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

April 1980

Marvel Team Up 95

This issue features Bobbi Morse’s first appearance as Mockingbird.  She later went on to marry Hawkeye, become a West Coat Avenger, and appear in the Agents of SHIELD TV show.  I was subscribing to Marvel Team-Up at this time, and was happy to be introduced to a new character.  The Frank Miller cover was an added bonus.

After meeting Mockingbird during an unnecessary fight scene (it’s a super-hero team-up and it’s the law) Spider-Man learns that she plans to assassinate Nick Fury!

The guy Spidey is talking to is later revealed to be a Bad Guy (his facial hair should have tipped you off).

In all the excitement, everyone forgets about the Bad Guy’s final order as a SHIELD agent.

It’s a little weird that this issue of Marvel Team-Up kind of inspired the Winter Solider film and resulting Agents of SHIELD plot lines.

Comics I Read From April 1980

  • Amazing Spider-Man 206
  • Avengers 197
  • Cerebus 15
  • Daredevil 165
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 44
  • Untold Legends of the Batman 1
  • Uncanny X-Men 135

April 1985

Saga of the Swamp Thing 38

For the second issue in a row, Steve Bissette is MIA (this issue is pencilled by Stan Woch) but John Totleben’s inking has so much personality that you’d be forgiven for not even noticing.

This is John Constantine’s second appearance, and the Sting is very strong here.  Look at that second panel.  Fans of David Lynch’s Dune can practically hear Constantine screaming, “I will kill him!”

35 years ago, I probably thought that Constantine was upset that someone called him gay, but now it reads more like Moore was establishing Constantine’s queerness.  And, having the guy attempt to remedy his homophobia with misogyny is sadly on point.

Later, Constantine quickly establishes the nature of his relationship with Swamp Thing.

This is a call back to the second issue of Saga of the Swamp Thing — written long before Alan Moore took over the book — and another great example of how Moore can craft great stories by grabbing the dangling threads left by previous writers.

Comics I Read From April 1985

  • Alpha Flight 25
  • Amazing Spider-Man 266, 267
  • American Flagg 23
  • Avengers 257
  • Black Dragon 1, 2
  • Cerebus 73
  • Coyote 12
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths 4
  • Defenders 145
  • Gargoyle 3
  • Marvel Fanfare 21
  • Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu 2
  • Neat Stuff 1
  • Nexus 11
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 104
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 118
  • Secret Wars II
  • Sisterhood of Steel 4
  • Strange Days 3
  • Vigilante 19
  • Web of Spider-Man 5

April 1990

Animal Man 24

At the end of the last issue, Ultraman had broken the panel border that imprisoned him and left the comic page.  Here Animal Man examines the breech:

Another forgotten character (Overman) shows up to start another unnecessary fight, but the Psycho Pirate knows it’s all just a distraction.

With the help of Dr. Highwater, the characters discover more about the nature of their reality:

Animal Man fights Overman from outside the panels.

Eventually, Overman is defeated by the panel itself.

Highwater lets the forgotten heroes know that they are immortal.

Take note of that guy from the third panel who is worried he’ll never be seen again.  (It’ll come up again in 25 years.)

Other Comics I Read from April 1990

  • Atlantis Chronicles 3
  • Cerebus 133
  • Concrete Celebrates Earth Day 1990
  • Doom Patrol 33
  • Dr. Fate 17
  • Dreadstar 57
  • Hate 1
  • Hellblazer 30
  • Incredible Hulk 370, Annual 16
  • Legends of the Dark Knight 7
  • Sandman 16
  • Yummy Fur 20

April 1995

Invisibles 9

From the start many American readers were upset that Jack Frost wasn’t more relatable.  He was initially presented as a whiny brat who’s primary connection/attraction to the reader was that he knew as little about what was going as we did.  In this issue, Jack is left to fend for himself against an enemy he doesn’t even understand.  Not knowing what else to do, he grabs King Mob’s gun and runs.  He doesn’t get very far.

