Like sands through an hourglass, this is the latest installment of 5-10-15-20. I know this is a little late, but how am I supposed to remember that June only has 30 days? It’s not like there’s a children’s rhyme about it. Or calendars.
As always feedback, particularly about how you’d like to see more ____________ or less ____________ is appreciated! On with the history.
FIVE YEARS AGO — JUNE 2007
The #1 Comic Five Years Ago was World War Hulk #1
It’s only been five years since World War Hulk — though it had been building for a year with the well-received “Planet Hulk” story — made the Hulk into a marketable character for the first time in probably a solid decade. At the time of its announcement, fan skepticism was rampant. Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan were relative unknowns, and after the Everyone Versus Everyone excitement of House of M and Civil War the idea of dumb ol’ Hulk getting sent off to some dumb ol’ planet to fight stupid aliens did not excite readers’ imagination. But the joke’s on us, it was a well-crafted adventure book that led into WWH, for my money the most satisfying Event that Modern Marvel has put out. It helped that it was (comparatively) self-contained, and focused on a core set of characters punching each other really hard, as drawn by John Romita Jr.
But for people who want sprawling crossovers featuring a ton of storylines weaving in and out forever, the Comics Industry had your back in June 2007. DC had the Sinestro Corps War Special, kicking off that crossover with the reveal that Sinestro had recruited the end bosses of every other Mega Event of the past twenty years and given them yellow fear rings. It didn’t really make sense and remarkably little got resolved during this particular War, but people seem to like it. Back at Marvel, New Avengers #31 kicked off the build-up to 2008′s Mega Event Secret Invasion when Elektra is killed and revealed to be a Skrull. Who can forget the year’s worth of speculation as to who is or is not a Skrull? Who can remember who was actually a Skrull?
Stepping aside from the summer blockbusters, it’s been five years since Terry Moore wrapped up his long-running Strangers in Paradise series after over a hundred issues spread across three volumes. Starting its life at Antarctic Press and briefly landing under the Image banner, Moore self-published the majority of the series (and the recently wrapped Echo) through his own Abstract Studios, putting him near the top of self-publishing success stories in the comic book industry.
Other books released five years ago:
- The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell, one of First Second’s initial slate of graphic novels, and a fine read to boot
- Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, another book well worth your time if you haven’t already read it. I could have sworn we reviewed both of these books on a podcast at some point. Perhaps our shownotes are lacking.
- Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus v1: It’s hard to believe that it’s only been in the past five years that Kirby’s New Thing have been readily accessible. There were plenty of haphazard reprints, including some tragically cheap black and white reprints in the late 1990s, but it’s only been the past half-decade most people could finally follow the exhortation “DON’T ASK, JUST BUY IT!”
- I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: Likewise, it seems like the legend of Stardust and his mad creator Fletcher Hanks has been part of the comics conversation for more than half a decade, but it wasn’t until Paul Karasik curated this reprint collection through Fantagraphics that I had personally heard of him. Since then it seems like he’s everywhere, from the follow-up collection You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century to a Joe Keatinge/Mike Allred story in Fantastic Comics #24.
TEN YEARS AGO — JUNE 2002
The #1 Comics Ten Years Ago was Transformers: Generation 1 #3
Just like last month (and the month before), comics were in 80s Nostalgia Mode ten years ago. How big was the craze? A Micronauts relaunch — sans the characters half of the characters that Marvel owned from their series in the 1980s, and written and drawn by unknowns — cracked the Top 20, outselling every Batman, Superman, and Avengers book. This craze was short-lived, but we’re going to be dealing with it for another few months here.
Marvel tried to cash in on the success of the Spider-Man movie by launching a bunch of mini-series no one remembers a decade later (Get Kraven, Quality of Life, a Sweet Charity one-shot) along with one people do recall, but not for the right reasons: Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, Kevin Smith and Terry Dodson’s turned ten this month. The six issue mini-series wouldn’t be completed until over four years later. Marvel also released two mini-series I do not recall in the slightest, save that they existed: Sabretooth – Mary Shelley Overdrive and The Infinity Abyss, apparently the fifth volume of Jim Starlin’s Infinity Trilogy.
But it wasn’t all bad: the month marks the tenth birth of two of my favorite Vertigo mini-series:
100%, Paul Pope’s love letter to New York City, young love, tea kettles, and endoscopic pornography
The Filth, Grant Morrison and Chris Weston’s love letter to mundanity as expressed through high weirdness, and perhaps Morrison’s most effective Pet Death Tearjerker
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO — JUNE 1997
The #1 Comic Fifteen Years Ago was Uncanny X-Men #346
I have no idea. I wasn’t reading the X-Men books, or really many other superhero books at this time. Joe Kelly launched “a bold new era” of Daredevil with Gene Colan that lasted about eight issues, Alpha Flight got their second (of five so far) attempts at supporting a series, and um… DC debuted Major Bummer? Not a lot going on in the superhero realm, as the Crossover Era continued through Wildcats/X-Men, Superman/Madman: Hullabaloo, Vampirella/Wetworks, Avengelyne/Glory, and Flinstones/Jetsons. In annotation news, this is the fifteenth anniversary of Daydreamers #1, the finest Franklin Richards/Leech/Artie/Howard the Duck/Man-Thing team-up ever published, and I assume the unintentional prequel to the Future Foundation.
Brian Michael Bendis brought his Jinx series over to Image from Caliber, sowing the seeds for his Sam & Twitch/Hellspawn gigs and eventual conquest of the comic book industry
Weird War Tales #3 from Vertigo features “New Toys”, a short story that marks the second (of many) collaborations between Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Milk & Cheese’s Latest Thing, the seventh issue of Milk & Cheese strips is released, and would be the last title appearance of M&C until last year’s mammoth Milk & Cheese treasury from Dark Horse
TWENTY YEARS AGO — JUNE 1992
The #1 Comic Twenty Years Ago was Amazing Spider-Man #365
Spider-Man turned thirty in 1992, and because it was the early 1990s this was celebrated with HOLOGRAMS! Remarkably, the only other gimmick cover I could find released twenty years ago this month was Solar: Man of the Atom #10, which had a matte black embossed cover. Amazing Spider-Man #365 also marks the first appearance of Miguel O’Hara, the futuristic “Spider-Man 2099″ and the original mixed-race Spidey.
1992 was also the year of Image, so this month marked Jim Lee’s final issue of X-Men, leaving Jim Valentino the sole remaining Image Founder to be working on a Marvel title. Image’s two releases this month were Spawn #2, which introduced Violator (surely one of the most famous characters named after a liquor store parking sign) and Savage Dragon #1.
Marvel soldiered on without its Image Golden Boys, giving Ghost Rider a second ongoing series (Spirits of Vengeance) and providing a two-decades-early clue to what might be the real twist in this summer’s Avengers vs. X-Men. Marvel Comics Presents #109 also saw Ann Nocenti revisiting her creation Typhoid Mary in an eight part serial teaming her with Wolverine.
Over at DC, Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle introduced Stephanie Brown, aka The Spoiler, aka One of Two Batgirls Currently in Limbo, in Detective Comics#647.
TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO — JUNE 1987
As mentioned in a previous post, this month marks the Silver Anniversary of Me Picking Up Comics Regularly. None of the books I was buying are particularly significant, but there were a number of books released twenty five years ago that are still remembered today.
After months of lurking in the shadows and choreographing the Mutant Massacre, Mr. Sinister debuts in Uncanny X-Men #221 by Chris Claremont and Marc (not Mark) Silvestri.
In Batman: Son of the Demon, Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham introduce the idea that Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul have a son together. Sure, this was ignored for twenty years and now the details surrounding the baby have changed drastically, but in certain ways this month marks the 25th anniversary of the idea of Damian Wayne.
The punch that launched a thousand jokes! Batman clocked Guy Gardner in Justice League #5 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire.
Alan Moore said goodbye to Swamp Thing (and all work for DC not involving buyouts and firewalls) in Swamp Thing #64, with art by Steve Bissette, Tom Yeates, Rick Veitch and Alfredo Alcala.
Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson tied the knot in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie, and Paul Ryan. This means that the notion of a married Spider-Man has at this moment existed for exactly one half of the character’s existence!
THIRTY YEARS AGO — JUNE 1982
The cover to Avengers #223 by Ed Hannigan spoils the ending to JLA: Rock of Ages over fifteen years before that book comes out.
Chris Claremont and Frank Miller open the Pandora’s Box of letting Wolverine support his own book.
THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO — JUNE 1977
The original Teenage Negro Ninja Thrasher, Rocket Racer debuts in Amazing Spider-Man #172 by Len Wein and Ross Andru.
