Sunday, March 31, 2024

Comic Reader Résumé: Late April, 1986

Are you as sick as I am of hearing me talk about flipping through issues of Daredevil during the "Born Again" arc, but never buying them because the storytelling looked too dense? I promise that #233 is the last time, with the added bonus of my refusing to support an all-timer Captain America guest spot. Next month is an all fill-in issue, where Mark Gruenwald inflicts Madcap upon us, and Marvel inflicts Klaus Janson upon Steve Ditko. If that doesn't sound like it would work, your hearing's fine. The following month, they tried it with Danny Bulandi, with far more interesting results. It's still anachronistic, like the Curt Swan/Dave Hunt pairing on Superman, although Bulandi is much more heavy-handed in burying Ditko under his style. But I like Bulandi, so I don't hate it. Then Ann Nocenti debuted, and continuing her artist hot streak, was joined for the one issue by freakin' Barry Windsor-Smith. That was also the month of the Marvel 25th anniversary cover, with a fun head shot and that iconic character-filled border. Louis Williams then started his Daredevil run without Nocenti, on a fill-in story by someone named John Harkness. Smells fishy to me. Klaw was in this one, and I'd had my fill of him during Secret Wars. I mention all this because my anticipation to start buying Daredevil continued to be deferred throughout this time, so I figured to address them in one rip.

Another bulk rate bonus entry is Meet Misty #5, wherein I stopped buying a six-issue mini-series one issue shy, but will finally seal the deal nearly forty years later. So the first thing I have to investigate is what went wrong with issue five? The cover featuring Darlene Dunderbeck and Misty Collins at the gym may be an indication. I was never much for P.E., I find Darlene to be a dull adversary, and Misty is oddly sexualized here and throughout the issue. Look, I'm not a prude and I don't think women's existences are inherently sexual or anything. I mean that three pages of the seven page opener features teenage girls in a locker room in states of undress, starting with a splash featuring an unnamed kid pulling up her dress to just below the breast line. Plus, the entire piece is a comedy of errors with Misty and Darlene obsessing over their weight. Also, it precedes a Milly the Model four pager about a middle aged, overweight woman reflecting on her past, so it feels like overcompensating. That was cute at least, and was a slight nod to the character's mid-century comics continuity. The last story, "Video Wars," goes full Muppet Babies. The girls go to a stand-in for Chuck E. Cheese Pizza, where Darlene challenges Misty to a video game, and she gets lost in a Star Wars pastiche fantasy. Technically, Shirelle and Spike are in this comic, but they have nothing to do in the story but support Misty. The issue was all the things that I didn't like about the series to date, with little of what I had.

It gets worse in the finale. I know Meet Misty #6 was on the stands at 7-11, as usual. I picked it up and tossed through it. Sometimes, there's just another comic that you want more, and you leave one behind for a week or so. My strongest memory of that was Kitty Pryde & Wolverine #1, which just didn't quite make it home on the first pass, sold out or got pulled, and I made sure to buy #2-6. This was the exact opposite. I was five-sixths through this thing, felt like I ought to finish, but just didn't want to. It's very possible that its centering on a wedding hurt it. I'm not married, and would rather never be so, but I fully invested in the wedding of Peter Parker to Mary Jane Watson. Looking at the long lead story, and it's just Darlene pitted against Misty again. I was sure tired of that. As usual, the object of their affections and dispute is soap opera co-star Ricky Martin, who ultimately marries his old flame Lake Lovelock's character in-show. However, Ricky doesn't have a line of dialogue in these later issues, although you could argue fair play, given he's just a prop to pit Darlene against Misty throughout the series. Because there have been celebrity designer credits in these comics, I made a point to start reading those, like I would have as a kid. There's a very good chance that the Bill Walko who went on to do Teen Titans comics in a animation style got his start here, but more of a long shot is Rob Schneider of Deuce Bigolow Male Giggolo infamy submitting outfit designs. But I read dozens of these credits between issues, each with multiple fashion montage sequences. Knowing the end was near, I think Trina Robbins wrote her stories around featuring as many of the submissions as possible, and it leads to exceptionally insubstantial material. The final full story is Misty buying a Mary Marvel indebted outfit at the mall, gaining super powers, but losing them when the colors wash out in the laundry. She tries to replace it, but that shop at the mall supposedly never existed, even though Misty and Shirelle had both shopped there. The New Mutants comic is repeatedly and obtrusively referenced, to the point where it feels like Robbins is trying to mainfest continued life for her heroine in the Marvel Universe. It isn't even convincingly framed as a fantasy sequence, because multiple characters see and respond to "Mall Girl" flying around and using super strength, even one from outside the regular cast who goes home to tell her husband about a thwarted mugging. It's feels so odd and desperate. Speaking of, the final single page gag strip stars Darlene and hinges on a poodle skirt gag. It's 1986. I bought too many Misty issues, not one too few. And the junior Miss Collins never appears again, outside reference material. Milly did, but in appearances that clearly ignored this Star Comic as outside of Marvel continuity.

