Saturday, February 4, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: March-May, 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.

As I mentioned last time, March, 1983 was a bad month for continuing storylines. I failed to follow-up on cliffhangers in Captain America, Power Man and Iron Fist, and come to think of it, anything else. Maybe I'd tapped out my change tips from picking up packs of cigarettes for my grandmother at the 7-11? Times must have gotten tough, because I skipped April, as well.

The first book I bought after the slump was May, 1983's Alpha Flight #1. At a dollar, it was a big ticket purchase, although a bargain at its double length page count. Like most of the comic world, I loved John Byrne in his prime, and all those great looking Marvel heroes on the cover made it an easy sell. However, I soon realized that of those heroes, Alpha Flight were clearly the least. For instance, grouping Snowbird, Northstar and Aurora together made it clear that they barely had one costume color between them. Puck's defining character color is his own hairy flesh. The same was true of Marrina's jaundiced skin, her suit coming out of Namorita's closest. Sasquatch was a poor man's Beast, and Shaman seemed rejected by the Global Guardians. Guardian was the only well designed character in costume, but that costume was the sum total of his personality. The "Alphans" (blech) fought a bunch of giant muck monsters from Canadian Native folklore, which today I would find neat, but as a kid bored me. They reminded me of a movie called Shadow of the Hawk that tripped me out, but it was spooky because it was normal humans against an alien form of the supernatural. Brightly colored super-heroes following in the footsteps of Jan-Michael Vincent were considerably less impressive. For years, it was a book I'd toss through for Byrne, but not actually read.

I next bought All-Star Squadron #24, lured in by what amounted to Spider-Man versus the Justice Society. I had trouble wrapping my brain around heroes still fighting World War II in 1983, but to this day I think the redesigned Tarantula looks fantastic. I'm sure Ditko's version of Blue Beetle was a big influence, but the uncommon use of brown classed the Tarantula up. Chuck Dixon teased the character's return throughout his Nightwing run, only for Devin Grayson to pull a gender switch with necessary adjustments to the costume that ruined its gracefulness. The art by Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan was lovely, but Roy Thomas has never been a favorite of mine, and the story's the thing. I might have given the book another try, but I specifically recall buying this off the spinner rack at Gemco, the only place I ever saw the title in my pre-comic shop days. Shopping trips there were momentous, but irregular.

The New Teen Titans Annual #2 was a huge book for me. It was the debut of a new Vigilante, who I recognized as a Punisher knock-off. However, Punisher appearances were few and far between back then, and I hadn't read any but a two-parter from 1977. The Hitman had kidnapped J. Jonah Jameson, so Spider-Man had to not only save his despised boss, but also keep Frank Castle from murdering anyone, all while fighting on the Statue of Liberty. While a cool action piece, the story was only slightly less silly than average.

The Titans were comparatively hardcore in "The Murder Machine," as they pushed the boundaries of heroism in their dogged pursuit of justice for a friend's family's murder by mobsters. Basically, it was my introduction to the type of "grim n' gritty" super-heroes that would dominate the '90s. Wolfman clearly relished getting nasty and playing around with the darkest tropes of old school gangster flicks (I especially loved the game of Ding-Dong Ditch.) Perez was at his most cinematic and detailed, finally inking himself in a tour de force.

Besides looking amazing and being lethal as hell, the comic finally offered me (and likely, a generation of haters) a version of Robin to cheer on. One of my favorite comic moments was when Robin plays at intimidation in a restaurant, kicking a bodyguard in the face with his little green bootie. The mobster's bimbo says something like, "I always thought he was a boy, but he's a man!" If only Nightwing had followed through on that promise. I loved the heck out of this book, and still have most of my original copy, although some of it is in pieces. This story insured a loyalty to the Titans that would make me a hardcore DC fan in the '90s, although DC shot itself in the foot by making it direct sales only at a time when the newsstand was my only regular source of new comics.

Finally, there's The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior #3. I had wanted to try the first issue, but it was prohibitively expensive at $2.00. I liked the Crystar toys, and had inherited an interest in Dr. Strange from my uncle, so this standard issue got the nod instead. Nice cover, decent story, solid interior art, but nothing to inspire further reading. What makes my memory of the book fond was that for some reason, my grandmother decided to write my name under the indicia as a theft prevention device. It was the only time she ever did that, and while I have (mostly) lost and (occasionally) gained a great many comics through grift, I still have this one.


The Irredeemable Shag said...

I continue to love these resume posts! My own early exposure to Alpha Flight was hearing friends talk enthusiastically about the stories, so these adventures took on a mythological quality for me. Same for the early Teen Titans. By the time I read them myself, I'd been programmed to love them.

I loved the All-Star Squadron at first site. Jerry Ordway is a master to me. However, even in my youth I recognized the Tarantula costume looked too cool and modern to have premiered in the 1940s.

Keep up these great posts!

The Irredeemable Shag

Diabolu Frank said...

Oh yeah, Tarantula was totally anachronistic. It's almost galling that Jay Garrick kept running around in his dorky Mercury (hub)cap but nobody bothered to revisit such a sweet redesign after 1983.

Nobody I knew growing up read any of these titles. Not even Teen Titans during their peak.