Tag Archives: Comics

Transformers, Issue One

I didn’t get Transformers Issue One when it was new. I turned six in 1984.

No, I had to hunt this thing down, later on.

I don’t remember the exact process, or even when I acquired it. 1990, 1991, probably? But I know what it was like to get my hands on this, and how it felt when I did.

For me, this was not only a quest years before searchable back issue catalogs on the Web. It was also a quest undertaken in a small town, years before I had even a student driver’s license. I wasn’t hunting through bins at comic book stores, or at conventions. These were the days of mail-order from catalogs.

I ordered comic books that way a number of times. I may even have tried to order Transformers #1 multiple times. These were the days when you wrote what you wanted on a form, and which grades were acceptable to you, then wrote alternate selections because what the store had at the time of printing their catalog changed, obviously, in the time that catalog traveled to you in the mail and your order traveled back to the store.

I know that I wanted this for a while, and getting it at last felt like a quest accomplished. In all seriousness it felt a bit like Bart and his friends staring with awe at Radioactive Man #1, the real thing.

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Megatron, as Futurist

A Mastodon thread considering the origin of the Transformers’ civil war, and comparing it with contemporary Anglo-American division, has been all kinds of fascinating fun.

My first response was that “the origin of the Cybertronian wars” presents a complicated premise for comment, because writers have told many different stories of that origin, over the decades. I can think of at least a handful, without even counting a 2010 novel apparently published as “the official history.” Given this, I thought it worth going back to the beginning, i.e. Issue One of Marvel’s comic book, probably the first published account of the war’s origin.

I haven’t actually read this issue many times, and probably not in years, so a close read of the opening pages was actually quite interesting in this context. In the original account of how Transformers’ civil war began, Megatron and the Decepticons seem motivated by something quite a lot like Futurism.

Contrary to many later accounts, the Decepticons did not have anything like legitimate grievances from a liberal perspective. But they weren’t quite one-dimensional bad guys greedy for power, either.

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The Thing that outlived midcentury conformism

The Fantastic Four including Ben Grimm, aka “The Thing,” have been around for a little more than 60 years now. I have no more than a very limited idea what has gone on with the character during the most recent third of that.

But something occurred to me yesterday, which seems interesting enough to note. Did the original concept of The Thing, as a character tortured by his transformation into a monster, rely on a conformist culture which is now very obsolete—and has the character concept evolved in response?

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Spider-Clone Halloween 25 years later

The 1990s Spider-Man “Clone Saga” went on, and on. Too long by many estimates, and I won’t disagree. I enjoyed it (I admit here publicly) but I certainly didn’t buy/read all of it. That would have been quite a lot by any estimate, given that the “Clone Saga” (de facto more than by intent) ultimately encompassed nearly every Spider-Man comic book published for years. Which was five or more per month at the time.

It’s a little odd, then, that—while one can point to this or that as an extension or coda or suchlike—the Spider-Man Clone Saga eventually had one endpoint which stood out from the whole mess very clearly as when it ended. Naturally, this was still a crossover with multiple comic books and one or two tie-ins.

Yet Halloween 1996 was when The Spider-Man Clone Saga ended, and 25 years later it still feels like an Event to me, as far as fictional developments go.

I don’t remember every detail. But there’s a vividness and intensity to the memory of that Autumn Wednesday, my freshman year in college, which has only a small number of comparisons in all my years reading comic books.

It was an interesting time for me, and for comic book fandom.

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Avengers Classic

It’s Friday plus lol does anything even matter at this point so let’s burrow into the back-issue bins for some old and/or obscure comics.

Once again, I’m admittedly writing about a big name from a big publisher, but Avengers Classic from 2007 was, relatively, a brief blip and was certainly a little odd. Maybe a lot odd.

On the surface, Avengers Classic is obvious. A serial reprinting of Marvel’s popular Avengers title. The reprints have new cover artwork, which has been fairly typical for reprints for decades. (This makes some sense, even when the original covers were iconic Jack Kirby drawings, because it has always been ordinary for publishers to fuss over different options for cover art, knowing its importance to sales. It has probably become even more reasonable as printing technology has improved, and modern coloring in particular involves rich hues and gradients which 1960s comics art was never intended to blend with.)

