AH! Free Comic Book Day! Sideshow Celebrates with Artist Adam HughesThursday, May 3, 2012
Written by Adam Hughes
The first comic-book I ever read was FANTASTIC FOUR #81. But I’m not that old.
My first exposure to comics came from someone else outgrowing them. When I was 4, maybe 5, my older cousins Larry and Bobby handed me a box full of their old comics. Having moved on to sports and girls, they had little need for the likes of FANTASTIC FOUR or THE AVENGERS.
Fantastic Four #81 was the issue where The Human Torch‘s inhuman girlfriend, Crystal, joined the team to substitute for the pregnant Invisible Girl. It was great, great stuff. And it didn’t hurt that Crystal was a 5-star cutie. “I dig the way she messes her tresses”, the Human Torch once preened. That issue, coupled with a copy of FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #2 (which included a reprint of FF #5, the first appearance of Doctor Doom), cemented me as a Fantastic Four fan for life.
Virtually all the sequential treasures in that cardboard Ark of the Covenant were Marvel Comics from the 1960s. It wasn’t until a few months later when my family bought me some comic-books from the local general store that I discovered that Superman and Batman had their own comics as well. As far as my kid brain was concerned, the Man of Steel and the World’s Greatest Detective were cartoon characters, and only the Amazing Spider-Man rated having BOTH a cartoon and a comic-book series. Little did I know that almost every superhero cartoon I watched was based on a comic-book. Even Aquaman!
I just realized that when I was a kid, Spider-Man had only one title. Hmm. And Wolverine, comic’s greatest loner, wasn’t in every comic on the stands (probably because Len Wein and Herb Trimpe hadn’t created him yet, but still.) Double hmmm with chocolate sauce and jimmies, maybe I AM that old…
This year, Free Comic Book Day falls on May 5th, my 45th birthday. That means I’m old enough to remember when Jack Kirby was still actively drawing comics, working at DC Comics in the 1970s with his brilliant Fourth World saga, and then returning to Marvel Comics for things such as his wonderful & bizarre final run on CAPTAIN AMERICA. Comics were imploding in the 1970s, almost on the verge of disappearing, by all accounts. Marvel was reprinting 60′s issues of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and FANTASTIC FOUR, like television reruns of a beloved show; I was cool with this because I got to experience all those great stories as if they were fresh and new.
Marvel had also taken to printing some books bi-monthly (that’s ‘every other month’ if you’re nowhere near the Google right now). Books like DAREDEVIL and THE UNCANNY X-MEN. In fact, in the early 1970s, the sole bi-monthly X-MEN was just a reprint book by the mid-1970s. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR ONE SECOND. One X-MEN title. Every other month. And it wasn’t even new material.
Well, when a comic book is ‘circling the drain’, as they say in the medical arts, no one really cares what you do with it. That’s when GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 came out, in 1975. With nothing left to lose, Marvel let Len Wein and the late Dave Cockrum do whatever they wanted with the “unsellable band of losers” known as the Uncanny X-Men. And what they did changed EVERYTHING.
They decided to introduce an almost entirely new team of mutants, a new class of students at Xavier’s School for Gifted Weirdos. Among them Colossus, Storm, Banshee, Nightcrawler (my favorite!) and a hairy little guy with razor-sharp adamantium claws and a scorching case of Little Man’s Disease named Wolverine. Len Wien had created Wolverine as a Hulk ‘villain’ in INCREDIBLE HULK #181 and liked his creation enough to bring him along.
However, the All-New, All-Different X-Men were not an instant success.
This new team debuted in the regular comic with UNCANNY X-MEN #94 (the first non-reprint issue in YEARS) with new regular series writer Chris Claremont, and a whimper. Seriously, NO ONE thought much of the new team (of mutants, not the creators). Well, I did. And I got laughed at.
My cousins and I had a sort of comic-collecting club. When we all realized that we all loved different Marvel comic books, we could combine them into a sort of library that we could all share for reading purposes. It really stretched that weekly allowance when you didn’t have to buy ALL the new comics to read them; you could spend your excess cash on back issues.
One cousin, for example, loved THE DEFENDERS, THE AVENGERS, and DR. STRANGE; another, CAPTAIN AMERICA and IRON MAN. I was into FANTATSIC FOUR and this new version of the X-Men. MAN, did I get a lot of grief over that: liking the X-Men. I might as well have been playing with Barbies.
I have to admit, though: it was a great time. The All-New, All-Different UNCANNY X-MEN were, at first, a secret that only a select few of us knew about. They were “underground”. They were akin to a fabulous garage band that was the soulful property of the small handful of kids that had heard them. Think ‘the Beatles at the Cavern Club’.
Of course, that didn’t last long. The X-Men slowly became more of a success, year-after-year. The book went MONTHLY again. Everyone was reading it, suddenly. It was winning awards as well as new readers, and it became the cornerstone of a cottage industry that thrives to this day. I sometimes long for the simpler days when there was just one X-MEN comic, and it didn’t belong to the world: just to me.
Does that seem selfish? It isn’t, really. I think it’s how many of us feel when we first discover something new, especially during those early formative years. It feels like no one else in the world knows about the Special Thing you’ve discovered: you’ve stumbled on to something you can call your own. Of course, there’s a wonderful sense of esprit de corps when you discover others who feel the same way about the Special Thing. But there’s nothing quite like that singular relationship one experiences when first discovering something special for the first time. The world ceases to be, and it just you and STAR WARS for a while. Or you and your G.I. JOES.
Or you and a new comic-book.
Visit our gallery above to see featured artwork by Adam Hughes.
Be sure to check out Free Comic Book Day online and at your local participating comic book retailers, this Saturday May 5th.
Adam Hughes is a long time friend of Sideshow, and comic book artist who has worked for companies such as Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros. Pictures, Playboy magazine, and Joss Whedon’s Mutant Enemy Productions. He is best known for his naturalistic pin-up style girls and comic cover art on titles such as Wonder Woman and Catwoman. Adam and Sideshow have teamed up to produce a whole line of Marvel lovelies and Lara Croft as Premium Format Figures and Comiquette collectibles.
The views expressed in this presentation are those of the author, and in no way represent the views or opinions of Sideshow Collectibles, Marvel Entertainment, or other associated licensors.
TM & © 2012 Marvel & Subs.