Longtime X-Men friend/foe Deathbird first appears as a minion of MODOK(?) in Ms. Marvel #9 by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum.
Also launched thirty-five years ago this month: The Human Fly #1, a Marvel hero created by Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom that may end up being adapted into a motion picture. He is not to be confused with the previously introduced supervillain the Human Fly, who has recently showed up regurgitating all over people and feasting on their flesh in Venom. The guy being developed for film is just a stuntman who fights crime dressed in a fly suit.
FORTY YEARS AGO — JUNE 1972
GONE! GONE! — THE FORM OF MAN—! RISE, THE DEMON ETRIGAN! Jason Blood and his alter ego were introduced by Jack Kirby in The Demon #1.
Spidey Cops Out! And the Daily Bugle’s yellow journalism incites race riots on a small scale in Amazing Spider-Man #112 by Gerry Conway and John Romita. But Spider-Man’s tenth anniversary isn’t all turmoil and strife: in Marvel Team-Up #4 by Conway and Gil Kane, Spidey asserts himself as a wheelin’ dealin’, kiss stealin’ son of a gun, as he concludes his uneasy team-up with the X-Men by assaulting the men of the team, planting one on Jean Grey, then diving through a closed window.
This month also saw Steve Englehart begin his lengthy run on Captain America with issue #154. It’s a run that according to last week’s great Comics Reporter Sunday Interview introduced current Cap writer Ed Brubaker to the character. That’s not surprising, as many elements of Englehart’s run have found their way into Brubaker’s own work on the character.
FIFTY YEARS AGO — JUNE 1962
Marvel had a big month fifty years ago! They came up with a few characters that ended up going somewhere:
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced Thor in Journey into Mystery #83
Stan and Jack also put Hank Pym (who they introduced last month) in a union suit and dubbed him Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #35.
And of course, Lee and Steve Ditko debuted Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15.
But Marvel wasn’t content to stop there! In Fantastic Four #6 most of the issue is dedicated to the first team-up between Namor and Doctor Doom, but there’s an opening breather where the FF answer some fan mail, and introduce two classic features of the then-nascent Marvel Universe:
Unstable molecules and the Yancy Street Gang, in back to back panels! Amazing!
Meanwhile over at DC… well, Superman fought Atonino Rocca! You know, the professional wrestler? He was, if not the Hulk Hogan of his day, then certainly at least the Hacksaw Jim Duggan of his day! Maybe even the Junkyard Dog of 1950s mid-Atlantic cities with large Italian fanbases. He was certainly a bigger draw than Crusher Hogan, at any rate.
SEVENTY YEARS AGO — JUNE 1942
I know that the Prankster seems like a harmless goof in many of his appearances, just playing tricks and sticking pennies in his ears. But when he debuted in Action Comics #51, he could be a real jerk. He was created by Jerry Siegel and John Sielka.
Also turning seventy this month: Two-Face! Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, he debuted in Detective Comics #66.
Fun fact: in that issue, Bruce Wayne promises to find a world-class plastic surgeon to fix Harvey’s scarred face, but discovers that this doctor has been sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis. Two things:
That doctor’s name is Ekhart, remarkably close to the surname of Aaron Eckhardt, who would portray Two-Face sixty-six years later.
I had no idea that Americans were aware of concentration camps in 1942. Was the general assumption that they were just standard issue prison camps? I was under the impression that it wasn’t until various camps were liberated after Germany’s defeat that the true extent of their role as murder factories became public knowledge. But when Batman and Dent hear of Dr. Ekhart being sent to a concentration camp, their reaction is more, “Well, he’s definitely dead” than “I hope he will eventually be freed so he can fix this ugly mug”. Also, speaking as someone with the same bastardized surname, why were Ekharts being sent to camps? It’s a strong German name, and out of all of the Eckerts/Eckerds/Echkhardts/Eggerses/Eckerses I have encountered in my life, I’m not aware of any who fit the profile for being sent to concentration camps.
Am I overthinking this? I say yes. Last, and almost certainly least, All-Star Comics #12 saw Gardner Fox and Jack Burnley introduce a marginal foe for the Justice Society, the Black Dragon Society. They may sound like a 2000s garage revival band, but they’re actually a sinister Japanese cabal!
Sure, they never appeared again except in some Roy Thomas continuity porn, but as all fans of Mortal Kombat know, THE BLACK DRAGON. LIVE ON. In hilariously awful cutscnes.