Amazing Spider-Man #103 is the first comic book I ever bought. It’s also the both the first story and the first comic I can remember reading. In all likelihood my mom bought it for me but I know I bought each subsequent issue myself. My brother and I got small monthly allowances and most of mine went to buying Spider-Man each month. The date on the cover is December 1971. Since magazines post dated their issues by about four months that issue was probably on the stands in September. I would have been a little more than seven years old. I’d obviously read other stories prior to this one – after all, I knew how to read. But this is the story that made its mark. If you look at the type of things I draw and the sorts of stories I read then Spider-Man #103 looks like a big sign post pointing me toward those interests.
I might have known who Spider-Man was before I read this comic. The Spider-Man cartoon series had played on television from 1967 to 1970 and it’s possible I saw episodes of it. I don’t remember. I do know I hadn’t read a Spider-Man comic before this issue.
It’s a strange one to have started with. Most of Spider-Man’s previous adventures took place in New York City where he fought various super powered criminals. This story (running in issues 103 and 104) removed Spidey from his usual stomping grounds to the Savage Land, a Lost World in Antarctica inhabited by dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. There he encounters a giant monster, the survivor of a crashed alien ship. It’s a sort of a retelling of King Kong without the final act of Kong getting dragged back to New York. I hadn’t seen King Kong yet so the story was new to me.
After this story Spider-Man returned to fighting supervillains in New York. I kept reading his adventures until sometime in the 1990s. I read a lot of other comics about a lot of other superheroes but Spidey remained my favorite. He wasn’t so powerful that his victories came easily. He was smart. He was poor. His enemies were weirdos – the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Hammerhead, Man-Wolf, the Vulture, the Sandman and so many others. Eventually I gave up reading monthly comics. I no longer had the budget or the time to get to the comic store on regular basis so I didn’t miss the latest issues. I haven’t bought an issue in over 15 years now. While I occasionally look at collected editions of recent Spider-Man stories at the library I don’t pay a lot of attention to the character any more.
I’ve still got that first comic. I haven’t read it in years. I’m almost afraid to read it again. It’s unlikely to hold up as well in reality as it does in my memory. It’s in one of the 18 long boxes of comics that survived the culling I did of my collection back in 2004. Did so many of my interests start with that comic or did it just embody them?
I already loved dinosaurs. This story had them. It had a lost world where they still survived. It had ape men and ruined temples. It had jungles. It had a misunderstood monster. It had a giant monster. It had mysterious aliens. It had a jungle man and his faithful saber-toothed cat. It had a superhero who couldn’t fly. For some reason, very few of the superheroes I’ve invented can fly.
It didn’t have examples of all my obsessions. It would have been a really messy story if it had. But that’s okay. It would be sad if I had developed all my obsessions before I was eight.