30 DAY COMIC BOOK CHALLENGE DAY 01
Your first comic book:
I honestly don’t remember my very first comic book. It might be a Richie Rich comic. It might be a Wonder Woman comic. It might even be, oh boy, a Marvel comic! My earliest comics were purchased for me by my older sister or my mom - mostly Richie Rich comics. And then there was the beer box full of comics that my uncle gave to me as a kid containing DC and Marvel late 70s Bronze Age titles with their covers half ripped off. He bought them at a local Farmer’s Market no doubt and they were everything from my first superhero comics to sword and sorcery to horror, etc. So whatever that very first comic is, it’s lost to history.
What I do remember is which comic was the first one to be purchased off the rack with “my own” money at my local mom-n-pop corner market (Sam’s on the corner of W. Buttonwood and N. Front Streets in Reading, Pa.). And that comic was Justice League of America vol.1 #210 cover dated January 1983 (which means it was most likely purchased in October of 1982). The copy in the picture above is a replacement of the issue that I no longer have. That issue, a definite cliche, was read and reread until it fell completely apart. For years I still had the remains, but it had no cover, pages were missing, other pages were separated entirely, pencil marks were drawn over characters to trace them - that original copy was brutalized beyond repair. But of all the comics in my collection that I still have to this day, it’s the oldest one that I can remember buying - the oldest comic that wasn’t a hand me down or wasn’t purchased by someone else (and I put “my own” in quotes because clearly it was money given to me. Semantics and all that). So for me, J.L.A. #210 is where my collecting begins.
The story, the first of a two-parter, is relatively generic. The Atom discovers that the “X-Element”, which holds all natural chemical activity together around the Earth, is decaying and it’s up to the J.L.A. members to race around the globe to halt the natural disasters. The members split into various groups, figure out ways to momentarily halt the X-Element decay, question themselves and the situation, while aliens come to London to try and barter their store of X-Element in exchange for various Earth commodities such as snow from Mt. Everest. And then there’s a cliffhanger showing the capture of a human the aliens are also interested in obtaining. Did I say generic? I meant to say weird. The creative team is writer Gerry Conway, artists Rich Buckler and Romeo Tanghal, letterer John Costanza, color artist Tom Ziuko with editor Len Wein and cover artists Buckler with Mike DeCarlo. Again, it’s a fairly standard issue, the art is decent even for today’s standards, and it does a good job of showing the various powers and personalities of the J.L.A. I would hesitate to call it a canon issue - one that truly defines the legacy of the J.L.A. - but it is what it is.
Interesting things to note:
Although he’s on the cover and in the J.L.A. roll call on the title page, the Phantom Stranger doesn’t appear in this issue. He’ll be around for part two. But his brief inclusion in this issue has always made it seem to me like he was an honorary member of the J.L.A. That has been the case in a few Who’s Who type write-ups I’ve seen - officially and unofficially so - in my personal chronology of the J.L.A. - the Phantom Stranger will always have a place among the rest.
The story - “When a World Dies Screaming!” - is billed as ‘An Untold Tale from the Casebook of the J.L.A.’. Which probably explains why Zatanna and Firestorm aren’t included. They were the last two members to join the “Satellite-era” J.L.A. That might put this story somewhere before J.L.A. 161 when Zatanna first joined (Firestorm joined in J.L.A. 179). Also, Wonder Woman is sporting an eagle on her bustier, not her trademark double ‘w’ emblem. By the time this issue of the J.L.A. came out, she had given up her eagle emblem. Seeing her in that uniform dates the story as well. Add to that Red Tornado’s dialogue in the story - where he questions his place on the team, calls himself clumsy and even incompetent - and it feels like a Red Tornado that has just joined the group, but not so early that he’s still in the design that he wore during his Justice Society days. Also, Hawkgirl is in the story - but it’s hard to tell if she’s an honorary member or an official member (which happens in J.L.A. 146). If we go with official, that would put this story between 1977 and 1978.
So there you have it. Day One of the 30 Day Comic Book Challenge. My “first” comic.
PS/ I should point out that, along with J.L.A. 210, two other comics mark the beginning of my comic reading/collecting: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #11 and Marvel Team-Up #125. Those also have a cover date of January 1983 and I still have those original copies to this day. While I’ve certainly gone on to read many other comics with that specific cover date, these three comics were the only comics purchased at the actual time of their original release in October of 1982. All the rest from that month were back issues purchased much later at comic shops or conventions. Very cool to think that next year will bring about my 30th anniversary of reading comics.