Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I don't remember what the first comic book I read was. My older brothers had some, which I would once in a great while be allowed to hold in my grubby little hands, so it was probably one of theirs. I do, however, remember exactly what the first comic I bought was. The Uncanny X-Men, issue #192. Up until then, I had spent my allowance mostly on candy and Star Wars cards, and maybe G.I.Joe figures. My interest in comic books had been growing, though, and I regularly looked at the spinner rack of comics at the local Meijer grocery store. In 1985 I decided I'd finally spend my allowance on buying my own comic books.
I think I had already been drawn to the X-Men, for no particular reason, other than they seemed very unusual; so different from the Spider-Man and Superman comics. The X-Men were weird. I had a couple dollars to spend, and I kept looking at all the comics, trying to decide what I'd buy, and my eyes kept returning to the X-Men. Issue #193 - a special double sized issue, with a spectacular battle raging across the cover, had just come out. The thing was, #193 cost $1.25, while all the other comics cost 65 cents. So I figured purchasing issue #192, despite it not looking as cool, would leave me with money left over to buy some candy. Or Star Wars cards.
Looking at it now, this is a pretty unusual issue to be the comic that would instantly convert me to an X-Men reader and general Marvel zombie. Wolverine only appears in a couple panels, and he's just standing there. Magus, the super techno alien father of the New Mutant Warlock, shows up, and really, I can't have had any idea who he was or what he did. There's already some Chris Claremont space-time bending sub plot. And despite some good action, a lot of the issue seems to be fairly verbose.
I think there's lots of reasons that this issue would be so attractive to my young ten year old self... the alienation of the mutants, the fact that Rogue had never been kissed (just like me!), the powerful heroes lacking confidence, who are just waiting for the world to wake up and see how great they really are. All the things any kid with a martyr complex would relate too.
Visually, John Romita Jr's art is deceptively strong. There's some great panels in this issue, and page compositions that are striking and dynamic. The story itself seems to move along quickly, even though the issue reads as if it were longer than the 22 pages of content.
Above all, though, what this issue does is hint at something more. I couldn't help but wonder how Colossus and Rogue would gel with the team, or how Nightcrawler would handle the mantle of leadership, even though I didn't really understand what this team was. I wondered why people hated mutants, and who this professor guy was. I was intrigued by this really bad-ass Wolverine character who's so awesome that he can't even be the leader because he's so awesome.
Looking at it today, I would almost think this comic would be too dense and convoluted for a ten year old kid to really appreciate, too dependent on back story to stand alone as a single issue, too strange to pull someone in after reading just one issue. For me, it came at the exact right time, I guess, and did just the right things to my developing brain, and its importance is seared deep into my psyche. It was just what I needed.