• July 2020
    S M T W T F S
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    262728293031  
  • On Facebook

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Comic Blog Elite

    Comic Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

The ’90s Revisited: TMNT Adventures: The Year of the Turtle #3

90s_revisited

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_003Year of the Turtle Chapter Three: Story’s End!

Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Hugh Haynes
Inker: Elman Brown, Phil Sheehy
Colorist: Chia-Chi Wang
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Cover Artists: Ron Lim, Elman Brown, Heroic Age
Interior Separations: Graphic Colour Works
Production Manager: Caryn Antoniuk
Production: Joe Pepitone, Pat Spaziante, Frank Gagliardo
Editor: Freddy Mendez
Managing Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: March 1996
Cover Price: $1.50

While I’m pretty certain I’d read this issue once before (over 20 years ago, though) other than a couple of broad, key details it didn’t see all that familiar; it was more like reading it for a first time after having read ABOUT it or some such.

We pick up with Splinter (no mention of Hamato Yoshi?!?) in "man form" (human) getting reacquainted with his human specs and realizing the turtles are in trouble, so rushing to their aid. The turtles, meanwhile, reel over the shock of Michelangelo’s transformation while trying to keep the villains from getting the final piece of the amulet. Long story short ("it’s comics") they wind up teleporting to Shredder’s lair and fighting the villain, having realized that the only way to save ("restore") Michelangelo is to see that the amulet is put together, but that they get to use it instead of Shredder. "Chaos" ensues and at the appointed time and place, the amulet is literally on Michelangelo…and its phenomenal, cosmic power is used to enlarge a slice of pizza. Shredder is so angered that he goes catatonic, while Splinter and the other turtles are able to use the amulet to "restore" Michelangelo…albeit without his memory. So we see that it IS Mikey who is the "child" Splinter has been telling the stories to. And while it was the "last" turtles story…we see that it should have been tempered with "so far" all along.

As with the previous issues, the art works well enough. It’s not great but not horrible. It certainly fits the characters and story in general, even if it’s fairly generic design-wise. As I’m not overly-engaged or thrilled with the story, my lack of enthusiasm carries over to the art, perhaps unfairly. I’ll take it readily over certain other designs for the turtles…especially thinking of the more recent Rise of the TMNT character designs that I do not care for.

Story wise I feel like this was a bit of a waste…like a failed pilot or some such. Rather than even being left with the idea of Michelangelo having to re-learn everything and who everyone is and his part of the group dynamics…we see Splinter revealing that his arms are getting hairier as the effects of the artifact wear off and thus implies he’s going to revert to his mutated form again…so we’re left to assume the same for Michelangelo (Which makes me wonder why Splinter and the turtles had to act to restore Mikey if the changes wrought by the artifact are wearing off on their own?) It’s tied up TOO neatly, and as only a 3-issue thing with no follow-up (ever, that I’m aware of) it goes from something with huge promise and potential impact on the characters should its continuity be used to a forgettable 3-part story of all of 70-ish pages.

Granted, some of my feeling on the thing is the past 18+ years of having "decompressed storytelling" as the "norm" and the rise of the rigid 4-issue and 6-issue arcs for convenient "graphic novel" packaging. In 2020, 3 issues seems way too short, like there should have been a lot more space for exploration of characters, situations, and so on…and like this should have been the start of something longer with the turtles having to adjust to a new status quo of Splinter as a man, and protecting(?) Mikey while he re-trains and relearns everything…and perhaps see personality stuff for him in being TOLD what and who he WAS vs. who he now IS and such.

As a whole, this Year of the Turtle mini is an interesting curiosity while not having anything crucial or lasting. It’s more a "footnote" in the history of the TMNT property.

I don’t recall how much I had paid for #3 here; certainly no more than $10 and almost certainly quite a bit less as I’d remember a significant price. I know I paid $5 for #2 at some point last year (the price sticker was still on the bag/board), and $8 for #1 earlier this year (recency/email receipt for that detail). Essentially, I  paid probably under $25for the 3 issues, putting it well on-par with just any 4-5 issues of a present-day series. I’m also a completist and want to have every TMNT issue published by Archie.

I’m not aware of this story being REPRINTED anywhere, so the actual, physical single issues are–I believe–the only way to read this. But if you’re a casual fan or otherwise not interested in "everything," you can definitely pass on this without truly missing anything significant. If you’re a fan of Dan Slott and want to read some of his early stuff, that’d be another reason to track these down. Overall, I’d recommend some of the later IDW collected volumes of the Archie stuff for more depth and weight of story…or perhaps some of the actual IDW TMNT content that "counts" and "matters" in the present ongoing TMNT continuity.

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_003_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: TMNT Adventures: The Year of the Turtle #2

90s_revisited

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_002Year of the Turtle Chapter Two: Snow Way Out!

Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Hugh Haynes
Inker: Elman Brown
Colorist: Chia-Chi Wang
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Cover Artists: Ron Lim, Scott Koblish, Heroic Age
Interior Separations: Graphic Colour Works
Production Manager: Caryn Antoniuk
Production: Joe Pepitone, Pat Spaziante, Frank Gagliardo
Editor: Freddy Mendez
Managing Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: February 1996
Cover Price: $1.50

Even as this issue opens, I know more than I "should," as I remember having read the 3rd issue two decades or so back. It’s interesting to notice the fact that we never actually see the child Splinter is interacting with. Already knowing that takes some of the wonder of it away, but isn’t a huge deal kicking the issue off.

There IS a "previously" page that sums up the previous issue…but with far more specific detail and context than was even conveyed IN the issue. Basically a TELLING rather than SHOWING, that lends a bit of (1) weakness to that issue in retrospect and (2) influenced my (retroactive) understanding of that issue, that I’m sure influenced my write-up. I’m not too keen on that fact, but…hey. Comic books.

Story-teller Splinter (the man) finds the child’s room a mess, but being a man of his word, continues his telling of the last Ninja Turtles story. Shredder has 2 of the 3 parts of the artifact, so it’s a race to the final piece. After his ambush of Splinter, Shredder has scrolls that detail the hidden fortress the piece is in, meaning that his hench-people know where traps and such are, while the Turtles are seeking blindly. Though they survive some surprises and locate the final piece…T.K.O. uses telekinesis to liberate it from the turtles. All have to escape the ninja-monks guarding the facility. Once outside, trying to show off, the villains go to add insult to injury, which gives the turtles an "extra" chance at retrieving the artifact…when an explosion happens. The turtles check in with each other but can’t find Michelangelo at first. Then, amidst ninja gear (a familiar orange mask and dual nunchakus) they find…a turtle. An ORDINARY non-mutant turtle. (Remember the artifact piece Shredder had undid SPLINTER’s mutation last issue). And speaking of…story-teller Splinter tells his child that that’s enough of the story for now, and if the room is cleaned, the final part of the story is next.

Even though the characters are turtles, I can’t think of MANY examples of them overtly utilizing their shells in any creative fashion. Leo and Mikey pulling into their shells while Raph and Donnie use them as snowboards makes sense in a way, though can’t be comfortable (and one MIGHT wonder at a broken shell if they hit a rock or such!).

The villains are cheesey ’90s-themed characters in names and abilities. I ought to leave it at that. I suppose I appreciate them a bit more than Waster, Fist, Dead-Eye, and Lynch–the "EXTREME!" villains that did in the Mutanimals during their backup run in TMNTA 48-54. They’re still dumb and cheesey, very dated as of 2020 (granted, this is from 24 years ago!), so whatever.

I don’t really care for this Shredder. He doesn’t come off as much of anything from before–comics or movies, despite having the look of the 1990 film Shredder. We also have a fair bit of having to take stuff at face value with the hench-folks…though their ease of getting the artifact and then blowing their advantage to try to do in the turtles does seem like the stupid, bone-headed move Bebop and Rocksteady would do in the cartoon that would allow the turtles escape/survival when they otherwise would not have done either.

For my memories of the original cartoon (especially the early episodes) I recall the turtles straddling the line between Splinter’s mutation (Hamato Yoshi stuck as an animal) being a curse while their own (regular turtles to sentient humanoid turtles) was a blessing, and the "threat" of ever coming in contact with Mutagen again as that would turn them "back" into ordinary turtles. Seeing Michelangelo thus reverted is a new/original development for an actuality in the story; and holds great potential. At least, in the sense of opening a lot of possible stories and ongoing development. The character was not KILLED, but was unexpectedly and suddenly removed from the equation, and opens a load of questions.

As with the previous issue, the art’s not bad…though it lacks the charm of the ongoing TMNTA series. I do look forward a bit to (re) reading the third and final issue to "close the loop" with this series, even though with reading THIS issue, I believe I’ve now technically read the whole thing.

