Showcase Presents The War That Time Forgot Vol. 1

showcase_presents_war_that_time_forgot_volume_1First Published: May 2007

Contents: Star Spangled War Stories #90 (April-May 1960), #92 (August-September 1960), #94 (December 1960-January 1961) to #125 (February-March 1966), #127 (June-July 1966), and #128 (September 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Gene Colan, and others

Key First Appearances: Dinosaur Island, G.I. Robot

Overview: It’s the early 1940s. The United States is fully involved in World War II. In the Pacific, the U.S. Armed Forces are fighting the enemy at sea, in the air, or on the ground of uncharted islands. But their foes do not appear to flying the flag of the Rising Sun. Instead, their enemy is a throwback to the prehistoric age, as Tyrannosaurus Rexes, Pterodactyls, and other dinosaurs are fighting our troops. This is Showcase Presents The War That Time Forgot Vol. 1.

We are introduced to a mysterious island always cloaked by a fog. As our featured characters travel through the mist, they find themselves under attack by the dinosaurs. Depending on the story, the soldiers find some way to escape the non-stop threats to escape the island and be rescued to fight again another day. Over time, this location became known as Dinosaur Island, but that comes much later beyond this title.

Now, in times of war, it is quite common for the military to invent all kinds of new weapons that they hope will speed up the end of the war, or save soldiers lives. One such invention is the very first G.I. Robot, a robot programmed to respond to thousands of combat situations. Sent to the island to test G.I. Robot, a human soldier goes along (reluctantly) to verify that the soldier responds correctly when the bullets start flying.

Another creation of the military is the introduction of the Suicide Squad. Living up to it’s name, two men are sent out on a mission that they are not expected to survive. Of course, in the military’s infinite wisdom, they often pair two soldiers who hate each other, usually because one of the soldiers killed a family member of the other soldier. Not that it should come as a surprise, but both soldiers survive without killing each other, or becoming dinner for a hungry dinosaur.

The vast majority of these issues are written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Towards the end of this collection, we see some other familiar names appear that are recognized for their DC war comics work, such as Joe Kubert and Russ Heath. These are generally one-and-done stories. Some characters may re-appear from issue to issue, but the stories do not carry over.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is an interesting situation that I see here. I personally don’t know that these stories should be featured based on their content. The stories are formulaic and safe. The art is good for its era, but it’s simplistic in detail. What makes these stories important is that these ideas and concepts introduced here were used by the next generation of comic creators, and the ones after them. G.I. Robot has been re-used many times. Dinosaur Island has become a go-to locale in the DC Universe for any number of stories. And you would have to be living under a rock not to know where the Suicide Squad concept has gone to over the last 40 years. For those reasons, I can understand and support featuring these comics in this collection.

Footnotes: In many of the latter stories in this collection, they feature members of the Suicide Squad – soldiers taking on assignments which they are unlikely to survive. However, this is not the first reference to the Suicide Squad by Kanigher, Andru, and Esposito. They introduced that concept in The Brave and the Bold #25 (September 1959), where a group of adventurers faced off against monsters, giants, and yes, even dinosaurs.

If you like this volume, try: Jurassic Park from Michael Crichton. Yes, the novel, not the movies or video games or anything else that spun out of this concept. It won’t hurt anyone, myself included, to put down the four-color funny books for awhile and read an actual book or two. Crichton released this novel in 1990, after working on it for numerous years. You know the story, how scientists cracked the code to bring dinosaurs back to life, and that led to a billionaire funding a dinosaur theme park, and things went down hill from there. As you can imagine, once you get past the first 50 pages with a lot of the science details, it becomes a  page turner as the dinosaurs run amuck in the park.

However, if you want to go old school, dig up a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot. Originally published as serials in a magazine, this was collected as a novel in 1924. Set during World War I, soldiers stranded in the Antartica come across a hidden land where dinosaurs still roam the Earth. In many ways, it was this novel that inspired (or influenced) Kanigher, Andru, and Esposito with The War That Time Forgot.

Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 2

rampaginghulk2First Published: March 2010

Contents: Hulk! #16 (August 1979) to #27 (June 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Ron Wilson, Gene Colan, J.M. DeMatteis, and others

Story Continues From: Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1

Overview: This may be a short review this week, so my apologies in advance. But I’m finding it a challenge to create an overview for this collection. As we saw in the second half of the previous volume, the Hulk! magazine featured longer length stories that were not necessarily tied into continuity with the monthly comic.

Perhaps borrowing an approach from the 1970s TV series, a lot of the stories feature Banner coming into a random town, getting caught up in some evil plot, and then letting the Hulk take over and smash everything to pieces. We get a few stories that are inspired by real events. For example, in Hulk! #20, the Hulk is needed to stop a nuclear meltdown a la Three Mile Island. A lot of the stories deal with issues of that time (drug use, land rights, which still remain relevant 35 years later.

For me, the highlight of this book was the final story in the collection, and not because it was the last. Written by J.M. DeMatteis with art by Gene Colan, we have the Hulk wandering into Las Vegas. The down-on-his-luck Banner is befriended by a chorus dancer and a past-his-prime lounge singer, but they all end up getting on the bad side of the casino bosses. That very well could have been a story made for the television show, but it was better produced in comic book form.

What makes this Essential?: I hate it when I come to this conclusion, but I can’t say that this book is essential. The stories are average – nothing that stands out or gets revisited later. There is some great art from Gene Colan and Ron Wilson, but I don’t know that it’s enough to warrant buying the book. Outside of one or two mentions to Betty Ross or General Thunderbolt, you really don’t know that this is part of the Marvel Universe. These stories could be told with any character that transforms into a monster of some kind. For the Hulk completist, I could justify picking this up versus undergoing the hunt to track down the original magazines. For the average fan, I don’t know that the return would justify the investment (time and money).

If you like this volume, try: the Peter David run on The Incredible Hulk. David has been linked with the Hulk since 1987, when he started a 11-year run on the title. Over that time, he told stories featuring the various versions of the Hulk – mindless brute or Banner-controlled, as well as green or gray. David was one of the first writers to turn Rick Jones into a Hulk, hinting at the role he would one day play as A-Bomb. For me, my favorite Hulk run came in the late 1980s with Mr. Fixit. At this time, Hulk was in his gray form with moderate intelligence. He could only come out at night, harkening back to the original story elements of the Hulk from Lee & Kirby. Mr. Fixit set himself up as a heavyweight enforcer in Las Vegas, a city known for living large in every way possible. David’s run has been collected in a series of Hulk Visionaries volumes. If you want to read the Mr. Fixit story, you are going to need to pick up Volumes 2-4 of that line.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

First Published: December 2009

Contents: Wonder Woman #138 (May 1963) to #156 (August 1965)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4

Overview: Beautiful as Aphrodite, Wise as Athena, Swift as Mercury, and Strong as Hercules, Wonder Woman continues her journey as an ambassador of peace to the “Man’s World”.  

These stories cover a two-year period in the mid-1960s. Wonder Woman faces a variety of threats, such as the Duke of Deception’s attempts to take over Earth from his base on Mars; the Academy of Arch-Villains competing to take down the Amazon princess; or the mysterious Fisher-Birdmen from another dimension.

The highlight in this volume has to be the first story from Wonder Woman #144, titled “Revolt of Wonder Woman”. Our star has been pushed so much lately that she is running on exhaustion. Between protecting Paradise Island from an attack of flaming characters, saving Mer-Man yet again,  keeping a crashing airplane aloft, and other challenges, Wonder Woman is at her physical breaking point, and just walks away from everything in a catatonic state. She breaks out of her stupor long enough to rescue a blind girl by the name of Mary Jane. Not knowing who rescued her, Mary Jane befriends Diana based on her kindness. Mary Jane gets the chance to even the score, when her acute hearing picks up a rattle snake in their path, and she steers Diana away. Finally, the two women are caught in a lightning storm. Diana protect Mary Jane with her bracelets, but the lightning flashes burned away the blindness from Mary Jane’s eyes. The two vow to remain friends, yet we never see Mary Jane again.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: You know, I really do try to remain positive about these reviews. There is no need for me to dump all over stories published before I was born. That said, I do not think that these stories should be in a Showcase Presents. The stories are poorly written and very repetitive. A lot of the stories just involve Steve Trevor, Mer-Man, and/or Bird-Man trying to win the hand of Wonder Woman in marriage. They even extend those stories back to Wonder Girl, with a teenage Steve Trevor (still in the military!), Mer-Boy, and/or Bird-Boy competing for Wonder Girl’s affection. When she does fight a villain, they tend to fall into lame end of the spectrum: Mouse-Man, Multiple Man, Angle Man — see a pattern here? When people argue that female characters are used poorly, it is these issues that are given as examples. Even if you are a Wonder Woman fan, this does not need to be on your bookshelf.

