By Ben Morse
In honor of this week's nostalgia kick with the premiere of MARVEL 1985 by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards, Marvel.com decided to do our own time warp, asking the creators and editors who shape the Marvel Universe to share their memories of growing up as comic fans.
Their responses proved warm, fuzzy…and kinda weird at times, but we love 'em all.
It's Friday, so kick back, relax and enjoy.
BOB GALE (writer of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN):
My favorite Marvel memory from my youth, eh? But there are so many!!!
I'd probably have to say it was the anticipation and excitement of the Marvel expansion in 1968, when the characters in the shared books of TALES TO ASTONISH, TALES OF SUSPENSE, and STRANGE TALES—Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, Captain America, Dr Strange and Nick Fury—all got their own titles. To get so many #1 issues in such a short time was heaven for a comics collector!
Then again, it might have been going to the very first comics convention in NYC also in 1968, and getting to meet Smilin' Stan! I remember being very impressed that Stan Lee ate the same hot dogs from the same hot dog stand that my friends and I were eating. I still have ball point pen sketch of Iron Man that Gene Colan did for me during that convention.
MARK WAID (upcoming writer of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN):
My favorite Marvel memory is one that will strike terror into the hearts of collectors worldwide: it's clipping and collecting the Marvel Value Stamps from the comics of 1974 and 1975. Every Marvel letters page had a different stamp depicting a different Marvel hero or villain, 100 in the set, and like thousands of other grade-school kids, I dutifully cut up a hundred comics collecting those things. I cut up valuable Spider-Man comics. I cut up issues of CAPTAIN AMERICA and AVENGERS. And worst of all, I cut up my mint copy of INCREDIBLE HULK #181, because, heck, who knew that first appearance of that "Wolverine" character would ever be worth anything? Cut, cut, cut. But I gotta tell you—that was a fun summer being introduced to the Marvel line through a bunch of fake stamps, and I have not one lick of regret.
RALPH MACCHIO (Marvel Executive Editor):
Perhaps my fondest memory was buying JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #118 way back in the early '60s when I was just a lad and curling up with it in some huge concrete tube in a home construction site near my house and reading it. It was the first part of the first Destroyer story and I couldn't wait to get home to dive into it.
I was completely stunned when the Destroyer used a blazing bolt of limitless force from his fingertips and actually sliced off a portion of Thor's hammer! Impossible! It was made of unbreakable uru metal in the forges of King Sindri of the Dwarfs. Yet, it happened. The mighty Thor was actually forced to run from this guy! And even when the Thunder God dropped a million ton piece of rock on him, the Destroyer just kept coming. I got to the end and Thor was trapped up to his waist in ground that the Destroyer had transmuted into a substance as hard as Asgardian diamonds. And the Destroyer had unleashed another bolt of limitless force that was coming right for Thor!
No way he was getting out of this one. But I had to wait a whole month to find out, anyway! I was totally taken in by the story and the awesome power of Odin's creation.
And I still had a "Tales of Asgard" chapter to read yet. It just doesn't get any better than summertime with a great Marvel comic when you're a kid.
PETER JOHNSON (co-writer of SUB-MARINER):
Weirdly enough, it was Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. First of all, he and Iron Fist sparked the next 20 years of my watching Kung Fu movies religiously, from super cheesy Shaw Brothers stuff on Saturday afternoons to everything that's going on today. Then there's the whole groovy '70s vibe of the original. And the guy's called "Master of Kung Fu"—maybe one day, that can be me. One day…
TODD NAUCK (artist of AMERICAN DREAM):
I was three years old. For Christmas of 1974, all I wanted was a MEGO Spider-Man doll—er action figure. I remember waking up that Christmas morning to all the gifts under the tree. But I wanted to know where Spider-Man was. I remember my dad kneeling down to my level and pointing across the room over to the fireplace. He said something like, "Who's that over there?" And, there, sticking out of my Christmas Stocking was the MEGO Spider-Man. From then on, I've been a big Spider-Man fan. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
MARC GUGGENHEIM (writer of YOUNG X-MEN):
One of my dearest memories is carrying around a beat-up, coverless copy of the "Fantastic Four Pocket Books" paperback collection around summer camp. I didn't want to finish reading it, I was enjoying it so much. I still have it. It's got scotch tape all over the front to keep it from falling apart since, as I mentioned, it had no cover—I'd bought it at a discount
bookstore that sold coverless paperbacks that had been returned to the publisher. This was back in the day when overstock could be returned without a cover by the retailer for a refund.
