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?
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.
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.
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.
“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?