This is really conventional stuff for a second issue, and surprisingly coherent for an early Image title. Dan Panosian takes over all the art on this issue, and it’s quite solid, evoking the style of DC stalwart Dan Jurgens to good effect. The Rob Liefeld-penciled cover makes your head hurt if you think about what motion might be required for two men to get in that position. Not much actually happens inside the comic. Kirby and Prophet fight their way into the Alaska complex and Prophet connects with D.O.C.C. What’s really strange is that it’s this satellite that’s giving him energy and “life force” while the comic’s narration quotes Bible passages. Is D.O.C.C. God? Or does Prophet interpret D.O.C.C. as God? Oh, and Bloodstrike shows up at the end, only to be completely indistinguishable from Youngblood or Brigade or StormWatch, etc. The story runs 19 pages, with the rest of the issue filled out with pinups, Extreme Studios employee profiles, an autograph appearance announcement, and a talent search ad. There’s also a coupon for Prophet #0 stapled into a centerfold that’s a two-page spread, so you can’t read it or see the entire image without — gasp! — removing the coupon and damaging your comic’s collectible value. (It goes for $3 in near-mint condition at MyComicShop.com as I write this.)
Category: Bags and Boards Page 1 of 7
John Byrne had been back at Marvel for a while before he took on the challenge of doing a new Sub-Mariner series. And it works. Namor was believed dead at the end of the Atlantis Attacks storyline that ran though Marvel’s 1989 annuals, and here just shows up bursting out of the ocean to attack the natives on a nearby island. Researchers Carrie Alexander and her pop, David, see this, recognize him, and help him out. Turns out David has a theory to modulate Namor’s extreme moods — and it works. So Namor enlists them as he digs up sunken treasure to fund a corporate front to fight ocean pollution and other causes. The art is pleasingly detailed, open, and inviting. The story has enough action and plot to keep things interesting enough to make me want to come back for the next issue.
Marvel’s New Universe kicks off with this extremely subdued comic about a regular guy in Pittsburgh who rides motorcycles, works in an auto body shop, and is suddenly given the “greatest weapon in the universe.” John Romita Jr. came to this title off of X-Men and gives a kind of quiet dignity to a story that would have worked better in 1986 as a TV series. Al Williamson’s inks are lovely — no surprise there. Ken Connell is a very un-Marvel like character, which is a good thing. He’s also dull and a bit of a creep — he dates a successful woman named Barbie while also dating another woman who appears to have some kind of learning disorder — which is less good. Writer Jim Shooter leaves the big picture for all this overly vague, giving readers few reasons to come back for #2 unless they really want to know if Ken will commit to Barbie.
If your prediction for a 1993 Extreme Studios comic was Bible verses quoted over page after page of a grunting hero chopping up robots, you likely won the prize of an extra $2.50 in your pocket. Prophet breaks into his own series with creator, layout artist, and scripter Rob Liefeld mashing up the origins of Captain America, OMAC, and The Six Million Dollar Man into a comic that actually might qualify as a story in the most technical sense. The opening action sequence — a dream, of course — with the aforementioned robots is reasonably entertaining, until it ends in a reveal that makes zero sense. Some idea of who these people are and what they’re doing is helpful. Having Jack Kirby show up as a character improves nothing, neither does repeating the reveal in a random way just few pages later. Sharp readers may learn the following unknown and nonexistent facts: High-ranking FBI agents in 1993 wore lingerie and super-short miniskirts to the office, and Jack Kirby was so manly he didn’t even get cold going shirtless during winter in Anchorage, Alaska.
I realize the biggest gap in what I’ve written so far is that I haven’t explained my earliest experiences with comics.
My first memory of comic-book material was on television. When I was about 4 — around 1973 — one of the local TV stations in Edmonton aired episodes of the various 1960s DC animated series at about 12:30 p.m. each weekday, right after The Flintstones.
(A side note: The Flintstones ran every weekday at noon on CFRN-TV in Edmonton for pretty much my entire childhood. It was how we measured lunch, as the morning session at school ended at 11:45 a.m. You got home just in time to grab your sandwich or bowl of soup and sit down to watch The Flintstones, and then head back to school after it was over. School resumed about 12:55 p.m., so you usually had a few minutes on the playground before class resumed. I remember visiting Edmonton in the mid-1990s, and The Flintstones was still playing at noon!)
