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In the Beginning; Origins of the Comic Book Fan

With Scott Snyder’s Batman Year Zero origin story beginning a new arc on his run of Batman this week, we thought we would look back to our own origin stories, tracing back to how we entered into the world of comics. Sure, the Sound On Sight comics team may not have origin stories as epic as some of the superheroes out there, but going back is a great way to look at how we were all introduced to comics, and why we write about them today. Here’s how it all began…

me

A Toxic Beginning
by Tony Nunes

I remember the plucking of my comic book virginity well. Easter of 1991, a scrawny nine year old version of myself, Ghostbusters and Star Wars obsessed and well on his way to becoming a full-fledged geek finds his first comic book in one of his Easter baskets. Ok, enough talking about myself in the third person. What was that comic you ask? It wasn’t the traditional Spiderman comic a nine year old would expect. No, it was issue one of Marvel’s then newly launched The Toxic Avenger.

Yes, that is the comic book my parents chose as my first, and unbeknownst to them would not only lead me down the path of comic book fandom, but also down the back-alleys of Troma-esque indie film perversions and an all-around love of satire. This “hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength” was my introduction to comics, and I loved every panel. Soon after Toxie came into my life, I’d begin my saturation of the more canonical works of superhero comics.

That would come about a year later, with the launch of the X-Men animated series on FOX and the release of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (my favorite Batman film) that same year. Soon I was buying every Batman and X-Men comic I could get my hands on. Batman, movie spin-offs, Spawn and Marvel, most exclusively X-Men and X-Force stayed on my radar for a while. At the time I would almost religiously play the Marvel OverPower card series with friends every day after school. It wasn’t until the end of High School that I really began to branch out to the more alternative, indie titles, and ultimately to writing about comics on this very site.

alex

World-Building
by Alex McKinnon

It’s almost difficult for me to imagine being a kid and NOT being into comics. When I was young, I couldn’t get enough of what I loved. Whether it was Sonic The Hedgehog or The Ninja Turtles, comics provided precious, endless story content that TV or video games could not. Month to month, I could look forward to it. Better yet, if I was new to a series, there was a virtual eternity’s worth of stuff to catch up with. Just getting into Spider-Man? Great. Here’s 40 years of stuff to devour. Batman? Even better. He’s got 70. And you should probably acquaint yourself with the rest of the DC universe so you can adequately understand all the context and backstory.

Naturally, with age comes more discerning taste. Stories can’t possibly be as novel or fresh as they were to our less educated and experienced minds. Yet inevitably, comics continuously draw me back. No medium has its boundless capacity for world building, or affords its creators such freedom. Imagine trying to get something like Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns produced in any other venue. Movies have costs that dictate what sort of stories can be told, and even the most exquisite of prose simply isn’t the same as the fully realized world a good artist can lay on the page. So the love affair will continue, on and on forever. Nothing’s better.

logan

A Late Start
by Logan Dalton

I’m relatively new to comics fandom. Watching films like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (except the third one), Bryan Singer’s X-Men, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight got me interested in superheroes and eventually comics. I probably wouldn’t be a comics (or X-Men) fan if I hadn’t watched the delightfully cheesy cartoon X-Men: Evolution on YouTube. My first experience with comics was reading the first volume of Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man for a school paper about military or action heroes in fiction. The lively dialogue, well-developed characters, and web-slinging action hooked me immediately, and I checked out all the trades from the library under the pretense of doing “research”. Along with Ultimate Spider-Man, I read Ultimate X-Men (which I didn’t like as much) and my favorite comics story “The Dark Phoenix Saga” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.

I wasn’t really as interested in DC. I recognized Batman: Year One‘s influence on Batman Begins, but Kingdom Come and Crisis on Infinite Earths were incomprehensible to me. After a poor experience at my local comics store (which is closed now unfortunately), I was burnt out on comics and decided to focus my energy on film and television. However, Batman: The Long Halloween and Superman: Red Son cemented my interested in these characters and comics as an art form. I realized that with the right creator that any character could have a compelling story, even the “big blue boy scout”. A free trial of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited introduced me to some of the recent Marvel books, like Civil War, Ultimates, and Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America.

