In the first part of this series of posts I gave you the early years of my comic book reading life from when I was first introduced to comics and those first series that got me to come back for every issue. This second part will cover some significant milestones for me as I became introduced to the DC Universe, dipped my toes into Indie comics, and being challenged why I don’t read more Marvel books. It’s not as dramatic as it sounds, I promise.
I’m a little vague on when I specifically got introduced to DC Comics, but it was around late 1986 or early 1987. My buddy, Mike Pope, introduced me to this universe of characters I had only seen on episodes of Super Friends. Books like THE HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS, and others. I don’t remember how big his comic book collection was at the time, but every time I went over to Mike’s house there were more issues I hadn’t read and I just dove into them. THE HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE had a huge impact on me because it showed me just how long these characters and comics had been around and how they all worked together to tell a much larger series of stories. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS showed me how all of those characters could come together against a common foe. TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS showed me what happens to sidekicks after they grow up and how they lean on one another in the best, and worst of times. All of these books gave me stories that I wanted to continue to read, not only to see how they continue but how they started – enter my back issue obsession.
While it was great to go over to Mike’s house to read DC Comics, the time for me to dive into the DC Universe on my own had arrived and I didn’t just dip my toe into the pool – I dove heard first into the deep end. I didn’t plan on jumping into the DC Universe with the launch of the MILLENNIUM crossover, but it did give me a chance to pick up a lot of tie-in issues in most of the DC Comics ongoing titles. At the time I probably considered MILLENNIUM to be the next CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS – it wasn’t, not by a long shot. What it did give me was some exposure to a lot of titles that became mainstays on my pull list for years to come. Titles like FIRESTORM, THE FLASH, OUTSIDERS, BLUE BEETLE, YOUNG ALL-STARS, BOOSTER GOLD, CAPTAIN ATOM, and SUICIDE SQUAD. I had already been reading JUSTICE LEAGUE, which became JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL. I loved these characters so much, when JLI was cancelled and DC launched JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE with the same characters I immediately picked it up.
If you know me you know that the characters of the Teen Titans teams have always held a special place in my heart and my comic collection. I’ll probably spend some time in the near future going in-depth on my history with the various titles that have come out since I started reading them in 1987, but they weren’t my only long time DC team that I’ve stuck with over the years. The LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES has always been a title that I’ve followed and collected in it’s various incarnations, but I wasn’t introduced to them in their own series. Nope. It was through THE WANDERERS maxiseries that I got my first introduction to the team.
I can say 1987 was a year that really opened up my eyes to the DC Universe, but it also gave me my first real look into the world of Independent comics, and not because I was looking for an alternative, but because I had a friend named Buddy Watson. Buddy and I were on the same Little League baseball team. Our parents were good friends, and we just hung out at each others houses all the time. We both loved cool looking throwing knives and throwing stars. One of the times I was over at Buddy’s house he showed me some comics he had that were about these crazy turtle humanoid characters that were being trained by a rat man to be ninjas. I was hooked, and my fascination with the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES began. I traded all of my throwing stars for his stack of comics, and I read and re-read those comics as much as I could. I would eventually find more issues, but owning that first volume of TMNT was something I was never able to accomplish. Looking back it was definitely a series I wished I had pursued more in the back issue bins.
This dive into comics outside of DC Comics wasn’t something I made a big deal about. Publishers didn’t really mean anything to me at the time, and probably wouldn’t until seven comic creators wound up starting their own company, but that’s a story for another time. During this time I’d have friends introducing me to titles like FISH POLICE, THE MAZE AGENCY, ELEMENTALS, GRENDEL, and MAGE. Sure, most of those are Comico titles, but when you only buy from one local comic shop you go with who they order. All of those books were amazing. The idea of only reading ‘super-hero’ comics was never something I considered until a friend of mine challenged me by calling my comics “stupid” because they weren’t Marvel books. His argument was that he was reading comics from Marvel that were based in the ‘real world’ and not in places called Metropolis or Gotham. His characters lived in New York and Los Angeles – real places. At this point, we’re 13 years old and it sounded like a logical argument, so I took him up on his offer and he let me borrow some of his AVENGERS comics. They were fine, but nothing that stuck with me that I can remember today. It wasn’t until I saw UNCANNY X-MEN #225 on the shelf and I got curious.
UNCANNY X-MEN #225 was the launch of the “Fall of the Mutants” story arc. None of that meant anything to me, but the characters looked interesting. One character in particular looked familiar – Spiral. My cousin, you know the one that’s to blame for introducing me to comics by accident, picked up a miniseries in late 1985 (or early 1986) called LONGSHOT from Marvel Comics. The series was drawn by Art Adams, and for two kids wanting to get artistic inspiration from a comic book artist I think we found a good source of inspiration. What I never thought I’d see again was the six-armed assassin of Mojo from that miniseries – Spiral, but there she was on the cover and I was very confused and very intrigued. I would pick up UNCANNY X-MEN #225, 226, and 227. I would also find myself picking up NEW MUTANTS #59 which would introduce me to a team of teenage mutants that reminded me of the Teen Titans and I would connect to these characters way more than the other X-Men. Much like before I dove into the back issues at Tales Resold and would eventually buy up every issue of NEW MUTANTS to the very first issue. I would never own the original graphic novel, but there’s still time to do that, right?
This introduction was all I would need to be connected to the X-Men, albeit more with the New Mutants that the rest of the X-Men team. I would eventually connect to all of these characters and my pull list would grow with more titles, and my back issue hunting would get crazy, and it would solve the problem most of my family would have for years to come, “what do I get Chris for his birthday and Christmas?”
That will do it for this part of my secret origin. I’m having a blast thinking back to my early years of buying comics and the stories and characters that pulled me in. There are a lot of details I’m forgetting, but looking back has sent me down a lot of rabbit holes and I’m loving it. I’m not sure where the next part of this series will go, but we’re at a point with me where X-Men were my obsession with new and old issues. With the creation of Image Comics things would get very interesting for me since all of my favorite artists on the X-Men titles would be leaving and starting new titles. I think if you’re my age and were collecting comics at this time our stories will be very similar.
Again, thank you all for reading along and if you’re interested in discussing any of this you can find me on Twitter at @ChrisPartin.