These DC toons alternated, with Superman, Batman, Superboy, and Aquaman all getting a day to themselves. I think Superman may have aired twice.
Then there were the 1960s Spider-Man cartoons. Because this show was produced in its first two seasons by Toronto-based Grantray-Lawrence Animation, the show counted as Canadian content. Even back then, the Canadian government required broadcasters to fill a certain percentage of their airtime with shows produced in Canada. Since Spider-Man qualified, and it was popular, it was in constant re-runs from the 1970s well into the 1990s — usually on the independent channel, CITV-TV.
We had cable back then, but it was minimal compared to what we now think of as cable TV. We got via cable all the local Edmonton broadcast channels, plus the broadcast channels from Spokane, Washington. This included an independent channel, as well as the CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS affiliates — effectively doubling the number of channels we had. There was no cable box, but every channel from 2 to 13 had something on it.
It was through these channels that we got American Saturday morning cartoons. My earliest memories of Hanna-Barbera shows like Scooby-Doo and Speed Buggy, packages of classic Warner Bros. shorts, and, eventually, Super Friends. For years, getting up to eat cereal and watch cartoons was the best and only way to spend Saturday mornings without exposing yourself to dark and freezing winter conditions.
Before we got Super Friends, there was Shazam! This was a live-action show, made super cheap (not that I knew that at the time), and paired with a second superhero show, Isis. But what grabbed my imagination was the transformation sequence where Billy Batson yelled “Shazam!” and turned into Captain Marvel.
Which lead directly to the first comic book I remember owning: A Shazam! treasury edition I later came to know as Limited Collector’s Edition #C-27. I particularly remember one Captain Marvel Jr. story in which Freddy Freeman was captured at a circus, gagged, and left in a guillotine. He managed to loosen the gag enough to shout “Captain Marvel!” in time to transform — the guillotine blade broke on his neck. Cool stuff!
I didn’t buy that comic — or any others for a while — myself. But there always were comics around. We spent summers at various lake cabins with other families with older kids, and comics were just all over the place. There were plenty of Harvey Comics, Archie Comics, Gold Key Comics, Marvel Comics (especially Millie the Model), and DC books (Batman was popular). With no TV, comics were just what we all curled up and read when it rained or you were just tired from running around outdoors all the time.
When I got a little older, the corner store loomed large in the lives of all the kids in our neighborhood. We were constantly asking our parents for a quarter or two to fund a trip to “the store.” The great thing was you could get just about anything you wanted for a couple of quarters: a chocolate bar, pack of gum, bag of chips, small box of candy, a pack of trading cards (with gum), a bottle of pop, or a comic book.
The store did a lot of business with the neighborhood kids, so the candy and comics — displayed in a classic spinner rack — always were upfront. Located at 12305 63rd Ave., the store did not have a name that I can recall. It was a standard neighborhood convenience store that sold basics like bread, milk, canned goods, newspapers, magazines, and cigarettes. It was owned by a family that came to Canada from Lebanon, and they frequently seemed to sell it to a cousin or brother or uncle — but it always stayed in the family, and they always were very kind to the neighborhood kids.
Such stores were everywhere. Every neighborhood had one. And every one of them had a spinner rack of comics. Comics also could easily be found alongside racks of paperback novels at a drug store, and sometimes in supermarkets. Pretty much anywhere you could stop in for a pack of smokes, a newspaper, or a pack of gum was a place to get comics.
Most of the comics I bought were at “the store.” I remember stopping in one night with my dad, who let me buy a Superman and a Spider-Man — likely The Amazing Spider-Man #162 (Nov. 1976) since I pretty clearly remember Nightcrawler on the cover.
Science fiction was popular at the time, with reruns of the original Star Trek in full swing, so I bought several issues of the Gold Key Trek comic off the racks. I also liked Space: 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man, and bought the Charlton comics based on those shows. I distinctly remember the story in the John Byrne-drawn Space:1999 #6 — and had no idea he lived just down the road in Calgary at the time.
