Saturday, March 8, 2014

Secret Origins

Some Prime '70s Comics Goodness

I tend not to have an addictive personality. I’ve never been drunk, I’ve never been high. One of my few addictions is comic books. More specifically, I’m addicted to stories told with words and pictures. I’m at my LCS (local comic store for non-Big Bang Theory watchers) every Wednesday on New Comic Day.

My mom bought me comics to devour long before I could read. At the time I’m sure I was drawn in by their garish colors, Pow! Wham! graphics and bold action. When I learned to read I enjoyed the stories of good vs. evil, with the square-jawed good guys always coming out on top. Most kids like me tend to drop their four-color habit when they discover girls. I kept both as hobbies, even to this day.

Superman #193

The first comic I remember reading was Superman #193. The villainous Lex Luthor had killed Superman in an “imaginary story” (aren’t they all?), and heroes were lined up for miles to pay their last respects to the Man of Steel. Around the same time I discovered Spider-Man and his pals at Marvel Comics, with sophisticated stories aimed at a slightly older reader. I never stopped reading and today have over 24,000 comics and growing. They take up way too much space.

While I still love capes and superheroes, I don’t buy too many of today’s superhero comics. Once non-political adventure stories, mainstream superhero comic books have become mired in politically correct agenda-pushing instead of storytelling. This is fine for creator-owned comics or comics specifically labeled for adults. But I’m not sure why a child reading a superhero book needs to be exposed to alternative lifestyles, attacks against capitalism, and glorification of one side of the political spectrum (guess which one). These are books where characters lift tanks and shoot beams out of their eyes. Can’t we just stick to storytelling? I don't mind expression of those things at all. I just think all-ages superhero comic stories are not the appropriate place for those messages.

On the positive side, there are more genres and types of comics today than ever before, and I still love that medium for telling stories. There are zombie books, crime books, pulp hero books, sci-fi, horror, manga, something for every taste. I’ll be exploring some of the best of these in the days and weeks to come.


  1. So cool that you remember your first. I actually do too. I just checked a helpful site to get the exact issue number: Amazing Spider-Man #182. It was written by Marv Wolfman, which meant nothing to me at the time, but now I know that he was sometimes very good and sometimes very bad, and, well...this issue (maybe the whole run) fell in one of his bad periods. It was a three-way fight between Spider-Man, the Rocket Racer (one of those horrible African-American characters all over the place in the '70s, with the constant jivey slang) and the Big Wheel. There was also a soap-opera subplot with Peter proposing to Mary Jane and her turning him down. I didn't like the comic very much. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that you had to buy another one a month later and this stuff continued. My attention span wasn't yet built for that. So I stayed away for a few more years. The one I picked up that kept me reading was a Wonder Woman that probably was no better written, but I believe was drawn by the moody and magnificent Gene Colan.

    I haven't seen a comic in a long time, so I don't know what kind of alternative lifestyles exactly are being explored in them. If we're not talking about, you know, marrying farm animals or something, and it's just the modern-day equivalent of Maggie the lesbian police captain in Superman back in the '80s, I would gently suggest that maybe kids should be exposed to that stuff because it's part of the world in which they live, and it's important, and it's not an "alternative" to everyone -- it's their reality. Maybe it's going to strike a chord with some of the kids reading. If they're not ready for it, well, they can come back in a couple years as I did when I didn't care much about Peter and Mary Jane's romance.

  2. I remember Spider-Man #182, and it's just as goofy (and charming) as it sounds. And I do love anything with art from Gene (the Dean) Colan. His Dracula was definitive, in the 70s and now.

    Mainstream comics explore all alternate lifestyles nowadays in extreme detail, but probably nothing you wouldn't see on network TV or ABC Family. But some of the detail they get into I think is inappropriate for all-ages books. I'd rather have a frank and non-judgmental talk about any kind of sexuality with my child than let their first exposure be in a superhero comic. Just IMHO.