(Full disclosure time here! I read Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3 sometime back in 2014, and wrote this review shortly after finishing it. This post has been sitting in my queue waiting for it to come up in the rough order-of-release schedule that I try to follow. Reviewing this post prior to publication, I was concerned that my comments may have been too harsh when writing the review immediately after I finished the book. So I pulled the book off the shelf this past weekend and flipped back through it again. And my position still stands – bad stories, bad premises, bad representation. This is not the Wonder Woman book we should be reading!)

Footnotes: Please see my review of Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1, where I try to make sense of how Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and Wonder Tot can all appear in one story together.

If you like this volume, try: Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth, by Paul Dini and Alex Ross from 2002. In 1999, Dini and Ross started collaborating to release a series of treasury-size original special featuring one of the key characters of the DC Universe. This gave us Superman: Peace on Earth in 1999, Batman: War on Crime in 2000, and Shazam!: Power of Hope in 2001. Wonder Woman’s turn came the following year. In this story, Wonder Woman finds that her appearance, while appropriate for Paradise Island, does not work in the real world. Blazing into a scene with the armored one-piece suit, her beauty and her heritage keep her at arm’s length from the rest of humanity. At the suggestion of Clark Kent, Diana disguises herself in other costumes and identities, so she can travel the world and see how the world really is. Dini has proved time and time again that he is an outstanding comic writer, and in particular, a brilliant writer of female characters. Ross’ painted artwork shines brighter with this oversized format. The four specials were collected by DC in 2005 in a hardcover title The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. Please check out this or any of the other Dini/Ross collaborations.

Essential Daredevil Vol. 5

Daredevil5First Published: February 2010

Contents: Daredevil #102 (August 1973) to #125 (September 1975); and Marvel Two-in-One #3 (May 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Bob Brown, Don Heck, Gene Colan, and others

Key First Appearances: Ramrod, Candace Nelson, Silver Samurai, Death Stalker, Blackwing

Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Daredevil Vol. 6

Overview: For a book featuring a blind lawyer-by-day, hero-by-night lead character, Essential Daredevil Vol. 5 is all over the place, but in a good way. Sure, the story bounces back and forth between San Francisco and New York City. Yes, we get plenty of Black Widow and Foggy Nelson, as to be expected. But it’s the other stories that take you by surprise in this collection.

For starters, show of hands here, who remembers the time Daredevil led a group of heroes against Thanos? Seriously this happened! During the initial story which introduced Thanos to the Marvel Universe, he crossed paths with Daredevil, who got an assist from Captain Marvel and Moondragon. Too good to be true, you say? Check out Daredevil #107 to see it play out!

The surprise foe of this book has to be the Mandrill, who has the ability to control women through pheromones. Certainly not due to his looks, that’s for sure. Thankfully, the Man Without Fear must dive into action to free the Black Widow and Shanna the She-Devil, as well as rescue Washington, D.C., from Mandrill’s takeover bid in Daredevil #110 to #112.

What about the time Nick Fury stops by to see if Foggy would join S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Board of Directors? Public knowledge of that would paint a huge target on Foggy’s head, putting Daredevil and Black Widow on high alert against the forces of HYDRA! See Tony Isabella’s run from Daredevil #119 to #123 to get the origins of HYDRA and Foggy’s answer.

What makes this Essential?: This was a more interesting read for me compared to the previous collection. I really like both Steve Gerber’s and Tony Isabella’s stories in this collection. (Side note – but I really believe that Gerber, Isabella, and Chris Claremont were probably Marvel’s most important writers in the 1970s.) Getting Daredevil back to New York was important, but the plot thread with Black Widow still in San Francisco dangled on for too long in my opinion.