Last Days of the Justice Society Special #1 was another one from my buddy's grocery sack o' comics in the summer of '88, though I did eventually buy my own copy a decade or so down the line. Part of the reason Roy Thomas left Marvel for DC was to get the chance to write the Golden Age heroes he'd grown up with, and DC made him bury them. As a consequence of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC wanted all the old timers off the board. A few of them had already been killed off in the event, so the book starts at their funeral. Then the Spectre showed up to explain that he and the universe itself were dying, as he'd come from a near future resolution of World War II where the JSA were all gunned down by Nazis. So the team does a redux, and this time they're all killed by Norse Gods summoned by the Spear of Destiny. I realize Hitler had a fascination with the supernatural, and used the Norse as a way to provide a Teutonic mythology for his regime. What I don't get is what the spear that pierced the side of Christ on the Cross has to do with Asgard, and this wasn't Thomas' doing, but I also thought it was dopey that the power of the Spear of Destiny was what prevented the JSA from invading Germany to end the war sooner. I guess this special helps to illustrate that point, but it has the unfortunate side effect of demonstrating Adolph Hitler besting America's super-heroes twice over and seemingly unto infinity. You see, the whole premise hinges on the Twilight of the Gods, the Norse myth of the end times. In fact, I was introduced to the concept of Ragnarok by this comic. Anyway, rather than bringing the Norse apocalypse, the JSA are able to cause Ragnarok to perpetually reset, rather than progress to engulfing the Earth, or even all of existence. It was a real downer ending, and the combination of Dave Ross and Mike Gustovich brought an old-timey newspaper strip verisimilitude that signaled the death of my interest in reading this comic or any other with the JSA for years to come. I had picked up All-Star Squadron in the Jerry Ordway days, but that book was toast. It was replaced by Young All-Stars, which also looked like a Classics Illustrated and featured lame analogues for DC icons in the overpriced direct market format. I don't think I ever had a chance to read those new, and having read some since, was better off that way. I'd eventually start to come around on the Golden Age Superman stand-in, Iron Munro, in the pages of Damage, and James Robinson would turn me around on the JSA in Starman. But for now, good riddance, and before long, Roy Thomas would be back at Marvel, producing comics about their Golden Age that I also wanted nothing to do with.

Lil' bro bought Alpha Flight #37, where Dave Ross was slightly better served by Gerry Talaoc that he had been Mike Gustovich, but only because it dated his look back to the '70s instead of the '50s. Heck, both stories even featured extended flashbacks to the olden days, this one set in 1848. It was about some zombie sailor dude covering Canada's heroes in worms and other pestilence. I like the weird horror angle now, but it wasn't really what the target demographic of a fading X-Men spin-off was probably after.

Amazing Spider-Man #279 was another half-brother half-comic, so maybe he was the Spidey-guy after all? This was another chapter of "Missing in Action," which tried to make a crossover event out of having supporting cast members carry the books. So this one offers Silver Sable versus Jack O' Lantern in a battle of lowered expectations. To highlight this, it was drawn by personal non-favorite Rick Leonardi, and to really lean in, as inked by Vinnie Colletta. If you can believe it, Leonardi's style is so outsized that it mostly thwarts Colletta's attempts to muck it up, plus it's simple enough that he doesn't have any excuse to just erase any pencils he didn't get around to before quitting time. Plus, I have to admit, Leonardi was a good match for Silver Sable and Tom DeFalco's script, causing me to overestimate her appeal for a few years.

