What was the first comic you ever owned? I posit this to you, because often comic fandom starts early in life, with bright colors, larger than life characters, and action that is at once epic in scale and power, while still avoiding the unsettling and gruesome harshness of real violence.
Because comic fandom can start early in life, often the first comic we, as comic book fans, own isn’t necessarily the most glamorous book in the world; rare are the stories of an uncle or parent or grandparent bestowing upon a youngster an issue that is both treasured and “treasure”. More often than not, I would suppose, the first comic we own is some innocuous old thing, maybe something that was new off the rack, maybe something from the $1.00 box underneath a table at the flea market. Mine is of the latter sort, and ended up having a great influence on my life.
The first comic book I can remember owning (or at least can distinctly remember being fascinated with) is (issue number), a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #45. Spider-Man, once again showing he is the paramount of “put-upon” heroes, must battle The Lizard with an injured arm. It wasn’t until much later in life that I caught the irony of Spider-Man, with one arm, fighting The Lizard, a villain whose progenitor was the desire to overcome having only one arm (this happened later than I would be proud to admit, though I hadn’t thought about the issue in years).
No, the only thing I cared about was Spider-Man, looking cool, and the train full of reptiles he was to fight in his pursuit of The Lizard, who was a classic villain if there ever was one. This issue shaped my love of comics in two important ways: it began my fascination with Spider-Man, a character I readily identified with as a skinny kid with brown hair and glasses (and ended up dressing up as for Halloween at age 26), and also skewed how I collect comics: I am much more comfortable digging through bins of old stuff in pursuit of something that looks “cool” or I’ve heard has a good story than I am doggedly keeping up with new issues. It didn’t matter to me that this comic wasn’t rare or expensive, or that it was a reprint, I just loved it because it was fun.
I’ve “come back” to comics within the past few years (though I was never fully “away”), but my modus operandi has still been to look for “cool” back issues, though I’ve switched from the haphazard “buy anything that looks awesome” approach to a more focused strategy with an eye on complete sets/runs, and the number of new issues I’ve bought have been limited to the What If AvX released last year, Amazing Spider-Man #700, and a handful of issues to “play along” on Free Comic Book Day.
With my love of comic books coming back to the forefront, I thought back to the one that started it all. Tucked away in a box in my parent’s house, I felt a serene joy come over me when I picked it up again. It had been so long since I had seen it that it felt new all over again; I had rediscovered a piece of my past.
After ascertaining which issue of Amazing Spider-Man this was reprinting, I knew I had a new comic-related mission: get the original, using it as a sort of “tribute” to its own reprint. Amazing Spider-Man #45 is not an exceptionally momentous issue; ostensibly it is just another early battle between Spider-Man and The Lizard, and so doesn’t command impractical prices. I found some copies on eBay, but I looked to the future and saw the Coast City Comic Con was coming up.
I concede eBay is a lovely service for filling out runs, especially for the issues that are, in a bit of an oxymoron, not rare, but often hard to find (such as the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe single issues), though that may be symptomatic of the smallness of the comic book scene in Maine. However, there exists a special sort of happiness derived from flipping through a box, or seeing something up on the wall, and knowing that issue is “it”.
I would hold off on snapping up ASM 45 on eBay until after the Con; I would give myself the opportunity to experience that joy. After asking one of the dealers, who had a decent amount of Silver Age issues on display, if he had it, he replied no, but pointed me to another dealer in the back who just might.
Though my friends and I were casually strolling through the booths en route to the back of the dealer room, inside I wanted to run over; in a brief, tense, immature tantrum, I wanted the book now. Finally we made it there. I saw it, up on the wall. The familiar cover, with yellow, red, blue and green bursting off the page, Spider-Man with one bound arm. The price was decent, and I even got a copy of Captain America #217 (Quasar/new Marvel Boy’s first appearance, for my “cosmic Marvel” first appearance collection) thrown in for practically nothing.
I had it. It was mine. For a moment, it was the first comic I ever owned all over again.
So I end this article the way I began: tell me, on Twitter (@theslimjames) or in the comments, new, old, rare, junk, what was the first comic YOU ever owned?