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

November 1980

UNCANNY X-MEN 142

I find myself thinking that a lot of the X-Men stories from this era don’t hold up, but the truth is that they remain head and shoulders above most comics from the time, and the let down I’m experiencing is more about how highly I regarded them at the time.  So much of the vocabulary of super-hero team comics (that we take for granted and think of as cliche) was created right here.

I’m also amused that the title of this massively important issue is based on a 1980 Steely Dan single that no one remembers.

This storyline was famously used as the plot engine for the Days of Future Past X-Men film.  Wolverine had a much smaller role in this story though.

As the cover promises, this alternate reality allowed us to see all of our favorites die horribly.

But Kitty/Kate saves the day, so we get all of that voyeuristic violence with none of the story consequences.  For now.

Comics I Read From November 1980

  • Amazing Spider-Man 213
  • Avengers 204
  • Captain America 254
  • Cerebus 22
  • Defenders 92
  • Justice League of America 187
  • Marvel Team-Up 102
  • Moon Knight 4
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 51
  • What If 25

 

November 1985

DAREDEVIL 228

We open with another (in a series of) amazing overhead splash pages, and Matt is that much closer to a fetal position.

Frank Miller is great at showing undeniably heroic characters who are coming unglued.  Miller presents  Matt’s fall as both sad and creepy.

Most artists depict the Kingpin as cartoonishly large and round (climaxing in Bill Sienkiewicz’s absurd Kingpin made up of two concentric circles — a small round head inside a large round body), but Mazzucchelli’s Kingpin is pure physical menace.

He’s got that Andre the Giant/King Kong Bundy energy.  You have no problem believing his could take Daredevil down.

Miller’s fetish for hard-boiled crime fiction shows a bit here, but it’s a good fit for the story.

Miller knows that it’s too early in the story for a full return of hope, so he ends the issue with a pinprick of light..

GREENBERG THE VAMPIRE

A lot of J. M. DeMatteis strangest (and best) 80s work has never gotten the attention it deserves.  This is the story of a Jewish vampire who chooses to live his life as a horror novelist.  As the cover illustrates, the plot is driven more by Oscar Greenburg’s writer’s block than his quest for blood.

Many of the most entertaining moments are glimpses into Greenburg’s failed stories.  In the same way that Kilgour Trout is largely a character for Kurt Vonnegut to pin his entertainingly bad idea on, Greenburg exists as a way to get DeMatteis’ abandoned plots into the world.

But my favorite bit is when Oscar meets fledgling horror writer Josh Poemkin.

The Forking has been my go to “terrible novel” title for 35 years now.

Comics I Read From November 1985

  • Alien Legion 11
  • Aquaman 1
  • Avengers 264
  • Badger 10
  • Cerebus 80
  • Conan the King 33
  • Defenders 152
  • Dreadstar 22
  • Incredible Hulk 316
  • Johnny Nemo Magazine 2
  • Miracleman 3
  • Moonshadow 6
  • Neat Stuff 3
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 111
  • Punisher 2
  • Scout 2
  • Secret Wars II 8
  • Six from Sirius 2 1
  • Super Powers 6
  • Swamp Thing 45
  • Uncanny X-Men 202
  • Vigilante 26
  • Web of Spider-Man 12
  • West Coast Avengers 6
  • X-Factor 1

November 1990

BOOKS OF MAGIC 1

This is the first appearance of Neil Gaiman’s Tim Hunter, who in no way inspired Harry Potter, thank you very much.  I mean sure, they’re both British boys with glasses who lost their mothers and live in poverty and are destined to be the world’s greatest magicians, but what else?

Seriously though, while now seems like an ideal time to pile on Rowling, it’s probably more reasonable to acknowledge that Hunter and Potter share the same genre trappings and inspirations than accuse her of stealing from Gaiman.

And for Tim Hunter, “going to school” means he gets to hang out with “the trenchcoat brigade” of DC magicians.

L to R: The Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult, Mister E, and John Constantine.

To give some indication of how creepy and off-putting they are, Constantine is what passes for approachable in this crew.

Constantine teaches Tim the first rule of magic: You don’t tell anyone your name.

The Phantom Stranger has a pretty good argument.

Oh yeah, Hunter and Potter also both have an owl as a familiar.

