Tag Archives: X-Men

Listmania part 2: Favorite individual issues

Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular.  I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype.  I was already a jaded fan at that point.  By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.

Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page.  Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat.  You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.

The stunning wraparound cover to Mage #14

Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986:  This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick.  Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991:  There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once.  I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes.  There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues.  This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.

Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991:  It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues.  It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch.  Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.

Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981:  An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come.  The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one.  Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had.  This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus.  It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.

Lord Julius and a “like-a-look”. Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990:  This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best.  It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way.  It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.

Toad Men!?!?

Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989:  The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was.  Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is!  Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over.  Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.

Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984:  I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories.  Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book.  This issue was a surprise in every way.  Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die?  Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer.  Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that!  Naive of me?  Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming.  This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.

Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984:  The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s.  Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.

Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011:  I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures.  What I AM is a dog person.  This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up.  This issue was better than ANY of those.  I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.

This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.

Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.

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A little listmania! part 1: favorite stories

Blogger wwayne got me thinking about my favorites;  Favorite story arcs and favorite single issues.  Putting the definitions as simply as possible ( since us geeks love to argue about the definitions ) we get….

Story arc:  a  story occurring within an ongoing series.  OK, that is not going to work for me, dammit!  Since I am a trade waiter and have been for 2 decades, some of this will have to be at least a little in the self-contained series vein.  But I will try to justify and explain as I go.

Single issue:  Just like it says on the tin, a single issue of an ongoing series.

So, in no particular order except the order if find them on the shelf….

Concrete:  Strange Armor.  (1997)  This is where the definition gave me trouble as Concrete creator Paul Chadwick didn’t really DO an ongoing Concrete series, just connected limited series, the definition became an issue.  Also in the age of trades and collections the actual issues of a particular arc are harder to recall.  This one I did read as the single issues when they came out in late 97 and early 98.  A 5-issue limited in the continuing story of Ron Lithgow, this was the story that finally gave the full and definitive origin of the character, and fleshed out the back story greatly.  The “series” of concrete stories that Chadwick has done are an amazing character study with its roots in the sci-fi and super hero stories he grew up with and have more heart than any other book(s) I have read since.  All but the most recent DHP series have been collected as trades and are still powerful today.

Cerebus #139 to 150 (Melmoth). (1990) The was the story that followed Jaka’s Story and is one of the shorter Cerebus arcs.  A beautifully written and drawn book, it explores the final days of Oscar Wilde as seen in this fictionalized universe.  Taken directly from contemporary accounts of friends of the dying writer, this is a powerful and sad story.  It is available in “phone book” number 6 of the Cerebus run.

Action Comics  #866 to 870. (2008) Geoff Johns and Gary Frank update and redefine the Brainiac character.  One of the most successful updates DC has ever done.  Gary frank’s art is at its very best here.  Available as the Superman Brainiac trade.

Justice League of America#1 to 7  (2006)  Brad Meltzer is a polarizing figure in comics thanks in large part to the love it or hate it Identity Crisis series.  (loved it)  This arc started up the new volume of JL with artist Ed Benes, and is a story that actually made me interested in JL.  What got me into the story in the first place was my affection for Red Tornado, and this story focuses on him and his existence heavily and is a great team book to boot.  Available as The Tornado’s Path trade collection.

Planetary #7 to 12 (2000)  After setting up the world of Elijah Snow and his team in the first arc, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday outdid themselves on this arc (available as Planetary:  The Fourth Man collection).  The jumped into the homages of the comics with both feet here.  They did versions of Transmepolitan, Hellblazer, Doc Savage and touched on the origins of the big three at DC and still managed to keep the main story moving forward without the meanderings that affected some of the later issues.

My Jill Thompson sketch in my Absolute edition

Sandman #41 to 49 (1992)  This was the arc that really made the series sing for me.  After the A Game of You arc cooled me on the series (It took me years to learn to appreciate it) this series just sang with life.  Gaiman was really flying here and this is the run that made me love Jill Thompson’s art.  This is available in the Brief Lives collection or in Absolute Sandman vol 3.

Fantastic Four #242 to 244 (1982)  I still go back and read these every few months.  In fact the whole #240 to 250 part of John Byrne’s run is just crazy fun to read!  This was the first Galactus story I read that I actually liked.  Available in several reprint volumes from FF Visionaries vol 2 to the big-ass omnibus collection of the Byrne run.

Uncanny X-Men #165 to 168 (1982)  Paul Smith’s first issues on this title were the wrap up to Chris Claremont’s Brood story.  ( I include 168 here as the epilogue to that story–because I CAN!) To this day, his art in these issues is amazing to look at.  Collected in too many versions to count.

Mage #1 to 15 (1984)  Technically this was a limited series, but to my mind, when you know that you are just going to do a series of limited series, it is just a series with breaks.  In the case of Mage the break between the first and second series was a little more than just a break.  The same is true with the ongoing wait for the third series.  This story by Matt Wagner was lightning in a bottle.

Avengers #198 to 200 (1980)  This was David Michelinie and George Perez’s last regular issues on the title(in a run anyway) and they rent out with a great story that was a follow-up to the Claremont/Golden story in Avengers Annual #10.  This run is not yet collected.  Hopefully the Marvel Masterworks will continue long enough to get to these.

Well, I stuck to 10.  I omitted runs where there was a single good issue that MADE that run, and I avoided genuine limited series.  Maybe that will be another list.  Next up…

Favorite single issues…

 

 

 

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The Children of the Atom

The cover to issue #1

The X-Men has always been a sore spot with me.  One of the richest pools of characters in comics regularly misused.  Creators at the top of the industry doing their best work, or people so inept that they fail in every possible way to make something as inherently entertaining as a comic book even remotely readable.  This is a book that vacillates wildly between the best in the industry to not worth wiping your ass with. 

Such is the way of things with many books that have been around for as long as the X-Men.  In 1963 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started the book up and wasted no time in taking interesting characters and writing them like they didn’t care a bit. To be fair this was true.  This was just another comic to them, and they did not care all that much about it.  It didn’t sell well from the start, and they were not doing their best work.  Not even close.  Kirby did not stick around long, leaving main art chores after the first dozen issues and working with other artist for the heavy lifting for a few more.  As was often the case with a Kirby drawn book, once he was gone things tanked.  Since this was already a marginal book, things were really pretty awful.  Not to say there were not positives.  Golden Age artists Don Heck, Werner Roth (AKA Jay Gavin) and Alex Toth  graced the pages, sometimes aping Kirby’s style, but often doing their own.  The book looked great at times.  There was the all too short Roy Thomas, Neal Adams run.  One of the best of both their long careers.  Then with issues #67 the book started reprints.  Not bothering to reprint the entire run, they started with issue #12.  The reprints were sloppy, concerned with cramming a couple of issues from the early run under 1 cover, they were often done out of original sequence. 

Issue #94

Then Giant Sized X-Men #1 arrived.  Len Wein and Dave Cockrum put together a book that threw caution to the wind and made a book that was limping to its death into a book that was still limping to its death, only slightly slower.  This issue (followed by #94) is remembered incorrectly by people today.  It was not a thunderbolt.  People remember this as the book that changed everything and made the X-Men hugely popular.  Only the first part of that was true.  When Chris Claremont took over the book with issue #94, co plotting the book with Wein for a few issues, sales were slow to improve.  The book got only a small bump with the new team.  When John Byrne came on as penciller with issue #108 the title had not improved much, and things were not looking great.  At that time in his career, Byrne was not very popular and certainly not the legend he would become.  He was replacing the fairly slow, but very popular Dave Cockrum in the hopes they could get a terminally late book back on schedule.  This began what was at the time, a very underappreciated run on the book.  The ABC books, as I used to hear them called, for inker Terry Austin, Byrne and Claremont, have become some of the most beloved in Marvel’s long history.  Byrne and Austin stayed with the title until #143, along the way creating with Claremont, The Dark Phoenix Saga; the story that really did redefine modern comics.  Dave Cockrum returned for a nice run and the book’s sales continued to climb, but they were still not stellar.  In those days 100,000 copies was a borderline book, always waiting for a dip in sales that would cause it to be cancelled.  X-Men did not become THE Marvel book until the 150’s or so. 

