Saturday, November 11, 2017

Comics Lust 11/11/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/toy master Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). This week’s “Comics Lust” topic got the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) all excited as I told my puppy executive team all about the the awesome toys and subsequent comics I had growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. Lucky for us, I still have a bunch of those toys securely sealed in a few boxes. The bad news is that those boxes of toys are in the Detached Storage Unit of Doom, a dark, dank, dangerous place filled with all sorts of vermin, massive spiders, probably a ghost or two, and I suspect a chupacabra has nested in there at some point. Put it this way: I used to have a toy lightsaber that could telescope out to about four feet in length, but mice (or the chupacabra) literally ate the entire thing to a nub. This is 100% true. So, yeah, I don’t like going out there, but for the sake of Donist World I am willing to make that treacherous journey. I’ve also been told by our property management company (i.e. Mom) that anything I take out of storage has to go home with us. Fine by me. Anyhow, while I put on my Indiana Jones gear, pour yourself an early winter-warmer beer or hot cocoa, order up some tasty tacos, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Toys 2 Comics

Although you can find some pretty groovy toys in the few remaining actual physical stores left standing, there were some awesome toys out there while I was growing up during the ’70s and ’80s. Of course, I had loads of Mego action figures/dolls—many of them replacements because my dogs loved to eat them—whether they were Marvel or DC or properties like Planet of the Apes. In fact, there was never a shortage of toy representations of my favorite comic books, movies, and television shows throughout the year. Those toys were essentially marketing vehicles to drive kids to the comics, which has sadly shifted in the past decade or two to movies and television tying straight to toys with comic books being left in the dust. But let’s not go down that road. One trend my brother and I loved back in the day were toys leading us to comics, and boy were there some great ones.

One comic I mention nearly as much as Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing is Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden’s The Micronauts. Now, where Swamp Thing taught me that not all artists are the same, The Micronauts is the comic book that made me an obsessive reader, a fan, and an avid collector. The Micronauts is something I will return to many times over the course of “Comics Lust,” but what’s important here is that I might never have picked up my first issue (#2 to be exact) had it not been for the toys and their groovy commercials. I started with a Time Traveler I found at Click (an Ohio department store chain from the ’70s), then a die-cast metal Space Glider and Acroyear while on a trip to California, but it was when we returned to Akron, Ohio and I found a lone Baron Karza figure in the toy aisle at Red Circle where I became a Micronauts toy junkie. Man, did I love my Baron Karza figure.

The funny thing is that I didn’t even know there was a The Micronauts comic book until the day I recognized the lovely title treatment on the cover while at the mall newsstand. Here I saw a giant lawnmower set to puree some of the characters I recognized from the toys (Space Glider, Acroyear, Biotron, Microtron) and two new characters (Princess Marionette and Bug). Bug became my immediate favorite with Acroyear taking a very close second, and I was thrilled to find Baron Karza to be every bit the bad guy I hoped he would be. I remember hauling out all my Micronauts toys to obsessively reread each issue as my figures stood dutiful watch over my shoulder. I desperately wanted a Bug figure to join my Acroyear toy so they could oppose Baron Karza’s tyranny, but more important than wanting new toys was my need to have the next phenomenal issue. The Micronauts comic will forever be one of my top five comic books of all time, and one I reread often. Unfortunately, though, because of ownership and licensing with the Japanese toy company, the original The Micronauts is not something you can buy in trade or digital versions, but I STRONGLY encourage you to hunt down all of the Bill Mantlo written issues you can find. Almost four decades later, I’m still eagerly awaiting a damn Bug action figure.

At the same time as The Micronauts was seeing popularity in both their toys and comics (especially with me) another toy had hit the scene and was shortly followed by a comic that is still highly regarded to fans today: Rom. The Rom toy was never really something that interested me as a kid. Yes, it was about a foot and a half tall, had glowing red eyes and a cool ray gun of some kind, but the character was too boxy and had only a couple points of articulation. The comic book, however, was something that definitely caught my eye. Not only did the cover of the first issue have art by Frank Miller-who would later become a hero of mine for reasons I will go into another day—but the title of the comic made the metallic warrior all the more appealing…Rom: Spacenight (written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Sal Buscema, published by Marvel Comics, 1979). A quick flip through an issue or two of Rom: Spaceknight and you find our silvery hero locked in a battle against the Cthulu-looking Dire Wraith monstrosities and exhibiting amazing abilities far greater than his clunky toy ever suggested he was capable of performing. In later issues, he also crossed over with many of the more well-known Marvel superheroes. Two points of bad news, though: 1) I only had a handful of issues because of allowance limitations, 2) like The Micronauts, Rom: Spacenight is tied up with licensing issues that prevent collections and reprints. Looks like I’ll be hunting through those bargain bins along with you.

