This month, Rand Bellavia takes a look at his growing longbox, and reflects on comics released in October 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.

October 1978

In the fall of 1978, I was in my post-Korvac Saga Refractory Period, so didn’t form any particularly powerful memories associated with this month’s comics.  What was your favorite comic from October 1978?

Comics I Read From October 1978

  • Avengers 179, Annual 8
  • Captain Marvel 60
  • Cerebus 6
  • Incredible Hulk 231
  • Marvel Team-Up 77
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 26
  • Spidey Super Stories 38
  • Uncanny X-Men 117

October 1983

Amazing Spider-Man 248

Poor Thunderball doesn’t get any respect.  He finally makes it to the cover of Amazing Spider-Man, and all people care about is the back-up story.

But before we get to that, let me pause to share with you the song I wrote to contain all the Thunderball jokes I could think of, cleverly disguised as a late 80s TMNT-style cartoon theme song:

If you’re not a link clicker, here are the lyrics:

THE WRECKER
Hey kids! You know what time it is?

KIDS
It’s time to get wrecked!!!

THE WRECKER
Hey! Read the sign!
Play behind the line!
Stay on the other side of the orange cones

PILEDRIVER
You over there
You’d better beware
This is a demolition zone

THE WRECKING CREW
We’re the Wrecking Crew:
Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball
And the Wrecker!!!

THE WRECKER and PILEDRIVER
We were born to fight
On this destruction site
So please mind our dust
We are men at work
So step off, jerk!
Better stay clear of us

THE WRECKING CREW
We’re the Wrecking Crew:
Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball
And the Wrecker!!!

THE WRECKER
Wrecking Crew Sound Off!!!

THE WRECKING CREW
Bulldozer’ll make you aware that it’s a hard head zone

BULLDOZER
Better look out! You better look out!!!!

THE WRECKING CREW
Piledriver ‘s over-sized fists can hit as hard as stone

PILEDRIVER
Ya’ got that right!

THE WRECKING CREW
Thunderball… we’re not 100% clear on what his story is

THUNDERBALL
Aw come on!  I’m, like, the smartest one.
With the huge wrecking ball?
<sigh> The Black one…

THE WRECKING CREW
And The Wrecker!

ANNOUNCER
Join the Wrecking Crew, together with the Serpent Society and the Circus of Crime for the Marvel Super-Villain 90-Minute Super Power Hour! Saturday Mornings on NBC!! Gleam your cube to the max with:

Bulldozer: Are you ready to wreck?
Piledriver: Oh, I’ll punch ya all right— with mah fists!
Thunderball: I have a PhD, sir.
And The Wrecker: I’ve got your mystically powered Asgardian crowbar right here!

KIDS
Let’s get wrecked!!

THUNDERBALL
The only reason I’m not the leader is ‘cause nobody would join a team called the Thunderballs.

Not that we got that out of our system: The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.  Written by the perpetually underrated Roger Stern, this is correctly considered one of the key Spider-Man stories.  But before we get into the story itself, let’s take a moment to appreciate Ron Frenz’s rather impressive Steve Ditko impersonation.

(If you don’t already know, that dead-on Steve Ditko impersonation is not Ron’s normal art style.  And, while I’m in parentheses, I may as well share this story:  Many years ago, I was at a con as a musical guest.  Someone on the concom knew me as a librarian that championed comics, so they put me on a few comics panels, including one where Ron Frenz and I were the only panelists who showed up.  We struggled through until — toward the end of the panel — there was an uncomfortable silence.  Ron looked me dead in the eye and said, “Juggle for us, Library Boy!”)

But that’s not the short story you came here to read about.   “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”  is framed by a newspaper article by Jacob Conover — proving once and for all that Ben Urich isn’t the only writer working for the Daily Bugle.  Given the Bugle’s typical attitude toward Spider-Man, it seems a bit unusual that they would devote column inches to an article celebrating Spidey’s Biggest Fan, but all will be revealed…

Tim and Spidey enjoy looking through his collection for a bit, then the boy asks Spidey an unexpected question:

Tim immediately enjoys the irony of Spider-Man getting paid by the Bugle to take the very photos that help the Bugle to vilify him.  Then, presumably because Peter looks a little sad and apprehensive, Tim assures him that his secret is safe.

Then, Roger drops the hammer.

Falcon 4

The Falcon’s first mini-series — written by Christopher Priest (writing under the name James Owsley at the time) and illustrated by Mark Bright — takes a hard political turn in its final issue, as a street gang called the Legion kidnaps President Reagan.  This brings Captain America into the story:

And lest you think the Falcon was just calling Xeon’s bluff:

And what about Xeon himself?

Now, I’m sure some of you will be tempted to dismiss this as a childish fantasy.  (“This is some unrealistic nonsense.  Get back to the guy who can fly and talk to birds beating up that starfish-faced dude who shoots electricity out of his fingers.”)  But that’s kind of the point.  Super-hero comics were designed to show us the best version of ourselves, to model what we could be.  It’s prescriptive storytelling.  And can you think of  a better aspiration than the President actually hearing the despair of his kidnappers?

Well, maybe the President actually doing something about it:

Comics I Read From October 1983

  • Alien World 6
  • Alpha Flight 6
  • Avengers 239
  • Captain America 289
  • Cerebus 55
  • Cloak and Dagger 4
  • Coyote 3
  • Defenders 127
  • Dreadstar 7, Annual 1
  • Fantastic Four 262
  • Green Lantern / Green Arrow 4
  • Iron Man 178
  • Jack of Hearts 1
  • Justice League of America 222
  • Ka-Zar 30
  • Kull the Conqueror 4
  • Marvel Fanfare 12
  • Marvel Team-Up 137
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 86
  • Ronin 4
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing 20
  • Silverheels 1
  • Somerset Holmes 2
  • Thor 339
  • Thriller 3
  • Uncanny X-Men 177
  • Vigilante 2

October 1988

Wasteland 14

Back for another look at one of the weirdest comics ever published by DC.  And I can’t emphasize enough that this comic came out five years before Vertigo existed.

This story was pretty creepy in 1988, and is way creepier 30 years later.  Don wakes up to find a stranger at the foot of his bed.

The mysterious stranger pillages Don’s past in search of “monstrous evil,” and — just to be safe, I guess — destroys everything he finds.

He runs.  He crawls.  He scales these city walls.  But he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.

It’s always the cat, isn’t it?

Having served his purpose, Don’s cat “dies.”  And that last panel.  Yeesh.

 

Other Comics I Read from October 1988

  • Animal Man 6
  • Badger 45
  • Cerebus 115
  • Dr. Fate 1
  • Incredible Hulk 352
  • Hellblazer 14
  • Next Nexus 2
  • Nexus 54
  • Phaze 2
  • Pigeons from Hell
  • Punisher 16
  • Stray Toasters 2
  • Swamp Thing 81
  • V For Vendetta 6
  • Whisper 21

October 1993

 Shade the Changing Man 42

It’s the three-issue Hellblazer/Shade the Changing Man cross-over that no one asked for!

After a rather alarming discussion about abortion — distractingly illustrated by Steve Yeowell (nothing wrong with Yeowell, but his and Chris Bachelo’s work don’t mesh very well) — a man shows up at the Hotel Shade.  Soon after he checks in, John Constantine (circa 1979) finds himself there, as well.  John assumes he has traveled forward in time, but the truth is even stranger.

But this guy has decided he’s sick of running, so John, Shade, Kathy, and Lenny are along for the ride back to where it all started:

Comics I Read from October 1993

  • Animal Man 66
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special 1
  • Cerebus 175
  • Children’s Crusade 1
  • Daredevil: The Man Without Fear 3
  • Demon 42
  • Extremist 3
  • Flash 85
  • Golden Age 3
  • Gregory 4
  • Hate 14
  • Hellblazer 72
  • Incredible Hulk 412
  • Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo 5
  • Justice League Task Force 7
  • Last One 6
  • Peepshow 5
  • Pinhead vs. Marshal Law 2
  • Sandman 56
  • Sandman Mystery Theater 9
  • Scarab 1
  • Swamp Thing 138

October 1998

 JLA 24

Most Grant Morrison comics contain lots of great ideas — many have at least one great idea per page.  But even the below average issues contain at least one great idea.

Typical JLA situation: Green Lantern is about to die, but Aquaman is there to save him.  No big deal.

Then, as if giving Aquaman the bends wasn’t cool enough:

Of course it’s ridiculous to think that Green Lantern could create such a device with his ring without the knowledge of how it would actually function, but it’s still a pretty cool idea.

Preacher 44

 

Jesse is sheriff of the town of Salvation, and Odin Quincannon has pissed him off.

We’re talking “Dangling an Old Man Outside an Upper-Story Window” levels of pissed off.

But Cindy sets Jesse straight.

Later, Jesse has a heart to heart with Gunther Hahn, who had previously informed Jesse that he was sent to America as a Nazi spy during WWII.

Then Jesse asks the most important question he can think of:

This story takes some very dark turns, and in the end, Gunther’s story — and the notion of America as a place for a Second Chance — underscores one of the main themes of Preacher, particularly as it relates to Cassidy:  What should we forgive?  And what do we have the right to forgive?

