Off the top of my head, I’m having trouble remembering what the very first first issue comic I bought was.
Of course, I was there for the first issues of Watchmen, Sandman and Hellblazer. I had seen ads of those comics in an industry leaflet and thought that their respective stories sounded interesting – that they were right up my ever-growing imaginative alley.
And they were.
Although I stated collecting comic books in the mid 1980’s, I, along with what could have been the rest of the world, got crazy with comic collecting in the 1990’s. That’s when I remember lots of “first issues” showing up on the stands; where multiple covers of the same publication reared their multi-pictorial heads; where I would go to my local comic book shop and buy three issues of Justice League #1 and three issues of the bagged version of Spider-Man #1 (not to mention multiple copies of the silver and bronze cover versions). I did the same with X-Men #1 too: one copy to read, one to collect and file away (in mint condition) and one copy to sell for loads of money in the not-too-distant future.
I spent a lot of hard-earned cash as a kid and later as a teenager on comics in the early nineties, thinking I’d be making a lot of money off of selling that collection in the late nineties.
I was duped. We all were. For various reasons, the artificially inflated sales of the comic book industry, in the mid 1990’s, simply blew-up. Titles blew up. Companies blew up. The industry blew up. Speculators left when they realized those inflated gains were never going to come. And the comic book readers walked away from the mess of multiple covers to singularly disappointing comic book issues. There’s a gap of about ten years in my collection from where I walked away from all comic book reading.
And you see, that’s the rub of it!
My habits around comics changed from lovingly reading these pieces of graphic fiction to coldly collecting them, speculating on their future worth, meticulously filing them away, alphabetized and numbered, in long, white boxes.
These days, I read comics again. Sometimes lovingly. And with the advent of DC Comics’ new 52 titles, launched with “#1” on their covers this month, here’s the next installment of my Top 10 to look forward to. (You can read the first part here.)
In the mid 1980’s, Swamp Thing, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Steve Bissette and John Totleben, showed the world exactly the types of stories the comics medium could produce: character-driven, socially conscious, tender and horrific – but always based on human narrative tropes. The image of the muck-encrusted monster that the title elicits broke the bounds of the medium and became a herald for mature, sophisticated storytelling. The publisher, Vertigo Comics, was created because of what the award winning Swamp Thing had done. And now, under acclaimed writer Scott Snyder, there is hope that lightening can strike twice. Over twenty-five years later, Swamp Thing exists within a new comic book age – and Snyder is the new type of comic book writer that can return the title to greatness. I eagerly anticipate this one.
Woe is Wonder Woman! It seems that no writer can get her quite right. And many have tried. Over the years, the character, created by William Moulton Marston, psychologist and feminist theorist, has never had the acclaimed run of stories as her fictional contemporaries Batman and Superman. Sure, everyone in the world knows of Wonder Woman, but believe me when I say that the character meant to inspire women and men alike demands little respect in the comic book industry. The celebrated writer (often of noir comic fiction), Brian Azzarello, aims to change that dim view. He has an ability to bring real character and real sensibilities to his leading men and women – aspects that Wonder Woman has been missing all these years. He’s gone on record that this title is as much horror story as it is superhero. Strange, I know, but definitely new. If there’s anyone that can usher the Amazon Princess into the pantheon of heroes to which she is entitled, it’s definitelyAzzarello. I look forward to seeing what he will bring to the table on a monthly basis.
3. Batwoman (September 14)
I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this. First solicited for the fall of 2010, wherein a “0” issue was released, the true Batwoman monthly series was to arrive in stores this past February. Then spring. Finally, after much confusion and re-soliciting of premiere dates, artist J.H. Willaims’ seminal turn on the character can commence. He blew minds, working from Greg Rucka scripts in Detective Comics when it starred Batwoman in 2009-2010, challenging the perception of what visual information a comic book page could contain. Williams is an artist’s artist and a designer’s designer. He has made the character of Kate Kane (Batwoman’s true identity) as real as any strong, female character that currently exists and there are men and women of all ages eager to return to the Scarlet Bat’s heroic exploits. Without a doubt, this will be the most beautiful comic book series you have ever laid eyes upon – and the literary storytelling should prove to be just as wondrous as the visual.
2. Batman (September 21)
Another comic book written by Scott Snyder. Another comic book on the Top 10 list. Snyder had one of the most important and consequential story runs on the recently defunct Detective Comics, writing the character of Dick Grayson under the bat cowl for a full year. Now he flips to the more action-oriented Batman title, writing the one and only Bruce Wayne as the titular hero. Fan favourite artist Greg Capullo joins him here and this newly formed dynamic duo promise copious amounts of intrigue, action and dastardly villains, new and old, to the series. If you love Batman in his proving grounds of Gotham City, this is the series you should be reading.
1. Action Comics (September 7)
A number of years ago, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely gave us the beloved 12-issue series, All-Star Superman. In the past, I’ve proclaimed it the greatest Superman story of all time. (You can find it in a wonderful Absolute Edition at your local comic book shop or as a cartoon DVD at your local video store. The comic is much better.) While All-Star Superman showcased the well-establish Last Son of Krypton in his final days, the monthly Action Comics aims to present the iconic hero in his early days: learning the limits of his powers whilst adapting himself to life in the big city of Metropolis. This is a young Superman, and he’s feared, not adored by humanity. Morrison, with artist Rags Morales, promise to bring a version of the Man of Steel “so different that no one can expect what will happen next!” Morrison has always been good to his word and I anticipate a story that will be the perfect bookend to what was his All-Star take on the character. Superman is the cornerstone of the DC Universe. It’s from here that all else revolves. Expect nothing short of brilliance!
So there you have it. The top 5 of the top 10.
So far, in this series of three “Reboots and Recollections” columns, I’ve described my early love for comics, gave some rationale behind DC’s relaunch and shedded some light on what the most eagerly anticipated new comics might be this September – while simultaneously describing a comic book fan’s excitement behind the reading (and collecting) of a “first issue”.
There’s one part left to write, but that part takes a little hindsight in the crafting. I hope to see you here next week for that fourth and final column in this series. In the meantime, enjoy the reading of your comic books. It’s that pleasure that makes a first issue or, in fact, any issue memorable – not the number on the cover.
Numbers, after all, are transient. Good stories stay with us forever.