#fourcomics – Prominent Childhood Comics

by ryankl

The #fourcomics hashtag burst into life – thanks Jim Zub – and it’s the sort of thing I love seeing, and love doing. So, I chose 4 comics I can remember that were prominent in my childhood. I’d love to do plenty of other #fourcomics pieces but time only permits one, and nostalgia is king.

Now, doing this was hard – I cannot remember a time when there weren’t comics around. There is no remembering the very first comic I ever read because by the time memory was forming, everything around the house already felt old hat. But there are comics that meant a lot to me as a kid for various reasons, so let’s get into them.

G.I. JOE #60

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One of my earliest memories in life was being dinked on my eldest brother’s handlebars [sounds dirty – totes isn’t] into town and he had this part time job and he’d saved some of the money and he was taking me to the toy store [because back then you didn’t have mega-retailers selling everything, you had to go to dedicated and ludicrously overpriced toy stores] and he was going to buy me one G.I. Joe action figure. I was pretty stoked. G.I. Joe was totally my jam. I cannot remember which one I bought. But I remember thinking my brother was the bee’s knees and having the time of my life. I also remember my mother being in town with me another time and saying she’d buy me one and I think I chose Muskrat. My childhood was pretty ace and filled with amazing family.

Anyway, so onto the comics, so my earliest memory of the Joe comics was with the family on some sort of road trip – could have been around the corner, or interstate, to me all instances of road travel in our speeding automobile were akin to sorcery. So there we are in some road side stop – it felt long, like a split level, and near some stairs was a spinner rack. Now me and the middle brother are looking over all the mostly Marvel titles and I think Mum said we could get one, so we got a G.I. Joe comic. Now I wanna say it was this one but unlike the rest of the world my memory isn’t great. I don’t remember those covers and numbers and stuff others do [NOTE: I always assume they’re lying to sound cool] but I know we got that Joe book and it begat a cavalcade of Joe books in our world.

Quick side note – how bad ass is this cover – it’s totally just how we’d play with those toys, and I love that the art just makes everyone and every vehicle look like the toys. Also, neither of these guys is firing anywhere near the other, seriously, look at those trajectories. Whatevs…

I can remember reading all about Zoltan, or Zartan, or were they both twins [can’t I just research my own damn thinkpiece – NO! TimE!], and they were dragging people down halls to be brainwashed. I remember all the ninja shenanigans and realising that Snake Eyes was cool but I thought Shadow Storm was just a touch cooler – or maybe I had to think that because my middle brother – who read all these books with me and played all the action figure games with me – always got to be the ‘coolest’ characters, so he was default Snake Eyes and Han Solo and I was always left with the squares or the 2iC’s of cool. I remember reading all those crazy storylines and just loving them.

G.I. Joe comics were a staple of my childhood, and a bunch of artifacts I remember clearly and dearly. I also think they shaped me immensely.

Oh, and a side-story – I can remember playing with the figures with my middle bro – we had them laid out on our massive pool table, Cobra V Joe, epic battle. And a Cobra spy, or maybe the Commander hisself, infiltrated the Joe camp, and my bro was holding the Commander. So he takes a Joe hostage to give himself time to villain-splain to the Joes. While that’s happening, I take a Joe and start sneaking around one of the vehicles hoping to pop a cap and end this ridiculous posturing straight up. My bro makes the Commander tell me/the Joe to quit it. I keep moving. They tell us to quit it for real. I don’t. Cobra Commander whacks this hostage Joe right in the head and everyone freezes. Commander tells the Joes he is serious and not to be trifled with, and then makes his exit. My bro puts the CC away and looks at me and says that Joe is dead now because of me and that we can’t just take it back or resurrect him, he’s out, for realsies. I remember this as being a huge lesson to me in the importance of keeping your villains real, and that dead is dead, there are no easy ways out.

Props to my bro for making a fun game with toys a masterclass in mortality and war.

What If…the X-Men Had Stayed in Asgard? #12

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I cannot be certain I ever actually read this issue but I know I spent a whole mess of time looking at the cover. It intrigued me in ways I could not explain. The pink background the fact I knew enough to know this story wasn’t ‘real,’ the giant frog wielding a hammer. This cover is just always something that speaks to me, and I think it’s forever telling me that comics need to be eye-catchingly rad. And I am down with this lesson.

It is also the truth behind What If…? books being the raddest.

