Comics / Cult Favorite

In the Beginning...


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By Philip Schweier
Apr 20, 2016 - 13:34

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This spring, there’s been a lot of bally-hoo regarding the Batman vs. Superman film. Many fans believe that Zack Snyder & Co. have shown little regard for the source material. Some are being very vocal in their criticism, other simply walk away, quietly disappointed.

I can’t say that I’m in either camp. Honestly, my expectations weren’t terribly high. When it was announced that the Man of Steel sequel would feature major conflict with Batman, and dovetail directly into a Justice League film, I was concerned. I believe DC Entertainment and its corporate parent, Warner Communications, to be rushing things. I would prefer to see the Superman franchise to find its own legs before adding other aspects of the DC universe.

Perhaps it’s an effort to keep up with its long-time rival, Marvel. In my opinion, competing so directly is a bad idea. Instead of copying the competition, I respectfully suggest competitors focus on what makes their product different, and capitalize on those qualities, with little regard for what the other guy might be doing.

Another factor lowering my personal bar for Batman vs. Superman was allusions in the press to The Dark Knight Returns. I will not argue the impact Frank Miller’s series had on comic books since it was first published in the 1980s. But frankly, I’m not a fan. The story is okay and the art is serviceable, but the truth is I didn’t enjoy it very much.

Batman vs. Superman was good; not great, but good. Like I said, better than I hoped, and admittedly disappointing in a few places. Did Superman ever do anything heroic? He hovered majestically during a flood, he battled Doomsday, and rescued Lois Lane from a terrorist camp. But I don’t recall that he performed any act of heroism, until the end when he gave his all in the climactic fight.

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When such movies are released, my hope is that they will rejuvenate my interest in the subject matter, whether it’s Star Trek, Star Wars, or a super-hero movie. Lately, I have seen too many flaws to really do that, though not so many that I’m not looking forward to the next entry in the series.
 
To get my fix, I go back to the source material. I look at what captured my attention the very first time. In this case, what were the early comic books that I latched onto?

The first comics I recall buying were Legion of Super-Heroes #3, Jimmy Olsen #158, and Lois Lane #131. According to Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics, they were published in the spring of 1973, and sold for 20¢. I’m certain I got them off a spinner rack at the grocery store. In the months that followed, I added Batman #250, Brave & the Bold #108, and Jimmy Olsen #159. My only comic for June or July was Marvel Tales #45, as my family was in the process of moving.

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But I made up for it once we got settled. In August I bought Action Comics #429, Batman #253, Superboy #199, Jimmy Olsen #161, and World’s Finest #220. Five comics at 20¢ added up to an entire dollar, and I remember thinking I might’ve spent more than Mom would’ve allowed. Sure enough, she chewed me a new one when I got home. September was limited to Jimmy Olsen #162, but October I had birthday money, and indulged myself with Action Comics #431, Flash #225, Superboy #200, Superman #271 and World’s Finest #221. I suspect I may have spread these purchases out, to avoid another lecture from Mom.

A few years back, when my mom passed away, my brother commented on my passion for comic books. Apparently he’d bought one once, and was scolded by our mom for wasting “her” money (it was actually his allowance). I think the turning point for my mom’s opinion came from one of our new neighbors. She was the high school librarian, and recognized the challenge of getting kids to read. So when my mom lamented that all I read was comic books, our neighbor replied with, “At least he’s reading.”

And read I did. In the mid-1970s there was burgeoning fandom for science fiction, fantasy and the like, and I was voracious. I devoured the usual suspects: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Doc Savage, Conan the Barbarian, etc. By my late teens I’d left behind such juvenile fare in favor of more “serious” reading. I don’t recall what, but it was my college years. I’m not sure reading for fun was on high on my list.

Now, 40+ years later, my tastes are still juvenile. I revisited the assorted series of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and am still working my way through the Doc Savage books. I’ve added authors such as Louis Lamour and Mickey Spillane to my library.

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As for comics, I’m not overly thrilled with DC’s recent releases. Each series seems to be one long story sandwiched between some Crisis or another. Telling a good story seems to have taken a back seat to telling stories that can be repackaged into trade paperbacks, or adapted for animation.

So I’ve begun looking backwards, re-reading the books in my collection that once sold for 20¢. Perhaps it pleases my wife to see that the contents of my closet are not merely something she’ll have to figure what to do with when I die; that I actually DO dig out some ancient comic book once written for the average 12-year-old.

I’m optimistic that my collection of comics from the 1970s will feed my interest for the next several years – just in time for senility, so I will be able to enjoy them again for the first time.


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 11:53

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