Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Another Meme Thing: Four at Fourteen

There’s this thing going around the net that I decided would make good column fodder. “Four comics you bought and read at age fourteen.”

Now, I was reading a LOT of comics at age fourteen. I had learned to generate my own income by mowing lawns and babysitting and so on, and the grocery store just up the street had changed newsstand distributors; they now stocked comics and lurid paperbacks instead of Sunset magazine and Taylor Caldwell.

I turned fourteen in November 1975, and just to make it easier I decided I would limit my picks to that month– that is to say, from my actual fourteenth birthday in the second week in November, to the second week in December. Even at that it was hard to narrow it down.

Here’s why. Let me set the stage a little. In the fall of 1975, in my little Portland suburb of Lake Oswego, nerd culture looked like this:

TV was slim pickings. There was no HBO, no home video– hell, there wasn’t really cable television as we know it today. TV consisted of the three networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS (Fox and the CW did not exist yet) and public television, PBS. Most cities had at least one independent as well– ours was KPTV, where you found syndicated reruns, the afternoon movie, and Portland Wrestling on Saturdays. Former governor Jesse Ventura got his start there, playing a heel with his partner Bull Ramos.

He had arrived the month before, in October, and was a fixture in Portland for quite a few years. (Blew my mind when he suddenly showed up in movies; I couldn’t believe it was the same guy at first, but there was no mistaking that voice.)

As far as my little geek corner of TV was concerned, it was all about the bionic wave. The Six Million Dollar Man was a hit and everyone wanted a piece of that action– the premieres that year included The Invisible Man with David McCallum and The Bionic Woman, among others, with many more to follow. (I still have a soft spot for 1977’s Exo-Man… not Martin Caidin’s finest hour but I still kinda like it. Mostly because leading man David Ackroyd leans into it like it’s Oscar bait.)

Star Trek was just reruns of the original series during the week– sometimes, it wasn’t always there– and the animated show on Saturday mornings.

This new thing Space: 1999 was pretty cool-looking and some kid named Byrne was tearing it up on the comics adaptation, though I’d learned pretty quickly that most episodes of the show ended with some sort of ambiguous WTF plot development, followed by Barry Morse staring out a viewport at the stars and shaking his head. “We may never know.”

Movies, a year and a half before Star Wars, weren’t offering much either. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Other Side of the Mountain were the big hits in theaters; I had no interest in those, though if I’d known about A Boy and His Dog I’d have really been trying to figure out how to see that. As it was, I was mostly being tormented by the ads for Dr. Syn. (Which I still haven’t seen, damn it. Even the Disney paperback is maddeningly elusive, though we have the Hammer version of the story here.)

I’d just started high school and the nerd posse I’d have there for the next four years was taking shape. In particular, I’d met my friend Joe, who played guitar and knew about all sorts of cool bands. Under his influence I’d recently started to haunt record stores as well, and my first purchase with my own money was Moonmadness, from Camel; a shudderingly expensive $7.99. For my birthday Joe had gifted me with Young And Rich from the Tubes.

All on vinyl, of course– it was the only game in town. I played those records until almost all you could hear was the crackle of the scratches. (Today’s vinyl snobs are idiots. When CDs showed up in the 80s, all of us who’d spent years screwing around with needles and cleaners and everything else jumped on board and never looked back.) But mostly for music we hung out at Joe’s, who had a huge record collection and far and away the best stereo.

Such was the landscape. Which was why, at age fourteen, my primary entertainments were books and comics from places I could walk to–I hadn’t quite reached the age where I was okay with defying my mother’s edict about never taking the bus into The City–and since this was all acquired with lawnmowing money, the best bang for the buck were paperbacks at ninety-five cents (recently up from seventy-five) and comics for a quarter.

