Monday, March 29, 2010

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My Favourite 1980s Marvel Slugfests

#10) Colossus vs. Juggernaut (Uncanny X-men #183)


#9) Thor vs. the Celestials (Thor #387-389 )


#8) Hulk vs. Thing: Marvel Fanfare #21


#7) Thor vs. the Midguard Serpent (Thor #380)


#6) Galactus vs. The In-Betweener (Silver Surfer #18)


#5) Spider-Man vs. Juggernaut (Amazing Spider-Man #229-230)


#4) Hulk vs. Everyone! (Hulk #300)


#3) Spider-Man vs. Firelord (Amazing Spider-Man #269-270)


#2) Uncanny X-Men vs the Imperial Guard (Uncanny X-Men #137)


And a tie for First...
#1A)Hulk vs. Everyone Part 2! (Hulk #316)


#1B) Wolverine vs Sabretooth (Uncanny X-Men #213)


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dick Giordano RIP

"It is my sorrowful duty to announce that legendary artist/editor/entrepreneur Dick Giordano passed away today. Few could ever hope to match what he accomplished in his chosen profession, or to excel while maintaining great humor, compassion for his peers and an unwavering love for the art form. His unique vision changed the comic industry forever and all of those who work in the business continue to share in the benefits of his sizable contributions. I have been honored to call him a business partner, mentor and dear friend throughout the majority of my lifetime. We will not see his like again.


Regretfully,Bob Layton"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

1985 - Thor #356

Thor #356 - "The Power and the Pride"
June 1985
Writer:  Bob Harras
Artist:  Jackson Guice
Inker:  Bob Layton


Bob Harras wrote this fill-in issue while being an assistant editor and long before he graduated to being Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief (1995-2000). While this issue wasn’t part of any kind of Assistant Editor’s Month event (which occurred a few times through the 1980s), it definitely has that kind of fun, tongue-in-cheek feel to it.


The idea here is that after his 19-month run on Mighty Thor (writing as well as drawing), Walter Simonson took a month off and a fill-in was required. The cover sums it up quite succinctly.


Hercules and Jarvis meet up with a couple of kids arguing over who’s more powerful Thor or Hercules. Of course, Herc isn’t exactly humble and proceeds to proudly exclaim his superiority and tells him of a embellished battle with Thor that backs up his claim.


Jarvis points out to Herc that one of the kids is a big Thor fan and that Herc’s story has shattered his heroic image of Thor. Fortunately, Herc realizes his error and cleverly spins the tale back into the Thunder God’s favor.


Thor #356 is one of those fun comics that will always bring a smile to my face and remind me of why I loved the comics of the 1980s.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marvel Solicitations for June 2010 - 1980s goodness

AVENGERS: UNDER SIEGE PREMIERE HC
Written by ROGER STERN 
Penciled by JOHN BUSCEMA 
Home are the heroes, but the villains are waiting for them! Avengers Mansion becomes the site of one of the team's greatest battles when Baron Zemo's Masters of Evil take down Earth's Mightiest Heroes one by one, one seemingly forever! Plus: an odyssey of Avengers, Alpha Flight and Atlantean civil war! Guest-starring Ant-Man, Doctor Druid and Paladin, later of Thunderbolts fame! Collecting AVENGERS #270-277. 192 pages, $29.99.

PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM VOL. 1 TPB
Written by STEVE SKEATES, TOM DEFALCO, STEVE MELLOR & MIKE CARLIN 
Penciled by MARK ARMSTRONG, STEVE MELLOR, JOSE ALBELO, FRED HEMBECK & ERIC CARTIER
It's 1983, and Star Comics -- the branch of Marvel aimed at kids -- is launching its most popular title: Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham! When average pig Peter Porker gets the powers of a spider, he must balance his super-hero life with his job at the Daily Beagle -- or J. Jonah Jackal will have his hide! Featuring such threats as Ducktor Doom and his Kangaroo Court, Captain Reno, Nagneto the Magnetic Horse, the Buzzard and the Bullfrog, and the Breaded Boremamuu! And guest-starring Captain Americat, the Incredible Hulk-Bunny, the Fantastic Fur, Goose Rider, Croctor Strange, Iron Mouse and more! Collecting MARVEL TAILS STARRING PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM #1 and PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM #1-5. 144 pages, $19.99

