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

This month I am happy to present a special no-Grant Morrison column!  Happy Halloween!

October 1980

Captain America 250

This was an unusually impressive month for Marvel.  I’m not going to spend too much time going into the details, but October 1980 gave us the first half of the classic Roger Stern/John Byrne Captain America vs. Baron Blood two-parter while Frank Miller saw fit to offer the first appearance of Elektra.

Daredevil 168

And somehow John Byrne also found the time to pencil and co-plot (along with writer Chris Claremont) the first half of the beyond classic “Days of Future Past” story.

Uncanny X-Men 141

Next issue: Everybody Dies!

Comics I Read From October 1980

  • Amazing Spider-Man 212
  • Avengers 203
  • Cerebus 21
  • Marvel Team-Up 101
  • Moon Knight 3
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 50

October 1985

Daredevil 227

Five years after introducing us to Elektra, Frank Miller returns to Daredevil (assisted by the insanely talented David Mazzucchelli) for the rightfully praised “Born Again,” which begins here.

We open with a full-page splash of Matt Murdock in bed.  Each subsequent issue will open with a similar image of Matt.  If you view them in sequence, he slowly curls into a fetal position, then recreates the pieta, before being symbolically born again in a standing position.

The heart of this story is Kingpin learns Daredevil’s secret identity and systematically destroys Matt Murdock’s life.  While Matt is clearly the main character, we spend a lot of time inside the head of Matt’s reporter friend Ben Urich.

And the Kingpin doesn’t hold back.  Matt is disbarred and his bank accounts are frozen.

Understandably, it is a fairly unhinged Daredevil that hits the streets that night.

No amount of physical violence seems able to shake loose what is happening to Matt Murdock.  Then — unable to resist gilding the lily — The Kingpin blows up Matt’s house.

Comics I Read From October 1985

  • Amazing Spider-Man 272, 273
  • Avengers 263
  • Cerebus 79
  • Coyote 15
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths 10, 11
  • Defenders 151
  • Doctor Strange 75
  • Epic Illustrated 33
  • Fantastic Four 286
  • Incredible Hulk 315
  • Longshot 5, 6
  • Marvel Fanfare 24
  • Miracleman 3D Special
  • Mr. Monster 3
  • One 3
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 110
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 121
  • Punisher 1
  • Secret Wars II 7
  • Solomon Kane 3
  • Super Powers 5
  • Swamp Thing 44
  • Uncanny X-Men 201
  • Vigilante 25
  • Vision and the Scarlet Witch 4
  • Web of Spider-Man 11
  • West Coast Avengers 5
  • X-Men Annual 9
  • X-Men/Alpha Flight 2

October 1990

Sandman 21

While I was certainly aware that the Sandman was a good comic (and Neil Gaiman a good writer) before this issue, this is the moment when I felt like the Sandman and Gaiman found their voice.  Before this, the promise of greatness was there, but it wasn’t until the Season of Mists storyline that the series truly shifted from potential to kinetic energy.  There was also an important shift away from horror and toward high fantasy, which is a much more comfortable fit for Gaiman.  Here Gaiman finally shakes off the influence (no doubt requested — if not dictated — by his editors) of Alan Moore.

The overall story takes a huge leap forward as the Endless (bar one) come together for the first time.

That’s (left to right) Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair and Delirium (formerly Delight).

Those of reading monthly were driven a bit crazy trying to figure out what D word their missing brother would occupy.  At the time, my guess was Design but (spoiler warning) it ended up being Destruction.  (I loved the character, but having the missing character be Destruction made little sense to me, as we seemed to suffer no lack of Destruction during his absence, while both Dream and Design did appear to be missing through much of the 20th century.)

This is a typical family reunion, as fights occur and factions are formed.  Dream and Death have always been close, which can be a double-edged sword.   Dream is comfortably confiding in Death, but she is equally comfortable calling him on his bullshit.

But Dream’s recent experiences have changed him, and he’s willing to listen to reason.

Though it wasn’t Death’s intention, she sets Dream on a dangerous path.

And while this turn of events is a surprise to Death, it was always Dream’s Destiny.

Other Comics I Read from October 1990

  • Animal Man 30
  • Cerebus 139
  • Doom Patrol 39
  • Dr. Fate 22
  • Dreadstar 63
  • Eightball 4
  • Enemy Ace: War Idyll
  • Hate 3
  • Hellblazer 36
  • Incredible Hulk 376
  • Shade the Changing Man 6
  • Spider-Man 5

October 1995

Preacher 9

Christina L’Angelle had recently run away from home and fallen in with some hippies.  John Custer was a soldier returning from Vietnam.

Not knowing how else to respond to his homecoming, John gets a drink.  Christina seeks him out.

They open up to one another and we learn that Jesse comes by his cockiness honestly.

By the time Christina’s horrible family catch up to her, she’s pregnant.  They are dragged back to Angelville and when Jesse is five, John has had enough.  John offer Jesse a life philosophy that clearly doubles as Preacher’s mission statement.

Comics I Read from October 1995

  • Batman: Manbat 3
  • Bone 21
  • Captain America 446
  • Cerebus 199
  • Daredevil 347
  • Doctor Strange 84
  • Egypt 5
  • Flash 108
  • Goddess 7
  • Hate 20
  • Hellblazer 96
  • Horrorist 1
  • Impulse 9
  • Incredible Hulk 436
  • Invisibles 15
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 3
  • Last Avengers Story 2
  • Madman Comics 9
  • Mask 9
  • Sandman 73
  • Shade the Changing Man 66
  • Skrull Kill Krew 4
  • Spider-Man Team-Up 1
  • Starman 14
  • Swamp Thing 161
  • Thor 493
  • Underworld Unleashed 2, 3
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man 4
  • Vertigo Voices: The Eaters
  • Wildcats 23

October 2000

Ultimate Spider-Man 2

I was lucky enough to have met Brian Michael Bendis when he was a struggling indy comic writer/artist.  I remember at one Pittsburgh Comicon when he told me he had a “major project” in the works with Marvel that he couldn’t give any details about.  It was, of course, Ultimate Spider-Man.  And it makes perfect sense that this is the book that launched Bendis into comic book stardom.  It played to his strengths by giving him a solid story to work with — allowing him to focus fully on character and dialog.

This is also a milestone in the history of comic book decompression, as Bendis take the 11 page Spider-Man origin story from Amazing Fantasy 15 and expands it to seven full issues.

One of the best aspects of this series is that Bendis writes fairly convincing teenagers.  He clearly studied turn-of-the-century teen speaking patterns, while also managing to get more general teen behavior and motivations down pretty well.

Peter Parker is typical teenager.  He’s a good kid, but he’s still a hormonal dick.  So, of course the moment he gets super-powers he uses them to take on his bully.

Aunt May and Uncle Ben are, of course, concerned about his newfound penchant for violence.

Uncle Ben has a ponytail for some reason.  (Did anyone have a ponytail in 2000?)

Come the morning, Peter is sufficiently contrite.  And I like snarky Aunt May.

Importantly, Uncle Ben gets some space to interact with May and Peter (so we all miss him when he’s gone).

Other Comics I Read from October 2000

  • 100 Bullets 17
  • Adventures of the Rifle Brigade 3
  • Avengers 34
  • Avengers Infinity 4
  • Batman 584
  • Detective Comics 751
  • Empire 2
  • Fantastic Four 36
  • Flash 167
  • Hellblazer 154
  • Hellblazer: Bad Blood 4
  • Hellspawn 2
  • Hitman 56
  • Hourman 21
  • Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority 4
  • JLA 47, Secret Files 3
  • JLA: Heaven’s Ladder
  • JSA 17
  • Legends of the DC Universe 35
  • Lucifer 7
  • Madman Comics 19
  • Maximum Security 1, 2
  • Maximum Security: Dangerous Planet
  • Midnight Nation 2
  • Powers 6
  • Promethea 11
  • Punisher 8
  • Sam and Twitch 15
  • Sentry 4
  • Shock Rockets 6
  • Starman 72
  • Transmetropolitan 39

October 2005

New Avengers 12

Five years later Bendis was the King of Marvel.  New Avengers was great fun, but could hardly be considered story-driven.  I imagine the plot for this issue read:

“Hey Finch.  Draw me 20 pages of the Avengers fighting Ninjas.  I’ll add snappy dialog.  Oh, and make sure Luke rides an elevator at some point.”