Captain America #320 also shipped this month, "The Explosive Climax to the Year of the Scourge." I'd have to do more research than I'm willing to verify that assertion, but I don't even think Scourge got half a year, did he? For some reason, I remember this issue more than the previous, maybe because it featured Water Wizard, who I knew from one of my earlier comics purchases, an issue of Ghost Rider. He's the one who led Cap to the Bar with No Name, filled with the rotting corpses of Scourge's victims. This was also the first time we saw Scourge in his skull mask. To catch a killer, Cap planted a news item that Mirage had survived the massacre, going so far as to wear the dead man's costume to bait Scourge. I think the morbidity stuck with me more than the sensationalism. Taking a page from Steve Ditko's decisive desire to reveal Green Goblin as just some guy with no personal connection to Spider-Man, the Scourge was a nobody killed by another Scourge after he was captured. I liked that, but I have to concede than Stan Lee's directive for Norman Osborne being the Goblin had a tad more of a lasting impact on comic book storytelling.

Thanks to the same shipping week overhang, we also got another OHOTMU in April. Molecule Man to Owl in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #9 is in my wheelhouse with Moon Knight, Nomad, and Nightcrawler on another swell John Byrne cover. I'm sure glad he made it for most of his first year without any glaring replacements, unlike Who's Who. This issue has ebbs and flows-- starting strong; withering; second wind; winded. My usual favorites like Sandy Plunkett, Alan Weiss, Rudy Nebres, and Mike Zeck glow-up lesser lights like a non-vampiric Michael Morbius and Nightshade.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Comic Reader Résumé: Early April, 1986

Alpha Flight #36 had a Mike Mignola cover and promised appearances by the Avengers and Dr. Strange. I'm pretty sure my half-brother had a copy. That's all I've got on this one. He definitely had Amazing Spider-Man #278, with it's stark Mike Harris cover of Spidey standing over the body of Flash Thompson dressed as Hobgoblin, the words "Justice is Served" written into a shadow cast long across the white background. It looks like peak '80s edge at ten paces, but you crack that cover and the Vinnie Coletta hits you like a wall of stink. The Tom DeFalco plot over co-scripting duties by Peter David and Jo Duffy raises even more red flags. I'm guessing DeFalco blew his deadline on the development pipeline for Kickers Inc. and needed the help pulling together an issue long Scourge of the Underworld tie-in, where most books just snuck him in for a page or two. In case you don't know, Mark Gruenwald had the idea to gin-up sales on Captain America by giving him a Punisher-like vigilante adversary that specialized in murdering lower-tier Marvel super-villains. Despite the cover tease, it's The Wraith that buys it this issue. No, not Jim Gordon's son, but Jean DeWolff's brother. Really rough year for that family.

My brother was way into Scourge, to the point that he set out to buy every one of those titles in his killing spree. I don't know if he got them all, and I certainly didn't read them all, but Captain America #319 was certainly among the key issues. After low-key playing out the premise for a few months, this was the issue that announced the Scourge by name on the cover, including the floating heads of a bunch of justifiably worried costumed criminals. Along with the Serpent Society, Diamondback had been appearing in the title for a few months, but I believe this was the issue that really launched her partnership with Cap through much of Gruenwald's lengthy run. It was obviously intended to give Cap a Catwoman, and inker extraordinaire Joe Sinnott does what he can, but she's just not that appealing in all that pink as drawn by Paul Neary. Apologies to fans of the recently deceased artist, but his work almost single-handedly drove me off the book. Plus, this was the infamous issue with the massacre at the Bar with No Name, where the Scourge wasted about seventeen villains, delivering a substantial portion of the total census for the upcoming revised Handbook of the Dead. If that had happened in a Spider-Man comic, or had Mike Zeck art, we'd still be raving about it today. Instead, it's mostly a footnote, and most of these folks stayed dead!

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #8 was Magus to Mole Man, headlined by Marvel Girl, Mr. Fantastic, and Mockingbird. The art is solid Bronze Age consistency with few real standouts, but Bret Blevins goes out of his way on Man-Thing, and you can miss a rare Brian Bolland appearance on a different Merlin than he's known for. Art Adams' Mojo and Stan Woch's Modred the Mystic also pop.

