Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The X-Men Visit the State Fair

It may be hard to believe but there was a time when I had never read a comic book. But there is a first time for everything and my first comic was a doozy. 1983 gave the world Dexy's Midnight Runners, Scarface and the so-called Video Game Crash of '83.

But more importantly for me, 1983 was the year I finally got my grubby little hands on the first comic book I ever read: "The Uncanny X-Men at the State Fair of Texas."
Sure it might not be Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns but it had one thing that those two groundbreaking comics didn't...accessibility.

Now I'm not talking about being bogged down with continuity or mega-crossover nonsense. I'm talking about physical accessibility. This issue came as a free supplement to the (now defunct) Dallas Times Herald newspaper. There's nothing better than having your first comic delivered right to your door.

Another accessible element for a seven year old super hero enthusiast residing in rural Texas was the setting: The State Fair of Texas. And to date, it's the only fair visited by the Uncanny X-Men.

Written by Jim Salicrup (plot) and David Kraft (script), with art by Kerry Gammil & Alan Kupperberg (pencils) and Chic Stone (inks), the story is a pretty basic X-Men tale. Magneto is trying to recruit a young mutant in Dallas and Professor Xavier and the X-Men must race to stop him. So off to the fair they go.

Even though they are in a rush to find the new mutant they seem to find time to hit the fair's highlights including the Auto Show, Hall of State, Age of Steam Museum and a concert performance by Lena Horne. Even at a young age I recall thinking of it as a bit of a hard sell:

As much as the X-Men were plugging the the sights, sounds and tastes of the fair to the reader, Magneto was pushing membership to the Brotherhood to the young mutant Daniel (a.k.a. "Eques"). It seems that Daniel's mutant power allows him to turn halfway into a horse with wings (I forget what that's called).

Magneto's plan to woo the young horse boy involves filling him up with corn dogs and cotton candy and treating him to the Texas/OU game at the Cotton Bowl where the X-Men finally catch up to him.

Their fight spills over into the horse barns where Magneto reveals his true douchey colors and Daniel realizes he's been manipulated by smooth talking and deep fried treats. Daniel joins forces with the X-Men along with another new friend who helps give Magneto the boot.

So while Daniel doesn't immediately sign up for X-duty we can assume that everything works out for him and the fair continued with a minimum of super powered altercations.

So like I said, while it's your standard "race to recruit a new mutant before Magneto does" X-Men story, the best part of reading an older comic like this is the advertisements. Since this had a regional audience in mind most of the ads were for local businesses. To make them more "comic booky," a crudely drawn Spider-Man (or Hulk) was typically crammed into each ad. Here are just a few:

My first comic and I were separated over the last few decades but were recently reunited via eBay. And while the influence of nostalgia has probably colored my perception, I still had a good time rereading it. It's definitely not the best comic book I ever read but it holds a special place in the long box of my heart. And more importantly it was a first step toward developing a love of reading through comics.