Saturday, 17 October 2009

My First Comics

I may never know which Borders comics fan's mum decided to turf out his November and December-dated Marvel comics, but it was my good fortune that, rather than binning them, she instead donated them to one of the stalls at the Liberal Party's pre-Christmas Bazaar. At the event, where I was dragged by my mum and dad, not only did I get to meet the impressively-statured Cyril Smith, I was confronted with a selection of comics of which, until then, I was sadly unaware.

Alpha Flight #4 & #5 (both by John Byrne)
Alpha Flight #4 featured the tail end of a multi-parter in which the so-called Master of the World attempted to conquer the world, using Marrina the Fish-Girl. It also featured the Invisible Girl and Sub-Mariner, and introduced the idea of Aurora's multiple personality disorder. Issue #5 featured the dwarf, Puck, investigating a drug-smuggling ring based out of a hospital. For a comic featuring only one character I'd even heard of, Alpha Flight had me hooked from the start.

Fantastic Four #260 & #261 (both also by John Byrne)
FF #260 introduced me to the FF's nemesis, Doctor Doom (I may have been aware of him from things like the Spider-Man cartoons, but it would be a very vague awareness), and, before the end of the issue, had killed him off, in a battle between the Silver Surfer and Tyros. This was also the end of a multi-parter, but was also reasonably straightforward to fathom. Alpha Flight #4 was set immediately between #260 and #261, introducing me to the idea of crossovers between titles. #261 had the FF off in space, bumping into the Watcher, and had the team trying to justify not having let Galactus die in an earlier issue. This was a bit of a mystery, but by the end of the book, I pretty much understood what it was all about. The issue also featured a recap of the FF's origin, which was handy for newbies like me.

Amazing Spider-Man #246 & #247 (by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr)
ASM #246 was, essentially, an imaginary story, in which J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane Watson, the Black Cat, and Spidey himself daydreamed about their perfect day. Oddly, whilst Jameson and the Cat's dreams ended well, neither Mary Jane or Peter Parker were able to sustain their delusion, suggesting that both have some psychological issues to deal with. #247 featured Spidey teaming up with the fabulous Frog Man, a hunt for the Hobgoblin, and a mystery villain, Thunderball (of the Wrecking Crew). It would be years before I would find out who Thunderball is, and I have no idea to this day about Frog Man. The Hobgoblin was another story, of course.

Spectacular Spider-Man #84 (by Bill Manto and Dave Simons) and #85 (by Mantlo and Al Milgrom)
PPTSSM #84 featured Spidey hunting down a gang of child abductors, and was a purely self-contained story. #85, on the other hand, had the Hobgoblin show up to take on Spidey and the Black Cat. It also, handily, showed the story so far of the Hobgoblin, and featured Peter Parker having a get together with his old college friends, including Harry Osborn, which in turn introduced me to the history of the Green Goblin, which made Spider-Man's obsession with the Hobgoblin a lot more explicable.

Avengers #237 & #238 (both by Roger Stern and Al Milgrom)
Avengers #237 featured Spider-Man trying out for the team, an event alluded to in Spidey's own book, and had the Avengers fighting a whole load of supervillains in Project Pegasus. Looking back, I'm not sure why I accepted supervillains being imprisoned with their costumes on, but it's not something that gave me cause for concern at the time. Issue #238 had the Vision, in a coma due to an earlier battle, recover unexpectedly, showed the She-Hulk househunting, and featured a last-page appearance by Tigra and the ghost of Spider-Woman, the last of which confused the heck out of me.

Captain America #288 (by JM DeMatteis and Mike Zeck)
Set in the future world of 1993, this featured Cap teaming up with the cyborg, Deathlok, to take on the ruler of a destroyed New York. This was pretty much double-dutch to me at the time, and since I didn't have the next issue, it would be a long time before I'd find out how Cap stopped the imminent destruction of the world.

Daredevil #202 (by Dennis O'Neil and William Johnson)
This book had Matt Murdock's firm hired by an African tribe do do PR for their boss, Micah Synn. Micah turns out to be a nutjob, prone to dangling policemen out of windows. As a one-shot, it does a fine job of introducing DD and his significant others, and as an introduction to Micah Synn, it made me want to read more about him, which handily was what Denny O'Neil intended.

Defenders #125 (by JM DeMatteis and Don Perlin)
My first issue of Defenders featured the departure of the original team, the wedding of Patsy Walker and Daimon Hellstrom, and a new team being formed. it also featured an Elf. Much of this made little sense, but thankfully, there was a handy letters page which clarified some of what was going on.

The Thing #5 (by John Byrne and Ron Wilson)
This book had Ben Grimm getting beaten up, for no readily apparent reason, by Wonder Man, She-Hulk, and Spider-Man, before being possessed by his old foe, the Puppet Master. I didn't know at the time who the Puppet Master was, nor why he was out to get the Thing, so this was a less successful introduction to the book, but since the book was essentially an FF spin-off, it wasn't too much of a problem.

Incredible Hulk #289 (by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema)
The Hulk was intelligent at this point in his history, which seemed odd at the time, less so now. It had MODOK setting the Abomination to attack Bruce Banner, who was working for the government on gamma ray research - which with hindsight seems less logical than the Hulk's intelligence. Mostly the issue involved Hulk beating up the Abomination, which for a Hulk book is pretty much what you'd expect.

Marvel Team-Up #135 (by Bill Mantlo, again, and Ron Frenz)
This issue featured Kitty Pryde (note the lack of codename) rescuing some kidnapped children from the Morlock tunnels, with the help of Spider-Man. I didn't know who the Morlocks were at the time, and I'm not sure why they were kidnapping people, but it was a decent enough tale, at the time.

The Mighty Thor #337 (by Walt Simonson)
This was a flummoxer. Thor lost his powers, whilst an alien invader gets them. Nick Fury turns up, with little explanation of who he is and why he has a flying car and a helicarrier. And out in space, someone is forging something big. Now, having read the succeeding two years worth of issues, I know this is a classic, but at the time, it was not a good first issue. Not at all.

Uncanny X-Men #175 (by Chris Claremont, Paul Smith and John Romita Jr)
Speaking of confusing first issues, this issue features the wedding of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, the return of Dark Phoenix, and Mastermind looking for revenge against the team for what Phoenix had done to him. Confusing stuff, but with enough exposition (this was a Claremont book) to make it explicable.

So there you have it. My first 18 Marvel books. Some classics, and some, less than classic, but enough to get an 11 year-old me hooked on the things, if not for life, then at least for the forseeable future. To my bank manager's horror.

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