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.
The stories in this issues were crazy good! But they looked a little bit odd to me. They were laid out in grids, but some of them didn’t seem to be fitted to the page correctly. Also, the stories flowed one into the next, sometimes beginning in the middle of the page. The reason for this, of course (which I didn’t realize at the time), is that this comic book is reprinted from Russ Manning Tarzan Sunday pages from 1969-1970. Today, the entire contents of this issue (and much more) can be found in the second volume of The Complete Russ Manning Tarzan Vol. 2 published by IDW.This is a great comic book for a nine year old kid to own. It not only presents the original Two-Face story in its entirety (a two-parter and a sequel with a happy ending), but it is also a veritable sampler of the archive editions I would one day own.
I have a similar topic about the 100 Pagers!
But this was my first one, Justice League of America #110 (Ap'74) which I I got for Christmas '73!
“I have a similar topic about the 100 Pagers!”
I remember that now. Here’s what I said then:
“I bought as many of the "100-Page Super-Spectaculars" as I could get my hands on, with JLA #110 being perhaps the first. It was certainly my first exposure the Justice League, and the story took place in St. Louis, Mo. (about 20 miles from where I lived) high atop the Gateway Arch. I remember being intrigued by the concept that Green Lantern had a back-up. The one I remember reading first was the Batman one. I also bought the Tarzan one. I could go on and on but I'll stop here.”
That was my favorite cover for, like, years. DC wasn't quite up to Marvel speed in those days, but when Neal Adams drew DC characters, their inherent coolness was evident -- even the Golden Age ones. Neal Adams was to other DC artists of the time like Alex Ross is to other artists now -- a quantum level better. At least that's how I felt at the time.
Dave Palmer said:
The spotlight effect strikes me. I suppose they achieved it by colouring the art and laying an overlay with a circular cutout over it.
Zip-A-Tone, I assume.
“Night… and fog… and the dull, swampy bog left to rot by all but the swaddled call of a foghorn… These things alone seem able to spawn monsters best left undreampt… yet they have no need, for man as beaten them to it. Man has created that which stalks through these trappings of horror, uncaring… THE INCREDIBLE HULK!”
“Night… and fog… and the dull, swampy bog…” There’s a lyrical rhythm to the first line of my first Hulk comic that is almost poetic and has stuck with me all these years. #167-170 is my candidate for the best four consecutive issues of The Incredible Hulk ever; they are certainly my favorite. Last night was the fourth time in the last three years I have read #167: I read it as part of Marvel Masterworks Hulk Vol. 9 when it was released in 2015; I read #167-170 again when Vol. 10 was released; I read #167-170 and Vol. 10 again when Vol. 11 was released; and I read #167 by itself last night.
#167 is a great jumping on point because it is the beginning of a new phase in the midst of an ongoing arc. I probably didn’t give a lot of thought to the cover when I picked it out (because I was looking for every comic with Hulk in it), but isn’t it a great one? The villain is MODOK, who I remembered from Captain America #119, thus emphasizing the concept of a shared universe. I would have been another “Earth-J” story BUT… I found #168 at the bus station in Eldon, Mo. where we stopped for lunch on our way to the lake. This was the first time I ever bought two consecutive issues of a given title, and I was hooked for life.
MARVEL FEATURE #11 – SEP 73
My first Hulk/Thing slugfest… and still one of the best. It’s written by Len Wein, penciled by Jim Starlin, inked by Joe Sinnott, and the story features the Leader and Kurrgo pitting their respective chamions against each other. I’ve got the tell you… that phrase “‘Nuff said!” on the cover confused the hell out of me! “Who’s ‘Nuff’?” I wondered? “Some sort of Marvel mascot like Alfred E. Newman?” It wasn’t until I heard the phrase spoken aloud on All in the Family a couple of years later.
MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #38:
JUNE 1973: Part 2: #22-24.
MONSTERS ON THE PROWL #25 – SEP 73
I don’t know what it was that drew me to this comic, but what else could it have been other than the powerful Jack Kirby cover? This comic book marks the beginning of my love affair with Marvel monsters, which continues to this day. MotP #25 was a reprint of the second story to feature the Colossus, and again, I had missed the reprint of the first part in #17 but it didn’t really matter. When I picked up the first part of the “It, the Living Colossus” series (which began in Astonishing Tales #21 and ran for four issues) three months later I though how lucky I was. It never occurred to me (at the time) that the start of the series so soon after the reprint wasn’t exactly coincidental.
TARZAN #223 – SEP 73
I had already “met” La of Opar in the 100-Pager, but if Russ Manning’s La was beautiful (and she was), then Joe Kubert’s was downright exotic. I was already familiar with the Johnny Weismuller movies, and although I wasn’t aware this was an adaptation of the second ERB novel, I somehow instinctively knew this was the real deal Tarzan. Although this was part five of a five-parter, I was captivated by this story… and the art.
SUPERBOY & THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #197 – SEP 73
My second Superboy (and second to feature the Legion of Super-Heroes), two years after my first. I don’t think I acquired this one at the same time as the others. I associate this one with my grandmother’s house. She probably bought it for me. (I kept my comic books at my grandma’s to safeguard them from my mother.) I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the first issue to feature the Legion moving from the back-up feature to the main slot. It is important, also, as a sort of “proto-New X-Men” as designed by Dave Cockrum. Two rejected characters later became Storm and Nightcrawler, and Timberwolf’s new look would later be carried over to Wolverine’s civilian identity. I was intrigued by the concept of a “President of Earth” on the very first page. One the second page, Lana Lang was just about the sexiest woman I had ever seen in comics at that time… until I got to Saturn Girl on page 11. And those shiny lips on page 12!
