Friday, 26 October 2012

From Superman To Doctor Strange And ... Atari Force? The Great Eighties Cancelled Superhero-ish Comicbook Cavelcade

The final panel of 1985/6's Crisis On Infinite Earths, by Wolfman and Perez et al, whose advice in the above the blogger's going to ignore in what follows. Let's be, dear visitor, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past, etc etc ....
In which the blogger offers up a baker's dozen of much-missed, cruelly cancelled superhero - or superheroesque - comic-books from the Big Two in the Eighties. Other publishers and genres will appear in a later list. For the sake of brevity, what follows doesn't include the likes of mini-series, tenures which came to their intended close, media tie-ins, or interrupted runs by creative teams who were bumped from continuing titles. Those constraints made list-making easier in the pre and post-Millenium posts, but they make it much tougher for the ten years from 1980. It's something of a surprise to note how relatively few outstanding comics there were from the Big Two in the period. (Memory always tends to make something better out of a era where comicbooks are concerned, I fear.) With considerably fewer books being published by Marvel and DC compared to following decades, and with a tendency for long-running titles to stay in print, it's surprisingly tough to find cancelled superhero comics which really deserve to be mourned for anything other than nostalgic reasons. As such, the list contains titles which, though competent and fondly regarded, could hardly be thought of as outstanding, as well as a few - and only a few - absolute gems.

The list begins with the most recently-cancelled title, and ends with the most distant termination. There's no order of preference beyond that;

1. The Shadow, by Andy Helfer, Kyle Baker, Bill Sienkiewicz, Marshall Rogers et al, cancelled 1989)  

A ferociously irreverent and ambitious take on The Shadow which ended up being pulled - so legend has it - when Helfer and Baker had the pulp star decapitated and his head mounted on a robot's body. This was not the kind of licensed tie-in which comic-books tended to produce and it seems to have seriously scared the horses. Brave to the point of recklessness, persistently witty, and challenging in its storytelling on a page-to-page basis, it's sadly a comic that's unlikely to ever be collected, let alone completed. As with Rick Veitch's superlative time-travel epic in Swamp Thing, the DC of the period allowed a classic run to go unfinished. In comic-book terms, the loss of both books before they came to any kind of satisfying end is to be deeply regretted.

2. The Outsiders, by Mike W Barr, Jim Aparo et al, 1988  

Unlike previous lists in this series, the scarcity of candidates means that some comics cancelled after a conspicuous decline have been included. While the preceding Batman & The Outsiders title had in particular been an enjoyable ride,  the rot had set in by 1988. It was a precipitous decline. In its first years, and with splendid art from the likes of Jim Aparo and Alan Davis to compliment Mike W Barr's sharp scripting, the Outsiders had seemed destined for lasting success.
3. Doctor Strange, by Roger Stern, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, Michael Golden, Paul Smith et al c.1987  

When the best of the post-Ditko/Lee versions of Doctor Strange are mentioned, Roger Stern's few years as the character's writer are rarely lauded highly enough in dispatches. Yet there's a serious argument to be made for his run falling immediately behind those of Thomas/Colan/Palmer in the late Sixties and the mid-Seventies achievements of Englehart/Brunner/Colan. From an ingenious, captivating time-travel epic with Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin to the "final" eradication of Dracula, Stern captured a sense of dignity and purpose for Strange which no-one since, and few before, ever matched.

4. All-Star Squadron, by Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler, Jerry Ordway et al (c.1987)  

All-Star Squadron had been stumbling for years before its end. Artist Jerry Ordway had never been satisfyingly replaced, while the title was hamstrung and then killed off by the one-world revisionism of Crisis On Infinite Earths. Its first three years had been no more or no less than an enthusiastically fannish, frequently purple blur of continuity fetishism. Being a fan of the whole idea of Earth-2, I bought into the project despite often feeling that I was paying out for professionally distributed fan-fic. Eventually, it seemed to become more and more amateurish, with frequently disappointing artwork compounding the sense that Thomas was becoming more and more obsessed with decades-old comics trivia. When DC's Powers That Be cut the book off from the pre-Crisis continuity, that fannish drive seemed not just endearingly Quixotic, but entirely futile.

5. The Earth-One Superman books, inc; Superman, Action, Supergirl, Superboy & DC Presents c.1986

There's no denying that the Superman line had seemed all-too-often rudderless and old-fashioned by the mid-Eighties. Yet work by writers such as Alan Moore, Steve Gerber, Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen in the period after Marty Pasko's departure from the book had all showed the potential which the old continuity still held. For all that John Byrne's revamp was energetic and enjoyable, it gutted the property of a great deal of charm and pathos. As it was, Byrne's persoanl involvement in the post-Crisis experiment was dead within two years, and the old continuity, which might have been adapted rather than extinguished, had been thrown away for very little lasting gain and at a considerable cost. It was not a lesson which the various regimes at DC over the following quarter-century were to learn from.

6. Amethyst, by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, Ernie Colon et al, c. 1986 

As with other titles on this list, Amethyst seems in retrospect to have been doomed from the moment it was pitched. A female lead that's recognisably a girl rather than an unthreateningly blokeish version of the same? A fairy tale rather than a superheroic punch-up? Emotions which stretched beyond angst, longing, self-pity and anger? A character's name which a great many folks - including myself - might struggle to spell? Yet, as with several other examples still to come here, the market's inability to keep Amethyst alive reveals how narrow and fatally flawed it even then was. Recently collected in a great doorstep-thick, crisply black-and-white DC Showcase Presents edition, Amethyst was an absolute triumph of an all-ages comicbook. With a heroine who was strong, likable, beautiful and yet thankfully not in any way objectivised, it was inventive, intriguing and, at moments, surprisingly and satisfyingly dark. What might the superhero industry have created for itself if it'd invested the undoubtedly considerable resources in the Eighties necessary to sell product such as this to audiences beyond the Rump?

7. Rom, by Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko et al, c. 1986

 For all that Rom was a pleasant enough read, few would care to elevate it to "classic" status. But its presence here does say something about how few truly good - let alone great - comics there were in the period from the "mainstream". Yet by comparison with many of its peers from the day, Rom was always readable and Mantlo ensured a fan-pleasing series of guest appearances by both the great and the deeply marginal of Marvel's characters. If I make not the slightest attempt to hide how I'm currently buying up cheap reading copies of the run, I'd also never make an argument for it being anything more than a minor, disposable pleasure. That alone made it better than a great many of its fellows, although that is, I'll admit, a case of damning with faint praise. )

nb: There was a coin-toss held to decide whether Blue Devil or Rom appeared in this list.

8. Atari Force, by Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Mike Baron et al,c. 1985

Even now it seems a ludicrous proposition, but the superhero/sci-fi hybrid that was Atari Force proved to be a cracking read from beginning to end, a smart costumed space-opera with an inspiringly strong female lead - Dart - and a host of beguiling alien creatures in the supporting cast. To say that it's some of artist Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's finest work should emphasise the quality of what logic insists should have been an appalling title.

