While I’ve read comics in some form for most of my life, and superheroes and related things have populated it even longer.
I had some of the 80s action figures of Superman and the like, and I even had a JLA poster¹ (that for some reason I cut up on a whim so that it was only the characters and no background. Don’t ask me). I wanted to see anything and everything comic book related–I remember excitedly watching the 1990 Flash TV series (even as it hopped days–some of that memory is absolutely ingrained, though), Batman, and the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (for which I also had a poster). The 1960’s Batman show appealed to me sincerely, because it was one of the few filmed superhero things around. I watched the Dolph Lundgren Punisher and the Bixby/Ferrigno Incredible Hulk and sometimes I’d peruse the set of videocassettes stored in the house to interesting results.²
Comic books, though, I picked up from the grocery store that my family shopped at when I lived in my homestate of Missouri (a local chain that no longer exists, if I’m not mistaken). I could still tell you where it was (not by address, I wasn’t driving yet, so there was no reason to know it) and I still remember where that spinning rack was.
I came in on the ground floor of a lot of obvious things–the oldest comic book I recall owning for myself was the February 1991 issue of Spectacular Spider-Man, written by Gerry Conway and penciled and inked by Sal Buscema, and some extra scripting from David Michelinie. Rick Parker lettered, and Bob Sharen coloured. It’s hard to say what early issues of the Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic I owned, but some of them I may have owned that were even older than that issue of Spectacular–a lot from 1989 ring some bells, but many stories cross-pollinated up to that point, being both animated episodes and kids book publications (which I definitely had). I got in early on the start of the non-Uncanny X-Men, having issues 2 and 4 from that particular series to this day (with no covers, and plenty of wear that comes from being a kid who wanted to read and look at them).
But the point where things really started clicking was June of ’92, and The Infinity War. It was my introduction to Adam Warlock and Thanos, as well as the Magus, and a thousand other heroes–I used to love pouring over that triple-spread cover and trying to identify everyone (which, let’s be fair, I couldn’t). I remember being on vacation and missing issue 3 for years, and then haphazardly picking up chunks of the rest of the series to my frustration.
1993 brought the real onset of Image in my limited vision, and my peculiar choices of Wildstar and The Maxx as titles to follow. Wildstar was a mini-series at that point, and I loved it (but missed the XTC jokes I’d get later in life), while The Maxx was way over my head but I loved it anyway, and pursued the MTV animated series (thanks to some heavy pushes from the book itself) when it began very, very excitedly.
But, with this, I’d started a subscription to Amazing Spider-Man for some sort of door-to-door thing (or maybe it was for my sister’s something or other, I don’t know) in late ’92 that continued for about three years into early 1996, with a few issues missed every subscription cycle as we waited for the re-sub to have the same side-benefits. I started, by then, collecting other series–Morbius, the Living Vampire, the first book I went into an actual comic shop and bought a back-issue of (#2, for $2.00, which I still have in original bag and board–$.25 over cover price, and 2-8x what you can get it for now…).
My collection was incredibly weird and haphazard–my run of Morbius went 2, 5-11 and stopped until I was in college. I had random new issues of Ghost Rider and the first of Generation X (and no others for a while!) and Wolverine #50 (whose cover I loved so much I emulated it in any fiction I wrote for school, and later inspired by entry into RAGE and its originator, Werewolf: the Apocalypse). I was never a serious collector, not really–I had nothing very valuable, and wouldn’t spend much on any single issue (mostly for allowance reasons, but also because I’ve never been completely focused on anything to the exclusion of all else).
I moved out of Missouri in 1998, and I wasn’t reading much at the time, but the culture shock and shift in location left me looking for more. On a shopping trip, a set of Ron Marz’s Green Lantern came by me, from early on in the Kyle Rayner story, to match with the figure I’d picked up shortly before leaving Missouri, loving the new costume. It would eventually become my second mail-order subscription for a few years during High School, and all I was reading regularly then.
In high school, I met a friend who brought me back into the fold–around the time of Apocalypse: the Twelve, when JMS was writing Amazing and sometime around when Claremont returned to the X-Men. I collected for a bit–picking up some Vertigo titles (Lucifer, Hellblazer) and generally puttering around as before, but at least consistently this time, given a title. It didn’t last too long, and came in fits and spurts as time went on, until college, when I began to read the “core” Vertigo titles (Sandman, particularly) and discovered the illegal method of acquiring older titles that hadn’t all been collected (and I couldn’t afford anyway), which allowed me to finally read Saga of the Swamp Thing from Alan Moore’s run (yes, I own trades of it all now), a lot of Spider-Man I’d never read (1-415 or so of ASM, 1-210 or so of SSM, 1-120 or so of Web, and 1-60 or so of PP:SM), and a truckload of other stuff (like early Warlock and Thanos appearances).
I lost track again, though–especially as I shed basically all of my illegal downloading, and began to read trades and collect trades of important stories. I’ve got a few of D.C.’s Absolute editions, a smattering of primary Green Lantern, Spider-Man, and Warlock/Thanos stuff, as well as all of Lucifer and Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man.
Earlier this year, Jim Starlin’s return to Thanos was confirmed, and the Thanos Annual was given a publication date. I went out that day and bought it immediately, and found myself digging through older stuff not long after–a habit that was only worsened by a trip to HeroesCon for my birthday this year, where a pursuit of She-Hulk comics for a prospective paramour and friend became an increasing dig for my own titles alongside it–those issues of Silver Surfer that surrounded The Infinity Gauntlet, for instance.
Now I have 18 longboxes of comics to read, running much of the spectrum. And so I write here, on occasion, because I just like sharing things.
¹Pretty sure it was this one.
²Iceman was disappointing, because it was a caveman. That kind of thing. It did mean that I saw The Toxic Avenger (the r-rated cut) at an “inappropriately” young age. Like most things, I mostly didn’t grasp a lot of it, and found the violence–which is actually severely trimmed in that cut–as horrifying as possible. But it did end up leaving me with a lifelong love of Troma (though primarily the 80s output).