Monday, October 30, 2017


SEPTEMBER 11th, 1978 – NOVEMBER 19th, 1978
NOVEMBER 20th, 1978 – JANUARY 28th, 1979
By Stan Lee & John Romita

Spider-Man’s latest newspaper adventure finds his greatest fear realized, as a mysterious young woman discovers his street clothes — with ID inside, thus revealing his secret identity to her — in an alleyway while he’s busy stopping a robbery across the street. The entire story hinges on a silly premise, though: Peter, wired late at night after finishing his thesis, decides to go outside and clear his head. Literally every other time he’s done this in the history of creation, it’s meant some web-slinging across the city. But tonight, for some bizarre reason, he decides to go for a jog instead, which leads to his needing to change into Spider-Man when he spots the robbery in progress.

But, false premise aside, this is a pretty fun story as the woman, an ex-model named Vera Arlen, blackmails our hero with her knowledge of his true identity into harassing her former employer, beauty magnate Raymond Dexter, who replaced her as his company’s top model with a younger woman when the public demanded a new face for his products. Vera, leaving Dexter’s office in a huff, was disfigured by some chemicals and holds him responsible.

Thanks to the circles in which Dexter travels, there are some fun seventies styles on display in this arc. Big, wavy hair on all the men and women, open shirts for everyone (again, men and women alike, so cleavage connoisseur Stan* was probably pleased with this one), etc. In fact, this is probably the most seventies-looking of all the story arcs so far — and to me, as a lover of that decade’s distinctive, if often tacky, visuals, that’s never a bad thing.

Sunday, October 29, 2017


You may have noticed my last "Unboxing" post was in July. Three months have passed since, with no sign of a new one!

Well, in theory I haven't stopped doing Unboxing posts -- but a confluence of events have led to the feature's absence recently. First and foremost, Marvel, DC, and the rest just haven't been offering a whole lot of stuff that piques my interest. As anyone who drops by here knows, my main comic book tastes lean toward the Bronze Age through the nineties with a strong emphasis on Spider-Man and the X-Men, and there hasn't been a ton of material on that front lately. Which isn't to say I don't have things coming -- there are four Omnibuses and two trade paperbacks on the horizon, but at the moment that's about it.

The other reason I haven't been receiving as much is that, as noted several times in recent months, I discovered the appeal of digital comics late last year. Digital collections are great for stuff I have less emotional investment in. Where before, I might have grabbed a random trade collecting classic Marvel or DC stuff I'd never read, now I'll do it digitally instead, either via Marvel Unlimited or Amazon/Comixology. It's a much smaller monetary investment in something I'm unsure of, and it takes up no physical space on my shelf. Plus, I'm especially inclined now to try digital for stuff from the non-Big Two. IDW, Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, whatever -- with rare exceptions, it's digital all the way as far as I'm concerned.

Thus I've more-or-less decided that, except for material I absolutely know I want to own -- which, since I have a great deal of the other stuff I'd want on my shelves already, is mainly classic Spider-Man, nineties X-Men, seventies Batman, and maybe a handful of other things at this point -- I'm likely to go digital in the future. No more blind buys of trades, or especially Omnibuses, on material I've never read, unless it's something universally acclaimed which I know I want, like MASTER OF KUNG FU or (spoiler alert for a future Unboxing) JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL.

Of course there are other, non-comic book things I buy. All those newspaper strip collections I've talked about recently for example, and certain other collections of material I'm trying out, outside of the superhero genre, which aren't available digitally at all. Plus every Christmas my wife gives me the two Carl Barks Duck books released by Fantagraphics in the preceding year. But I don't receive regular monthly pre-ordered shipments of those things; I usually watch the Amazon Marketplace for deals after they've been released, saving up gift cards to blow on them. Maybe I'll start doing Unboxings for those as I receive them, to supplement the regular stuff. Or perhaps I can do a monthly "Digital Unboxing", though that doesn't seem nearly as fun (and I buy most of my digital stuff on sale too, so it would rarely be current).

I'll figure something out. But for now, just know that I haven't forgotten the Unboxing, and it hasn't forgotten you. It'll be back, maybe next month or maybe in December. We'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, October 27, 2017


Written by Dan Jolley
Pencils by E.J. Su, Tim Seeley, Emiliano Santalucia, & Guido Guidi
Inks by Andrew Pepoy & Sean Parsons | Letters by Dreamer Design
Colors by Jeremy Roberts & Val Staples | Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: In the 1930s, Beachhead, Roadblock, the Baroness, and a Cobra Viper named Percy locate Optimus Prime and restore him to robot mode. In the present day on Cybertron, Ultra Magnus informs Stalker that the force field he's using to protect the Autobots and Joes will fail in six hours, meaning the various time-teams have that long to return before the Decepticons attack.

