Last year, during a busy time, my mother, near 90 and going strong, brought me a nice surprise. A red plastic, Texas Tech University bookstore bag stuffed with comics from my childhood. The bag was stashed at our property near Taos, New Mexico in a small cabin I used to spend a lot of time in. Since we lived and farmed almost 6 hours away it was a place we went to every chance we got. Hence the stash of comics to keep me from driving my parents crazy during those stays.
It seemed every time it rained enough to halt work on the farm, we hauled butt up to Taos and worked on the property or just sat around relaxing, recovering from farm work. Generally, more work than relaxation which is a common theme amongst far away property owners. There was always something to be done and until I was old enough to help… my job was comics. Reading, rereading, admiring the artwork since, as a small child, I would watch my parents paint, mother in oils, and dad in watercolors.
That taught me to appreciate comic artwork at a young age. My firm belief will always be that a good comic panel can tell a story without words. After all, not all comic book kids were old enough to read so panels visually told the story along with the written narrative. My mother, bless her, never threw those comic books out, and to say I was shocked when she handed them to me would be an understatement.
One of the first things I locked onto was Sgt. Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos. One of my all-time favorites. World War II wasn’t that far off to my parents in the ’60s but it was to me. And television in its infancy had shown a lot of old WWII movies so it was easy to get into the bare-knuckled world of the Howling Commandos and their invincible leader Sgt. Fury. Aptly named I might add. He was no sweetheart but seemed to me as a timebomb waiting to go off in the next panel or two.
The original incarnation of the Nick Fury character righting some wrongs.
While I also loved Batman and Superman, Sgt Fury and his bunch were a whole other world to me. Not superhuman, not from another planet, just soldiers and their leader. Kicking ass and taking names… for the morgue usually. They were wounded, cut up but never lost a battle that I can recall.
I can also remember a real dislike for the, shall we say, ENEMY soldiers at the time. Something I eventually grew out of as I matured, and WWII faded further into history. Comic books weren’t very forgiving of the other side and a lot of misconceptions came from those comics, but I wouldn’t have traded them for gold at the time.
Also in the bag was the introduction of Morphius in the Amazing Spiderman, Issue 101, October 1971. A whopping 15 cents at the counter, it was a big deal even back then, and amazingly enough… our friendly neighborhood web-crawler sprouted six arms! Recently grown apparently as they tore off the uniform instead of being covered with it. Peter Parker created and drank a potion to rob him of his superpowers and instead gained more. Not an unusual situation back then and temporary as you might have guessed.
Batman's Demise? The introduction of Morphius and the Silver Surfer in Twelve and Fifteen Cents Issues
Batman was on death row… heading to the end in issue #206, 1968, 12 cents. The Batmobile was the two-bubble version similar to the car in the old TV spoof series. Batman’s cars, planes, helicopters… his stuff in general… were the stuff of dreams. Being mortal, Batman always held a special place in my comic universe, but I never saw his as brooding or angry. That wasn’t the way the world was back in my childhood. At least not for me.
Finally, there is the Silver Surfer, issue 11, December 1969. It had increased to a mind-blowing fifteen cents! It was robbery I tell you or, so it was in my young eyes. The sky-rider of the spaceways was in a bad way in this issue. Another one of those heroines in distress tales. Something about a flying surfboard was extremely enticing to my younger self. Never mind we lived in the landlocked Texas Panhandle, I wanted to surf!
Oh, and let’s not forget the crazy advertisements targeted to our young minds. Those are a story in themselves that I will cover in another article. I longed and possibly even lusted after some of those crazy toys. My parents wouldn’t let me order from a comic book even if it was just a penny and postage. I probably thought I was abused at the time. I mean… who wouldn’t want a Fox Minibike at $99!
If my parents would've just let me order that kit I could have been a DJ instead of a writer!
Overall, this was about as pleasant a discovery as a grown child… err adult… could have. Brought back a flood of memories. Of times, places, and, of course, comic book violence. We’ll be taking a look at some niche comics that were included like House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and The Son of Satan (which I admit to not really remembering but it’s there). While there were mostly Marvel and DC, we’ll also take a look at Gold Key comics, which sported comic book covers like few else. Till then, my Spidey sense is tingling so I‘m off to catch up with the webhead and his decades-old adventures.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.