PHASE 2: 1973-1976
I’ve covered “Phase 1” of my collecting: 1967-1972. With June of 1973, my hobby moved into a new phase. No longer will I be able to track each individual purchase. Whereas it took me five years to acquire my first 15 or so comic books, from this point on I was actively collecting. Plus, in addition to buying new comics, I was accumulating back issues via trades and used bookstores. There is no way for me to accurately track which comics I read in which order at this point, but I would like to hit some highlights.
In addition to my three regular series (Hulk, Marvel Super-Heroes and Astonishing Tales), I spent the rest of 1973 buying mainly DC comics. Among the “100-Page Super-Spectaculars” I bought during this time were Detective Comics #438 (1st Goodwin/Simonson Manhunter), Batman #254 (featuring tales from the ‘40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and the “future”), Batman #256 (featuring his trophies), Justice League of America #110 (the first of three consecutive 100-pagers) and Wonder Woman #211.
Perhaps the most significant comic I bought in the second half of 1973 was E-Man #1. In addition to family vacations, I also got comics if I was good at the dentist. One day that August the one I chose was the first issue of E-Man. Due to spotty distribution, the only other issue I was to buy during the series initial run was #4, but I filled the gaps when I went to college and discovered the series had been revived by First Comics. First reprinted the original run on Mando paper, and in 2015 it was collected in tpb.
There’s no way I can even begin to list all of the comics books, both new and used, I read in 1974. But thanks to the “Mike’s Amazing World” web-site, here are some highlights.
JANUARY: DC Treasury Editions - I’m not going to list every one of these I bought, but I was on hand for the very first one (Action Comics #1, appropriately), and I bought most of them for the next three years. I started out buying them through the mail before I realized they were available on the newsstands as well. Oddly, I went to my dad to write the check. It used to be my mom bought all my comics, but after I turned 10 or so, comics became a real source of contention with her. Usually the grandmother bought them for me (before I began buying them for myself), but for whatever reason I went to my dad to order the first of the treasuries. They used to come in these big cardboard envelopes, and I kept mine in there throughout elementary school and junior high at least. I don’t remember why or when I got rid of them (the envelopes), but I don’t have them anymore.
FEBRUARY: Marvel Giant-Size Comics - If I bought a lot of DC “100-Page Super-Spectaculars” (and I did), I bought just as many of Marvel’s “Giant-Size” titles. Even if I didn’t buy the main series regularly, I bought the Giant-Size if I could get in on issue #1. I was right there with Giant-Size Super-Stars (Fantastic Four) #1 and with Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 (Spider-Man). The FF one was my second Thing/Hulk battle (following Marvel Feature #11), and in the Spider-Man one, I already knew Morbius from Marvel Team-Up #4. By this time I had also already met Man-Wolf (as John Jameson in Marvel Tales #31 I acquired as a back issue) as well, so my experience of a shared universe was expanding.
MARCH: “The Trial of Wonder Woman” - I bought the first issue, #212, and some of the others, but it wouldn’t be until the story was collected in tpb a few years ago that I was able to read the entire story for the first time.
APRIL: More Marvel Giant-Size - Giant-Size Defenders #1 was a big book for me, featuring as it did not only the Hulk, but also reprints of Hulk, Sub-Mariner and Doc Strange within a framing sequence. Giant-Size Spider-Man #1 crossed over into Marvel Team-Up #23, ad I had them both. (Both will be reprinted next month, as well, in Marvel Masterworks.)
MAY: More Marvel Giant-Size - Giant-Size Avengers #1 was my first Avengers. (Inside, Captain America was inexplicably blond.) I also bought Giant-Size Man-Thing just because it was a #1, and I would continue to buy the others as well despite the fact I didn’t buy the regular series (although I did have coverless copies of Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1). Fantastic Four #149 was my second issue of that series (following #126, two years earlier), not including all of the G-S issues up to that point.
JUNE: Marvel Treasury Editions - Five months after DC, Marvel followed with a TE featuring Spider-Man. Also a Human Torch reprint series (featuring both Golden and Silver Age versions) debuted this month, which I was to buy as long as it lasted.
JULY: My brother (who red Mad magazine but never comic books), home from college, gave me copies of Avengers #127 (my second following G-S #1) and Spider-Man #137 (my second following #73). I didn’t ask any questions.
AUGUST: “The Stone Tablet Saga” - After a five years wait, I finally got to read the conclusion of the story #73.
SEPTEMBER: Nothing really noteworthy that I haven’t mentioned already, but I continued to buy my ever-increasing list of favorites.
OCTOBER: Planet of the Apes - It was the third issue, but I cannot understate the impact this series (and the series of movies) had on my life. Just yesterday I bought the third (of four) archive volumes reprinting this series.
NOVEMBER: Atlas/Seaboard - Did you ever wonder how it must have felt to be there for the birth of Marvel Comics in 1961? I did… until the debut of what I was convinced would be “The Next Big Thing!” I bought every single issue, regardless of genre. I was bound and determined to own every “Atlas” comic ever to be published. I eventually did… far sooner than I expected.
DECEMBER: (See comments for September.)
I'm hoping to get some time to contribute to this thread soon. I have a bunch of those Treasury Editions and Giant Size books I want to comment on.