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.

November 1977

Avengers 168

The Avengers meet Henry Peter Gyrich, special agent from the National Security Council, the Two-Gun Kid disappears before Hawkeye’s eyes, and Captain America finally come to blows with Iron Man. Also, Korvac murders Starhawk. (Spoiler alert: Starhawk gets better.)

Spidey Super Stories 31

The inevitable Star Wars parody issue. The most significant memory I have of this issue is that my younger brother couldn’t tolerate the notion of a bald Princess Leia, so he went through the issue and drew hair onto every image of Moondragon, providing me with my first lesson on the meaning and importance of ownership – prior to this incident my brothers and I lived in a Socialist paradise.

Other Comics I Read From November 1977

  • Captain America 218
  • Challengers of the Unknown 85
  • Detective Comics 475
  • Marvel Team-Up 66
  • Uncanny X-Men 109
  • Wonder Woman 240

November 1982

Captain America 279

This issue, Steve gets a lesson in privilege (and, let’s be honest, basic human decency) from his old friend Arnie. Arnie’s “roommate” Michael died, and Steve just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut when they visit Michael’s gravesite.

Arnie’s having none of it, and immediately confronts Steve about his self-centered ramblings.

While Arnie is talking primarily about the honor associated with being Captain America, the subtext of Steve’s heterosexual privilege is also clear.

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills

The X-Men get an original graphic novel, and you know what that means! Well, I sure didn’t. I mean, I certainly didn’t think it would mean Kitty Pryde would drop an N-bomb…

Or that it would be the beginning of a strange pattern. Weirdly, this is the first of three times that Kitty uses the N-word, each time in response to (or comparing the word to) “Mutie.” I’m not pretending to miss the point, but – even in the context of the X-Men comics – “Mutie” seems about as hurtful and dangerous a word as “Honky.”

But of course, at the time, all anyone could talk about was how cool Wolverine was while he casually threatened to murder random strangers.

The plot of God Love, Man Kills involved a politically powerful TV minister (ah, the 80s…) who encouraged his followers to hate (and hunt and kill) mutants, arguing that they are not human.

If Chris Claremont were more familiar with the Bible, he could have drawn a pretty cool connection between Mutants and the Nephilim, but I digress. Firmly establishing herself as the heart of the team, Kitty risks her life to stand by her friend.

(Though not really, since we all know she could just phase a bullet through her body.)

And, thanks to the magic of comic book storytelling, we turn the page and see the reverend never even fired his gun.

It was the dead-eyed cop all along! And while his “just doing my job” moustache remains firmly in place, another cop (straight out of Irish Beat Cop central casting) makes it clear that not all forms of authority are opposed to mutants.

Other Notable Comics From November 1982

Amazing Spider-Man 238

The first appearance of the Hobgoblin! Determining the identity of the Hobgoblin was a shockingly important part of – and, when finally revealed, one of the minor disappointments of – my early teens.

Other Comics I Read from November 1982

  • Amazing Spider-Man 237
  • Avengers 228
  • Camelot 3000 3
  • Captain America 278
  • Cerebus 44
  • Further Adventures of Indiana Jones 2
  • Ka-Zar 24
  • Marvel Team-Up 126
  • New Mutants 1
  • Uncanny X-Men 166
  • Vision and the Scarlet Witch 4
  • What If 37

November 1987

Spectacular Spider-Man 136

The Death of Jean DeWolff is the four-issue storyline that put Peter David on the map. This is kind of strange when you think about it. David’s continued fame can mostly be attributed to his wicked sense of humor, yet – as the story tries to warn you with its title – The Death of Jean DeWolff is a Stone Cold Bummer (by Manipulate). Police Detective Jean DeWolff was a popular supporting character in the Spider-Man universe, and remains much missed.

