We’re all comics fans here, and some of us have been circling around this community for a very long time. I don’t know that we’ve ever discussed how we got into this particular hobby, however. So how and why did you come to love comics?
I’ll start. I started reading fairly early—at 3 I was able to read and understand the children’s books that were available. As I had an older brother and sister, comics were always around the house—Archie, old horror anthologies, I recall reading an issue of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD when I was about 4. Comics were a simple step up from children’s picture books and easy to understand and follow, and occasionally challenging.
Then WFLD in Chicago started showing re-runs of the Batman! TV show (I think I was 6 or 7 at the time). I was instantly hooked (I didn’t realize it was a parody at the time, and just enjoyed it as a straightforward adventure show), and started requesting Batman comics from my parents—although I was also reading pretty much anything else I could get my hands on, whether Marvel, DC, Charlton, etc. DC was putting out the 100 Page Super-Spectaculars at the time, and those were always a great value that I could talk my mom into purchasing.
After we moved back to Chicago (we were in Southwestern Michigan before) I found out that a neighborhood store had those 3 for .30 bagged comics available, and I bought a bunch of those. I couldn’t really follow storylines much, but I still enjoyed reading them, and it was always interesting to see what the middle comic would be. I known I ended up with a handful of Classics Illustrated's, war comics, etc. However, as there was no regular source to get new comics, I didn’t read as much as I could.
Fast forward to college, and the Hall Director of my dorm turned out to be both a music and comics geek. He turned me on to a lot of great music, but even more importantly, he had massive collections of comics—complete collections—that he was willing to let me borrow and read, and I took a lot of advantage of that. He turned me on to Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, the Hercules Mini-Series, X-Men, just all sorts of stuff. As there was a store in town, I began collecting myself, until I graduated.
Following graduation, despite living in Chicago, I didn’t have work, nor did I have easy access to a comics store. There was one I could get to in Oak Lawn, but it required taking a train and two buses to get to—not fun. I was able to let things go and thus missed most of the 90’s, which all things being equal isn’t a bad thing.
In the late 90’s, I had a steady job and steady income, not to mention there was a quality comics shop about two blocks from my office, and I started reading comics again—more importantly, this was a period of time where more and more trade paperbacks were being printed, and I bought a ton of those. This allowed me to catch up on stuff I’d missed—or at least, catch up on the stuff that was worth catching up to—not to mention that the existence of Marvel’s Essentials allowed me to plumb their past for not a lot of financial investment. This is also the period where I started looking for resources for comics on the internet, and the rest is history.
So that's my story. Let's hear yours.
I have a similar story. My older brother bought comics for a couple of years, and I learned to read from them (I remember mainly Fantastic Four, for some reason). When we started reading in school, I was already reading at higher than a sixth-grade level.
When my brother stopped buying, I began. I mowed lawns and washed cars for the money, until I was old enough to get a job (15). That was possible before 1968 when $1.50 or so bought Marvel's entire monthly output. I would make $3-5 mowing a lawn, so one job and I'd be set for the month.
And I bought my brother's collection for $200! which was a fortune at the time for me. And most were in pretty bad shape, though, and I've replaced almost all of them over the years.
I bought all Marvel and a few DCs/other until 1970, when I branched out to buying pretty much everything. And over the years I backfilled to the point where I'm pretty much complete from early 1963 onward, with a smattering of earlier books.
I stopped buying print comics in 2010, as DC and a handful of other publishers were sending me DRCs (digital review copies) and I decided that as much as I loved the print product more it was an unaffordable redundancy to buy the comics as well. That means I no longer read Marvel, because I don't buy them and they won't send me review copies. I find I don't miss the monthly grind of reading books which are no longer aimed at me, and if I miss an important event I buy the trade/HC and catch up.
And, in fact, I buy only collections now. I'm snapping up anything I haven't read (that would be pre-1963 for the most part), and I'm gradually picking up Silver Age collections and later books of stories I enjoyed for the inevitable day when I sell the comics collection. I've blown out all my bookshelves, and am reduced to just stacking books on the floor of the Comics Cave! But eventually, when I sell the comics, I will have more room and a collection of just the comics I want, collected into (for the most part) durable hardbacks. Just like what I dreamed about when I was 12!
My comics collection stands at about 300 longboxes, and now won't get any larger. Whew!
Great story Cap.
Looking at the Dell Four-Color covers on GCD, I recognize some of the 1956 ones as ones I owned and read. I was eight years old in 1956. Prior to that I think I was exposed to comics in Little Golden Book form and in the newspapers. In, I think, 1958 I began reading the Superman family of comics followed by Batman and others. In 1960 I bought the first Brave & Bold appearance of the Justice League, attracted by the familiar images of Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter. I had seen Wonder Woman on the spinner racks, but who were these characters wearing red (Flash) and green (Green Lantern)? I was soon following their books also. I began picking up DC's science fiction anthology books and Atlas' monster books. I really loved Amazing Adult Fantasy and The Fantastic Four (starting with FF #5). Until I became an adult and began working full time, money was always tight, so the 10 to 12 cent price tags in those days made it possible to buy a number of comics a month.
My Dad worked six days a week for not much money. I shared the first three Doctor Doom appearances (FF 5, 6 and 10) with him and he said they were good (a man of few words). He really enjoyed Road Runner cartoons, laughing out loud. In early 1963 I was almost 15 and, for some reason, stopped buying comics like many other teenagers. When my Dad died suddenly in September 1963 I remembered his enjoying the three FF comics and within a month I was buying a lot of comics. I stopped buying in 1979 because they were piling up unread due to time constraints. After my marriage in 1989 we went to the San Diego Con (I had attended it from 1972 to the early 80s). I continued to buy Comic Buyer's Guide from its early issues until the end. At the Con I bought my first comic since 1979, the first issue of Legends of the Dark Knight. I then began buying again in earnest. As it turned out Ken Krueger's store was in Azusa, where we lived at the time. After he sold the store we became friends with the new owners and remain their friends to this day. I cut way back on my buying of monthly comics. Today I buy only four monthly comics, relying mainly on selected trades.
