Off the Spinner Rack: June 1985

This month I take a look back at my prime years of comic book collecting via the Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to revisit the comics I bought off the spinner rack in June 1985.  By 1985 our monthly comic book purchases were still steady at around 8 to 10 books a month, but started to decline toward the end of that year.  Several superhero books on our pull list would be replaced by independent titles, with Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance among the titles we looked forward to the most each month.

Alpha Flight #26

Alpha Flight #26
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Written and penciled by John Byrne; Inked by Bob Wiacek

Cerebus #75

Cerebus #75
Terrible Analogies
Written and drawn by Dave Sim; Backgrounds by Gerhard

Daredevil #223

Daredevil #223
The Price
Writers: Dennis O’Neil and Jim Shooter; Penciled by David Mazzuchelli; Inked by Kim DeMulder

Dreadstar and Company #4

Dreadstar and Company #4
The Hand of Darkness
Written and Drawn by Jim Starlin

Fantastic Four #282

Fantastic Four #282
Inwards to Infinity
Written and penciled by John Byrne; Inked by Jerry Ordway

Groo the Wanderer #7

Groo the Wanderer #7
The Ivory Graveyard
The Sage
Written by Mark Evanier; Drawn by Sergio Aragones; Lettered by Stan Sakai

Jon Sable Freelance #29

Jon Sable #29
Murder…In Spades
Written and Drawn by Mike Grell

Longshot #1

Longshot #1
A Man Without a Past
Written by Annie Nocenti, Penciled by Arthur Adams, Inked by Brent Anderson

Thor #359

Thor #359
The Grand Alliance
Written and Drawn by Walter Simonson; Lettered by John Workman

Uncanny X-Men #197

Uncanny X-Men #197
To Save Arcade?
Written by Chris Claremont; Penciled by John Romita Jr.; Inked by Dan Green

Ten comic books purchased at a total cost of $8.05 ($17.97 in 2016 dollars).  We’d been purchasing Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four and Thor since Byrne and Simonson began their respective runs on those titles in the early 80s, and we hadn’t missed an issue of Uncanny X-Men since Days of Future Past.  The next longest purchase streak was Dave Sim’s Cerebus, which we would continue to buy consistently until the early 90’s.  Not one DC title purchased that month, but a couple from Marvel’s Epic line, with Groo the Wanderer a favorite over the next several years.

Missed Opportunities:

Black Dragon #3

Black Dragon #3
Written by Chris Claremont; Art by John Bolton

Conan the Barbarian #174

Conan #174
Children of the Night
Written by Jim Owsley; Penciled by John Buscema; Inked by Bob Camp

Crossfire #12

Crossfire #12
Written by Mark Evanier; Art by Dan Spiegle

Star Wars #99

Star Wars #99
Touch of the Goddess
Written by Jo Duffy; Penciled by Ron Frenz; Inked by Sam DeLaRosa

Swamp Thing #40

Swamp Thing #40
The Curse
Written by Alan Moore; Penciled by Steve Bissette; Inked by John Totleben

Black Dragon #1 was a favorite of ours when it hit the spinner rack, but our local comic shop didn’t stock any subsequent issues.  Recently I was able to track down issues #2-6.  I have a few issues of Evanier and Spiegel’s Crossfire, but #12 is an issue I’m still on the lookout for, particularly for Dave Stevens’ amazing cover.  By 1985 Star Wars wasn’t part of our monthly pickups (another title I’ll need to track down missing back issues for) and we completely missed out on Moore’s Swamp Thing.  Conan the Barbarian was a sporadic purchase, which I regret because I missed out on an incredible amount of art by the great John Buscema.  It’s now high on my list of back issue purchases at the next convention I attend.

 

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The Hand (1981)

The Hand Movie Poster

Release Date: April 24, 1981
Starring: Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe, Bruce McGill, Rosemary Murphy, Mara Hobel
Written and Directed by Oliver Stone based on the novel The Lizard’s Tail by Marc Brandel

The horror genre is one that I seem to have under-represented in my film reviews and retrospectives over the years.  Nothing against the genre itself, I’ve just never felt the need to revisit any of the classics later in life, particularly slasher films.  Sure they were fun to watch the first time around, but for every Halloween and Friday the 13th, I preferred more psychological/supernatural films like Poltergeist.  But there was something about Oliver Stone’s 1981 film The Hand starring Michael Caine that grabbed me (no pun intended, I swear!) when I saw it was available for rent on Amazon this past weekend.  I vaguely remember watching it on cable in he early 80s, and over time I’ve associated The Hand with one of Michael Caine’s more questionable films.  But this time around I was interested to see if the overall film matched the level of talent associated with the production, namely Michael Caine’s acting, Oliver Stone’s direction and James Horner’s score.

