Growing up with comic books

A look at a child of the 80's & a teenager of the 90's discovery of comic books
October 30, 2008
Since the media known as comic books first came into existence, there have been countless stories detailing how readers first began reading comics. Every era has different stories and circumstances surrounding how and why a certain person began reading. This is how I started collecting.

I was born in 1978 so my exposure to superheroes in general came from sources other than comic books for the first few years of my life.

I definitely remember watching Superfriends on T.V.

I'm sure at some point I saw the old Spiderman cartoon as well:

But other than the theme song, I don't remember much about it as I do with Superfriends.

As you can imagine, being so young when most of this media came out, my memory's a bit fuzzy.

The earliest comic I remember owning was the official comic adaption of Return of the Jedi.

I was big into Star Wars at the time so it's no surprise that my first comic was a Star Wars comic.

I continued to experience superheroes through other media such as the Christopher Reeve Superman movies as well as reruns of the 1960's Batman T.V. series.

I picked up obscure comics here and there like this little gem, Captain America meets the Asthma Monster, which was given to us at school. The corniness of it still makes me smile:

It wasn't until the late 80's that my exposure to comics changed when I was at my local Stop 'N' Shop and saw this comic on the stands:

Industry-wise, there was nothing groundbreaking or life-altering about Detective Comics #606 but for me it was the doorway into the world of comics.
First off, for someone who grew up watching Super Friends, the image of a ghostly Robin standing over his grave pointing an accusatory finger at an obviously distraught Batman on his knees, raised a lot of questions for me to say the least.

So I learn that Robin was dead. But wait, he's not Dick Grayson from the cartoon/Adam West Batman? Thanks to an in-comic advertisement that showed him now as Nightwing, I quickly learned what happened to him. But then I wanted to know who was this new Robin, Jason Todd. Furthermore, how did he became Robin and finally how did he die?

Now understand, I lived in a small town so there was no local comic shop. All I had was this local convenience store and being a kid I didn't know to ask about release dates and the clerks who worked there probably wouldn't have known anyway. Add that to the fact that I could only go to that store if my parents took me added more complications to my fledgling interest in comics.

This led me to missing the next two issues and when I returned, suddenly Detective Comics #609 was on the stands.

I guess time passes quickly without realizing it when you're a kid. All of sudden, the story had shifted from Clayface and the dead Jason Todd to a villain named Anarchy. Needless to say, I was a little confused.
(remember this was before the internet so I didn't really have any research options)

This simply could not do if I was going to seriously start following comics. I'm sure the classic subscriptions were offered at the back of the issues but good luck convincing my parents to go along with that (money was always a little tight growing up I found out later).

I did however convince my mom to take me to an actual comic book shop (in the only real city which was located 70 miles away) during one of her shopping trips. It was here that I got my first look at a real comic shop.

And it was beautiful.

I had no idea where to begin so I stuck with what I had tried to follow which was Batman. I forgot to mention that I think my interest in Batman was not only sparked by Detective Comics #606 but also the fact that Tim Burton's Batman had come out in theatres that summer.

I walked away with a few randomly selected Batman books from the back issue bins whose covers caught my eye:

The weird thing is there's a little lapse in my memory here because I know that my interest in comics remained, but I don't really have any issues of anything for the next couple of years after. The fact that the comic shop was so far away I'm sure had something to do with it as well. But my exposure to comics continued through other comics based media. It was around this time that I remember seeing in a magazine that Batman: The Animated Series was being produced:

This show was my main superhero outlet for the next couple of years until Fox first showed X-Men: The Animated Series.

Like having a hot new girl come to your school, I quickly shifted my attention from 'The Dark Knight' to these 'Uncanny Mutants'.

And I'll admit, the attraction to the X-men was that they were outcasts and growing up as nerdy I as I did, I certainly felt like an outcast in school. But I didn't care. I liked what I liked. And the X-men I definitely liked.

But now the same problems that had plagued me with Batman became apparent once again. Where should I start reading and how was I going to keep up with no local comic shop?

Fortunately, we discovered a comic shop in a neighboring town that was only 25 miles away as compared to the other which was 70. This made it much easier to catch up with the X-men and in essence it was perfect timing because Uncanny X-men #300 had just come out.

It was a good place to start but with so many years of history came many questions. I was going off of what the animated series was showing so for example, I had no idea who Bishop was (his episode hadn't aired yet) and didn't even know who Nightcrawler was either (made a cameo in the issue, wasn't part of current team at the time).

Publications like Wizard Magazine also allowed me to start catching up on all things comics:

With a comic shop more readily available to me and the fact I was old enough to start doing odd jobs to earn money, my comic collection soon grew as I backtracked. In doing so I discovered artists Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee.

I loved their work and started focusing on getting the X-men issues they had both worked on. I soon learned that Jim Lee had left Uncanny X-men to do a sister title simply titled X-men (I was behind with the news at the time).

I loved his art so much that my main goal was to catch up with whatever he'd worked on. This is when I learned that Jim Lee had broken off from Marvel and went on to help form Image Comics with some of his fellow artists:

This is where he started his company Wildstorm and released his creator-owned comic WildC.A.T.S: Cover Action Teams.

Now, even though I was following Jim Lee's work, I was still curious about other stuff happening in comics. While I was playing catch up, Superman died and I didn't find out about it until the issue started going for more money than I could dish out at the time (even though I had friends who did).

I did catch up with the "Reign of the Supermen" storyline though but lost interest (and/or possibly funds to buy) after Superman returned:

I did however, get my love for Batman rekindled when I saw him involved in the "Knightfall" storyline and heard buzz that something big was going to happen to him as it had with Superman. This one I followed for a while but dropped it sometime after Azrael took over as Batman.

There was so much new stuff coming out during this time, that I couldn't list all the comics I tried. Just to mention a few there was Marc Silvestri's Cyberforce, Todd McFarlane's Spawn, Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, and even though I hate to admit it, I also tried some of Rob Liefeld's stuff.

I even got into Valiant Comics for a while where I followed titles like X-O Manowar, Turok:Dinosaur Hunter, and Ninjak:

That is, until Acclaim acquired the rights to the company and changed everything (for the worse) so unfortunately, I dropped this very cool universe.

By this time, my collection had grown quite large so I was forced to cut back and sell basically my entire collection save my Wildstorm comics.

I have since continued to follow Wildstorm mainly but occasionally I venture back to DC, Marvel, Image and/or any other company that puts out anything interesting. And thanks to the magic of trades (and my local library keeping a great stock), I've been able to backtrack to a lot of stories from these comic companies as well as many others.

Now-a-days I try to buy from other companies because I like supporting up and coming creators. Some gems that have come out in recent years that I like are Invincible, The Walking Dead, Dynamo 5, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and The Sword just to name a few.

I'd be curious to hear how some of you who were/still are comic collectors got your start.
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