BG Roundtable: Your First Comic

by Liana

Here now, your Friendly Neighborhood Editor brings you the first installment of our ongoing series the BG Roundtable, where we delve deeper into the twisted minds of our looney tunes reviewers to see who they are, where they come from and what makes their geek minds tick. This editor knew that the place to start was the beginning, so like Xavier in the Danger Room, she set the task: what was your first comic? She told them, "just a couple sentences, 25-50 words." As you will see, your friendly neighborhood editor gets no respect.

Matt - My parents used to buy me assorted comics all the time. Then one fateful day, I got GI Joe #34 and Uncanny X-Men #200 and I was hooked. Thousands of dollars later, I am still addicted.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Editor likes Matt. Matt follows directions.

The rest of these jerks can bite your FNE on her butt.

Chris - I seem to recall having comics around a lot when I was little: Mickey Mouse, Uncle Scrooge, etc., but the one that got me started collecting was Marvel Saga #24, The Origin of Galactus. I saw it on a stand while on vacation with my family and something about that cover just grabbed me. Once I started down that road, I never looked back. Now here we are almost 23 years and 50 long boxes later.

Bill - I had a three-way in late summer of 1978. Me, Marvel and DC together for the first time. While my grandmother shopped the “Convenience Mart” (honest, it was called this) I wandered to the newsstand off to the right of the entrance. I was 9 years old, and up to this point comics had meant Peanuts and Hagar in pocket-books reprint collections.

I was primarily familiar with Spider-Man and Batman from the television series and cartoons running after school, Saturday mornings and primetime. I enjoyed the heck out of the TV stuff, so the sight of Amazing Spider-Man #181 and The Brave and the Bold #142 was exciting. 74 or so cents later, I had the 2 comics, with Spider-Man opened to the splash page before the car had backed from the parking lot.

Amazing Spider-Man #181 was an origin recap. There was nothing cooler than having my officially read first comic give a history lesson. Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema, Mike Esposito, Glynis Wein – names I’d over time be very familiar with.

The Brave and the Bold #142 was the second part of a 2-parter. It would be years before I’d track down #141 (via Mile High Comics’ mail order, if I recall). Bob Haney and Jim Aparo – more names I’d become very familiar with.

I’ve forgotten the specifics of both issues. I haven’t read or seen them for 20 plus years, but I know they’re in the longboxes in the basement – bagged, boarded and very well read. But they are there among the 200 or so other longboxes and 30 years of subsequent title, representing probably the one single even having left the most impact on me.

Vocal Minority - Being British, my exposure to comics didn't really happen with a single issue. Over in these wild shores American comics were something you sought out, if you knew they existed at all, in specialty stores. Domestic equivalents were equally sparse - 2000AD the notable exception managed to pass me by and the biggest selling weekly comic was (and I believe still is) a humor publication called “The Beano.”

I grasped the occasional bit of comics here and there. Literally the first comic I can remember reading that wasn't a humor one was a Fantastic Four comic where Doom wins (at the end, it's revealed to be a dream) and to this day I have no idea what number it was or anything. It left an impression - I remember reading it several times over an afternoon - but only that once and it never spurred me on to anything else. I scavenged anthologies at friends' houses and occasionally had my own, but I was still just picking up things I found lying around every so often.

The comic that did start me collecting and reading on a regular basis was Eagle. In retrospect a short-lived 90s revival of an old anthology title but no less wonderful for it.
Charley's War - the meticulously researched and horrifyingly dark (at times) depiction of life in the trenches of World War One was a highlight, as was The 13th Floor about a sociopathic computer called Max that managed a block of flats and killed those that displeased his guests. There were more in that vein, but the often dark and unpleasant tone of the stories certainly left an impression on my tastes today.

Doug - I don't really remember getting my "first" comics. I have some old Mickey Mouse, Speed Buggy, Junior Woodchucks, and Heckle & Jeckle that were always just there. The first comic I can really remember buying, however, was also my first superhero comic: Marvel Team-Up #48, from 1976, purchased at a restaurant gift shop while my family was driving from Ohio to Florida.

It starred Spider-Man (with whom I was familiar from "The Electric Company") and Iron Man, against a mad bomber villain named The Wraith (a decidedly D-list villain, but still a favorite of mine for obvious reasons). Oh, and this issue also introduced Captain Jean DeWolff, who would go on to be an important supporting character in the Spider-Man universe for several years. Written by Marvel mainstay Bill Mantlo with artwork by Marvel workhorse Sal Buscema, this comic really kick-started my lifelong love of comics.

Betsy - I didn’t really read comics as a kid, so I thought that they were just a bunch of “POW! ZAP! BOOM!” But then, I met my future husband Steve, who had grown up reading comic books and wanted to introduce me to his love. We read the X-Men together, sitting on his couch side by side, saying, “Ready!” when it was time to turn the page. I was taken by the complexity of the characters’ lives. There was more to it than fighting bad guys – they all spent time together in the mansion, where they were not Cyclops and Storm, but Scott and Ororo, where they wore jeans and t-shirts instead of their uniforms, and where they passed the time playing baseball. From then on, I was hooked.

Dan - The first comic I bought--as opposed to the packs of comics like Return of the Jedi #1-4 or ThunderCats and Transformer three-packs my parents always bought me--was either a copy of What If (Vol 2) #2 or Uncanny X-Men #246. I used to pick up random comics from our local grocery store or convenient store in the late 80s for a year or so.

It wasn't until a car trip in the early 90s and a random decision to pick up X-Men (Vol 2) #17 from the 7-11 we stopped at that got me obsessively into comics. The characters and stories of the X-Men was a world I found so incredibly interesting and compelling that I'd read any comic with the characters for the next several years.

