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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I never seen Superman #213 on any Legion list. Now I have to get it!

NOTE: Brainic 5 is the only one who actually appears; Mordru appears in flashback only; the others are just mentioned. (Had the White Witch even been introduced at this point?)

Yes in Adventure Comics #350-351 (N-D'66). She then popped up at the end of Adventure #370 (Jl'68) then disappeared for fifteen years or so!

Jeff of Earth-J said:

NOTE: Brainic 5 is the only one who actually appears; Mordru appears in flashback only; the others are just mentioned. (Had the White Witch even been introduced at this point?)

The GCD currently lists Abel as having inked Swan on stories in the following issues. I've listed the issues by feature and the features alphabetically.

The "Superman" story from The Superman Family and the horror story from The Witching Hour are from the 1970s. The other stories are from the later 1960s.

The GCD credits the Swan/Abel team with the covers of Adventure Comics #370, Superman #211, #224, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #114, and World's Finest Comics #191.

"Jimmy Olsen"

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #121

-the issue had a Costanza story of 16 pages and a Swan/Abel story of 9 (the cover-story)

"Legion of Super-Heroes"

Adventure Comics #369-#372

Action Comics #384

-the Adventure instalments are the Mordu two-parter and the two-parter where Colossal Boy is blackmailed into passing information to a criminal gang

-the cover-story of Adventure #371 was a "Superboy" reprint that took up just over half the issue

-Action was often fairly evenly split between its lead and back-up features in the 1960s; #384 was split 13/11


Superboy #148

-4 pages of issue's lead story only; lead story continued from #146


Action Comics #368-#372, #374-#379

-some of these are serial stories:

#368-#369 two-parter about aliens called Sentinels

#371-#372, #374-#375 multi-parter in which Superman gets amnesia and can't remember his other identity (the skipped issue was a reprint giant)

#376-#377 Anti-Superman Gang two-parter

-Supergirl back-ups to #376; LSH reprint #377; LSH back-ups in remaining issues

Superman #208-#209, #211, #213-#215, #218-#219

-none of these are serial stories

-most issues from this period had reprint back-ups

-#211 was all-new, but the Swan/Abel story (the cover-story) was only 7 pages

The Superman Family #187

-this 8 page story (the cover-story) was the conclusion of a two-parter that started in #186; the story teams Superman with the Superman of Earth-Two


World's Finest Comics #178, #184

-#178 first part of a two-part imaginary story in which Superman loses his powers; the concluding part, in #180, was drawn by Andru/Esposito

-#184 imaginary story in which Robin spends years hunting for the murderer of Batman

-reprint back-ups both issues


The Unexpected #115

-4 page story

The Witching Hour #80

-6 page story

Wow, thanks, Luke!

And thanks, Philip, for the info on the White Witch.

I checked the GCD, and this cover is, in fact, credited to Neal Adams. But aside from the inking -- especially the feathering on Superman's muscles -- it looks more like Carmine Infantino to me. The too-small head, the awkward pose and especially the hands all look like Infantino to me. I have to wonder if Adams was working from an Infantino layout or sketch.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

#6. SUPERMAN #213 – JAN 69

If there are two themes running through these posts they are 1) “Look at that great cover!” and 2) “Why haven’t these stories been collected?” The cover above is by the great Neal Adams, although I wouldn’t come to realize that for many years. Brief digression here: I happen to think Jack Abel is Herb Trimpe’s best inker ever, and as I was reading Abel’s biographical material in the latest edition of Marvel Masterworks Hulk, I noticed it said he had a long run inking Curt Swan’s Superman in the ‘60s. News to me! Superman #213 is uncredited, and it didn’t occur to me until last night for the first time, but that’s got to be Swan inked by Abel, right? And the writer is… Leo Dorfman (I’m guessing)?

This is another one I’ve read to pieces. The cover is detached but not yet in two.

Symbolic Splash Page: Lex Luthor raving over Superman’s green corpse.

Set Up: “Superman places a priceless prize in a huge vault and seals it with a lifetime lock… one that can’t be cracked as long as he lives! so that renegade scientist, the Man of Steel’s arch-enemy, Lex Luthor, knows he can olny break in by killing his foe… and now the vault’s entrance becomes… The Most Dangerous Door in the World!

