Saturday, September 20, 2014

1980 - Spectacular Spider-Man covers by Frank Miller











Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Marvel Comics December 2014 solicitations - 1980s Goodness

IRON MAN EPIC COLLECTION: STARK WARS TPB
Written by BOB LAYTON & DAVID MICHELINIE
Penciled by MARK BRIGHT, BOB LAYTON & BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH

Time for the Armored Avenger to start avenging! Tony Stark is back in the groove as Iron Man, from outer space to the ocean depths. But the new Stark Enterprises is on constant super-villain alert, under attack from familiar faces like Spymaster and new threats like the ethereal Ghost. And when Tony discovers that his technology has been stolen and abused, he declares war on anyone in armor! Iron Man’s new ruthless streak brings him into conflict with the U.S. government, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers. And as his actions grow ever more extreme, he must battle an old friend in a new guise — Steve Rogers, aka the Captain! By the time the dust settles on these Armor Wars, the world might need a new Iron Man!
Collecting IRON MAN (1968) #215-232 and ANNUAL #9.
496 PGS./$39.99


SECRET WARS PROSE NOVEL HC
Written by ALEX IRVINE
Adapted from the graphic novel by JIM SHOOTER, MIKE ZECK & BOB LAYTON
Cover by MIKE ZECK

The fate of the entire Marvel Universe hangs in the balance as Earth’s mightiest heroes face their greatest challenge! Summoned across the stars by the mysterious and unbelievably powerful Beyonder, the Avengers, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men are set against their deadliest foes on the mysterious planet known as Battleworld — with the winner promised the ultimate prize. But as battle lines are drawn, new alliances are forged and old enemies clash, one among them is not willing to settle for anything less than godhood. Can even the heroes’ combined might prevent Dr. Doom from becoming the most powerful being in the universe? Experience Marvel’s first blockbuster mega-event like never before in this new adaptation!
304 PGS./$24.99


1985 - Anatomy of a cover - Daredevil #217


And no that's not a giant porcupine, but rather a giant hedgehog taken from  
the Monty Python skit "The Piranha Brothers".


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

1982: Frankie, The Fantastic Four's Fanatic part II: Bye Bye (not too) Bright Lady

By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

In the first part of Frankie, The Fantastic Four's Fanatic we saw Frankie Raye's first outings as a member of Marvel's first family. Unlike Johnny Storm, this human torch showed callous disregard for the wellfare of others. That mindset might have worked for heroes in the 90s, but back in 1982, it didn't exactly make you fit to be a superhero...

Frankie Raye joined the Fantastic Four in issue #238, a few hours after discovering her powers and almost accidentally killing herself twice in the process. In her next two appearances, she threatened to kill an ordinary man for hitting his child and also tried to incinerate Quicksilver, figuring he must be a bad guy for showing up unannounced.

You'd think that Mr. Fantastic would have gotten the hint by then: Frankie was trouble. And sure, he did force her to stay behind in issue #240 when the FF helped the Inhumans move. But in #241, Frankie was back in action, accompanying the fabulous foursome on a trip to Wakanda to investigate a mysterious power source at the request of SHIELD.

Joined by the Black Panther, who pointed them to the black tower of M'Kumbe, the perilous trek through the African jungle began. And, wouldn't ya know it, they walked straight into an ambush.


"C'mon Johnny! Let's do something!"

This time around, the team was able to reign Frankie in, successfully keeping the fact they had powers under wraps just in case they might need the surprise later. Perhaps she was finally mastering the finer points of impulse control. Or maybe not, for after a three hour elevator ride, the captive FF arrived at the top of the black tower where they met the villain of the piece... A modern day Roman emperor with a taste for the ladies...


"Jupiter!"

I suppose it's only logical Frankie wouldn't take kindly to being manhandled... But she could have been a bit more discrete, perhaps merely burning her bonds instead of turning into an instant bonfire. But hey, it's not like it would have mattered much...


"I am Gaius Tiberius Augustus Aggrippa. I am power!"

Faster than you can say "I'm Chevy Chase and you're not..." the emperor of New Rome used his mental abilities to cancel out the FF's powers, knocking them unconscious in the process. He then ordered his men to take everyone to the dungeons, except for Sue who was to become his consort and Frankie who needed to be punished for attacking him. But what's an ironic way of torturing a former human torch? That's what Black Panther discovered when he escaped his cell and came across Frankie's torture chamber.


"Flame off... Please?"

