I Am The Law!

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I’ve mentioned before on this blog that when my brother and I were kids my mother took us on several long camping trips during the summer. We drove to Alaska, across the country to California and back, to Newfoundland, and plenty of places in between. On all these trips we would seek out local comic shops that had been listed in the OverStreet Price Guide. Comics were a great way to keep my brother and I quite in the back seat as my mother drove eight hundred miles across the plains of South Dakota or route 95 in the woods of Maine. 

Visiting these comic shops introduced my brother and I to all sorts of new comics. I am pretty sure that one of the comics I discovered in some comic shop somewhere out there was Judge Dredd. I don’t even remember the first Dredd story that I read. Most likely it was an Eagle comic (US reprints of the British comic 2000 AD). I say that because I did not see a copy of 2000 AD until I was much older. 

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Judge Dredd just feels like one of those comics I have always liked, like Uncle Scrooge or Daredevil. Dredd is a gruff Lawman who sees everything in black and white, but in the hands of a talented writer like John Wagner (co-creator) or Alan Grant, the stories are not just authoritarian tales of the police punishing criminals. They can be excellent science fiction or horror stories. They can be pro-environment or anti-drug stories. They can run the full gamut of action and adventure.  

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The art in Judge Dredd is one of the things that kept me coming back time after time. The character was created by John Wagner, Pat Mills, and Carlos Ezquerra. Ezquerra’s designs are classic and simply amazing but for my money Brian Bolland’s art is my favorite. His art, whether in black and white or color is instantly recognizable and gorgeous. When someone mentions Brian Bolland the first thing that comes to mind, besides Judge Dredd, is his amazing work on Camelot 3000. If you have not read this series it is a must read comic. Mike Barr’s story and Bolland’s art make this story an amazing sci-fi version of the Arthurian Legend. 

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Over the years I read quite a few of the 2000 AD post-apocalyptic tales of law and order but some of the most memorable ones are the stories that featured the Dark Judges. In 2015 IDW published a series of reprints called Judge Dredd Classics featuring the Dark Judges. I probably have most of these stories buried somewhere in my collection, or mixed in with my brother’s comics, but I couldn’t resist being able to read these stories again all collected in one place. With that let’s jump right in with the first Judge Death story, originally published in 2000 AD #149 – 151. 

Judge Dredd Classics: Dark Judges #1

Judge Death part I – III

Creators

Script Robot – John Howard (John Wagner)
Art Robot – Brian Bolland
Lettering Robot – Tom Frame
Colors – Charlie Kirckoff
Editor (IDW) –  Denton J Tipton

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I should start off by mentioning that these stories are reprinted on the standard US comic paper size and in these comics the panels do not take up the full page (see above). I assume this is done to preserve the original aspect ratio. If there is actually a different reason please let me know in the comments. 

The story opens with a dark figure confronting  a small time criminal known as Tiny the Tap as he comes up the stairs. Tiny is bragging how the judges will never catch him when a skeletal figure emerges from the shadows. This “Judge” is horrifying wearing a badge with the name Death inscribed on it. The standard eagle and pauldrons are replaced with a bat and bones. Without uttering a word the Judge reaches directly into Tiny’s chest and kills him. Finally he introduces himself as Death and says that he has come to judge Tiny.

Dredd and several other judges find Tiny’s body but they cannot determine how he died, except for the look of terror on his face. They do find a tissue sample under his nails which gets sent off to the lab. Next we find Judge Death on the prowl, searching for “That Hated Sound” of life. He finds a local discotheque and slaughters everyone inside. Meanwhile the lab reports to Dredd that the tissue sample they found is decomposed and thousands of years old.

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As Dredd and the team of judges called to the disco enter they find Judge Death finishing his work and are overwhelmed by the smell of decay. An all-to-eager judge confronts Death and is killed instantly. Dredd and the other judges use their law-bringers and fire on the dark judge. He falls but almost as quickly rises and proclaims that they “cannot kill what does not live!”.

Chapter two begins with Judge Dredd trying to stop Death with incendiary rounds. This destroys the skeletal body that Judge Death has inhabited, but a ghostly form emerges from the corpse and flies off with Dredd and the others surrounded by bodies and not knowing how to confront their immortal enemy.

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They take the corpse left behind back to the lab and bring in one of the Psi-Divison judges, Judge Anderson to help with this case. Anderson touches the body and tries to communicate with Judge Death. She is successful, and speaking through her, Death tells Dredd that he is from a world where all crime was committed by the living and therefore life was made illegal. Now that they know what the creature wants they have to figure out how to stop him. Anderson theorizes that he needs something or someone to finish his mission since the body he originally had has been lost.

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Judge Anderson returns to her apartment after the ordeal of communicating with Judge Death. The ghostly form of the dark judge shows up outside and takes control of Anderson’s body forcing her to open the window and let him enter. He then possesses her body and forces her to go to the morgue where Death’s skeleton is kept. The doctors try to stop her but she pleads for them to back off, that she is not in control of her body. They do not listen and Death forces Anderson to kick one of the doctors through a window.

Judge Dredd finds the doctor in the street. He tells Dredd that Judge Anderson stole the skeleton and a meat wagon (ambulance). Dredd surmises that since Anderson is a telepath that Death must be controlling her. Meanwhile Anderson is fighting Death’s control over her body and she crashes the ambulance. Death then forces Anderson to carry the body through the streets to their destination, wherever that might be. While all that is going on Judge Dredd gathers a round table of Psi-Division telepaths together trying to reach out to Anderson to help her. One judge gets something from Anderson, just one word – “Boing”. Judge Dredd realizes that this might be important and thinks he knows what to do.

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The judges eventually get Anderson’s location and speed off to try and stop her and Death. In a nondescript lab somewhere Death has forced Anderson to put the skeleton into some kind of tank that then is being filled with fluids that will restore it to a usable corpse. Judge Dredd enters the lab and orders the other judges to seal him in with Anderson and Death. Dredd blows the tank containing the decayed corpse to smithereens. Death forces Anderson to attack Judge Dredd. Anderson has Dredd in her grasp when she tells Dredd to open the Boing tin!

Boing, it turns out, is a plastic gel that encapsulates Judge Anderson completely. Now Judge Death and Judge Anderson are trapped together in some kind of suspended state, unable to do anymore harm, but also neither alive or dead. The story ends with Judge Anderson being placed in a clear coffin preserving her as a hero and trapping the evil Judge Death. 

Wrap up

Well that was thrilling. Originally presented in chapters across three issues of 2000 AD weekly each part of the story builds up the fear and terror that Judge Death inflicts on Judge Anderson and his other victims. The story has a very bittersweet ending where Anderson sacrifices herself to prevent Judge Death from killing anyone else. Brian Bolland’s art really shines here. The character design for Judge Death is simple, really just a play on the existing judge uniforms, but has since become iconic. He is easily one of the most recognizable characters in the 2000 AD universe.

What also gets me are the facial expressions on Judge Anderson. You can really see the strain and anguish on her face when Judge Death first possesses her. When she tells Dredd to use the Boing the strength that it takes to communicate with Dredd is very evident. Across 15 pages we get a lot of action and emotion that leaps off the page.

This story really feels like it could be a TV show. In the first act we are introduced to a new villain. In the second act the villain commits an unspeakable act and then we meet the character who is hopefully going to save everyone. In the finale the good guys stop the bad guy, but at a price. It’s a story that has been done plenty of times before and since but in the hands of two very talented creators we end up with an awesome story that is a lot of fun to revisit again and again.

I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did. I’ll close with a cover from an Eagle Comics issue that features Judge Anderson and all the Dark Judges!

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SuperBlog TeamUp – Chromiun – Daredevil Fall from Grace

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“Collectors Item!” “Limited Edition!” These are buzzwords used by marketing departments to entice us consumers into buying something because we believe it might be collectible and special. At some point in the modern age of comics these same marketing people came up with new and wonderful ways to make a particular comic more special than the one next to it on the shelf. This was done by making the cover more shiny (think chromium and foil stamped), more technically advanced (think hologram images and lenticular plastics), and more shocking (think bullet holes). Sure there were plenty of other ways comic publishers used to draw attention to specific comics; poly-bags, costume changes, and shocking story-lines and events. These gimmicks though were just that, gimmicks, and they often had little or no bearing on the story inside the comic. 

No matter if the cover was foil stamped or poly-bagged there was still a story behind that cover or in that bag and I’d bet for as many comics that were not anymore interesting than the hologram pasted to the cover there were also plenty of good stories, fun stories, stories that were and are worth reading. I expect that in this TeamUp outing many of my fellow SuperBloggers will cover a whole breath of good and bad comics. For my choice I picked something that had plenty of gimmicks but also had a story that when I first read it I liked and still do after reading it for this piece. I chose Daredevil issues #319 – 325, the Fall From Grace story line. 

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The Fall and Winter of ‘93 was certainly a good time to be a Daredevil fan. This series came out when I was only just getting back into comic collecting as a young man. Daredevil had been one of my favorite characters growing up and it was the “Man Without Fear” mini-series from Frank Miller and John Romita Jr that actually drew me back into the collecting world. Fall from Grace was coming out at the same time so it was an easy pickup for me. These six issues carry all the trademarks of the Chromium covered Nineties. There is a glow-in-the-dark cover, a free poster, a new costume for the hero, and high profile guest stars. 

Daredevil #319 – 325 – Fall from Grace

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Creators
By – D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel
Inks –  Callazo & Candelairio
Letterer – Bill Oakley
Colorist – Max Scheele
Asst. Editor – Pat Garrahy
Editor – Ralph Macchio
Edt in Chief – Tom DeFalco

Cover Date – August 1993
On Sale Date – June 1 1993
Cover price – $1.25

We begin with a flashback to June 1963. People with code-names are riding the New York City subway including Eddie Passim, a telepath. They appear to be trying to carry out a chemical attack in the cities underground. Eddie drops a flask to the tracks that does not break. The scene changes to the present and we see Daredevil high above the city. 

A homeless man is attacking the congregation in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. He is ranting about burning it down and wanting to start over. Daredevil intercedes and tries to get to the bottom of why this guy has wigged out. The homeless man gives up and when trying to explain things to Daredevil he mentions the pictures Eddie put in his head. The pictures that made him think he could change and remake himself. Daredevil notes that he’s heard that name, Eddie, quite a bit recently. 

Next we move to the Louisiana Bayou, a man, possibly a voodoo priest has summoned a demon, more specifically, a red, horned devil who happens to be blind (can you see where this is going?). The demon using a white bone club rages about being summoned and attacks the man with the club. He says that he is cursed “into echoing one who wears false red skin and horns” and then swings away, though the bayou using the same white club.

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Back in New York at the Nelson and Murdock law firm Matt is helping a client who cannot afford them. Matt talks about bad memories of the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, I assume referencing a recent story. We cut again to someone unknown at this point, working with Elektra the Assassin. We learn that these are the memories of John Garrett, a cyborg working for S.H.I.E.L.D., who is now being kept alive in a bacta tank. Another cut to the Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson is being pinched by a southern gentleman, named Strang, over control of the paper and unions.  Ben Ulrich is finishing a story about the U.S. Defense department testing nerve gas in the NY subway system in the Sixties. 

Next we move to the Hand, an evil organization of ninjas, who worship the Beast and have been adversaries of Daredevil for a long time. The are breaking into the Pentagon stealing top secret files for a project named “About Face”. After that we are with a military man named General Kenkoy who is trying to hire Silver Sable to find someone named Eddie. Next we see Daredevil, talking to a wounded homeless man about someone named Eddie. The issues wraps with a reminder that everyone we have met so far is looking for either Daredevil or a man named Eddie and we are clued into the fact that things will not go well for these two men once they are found. 

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This issue was all over the place but it introduces the reader to all the major players with enough intrigue that makes the reader want to see what happens next. I thought this was a great start to the story because it introduces all the major story-lines that we are going to get into over the next five issues of Daredevil. This was also my introduction to Scott McDaniel’s artwork and I loved it right away. The heavy inks and dark lines make everything seem more mysterious  and foreboding. I followed McDaniel for quite awhile and my wife enjoyed his Nightwing run considerably. 

I love the cover to this issue. The looming black skyscraper on the stark white background is bold and really jumps off the page. The figure falling draws the eye and no clue as to the meaning is given. I had not read this in years and did not recall the details of the story, so this was almost like reading it for the first time.  The story has the Hand and when are ninjas not an awesome story element. It also has plenty of classic Daredevil tropes, Elektra, Matt having problems with the law firm, Ben Ulrich writing some great piece for the Bugle. Let’s see what happens next.

Daredevil #320 – Fall from Grace – Chapter 1

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Creators
This issue has the same creative team with the exception of the inks – provided in this issue by Avon. 

Cover Date – September 1993
On Sale Date – July 6 1993
Cover price – $1.25

The story begins with another flashback to 1963, this time providing some more details about the subway attack. There were 23 flasks that we were supposed to be distributed and broken through out the subway system. 22 of the people involved completed their mission. The 23rd was Eddie Passim, the telepath, who dropped his flask but remained intact. His flask was the key to the project About Face. It was the catalyst for the attack. General Kenkoy was the man behind it all. After the operatives completed their missions they were eliminated, tying up loose ends to the failed attack. Eddie is seems felt guilty about someone who died during the project and goes on the run, escaping his own assassination. 

Back in the present Daredevil is fighting with someone named the Crippler, who works for Silver Sable (remember they were hired by General Kenkoy to find Eddie Passim). Daredevil has been trying to track Eddie down by talking to the homeless men who have come in contact with him. Daredevil eventually defeats Crippler but his costume is now in taters. 

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We cut to the Hand who are breaking into a S.H.I.E.L.D. base to steal what is left of the man / cyborg John Garrett. We learn that Elektra might have given him something and the Hand want it. Next we travel to the Himalayas where we are introduced to the Chaste. They are a group that opposes the Hand. The man who trained Matt Murdock, Stick, was a member of this group. They are discussing the Hands current plans and what they are going to do about them. 

Daredevil has gone to his former girlfriends apartment, Karen Page, because he needs some fixing up after his fight with the Crippler. On his way to her apartment he returned the Crippler to Silver Sable International with a message for them to drop the pursuit of Eddie Passim. Once Karen cleans up Daredevil’s wounds he gets back to searching for Eddie. Silver Sable attacks him and they go back and forth for a bit. Daredevil tries to convince Silver Sable to give the case up because the guy who hired her, General Kenkoy, is lying to her about his motives and who Eddie Passim really is. 

It seems the standoff between Millionaire Strang and J. Jonah Jameson has forced the Bugle to shut down operations temporarily. Ben Ulrich and his young assistant Sara Harrington are trying to break into the Bugle’s computer system so that Ben can access his files. Ben leaves Sara to her computer hacking, not easy work don’t cha know. Eventually she gets into the system and to Ben’s files. She uncovers and encrypted file that details how Matt Murdock is the vigilante Daredevil. Sara believes she’s stuck gold. 

The issue wraps with Daredevil actually finding Eddie. Things are starting to take a positive turn for our hero when suddenly Eddie flips out, Whether on purpose or accidentally Eddie implants a vague memory in Daredevil’s mind about someone named Theresa going through some awful surgery. As Daredevil starts to question what scared Eddie off the reader is treated to a wide shot where we see a red horned demon with a Daredevil loin cloth just behind Daredevil. 

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This issue provided plenty of answers but also gave us more questions. Daredevil’s costume being torn to pieces over the course of several fights will facilitate the need for a new one, apparently he does not keep a set of replacements back in a secret closet in his apartment. The one thing that bothers me in the story is that if Ben Ulrich had proof in his files that Matt Murdock was Daredevil why would he leave his new ambitious assistant alone to retrieve those files. I like the way the issue ends and the final panel with the Daredevil demon behind Matt, I think it works really well. 

Daredevil #321 – Fall from Grace – Chapter 2

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Creators
This issue has the same creative team with the exception of the inks – provided in this issue by Hector Collazo

Cover Date – October 1993
On Sale Date – August 3 1993
Cover price – $2.00

This issue begins with the demon’s eye view as he follows Daredevil who visits and steals from various textile industries taking different technologically advanced materials that he turns into a new costume. There is a lot of exposition detailing Matt’s apology to the people he is stealing from and his own justification for the theft. The new costume is finally debuted as the demon’s own internal monologue goes into greater detail about how he wants to be free from the voodoo spells that bind him. I suspect this is supposed to be an allegory to Daredevil’s own burden of feeling the obligation to be a protector of the innocent. 

Next we travel all the way across the country to a warehouse in San Francisco. General Kenkoy is talking with a thug over the phone about their plans to use the virus to create an addictive but non-lethal heroin. The General makes a comment that Silver Sable was unable to complete the mission and that they’ll need a new plan. This is the first time that the flask that Eddie dropped in the subway is a virus. 

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After the conversation ends the thug decides that he wants to sample the goods when Venom (yes, that Venom) makes an appearance. He takes mental notes about what he overheard regarding the virus, Eddie Passim, and decides that he might be able to use this information against Spiderman. He then promptly destroys the warehouse and heads off to New York. Back in the city that never sleeps General Kenkoy is visited by the Caste and Ben Ulrich sees on the news that the Bugle is back in business. While is watching TV Ben is being observed from the fire escape by his assistant Sara who has plans to use his files to make a name for herself. 

Next we catch up with Eddie who has finally worked up the courage to get revenge on his old boss, General Kenkoy. The only problem for Eddie is that the General is gone and Daredevil is in his office looking for him. Daredevil and and Eddie talk about that past while horn head analyzes the scene trying to determine what happened. He comes across a sai and starts to think Elektra might be involved. 

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Daredevil and Eddie are interrupted by the horned demon who attacks and tries to capture Eddie. Daredevil can hear the demon but cannot “see” him. As they tussle Daredevil uses blood and fire to get a bead on the demon and ends up chasing him off.  

We jump over to S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters where Nick Fury is bringing in Siege (whoever that is) to track down the Hand and get his missing cyborg Garrett back. The issue ends with the Hand standing around John Garrett discussing their evil plans. It turns out they want to use Garrett to find Elektra. With Elektra and the virus they are hoping to create an unstoppable shadow warrior. 

This issue has it all, the glow and the dark cover, introduces the new costume, and has a big named guest star in Venom. If Marvel was hoping to attract new readers with a fancy cover and guest stars it seems a little odd to do it with an issue that happens in the middle of a story arch. To me this makes it a bit more rewarding for existing readers though. One could argue that by pulling out all these gimmicks in the middle of a complex story the decision makers are banking it being the most important thing and the gimmicks are secondary. If a new reader bought this because of the glow in the dark cover, read it and actually liked it, there is enough here to make them want to go back and get the previous issue as well as keep reading next month. 

Daredevil #322 – Fall from Grace – Chapter 3

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Creators
This issue has the same creative team as issue #319

Cover Date – November 1993
On Sale Date – September 7 1993
Cover price – $1.25

The cover of this issue hearkens back to the prologue cover, with the big, striking image on the left with the white void on the right. One thing I want to note is that there is an ad for Brach’s Rocks, a chewy fruit candy that looks like dinosaur eggs on page 3. I don’t recall ever seeing this candy but I wish I had, I love me some gummy candies. 

This issue starts as all the previous ones have, with a flashback. Nick Fury is remembering years ago when he shut down General Kenkoy’s experiments and his virus program. In the present Daredevil is trying to help Eddie, who remember is a telepath, when Eddie figures out Daredevil is blind. Eddie resists Daredevil helping him at first but eventually gives in. He finally explains what the virus is meant to do. 

Using DNA from a woman, who was also a telepath that the general will eventually kill, he creates a virus. It is a virus that can be controlled telepathically. Imagine the possibilities. Eddie says the virus could be manipulated to help the crippled walk, the blind to see, and as expected, it could be used as a weapon. Eddie talks about the woman whose DNA was used and how he loved her and what she meant to him. Daredevil starts thinking about his own feelings for Elektra. 

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While Daredevil and Eddie are talking they are being observed by Siege, and agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., who now knows what the virus can do. This story is starting to feel like the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” with so many people and groups trying to go after this lost virus. Meanwhile back in their lair, the Hand are getting closer to creating their shadow warriors by taking the essence of Elektra that was fused with cyborg Garrett’s mind. Ben Ulrich is back at work after scaring off a would-be burglar from trying to break into his apartment and Venom is now in New York looking for the “magic” virus. 

After that catch up with all the players we cut to Matt Murdock on the phone trying to get a hold of Nick Fury and getting the runaround. Foggy goes into Matt’s office and gets on Matt about his duties at their firm. Matt gets pissed and tries to brush him off, they argue, and finally Matt storms off. 

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Now somehow, it isn’t really isn’t explained, Siege is using Eddie to try and draw out the Hand, which he does. Just as the battle begins Daredevil shows up and tries to save Eddie. There is a big fight. One of the Hand warriors is killed with a sai and Daredevil senses or thinks Elektra is there. When it is all said and done the Hand are gone, Eddie is gone, and Siege is seriously pissed at Daredevil. 

This issue is a good slow burn where all of Daredevil’s and Matt’s problems are getting to be too much and starting to impact his life, therefore only making things worse. The quick takes as we jump from character to character really ramp up the tension. Daredevil is really has his work cut out for him at this point, Eddie is gone, there are problems in his personal life, he keeps thinking about Elektra, and there is a real demon after him. 

Daredevil #323 – Fall from Grace – Chapter 4

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Creators
This issue has the same creative team with Collazo and Rankin listed as the inkers.

Cover Date – December 1993
On Sale Date – October 5 1993
Cover price – $1.25

The big story here is that Venom is the guest star in this issue. Venom’s first limited series was released early in 1993. That was followed by a couple of one shots and at the time these Daredevil issues were coming out Venom’s second limited series, “The Madness”, was being released. This was certainly the year of Venom so sure, let’s work him into a Daredevil story that is already filled with a huge cast of characters, that makes perfect sense. 

In the opening flashback for this issue we learn how Gen Kenkoy got involved with the Hand after his experiments were shut down at S.H.I.E.L.D.. Picking up right where the last issue left off Siege and Daredevil catch up with some of the Hand. There is another fight and the heroes actually come away with a prisoner. The prisoner doesn’t care for what the Hand is trying to do with Eddie, the Elektra essence, and the virus so he is willing to give up everything he knows to Daredevil. 

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Just as Daredevil, Siege, and their prisoner are catching their breath everyone’s favorite symbiote, Venom, shows up. He wants the Hand prisoner for the same reason as Daredevil, to find Eddie and the virus he overheard being discussed when he was destroying a heroin dealers warehouse, back in issue 320. Another fight ensues and Venom ends up getting away with the Hand ninja as his prisoner. 

In a brief interlude we see assistant Sara selling her stolen story about Matt Murdock being Daredevil to the Bugle’s competition and Foggy tracking down Matt Murdock’s ex Karen Page trying to convince her to help him with Matt. 

