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Tales from the Longbox – Star Wars #38 (1980)

In Tales from the Longbox, Jason Shayer highlights 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.

 

1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38BStar Wars #38 – “Riders in the Void!”
Marvel Comics, 1980
Writers – Archie Goodwin/Michael Golden
Artists – Michael Golden/Terry Austin

A few months ago, Disney announced that Marvel Comics would take over the Star Wars licensing rights in 2015. I thought I’d look back at Marvel Comics’ first go at the series in the late 1970s. Star Wars #38 is seen by fans as one of the best stand-alone comic stories of that series. This fill-in issue was published just before Star Wars #39-44 adapted Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Editor Archie Goodwin does double-duty as writer in this issue with a plot assist from artist Michael Golden. In an interview with TheForce.Net, Golden recalled:

“I told Archie this story that I wanted to do and he loved it, so I sat down and drew it and Terry Austin inked it. After I had sat down to the drawing it, Archie actually called me and said they were actually going to use the story right away, so I finished up the pencils and it went off to Terry Austin to ink. I was originally supposed to write it as well, but because they needed it right away, Archie sat down and wrote it based on my notes.”

“Riders in the Void” kicks off with one hell of a splash page:
1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38p1

A desperate hyperspace jump strands Luke and Leia somewhere far beyond their galaxy. In the darkness of the void, they encounter a strange organic ship that rescues them, but then suddenly attacks them, trying to assess who and what they are. While they prove up to the challenges, the consciousness within the ship seems mad, and as they make their way deeper into the ship, they find the pilot. He turns out to be the last survivor of two long dead races that mutually destroyed themselves and has merged his consciousness with the ship’s controls.

It returns them to their galaxy where it engages an Imperial Star Destroyer, believing it to be part of a constructed reality the computer is creating for its amusement. When the Star Destroyer fights back and hurts it, the organic ship makes quick work of it and realizes that it isn’t much fun anymore. Dropping off Luke and Leia, the mad ship retreats into the void where it belongs and resumes playing its computer-generated games.

As a stand alone issue, it does what it’s meant to do. For a comic book series that’s constantly struggling with making any kind of changes to their cast, this issue turns the point of view around and giving this living ship some character moments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change despite the climax of the story, the ship realizes it wants nothing to do with this reality and fades back into the void and the comfort of its artificial reality.

1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38p2A

1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38p2B

 

However, Michael Golden’s art is simply lovely and stands out as a high watermark in the world of licensed comic books. The detailed inks by Terry Austin add another layer of beauty, providing very clean, very crisp lines. Golden’s art never looked so good.

 

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.

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Tales from the Longbox – Alpha Flight #9-10 (1984)

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.

Alpha Flight #10Alpha Flight #9-10
April-May 1984
Writer/Penciler/Inker: John Byrne

This story takes place in the later half of Byrne’s first year on Alpha Flight, where he was trying to do something different with the team super hero dynamics. After their initial team outing in issue #1, Byrne split the team up and over the next 10 issues, he would dedicated the series to individual story arcs, all working towards regrouping the team for the big climax in Alpha Flight #11-12.
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31 Days Of Horror 2013: Tales From The Long Box – Night Force (1982)

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.

Night Force 01-00fcNight Force #1-8
Aug. 1982 – Mar. 1983
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Artists – Gene Colan/Bob Smith

The creative team of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan were no strangers to a “weird world of terror” as they had collaborated on their successful 70-issue run on Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula, which was the longest running comic book horror series of all time (although I believe that honour now falls on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead).

I’ll admit from the start that I never read this series when it came out. My 11-year-old comic book budget didn’t allow me to push beyond my staples of the Amazing Spider-Man, the Uncanny X-Men, and the New Teen Titans.

What impressed me from a writing point-of-a-view was how Marv Wolfman, who was also writing the New Teen Titans book, could change gears and write a very different book that was not only a completely different genre, but a radically different cast of characters. What was also refreshing was that it was a clear shift from the superhero world. The cast of characters were everyday people who have had brushes with the supernatural or were gifted with paranormal abilities.

