Seaside Heights, New Jersey; summer of ‘74. This was when I first bought comics off the racks. My father would buy them for me, I’m guessing, because he wanted to give me something to keep me entertained (i.e., relatively quiet) back at the bungalow in the evening after a day of playing on the beach. Here’s what I got (this was over the course of the whole summer, at least two different shore trips, if I recall correctly):
Amazing Spider-Man #136 (Sept. 1974)
Little Audrey #111 (Aug. 1974)
Chamber of Chills #12 (Sept. 1974)
Doctor Strange #2 (Aug. 1974)
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #204 (Oct. 1974)
Casper the Friendly Ghost #175 (Sept. 1974)
Reggie’s Wiseguy Jokes #31 (Oct. 1974)
Archie #238 (Sept. 1974)
Dennis the Menace #133 (July 1974)
Everything’s Archie #33 (June 1974)
Jughead #229 (June 1974)
Betty and Me #60 (Sept. 1974)
Looking back, what strikes me about this list is just how diverse the available genres still were in the early to mid-1970s. By the early 80s, of course, the Harvey comics were gone and Archie was running on fumes pretty much, along with horror anthologies, leaving superheroes as basically the only ones left standing. But back then you’d find plenty of Archies and Harveys on the stands alongside your Marvels and DCs.
The most noteworthy book here is ASM #136—my first proper solo Spidey comic. In it, he faces off with his archenemy the Green Goblin. (Or at least a version of the Goblin, as it’s Harry Osborn under the mask. As we all know, there’s only one true Goblin and that’s Norman.) It was a tidy tale with terrific action and great art by Ross Andru. In addition to a fantastic double-page spread in the middle of the book, Andru also gives us some great close-ups of the Goblin in all his maniacal glory:
The bulging eyes with the merest specs for irises, plus the ghoulish grins showing us his gums were amazing. Add to it that garish, clown-like costume of the Goblin’s and yes, the roots of my clown phobia likely began here. (This phobia would be cemented with my purchase of an issue of The Joker the following summer.)
Notable too is the issue of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I likely bought it because it looked like Superman on the cover, but the content between the covers did not disappoint. Mike Grell’s art was awesome and the stories were cool. Plus I really liked all the additional characters, particularly Lightning Lad. (The way Grell drew the electricity bursting forth from his hands looked pretty badass.) There were two stories, with the first one being action packed and the second one featuring Brainiac 5 and Supergirl kissing a lot.
Speaking of smooches, the issue of Betty and Me had a story called “Parting Ways” that also contained an astonishing amount of PDA.
The premise is that Archie and Betty go to the bus station so they can make out without attracting too much attention. (The idea being that since it’s normal for people to kiss goodbye at the bus station, they won’t stand out.) The story has no words until the very last page, which meant I didn’t need anyone to read it to me. At that age, all I knew of romance was kissing, making this story essentially porn to my pre-K self.
So naturally, when I later started kindergarten, the first day there I immediately fell in love at first sight with the prettiest, blondest, most blue-eyed, Betty Cooperish girl in class. (Patti, if you’re out there, drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you!)
ADDENDUM: Whoops, looks like I forgot one!