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_002_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: TMNT Adventures: The Year of the Turtle #1

90s_revisited

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_001Year of the Turtle Chapter One: Go, Go Mutant Turtles!

Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Hugh Haynes
Inkers: Harvey Mercadoocasio, Phil Sheehy
Colorist: Philip Lynch
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Cover Artists: Ron Lim, Harvey Mercadoocasio, Heroic Age
Interior Separations: Graphic Colour Works
Production Manager: Caryn Antoniuk
Production: Joe Pepitone, Pat Spaziante, Frank
Gagliardo
Editor: Freddy Mendez
Managing Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: January 1996
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not CERTAIN when I discovered this mini-series. I have some vague memory of reading the third issue "back in the day," most likely from the library…so it’s likely been at LEAST 20-22 years (it came out in late-1995/early-1996). I only just (early-2020) acquired this first issue, and though I’m years behind in writing up my TMNT Revisited posts on the Archie series, I decided to dive into this one as something pretty much all-new to me.

This came after the ongoing Archie Adventure Series TMNT Adventures, and is functionally "volume 3," as there was a 3-issue mini-series, then the 72-issue ongoing series, and then this. I expected this to be a continuation/follow-up…perhaps like a "tv movie sequel" to a long-running series. However…expectation didn’t match reality!

We open on a man telling his child(?) about the last story of the Ninja Turtles. We find Shredder seeking some mystical artifact, and though his Foot Soldiers have failed against the defenses arrayed before it, he single-handedly takes down the defenders and claims the piece. Meanwhile, Splinter and the turtles are seeing another piece, and realize that one of the Mighty Mecha Power Raiders on tv seems to have it in/as his belt buckle…so they head to Radio City (where the MMPR actors are performing) to claim it before Shredder does. Shredder has some new hench-people includig Cyberius, and T.K.O. that he sends to get that next piece of the artifact, while he personally descends into the sewers and sneaks up on and catches Splinter unaware. The two battle, and while Splinter manages to escape/survive, he is by no means victorious over the villain. The hench-folks manage to get the piece of the artifact…not a good day for the turtles and Splinter! On returning home, the turtles find Splinter has been transformed! Somehow due to the artifact, his mutation has been undone…leaving him a man once more! Closing out the issue, we see that the storyteller from the opening of the issue is indeed Splinter…

From the cover, I knew there was some sort of reference to the Power Rangers. In the issue itself, within the turtles’ universe, these are the Mighty Mecha Power Raiders. Obviously meant to represent the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers…only without being anything official, and drawing on the popularity of that franchise and its notoriety in popular culture…especially for the time! What ESPECIALLY drew my attention with it was having JUST a couple days before reading this issue read Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers/TMNT #4–the 4th issue of 5 being published in 2020 by Boom and IDW!

Story-wise, this issue quickly reveals itself to not be a continuation or follow-up to the long-running series. For one thing, it’s an entirely different creative team. It also uses rather bland, generic versions of the characters…particularly the Shredder. The villain is shown with a look more akin to the 1990 film than the ’80s/’90s animated series, further separating from the TMNTA ongoing; and is back to evil for evil’s sake–no real or apparent motivation other than BEING evil.

There’s no real depth to any of the characters, though some weight is added in the storyteller’s reference to the "last" Ninja Turtles story, as if this WAS the FINAL ADVENTURE or such. Certainly the throw-away of the bested, defeated Foot lends to that. They could be slaughtered, if there’s no need to have them available for later stories! April is relegated to a tv news reporter ON TV without even interacting with the turtles; after her evolution throughout the ongoing series. And though we do find that the storyteller IS Splinter, we’re left hanging as to who the apparent child is he’s telling the story to and how they came together. Biological child? Adoptive? How much time has passed since Splinter was with the turtles? Are we to think this is another reality where Splinter and his turtles are just a series of stories being told to a child?

I do NOT know if this is Dan Slott‘s first writing gig in comics…but it’s certainly an EARLY gig. It’s not truly bad or anything, and structurally works pretty well (despite my questions in the paragraph above). Framing sequence that plays into/comes back out of the main story; we’re introduced to the villains, the heroes, the situation, and see some movement through the situation (gathering the artifact), etc.

The art is also by no means horrible, but lacks something from the ongoing series. Even though this is a completely separate series, creative team, etc.–it came after a 72-issue run with lots of characters and development, and being ONLY 3 issues (a mere 4% against the ongoing) would have a LOT to "live up to," especially without even the built-in depth of adapting episodes of the cartoon.

All in all, while the issue wasn’t particularly enjoyable to me, it was interesting to finally read. It’s also very possible that I’d built it up in my mind over two decades and so "expected" a lot more from it. Ultimately…it’s a TMNT comic book. I don’t believe it’s ever even been reprinted (IDW hasn’t even reprinted the TMNTA Specials, and also skipped most of the Mighty Mutanimals issues as well as 5 issues of TMNTA itself) so there’s some incentive to tracking the issues down as a completist or out of curiosity. Story-wise, it doesn’t seem to be anything significant, and its generic-ness and timing doesn’t do it any favors.

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_001_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #303

90s_revisited

uncanny_xmen_0303Going Through the Motions

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Special Guest Artist: Richard Bennett
Inks Pgs. 8, 14-18: Dan Green
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

My first issue of Uncanny X-Men that I got off the shelf was #300…partly BECAUSE it was #300. Big, round number…shiny, foil sparkly cover…a group shot of a bunch of characters I recognized from the animated series…it was a great attention-grabber. (Even if right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you 27 years later what that issue was ABOUT/what its plot was).

I then missed several issues, picking back up with #304 (Fatal Attractions) and found a newsstand copy of #303 (at least as I recall offhand).

And it was #303 that really stuck with me. I always remembered that it was an issue that actually moved me to tears…it hit hard. And it was a character death that then informed several key things going forward for a few years into 1999’s The Twelve and onward.

When I decided to re-read it as a random "grab an issue from a stack of recent quarter-bin hauls" I recalled the emotional impact…but figured since I knew what was coming, knew where things had gone, character arcs and returns…SURELY this time through would be a clinical thing for me to analyze and consider the issue in terms of reading as an almost-40-year-old versus having read at age 12 or so.

But wow, was I wrong on that front!

The issue opens on Jean Grey entering Professor X’s ready room to check on Jubilee, to see how she’s doing after what just happened. Jubilee puts on a tough front, but as she and Jean talk–and we as readers see the flashbacks–that front cracks, as we see Jubilee open up and begin to accept the enormity of what she’s just seen unfold. Namely, that despite the Professor and Moira doing everything they could…they were unable to SAVE Illyana. Meanwhile a squad of X-Men including Colossus–Illyana’s older brother–was on their way back. Jubilee had bonded a bit with the visiting Kitty Pryde, and through Kitty’s translating, found out that she–Jubilee–had actually been having a positive impact on the dying young girl. But then things ‘blew up’ as Illyana went into respiratory failure, and though they eventually were able to stabilize her physically…she was left comatose, unlikely to regain consciousness. Leaving consideration to be had of what the young girl would (have) want(ed). We get this from Jubilee’s self-deprecating point of view as she considers herself and how dumb it was to say, place Illyana’s Bamf doll in her arms, while "the adults" argued over what to do going forward.

And then she recounts Peter’s arrival after–his getting off the X-jet and asking why no one was looking after his sister and if they couldn’t be trusted to look after her, should he ever leave. Only for Xavier to break down, having to tell Peter that his sister was gone, that they did everything they could. She was alive when he left, and alive when the group had last communicated, but now, arriving home, his beloved little sister was gone (and he hadn’t gotten to say goodbye…he wasn’t there in time, he wasn’t able to save her, etc.)

Which is–there–some of my projecting. And I actually laid the comic down and pushed it away, failing to hold my own tears in check.

Because this one hit close to home. Really close to my heart. Easy to project, easy to put myself into the situation. To see from Jubilee’s side, her coping mechanism. To see the anguish in the others–in Xavier and Moira. To imagine being in Peter’s position, being told of the passing of a loved one when–even if it was expected as a chance coming up, wasn’t prepared for FOR THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT.

The writing is quite good. It carried a strong authenticity to it–from Jean going after Jubilee and just being there for her, to Jubilee and her reactions to events as they’d unfolded (in flashback) as well as her after-it-all tough front and eventually breaking down. While I don’t relish the death of a child or anyone…this left an impact on me 27 years ago and it ripped into my heart again this time. This is the sort of issue that made me a fan of the franchise. Not some big globetrotting adventure or 6-issue battle with or for Magneto, not some culmination of years of subplots and rumors of a legendary group destined to rise up and defeat a villain, nor the identity revealed of some secret traitor.

