31 Days of Comics Challenge: Day 11

Old Comic You Love

I’m going to go with one of the very first old comics I bought at a flea market.  I must have been eight or nine years old.  It was Fantastic Four #88 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

I remember studying the cover, the way Kirby drew Human Torch, with all those lines over his body.  I remember being truly surprised by the “surprise Super Villain,” because I had no idea who The Mole Man was.  It was my first exposure to Kirby, and I marveled over the way he drew Mr. Fantastic‘s face — something was “off” about the eyes — and Alicia Masters‘ hair, like a big bubble.  More than the visuals, I remember the smell of the aged and mildewed paper.  To this day, finding that smell in old comics and paperback novels takes me back to a summer day in Milton, WI.  I feel just like the boy I was, lying on the couch with my comic book.

The story is entitled “A House There Was.”  Mr. Fantastic and crew move into a truly creepy saucer-shaped house, even though it doesn’t seem to have a seller.  Not the brightest move for a team of scientific explorers.  Anyway, the house begins to sabotage everyone.  Lots of clever tricks designed specifically to neutralize the Fantastic Four.  Additionally, they all suffer from eye strain.  The story unfolds like an eerie mystery.  In the end, it turns out the house is one big trap courtesy of their enemy, The Mole Man.

Fantastic Four #88 was my first exposure to the Fantastic Four as a team.  I would soon pick up a new issue off the newsstand, and I was thoroughly confused by the apparent changes in the team.  Where was Crystal, the Inhuman?  She was in Issue #88, so I assumed she was a permanent part of the team.  (It didn’t puzzle me that she would have counted as the fifth member of the Fantastic Four.)

This comic cemented an affinity for Marvel Comics which would last into my late teen years.  The Marvel Comics world was so much more important to me than the world around me.  That sounds like a terrible thing to say, but it is important for young people to have something to care about, even if it is fiction.  Many of us don’t realize we will ever find support in the external world, so it is crucial we have an internal world in which we feel at home.  And “people” whose lives and adventures we care about.  It keeps us going.

Tomorrow: Holiday Comic