There’s A First Time For Everything

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
September 11th, 2017

Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.

There’s A First Time For Everything

It's not just first issues that are milestones for comic book fans, there are many experiences that can be classed as a 'first'. Our contributor, Darryll Robson, takes a stroll through the firsts that define his comic book fandom.

There's a first time for everything.

Truer words have never been spoken and the wonderful world of comics is full of firsts; first issues; first stories for certain characters; first experiences of the industry. Each first is a starting point to larger experiences which are as varied as the genres in the comic book industry.

This year was a first for me; the first time I had submitted a comic book script to a publisher. It was part of the Top Cow Annual Talent Hunt which is in the initial submission stage. I have written a couple of comics previously, for myself mostly, although I have self-printed a couple of ‘zine type comics. However, after seeing the publicity about this years’ Talent Hunt, I bit the bullet and applied myself to writing a full script. It wasn’t easy and because it was the first time I’d produced a script for someone else, I wasn’t sure exactly how much or what style to write in. How well did I do? Time will tell. The ‘Hunt’ is open until December this year but the initial experience was a challenge: an inspirational one. I have already started work on another script, a new creation, but written with an unknown artist in mind. Therefore, I am applying myself in a more professional manner.

The experience has changed the way I think about my own work and has shown that after 30 plus years of reading comics I’m still having first experiences.

Image : Beano blast from the past | © Sarah Joy/Flickr

My initial introduction to comics came through the Beano. As a child I was always reading and when we went on holiday I would try to find something to read. At the time the Beano produced Library Editions which were mini comic books that followed one of the characters from the Beano or Dandy through an adventure. I would pick up a handful of these on the first day of our holiday and then consume them over the next couple of weeks. These little black and white books were easy to find in the local newsagents and cheap enough to buy a few at a time without spending all of my pocket money. This was my first real experience of comic books; summer holiday reading. From there an obsession grew.

The first comic to grasp me and hold on tight was Transformers. In the UK Marvel had its own publishing house where it used to repackage a lot of the American titles for the British news-stands. Titles like Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes, and The Avengers had been around in some form or other for decades but it was the publication of the cartoon/toy tie in Transformers that became my early teenage obsession. The beauty of the UK transformers comic was that a whole universe of new stories were created by Simon Furman to fill up the weekly issues while the American counterparts worked ahead.

In 1986, issue # 78 of The Transformers was release featuring part one of the story line Target: 2006. For me that story was a game changer. After being told by Marvel that he wasn’t allowed to do anything that may contradict what the Americans were doing, Simon Furman turned to the characters in the up-coming Transformers animated movie for inspiration. He took the futuristic version of the characters and brought them back in time for an epic story that would have ramifications for years to come. Target: 2006 was an immense, action packed story that features some of my all-time favourite moments in Transformers history. I still read and re-read it now.

It changed not only what I expected from comics, intellectual story lines that laid the ground work for continued adventures, but also raised my standard for story telling both through scripts and via dynamic art work.

Image: The Sandman #41 DC Comics

I was lucky, I was at the right age and in the right time to get into comics. The British Invasion of creators into American comics was underway so the likes of Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison were just making their big US breaks while Garth Ennis and Mark Millar were breaking through on smaller, British productions. It was in one such comic, Revolver, where I first discovered the writing of Neil Gaiman. A short story entitled Feeders and Eaters illustrated by Mark Buckingham was one of a few stories I fell in love with. It is a twisted tale; simple, subtle and sticks in your mind long after reading; exactly what a short comic story should be. As a result of this macabre narrative I tracked down anything that had Neil Gaiman’s name on it which led me directly to The Sandman, by far one of my favourite comic book series of all time. I didn’t start at the beginning, in fact the first issue I bought was #41, the start of the Brief Lives story-line. I knew nothing about the comic or the characters, all I knew was the name of the writer. That first issue transfixed me enough to track down every issue I could get my hands on. And it was one of the few titles that I continued to buy on a monthly basis until it’s end with issue 75. Last year I received, as a gift, the two volume Omnibus collection of The Sandman and the first chapter I read out of them was number 41. A magnificent comic.

Over time I have fallen in and out of comic book reading depending on a number of circumstances but I have always carried with me a collection of comics, including those early Transformers. Comic books have had a large influence on many aspects of my life. I produced a short comic about the history of Graphic Novels for my A-Level studies, and back then there wasn’t as much history for what was known as ‘graphic novels’.

My entire second year at university was taken up with an obsession to produce large scale paintings of famous comic book characters doing everyday activities. The paintings were all forms of self-portraits where I cast myself as various characters that had qualities I identified with all situated in a mundane setting. It sounds a lot more exciting than it actually was.

Even some of my job decisions were based on buying comics, I worked in the news department of WH Smith and spent many a lunch break borrowing comics off the shelve to read.

Image: Photo from a panel at Kapow Comic Con

Even after so many years, there were still ‘firsts’ to experience. One of my greatest memories is from my first major comic convention: Kapow in London 2012. Not only was this my first experience of major comic conventions but I also met Simon Furman. It was like meeting an idol, I was nervous and awe struck. Some people idolise musicians or actors but for me comic book writers and artists have always been on the highest pedestal. Simon Furman’s writing touched me and shaped many of my opinions about comics and the wider, artistic world. To me he is a hero and I barely have the words to express what meeting him was like. I have met a number of creators since then with a few that give me those nervous butterfly feelings in the pit of my stomach but none quite as much as Simon Furman.

Although Kapow wasn’t the best convention I have been to, and I had issues with some of the organisation (we queued for over an hour for a couple of people only to be told they were late and wouldn’t be able to get to everyone. We left the line and wandered around Camden instead), it was my first and I have fond memories from both days. Later in life I discovered Thought Bubble in Leeds and haven’t looked back.

There are many more moments that I can consider a first time; the first time one of my reviews was published; the first time I interviewed someone; the list goes on. I find it strange, because I don’t look at other areas of my life in quite the same way; the idea of ‘firsts’ seems more important when I think of comics. Perhaps this is because within comics themselves the first time is an over stated important moment. For example, the first time Peter Parker puts on the Spider-Man suit marks a significant moment in his (fictional) life. Or the first time Superman reveals his true identity to Lois Lane.

Cinemas and television channels are awash with comic book adaptations; it’s a massively expanding industry as can clearly be seen by the influx of conventions doing the tour around the world. In the UK there is a least one convention every week from April through to October. Although the actual sales of comics are dubious (that’s a completely different conversation) the comic book industry is arguably reaching the widest audience it has ever reached. There are hundreds of people experiencing their ‘firsts’ right now. Their first firsts with, hopefully, many more to come.

Once I started to think about my experiences with comics and where they have led me, I wondered how other people had been affected by their own introductions to comics. As a result, I have reached out to a number of creators to find out what their ‘firsts’ were and how these have shaped their journey through comics. Over the coming weeks we at comiconverse will share a few of these insights with you and maybe, somewhere in there, will be a spark of inspiration that will lead you to another new experience, just like the scrip submission experience that I opened this article with.

What have been your first experiences with comics? Why not share in the comments below.

Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he remembers his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson


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