Every geek has a story about how they fell in love with their flavor of choice. Be it an old comic in the attic or an LP collection inherited from a family member, a fledgling geek has to start somewhere. Each week “My First…” will document the humble beginnings of our writers as they started their journey into the wonderful world of music, movies, comics and more. So without further ado, here’s Jason Serafino’s story. – Carl
The commercialization of comic book characters has gotten almost overwhelming in recent years. Due to their success on the big screen, there isn’t a movie theater, department store, video game store or television station that isn’t trying to sell something with a superhero’s face slapped on it. Ironically, the comic books themselves are usually the last place kids go to get their superhero fix nowadays with many never reading a an actual comic in their lifetime.
For me, things were different.
My introduction to the world of comic books (or “graphic novels” as some embarrassed fans like to refer to them) came from a wonderful little shop next to my Grandmother’s house in New Jersey. This wasn’t your typical modern shop complete with a nauseating amount of Scott Pilgrim merchandise and ironic Batman shirts; no, this was a grungy comic shop circa 1991. It made Hitler’s bunker during his last days look like the Ritz. There were dust colonies caked between every book in the back-issue bin, rusty nails stuck through a Spider-Man door poster much like a nerdy Iron Maiden torture device, and the stench of week old Chinese food that was around so often that I believed it must have been the building’s landlord. The store was simply amazing.
Even though I was four-years-old at the time, the store clerk didn’t pull any punches when it came to quality. When my mother asked his advice for a comic that I would like, he instantly waddled over to his desk and pulled me out a copy of Incredible Hulk #386. Complete with a scruffy beard, tight fitting Sandman t-shirt and ponytail, the comic shop owner was sage-like to me and I had complete faith in his suggestion. I spent the rest of the day in my Grandmother’s basement feverishly flipping through the pages of the book, even though I could barely read at the time. I knew nothing of the Hulk’s origins or who the hell Peter David was, but none of that mattered because Dale Keown’s art provided me with all of the entertainment that I needed.
Every detail of the Hulk’s fight with the Israeli born superhero Sabra is still ingrained in my head. There was one moment when the Hulk was rendered incapable of speech due to a blast to the throat from Sabra’s weapon that still makes me smile. It was loud, colorful and absolutely engrossing to me at the time, and I knew I wanted more. Even though I must admit that I found the Hulk incredibly frightening at first.
Having been too young to see the original Batman in theaters and with Batman Returns still a year away, Incredible Hulk #386 stands as my official introduction to the superhero world. So much so that when Batman: The Animated Series debuted the following year I was already a well worn expert on the subject of comics. I even attempted to teach my friends about the legends of Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko on the school yard. Unfortunately, none of them listened. In fact, they still don’t.
I frequented that shop with my mother until it closed a few years later. During that time I was introduced to the likes of Spider-Man, Daredevil, Wolverine and a very ill-advised Swamp Thing comic that prompted me to ask my mother, “Where is that woman’s penis?”
I eventually began to understand the stories better and my collection of superhero comics now share equal space alongside books like Transmetropolitan, Desolation Jones and Parker: The Hunted. 19 years, 2,400 comics and an internship at Marvel Comics later, I owe it all to a virtually destroyed copy of Incredible Hulk #386 that still resides in my room. Despite a torn cover, and the shoddy stapling job I did a decade ago after the book literally fell apart, it is still one of the most cherished items in my collection.