TiSB Roundtable: Pencils, Inks, and Love at First Sight
Everybody has a first.
You know the one we’re talking about. That first, slim volume of glossy onomatopoeia that made you positive it would only be the first of many you’d hold in your trembling, clammy hands. Whether it was its art, story, or thinly veiled adolescent fantasy, its inky, bombastic hooks found their way to your shag carpet of your soul, forever transforming you into a True Believer. We turn to a few of our own card-carrying TiSB contributors and find which issues sealed their fate as long-time comic book fans. WHA-BAMM!
My childhood affinity for superheroes was a byproduct of television. The 90’s X-Men cartoon with its surprisingly deep thematic overtones, that was my window into the world of Marvel. Paul Dini’s brilliant Batman: TAS was how I knew DC.
There were times when I’d delve into the source medium, though. When I was growing up my family would spend time in the mountains of central Virginia during both the Winter and Summer months. There we lived a semi-rustic lifestyle (emphasis on “semi”) that involved, by specific parental decree, no television. This was pre-internet as well, so no access to screen-based media whatsoever. At the time I resented it, but in retrospect I appreciate it thoroughly.
The area we’d stay in had a little shop called “Black Rock Market”, which, aside from being a great place to grab a slice of pizza, had one of those small rotating comic book stands made of thin metallic wires. From its fine mesh I grabbed copies of mainstream titles like Batman: Detective Comics (I distinctly remember #700) and a few permutations of X-Men (pun intended). These were invaluable in satisfying my need for nerdy media in an otherwise nature-focused environment. Despite enjoying many of those books, my favorite title was of the lesser known variety, one that never got a cartoon adaptation. That was Wildstorm’s Backlash, which was at the time run by Sean Rufner.
I haven’t read any of it in ages, and I honestly doubt it holds up. At the time, though, it was unusual, dark, and unmistakably unique to my adolescent brain. I also couldn’t wrap my head around any potential adaptation. With its array of bizarre powers, its unique sense of humor, and distinct visual style, it was uniquely a comic book. I know that Wildstorm’s WildC.A.T.S. did eventually have an ill-fated cartoon adaptation, but for me I will always cherish being introduced to that universe via the printed page.
Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction
Star Wars Galaxy Magazine/ Dark Horse, 1997
The ’90s was a strange time to get into Star Wars.
While the franchise still loomed large in geekdom, its immediate presence didn’t come from the films themselves, but by a tsunami of novels, comics, and video games now known as the recently redefined “Expanded Universe.” That is, licensed fanficton by middle-aged fans for middle-aged fans who the prequels revealed to be bitter, joyless, obnoxiously sentimental man and woman-children. Considering the EU they produced is almost exclusively posturing, self-important garbage, perhaps George should have saw some of that Jar Jar backlash coming.
But thank goodness for Twin Engines of Destruction, a 1997 Dark Horse one-shot by Anthony Mangels and Jon Nadeau that actually feels like a bad ass bonus epilogue following Return of the Jedi. The story is simple: after Boba Fett’s dip into the Sarlacc Pit, an imposter, Jodo Kast, appears and starts collecting bounties at Fett Family prices. Of course, Fett escapes the dessert worm and isn’t exactly down with sharing street cred with some Mandalorian poser. What follows might be the leanest, meanest, knock-down, drag-out rumble in Star Wars media as Boba Fett confronts Boba Faux in a rocket-fueled fight to the death. And goddamn, it is so. Much. Fun.
Sure, you could flag TEoD for the same mature, gritty posturing that plagued most of the EU, but the difference here is that TEoD is a natural extension of the gritty, posturing cursory character we saw on screen. It doesn’t demystify Fett the way Episode II does or get on some kind of soapbox the way some of the “message” EU entries did (“Don’t you see!? In this story, the Jawas represent the slave trade!”). It’s just a mean, unpretentious, little thermal detonator of a comic that, to this day, I wish we’d see more clones of.
Jon (@DrawThe Story)
DC Comics, 1996
My first comic, man what a big question. There’s many gradations of criteria that one could take into consideration for defining this particular moment in one’s life. On the other hand, maybe I’m reading too much into it because comics are a medium that are incredibly near and dear to my heart which forces me to weigh the options so heavily. However, for the sake of time, I’ll talk about the first comic I read that I actually remembered, and left a real impression on my young mind.
Christmas. 1995. Following the release of the insanely popular Batman Forever, I was all about Batman and my parents–err- Santa, knew how to please. In my stocking there was a Batman comic book. Batman #526. Up until that point I had heard of these comic book things and maybe flipped through a book or two, but I had only seen Batman in the movies and on television so I hadn’t really been exposed to the full on dark nature of the character. As I read through the pages, it was dark, with many characters especially Batman, draped in heavy shadows. Batman looked grizzled and mean, really unlike I had ever seen him before. There was also an emotionally heavy scene with Alfred and Batman talking about how the Joker had killed Robin, not Dick Grayson, the only Robin I had ever known, but some kid named Jason Todd. “What?! There was more than one Robin?!” This sent my eleven year old head spinning. For the first time, I had been exposed to comic book continuity as well as a Batman story that was not aimed at young kids like me. It was exciting and scary at the same time. I had read some other Batman comics after that, but none of them quite left the same impression as that first one.
Which issues broke your comic book cherry? Leave ’em in the comments (or on Twitter @TiSBpodcast)! ‘Nuff Said!