9. Thriller, by Robert Loren Fleming, Trever Von Eeden et al, c. 1984  

A comic so imaginatively out-there that Alan Moore once suggested to editor Alan Gold he'd love a crack at it, Thriller was far too left-field to ever gather a substantial audience. (The Bard Of Northampton was passed over and the book was dead in the hands of a new creative team within 6 months.) A sci-fi/spy/pulp/superhero mash-up, it featured a team of "Seven Seconds" serving "Angie Thriller" in the NYC of 50 years hence. It's been said that Fleming's scripts were relatively straight-forward, and that Von Eeden's experimental storytelling made an art-book out of an entertainment. Whatever the truth, its first 7 issues were remarkable if often hard-going, although it was dead in the water when both of its original creators jumped ship after Thriller had enjoyed just over half a year on the stands. Those curious about this brief and mostly-forgotten moment of excellence might care to visit Michel Fiffe's fine site for more information.

10. Blackhawk, by Mark Evanier, Dan Spiegle et al, c.1984, DC Comics

Rumour has it that Stephen Spielberg was thinking of making a Blackhawk movie during this period, and if he had, the Evanier and Spiegle books would've proved a perfect story-bible for the project. No other writer of the modern period has ever managed to define - and often redefine - the various members of the Blackhawks cast with such heart, clarity and purpose, while Spiegle's art was always sharp, transparent and in places innovative too. Yet the comic always felt as if it were out of time, which is far more a comment on most of its fellows. There was nothing of superhero-machismo about the art, and Evanier's scripts were focused on character, heart and story rather than genre-playing and serving up the narrow tastes of the fanboy niche. This was traditional, inclusive, character-driven storytelling which was also smart, mature and unpretentious. Sadly, what it couldn't do was appeal to the fannish buyers of the day, and as such, it stands as one more regrettable example of the roads not taken.
11. Master Of Kung Fu, by Doug Moench, Paul Gulacy, Mike Zeck, Dan Day, Jim Starlin et al, c.1983  

The last of the idiosyncratic, writer-driven exploitation comics from Marvel's chaotic mid-70s heyday, Master Of Kung Fu had long overcome its original one-note limitations to become a thoroughly ambitious and markedly individual comicbook. Originally a mash-up of cliches associated with Bruce Lee films and Fu Manchu novels, it survived through the dedicated efforts of writer Moench and a sequence of inspired artists, most of whom proved willing to go above and beyond the call of duty on the title. With a string of influences from Bond to Groucho spicing up the book's original premise, it serves as perhaps the best example from the period of how no starting point is too stereotypical or apparently limited to prove worthwhile in the right hands. Doomed never to be reprinted because of the lapsing of the rights to Sax Rohmer's characters, Master Of Kung-Fu sadly seems likely to fade even more quickly from the popular memory than its fellow titles of the period.

12. The Brave And The Bold, by Jim Aparo, Alan Brennert, et al, c. 1983 (DC Comics)  

The over-familiar if always uniquely camp charms of Bob Haney's years as scripter of DC's Batman team-up book at last gave way in 1979 to a rotating cast of writers, some of whom took the freedom offered by the peripheral nature of the book to excel themselves . In what was a moribund turn-of-the-decade for the super-book, the Brave And The Bold thereafter featured a sprinkling of  excellent tales lighting up a monthly parade of base-level competency. That was never so true as for the four issues which Alan Brennert wrote, which serve as the missing and often sadly forgotten link in the chain of truly great Batman writers between Steve Englehart in 1977/8 and Frank Miller in 1986/7. With consistently fine contributions from regular artist Jim Aparo and creators such as Mike W. Barr and Dave Gibbons, The Brave And The Bold occasionally served as a genuine pleasure in a grey, grey time.

13, Super-Friends, by E Nelson Brigwell, Ramona Fradon et al, 1981 

There was a serious measure of contempt aimed at Super Friends during its brief existence by certain quarters of the fandom of the day. E. Nelson Bridwell made no attempt at all in his scripts to target the reader obsessed with the post-Marvel Revolution traditions of storytelling. Similarly, Fradon's art was untouched by either Neal Adam's comics-realism or Jack Kirby's dynamic-muscularity. The fact that Super-Friends was a tie-in to a Saturday Morning cartoon show only compounded those sins. Yet it was a charming, thoroughly entertaining title which typically put the fine detail of DC's continuity to far better use than most of the company's more critically heralded titles.

TooBusyThinking will be returning on Sunday 26th October with a look at some must-buy books for either the end of Fall or the beginning of Christmas .....


  1. Atari Force was an amazing book, and I was sad to see it go. As for All-Star Squadron, in retrospect, it's a book I loathe--my candidate for single worst piece of continuity fetishism of all time is Thomas's ridiculous decision to kill Dian Belmont so as to explain the costume change Sandman underwent after Simon/Kirby took over the strip. Way to off the interesting female sidekick who actually knew her boyfriend's secret and aided him in his war on crime, Roy! James Robinson gets a pass for a myriad of sins just for bringing Dian back to life in Starman.

    1. Hello Rob:- Glad to hear more positive words for Atari Force. It really was a breath of fresh air, and a welcome return to form for a Gerry Conway who'd rarely shown the gifts that had made his 70s run on Spider-Man so enjoyable.

      I draw a clear line between the first 31 issues of ASS and the rest. It was never an outstanding book, but it was fun for awhile. It's decline was a long and uncomfortable business, but there was a love and enthusiasm which carried it through before that. In another bleak era for the super-book, it was - for awhile - readable and on occasion fun too if nearly always fan-ficcy. The Ordway issues - with his lovely use of a Sprangish Batman and Robin - were the best of all.

      But I do agree with you about the offing of Dian. There's alot in the book that I struggle to sympathise with.

      So, in short, it was a duff time, ASS had its moments, and it had a interesting premise.

      It's odd, but there's been no problems with finding 13 books for any other decade. The 70s, for example, produced a host of really-good, much-missed Big Two super-books. But the 80s?

  2. You may begin to perceive that Dian Belmont is one of my favorite characters of all time, Colin.

    1. Hello Rob:- I would totally agree. I've still got my discussion of my favourite 12 superheroines of all time to complete, and I have tried to justify having Dian in there to myself.

      But she's certainly one of the best supporting characters of all. In the superbook, I struggle to think of too many to match her. Foggy Nelson is one, but there's very few others.

    2. Never read much of ALL-STAR SQUADRON, but I'll always have a place in my heart for Dian Belmont because of the much-loved and much-missed SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE.