Back where the action is Siege and Daredevil are in pursuit of Venom. They eventually catch up to him and there is another battle, this time things are going Daredevil and Siege’s way. Suddenly though Daredevil stops the fight and convinces Venom to back off using some lawyer jive and good doublespeak. Venom actually agrees to leave and heads back to San Francisco. It may seem silly but the dialog and reasoning actually works in the story and the anti-hero has fulfilled his guest star obligations. 

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The issue wraps with Daredevil and Siege getting the information they wanted from their Hand prisoner about what the hand is doing with Garrett and Elektra when someone with a couple of sai reveal themselves to our heroes. Over in the lair of the Hand we get our first look at cyborg Garrett now fully operational, with his partner, Zombie Elektra. 

There isn’t much to recap here. This was a filler issue to work Venom into the comic. The couple of key moments are Sara selling the Daredevil story and the Elektra reveal at the end. It a fun enough issue but there just isn’t enough to move the story along other than two of three panels worth of plot. Things will ramp back up in the next penultimate issue. 

Daredevil #324 – Fall from Grace – Chapter 5

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Creators
This issue has the same creative team with just Collazo listed as the inkers

Cover Date – January 1994
On Sale Date – November 2 1993
Cover price – $1.25

This issue has another super intense cover with the shocking white background, the dark image on the left and Daredevil on the right. There is also another guest star, though not nearly as big a name as Venom. 

Our flashback in this issue is of Daredevil and Elektra with Daredevil remembering his earlier life when he was in love with Elektra. In the present there is a confusing action sequence at the Hand’s secret headquarters where Daredevil is battling the Hand with a new partner, more on that in a minute. It seems Morbius the Living Vampire has only stumbled across the fight but nevertheless he joins the fracas and just makes things worse for Daredevil. 

Daredevil’s new partner is Stone, a Caste warrior, whose weapon of choice is the, you guess it, sai. Stone almost kills Morbius and Daredevil puts a stop to the fight. He helps Morbius buy getting the blood he needs from a blood bank. Once the vampire is no longer in his frenzied state Daredevil conveniences Morbius to help them. They discuss the telepathic virus and Morbius explains the science of how it would need to be transmitted to work which also happens to have been the exact thing General Kenkoy had planned back in the sixties. Morbius always sees the obvious benefits the virus would have on his own problems but Daredevil quickly puts the kibosh on that idea. 

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Morbius then shows Daredevil the latest headlines; “Matt Murdock is Daredevil?”. Now the fit is hitting the shan and we cut to one pissed off Matt Murduck at a greasy spoon with Ben Ulrich across from him. He’s confronting Ben about the story and how bad this is going to be for him. Matt tells Ben doesn’t have time to deal with this. Ben then confronts Sara with the media in full view their argument and his accusations. 

Stone, Morbius, and Daredevil decide to try and track down the missing virus since Morbius has recently spent a bit of time under NYC. They are met by cyborg Garrett and Zombie Elektra. Of course there is a fight and Zombie Elektra takes out Stone. As soon as that happens she and Garrett get the chills as the sense a presence, something that is part of them and they take off. We are left with an extremely bewildered Daredevil when dun-dun-duh Elektra shows up, now sporting a shaved head and white costume instead of her traditional red togs. 

The issue is fast paced and wild. It speeds up the action and tension. It also does a great job of building to the inevitable climax. Bringing Morbius into the story is an interesting choice and really only serves the purpose of having a scientist available to Daredevil to explain the General’s original plans.

Daredevil #325 – Fall from Grace – finale

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Creators
This issue has the same creative team as issue 324

Cover Date – February 1994
On Sale Date – December 7th 1993
Cover price – $2.50

This is a double sized issue with a double size price. There is note on the splash page stating that this issue marks the 30th anniversary celebration of The Man Without Fear  and thanks Stan Lee and Bill Everett, the creators of Daredevil. It think it is pretty neat that this note is left on the inside instead of being splashed all over the cover, which would have taken away from the art, and all the covers in general. This issue also contains a poster with the main characters from the series and the series logo on it. I’d post a picture of it by my copy in still in the comic. Now with that out of the way let’s wrap this story up. 

Instead of a flashback we get a nice recap of what has come before, a note about the virus, how the death of the woman Eddie loved led him to losing the virus, and how the Hand has trying to create a shadow warrior out of the essence of Elektra and the virus. We are reminded that Morbius is getting in on the shenanigans and that there is still a nasty red demon out there. 

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And speaking of red demons the action starts right away with Elektra and Daredevil fighting the horned beast who just wants the virus so he can become a real boy. They chase him off and then start to bicker about how and why Elektra is back from the dead. 

We get an interlude where at Matt Murdock’s apartment building Foggy and Ben Ulrich confront, trying to make a name for herself, reporter Sara as she and her new editors are breaking in so they can get the story. To their dismay they find dark rooms filled with safety protection on furniture and braille maps and books, you know, stuff that a blind man might use. After everyone gets a look at the place the editors storm off and Sara’s story is sunk. With that out of the way we check in on the Hand, who are finally in the subway with Eddie, Garrett, and Zombie Elektra and not having any luck tracking down the vial Eddie dropped thirty years ago. 

Morbius has also headed into the subway on his own. He starts questioning some of his old homeless buddies about Eddie. One guy mentions that he probably won’t find what he’s looking for because the Transit Authority tore up all the track in the area Eddie was always talking about. And there it is, the key bit of information that is going to move this story forward. 

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Elektra and Daredevil catch up to Morbius and put a quick end to his search. They continue their conversation from earlier and Elektra finally opens up about why she came back. She’s there to reclaim that part of herself that was stolen and is now in Zombie Elektra. She didn’t want to have to deal with Matt. 

Later in Matt’s apartment he is trying to track down where the materials from the subway excavation ended up. Karen Page comes by trying to convince him the secret identity news cycle has past. Matt tells her about Elektra and brushes her off. Karen storms off only to return a few minutes later. Realizing that neither one of them can be that cold or cruel to each other they cry and embrace. It is just a sign that Matt’s love life will always be a mess. 

Back in the subway the Hand figures out about the work done in the tunnels. The red demon “sees” this as well. Meanwhile Daredevil and Elektra have finally tracked down the vial containing the virus that everyone has been searching for, and it wasn’t under a V-shaped palm tree. Conveniently the Hand, cyborg Garrett, Zombie Elektra, the red demon, and Eddie all show up looking to relieve  the heroes of their well found prize. 

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The action comes quickly now. General Kenkoy is trying to exact revenge on Eddie Passim for blowing the whole thing years ago. Eddie has finally got it together enough to stand up to the General. In a move that is pretty over the top Eddie uses his telepathic powers to destroy Kenkoy’s mind. 

Daredevil and Elektra are feeling pretty outnumbered and actually consider that they might not make it out of this. Elektra is not having that. She did not come all this way to fail in her quest to reclaim that bit of her that was stolen. Daredevil makes a last ditch effort, and takes the vial with the virus in it smashing it right into the red demon’s face. He gives the demon exactly what he wanted, life. The catch though is that with life comes death. Just as the demon is realizing he’s finally got what he wanted Zombie Elektra runs him through with her sai. 

Siege shows up to help even the odds against the Hand. Elektra the white goes toe to toe with Zombie Elektra to get back what is her’s, literally. They trade blows and and Zombie Elektra starts to get the upper hand. In a real which twin is the good twin moment Daredevil throws one of the sai he has recovered hoping. Elektra flips Zombie Elektra into the path of the oncoming weapon. The essence of Elektra leaves the dead Elektra and returns to the winner. 

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The Hand start to retreat. Siege takes out Cyborg Garrett. Siege than points out what happen to the demon to Daredevil. The form is now a human corpse that looks just like Matt Murdock just with big red horns. Meanwhile Elektra is struggling with her own “demons” now that she is whole again. 

The story wraps up with an epilogue. A news broadcast reports that the body of lawyer Matt Murdock has been found and is being investigated in relationship to the false story about him being Daredevil. It seems Sara has also been arrested for computer crimes. Yup back in the nineties we didn’t have the cool term “cyber crimes”. Ben Ulrich starts writing about Matt Murdock – The Man Without Fear. As Ben writes about Matt we are shown scenes of those people that loved him. We see Karen and Foggy morning. We also see a lone nun weeping in a church. 

Matt, now wearing a trench coat, approaches the nun. They obviously know each other. He tells her that he’s indeed alive and okay but that he’s no longer Matt. In a touching moment he refers to her as mother and she decides to call him – Jack, Matt’s father’s name. In the closing scene we see Daredevil in his new armored costume flipping around the city pondering why he never thought to use the virus on himself. 

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Well that’s it. This story launched a new era for the Man Without Fear. He had a new costume and a new lease on life. With his alter ego dead to the rest of the world he was free to reinvent himself. I honestly need to go back and read some of the stories from this era. At the time all the changes were a pretty big deal for the character who had basically been fighting crime in Hell’s Kitchen for quite a long time. 

The new costume was not well received by comic fans, not me though, I like it at the time. He’d actually return to the classic costume less than two years later in issue #345. New costumes were a big part of the era of excess. Captain America, Superman (Electric blue), Batman (Azreal), Wonder Woman and plenty of other heroes received new outfits. Bright shiny armor, leather jackets, and trench coats were often key features of the new looks. 

The cover gallery for this series of issues I thought was excellent. The art was great and the layouts were striking. I also love the glow in the dark cover. It evokes the way Daredevil’s radar vision is often depicted and I think it works wonderfully. Glow in the dark covers were just one of the myriad of gimmicks used. If it was possible it was done. Foil stamped. 3D. Wrap around and connected. Die Cut. Holograms. And of course there was CHROMIUM. The possibilities seemed endless. At the time it was exciting to see what the publishers could come up with. Fancy covers certainly meant more money could be charged though and for that reason the gimmick was widely over done.  

When I read this series as it came out I like it quite a bit. I really loved McDaniel’s art, and still do. The story was exciting and well written. And hey, they brought Elektra back. I enjoyed rereading it for this piece as well. While many of the tropes that were used in this story have been used to excess over the years I think they work fine here. Daredevil’s secret identity being revealed to world works to add tension to the story but is not the main plot line. The demon and guest stars do not add a whole lot but they don’t necessarily feel out of place. Finally a good Daredevil story has ninjas and this story certainly has got plenty of them. 

At the beginning of this piece I mentioned the “Man Without Fear” mini-series.  That story was a retelling of Daredevil’s origin, and it was an excellent series. So in the Era of Excess, the Chromium covered Nineties, Daredevil got two excellent stories. One retold where he came from and the other opened up a world of possibilities. 

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Well if you made it through all that I have to recommend that you check out the other blogs and podcasts participating in the SuperBlog TeamUp. They are all excellent bloggers and podcasts who are passionate and love discussing comics. Most of us were collecting during the Chromium Age and have great stories to share. Please check ‘em out, you won’t regret it. 

Super-Hero Satellite: 70s-80s Photo Covers. A snapshot of pre 90s era of gimmicks, the evolution of a trend through the years. https://charltonhero.wordpress.com/2020/01/22/super-blog-team-up-chromium-the-great-photo-cover-swindle/

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Blog): Adventures of Superman #500 (White Bag/Lenticular Cover/etc.)
http://bit.ly/AdvSup500

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Podcast):  Episode 33: Team Titans #1 (1992) Five Variant Covers… and five variant stories!
https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-wh7un-d061a0

Comic Reviews by Walt: The ’90s Revisited: Shiny Covers
https://comicreviewsbywalt.wordpress.com/2020/01/22/super-blog-team-up-the-90s-revisited-shiny-covers/

Source material: Spider-Man Torment (issues 1-5) by Todd McFarlane – https://www.spreaker.com/episode/21862584

The Telltale Mind (Geoff) – Worlds Collide – The Intercompany Crossover
http://thetelltalemind.com/2020/01/22/worlds-collide-the-intercompany-crossover/

Between The Pages – Guerilla Marketing
https://betweenthepagesblog.typepad.com/between-the-pages-blog/2020/01/guerilla-marketing.html

DC In The 80s –
Justin’s 5 most memorable DC “gimmicks” (1990 – 1995): robin II hologram covers, spectre glow-in-the-dark covers, Justice League Task Force #1 with JLA membership card, Batman Shadow of the Bat #1 collector’s issue, #5 undecided.
Mark’s most memorable DC comic cover “gimmicks” (1980 – 1989)
http://www.dcinthe80s.com/2018/03/super-blog-team-up-january-2020-edition.html

Comics In The Golden Age (Mike) – Fawcett’s Mighty Midget comics.

Unspoken Issues – Darkhawk #25 – https://www.spreaker.com/episode/21862604

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog Connected Covers gimmicks – New Teen Titans 37/Batman and the Outsiders 5
https://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2020/01/batman-and-outsiders-meet-new-teen.html

When It Was Cool – Polybag It! The Blight of the Polybagged Comic Book
http://www.whenitwascool.com/superblog-team-up-polybag-it

Pop Culture Retrorama – Chromium… Glow In The Dark Covers
https://popcultureretrorama.com/2020/01/22/super-blog-team-up-chromium-glow-in-the-dark-covers/

In My Not So Humble Opinion – It Came From the 1990s: Force Works #1  – Pop-Up Cover
https://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2020/01/22/it-came-from-the-1990s-force-works-1-3

Black & White and Bronze Comics Blog – Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine 1968. Stan Lee’s foray into the magazine format.
https://blackwhitebronzecomics.blogspot.com/2020/01/super-blog-team-up-shades-of-gray.html

Posted in Superblog Teamup | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Christmas with Archie

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The Christmas season a wonderful time of year that I enjoy more and more as I grow older. I like the hustle and bustle of shopping with my wife as we search for gifts for the family. We decorate the house right around Thanksgiving and reminiscence about when we found some of our favorite decorations. The house becomes a lovely refuge from the cold winter winds. I watch Christmas cartoons which tell wonderfully wholesome stories and I get to revel in the glory days of hand-drawn cell animation. I  wax nostalgic about my childhood with my brother where we set aside time in the evening to watch those terrific specials. This year I was invited in the #ComicsCircleOfLife Christmas card group. It has been great fun sending and receiving cards to and from strangers whose voices I’ve only ever heard on a podcast or interacted with on Twitter. That leads me to one of the most fun things about the season, Christmas comics!

Growing up one of the things that my brother and I could count on for a Christmas gift, besides a Lifesavers Story book in our stockings, was a small pile of comics where our mother would clean out our pull lists from our comic shop. Occasionally we would receive a gift card from our grandparents or friends so that we could buy some post Christmas comics too. There were also some special Christmas comic gifts, like the year that Longmeadow Press released the Complete Frank Miller Batman with a faux leather cover. My brother and I each received a copy and it has been proudly displayed on a shelf where ever I have lived since. Comics have been a part of Christmas for me as long as I can remember, and that is why I desperately wanted to get something written this season.

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I found this copy Archie’s Giant Size Series #181 in a comic shop in Vermont back in October and I thought it would be a perfect subject for this month’s post. It is filled with fun Archie shorts and silly gags that are great for a comic like this. I assume some of the material is new and some of it is reprints based on the different styles of the art. Like many Archie comics from the era I do not know who the creators are for the stories but I believe Dan DeCarlo was one of the main guys at this time. 

According the Mike’s Amazing World of Comics this was released in Oct of 1970, and it bears a cover date of January 1971. The cover price is 25 cents and this is a double sized issue so in my humble opinion it is a great deal for a quarter. The cover has great gag where Archie appears to be quite generous with his Christmas gifts to his pals but is happy to receive a couple of kisses from the lovely Betty and Veronica. Let’s jump into the comic itself. 