New Teen Titans 021-42

The story centered around the mysterious Baron Winters and his attempts to stave off an even more mysterious threat. From Wintergate Manor, Baron Winters would manipulate events and even use the time travelling powers of the manor to affect current events.

Night Force 04-10

The cast of characters for their first outing was tabloid news reporter Jack Gold, granddaughter of Dracula’s nemesis Vanessa Van Helsing, and parapsychologist Donavan Cain. Cain worked for the United States government, trying to find a way to harness satanic forces for their own purposes which was a supernatural arms race with the Soviet Union. Vanessa turned out to a psychic focal point for these satanic forces and Donavan’s research quickly moved from helping the government to helping Vanessa and keeping her alive and sane. The stakes dramatically increase as Vanessa is abducted by the Soviets with their own designs of using her and kicks her teammates into motion to rescue her.

The idea behind the Night Force was that it would be rotating cast of characters the Baron would put together to deal with a supernatural threat. Unfortunately, the first story arc lasted 7.5 issues and was a bit too long as it didn’t allow the readers to see the concept they had in mind in action. Another significant problem was the lack of any kind of sympathy for Baron Winters. I felt his mysterious nature and master manipulator role worked against him. On the other hand, I did enjoy his side trips into the past as well as the hints at his immortality and the suggestion that there were other incarnations of the Night Force.

Night Force 02-0203

Night Force was cancelled due to falling sales with issue #14. In that issue’s letter column, Wolfman advertized that the series would continue as a four issue mini-series, published on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, Night Force wouldn’t get another chance until 1996 and despite that incarnation and one in 2012, the series just hasn’t been able to gain the foothold it needed to be successful. I can’t help but wonder if the title had started as a series of four issue story arcs, it would have fared better.

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 blogs at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com and dc1980s.blogspot.com 

31 Days of Horror 2013: Tales from the Longbox – The Demon #1-4 (1986)

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.

demon1The Demon #1-4
1986
Writer – Matt Wagner
Artists – Matt Wagner/Art Nichols

A tip of the hat to JP Fallavollita who covered issue #1 back in July 2012 – https://biffbampop.com/2012/07/30/tales-from-the-long-box-the-demon-1-1987/

Back in 1986, Etrigan the Demon had last enjoyed a regular series 15 years earlier by his legendary creator, Jack Kirby. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was rekindling the darker corners of the DC universe and a memorable guest appearance by Etrigan in that title was enough to convince DC to give their rhyming demon another chance.

The Powers-That-Be called upon the services of Matt Wagner who was one of the more prominent Indy creators in the 1980s with his creator-owned series, Mage and Grendel. It’s not difficult to see how the themes that Wagner explored with his own anti-hero Grendel and his own dark world were exactly what DC was looking for.

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Tales from the Longbox – Batman – Gotham by Gaslight (1989)

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.

Batman - Gotham by Gaslight-000Batman – Gotham by Gaslight
February 1989
48 page one-shot
Writer – Brian Augustyn
Artists – Mike Mignola/P. Craig Russell

“Wrong. Dead wrong. I fooled all London. And I could fool them anywhere, even in Gotham City, if that’s where I chose to appear.
Batman?
Yes, I know the name. And perhaps he’ll soon have reason to remember yours truly,
JACK THE RIPPER”

This clever preface, written by horror writer Robert Bloch who penned several Jack the Ripper tales, was the perfect introduction to Batman: Gotham by Gaslight .Gotham by Gaslight was the first Elseworlds’ story, basically DC’s take on What If? In this case, it was: What if Batman faced off against Jack the Ripper? Read the rest of this entry

Tales from the Longbox – The Wolverine Limited Series (1982)

Every other week, Jason Shayer highlights 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.

WolverineLS01-00Wolverine limited series #1-4
Sept.-Dec. 1982
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein

After seeing The Wolverine and being disappointed with its wasted potential, I thought a look back at the source material might cleanse my pallet. The Wolverine was Marvel’s second limited series (put out in tandem with the Hercules: Prince of Power limited series in 1982) and featured the creative talents of the legendary X-Men scribe, Chris Claremont, and a young up-and-comer named Frank Miller.

