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Life During Quarantine: Non-Traditional Hauls

Coming up on two months since I’ve been to a comic store. During the shutdowns, I’ve wound up with some "non-traditional" hauls.

Some Kickstarter stuff’s come in–pledged for as far back as a year or more. Some new "Walmart comics" that I was able to order via their site. And an excellent order from Mirage Studios for a run of Usagi Yojimbo that I’ve really never seen (never looked that hard though) anywhere.

And as stuff stacked up, I figured I’m not doing other worthwhile content, so might as well do a "Haul post" and highlight these.

At least for my own personal documentation!

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Odd Tales from the Curio Shop. Tales From Nocturnia.

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I’ve increasingly been a fan of TwoMorrows‘ stuff. Where was all this when I was in school and could have used these as reference citations for papers?!? I’d be interested in the complete American Comic Book Chronicles series…but it’s a bit pricy (textbook-like) and not all volumes are in-print. I backed a Kickstarter for this new printing of the 1980s volume. It also prompted me to acquire the 1990s volume last summer. I also backed their anniversary volume The World of Twomorrows. Why not?

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I was drawn to the Deborah Daring by the art. Unfortunately, I was blindsided by shipping. With all the ‘upgrades’ during the campaign, shipping became a very expensive nightmare to the US from Canada. I was initially ready to write the thing off, but some of that "heat" "in the moment" dealing with the shipping has worn off, so we’ll see if/when I get around to actually reading the thing!

Then we have the Haunted High-Ons: The Darkness Rises hardcover, collecting the 6-issue mini-series! This one was a no-brainer for me, enjoying Manning‘s work and all!

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I’d backed Everglade Angels on strength of Northcott‘s name; having Lobdell on it as well is quite a bonus. Yet another thing that I need to get around to actually reading…but sure is pretty to have thus far!

One of my profs from college introduced me (via Facebook) to Phil Machi some years back; and we’ve been facebook friends now for however many years. I’ve known of his work and enjoyed seeing all he posts about it…but somehow had never gotten around to purchasing anything.

So I put an order in for Silver Lining, one of his Retail Sunshine volumes…and have quite enjoyed it! Just in the first several pages, I was chuckling at the humor…though I’ve not had any extensive work in retail, I’ve had just enough to begin to have a hint of what it can be like…and I’ve read enough Reddit stories to have a feel as well. But to get stuff in strip format like this makes it all the more entertaining and engaging!

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AND Phil threw in this sketch for me as well…totally made my day getting the package and seeing this!

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The collected volume of the 6-issue Hope series came…and I still can’t help but think it should have more of the pink/purpleish tone of the first issue, which is rather iconic to me. That said, this blue cover is enough of a change to draw the eye, and I do like it, and hope to really dig in soon having the whole story in one place and not scattered!

Then For Goodness Sake volume one which is a full K. Lynn Smith piece; another to get into!

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While I’m not keen on exclusive-to-a-single-retailer things… a new line of comics has hit Walmart. Norah’s Saga particularly caught my attention, being another of Blake Northcott‘s projects; but I snagged all four issues to give them a try…though I had to order them online, as the Walmart I’ve been frequenting did not have them out (despite their app saying they had them in stock).

I’m more willing to give stuff like this a shot at $5/issue for the novelty than I am a mainstream publisher; though not on a continuous basis.


I’ve wound up getting quite a bit of stuff directly from Mirage Publishing over the years–back issues, a couple posters, and whatnot.

They may not be pristine "Near-Mint" or such…but that’s great! While I’m not gonna willingly damage my own comics, and don’t necessarily want anything beat to heck and back…I’m VERY MUCH a "reader copy" kinda guy…generally more interested in having the issue than I am with having it "graded" or "gradable" at high grades.

So everything I’ve gotten from Mirage has been excellent for me!

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All the more with a semi-recent order of the Mirage Usagi Yojimbo run.

The site listed issues 4-16 as available. Figuring that’d leave me with just a couple issues (2-3) to hunt down in the wild (pretty sure I’d seen #1 somewhere in going through boxes the last couple years) I pulled the trigger and ordered them.

A few weeks later when my package arrived, I was greeted with a VERY pleasant surprise: #s 1-3 included! So a complete run of the Mirage iteration of the series!

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I emailed to make sure it wasn’t a mistake–and was confirmed to be intentional!

So it was a huge thank-you then…and now publicly! Thank you, Mirage, for being most excellent!

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NECA TMNT ’80s Cartoon Two-Packs

Life’s been its own brand of crazy the last couple months. So I’m only now–a MONTH after the fact–getting around to sharing these cool purchases!

I’ve been AWARE OF the NECA brand since 2010 or 2011…whenever they did the Mirage Comics-style turtles, before the 2012 line for the Nickelodeon 2012 show was out from Playmates.

Having recently (finally) bought the Raphael and then Leo & Mikey 1/4-scale figures, these 2-packs from Target were not a terrible stretch…though it was a LOT to spend in such a short time-frame. But they served as a sort of "retail therapy" or such.

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I’m not the greatest fan of the 1980s cartoon. For a time, I actually held a fair bit "against" it, though as the IDW comics have continued and have incorporated elements, stuff has been somewhat "redeemed" and I’ve come to appreciate its place in history–in general and of the TMNT property in general. And these 2-packs made for a decent "set" of figures…that’s certainly one thing about the TMNT stuff–it’s totally geared for sets of 4 with the main characters!

neca_target2packs_leoandshredder_front

Leonardo and Shredder make for a good pairing here. All the 2-packs are one turtle and one villain. So of course, matching the "leaders" up works quite well on a number of levels! 