In the end, Frankie was freed, got her powers back and with the others helped put an end to the mad Emperor (spoiler alert!). The team safely returned to New York where several weeks later, shortly after the start of the new year, they faced one of their biggest challenges to date. Galactus's herald Terrax came to Earth, hoping to rid himself of his task by getting the FF, responsible for him becoming a herald, to kill a severly weakened Galactus.

Terrax didn't kid around, making his presence known by slicing off the top two floors of the Baxter Building with his opening blow and then proceeding to knock the Thing straight down the remaining 34 floors of the building. Such a display of raw power even caused Frankie to wise up.


"No argument!"

After smacking the FF around for a while, Terrax moved forward with the next phase of his plan. Perched on top of the World Trade Center, he used his Galactus given control over rock and soil to scoop up Manhattan, sealing it within a cocoon of cosmic force before taking it out into space to meet the approaching Galactus. To avoid an even bigger panic, the Invisible Girl stayed behind and used her abilities to prevent anyone from seeing they were in space while the others donned space suits and went forth to confront Terrax. Frankie was told to remain with Sue and protect her if need be.

Incidentally, this is the first time in the six months Frankie has been on the team that she actually has a conversation with the Invisible Girl. However, Sue was a bit busy to have a chat and Frankie soon got different priorities too, as seen in Fantastic Four I#243...


"...Galactus..."

Notice how Frankie's demeanor changes as soon as she realizes those stories about a planet eating menace were actually true. Where most "normal" people would be in shock, terrified beyond belief, learning this space god is real and nearby actually makes her blush. 

Raye remained at Sue's side until the FF and Galactus had dealt with Terrax. Even as the Invisible Girl passed out from the strain and things were coming to a head at the WTC, Frankie had a choice to make and, wouldntja know it, made the wrong one. 


"Almost robotlike she turns towards the building's core as again, a single consuming thought possesses her...Galactus..."

And, while Frankie went back inside the Baxter to study everything available on Galactus, the Fantastic Four had to contend with the fact the world devourer had grown so weak from not having fed in recent times (thank to having to chase his wayward herald). Galactus saw himself forced to consume Earth in order to survive, but was opposed by the FF, the Avengers and ultimately Doctor Strange who brought him down with the Images Of Ikonn, a spell that confronted Galactus with the ghosts of all his victims. Powerful stuff.

The first part of Fantastic Four I#244 was spent trying to save Galactus, with Mr. Fantastic constructing a contraption that thanks to energies from Thor's hammer briefly restored Galactus. The devourer then accompanied Reed and the others to the Baxter Building where Reed would attempt to find Galactus his next meal. Unfortunately, all the planets he located proved too far for Galactus to reach in his current state. That's why he told the FF he'd either have to feed on Earth or they would have to kill him.

But then Frankie came with a third option.


"There IS a third alternative, Galactus.
And I can give it to you."

Yeah, what Reed said, Raye... what are you on?


"Indeed?"

Now, offering your very life to keep your world safe is by no means proof you are either mad, psychotic or otherwisedly insane. Norrin Radd became the Silver Surfer to save Zenn-La and the Xandarian Pyrreus Krill served the devourer as Firelord for similar reasons. However, consider the reason why Frankie has no qualms about essentially facilitating genocide on a universal scale...


"So? A few less bug-eyed monsters? 
What's that compared to my being able to go... out there?"

And there we have it... the evolution of Frankie Raye: psycho-killer. First she was only out to punish those who were clearly in the wrong (Wendy's father), then she had no problem hurting possible enemies (Quicksilver), followed by wanting to kill those who looked at her funny (the Emperor) and now, finally, she ready to help destroy anyone who happens to look funny.

But guess what, Galactus was into it... If only he still possessed sufficient cosmic energy to properly empower this prospective new herald. Well, turns out he didn't have to do all that much, as Frankie was eager to prove.

"I have power enough already... FLAME ON!"

Now, and here is where we run into a bit of a conundrum. Yes, Frankie's powers might have saved Galactus the extra energy required to transform his previous, non-superpowered heralds. But, having a herald still doesn't solve his problem of being too weak to reach the next world to eat. 

That is, if we can safely assume Reed Richards' search for suitable planets started with the nearest possible candidates. In fact, Galactus himself confirmed Reed's findings... So what good would a herald do? Still, there it is, so without further ado... Go go Gadget- Galactus herald!


"Only Galactus can guide you safely through the corridors of madness as your humanity slips away"

So, does this mean Galactus got rid of whatever mental illness was plaguing Frankie? At any rate, Raye was reborn as Nova, and took off for her new home: the stars. But try telling that to her boyfriend the still rather Human Torch.


  " With a final, awesome burst of speed she transcends the bounds of her mortal life..."

And with that, she was gone... Frankie's final scene on Earth mirrors the moment in Fantastic Four I#238 when she first wanted to try her powers and decided to fly higher and higher. As Frankie Raye, she couldn't reach the stars, but as Nova she was a part of them.

That's not to say she still wasn't a little quirky. After all, a few months later in Fantastic Four I#257 she's summoned to Galactus' side because he's finally decided he has to devour a planet instead of trying to survive on a steady diet of gas clouds and the residue of dead worlds. Which, come to think of it, doesn't make that much sense, seeing as he was in desperate need to feed when they left in #243... But that's neither here nor there, suffice to say Frankie has enjoyed a lot of facetime with the big G and guess what... She likes him.


"And what of my feelings?"

Oh boy...


"It's sheer insanity to even consider feeling the way I do...
Am I in love with Galactus?"


She didn't have long to contemplate these feelings, because Galactus was hungry and Frankie knew just the kind of world that could satiate him: the Skrull homeworld. For centuries, the empire's scientists had managed to keep the planet hidden from Galactus thanks to cloaking technology.

But Nova wasn't fooled, she knew where it was supposed to be, remembering the location from the FF's records (the team visited there in Fantastic Four I#37). After destroying the Skrull armada summoned to defend homeworld, she summoned Galactus and sat back as he chowed down.


"She has witnessed the annihilation of a planetary civilization older than human history, yet she feels nothing but her growing love for the demi-god."

Usually, one tends to write longwinded summaries to wrap up these pieces. But in this case short 'n sweet will suffice: "See, I told you she was NUTS!" 

Alpha Flight Commission by John Byrne



Monday, September 15, 2014

1982: Frankie, The Fantastic Four's Fanatic part I: Burning Blunderbuss Babe

By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

Not too long ago, we did several lists honoring some of the most memorable people and things to happen to Marvel Comics during the 1980s. If not for a last minute change of heart, the Fantastic Four adding Frankie Raye to the roster might have been included and oh boy... would that have been a mistake. For, y'see, she's nuts...



So, why was Frankie even considered for a spot on the most memorable moments list? Well, she's actually a bit of a trailblazer, no pun intended.

Let's review: not only was she the first hero to hook up with the FF that made the team consider changing their name to "Fantastic Five", she was also destined to become Galactus' first herald of the 1980s ánd she indirectly caused the destruction of the Skrull Homeworld. Plenty of accolades for lil' Ms. Raye, who had actually been around since 1975, serving as the Human Torch's romantic foil when she debuted in Fantastic Four I#164.

Her relationship with Johnny Storm never went anywhere, helped in no small part by the fact she was deathly afraid of fire. That tends to make dating a man who turns into red hot plasma for a living challenging. Frankie and Johnny eventually drifted apart, but John Byrne brought her back when he took over the title. Fresh from a run on Uncanny X-Men (in)famous for killing a redhead, here we have Frankie discovering a little secret in Fantastic Four I# 235...


"She knows!"

Just what she knew was left a mystery for next issue. In Fantastic Four I#236, the Human Torch came by to check on her only to find Frankie was still a mess by what she she'd seen in the mirror.   And so was Johnny, by the way...


"Now, he knows!"

And here's where John Byrne's love for the Golden Age of comics really started to shine through.

Frankie was revealed to be the adopted daughter of Phineas Horton, creator of the original 1940s android Human Torch. Horton had never recovered from the fact the media had villified his Torch, even calling it a menace. So, when the Fantastic Four made their debut to generally favorable reviews, Horton was beyond furious and decided to set the record straight by reviving his version of the Torch.

Horton took his teenage stepdaughter along as he made his way towards a seemingly abandoned warehouse where the chemicals he used to create the Human Torch were stored. Frankie carried one of the old, rusty drums to the car when the floor gave out and the sloshing inside the drum caused a chemical reaction that somehow caused her to develop control over fire.

As superhero origins go, it's not the worst way to start out... But then, Byrne made things weird.


"And all the time  he kept apologizing, saying how sorry he was for what  he had done to me."

Horton hypnonitized Frankie, forcing the girl to forget about the accident and her newfound powers. He even added another suggestion, making her terribly afraid of fire. Gee, thanks dad... especially because he then left her, essentially abandoning a 14 year old amnesiac orphan...

Still, he *was* nice enough to send weekly checks to cover expenses over the years and also constructed a costume (ostensibly to help control her powers) that he eventually sent over by mail. The package included a taped message that triggered Horton's earlier hypnotic suggestion.

