Q & A 1: What do you remember about the first comics you read?

In Q & A, a semi-regular feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.

What do you remember about the first comics you read?

Anika

When I was nine years old I accompanied my father to Bali, Indonesia. In Bali, nine-year-olds tend to know at least four languages, but being American I only read English. My reading material was therefore limited to what I brought with me and a shelf of Classics Illustrated Graphic Novels (in the most true use of the phrase). My first comic book was David Copperfield. If you know anything about Dickens you probably know the majority of his novels first appeared as serials, so in a way I was reading it in its intended form. The Classics Illustrated shelf — and a healthy selection of Tintin — kept me busy for the six weeks I was in Bali. When I returned to the U.S. I continued to read Tintin and eventually started to follow my brothers’ superhero comics.

Caroline

I didn’t read superhero comics as a kid, but for some reason I had a fascination with the anthology-style horror comics that DC put out in the 70s. A little research — I love the Internet — reveals that my first comic book was probably Secrets of Haunted House #12. I remember the story, “Yorick’s Skull,” in which a greedy actor got a gruesome comeuppance. (Look at the cover and you can probably guess.) I must have been really young, because I know I had no idea who Yorick was — or Hamlet, for that matter — and I’ve been a Shakespeare nerd for most of my life. My brother must have brought the comic into the house, and for some reason I picked it up, even though I left most of his superhero comics and horror fiction alone. Something about that cover demanded that I read it and find out who this crazy-eyed man was, and what he was doing with that skull.

Jennifer

Technically, I read my first comic book at age 12: Art Spiegelman’s Maus. (As a result, I have a skewed perception of what comics are “appropriate” for children.) However, I read Maus because of an interest in Holocaust literature, not out of any real desire to experience the graphic medium, so I let comics fall by the wayside for years afterward. Then, in my sophomore year of college, I became interested in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and I borrowed the handful of Serenity: Those Left Behind comics to read between my viewing of the TV show and its spin-off film, Serenity. But I had trouble following the art and the words; even remembering the sequence my eyes were supposed to follow was difficult. So after struggling through those books, I pushed comics away once again. Finally, in June of that year, I saw X-Men: The Last Stand, and subsequently asked my friends for recommendations of similar stories that didn’t appear to be written by monkeys. Their suggestion? The “Gifted” arc of Astonishing X-Men. With my preexisting love of Whedon’s writing propelling me, I picked up the first issue, and by the time I finished I’d fallen head over heels for Cyclops, the Beast, and Kitty Pryde. I was hooked.

Sigrid

“Dark Phoenix Saga.” After picking it up by accident, I mainlined it as a TPB off the library shelf. It’s possible I might have read something else first, but this is the one that stuck. The panel of Kitty kicking through the wall of the restaurant to escape. The panel of Jean changing her clothes in order to not scare Kitty. The panel of Jean breaking Mastermind’s brain. Emma and Jean facing off. Jean refusing to let Scott save her. So many great moments. The variety of different female characters, the wrenching themes of sacrifice and love, and the clean dramatic art were an invitation to read comics. I began skulking round the comics racks at the supermarket, trying to find more.

So what about you? What do you remember about your first comics?

  • jamaillith

    My first comic was Uncanny X-Men #456. I bought it from a service station somewhere in Nevada. I was on a school trip at the time, a kind of whistle-stop tour of California (I’m from the UK), and I remember seeing this rack of comic books and thinking, oh, hey, cool. I’d spent my formulative years watching X-Men: TAS and, later, X-Men Evolution, so I thought I was pretty well versed on X-Men lore. I spent the next two hours curled up on a seat on the coach discovering how wrong I was. I think I read it three times over, trying to puzzle out who was who and what they were doing and why they were fighting dinosaurs and who was this lady with the purple hair and why was she talking about how she’d died and been brought back to life? By the end of it, I had resolved that the moment I got home I would start researching this strange and wonderful new medium. And I did. And here I am today.

  • sigrid

    Uncanny #456? Whoa. Throwing yourself in the deep end, there. 😀 Good for you!

  • I think my first graphic novel was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and then i read some manga (Sailor Moon and Magic Knight Rayearth), but i was hooked when i read Spider-Woman: Origins. I had been reminded of Spider-Woman by my first love, gaming, in this case, Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
    Then New Avengers series started, and i backtracked into House of M, tracking various heroines around the Marvel U, now following a few different storylines.

    I had always watched hero cartoons – the first being Spider-Woman when i was really little, and the old Spider-Man, then the various incarnations of X-Men, but they have not held my attention like the comics now do :)

  • It was an issue of Daredevil. Stilt Man was in it. Frank Miller wrote it. I was five. Trauma.

