Rand Bellavia is back to share his fond memories of decades of comic collecting and reading in this month’s Random Access Memory.

Author’s Note: Random Access Memory is me looking back at the specific comics that shaped my life. Each month I go back in time – in five year intervals – to examine key comics that came out those months. (The idea is that after five years of monthly columns, I will have covered an entire lifetime – in this case, fifty years – of reading comics.) I also list all the comics I read that particular month. This will afford readers the opportunity to chastise me for not reading specific comics, and/or laugh at the horrible, horrible choices I made in the past.

October 1977

Avengers 167

The Korvac Saga starts kind of slowly, with the Wasp attending a fashion show and Captain America and Iron Man yelling at each other like toddlers. Also, Wonder Man and Thor grab a bite to eat and discuss Thor’s strange appearances and disappearances.

Now, I’m not saying that Jim Shooter should have been able to predict something as futuristic as the cell phone in 1977. Frankly I’d have been impressed had he correctly named the pager. But “people beeper” seems just a few inches too far from the bullseye, don’t you agree?

Then, we meet the Guardians of the Galaxy. Mind you, this *is* your father’s Guardians of the Galaxy – i.e., what the Guardians looked like when I was a kid:

That’s Charlie-27 and Nikki (along with the Beast) in the first panel, and (as we ascend the staircase): Yondu, Starhawk, Martinex, and Vance Astro. Charlie-27 and Starhawk appeared briefly in GotG Vol. 2, played by Ving Rhames and Sylvester Stallone.

Other Comics I Read From October 1977

  • Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery 79
  • Daredevil 150
  • Marvel Team-Up 65
  • Spidey Super Stories 30

October 1982

Marvel No-Prize Book

This gem is worth seeking out – a guided tour through the biggest, most preposterous art and writing errors in the (then) history of Marvel Comics. Some are ones that I had wondered about as a kid:

Others were from comics I’d never seen before:

The best ones were where an art error combined with the script to create an unintentionally funny (or offensive) scene:

There’s lots more to see, of course, but let’s end with perhaps the most famous writing error of Stan Lee’s career:

You’ll have to imagine a page turn here. Wait for it…

Other Notable Comics From October 1982

Amazing Spider-Man 236

John Romita, Jr. turns in some of the most horrific artwork ever to appear in a code-approved comic, and the Tarantula dies a particularly gruesome death.

Daredevil 191

Frank Miller ends his historic run with this coda issue consisting primarily of Daredevil forcing the paralyzed Bullseye to join him in a game of Russian Roulette. Happy stuff.

Other Comics I Read from October 1982

  • Avengers 227
  • Camelot 3000 2
  • Captain America 277
  • Cerebus 43
  • Dreadstar 1
  • Further Adventures of Indiana Jones 1
  • Ka-Zar 23
  • Marvel Fanfare 6
  • Marvel Team-Up 125
  • Uncanny X-Men 165
  • Vision and the Scarlet Witch 3

October 1987

Forever People 1

Jack Kirby may have been too old to be a hippie, but – with the Forever People – he created the first genuine mainstream hippie super-heroes. If the Fourth World saga was the tale of a world war, then Forever People was the comic that dealt with how the common people – be they foot soldiers or civilians – dealt with the war. While nothing could top the bombast (and surprise plot revelations) of the New Gods, Forever People was a quieter, more intimate book, and – as I grow older – my favorite title of the bunch.

J. M. DeMatteis brings a lot of love to this mini-series. It’s clear that he was the perfect age to enjoy these stories as they came out, and still thinks they have a lot to say nearly 20 years later. He drags these sixties characters kicking and screaming into the Reagan-era, and we’re all the better for it.

While much of the first issue is set-up – introducing the characters to those of us who weren’t familiar with the original book and (for those already familiar with them) revealing how time had (mis)treated our heroes – the main attraction of this first issue is the brilliant essay that runs in place of the letters page. DeMatteis draws a comparison between Kirby and Lee and Lennon and McCartney. While this may seem obvious, he’s the first to do so, as far as I know. And the comparison is apt: like Lennon and McCartney, Kirby and Lee had spent most of the sixties creating whole new worlds, and – working together – reach peaks of creativity that neither would reach separately. That being said, Kirby (like Lennon) would go on to create important work that – perhaps rougher around the edges than the more polished work with Lee (or McCartney) – was all the more exciting for its sharpness.

