Homeroom? A new concept. In the band room? Something I never had before. The obscene gesture I saw a classmate give to a girl in those first few minutes of that very first day? A sure signal that sixth grade was a transition in many ways. Not only was it now Middle School, it also marked my transition into public school, having a new house, in a new county, and ultimately entering into as new of a world as you could get.
And yet this new world held remarkably old cliches. Science class, for example. The teacher was an aging old man whose ineffective teaching made it easy to not pay attention, whose face made it easy to chariacture when doodling in class, and whose textbooks were large enough to hide comics inside when you were supposed to be reading about stamens and pistols.
It was my classmates who noticed my interest and ability in drawing and gave me those comics to look at. Or rather, they weren’t really comics as much as mini-encyclopedias of the comics characters. I’m talking of course about the Official Handbook of the Marvel Unvierse Deluxe Edition #3, the first comic I really remember reading. No, not just reading, but really … devouring. The part that struck me the most was the character Cyclops:
“Scott Summers was the older of the two sons of Major Christopher Summers, a test pilot in the U. S. Air Force. When Scott was a child, Major Summers flew himself, his wife Katherine, and his sons Scott and Alex back from a vacation in his vintage private plane. The plane was attacked and set ablaze by a scout ship from the alien Shi'ar Empire. Katherine pushed Scott and Alex out the plane door with the only available parachute. The parachute was unable to slow their fall sufficiently to prevent Scott from suffering a head injury on landing.”
A bit dry, sure, but even those simple words conjured amazing images to my head for this tragic character— your own father pushing you out of an airplane? Having to protect your little brother with a limited parachute? Being separated from your only family immediately after suffering brain damage? All these Marvel characters suffered some great tragedy but met it all with courage and dignity to become larger-than-life SUPERheroes… this was a mythology to capture my imagination!
This was early in the year 1986. Middle school was already turning from a strange new world into something familiar and (while often still very crummy) ws becoming at least surviveable. I continued to borrow my friends’ comics, mostly old Captain Americas, Transformers, and Secret Wars. Thankfully, there were even a bunch of old well-worn comics in the library. That’s how I got to read a scattering of Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Mans, Incredible Hulks, and others.
Also during this time, another friend of mine was getting into comics, too, and he encouraged me to buy the same titles he was getting. I don’t recall exactly if he used the word “invest” or not, but I have to admit, that was his intention, and he took it seriously. He was a miniature entrepeneur, as his attitude towards most comics pre-dated the “speculation boom” that caused the comics industry to experience a economic bubble-and-bust of its own years later. But in the meantime, though, we picked up several things that are considered time-honored classics: Batman: The Dark Knight (Frank Miller), Superman: Man of Steel (John Byrne), and Superman #423 (Alan Moore).
But aside from a few odd issues here and there, it was September 1986 when I started collecting series in earnest. And nothing seemed so exciting to me as the Marvel comics universe. This all becomes obvious when you look at the first issues that start very significant runs in my collection—they are all Marvel and they all are pubished September 1986. (Or actually July, as comics during this time were post-dated on the cover to indicate when they should be pulled from the shelf and returned to the publisher. But for sake of simplicity, I’ll just be saying September from here on out.
Now that I look back on it, I must have borrowed far more comics than I ever purchased. I can recall many, many specific covers that are both immediately familiar but also know that they were never in my collection. There are even more that were picked up and sampled but never became a habit. As the years went on, however, I picked up more and more titles on an on-going basis, starting sometimes well into the series’ run--
1987 April = Alpha Flight #45
X-Men vs the Avengers #1
Mephisto vs. #1
1987 February Marvel Age 47
1987 February Avengers #276
Fantastic Four vs the X-Men #1
1987 January X-Men #213
1987 March X-Factor #14
1987 April Fallen Angels #1
1987 July Silver Surfer #1
In my other blog, Marvel Flipside, I will be going onto reviewing Septembers in 5-year snapshots starting with 1990. Not sure if that will translate over into this blog, but it takes some time to get all this done, and that might mean not posting here for a couple of days... we'll see!