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

March 1981

Daredevil 172

This issue The Man Without Fear confronts The Man With Two Left Feet!

While confronting Bullseye, Daredevil admits to a violent streak that seemed unusual at the time, but — when you consider how frequently super-heroes resort to physical violence — shouldn’t be that surprising.

This is clearly how Frank Miller feels about the matter, as the speech is similar to the one Batman gives to the Joker in The Dark Knight Returns.

Of course, Bullseye doesn’t kill Daredevil with his billy club, but this is great foreshadowing for a similar scene nine issues later, when Bullseye fatally stabls Elektra with her own sai.

Comics I Read From March 1981

  • Captain America 258
  • Cerebus 24
  • Daredevil 171
  • Marvel Team-Up 106
  • Moon Knight 8
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 55

March 1986

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 1

Five years later, Frank Miller unleashed what many consider to be his masterpiece.  I have to imagine you’ve all read this, so no need to go into too much detail.

The Dark Knight was told in four 48 page issues, and there was a lot of story — the pages incorporated a 16 panel grid.  A lot happens, yet we don’t see Batman until page 28.

And note that even this splash page includes three smaller TV panels.

2018’s Batman: Damned famously featured Bruce’s Batawang.  There was a ton of outrage, but Batman’s been chilling naked in the Batcave since at least 1986.

Batman sure does think a lot in this book.

And he’s such a dark, dark knight.

Miller’s observation about why Batman would have a yellow circle on his chest is great, but not enough people have taken him to task for the shotgun.

This issue is mostly about the Dark Knight Returning.  Toward the end his fights Two-Face.

It is Harvey.  And he’s crazier than ever.  Next stop, The Joker.

Daredevil 232

Incredibly, the debut issue of The Dark Knight Returns came out the same month as the penultimate issue of Miller and Mazzucchelli’s Born Again.

Throughout the story, the splash pages tell the story of Daredevil’s fall and rise — you could make a flipbook with those pages.  In this issue, three panels mirror one other on three different pages.

Conveniently, Nuke takes his colored pills in the proper “red, white, and blue” order.

Nuke speaks with the Kingpin, whose language sounds uncomfortably familiar 35 years later.

Miller even predicted 45’s flag grabbing and demonizing of the press.

Comics I Read From March 1986

  • Alien Legion 13
  • Amazing Spider-Man 277
  • Avengers 268
  • Badger 14
  • Cerebus 84
  • Dreadstar 24
  • Miracleman 7
  • Neat Stuff 4
  • Nexus 23
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 115
  • Scout 5
  • Shadow 2
  • Swamp Thing 49
  • Twisted Tales of Bruce Jones 3, 4
  • Vigilante 30
  • Vision and the Scarlet Witch 9
  • Web of Spider-Man 16
  • West Coast Avengers 10

March 1991

Mark Spector: Moon Knight 26

“Scarlet Redemption” is a criminally unreprinted Moon Knight story written by J.M. DeMatteis and illustrated by Ron Garney.  Though the concept is fleshed out beautiful as the story unfolds, DeMatteis wastes no time in redefining Moon Knight’s mission from one of vengeance to one of mercy and redemption.

Marc Spector was a mercenary who (believes he) was killed and brought back to life by Khonshu, the Egyptian God of the Moon.  As a man of violence, he assumed he was brought back to be the “Fist of Khonshu,” but DeMatteis correctly notes that the shift from hired gun to super-hero is more of a redemptive than vengeful arc.

This thought-provoking reformation of Moon Knight’s character was immediately reversed (literally the issue after this storyline ended) which makes you wonder why the editor approved the story in the first place.

Other Comics I Read from March 1991

  • Animal Man 35
  • Cerebus 144
  • Doom Patrol 44
  • Epicurus the Sage 2
  • Hate 4
  • Hellblazer 41
  • Incredible Hulk 381
  • Kid Eternity 2
  • Legends of the Dark Knight 17
  • The Nazz 4
  • Question Quarterly 2
  • Sandman 26
  • Shade the Changing Man 11

March 1996

Invisibles 20

This stand-alone issue gives us Boy’s origin story.  She is torn between two older brothers, one a police officer and the other a gang member.  Since this is The Invisibles, neither are as good or bad as you might imagine — no matter what your preconceptions might be.

Speaking of things right under our noses, that homeless man is Philip K. Dick, the science fiction author who is pretty much responsible (directly or indirectly) for every cinematic science fiction property of the last 50 years that doesn’t have the word “star” in the title.  His work (especially VALIS) also had a profound effect on The Invisibles.

When I first saw this character, I suspected he might be PKD, and those two panels confirmed it, as that phrase is used in VALIS and represents Dick’s delicious conspiracy theory that the Roman Empire still exists, and we have been living “in the Matrix” — and outside of time — for the last two thousand years.  (Thus Jesus’ statement that not a generation will pass before he returns is literally true.)  This character also natters on about the Black Iron Prison, another notion that Grant Morrison ported over from PKD’s work.

