I discovered Doc Savage in 1976. He had been in Marvel comics in 1975, but I somehow missed those. I found him in the pages of the Bantam paperbacks:
One of the few times I could relate to my Dad. He remembered reading Doc in the pulps back in the 1930s. Over the next 5-6 years, I’d haunt used book stores and pick up every Bantam paperback I could lay my hands on and ultimately I had them all.
Back in the world of comics, I had dabbled in DC comics in years past, but only an isolated issue here or there. I vividly remember getting Justice League of America #85 (that reprinted JLA #10&11) in 1970, but it didn’t get me reading DC on a monthly basis.
I remember getting serious about DC for the 1st time in 1976, and it was Mike Grell’s Warlord that did it. Travis Morgan & his inexhaustible supply of bullets, the “center of the earth” world of Skartaris with it’s eternal sunlight. The gorgeous women in his supporting cast. This was a short trip from Conan and today would no doubt be done as a creator owned book. In 1975 Grell needed DC to publish his creation and it got me in the habit of buying DC comics along with my Marvels.
Mike Grell’s art on Warlord was a stepping stone for me right into the relaunch of Green Lantern (guest-starring Green Arrow). The title had gone on hiatus after Denny O’ Neil & Neal Adams run wrapped up in #89 in 1972. Now it was back in 1976 (having been a backup in The Flash in the interim). Denny was still writing but Grell was doing the art so I was in! I discovered Grell over on Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes starting with issue #221 also! What wasn’t this guy drawing! I guess bi-monthly schedules helped him work on multiple times concurrently. While I was at it, I jumped onto Justice League too.
I carried on for a while getting pretty much everything Marvel put out and 4 DC titles (Warlord, GL, Legion, and JLA) and then in 1978 I got pulled into 2 team-up titles. Superman team-ups in DC Comics Presents and Batman team-ups in The Brave & the Bold.
I remember 3 other significant events in 1978. I got my 1st driver’s license. I discovered my very 1st comic book specialty shop, Continental Comics in Northridge, CA (it’s still open today!). And the 1st “original graphic novel” I had ever seen came out, Silver Surfer by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Continental Comics was about a mile from my house, I was in there several times a week. I opened up my first pull list. If I paid in advance I could get 25% off! I thought this was quite a deal. I’ve had a pull list and have had the bulk of my comics saved for me at some shop or another ever since. I was now collecting pretty much all the Marvel & DC titles. They also had an extensive back issue selection. I was able to get those Doc Savage comics I’d missed on the 1st go-round!
As 1978 progressed, I remember being able to borrow my Mom’s car every now & again and I discovered a number of comic shops and used book stores a bit farther from my house. I remember Dee & Earl at Passport Books & Comics in Studio City and a shop (whose name I don’t recall) up on Ventura Bl. in Woodland Hills that was HUGE. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons about this time too, so various game shops were also on the route when I’d go driving around the San Fernando Valley. I also made a big dent in completing my Doc Savage novel collection as I had access to a lot of used book stores farther from my house than I could easily bike.
It was at one of these “far away” comic shops that I discovered my 1st comics fanzine, Comic Reader, in 1979. I bought a few issues at the shop but then got a subscription and it came right to my house for years.
I bought my 1st art “portfolio” at Passport Books (really just B&W prints on cardstock) around 1980. It was four 11×14 prints by Neal Adams of Batman, Deadman, Angel, and The Vision. I loved these & put them in frames on the wall in my bedroom. I was also fortunate enough to buy some original art at Continental Comics. I got 3 Jim Aparo covers featuring Batman for $40 each. Mike, the shop owner, let me put down a deposit and pay them off over time. I have these to this day.
The second art “find” was an extremely talented guy who shopped at Continental and would sell drawings of superheroes for $10 or so. I got an 11×17 Wolverine done in pen & ink and colored with pastels. You may have heard of him, his name is Bruce Timm. This was before he developed his signature “animated” style, he was working in the style of the top X-Men artist of the day, John Byrne.
Early 1980 was also when I discovered 2 truly exceptional indie comics that I’d read for many years: Elfquest (through a number of stops, starts, and changing artists) and Cerebus (that I stuck with though the final issue #300).
This really opened my eyes to the world beyond Marvel & DC and in the next few years I’d really go on an indie binge. I graduated High School, got a job and had a lot more disposable income (I was able to pay off the original art at Continental) and started college. 1980 was a really good year.
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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