Adam and I have been friends for over thirty years — he’s one of the few people I regularly keep in touch with from my childhood. And lately Adam’s been mining our childhood for memories of our individual and collective comic book “habit,” writing some wonderful reflections upon comic books and what they’ve meant to him through the years. Adam’s most recent recollection describes buying his first comic book with his own money — Superfriends No. 13 — and he mentions that he is nearly certain I was with him at the time. My memory is more than a little fuzzy about this; I don’t recall it at all. I would’ve been seven at the time.
But I just dug through an old battered cardboard box, hauled around the country with me ever since my parents cleaned out their attic a few years ago, where I haphazardly store my fading, musty collection of comic books. And there it was: Superfriends No. 13, featuring some sort of giant green mutated shrew. So either Adam and I bought the same comic at different times, or we each bought our own copy at the same time (thus avoiding the fate of Bart Simpson’s rare copy of Radioactive Man). Either way, this cover is actually imprinted on my mind, and I didn’t realize how familiar it was until I saw it again (the image here is scanned from my own copy; I’ve also got a larger version where you can see just how wrinkled and scratched this thirty-year-old cover is).
As I was rummaging through my stash of comics I also discovered my first comic book. I didn’t buy it with my own money, so it’s not in the same category as Adam’s, but it is the first comic I remembering owning, reading it over and over. Undoubtedly my parents gave it to me as some sort of bribe on one of our long family car trips. The comic, seen here (larger version), is No. 83 of Captain Atom, one of the many radioactive superheroes who never made it big. (You’ve never heard of him, right?)
Nonetheless there are some surprising coincidences here: (1) Captain Atom bears some resemblance to the Simpson’s Radioactive Man, so here I am again preliving a more wholesome version of the fictional Bart Simpson’s life; (2) I remember that at the time (age six) I thought Captain Atom was Captain Adam, because I knew Adam was my friend, but I had no idea on earth what an atom was; and (3) if you look closely at the larger image, you can see the legendary Steve Ditko’s signature. Captain Atom was one of Ditko’s creations from the early sixties (my version of Captain Atom No. 83 is a reprint of a much earlier appearance), and Ditko would of course go on later to create the much more memorable Spider-Man — the anchor of the Marvel Universe, which I would soon join myself, leaving behind the innocence of the Superfriends, the naive Wonder Friends, and the forgettable Captain Atom…