The GeeksverseThe Roundtable | Your First Comic Book

The Roundtable | Your First Comic Book
Published on Friday, July 12, 2013 by
The Comixverse staffers remember the comics that got them hooked on the medium. Do you?

“Every comic book is someone’s first,” goes the old editorial adage that’s often credited to Stan Lee. And every comic book reader has that memory of reading a comic book and, not to be too sentimental or overly nostalgic about it, falling in love with the medium. For those of us who skew a little older, early encounters with comics were quite the serendipitous affairs. Parents would pick up random selections from the drugstore spinner rack without a second thought and without much regard for their contents, disposable trifles intended to keep us still at the check-out line. We’d linger at newsstands and pore over the comics’ covers, sneaking in as many furtive reads before the newsagent would huffily send us away with the admonition that his shop isn’t a library, goddammit—and then we’d come back the next day and pick up where we left off. Comic books were passed down by older siblings, traded with friends and classmates, and offered up as rewards for not crying at the dentist’s. It seemed like comics were everywhere back in the day.

Below, the Comixverse staffers reminisce about their earliest comics experiences and recount the particular issues that turned them into inveterate fans of the funnybook format.

Jason Thees

Man, there’s so much, I barely know where to start.

The first book I remember getting was The Brave and the Bold #177 (Aug 1981)—Batman was getting hanged by some stretchy orange guy! Whoa, this *clearly* wasn’t The Super Friends! What made this book special though, was that it’s the first thing I remember my dad reading to me, as I was about all of four years old at the time. Dad was a super busy guy, and rarely had the time to do that sort of thing, and it totally sticks out in my memory. Getting introduced to the Elongated Man there might actually explain my fondness later in life for the “Bwah-Ha-Ha” Giffen-era Justice Leagues, and certainly contributed to my lifelong indecision as to “Who Is The Best Batman Artist: Neal Adams or Jim Aparo?” [You do not want to open that can of worms—ed.]

BraveandtheBold_177

The other book I distinctly remember is Mister Miracle #24 (Jun 1978). I’d only have been a year old when it dropped, so I know I didn’t ask for it, but at some point (probably again around four or five years old) a tattered copy showed up my grandmother’s place and got handed to me. That orange, yellow and green combo really worked (rest in peace, Jack Kirby) and the cover just resonated with me. There was so much craziness inside too. Michael Golden was rocking the King’s characters for his short run on the title, but it wasn’t until his Marvel stuff years later that I’d really realized how much I enjoyed his work.

MisterMiracle_24

A little side note to the Mister Miracle #24 story, when I was looking up the cover art for this article, I discovered Larry Hama was editing it, circling me nicely to G.I. Joe, which is the first series I remember actually going out of my way to find on the spinner racks at the grocery each month, and paying for out of my allowance. It all spiraled out of control from there.

Troy Osgood

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #1 (Jun 1982).

Yes, I know, it’s a bit cliche for a G.I. Joe fan to say that was the book that led into comics, but it’s true. I had some miscellaneous comics, the old Disney stuff that was reprinted under Whitman Comics and released as 3-packs at the grocery store. Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, etc. Even had some Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century from the grocery store. A couple EC Comics and some other horror comics. Even had an odd issue of Action Comics and Flash that were reprinted under the Whitman name. But none of those led me to actually follow a comics series. I’d read ‘em, keep ‘em, read ‘em again, get some more, but that was it. I was limited to the spinner rack.

Then I found G.I. Joe #1 on the toy shelf. It was the oversized edition. You know the one, the big guy, four times the size of a normal comic. [That would have been the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #1 Special Treasury Edition—ed.] I was starting to get into the Joe figures, this would have been 1982, and this comic was amazing. The stories were cool (to this day, I consider the back-up story “Hot Potato!” as one of the best Joe stories ever written), loved the filecards in the back and the diagram of the PIT was awesome (I have to wonder if that diagram of the PIT influenced my eventual career choice of architect).

GIJOe01SpecialTreasuryEdition

But sadly it was just that one issue. No more after that. Until one day at the spinner rack… Was that a 3-pack of G.I. Joe? Yes, it was. It contained issues #3, 4, and 5. I grabbed it, read ‘em that day and the rest is history. Well, not quite history but there was no denying that I was hooked. Then I found Transformers, the 1984 four-issue Marvel miniseries. [The miniseries was so successful Marvel decided to turn it into an ongoing series halfway through its run—ed.] Another toyline I liked in comic form? That was great. But the spinner rack didn’t have everything. The day my mom discovered George’s Comics in Eagle Square was a miracle. They had all of the G.I. Joe comics and got them in monthly.

transformers01

From there, slowly over time, I started adding other titles. First G.I. Joe, then Transformers, and I think the next one after that was X-Factor.

Zedric Dimalanta

Two comics stand out in my memory as the first ones that I remember reading (or at least looking at the pictures intently—I was in kindergarten at the time and I can’t remember if I was old enough to read English then beyond basic one and two-syllable words). The first was Marvel Premiere #29 (April 1976) featuring the Liberty Legion, written by Roy Thomas with art by Don Heck and Vince Colleta.

