For the sake of mixing things up every so often, I’ve decided to do something a bit different today. Instead of talking about one of the latest comics I’ve bought or one from my existing library of comics, I want to talk a bit about an interesting bit of comics-related social media reminiscing in which I participated.
At the very core of this site is a love of comics, and a desire to share and spread that love and to help it grow, to help spark an interest in the medium that may, ultimately, lead others to not only consume comics but also create them, and, ideally, do that creating here.
It’s why I frequently point out that these Spotlight posts aren’t really reviews, they’re conversations, albeit of a rather one-sided nature. I talk about comics I like and/or think are important, and about why I like them – in general and specific terms – in the hopes of inspiring others to check them out, or to find other comics that they might like. I think that – if they ever found an audience, which is a separate issue – it’s an approach that is a little more interesting than giving a score or star rating or whatever.
Not that reviews – or ratings – are bad, it’s just that there are plenty of other options out there if that’s what you’re looking for, and I prefer taking a more personal, often meandering, approach. The personal aspect is important, because, like I said, this site is about love. In these posts I’m not a comic book reviewer, I’m your comic book geek friend (or casual acquaintance; I don’t want to be presumptuous) who’s telling you about some comics that he digs.
In any case, to get to the social media part of this, on Valentine’s Day, Alex Segura, writer and Archie Comics Co-President, tweeted out a request for people to share:
- Their first comic
- The comic that hooked them
- One (or two or more) comic that is important to them
As more and more people participated, it grew into #ComicBookDNA with pros, fans, and even celebrities, sharing their love.
My contributions – made early, before the hashtag became a part of it – were the following:
Superman Family #171
Action Comics #500
Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #1
In my tweet I provided a little bit of background, but I wanted to use this space, which, for good or ill, is not limited to 280 characters, to expand on that.
The copy of Superman Family #171 seen above is hanging on my wall even as I type this. It’s not the specific copy of that issue that was once in my possession many, many years ago, which has been lost to the ages – and didn’t have a cover when I got my hands on it – but is a gift I received for my birthday several years ago.
I don’t remember when I got my tiny hands on it, but I know I was probably around four years old at the time (the comic was released when I was two or three). I don’t even remember how or where I first saw it; when I was very young, there were comics lying around our house, purchased to entertain my older siblings and me during car trips or whatever, but as I examine the memory, I seem to recall seeing it at someone else’s house. (None of my siblings, who are all older than I am, developed the kind of abiding love for comics that I did, and by the time I came along they had all mostly moved on from having any interest in them.)
But while I don’t recall those details, that comic is one of my earliest, most vivid memories. (For the record, my very earliest memory is of standing up in my crib in the dark and yelling to my mother that I needed my diaper changed. “Ma! I need a new diaper!”)
In the late ’80s I read somewhere that the four most universally-recognizable fictional characters were Mickey Mouse, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, and Superman.
Based on that kind of cultural osmosis, when I looked at the comic, I was at least dimly aware of who Superman was, but I had no idea who Supergirl was – I recall thinking that she must be his girlfriend – and as I looked at what was happening on the pages, fascinated by the imagery, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on based on the pictures alone, and I realized that if I wanted to know what was happening, I was going to have to learn how to read.
I didn’t, of course, miraculously learn to read on the spot, but over the course of whatever amount of time passed between that moment and starting kindergarten, I did teach myself to read at least a bit, mostly by following along as others read to me. (Well, not when my brother Stuart read to me, because I knew that, just because it was Stuart, what he was saying to me wasn’t what was written on the page. Mostly because of the swearing.)
Unfortunately, by the time I was able to read, that comic was no longer around. Whether it got thrown away, or if, as I suspect, I saw it at someone else’s house, I didn’t have access to it, I can’t say. But I never forgot it.
Decades later, I did some internet sleuthing – “It was a big comic and it had Supergirl in it, so it was probably an issue of Superman Family, and it involved a bunch of heroes throwing her into the water…” – I managed to track down which issue it was, and then add it to a birthday wish list, and…well, now it’s on my wall. (Thanks yet again, Scott!)
I’d love to be able to say that the story that inspired me to learn to read is one of the greatest stories ever committed to the page, but…yeah, it’s not.
Still, it was an important component of my Comic Book DNA.
I continued reading comics from that point on – thanks to the TV series and a friend who shared my love for the character, I really liked the Hulk, but I was baffled by the big differences between the show and the comic – but I wasn’t fully hooked until…
This comic had the added effect of getting me hooked on Superman as well.
It also made me realize that, for me, comics > everything else, solidifying a feeling that had been developing thanks to the aforementioned differences between the story of a certain jade giant on the page and on the screen, as well as the differences to be found between Wonder Woman on TV and Wonder Woman in the comics.
This is another comic that was lacking a cover when I got it, and which I identified – but have not yet re-acquired – years later based on its contents.
The comic came out, and ended up in my possession, after I had seen Superman: The Movie, and I remember being annoyed that the movie wasn’t more like the comic, which I found to be much more interesting and imaginative. I had loved the movie when I saw it, but I loved this so much more.
In those days, going to the movies was kind of a rare treat, and we only reliably pulled in one channel on TV, so that likely plays a part in why comics became my entertainment medium of choice, but beyond that I developed a sense that comics were capable of telling stories that couldn’t be told in any other format, or that at least couldn’t be told in quite the same way. It may be inaccurate to call this the comic that “hooked” me, but it was certainly the comic that made me decide to remain hooked.
Amethyst is important to me not because I loved the comic – though I did and do – but because it represents something of an achievement in my comic-buying life.
I’ve mentioned before that my access to new comics was spotty, at best, given that where I grew up a “Local Comic Shop” might as well have been a unicorn.
My comics-reading habits when I was young were somewhat eclectic, not because of any inherent flightiness on my part, but because it was often impossible to buy any series with any real consistency.
Amethyst marked the first occasion on which I did manage to be consistent; I picked up all twelve issues of the maxi-series as they came out.
This might not seem significant to you, but it was to me. It felt like I had accomplished something.
It’s especially significant because Amethyst almost marked the end of my comic-reading habit, as #8 was the first comic I picked up that reflected the jump in price from 60 cents to 75 cents. When my mother saw that, that was almost the end.
Ultimately, she gave in with a “Don’t tell your dad,” but for a moment there as we stood in line at the grocery store and she looked at that price it was a genuine Crisis on Earth Jon.
Also, as I noted over the course of maxi-series of “Nostalgia Reviews” on my old blog, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld has a lot more going for it than just being the first comic I ever collected every issue of as a kid. (Technically, the Tales of the New Teen Titans mini-series was the first, but that was only four issues, which was less of an accomplishment. One-third as much.)
In any case, that’s a closer look at my Comic Book DNA. Check out the hashtag to see what others have to say on the subject, and maybe add your own DNA – without even having to do a cheek swab – either on Twitter, or here, in the comments.
You can also consider looking at the hashtag as the Recommended Reading this time around.