Star Wars, of course, changed everything. I didn’t see the movie until June 1977, and the first Star Wars comic I saw was issue #3. A friend of mine had a copy of #2, and I managed to score a copy of #1 — the first comic I expressly went looking for — one day at Mike’s Newsstand on Jasper Avenue in downtown Edmonton. Actually, what happened is I spotted the comic there while visiting with friends and, having no money, pleaded with my Dad to go stop by from his office on the way home the next week and buy it for me. And he did!
The treasury editions that Marvel and Whitman published were easy to find, and that’s how I and most of my friends read the adaptation of the movie. Over, and over, and over. They had better printing, too, than the original comics, and were what we now would call oversize.
In the fall of 1977, I bought a copy of Star Wars #7 — the first original Star Wars comic book story. And that was it. I was on the hunt for all the issues after that. I missed #8 and #9, though friends of mine had them and I borrowed or read their copies while hanging out at their houses. Starting with #10, I figured out that Star Wars comics showed up about the third week of the month, usually on a Tuesday. I started timing my searches and successfully bought just about every issue from there through #31. Then there was a stretch where the store stopped carrying comics for a bit, then brought them back in time for Star Wars #39 and the adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back.
The other book I read at the time was Marvel’s Battlestar Galactica. I wanted the TV series to be good, but too many episodes were disappointing fill-in episodes using old Western movie sets. The comic, however, started to get really good after the show was canceled. Walt Simonson took over writing and drawing, and his talent in both disciplines was evident.
The last year of my early comics reading was 1981. The Battlestar comic was canceled. I read Star Wars through #54. And I also had the Marvel Super Special adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was the hottest movie of the year. I don’t remember making any conscious decision to stop reading comics, I just moved on to other things.
Fall of 1981 was when I started junior high school, began to earn money by delivering newspapers after school, and became more interested in music and sports — particularly soccer and hockey. Edmonton was then a new addition to the NHL with the Oilers, and had this young hotshot named Wayne Gretzky who played for them. Gretzky and the other young stars of the Oilers were not much older than me — I was 12, they were around 20 — but their on-ice heroics made them appear almost like real-life superheroes who lived in our midst.
I don’t think I bought another comic until 1985, when I dug out my stack of Star Wars comics and rediscovered them. That lead me to the 7-11 and my purchase of Star Wars #96 — and I’ve never stopped buying comics since.
In the past month, as promised, I’ve read the entire run of Marvel’s The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones (Jan. 1983-March 1986). I completed reading the run in time to brush up on Indy’s past in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the brand-new feature Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
I’ll start off by saying that Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my perfect movies. I love it unconditionally, and have since I first saw it at the Westmount Cinema in Edmonton in the summer of 1981. At the time, Alberta’s movie ratings system required a parent or guardian to attend with kids under age 16. So, I had to talk my Mom into taking me the first time. She expected to be bored stiff, based on the title, but thanked me afterward for making her see the movie. I saw the movie at least a half-dozen times that summer — sometimes by buying a ticket for Superman II and then sneaking in to see Raiders. Sometimes, I got caught, and sent back to watch 10 minutes or so of Superman II before re-sneaking in to Raiders.
Unlike Star Wars, Raiders didn’t inspire a flood of merchandise. I don’t remember there being any Raiders toys, though I did have some action figures from Clash of the Titans, which came out around the same time. There was a novelization, which I read and enjoyed, and Marvel Super Special #18, which adapted the movie. The really enjoyed this adaptation, which was written by Walter Simonson, penciled by John Buscema, and inked by Klaus Janson — all under a terrific painted cover by Howard Chaykin.
I stopped reading comics shortly thereafter. I was 11 going on 12, about to enter junior high school, and toys and comics were giving way to hockey, rock music, and secret crushes on the girls in my class. So I missed Marvel’s continuation of Raiders, which started in the fall of 1982 and roughly spanned the period in my youth when I didn’t collect or read comics.
Somehow, over the years, I acquired the full Marvel run, but had never sat down to read it until now. The series is wildly uneven, and mostly unremarkable. It never really achieves the kind of high points that Marvel’s Star Wars found, even with plenty of top-notch creators involved.
