Some people can remember the first comic book they ever owned, but I'm not one of them. I do, however, remember my first Classics Illustrated (of course!)--The Conquest of Mexico, bought (and read to me) by my Dad, circa 1963. The cover and interior art blew me away. Little did I know that, by then, CI was a reprint-only company, though I do recall causally wondering why new titles weren't appearing. However, I was more than content with the 100-and-whatever titles available, and I used to obsess over the missing numbers in the reorder list. True story: Around 1969, I order three out of print titles and received first edition ten-cent copies, all mint! (The Cloister and the Hearth, A Christmas Carol, and The Black Tulip.) Plus a note from the company explaining that the unlisted numbers are no longer in print and to please not order them. And I thought they were just hiding the titles on their readers!
Meanwhile, the first Charlton comic I remember noticing--and noticing in a big way--was Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #40 (Feb., 1964). I don't recall buying a copy or having one bought for me, but I must have owned it, because I remember every panel and plot. (That, or I memorized it over the course of a few visits to the comic rack at Food Town.) The issue's opener, the Bill Molno-illustrated Sleeping Giant, seemed at the time like the coolest comic book story ever conceived, and I even drew my own version of the giant-hand-reaching-for-the-spaceship panel. Where that vanished to, I know not, but here's Molno:
The Sleeping Giant splash page also made a huge impression on my six-year-old noggin. It's one of the reasons I'm a Bill Molno fan for life (though I had no idea, until very recently, who had drawn this):
My verdict changed dramatically three years later with the Oct., 1967 Space Adventures Presents U.F.O., a knock-off of the Dell Flying Saucer series that left me feeling sorry for Charlton. Wretched printing quality (every issue I've seen looks as bad as the one I owned), terrible opening story, and a long adventure featuring weird Pat Boyette art that didn't make it for me. (I was ten; what did I know?) I didn't come back to Charlton until 1976 or 1977, not knowing that, by that time, the company's pre-reprint days were short. (Yes, I typed "pre-reprint days.")
Gold Key-wise, I bought some TV show titles (U.N.C.L.E.; Wild, Wild, West, etc.) and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, at least until the latter became primarily a monster-on-the-loose mag. Dell-wise, Ghost Stories was my favorite title, by far, with the art seeming a lot more sophisticated at the time.
And those are my non-Classics Illustrated comic book memories, save for a brief period in which I tried to warm up to Marvel Comics (I never did). I'm sure my brain is storing a great many more, and maybe some of them will pop to the surface during the course of this blog. Maybe they'll be less dull! Anyway, that's my story. You had to be there.