Paul Smith’s ultra clean art and the great story by Chris Claremont. Mastermind manipulating the X-Men mentally and distorting their reality blew me away. It was a double sized issue for $1.25 Canadian: the story just wouldn’t end. As well John Romita Jr. finished the last part of the story and took the reigns as regular penciller so it was a bittersweet ending for me.
Kevin Boyd (Director of the illustrious Joe Shuster Awards Committee)
The first comic book that made me realize I’d be a comics fan for life was actually not a comic per se, and it was not a single book. Although I had read many comics as a child, two books collecting older comics stories cemented my love of comics and made me a lifelong fan:
– BATMAN: FROM THE 30’S TO THE 70’S (1971 – although I probably got my copy in 1975) – Batman was going through a real renaissance as a character in the early 1970’s and I remember being a sponge soaking up whatever Batman comics I could get. I do have a fond memory of reading Detective 448 (with it’s distinctive two panel cover by Jim Aparo displaying Batman and Talia getting shot) in the hospital and 450 which featured Walt Simonson’s unique artwork (for the time). But this hardcover Batman collection was the real kicker because it showed Batman was a versatile character – he could be stretched and squashed and works in the darkest alleys as well as the oddest science fiction scenarios. I was particularly taken by the earliest stories, which I loved because they were just plain weird and contrary to my 1970’s sensibilities.
– the ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS by Stan Lee (Fireside, 1974 – although I probably got the first trade paperback edition in 1975). I loved the Spider-Man cartoon as a kid and was definitely aware of Marvel Comics (having taught myself to read using my older brother’s stash of Hulk, Fantastic Four, Conan and Spider-Man comics) — Amazing Spider-Mans 103 and 104 (the Savage Land story) did stick out to this young reader but it was this book – combining Stan Lee’s purple prose and showcasing both the earliest and the latest (at the time) Marvel Comics really struck home with this young reader for pretty much the same reasons the Batman book did — it showed that there was a history to these characters that made me want to seek out the gaps. It also gave me my first taste of Ditko’s Spider-Man – a weird, alien creature that I instantly fell for and have been crazy about ever since. Much like the Golden Age Batman of Kane and Robinson, the Ditko Spider-Man was just so weird and different from the polished Romita/Kane/Andru Spider-Man of the day that I couldn’t get enough.
To a lesser extent, the SECRET ORIGINS OF THE DC SUPER HEROES had a similar impact on me as it gave me a wider taste of DC’s Golden Age of Comics that still colours my perspective on these characters decades and a wall of Archives later. While the Golden Age Hawkman and Plastic Man were also as weird and interesting as Batman and Spider-Man’s early days, without a solid modern perspective on the characters they just seemed mildly interesting.
I do think that comics historians underestimate the power that these books (as well as SUPERMAN: FROM THE 30’S TO THE 70’S, the Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman Encyclopedias, SHAZAM: FROM THE 40’S TO THE 70’S, the Conan novels, the subsequent Fireside Marvel books like SON OF ORIGINS, the Superman film, Star Wars and finally the pocketbook reprints of early Marvel Comics really had on cementing our what has become our direct market model. While comics were definitely more prominent and available in the 1970’s, these books and movies were everywhere and were the first taste of the drug that hooked so many of us back in the day and made us lifelong comics readers. The demand for back issues (fostered by the backward looking books I mentioned above) led to more specialty bookstores devoting space to back issues and eventually encouraging individuals to move those comics to being the stores selling point or building up new businesses directly up and around comics and nostalgia items.
Darah Wraine (writer of Mythos, Melee, Mayhem & Musings)
Dawn, drawn by famed artist Michael Linsner, was the first comic to which I became powerfully attached, and to this day, I think she intentionally sought me out during a time in my life when I needed her unique brand of fortitude because I certainly wasn’t searching. Sometimes, the most memorable forms of guidance in life happen this way.