Jonathan Lansdale (played by Michael Caine) is a successful cartoonist of the daily newspaper comic strip Mandro, a Conan the Barbarian style character.  He lives a quiet life in Vermont with his wife Anne (Andrea Marcovicci) and daughter Lizzie (Mara Hobel), but their life is too tranquil for Anne, who pushes Jonathan for a move to New York City.  He suspect she has other motives for the move, and when she drives him to the post office to mail the week’s Mandro comic strips to the syndicate she admits to him that her preference is that he stays in Vermont while she pursues her interests in New York.  An argument ensues and in the heat of emotion Anne makes an ill-timed attempt to pass a slow moving truck on a blind curve.  A car speeds towards them in the oncoming lane, but they are unable to merge back behind the truck due to an impatient driver behind them.  Jonathan sticks his arm out the passenger side window to get the driver to slow down and let them merge back behind the truck, but their car sideswipes the truck, severing Jonathan’s drawing hand.

Their attempt to find the severed hand in a field proves fruitless and Jonathan must make due with a prosthetic, his drawing career over.  Despite his inability to draw, Jonathan takes the change better than expected.  Late one night, unable to sleep, Jonathan sits at his drawing desk trying to draw Mandro with his left hand.  His concentration is broken when his cat goes berserk and jumps through a pane of glass.  Jonathan sees something busting in a pile of wood but takes it as something harmless.  In an act of closure, Jonathan visits the scene of the accident and walks through the field where his severed hand would have landed.  He finds his gold signet ring but not the remains of his hand, which is alive and hiding in the tall grass watching Jonathan.

For the moment Anne seems recommitted to him and they move to a SoHo loft in Manhattan.  When Jonathan meets with his agent Karen (Rosemary Murphy) to discuss the future of Mandro, she suggests taking on another artist to draw the strip while Jonathan continues to plot and write it.  He resists the idea at first, and tells her about an offer he received to teach at a community college in California.  Karen is skeptical, not only because she wants the strip to continue but because she knows once he is back on his feet Anne will leave him.  She’s become more involved in a New Age type group, and her yoga instructor/counselor Bill (Nicholas Hormann) takes up more time in her life to Jonathan’s suspicion.  With every moment of anger or emotional pain, he begins to have hallucinations and dreams of his severed hand.

The sample strips by the new artist don’t meet Jonathan’s standards for Mandro.  When he complains to Anne that his plot and script for the samples were completely ignored by the new artist, she encourages him to give up some of the creative control in order to have income so they can survive past the end of the year.  When Jonathan meets with Karen and new artist  David Maddow (Charles Fleischer) to voice his disapproval, he’s surprised to hear that Karen actually agrees with David’s ideas to make Mandro more accessible to a contemporary audience.  When she opens the portfolio to edit the sample strips, they find them splashed with black ink supposedly in an act of sabotage.  They accuse Jonathan but he suspects his daughter ruined the panels.  Returning home, Jonathan is accosted by a belligerent homeless man (played by the film’s writer/director Oliver Stone), but while he encounter is over as quickly as it started, Jonathan’s severed hand follows the homeless man into an alley and strangles him to death.

He tells Anne that he is canceling Mandro rather than have his creation changed.  It’s unlikely Karen will work with him again so he decides to take the teaching position to Anne’s disappointment.  He makes the move to California with the belief that Anne will follow him there with Lizzie soon after.  Jonathan moves into a run down cabin owned by the college and quickly strikes up a friendship with philosophy teacher Brian Ferguson (played by Bruce McGill).  When Jonathan begins to question Anne’s intention to reunite, his slow descent begins.  In the middle of one night as he gets up to investigate a strange sound, he finds his signet ring, lost after their move to Manhattan, placed in the center of his pillow.

On his first day of classes he realizes that most of his students are simply there for an easy grade rather than an interest in cartooning.  One student, townie Stella Roche (played by Annie McEnroe) catches his eye.  One night, she stops by his cabin to drop off her sketch book which quickly leads to a sexual encounter.  After she leaves, he looks through Stella’s sketchbook of amateurish drawings and finds a highly detailed sketch of her nude with a severed hand that was clearly not drawn by her.  The drawing is in his style and the signature at the bottom of the page is his own, but he has no recollection of drawing it when grading her work.  Over beers at the local bar, Brian tells Jonathan that the unconscious is capable of anything, and it’s possible he’s blacking out and his prosthetic hand  is receiving impulses to draw from his brain.  As Jonathan’s emotional state spirals downward, he becomes more suspicious of his blackouts, even sequestering himself one night to protect Stella.  But despite his efforts, his severed hand has followed him to California and continues to strike the people around him.

No spoilers here.  Oliver Stone’s The Hand is an entertaining film that I would recommend, though it is classified as a horror film almost in spite of itself.  It falls short as a horror film (slasher film fans will be disappointed at the lack of gore and sparse action), but makes up for it by hitting the right notes with drama, character development and a strong cast.   It’s also brought down by the lack of quality special effects (even by early 80’s standards the special effects for the severed hand and the bloody accident sequence are relatively crude, though masked effectively by Richard Marks’ editing) and the distracting choice to film several sequences involving the severed hand in black and white.  While Jonathan’s severed hand is supposed to be the focal point of the film, Stone’s screenplay short changes the audience by keeping its screen time a minimum, making its role in the story ambiguous and it’s “payoff” moments in the film lacking weight.  But overall The Hand is still a solid film as a psychological thriller, elevated even more by Caine’s performance.