Back to Boy:  having lost both of her brothers, she reveals that her motivation has never been pure or philosophical.

Comics I Read from March 1996

  • Bone 23
  • Captain America 451
  • Cerebus 204
  • Doctor Strange 88, 89
  • Flash 113
  • Hate 22
  • Hellblazer 100, 101
  • Hitman 1
  • Impulse 14
  • Jinx 1
  • Sandman 75
  • Seven Miles a Second
  • Sin City: That Yellow Bastard 1
  • Starman 18
  • Storm 4
  • Swamp Thing 165, 166
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man 9
  • WildCATs 27
  • X-Men 52

March 2001

Batman: Gotham Noir

I have been a fan of Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker since the 90s, but it wasn’t until they teamed up here that I truly fell in love with both of them.  (Technically, they first worked together on 1999’s Scene of the Crime, as Phillips was inking Michael Lark’s pencils.)  Since this one-shot they have become perhaps the most successful team in all of 21st century comics, creating such seminal works as Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito, Fatale, The Fade Out, Kill or Be Killed, Pulp, and Reckless.

As the title makes fairly clear, this Elseworlds tale transplants the cast of Batman into a noir/crime fiction setting, with Jim Gordon as the down-on-his-luck ex-cop detective and Selina Kyle as the femme fatale.  And it looks like Batman might make an appearance, too.

Jim gets to know the woman he’s meant to protect, and anyone even remotely familiar with the genre knows that this isn’t going to end well for anyone.

Cut to the next morning:

Gotham’s DA is conveniently half-way through shaving when Gordon arrives, so you can easily determine that he’s Harvey Dent.

As Jim continues his investigation, he encounters the Noir Chevalier.

And you didn’t think we’d get through this without encountering the Joker, did you?

This is a noir story, so things don’t end well for the protagonist.  But Bruce Wayne is there to offer Barbara Gordon his condolences.

Other Comics I Read from March 2001

  • 100 Bullets 22
  • Avengers 40
  • Batman 589
  • Daredevil: Ninja 3
  • Detective Comics 756
  • El Diablo 3
  • Enemy Ace: War in Heaven 1
  • Fantastic Four 41
  • Flash 172
  • Geeksville 6
  • Green Arrow 2
  • Hellblazer 160
  • JLA 52
  • JSA 22
  • Lucifer 12
  • Midnight Nation 6
  • Starman 77
  • Superstar: As Seen on TV
  • Top10 11
  • Transmetropolitan 44
  • Ultimate Marvel Team-Up 2
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 7
  • Zero Girl 4

March 2006

All Star Superman 3

It’s Lois Lane’s birthday, and Superman gives her a pretty cool present.

He also paid someone to design and create a super-hero costume.

Then Samson shows up.

Cynical fans have often questioned what about Lois would attract Superman.  I like that Grant Morrison goes the other way, making it clear than any super-powered person would literally move heaven and earth to be with Lois.

It’s refreshing that Samson understands that Lois gets to choose who to be with, but his proposed solution is perhaps a touch too masculine.

And it’s weird that he doesn’t get that Lois hasn’t already made her choice.  Then again, these guys aren’t exactly meant to be role models.  And it’s not subtle.

While this is a fun done-in-one issue, it also makes the scope of the series clear:

And speaking of Answering the Unanswerable Question:

Superman’s response separates him from the other “strong guys.”

But of course, Lois already knew this.

 

Other Comics I Read from March 2006

  • 100 Bullets 70
  • Action Comics 837
  • American Virgin 1
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 201, 202
  • Batman: Secrets 1
  • Battle Pope 5
  • Books of Doom 5
  • Captain America 16
  • Daredevil 83
  • DMZ 5
  • Down 4
  • Ex Machina 18
  • Exterminators 3
  • Fell 4
  • Fury: Peacemaker 2
  • Green Lantern 10
  • Hellblazer 218
  • Incredible Hulk 93
  • Infinite Crisis 5
  • Invincible 29, 30
  • Iron Man 6
  • Loveless 5, 6
  • Lucifer 72
  • Marvel Zombies 4
  • New Avengers 17
  • New Avengers: Illuminati
  • Nextwave 2, 3
  • Powers 17
  • Pulse 14
  • Punisher 31
  • Runaways 14
  • Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer 4
  • Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein 4
  • Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle 4
  • She-Hulk 6
  • Swamp Thing 25
  • Teen Titans 33
  • Testament 4
  • Thing 5
  • Tomorrow Stories Special 2
  • Ultimate Extinction 3
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 28
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 91, 92
  • Walking Dead 26, 27
  • X-Factor 4, 5
  • X-Men: Deadly Genesis 5
  • X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl 3
  • Y: The Last Man 43

March 2011

FF 1

Jonathan Hickman launched this companion book to Fantastic Four shortly after the “death” of Johnny Storm.