The difficulty in doing an Indiana Jones comic in 1982 was apparent right there in the first issue, which featured a story and layout by superstar John Byrne, who also contributed a plot and layouts to the second issue before leaving the title to make room for Alpha Flight. Byrne’s story is quite talky — more like a Sherlock Holmes story than anything.
David Michelinie had the longest run on the title, taking over with issue #4 and writing most everything through issue #23. This was roughly concurrent with his run on Star Wars, which produced some of the best Marvel issues set in a galaxy far, far away.
But Indiana Jones was a tougher nut to crack. For one, the character operated in a more realistic world than most comics. It was difficult to find distinctive villains that weren’t retreads of the Nazis. And it was more difficult to create plots where a “finder of rare antiquities” could play the hero. And incorporating the pulp fiction-style supernatural elements was even more difficult.
For most of the series, Indy went on missions for his pal Marcus Brody on behalf of the National Museum, based at Marshall College in Connecticut. Marion Ravenwood showed up and Marcus hired her as a publicist for the museum, assigned to tag along and document Indy’s adventures to promote the good work the museum was doing. At least she did until issue #25, when she abruptly left the series and never returned. This was around the time Temple of Doom, in which she didn’t appear, was released. Short Round made a brief appearance in one issue, but that was it.
The style of action Raiders delivered also was difficult to recreate on the comics page. The workhorse artist of the series was Herb Trimpe, a true comics journeyman who brought a more conventional style of art to the character.
But nothing really works. Even when artists like Chaykin and David Mazzuchelli contributed to the series, it was flat and dull. The covers from Terry Austin, Chaykin, and Michael Golden were the best part of the series,
Sometime after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released in 1984, there was a shift at Lucasfilm that affected both the Indy and Star Wars comics. Interest seemed to evaporate, with both titles eventually being demoted to bimonthly publication for their final year before cancellation.
The later issues of Indy’s comic, however, were some of the better ones. Linda Grant took over writing the series, and Steve Ditko drew a number of the later issues. The results were more entertaining, though still falling short of anything that inspired further reading or required the continuation of the series.
I think Indiana Jones definitely could work as a comic. It takes so much inspiration from the serials of the 1930s, which in turn took inspiration from the pulp fiction mags that preceded comics and the great adventure comic strips of the era. Terry and the Pirates is as close to a blueprint for Indiana Jones as you’re ever likely to find. Tapping into Milton Caniff’s approach would seem the obvious way to make good Indiana Jones comics.
I know Dark Horse published many Indy comics in the 1990s and beyond. I think I’ve only ever read one of them, and it must not have made any impact on me as I never read any more. If there’s a good one I missed, let me know.
Back to the movies to wrap this up: My friends and I bolted out of school the Friday Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom opened to get in line for a screening at the Paramount Theater on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton. We’d heard about the bugs scene, and one pal brought a pack of Goodies candy to toss from the balcony during the bug scene. I don’t remember being able to see any kind of reaction, but it was fun.
I still love the Temple of Doom. It’s not as good as Raiders, but I love the freaky energy, the pulpy thrills, the strangeness, the dark plot, and even the tension with Willie Scott and the friendship of Short Round.
I’m not as thrilled with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which I saw opening weekend with my girlfriend at the time in Scottsdale, Arizona. Temple of Doom had been roundly criticized as being too dark for kids, inspiring in part the creation of the PG-13 rating. So Last Crusade played it safe, following the pattern set by Raiders for its plot, and injecting some humor with Sean Connery arriving as Henry Jones Sr. It should have worked, but it played more like this was a character brought in to prop up the ratings in the third season of a TV series that was running out of gas. I felt pandered to, at least a little bit.
I know I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when it came out, but remember only the chase sequence at the start of the film and Indy’s silly hiding in the fridge to avoid being nuked scene.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
So, that brings me to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. I’m a bit predisposed to liking it because I have interviewed director James Mangold and came to enjoy his work: Copland, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine, Logan, and Ford v. Ferrari. I liked the movie a lot — it’s not as good as Raiders, and probably not quite good enough to knock out Temple of Doom as my No. 2 favorite, but it has enough style and nostalgia to feel like a real Indiana Jones movie. And in this day and age, that’s enough.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
Thanks for the thrills, Indiana Jones!