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Movies For Memorial Day 2016

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday May 30th, I would like to thank all military veterans and active members of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

Some of my earliest movie memories are of watching old combat films from the 40’s and 50’s on a black and white TV on Saturday afternoons at my grandparents house.  They were mostly lower budget films and I’ve forgotten many of their titles, but those Saturday afternoon films on TV made the combat movie one of my favorite film genres.

Every year I check the TV listings and streaming services for the best military themed films to watch over Memorial Day Weekend.  Turner Classics always has a solid lineup of feature films, but Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu have a great selection of feature films and documentaries as well.  Here are some highlights:

On Turner Classic Movies (All Times Eastern):

Saturday May 28th:

11:15 AM: The Flying Leathernecks (1951)
1:00 PM: They Were Expendable (1945)
8:00 PM: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
11:00 PM: A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Sunday May 29th:

3:00 PM: Mister Roberts (1955)
8:00 PM: Glory (1989)
10:15 PM: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Monday May 30:

3:30 AM: The Big Parade (1925)
9:00 AM: Sergeant York (1941)
2:15 PM: The Great Escape (1963)

Netflix:

Restrepo (2010)
We Were Soldiers (2002)
The Longest Day (1962)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
The Enemy Below (1957)
Brothers In War (2014)
Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots (2014)
Honor Flight (2012)
World War II In Colour (2009)
Ken Burns: The War (2007)
Ken Burns: The Civil War (1990)
Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
Von Ryan’s Express (1965)

Amazon Prime:

Band of Brothers (2001)
Ken Burns: The Civil War (1990)
The World At War (1973)
Taking Chance (2009)
The Longest Day (1962)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
When Trumpets Fade (1998)
The Man Left Behind (2012)
The Enemy Below (1957)
Von Ryan’s Express (1965)

Hulu:

Medal of Honor: The History (2014)
War Stories with Oliver North (2001)
A Time for Honor (2002)

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Off the Spinner Rack: May 1983

This month I take another trip back to my prime comic book collecting years via the Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to revisit the comics that were on the spinner rack in May 1983.  I’ve decided to make this a monthly feature on Fante’s Inferno, but instead of covering 12 months of a particular year, I’ll be choosing the years at random.  1983 was my peak collecting year as this month’s list will show.  But as with previous month’s purchases I’ve featured on my site, there were still a few misses that I’ll need to hunt for at my next comic convention.

Alpha Flight #1

Alpha Flight #1
Tundra
Written and drawn by John Byrne

Amazing Spider-Man #243

Amazing Spider-Man 243
Options
Written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Romita Jr, inked by Dave Simons

Avengers #234

Avengers 234
The Witch’s Tale
Written by Roger Stern, pencilled by Al Milgrom, inked by Joe Sinnott

Doctor Strange #60

Doctor Strange #60
Assault On Avengers Mansion
Written by Roger Stern, penciled by Dan Green, inked by Terry Austin

Fantastic Four #257

Fantastic Four 257
Fragments
Written and drawn by John Byrne

Fantastic Four Annual #17

Fantastic Four Annual 17
Legacy
Written and drawn by John Byrne

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #8 & #9

Indiana Jones 8Indiana Jones 9
The Crystal Death (#8)
Written By David Michelinie, penciled by Kerry Gammil and Sam De La Rosa

The Gold Goddess (#9)
Written by David Michelinie, penciled by Dan Reed, inked by Danny Bulandi

Jon Sable Freelance #4

Jon Sable Freelance 4
The Origin Part 2: Battlemask
Written and drawn by Mike Grell

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #8

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe 8

Rom #45

Rom 45
Cry, the Mother Country
Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey

Thor #334

Thor 334
Runequest
Written by Alan Zelenetz, penciled by Mark Bright, inked by Vince Colletta

Uncanny X-Men #172

Uncanny X-Men 172
Scarlet In Glory
Written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Paul Smith, inked by Bob Wiacek

What If #40

What If 40
What If Doctor Strange Had Not Become Master of the Mystic Arts?
Written by Peter Gillis, penciled by Jackson Guice, inked by Sam Grainger

Fourteen comics bought in May 1983 for $10.40 ($24.98 in 2016 dollars).  Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance wasn’t as easy to find as the others as our local comic shop didn’t carry it.  That book warranted a monthly trip to Heroes World in White Plains, but it was worth it.  Issue #4 was a powerful story and I continued to read Jon Sable Freelance for the next several years.  Alpha Flight quickly became a favorite title of mine, and along with Fantastic Four and Uncanny X-Men were the three titles that I looked forward to the most each month.  I started reading X-Men after Alpha Flight had been introduced in issue #120 and hadn’t picked up that back issue yet, so Alpha Flight #1 was my introduction to the team.  That issue is still a favorite of mine and even today when I find a copy of Alpha Flight #1 at a comic convention, I’m still tempted to buy it even though I already own three copies.