Archie in “If the Spirit Moves You”

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The first story starts with Archie, Jughead, and Veronica shopping when they witness a familiar scene where a mother is scolding a young boy, who must have been misbehaving, telling him Santa doesn’t give toys to bad little boys. The child quickly tries to recover by telling mom that he’ll be good. Now Archie and his pals are too cool for school and cannot believe that this mother would try to get her son to behave by telling him about Santa. They don’t understand why parents even bother with the Santa myth when there are guys dressed as Santa in every department story and on every street corner, just messing with a child’s mind. 

They carry on their cynical conversation as they go to Pop’s hamburger joint and start grilling him on what he thinks about the commercialism of Christmas and the notion of believing in Santa Claus. They argue with him saying that kids should learn early on you don’t get something for nothing and maybe they wouldn’t be so mixed up. Pop tries to convince them it is good for children to have vivid imaginations when they are young to no avail. Veronica invites the gang back to her house to sit around the fire. 

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Betty makes an off hand comment that it would be nice if Santa were real, that way she’d get a gift that she either needs or wants instead of the pajamas she gets every year. Archie declares that he hears bells and goes to investigate in the backyard. The gang finds a pile of gifts of things they both wanted and needed all addressed from Santa. They are all flabbergasted and Archie’s leaves us with a bit of wisdom that maybe they don’t really know if Santa is real or not.  

That story is followed up with a couple of one page gags, one featuring Jinx and another featuring Jughead. 

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Archie in “Surprise Package”

The next story features Archie and Jughead making Christmas deliveries. The best part of this story is we get to see Archie’s hot-rod and Jughead decked out in a full leather jacket covered in hippy-dippy fringe. 

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Archie and Jughead are speeding along with a back seat filled with gifts that have to be delivered to customers right away. Jughead remarks that he can’t stand to see all these packages all wrapped up and wants to know what’s inside. He tells Archie that he is great at guessing what the contents of each box are. As they make their first delivery Jughead takes the package to the door where he tells the lady of the house that he’s delivering her electric can opener. Her husband angrily declares that the package was supposed to be a SURPRISE! Jughead learns he’s got to keep that information to himself going forward. They are making one of their last deliveries and Jughead simply cannot tell what is in the box. Jughead drops it off and remarks to Archie that the house they just visited was different from everywhere else. It was the poorest looking house and had the smallest box delivered. Jughead can’t let it go and runs back to the house, begging the mom to tell him what was in the box. Turns out it is a bible for her kids! This story closes with a religious message, a little heavy handed, but not offensive or anything.

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Archie in “Trail’s End!”

This story is one of the ones that I believe is a reprint. The art style is a bit older and than the rest of the issue. The characters are a little stiffer and simpler looking, for lack of a better word. The story begins with Archie and Jughead coming across footprints in the snow. Archie believes they were made by Veronica and takes off with Jughead giving chase. 

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Eventually the foot prints are joined by another set and they are facing toe to toe. Archie surmises that Reggie meet up with Veronica and was kissing her. This sets him off in a rage and he sprints off again. Betty comes across Jughead and he explains what’s got Archie so crazy. Betty examines the tracks and says the person who made them is in heels and Veronica wears flats. They are trying to figure out whose tracks they are when Moose comes running along thinking that someone is walking with his girl Midge!

Betty and Jughead eventually catch up with Archie at the bowling alley where it turns out Reggie is with Midge. Archie realizes his mistake but Jughead tells him that he’s covered Reggie’s footprints up with is own and that once Moose catches them he’s a goner. Since this is a bowling alley Jughead switches Archie’s boots with Reggie’s without him seeing. Moose finally gets there and when he checks Jughead and Archie’s prints they don’t match. Reggie, who knows that being out with Midge could be problematic decides they should leave separately. He also wants to find whomever has his boots. He runs right into Moose who sees the foot prints are an exact match for the ones he has been following and slugs Reggie. 

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Archie in “Party Smarty”

This story hits home for me, which I’ll discuss in a bit. This story features Mr. Weatherbee and the staff of Riverdale High. Mr. Weatherbee is fuming about why the staff always ask him to play Santa Clause at the Christmas party. After he rants for a bit Miss Beazley, the lunch lady, says flat out they want him to be Santa because he’s got a big belly. 

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Mr. Weatherbee storms off and the rest of the teachers come across Coach Kleats, another portly teacher, and declare he’ll be the perfect replacement. They dress him and up and he’s perfect. As they rush off to the party, so pleased with themselves, Mr. Weatherbee asks the coach if he can see him for a moment. In the end Mr Weatherbee pulls the old switch-a-roo and decides he likes the roll too much to actually give up.

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There are a couple of more stories in the magazine but these were really the best ones. Overall the comic was a good read and featured some classic Archie gags and goofs. I’ve got one more story to share though, one that the Mr Weatherbee story made me think of. 

Over the years I’ve dressed up as Santa Claus on many different occasions. I’ve got a good figure for the job and I guess a pleasant enough personality for it (but I think it is mainly my figure that makes it work). It started in high school and I would dress up as Santa for the annual Christmas fair at our church. I inherited the job from one of the members as I was getting to be a good size for the costume. Years later I dressed up as Santa for a Christmas party at work where everyone got to bring their children in for games, crafts, and a picture with Santa. It was always a lot of fun, especially when I knew the kids but they could not figure out it was me in the coat and beard. 

The most special time though was when I was a senior in high school and a freshman in college. Those were the years where Christmas started becoming less about the gifts and more about the season and what it meant to myself, my family and friends. I dressed up as Santa on Christmas day and with my mother, we visited some of the church parishioners who were in the hospital. I would go into their rooms being as jolly as I could and ask them if they had been good for Christmas. In these cases these were older people who had to be hospitalized and were not able to be home with their families on Christmas day. 

In one case the gentlemen I visited happened to be on a lot of medication and was pretty out of it. Several weeks later in church he approached me and asked if I had visited him in the hospital. I told him I had and he said that he was on such strong medicine he really though Santa had visited him and had told his wife about it. He thanked me for that and I’ve never forgotten it. He was a sweet man and I was glad that my mother and I visited him that Christmas. Just like Mr. Weatherbee, dressing up as Santa, was a lot of fun and I cherish those memories. 

I’ll wrap this up with a pin up and very Merry Christmas and Holiday wishes to you! Thanks for stopping by!

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Posted in Featured comic | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Thrill of the Hunt Part I

Groo The Wanderer Special #1

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The hunt for specific comics is one of the most thrilling aspects of the hobby. One of the comics I collect is Groo the Wanderer and a few years ago I decided that I was going to try and find every possible appearance of the character. Using the internet, The Comic Book database site, Comic Vine, and some fan sites I put together a pretty comprehensive list of comics and appearances. Groo has never been a comic for the masses and generally speaking most of the comics on the list would not be very expensive. Probably the biggest challenge that I would experience on this quest would be that because he is not the most popular character dealers do not typically bring a lot of Groo comics to shows.

Over the last couple years I have done quite well crossing items off my list. I have all the Marvel issues (#1 – 120) with the exception of nine issues from late in the series. I found the first couple of appearances in Destroyer Duck #1 and Starslayer #10. I found all 12 issues that were published by Image at one dealers booth at the Baltimore comic con two years ago. The most difficult issues to find have been the ones published by Pacific Comics and the Eclipse Comics Special that was released after Pacific went out of business. 

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Pacific Comics was a special company. They started off in the distribution business and eventually got into publishing. They started working with Jack Kirby to publish Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and branched out from there. They specifically offered creators the opportunity to publish their own characters and retain the rights to them, something the big two were not ready to do quite yet. Enter Sergio Aragones. Sergio had been working on Groo for years and Pacific Comics was the first place he, together with  Mark Evanier, were able to put out a series for Groo. In all Pacific published eight issues of Groo the Wanderer.

