It’s hard to believe when I look at my long boxes now that my comic collecting days started with one lone issue and expanded from there. I’ve read interviews where comic creators and fans alike have forgotten their very first comic and it’s not difficult to understand why. With hundreds upon hundreds of comics read/worked upon, the very first one might be a tad hard to recall.
But I remember my first comic well. It was an issue of Thundercats purchased for me by my mother one afternoon from a drug store. It looked like this:
The comic came out in 1987, and the five year old Jacob was excited by the wacky hijinks that Wilykit and Wilykat managed to get themselves into before Lion-O came to bail them out. Of the early comics that sat in a pile in my room, this one managed to stick around for a while (minus the cover) but eventually it was lost to the ages with a bunch of other random comics that I had procured in my younger days.
But when I think about the basis of my current collection, three comics come to mind that really stick in my head. I consider the summer of 1991 to be when I actually started collecting comics, largely influenced by my older brother. I had read the Archie series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles whenever I could snag a copy (the corner Melton’s Food Mart was iffy on carrying the book on their comic rack), but eventually my brother decided it was time to introduce me to X-Men.
It started with this issue:
This remains one of my all-time favorite team line-ups and covers, mainly based on the sentiment value over actual quality. Sure, the X-Men were all wearing the generic yellow and blue costumes (strangest looking on Wolverine, Psylocke and Gambit) and the issue was in the tail-end of Chris Claremont’s legendary run on the book, most noteworthy throwing away the years-old plot thread of Deathbird’s leadership of the Shi’ar with an off-panel fight with Wolverine. But it looked awesome to me then, and the thought stays with me now.
This issue was even more special to me because it was my brother’s and he hardly ever let me read it. At just 8 years old, I was not exactly trustworthy in keeping comics in decent condition and thus when my brother would finally relent and allow me to see the Jim Lee-drawn awesomeness, he kept close watch on me.
And perhaps it was for that reason that another one of his comics took such special interest in me:
Uncanny X-Men #243, the penultimate issue of Inferno, was secured by my brother through a friend and strictly off-limits to me. I would have to beg and plead to read it and thus each time I was allowed it was a special treat. I wasn’t familiar with the details of Madelyne Pryor or her relationship with Cyclops or Jean Grey, and I didn’t really care. This had the X-Men in their normal costumes and all of X-Factor as well! And that cover! The issue ends in a cliffhanger and it was actually about a decade before I ever got around to buying the follow-up issue of X-Factor and seeing how the final battle against Mr. Sinister ended.
But that’s my brother’s X-Men comics. Three months after he wowed me with Uncanny #275, my brother shocked me by saying that since the Warskrull story had wrapped with #277, he was going to spend his allowance on something else rather than picking up #278. He probably bought music or some other “socially acceptable” somethingorother with his money. After hearing me whine about it for a while, he finally instructed me to either buy the issue myself or shut up about it.
Intrigued by the permission to begin my own X-Men quest, I trotted up the three blocks to Melton’s and put down my $1 (plus five cents sales tax) and walked home the proud owner of the first X-Men comic I had ever purchased, Uncanny X-Men #278:
Like the few issues I had read before, I was not familiar with many of the details of the issue. I didn’t know the characters running around Muir Island or how big of a deal it was that they were all possessed by the Shadow King. I didn’t really know Rogue or Colossus who showed up on the last page. I wasn’t too hot on the art, since Jim Lee had left the title to work on the about-to-launch Adjectiveless X-Men (and blissfully unaware of the awesomeness of Paul Smith who was filling in). But the comic was MINE, and unlike my brother’s issues that were carefully guarded, I could read this one over and over to my heart’s content (and I did).
And that’s where it started. Before long, visits with my grandmother would always include a trip to one of the local comic shops to pick up an issue of Classic X-Men where I met some of the more classic characters and stories. Upon the new series launch, I followed the blue team because, you know, it had WOLVERINE in it! My time in class was spent drawing every X-Character I could think of into team-shot drawings (that I really wish I still had).
And today I still have that copy of Uncanny X-Men #278 that I bought in 1991. I have since bought a second copy that’s in better condition and able to be read without dissolving, but I still have safely stored that one issue that started my fandom.
And I love it as much now as I did then…just with a sense of nostalgia rather than a sense of youthful wonder.