Missed Opportunities:

Black Hood #2

Black Hood #2
The Dark Destroyer
Written by Gary Cohn, drawn by Pat Boyette

Candle In the Wind
Written by Rich Margopolous, drawn by Dan Spiegle

The Fox
Written and drawn by Alex Toth

The New Mutants #7

New Mutants 7
Flying Down to Rio
Written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Bob McLeod

Star Wars #74

Star Wars 74
The Iskalon Effect
Written by Mary Jo Duffy, penciled by Ron Frenz, inked by Tom Palmer

Marvel Super Special #27

Marvel Super Special 27
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Written by Archie Goodwin, art by Al Williamson, Carlos Garzon and Tom Palmer

Groo the Wanderer #4 (Pacific Comics)

Groo The Wanderer 4
The Turn of the Wheel
Written by Mark Evanier, drawn by Sergio Aragones

Black Hood #2 and the Red Circle titles weren’t on my radar back then, but I’m looking forward to finding a copy at a con one day just for Alex Toth’s story.  New Mutants was another consistent purchase for us, but I’m not sure why I never picked up #7.  By 1983 Star Wars had taken over my life and it was also rare to miss that title.  Our introduction to Evanier and Aragones’ Groo the Wanderer started with issue #7 of their Pacific Comics run, but once it was published by Marvel I didn’t miss an issue in the first three years.  This month’s review of the comics of May 1983 reminded me to stay on the lookout for the seven issues I’m missing from Pacific’s Groo run.

 

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The Last Chase (1981)

The Last Chase Poster

Release Date: April 1981
Starring: Lee Majors, Chris Makepeace, Burgess Meredith, Diane D’Aquila, George Touliatos, Ben Gordon, Alexandra Stewart
Directed by Martyn Burke; Written by C.R. O’Christopher, Roy Moore and Martyn Burke

I’ve always been a fan of dystopian films with classics like Blade Runner, Red Dawn, 12 Monkeys, Escape From New York, The Road Warrior and Children of Men topping my list of favorites.  I’ve enjoyed many other examples of the genre over the years, but when Martyn Burke’s The Last Chase fell on to my cinematic radar recently, my faint memories of this 1981 film may have pre-qualified it for the “guilty pleasure” category.  I’d been a fan of Lee Majors since The Six Million Dollar Man aired on TV in the 70’s, and I remember enjoying The Last Chase enough to watch it repeatedly back when it was in heavy rotation on cable TV, but I knew going into this latest screening that my memory of the film may not live up to the reality of how it would hold up 35 years later.  So I went into The Last Chase for a fun ride and a little nostalgia but surprisingly, despite the film’s age and several dated elements, I found the film very engaging today.

The film begins with a Porsche race car pulling up to a racetrack, out of gas. Former racer Frank Hart (Lee Majors) tries to fill up his car, but the pumps are locked. The track is abandoned save for Fetch, an old track employee, who tells Hart there’s no more gas to be had and other basic supplies are starting to run low. Hart breaks open the pump, siphons out what little gas he can get for his station wagon and tows his racer home, the only driver on the empty highway.  All cars have been made illegal and had to be turned into the government a week earlier. But Hart is in no hurry to obey any orders.

Harts career ended in the 80’s after losing control in a race that led to a fatal accident between two fellow drivers. An epidemic from an unknown source struck the U.S. and Hart’s wife and son succumbed. Field hospitals are overcrowded, oil supplies have been cut off, and Martial Law is in effect to control a population still suffering from the epidemic. But as Hart says in his opening monologue, “those of us that survived learned to cope with changes.”

Twenty years later Hart works as a spokesman pushing propaganda for the mass transit authority of now auto-less Boston, living a quiet life among the obedient workers in a totalitarian system that runs counter to his personal nature and the America he knew. He’s been surveilled by the government for his difficulty adjusting to the new system and is brought in for questioning by local authorities. His non-conformist attitude doesn’t earn him any points with high level bureaucrat Santana (played by Diane D’Aquila) who doesn’t have patience for a free spirit stuck in the old days. His scavenging car parts from confiscation yards and several accrued offenses makes him automatically scheduled for a hearing and possible sentence to a rehabilitation center, the system’s new name for prison. When faced with this threat, Hart coolly replies, “Lady, you’ve too goddamn many laws.”

Adding to Santana’s frustrations, her department’s computer system is hacked by prep school student Ring (played by Chris Makepeace). Ring is also an outsider that has trouble conforming to the social hierarchy of his school. He is ostracized and bullied by his fellow students but gets even by using his expertise in chemistry to set off homemade explosives on campus. When he’s not causing mayhem on campus, he sneaks away to a computer he has hidden in the attic of his dorm to hack into the government grid.

