This past Saturday, on a whim, I decided to rewatch the pilot episode of the WB/CW’s super-hero series Smallville. I have actually seen it once before a couple of years back. I had downloaded it from Playstation Network because I remembered at some point that I had missed the first half of it when it originally aired in 2001. No matter what the haters will say about it, I will always appreciate Smallville since it’s the reason I officially started reading comics. I mean, I’d read comics before and I was semi-familiar with characters and storylines based on the movies and cartoons that I’d seen, but I’d never actually been to a comic store before. Despite that setback, I did actually have a few comics while growing up. I believe the count is at around 8 including an issue of Web of Spider-Man, a couple of issues of Horus: Son of Osiris, the comic adaptation of RoboCop 2, and about 4 issues of Fantastic Four. So why hadn’t I ever been to a comic store at that time? Well, to be honest, I didn’t know of any comic stores. Even though I’ve been a super geek all of my life, up until my sophomore year in high school, I was the only geek I knew. When you’re the only geek you know it could be INCREDIBLY difficult to meet other geeks, especially back in the Dark Ages of dial-up internet.
You see, for you young folks out there, in the dial-up era, being on the internet busied up the phone lines which means that to spend a lot of time on the internet, you had to either be a recluse (which I was, but my parents weren’t), or have a separate phone line (which was relatively expensive). Not only that, but we had to pay in minutes for internet time. Yes, this was at home.
Getting back on track, there are very few major events I can remember which inspire me, but this I remember. A good chunk of the first 4 seasons of Smallville love to do wink, wink, nudge, nudges towards Clark Kent’s future as Superman. In a specific first season episode of Smallville, an elderly woman is reading characters’ futures and at the very end of the episode, young Lex Luthor catches up to her and asks her to read his future. We’re instantly brought into her vision as she sees Lex Luthor casually browsing his Oval Office and creates a field of death with his Kryptonite hand. If you’re like me at the time & haven’t read any of DC’s comics or for whatever reason (I didn’t have cable) didn’t see Justice League Unlimited, you’re probably saying to yourself something along the lines of, “LEX LUTHOR AS PRESIDENT?! NONSENSE! WHAT AD WIZARD WOULD ELECT THAT MAD MAN PRESIDENT?!” So I did research. And much like Smallville‘s (as well as Justice League Unlimited and Lois & Clark‘s, in fact) portrayal of him, the modern Lex Luthor is both an ad wizard and a mad man, so his ambitions are not as obvious as they are in say, the Christopher Reeve movies. However, I still didn’t quite believe what I was reading on the Smallville forums (Wikipedia didn’t exist yet), so I decided I needed more proof. I looked up the nearest comic stores and decided to pay them a visit.
I ended up visiting Graham Cracker Comics, a small Chicago chain. I rifled through the Superman issues looking for proof of Metropolis flooding or Lex being the PotUS and was very surprised to find it all true. However, I was in for an even greater surprise when I discovered that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was reprinting their comic series. And to top it off, I was there just in time to discover that a cartoon I was a big fan of, Static Shock, was based on a comic and that comic was making a new limited run. Because of that, I wanted to find out more about the old Static comic series which apparently was originally published in the 90s.
(Trivia: the back wall of the pool house in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has the premiere covers of 4 Milestone comics, one of which was Static)
After discovering these things about Superman comics, I realized I didn’t want to have the wool pulled over my eyes like that again, so I tried to find a place to start and decided to start with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths from the 80s, which [was supposed to] cements the entire DC universe. That succeeded in getting me interested in the Legion of Super-Heroes and more parallel universe versions of comics. That lead me into reading Kingdom Come (GREAT story, by the way). Then Kingdom Come made me realize just how cool Batman is. Somewhere around then, I found The Death and Return of Superman and read that. Needless to say, I became a comic fiend, trying to read as much as financially possible (which wasn’t much). I finally found a nice balance in occasionally reading trade paperbacks and keeping up mostly with non-major comic titles. For example, the new popularity of The Walking Dead‘s tv series is strange to me since I actually started reading it about 3 years ago. But things I wear hipster glasses for are a whole new story.