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While the front of the boxes are showing off the figures themselves, the backs show a staged photo, a short description, as well as the other 3 boxes available for this "wave" of figures! 

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Donatello and Krang are the "brains" of their respective groups…Krang pretty literally so. That makes these a good matchup as well. The walker contraption Krang rides in–from the earliest episodes of the ’80s cartoon–is roughly the same height as the classic Playmates figure…though Krang himself is a lot smaller here and more proportionate. 

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Back of the box showing Donnie poised to tip Krang right on over… 

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Though Raphael has come to be my favorite turtle as an adult, his 2-pack has him and "just" a Foot ninja. I’ve never been overly keen on this version of the Foot–mindless robots just seem like they shouldn’t be a threat whatsoever. And generally they were not MUCH of one, just a delaying tactic. Still, the poseability on the NECA figure(s) makes this far, FAR superior to the classic Playmates iteration! 

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Cliché as it is, there IS the classic line from Raph’s first encounter with the Foot bots. "Klang?!? Did you say–‘Klang’?"

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Michelangelo also comes with a Foot bot, that seems basically the same as the one with Raph. Though it would seem a someone generic thing to have half the packs come with these…it also actually, truly makes sense as the Foot bots ARE generic and to just have one is to defeat the point of having generic minions. And as these are a much better quality, I’m glad TO have two, although I’d have also been rather happy if these came in their own 2-pack, so that their slots could be filled with other characters!

Of course, I believe I saw stuff coming out of the one toy convention that NECA has upcoming plans for Bebop and Rocksteady. And if they come in 2-packs like these…I’d be grateful to get the pair as their own pack. But if there’s to be more hero vs villain foolery to further induce buying of multiple packs…I’d take April and Splinter with them, and/or Casey Jones! 

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Here we have the back of the pack with Mikey gut-kicking his Foot bot.

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I like the sides of the packages. One side shows each of the turtles…

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…while the other side shows the villain that turtle’s paired with!

The packs are definitely quite attractive as-is. But these being TMNT, I "couldn’t" just leave them in their boxes. So I did get them out. However, the photos of the unboxed figures will have to wait for another post!

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The ’80s Revisited: Detective Comics #572

detective_comics_0572The Doomsday Book

By: Mike W. Barr
Colored by: Adrienne Roy
Edited by: Denny O’Neil
Cover: Michael William Kaluta
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: March 1987
Cover Price: $1.25

Chapter One:
Artist: Alan Davis
Letterer: John Workman

Chapter Two
Artists: Terry Beatty & Dick Giordano
Letters: Todd Klein
Colors: Carl Gafford

Chapter Three
Arists: Carmine Infantino, Al Vey
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Carl Gafford

Chapter Four
Artist: E.R. Cruz
Letterer: Romeo Francisco

Centerpiece
Dick Sprang

Chapter Five
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary
Letterer: John Workman

dick_sprang_remembers_detective_572

I’m finding that I’m a bit of a sucker for ’80s anniversary issues. Especially ones like this, where it’s not some round number of an issue, not a bunch of variant covers, not a relaunch or renumbering, not even the culmination of some huge story that’s overly self-aware of numbering. This seems–essentially–to be a nice, hefty, done-in-one full-length self-contained adventure…and it’s not at all hard to see where this could (by present-day standards) be dragged out as some six-issue mini-series (at least) if not multiple 2-3 issues mini-series or such.

But of course that would fly in the face of an anniversary ISSUE. In this case, celebrating 50 years of the title, not Batman himself, though the caped crusader has a definite role in the issue!

What we get here is an extra-sized issue with story elements on multiple fronts, allowing multiple art teams to work on the title, as well as the writer to flex and work with different characters that aren’t strictly Batman or his immediate Bat-group. This issue is from a time much closer to the title’s historical format with multiple characters sharing the title…even though Batman’s been the most prominent character, a number of other characters "came up" through the title, not necessarily related specifically to Batman or stories involving Batman himself.

I’ve been aware of Barr‘s work for a long time…and while I’ve come to know him as the writer of Batman: Year Two, and Camelot 3000, and Batman and the Outsiders and whatnot…I most associate him with Mantra, one of my favorite Ultraverse titles growing up in the ’90s. That a creator of a character I thoroughly enjoyed there also has such a history with Batman has been icing on the cake, so to speak.

I’ve primarily read Detective Comics from #604-onward…very much after the "anthology" format was basically jettisoned and it’s been just another Batman title. So while aware of its history, I haven’t actually read much of that history…at least not while of any age to truly appreciate it (I know I’ve read a number of issues from Grandpa’s collection, back in my earliest comic days, but that was a quarter-century ago!).

Slam Bradley finds himself with a client who’s under the gun–literally. Though Batman and Robin intervene for the moment, there’s more to the situation–and story–and he’s determined to figure it out. What he doesn’t count on is learning of a couple names with prominent ties to the past: Watson…and Moriarty. The Elongated Man–Ralph Dibny–gets involved, with a personal encounter with the villain at hand, confirming what Slam Bradley had learned. We then jump to "the past," and a tale of Sherlock Holmes…fitting to the continuity of this issue’s story, while being simply a new Sherlock Holmes story, and certainly celebrating the title Detective Comics.  The various branches of the overall story converge and we get back to Batman and Robin being on the page as all the characters come together…including a rather surprising (to the characters) figure, one that I had actually come to think would not be present in quite the way they turned out to be.

This issue is just over 30 years old, but I still step around stuff a bit. Consider this your spoiler warning.

After this line, I get into "spoilers," as I would if this had not been a three-decade old back-issue.

Batman meets a significantly-aged Sherlock Holmes here. As this was published in 1987, along with being the 50th anniversary of Detective Comics, it was the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes. And with a mention of living conditions and such, and just HOW old the character looks at the end of this issue…it may have been a bit of a stretch to consider a man would live to be over 120 years old (if he was already an adult in adventures in 1887). Of course, 30 years later, this is no longer plausible in the slightest…at least to me. So it "dates" the issue, but in a good way…and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the cover was not JUST a case of being some thematic team-up where both characters appear in the course of the issue but don’t directly interact…we actually get to see Batman meet THE Sherlock Holmes. (Though I’m not gonna get into the meta-stuff of characters recognizing the STORIES but then having the story-accurate character showing up in their midst as a "real guy").

Though there were multiple art teams for the issue, with them being split up across different chapters (instead of several pages here, several there) it really served the story, and kept things from seeming choppy or such. Batman didn’t seem to be in much of the issue, but where he was, he seemed "’80s-accurate" to me; and the other characters (that I’m less familiar with, particularly from this time frame) all work and don’t stand out as contradictory to whatever I do know about them. The cover led me to believe (in conjunction with something I’d read in the past) that the focus of the issue might’ve been a Batman/Sherlock Holmes team-up/adventure. I was initially disappointed, as I thought when I bought the issue that it’d be a team-up. As the issue went on, it took on more a sense of reality, history, and "legacy" that I found intriguing…such that it was simply a treat to have the aged Holmes show up at the end as he did.

There’s a nice "center spread" by Dick Sprang that makes for a good touch, and far out-beats contemporary practices where it would have been a variant cover or a couple of variant covers. It’s just a nice double-page art piece showcasing Sprang‘s take on the characters.

I believe I paid $6 for this issue, against its $1.25 cover price. By contemporary comics’ standards, this was well worth that price and then some. For time it took to read, it more than out-matched contemporary comics, at the "inflated" or "priced back issue" dollar I paid for it. This would absolutely be worth getting out of a bargain bin…and I have no problem with having paid a slightly more "premium" price for it as an actual, priced back issue and not something from a bargain bin. This stands alone as a singular, strong issue, and other than knowing that the characters exist, you don’t really need to know any present-day (at the time) continuity to enjoy this issue; FROM this issue, I would not be able to tell you myself offhand what was going on in issues immediately before or immediately after this issue.

Highly recommended!

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The ’80s Revisited: The Flash #324

flash_vol1_0324The Slayer and the Slain!

Writer: Cary Bates
Pencils: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Dennis Jensen
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: Phil Felix
Editor: Ernie Colon
Cover: Carmine Infantino, Rodin Rodriguez
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1983
Cover Price: 60 cents

I have the Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash volume, bought a couple years ago. That book has Flash 323-350…basically, the final couple years’ worth of issues of the Silver Age Flash series that took us up to Crisis on Infinite Earths prior to Wally’s series kicking off.

I have "experienced" 28 years of reading new comics myself, all being years after this issue. And in broad strokes I’ve long since "filled in the gaps" or otherwise have "a passing knowledge" of stuff from this "era."

But finding this issue in a 25-cent bin, I was all for it. Sure, I have the issue in that Showcase volume–but that’s black-and-white and a thick volume that’s not the greatest for a randomish, casual read. This issue is in color with all the ads and whatnot in being the actual, original, (vintage) edition.

The cover is what grabbed my attention–The Flash holding Reverse-Flash and exclaiming "Get up, Get up! You can’t be dead!" and a caption proclaiming "But he is–and Flash killed him!" This is both accurate and yet comes off very much as a number of classic covers do–a "technicality" of truth but quite misleading. Of course, I know this isn’t "just" that, but is indicative of an issue with a lasting point that influenced so much at the trailing end of the series.

Then I figured I’d missed the actual occurrence, and "assumed" that this would pick up immediately after the PREVIOUS issue ending on an "Is he or isn’t he dead?" cliffhanger.

What I got from this was a solid read from a key point in pre-Crisis Barry Allen’s life with one of his most dangerous foes, and an issue meeting expectation while drawing me into the then-contemporary story and leaving me curious about a number of things, not limited to: Iris died 40+ issues earlier? I did think that was here. Who is this Fiona, and how important was she as I’ve never consciously been aware of her? And how does an obvious rock-and-hard-place situation stopping a known killer with intent lead to a lengthy story of the Flash on trial?

While I’d half expected to open the issue TO Barry and a dead Thawne, I actually found that the two were still engaged in fisticuffs. Said fisticuffs have made Barry very late for his own wedding, where family and closest friends try to salvage the situation, assuring folks he’ll be there and has NOT left Fiona at the altar. Kid Flash performs a "super feat" rescuing a baby and showing THAT he has the power and speed to do much of what Barry does…and even he is late for the wedding. Or would be, if it was proceeding as it should have. As the wedding situation deteriorates, Wally heads out to try to find Barry, and is intercepted by a Guardian of the Universe (not to be confused with a Guardian of the Galaxy…similar names, different publishers) who does something to dampen his powers, ensuring that no one will interfere with Barry’s fight…at said hero’s request, apparently.

We then switch more fully to the Barry/Eobard fight and see a fraction of what goes on with two mortal combatants at super-speed. Ultimately, seeking to press whatever advantage he maintains, the villain takes the lead, heading to kill the woman who would be Barry’s second wife–forcing Barry to move even faster and decisively to save Fiona’s life. Standing before her as the Flash, he does not tell her that it’s him–Barry–and as she storms away, we learn that Thawne is not just "stopped" but dead.

As said earlier, this cover looks like something right out of the ’70s and classic exaggerated/far-fetched situations. The art inside the issue is solid and seems very much of its time–early 1980s–with all relevant characters being distinct and recognizable, and generally no wonkiness or weirdness throwing me out of the story. Possibly the biggest visual grab for me was that somehow I keep forgetting that Barry was blond, and I’m still used to Wally and thus a Flash without red hair throws me off.

Story-wise, this issue includes a footnote indicating that there were several issues’ worth of development leading to this one–and that by itself serves to pique my interest in finding those issues. It also reminds me that this is from those days long ago BEFORE everything had to be clearly deliniated within a rigid 4-issue or 6-issue "story arc" format…when issues could be issues, telling an ongoing story without necessarily being formulaic X Chapter of Y Story.

I like the structure of this issue, giving us some heroics, super feats, as well as developing the wedding side of things and Fiona’s thinking she realizes what’s happened, then seeing Barry and Thawne and their battle, leading to Barry’s being forced (goaded into?) to kill Thawne to save Fiona.

All in all, I definitely enjoyed this issue. It was an easier read than I expected, half thinking it was gonna drag on and feel overly wordy, as well as thinking I’d be reading simply a random chapter of something–not even a key moment–of a much larger story. Though in a way this IS just another ’80s issue, it being an issue included in that Showcase volume, I feel like it’s an ‘early chapter’ more than an ‘isolated issue’ but found this engaging and interesting, while leaving me interested both in backtracking and getting the later issues (as preferable to "just" a black and white reprint).

For only 25 cents, it was well worth the purchase, a solid read, and I would certainly recommend the issue if you find it in such a bargain bin and don’t mind NOT having the entire 25+ issue "run" necessarily at hand.

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #3

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0003The Man Behind the Mask

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1980
Cover Price: 50 cents

This issue is one of THE comics of my youth, up there with my "original 4" or the likes of Superman #75 and X-Men #41. Until I read through this for this reading, though, I would’ve said I had the issue memorized line for line, narration included…but the memory can be a fickle thing, as can a slightly modified/incomplete audio cast recording!

My original copy of this issue was a reprint edition, that came packaged with an audio cassette tape (for those of you old enough to remember what those are!) that had a cast-recording audio of the issue. I’d personally "digitized" a copy of that to my computer years back, several years BEFORE the rise of YouTube, and did so off a nearly-worn-out tape from listening to it so much! As with a couple parts of the first issue of this mini, going back through it and seeing (not just hearing/listening) to the contents of the issue, I was reminded of how much has stuck with me and came from this issue, even shaping parts of me beyond just "a comic book."

The over-arching story of the issue sees Batman leave the aftermath of the exploding Batmobile to Robin and Alfred while he goes out to question folks on the street, talk to Jim Gordon, sleep on it and go to work at the Wayne Foundation, mull over what Gordon said, make a realization and visit the old Batcave under Wayne Manor, and confront the responsible party to the destruction of the precious costume, and leave things at a Batman status quo such that this mini happened, but doesn’t need to have any lasting effects.

In practical terms, the framework allows us to see the "origin" of the guy that keeps the Dynamic Duo supplied with quality, reliable Batmobiles; Commissioner Gordon’s involvement with the duo; the origin/involvement of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and Lucius Fox.

Story-wise, as with the previous two issues, things are kinda flimsy when you look deeply into ’em. But as a kid, I was not that analytical and just took the issue at face-value, the steady, constant moving-ahead-the-story-doesn’t-stop from the audio rendition, and that was that. It’s stuck with me, such that to ME, this is one of THE most important single issues of all time…while to others, I’m sure it’s "just" some arbitrary Batman comic, a pretty cover, or of note for having been reprinted as a breakfast-cereal comic. (I would love to see an ongoing promotion with modern cereal "prizes" being reprints of small stories/minis from DC!)

Visually, this is a great treat, both the cover AND the interior. We have classic Aparo art, which as I noted with the first issue, means this looked like the same Batman I was familiar with in my earliest days and earliest back-issues with the character, seeming all the more important for the consistency. It also very much "defined" great Batman art for me, where I’ve retroactively determined Aparo to be one of my all-time favorite Batman artists, though I didn’t know one name from another at the time I was first exposed to the issue!

The cover is an iconic one for me, from this issue itself, to its being used as THE cover of the original "collected edition" (mass market paperback black-and-white reprint), and even serves as the cover image of the Tales of the Batman: Len Wein hardcover that came out a year or two ago. If I could have a poster of this cover, I’d be all for it!

Overall, this is a consistent piece fitting with the earlier issues, caps stuff off, and was maybe THE most foundational Batman comic of my life!

I definitely recommend the mini-series for older fans of the character and anyone who’d appreciate Aparo‘s art, or Len Wein‘s storytelling and use of characters! As for me…it’s just been enjoyable revisiting the mini and getting my own thoughts out there!


