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One thing I was pleased to discover in those unpublished Swamp Thing #25 pages is that I was at least partially correct about the story leading up to Alec Holland being able to switch back-and-forth from human to swampy form:
My belief was that Alec would be able to do this at will, but judging from what we can see in these pages, this is not the case. In fact, it seems that, as Swamp Thing, he becomes a mindless, rampaging monster:
…and that the transition from man to muck is apparently not under Holland’s control. So in a way, I guess that ol’ Man-Thing lettercol crack
about Swamp Thing being “Hulklike” is…um, I guess sorta accurate in this case. Now, whether this is just a one-time thing, a shocked response to Alec suddenly becoming Swamp Thing again after his cure in issue #23, or whether this was a situation that Alec would eventually gain some control over in subsequent issues…the world may never know.
(In comics that were actually published — the Challengers of the Unknown, in fact — Alec just plain becomes Swamp Thing again, with no ability to change back, so that’s how that’s resolved in actual DC continuity. Pre-Crisis, Pre-Zero Hour, Pre-Infinite Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint continuity, that is.)
Also, it turns out that Alec’s brother Edward’s jealousy (the seeds of which were planted in #24, noted in this previously-linked post of mine with the terrible scans) takes a turn for…well, not so much the villainous as it is the dickish as he just straight-up lies to Hawkman:
The worst thing about looking at these original pages is the penciled-in prices at the top of most of them:
…ranging from $15 to $20. AAAAAUGH…those are prices even I
could afford! …I suspect they’ll probably go for a bit more than that in that auction
. …Hey, you guys know my birthday is
coming up in just about a month and a half, right?
…Er, right? Hello…?
So since I’m sure you were wondering, I finally checked at the shop for those Grendel issues I skipped all those years ago, and it turned out we had them all save one. AUGH. …That’s okay, since the one we’re missing is easily obtainable on the eBay for next-to-nothing Buy It Now prices and usurious shipping costs, so I’ll get around to picking it up eventually.
I did finishing rereading the Christine Spar Grendel run (issues #1-#12 of the second Comico series, 1986-7), and…man, I’d forgotten about how crazy the Pander Brothers art was on this series. Well, okay, I actually hadn’t forgotten, but I was certain my memory of it was exaggerating just how out there it was, but nope, I was remembering it just about right. …That’s not a criticism of the art, by the way…it did take a little getting used to, and it is a bit on the wild side, but it would be hard to imagine this series drawn any other way.
I’m sure that’s just because I’ve had 25 years to let these comics swirl around in my head since I first read the things, but I do adore the look of these comics. It’s…well, it’s hard to explain, and I hope you folks understand what I’m getting at here, but in a strange way the art is both sort of dated and cutting edge at the same time. It has this retro “we have seen the future, and it is mid-’80s MTV videos for New Wave bands” look, while maintaining a level of fast-paced and occasionally shocking storytelling that compares favorably, if not surpasses, most superhero comic work on the shelves now.
Plus, those guys sure did like their big jackets:
Reader Tom commented on the “misplaced futurity” of this initial storyline, with the floating phones and flying cars and such. (It did get flatscreen TVs right, though, but that’s pretty much a gimme as far as tech predictions go…I mean, the viewscreen on Star Trek was pretty much a giant flatscreen.) It had me thinking about the exact timeframe for the story, which is mostly pinned on Spar’s comment in the first issue that television interviewer/personality Phil Donahue is “70, at least. More?” Since Donahue is 76 now, that puts the time of the story at about…well, today, or maybe within the last few years. Probably after 2004, as one of the supporting characters has a “FRANCE 2004″ poster on his wall.
So yeah, flying cars aren’t commonplace in the real world, so Grendel‘s usefulness as an accurate indicator of social / technological development is pretty much nil. Sorry, gang! But seriously, would you want a world with flying cars? I’ve seen how people drive on the road, man…I wouldn’t want ’em in the skies.
