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

February 1980

Uncanny X-Men 133

Looking at it today, it seems strange to recall how much I (and all my comic book reading friends) loved this issue.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s approaching peak Claremont/Byrne X-Men.  I’m not saying it’s not good — just that this particular issue really stuck out at the time, and it doesn’t so much today.  Probably Wolverine fatigue.  And while the story itself isn’t all that complex or groundbreaking, there are a lot of aspects of this story that have since become super-hero comic tropes.

This splash page has been parodied quite a bit over the years.  And the “Wolverine Alone!” plot (having the scrappy little guy with the claws take on the bad guys who had so easily incapacitated the rest of the fantastically-powered super-team) was almost certainly the inspiration for Batman taking out the White Martians in Grant Morrison’s first JLA storyline.

The idea of the badass hero talking the gun-toting henchmen into dropping his weapon may have originated with Dirty Harry, but here is the moment that Wolverine took possession of it.

It has since been loaned out many times to Batman and (Batman/Wolverine analogue) the Midnighter.

Comics I Read From February 1980

  • Action Comics 507
  • Amazing Spider-Man 204
  • Avengers 195
  • Daredevil 164
  • Marvel Team-Up 93
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 42

 

February 1985

This is the month that Alan Moore officially took over American Comics.  One First comic and Six (6!) DC comics written by Moore were published this month.

American Flagg 21

In American Flagg 21, Alan Moore began to write a back-up story that ended up taking over the entire book for its final chapter in issue 27.  American Flagg was a pretty outrageous comic, and Moore’s storyline (titled “Lustbusters”) certainly leans into this.  Surprisingly, this story has never been collected or reprinted.

Detective Comics 550

This issue of Detective Comics includes the first half of a two-part Green Arrow story illustrated by Klaus Janson.  Titled “Night Olympics,” it’s an okay story with a lot of forced sports allusions and metaphors.

Green Lantern 188

“Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” introduces a planet-sized member of the Green Lantern Corps, but it is more significantly the first work published by DC by the Watchmen writer/artist team of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

Omega Men 26

This issue features one of two Omega Men short stories by Alan Moore.  They are both fun little “Future Shocks” style tales.

Saga of the Swamp Thing 36

This issue features the “death” of Swamp Thing.  He gets better — so much better.  The next issue introduces John Constantine, who has a thing or two to teach Swamp Thing.

While I’m here I may as well point out a weird little pet peeve I have:

You don’t need to modify the word jaw.  I used to work as a dental assistant, and I was amazed at how often my request for the patient to move their law to the left was met with the response, “My lower jaw?”  “No, sir.  Move you upper jaw to the left.  This I gotta see.”

Vigilante 17

The only issues of Vigilante anyone remembers are 17 and 18, as both were written by Alan Moore.  This is a very well written story that is wildly trigger-y and problematic.  Like a lot of Moore’s 80s stuff that doesn’t really hold up today, I get his point — and can even see the merit of his intentions — but have to question why he would want to write a story that humanized the perpetrator of such monstrous behavior.

Comics I Read From February 1985

  • Avengers 255
  • Beauty and the Beast 4
  • Cerebus 71
  • Cerebus Jam
  • Coyote 11
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths 2
  • Daredevil 219
  • Defenders 143
  • Gargoyle 1
  • Iceman 4
  • Marvel Fanfare 20
  • Nexus 9
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 102
  • Strange Days 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 193
  • Web of Spider-Man 3
  • Zot 8

February 1990

Animal Man 22

This issue solves a mystery introduced in issue 14.  The multiple call-backs to that issue (even the cover is the image from issue 14 from a different angle) is spoiled a bit by the fill-in artwork.  Paris Cullins pencil work is fine, but it would have landed better if all of these visual inversions were illustrated by the same artist who drew the original issue.

So Buddy finally learns who was haunting his family all those months ago:

Buddy’s family has been murdered and he lied his way into obtaining a (not fully operational) time machine to revisit them.

Buddy learns that he cannot change the past, and his actions are merely closing a narrative loop, ensuring that things he already experienced actually come to pass.

And what did Buddy see when he was ten?  If you can’t already answer that, you really haven’t been paying attention.

 

Doom Patrol 31

This issue has more ideas than the entire run of most comics, and I love it like a niece.