The story begins with superman reading his will on TV. He leaves abruptly, obviously upset. Luthor, watching from his lair, is intrigued but not biting. Cut to the Planet staff (Perry, Clark and Jimmy) discussing Luthor. Next, Superman attempts to split a diamond (the size of a basketball!) on live TV, but his hand slips and he destroys it. Don’t worry, this turns out to be a hoax and the diamond fake. The whole thing was staged for Luthor’s benefit. After that, Superman grants a series of interviews collectively titled “I Remember Luthor,” detailing all of Luthor’s failures. Luthor finally bites.

Using an underground drill vehicle and Braniac’s shrink ray, Luthor steal the vault, encased in concrete, from below. When the theft is discovered, Superman doesn’t seem too concerned. A few days later, three giant robots converge on Metropolis Park. As soon as Superman arrives, the Robots shed their foil covering to reveal they are made of Kryptonite. They form a box with superman trapped inside. His body, which can be seen by the bystanders, turns green from Kryptonite poisoning. Then his body disappears, teleported away by Luthor. Once Luthor has confirmed his death, he teleports Superman’s body back to a park bench, where Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl are waiting.

Supergirl sprays and antidote the the “death-stimulation drug” in his face, and Superman, still green, awakens. Everything is going as planned. It’s “up to Luthor” now. “Superman” sits up and takes off a wig to reveal he is really Braniac 5 in disguise!

Back at Luthor’s lair, he assaults the vault with jets of flame, then freezes it to absolute zero, then shales it with large mechanical claws. Finally it opens to reveal… Superman himself! Luthor faints from stress. Superman, you see, had been imprisoned in the vault by Mordru, and, being vulnerable to magic, was unable to free himself. Using super-ventriloquism, he set up this plan with Supergirl, Braniac 5 and the others. Also providing assistance were Sun Man, the white witch and Element Man. I’m sure I missed some subtlety whe I was five, but this story has everything: Jimmy Olsen, Perry White (no Lois, though), Lex Luthor, Supergirl, Brainiac 5 and other adult members of the LSH.

This issue also has a reprint, “Orphans of Space”, about the effects of Red Kryptonite. I don’t think I fully realized the story was a reprint at the time; I just recognized the art was different. This issue’s letter page is an example of what I have come to call “The Rule of Two”. Mostly I don’t know the writers of letters to Silver Age LOC columns, but if a letter col contains a letter from one future pro, it will often contain two. In this case, those letters are written by Mark Evanier and Martin Pasko. Evanier referred to issue #210 as “one of the greatest issues I have ever read,” and Pasko joked giving the editor a chance to make a pun.

NEXT: My first Marvel.

Even the parchment on the door is an Infantino trope!

In the period Infantino often designed DC's covers. He talked about it in his interview here. Dick Giordano talked about it in his interview here. Joe Orlando said here he drew the first House of Mystery horror cover from Infantino's layout. He also talked about Neal Adams bringing in designs for horror covers, and the artists suggesting cover ideas; but perhaps that was a bit later.

I think it's certain Adams pencilled or inked the Superman figure, as no-one else drew him with that lean, long look at the time. Its un-Neal Adamsy look might be due to someone else having inked, such as George Roussos. (Roussos inked the "Deadman" story in Strange Adventures #206.)

Luke Blanchard said:

In the period Infantino routinely designed DC's covers. He talked about it in his interview here. Dick Giordano talked about it in his interview here. Joe Orlando talks about working on horror covers with the artists and Neal Adams bringing in designs in this interview, but it's possible that was slightly later.

I think it's certain Adams pencilled or inked the Superman figure, as no-one else drew him with that lean, long look at the time. Its un-Neal Adamsy look might be due to someone else having inked, such as George Roussos. (Roussos inked the "Deadman" story in Strange Adventures #206.)

I agree that Adams had a hand in it. Superman's arm is a dead giveaway.

Here is a somewhat similar cover idea from just a few months later.  The GCD says it is Swan pencils and Adams inks.