Another thing that slipped my mind until I pulled these comics out for the Great 2012 Grendel Rereading Project was the fact that most issues of this particular series had wraparound covers. You can see the fronts of them here, but aside from this smallish scan of a later non-Pander issue, there doesn’t seem to be an online source showing the full covers. If there is one, someone out there let me know so I can point folks to those swell full images of the Pander Brothers’ work on the first twelve covers. (The rest are pretty good, too.)
image from Grendel #5 (February 1987) by Matt Wagner, the Pander Brothers & Jay Geldhof
So a little bird tells me that original art from the unpublished issue #25 of the first Swamp Thing series has popped up on an auction site. Take a look at the Heritage Auctions site to finally, finally get a glimpse of that Swamp Thing versus Hawkman battle we were originally promised over thirty years ago.
Speaking of lips, I like that the Joker’s only apparent cell decoration is a representation of his own smackers around his window:
Sure was nice of Arkham Asylum to paint up the Joker’s wall ‘specially for him. …Unless, of course, the Asylum staff wasn’t responsible for it, and the Joker just up and painted those lips himself…which raises the question what he painted them with
, and frankly, we’re better off not knowing. (Maybe he sneaked in some fingerpaints from the patient activity room, but then I start wondering “whose
fingers” and, well, there we go.)
images from DC Comics Presents #72 (August 1984) by Paul Kupperberg, Alex Saviuk & Dennis Jensen
So all this talk over the last few days about rereading your old comics, combined with a brief Twitter-chat with Awesome Hospital‘s Matt Digges, all on top of my finally rereading Mage: The Hero Defined (yes, I got around to it!), has put me in the mood to revisit Matt Wagner’s other major series Grendel.
My original exposure to the character of Grendel was as a back-up in the first Mage series, later collected in that graphic album I showed you two days ago. And then there was the forty-issue series from Comico, followed a few years later by multiple mini-series from Dark Horse, with the Devil’s Vagary one-shot from the Comico Collection and a Silverback mini-series (starring Grendel’s nemesis Argent) mixed in there, somewhere.
Also along the way, I’d acquired the original unfinished Grendel mini-series which was later retold in drastically different fashion in the Mage back-ups. I eventually sold those off, which I’m kind of sorry about, since I really did like those big, clunky black and white comics with their semi-amateurish but compelling covers…but they’ve all been collected, including the covers (and the actual debut of Grendel from Primer #2, which I never owned) into a hardcover, so maybe I’ll grab one of those to replace their loss.
Now, I’d read that forty-issue series, which picked up with the second Grendel (Christine Spar, “granddaughter” of the original Grendel Hunter Rose), which then proceeded to pass on the Grendel character to other characters as the series progressed, and the setting of the series was pushed farther and farther still into the future, and as that series ended and the continuity continued through the multiple Dark Horse minis…I eventually lost interest, it seemed. In fact, in a very rare occurrence in my years as a comics fan, I actually stopped reading the Grendel comics halfway through one of the mini-series (Devil’s Choices, from 1995).
Even though it’s been (urgh) seventeen years, I’m reasonably sure my decision to quit midway through that series had nothing to do with the solid creative team of Darko Macan and the late Edvin Biukovic, and more to do with just having had enough Grendel. Plus, the further away we got from Hunter Rose and Christine Spar, the less interest I had in the ongoing saga. However, now, with an impending rereading of all these Grendel comics planned, I find myself interested in picking up the last two issues of Devil’s Choices, as well as the two Grendel Tales minis that followed. In fact, I keep meaning to grab them at the shop, as soon as I (ha ha) have some free time at work.
My self-imposed Grendel hiatus was relatively short-lived, as just a few years later we returned to the Hunter Rose-era Grendel with the Black, White and Red anthology series, followed by another series in a similar vein a couple of years later, and a full-length Hunter Rose story in Wagner’s Behold the Devil mini in 2007-8. (In fact, I may have jumped ahead and reread that Behold the Devil mini Thursday evening, prior to writing this post.)
