Category Archives: Comics

Alien Legion #1 (1984)

Alien Legion 1 Cover

Alien Legion #1 (Epic Comics – April 1984) Copyright Carl Potts

When Marvel Comics launched its Epic Comics creator-owned line of titles in 1982, I had a tough time trying to decide which of the new titles would be included in my monthly comic book budget.  Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar and Steve Englehart’s Coyote were occasional purchases, but there was one Epic title that stood out the most for me starting with issue #1 and would be my top purchase with each new issue: 1984’s Alien Legion by the creative team of Carl Potts, Alan Zelenetz, Frank Cirocco and Terry Austin.

Frank Cirocco’s painted cover for Alien Legion #1 drew me in from the first moment I saw it on the spinner rack of my local comic shop. The $2.00 cover price was a bit steep for me back then considering the going rate for most Marvel and DC titles on my purchase list was $.60. But at 48 pages on higher quality paper (I wish today’s comics were printed on Baxter paper!), it was worth sacrificing the two additional titles I could have bought. Though a recent look back at my purchases shows I still had a decent comics haul that month.

The inside cover’s “state of the galaxy” does a great job setting up the first story by describing the roles of the governing body, the TOPHAN Galactic Union (TGU), and the Alien Legion, mercenaries comprised of different races from throughout the Union. The TGU is made up of elected officials from the Thermor, Ophides and Auron galaxies (hence TOPHAN) with established treaties, trade agreements and peacekeeping responsibilities throughout the galaxy. The Alien Legion are the grunts sent in for the dirty work. Page one of issue #1 sums them up best: “Footsloggers and soldiers of fortune, priests and poets, killers and cads – they fight for a future Galarchy, for cash, a cause, for the thrill of adventure. Legionnaires live rough and they die hard, tough as tungsten and loyal to the dirty end.” How could I not buy this issue off the rack?

The “dossiers” of six of the main legionnaires give each of their backgrounds: Torie Montroc, the human university graduate forced to join by his wealthy father in order to earn a trust fund; Sarigar, the serpentine alien leader of the unit featured in the title; Jugger Grimrod, the anti-social weapons expert; Durge, the former wrestler known for his bravery; Meico, the kind-hearted former refugee; and Torqa Dun, the former bureaucrat who’s in it for the money more than the honor of service.

Alien Legion 1

Alien Legion #1 (Epic Comics April 1984) – Copyright Carl Potts

The story begins in space when a Legion ship, en route to disrupt an illegal mining operation on the nearby moon Wedifact IV, is sneak attacked by a squadron of enemy Harkilons. The Legion ship, badly damaged, fights back just long enough for two shuttles (Vector and Nomad) to escape to their destination. But despite the destruction of the main ship and the loss of half of their colleagues, the surviving 28 legionnaires still have a job to do.

Lieutenant Montroc, piloting Nomad, and Vector’s Lieutenant Birkh confirm their orders from Captain Sarigar: observe the operation from the air, then rendezvous with Captains Sarigar and Phyte to plan further action. Birkh’s team spots the illegal mining operation, but what looks to be a routine plan is thrown off when the mine’s defense battery knocks out Vector shuttle, crash landing it to the surface.

Before Birkh’s team can even assess their surroundings, they’re ambushed by rogue miners led by Prinn, who waste no time shooting to kill. Birkh curses the fact the legionnaires can’t properly fight back as their regulation weapons were replaced by eco-friendly dart guns in order not to environmentally impact the planet. Prinn, hardly sympathetic to the ecological impact of his mining operation, kills Birkh. The 28 are now down to 14.

Alien Legion 2

Alien Legion #1 (Epic Comics April 1984) – Copyright Carl Potts

Back at Tophan Galactic Union headquarters, Legion representatives are given little support by the committee members, who are more concerned with the ecological preservation of Wedifact IV and its species of rathosaurs over the military implications of the Harkilon empire breaking an already fragile peace. The representatives, ambivalent to the military in general, simply want the legionnaires to fulfill their mission of knocking out the pirate mining outpost with as little environmental consequences as possible, regardless of the Legion’s losses.

Back on Wedifact IV Montroc leads his seven man squad through the jungle and finds Birkh’s team dead in a clearing. As the remaining legionnaires bury and collect the dogtags of the fallen, Badj sneaks off on his own to observe the rathosaurs. Only they are not living uninterrupted in their natural habitat, they’ve been trained by the pirates to do their manual labor.  Montroc’s job isn’t made any easier by infighting among the men, but a crack of Sarigar’s serpentine tail quickly restores order.

