Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
I thought a look back at this landmark issue would be appropriate as I’ll be using this timeframe as a setting for our new Marvel Super-Heroes RPG campaign with fellow Biff Bam Poppers Andy and JP.
After the début of Alpha Flight, in The Uncanny X-Men #120-121 (April 1979) and several guest appearances by its member in the Marvel, Canada’s super-hero team earned its own ongoing title. John Byrne, co-creator of Alpha Flight with Chris Claremont, was handed the creative reigns.
“Alpha Flight was never much fun. The characters were created merely to survive a fight with the X-Men, and I never thought about them having their own title. When Marvel finally cajoled me into doing Alpha Flight, I realized how incredibly two-dimensional they were, and spend some twenty-eight issues trying to find ways to correct this fault. Nothing really sang for me. If I have any regrets, it would probably be that I did the book at all! It was not a good time for me.” http://www.comicbookresources.com/features/byrne/
But, let’s get back to on issue #1. It’s a “Dynamic Double-Size” issue with 38 pages of Byrne goodness. The story opens with “You are witnessing the death of a dream…” as the Canadian government has disbanded Alpha Flight and Department H. Team leader, MacDonald Hudson, also known as Vindicator, takes it rather personally. But, it’s his wife, Heather Hudson who refuses to let the dream of Alpha Flight die and unofficially reactivates the team to go up against the menace known as the Tundra.
The first issue really had a strong X-Men feel to it and you can see that Byrne was starting to push and explore the X-Men stereotypes. Guardian’s insecurity matched Cyclops’ early concerns as the leader of the New X-Men, the playful relationship between Sasquatch and Puck was similar to Wolverine and Nightcrawler, and Snowbird was as quiet and powerful as Storm.
Byrne’s new contributions to the team’s roster were the surly and acrobatic Puck and the naïve and mysterious amphibian Marrina. Puck was a uniquely Canadian character complete with his “eh” accent, but would be a solid addition to the team despite his underwhelming powers. Marrina was a bit more of a reluctant hero and carried with her an ominous past that would be dealt with in the next handful of issues.
Alpha Flight came together as a team and defeated this mystically-enhanced monster. Building on this success, the team decided to stay together realizing the good they can still do.
Alpha Flight #1 is a fun blast from the 1980s and reminds you that a comic book can have action, suspense, intriguing characters, and can simply be a lot of fun. Take a chance and find out why Alpha Flight #1 was “ the biggest selling comic of its day — 500,000 copies!!” (http://www.byrnerobotics.com/FAQ/listing.asp?ID=2&T1=Questions+about+Comic+Book+Projects#10)
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.