Jim Lee Started It

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By Edgar Hermosillo  

When I was a child, the best thing about Saturday mornings was Fox’s X-Men show. Memorable, witty, and entertaining, it was a show I would not miss, even if it meant wasting those cool precious morning hours indoors before the sun heated everything up outside.  You see, I grew up in the Coachella Valley, famous for Palm Springs and its golf courses, but also infamous for its 120-degree heat.

My buddies and I loved most of the other early ‘90s childhood fads, like pogs, comic cards, and video games -- but I was the only one to actually seek out the source material for the TV show we all watched.

The name Jim Lee didn't mean a whole lot to me back then, and even now I admit my fandom of his work with some trepidation. Early ‘90s comics, especially those drawn by Jim Lee, developed a reputation as being over-the-top -- crossover storylines with bombastic dialogue and exaggerated physiques. However, I defend it on the grounds that it worked for its core audience: young boys.

My dad was not a comic book fan, but he always supported my interests.  Driving me to the one comic shop in our small town of Cathedral City, he warned me that he would only give me a few bucks to spend on this new hobby.  I remember him waiting for me while I went inside to find something I liked. I looked through the X-Men stacks and came across X-Men #1; the characters looked just like the Saturday cartoons. When I took it home and pulled it out of its sleeve, I knew I had found a treasure. The fold out poster/cover was awesome: Wolverine, Cyclops, Rogue, Gambit, Storm, Colossus, Jean Grey, Beast and the Professor battling Magneto. The interior posters were also beautifully intriguing: the X-Men by the pool and another that featured some of the X-Men in simplistic suits as "A Blast from the Past."   These images are scratched indelibly into my childhood memory.

X-Men #1 began a slow and painful process of collecting for me -- painful because I was a kid with no money; and comic book collecting was an expensive habit.  I would ultimately settle on collecting comic cards, since I could buy more at a time and trade for ones I wanted.  It was much easier than getting comic books (Remember the Marvel Masterpieces collection? They are still gorgeous).

However, that first Jim Lee and Chris Claremont collaboration sparked a curiosity about the entire X-Men saga that later led me to explore the work by Jack Kirby, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne. It also allowed me to discover the fantastic work of Neal Adams, which would draw me into the Batman world as well. So, even though many comic fanboys look down on that early ‘90s work, I am forever grateful for its ability to capture the imagination of a small Mexican-American kid from Southern California.

Edgar Hermosillo teaches world history and European history at a high school in Los Angeles. He is still an avid comic book collector and reader.