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.

February 1978

Avengers 171

Ultron is back, trying once again to bring his robot bride Jocasta to life. He succeeds, but – Who could have guessed? – it doesn’t go as planned.

Given that Ultron’s first independent act was to try to kill his creator, and his second act was to create the Vision – who immediately turned on Ultron and joined the Avengers – you’d think he’d expect – or at least be used to – this sort of betrayal by now. (You’d also think he’d stop using the brain patterns of his sworn enemies on his robotic progeny.)

With the help of Jocasta, the Avengers defeat Ultron. Then, suddenly…

And we’ll have to wait at least three more issues to find out what all that nonsense is about.

Other Comics I Read From February 1978

  • Action Comics 483
  • Adventure Comics 457
  • Captain America 221
  • Cerebus 2
  • Incredible Hulk 223
  • Marvel Team-Up 69
  • Wonder Woman 243

February 1983

Captain America 281

Steve and Bernie had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap when they hear someone at the door.

It doesn’t take too many pages for Cap to work out that this isn’t *the* Bucky Barnes, but rather *a* Bucky Barnes – you know, the Bucky of the 1950s. I’m going to assume that a few of you know what that means, a few of you will look it up online, and the rest of you don’t care all that much. So, in one sentence: comics featuring Captain America and Bucky published in the 1950s (before it was made clear that Bucky was dead and Cap in suspended animation throughout the 1950s) were later retconned to be the adventures of two random dudes who – through plastic surgery and increasingly good luck – were impersonating Cap and Bucky.

Then, as quickly as he showed up, Bucky decides to leave.

Luckily, Cap had a Bucky suit in his closet.

Okay, I can’t let this one go. I mean, Bucky died during World War II. Cap was on ice for a generation. How exactly did he come across a Bucky costume? The only reasonable answer would be commemorative in nature – he’s keeping it under glass like a Batcave trophy. But, assuming this were the case, how would he fit a trophy room in his Brooklyn apartment? Moreover, if he’s keeping the costume as a grim reminder of his old friend, why would he break it out so he and a total stranger can train parkour?

Other Comics I Read From February 1983

  • Amazing Spider-Man 240
  • Avengers 231
  • Cerebus 47
  • Dreadstar 3
  • Green Arrow 1
  • Iron Man 170
  • Ka-Zar 26
  • Kull 1
  • Marvel Fanfare 8
  • Marvel Team-Up 129
  • Nexus 1
  • Omega Men 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 169

February 1988

Hellblazer 6

This issue features the first appearance of the demon Nergal, who (along with a lot of John Constantine’s friends and enemies) makes an appearance in the Ookla the Mok song “Stranger in the Mirror.”

Nergal takes a bunch of neo-Nazi football hooligans and – as demons do – mashes them into a four-headed, many-armed horror, and sends it after our man John. His reaction is priceless.

This was all mildly confusing to me in 1988, as at the time I had no idea what the words Arsenal and Chelsea might mean in this context. So I guess I have John Constantine (and Jamie Delano) to thank for first sparking my interest in the FLFD, as well as soccer hooliganism in general.

Other Comics I Read from February 1988

  • Badger 37
  • Cerebus 107
  • Classic X-Men 22
  • Concrete 6
  • Forever People 5
  • Hand of Fate 1
  • Incredible Hulk 344
  • Justice League International 14
  • Marshal Law 3
  • Martian Manhunter 2
  • Nexus 46
  • Phantom 1
  • Punisher 9
  • Question 16
  • Sonic Disruptors 5
  • Swamp Thing 73
  • Wasteland 6
  • The Weird 3

February 1993

Enigma 2

There are several striking notions in this issue, not the least of which is this darkly funny – though no less honest for its morbidity – observation about death:

Then we have this interesting reflection on time and the nature of memory:

But there’s a plot, as well! Our hero – the Enigma – showed up last issue rather… enigmatically. He defeats his first bad guy, the Head (seen sucking someone’s brains out above), and then is confronted by another villain.

That’s a bit on the nose, don’t you think?

Then Michael, our point of view character, makes an important discovery:

And as the Truth confronts the Enigma, Michael confronts the truth.