Not a bad title, eh? I’d watch that movie.
I was 11 going on 12 in the summer of 1981. I loved movies, but knew nothing about Raiders of the Lost Ark until some friends of mine who’d seen it told me how great it was. I pestered my Mom into taking me and a friend to see it at a matinee, which was required by Alberta’s movie ratings system of the day. She thought it was going to be a boring movie about Noah’s Ark or something, and I didn’t know enough about the movie to tell her otherwise.
So me, my friend, and my Mom all headed to the Westmount cinemas in Edmonton one summer afternoon in 1981 to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. We all loved it. I mean loved it. My Mom said after: “Why didn’t you say it had Han Solo in it!” I really didn’t know.
Seeing Raiders was a big deal that summer. I think I saw it six times in movie theaters — most of them requiring me to buy a ticket for Superman II, which started 10 minutes before Raiders, and then slipping into the other theater. I got caught once or twice, sent back to Superman II, and then usually slipped back into Raiders.
Unlike Star Wars, there wasn’t much in the way of merchandise for Raiders. I read the novelization, but preferred the Marvel Super Special adaptation, which Marvel later split up into three standard comic book issues the same way they had done with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The magazine-size edition had a great painted cover by Howard Chaykin, whose name I recognized from Marvel’s adaptation of Star Wars.
I wasn’t reading comics in 1982 when Marvel finally launched its new series The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, and it took more than 20 years for me to come back around and collect this 34-issue run. Even then, I don’t know if I read them all. Some of them seem familiar, others not.
Unlike Star Wars, Indiana Jones struggled to adapt to comic books, which seems strange in retrospect given how much Indy borrows from comics classics like Terry and the Pirates.
For me, Indiana Jones is a frustrating movie franchise, in a way. I consider Raiders of the Lost Ark to be a perfect movie. I can watch it anytime and each viewing is as thrilling and as fun as the first.
From there, it’s a direct downhill slide.
My and friends stood in line to see on opening day Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at the Paramount Theater on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton. It’s not as good as Raiders, but I still find its freaky energy entertaining and original. I love that it’s gross and dark and weird — qualities major movie franchises no longer have.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a further step down. If Indy was a TV series, this would have been a fifth-season episode that proved it was time to wrap it up. Sure, Sean Connery is great (I met him once), but this movie plays it very safe, with imitations of Raiders and goofy comedy bits that would be more at home in a sitcom.
I know I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in the theater, and I have a copy on DVD somewhere, but I can’t remember much about it save an early sequence where Indy locks himself in a refrigerator to protect himself from an atom bomb test.
I’m looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. I overall like James Mangold’s films — in particular Cop Land and Ford vs. Ferrari — and enjoyed interviewing him for the DGA magazine at his office when Logan came out. (He had a large blown up poster of Marc Silvestri’s art from the cover of The Uncanny X-Men #251 on the wall, and a huge collection of classic vinyl albums in his office at Fox.) But we’ll have to see if Dial of Destiny can defy the downward spiral after so many years away.
I’ve been re-reading the old Marvel series and will try to post some highlights here in the lead-up to the new movie. Based on the early issues, it may be rough going, but we’ll see if we can find some comics treasure in this largely forgotten comic serial.
Realizing I’ve done a bunch of these now, I thought I’d put links to them all in one place to make it easier to read through them. (That’s probably more for my reference than anything else, but I’d love for anyone else to read them and share their own experiences about the shops they grew up with, or these particular shops if you happened to also buy comics there.)
- Comic-Shop Memories: Spinner Racks and Corner Stores, Edmonton, Alta., 1973-1985
- Comic-Shop Memories: Starbase 12 Collectibles, Edmonton, Alta., 1985-1986
- Comic-Shop Memories: Comic Master, Edmonton, Alta., 1985-1986
- Comic-Shop Memories: Warp 1, Edmonton, Alta., 1985-86
- Comic-Shop Memories: Fragments and an Alpha Flight mall Fantasy, Edmonton, Alta., 1985-1986
- Comic-Shop Memories: Fog Hollow Comics, Phoenix, Ariz., 1986-87
- Comic-Shop Memories: All About Books & Comics (Part I), 1986-87, Phoenix, Ariz.