I think Power Pack #24 got a house ad, plus a Cloak appearance, so maybe that's why my brother bought this one? I really like the Jon Bogdanove art now, but doubt that would have put such a Franklin Richards heavy issue over with me back in the day.

I think my half-brother went back for seconds with Avengers #269, which was full of Kang lore involving multiple variants, including Immortus. To me, this was awful convoluted multiple Earths DC nonsense, and if the Avengers harbored those sorts of shenanigans, then it was a title to be avoided going forward.

I'm definitely familiar with the Tom Mandrake drawn Two-Face story from Batman #397, but I'm vague on the timeline. Two-Face was not featured on the 1960s Batman TV show, and had not appeared in animation up to that point, so I didn't know who he was in 1986, much less regard him as a major Batman villain. I recall my introduction, and this wasn't it. This one was also from when Batman and Catwoman were basically a duo, leaving Robin to his own devices. When I see Jason Todd on the splash page with a jutted lower lip while dragging an assailant into the police station, I "read" him as the attitudinal Post-Crisis incarnation of "The New Adventures." Plus, there's a deformed stripper wearing a porcelain mask in this comic that is extremely provocative for the time, but made no impression on me. So, I figure this must have been from the 1988 sack o' comics or later.

I'm the one who brought Conan the Barbarian #184 to the table, probably from out of a 3-pack. There are so many covers of that dude fighting giant monsters naked, that one where he's mostly clothed, standing semi-hunched in a doorway, stumbling in like a zombie actually stands out in my memory. I wish I could say as much about the story within. It's another Owsley/Buscema/Chan joint, so it looks nice, but too much talky-talky.

For some G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #49 was probably a shark jumping moment. The Zeck cover features Destro and Dr. Mindbender exiting a pyramid's tomb with a mummy, and the story is titled "Serpentor." Yep, the genetically-engineered new leader of Cobra, made up of DNA from history's most notorious military leaders and tyrants. Look, I had all three of these action figures, but the bald guys got a lot more play than the dude with a big orange snake cowl. Thankfully, we're still a little ways out before going full Cobra-La.

The Incredible Hulk #321 had two teams of Avengers and some Fantastic Four in a throwdown with the Jade Giant, which was more spectacle than lil' bro could resist. But also, it was like, half an issue of Hulk-Busters, including a middle-aged Asian lady who judo-tosses Hulk, and it's Al Milgrom layouts finished by Dell Barras. I gave it a toss, but me-- I could resist it fine.

The Marvel Saga, the Official History of the Marvel Universe #8 reminds me what a weird, thankless gig this was. Peter Sanderson did the research and synopses, but he's only recapping other people's stories with any significant editorializing. The always retro Ron Frenz leans into anonymity with a cover and splash pages that looks as much like Steve Ditko and Werner Roth as he can manage. Not exactly what the kids were clambering for in 1986. Spider-Man goes well out of his comfort zone by hitchhiking on a jet fighter to catch a defective space capsule in mid-descent so that he could deploy its parachute to save the life of astronaut John Jameson. That kid will have no better luck going forward, and by that I mean John Jameson. Peter Parker marries a super-model. He's just a whiner. There's also coverage of early tales of the Fantastic Four, Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man, which I'm even less interested in now than I was then. There's a distinct lack of retcons allowing the use of art by John Byrne or Bob Layton, so this is a whole lot rough, loose, exhausted Kirby punctuated by distinctly jazzier Ditko Spider-Man material involving Chameleon and his failed Fantastic Five bid. Okay, we do get the first Thing/Hullk bout, and they work in a little Simonson and Sienkiewicz. When we're talking the origin story of Warren Worthington III, fresh takes are very necessary.

I guess I was interested enough in Kraven the Hunter and the new Vulture with the green skullcap to buy Marvel Tales Starring Spider-Man #189, but I'm not proud of it, Kraven's lion man vest shot lasers out of the eyeholes. What's that I said about saying no to dumb DC elements in my Marvels?

Secret Origins #4 covered Firestorm, the finer details of which I wasn't aware. I tossed through it at the mall bookstore, but the art and character just didn't appeal to me enough to delve deeper.

From memory, I would have sworn that Bret Blevins drew The Sword of Solomon Kane #6 of 6, but the painted cover is Dan Green and the interiors are John Ridgway. I usually like Al Williamson, but he's a bad fit here, and even worse over Sandy Plunkett in a short poetry section at the end of the book. Kane has never had the drawing power of other Robert E. Howard characters, but something about that bony, severe pilgrim works for me. Oddly enough, he looks like a Downward Spiral period Trent Reznor here, as he dares to expose his fully nude... arms, because he's in Africa and it's Africa hot, bro. Also, this one has winged demons and severed heads on pikes staring blanky for many panels, and that horror vibe is the lane where Kane most appeals to me.

Given that emotionally John Romita Jr.'s X-Men is my definitive version of the characters, it's funny how readily I avoided issues of his run in comparison to others. Years in to my active collecting, I'm perfectly content to continue reading friends & relatives' copies of a supposed "favorite title" instead of buying my own. I still think that it was mostly down to frugality, but I honestly disliked or was disinterested in a lot of the members, villains, and their designs at this time. I particularly viewed Phoenix unfavorably, with her lousy attitude, trashy mullet, and hideous yellow & red costume. Even when she was in the red vinyl with the spikes, the fetish kink of it was off-putting at that age. Anyway, Uncanny X-Men #207 was about Rachael Summers putting on a sexy French Maid outfit and infiltrating the Hellfire Club in a bid to kill the Black Queen, and somewhere along the way gets stabbed in the gut by Logan. But hey, this was the cover Wolverine slashes with his claws, so I think I got it out of a three-pack a few months later. I barely get anything that was going on here, so I should have probably reread it, but nah.

I'd left the previous issue's cliffhanger hanging for a while, but at some point after release, my half-brother helped me to read The All-New, All-Daring Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #116 for the Sabretooth appearance. I might need to explain that. At this point, Sabretooth was still best known as an Iron Fist foe that had teamed-up with the Hulk villain The Constrictor to more evenly match up when Luke Cage had been paired with the martial artist. My friends and I picked up Power Man and Iron Fist on occasion, but I hadn't seen any Sabretooth appearances, and would have known Constrictor only from his Secret Wars action figure. In about half a year, Sabretooth would join the Marauders in their Mutant Massacre, and be positioned as Wolverine's nemesis. Despite already being a hugely popular anti-hero, Logan hadn't really had a prominent foe, the closest by my reckoning being Ogun, who had not survived the Kitty Pryde mini-series. So Sabretooth went from an also-ran in a lower tier title to an overnight sensation, and little bro liked his characters with mean streaks as wide as Sabretooth's. So even though of the two of us, I was the relative "Spider-Man guy," he's the one who made the purchase sometime later this year or into 1987. And it's funny, because it's mostly a Black Can story, and it establishes a new status quo for Sabretooth that doesn't survive his transition to the X-office. Sabretooth is a hired lackey of The Foreigner, who'd been introduced a year earlier in Amazing Spider-Man. It was the same issue that introduced Silver Sable, but very discreetly. It had been in a three pack that someone had cracked open in a store that I was in, and that I'd tossed through. That story was about an elderly thief called The Fox, and did not hold my interest. At some point, amybe right from the beginning, The Foreigner was established as Silver Sable's ex-husband, but the character hadn't progressed until Peter David picked him up for use in Spectacular. David tried to make the Foreigner an overarching big bad, but he was just a regular looking guy without a costume or powers, so it didn't really take. Also, Jim Owsley hiring a guy from marketing to replace Al Milgrom was not a popular move, so there was immediate pressure to get rid of this guy who would only later become one of Marvel's defining talents. The Foreigner would be used to wrap David's run the following years, out with a whimper. That said, I've long thought it odd that no on e ever seemed to do anything with Foreigner's connection to Sabretooth, and being a big name mercenary, why he was never connected to Deadpool. Maybe because this appearance ended with Sabretooth clawing his own face to get web fluid off it, and it hurt so bad that Spidey took the pitiful thing to the vet or something. Sabretooth had a lot of emasculating appearances before hitting it big.

The penultimate Sectaurs, #7, was either another sack comic or Marauder Comics quarter bin buy. Bill Mantlo just wasn't spinning the same gold here as he had on Micronauts, and this story did not stick in my brain. It's a shame, because the art of Steve Geiger and Keith Williams continues to over-perform, deserving better. I never read the last issue, and I'm pretty sure the toys were off the shelves, so this is where we bid the Sectaurs adieu.

X-Factor #6 probably had a circulation of half a million, and I wasn't much more impressed with Apocalypse than I was the Alliance of Evil. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that high grade copies go for a few bills, but from my personal experience, it's difficult to assign the book that much value. Walt Simonson insists that he only tweaked a Jackson Guice's design, and Guice only recalls working off a design by Simonson. It sure looks like a Simonson to me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Comic Reader Résumé Podcast #20

(March 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 Avengers #268, Conan the Barbarian #183, Elvira's House of Mystery #4, G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #48, Marvel Saga: the Official History of the Marvel Universe #7, Masters of the Universe #2, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #7, Spectacular Spider-Man #115, Uncanny X-Men #206, Web of Spider-Man #16, X-Factor #5, and more!

“Transcripts” DC Comics, Elvira, G.I. Joe, House of Mystery, Marvel Comics, X-Factor, X-Men, Comic Reader Résumé

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Comic Reader Résumé: March, 1986


I'm confident that my half-brother had Alpha Flight #35, because that Shaman versus Talisman cover with the reanimated skeletons is tight. Nobody seems to know for sure who drew it though, and the collected editions stopped about five issues short of this one in 2016. To me, it's new series artist David Ross, looking a lot better here than on the Gerry Talaoc inked interiors, reminding me that we don't talk enough about how he butchered early Mike Mignola work. Talking of whom, Mignola is often credited with participation in this cover, and yeah, skeletons, but I just don't see it. I'm pretty sure that just Kevin Nowlan inks with more fidelity to Ross' linework than he's usually associated with. He doesn't always completely redraw an image, you know. Oh, the interiors? It's a Marina spotlight featuring Sub-Mariner in Atlantis. Who cares?

I think the cover art for Sergio Aragones Groo the Wanderer #16, in which the barbarian prepares to hack at a fly on his own nose with a short blade, was used as a house ad. Like its inspiration Conan, I read a lot of these comics, but they're all so similar that I can rarely recall one from another. Again, I mostly mention it to fill out this week.

The Marvel Saga, the Official History of the Marvel Universe #7 continues to answer the question of how I was relatively familiar with the backstories of Tony Stark and James Rhodes despite rarely even flipping through Iron Man comics growing up. Knowing where their moneymaker was, the Brent Anderson cover highlights J. Jonah Jameson's crusade against Spider-Man. A lot of this issue was taken up by recaps of Human Torch and Ant-Man solo stories, necessitating the disclaimer that I never bought a single issue of this series-- I only read my brother's copies.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #7 announced on the cover that you wouldn't be getting any headliners by fronting with villains, and it is Khoryphos to Magneto after all. But you did get some nice entries for minor characters. Joe Kubert on Killer Shrike, Sandy Plunkett's Hannibal King, Kerry Gammill's Misty Knight, Bill Sienkiewicz's Legion, Mike Zeck's Living Laser, Paul Smith's Lockheed, Art Adams' Longshot, and especially Mark Beachum's Madame Masque. Walt Simonson also got a lot of play on Kurse, Loki, and Lorelai, plus David Mazzuchelli's Kingpin. I'm also weirdly into the various Kree militia uniforms. Am I secretly super sentai sensitive or something?

Avengers #268 struck me as familiar, despite have a generic cover with the Growing Man on it. Or rather, the big orange and purple guy that I thought was a Kree robot or something and had to look up. I knew it wasn't one of mine, but my brother was even less of an Avengers guy than I was. Cracking the cover, the splash has a Buscema/Palmer shot of Captain America crouching in a cave with a flashlight while Jarvis looks on. Yeah, yeah, okay. The story is titled "The Kang Dynasty," and hey, how's that going? The image of a downed original golden armor Iron Man confirmed that I knew this one, but that leads to appearances by Kang and Space Phantom, who were not draws to us. Gah, what was it with this one? Eight pages in, and finally, the Dire Wraiths showed up. My brother liked Dire Wraiths. Mystery solved.

Conan the Barbarian #183 offered "Blood Dawn," a Jim Owsley, John Buscema, and Ernie Chan collaboration about vampire zombie priest things from out of Beastmaster. I didn't buy it on purpose, so it was likely a three pack or my brother again. The story ended with a black man kissing a hateful white woman's foot, and lil' bro had transgressive tastes.

Finally, Elvira's House of Mystery #4! As I've mentioned before, I watched Movie Macabre most weekends, caught Elvira on stuff like beer commercials and Halloween episodes of shows like The Fall Guy, and would have her "moon bathing" poster on my wall in a few years. So of course I had to talk about her first comics run, which I fished out of quarter bins early and fairly often. That said, this is one of the few times I can discuss an issue I actually bought brand new off the stands. Or actually, I'm pretty sure I got this one at my first semi-proper comic shop-- the one inside the South Houston flea market that had it's own doors and walls and posters and display shelves and a cash register and everything. The first issue was a double length, double priced horror anthology in which Elvira only cameoed, so it's possible I rejected it at a mall bookstore. But I got really excited when I saw Mark Beachum & Dick Giordano's "Peek-A-Boo" cover. Besides both artists being masters of drawing sexy ladies, they also dodged the likeness issue that even Brian Bolland stumbled over by having Elvira cover a third of her highly recognizable face with her hands. The layout of the cover is strikingly similar John Byrne's green-foil enhanced one for The Sensational She-Hulk #50, down to her eyes & nose being covered up by the logo.

So out of all the books I could have gotten on this relatively rare opportunity to specialty access, I got one that was technically available on the newsstand, though I rarely if ever saw it there. But again, I wasn't a short story collection guy until this century, and Elvira was literally only on the splash page. I might have been put off forever, except it was a really great issue, actually. The lead story was by Heather Kilgour, with inks by Jim Fern and script by Rory Metcalf and Gael Montgomery. Most of these people only have a single credit in the comics industry, but Kilgour went on to become a noted illustrator who went on to work in the art department for revered fantasy films like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The art is lovely, and the gothic romance story certainly stands out in this volume. A little Trevor von Eeden, some Steve Leialoha, the art is worth the price of admission on its own.

Next comes a Cain pin-up by Shawn McManus in full Bernie Wrightson mode, surely one of his most fantastic pieces. The second and final story is by Dennis Yee, whose credits are also sparse and mostly restricted to the 1986-87 window on a little known indie book for Elite Comics called Seadragon. Like Elvira, I saw one or two of those in the Marauder Books quarter bin, and Yee could have used the Jim Fern inks there that he enjoyed here. The story "She Knows... Someone Is Watching Her" is extremely prescient, about an independent African-American woman whose life is gradually made smaller and more fearful by an overweight white incel who stalks her. Aside from the Bronze Age art style, you'd think this tale was produced today, and it made an impression on me.

G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #48 had a Mike Zeck Zartan cover, so I showed up for it. The whole issue is about mistaken identity. Snake-Eyes in his latex face mask looking like a regular G.I., the guy people think is Zartan isn't, the guys people think are Joes are actually Zartan. And nobody knows who new recruit Sgt. Slaughter is, but they mess around and find out. I know he he is: besides being a famed WWF wrestler, he was also one of the few celebrities to follow me on Twitter.

Marvel Tales #188 reprinted 1967's Amazing Spider-Man #48, in which a younger guy with a full head of dark hair took over the role of the Vulture. It's from the classic team of Stan Lee and John Romita, but don't ask me why I felt the need to buy this specific issue. Three-pack strikes again?

I strongly associate Uncanny X-Men #206 with the apartment my father's family was living in when I first started visiting them on odd weekends. My father had this big, ornate, uncomfortable antique couch that I maybe read this on? Also, he was still a bohemian age of aquarius type, and my half sister still has major woo-woo hippy dippy vibes to this day. The babymama I liked when I saw her, but she mostly dipped out to the bedroom with her wine and Anne McCaffrey books. I think my half-brother was living with his mother at the time, so a fellow weekend traveler? Anyway, based on comics chronology, my father's family came by and wrecked my place around Christmas, and I was reading my half-brother's John Romita Jr. drawn Freedom Force battle that Spring.

At the mall bookstore, I flipped through the collector's item premiere issue of The Green Lantern Corps #... 201? Yeah, this wasn't fooling anybody. And despite trying to rebrand as a team book, this was just a bunch of goofy looking corpsmen with the same powers and costume... and one's a chipmunk now? No sir, you can keep that. It's going to be another decade & a half before I'm making time for chipmunk protagonists in my comics again. I'm a serious comic book collector, don't you know?

The All-New, All-Different Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #115 is another comic read on a delay. I don't know if it was a three-pack, one of my bro's books-- whatever. I just know that I'd stopped actively collecting this book, but reads this issue within a year or two of release. I shouldn't have waited, since it's a Peter David story with Mark Beachum art, only slightly toned down by Bob McLeod inks. Maybe not the best call, given the unusually unambiguous attempted r-a-p-e that starts the issue. That was skeevy enough without later cutting to Felicia Hardy prancing around in material thin enough to be full-body pantyhose. But tootie-fruity, Spidey gives good booty, so there's equal time in place. We've got Dr. Strange, we've got a dude with a two foot mohawk nearly a decade after the days of punk, it's all good.

Maybe one of the best criticisms of the Layton/Guice run on X-Factor that I can offer comes specifically from #5, which introduces the new super-group The Alliance of Evil, made out of threats from previous issues. What do I remember most? Not the team-- but the sequence where a largely hairless Hank McCoy goes shopping for a new business suit. I'm the target audience for this hot new book, looking at a Beast overdosed on depilatories, dressed like Herb Tarlek with a worse haircut-- wondering why Marvel thought this was what I wanted to read. Just pages of boring post-grad X-Men I was already suffering through in Marvel Saga and my brother's cut rate low grade back issues, and they're hanging out in a regular gym, not a Danger Room. They're talking on the phone, attending business meetings, hanging out with Rusty, Skids, and Artie. The lousy super-villains that didn't make an impression in the first four issues don't even show up until page 17. As I understand it, the last page reveal that the arc's mastermind was the Dardevil villain The Owl was so underwhelming that editor Bob Harras had the incoming replacement writer create a brand new foe, and the artist redrew them in silhouette to tease their full debut. Didn't mean much to me then, though. That'll change for the greater X-title buying public.


I've repeatedly brought up issues from Miller & Mazzuchelli's "Born Again" arc that I did not buy at the time, but Daredevil #232's nationalistic "God and Country" really stands out. I know that I gave this a toss at the neighborhood 7-11, but just like that one Alan Moore Swamp Thing I got, I just knew that this was too mature for me at that time. Too complex, over my head, save it for later. But Nuke's paramilitary rampage and that iconic final splash of Daredevil back in costume was making me itchy.

Little bro bought Star Comics' Masters of the Universe #2. The DC mini-series was too grown up Alfredo Alcala gritty Conan-looking for my taste in 1982, and past-prime Ron Wilson drawing Transformers that turned into rocks... excuse me, meteorites, was too corny kiddy. Bro had some of those rock figures, as in dumb as. Or add an additional "s," but I'm trying to keep it clean here.

"Don't miss the 1st Issue in Web's daring new adventures into mystery and suspense!" announced a a large yellow-tipped cover explosion with heavy emphasis on the "1st Issue." This was Web of Spider-Man #16. You guys literally had an actual first issue barely over a year earlier, and yeah, we noticed that the only point was to add a third Spidey monthly with Charles Vess covers. This title was always the least among unequals-- the directionless title with the worst creative teams. But hey, at least it's a new team, unlike the Green Lantern scam.

Technically, David Michelinie had been writing since #8, halfway to this point, but he only did a two-parter and split... except he came back with #14, so this was his third consecutive issue. It isn't even the start of a lame multi-title story arc, which comes next issue. Nope, it's just Mark Silvestri's first issue in a whopping seven month run, and he skips #21. Also, Michelinie leaves with #24. I don't know if little bro got suckered, or if he just liked the horror-themed cover with a pitchfork skewering Spidey's mask while another maniac with a hand scythe stalks a couple in a nighttime field. The interiors are just Spidey versus MAGA rednecks. Sorry, rednecks and a super-villain called Magma. You can't see me shrug. And again, technically this issue continues into the next, which does officially start the "Missing in Action" arc, but I already mentioned the shrug.

Let's wrap a lackluster month with West Coast Avengers #10, the cash grab second Avengers title that at least had a few more reasons to exist than Web of Spidey. You don't necessarily see it with this unnecessary issue, though. Another lil' bro buy, I guess for the villainous Griffin, but maybe also Headlok? Chalk it up to youthful indiscretion.