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

September 1979

As I entered my second decade, I began to flirt with the notion of leaving childish things — like comic books and sports cards — behind.  Within a few years I had stopped collecting cards, and probably would have stopped reading comics, too, but a guy named Alan Moore had something to say about that.

During this post-ten years old / pre-Alan Moore era, there was some pretty lean months for me as far as comic book reading went.

Comics I Read From September 1979

  • Avengers 190
  • Justice League of America 173
  • Uncanny X-Men 128

September 1984

Captain America 300

J. M. DeMatteis’ Captain American ended this issue, with the climax of a nearly year-long Red Skull epic.  This story line was pretty key in bringing me fully back into comics, and I cannot overstate how much I was looking forward to reading this issue when it came out.  When I got the issue, I was pretty heartbroken to read that the issue was written not by DeMatteis by rather by some joker I’d never heard of named Michael Ellis.

I have since learned that the issue was indeed written (albeit under protest) by DeMatteis, and Michael Ellis was his Alan Smithee.  It’s a much longer story (which won’t make a lot of sense if you didn’t read DeMatteis’ Cap run) but the abridged version is that the climax that DeMatteis had been building toward (and that had been approved by his editor) was pulled out from under him at the last minute, so he had to scramble to create a new ending at the last minute.

DeMatteis’ original story involved Cap dying and being replaced by the Black Crow.  Attentive readers will note that dying and/or being replaced by a person of color has pretty much been the 21st century Captain America playbook.

This issue begins with Red Skull telling Cap that they are both dying of a poison he administered.

Mr. Skull informs Cap that there is no point, as there is no antidote.  Cap doesn’t take that well.

But Cap can’t deliver the killing blow.

Then, his nemesis dead in his arms, Cap slouches over, succumbing to the incurably fatal poison in his bloodstream.

Or does he?

Black Crow may not have been allowed to become Captain America, but he was allowed to save Captain America’s life.  Also, turns out that the Red Skull lied about killing all of Cap’s friends to goad Cap into murdering him.  What a cad.

Comics I Read From September 1984

  • Alien Legion 4
  • Alpha Flight 17
  • Amazing Spider-Man 259
  • Avengers 250
  • Cerebus 66
  • Conan the King 26
  • Defenders 138
  • Kitty Pryde and Wolverine 2
  • Kull 7
  • Machine Man 4
  • Mage 4
  • Marvel Super-Hero Secret Wars 9
  • Marvel Team-Up 148
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 97
  • Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner 4
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing 31
  • Six from Sirius 4
  • Uncanny X-Men 188, Annual 8
  • Vigilante 13

September 1989

Animal Man 17

This issue was pretty much a Vegan Afterschool Special.  One of the first ideas Grant Morrison had about Animal Man was that anyone whose powers involved spiritual connection with animals would almost certainly stop eating meat, and the more Morrison thought about the matter, the harder it became for him to eat meat, as well.  By the time the book launched, he was a vegetarian.

During Morrison’s last issue — which is mostly a conversation between Animal Man and the author — Morrison admits that one reason he left the book was because he felt too close to the issue of animal rights and was worried that the stories were becoming too preachy.  He was almost certainly thinking of this issue, which begins with Animal Man/Buddy Baker explaining his vegetarianism to his meat-craving son.

Animal Man then hooks up with some animal rights activists to free monkeys that are being tested on.  Ookla fans may want to know that the cover to this issue partially inspired the song “Two Monkeys” from our Monkey Rock Opera Smell No Evil.  One of the activists sets fire to the lab on the way out, which leads to dark unintended consequences.

No longer certain about his path, Buddy turns to his best friend for counsel.

Roger’s critique is clearly aimed at Morrison as well as Buddy, and Buddy’s response indicates that both he and Morrison are going to have to find a way to live with the paradox of knowing that sometimes the rightness of your cause doesn’t justify the wrongness of your actions.

