Today's Comics That Changed Me is a special PSA for young comic book readers about the dangers of peer pressure. It could turn you into a Marvel Zombie. To frame this story properly, I need to explain my comic book buying habits circa 1988. Being a ten year old whose only monetary resources were a tiny allowance and the occasional birthday gift, I had to spend my comic book money responsibly. To me, that meant I only followed the comic books I really liked. Back then, my single favorite comic book was Superman. By extension, I read primarily from DC Comics, especially if Superman was in any way involved. I did have quite a few Marvel comics but most of them were presents; the only Marvel book I truly enjoyed was Star Wars, which had been cancelled by '88.
The second important piece of information involves my cousins, James and Andrew. These two were each born within a year of me, roughly the year before and after. Not only were they nearer in age to me than any of my other cousins, they were nearer than my own siblings. I always looked forward to (all too infrequent) visits with James and Andrew. We had very similar tastes as children, notably our shared love of Star Wars.
There was a period of time where I would see James and Andrew once a year, always in the summer. It seemed like each summer the boys had a new mania they wanted to share with their fellow cousins. That summer of '88, at least part of the mania was the X-Men.
Writer: Chris Claremont Artists: Art Adams & Bob Wiacek.
I knew the X-Men from various gifts and such items that had wandered into my collection, but I didn't think much of it. The X-Men were just another super hero team, so far as I was concerned. Being a Marvel super hero team, I didn't invest a lot of time thinking about them.
But then there was James and Andrew with that annual. And they made the hard sell, employing peer pressure whether they knew it or not. They raved about that gorgeous Art Adams artwork a little, but mostly they extolled X-Men because it was the most popular comic book. I certainly had no idea which comics were more popular than others, but my respected cousins assured me that the X-Men were number one; moreover, Marvel was the number one publisher. "Everyone's doing it," to coin a phrase.
I read my cousins' copy of this annual a few times, trying to grasp what made it so great. This was the comic that introduced the X-Babies, for crying out loud! Its greatness escaped me at the time, but my cousins' peer pressure had begun to take some effect. If Marvel Comics really were the coolest comics, why wasn't I reading them?
Now, I had enough willpower of my own that I wasn't willing to simply become an X-Men fan, but how I began my Marvel Zombie phase is a story for the third installment. Suffice to say, I avoided the X-Men at first just to show I wasn't copying everything my cousins promoted.
In summers to follow, James and Andrew would sing the praises of Turbo Grafix 16, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Magic: the Gathering. I held out against them as best as I was able to, but as late as 2002 they were still able to sway me into Heroclix. James & Andrew: I love you guys, but you have so much to answer for...