I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
I was scared of Marvel magazines. That’s not quite true, but I was definitely intimidated by them, feeling they were a province I was too young to cross into. This was in part because my vague, not-at-all intimate knowledge of Heavy Metal, the preeminent comics magazine of the time was unequivocally not for kids. It was also informed by my one brief encounter with an issue of Marvel’s Howard the Duck magazine, which I innocently picked up at a friend’s apartment, flipping through it casually and almost immediately coming upon a drawing of Howard’s curvaceous girlfriend, Beverly Switzler, completely topless. My age was in the single digits at the time, so the naughty drawing made me a little confused and woozy. The nervousness over stumbling on such an image again (or, more accurately, getting caught looking at such and image) never quite left me, even when I was old enough that it would have hardly been scandalous.
And yet there was an undeniable allure to them, a sense that these were the comics for adults, kept up on the top shelf of the magazine rack rather than down at the bottom at kiddie height. And when I knew one of the issues featured favorite characters, the desire to read the stories only grew. And when I was on the cusp of my teenage years, there were few characters who were more enticing to me than the uncanny X-Men.
Bizarre Adventures was a magazine that Marvel published in the early nineteen-eighties, which was a revamped version of the Marvel Preview magazine series. That title had a broad enough mandate (or confused enough mission) during the course of its run to make room for traditional Marvel heroes, weird sci-fi, horror, fantasy and even Sherlock Holmes. Even though the reconfigured publication drew its name from editions of the preceding magazine that focused on more original, very pulpy creations, Bizarre Adventures launched with more of a commitment to characters that were already established in the comic line. I don’t think I ever saw a copy for sale (which might explain why it only lasted about ten more issues under the new name), but I did have a classmate who had access to them. Knowing my affinity for Marvel’s merry mutants, he was good enough to bring a copy of Bizarre Adventures #27 to school.
The cover promised “Secret Lives of the X-Men” with a cover rendering of original member Iceman, the recently deceased Phoenix and the blue, elf-like Nightcrawler. Though the prospect of “untold stories” was exciting, the truth is that the three stories contained within feel more like filler, the sort of material the publisher kept on hand in case the Dreaded Deadline Doom descended and they needed to give errant creators a break, filling one of the monthlies with a spare, previously unpublished titanic tale. The Phoenix story, for example, found the X-Men’s incredibly powerful resident redhead tangling with Attuma, the arch-enemy of the Sub-Mariner, in a bit of storyline cross-pollination so odd and unlikely that all it needed was Spider-Man to come swinging in to make it seem like it was belonged in an issue of Marvel Team-Up. It was interesting to see Phoenix drawn by John Buscema (the story was written by regular X-Men scribe Chris Claremont), even if the story’s contrivance to get the character into bikini-like couldn’t help but call to mind Red Sonja since the artist was then probably best-known for his efforts on Marvel’s more barbaric titles.
The next story found Bobby Drake, better known as Iceman, off in college in a work written by Mary Jo Duffy and drawn by George Perez. Set at a snow carnival, all the better to exploit the character’s fairly limited powers. When the main weapon in his arsenal is making an ice slide, there are only so many ways to create different, dynamic scenes.
Then the issue was rounded out with another story written by Duffy (with a plotting assist by Bob Layton), this time drawn by Dave Cockrum, then back on the main X-Men title. Fittingly, it featured Nightcrawler, the character for whom Cockrum clearly had the greatest affinity. Of the adventures in the magazine, it was by far the most bizarre, sending the teleporter careening across dimensions with early X-Men villain the Vanisher.
As it turned out, I discovered that there wasn’t anything all that troublesome or daring about these stories, just because they were printed on larger paper in black and white. It could be fun and spirited, but it could also be somewhat mundane. Marvel may have gotten a little riskier with some other magazine efforts, but some of the danger was still shorn away by my encounter with Bizarre Adventures. Clearly, I could venture a bit away from my standard, safer comic stories unafraid.
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents