Monday, February 2, 2015


So, a week or so back, #FourComics was trending on Facebook. The concept was to "post four covers of comics that you were influenced by or loved as you were growing up."

I know I'm not the only one that grew up on the 1966 live action Batman television series.

Another staple of the '60's was Spider-Man.

If you're like me and you grew up on the animated Spider-Man and the live action Batman, life was pretty cool!

I started reading comic books around 1975. I say around, because the first comics I got were a three-pack: The Amazing Spider-Man 147, Invincible Iron Man 77 and The Incredible Hulk 190, all from August of 1975.

I consider The Amazing Spider-Man #147 my first comic book, even though it was in a three-pack. "The Tarantula is a Very Deadly Beast" features the politically incorrect, stereotype Anton Miguel Rodriguez breaking out of prison and resuming his career as the aforementioned deadly Tarantula. Even though The Tarantula may appear to be offensive, the costume and modus operandi is pretty cool. As a Spider-Man rogue, he's pretty awesome. I'm surprised he's not right up there with Doctor Octopus, Kraven and The Scorpion. Spider-Man has always had a pretty cool rogues gallery. It wasn't until years later, when I read someone's analysis somewhere online that, as a teenage super-hero, Spider-Man's rogues were all adults. Spider-Man was the first hero to focus on teenage angst and the generation gap. After Spider-Man, it was The X-Men and then the Teen Titans. The Amazing Spider-Man #147 also featured Gwen Stacy and The Jackal. At the time, I didn't know Gwen had died. She had died two years before, in June 1973, in The Amazing Spider-Man #121, "The Night Gwen Stacy Died". This issue is also part of the original clone saga. The Gwen seen here is a clone. Later issues of The Amazing Spider-Man feature the webslinger fighting a clone of himself. The clone would later return, taking on the identity of Ben Reilly, The Scarlet Spider. When Powers writer, Brian Michael Bendis launched Ultimate Spider-Man, he did some pretty amazing things with Gwen Stacy. Gwen is back next month in her own title, Spider-Gwen.

Because I grew up watching the '60's Spider-Man cartoon, and read this issue, I've joined the legion of Spider-Man fans. I picked up a few of the paperback collections of the early issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. I read the newspaper comic strip. I followed Ultimate Spider-Man from the first issue all the way through to Ultimate Peter Parker's death. I keep meaning to give Miles Morales a try as the new Ultimate Spider-Man, but Peter's death was such a perfect The End, I just can't seem to bring myself to read stories with Miles. The other reasons are; I have three kids now, and my comic book budget has shrunk. With three kids, I barely have time to re-read the comics I have. And I don't mind that.

Even though I got Batman #277 a year later in June 1976, Batman 279, from September '76 made a bigger impression. Batman #277 was almost forgettable. A David V. Reed story with art by Ernie Chan is almost a Scooby Doo adventure, in the everglades,involving a gang that uses a costume of a sea monster to commit crime. If I remember, they're pirates or something and they're stealing oil. They trap Batman in an oil pipe and he has to drill his way out. The death-trap is very claustrophobic. After capturing the gang, he comments on how he needs to get an airboat, like the ones used later on CSI: Miami.

But that's Batman #277..."The Riddle of the Man Who Walked Backwards".

Batman #277, September 1976, is "Riddler on the Rampage"! It's another David V. Reed story, with an Ernie Chan cover and Neal Adams interior art! The Riddler is back and bombarding Batman and Robin with riddles! Dick Grayson is back from Hudson University and The Dynamic Duo are back in action! It wasn't until a couple of years later, when my parents bought me the awesome hardcover, Batman From the '30's to the 70's that I got to read the incredible "One Bullet Too Many" from Batman 217, December 1969. Following the cancellation of the live action Batman television series, editor Julius Schwartz reinvigorated Batman and returned him to his Gothic roots. Dick Grayson went off to college, Wayne Manor was shuttered and Bruce Wayne and Wayne Enterprises were relocated to downtown Gotham City and a high rise with a way cool penthouse apartment. In Batman #279, with all the riddles, I learned that museum guards do not - repeat, do not - patrol in pairs. Henchmen dressed as museum guards do, though.

I'm a fan of The Riddler because of Frank Gorshin's brilliant, Emmy-nominated performance in the role on the '66 series. The Riddler is everything The Joker could be and should be. Maniacal. Intimidating. The Riddler was a better rogue on the series that Ceasar Romero's Joker. The classic "The Laughing Fish" really re-established The Joker as a schizophrenic, sociopathic madman. The Riddler would make a comeback on Batman: The Animated Series; and, later, as the mastermind behind the entire "Hush" storyline by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. When DC launched the weekly Trinity series by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, one of the rogues was an alternate version of The Riddler. In the series, Edward Nigma had reformed and become a private investigator.