C.B. CEBULSKI (writer of AVENGERS FAIRY TALES):
Just off the top of my head, generally speaking, my favorite Marvel childhood memories were when I would run down the driveway to get the mail only to find the mailbox was full of my Marvel subscription comics, all wrapped in those brown paper wrappers and bent to hell by the postman. But there was no better feeling in the world than getting back to my room, sitting down, ripping off the wrapping and digging into the Marvel comics that came that day!
And more specifically, I clearly remember specific covers that popped off the shelf of the five-and-dime rack at me: FANTASTIC FOUR #258, ALPHA FLIGHT #1, UNCANNY X-MEN #171, NEW MUTANTS #17—images that stood out to me for one reason or another that are forever burned into my memory. Seeing one of these covers today, I'm still always instantly transported back to my youth!
AXEL ALONSO (Marvel Executive Editor):
Easy. WEREWOLF BY NIGHT was the inspiration for a haircut and
a limited edition toy! One afternoon when I was about five, my mom noticed that I was strangely quiet while playing in my room. Definitely worth checking out. When she went inside, I proudly handed her a toy I'd just created. I'd taken a G.I. action figure—"Land Adventurer," I think—slathered him with Elmer's glue, then rolled him through a pile of my own hair, which I'd lopped off with a kid's scissors. And, voila, a Werewolf By Night Action figure! Thanks, Mike Ploog.
MIKE CAREY (writer of X-MEN: LEGACY):
Okay, this is a very strange thing to hark back to, in some ways, but I'm going to do it anyway. In the '80s, Marvel had an imprint called Epic. Among the excellent books they put out was a graphic novel, followed by the first six issues of an ongoing, both with the same title: STARSTRUCK. It was written by Elaine Lee and drawn by Michael Kaluta, and I don't think I've ever enjoyed any sci-fi comic more. It was brilliant, baffling, gigantic, structureless and full of humor and humanity. But it didn't find its audience and it died. I met Kaluta many years later, and he told me there are hundreds of pages of STARSTRUCK already drawn and lettered. I live in hope that Galatea 9 and Brucilla the Muscle will someday get their happy ending.
JUAN DOE (artist of FANTASTIC FOUR: ISLA DE LA MUERTE):
My favorite Marvel memory when I was a youngling was from the limited series CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS. Seeing all those heroes pitted against each other in an elimination type tournament was awesome. There were some characters that I wasn't too familiar with and that made it even better for me. Guys like the Collective Man, Blitzkrieg, Arabian Knight and my favorite Argentinean super hero, Defensor! I was also ga-ga over the art, executed by the great John Romita Jr. Mmmm...childhood memories...
BRIAN REED (writer of MS. MARVEL):
The whole reason I even knew who Spider-Man was: "The Electric Company." Spider-Man and a young Morgan Freeman—how could you not watch that show?!
CHRISTOS GAGE (co-writer of AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE):
Collecting the Marvel GODZILLA comic with that great Herb Trimpe art. It was the first comic I actually made an effort to seek out and save every issue of. I loved it when he fought Red Ronin. I kept hoping he'd fight the Shogun Warriors, but it never quite worked out!
KAARE ANDREWS (writer/artist of SPIDER-MAN: REIGN):
I guess my favorite memory would be the first comic I remember buying when I was four years old. My older brother was mad because it was more expensive than the chocolate bar
he got. I couldn't read yet, but the pictures and images made me so curious. It was X-MEN ANNUAL #4. And I still have it somewhere. Coverless, read to pieces. Falling apart. This is why I love comics. They've been a part of me since my first childhood memories. Before that. And they'll be a part of me until I'm dead.
