I’ve been thinking about posting this topic for a while now. I started actively collecting comic books in 1973 when I acquired two consecutive issues of Incredible Hulk while on a family vacation. But my mom had been buying the occasional comic book for me since I was (near as I can figure) about three years old, humor mostly.¹ I do remember having several Harvey comics when I was very young: Casper, Spooky, Wendy, Little Dot, Little Lotta, Richie Rich. I had a Disney comic or two.² I know I had at least one Pink Panther comic book in the early ‘70s.

But I don’t number any of these among my “first” comics, however. What I’m interested in are the first comics I still have in my collection and would still be willing to read, and indeed, from time to time, still do. Although I later filled many gaps and, by 1973 began buying and trading for backissues, I still remember the comic books I owned first. I know I got them all when they were new on the stands, so, to that end, tomorrow I will begin chronicalling the first 15 (or so) comics that set me on my path for life.

¹I never owned an Archie comic, although I read them at the dentist’s office.

²I recently confirmed that a story I remember quite well about the old “string tied to a wallet” prank was a reprint of a Carl Barks story when it turned up in an edition of The Carl Barks Library.

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#15. MARVEL TEAM-UP #4 – SEP 72

This is my only fourth Marvel comic book, bought three years after my third. It is my second featuring Spider-Man, also bought three years after the first. More importantly, it is my very first exposure to the X-Men. Although I gleaned from the Angel cover emblem and a few panels in the story that these characters usually wore uniforms, in this story they wore civvies, which made them cooler and even more mysterious in my eyes.

This story features Morbius and is obviously continued from the previous issue. Some people have opined that continued stories turn new readers off, but they only made me whant to seek out those earlier stories to find out the details. As with my first Iron Man and my first Captain America, this one provided a strong ending, even if I had missed the beginning.

That’s 15. I have one more to post tomorrow, then I’m going to change the direction of this discussion on Friday.

Small world because one of my earliest, if not the earliest, X-Men was #83 (Au'73) which reprinted #35 (Au'67) where the Merry Mutants took on Spider-Man and were totally outclassed in their own book!

Jeff, that's awesome that the X-Men were mysterious and cool in that MTU. I remember that issue well, too, because it worried me about the team's future. In those days, of course, there was no internet, so there was no way to get "inside" info. I learned X-Men had been canceled (and then went reprint) when the first issue of the reprint title came out. That was a blow, because I was rooting for the X-Men -- they were real underdogs in those days. (I had the same impression as you, Philip -- they were outclassed and outgunned by Spider-Man in their own book! It really showed how weak the team was.) 

So I was always on the lookout for more information on them -- or rather, on the lookout for whatever tea leaves I could find to read. When Beast got his own series, it was mysterious -- why him? Cyclops was more powerful and had had more characterization, and he would be accompanied by Marvel Girl. But it was also grim foreboding, in that it was breaking up the team. And then for the X-Men to appear in MTU in civvies minus Beast, Havok and Polaris -- the latter two with no explanation -- it just seemed that the writing was on the wall. 

Funny how different perspectives lead to different outcomes! (I still enjoyed the issue.) 

The Beast was picked because his name lent itself to becoming one of Marvel's Monsters albeit a super-heroic version like Ghost Rider.

Roy Thomas said that the X-Men could work in civvies as you could tell who is who without costumes.

Funny thing is that one got the impression that Marvel wanted the Angel to be their breakout star!

That's a good point you make about Beast, Philip. 

As to Angel, he had a three-part solo story around that time in Ka-Zar #2-3 and Marvel Tales #30. Those books were otherwise reprint titles, so it was easy to miss, but I didn't. (Pats self on back.) I believe he had a new costume in that one, but the George Tuska art was kinda bleah. And Angel's origin story in the back pages of The X-Men in the '60s was one of the longer ones, and gave him yet another costume. So you're probably right that they were positioning him for a solo series. Maybe because there was an "Angel" series in the Golden Age? (Albeit an entirely different character.)

I think we've discussed on this board before that the FF's Human Torch was expected to be a breakout star in the Silver Age, and was given numerous guest-star appearances and his own series in Strange Tales. And then, lo, Ben Grimm became the breakout star instead. They finally recognized that in the mid-1960s and added him to the Torch strip in Strange Tales. I saw that as throwing in the towel on Human Torch as a star at the time.

I recall reading that Marvel publisher Martin Goodman's favorite character was the Golden Age Angel. Whether or not, that affection transferred over to the Silver Age version is debatable. I did wonder once about why Journey Into Mystery didn't become a "split-book" as well, not counting the "Tales of Asgard" feature. And the only candidate that made sense was the Angel! More so if you believe that Ant-Man was a result of the Atom thus with Hawkman getting his title, it may have been considered.

About a year after the last new X-Men, Iceman guest starred in Amazing Spider-Man #92.  I have some dim memory that at the time it was hinted at as a try-out for his own series (I could be misremembering that, it may have just been a hope on my part).  It may have been on the letters page or in the Bullpen Bulletins.

From 1968 to 1973, Amazing Spider-Man had a lot of guest stars which must have had good sales for it to occur so often and presumably led to Marvel Team-Up. Not even counting those characters created in AS-M like the Prowler, Morbius, Man-Wolf and, of course, the Punisher, you had:

  • Ka-Zar--#57 (F'68)
  • Medusa--#62 (Jl'68)
  • Quicksilver--#71 (Ap'69)
  • Human Torch--#77 (O'69)
  • Black Widow--#86 (Jl'70)
  • Iceman--#92 (Ja'71)
  • Ka-Zar again--#103-104 (D'71-Ja'72)

Marvel Team-Up debuts in March 1972 but we still have:

  • Doctor Strange--#109 (Ju'72)
  • the Hulk--#119-120 (Ap-My'73)
  • Luke Cage --#123 (Au'73)

But then there are no guest shots in AS-M  until #161 (O'76) with Nightcrawler!

#16. FANTASTIC FOUR #126 – SEP 72

My fifth Marvel comic overall is my first Fantastic Four. I’m glad it was this one. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the cover is an homage to the very first cover of the Fantastic Four. Not only that, but it’s the very first homage (of many more to come) to that of FF #1. This issue Roy Thomas’s first issue as the series’ new writer. As such, it is a good jumping on point with lots of backstory. It also features the team’s very first villain, the Mole Man. It is also another early example of an “Earth-J” story as it ends on a cliffhanger.

My next “Fantastic Four” comic would be Marvel’s Greatest Comics #45 (reprinting issue #62) a year later, but my next issue of the regular series wouldn’t be until #149.

I have the Power Record version of this!

I do, too (but not the record).

They can be listened to online, though.

I have Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Man-Thing, and I used to have all five Planet of the Apes ones. I never knew what happened to those. I think my mom got rid of them.

The only other Marvel one I have is Captain America & The Falcon which featured the Phoenix (Not Jean Grey but the future Baron Zemo II).

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