By Chip Grimshaw
I can't really remember a time in my life when I didn't have comics.
One of the first ones I remember reading was the issue of The Avengers in which Hank Pym is on trial, shortly after he hits his wife. Luckily for 6-year-old me, I didn't have the issue in which the punch actually happened, and only had this trial issue because of my grandmother. Whenever we drove from Ohio to Arkansas to visit, she's always have some "funny books" there for me to read. Her gifts started a small collection that I increased by one or two issues each trip, picking up whichever issues caught my eye with no real sense of continuity or story runs. All that mattered was the good guys beating up the bad guys in 4 color goodness.
No, the first time I started buying a title on a regular basis was because of Tabitha Smith, a mutant known at the time by the not-so creative name of Boom-Boom. At the age of nine, I was spending my reading time going through role playing game sourcebooks rather than comics. But one that I purchased regularly was the Marvel Super Heroes game, and one set of adventures in there was about Secret Wars II. Of course I had read the first Secret Wars (when I could; mostly I ended up getting a mixture of issues in Toys-R-Us three packs, or when I went to the drug store) and so I was familiar with The Beyonder, the omnipotent being with a Jheri curl and a leisure suit. But the over 40 issues needed to keep track of Secret Wars II was a bit out of the price range for someone who didn't even have a paper route. But I knew what had happened. The Marvel Super Heroes sourcebook was a 60 page summary designed to let homemade super heroes save the day amidst all of this hullabaloo, and it gave an overview of everything I'd missed. So when I saw the poor little runaway mutant girl on the bright yellow cover at Food Town one day, for some reason I just had to have it.
So I found myself in possession of X-Factor issue 12. And I knew next to nothing about X-Factor.
I knew that they were the original X-Men, and I was familiar with Iceman due to Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. But that's about it. No idea that Cyclops had left his wife to join the team. No idea who the guy was in the hospital, and why it was a big deal that he was going to have his wings amputated. No idea, really, about what else was going on in the aftermath of the recent mutant books crossover Mutant Massacre. But I was suddenly filled with the urge to know. I suddenly had a quest: find the past 11 issues that I've missed, and then keep up with each new issue. To find out what happens next. And pretty much until X-Factor petered out around issue 120 or so, keep up I did, along with so many other books I just *had* to read in order to know as much as I could about Boom Boom, Bobby Drake, Scott Summers, and so many other characters.
Chip Grimshaw is an occasional writer and full-time code monkey. He actually understands the Summers family tree, and could explain it to you if he remembered where he left his diagrams.