By Dean Fuller
Back in the distant days of 1976 my life changed forever.
Ok, bit dramatic, but I had to get your attention somehow….and, actually, it’s true.
I was a 6 year old, laid up sick in bed for 2 years (ok, 2 weeks, but it sure seemed like 2 years) and dying of boredom…my Steve Austin figure has lost its charm, and Evel Knievel had made the jump between my bed and bedside table more times than I care to remember. My mum, obviously fed up with the sulky face staring back day after day and desperate to try anything to cheer me up, came back that fateful day with a bagful of toys, magazines, and sweets….wait, what’s that right at the back of the bag?
It was none other than the Superman vs Spider-Man: Battle of the Century Treasury Edition. Wow. My 6 year old mind literally blew a fuse. Growing up in a small town in the south of England I had never seen, let alone read, American comic books. I had read British comics, which back then tended to be more humorous than anything else, but nothing quite like this. It was huge. And colorful. And….wow. Was I aware of Superman or Spider-Man as characters before then? I honestly can’t remember, but boy I was aware now.
I threw all the other things my mum had bought to one side, and just stared at this fantastic creation. I would be a little disappointed in the near future when I discovered that (a) not all comic books were the size of Treasury Editions and (b) Superman and Spider-Man didn’t usually see a whole lot of each other. But that was all ahead of me. I drank in that gorgeous Carmine Infantino, Ross Andru, and Dick Giordano cover, with Supes and Spidey high up in the sky, New York stretched out below them; I assumed it was New York as it was the only American city I had really heard of.
I carefully opened the book, and started reading…and read it from cover to cover in one go. 96 pages. Then I read it again, every piece of text in the comic – the credits, the headings, the captions everything. Then I read it again, only this time I ignored the text and just looked at the pictures…if you can call the Ross Andru / Dick Giordano artwork ‘pictures’!. I was mesmerized by Superman, entertained by Spider-Man, and fascinated by Dr Octopus. In my young 6-year-old life, this was like getting the keys to wonderland. The Six Million Dollar who….?
After soaking every ounce of entertainment I could from ‘Superman vs Spider-Man,' my feverish mind needed a new fix. Mum was duly dispatched back to the local newsagents, to see if any more of these existed, where she came back clutching an armful of DC and Marvel comics. Oh my goodness, there were more heroes and villains to read about?! I went through the pile slowly and methodically, putting them in the order I wanted to read them based purely on the covers, a habit that has stuck with me pretty much my entire life. Batman. Fantastic Four. Wonder Woman. Captain America. Justice League of America. Hulk. I never looked back.
I have collected American comic books ever since that day back in 1976, through school, university, moving home several times, working overseas, getting married, starting a family; my (so far) 37 year journey has seen me amass over 10,000 comics and 500 graphic novels, as well as all manner of clothes, posters, films, figures etc…and a son with the middle name Clark! (I have a very tolerant wife!)
A lot of people have come and gone in my life, but comics have remained the one constant throughout.
I have some other tales to tell concerning my early years of collecting, such as the fact I was the only person to read comics in my entire (English) town growing up, but those are stories for another time.
‘Superman vs Spider-Man’ introduced me to the man who would be not only my favorite character in any literary genre, but also a huge influence on me personally. Superman. From the first time I read his exploits in those pages, I was hooked. He became for me something to look up to, something to aspire to, gave me values to try and uphold. Corny as it sounds, I don’t think I would be the man I am today without the values I took from reading comics in general, and Superman in particular. Always do the right thing. Be good to people. Show respect. Know right from wrong. Flight and heat vision would have been nice too, but I’ll take what I can.
Coming from a broken home, that was something I needed at that formative age, a role model. A hero. My parents had split up very early in my life, and the reality of that situation was never far from my young mind. When playing round friends houses, watching their relationships with their fathers, it made my loss all the more obvious. The break-up had been bad, so my parents no longer spoke to each other, and I spent some time in my early years being shuttled between the two. Stability is important to children we are told, and I was now lacking that as well. Like many do, I could have blamed the world for my troubles, grown up angry, grown up with questionable values. But I didn’t.
Dean Fuller: I'm a married forty-something, I pretend to know what I'm doing raising my 2 children...pity me. Collector of too many comics,lover of all things Florida,watcher and owner of too many dvd's, games, and blu-rays, proud 1980's apologist.