Bronze Age Beginnings

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Thirty-nine years ago this weekend, a comic fan was born!

On the 30th September 1972, the last Saturday of the month, the first issue of The Mighty World of Marvel was released upon an unsuspecting public. It was a momentous occasion, birthing a generation of Marvel readers and making at least one comic fan for life.

My original copy of this life-changing comic was lost many moons ago, but fortune smiled upon me when I won a reasonably priced copy on eBay earlier this month. I’d been tempted a number of times, but it was the realisation that the date of original publication meant that I would be able to perform some kind of voodoo magic by reading this particular comic exactly 39 years since I first held it my eager hands, and in my childhood home too, that I placed a decisive bid. Perhaps a rift in the space/time continuum would open up and transport me back to 1972 to meet my seven year old self.

So yesterday, on the hottest day on record for October, I settled down with Mighty World of Marvel no. 1 and a Fab lolly.........

.........and though no rift in the space/time continuum opened up, it was a rewarding experience.

I have likely read the three stories featuring The Hulk, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man many times since in other formats, but nothing compares to the experience of where and how I first encountered these iconic characters. On pulpy newsprint paper in black & white (and green!), at a larger size than the original printed pages, the crude - but exciting - storytelling of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko is completely enthralling. There is a primacy to these initial appearances - designed to capture the imagination of children - that reinforced why I still read comics despite the accumulation of years of cynical exploitation. Yes, the plot holes are apparent to my 46 year old self, but they would not have mattered to me at 7. That kid in 1972 just wanted more.

For the princely sum of 5p, I got the first 10 pages of The Hulk #1, a Fantastic Four pin-up, the first 13 pages of Fantastic Four #1, a Special Message from Stan Lee and the chance to win a mystery free gift, and the whole of Spider-Man’s origin from Amazing Fantasy #15.

I would also have got a free iron-on Hulk T-shirt transfer, but I sadly no longer recall what I did with that. I imagine it was dutifully ironed on and subsequently washed off by mum.

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