This month, Rand Bellavia takes a look at his growing longbox, and reflects on comics released in December 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015! Rand Bellavia is back to share his fond memories of decades of comic collecting and reading in this month’s Random Access Memory.

January 1980

Avengers 194

This might be my favorite cover copy ever.  I love how they brazenly announce that nothing important happens in this issue.  That slammer on INTERLUDE makes me smile every single time.

In the unlikely event that you were actually wondering what the Avengers do on their day off:  Vision freaks out about not being human, the Falcon quits the team, the Beast discovers that Wonder Man has been moonlighting on the Uncle Elmer Show (and teases him mercilessly about it), and Captain America casually frightens children while showing off for Ms. Marvel.

This was the first issue of my second subscription to the Avengers.  I hadn’t read the book in several months, and was happy to see George Perez (back? still?) illustrating the book.

Comics I Read From January 1980

  • Marvel Team-Up 92
  • Uncanny X-Men 132
  • Void Indigo 2
  • What If 20

January 1985

Moonshadow 1

Moonshadow is writer J.M. DeMatteis’ masterpiece, and I am overjoyed that it is back in print and available in a wonderfully remastered edition with fantastic bonus materials.  The book is beautifully painted by Jon J Muth — and this was a time when painted comics were almost unheard of in North America.

Moonshadow is a bildungsroman (the German’s really do have a word for everything) told by the titular character as an old man looking back on his life.  The bones of the story are Dickensian but the plot trappings and the narrative tone are pure Vonnegut.  Moonshadow is a space adventure packed with equal parts existential philosophy and genuine empathy.

The story begins before our narrator’s birth, when his hippie mother is abducted by a G’l Dose, a godlike, grinning, globular plot device.  This alien being will become Moonshadow’s father, as well as a fantastic metaphor for the often thin line between faith and nihilism.

Moonshadow grows up in outer space.  His immediate needs are met, but he (along with his mother, his cat Frodo, and a debauched, curmudgeonly alien named Ira) are trapped in their habitat, their only contact with the rest of the universe limited to random visits from Moonshadow’s father.

Like most absent fathers, the G’l Dose attempts to make up for his capriciousness with elaborate gifts.

Moonshadow’s love of reading causes him to grow up a romantic, though this fanciful whimsy is no match for his throbbing biological urges.

His reading also instills Moonshadow with an unquenchable desire to seek adventure.  As he enters his teens, his growing sense of wanderlust makes his living situation intolerable.  Eventually, his father intervenes, sending him on a quest (or, depending on your perspective, expelling him from Eden).

His mother ends up joining Moon as well.  We end the first chapter with a newly freed Moonshadow on the cusp of the life of adventure he had dreamed of for so long.

Things don’t necessarily work out as planned.

Comics I Read From January 1985

  • Alien Legion 6
  • Alien Worlds 9
  • Alpha Flight 21, 22
  • Amazing Spider-Man 263, 164
  • Avengers 254
  • Badger 5
  • Camelot 3000
  • Conan the King 28
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths 1
  • Defenders 142
  • Dreadstar 17
  • Kitty Pryde and Wolverine 6
  • Kull 9
  • Nexus 8
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 101
  • Power Man/Iron Fist 116
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing 35
  • Sisterhood of Steel 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 192
  • Vigilante 16
  • Web of Spider-Man 2

January 1990

Hellblazer 27

Neil Gaiman sure started off the 90s with a bang.  In January 1990, he published the critically acclaimed Hellblazer one shot “Hold Me,” as well as his first issue of Miracleman.

Miracleman 17

…and two issues of Sandman!

Sandman 13

Sandman 14

Sandman 14 marks the apex of Sandman as a horror comic.  Like a surprisingly high number of the best Sandman issues, Morpheus is a tertiary character in this tale that takes place at a convention for serial killers.  The GoH at this con is the Corinthian, one of Morpheus’ more notorious nightmares.

During his big keynote speech, Morpheus interrupts the Corinthian to let him know that he is not impressed.