Perhaps the most essential part of this volume is the introduction of the Silver Samurai in Daredevil #111. Created by Gerber and Bob Brown, he sat dormant for three years before Claremont started bringing him into Marvel Team-Up on a frequent basis. That lead to an appearance in Spider-Woman, again written by Claremont. Two months later, he appears in both New Mutants and Uncanny X-Men, tying him forever into the mutant books from that point forward.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #3 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline from the Spider-Man books in 1987. OK, yes, I know this post is a review of Essential Daredevil Vol. 5. But I find the inclusion of Kraven the Hunter in Daredevil #104 and #105 very interesting. See, Kraven was not a villain that appeared in many books that didn’t involve Spider-Man. We never saw Kraven going after the X-Men or the Fantastic Four. And it really surprised me that despite being one of the memorable creations from Lee & Ditko during that initial run on Amazing Spider-Man, Kraven really didn’t get used that much period. So to have him show up here was a surprise to me.

So in 1987, Kraven’s Last Hunt ran across the three books featuring Spider-Man (Amazing, Spectacular, and Web of) for two months. In a surprising move at that time, all six issues were written by J.M. DeMatteus and drawn by Mike Zeck. (Hindsight being 20/20, having the one team for the story arc worked out well over the years, as Kraven’s Last Hunt became one of the first trade paperback collections.) In the story, Kraven takes out Spider-Man by shooting him in the back with a dart and burying him in a shallow grave. Kraven then takes the black costume and embraces the Spider-Man totem as he hunts down Vermin, a sewer-based villain that could control rats. Eventually, Spider-Man is able to free himself and track down both Kraven and Vermin. Despondent over how things have played out, Kraven takes his own life.

The story and art are perfect for this, and it has remained in print over the years across numerous formats. If by chance you have not read it yet, stick around because we get all six issues of the story collected in Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 2.

Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1

ddcp_superman_1First Published: November 2009

Contents: DC Comics Presents #1 (July-August 1978) to  #26 (October 1980)

Key Creator Credits: Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Steve Englehart, Denny O’Neil, Cary Bates, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Murphy Anderson, Dick Dillin, Joe Staton, and others

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 2

Overview: Comics, like any other medium, loves to duplicate a success. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so I’ve been told. If Company A has a character selling well, than Company B will create a similar character. (Or in more modern times, if Company A has a best-selling character in one book, than that character will soon be featured in two or more books.)

So it should come as no surprise in the late 1970s that DC Comics introduced DC Comics Presents, a team-up book that would be anchored by Superman. DC had found success by focusing on Batman in the pages of The Brave and the Bold. Heck, World’s Finest Comics was a Batman-Superman team-up book. Over at the distinguished competition, Marvel doubled it up with two team-up books featuring Spider-Man (primarily) and the Thing. I guess the only question to ask here would be why it took DC so long to get this book started? While I haven’t found a definitive answer to that, I’m sure that the then upcoming release of Superman: The Movie might have prompted DC to get another Superman title on the newsstands.

DC Comics Presents brought in a lot of the creative talent that helped shape DC Comics in the 1970s. The title found a cast of regular co-hosts (mostly fellow members of the Justice League) that would cycle in and out frequently over the course of the run of the book. Perhaps in a nod to the quirky stories Bob Haney would deliver over in The Brave and the Bold, we do get one issue in this collection where Superman is blasted back in time to World War II, where he teams up with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. As with any team-up book, the premise that would bring the characters together was sketchy a lot of times. In this era, the norm was 17-page stories, so many of these are quick reads.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I’ve said for years that team-up books should be required reading for all comic book fans. But I would recommend starting with the other books of this era first, such as The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up. This title always seemed to me unnecessary – given how powerful Superman was in this era, why does he need the help of <guest star of the month> to solve the particular problem for that issue? I have this same issue with Superman in the Justice League of America title in this age, too. The team-ups can be a lot of fun, but the premise of the stories are generally weak.

