Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Marvel and DC: Side-by-Side in 1982


Doug: The events of last week's post on 1981 and this one on 1982 are characterized by the rise of the direct market in comic book distribution. No longer were comics to be available only at drug stores and supermarkets. Now specialized "comic shops" sprung up around the country as entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on the hobby's increasing popularity. With that evolution, Marvel and DC not only continued to publish the short "minis", but expanded into what became known as maxi-series. Outside our windows, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (what the heck were they thinking?), Disney's EPCOT Center opened in October, the same month Sony's personal CD player and the Double-Stuf Oreos debuted, and in December Michael Jackson's Thriller was released. And if that wasn't enough, a little film called E.T. was in theaters in 1982. And that aggravating Rubik's Cube became a fad.

Karen: Speaking of comic shops, my first job was in a tiny (the term 'shotgun shack' would fit) mom and pop comic store. I think I started working there around 1981 or 1982. So consequently, i was reading a LOT of comics around this time, since I didn't have to pay for them! Still, I don't recall being all that excited by what I was reading.

Doug: In last week's entry on 1981, I lambasted Marvel for sitting on their hands during that year while DC seemed to make most of the innovations, and further the momentum they were gaining through the mini-series and The New Teen Titans. I think we'll find that 1982 saw Marvel rise up and punch DC right in the mouth.

Doug: In January Superman was featured in yet another mini-series, this time brought to readers by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan.
Phantom Zone #1 delved into the history of the prison dimension. In the middle of New Teen Titans #16, the 16-page preview promoted Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew, a funny-animal strip. Marvel wasn't goofing around with funny animals (although machinations were in place for the start-up of the Star Comics imprint), but instead launched its first direct-only title with Marvel Fanfare #1, featuring Spider-Man and the X-Men in an adventure set in the Savage Land. Yeah -- that would grab anyone's attention. The alien race known as the Brood also debuted in March in X-Men #155 by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum. And in case you thought Marvel was done, Cloak and Dagger turned up for the first time in Spectacular Spider-Man #64. With these three items, Marvel brought to the table elements that, at least to me, characterize the company in this particular era.

Karen: At the time I was really excited about Marvel Fanfare. I don't think that enthusiasm lasted very long though. I still have several issues but I can't say I have gone back to read them in the last 25 years. I always felt the Brood were just an Aliens rip-off, and hated that they got used so much in X-Men.

Doug: The spring months at DC saw a flurry of note-worthy activity. The Saga of the Swamp Thing #1 arrived with the intent of generating interest in the now cult-followed feature film, Swamp Thing. This series was received well, but really took off when Alan Moore arrived a couple of years into the run. In June, one of the victims of the DC Implosion returned to his own series in The Fury of Firestorm #1 by Gerry Conway and Pat Broderick. The same month saw the release of Tales of the Teen Titans #1, a four-issue mini-series that featured origin stories for Cyborg, Changeling, Raven, and Starfire.

Karen: I recall getting all of those Teen Titan mini-series. It was such a novel concept then. Little did we know what it would turn into eventually!

Doug: In the spring Marvel countered DC with some major events of its own. April's cover-dated Daredevil #181 saw the brutal murder of Elektra at the hands of Bullseye. The same month Marvel began publication of the Marvel Graphic Novel series. The first release was The Death of Captain Marvel, where Mar-Vell succumbed to cancer. April also saw the first-ever television ads for a comic book when the G.I. Joe cartoon hawked the comic of the same name, cover-dated July. Marvel had licensed the use of the characters from Hasbro, at the request of the toy giant. To close, the Contest of Champions mini-series came out after many delays. Originally imagined as a 64-page tie-in with the Moscow Summer Games, the project had to be totally retooled after the U.S. boycott.

Karen: Lots of memories from those spring releases. The Death of Captain Marvel was especially notable for me, as I had been a fan of his Starlin days. It was so odd to have a hero die in bed -but a very poignant story. If only they could have left it at that! Contest of Champions was, in retrospect, pretty bad, but I've always enjoyed seeing lots of heroes together -this had the bonus of international ones.