Her murderer (a religiously obsessed – and insane – police officer who went by the subtle same Sin-Eater) showed up for another humorless Peter David scripted three-part story, which ends this issue with Sin-Eater’s death by gunshot. In fact, Peter David’s PPSSM run – while full of great stories – was almost entirely humorless. And a lot of the stories end with someone being fatally shot. Whatever was bumming him out, I’m glad he got over it.

Other Comics I Read from November 1987

  • Badger 34
  • Blood: A Tale 3
  • Captain Justice 1
  • Cerebus 104
  • Classic X-Men 19
  • Death of Groo
  • Doc Savage 4
  • Forever People 2
  • Grendel 14
  • Hellblazer 3
  • Incredible Hulk 341
  • Justice League International 11
  • Miracleman 13
  • Neat Stuff 9
  • Nexus 43
  • Punisher 7
  • Question 13
  • Solo Avengers 4
  • Sonic Disruptors 3
  • Swamp Thing 70
  • Underworld 4
  • Wasteland 3
  • Yummy Fur 8

November 1992

Fast Forward 2

The cover story (and far and away the main attraction) is Kyle Baker’s short story “Lester Fenton and the Walking Dead.”

No one draws big dumb white guys with their tongues hanging out like Kyle Baker. And just wait until you see his “big dumb white guys with their tongues hanging out and their heads bashed in.”

This is on my short list of the best two panel sequences in the history of comics:

If you like funny art, clever dialog, and zombies, give this a look. While the Fast Forward anthology is long out of print, this story is currently available digitally through Comixology.

Other Notable Comics From November 1992

Hellblazer 61

After all his nattering on about how Constantine’s greatest power might just be that we’ll never know if he’s a true master magician or just a super talented trickster, Garth Ennis kinds of tips his hand by having Constantine cheat the devil once again, this time by cutting a masking sigil onto the soul of a demon. Whatever that might mean, it certainly isn’t something you could pull off with cheeky bravado alone.

This issue also features probably the worst line of dialogue ever to appear in a Hellblazer history, as the demon Triskele – who apparently doesn’t know what words mean – actually says out loud, “But only Iscariot has ever done that – and then only in the last Apocrypha!”

Great cover though, right?

Comics I Read from November 1992

  • A1 2
  • Animal Man 55
  • Batman: Sword of Azrael 4
  • Cerebus 164
  • Doom Patrol 62
  • Flash 72
  • Grendel: War Child 4
  • Incredible Hulk 401
  • Peepshow 3
  • Ren and Stimpy Show 2
  • Sandman 45
  • Shade the Changing Man 31
  • Spectacular Spider-Man 196
  • Spider-Man 2099 3
  • Swamp Thing 127
  • X-Factor 86

November 1997

JLA 14

The remnants of the JLA continue to fight Darkseid in a future where Darkseid has already won!

Batman faces off against Metron, and Grant Morrison demonstrates once again why Batman is the most dangerous member of the JLA.

But the most glorious part of this issue is Green Arrow and the Atom’s final face-off against Darkseid. As had been demonstrated again and again, Darkseid possesses an impenetrable protective force field that renders him nearly unstoppable. After defeating the most powerful heroes in the world, Darkseid turns to face a tiny scientist and a man with a bow and some arrows.

This moment is almost surely the height of Morrison’s JLA run, and perhaps the highlight of his entire super-hero writing career.

Other Comics I Read from November 1997

  • Big Book of Scandal
  • Captain America 1
  • Cerebus 224
  • Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold 3
  • Flash 133
  • Hellblazer 121
  • Hitman 22
  • Invisibles 12
  • JLA: Paradise Lost 1
  • JLA: Year One 1
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 11
  • Preacher 33
  • Ragmop 2
  • Red Rocket Seven 4
  • Starman 38
  • Stormwatch 2
  • Transmetropolitan 5
  • Uncle Sam 1
  • Vertigo: Winter’s Edge 1

November 2002

Truth: Red, White, and Black 1

This culturally important story was based on a simple, cynical (though not at all unreasonable) premise: There’s no way that the World War II era US military would have used a super soldier serum on white dudes without first testing it on black guys.