Other Notable Comics From February 1993

Sensational She-Hulk 50

John Byrne’s last She-Hulk issue was one for the ages, mostly because he was able to gather a lot of great artists to help illustrate the book. And when I say great artists, I mean Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller, Wendy Pini, Walt Simonson, Howard Chaykin, and Adam Hughes, among others. It opens like this:

The “he,” of course, is John Byrne himself – the primary shtick of Byrne’s run was breaking the fourth-wall for comedic purposes. Being dead, Byrne can’t meet his final deadline, so other comic creators audition to fill in for him in their own signature style, which is how we get to see She-Hulk as a character in a Sin City short story.

Shade the Changing Man 34

I love Peter Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man, mostly because this page isn’t particularly unusual, all things considered.

Comics I Read from February 1993

  • Animal Man 58
  • Cerebus 167
  • Death: The High Cost of Living 2
  • Eightball 10
  • Flash 75
  • Grendel: War Child 7
  • Hellblazer 64
  • Incredible Hulk 404
  • Ren and Stimpy Show 5
  • Sandman 48
  • Sandman Mystery Theater 1
  • A Small Killing
  • Spawn 8
  • Spectacular Spider-Man 199
  • Swamp Thing 130
  • X-Factor 89

February 1998

Captain America 4

Mark Waid recently began his third run on Captain America. This character-defining issue from his second run is mostly just a (highly entertaining) conversation between Cap and Hawkeye.

After explaining his refusal to endorse a well-meaning political candidate, Cap has some serious First World Problems.

Cap and Hawkeye head out into the world in their street clothes, and Hawkeye has some fun.

Cap broods some more, then learns that Batroc the Leaper is gunning for him. Initially he refuses to fight, but Hawkeye goads him into it. Afterward they use this handy object lesson to continue their discussion.

Flash 136

The three-issue Human Race storyline begins with the sudden appearance of gargantuan featureless Kirby stock villains.

These Celestial wannabes force worlds to present their fastest champions to race against one another. The winner gets an ice cream cone, and the consolation prize is watching your home planet explode. (And I lied about the ice cream.) Wally is quickly chosen to race for Earth, and meets the current champion, who it turns out, he’s met before.

That’s right: The Flash is forced to race for the fate of the world against his imaginary friend. That may just be the most Grant Morrison sentence ever written. Morrison’s best ideas live at the cross-roads of science fictional insanity and sentimental nostalgia. And the climax to this three-part story is even more Morrisonian, if you can stand it. But before he gets there, Wally has to hear some more bad news:

Other Comics I Read from February 1998

  • Avengers 3
  • Cerebus 227
  • Channel Zero 1
  • Gen13 Bootleg Annual 1
  • Hell Eternal
  • Hellblazer 123
  • Hitman 25
  • Invisibles 14
  • Jinx 5
  • JLA 17
  • JLA: Year One 4
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City ½
  • New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln
  • Preacher 36
  • Red Rocket 7 5
  • Starman 41, Secret Files 1
  • Stormwatch 4
  • Transmetropolitan 8

February 2003

New X-Men 137

Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 film “If…” clearly had a profound influence on Grant Morrison. The film stars Malcolm McDowell in his film debut, and his violent insurrection against his oh so proper English boarding school is echoed in comics like the Invisibles, Kill Your Boyfriend, Marvel Boy, and – most obviously – the Riot at Xavier’s storyline in New X-Men.

Quentin Quire – Morrison’s McDowell stand-in – has successfully taken over the school, and moves immediately to the gloating stage of villainy. Xavier sarcastically expresses Morrison’s (distressingly unpopular) opinion that Magneto was a violent terrorist and should be regarded as such.

Meanwhile, Xavier’s adult students fight back, with their fists and the truth.

And it turns out, to the surprise of no one, that Quentin and his fellow insurgents have also been taking Kick.

It’s fascinating – and depressingly accurate – just how quickly Quentin (and his movement) falls apart. Clearly, he had no plan beyond “Riot at Xavier’s!”

Punisher 22

It seems profoundly sad to me that the most honest and forthright examination of the issues surrounding modern policing in America can be found in an issue of the Punisher – written by Irishman Garth Ennis, no less.

That is one of the most honest pages in the history comics, right there. Ennis introduces you to these two cops – partners, of course – through this insightful conversation. He then proceeds to show them to be utterly corrupt in every manner.

But it appears that one of them (Mike) is still capable of feeling guilt, and seeks out his priest for confession.