Back in the past, Roadblock and the Baroness infiltrate a gangster's nightclub and find their way to four more Transformers who turn out to be Sunticons Wildrider, Breakdown, Dead End, and Drag Strip. The Stunticons chase Optimus Prime and his human allies across town until they bump into Motormaster. As soon as Motormaster is transformed back to robot mode, the entire group vanishes back to the present.

Meanwhile (sort of), Barbecue, Spirit, Doctor Mindbender, Tomax, and Xamot materialize in an apocalyptic future.

Continuity Notes: Roadblock, pretending to be Miles Davis, plays trumpet for an all-black band as part of his cover.

G1 References: Not really any to speak of here.

G.I. References: Likewise.

Monday, October 23, 2017


APRIL 10th, 1978 – JULY 2nd, 1978
JULY 3rd, 1978 – SEPTEMBER 10th, 1978
By Stan Lee & John Romita

Before we get started this week, let’s have a few observations about comic strip Peter Parker and how he differs from his comic book counterpart.

Back around the point where Mary Jane left the strip and the direction began to shift more onto Peter’s social/love life, John Romita slightly tweaked his iconic character design for our hero. Peter’s hair became a bit shaggier to fit the style of the times, and he began to dress in more contemporary fashions, including trendy open collared shirts. This is no longer the shy bookworm of the Ditko era, or even the reserved, if slightly more outgoing, young man from Romita’s time drawing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. This appears to be a Peter Parker comfortable in his own skin, up on the latest trends, and a bit more dashing than usual.

And along with Romita’s visual redesign, Stan Lee’s scripts reflect a new Peter, as well. He’s still kind of mopey and angst-ridden in private, but he’s also far more outgoing than I can recall seeing him in prior Lee stories. Certainly, to reflect the strip’s interest in bringing a new love interest into practically every story arc, he’s become more comfortable with the ladies. When he met Tana in “Time of the Terrorist”, Peter immediately and without reservation invited her to sit at his table in the library, then told his classmate Carole in no uncertain terms that he wanted to meet the exotic stranger. In the final strip of the Mysterio arc, a Sunday page, Peter boarded his flight back to New York and found himself seated beside a beautiful woman with whom he immediately struck up a conversation by way of a good old-fashioned pick-up line.

This is a Peter Parker I’m not used to seeing, but as an alternate universe exercise, he’s fun to watch. This Peter has allowed Spider-Man’s cockiness to spill over into his personal life, turning him into a trendy, confident ladies’ man. I guess for a character headlining his own soap opera strip, that makes sense. And for however long this Peter lasts, I look forward to following him.

Friday, October 20, 2017


Written by Dan Jolley
Pencils by E.J. Su, Tim Seeley, Emiliano Santalucia, & Guido Guidi
Inks by Andrew Pepoy & Sean Parsons | Letters by Dreamer Design
Colors by Jeremy Roberts & Val Staples | Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: G.I. Joe thwarts a Cobra arms deal while Cobra Commander meets with Destro. The Commander has gotten wind of a private lab in Boston which has used Cybertronian technology to open a wormhole to Cybertron. He convinces Destro to help him steal the device. G.I. Joe's undercover agent, Chuckles, reports this new scheme to headquarters as he escapes Destro's mansion.

Eventually the Joes burst in on Cobra as they attempt to harness the wormhole tech. Joes and Cobras alike are transported to Cybertron, where the wormholes go wild and send several Transformers back to Earth at various points in the timestream. Aided by Ultra Magnus and Perceptor, groups of Joes and Cobras are transported back in time to recover the missing robots.

In the California Bay Area of the 1970s, Lady Jaye, Storm Shadow, Snake-Eyes, and Zartan recover Jazz, Bumblebee, Hot Rod, and Blitzwing, and return to the present. Meanwhile, the Baroness, Roadblock, Beachhead, and a Cobra Viper appear in another timeframe in the middle of a skirmish between two groups of mobsters.

