The First Time

There is a question that reverberates in every comic fan's mind: What was your first comic? It's like your first kiss, or your first car, or your first's something you'll always remember, at least on some level.

The first comic I remember is actually a DC comic. I was just a kid, taking a trip somewhere with my parents by car. We always traveled by car, and for a kid, this is poor torture. To keep me from being completely unbearable, they would buy us those little road games (license plate bingo, anyone?) and books to read. I don't remember where we were going that summer, I don't even remember the name or issue of the comic, but I know it featured Hawkman and Dr. Polaris and somehow involved mind control. Despite the fact that I remember so little as a child, those images have stuck with me. Shows what an easy mark I was for super-hero comics, I think.

At any rate, I didn't really pick up comics after that. Sure, I'd look at anything my friends were reading, but I had no idea of the division between Marvel and DC. I was like your average person, thinking Superman and Spider-Man co-existed in the same universe and having all my comics knowledge come from TV shows like Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk.

Then one day Hasbro changed my life. In order to get around the FCC rules about advertising their products during cartoons that featured the characters, they helped Marvel develop ads for their comic books. These ads were just brief teaser animation, a few seconds of action that left off on a cliffhanger and said, "Want to know more? Check out this month's issue of G.I. Joe!"

I wanted desperately to know more. There was all this cool action, a new character being introduced (Destro) and a shadowy figure whose identity wasn't revealed in the cartoon. While shadowy figures whose identities aren't revealed make me yawn now, as a kid, I was really curious about who these people were. (It was Major Bludd, in this case, making his first appearance.)

When I managed to pick up the issue, I discovered the evil truth about comics: they never finish a story. Just when I had found out who the mysterious figure was, suddenly one of my favorite characters seemed to be dead. Just when he was revealed not to be dead, I wanted to know how he was going to get back to the G.I. Joe team. Just when he got back, the secret base was under attack by Cobra. And so on and so on, anyone who is a comics fan knows how it goes.

Comics are infectious, and always have been. From reading G.I. Joe and picking it up in the comics shop, it was inevitable that I'd start to wonder about some of the other comics Marvel was putting out, which got me into Secret Wars II. Yes, it was a stinky story, but it crossed over into everything Marvel was doing, which let my 14-year-old mind absorb what I liked and didn't like about that universe, and made me pick out which titles I wanted to follow. I was immediately drawn to the X-Men, as were so many others, and as any X-Men fan will tell you, that is a hard habit to kick. You have to substitute a large amount of something else for it, which is how I wound up reading DC books as well.

From there, I branched out into independent titles and was suddenly collecting at least a hundred bucks worth of comics a month. Which led me to working in a comic store, writing online reviews and eventually making my living reading comic books.

Since I've been reading for fifteen years now, reading comics isn't really like the first time anymore. It's like your hundredth kiss, or driving the car: it's still pleasant, and it gets you where you want to go, but some of the magic is gone. Thankfully, there are still some creators out there who know how to reach into that little kid part of my brain and tweak it, and that's what keeps me coming back.

Randy W. Lander

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