I was able to get the first three issues of the Pacific run pretty easily. I still see the first issue in dollar bins from time to time and on those occasions it comes home with me. The later issues, #4-8, were more challenging. A couple of years ago at the Boston Fan Expo I found #5, 6, and 7 at a dealers booth selling them for five dollars each. I don’t normally like to plunk down that much money for a comic that I could just as easily find in a dollar bin, but for these I happily made the exception. I picked up #4 in Baltimore, I don’t remember for how much. All that was left was #8 and the Eclipse special and this year at the Boston Fan Expo I finally found them.

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As my friends and I entered the convention we stopped at the first dealer near the door and decided to make our game plan. As we all had different goals, we split up and I started looking through the full sets the dealer was offering. In the very first box they had a complete run of the Pacific series and the Eclipse special! The problem was there was fifty dollar price tag on it. I could not bring myself to pay fifty dollars for two comics I needed and seven that I did not. I thought about asking the dealer if they would break up the set but decided against it, why would they do that for me? I moved on to their individual books starting with the five dollar ones. In the first box about a quarter of the way in, I came across Pacific Groo #4, then #5. I started to feel that familiar excitement that comes with searching for something and the likelihood of finding it has just increased. The same dealer appeared to have a partial set and was selling the individual issues. Dare I think it that he might have one of the two issues I needed? I proceeded with caution, #6, and #7 were there. Finally there is was, #8. I hurriedly pulled it out in order to purchase it. As I took it out, right behind it was the Eclipse Special! 

I could not believe my good fortune. Here was a dealer that not only had a complete set of Groo comics that contained two of the issues I had been searching for several years for, but he also had individual copies of the exact two issues I wanted for my collection. The story does not end there though. I finished looking through all the boxes this dealer had and pulled out a couple more comics including in a DC Comics Presents #41, one of the last few issues I need to complete that series. When I was ready to settle up my bill the dealer turned out to be the same guy I made purchases from the previous weekend in Connecticut at TerrificCon. 

What was so special about this dude was that in Connecticut I had found the last issues I was looking for to complete my collection of Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and Atari Force. In a matter of two weeks time I had purchased comics from the same vendor and completed three different collections.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The comics in my collection are for reading, when I am at a shop or convention if I find a comic I am looking for I don’t give much consideration to the condition of the book. I generally prefer that there is not any writing or drawing on the cover and that the comic is readable without all the pages falling out. When I went to read the Groo Special I took it out of the bag and I could not believe the condition that it was in, it was amazing.  

The cover is a heavier stock than normal comics, not cardstock but sturdy and the paper felt like the high quality Baxter paper that was being used in the mid eighties for premium books. This issue looked and felt like the definition of a mint condition comic. There is not a single break or crease in the spine. The front and back covers were completely square without a mark on them. The paper inside was white, the color popped on the page, and there was not a mark anywhere to be found. As I was examining the comic I actually thought to myself that I should get it graded. I have never had a book graded and I don’t much care about the graded comics collecting but this was so pristine I thought it would be neat to see how high it would come back. Of course I did not do that, instead I went ahead and read it. 

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Creators
By – Sergio Aragones
Linguistitian – Mark Evanier
Letters – Stan Sakai
Color – Tom Luth

The first story, according to the introduction on the inside cover, was intended to be published by Pacific Comics but at the time their publishing business was in a lot of trouble and they could not afford to print this story. The folks at Eclipse stepped in and got it done. This story is about how Groo got his famous katanas. In this case, the Sage and Groo tell the tale to a group of travelers while sittings around a fire. 

The story begins with a battle and Groo doing something wrong. Surprise surprise. Emperor Fuchikaka and his army, with Groo, are winning a great battle when Groo is given the order to go and tell the men that they are to REPEAT what they had previously done that had been so successful. Groo happily takes the order but when he gets to the top of the hill where he is supposed to deliver his message he yells, RETREAT, instead of REPEAT. Emperor Fuchikaka’s forces are mystified by this direction but feel they must follow the order so they retreat. Both armies cannot believe what has happened. Groo is finally realizing that he has erred and is summarily taken prisoner by Emperor Sakisama’s men. 

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It turns out that Emperor Sakisama is a coward. He does not lead his army into battle and his generals berate their sad sack leader about this. The generals are discussing what had happened during the battle and how they won due to Groo’s sheer stupidity. It is world renowned stupidity after all. At the same time Groo and the other prisoners are being led past the building where the generals are conversing when one of them notices Groo. They yell for the guards to bring Groo before Emperor Sakisama. It turns out that Groo is the spitting image of the Emperor. 

The generals devise a plan where they will dress Groo up in the Emperor’s armor and give him the Emperor’s swords. Groo, who loves a good fray, will lead Emperor Sakisama’s army into battle posing as the Emperor. Groo agrees to this and thus his training begins. It does not go well. The armor is too heavy and the Emperor’s swords, the famous katanas that this story is about, are too long for Groo. He does like the new weapons though and once he begins practicing his swordplay on prisoners he becomes quite adept at using them, getting so good that he can slice a swarm of bees in half, bee by bee. 

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Eventually the time comes to put the plan into action. Groo, dressed in the Emperor’s armor and carrying his weapons, is to lead the army into battle for the first time. The soldiers show their usual disdain for their leader when suddenly Groo charges headfirst into their foes army. Everything goes according to plan and Emperor Sakisama’s forces are victorious. Groo is thrown back into his cell, fed, and the Emperor takes all the credit. It is a win win situation as Groo is quite happy to fight and eat. As time goes by the Sakisama army keeps racking up victory after victory while at the same time his old adversary Fuchikaka has no idea how he is doing it. He remembers Sakisama as a coward. 

While discussing how Sakisama is accomplishing all these victories with his general’s he is reminded that they lost to Sakisama because of Groo and no other reason. Taranto, a military man whose plans are usually foiled by Groo, makes a joke that Sakisama’s men probably captured him and made him Emperor. The meeting is broken up by a guard announcing that Sakisama’s forces are attacking Fuchikaka’s kingdom. There is a furious battle during which Taranto and the other generals are amazed at how well Sakisama fights. Taranto eventually realizes it is Groo and tries to reach out to him. 

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Groo is flaying his swords about and he slices one of the horns off Taranto’s helmet before he realizes it is his old friend. This is actually a pretty awesome scene because after this point Taranto will always be drawn with his helmet having one half horn and one full horn. Taranto convinces Groo to tell Sakisama’s army to surrender and that Fuchikaka will reward him. Groo agrees to do this but instead of telling the men to surrender as if he was their true leader, he removes his armor and tells them as Groo. This completely backfires and makes Sakisama’s men so angry believing their true Emperor was taken by Fuchikaka’s men that they double their efforts and finish their conquest of Fuchikaka’s kingdom. Realizing that Groo has again made a mistake he flees only to become a “man without an army” left with nothing but memories and the Emperor Sakisama’s swords. 

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The next story is introduced by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, as they are often depicted working together in various stories, as the first full length Groo story that Sergio created back in 1977. The story follows Groo as he tries to save a pretty maiden from the awful Kolas who attack her village. Groo mistakenly kills her returning husband, thinking he is part of the Kola horde. He eventually discovers that the Kola are a society of monkey-like creatures who capture  women and make them slaves to sing for their pleasure. 

The Kolas let Groo go as they only want the women to sing. Groo feels bad leaving all the women behind and tries to figure out to free them. He eventually comes up with a plan to make musical instruments for the Kola to play and make music instead of having the women sing for them. The plan backfires as his gives the instruments to the Kola who in turn decide to force their female slaves to sing AND play the instruments from Groo. Groo decides that he tried to think his way out of the problem and that did not go well so he goes back to what Groo does best, using his swords. 

