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friends, colleagues and editors I
have happily met on the internet.
He asked me to write something
about myself, so I thought I'd tell
the untold story of how I became
interested in comics, left them for
a while, then had a funny return.
The secret thread of the entire
story is my weird memory.
My family moved to Nashville,
Tennessee and then Kentucky
for business reasons when I
The first movie my parents ever took me to was Fantasia, and that's where
the memory thread begins to click in. If I can remember the movie I can tell you
what movie theatre I saw it in. In fact, I could probably tell you on what TV set I
have seen most TV shows. Fantasia began the development, for me, of a love of
visual storytelling, be it drawn or live-action. I love that movie, its colours, its
music and its abstractness, which would stay with me for my entire life.
in Woodside, Queens, N.Y., owned
an old-fashioned candy store. They
would send my brother and me boxes
of candy and comicbooks. The first
comic at the top of the first box was
Lois Lane #1, with Lois flying like a
witch on the cover, but I was too young
to read it then. Very soon after, how-
ever, we moved back to New York, to
a strange place known as Brooklyn, and
en route my father bought me World’s
Finest #102 - 'The Caveman from
Krypton', the first comic I ever read.
I loved it! I even loved the Tommy
Tomorrow back-up strip.
first encounter with Jack Kirby and Wally Wood, although I didn't know
it at the time. That's when I fell in love with comics. I then began to use my
aunt’s store as a library, reading dozens of comics several times a month!
But nothing was as good as Challengers….until Marvel got started.
At first, being so young, I thought that Charlton, ACG and Marvel
(which wasn't called Marvel then) were all the same company. This was
because their stories were similar, they often used the same artists and their
comics weren't as brightly coloured as DC's. But soon Marvel began to distin-
guish itself, first in better anthology stories and later with great superheroes.
I loved them, having finally found stories as well-written and drawn as the
Challengers. Of course, those first ones were the Fantastic Four, also
drawn by Jack Kirby (who I still didn’t know at the time).
28-30 (Justice League). So I had to decide which ones to keep. Let
me tell you the reasons I decided to keep my Marvels.
First, I really, really liked them. Second, Marvels had continued stories
and I knew that I could never have all the Superman, Batman, and Archie
comics. ( I started with World’s Finest #102 and Superman #132.) How-
ever, I could have all the Marvels. Fantastic Four #1; the first Spider-
man (Amazing Fantasy #15); The first Thor (Journey Into
To thank them, I started writing what would eventually become 'The
Essential Marvel Age Reference Book'. I took every Marvel comic-
book, as it came out, and wrote an index card featuring its plot, references,
credits, dates, history and what-not. I kept a separate file of cards for all
the guest appearances. I also kept many pages of notes and quotes that
became the first part of my book.
had either already left Marvel or had begun to leave - and so did I. My
aunt’s candy store also closed, so no more library. I estimated at that time
I had read about 15,000 comics, most of them from my aunt’s store. The
stories and even the printing were not what they used to be. I now needed
a typist to retype my book and I needed illustrations. So I put everything
ones 'though, which I enjoyed more.
I was very bad with computers and never got the hang of DOS, but
when Windows came out with pictures, icon and sounds, it clicked into my
that there were books such as 'The Justice League Companion' and the
'Warren Companion'. I thought that if there should ever be a 'Marvel
Companion' and it wasn't written by me after all that work, I’d hate
myself! So I learned desktop publishing and started working
on my book!
to Stan Lee, complete with a photocopy of the
letter he'd sent me a half a century ago. And he
sent me a wonderful reply. He was also to say
that he was so glad he sent me the comics and he
made me an F.F.F., a Fearless Front-Facer,
the highest rank of Marvel. We also began
emailing, which we do to this day.
And that leads to a funny part of the story.
And be sure to join us for that funny story (and
a lot more besides) when we publish Part Two
of Barry's fascinating reminiscences in our very
next blog post - at this link!
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