Martinex1: The calendar may not say Summer has started yet, but the kids are out of school and the neighborhood is filled with the sounds of basketballs bouncing, the squeals from trampolines and pools, the sing-song of ice cream truck tunes, and the bursts of firecrackers.
I have always enjoyed June and remember the childhood joy of waking up with no cares, wolfing down a bowl of Fruit Loops and slamming through the screen door to get outside for another day of whiffle ball, street hockey, eating snow cones, and firefly catching. I clearly remember sticking my paper route money into the elastic of my knee-high tube socks and sprinting across the four-lane intersection to the corner drug store to look for the latest comics on the spinner rack.
And it was around this time of year that the Annuals started appearing. Not one, but TWO issues of The Avengers on the rack at the same time! Big thick 50 cent editions of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, and Marvel Two-In-One were there also! I quickly decided to skip the blue-raspberry Slushee, Marathon Bar, and Bottle Caps and get as many comics as I could.
Annuals did not always contain the best scripted stories or the usual art team, but there was something magical about them. The first annual I purchased with my own money was Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11. It contained a rather pedestrian story about a trio of stuntmen hired to wear spider-like super-suits to take on our beloved Peter Parker. It contained some of the first artwork of John Romita Jr. and to this day I still wait for those rather weak villains to make another appearance. I must have read that issue thirty times that month. It is strange how much I remember about that book from the venom tipped rapier to the scene with Mary Jane repeating her lines as a movie extra, "Peas and carrots. Peas and carrots."
Another favorite of mine was Avengers Annual #9. I picked that one up at a 7-11 in Colorado on a family vacation road trip on the way to the Grand Tetons. The convenience store was adjacent to a KOA Campground where we stayed for a night, and my brother and I were out exploring. This one had Don Newton art and the tale of Arsenal, a doomsday type robot, living in the sub-basements of Avengers Mansion. I read that comic until the cover fell off. I remember getting scolded by my Dad because I was reading in the back seat of the car instead of enjoying the majestic mountain scenery of the American west. Decades later I replaced that issue with a much less worn copy from Doug's ebay offerings. Others may say that the best Avengers Annual was #7 with the Thanos showdown or #10 with the Michael Golden art, but this one is all about nostalgia for me so it remains my favorite.