Thursday, April 20, 2006

My X-Men story

This week it´s X-Men week over at Dave´s Longbox and reading the commentaries I got the impression that apparently every comic reader has a X-Men story to tell. About how he first discovered the X-Men, what excited him the most, who his favorite hero was and what was the best creative team.

And I thought : if everybody´s doing it I can too. And since it would have been too long to post it as a commentary on Dave´s Longbox I decided to post it here. Not that my story is much more interesting than any other.....I´m sure I´m not the only one who´s beginning in X-Men spans three countries. But I already told a little bit about my beginnings reading comics and how I ended up with 20 to 25 series on my pull list. Now reading that today it sounds like a big pull list and you all must think how expensive that was. Well, you have to remember comics were priced at 0,75 dollars at that time and it took a few months into my reading of american comics that they made the jump to one dollar. So I read 25 series for 25 bucks which nowadays would translate to 8 or 9 comics.

Now back to the X-Men comic that really made an X-Men fan out of me. Growing up in Germany meant reading the comics that were published here which in the beginning meant reading comics published by the WILLIAMS VERLAG which included the early years of Marvel comics. There had been another publisher before called HIT COMICS but they just began in the middle of the series, jumping back and forth over the issues and leaving out some pages or whole issues as they went along. I don´t remember much of it because it was mostly before my time but from all I´ve read it must have been a collector´s nightmare. But then the Williams Verlag started publishing Marvel comics and they did it chronological order. They even managed to translate a bit of the excitement of the originals with the MMT which was the MÄCHTIGE MARVEL TEAM. So I started reading Marvel comics with DIE SPINNE, DIE FANTASTISCHEN VIER and DIE RUHMREICHEN RÄCHER and my first X-Men comics were the german translations of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues as X-TEAM second story in DER GEWALTIGE HULK. The Williams comics were printed with the cover not being of different paper stock but with the same paper as the interiors and eversince I always found it somehow strange to have a different paper for the cover. Before discovering the Marvel comics I had only read superhero comics by DC and boy were the Marvel comics different. Here the hero had flaws or were the monsters from the old monster heroes. It was like reading superhero comics on another level.

At that time the comics had 32 pages and since most of the Marvel Comics at that time had only 16 pages of story there always was a second series in the comics. Mostly the comics that could not support their own magazine so Daredevil appeared in Fantastic Four, Namor appeared in Spider-Man, Silver Surfer appeared in Thor and X-Men appeared in Hulk. But the X-Men comics that appeared were all the Lee / Kirby issues which didn´t impress me all that much when I read them as a kid. My first comic collection didn´t last very long because my mother threw them all away and when I started collecting Willimas comics again I was much more geared toward the Avengers by John Buscema and Tom Palmer. Especially the later issues which I only read when I was rebuilding my collection and then mostly through collections that were published in Germany and which had issues of various titles glued together with a glossy paperstock cover on top.

I really got hooked on X-Men on one of our family vacations in Spain. Since my parents came from Spain it was obligatory that in the big summer vacation we visited the old home country to see all the cousins and aunts and uncles. And Spain had everything that Germany was missing : good warm weather, hot beaches, good ice cream, fabulous toys, Dragonball cartoons ( which came to Germany ten years later ) and.....better comics. Especially good comics during that dark period in Germany between the end of Williams and the beginning of Condor. After all this years I still feel like I left a third world country and have now returned to civilization whenever I come back to Spain. So it must have been between 1979 and 1983 ( the copyright indicia is from 1979 but since it says LINEA 83 on the cover I guess it was more in 1983 ) on the usual vacation I stumbled upon PATRULLA X number 4 from Linea Surco. And it quite frankly blew my mind.

I had never seen the all new, all different X-Men before and this comic was just amazing. It was by John Byrne and Chris Claremont and this freaky looking guy LOBEZNO ( who became my number one hero ) started the issue by killing those strange guys who looked like puppets. There were members like RONDADOR NOCTURNO or TORMENTA who I never heard of but also guys I remembered like Cyclops. The team went up against the hellfire club and at the end of the issue the dark phoenix was about to kill them all. I read this issue over and over and the next day I went looking for the next issue. The only one I found was Patrulla X number 1 which had the team fighting against some evil dude called Proteus. But the story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne had already sucked me in. Especially the art because all the comics of Linea Surco were printed in a magazine size format.

I didn´t get the rest of the story until my next summer vacation but there were other comics to read like Powerman & Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Shang-Chi or Iron Man. So my X-Men collecting days started with the spanish versions and continued many years later with the german version in the pocket books of Condor that had almost no text. Much later I would get the original american comics and eventually discover the CLASSIC X-MEN series and the trades of THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA and DAYS OF FUTURE PASTS that encapsulate everything the X-Men are. Which was a real stroke of luck because most of the Chris Claremont / Marc Silvestri run with such pivotal storylines like MUTANT MASSACER, FALL OF THE MUTANTS or INFERNO never were printed in Germany. By the way : I still have all the Patrulla X issues from Linea Surco I bought and most of the others. One of my most prized possesion is a collection of Linea Surco comics reprinting the Fu Manchu storyline from THE DEADLY HANDS OF SHANG-CHI MASTER OF KUNG FU which turned me on to the art of Mike Zeck. Everytime I reread it it is like I´m travelling back in time and I can almost feel the burning spanish sun while we were doing the siesta and reading comics for hours while eating melon and ice cream.

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