Being a girl who read Marvel comics at that time was utterly embarrassing. I had always been a tomboy and liked to play with cars. Even when I got Barbies they always rather dated dinosaurs than that stupid looking Ken – and my Ken doll had at least real hair, not that rubber “hair” but he still couldn’t win Tyrannosaurus Rex or even that long-necked-one-what-it’s-name-dinosaur. In first grade I had pretty much nothing in common with other girls. I did collect those He-Man stickers every boy in my class did, but they wouldn’t trade them with me because I was a girl. :'( I also liked Kiss, which only boys listened to.
So there I was, buying all the Marvel comics I could get. That required some serious ninja/spy training. The comics were sold at “R-kioski” (local 7-11) and lucky for me I lived a bit further from all my classmates and used a different R-kioski from the others. But still, it was a military operation to get my mags without being seen by anyone. I’d go in, make sure no-one I knew or anyone from my age group was there, grabbed the magazines as fast as I could, held them so that no-one could see them (not even adults but without looking like I was shoplifting), paid for them and hid them under my jacket and ran back home hoping I’d run into no-one. It was like buying a porn mag and probably would have been even more embarrassing if someone had found out. :”D I was never caught.
At home I’d read the magazines through and get my guilty pleasure from them. I also used my comics to teach myself to draw humans. I’d learn where to put muscles, where to put shadows. Of couse I got really unrealistic ideas of how a woman should look (Barbies and Marvel women – no wonder I got a bit crazy about my body image in my teens).
Later in life I did get more self-confident and eventually came out of the closet and displayed my collection with pride and drew Marvel characters in public. (I was really good at it. The high point of my life was when I learned to draw humans better than Jim Lee. 8-D You might think otherwise and I must admit I’ve never been able to draw the same character twice so I could never become a comic artist like Jim Lee.)
Now I’m a proud geek, married to a man who says he can’t believe his luck finding a beautiful badass wife, who is even a bigger nerd than he is. :”D Happy to oblige.
I read my first superhero comics at my aunt’s where my sister used to live back then. I must have been tops five years old. She had one old Superman and one Batman comic, the last one in a sorry state. In the Superman comic Superman was faced with a white blood cell that for some reason had developed into this huge white blob, swallowing people. Superman solved the problem by swinging the blob into outer space. In the other magazine Batman was injured and returned to the Batcave bleeding, where Alfred took care of him. I remember nothing else about the storyline, but I was utterly fascinated by the pictures. I can still see the images of a bleeding Batman leaning against the wall and the fins on his gloves and that torn cape. It was very dramatic and my little girl’s mind was mezmerized as I looked at the image.
I did purchase comics myself, too, but they were mostly some generic stuff like Hägar the Horrible and Garfield comics. But then, in 1989, I walked into an old books store that also sold comics and browsed through their selection. It was summer and my family and I were just about to leave for sailing in the Finnish archipelago for the next month. I was on a mission to buy some comics and books to read and I always went to that one place near the harbour.
There must have been many Marvel comics but one cover in particular caught my attention. It was the cover of Marvel 7/1988 (that’s the Marvel magazine published in Finland in Finnish, the original story is found in X-Men and Alpha Flight special #1-2). On the cover there was a red haired woman, floating in the air, flaming aura around her, and on the front, a man burning. There is snow on the ground and a few other costumed characrters are watching the woman in the middle. The image was packed with energy and the dramatic title only added to it: “Marvel – Ryhmä-X – Alfalentue”. I had to buy it. That summer on our sailing boat I read the magazine like a million times. I was totally engulfed in the story and the images and the world of mutant superheroes. And there were Scandinavian gods! 8-O
After the summer I began buying all the Marvel comics I could get my hands on. I loved the Alpha Flight and the X-Men. Soon I learned to like Daredevil and the Avengers, too. Thor was cool. Iron Man was an alcoholic with heart problems. Rogue liked Remy, but she couldn’t touch him and he was not to be trusted. Professor Xavier had an X in his name and he lead the “Ryhmä-X” i.e. the X-men. (This made things even more interesting, since even though the letter “X” is part of the Finnish alphabet, it’s not used in native Finnish words.) Wolverine was bloody cool! But he called girls “chicks”.