Continuity Notes: We're told that it's been two years since the previous G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS miniseries. In that time, the Joes have integrated Transformer technology into their own gear. We see two of the large mechs left behind by the Autobots when the prior story ended, and the Joes have a number of smaller enhancements as well, such as portable force shields.

Monday, October 16, 2017


DECEMBER 18th, 1977 – FEBRUARY 11th, 1978
FEBRUARY 12th, 1978 – APRIL 9th, 1978
By Stan Lee & John Romita

Per an ad reprinted in the IDW AMAZING SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIPS Volume 1 collection, Spider-Man’s next storyline is titled “The Time of the Terrorist” and it features a bit of a departure in style, ultimately heralding something of a new direction (at least temporarily), for the ongoing serial. We begin with a brief Christmas interlude as Peter does some shopping and reflects on his supporting cast, then wonders why Mary Jane hasn’t called since her return from Miami. This is followed by MJ announcing to Peter that she’s taken a new job as an assistant to Kraven, and will be leaving immediately to tour with him!

As noted last time, the comic strip’s version of Kraven is less a super-villain and more a showman who happens to enjoy hunting Spider-Men on the side, so while Peter is troubled by MJ’s choice, there’s not much he can do about it. Thus, Lee and Romita write Mary Jane – who had already been a minor player for the past few storylines – completely out of the ongoing strip for the foreseeable future.

This allows them to change up their formula, and the strip’s concept along with it. Suddenly that MARY WORTH/soap opera style that Lee had wanted from the start begins to take shape. While there are some costumed Spider-action scenes to be found throughout this arc, it focuses primarily on Peter Parker and his love life. It also takes place over a longer period of time than most of the other arcs to date, which typically seemed to cover only a day or a few days at most.

Friday, October 13, 2017


Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: With Cobra and the Decepticons mostly routed, Hawk informs the Joes and Autobots of the incoming nuclear missiles. Wheeljack proposes a plan to stop them and teams up with Mainframe and Sci-Fi to commandeer the energy satellite in orbit. After fighting off a group of Cobras including Storm Shadow and Firefly, Wheeljack accomplishes his goal and the missles are destroyed before reaching Cobra Island. However the satellite goes wild, suddenly beaming random energy blasts down at Cobra Island.

Cobra Commander hooks up with Starscream and the duo flees the island together. Megatron attempts to retreat, but is stopped by G.I. Joe and then defeated by Optimus Prime. Prime grabs Megatron's fusion cannon and uses it to destroy the satellite.

Later, the Autobots leave Earth in a newly-constructed spacecraft, having gifted G.I. Joe with Cybertronian technology. Meanwhile, Megatron and Starscream hide out on Earth, and a cabal of U.S. scientists examine the fallen Decepticons recovered from Cobra Island.

Continuity Notes: Trailbreaker, who was decapitated last issue, is glimpsed fighting alongside his fellow Autobots. This would seem to be an art mistake.

G1 References: Megatron wields the energy morning star which made a single appearance in the G1 animation but somehow became one of his iconic weapons in the ensuing decades.

Monday, October 9, 2017


OCTOBER 3rd, 1977 – OCTOBER 29th, 1977
OCTOBER 30th, 1977 – DECEMBER 17th, 1977
By Stan Lee & John Romita

As he mopes over his role in getting the Kingpin’s wife shot, Spider-Man recaps his origin. In this shorter-than-normal arc (known as “Along Came a Spider-Man” in the BEST OF SPIDER-MAN book from the eighties) Stan Lee and John Romita hit all the classic beats of the original Lee/Steve Ditko story from AMAZING FANTASY #15 – Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider-powers, attempts to use his new abilities for profit, lets a crook run free, and later finds that the crook has murdered his uncle – but they also put their own 1977 twist on a lot of it.

It’s never outright stated here, but Peter seems to be in college, rather than high school, when he’s bitten. He and a lab partner are the ones running the experiment which irradiates the fateful spider, and he’s drawn by Romita to resemble his handsome, college-age self rather than the awkward bespectacled teenager originated by Ditko. The story also forgoes the idea that Peter is a wallflower or a loner. He’s clearly friends with his lab partner, and while we don’t see any of his other classmates in this flashback, he seems perfectly socially adept with everyone else he meets.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as expected in this retelling. It’s an interesting choice by Lee and Romita to wait nine months into their serial before explaining the hero’s origin, and one wonders if they had ever intended to cover it at all. But in any case, it’s done and, while essential, it’s not exactly remarkable.

