This month marks five years since I began this column.  This means that I have worked my way around to where I started.  Rather than repeat myself or retire the column, I will continue the less ambitious endeavor of looking back five years every month at the comics that came out since I began this column in May of 2016.

Thank you all for reading, and enjoy this final dip into the last 40 years of my comic collection.

May 1981

Avengers 210

This issue features the first appearance of The Weathermen!

This is, to date, the only appearance of The Weathermen.

They seem very intent on you knowing their name.

While this is clearly a team of bad guys, I like to imagine that this is just one sad guy, who is desperately trying to get the Avengers to notice him so that he can work his way up from an indefinite article to the definite article.

It is important to me that you know that you have now seen every single panel ever published that featured these characters.

This issue was the last of several issues where the book kind of wandered in the wilderness without writer Jim Shooter.  He would announce his return in the following issue by continuing the storied tradition of devoting an entire issue to a membership change.

Comics I Read From May 1981

  • Amazing Spider-Man 219
  • Captain America 260
  • Cerebus 26
  • Daredevil 174
  • Doctor Strange 48
  • Ka-Zar 6
  • Moon Knight 10
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 57
  • Superman 362
  • What If 28

May 1986

Miracleman 9

Note the warning on the cover.  I was there at the time and can assure you that no children were reading this book, and very few parents were aware that their teenagers were reading this book.

This issue represents a noble experiment on the part of Alan Moore.  The previous issue was filled with an insane amount violence, as Miracleman killed a whole lot of people while rescuing his pregnant wife.  The art really leaned into the ultra-violence, with heads exploding and limbs flying in all directions.  The issue culminated with our hero throwing his nemesis to earth from space, and us watching Gargunza turning from a human being to a pelvic bone as he crashed into the earth.  Significantly, that issue featured no parental warning.

This issue open with the aftermath, as Liz — now in labor — wanders about wondering where everybody is.

Her husband takes her to a secondary location where she gives birth while he muses about the miracle of life.

This issue shows their daughter is coming into this world in as much detail as all those bad guys were shown leaving it in the previous one.

As I imagine Alan Moore planned/expected, there were a lot of letters complaining about the birth in this issue, and none complaining about the murders that preceded it.  During the ensuing hubbub, artist Rick Veitch made it clear that all of the images of birth were drawn using photo reference taken from a book on childbirth that he checked out of a children’s library.

Several issues later, John Totleben would illustrate Miracleman’s final battle with Kid Miracleman — one of the most violent comics ever published — which didn’t get nearly as many letters of complaint as this one did.

Comics I Read From May 1986

  • Alien Legion 14
  • Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky
  • Avengers 270
  • Badger 15, 16
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 3
  • Cerebus 86
  • Dreadstar 25
  • Heroes Against Hunger
  • Nexus 24, 25
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 117
  • Scout 7
  • Shadow 4
  • Swamp Thing 51
  • Vigilante 32
  • Web of Spider-Man 18

May 1991

Marc Spector: Moon Knight 28

May 1991 featured issues from two fantastic Marvel runs written by J.M. DeMatteis that have never been collected or reprinted.  You can’t even buy them on Comixology!  Marvel needs to remedy this soon.

Throughout this storyline Moon Knight grapples with why he was brought back from the dead, and this issue includes his major revelation.  Too bad he might not live long enough for it to matter.

It seems strange that Marc was living life as four very different people and yet it took him this long to realize that it was possible that his various skill sets (and experiences and personalities) were being asked to work together.

Marc’s revelation gives him the will to live, and also provides him with a new outlook and mission.

Sadly, that mission was cut short (literally) the issue after DeMatteis completed this story.

Spectacular Spider-Man 178

This month also marked the beginning of DeMatteis’ extremely fertile collaboration with Sal Buscema on Spectacular Spider-Man.  It is absolutely criminal that (with the exception of the double-sized issue 200, a three part X-Men/Spider-Man team-up, and the Maximum Carnage cross-over issues) this two-year run has never been collected, reprinted, or digitized.

This issue introduces Dr. Kafka, who is working with Vermin, a villain DeMatteis created during his Captain America run.  Dr. Kakfa is hopeful that she can treat Vermin, but Spider-Man isn’t having any of it.

Of course, Peter being Peter, it’s only a matter of time before he questions his actions.

But Dr. Kafka has her doubts, as well.

This story deals with the abuse that Vermin has suffered in his life, both as a child from his father and as an adult from Baron Zemo.  We also spent a lot of time with Harry Osborn/Green Goblin, focusing on his relationship with his son.

This series is full of atmosphere, and is not afraid to devote multiple panels (and pages) to the comics version of camera pull-backs and zooms.

Having escaped, Vermin (accompanied by a young child who — spoiler warning — turns out to be “the child within”) heads for home.

Other Comics I Read from May 1991

  • Animal Man 37
  • Cerebus 146
  • Concrete: Fragile Creature 1
  • Detective Comics 631, 632
  • Doom Patrol 45
  • Hate 5
  • Hellblazer 43
  • Incredible Hulk 383
  • Sandman 28
  • Shade the Changing Man 13
  • Steed and Mrs. Peel 2

May 1996

Flex Mentallo 2

This mini-series sits in the center of a Venn diagram illustrating Grant Morrison’s Super-hero and Super-weird comics.  It was also the first of many fruitful collaborations with artist Frank Quitely.  Each issue represents a different age of super-hero comics, and this one features the Silver Age of “science heroes.”

Mentallium is clearly a riff on the many types/colors of Kryptonite, and Morrison has it both ways — both indulging in and making fun of Silver Age comics.

Morrison stealthily expresses his frustration with the notion that his stuff is too weird for super-hero comics, when he’s simply trying to emulate the weird super-hero comics he grew up reading.

It’s weird.  It’s fun.  Get over it.

Due to (suitably weird) legal issues, Flex Mentallo took way too long to reprint, and when it finally was collected, it was recolored by Peter Doherty.  The color palette employed by Tom McGraw was a lot weirder, and — one could argue — more appropriate.

Here is the recolored splash page from this issue.

This looks very good, but check out the original (unremastered) colors McGraw used for Mentallium Man:

Just like with Sandman, the new colors are undeniably slicker and “better” by modern tastes, but there’s a certain 90s “you had to be there” zaniness missing from the new coloring.

Comics I Read from May 1996

  • Action Comics 723
  • Adventures of Superman 536
  • Avengers 400
  • Batman: Black and White 2
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 84
  • Big Book of Little Criminals
  • Bone 24
  • Captain America 453
  • Cerebus 206
  • Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme 90
  • Flash 115
  • Girl 1
  • Hellblazer 103
  • Hitman 3
  • Impulse 15
  • Incredible Hulk 443
  • Invisibles 22
  • Jinx 2
  • Kingdom Come 1
  • Medieval Spawn/Witchblade 2
  • Nexus Meets Madman
  • Preacher 15
  • Seekers 6
  • Sin City: That Yellow Bastard 4
  • Starman 20
  • Superman: The Man of Steel 58
  • Swamp Thing 168
  • Underwater 6
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man 11
  • WildCATs 29
  • X-Men 54

May 2001

New X-Men 114

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s X-Men run begins here.  The first panel is a full-page splash of Wolverine slicing up a Sentinel:

Morrison is letting you know from the start that he (and apparently the characters) are aware of the tired X-Men tropes.  His entire run will alternate between avoiding these tropes and self-consciously wallowing in them.  And Quitely leans into his strengths right away, especially his desire to give all the characters distinct heights, weights, and body types.  This is one of the few Marvel comics where you could easily distinguish the characters (even out of costume) from their silhouettes.

While Cyclops and Wolverine are on an adventure together, Jean and Beast hang out back home.  The Beast’s secondary mutation has kicked in, and he is adjusting to being more cat-like.

 As Cyclops and Wolverine fly home, Logan demonstrates that smell isn’t the only keen sense he possesses.

Beast ,too, senses that all is not well with Scott and Jean.

Meanwhile Professor Xavier is confronted by the odd thing that Jean felt.

His solution to the problem is shocking:

His attacker turns out to be his twin sister, who (it is revealed later) Charles thought he killed in the womb, because Grant Morrison.

Other Comics I Read from May 2001

  • 100 Bullets 24
  • Amazing Spider-Man 31
  • Avengers 42
  • Batman 591
  • Daredevil 18
  • Detective Comics 758
  • Flash 174
  • Green Arrow 4
  • Hellblazer 162
  • Hellboy: Conqueror Worm
  • JLA: Incarnations 1
  • JSA 24
  • Louis Reil 6
  • Lucifer 14
  • Midnight Nation 7
  • Ministry of Space 1
  • Pallokaville 15
  • Powers 11
  • Starman 79
  • Tangled Web: The Thousand 1, 2
  • Transmetropolitan: Filth of the City
  • Ultimate Marvel Team-Up 3, 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 9
  • Ultimate X-Men 6
  • Weird Western Tales 4
  • X-Force 116

May 2006

Nextwave 5

Stefon’s Review:  This issue has everything.  Drop Bears!

Two Uzis and a Shovel!

Combat Pterodactyl Suits!

Teddy Bear Death!

Even Techno-Organic Prolapse!

Other Comics I Read from May 2006

  • 100 Bullets 72
  • 52 1-4
  • All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder 4
  • Amazing Spider-Man 532
  • American Virgin 3
  • Batman: Secrets 3
  • Books of Doom 6
  • Captain America 18
  • Civil War 1
  • Conan 28
  • Daredevil 85
  • DMZ 7
  • Ex Machina 20
  • Exterminators 5
  • Fell 5
  • Fury: Peacemaker 4
  • Green Lantern 12
  • Hellblazer 220
  • Incredible Hulk 95
  • Infinite Crisis 7
  • Loveless 7
  • Lucifer 74
  • New Avengers 19
  • Powers 18
  • Punisher 33
  • Punisher: Tyger
  • Runaways 16
  • She-Hulk 7, 8
  • Superman/Batman 26
  • Swamp Thing 27
  • Teen Titans 35, 36
  • Testament 6
  • Thing 7
  • Ultimate Extinction 5
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 30
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 94, 95
  • X-Factor 7
  • X-Men: Deadly Genesis 6
  • X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl 5
  • Y: The Last Man 45

May 2011

Paying for It

Chester Brown is my favorite of the group of autobiographical comic artists who emerged from Ontario in the early 90s.  This is his original graphic novel about his experience with sex workers.  It begins with him talking with friends (some of them exes) about romantic relationships.

Chester argues that his reasons for being in relationships were more about ego gratification, social expectation, and the desire for sex than love.  After his first experience with a sex worker, he talks with friends Seth and Joe Matt, who are known (or not) for their autobiographical comics Palookaville and Peepshow.

Chester and Seth continue the conversation.

Chester sees many sex workers (their faces never shown) and eventually finds one that he enjoys both sexually and personally.

This feeling surprises him, but he remains steadfast in his belief that this is better than a romantic relationship.

The book alternates between chronicling Chester’s experiences with sex workers (all given fake names) and conversations with his friends.

Chester makes many good points (in scenes that are, of course, framed to favor his positions) but he allows the holes in his arguments — and his friends’ legitimate concern about his emotional well being — to come through.  And the double meaning of the book’s title is impossible to ignore.

Chester makes reasonable points about the exclusionary nature of traditional romantic love (that parents can love multiple children and one can love multiple friends, but monogamy requires that you love only one person) but it is strange that he never intellectually explores (or even mentions) polyamory.

Eventually Chester finds a sex worker that he can be monogamous with.  Interestingly, she is also monogamous with him, though he continues to pay her for sex.  Whether or not he is deluding himself is left for the reader to determine.

Other Comics I Read from May 2011

  • Amazing Spider-Man 660-662
  • American Vampire 15
  • Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine 6
  • Astonishing X-Men 38
  • Avengers 13
  • Avengers Academy 13, 14
  • Batman, Inc. 6
  • Captain America 618
  • Captain America: First Vengeance 1
  • Chew 27
  • Daredevil: Reborn 4
  • Deadpool Max 8
  • Detective Comics 877
  • DMZ 65
  • Fear Itself 2
  • FF 3, 4
  • Flash 12
  • Flashpoint 1
  • Generation Hope 7
  • Green Lantern Super Spectacular
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 10
  • Green Wake 2
  • Hellblazer 279
  • Herc 2, 3
  • Incredible Hulks 628, 629
  • Invincible Iron Man 504
  • Journey into Mystery 623
  • Mighty Thor 2
  • Moon Knight 1
  • New Avengers 12
  • New York Five 4
  • Northlanders 40
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 5
  • Punisher Max 13
  • Ruse 3
  • Secret Warriors 27
  • Silver Surfer 4
  • Strange Adventures 1
  • Sweet Tooth 21
  • Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 158
  • Uncanny X-Men 537
  • Undying Love 2
  • Walking Dead 85
  • Wolverine 9
  • X-Factor 219

May 2016

Power Man and Iron Fist 4

Before David Walker and Sanford Greene hooked up for the celebrated Bitter Root, they did a (largely uncelebrated) run on Power Man and Iron Fist.  This issue is a fine example of how fun this run was.

Heroes for Hire secretary Jennie Royce has been transformed by the Supersoul Stone:

Yes folks, it’s a Fistball Special.

This doesn’t work out well for Danny.  And Black Mariah’s constant name-shaming of Iron Fist has to be seen to be believed:

Of course Luke and Danny save the day (and Jennie) and bring the Supersoul Stone to Senor Magico.

And that’s that.  See you all next month for a look at some comics published in June 2016.

Other Comics I Read from May 2016

  • A-Force 5
  • Action Comics 52
  • Afterlife with Archie 9
  • Aliens: Defiance 2
  • All-New Wolverine 8
  • All-New, All-Different Avengers 9
  • Amazing Spider-Man 12
  • Archie 8
  • Batman/Superman 32
  • Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In 1
  • Black Road 2
  • Black Widow 3
  • Bloodshot Reborn 13
  • Civil War II 0
  • Daredevil 7
  • Daredevil/Punisher 1
  • DC Universe: Rebirth
  • Detective Comics 52
  • Discipline 3
  • Divinity II 2
  • Doctor Strange 8
  • East of West 26
  • Empress 2
  • The Fix 2
  • Grayson 20
  • Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion 5
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 8
  • Howard the Duck 7
  • International Iron Man 3
  • Invincible 128
  • Invincible Iron Man 9
  • Jupiter’s Circle 6
  • Justice League 50
  • Karnak 4
  • Legacy of Luther Strode 6
  • Midnighter 12
  • Mighty Thor 7
  • Mockingbird 3
  • Moon Knight 2
  • Ms. Marvel 7
  • New Romancer 6
  • Nighthawk 1
  • Ninak 15
  • Old Man Logan 6
  • Omega Men 12
  • Powers 6
  • Punisher 1
  • Red Wolf 6
  • Rocket Raccoon and Groot 5
  • Scarlet 8, 9
  • Sheriff of Babylon 6
  • Southern Bastards 14
  • Spider-Man 4
  • Starve 9
  • Superman 52
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 29
  • Superman: American Alien 7
  • Totally Awesome Hulk 6
  • Violent 4
  • Vision 7
  • Walking Dead 154
  • Wolf 7
  • X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever 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.

3 Comments

  1. Jarmo Seppänen on

    Thank you for all of these, I’ll definitely be looking forward to new five years back column as well!

  2. I picked up Miracleman in the 80s. While I enjoyed issues 1-8, issue 9 is not what I expected or wanted to see in a comic. I dropped the series after that.

    If I remember correctly, Eclipse’s (the publisher back then), initially, didn’t have any warning labels.

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