Friday, January 31, 2014


The Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson run proceeds onward as Luke, Leia and Han continue their quest to return R2-D2 to Yavin 4. Their mission is temporarily thwarted, however, as the moon comes under bombardment by Imperial forces. Why the Empire waited so long to attack Yavin following the Death Star's destruction is not explained here. Han simply notes that the place was blockaded -- though even that didn't stop the Milennium Falcon and other vessels from coming and going at will. Perhaps there was some political reason for the Empire holding off until now. But for whatever reason, our heroes now find themselves unable to return home. They seek sanctuary with a rebel sympathizer, a sexy pirate captain named Silver Fyre -- an old acquaintance of Han's.

After baiting Silver's gang with the information Artoo is carrying, Han ferrets out a traitor in their midst. Silver then agrees to aid the rebels in bypassing the Imperial blockade and returning to Yavin. Back on the planet, in another filler adventure, our heroes encounter a creature called the night beast beneath their headquarters in the Massassi temple. The beast is eventually lured aboard a ship and sent away from the moon. Even though this reads as a throw-away tale, the story allows Williamson to draw several interiors for the temple, a location barely glimpsed in A NEW HOPE. Williamson uses the opportunity to instill the haunted rebel base with some personality.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Artist: Bob Layton
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: During Stark International's third annual employee appreciation party, the gathered employees watch the debut of Tony Stark's newest invention, an offshore sonic borer, via a TV monitor. But the borer malfunctions, and Iron Man races into action to save the day. In the chaos, the borer's power supply, a prototype energizer link, is stolen by the project's head, Ted Calloway. Iron Mana attempts to catch the fleeing Calloway's helicopter, but is stopped by an electrical cage generated by Calloway's weapon.

Later, back at Stark International, the real Ted Calloway turns up in a supply closet. Tony begins to ponder who could have impersonated Calloway when he receives an urgent call from Bethany. He partner, Ling McPherson, has been brutally beaten while on bodyguard duty, and is in critical condition at the hospital.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Plot: Peter John Palmer | Script: David Michelinie
Layouts: Alan Weiss | Finishes: Bob Wiacek
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony Stark arrives in London to investigate an incident of theft and sabotage at the British division of Stark Enterprises. He soon meets a villain named Endotherm, who uses heat and cold based technology, and who easily bests him (as Iron Man) in battle.

The next night, Endotherm returns to challenge Iron Man a second time, now with the intention of killing him. But Iron man has prepared a defense against Endotherm's power, and emerges the victor. Upon unmasking his foe, Iron Man learns that Endotherm was actually the security chief at S.I. U.K., who had a psychotic break and decided the only way to keep his pension was by killing Tony Stark.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I have a goal. It's a multi-tiered goal and it's not a simple one, since I really have no way to affect its outcome myself, but it's somehow getting dangerously close to completion anyway. I want to have, on my bookcases, every issue of UNCANNY X-MEN and X-MEN in collected editions, in color, from UNCANNY #94 through UNCANNY #350 (the end of Scott Lobdell's run as writer). That's well over 300 comics, especially if you include the associated annuals, specials, and crossover chapters.

And yet, here we are. As of right now, the below lists show all issues of both titles, up to UNCANNY #350, which have been collected and/or solicited. It's pretty remarkable:

Friday, January 24, 2014


The Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson run on the STAR WARS strip began officially on February 9th, 1981 -- about six months after the end of Russ Manning's final story arc. In the interim, the strip had featured a storyline by Russ Helm and Alfredo Alcala, followed by HAN SOLO AT STAR'S END by Archie Goodwin and Alcala -- an adaptation of the pre-A NEW HOPE novel of the same name by Brian Daley. Neither of those storylines is reprinted in the CLASSIC STAR WARS trade paperbacks.