Other Comics I Read from October 1998

  • 300 5
  • Avengers 11
  • Avengers Forever 1
  • Captain America 12
  • Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty 4
  • Daredevil 2
  • Flash 143
  • Guns of the Dragon 3
  • Hate Jamboree 1
  • Hellblazer 132
  • Hitman 32
  • Inhumans 2
  • JLA/Titans 1
  • JLA: Year One 12
  • Jonny Double 4
  • Mage 9
  • Minx 3
  • Starman 48
  • Superman Adventures 26
  • Superman for All Seasons 4
  • Transmetropolitan 16

October 2003

Batman 620

I try to go out of my way to use this column to point out great things about great comics.  Which is another way of saying I resist the urge to use this space to complain about comics, or make fun of/point out terrible comics.  But I have a line.

This script for this issue of Batman is bafflingly bad.  More-so because it was written by Brian Azzarello, a writer of no small talent, who is responsible for some of the great comics of the last 20 years.

In this — his first Batman issue — Azzarello was trying to establish a hard-boiled crime-fiction style narrative voice.  But the words he puts in Batman’s head and mouth read as if they were translated into another language, and then retranslated back into English.

Let me type that out so you can read it without the pretty picture to distract you:  “When it rains, it’s not so much water as it is a relief.”

“The only time to cry is always too late.”  Dear Lord.

I swear to any God you care to worship that these are two consecutive panels.  “One so ugly, that compared to his profession was on the same scale.”  Hah indeed.

I guess “the quarter pound that treads water behind his sunken eyes” is referring to Killer Croc’s brain?  I mean, even if that were well written, the human brain weighs about three pounds.

Just… wow.  (I can’t stop myself from typing it out.)  “…had a need to see it done extravagantly brutal.”  And I could go on like this for some time.  I mean, check this out:

But I must stop.

Okay.  One more:

Other Comics I Read from October 2003

  • 100 Bullets 47
  • Alias 27
  • Amazing Spider-Man 500
  • Arkham Asylum: Living Hell 6
  • Astro City: Local Heroes 4
  • Avengers 73
  • Avengers/JLA 2
  • Batman: Death and the Maidens 3
  • Born 4
  • Captain America 19
  • Catwoman 24
  • Detective Comics 787
  • Empire 4
  • Fantastic Four 505
  • Flash 203
  • Goon 3
  • Gotham Central 12
  • Hawkman 20
  • Hellblazer 189
  • Human Target 3
  • Incredible Hulk 62
  • Invincible 8
  • JSA 53
  • JSA All Stars 6
  • Losers 5
  • Lucifer 43
  • Mystique 7
  • New X-Men 148
  • Planetary 17
  • Possessed 4
  • Promethea 28
  • Punisher 33, 34
  • Runaways 7
  • Sleeper 9, 10
  • Smax 3
  • Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Negative Exposure 1
  • Superman: Birthright 4
  • Teen Titans 4
  • Thor: Vikings 4
  • Tokyo Storm Warning 3
  • Trouble 4
  • Two-Step 1
  • Ultimate Six 3
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 47, 48
  • Ultimate X-Men 38
  • Walking Dead 1
  • Wolverine 5
  • Wonder Woman 197
  • X-Statix 15

October 2008

Batman 681

To get that Bad Batman taste out of your mouth, let’s take a look at the last issue of Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel’s Batman RIP.  We start with Morrison’s Batman Thesis Statement:

This idea is brilliant not only because it just makes sense — how else could Batman survive in the super-powered world in which he lives? — but also because it manages to intelligently incorporate the absurd contents of Batman’s utility belt.  (We all laughed when Adam West pulled out the Shark Repellent Bat-Spray, but conveniently forget that Batman actually needed it to repel the shark that was attacking him.)

So, Batman wakes up in a coffin.  But that’s fine, because he’s already thought this one through, and trained himself to survive the event.

Meanwhile, Doctor Hurt begins to regret doing business with the Joker.

Before Batman RIP came out, Morrison announced that Batman would face his ultimate adversary, and no one would be able to figure out who it was.  The joke is that he told you who it was right from the start:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” — 1 Peter 5:8

And, for those who hadn’t yet figured it out, the Joker tips Morrison’s hand with his references to the devil and his “pleased to meet you.”  (I hope you guessed his name.)

Need more evidence you say.  Okay, how about this:

And don’t forget that the devil is the Prince of Lies.

Then, for you real doubters, there’s always this:

I mean, he even underlined “PURE SOURCE of evil” and “find the DEVIL waiting.”

But my favorite part of the whole story is that when Batman and the devil finally come face to face, the devil pees himself a little.

One final mystery:  What the hell does Zur-En-Arrh mean?