Just a (relatively) "quiet" issue involving the characters just being PEOPLE, being a family, being…"normal." Being RELATABLE.

And there was certainly some impact from the bulk of the issue being flashbacks. There’s a sense of trepidation as the issue opens, and as Jean and Jubilee begin to talk and it becomes obvious that something really important has happened. To become increasingly aware of what it was, and that it has already happened–there’s not that "will they or won’t they" wondering, and not even that "hope" of some last-second save. Just the details unfolding and dealing with the loss this family–immediate and extended–has suffered.

The art is good, but in a way, it’s almost forgettable. Not in a bad way, mind you–but in that it has no particular problems or such to distract from the story itself, and so the story is just experienced. For me, it’s also that the dialogue and the fact of what’s happened that drives the issue…the artwork is there because it’s a comic book, a visual medium. But it’s the characters’ interactions, what they have to say to each other about stuff that matters more. And there’s nothing for some big double-paged splash scenes missing dialogue. That the art "disappears" into the "story" makes it a strong positive to me.

The events of this issue come out of then-recent plot elements in the X-titles, particularly out of the crossover event The X-Cutioner’s Song. If I’m recalling correctly, Illyana’s death was the first from the Legacy Virus…before the virus had even been named. It heavily influenced immediate changes such as Colossus first defecting to Magneto for a time and then eventually spending some time overseas with Excalibur before ultimately returning to the X-Men and then dying himself to activate a cure for the Legacy virus…and later both brother and sister resurrected and so on to where-ever the X-books and all the characters are in 2020 preset-day.

The issue stands along pretty well the way it’s written. And as the cover proclaims–"If you read only ONE X-Title this month–this issue MUST be it!" If you find this issue in a bargain-bin: 25-cent, 50-cent, even $1 or so…it’s well worth the read, and without even really NEEDING much context. But having read it will lend contextual value to most anything else X-related to be read that was published from 1993-2000/2001 or so in particular…including the (in?)famous Age of Apocalypse.

uncanny_xmen_0303_blogtrailer

Super-Blog Team-Up/The ’90s Revisited: Shiny Covers

sbtu_chromium_the_era_of_excess_01

Welcome to Wednesday…and another Super-Blog Team-Up! Where a number of comics blogs and podcasts come together at a shared time and a shared topic. We have that shared topic…but everyone picks a specific topic that fits within that group topic, and makes it their own!

I was invited into this group several years ago, and it’s been a great group to be part of–not only for the specific SBTU posts and episodes, but simply the great community the group has.

This time out, we’re looking at the topic of Chromium: The Era of Excess. That is, the gimmicks and such most seen in the ’90s and onward following the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages of comics.

My contribution is below…and at the bottom of this post (feel free to just skip to that!) is a list of the other participants and their posts this time around!


Prologue

I’d had some grand plans for this post. Even a large, detailed outline. Laying out some thoughts and my definitions of the Chromium Age, the Era of Excess; ways that Excess could be seen, and so on. A broad overview of gimmicks–from publicity/attention stunts to cover gimmicks to other stuff; as well as compare/contrasting ’90s gimmicks with modern variants. Perhaps I’ll eventually get to more of that, but it’s not happening this time.

From the moment of seeing the topic, I wanted to look at many of the comics that embodied this era of excess…namely, the shiny, flashy, attention-grabbing physical gimmicks of ’90s comics.

And of course, while I recognize much of the distaste that can be had for such things…I have–particularly over the last 10+ years–come to really enjoy these flashy, gimmicky comics of the ’90s. I relish purchasing them primarily from bargain-bins…these $3 and $4 and $5+ cover price comics that had these prices over 20 years ago–that I can get for that same price if not merely one shiny 25-cent-piece. And especially over this last decade or so, I’ve amassed quite a collection of such comics, their shiny-ness often jumping out at me from bargain bins, and especially the 25-cent bins.

This is by NO MEANS an EXHAUSTIVE list. There are many issues not even slightly touched on here: both known to me…and probably more unknown than I even show below. Particularly glaring to me as I write this is the Robin III mini-series with its polybagged lenticular covers–I have multiple copies of the issues somewhere but could not find them in a timely fashion to include in this post. Ditto the X-Men: Fatal Attractions issues–though I have an old image from scanning the covers myself and combining them with photos of the holograms such that I’m happy to use that in context here.

The following are presented in little order. While I begin with showing some tamer, more basic “enhancements” to covers, the various enhancements were developed over time and used at various times over the years by a number of different publishers. I’ve clustered them in some broader categories, though there’s surely plenty of room for argument and hair-splitting such that I only claim these as my own terms–particularly in context of this specific post–though you’ll definitely find other descriptions, definitions, and terms for certain enhancements elsewhere.

I also use a fair bit of slang that I’m sure I take for granted, but may not actually be defined or the clearest in general. If in doubt, feel free to post a question asking for clarification!

Despite the many examples I have to show–that I gathered up physically in-person to photograph–there are many, Many, MANY issues that fit in all of these categories that I simply did not collate in time for this piece, could not find in time for this piece, do not myself own, OR do not know about.

“Gatefold” covers are also not included here, though to me, the most prominent example of one of those is probably 1991’s X-Men #1, in its (in)famous “deluxe edition.”

But for now, instead of focusing on what is not or will not be covered (pun intended) here…let’s get into a brief overview of “shiny covers” as found on comics in the 1990s!


Extra Colors

Especially in the early days of comics, printing in color wasn’t an extremely advanced thing, I don’t think–not being an expert on printing presses and such, especially in terms of books/magazines/comics. There’s the notion of the “four color process” that I recall, wherein there was a limited color range made up of four basic colors.

So for comics to–even on the covers–have an extra color not usually seen in general, it would be fairly attention-grabbing.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_extra_color_ink_01

Pulling a simple 3-issue sample, there’s Stryfe’s Strike File, Superboy #50, and X-Men #41.

These have an “extra color” with silver or gold ink prominently in the logos, making them stand out from the “usual” issues…and this photo doesn’t really do them justice compared to seeing the effect in-person.

I see this as a sort of “basic” “low level” “gimmick” where other than the visual color, the rest of the comic is pretty much as any other issue.


Paper Overlays

Another simple gimmick/”enhancement” for comics was having this extra piece on top of the covers themselves. It wasn’t exactly the cover, but it enhances the thing overall.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_paper_overlay_01

The Protectors one sets the thing apart with the brightly-colored paper to help draw attention to the issue, standing in contrast to the usual colors one would expect on a comic’s cover. The Justice League America #70 has a bright red overlay proclaiming Superman is dead. The mourning after begins here!

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_paper_overlay_02

It–like the Protectors issue–allows this extra information/promotion copy without taking away from the actual image of the cover itself, which is full and intact beneath and very much a standalone image!

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_paper_overlay_03

And the full-cover overlay on the 71st issue allows for one to NOT be “spoiled” merely by seeing the image at the shop…though one would probably be spoiled when going to read the issue itself.

But it seems a relatively simple and cheap thing to have this extra exterior “insert” (I know that’s NOT the word I’m looking for) as part of the publishing process while “enhancing” the otherwise normal/usual covers.

Batman #497–the issue where Bane breaks Batman’s back–also had one of the half-cover overlays proclaiming You thought it could never happen…the breaking of the Batman. Unfortunately, that’s another issue I couldn’t locate in my accumulation in time for this piece. Though I did do a ’90s Revisited post on the issue some time back.

Similar to this, I recall a couple of Spider-Man comics in the later-’90s that had two different covers attached–with some of the copies having one cover on “top” and the rest having the other. Essentially “variant covers” but BOTH covers came with every copy of every issue…a neat thing that I intend to cover some other time.


Polybagged Comics

There’s actually quite a bit of variety here, though I’ve got these issues grouped together. My emphasis here is the polybagging of the issues–that is, they come sealed in a  plastic bag/covering, and in order to actually access their content–reading the issue, seeing interior art, getting at any trading card, poster, or whatever other goodies are included–means you have to cut open the bag and make the comic “worthless!”

I say that last part tongue-in-cheek because I remember even as a kid feeling it was rather ridiculous. I used to joke with a friend that someone ought to just put a cover onto a bunch of blank pages, polybag it, and put it out to see if anyone would notice. Or include some coupon to get the “real” thing if you actually DID open it!

