My first superhero comic. Sue me, I liked girls at a young age. We were in Rehoboth Beach in July, 1974, maybe a week or two after I had lost my comic-buying virginity to an issue of DC’s Ghosts. My Mother, eager to encourage reading, I guess, and having noticed that I was beginning to spend more and more time staring at my brother’s discarded comic books, said to me, “There’s a candy store over on the next block that sells comic books. You might want to go there.” If I’m not mistaken, I was allowed, at the age of eight, to go all the way around the block by myself—in a strange town! I think I might have been skeptical about allowing my eight-year-olds to wander Rehoboth—or any town—by themselves; but these were different times. My Mother grew up in a time and place where kids walked all over town, climbed mountains and explored caves with no adult interference. She didn’t panic if we weren’t in sight every moment. (My father was a different story, but he didn’t go to the beach with us. Being stationed in the Marianas has ruined him for Mid-Atlantic beaches.)
The candy store was Snyder’s, and it’s still there. The owner now is about my age, (so not the original) and always friendly and glad to see us. Alas, though he sells superhero memorabilia, his comic book rack is decades gone. It used to be profitable for a small store to carry magazines, comics and newspapers. I think now it’s just too great an investment. I also think the store has downsized. Yes, I was smaller then too, but I’m pretty sure the comic book spinner rack (“Hey, Kids! Comics!”) was in front of a West-facing window, and Snyder’s is an interior shop that no longer has one. I believe they sacrificed half their space a few years ago to what is now a sunglasses shop.
I remember seeing a Superman issue. I also remember issues of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen and Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane—probably the last issues before each of the series was canceled, as was Supergirl, to be folded into Superman Family, a collection which featured one new story monthly (Supergirl, Lois and Jimmy, rotating) and reprints.
I had seen Supergirl in old ads in my brother’s war comics. She wore a blue dress in the 60’s, so her mod look impressed me. I was easily impressed. Since all of my exposure to superheroes came from television, I knew nothing about her. Supergirl did not show up on TV until, if I’m not mistaken, Justice League Unlimited aired. If she ever did a Superfriends, it was after I stopped watching. I did not know she was Superman’s cousin, or that she had been born on an isolated fragment of Krypton which survived the destruction of the planet. (I did know Superman’s origin because, again, Superfriends had done an episode about it.)
So I bought the issue, because I liked to discover new characters, and I liked pretty girls. I was baffled by references, in the letters page, to someone named “Kara.” Neither of the stories in the issue made reference to Supergirl’s Kryptonian name. I would go through a lot of experiences like that, being left to wonder what reader on the letters page or characters in the stories were talking about, as I got into comics. For instance, not knowing comics, I did not even realize that this issue’s “Guest Star” (he wasn’t obviously billed as such) was a character who had had his own comic book. I knew nothing of Prez Rickard, the first teen president of the United States. I just knew the idea of such a young President was exciting to a kid my age. It’s more exciting now. I’d love to have a President who could be grounded and have his cell phone taken away for a week.
The issue contained two stories—one about Supergirl saving the young President from assassins, and one about a scientist creating a clone of Supergirl, named Superlad. Each story was ten pages. Today, the clone story would span twelve issues, overlap into Superwoman and Action Comics, and a trade paperback collection would be released before the last issue came out. But Cary Bates told the sad story of Superlad in ten pages. At the end of it, the announcement is given of the coming Superman Family title, which would headline Supergirl in its first issue. I missed that issue on the stands, and didn’t get it for about 25 years. Oh well, good things come to those who wait.
The stories aren’t memorable. I had forgotten about poor Superlad until I saw down to write this. They were comics equivalents of the Filmation shorts I was used to on television, however, and just right for a reader of my age and skills. I was officially hooked on comics.