There are many firsts in life: your first steps, your first kiss, your first concert, your first job and many, many more. As a boy growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I, like countless others, was blasted from all sides by pop culture like no generation before. It seemed as though a new action figure, new cartoon, new video game, or new fad (hi, slap-bracelets) materialized regularly.
While I had my own stash of worthless baseball cards like many other kids, this period saw the rise of the speculator market for comic books. I was 10 years old, and while I had seen my dad’s old comics and monster magazines the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and Playmates line was undoubtedly where I realized that something I loved actually began as a comic book. Sure, I knew Superman and Batman were comics, but even after Burton’s 1989 film I hadn’t caught the comic book bug.
That all was to change on a fateful visit to Lone Star Comics in Irving, Texas one fine evening in the summer of 1991. I perused the aisles with my brother and was amazed at the endless racks of new and old issues. I’d made a little cash from what chores I could do or report card money I’d earned in May, and it was literally burning a hole in my pocket. There were so many choices, though, and as I was a newbie to this strange new world I was especially discerning for something that really caught my eye.
There on a stand was a pristine issue of Amazing Spider-Man #347. This was destiny; it had to be. The fantastic cover alone sealed the deal. Erik Larsen, who along w/ Mark Bagley are my all-time favorite Spidey artists, had rendered an awesome scene that blew my mind. Venom, Spider-Man’s symbiotic arch-nemesis, held a tattered skull of Peter Parker before his grotesque visage. In true Marvel fashion, the cover promised a tale that couldn’t be missed and dire straits for the titular hero within it’s newsprint pages.
I still have that issue in my collection today. It’s not the most valuable or the best written. It’s not my favorite character or run. There’s nothing glittery or gimmicky about the cover, but it was the first comic I personally purchased for myself. I got home and carefully turned the pages, treating the book as if it were a sacred document and placed it reverently in it’s protective bag. I can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually fell asleep protectively watching over at it on my headboard that summer.
Shortly thereafter Marvel dropped X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee with 5 unique, interlocking covers including a special gate-fold cover. Fans and speculators looking to nab copies as “serious financial investments” lost their collective minds. To this day that issue remains the best-selling comic of all time having sold over 8 million copies. At the time, I was a Marvel fanboy to be sure. As the Image Comics crew jumped ship I followed after to Spawn, The Savage Dragon, WildC.A.T.S., and Shadowhawk; but as the comic market bubble eventually burst in the late 90’s, so did my interest.
I never forgot that first issue or the many others I’d amassed since, though, and despite comics not being “cool” for older readers the interest and the market grew up. I still have some Marvel favorites like Star Wars, Darth Vader, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 2099 and a few others, but I’m much more a Batman follower and devout Scott Snyder fan these days. It all might have been a What If? or Elseworlds tale, though, had that first issue not won me over, and for that I’m always thankful for Venom, Spidey, and those amazing creators at the time who sparked another kid’s imagination. It was truly $1.00 US well spent.