So I'm sure there were comic books at Grandma's, and that is probably where I first encountered them. What I do remember is being immediately hooked. I remember being as young a 6 and scouring yard sales for comics. You could pick them up for a penny or a nickel apiece.
By the time I was 10 or 11 I know I was using allowance money to buy new comics off the spinner racks at 7-11's, drugstores and supermarkets. By the time I was in 6th grade, I was collecting. I started counting how many I had. Milestones were reached. 100, 200, 500 comics! In Middle School I would get $1 for lunch most days from my mom. I would forego the second milk (a big deal for a chubby kid) so I could get 32 cents change back. New comics were at 30 cents each by then. I know I was buying new ones at 25 cents, and remember reading an article in the back of a DC comic about the price increase. Anyway, with tax a new comic was 32 cents. I could sometimes buy as many as 5 comics a week with my lunch money change!
My earliest interest was in Batman, fueled by my devotion to the Adam West series. But the Batman in the early to late 70's comics was not like the TV show. He was better. Bigger, smarter, serious. A true detective. Often Batman would pull out a flashlight in a dark room. But his flashlight was much cooler than any I had ever seen. It was the size of a small cigar. It was bright. No one had flashlights like that in the 70's. Today everyone has tiny little LED flashlights. When I was a kid though, that tiny little flashlight was the coolest thing I ever saw.
The art in Batman was just astounding. Never has that period been matched for quality, beauty, and the ability to move a story forward at just the right pace. Neal Adams stood at the top of all the artists who drew Batman.
Adams' pencils and Dick Giordano's inks defined the look of Batman for me. Only one other artist ever came close to matching the quality, and because he produced such a quantity, Jim Aparo is definitely my favorite Batman artist of all time. I would buy books I really didn't care for (Batman and the Outsiders) just because Jim Aparo did the art.
Years later I discovered through fan magazines that Aparo was a triple threat artist. He only worked on books where he could pencil, ink and letter the whole issue. Creative, talented and consistent, Aparo's art became a permanent part of my inner world. His faces were perfect. His musculature precise. The streets, buildings, rooms were not just background, they were part of the story, and they were rendered perfectly.
At some point in the late 70's I began earnestly collecting, determined with each trip my family made into town that I had money in my pocket so I could pick up the next issue. When I could not find an issue, I would volunteer to go into town with mom or dad at every opportunity, in the hopes of finding a store that did not send their unsold comics back so quickly, and thereby score a back issue to fill in a hole in my collection. Back then comics were almost always sold on "spinner racks" at the 7-11, drugstore, G.C. Murphy's, Woolworth's, or supermarket. I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a store devoted only to comic books. I would discover my first comic book store in 1979...