Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Comic Reader Résumé Podcast #19

(February 1986)


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ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey] noun 1. a summing up; summary. 2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.
In Comic Reader Résumé, I use Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to travel back through time via his virtual newsstand to the genesis point of my lifelong collecting of comics. From there, I can offer a “work history” of my fandom through my active purchasing of (relatively) new comic books beginning in January of 1982, when my interest in the medium went from sporadic and unformed to routine on through compulsive accumulation. To streamline the narrative and keep the subjects at least remotely contemporaneous, I will not generally be discussing what we call back issues: books bought long after their publication date. Sometimes, I will cover a book published on a given month that I picked up within a year or so that date, and I give myself an especially wide berth on this aspect in the first couple of “origins” episodes. We’ll get more rigidly on point as my memories crystallize and my “hobby” spirals out of control into the defining characteristic of my life (eventually outpacing squalor and competing neuroses.) It’s part personal biography, part industry history, and admittedly totally self-indulgent on my part.

This episode includes Elfquest #10, Elvira's House of Mystery #3, Fury of Firestorm #47, G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #47, Legend of Wonder Woman, Marvel Saga: the Official History of the Marvel Universe #6, Meet Misty #4, The Punisher #5, Secret Origins #2, Thundercats #4, Uncanny X-Men #205, Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, X-Factor #4, and more!

“Transcripts” Blue Devil, DC Comics, Elvira, Firestorm, G.I. Joe, House of Mystery, Marvel Comics, Misty, Punisher, Secret Origins, Star Wars, Superman, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Thundercats, X-Factor, X-Men, Comic Reader Résumé

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Comic Reader Résumé: February, 1986

Deluxe Comics Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was like a mid-80s Image Exodus contained in one book. Where else could you get George Perez, Jerry Ordway, Dave Cockrum, Pat Broderick, Keith Giffen, Steve Ditko, Stan Drake, Murphy Anderson, Dan Adkins, and Rich Buckler between two covers? But also like Image, they couldn't get the book out on anything resembling a regular basis, and the Giffen one only lasted five issues. The penultimate issue had a February cover date, and I should point out February of 1986, since the first issue was November of 1984. I don't even think Continuity Comics released that sporadically. I didn't concern myself with that, mind, since I bought the run as back issues nearly a decade after that debut issue. I loved the material so much that it sent me on a back issue buying spree, not just of the Singer material, but everything-- Tower, Archie, that one black & white magazine JCP Features put out with the early Mark Texeira art. The one time I went to San Diego Comic Con, I spent some of my limited funds on low grade Silver Age back issues. And most importantly, to varying degrees I dug all of it, and would go on to follow most T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents material going forward. 

Hobgoblin was a cool looking villain, plus my brother got the imported Secret Wars action figure as a special from Foley's; Texas' version of Macy's. The combination may have inspired him to buy Amazing Spider-Man #276, the issue with the fake-out reveal that Flash Thompson was the villain.

 I'm pretty sure the phrase "I'm liking this Joe Brozowski art" has been used sparingly in human existence, and the Mike Machlan inks certainly helped, but I liked looking at the Fury of Firestorm #47 a lot better than the Blue Devil side of the crossover. I guess it was just more on-model and clean. We're in the last year of Gerry Conway's run, and I don't think this period is especially well regarded, so it's maybe the last entertaining yarn before his checking out. I think for reasons beyond my control, this was the end of my Blue Devil collecting in this time period. I believe my flea market source had simply dried up, although I've mentioned my interest waning as well. I might have gotten one or two more out of cheapie bins, but I specifically recall rejecting the extra-sized $1.25 final issue at a mall bookstore.

I'm not sure how many or which issues of the four-part Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series I flipped through at the mall bookstore. What I do know is that it was a brief Golden Age revival and a stopgap between the Pre- & Post-Crisis ongoing series. Also, I couldn't make heads or tails of the giddy nonsense, and with Misty's Trina Robbins doing an H.G. Peter riff, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #6 cover-featured Iron Man, Iceman, and Ka-Zar, indicating a month of Mort to moi. It started things off with a John Byrne Human Torch, but I found only the draw-er to be a draw. Moody Zeck Hydra was more to my liking. The Imperial Guard entry was intriguing to me because of Phoenix: The Untold Story and those Cockrum Legion wardrobe leftovers. Otherwise, there were way too many obscurities and plainclothes folk to hold my interest, and seemingly most of the artists'.

Denys Cowan acquitted himself better on the third Elvira's House of Mystery, a close-up of her blowing smoke out of the barrel of a six-shooter with a cactus in the background. Yes, just as last issue was a transparent ploy to burn off leftover Weird War Tales material, this one is pushing out Weird Western Tales inventory. As I recollect, as with #2, I got this one cheap at Marauder Books in 1989. I have much stronger memories of this one though, probably helped by the Stan Woch art in the bridging sequences that also incorporated her into the first story, by Robert Kanigher and Angel Trinidad Jr. "Ballad of Hanging Rock" had a lot of violence, some near nudity, and a bit of combined sexualized violence besides. Kanigher was, after all, the Sam Peckinpah of comics. On second glance, I spoke too soon about repurposed inventory, as the second Kanigher tale also firmly integrates Elvira, and is a proper horror story involving corrupt global figures taking an elevator to Hell to be tortured in the nude by the devil. It actually isn't much of a story, but Jesus "Jess" Joldloman, another Filipino artist, makes it visually arresting. There's also stronger hints of a subplot, so I figure it for the best issue so far.

G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #47 continued the book's hot streak with the Larry Hama / Rod Whigham / Mike Zeck team, involving tons of action and a lot of action figures being carried around on stretchers. Also, there's a fakeout where Baroness appears to gun down Storm Shadow, and G.I. Joe was the kind of book where that could actually happen.

While still telling founding X-Men puberty stories, at least Brent Anderson's cover to Marvel Saga the Official History of the Marvel Universe #6 kicks it up a notch by threatening to lynch Cyclops and Iceman. Or promising to hang them. I'm good either way. We also get the origin story of creepy ol' Puppet Master, and some Walt Simonson Surter action. Next was my first encounter with Tony Stark's origin story, and I'd forgotten just how much of the first Iron Man tale had made it into that issue. Definitely my introduction to the origin that would eventually launch the MCU.

 I want to say my brother or I had a copy of Marvel Tales Starring Spider-Man #187, a reprint of an early Kraven the Hunter story drawn by John Romita, but it didn't exactly etch itself into my brain... unlike the cover to Omega Men #38. You see, they statted that cover into an issue of Son of Ambush Bug when they trapped the villainous Interferer in the last issue of that misbegotten series to end his nuisance. The actual comic means nothing to me, just the bit.

The Punisher #5 of a retroactive five issue run offered another Zeck/Zimmerman cover as part of an iconic series, but the interiors take a substantial downturn. Where #4 clearly ran out of space to tell its story, #5 is just as obviously padded to full length by guest scripter Jo Duffy and new, much worse layout artist Mike Vosberg. I know the trains were more likely to run on time at Jim Shooter's Marvel Comics, but a case can be made for allowing the book to run later and keep the entire bestselling creative team intact. It's actually a solid conclusion, although the forced Don Siegel moral ambiguity doesn't make a ton of sense. There's a bunch of people the Punisher should just be killing, and doesn't, but I liked the bit with the dog.

Secret Origins #2 was another issue to be tossed through at a mall bookstore before getting put back. I'd seen ads featuring Blue Beetle in old Charlton Comics, and he was in the one issue of COIE that I'd read. Like the Gil Kane art, I thought Beetle looked okay, but plainly out of date. The yellow goggles in particular were off-putting, but I also wasn't into the blue-on-blue color scheme with the big bug design on the chest. Finally, the issue really focused on the Golden Age Beetle with a fin on his head, and yeah, no.

Superman #419 was one of those books I'd see in the quarter bin in 1989. It leaned hard into Satanic panic, with the Man of Steel trapped in a pentagram while a Luciferian villain cackled outside its reach. Even Ed Barreto couldn't dump cold water on that heat with his cover, but Curt Swan absolutely ice-bucketed it on the interior. I still wouldn't read that for a quarter.

I'm not 100% certain when I started spending time with my father's family, but if I triangulate via comic book, I'm leaning toward December of 1985. I didn't think we were living in the specific apartment where my half-brother, his half-brother, and a cousin descended upon my bedroom and utterly trashed it in short order, but it makes sense for that to be when I was given a small color television. That would have given enough time for my parents to almost immediately pawn and lose it that spring, and my lie about the color going out without my father having time to determine that we'd actually just replaced it with a second-hand black & white. Also, I had to have enough time to get acquainted with them for it to matter when I moved out of state in 1987, after about nine months of my stepfather soaking up unemployment checks after losing the best job he would ever have to Reaganomics. Plus, the whole reason this show had to switch from a quarterly to monthly format is to account for how many roughly contemporaneous comics were added to my collecting experience by my brother's greater means. Anyway, all this is to say that I did not buy Uncanny X-Men #205, despite a vague sense of having the chance once at my local 7-11. However, the fan favorite Barry Windsor Smith drawn Wolverine solo story that re-introduced Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers was still read by myself at about this time via lil' bro's copy.