AVENGERS: VISION & THE SCARLET WITCH - A YEAR IN THE LIFE TPB
Written by STEVE ENGLEHART 
Penciled by RICHARD HOWELL & AL MILGROM 
In a world full of heroes, villains, and monsters, there are few stranger phenomenons than the marriage of a mutant witch to a heroic synthozoid! As this unlikely couple settles into their home in Leonia, New Jersey, they find themselves at odds with the members of their complex families, including Ultron, the Grim Reaper, Quicksilver, and Magneto! And when Wanda uses the power of a village of witches to make herself pregnant, the happy twosome becomes a happy foursome when twin sons William and Thomas are born, the future Wiccan and Speed of the Young Avengers! Plus, the dissolution of Crystal and Quicksilver's marriage! Featuring the threats of the Lethal Legion, Salem's Seven, Samhain, the Toad, the demons of Zor, the Enchantress, and the Grim Reaper! And guest-starring Dr. Strange, Power Man, Spider-Man, and the Avengers! Collecting VISION AND THE SCARLET WITCH (1985) #1-12 and WEST COAST AVENGERS (1985) #2. 344 pages, $34.99.


Hercules - Twilight of a God

You might recall a few weeks ago I mentioned a Hercules project that Bob Layton was hoping would see the light of day. Well, here it is and it's set for June 2010!

HERCULES: TWILIGHT OF A GOD #1 (of 4)
Written by BOB LAYTON
Art & Cover by RON LIM & BOB LAYTON

THE PRINCE OF POWER IS BACK WITH ONE, FINAL ADVENTURE AS ONLY BOB LAYTON CAN TELL IT! Hercules has been the champion of the Andromeda galaxy for over 75 years! But when an attempt to save the capitol city of Port Anteris goes awry, the Lion of Olympus is left incapacitated and needing to be looked after by his Olympic offspring. However, with a sinister plot brewing against his son's government and the threat of Galactus looming, Hercules-even in his brain-addled state- is the galaxy's only hope! VERILY, 'TIS THE MIGHTIEST HERO EVER, IN A SPECTACULAR TALE SET IN THE FAR FLUNG FUTURE, THAT THOU SHAN'T WANT TO MISS! The long awaited follow-up to Bob Layton's classic Hercules run!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Monday, March 22, 2010

1984 - Avengers Annual #13

Avengers Annual #13
Writer: Roger Stern
Artist(s): Steve Ditko/John Byrne


“In Memory Yet Green” is perhaps one of 1984’s more enjoyable reads. It’s an entertaining story displaying Stern’s strength as a writer and my favorite Avengers’ writer. The Avengers are called in to decide what to do with Bruce Banner’s the technical legacy (since at this point the Incredible Hulk has been banished to the Crossroads by Doctor Strange). Arnim Zola, however, also has a keen interest in Banner’s work and sends Hulk bio-clones in an attempt to seize Banner’s research. The Avengers along with Mr. Fantastic, She-Hulk, and Dr. Henry Pym, prevent Zola from getting his hands on Banner’s work. 

Steve Ditko provides the pencils for this issue and John Byrne does a wonderful job with the inking. I’m not overly fond of Ditko’s late art, but Byrne’s inks add more depth to it and modernizes it. 


Monday, March 15, 2010

1984 – The A-Team

Writer(s): Jim Salicrup/Marie Severin/Alan Kupperberg
Artist(s): Marie Severin/Chic Stone//Jim Mooney/Joe Giella/Alan Kupperberg/Brian Moore


"In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit! These men promptly escape from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles Underground! Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as Soldiers of Fortune! If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if can you find them, maybe you can hire –The A-Team."


The first issue of this miniseries was surprisingly solid with some wonderful art by veteran silver agers Marie Severin and Chic Stone. This issue is the best of the lot as it not only has the typical A-Team plot, it actually demonstrates some quality character moments for B.A. Baracus.


Each issue of this miniseries is a standalone story and the quality varies. Fortunately, there’s a consistency in the art (thanks to the overall direction by John Romita) and the story does hit on all the 1980s marks.


I couldn’t find anything about why Marvel Comics didn’t follow up this series with an ongoing series. Knowing the success of the TV series, I’m surprised that Marvel Comics didn’t capitalize on that. If you enjoyed the classic TV show, then you should definitely track down these issues. I pity the fool who doesn’t get his grubby paws on these issues!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

1988 – Shadow Line Saga

The Shadow Line Saga, created and edited by Archie Goodwin, was published under the Epic Comics imprinted between 1988 and 1990.  Archie Goodwin was tasked with creating The Shadowline Universe, a more mature, darker super-hero world. Shadowline was also meant to try to bring together some of Marvel’s Epic titles since they were creator owned and never really connected or crossed over.

