Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Secret Origin: Part 4!

For almost a full year after I purchased Uncanny X-Men # 163, I didn't buy another book new off the rack.  I was able to gather a small handful of older, tattered books from garage sales.

You may or may not have noticed that my origin with comics is dominated by Marvel.  I get my first taste of DC with those garage sale books, but they did not captivate me like the Marvel books did.  Something about it said "stodgy" to me, and I wasn't interested. 

Matter of fact the only DC comic I can remember from those old rummage sale books was a copy of Superboy # 246 featuring the Legion of Superheroes.  It also featured a cover depicting a mostly unclothed nubile young woman being burned to death by Sun Boy.  Can't imagine how that ended up making its way home with me!

Daredevil # 200 hits stands in November of 1983, and I selected that one for reasons other than my now obvious psycho-sexual fetishes.  Although Daredevil's clothing is torn off his supple arms and biceps, so maybe I'm just fooling myself about that.  It was a nice John Byrne cover, at any rate, and we'll leave it at that.

I picked up Daredevil because I liked his look, I thought he was cool.  It was purely a visual vibe thing, I had no clue that Frank Miller had just finished defining the character a few issues back.  I didn't know other people that read comics, (although my friend Scott was about to pick up the hobby soon) and there was no Wizard or Newsarama to teach me about these things. 

This issue was written by Denny O'Neill, but there's plenty of juicy bits left over from the Miller run driving this story.  It's partly a Bullseye story, and there was plenty of drama there, being that he killed Daredevil's one true love.  It's also a story about Matt getting jammed up about his father's checkered past, and pondering his position that a hero doesn't use lethal force.

I think that's ultimately what got me with the Marvel comics was the ethical dilemmas and the fact that so many of these books were populated by tortured souls.

Bullseye is shit nuts, and Kingpin just can't wait to remind him that Elektra was a better assassin.  Matt remembers a story when his father dressed up as a devil, then tells Matt he'll never disgrace himself in that way again even if it means the family starves.  Ah, the irony of it all!

Bullseye attacks Daredevil with the same weapon he perforated Elektra with, which is kinda mean when you think about it.  Bullseye tells Daredevil he's going to step outside the box and let him live, specifically so that Matt can torture himself over Bullseye's future victims.

I like the fact that Daredevil ultimately decides not to kill Bullseye, but he really has to think about it.  I like the fact that Daredevil was perfectly confident in fighting with his arm in a sling.  Daredevil was a damaged tough guy, and the book was more about making do under incredible duress than "saving the day", which was never terribly interesting to me. 

And that pretty much did it.  From that point on, I knew that I loved comics, the Marvel ones in particular.  I began to make a little more money, and as I found opportunities I would take books home with me.  I didn't really have access to a comic shop, but I could get them at Humboldt drug or the Q Station.  It was difficult or impossible to have a complete run of something, and you never knew what those places would order or when.  The popular stuff like GI Joe were carried regularly, though.  Good gravy did we love our GI Joe comics back then!

The next seminal development is Secret Wars in 1985, which doesn't hold up particularly well when you read it now, but it surely was exciting when it hit.  After that I'm deep enough into it where I simply can't abide relying on the unreliable newsstand sources, and I use my money to buy subscriptions from Marvel; Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Power Man/Iron Fist, Hulk, GI Joe, Defenders, Thor.  I got a LOT of subscriptions, mailed to me protected by nothing but a brown paper wrap of the type you might take your lunch to work in. 

I never even considered an independent comic or a DC comic until I had my own vehicle and could get myself to Shinders starting in 1990.  At that point I had the world in front of me every Wednesday and could actually make decisions based on the books themselves.

I think there's something to the idea of being psychologically branded, though.  My earliest associations were "Marvel = fun and dramatic, DC = stodgy, stilted" and I think that's still with me beneath the surface event today.  Even though I'm painfully rational, and I know those associations are demonstrably false.  Even though at this stage of the game I'm consciously far more committed to following creators I like than companies or characters.  Even though as businesses, I consider Marvel to be mildly evil and DC mildly committed to the greater good.

Even though I know all those things, there's a little 10 year-old Ryan who remembers Spider-Woman and Kitty Pryde and Daredevil who really wants his Marvel comics.  I'm like a comic fiend, forever chasing the dragon trying to recapture that first high of Avengers # 128. 

So before you guys consider abandoning those all-ages books forever....remember that there are plenty more 10 year-old Ryans out there waiting to inflict their future selves with demands for brand specific comics.  It's true.  Trust me, I know.

- Ryan

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