Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Comic Reader Résumé Podcast #18

Now Monthly!

(January 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 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.