Other Comics I Read from September 1989

  • Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children 4
  • Cerebus 126
  • Doom Patrol 27
  • Dreadstar 50
  • Hellblazer 24
  • Incredible Hulk 363
  • Question 31
  • Sandman 10
  • Skreemer 6
  • Whisper 32

September 1994

Sandman 64

Sandman’s penultimate (and climactic) arc picks up some serious steam in this issue, as the Kindly Ones enter the Dreaming and are greeted by Morpheus’ formidable gatekeeper.

 Encountering no other resistance, they confront the Dream Lord in a page that Teddy Kristiansen was seemingly born to render.

The Kindly Ones give Morpheus a dose of reality (while giving readers a plot synopsis).

HIs confidence shaken, Morpheus is unable (or fails, or neglects, or refuses) to recreate his Gryphon.  The text box makes it clear that the bad news is only beginning.

Comics I Read from September 1994

  • Amazing Spider-Man 395
  • Animal Man 77
  • Aquaman 0
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 65
  • Books of Magic 6
  • Cerebus 186
  • Concrete: Killer Smile 3
  • Demon 52
  • Dreadstar 4
  • Flash 95
  • Hellblazer 83
  • Hellstorm: Prince of Lies 20
  • Incredible Hulk 423
  • Invisibles 2
  • Shade the Changing Man 53
  • Starman 1
  • Swamp Thing 148
  • Vertigo Rave 1

September 1999

Avengers 22

This is a well-loved issue in a well-regarded story line in Kurt Busiek’s well-received Avengers run.  It gets a lot of attention for a rather famous panel featuring Thor — which we’ll get to soon — but this issue (and story line) is really all about the redemption of Henry Pym.

Those only familiar with the Age of Ultron Avengers film may be unaware that on Earth-616 it was Henry Pym who created Ultron.

This revelation/retcon explains so much of what went wrong with Henry Pym.  It was shortly after creating Ultron that he had his first (at the time undiagnosed) nervous breakdown.

My favorite aspects of the whole Ultron saga is that Ultron betrays his father (Pym) almost immediately after he is created, and then Ultron turns around and creates the Vision, who almost immediately betrays Ultron.  What a fun round of “I hate you, Dad!”  One of the unreleased songs written for the Ookla the Mok vs. Evil album was called Ultron.  The chorus lyrics are “Hey Dad / You suck / Screw you, Dad / I hate you so much.”  Fearing what our fathers might think upon hearing this, we wisely abandoned the song.

Here Ultron’s “son” tries one last time to appeal to his reason and sense of family.

Of course Ultron was bluffing.  But so was the Vision.

Once Wanda is awake, it is only a matter of time before Ultron’s entire extended “family” of Avengers is free to fight him.  Meanwhile, the rest of the Avengers have fought their way through an army Ultrons, who — conveniently — were manufactured without adamantium or vibranium, so are much easier to defeat.

The Avengers knock down the wall to Ultron’s stronghold, and Thor delivers his best line ever:

But it is Henry Pym who wins the day, saving the Avengers, the world, and himself in the process.

In the aftermath, George Perez kills it by using the size difference between Henry (in Giant Man form) and Janet to represent Pym’s finally “growing up.”

JLA: Superpower

This one-shot introduces Antaeus, a star athlete and local hero who makes himself into a super-hero through a strange combination of determination and body modification.  He joins the JLA, and almost immediately challenges their status quo.

The JLA pushes back — making it clear that they perceive their roll as supportive and responsive — dealing with crises as they arise, but never taking pre-emptive action or making unilateral decisions.  Antaeus is having none of that, and takes it upon himself to execute a Saddam Hussein stand in.

And Green Lantern isn’t the only JLA member who feels that way.

Superman replies with the authority and gravitas that we’ve all come to expect from a guy called Superman.

Later Antaeus learns exactly what kind of repercussions this is going to have.  Batman is big enough not to say I told you so.

Unable to live with the unintended consequences of his actions, Antaeus takes his own life.

Yet again Superman is the voice of moral authority in this stunning last page of the story.

Bear in mind that this was written in 1999, when the metaphor wasn’t so glaringly obvious.