    3. Hello Anthony:- As Rob suggests, you probably don't want to stray too near to All-Star Squadron as a Dian Belmont fan. Ot if you do, treat it as an alt-Earth to that of the charming Sandman Mystery Theatre. Wouldn't a great thick Omnibus of that series be welcome?

  3. Ah Colin, thanks for the memories. I'd say my favourite of the lost books was Master of Kung Fu, which had an amazing couple of years under Moench and the statue-bonkers Day. But so many other greats - Blackhawks, Atari Force, Arak, Firestorm ... Oh well, as you say, can't fit everything in, and Firestorm was never as good after Gerry Conway left.

    1. Hello Mart:- It's been a week of serious deadlines over my way, and putting together a list like this is something that can be done in spare moments here and there. It is, as you say, all about the memories. I must admit that I find myself benefitting from noting how much that was worthwhile - and even brilliant - has been largely forgotten by history. There's a myth that quality will always out and it really is exactly that, and that's especially true where the super-book is concerned. A book such as Master Of Kung Fu, which you rightly single out, has more or less disappeared from the fannish memory, as has Mr Moench to a worrying degree, and that's a shame.

      I could barely justify forcing Amythest into the above, but Arak was a genre too far, I fear. But I did enjoy the Ernie Colon work on Arak, especially when it wasn't overwhelmed by the inking. Firestorm had a very good case. For awhile with some of Broderick's best-ever art, it was well worth buying.

  4. Colin, I'm not sure if you've had the opportunity to read Sean Howe's "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" but there's a fascinating bit within that book (of which there are legion) that deals with MASTER OF KUNG-FU, which is a series that I also enjoyed after first discovering it in back-issue bins. As the story goes, EIC Jim Shooter, interested in goosing sales on the perennially low-selling title, instructed writer Doug Moench to come with ways to "shake things up". Among the avenues considered: killing Fu Manchu, killing Shang-Chi, killing Shang-Chi and replacing him with another character, and killing the entire supporting cast en masse. Moench, properly attached to these characters that he'd been personally and creatively invested in for several years, blanched at all these proposals and as a result was summarily fired from the title. What's more, Shooter apparently considered taking similarly drastic action with the entire Marvel line by killing off all the established heroes and replacing them with newer versions of the same; as the story goes, one proposal being floated at the time was to kill Steve Rogers off and have an investment banker take on the role of Captain America!

    But surely neither Marvel nor DC would possibly consider such outlandish, sensationalist, throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water sales tactics today, would they? ;-)

    1. @Anthony, if I may, Colin - just wow. My copy of the book came earlier this week, I can't wait to read it now.

    2. Hello Anthony:- I have indeed read Mr Howe's fine book. In fact, and for what little it's worth, I'll be reviewing it on this coming Sunday.

      Shooter's plans to entirely rework the Marvel Universe have long been the stuff of legend, although the man himself has always denied such a plan. Yet the evidence does seem to be against it, shall we say. And for all I admire Shooters ability to get Marvel functioning as a business in certain ways, he does seem to have been able to make some ludicrous decisions. The longer he stayed in power, the worse his decision-making became, until the disaster of the New Universe arrived. The example of MOKF is an absurd example of a man who didn't grasp why the book was valuable.

      I also enjoyed the story - which I'd never heard before at all - of Shang-Chi's creators having no idea of how racist Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu was! You're right, Howe's book is worth discussing :)

      Would the Big Two repeat the same mistakes which Howe describes over and over again? We-ll ....

    3. Hello Mart:- You'll enjoy the book. I might quibble with a few things here and there, but there's few books that wouldn't be true for. The truth is, it's an essential read. I suspect you'll enjoy it - as I did - a great deal. Mind you, I ended up thoroughly depressed after finishing it ... This has not been an industry that's typically been well-run.

    4. Looking forward to your review, Colin - if anything, it'll spur me to finish the book before Sunday! I'm midway through the "1990's section" at the moment...and your assessment about being "thoroughly depressed" by the end of it will be one that I'll likely mirror, judging by how the book has affected me so far.

    5. Hello Anthony:- I'll say nothing else, except to suggest that I'll be surprised if the final photograph in the book doesn't leave you with at the very least some very mixed feelings.

  5. Every single book was on my pull list or hunted down from a dozen newsagents around Southampton on weekly comics trips. Atari Force was one of the finest SF books on the market, The Shadow blew my mind to think what could be done with a dated property but thriller, wow. Salvo's ruminations on going home stick with me now still and the art, wow. This was, I guess, my era aand I look forward to looking back at other publishers books too. E Man, Warp, Grimjack, eclipse magazine, Zot, Sable, Rocketeer, so much good stuff.

    1. Hello Peter:- It's strange to recall a time when comics had to be hunted down from a series of newsagents. I used to hate the process, and I couldn't do it now. But there was a sense that the books were precious. It mitigated against taking them for granted, and ensured that even mediocre books felt more precious than perhaps they truly were. Even in the mid-Eighties, I can recall cycling across York to raid the newly arrived comics in a newsgent at the opposite end of town. It feels like a grand memory, though at the time I'd've happily opted for today's get-it-through-the-mail system.

      If it was a list of the best books cancelled by the Indy publishers, I'd be pushed to narrow it down. Mr Monster or Scout? Badger or Grimjack? Beanworld or Nexus? It was one of the richest times out there in the wildlands of the market, wasn't it? I don't think it's nostalgia talking there either.

  6. Will Payton - Starman. It was not exceptional, but it was steady. Roger Stern and Tom Lyle gave it heart. But it always felt like it was on life support.
    I enjoyed it from beginning to end until they pulled the plug. It was made in the wrong era.

    1. Hello Earth66:- I'll certainly pick up a copy of that Starman when I next it see one going for a song. I fear I'm guilty of having ignored it in the day beyond the first issue and - memory tells me - an Invasion crossover. I think I was disappointed that he wasn't the original Starman, or even the one-strike-and-he-was-out blue 70s take. I hadn't learned to trust Roger Stern nearly enough back then, being younger and even stupider than I now am :-(

  7. May I just add there's a new blog devoted to Thriller just getting started that's well worth checking out:

    The prospect of Alan Moore taking over the series after its creator was driven off the title carries an extra edge since the advent of Before Watchmen, don't you think?

    (For the record, Steve Gerber in later years expressed deep regret for writing one issue of Metal Men without asking or receiving permission from Robert Kanigher. He felt pretty strongly about it after what happened with Howard and Omega! And Jack Kirby asked and received permission from Jerry Siegel to use Superman in Forever People and Jimmy Olsen.)

    1. Hello Richard:- First off, terrific nudge. It's a lovely site you recommend and it's by David Allen "Johnny Bicardi" Jones too. Hurrah!

      I'd not thought of the ethicacy of Moore offering to take on Thriller. I admit, I'm not clear on why Fleming left the book, though I do recall it not being a pleasant business and I - of course - trust your version of events entirely. I guess the key is what Moore knew of it, and the fact of whether Thriller had ever been promised to Fleming as "his" property. If Fleming had known he was signing away the rights forever when he created the book, then Moore's behaviour was entirely consistent with his later behaviour. (Though Moore has often expressed despair and contempt for the way the comics industry has failed to adequately respect and reward the creators who've enriched it, the Before Watchmen situation is informed by a specific verbal promise repeatedly made by DC to Gibbons and Moore than the characters and material would revert to their ownership.)

      Perhaps I'll find the answer when I return to properly read the two fine Thriller sites out there :)

      I did know that Gerber was very disappointed by Marvel farming out Omega The Unknown under the Quesada regime as well as that spurious Defenders tie-up. I didn't know that Kirby had sought our Siegel's blessing re: the Fourth World, or that Gerber had regretted writing Metal Men without getting Kanigher's nod. That's fascinating, but it seems odd as well as admirable to me, given that I've not read that Kanigher believed he was ill-treated by DC over the Metal Men. (Had Kanigher been upset that he'd not been asked to take over that 70's version of the book? Have I missed or stupidly forgotten him believing that he'd not received the return he should've had for the property?) Was Gerber's point that any prospective creator should get the OK from the original creators of a property regardless of whether they would have minded or not? I ask not to challenge your points - which I accept 100% - but to better understand one of my - I admit it - hero's principles.

    2. I know that Lethem was upset to learn of Gerber's objection to the use of Omega, but I think they eventually patched things up. Lethem didn't know the history there. He was just asked by Marvel to do something and he chose Omega the Unknown b/c he thought it was cool and weird and a kid (and it referenced in his fantastic novel The Fortress of Solitude).

      I think that once Gerber knew where Lethem was coming from he decided he had misjudged the author.

    3. Hello Osvaldo:-Thank you for explaining how that particular falling out resolved itself. Working on the modern-era superbook must bring with it a unique and trying set of ethical challenges. I don't envy those that have to work out which situations they can and can't engage with.

    4. The reason I bring up the Gerber and Kirby examples in connection with Moore and Thriller is to underscore that, even if the letter of a particular written agreement left no room for a creator to claim ownership of something, there were creators at the time who took the attitude "Legal right be damned, there's a moral issue at stake." Kirby knew all about Siegel's struggle with DC and his powerless status at that moment, and in light of his own history at Marvel felt asking permission was the right thing to do. Gerber's retrospective unhappiness about doing that Metal Men story was based on feeling that he ought to have taken Kanigher into consideration but never thought to ask.

      Kanigher was indeed not happy about Gerber doing that story, and word of this got back to Steve, who was saddened to hear of it. On a side note, the first time I met Kanigher, at the DC offices ten years later, he launched into a diatribe about having his pitch for still another Metal Men revival rejected in favor of yet another new writer. I couldn't say if this was due to some genuine personal attachment or pride in the characters, or simply the wounded ego of a veteran writer at being passed over for a newcomer. Hard to say with him.

      (Because I loved his issue so much, I did try to argue with Gerber that Kanigher was undeserving of regret from a fellow creator given the way he stood back when Arnold Drake, John Broome, Otto Binder, and Bill Finger tried to agitate for better treatment of creators at DC and all got sacked as a result. Steve answered that while karma may have been at work in Kanigher's fate, it didn't excuse Gerber himself for being thoughtless. I have never known anyone in the business who thought as much about the ethics of comics creation and creators as Steve Gerber.)

      I'm afraid that, as far as I know, there was never any reconciliation between Gerber and Lethem over the Omega thing. They spoke about it at length by telephone at least once. No one but the two of them heard that conversation, but the way Gerber described it later, even after being apprised of the history Lethem flatly refused to honor Steve's wishes and would not rename his character. Marvel editors and the law said he didn't have to, so he wouldn't. Lethem expressed indifference to Steve's hope that he and Mary Skrenes might someday want to finish their story themselves. I found this incomprehensible; I can't imagine repaying someone whose work I claimed to love by kicking him in the teeth. My impression was that Gerber was still bitter about it when he became sick, and then had other things he needed to do with his time and energy.

    5. Hello Richard:- Thank you for coming back and leaving the above. I do appreciate that. Your comment is absolutely fascinating and I hope it didn't look like too much of a cheek when I asked you for more information.

      I certainly think that the courtesy on Gerber's part that you describe speaks well of the man. It would also be a fine standard of conduct for the industry as a whole. Looking at the Before Watchmen debacle, however, it's plain that a significant number of professionals couldn't give a toss even when there's evidence that a creator has clearly been swindled. What a rotten business.

      I had no idea that Mr Kanigher had felt that way. Again, three cheers for Gerber for respecting the man and contacting him. Yet Kanigher had, as you say, fought his own corner at DC without lining up with his colleagues. That he made that choice was his business, his choice. But as you say, it did put him clearly on the side of the company and seriously weakened any claims that he might have cared to express about his own rights where the likes of the Metal Men are concerned.

      I have no idea whether he would have been able to produce a Metal Men tale/series which would be of quality and capable of appealing to today's readers. I would like to think that he would've been. Whatever he produced surely couldn't have been as stupid as the Metal-Men-were-originally-human "twist" that was spun some years ago now.

      (By the way, I too loved that Metal Men tale by Gerber. It stands out as one of the finest DC tales of the period. I recall reading it in the day, and the re-reading it over and over. As I believe you know, I hold his work in the highest regard.)

      I deeply regret hearing what you have to say about the Omega series and Mr Lethem. Not only is that whole business a grubby incident, but it also brings to mind what happened to the original - and wonderful - Omega. The loss of what he and Mary Skrenes had planned - for all that I've read of that sounds beguiling - is deeply to be regretted. (I believe that Gerber and Skrenes' "true" ending for the series remains secret, but the broad over-view of where the series was headed as I've read of it was just .... enticing.)

      As with Gerber's work, so with Moore's. The cases re - for example - Omega and Watchmen are different in certain key aspects, and yet at their heart the same fundamental issue of respect IS at work. Nobody involved with Before Watchmen has any measure of respect for Alan Moore. That's all hype and smarm. Similarly, I struggle to grasp why Mr Lethem would have chosen to ignore the opinion of Mr Gerber.

      Thanks for explaining things as you have. My very best to you.

    6. Just more info on the Gerber/Lethem thing from:

      Gerber and Skrenes were then put in contact with Jonathan Lethem by a third party. Gerber reported, "I was wrong about a few things. According to Jonathan, Marvel did not approach him with the intent of his reviving OMEGA. That was Jonathan's own idea. He claims he was unaware of my history with Marvel, including the lawsuit over Howard the Duck, until the present incident arose; I choose to believe him. Marvel did not, he says, attempt to entice him into the fold with hints or promises of film work in the future. I find that unutterably stupid on Marvel's part, but, again, very believable.