At this point, there has been a lot of cool action violence, all delivered “nice and smooth” by King Mob, so we’re utterly unprepared for Jack’s reaction to having murdered someone.

This (very reasonable) emotional response is the first likable thing that Jack does, and it is the beginning of both his journey to Buddhahood, as well as the salvation of King Mob.

Comics I Read from April 1995

  • Amazing Spider-Man 402
  • Big Book of Death
  • Cerebus 193
  • Dark Horse Presents 96
  • Druid 2
  • Eightball 15
  • Flash 102
  • Goddess 1
  • Hate 18
  • Hellblazer 90
  • Impulse 3
  • Incredible Hulk 430
  • Kill Your Boyfriend
  • Milk and Cheese 666
  • Palookaville 7
  • Preacher 3
  • Shade the Changing Man 60
  • Starman 8
  • Swamp Thing 155
  • Tank Girl: The Odyssey 1

April 2000

Invisibles 1

This is the final issue of last volume of the Invisibles.  The major plot points wrapped up in the previous issue, so this is an epilogue that (as promised by Grant Morrison at the outset of the series) reveals the meaning of life.

I find it fascinating that Morrison was talking about memes in early 2000.

Twenty years later, meme culture played out pretty much exactly as described by Morrison here:

This issue makes the “life as a game” metaphor overt.  Specifically, what we have been experiencing as a comic book is revealed to be a playable inhalant.

Sing it with me:  “And on that farm, he had some neo-modernist kitchen sink science fiction.  Extreme Impact Environmental Immersion Option.”

We end in a suitably bravura fashion, with Jack letting us know we are free, and Morrison and Quitely delivering a remarkable pun that could really only work in comics.

Top Ten 8

Top 10 is a police procedural that takes place in a world where everyone has super-powers.  So you have super-powered cops arresting super-powered criminals while protecting and serving super-powered citizens.  This issue involves a traffic accident that the cops refer to as a “Jump-Bump” — a teleportation collision where the victims were fused together.

Saroona is dead, and Mr. Nebula isn’t doing too well, either.

Alan Moore demonstrates that Grant Morrison isn’t the only comic book writing occult genius that’s really into the “life as a game” metaphor.

Kapela explains his world view:

Of course, it’s all about perspective.

And if that sky metaphor sounded familiar to you, it’s because the creators of True Detective appear to be Alan Moore fans.

True Detective Rust and Marty talk about the sky: “The light’s winning”

From True Detective Season 01 Episode 08. All properties of Home Box Office Inc. “- E’ una storia sola, la più vecchia: luce contro oscurità. – Beh, so che n…

Other Comics I Read from April 2000

  • 100 Bullets 11
  • Authority 14
  • Avengers 29
  • Avengers 2: Wonder Man and the Beast 2
  • Batman: Dark Victory 7
  • Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood 1
  • Deadenders 4
  • Detective Comics 745
  • Hellblazer 149
  • Hitman 50
  • Hourman 15
  • JSA 11
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 5
  • Lucifer 5
  • Peepshow 12
  • Powers 1
  • Preacher 62
  • Punisher 3
  • Sam and Twitch 9
  • Shock Rockets 1
  • Sin City: To Hell and Back 9
  • Starman 66
  • Transmetropolitan 34

April 2005

Vimanarama 3

Vimanarama suffered from too much story in too few pages.  What should have been a 12-issue (if not an ongoing) series was crammed into three issues.

At the end of the last issue, the gods were failing everyone, and our hero Ali was dead.  Turns out the afterlife — as imagined by Grant Morrison and Philip Bond — is a very strange place indeed.

Sofia was meant to be Ali’s spouse, but then she found out she was the reincarnation of Rama’s lover.

Ali is surprised to find his (as far as he knew, still living) older brother and father in the afterlife.

We learn that while Ali thinks his family dismiss him as lazy and shiftless, they in fact expect great things from him.

And it’s not really a Grant Morrison comic without at least some meta-narrative.

Sofia finally remembers that Rama had given her Chekhov’s Gun during the previous issue.

She gives Ali the elixir, and we rush off to Happily Ever After.