#7. SPIDER-MAN #73 – JUN 69

For years I have been citing Spider-Man #73 as my first Marvel comic based on the fact that it is my favorite of my first three. I had always assumed (although never actually checked, apparently) that my mother bought my first three Marvels at the same time and they all had the same cover date, but no, that is not the case. She likely did give them to me at the same time, but, attracted by the covers I suspect, she likely bought them at different times judging from the cover dates. In that respect, Spider-Man #73 really is my “first” Marvel comic (my earliest, ayway). Say what you will about the old girl, but my mother could pick a good cover! Speaking of the cover. look at that classic by John Romita! The way Man Mountain Marko is pulling Spider-Man’s shirt out of his tights really shows the spot Spidey’s in. When this story was reprinted in Marvel Tales in the 1970s, a brick alleyway was added in the background, which really served to lessen the effect of the stark white background in my opinion.

This issue was penciled by John Buscema and inked by Jim Mooney, but the credits read: “Innovated by Big John Buscema; Co-ordinated by John (Ring-A-Ding) Romita; Illustrated by Jim (Madman) Mooney.” John Romita was art director at the time, but I’m not sure what “co-ordinated” means. It doesn’t look (to my eye) as if he had done breakdowns or layouts, but maybe he did. And “innovated” by? What does that mean? “Illustrated by” makes it sound as if Mooney did most of the work, so if Romita “co-ordinated,” what did Buscema actually do? All in all, it’s a confusing set of credits. No wonder so many people were confused about what an “inker” did.

Speaking of credits, this is the first comic book I read that was written by Stan Lee. I can’t honestly say I noticed much of a difference between Stan’s writing style and that of the writers of the other (six!) comics books I had read. That differentiation would have been far too subtle for a five year old to make, but his splash page dialogue quickly brings the new reader up to speed on the ongoing “Stone Tablet” saga, and his patented brand of snappy patter is on display throughout.

Like Aquaman #42, Spider-Man #73 is a middle chapter in an ongoing story that is also self-contained. The entire “Stone Tablet” saga (issues #68-77, plus Marvel Super-Heroes #14) is available between two covers in Marvel Masterworks Spider-Man v8.

The story begins with Gwen Stacy and her father, Captain George Stacy. Capt. Stacy is recovering from injuries sustained from Spidey’s battle with the Shocker. Spider-Man is secretly visiting him, but makes his presence known after Gwen leaves the room. Following a lead from Capt. Stacy, Spider-Man seeks out the Shocker’s girlfriend in search of the elusive stone tablet that lies at the center of the story. By the time he tracks her down at her apartment, Maggia boss Silvermane’s henchman Man Mountain Marko is already on the scene. (The Shocker’s girlfriend, BTW, was not given a name, but she was given a purple shift ad fishnet stockings ad escribed as an “exotic dancer.” Hubba, hubba!)

As Spider-Man fights Marko, the plot shifts back and forth among various sub-plots. One of these deals with civil rights issues as Daily Bugle editor Robbie Robertson tries to impress upon his son Randy the importance of an education. Randy’s not too impressed by what his father has to say, until J. Jonah Jameson comes bursting in the room on one of his tirades, and stands up to him and makes him back down. This is one of many examples of Stan Lee interjecting African American characters into the background at a time when that sort of thing just wasn’t done.

Back at the battle, Marko drops the girl out the window to distract Spider-Man so that he can make his escape with the tablet. Spidey manages to save her, but just barely. Meanwhile, Silvermane has kidnapped Dr. Curt Conners to assist with deciphering the hieroglyphs on the tablet now that Marko has acquired it. In a panel that foreshadows Conners’ transformation into the Lizard, the next issue blurb reads: “NEXT: All Bedlam Breaks Loose!” Reading comics was instrumental in building my vocabulary, and I generally remember the first time I encountered certain words. I specifically remember asking my dad what bedlam meant, and he told me “a madhouse.” That is the first word I am consciously aware of learning from a comic book.

Romita's credit probably means he co-plotted. He talked about working with Buscema on The Amazing Spider-Man in his Comic Book Artist interview and his Alter Ego interview. In the former interview he talks about getting a plot from Lee and then plotting the issue with the artist (Buscema or Kane) over the phone. I think what that means is Lee provided the basic ideas and he and the artist turned them into a full story. 

Marko was included in the John Romita-Alex Ross poster of Marvel characters. (His head is above the Falcon, next to Sgt Muldoon's.) I think that only included characters Romita designed.

Buscema often did layouts rather than finished pencils, but in my experience his style always shows so they can't have been too sketchy. Another issue of Comic Book Artist has a Stan Lee/Roy Thomas conversation in which they talk about Buscema's co-plotting.

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