Welcome to what I hope will be a nice semi-regular feature here on the SPBM blog. I love hearing people's stories about how they first fell in love with comics. Y'know, which comic was the first they ever saw, first they ever read, first they collected? Was it the traditional parental-bought subscription to The Beano or did a cool sibling hand them a 2000AD or Misty or Spider-Man? Did they discover comics later in life via a boyfriend or girlfriend perhaps? Did they fall away from comics during puberty to come back to them later? Or did anyone first discover comics in college or Uni or as an adult via the movie adaptations? I love hearing about that stuff.
So what are the key early comics, creators, characters and memories of your life? Drop us a line.
I'm in infants’ school: In the class toy box is a comic, the cover of which depicts a burning man, a rocky monster, a half-vanished girl and a man who is stretching his body out as if to grab me. It looks weird and scares me slightly so I leave it alone.
I’m six years old and I'm into Airfix kits & toy soldiers and all that kind of Junior Warmonger stuff. So one day my Nan buys me a comic because it has a free gift of two model planes - I love the model planes but I barely looked at the comic: the giant red nail-headed robot on the cover is burned into my memory though. As I grown up I assume this was an issue of Victor or Warlord as I remember the texture of the paper, but I work out decades later that it was a British weekly called Bullet - which was also published by DC Thompson and had the same texture paper. Isn't memory funny?
I'm 9 and one wet day at school I see a comic on a desk in a classroom. It's a girl's comic but the cover depicts a ghost-monster that lives in the white dot that appears on the TV screen when you turn it off. The image creeps… me… the fuck out. The memory of that cover stayed with me my whole life but I couldn't remember the title - and only last year thanks to an aquaintance on Twitter do I discover its Misty.
Later that year or maybe the next, its Easter and my mum buys me a humour comic called Buster. I never liked The Beano or The Dandy at all - they seemed very old fashioned and plain, but Buster was cool! It had Faceache and Tin Teacher and Stan Still's Stop Watch and Gums and best of all it had The Leopard From Lime Street. My ambition is to draw this comic when I grow up; I remember saying so in a school essay.
I see my first prog of 2000AD soon after. My mum buys it for my younger brother, but I take a look at it. It is quite phenomenally weird and disturbing. One of the stories features a man who is disappearing piece by piece. I really don't like it.
My parents daily newspaper is The Sun - there's a comic strip called Axa. Its about a sexy warrior girl in a post apocalyptic future - there's dinosaurs and robots and mutants and giant insects and swords and lasers and the lead character is frequently naked. Its ace! One day Axa just disappears from the paper - mid story and without warning. Replaced (if I recall correctly) by Popeye (the Popeye movie was out at the time and the strip was introduced as a cash-in on that). My grandparents are Daily Mirror readers and that newsaper has Garth which is almost as good as Axa and The Perishers which is really funny especially the 2-week period every year when the strip visits a group of crazy crabs living in a rock pool. (it is only recently that, rereading some old Perishers books I realise how brilliant the strip is)
I'm 10 or 11 years old: I'm reading war comics Warlord, Victor and Battle. Battle is the best. It's stories are more brutal and realistic that the others. Johnny Red and Charley's War are my favourites. I'm learning a lot of real stuff about the First and Second World Wars. I know why mothers were terrified of the telegram boy and why we wear poppies and what claykickers are and what happened at Stalingrad when other kids don't; though to my teachers at school this knowledge 'doesn't count' because of its source. I'm taking my first tiny steps out of warmonger-hood.
Around this time I’m reading a new weekly called Speed on regular order from the newsagent – it’s ace! Speed's life was short and it becomes the first comic that I read for the entirety of it life. My dentist has an issue of Star Wars Weekly in the waiting room – it has a close up photo of Darth Vader on the cover. I love Star Wars but the other stories in the comic are really weird. (Some years later a friend of mine will give me his entire collection of Star Wars Weekly because he has outgrown them. Cheers for that, Jason! In a bizarre coincidence there's only one issue missing from Jason's collection - and its the same issue that was in my dentist's waiting room)
I see my first proper American comics. They seem small and only have one story per comic but they're in colour. A local newsagent is selling packs of three Marvel comics for 30p. I buy one. It contains (I shit you not) Daredevil #159, Uncanny X-Men #130 and Invincible Iron Man #124 (that's the start of Frank Miller's DD run and more-or-less the start of both the Phoenix saga and the Michelinie/Romita/Layton 'Demon In A Bottle' run. Could I have asked for a better introduction to Marvel comics???) Fun Fact: I originally thought Iron Man was called The Invisible Iron Man not Invincible - I couldn't understand why he didn't turn invisible once in the whole comic!
A year or two later and I'm old enough to appreciate 2000AD. I'm still reading Battle every week and I'm reading as many Marvel comics as I can afford. Distribution of US comics is incredibly patchy - they're literally shipped in as ballast. It's almost impossible to get two consecutive issues of any title. Summer holidays to Rhyl and Mablethorpe are a godsend as new newsagents mean different comics. Oh, and by the way I've just read my first Alan Moore stories: "Bax The Burner" and “One Christmas During Eternity.” They are clearly, noticeably special.
Around this time I’m on holiday when I pick up my first Batman comic – Batman Pocketbook. It’s a full colour reprint of the Englehart/Rogers run. It’s nothing like the TV series (they've drawn the batmobile all wrong for a start!) but I love it! I read my first issues of The Daredevils (featuring Captain Britain), Warrior (with Marvelman, V For Vendetta and Axel Pressbutton), Heavy Metal (with lots of naked ladies in stories that don’t seen to make a lick of sense but are beautifully and disturbingly illustrated)
There's a new B&W magazine reprinting classic DC comics in my local newsagent. It’s called The Superheroes - it has a painting of Batman and the Joker on the cover. Batman is almost entirely hidden by shadows and The Joker looks like a grinning maniac. In the story (“Joker’s Five Way Revenge”) the Joker actually kills people! He blows a guy up with an exploding cigar laced with nitroglycerine! I can’t believe it! It’s brilliant! The TV show was nothing like this!!
DC comics are starting to pop up in my local newsie and I pick up issue #1 of Night Force. I think its a superhero comic like The fantatsic Four because there's a flamimg woman on the cover , but its a horror/mystery story and I bloody love it! It’s one of the best comics I’ve ever read. It’s written by a woman called Mary (or so I thought - I later realise its Marv) Wolfman who also writes a super-team comic called The New Teen Titans. Teen Titans leads me to Crisis On Infinite Earths and then the DC Universe as a whole. I’m now buying most of my comics from a local market stall. He has so many different titles I’m spoiled for choice!
Aged 16 and I'm the only kid I know who reads comics. I never fell away from them like most kids. This is the year I discover Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham and a whole new world of independent comics like Nexus, Scout, American Flagg and Lone Wolf And Cub (hello manga, pleased to meet you. You're awesome!) from First Comics; Aliens, Concrete, The American and Roachmill from Dark Horse.
Now Fast forward 25 years and 10,000+ comics later I'm sat here typing this. I'm co-host of a podcast where I get to waffle on about comics that I love, alongside a friend I love even more. I've been to conventions and met up with awesome talented people some of whom I consider friends. And I've even had the honour of seeing my name in print attached to the wonderful comics Sugar Glider Stories #1 and 100% Squishy - I am making new treasured memories of comics every day.
So, that's me... who's next? (and don't feel you necessary need to be as lengthy as I was - I suffer from diahorrea of the keyboard)