Secret origin of the comic fan

I don’t recall what age I was when I first started having comic books of my own. I remember reading a Spider-Man/Captain Britain story, where they were teaming up against Arcade. The oldest clear memory I have of owning a comic book is one fateful day, when I had gotten ill and was confined in a hospital. My aunt and guardian bought me a comic book at one of the nearby stores – it was a Marvel Tales reprint of the Hobgoblin’s first appearance.

I was already into reading at that time, and I also had a fondness of Spider-Man, watching his cartoon shows whenever I could. But that was the first time that I consciously enjoyed reading a comic book. Reading and superheroes – it wasn’t a surprise when years later, I would start wanting more. I bought (okay, asked my aunt for) comic books whenever I could, especially Spider-Man related titles.

In another chance event, I was with my family when I had passed by the first comic book stall that I ever saw. It was amazing; before that day, I’d only seen comic books in small racks at the side of stores, mixed in with their magazines. But this stall, this was filled with comic books. Seeing all the colorful images made me decide to collect comic books. I then asked my aunt if she could buy me one comic book each month, to which she agreed. Comic books back then cost just under two dollars per issue, so she was glad to feed my thirst for reading, regardless of the kind of material that I wanted to read.

I chose the comic book title Spectacular Spider-Man. Back then, Spider-Man had at least four monthly ongoing titles, and Spectacular Spider-Man was the second longest running of the four. The reason why I chose to start with that title was the guest stars – I was looking at Spectacular Spider-Man #198, and in the title were the five founding members of the X-Men. The star power was enough to win me over, and pretty soon I ended up with a copy. I started at a good time too, because a few months later I would be able to get my hands on Spectacular Spider-Man #200, which marked the death of Harry Osborn (sadly, I no longer have this issue, although I was able to hold on to it for the longest time).

The next month, I got a copy of Spectacular Spider-Man #201, and I got confused. I was in the middle of a storyline, part 5 of “Maximum Carnage”. Looking around in the comic book store (different from the one I initially found), I realized that my comic book title was in the middle of a crossover. If I wanted to get the complete story, I would have to buy all four of the Spider-Man titles, plus two issues of a quarterly title. With my aunt’s approval and financial support, I did just that, and three-four months later, I had all 14 parts of what would be known as a mediocre storyline (which I loved at the time I was reading it). Due to the expense involved in purchasing 14 comic book titles in three months, I was forced to stop collecting.

That wasn’t the end though. In high school, I visited our neighborhood used books store which carried back issues and sold them for cheap. I scrounged up whatever titles I could afford, getting as much as I can out of the Clone Saga, a storyline that was running at that time. But I only went back to collecting when I was in college, after I discovered a comic book store in the small mall right beside school. I found a good jumping-on point – Marvel Comics had ended the Clone Saga and the storylines that came out with it, trimmed down the four monthly Spider-Man titles to just two, and relaunched both titles by resetting both to #1’s. So, from Amazing Spider-Man volume 2 #1 and Peter Parker, Spider-Man #1, I started collecting again, continuing until both series were well into their twenties.

And again, I had to stop for a combination of reasons. First, the comic book store that was conveniently located near school closed down. My finances also had to compete with other interests that I picked up during that time – playing pool and network games such as Counterstrike with my peers. Not willing to make the effort to visit other stores, I decided to stop.

I picked the hobby up again when I was already working. Again, it was the accessibility of a nearby comic book store that got me to start – there was one that was conveniently located near my office. This was when I started to pick up other titles aside from Spider-Man, and one such title that changed my taste was the popular Marvel and DC crossover title, JLA/Avengers. I had never really liked the Avengers before then, but the Justice League of America was quite popular, and of course I appreciated the value of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. So I jumped into the mini-series, which resulted in my appreciation for the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It was also good timing on my part – an upstart comic book writer by the name of Bendis was taking over the Avengers ongoing title, and he was starting his run with the storyline “Avengers Disassembled”.

I continued my hobby even after that comic book store closed down, picking up both the New Avengers and a Spider-Man title (which embarrassingly escapes me at this time), until I found myself drowning in tie-ins by the time the major storyline  “Civil War” was happening. I got as much tie-ins as I could, but pretty soon I found myself with financial issues. I stopped, no longer able to afford my now expensive hobby.

But as most hobbies go, I eventually picked it up again a year or two later. Again, the trigger was the opening of a comic book store that’s conveniently located near my office. I found another good jumping on point – the storyline “Secret Invasion” had just ended, and the “Dark Reign” was about to begin. Marvel had successfully brought the Avengers in the spotlight – before Bendis took over, the Avengers were limited to just one monthly title, but by the start of my current run with the hobby, the Avengers had four ongoing titles: Avengers the Initiative, Dark Avengers, New Avengers, and Mighty Avengers. I decided to pick up three of them, opting against collecting the Initiative to make room for other mini-series that might come up every now and then. Now, at the end of “Siege”, I’m collecting four monthly titles and one bi-monthly title, all Avengers-centric.

That details my journey into comic-book collecting. Next issue, I’ll talk about my other hobby, and why I’ve started writing about all this.

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