The cover to issue #165 by Paul Smith, marked a drastic change in the look of the title.

The popularity was cemented by the arrival of Paul Smith with issue #165.  At this point spin-offs and limited series with the characters were done to capitalize on the popularity of the X-Men.  Other highlights such as Magneto’s conversion to a much deeper and more resonant character, and the Fall of the Mutants arc, were strong entries as well.  A host of artist came and went, while Claremont stayed on the book until 1991, when editorial pressure, and a willful artist named Jim Lee wanted more story input.  The lunatics artists were running the asylum at this point at Marvel, and  it shows.  A lot of the guys that left to found Image were big on the idea that you didn’t need a writer if the art was good.  Well they were proven both right and wrong.  The X-books went almost immediately into the crapper.  Sales followed once the hot artists all defected to Image, where poorly written books like Spawn and WildC.A.T.S. sold just as well as the well-written ones, better much of the time.  The X-books lost much of their previous sales numbers, and Marvel with its new “just put whatever pretty bit of foil-covered crap we can on the stands” policy in place, fell with it.  Eventually they declared bankruptcy, leading many to foolishly fear that the company would fold.  An artistic and editorial black hole opened up and Marvel managed to destroy almost every book they had.

The suck-itude lasted for nearly a decade.  When the ship was finally righted, it took a long while for people to pay attention to even the best books Marvel was putting on the stands, even the well written X-Men.  Grant Morrison was writing the New X-Men and with Frank Quietly, making this a premier book again.  The books were more in line with the movies, at least visually, and contained wild and outlandish stories at times. This let this book soar again.  There were even good crossovers.  The House of M and original Age of Apocalypse, were actually not bad, and continue to draw readers and have new stories or direct call backs to them even now.  

The absolutely stunning cover to Astonishing X-Men #6

Then there is Astonishing X-Men.  OMF-ing G this was a great book!  Joss Whedon and John  Cassaday brought out 24 issues over nearly 4 years, and gave us the best X-Men comic in over a decade.  Bringing back major characters from the glory days, putting a sick amount of Whedon-esque humor and then kicking us in the gut with a climax that truly was astonishing!  These were the X-Men I remembered, possibly even better than I remembered.  I could not wait for each issue, and I was never let down by what I read. 

Since then, things have been pretty uneven. Vampires on the low-end, with some powerful stories with classic characters on the high.  The trip into the cosmic storylines was interesting, if not all that well executed.  Some of the spin-off series are quite fun also.  The returned New Mutants being the highlight there. 

With AvX running now, I cannot honestly say that there is much to look forward to.  There have been a couple of interesting twists, but Marvel still is a “House of Ideas”, they just can’t translate even the coolest ones into strong stories.  The brightest light right now is Wolverine and the X-Men written by Jason Aaron.  This is a very fun read.  Lots of action and humor, with something strong underneath called good writing.

When well written, the X-books can be among the best of the Marvel titles, thanks to a rich stable of strong and much-loved characters.  If you seek out the stories mentioned here, you will not be disappointed.

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X-Men The Hidden years TPB review

X-Men:  The Hidden Years

2012 Marvel Comics

328 pages  $35

The X-Men started by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in September 1963, the same month as The Avengers.  Things did not go well.  Kirby penciled the first dozen issues and slowly stepped aside in the months after that issue.  The book limped along for its entire run, published bi-monthly.  Some great artists followed like Werner Roth and Don Heck, until Neal Adams was given the art duties on the book with issue #56.  Adams was a relatively new artist, and it was felt that the book would soon be cancelled.  Writer Roy Thomas and Adams were on the book longer than anyone expected, but they could not make the book sell, and their run ended with #66.  The next issue started the reprints that continued until the “All- New, All Different” X-Men started up with new adventures in #94 (and Giant Size X-Men #1).

