This month, Rand Bellavia takes a look at his growing longbox, and reflects on comics released in September in 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013!

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.

September 1978

Uncanny X-Men 116

This was the first Claremont/Byrne X-Men issue I ever read.  I knew Byrne’s art from the Avengers, but Claremont’s writing was new to me.

Wolverine was also new to me.   Interesting to note how much more comfortable Marvel was in the 70s with Wolverine actually using his unbreakable razor-sharp claws to, you know, kill stuff.

That was a neat trick he pulled there: popping his claws while pulling his hand out of the dinosaur’s mouth and timing it all so that the claws didn’t pop through the back of the dinosaurs head.  Good thing, too, as the CCA would surely have had something to say about that.  (This was published around the same time that Frank Miller was made to draw blades sharp enough to cut through an entire human torso but somehow unable to pierce cotton.)

And speaking of murder…

See, kiddies?  Stabbing a random stranger to death with your claws is code approved, so long as it happens off-camera.  But, let’s be honest, Nightcrawler and Storm’s reactions are way more disturbing than a shot of the actual violence would have been.

Other Comics I Read From September 1978

  • Avengers 178
  • Captain America 228
  • Human Fly 16
  • Incredible Hulk 230
  • Marvel Team-Up 76
  • Marvel Triple Action 45
  • Marvel Two-in-One 46
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 54
  • What If 12

September 1983

 Ronin 3

Our 12th century Ronin — lost in a dystopian future (by 1983 standards of “dystopian” and “future”) — is befriended by a strangely aggressive hippie who teaches him a very specific English word and sends him into a very specific bar:

Then, our Ronin’s skills (and Frank Miller Physics) provide us with this thrillingly violent sequence:

Ronin may be willing to use violence to save his own life, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.

But, again, this is Frank Miller’s Ronin.  For every emotional beat, there are seven amazing pieces of art.  This issue ends with an injured Ronin jumping into a well to rescue another character — providing one of the best comic panels of 1983.

Comics I Read From September 1983

  • Alpha Flight 5
  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual 17
  • Avengers 238, Annual 12
  • Camelot 3000  9
  • Cerebus 54
  • Cload and Dagger 3
  • Conan the King 20
  • Defenders 126
  • Falcon 3
  • Green Lantern / Green Arrow 3
  • Marvel Team-Up 136
  • Moon Knight Special Edition 3
  • Nexus 4
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Men 85
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing 19
  • Sword of the Atom 4
  • Thriller 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 176, Annual 7
  • What If 42

September 1988

Animal Man 5

 

Grant Morrison was originally contracted to write Animal Man as a four-issue mini-series.  This quickly became an order for an ongoing series.  And while the comic is great from the start, it’s clear that things really start humming — and the story Morrison is really interested in telling (which culminates in issue 26) begins — in issue five.

More accurately, this issue features an allegory which communicates in one issue what Morrison is planning for the rest of his run.  At one point in the story Buddy is handed the Coyote Gospel but is unable to read it.  If only he had been, he might have seen what was coming.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The story begins with a man picking up a hitchhiker who dreams of stardom.

This conversation is interrupted when the driver runs over a suspiciously human-looking coyote.  Clearly fatally injured, the coyote quickly stitches itself back together and runs away, seemingly unharmed.  This convinces the man he has encountered the devil himself.

We cut in time to same man in the indeterminate future.

Rifle in hand, he carefully lays out his traps and awaits the devils return.  There are several Road Runner-style gags — the coyote falling off a cliff (frantically pedaling the empty air just before he falls), the coyote accidentally triggering a bomb, etc. — all played totally straight, turning them into scenes from a horror movie.

Animal Man shows up, and the coyote presents him with a scroll written in an unknown script.   He can’t read the scroll, but we see the story unfold — which is so meta (and so subtle) I can’t stand it.  It is the tale of Crafty, the only denizen of a Warner Brother Cartoon world who questions the violence surrounding him.

Eventually, he finds himself face to face with his creator:

And it turns out that our coyote is not so much the devil as he is the Other Guy.  But our man simply can’t see that.

Nice touch with him “thinking about the cross” he melted down to create the silver bullet that kills the new savior.  And his inability to see that he’s crucifying the new messiah is nicely symbolized as he literally looks *through* a cross to site the bullet.

And we end, of course, with a big “Duck Amuck” style reveal.

