Towards the end of 1983 I hit the birthday that turned me from a five year old child into a six year old man and decided to make some changes. Gone was my Snoopy lunchbox and here to stay was my see through tupperware sandwich box for starters. Also, being a man now, I decided I needed my own income and my own responsibilities so my gran started giving me an entire pound every week in return for doing odd jobs. I was rich! But it came at a cost. Ever seen one of those contraptions over on the right before? If not, that’s what lawn mowers looked like before they started adding engines to them, and they were a bitch to use. In fact I think that’s where I learned that saying from. Other jobs I did included weeding the flower beds, trimming the hedges (again, hedge trimmers didn’t have engines and just looked like a big pair of scissors with wooden broom-style handles), and tending a crop of runner beans growing up the side of her garden shed. It was hard work after school every day but getting that pound on Saturday morning made it worthwhile, and I knew I’d earned every penny of it (a theme which would run through all my best jobs in later life, and not be present in jobs I didn’t stay with). I was rich on Saturday mornings, and usually broke by the afternoon.
By the start of 1984 I was starting to get a bit sick and tired of sweets and chocolate and decided to look elsewhere to spend my untold riches. I set up a bank account and started saving 30p per week (an amount which, including interest and occasional £10 birthday cheques from long lost family members I’d never meet, added up to well over a thousand pounds by the time I hit college and found my bank details half buried in a load of Sinclair Spectrum games I sold to a collector), and I started visiting the big newsagent in town looking for comics. Now you must remember that I’d become a man at this point so I wasn’t after the Beano or Dandy or any other children’s comics. No, I wanted a grown up comic book by this point and sometime during that year I found one.
Marvel and Mattel had joined forces in 1984 to create a line of super hero action figures but Mattel wasn’t sure they’d succeed off their own back (especially as the rival comic book toy lines featured Superman who was doing very well in movies back then) so they asked Marvel to have an event to promote the toy line. That event became the Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars crossover limited series. In Secret Wars the Fantastic Four (Mr Fantastic, The Thing and the Human Torch – the fourth member was pregnant at the time and not in the series), Avengers (The Wasp, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Thor, Hawkeye, Captain America and Jim Rhodes as Iron Man – because Tony Stark was ill I think), X-Men (Professor X, Storm, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Colossus and Wolverine) along with Magneto (a long time X-Men foe who was chosen for the heroes side in this event) and Spider-man were pitted against some of the biggest villains of the day in a fight to the death by a being of godlike power. Yeah it’s cliche these days but back then it was a revolutionary idea and the series went down in history as one of the best comic tales around, and has had some of the longest lasting effects on the comic book universe (the best known being Spider-man getting a new black costume that much later turns out to be an alien symbiote called Venom). It was a great comic book and I read every issue up until the newsagent stopped getting them in around issue five. After hunting for ages I eventually moved onto the new Transformers UK comic book and began a lifelong obsession with giant robots that turn into cars.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, I hadn’t told Kim about any of this until a passing comic conversation between David and I brought it up and I filled her in on the details, so for Christmas this year she bought me the hardback book containing all twelve issues of Secret Wars, the pages from the original character’s comics where they’re taken away from their worlds, an issue of The Mighty Thor which goes into more detail on his part in the wars, an issue of She Hulk which goes into more detail on the creation of two new villains in Secret Wars, an issue of What If… which continues the story of Spidey’s black suit and considers what would have happened if it had bonded to him before he could get it off, and finally a much later issue of What If… that looks at how things would be twenty-five years later if the heroes and villains had forsaken their battles, made peace and started making babies on their new homeworld (Wolverine and Storm have the most awesome kid in comic history). I finally got to finish off the story I was forced to stop reading twenty-five years ago when I first learned that even grown-ups like me don’t get their way all the time – a realisation that made me start watching cartoons again. I have a tangible reminder of the first thing that I spent money on that really mattered to me (which I keep picking up and stroking the cover of) and a link to some of my happy childhood memories. I really can’t imagine how either of us are going to top that next year. Thank you so much, babe.