Ah, summertime. Such freedom. Especially when you’re a kid.
UPDATED 7/12/22: It’s July and it’s the thick of summer! Perfect time to grab the sunscreen — and re-present this 2018 ode to the best time of year to be a kid. — Dan
If you’re close to my age — hell, even if you’re not — your summers were probably a lot like mine: a lot of swimming, sweating, baseball, running around, riding bikes, burning your feet on the sand, staying up later and later, chasing the ice-cream man. And comic books. Lots and lots of comic books.
Pretty much the stuff I loved all year long took on a special hue in the summertime, when everything seems brighter, vibrant and more exciting, looser and more relaxing.
It is full-on summer, folks, so here’s my sunburned look back at THE JOYS OF SUMMER: 13 GREAT COMICS MEMORIES:
Stacks of Back Issues. I loved going out to play ball. I loved going to the beach and the pool. But I also loved sitting in the air conditioning, happy in my own company and reading a big stack of comics. For whatever reason, I particularly remember going through my collection of ’60s Batman back issues. (I didn’t call them Silver Age comics yet.) There are so many great ones to remember, in all their colorful go-go glory. Want to see a gallery of some of the best? Click here to check out CARMINE INFANTINO’s 13 GREATEST BATMAN COVERS — RANKED.
Pool Comics. I freely admit I stole this idea from podcaster extraordinaire and 13th Dimension columnist Rob Kelly. He has a special podcast dedicated to what he calls Mountain Comics — issues he remembers reading while spending summers in the Poconos with his family. (I even paid a visit to talk about Teen Titans #51. Listen here, if you like.) As it happens, there are a bunch of comics I remember reading by the pool when I was a kid and they stayed with me because of it. We’re talking Batman issues by Len Wein and Irv Novick; some classic The Brave and the Bold by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo; and my all-time fave JLA-JSA crossover. Last year, I even wrote a whole post about them and why those comics are so special. Click here to check it out. I think you’ll dig it.
Len Wein’s Batman. This deserves its own entry, actually. I was 12 in the spring and summer of 1979 and it was the first time I made the point to buy comics as they came out every month. This was the thick of Len Wein’s run on Batman and the six issues that came out had an enormous impact on me. They featured a great line-up of villains — Calendar Man, Two-Face, Kite Man, Crazy Quilt and the Riddler, and devoted a lot of space to a burgeoning romance between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. (Hey, it’s summertime and they have a wedding coming up!) The two peak summer issues had Robin back from college for vacation — another fun summer angle. (Click here a deeper look at these issues.)
JLA-JSA Crossovers. Another one that deserves its own entry: DC’s Justice League-Justice Society crossovers were like the comic-book equivalent of a trip to the boardwalk or amusement park: plenty of color and excitement — only a whole lot cheaper.
Spider-Man. There’s nothing inherently “summer” about watching the 1967 Spidey cartoons but I equate the two nonetheless. I think part of it is that as a kid, I didn’t see it as much during the school year because it was often on before I got home. (That’s my recollection, anyway.) That and my son and I would watch the DVD set together when he was little, air conditioner humming in the background. (He also considers Spidey a summer hero because he often works in the daytime like Superman.)
Aquaman. I used to imagine I was Aquaman when I went to the beach. I would fight imaginary seaweed monsters and punch the powerful, angry surf until I was exhausted. Never did find a gigantic seahorse, though.
Mego Madness. I always took advantage of the freedom that summer brings. I’d set up my Mego Batcave on the family-room floor and play to my heart’s content. In true Batman ’66 fashion, I’d leave Batman and Robin in a death trap overnight — and begin the next day with them getting out of the jam that the Joker, or the Riddler, or the Penguin or Catwoman — or some combination thereof — put them in.
The Magic of ’77. The summer of 1977 was a helluva year. Star Wars came out at the end of May — I was there opening weekend — and the latest James Bond flick, The Spy Who Loved Me, came out in July. I remember alternating between playing Batman, Star Wars, baseball and Bond and back again. As Bond, I would run around in the summer heat with a navy blazer over my shoulder-holstered pellet gun — and shorts.
Star Trek at 19. I was a late bloomer on Star Trek. It bored me as a kid, I’m embarrassed to say. But it was on late at night on WPIX during my first summer home after starting college and I fell hard. It became appointment TV and from that point on, I was a convert. I would make a big bowl of Chex mix from scratch and settle in. Afterward, I would watch this insane televangelist named Rev. Robert Tilton, who would get so whipped up he’d start speaking in tongues. (Google him.) Of course, he was a charlatan — but he was a really entertaining charlatan. That has nothing to do with Star Trek per se, but I’ll always make that connection.
Mr. Freeze. You’d think that my favorite summer Batman ’66 episode would be something like Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under! because, y’know, beach. You’d be wrong. My favorite is Season 1’s Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese, which introduced us to Mr. Freeze, played by George Sanders. For one thing, there’s the idea of Mr. Freeze threatening Gotham in July, as Commissioner Gordon incredulously exclaims. More than that though, there was his super-air-conditioned mountain hideout and the device that turned parts of the lair red (to keep things warm for henchmen and captured heroes) or blue (for Mr. Freeze himself). I live in an old house without central air, so when I move from the frigid living room to the roasting hallway, I feel like I’m moving around Dr. Shivel’s HQ. (Click here for more on this fine episode.)
Slurpee Cups. Few things say summer like crippling BRAIN FREEZE!!! And few things say summer for comics fans like crippling BRAIN FREEZE!!! that comes in plastic cups featuring an incredible array of characters, from Batman to Dr. Strange’s gal pal Clea to Ma Kent. (Click here for a tour of the Slurpee cups of yore. It’ll make you run to the closest 7-11. Promise.)