Other Comics I Read from April 2005

  • 100 Bullets 60
  • Adam Strange 8
  • Amazing Spider-Man 519
  • Astonishing X-Men 10
  • Authority: Revolution 7
  • Captain America 6
  • Daredevil 72
  • Deadshot 5
  • Ex Machina 10
  • Flash 221
  • Gotham Central 30
  • Great Lakes Avengers 1
  • Hate Annual 5
  • Hellblazer 207
  • Human Target 21
  • Incredible Hulk 80
  • Invincible 0, 22
  • JSA 72
  • Losers 23
  • Lucifer 61
  • New Avengers 6
  • Ocean 6
  • OMAC Project 1
  • Powers 10
  • Punisher 19, 20
  • Runaways 3
  • Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy 1
  • Seven Soldiers: Zatanna 1
  • Sleeper Season Two 11
  • Spider-Man/Human Torch 4
  • Swamp Thing 14
  • Teen Titans 23
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 18
  • Ultimate Secret 2
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 75, 76
  • Ultimates Two 5
  • Walking Dead 17, 18
  • Wolverine 27
  • Wonder Woman 215
  • X-Men: Phoenix Endsong 5
  • Y: The Last Man 32
  • Young Avengers 3

April 2010

Captain America: Who Won’t Wield the Shield?

Warning: Captain America does not appear in a single panel of this comic book, and it is very silly.

What we have here are two very strange short stories, elaborately framed with a story written by (and featuring) Jason Aaron that takes place at a comic book store signing:

The signing is interrupted by Forbush Man.

In 1967, Marvel published a humor comic called Not Brand Echh.  If Not Brand Echh was Marvel’s Mad Magazine, Forbush Man was Marvel’s Alfred E. Newman.  As one might imagine, such an innocent character is appalled by Marvel’s “realistic” violence.

Forbush Man exacts his revenge by killing the writer of the story, but in doing so only reveals that he has become a purveyor of the very violence he is protesting.  (Note Aaron’s last word, which is annoyingly misspelled.)

Then, for reasons that don’t really matter, we go into a delightfully insane story by Matt Fraction and Brendan McCarthy.

This is the sort of story where this kind of stuff happens:

We even get a nod to the phone contest that led to the death of Jason Todd’s Robin, which is pretty much Ground Zero for violent shenanigans as fan service.

Meanwhile, back in our framing sequence, Ed Brubaker gets the upper hand on Forbush Man, and Jason Aaron (the writer, not the dead character) has some fun at Ed “I brought Bucky back from the dead” Brubaker’s expense.

Other Comics I Read from April 2010

  • Action Comics 888, 889
  • Amazing Spider-Man 628, 629
  • American Vampire 2
  • Area 10
  • Astro City: The Dark Age: Book Four 4
  • Avengers: Initiative 35
  • Batman and Robin 11
  • Batman Confidential 43
  • Brightest Day 0
  • Captain America 605
  • Chew 10
  • Daredevil 506
  • Daytripper 5
  • Demo 2, 3
  • Detective Comics 864
  • DMZ 52
  • DV8: Gods and Monsters 1
  • Existence 3.0  3
  • Fantastic Four 578
  • Flash 1
  • Greek Street 10
  • Green Lantern 53
  • Green Lantern Corps 47
  • Hate Annual 8
  • Hellblazer 266
  • Herc: Fall of an Avenger 2
  • Invincible 71
  • Invincible Iron Man 25
  • Iron Man: Legacy
  • Joe the Barbarian 4
  • Marvel Zombies 5  1, 2
  • Mighty Avengers 36
  • New Avengers 64, Finale
  • Northlanders 27
  • Powers 4
  • Punisher Max 6
  • Scalped 37
  • Secret Warriors 15
  • SHIELD 1
  • Siege 4
  • Siege: Captain America 1
  • Siege: Loki 1
  • Siege: Spider-Woman 1
  • Sif 1
  • Spider-Man: Fever 1
  • Sweet Tooth 8
  • Thor 609
  • Ultimate Comics Avengers 6, 7
  • Ultimate Enemy 4
  • Uncanny X-Men 523
  • Unknown Soldier 19
  • Wolverine: Weapon X 12
  • X-Factor 204

April 2015

Multiversity 2

Multiversity comes to an end, and, just like in every other Crisis, it comes down to the speedsters.