- Comic-Shop Memories: David’s Used Books And Comics, aka Comics Corner, 1987-1988, Tucson, Ariz.
- Comic-Shop Memories: AAA Best Comics, 1988-1989, Phoenix, Ariz., Part 1
- Comic-Shop Memories: Fantasy Comics, 1989-90, Tucson, Ariz., Part 1
- Comic-Shop Memories: AAA Best Comics, 1990, Phoenix, Ariz., Part 2
- Comic-Shop Memories: Fantasy Comics, 1990-91, Tucson, Ariz., Part 2
- Comic-Shop Memories: AAA Best Comics, 1991, Phoenix, Ariz., Part 3
The summer of 1991 was huge for two reasons: X-Force #1 (Aug. 1991) and X-Men #1 (Oct. 1991).
I was mostly buying new comics from AAA Best, where I had a pull list. But I was really into it at this point and spent most of my free time that summer hitting every comic shop I could find in the Phoenix area. All About Books and Comics was my No. 2 choice. They had their main store on Camelback Road and also a small Scottsdale location close to where I was staying with my parents.
Most of the comics I was reading at this point were solidly entertaining, and I was buying a lot of them, so I wasn’t trying a ton of new books. Batman, Spider-Man, Justice League, Doom Patrol, Avengers, The Sandman, Hellblazer and probably a few others were keeping me pretty busy.
It was all about the X-Men that summer. The commercial success of the book with Jim Lee on it just spilled over into everything. Interest in X-Men comic books may never have been higher. Both the collector crowd, dominated at this time by speculators who bought up multiple copies — even cases! — of new issues as they came out, and the fans more into the creative and storytelling side of things were unable to resist the oncoming onslaught of X-Men books.
But this interest also was so intense, it couldn’t help but radically change the comics themselves. When Chris Claremont took over as writer on X-Men in 1974, this was a very small and unimportant corner of the Marvel Universe. A mere 17 years later, X-Men and its various spinoffs were an industry of their own. The demand for X-Men material was insatiable, and Marvel was more than happy to do its best to deliver.
There was one problem. Claremont and his closest collaborators — the artists he worked with, as well as the editors who backed him, most notably Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti — couldn’t deliver on their own nearly enough material to meet that demand, though they appeared to have a solid grip on the core of the X-Men franchise. And other comics creators, spying the very large checks X-Men books generated under Marvel’s sales incentives program, wanted a piece of that pie.
That changed with the publication of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X serial in Marvel Comics Presents #72-84 (March-September 1991). Claremont for years resisted any attempt to fill in the gaps in Wolverine’s past, and now another creator was doing exactly that.
Cover art by Barry Windsor-Smith.
Suddenly, copies of Marvel Comics Presents were hard to find. I had missed a number of issues prior to Weapon X and had to track down the first issue in particular by visiting just about every store in the Phoenix area before finding one at, I believe, All About Books and Comics.
As the release of X-Force #1 approached, there was a lot of excitement because, for the first time I could remember, comics were becoming popular within the larger culture. I saw people wearing X-Force T-shirts at Target. The Levi’s TV ad featuring Rob Liefeld and Spike Lee was a minor sensation on TV. Comics shops on new release day and weekends were crowded.
And suddenly the comics world didn’t seem so distant from the rest of the world.
I stopped by AAA Best the day that X-Force #1 came out — the first week of June 1991 — to pick up my regular stack of comics as well as take part in that momentous event. The store was more crowded than I’d ever seen it, with people lining up to buy huge stacks of copies of that issue. One guy proudly boasted that he was buying 25 copies of the book – and that this was nothing compared to what he was going to get when X-Men #1 came out.
Cover art by Rob Liefeld.