Also on the surface, Avengers Classic is very obviously modeled on the Classic X-Men reprint series of a couple decades earlier. That doesn’t seem so odd, but the more I examine this in detail the more odd it becomes.

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Reality and self amid the maelstrom

Thinking lately about what’s real and what’s important—neither of which overlaps completely with the other—and how to hold onto them amid all the dysfunction, real dangers and misleading indicators.

I have been writing plenty about the false and misleading, this year. Every day seems to be a downpour of dishonesty, delusion, wrong directions and la la land pretending. I can see this, and while it’s a struggle to go against the grain when hardly anyone else seems like they’re going to, I think I can make it that far.

But where am I going to, and where can I go to; what revised expectations of real and important should replace the old?

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“Girlfrenzy” 1998

Nearly all of my most recent comic book purchase consists of female-led stories. This was by intent. I’m not entirely sure why or why now, but it was a conscious goal while making my selections, which is almost the only way this would happen; the great majority of comics including my own collection feature male characters. A little more variety seems all to the good.(1)

The majority of these female-led stories are from two DC… projects I guess we’ll call them, from 1998. This was not as much by intent, per se. But the “Girlfrenzy” and Tangent families offered known places to find a variety of complete-in-one-issue female-led stories, and the single examples of each which I owned already are satisfactory.(2) Plus, the dazzling cover design still feels remarkably fresh after 22 years.

I have already made comments on the individual comics in a previous post, but there are a few observations worth making about the whole assemblage.

First of all the fact that these projects existed at all, in 1998 no less, still seems a little astonishing. “Girlfrenzy” was an overt attempt to publish a family of female-led stories—something which as noted is rare enough in the world of comics publishing—and in the same year the Tangent project featured women in at least half of its lineup even though that was in no way required by the concept. Granted that both of these projects were also planned as one-offs and left that way, it’s still fascinating to me that someone greenlit even that much.

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Tangent, “Girlfrenzy” & other back issue reviews

I ordered myself some comic books on Labor Day, and two weeks later they finally arrived. None of the delay had to do with the postal service; I selected USPS shipping but Mile High Comics shipped my order FedEx anyway, after taking about 12 days to ship it at all. That said, despite the fact that the turnaround time seemed to approach that of mail order from the same retailer back in the days of catalogs (and MHC’s web site appears unchanged from the last time I purchased online from them years ago), I was satisfied overall. Good selection and fair prices count for much, whereas speed seems odd to worry about when I’m ordering books which in many cases are more than 20 years old.

Anyway, despite most of these books being big publisher products with prominent names, some certainly are approaching that category of “old and/or obscure comics” now. Let’s see how I made out for my $40.

“UEGO, take me back to 1998.” (No, seriously, please, take me back to 1998, I’m ready to go no need for my luggage pleeeeease.)

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“Webcomics” book review

I found Sean Kleefeld‘s recent book Webcomics very interesting reading, despite being a webcomic… critic? skeptic? curmudgeon? Probably that last one.

I’m not opposed to webcomics. I have read various, including the (NSFW and age-restricted) OGLAF. But I still think Strong Bad E-mail #181 was and remains persuasive in pouring cold water on webcomics.

All of which I bring up in order to establish that, for anyone aware that the author has been an online friend going back to the previous century, FYI I was not pre-sold on his new book.

Despite which Webcomics was still a worthwhile purchase, impressive and offering much interest.

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Kirby Memorial issue of Marvel Age

This is not an old and/or obscure comics post, for the simple reason that Marvel Age was not a comic book.

Marvel Age was, I guess, basically a house-produced fan magazine, something probably near 100% obsolete in the age of the World Wide Web. But these did exist, in the Before Time. (Other examples which come to mind are Nintendo Power and something from Sierra which may have had a couple of names over the course of its existence.)

Although Marvel Age shared the size and format of a typical comic book, it generally contained minimal actual comics content. Issue #138 was no exception. It did contain, however, about as much a formal memorial as the company published upon the death of its all-time MVP, Jack Kirby.

So let’s revisit that, 26 years later.

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