Category Archives: Comics

Cloak and Dagger #1 (Marvel Comics, October 1983)

In this episode we’ll take a look back at Cloak and Dagger #1 that hit the spinner racks on July 12, 1983.

Cloak and Dagger #1 can be found in Cloak and Dagger: Child of Darkness, Child of Light on Amazon and ComiXology.  As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you for your support!

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Jon Sable Freelance #1 (First Comics, June 1983)

In this episode we’ll take a look back at Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance #1 that hit the spinner racks on February 19, 1983.

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Jon Sable Freelance #1 can be found in the Jon Sable Freelance Omnibus #1 on Amazon.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you for your support!

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Micronauts #1 (Marvel Comics, January 1979)

In this episode we’ll take a look back at the first issue of Marvel Comics Micronauts that hit the spinner racks on September 19, 1978.

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Fante’s Inferno On YouTube!

Fante’s Inferno now has a YouTube channel and my first video has published!

Episode 1 will post this week.  Please check it out and subscribe!

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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!

Alien Legion #1 can be found in the Alien Legion Omnibus Volume 1 on Amazon and Comixology.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you for your support!

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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.  It’s a great introduction to Moon Knight’s initial 80’s run that still holds up almost 40 years later.

Moon Knight #1 can be found in Moon Knight Epic Collection: Bad Moon Rising on Amazon and Comixology.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you for your support!

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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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