Tony Wolf is an actor, voice-over artist, and illustrator in New York City. He co-hosts a pop-culture podcast (theactionroom.com) and will be drawing an upcoming webcomic written by Flash Gordon and Casper writer Brendan Deneen. Tony talks in-depth about his introduction to comics during the Bronze Age, and then his nostalgia for really getting into collecting during the Copper Age…
Tony: My mother would get me some digest comics to keep me occupied while she drove me all around town with her on various shopping trips, running errands, etc. I remember lots of little Archie digests and a few of the early ‘70s DC Comics digests where they reprinted old All-Star Comics, Justice Society stuff, and one digest in particular which reprinted a bunch of DC’s Super Friends comic books (which contained both Super Friends stories and some ‘60s and ‘70s Justice League stories).
I also remember some Legion of Super-Heroes digests from way back then, as well as some reprints of classic Joe Kubert Hawkman stories. This was when I was anywhere from 5 to 10 years-old, I think. I loved these books and devoured ‘em. I also remember getting those odd reprints of the first thirty or so issues of Ditko’s Spider-Man (I say “odd” because they were digest-sized, but yet much more shaped like a regular small paperback book than the typical “square” digest format). Those first Spider-Man stories were a revelation.
I remember Marvel’s over-sized books. I had a bunch of those before I got into real comics collecting — I remember Herb Trimpe Hulk stories being reprinted in those, DC “Heroes vs. Villains” collection (complete with classic cover of all the heroes lined up on the left side and villains on the right), and I think I had the Superman / Muhammad Ali treasury edition too.
I also was an artist as a kid, and was constantly drawing comic book and cartoon characters, just drawing non-stop. My older brother was a talented artist and I may have started emulating him a bit. But all these little reprints and digests were before I went real hardcore into comics.
Another thing that contributed to my interest in comics and superheroes was the endless stream of (new and rerun) cartoons available to a kid in the mid to late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Bugs Bunny, Mighty Mouse, Speed Racer, Courageous Cat & Minute Mouse(!), Popeye, the Plastic Man cartoon, Herculoids, Thundarr the Barbarian, the Tarzan cartoon, Robotech, Star Blazers (LOVED that show intensely), Super Friends (which later became Super Powers), those old Filmation Aquaman, The Atom, Hawkman and Flash cartoons (instrumental in introducing kids to DC’s B- and C-list characters), the wonderful and bizarre Ralph Bakshi Spider-Man cartoons made in the late ‘60s, and the Marvel cartoons that were those overly simplistic Jack Kirby drawings which had an arm or leg move here or there (jokingly referred to here as “the first motion comics”).
Also, the great Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four cartoons — which featured pretty literal retellings of early Lee / Kirby FF stories, like Dr. Doom in the pirate era, something like Kang in ancient Egypt, if I recall correctly, etc. The early ‘80s FF cartoon with Herbie the Robot in lieu of the Human Torch was also fun.
I think any kid who was remotely into fun genre entertainment like I’ve listed above would also have been into the Godzilla movies, which played over and over in local NYC and Long Island TV stations. Add to that anything remotely sci-fi or monster-related.
And then, of course, the phenomenon that hit countless young kids in 1977 — a little thing called “Star Wars”. Although not (initially) a comic book, of course, the adventure / pulp / comic sensibility was undeniable, and any child who was into that sort of stuff was going to fall in love with Star Wars.