Now, if you’re talking comics created off of a toyline in the ’80s, then there are two titles that have to be mentioned. One of those titles is The Transformers (written by Bill Mantlo—dang, this guy is still my hero, he did all my favorites—and Ralph Macchio, illustrated by Frank Springer, published by Marvel Comics, 1984). Holy guacamole! My brother and I were fiends for the Transformers toys, with my favorites being Megatron, Soundwave, and Grimlock. Jeff was almost exclusively an Autobot kid, but we’ll forgive him the transgression; Autobots are cool, too. So, imagine our surprise when we found issue #1 of a 4 issue limited-series with a crazy Bill Sienkiewicz cover on the grocery store spinner rack. The series, in conjunction with the toyline and cartoon, was a huge hit and was expanded to an ongoing series, ultimately running for eighty issues in addition to the three-issue miniseries Transformers: The Movie (adapted by Ralph Macchio and illustrated by Don Perlin, Ian Akin, and Brian Garvey, 1986), something called Transformers: Headmasters (written by Bob Budiansky and illustrated by Frank Springer, 1987), and an Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe style comic called The Transformers Universe (written and illustrated by various artists, 1986) that profiled the characters and their abilities. All of these series released over a short period of time and completely rocked our world. There was even a…

G.I. Joe and the Transformers (Written by Michael Higgins, illustrated by Herb Trimpe and Vince Colletta, 1987), which brings us to the G.I. Joe comics that grew from what were originally fairly basic toys that evolved into a powerhouse triumvirate of a toyline, a cartoon series, and a comic book series. As a kid, I leaned toward the Cobra side of the toys with my brother falling predominately on the side of the Joes. I liked the comics and I read Jeff’s new issues as they released, but it really wasn’t until the introduction of the character Storm Shadow that I became a fan. I recently watched a couple episodes of the television show and…let’s just say it doesn’t quite hold up to the test of time, but those original G.I. Joe issues are still freaking fantastic. Written by Larry Hama, illustrated by Herb Trimpe and Bob McLeod, published by Marvel Comics in 1982, the series ran for a monstrous 155 issues. I especially loved issue #21 which is a “silent issue” that is credited as Storm Shadow’s first appearance. Like The Transformers, G.I. Joe also had a bunch of spinoff projects: G.I. Joe Yearbook (written and illustrated by various, 1985), which was a mishmash of previously printed material; G.I. Joe: Order of Battle (written by Larry Hama, illustrated by Herb Trimpe, 1986), which was a Joes version of OHOTMU; and the 28-issue G.I. Joe: Special Missions (written by Larry Hama, illustrated by Herb Trimpe, 1986).

(I’m going to take this moment to breathe a sigh of relief that I decided to cut short this barely-scratched-the-surface look at The Transformers and G.I. Joe, because once these properties move to other publishers, you will need a freaking sherpa to help you navigate the quagmire of different publishers, different titles, and various series, miniseries, maxiseries, and one-shots that have come out. Criminy, just the thought of delving into the ’90s to present gives me a migraine.)

Now, not all toylines created popular comic book series, but there were a few I loved that are worth mentioning. The Saga of Crystar Crystal Warrior (written by Mary Jo Duffy, illustrated by Bret Blevins, published by Marvel Comics, 1983) was a love of mine that crushed my heart with its cancellation after only 11 issues; at least I got a guest appearance by none other than Nightcrawler. I still have my crystalline Crystar figure—complete with helmet, shield, sword, and prism staff thing—and I reread the series a couple years ago and still enjoy it quite a bit; especially those gorgeous Michael Golden covers. Jason Aaron recently tried to revive the Crystar mythos in the visually stunning Weirdworld (illustrated in glorious otherworldly fashion by Mike Del Mundo, 2015), but the characters/property just didn’t catch on. Maybe someday we’ll see more of the crystal warriors and their battles against the magma men, but a couple titles I don’t think we’ll ever be seeing again are the weird Power Lords (a three-issue mini written by Michael Fleisher, illustrated by Mark Texeira and Jeff Dee, published by DC Comics, 1983), or the four-issue limited series Starriors (written by Louise Simonson, illustrated by Michael Chen, published by Marvel Comics, 1984)—which had some lovely Sienkiewicz covers. There was also the four-issue Centurians (written by Bob Rozakis, illustrated by Don Heck and Al Vey, published by DC Comics, 1987), the eight-issue Sectaurs which I wouldn’t mind rereading again some day (written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Mark Texeira, 1985), Visionaries (adapted by Jim Salicrup, illustrated by Mark Bagley, published by Marvel/Star, 1988), and finally the four-issue Inhumanoids (adapted by Jim Salicrup, illustrated by James W. Fry and Joe Del Beato, published by Marvel/Star, 1987). Now, I definitely want to reread some of those great comics and dust off the old toys that inspired them.

This Week’s Reading List

Mister Miracle #4 (written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics) Still no idea what’s going on. Still the best new comic of 2017. I love this book and can’t wait to continue on this journey. Orion comes to talk to Mister Miracle as judge, jury, and executioner. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Royal City #7 (everythinged by Jeff Lemire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics) Yup, if you are a fan of Lemire’s more down-to-Earth titles, then Royal City is a comic you need to be reading. We learn a bit more about Tommy and what happened to him; things are starting to get rough. RECOMMENDED!


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