This month, Rand Bellavia takes a look at his growing longbox, and reflects on comics released in March in 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014!

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

March 1979

Sorry, kids, but ten year old me formed no clear memories from these comics.

Comics I Read From March 1979

  • Avengers 184
  • Godzilla 23
  • Marvel Premiere 48
  • Incredible Hulk 236
  • Iron Man 123
  • Uncanny X-Men 122
  • What If 15

March 1984

Saga of the Swamp Thing 25

Five issues in, it was clear that Moore, Bissette, and Totleben’s Swamp Thing run was going to be historic — the Anatomy Lesson wasn’t a fluke, and we were all in very good hands.

This multi-issue cross-over with the Demon starts with Abigail Arcane at her new job, working with autistic children.

Since this is a horror comic, you can probably guess exactly what “interesting” means.

Later, we go back in time to observe the “freak wiring accident,” and learn why Paul is so obsessed with correct spelling.

We also get to meet the Monkey King.

Did I mention that this was a horror comic?

This is great by 2019 standards, but in 1984, the script, page layout, and art — and how it all came together so seamlessly — was an utter revelation.

Comics I Read From March 1984

  • Alien Legion 1
  • Alpha Flight 11
  • Amazing Spider-Man 253
  • Avengers 244
  • Captain America 294
  • Cerebus 60
  • Conan the King 23
  • Corben Special 1
  • Coyote 5
  • Daredevil 208
  • Defenders 132
  • Dreadstar 10
  • Elektra Saga 4
  • Grendel 3
  • Heartburst
  • Hercules 4
  • Mage 2
  • Marvel Super-Hero Secret Wars 3
  • Marvel Team-Up 142
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 91
  • Star Reach Classics 1
  • Thriller 7
  • Twisted Tales 8
  • Uncanny X-Men 182
  • Vigilante 7
  • What If 45
  • Zot 1

March 1989 

Miracleman 16

Five years later, Alan Moore and John Totleben had gone from Hot Young Turks to Elder Statesmen, and both men crowned their mainstream comics careers with the final issue of their Miracleman run.  While Watchmen was (and remains) Moore’s most popular (and cogent) statement on “realistic” super-heroes, this is clearly his super-hero endgame as Miracleman and his allies literally take over the world — because they can.  And anyone who has ever argued that super-hero comics have only just recently become politicized really needs to give this 30-year old comic a read.

Having settled the free will vs. determinism argument, we shift from Lennon to Lenin, as Miracleman announces earth’s new economic policy:

Miracleman’s actions have the unintended consequence of uniting the world’s religions:

Miracleman and Miraclewoman accomplish all of this in one issue, and also manage to break up the UN, while still finding time for the standard multi-page “super-heroes have sex while flying” scene that graces the cover.

As this was Moore’s last issue, he left it to Miracleman’s next writer (some nobody named Neil Gaiman) to determine if this state of affairs represented a utopian happy ending or the second act of a horror story.

Wasteland 17

Seventeen issues in, this book gave up all pretense of growing their audience beyond those who were already reading, and settled into giving me the raw meat (i.e., intellectual horror) I was craving.

“The Enemy of Krishna” (written by Del Close and illustrated by Bill Wray) begins at the end of a man’s life.   Krishna appears to Arjuna on his deathbed, and offers him a choice:

Arjuna dies, and finds himself alive again.  As an enemy of Krishna, he suffers a horribly violent fate.

Through the magic of photocopying, we see this scene a few more times.  But after his tenth death, Arjuna is surprised to find:

This is a perfectly elegant horror concept.  Only by giving up the one thing that allows him to tolerate his pain can he be delivered from it.  But, of course, he can never voluntarily lose the one thing that gives him faith and hope.

But wait!  There’s more…

That’s a weird right turn into science fiction.  If you don’t know, Gary Gillmore was a reasonably famous serial killer who was executed in 1977.  He was the older brother of Rolling Stone writer (and early comic book champion) Mikal Gillmore, and Tommy Lee Jones played him in one of his early lead roles.

Honestly, I’m not clear on what the implication is here.  The obvious take away is that hundreds of years later Arjuna still has not learned his lesson, but if he was reborn into the body of a serial killer, wouldn’t that make him (finally) the actual enemy of Krishna?

“Burning Houses” (written by John Ostrander and illustrated by Michael Davis) is a story told in a series of full-page panels with text boxes.  It is essentially the history of apartheid, told from the perspective of a white artist who fancies himself an ally while not really doing anything to help.