The cover to Elfquest #10 is very familiar, but the Hanzel & Gretel style story is not, and ends at an awkward point that makes me think the source for this reprint had more pages to work with. I'm fairly certain that my brother had Star Wars #105, a striking mash-up of Cynthia Martin, Steve Leialoha, and Ken Steacy. However, it was also an issue spotlighting humanoid bugs, dread space pirates, and a slew of pink bunny rabbits. It's no wonder that when I saw Power of the Force figures at Circus World, I wondered why they was still making those, because Star Wars was long over.

Green Lantern #200 had a striking Walt Simonson cover with dozens of corpsmen at the main power battery on Oa, and was featured in a house ad. The interiors spark no memories, and I think I even missed it when I went back to collect much of this run during its COIE tie-in issues. Even if I bothered to toss through this issue at a mall bookstore, I doubt I would have gotten much past all these Silver Age goofus villains drawn by Joe Staton.

Sectaurs #6 continues to look way better than a relative flop of a toy line deserves to, kind of like how the figures themselves were of exceptional quality, but still couldn't connect to an audience. I know the cover and recognize bits of the interiors, but the story was a miss overall.

Another month, another forgettable issue of X-Factor, fourth in a series. I seriously remember Frenzy's OHOTMU entry more than her debut story, and I didn't exactly memorize that either. Ah, the early tales of Artie and Rusty... how little I could care.

Comic Reader Résumé has always been a research heavy show, increasingly so, to the point that some portions are written more than a year in advance. Other portions, though, I only work on right before recording, and my aversion can even cause delays. For instance, the little note that I have to read Star Comics' Meet Misty #4 before progressing, so I read the first, took a nap, and now return for the second. It's a two-page gag showing off Aunt Millie's many '60s hairstyles from her modeling days, Niece Misty making fun of the oddity and effort, and then goes out to a new wave club with Spike, who's got a Cyndi Lauper circa She's So Unusual thing going on. Now, I was still a child with little context for modern fashion, and Trina Robbins was a sort of misfit straight-lace in the '70s underground scene doing a '50s girl comics revival while herself pushing 50. It's hard for me to set aside that now that I'm in the same age range that the writer-artist was then, that the joke she'd been building for two pages was at least two years out of date, and targeting an audience that would be keenly aware of that fact. I don't know if the young girls are still putting a silver rinse in their hair, and I'm pretty sure they're trying to bring lose rise jeans back, because I read millennial women who are warning them not to. Point being, I would have definitely vetted my gag with actual younglings before pulling a howdy-do fellow kids. By the way, the last millennials were born before The Phantom Menace, and are over a quarter-century old, so that reference was nostalgia from their earliest memories, you old.

The first story was about Misty missing her cast party, because a late teens soap opera actress was still expected to babysit. She chastised the twin boys for messing up some of her old and valuable comic books, including issues of Millie the Model and Elfquest, technically a Marvel comic at this point. In lieu of television or video games, Misty told them a story that was a lame mash-up of Cinderella and the Frog Prince, so she clearly couldn't read the room. In the end, her totally straight crush Ricky Martin brought the party to her, including a Billy Active album in place of the actual singer, who was back at the real party. It should be noted that despite being a fake Billy Idol, we hear the true lyrics to the chorus of "Rebel Yell" playing.

I was checking for creator cameos in the credits on the outfits in the stories and among the paper dolls, but the closest I got to recognizable names this time was Martha Thomases, writer of the short-lived and contemporaneous Dakota North series, as well as Barb Rausch, who would go on to write Marvel's Barbie series after assistive work on some well known indies. I was caught off guard by the Shirelle paper doll, because despite a cover appearance, she's not in any of the stories. There are a lot of kid-skewing ads in this issue recognizable to readers from this period, including a sport-themed M&M's illustration, the Spider-Man/Power Pack child sexual abuse PSA, the Challenge of the Go-Bots one where they're bursting out of a TV set, an Earl Norem painting for the Filmation He-Man cartoon, an equal time spot for the She-Ra cartoon, the Oreos trace maze to dunk a cookie in milk IN SPAAACE, the new Crest Pump attending a debut gala, and Madballs. A favorite was the offer of 50 comics adaptations of classic literature for just $14.95, obviously illustrated by a Philipine studio feeling the pinch now that Warren and Red Circle were out of business. Also, there's a bifurcated ad for The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera featuring Jetsons cartoons with a new toyetic pet on one side, and Galtar and the Golden Lance on the other. Both were syndication originals, and I doubt either crossed my eyes. Galtar was apparently a naked He-Man lift with a little too much sword & sandals in its DNA, looking more like Ray Harryhausen adventurer in a Blackstar or Thundaar scenario.

Okay, I guess I've put off the third story long enough. As part of the talent contest that got Misty on the soap and launched this comic series, she's also supposed to shoot a fashion spread for Heaventeen Magazine. Aunt Millie also got her modeling start at the same building in New York City, and accompanied Misty. It's decided that they want to do a mother-daughter style spread, and instead of bringing in another model, Misty volunteers her aunt. However, when word gets out that this is the Millie Collins, Misty gets sidelined, and fumes about it. In story, Millie's meant to have been twenty years retired, but for the record, her flagship title didn't end until 1973. Today, it's almost quaint to think a top model would ever look like Anna May Watson when she was surely younger than... well, Trina Robbins, for instance. Once you've managed to balance a daily diet of cocaine, cigarettes, and cucumber water, you either die young or get plastic surgery. You don't just shake off that level of body dysphoria, and we're not talking about some lesser light. Millie the Model was like Heidi Klum crossed with Cindy Crawford, and had more titles than Spider-Man. That's a special breed of cat that still tips paps to catch her doing bikini cartwheels in the sand at sixty, not serving as the Aunt May of a Star Comics teenybopper.

Anyway, Misty internalizes an uncharacteristic, Darlene Dunderbeck-like hissy fit over Aunt Millie hijacking her moment, but when Millie comes back nearly in tears with gratitude over the chance to revisit her heyday, Misty chills and bonds. Despite my grousing, I can see the appeal, especially for me as a Millie/Patsy Walker revival enthusiast. Millie was seriously at the center of an entire Marvel sub-universe of teen humor and romance books that should not be forgotten. But also, just two more to go, thank goodness. Unlike the Punisher, they announced six issues up front, and that's what we got.

I wouldn't have been able to resist flipping through The New Mutants #40 at the 7-11, with that BWS cover of Captain America belting Magneto with his... metal shield? I doubt Butch Guice being inked by Kyle Baker worked for me though, especially on a story featuring the mid-'80s Avengers. It's kind of a wonder that I don't hate Hercules and Sub-Mariner for all the limp appearances of that unit.

Thundercats #4 having the team fall prey to a "Ten Little Indians" scenario is almost cool enough to overcome the family friendly Jim Mooney art. There's even a cool anti-heroine and a baby riff on the Days of Future Past wanted posters.

V #16 came out of the '89 quarter bin, and had a nifty Jerry Bingham cover. Though Tony DeZuniga's inks went a long way toward making Carmine Infantino palatable, the big still came up well short from what I wanted in my comics, V or otherwise. I'll also give a quick shout to Hamster Vice and Ultra Klutz, books that shared space in that quarter bin, but never made it home.

 

 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

DC Special Podcast: An Hour with Julia Raul

To permanently save this episode’s MP3 file to your computer or other listening devices, right-click the link below to bring up sub-menu and select “Save Target/Link As…” Pick where you want it to save to, and you’re set.

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Meanwhile... A roaming b-roll conversation with special guest Julia Raul. Todd & Rob? Savage Dragon? WildC.A.T.s? Don't worry fanboys, it all gets back to DC animation and Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) eventually!

We Think You're Special!

Animation, Birds of Prey, DC Comics, DC Special, DC Special Podcast, Harley Quinn, Martian Manhunter, Wildstorm

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

DC Special Podcast: DK Encyclopedia Diaries 13

Volume XIII
The Drunken Guide To The Characters Of The DC Universe

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A
Angel and the Ape 21
Anton Arcane 11

B
Bat-Mite 26

C
Calendar Man 25
Captain Atom / Captain Adym (New 52) 12
Clayface / The Mud Pack 7

L

Legion Lost (New 52) 14

S

Swamp Thing 10


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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé Podcast #18

Now Monthly!