The grimness of the story is relieved somewhat by Kyle Baker’s super cartoony artwork.

Other Comics I Read from November 2002

  • 100 Bullets 40
  • Alias 16
  • Amazing Spider-Man 47
  • Automatic Kafka 5
  • Avengers 60
  • Avengers Icons: Vision 4
  • Batman 606
  • Batman: Absolution
  • Catwoman 13
  • Daredevil 39
  • Elektra 16, 17
  • Fantastic Four 63
  • Fight for Tomorrow 3
  • Filth 6
  • Flash 192
  • Global Frequency 2
  • Green Arrow 19
  • Hawkman 9
  • Hellblazer 178
  • Incredible Hulk 47
  • JSA 42
  • Lucifer 32
  • Mek 1
  • New X-Men 134
  • Point Blank 4
  • Powers 25
  • Punisher 19
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 30, 31
  • Ultimate X-Men 24, 25
  • Vertigo Pop: London 1
  • War Stories: Reivers
  • X-Statix 5
  • Y: The Last Man 5
  • Zero Girl: Full Circle 1

November 2007

Goon: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker

Like Sam Kieth, Eric Powell’s early work was powerfully influenced by Berni Wrightson. And, also like Sam Kieth, Powell quickly developed a style all his own. If you’re not familiar with it, Eric Powell’s Goon is a genuine treasure. Powell creates a dark and gritty world that is filled with horror and sudden violence, but then injects it with so much warm humor that – frankly – it shouldn’t work as well as it does. But it does!

Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker is unique in two ways – it is the only Goon story that was originally released as a graphic novel (all other Goon narratives have been released as serial comics), and it is the only Goon narrative that is utterly devoid of humor.

While not touted as such, this is the Goon’s origin story, or Goon: Year One if you will. It’s a pretty simple story. After the kind of childhood that would have left most of us dead or insane, the Goon manages to carve out a life for himself as a small town enforcer. Then he falls in love with a woman named Isabella and makes plans to leave his old life (and old friends) behind.

But this is a noir story, so Isabella only exists to break our hero’s heart:

After this scene, Powell does something extraordinary. He devotes the next six pages to the Goon’s reaction. In a series of full page splashes, we see him looking at himself in the mirror. How much time goes by isn’t clear, but his transition from an emotionless gaze to a full-on ugly crying is a remarkable artistic gamble – and, arguably, why Powell felt the need to publish this story as a graphic novel (this would have made for a very oddly paced individual issue).

The Goon flies into a suicidal rage, nearly getting killed, but showing everyone is town that rumors of his going soft were greatly exaggerated. Meanwhile Franky, the Goon’s only real friend, confronts Isabella as she’s leaving town

After making it clear that if he ever sees Isabella again, he’ll kill her, Franky seeks out his friend

As the promotional material states: “He’s a sensitive man in insensitive times. But be warned: This book ain’t funny.”

Other Comics I Read from November 2007

  • 100 Bullets 86
  • Action Comics 859
  • All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder 8
  • All-Star Superman 9
  • American Virgin 21
  • Astonishing X-Men 23
  • Avengers: Initiative Annual 1
  • Batman 671
  • Black Adam 4
  • Booster Gold 4
  • Brave and the Bold 8
  • Captain America 32
  • Casanova 11
  • Crime Bible: The Five Lessons 2
  • Crossing Midnight 13
  • Daredevil 102
  • DMZ 25
  • Ex Machina 32
  • Exterminators 23
  • Faker 5
  • Flash 234
  • Green Lantern 25
  • Green Lantern Corps 18
  • Halo: Uprising 2
  • Hellblazer 238
  • House of M: Avengers 1
  • Immortal Iron Fist 11
  • Incredible Hulk 112
  • Infinity, Inc. 3
  • Invincible 46
  • Iron Man: Diretor of SHIELD Annual 1
  • Kimmie66
  • Marvel Zombies 2 2
  • New Avengers 36
  • New Avengers Illuminati 5
  • Order 5
  • Popgun 1
  • Powers 27
  • Programme 5
  • Punisher 52
  • Punisher War Journal 13
  • Scalped 11
  • She-Hulk 23
  • Super-Villain Team-Up: Modak’s Eleven 5
  • Testament 21
  • Thor 5
  • Thunderbolts: Breaking Points
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 116
  • Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite 3
  • Uncanny X-Men 492
  • Walking Dead 44
  • World War Hulk 5
  • World War Hulk: Aftersmash
  • X-Factor 25
  • Y: The Last Man 59

