This month, Rand Bellavia takes a look at his growing longbox, and reflects on comics released in February 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016!

Rand Bellavia is back to share his fond memories of decades of comic collecting and reading in this month’s Random Access Memory.

February 1981

Ka-Zar 2

Throughout the 80s Bruce Jones was one of my favorite writers.  I loved this book hard.  Rereading it now, I can see that it is seriously over-written and a bit hackneyed in places, but the emotional beats still get me.  Astro City fans should take note of the early Brent Anderson art.

I always enjoyed the Ka-Zar / Zabu relationship, but this was my first reading since beginning to share my home with a cat, so Zabu is absolutely my favorite part of the book.

Comics I Read From February 1981

  • Daredevil 170
  • Moon Knight 7
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 54
  • Uncanny X-Men 145

February 1986

 Miracleman 6

This was a key issue for me in my transition from a fan of super-heroes to a fan of comics.  I have always enjoyed comics as a way to tell stories, but with this comic I began to see the ways in which comic storytelling could be unique.

Alan Moore wrote and Chuck Beckum (now Chuck Austen) drew this issue.  On the surface, the art isn’t particularly impressive, which only serves to emphasize the importance of the story-telling itself.

Mr. Moran, AKA Miracleman, is trapped in his human form, with a horrible monster chasing after him.  Previously, Evelyn Cream was presented pretty much as a Bond villain, so it is surprising to see him come to Moran’s rescue.

Cream is a Black man who wears a white suit and has blue teeth.  He is been a scary background character, so it is surprising when he becomes the narrator — providing us direct access to the thoughts of this previously mysterious character  — and the racial subtext becomes overtly textual.

And then we have the reveal that could really only work in the static visual context of comics.

Swamp Thing 48

This month makes a pretty solid justification for why Alan Moore was my favorite comic book writer in 1986.  It’s probably hard for someone reading 35 years later to imagine how impressive these two comics were at the time, but to have them come in the same month (and by the same author) is almost too much.

This is another issue where the mysterious supporting character (in this case, John Constantine) takes over as narrator.  The “Not Lantern” is the Invunche.  John’s plan is falling apart, and it’s about to get worse, as there is a traitor in his midst.

Of course when your initials are JC you really ought to expect betrayal from an old friend named Judith, you know?

This is the first issue of Swamp Thing that was both penciled and inked by regular inker John Totleben, and his work is outstanding.

And did I mention that this is a horror comic?

Those pesky bad guys cast a spell barring all plant life — preventing Swamp Thing from entering to save the day.  But earlier in the issue, Judith put a flower in her hair.

Judith is a bird.  And Swamp Thing is pissed.

The Invunche attacks, Constantine is drowning, and the bird is escaping.  Swamp Thing has a choice to make.

Part of Swamp Thing’s origin story (from the classic 1972 first issue by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson) is that his wife was killed while he was busy saving a dog drowning in the swamp.  Here Alan Moore gives Alec a mulligan.  This time he chooses to save the human, but it’s still the wrong choice.  Maybe the lesson was that he should just let things drown.

 

Comics I Read From February 1986

  • Alien Encounters 5
  • Amazing Spider-Man 276
  • Aquaman 4
  • Avengers 267
  • Badger 12, 13
  • Captain America 317
  • Cerebus 83
  • Daredevil 231
  • Dreadstar 23
  • Incredible Hulk 319
  • Mage 11
  • Marvel Fanfare 26
  • Moonshadow 7
  • One 5
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 114
  • Punisher 5
  • Scout 4
  • Shadow 1
  • Solomon Kane 5
  • Swamp Thing 48
  • Twisted Tales of Bruce Jones 1, 2
  • Uncanny X-Men 205
  • Vigilante 29
  • Vision and the Scarlet Witch 8
  • Web of Spider-Man 15
  • West Coast Avengers 9
  • X-Factor 4

February 1991

Incredible Hulk 380

In 1977 I remember getting issue 14 of The Eternals because the Hulk was on the cover.  The text said that The Eternals were “face to face with the cosmic powered Hulk!”  I didn’t know what that meant, but I was on board.  Turned out this “Cosmic Hulk” was some sort of Hulk robot.  Really.  What a rip off.

I was too young to know that covers often lie.  So it was amusing to me that this issue bragged on the cover that the Hulk made no appearance.  To be clear: no Bruce Banner panels, either!  In this stand-alone Doc Samson story, Doc Samson stands alone.

This is an anti-death penalty issue that predates popular films like Dead Man Walking and The Green Mile by several years.  Impressively, it doesn’t try to pound you with a moral hammer.  Much of the issue is devoted to Samson’s interview with Crazy Eight, and we learn her origin story.

She is certainly capable of understanding the moral consequences of her actions, but…

Samson knows that something is up, so he continues to visit her in prison, where she opens up a little bit.

He attends her execution, where there is only one other witness.  Samson recognizes her as the “injured women” from the beginning of the story.

Outside the prison, Samson is confronted by a mob celebrating Crazy Eight’s execution.  One guys calls her a pig and asks if “she squealed at the end,” providing the reader with a solid pun and Doc Samson with an exit line.

Other Comics I Read from February 1991

  • Animal Man 34
  • Books of Magic 4
  • Cerebus 143
  • Classics Illustrated 21
  • Doom Patrol 43
  • Hellblazer 40
  • Kid Eternity 1
  • Legends of the Dark Knight 16
  • Sandman 25
  • Shade the Changing Man 10

February 1996

Invisibles 19

If you don’t want to read the Invisibles by now, me showing you a bunch of panels isn’t going to do either of us any good.  So I’ll keep this brief.

It’s important to remember that this came out before the Matrix.

Morrison does a great job of giving the enemy a compelling argument without ever asking us to be convinced by it.  I imagine if they wrote this today they might be more concerned that their readers would agree with Sir Miles.

And, because this is the Invisibles, you can’t go more than two pages without being asked to consider even the simplest ideas from an entirely new perspective.

This, by the way, is why American’s say “Zee” and not “Zed.”  It prevents demon possession.  (Also, because Zed Zed Top is a terrible band name.)

 

Comics I Read from February 1996

  • Batman Chronicles 4
  • Big Book of Freaks
  • Bone 22
  • Captain America 450
  • Cerebus 203
  • Doc Samson 4
  • Flash 112
  • Impulse 13
  • Incredible Hulk 440
  • JLX 1
  • Preacher 13
  • Seekers: Into the Mystery 4
  • Sin City: That Yellow Bastard 1
  • Super Soldier 1
  • Underwater 5
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man 8
  • WildCATs 26

 

February 2001

Ultimate Marvel Team-Up 1

I was a Brian Michael Bendis fan well before he started writing for Marvel.  In fact, I remember him telling me at a con that he had very exciting news that he couldn’t yet share.  This was the launch of Ultimate Spider-Man.  It was also back when Bendis’ booth was as sparsely populated as mine, and we had a lot of time to talk during cons.  (A luxury I am still afforded that Bendis, alas, is not.)

I grew up a huge Marvel Team-Up fan, so was rather excited about this book, and was surprised to find that this was the first Bendis issue of any stripe that didn’t really do it for me.  Looking back at it now, I can see that I  was wrong.

This first issue featured the debut of Ultimate Wolverine and was drawn by the great Matt Wagner.

This was Bendis’ Marvel vibe in a nutshell — not driven by plot or character, but by dialogue — and I clearly wasn’t ready for it when I first read it.

Not much happens other than conversation.  Having met his first mutant, Peter wonders if maybe he is, in fact, one.

Logan is annoyed by Peter, and Peter seems to be repulsed by Logan.  But, the next day, we see that Peter is hungrier for a male role model than we had previously known.

Other Comics I Read from February 2001

  • 100 Bullets 21
  • Avengers 39
  • Batman 588
  • El Diablo 2
  • Fantastic Four 40
  • Flash 171
  • Green Arrow 1
  • Hate Annual 1
  • Hellblazer 159
  • Hitman 59
  • Hourman 25
  • Hulk Smash 2
  • JLA 51
  • JSA 21
  • Lucifer 11
  • Midnight Nation 5
  • Promethea 13
  • Sam and Twitch 19
  • Starman 76
  • Transmetropolitan 43
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 6
  • Ultimate X-Men 3
  • Weird Western Tales 1
  • Zero Girl 3

February 2006

I [heart]Marvel: Web of Romance 1

Tom Beland is most known for his endlessly charming romance comic “True Story Swear to God,” which made him an ideal choice to craft a Peter and MJ Valentine’s Day story.

We open with a clear indication that Peter is in the tall grass — seeking romantic advice in some pretty strange places.

He swings by Avengers’ Mansion for some counsel but only finds more reasons to doubt himself.

His inability to think of the perfect gift leads to a major crisis of confidence.

Of course, it doesn’t take long for MJ to point out what we’re all thinking:

MJ not only makes Peter feel better about himself, but also inadvertently lets him know what to get her for Valentine’s Day.

Other Comics I Read from February 2006

  • 100 Bullets 69
  • Astonishing X-Men 13
  • Captain America 14, 15
  • Daredevil 82
  • DMZ 4
  • Exterminators 2
  • Fury: Peacemaker 1
  • Ghost Rider 6
  • Goon 16
  • Gotham Central 40
  • Green Lantern 8, 9
  • Hellblazer 217
  • Incredible Hulk 92
  • Invincible 28
  • JSA Classified 8, 9
  • Losers 32
  • Loveless 4
  • Lucifer 71
  • Marvel Zombies 3
  • New Avengers 16
  • Powers 16
  • Punisher 30
  • Runaways 13
  • Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer 3
  • She-Hulk 5
  • Swamp Thing 24
  • Teen Titans 32
  • Testament 3
  • Thing 4
  • Ultimate Extinction 2
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 27
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 90
  • Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk 2
  • Wonder Woman 226
  • X-Factor 3
  • X-Men: Deadly Genesis 4
  • X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl 2
  • Y: The Last Man 42
  • Young Avengers 10

 

February 2011

Fantastic Four 588

In Fantastic Four 587, Johnny Storm “died.”  This following issue includes a great back-up story starring Franklin Richards and Spider-Man.