Back home, as Hart replays the video of his racing accident just to see a clip of his late wife, a broadcast from Radio Free California (an independent “free” territory) breaks into the TV feed, telling citizens that the residents of California have “returned to the land” and to their machines to escape from the oppressive regime that now controls America. This inspires Hart to break out the race car that’s been buried in pieces under his garage, working at the transportation authority by day and assembling it at night with one week to go before his trial.

Fed up with the propaganda he’s been forced to feed young audiences (“like a reformed sinner preaching to the congregation”) and the system that put him there, Hart turns tide during a speech to a group of prep school students and extols the virtues of cars, freedom and private ownership. His impromptu speech catches the attention of Ring, who sends Hart a direct message to his home that he is not alone. Hart is subsequently suspended from his position at the transportation authority with jail time very likely for his offense.

That night, as Hart looks over an old road atlas in his home, he catches Ring breaking in. When the police show up moments later, Hart assumes it’s to arrest him for his imminent trial, but they’re actually trying to track down the runaway Ring, who’s third attempt at hacking Santana’s department computer was traced back to his boarding school.  Hart covers for Ring and the police leave, but he makes a critical error when he benignly tells the officers he was waiting for his family to come home. When Santana reviews the police report moments later, she catches this irregularity and orders the police back to Hart’s home to arrest him.

With the police pounding on his door, Hart fires up the racer to hit the road to Free California, but Ring jammed the garage door opener to strong arm Hart into taking him along. Desperate to get out before the police can stop him, Hart agrees to let Ring join him on the escape. The police set up a barricade blocking Hart’s route on the outskirts of Boston, but he outflanks them by taking a long unused hidden tunnel out of the city and the police golf carts can’t catch him.

Word of Hart’s escape in an illegal race car quickly reaches Washington, and Hawkins (played by George Touliatos) is dispatched to oversee how Santana’s bureau handles his capture. Calm and collected with an eerie confidence, Hawkins draws on his old school experience and quickly begins calling the shots over the unprepared Santana. She naively believes that they will easily capture Hart once the car runs out of gas. But Hawkins politely explains that the car will not run out of gas because all old gas stations have underground tanks in which there are two to three inches of gasoline the internal pumps could not reach. With a special pump (which was established in the opening scene of the film) Hart would be able to siphon enough gas for the 3000 mile race to California.

Hawkins tasks Santana’s assistant Morely (played by Ben Gordon) with tracking down former Korean and Vietnam War jet pilot J.G. Williams to convince him to fly again in an attempt at neutralizing Hart.  Morely finds Williams (played by Burgess Meredith) in a modest apartment divorced, depressed and drinking.  A former highly decorated Air Force pilot still stinging from the abuse he received upon his return from Vietnam, Williams’ skepticism is heightened with the words “Your government needs you.” But Morely’s offer to have him fly a jet fighter again makes him put down his whiskey bottle and return to active duty for the first time in over forty years. After restoring an old F-86 jet fighter, Williams takes to the skies and the chase is on.

No spoilers here. I revisited The Last Chase as a result of the faint memory of watching it several times on cable TV around 1982-1983. There was nothing specific to the film or its message that drew me to it recently, just simple curiosity.  The film’s message of “eco-totalitarianism” and the loss of individual freedom was lost on me back then, it was simply a chase film to me.  While some might judge the film today as ham-fisted propaganda (its message would resonate loudly today with a Libertarian audience), as a dystopian film it works to solid effect.  The computers were crude by today’s standards, but they were used to good enough effect in the film because the idea behind what they were capable of (local police camera surveillance, satellite surveillance) are more believable today vs. 1981 because of the extent to which we now have surveillance technology in use. Ironically, even with the dated representation of Santana’s surveillance system, today’s audience would be more accepting of this story element.

Lee Majors vs. Burgess Meredith.  Race car vs. jet fighter.  Liberty vs. totalitarianism.  I’m glad I rediscovered The Last Chase.  The film’s opening scenes are a little clunky, especially with the unnecessary voice over, and there are a couple of scenes where a fair amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary.  But 35 years later I still enjoyed the film and have a greater appreciation for the story and the cast (Diane D’Aquila and George Touliatos are particularly good).  It’s easy to unfairly judge the film on some of the more dated elements, but overall The Last Chase is a fun ride.

 

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Off the Spinner Rack: March 1982

This month I’m taking another trip back to my prime comic collecting years thanks to The Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics.  I’m hoping to make this a monthly trip on Fante’s Inferno because it allows me to look back on some of the issues and storylines that I enjoyed way back when and to give me a new “want list” of missed issues to pick up at this year’s local comic cons.

