About the Back Issue Bin & Somebody’s First Comic
I’ve been reading comics since I was 8 years old. I’ve been writing reviews of comics since I was in my early 20s. Most of my reviews over the years have appeared at the comic and pop culture website CX Pulp.com (formerly Comixtreme), where I’ve been on-staff for years. Every so often, though, CX requires a pruning of its database and clearing out of old posts, columns, and reviews. To keep from simply losing literally thousands of reviews, I decided to start a blog where I would re-present those old reviews, as well as throw in the occasional review of an older comic. But since I started my reviewing in about 2003 or so, the vast majority of the books that will be reviewed will be from that time period forward.
Somebody’s First Comic Book:
Comic fans love to talk. About our favorite heroes and villains, writers and artists, and the shared experiences that all comic geeks endure. One of those questions that I’ve often heard is, “what was your first comic book?” This is a question that fans, retailers, and professionals alike always ask, always are curious about, and always have a different answer to. I am not, I’m sad to say, 100 percent sure what my first comic book was (I’ve been reading that long), but I believe it was one of a box of old Archies that a co-worker of my father’s gave to him after his kid outgrew them. Dad brought them home to me and I devoured them. Not long after that, my Uncle Todd got wind of the fact that I was reading comics now and passed over some of his old back issues, including some old DC digests that introduced me to two properties that are still among my favorites, Green Lantern and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Other fans can tell you exactly what their first comic was. Not only that, they can tell you where they bought it, how old they were, and how long it was before they begged mom to bring them down to the drugstore to buy the next issue. In a real way, I envy that. I think it would be great to have that knowledge. But it’s too late for me. But every time I listen to one of those “somebody’s first comic book” stories, it’s a different issue. I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to two people who read the same comic first.
There’s an old adage in the comic book industry, the idea that every comic is somebody’s first comic book. I don’t know if that’s true anymore. We live in an era of reader attrition, multi-layered event stories that require years of backstory, and a direct market that is often terribly inhospitable to anyone who isn’t already a part of it. (Not all comic shops are like this, of course. I can name several excellent shops with wonderfully friendly staff – but even those have a hard time attracting the average Joe or Jane who has never picked up a comic book before.)
As I thought about this phenomenon, I realized that there was room here for an experiment of sorts. Hence this feature, Somebody’s First Comic Book.
Like I said, it’s way too late for any comic book to be my first one. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still millions of comics out there that I’ve yet to read for the first time. What would it be like, I thought, if this random comic was the first one somebody ever read?
So here, I’m going to test that out. Periodically, I’m going to select a comic book and review it here, trying to look at it as though it were the first comic book I ever read. It won’t be easy, I’ll have to dismiss some 20-plus years of accumulated comic book reading and researching in order to make that leap, but I like to think I’m insightful enough to do it. (If I’m not that insightful, please don’t tell me. I have a horribly fragile ego.)
Where will I get these comics from, you ask? Good question. Here are the rules. I’ll get comics from grab bags, value bins, eBay lots… any place that I can get a few comics without actually knowing which comics I’m going to get. I’m going to try to make this as totally random as possible. I’ll then go through the bag and toss aside any comics I’ve read fairly recently, or so many times that I don’t think I can be objective about it. I was initially going to toss out any comics that I’ve ever read at all, but I realized that this would eliminate large swaths of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and all the comics that (let’s face it) may actually drive traffic here. It would also tend to get into something of a logistical nightmare when you consider books like the Archie Digests, which reprint material from across decades of comics that I may or may not have read.
I also reserve the right to throw in new comics from time to time, if I think it’s a particularly good “first comic,” or if I think it’s a particularly bad “first comic,” or if it’s April and the moon is in retrograde, or any other reason I so determine, because it’s my blog, dammit.
So please – read, comment, tell your friends. And if you happen to see your first comic here, let me know.
THE SFC GRADING SCALE:
A: Perfect new read. The book immediately told me who the characters were, what the situation was, and why I should care. By the end, I felt like I had a complete experience.
B: Not bad. It seems clear that I’m missing a couple of things, not being a longtime reader, but not so much that I felt confused or didn’t understand what was going on.
C: This is getting a bit jumbled. I have a definite feeling that I’m not in on the joke, and certain scenes just didn’t make much sense to me.
D: A real mess. I don’t really know who these characters are or why they’re doing what they’re doing or what’s going on from one page to the next.
F: Hopeless. I can’t make heads or tails of this nonsense. If I wanted to be this confused, I’d just read the tax code for 15 minutes.
Blake M. Petit is a freelance writer, columnist, reviewer, podcaster, actor, director, teacher, and unlicensed tree surgeon from Ama, Louisiana. He is the author of the novels Other People’s Heroes and The Beginner, as well as the podcast novel A Long November. His weekly comic book column, Everything But Imaginary, has appeared Wednesdays at CXPulp.com since 2003. In January of 2007 he joined with his longtime friend Chase Bouzigard to host the weekly 2 in 1 Showcase comic book podcast, appearing every weekend at comiXtreme. Blake is a member of the board of directors of the Thibodaux Playhouse theatre company in Thibodaux Louisiana, where his original stage play The 3-D Radio Show was produced in 2004. In a former life as a newspaper editor, his weekly Think About It column won the Louisiana Press Association Award for best column in 2001. In his free time, he teaches high school English, which at the moment pays better than the rest of his more impressive-sounding endeavors put together.
Contact Blake at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.
If you want to learn more about me or the rest of my work as a writer, reviewer, columnist, and podcaster… or, to put it simply, as a Geek Pundit, you can find me at my own website, Evertime Realms.