This four-issue series is designed so each magician (and their mission) is given an issue, illustrated by a unique artist suited to the task at hand.  This first issue (illustrated by John Bolton) features The Phantom Stranger showing Timothy Hunter the magic of the past.  The other issues feature Constantine showing Tim the magical present (illustrated by Scott Hampton), Doctor Occult showing Tim the Faerie and other mystical realms (illustrated by Charles Vess), and Mister E showing Tim the future (illustrated by Paul Johnson).

Bolton’s work is really something, as the journey to the past allows him to demonstrate an impressive array of art styles.  They return to the present where Constantine takes Timothy into issue two, and we get some pretty obvious foreshadowing for where issue four will take us.

DOOM PATROL 40

The Doom Patrol have been trapped on another planet for many issues by now.  Robot Man’s body below the waist was destroyed, and the surgeons of the insect mesh improvised.

I love this bit where Cliff and Jane find themselves in the Zone of Words That Kill.

Other Comics I Read from November 1990

  • Animal Man 31
  • Cerebus 140
  • Dr. Fate 23
  • Dreadstar 64
  • Drowned Girl
  • Eightball 5
  • Fantastic Four 348
  • Gift 1
  • Hellblazer 37
  • Incredible Hulk 377
  • Sandman 21, 22
  • Shade the Changing Man 7

November 1995

HELLBLAZER 97

Paul Jenkins’ Hellblazer run started and ended pretty well, and this one-shot issue is one of the highlights of the sagging middle.  Having recently gotten a (literal) new lease on life, John wanders the woods and stumbles across an old man.

The man offers Constantine a tarot reading.

This tarot desk is animal themed.

But John has changed — mostly because he just forced the dark aspects of his soul into a human host and condemned him to hell.

The old man offers John a glimpse of the third card, indicating who he will become.

John is surprisingly freaked out, and chooses to walk away.

Wiping your soul clean doesn’t really help if you remain the same person who got your soul dirty in the first place.  And in case you hadn’t figured out who the old man was…

Comics I Read from November 1995

  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 79
  • Captain America 447
  • Cerebus 200
  • Daredevil 348
  • Doc Samson 1
  • Doctor Strange 85
  • Egypt 6
  • Flash 109
  • Goddess 8
  • Grendel: Devil Quest 1
  • Hellboy: The Wolves of Saint August
  • Horrorist 2
  • Impulse 10
  • Incredible Hulk 437
  • Invisibles 16
  • Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 4
  • Preacher 10
  • Sandman 74
  • Savage Hulk 1
  • Seekers: Into the Mystery 1
  • Shade the Changing Man 67
  • Sin City: Silent Night
  • Skrull Kill Krew 5
  • Spider-Man 2099 Meets Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man: The Lost Years 0
  • Starman 15
  • Swamp Thing 162
  • Thor 494
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man 5
  • Wildcats 24

November 2000

WORLD FUNNEST

This is Evan Dorkin’s mainstream comics masterpiece.  Part of what makes this impy romp through the DC multiverse so brilliant is that each world visited gets its own artist, with names as impressive as Frank Miller, Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland, Alex Ross, Jaime Hernandez, David Mazzucchelli and many more.

We open in the Silver Age:

Mr. Mxyzptlk overreacts just a bit, but Bat-Mite isn’t worried.

And before you can say “What if?” everyone is dead.

After they run out of heroes to kill, they take down the entire planet and move on to the universe itself.

Then it’s off to the Fourth World.

One interesting aspect is that they appear to be moving forward in time (from our perspective) which allows them to go from the early 70s Kirbyverse to the mid-70s Super Friends.

Things get a bit darker in the Dark Knight universe (published, of course, in the 80s).

Can’t forget the post-Watchmen Dark Age.

And you’re not getting out of the 90s without a nod to Kingdom Come.

Eventually Bat-Mite and Mxyzptlk find themselves alone in the void of a destroyed multiverse.

They hit the cosmic reset button and move on with their lives.