From Goodwin’s Epic-Grams in May 1988:
“My original vision of Epic didn’t really include doing super hero comics. I felt we were around to break some new and different ground and Marvel had already proven that super hero comics could be done successfully and well. (…) And sometime in the midst of all this, I began to toy with the notion of the Shadow Line Saga. I thought I had it all reasonably well worked out in my head in late summer of ’86. Then I began to write and it was February of ’87 before the bible was done on the series. But I liked what I had. Super heroes I could live with … and enjoy."
 “The Shadow Dwellers. They were almost human. Their evolution paralleled ours, though they evolved swifter and a great deal better. But we evolved in greater numbers. Far greater numbers. Individually, they were superior but they were no match for the great tide of humankind that came in time to rule the Earth. So they became a shadow race, living among us, speaking our languages, but secretly, eternally apart. Sometimes as protectors, sometimes as predators. Over the centuries, they became the stuff of our legends and our myths. Sometimes heroes. Often monsters.”

The Shadow Line Saga launched with three titles all written by Dan Chichester and Margaret Clark and tightly interrelated in theme and continuity:

Doctor Zero #1
Art by Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz
The most powerful member of the mysterious Shadow Dweller race appears at the World Economic Summit as a super hero. Appearances can be deceiving.

Powerline #1
Art by David Ross & Bob McLeod
Two teenage Shadow Dwellers are thrown together amidst the fury of an ancient feud. United they find they possess the power to become what Doctor Zero only pretends to be.

St. George #1
Art by Klaus Janson
Michael Devlin, a Catholic priest, is recruited by a monastic order of Shadow Dwellers to battle injustice and carry on the mythos of St. George.

In an interview with comicsbulletin.com, D.G. Chichester tell us:
“So Archie [Goodwin] created all three concepts right off the bat. Not surprising at all, considering his creative output. He developed the overarching "bible" for the Shadows, as well as bibles for each of the individual titles. Everyone in the department knew he was working on this, and we knew we'd be charged with editing some combination of them -- but Margaret and I were literally floored when Archie out of the blue asked us to write all three. To this *day* I don't know why he did that. I should have probably asked him then, but I was caught between flattered and flabbergasted.
 
In any other context, Zero was the villain. In fact, in St. George, he *was* very much the villain! But in Zero's world, he was a focused individual trying to achieve his ends and in that context he was justified in everything he did.
 
Very often, in that kind of setup, the "main guy" ultimately has to become a weaker (read: nice guy) in order to finally win over the audience. We were trying to so immerse the audience in how Zero went about his ways that they would begin to appreciate him for what he was.
 
Showing the levels of manipulation and intrigue, and how they could be construed (and misconstrued) was an interesting challenge. I don't know that we *always* succeeded, but I like to think we hit more than we missed.”

While the Shadow Line titles stood out in terms of its art, showcasing talents like Kevin O'Neill, Bill Sienkiewicz, Gray Morrow, John Ridgeway, Denys Cowan, Dan Spiegle and Klaus Janson, shipping delays and lack of sales foretold the end. Goodwin convinced the Powers-That-Be at Marvel Comics to let the Shadow Line Saga end with some dignity.

Had this series made its debut five years later, it might have found the audience it needed to stay alive. Interestingly, a lot of the key ideas of this series would be seen in Jim Lee’s W.I.L.D.cats, who was provided some of the pencils for the last few issues of Critical Mass.

The only survivor of the Shadow Line universe was the villain known as Terror who had made St. Geroge’s life miserable. Terror developed into one of those anti-heroes who team-up with and fought against the likes of Wolverine, Punisher, and Daredevil.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Marvel 1980s trivia - round one

No google searching allowed...

  1. Which sorcerer, who normally plagued Conan and Red Sonja, turned Manhattan Island into a fantasy world? (Circa Uncanny X-Men #190) Kulan Gath
  2. Name the Frog of Thunder's frog friend during the Frog wars (circa Thor 365). Puddlegulp
  3. The X-Men’s Forge belongs to which Indian heritage? Cheyenne
  4. Who shot Storm with Forge's Mutant Neutralizer and stripped her of her powers? Henry Gyrich
  5. Name the initial eight New Universe titles. (circa 1986)
    Starbrand

    D.P. 7
    Justice
    Spitfire and the Troubleshooters
    Nightmask
    Marc Hazzard: Merc
    Kickers Inc.
    Psi-Force
  6. Name Rom’s homeworld. Galador
  7. Iron Man’s Armor Wars started when Stark discovered his  technology in which of his foes’ armors? Force
  8. Which Norse mystical item unleashed a terrible winter across the Earth during the Surtur Saga? Cask of Ancient Winters
  9. Who officiated at the wedding of Namor and Marrina? Lord Vashti
  10. Name the first mutant hunted down by X-Factor.
    Rusty Collins

Sunday, March 7, 2010

1981 – Fantastic Four



Byrning the Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four #226-237
January 1981 - December 1981
Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
(July-December)
Writer/Artist: John Byrne

The Fantastic Four was in desperate need of a fresh breath of air. The title was painfully clinging to the past and was trapped in a vicious circle of mediocrity. The first half of the year’s stories were underwhelming to say the least. Doug Moench’s stagnant and predictable plots featured the likes of the Ebon Seeker, the Brain Parasites, Stygorr and the Samurai Destroyer. The team seemed like card board cutouts playing over orchestrated parts. Nothing new was happening; nothing really challenged who or what the Fantastic Four was.

