Friday, February 22, 2008


When last I blogged, I was talking about the moment I became a serious comic fan. It was the spring of 1972 and I had just gotten three comics while shopping with my dad and brother: Batman #242, Justice League of America #99, and The Brave and the Bold #102 featuring the Teen Titans. Something in the spring air made me absolutely ecstatic about these comics, and I wanted to read more.

When I went back to school after the weekend, my second grade teacher, Ms. Morningstar, announced that we could bring comic books in to class to share with our classmates during our recess periods. I couldn’t believe it! I would get to read more comics without having to get my parents to buy them. I also wanted to share my excitement for the comics I had read, but I didn’t wanted to bring in those three comics I had just gotten. I was young but no fool; those classmates of mine would destroy my new comics in no time.

I decided to dig out my old Batman #220 and #227 as soon as I got home from school. When I finally found them, they were even more worse for wear than I remembered. Batman #220 had a huge tear across the cover, which I clumsily repaired with Scotch tape. Since I thought this might be the last time I would see the comic, I read through #220 one last time. It was exciting to discover how much my reading skills had improved and that I could follow the story much better than I could a year earlier. I noticed that one character in the story was named “Sloan,” which sounded to me like a person in a TV crime show or on one of my mother’s soap operas. Suddenly, comics seemed like real adult entertainment and not silly kid stuff like the Saturday morning cartoons. You have to realize, I had a much older brother, so I was in a real hurry to grow up, at least intellectually.

I took my battered Batman comics into class, which I felt gave me the legitimate right to paw over the comics that the other kids brought in. I was immediately drawn to a copy of The Brave and the Bold #60 featuring my new favorites, the Teen Titans. Unbeknownst to me, this was only the second appearance of the Teen Titans and the first time Wonder Girl joined the group. Wonder Girl was a bit of a fudge on DC’s part anyway, since the original Wonder Girl stories were of Wonder Woman as a girl, like Superboy was Superman as a boy. For Teen Titans, however, she miraculously became the daughter of Wonder Woman, putting her in the same time frame. Of course, I learned all this later. At that moment, I was just blown away at how different these Teen Titans seemed from the ones I saw in my B&B #102.

While the Teen Titans, as they existed in 1972, were older, more independent adolescents like The Mod Squad, the early Teen Titans reflected their younger, more subservient roles as pint-sized sidekicks to their big league partners. There was one page in B&B #60 were each Titan bids farewell to their older partners before they go off on their mission. I was particularly struck by the brief conversation that occurred between Batman and Robin:

Although it was just a couple of panels, I was thrilled to see Batman and Robin looking and interacting just like they did on the TV show. I quickly realized that this book was from the mid-60s, obviously a hand-me-down from an older sibling to one of my classmates. It was so fun to see Batman and Robin like this, rather than the separate crime fighters they had become in the early 70s. This comic made me yearn to see more older comics so I could piece together the entire history of my heroes. The comic bug had settled in my heart for the long haul.

During the summer of ’72, I asked for a comic book every time my dad and I stopped by a drug store or convenience store, which was frequently since he was a heavy smoker and always needed cigarettes. I often wonder how much my dad’s nicotine addiction contributed to my comic book addiction. At any rate, I read all kinds of comics that summer, including some Marvel titles like Spiderman, Captain America, and Daredevil. But it was another Teen Titans issue that really touched me.

Teen Titans #40, “Spawn of the Sinister Sea,” had Aqualad betray his fellow Teen Titans because the daughter of this bad guy had seduced him. To keep Aqualad from causing any more trouble, the other Teen Titans chain him up. There’s one panel where the chained Aqualad is crying out his anguish, so strong is the power of the girl over him. To my seven-year-old brain, this was serious drama. I was enthralled with comics. I kept reading comics. I didn’t realize that I had become a comic fan, or that such a thing even existed, but I certainly was one. It took a few years before I fully embraced my passion.

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