Footnotes: DC Comics Presents #26 is one of the issues from this series most in-demand in the back issue market, but with nothing to do with the Superman story. In this era, DC started placing 16-page previews of upcoming titles in various books. In this issue, a preview for The New Teen Titans #1 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. This serves as the first appearances for Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire, so it has stayed in demand for many years with collectors.

Who’s Who:
#1 – Superman & Flash
#2 – Superman & Flash
#3 – Superman & Adam Strange
#4 – Superman & Metal Men
#5 – Superman & Aquaman
#6 – Superman & Green Lantern
#7 – Superman & Red Tornado
#8 – Superman & Swamp Thing
#9 – Superman & Wonder Woman
#10 – Superman & Sgt. Rock
#11 – Superman & Hawkman
#12 – Superman & Mister Miracle
#13 – Superman & Legion of Super-Heroes
#14 – Superman & Superboy
#15 – Superman & Atom
#16 – Superman & Black Lightning
#17 – Superman & Firestorm
#18 – Superman & Zatanna
#19 – Superman & Batgirl
#20 – Superman & Green Arrow
#21 – Superman & Elongated Man
#22 – Superman & Captain Comet
#23 – Superman & Doctor Fate
#24 – Superman & Deadman
#25 – Superman & Phantom Stranger
#26 – Superman & Green Lantern

If you like this volume, try: Action Comics #584 to #600 from 1987 and 1988. Following Crisis of Multiple Earths, DC brought in fan favorite John Byrne to re-invent Superman for the new DC Universe. Following the initial Man of Steel mini-series that gave us the back history of Clark Kent and Superman, the books returned to a normal monthly publishing schedule. In Action Comics, this became a team-up book, with various heroes meeting up with Superman. Done by Byrne, there are a lot of fun match-ups that stand out from this run. While there is not just one collected edition for these issues, there is a series of eight trades, Superman: The Man of Steel, that collect all of the Superman stories from this time in publishing order. Alternatively, the individual issues can be generally found in discount bins at shows or local comic shops, so that might be a fun run to hunt down on your own.

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!

Goodbye 2015: Here I go again with my wrap-up for 2015. Compared to the last two years, I hardly got any reading done. But that can easily be explained. I returned to full-time employment at the end of March, and the ever-growing success / workload / reading list for the Worst. Comic. Podcast. EVER! For the subject of this blog, I finished seven Showcase Presents volumes and nine Essential volumes.

Showcase Presents volumes read in 2015: All-Star Squadron 1; Legion of Super-Heroes 5; Blue Beetle 1; Strange Adventures 1; Ambush Bug 1; Martian Manhunter 2; and Warlord 1.
Essential volumes read in 2015: Conan the Barbarian 1; Man-Thing 2; Marvel Horror 2; Wolverine 5; Punisher 3; Dazzler 2; Killraven 1; Daredevil 5; and Rampaging Hulk 2.

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Hello 2016: OK, for many years I was a loyal listener to the Collected Comics Library podcast produced by Chris Marshall. Each January, Chris announced his “Adopt a Character” for the year, in which he focuses on reading more about one character, a specific run of a book, or even just focus on a particular creator, over the next year.

For 2015, I had three “Adopt a Character” goals which I came very close to fulfilling!

  • I do want to finish the Mike Grell Green Arrow series. I have tracked down most of the Oliver Queen issues of the title after Grell left, up to issue #100, so my plan is to read the last 40 issues plus annuals. Mission accomplished, albeit in the final week of December. I am curious now about reading the Connor Hawke issues that followed this run, so I may be on the hunt in the back-issue bins this upcoming year.
  • With the Essential and Showcase lines, I have two long-boxes of books to read. As much as I try to balance 1 DC to 1 Marvel read, I may need to focus more on Marvel this year, as those are the majority of the books due up for review in 2015. Keep reading for more on the blog going forward. Well, my numbers did go down as detailed above. That said, I did read a lot of books that fall outside my usual reading habits. But for every book I did read, I probably replaced it with another volume that is sitting in the To-Be-Read pile. As of today, I have 18 Essentials and 18 Showcase Presents in my collection that are unread. I’m hoping to reduce my pile this year, and limit my purchases – barring an offer I just can’t refuse. Ha!
  • Finally, I am looking to find something new to jump into, so I am going to put it out there for my audience. Tell me a title I should be reading, either current or from the back issue bins. Please comment on this post with your suggestions, and the best one will be added to my to-read list for 2015. I initially thought I would re-read the original Marvel Star Wars run from the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, I pretty much read all of the 2015 Marvel Star Wars run, with all of the titles and mini-series. 