The remaining legionnaires move in on Prinn’s mining operation with a nighttime raid. The idealistic Montroc asks Sarigar if it’s worth the risk, but Sarigar quickly reminds him that as legionnaires it’s about following the orders. When their stealth attempt to breach the mine fails, it’s the legionnaires versus the entire camp. With the odds against them and nothing more than dart guns, the legionnaires ignore their disadvantage and give it everything they’ve got. Prinn uses his lackeys to save his own skin, which leads to a surprise reveal.

No spoilers here. Potts and Zelenetz crafted a fantastic story that does a great job introducing the major characters.  Penciller Frank Cirocco and inker Terry Austin complemented each other perfectly on their Alien Legion run.  Austin is one of a handful of inkers who’s lines worked amazingly with many pencillers: Howard Chaykin, Paul Smith and of course, John Byrne to name a few.  But his all too brief work with Frank Cirocco on the pages of Alien Legion is my favorite of his penciller/inker collaborations.  I’m the proud owner of three original Terry Austin inked pages, but it’s my Cirocco/Austin page from Alien Legion #4 that is my favorite of my original comic art collection.  The crisp lines make me wish they worked on more Alien Legion issues and a broader range of stories together.

After reading Alien Legion #1, it was a tough wait until the next issue.  But great writing, great characters, and top notch art always made subsequent issues worth the wait.  Even thirty five years later, these footsloggers are well worth revisiting.  Long live the Legion!

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Moon Knight #1 (1980)

Moon Knight #1 (November 1980) – Copyright Marvel Comics

One of my simple pleasures has always been reaching into the old box o’ comics to revisit the classic comic stories of my youth.  I was fortunate to live in an era when the classic Marvel runs of Daredevil, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Thor were in full swing, but waiting another month for the next issue was a combination of excitement and torture.  Even though I’m now able to buy the trades or even pull out several of my own back issues from a classic run, I have to admit that being able to reread three or four consecutive issues in one sitting is a little less satisfying to me.  And more than once I found myself reading one issue in a trade only to put it down and let a little time pass before reading the next issue in the book.

By 1980 we were several years into our comic book collecting.  Looking back at the early 80s it was great to buy eventual classic issues of Daredevil #181 and Thor #337 right off the rack.  But we were always envious of any comic book collectors that had a first issue of any Marvel title from the Silver Age, especially X-Men #1 which to this day is still my grail comic.

So when Moon Knight #1 hit the stands in 1980, we jumped at the opportunity to add a first issue to our collection.  Bill Sienkiewicz’s cover depicting Moon Knight’s white costume popped on the spinner rack, as did “Premiere Issue!” and the “1” in that beautiful corner box.  That sealed the deal and this issue quickly became a favorite in our collection.  But that cherished #1 did not lead to more careful treatment, and like many other comics in our collection it can now be classified as “well read.”  The character of Moon Knight was created by writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin and debuted in Werewolf By Night #32 in 1975.  He’s made several appearances in other comic titles through the late 70’s before getting his own book, which officially delivered on August 19, 1980.  But it was Moench and Sienkiewicz’s Moon Knight #1 that was my personal introduction to the character and my favorite of all of Moon Knight’s volumes.

Moon Knight #1 (November 1980) – Copyright Marvel Comics

Moon Knight #1 begins with a splash page by Sienkiewicz that takes no prisoners.  A squad of mercenaries led by Bushman rides into a rebel camp in Sudan at dawn, shooting every rebel in sight.  Bushman’s second in command is Marc Spector, who disapproves of Bushman’s blood thirsty methods.  Helicopter pilot Frenchy drops in and lets Marc in on his feelings that working for Bushman may not be in their best interests.  Bushman plans an attack on Selina, a village that poses no threat but has a recently excavated pharaoh’s tomb for him to loot.  Marc and Frenchy make the decision to desert that night.

During the raid on Selina, an old archeologist attempts to kill Bushman, but is stopped by Marc.  Rather than taking the old man prisoner, Bushman kills him on sight.  With his dying breath, the archaeologist tells Marc to find and protect his daughter.  Despite her fear and anger towards the mercenaries, she heeds Marc’s threat and escapes.  Bushman witnesses Spector’s “indescretion” but lets it slide and orders Marc to collect the gold artifacts and round up the remaining men in the town square.  Frenchy arrives to helicopter Marc out, but Marc breaks away to unsuccessfully stop the firing squad from killing the prisoners.  Marc tries to kill Bushman but is knocked out and left to die a slow death in the desert.

He wakes up and barely musters the energy to wander through the desert for the next day and night.  The following night his near lifeless body is found by the locals.  They pull him in to the tomb of Pharaoh Seti as they and the slain archaeologist’s daughter Missy attempt to pack up the remaining artifacts.  Her initial anger gives way to mercy, as she refuses to give in to anger and hate.  Under the statue of Khonshu the moon god Marc’s body shoots back to life.  He inexplicably recognizes Khonshu as “the taker of vengeance” and takes the white cloak off the statue before taking off in a jeep for his revenge on Bushman.

Moon Knight #1 (November 1980) – Copyright Marvel Comics

Back at Selina, Marc takes out two of Bushman’s guards and sets a decoy to draw out Bushman and his men.  After knocking the men out with an ammo dump blast, it’s just Marc and Bushman.  Missy (her real name Marlene) shows up behind him, held back by a mysterious figure in the shadows.  Marc turns to help her only to find that it’s Frenchy keeping her at a safe distance.  Bushman escapes and Marc’s opportunity for revenge is lost.

Moon Knight #1 (November 1980) – Copyright Marvel Comics

Marc returns to New York with Frenchy and Marlene and establishes a new life in Long Island with two additional identities: Wall Street mogul Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley.  But Marc’s triple personality in addition to Moon Knight begins to take a toll on Marlene.  “Lockley” tracks down Bushman to a club in Harlem, and once he’s in full Moon Knight costume, Frenchy rides in on their crescent shaped aircraft to drop him into Bushman’s club for a showdown.

No spoilers here.  Moon Knight #1 is a great read and sets the tone for a great run on the title by Moench and Sienkiewicz.  Moench’s script and Sienkiewicz’s dynamic art pack a lot of action and drama (with a higher than normal body count for a comic book of that era) into 24 pages.  You definitely got your money’s worth with the 50 cent cover price back then, just as you would if you paid $3.99 for the issue today.  Comixology is currently offering the digital version of Moon Knight #1 for free.  It’s a great introduction to Moon Knight’s initial 80’s run that still holds up almost 40 years later.

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An Eisner Afternoon At The Society of Illustrators

Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017 at the Society of Illustrators in New York

My first introduction to Will Eisner’s work was sometime in the mid-80s with reprints of his later Spirit stories, but my true appreciation for his art and stories developed late in my comic book reading years.  I had been out of reading and collecting comics for about ten years when I began to seek out his work in the mid 2000s, first with his 1940s Spirit strips, then his graphic novels A Contract with God, The Dreamer and Last Day In Vietnam.  Eisner quickly became one of my favorite comic artists, primarily for his groundbreaking splash pages, film noir inspired use of light and dark, and beautifully inked lines.  By that point I wanted to learn as much as I could about his art and career and quickly began to catch up with his books Comics and Sequential Art, Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and Shop Talk.  Just as I was making up for lost time, looking forward to his next graphic novel and hoping to one day meet him at a local comic con, he passed away in January 2005.

This year would have been Eisner’s 100th, and the Society of Illustrators in New York marked the occasion with their latest exhibit Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017, an exhibition of Eisner’s original artwork that spans from his Eisner & Iger Studio stories, 1940s Spirit strips, and his later graphic novels to his final work The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

I had seen several of Eisner’s original pages at The Jewish Museum’s Masters of American Comics exhibition in 2006, and while it was an incredible exhibit of comic book art, I remember thinking (in my humble opinion) that Eisner was under represented in that show.  So when the Society of Illustrators announced they would be honoring Will Eisner with this exhibition, I knew this would be one of the best opportunities for me to see a wider range of his work including some original 1940s Spirit pages.  It didn’t disappoint.

Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration at the Society of Illustrators in New York

The exhibition takes up two floors of the Society’s building, with the main floor showcasing Spirit pages from the 40’s to the 70’s.  The boldly colored print of Spirit character P’Gell grabbed my attention as soon as I walked in (pictured above), but it was the original art I was there to see and I quickly made my way to the April 27, 1941 Spirit strip drawn by Eisner.  It’s amazing to see the progression from his early drawing style to the classic The Spirit art of the late 40s as you work your way across the first wall of the exhibit.  Eisner’s line work is bolder and more fluid in the 1947 original Spirit pages on display, which include several splash pages that showcase The Spirit’s logo.

The Spirit Original Art from 4/27/41

The Spirit Original Art from 8/3/47

It’s one thing to appreciate the final colored and lettered art of The Spirit comic strips, but seeing Eisner’s original hand drawn artwork (even the early pages browned from the paper’s acidity and splashed with white correction fluid) takes it to another level of appreciation.  The Spirit pages on display tell a deeper story with the unerased pencil lines, blueline notes and white opaque paint that show elements of Eisner’s artistic process.  I was so drawn to the original art on display when I first walked into the exhibit that I completely missed several of Eisner’s personal items that were displayed in the room.  Eisner’s drawing board, as it was left at the time of his 2005 passing, as well as several of his used brushes, inking nibs and pages of a Jules Feiffer unpublished script for The Spirit.

Will Eisner’s artist tools and a Spirit script by Jules Feiffer at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

The exhibit continues in the basement with original art, including rough layouts, mostly of his later works.  But two Smash Comics pages from the Eisner and Iger Studio (#6 from 1939 and #8 from 1940) and a 1936 oil painting from his teenage years were a nice surprise.  The layouts of the Smash Comics pages were straightforward and simple compared to Eisner’s later works, but each page had one panel that was drawn with a more dramatic angle than the others that foreshadowed the cinematic style that he would be known for with The Spirit.  His later works on display include pages from A Contract With God, Dropsie Avenue and Last Day in Vietnam.

Will Eisner exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

From beginning to end, the Society of Illustrator’s Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017 is a strong representation of Eisner’s work.  But my afternoon at the Society of Illustrators didn’t end there.  Other works of art by the greats (a Steve Canyon strip by Milton Caniff and paintings by Leyendecker) lead to the second floor exhibit Heroes of the Comics by Drew Friedman.

Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017 ends on Saturday June 3rd and I highly recommend it for fans of Eisner’s work and anyone who appreciates the medium of graphic novels.  This exhibition will be followed by The Art of Spider-Man beginning on June 6th.

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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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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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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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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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Irwin Hasen (1918-2015)

I was saddened by the news of cartoonist Irwin Hasen’s passing at the age of 96 today.  He was best known for co-creating (with Don Edson) the newspaper comic strip Dondi which ran from 1955 to 1986, and for his work on characters like The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Flash during the Golden Age of comic books.  Well into his 90’s he was a fixture at the New York based comic conventions, sketching for fans and sharing stories about his career.  Back in September 2014 Irwin was honored at the Society of Illustrators with a screening of a documentary on his life and career, Irwin: A New York Story by director Dan Makara, and in October 2014 he received an Eisner Award at the New York Comic Con.

The first comic con I ever attended was the 2004 Big Apple Con in New York.  Before the show, I had looked up the guest list and put together a list of sketches and autographs I hoped to acquire.  When I had looked up Irwin’s body of work, I knew that I had to get a sketch of the Golden Age Green Lantern from the artist that drew him back in the 40’s.  Of my entire collection of art over the last decade, Irwin’s drawing of Alan Scott was the first I had ever acquired, and the memory of that moment still stands out.

He was sitting at his table covered with prints of his drawings of Wildcat (which he co-created with writer Bill Finger), The Flash and Wonder Woman.  I asked if he was sketching that day and he said “Sure!  What character do you want?” and quoted his price for a pencil and inked black and white sketch, and the price for one with color.  I requested a black and white drawing of Alan Scott as the Green Lantern and he began drawing him in a classic Golden Age pose, marching forward with his power ring leading the way.

I’ve always been a fan of comic book art, and this convention was the first time I was able to see artists in action drawing their characters, so I was fascinated by the process.  Irwin finished the drawing and looked up to see me smiling like a kid at my first convention sketch.  He paused for a second, smiled, and broke out his markers to color it.  I was about to pay the extra amount for the color, but he waved his hand as if to say “Nah, the color’s on me.”  That’s still my favorite comic con memory.

Irwin Hasen - Green Lantern

 

 

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