Who was behind it all?  Well, who do you think?  Who benefits from all this violence?  Who enjoys it?  Whose voice are you hearing in your head as you read this?

Other Comics I Read from September 1988

  • Badger 43, 44
  • Cerebus 114
  • Concrete 9
  • Dreadstar 40
  • Hellblazer 13
  • Incredible Hulk 351
  • Next Nexus 1
  • Nexus 52, 53
  • Punisher 15
  • Question 22
  • Stray Toasters 1
  • Swamp Thing 80
  • V for Vendetta 5
  • Wasteland 13
  • Whisper 20
  • Yummy Fur 12

September 1993

Spider-Man 40

Light the Night is almost certainly the least appreciated Spider-Man story of the 90s.  With a script from J. M. DeMatteis and illustrations by Klaus Janson, it’s hard to understand why it’s not more well known.

There are a lot of moving parts to this story, but ultimately it’s about “feeling small.”  At various points of the story, the featured characters all admit to feeling insignificant.  And, by the end, each one attains a measure of grace and peace.

While the “bad guy” of the story is Electro, he and Spider-Man don’t actually encounter one another until the middle of the final issue of this three-issue story.

In an attempt to “power up” for a battle with Spider-Man, Electro overdid it, is holding in a dangerous amount of electricity, and in full-on panic mode.

Spidey talks Electro down, calming him enough so that he can safely disburse the excess electricity without harming himself or anyone else.

After a quick-change, Peter Parker confronts J. Jonah Jameson, expecting to get a mouthful of venom.

And Peter is as surprised as Electro was to find his perceived enemy opening up to him about his own insecurities.


He does not.

Comics I Read from September 1993

  • Animal Man 65
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 54
  • Cerebus 174
  • Daredevil: The Man Without Fear 2
  • Demon Annual 2
  • Dick Wad of the Mega-Vice Squad
  • Extremist 2
  • Flash 84
  • Golden Age 2
  • Hellblazer 71, Special 1
  • Incredible Hulk 411
  • Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo 4
  • Last One 5
  • Marshal Law: Secret Tribunal 1
  • Maxx 5
  • Pinhead vs. Marshal Law 1
  • Sachs and Violens 1
  • Sandman 55
  • Sandman Mystery Theater 8
  • Shade the Changing Man 41
  • Superman: Speeding Bullets
  • Swamp Thing 137
  • Yummy 31

September 1998

Hitman 1,000,000

 

This is by far the least relevant — and most entertaining — tie-in to Grant Morrison’s DC One Million cross-over.

Taking place in the 853rd century (when DC would publish their first one-millionth issues) DC One Million was high-concept science fiction at its… something.  Best?  Worst?  Choose your own adventure.

At any rate, Garth Ennis sure didn’t have anything to add to the conversation.  But every regular DC title was expected to produce a 1,000,000 issue, so Hitman found his way to the 853rd century, where he gets a crash course in the unreliability of myth-making.

As to how exactly Tommy found himself in the 853rd century…

Of course, these dumb kids have no idea that Tommy isn’t so much Hitman as he is *a* hitman.  And hilarity ensues.

Tommy was created by Garth Ennis and John McCrea in 1993 when all DC annuals used the Bloodlines cross-over (the then-current DC Crisis du Jour) as an excuse to introduce a bunch of new super-powered characters.  Most of the “New Bloods” created at this time had little-staying power in the DC Universe, and some were downright stupid.  Enter: Gunfire.  His primary super-power was rendering any object he touched into an explosive weapon.  And you can’t expect Garth Ennis to leave that one alone, can you?

After the 853rd-century Gunfire disposes of himself, Tommy sets the record straight:

Preacher 43

In visual storytelling, the overhead shot is pretty overused.  It’s a pretty good bet that most of us have seen it making fun of or parodying pathos more than we’ve seen it used  for genuine emotional impact:

But there’s a good reason it’s used so much.  It works.  I’m not going to try to pretend I understand why the shot triggers emotions so well, but it does.  And Steve Dillon gives us a killer overhead shot to mark the reunion of Jesse Custer and his mother.

Much of the issue is devoted to her backstory.  Narrowly escaping being shot in the head (the bullet grazed her skull) she was attacked by a gator who took her arm.  The head injury caused her to lose her memory at random intervals.

And the more she remembers, the worse she feels about it.  Until Jesse gives her this Preacher’s version of the Good News.