Anyone who has watched the Doom Patrol TV show will recognize most of the beats and plot elements of this story, as it was pretty closely adapted.  If you haven’t seen the Doom Patrol TV show, you may be wondering who the John Constantine analogue in the room of clocks might be.

Grant Morrison concocted this story with John Constantine in mind, but when he was refused access to the character he simply created a new version of the character and ramped up the absurdity to the point where everyone read it as a parody.

Pretty much every page has something like this:

And then there’s the Mystery Kites:

The Cult of the Unwritten Book is looking for the Word Made Flesh, an unfortunate young man with text tattooed all over his body.  And poor Emilio Cuervo’s hand is about to become a doorway to another dimension…

I can’t begin to explain how amazing it was to read this run as it came out, increasingly amazed at how it just got weirder and better every month.

Other Comics I Read from February 1990

  • Atlantis Chronicles 1
  • Avengers West Coast 57
  • Cerebus 131
  • Dr. Fate 15
  • Dreadstar 55
  • Eightball 2
  • Hellblazer 28
  • Incredible Hulk 368
  • Legends of the Dark Knight 5
  • The Question 35
  • Sandman 15

February 1995

Amazing Spider-Man 400

J. M. DeMatteis has written a lot of great Spider-Man comics, but this certainly has a good claim at being the best one ever.  This issue features the Death of Aunt May.  DeMatteis is particularly good at providing characters with great deaths (see Kraven the Hunter) which makes it all the more shameful when those moments are thoughtlessly retconned.

The issue begins with Aunt May coming out of a coma.

May Knows Everything.  She knows that MJ is pregnant just by looking at her, and uses the occasion to speak about the Great Responsibility that accompanies the Great Power of parenthood:

Peter is uneasy because May Knows Everything.

This is, of course, brilliant.  I mean, how could we respect May at all if she didn’t know?

May also knows that her time is short.  Soon after this last walk, May says her final goodbyes, and Peter is with her as she passes.

Instant Piano 3

This fantastic anthology featured some great work from five artists, including Evan Dorkin and Kyle Baker.  Dorkin’s Eltingville Club strip started in this book, and this issue features an amazing trivia battle with a 12-inch Boba Fett figure on the line.

This goes on like this for some time, and while I can’t claim to have known all of the answers, I was surprised to know as many as I did.

And because this is the Eltingville Club, no one gets a happy ending.

Man, do I love this Kyle Baker piece.

When he later reprinted it, he removed all of the dialog, which makes me sad, for a great line like “Check out that perspective!  Three-point at least!” was forever lost.

This issue also featured the second chapter of Baker’s You Are Here (not to be confused with the original graphic novel by Baker with the same name, but an entirely different cast and story) which delivers this spot on critique of reality TV years before it came into prominence.

Baker also saw fit to grace us with this Jules Feiffer parody strip, which I adore.  If you’re even remotely familiar with Feiffer’s long-running Village Voice strip, you’ll enjoy this — even if you don’t know that Feiffer wrote the screenplay to Robert Altman’s Popeye film.

Comics I Read from February 1995

  • Angela 3
  • Aquaman 7
  • The Big Book of Weirdos
  • Book of Magic 11
  • Brooklyn Dreams 3
  • Cerebus 191
  • Cerebus World Tour Book
  • Demon 57
  • Flash 100
  • Hellblazer 88
  • Impulse 1
  • Incredible Hulk 428
  • Invisibles 7
  • Maxx 14
  • Preacher 1
  • Shade the Changing Man 58
  • Sin City: The Big Fat Kill 4
  • Spectacular Spider-Man 223
  • Spider-Man 57
  • Starman 6
  • Swamp Thing 153

February 2000

Invisibles 3

As the Invisibles winds down, the final three issues are framed by King Mob sitting in a phone booth, quietly bleeding to death.

The woman on the phone is Gideon’s ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him because of his ultra-violent ways.

Meanwhile, the idea of the Invisibles as something more than a comic book (a game? a drug? the meaning of life?) takes form.

And we flash back to Jack telling King Mob to abandon his ultra-violent ways.  (It’s a whole thing.)

Back at the phone booth, we see a weeping woman in the background.  She ends up saving King Mob’s life.  She also happens to be the wife of a henchman that King Mob killed in the very first issue.  Grant Morrison claims that she is the main character of the Invisibles.