Other Notable Comics From October 1987

Vigilante 50

The answer is yes. Yes, it is. You will believe that a fifty issue comic book run can end with its protagonist blowing his head off.

Other Comics I Read from October 1987

  • Alien Legion 2
  • Badger 33
  • Blood: A Tale 2
  • Cerebus 103
  • Classic X-Men 18
  • Concrete 5
  • Doc Savage 3
  • Dreadstar 35
  • Grendel 13
  • Hellblazer 2
  • Incredible Hulk 340
  • Justice League International 10
  • Marshal Law 2
  • Nexus 42
  • Punisher 6
  • Question 12
  • Scout 24
  • Secret Origins 23
  • Solo Avengers 3
  • Sonic Disruptors 2
  • Spectacular Spider-Men 135
  • Swamp Thing 69
  • Underworld 3
  • Wasteland 2

October 1992

Fast Forward 1

While they have both have certainly gone on to accomplish a lot of significant work, it was their Arkham Asylum original graphic novel that first made Grant Morrison and Dave McKean legitimately famous (and legitimately rich). Given that, it seems nearly insane that their only other work together was a short story from this 1992 anthology book, which has never been reprinted!

Granted, it’s not the most exciting story. In fact, the entirety of the piece is a monolog delivered by an old lady who spends most of the story staring stolidly at the camera.

But did I mention it’s a monolog written by Grant Morrison, and the images of an old woman staring at the camera were illustrated by Dave McKean?

Fast Forward was a short-lived anthology comic from the short-lived DC imprint Piranha Press. Each of Fast Forward’s three issues had a named theme, this issue’s being Phobias. Morrison and McKean’s “A Glass of Water” was the lead story, and this historic reunion of talent was clearly expected to sell the book – the issue has five stories, but the Dave McKean cover lists only two creators: Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. The other stories feature art by Glenn Barr, Alec Stevens, and Russell Braun – names that should be familiar to fans of early 90s indy comics. Subsequent issues of Fast Forward were more entertaining, and while I enjoyed this comic – as much for its experimentation as for its execution – it does feels like DC was too self-consciously aping the lazy rhythms of autobiographical comics. Braun’s “Barney the Burning Baker” – the story of the all-too accurately named protagonist giving his dead goldfish a Viking funeral – is the closest the comic comes to making an effort.

Piranha Press would struggle on until 1994, but DC’s desire to court a more overtly adult audience would reach fruition just three months later with the formation of Vertigo Comics, although the Vertigo house style was much less experimental than anything Piranha Press put out. (The only evergreen publication to come out of Piranha Press was Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn.)

Other Notable Comics From October 1992

Hellblazer 60

This is it! The Hellblazer storyline that Garth Ennis ripped off from himself to create the origin of Preacher’s Genesis!

Comics I Read from October 1992

  • A1 1
  • Animal Man 54
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 40
  • Batman: Sword of Azrael 3
  • Cerebus 163
  • Doom Patrol 61
  • Flash 71
  • Grendel: War Child 3
  • Hate 10
  • Incredible Hulk 400
  • Ren and Stimpy Show 1
  • Robocop vs. Terminator 3, 4
  • Sandman 44
  • Shade the Changing Man 30
  • Sinking (Epic Graphic Novel)
  • Spectacular Spider-Man 195
  • Spider-Man 2099 2
  • Swamp Thing 126
  • X-Factor 85

October 1997

Hitman 21

A break in the action for a bit of romantic comedy. Garth Ennis has always been great at writing women as three-dimensional humans – not hard really, but you’d be amazed at how few male comic book writers can pull off this simple trick. Throughout the run of Hitman, Tommy Monaghan has three significant relationships with women, all they all are fully realized characters with agency. Of course, the hardest part of writing Tommy in a relationship is that he’s a hitman. I don’t know about you, but most of the women I’ve met would call that a deal breaker. So, the real trick Ennis has to pull off is how to believably get him in (and out) of romantic relationships without making these women seem like cyphers (or worse, idiots).

