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Back before the term body dysmorphic disorder was coined, it was perfectly all right to obsess over every imperfection in one’s countenance brought about by the chaos of puberty and the resultant heartbreak of acne. Paragon-like beauty could be had thanks to a hypodermic looking device advertised in comic books. Correctly applied, the device would just suck away unsightly adolescent blemishes. I wonder how many hours teenagers spent before a bathroom mirror battling the onslaught of open comedones so that they might display a visage of utter perfection the next day in school.

The ad for the blackhead remover ran for years but I scanned this one from issue No. 18 of The Silver Surfer published by Marvel Comics in 1970. My older brother probably picked it up from a drug store or newsstand, read it and threw it at me. It’s been in my collection ever since, and it’s a little worse for wear because I pored over it obsessively.

I was 7 or 8 years old at the time, and I guess what I miss about comics is picking up a comic and having no idea who any of the characters were but being desperately curious of who they were and why they were doing what they were doing. All kids were familiar with the characters in Batman and Spider-Man thanks to the TV shows which were in constant reruns on UHF at the time, but the Silver Surfer and The Inhumans were all new to me. I remember being confused by the storyline but very excited by the newness of it all. It was drawn by the great Jack Kirby at the height of his powers. I was pulled in by the incredible art of King Kirby who was really cutting loose and making it all up as his pencil hit the paper.

As I said I flipped through this comic over and over again memorizing every panel. This was before cable and video games so what else was there but reruns on TV and comicbooks for entertainment? Kirby was trying to fill every panel with as much of his trademarked brilliance as he could. This throwaway detail of a fleeing, fish-eyed, minor Inhuman has stuck in my head for years.

Another series of images I always loved is the page below depicting the scheming malefactor Maximus’ transition from grim amusement to mad laughter. A lot has been written about Jack Kirby, and I can’t really add anything new or original to what’s been said about his art, but in 1970, I didn’t know who he was and I was immediately in the thrall of his lunatic energy. This static comic had more kinetic movement than the sadly produced cartoons I was watching on television at the time. This was my gateway drug for a lifelong addictive love of comics and Jack got me hooked!

Back then, I always hated comics that ended as a cliffhanger. I dreaded the three words TO BE CONTINUED because I doubted that I would be able to find the follow-up. I’d never know how the story ended. I didn’t know at the time that continuing stories were the hook and part of the fun of comics. This story in this issue of The Silver Surfer seemed to resolve itself within one comic-book, but the metallic surfboard guy is really miffed at the end, and I remember not understanding why at the time.

I think later writers who handled and mishandled the Surfer took their notes from pages and moments like this and turned the character into a wandering whiner. I never read a Silver Surfer comic that was as much fun as this one that was loaded to the gills with bombast and action. Wasn’t that what comics are all about? Battling it out with baddies? The sermons about man’s inhumanity to man got tedious. The Surfer seems to have forgotten that he was a personal assistant to a guy who ate planets. Big baby! If he felt that way, why didn’t he let the big purple guy eat us?

Great page though.

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