My neighbors had to take in their niece and nephews on summer while their dad was battling leukemia, a battle that he eventually lost.
One of their nephews, however, was a huge comic book fan. He showed me his giant drawer full of comics, and introduced me to his collection of Who's Who and OHATMU issues also. I was a sixth grader, and I was in shock by how I could tell him a character's super-hero (or super-villain) name, and he could tell me their actual name. I would ride my bike with him while he would pick up his weekly comic books from a drug store, which was about five miles away. Thinking back, I can't believe my mom or his aunt let us bike that far, but it was a different time for sure.
It was about two years later before I started seeing characters I had noticed in Who's Who--Blue Beetle, Mister Miracle*, The New Titans, Booster Gold (it was the late 80's) as well as the ones I knew, like Batman and Superman. I remember seeing some unfamiliar names and titles that drew me in, like Starman and Hero Hotline.
Ever since, I have been hooked. I am very much more a follower of talent (both artists and writers) than characters, and my tastes have changed, but I have never really ever slipped. I've been an unapologetic comic book reader ever since.
*This was a double-whammy, because I had just read the one comic book I had bought in the years in between, Who's Who Update 1987 or 1988 (?) which had an entry about a group that fascinated me--The Forever People. These characters were featured in a story in which Big Barda had a baby. It had art by Ian Gibson, which I thought was incredible, and unlike anything I associated with comic books.
Christmas 1972: my mother put a comic book in each of our stockings (myself and my three brothers). I got Justice League of America #103. It was a gesture that my mother has regretted numerous times! After that any nickel or dime I could get went to getting a comic book. Soon several of my aunts and uncles would get me comics of varying ages and characters until I was old enough to start looking through yard sales myself!
I must have been at least 4 or 5 (1971 or 72) when my folks presented me with a 'Giant-Sized' reprint book of Detective Comics #27 & Batman #1 (at least those were the stories I remember in it). I remember sitting on my grandfather's bed with him reading it while he ate dinner (he was bedridden, dying from cancer).
My town at that time didn't have a comic shop or have them at the newsstand. It was almost a decade later, after we moved to another town that I discovered other comic existed.
I'm not sure how I read my first comics--probably from my older brother when I was a pre-teen. I remember buying them myself at a used book store, and later in those bagged three-packs with the mystery comic in the middle. I also had a friend whose older brother had some EC comics. Then I lost interest until late high school and college when I bought some Zap comics, and later a friend had The Cartoon History of the Universe. That's when I discovered that comic book shops existed.
I didn't think about comics again until my son Stephen got interested in sports cards. At the time there were several shops in Charlotte, NC that carried both. I started buying bargain bin copies of Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Spider-Man (all characters I had liked as a kid). Before long I discovered trade paperback collections, then Vertigo. And that's how I became Mr. Vertigo!
The short version is my mom used to buy a small stack of comics books (her choice at first) to keep me entertained in the car on our annual family vacations. In later years I made the choice myself. Then, one year, I bought two consecutive issues of the Hulk (#167-168, the second of which I picked up on the way) and my path was set.
I know there were some Harvey, Gold Key and Charlton titles early on, but the ones I consider to be my “first” comics are Spider-Man #73, Captain America #119 and Iron Man #16 (in that order).
I’ll also include Flash Gordon #5, The Phantom #22 and Mandrake the Magician #5, all published by King.
DC titles were Aquaman #42, Detective Comics #381 (and #388) and Superman #213.
Those are my top three issues from my “Big Three” publishers.
When I was real little, I read comics my parents brought back from their trips to Canada, Tintin and Asterix, and British comics like Lion, Tiger, Eagle and Valiant. From time to time, I would also be given some of those giant-sized reprints of Golden Age comics that DC used to put out in the 70's. One of my grade school buddies was big into DC, and that got me interested in current-day American comics.
I would take the odds and ends of cash I would acquire down to Cleary Square, where there was a newsagent's and a store simply called "CIGARS", both of which sold comics. When I got to college, there was a bookstore which sold comics (and also the most comprehensive variety of porn that I have ever seen - not that I ever looked at stuff like that). I think I was in my 20's and working before I saw my first comic book store.
There were two brothers in the neighborhood where I grew up who always had stacks of coverless comic books around their house courtesy of their father who owned a small grocery store. The younger brother was my best buddy and the older brother was, in my eyes, the coolest kid on the block. It was through the older brother that I had my initial introduction to the wonderful world of comic books. Although I had access to their never ending supply of comics, I felt the need to have my own. During a trip to the grocery store my Mom agreed to buy me a copy of Superboy #101 featuring the “Handsome Hound of Steel”. And so, at seven years of age, began my personal Golden Age which lasted until 1968.
I continued to buy an occasional comic book in the late Sixties / early Seventies but comic book fever had left me. By 1974 I had completely stopped buying and reading comics. It would be summer 1977 before I bought another comic book. I don’t remember which titles but the purchases were made from a newly opened comic book specialty shop. Thus began my personal Silver Age of comic reading.
All these pre-Internet stories are making me nostalgic for a time I didn't know was going to go away when I was in it. At the time old comics were hard to get, new comics were distributed erratically, there was a LOT of spare time that we filled doing dangerous things and air-conditioning was rare. I don't remember sweating all the time, but I guess I must have.