Now having "covered" this series myself, in my own format, I can listen to Michael Bailey and Andrew Leyland discuss the series on their new show: The Overlooked Dark Knight. I’d been planning on covering this series here, and discovering their new podcast prompted me to jump on this sooner so that I could get my thoughts out in this way prior to listenig to theirs–which I’m certain is far more detailed and insightful than what I can share here textually!  Having listened to their work in the past, I highly recommend the show just for their involvement alone, as well as whatever other Batman-related topics they cover.

And for the audio itself from the old cassette tapes of The Untold Legend of the Batman, you can find where folks have posted it on YouTube (links worked as of this posting):

Continue reading

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #2

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002"With Friends Like These…"

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is the "middle chapter" of the mini-series…"only" 3 issues. I knew the first issue from having read a copy that Grandpa had; and the third issue (as I’ll get to soon) is one of the single most familiar-to-me-comics ever.

This issue opens with a furious Batman seeking answers in a bar from the lowlifes that might have some knowledge–any knowledge–of anyone brazen enough to break into his sanctuary and steal–and destroy–one of the most precious items he owned. The situation deteriorates as Batman loses himself in a rage rarely seen (at least until post-Death in the Family). He’s snapped out of it by the arrival of Robin (Dick Grayson), and the two head back to the Batcave. Meanwhile, Dick reminisces about his own past with Batman, and how Batman’s affected his life. Once back in the Cave, the two interact with Alfred, who muses on his own background and coming to be butler to the Caped Crusaders; as Batman pores over files of suspects, we get a glimpse at the extended rogues’ gallery, and a bit about the origins of the Joker and Two-Face. Robin suggests they try police headquarters–and a conference with Jim Gordon–but as he readies to leave, a beeping is heard…and our heroes barely have time to seek cover before the Batmobile explodes. Batman declares war on the as-yet-unrevealed villain.

Of the three issues, I’m least familiar with this one. This was actually the "gap" for me in the story, that I first read (I believe) in a paperback reprint of the story–one of those mass-market paperback-size black and white things. I feel like the "focal" origins here are Robin and Alfred, and once again realized how much this version of both has stuck with me and formed the foundation of my understanding of the characters. We also get another reference to a warehouse explosion that I’ve always considered to be a contrivance or such–but I actually wonder (though have yet to actually opt to do the research) if this ties the story to anything in the ongoing Batman or Detective Comics titles, like if the explosion happened in an issue of either title and then this mini takes place as a "side trip" exploring the ramifications.

Visually, I had a definite sense of deja vu, thanks to Aparo‘s art, and I’m amazed to consider that this was published in early 1980, and that Aparo was still (or again?) a key Bat-artist up to stuff I read in my earliest then-modern explorations of Batman stuff in 1989 and the earliest part of the 1990s. I’m also somewhat amazed at the reminder of this being published in a much different time, where the issues (while part of a singular mini-series, a singular story) don’t flow nearly as smoothly one-into-the-next as they do now. Nowadays, it seems like in many collected volumes, one almost has to GUESS at where the issue-breaks are (accounting for mid-issue high moments and such) where this obviously picks up after the events of the first issue, but it’s a sort of "cold start" that does not REQUIRE one to have read the previous issue to follow along with THIS issue.

Chances are, especially these days, if you’re considering reading this issue, you’ve got #s 1 & 3 as well; and cheesey/hokey/flimsy as the STORY-story is (it’s a loose plot to give us the excuse to see a bunch of characters reflect on their origins, and by these better know "the rest of the story" as readers), it’s worth reading. This firmly embodies late-70s/early-80s pre-Crisis Batman, and is a product of its time. I don’t care for the cover proclamation of this being "an instant collector’s item"–if it SAYS it’s a collector’s item, it’s probably NOT. Then again, there’s the original comic edition; there’s a comic-on-cassette reprint edition; there’s a reprint edition that came in boxes of cereal; and there’s the MMPB collection…so DC got plenty of mileage out of this one 3-issue arc; and certainly formed my basis of understanding for these characters!

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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #1

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0001In the Beginning

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is a comic that I clearly recall coming across in Grandpa’s collection all those years ago–after he’d loaned me a stack to read, and we visited and I found it in his comics cupboard. It stood out to me immediately for the cover being taken up itself by a giant book, with three very recognizable villains (Joker, Penguin, Riddler) apparently teamed up, utilizing the book to learn more about the Batman. The Joker proclaiming "This book will tell us everything we need to know to defeat the Batman!" To this day, this particular issue is rather "iconic" to me, one of the more "singular" stand-out covers IN comics (though a bit behind the third issue of this very series, which I’ll touch on when I get to that issue).

Presently in 2017 (some 37 years after this issue originally saw print!) the issue is definitely a bit "dated" in that it’s clearly from its time…but for me, it’s rather timeless. And it’s easy to see as I read just how much this very issue originally (and still) informs my FOUNDATION with the Batman character and mythos–from Thomas Wayne’s costume, to Leslie Thompkins and Joe Chill and Lew Moxon, the notion of Bruce as the first Robin, and so on.

