OK, so up to this point, we’ve covered my first comic experience, as well as the summer where I fell in love with the medium. At the time, I had no idea that I was on the cusp of a full-on comic explosion! I’m not sure if you’ve been paying close attention to the timeline, but we just ended the summer of 1992. Fall of that same year would mark three very important events that would shape my comic reading hobby. Let’s take a minute to explore those milestones.
On September 5, 1992, Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids. We all know how revered the show is, and we all know about the Emmy wins. I wish, however, to point out what the show meant to me.
Unlike most of my generation, I don’t have fond memories of He-Man, Thundercats, or even Transformers. It’s not that I didn’t like those shows, but I just never saw them. I used to carpool with one of the teachers at my school, so I was usually in after school care, waiting for her to finish up for the day. By the time I got home, it would be after 5, and those shows would be over. I might get to catch them on the occasional sick day, but those were rare as I loved school. Just like with Dr Seuss, I’ve tried to go back and understand what I missed, but I guess you”just had to be there”.
The reason that B:TAS was so important to me was the fact that it was the first animated show that was “destination television” for me. I already loved Batman, but most fans will tell you that B:TAS rejuvenated the franchise. Sure, the movies had been great, but the show was the last step needed to cleanse the collective consciousness of the campiness of the 60s show. Don’t get me wrong – I had loved that show, but my comic reading was making me realize that it hadn’t depicted the “real Batman”. Anyway, I found myself taking over my mom’s VCR, programming it to tape B:TAS every day. The more I watched, the more I wanted to know more about the lore. This, in turn, led me to seek out more Batman comics.
A month after Batman premiered, the X-Men cartoon debuted on Fox Kids. I have to admit, I had almost no knowledge of X-Men prior to watching the show. As you learned in the last installment, my Marvel knowledge didn’t extend much outside Spider-Man. The artsy kids (or, as artsy as you could be in 6th grade) at school were really into X-Men, but I just nodded along with their conversations. I kinda knew there was a guy with knives in his gloves, but that was about it.
So, while X-Men also became a VCR staple, it was for different reasons. Whereas Batman had deepened my appreciation for the character, the X-Men cartoon served not only as an introduction, but as a full immersion course. We all know the general Batman stuff off the bat (no pun intended): rich guy, dead parents, bat flies through window, strikes fear in criminals, sometimes has sidekick. X-Men isn’t nearly as accessible. I think 1992 was probably the most accessible period in X-Men history (it was on the eve of that franchise’s 30th anniversary), and that’s still not saying much. It’s kind of jarring to grow attached to the character of Morph, only to get into the comics and find that he never existed prior to the show. It would take a Ph. D to fully understand the X-Men franchise, and I thank this show for getting me in on as close to the ground floor as possible. As with Batman, I had an urge to seek out more X-Men comics to see what I’d been missing.
I remember that my very first issue of the X-Franchise was Uncanny X-Men #297, which made absolutely NO sense to someone only acquainted with the cartoon. It was the tail-end of a huge X-book crossover called “X-Cutioner’s Song”. It came bagged, with a trading card, so I thought I was onto something really special! Now, the X-Men books have had some confusing storylines over the years, but that one still might take the cake for “most convoluted” – and that’s saying a LOT. I stuck with it, though, I only have a slightly better understanding all these years later. Yup, I still have that issue, too.
It was the 3rd event that made all the difference in the world. In the comic world, Fall of 1992 also marked the Death of Superman storyline. I’ve already discussed this in an Adventures West Coast post, but to say this was a BIG DEAL would be an understatement. It also served as a good link to getting through to my mother.
For those who only know me through the internet, my mom had me later than most moms. In fact, she was 43; I was a “surprise”. So, when I first started learning about Superman, I realized that his debut was the month before my mother was born. So, any chance I got, I would use that as a means to open up a dialogue. “Oh, your birthday’s coming up. I know because Superman’s anniversary just occurred.” Yes, it was lame, but what could I do? I thought I was clever! She never had any real love for Superman, so it’s not like this appealed to some part of her. It did, however, allow me a chance to demonstrate how much I knew about, as well as how much I loved, comics.
The whole “death of comic character” gimmick wasn’t common at this point, and the event was getting a LOT of media coverage. I think people at her job had even been talking about it, so she understood the magnitude of it all. I didn’t yet understand the whole concept of miniseries and future solicitations. So, I got her to take me to the comic shop (yes, I had discovered them by this point), so that I could get what I thought was the death of Superman issue. Instead, it was just Part 1 of the storyline. Well, she was already used to my whole “I just need one more” pleas from my days of collecting Happy Meal toys, so this was nothing new. She hated it just as much as she had with the aforementioned toys, but she was used to it. Not only did she take me to get all the books where Superman “returned” as four other characters, but she also took me to get the comic where he really did come back.
I think that mainstream exposure did a lot to let my mom know that comics weren’t just “funnybooks” anymore. She still hated X-Men, though. They were “demonic”, and she threatened to throw away any issues that were left in common areas. Still, we were making progress. Next time, I’ll get into exactly why I love comics.