Growing up in the 60s I think I probably first discovered them through black and white reproductions in English weekly comics like Smash or Whizzer and Chips. They reprinted early Fantastic Four, Thor and Daredevil issues and I really took to them – particularly the Jack Kirby artwork with the strange anatomy and alien landscapes.
There was a second-hand bookshop in town and I would find odd back issues of things there – the real American editions in full colour with Stan Lee’s editorial and the letters section. It was powerful stuff to a young impressionable lad like me and in many ways they taught me how to read and draw.
With my dad’s tools I fashioned myself a shield like Cap’s and a billy club nothing like Daredevil’s with which I could unsuccessfully swing off the clothesline when mum wasn’t watching. By the end of the decade I was buying them new from the odd dairy or newsagents and I got hooked on the X-Men not long before the original run was discontinued – those last few storylines were illustrated by Neal Adams and just took things to a new level visually. I think the Jim Steranko drawn Captain America and Nick Fury issues came out around then too – incredible story-boarding.
DC just didn’t do it for me in the same way that Marvel did. The humour, grandeur and pathos just didn’t seem to be there. I mean Spiderman was hilarious and a rebel, Doctor Strange dealt with a believable occult word and Iron Man was always on the verge of heart failure – they seemed more real than their DC counterparts with better costumes too.
I didn’t really know any other kids that were into the Marvel world in small (minded} town New Zealand and it was a very personal thing. Of course I learned to draw and invented my own superheroes which were totally embarrassing rip-offs of the Marvel originals – the M-Men, Fabulous Four, the Revengers and Thok.
It wasn’t till I was in my mid-twenties and had my kids that I dipped into them again and things had changed since I’d been away. For a start the X-Men now had Wolverine and Rogue and Chris Claremont story-lines and Dc had upped their game and were putting out some amazing stuff – Frank Miller’s Batman and the wonderful Keith Giffen’s Legion of Superheroes. I was hooked all over again.
I guess it all came to a halt again when my relationship broke down early this century and everything went into storage…
These days I’m loving the movies Marvel is turning out – the special effects have caught up to the powers and worlds these heroes inhabit and there is a feeling that they are being taken seriously finally as an art form with Stan’s sense of humour intact and implicit.