This most Catholic of observations does put the finger on the ethical problem facing Christians – if you believe that all of humanity is fallen, what makes someone a “good guy” or a “bad guy”? Moreover, our knowledge that any of us are capable of inflicting great evil upon another – and the fear that one of us will – has led to the creation of a system where we give authority (and weapons of violence) to the same humans who are supposedly the problem in the first place. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if we’re all basically evil, why do we give cops guns and trust them to do what’s right?

Importantly, the priest doesn’t see this as an excuse for Mike’s immoral behavior. And he’s not done telling the truth just yet.

But this is a Punisher comic, so fear not: all characters not named Frank Castle are dead by the end.

Other Comics I Read from February 2003

  • 10 Bullets 42
  • Alias 19
  • Amazing Spider-Man 50
  • Astro City: Local Heroes 1
  • Automatic Kafka 7
  • Avengers 64
  • Batman 612
  • Captain America 9
  • Catwoman 16
  • Daredevil 43, 44
  • Detective Comics 779
  • Fantastic Four 66
  • Fight for Tomorrow 6
  • Filth 9
  • Flash 195
  • Green Arrow 21
  • Global Frequency 5
  • Gotham Central 4
  • H-E-R-O 1
  • Hawkman 12
  • Hellblazer 181
  • Hellblazer: Lady Constantine 3
  • Hulk/Wolverine: Six Hours 3
  • Incredible Hulk 50
  • Invincible 2
  • Louis Reil 9
  • Lucifer 35
  • Marvel Double Shot 4
  • Palookaville 16
  • Powers 28, 29
  • Sleeper 2
  • Truth: Red, White, and Black 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 36
  • Ultimate War 4
  • Ultimate X-Men 29
  • Ultimates 9
  • Unstable Molecules 2
  • Vertigo X Anniversary
  • War Stories: Archangel
  • X-Statix 8
  • Y: The Last Man 8
  • Zero Girl: Full Circle 4

February 2008

All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder 9

Sure ASBRBW was a hot mess, but if you haven’t seen this issue, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Basically, Batman and Robin paint everything yellow just to piss Green Lantern off. I mean, that alone is worth the price of admission.

This issue also happens to be the only issue of the series where Batman comes across as remotely human. And Robin gets up to some great antics in the background.

I’d love to know if Frank Miller scripted “Robin enters with an ice-cream cone” or if Jim Lee just thought it would be funny. And check out Robin catching and refilling Batman’s lemonade glass on this page:

Eventually, Robin sees fits to gets in on the foreground action, and that’s when things get unexpectedly serious.

Robin almost kills Hal Jordan, and Batman breaks character long enough to save his life. And remember that this is all happening on the day that Batman and Robin meet – immediately after Dick Grayson’s parents are murdered right in front of him.

And then – at long last – Batman realizes what we’ve known all along.

Other Comics I Read from February 2008

  • 100 Bullets 88
  • Action Comics 862
  • Amazing Spider-Man 549-551
  • Astro City: Beautie
  • Batman 674
  • Brace and the Bold 10
  • Booster Gold 0
  • Captain America 35
  • Criminal 1
  • Crossing Midnight 16
  • Daredevil 105
  • DMZ 28
  • Ex Machina 34
  • Exterminators 26
  • Fantastic Four 554
  • Ghost Rider 20
  • Goon 21
  • Green Lantern 28
  • Hellblazer 241
  • House of M: Avengers 5
  • Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death
  • Incredible Hercules 114
  • Infinity, Inc. 6
  • JSA 13
  • Kick-Ass 1
  • Loveless 22
  • Marvel Zombies 2 5
  • Migthy Avengers 9
  • New Avengers 38
  • Nightwing 141
  • Northlanders 3
  • Order 8
  • Programme 8
  • Punisher War Journal 16
  • Runaways 29
  • Scalped 14
  • She-Hulk 26
  • Tiny Titans 1
  • Thunderbolts: International Incident
  • True Story Swear to God 10
  • Ultimate Human 2
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 119
  • Ultimates 3 3
  • Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite 6
  • Uncanny X-Men 495
  • Walking Dead 46
  • Wolverine 62
  • World War Hulk Aftersmash: Warbound 3
  • X-Factor 28

February 2013

Batman Incorporated 8

Damian Wayne was meant to die at the end of the Batman and Son storyline, but Grant Morrison was so enamored with the little tyke that he kept him alive for nearly two years of continuity – through his Batman run, his Batman and Robin run, and (almost) two volumes of Batman Incorporated.

