Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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The Atari 2600 Turns 35

The  Atari 2600 game console, that iconic device that allowed us to play such arcade favorites as Space Invaders and Asteroids in our own homes, turned 35 on October 14th.  Along with the Commodore 64, this little machine helped define my youth in the 80’s.

The console was introduced in 1977, but we bought ours around 1981 in what was probably my family’s first case of “keeping up with the Jones’s.”  When we got home from school, we fired up the Atari and played until it was time to do our homework.  When we met up with our friends the only question was which house we were playing Atari in.

The 2600 came with the game Combat included in the box and our first game purchase was Space Invaders.  If I remember correctly, by pressing the Game Reset button while turning the power on, you were able to play Space Invaders with rapid fire.  Every other week or so my brother and I would go to our local department store’s video game section and browse for our next purchase.  Many of the Atari game boxes and cartridges had incredible painted artwork that could have easily been the covers to science fiction paperbacks.

Looking back, the games we enjoyed the most were Missile Command, Asteroids, and my all time favorite Defender.  But the one game I played more than any other was Pitfall.  When I think back about the games we had at that time, I’m really puzzled why Pitfall took up more of our playing time than any other game considering it was much simpler in play and graphics.

To this day, I still prefer these older Atari games (and Commodore 64) to current video games.  A couple of months back, Microsoft and Atari released online versions of eight classic Atari games.  I couldn’t stop playing Asteroids the night I discovered this, and it made me want to break out the old 2600 again.  I still have our original console and game cartridges, but unfortunately the controllers didn’t make it past the 80’s.  One of these days I’ll have to buy a pair off of eBay and fire up the old machine for a game of Defender!

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The Captain America Project #12: Adam Hughes

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

#12: Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. ManhattanCover Run)

Hi folks!  I just got back from an amazing vacation in Italy, hence the lack of posts the last few weeks.  I have a few Italy related posts in the pipeline, but I figured the best way to get back in the swing of things on Fante’s Inferno was with a post on the Captain America Project.

The twelfth spot on my Captain America jam page belongs to the amazing Adam Hughes.  I’ve seen him at the New York comic conventions over the years and I never get tired of watching him draw.  He was drawing quick sketches at the 2010 New York Comic Con in return for donations to a charity he was raising funds for and I was fortunate to get a Captain America head sketch.

I really like that the pencil lines are still visible underneath the inks.  It’s amazing how much strength Hughes was able to capture in Cap’s expression with only a few lines.

Captain America by Adam Hughes
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Thank You, Jack Tramiel

I just read the news that Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore, passed away on Sunday at the age of 83.  He was a pioneer in personal computing, stating that he wanted to build computers for “the masses, not the classes.”  More on his life and career here.

On a couple of occasions I’ve posted on the passing of an artist that influenced me in one way or another, and I try not to weigh this site down with too much of that.  I prefer for this site to be a celebration of artists and creators.  But this news hits home and got me reminiscing about one particular era of my youth.  I admit I didn’t know much about Jack Tramiel until I read of his passing today, but to say the Commodore 64 was an influence on the course of my life would be an understatement.  I have a lot of memories associated with the machine Jack Tramiel’s company created.

It was 1984, and my father took me and my brother to the Caldor’s department store in Port Chester, New York to buy our first home computer.  That computer was the Commodore 64.  The funny thing is, my brother and I didn’t really do too much research on it prior to buying it.  We had used the Texas Instruments TSR 80 in school, but there was just something about the advertisements (possibly in a Marvel Comic) for the Commodore 64 that made us have to buy it.  So to Caldor’s we went in our navy blue 1977 Ford Granada.   And to my father’s credit he didn’t balk at the price, nor did he question why we would need it.  He saw it as something that would help us with our school work, and it was a step towards giving us the opportunities he didn’t have.  We wanted it for the games, too, but we didn’t mention that.

For those of you who didn’t have a Commodore 64 back in the day, it was simply a keyboard (with a cool design) and a separate floppy disk drive that was hooked up directly to your TV as a monitor.  You could also purchase a separate dot matrix printer.  Once everything was hooked up and the adapter was switched from “TV” to “Computer,” the following screen would come up:

We were mesmerized.  A real computer.  In our home.  Put the Atari 2600 in the closet, we’ve got computing to do!  But the next thought that crossed our minds was:  Now what?  We didn’t buy any games that day.  And we didn’t now how to program in BASIC.

Crap.

Fast forward a bit.  Our local Waldenbooks had a very small section on Computers and Computing, and we bought  a book called 20 Amazing Games For Your Commodore 64 to get us started.  Great!  We’ll have twenty games now!  Wait, what’s with the weird code on these pages?

Yep, each game had to be entered into the Commodore 64 line by line, which in some cases took a couple of hours.  And they would work, provided you didn’t add a “%” where you should have entered a “&” and have to go over your entries line by line all over again to find the mistake.  When I think back to the summers of 1984 and 1985, I don’t think of cookouts, bike riding, or trips to the beach.  My first thought is of sitting in front of that TV at our Commodore 64 keyboard.  I’m not sure how many beautiful summer days we spent indoors with this machine, but it only got worse when we bought what would be our favorite game of the era: Zork by Infocom.

Infocom games were text based adventures in which you maneuvered through the game with simple commands (i.e. “West” to move in that direction, or “Get lamp” to pick up a lamp).  Your command would then lead to a text description of your surroundings and interactions with characters, etc.  In short, it was a cross between a choose-your-own-adventure book and a live screenplay.  I try to explain the concept to some of my younger co-workers, and even show them YouTube video of the actual game play, but they don’t “get” it.  The graphics are in your head.  I still prefer those old games to any new video game.  If you’re curious, you can download a C64 emulator and some old games online.

Zork led to Zork II and III, but Infocom branched out into non-fantasy genres as well.  Ballyhoo was a mystery game that took place on the grounds of a traveling circus.  Infidel took place in Egypt.  Deadline involved a reporter.  Infocom even licensed Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and turned it into a very good game.  The last Infocom game I bought was probably around 1989: a Cold War mystery called Border Zone.

I didn’t finish Border Zone, but it’s on my list to finish one of these days.  I still have our original Commodore 64 and all of our games.  I haven’t hooked it up since sometime in the 90’s but I’m sure it still works.  We used the original box to store some of our X-Men comic books.  Still have that, too.

I always felt comfortable writing in screenplay format.  It took me years to realize that comfort level came from the hours, days, and years I played those Infocom games.

Sorry if it seems like I’ve digressed from the original purpose of this post, but there is a good reason for it.  Everything above was a direct result of my pop buying us that amazing little computer back in 1984.  It defined an era of my youth that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  The Commodore 64 led to countless hours of playing Infocom games.  Those Infocom games led to my passion for writing.  And I have Jack Tramiel to thank for it.

Thank you, Jack Tramiel.

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