Paperbacks first. I’m approximating this from memory and publication dates, but this is my best recollection. In that fall of 1975, I’d just discovered Doc Savage and the Wold Newton Family, which served as a sort of shopping list for me, and I’d fallen in love with the Steranko Shadow paperbacks from Pyramid. I’d also started picking up the Laser Books series edited by Roger Elwood (the numbering and the Kelly Freas covers directly targeted my fannish OCD, though there was nothing linking the stories beyond that.) And I was usually a sucker for movie and TV tie-ins (no home video, remember– I used these books as a substitute. Sometimes I’d stumble across interesting authors to follow in cases like The Night Stalker and Cyborg and Logan’s Run, where the tie-in was actually just a re-issue of the original novel with a new photo cover.)

But mostly it was comics. I was all about Marvel, that fall. Here’s what was going on in the Marvel Universe, courtesy of the Mighty Marvel Checklist.

Over in Daredevil we were meeting Bullseye for the first time, Kirby was going full-tilt on the Madbomb Saga over in Captain America, and Thor was wrapping up his battle with the Time Twisters. Those were the ones I remember the most vividly and they almost made the cut for this column… but really I was in for most all of those listed here, and the ones I missed back then I’ve acquired in the years since; some in the single issues, but most of them are here in reprint paperbacks of some kind or another.

I was still picking up a few titles from DC, as well…. mostly oddball fringe stuff. Let’s start with one of those as the representative four, in a spirit of fairness. Hercules Unbound #3.

I had picked this title up primarily because it was a #1 issue a couple of months back, but Gerry Conway’s hot mess of a post-apocalyptic Earth mashed up with classic Greek mythology had me hooked, and I liked the DC version of Hercules here a lot better than the Marvel one then currently on display in The Champions.

This one had Hercules venturing into the depths of Hades to rescue Jennifer Monroe, accompanied by his friend the blind youth Kevin and his dog Basil. Kevin was still a little dubious about this whole mythology-is-real thing. For my part, I was digging it, and it didn’t hurt that the art was from Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez with finishes by Wally Wood. Along the way, Herc and Kevin run into Orpheus, who decides he’s in on the rescue.

Of course there’s a big fight. And Lord Pluto has Opinions.

Jennifer is rescued, eventually, and the surprise ending is that Orpheus turns out to be DEAD ALL ALONG! Which is not much of a surprise for those of us that knew the myths, and I’m a little surprised Hercules didn’t already know, but what the hell; it’s a fun comic. The entire run of Hercules Unbound is reprinted as part of Showcase Presents The Great Disaster.

My favorite Marvel title at that time was unquestionably The Defenders from Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema. So absolutely that title had to be included on this list of four. That month was #32, the second chapter of the “Nighthawk’s Brain!” saga, featuring the Headmen.

As we open, the Defenders are very concerned after Nighthawk, one of their own, has turned on them. Dr. Strange has called in a consultant…

…but the Son of Satan has no luck figuring out what’s wrong with Nighthawk either.

One of the great things about that era of the book was that other Marvel heroes would just drop by. If the team needed something, Doc or Clea would get on the phone to Daimon Hellstrom or Luke Cage or whoever and they’d come help out. The reason none of the mystics are having any luck with Nighthawk is because the cause is not magical, but scientific. His brain has been surgically replaced– with that of Chondu, the Headmen’s resident sorcerer. The real Nighthawk’s brain is sitting in a dish at Headmen HQ. Where the group’s fourth member is about to debut.

Sal Buacema, at the time, was somewhat looked down on; it’s not his fault, since he was almost always compared to his brother John, and Sal himself would have been the first to tell you that John was infinitely better. But that doesn’t mean Sal wasn’t good. As a character artist I think he was one of the best ones working then. His faces are all consistent but they have a huge variety of expression. Moreover, in Defenders Gerber was throwing all kinds of crazy shit at him to draw and Sal just handled it. Like in the hallucinatory autobiographical sequence here– as a disembodied brain, Nighthawk has no sensory input at all, so he is just reliving his memories.

Even in this hallucination sequence, Sal managed to sneak in that patented Sal Buscema punch.

The whole story took about a year to unspool and you can find it here, in Essential Defenders volume three.

The other big Marvel event for me that month was the beginning of the epic crossover in Invaders #5 that introduced the Liberty Legion.

