My First 3 Favorite Comics


For this weeks article, I began with a very basic premise; to make a comprehensive list of all of my favorite single issues. Not the collected volumes, but the slim monthly comics which, in just a few pages, affected me so intensely that I never forgot them. There was a time when monthly comics were all I bought, trade paperbacks were a real rarity, partly because they were a large outlay of cash all at once, and partly because as a kid I felt like if I didn’t buy the comic as it was coming out, I was missing something.

As I began to try and put together my list, I realized that three of the top issues are some of the earliest comics I can remember reading. I still buy monthly comics, and once in a while, one stands out as being extraordinary. But these first three are different. Maybe it’s because now, more comics are written to be part of a long, continuous story, that will work well when reprinted as a book. Or it could simply be that when I bought these, there really wasn’t much else I was into. Life was simpler, quieter, and these comics had a huge impact on me.

As I list them, the similarities in these comics seem obvious now. I clearly had a taste for bold, dramatic, relationship-based stories and artwork, I liked strong fluid lines, and I insisted on a good understanding of proportion and anatomy (not always a regular fixture in comics at the time). There are great battles, fantastic powers, and always an exploration of the dynamic between a team or partnership. I enjoyed seeing how people interacted and learned to fight their enemies as a unit.

Daredevil #168
This is Frank Miller as writer and artist (for the first time apparently, which I find impressive, although I really had no idea at the time, I was just enjoying the comic). When I first read this, I immediately gravitated towards the bold, stark, simplicity of Miller’s layouts and line work, perfectly complimented by the aggressive inking of Klaus Janson. The story is a great one, plenty of trust, love, fear, danger, death, and intrigue. Good fight scenes too, and I love the flashback particularly. It gives insight into how everything began between Elektra and Daredevil, and by extension – how both of them decided that using their superhuman skills was the best way to deal with a challenging situation, (clearly a questionable decision that cost both of them any chance of a normal life). I guess I like beginnings, because everyone knows this didn’t turn out well. I’d rather think about this as it was all starting, when it was so different and exciting, than remember the inevitably depressing ending.

I love seeing that pivotal moment, it forever links their origins in my mind. It’s as if the very no-frills, brutish style of the art is echoing the very basic nature of the story, the intimacy and simplicity of a small switch that changed everything. In retrospect, I think this is one reason that Miller’s work is so strong; As both writer and artist, he can insure that the imagery and text work in harmony to create a more seamless package than might otherwise result.

 

Detective Comics #569
For me at that age, I was quite obsessed with the fluidity of Alan Davis’ line. Paul Neary was inking (to utter perfection). Batman looked like a quicksilver god and I worshipped him. Mike W. Barr wrote him as bleak, serious, and touched with a hint of hope, unable to deny his faith in humanity despite all evidence to the contrary. Robin looked very much like the kid he was hardly ever depicted as (it’s hard to draw someone physically immature and not make them look like a small adult – in this he really did look like The Boy Wonder). His personality was just the right amount of dumb teenage boy, adding all of the fun and joy to the team.

You take that magic combination and you throw in a stunningly voluptuous, gazelle-like Catwoman and I was lost. They fought perfectly together, a fantastic choreography, it seemed to me at the time. Those moments where she snuggled up against him on the nighttime rooftops used to make me shiver. And that frame where he says “Not in front of the boy!” simply screamed old-fashioned gallantry to me (with a hint of the restrained passion). I love old black and white movies, with a stoic leading man and a seductive temptress who’s going straight for her man. This issue perfectly followed that formula, and gave it an entirely new flavor. I’ve been a bit obsessed with Batman ever since.

 

The Uncanny X-Men #128
The weird culmination of the story of one of Claremont’s typically non-villainous villains. Forced to his evil deeds by the very nature of his physiology, Proteus is completely out of control, and the sweeping destruction of reality gives John Byrne and Terry Austin plenty of opportunities to create some sweeping, melodramatic fight scenes. I’ve always felt that Byrne’s penciling was never quite as good without Austin’s inking, together, in that era, they seemed so damn solid. The character that really doesn’t date, is Colossus. I think he should always be drawn by them, his steely abs look totally believable, somehow they manage to make sense of the exaggerated shoulders of his costume, and even his hair, (that all-too solid mass) is exactly as it should be. This is a team of artists who made books that were so polished and sassy, it was a perfect match for Claremont’s strangely surreal story lines and circuitous dialogue. This was the first issue I read where I saw the team coming together, working to support each other, taking the wild risks to win and become an effective fighting force.

I’ll always be a fan of the creative team’s entire run, these were the first comics that really got me hooked on the medium in a big way. This particular issue was the first one were I started to experience the flow and excitement that they could conjure. It was a perfect hint of what was to follow in the epic Dark Phoenix Saga, but at this point, things within the team had yet to become tinted with that threat. Jean Grey was still kind of normal, and even though people were noticing her increasing power, it had yet to turn ugly. This was the last issue before Kitty Pryde joined, which added a completely different dynamic to the team. When she arrived they all started acting in a very avuncular, cutesy way towards her, which definitely detracted from their own coolness (I know, this is not actually a word, and if anyone can think of a better way to describe it, please let me know).


There are many more favorite issues I want to list, but I’m going to save them for a different time. Right now, these were the first favorites, the ones I read again and again, when I hardly had any comics.
These were such a big part of my life at one time, they were the comics I read to cheer myself up or fill time, so that now, just looking at the covers makes me feel warm and cosy. These are the books that I lent to people who didn’t like comics, imploring them to see the qualities that I did. For the longest time, these were my guilty pleasure, comics about superheroes (which everyone thought was silly back then). These are the comics that I was obsessed with and bewitched by.

 


Sonia Harris’ old comics can be found hidden away in boxes in London. If you see them, please send them to her in San Francisco. She misses them very much, and if they want to get in touch, she can be found at sonia@ifanboy.com.

 

Comments

  1. For me it was a reprint of Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 (titled X-Men Vs. Dracula), the Wolverine/Gambit Vicitms miniseries, and Wolverine #50 with the die-cut cover. That scene in the elevator in the beginning was absolutely fantastic. "The cigar aint lit, the scoot aint greasy, and the freight aint my cup of tea. Besides, they’re expecting me to take the freight elevator." Wolvie then proceeds to ride his bike up the remaining floors in the stairwell to the roof, then jumps the hog onto the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Bad. Ass.

    I guess its pretty obvious what the common thread was in my first favorite comics.

  2. Gi Joe #3

    Unknown Soldier (issue number lost to time)

    Giant Oversized Star Wars adaptation.

     

  3. Getting back into comics for this….cant remember my first actual years of reading them:

    Batman #677

    Green Lantern #28

    New Avengers #32

  4. Really great choices Sonia. I had DC 596 at the time and have since read the other two in collections.

    For me one of them is Detective Comics 614 by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, it was one of those great one off issues that worked really well as a good self contained 22 page story and really stayed with me. I lost it years ago until I picked up a copy in a £1 grab bag at Forbidden Planet in London last year! 

  5. Cool choices, Sonia!  Is that the Uncanny issue where Cyclops throws a drink in Wolverine’s face to start a fight with him?  (You see what kind of stuff tends to stick with me). 

     

  6. I can remember two sets of "first" favorite comics:

    Me at 9: Robin #10 (Zero Hour, Tim Meets a Version of Dick), X-Men #1 (With the Magneto Cover), and Superman #75 (Death of, if I have the number correctly.)

    Me Now:

    New X-Men #114 (Totally changed my view on comics and the X-Men, made me a life long Morrison fan), Green Lantern: Rebirth #4, Green Arrow (vol. 2) #1

  7. Oh shit, I forgot about the Fantastic Four issue where Wolvie, Hulk, Spidey, and I think Ghost Rider (as the New FF) fight Mole Man and a couple million Moloids, and a few of Mole Man’s huge-ass monsters. The thing that sticks out to me about that (besides the incredible Art Adams pencils) was one scene where Wolvie and Spidey break some kind of rotating lock on something using Spidey’s spidey-sense to cue when Wolvie should jab his claws into the mechanism. I think it was a lock on a case protecting an egg of some kind? If anyone knows the issue I’m talking about, let me know.

  8. It was #349! Wow, can’t believe I remembered that.

  9. I love that issue of Daredevil.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.

  10. 3 of my favorates also.

     

  11. @ohcaroline I don’t remember anything like that, I remember a ton of what looked like psychedelic fight scenes, as Proteus dismantled reality around them. It was an epic, surreal battle, like if Alphonse Mucha had drawn Doom Patrol or something. I wish I had the copy now to check… If it’s not in that issue, it’s definitely near it.

  12. I’m going to have to go and look it up now.  I think it was part of the same storyline; Cyclops thought Wolvie was losing his focus, so he started a fight with him.  That’s leadership. 

  13. I have that DETECTIVE COMICS!  It’s a fantastic issue from an equally fantastic era.

  14. @ohcaroline: It’s also insane if you think about it….

    I wonder if in the future, let’s say 20-30 years from now….will recent issues be considered this memorible like all of you guys? I mean Sonia your remembering old Detective Comics or Uncanny X-Men issues. Will the same titles in today’s era be remembered this fondly?

    Like will the New Avengers issues with The Hood be remembered forever in the history of the industry? That always rattles my brain…

  15. My first comic book was the first issue of SuperPro that somebody left in my dad’s car.  I didn’t even like foolsball and still don’t, but I just couldn’t get over how much I liked the cover.  I tried to draw it a few times but it just never looked right.

    My first graphic novels was The Riddler something.  I think it was Legends Of The Dark Knight related but I don’t remember. I was already a Batman fan because of Tim Burton and Micheal Keaton though.

    The book that got me back into reading comics after all those years was Detective #846, part one of Heart Of Hush.  I went out and bought practically every canon Batman TPB that takes place between Knightfall and R.I.P. after that.  Paul Dini most make DC a lot of $$$ if more people got caught on the same way.

  16. My first comic I ever read all the way through was http://www.comicbookdb.com/issue.php?ID=52390 which I got out of a quarter bin when I was like 10. I just remember loving Tim Sale’s art so much I traced the hell out of that book.

  17. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I liken my memory to an Amazonian rope bridge collapsing in slow motion behind me.  So I’m not sure what my first book was, but the first comics I really got into were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles books (and not the early black and white ones either).  I loved the character source books in particular.  

  18. @PaulMontgomery These definitely aren’t my first books, just my first favorites. Somehow I got roped into seeing the last Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Everyone in there was either 3 years old, or someone’s mum. It was pretty funny.

  19. This article is complete bollocks.

  20. I was hoping JoeCasey would show up.

  21. My favorites as a kid were Amazing Spider-Man 388, Spectacular Spider-Man 200, Iron Man 275, and Green Lantern 66 & 67

  22. Spectacular Spider-Man 200…a true classic.  Also one of my absolute favorites.  I went back as re-read it after reading Amazing Spider-Man 581 and 582.  Great stuff!

  23. Sonia, you picked two of my big 3 from my youth: DD 168 and UXM 128. You’re dead-on about Byrne/Austin. To this day that team remains my all time favorite. Whenever someone else filled in for Terry it stood out like a turd in a punchbowl. Even good inkers like Dan Green or Joe Rubenstein couldn’t really match up.

    My #3? Avengers Annual 10: Claremont writing, Michael Golden on pencils, the first Rogue appearance, New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Carol Danver’s depowering, appearances by X-Men and Spider-Woman and once of the best covers of all time. 

     

  24. @JoeCasey: Someone has the hots for Sonia….

    Can I change my answer? Replace GL and throw in JSA. I cant remember which issue I liked a lot….#6 or #7 I believe

  25. @JoeCasey Comic writing is an oxymoron.

  26. great article sonia! Ahh, Colossus, my favorite Xman.I totally agree with you that this is the quintissential version of Peter.(love the shoulder pads)

    Mines Avengers#222 I carried this ish in my bookbag for weeks (great cover+ self contained story)

  27. I read all three of those at the time they were published – the Barr/Davis team was superb on Detective (shame it was a very brief one), and I’ll never forget Catwoman being reverted to her villainous ways by Dr moon on instruction from The Joker.

    The Byrne/Claremont X-Men run will always be a classic; and I loved Phoenix – her seduction to the dark side started during the Proteus storyline, and I was already dreading what was to become of her.

    Elektra, again I loved her introduction in DD – and started to worry when she stuck a shiv through Ben Ulrich. She paid the ultimate price for that.

    Nearly all those choices involve the at the time good girl going bad in the end.

  28. @Terence Wow, well observed. I can’t believe I missed that common thread. I think that maybe when they were coming out, I wasn’t sure if I was a bad girl or a good one, so that appealed.

  29. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Sonia’s going to turn evil!

  30. Or strapped to a phallic symbol…

  31. Wow. Here are the three comics I remember reading over and over as a kid. Probably the most influential in forming my art style today.

    Amazing Spiderman #102 – The double-sized origin issue featuring Morbius the Living Vampire as well as a six-armed Spidy. All in glorious 4-color by Gil Kane.

    Micronauts #1 – Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden. Sci=fi adventure that made the toys seem way cooler.

    Marvel’s Battlestar Galactica #16 – a tour de force by Walt Simonson.

    Cheers!

  32. @TNC: yeah, i get that impressin too

  33. I’m with Sonia on DD. Although I came on the seen much much later with my first book (actually a trade) DD: The Devil Inside and Out. The scene where Bullseye is being wheeled in prison like Hannibal Lecter is one of my favorite all time scenes. DareDevil fan ever since. Something about his character, Electra, and his villains that appeals to me above all. Ed Brubaker brought me on board. 

  34. @robby: Wait your first ever comic was NFL SuperPro?….Aw man…I feel so bad…that’s rough man. 🙂

  35. @Jerantino… Yeah, that’s right!! Micronauts and SHOGUN Warriors(Badass before Voltron!!)

  36. @Jesse

    When I was a kid it was four comics:  Micronauts, Rom, Shogun Warriors, and Uncanny X-Men.

  37. i love this article!! i loved the frank miller daredevil line!! so good and i loved the art. i also loved chris claremonts run on x-men hes such an x-genius!

  38. My first comics were Marvel Star Comics Masters of the Universe issue number 5, the Marvel Comics version of Conan the Barbarian issue number 11, and DC Comics’ The Brave and the Bold Presents Hawkman issue number 43 which is also the reason why I asked my Mother to buy me a Hawkman version of Kenner Toys’ Super Powers Collection.

  39. I’ve never really read single issues but out of the couple I did read I remember the Spider-Man Maximum Clonage saga with the fancy covers.  I know everyone was pretty down on the series but I loved it and Ben Reilly is still one of my favorite Marvel charaters. 

  40. As a kid I would randomly pick up comics at the market but once I pick the Flash vol.2 #1, I was hooked. And so began a long and expensive habit.