For some reason, my sleep-addled brain this morning started to whirl and wheel towards my first exposures to comic books, all those bitter unshaven years ago.
I liked superheroics as a wee lad (well, I STILL like superheroics to an extent, but anyway) so obviously I remember occasionally dipping my toe into the blood-soaked and muscle-constricting tights of the 90’s (man that sounded dirty), almost always X-Men and related X-titles, though I remember trying my hand at checking out Captain America and the “Live Kree or Die” storyline through various Captain America and Avengers titles. I distinctly remember an issue of Wolverine where Logan, in the post-adamantium claws era, marries Viper, aka Madame Hydra in Madripoor, and being really amazed not only at the whole thing, but at the interior art in particular. I think it was Yu’s artwork, but I don’t remember.
However, the really big exposure, the biggest and most common titles to cross my path when I was a little kid, was Conan The Barbarian and The Savage Sword of Conan. I was obsessed with this franchise as a kid, and just ate that shit up. I think it was the near-topless ladies and the swords. I liked stuff with swords and swordplay and knights and samurai and stuff like that.
These comics were actually handed down to me in a few file drawer’s worth of old comics that my dad’s brother let me read, and I’m sure if I poke through drawers and shelves and closets in various family members’ places even now, I’ll find those issues. There was a some old Avengers issues in there too, what I think was the first issue of Moon Knight, a Giant-Sized Hulk, and I swear a sealed copy of Iron Man that I think was the first appearance of Gladiator. The one with the spinning blades on his arms.
Somewhere in this little sordid history were issues of Archie Comics’ attempts at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, which I remember being given because I loved that franchise when I was a little kid, probably more than anything in the world. It was a weird time in that run, with time travel and shit. Probably not the best time to come into that, all half-assed and whatnot, seeing mutant sharks and cats fighting a futuristic one-eyed Raphael. Hey, don’t ask me, I was wondering how the hell I could convince my parents to get me a pair of katanas and some armor.
There was a moment when I wanted to get into the now-legendary and still really good Batman: Knightfall storyline, before I started hearing through the backs of my X-Men and Superman and Amazing Spider-Man comics and TV news about how big it was and how much printings of various issues were running, though I made up for it in the end by reading it later on in a collected form.
If you didn’t already know, when I was 10 I moved out of the US and ended up going to American-styled schools in Greece, and met a variety of other kids from the US originally dragged overseas by parents. Kids who introduced me to the new wave of anti-hero comics like the solo Venom series, Spawn, and probably other crap that Top Cow and Image used to put out that looked like rejects from Rob Liefeld’s drawing notebook. Or they were intentional Liefeld creations. I remember thinking that both of the aforementioned characters reminded me a lot of Spiderman in terms of costumes and physical mannerisms (I had a vague notion of who Venom was). Oddly enough, Todd McFarlane used to draw Spiderman. He probably drew some of the stuff I’d read at the time. About this time is when I started reading newspaper strips, mostly The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Non-Sequiter, and Bloom County and Opus. Of course between then and now punk rock and TV and girls and beer and skateboarding came into play for a while, and I didn’t really need ANOTHER thing to get picked on for, so comics fell by the wayside.
Then a few years ago when I started seriously delving back into it thanks to the magic of my local library’s then-burgeoning collection of graphic novels and a brief foray into manga, which is a really fucking expensive habit, probably moreso than comics, and almost as expensive as crack. Then the more non-conventional books like Watchmen and Promethea (both Alan Moore books), darker Batman stuff like “Year One” and “No Man’s Land”, and a bunch of horror stuff. I don’t remember where but Green Lantern: Rebirth is somewhere in there, which solidified by love of that title/character(s).
I used to think that I was a definite late-comer into being hardcore about comic books these days, but the more I think about it the more I’ve realized that I’ve kind of been around them in some form for a long time, with only a relatively small chunk of my life not really connected to them, comparatively. That’s pretty insane, at least to me. Because I’ve realized that it’s probably one of the more perfect mediums out there, and probably the most perfect one for me, allowing for visual storytelling but also quality writing that covers EVERYTHING. Literally, everything, from Marvel’s Moby Dick and The Odyssey adaptations to spacefaring superhero battles like Guardians of the Galaxy to deep and powerful indies like Demo.
Not like it matters but it makes me feel a little better about it, especially since I find myself drawn more and more to it in a writing sense these days (mostly just in a journalistic/critical sense). Because I’m not a floppies guy these days (a touchy subject in comics), I tend to not be as picky about certain things in my comics like “certain” internet fans (or fans in general) are about continuity and characters (at least, in certain books), so I sometimes feel a little bit like someone commenting on comics, as opposed to someone who REALLY REALLY enjoys them. It’s a fleetingly brief and occasional thought, but it does come up.
Or it would, anyway, until this morning.