Early Comic Book Memories

This and all images © DC Entertainment.

I’ve been working on a family history project the last few months, and today it got me thinking about my earliest memories of comics and superheroes. The first superhero I encountered was on TV, “The Adventures of Superman” with George Reeves as the title character and a great supporting cast. We got our first black and white TV around 1955, it had a tiny screen no more than eight inches diagonally I think. The moment I saw this show, I was hooked. I began learning to read in the fall of 1956 in first grade, and at some point a year or two later, I managed to read on the end credits of the show that Superman appeared in magazines. I hadn’t seen one yet, but from then on I knew about comics, at least in theory.

We had a great-aunt who was a housekeeper at the Buck Hill Falls Inn in Pennsylvania, and every so often she would send us a big box of toys, books and magazines left behind by children visitors. Through this I got my hands on my first comics. Looking at DC superhero comics covers from the period, this is the earliest one I recall having, DETECTIVE 258 cover dated Aug. 1958. I don’t remember any specifics, but I know I was fascinated by Batman and Robin, even in this, a low point in their history. Since I loved everything science fictional too, those themes in the Batman titles would have appealed to me.

I remember buying this title in a store in Dunellen, NJ. It had sat in a spinner rack being read by kids for a long time, and it was in terrible shape, with the back cover missing, but I didn’t care, I HAD TO READ IT! I don’t remember being anything but thrilled with the story.

I’m not sure if I ever owned this landmark first appearance of Supergirl from 1959, but I know I read it as a kid. Perhaps I borrowed it from a friend. Comics were often traded around a lot then. We just wanted to read them.

What could be better than comics featuring Superman or Batman and Robin? This one with BOTH! The earliest issue I recall having, perhaps another one from our great-aunt, or begged for and bought by my mom. Sadly, we never lived close enough to a place that sold comics that I could go there on my own and buy them, even if I had the money. I was dependent on whining purchases when I was out with a parent, or visits to relatives in Dunellen who did live near places that sold comics. I sometimes still visit those stores in my dreams.

My favorite early comic was this one. It had everything, even a two-page map of Krypton, and a great selection of older stories. The first SUPERMAN ANNUAL. I wore out the Superman figure on the front cover from tracing it.

More on this topic in the future, perhaps, including my first Marvel comics.

2 thoughts on “Early Comic Book Memories

  1. Bruce Canwell

    Hi, Todd —

    Thanks for offering up those memories of your early connections to comics! I always delight in hearing such stories, because my own such story is an indelible stamp on my life. Like you, my first connection to superheroes came via TV (primarily the 1960s FANTASTIC FOUR and SPIDER-MAN cartoons) and I gravitated to Marvel over DC after the day I visited our town newsstand with birthday money in hand and bought an issue of _everything _on the shelf. My connection to comics has lasted ever since. It gave me a group of friends who have been a constant in my life for over 35 years; opportunities to meet, thank, and occasionally befriend creators whose work made such an impression on me in my youth; and a smattering of professional credits for my resume. Given the opportunity, would you rewrite your history so you never got that copy of DETECTIVE # 258? I suspect, like me with my AVENGERS # 56/ANNUAL # 2, DD # 42, CAP # 105, IRON MAN # 5, etc., you’d say, “Hah — not a chance!”

    Again, many thanks for this terrific trip down memory lane —

    — Bruce Canwell, The Library of American Comics

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