The Final ’80s Countdown, Part One.

§ April 10th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown, indies § 10 Comments

Okay, the “votes” as such have been submitted, I tallied the results, and now I shall spend the next, oh, few months or years looking at what you folks had to say were your favorite 1980s comic book series!

Well, maybe not that long, but it’s not going to be “1980S COVERAGE ALL DAY EVERY DAY” here or anything, as I imagine I’ll break things up a bit. But I appreciate everyone participating, and I look forward to talking about the various titles you chose.

Which brings me to a couple of things. One, I’m not going to have a whole lot to say about some titles. It’ll probably be obvious when I come to them, particularly since the first comic I’ll be talking about will be one of those. I just haven’t read everything, nor have I formed any sort of concrete opinion on titles with which I may only be passingly familiar. So please forgive my ignorance in those cases, and chime in with your own remembrances if you’d like.

Two, this is hardly a scientific survey, but over a hundred respondents both here and on Twitter give me a good variety. I think my big mistake was not saying “pick your favorite without worrying about whether or not certain titles already got enough attention.” I should have added the request to not look at previous votes before adding your own, like I do with my prediction posts, but what’s done is done, I suppose. I’ve cut off the voting as of Sunday evening, but if you still want to point out your faves in these comments, feel free!

Still, we have a lot of titles to look at, which should be fun. Well, for me anyway, I don’t know about you guys.

Oh, one more thing…there were lots of votes for Elfquest and Cerebus (both beginning in the 1970s), and Flaming Carrot (technically first appearing in the 1970s) so I did exclude them from the process here. However, they certainly paved the way for what was to come, and to be honest Flaming Carrot was truly FLAMING CARROT in the 1980s, so let’s just call all those Honorary 1980s Indies and acknowledge their importance!

To start with, I’m going to tackle all the single-vote getters…none of which should be considered “lesser” in any way, but should instead be presented as examples of just how varied and interesting the 1980s comic market was. Just imagine (or remember back when!) you could walk into a store and see so many of these new on the shelves. What a time.

Oh, and which title did I vote for? We’ll have to wait and see!

And awaaaaay we go!


The Adventurers (Aircel, Adventure, Malibu 1986-1990)

A straight-up fantasy book, from appearances (sorry, didn’t read it, so if I’m missing some nuances, please correct me!), in a time when the sword-and-sorcery thing was slowly on its way out (though Conan was hanging in there). Featuring covers, at least for a while, by Peter Hsu, who had previously worked on the slightly more naked Quadrant and, later, the fantasy title Elf Warrior.

Commenter James says the story and art were well done…despite my teasing about Quadrant, the covers were fine, certainly attention-grabbing. Interior art was by Kent Burles with scripts by Scott Behnke, though the creative team would change as the series went on. Burles would stick around for the most part, it seems.

There were three series over three imprints, with the initial two-issue run from Aircel. That series would pick up with #3 at Adventure Comics, an appropriate place for this title, I’d think. Adventure would reprint #1 of the Aircel run, but not #2, so anyone trying to complete that first series of Adventurers from Adventure and are pulling your hair out trying to find that second issue…well, there you go.

Malibu, the credited publisher on the third series, would issue trade paperbacks of the whole enchilada in 1990. Adventure, Malibu, and Aircel would all be connected somehow, businesswise, though I’m not sure if Aircel was part of Malibu at the time of publication for those first two comics.

Also as James notes, this was a somewhat in demand comic, commanding higher-than-normal prices in those still-in-the-black-and-white-boom days of the comics market. Not as much now, I suppose, so if you were looking to finish your run, now’s the time!
AIRBOY (Eclipse 1986-1989)

I have read one issue of Airboy, and that was the Airboy and Mr. Monster comic from 1987. I talk about it here, mostly in relation to the 2015 Airboy series (which I do praise a bit there, prior to it going a bit off the rails in later issues).

That crossover one-shot probably isn’t really representative of the series as a whole, kicked off in 1986 by Chuck Dixon, Tim Truman and Tom Yeates. It was part of Eclipse’s short-lived attempt (along with The New Wave) at having some really inexpensive color comics on the shelves. Well, it got people to pick it up, and they must have liked what they read since it ran a whole fifty issues (plus the occasional tie-in), which ain’t too shabby.

This was a revival of a Golden Age WWII character, but it was new stories so it still qualifies for “new 1980s comic” because I say so. (This is going to be a problem when we get to a later comic that was primarily reprints from previous decades.) It was popular, it had strong back issue demand for quite some time even after the title’s demise, and it’s still remembered fondly today. Not a bad legacy, I think. Nowadays the one issue people ask for most is #5 with the Dave Stevens cover (pictured) for likely obvious reasons.
Akira (Kodansha 1982-1990, republished in the US by Marvel/Epic 1988-1995)

I know Akira primarily from the stunning and influential film based on Katsuhiro Otomo comics (originally serialized in Japan). I somehow was familiar enough with the comic to recognize that a character or two that popped up in the film for, like, a second, were actually fairly prominent in the comics themselves, but that’s what is to be expected when you try to compress a couple thousand pages of comics into a two hour movie.

It really is a comic I should read, because as amazing as the movie is, I’m certain the comic is even amazing-er, which amazes me that I didn’t pick this up and read it during that Marvel/Epic color reprinting. And I was wondering if that reprint actually included everything from the original manga, and a little calculation shows that the Marvel series totals out to well over 2,000 pages, so I’m guessing so.

