Monday, December 5, 2022

Comic Reader Résumé: July, 1985

I'll need to take a moment to orient myself to July of 1985. The gap between my buying comics from this period new and a few years after as back stock is narrowing, and I technically haven't written a blog post for this project in nearly a decade, with age assuredly a greater factor in my recall capacity. I'm pretty sure All-Star Squadron #50 was in 1988's grocery sack o' comics, but it was conceivably in a 1989 quarter bin as well. Either way, the draw was a tie-in to Crisis On Infinite Earths, and not the hoary old farts that populated that book on the monthly. I specifically remember checking out the archival covers at the back of the book, and there was a time years later when I became very invested in DC history. Even at its peak, I doubt I could have slogged through a book this drab for continuity minutia so immediately irrelevant. More assuredly in a bin was DC Comics Presents Annual #4, a much better looking book thanks to the combination of Ed Barreto and Jerry Ordway, but even less a consideration with its tale of Superwoman and Pre-Crisis Luthors plagiarizing the Sivanas one last time. Nathaniel Dusk II #1 was the second time I would start and not finish a mini-series starring the eponymous Depression-era private investigator by Don McGregor and Gene Colan. If more than two issues of either had been in the bins, maybe things would have worked out different.

My half-brother had a mild interest in Firelord, the herald of Galactus with the flaming Q-Tip, so he probably had a copy of either Amazing Spider-Man #269 or #270, but he didn't care enough to have both, and I didn't care enough to keep track of which. The debut issue of the yearlong Eternals was definitely something I flipped through on the newsstand and never touched again, beginning a lifelong disinterest in that property. I still think Alan Kupperberg gets a bad rap in general, but it probably didn't hurt my more favorable opinion that Mark Farmer inked him on Blue Devil #17. That said, he's a bit too "straight" for the lighthearted misadventures, leaning too seriously into a Crisis tie-in revolving around The Fisherman and seemingly sentient raindrops. For reasons unknown, I skipped or was deprived of the following issue. Brian Bolland's Black Book #1 definitely got fished out of the cheapie bin for the reliably sumptuous art, but this child of the '80s was only going to get so much out of color reprints of British anthology lifts of '60s Hammer Horror tropes. By choice or not, it swiftly left my possession.

I knew I remembered Whilce Portacio inking Arthur Adams at some early point in their careers, and there's no other embellisher to obscure that fact in Longshot #2. Both admittedly improve by leaps and bounds from this point, but there's something about the dark edge Portacio lends Adams that is never recaptured after this. Again, I read my brother's copies of the mini-series, most likely in 1986 or '87, and it was scarring. Longshot stumbles into a job as a stuntman, and when he's grievously injured in the job, the director discreetly dumps his body in a bayou. I remember well the press coverage of the tragic deaths on the set of the Twilight Zone movie, and while John Landis technically remains one of my favorite directors from that period, I retain a great deal of animosity toward his smug face to this day. It's not hard to see the parallel Ann Nocenti was barely reaching for, and there's even a passing physical resemblance, although he's clearly amalgamated with Spielberg and Lucas. The third issue also supposedly shipped this month, though that's difficult to fathom with the level of detailing going into every page. You can really see the influence Adams had on J. Scott Campbell and Rob Liefeld in these early efforts, not that either artist ever reached even this level of craft. The story is a twisted take on It's a Wonderful Life, where a schlimazel tries to take his own life, but lands on Longshot's floating body. The alien has some sort of healing factor, and proceeds to demonstrate his inherent, obscene good luck on a misadventure where the schlimazel takes every knock. In the end, he's so battered and disaffected that suicide holds no more interest, as he'd rather return home to the suddenly desired voices of the nag and brats that first drove him to the attempt.

Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 is assuredly a prime collecting memory, for the month, year, and ever. I never cared a lick about football, but I managed to grow into and would quite soon at this point grow out of a Houston Oilers winter coat with a blue breast, silver sleeves, and red cuffs. Some teenage girls were running the counter at the mall Waldenbooks, and thought I was so cute with my Nicholas Bradford haircut that they gave me a copy of the double-length key issue featuring the death of Supergirl. I took the copy with me on a Greyhound bus ride from Houston to Colorado Spring to visit my stepfather's brother's family, the occasional comics fans from whom I'd gotten and never returned that Spider-Man team-up treasury. I think the younger brother held a grudge, because he was nasty towards me the rest of the time I barely knew him. Anyway, the sci-fi scale and air of tragedy from Crisis permeated my action figure play in a way Secret Wars never had. The art by Perez & Ordway was incredible, I got a primer in essential DC/Green Lantern lore, and was introduced to scores of new characters in the best possible presentation within the minuscule space. I've read enough entertaining Maid of Might stories to not diminish her by calling this her best, but certainly there are few super-hero deaths that still resonate as much as this one. The less effective but longer lasting death of the Barry Allen Flash in the next issue was part of my buddy's grocery sack bounty.

After a lapse in Web-Head interest, I came back strong for The All New, All Daring Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #107. It was a pretty mean feat for semi-disgraced swiper Rich Buckler and that one moonlighting guy from marketing working under Marvel's only African-American editor. The story would end up revealing the death of Jean DeWolff, a literally disposable gender-swapped Commissioner Gordon at a time when Spidey's main squeeze was a Catwoman lift. The amount of blood and the framing of Captain DeWolff's murder were so shocking that I showed it to my comics disinterested girlfriend. Daredevil shows up partway through, and the tone of his title seemed to be borrowed as well. Jim Owsley would catch all kinds of hell for this bold new direction, but he was on to something with this Peter David guy, and anyway, Owsley would eventually literally make a whole other name for himself as Christopher Priest.

Unbeknownst to myself, Dreadstar and Company #5 presented the penultimate issue of that newsstand reprint series of the 1983 Baxter format direct sales only title. While still plentiful in its violent action and advancement of plot, it still becomes a welcome comic romp by the midpoint, necessary after several uncommonly bleak issues. Marvel Age Annual #1 had the novel and likely costly idea of having the creative teams of most of their current comics produce a single page story to advertise current events in their titles. This was followed by mostly text-only teasers for upcoming events in those titles and the broader Marvel production slate. I read my brother's copy at a later date, which I suppose was my first taste of intentionally watching commercials on YouTube that I gladly skipped when they were actually airing on television.

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