If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you not only enjoy comics, but own a few as well. Comics (and manga by extension) are a fantastic, vibrant, and exquisite medium for storytelling. Sure, there are those who scoff at them as “children’s toys” or that they don’t carry the weight of an actual novel, but that is what sets them apart.
They combine a range of genres, ideals, beliefs, political views, and more with artwork that captivates us. Their storytellers and artists have a limited amount of space to pull on your heartstrings. With the current trend of Geek Chic they’ve gained more mainstream media recognition, which is only a good thing for the industry.
I love comics. I really do. When I was a kid I’d received a few random ones: Casper the Friendly Ghost from some KFC movie tie-in promo, a random Uncanny X-Men from some hand out at the mall, a few Mortal Kombats from Steers Brat Packs. Don’t get me wrong those were all good and fine, but they weren’t what really sparked my love. They didn’t captivate me.
I live in Cape Town in the Northern Suburbs and have for all of my life. For many years the only “comic store” around here was CNA in Tyger Valley, but being a kid I either couldn’t afford a new comic, or my parents didn’t see the value in them. Not to mention the local libraries didn’t carry them or graphic novels.
One day – I think I was in grade 5 or 6 – my friend John came over with an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. We sat on my bed and poured over the newspaper-esuqe pages and took in every single image and word. Both of us had been watching Spider-Man: The Animated Series on TV and now one of us actually owned a piece of the mythos. He said it came from CNA and only cost him two Rand. I was sceptical, but thankfully my mom would be heading down that way the next day. I joined her on her shopping run and stuffed my only ten Rand note into my pocket – just in case.
We’d reached Tyger Valley and I told her I’d meet her in Pick n Pay. I wanted to stop in at CNA. I needed to stop in and see this for myself. I’d walked for what seemed like an eternity when you’re a kid, entered the shop, and headed to the right-hand side where all of the books were. Low and behold there is was. Right in front of me was a steel basket lined to the brim with comics. I gleefully rummaged through them to find Spider-Man, X-Men and a few others. All of them were two Rand. I was overjoyed! I could purchase five of these beauties with my pocket money. Hooray! I ended up grabbing a few random things, which included a Planet of the Symbiots, Scarlet Spider, Hulk: Silent Screams, but the final two I cannot remember.
That evening I paged through each one and carefully studied the pages. I carefully studied the advertisements for random American snacks and comic book stores. I carefully studied each and every panel. It didn’t matter that I was in the middle of these stories, I didn’t know who Ben Reilly was, I didn’t know why Bruce Banner hated his father, but I didn’t care. I was in love. I was captivated by what happened on each page, the way characters were posed, and their stories. Okay, so I began to care more about Scarlet Spider and he’s now one of my favourite characters. I’d found a new passion.
For a few months afterwards my pocket money went into purchasing a few more issues until the basket was depleted. Reading those carefully inked pages was pure bliss. I was in love.
I can’t remember what happened to those issues; over time they’ve slipped into obscurity and lost to a packing box, a friend with sticky fingers, or even a relative’s kid. Who knows really? All I know is I’ll be forever grateful for those issues and introducing me to this wonderful, magnificent, emotional, and glorious world we call comics.
What was your first comic book experience?