I think the problem is that my initial experience with Akira as a comic was seeing it initially with its quite well done coloring. Not that I thumb my nose at black and white books, obviously, but the color is so much a part of how I imagine the story that seeing it in its original form feels…well, weird. Dark Horse later published Akira in six volumes more closely approximating the original work, with right-to-left pages and b&w interiors. Those are out of print now, though it appears Kodansha now has similar editions available for the U.S. market.

Of note are the last two issues of the Marvel/Epic run, which include new “tribute” stories/pin-ups by Western creators that I don’t think have been reprinted elsewhere, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Those Epic issues are still in enormous demand, as it remains the only full-color (and left-to-right reading) version of the story…I mostly blew through a recently-acquired run in short order.

And apropos of nothing, pal Cully (whom you see in my comments occasionally) told me long ago that his daughter, then just a little squirt, would refer to the animated Akira as the “help-me help-me movie,” which I believe is a fair summary.

• • •

If any of you have your own thoughts on these titles, please drop ’em in the comments. I’ll continue my overview of your favorite comics (more one-voters!) later in the week, and hopefully next time I can spend less time explaining what I’m doing here and more time covering more series! Thanks for chiming in, everyone, and I’ll see you all soon.

10 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part One.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I enjoyed Airboy back in the day and even had a letter I wrote published in one of the letter columns. One interesting twist was that the Airboy featured in this title was the son of the original WW II era Airboy, but he got involved with Valkyrie (as seen on the cover to issue no. 5), who had been a German pilot, but she came over to the side of the Allies. She was also the main squeeze of his father during the war, but had ended up in suspended animation. Basically, she’s the Catwoman to Airboy’s Batman…

    Anyway, the comic had a lot of great art by Tim Truman, Willie Blyberg, Tom Yeats, Stan Woch, Ron Randall, and other talented artists.

    As to Peter Hsu, I believe he had been a studio assistant to Wally Wood…which makes sense as his art looks Wood-ish.

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    I’m not a Manga guy (read only a little), but Akira and Pluto are the two Manga titles that I love and consider absolute comic masterpieces.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    I collected all of Eclipse’s 80’s Airboy run and first came across the Heap in those pages (issue #3). A few years earlier, when Alan Moore took over Saga of the Swamp Thing, I became hooked on any and all “swamp-related” comic characters. I went to convention after convention in ’86/’87 to fill in my missing Wein/Wrightson/Redondo original ST issues as well as the early Marvel Man-Thing appearances. Discovering that the Heap was originally a Golden Age Hillman character just made his 80’s appearance even more dandy.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Existential Man:

    Did you also track down Skywald Comics The Heap no. 1 from 1971?

  • googum says:

    I must’ve been asleep at the wheel; but put me down for Nexus!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    R.I.P Al Jaffee.

    He lived to be 102–what a life and career!

    Thanks for the MAD Fold-Ins and “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.”

  • Eric Houston says:

    That Airboy series really is a lot of fun and well worth picking up. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Dixon and cat yronwode about it for Back Issue a few years back.

  • Matthew Murray says:

    The Akira reprints are actually far more confusing than they might originally seem.

    1. The Marvel colour editions with flipped pages and translated sound effects
    2. The Marvel trade paperbacks (I don’t think these collected all the single issues)
    3. The Graphitti Designs hardcovers, that reprinted the Marvel series in five volumes, but didn’t finish collecting the entire series (at least one is maybe still available to purchase new on their website?)
    4. The Dark Horse black and white edition that used the Marvel translation of the dialogue (that was adapted by Jo Duffy), and flipped art from France with the French sound effects (really!)
    5. The Kodansha softcover edition that was the same as the Dark Horse version.
    6. The Kodansha hardcover boxset which is unflipped (right-to-left) and features untranslated sound effects and an (at least partially) new translation.

    This means that in the Dark Horse edition the translation doesn’t always match the sound effects. At one point Kaneda says “We better watch out for those flying bucket things. Remember…? VVVNNNN!” because “VVVVVVVVVVNNNN” is the sound effect they made in the original Marvel edition, but the Dark Horse edition uses the French sound effects “TSHiF” so it doesn’t match!

    Anyway, the Mangasplaining podcast has been reading a volume of Akira at the end of each of their “seasons” and those episodes are worth listening to.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Twitter: “MANDALORIAN with Lizzo and Jack Black and Christopher Lloyd”

    I don’t give a #$&@ about the first 2, but WHO THE HELL DOESN’T LOVE CHRISTOPHER LLOYD?

    “The Adventurers”

    MY GAWD, THAT COVER!! Now I do want to read more of those!


    Alternate title: “Elves N’ Titties”.

    ” Elf Warrior.”

    I still remember the ad campaign! “I’m Perer Hsu and I hate elves!”

    “the one issue people ask for most is #5 with the Dave Stevens cover (pictured) for likely obvious reasons.”


    “R.I.P Al Jaffee.

    He lived to be 102”

    And he didn’t RETIRE til 99. LEGEND.

  • CP Bananas says:

    Yay! This makes me glad I gave Airboy what was essentially a pity vote (since nobody had mentioned it) instead of voting for my real fave: Nexus (who did fine, I’m sure).