Doug: Brother Blood, who would become a major foe for the Teen Titans, first appeared in New Teen Titans #21 in July. In August scribe Paul Levitz and artist Keith Giffen began an epic when the "Great Darkness Saga" engulfed the Legion in LOSH #290. A month later, Starfire met her evil sister Blackfire in NTT #23. The big news from Marvel mid-year was the release of the Wolverine mini-series, by Claremont and Miller. If Logan wasn't already popular, he certainly jetted to the front after this story.

Karen: I never warmed up to the Wolverine/samurai/ninja thing. But I was enjoying Teen Titans a lot around this time.

Doug: In the fall, Marvel launched a new line called Epic. With the success of Epic Illustrated and the graphic novel series, Marvel was looking for a direct-only, creator-owned style that would be published outside the Comics Code Authority. The first title produced with the Epic imprint was Jim Starlin's Dreadstar. December was big, too, as Marvel Graphic Novel #4 featured the debut of the New Mutants. Again, like some of the happenings at the beginning of the year, when I think of the '80's, the New Mutants are there. Avengers fans can reflect on Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, which featured the first appearance of Monica Rambeau, the new Captain Marvel. She was created by Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr.

Karen: Dreadstar was a title I really liked, and so was New Mutants. It still felt like Marvel was producing a wide variety of books at this point.

Doug: As we close out the year, DC took the annual JLA-JSA team-up and stretched it to a five-issue story that began in
Justice League of America #207 and included All-Star Squadron. Supergirl, still sporting the hot pants-look, got her own book in The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #1. In November, Marvel and DC were at it again with the release of Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans #1, by Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson, the book was printed on Baxter paper and priced at $2. I got a copy of this a few years after its publication, and it was pretty good. I don't know where I'd rank it among the other company crossovers, but it was exciting to see these two teams together. In December, DC's first maxi-series began publication with Mike W. Barr's and Brian Bolland's Camelot 3000. I've not read it, but as a fan of Bolland's work I'm not sure why I've never made the effort!

Karen: Unfortunately I never had a complete collection of Camelot 3000. I really enjoyed the artwork by Bolland though. I think this was the first comic I read that had a gay character in it, too. At the time it seemed really progressive, even if it was a woman who hated being a woman and wanted to be a man!

Doug: Karen and I plan to run a follow-up poll to the one we ran toward the end of March, where we asked those following the Side-by-Side series to rank the most impactful year of the first 8 we've reviewed. In my opinion, it will be difficult to not give 1982 your strongest endorsement for "most impactful" of the latter 8 years. We shall see...


david_b said...

I bought 'Death of Captain Marvel' just a few years ago. It has a moody darkness to it, but otherwise, loved the idea (and gorgeous Starlin art on deluxe paper).

Loved the character, but it felt like a good move.

J.A. Morris said...

1982 was a big year for me as a collector. Sorry in advance for going off here!:
Some other memorable highlights:

I remember it being a pretty good year for Spider-man titles. In ASM, Stern & Romita Jr gave us 'Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut' and a Cobra/Hyde 2-parter. In 'SSM' we saw the beginning of a Doc Ock vs. The Owl story, and Deb Whitman was(mercifully for her)written out of the book.

Byrne's FF kept going, with Galactus and Gladiator showing up.

Daredevil followed up Elektra's death with 'Child's Play', guest starring the Punisher, and Black Widow returned with a new costume.

J. M. DeMatteis brought back Over-mind & Squadron Supreme in the summer of that year.

I've said before I wasn't a big DC fan,but I've always loved 'Crisis On Earth Prime'. JLA and JSA battled Per Degaton and the Crime Syndicate! Here's a nice write-up of that saga:
Not a great year,but a good one.
Once again,I'm surprised those "year by year" books didn't mention some of the above.
I agree about the Brood, they were both unoriginal and overused in the early 80s.