      "As best I can tell, Jonathan is a very nice guy who was acting with the best of intentions. His interest in reviving OMEGA comes out of passion for the material, not purely monetary considerations.

      "I misjudged him, and I offer my sincerest apologies.

      "That doesn't change my mind about the OMEGA revival itself, however. . .

    7. Hello Mr Oyola:- Thank you! That's exactly the kind of material that can lay any debate to rest, and I'm glad that Mr Gerber made his piece in such a typically generous way with Mt Lethern. I'm also glad that Mr Lethern emerges from the fog of history with honour intact in terms of Mr Gerber's original concerns.

      If only the likes of Before Watchmen could be presented in such a positive way ....

  8. I am glad Rom won the coin toss. I adore that series, having read a few paltry issues over and over again as a lad. I am very close to finally completing the run, having bought 28 issues of it at New York Comic Con. 4 or 5 left to go. I don't want to read them through until I procure them all.

    A lot of Marvel characters talk up their nobility. I think Rom takes it.

    1. Hello Bill:- And thank you for giving me an "in" into why I retain a genuine fondness for Rom even as I believe that it's essentially a workaday title. Beyond the artists I admire, the Silver Age storytelling which gives me a nostalgic buzz and the smart use of guest stars, the core of the book's appeal is indeed - as you say - Rom's nobility.

      OK. I understand myself better now! Thank you :)

    2. I've never been a big fan of toy tie-ins but Rom just had something, a dopey charm. I remember being rather miffed when we were eventually shown the 'true form' of the Dire Wraiths - give me the original marshmallow guys any day.

      And I loved the inks of Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, such refreshing textures.

    3. Hello Mart:- Now here my lack of knowledge where Rom's concerned starts showing, which means that maybe there's hope of my thinking more of the book when I complete my run of back issues. Because I know nothing about the true and marshmallow forms of the Dire Wraiths. In fact, all I know about that matter is a rather splendid Bill Sienkiewicz cover for Marvel Age that show what I assume is the DW's latter form. (I picked up a fearsome pile of Marvel Ages for a ridiculously small sum recently. The sense of nostalgia matched with a horror for things like the New Universe can be quite overwhelming.)

      But I can agree on Akin and Garvey. I recall them making something very interesting of Sal Buscema's breakdowns, which other inkers often failed to put to good use at all.

    4. It's a shame Blogger doesn't translate text into hyperlinks Still ...

      I'm guessing this is the Marvel Age cover:;n=Marvel+Age+%2323+cover

      Very nice!

      Well, here's the original look, which was explained away as a 'transitional form':

    5. Hello Martin:- Thank you :) Yep, that's the BillS cover I was mentioning; it's rather splendid, isn't it, although it's not a design which many could make compelling on the four-colour page with pencil and ink.

      I'd not realised that those "transitional forms" were Dire Wraiths on the Shang Chi cover. In their own way, they're rather unpleasant too; there's very much a sense that they lack a clear identity of their own, which is always disturbing.

  9. Cool list Colin, even if I'm not familiar with all of those titles - back then I skipped "Thriller" entirely as I was an unfortunately spandex-obsessed kid and it didn't look like my cuppa tea (though everything I've heard and read about it since has only made me regret having missed that boat), and Blackhawk's classic recipe of aerial battles and assembled stereotypes have always turned me off (strictly a matter of personal taste). The only "aerial battle" comics I've ever managed to enjoy were Garth Ennis' "battlefields" books. Maybe someday Ennis will get his hands on "Blackhawk" and somehow redeem all those terrible stereotypes and turn them into something human.

    But beyond those two, I've at least dipped my toes in all those series, and several of them were among my favorites. It's so sad that copyright entanglements prevent "Master of Kung Fu" and "ROM" from getting reprinted, not to mention the shockingly good "Atari Force" (which I originally read on anthologies published here in Brazil, and at first glance I was fully prepared to dismiss it, but Garcia-Lopez's magnificent artwork obliterated all my reservations, and Dart set my young hormones ablaze).

    Haney/Aparo's "Brave and the Bold" and Bridwell/Fradon's "Superfriends" were among my formative comics, shaping my appreciation of the genre as strongly as Lee, Kirby and Romita did across the aisle (for whatever reason I only learned to appreciate Ditko years later, first on his DC works like "Question", "Creeper" and "Starman" and then back at Marvel for the previously-mentioned "Rom").

    And I've never understood why people didn't enjoy Helfer & Baker's "Shadow". It was HILARIOUS! One of the most entertaining series I've ever read, much more effortlessly fun than all those humor series that tried too hard like "Inferior Five" and "Not Brand Ecch" (which was unreadable garbage despite Kirby's best efforts to do something he wasn't suited for). I remember guffawing out loud at the decapitated-robot-Shadow bit, and I was terribly disappointed (not to mention baffled) at that series' cancellation. Ah, well. As Rick Blaine once said, we'll always have Paris.

    And I avidly followed "Amethyst" too, mostly due to the awesome artwork by Ernie Colon, who I immediately recognized as the artist from kiddie-books like "Richie Rich", and whose flamboyant fantasy-adventure linework absolutely blew my young mind. I had no idea that guy had it in him! Colon's "Amethyst" was a revelation of how versatile an artist could be.

    Thanks for the trip through memory lane!

    1. Hello Les Fountenelle:- Well, thank you for coming along with the backwards looking trip :) If nothing else, I find these pieces are a useful corrective to any lurking nostalgia, judgment-corroding nostalgia. It's easy to feel hopelessly beguiled by the past, but when you take the time to look at what came out in a particular month, and a particular year, a more nuanced and often realistically negative opinion can get generated. Which of course makes the gems which did mark the past seem all the more admirable and welcome.

      I think it's a shame that Blackhawk has that very image you describe. In terms of characterisation, I'd say the Evanier Blackhawks were far ahead of their time, and I'm sure ME set out to challenge and displace the stereotypes which had originally informed Blackhawk's crew. I'm not fan of war books myself when they're concerned with the tropes of fighting.

      I can't help but be beguiled to read of the American books being read in other countries. After all, as a Brit, I too was reading a foreign nation's cultural product. And just as I was having to learn to negotiate the unique properties of American pop-culture in Scotland and England, you were doing so in Brazil. At times, it does seem like a small world.

      I hadn't quite registered that four of these books will never be reprinted. MOKF, ROM, The Shadow and Atari Force; they'll all disappear more and more from even fannish memory, and that's a shame.

      I too only learned to appreciate Ditko as I added a few years to my age. Though I was often captivated by moments in his art when reading Spider-Man stories from the title's pomp - roughly # 16 to 33 or so for me - I struggled to feel that his work was welcoming enough. As I kicked on, I gradually realised how brilliant the best of his work was.

