I really was going to do a review of The Fish Police TPB just released by IDW. Really. And I Will Talk briefly about it, but as I was going through the new volume, it dawned on me what an amazing year 1986 was for comics. By 1986 I really mean an area of about 18 months between late 85 and early 87, but deal with it.
The greatest of the 1980s was beginning to fade at Marvel. While still very good comics, X-Men having just hit #200 (and only really having the 1 main team book and a few so-so spin offs) had started to go off the rails for a little while. Soon to recover for the home stretch of Claremont’s last few years, the book was getting a little bogged down in its own continuity. Mostly from the editorial mandates of the new cool idea that was the crossover event.
The 3 covers here are huge issues in the myth. They set up all the great ideas that Claremont had before they were ruined by other writers. Storm’s character development just kept getting more and more interesting. The beginnings of the Mutant Massacre storyline. The start of the meat behind the Wolverine/Sabertooth rivalry, not to mention the first sustained appearance of eventual fan-favorite Psylocke.
Then there is John Byrne’s Fantastic Four. Not quite what it had been, and coming to and end, but well worth the outrageous cover price of 75 cents!
And the run of Walt Simonson on Thor.
This is arguably the best cover of 1986 and maybe the entire decade.
At DC The New Teen Titans were on a roll and the Crisis was about to reshape the DCU for the next decade.
But The Fish Police was one of the new crop of “independent” books. Mostly creator owned and published by smaller upstart companies. The black & while explosion was done and the implosion was about to begin. Cerebus, by Dave Sim was about to hit issue #100, and Scott McLeod was about to DESTROY!!! New York City in one of the silliest, most enjoyable master classes on how to do a comic ever!
Among the very best was Mage, by Matt Wagner. Published by Comico and running 15 amazing issue (with a second series to follow over a decade later and another one on the way before I die, I hope), Mage introduced us to Kevin Matchstick, Mirth and Edsel. An allegorical tale of heroism in the modern world of the 1980s. It also introduced us to the early work of the fabulous Sam Kieth inking the last 2/3s of the series.
Also available to readers of the great anthology series Epic Illustrated was The Sacred and the Profane by Dean Motter and Ken Stacy. Collected in early 87, this was a powerful story set in a future where the Catholic Church sets off to colonize space in the name of God. Also by Motter in 86 was Mister X, another favorite on a lot of top 10 lists.
And then there is a little indie book that no one ever heard of called Watchmen.
I know this cover is from 85, but it is just too gorgeous not to put here.
Then there is Miracleman. Originally called Marvelman, then Miracleman and now Marvelman again. Probably the one book more messed about by lawyers than any other of the modern era. Originally a knock-off of Captain Marvel (SHAZAM to you young uns), then revived by Alan Moore as a post modern and kinda moody hero, later done as a re shaper of the world by Neil Gaiman. This is a book that is in limbo of the legal kind and has been since Eclipse comics went away. Currently owned by Marvel, they have yet to do anything worthwhile with the character (like reprinting the Moore and Gaiman run) and I begin to doubt we will ever see this book come back. Some of the most beautiful art in this series was by John Totleben, who worked with Moore on Swamp Thing also out in 86!
J.M. DeMatties and Jon J Muth gave us Moonshadow. This one was something of a Damascus moment for me as I had never seen anything quite like it before. The story was as much fun fairytale as dark nightmare. The counterpoint created by the watercolor art made this at the same time very unsettling and remarkably endearing.
And then it all came to a head with Dark Knight Returns. To reinvent Batman would be tried several times before and since, but nobody has ever managed to capture the pop culture zeitgeist like Frank Miller did with this 4 issue series.
There are just piles of other books, all equally deserving of attention…Grimjack, American Flagg! , Nexus and Badger from First comics. The original run of Love and Rockets and Alan Moore’s Halo Jones.
Just too much fun!