The issue opens with Batman having a pleasant moment with Alfred, going through mail…only to discover a package with the shredded remains of the most valuable item in the Batcave–the costume once worn by Bruce’s father, which inspired his own look as Batman! This kicks off some nostalgia/reminiscing between Bruce and Alfred, which gives us as readers the background on the costume, the "base" origin with the death of the Waynes and Bruce’s childhood vow and self-training, to some specifics of the training and such, the origin of both his costume and the Robin outfit, and a glimpse in montage of many of the villains faced over the years. We also get the "expanded" origin details of young Bruce having been taken in by his Uncle Philip, and being "raised" by the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton (unknowingly mother of the man who murdered the Waynes), as well as Batman and Robin’s discovery of Joe Chill and eventually Lew Moxon, and how the Wayne murder case was finally, completely closed. Despite 18+ pages of additional story (the issue has 21), there’s no resolution regarding the destruction of Thomas Wayne’s costume nor the perpetrator.

What we ultimately have here is basically a framing device to give thin "reason" to characters reminiscing in that classic comics way–think all that hard on it, and it’s like–what? These characters have known each other too long, been through too much, to have this sort of stuff in this sort of detail coming up. There’s also the issue of the thought balloons seeming–by 2017 standards to me–being very in-your-face and blatantly stating stuff that would be left to be hinted at or given only as a subtlety.

While I’ve probably known this issue’s art was John Byrne and Jim Aparo, I feel like it’s "consciously" new information to me in the sense that it feels so revelatory. This series being one of THE early introductions for me to Batman, and the character’s background and generally a compact, definitive source on all things Batman…it would seem to clearly explain why I particularly dig Aparo‘s Batman, and any Batman that looks close to how he appears here!

I also wasn’t aware–until rather recently (a couple years or so back)–that this was written by Len Wein. This series is one that, as a kid, simply WAS Batman. I didn’t know the artists, I didn’t know the writer, I just knew that this was Batman, this was his origin and the showing of everything that made up the character and associated characters, and that was that.

So framing device or not, ludicrously blatant detailing of stuff or not…this was a very key comic for me in my youth, and I love it to this day for what it was, and remains, to me, though this is a much different Batman than the one I’ve known for most of the time I’ve been into "current comics," and could functionally be a whole different character (and in a sense, is–this is from a half-decade PRIOR TO Crisis on Infinite Earths!).

I have a definite soft spot for this mini-series, which is also why it hardly phased me to buy a new-to-me copy of all three issues just for the convenience of re-reading the single issues AND seeing the original ads and such, rather than simply grabbing my Tales of the Batman: Len Wein volume off the shelf to re-read it or such.

I’m certainly biased on the issue, but I think if you’re a fan like me and enjoy the different "eras" of Batman, this is an issue well worth reading in some form.

And while I’ll get into it more for the third issue, it should definitely be noted here: there is an audio-drama of sorts out there for this issue…this entire mini-series was made into a "comics on tape" thing with a voice cast, music, and so on, and packaged with reprint editions of each issue.

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The ’90s Revisited: Batman #416

90s_revisited

batman_0416White Gold and Truth

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Jim Aparo
Inker: Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: Agustin Mas
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: February, 1988
Cover Price: 75 Cents

[ I wrote this up weeks ago, but never got around to editing and posting my text until now. Fellow blogger Chris Sheehan of Chris is on Infinite Earths covered this issue as well, a couple weeks after I wrote my text; you can find his (far more detailed) coverage here from early November of this year. ]

I’m sure I’ve read this issue in the past…though that was probably in the earlier days of my reading comics–like 1992 or so. I’m pretty certain I recall this issue being part of a 3-pack available at a department store (Hills?) as it’s a "back issue" even from that time, yet a random one I read early on. But it’s a much different thing reading it again now, all these years later.

To be perhaps over-simple in summarizing the issue: Robin (Jason Todd) is shown to be reckless, but rescued by Nightwing. Nightwing and Batman later have words, and then Nightwing helps Robin, with Batman’s hidden approval.

I would have already read A Lonely Place of Dying, and new that this Nightwing guy was "the original Robin" and that "the Robin who died" was Jason Todd, and as a back issue, here was an issue that had the two teaming up. Getting the Dick/Bruce confrontation here–and learning that they haven’t talked in 18 months–surprised me on this reading. Firstly, for having a specific timeframe given, and secondly that I didn’t remember it. Knowing what I do nowadays, but still having a blind spot from this period, I would guess that this is "the" issue that detailed the split and/or retconned things to Dick having been shot and ordered off the job, hence striking out on his own with the Teen Titans and becoming Nightwing instead of Robin. (Much the way #408 retconned Jason’s background to having been found stealing tires off the Batmobile). I would guess this is the Batman title’s explanation of things, whether or not it exactly fits with whatever was going on in the Teen Titans book at the time, and with the ripples/ramifications still being situated post-Crisis.

While the cover is kinda generic and not all that appealing to me, it’s definitely memorable…at least to me, given it was (as I remember) one of my earlier "back issues" long before bargain bins became such a thing for me as they have been the past decade or so. The interior art is "classic" to me, and more than once I had to remind myself I was NOT reading A Death in the Family. Part of me is partially amazed to realize this is the same creative team that DID do that story, even though it’s almost a year’s worth of issues off from this one…back in an age where it did not seem like creative teams shifted every several issues. Whining about that aside…I love the art here, as it clearly conveys the story, does everything I’d expect it to…and stirs up the nostalgia as well.