Spider-Man joins just in time for a major costume redesign.

Obviously just swapping in Peter doesn’t heal the wound that the First Family is feeling.  Reed also forms the Future Foundation, designed to nurture young scientific minds with the goal of creating a better future for humanity.

Sensing that this still isn’t enough, Valerie takes matters into her own hands with an out-of-the-box idea.

Reed gets little sympathy from his father.

You know where this is going, right?

Other Comics I Read from March 2011

  • 5 Ronin 1-5
  • Amazing Spider-Man 656-657
  • American Vampire 13
  • Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine 5
  • Avengers 11
  • Avengers Academy 10, 11
  • Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth 1
  • Batman and Robin 21
  • Batman, Inc. 4
  • Brightest Day 21, 22
  • Captain America 615.1, 616
  • Captain America and Batroc 1
  • Captain American and the Secret Avengers 1
  • Captain America: Man Out of Time 5
  • Casanova: Gula 3
  • Chew 17
  • Daredevil: Reborn 3
  • Deadpool Max 6
  • Detective Comics 875
  • DMZ 63
  • Fear Itself: Book of the Skull
  • Generation Hope 5
  • Giant-Sized Atom 1
  • Green Lantern 64
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 8
  • Hellblazer 277
  • Incognito: Bad Influences 4, 5
  • Incredible Hulks 624, 625
  • Invincible 78
  • Invincible Iron Man 502
  • Iron Man: Legacy 12
  • Joe the Barbarian 8
  • Kick Ass 2 2
  • New Avengers 10
  • New York Five 3
  • Northlanders 38
  • Osborn 4
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 3
  • Punisher Max 11
  • Ruse 1
  • Scalped 47
  • Scarlet 5
  • Secret Avengers 11
  • Secret Warriors 25
  • Silver Surfer 2
  • Superman 709
  • Sweet Tooth 19
  • Thor 621
  • Twenty-Seven 4
  • Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates 2
  • Ultimate Captain America 3
  • Ultimate Doom 4
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 155, 156
  • Uncanny X-Men 534
  • Undying Love 1
  • Walking Dead 82, 83
  • Wolverine 7
  • X-Factor 216, 217
  • Young Avengers: Children’s Crusade 1

March 2016

Howard the Duck 5

Chip Zdarsky is a national treasure. Every panel of his Howard the Duck comic is entertaining, something I hadn’t seen since Steve Gerber was writing the character.

He writes a great Thing as well.  (His Marvel 2 in One series — starring The Thing and The Human Torch — is also worth a look.)

Jacked 5

Jacked has a pretty great pedigree for a comic no one read.  It was written by Eric Kripke (most known as the creator of the TV show Supernatural and showrunner of Amazon’s The Boys) and illustrated by John Higgins (journeyman comic artist most known as the colorist of Watchmen), with covers by Preacher‘s Glenn Fabry.

The basic story is that our nebbish-y main character takes a “smart pill” to improve his focus (and get him out of his mid-life crisis) and it ends up giving him super-powers.  Ultimately it’s a riff on the whole “with great power must also come great responsibility” trope, and I like that it manages to focus on the importance of being a decent person and good citizen without necessarily denigrating super-heroes.

Other Comics I Read from March 2016

  • A-Force 3
  • Action Comics 50
  • All-New Hawkeye 5
  • All-New, All-Different Avengers 7
  • Amazing Spider-Man 9
  • Batman/Superman 30
  • Black Widow 1
  • Bloodshot Reborn Annual 1
  • Cyborg 9
  • Daredevil 5
  • Descender 11
  • Detective Comics 50
  • Discipline 1
  • Doctor Strange 6
  • Dragon Age: Magekiller 4
  • Faith 3
  • Grayson 18
  • Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion 3
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 6
  • Huck 5
  • Injection 8
  • International Iron Man 1
  • Invincible Iron Man 7
  • Jupiter’s Circle 4
  • Legacy of Luther Stroke 5
  • Midnighter 10
  • Mighty Thor 5
  • Mockingbird 1
  • Ms. Marvel 5
  • New Romancer 4
  • Ninak 13
  • No Mercy 8
  • Nowhere Men 9
  • ODY-C 10
  • Old Man Logan 3
  • Omega Men 9, 10
  • Postal 11
  • Power Man and Iron Fist 2
  • Red Wolf 4
  • Rocket Raccoon and Groot 3
  • Saga 35
  • Sheriff of Babylon 4
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Starve 7
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 27
  • Superman: American Alien 5
  • They’re Not Like Us 12
  • Totally Awesome Hulk 4
  • Violent 3
  • Vision 5
  • Walking Dead 152
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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

    Quite a bit of memorable issues, including part of the best modern age Superman story. Also, in hindsight, I feel that Miller’s Daredevil has aged better than TDKR.

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