While there was only one cover, each copy of X-Force #1 was polybagged with one of five trading cards drawn by Liefeld. That means most people bought six copies — five to save, and one to open and read. Within a week, I saw All About’s main location was selling the extra cards from opened copies — for a premium. There also was a brief sensation about a certain number of copies that for some reason had a reversed image of Captain America in the UPC box on direct market issues. I don’t know if that’s a legit variant, but I did scoop up an extra set of those for some reason I’m glad to have forgotten.
I spent most of my free time that summer driving through the desert heat from comic shop to music store to movie theater to bookstore and back around again. One of the nearby stops was a Bookstar outlet in the then-still-new Scottsdale Pavilions. They didn’t have much in the way of comics, but they did have a big newsstand that included copies of the Comics Buyers’ Guide. I doubt I’ll ever forget picking up the July 12 issue and reading that Jim Lee was taking over as plotter of the book, with John Byrne stepping in to script, while Claremont took a “sabbatical.” This was less than a month before X-Men #1 was due out.
There was no internet back then, and few publications that carried comic book news in a timely enough fashion to learn any more details before X-Men #1 came out on Aug. 13, 1991. The new issues of The Uncanny X-Men offered no hint of what was to come. Jim Lee stopped drawing the series after issue #277 (June 1991), with the incredible Paul Smith returning for #278 (July 1991), and Andy Kubert on #279 (Aug. 1991), on which Claremont’s run ended halfway through the comic. The rest was by Fabian Nicieza, who wrapped up the storyline in #280 (Sept. 1991) and set the stage for the Mutant Genesis relaunch.
That summer also was a big one for Star Trek, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Star Trek: The Next Generation continued to thrive on TV, its reputation growing with every new episode that aired. The original crew also was due back for one final voyage, with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country scheduled for a December release. Not only was the original crew getting back together, but Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan director and writer Nicholas Meyer was returning to both roles. There also was a rumor that TNG’s Michael Dorn had been cast in a small role in the movie.
The teaser trailer was frustratingly unspecific, but the title — originally meant by Meyer for Star Trek II — was terrific and built up expectations for a satisfying and very final finale.
Cover art by Jerome K. Moore.
Cover art by Jerome K. Moore.
On the comics side, DC put two more great Star Trek annuals, and put together the first sanctioned crossover between TOS and TNG with a pair of four-issue miniseries called The Modala Imperative. The creative teams swapped, with TNG comic scribe Michael Jan Friedman starting things off with a four-issue story of Kirk and Co. that was released biweekly that summer.
It was followed up with a sequel TNG series by regular TOS scribe Peter David that brought back Admiral McCoy from the TNG premiere episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” as well as an older Spock who was now an ambassador. (That last detail later panned out on the show itself when Leonard Nimoy returned that fall for a two-episode run as Spock on TNG, “Reunification.”)
Cover art by Adam Hughes.
There also was to be an original hardcover TOS graphic novel titled Debt of Honor from Chris Claremont and artist Adam Hughes, but it was delayed into 1992. More on that later.
Cover art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
Cover art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
Cover art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
Cover art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
August was the big month. With X-Men #1 (Oct. 1991), Marvel was releasing five variants of the double-size first issue. The first four would be standard format comics with covers that would connect to form a single image. Each also had its own pinup spread by Jim Lee. The fifth edition was a deluxe edition on glossy paper with no ads, all the spreads from the other four variants, a double gatefold cover with all four of the other covers as a single image, and some bonus sketches by Lee. The editions were released once a week, rather than all at once, with Marvel pushing back the release of X-Men #2 (Nov. 1991) a week to make room for the deluxe edition room to have its own week in the spotlight.
Ken Strack at AAA told me that he thought the deluxe edition might be hot enough to be worth something. But at that time no one expected Marvel would print and ship 8 million copies of the book, making it the highest-selling comic of all time (at least to comics shops) and the most common. I picked up a couple copies of the first edition at AAA Best on the day of release, also swinging by All About’s Scottsdale location just to get some of the contact buzz.
Reading the book was bittersweet. It was much better than X-Force #1, featuring the full-on return of Magneto as a villain, some cool Danger Room shenanigans to introduce the new Lee costume designs, an orbital nuclear blast, and a final showdown in Genosha. To be continued!
Cover art by Whilce Portacio and Art Thibert.