Dawn, in a tidy description, is the goddess of birth and rebirth. Her overall appearance largely depends on who is viewing her, which is a trait I found particularly interesting. For don’t all people, to some degree, change, grow, and glow, or shrink and fade, depending on the perceptions of people who opinions they value? Dawn’s physical appearance doesn’t change out of necessity or obligation; rather, it’s like an unspoken offering: “Look what I can do. Look what I am capable of. This is my gift.”
Most commonly, though, Dawn is immediately known by her vibrant red hair and three black “tears” streaming from her left eye. Interestingly enough, it should be noted that during the Burning Times, women were found guilty as witches by being accused to only cry from their left eyes. Not only is Dawn a goddess of birth and rebirth, her tears signify that she is also the guardian and protector of all witches on Earth. She is the comic world’s Gaia, the true feminine Alpha and Omega. She is, in my opinion, a role model for the lost and lonely girls, the insecure, glass-hearted girls who need valuable feminine archetypes in their lives.
Linsner has stated many times, in past interviews, that he envisioned Dawn to portray all women because all women are goddesses, no matter their sizes or colours or backgrounds. I don’t really need to go into the details of why I find this statement so incredible. It stands just as strong on its own declaration.
Dawn, to me, is a surefooted seductress, a moving fortress, a mother, a lover, a fighter, and she is always willing to fight for what (or who) she loves. Her blatant buxomness, her overt, demanding displays of coquettish sexuality coupled with her immense fragility were powerful symbols during a time in my life when I needed to be strong, to gather fortitude from the most unlikely places. And sometimes, on those days when I feel so threadbare, so passed over, and everyone believes I’m a disaster, I find those comics again. I find her again. Suddenly, my breath does not feel so thin. The blood in my veins reminds me that there is life here, like a thrilling secret. So thank you, Dawn, for not only allowing me to remember my worth, but for continually giving me a voice when I had all but forgotten how to speak.
Chris Owen (Professor of Comic Books History at Hamilton’s Mohawk College and host of The Comic Culture Radio Show.)
When I was really little I used to go around to the various flea markets (they used to be held in the middle of malls) a lot with my mom. By this time I was already obsessed with Richie Rich comics. There was no particular issue that made me a fan. There were many around my house that my siblings had pretty much already discarded and had no use for comics. So I used to scour the flea markets for as many of these as I could find.
Years later, to my disappointment, Harvey no longer published these comics and I was already hooked on comics, so I had (yes HAD) to find something to fill the void. I didn’t really know much about superheros then and so I was very leary about buying a Spiderman comic that was already past issue #100 or any comic that was high in numbers. So I found a Hawkeye mini series that had come out and was hooked on super heroes. The story revolved around Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and is one of the lowest points of his life. He is down and out, now working as a security guard and actually gets dumped by his girlfriend. By the second issue, he has a renewed vigor and gets a new costume and a new interest in his life, Mockingbird.
This was the first time that I had read about super heroes having problems. I know now that it had been done before, but for me, was a first. I was also hooked on this character for a while because he didn’t really have any super powers, he was just a guy who was really athletic and good with a bow. This lead me to start reading more about the Avengers and then the whole Marvel Universe.
Anthony Falcone (Writer of Whosoever Holds This Hammer)
I always enjoyed getting comic books here or there when I was very young (who among us didn’t have a few G.I. Joe or Groo issues), but the comic book which made me a lifetime reader and fan was Uncanny X-Men #211. (As a side note my brother got this comic book from the Red Lobster treasure chest.)The beginning of the Mutant Massacre storyline, issue #211 had a fantastic series of street-fights between the X-Men and the Marauders. It was the first comic I ever read that was brutal and serious; this was not some happy go lucky Aquaman story where he calls on a giant octopus to stop a bank robbery.The writing by Chris Claremont was great (this was before he lost his mind, The Neo my ass) and the art by JRJR was top notch. That man can really tell a story. The cover is an iconic Wolverine piece as well.However, the part of the book which will forever be etched into my brain is where Colossus grabs Riptide and snaps his neck. I’m sure that Pete will find a great pic of that panel because it is ball-bustingly awesome.All in all this issue is exactly what an X-Men issue should be: full of non-stop action and total badassery.