Every comic fan remembers their first comic. It’s a weird trait that is unique to comic fans and isn’t often repeated elsewhere. Sure a sci-fi fan may be able to tell you the first episode of Dr. Who they watched or where/when they saw the first Star Wars, but they don’t usually remember the first piece of science fiction they read or watched. Yet even the most jaded comic fan typically looks back on their first comic with the kind of nostalgia that is usually only reserved for the first experiences one has with the opposite sex.
I’m not certain why this is. It probably has a lot to do with a fandom that frequently displays obsessive tendencies (like say, collecting variant covers or cataloguing collections). I think it has a lot to do with the niche nature of comic books. While icons like Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man are an important part of the general popular culture the people who regularly read comics themselves are a much smaller audience. The highest selling issues of the month rarely clear 150,000 units sold. When Civil War was selling over 300,000 units an issue, it was considered a monumental accomplishment. Compare that to how many people have seen Inception or an episode of House, and its relatively small. So our first comic usually serves as our gateway to unique subculture that can often feel like a club to which we belong.
First comics can often shape a person’s comic reading life. They could become a Marvel or a DC fan. They could fall in love with Batman or just a specific creator’s version of Batman. They could become a Wally West or Barry Allen fan. They could love the idea of a married Spider-Man or hate it. They could learn to loathe super-hero comics or be unable to read anything but. Or they could just become interested in the format.
My own first comic was hardly so definitive. I don’t remember the exact issue, but I could definitely pick it out of a line up. It was a Silver Surfer comic that I got in some box of giveaways at my elementary school. It had Thanos on the cover, I think holding the Silver Surfer by his arm in defeat, and it was drawn by an artist I can now recognize as Ron Lim. Now, putting aside that I have just described roughly 60% of the Silver Surfer comics published during the 90’s, that cover is still a clear memory for me. I remember reading it a couple times, but I was hardly hooked. It took the 90’s X-Men cartoon (whose power cord infused theme song I can still replicate if you buy me enough beer) a few years later and the labyrinth of Scott Lobdell’s 90’s X-Men comics (specifically Uncanny X-Men 300, where John Romita Jr. drew a really good looking fight between the X-Men and Magneto’s henchmen or something) to really captivate me. Those were some terrible comics, but even to this day, I’m inclined to give an X-book more leeway than I ever should.
That Silver Surfer comic didn’t really grab my attention the way a lot of people’s first comics did for them, but cracked that door open for something else to get through. I’d be surprised that I can recall something that obscure in so much detail, if virtually every other comics fan I’ve ever met didn’t have that same ability to recall some specific “first issue” that holds some special meaning to them.
Maybe if I got out more as a kid, this wouldn’t have been lodged so deep in my brain, but I prefer to believe that no one could forget something as shiny as Ron Lim’s Silver Surfer.
So, Comics and Other Imaginary Tales-keteers, how well do you remember your first comic?