To me, the general point of polybags was that these comics came with a trading card or such, hence the bag–the bag was not the comic, it was just a way to include extras without them having to be bound into the comics themselves.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_polybagged_01

The Mighty Magnor #1 can be opened out like one of those pop-up children’s books where moving stuff around results in a multi-level display that folds back up into the typical comic size. The bag would seem to protect it prior to one opening it up into its unique oversized glory.

The Captain Glory, Legionnaires, and X-Force issues come with a trading card. The X-Force #1 is especially egregious, even by contemporary 2020 standards: it’s the exact same comic, the exact same cover, the exact same bag…but there are 5 DIFFERENT trading cards. One would have to buy 5 copies of the issue minimum to get them all and ostensibly a sixth if they felt even slitting the bag to remove the issue to read meant they’d destroyed the issue.

Ren & Stimpy #1 is bagged both for a “scratch-and-stink” thing I believe, and you can juuuust make out under the bag that the reader will be scolded for destroying the comic now that it’s out of the bag.

And the Incredible Hulk issue is a Marvel Milestones reprint with some goodies included (and I only recently acquired it myself so have yet to open it up to get at the stuff).

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_polybagged_02

Here are some more comics with mainly trading cards included, though Hardware and Blood Syndicate  also include poster pieces that can be combined with the other two premiere Milestone #1s (Static and Icon) to form a huge 16-panel image. The Fantastic Four issue includes an animation “cel” from the animated series…a neat little promo.

If you grew up in the ’90s and think back…you may realize that NOT included here are two key Superman issues: the infamous Superman #75 black-bagged “death issue,” and Adventures of Superman #500 and its white-bagged edition. Those are topics for elsewhere and elsewhen!


Glow-in-the-Dark Covers

Glow-in-the-dark covers are relatively self-explanatory. These have an extra element bonded to the cover that–when exposed to light for a bit of time will then give off a glow when the surrounding environment goes appropriately dark. Of course, this likely means holding them up to a light, and then flipping the light switch to “off” and enjoying the effect for a few moments.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_glowinthedark_01

I believe this Ghost Rider issue was one of the earliest “gimmick covers”–at the least, I have a bit of deja-vu on having read something about that. The price of the issue was relatively unaffected despite the bonus effect…though that definitely cannot be said for MOST “gimmick” or “enhanced” covers! I’ve yet to actually read this issue or the Spectre issue. Green Lantern #50 and Superman #123 show the characters’ new costumes…

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_glowinthedark_01b

And here’s a shot of the issues taken in the dark/no flash. This copy of the Green Lantern issue is rather beat up and not my original…and is obviously a bit worse for wear.


Foil Stamped Covers

I’m considering “foil stamping” its own thing in that it’s a bit of foiling “stamped” on the cover, typically isolated to the comic’s title logo and used rather sparingly. In good light at the right angles, it gives off a nice, reflective look–as foil does–but the bulk of the cover is still “normal” colors.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_foil_stamped_01

There are many MANY of these comics out there, ’90s to present. I had these four handy (and the rest of the Rogue mini but figured one issue serves the point, and an issue of Shadowhawk I’d mis-sorted and hadn’t realized til these 4 issues were re-buried as I took photos for this post). A bunch of Ultraverse #1s have such editions where the only difference between them and the regular edition is a foil stamping on the logo.


Foil Covers

These covers go beyond the limited foil “stamping” to have the foil either making up the bulk of the cover or the entire cover.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_full_foil_01

Some of these have foil as a background “color” while others use it for good effect to accentuate stuff…while some just…are.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_full_foil_02

Photos don’t really do these covers much justice as the effect is much more noticeable “live” in-person when you see it.


Prismatic Foil Covers

These are much like the “plain foil,” but have more of a prismatic or patterned effect to the way they reflect light back at the viewer.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_foil_prismatic

The Green Arrow #100 is technically more of a prismatic foil stamping but got sorted here, so here it is. Along with this #100 issue, similar “trade dress” with the prismatic foil “stamping” can be found on Superman #100, Flash #100, and Wonder Woman #100, also out around the same time, and not pictured here.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_foil_prismatic_01b

Closer up of the shiny effect on the Venom issue…

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_foil_prismatic_01c

and on the Fantastic Four issue.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_foil_webs_01

These three 30th anniversary Spider-Man issues plus Venom #1 have long been a “set” to me. I got all four when they first came out, and they’ve been a set in that regard at least since then for me.

They all have the same “webbing” pattern visible in the foil.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_foil_webs_01b

Here’s a closer-up on the Amazing Spider-Man issue (this copy I got signed by Mark Bagley last year!). Marvel got away with this 4-issue anniversary extravaganza as a 30th-anniversary despite the hologram series as these were the anniversary of Amazing Spider-Man #1 rather than just the first appearance of the character. Plus, they were big round numbers #375, #200, #100…and in Venom‘s case, #1.

original_2099_collection2

The main 2099 #1s are another sub-set with a particular pattern within the foiling making up probably my favorite trade-dress for a series of titles. Though Ghost Rider was somewhat spoiled by being a much shinier/reflective foil.


Embossed Covers

Embossed covers are also straight-forward. They’re typically thicker/cardstock paper with embossing. That is, there’s a bit of a raised surface or texture, whether applied to the entire cover or just a logo or such. Think those old crayon-rubbings on paper where you put a sheet of blank paper over something, rub the crayon (or pencil) or whatever and see an image come through.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_embossed_01

Here are several full-color embossed covers, and then two printings of a Fantastic Four single-color embossed cover. The former have the embossed logos, while the latter have the entire cover embossed. Catwoman is embossed throughout.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_embossed_01b

The Fantastic Four covers are both the same issue and same “image”…but two different printings. Different color for different printing, allowing one to have the same embossing, same image, but see at a glance that it’s a different printing.


Foil-Embossed Covers

For these, you have the embossing, but that’s combined with foiling. The points of embossing are foil, or is within a field of foil.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_embossed_foil_01

These are a mix of depth and degree of foiling/embossing and shiny-ness; from logos-only to the rest of the cover.

The Magneto #0 issue doubles as a mail-away comic if I recall correctly–another thing of the ’90s but not a focus of this post.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_embossed_foil_02

Still more with foil and embossing. The Avengers title had 4 of these covers in the year they were put out, if I’m recalling correctly; basically quarterly, so you’d have an extra-expensive issue with the “bonus” of the fancy foil-embossed cover followed by 2 “regular” covers, then another foil-embossed and so on. The Action Comics issue is in today’s terms a “variant,” as there were “Collector’s Edition” and “Newsstand Edition” covers; a topic for another time.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_embossed_foil_02b

Here’s a closer-up of the Avengers cover.


Die-Cut Covers

Die-cut covers have very specific parts cut out–using a die–typically with another image underneath. I suppose these could be considered die-cut overlays, but in the sense of most of what I’ve seen, they tend to be more so a cover revealing a hint of something beneath, which might be more of a first page.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_die_cut_01

In the case of these issues–Wolverine #50, Sabretooth #1, and three of the four Reign of the Supermen launch issues–the cover IS the top, and they reveal part of an image underneath.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_die_cut_01b

…such as the Man of Steel issue. It works as a cover showing off Steel’s version of the “S” shield…but when you open the cover you see a full-panel/page image of Steel…but no cover dress, as it’s not the cover itself (but works WITH the cover).

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_die_cut_01c

While Sabretooth‘s cover allows a hint of something beneath, and opens on quite the beautiful image of the feral villain.

I believe this came out about the same time as the first Deadpool #1, also a villain mini-series, though that one was simply embossed, if I recall correctly. (It is not pictured in this post)


Die-Cut Foil/Die-Cut Embossed Covers

Perhaps getting more to the sense of excess, we move here into the die-cut effect used in conjunction with embossing and/or foil to make up a cover.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_die_cut_02

The Punisher War Zone cover has embossing along with the die-cut, though one might not even know it just looking at the cover…it’s a subtle touch. The Ghost Rider and Shadowhawk covers have a foil sheet under the die-cut rather than foil stamping.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_die_cut_02b

Batman #500 is a multiple-part mashup of “enhancements.” The die-cut for the top layer of the cover, foil cover underneath with embossing for the logo…and it’s a sort of overlay that on opening “reveals” the true cover underneath. PLUS it’s an extra-sized, extra-priced anniversary issue.


Hologram Covers

Hologram covers were covers featuring a “hologram” image. These varied in quality and size, and were presented in a number of ways. Primarily, they were approximately trading-card-sized images affixed to the cover; but some were larger, some smaller, and in the case of Malibu, the entire cover for several Ultraverse #1 issues!

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_01

Robin II featured one of the earlier egregious use of variants that I’m aware of. Not only was there a hologram on the covers, you had different cover images…but all with the same hologram per issue! However, the quantity of covers declined with each issue. #1 had 4 hologram covers, #2 had 3, #3 had 2, and #4 just had 1. (And all 4 issues also had a newsstand edition/variant with no hologram!)

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_02

There was actually a slip-cased box set for the Robin II mini that I’d picked up that came with one of each cover in a fancy box…definitely a novelty piece in my entire collection!

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_02b

The box set also included actual trading cards of each hologram image as stand-alone things…pretty neat inclusion!

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_03

For the 30th anniversary of Spider-Man’s first appearance, there were these larger hologram images on respective issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, and (adjectiveless) Spider-Man. These were possibly my earliest real introduction to such covers, as a friend had at least a couple of these (if not all four) prior to my even discovering other “enhanced” covers or even the black-bagged Superman #75.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_04

Here are 6 “silver hologram” covers of Malibu‘s Ultraverse #1 issues. I believe there were also gold hologram editions–same image and effect, but with a gold instead of silver tint (though the latter three look slightly gold-ish due to the lighting and camera angle for this photo). Unpictured is an Ultraforce #1 that is gold…and I’ve yet to acquire Prime #1 in either silver or gold (though I’d prefer gold to go with these rather than trying to hunt 7 gold to have 8 match). Mantra and Prototype are basically hologram images of the regular edition covers while the others differ from the non-hologram covers.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_05

Probably my favorite hologram covers were those used for the X-Men 30th-anniversary crossover event/story Fatal Attractions. Prior to these, other hologram covers seemed to be layered images with depth…while these felt like you were looking through a portal into an actual truly 3-dimensional object (namely a statue of the character).

I’ve recycled the above image from my ’90s Revisited series covering the event; I’d scanned the covers and taken photos of the holograms that I then pasted over the actual photo of the covers to show the depth of the holograms.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_06

Here are several varied hologram images on covers. I suppose the Resurrection Man one might be more of a lenticular thing but looked like a damaged hologram when I first grouped these.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_06b

This Web of Spider-Man #125 is one of at least two of these holo-disc covers…the other being Spectacular Spider-Man #225. If you lay the book flat and shine a bright light on it, you can essentially look down into a circular well of a view and see Spidey sorta move as you turn the cover. Think the Pensieve from Harry Potter except you don’t fall into it.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_06c

The Silver Surfer #100 isn’t a particularly impressive hologram image…but it sure is pretty and shiny!


Other Covers

These are some covers that don’t exactly have their own categories; I’ve clustered them together for being a bit outside of a singular category or being a “set” (see below).

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_other_01

The Bloodstrike #1 issue “Rub the Blood” doesn’t–in the case of the physical copy I have onhand–work. A quick Googling suggests the blood should disappear when rubbed, but didn’t always work…so I don’t feel bad for not trying hard to get something to happen. I’d half thought it’d change color or brighten, but c’est la vie. The Guardians of the Galaxy issue with Galactus has a foil-like effect, perhaps a bit prismatic-ish, but something to its coloring and texture seems to be something else, hence separating it out.

The Amazing Spider-Man #388 has a textured foiling so isn’t really a straight up foil but isn’t what I tend to think of as embossed, though I suppose it might technically be embossed. The physical texture is a bit too “fine” for what I’d consider embossing.

Bloodshot #1 and Turok, Dinosaur Hunter #1 are some sort of foil/chromium thing with the fancy part affixed to the cardstock covers themselves. I recall Bloodshot being “the” buzz-issue the day my mom took a friend and me to get Superman #75 at Comics and Collectibles in November 1992. And over the years I’ve learned that Turok was apparently a bit of a bomb. But that’ another than that’s a topic for some other post in itself!

Finally, Force Works is another issue with a pop-up/pop-out cover.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_other_01b

While still not really doing it justice, here’s a closer-up look at the Guardians issue…

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_other_01c

And the Amazing Spider-Man issue.

While looking at this title and in this “other” section…I should mention the embossed/die-cut/overlay of #400, which is another that I couldn’t find/dig out in time for this post, though I have at least one copy of it that I got at time of release. (It and #360 with the hologram apparently are much more expensive books these days than I ever realized!)


Acetate Covers

I haven’t seen many of these covers from the ’90s, though DC recently did a whole month of acetate covers. That being 2019, though, puts ’em 20 years outside the ’90s that I’m looking at!

These were covers that have a transparent/partly-transparent sheet over another cover/image where the two collectively make up the cover.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_acetate_01

Marvels is the series I think of for acetate covers…though obviously the Tales of the Marvels: Wonder Years used the cover format, as well as Ruins (not pictured) and several other special issues–a Tales to Astonish issue, Tales of Suspense, Inner Demons, and apparently a Tales of the Marvels: Blockbuster issue. (all not pictured, either).

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_acetate_01b

Here’s a look at Marvels #2 with the acetate opened, showing the full cover beneath (and you can see much of the cover of #1 through the acetate part!

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_acetate_02

While the Marvels and such covers used just the clear layer to put a logo over a “virgin art” cover…these got a lot more fancy and colorful with most of the image on the surface layer, and background coloring coming through from the secondary piece under it.


Chromium Covers

And here we get to the covers that inspired the naming of the age/era. Golden Age…Silver Age…Bronze Age…and what’s another metallic name? Chromium!

These covers were typically a thinner sheet of metallic/foil-like material and raised surfaces maybe akin to embossing, and you could often see a pattern of dots from the inside of the cover. I believe with the exception of Superman #82, all the chromium covers I’m aware of were wrap-around full-chromium. The Superman issue is a sort of cardstock with a front stub that the chromium sheet is attached to. It’s also the only DC comic I’m aware of in this format. Maybe they didn’t do it right and just didn’t do it again?

I should also note that somehow I never remembered–until deep into writing up this post–Ninjak #1 which may actually (once remembered) be one of my favorite chromium covers–and so do not have it in my specific mini-collection of chromium covers and thus it is not pictured here.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_chromium_01

I’m pretty confident that X-O Manowar #0 was the first chromium cover I was aware of. As I’m recalling, it was actually my Dad who picked out my first copy–it caught his eye. It was followed shortly by Superman #82 collector’s edition. And then bookending the original Age of Apocalypse event/saga, X-Men: Alpha and X-Men: Omega sported these wraparound chromium covers.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_chromium_02

Valiant got into these in a big way with the aforementioned X-O Manowar and Ninjak; also #0 issues for Bloodshot and Shadowman; and first issues for (at least) Geomancer and Psi-Lords.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_chromium_03

Marvel also got into doing these covers in a big way. There were at least these 9 issues. I only recently–maybe in the last 5 weeks or so–became aware of this Sabretooth special issue (or at least this chromium cover edition if there was a non-fancy version). And it was only shortly before that I discovered the Fantastic Four 2099 #1 was a chromium cover; or that the Double Edge issue I had with the “death” of Nick Fury was a bookend issue and that the first part also had a chromium cover.

On the subject of Marvel and chromium covers…they apparently also did a series of Marvel Collector’s Edition reprint issues of various X-Men issues, and I think also Spider-Man; these being quite rare, and part of a handful of reasonable-ish “grail” issues for me (though having so many “cheap” chromium issues, it’s a double-edged sword for me. As with many other things…that’s a subject for another post!)

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_chromium_04

Over the years I’ve also come across several other chromium issues mostly in bargain bins, but a couple not.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_chromium_02b

And here’s a look at the Bloodshot and Shadowman #0s at more of an angle with light to show just how bright and shiny they are. Though as another refrain: they look even better in person!


The Era of Excess

I think I’ve spotlighted about 160 issues here, and mentioned still others.

Yet this doesn’t do more than put a big dent in showing off the shiny covers produced in the ’90s. While I find many of these covers “fun” now and love grabbing them outta bargain bins or on deep discounts…it was a different thing back in the ’90s. I fell victim to the mindset of “having to” get both the “collector’s edition” AND the “newsstand” edition of issues with the two. Superman #75 being the first such issue. Then others like the Adventures of Superman #500, the four launches of the titles into Reign of the Supermen.

I haven’t really looked at price in this post–that’s for some other time. As I recall, in general the “collector’s edition” covers were usually more expensive than the “newsstand” edition–sometimes twice or more so. And even with the “option” for the “cheaper” edition…with MANY of these, you had no choice. You either bought this double/triple/whatever-priced shiny/fancy thing…or you didn’t get that issue.

