Nostalgic X-amination


While I will be talking about some comics today, and it is Sunday, this isn’t a Spotlight Sunday post. Instead it’s just something of a casual, meandering walk down memory lane inspired by some recent acquisitions, though in one case it’s a reacquisition.

I’ve written before – at length – about how, for various reasons, the way I acquired comics when I was a kid was pretty haphazard. In fact, up until around, oh, I’d say 1981, most of the comics I got came in the form of mystery bags filled with damaged or otherwise unsold comics, most of which were, at best, several months old by the time I got my hands on them.

As I got older, I started being able to grab new comics off the shelves and spinner racks at the various grocery stores and gas stations my parents – with me in tow – frequented. Even when I entered that period in which I was able to acquire new comics, I didn’t always have control over which comics I got. A lot of times I’d be left at home while my parents went to town to do the shopping, and my mom would just grab a random assortment of comics on my behalf.

Maybe this was part of the reason that when picking out my own new comics became the norm I still did so fairly chaotically, rarely buying titles in any sort of consistent manner, even when that meant missing part two of a two-part story, or picking up part two even though I’d missed part one. Of course, a big part of the lack of consistency was that not every title was always available to me every month because they’d already sold out – or possibly never arrived – before I got a chance to pick them up.

There was also the matter of having to make difficult choices, as there were budget concerns. Not that I had a budget – I didn’t have an allowance as a kid. Or at least, I didn’t have one that went to me directly. Instead, there was just a varying threshold up to which the answer to “Can I get this?” would be “Yes.”

Anyway, the point is that as I entered my tween years and got into buying new comics, the collection of comics I had amassed could best be described as “eclectic,” and there weren’t many comics that I even tried to buy consistently every month.

Nor was there much of anything in that collection featuring the X-Men.

Most of what I knew about Marvel’s Merry Mutants at that time was limited to seeing this house ad in some of my older comics.

Kid Me: Is that big metal guy a robot?

I’d also picked up an old copy of a Marvel Triple Action somewhere that had Cyclops and some of the other original X-Men in it.

And I’d encountered former X-Men like Iceman, Angel, and the Beast in other comics, but the rest of these “new” X-Men were a mystery to me. (I would have also seen Iceman on TV the few times I was able to watch Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.)

As far as I recall, my first exposure to the new mutants – but not the New Mutants – was in a couple of issues of Marvel Team-Up, with one featuring Spidey teaming up with Wolverine, and the next featuring the Web-Slinger joining forces with Professor X.

In addition to picking up new comics, around this time I started occasionally picking up a magazine about comics called Comics Scene. One issue had a story, or maybe an interview – my memory is fuzzy – that involved the X-Men and featured images from a story in Marvel Fanfare, a comic I never once in my life saw on sale anywhere. I don’t think any place I went to carried it.

Anyway, the images from the comics looked interesting to me, and though I wasn’t exactly plugged into fandom, I had the sense that these X-Men characters were pretty popular, and by that time I’d already become a fan of The New Teen Titans – one of the few comics that I did try to buy every month – and was aware that they were more or less DC’s answer to the popularity of the X-Men, and I’d liked those issues of MTU I’d read, so I wanted to know more about them.

My interest in the X-Men was piqued even more when sometime that summer I got a damaged copy of this in a mystery bag:

My copy – long-since lost to the ages – was missing the top third of the cover, and the first several pages had been sliced through.

Despite my interest in getting aboard the mutant train, I didn’t often see any X-Men comics on the shelves, but eventually, one day, I did, and I picked it up.

I was pretty much hooked, but even so, I still followed my usual chaotic approach and didn’t immediately start buying it every month. Though I had the option to buy it, I skipped the next issue. Then I bought the one after that. Then I skipped the next – that one I may not have seen at all – then I got the next, and from that point on, to the best of my ability, I picked up every issue I could for the next ten years.

It’s been a long time since I read any of the X-books, and while I hear good things – and bad things, because that’s just the nature of, well, things – about what’s been going on, and some of what I’ve seen looks interesting, I just don’t feel like hopping back on the mutant train. I don’t have the same kind of enthusiasm for trying to get up to speed on the status quo and what has gone before that I did when I was 10.

But it was a fun ride while it lasted, and it’s been on my mind lately.

Because it’s been on my mind – and because I’ve kind of stalled out in my quest to acquire a complete run of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, as it’s been difficult to find copies of the issues I still need that are in the sweet spot of being in decent enough condition and being affordable – I’ve been filling in some of the gaps in my X-Men collection. Specifically from those early days.

In some cases, that means acquiring comics I never had – there was a period between #197 and #205 that I did not see X-Men comics anywhere – and replacing some of the ones that I had but have lost.

This issue, which I just got in the mail the other day, is an example of the latter, and it’s the very first brand-new X-Men comic I ever bought.

I got my original copy from Jim’s Food Mart in Houghton, MI, one of the few places I went to that had an actual spinner rack.

And coincidentally, one of the new comics I bought this past week was a special issue Marvel put out in advance of a new Ka-Zar series, which reprints that story that appeared in Marvel Fanfare.

Those two comics and what they represented as part of my comic-reading history, in particular as they relate to my early experiences with the X-Men, inspired me to write this largely pointless ramble. I’m probably mistaken in that regard, but I just felt that it’s sometimes interesting to look back on how certain things happened, where you were mentally, and what led you to take a certain step, and that I should document it in some fashion. Given that I have this money pit platform available, I figured I’d do it here, and share it with you.

Whoever, and however few of you, that may be.

And that’s really all there is to it. Some comics made me think about the process by which I started reading a particular series and I thought it might be fun to write those thoughts down. I’m not getting into the stories contained in the comics I bought, or really even examining – or X-amining, despite the post’s title – the nature and power of nostalgia. Just talking about stuff that happened a long time ago, Grandpa Simpson style. (I did not at any point back then have an onion tied to my belt.)

I hope you found it at least mildly interesting, or at least a not-unpleasant diversion, and if you did and would like to see more content – some like this, most, thankfully, not – here on this site, well…

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