      Again, terrific to see that somebody else was fond of TBATB and SF. I found that my fondness for the Haney TBATB began to fade after the reversion back from the 100 page issues. By that point, my more youthful self felt that he'd pretty much experienced Mr Haney's range on the title. Yet I can still read the material from before that and be charmed, and Mr Aparo's work was always beguiling to me.

      DC has had a habit of ruining some fantastic runs over the years before they could be completed. The Fourth World books, The Shadow, the Veitsch Swamp Thing ... It could be argued that's not too many over 40+ years, and yet when the work is that brilliant, I'd say it's miserable business which the company ought to have learned from. So speaketh my fannish soul ....

      Finally, another agreement; I always enjoyed Ernie Colon's work, whether it was on books for young kids or titles such as Airboy. The design for Dark Opal alone shows what an effective artist he was. An all-too under-rated talent.

    2. Hi Les. It would really pay you to check out the Evanier/Speigel Blackhawk if you ever come across them in a bargain bin. You'd be hard pressed to find an artist who could make aerial battles and car chases more exciting in comics form than Dan Speigel and Mark evaniers writing moved far away from the racist stereotypes that typified earlier runs.

    3. Hi Peter. Your description of Speigel's action artwork sounds interesting, and Evanier has always had a knack for bringing flat characters to life. I'll definitely keep my eye out for their Blackhawks.

  10. What's strange from a personal point of view is that even though the Marvel/DC comics that I read between 1978-1982 were a profound influence on my young mind, (that has sadly stayed with me to this day), I wasn't interested in them for much of the 80s and thus few of these comics strike a chord with me.

    I think I was burnt out on the commercialism and cynicism which you bemoan in much of the above by the age of 12! Marvel UKs publishing practices were a contributing factor to that.

    So I utterly ignored superhero comics until Moore's work started appearing, and he pulled me back in at the end of the 80s. Before that 2000AD seemed a much more 'truthful' form of genre storytelling while I was out.

    I had heard about many of the ones you cite above, and hopefully I'll get to read them someday. Never say never with regards to licensing deals. There are already some examples out there of unlikely reprints. The Marvel/Toho Godzilla book for instance. (A very enjoyable series that seems to have been planned as only 24 issues from the outset, or reads as if it was. It is well-paced and wraps up well.) Also there are some very obscure 50s/60s TV tie-ins (Dark Shadows, Time Tunnel)collected now which show an appetite for old licensed stuff from both the publishers and collectors.

    1. Hello Figserello:- I shared your alienation from the Big Two in the Eighties. And just as you did, I only really bought into DC when Alan Moore started working there. I always kept my eye on the American books, but there were all too few comics that I cared to buy during the period. I finally understood, with the likes of Nemesis and Halo Jones, that 2000AD was the place to be, and there was Warrior too. As for American books, the indies dominated my attention. From Third Wave super-books - Nexus, Mr Monster, Zot etc - to wonderful reprints, such as The Spirit, it was a golden age and a half.

      But I was 10 years older than you, and my disillusionment with Marvel and DC didn't really become conclusive until the early 80s. So you sussed things out far earlier than I did :)

      It's true that some odd licensed books have reappeared over the last decade. I suppose there's hope. It would be good to be able to read the Mike Golden Micronauts, for example, on paper that wasn't tissue thin and physically unable to hold anything much more than the colours of mud. Fingers crossed ...

      Though if Atari Force is ever collected, it'll be such an unlikely business that I think I'll doubt whether all my marbles are still safely in their bag or not.

  11. I'm obsessed with Thriller. i was able to find the whole run on eBay for a very reasonable price, and i'm about midway through, it's mindblowing to me that it came out from DC in a pre-Vertigo time. i didn't read it as a kid, but i remember the ads in various comics of the time. so weird and so great.

    1. Hello Milton:- Although I'm pleased I read it in the day, I must say, I envy you reading Thriller for the first time. And of course, you know that the quality nosedives after 7, and that the book was soon cancelled afterwards, so there's not the disappointment which accompanied Thriller's swift rise and fall back in 83/4.

      It's certainly heartening to know the comic's still winning readers over so long after its brief life.

  12. Aside from Stern being one of my favorite writers, I liked those Rogers/Austin issues a lot. There was one clever scene I remember, where Strange materializes in the middle of a raucous bar fight with Nick Fury and his commandos, and his first words are "This will never do." before putting an end to the entire thing and restoring everything to its former state. Nick even has an afterthought, sitting at his table and feeling his chin: "I coulda sworn I didn't shave this morning!" He's even later impressed at how smooth a shave it is. :D Just really excellent issues from this team.

    1. Hello Comicsfan:- I remember that lovely moment clearly too. In fact, I had to stop myself from disgressing into a xdetailed list of the pleasures of Stern's run. That whole time-travel series was packed with worthwhile moments, with the way in which Strange was shown contributing to the FF's first meeting with Rama-Tut back in Ancient Egypt proving especially enjoyable.

      It's a vastly under-estimated run. Everyone - Stern, Rogers, Austin - were clearly having a great time and really putting their shoulders to the wheel. Reading it in the day was a real pleasure.

  13. ROM is one of my all-time favorite comics. I own every copy of the main run and am just Annual #4 and Hulk #296 from getting all his other appearances. (I even own the terrible ROM toy that sparked it all).

    As a kid, there was something about a potential lurking evil disguised as "mainstream America" that struck a chord with me.

    It probably helped that the first time I ever went to the soda shop to pick up comics for that purpose alone in 1981 or so was a ROM.

    Oh, and speaking of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu, his guest appearance in ROM is one of my favorites.

    1. Hello Mr Oyola:- Like Bill Reed above, I'm still buying up reading copies of Rom and until I've got the series complete, I'm not giving in to the temptation to enjoy what I have. It may well be that I'll end up with a higher opinion of the book when I do to match my guarded fondness for it. I think Bill's point about Rom's nobility is certainly one factor that helps me grasp what the value of the series is.

      I must say, the idea of Rom being a first comic is a charming one. I can't remember the first American comic I bought. I wish I could. I know, sadly, that I've never bought one from a soda shop. That sounds far more romantic than a Brit corner newsagent.

      The Shang-Chi guest appearances in Rom were included in my last raid on the cheap back issues on E-Bay. Though - as I explained - I've yet to read them, the covers do make me smile, given the clear attempt that's been made in them to ape the ambitious storytelling which was typically used in MOKF :)

    2. Those covers were by MOKF artist Gene Day, so they're pretty 'authentic' - just gorgeous!

    3. Hello Martin:- Thank you for the info. I've always enjoyed seeing a shared universe through the perspective of a tiny corner of it. As the superbook has become more and more homogenised, the thrill of seeing Daredevil in Spider-Man - a la Ditko - or the Flash in Superman - a la Swan - or any of the DC characters who appeared in the weirdness of Swamp Thing diminishes considerably. It's more than just a shame. It's also something of a shock to realise that I can't remember the last time a guest star in a title seemed to be even different to their own magazine, let alone very different indeed. It is possible to show a different side to a character without violating its essential nature. I can't recall when I last saw that done ....