November 2012

Indestructible Hulk 1

Mark Waid checks in with a brilliant (and, like a lot of brilliant ideas, kind of obvious) take on the Hulk:

Rather than devoting his “Banner time” to seeking a cure – or worse, wandering the American heartland in large purple pants and a worn out trench coat – Bruce will seek to use his limited time and limitless intellect making the world a better place. He asks only that SHIELD provide him with the funding and resources to support his work.

And what he offers SHIELD in return is the ultimate weapon. The Hulk as SHIELD’s magic bullet: Now that’s a pretty great idea.

Other Notable Comics From November 2012

Amazing Spider-Man 698

Greatest – and most intentionally misleading – use of dialog on a comic book cover ever.

Comeback 1

My introduction to the great (and wildly unappreciated) work of Ed Brisson and Michael Walsh. If you enjoy overly complex time travel stories, I’ve got a graphic novel for you to buy.

Nowhere Men 1

What if Science really was the new Rock and Roll? This story follows the lives of four brilliant scientists who form a business (i.e., supergroup) that captures the imagination of the world.

Clearly meant to invoke the Beatles – their look, attitude, and cultural impact matches Beatlemania, and the first panel of the first issue opens with the line “Let me tell you how it will be,” the first line of “Taxman,” the opening track of Revolver, The Beatles first “mature” – and most critics’ choice as the Beatles’ best – album.

Assuming the reader’s knowledge of The Beatles’ history and impact on the world, the story opens with our scientists in their prime, and then quickly cuts to “the present” where one of them is dead, and the other three are fighting over the rights to their work and its future implications.

If you enjoy intellectual science fiction with lots of pop culture reference mixed in, this is for you.

Other Comics I Read from November 2012

  • Action Comics 14
  • All-New X-Men 1, 2
  • Amazing Spider-Man 697
  • American Vampire 33
  • Animal Man 14
  • Aquaman 14
  • Archer and Armstrong 4
  • Avengers 33, 34
  • Avengers Academy 39
  • Avengers Assemble 9
  • AvX: Consequences 5
  • Batman 14
  • Batman and Robin 14
  • Batman Incorporated 5
  • Chew 30
  • Daredevil 20
  • Daredevil: End of Days 2
  • Defenders 12
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s Conqueror Worm
  • Fantastic Four 1
  • Fatale 10
  • FF 1
  • Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE 14
  • Goon 43
  • Great Pacific 1
  • Green Lantern 14
  • Green Lantern Corps 14
  • Harvest 4
  • Hawkeye 4
  • Hellblazer 297
  • Invincible 97
  • Iron Man 1, 2
  • Justice League 14
  • Justice League Dark 14
  • Manhattan Projects 7
  • New Avengers 32-34
  • Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 3
  • Planetoid 4
  • Point of Impact 2
  • Punisher: War Zone 2
  • Punk Rock Jesus 5
  • Revival 5
  • Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom 4
  • Saga 7
  • Swamp Thing 14
  • Sweet Tooth 39
  • Thief of Thieves 10
  • Thor: God of Thunder 1
  • Thought Bubble Anthology 2
  • Walking Dead 104
  • Where is Jake Ellis? 1
  • Wolverine and the X-Men 20, 21
  • Wonder Woman 14
  • X-Factor 246, 247

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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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