The talented Bill Sienkiewicz provided uninspired layouts that were inked over by the legendary Joe Sinnott who did his best to provide a Kirby finish to the art. Just take a look at any of Sienkiewicz's Moon Knight and you’ll really get a feel for the unrestrained Sienkiewicz.

John Byrne, no stranger to the Fantastic Four having penciled issues #208-218,220, and 221, decided it was time for a change. He left the Uncanny X-Men and was given full creative control of the Fantastic Four as writer and artist.

John Byrne didn’t waste any time getting started in his first issue, #232. In an impressive debut, his take on Marvel's first family hit on all cylinders.  His approach featured a nostalgic back to basics feel, a focus on character driven stories, and a fresh artistic direction. Byrne clearly demonstrated in his debut issue that he had a thorough understanding of what made each character work and adeptly handles their interaction.

The only real complain I had was that Byrne inked his own penciled art. Actually, I still don’t like his art when he inks it. His art has always been stronger when someone else has inked it. As a point for comparison, take look at his penciled art in the Uncanny X-Men. It’s rather easy to see Terry Austin’s contribution to the art as he added focus and definition to Byrne’s penciled art. Later on in the 80s, Byrne’s pencils on the Fantastic Four title will get a real boost from Jerry Ordway giving his work a really polished feel.

To give you an idea of the resistance against change on the Fantastic Four that existed at that time, here's an excerpt from an interview with Jay Zilber in December of 1981 (published in The Fantastic Four Chronicles), Len Wein and Marv Wolfman:

"Len Wein: My principal complaint -- and I may feel stronger about this than Marvin [Marv Wolfman] -- is that I much resent what John is doing, I resent his implication that everything in the past 20 years hasn't happened, that it's still 1964. Everything he's doing is throwbacks to the past. I resent him tampering with so much of the legend. (…) It's really very imperious to suddenly decide to change so much that is integral to the whole Marvel mythos, as opposed to just a supporting character in a book.
He draws The Watcher the way he was drawn in the first story. Nobody else draws him that way. There's a whole issue The Watcher stars in, where he doesn't look the way he does in any other book.

Marv Wolfman: John may be right; but unless it's company policy to make the change throughout the whole line, it's really wrong for him to do it alone."

Byrne was clearly blazing a new direction for Marvel's former flagship title. Despite his early critics, Byrne's run on the Fantastic Four would go down in comic book history as one of the best runs ever on any comic book title. His work easily stands out as the best run on the Fantastic Four since Lee and Kirby and Byrne's run still has yet to be matched since then.

Monday, March 1, 2010

1983 - The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones


Like most kids caught up in the excitement of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, I devoured anything that had to do with globe-trotting archeologist, whether it was the Atari 2600 video game, the novelization by Campbell Black, or the collectable trading cards.


I was thrilled to see the first issue of a licensed Indian Jones series on the spinner rack at my local convenience store. Seeing Indy and his supporting characters continue on beyond the big screen blew me away.


The series’ first year was outstanding. It certainly started strong with Marvel’s hottest artist at that time, John Byrne, writing and drawing it (with Terry Austin’s lavish inks). Denny O’Neil, Archie Goodwin, and David Michelinie solid scripts for the rest of that year. The art teams were equally impressive with rookies would who sound prove themselves, like Kerry Gammill, David Mazzucchelli, and Ron Frenz, as well as veterans like Howard Chaykin, Herb Trimpe, and the legendary Steve Ditko.


Unfortunately, the series’ stability in terms of creative teams was it greatest weakness. The series felt like a hot potato being based from artist to artist, writer to writer.


Highlighting that fact was Byrne’s departure after only two issues. It seems that the Lucasfilms representative was disappointed with Busema’s art on the movie adaptation. So Marvel had replied by assigning Byrne to the book. Unfortunately, the rep apparently didn’t have a clue about the process in creating comics and requested dramatic changes are the wrong time which ultimately drove Byrne from the book. According to Byrne, his short run on the series was one of the most unpleasant experiences of his career.


Here's a hint of what might have been...


Dark Horse Comics has recently put out a nice Omnibus paperback collection reprinting those Marvel issues.

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