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.
Fans my age tend to have a fondness for the hunt and discovery of of back issues in a time before every moderately-sized city had a comic shop. In the part of North Carolina that I grew up in, the big mother-load of back issues were usually flea markets. I would find some gems at the flea market, whether it was the one off the Interstate that coated the family car in dust, or the one just outside of town that had only a few booths. In that last one, the comic seller had a really good selection of back issue Marvel comics. I seem to recall one in particular he had was Avengers #157, which sported a Jack Kirby cover. Of course, at the time. I had no clue who Jack Kirby was. Nevertheless, the cover had all of the Avengers taken out by one foe, and all I could see of him was his boots.
I had such a good time with my review of Phantom Lady #13 that I decided to review another really old comic. Marvel Unlimited has about 340 comics before 1962 on their service, and one of them happens to be the first appearance of everyone's favorite tree. I'm talking about Groot. This Groot comes from the era of monster comics, where not everything was a Fin Fang Foom or a Groot. Just skimming the list, I've got Monstrollo, Sserpo, Klagg, Moomba, and Kraa. Groot looks to be one of those standard one-issue space monsters wreaking havoc for no apparent reason other than he could. I wanted to see if there was anything in there that resembled the character that we've come to adore.
I always want to use this feature to highlight some really great comics that I remember from my childhood. We are fortunate to live in an age where so many great comics are available to read for a small fee. Of course, I paid for the annual subscription to Marvel Unlimited, which is no small fee, but came with some bonuses every year. DC Unlimited is also a really good value, but I'm off on a tangent. I recall getting this issue when I was eleven years old, and I was instantly assaulted by the art of Alan Weiss. Don't take that as something bad. Alan Weiss was something so different from what I used to. I had to be exposed to Michael Golden's fantastic art on Micronauts, so there was nothing that I could equate to this very naturalistic style. This is probably where I fell in love with a more naturalistic type of art. Of course, since then, I have come to appreciate a variety of styles, especially those that make use of the wise and proliferous use of black ink.
I don't use my digital memberships for these articles as much as I should. In the past couple of weeks, I've been taking advantage of my DC Universe and Marvel Unlimited subscriptions. I have been on the lookout for issues to review here. It was the latest episode of the Legion of Substitute Heroes podcast that I was reminded of Paul Smith's great run on Uncanny X-Men. Some might view this time as a period where the title began to drop in story quality, but I think that part came shortly afterwards. Here we saw the development of the team after Cyclops leaves for good, but still get to see his path twist back around into his old team's lives. We also got the introduction to the Morlocks, the addition of Rogue, and huge developments for Wolverine. These are some great issues and I chose to review the issue that has one of the best splash pages in X-Men history.
Every once in a while, you just find yourself reading a book that's trying to be silly. In the late 1980s, that comic was often Excalibur. While Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor were playing up the drama very heavy, Chris Claremont and Alan Davis were playing up the humor of a mutant team in the U.K.. There were some serious parts, but the book found its niche in the fact that it was just fun. For comparison with this week's book, Excalibur #14, let's look at the other mutant titles on the stands. Uncanny X-Men had three issues that featured the aftermath of a devastated team, now missing. Wolverine was tortured by the Reavers, but escaped with the aid of Jubilee. In Wolverine, he had fought vampires in Madripoor. X-Factor is involved in the "Judgement War" on another planet with the Celestials. In New Mutants, the team was journeying through the Asgardian underworld. Excalibur was hopping from one weird dimension to another, and this one was a doozy.
I'm bound and determined to get the most out of my Marvel Unlimited membership. When looking for something to review, I looked at the 1980s Defenders that got rid of the "non-team" status of the membership. I also looked at the Marvel magazines of the early 1980s. I took a look at the full list of Marvel titles available on Marvel Unlimited and saw Legion of Monsters catch my eye. That's where I got to here. I didn't know that there was a Legion of Monsters comic. The only memory that I have of the "group" was in a single issue of Marvel Premiere. Actually, it was Marvel Premiere #28 that featured the Legion of Monsters. That sparked me to try and give some of the horror characters that the title gave tryouts. It turns out that aside from the Legion of Monsters, Satana was the only original horror-themed character that got a chance in Marvel Premiere. However, looking at the issues available, the first couple featuring Adam Warlock came to my attention, due to the cover obviously by Gil Kane.
I can't believe that I haven't reviewed this book before. I remember first getting this comic, and being amazed at the way the acetate cover was used to give a gorgeous, full-bleed cover free of the cover elements. This wasn't my first painted comic, Books of Magic probably came first for me, but this was the one that changed something for me. This one had the feel of a traditional comic book, and felt like a big deal. Books of Magic felt like a story, and introduction at the most. It was also split between four artists, and this was one artist who seemed to make the characters in the comics feel real.
I decided to try and use my Marvel Unlimited Plus membership again for this column about an issue of New Mutants. I thought back to my (early) teenage years and the comics that I loved then. I already mentioned how important the mid-1980s were in comics, so I went to that era for this week's Review of Old Comics. Legion has gone from his first appearance to a minor supporting character in the X-Men titles, to the catalyst for a major X-Men event. From there he's gotten his own comic book series and a Fox television series now in its second season. Legion has become an important character, especially as an entry point for new readers drawn in by the television show. Legion first appeared in New Mutants #25, but his story first started in the very next issue. This is why we're reviewing New Mutants #26.
When I was a teenager, especially a young teenager, Uncanny X-Men was the most popular comic among my peers. From looking back at comics journalism, we were not unique. This was also the same year I've been covering in my run of the Legion. It turns out that 1984 is a very important year for comics. This saw DC Comics make an investment in the direct market with its Baxter series. It also saw an explosion of independent publishers, including Mirage Studios with the breakout phenomenom Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Antarctic Press, NBM Publishing, and Continuity Studios also debuted in 1984. Alan Moore took over Saga of the Swamp Thing. Marvel debuted the event series with Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars. Fantastic comics were being produced in 1984. Uncanny X-Men was one of them, going in new directions, especially with this issue.
It's really sad when I want to review an old Marvel comic like The Eternals and I can't use my Marvel Unlimited membership. I wanted to review this from the first time I read it and saw that it drew inspiration from Erich von Däniken's book Chariots of the Gods. I don't buy the "ancient astronauts" theory. It is a little entertaining to watch how proponents work evidence to meet their theory. I watch them ignore basic elements of artistic representation to make ancient works of art literal interpretations rather than rich, symbolic visual poetry. I find the thought that a lack of modern scientific discoveries made ancient man less intelligent almost offensive.
Watching Avengers: Infinity War, I was taken with how powerful the Scarlet Witch was portrayed. This was a character shown to be powerful enough to shatter an Infinity Stone. Given that in the past two films that she's appeared in, her powers have been shown to be primarily telekinetic and mildly telepathic, but not so powerful that she can shatter one of the six most powerful items in the universe. This level of power is something that is not uncommon to long time comic fans. Most famously, she has completely rewritten reality in the House of M crossover event. She also stripped all but a handful of mutants of their powers at the end of that event. Writer John Byrne explored how her original power to alter probabilities in a great, albeit truncated story in Avengers West Coast collected in Darker Than Scarlet. On his forum, John Byrne explained that Wanda's powers worked backward through time, which brought the attention of Immortus. Immortus sought to exploit the most powerful aspect of her mutant power to change history, creating a timeline without an Avengers. This was a demonstration of how powerful Wanda could be, and that demonstration of power was the best part of what remained from the original story.