Other Comics I Read from November 2000

  • 100 Bullets 18
  • Authority 20
  • Avengers 35, 36
  • Batman 585
  • Batman: Dark Victory 13
  • Batman: Turning Points 1-5
  • Daredevil: Ninja 1
  • Detective Comics 752
  • Fantastic Four 37
  • Flash 168
  • Flinch 16
  • Geeksville 4
  • Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame
  • Hellblazer 155, 156
  • Hellspawn 3
  • Hitman 57
  • Hourman 22
  • JLA 48
  • JLA: A League of One
  • JSA 18
  • Legends of the DC Universe 36
  • Lucifer 8
  • Maximum Security 3
  • Midnight Nation 3
  • Planetary 12
  • Powers 1/2, 7
  • Preacher: Dead or Alive
  • Punisher 9, 10
  • Punisher/Painkiller Jane 1
  • Sam and Twitch 16
  • Sentry 5
  • Starman 73
  • Tomorrow Stories 8
  • Top 10 10
  • Transmetropolitan 40
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 3

November 2005

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN 1

If you’re reading this column and you haven’t read this comic, you’re doing something terribly wrong.  If you have any love for Superman (or super-heroes) then you owe it to yourself to check this out, no matter how much you hate Grant Morrison.

Let’s start with that cover.  Superman is invulnerable.  If nothing could hurt you, you’d be pretty relaxed too, right?  Morrison claims that they “met” Superman at a con.  (It was a guy in a Superman costume who remained in character during their conversation.)  Apparently this is the way he was sitting, and it made an impression on Morrison, so they sketched it for Frank Quitely.

Morrison and Quitely devote exactly four panels and eight words to Superman’s origin story.  Well done.

The story opens with Dr. Leo Quintum giving Superman some bad news.

In a previous column I presented the theory that Quintum is a future version of a reformed Lex Luthor.  This conversation is the first real clue.

As much as I love Frank Quitely’s Superman, his Clark Kent is even better.  Taking a clue from Christopher Reeve, Quietly’s Kent is a towering doofus — you can’t hide all that bulk, but you can dress in baggy suits and pass it off as amorphous mass.

It’s also a nice touch how Superman uses Kent’s “clumsiness” to save lives.

Facing death over the course of a 12 issue series, Superman decides to end the first issue by coming clean with Lois.

PLASTIC MAN 19

Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man run (which just came back into print in a single collection) is a pretty great overall, but it ends particularly well, with some great jokes about the greater DC universe.

This extended riff on the early 70s Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams Ra’s Al Ghul Batman stories is priceless.

Other Comics I Read from November 2005

  • 100 Bullets 66
  • Adventures of Superman 646
  • Authority: The Magnificent Kevin 4
  • Battle Pope 4
  • Books of Doom 1
  • Captain America 13
  • Daredevil 79
  • Desolation Jones 4
  • DMZ 1
  • Down 1
  • Ex Machina 16
  • Fell 3
  • Ghost Rider 3
  • Gotham Central 37
  • Green Lantern 5
  • Hellblazer 214
  • Infinite Crisis 2
  • Invincible 27
  • Jack Cross 4
  • JLA: Classified 14
  • JSA 79
  • Losers 30
  • Loveless 2
  • Lucifer 68
  • New Avengers 13
  • Powers 14
  • Pulse 12
  • Punisher 27
  • Runaways 10
  • Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer 1
  • Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein 1
  • Seven Soldiers: Zatanna 4
  • She-Hulk 2
  • Silent Dragon 5
  • Spider-Man Unlimited 12
  • Swamp Thing 21
  • Teen Titans 29
  • Thing 1
  • Tomorrow Stories Special 1
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 25
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 85, 86
  • Ultimate X-Men 65
  • Ultimates 2 9
  • Walking Dead 23, 24
  • Wonder Woman 223
  • X-Factor 1
  • X-Men: Deadly Genesis 1
  • Y: The Last Man 39

November 2010

BATMAN AND ROBIN 16

Big month for Grant Morrison’s Batman epic.  You get the final issue of the Return of Bruce Wayne series, the first issue of Batman, Inc., the Batman: The Return one shot, and this climactic issue of Batman and Robin.

Batman (Bruce Wayne) returns from his Darkseid’s time-banishment and is only a little confused to find  Batman (Dick Grayson) waiting for him.

The Joker’s final confrontation with Doctor Hurt manages to be both predictable and satisfying.

Bruce Wayne explains his absence while also introducing the next chapter in Batman’s life.

The idea here is brilliant.  Bruce can now openly fund (and talk about) Batman without fear of revealing his identity.  And franchising your most popular product is what good businesses do.  The subsequent Batman, Inc. book not only allowed Morrison to take the Batman of All Nations idea to the next level, but also was a tremendous pun on Morrison’s initial concept that everything that ever happened in a Batman comic actually happening to Bruce Wayne in a 10-20 year period.