I enjoyed those later Hunter Rose minis. I liked the early stuff quite a bit, and I enjoyed most of the forty-issue series from Comico. …I honestly don’t recall how much I enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) the follow-up Dark Horse Comics Grendel minis, as it’s been so long since I’ve read them. Thus, a good candidate for a rereading, I think.
So anyway, I’ve got my Grendel comics pulled out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, and they’re sitting here on my desk ready to be perused, and…hmmm, that’s like almost half a small comics box-worth pile of funnybooks, there. Thatsa lotta Grendel. …I’ll let you know how it goes.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive listing of every single Grendel comic, of course…there are the two Batman/Grendel minis, and that Devil’s Child mini from ’99 I somehow missed, and a Grendel novel…or two, maybe? I gotta do more research.
We interrupt our continuing discussion about rereading old comics to bring you Bizarro Joker:
from DC Comics Presents #71 (July 1984) by E. Nelson Bridwell, Curt Swan & Dave Hunt
Related to my last couple of posts about rereading comics from your collection, is the purchasing of stories one already owns in trade paperback form. For the most part, I do try to avoid doing that, just for purely financial reasons. However, there are times when I feel compelled, like when they finally reprinted all of Len Wein’s Swamp Thing stories in the Roots of the Swamp Thing hardcover (and not just the ones drawn by Bernie Wrightson), or that Firestorm trade that had an appealing cover and put all those old comics on nice, white paper. That’s one way to get me to reread some of my old comics…give ’em to me in a new presentation that will make me want to look at them again.
Now, since I’m a Swamp Thing fan, I’m not going to get rid of my original Swamp Thing comics after rebuying the stories in collected form, because I have a sickness and I need help. But as has been my semi-regular habit, I will happily replace my original issues with collected editions…like, for example, the early issues of Sandman. There was a time when those early issues were in high demand and sold for crazy money, and when that slipcased set of three paperbacks reprinting the first 20-something issues was released, I was perfectly fine with selling off those issues, getting the slipcased set, and using the extra money for food, gas money, and well, okay, probably just more comics.
I’ve done that a few times over the years…I bought the Watchmen paperback collection when it originally came out, but it took my acquiring of the Absolute Watchmen oversized hardcover to finally get me to throw my original run on the eBay. And I sold off my original Dark Knight Returns issues when I figured I was perfectly happy with having the story in the Longmeadow Press edition.
Over the last day or so I mentioned the Starblaze/Donning editions of the original Mage series by Matt Wagner, and I thought I’d throw the cover of the third one up here on the site just ’cause:
was another one of those series where I ended up buying the collected editions because they were just so nicely done and
they were in a larger format (about 8 1/2 by 11 inches, versus the standard comic book size), which resulted in me selling off the original comics. Well, actually, I used those comics as trade bait at a convention, and, like with the Sandman
comics I sold, used them to get even more
comics, so the vicious cycle continued. The only slight
problem with this is that the Mage
series included Grendel
back-ups, and I didn’t want to lose those, but thankfully there was this album collecting all those stories:
This has been reprinted several times in comic book sized editions by Dark Horse, but I think this larger-formatted collection from Comico remains my favorite version.
Thanks for all the responses to yesterday’s post about what you’re currently rereading (or would like to reread). As expected, I was reminded of several other comics I’d like to revisit, but that’s okay…I may not have time now, but it’ll give me something to do when I retire when I’m, like, 85 years old.
Chad brought up an interesting point:
“…does anyone ever find themselves doing a re-read of a series they remember being ambivalent about, just to see if it’s still worth keeping?”
That’s a good question, I think…by and large, any series I was ambivalent about at the time I tended to drop from the buy list, so I don’t have a whole lot in that category. But there are certain series that I followed through thick and thin, like Incredible Hulk or the multiple Superman titles, that have had changes in creative teams, or storylines that didn’t feel like they were up to snuff. For example, the post-Peter David issues of the original Hulk run…I suspect they were perfectly fine Hulk comics, but my general impression from my reading them at the time is that they weren’t really a patch on what David had been doing with the character. Probably not a fair judgement call, and I think if I pulled those issues back out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives and reread them, my assessment would be more charitable.