I had gotten into Invaders the same way I did Hercules Unbound; I picked up #1 just because it was a #1. I was not really a serious collector, not at fourteen, but I had internalized the idea that a #1 was a Big Deal. And I liked the idea of getting in on something from the beginning, since catching up was a lot more work back then.

What kept me around was the infectious fanboy enthusiasm of scripter Roy Thomas, who was clearly having a a ball. This was also the title where I learned to appreciate the art of Frank Robbins, whose jagged, improvisational look that had bothered me so much on Batman fit the Golden Age vibe of the Invaders perfectly. As it happens he was supplanted in this issue by Rich Buckler and Dick Ayers, but I didn’t mind. The vibe was still there.

The Red Skull captures the Invaders and brainwashes all of them into fighting on the side of the Nazis… all but Bucky, that is, who the Skull can’t be bothered with: he’s just a mascot, he doesn’t have powers. As soon as Bucky recovers from his beating, he is off to the White House to demand help from FDR.

Roosevelt blows him off, so that sets the stage for Bucky to go recruiting, as we would see a few weeks later over in Marvel Premiere.

You get the sense Thomas really wanted the Liberty Legion to be a thing. In just a few months he wrote another big story where the Legion co-starred in a big crossover between Fantastic Four and Marvel Two-In-One. I guess nobody bit, though, because that was it for a while. But as for me, I loved it all. You can find both crossovers in this nice hardcover.

Some may be wondering where the Batman books are on this list. I mean come on, we all know Hatcher’s a Bat guy, one of the four has to be a Batman book.

But honestly I was still bummed out that the wonderful 100-page spectaculars were gone; DC comics in 1975 had shrunk to anemic 17-page things that felt like brochures. My favorite writers Denny O’Neil and Archie Goodwin weren’t in evidence on the Batman titles either. Instead we were getting bloodless gimmick stories by David V. Reed. Nuts to that.

But on the fringes, you had interesting stuff like The Joker, and I was down for that.

Especially since this seemed to be where Denny O’Neil had migrated to. That month was a delightful clash between the Joker and– sort of–Sherlock Holmes.

I had recently had my interest in Holmes reawakened by the paperback of The Seven Per Cent Solution, and though it was nowhere near the tsunami that was coming, I’d started picking up Holmes pastiches when I saw them. I had just begun this quest that would grow over the decades to take over almost an entire wall-high shelf in the front room (as of this writing.)

This is from about five years ago; there are more now.

But even just a few weeks into the quest I’d scored a couple, off that same paperback spinner rack.

We didn’t actually get to SEE Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother until last year. Found it on YouTube. Someone made them take it down or I’d point you to it.

Somehow I’d managed to miss the DC adaptation of “The Final Problem”/”The Empty House.” Again scripted by Denny O’Neil, with some very nice art from E.R. Cruz.

But O’Neil quickly established his Holmes cred with me in this Joker story, and it was just fun. Of course it’s not really Sherlock Holmes, it’s a method actor that gets clonked on the head; but it’s enough, and O’Neil quickly provides him with a Watson.

There’s lots of clever wordplay and clues and puzzles and it was just a delight from start to finish. This was back when DC actually allowed the Joker to make, y’know, jokes.

You can find this story a couple of different places today, but the easiest is in The Joker: Clown Prince of Crime.

So there you go. After an absurd number of revisions and rationalizations, that’s my four-at-fourteen. Feel free to play along with your own down in the comments. And I’ll be back next week with something cool.

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  1. dalgoda7

    Fun! I turned 14 in early February 1986, so I’ll just go by that calendar month:

    1. Amazing Heroes #89 – the first issue of a subscription I received for my birthday, and as the Fantagraphics comic magazine geared towards mainstream readers, but still very much covering indy stuff, it was a big reason I started getting interested in indy books.

    2. Avengers #264 – Roger Stern’s long Avengers run gave me high expectations for superhero comic stories that were too often not met. This was in the middle of one of my favorite runs of one of my favorite alltime comics – Stern writing great stories, and the Buscema/Palmer team at full power. In retrospect, I’d have been fine with Avengers v1 ending at the end of the Mansion Siege storyline and staying fallow until the Busiek/Perez relaunch. That would have been a long 12 years for past Me, though.