Defying his father’s direct orders, Damian breaks out of Wayne Manor to join the fight. This provides him with one last adventure with Dick Grayson, and this memorable conversation:

One of the most compelling and entertaining aspects of Morrison’s Batman and Robin comic came from bouncing the optimistic, light-hearted Dick Grayson’s Batman against Damian’s cynical, dark and brooding Robin. This reversal is seen one last time here, as – despite the obvious peril – Nightwing is still enjoying himself, and seems oblivious to the fact that Robin – who is clearly more aware of the reality of the situation – is saying goodbye.

Of course, Grayson isn’t an idiot, and seconds into their battle realizes how outmatched they are. Their concern for one another here is rather touching.

Artist Chris Burnham puts on quite a show here, proving that he is up to the challenge of replacing Frank Quitely.

And – at last – Batman arrives, moments too late.

One of the biggest clichés in all of super-hero comics is the recreation of the pieta – once you know this issue features the Death of Robin, you know you’re not getting out of it without seeing Batman cradling Robin’s dead body in his arms. But Burnham does it with style. Avoiding the obvious fist-shaking overhead shot, he instead keeps us tight in the moment – his camera more that of a documentarian than an action filmmaker. And the series of small panels displaying Batman’s immutable grief as we slowly fade to black is a poignant way to end the issue.

Hawkeye 8

For those who don’t already know, Clint Barton – the guy whose power set maxes out at a bow and some arrows – is quite the ladies’ man. (Or himbo, YMMV.) Just looking at the facts: he’s slept with fellow Avengers Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Mockingbird, and Spider-Woman. Now I guess that doesn’t seem too outrageous until you factor in that he spent most of his time as an Avenger married to Mockingbird, while the Wasp was dating, married to, divorced from, then dating (again) Henry Pym (and she found time to date Tony Stark in there somewhere, too), and the Scarlet Witch was either married to the Vision or dating Wonder Man (or, let’s not forget, murdering Clint). Those are some pretty slim needles to thread.

So it’s no wonder that when a strange woman shows up at Avengers Mansion looking for Clint, questions get asked:

But this is Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, so all roads lead to Russian Bros in track-suits.

One of the better running gags in the book is that Clint is constantly getting his ass kicked, so it’s nice to see him winning a fight once in a while.

But of course, he just had to show up to *this* fight dressed like a jewel thief.

That Iron Fist joke never gets old. Honestly, it wasn’t until I was far too old that I realized that the main reason the Avengers wear their costumes all the time is that otherwise Steve Rogers, Donald Blake, Clint Barton, Henry Pym, and Danny Rand would be utterly indistinguishable.

Other Comics I Read from February 2013

  • Action Comics 17
  • Adventures of Superhero Girl
  • All-New X-Men 7
  • Animal Man 17
  • Archer and Armstrong 6
  • Aquaman 17
  • Avengers 5, 6
  • Avengers Assemble 12, Annual 1
  • Batman 17
  • Blackacre 3
  • Bedlam 4
  • Captain Marvel 10
  • Change 3
  • Comeback 4
  • Daredevil 23
  • Daredevil: End of Days 5
  • Fantastic Four 4
  • Fatale 12
  • FF 4
  • Five Weapons 1
  • Fury Max 9
  • Great Pacific 4
  • Green Arrow 17
  • Green Lantern 17
  • Happy 4
  • Hellblazer 300
  • Indestructible Hulk 4
  • Iron Man 6
  • Justice League 17
  • Justice League Dark 17
  • Justice League of America 1
  • Legend of Luther Strode 4
  • Manhattan Projects 9
  • New Avengers 3, 4
  • Powers: Bureau 1
  • Punisher: War Zone 5
  • Revival 7
  • Saga 10
  • Scarlet 6
  • Snapshot 1
  • Superior Spider-Man 3, 4
  • Swamp Thing 17
  • Thief of Thieves 12
  • Thor: God of Thunder 5
  • Uncanny X-Men 1, 2
  • Walking Dead 107, Governor Special
  • Winter Soldier 15
  • Wolverine and the X-Men 25
  • Wonder Woman 17
  • X-Factor 251, 252
  • Young Avengers 2

Dear Spoilerite,

At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. Producing, writing, recording, editing, and researching requires significant resources. We pay writers, podcast hosts, and other staff members who work tirelessly to provide you with insights into the comic book, gaming, and pop culture industries. Help us keep MajorSpoilers.com strong. Become a Patron (and our superhero) today.


About Author

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. Rand is like the Internet, except he smells nice.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.