Even though they've picked up the strip several months after the release of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in theaters, Goodwin and Williamson choose to tell more stories set between the first and second films -- a wise move, in my opinion. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK ends on a cliffhanger which would rob the creators of Han Solo -- and while great STAR WARS stories have certainly been told without Han, if including him is an option, it should be exercised -- even at the cost of including the likes of Lando Calrissian and Yoda. Thus, the first Goodwin/Williamson story features Luke and Leia, soon after the Battle of Yavin, scouting potential locations for a new Rebel base, now that the Empire knows they hang their hats on Yavin's fourth moon. But their mission is interrupted by the Empire, leading to a rescue by Han and Chewbacca, and a side trip to Ord Mantell, where the group encounters a bounty hunter named Skorr, out to collect the contract on Han's head.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Plot/Script: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Carl Gafford
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Titanium Man rampages through the streets, Bethany suggests to Tony that he slip away and summon Iron Man. Ducking into a seedy massage parlor, Tony quickly changes and then Iron Man confronts Titanium Man. The villain explains that he is trying to get back in the Soviet Union's good graces by destroying the U.S.A.'s most important city.

Following this monologue, the fight begins. Iron Man and Titanium Man battle across the city, eventually winding up on the ice rink at Rockefeller Plaza, where Iron Man finally gains the upper hand and defeats his foe. Iron man is cheered by the public before leaving. After changing back to Tony Stark, he accompanies Bethany home and enters her apartment with her.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Carl Gafford
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: After running his armor through several tests, Tony takes Bethany Cabe out for a date. Meanwhile, an armored figure flies across the Atlantic, bound for Manhattan. As Tony and Bethany take a cab home after dinner, a civil disturbance draws their attention. Exiting the cab, they find the Titanium Man bellowing his intention to destroy the city.

Continuity Notes: A footnote reminds us that Iron Man killed the Carnelian ambassador in issue #124. One of Iron Man's tests is for a security measure to make certain he can never be remote-controlled that way again.

Mrs. Arbogast informs Tony that Iron Man's speaking engagement at the Lions' Club has been cancelled in light of the Carnelian incident. Titanium Man is unaware of this cancellation, and his first stop in New York is the Club, where he accosts the replacement speaker: Rodney Dangerfield.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Time for a new feature. The second week of every month, I receive a box of pre-ordered trades and/or hardcovers from my preferred online retailer, Discount Comic Book Service. I've decided, for no particularly good reason, that the first free Sunday following the arrival of said box (meaning a Sunday when I don't have another post already scheduled), I will post the contents here. It'll give an idea of what collections you might expect to see covered at some point in the future.

This month, my goodies include:
  • DEADPOOL CLASSIC, vol. 7 (the first part of Gail Simone's run)
Of the above, I expect REGENERATION ONE is the book I'll get to first for coverage here. But I'm waiting until volume 4 comes out as well, then I'll cover both together, as I did a few months back with volumes 1 and 2.

The Deadpool books are items I want to get to one day, but for the foreseeable future, they're just shelf-candy/skimming material. I have very good memories of reading Kelly's DEADPOOL when I was in college, and the Simone run, with spectacular art and color from UDON Studios, was a whole lot of fun. But I won't get to that book until volume 8 is released to complete Simone's time on the series.

And INFINITY ABYSS is Jim Starlin's last really good work at Marvel, so I expect I'll cover it here eventually as well, but not until after I've gotten to Starlin's CAPTAIN MARVEL, WARLOCK, SILVER SURFER, INFINITY GAUNTLET, INFINITY CRUSADE, and INFINITY WAR. So don't hold your breath for it.

Final note: There are plenty of books on my bookcase already that I haven't gotten to, so even though I'll be posting everything new here going forward, there will still certainly be some surprises coming up. Plus there will be certain things I'll pick up elsewhere, from Amazon, etc., which will not make "The Unboxing". Unless it's something I'm really excited about, then perhaps I'll do a supplemental post.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Art by Al Williamson
I have this peculiar interest in early fiction based on licensed properties, before all the mythos have been properly defined and sorted out. The original MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE mini-comics, for example, produced by DC Comics for Mattel, were a far cry from what that property would eventually become. And the early years of the STAR WARS newspaper strip definitely fall into that category as well.