At the end, the reason for his lack of concern for apartheid is revealed:

Other Comics I Read from March 1989

  • Animal Man 11
  • Badger 49, 50
  • Cerebus 120
  • Detective Comics 599
  • Doom Patrol 22
  • Dr. Fate 5
  • Dreadstar 44
  • Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe
  • Hellblazer 18
  • Incredible Hulk 357
  • Neat Stuff 13
  • Sandman 5
  • Sensational She-Hulk 3
  • Swamp Thing 86
  • West Coast Avengers 46
  • Whisper 26
  • Yummy Fur 15

March 1994

Incredible Hulk 417

Peter David’s historic run on the Hulk was never afraid to go for the funny, and this issue is full of the goofy shenanigans one might expect from a super-hero bachelor party, including this great moment when the Hulk helps Marla’s mother gather her luggage at the airport:

But amid all the frivolity, there’s this shockingly serious moment:

It’s a little heartbreaking to consider that 25 years later people might still question whether what the Hulk experienced was anything other than rape.

Comics I Read from March 1994

  • Amazing Spider-Man 389
  • American Freak: a Tale of the Un-Men 3
  • Animal Man 71
  • Cerebus 180
  • Demon 47
  • Flash 90
  • Grendel Tales: the Devil’s Hammer 2
  • Hellblazer 77
  • Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction 1
  • Hellstorm: Prince of Lies 14
  • Marvels 4
  • Maxx 7
  • Rogan Gosh
  • Shade the Changing Man 47
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 4
  • Swamp Thing 142

March 1999

Invisibles 11

All 12 issues of the third volume of the Invisibles incorporated the issue number into the cover design.  Are you sharp enough to spot the cleverly hidden 11 on this cover?

Here we are reintroduced to Dane (i.e., Jack Frost) and it’s clear that he is no longer the confused rookie we met in volume one:

Dane has come a long way, but Elfayed remains unimpressed with the so-called “New Buddha.”

When Dane wakes up, Elfayed has one final lesson for him.

Other Comics I Read from March 1999

  • Action Comics 754
  • Adventures Comics 1
  • Adventures of Barry Ween: Boy Genius 1
  • All Star Comics 1, 2
  • Authority 1
  • Avengers 16
  • Avengers Forever 6
  • Batman 565
  • Captain America 17
  • Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty 9
  • Daredevil 7
  • Detective Comics 732
  • Eightball 20
  • Flash 148
  • Hellblazer 137
  • Hitman 37
  • Hourman 2
  • Human Target 2
  • Inhumans 7
  • Jinx: Torso 3
  • JLA 29
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 17
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 3
  • Mage: the Hero Defined 11
  • Minx 8
  • National Comics 1
  • Planetary 2
  • Preacher 49
  • Sandman Presents: Lucifer 3
  • Scene of the Crime 1
  • Sensation Comics 1
  • Smash Comics 1
  • Star-Spangled Comics 1
  • Starman 53
  • Superman Adventures 31
  • Transmetropolitan 21

March 2004

Fantastic Four 511

This issue: the Fantastic Four meet God!  And he looks an awful lot like Jack Kirby.

Jack couldn’t ask for a better thesis statement than that.  And it’s a nice touch that Sue notes that she is taller than Jack, as Jack not only wasn’t very tall, but Big Bertha (who was much taller than her husband Mister Miracle) was based on Jack’s wife Roz.

In an earlier storyline, Dr. Doom partially melted Reed’s face, “permanently” scarring it.  But with God all things are possible:

Other Comics I Read from March 2004

  • 100 Bullets 49
  • Avengers 80
  • Avengers/Thunderbolts 1
  • Batman 625
  • Batman: Death and the Maidens 8
  • Catwoman 29
  • Coup D’Etat: Afterword
  • Daredevil 58
  • DC: the New Frontier 3
  • Flash 208
  • Gotham Central 17
  • Hellblazer 194
  • Human Target 8
  • Incredible Hulk 68, 69
  • Invincible 11
  • JSA 59
  • Light Brigade 2
  • Losers 10
  • Lucifer 48
  • My Faith in Frankie 3
  • Mystique 12
  • New X-Men 154
  • Plastic Man 3
  • Pulse 2
  • Punisher 4
  • Reaper 1
  • Runaways 13
  • She-Hulk 1
  • Smax 5
  • Superman: Birthright 8
  • Swamp Thing 1
  • Teen Titans 9
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 54, 55
  • Ultimate X-Men 43
  • Walking Dead 6
  • Wanted 3
  • Wolverine 12
  • Wolverine/Punisher 1
  • Wonder Woman 202
  • X-Statix 20
  • Y: The Last Man 20

March 2009

Yeah there’s nothing here, but calm down – I’m discussing three books from March 2014

Other Comics I Read from March 2009

  • Action Comics 875
  • Amazing Spider-Man 589
  • Astonishing Tales 2
  • Avengers: The Initiative Special: Retile 1
  • Back to Brooklyn 4
  • Captain America 48
  • Daredevil 117
  • Dark Avengers 3
  • Dark Reign: Fantastic Four 1
  • DMZ 40
  • Fantastic Four 565
  • Ghost Rider 33
  • Goon 32
  • Green Lantern 40
  • Green Lantern Corps 34
  • Hellblazer 253
  • Hulk: Broken Worlds
  • Incognito 3
  • Incredible Hercules 127
  • Invincible 60
  • Invincible Iron Man 11
  • JSA 25
  • Mighty 1
  • Mighty Avengers 22
  • New Avengers 51
  • Northlanders 16
  • Outsiders 16
  • Scalped 27
  • Secret Warriors 2
  • Skaar: Son of Hulk 9
  • Special Forces 4
  • Submariner: the Depths 5
  • Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade 4
  • Thunderbolts 130
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 132
  • Ultimatum 3
  • Uncanny X-Men 507
  • Unknown Soldier 6
  • Walking Dead 59
  • War Machine 4
  • Wolverine 71
  • X-Factor 41

March 2014

Afterlife with Archie 4

Afterlife with Archie is more than just a clever title or an obvious genre mash-up.  It works because the emotions behind the events are real.

Here Vegas sacrifices himself to save Archie.  Panel eight gets my vote for the saddest panel in the history of comics.

But apparently this comic isn’t quite done torturing poor Archie Andrews:

Violence, love, and memory collide in this beautifully rendered 15-panel grid.

The choice to revert to alternating primary colors really communicates the horror of Archie’s memories while reminding us of Archie’s more innocent four-color past.  The emphasis of the Riverdale R on Archie’s sweater is strangely effective, as well.

Ms. Marvel 2

While I enjoyed Kamala Khan from her very first panel, it was in issue two that I fell totally in love with the character and the book.  We get Kamala’s Islamic spin on “With great power comes great responsibility”:

And no one has ever lost points with me by quoting the Simpsons.  (For the record, embiggen is a perfectly cromulent word.)

Another aspect of this comic I adore is the utter sincerity of her family.  The potent mix of love and fear that drive her parents’ concern is always perfectly communicated.

 

Secret Avengers 1

I’m a huge Ales Kot fan.  I adore his more esoteric indy work (Wild Children, Material, Zero, The Surface, Days of Hate), but I totally get why that work hasn’t made him famous.  But how can anyone claim we live in a sane and loving universe when a book this great remains unheralded?

The “This is bad” opening is a nice nod to Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye.

We’ve got the beginning’s of a very strange relationship between M.O.D.O.K. and Maria Hill:

And another nod to Fraction’s Hawkeye series, as Kot brings back the Classic-Hawkeye-Head Genital Cover!

Then he ups the ante when Spider-Woman’s towel slips off:

How was this book cancelled after only 15 issues?

Other Comics I Read from March 2014

  • Action Comics 29
  • All-New X-Factor 4, 5
  • Amazing X-Men 5
  • American Vampire: Second Cycle 1
  • Animal Man 29
  • Apocalypse Al 2
  • Archer and Armstrong 18
  • Astro City 10
  • Avengers 27
  • Avengers Assemble 25
  • Batman 29
  • Batman and Robin 29
  • Bloodshot and HARD Corps 20
  • Black Widow 4
  • Brilliant 5
  • Captain Marvel 1
  • Daredevil 1
  • Dead Body Road 4
  • Deadly Class 3
  • East of West 10
  • Eternal Warrior 7
  • Fatale 21
  • Fox 5
  • Green Arrow 29
  • Hawkeye 17, 18
  • Hellblazer: Shoot
  • Indestructible Hulk 20
  • Invincible 109
  • Iron Man 22, 23
  • Iron Patriot 1
  • Jupiter’s Legacy 4
  • Justice League 29
  • Lazarus 7
  • Manhattan Projects 19
  • Moon Knight 1
  • New Avengers 15
  • One-Hit Wonder 2
  • Protectors, Inc. 5
  • Punisher 3
  • Revenge 2
  • Revival 18
  • Satellite Sam 7
  • Shadowman 16
  • She-Hulk 2
  • Silver Surfer 1
  • Starlight 1
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man 9, 10
  • Superior Spider-Man 29, 30, Annual 2
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 6
  • Thor: God of Thunder 20
  • Trillium 7
  • Unity 5
  • Veil 1
  • Velvet 4
  • Walking Dead 123, 124
  • Wonder Woman 29
  • Zero 6

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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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