Story-wise, I felt like even here there was a bit of setup for Death in the Family, though it’s likely a bit of "reaching" on my part. Or in another way of looking at it…having the same creative team allowed for more internal consistency for the title both in characterization as well as visualization. Most often, I think of Starlin as doing Thanos/Warlock stuff, with the Infinity Gauntlet and all over at Marvel…but I think it’s safe to say that he’s also one of my favorite Batman writers!

This issue works quite well for me as a one-off, though I’m obviously a bit biased in nostalgia and remembering this…it’s a one-off for this READING but I’m hardly any sort of new reader or such, which makes this in its own way "just another issue" that I happened to read that I can partially contextualize without other issues. Yet we have a beginning, middle, and end…and though this certainly is not the final issue of the series, we do NOT have a cliffhanger or "To Be Continued…" We just get this as an episode that introduces us to the current Robin, the former Robin, contextualizes both, confronts Batman, and we get a bit of development with all the relationships, seeing that they all have different "history" with each other without (as a reader) absolutely having to KNOW the history.

All in all, this is good, solid issue…and one I would definitely recommend if you find it in a bargain bin! It’s certainly worth a quarter, and if the condition is good, I’d even say go up to $1 on it for the reading experience. The potential we see here gets really developed years later in the Dick/Tim dynamic…and we see the start of that here, had Jason lived.

The ’80s Revisited: The Flash (1987) #1

flash(1987)_0001Flash

Writer: Mike Baron
Penciller: Jackson Guice
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Mike Gold
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June, 1987
Cover Price: 75 Cents

I’ve been quite aware of The Flash–particularly Wally–since my initial foray into comics back in 1989/1990…my earliest conscious exposure to the character offhand was Adventures of Superman #463. Mr. Mxyzptlk forced the two to race…and this stands out to me because of the fact of Wally constantly eating, the notion that even with the super-speed, he was still burning calories and all that (to my 8/9 year old self, the simple “have to eat to keep going” was enough). I became more aware of the character with guest-appearances here and there, and the “key” role he played at the start of Zero Hour, and as I learned more about “continuity” and such, I became aware of Barry and generally got to where the Flash was an accepted character for me.

I didn’t start picking up any issues of his actual series on any regular basis, though, until #197 (Geoff Johns, first issue of the Blitz arc) in 2003 or so, and I’ve moved forward from there. I’ve become aware of several creative teams, and it was all the positive “buzz” for Mark Waid‘s run and then the (at the time) up and coming Geoff Johns that eventually led to me trying the series. But outside of maybe a couple issues, I really have never actually gotten (around) to reading Wally’s series, particularly from this period.

So jumping into #1 here rather arbitrarily was definitely an interesting experience.

We open on Wally–now 20–at a convenience store and come to find out he’s marking time before a “surprise” party for his 20th birthday. He’s no longer a teenager (and now being The Flash and not Kid Flash, no longer a “teen” Titan). He’s “graduated” into the role, stepping into the costume previously worn by Barry Allen, and he’s got huge boots to fill. Before the party can really get rolling, Wally receives a phone call: a heart is available for a transplant…in Seattle. And conventional technology cannot get it there in time, so it’s up to Wally to race the heart to the opposite coast. He extracts some conditions, pointing out that he’s doing a favor, and these doctors are getting paid huge sums, but he (Wally) could use medical insurance (wow…30 years ago!) and such…that it’s the principle of the matter. (To say nothing of the fact that he needs the calories for such an extensive trip). Along the way Wally encounters someone who was apparently attacked by Vandal Savage, and witnesses other situations he can’t stop for…but he eventually arrives and the transplant’s a success, and (after 17 hours’ sleep) Wally gets to meet the patient, who conveniently has some knowledge of (at least the rumour of) Vandal Savage. After being returned home (via plane), Wally receives a package…with a heart–and meets Vandal Savage.

I just double-checked…and this issue is “only” 22 pages of story. So much in it, and clear to follow, and it’s all crammed into 22 pages. We meet the main character, and start off on this key day–he’s now The Flash (not Kid Flash), he’s just turned 20; we see him with friends/teammates for context; we get details about who he is, what he is, how he got here, limitations of his powers, etc; we see him in action AS the Flash; clear differences between THIS Flash and his predecessor are highlighted; immediate threats overcome and a new threat set up, and close on the introduction of a “big bad” for the upcoming issues. Basically, this is an excellent sort of first issue!

This issue looks and feels like a mid/late-’80s book…which is quite appropriate. Guice‘s art is top-notch, and I really like it here. The detail may not quite be quite the level of, say, George Perez of this time, but it’s quite good and works very well for me, with all relevant characters looking as I’d expect for my contextual knowledge of the time, they look familiar/recognizable, and the visuals never failed me as to what was going on.

Story-wise, as said, this is an excellent first issue with numerous “bullet points” touched on that I would hope and expect a first issue to do…I genuinely want to read the next issue, such that I find myself thinking I’d willingly buy the next several issues at “full back issue pricing” (up to $2-$3 per) just for the sake of immediacy on getting to read them (or $1.99 for digital; same reasoning).

I really like that we get a concrete age for Wally–I’m not sure how old I’d’ve pegged him by the early 200s (probably mid-20s at least), and concrete ages don’t often seem to be established for characters. While I get that many don’t want to nail characters down or “limit” them that way, I’m one that really likes that sort of detail, even if it comparatively “ages” other characters. I also really like that Wally seems young-ish (I’m in my mid-30s myself!) and I truly get that sense of his just now stepping up into the Flash role–I can “see” the Kid Flash there, essentially “trying on” the “real Flash” costume; he wears it but does not seem particularly comfortable in it. (And I know from other stuff I’ve read ABOUT the series that that’s something that largely continues for a number of years of stories, such that the reader gets to see Wally’s progression to where he truly comes into his own as The Flash).