(January 1986)


Internet ArchiveMP3Spotify

ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey] noun 1. a summing up; summary. 2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.
In Comic Reader Résumé, I use Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to travel back through time via his virtual newsstand to the genesis point of my lifelong collecting of comics. From there, I can offer a “work history” of my fandom through my active purchasing of (relatively) new comic books beginning in January of 1982, when my interest in the medium went from sporadic and unformed to routine on through compulsive accumulation. To streamline the narrative and keep the subjects at least remotely contemporaneous, I will not generally be discussing what we call back issues: books bought long after their publication date. Sometimes, I will cover a book published on a given month that I picked up within a year or so that date, and I give myself an especially wide berth on this aspect in the first couple of “origins” episodes. We’ll get more rigidly on point as my memories crystallize and my “hobby” spirals out of control into the defining characteristic of my life (eventually outpacing squalor and competing neuroses.) It’s part personal biography, part industry history, and admittedly totally self-indulgent on my part.

This episode includes Batman and the Outsiders #32, Blue Devil #23, Elfquest #9, Elvira's House of Mystery #2, Fury of Firestorm #46, G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #46, Incredible Hulk #318, Marvel Saga: the Official History of the Marvel Universe #5, The All New, All Daring Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #113, The Punisher #4, Secret Origins #1, Star Wars Droids #1, Uncanny X-Men #204, X-Factor #3, and more!

“Transcripts” Batman, Blue Devil, DC Comics, Elvira, Firestorm, G.I. Joe, He-Man, House of Mystery, Hulk, Marvel Comics, Masters of the Universe, The Outsiders, Punisher, Secret Origins, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Superman, X-Factor, X-Men, Comic Reader Résumé

Monday, October 30, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé: January, 1986

I don't know who decided on a samurai theme for the second issue of Elvira's House of Mystery, but yikes. Even in my uncritical child brain, I recognized that this title was offloading moldy oldies under the cover of scant bridging material featuring the Hostess with the Mostest. Who though Denys Cowan was a good idea for the second cover, serving up Elvira as a prototype for Billy Tucci's Shi? Eh, they still suckered me into fishing it out of the Marauder Comics quarter bin.

I've struggled to remember which specific issues of the Byrne Incredible Hulk run that my brother bought, but at the very least I can be certain about #318. There's a fakeout two page splash of an overly rendered jade giant seeming to attack Bruce Banner in his lab that I know I read at the time. This one also had Leonard Sampson battling a robot Hulk and the HulkBusters in his leather vest with the fingerlesss gloves. That stands out. I'm also pretty sure I missed the wedding of Betty Ross and Bruce next issue, because the bit where they continue the nuptials after Thunderbolt Ross shoots Rick Jones point blank with a .45 and Rick just watches the ceremony while bleeding out is just too stupid to be forgotten.

I very specifically remember flipping through Secret Origins #1 at a mall bookstore. I didn't get why a graying Superman was so gob-smacked watching his own origin story in a crystal ball. This was apparently the Golden Age Superman, and I knew from Crisis that there were two of them, but I thought the whole point of Crisis was to get rid of spare Supermen. Although redrawn by Wayne Boring and Jerry Ordway, I had Superman #1 as a Treasury Edition drawn by Joe Shuster, and that was my preferred way of reading this material. Like Who's Who, Secret Origins served to reenforce my bias against doofy DC in favor of more realistic Marvel.

G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #46 had everything it needed to come home with me. A Mike Zeck cover depicting a Storm Shadow/Snake-Eyes team-up, and then the Rod Whigham splash page has Zartan assuming Ripcord's identity? And then the Dreadnaught kicks him in the head for good measure? Oh, I'm down. And "Who's Who on Cobra Island" is a great battle issue, with an intriguing subplot about a high ranking Cobra figure's kidnapped daughter. This was exactly what I wanted in my Joe comics.

Marvel Saga the Official History of the Marvel Universe #5 had a boooring cover by Paul Ryan, well reflecting the boooring Werner Roth-drawn X-Men origin stories that my brother had managed to pick up in their original presentation. I'm sure they weren't exactly mint even then, but it's still a shame how he let those things be used by his dogs as toilet paper. It's a dubious achievement that it took founding X-Men's puberty follies to make stories about Hulk vs. The Circus of Crime and early solo Human Torch look exciting by comparison.

Another memorable Zeck/Zimmerman airbrushed cover on The Punisher, from when it was still a four issue mini-series. It's clear at this point that Mike Zeck is straining against deadlines, with inker John Beatty having to carry more of the weight, a thankless role that dilutes the effectiveness of the book. The fit very much hit the shan as the vigilante squad of corrupt Punisher wannabes come gunning for the real deal, without regard for anyone who might get in their way. The narrative followed a clear path, so I don't know what they were thinking in the issue's final few pages. Maybe the plan was to have a dark ending that would lead to Punisher going full villain in some other hero's title, but the mini-series sold way too good? Anyway, expect issue five of four next month.

I'm at a bit of a loss for why I bought Uncanny X-Men #204 at the 7-11. I guess I was still a little bit into Nightcrawler after finding hios solo mini-series less than pleasing? And I do like June Brigman's art when she's doing moodier material, plus being inked by Whilce Portacio couldn't have hurt. It reminded me a little of Paul Smith, who I'd been introduced to in a story featuring Kurt Wagner wooiung the sorceress Amanda Sefton, and this issue detailed the dissolution of that relationship. Where the story loses me is when two-thirds of it are given up to some random chick that Nightcrawler has to save from Arcade's Murderworld. I can buy the Danger Room, even when it goes full holodeck, but Arcade host a whole Westworld of killer robots in Manhatten was always a bridge to far across my suspension of disbelief. I'd skip half of 1986 after this.

Batman and the Outsiders is another concept that I was introduced to through the 1983 DC Sampler. That two-page preview image was very Dark Knight heavy, with the Jim Aparo art and the foiling of Joker in Gotham City. With the exception of Black Lightning and maybe Metamorpho, I'd never seen these characters before this one group shot with the team fairly far in the background behind the Caped Crusader. The Brave & the Bold was my preferred Batman delivery system, and while I resented its cancellation to make way for another team book, I wasn't opposed to their existence... yet. The truth is that the title had very poor distribution in my area, so except for a possible missed opportunity at a mall bookstore or something, I never really had a chance to give the Outsiders one in their first volume. I think my buddy had some in the 1988 grocery sack o'comics, and I bought a few out of quarter bins circa 1989-1991. I came to realize that as much as I loved Jim Aparo, I had issues with him drawing a team, or at least co-creating and drawing this particular team. The cover of the final issue, #32, made for an intriguingly spare house ad and nifty variation on the leader walking away from their team trope. While I enjoyed Mike W. Barr's Batman stories, more than Frank Miller, he originated and helped popularize his modern dysfunctional mega-jerk characterization that permanently soured me on the character. I don't know if they ever paid off his obvious manipulation of his now former team in this issue, and if it was any other group of heroes, I might have been mad about that. But the Outsiders were such gaudy losers, it feels more like Batman coming to his senses to dump them. Anyway, this perspective is from reading this and other issues probably a decade removed from publication. Curiously, I would occasionally see copies of Adventures of the Outsiders, which continued the numbering of BATO for six more issues of original material, and reprints of the first eight issues of the Baxter format direct market only relaunch. Two other book had attempted the format shift, Legion of Super-Heroes and New Teen Titans. Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes got a dozen new stories and 29 issues of newsstand reprints. Tales of the Teen Titans got 18 issues of new stories and 33 newstand reprints. They were actual popular books with fan followings that sustained them despite the idiocy of DC gambit. Even with Alan Davis art and a general curiosity about what the Outsiders whole deal was, I was never compelled to part with the seventy-five cents to indulge a single one of those rare newsstand copies.

Star Comics' Star Wars Droids #1 credits John Romita with art. What a travesty that was. I know I encountered this book about some little blonde brat boy hanging out with C3P-O, R2-D2, and some sort of broke ass Transformers. It's possible I bought it, I think and hope my half-brother did. Everything about this one repelled me.

The Epic imprint's Elfquest #9 was a "bottle episode," with the characters mostly in a few locations talking about their past, plans, and so on. I know that I read it, but I didn't invest enough to retain much, which is probably why I wasn't a regular reader. The art was pretty, the premise was fine, and I think I liked that there were a lot of words.

I recall flipping through Thor #365-366, part of the well remembered Frog Thor arc, but my disinterest in Thor and having missed the first chapter had me leaving it on the shelf as a novelty.

I was talking with someone the other day about why the creative team that launched X-Factor were dumped well within the first year of the title. I think it was an editorial dispute with Jim Shooter over the reveal of the big bad of the overall arc. But also, I know I read #3 out of mutant obligation, and this is yet another issue where my recollection of the story and its emotional resonance are absolutely nill. Plus, this was the one where they got rid of all the Beast's animalistic body hair to restore him to his roots. He won't be played by Nicholas Hoult for decades, so nobody but Bob Layton wanted that.

I was introduced to Firestorm in the first DC Sampler, and I became more familiar with the Nuclear Man in the Super Powers cartoon, but I didn't have a lot of exposure to him in comics. Someone had the idea of doing a multi-issue crossover with another hero of the New DC, but I missed the first part in Firestorm #46, so was a bit lost in Blue Devil #23. It had a classic Marvel style Paris Cullins/Gary Martin cover, so I went in expecting a George Tuska fill-in, but it was still Alan Kupperberg. While that's certainly the better option, I was getting a bit tired of Kupperberg, and the brittle inks by Bill Collins didn't help. This is the one where the heroes fight, thanks to an illusion where Firestorm sees Blue Devil in a more demonic form, and it's hard not to think how much better Cullins would have pulled that off. Also, it's a supervillain team-up with only Bolt representing Blue Devil, and the rest are lesser lights from Firestorm's rogues gallery, a risible lot. I think I liked this slugfest as a kid, but not in a rush to revisit today.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #113 had some nice art by Bob McLeod and a story about that time Aunt May dated a more elderly Bernie Goetz, whose subway vigilantism came home to the senior center in the form of gangbanger terrorism. I do wonder what dark secrets we never learned about Uncle Ben, because May just goes from one bad beau to next. Peter David was still trying to make this the "ripped from the headlines" gritty Spidey title, but I was finding my interest waning in the post-Sin Eater stories. I skipped the following month's fill-in issue.

In the final week of the month, I wouldn't see Atari Force Special #1 until the grocery sack o'comics, and the odd quarter bin, plus it would take another 35 years or so before I finally read the series. I was getting past my Masters of the Universe period when the first Star Comics issue was released, but my brother bought it and the recent magazine with the Earl Norem covers besides. The New Mutants #39 was another issue my brother bought and I only skimmed, owing mostly to the Art Adams White Queen cover.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

DC Films Special Podcast: Doomsday C***!

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé Podcast #17

The Business Year

(Final Quarter - 1985)


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ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey] noun 1. a summing up; summary. 2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.
In Comic Reader Résumé, I use Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to travel back through time via his virtual newsstand to the genesis point of my lifelong collecting of comics. From there, I can offer a “work history” of my fandom through my active purchasing of (relatively) new comic books beginning in January of 1982, when my interest in the medium went from sporadic and unformed to routine on through compulsive accumulation. To streamline the narrative and keep the subjects at least remotely contemporaneous, I will not generally be discussing what we call back issues: books bought long after their publication date. Sometimes, I will cover a book published on a given month that I picked up within a year or so that date, and I give myself an especially wide berth on this aspect in the first couple of “origins” episodes. We’ll get more rigidly on point as my memories crystallize and my “hobby” spirals out of control into the defining characteristic of my life (eventually outpacing squalor and competing neuroses.) It’s part personal biography, part industry history, and admittedly totally self-indulgent on my part.

This episode includes Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer, Aquaman #1, Blue Devil #21-22, Booster Gold #1, G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #43 & Yearbook #2, Longshot #5-6, Marvel Saga: the Official History of the Marvel Universe #2-4, Meet Misty #2-3, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #3-5, The Punisher #1-3, Robotix #1, Sectaurs #5,The All New, All Daring Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #110, Wonder Man #1, X-Factor #1-2, and more!

“Transcripts” Ambush Bug, Aquaman, Blue Devil, DC Comics, Elvira, Booster Gold, G.I. Joe, He-Man, Hulk, Jem and the Holograms, Longshot, Marvel Comics, Masters of the Universe, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, OHOTMU, Punisher, Robotix, Saturday Night Live, She-Ra, SNL, Spider-Man, Star Wars, X-Factor, X-Men, Comic Reader Résumé

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé: December, 1985

Wrapping up 1985 with December comics. Deadman #1 was in my buddy's grocery sack o'comics in 1988. That was the one with the JLGL art, so it looked swell.

Lil' bro bought the entire Firestar mini-series. I liked Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends as much as the next guy, but not enough to power through that lame book. It's a special level of failure to pack this much X-Men content into a story, including a Wolverine cover, and still be completely overlooked. But also, they got Bill Sienciewcz to ink Art Adams for the #3 cover, and saved the lovely BWS cover for #4, while the first cover looked like a lousy interior panel that got blown up? I'm sure the nigh-florescent solid fuchsia background color did them no favors.

I have to be honest, my brother might have been buying Incredible Hulk as far back as #314, with the covers to #315 & 317 being awful familiar, but all these Byrne slugfest run together in my mind. Which time was Hulk throwing down against other heroes and supporting characters amidst a bunch of rubble? It's hard to say. A lot of these images were reused in supplemental magazines like Marvel Age and Marvel Handbook, another layer of confusion.

Ditto X-Factor #2. I think they were doing to good a job of replicating the original X-Men stories, because I didn't like reading them, either. My half-brother scored a lot of low grade double-digits X-Men from his neighborhood shop, especially the Werner Roth stuff, but he did have at least one of the Steranko issues. I don't think he had any Neal Adams, though. So all those books were about the five X-Men piling on against a single uninspired villain of the month. Despite all their railing against prejudice, the optics made them look like bullies, and also the optics were by a guy less well regarded than Don Heck. This month's X-Factor piled on Tower, a guy he got tall. So exciting.

Marvel Saga #4 was the big muties issues, including the origins of Juggernaut, Professor X and his relationship with Magneto, Xavier's crippling by an alien called Lucifer, a brief history of the Summers clan and the first solo adventure of Cyclops. Next, Dr. Don Blake encounters the stone men, and a walking stick that can summon the mystical uru metal hammer of the Mighty Asgardian Thor. Blake further determines that he be worthy to harness the power and form of the Norse god of thunder. Next, Dr. Henry Pym develops particles that allow him to shrink into an Ant-Man. Finally, Dr. Doom convinces Sub-Mariner to unite forces against the FF. This issue sure set me up to get the identity of Onslaught wrong, let me tell you.

I'd be curious to know what the rationale was for the Wonder Man one shot special. It had a painted Bill Sienkiewcz cover, which let's be real, is well above Simon Williams' station. But also, it's a man in a safari jacket fighting white pygmy centurions, and that had to limit its commercial appeal. The interiors are by Kerry Gammill, so it could have been an art gem, except they turned Vinnie Colleta loose on the pages. That's understandable if you have a crushing deadline, but Wonder Man one shot? My guess is that it was an aborted mini-series from Marvel's 1983 glut that got repurposed on the cheap. Hearing Wonder Man's origin as an embezzler and traitor did not endear me, and this was clearly not the first of his many, many ugly costumes. I also wasn't overly fond of his being an actor of the professional wrestler/soap opera caliber, what with the taste of Booster Gold still in my mouth. I already regret that phrasing. I don't know what possessed me to acquire this book, and to maintain a very mild affection toward Wonder Man for any period of time, but rest assured that feeling past swiftly without a trace.

After a bit of a gap, I think I dipped into Elfquest #8, but the cover is more familiar than the contents.

Ah, G.I. Joe Yearbook #2, with that boss Michael Golden cover spotlighting Snake-Eyes, Roadblock, and Lady Jane. Two movies, and nobody ever thought to just center one on the most popular Joes in heightened military action? I guess that would have gotten in the way of Marlon Wayans in a powered suit fighting Joseph Gordon Levitt and the Ninth Doctor in a story set before any of the characters were any good. This book though, has Michael Golden interiors to go with the cover, automatically making it one of the greatest Joe comics ever. G.I. Joe must hold some kind of record for most awesome covers in direct opposition to the quality of the story art. Plus, it's a full length story featuring Destro and Baroness against the Winter Guard, the Russian equivalent of the Joes. Also, it's full of toyetic vehicles drawn to look cooler than the actual toys! Like I said, an all-timer. This was followed by a long article on the G.I Joer cartoon, and a cover gallery to date featuring an add for the U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier playset. Next was a Marvel Saga type review of the year in Joe comics, and yes, I used these Yearbooks to fill in the holes in my collecting like the grandpa in Lost Boys used TV Guide to avoid actually watching TV. You might say to yourself, "wow, that's a lot of page filling recycled content," to which I'd reply, if that's how they budgeted to get Michael Golden, it was worth it. It also covered the two Golden pin-ups at the back, including the shot of Roadblock notoriously swiped by Rob Liefeld for a heavily trafficked Cable image.