The General - - Actually, growing up I always had comic books. In fact, starting when I was about 3, my mom got me a subscription to Amazing Spider-Man. But, beyond casually looking through them I never really gave them any serious consideration until I was in 4th or 5th grade. At that time, my brother and I were hanging out at our cousin's house when he started telling us about this cool character who was "like a ninja who had claws coming out of the back of his hands!" He then went on to explain to us that there was this title called X-men about a team of heroes. But, that it was really hard to find issues because they didn't print that many of them. Looking back, I know this wasn't true, but at the time my brother and I had realized we had a new mission in life: Track down an X-men comic book.

A couple weeks later we were at a 7-11 when my brother spotted and issue on the spinner rack there, and bought it.
I remember actually being jealous because I wanted it, and while there were other comics I could have bought, none of them looked nearly as cool as X-men. But, since my brother was only in 2nd grade at the time, he just flipped through it, and then handed it over for me to read. I was intrigued immediately. First there was a character named Rogue, who looked punk rock and could fly. But, while she was able to save some construction workers, she couldn't touch them for some reason. Then there was a female rock musician who was attacked by an evil spirit who jumped out of a mirror. And, there was the blue guy with a tail who needed to be saved by three other people, one of who could teleport. Oh, and, there was a group of supervillains who were going around killing people... but were only shown as shadows! And, throughout the issue, there was this word again and again: Mutant! What was a mutant?

Finally, on the last couple pages, there he was, wearing a cowboy hat and talking to some black woman with a mohawk: It was Wolverine!!

I found myself reading and rereading the issue again and again, trying to figure out what was going on. I was hooked.

That's why I consider Uncanny X-men #211 my first comic.

Rory - It came packaged in a big plush Spider-Man doll that I got for Christmas that year.

It ended on a cliffhanger and my dad, not familiar with comic publishing habits, went to the local comic store every day for a week until being told the next issue comes out in a month. Also, on the doll's box there was a subscription form, which my parents filled out - getting me my first 12 issues of Spidey.

Your FNE's first comic was Uncanny X-Men #352. Remarkable only for being fairly terrible, she came to it after accidentally watching a couple episodes of the Fox cartoon and falling in love with the Jean/Scott/Logan triangle. She anxiously awaits the day Jean returns from the dead for good and tells Scott to shove it.

And now, for our verbose grand finale....

Jon Quixote - Comics are fun. At least, they’re supposed to be. That’s my opinion, and I’m usually right. If you wanted to trace the origin of my perspective, you’d follow the thread backwards – back through Dan Slott’s hilarious SHE-HULK (one of the last monthly titles I bought regularly), and the big sandbox Kurt Busiek made in ASTRO CITY. We’d go through my college years, and how comics like THUNDERBOLTS made an X-heavy Marvel Universe far more palatable (binge drinking helped too). In high-school I eschewed most of the ridiculous and grim Image titles and contented myself with stuff like the Fingeroth/Busiek AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run. And in my pre-teen years we’ll travel through stories where the Thing tried a career as a super-powered wrestler, where the most famous soldier in World War II maintained a code against killing that carried on to this very day, and where the mighty Thor was just as likely to fight a living planet as he was a mythical dragon.

And I think we’d most likely discover the thread tying off somewhere in the summer of 1982, where a 5 year old Jon Quixote started buying MARVEL TEAM-UP.

This isn’t the first comic I ever bought (in fact, I know I had the previous month’s issue, and 3-4 year old Jon Quixote had a series of comics where he liked to draw extra webs, batlines and laser beams coming out of the characters), but it’s one of the first ones I remember physically buying – from the spinner-rack at a convenience store just down the road from my grandmother’s house.

I remember being instantly intrigued by the mystery hero – I just had to know who it was. I had a familiarity with Spider-Man and Johnny Storm, but no clue what the Speed Demon’s story was. But if he could take down both Spidey and the Torch, I had to know that too.

But mostly I remember when I got home, I laughed out loud when the mystery-hero saved the day (He returned to MTU 10 issues later, and I bought that too).

It wasn’t a spoof – the issue was played straight and had its share of both solid action and heart-felt moments. The mystery hero (should I be worried, 25 years later, about spoilers?) and his desire to please and redeem his father gave the story an emotional spine. Speed Demon was a credible threat too, although his costume is kind of stupid and he gets taken down in a manner that makes it no wonder he was reduced to joining a team led by a guy called The Beetle. Masters of Evil say “Do Not Apply.”

But whether there was action, drama, or comedy, it was brightly colored, bombastic, and full of energy. In other words, it was a whole lot of fun. And even to this day, it doesn’t matter if I’m reading SPIDER-HAM or SANDMAN, somewhere in the center there’s a 5 year old kid who just wants to have a good time.

Thanks Jon and everyone else for sharing your first comic memories. Until next time, this is your Friendly Neighbor Editor for BG Roundtable saying "keep it under 200 words, would ya?!"


Doug Smith said...

I think that Jon fella should have to pay by the word.

And none of that Canadian money, neither!

The General said...

I'd mock the length of Jon's epic narrative... but that would fall squarely into the catagory of "people in glass houses." So, instead I'll just give kudos to those who kept it brief and to Liana for putting it all together.

Jon Quixote said...

I can be brief. Watch:

Eff you all.


The General said...

"Eff you all."

I could have said the same thing in half as many letters.

Just sayin'.

Jon Quixote said...

Dammit! The blog's barely up a week and already I'm Stan Laurel.

The General said...

Wasn't he the quiet one?

Bill Ritter said...

25 words? Paf. PAF!