Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Back Issue #69 [TwoMorrows; $9.95] celebrates the magazine’s
tenth anniversary with a 100-page issue focusing on the centennial
and other century anniversaries of long-running comic-book titles.
The Dan Jurgens cover of the Justice League of America is a tip-off
that this issue, like most issues of Back Issue, tends to favor DC
Comics over other publishers.  Not surprising, since editor Michael
Eury got his comics career start working for the late and sorely-
missed Dick Giordano at DC.

The issue opens with a very nice summation of the comics industry’s
ambivalent attitude towards century issues during the 1940s through
the 1960s.  It’s written by Robert Greenberger, who worked for DC,
Marvel, Starlog and Weekly World News.  Jim Kingman rounds out the
discussion with a piece on the non-anniversary DC anniversaries of
the Bronze Age of Comics.

Marvel is the subject of but four articles.  Jerry Boyd discusses
several 100th anniversary issues.  Franck Martine writes about and
interviews writer/editor Marv Wolfman on Amazing Spider-Man #200
and Fantastic Four #200.  Darrell Hempel writes about Marvel’s 25th
anniversary (November 1986) and David Suiter covers Avengers #300.

Mark Arnold contributes the only non-DC/Marvel article.  He writes
about Casper the Friendly Ghost #200 and Richie Rich #200.  Both of
these issues were published by Harvey Comics.

I skipped Larry Tye’s “Off My Chest” column because I’ve had more
than enough of his pro-DC, anti-Siegel and Shuster garbage in other
venues.  Of course, what with DC having failed to honor just about
every agreement it ever made with me, I confess to being more than
a wee bit peeved at the company.

Moving along...

DC attempted to do special anniversary issues with mixed results.
I’d give the highest marks to Detective Comics #500 and The 
Brave and the Bold #200, followed by Batman #300, Superman
 #300 and Superman #400.  If I had to list the 100 greatest comic
books of all time, Detective Comics #500 and The Brave and the 
Bold #200 would be contenders and Superman #400 would get an
honorable mention.

The lowest marks would go to Adventure Comics #400 - for all of the
terrific work he did elsewhere, editor/writer/artist Mike Sekowsky
never got the hang of Supergirl - The Flash #300 and World’s Finest
#300.  Adventure Comics #400 was just plain awful while the
other two issues were merely mediocre.  World’s Finest Comics after
the departure of editors Julius Schwartz and Murray Boltinoff was
a mess while The Flash never truly recovered from the departure of
Schwartz as its editor.

The other DC anniversary issues are, at the least, fun comic books.
Bob Haney’s stories for Brave and Bold #100 and #150 might not have
jelled with the rest of the DC Universe, but, like his other B&Bs,
they were always interesting.  Paul Kupperberg’s Showcase #100 is
notable for his brave and largely successful attempt to include nearly
every previous Showcase headliner.

Wonder Woman #300, Green Lantern #200 and Batman #400 were
decent super-hero stories.  Of the three, I’d rank the Wonder Woman issue
the highest.

I suspect many - and many most - readers of these anniversary comic
books will have their own notions of which are the best and which
are the worst.  That’s just part of the ongoing fun of Back Issue.
Here’s hoping the next ten years are as enjoyable as its first ten
years have been.


Happy Marriage!? [Viz; $9.99 each] is a ten-volume series by Maki
Enjoji.  In the shojo manga series, 22-year-old office worker Chiwa
Takanashi agrees to an arranged marriage for the sake of her debt-
ridden father.  Her husband is Hokuto Mamiya, 28-year-old president
of Mamiya Commerce.  This is to be a secret marriage, which makes
no sense to me, save to give Enjoji an element of suspense to play
with.  It was one of several things in the series which I’ve found
unconvincing and/or unsettling.

Hokuto is an arrogant creep.  He’s cold and tyrannical.  On those
rare occasions when he tries to play the part of a loving husband,
his actions seem calculated and selfish.  When he refuses to accept
Chiwa’s resignation from his company - she’s been offered a job at
a start-up company where she would be valued - he crosses the line
from cold to utter asshat.  In doing so, Hokuto also diminishes my
regard for the guy who offered Chiwa a job.  He withdraws the offer
because of Hokuto’s objection.  I thought shojo manga was supposed
to appeal to female readers.

The series ponders if these strangers can find their way to a happy
marriage.  After reading the first two volumes, I realized I don’t
care.  Hokuto is an asshole and Chiwa needs to figuratively grow a
pair.  The only good reason for them to be married is to keep them
from making two other people unhappy.  I won’t be returning for the
third and subsequent volumes.


I continue to dig through the boxes of comic books, many years old,
loaned to me by a good friend.  Here are my quick comments on some
of those comics.

Conan: The Book of Thoth [Dark Horse; 2006] was an impressive four-
issue exploration of the life of Thoth-Amon, one of the Cimmerian’s
deadliest foes.  Written by Kurt Busiek and Len Wein with fantastic
art by Kelley Jones, each $4.99 issue had 40 story pages with the
final issue going to 42 story pages.  While these comics may have
been short on Conan, they were wonderfully creepy and told with a
lyrical darkness that served the story well.  The four issues were
collected in a 2006 trade paperback.

ISBN 978-1593076481

Also from 2006, I read Giant-Size Ms. Marvel [$4.99].  One of the
best things about this one-shot is that it’s 100 pages.  I do love
thick comic books, Unfortunately, most of the contents didn’t do a
whole lot for me.

The lead story is the only new story in the issue.  It’s set in the
Scarlet Witch-created “House of M” reality in which mutants pretty
much rule the world.  As Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was the most
popular super-hero in that altered world.  It’s a so-so side story
from a clunky event.

Next up was a reprint of the 1969 Captain Marvel #18 by Roy Thomas,
Gil Kane and John Buscema.  It’s the best story in the issue and
significant because it has the genesis of the super-powers Danvers
would later possess as Ms. Marvel.

That’s followed by Ms. Marvel #1 and #2 from 1977.  Created/written
by Gerry Conway with an assist from Carla Conway, the series always
struck me as an exercise in throwing everything against the wall to
see what sticks.  So we have awkward appearances by Jonah Jameson
and Mary Jane Watson.  The second issue ends on a cliffhanger, so
anyone reading it for the first time in 2006 would have to either
search for subsequent issues in the back-issue bins or buy a copy
of the Essential Ms. Marvel.  I’d recommend the latter because even
so-so Essential volumes are still cool.

The last reprinted story in this one-shot is by Chris Claremont and
Dave Cockrum.  It hails from Ms. Marvel #20 (1978) and is notable
for the introduction of the costume Carol Danvers wore for most of
her super-hero career.  It ends on a cliffhanger - that Essential
Ms. Marvel
is looking better all the time - and it reminded me how
much I’ve disliked every costume Danvers has worn until recently.
If she had been a Barbie doll, she would have come with a stripper
pole and little dollar bills for Drunk Ken to stick in her costume.
I’m just saying.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. As a reader who has every issue of Back Issue it shouldn't be a surprise that I can't resist a comment about anniversary issues.
    I always thought JLA #200 was as close to perfection as anything could get, marred only by the absence of Hawkwoman.

  2. Gary more or less made the point I was gonna make. JLA #200 is one of my favorite comics ever. Great Perez framing sequence and then the individual chapters with art from artists closely identified with the individual characters -- Green Lantern vs. the Atom by Gil Kane; Flash vs. Elongated Man by Carmine Infantino; Aquaman vs. Red Tornado (with an assist from the Phantom Stranger) by Jim Aparo; Superman vs. Hawkman by Joe Kubert; Batman vs. Green Arrown and Black Canary by Brian Bolland (yes, interior pages by Brian Bolland!); Firestorm vs. Martian Manhunter by Pat Broderick; and Zatanna vs. Wonder Woman by Dick Giordano! Such a love letter.

  3. JLA #200 IS a great comic! And B&B #200 is also one of the best anniversary issues and one of the best series finales in comicdom.
    The last year of B&B had some of the best stories in years. A Superboy team-up, the return of the Fleisher/Aparo team on a Spectre team-up. At first DC announced “Brave & Bold” would change formats – to feature new talent in what eventually became the comic “New Talent Showcase”. But then they decided to cancel the title altogether and give NTS its own series.
    In the team-up story, the art of the Earth-2 – sorry, Golden Age – Batman looked as if it were plucked from a secondary story of “Batman” from 1947! And it was a clever story to boot!
    For a while “Brave & Bold” was a try-out series like “Showcase”. #200 not only included a team-up but one last try-out with the Outsiders.
    If I recall, Tony, you mentioned in prior blogs you did not approve of Black Lightning’s use in the group, but he would be in good hands with Mike W. Barr. True, and I never complain about Jim Aparo’s artwork.
    One last team-up and one last try-out.
    It even had a one-page Batmite cartoon!
    What’s not to love?

  4. I'm a little ashamed to admit Adventure #400 is one of my favorite comics. They just got everything so wrong. Using a spaceship to reach the door to the Phantom Zone, L. Finn the leprechaun as a prisoner there, gold K working gradually, bringing back the Black Flame 'by popular demand' and writing her as a generic baddie w/no connection to the original, etc. It's a classic, if for all the wrong reasons.