However, I don’t believe I am going to set official goals for 2016, outside of finishing more Essentials and Showcases than I purchase. Given the success of the podcast, I would like to keep a lot of my reading options open for the new year.

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Worst. Comic. Podcast. EVER!: So trust me when I promise that I am still fully committed to Essential Showcase. Reviews are still going to be posted once a week, although I may move them away from Saturday in an attempt to get more eyes on the posts. But a good portion of my free time last year went to the podcast that I am doing with two of my best friends, John Holloway and Cullen Stapleton.

We started the podcast in the summer of 2014 as a way to get together once a week and talk comics. About this time last year, the three of us sat down and decided we were going to see what we could do with our entity beyond just a weekly podcast. So for the last year, we have provided new content on our blog Monday through Friday, with previews, reviews, comics, videos, and more. I have been re-using my older Essential Showcase reviews as material for our Throwback Thursday features, although I do mix in other reviews of older material along the way.

Between the three of us, we went to nine conventions, including a free trip to San Diego for Cullen and John. We’ve interviewed – either on the podcast or in a written post – dozens of creators and industry members over the last year. We did in-store appearances in the Kansas City area for Free Comic Book Day and Batman Day. By being in the right place at the right time, we even started hosting panels at some of the conventions. My personal highlight of the year was getting to co-host the Secret Wars panel at Kansas City Comic Con with Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, and John Beatty. Some of our other interactions include:

  • Interviews with: Jason Aaron, Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, Dan Parent, Ande Parks, Greg Pak, Rick Stasi, Steve Lightle, Terry Beatty, Cynthia Martin, CW Cooke, Kathy Garver, Katrina Law, Mike Grell, Tommy Castillo, Matt Kindt, David Mack, Frank Cho, Scott Williams, Chris Burnham, Barbara Kesel, B. Clay Moore, Jeremy Haun, Jillian Kirby, Meredith Finch, Trina Robbins, Alex de Campi, Joshua Dysart, Chris Roberson, Chris Sebula, Steve Lieber, Freddie Williams II, and more.
  • Panels hosted with: Walter Koenig, Bob Hall, Cynthia Martin, David Newell, Billy West & Maurice LaMarche, Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, John Beatty, Colin Baker, Cerina Vincent, Tara Buck, Jamie Bamber, Butch Patrick, and more.

For 2016, we will be attending a lot of shows, either for the full weekend or a few days. You can find one or more of us at these shows in 2016:

  • Wizard World Portland
  • Emerald City Comic Con
  • Planet Comicon
  • Smallville Comicon
  • O Comic Con
  • Kansas City Comic Con
  • Rose City Comic Con
  • Lawrence Free State Comicon
  • Eugene Con

And this list is probably not final. I know of a few more than we might be adding to the list. Please visit our blog (often) to see what we are up to each week.

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Houchen Bindery: So via the podcast, I have gotten to know Tim Benson from Houchen Bindery. We’ve spoken to him twice on the podcast, and we’ve got a project in the works with him for later in 2016. Anyway, I have started sending some older comics to Tim to have bound into a hardback book. Tim is a skilled graphic designer, and has made custom covers for my books to mimic the look of the Essentials and Showcases.

In the last year, Tim and Houchen have put together the following books for me: Essential Alpha Flight, Showcase Presents Sandman Mystery Theater, Showcase Presents Who’s Who, and Showcase Presents Silver Age. In my head, I probably have another 20 volumes in mind for future projects. Just a matter of prioritizing and getting the books to Tim.

If you have ever thought about getting your books bound, contact Tim. There are a lot of other great binderies out there, and I am not speaking ill of any of them. But I am saying that Tim is the one I trust with my books.