Tomorrow Stories 2

If you measure greatness by level of craft, then Alan Moore is surely the greatest writer in the history of comics.  This story is eight pages — and 24 panels — long, each page showing a four-floored building, with each floor taking place twenty years after than the floor below it.  The panels work together to tell one 60 year-long story which can be read horizontally (chronologically) or vertically (in a broken and reverse chronological order).

Let’s take a look at how the story works with the time jumps:

We’re introduced to our characters, and see that the tenant and his son both stayed longer than they expected.

Not only does the script work both horizontally and vertically, but each page makes sense visually as well.  In the page below, the object Sonny sees falling from the window in 1939 will not be revealed until the following page, but he could also be looking at the objects falling from the window in 1959, 1979, or 1999.

And is there anything more Moore than having Katz mentioning (way back in 1939 — and lettered in bold type for our convenience) the four items that will fall from window over the next 60 years?  A guy, some music, a fedora, and an animal:

Other Comics I Read from September 1999

  • 100 Bullets 4
  • Authority 7
  • Captain America 23
  • Finals 3
  • Flash 154, Secret Files 2
  • Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold 2
  • Flinch 6
  • Hellblazer 142
  • Hitman 43
  • Hourman 8
  • Inhumans 11
  • Jinx: Torso 6
  • JLA 35
  • JSA 4
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 19
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 4
  • Louis Reil 2
  • Preacher 55
  • Promethea 4
  • Sam and Twitch 2
  • Sin City: To Hell and Back 3
  • Starman 59
  • Superman Adventures 37
  • Top Ten 3
  • Transmetropolitan 27

September 2004

Three books in 1999 means no books in 2004.

Not as a rule, but it kind of worked out that way.  Here’s what I read that month.  You tell me if there’s anything I should be talking about:

Comics I Read from September 2004

  • 100 Bullets 53
  • Adam Strange 1
  • Adventures of Superman 632
  • Astonishing X-Men 5
  • Astro City Special: Supersonic
  • Authority: Human on the Inside
  • Avengers 502
  • Catwoman 35
  • Daredevil 64, 65
  • DC: The New Frontier 6
  • Ex Machina 4
  • Fantastic Four 518
  • Flash 214
  • Gotham Central 23
  • Hellblazer 200
  • Hulk/Thing: Hark Knocks 1
  • Human Target 14
  • Identity Crisis 4
  • Invincible 15, 16
  • JSA 65
  • Losers 16
  • Lucifer 54
  • Marvel Knights Spider-Man 6
  • Plastic Man 10
  • Powers 4
  • Pulse 5
  • Punisher 11
  • Runaways 18
  • Scratch 4
  • She-Hulk 7
  • Sleeper Season Two 4
  • Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One 4
  • Swamp Thing 7
  • Teen Titans 15, 16
  • Tom Strong 28
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 11
  • Ultimate Nightmare 2
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 65
  • Walking Dead 12
  • Wanted 5
  • Warlock 1
  • Wolverine 19
  • Wonder Woman 208
  • Y: The Last Man 26

September 2009

New Avengers 57

One of the most satisfying (and fun) aspects of super-hero comics is watching a writer come up with a perfect (and, in retrospect, obvious) new way of using — or circumventing — a power set.  Brian Michael Bendis made no bones about how much he loved Luke Cage, and how long he was itching to write him.  Which makes me wonder how long he was sitting on this idea.

Luke is having a (super-villain induced) heart attack.  There’s nothing unbreakable skin can do to prevent that.  And in fact…

What a perfect, nightmare situation for Luke and his friends to face.

Strange Tales 1

A decade ago, Marvel put out six brilliant issues of indy glory — asking “independent” (i.e., non-super-hero writing/drawing) comic book creators to take Marvel’s characters for a ride.  The result is a wild, weird, often funny and always fun comic book experience.

Rather than summarize several of these short stories, I will just recommend you seek Strange Tales and Strange Tales II out, and leave you with this brilliant page from the Perry Bible Fellowship’s Nicholas Gurewitch.