  • ilyena-sylph

    I… honestly, I have no idea, because I was reading everything my 1st-grade boyfriend brought to school (mostly X-men, circa 1990). And second-grade, and then I got distracted by novels for a while.

    First recent comic? One I hate with a flaming passion now. I’d rather not say, honestly, because it’s got too much outright character-destruction for me to ever claim it again in public.

  • I remember reading a Scooby-Doo comic when I was really young. But, then came the trades of The Dark Phoenix Saga, The Asgardian Wars, A Death in the Family, and three old issues of Fantastic Four that I picked up at a flea market (issues 220, 232 & 233).

  • Great blog!

    I’ve always been kind of annoyed with the fact that I can describe what I believe to be my first comic book, but I don’t know what issue it was. My childhood is filled with memory lapses. I’m not sure if it was trauma or the fact that I was a very disinterested kid growing up.
    I know the book was a 80s Spider-Man and Nova team up. I’ve tried to find it but apparently Spidey and Nova became buddies quite a few times. So frustrating. Other than that, I have two faint memories of The New Archies #1 (I think) and a BatMan comic that detailed Dick Grayson’s origin story in regards to Two-Face (and I think Tim Drake was being handed the mantle)…

  • Margot

    I don’t even remember anymore. Dad always had comics around, so I used to just sit at the table and wait for him to be done with them so I could read them myself.

    But I first started seriously paying attention in 97 or 98. Couldn’t tell you for the life of me what comic it was that made me hooked… it’s just something I always *did*.

  • Wired

    My very first comic was a Donald Duck number slipped through the doors of the elevator I was trapped in (at Disneyland, if you can believe). I still remember the heat, and the plasticy carpet, and paging through this confusing melange of words and pictures as there were bangs and squeaks from the outside. I did get a lot of free ice cream out of it, though.
    In college, I had a friend who was deeply attached to Strangers in Paradise, but I read a few, and they were very hard for me. That’s also about the time I was assigned Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics as a textbook. I loved the book, but was still dubious about the medium.
    It has always been hard for me to read comics. It still is, even now that I read 10 a week or so. I read the words, then look at the pictures, then read the words again, then try to puzzle out the action. I was always the last in line for the Sunday comics, too, because no one in my family wanted to wait for me.
    In the last few years, my husband brought home Powers for me. He thought I’d like it, since I have a weakness for cop shows in general. And although it is still work, Powers was the thing that was worth working for, this tiny blonde cop and her hulking, tortured partner, and their absolute conviction that the world should be a better place, and they would work to make it so.

  • First comic ever, would probably be an Archie Digest. I cannot tell you which one, since my mother had been buying them for ages. While in school, instead of taking out actual french books, I’d take out the Smurfs, Garfield, and Asterix collections.

    First trade ever was the first volume of Ultimate Fantastic Four. Which was funny, because I had been attempting to read the regular one for free at the comic stands for a while by then. 😀

  • handyhunter

    I think my first comic was probably an Archie too. Also, my brothers had some Marvel comic books lying around; I don’t remember the titles, though. I’m pretty sure Wolverine was involved somehow.

    More recently, I got into Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. I can’t even remember why I picked it up, except maybe it had Whedon’s name on it, and I liked the X-Men movies (well, the first two, and parts of the third). Then I fell in love with Scott Summers, and well.

  • spuffyduds

    I read a few comics that were just lying around the house when I was a kid–not even real comics, but those Reader’s Digest-size pulp-paper compilation reprints of Donald Duck and other Disney characters. (My parents confiscated one of them because, I am not kidding, something about the paper or the ink was making my fingertips swell up.)

    I also have a very vivid memory of finding a comic in my 7th-grade English class during free reading period that was one of those several-story horror ones. There was a story about vampires who sucked your SOUL out and left you with WHITE EYEBALLS, OMG. And one about a guy who sold his soul to Satan in exchange for his first-born son, but then Satan snuck around and boinked the guy’s wife and so then his son wasn’t HIS son and he didn’t have anything to trade and off he went to HELL. Sneaky, sneaky Satan.

    Both of those creeped me OUT and stayed with me, obviously.

    The first comic I ever actually bought myself was, I’m thinking, a pretty weird point of entry. It was “Stig’s Inferno,” by Ty Templeton and Klaus Schonefeld. It was a comedic take on Dante’s Inferno. Hapless Stig gets sent to Hell, wearing no pants, when the mice that live in his piano drop the lid on his head. It’s hilariously loopy and the art is a treat–the demons are all so grumpyfangycute.

    Having started on the freaky indy side of things, I dove from there right on into Cerebus, and Mage, and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing… Superheroes were a taste I acquired later.

  • It was November 1978. I was eight years old. The first comics I read were DC Comics Presents #6, Detective Comics #482, Justice League of America #163, World’s Finest Comics #255, The Brave and the Bold #147, and Super Friends #17.

    That last title, Super Friends, is perhaps the key one because it was the recognition of characters from the Super Friends animated television show that lured me into the world of reading comics.

    You’ll notice that all of them were DC titles, and all featured characters familiar from the Super Friends on the covers.

    It wasn’t until the next month when I read Avengers #181 that I was introduced to the Marvel Universe for the first time.

    Then in April 1980, I came across Uncanny X-Men #135 with Dark Phoenix on the cover. I’d been reading comics for nearly a year and a half at that point, but that was when I first experienced just how amazing a comic story could be.

  • lilacsigil

    Australian publishers would collect 2 issues of a DC or Marvel title and publish it on really cheap grey paper in black and white. My first comic was a coverless, torn edition of Frank Miller’s Daredevil, halfway through the Elektra saga. I would have been 7. It was amazing, and I still read Daredevil now that I’m 33! The first comic I read that actually had a cover on it and was in colour was “X-Men: Heroes for Hope”, a charity issue to help famine victims in Ethiopia. The X-Men face personal nightmares, then go to Ethiopia and fight a despair monster, and give out food to starving people. It was pretty special, and turned me into an instant Magneto fan!

  • Caroline

    Wow, I am enjoying these responses so much! I love the way that everybody’s story is unique, and yet there are motifs that keep repeating — very cool, keep it up!

    @spuffyduds — I think we must have read some of the same comics! I want to find some of these again and write an article. We should compare notes.

    @Margot — I feel compelled to point out that the extent of your family’s immersion in comics impressed *Mark Waid*, and that’s saying something.

  • anonymous_sibyl

    It had to have been my stepsister’s Archie Digest. When I got older I started watching superhero cartoons on Saturday morning TV and developed a huge interest in the JLA and Superman. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I found my local comic book store and started stocking up on JLA, X-Men, anything Batman that had Harley Quinn, and, in a deviation from my superhero leanings, Aria. So I guess I didn’t come to comics from the first comics I ever read–I came to them from TV that spun off from comics!

  • Wils

    My first comic ever was X-Men (Second Series)#1. I was ten I think and we were on vacation and it looked like an interesting read much to my parents’ dismay. I loved Rogue, wanted to know more about Magneto and just enjoyed the whole team dynamic. It took me a few months later to get the next comic because I had to find a comic book store near where we lived but I kept on reading X-Men up until after AoA and then broke up with comics for a few years. Tried to get back around Magneto Rex and then left again and began reading again about two years ago.

    My first DC comic ever read was Batman: Year One and that happened because of RP. :)

  • Julia L.

    @Danielle You sound a lot like me. I was also predominantly a DC fangirl. I honestly don’t remember noticing the Marvel titles at all. I knew Spiderman (and Iceman and Firestar) from cartoons. That may even have been my first intro to the X-men.

    I think I went back recently through the cover database to try to see which issues are the earliest I bought off the newsstand. (Or the 7-11/drug store spinner rack.) In no special order: Super Friends #11, Justice League of America #151, Wonder Woman #237, World’s Finest #251.

    I also bought a whole bunch of Harvey Richie Rich comics and digests. They were like candy. I couldn’t just have one!

    First comic that pulled me into collecting comics (i.e. had to have every issue I could find) was New Teen Titans. My first issue wasn’t even a momentous arc issue really. It wasn’t the Judas Contract or Terror of Trigon or anything. It was “Who Killed Trident?” in #34. And the rest is history.

  • Keith

    The first comics I read as a kid were adaptations of the classic Star Wars trilogy. From memory, they had pretty bad art – but it was a way of reliving the story over and over again. You know, back in the days before home video and DVD.

    I didn’t really have comic book reading friends until I left high school – and I was such a hardcore movie geek and reader, comics just seemed to be a compromise of those two mediums.

    I eventually relented and tried some of the supposed “best comics” – reading Watchmen and Marvels and sampling some of Neil Gaiman’s work. I read most of JMS’ Spider-Man arc. And, more recently, Y: The Last Man. But all of this was through borrowing trade paperbacks from my two comic-reading friends.

    I only started buying comics because of Buffy Season Eight – collecting the final arc of Astonishing X-Men as well as Whedon’s run on Runaways. So clearly I have very specific tastes in what I shell money out on.

  • Jen’s Mom

    Archie stuff, I always rooted for Betty. Back then that was the only comic somewhat geared to girls.

  • xenokattz

    Justice League of America from the late 1980’s. I was 5 or 6 (or 7) and staying at my cousin’s house for the summer. He read me comics as bedtime stories. A family that geeks together, stays together.