Fast forward to 1999.  The X-Men series no longer resembled anything from its heyday of the 70′ and 80’s.  Marvel had eaten all of its children in the name of the speculator market, destroying virtually all of its once great books.  The choice was made to try to recapture some of the old glories of the 80s.  They got John Byrne to take up the X-Men again.  This time he would write as well as draw, with the original inker of the Neal Adams stories, Tom Palmer along for the ride.  He would take up where the Thomas/Adams run left off.  The attempt was not to be just like the Adams stuff or his own prior run on the title, but to blend them and tell stories of the original team.

This trade collection reprints the first 12 issues (of a total of 22) and a teaser from  the then current book.  First off, the art is really very nice.  Byrne  uses a panel and page layout that is closer to Adams than his own, but inside those panels, it is very much Byrne.  Tom Palmer’s ink lines are just faintly reminiscent of his lines over Adams.  The art works very well, the issue that I have is with the story.  I have fond memories of reading the Thomas/Adams run a few years after they were new, but if I am honest, they have not aged well for me.  The thrill of reading them back them has not lasted into reading them in the last few years.  The feel of these collected stories is very much the same, they feel just like those older stories do now, forced and over dramatic.  Byrne is one of the old school of melodrama, classic comics at their best, but when he is at his best they feel fresh and modern while still holding the feel of the old nostalgia.  This is a book that feels very much like many of the 90s Marvel books;  forced.  Trying desperately to capture lightning in a bottle again and failing.  I do not blame Byrne, as his skill-set is on display for all to enjoy.  I just think it is poorly used.

If you remember the classic run, and can still read it and enjoy it for what it is rather than what you remember it as, then this is the collection for you.  If the books of the 1970s leave you cold, then I would give this one a miss.

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X-Men First Class review-ish.

Well, the summer of comic book themed movies is rolling full steam ahead.  Thor was the real start to things.  (See my review  posted May 17th)   Sorry guys, can’t really credit Priest or Dylan Dog with much right now as they died very quick deaths at the box office.  I bet they will do well on disc though.  X-Men Fist Class was pretty much exactly what I was expecting, given the amazing amount of clips and trailers that were made available online leading up to the release.  I think for the purposes of this writing, I will do something more akin to focus points on the areas that most fanboys and film fans would be looking for in this film.

1.    The story ties neatly in with political events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which gives the film a realistic backdrop and a solid story foundation.  Matthew Vaughn does a nice job of making the two events merge believably without too much effort.  Had it felt at all forced, the basic premise of the film would have fallen apart.  The casting works for the most part, particularly in the leads.  The young Charles Xavier played by James McAvoy is a surprise.  He is a bit of an arrogant, even smarmy ladies man at first.  Not a direction heavily supported by the comic, but it works well for this film, making the person you really root for Erik Lennsherr, played perfectly by Micheal Fassbender.  Believable and sympathetic, he is the person in the film that most viewers will identify with or at least feel is the most like them.  The supporting cast gets the short end of the stick as in most of these kinds of movies.  The one getting the best chance to shine is Mystique.  Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence fills the character out wonderfully, making the role her own.  There is a grace and vulnerability she carries with a style that is quiet and very effective.  The triangle romance developed between her Beast and the future Magneto is the best and most fully developed subplot.  Another actor here that does a lot with very little, and to be fair, a lot of his role is special effects, is Caleb Landry Jones as Banshee.  Never liked Banshee really, and maybe that is why he was so much fun here.  He just works well and provides some of the lighter moments.  Rose Byrne and January Jones also shine here, but like most of the cast just are not given all that much to do.

X-Men First Class, starring the team you grew up...no wait, that's not right.

