One of the stranger things about comics fandom is that a lot of people expect you to remember your first comic. For many, it’s like the time they bought their first album, or the time they first went to the cinema – they’re always ready to go all misty-eyed about the time their parents randomly pulled a Lee/Ditko Spider-Man, or a Kirby New Gods off the shelf or spinner-rack at a drugstore in exchange for their silence on a shopping trip. Or to eagerly recount the moment someone pulled them aside at University and put a copy of Sandman, Watchmen, Preacher or Transmetropolitan into their hands after years of comics-abstinence as the point where it all changed for them.
For me, though, the question is hard to answer. It’s like asking whether you remember the first TV show you saw, or the first song you heard. Does anyone remember that? TV and music aren’t special occasions, like buying an album or oging to the cinema – they’re part of the background of your life. That, for me, is what comics are. They’ve always been there, in the background. From The Beano, to Sonic the Comic, to Marvel’s UK reprints. I’ve just always read them.
That said, the way I normally answer this question is to reveal what my first ever US comic was, because that answers the spirit of the question, if not the letter of it. The comic in question was Weapon X #3, released in March ’95 (cover dated May). Technically, it’s an issue of Wolverine, retitled because the entire X-Men line was smack bang in the middle of a massive and complicated crossover called the Age of Apocalypse. I found it in a newsagents on a trip to visit my grandparents in Clacton-on-Sea, and I remember puzzling over it. I knew from the X-Men cartoon that Weapon X was Wolverine’s code-name, but I wasn’t sure if it was his comic. Until I noticed the signature claws on the cover. I was actually shocked to see him using them on a person, because in the cartoon he could only use them to cut through doors, fences, pipes and robots, lest children’s fragile minds be violated. With the promise of all that and more, I had to have it.
I don’t remember what I left on the shelf. I definitely picked up X-Men Adventures Season III #3 at the same time, though, which was an adaptation of Part 3 of the Phoenix Saga from the cartoon. I was so pleased to own them that when I got back home, I displayed them on top of a chest of drawers in my room like they were trophies I’d won. Immediately, there was something special about them. They weren’t just comics, they were *American* comics. Back then, aged only 12, I thought those comics were incredibly rare and special things to own, all the way from the other side of the Atlantic, and I treated them with astonishing reverence.
Of course, as an issue, there’s nothing particularly interesting about Weapon X #3. It’s the third part of a 4-part story, by Larry Hama and Adam Kubert, neither of whom were particularly in their prime. I spent ages reading and re-reading the Bullpen Bulletins pages to see what else was going on in the other series, longing to read them too, amazed at their interconnectivity. Weapon X #3 might not have been my first ever comic, nor even the first ever Marvel comic I read – but it was the one that made me into the fan I am today. It was what gave me my first undiluted taste of US comics, and it caused something inside me to click. There’s no doubt in my mind that if it hadn’t been Weapon X #3, it would have been something else – but for whatever reason, that’s the way it happened.