 

Other Comics I Read from September 1998

  • Avengers 10
  • Captain America 11
  • Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty 3
  • Daredevil 1
  • DC One Million 1-4
  • Flash 1,000,000
  • Guns of the Dragon 2
  • Hellblazer 131
  • Inhumans 1
  • Invisibles 20
  • Jinx: Torso 1
  • JLA 1,000,000
  • JLA in Crisis Secret Files 1
  • JLA: Year One 11
  • Jonny Double 3
  • Minx 2
  • Resurrection Man 1,000,000
  • Starman 1,000,000
  • Stormwatch 11
  • Superman Adventures 25
  • Superman for All Seasons 3
  • Transmetropolitan 15

September 2003

New X-Men 146

Grant Morrison began his run on X-men by killing most of the mutants living on Genosha, including perennial X-Men Big Bag Magneto.  Posthumously, Magneto enjoyed a Che Guevara-like reputation as a misunderstood revolutionary genius — see the “Magneto was right” poster below.

The dark figure Xavier is speaking with is Xorn, a powerful Chinese mutant with a sun for a brain.  (No, that’s not a typo.)  Xorn was taken in by the X-Men, and quickly established himself as a valuable asset to the team, both by healing Professor Xavier’s paralysis and by teaching the institute’s “special class,” made up of the more difficult (i.e., less pleasant to look at) young mutants.

Here we begin to suspect that all is not quite as it seems.


And let me assure you that if you were reading comics in 2003, this was indeed the shock of the year:

 

It’s one of those reveals that seems so obvious afterward but that you genuinely didn’t see coming beforehand.  Not surprisingly, if you reread the entire run, it all holds up.  Which is another way of saying that it is abundantly clear that this was Morrison’s plan all along.

New X-Men 147

And you didn’t even have to wait a full month to find out what happened next.

Magneto’s master plan was involved and intricate (and long in coming to fruition), and Morrison seems to take great enjoyment in showing just how quickly is all comes apart.  It’s clear that he resents the rehabilitation that Magneto went through under Chris Claremont, and wants to present Magneto as the small-minded terrorist that he was created to be.  More on that in later issues, but for now, it’s all about making fun of the comic book trope of the Big Bad addressing a cowering city from atop a skyscraper.

 

Other Comics I Read from September 2003

  • Alias 26
  • Amazing Spider-Man 58
  • Arkham Asylum: Living Hell 5
  • Avengers 71, 72
  • Batman 619
  • Batman: Death and the Maidens 2
  • Born 4
  • Captain America 17, 18
  • Catwoman 23
  • Detective Comics 786
  • Empire 3
  • Fantastic Four 504
  • Flash 202
  • Gotham Central 11
  • Hawkman 19
  • Hellblazer 188
  • Human Target 2
  • Incredible Hulk 60, 61
  • Invincible 7
  • JLA/Avengers 1
  • JSA 52
  • JSA All Stars 5
  • Losers 4
  • Lucifer 42
  • Mystique 6
  • Possessed 3
  • Promethea 27
  • Punisher 31, 32
  • Runaways 6
  • Sandman: Endless Nights
  • Smax 2
  • Superman: Birthright 3
  • Teen Titans 3
  • Thor: Vikings 3
  • Trouble 3
  • Ultimate Six 1, 2
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 46
  • Ultimate X-Men 37
  • Ultimates 12
  • Wolverine 5
  • Wonder Woman 196
  • X-Statix 13
  • Y: The Last Man 15

September 2008

Final Crisis 4

Darkseid finally makes his cover appearance.  Graphic design nerds should note how the Omegas on his gauntlets intimate the DC logo.

A few key emotional beats in this issue.  Green Arrow sacrificing himself so Black Canary can escape is always good for a tear or two.

But by the end of the issue, we realize that that was just preamble for a romantic reunion we’ve been waiting nearly 25 year to see.

 

Some readers complained that they didn’t understand how Barry’s kiss could break the spell of the Anti-Life Equation.  To which I say:  He used the Speed Force.  Also:  You’re okay with Barry living in the Speed Force for 25 years, and the Anti-Life Equation turning all of the Earth into robotic servants of Darkseid, but call bullshit on True Love conquering all?  That’s pretty cynical of you, Mr. Straw Man.

