Recently, my employers relocated and let’s just say that travel’s a bitch. However, the route I now take goes past a newsagent near my nan’s house and that got me reminiscing about my earliest comic memories (as well as creating a new character, spygirl Memory Lane)...
This then is the first of maybe 5 or 6 posts charting my indoctrination into the world of comics...
My granddad was a talented painter (a skill I’ve never developed) and though he died when I was only 5, I still have vivid memories of him drawing for me all the time. He also made sure that every so often, a Marvel UK weekly made its way into my hands.
Though I was a fan of the Spider-Man cartoon, I only have a vague impression of any Spidey comics. My earliest memories are of the Hulk in Mighty World of Marvel, well before I could read. Though I finished primary school at the top of my class, I was a late starter and I distinctly getting off the bus to visit my nan and my mum buying me a copy of MWOM. Thanks to the internet and my memory of that cover, I know this was #237 in March 1977 (I would turn 6 5 months later) and at that stage, I could read “Hu” but not the “lk” part of Hulk. I remember hoping to finally being able to read the comic on my own but failing.
Previously, I had to rely on the art and though my timelines are mixed up, I still have definite memories of those comics. Being freaked out by cyborg apes in the Planet of the Apes strip and slumbering Lovecraftian creatures under the sea in Dr Strange. (I think that may have been in the Avengers weekly: my earliest Avengers memeory is being plonked outside Tesco for ten minutes, and my mum coming out with whatever she went in with and the 1976 Avengers Annual. Cor, I loved that hardback! Cover inlays featuring lots of great 70s licensing art of characters like the Vision and the Falcon among others and strips from Buscema’s great later 606s Avengers issues, introducing the Squadron Supreme with some freaky apocalyptic imagery of the Earth melting).
I remember seeing the Constrictor for the first time in MWOM, using his coils to strangle a victim: when I began buying my own US comics years later, I instantly recognised him when I picked up my first issue of Power Man and Iron Fist, where he was teamed with Sabretooth. I recall the end of perhaps the Avengers/Defenders war (definitely something with Loki, Dormammu and that plunger-looking mystic weapon) and a Thor strip, again by Buscema, with a blind Loki sitting in a tree, really freaky looking stuff to a kid.
I also remember an inside front cover ad for The Superheroes, a comic featuring the Silver Surfer and the original X-men. As well as a full figure shot of the Angel by Kirby, there was also a larger headshot of Cyclops looking directly at the reader. Something about the shared X-uniform created the notion that most superheroes wear similar outfits (the Fantastic Four cartoon of the time may have helped perpetuate that idea too) but Cyclops looked the coolest, burning a fascination with goggled heroes into my mind and when I began a comic fan in earnest, I was anxious to try and find out who that visored hero was.
(When I eventually rediscovered Cyclops in Rampage along with the new X-Men, I was thrilled with the new visor, team members and the fact that Cyke was the boss: he was my favourite character pretty quickly, replacing early fave Vision).
I remember being blown away by the colourful launch of Captain Britain (and getting annoyed with the flimsy free gift!) and following Rampage whenever I could: Nova and Nighthawk (in the Defenders strip) were also early faves (while I recall Xemnu the Titan from Rampage, it's the issue with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants I really remember, culminating with the apparent suffocation of Unus the Untouchable in the arms of a grieving Blob).
Star Wars was released in 1977 and I got the Annual that year, a much beloved collection of the adaptation and photo features but when the Marvel weekly launched in early 78, Luke Skywalker quickly replaces the Six Million Dollar Man as my favourite screen hero...