However…for the most part, the covers were still more or less singular. If you didn’t have a choice and had to pay more…it was still an iconic (or at least recognizable!) cover. I know Fantastic Four #375 at a glance just for the shiny sparklies. Or X-O Manowar #0. Any of the Fatal Attractions hologram covers. Or the 2099 #1s. X-Men: Alpha and Omega. Those Avengers foil-embossed covers for the 30th anniversary. Superman #75, the launches into Reign of the Supermen.  And so on and so forth etc.

Others that had “collector’s edition” and “newsstand edition” (or non-“enhanced”) covers the two were often completely different images…some more recognizable than others. Superman #75 had a slate-gray tombstone look for the black-bagged edition; but it’s the newsstand edition–with the tattered cape fluttering on the wood pole–that is the iconic image. On the flip side, it’s the glow-in-the-dark version of Superman #123 that’s had a bunch of homage covers and seems (to me) to be “the” iconic image of that entire electric-blue era/costume for the character.

And the simple fact that I was able to pull together SO VERY MANY of these covers to photograph and share for this post shows (in small part) just how plentiful these were in the ’90s. That being said…I see them all as quite different from the modern “variant” covers. PARTICULARLY in quantity.

I don’t think I have EVER–comic store, dealer at a convention, whatever–seen boxes and boxes of “collector’s shiny edition” covers for sale. Maybe there are a bunch in bargain bins, but I’ve never seen them gathered together with an exclusive category/call-out…while I HAVE numerous times seen boxes and boxes of comics labeled “variants–$X price.”

Granted, you had all those Robin II variant regular-art covers with the same hologram affixed, plus the newsstand editions with no holograms. You had X-Force #1 where you had to buy 5 copies to get all 5 cards. Or X-Men #1 where you could buy 4 different covers that made up a single image…OR the “deluxe” edition gatefold cover with all 4 “panels” combined into the single image they were meant as…5 total covers to have ’em all. Or for its ongoing series, I believe Gen13 #1 had thirteen different covers. Slingers #1 had 4 different covers…and 4 different interiors!

But for the most part, IF you had “variants” in the ’90s…it was very much a 2-cover thing. Regular, and “enhanced.” OR–say, with several “platinum edition” covers or the Ultraverse limited foil and the full-cover holograms, for example–these particular “variants” were almost legendary and in no way “standard.” I got into the Ultraverse stuff in June 1993 when the line launched…but I think it was at least 2010 (17 years later!) before I ever saw one of the hologram issues in-person.

For at least the last 15 years with the ever-increasing quantity of variants, it seems that nearly every single issue of nearly every single series from nearly every publisher is put out with at minimum two different covers, and often 3 or more. I think recently I counted 30 different variants listed for an issue of Vengeance of Vampirella (from Dynamite, I think!). I’m pretty sure that there were more COVERS for that ONE ISSUE than there were pages of interior art! (And it was not even a first issue or any obviously-celebratory numbered issue!)

While I’ve yet to go through and do it, I’d be interested to see a list of comics being solicited in Previews in a single month of 2019 or 2020 that are NOT being published with variants. I’ve often wondered if it’d be easily-feasible to just collect comics withOUT variant covers.

Even where there were multiple shiny covers with one single series…the majority were never sequential…it was not every single issue nor every single series at once. (Granted, in the 2010s, DC has done several “gimmick months” where for that one month only, one issue per title only, there’s been some gimmick. Yet again, though….that’s another topic for another post).

Why I have such a problem with modern variants can be summed up with the following:

Just off the top of my head, on the Superman titles…(in terms of the ongoing series, not counting a number of quarterly giant-size specials in the late-’90s) you had collector’s & newsstand editions for:

  • Superman #s 75, 78, 82, 100, 150, and 166
  • Adventures of Superman  #s 500, 501, and 505
  • Action Comics #s 695
  • Superman: The Man of Steel #s 22, 30, 50

That’s 13 issues out of…I don’t know, let’s say ~400 issues (Superman 75-175, Adventures of Superman 500-600, Action Comics 694-800, Superman: The Man of Steel 1-130-something, and Superman: The Man of Tomorrow 1-15)

Right now, 2020, just going back to mid-2016’s Rebirth renumbering for Superman…Let’s say May 2016-January 2020 (44 months) there’s been Superman #s 1-45 and 1-19 or so. Let’s call it 65 issues. But with DC doing two covers for every single issue…that’s 130 covers for 65 issues in 44 months. That’s not getting into Action Comics and the oodles of covers for #1000 on top of it’s 70ish issues. Nor taking into account adjacent titles like Supergirl, Superwoman, Super Sons, or Batman/Superman.

The ’90s get a bad rap for being an age of speculation and excess…but for me, the 2010s (2010-2019) drastically put the ’90s to shame in terms of covers.

I will absolutely grant that the ’90s very much can be considered the “Chromium Age,” though!


sbtu_continues_below

Don’t forget to check out the rest of this outing’s Super-Blog Team-Up posts! Find the group on Twitter at hashtags #SuperBlogTeamUp, #SBTU, and #SBTUChromium!

Super-Hero Satellite – 70s-80s Photo Covers

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Blog) – Adventures of Superman #500

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Podcast) – Episode 33: Team Titans #1 (1992)

Source material – Spider-Man Torment

ComicsComicsComics.blog – Daredevil 319-325 Fall from Grace

The Telltale Mind – Worlds Collide – The Intercompany Crossover

Between The Pages – Guerilla Marketing

Unspoken Issues – Darkhawk #25

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog – Connected Covers gimmicks

When It Was Cool – Polybags It! The Blight of the Polybagged Comic Book

Pop Culture Retrorama – Glow in the Dark Covers

In My Not So Humble Opinion – It Came From the 1990s: Force Works #1

Black & White and Bronze Comics Blog – Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine 1968

DC In The 80s – Memorable DC “gimmicks

Comics In The Golden Age – Fawcett’s Mighty Midget comics


sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Strangers #6

ultraverse_revisited

strangers_0006The Tao of Physiques!

Author: Steve Englehart
Pencil Art: Rick Hoberg
Ink Art: Dave Simons
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Color Designer: Robert Alvord
Color Team: Prisms
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue opens with a full-page image of Deathwish throwing Electrocute through a wall. The issue’s title–The Tao of Physiques!–is big and bold on this page, as well an explosive callout proclaiming "All Out Action with The Strangers And" [issue credits]. There’s also a small box saying "Thought he was GONE, didn’t you? So did THEY…"

Essentially, this first page is like an AD for the issue, something you might find in another comic. Or like some sort of ’90s action movie poster, showing a hero vs. a big bad with a title, some hype-y language, names of creators, and some tagline.

This seems like something that absolutely would NOT be found in modern comics, and helps ‘date’ this issue as something out of its true to life time period OF the ’90s. It’s also something that–having recently read a discussion thread on some of the ills of modern comics particularly post-2000–feels all the more welcome as something of a time some quarter-century-plus in the past.

The Strangers have just defeated Deathwish, and help clean up the destruction that resulted from that battle; the various members discussing this need and the "explosion" of Ultras onto the scene and whatnot. They then find a survivor–an old man–in the wreckage and he gets transported to a hospital, with several of the Strangers following. Once there, weird stuff starts happening…and Deathwish rises again! Yrial seems detached and basically AGAINST helping, leaving the rest of the Strangers to deal with Deathwish. As they fight him–and marvel at his still being around when they thought he was destroyed–we see Yrial perform some Voodoo stuff she doesn’t want the Strangers to know about, and it turns out she’s gotten to the bottom of things…as she releases another entity from a dying woman, that seems to balance out the power of Deathwish; the new entity confronts Deathwish and both disappear, while the two human bodies they came from disappear into dust. As the issue ends, we see that the Strangers will next face Prototype during Break-Thru!

It’s kinda interesting to me that the issue ends with reference to Break-Thru but not much "selling" of the event or its premise; and no standout ads for it coming up, nor even one of the Ultraverse Checklist ads. The previous issue seemed almost a done-in-one with the rise of a new villain that had been foreshadowed, but then immediately defeated. Yet here already we have the "return" of the villain, and again a "defeat," perhaps permanently, with the introductions out of the way previously, allowing a full unleashing in this issue. We also get "moments" of development for other characters, the lost art of thought balloons, and generally touching on several plot threads at once (Hugh and Candy, Yrial and Zip-Zap, the whole team vs. Deathwish).

Surfacy as some of the stuff might be, it’s pretty loaded with potential when one looks a bit between the lines, so to speak. We see a growing relationship between Yrial and Zip-Zap…a friendship more than mentor/mentee; for lack of better phrasing, almost like a Storm/Jubilee thing from the X-Men ’92 cartoon, if Jubilee was Storm’s anchor-point rather than vice-versa. Candy is self-aware, but still not truly alive, and wants to know what it is to truly be alive and feel real feelings and such, and takes a lot of her frustration out on Deathwish. I don’t know if these elements get explored in further depth as this series progresses, but I look forward to future issues and finding out!