Spider-Man is always going to be the star of any quip-driven issue.

For some reason, Cap wants a piece of the comedic action.

Luke’s idea to move to the roof doesn’t work out so well for him.

Hence the all-important elevator page:

And, right back to the mid-fight banter.

Other Comics I Read from October 2005

  • 100 Bullets 65
  • Adventures of Superman 645
  • Astro City: Dark Age Book One 4
  • Authority: Revolution 12
  • Authority: The Magnificent Kevin 3
  • Battle Pope 3
  • Captain America 12
  • Daredevil 78
  • Ex Machina 15
  • Fell 2
  • Ghost Rider 2
  • Gotham Central 36
  • Green Lantern Corps: Recharge 2
  • Hellblazer 213
  • House of M 8
  • Hulk: Destruction 4
  • Incredible Hulk 87
  • Infinite Crisis 1
  • Jack Cross 3
  • JLA: Classified 13
  • JSA 78
  • JSA: Classified 4
  • Losers 29
  • Loveless 1
  • Lucifer 67
  • Palookaville 18
  • Powers 13
  • Punisher 26
  • Quitter
  • Runaways 9
  • Secret War 5
  • Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witchboy 4
  • She-Hulk 1
  • Silent Dragon 4
  • Solo 7
  • Spider-Man: House of M 5
  • Swamp Thing 20
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 24
  • Ultimate Secret 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 84
  • Ultimate X-Men 64
  • Walking Dead 22
  • Wilbledon Green
  • Wonder Woman 221, 222
  • Y: The Last Man 38
  • You Deserved It
  • Young Avengers 9

October 2010

I Am an Avenger 2

When Greg Rucka and Michael Lark work together, good things happen, and this issue’s “Post-Mortem” is no exception.  Steve Rogers attends the funeral of a fallen soldier and has an uncomfortable confrontation with his widow.

Undaunted, Steve answers her question with the only information he has.

As Captain America, Steve is a symbol of all that is good about the United States of America.  But symbols work both ways.  And Steve understands that you can’t be a living embodiment of the country without also being a target for a widow’s anger and grief.

Later, we learn the “favor” that Steve was asking of her.

Other Comics I Read from October 2010

  • Amazing Spider-Man 645, 646
  • Avengers 6
  • Avengers Academy 5
  • Batman and Robin 15
  • Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne 5
  • Brightest Day 11, 12
  • Captain America 611
  • Captain America: Forever Allies 3
  • Casanova 4
  • CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2010
  • Chaos War 1, 2
  • Daredevil 511
  • Deadpool Max 1
  • DMZ 58
  • DV8: Gods and Monsters 7
  • Fantastic Four 584
  • Greek Street 16
  • Green Lantern 58
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 3
  • Hellblazer 272
  • Hellblazer: City of Demons 1, 2
  • Hellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice 1
  • Incognito: Bad Influences 1
  • Incredible Hulk 614, 615
  • Invaders Now 2
  • Invincible Iron Man 31
  • Iron Man: Legacy 7
  • Kick-Ass 2 1
  • Morning Glories 3
  • New Avengers 5
  • Northlanders 33
  • Ragman: Suit of Souls 1
  • Scalped 41, 42
  • Secret Avengers 6
  • Secret Warriors 21
  • Shadowland 4
  • Shadowland: Power Man 3
  • Shadowland: Spider-Man 1
  • SHIELD 4
  • Sickness in the Family
  • Spider-Man/Fantastic Four 4
  • Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier 4
  • Strange Tales II 1
  • Superior 1
  • Superman 703, 704
  • Sweet Tooth 14
  • Taskmaster 2
  • Thor 616
  • Thor: The Mighty Avenger 5
  • Ultimate Comics Avengers 15
  • Ultimate Mystery 4
  • Ultimates New Ultimates 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 15
  • Ultimate Thor 1
  • Uncanny X-Men 529
  • Unknown Soldier 24
  • Untold Tales of the Blackest Night
  • Vertigo Resurrected
  • Walking Dead 78
  • Wolverine 2
  • X-Factor 210