I started to pick up comic books more frequently. I read The Avengers #150. I started reading more DC, though. Action Comics, The Brave and the Bold, Batman, DC Comics Presents, Detective Comics, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Superman, The World's Finest. On days that I wasn't in school, my mom would take me to work with her and I'd earn some money to buy comic books at the newsstand and smoke shop across the street from the train station. The comic books were on the magazine shelf all the way in the back of the store. Not like today, where you walk into Barnes & Noble and the magazines are right inside the front door, and the comic books are at the far right. One of the bigger comic books of the mid-'70's was Marvel's Star Wars. My brother took me to see the film, and it was pretty cool. I just didn't see how that could work as a comic book. I had the two oversized comics adapting the movie. I didn't start reading the comic until issue 12, June of '78. I think I started collecting it more the following year, in June of '79. It was okay. Marvel was adapting Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica and Classic Star Trek following The Motion Picture. But then, in the '80's, Marvel released a three-issue The A-Team tie-in.

In 1980, I discovered artist George Perez and The New Teen Titans! As a fan of Robin from the television series, seeing The Boy Wonder leading other sidekicks of the Justice League was pretty cool! Along with Robin, there was Changeling - the former Beast Boy - Cyborg, Kid Flash - The Flash's sidekick - Raven, Starfire and Wonder Girl - Wonder Woman's sidekick. I missed the first issue, but picked up the second. It featured Deathstroke, the Terminator. I missed a few issues, until I picked up issue twelve at a convenience store at camp! Around this time I discovered comic book specialty shops. We had a new one in town open up!

I'm pretty sure everyone agrees that there wasn't a single issue that Marv Wolfman and George Perez mis-fired on. It wasn't until around 1985, when they were working on Crisis on Infinite Earths, and moving away from New Teen Titans that things started to come undone. They did get me interested in the previous Teen Titans. Aqualad, Kid Flash, Robin, Speedy, Wonder Girl.

There are a lot of really good issues of The New Teen Titans. A lot of significant, relevant stories. My favorite is the single issue, done-in-one, where Wally West - Kid Flash - writes his parents about a recent adventure. It's New Teen Titans 20, June 1982.

Around this same time, George Perez was everywhere. He was doing covers for DC; and he did the artwork for Justice League of America 200 and The Avengers 200. The Avengers 200 is a pretty cool issue, except for the fact that the story is pretty creepy. The Avengers encounter an entity that turns out to have impregnated Carol Danvers - Ms. Marvel. She gives birth, and the entity quickly ages to adulthood. At the end of the story she goes of to another dimension with him. So she gives birth to a really good looking guy that she runs away with. He's her "son", but he's like her "boyfriend". Does that make her like the original "cougar"? Like I said, kinda creepy for a comic book.

Justice League #200 is just flat out awesome.

The Justice League never had an origin, like The Avengers. They never faced a Loki. There was never a villain that drew them together. They never had a first issue origin. The team first came together in The Brave and the Bold 28 to fight Starro. They fought some dud named Xotar in the following issue; then Professor T. O. Morrow's Amazo in The Brave and the Bold 30. In their first issue, they fought Despero. Discounting their first appearance in The Brave and the Bold, they never had an origin. Until Justice League of America #9, when they face an unnamed group of aliens engaged in a contest of champions to become ruler of their alien home world. The aliens take on different forms and the League ultimately joins together to defeat them. Originally, the League was made up of Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman, with Batman and Superman in more of a background or supporting role. Honorary member status for The World's Finest. Batman and Superman became more active with the League and J'onn J'onzz was sent packing back to Mars. J'onn certainly got the short straw when it came to the League. He came back to join Aquaman's Detroit League in mid-'80's and stayed on as part of Batman's late-'80's League. He was finally a mainstay in the '90's and '00's. He was finally shunted off to Stormwatch in the great DC reboot of 2011, replaced by New Teen Titan Cyborg.

Justice League #200 brings back the aliens from issue nine. It seems the aliens have planted a post-hypnotic impression on the original members and they go and release the aliens they defeated years before. Later members of the team must now battle the original members and stop the alien menace again. It's just flat out awesome.

The Super Friends cartoon was a big deal in the early and mid 1970's. The cartoon had a companion comic book which was pretty cool. In 1979, Adam West, Burt Ward and Frank Gorshin reunited for The Challenge/Roast of the Super Heroes, which was pretty amazing. As a fan of Batman, seeing him in Justice League of America was pretty cool. He was a founding member!

I've stuck with the Justice League off and on over the years. Mark Waid's Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare is a pretty cool story. Alex Ross has done some pretty cool stuff with the team. He did the art for Paul Dini's JLA: Liberty and Justice. Ross also worked with Jim Krueger and Doug Braithwaite on a twelve-issue series, Justice, which was an homage to the Super Friends cartoon. The League was updated by Dini with Bruce Timm in the 2001 Cartoon Network animated series. The companion comic book for that series is pretty cool, too.

So, those are my four.

What's your four?

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