The art is pleasantly detailed–it’s not over-rendered into false realism but it’s not simplified cartoony. It continues to be strong and consistent with past issues, which is a great thing that seems another element lost in many modern comics. I recognize all the characters that seem like SHOULD be recognized, save for the woman the light-entity comes from; but I suppose that could be argument for a job well done as she was seemingly "just some woman" and not someone we SHOULD have paid attention to (and none of the characters did, either…it was Yrial’s magic that allowed her to even pick up on anything).

In 2019, this sixth issue would be the conclusion of a singular opening story; and we’ve essentially had several smaller stories within this title, including a crossover with Hardcase. But this does kind of cap things off with Deathwish seeming even more out of the picture than the previous issue, and the team more "gelled" than before; and this is the last issue before the first big "event" of the Ultraverse in Break-Thru.

As a total broken-record, I say yet again that this is an issue that doesn’t necessarily work entirely on its own as a single issue in a vacuum; there’s no great reason to go into a 4-longbox-bargain-bin section and pull just this issue as a prize unto itself. You’ll get bits of character stuff for a number of characters; a rise/return of a powerful villain and the team fighting him, and so on–so a bargain bin buy wouldn’t be horrible. But this would be enjoyed a lot more with at least the previous issue, if not as part of a small run of all 6 issues thus far (7 if you also get the Hardcase #4 crossover issue).

I enjoyed this, and I’m looking forward to the next issue as much for continued development of the Strangers as for getting into the event itself.

strangers_0006_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Hardcase #6

ultraverse_revisited

hardcase_0006Friends and Enemies, Part Two: Returning Favors

Writer: Jim Hudnall
Penciller: Scott Benefiel
Inkers: Mike Christian & Jordi Ensign
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Colorists: Family Fugue
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

After being stabbed and looking like he was bleeding out, we open this issue with Hardcase having an out of body experience, watching Choice find his body, fend off Hardwire, and try to get Tom to a hospital. While having this experience, Hardcase–Tom–is told by Linda (Starburst) to go back while he can. After waking in a hospital bed, Tom and Choice are visited by an old friend…who turns out to be an "old friend" in The Alternate. She claims she’s trying to help them survive, while "The Man Who Isn’t a Man" prepares to send agents to the moon to get something for him that he can destroy all Ultras with. Thanks to his remarkable healing, Hardcase is up and ready before long to re-confront Hardwire, and being prepared this time, succeeds. When police show up, Hardcase dislocates both of the villains arms, so that he can’t use his fingers against them. After this all wraps up, Tom lays in bed with his mind in overdrive, reflecting on the evening–Choice, as well as what he actually saw while dying.

The art for this title has been rather uneven…but it worked well in this issue, taken alone. The cover is nicely detailed, with Hardcase looking like Hardcase…even though it has him seemingly deliberately looking AWAY FROM the attacking villain. Within the issue, the art seems good as a whole. It seems slightly "off" to me–but then, my primary memory of the title and its art comes from the first issue, so that’s what I tend to judge a lot of the art against. It’s better than a couple of the other early issues, though, and better than I remember some of the later issues. The story’s not hard to follow–the action of what’s going on–and that’s the main thing. It’s nothing to write home about, but nothing I’m gonna really complain about.

Story-wise, we get some solid follow-up on Hardcase’s injury–and that while he’s nearly invulnerable, he can be hurt; but he also heals much faster, so even dire damage isn’t necessarily fatal. That said, we get some hints at forthcoming answers for Choice, and knowing what I do of the Ultraverse, it’s easy to pick up on the references to the moon and such (all the more after seeing them in Prime–which is another "core" Ultraverse title as one of the three originals). We get some resolution to this initial encounter with Hardwire; foreshadowing of stuff to come, and generally have a decently well-rounded ’90s comic that moves everything forward as an "episode" rather than being just a 1/6th slice of some singular graphic novel the way most modern/2018/2019 comics seem to be.

As with many ’90s comics and other Ultraverse issues, one could pick up on context simply reading this issue…but it’s not one I’d recommend in isolation or as some singular target issue. It bridges the previous issue and what’s to come in Break-Thru, contributing a bit of setup for that event and preparing us for Hardcase joining the greater stage of the Ultraverse as a whole. This is well worth a 25-50 cent purchase to have along with the earlier issues…but you’re better off grabbing the first issue than this if you just want a single issue of Hardcase.

hardcase_0006_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Prime #6

ultraverse_revisited

prime_0006Primal Changes

Written by: Gerard Jones and Len Strazewski
Art by: Norm Breyfogle
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design by: Keith Conroy
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editors: Chris Ulm & Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

For it being at least 20 years (most likely) since the last time I actually read this issue…it’s amazing to me what a sense of familiarity it has. While I have certain (what I would call) "key" memories of the series in general, some part of my mind wants to stretch or condense stuff, apparently…in an inversely-proportionate way for the way things actually unfolded!

As with many other "early" Ultraverse issues…the cover is rather "iconic" to me. Not so much in a singularly-standout way, or "this would/did make an amazing poster!" way. But for the sheer oddity of it, the way its weirdness sticks in my memory. We basically a grotesquely-bubbly Prime,either armless or with arms stretched behind his back, a look of distress on his face.

The previous issue left off with a badly-weakened Kevin being taken into government custody, their leader excited about what he’s found. We open this issue with Prime fighting a dinosaur–before suddenly finding himself in space, where he loses consciousness as he can’t breathe. We see that Prime is experiencing a simulation, as Col. Samuels insist he be kept alive. Coming out of the VR setup, Prime attacks, before being calmed down as he realizes it’s The Government and he–Kevin/Prime–can be of service. As proof of the claim, Prime is introduced to then-president Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea. Meanwhile, Kelly’s mother informs her of a call from Eden Blake’s mother–Kelly’s needed for babysitting (see Mantra #5). Back with Prime, Kevin/our hero has agreed to the Government’s testing/etc, in preparation for what turns out to be an astounding mission: He is bound for the moon! (literally!). Another simulation sees Prime facing off with super-agent Wrath (from Aladdin). Prime then sets off quickly for the moon…simply up, up, and away flying to the moon. Unfortunately, he’s not physically capable, and crashes back to Earth after a bad re-entry. Ready to give up, Kevin’s father encourages him to keep trying…though we find out Mr. Green is a lifelike simulation. The REAL Mr. Green and his wife argue over what’s been going on with their son Kevin…Mr. Green blaming himself for everything. Later, equipped with precautionary equipment designed to protect Kevin if the Prime body fails again, Kevin once again "Primes up," this time with a much different body. Now, Prime is READY. Now, Prime can survive in a vacuum without his body having issues. Now, he is (as he proclaims on the final story page) "…primed for outer space!"

The cover is another that both "sort of" shows something from within the issue, while being its own thing. Prime indeed goes into space, where he "bubbles up" which necessitates some modifications if Prime is to be able to survive in space. Kevin, of course, seems quite authentic! Sure, he "Primes up" into this big, buff super-hero…but he’s still "just" a 13-year-old kid. So the idea that he will–under his own (super-) power be expected to fly to the MOON is this ***really*** big deal to him! It also makes sense that he’s not yet disillusioned by "the Government" and such, and sees the Government as "the good guys" and wants to make them proud…almost as much as he wants to make his parents proud.

The art is the usual solid Breyfogle work. I like the familiarity and style, though there’s at least one panel where I’m reminded that there’s some sort of thing with Prime’s face where the actuality of it on the page somehow doesn’t match something in my memory.

Story-wise, this is very much a ’90s comic…visually and structurally, and I like it! There are multiple plot-threads being moved along, with a couple of distinct-seeming subplots: Kevin’s parents, and Kelly. Kelly’s subplot ties this title in to Mantra, where we see Kelly’s side of things prior to Lukasz/Eden returning home in Mantra #5. There’s also the use of Wrath and reference to Aladdin that continues to build on that organization’s place in the Ultraverse as it becomes more of a "thing." We also see more of the Prime-body’s development, that it isn’t just one set default, but takes on properties that the host (Kevin) need at the time or based on stuff handy. I know "Space Prime" becomes a bigger deal in the next issue, but it’s cool seeing the "setup" and development here in this issue–that Kevin doesn’t "just" spontaneously generate that body.

Unlike so many modern comics, there’s a lot to be had within this single issue. It does serve as a bit of a transition from solo title to moving Prime into a larger picture, as the next issue is part of the nearly-line-wide event Break-Thru; which I believe was really the first time many of the characters truly interact with each other.