October 2015

The Surface 4

The first three parts of this four-issue series were quite interesting and engaging, but this issue goes entirely (entertainingly, enticingly, excellently) off the rails, as Ales Kot inserts himself into the story.

Many comic book readers might sense a Grant Morrison influence, and while I’m confident that Kot is a fan, this appears to be more influenced by Philip K. Dick’s VALIS than any specific Morrison work.

Doublehead confronts his father — or does Kot confront his father?

Father and son speak of theme and symbolism.

Throughout the story, it’s been intentionally unclear whether the narrator is speaking as the characters, to the characters, or directly to the reader.  Turns out the Narrator (who is clearly a separate character in the story) has been talking to the Author (another separate character) the whole time.  There are multiple Ales Kot’s in play here, numbered here for your convenience:  Ales Kot I is the writer of the story (the living human who does not actually appear at all in this story).  Ales Kot II is the character who appears visually and has dialogue in the story.  Ales Kot III is the omniscient and unreliable Narrator that (it turns out) is speaking to Ales Kot IV, who is the (character of the) Author, who must be separated from Ales Kot I (the actual author of The Surface) but can’t necessarily be considered to be the same as Ales Kot II.

Ales Kot II confronts his dead father.

And of course there are more than four Ales Kot’s.  For instance, the character of Ales Kot II’s father is really just a creation and extension of Ales Kot I — which is, of course, kind of the point of the whole thing.

The layers and storytelling are compellingly complex for a comic so teasingly titled.

Another big question The Surface addresses is Why are we so compelled to tell stories?

Weirdly, a few years back I told a story (in screenplay form) that climaxed with an exchange hauntingly similar to the one on this next page:

Okay, there was no guy with a thumbprint for a face, but otherwise that’s pretty spot on.

Agents of Atlas 1

That was some heady stuff.  Enjoy this bonus page of Phil Coulson talking to a gorilla.

Other Comics I Read from October 2015

  • A-Force 5
  • Action Comics 45
  • All-Star Section Eight 5
  • Amazing Spider-Man 1, 2
  • Batman/Superman 25
  • Black Magick 1
  • Bloodshot Reborn 7
  • CBLDF: Liberty Annual 2015
  • Chew 51
  • Civil War: Warzones 5
  • Cyborg 3, 4
  • Detective Comics 45
  • Doctor Strange 1
  • East of West 21
  • Eve: Valkyrie 1
  • Fade Out 10
  • Fight Club 2  6
  • Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time 1
  • Goon: Theatre Bizarre
  • Grayson 13
  • Groot 5
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 1
  • I Hate Fairyland 1
  • Invincible 124
  • Invincible Iron Man 1, 2
  • Ivar Timewalker 10
  • Jughead 1
  • Justice League 45
  • Karnak 1
  • Lando 5
  • Midnighter 5
  • Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 6
  • Ms. Marvel 19
  • Ninak 8
  • Ody-C 8
  • Old Man Logan  5
  • Omega Men 5
  • Paper Girls 1
  • Pastaways 7
  • Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl 3
  • Plutona 2
  • Powers 5
  • Prez 5
  • Rebels 7
  • Revival 34
  • Secret Wars 6
  • Sex Criminals 13
  • SHIELD 11
  • Southern Bastards 11
  • Spread 11
  • Starve 5
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 22
  • They’re Not Like Us 9
  • Tithe 6
  • Walking Dead 147
  • We Stand on Guard 4
  • Weirdworld 5
  • Where Monsters Dwell 5
  • Wolf 4
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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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