The first issue kicks off with this classic monologue: “I’m Wolverine. I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn’t very nice.”

WolverineLS01-01

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Tales from the Longbox – John Byrne’s Man of Steel (1986)

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.

mos1Man of Steel #1-6
Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Inker: Dick Giordano

I fondly recall collecting Claremont and Byrne’s X-Men and following Byrne over to his classic Fantastic Four run. His short run on the Incredible Hulk was abruptly brought to an end and was one of the precipitating events that led Byrne to leaving Marvel Comics. Marvel’s lost was of course DC Comics’ gain as Byrne took on DC flagship character, Superman.

In the early 1980s, Superman and Action Comics were in a bit of a tailspin and was suffering a bit of creative burnout as they retreated a lot of the 1960s and 1970s. Byrne was just what just what Superman needed. Read the rest of this entry

Tales from the Longbox – G.I. Joe #21 (1984)

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.

G.I. Joe Classics vol 03p004G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #21
March 1984
“Silent Interlude”
Writer: Larry Hama
Artists: Larry Hama/Steve Leialoha

One thing to keep in mind as you read this is that I didn’t read G.I. Joe regularly in the 1980s. I picked up a couple of issues here and there, but I was never pulled into the Joe universe. Even this issue’s impact and influence had escaped me. However, “The Most Unusual COMIC BOOK Story Ever!” is easily the first issue that gets mentioned when I talk to anyone about Marvel’s G.I. Joe comic series.
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Tales from the Longbox – Iron Man #149-150 (1981)

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.

Iron Man 149Iron Man #149-150
Aug-Sep 1981
“Doomquest/Knightmare”
Writers – David Michelinie/Bob Layton
Artists – John Romita Jr./Bob Layton

Iron Man #149-150 is a great two-part story celebrating Iron Man’s 150th issue. Michelinie and Layton would revist this storyline in a sequel published in 1989 in Iron Man #249-250.

Tony discovers that an executive in his company has sold technology to Latveria, a country on Stark International’s black list. Iron Man intercepts the technology before it gets into Doom’s hands, but all that does in infurate Doom who then dispatches his minions to steal the technology back. They succeed and Tony decides to pay a “diplomatic” visit to Latveria and confronts Doctor Doom as Iron Man.

Their discussion leads to a physical confrontation: “You should not have done that, Errand boy. I was going to make your death a swift one!” But before anything can be resolved, one of Doom’s minons with a grudge, Hauptmann, sends them both back in time.
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Tales from the Longbox – Batman #400 (1986)

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.

Batman400backandfrontBatman #400
“Resurrection Night”
October 1986
Writer – Doug Moench
Artists – Art Adams, Terry Austin, Brian Bolland, John Byrne, Paris Cullins,Karl Kesel, Joe Kubert, Steve Leialoha, Rick Leonardi, Steve Lightle, Bruce Patterson, George Pérez, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ken Steacy, Tom Sutton, Ricardo Villagran.

In the fall of 1986, Batman celebrated his 400th issue anniversary and did it in style. Horror writer Stephen King penned the introduction to this issue:

“Maybe the real reason that Batman appealed to me more than the other guy [Superman]. There was something sinister about him. That’s right. You heard me. Sinister. Like The Shadow and the Moon-man of the pulps, like a vampire, Batman was a creature of the night.”

“I’d like to congratulate the Caped Crusader on his long and valiant history, thank him for the hours of pleasure he has given me, and wish him many more years of heroic crime-busting. Go get ‘em, Big Guy. May your Bat-Signal never fail, your Batmobile never run out of the nuclear pellets it runs on, your utility belt never come up fatally understocked at the wrong moment. And please, never come busting through my skylight in the middle of the night. You’d probably scare me into a brain hemorrhage… and besides, Big Guy, I’m on your side. I always was.”
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