The setup from the first five issues do mean that this issue doesn’t totally stand alone as well. In a way, it’s standalone, but one will get a lot more out of it having read the previous issues…especially (at least) THE previous issue, #5. For 25 cents this would not be a horrible purchase, but it’d likely be enjoyed with more context–#5, and likely #7 as well. I wouldn’t seek it out as an isolated single issue.

For better or worse…there’s a certain lure to this title that I have to resist, as I want to charge ahead through this series (much as with Mantra) without worrying about the larger context of the Ultraverse…but for this Ultraverse Revisited project, I’m determined to go month by month through all the titles!

prime_0006_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Mantra #5

ultraverse_revisited

mantra_0005Mantra: The Animated Series

Creator/Writer: Mike W. Barr
Penciller: Terry Dodson
Inker: Jasen Rodriguez
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Color: Family Fugue
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue is an interesting piece, right from the cover. We have a generic gradient background, with a folded film strip receding to the lower left. In the foreground we see a ‘regular’ Mantra looking curiously at a reflection that on the film is exaggerated and cartoony. On the surface it almost seems like a self-acknowledgement of Mantra being "well-endowed" physically and the costume emphasizing that. But…it also actually fits the interior of the issue, serving as a very reasonable cover for this particular issue of this title!

As the issue opens, we see Mantra and Warstrike–fresh back from Boneyard’s place–confronting Strauss about the charm that failed to return them the way he’d promised. After this confrontation, that pair splits up after an awkward moment. As Mantra flies away, the demon from Prime #5 spots his target! Still without a body, the demon possesses another cartoon character–a Wiley Wolf. Meanwhile, back at home, Mantra experiments with the magic sword, discovering/confirming its additional cloaking ability to hide as a ring on the costume’s belt, but manifest at will when needed. Mantra–or rather Eden Blake–well, actually, Lukasz–walks into the house looking perfectly normal, the Mantra getup magically cloaked. We see that the kids are being watched both by Blake’s mother, and the actual babysitter Kelly Cantrell (who we should recognize as Prime–Kevin Green’s–crush over in Prime). Even without big super-heroics and such, we see the natural mixing/"small-world-after-all" of all these characters existing in the same world. We see further tension between "Eden" and her mother, who still does not know this is actually Lukasz inhabiting her daughter’s body.

The next day at work, we find that there’s even more to Eden’s story than anyone realized, which lends itself well to what Lukasz may need to accomplish: Eden’s recruited for Aladdin! Before there’s any dwelling on that, Eden gets an emergency call from her friend Marla…seems that now Brent is dead as well as her husband Carl! (We know Brent as the guy Lukasz woke up next to when he first found himself in Eden’s body!) Eden then has to rush off to deal with an emergency as Mantra…Wiley Wolf is threatening her kids’ school! The "living cartoon" is dealt with, though Mantra may have let slip more than intended by addressing Evie by name–something odd for Mantra, who has never actually MET Eden Blake’s daughter. Later at home, Eden takes a copy of Ultra Monthly Magazine from the kids, and realizes a model posing as Mantra for risque photos in the magazine will be a prime target for the cartoon/demon!

We then launch into several pages of 6-panel grids made out to be filmstrip frames as Mantra is engaged by the demon, pulled into the tv world…and finds herself a cartoon! And as a cartoon, subject to typical cartoon gags and visuals, as well as rules. She manages to defeat her foe and return to the real world…with just enough page space left to demand the model be paid properly for her trouble, don’t do it again, and a single panel showing the demon (trapped as Wiley Wolf) kneeling in disgrace before an angry Boneyard.

Judging by the length and detail of my "summary" above, compared to other recent Ultraverse issues I’ve covered…I think it’s very safe to say that Mantra is STILL one of (if not my top) favorite Ultraverse titles.

As a guy, sure, there’s likely something subconscious to the depiction of this female character’s visuals and light-on-covering-clothing as we see on panel. But I truly find it fascinating this notion of a man trapped in a woman’s body, having to learn to adjust to the world from that state; but even on the notion of ANYONE being trapped in SOMEONE ELSE’s body–PERIOD. Considering what it means to all those around the body–Eden’s friends, coworkers, anything Eden had set in motion for herself–as well as a suddenly strained relationship with her mother, and an awkward, unexplained distance from her kids (that the kids surely pick up on but may not understand)…there’s a lot of depth to be had!

For better or worse, though…some of this understanding and knowledge and way I take in the character and stories is me more than 2 decades later re-reading stuff that I read and loved as a kid! If not this particular issue, then at least this series.

I continue to enjoy the visuals on this title…it certainly seems pretty consistent with the previous issues; with Dodson on pencils, that certainly makes sense. There’s a certain grounded feel to things, while still looking like drawings in a comic book. Alternatively, the "animated" portion takes on the goofy cartoon-like look in a rather obvious way…both poking fun at old cartoons as well as perhaps borrowing the style of the "_____ Adventures" comics of the time–Batman and X-Men at least–based on their respective cartoon series.

Story-wise, I love all the subplots and worldbuilding going on here…it feels like Mantra is an extremely rich title in that regard! In some ways the story is all over the place, though–Mantra and Warstrike barging in on Strauss, then scene-hopping all over the place for just a page or few pages at a time. This would not "work" for most titles, but does for me here as said with stuff above.

Perhaps more for the "Mantra the Animated Series" segment, this issue can SORT OF work on its own. Nothing overly fancy or special in and of itself, but if one gets through the main part of the issue, they’re then treating to the "Mantra Adventures" segment.

Five issues in and we should be "wrapping up" a story arc as far as looking from the modern perspective in 2019. I vaguely remember that the next couple issues cross over with the rest of the Ultraverse–first as a whole for the Break-Thru event and then with a prominent Prime issue; so I don’t remember any clear-cut hard-stop breaks in terms of an actual story conclusion or new story start.

As always…I definitely recommend this in context of the other issues of the title! If you can get these first 5 or so issues, you’re in for a treat; or if you’ve read the previous issues, you’re still in for a treat with this issue. If you find this issue alone for 25-50 cents, it’s probably gonna be a fun, VERY-’90s sort of read where you can pick up on context within the issue itself.

I remember in broad strokes where this series goes, at least for a bit, and I’m eager to get to a prominent story in particular, but I’m holding myself back to continue reading issues as single issues in the greater context of the whole of the Ultraverse publication!

mantra_0005_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Freex #5

ultraverse_revisited

freex_0005Up Against the Wall

Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: Ben Herrera
Inker: Larry Welch
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

Beginning with the cover of this issue, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I didn’t recognize the presumed-villain on the cover…a bit grotesque, and apparently new. But on opening the issue, I remembered that–Oh, yeah–the Freex are dealing with the "Master of the Hunt" and his hounds. And the bulk of the issue is really just a lengthy fight scene, as the individual Freex have to draw on their powers–working through the pain, even–in order to come together and stop this "Master." Despite their challenges, the group eventually defeats him–as he’s first burned (turns out, that was him on the cover!) and then taken down by his own hench-hounds. The Freex escape, and all’s well that ends well…right?

The art for this issue seems a bit "off." While I mostly recognize the various characters, they have a sort of generic, non-regular-artist look…and unfortunately, that was a bit off-putting for this issue. The characters look–for one thing–a bit "older" than they did before, and I’m just not a fan of this specific iteration of them.

At least the writing is consistent, where we’ve gone from seeing these characters absolutely not working together to where they finally do draw together and push their powers to help each other and overcome (a bit) certain fears. It’s like as of this fifth issue the team finally becomes…a team.

This remains an iffy title for me–I don’t love it (especially after this issue) but I don’t hate it. I haven’t gotten used to it, but continue to see the potential it holds both as a title and with its individual characters. Best way for me to put it for my repetitive vagueness is that when I think of the title, see one of its covers…it doesn’t bring back fond memories nor does it really grab my interest such that I actively want to jump in and read. When I put it off or "dread" getting into an issue…I tend to either truly enjoy it or at least realize it’s not horrible. I’ve been interested from cliffhangers to see where it goes next, but by the time I get to the next issue I’m usually back to a passive-ish not really caring.

All that said…if you can get several issues as a run…particularly for now, these first five issues–and cheaply (say, 25-50 cents each ideally, under $5 for sure) they’re definitely well worth the read for an early-’90s team of abnormal misfits shunned by society…and serving as a sort of X-Men parallel but instead of being the ’60s, it’s "in the ’90s!"

freex_0005_blogtrailer

%d bloggers like this: