Friday, January 13, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: January, 1983

ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey]
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.

After my last post was published, I did some research and found that I'd missed a December, 1982 purchase. I'd so enjoyed my sampling of The Brave and the Bold that I suspect I went looking for more value for the dollar team-up action that month. The first strike out was DC Comics Presents, and the second was World's Finest Comics #289. All I remember was being disgustingly bored with it, and weirded out by its mating plant limbs and boo-hooing Superman and Batman. I was much too young to realize that the whole thing was a thinly veiled slash fiction, but between the two books, I decided Superman didn't work as a partner to other heroes. Most Superman comics I tried as a kid were crappy, dull, and dated, so I figured his talent pool infected other characters when intermingled.

Speaking of dark confessions, I've come to realize that my sudden boom in buying new comics was likely related to my mother dating and eventually marrying a scumbag, who at least offered a boost to the family economy. For instance, sometime this year I bought my first trade paperback at the mall's B. Dalton Booksellers, the 1979 Simon And Schuster "Fireside Collection" Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. I try to stick to brand new, off the stands comics with this column, since covering back issues across a span of years would spin things right out of focus. In this case though, it was a momentous purchase made from a retail outlet, so I'll let it slide. Beyond the patriotastic Dave Cockrum painted cover were reprints of the 1965 version of Cap's origin, his big revival as an Avenger, his swell first solo story of the Silver Age, the return of the Red Skull, and first the Cosmic Cube epic. That's all-killer, no-filler there. In a bit of jackassery, the cover only credits Stan Lee, but Jack Kirby was in perfect fighting form on all those stories. Bouncing bombastic battle action with the acrobatic Avenger as he tossed terrorists torsos to and fro! This one also included a rockin' battle with the Hulk drawn by the incomparable Jim Steranko, then a wah-wah ending battle with the Scorpion by the usually great Gene Colan, though I never felt he fit Cap at all. Regardless, this book was pure comic crack, and though I was already a Cap fan by the time I got this, the collection sure synched the deal.

I brought the Fireside book up because this month marked my major plunge in Cap fandom, as I bought two new appearances. The first was Captain America #280, where he battled Marvel's serial killing Scarecrow in a story by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck and John Beatty. While I recognized this one was a rip-off, I think one of the reasons I never got into DC's version is because I always found this contortionist killer creepier. I immediately fell in love with this creative team, and they made this the first comic I followed consistently month after month (although a case could be made for my spotty Brave and the Bold patronage.)

It took me a few more months, but Uncanny X-Men #168 would mark another ongoing fixation of mine. I can't explain why this was the first issue of X-Men I decided to buy, since I already was exposed to them through friend's copies and (I think) their appearance on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. I could maybe blame being raised by women, because this was likely the girliest issue ever produced. I'd never seen art like Paul Smith's before-- so lovely, clean, and delicate. Chris Claremont's story was all about a teenage girl whining about school and her mentor, taking place in dorm rooms, dance studios, and other centers of estrogen. Storm even took a page to explore her secret tumultuous feelings while on a stroll. There was even a page in the back devoted to outfits in her closet. You'd think I was a Friend of Dorothy, if Kitty Pryde hadn't ended up being my first fanboy crush. She was my four-color girlfriend until I outgrew her, then got grossed out when she started sexing up Pete Wisdom. She's only fifteen (for thirty years!) I still have my original copy, which of course is missing its cover, first pages, and the paper is about as auburn as her hair.

The final Captain America purchase of the month was Marvel Team-Up #128, which totally had me at the photo cover. To this day, I love fumetti, the precursor to cosplay. I'm fairly certain that's Joe Jusko as Cap, and it may be Bill Sienkiewicz as Spidey. There was a nifty feature on the shooting inside. Funny thing though, is that the story was plenty good enough to not need any gimmicks. Once again, J.M. DeMatteis wrote the tale, and if he couldn't be joined by Zeck, no worthier replacement could be found than Kerry Gammill. This was the ultimate point for "on-model" artists who still brought dazzling individual flare, before the age of the auteur/"artiste" expanded the horizons of the medium (but were buzzkills for the Official Handbook style uniformity geeks relish.) The story wasn't all that memorable, since Vermin was just a furry Lizard, but it was enjoyable and a feast for the eyes. It also fueled a growing pro-Marvel bias. Batman was of inconsistent quality solo, better teamed-up. Superman was of consistently low quality, worse teamed-up, and at a nadir with Batman. Meanwhile, Spider-Man and Cap owned individually or as a pair...

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