  14. A minor quibble, but doesn't "Crisis on Infinite Earths" end with Psycho-Pirate's inimitable: "Nothing's ever predictable like it used to be. These days... y-you just never know who's going to die... and who's going to live"?
    I started reading comics with those Bronze Age Superman stories (Action Comics in particular), and they were quite thought-provoking despite their lack of "grittiness".
    You're right that John Byrne only lasted two years on the revamp (Marv Wolfman lasted only one), but I think Jerry Ordway deserves a fair deal of credit. He left during the "Death of Superman" storyline, and I should have too. An argument can be made for making Superman the sole survivor of Krypton, but considering that all of the Silver Age elements, from Supergirl to the Fortress of Solitude to Krypto to THE BOTTLED CITY OF KANDOR (please excuse my caps), came back soon enough, what was the point?

    1. Hello Rabbi Joe:- I'm not at home with my books, I fear, but I can at least assure you with the fact the panel which begins this post is the last frame in the Absolute version of Crisis. The Psycho Pirate scene you quote from does indeed ring some very loud bells with me, but all I can do is throw my hands up and declare my sources :)

      I wouldn't have wanted to have seemed to slight Mr Ordway's work on Superman. I agree he did a fine job on the character, as indeed have quite a few splendid creators in the years between Crisis and the New 52. (Not nearly as many as I'd've liked, where my own taste is concerned, but there have of course been considerable high-points.) Indeed, I made the point of praising JO's contributions to All-Star Squadron. After all, he can't be blamed for the post-Crisis Man Of Steel, and he did a fine job with what he had. The problem was with the way the pre-Crisis DCU had been gutted of just about everything of charm and pathos all in the name of being more "serious", more - help me - "mature".

      What a great many blokeish creators and fans seem not to have considered is that the 'silly' aspects of Superman are actually essential. So many folks loathe the idea of Krypto, and yet a Superdog allows the younger Clark to know comfort while emphasising his loneliness. What's more, it does so in the language of symbols which anyone can grasp. To my mind - and it's only a personal opinion, of course - the superhero fan who can't cope with absurdity is missing a great deal of the sub-genre's point.

      As you say, most of those "Silver Age elements" were quickly enough brought back, though never in a way which equalled the originals. My regret isn't that that happened, but that the likes of Streaky and Comet weren't put back centre-stage too :)

  15. I'm late to this party, so I'll just make a few observations on some of the titles not yet discussed in the comments:
    Outsiders - loved the initial part of the series, but dropped out of major comics reading by the time Alan Davis came on board as artist. I would love something beyond that single Showcase volume that collects all of this material. And I have to say, Mike Barr is one of my personal favorite Batman scribes.
    Brave & the Bold - it probably has much to do with the fact that I consider Aparo THE Batman artist, but I love pretty much everything I've read from this series, from the 'zany' Haney material to the later stuff. As for Alan Brennert, he wrote what is probably my single favorite Batman story, "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne," from B&B #197 (ironically, perhaps, one of the few issues not drawn by Aparo).
    Super-Friends - I completely agree with your assessment, a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable series. Alas, as you noted, it wasn't taken to seriously at the time, and now it's largely forgotten.

    1. Hello Edo:- You're not late here at all, the post only went up yesterday :) Anyway, comments are always to be welcomed, regardless of when things get posted.

      Mike W Barr is terribly under-recognised these days, isn't he? He never took part in the post-Watchmen grimfest and so became defined as old-school. Yet I was always pleased to see his name in the credit box. In a way, he shared a great many positive qualities with Roger Stern. Comics has a habit of spitting out fine talents long before their gifts have even begun to exhaust themselves.

      And anyone who recognises the virtues of an Alan Brennert script is always welcome here! One of the real highlights of this year for me was having the chance to exchange just a few words via the blog and Sequart with Mr Brennert. It's always good to be able to say "thank you" to someone who's been an inspiration.

      On Super-Friends; I find myself baffled why comics has to mean, for example, Miller's Daredevil OR Super-Friends, just as I'm baffled as to why the best books of the year can't include - for example - both Journey Into Mystery and Nao Of Brown. The Rump and its obsessional focus on one sub-genre and one way of regarding it has a great deal to answer for ....

  16. To add to mny earlier post, like Bill Reed, I only read a few Rom's back n the day, mainly from 'Future Tense' if that name rings a bell, but they made a mark. When I got around to reading them systematically later, I was pretty impressed. I make an argument on the Captain Comics site that Mantlo was using techniques in the better issues that Moore would finesse on Swamp Thing and elsewhere. Using superhero characters as symols in 'literary' kind of discussions of the themes. That Hybrid two-parter you've posted a cover of up there was particularly strong. Everything tied into the themes of (the horrors and fears of) parenthood, even Xavier and his strange feared surrogate children. (That's a Frank Miller cover btw, as was the excellent cover to the first part of the Hybrid/X-men story. Golden did the covers for the first 12 or so issues and they are standout too.)

    Mantlo seems to have had an instinctive understanding of really fundamental story archetypes, and often poresented them in their purest form. Rom's nobility mentioned above is that of a very pure white knight, which is literally what he is. The strange thing about Rom is that, whereas a hero usually has to make an extreme sacrifice for the greater good in the course of a story, Mantlo has the hero sacrifice EVERYTHING, including his humanity before the first panel of the first issue! Mantlo's work bears more study than people realise. A lot of his choices look obvious, but I think that's only in retrospect, because his choices were so good...

    The other good thing about Rom is the very working class(Blue collar, perhaps I should say) supporting cast in the little mining town. It's done well.

    Speaking of which, what happened to the Micronauts in your list? Love those little guys! Its true the later parts of the run never matched the first 12 issues, but there was a lot of fun stuff scattered amongst the longeurs too.

    80s indies like Nexus, American Flagg etc were very hard to find in Donegal, as you could imagine, but I've always wanted to read them, and expected to sometime, but lately I've wondered if I've 'missed their moment' so to speak, if they were very of their time. I read the first few issues of Nexus recently, and they held up well, but I'm surprised the series lasted over 100 issues. It seemed less open-ended than that from the early issues. Which is me wandering off the point somewhat!

    1. Hello Figserello:- As I know I've said before in similar situations, I find the support for Rom here quite liberating. Getting to read other folk's opinion allows me to put some distance between me and my own preconceptions, and now I find myself keen to go back and check out more of Rom's adventures. Lu8ckily, I do have the Hybrid two-parter which you mention, though I've been holding off on reading it. All I have to do now is decide whether to wait until I've completed the run - as I'd intended - or whether, now that you've interested me, to get stuck in with what I've got.

