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.

April 1979

Avengers 185

After some months in the wilderness following the Korvac Saga, the Avengers returns to legendary status.  And the fact that John Byrne penciled this arc while also penciling X-Men (and just a few months before the Dark Phoenix storyline began) is astonishing.  (Uncanny?  Mighty?)

The Yesterday Quest attempts to tell the origin story of siblings the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.  It took no less than four writers to wrestle this story to the mat, and — frankly — they needed more writers.  If you don’t already know, Wanda and Pietro’s origin is nearly as convoluted as Hawkman’s, and this beautiful mess of a story only adds to the confusion.

All stories have to start somewhere, and the Yesterday Quest starts with a bovine doula.

Now, starting back when the Avengers fought Count Nefaria (in Avengers 166, before the Korvac Saga) about three panels per issue were devoted to an unassuming old man with a huge grey beard.  This guy was Django Maximoff, who — apparently, but of course, not really — was Wanda and Pietro’s biological father.  According to him, they weren’t even named Wanda and Pietro but rather Ana and Mateo.

If you weren’t keeping score at the time, we were all under the impression that their parents were Golden Age heroes Miss America and The Whizzer.  (I know I know.  Yes, he’s a speedster.  No, he’s not into water sports.)  Believe it or not, this is all before the — let’s be honest, only more confusing — revelation that their actual father was Magneto.

But back to the heifer midwife.

This “Oh So Very Marvel Comics in the Seventies” revelation probably would have been a lot more effective if they hadn’t already shown us a panel of a cow in clothing walking erect and holding two human infants.

Comics I Read From April 1979

  • Amazing Spider-Man 194
  • Cerebus 9
  • Daredevil 159
  • Defenders 73
  • Incredible Hulk 237
  • Iron Man 124
  • Uncanny X-Men 123

April 1984

Alpha Flight 12

Five years later and John Byrne still rules my world.

This was a time when I was getting back into comics after a little time off.  I grabbed this comic off a spinner rack at a gas station while traveling with my family.  It was my first issue of Alpha Flight.  I remembered them from Byrne’s X-Men and thought I’d give it a shot.

I also recall that was the first comic I read where I noticed how often characters in super-hero comics say each other’s names and discuss each other’s power sets while talking casually among themselves.  (It’s almost as if they knew that some kid would be reading this with no idea who most of the characters were.)

But all you bloodthirsty lot care about is which one shall surely die(!)  Byrne pulls it off in a shocking and satisfying manner, which — given the huge announcement on the cover — is reasonably impressive.  Alpha Flight find themselves betrayed!  The reader is thus lulled into the false notion that the betrayer will surely die(!) but then, when everything looks bleakest and it appears that there’s no way the good guys can win, Guardian risks everything to save the day. Oh noes!  Not Guardian!  (35 year old spoiler warning:  It’s Guardian.)

But no!  Guardian defeats the betrayer.  He survives the final battle — battered and bruised, but alive!

And we’ve only got about three more pages!  We get this nerve-wracking countdown:

And then this:

A genuinely shocking and horrific moment that is kind of ruined by a pointless thought balloon.  Even if there had to be a thought balloon there, why not “What an explosion!  I better make sure Mac is okay!”  It’s bad enough Byrne has her distracting Guardian at the worst possible moment — forcing her to witness her husband’s death, and also kind of making her an unwilling co-conspirator — but having her thinking “I wonder if there’s more cheese in here?” while doing so, seems unnecessarily cruel.

And if you think that was cruel, Byrne waits over a year to bring Guardian back, and then makes it all so much worse.

Also, could someone please recolor these pages?

Saga of the Swamp Thing 26

Blah blah blah.  Alan Moore write good.  Steve Bissette create ground-breaking page layout. Swamp Thing very scary comic.  Sophisticated Suspense.  But I’m here to praise inker John Totleben’s fantastic brushwork.

Check out the malice in (and stubble on) Matt Cable’s face.

Has Etrigan ever looked cooler?

And, of course, Swamp Thing is never quite so swampy as when inked by Totleben.

Uncanny X-Men 183

This classic issue of Uncanny X-Men opens with an uncomfortable conversation between Peter (“Colossus”) Rasputin and Kitty (“Ariel,” “Sprite,” “Shadowcat,” [this next one can’t be right — checks notes]“Star-Lord,” “Kitty Pryde”) Pryde.

*Kitty’s brain is referring to the original Secret Wars, where Colossus (along with several other super-heroes deemed worthy enough to sell action figures) were taken to another planet and forced to fight a bunch of random visually-appealing super villains.

It’s a simple thing, but the hard shift from Peter’s to Kitty’s thoughts during this conversation is brilliant.  This is where Chris Claremont was at his best.  I’m sure he would say that he was just continuing to showcase the same basic human emotional reality that Stan Lee used to make Marvel successful in the first place, but Claremont really took it up a notch.

After the conversation, Kitty receives comfort from Storm.

Then, ominously, Wolverine asks Peter out for a drink.  Uninvited, Nightcrawler tags along.

Claremont had spent years developing Logan’s humanity, chiefly through his relationship with Kitty.  (Logan’s relationship with Rogue in the X-Men films is based on his relationship with Kitty in the comics.)

See that big guy in the black shirt in that first panel?  That’s the Juggernaut.  So, before too long, Logan manages to get him to fight Colossus, giving Peter the punishment he deserves (and the outlet he needs).

Comics I Read From April 1984

  • Alien Legion 2
  • Amazing Spider-Man 254
  • Avengers 245
  • Camelot 3000 11
  • Captain America 295
  • Cerebus 61
  • Daredevil 209
  • Defenders 133
  • Dreadstar 11
  • Grimjack 1
  • Marvel Fanfare 15
  • Marvel Super-Hero Secret Wars 4
  • Marvel Team-Up 143
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 92
  • Silverheels 3
  • Somerset Holmes 4
  • Super Powers 1
  • Tales of the Teen Titans 44, Annual 3
  • 3D Alien Worlds 1
  • Thriller 8
  • Vigilante 8
  • Zot 2

April 1989

Animal Man 12

The clues that Grant Morrison’s Animal Man is ultimately about the relationship between creator and creation are there from the start, but this is the issue where it become overt.

For those who don’t speak Grant Morrison, “agents of the power that brings your world into being” is Grant Morrison for Grant Morrison.

The best bit (and main clue as to what’s really going on) is the destruction of Hamed Ali.  Reducing him to pencils, then a sketch, then his basic shapes makes it clear that “He Who Never Dies” only ever existed as a drawing on a page.  Which, when you think about it, means that Hamed Ali is correct in stating that he will never die.

Other Comics I Read from April 1989

  • Badger 51
  • Cerebus 121
  • Detective Comics 600
  • Doom Patrol 23
  • Dr. Fate 6
  • Dreadstar 45
  • Eightball 1
  • Hellblazer 19
  • Incredible Hulk 358
  • Marvel Fanfare 45
  • Question 27
  • Sandman 6
  • Skreemer 1
  • Swamp Thing 87
  • Wasteland 18
  • West Coast Avengers 47
  • Whisper 27

April 1994

Hellblazer 78

Garth Ennis’ final Hellblazer story begins with a blank page and an admonition:

Throughout his run on Hellblazer Ennis created many great supporting characters, one of which was former solider Header.  John and Header sit, quietly smoking cigarettes, then Header tells John about the time when he was ordered to kill a British mercenary in the Falklands.

And, of course, anyone familiar with this book already knows that John Constantine’s friends expire like milk.

Still raw from grief, John stumbles across an old friend selling herself for drug money.  He offers help in that Oh So John Constantine way (i.e., beats up her pimp and takes her home against her will).

Of course, his concern is sincere — and her need is great.  But the timing couldn’t be worse, as all the threads in John’s life are about to come completely undone.

That tiny bit of self-awareness gets trampled down pretty quickly, and it’s only when it all comes crashing down around him that John can truly face the fact that his typical solutions won’t work; silk-cuts, a trench-coat, and a charming grin aren’t worth much against addiction, race riots, and the First of the Fallen.

Comics I Read from April 1994

  • Amazing Spider-Man 390
  • American Freak: a Tale of the Un-Men 4
  • Animal Man 72
  • Books of Magic 1
  • Cerebus 181
  • Demon 48
  • Dreadstar 1
  • Eightball 13
  • Flash 91
  • Grendel Tales: the Devil’s Hammer 3
  • Hate 15
  • Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction 2
  • Hellstorm: Prince of Lies 14
  • Incredible Hulk 418
  • Madman Comics 1
  • Milk and Cheese’s First Second Issue [5]
  • Sandman 60
  • Shade the Changing Man 48
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 5
  • Swamp Thing 143

April 1999

Preacher 50

Five years later, and Garth Ennis still rules my world.

One of the unintended consequences of being reunited with his mother is that Jesse was given his father’s Medal of Honor.  In an effort to learn more about John Custer, Jesse reaches out to “Spaceman,” one of his father’s war buddies.  They meet in Washington DC at the Vietnam Memorial wall.  Small talk includes a conversation about Space’s son.

Space then tells Jesse how John Custer won the Medal of Honor.  Abandoned behind enemy lines, Space gets injured.  Feeling betrayed but refusing to leave Space behind, John expresses the frustration he feels about being in Vietnam.  Space considers pointing out John’s privilege, but almost immediately swallows it.

Eventually, Space’s pain is too much for him, but John refuses to leave him behind, so Space takes matters into his own hands.

And it gets worse.

Are they?

But as great as that is, you don’t get the Medal of Honor for standing up for your friend.  With Space on his back, John walks through a nest of Vietcong, exposing them to US troops.  Caught between US and Vietcong cross-fire, John is shot multiple times by both sides for his trouble.

Having heard the tale, Jesse still needs to decide what to do with the Medal of Honor.

Space thinks it’s a good idea:

Other Comics I Read from April 1999

  • Adventures of Barry Ween: Boy Genius 2
  • Authority 2
  • Avengers 17
  • Avengers Forever 7
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 118
  • Black Widow 1
  • Books of Magic Annual 3
  • Captain America 18
  • Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty 10
  • Daredevil 8
  • Flash 149
  • Flinch 1
  • Hellblazer 138
  • Hitman 38
  • Hourman 3
  • Human Target 3
  • Inhumans 8
  • Invisibles 10
  • JLA 30
  • Madman Comics 12
  • Planetary 3
  • Scene of the Crime 2
  • Starman 54
  • Superman Adventures 32
  • Tom Strong 1
  • Transmetropolitan 22

April 2004

Invincible 12

Robert Kirkman’s long-running super-hero epic Invincible may not have the pop culture footprint of the Walking Dead, but comic book fans certainly lapped it up.  And while Walking Dead immediately established itself as a horror comic aimed squarely at an adult audience, Invincible’s shift from kid-friendly super-heroics to ultra-violent bloodfest was downright Spielbergian.

Invincible’s father — a Superman analogue — is revealed to be an alien super-spy sent to prepare Earth for an invasion.  After finding this out, Invincible tries to stop him, and that doesn’t work out so well for him.

The colorist got to use a lot of red in this issue:

After beating Mark into submission, his father asks him why he is fighting for a planet and culture that aren’t his, and what — given his longer life span — he expects to still have 500 years from now.

Unable to strike the killing blow, Mark’s father flies away, leaving him (and Earth).  And while Mark may not see it, we are afforded the first glimpse of his father’s eventual rehabilitation.

Other Comics I Read from April 2004

  • Adventures of Superman 627
  • Avengers 81
  • Avengers/Thunderbolts 2, 3
  • Catwoman 30
  • Daredevil 59
  • Fantastic Four 512
  • Flash 209
  • Goon 6
  • Gotham Central 18
  • Hawkman 27
  • Hellblazer 195
  • Human Target 9
  • Incredible Hulk 70, 71
  • It’s a bird…
  • JSA 60
  • Light Brigade 3
  • Losers 11
  • Lucifer 49
  • Marvel Knights Spider-Man 1
  • Ministry of Space 3
  • My Faith in Frankie 4
  • Mystique 13
  • Plastic Man 4
  • Punisher 5
  • Punisher: The End
  • Runaways 14
  • She-Hulk 2
  • Superman: Birthright 9
  • Swamp Thing 2
  • Teen Titans 10
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 5
  • UItimate Six 7
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 56, 57
  • Ultimate X-Men 44
  • Walking Dead 7
  • Wolverine 13, 14
  • Wolverine/Punisher 2
  • Wonder Woman 203
  • X-Statix 21, 22
  • Y: The Last Man 21

April 2009

 

It’s Teflon Month – I read 53 comics and none of them stuck.

 

Other Comics I Read from April 2009

  • Action Comics 876
  • Amazing Spider-Man 590, 591, 592
  • Astonishing Tales 3
  • Astonishing X-Men 29
  • Avengers: Initiative 23
  • Captain America 49
  • Daredevil 118
  • Dark Avengers 4
  • Dark Reign: Fantastic Four 2
  • Dark Reign: Hawkeye 1
  • Dark Reign: The Cabal
  • Destroyer 1
  • DMZ 41
  • Ex Machina 41
  • Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds 4
  • Flash: Rebirth 1
  • Ghost Rider 34
  • Green Lantern 41
  • Green Lantern Corps 35
  • Halo: Uprising 4
  • Hellblazer 254
  • Incognito 4
  • Incredible Hercules 128
  • Invincible 61
  • Invincible Iron Man 12
  • JSA 26
  • Kick-Ass 6
  • Marvel Assistant Sized Special 1, 2
  • Marvel Zombies 4 1
  • Marvels: Eye of the Camera 5
  • Mighty 3
  • Mighty Avengers 24
  • New Avengers 52
  • Outsiders 17
  • Scalped 28
  • Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye 1
  • Secret Warriors 3
  • Skaar: Son of Hulk 10
  • Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade 5
  • Thor 601
  • Thunderbolts 131
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 133
  • Uncanny X-Men 508, 509
  • Unknown Soldier 7
  • Walking Dead 60
  • War Machine 5
  • Wolverine 72
  • Wolverine: Weapon X 1
  • X-Factor 42

April 2014

Walking Dead 125

 

Ten year later, and Robert Kirkman still rules my world.

After 100 issues of any ongoing comic, certain patterns emerge.  The most obvious pattern in Walking Dead is the introduction of the leader of a new group who at first seems reasonable enough and then is quickly revealed to be a monstrous super-villain.  The primary exception to this is Negan, who sprints rights out of the blocks as a horrifying psychopath, only to later reveal that while he acknowledges that he’s the Bad Guy, he doesn’t really think of himself as such a bad guy.

Of course, Rick isn’t having any of it.

Rick offers Negan a modest proposal:

Unexpectedly (maddeningly, insanely) Negan thinks this is a great idea.

And then we get one of the most shocking moments in a comic built on shocking moments:

Here Rick continues to shift his alignment from lawful good to chaotic good (and back again) — doing what needs to be done, then almost immediately torturing himself about it afterward.  In this case, it manifests as his stubborn insistence on saving Negan’s life and then jailing him so everyone can see that he’s not on board with murdering his enemies.  (Unless, of course, he is.)

Other Comics I Read from April 2014

  • Action Comics 30
  • All-New Doop 1
  • All-New X-Factor 6
  • American Vampire: Second Cycle 2
  • Apocalypse Al 3
  • Archer and Armstrong 19
  • Astro City 11
  • Avengers 28
  • Batman 30
  • Batman and Robin 30
  • Batman/Superman 9
  • Bloodshot and HARD Corps 21
  • Black Widow 5
  • Captain Marvel 2
  • Chew 41
  • Daredevil 1.5, 2
  • Dead Body Road 5
  • Deadly Class 4
  • East of West 11
  • Eltingville Club 1
  • Eternal Warrior 8
  • Field 1
  • Five Weapons 8
  • Genesis
  • Great Pacific 14
  • Green Arrow 30
  • Hulk 1, 2
  • Invincible 110
  • Iron Man 24
  • Iron Patriot 2
  • Justice League 30
  • Kick-Ass 3 7
  • Lazarus 8
  • Manhattan Projects 20
  • Minimum Wage 4
  • Moon Knight 1
  • New Avengers 17
  • Nightwing 30
  • Powers: Bureau 9
  • Punisher 4
  • Revival 19
  • Secret 7
  • Secret Avengers 2
  • Self-Obsessed
  • Shadowman: End Times 1
  • She-Hulk 3
  • Sheltered 8
  • Shutter 1
  • Sidekick 6
  • Silver Surfer 2
  • Southern Bastards 1
  • Starlight 2
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man 11
  • Superior Spider-Man 31
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 7
  • Thief of Thieves 20
  • Thor: God of Thunder 21
  • Trillium 8
  • Unity 6
  • Walking Dead 126
  • Wonder Woman 30
  • Zero 7

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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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