Friday, October 6, 2017


Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: G.I. Joe attacks Cobra Island while Autobots and Decepticons do battle there as well. Meanwhile, the president approves use of nuclear weapons on the island. Megatron coerces Doctor Mindbender into using the energy satellite to create a near-limitless supply of Energon for his forces. Devastator reinforces Cobra against the Autobots' attempt to break into Megatron's commandeered hideout, while Snake-Eyes battles Starscream.

Eventually Optimus Prime smashes through Megatron's defenses, takes out his troops, and begins a duel with the Decepticon leader. Meanwhile, the Joes, Wheeljack, and Bumblebee take out Devastator while Hawk receives word of the imminent nuclear attack.

Out at sea, a U.S. submarine prepares to launch missiles.

Continuity Notes: The U.S. president here appears to be drawn to resemble George W. Bush, who was, of course, president when this mini-series was originally published.

G1 References: Energon is stored in cube format, as per the original G1 cartoon series.

Body Count: Hound is blasted in half by Devastator, and Trailbreaker (not Optimus Prime, as the cover suggests) is decapitated by Storm Shadow. However later in the issue, Optimus Prime punches a hole through Soundwave's chest while declaring that he will avoid his "vital circuits", leaving him alive. So who's to say which -- if any -- of these Transformers are actually dead?

Oh, Prime also "crunches" Ravage in his fist, which looks positively quaint when one remembers his live-action movie incarnation ripping out the Decepticon feline's spine in the first Michael Bay movie.

Monday, October 2, 2017


MAY 8th, 1977 – JULY 3rd, 1977
JULY 4th, 1977 – OCTOBER 2nd, 1977
By Stan Lee & John Romita

And now a few notable items I didn’t have time to get into last week: As we’ve seen, these strips take place in a separate continuity from the ongoing Spider-Man comics, but a continuity with a similar backstory. Notable tidbits include:
  • Peter resides in an apartment in Chelsea, which was his status quo in the comics at this time (and would remain so for much of the eighties) -- in fact, the apartment is even illustrated by John Romita with the same layout and furnishings as in the comics.
  • Aunt May lives in an apartment, rather than a house, in Forest Hills. This development dates back to the original Lee/Romita run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, where May and Anna Watson shared an apartment together after Peter moved out of May’s house to room with Harry Osborn. Interestingly, the first story arc had May and Anna living together, but the very next one saw May living alone.
  • There’s no sign of Gwen Stacy in any of these strips; she had been killed off a few years earlier in the main continuity but it’s unclear whether she ever existed at all in this one. Mary Jane Watson is Peter’s primary love interest in these stories as in the comics of the era.
  • And, as mentioned last time, Spider-Man seems to be New York’s only superhero at this early stage in the strip’s history.

Our third story arc introduces the strip’s first original villain, and features the newspaper debuts of two stalwart supporting cast members from the Lee/Romita comic book run. It’s also the most soap opera-ish of all the storylines so far, insomuch as it features more Peter Parker out of costume than we’ve yet seen.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


This is a post I'd hoped to have up much earlier this year, to coincide with the release date of AVENGERS vol. 3 #1 back in February, but I just wasn't able to pull it together in time. Though at this point the post is already years in the making*, so being eight months late isn't too bad when you look at it that way.

Let's start at the beginning, a year or so prior to that late 1997 release date: It was in the aftermath of "Onslaught" that Marvel launched a slew of new #1 issues. You had DEADPOOL, HEROES FOR HIRE, KA-ZAR, MAN-THING, MAVERICK, MARVEL TEAM-UP, and more. Among this group was THUNDERBOLTS, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Mark Bagley. I'd never heard of Busiek at the time, but Bagley was familiar to me from his days on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and I generally liked his artwork. Nonetheless, I nearly didn't grab THUNDERBOLTS because: what's a Thunderbolt? I was a senior in high school at the time and I had a tight budget; why read some random series about a bunch of new characters I'd never heard of?

Thank goodness for internet spoilers, then! I learned the twist ending to THUNDERBOLTS #1 via an America Online message board within a few days of its release, and promptly went straight out to pick it up. It quickly became one of my most eagerly awaited titles every month. And, eventually, when I learned that its writer would be picking up AVENGERS and IRON MAN when those two returned to the mainstream Marvel Universe after the year-long "Heroes Reborn" event wrapped up, I made sure to put those on my monthly reading list as well.**