I made a joke in the title of yesterday’s post that my rereading of the ’90s Superman comics was solely to document the impact of the “Death of Clark Kent” storyline from…’93, I think? I was actually just giving them a reread because…well, I’d reread the Byrne/Wolfman post-Crisis reboot issues plenty of times, but had only given the later issues a single reading as they were issued (aside from the Death/Return of Superman issues, which are very rereadable strong serialized superhero storytelling), and I wanted to see how it held up as a continuing narrative. …Mostly, it maintains a fairly consistent continuity, which started to slip a bit once attempts to incorporate elements from the TV shows and movies, along with attempted rollbacks to pre-Crisis status quos, began to undermine the very reason the ’80s reboot was attempted in the first place. Not that I have any particular problem with that…I just think it’s an interesting phenomenon that I was able to watch as it happened, rather than piece together after the fact by researching back issues and investigating comics industry history.
Since yesterday I had a couple of folks mention “The Death of Clark Kent” as a real nadir of the franchise, which has me tempted to go back and look at it again. My memory of it is primarily a lot of running around and shouting and things blowing up, which to be fair describes a lot of superhero comics, so that doesn’t really bring anything to the table, there. My other memory is how this seemed the most blatant of attempts at grabbing some of that “Death of Superman” attention that had long since dried up. But I don’t remember hating this story, so perhaps I’ll look at it again and see if maybe if it was a storyline I tolerated more than enjoyed (much like how I discovered what I willingly put up with in some of the Superman annuals, last time I revisited some older Superman stories).
“Oh, and something that I re-read many, many times… the volumes of Matt Wagner’s MAGE. VOl 1 is AWESOME! I can read that any time or place.”
That’s another thing…I’ve probably reread the original Mage many, many times. The sequel series I read as it was coming out, and then again after it was completed. And that was pretty much it. …Not because I didn’t like it, but…I’m not sure why. Just, like with the rest of my comics, I never found the time, I guess. There’s also the fact that I have the original series in those beautiful Starblaze/Donning paperback editions, the only decent reprinting this series ever received, sitting on my bookshelves and easily within reach. Not to mention the fact that series has also been out for quite a bit longer, granting more time for rereading, particularly in my younger days when I had more time to read these darn funnybooks.
(Of course, in the midst of writing this I went down to the Archives and pulled that second series out of my boxes and I’ll get around to reading it again, soon.)
This sort of falls under Chad’s question, I suppose, but another Matt Wagner project, Grendel, is one of those comics where I really loved the earlier issues, but it…kind of lost me once the series got into the distant future and…well, if you read the comics, you know what I mean. I tried to keep up with the multiple Grendel Tales minis but just eventually lost track and interest (at least until the various Hunter Rose-era minis popped up years later). I think I just stopped reading halfway through one of the series. I wonder if I went back now, I’d appreciate those comics a little more? I’d like to think so. …Ah, well, just add those to the reread pile, too, I guess.
It used to be that I had plenty of time to pull out full runs of something from the vast Mikester Comic Archives to reread. But, as time wears on, and I get older, and more things come to occupy my free time, I don’t get around to doing the full rereads as often as I’d like. Sometimes I barely have time to read all the new comics I get each week, and I don’t even really get that many.
Now, when I’m talking about “rereads” I don’t mean the occasional single issue or mini. I just reread the Preacher mini-series The Saint of Killers just the other day, for example. I mean, rereading full runs of a particular creator, or storyline, or a full run of an extended finite series. Like the Brian Azzarello run on Hellblazer, which, when I reread it a few years ago, held together better when read over a relatively condensed period of time, rather than one chapter a month over a couple of years where some of the nuances of storytelling can be lost. (An argument for “waiting for the trade” if ever I heard one, I realize.)
The most recent of the longer rereads I did was the full run of Planetary, which occurred right after the long-awaited release of the final issue. And the most recent Swamp Thing series. And prior to that…geez, I seem to recall rereading all the ’90s Superman comics, which seems like an odd thing to do to oneself.
