Flashback Origin Sequence!

Hard to say what the first comic I ever read was... I have very vague memories of a Jimmy Olsen story where Jimmy wandered through a gigantic stone honeycomb he and Professor Lang found in a desert somewhere and wound up in a world where anyone who didn't have a cape was considered a slave. The Professor Lang of that world, noticing that Jimmy did not have a cape, promptly clapped him in irons and sold him at auction. Jimmy had a hard time until the light bulb went on over his head and he pinned a towel to his collar... bingo, instant emancipation.

I also have dim memories of begging a couple of pennies off of my mom to go with a dime I'd found somewhere so I could buy a 12 cent SUPERBOY comic back when I was still under the age of 10. And there was a 25 cent FLASH reprint collection I remember treasuring, as well... it had a Golden Age Flash story in it where the GA Flash fought some idiot named 'the Muscleman'.

But the first comic I have clear memories of buying off a spinner rack was CAPTAIN AMERICA #158, "The Crime Wave Breaks!" Cap and some guy called the Falcon were just beating holy hell out of a bunch of loser villains that I did not know were losers at the time... the Plant-man, the Scarecrow, the Porcupine, and the Eel... who were working for some even bigger loser named The Cowled Commander.

What was amazing to me about the book was that no one individual feature in it differed in any major way from nearly every other superhero comic on the stands at the time... it featured an unlikely four color superdude (and his partner) going up against a group of even more unlikely (even absurd) other super dudes, who were doing typical super bad guy stuff (in this comic, using their retarded powers to rob jewelry stores, and after managing to capture the heroes and knock them unconscious, instead of just shooting them in the heads, they stuck them in a steel-walled room and pumped in gas to kill them... good thing the Viper's poisons had mixed with Cap's super soldier serum to give him super strength the previous issue, right?)

But what really hit me about this comic, even at the probable age of 10 or so when I first read it, was how believable and detailed the characterizations were. Captain America, this guy Falcon, Cap and Falcon's girlfriends Sharon and Leila, their two cop buddies, the various super villains... all of them came off as real people. Oh, the villains all used the same stupid melodramatic cliches as every villain, but when Falcon swung in to join the fight and dropped the Viper on top of the Scarecrow, and the Eel freaked out about it because the Viper was his brother, it seemed very very plausible to me. (Years later, the concept that the Falcon could swing anywhere on a single wrist line he shot out of the single falconer's gauntlet he wore on one hand struck me as ridiculous, and the idea that he could do this while carrying a grown man over one shoulder was simply ludicrous... Sal Buscema made it look good, but clearly, Sam had psychokinetic powers he wasn't consciously aware of; it was the only plausible explanation for THAT nonsense.)

I wasn't noticing credit boxes then, so the name 'Steve Englehart' meant nothing much to me. Nonetheless, I started grabbing up CAP, AVENGERS, and DEFENDERS whenever I could find them, and even at 11, noticing that the characters in these comics sounded way cooler than the characters in other comics I was reading, and did cooler things. When I had a chance to buy DR. STRANGE, first in MARVEL PREMIERE and then in his own title, I was just blown away... although for me, the DR. STRANGE story that blew the top of my skull off was the SISE NEG: GENESIS two parter. Gene Colan was wonderful later on, but Frank Brunner was Teh Freakin Awesome.

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