In the penultimate Meltcast (the podcast put out by the fine folks at Meltdown Comics), Caleb, Sam, Chris, and Aaron give their top 5 lists for the greatest comic books of all time. It’s an interesting discussion, and I invite you to listen to it, as well as the 73 previous Meltcasts (and the 1 later).
My wife is a film editor. A few years ago, the post-production team on a movie she was working on decided to share their top 10 favorite films of all time. You could probably imagine what a list like that, created by people in the industry, would look like…I don’t think I’d seen most of them. One of the movies that Nicole put on her list was Garden State.
One of the other people on the post-production team told my wife that, as she got older and saw more movies and as time passed from when she saw Garden State (it was the movie of the moment around this time), it would eventually fall off her list. In other words, he was saying it wasn’t a particularly good movie.
That’s a valid point. But here’s the thing: Garden State (for whatever you might think of it) played a pretty big part in the beginning of my relationship with Nicole, a relationship that eventually led to marriage and that has lasted nearly 6 and a half years. We own a copy of that movie and probably always will, because it means something to us.
And that’s the thing about top whatever lists: very often, people ignore the personal significance aspect and choose what they think is the “best,” even though such a distinction is subjective.
(Side note: the Meltcasters do a good job of include personally significant books on their lists)
I listen to a lot of music. So much so, that I associate nearly every song I own with a period of time in my life, down to even a specific month. At a certain point, I decided that I need to collect the songs with the greatest meaning to me into one playlist. That playlist then got broken down into sub-division and off-shoots, for what I broadly refer to as my “bio mixes.”
With the advent of digital comics, I wondered if maybe I could do the same with comics. What if someday I actually own an eReader and I want to put together a folder of all the comics that ever meant anything to me?
What would be on my biographical comic book list?
The first few are pretty easy. The first comic book I ever read was a copy of a Star Trek comic that my brother had. That was actually pretty strange, given that my brother has never read comics. It was part of the Gold Key run, #53, featuring a really creepy cover.
The first comic book of my own was the Epic Comics edition of Elfquest #8. It’s interesting to note that had two choices when I picked that book, the other being an issue of one of the Walt Disney duck books. So far my experiences with comics had nothing to do with superheroes.
That issue of Elfquest was bought at a book store in a different town, so I had to find some place to buy comics that was close to my house. That meant my local Convenient store (that is not a typo — I don’t mean a convenience store, I mean this place). At that Convenient store they had spinner racks, and on those racks they had…a whole bunch of superhero comics.
My first superhero comic books (bought at the same time) were Uncanny X-Men #207 and Web of Spider-man #17. Like any good little kid, I knew who Spider-man was, mostly from Spider-man and his Amazing Friends, if I remember correctly. And how could I resist that cover? The end of the red suit? I didn’t even know what that meant, but I wanted to find out!
I had no idea who the X-Men were but, again, look at that cover. Is there a more iconic X-Men cover or, at least, a more iconic Wolverine cover? I wonder how many people can point to this issue as their first comic, because I would imagine it caught a lot of people’s eye from the spinner rack and news stands (that’s where we got our comics back in the day, you young pups).
I was generally a Marvel zombie in my younger days, although that changed when a borrowed a copy of Who’s Who in the DC Universe #23 from a friend. I was blown away by the scope of the DCU, and to this day I can remember how exciting it was to get my first glimpse of those worlds.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include Strikeforce: Morituri #20, the first comic book to nearly make me cry, and Legion of Superheroes volume 3 #57, the starting point of a long love affair that I would have with the Legion.
The 90’s eventually pushed me out of comic books, which is probably a pretty common refrain for readers. I was drawn back in by creator owned, independent comics. I was drawn back in by Stray Bullets #4.
My copy of Stray Bullets #4 was passed around my dorm like a good joint; I had people coming to my room to see if they could borrow it. Stray Bullets led me to Strangers in Paradise and I just kept going down the rabbit hole of independent comics.
It would be hard to pick a single issue of Strangers in Paradise, so I suppose I’d have to go with the first collected edition, which I’m sure is probably out of print by now (but not really an issue for an all digital list).
Arkham Asylum (which scared the bejeesus out of a teenage me and introduced me to the guy who would eventually become my favorite writer), Watchmen, Sandman (I got the Doll’s House for Christmas one year and it also scared the bejeesus out of me), the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (my first taste of comic book history), Marvel Masterworks Uncanny X-Men volume 1 (my introduction to Jack Kirby), and Maus.
That generally covers the first 25 years of my life. But what about the last decade? What have I read in the last ten years that could be added to that last? All-Star Superman? Phonogram? The Walking Dead? I’m not entirely sure…and I’m willing to bet this list will continue to evolve.
So what are the most important comic books in your life?