Daredevil #184

Daredevil 184
“Good Guys Wear Red”
Written and penciled by Frank Miller, inked and colored by Klaus Janson

Dazzler #17

Dazzler 17
“The Angel and the Octopus”
Written by Danny Fingeroth, penciled by Frank Springer, inked by Vince Colletta

Fantastic Four #243

Fantastic Four 243
“Shall Earth Endure?”
Written and drawn by John Byrne

G.I. Joe #1

GI Joe 1
“Operation:Lady Doomsday”
Written by Larry Hama, penciled by Herbe Trimpe, inked by Bob McLeod
“…Hot Potato”
Written by Larry Hama, penciled by Don Perlin, inked by Jack Abel

Iron Man #159

Iron Man 159
“When Strikes Diablo”
Written by Roger McKenzie, penciled by Paul Smith, inked by Terry Austin

Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions #1

Contest of Champions 1
“A Gathering of Heroes”
Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by John Romita Jr., inked by Pablo Marcos

Power Man & Iron Fist #82

Power Man and Iron Fist 82
“Secret of the Black Tiger”
Written by Mary Jo Duffy, penciled by Denys Cowan, inked by Carl Potts

Star Wars #60

Star Wars 60
“Shira’s Story”
Written by David Michelinie, penciled by Walt Simonson, inked by Tom Palmer

The Uncanny X-Men #158

Uncanny X-Men 158
“The Life That Late I Led…”
Written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Dave Cockrum, inked by Bob Wiacek

What If? #33

What If 33
“What If the Dazzler Had Become the Herald of Galactus”
Written by Danny Fingeroth, penciled by Mike Vosburg, inked by Jon D’Agostino
“What If Iron Man Had Been Trapped in King Arthur’s Time”
Written by Steven Grant, penciled by Don Perlin, inked by Bob Layton

Ten comic books bought in March 1982 for a whopping $7.30 ($17.94 today adjusted for inflation).  I can’t remember a single month in which we bought ten new issues, and I couldn’t imagine buying that many current books today considering how cost prohibitive it would be.  Many of those titles were consistent purchases for us, namely Uncanny X-Men, Star Wars, Fantastic Four (the cover for FF #243 is still one of my favorites), Daredevil and Iron Man (IM #159 was my introduction to the art of the amazing Paul Smith).  Dazzler was most likely purchased because the X-Men’s Angel was on the cover, and there’s no doubt we picked up What If? #33 for the Iron Man trapped in King Arthur’s time story (the storyline originally told in issues #149 and #150 was simply amazing).  G.I. Joe was a chance for me to own a #1 (my first speculative purchase) though I did continue to buy that title for the next year.  Power Man and Iron Fist was new on our monthly buy list, and the back issues of Mary Jo Duffy’s run on that title are now on my “must buy” list at the next comic con I attend.  Contest of Champions #1 was also a favorite of mine that month, though our local comic shop didn’t have the subsequent two issues.  After 34 years I finally have a chance to read them now that I bought the hardcover collection.

Missed Opportunities:

Moon Knight #20 & #21

Moon Knight 20 Moon Knight 21

Doctor Strange #53

Doctor Strange 53

To miss an issue of Moon Knight back then was a rarity for us, but to miss two in one month?  That’s unbelievable.  The covers alone would have been enough for me to plunk down $1.20 for Moon Knight #20 and #21.  It wasn’t until many years after their initial publication that I discovered Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin’s run on Doctor Strange with Roger Stern, and issue #53 is still missing from my collection.  Three more issues I’ll have to pick up at my next convention!

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From My Collection: Finding A Bargain Box Copy of Fantastic Four #51

Fifty years ago today Fantastic Four #51, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s classic “This Man…This Monster” hit the spinner rack and quickly became one of the most memorable and beloved stories of their incredible run.

I’ve seen many references to “This Man…This Monster” over the years, each with a scan of Kirby and Sinnott’s splash page of the Thing walking the streets of Manhattan in the rain. But regardless of how many times I’ve seen a blurb or article praising FF #51’s story, art, and its place in comic book history, I never actually read the story.

I’ve recently started collecting Marvel Masterworks, including the first volume of the Fantastic Four covering issues #1-10. As much as I enjoy reading the classic Silver Age stories in that format, I find the new coloring a bit “off” and I still very much prefer reading original comic books in their four color glory, which is part of the reason I hadn’t read “This Man…This Monster” until recently. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back in June of 2015 I had attended Special Edition NYC, Reed Expo’s offshoot of the New York Comic Con, which was a smaller convention that is more focused comic books and the creators than NYCC. In spite of the mile long line to get into Pier 94, the crowd was very manageable for that venue. Normally at comic conventions I tend to stay in Artist Alley and spend most of my money on sketches, but his time around I was looking to buy some Bronze Age Marvel and DC Comics. One vendor in particular caught my eye with several tables of long boxes with comics priced from $2 to $7. I was expecting to find books from the 70s and 80s (and there were plenty of those) but as I worked through the boxes, I started to find more than a few Marvel books from the 60s!

And there it was: Fantastic Four #51.