 

Other Comics I Read from February 2000

  • 100 Bullets 9
  • Authority 12
  • Avengers 27
  • Batman: Dark Victory 5
  • Deadenders 2
  • Detective Comics 743
  • Flash 159
  • Flinch 11
  • Hellblazer 147
  • Hitman 48
  • Hourman 13
  • JLA 40
  • JSA 9
  • Planetary 9
  • Preacher 60
  • Promethea 7
  • Punisher 1
  • Sam and Twitch 7
  • Sin City: To Hell and Back 8
  • Starman 64
  • Top Ten 7
  • Transmetropolitan 32
  • Weird War Special

February 2005

Vimanarama 1

I can’t help but think that this book would be wildly popular if it came out today.  Fifteen years ago it sank like a stone, read only by Grant Morrison enthusiasts like myself.   Both the art and story are much more in line with 2020 comics sensibilities.

This is the story of Ali, a sincere young Muslim who is eager to get married but worried that his wife will be ugly, and also a little concerned about what that might say about him.

It’s not a gun, but all you Chekhov fans know that we’re very likely to see that noose again before our story is done.

Oh, and Sofia isn’t ugly.

So, after spending half the first issue introducing characters that are hopelessly grounded in the real world, we are suddenly dropped directly into Jack Kirby’s subconscious.

And Ali and Sofia are just as unprepared as we were.

Then the weird Kirby creature removes his helm, and we learn that Ali’s troubles are just beginning.

 

Young Avengers 1

When the Young Avengers launched, the hook was that all of the legacy characters has some unrevealed connection to their more famous counterparts.  Captain America’s tolerance for youths in legacy costumes is surprisingly low.

Jim Cheung’s artwork has rarely looked better than it does on this book.

Jessica Jones holds Iron Man and Cap back and tries to negotiate a peace.

Wait for it…

This revelation inspired me to write a song about the fact that seemingly every tertiary Marvel character ends up being Kang the Conqueror.  In the song Rick Jones and Uatu the Watcher have a ridiculous conversation about Kang.  It’s important to me that you know that Kang is indeed all of the Marvel characters mentioned at the beginning of the song.

Other Comics I Read from February 2005

  • 100 Bullets 58
  • Adam Strange 6
  • Adventures of Superman 637
  • Authority: Revolution 5
  • Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes 7, 8
  • Batman: The Man Who Laughs
  • Bizarro World
  • Captain America 4
  • Catwoman 40
  • Daredevil 70
  • Deadshot 3
  • Ex Machina 8
  • Fantastic Four 523
  • Flash 219
  • Gotham Central 28
  • Hellblazer 205
  • Human Target 19
  • Incredible Hulk 78
  • Invincible 20
  • JSA 70
  • Losers 21
  • Marvel Knights Spider-Man 11
  • New Avengers 4
  • Powers 9
  • Promethea 32
  • Punisher 17
  • She-Hulk 12
  • Sleeper Season Two 9
  • Spider-Man/Human Torch 2
  • Swamp Thing 12
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 16
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 72
  • Ultimates Two 3
  • Walking Dead 15
  • Wolverine 25
  • Wonder Woman 213
  • X-Men: Phoenix Endsong 3
  • Y: The Last Man 31

February 2010

Batman and Robin 8

So Batman (Dick Grayson) puts the corpse of Batman (Bruce Wayne) into a Lazarus Pit, and out pops a living, breathing Batman!  (Not Bruce Wayne?)

Luckily Dick is wearing those glowing bars on his gauntlets so you can tell who is who while the Batman are fighting.

Of course we already knew that Darkseid didn’t kills Batman at the end of Final Crisis, but instead used the Omega Effect to send Bruce back in time.  But here we finally learn what the Batman corpse that Superman dragged out of Darkseid’s “office” was all about.