I enjoyed this issue, and it was honestly a real treat to read. I know I snagged this copy from a quarter bin, and it’s absolutely worth 25 cents, or $1…as a #1 from when such things were treats and rarities, I’d say this would even be well worth getting up to $5ish. As you can get it digitally for about $2, I wouldn’t recommend going much above that, though, unless you’re particularly interested in owning this issue. It’s well worth the $2 to at least read, and I very much look forward to digging up the next few issues, either from my own collection or re-buying in some form for the immediacy.

The ’80s Revisited: The New Adventures of Superboy #1

newadventuresofsuperboy0001The Most Important Year of Superboy’s Life!

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker: David Hunt
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Ben Oda
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January, 1980
Cover Price: $0.40

This issue only just barely makes the cut to be counted as an ’80s comic…though I am pretty sure that is a technicality, as it’s the cover date, while the publication date was likely at least a couple months earlier, the end of 1979. I actually remember this issue as one I’d managed to acquire ages ago, when I was in junior high (probably–early 1990s). I could not have told you anything about the content of the issue from memory, but on reading it, I realized I had also definitely actually READ the thing, too.

We start with a classic Julius Schwartz cover, showing us a rather absurd, dramatic scene that relates to the content of the story within…a relation that plays up some element that doesn’t seem to make much sense on the cover, but has a reasonable story explanation. In this case, Superboy is celebrating a birthday, but his parents insist he needs an extra candle…and this story promises to tell us WHY.

Of course, while we have SUPERBOY on the cover…it’s actually Clark Kent being celebrated within…which fits continuity, as they weren’t THAT open about Superboy’s identity even back then…he held the secret identity knowing enemies of Superboy wouldn’t hesitate to strike at him through those he loved–particularly his parents. Clark’s 16 birthday is here, and he’s asked about the extra candle…he doesn’t know himself why it’s used, just that his parents have added it every year since his 8th. We then get a flashback from Jonathan and Martha’s point of view as the secret is revealed to us–the readers. Two ancient aliens found their way to Earth, where after “testing” the newly-revealed Superboy (that they have searched for since crossing paths with baby Kal-El’s rocket years earlier) deem him their salvation. They accidentally made themselves immortal–something that’s become a curse–and need someone of sufficient makeup that they could SURVIVE a device that would transfer one’s ability to age into them. Yet, they mean Superboy (and Earth) no harm…so provide the 8-year-old Superboy the choice: help them, or don’t.

We see the noble boy choose to help them, using their device on himself, which means he will no longer (ever) age, giving his ability TO age to the aliens, that they might finally age and find the end of their (unnaturally-long) lives. They also impart a bit of amnesia to the young Clark so that he won’t remember his choice, and can live with the thought that his ‘immortality’ comes from being Kryptonian on earth, rather than choosing to sacrifice a part of himself. After they leave and the Kents lament their boy’s fate, Clark reveals that he noticed from what the aliens had said about their plight that it was their own minds keeping them from aging…he actually countered their device with his heat vision…granting the aliens the BELIEF that they could age, which tricked their minds into ALLOWING them to age. Meanwhile, Clark will continue to age as normal…a win/win situation. Though the amnesia kicked in and he no longer remembers the aliens or his solution/decision, his parents do–and honor their pride in him with the extra candle.

I recognize the names Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger, though I can’t particularly place them off the top of my head, as of this typing. I’m pretty sure they’re either “big names” at DC from the late-’70s/early-’80s, or on the Superman family of titles (or both). I of course recognize Julius Schwartz as the editor as mentioned above.

This issue’s story worked decently for me–I’m not thrilled with it, nor does it play much into “continuity” that I recall except the obvious references and Editor’s Notes to remind (or inform) the reader of things of note (like the elder Kents having been de-aged). Stuff like that I took at face value as a kid, and took at face value here, but the added benefit of–as an adult–now having some vague memories of reading about the stuff being referenced, since I’d originally read the issue. In and of itself, I don’t know if I “buy” Superboy as an 8-year-old…but then, some of that may simply be that I’m so far removed from that age now, where I was only several when I would have originally read this. The story is a done-in-one, with nothing of note added to an ongoing saga or anything; just another “adventure” that takes an issue and leaves things in place for the next issue.

The art is quite good, and I really like the style overall…there’s something particularly familiar to it that puts me in mind of some of these characters even into the then-current comics I read in the late-’80s. It certainly fit the story and nothing to the art drew me out or distracted me, so it definitely succeeded in doing its job.

All in all, I enjoyed the issue as what it is–a “random” one-off, done-in-one issue that just so happens to be a #1 from an age when an issue with a #1 actually had some measure of significance. This was more than worth the 25 cents I paid for it.

Additionally, there’s an ad in the issue for the then-current issue of Adventure Comics that grabbed my attention…to the point that I actually sought it out in a non-bargain back-issue bin and found/bought it. It’s possible dabbling in these older back issues lately is just that–a dabbling. At the same time, I find myself more and more interested in older comics than new, and I’m increasingly willing to buy an issue from the back issue bins where I used to hold myself strictly to the quarter-bins.

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