TOM BREVOORT (Marvel Executive Editor):
I first started buying Marvel titles regularly out of this massive bin in my local drugstore that got replenished on a regular basis. At the time, new comics were just going to 30 cents, but you could buy out of the bin five for a dollar. I worked out much later, after I had started working at Marvel, that the drugstore must have been getting affidavit returns, copies that were supposed to have been shredded that they were selling "off the back of the truck." This also explains why the books in the bin were always a number of months old, and why you'd sometimes find older issues as time went on. For example, I bought FANTASTIC FOUR #177-179 from there at first, then over the next couple of weeks found #181, #176, #170, #172 and eventually #164. The first new issue I bought off the rack in my local 7-11, by contrast, was #187.
This was the late 1970s, the stone age when compared to today's direct market. There were no comic shops in the area—or practically anywhere to speak of at that point. Once or twice a year the local mall would hold a crafts and collectibles fair, though, and there'd be one or two dealers who'd show up for that with boxes of old comics. But the other way you could locate relatively-recent issues that you might have missed was the 3-Bag. We called 'em Marvel Multi-Mags, and they were three Marvel books in a plastic bag for a cent less than the full cover price. These things used to be everywhere—in grocery stores, in toy stores, and in department stores. It always took facile fingers to pry the bag apart just enough so that you could see the middle comic that was sandwiched in-between—if you were scrupulous, like me—those less pure of heart would just rip the bag apart in the store and take what they wanted. I filled in FF #182-184 via the Multi-Mags.
Another big deal was the slowly-burgeoning line of book collections of comic book material. The nostalgia craze was still going on to some extent, so Marvel and other publishers had made some in-roads in setting up deals to repackage the earliest stories in book collections. I can remember that I was super-hot to track down a copy
of "Origins of Marvel Comics" to read the first Fantastic Four story. For months, it eluded me—but, in short order, Pocket Books released a little paperback-sized compendium of the first six issues. I can remember having to convince my father to front me the money for that book, after spending weeks extolling the virtues of "Origins" and how that was the thing I really wanted—he was trying to teach me a valuable lesson about saving your money for something you really wanted [but it] didn't work out that way. But I got the cash, and I read that little paperback right into the ground.
The other thing about being a comic book reader in those days is that your access to information was really slim. A few years later, when X-MEN began to become popular and the back-issues were beginning to command exorbitant prices—for the era—these days those prices look like a bona-fide bargain—one of the issues my buddy and I were most looking forward to was WHAT IF #27, featuring "What If Phoenix Hadn't Died?" The "Death of Phoenix" was a seminal comic book moment for my generation, so this was sure to be another milestone issue. But the day it was supposed to come out, there were no copies to be found in any of our local haunts. Terrified that we wouldn't be
able to get our hands on this masterpiece, that unscrupulous speculators might have swooped in and bought up all the local copies, that weekend my friend and I embarked on what must have been a 20-mile bike journey, during which we stopped at every card store, candy store, 7-11 or any other outlet that was even remotely likely to stock comics. But we came up with nothing, and exhausted and frustrated, we returned home empty-handed. And, of course, what had happened was that the book shipped late, so a week later you could find it everywhere. And to add insult to injury, it kind of stunk.
JEPH LOEB (writer of HULK):
I was about 10 years old. My Dad took me to Marvel Comics because I had read about the wacky adventures in the bullpen—Stan the Man, Jack The King, Rascally Roy—who ran around jumping over desks shooting at each other with ray guns—I swear it's all in the comics!
So when I got up there, of course you can't just come in and I got turned away. Wait there's a happy ending here...
I wound up using the Men's room and who is in there taking a pee? Stan Lee! The Stan Lee! I waited until he was, uh, finished and when he turned around, I managed to squeak out a "Hi Stan."
He smiled, started for the sink and said "Hi there, True Believer!" And went to wash his hands.
I nearly died from excitement. I raced out to see my Dad and told him who I just saw. My Dad, being a dad, only wanted to know if I shook Stan's hand...
True story. I've even told it to Stan who I now consider a friend.