    3. Captain America #314 – I picked this up because it was the continuation of a Squadron Supreme storyline, and went from pooh-poohing Cap as a fuddy duddy to not missing an issue for another 20 years.

    4. New Defenders #152 – I loved Marvel’s team books, and subscribed by mail to the three big ones – Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, and Defenders. Biggest bang for the buck (or six dimes, as it were). Even though the ‘New Defenders’ were often maligned, I still enjoyed the ‘weird’ team book and missed its passing.

  2. DarkKnight

    Ok so I turned 14 in mid November of 1995 and I’ll go by the calendar month:

    1. Flash #109 – I loved Mark Waid’s Flash run and didn’t miss an issue ever since I picked up Flash #79, the finale to the Return of Barry Allen story off the stands. This issue is part 2 of the Dead Heat story, which for me was the peak of Waid’s first run on the book. I was also a big fan of Oscar Jimenez’s art and sadly he wouldn’t last much longer on art duties.

    2. Green Lantern #70 – I was on the Kyle Rayner train by his third appearance and snatched up Emerald Twilight in the back issue bins. This is the issue where Kyle Rayner and Donna Troy get into a fight when Donna walks in on Kyle while he’s painting a portrait of a female nude model. I really liked their relationship and felt the whole thing was really forced. Great art by Paul Pelletier though.

    3. Robin #24 – Tim Drake was the first character I actually went and tried to buy all of their appearances in the back issue bins. I remember when it was announced that he would be getting his own solo series and was extremely excited. This issue was not one of the highlights unfortunately. This was part of the Underworld Unleashed event. Killer Moth becomes an actual humanoid moth called Charaxes and now precedes to eat humans and keep them in cocoons for future consumption. Not all the villain revamps were winners.

    4. Underworld Unleashed #3 – Speaking of Underworld Unleashed, I was picking up all of DC’s events since I started collected in 1993 so of course I had to buy this. It was actually a fun series. Mark Waid’s characterization was on point and I’ve always been a fan of Howard Porter’s art. Also most of the villain revamps actually stuck for the most part.

  3. Edo Bosnar

    First, as usual, I have to say I *love* when you talk about the media landscape (esp. the wonderful KPTV!) in the wider Portland area back in the ’70s – it brings back so many memories. Portland wrestling in particular brings back fond memories, not because I watched it much, but because my maternal grandmother, who couldn’t speak of word of English, absolutely loved it and watched it religiously – and would explain to everyone who the various wrestlers were and why she liked or didn’t like them.
    Also, until this moment, I didn’t realize that Jesse Ventura was one of them, although I totally remember that bleach-blond look he was sporting at the time. I’m pretty sure he appeared in local TV commercials as well, didn’t he?
    And I just got through watching season one of Space 1999 on YouTube recently (I hardly remembered the few episodes I’d watched as a little kid), and I don’t think anything sums it all up better than this: “Barry Morse staring out a viewport at the stars and shaking his head. ‘We may never know’.” I’ve started watching season two, and I have to say, though, that it’s too bad Morse got dropped from the show…

    1. What I remember about Space: 1999 ‘s weird transition from season one to season two was the feeling that it had somehow leapfrogged over me, going from something too pretentious and impenetrable to something too stupid and loud for me; completely missing that sweet spot in the middle where you found adventure AND meaningful storytelling. It’s actually a classic example of SF made by people with no grasp of the genre at all. I still have affection for it and we have it here in the library, but it’s mostly nostalgia. There’s probably a column to be had in all the lame 70s SF shows I still bought on DVD because of that. Watching Space: 1999 or Fantastic Journey or the TV Planet of the Apes is as soothing to me as settling in on the couch under a comfy old quilt.

    2. Jeff Nettleton

      You guys were lucky; Portland was a decent payday territory for a lot of guys who worked Canada and the West Coast and a lot of great talent came through there, like Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Dynamite Kid and Curt Hennig, as well as lesser known names, like The Grappler 9Len Denton), Ed Wiskowski (who did Mega Maharishi, when the Bagwan had his little cult in that area) and Rip Oliver.

      I grew up in central Illinois, which was kind of the fringes for the territories, by that point. We got the WWA, from Indianapolis, on a couple of brief occasions (when they were going to promote an infrequent show in the area) and little else, until the Poffo family’s “outlaw” show, International Championship Wrestling, appeared on our tv. That featured names like Ronnie Garvin, Pistol Pez Whatley (both of whom later worked for Jim Crockett, on Ted Turner’s WTBS channel), Hustler Rip Rogers and Leaping Lanny Poffo (the future Genius), the Miser (promoter Angelo Poffo) and the Macho Man Randy Savage (Poffo). That was when I got hooked on pro wrestling, thanks to the bizarre wild man that was the Macho Man. Freak out!

      The WWA was where old wrestlers went when they weren’t in demand and a few young guys got their start. It wasn’t much, after Bobby Heenan left for the AWA, which was well before we saw it. It came through again, a little later, to torment us with announcer David McLane, who went on to co-found GLOW, which spawned the Netflix series. I’d have killed for Portland wrestling. Well, at least stretched someone.

      I first saw Jesse on a Madison Square Garden card, on the USA Network (they used to show the MSG matches, each month), when he was part of the East-West Connection, with Adrian Adonis. Jesse was the mouth and Adonis was the worker, as Jesse was always pretty terrible in the ring.

      1. Oh, you are WAY more into it than we were. I just have the vague memory of my brother and I being super invested in the Ventura/Ramos- Jimmy Snuka feud. This would have been ’75-76, somewhere in there. But not too long after that Joe got his driver’s license and bam, not home Saturday nights for the next three years. So I lost track. Next time I saw Jesse was PREDATOR and that was a huge wha-HUH? for me. Even more a few years later when he was suddenly in politics with a family, because back when he was partnered with Bull we thought they must be gay; there was something weirdly homoerotic about them. (I mean, more than just the baseline baked-in homoeroticism of pro wrestling.)

  4. Edo Bosnar

    Oh, crap. Got all caught up in nostalgia and forgot to post my own four picks.
    Anyway, I think restricting it to the birthday month is a good idea, as there’s too much to choose otherwise. I turned 14 in June 1982. At that point I was still deep into my personal comics-reading golden age, and religiously following X-men, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Legion of Super-heroes and New Teen Titans (the latter two in particular were must-buys at the time, as they were right in the middle of the Great Darkness Saga and the Starfire/Blackfire space opera respectively).

    But some other books were also particularly notable and significant for me that month (I used Mike’s Newsstand to determine the release dates for these):

    1. I see your Hercules Unbound and counter with Hercules, Prince of Power #1. A new mini-series featuring Hercules having adventures in outer space, with the story and art by Bob Layton? Oh, man – take my money!

    2. Wolverine #1. Another new mini-series that had me, an unrepentant X-head at the time, really excited. Regular X-writer Chris Claremont teaming up with fan favorite Frank Miller? What was not to like?

    3. Starslayer #4. I’d discovered a comic book shop in Salem, OR about a year before, and was in on the ground floor for the launch of Pacific Comics a few months later. Mike Grell’s Starslayer, along with Groo the Wanderer, were by far my favorite offerings from them.

    4. Team America #4. *heavy sigh* Yes, I was following this series regularly, even though I never really liked it that much, and ended up having the whole 12-issue set. I think, like you mentioned about Invaders and Hercules Unbound, I just liked the idea of having a series from issue no. 1 – and then just kept picking it up on automatic.

  5. From March, 1972, going by calendar month — which due to the odd, erratic schedules many books had (eight times a year for some) meant I didn’t get a lot:
    1)Flash 215: Having reprinted “Vengeance of the Immortal Villain” the previous issue, this one brought back Vandal Savage after a decade in “Death of an Immortal.” Savage is finally aging so he has an elaborate scheme to manipulate Jay and Barry into restoring his eternal youth. It’s a fun story, better for the fact Vandal Savage wasn’t as endlessly overused as he’d become by the end of the century.
    2)Justice League of America #98. The finalé of Mike Friedrich’s Starbreaker three-parter. A great concept — a Galactus-knockoff who sells off his stolen energy as a source of power for dictatorship’s super-weapons and the like — hampered by Friedrich’s heavy-handed efforts to give everything A Meaning.
    3)Superboy 185. A 100-page super-spectacular with a Legion story, a TT story and some teen heroes I’d never heard of before — Little Boy Blue, Star-Spangled Kid and Kid Eternity. Plus “The Rip Van Winkle of Smallville,” a remarkably charming Superboy story.
    4)Strange Adventures #235. I’d gotten hooked on Adam Strange after seeing him save the JLA in “Planet That Came to a Standstill.” Here he battles “The Challenge of the Rival Starman” who figures beating Adam will show him how to knockoff a hero of his own world and be #1 champion there (yes, he’s a jerk). Plus the Star Rovers and a couple of standalone stories.

    In response to your own picks, I loved Hercules Unbound but it went downhill for me after the first six-issue arc

  6. John King

    My 14th Birthday was in the middle of 1979.
    At that point my selection of comics to read was going through changes.
    Many of the comics I had been reading had been cancelled. I think I had just outgrown the British humour comics and had stopped reading Whoopee and Cheeky Weekly. I was reading a friend’s copies of 2000 AD rather than buying it myself.
    So, at that exact point I believe I was only buying one comic.

    Star Wars Weekly – at that time they were reprinting the Wheel in Space storyline from the American series.
    3 back-up strips – including tales of the Watcher.
    the Micronauts had recently stopped (to be renewed in 1980 in Star Heroes digest with Battlestar Galactica) and instead was the very first story of Guardians of the Galaxy from Marvel Superheroes 18 – this continued with later stories but confusingly missed out their appearances elsewhere (such as the Defenders) which had been previously reprinted in other Marvel UK titles.
    The highlight was Adam Warlock – nearing the end of Jim Starlin’s run with the Star Thief story – This series was a major factor encouraging me into other Marvel UK titles for the Spiderman team up and the Avengers/Two-in-one resolution which was printed in 2 monthly comics.

    If I limited the list to 4 comics from the one month it would end up as 4 consecutive issues of Star Wars weekly which would be too boring – so I’ll allow comics from the next few months (the next 3 titles I started buying).

    In August, I started buying Look-In – a series featuring stories based on TV shows. I started at that point when they did Sapphire and Steel (A bizarre series starring David McCallum and Joanna Lumley) – joining the existing series of Benny Hill, Dick Turpin, the Famous Five, Bionic Action. Mind Your Language and Worzel Gummidge. I continued in October when they started featuring Battlestar Galactica.

    It was also August when I first read the UK edition of Savage Sword of Conan starting with issue 23 featuring the second half or the Jewels of Gwahlur, Red Sonja in Blood of the Hunter (reprinted from Marvel Feature 2) and Solomon Kane in the cold Hands of Death. I think I had just started reading the Conan books at this point.

    In October, Marvel UK started Doctor Who weekly with the Iron Legion (by Mills, Wagner and Gibbons). Back-up strips consisted of the Return of the Daleks and the beginning of a reprint of the Marvel Classics version of War of the Worlds (the only series of the four I have listed which I started buying at issue 1).

    1. John King

      I will add that I was living in a small town in the middle of England with no comic shop so my only access to American comics were from a market stall or occasionally from newsagents – I had only bought about 3 (all from Marvel) before my 14th birthday.