Vault of Horror #1 [a reprint]

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I was in a newsagent with my eldest brother when I saw this. I instantly knew I needed to have it. I was about 12, I considered myself a horror aficionado, and this ‘new’ horror comic had to come home with me. So my bro ponied up the cash and bought it for me [again, rad fam, right?]. I read this issue cover to cover an insane amount of times. And some of the stories aren’t even that great but I loved everything about this book from the hosts, to the tone, to the art, to the fact it led me down the spiralling rabbit hole of tracking down as many EC comics as I could find.

As luck would have it, I was right at the start of the reprint era of all the EC books and I spent the next few years gobbling up as many as I could [Tales from the CRypt, Haunt of Fear, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Crime SuspenStories, ALL OF THEM!]. And many I did get. I got them in newsagents, I got them in back issue bins in out of town comic shops, I got them by looking hard and long. I got so many, and I treasure them to this day.

Though I remember getting a mammoth oversized issue of Tales from the Crypt – it was like WEDNESDAY COMICS large, but with a harder cover – and I loved it so. Now…I have no idea where that issue is. Still bums me out. The closest I came to making up for this was buying the JACK DAVIS EC STORIES ARTIST’S EDITION a while back. Book is a bruiser and sits behind me in my office making me smile daily.

Spider-Man: Carnage

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This is one of the first comics I bought with my own hard-earned Empire Credits. It was at Minotaur Comics [then the largest comic shop in the Southern Hemisphere and regular train-ride-away comic haunt for me and the bros] and I had recently been sucked into the Spidey vortex of Venom and Maximum Carnage. I insanely loved both [I still have nearly all the issues of MC and so so many issues of those Venom minis they kept pumping out – I doubt I could ever find the heart to part with them] and Carnage was a character I just thought was super interesting. So I snapped up this weird little trade collection – of which there weren’t many at the time – and I read these issues a lot. Looking back, it’s just OTT 90s gorno in spandex but at the time it marked this transition from the Uncle Scrooge stuff I had been reading. It showed I was ‘maturing’ into an ‘adult’ reader, ha, wink.

Anyway, I still love Carnage [come at me, brah] and this book has not been cracked open in a long time but I know when I do, I’m going to love it with all my nostalgia feels.

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So, those are my #fourcomics – they certainly aren’t perfect but they speak miles to me as a young person, and me as a progressive reader, and me as a comics reader and where my foundations lay.

In writing this, I can’t help but wonder which comics I should/would/could have included. Presented because I care [and am certain you do, too] here’s some alternate suggestions.

Uncle Scrooge – I’d have no idea the number, but these comics [and I wanna say some Goofy ones] got me through Year 2 in a big way when I was dealing with my father’s death, had moved towns, and came down with this harsh asthma that was probably more psychosomatic than real but it dropped the ass out of my year either way – but these comics were there to keep me focused.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #4 – before we’d even seen the show, this comic came into my life because my middle bro moonwalked into a plate glass door. Relax, he was fine, just a few stitches – but he was in hospital and I remember overhearing the call that he was in hospital, and my Mum raced off to see him [said moonwalking took place at a mate’s place] and as she left I just burst into tears. I thought he was gonna die – I obvs didn’t get the idea of a cut leg – but I was calmed when I found out we were gonna deliver some reading material to him the next day. Mum randomly picked out some comics and #4 here got us tracking down more, and then the show dropped, and we never looked back. I dug the show just fine but these comics were gold dust, and only just behind the Joe books for us.

Mad Magazine – again, I’d have no idea the issue # but my middle bro and I inherited the eldest bro’s collection when he went off to join the Army. So we got sucked in, and then one summer we spent countless hours riding from town to town looking in all newsagents for any different Mad mags we didn’t yet have. They were glorious and inform so much of my stupid humour now.

Bartman #1 – I read this issue, and the subsequent 3 that make up the mini, soooo many times. I really wanna read them again to see if they hold up is some sort of way because man was Young Ryan hard into these guys.

And I wanna do more, SuperPro #1 [which I speed reread this week and it is not good], and Daredevil #201 [I think it is, him with the broken arm], and some of the covers to the X-Men Classic issues, but I’m realising with the comics loitering in my childhood peripheral I could rage rage against the night forever.

I will close by saying, I hope you peeps have #fourcomics that shaped your youth in a rad way, and I hope you’ve shared them with the world.

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