In a matter of seconds, Red Racer gathers speedsters from all across the multiverse to help save us all.

President Superman gathers the troops for the final battle.

Remember that guy from Animal Man 24 (way back in 1990), who was worried he’d never be seen again?  Well, there he is, sitting at the lower left hand corner of the panel.

Captain Carrot is Committed to the Cause!  And if you ever wondered what planet in the DC Multiverse we lived on, here’s your answer:

It looks like we’re in trouble.

The Surface 2

Ales Kot does some great things with meta-narration in this comic.

The voice is our head is ours, but who put it there?  When we read the words on the page, are they coming from the author, from us, or from some third place?

Who really controls the narrative?

Technically, this is all true.  We are not there.  This isn’t happening.  “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”

But, as it turns out, the narrator hasn’t even been talking to us.

Other Comics I Read from April 2015

  • All-New Hawkeye 2
  • American Vampire: Second Cycle 7
  • Avengers 43, 44
  • Batman and Robin Annual 3
  • Batman/Superman Annual 2
  • Big Man Plans 2
  • Bitch Planet 4
  • Black Widow 17
  • Bloodshot Reborn 1
  • Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier 7
  • Captain Marvel 14
  • Chew 48
  • Chrononauts 2
  • Convergence: Atom 1
  • Convergence: Batgirl 1
  • Convergence: Hawkman 1
  • Convergence: Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters 1
  • Convergence: The Question 1
  • Copperhead 6
  • Cyclops 12
  • Daredevil 15
  • Darth Vader 4
  • Deadly Class 12
  • Deathlok 7
  • Descender 2
  • Divinity 3
  • Dying and the Dead 2
  • Empty 3
  • Fade Out 5
  • Fox 1
  • Graveyard Shift 4
  • Invincible 119
  • Invisible Republic 2
  • Ivar Timewalker 4
  • Jupiter’s Circle 1
  • Kaptara 1
  • Lazarus 16
  • Legacy of Luther Strode 1
  • Ms. Marvel 14
  • Nameless 3
  • Names 8
  • New Avengers 33
  • No Mercy 1
  • Ody-C 4
  • One-Hit Wonder 5
  • Outcast 8
  • Palookaville 22
  • Pastaways 2
  • Pisces 1
  • Postal 3
  • Princess Leia 2
  • Punisher 17
  • Rat God 3
  • Rat Queens 10
  • Rebels 1
  • Revival 29
  • Secret Avengers 15
  • Secret Identities 3
  • Southern Bastards 8
  • Spread 7
  • Star Wars 4
  • Storm 10
  • They’re Not Like Us 5
  • Thor 7
  • Tithe 1
  • Velvet 10
  • Walking Dead 140

 

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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.

4 Comments

  1. Great stuff once again! Oh, I love Marvel Team-up, why can’t we have something like that now? One shot stories with varying and interesting cast of characters.

    • Because the “casual fan” readers don’t really exist any more and the type of stories we’d get in MTU or Marvel Two-In-One now end up rolled into crossover tie-ins, like the lower-tier ‘War of the Realms’ books. Remember the one with Giant-Man, Atlas, Goliath and Ant-Man infiltrating the frost giants? Total Marvel Team-Up issue…

        • Rand Bellavia on

          Good to hear from you both. Marvel Team-Up (and Two-in-One, Brave and the Bold, etc.) were such simple — and wonderful — concepts. Every month you got to see a beloved character interact with other beloved characters, or with brand new ones. As a child, I was allowed one subscription on my birthday and one at Christmas, and I always got Marvel Team-Up and the Avengers, to be sure I’d get Spider-Man and Captain America while also maximizing my exposure to as many Marvel characters (old and new) as possible.

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