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The comic wraps up with several pages of awesome paper figures that are meant to be cut out and played with featuring soldiers, villagers, animals, and various Groo characters. The back up story that appeared in Destroyer Duck is also reprinted in the final pages of the special. 

Final thoughts

Finding this comic was an amazing thrill and was made sweeter due to the fact I bought it from a dealer I had previous experience with. For a long time collector these kinds of stories are few and far between but they are what makes the journey so much fun. Could I have bought this comic any time I wanted to on-line? Probably. Possessing the object of desire is not the only reason that I call myself a collector though. 

There is a real sense of satisfaction in building a collection over time. The act of searching for comics is a much a part of the fun of the hobby as is finding the ones I am looking for. Along the way I have discovered lots of great comics I would not know about otherwise. I’ve made friends and talked to lots of interesting people. I’ve read amazing tales of heroism, fantasy and science fiction. I’ve spend thousands of hours cataloging and organizing my collection. I’ve had a wonderful time doing it all. All of that is highlighted by the experience of finding a comic like Groo the Wanderer Special #1. 

I close this piece with one of the house ads just to remind everyone – “Don’t Go Naked!”

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Confessions of Comic Collector

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I love collecting comic books but I have a problem, I buy too many comics. I buy more than I can possibly read. Every month when I fill out my Previews order book I say that I am going to cut back and I don’t. This month I am going to draw a line in the sand. I’m going to take a couple of weeks before I have to turn the order book in to cut back my next order. How and why am I going to do this?  

I’ll start with what I think the problems are. For starters I have piles of comics that I just don’t read. It is not because I don’t want to read them, I just don’t get around to it. One of the reasons for this that I feel modern comics cannot be just picked up and read. I feel like I have to read the whole story arc in order to know what’s going on. There is a part of me that does not want to pick up Justice League Odyssey issue #9 without having read #1-8. Is that silly? Probably. Would I be able to understand what is going on the issue if I am not caught up on the rest of the series? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a little bit like Schrodinger’s cat, I think. 

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I’m going to stick with Justice League Odyssey, because it is a good example for my poor choices when it comes to buying comics. Another reason that I have a pile of unread comics is that when DC launches a new series I almost always want to try it. That is even more true when it features characters I really enjoy, like the Green Lantern Jessica Cruz or Cyborg. I mentioned that I fill out a Previews order book every month, that’s how I get my comics. That means that I am ordering my comics in advance and have to take a fair amount of risk when something new starts, or when things are delayed. 

Coming out of the gigantic Metal event DC launched three new Justice League books; the core title, Justice League Dark, and Justice League Odyssey. I made the decision I was going to read all three of these books. Now here is where the risk comes in. I get the first issue of the main book and like it. And then another, and another while JL Dark and Odyssey are late. DC is still soliciting orders for Dark and Odyssey. Justice League Dark finally comes out and I like it. Through this period I continue to order all three books, even though I have really only read the main title and Justice League Dark. Finally the first issue of Odyssey comes out and it is not fantastic. Well I think I’ll give it a couple issues and see if it picks up. Two months later the third issue comes out, I’m committed through issue #5 or 6 at this point, and the book is not great. For the next order book I make the decision that I am going to stick with it. It ends up being a vicious cycle because I cannot tell myself to stop buying this book and keep hoping it is going to get better just because it has characters I like in it. 

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Another problem I have is that there are too many good comics out, I have a hard time limiting myself. Let’s take a look at the recent X-men comics, specifically the line that was just dropped with the latest re-launch. When X-men Blue and Gold were released back in April 2017 I read some online reviews that were very positive and suggested that it was getting back to stories that featured many of the older characters that I liked and the series was going to be done in a more “classic” vain. I picked up the first couple of issues at Newbury comics and thought they were pretty good. Soon after that they were on my Previews order. Then they came out with the X-men Red mini-series, that sounded good, so I picked that up. My brother read the New Mutants Deal Souls mini-series and said it was decent so I picked that up as well. Then Astonishing X-men was launched, then the new weekly Uncanny X-men, and you can see where this gets out of control. Finally they announced that they were all coming to an end and were going to be re-launched. That was enough and I stopped buying them. I bought the books I was committed to but dropped all the titles, many of which are still unread as I write this. 

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The final argument I’ll make in order to prove that I have a problem is that in the back of my mind there is a tiny little voice that tells me what comics I have to buy.  It is the voice that says if you stop buying that comic it is going to be cancelled and I don’t want that to happen. The same voice also reminds me that when you read a series, you should read the whole series. It also  reminds me that I keep hoping DC will try new books with some of their rich history of characters. That means that when they do release a book that does not have Batman in it I feel like I have to buy it because that is exactly what I said I wanted them to do. I call this voice the collector bug. 

The New Age of Heroes line that was launched out of Metal is the perfect example to demonstrate the control that collector bug has over me. These comics had all new characters, i.e. Silencer,  or characters that had not been seen in print in years, i.e. Damage. I thought it was pretty cool that DC was starting eight new books. These were characters that were “fresh” faces, not Aquaman, Wonder Woman, or Batman related. Mr Terrific was going to be in The Terrifics and that was one step closer to the Justice Society of America being back in the DCU. To me it almost felt like the New Universe line that Jim Shooter created for Marvel. There was a lot to like about the idea of these books. I ordered them all. 

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Of course then the books came out and they did not live up to the hype. They were released before Metal had wrapped up, due to delays with that series, making its ending even less impactful. Jim Lee did not draw much of the first issue that he was the announced artist for and was only the cover artist for that short series. The New Challengers was turned into a six issue mini series before the first issue dropped. Eventually one by one cancellations were announced. The only series to survive was The Terrifics, the best of the bunch. I’ve got all the issues of all the series with the exception of Immortal Men. From go that was delayed and when the third issue was solicited, with the Joker who Laughs on the cover, I dropped it like a hot potato. The collector bug was no match for my dislike of that particular character.

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These confessions have been pretty negative up until this point but it is not all doom and gloom. I do have a plan. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to try and read the most recent issues of the series that are on my hit list. Things like Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Vampirella, and Detective Comics, all the comics I have a ton of back issues to get through before I would be caught up. I’ll read the most recent issues and if I like them well enough I’ll keep getting them. If I don’t like them, then they won’t be checked off on this month’s order form. The other thing I am going to do is think twice about ordering a new series and stick to my decision, no picking it up later at Newbury. 

I had no intention of buying the Jonathan Hickman X-men books at first. Then my brother and all my friends decided to buy it. In order to be able to talk to them about it I decided to pick the mini-series up myself. I justify this because one of the most fun things about collecting comics is talking to my friends about the comics I read and the the ones they read. It is even more fun when we are all reading the same comic. So I’ll buy these mini-series but when the new books launch in the fall I’ll get the first issue of Hickman’s X-men to see how much I like it. But that’s it. I’m not buying any of the other series no matter which ones my friends read. I’m not falling for that trap again. Marvel has pulled the relaunch trigger too many times in recent years for me to get into another series of comics that will just be cancelled or relaunched in year or so when the next big thing comes down the pike. 

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There it is. This month I will fill out a more sensible order form. I will no longer order books that I don’t like or don’t have the time to enjoy. I’ll mute that collector bug in the back of mind as best I can. Any new series or mini-series will be strongly considered and reconsidered instead of just checking it off on the list in the hopes that it might be good. DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, they are not going to go out of business if I don’t buy Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series III and I can accept that. If all this goes according to plan then I’ll post an update in a few weeks. 

It felt good to write all this down. Sort of like once it is written down I can own the problem and be free of it at the same time. I’ll close this confessional out on a happy note, The cover of the new Ragnarok series from Walt Simonson. I really enjoyed the first story and am very much looking forward to the new one!

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