At the end of this week I turn 30 and I think that's crazy.
It seems like just yesterday I was a rambunctious college kid drinking too much, eating at all hours, and chasing after pretty girls. You know, living the life. Suddenly I find myself drinking only a sensible amount as to not feel terrible the next day, watching what I eat so my body won't revolt, and getting ready to marry the prettiest girl I know. It's a weird sensation, to say the least.
Turning 30 also marks another very significant personal anniversary: It's been 20 years since I was bitten by the comics bug. Personally, I think that's the craziest thing ever. Who would have thought this little habit that I picked up during the baseball strike of the 1990s would lead to a life long obsession? But here I am, 4000 books later, soaked in the minutia of various comic universes, with no sign of slowing down (much to the chagrin of the afore-implied FutureWife, I'm sure).
So, to mark these various occasions, I've decided to spend this week reminiscing about the seminal books in my collecting history. Today, we start with the book that put comics on the radar for me: Amazing Spider-Man #347.
I was in an airport when I discovered comics.
I remember it was February-ish 1990 and I was in Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport, either waiting to board the plane to head back to Reno or just arriving, when that cover beckoned to me from the newsstand. "There's no way they killed Spider-Man," my nine year-old self thought, "...right?"
Entranced and enticed, I snatched the book from the stands and flipped through it, desperate to find the answer. As I cracked the cover, I was blown away by the images that were presented to me. Page after page of full on, knock-down, drag-out fighting on the beach between Spidey and some crazy Spider-Man monster welcomed and entertained me. It was amazing!
It didn't matter that I didn't know who any of the characters were or what they were fighting about, there was something about the energy of that book that infected my soul. I may not have known it at the time, but I was hooked.
Of course, this is the part of the story where I beg my mom for cash to buy this magical tome, but alas, it wasn't the case. As exciting as the book was, I already pretty much read it at the newsstand, so I opted for some other filler magazine instead. Dumb kid, I know. But even though I left the physical book behind, the images from it became burned on the inside of my brain. I knew I was missing out on something great.
As the years went by and I started collecting more seriously, I never quite could remember the issue number I saw that day. I'd do my due diligence through the long boxes, but for some reason never seemed to find this mythical issue. It was almost as if that issue only existed in my mind (this was before the internet, of course).
Flash forward to a few months ago, I finally tracked down a copy and decided it was worth the four dollar price tag. I won't lie, I was more than a little hesitant before I cracked those pages again. What I remembered about this issue was just shy of magical, how could reality possibly hold up to that?
Truth be told: Pretty fucking well!
In the twenty years between readings, the only thing that changed for me was that I knew all the backstories and if anything, got more enjoyment out of it. Coming out in that sweet spot between the creative highs of the 1980s and just before the mass artist exodus of the 1990s, David Michelinie and Erik Larsen were clearly firing on all cylinders with this done-in-one classic superhuman dustup. It's so good, that I quite honestly don't want to ruin anything here. Just take my word for it and track down a copy for yourself.
From the moment we departed the airport, my nine year-old knew he had made a mistake. I remember searching at the connecting airport, desperately searching for that same issue to no avail. Without it to guide me, there wasn't a very big reason to go actively searching for other books, so for the time being my comic buying habits remained nil. That is, until after the move, the installation of some new friends, and an unexpected Christmas bounty.
But that's a story that'll have to wait until tomorrow...