I started getting comics on a monthly basis because of the DC New 52 and Marvel’s relaunch of their Ultimate comics. There were a few duds (The FlashRed Lanterns), but having a group of comics fans to discuss the books every week in person and on the Internet cemented me as a life-long comics fan. I also discovered some of my favorite writers (Scott Snyder, Gail Simone) and artists (J.H. Williams, Ivan Reis) through these books. I might not be the most veteran of comics fans, but I enjoy reading, debating, and writing about them and would love to hear about your favorite books as well. I wouldn’t be reading Aquaman, Captain Marvel, and Sandman if it wasn’t for friends’ recommendations.

peter

A Parental Push
by Peter Abigania

I can thank my parents for introducing me to Batman and Superman at a young age.  I’ve come to learn that there are three superheroes that are easily recognized globally: Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man.  My parents were never into comic books, but they recognized those three names as well as a few others.  I remember my first Halloween costume: I was in kindergarten at the time (around five years old) and my mom let me dress up as the Dark Knight.  I had a one-piece cowl and cape, and after Halloween was over, I wanted to wear that thing everywhere.  In 1994, I watched Tim Burton’s Batman for the first time; this began my love for superhero movies.  I think in the same year, my mom recorded Superman: The Quest for Peace off the T.V.  To clarify, my dad served in the military in 1993, so I watched the Batman and Superman films overseas in Germany.  I remember making the choice that Batman was the cooler of the two, but my mom wanted me to like Superman more because he was “good” and Batman was “bad”.

As for my first comic book, I had picked up a copy of The Silver Surfer: The Herald Ordeal part six (giant-sized 75th issue extravaganza) at a yard sale.  The seller let me have the book for twenty-five cents.  I remember being drawn to the holographic image of the Surfer with the faces of Galactus, Thanos, and Reed Richards in the background.  It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.  I don’t have the comic book anymore, but I distinctly remember how the story made me feel: without spoiling it, I remember feeling so heartbroken for the Surfer and how much he suffered under Galactus.  It was then that I realized how much I wanted comic books to be a part of my life.

sean

Thanks Mom
by Sean Tonelli

My origin story is devoted entirely to my mother. Because of my mother, Tim Burton’s Batman was the first movie I had ever seen in the cinemas. Because of my mother, my cousins and I all had matching Spider-Man PJs. Because of my mother, I covered the back seat of our Acadian with stickers of comic book characters. Because of my mother, I actually managed to adapt Predator into a comic book when I was in grade 2. I would love to read that again. Because of my mother, I went to the comic book store every Sunday, a tradition I would like to pass onto my kids should they ever decide to exist. Though, I’ll change the day to Wednesdays for obvious reasons. It’s because of my mother I am the way I am; a comic book geek and proud of it.

My mother has always been very supportive of me and my flights of fancy. When I told her I was finally going to pursue writing, she simply scoffed and said that ‘it’s about time’. But as open as my mother is about comic books, she’s still not a huge fan, which is why I decided to get her the Saga trade for this past Mother’s Day. When her package had arrived, my Mother and my Aunt gathered around to mock this ‘weird little cartoon’ I had given her. Their words, not mine. So I simply explained to her the importance of purchasing independent comics and the fact that Saga is amazing. A week goes by, and the woman who is responsible for my comic career sends me a text that says ‘that Saga was good, when does part 2 come out?’ So I guess the only thing left to say is thank you to my mother for dropping thousands of dollars on my geeky obsession, and you’re welcome for Saga.

tom

A 13 Year Manic Waltz
by Thomas O’Connor

Living in a small town in the West end of Montreal, one’s selection of fine sequential art is limited to whatever few comics the local convenience store cares to stock. Growing up, this was limited to usually a few core Marvel or DC books, none of which I bought with any regularity. An odd Superman story here, maybe some Spider-Man. My dances with comics back then were quick, fitful polkas. Brief and soon forgotten.

It wasn’t until X-Men vol.2 issue 103 that one of them stuck out its hand and pulled me into the manic waltz I’m still embroiled in, 13 years later. I remember the moment so vividly, looking back. A routine evening trip to the “Mini-Cout”, the stayed convenience store that existed years before I entered this world, and will continue to exist when I’m nothing more than a memory and some sarcasm stored away in a dusty server. Glancing over the magazine shelf, a cover caught my eye, doing exactly what a cover’s supposed to: draw the viewer in and making them want to see what it’s all about. “Wolverine vs Rogue” ,the cover proclaimed, “Who will Lead Them?”. The ensuing battle did promise to be interesting. According to the cover anyway, Roque spends part of it diving out of a porthole, catching Wolvie staring in astonishment at her inhumanly spherical breasts. An undocumented mutation of hers, apparently.