      The town would become noted in comics history (even featuring in an issue of the X-Men) because of a local forklift truck driver with an injured hand but that wasn’t until later

  7. Honestly, I was a little boggled at trying to hold it down to four. I could do a year’s worth of columns just on the Marvel books. They really were on fire then. From November ’75 to November ’76 you had not just all the stuff mentioned above, but also the Eternity saga in Dr. Strange followed by battles with Dracula and Satan; you had the Avengers against Kang and the Squadron Supreme with the debut of Hellcat; and speaking of debuts, we also got the debut of Star-Lord in Marvel Preview and Monark Starstalker in Marvel Premiere, Moon Knight’s first solo in Marvel Spotlight, Black Goliath got his own book, Howard the Duck got his own book, the original Guardians of the Galaxy got their own book, Omega the Unknown premiered, and Jack Kirby launched The Eternals. And there were fun team-up things like when Luke Cage joined the FF, followed by the return of Galactus; in his own title, Spider-Man met Nightcrawler and they joined the Punisher to battle Jigsaw (also a debut) while over in Marvel Team-Up there was the sprawling time-travel epic with Spider-Man, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Moondragon, Killraven, Deathlok, and Dr. Doom. In X-Men we had the return of the Sentinels that led to #100, when the new X-men fought the original team (actually the android “X-Sentinels”) …the battle in space where Jean Grey became Phoenix.

    And, well, after beating Bullseye, Daredevil also met Uri Geller. But they couldn’t ALL be gold.

    I much prefer reading comics as books these days, but I have to admit there was something really special and amazing about those serialized newsstand pre-internet days, when you would be greeted by an explosion of awesome every week and you genuinely had no idea what was coming.

  8. Well, lucky me! I turned 14 in March 1993, exactly ONE MONTH before the industry imploded so we can all guess what’s on my list – gimmicks, gimmicks, gimmicks!

    Adventures of Superman 500.
    Uncanny X-Men 304
    Savage Dragon 1
    and because I was in for EVERYTHING – Deathmate Prologue… YESssss. YAAAASSss!!

    I was 14!!! I bring NOTHING to the table.

      1. I only had limited funds so I wasn’t down for all of the Return stuff (plus I was still mostly an X guy and who has money for anything else after that?!) but I stuck with Superboy for a good quarter-century issues, and some of the Supergirl.

  9. Jeff Nettleton

    See, I can’t really play along, with comics. I turned 14 in November, 1980, and I only got 1 comic that month: Micronauts #26, which continued the return of Baron Karza, with SHIELD and HYDRA caught up in it.

    I grew up in a little farm town, with no newsstand in the immediate vicinity. So, comics were a rare treat, unless I lucked into some Whitman bagged sets (like when our local small grocery store had a rack of Whitman toys, games and comic sets). I’d have to settle for reading friend’s copies or my cousin’s big stash, when we would visit relatives.

    I probably picked up a paperback or two; but, I couldn’t begin to tell you what, maybe an issue of Starlog, if I was lucky. Summers were more likely to be my comic time, as I usually had spending money from working.

    Otherwise, it was tv. Tuesdays were all ABCm with Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company, Too Close for Comfort and Hart to Hart. Thursday also belonged to ABC. Other nights were between NBC and ABC. Our CBS affiliate was further away and hard to tune in, without an antenna on the house (which we didn’t have). So, I missed out on watching the Hulk (not a huge fan of the character, anyway) and only saw MASH sporadically until later seasons. Lot of tv movies, as I recall, lot of syndicated reruns and movies. Lot of outdoor games and sports with neighbors.

    That’s why I had time for pro wrestling; but, we didn’t have any on tv, in 1980. The WWA had been on for a couple of months in 1977 and would come back on around 1981/82, then the Poffo show and they started promoting shows in Decatur and Springfield, near where I lived. Never got to go, though. Didn’t see a live show until 1997, when WCW was hot and came through Springfield. It was weird watching it without an announcer calling the action. When we were wired for cable, in the late summer of 1982, that was when pro wrestling became accessible to me (and also when I had a steadier income for comics, magazines and books).

