Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My First Comic Books

In the most recent Ask Me Anything, Sean Cloran asked me "Do you remember the first comic book you ever read?"

I honestly don't.  I think I still have almost every comic book I've ever owned, though there hasn't been any real sense of organization since the late 1980s, before I began writing comic books professionally. 

Most likely the first comic book I ever read was a Disney title, or Turok, Son of Stone which was my favorite comic book series as a kid. I'm leaning towards a Disney title since I found this issue amongst my comic books:

This issue of Uncle Scrooge contains copyright dates of 1960 and 1964, which sets it before I was born and it was not something I bought as a back issue, or picked up at a garage sale, which means it probably fell into my hands via some relation or neighbor. 

I was definitely much more of a Dell/Gold Key and Whitman fan than Marvel or DC, and it was actually my interest in monsters and dinosaurs that led me to superheroes. My own comic book buying habit didn't begin in earnest until most likely 1973-1974, when I was about 7 years old since I have a number of comics from that time that I not only remember buying off the rotating rack at a local book store (long gone) but even remember what drew me to them.

I was still reading a bunch of Disney comics like Huey, Dewey and Louie Junior Woodchucks, Uncle Scrooge, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories and stuff like these: 

I was, and still am a big fan of the Disney comics, but these started to fall by the wayside during this period as other comics caught my eye. I continued buying Turok, Son of Stone, the Mighty Samson, and some other Gold Key titles regularly, though at this time it was highly unlikely that you'd be able to find two successive issues of any title, and many titles seemed to only exist in ads within the comics you could find. I started to be drawn to some titles published by Marvel, all of which featured a monster of some sort on the cover. 

At that point if it had anything resembling a horror element on the cover, I was interested, and wound up with pretty complete runs of most of the Marvel horror titles of the period. I'm still pretty fond of all the issues shown above, especially that Worlds Unknown. The "Black Destroyer" story by A.E. Van Vogt in any form remains one of my all time favorites. I'd love to make a movie adaptation some day. 

Even though I was watching the 60s Spider-Man animated series on television (as well as the barely animated shows featuring other Marvel characters) and Batman starring Adam West was my favorite tv series, the comic books that featured them failed to capture my interest until I saw these:

The Marvel Team-Up issue had such a frightening, lurid cover, and Moondog with his skull helmet and knife drew me in and also featured Brother Voodoo who I was already familiar with and Spider-Man who I knew from tv. I remember my parents trying to steer me away from this one onto something that looked gentler, but obviously I won out. 

The Batman issue I picked up because of the spooky, menacing figure of the Shadow. I'd never heard of the Shadow before but he fit my image of what a phantom was supposed to look like, and he was called the Shadow, so he had to be something I'd like, and he was. This comic led me to discovering episodes of the radio show on record and cassette at the library and reprints of the pulp magazine later. It also cemented my love of Batman leading me to pick up the next issue which was really three issues later, but it was the first new one I saw. 

This 100 page issue was like War and Peace to me at that age. It just seemed so thick and so full of content. I haven't seen it in decades, though I keep looking for it. It has origin stories for the giant penny and the robot dinosaur in the Batcave. I still remember the penny story vividly. My favorite bits were these short page or two long stories in the back. One was the various costumes of Catwoman including one with a realistic cat mask which I found to be pretty spooky and stared at quite a bit. The other was a "What if?" bit on what Bruce Wayne would have chosen for his superhero persona if it had been things other than a bat which inspired him to dress up outlandishly and fight crime. There was a suit of knight's armor as well as a scorpion and an owl, two costumes which I found to be far scarier than his Batman outfit. 

Finally from this period, I would discover the comic book series that would rank up there with Turok, Son of Stone as my very favorite, and a series that I bought as regularly as I could find it, and that was:

At the time Planet of the Apes was a phenomenon on a scale that would only be surpassed by the way Star Wars captured the popular imagination. As a kid, it never occurred to me that Kamandi was essentially a thinly disguised ripoff of the movie franchise. All I know is that cover screamed out to me to buy it like no comic book had ever before. I was completely sucked into this world of evolved talking animals who ruled over humans and between Kamandi and Mighty Samson, I discovered a love for post apocalyptic scenarios. 

If there is one comic book property that I could revive, Kamandi would be it. Feel free to barrage DC with letters requesting just that on my behalf. 

I don't think there are any shocking revelations to be found here. Looking at what my interests now and the kind of comic book stories I've been writing, it seems like a pretty straightforward progression.


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