Monday, April 13, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Comics That Shaped Me (Part 1)

Over the last couple of weeks I've been challenged to a couple of those Facebook meme things. First it was 20 Albums That Had an Impact on Your Life, then it was D8+3 Tabletop RPGs, and most recently it was 10 TV Shows.

The weird thing is, during these times of crisis and panic when just reading the news can make me come out in a cold sweat, I've found doing these little blog posts every day to be calming, and to get me motivated into actually doing some normal writing every day - when most of the time I'd want to just lay on the floor and pray for everything to go back to normal.

Yesterday was the last day of the most recent challenge - 10 TV Shows That Had an Impact on me, and I didn't want to sink back into an unhealthy routine. So, I'm going to keep going...

Randomly found a pic of the comic on
the internet. Weird.

I know there may be some of you who read this who only know me from writing tabletop RPGs, but for a long time I wanted to write and draw comics. Just after I left school, Pete decided to form a little comic publishing company called Swampland Comics, and I drew the first issue of Ninja Secretaries from Beyond Dimension X, that was based on Pete's script, and I wrote a drew a standalone comic of one of the characters (loosely based on me) called Drowning In Darkness. It was gloomy, introspective and self-aggrandising tale of a gun-toting vigilante facing a vampiric threat in his hometown.

Looking at it now it's horribly embarrassing, but it did get some interesting reviews and I remember one that called me the "Goth Hergé". I don't know if that's just because of the lead character's hairstyle...

I went to university wanting to specialise in comics, and ended up studying animation. I think the Illustration lecturer wasn't keen on comics at the time - I think he's since come around. After I graduated, I continued my desire to draw comics and, with the help of the Prince's Trust, launched my comic publishing company (Autocratik Press). I published four issues of my ongoing comic, Missing, before it was cancelled by the distributor - not selling enough to keep distributing me.

Missing, the comic I wrote and drew in the late 90's. Feels horribly dated now...
I also published a one-shot for the awesome Matt Brooker (aka D'Israeli) called Consequences, which continued his D'Adventures of I.S.R.A.E.L.I. that ran as Timulo in Deadline. That was particularly awesome, (mostly because I didn't draw it), but that was the entire of my attempt to get into comics...

But behind the scenes, I've been reading comics for years. So many comics. I read comics before I read books, and some of them had a huge impact on my writing and art.

So I thought I'd do another one of those "Things that have had an impact on my life" things but focus on the comics that shaped me. And, after discussing this with Debs, I've decided to do 14 rather than 10, so it's a round two-weeks of this nonsense you have to put up with.

Without further ado...




I have a very distinct memory of Spider-Man. It's very weird. I think Spidey was the first real superhero comic I read, and certainly the first superhero I really got into. The only others I used to read about that time were the annuals I'd been given for Christmas which were usually Superman/Batman double bills.

However, I have a very distinct memory of my dad going to the newsagent to pay his monthly bill for the newspaper deliveries (two a day), and saying to me that I could pick a comic to get every week and we'd add it to the delivery. I picked Spider-Man.

Super Spider-Man was a British reprint of the American comics in a weird format. It was landscape, and had a double page spread from the US comic on each page, so as you read it each open spread contained four of the American comic pages. They were also completely in black and white except for the glossy cover. But, it meant you got a lot more comic and story every week in each issue. It wasn't just Spidey in there - each issue contained a complete issue from Spidey, as well as a complete issue of Thor, Captain America and Doctor Strange. The actual line-up of supporting strips varied from time to time, but I distinctly remember reading those ones.

The centre pages were a super-widescreen style bit of poster art (which I foolishly coloured in with felt tip pens on some issues - my desire to draw comics getting the better of me at that early age).

It was just at the awesome era of classic Spider-Man. The art was gorgeous (Gil Kane, John Romita Sr.), and I was stunned at The Night Gwen Stacy Died. I remember the Spider-mobile, the death of the Green Goblin, the Jackal cloning Gwen and Peter, the first appearance of The Punisher. Oh man, that was all great.

The "back up" stories weren't holding back with their punches either. I read The Invaders, saw them dredge Captain America's bullet ridden cowl out of the river, and was completely freaked out by Gene Colan's amazing and spooky art for Doctor Strange.

Just thinking of them makes me want to reread them.

I do have a load of them still, but they're not in great condition (felt tip, remember). I have a weird memory of a strange centrespread poster of weird bird-like aliens invading, riding spacecraft-like bikes... It didn't have anything to do with any comic within the pages, but I remember being fascinated by that image and wondering if they were ever going to appear.

Many, many, many years later, the old nostalgia feeling brought me back to those Spider-Man comics, and when Marvel did the very economical Essential Collections, they started from the first issue reprinting Spider-Man in black and white, just how I remember it, in massive and fairly cheap books the size of phonebooks. The black and white really showed off the awesome art, and reading them again was brilliant and I felt like I was eight years old again.

It's a real shame Marvel stopped doing those Essential Collections. I bought all of the Amazing Spider-Man collections, and the Peter Parker: The Sensational Spider-Man, ones. I even bought the first Doctor Strange collection, and Howard the Duck, but they came to a halt as the reprints got up to the 80's and I guess they wanted you to get the more expensive colour collections.

Loved those comics. But, by 1977 something else came along and I was only allowed one comic per week... SciFi took priority, sorry Spidey...

No comments: