Friday, April 14, 2006
Do You Remember the First Time?
Those pesky Two Guys (well, just one of them) recently put out a call to all and sundry on the comics blogothingie (of which Brainsplurge is an honorary member). "Tell us about the first comic you ever read!" they roared. I've had a think about it, and I really don't remember, but I think I've narrowed it down to a small number of suspects. It's likely that I read some comics before these, but I don't remember them; these are the ones that stuck, and undoubtedly had a major hand in forming my comics habit.
According to comics.org, one of my earliest comics was The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #12, dated December 1983, putting me at just over four years old. However, what I read was in fact a Marvel UK reprint, and although it had it same cover as this issue, the contents were likely very different. The first half of the comic was a reprint from Marvel's 1981 adaptation of the first Indy movie (I recall it opened with a big splash page in the snake pit and I think it ran until the Ark was opened and (SPOILER) all the Nazis melt (END SPOILER)), and the second half was some oddness about a magic nail (from Jesus' crucifix, I suppose) and some undead ninjas. All I could find out (comics.org doesn't list British titles) was that the British comic ran during 1984 and 1985 before being merged into Spider-Man Weekly. I think the issue I had was #4, but I can't say for certain. My Spider-Man fandom started with reprints too (mostly from the bizarre Spider-Man and Zoids title), and as such, while I distinctly remember stories from Amazing Spider-Man's mid-200's (circa 1983 to 1984, and about the same time as Calvin's Spider-fascination emerged), they were likely reprinted a year or so later in '85 or '86 and so technically weren't my first comics (but see below).
So, moving on...
I vaguely recall my Dad buying the Indiana Jones comic at a train station to keep me quiet, and I think he also bought me Blue Devil #17 at the same time. This one was an actual US import, which I know because I recently was overtaken by nostalgia and bought a copy, and the ads are the same as I remember (the UK ads would have been different). I don't think DC had a British arm in the 80's (or ever?), and reprints were very sporadic (although there were some); this is why, I think, I've grown up without much of an appreciation for DC stuff. This issue, dated October 1985, is actually a Crisis tie-in, as I'd find out years after finally reading Crisis itself. The tie-in consists of the supporting cast muttering about the odd weather and Green Lantern turning up at the end of the issue to interrupt Devil's sunbathing to drag him off into space. So hardly an essential chapter.
The other comic I remember very vividly from those days, and that I actually still have somewhere, is Judge Dredd #19. This one's also a reprint, but oddly enough, it's a US-format reprint of British stories. You've got the Dredd stories from 2000ad progs 241 to 244 (from the famous Block War arc) reprinted and edited together into a longer, more complete, story. The comic was also in full colour, and I don't think the original strips were. Steve Dillon and Brian Bolland Dredd art in full colour! How lucky I was! This one's dated May 1985, and is full of fun stuff. A renegade Soviet Judge poisons the rainwater so that everyone in Mega-City One goes mental, and Dredd discovers that the poisoning is just the preliminary move in the Apocalypse War. The issue ends on an image of nuclear missiles heading for Mega-City One, and it was a good decade or so before I found out what happened next. Cliffhangertastic.
Another oddity of the British comics industry is the British comics annual. Unlike its American cousin, which is usually merely a more expensive comic that contains dreadful stories produced by fill-in teams, the British annual is a hardback book, upwards of ninety to a hundred pages, that comes out at Christmas. These things are usually full of reprints and may have some original content, ranging from text pieces or special features, to brand new comic strips (the Transformers annuals were mostly new stuff). It was one of these annuals which forms my earliest comics memories, and is almost definitely the reason why I think Spider-Man is so cool and why it took me years to warm to Mary Jane. But unlike many Spider-fans, I'm not lamenting the loss of Gwen Stacy...
Amazing Spider-Man #226 was first published in the March of 1982, when I would be just two years old, but I remember it from a slightly later reprint in the 1984 Spider-Man Annual. I don't recall whether that means it was actually published in 1984 or in 1983, as those annuals were sometimes dated for the year ahead, and sometimes for the year leading up to it. Either way, it predates all of the above comics. It's a two-parter (continued in #227, also reprinted here) featuring an unlucky-in-love Spider-Man running into none other than the Black Cat and almost persuading her to go straight. But she just can't give up her thieving ways, and Spidey tries to bring her in, with (what looked like at the time) fatal results for her. The story is full of fun moments that any four year old will enjoy, including a great splash page full of those "phantom Spider-Men" all good Spidey artists use to show him bounding around, fights with random mooks in suits (what happened to all the mooks in suits? You never see them nowadays) and a scene at a costume party with Spidey going as a Jawa (and making a terrible pun about coffee). This little adventure was drawn by John Romita Jr, although he was aping his Dad here, and hadn't yet developed his signature style (that would come during his X-Men run). Even so, JRJR remains one of my favourite Spidey artists, and this remains a great-looking comic. I suspect I still have that annual somewhere, athough I recently found the story reprinted in an issue of the Spider-Man Megazine. It still holds up.
So there you have it. Amazing Spider-Man #226 from 1982 was (probably) my first comic, although I only got around to reading it in 1983 or 1984.
Crikey. That was knackering to put together. I'm off to bed.