Like the final issue of Dazzler this month, just because lil' bro bought Secret Wars II #9 doesn't mean I could be bothered to read it. Leialoha inking Milgrom sure has Gibson inking Staton Millennium energy. The main thing I remember from this issue is the late term abortion panel that got reused for Beyonder's entry in the handbook of the dead. It makes you think you'd like to read that story until you try to look at any given page of this abomination.

The cover and interior art on Sectaurs #5 is so incredible, I had to wonder what happened to this Steve Geiger guy, and was reminded that he was responsible for those bland Hulk covers from early in Todd McFarlane's run. From there he did some underwhelming Spider-Man stuff, some New Universe, and more toy tie-ins. What gives? From there I checked on co-inker Joe DelBeato, which made a lot more sense. He was the inker over Michael Chen for most of his short run in the comics field, and that guy was like a prototype for Arthur Adams. An kinetic detailing beast that just didn't get a lot of material out there. And then we get to the third inker, credited only as Williams. GCD seems to think this was Keith Williams, who did in fact ink Geiger of Web of Spider-Man, except that art looked nothing like this. The timing is about right for it to actually be Scott Williams, who was already assisting on Alien Legion and Longshot. That said, it's Geiger and Keith Williams on the next issue, and it's still quite good, though not as stunning as this issue. The story? Let's not worry about the story. Focus on pretty pictures.

Begrudgingly back for Blue Devil #22, which I'm starting to think must have been in the flea market years, my memory is so dim of having read it. This is a tale of Las Vegas lunacy involving the blobby orange alien guys from an issue I wasn't into in the single digits. Lots of stomping around in casinos, but little actual amusement.

I'm a little dubious that The Punisher #3 came out this December, as the mini-series was missing publication dates from the very start, and it sure felt like there were long gaps between issues. But then again, I'm not confident my brtother was getting them brand new, so maybe it took him a while to score each issue. This one was less about spree killing and more about Punisher navigating mob intrigue and a plot borrowing heavily from the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force. It was still good, but the first issue was so perfect that distance from it was it's own diminishing return. But also, Zeck was struggling with deadlines and couldn't make the art sing to the same degree from issue to issue, though the splash page offers one of the all-time best Frank Castle head shots. By which I mean a picture of his face, not the spray of some schmuck's gray matter.

I think I had the option of picking up Uncanny X-Men #201 off the stands, introducing baby Nate Summers and featuring the battle between Cyclops and Storm for leadership of the team. However, it was drawn by Rick Leonardi, so I di'int. I don't recall ever seeing #202. #203 was a Secret Wars II tie-in, so my half-brother bought it. Looked kinda trippy, but also like your typical Claremont head games, focusing on Rogue and Rachael Summers. I had no interest in either of those two characters, and never read this one. Even when I was filling gaps in my run with X-Men Classic, I never got the reprint of this issue. I guess I waited until 1986 to begin properly committing to following the mutants with any kind of regularity.

Oh no, is it time to read Misty #3 already? I made the mistake of continuing to cover 1985 in quarters, regardless of length, and to help I worked on all three months at once. It played havoc on my writing order, and there were months long gaps, so I'm really looking forward to going monthly in 1986 and having twelve minute episodes again. It also means I should have to read two Meet Misty issues in as many nights ever again. On their soap opera As The Cookie Crumbles, Darlene and Misty are in danger of being pushed aside by Lake Lovelock, the biggest siren since Aunt Millie retired from modeling. And this was according to Darlene! After all that build-up, I was pretty unimpressed with Loverlock, what with Darleen sporting an outfit designed by Gilbert Hernandez. Misty initially agrees to help Darleen sabotage Lovelock, but ever the goody-too-shoes, Misty passively reneges. Darleen manages to turn Lovelock's hair green, which is actually becoming, and Misty gives the fellow actress her wardrobe when a smoke bomb ruins Lovelock's. It all turns out to be pointless, because Lovelock was dating the rocker Billy Active, and Darlene unintentionally set up Ricky and Misty to go to his concert that night. Further, the "hot" scene that the girls were worried about was related to actual pyrotechnics, not interpersonal heat. The second story is a very special episode, where what the girls think is a haunted house turns out to be where an old woman is barely surviving on her own. Luckily Misty insisted on investigating, and helped save the woman until her handsome grandson can come stay with her. Terry Beatty and Janet Jackson design outfits in this one, and there's even a gag where Mike Mignola is credit for the raccoons they find in the attic. So yeah, this one was actually a lot better than the previous two. My main complaint is that Misty is too good and Darleen too bad. Not only is it close to the Betty & Veronica dynamic, but it's even more polarized, making Misty a predictable bore and Darlene a moneyed monster.

We'll close out 1985 in comics with OHOTMU #5. I'll be honest, in a time of Rainbow Bright and Care Bears, I never appreciated Glorian's riding in on a rainbow marring my Hulk & Hawkeye cover. It was representative of the issue as a whole, featuring an excess of cosmic characters I never cared for with g-sounds in their names. I might have otherwise appreciated the cleverness of a Curt Swan Gladiator, but I was too annoyed with the company on both the concept and art front to give the gimmick a pass. As a kid, it took me all the way to page 32's Gypsy Moth by Sandy Plunkett to see something I liked, and you don;t want Gypsy Moth setting the bar. This might as well have been a issue of Who's Who, with Elders of the Universe replacing New Gods and Inhumans subbing for Atari Force members. Mark Gruenwald, usually known as a writer and editor, thought it would be a good idea to obscure Hawkeye's face with his fist for his entry art. Oh hey, an entry on the Egyptian pantheon. How Thriller. Daimon Hellstrom and Patsy Walker, retired in plainclothes. There are more highlights than I'm highlighting, in part because I expect they play better for others than myself, as for me this one was a bit of a dog.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé: November, 1985

On to November of 1985. The lovely Craig Hamilton cover art for the first issue of the 1986 Aquaman mini-series, featuring his short-lived blue "camouflage suit," was also a pervasive house ad. I'm pretty sure I tossed through that first issue at a mall bookstore, but it didn't come home with me, and I wouldn't read the mini-series until my deep Aquaman dive of the mid '90s. Apologies to Neal Pozner, but the art was definitely the only reason to bother with it.

Likewise, the 48-page final issue of Wonder Woman vol. I, #329, looked properly momentous. It was a Crisis tie-in with a JLGL cover in a martial setting that was then uncommon for the Amazing Amazon. Unfortunately, the interiors were still by Don Heck, and I never had any tolerance for him in my youth. Another toss at the mall, then back on the heavy wood & plastic spinner rack.

Little bro definitely bought X-Factor #1, which I remember as another one of those odd situations like Crystar #1, where only the debut issue was printed on Baxter stock with the associated price bump. Then #2 comes along in standard comics newsprint. I'm sure they got a little profit bump off that, but it cost them any loyalty from a cost conscious customer myself. If I can't afford the first issue, you're going to have to work that much harder to get me to buy the second or third issue. Anyway, the book started under Bob Layton and Butch Guice, who I'd seen on other books but couldn't yet recognize beyond being part of the default Marvel Bronze Age style. I had passing familiarity with the original X-Men from titles like Marvel Team-Up, New Defenders, and Phoenix: The Untold Story, but I wasn't particularly endeared to any of them then or now. The story itself bored me, so I only ever read it once, if that. I feel like I might have bailed partway through.

Marvel Saga #3 had a particularly nice cover featuring the forging of Dr. Doom's face plate by Ron Frenz and John Byrne. The comic starts with perhaps a newly commissioned splash page of Sub-Mariner, as he recalls the circumstances behind his loss of both memory and underwater kingdom of Atlantis. The art is all over the place as illustrations are taken from sources as varied as 40s Bill Everett, 60s Jack Kirby, 70s Frank Robbins Invaders material, some John Buscema and maybe Don Heck to cover Prince Namor's birth through his post-World War II adventures. Then we're back to very early Fantastic Four and Hulk content, including the origin of Dr. Doom, which allows some more contemporary panels by John Byrne and Jerry Ordway. This series is maybe the most visually schizophrenic thing Marvel ever published, given the whiplash of following all that up with the time the Thing impersonated Blackbeard the pirate. Uncle Ben gets shot and Spider-Man discovers his own role in that sad circumstance, while Charles Xavier braces for the public revelation of the existence of mutants among them. I'm so much happier getting through all this Silver Age material in synopsis form, rather than slogging through the actual stories.

The Punisher #2 was filled with violent executions and one sex scene. It was quite similar to 1983's The New Teen Titans Annual #2, introducing The Vigilante, one of my formative comics. I still give the edge to Wolfman and Perez on this front, but no other Vigilante story would ever live up to the first, while this was only one issue of an outstanding Punisher solo mini-series.

