Next came the hard part. Waiting. I'm sure it was only a few weeks, but it seemed like months before a big honkin' envelope with a giant Steranko Hulk face showed up (complete with address sticker in the Hulk's mouth!). I got home for school one sunny spring day, and it was lying on that fateful kitchen table waiting for me. I ripped it open...and entered comicbook heaven!
The Jim Steranko poster featuring a plethora of Marvel heroes (and the Black Widow, too) completely blew my mind. It took a few minutes to recover from that, then I signed my golden membership card, spread out the stickers and spent a few minutes figuring out where I was gonna stick 'em (all over my room, it turned out), and then I sat down and cracked open the cover of the first issue of FOOM Magazine. Smiling Stan Lee welcomed me on the cover, and then I dove in. An intro by Steranko filled me in on what FOOM was all about. There were pics and bios of several Marvel Bullpenners. An illustrated history of the Fantastic Four (I'd never seen so much as a panel of the first ish before that fateful afternoon) illuminated the dawn of the Marvel Age for me. I belonged. Officially. I'd always felt like a Marvelite anytime I read a Marvel comic, but now I had a badge to prove it.
Next day at school, I showed it off to my friends. They all "ooohed" and "ahhhhed" over it. A few even talked their folks into letting them join.
I kept my membership going for the better part of the next four years. I even renewed once and got a brand new set of stickers, poster, and envelope. For 17 glorious issues, I knew what to look forward to when I got to the spinner rack before most any of my friends. I knew to be on the lookout for a new Red Guardian in the Defenders. I knew to watch the racks for new superheroes like Nova and Ms. Marvel. I even had the heads up about the first Marvel Super-Special starring KISS before the TV news unleashed the story.
FOOM magazine actually ran for 22 quarterly issues. It was a whole lot like an extended Marvel letters page crossed with an extended Bullpen Page, each issue running 36 pages and filled with art (unused and preview), news, comics history, interviews, games, puzzles, mini-posters, ads for cool Marvel Comics memorabilia (like bronze pendants, Spider-Man record albums, and posters), and even contests, like the (in)famous "Create a Character" contest where the winning character didn't appear in a comic 'til about 30 years after the contest ended.
It was wild, wacky, fun, and frivolous, just like all Marvel Comics. But it was also a rite of passage into fandom. For those of us who lived hundreds of miles away from any comics convention, FOOM was it for us.