The First Five
I really dug Wolverine as a kid.
I can actually remember why that was even the case. At the first inkling that I was going to start getting into comics, my dad told me that Wolverine was a great character, and that I should follow his and the X-Men’s adventures. This is unusual to me because I don’t even recall my dad ever liking Wolverine or theX-Men after this point; his favorite characters were always Thor and Hulk above anyone else. But I distinctly recall being in my grandmother’ kitchen—It is exceedingly odd to me now that I think about it, but my grandmother’s kitchen was carpeted. Who has a carpeted kitchen?!—sitting at the table and discussing comics with my dad and his pushing me towards Wolverine. Not Thor. Which is so weird. I mean, not as weird as carpeting your kitchen. But if your favorite character was Carpeted Kitchen Man, you wouldn’t be all “Hey, go read Wolverine”, right? I’m not really sure where I’m going with this.
Anyway, I spent a lot of time in my youth being a huge Wolverine nut because so many of the earliest comic books I can remember getting were X-Men- and/or Wolverine-centric. In my comic book boxes, I had far more X-boxes than for anything else. Only Spider-Man was even close. And even though I went through a typical kickback on Logan in my 20’s when I grew weary of his overexposure, I ended up coming back around on the character after a few years if being a hipster. He’s just too important to my youth, and I will remain a fan until my heart stops beating and I am cold in the grave.
Hm, that was a cheery thought.
Let’s not think on that any longer. Now I’m mulling over the beginning of my comic reading life. Have you ever wondered what the first comics you ever got were? Maybe you always remembered; maybe you remember a cluster of early ones, but you aren’t sure what you got when (like me). No matter what kind of fan you end up being, those first books you ever get are your comic fan formative period, and they should always hold a special place within you. So take a journey with me back to the turn of the 80’s/90’s, and let’s look at the first books I ever acquired…
Detective Comics #602 – July 1989
This is it. In the trek through the candy-soaked brain of my childhood (and adulthood; I love candy. Never grew out of that), this turns out to likely have been the first comic I ever owned (according to publishing dates, anyway), having been released four months prior to any others I have been able to recall. And it’s Batman! That’s pretty basic for an eight year old.
This was a pretty decent story if I recall correctly, with Batman and Etrigan the Demon teaming up to fight… well, look at that thing! I guess it’s called Tulpa, but that is a super underwhelming name for Giant Four-Armed Monster With A Friggin’ Battleaxe. This was part two of three, it seems, and while I definitely also had #603 to finish the tale, I don’t recognize the cover to #601 at all (on a technicality, I am leaving #603 off the list, but I guess it should actually be the second comic I ever owned). So I’m pretty sure this is the one that started it all.
How it shaped me: Eh, not much. Though I DO always wish Bats fought more battleaxe-wielding magical monsters. Oh, and Norm Breyfogle remains my brain’s default Batman artist. But I guess it shaped me in that it was #1 out of what would be thousands of books. Maybe it was this book which led my dad and I to discuss what other comics I should buy? Who can remember, but I’m going with that.
2) Spectacular Spider-Man #158 – November 1989
For a while, I thought this was going to be my #1 before I remembered that absolutely brilliant Batman cover up there in a flash of memory and looked it up. With a release date of 11/1989, it more narrowly edged out the next book on the list.
Fun fact: Apparently extremely-young-comic-fan-me had some kind of fetish for heroes being physically held in place by large monsters. I mean, I guess that’s actually just a fetish I have now, except replace “heroes” with “me”, and “monsters”… uh, nevermind actually.
How it shaped me: I can not find an issue of Amazing Spider-Man I owned as-it-came-out earlier than 1991 (which seems unusual). And that makes sense, because I absolutely thought Spectacular was THE Spidey book as a kid. I loved Sal Buscema’s art, and I thought the stories were fun in this title. Also, Spidey would go on to be my favorite character in comic history, so that is somewhat noteworthy.
3) X-Men Classic #43 – January 1990
First, somebody clear something up for me: in the corner box there, is that supposed to be Uatu or Professor Xavier crying? For YEARS I assumed it was Uatu, but I guess Xavier makes more sense. The head just looks so bulbous and oddly shaped… WHO ARE YOU, BALD CRYING MAN?
Anyway, yes, the very first X-book I ever bought was a reprint of the last issue of the Dark Phoenix Saga. I guess I got through it okay without much context. There was a backup story here with Jean in a white Phoenix outfit meeting… God? Like it was just some guy making a big structure in space or something, but even as a kid I was pretty sure he was an allegory for god. I didn’t even know what the word allegory was!
How it shaped me</b.: Well, X-Books were my JAM for years and years, and this was my very first one. And the Dark Phoenix Saga? What a place to start!
4) Uncanny X-Men # 258 – February 1990
So the month after reading the wrap-up to the Dark Phoenix Saga, I got this book, and my little kid brain was extremely confused because I had no idea what “reprints” were or why this X-book had entirely different goings on.
Anyway, that is another great cover. At least close to being as rad as Detective Comics #602. Not as cool as Banjo up there, though.
This issue is part of the Post-Siege-Perilous era of X-Men where the team was scattered to the winds and just starting to regroup. Wolverine battles Mandarin for the freedom of Psylocke (who has become his Asian ninja bodyguard after her trip through the portal).
How this shaped me: My very first comic starring Jubilee, baby! Yeah! And I think she blows up a building in this one.
5) Marvel Comics Presents #45 – March 1990
Already, I was developing a strongly pro-Wolverine trend in my comic reading, obviously. And it was a decent journey there. DC Book to Marvel book to X-Men book to X-Men book more prominently featuring Wolverine to book with a solo Wolverine story. Boom! Peak fanboy achieved.
From my research, the first actual issue of Wolverine I am positive I got when it came out was a few months away, but I sure snatched up this issue of MCP for starring him.
The main story, the Wolverine one, is a throwaway chapter in a series of Logan fighting some one-off jobber with shadow monsters. The backup stories were interesting, though, with the final part of a saga that saw Enchantress enslave Wonder Man and turn him into a god (most MCP comics existed seemingly inside a bubble, but this story would be relevant in a few years when Wonder Man got his solo series and the Enchantress came back after him). Elsewhere, the Joe Fixit iteration of Hulk fought Hulk Hogan in a wrestling match.
How it shaped me: Boy, I ended buying MCP for a long time after this. It was such an underrated book. I kind of miss books like that.
So three out of the first five books I ever got as a kid were either X-Men books or featured Wolverine? That definitely sounds like the ratio of my childhood. For a while I bought every bloody thing that either had Wolverine or an X in it. All because my dad was hoarding Thor for himself at my grandmother’s dinner table back in 1989 or 1990. In the carpeted kitchen. I CAN’T GET OVER THAT.
I’d really dig hearing you let me know about your earliest comic memories, though. Those were my first five comics. What about yours? Let me know in the comments! For more meandering nonsense from me, catch me on Twitter at NotBAMF. Until we meet again… take care!