Other Comics I Read from February 2010

  • Action Comics 886
  • Amazing Spider-Man 620-622
  • Astro City: The Dark Age: Book Four 2
  • Avengers: Initiative 33
  • Batman and Robin 9
  • Batman Confidential 41
  • Blackest Night 7
  • Blackest Night: Flash 3
  • Blackest Night: Wonder Woman 3
  • Captain America 603
  • Criminal: Sinners 5
  • Daredevil 505
  • Dark Avengers 14
  • Daytripper 3
  • Detective Comics 862
  • DMZ 50
  • Ex Machina 48
  • Existence 3.0 2
  • Fantastic Four 576
  • Flash: Rebirth 6
  • Greek Street 8
  • Green Lantern 51
  • Green Lantern Corps 45
  • Hellblazer 264
  • Hellblazer: Pandemonium
  • Incredible Hercules 141
  • Incredible Hulk 607
  • Invincible 70
  • Invincible Iron Man 23
  • Joe the Barbarian 2
  • Marvels Project 6
  • Marvels: Eye of the Camera 6
  • Mighty Avengers 34
  • New Avengers 62
  • Northlanders 25
  • Phonogram: The Singles Club 7
  • Punisher Max 4
  • Secret Warriors 13
  • Siege 2
  • Spider-Woman 6
  • Strange 4
  • Sweet Tooth 6
  • SWORD 4
  • Thor 607
  • Ultimate Armor Wars 4
  • Ultimate Enemy 2
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 7
  • Uncanny X-Men 521
  • Unknown Soldier 17
  • Walking Dead 70
  • Web of Spider-Man 5
  • Wolverine: Weapon X 10
  • X-Factor 202

February 2015

Nameless 1

This thing is a pretty strange, even by Grant Morrison standards.  Here are some annotations that might help.  (But probably not.)

This book is drenched in symbolism.  The 8/infinity looking symbol (later referred to as the Gate of Az) shows up a lot, as do those words written on the wall (both presumably written in blood).  The words are Enochian, a language that sixteenth century occultist John Dee claims was dictated to him by angels.  The four words are translated:  Were, Shall Be, Is Not, and Cannot Be.

Nan Madol translates English as “Spaces Between.”  It is also an archeological site in Micronesia.  Our Nameless hero has been hired to steal the Dream Key, which he is holding here.  (Your first major sign that this scene is not taking place in reality.)

Fish are a big symbols as well.  The Hebrew letters shown mean fish and death.  In the Kabbalah, Daath is the Doorway to Knowledge, the place in the Tree of Life where all ten sefirot converge.

Then there’s this thing:

This can symbolize the Gate of Az, or the number eight, or infinity, or the ouroboros, or sex, or the animated flower sequence from Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Nameless wakes from his dream with a perfect memory of the key he was meant to steal.

Following this mission, Nameless is contacted by an insanely rich man who shows him the symbol from his dream.

Xibalba is known as the Place of Fear, or the underworld in Mayan mythology.  Turns out our man is about to become an astronaut, providing occult security on a space mission.

And it gets so much weirder…

 

Other Comics I Read from February 2015

  • Action Comics 39
  • American Vampire: Second Cycle 6
  • Avengers 41
  • Batman 39
  • Batman and Robin 39
  • Batman/Superman 19
  • Bitch Planet 3
  • Black Widow 15
  • Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier 5
  • Captain Marvel 12
  • Chew 46
  • Criminal Special Edition 1
  • Cyclops 10
  • Daredevil 13
  • Darth Vadar 1
  • Deadly Class 11
  • Deathlok 5
  • Divinity 1
  • East of West 17
  • The Empty 1
  • Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time 1
  • Graveyard Shift 3
  • Grayson 7
  • Hawkeye 21
  • Invincible 117
  • Ivar Timewalker 2
  • Justice League 39
  • Lazarus 15
  • Men of Wrath 5
  • MPH 5
  • Ms. Marvel 11, 12
  • Multiversity: Mastermen
  • Names 6
  • New Avengers 30
  • ODY-C 3
  • Postal 1
  • Punisher 15
  • Rat God 1
  • Saga 25
  • Satellite Sam 11
  • Secret Avengers 13
  • She-Hulk 12
  • Sheltered 14
  • Southern Bastards 7
  • Star Wars 2
  • Storm 8
  • Superman 39
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 16
  • They’re Not Like Us 3
  • Thief of Thieves 26
  • Thor 5
  • United States of Murder, Inc. 6
  • Valiant 3
  • Velvet 9
  • Walking Dead 137
  • Wicked + the Divine 8
  • Wytches 4

What comics do you remember reading from these years? Share your thoughts below!

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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.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks again! That Uncanny X-Men 133 is one of the first super hero comics I remember reading. We got these a bit later, I’d say it was Finnish edition of X-men in 1985.

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