Entranced, Frankie put on the costume and promptly forget about it. In fact, she wore it for six years without even realizing it... Which I'm sure made bathroom breaks interesting... not to mention her monthly visitor. But all that changed when her repeated encounters with Johnny Storm somehow caused the hypnosis to end.

Immediately bursting into flame, overjoyed to the point of madness, Frankie not only flamed on she also took flight... Forcing the Torch to go after her, in hopes of trying restrain her.



"Frankie, please! You gotta listen to me..."

But there's no arguing with a burning woman in flight, as Frankie proved when seconds after her debut as a superhero she almost had her first case of collateral damage.


 Wha... that sign!"

Yeah, that sign sure was a signal you were more than a little unhinged. And as if burning billboards wasn't enough, just see was what Frankie did next. Call it youthful exhuberance, call it the result of America's youth falling behind in the sciences... But in order to test her flame powers she logically headed for space.


" Higher! I've got to get higher!"

After saving Frankie, the Human Torch took Frankie to the Baxter Building where Mr. Fantastic was at the ready to study her rediscovered abilities... 


 "Yay-boy!"

Talk about a more innocent time... Mere hours after experiencing a mental episode that caused you to remember you have super powers, as well as half a life's worth of memories, you're invited to join a team that regularly faces lethal danger for science reasons. That's  right up there with 14 year old Jean Grey arriving at Xavier's in X-Men I#1, getting handed a costume and going out to fight Magneto and prevent nuclear armageddon on the same day. 

Anyway, crazy is as crazy does, as became clear the next issue when Frankie went on her first mission as part of the team. Contacted by the Thing's aunt Penny "Petunia" Grimm (yes, thát aunt Petunia), the FF travelled to Benson, Arizona where people were literally being scared to death. During their stay there, Frankie befriended a young girl called Wendy who was suffering at the hands of an abusive, alcoholic father. Let's see how our newly minted heroine responded...


"I ought to roast you where you stand!"

And that was áfter she pelted him with fireballs that could have potentially lit up the man's tinderbox of a mansion. Over the course of the next 24 hours, it became clear Benson was being targeted by a group of mysterious demons who through the ages put everyone around their sacred places through a literal crucible of terror for one long night.

Most of the people who survived the ordeal decided to leave Benson the next morning. Wendy's father had lived to tell the tale, but he didn't have time to pack because he was busy looking for Wendy... And when he found her, he got mad again. And you don't like daddy when he's angry...

You wouldn't like Frankie either...


 "You've got about three seconds to make your peace with the world..."

Reed Richards knows that having the latest addition to your team threatening to kill an unarmed civilian is bad publicity... Especially with so many witnesses present. So he rushed to stop her, figuring it might be a momentary lapse of judgement, simply a result of her getting caught up in the heat of the moment (pardon the pun)... But then, she had to open her mouth.


"Someone has to make him pay! Someone has to!"

Look at that... Frankie Raye actually felt she was doing the right thing by killing a father in front of her daughter. Even the Punisher isn't that cold blooded. But hey, she's still new at this 'with great power comes great responsibility' shtick... Live and learn, I'm sure she'll do better next time.

In Fantastic Four I#241, Quicksilver paid the FF an unannouced visit. When the speedster didn't even bother to slow down and say hello, this is how lady Raye reacted...


"You could have killed him!"

For someone who generates light, she isn't very bright. She also has a very black and white take on life, death and the fate of villains. In Frankie's book, if you're a bad guy, you deserve to die. And when she's been told you're not evil, she turns on the charm.


"My please. It's an honor to meet a former X-Man."

After Quicksilver politely corrected his would-be assassin (who says the man has zero patience?), he informed the FF why he'd ran all the way to the Baxter Building from Tibet. Turns out the Inhumans needed help: Not only were they suffering from a mysterious illness, they were also under siege by the Enclave.. And oh yes, Quicksilver's wife Crystal was about to give birth. 

The Fantastic Four were ready to help out but Reed ordered Frankie to stay behind, claiming her training wasn't complete enough to face what may lie ahead. Probably a good call, chances are she'd lose her temper and start killing whoever looked at her funny... So, while the FF are whisked away by Lockjaw, help save the Inhumans and even relocate Attilan to the Moon (all in a day's job!) Frankie gets to stay in for the night...


"Well, pooh!"

And the world breathes a collective sigh of relief...

In the second part of Frankie, The Fantastic Four's Fanatic she will finally get to see some (jungle) action ánd meet the man of her dreams. But oh boy, does he have an appetite!

1985 - Anatomy of a cover - Longshot #3






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