J.A. Morris said...

Sorry,I didn't notice you two commented on the JLA-JSA team-up until after I posted!

William said...

Wow! 1982 was one heck of a good year for me comics wise at least. Stern and Romita Jr. were doing some of my all time favorite Spider-Man stories in Amazing Spider-Man, John Byrne was really starting to roll on the Fantastic Four, Frank Miller was reaching the pinnacle of his epic run on Daredevil and over at DC, Wolfman and Perez were kicking some serious butt on New Teen Titans. Man! I tell you, every one of those books and creative runs were some of my all-time favorite comics. (At least until Byrne replaced the Thing with She-Hulk in the FF).

I agree with Karen about the Wolverine mini-series. I liked it O.K., but I didn't love it. At the time, I actually thought it was a little boring. I really dig ninjas and stuff like that, but for me it didn't really fit Wolverine very well. I think that direction was a bit of a mistake for the character, IMO. I liked him better as more of the Canadian cowboy, tough guy, barroom brawler that he was in the Cockrum/Byrne X-Men days.

Marvel Fanfare started strong, but fizzled out pretty quick for me. Loved the first couple of issues though. I believe Michael Golden did the artwork on both of them, if I'm not mistaken. That's reason enough to buy them right there.

I know a lot of people hold it in some regard, but I wasn't a fan of the "Death of Captain Marvel". I mean it was pretty well written and all, but I've always felt that it's a waste to just kill off a good long-standing character for the sake of one story. I always really liked the character and thought he still had some great potential for future adventures in the MU. Plus I didn't like the retcon aspect to the story either, wherein it was revealed that Mar-Vell had been slowly dying since issue #36 of his own mag. Gee, thanks for sticking that depressing bit of information into an already depressing story. So now, on top of never getting to read any new stories with the "real" Captain Marvel in them again, I can also no longer enjoy ANY of the stories that came after issue #36 without thinking the whole time about what a bummer it is that Captain M doesn't know he has cancer. I mean, so what if he survives that battle with the Super Adaptoid, he'll be dead soon anyway. What fun!

All kidding aside, thanks for reminding me what a great year for comics that 1982 was. In fact that year may have been the apex of comic greatness for me.

J.A. Morris said...

William,I'm guessing that Starlin did that retcon after #36 because he didn't care for the way the series was handled after his departure. Maybe he felt like Mar-Vell "belonged" to him, but that's just my guess, I've never read any interviews where Starlin discusses this.

Redartz said...

Have to agree with William; Amazing Spiderman was having a very good year. Roger Stern is still one of my favorite writers and his recent stories in the book were a treat.

If you'll all forgive a moment's backtracking, I wanted to comment on the wonderful Justice League #200 (cover dated Mar 1982). A great cover wrapped around a fun story with a fine array of creative talent. Still love the scene where Green Arrow and Black Canary are blitzed by the Batman...

During this period (late 70's to mid 80's) DC really seemed to go all out on it's anniversary issues. This doesn't have the same impact now with all the re-numbering; although I did enjoy Amazing Spiderman 600 a year or so ago.

Fred W. Hill said...

Regarding Captain Marvel, it was actually in issue #34, where during his fight with Nitro, Mar-Vell was exposed to the nerve gas that would cause the cancer that would kill him. Ya think even then Starlin meant that cover blurb "Introducing Nitro -- the Man Who Killed Captain Marvel"? Sounds like the usual over the top cover hype, but still .... As to the graphic novel, I enjoyed it because it was such a different type of story and seemed to really come from the heart, especially knowing that a large part of the inspiration for the story came from the death of Starlin's own father. Sure, CM still had lots of story potential, yet the truth was he was one of Marvel's 2nd tier characters who had been underutilized for several years and somehow this story suited him -- enough people cared about the character to make his death meaningful, but his popularity was at a low enough level that it seemed credible that Marvel Comics wouldn't undermine the story by bringing him back to life. And, unless I missed something, nearly 30 years later he's still dead. Then again, they brought Bucky back to life about 40 years after Stan & Jack told us he had been killed during WWII.