Baseball. You probably don’t know this because I almost never write about it but I loved baseball as much as I loved comics — perhaps even more so at times. I watched the Yankees on Channel 11, listened to them on the radio, zealously played table-top games like Statis-Pro Baseball and begged my Mom or Dad to take me to games. I spent hours at Lafayette School playing a suburban version of stickball in Highland Park, N.J., with my friends, threw a baseball-shaped rubber ball tirelessly against my front steps — bashing in our screen door in the process — and, of course, played Little League.
One year, I even went to baseball camp. The Steroid Era pretty much gutted my love of the game about 12 years ago but I’ve rediscovered it again the last couple years. It helps that the Yankees are really exciting again. What does this have to do with comics? Very little. Except that two of my favorite baseball collectibles as a kid were a pair of mini-comics I got at Carvel that were “written” by Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle. Did I mention I also love Carvel? It’s my favorite!
Biking Into Adulthood. In a sense, the last summer of my childhood was when I was 14. I was old enough to get up early on a summer Saturday morning, hop on my bike and ride 2.2 miles to the U.S. #1 Flea Market in New Brunswick. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Except it was a remarkably hazardous ride that forced me at one point to hoist my bike on my shoulder and climb a steep rocky incline and at another to cross a 100-foot-high bridge alongside deadly high-speed traffic. All to get to the stall that sold comics, new and old. I’d spend all afternoon there, hanging out, debating the New Teen Titans vs. the X-Men, hear guys talk about that Frank Miller guy and have the best fresh-cut French fries ever, in a brown paper bag with malt vinegar and salt. We moved at the end of the summer and my life moved deeper into teenagehood and beyond.
But all these memories remain — and I get to revisit them, year after year.
— How ADAM WEST, NEAL ADAMS and MEGO Made Me a Lifelong BATMAN Fan. Click here.
— The Original BATCOPTER’s 2019 Summer Tour is Here. Click here.
July 1, 2018
Good times, good times…
July 2, 2018
I used to make that trek to the US1 market from Elizabeth. Almost as scary in a car.
July 3, 2018
Ha! Man, I miss that place…
July 6, 2018
Very nice.Universal childhood memories.
July 11, 2018
I was probably listening in on one or more of those conversations at the old U.S. #1 back in the day! A lot of great stuff here. I wrote a couple blogposts on those classic JLA-JSA crossovers myself– one here:
And an epic, all-time countdown here:
Keep up the good work!
July 12, 2018
I miss that place! Thanks for the kind words…
July 17, 2018
you stoked up a few parallel memories for me with this one.
biking the long trek to the comic shop.
mushy fries w malt vin & salt and a wooden spork YUM!
so much trek we knew all the lines.
playing with megos as a little kid, i was addicted to those.
and the first comic i remember had something to do with the death of ferro lad. might’ve been drawn by Mike Grell. im still hunting for it.
July 17, 2018
July 24, 2018
Sounds like the comic you’re looking for is Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #206. Should be available online relatively cheap; mycomicshop.com has copies for less than two bucks.
June 26, 2020
Great article– I have a lot of the same recollections. I used to buy silver age Batman comics from a local flea market and they’d be mint condition and a buck a piece– I did call them silver age comics but I don’t know if I knew I was living in the bronze age– those were just new comics to me.
June 27, 2020
As a child of the 1970’s myself , I enjoyed reading your post !! I always like to read articles about how people first got into Comics and such !! ( I especially like it when , as yours does , it involves my own favorite era of Pop Culture !! ) I even write a weekly column based on this era for Z News !!
June 1, 2021
WPIX could get its own entry here as far as I’m concerned, being able – in the summer – to stay up and watch The Honeymooners and then The Twilight Zone (11:30 and midnight). Spot on all around; to this day I vividly recall the comics that came out summers 1984 through 1987 in particular, with specific memories attached to each one.
June 1, 2021
Thanks for this write-up. I definitely associate summer with comic books. Particularly our family vacations to Goose Rocks Beach in Maine. The spinner rack at the convenience store up the road had a spinner rack that kept current comics, but also seemed to have older comics mixed in. I fondly think of picking up older stuff like Perez Avengers (1st appearance of Taskmaster!), and then-current Mike Zeck Captain America and Byrne FF. And of course, annuals were always a treat, like the classic Marvel Two-in-One issue with all the “strong guys” boxing against the Champion. These were issues I’d pour over with a Twinkie in our rented cabin, or the back seat of the station wagon. Fond memories indeed.
July 12, 2022
As a devout Marvel kid, summer meant annuals, and even though they very quickly became all-reprint and I had the originals, I bought them anyway
July 14, 2022
As kids who grew up in the same era, you and I shared a lot of interests. I do remember that summer of ’77. Must have seen Star Wars and The Spy Who Loved Me a half dozen times each. I still get crap for saying Roger Moore is my favorite James Bond, but hey, he was the one I grew up with! I was thrilled whenever ABC ran Live and Let Die as “Movie of the Week,” which wasn’t often enough as far as I was concerned. The Connery ones were great, too, but I loved the most recent stuff more. And Star Wars… nuff said! It blew all of our minds.
I was more a Marvel kid than DC, but those comic covers you posted are very nostalgic. Thanks for posting your memories.
July 14, 2022
Great piece, Dan. Makes me want to quit working and go throw a Spalding (or nameless pink sponge ball) against the school wall.