Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR
No idea! I first saw images of The Fantastic Four in Marvel’s house ads in (I’m guessing) 1966, the year I developed my life-long mania for superheroes. I watched the 1967 Saturday morning TV cartoon when I could, and I picked up a Fantastic Four comic book in there at some time. I do remember trying to figure out the characters’ names; I got The Human Torch, I think I figured out The Thing and Invisible Girl, but I couldn’t suss out the name of the elastic fantastic guy who seemed to be the boss. The other characters called him “Stretcho,” so it took me a while to realize he was supposed to be Mr. Fantastic. Although it definitely wasn’t my first issue, I vividly remember a 1968 FF with guest-stars Thor, Daredevil, and Spider-Man. Artist Jack “King” Kirby made those pages come alive! A couple of years ago, I re-read the mid-to-late ’60s run of Fantastic Four, and it held up as just incredible, well-done comics done by creators at the top of their game. Writer Stan Lee always billed this as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” He was right. And Lee and Kirby were fantastic.
I first saw The Flash near the end of Justice League Of America # 55 in the summer of ’67; this was also my very first issue of JLA. The story continued into the next issue, and The Flash was also featured in JLA # 57’s “Man, Thy Name Is Brother!” I saw The Flash cover-featured with The Spectre in an issue of The Brave And The Bold, but didn’t get to read that comic until many years later. The Flash was one of the revolving guest stars on the Saturday morning cartoon show The Superman-Aquaman Hour Of Adventure that fall. My first Flash comic book was Flash # 174 in 1967.
Because I spent so many summers visiting my grandparents in Southwest Missouri, I took special notice in the early ’80s when Trouser Press magazine mentioned Fools Face, a great band from Springfield, Missouri. Much later, I’d also discover The Morells/The Skeletons, who were also from Springfield, but I learned about Fools Face first. Trouser Press also provided me with my first opportunity to hear Fools Face; TP subscribers like me used to receive an exclusive flexi-disc with each new issue of Trouser Press, and one month that flexi-disc was Fools Face’s “L5” and “Public Places.” While I wasn’t blown away, I was blown away soon enough. In ’82 or ’83, rummaging in the used bin of a record store at University Plaza in Buffalo, I found a copy of Tell America, the second album by Fools Face. “L5” was the only song I knew on the album, but I was transfixed on first spin of the LP. My copy of Tell America remains the only copy of it that I’ve ever seen. I searched for years and years to find the rest of the Fools Face catalog, but these prizes were elusive. In the ’90s, a new online pal named Keith Klingensmith gifted me with a copy of the band’s first album,Here To Observe, some other friend–I forgot who!–made me a cassette copy of the Public Places album, and later someone made me a CD-R of Fools Face’s extremely hard-to-come-by cassette-only release The Red Tape. I eventually scored a copy of Public Places at a record show, and was thrilled when Fools Face reunited for a brand-new (and terrific) eponymous album. There has also been a vintage live Fools Face performance issued on CD, but the original studio material remains long out of print, seemingly never to be reissued. That’s a shame; Tell America remains one of my all-time Top 20 albums, probably Top 10.
THE FOUR SEASONS
“Big Girls Don’t Cry.” That falsetto was all over AM radio in the early ’60s. I was two, and I remember it!
THE FOUR TOPS
It surely seems like I must have heard The Four Tops’ cavalcade of Motown hits in the ’60s, but my first conscious memory of them is “Are You Man Enough” from the film Shaft In Africa. “Are You Man Enough” was an AM radio hit in the ’70s; I later went back to rediscover The Four Tops’ Motown treasures, and The Four Tops remain my favorite Motown group.
Someday I will write at length about my trip to New York City in 1976, when Iattended the Super-DC Con. For now, suffice it to say that I met Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and I bought an issue of their late ’40s creation Funnyman in the dealer’s room. No one ever seems to have a positive word to say about Funnyman, but I loved The Daffy Daredevil, who was kinda like a superhero Danny Kaye. I did not have an opportunity to ask Siegel and Shuster to autograph my copy of Funnyman # 5, but I did get their autographs in my Super-DC Con program book.
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