So today is officially National Comic Book Day. I’ve probably voiced it a thousand times what got me into comics. It was two titles specifically, that my best friend had given to me, way back in the day – it was Uncanny X-Men #121 and Avengers #159.
Both of these books left such an impression on my 9 year old mind; and both of them for the same exact reason. Both books had characters that looked very different, very dynamic, very colorful. And their villains (admittedly, Alpha Flight wasn’t really a team of villains, but at the time, I certainly thought they were!) were equally powerful. Uncanny X-Men #121 gave us – as I just said – Alpha Flight, a team that seemed to be forged for the specific purpose of being able to counter and fight the X-Men, while Avengers gave us Graviton; a villain who was single-handedly fighting powerful characters like Thor (who, I was not familiar with yet – in Marvel but knew of the character from my days of play Dungeons & Dragons, which initially got me into Norse mythology).
Immediately, I had fallen in love with the X-Men, Alpha Flight, Avengers, and Graviton – all of these characters inspired my need to know more about these characters, and that began my need to collect comics.
It was no long after this, my sister, knowing I was into comic books had come across a copy of a beat up Avengers #66 – and this was even more amazing! And yet another powerful villain – Ultron 6 – made out of the indestructible adamantium! The writing in Avengers #66 was a little more light hearted, but considering the era it was written in – it wasn’t surprising, and to my young brain at the time, it didn’t even matter. What mattered was that I had another book with these Avengers characters in it.
One thing that was shocking to me, was when my father took me to a store called The Book Rack. This store, not only had a ton of used books; but it had shelves of comics; and also (for it’s time), a nice assortment of back issues. I was too young to have a job, and so most of the Uncanny X-Men and Avengers back issues were outside of my price range. But there was a comic that was bigger than the rest – and it was in black and white, and it was called ElfQuest. This appealed to my aforementioned love of Dungeons & Dragons. On a whim, I decided to pick up the first two issues that were out… and was hooked. The art and details of ElfQuest were beyond anything I had seen in my super hero comics. I discovered then, painfully, so that ElfQuest only came out every few months back then, unlike normal comics. But in a way, it worked out – since getting to the Book Rack was a small drive, and my father would only go when he finished a book. So I’d occasionally go with him so I could pick up the next issue of ElfQuest.
While at the Book Rack, when I had money (saved from not spending my lunch money at school, and doing small chores around the house), I’d also pick up the occasional cheaper back issue, or new issues of comics. Thor was quickly becoming a favorite of mine in the Avengers, and while I was picking up random comics I could find at the supermarket, my sister had found a local 7-11 that was carrying comics and had picked up Thor #325 and Thor #326 for me, from there, knowing how much I was enjoying Thor. Imagine my surprise to discover Thor had his own solo series?!
By this time, a local store (similar to Circle K or 7-11) called The Purple Cow here in San Diego, was carrying shelves of comics on their magazine stand. This provided me the chance in 1982 (or so) to start collecting Uncanny X-Men, Avengers, Hulk, ROM, Micronauts, Defenders, GI Joe, Conan the Barbarian, among other Marvel titles. I had picked up the occasional DC title, such as Aquaman, but over all, DC just wasn’t doing it for me back then.
Certain new titles, that eventually launched, really captured my attention, such as The New Warriors and The New Mutants. It was nice to be a part of a book, from the very first issue and going forward.
The New Mutants, while not exactly “dynamically different” in appearance, they did deliver (and I believe this was their intent), in providing a very dynamic team, in regards to where the characters were from, using the same formula that had succeeded in regards to when the X-Men had been relaunched (with Wolverine=Canada, Storm=Africa, Colossus=Russia, Nightcrawler=Germany, Banshee=Ireland, Sunfire=Japan, Thunderbird=Native American/US); with New Mutants, you had Cannonball (Southern Boy), Sunspot (Brazil), Wolfsbane (Scottland), Mirage (Native American) and Karma (Vietnam). That kind of dynamic really helped make the book feel more real.
The New Warriors, on the other hand, were composed of a team of existing characters (except Night Thrasher), who all had their own series (Nova), or appeared elsewhere (Speedball in an annual of Spider-Man, Marvel Boy had a few appearances in Avengers, Namorita in the pages of Namor, and Firestar from the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon; as well as her brief appearance as a Hellion in Uncanny X-Men). What appealed to be about the New Warriors is how they all seemed to be misfits banded together; for a single purpose and they were not your typical heroes. They made mistakes; personal mistakes that created so much character development in these characters that had so little actual history in the comic book universe.
By this time, I was all in – I was collecting pretty much anything Marvel Comics produced. When Image Comics came along, I was head over heels for Image Comics as well, with Cyberforce and WildCATS probably being my top books from Image.
I eventually got in DC Comics more; and then they did the “52” event, and changed everything, so I dropped out of DC Comics, other than Aquaman. Then DC did The New 52 and I was all in; I was collecting every DC book they published, while my Marvel comics took a deep slide, as I lost interest in the direction they were going with comics. When DC did Rebirth I was still pretty strong into DC, but eventually my comics there declined as well.
I now have a collection of, well over several thousand comic books. I’ve enjoyed my run of comics, but lately, most of which I see/read doesn’t appeal to me as much anymore. Maybe I am getting older. Maybe comics are changing. But I hope that comics continue to appeal to the masses, even if the new comics no longer appeal to me. I hope someone else has the same experience I had, and finds a love of comics the way I did.