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, 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 ( 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.


  1. Hardcover annuals? US reprints? Different ads?'s're from another country, or something! :-)

    I may have asked this before, but where would be a good place to start with trying to amass Judge Dredd collections? Are there specific volumes/collections out there that you'd recommend?

    I'm afraid of just going out and buying the first one I see, because God knows if it's a US reprint collection then I might get a haphazard collection of tales instead of a particular arc/run.

  2. Oh, and what in holy hell was Spider-Man and Zoids?

  3. A common trend in British comics was to merge titles in order to boost flagging sales, or sometimes because of related concepts. So, for example, Starlord got merged into 2000ad and Action Force got merged into Transformers. The main comic would hopefully pick up the readers of the secondary title as they migrated.

    I don't recall the exact circumstances surrounding Spider-Man and Zoids, but there had been a Spidey weekly comic knocking around for years. My guess is that Spidey sales were flagging a bit and that even though Marvel UK had huge success with Transformers, they were wary of launching another toy licence on its own. So they co-headlined them.

    So what you'd get is about six or seven pages of a Spidey reprint (from the black costume/Puma/Hobgoblin era), another six or seven pages of Zoids stuff (written by Grant Morrison!), and then a handful of reprint pages from whatever random series the editors deciided on. Strike Force Morituri got in there, Avengers was in there, Secret Wars and so on.

    Looking back, it was a bizarre title.

  4. Darn. I was hoping for some sense-shattering team-up between Spider-Man and giant robots that look like animals.

    Couldn't be any worse than Secret Wars 2.

  5. Still got a soft spot for Blue Devil.
    Some publisher (don't recall who) had a license or something to reprint DC stuff during the early 80's - 'The Superheroes' was a B&W mag with covers by people like John Higgins (IIRC he did one where Superman was the spitting image of James Coburn, of all people) and Bob Wakelin.

  6. I have that annual and it definitely came out late 1984. Loved all those Black Cat stories, I still think Pete was mad to ditch her for MJ. My first was probably Super Spider-man TV Comic #492, which featured the return of one of Spidey's earliest and naffest villains, Robot Master.

    As for Spider-man & Zoids, Spider-man Weekly died a death when it was turned into pre-school Spidey Comic, complete with Fraggle Rock. Zoids debuted in the back of Secret Wars, and was then spun off into its own title, using Spidey as a safety net. Cancelled after just one year, the promised Zoids monthly never materialised. Although he didn't write that many issues, the Black Zoid saga is still one of the best things Grant Morrison has done.

  7. Agree with that. The Black Zoid stuff was top-notch. Really grim stuff for a kids' comic, but then I suppose no one was reading it at that point.

    You can get the whole lot online somewhere, on a Zoids fansite. I'll try to find the url for it.

    And yeah, I like MJ and all, but Felicia will always be Pete's One True Love for me. Gwen's got nothing on her. :)

  8. Thanks for linking to this on my recent post about comics! I can't believe you've been blogging for this long - I probably never would've seen this post just because you have so much content here. Cheers!