Tag Archives: What If?

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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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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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.

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What If Daredevil Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? (1981)

What If 28 Cover

What If? #28 (August 1981)
Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics’ What If? was a title I enjoyed in the 80’s.  The series, with stories introduced by The Watcher, placed our favorite Marvel characters in one-off stories that diverged from their established continuity to show how their destinies would have been altered as a result of one decision or twist of fate.  The first volume of the series for 47 issues from 1977 to 1984 and began with What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four? (February 1977)Over the course of the first run the series provided some great stories.  Two of my favorites were What If Wolverine Killed the Hulk? and What If Phoenix Had Not Died?

I reached into the old box o’comics this past weekend and found issue #28: What if Daredevil Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? (August 1981).  This issue contained two other stories (one of which was What If Ghost Rider Was Separated from Johnny Blaze?) but the main story was an 11 pager by written by Mike Barr with pencils and inks by the amazing team of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson.

What If 28 Page 1

What If? #28 (August 1981)
Marvel Comics

The story begins with a teenage Matt Murdock saving a blind pedestrian from an out of control truck.  As the truck burns, the driver unloads a canister of radioactive material from the flames to prevent an explosion.  The canister breaks open as it bounces on the pavement.  Matt stares directly at the exposed radioactive material and everything goes black.  But in this story the truck is owned by Stark Industries with Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) following close behind.  Stark takes the injured Matt Murdock to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Heli-Carrier instead of a local hospital.  But as Stark’s flying car rises above the accident scene, an undercover agent reports the event to the head of Hydra…

What If 28 Page 3

What If? #28 (August 1981)
Marvel Comics

On the Heli-Carrier it’s discovered that Murdock’s exposure to the radioactive material has blinded him permanently.  But his other four senses have heightened, and Col. Nick Fury sees this as an opportunity to train Murdock to be the best agent S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever had.  Back in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen Matt’s father, boxer Battlin’ Jack Murdock, is kidnapped by Hydra.  After a month of training under Fury, Matt is ready to head home.  Fury tries to keep him with S.H.I.E.L.D., but Matt tries to make a break for it when he realizes his father is held captive.

What If 28 Page 6

What If? #28 (August 1981)
Marvel Comics

No spoilers here.  This was a great story (co-plotted by Barr and Miller) that packs a lot into its 11 pages.  When What If #28 hit the stands, Miller and Janson were already two years into their classic run on DaredevilWhat If Daredevil Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? could have easily been cranked out as a simple backup story, but Barr’s words and Miller and Janson’s artwork fire on all cylinders.  I think Miller and Janson’s layouts are a great example of the differences between comic book storytelling 30 years ago vs. today.  You could take the word balloons off of each panel and still follow the story by the art alone, unlike a lot of contemporary comic stories that seem to have most of a page consist of “talking head” panels and a limited amount of action.  I prefer the old Marvel Method over full script for this reason.

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