The Corinthian stands up to Morpheus, but that doesn’t work out too well for him.

Predictably (sadly?) the Corinthian became a far more popular character than he should have been, appearing again in the Sandman comic (when Morpheus makes good on his promise to recreate him), and then in his own mini-series and several issues of the Dreaming.

Other Comics I Read from January 1990

  • Animal Man 20, 21
  • Avengers West Coast 56
  • Cerebus 130
  • Classics Illustrated: Great Expectations
  • Classics Illustrated: Through the Looking Glass
  • Classics Illustrated: Moby Dick
  • Dr. Fate 14
  • Dreadstar 54
  • Hellblazer 27
  • Incredible Hulk 367
  • Legends of the Dark Knight 4
  • Miracleman 17
  • Sandman 13

January 1995

Invisibles 6

In the second issue of “Arcadia” we delve deeper into the politics of the French Revolution, and Mary Shelley meets a mysterious stranger.

While never named, this guy shows up throughout the Invisibles, culminating in a chess match with Dane where he reveals (according to writer Grant Morrison) the meaning of life.  His offering an apple to Mary Shelley is Morrison’s cute way of letting you know who he is.

And there’s another clue.

“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Shelley.  I hope you guessed my name.”

Morrison is working from a Gnostic interpretation of the Garden of Eden story — the “knowledge of good and evil” that the serpent offers Adam and Eve is that YHWH is a demiurge, who created “reality” to keep humanity separate from the true Supreme Being.  This is just one more aspect of the Invisibles that found it’s way into The Matrix.

Starman 5

James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman seems to have been forgotten over the last decade, and that’s a real shame.  We open with Original Starman Ted Knight having passed Starman’s heroic legacy down to his son David Knight.  David is killed by page three of the first issue, leaving Ted’s other son Jack Knight to reluctantly take up the mantle.

About every 12 issues, we are treated to a “Talking With David” issue, where Jack encounters his dead brother.  During this initial encounter, they fight and argue like the estranged brothers they are, and eventually come to a place of love and honesty.

This is also a great way for author James Robinson to remind why we like Jack so much.

Jack Knight is a collector, of both things and of trivia.  Jack Knight is a nerdy Gen X super-hero.  If you like Yorick from Y: The Last Man then you’re going to love Jack Knight.

Comics I Read from January 1995

  • Absolute Vertigo 1
  • Amazing Spider-Man 399
  • Angela 2
  • Aquaman 6
  • Books of Magic 10
  • Brooklyn Dreams 2
  • Cerebus 190
  • Demon 56
  • Dreadstar 6
  • Flash 99
  • Hate 17
  • Hellblazer 87
  • Incredible Hulk 427
  • Madman Comics 5
  • Maxx 13
  • Sandman 67
  • Shade the Changing Man 57
  • Sin City: The Big Fat Kill 3
  • Swamp Thing 152
  • Tale of One Bad Rat 4

January 2000

JLA 39

As is pretty much the case in every issue of Grant Morrison’s JLA, the world is about to end three different ways, and only our heroes can save the day.  Here Batman and the Martian Manhunter team up to do what they have to.

And apparently, the Wachowskis were reading JLA as well as the Invisibles.

Also, it’s not a Morrison issue of JLA unless Superman has an opportunity to live up to his name.

Many issues earlier Orion joined the JLA, specifically to fight this very threat.  He’d been hanging around annoying everyone ever since, so his dialog here is kind of meta:

Maybe so, Superman, but it won’t be Orion who flips the switch.  After all that buildup Orion gets his ass kicked almost immediately.

Other Comics I Read from January 2000

  • 100 Bullets 8
  • Adventures of Superman 576
  • Authority 11
  • Avengers 25, 26
  • Batman: Dark Victory 4
  • Batman: Gotham Knights 1
  • Deadenders 1
  • Detective Comics 742
  • Flash 158
  • Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold 6
  • Flinch 10
  • Hellblazer 146
  • Hitman 47
  • Hourman 12
  • Invisibles 4
  • JSA 8
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 21
  • Mage: Hero Defined 15
  • Preacher 59
  • Promethea 6
  • Sam and Twitch 6
  • Sam Stories: Legs
  • Sin City: To Hell and Back 7
  • Starman 63
  • Superman Adventures 41
  • Tom Strong 7
  • Tomorrow Stories 6
  • Transmetropolitan 31

January 2005

We3 3

There’s a whole lot of stunningly rendered (and shockingly violent) action in this issue, but — no offense to the ground-breaking work that Frank Quitely does here — it’s the emotional beats that really land.

We3’s handler sacrifices herself to save Weapon 1, but not before letting him know that before he was stolen, his family named him Bandit.

Now I love this comic, but I think we can admit that it’s a little too mustache-twirly for the U.S. Government to have stolen their test animals from happy families.  I mean, I get that they’re the bad guys, but I’m pretty sure they could have found suitable dogs, cats, and rabbits at the local pound or animal shelter while still managing to come across as evil.

Bandit discovers that his exoskeleton can be removed — and that he was not born to this violence — and it is beautiful:

Bandit removes his exoskeleton and helps Tinker remove hers.  Later, Tinker’s maternal side kicks in as she cares for Bandit, and all of our hearts break.

Bandit and Tinker hook up with a man who is down on his luck but remains full of love.  Their faith in humanity is restored, and — hopefully — so is ours.  Later, one of the scientists who worked on the We3 project encounters Tinker and Bandit and seems pleased to note that they are alive and well.

Other Comics I Read from January 2005

  • 100 Bullets 57
  • Adam Strange 5
  • Adventures of Superman 636
  • Astonishing X-Men 9
  • Authority: Revolution 4
  • Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes 5, 6
  • Captain America 3
  • Catwoman 39
  • Daredevil 69
  • Deadshot 2
  • Fantastic Four 522
  • Flash 218
  • Four Letters Worlds
  • Gotham Central 27
  • Green Lantern: Rebirth 4
  • Hellblazer 204
  • Hellblazer: All His Engines
  • Human Target 18
  • Incredible Hulk 77
  • Invincible 19
  • Iron Man 3
  • JSA 69
  • Losers 20
  • Lucifer 58
  • Madrox 5
  • Marvel Knights Spider-Man 10
  • New Avengers 3
  • Planetary 22
  • Plastic Man 14
  • Powers 8
  • Pulse 7
  • Punisher 16
  • She-Hulk 11
  • Sleeper Season Two 8
  • Spider-Man/Human Torch 1
  • Swamp Thing 11
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 15
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 71
  • Ultimates Two 2
  • Wanted 6
  • Wolverine 24
  • Wonder Woman 212
  • X-Men: Phoenix Endsong 1, 2
  • Y: The Last Man 30

January 2010

Scalped 35

Scalped is the best HBO show Vertigo ever put out.  And Jason Aaron’s masterpiece.  The story and characters are complex in the best sense, and every issue is smart, harrowing, alive, and heart-breaking.

This is my favorite issue of the run.  It is also the only issue that has no real connection to the rest of the story, as the story of Mance and Hazel is told entirely in this issue.

The narrative allows us access to the thoughts of both characters, so only we can see how similar those thoughts are, and how much this couple seeks to protect one another.

This simple storytelling technique brings you to the heart of their care for each other, and makes it impossible not to fall in love with both of them.

The reason Mance is going to town (and the source of his shame is surprising).

Pride is a powerful, wonderful, terrible thing.

Mance gets home to find Hazel very ill, so they head back into town.  Things seem to be working out, but they just can’t seem to catch a break.

With no other option, they walk back home in the snow.  Hazel collapses, and Mance tries his best to keep her warm and awake.

But then, just as they get within site of house, it blows up.

No, really.

And, because Jason Aaron isn’t a monster, we get a happy ending.

Other Comics I Read from January 2010

  • Action Comics 885
  • Adventure Comics 6
  • Amazing Spider-Man 618, 619
  • Astro City: The Dark Age: Book Four 1
  • Atom/Hawkman 46
  • Avengers: Initiative 32
  • Batman and Robin 7
  • Batman Confidential 40
  • Blackest Night: Flash 2
  • Blackest Night: Wonder Woman 2
  • Captain America 602
  • Captain America: Reborn 6
  • Chew 8
  • Chill
  • Criminal: Sinners 4
  • Daredevil 504
  • Dark Avengers 13
  • Dark Reign: Hawkeye 5
  • Daytripper 2
  • Detective Comics 861
  • DMZ 49
  • Fantastic Four 575
  • G-Man: Cape Crisis 5
  • Ghost Rider: Heaven’s on Fire 6
  • Greek Street 7
  • Green Lantern 50
  • Green Lantern Corps 44
  • Hellblazer 263
  • Incredible Hercules 140
  • Incredible Hulk 606
  • Invincible Iron Man 22
  • Joe the Barbarian 1
  • Kick-Ass 8
  • Marvels Project 5
  • Mighty 12
  • Mighty Avengers 33
  • New Avengers 61
  • Northlanders 24
  • Phantom Stranger 42
  • Punisher Max 3
  • Question 37
  • Secret Warriors 12
  • Siege 1
  • Spider-Woman 5
  • Starman 81
  • Strange 3
  • Superman: Secret Origin 4
  • Sweet Tooth 5
  • SWORD 3
  • Thor 606
  • Ultimate Enemy 1
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 6
  • Uncanny X-Men 520
  • Unknown Soldier 16
  • Walking Dead 69
  • Wolverine: Weapon X 9
  • X-Factor 201

January 2015

Multiversity Guidebook

This is a guide book both the Multiversity and to the DC Multiverse, as well as an excuse to see what the cutest Justice League of All Time would look like if they were murdered.

But of course Batman always finds a way to survive.

If you didn’t already now, Grant Morrison is a strange dude.

We get a history of the DC multiverse, starting with the Flash of Two Worlds and hitting every single Crisis along the way.

These two very different Batman learn that the Flash is at the center of every Crisis, and that the comic books created on each Earth convey the reality of the other Earths throughout the Multiverse.

We also (finally) get a breakdown of what heroes live on what Earth.  The Big Scary Robot Batman is from Earth 17.While the Most Adorable Batman Ever hails from Earth 42.

Interestingly, the Multiversity Guidebook appears to include information about each Earth that is unknown even to the inhabitants of that Earth.

Other Comics I Read from January 2015

  • Action Comics 38
  • All-New X-Factor 19, 20
  • Avengers 40
  • Batman 38
  • Batman and Robin 38
  • Batman/Superman 18
  • Bitch Planet 2
  • Black Widow 14
  • Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier 3, 4
  • Captain Marvel 11
  • Casanova: Acedia 1
  • Copperhead 5
  • Cyclops 9
  • Daredevil 12
  • Deadly Class 10
  • Deathlok 4
  • Dying and the Dead 1
  • The Fade Out 4
  • Graveyard Shift 2
  • Grayson 6
  • Invincible 116
  • Ivar Timewalker 1
  • Jupiter’s Legacy 5
  • Justice League 38
  • Lazurus 14
  • Men of Wrath 4
  • Names 5
  • New Avengers 29
  • ODY-C 2
  • Powers 1
  • Punisher 14
  • Rat Queens Special: Braga
  • Revival 27
  • Secret Avengers 12
  • Sex Criminals 10
  • Spread 5
  • Star Wars 1
  • Storm 7
  • Superman 38
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 15
  • Supreme: Blue Rose 6
  • They’re Not Like Us 2
  • Thor 4
  • Trees 8
  • Valiant 2
  • Vertigo Quarterly CMYK 4
  • Walking Dead 136
  • Wicked + the Divine 7
  • Zero 14

 

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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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