Working with little more than the original 1977 film and probably some production notes as his only reference, Russ Manning was tasked with creating some of the very first "Expanded Universe" material for STAR WARS, and he did a mostly admirable job of it. Manning's starships and interiors are derived from those seen in the movie, helping to make his version of the STAR WARS universe resemble its on-screen counterpart. His characters may not be photo-realistic likenesses of the actors they represent, but the wardrobes and certain details like hairstyles work well enough to convey a sense of who is who.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Plot/Script: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Layouts: Jerry Bingham | Letters: Irving Watanabe | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Failsafes prevent Stark personnel from opening Iron Man's fused armor. As his limited oxygen supply begins to run out, the Golden Avenger is rushed to lab for further inspection. Scott Lang secretly changes to Ant-Man and offers his aid. Guided by Iron Man, Ant-Man journeys through the fused armor, eventually releasing the failsafe mechanism from within, and saving Iron Man's life.

At the same time, elsewhere in Stark's complex, the pulse regulator has been removed from the unconscious Hulk, allowing him to revert to Bruce Banner. Tony Stark arrives at the operation's completion, and helps Banner to surreptitiously escape Stark International before the Army can recapture him.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham | Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: George Roussos
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Bruce Banner is restrained in Stark International's lab, Tony, Scott Lang, and Dr. Sondheim, the surgeon who implanted the pulse regulator, realize that Banner is changing slowly back into the Hulk. The regulator is nuclear powered, and Banner's gamma-irradiated cells are overcharging it, such that it is regulating his pulse at higher and higher levels.

Even as they make this discovery, Banner completes his transformation and bursts out of the lab. Tony changes to Iron Man and challenges the Hulk. Their resulting battle carries them across the Stark compound, ultimately ending at the airfield, where Iron Man puts everything his systems can muster into one super-charged punch. The Hulk is knocked out, but when Rhodey jovially claps Iron Man on the back, the armored Avenger collapses.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Several years ago -- I'm guessing ten, but it could have been eight or nine -- on the last day of the San Diego Comic Con, I came across a dealer unloading random Dark Horse STAR WARS trade paperbacks for five dollars a pop. I was (and of course still am) a huge STAR WARS fan and had read several of the novels, but I had never explored the comics. The Marvel series predated my interest in the franchise, and the contemporary Dark Horse stuff was too much to deal with on top of the many Marvels I bought every month.

So, for such a steep discount, I figured -- why not? I grabbed three trades titled CLASSIC STAR WARS, and left the convention with them. I assumed, without taking a close glance at the contents, that they were collections of the Marvel series. However, they turned out to be collections of the STAR WARS newspaper strip, which ran from 1978 to 1984. I wound up with volumes 1 and 3, plus a separate book titled THE EARLY ADVENTURES, which, while published last by Dark Horse, actually collected the first couple years of the strip.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Art by Jim Aparo
I recently acquired, via an Amazon sale, TALES OF THE BATMAN: DON NEWTON, showcasing Newton's earliest work drawing the Caped Crusader. As it happens, among those stories are three issues of DETECTIVE COMICS written by none other than Michael Fleisher. So since I just spent two weeks covering all of Fleisher's work on the Spectre, and since -- as I've opined previously -- there's nothing like some Batman on a cold winter's night, I figured that, given this chance, I might as well continue on to Fleisher's brief dalliance with the Darknight Detective.

These are not all of Fleisher's Bat-stories, however. Some very cursory research tells me that he also penned two issues of BATMAN roughly six years apart (1975 and 1981), and two issues of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, separated by a year (1980 and 1981 -- and the second of those B&B issues features art by Jim Aparo and a team up between the Batman and...the Spectre! I really want to track that down eventually...). But since these are the only Fleisher Batman stories I have ready access to, these are the ones I'll cover -- for now.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham | Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Bethany is driving Tony home from the airport when traffic comes to a halt, due to the Hulk eating fruit from an overturned truck up ahead. Bethany leaves to call the Avengers, while Tony changes into Iron Man and confronts the Hulk. However in the end, the Hulk reverts to Bruce Banner thanks to the friendship of a young boy. Iron Man takes Banner back to Stark International, where the two collaborate on a device to keep Banner's pulse steady and prevent him from changing into the Hulk.

Once the device is designed, built, and implanted in Banner, stress tests result in no transformation. With Banner seemingly cured, the army arrives to arrest him. Banner makes a break for it, prompting a young troop to hurl a grenade at him. Iron Man deflects the grenade, but the explosion is enough to trigger a transformation in Banner. However the change is mental only, as Bruce Banner emerges from the smoke ranting in the Hulk's voice.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Writer-Co-Plotters-Artist: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony Stark travels to his company's Hong Kong office to investigate some unusual but mundane computer glitches, but upon his arrival, he learns that four of his own scientists were just murdered by "something". As he investigates, Tony witnesses two more men killed by a glowing green dragon. After fighting the dragon off as Iron Man, Tony recruits the aid of an employee named Soo Lin Chu, whose grandfather is a Chinese occultist.

Soo Lin's grandfather explains that the monster is an ancient Chinese spirit, drawn to this plane by Soo Lin's late fiancé, who was also a Stark employee, but who hated the company. He was the first man killed by the creature. With the aid of Soo Lin and her grandfather, Iron Man thwarts the demon's attempt to cross over fully into our world.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


At the recommendation of my brother, a close friend, and a great deal of the internet, my fiancée and I began watching the BBC's SHERLOCK recently. Having only two seasons/series comprised of only six 90-minute episodes each, catching up was not difficult. We're now ready for PBS to begin airing season 3 on January 19th here in the U.S.

I had heard good things about this series for some time, but could never convince myself to give it a chance. I have a very specific opinion of what Sherlock Holmes should be (I like the Robert Downey Jr. movies somewhat, but only when I tell myself it's not the "real" Holmes).

The first and biggest hurdle for me is that I was not keen on the idea of Holmes living in the modern day. The Victorian London setting is a huge part of the character's appeal for me. You can imagine how hard I've avoided CBS's ELEMENTARY, considering that it moves Holmes geographically to the U.S., sets him in the modern day, and performs a gimmicky gender-swap on Watson on top of its other crimes against the property!

Friday, January 3, 2014


Script: Michael Fleisher | Art: Ernie Chan & Jim Aparo
Art Continuity: Russell Carley | Letters: Jim Aparo | Colors: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Joe Orlando

Ernie Chan (credited as Ernie Chua) provides guest pencils for two consecutive stories, and the work is excellent. A few years ago I read the majority of the BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS issues published in the seventies, and Chan had a long run on the character around that time. He was inked most frequently, as I recall, by Frank McLaughlin during that run, and while the work was good, it can't even begin to compare with Jim Aparo over Chan. Aparo's heavy blacks maintain the visual continuity from previous Spectre chapters, while Chan's layouts lose nothing from the previous all-Aparo chapters.

The stories are more of Fleisher's usual, featuring a gang who turns people into human bombs (and poor Gwen just happens to be one of them), and then a deranged taxidermist who kills people in order to stuff them and add them to his "exhibits". All villains meet suitably grisly ends.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Script: David Michelinie | Plot: D. Minds | Pencils: Sal Buscema | Inks: M. Hands
Colors: George Bell | Letters: John Costanza | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony Stark presents Nick Fury with the resignations of his entire staff, then tells Fury he's going on a nine month-long vacation. Realizing he's been out-maneuvered, Fury agrees to relinquish control of Stark international.

Tony and Fury attempt to make peace over dinner, but Fury is called away by a priority signal. Tony changes to Iron Man and follows Fury to a remote complex in the mountains, where a Dreadnought is on a rampage. Iron Man destroys the robot and departs.

Continuity Notes: Bethany, Rhodey, and Mrs. Arbogast all make cameo appearances following Tony's recovery of Stark International. It is also revealed that the resignations of Stark's entire staff were faked. Fury agrees to sell Jarvis's stock back to him, and put the rest out on the open market. Mrs Arbogast also informs Tony of trouble at Stark's Hong Kong branch.

The complex Fury investigates is called Project 13, and it once housed something called F.A.U.S.T., which was only defeated by all of the Avengers. There is absolutely no indication of what F.A.U.S.T. was, but two separate footnotes refer readers to THOR #271 for details.