Comics / Cult Favorite

The Beginning of Fandom


By Philip Schweier
May 28, 2007 - 19:38

For no particular reason that has anything to do with comics, I've been waxing nostalgic lately for the time when I first became a comic reader. It was 1972 and I was seven years old.

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Among the first comics I remember getting were  Jimmy Olsen #158, Batman #250, Lois Lane #131, and Legion of Super-Heroes #3. It was a glorious time to be a comic fan, learning about all these heroes in the days when stories were "done in one," two at the most. I never really became a big Marvel fan. I wasn't interested so much in the personal drama of Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. I wanted good old-fashioned action.

In September, 1973, I practically had to beg to get my friend Tony to watch Super Friends on Saturday morning. For an hour, we were treated to a near-epic hour-long adventure of a tight cast of classic heroes. Sure, it had Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog, but it also had guest stars like Plastic Man, the Flash and Green Arrow.

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I recently watched an online clip from the Green Arrow episode, and the animation was pretty bad, even by 1973 standards. Nevertheless, I remember more of those inaugural episodes than any other. Maybe my mind was fertile, or maybe they were just plain better. I remember one in which the evil scientist villain did an about-face midway through the episode and spent the remainder of it working with the Super Friends to correct the damage he’d caused. It was an early case of seeing a better developed antagonist beyond your standard super-villains.

Later, they added the Wonder Twins and the Legion of Doom. While it was great to see the heroes match wits with a team of familiar baddies, it always bothered me that at the end of the show, they always managed to escape the Justice League, thanks to Brainiac's teleportation device, or Luthor's robot doubles.  Just once, I wanted to see Superman lead a major assault on that Vader head in the swamp.

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In the town where I lived, there was a monthly flea market, where I managed to pick up a lot of old comics. I especially enjoyed the old Adventure Comics starring the Legion of Super-Heroes. This particular flea market proved to be a gold mine for a budding comics fan. Even though comics at the time were about 20¢, I could pick some up for only a dime. Like I said, it was a great time to be a comic fan.

Christmas of ’73, I asked for and received a handful of the 8-inch Mego super-hero figures. These action figures were made by the same folk who had given us Action Jackson a year or two before. AJ was kind of the poor man’s GI Joe. He could be a soldier, a cowboy, a biker….OH MY GOD! Action Jackson was the Village People!!

Anyhoo, Batman had a removable mask, revealing that the Caped Crusader wasn’t Bruce Wayne, but Cary Grant. Those Mego action figures are long gone. I outgrew super-heroes about the time I entered junior high, so I converted them all to sword & sorcery characters. A little white paint and Green Arrow became the Warlord. But swing by any comic book or toy convention and you’ll see those Mego figures going for big bucks, even without the oven mitt gloves and missing boots.

So as I've been looking over the web in search of tidbits to feed my retro-minded monster, I've come across super-spectaculars and limited collector's editions that either my friend Tony or I had. I'd gotten him turned on to comics, and he seemed to go mostly for Justice League-related stuff. See, he eventually did knuckle under and become a Super Friends fan.

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Jim Aparo's Spectre was another great feature of the day. Adventure Comics #431-440 featured a truly wrathful Spirit of Vengeance, as writer Michael Fleischer dreamed up all sorts of gruesome ways to dispatch hoodlums of all stripes. Say what you will about the earlier Neal Adams version, I just liked Aparo's better.

One thing about looking through those old issues is to see a very obvious time period, indicated by the “impeach Nixon” graffiti in the background and the general design of the clothes and cars. It’s a window to a time of Jim Rockford and the Captain & Tennile. Many people will scoff at the hokeyness of the mid 1970s, and with good reason. Watergate and leisure suits are nothing to look back on with fondness. But regardless of when we grow up, whether it’s the 1930 Depression or the turbulent 1960s, it’s our childhood. That ultimately is our point of reference. A 9-year old’s universe rarely extends much beyond 100 yards from the front door.

Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? Email me at philip@comicbookbin.com


Last Updated: June 23, 2021 - 00:29

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