Tag Archives: 1980’s Comic Books

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Captain America Project #19: Bob McLeod

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

#19: Bob McLeod (The New Mutants, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Action Comics)

The Captain America Project is winding down, and the 19th spot on this jam page was filled during the 2014 New York Comic Con by one of my favorite artists, Bob McLeod.

Captain America - Bob McLeod

I’ve been a fan of his work since Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (The New Mutants) and in addition to his pencils and inks on Marvel and DC titles like The Amazing Spider-Man and Action Comics, his art in The Uncanny X-Men #152 (and that issue’s fantastic cover) still stands out as a favorite of mine in the middle of Dave Cockrum’s second run on the title back in 1981.

So there’s one spot left on the page, and I have one particular artist in mind for the 20th spot.  It’s been over four years since I started The Captain America Project, and I’m looking forward to finally completing it this year.  I’m going to attend three New York based comic conventions in the next several months, so hopefully I’ll have the final spot filled by then and I can finally have this amazing page framed and on my wall.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

What If Phoenix Had Not Died? (1981)

What If 27 Cover

The early 80’s were my prime years of comic book collecting, and Marvel’s What If? was one of my favorite titles.  Each issue introduced by The Watcher would present an alternate history of Marvel characters based on one twist of fate in a previously established storyline.  There were some fantastic issues of What If? from 1981-1982, particularly What If Daredevil Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? (#28, August 1981), What If Wolverine Had Killed the Hulk? (#31, February 1982), What If Elektra Had Lived? (#35, October 1982), and What If The Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Powers? (#36, December 1982).  I recently reached into the old box o’ comics and found one that stood out as one of my favorite issues of What If’s early 80’s run, and a story that truly stood out for me that entire decade: What If Phoenix Had Not Died? (#27, July 1981) written by Mary Jo Duffy with art by penciller Jerry Bingham and inker John Stuart.

We bought our copy of What If? #27 new off of the spinner rack at our comic shop back in 1981.  Frank Miller’s dynamic cover stood out among most other comics released that month, with his bold line work and the intense colors capturing Phoenix’s power while flanked by the helpless X-Men.

One of the reasons this story resonated with me was  because less than a year earlier Jean Grey/Phoenix was killed off in Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin’s classic X-Men #137 (Vol. 1, Sept. 1980).  As I read that issue for the first time back in 1980, I held up hope that the X-Men would prevail in their battle with the Imperial Guard.  But as their epic battle ended with each member of the X-Men taken down in defeat, Jean’s death was even more shocking.  At that young of an age, I couldn’t understand how the folks at Marvel could have ended the story with the X-Men losing and a main character actually dying.  The only other comic book story to have that big of an impact on me was the death of Elektra in Daredevil #181 (April 1982), but unfortunately as I got older I became more jaded and skeptical with every Marvel character’s death and subsequent return.  That story in X-Men #137 got me more emotionally involved as a reader and fan of the X-Men, as Cyclops and the rest of the team came to terms with Jean’s death and dealt with their own issues as the decade went on.  To this day, I consider the Death of Phoenix one of my favorite comic book stories of all time and one of the greatest in Marvel’s history.  So when What If Phoenix Had Not Died? was published the following year in 1981, it was one of the stories I had to read.  X-Men was my favorite title and I was eager to find out what would have happened to them in this alternate history.

What If 27 Page 1

What If Phoenix Had Not Died? begins with The Watcher providing a recap of Jean Grey’s history in the original X-Men storyline (her transition from Marvel Girl to Phoenix, mind control under Mastermind and her time as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, the destruction of the star D’Bari leading to the deaths of 5 billion humanoids, and the X-Men’s fight with Lilandra’s Imperial Guard leading to her death).  Six pages in, the story takes an alternate turn when toward the end of their battle with the Imperial Guard Jean saves Cyclops from a blast and alters her destiny.  Jean and the defeated X-Men are taken to the Shi’Ar imperial flagship, and their psychic lobotomizer removes her telepathic powers.

What If 27 Page 6

What If 27 Page 7

Upon their return to Professor Xavier’s School, a now powerless Jean tries to adapt to her diminished role within the X-Men.  A distress call from Lilandra leads them to a showdown with Galactus and his herald Terrax.  The X-Men, led by Cyclops are on the verge of defeat against Terrax when the Phoenix force re-manifests itself in Jean and a blast of her power relegates Terrax to a powerless human form.  Galactus backs off and the old Phoenix is back.  But eventually the temptations of the Phoenix force get the best of Jean, and the story takes a darker turn.

What If 27 Page 28

No spoilers here.  Writer Mary Jo Duffy (Power Man and Iron Fist, Star Wars, Wolverine) and artist Jerry Bingham (Iron Man, Marvel Two In One) pack a lot of drama and action into What If Phoenix Had Not Died?: Jean’s emotional roller coaster as a result of her transition from mutant to human, the temptations of the Phoenix force when her powers return, and the ensuing consequences of the darkness that consumes her.  At a whopping 34 pages, this qualifies as an event and it doesn’t disappoint.  Even as a “done in one” single issue story, the shocking fate of the X-Men is darker than most other stories of that era and stays with the reader long after the last panel.

Nowadays our copy of What If? #27 has a worn cover and the middle pages are separating from the spine, which is a testament to how much we enjoyed this story.  Ten or twenty years ago I would have kicked myself for not bagging and boarding it, but the current condition brings out the nostalgia even more.  Turning through the pages the other night reminded me of quite a few lazy days at age 8 sitting on the living room floor reading and re-reading this issue, and brought back the same excitement and emotion as it did the first time I read it in 1981.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,