Other Comics I Read from September 2008

  • 100 Bullets 95
  • Action Comics 869
  • Air 2
  • Alcoholic
  • All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder 10
  • Amazing Spider-Man 570, 571, 572
  • Astonishing X-Men 27
  • Avengers: The Initiative 17
  • Back to Brooklyn 1
  • Black Panther 41
  • Captain America 42
  • Daredevil 111
  • Fantastic Four 560
  • Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds 2
  • Final Crisis: Revelations 2
  • Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge 3
  • Goon 28
  • Green Lantern 35
  • Green Lantern Corps 28
  • Hellblazer 248
  • Hellblazer Special: Chas 3
  • I Kill Giants 3
  • Incredible Hercules 121
  • Invincible 52
  • Invincible Iron Man 5
  • Iron Man: Director of SHIELD 33
  • Iron Man: Golden Avenger 1
  • JSA 19
  • Marvel 1985 5
  • Mighty Avengers 18
  • New Avengers 45
  • Nightwing 148
  • Northlanders 10
  • Pax Romana 3
  • Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack
  • Powers 30
  • Punisher War Journal 23
  • Scalped 21
  • Secret Invasion 6
  • Secret Invasion: Thor 2
  • She-Hulk 33
  • Sub-Mariner: The Depths 1
  • Thor 11
  • Thunderbolts 124
  • Tiny Titans 8
  • Ultimate Origins 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 126
  • Ultimates 3 5
  • Uncanny X-Men 502
  • Walking Dead 52
  • War Heroes 2
  • X-Factor 35
  • X-Men: Magneto: Testament 1

September 2013

Saga 14

The Will is the unlikely name of a bounty hunter who realizes that his moral compass isn’t as broken as he thought, when he finds himself killing a lot of people in order to free a very young girl from sexual slavery.

The Will has a pet named Lying Cat, who — appropriately enough — can tell when people are lying.  She is also gifted with the ability to speak the single word “lying,” so those around her know that she knows they are lying.

 

And if that doesn’t break your heart, then, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.

Sex Criminals 1

To be clear, this comic has nothing to do with sex crimes.  It’s about people who have sex, and *then* commit crimes.  Because when they orgasm, they can freeze time.  Which, it turns out, makes robbing banks a whole lot easier.

I know you think I’m making that up, but it’s the actual plot of an alarmingly good comic.

We open as Suzie fills us in on her sexual backstory.  During adolescence, she discovers that her orgasms literally stop time.  Unaware that this isn’t how it works for everyone, Suzie confronts the more sexually experienced members of her school.

Beginning to suspect that her experience is abnormal, she decides to broach the subject with her gynecologist.

Finally — in desperation — she approaches her mother.

Eventually, she figures out for herself that her experience is unique, and tries to get on with her life.  Then she meets Jon.

…and they both realize that they’re not as alone as they thought.

So issue one covers the sex part.  Up next:  The crimes.

Other Comics I Read from September 2013

  • 100 Bullets: Brother Lono 4
  • Action Comics 23.2, 23.3
  • All-New X-Men 16
  • Aquaman 23.1, 23.2
  • Astro City 4
  • Avengers 19, 20
  • Avengers Assemble 19
  • Batman 23.2, 23.4
  • Batman and Robin 23.1
  • Batman/Superman 3.1
  • Blackacre 10
  • Brain Boy 1
  • Buzzkill 1
  • Captain Marvel 16
  • Chew 36
  • Daredevil 31
  • Detective Comics 23.2, 23.3
  • East of West 6
  • Fatale 17
  • Forever Evil 1
  • Great Pacific 10
  • Green Arrow 23.1
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 6
  • Indestructible Hulk 13
  • Infinity 2, 3
  • Infinity: The Hunt 1
  • Invincible 105
  • Iron Man 15
  • Itty Bitty Hellboy 2
  • Jupiter’s Legacy 3
  • Justice League 23.1, 23.2, 23.3
  • Kick-Ass 3 3
  • Love Stories to Die For
  • Manhattan Projects 14
  • New Avengers 10
  • Powers: Bureau 7
  • Rat Queens 1
  • Revival 14
  • Satellite Sam 3
  • Sheltered 3
  • Sidekick 2
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man 3
  • Superior Spider-Man 17, 18
  • Thor: God of Thunder 13
  • Trillium 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 12
  • Walking Dead 114
  • Wolverine and the X-Men 36
  • Wonder Woman 23.2
  • X-Factor 262
  • X-Men: Battle of the Atom 1
  • Young Avengers 10
  • Zero 1

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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.

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