“Wolverine fighting Rogue? This I gotta see” I thought. The issue, in hindsight, was bloody awful. I barely understood half of what was going on or half the characters on display, my knowledge of the X-Men mythos gleaned from the 90s cartoon series soon failing me. Cyclops was MIA or AWOL or occupied with a lengthy bowel movement, leaving the team in need of leadership, and Wolverine blindsiding Rogue in the Danger Room seemed like the best way to figure things out, apparently. Meanwhile, a bunch of characters I had never heard of before ran into some Z-list villains in a bar who, according to Comicvine, went into character limbo almost immediately thereafter.

And yet, something hooked me. Before long, I was reading both Uncanny and Adjective-less X-Men (This was back in those simpler days when there were but two core X-Men books) and for the first year of my life as a comic reader, I was an X-Men reader. I got in just in time to see Grant Morrison kick down the doors, put all the characters in black leather, and bring the franchise back from the brink of cancellation, as well as ensuring my status as a Morrison fanboy ever since. Of course, I also got in just in time to see Chuck Austen produce some of the most brain-rottingly bad X-Men plots ever.

Some people are lucky enough to catch the comics bug from a quality book they can look back on fondly. Mine ended with the team fighting a bald albino in white fetish gear and a couple of metal groupies. You take what you can get.

chris

The Superhero Alternative
by Chris Auman

There really is no defining Year One in my introduction to comics. It took over a decade before any comic really resonated with me. I bought a few comics as a kid in the late ’70s. An oversized “Star Wars” comic was probably the first, but also individual issues of random stuff like “Fightin’ Army” (Charlton Comics Group), “House of Mystery” (DC), “Battlestar Galactica” (Marvel) and a bunch of silly Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner fluff. Light-weight kid stuff, really. Then I discovered Mad Magazine and I was Mad, Cracked and Crazy throughout junior high school.

In 1984, at the urging of a friend who had quite an impressive collection of super hero comics (all bagged and boxed and in pristine condition), I decided I would make a foray into the super hero comics world. I chose DC’s “Blue Devil” since it was brand new in 1984 and I could get in on the ground floor. It was entertaining enough, but I lost interest pretty quickly.

Flash forward to the early ’90s. I was a college student at Columbia College in Chicago. I was riding the el train home after a day spent suffering with a hangover through various, pointless classes. I spaced off my stop on the Ravenswood line and had to get off at the next one, Paulina. Underneath the el tracks, on the northeast corner of Roscoe and Paulina, was Haley’s Comics. I went in. Nothing caught my interest until I entered the “Alternative Comics” section. I began flipping through the titles. These weren’t the super hero comics that had failed to capture my imagination half a decade earlier. These were for adults. Well, not adults necessarily, but not for kids either. These were comics for stoners, slackers, college students and miscellaneous ne’erdowells. I bought three or four issues of Peter Bagge’s “Hate.” That series was well underway at that point and all the back issues were in stock. I made as many returns to Haley’s as my budget would allow, moving on to other titles like Terry Laban’s “CUD,” Dan Clowes’ “Eightball,” and Joe Matt’s “Peepshow.” Haley’s closed pretty soon after getting me hooked, but Chicago Comics and Quimby’s were more than able to support my addiction thereafter. It’s a good thing that comics were always there, always diverse and can appeal to anyone at any given time if you’re open to it. And if you miss your train stop.

035Shoppers Drug Mart
By Will Cowan

I would stand in the magazine section of the Shoppers Drug Mart of which my mother worked at and often stare at the comics, but rarely ever touch them (Mum made it clear that if it isn’t mine, then don’t touch it). After spending hours at looking at these covers, Mum let me get one comic, and I chose that of Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 2 Issue #35, since Spider-man was my favorite hero. However, this wasn’t the book I was expecting with highflying kicks and super villains bent on world-domination, but rather a quiet story of a boy in a less-than-preferable situation and how his hero allowed him to escape his world of negativity. In fact, it was unclear if there was any actual Spider-man in the issue or that it was all in the boy’s imagination.

This was such an awakening for me, the fact that comics can be anything other than what I was expecting; with true human emotion rather than a paper-thin “save the world” story line. Since then, I realized that comics were just as good as communicating relatable characters as the literary “masterpieces” my parents and teachers told me to read.

From that point on, I kept on buying comics to search for that same sort of character development. From that point on, I knew that comics were very much important with the expression of myself and that I would forever need these characters to communicate my feelings and my beliefs to myself and others. From that little issue that is still left very unknown by the rest of the comic community, I was introduced into a world of not punches and kicks, but rather a world full of human emotion and human conflicts.

 


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