But I’ve been wanting to do more rereads from the Archives, which has become an even more imposing task as the older I get, the more comics I have, and the more I have to choose from when it comes to The Rereadering. Plus, one of the effects from working in a comic shop is regularly coming face-to-cover with comics that I’d read and enjoyed in the past. “Hmmm, that wasn’t a bad series, and it’s been a while since I’ve read it…I should dig those out.” Like, for instance, the various “America’s Best Comics” – Top 10, Promethea, Tom Strong…I’ve had a couple friends in the process of picking up the trades for these, and that’s sort of given me the itch to look at my own copies.
The other thing is that I recently reorganized and relabeled our Marvel and DC back issue boxes…not the ones on the tables on the floor (that’s a whole other reorg project I’m not looking forward to), but the less-current series we keep up on the shelves behind the store counters. And that reminded me of several titles I’d like to revisit…like the initial issues of Infinity Inc., drawn by Jerry Ordway and featuring the younger Earth-2 heroes versus the Justice Society. Or the Martian Manhunter series by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake…a moody, slightly spooky superhero series from the guys who were just fresh off that Spectre series that now I feel like I want to reread, too, just from mentioning it here.
On top of all that, pal Tom recently dropped off some old Cerebus Fan Club material, including a few of the newsletters:
…which (along with the Moment of Cerebus weblog
I’ve been perusing) of course made me slightly nostalgic for that time when I eagerly awaited each new issue of Cerebus
, hoping for more adventure and intrigue, more gags, more clues to the ongoing mysteries, more wacky letters page hijinks, and…well, things went in an…unexpected direction in the later years, but I still have plenty of fondness for the series. I think one of the earliest topics on this very site was my desire to go back and reread the full run of Cerebus
now that the last issue, #300, had finally come out. I never did get around to it, but those 300 issues (well, those six volumes of Swords of Cerebus
and the 275-something other issues) are still awaiting my attention, so I’d like to get to that someday, too.
The flipside of this is, of course, the series I don’t really need to reread, and yet I’m keeping them around anyway. I probably don’t need to go through and reread all of the original Swamp Thing series from the ’70s, and the follow-up series from the ’80s and ’90s, as I’ve read those all plenty of times. That doesn’t mean I won’t bust out a single issue once in a while to enjoy, but and extended reread from #1 to the end probably isn’t in the cards for while yet. (I do wonder what new things I’ll pick up, however…which is always the most pleasant benefit from a reread.)
And there’s Sandman, which I read to pieces as it was coming out, and I think I did a reread of the entire series shortly after it was done, but I don’t see myself going through the entire series again anytime soon. But I did like the series, so I will likely revisit it at some point. Though, come to think of it, I think I’d like to reread the Sandman spinoff The Dreaming.
Of course, there are series coming out right now that are on the verge of completion, like The Boys, which I think will benefit from a reread over a short period of time, much like the Azzarello Hellblazers I mentioned earlier.
To summarize: I have too many comics. But I love ’em and would like to read them more often than I really have time for. One of the things this blog does is get me to go through my collection and look at some of the comics that have been sitting there in boxes for a while…I dig through them, looking for things to discuss or poke gentle fun at or simply just throw onto the site to appreciate. So maybe I’m not plowing through full runs of, say, the Garth Ennis Punisher (damn, another one I want to reread!) but at least I’m still looking at my old comics and doing something with them.
…Are any of you in the process of rereading old comics from your collection? Or are you in the same boat, wanting to go look at some old funnybook run or ‘nother and just never having the free time to devote to it? Feel free to let me know…which of course will just remind me of more comics I’d like to go back and look at, and wouldn’t that just figure?
…courtesy reader Dave McK., who responded to my ages-old desire to have a Gelatinous Cube as a player-character in a D&D campaign with this drawing of a Gelatinous Cube as (in Dave’s words) a playa-character:
Once I have finished converting Progressive Ruin to a Gelatinous Cube fan-site, my job on your planet will be done and I can — at long last — return to my people.
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