Other Comics I Read from September 2009

  • Adventure Comics 1
  • Amazing Spider-Man 604, 605
  • Astro City Special: Astra
  • Avengers: Initiative 28
  • Batman and Robin 4
  • Batman Confidential 33
  • Beasts of Burden: The Gathering Storm
  • Blackest Night 3
  • Blackest Night: Batman 2
  • Captain America: Reborn 3
  • Chew 4
  • Criminal: The Sinners 1
  • Dark Avengers 9
  • Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus 1
  • Dark Reign: The List: Avengers
  • Dark Reign: The List: Daredevil
  • Dark Reign: The List: X-Men
  • Detective Comics 857
  • DMZ 45
  • Ex Machina 45
  • Existence 2.0 3
  • Fantastic Four 571
  • G-Man: Cape Crisis 2
  • Ghost Rider: Heaven’s on Fire 2
  • Greek Street 3
  • Green Lantern 46
  • Green Lantern Corps 40
  • Hellblazer 259
  • Incredible Hercules 134, 135
  • Incredible Hulk 602
  • Invincible 66
  • Invincible Iron Man 17
  • Kick-Ass 7
  • Marvel Zombies Return 1, 5
  • Marvels Project 2
  • Mighty 8
  • Mighty Avengers 29
  • Noir
  • Outsiders 22
  • Scalped 32
  • Seceret Warriors 8
  • Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu 1
  • Spider-Woman 1
  • Superman: Secret Origin 1
  • Sweet Tooth 1
  • Thor 603, Annual 1
  • Thunderbolts 136
  • Ultimate Armor Wars 1
  • Ultimate Comics Avengers 2
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 515
  • Unknown Soldier 12
  • Walking Dead 65
  • War Machine 9
  • Wednesday Comics 9-12
  • Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant Size 1
  • Wolverine: Weapon X 5
  • X-Factor 48, 49

September 2014

Secret Avengers 8

If we weren’t in the Darkest Timeline, you’d all know who Ales Kot was.  Secret Avengers is probably his most mainstream work.  Like most of his work it is equal parts brilliance and insanity.

Maria Hill’s Grant Unified Hawkeye Theory does go a long toward explaining the uneven writing his character has experienced over the decades.  (Is he a moron or a brilliant tactician?  A loving husband or a creepy himbo?  An angsty whiner with a chip on his shoulder or a seasoned and responsible leader?)

But this issue — and from this point on, this series — is all about MODAK.

MODAK joined SHIELD with the intention of wresting it from the hands of Maria Hill, but he lost the thread somewhere along the way.

Wait for it…

So, if you ever wondered what would happen if MODAK fell in love with the head of SHIELD, I have a comic for you to read.

Other Comics I Read from September 2014

  • All-New Doop 5
  • All-New X-Factor 13, 14
  • Astro City 15
  • Avengers 35
  • Batman: Future’s End 1
  • Batman/Superman: Future’s End 1
  • Black Widow 10
  • Captain Marvel 7
  • Chew 43
  • Copperhead 1
  • Cyclops 5
  • Daredevil 8
  • Deadly Class 7
  • Death of Wolverine 1, 2
  • Deep Gravity 3
  • East of West 15
  • Field 4
  • Grayson: Future’s End 1
  • Great Pacific 17
  • Green Arrow: Future’s End 1
  • Hawkeye 20
  • Invincible 114
  • Lazarus 11
  • MPH 3
  • Ms. Marvel 8
  • Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes
  • Names 1
  • New Avengers 24
  • One-Hit Wonder 4
  • Original Sin 8
  • Outcast 4
  • Powers: Bureau 11
  • Punisher 10
  • Saga 23
  • Satellite Sam 10
  • She-Hulk 8
  • Sheltered 11
  • Sidekick 8
  • Southern Bastards 4
  • Spread 3
  • Storm 3
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man 15
  • Superior Spider-Man 33
  • Supreme: Blue Rose 3
  • Thor: God of Thunder 25
  • Trees 5
  • United States of Murder Inc. 5
  • Velvet 7
  • Walking Dead 131
  • Wayward 2
  • Wicked + the Divine 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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