They grab some hot dogs and Spidey talks about the loss of his uncle.

Spidey makes that it clear that while the pain never goes away, eventually the grief subsides enough to allow you to remember the good stuff more than the hurt.  Then Franklin makes a confession.

Spider-Man is perfect for this story, not only because he was one of Johnny’s best friends — and took his place on the team — but also because of how similar his and Franklin’s stories are.

When I first read this I found myself wishing it was The Thing who had died, just to make the symmetry perfect.

 

Other Comics I Read from February 2011

  • Amazing Spider-Man 653-655
  • American Vampire 12
  • Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis 5
  • Avengers 10
  • Avengers Academy 9
  • Batman and Robin 20
  • Brightest Day 19, 20
  • Captain America 615
  • Captain America: Man Out of Time 4
  • Casanova: Gula 2
  • Daredevil: Reborn 2
  • Deadpool Max 5
  • Detective Comics 874
  • DMZ 62
  • Flash 9
  • Generation Hope 4
  • Green Lantern 62
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 7
  • Hellblazer 276
  • Incognito: Bad Influences 3
  • Incredible Hulks 622, 623
  • Invaders Now 5
  • Invincible 77
  • Invincible Iron Man 500.1, 501
  • Iron Man: Legacy 11
  • New Avengers 9
  • New York Five 2
  • Northlanders 37
  • Osborn 3
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 1, 2
  • Punisher Max 10
  • Scalped 46
  • Secret Avengers 10
  • Secret Warriors 24
  • SHIELD 6
  • Silver Surfer 1
  • Superman 707
  • Sweet Tooth 18
  • Thor 620
  • Twenty-Seven 3
  • Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates 1
  • Ultimate Captain America 2
  • Ultimate Doom 3
  • Ultimate New Ultimates 5
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 153, 154
  • Ultimate Thor 4
  • Uncanny X-Men 533
  • Walking Dead 81
  • Who is Jake Ellis? 2
  • Wolverine 6
  • X-Factor 215

 

February 2016

X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever 1

Max Bemis is the front man of the band Say Anything.  Over the last decade he’s made a pretty solid second career as a comic book writer, and this title deserves more attention.

This is the story of Bailey, a normal kid who — like most of us — suspects that life has something more remarkable in store for him.

Bailey finally gets the fairy-tale revelation he’s been dreaming of.

Yes, it does.

But the good news pretty much ends there as Bailey has (as the title tried to warn you) the Worst.  Mutation.  Ever.

So Bailey and his folks decide it’s best to just head back to their normal lives, but it turns out that life (or at least Max Bemis) has a wicked sense of humor.

After the X-Men take care of the Sentinel, the newly-orphaned Bailey decides to enroll in the Xavier school.  Here Jubilee shows him around where he meets some of his supporting characters.

Other Comics I Read from February 2016

  • A-Force 2
  • Action Comics 49
  • All-New Hawkeye 4
  • All-New Wolverine 5
  • All-New, All-Different Avengers 4, 5
  • Amazing Spider-Man 7, 8
  • Archie 6
  • Batman/Superman 29
  • Bitch Planet 7
  • Black Magick 5
  • Bloodshot Reborn 11
  • Chew 55
  • Cyborg 8
  • Daredevil 4
  • Descender 10
  • Detective Comics 49
  • Divinity 1**
  • Doctor Strange 5
  • Dragon Age: Magekiller 3
  • Faith 2
  • Godddamned 3
  • Grayson 17
  • Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion 2
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 5
  • Howard the Duck 4
  • Huck 4
  • I Hate Fairyland 5
  • Injection 7
  • Invincible Iron Man 6
  • Invisible Republic 9
  • Jacked 4
  • Justice League 48
  • Karnak 2
  • Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars 4
  • Midnighter 9
  • Mighty Thor 4
  • Ms. Marvel 4
  • New Romancer 3
  • Ninak 12
  • No Mercy 7
  • Nowhere Men 8
  • Old Man Logan 2
  • Paper Girls 5
  • Plutona 4
  • Postal 10
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 1
  • Red Wolf 3
  • Saga 34
  • Sex Criminals 14
  • Sheriff of Babylon 3
  • Spider-Man 1
  • Spread 13
  • Starve 6
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 26
  • Superman: American Alien 4
  • They’re Not Like Us 11
  • Tithe 8
  • Totally Awesome Hulk 3
  • Velvet 13
  • Vision 4
  • Walking Dead 151
  • Wolf 6

 

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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. Jarmo Seppänen on

    Great stuff as always, thank you! Strange enough I didn’t read any of the highlighted issues this month. But Swamp Thing moniker is gold: Sophisticated Suspense.

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