Tommy’s first major girlfriend left him the moment she found out he was a hitman. (Points for clear and reasoned thinking.) His second major girlfriend was Deborah Tiegel, a cop. I know.

After that little bit of comedy, we find out that the answer to the question “Why would a cop want to sleep with a hitman?” is sadder than we expected – and perhaps an example of Ennis engaging in a bit of meta-commentary.

Then artist Steve Pugh treats us to a gender-swapped homage to “When Harry Met Sally…”

Other Notable Comics From October 1997

Invisibles 11

Boy’s status as a triple (or is it quadruple?) agent is revealed, and we learn about the Infranet (“the city is the hardware and the people are the software”) – and that triple-you is one of the 64 letters in the “real” English alphabet.

Other Comics I Read from October 1997

  • Aliens: Alchemy 2
  • Batman: The Long Halloween 13
  • Bloody Mary: Lady Liberty 4
  • Cerebus 223
  • Deadpool 11
  • Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold 2
  • Flash 132
  • Hellblazer 120
  • Jinx 3
  • JLA 13
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 10
  • Life Story of the Flash
  • Mage 3
  • Palookaville 11
  • Preacher 31
  • Red Rocket Seven 3
  • Starman 37
  • Stormwatch 1
  • Transmetropolitan 4
  • Underwater 11

October 2002

Promethea 23

Our heroines enter Kether or the Crown – the top of the Tree of Life.

The first time we see Barbara and Sophie in Kether they are experiencing the very act of creation – imaged in the comic as forming from stick figure to sketch to pencil drawing to inked image (color takes a back seat as all is white in Kether) – their word balloon forming (ex nihilo, of course) “Something from nothing.”

They muse about God for some time. God as creator. God as creation. God as created. God as creativity.

And I’ve always found this page to be powerful:

Other Notable Comics From October 2002

New X-Men 133

The first appearance of Dust, a Muslim mutant that – according to interviews given at the time – Grant Morrison has great plans for. After September 11, 2001, however, Dust quickly and quietly faded into the background.

Other Comics I Read from October 2002

  • Alias 15
  • Amazing Spider-Man 46
  • Automatic Kafka 4
  • Avengers 59
  • Avengers Icons: Vision 3
  • Batman 608
  • Captain America 6
  • Catwoman 12
  • Daredevil 37
  • Detective Comics 775
  • Elektra 15
  • Elektra: Glimpse and Echo 4
  • Fantastic Four 62
  • Fight for Tomorrow 2
  • Filth 5
  • Flash 191
  • Global Frequency 1
  • Green Arrow 18
  • Hawkman 8
  • Hellblazer 177
  • Hood 6
  • Incredible Hulk 46
  • JSA 41
  • Louis Reil 8
  • Lucifer 31
  • Point Blank 3
  • Powers 24
  • Punisher 17, 18
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 28, 29
  • Ultimate X-Men 23
  • X-Statix 4
  • Y: The Last Man 4

October 2007

Justice League/Hitman 2

So, Tommy is trapped alone on the moon with a bunch of NASA agents and the JLA – all of whom have been taken over by Alien-style face huggers, and these face-huggers are out for blood! What would you do?

Of course, Tommy immediately regrets his decision to save the JLA:

Ultimately, this is a story about morality – what it means to be good or bad – and Superman is given the last word.

It’s really a shame they broke the last line up the way they did. It would be much more effective without the page turn.

As strong as that ending is, the best panel of the book – and high on the short list of best Superman panels ever – came a bit earlier, as Superman looked down on earth from the space:

For a guy who claims to hate super-heroes, Garth Ennis sure gets Superman.

