Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

My First Time…to a Comic Shop, That Is

Ghost Rider My First Time

After seeing those sweet TV ads for a comic book store about 25 years ago, I was ready for my first time at a comic shop.  Even in the early ’90s, I think it was a fairly new thing, and odd thing, for there to be stores that sold only (or mostly) comic books.  It wasn’t like now, with superhero and comic book movies everywhere, and the rise of geek culture.  All we had was JD Salinger’s son as Captain America and Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher.  That wasn’t getting anyone into comic shops!  You kids today don’t know how well you’ve got it!  HA!  Also, get off my lawn, and you’re not getting this ball back.

So I’ll tell you some about my first time experience at a comic shop, and how that got me completely hooked on comics.  Not just superhero comics but the MEDIUM of comics.

Honestly, I don’t remember it that much.  I’m going to talk a bit about the comics that I got there and what I remember of that store, but I can’t swear I thought any of this stuff my first time there.  Also, like my piece about my comic book anniversary, I’m incorporating some stuff that I’d written five years ago.

In late 1991/early 1992, I don’t think there were too many comic book shops in my area.  There was the shop I’ll be discussing further, but the shop I still frequent most hadn’t opened yet (look for a column on that later this year!).  I think we may have had a store or two that had specialized in trading cards that moved into comics once the mega-success of Spider-Man 1 and X-Force 1 became apparent, but I didn’t ever stop at one of those places.

So you remember last time, I showed you this X-Men “Pryde of the X-Men” opening:

Well, that’s going to be significant later, actually.  “X-Men! X-Men! X-Men!”

And of course there was the guy telling us about DC stuff (while mainly bragging that he’d managed to get a lady as attractive as Tina to let him film her holding a comic book…):

Using my best Robert Stack voice: UPDATE!

Thanks to commenters Corto and Tim Dennie in particular (although Le Messor… helped?) we’ve determined that the comics I hadn’t figured out were New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract,

New Teen Titans Judas Contract My First Time Atomic Junk Shop
Did Nightwing punch that dude’s face in?

Why I Hate Saturn (no wonder I couldn’t find it under SA*, and the GCD doesn’t list it as a Piranha Press book!),

Why I Hate Saturn My First Time Atomic Junk Shop
(Insert joke about also hating Uranus too)

and the second issue of the Books of Magic miniseries.

Books of Magic My First Time Atomic Junk Shop
Doug Henning, werewolf

All came out 1990 and before, so I don’t see where the creation of this ad can be pushed much later than that (and obviously before the end of 1991, since that’s when I saw them).

Anyway, once you’ve been bitten by the comics bug, like I had been thanks to Waldenbooks, and you see these commercials and realize there are stores that SELL JUST COMIC BOOKS!, you of course want to go.  But when you’re 12, you gotta have your mom take you there.

Fortunately, right around this time, the local shop was having a sale (as they currently are, the mid-January pre-inventory sale is a tradition there!  I just got yet another big damn box of cheap comics there.  It’s a disease!).  So I believe I got my sister to join me in bugging mom to take us there at some point during the sale, and since we were usually pretty good kids, and had just started a Pennysaver route in the months before that and had some money to spend, mom took us.  Thanks, Mom!

First time in a comic store: the store was at an odd corner, where two smaller streets came up a hill to meet with the main street at a point about where the store’s doorway was, causing the building to be somewhat triangular, with the one tip being the entrance, and the base of the triangle as the back of the store, if you can picture that.  The outside had a glassed in display area, so they featured various comics and related products in the window.

Entering, the new comics wall was at the right, while spinner racks of sci-fi paperbacks were to the left.  The store is no longer in that location, so I don’t remember exactly the layout, and I know there were changes over the years, but the register area was probably to the left against the wall.  No.  I think it was always an island in the middle of the sales floor.  Which was a pain in the ass as they packed comics in.  I think back issue boxes were towards the back of the store, behind the register island.

In the back, there was an area to the left side where role players could game at a table.  There was also a basement, but I never entered that area, as I never was a gamer.  The notion of the smells permeating that basement….

I remember the store was always cramped, and poorly lit.  The current location is a bit more open and allows for more than one person to be looking at something at a time, but look out on Free Comic Book Day!

So I looked around a bit that first time.  Some of the comics I remember picking out include the following:

There was a Batman crossover across his 3 titles (Batman, Detective, and Legends of the Dark Knight) called Destroyer, where the Anton Furst designs for Gotham City for the movies were incorporated into the comics.

Batman Destroyer cover My First Time
Chris Sprouse art on this cover? Wow! Plus Breyfogle and Aparo on the other two? I’ve got a good eye, I guess.

I picked up an issue or 2 of the Ghost Rider series that was coming out then (due to having discovered him in the Spider-Man 18 that I discussed last time).

Ghost Rider cover My First Time
Kickass cover, why I still love Tex!

I also looked at some other stuff, and was about ready to pay when my mom looked at what I got, and said, annoyed, “we came here for X-Men comics, so you BETTER get some X-Men comics!”  Okay, okay.  I picked up a Classic reprint of the first Binary appearance, which confused me plenty.  Hmm.

X-Men Classic cover My First Time
Mignola cover though, cool!

What I found that really got me into the medium of comics were packs wrapped in brown paper (not THAT kind of comics) that turned out to be 15 comics for a buck.  Yeah, 15!

My sister and I each got a pack, and we had some crossover things.  I know there was Iron Man 276, and GI Joe 114, and while they’re cool, I’m not sure most people are going to fall in love with the medium due to those books.

Iron Man 276 cover My First Time
GI Joe 114 cover My First Time
…I could be wrong.
Here are 3 that DID get me hooked (I thought Itchy Planet 1 was one of them, but now I’m rethinking that, and think I got it later on.  Oh, hell, I’ll tell you about it anyway.)  Itchy Planet 1 was something of a political comic, looking at nuclear weapons and armageddon.  The black and white book also showed me that you could do more than just superhero stuff in comics.  In fact, you could present politics or, hey, just about anything in comics
Itchy Planet cover My First Time
I never understood the rules to chess either.
Akira 7 (the Epic/Marvel version) showed me that there was more to the comics world than just US superhero comics.  The look and style of the book showed a different way of doing things, and that was a way of opening my mind to the possibilities of the medium as well.  (Edit from 5 years later: boy, that really doesn’t say anything, does it?  Also, TETSUOOOOOOOOOO!!!)
Akira 7 cover My First Time
That is a creepy cover!
And Journey 27 by William Messner-Loebs, showed that you could tell stories of real world type stuff, tales of history and excitement and again, it fired my imagination that anything could be done with comics.  Plus, the end of the book (it’s the last issue of that regular series) (good jumping-on point, y’know) is just really good.  It’s years since I’ve read it, and I STILL remember how it ends.
Journey 27 cover My First Time
Still the best Wolverine in comics!

Without that bizarre grab bag of comics that I got during my first time at a comic store, I doubt my preteen brain would have glommed onto the wonder of the medium of comics, and I probably wouldn’t be interested in the form still today.  It’s an amazing medium, and I still love it, even if I don’t read comics as much as I ought to!

So what’s your first time story?

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for the covers.






  1. Greg Burgas

    Destroyer is probably the greatest quasi-crossover in comics history. “Oh, yeah, by the way, there are entire buildings in Gotham that we’ve all forgotten about, and this dude is just destroying the modern ones so we can all see the hidden ones.” Truly dazzling in its stupidity!!!!

  2. Jeff Nettleton

    Well, I suppose I had two fist times. the first first time was when I went into a local retail bookstore, that sold paperbacks and had a pretty decent sized newsstand. They had a comic spinner rack, over the years and I bought some comics there. I believe it was 1983 and I went in there and saw some new comics on the spinner. One was from Marvel; a reprint of the Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden first year on Micronauts. these were Baxter format with 2 issues reprinted. Since I only had about half of the series, I picked these up. Then, I saw a couple of issues of the Mighty Crusaders, from Archie’s Red Circle line. Next, I discovered Jon Sable, Freelance, issues 1 and 2. i snapped those up, as well as a couple of issues of Starslayer, due to Mike Grell’s name. While I was checking out, I flipped through a magazine size comic, called Nexus. It turned out this was all Direct Market distribution product. Apparently, that local bookstore, which had been around for nearly 10 years, opened up an account with Capital and got their comics from the Direct Market system.

    The second first was when I went off to college, the next year, and entered an honest-to-goodness comic shop. There, I saw the Jon Sable issues I missed, some Captain Britain, with Alan Davis, something called Action Force, which turned out to be UK reprints of GI Joe. I also saw some fanzines, including a Golden Age-focused one, with Jack Kirby’s Bullseye on the cover. Digging through the boxes, I found old JLA issues I had owned, The Invaders, some Atlas/Seaboard, and some Master of Kung Fu I remembered from my younger days. From that point on, I started to hit the comic shop regularly.

  3. Louis Bright-Raven

    My first time in an actual comics shop was March 6, 1987, my 15th birthday. I got Silver Surfer Vol.3 #1 and Punisher Vol. 2 #1. I never set foot in that store again, because it was over 25 miles away from where I lived and my parents always refused to stop by whenever we were passing through the area. (They felt I was reading enough comics via mail order subscription and whatever I managed to get off the newsstand as it was.)

    Then we moved from Illinois to Michigan, and March 6, 1988, my 16th birthday, a high school friend attempted to open a comics shop, and I got BATMAN: KILLING JOKE, the 1987 Art Adams X-MEN Poster colored by Linda Medley, EXCALIBUR: THE SWORD IS DRAWN (the origin 48 page prestige format book), and a SOLO EX-MUTANTS #1 featuring art by a then up and coming Ron Lim. Never got to go to that store again before it closed, because it was 18 miles away and the parents basically never let me drive into town just for comics.

    I didn’t get to really visit comics shops regularly until college, around the fall of 1989, winter of 1990.

  4. Annoyed Grunt

    My comic shop didn’t have a 15/$1 grab bag, but they did have 25/$5. You got to see the first and last comic in the stack but the middle was a mystery. It was always mostly a bunch of early 90’s Image, Valiant and Malibu that they obviously couldn’t move. A good chunk of it was bad but there were some hidden gems and a decent enough selection of stuff I’d classify as “I wouldn’t pay $2.50 for this, but for $0.20 it’s worth reading once.” I eventually stopped getting them because there were too many repeats. How many copies of Shaman’s Tears does one 15 year old need?

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