Marvel_Premiere_Vol_1_29

The other one was a 1972 graphic novel adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick scripted by Irwin Shapiro and illustrated by all-time great (and one of my favorite artists of any era) Alex Niño. (This would be reprinted four years later in the United States, in color, as Marvel Classics Comics #8.)

MobyDick_twoversions

Both comics originally belonged to my dad, and I never did ask him where or how he got them or why he picked those two comics in particular to give to me and my older brother, although I suspect it had to do with some sort of cultural connection he attached to the material: Marvel Premiere #29’s cover (drawn by Jack Kirby, freshly returned to Marvel after his brief stint dong the Fourth World books at DC) had a reproduction of a World War II newspaper headline that proclaimed “Bataan Falls!” (my grandfather fought at Bataan as a member of the USAFFE) and the Moby Dick adaptation was drawn by one of the most influential and successful Filipino artists toiling in the Western comics industry.

classics_comics_08_p34While the Marvel Premiere comic was loads of fun with the Liberty Legion’s pulp-y origins, it was Shapiro and Niño’s work on Moby Dick that really made an impact on me. The comic book was a helpful tool in learning to read and understand the English language beyond purely functional purposes. As each grade would pass and I would reread the book, I’d pick out new things, subtle shadings in the narration and dialogue that I missed the year before. It was like reading a new comic book every time! Niño’s florid linework, exaggerated (but not too exaggerated) figures, and masterful use of distance and perspective was the gold standard against which I measured the work of every other comics artist I would encounter growing up, from John Byrne to Art Adams to Lee Weeks to Whilce Portacio and more. When, as a teen in high school, I still entertained dreams of becoming a comics artist myself, I tried aping (but not very well) Niño’s distinct hatching and cross-hatching style, as well as the lean, almost rubbery looking figures that he was associated with, drawing thumbnails of my own amateurish adaptations of the novels we had to read in class in the margins of my notebooks. I kept that Moby Dick comic until I had to leave for college, and felt terrible when I came home during a semester break and learned that it had been lost during a particularly bad flood.

My preferences in comics art and subject matter have broadened in the years since, of course, but Alex Niño and Irwin Shapiro’s Moby Dick will always have a special place in my comics memory.

Joe Milone

I’m pretty sure the first comics I had picked up when I was younger were some the early Transformers books, I think one of which was G.I. Joe and the Transformers #1 (Jan 1987) although I’m not really 100 percent certain of this.

G.I._Joe_and_the_Transformers_1

I will say that the comic I definitively remember buying for myself was Uncanny X-Men #234 (Late Sept 1988).

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_234

Like I mentioned above, I had read some Transformers comics in the past, I knew the popular heroes, your Spider-man, Superfriends and the like, but then some of the older kids in the neighborhood had introduced me to some new characters, the X-Men. I was fascinated by them, just from seeing glimpses of them and hearing about this crazy Wolverine guy, and I needed to know more! This was way before Al Gore invented the Internet of course, so off to the toy store—which sold comics as well—I went. Looking at the racks I found this interesting cover. Did Wolverine merge with a face-hugger and produce this? I couldn’t get home fast enough to find out!

I learned two things from this book: (1) Comic book covers don’t always accurately portray the contents of a comic, and (2) I loved the X-men! Soon I would be collecting them on a regular basis, and luckily for me X-Men Classic existed at the time, so I soon learned the history of them as well.

Comics would come in and out of my life for years, but when I returned to them, the book I always came back to was the X-Men.

“BigIV” (contributor)

This is a timely question because my family and I just came home from a vacation at White Lake, NC. It was on a trip there when I was younger, at a gas station stop, when I was able to pull a comic from the spinner rack. I chose quickly and grabbed what I thought was a Batman comic because it had Robin on the front. In fact, I discovered while reading it in the motel that night, that it was a Blue Devil comic. Since I only knew super heroes from cartoons and live action show re-runs, I had no idea who Blue Devil was or what was happening in that comic. I read it several times and was thoroughly confused. Blue Devil #19 (Dec 1985) featured Robin and Kid Devil and had Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin on scripting duties, Alan Kupperberg on pencils, Rick Magyar on inks, Michele Wolfman in charge of the coloring, and Bob Lappan taking care of the lettering.

Blue_Devil_Vol_1_19

A strange read for a first-time comic reader.

My next comic was a gift from my father when I was home ill. He stopped by the drugstore to pick up my medicine and grabbed a Fantastic Four comic. He had been a huge Fantastic Four fan as a kid so he grabbed it for me. That was one of the “New Fantastic Four” issues with Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, the Hulk, and Wolverine standing in for the crew we expected. Fantastic Four #348 (Jan 1991) is probably another odd starting point.

fantasticfour_348

My first comics were all slightly odd experiences. The first comics I tried to collect completely from spinner racks–and failed miserably—were Impact Comics, the short-lived imprint from DC.

Spinner racks were awesome.

Do you remember your first comics reading experience? Share them with us in the comments section below or on our various social media channels.
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