Karen said...

Regarding the Death of Captain Marvel, I pulled out my copy of The Art of Jim Starlin: A Life in Words and Pictures, and he says that he batted around a number of typical heroic deaths for the Captain. But then he began thinking about his father's death from cancer six months earlier and that shaped the story. Editor in Chief Jim Shooter loved the idea and that was that.

Apparently Marvel approached Starlin about killing off the Captain, not the other way around.

Fred, they recently DID bring back Capt. Marvel -but it turned out he was a skrull, so who cares, right?


Edo said...

This was a good year for me – I think my comics reading/collecting peaked in 1981/1982. And I loved Marvel Fanfare when it came out; I agree that the series eventually fizzled, but those first 7-8 issues were really good (and there was occasionally some good stuff afterward).
Interesting comments here on the Brood. While I agree that the concept was blatantly derivative, once this story gained momentum X-men became interesting again. This stands in stark contrast to Claremont's apparent stumbling from one (bad) story idea to another since Byrne had left the title (that tepid Dr. Doom/Arcade story, Belasco/limbo, Dracula – need I go on? Seriously, I think the only issues I really liked during this period were Annuals #4 & 5).
As for the Wolverine mini, I dutifully followed it, but was not particularly impressed. The whole ninja angle seemed a bit off, and I'm assuming that Miller influenced this direction, as he was rather preoccupied with ninjas over at Daredevil. This also pretty much officially marked the beginning of Wolvie's meteoric rise at Marvel. . .
And I remember all the hype around Camelot 3000, and never understood it then, nor the high regard still accorded to the series by some fans. Granted, the art was lovely, but the story was pretty uninspired and, I thought, ultimately kind of boring.

david_b said...


Loved your comments on the 'Death of CM'. I generally agree with the depressing tone of revealing his slow decline.

Contrasting with the silliness of the clone stories involving Gwen's return, you feel this is Marvel actually getting serious about closing a chapter on a hero or character, perhaps before he sank more into oblivion.

The Starlin art was spectacular, the deluxe format was exquisite, and in that fashion, it was a creative Bronze success for Marvel. Granted, it was a less-adventurous route than trying to reinvent/reimage CM once again.

But it was, despite a one-shot special, as Fred said: A lovely, tender send-off to a good friend.

dbutler16 said...

I re-read The Death of Captain Marvel last year, and it was still good. To have a semi-major superhero die if cancer seems mundane and surprising, but it allowed all of us to relate to this cosmic character, as almost anyone is touched by cancer. I thought this was a very poignant comic, showing how he copes with death.
I loved Contest of the Champions back in the day. I loved that just about every Marvel superhero was in it, and I loved the introduction of a bunch of international superheroes. I still vaguely remember some Irish female superhero. Was her name Shamrock? Anyway, I thought it was cool at the time, but haven't re-read it in many years, so I'll have to do that sometime soon.
The Great Darkness Saga is one of my all-time favorite story arcs, and I guess I'll leave it at that. Long live the Legion!
Finally, Camelot 3000 was very good, but unfortunately, I've somehow misplaced it, so I've no opportunity to re-reading it without spending $$.

Fred W. Hill said...

Ah, Karen, very clever to bring the good Kree captain back as a Skrull! All things considered, the Skrulls appear to have been used in more interesting and devious ways over the last half of the "Marvel Age" than in the first half, even sometimes as means for a convient cop out ("oh, of course, this character would never have behaved this way -- it was a Skrull all along!").
As for 1982 overall, I was still a Marvel zombie that year but within the next year or two I started buying several DC titles (Swamp Thing became my new favorite) as well as a few independents, such as Cerebus. I remember picking up a couple of Swords of Cerebus collections in October 1983, and then wrecking my car while driving home. Fortunately no one was hurt and I had something amusing to bide my time with when I finally got home.

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