I first started to collect comic books when there were no re-launches, no digital copies, and comic book companies didn’t start a new series over with a new number one unless they were a previously failed series. A few examples are Ghost Rider, The Eternals, and Ka-Zar. Even the X-Men’s failure to garnish a following resulted in the series being cancelled in 1970 with issue #66 while continuing on as a reprint run until Giant Sized X-Men #1 appeared in the summer of ’75. The series restarted with a number 94 not a number one. In 1991, the X-Men had their second title but it was nine years earlier a new series called The New Mutants derived from the X-Men. This first appearance was in an issue of Marvel’s Graphic Novel series.
The Graphic Novel was Marvel’s attempt at using a larger format while printing new material in a standalone story. Arguably the most popular of the series was the first issue with the death of Captain Marvel; not at the hands of a Super Villain, mind you, but from cancer. The earlier titles were numbered (up to 20?) but later editions were only numbered in price guides until eventually they were listed with their title or “nn”.
Some of the ones I have purchased had Spider-Man, the X-Men (#5), Groo, Dazzler (#12) and my favorite The New Mutants (#4). Even if the first Marvel Graphic Novel is arguably the best, the fourth issue of this series is unequivocally the most successful. I didn’t purchase this immediately, mainly for the fact I didn’t know it existed and when I found out about it, it was the $4.95 third printing. This was also before I knew such things existed and as far as I was concerned I just found the Holy Grail. This was also the first appearance of the characters I wanted to know more about.
My love started with New Mutants #15. Can you believe starting to read a comic book with something other than a first issue? This issue, entitled “Scaredy Cat” was written by Chris Claremont and penciled by Sal Buscema; started off a three issue story arc that helped establish Illyana Rasputin in her new role within the Marvel universe. Her actual first appearance, overlooked by many, joined such greats as Storm, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, and her big Brother Colossus in Giant Sized X-Men #1.
It wasn’t till years later with issue #160, published in 8/82, that you see a transformation from the child Illyana into the teen Illyana. When Illyana made her way into the New Mutants, the limited series Magik, published 12/83, told how she became older. I loved the scenes that coincide between issue #3 of Magik (2/84) and issue #14 of the New Mutants (4/84). Both these books have Illyana’s previous tormentor and future servant S’ym. He eventually loses against the teen mutants by submitting to his mistress’s demands.
The cover of issue #15 drew me in. Darth Vader’s voice could be heard in my head saying “I have you now.” I turned to the first page finding Illyana sitting cross legged in front of a pentagram about to send out her astral form to find her best friend Kitty Pryde. I found this copy at the local 7-11, as I did the subsequent issues 16 and 17. I fell in love with this series and after I found out where a comic book shop was, I located the back issues I needed. Issue #15 was my first “real” foray into the comic book world; issue #32 was that issue for another collector. He didn’t need a number one to fall in love with this hobby either.
The New Mutants are not just some come and go title. The title ran a hundred issues before the first number one craze cancelled the title and replaced it with X-Force. More than a handful of characters were introduced in their 100 issue run including, Warpath (#16), Warlock (#18, and not the character formally known as Him), Legion (#25), Bird Brain (originally Bird Boy,#55) Cable (#87), DeadPool (#98), and Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke (Annual #2). This is just to name a few. I only mentioned Bird Brain since he is in the current story line. Some of these characters became hits, others not so much. Even Ms. Braddock had to go through the Siege Perilous to change into what she is today.
Comics have always been struggling to retain old readers and entice new ones. It didn’t take a #1 for me to collect comic books, it took an issue #15 with great art and a great story for that to happen, so my (vacation) pick of the week is New Mutants #15 because without it I wouldn’t be writing to you today.
Thanks for Reading.