Other Comics I Read from October 2007

  • Action Comics 857, 858
  • American Virgin 20
  • Avengers: Initiative 7
  • Batman 670
  • Biff! Bam! Pow!
  • Black Adam 3
  • Booster Gold 3
  • Brave and the Bold 7
  • Captain America 31
  • Casanova 10
  • Crime Bible: The Five Lessons 1
  • Crossing Midnight 12
  • DMZ 24
  • Ex Machina 31
  • Exterminators 22
  • Faker 4
  • Flash 233
  • Green Lantern 24
  • Hellblazer 237
  • Immortal Iron Fist 10
  • Incredible Hulk 111
  • Infinity, Inc. 2
  • JSA 10
  • Loveless 20
  • Marvel Zombies 2 1
  • Mighty Avengers 5
  • New Avengers 35
  • Order 4
  • Powers 26
  • Programme 4
  • Punisher 51
  • Punisher War Journal 12
  • Runaways 28
  • Scalped 10
  • She-Hulk 22
  • Special Forces 1
  • Stormwatch PHD 12
  • Super-Villain Team-Up: Modak’s Eleven 4
  • Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman Prime
  • Thor 4
  • Thunderbolts 117, 118
  • True Story Swear to God 9
  • Ultimate Power 8
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 115
  • Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 491
  • Walking Dead 43
  • What If: Planet Hulk
  • X-Factor 24

October 2012

Hawkeye 3

Clint delivers a solid lecture on weaponry.

And Matt Fraction and David Aja find the perfect use for Hawkeye’s iconic mask. (I believe that this is the only time Hawkeye appears in costume the entire series.)

Other Comics I Read from October 2012

  • A+X 1
  • Action Comics 13
  • Activity 9
  • Amazing Spider-Man 695, 696
  • American Vampire 32
  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares 5
  • Animal Man 13
  • Aquaman 13
  • Archer and Armstrong 3
  • Avengers 31, 32
  • Avengers Academy 38
  • Avengers Assemble 8
  • AvX: Consequences 1-4
  • Axe Cop 1
  • Batman 13
  • Batman and Robin 13
  • Batman, Incorporated 4
  • Bedlam 1
  • Captain America 18, 19
  • Captain Marvel 5, 6
  • Chew 29
  • Daredevil 19
  • Daredevil: End of Days 1
  • Defenders 11
  • Fantastic Four 611
  • Fatale 8, 9
  • FF 23
  • Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE 13
  • G-Man: Coming Home 1
  • Ghost 1
  • Ghosts
  • Green Lantern 13
  • Green Lantern Corps 13
  • Happy 2
  • Harvest 3
  • Hawkeye 3
  • Hellblazer 296
  • Hitgirl 4
  • Incredible Hulk 15
  • Invincible 96
  • Invincible Iron Man 526, 527
  • Journey into Mystery 645
  • Justice League 13
  • Justice League Dark 13
  • Legends of the Dark Knight 1
  • Liberty Annual 2012
  • Mighty Thor 21, 22
  • New Avengers 31
  • Point of Impact 1
  • Punisher: War Zone 1
  • Punk Rock Jesus 4
  • Revival 4
  • Secret Service 4
  • Swamp Thing 13, Annual 1
  • Sweet Tooth 38
  • Thief of Thieves 9
  • Uncanny X-Men 19, 20
  • Walking Dead 103
  • Winter Solider 12
  • Wolverine and the X-Men 18, 19
  • Wonder Woman 13
  • X-Factor 245

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The Author

Rand Bellavia

Rand Bellavia

Rand Bellavia is half of the Filk Pop Nerd Rock band Ookla the Mok. They’ve been playing at science fiction and comic book conventions since 1994. Their clever, media-savvy lyrics, catchy melodies, and accessible power-pop sound have made them a cult-sensation with nerds everywhere. With song titles like Super Powers, Welcome to the Con, Arthur Curry, Kang the Conqueror, and Stop Talking About Comic Books or I’ll Kill You, it’s easy to see why.

Rand and Ookla the Mok have won four Pegasus Awards, and the 2014 Logan Award for Outstanding Original Comedy Song. Ookla the Mok had the most requested song on Dr. Demento in 2012 (“Tantric Yoda”) and 2013 (“Mwahaha”). Rand co-wrote the theme song for the Disney cartoon Fillmore, and his vocals are the first thing you hear on Gym Class Heroes’ Top Five hit “Cupid’s Chokehold.”

In his secret identity, Rand is the Director of the Montante Library at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. He has lectured and presented at international conferences on the subject of comics and libraries, and whatever your favorite subject is, he probably knows more about that than you do.

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