My brother liked to collect final issues of titles, as it was for Defenders #152, a staple reference for characters in the Dead & Inactive editions of OHOTMU. Under a Frank Cirroco cover, the un-team anticipates the COIE fate of the Justice Society, as most appear to sacrifice their lives to stop a cosmic threat, leaving only The Beast and Angel to immediately reform the original X-Men as X-Factor. I think only Manslaughter and Interloper stayed dead, which surprises me, because someone like Deadpool could use foils like these.

I was clearly becoming disenchanted with Blue Devil by #21, where he went up against a giant car that ate other cars. I wasn't buying this title to see the hero drive around for an entire issue, and the art sure wasn't selling it. I'm not sure if this was flea market buy or something I got out of the quarter bin a few years later. Oh look, the Aquaman house ad.

As I've often whined about, I only bought Booster Gold #1 because there was an ad saying I would get a free promotional button at participating stores. I rarely bought comics at Circle K, and they were in fact not participating. Booster Gold was a corporate capitalist super-hero more concerned with licensing deals than lives. I thought he had a doofy costume, and I don't think Mike DeCarlo's inks flattered the reliably bland Dan Jurgens. It's not a great sign that I thought the tossed-off villain Blackguard looked cooler. Between Blue Devil's decline and this, it's no wonder I was backing away from DC toward Marvel. At least I can say I got in on the ground floor of hating Booster Gold, nearly forty years going. And no, I don't still want my button.

Woo-Hoo! OHOMU #4! Paul Smith Dr. Strange, Dormammu, and, um, Dragon Man! Dave Gibbons Drednaught! Bill Sienkiewicz Elektra! BWS Forge! Howie Chaykin Dominick Fortune! Large, plentiful reference image to elaborate upon the text! Mike Zeck Falcon so good it almost makes me interested in the Falcon! Same for JRJR's Fenris twins! A Larry Lieber Forgotten One that is definitely referencing Arnold! A Val Mayerick Frankenstein made all the more pale by that Mike Ploog inset art! The only disappointment for me is the Steranko Nick Fury, who is not living up to his own legacy art in the entry, and is maybe just incompatible with inker Joe Rubinstein?

I'd aged out of Peter Porker between Marvel Tails with an i and The Spectacular Spider-Ham ongoing series, but I randomly ended up with #6 at some point. Our hero must battle Ducktor Doom and the attack of giant killer vegetable to save Aunt May. I think I thought it would be funnier? I did like Peter's kid sidekicks, Bunsen Bunny, J. Jeremiah Jackal, Jr., and especially Upton Adam Stray, who looked like a New Wave take on Felix the Cat. There was an Awful Flight back-up story, which leaned way to hard on the McKenzie Brothers riff, but I still liked that weird Steve Mellor art.

One that held up it's comedy promise, at least in the first half, was the Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer. The cover warned readers not to open the book until December 25th, but I waited until 1987, when I got the book at Third Planet. I proceeded to read it most Christmases for the next several years though. You'd think a Jewish creator like Keith Giffen would have little interest in the holiday, except that's actually probably part of the reason he's done so many parodies of it, and you can't deny it's secular cultural impact. It's abuse of Hukka from Atari Force is legendary, and I think I started drinking Yoo-Hoos because old Irwin Schwab reaches for a statted photograph of one in this comic. It's a can though, and everybody knows that you should only drink Yoo-Hoos from an ice cold glass model. He really is a crazed maniac. The book goes on to parody Night of the Living Dead and rebut Steve Ditko's objectivist comics with a jaundiced view of the American justice system. Yes, in a xmas comic. And that's before things getting entirely insane, bringing in Ernie Colon and offering stacked fan polls and introducing Chibi illustration to western audiences. This really is a wild one, and it's been too many years since I gave it a read, especially since I own the story multiple times over at this point.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé: October, 1985

Now we enter October of 1985. I've never read Uncanny X-Men Annual #9, the one where the team goes to Asgard and Storm becomes an avatar of Thor. I think it continued from the New Mutants Special. I bring it up because I do have a strong memory of seeing it at one of those early proto-comic shops housed in a flea market, either in South Houston or Pasadena. When it was just my mother and grandmother, we really never traveled further than walking or biking distance, even when we had a car. One benefit of my stepfather coming into the picture is that we started venturing further out and doing so more often. We only occasionally hit this one flea market, our base having been a smaller and more predictable spot off the gulf freeway. This market had actual shops with windows and doors, as well as the broader, lower quality central area with folding tables and such. So this comic shop had proper longboxes and wall books and such, and this comic was displayed near the cash register. Again, an actual register, rather than a simple lockbox or fanny pack full of small bills and spare change. So this book was in a bag and board, and I want to say it was market at some crazy price like $5. I sure wanted to check it out, but I was much too timid, and frankly too wise to ask that of the retailer. I wonder how long it took to stockpile Arthur Adams projects so that he could have the Longshot mini-series and multiple extra length one-shots all out in the same season? I love this period, when Adams is still figuring out his style, so his anatomy is extra exaggerated and he goes for much darker, moodier images. I'm sure having Mike Mignola as one of his inkers contributed to those rich blacks. Marvel recently solicited an omnibus of all of Adams' work for them, which I pre-ordered, and I can assure you it will cost me a lot more that five bucks. I'm really looking forward to having all his covers and trading card art all in one hefty volume.

My half-brother might have had Avengers #263, the issue where Sub-Mariner helped them recover a cocoon from the bottom of the Jamaica Bay. He might have also had Fantastic Four #286, where a beautiful red-haired woman in an evening gown sprung out of said cocoon, all drawn by John Byrne. Definitely that was a wall book at the flea market comic shop. I'm fairly confident he had Marvel Age #33, with a bunch of redacted information about the upcoming launch of X-Factor, and vague references to this not-so-mysterious future member. Maybe we just read that and not those other two? I can't recall. Also, there's a surprising amount of Meet Misty content in Marvel Age during this time. She got a fair shot but failed, I figure.

Still keeping up with my bro's copies of Marvel Saga: the Official History of the Marvel Universe. The second issue cover the Fantastic Four's first contact with the Skrulls, Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider and taking up professional wrestling, Dr. Bruce Banner's ill-fated gamma bomb test, and the Human Torch's discovery of the Sub-Mariner living with amnesia among New York's homeless community.

My brother and I were both intrigued by advance coverage of the new Punisher mini-series in Marvel Age. One of the earliest Spider-Man comics I ever bought was 1977's #175, cover-featuring Punisher atop the Statue of Liberty. I thought Punisher was one of the coolest looking characters ever, but he was absence from the newsstands up to that point. I never saw any of these new books there either, as they either sold out quick, or were too violent to get distribution in my area. Bro had access to a comic shop though, so I got to read his copy of the extra-length first issue. I believe though that these early issues were not new, but back issues he bought at inflated prices before interest in the title had fully exploded. Images from and issues of Punisher selling for highly inflated prices would be a staple of mail order advertisements in comics for the rest of the decade. Punisher #1 has to be among the finest introductory issues ever produced. Hardened, larger than life vigilante Frank Castle had been sentenced to Ryker's Island Penitentiary for murdering scores of the types of criminals that he'd now be doing time alongside. Everyone wants a piece of Frank, with the story cycling through one attempt after another to take his life. But you see, Frank Castle wasn't locked up with them-- they were locked up with the Punisher. I'd like to add that Watchmen #1 is nearly a year away, which might help explain why Rorschach never impressed me much. Likewise, he wasn't drawn by Mike Zeck at the very peak of his powers, nor written unironically by a very enthused and hard-boiled Steven Grant. This comic earned every degree of heat that it generated.

With horror anthologies dying out, somebody had the bright idea of trying to extend their life by tying the format into a licensing deal with a nationally syndicated horror hostess. I don't believe that I ever owned a copy of Elvira's House of Mystery #1, but it was a prominent house ad, and maybe a wall book? Also, while the Brian Bolland cover could maybe use a little tighter photo reference, the image is indelible. Nearly forty years later, I saw patches and other merchandise based on this image for sale at the Texas Frightmare Weekend. Movie Macabre was regular Saturday Night UHF viewing on Houston's channel 20, either as an alternative to or sometime after Saturday Night Live. Yes, the jokes were corny as hell, but Elvira was such a vivacious persona, and her mocking the lousy movies that she had access to was so novel at the time, I was an instant fan. Sometime later in the decade, I had a poster of Elvira on my wall where she was moonbathing with lotion. I still kinda want another copy of that one. In a time when so many childhood favs have turned out to be walking human atrocities, I'm so glad Elvira actress Cassandra Peterson is essentially the Dolly Parton of horror, and a wonderful representative for the Lesbian community, that is yet clearly capable of straight male... outreach. Given its 64 page length, $1.50 cover price, and that the second issue won't arrive until 1986, I have to figure this was intended as a one-shot that over-performed enough to mandate an ongoing series.