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Thank you!: So I know that what I do here falls into a very small niche of the comic book reading community. I know I will never have spectacular numbers in terms of views, likes, and shares. I get that, and I am OK with that. To me, this is a passion project that I want to see through to the end.

But with that said, there are a handful of you guys that respond on a regular basis. I don’t want to name names, for fear that I leave someone off unintentionally. Just know that I appreciate you taking the time to look at my post and share it with your friends.

All right, let’s have a great 2016!

Essential X-Factor Vol. 3

xfactor3First Published: December 2009

Contents: X-Factor #36 (January 1989) to #50 (January 1990); X-Factor Annual #3 (1988); and Uncanny X-Men #242 (March 1989) and #243  (April 1989)

Key Creator Credits: Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Chris Claremont, Kieron Dwyer, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Arthur Adams, Paul Smith, and others

Key First Appearances: Alchemy

Story Continues From: Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential X-Factor Vol. 4

Overview:  This book has a little bit of everything for the mutant fan in all of us. Sit back and enjoy the read of Essential X-Factor Vol. 3.

First up is the Evolutionary War crossover in X-Factor Annual #3. From a chronology point of view, this should have been collected in the prior Essential volume, but there was a lot going on in that book, so we get it here. In the main story, we see X-Factor trying to stop the High Evolutionary from exterminating the Moloids and others that are at the end of their evolutionary development. It’s part of the big storyline running through the annuals that year. The big take away from the annual is the back-up feature, which features the various kids in training with X-Factor, such as Skids, Boom Boom, Rusty, and others, taking off in their own adventures, which would be told in the X-Terminators mini-series – sadly not reprinted in Essential form.

Next up is Inferno, which we have talked about previously with Essential X-Men Vol. 8. The big takeaway for the X-Factor team is the resolution of the Jean Grey-Scott Summers-Madelyne Pryor love triangle. Madelyne is killed, leaving Scott and Jean to resume their lives together raising baby Nathan. As the team all catches their collective breath, the X-Terminator kids return, only to break up their band. Many of the older kids would transfer over to the New Mutants title, becoming key members for the years to come.

But I need to focus on X-Factor here, because we are quickly caught up in the Judgement War. The team is kidnapped and sent across the galaxy to a planet facing judgement by the Celestials. On this planet, everyone is ranked on a perfection scale. Jean Grey is viewed as being perfect, while some of the guys (Beast, Archangel) tend to fall at the bottom of that ranking. The team members work independently before reuniting and stopping the Celestials.

What makes this Essential?: This is a transitional volume. We see Walt Simonson’s run on the book come to an end with the Inferno storyline. The art is handled by committee, with most of the work done by the criminally-underrated Paul Smith. We do experience Rob Liefeld’s first work for Marvel – you decide what to make of that! Through all of this though, writer Louise Simonson continues to provide a steady direction for the title.

My biggest issue with this collection is that the book gets highjacked by events going on in the other X-Men or Marvel Universe books at the time. The first half of this book is given over to tie-ins with the Evolutionary War storyline or the Inferno storyline. Considering that the Inferno story has been reprinted already (see Footnotes), you almost feel cheated by paying full price for half of a volume of “new” material.

Footnotes: X-Factor #36 to #39 and Uncanny X-Men #242 and #243 are also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: the Acts of Vengeance storyline. After multiple summer events which focused solely on the Marvel mutants, this event crossed over across the Marvel Universe. Secretly organized by Loki, the villains unite and agree to change up their normal foes, in an attempt to surprise the heroes. So you have the odd combinations of the Punisher facing Doctor Doom, or Daredevil vs. Ultron. In typical fashion, the villains plans unravel due to infighting and personal agendas. Loki is revealed as the organizer, which leads to yet another face-off with the Avengers. Now, this may be a harder storyline to track down. There was an omnibus released which collected the main issues of the storyline. However, this omnibus has gone out of print, and the prices have skyrocketed in the secondary market (eBay). A second omnibus was released featuring more of the crossover issues, but not the main storyline. This omnibus is still readily found for cover price or less. This may be a case where the thrill of the back issue hunt is more fun, to track down all of the numerous crossovers, which should be noted by a triangle window in the upper right corner of the covers.