 

Other Comics I Read from November 2010

  • Amazing Spider-Man 647-649
  • American Vampire 8
  • Avengers 7
  • Avengers Academy 6
  • Avengers Prime 4
  • Avengers: The Children’s Crusade 3
  • Batwoman 0
  • Brightest Day 13, 14
  • Captain America 612
  • Captain America: Forever Allies 4
  • Captain America: Man Out of Time
  • Chaos War 3
  • Chaos War: Dead Avengers 1
  • Chaos War Thor 1
  • Chew 15
  • Deadpool Max 2
  • Detective Comics 571
  • DMZ 59
  • DV8: Gods and Monsters 8
  • Fantastic Four 585
  • Flash 6
  • Generation Hope 1
  • Green Lantern 59
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 4
  • Hellblazer 273
  • Hellblazer: City of Demons 3, 4
  • Incredible Hulk 616, 617
  • Invaders Now 3
  • Invincible 75
  • Invincible Iron Man 32
  • Iron Man: Legacy 8
  • Morning Glories 4
  • New Avengers 6
  • Northlanders 34
  • Osborn 1
  • Scalped 43
  • Scarlet 3
  • Secret Avengers 7
  • Secret Warriors 22
  • Shadowland: Power Man 4
  • Superior 2
  • Superman 705
  • Sweet Tooth 15
  • Taskmaster 3
  • Thor 617
  • Thor: The Mighty Avenger 6
  • Twenty-Seven 1
  • Ultimate Comics Avengers 16
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 150
  • Ultimate Thor 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 530
  • Unknown Soldier 25
  • Walking Dead 79
  • Wolverine 3
  • X-Factor 211

November 2015

GROOT 6

Jeff Loveness has been getting some attention due to his work on Rick and Morty, but he’s been quietly writing amazing comics for several years now.  This Groot series has a lot of heart.

No Rocket to provide translation here, so it’s Jean Grey’s telepathy to the rescue.

Here are Groot’s memories:

Groot saves her from his people.

This was many years ago.

Jean comes through, and Groot is able to find her.

It’s a nice touch that in Groot’s mind, she rescued him.

HOWARD THE DUCK 1

Chip Zdarsky’s is probably most known for his art on Sex Criminals or his surprisingly serious scripts for Daredevil, but his Howard the Duck is hilarious.

Howard won’t let it go.

We also get The Wizard and Titania at the Nexus of All Realities, and that’s funny, too!

We end on this image.

if you’re not already aware, Howard the Duck and Rocket Raccoon are both pretty famous for being the last of their race…

 

Other Comics I Read from November 2015

  • Action Comics 46
  • Airboy 4
  • All-New Hawkeye 1
  • All-New Wolverine 1, 2
  • All-New, All-Different Avengers 1
  • Amazing Spider-Man 3
  • American Vampire: Second Cycle 11
  • Archie 4
  • Batman/Superman 26
  • Black Magick 2
  • Bloodshot Reborn 8
  • Chew 52
  • Descender 7
  • Detective Comics 46
  • Doctor Strange 2
  • Eve: Valkyrie 2
  • Fade Out 11
  • Fight Club 2  7
  • Goddamned 1
  • Grayson 14
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  • Huck 1
  • I Hate Fairyland 2
  • Invincible 125
  • Invincible Iron Man 3
  • Invisible Republic 7
  • Ivar Timewalker 11
  • Jacked 1
  • Jessica Jones 1
  • Jughead 2
  • Jupiter’s Circle 1
  • Justice League: Darkseid War: Green Lantern 1
  • Kaptara 5
  • Lazarus 20
  • Midnighter 6
  • Mighty Thor 1
  • Monstress 1
  • Ms. Marvel 1
  • Ninak 9
  • Omega Men 6
  • Paper Girls 2
  • Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl 4
  • Postal 8
  • Postal: FBI Dossier 1
  • Rebels 8
  • Saga 31
  • Secret Wars 7
  • Secret Wars Too 1
  • SHIELD 12
  • Southern Bastards 12
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 23
  • Superman: American Alien 1
  • Thors 4
  • Valiant 1
  • Velvet 12
  • Vision 1
  • Walking Dead 148
  • We Stand on Guard 5

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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.

2 Comments

  1. Jarmo Seppänen on

    Excellent, as always! This time three of my favorites were included: Those X-Men & Daredevil stories are amongst the first I ever read and still some of the best. All-Star Superman is probably my favorite capes and tights story of all time.

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