Priced at $2.00

Fantastic Four #51 Cover

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

It had to be a reprint, I thought. But a quick glance of the cover made it clear that I was holding a well read original copy of “This Man…This Monster.” How it was still in the box was a mystery to me considering the crowd gathered at this booth and the low price. Granted it was in very bad shape (it would probably have been graded as a 0.5), the cover was still barely attached by one staple and there was an old Marvel Comics sticker affixed to the back. Coincidentally the sticker was the Kirby/Sinnott drawing of The Thing from the cover of this particular issue. In spite of the condition, I had to have it even if it was falling apart and destined to be a reading copy.

Fantastic Four #51 Splash Page

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

The story begins with a dejected Ben Grimm (The Thing) standing in the rain in the streets of Manhattan, feeling sorry for himself and his present physical appearance. A mysterious stranger invites him into his home, offering Ben a cup of coffee and a sympathetic ear. But all isn’t as it seems. The mysterious host is a frustrated scientist jealous of Reed Richards and has drawn Ben into his home to drug him and test his “duplication apparatus.” He hooks the machine up to Ben and himself, taking on the physical appearance of The Thing while Ben reverts back to his human form.

Fantastic Four #51 page

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

Several days later in the Baxter Building as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) works on a weapon that would take on Galactus, the impostor Thing enters and begins to help Reed with the heavy lifting. But no sooner than he arrives, the real Ben Grimm storms in warning Reed and Sue (the Invisible Girl) that the orange monster in front of them is a fake. Despite the real Ben’s pleas to believe him, Reed and Sue can’t believe that Ben would have reverted back to his human form. Ben storms out leaving the impostor in his place, which could be fatal to Reed.

Fantastic Four #51 panels

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

No spoilers here. This is a great story with all of the elements of classic 60’s Lee and Kirby and emotional impact on every page. And it wouldn’t be a Kirby FF without a splash page or three that truly showcases his genius. Reading this original copy of Fantastic Four #51 inspired me to find and collect other original issues from Lee and Kirby’s run. I bought my first Lee/Kirby FF a couple of years back during an impromptu visit to the Astro-Zombies comic shop in Albuquerque, NM thinking that would be the the only pre-FF #100 issue I would own. And while I won’t be able to afford a copy of Fantastic Four #1 any time soon, I’ve begun a collection of pre-FF #100 issues (ranging from issues #33 to #93) that numbers twelve and counting for less than $10 each. They may be reading copies, but they’re mine and I still treasure them.

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Off the Spinner Rack: February 1981

This week I made a return trip to The Newsstand at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to revisit the comics I bought (and missed out on) in February 1981.  Comic book collecting was a big part of my life up to my late teens, and while I can’t remember a time in which my brother and I weren’t buying comic books, it really does amaze me as to how many books we missed out on back then.  So here’s a look back at our purchases 35 years ago this month:

Jonah Hex #48

Jonah Hex 48

“The Vulture Creek Massacre” – written by Michael Fleisher, penciled by Dick Ayers, inked by Tony DeZuniga
“Devil’s Power” – Written by Ted Skimmer, penciled by Ross Andru, inked by Tony DeZuniga

Moon Knight #7

Moon Knight 7

“The Moon Kings” – written by Doug Moench, penciled by Bill Sienkiewicz, inked by Klaus Janson

Rom #18

Rom 18

“And a Child Shall Deceive Them” – written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Al Milgrom

Star Wars #47

Star Wars 47

“Droid World” – Written by Archie Goodwin, penciled by Carmine Infantino, inked by Gene Day

Uncanny X-Men #145

Uncanny X-Men 145

“Kidnapped” – Written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Dave Cockrum, inked by Josef Rubinstein

Five comic books purchased that month (cover dated May 1981) for a total of $2.50 ($6.52 today adjusted for inflation).  Jonah Hex #48 is one of only two issues of that title in our collection (the first was #45), and that purchase was most likely based on Tony DeZuniga’s amazing cover.  I’m not sure why we didn’t stick with the title, but it’s now on my list to hunt for at the next comic con I attend.  Moench and Sinkiewicz’s run on Moon Knight was by far one of my favorites of that era, and by the time the powerful cover for Moon Knight #7 hit the spinner rack that month, we were already hooked on the title.  We had purchased Rom sporadically over the first ten issues of the run, but seeing Rom and the X-Men on the cover of issue #18 drawn by two of my favorite artists (if only Frank Miller and Terry Austin had collaborated more!) made this a must have.  By February 1981 I was probably a bigger fan of the Star Wars comics than the films (that changed once we got cable TV and Star Wars: A New Hope played about 50 times a month), and those books were my introduction to the art of the great Carmine Infantino.  But the Uncanny X-Men was by far my favorite title throughout the 80’s, in part due to Dave Cockrum’s second run on the book which began with issue #145.  While I loved the stories from Claremont, Byrne and Austin’s run, it was Claremont and Cockrum’s stories that got me emotionally invested in the characters.

Missed Comics:

Daredevil #170

Daredevil 170

“The Kingpin Must Die!” – Written and penciled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson

Iron Man #146

Iron Man 146

“Blacklash – And the Burning” – Written by David Michelinie, penciled by John Romita Jr., inked by Bob Layton

Two more rare misses for titles that were consistent purchases for us back then, though I did recently pick up a copy of Daredevil #170 at a comic con recently.  Iron Man #146 was one of only two issues we missed during the Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton run.

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Movies For Memorial Day 2015

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday May 25th, I’d like to take this moment to thank all veterans and active members of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

The combat film has always been one of my favorite cinematic genres, with Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, and of course Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan ranking highly among my all time favorite films.  Memorial Day Weekend in my home also includes a screening of the amazing Band of Brothers.  

Every year I check the TV listings, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video for the best military themed films and documentaries to watch over the holiday weekend.  As always, Turner Classic Movies has several classics in their lineup this weekend.  Amazon Instant Video has an elaborate selection, but unfortunately few of those titles are available on Amazon Prime (though you can never go wrong with Band of Brothers, The Civil War, and Patton).  Netflix doesn’t have as many feature film options as Amazon Instant Video, but has a good selection of documentaries.  Here are some highlights:

On Turner Classic Movies (all times Eastern):

Saturday 5/23:

6:00 AM – Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
5:30 PM – Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
10:30 PM – Glory (1989)
12:45 AM – The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Sunday 5/24:

6:00 AM – Sahara (1943)
12:00 PM – The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
2:00 PM – Bataan (1943)
6:00 PM – The Steel Helmet (1951)

Monday 5/25:

6:45 AM – The Green Berets (1968)
8:00 PM – Battleground (1949)
10:15 PM – Patton (1970)

Netflix (Streaming):

Wings (1927)
The Longest Day (1962)
Patton (1970)
Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
The War: A Ken Burns Film (2007)
The Civil War (1990)
The First World War From Above (2010)
Vietnam in HD (2011)

Amazon Instant Video:

Band of Brothers (2001)*
The Pacific (2010)*
Medal of Honor (2008)*
The War: A Ken Burns Film (2007)*
The Civil War (1990)*
American Sniper (2014)
Lone Survivor (2013)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Gallipoli (1981)
All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)
Sergeant York (1941)
The Fighting 69th (1940)
Patton (1970)*
The Big Red One (1980)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
The Great Escape (1963)
The Longest Day (1962)
We Were Soldiers (2002)
The Green Berets (1968)
Glory (1989)
The Steel Helmet (1951)
* = Available on Amazon Prime

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Off the Spinner Rack: April 1981

This week I decided to take another trip down comic book memory lane via the Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics and look up which comics we had bought (and missed out on) during a particular month of our prime collecting years of the late 70’s to mid 80’s.  Rather than using my usual 30 year benchmark I picked a year at random and decided on a look back at the comics that went on sale in April 1981.  I narrowed it down to the following purchases:

Moon Knight #9
Written by Doug Moench, art by Bill Sienkiewicz

Moon Knight #9

The Uncanny X-Men #147
Written by Chris Claremont, art by Dave Cockrum and Josef Rubinstein

Uncanny X-Men #147

What If #27
Written by Mary Jo Duffy, art by Jerry Bingham and John Stuart

What If #27

Iron Man #148
Written by David Michelinie, art by John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton

Iron Man #148

Star Wars #49
Written by Mike W. Barr, art by Walter Simonson and Tom Palmer

Star Wars #49

Not surprisingly, our purchases (totalling $2.75) were entirely Marvel.  But I am surprised at how few comics we bought off the spinner rack that month.  I wasn’t reading Amazing Spider-Man or Captain America at that point, though those titles and Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man would soon be consistent purchases.  Of the issues listed above, What If? #27 was and still is a particular favorite (see my earlier post revisiting this issue).  Each of these issues were part of memorable runs that I still reach into the old box o’ comics to read time and again, particularly Claremont/Cockrum/Rubinstein’s run on Uncanny X-Men.  I’ll still take these stories over most of the comics published today.

Missed Comics:

Fantastic Four #232
Story and art by John Byrne

Fantastic Four #232

Daredevil #173
Written by Frank Miller, art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Daredevil 173

These two missed issues were a surprise to me.  Byrne’s run on FF and Miller/Janson’s on Daredevil are still favorites of mine from that era, and I’m still not sure why we hadn’t picked up these two issues off the spinner rack back in April 1981 or as back issues over the last 30 odd years (I finally read FF #232 in its original form in IDW’s John Byrne Artist Edition).  They’re now high on my list of books to seek out and buy at the New York based conventions this year, along with several other titles available that month such as Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, New Teen Titans, Jonah Hex and Warlord.

When I cut back significantly on buying comics over the last year, I wondered if that was pretty much the end of collecting for me.  But discovering what I missed out on over the years has lit the fire in me to keep collecting (even if they are primarily back issues), complete runs started way back when, and start a few more along the way.

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