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Jeff Nemic

Blockbuster First Issue!

The Dark Knight Returns

I read comics occasionally when I was a kid, but didn’t get seriously into them until high school, when a friend loaned me the first comic I’d seen collected as a trade paperback. It begins with a wealthy middle-aged man crashing his race car. Of course, the man in question is Bruce Wayne/Batman and I’m talking about Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Book One shows a silhouette of Batman jumping in front of an arc of lightning.

I was amazed. I’m not sure if it blew my mind, took it over, or both. It was gritty. It was serious. It was beautiful. It seemed real.

Daredevil jumps from a monster's mouth on the cover of issue 177.(Interestingly enough, it wasn’t actually the first thing I had read by Miller. I had randomly picked up an issue of Daredevil years before in a supermarket. It was issue #177, and in it I was first introduced not only to Miller’s writing and art but also to the world of Matt Murdock.)

As soon as I finished The Dark Knight Returns (TDKR), I was anxious for more. I made my first trip to a comic shop, and when I connected the dots that the author of that Batman book was the same as the issue of Daredevil I read years earlier, I started picking up back issues of Miller’s whole Daredevil run—at least the issues that I could afford at the time.

I had a small group of good friends that I would go on a comics run with weekly. For Halloween that year, we all dressed up as Batman characters. I donned a bald cap, painted a black bat on my face, and went as a Son of Batman. (My friends were dressed as Green Arrow, the Joker, and Batman himself.) We visited the comic shop in our costumes. The owner took a photo of us, and that photo hung in the shop for years—it may still be there.

After trying a few other Batman stories and reading all of Miller’s Daredevil, I branched out into reading other books—many written by the author of the intro to TDKR, Alan Moore. (Putting this down in words, it becomes quite obvious that one author or one story almost always led directly to another in my comics reading.) I read Watchmen and Swamp Thing, and later went on to Miracleman and V for Vendetta. I also picked up the Spider-Man story, Kraven’s Last Hunt.

Moonshadow issue 1 cover. Love and Rockets issue 31 cover. MiracleMan issue 13 cover. Swamp Thing issue 28 cover.

As time went on and I became familiar with the whole world of comic shop comics, my tastes shifted away from conventional “men in capes” stories to other, more unusual comics. Eddie Campbell’s Deadface. Joe Sacco’s Palestine. Dave Sim’s Cerebus. J.M. DeMatteis’ Moonshadow. The Hernandez brothers’ Love and Rockets.

So many worlds. So many different ways of looking at the world.

I’m sad to say that I don’t frequent comic shops much anymore. When I do, I’m a bit lost as to what to look for. In many ways for me, comics are like music—you are first excited by the newness of everything and learn and make connections and become literate, and then one day inexplicably you are sidetracked briefly and return to find that things have changed and the encyclopedic knowledge you’ve accumulated is no longer helpful or relevant. But for many years my local comic store was a friendly and familiar place to be exposed to universes of strange and unfamiliar things.

And all of that started with the story loaned to me that starts with a car crash.


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