Young Bruce didn’t quite hear his father say the phrase “Zorro in Arkham.”  He asks his father to repeat it, but before that can happen, Bruce’s life ends — and Batman’s begins.  So is it any wonder that Batman’s back-up personality — the person he becomes when his mind is completely destroyed — references this very moment?  And, of course, we get to enjoy the irony of Thomas Wayne’s last words suggesting that Gotham would never embrace a vigilante hero.

Other Comics I Read from October 2008

  • 100 Bullets 96
  • Action Comics 870
  • Air 3
  • Amazing Spider-Man 573
  • Avengers: The Initiative 18
  • Captain America 43
  • Criminal 7
  • Daredevil 112
  • DMZ 35
  • Final Crisis 5
  • Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns
  • Final Crisis: Resist
  • Final Crisis: Revelations 3
  • Final Crisis: Submit
  • Ghost Rider 29
  • Goon 28
  • Green Lantern Corps 29
  • Hellblazer 249
  • Hellblazer Special: Chas 4
  • I Kill Giants 4
  • Incredible Hercules 122
  • Invincible 53, 54
  • Invincible Iron Man 6
  • Iron Man: Director of SHIELD 34
  • Iron Man: Golden Avenger 1
  • Joker HC
  • JSA 20
  • Marvel 1985 6
  • Marvel Zombies 3 1
  • Mighty Avengers 19
  • New Avengers 46
  • Nightwing 149
  • Northlanders 11
  • Punisher War Journal 24
  • Red Mass for Mars 2
  • Scalped 22
  • Secret Invasion 7
  • Secret Invasion: Thor 3
  • She-Hulk 34
  • Skaar: Son of Hulk 4
  • Sub-Mariner: The Depths 2
  • Superman: New Krypton Special
  • Thunderbolts 125
  • Tiny Titans 9
  • Token
  • Ultimate Captain America Annual 1
  • Ultimate Hulk Annual 1
  • Ultimate Origins 5
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 127, Annual 3
  • Uncanny X-Men 503
  • Unknown Soldier 1
  • Vixen: Return of the Lion 1
  • Walking Dead 53
  • Wolverine: Manifest Destiny 1
  • X-Factor 36
  • X-Men: Magneto: Testament 2

October 2013

Avengers: Endless Wartime

How can this be the Darkest Timeline when this is the one where Warren Ellis writes an original Avengers graphic novel?

While the story is great, I was most pleased by the character moments and clever dialog.  This bit between Jarvis and Cap is great.And this one between Hawkeye and Cap…

And this one between Cap and Cap…

It’s such an obvious idea.  Of course their common military experience would bond Carol and Steve.  And the whole branch loyalty thing is great fun.

Finally, if these two panels don’t bring a smile to your face, then I really can’t help you.

Other Comics I Read from October 2013

  • 100 Bullets: Brother Lono 5
  • Activity 15
  • Afterlife with Archie 1
  • All-New X-Men 17
  • Animal Man 24
  • Aquaman 24
  • Archer and Armstrong 14
  • Astounding Villain House 1
  • Astro City 5
  • Avengers 21, 22
  • Batman 24
  • Batman and Robin 24
  • Batman/Superman 4
  • Blackacre 11
  • Bloodshot and HARD Corps 15
  • Brain Boy 2
  • Buzzkill 2
  • Captain America: Living Legend 1, 2
  • CBLDF Liberty Annual 1
  • Chew 37
  • Daredevil 32
  • Eternal Warrior 2
  • Forever Evil 2
  • Fox 1
  • Great Pacific 11
  • Green Arrow 24
  • Hawkeye 13
  • Indestructible Hulk 14
  • Infinity 4, 5
  • Infinity: The Hunt 2, 3
  • Invincible 106
  • Iron Man 16, 17
  • Itty Bitty Hellboy 3
  • Jupiter’s Legacy 3
  • Justice League 24
  • Kick-Ass 3 4
  • Lazarus 4
  • Manhattan Projects 15
  • Mara 6
  • Marvel: Now What? 1
  • New Avengers 11
  • Nowhere Men 6
  • Palookaville 21
  • Pretty Deadly 1
  • Rat Queens 2
  • Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction 2
  • Saga 15
  • Satellite Sam 4
  • Secret Avengers 10
  • Sex Criminals 2
  • Sheltered 4
  • Sidekick 3
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man 4
  • Superior Spider-Man 19, 20
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 1
  • Thief of Thieves 17
  • Thor: God of Thunder 14
  • Thought Bubble Anthology 3
  • Three 1
  • Trillium 3
  • Uncanny X-Men 13
  • Velvet 1
  • Walking Dead 115, Tyreese Special
  • Witching Hour 1
  • Wolverine and the X-Men 37
  • Wonder Woman 24
  • X-Factor 262
  • X-Men: Battle of the Atom 2
  • Young Avengers 11
  • Zero 2

 

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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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