2.  Why THESE X-Men?  I know there will be a fair share of fans that gripe that this group is not even a little faithful to the original comic book from the 60’s, with only Beast represented here from Uncanny X-Men #1.  Well, we can blame Bryan Singer for that.  As good as his X-Men films are, they thoroughly bent the myth over and rogered it.  For good or ill, this movie has to work with the most logical of what is left.  For the most part, I think this movie is the better for it.  While I don’t much like the connection created here between Xavier and Mystique, they at least manage to make it work in the context of the film franchise.  The rest of the additions really only serve as filler material so there are young team members to shape.  From a fan perspective these films have always been a bit galling as much as they were a thrill to see these characters come to life.  With the other films in the pile, there are successes and failures.  I really don’t buy Moira MacTaggert as a CIA agent.  And the creation of two new members of the team is really a waste, both for the audience and for the actors, both of whom could have made something interesting of them.  On the successful side, the slight tweaking of Magneto’s origin (keeping it in line with the previous films) fleshed him out beautifully.  Missing some of the original team works for this movie, but only serves to remind comic fans of the ways that this franchise has done wrong by them.  I have enjoyed all five films so far, even the miss fire that was the Wolverine movie, and I fully accept that most of these changes made the material work better for a movie.  But the fanboy in me that grew up reading about these guys is still a little bummed.  That said, this is easily the most satisfying of the films since the first two.  It is a stronger character study than I would have though possible in this type of product, but it works on far more levels than it fails on.  It even manages to not contradict the earlier films, that of course take place after this one.

3.    And now the all important “fan service” category.  There really is not all that much of it.  I was amazed at how the look and feel of this movie is so 1960’s without feeling like a bad, romanticized and silly version, as so many today end up doing.  There were parts of this film that looked and even felt like a classic Bond film that even the wife noticed and she is not a Bond fan.  Self reference is what I was afraid of here, and except for the tip of the hat to the first film, there was nothing too glaring.  There are two cameos that I will not spoil.  The internet spoiled one of them for me, but it was still fun.  And the second really worked well here, giving a nice connection to the other films.  Speaking of cameos, am I the only one that missed Stan Lee, or was he really not there?  In any event, the other fun bits of fan service are the costumes from the old Kirby-drawn books and the appearances of characters that could be described as D-List at best.  Azazel, who is a regrettable addition to the comics from a few years back when the books kinds stunk up the place.  The few fans that read those books will recall that he is Nightcrawler’s father.  And there is Riptide, who is not named in the film, just the credits.  Honestly, the powers are kind of messed up here and Riptide has made only a very small number of appearances in the books, but seeing him here was a bit of a treat.  The single best bit of fan service will be lost on any fans not familiar with Magneto’s first appearance.  It closes out the film, and is the most effective tip of the hat to the comics, and works perfectly in the film, thanks to the great period depiction the film gives.

Go see this.  It is one of the better comics to film translations of the last 10 years at least.  If you liked the earlier films, this will please you.  If you can turn off the fanboy indignation enough to realize that the film is not the comic and that the comic would make a lousy film, you will enjoy this smart-ish, fun action film.

UPDATE:  After about a week in release, the domestic box office total for the film is $81.5 million, with that likely to go to right about 90 mil  by the end of the weekend.  If it can lose less than 40% in gross this weekend, the total looks to be fairly decent, topping out domestically at $175 million, would be my guess.  Combined with the overseas markets, this should be a success.  Hopefully enough of one to see a sequel.

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Not really a review of The Fish Police

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.

Uncanny X-Men #213-Alan Davis and Paul Neary art

Uncanny X-Men #198-Barry Windsor-Smith art

Uncanny X-Men #210-John Romita Jr. and Dan Green art

 

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.

 

Thor #337- Walt Simonson art

 

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!

DESTROY!! 1986- Scott McLeod art

 

The Hairballs TPB. Reprinting the first 4 issues

Cerebus #83 Sept 1986-Dave Sim & Gerhard art

 

 

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.

Mage #5 wraparound cover-art by Matt Wagner

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!

 

Miracleman #15 art by John Totleben

 

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.

 

Moonshadow #12 Jon J Muth art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…GrimjackAmerican Flagg! , Nexus and Badger from First comics.  The original run of Love and Rockets and Alan Moore’s Halo Jones.

Just too much fun!

 

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