The Uncanny X-Men #281 (Oct. 1991), came out the same day as the first edition of X-Men #1, and was more of a mess. Marvel countered Claremont’s departure by bringing back John Byrne to script both series over plots from Jim Lee (starting in X-Men #4 (Jan. 1992)) and Whilce Portacio in Uncanny #281. While Portacio’s art was exciting, let’s just say letting an artist with limited writing ability plot one of your most visible and top-selling series is about as good an idea as it sounds. The story involved some Sentinels, the return of the Hellfire Club, and some new villains that didn’t make much of an impression at the time.
Cover art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
Claremont changes his plans for the series to wrap things up as best he could. While X-Men #1 was originally intended to be an introductory issue Claremont referred to as “X-Men 101,” it now kicked off a three-issue storyline that attempted to resolve the Xavier-Magneto conflict in some kind of convincing manner. When X-Men #3 (Dec. 1991) shipped in October, it was truly the end of an era. There was no acknowledgement of Claremont’s departure, no farewell message — no mention in any way that the man arguably most responsible for this commercial triumph was being displaced from that role.
Cover art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
Between the release of the first edition of X-Men #1 and the fifth edition, I returned to Tucson and the University of Arizona for my final semester. I was originally slated to be the assistant news editor for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, but after only a few weeks found myself promoted to full news editor, in charge of keeping something like eight reporters busy covering the goings on of a campus of 36,000 students. Oh, and a full load of classes, too.
Next: How I almost — almost! — stopped buying comics after graduation.
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Editor: Andrew Marino
As with Batman ’89, I wanted to like Superman ’78 more than I did. Unlike that one, I don’t think it works.
Superman: The Movie is a favorite of mine. I think it’s one of the best — if not the best — comic book adaptations and superhero movies of all time. There’s a lot of reasons why that movie works, mostly because a lot of thought went into every aspect of making it. From the wild visuals of Krypton to the bucolic Smallville sequence and the then-modern vision of life in Metropolis, it all works. Richard Donner was the perfect director for the material. The actors were all well chosen and give good performances, the script is smart, and it has some real emotional heft.
When Superman II followed in 1981, I remember loving that one, too. Revisiting it, though, it’s such a mixed bag. The Donner-directed sequences stand out as the best, while the Richard Lester segments less so.
Side note: I was lucky enough when I worked at Variety to meet both Donner and the film’s producer, Ilya Salkind. Each one’s version of the reasons for the split are irreconcilable, by which I mean that neither perspective matches up. Salkind at that point, around 2006 or so, was talking up plans to make a movie about Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster that never materialized.
Anyway, this comic takes it inspiration from the Donner vision, even paying tribute to his death on the inside front cover. The story involves the entry of Brainiac into the Superman cinematic series. Unlike Batman, Superman lacks a deep bench of villains. That’s why all the movie versions use either Lex Luthor or General Zod — those are the only ones people know and care about.
The problem is the comic is too literally trying to be a movie. If this was the script for a movie being made in the early to mid-1980s, it would have been fun. But as a comic, it moves so slowly across six issues, tries so hard to check all the boxes and provide some variation on a moment from the films, that it has no identity of its own.
Dialog scenes that would have passed quickly and with wit in 30 seconds or so in a movie become two pages of talking heads in comics form.
Brainiac is decent villain. I have no clue if they tried to “cast” the character with the likeness of an actor from the early 1980s. And it does bring the bottle city of Kandor into the picture, which is cool, but uses it to bring back Superman’s parents. Making Superman choose between his life on Earth and remaining Brainiac’s prisoner in Kandor is perhaps the best character test of the series, but it just comes off as an echo of the choice he already made in Superman II to give up his powers to live with Lois.
The art is another mixed bag. The likenesses are good, and it somehow manages to evoke the blocky art style of Silver Age Superman comics. But it also has a stiff quality that makes me think Torres used a lot of photo reference.
The end result is six issues that breeze by like it was two. It reminds you how good the movies are without coming close to being as good as them. Maybe another creative team could pick up the Superman ’78 premise and do something with a little more energy. Otherwise, you’re probably better off just revisiting the movies.