      And I note that both you and Bill Reed - above - accentuate Rom's nobility. Heaven knows, having read that abysmal Superman #13 again today for an assignment, I'm quite desperate to read a story which isn't a celebration of adolescent entitlement.

      Ah, I love the first 13 Micronauts issues by Mantlo and Golden and I've written about them here on this very blog in glowing terms. But the book wasn't cancelled until long after the original team had departed, and to my mind what followed was never nearly as good, and so it didn't meet even the relaxed criteria I've been using to guide these posts. Even the drop-off in quality in All-Star Squadron before its cancellation can't match how quickly the bloom was off the rose in Micronauts. Yes, there were some good spots, but overall, I felt other books had more quality prior to disappearing.

      With the Third Wave books such as American Flagg and Nexus, it probably would have helped to read in the rush of the Eighties. Yet pick the right issues and I think the quality still shines through. The first dozen American Flagg comprise one long story and it still holds up very well indeed. Nexus is more of a problem; I did feel that it lost its focus as the series developed, though I will admit that I've not returned and re-read it this side of the millennium. To my mind, the first few years of the title were the best, for all the occasional rough edges. When both Baron and Rude were together on the book, it was, however, always worth reading.

      I'm looking forward to doing a list on the Third Wave books of the Eighties. I wonder if there's ever been as many great action/adventure/super-books being published independently as then. I think not.

    2. Colin, maybe it's just me, but it seems like in your original post and some of the follow-up comments you're almost apologetic for liking Rom. Personally, I think it's quite natural to like what was generally a damn fine series. I won't go into my own analysis, because others, especially Figserello, pretty much summed it up above better than I could - although I'll just agree that the Hybrid story is really, really good, and I recall at the time I even found it a bit chilling.
      I will say that since both Stern and Barr were mentioned above as sometimes un(der)appreciated writers, we could definitely say the same about Mantlo - he really grew from a guy who, during the '70s, was a colorist and the scripter of many a lackluster fill-in story to one of the more outstanding writers in the Marvel Bullpen. Besides his fine work on Rom and Micronauts, already mentioned here, there's also his lengthy tenure on Incredible Hulk (again with the wonderful Sal Buscema doing most of the art). Heck, even when he was still in his "growing" period in the '70s, he did some solid work: I loved his runs on Marvel Team-up and Spectacular Spider-man...

    3. Hello Edo:- I began to write "I'm sorry I seem apologetic" here and then realised what I was saying :)

      My intent isn't to seem apologetic. I hope I've never paid any attention to what anyone would else would think about my taste in terms of what's acceptable or not. It's just that I don't believe Rom is a particularly good comic book. On fact, in many ways it's a distinctly barely-adequate one. The writing is often formulaic and purple and the art can hardly be said to be typically inspired. That I'm fond of aspects of it on a personal level doesn't mean that I think it stands as any measure of measure of excellence, and expressing that is something I find difficult to do, and that's especially so when I'm not writing in any detail about it. That I might find more to appreciate now I've heard what folks have to say is a distinctive possibility. That I do like aspects of it is true. But at the same time, it wouldn't be an example of 70s/80s work that I'd ever offer up in the way that I would other often-ignored runs such as, for example, the Brennert Brave And The Bolds and the Mantlo/Golden Micronauts.

      By mentioning the Micronauts, I hope I do express the fact that I don't fall into the camp which simply dismisses Bill Mantlo's work. By the same token, it never seemed to me that he was anything other than at best a journeyman. When I compare him to the folks who were doing the best work during his time in comics, he comes across as reliable but predominantly mediocre.

      And there I find myself struggling to express myself again. I can nearly always enjoy a Mantlo Marvel book for one reason or another. I can understand and respect why others feel much more positively about his work too. But for me, it's just not particularly good work for 99.9% of the time. And so I struggle to walk that line between enjoying aspects of his work and feeling that it wasn't as a rule very good at all.

      And I certainly wouldn't want to give the impression that I regard Rom as a fine book of the period. To me, it wasn't, despite its virtues, nostalgic and otherwise.

      Yet the more good folks such as yourself point out how they disagree, the more I want to go back and re-evaluate his work. But then, that's always the case. As I know I've said before, I only ever want to have the highest opinion of everybody and everything. And Rom is indeed one profoundly noble, er, dude.

  17. I'd have to say that Rom, like much of Mantlo's work, was consistently entertaining but ephemeral like much of the better silver age DC. It had a great deal of charm but never engraved itself on my psyche the way Thriller and Brennerts b+b stories did. It may be that his work deserves reappraisal but I think I at least would find my opinions reaffirmed.

    1. Hello Peter:- I have to say that your opinion matches mine. But it would be a charge to discover that Rom was not only "consistently entertaining", as you say, but something far more substantial. Strange things in unexpected places ....

  18. I wonder if its just about the age at which you encounter a particular books or films or other such entertainment. If I'd read those issues of Thriller just 5 years ealier I think I would have been confused and disinterested. Rom would have spoken to me so much more when I was 12 or so and discovering the more selfless heroics of T H White's Once and Future King and Lord of the Rings. I married a Monster From Outer Space left a real lasting mark on me because I watched it in a dark room at the impressionable age of 7. I fear if I watched it now it would be laughable. It really is all about timing isn't it.

    1. Hello Peter:- Yes, it's a good point. I can't remember the quote precisely, but Roy Thomas has often written that the Golden Age of comics is always the period at which any particular reader first comes across them. I certainly know that there are certain comics which I doubt I'd care nearly so much for if I hadn't come across them early in my adolescence.

      As you say, if I'd've come across Rom somewhere between 8 and 13, I suspect that I would have adored it. And who's to say that such a response is any less worthwhile than a Comics Journalesque approach to the book's worth?

  19. Just picked up a run of Atari Force for next to nothing at a comic mart on the back of it being in this list. The writing and character relationships are a bit soapy for my liking, a bit 'Knots Landing in Space' but the art is magic, really dynamic layouts and an assured, flowing European-style feel in the drawing. Worth the (next to nothing) price of admission. Thought it best to tell you as this purchase is a responsibility that you alone have to shoulder.

    1. Hello Alfie:- I'm tremendously glad to hear that you (1) got the run, and (2) that it went for a song too. Huzzah!

      You're quite right about the soap. Strangely enough, in the day it was actually rather understated in comparison with the fusion of Lee and Claremont that was all-too-common in the era. But, yep, as I said in the above, it's soap. I still think Dart is an interesting female lead, especially for the period, and the relationship between the aliens is often a joy.

      But Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's work is always fine, and this is some of his finest. I'm glad the return on your investment felt worthwhile. Thank you for telling me :)