A New Beginning Prompts Some Looking Back, Episode 1

I moved this week, I now have a room next door to the Psychotronic Lounge.  I had been in the same place for 10-1/2 years.  Now for the first time in over two decades I am sharing space with other people.  This week has been quite refreshing, waking up and talking to people these last two mornings have been wonderful.  I am sharing space with other people and three or four weeks ago I also started blogging, basically sharing my thoughts with other people.  So in the interest of sharing, I thought I might look back upon my experiences with genre and show the key works that shaped my interests.

Something people may not know about me is that much of my knowledge about comic books comes from research.  I didn’t start collecting comic books until my freshman year of high school.  A future episode will cover that turning point, but this episode is about how I ended up coming so late to the party.

My first comic book was bought for me in the spring of 1977.  I was about 7-1/2 years old.  Omega The Unknown #8 featured a cover of a purple suited villain trying to beat the daylights out of a blue suited, 70’s hairdo hero.

My First Comic

The villain in this piece was awesome but the hero was awful to this young reader.  A decade later I would remember the villain fondly, including a vivid image of his defeat but I would be completely confused as to the hero was.  More on that later, back to the villain.  Nitro in this issue is super, super tough.  He is super strong.  He can explode and reform his body after exploding.  He can explode just his fist if he wants to.  And he has the most simple of motivations, defeat Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel?  I had no idea who the heck he was.  Here was this hero in a blue suit that I knew nothing about and the villain isn’t even interested in this hero.  Furthermore, the introspectives by this hero made it clear that he didn’t know diddly about Earth and what he had learned in the short time he had been here made him disgusted.  Speaking of introspection, this hero never ever says a word to Nitro.  In their fights, Nitro does all the talking.  The hero spends the entire issue lost in his own thoughts.

To my 7 year old mind, this comic didn’t work.  The villain is very, very good but the writing style was way over my head.  Before writing this blog I reread the issue (I bought a copy cheap on ebay a couple years back).  To my adult mind this is a masterpiece of storytelling.  Omega’s introspective nature reminds me much of myself.  If I were a superhero, I might forgo the witty banter so popular with the likes of Spiderman and Wolverine.  Omega is surely focused on defeating Nitro; but he is also concerned with how violent Earth is and how violent he is becoming so that he can fit in as a hero.  Furthermore, Omega defeats Nitro not with powers but with intelligence.  As Nitro powers up in order to blow Omega to smithereens (Omega finally pissed off Nitro enough to get his focus off Captain Marvel), Omega drops a titanium cylinder around Nitro channeling the blast up and through the roof.  I am so different as an adult compared to my 7 yr-old self and my view of this comic makes that abundantly clear.  However, that 7 yr old boy was so unhappy with the comic that he didn’t get into superheroes until he was 14.

As for Captain Marvel, I have the first appearance of Nitro is his book as well.  Another blogger in the Diodati Lodge bought me the issue for my 40th birthday.

Confused for Three Decades

Omega made so little impression on me that for decades I thought I had read the first appearance of Nitro.  Once I actually had Captain Marvel #34, I read that comic book and really couldn’t remember it.  A year later I reread it and started questioning whether that was my first comic or not.  Finally I decided to do a little digging on Nitro and actually try to locate the comic book that I read in 1977.  Using Comicvine I suceeded.

If I had read Captain Marvel #34 as a 7 yr old I would have been hooked on comics right then.  It has all the things a 7 yr old could want in a supehero story.  Captain Marvel is powerful, smart, courageous, has a cool rapport with Rick Jones and expresses himself verbally very well.  He’s not witty, instead he is more professorial.  I would have loved it.  But…

Reading the two books back-to-back this evening I realize how much more adult Omega The Unknown is.  Omega is a far more complex hero.  Neither he nor Captain Marvel are from Earth, but Captain Marvel feels right at home on Earth whereas Omega is still feeling very much like a fish out of water.  Captain Marvel is a warrior trained but he regrets killing Nitro (little did he know that Nitro would reform and plague someone else).  Omega was struggling to find his place as a warrior but knows in both his heart and mind that he has to destroy Nitro (he fails as well, Nitro is just really hard to kill).  The angle towards violence and war taken by Omega is just more adult.

The two books make clear how much I’ve changed personally over the decades.  Struggling with Major Depressive Disorder is guaranteed to do that to a guy.  And so I wrap up Episode 1 by commenting how Major Depression has made a positive impact on my life.  I now understand and appreciate introspection, shades of grey and muddled destinies.  Sitting here in my new bedroom I can look back upon my past and feel good about having grown up, even if it was decades late.

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About dbpyritohedron
Working on a group of genre settings for use with the HERO System

4 Responses to A New Beginning Prompts Some Looking Back, Episode 1

  1. Ronny says:

    I wouldn’t have realized that it was Captain Marvel in the “Omega the Unknown” title if you hadn’t told me. The title says so little about the hero of the book. I’m not surprised the hero didn’t connect with a young reader, since the generic title does not create any connection to Captain Marvel. The later book, from its title alone (no less the more contemporary costuming), creates a book that is obviously centered around Captain Marvel.

  2. dbpyritohedron says:

    Omega is the hero of Omega The Unknown. Nitro is looking for Captain Marvel, but Captain Marvel never makes an appearance. It was many, many years before I knew anything about Captain Marvel but the book confused me enough that I thought I was seeing the first appearance of Nitro. I was actually reading the SECOND appearance of Nitro.

  3. Ronny says:

    Ah, yeah, that is confusing. So confusing, that I got all twisted up myself.

  4. Sam Gafford says:

    Omega the Unknown was a very weird comic in that it never made any sense! Plus the hero wasn’t particularly easy to like so you ended up feeling that there was very little point to the comic which, there obviously wasn’t, because it was abruptly cancelled!

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