  10. JHL

    For me it would be September 1988. Looking back I realized this was actually a pretty pivotal changing point in my comics buying history. Just a few weeks before my 14th birthday I got my first part time job. The plan (which I followed through with) was to save most of my pay so that two years later, when I turned 16, I would have enough money to buy an okay car and pay for the insurance. But I did keep a small portion of my pay, and since comics were still a fairly reasonable price, that money meant I could greatly expand my monthly comic buying. But there was still some challenge because it wasn’t until I hit 16 and got that car that I could actually get to a comic shop. My comics sources were two 7/11s and a Walden Books that were all in bike range. It made trying to follow a book every month a bit of a gamble. You never quite knew if the convenience stores or the book store would bother to stock the next issue of anything you bought. Here is four books I am quite sure I bought and read right when they came out.

    1. Captain America #345 – I was all in for Gruenwald’s Captain America. This was in the middle of the whole John Walker in the regular Cap suit and Steve Rogers in the The Captain suit shenanigans. Geez, remember back when comics weren’t political? No, no I don’t.

    2. Cosmic Odyssey #1 – The story was fine, some parts still hold up, some parts not so much. I do think the exploring the dangers of taking for granted that your space magic ring will solve every problem was a solid idea. But I don’t know if John Stewart was the right character to do it with. That Mignola art though, absolutely glorious.

    3. Doom Patrol #12 – This was the largely unloved run that eventually morphed into the Doom Patrol most everyone thinks of when Morrison moved in and changed everything. At this point it was a fairly generic book but I had bought into the run for one very specific reason. Unlike Marvel, DC heroes had always been based in a wide variety of real and fictional cities. And around this point in time the Doom Patrol had set up in Kansas City. My home town. That seemed so wildly unlikely that it drew me in. They took over the very real Union Station as their headquarters. Which made a certain kind of sense because at the time the real building was completely unused and had become a whole city government boondoggle with them trying to figure out what to do with it.

    4. Justice League America #17 This was peak Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire. When I started getting into comics I mostly bought Marvel. Early on I read a few Superman and Batman comics from the late 70s or early 80s and just bounced off hard. I only started seeing DC books on the rack that looked interesting to me post Crisis. And it was ultimately the Wally West Flash, Suicide Squad, and this Justice League run pulled me in and got my split between DC and Marvel buying to be pretty much even for several years.

    1. Edo Bosnar

      This caught my eye: “The plan (which I followed through with) was to save most of my pay so that two years later, when I turned 16, I would have enough money to buy an okay car and pay for the insurance.”

      Yep, that’s a good plan, and that’s what a lot of kids my age were doing; some of them started already saving up when they were 12 or 13. Me? I spent any money I had (whether earned or given to me on birthdays or holidays) on comics, and books a little later. Not long after discovering my first comic book shop, I also sent away for a catalog from Lone Star Comics (better known now as mycomicshop.com) and over the next year I accumulated quite a pile of back issues, mainly stuff from the 1970s. The term misspent is apposite in more than one sense.

      1. JHL

        Given the price of comics and books at the time I was able to buy most any comic I wanted and a few paperbacks a month while still socking away most of my paycheck. It probably helped that I did not have regular access to a dedicated comic book shop. Kansas City had a few good ones, Clint’s Books and Comics had already been around a few decades by the mid-eighties, but none were near me so I was more limited by what I could find than what I could buy. I did a couple of monthly subscriptions to Marvel books but never got into mail order. I ended up with most of the of the major ‘important’ comics runs of the late seventies through the eighties mostly because my Junior High music teacher’s wife made him get rid of his comic collection and he passed it all on to me.

  11. Rob Allen

    I turned 14 in December 1970, and at that point I was still in my almost-two-year depression-induced hiatus from comics. Two months later, my brother picked up a few comics and I got back into it. For the next few years my back-issue purchases were mainly focused on buying the issues I missed in those two years.

    The four comics from December 1970 that I’m happiest to have in my collection now are:

    Forever People #1 & New Gods #1 – Kirby’s explosion of creativity was mind-blowing.

    Creatures on the Loose #10 – King Kull by Roy Thomas and Berni Wrightson.

    Blazing Six-Guns #1 – The first color comic from Skywald. An Ayers/Severin cover, a new story by Len Wein, Dick Ayers and John Tartaglione, a Red Mask reprint by Frank Bolle and a reprint story by Everett Raymond Kinstler.

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