Blame Brian Donahue, a childhood friend and the only other kid at the Linscott-Rumford Elementary School in the late 1970s and early 1980s who collected comic books. Brian would occasionally pass duplicate or unwanted items from his collection onto me.
One of those castoffs was Marvel Two-in-One #48, featuring Ben Grimm, the Yancy Street Gang, and Jack of Hearts taking on Machinesmith and his army of robot duplicates — pretty much the platonic ideal of a Bronze Age era Marvel story. It was my first encounter with Jack Hart and his baroque taste in costuming, and I thought the character’s playing card and “OH NO! MY POWER CAN’T BE CONTROLLED!” motifs were pretty cool.
Five years later, I attended my first comic book convention. I was there with my uncle and my younger brother, both of who were far more serious collectors than I was at the time. While they hunted down bargains, I killed time by flipping through the various dealers’ quarter bins. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular that day, but I did come across an old issue of Marvel Premiere featuring a Jack of Hearts solo story, and twenty five cents was a small price to pay for rekindling a fond memory of my primary school days.
The purchase set a pattern for later cons, and over time I assembled a respectable run of Jack’s appearances on the cheap. Nostalgia and the sheer goofiness of the character may have been initial allure, but somewhere along the way, I ended up developing a sincere affection for the poor guy. (There’s also a certain satisfaction in publicly championing such an object of fan ridicule.)
Don’t let the snarky tone of my Nobody’s Favorites posts fool you; I’ve always been a sucker for weird and obscure z-listers, and characters like Jack are the spice that gives shared superhero universes their flavor.
(While I’d prefer another half-dozen root canals to a job writing superhero comics, I would not turn down a chance to write a Jack of Hearts story if asked. Y’know, just in case anyone from Marvel happens to read this post. My email is up there in the sidebar.)