My brother had an interest in Manslaughter, the super-villain and, most likely, the concept itself. I know he had the character's previous appearance in Defenders #134, where he pulled a 10 Little Indians on the team, and he came back in the penultimate issue, #151, to get his Deathstroke on. Both issue had Kevin Nowlan covers, which was reason enough to buy. While the Don Perlin interiors were always an obstacle, Dell Barras inked the heck out of this issue, really elevating the work. Peter B. Gillis was also good at writing portent, as this issue introduces the Interloper, and a final quest of apocalyptic nature for the team.

Howard Chaykin's cover to Green Lantern #196 really grabbed my attention, but Joe Staton's interiors just as quickly lost it. Still, the image of an alternate Lantern Corpsman with a tight strawberry blonde haircut, gray turtleneck, and abundance of attitude stayed with me. I'd surely see Guy Gardner again. At the very least, I'd toss through the next couple of COIE tie-in issues at the same mall bookstore. Likewise, I don't know precisely when I started tossing through issues of the Miller/Mazzuchelli "Born Again" arc, beginning with Daredevil #227, but I think I only saw nonconsecutive issues at the mall. The story looked to involved to jump into, but it did get my attention.

Robotix was Milton Bradley's attempt to enter the action figure market, supported by a 6-minute segment in Marvel Animation's Super Saturday or Super Sunday anthology cartoon / programming block. The big thing with them was that the mechanoid vehicles could move under their own power, though to the modest degree of a wind-up toy. The first three of the 15 total segments were adapted into a single Marvel Comics standard length comic by Herb Trimpe, and I think my brother bought it. I know that I watched the Super-whichever day it ran in Houston, probably Sunday, but Robotix has fallen almost all the way down the memory hole. The opening sequence jogged that memory just a bit, and all the episodes were edited into a single home video "movie" that you can stream free on YouTube. Based on the designs, I might still have the head of one of the robots and one or two of the teeny limited articulation pilot action figures that made M.A.S.K. toys look like He-Man by comparison.

I want to say I tossed through World's Finest Comics #323, the farewell issue, at the mall bookstore, but it it right back. No impression beyond the cover. Lil Bro might have had Captain America #314, with the fake Batman from the Squadron Supreme and a giant typewriter. He might have also had #316, with an Armadillo team-up. I was still totally demotivated by the Paul Neary art and couldn't be bothered to read either.

Longshot #5 saw the hero betrayed by his pet, who amusingly had grown in size with each issue's corner box until becoming a towering threat. His stuntwoman friend Ricochet Rita had also run afoul of Mojo. That super cool looking Ram guy from Mojoworld that got a random Toy Biz action figure years later turns up. There's a page of Art Adams rendering Dr. Strange and Wong in the Sanctum Sanctorum, which is yes please.

G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #43 was a real highlight of the run, from the grim reaper in red with an assault rifle on the Mike Zeck cover, to the Rod Whigham interiors on the harrowing story within. Billy and the Hard Master both appear to perish during a combination drunk driving incident and Cobra ambush. Meanwhile, a story about a former Joe who'd been seduced by Cobra and given a fake family as a cover comes to a satisfying conclusion. If I recall correctly, #44 was one of the issues that got a brief animated TV advertisement, which I think caused me to miss it and #45 from the interest that generated.

The conclusion to the Death of Jean DeWolfe arc in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #110 was a lot. There was highly effective use of stated archival panels or swipes, the lopsided final battle between Sin-Eater and Spider-Man, lots of headbutting with Daredevil, backstory, Jonah-baiting, debates about mob justice, and the start of another plot for the next issue. I haven't read this stuff in decades, despite owning the trade collection, but I still feel for this story. Also, I was able to collect the entire arc as Dutch-language issues of Edderkoppen at a flea market in Copenhagen while on vacation for about seventy-five cents each, which was nice. #111 was a Secret Wars II tie-in by a guest writer, and I think I was hip to avoiding all Beyonder appearances by this point. Of all places, I think I saw #112 at a Fiesta Mart. It's a big chain of Latin-themed supermarkets founded in Houston in 1972, which spread throughout Texas but never beyond. Right at the entrance was their expansive selection of fresh produce and seafood, by which I mean tanks of living sealife that they will pull out and kill for your culinary enjoyment. The combination created a bit of a stink that really hit you upon arrival, and tended to linger throughout. That was the one place I knew growing up that carried gory Mexican tabloids with uncensored full color images of crime scenes, as well as racy pocket digests of Mexican comics. They also had a small selection of American comics, and the image of Santa Claus standing in for the Terminator with dark shades and a hand-cannon tended to stand out. The art was by Mark Beachum, not giving his best work, nor served well by poor inks from an unknown. I think the Santa was the deciding factor, but the overall package stayed at Fiesta.

I bought a set of Meet Misty in a pack at Bedrock City Comics a number of years ago, and have committed to a reread for this project. When I went back to read old Patsy Walker comics, it was a pleasant surprise to find them so fun and funny. These books from the mid 80s read more like what I would have expected from that 50s & 60s material. It is amusing that Misty has an interest in her TV show co-star, Ricky Martin, but when he protests that he isn't dating any of the girls the teen beat mags have connected him to, it hits different now. There's a Halloween story about the Horseless Horseman involving Misty's rival Darlene Donderbeck that barely has a gag, much less a story. Misty's friends Shirelle Brown and Spike Mahoney fear that fame might be going to her head, but she's really just wiped out from keeping up with her schoolwork and being a guardian angel to a new girl. There's a two page strip on how, in the '80s, things being bad meant that they were actually good. Yeah, these are grandma jokes. It's pretty painful.

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #3, "Cloak to Doctor Octopus" featured Dr. Doom and Devil at the fore of a wraparound John Byrne cover. Good start. I was glad to finally read up on what exactly Cloud's deal was, at a time when transsexual representation in mainstream comics was near zero, and not much better anywhere else in pop culture. Was this my first Constrictor sighting? I believe my brother had the Secret Wars rare import figure, and I always loved the design of this sadly mishandled villain. In all honesty, I wasn't wild about the character or artist selection in this one. Cyclops is shown in his lousy early X-Factor costume where he looks like The Man With An Hourglass Coming Out of His Crotch.

Longshot #6 wraps up the mini-series in a double-sized finale in the same month as #5, supposedly, boggling my mind. There's a lot of Mojo and Spiral and Longshot origin leftovers involving his creator, Arize. My eyes glazed over all that stuff. In the end, Doctor Strange helps Longshot, Rita, and the Ram guy to get back to Mojoworld to continue their rebellion against the gluttonous robo-spider media tyrant. It seems like only Chris Claremont had an appetite for more of that, as Longshot solo without Arthur Adams never got much traction. At least this served as a good audition for Ann Nocenti to take over Daredevil once Miller was done with it. Once there, her writing could shine outside Adams' long shadow.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé Podcast #16

The Business Year

(Third Quarter - 1985)


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ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey] noun 1. a summing up; summary. 2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.
In Comic Reader Résumé, I use Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to travel back through time via his virtual newsstand to the genesis point of my lifelong collecting of comics. From there, I can offer a “work history” of my fandom through my active purchasing of (relatively) new comic books beginning in January of 1982, when my interest in the medium went from sporadic and unformed to routine on through compulsive accumulation. To streamline the narrative and keep the subjects at least remotely contemporaneous, I will not generally be discussing what we call back issues: books bought long after their publication date. Sometimes, I will cover a book published on a given month that I picked up within a year or so that date, and I give myself an especially wide berth on this aspect in the first couple of “origins” episodes. We’ll get more rigidly on point as my memories crystallize and my “hobby” spirals out of control into the defining characteristic of my life (eventually outpacing squalor and competing neuroses.) It’s part personal biography, part industry history, and admittedly totally self-indulgent on my part.

This episode includes Blue Devil #19 & Summer Fun Annual #1, Dreadstar and Company #6, G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #42, Heroes for Hope: Starring the X-Men, Incredible Hulk #312-313, Longshot #4, Marvel Saga: the Official History of the Marvel Universe #1, Meet Misty #1, Nightcrawler #1-2, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #1-2, The All New, All Daring Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #108-109, Tales of the Teen Titans #59, and more!

“Transcripts” Battle of the Planets, Blue Devil, DC Challenge, Dreadstar, Hulk, Longshot, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, OHOTMU, The 'Nam, Robotech, Spider-Man, Star Comics, Superman, Teen Titans, Voltron, X-Men, Comic Reader Résumé

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé: September, 1985

Autumn arrives with September of 1985. Balder the Brave had a strong house ad presence, but when the first issue hit the stands, I had no interest whatsoever. I talked about tossing through the first issue of Continuity Comics' Armor series at the mall bookstore, as well as other experiences with that company, in a series of podcasts on another of my Four Color Rolled Spine solo shows, Amazing Heroes. Suffice to say that as cool as the cover was, the titular star's absence from all but 5 story pages in a book that cost nearly as much as three mainstream super-hero comics meant it didn't come home with me until decades later.

A chronology-challenged title was Bissette & Veitch's Bedlam #1, an Eclipse Comic that I fished out of the quarter bin in '89. It was a two-issue reprint anthology covering darkly humorous and horrific tales for various publishers dating back to the '70s. The final story featured a black man trapped in an unusual prison who grinds his fingertips to the bone and is forced to consume his own waste, among other disgusting turns. That one traumatized me, or else I wouldn't have bothered bringing this one up. The Gladiator story in Daredevil #226 was drawn from a quarter bin so late that it's probably disqualifying, sometime between 1989 and 1991 I figure, and leaving no great impression. You may be surprised to hear that despite Flag Smasher eventually become one of my favorite Cap villains, I did not actually buy his debut in Captain America #312. I just gave it a real hard looking at on the stand. Also pretty much missed X-Men/Alpha Flight and New Mutants Special Edition. My half-brother may have had them, but I never committed to reading his copies.

Heroes for Hope: Starring the X-Men was something my brother would buy a few years down the line. Much like Texas, everything was bigger in the eighties. As much as they're maligned for conspicuous consumption, the '80s also went hard on charity drives. Marvel put everything they had into aiding famine relief in Ethiopia, ironically bringing a murderers row of talent and offering up the money printing press that was their mutant heroes. Starting with a group shot showcasing Wolverine by Arthur Adams, this special offers Brian Bolland, John Byrne, Frank Miller, John Bolton, Steve Rude, Paul Gulacy, Richard Corben, John Romita Jr, and many more, with pages scripted by Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Alan Moore, Harlan Ellison, Chris Claremont, and yes, even Stan Lee. It's a decent story, with striking moments of horror. Jim Starlin and Berni Wrightson were the Bob Geldoffs of this affair, and as with Do They Know It's Christmas and We Are The World, there was a fair amount of talent double-dipping when they convinced DC Comics to do their own Heroes Against Hunger the following year. Not to pit two charity efforts against one another, but I think Ethiopia is doing a lot better these days, which I can't say for DC's lackluster attempt. Besides a nigh-iconic Neal Adams cover, Heroes Against Hunger unintentionally illustrates the disparity between Marvel and DC in the peri-Crisis era. The tired story has Superman and Batman battling space aliens and power suit Lex Luthor. Both projects feature work by Gray Morrow, Mike Kaluta, Jeff Jones, Howard Chaykin and others, but often they switch from pencils to inks, or are saddled with lesser inkers on the second pass. Kim DeMulder proves to be among George Perez's worst inkers, and Perez himself offers a possible career low splash page of a tiny Superman carrying a very big green box offer a rather sparse desert. GL & Ordway, Gibbons & Patterson, and Kubert & Rubenstein combine for some of the book's best pages, but they're surrounded by well-intentioned semi-retirees like Jack Kirby, Curt Swan, Carmnine Infantino, and Ross Andru. BWS, Keith Giffen, Ed Barreto, Dan Jurgens, Dave Ross, and Jim Sherman are all thwarted by poorly chosen embellishers. There are no big swings in the writing department: just the guys and a pair of gals that you would expect on a DC title in 1986. Probably because of the charity nature, or a nightmare royalty split, neither of these charity books have ever been reprinted. A rare missed opportunity for Marvel, and a bullet dodged for DC.

I'm still dubious about Longshot #4 shipping this month. I recall a big gap between #3-4, and #4 may have been my first chance to pass on it at my newsstand, rather than being entirely dependent on my brother's copies. This was also where the story started losing me, with its forced She-Hulk and Spider-Man guest appearances, weird Ronnie Reagan analogue, advancing subplots, and back story lore overshadowing the main character's narrative. Looked glorious though, and whatever evolution Arthur Adams has made as an illustrator, it's tough to compete with his youthful enthusiasm for drawing all the lines on every possible thing.

Marvel Saga: the Official History of the Marvel Universe #1 was a solid supplement to OHOTMU. Marvel was big on giveaway comics in the aughts and 20-teens called "Blank" Saga where they'd give an illustrated overview of a property's history using recycled art and text paragraphs. They got their branding from this comic. After a few pages of covering the history of the cosmos in huge swaths, the title settles into a chronological recap of the Marvel canon circa Fantastic Four #1. Retcons are incorporated, so after forcing '80s kids to tolerate many pages of phoned-in Kirby, they get their John Byrne dessert with James McDonald Hudson developing the Guardian suit, all blessed by Wolverine appearances. Not being a Silver Age comics fan, this title was hugely important in imparting to me all that early Marvel history second-hand, and this I did read cover-to-cover. Rod Whigham is probably nobody's favorite artist, and he's ghostly paler compared to the Mike Zeck covers, but I was sure glad to see him draw books like G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #42 when the alternative was patients out of the comic book artist nursing home. This one continued the Billy subplot, a.k.a. Cobra Commander's Damian Wayne, now joined with fan favorite evil ninja Storm Shadow. Good stuff.

Fist of Khonshu: Moon Knight #6 was another late '80s Marauder Comics quarter buy. It gets a pass because it's an Afro-centric story written by the future Christopher Priest, drawn by Mark Beachum, inked by Geoff Isherwood, with a painted Bill Sienkiewicz cover. I still have the same copy, because it's just too pretty to ever let go of. I got into Moon Knight with my buddy's grocery sack o' comics, basically swiping them and atoning by opening up my collection to him for forced trades. Even with the TV show, I'm confident he came out better in the deal, though I still feel bad about it. This could have pretty easily been a Daredevil story, but there's a voodoo angle that tilts it in Marc Spectre's favor, and it is one of the better efforts to live up to the often unfulfilled promise of that wicked character design. This may be redundant, but the Beachum art is sexy.

I'm sure that I made it to Nightcrawler #2, possibly aided by the Kitty Pryde cameo, but I drew the line at the promised appearance next issue of Bamf, sort of Kurt Wagner's Muppet Baby equivalent. There was just way to much fantasy swashbuckling and flying pirate ships for my liking. I wasn't completely off the Dave Cockrum train yet, but he was starting to remind me to much of the long-in-the-tooth Superman artists of the day with his stiffness.

Uncanny X-Men #200 was $1.25, and instead of Wolverine fighting a knife-wielding Warpath on the cover, it was bad temporary purple-costume Magneto on trial for killing a submarine full of Russian soldiers years earlier. As with lawyers, that just sounds like a good start to me. I let my brother buy this one and read it later. I was intrigued by the couple of pages plainly ghost-illustrated by Jim Starlin, almost certainly related to the Heroes for Hope project, but this was never a favorite of mine.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #109's stark cover demands your eyeballs, even if the insides are rather "middle chapter." There's a Santa Claus subplot that I won't follow up on, more Daredevil to acknowledge the Daredevilness of the not-so-new but kinda-daring for the Webhead direction, plus a fake-out imperiling a long time supporting character. This one would eventually get tied up into Venom's origin, but I prefer it as a young Peter David set on sincere grim & grittiness, without any puns intruding.

I was still showing up for Blue Devil with #19, even if it was months late to a flea market booth for a discounted copy. Also, a Kid Devil solo story, featuring the Jason Todd Robin from when he was still a Dick Grayson clone. Actually, skimming through a book I doubt I've read in over 35 years, these are probably all imaginary sequences, so if this was my first Captain Cold story, I guess it wouldn't count as such. I didn't skip the following month on account of all that, but it did skip me, so I went without regardless of any intentions on my part.

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #2 will wrap up September of 1986, and maybe this podcast. Like I said at the top, I drafted most of the August script in January, but sidelined the show to focus on more pressing podcast matters. I'm currently on page 6 of the total draft, so if I want to keep this episode in the half-hour range, I better start working my way to the door. This issue had a Byrne Cap on the cover and a Zeck one for the entry, so a no-brainer purchase. Starting with a Kerry Gamnmill Beast couldn't have hurt. Captain Ultra stood out as Mort of the Month years before Wizard Magazine articulated that sentiment, maybe even presenting Captain Ultra as platonic ideal of unideal characters in their first reference to the dishonor.