I remembered the X-Files comic as covering the Brown Mountain Lights mystery very early in the run. I was wrong. The Brown Mountain Lights were a mystery close to where I grew up in North Carolina. I remembered being really impressed with the issue. Of course, I was a really big fan of The X-Files when this issue was published in 1996. Of course, I studied this issue very intently since I was familiar with the area. I'm going to get into the areas that worked and didn't later on. The appeal for me with this comic was that it was based in the area that I grew up. As a kid, I was infatuated with the paranormal, especially when it was in my figurative back yard. There was the devil's stomping grounds, a ghostly hitchhiker that vanished whenever she got home, and of course, there was the Brown Mountain Lights. I saw them once, but was a little less than impressed.
Erik Larsen went on bender recently posting various covers for ROM: Spaceknight from the 1980s. There were some great covers by artists like Michael Golden, John Byrne, and Bill Sienkiewicz. There was one cover by Frank Miller that was so good, it almost ranks up there as iconic. It's the cover for ROM: Spaceknight #3. Technically, this isn't a comic from the 1980s. It's cover dated February 1980, putting it's release in the holidays of 1979. ROM was marketed as a hi-tech toy for Christmas that year. The comic was meant to be a tie-in. Like most Marvel comic tie-ins of that era, it became something more. Look no further than Micronauts, Dazzler, Star Wars and G.I. Joe for examples of comics that created a following outside of their intentional purpose.
I actually had to look to see if I had already reviewed this issue of Archer & Armstrong. Of all of the original Valiant comics, this one is probably my favorite. It doesn't hurt that it was written and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith. Early Valiant comics by him are the best of the bunch. I got this because I was diligently following Archer & Armstrong. Eternal Warrior held no interest for me. I felt that he wasn't an interesting character. It seemed like Jim Shooter really had an interest in Gilad, because so much important stuff in Valiant seemed to come from his world. It seems like after Shooter left, the comics went a little more wherever the fans were flocking. Yes, I know its pandering. I'd like to think that the solution isn't just to write what the fans want, but to make a comic better and more interesting along the way. Barry Windsor-Smith made a great comic with Archer & Armstrong, a comic that tied very closely to Eternal Warrior. It tied to it so closely that for the eighth issue, they went double sized to tell a story that involved all of the immortal brothers and counted as an eighth issue for Eternal Warrior as well. On top of it all, it worked in one of the greatest adventure stories in the history of western literature, The Man In The Iron Mask.
As I write this, it's a slow news day. I'm already a week ahead on these columns, so it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to put in yet another one. It seems like forever since I did one of these for an independent comic. Of course, in my mind, Phantom Lady doesn't count. The first thing that came to mind was one of my favorite independent series, Elementals by Bill Willingham, better known for Fables. A lot of what other writers did in the later 1990s and 2000s was done before by Bill Willingham. Do you want a sinister government agency interacting with super-heroes? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want super-heroes cursing? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want graphic violence in your super-hero comics? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want your super-heroes deciding not to act like they're in a comic book? Well, I've got an issue for you.
I've wanted to review a Golden Age comic for some time. The problem comes in the fact that during the Golden Age, much of the language of comics, and the techniques that we take for granted were being formed. This was also before the rise of the Comics Code Authority, so creators were trying things out to see what would sell. This is probably where the salacious aspect of Phantom Lady comes into play. Her costume reveals a lot of skin, especially for the 1940s. No doubt this was part of her appeal. Artist Matt Baker was very skilled at designing a cover that emphasized the visual appeal of the character. However, somewhere along the way, her effectiveness as a character came through. She's one of those public domain heroes that always gets noticed, and always has someone bring her back to use, despite DC Comics making use of the character and enforcing their version of the character. Erik Larsen might have been the most recent creator to incorporate her into his comics, but he did so only briefly.
I always strive to review old comics that you may not have thought about. Heck, you may not even know that they even exist. This is sometimes hard to do, especially in these days when some of the most obscure titles are available with a membership. Many creators got their start in unlikely places. Some have their careers go into areas that may seem unlikely given their past. Bill Willingham is one of those writers that became very popular with his Vertigo series Fables, and it reached into other works for DC and of late, has been working for independent publishers. This is not uncommon ground for him. Bill Willingham first rose to prominence on his creator owned series for Comico, Elementals. Eventually, as the comic market saw the publisher fall, Willingham sold the rights to Andrew Rev,who had bought Comico. After putting together a bible for the direction he had been taking the series, Willingham saw it ignored and eventually used as a doorstop, according to an editorial in an issue of Ironwood. Word has it that Willingham retooled many of those ideas and put them together for a mini-series that saw itself published, albeit irregularly, by Lone Star Press.
I was feeling guilty that I hadn't done an Independent comic in Reviews Of Old Comics. Among the new comic series that I regularly review, Savage Dragon sits on that list. It has evolved over the years, often taking a swift change in direction. One of the first was Dragon leaving the police to join Special Operations Strikeforce. The second major change came in the issue I'm going to review right now. Of course, this drastic turn came with some exploration of a classic time travel conundrum. The question always is, "If you could go back in time and kill Baby Hitler, would you?" Unfortunately, the paradox comes in eliminating all of Hitler's evil deeds, there is now no reason for you to travel back and kill Hitler. This was the first time that Dragon learned that good deeds can have horrible consequences.
In the 1990s, there was a trend of "bad girls." These were female characters that were usually violent and almost always had costumes that showed more skin than they covered. Lady Death (and most of Chaos! Comics' female characters), Razor, Shi, Glory, and Witchblade were just some of the characters that were the prime examples of this disturbing trend. There may not have been a publisher of super-hero comics in the 1990s that didn't try to ride this trend. Topps Comics, short-lived as it was, even got into the act with Lady Rawhide, spinning off the character into her own title. There were different degrees of the bad girl trend and Lady Rawhide was definitely on the tamer end of the spectrum. However, right there on the cover of her first appearance, Topps looks tobe trying to get in on the trend.
After doing two DC comics, and using the DC Universe service, I was inclined to make use of my Marvel Unlimited Plus membership. How did this get to me reviewing an issue of Spawn? I browsed the titles and among all of the comics from the past, I was tripping across a plethora of comics from the past few years. Of course, this was after discounting the first appearance of Doctor Bong, which I thought would be fun to read again. I was wrong. Among these comics came a few featuring Angela, retconned by Marvel as Thor's long, lost sister. Those issues are too recent for this feature, but her first appearances in Spawn are eligible to be revisited. In 1993, Todd McFarlane contracted four well-renowned writers to each do an issue of Spawn. In order, they were Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim and Frank Miller. There was a lengthy court battle after McFarlane claimed sole ownership of Angela and the other characters Gaiman created for this issue. In the final settlement of the lawsuit, which also revolved around the actual ownership of Miracleman. The case was settled in 2012 with Gaiman taking full ownership of Angela, according to a statement McFarlane gave to Newsarama in 2013.
With this column, I try to highlight comics before the year 2000. I also try to switch up the comics I review in a order by publisher, DC, Marvel, and Independents. Of course, I throw Legion comics in there at roughly every fourth review because I'm a huge Legion fan. I wanted to tell you that because I'm going a little more recent with this week's review. The last time I did this, I called it a Review of an Old-ish Comic. Of course, that was four years ago, and the comic was the same vintage as this week's comic, The Walking Dead #1. I don't care for zombies. Zombie stories tend to be a series a cheap horror, jump scares, and showing off how good a zombie you can create. The Walking Dead TV show looks to be a lot of that, and given much I hate jump scares, I've admittedly never watched a single episode. I started watching the pilot, but the first scene looked to be building up to a jump scare. I wasn't having it. Today the thought reached me to try to read the comic. Jump scares are a little less jarring on the page, Tony Moore's artwork also doesn't have that style that urges the over-rendering of dead and undead bodies. I also want to be fair when criticizing zombie comics, so here we go.
I really don't know why I haven't done an issue of Strangers In Paradise here. Terry Moore's series is an excellent example of long form storytelling. He also worked in morality lessons along the way of telling a compelling same-sex love story. He had characters develop and grow past their original, one-line descriptions they first appeared with. I chose this issue for how it followed such an unforeseen event in the comic. David and Katchoo's plane to New York has crashed near Nashville. For issues, we were under the impression that Katchoo, David and Francine were free from the legacy of Darcy Parker, and this crash seemed that it might be more than a random event. The plane crash would have lasting effects right up until the end of the series. This issue was an emotional punch to the gut from page one, and it went on from there.
I was thinking of what old comic to review next and arrived here at Magnus Robot Fighter. I'm not sure exactly how I got here, but somehow I was thinking of something neat that Valiant did with the future world of Magnus. Magnus is a Gold Key character that Valiant got the rights to, including Solar, Man of the Atom and Turok, Son of Stone. They then proceeded to build a universe around them, adding original characters that have become the cornerstone of the current Valiant Universe.I picked this issue because of the crossover of two of those characters, Magnus and Solar. What I didn't realize is that this is part of the multi-issue story where we learn the secret to future Japan. Future Japan is a giant metal dragon.