Recent Comics That May Appeal to Grumpy Old Fans

Written: 19 February, 2000

[The column below was written for the GOFAR section of the great comics fanzine called "It's a Fanzine."]

In this installment of the Grumpy Old Fans Appreciation Room (GOFAR), I’ll point out some of the comics of the past 12 months that I think will appeal to long-time comics readers. Admittedly, this list only scratches the surface, and there are plenty of worthwhile comics being done not mentioned below. What are some of your favorite new comics? Here are some of my choices...


Mike Allred’s MADMAN is a zany series about a freakish superhero, drawn in a classic style reminiscent of Kirby and Toth, and which may appeal to fans of such Silver-Age chracters as Metamorpho and The Doom Patrol. During 1999, Dark Horse published 5 new issues of Madman (#12-16). The best of these was #16, a holiday issue that is sectioned into parts (like early 1960s Marvel comics), with Part One showing Madman going out for Halloween, Part Two concerning Thanksgiving, and Part Three during Christmas, where Madman must help Santa return to the North Pole. This issue also introduces a new hero, Mister Gum, who is reminiscent of Plastic Man. To me, #16 manages to recall many different ”ages”: the cartoonish Santa is like something out of a Golden-Age Captain Marvel comic; the freaks, beatniks, monsters, and robots recall the Silver-Age; and something this hip, and on such high-quality paper with fine coloring, could only be achieved in the modern era. Mike Allred’s new mini-series, THE ATOMICS, began in 2000, published by AAA Pop Comics -- a name suggestive of Marvel’s short-lived ”Pop Art Productions.” This series is done in an early Silver-Age Marvel style (although far less wordy) and concerns a group of beatniks suffering from an alien skin disease who are transformed into oddball superheroes. Both MADMAN #16 and THE ATOMICS are full color comics for $2.95 each.

For those adventure fans who are sick of superheroes, and who prefer old EC and DC science-fiction titles, I recommend Paul Chadwick’s THE WORLD BELOW. The first series was published last year by Dark Horse in color and ran 4 issues. It was re-launched this year in B&W format as THE WORLD BELOW: DEEPER AND STRANGER. I recommend #2 of the new B&W series for those old-time science-fiction readers wanting to try an issue. The series concerns a group of people who are sent to explore an unknown world beneath the surface of our world, filled with bizarre and menacing monsters. In the recent #2, the team encounters squid-like creatures that attach themselves to human heads to control their minds. In the text piece, Chadwick credits Basil Wolverton’s ”Brain Bats of Venus” as an influence. He also writes a few pages examining the work of another of his influences, underground cartoonist George Metzger.

Dark Horse’s Tarzan line has started up again. Last year saw the publication of Mike Grell’s Tarzan: The Savage Heart mini-series, but more satisfying in my opinion was Dark Horse Presents #143 (May 1999, $2.95), a B&W comic consisting of 3 Tarzan stories by Tom Yeates.

Old-time fanzine superhero The Eye was revived last summer for his own one-shot (Hamster Press, $2.95) by Bill Schelly and Bill Black. Other indie comics such as Colonia by Jeff Nicholson, Fantagraphics’ all-ages Measles anthology, and Claypool’s Soulsearchers (drawn by Dave Cockrum and Jim Mooney) may also appeal to old-time fans, depending on their particular taste.


Jack Kirby’s influence continues in many modern comics. SUPERBOY, for example, has listed Jack in the credits every issue for the past 2 years, in acknowledgement of the characters and concepts used in the comic (the Guardian, Project Cadmus, etc.). The modern Superboy encountered the pre-Crisis version, and the original Krypto, during the ”Hypertime” storyline last year. (“Hypertime” is friendlier to an old fan’s memories than previous continuity explanations such as ”those old stories never happened.” With Hypertime, all the old comics stories DID happen in some reality. See The Kingdom #2 and Superboy #60-64 for details.)

Captain America #24 (Dec. 1999) features a self-contained DeFalco/Frenz tale in the tradition of Stan and Jack. The Incredible Hulk Vs. Superman by Roger Stern, Steve Rude, and Al Milgrom, depicts the two heroes in classic Kirbyish style -- although it’s a bit costly at $5.95. More affordable ($2.50) is Avengers #1 1/2 by Stern and Bruce Timm. The issue takes place between Avengers Vol.1 #1 & 2, and the design imitates the old comics of that time, even including ads for non-existent comics like Sgt. Fury #1 1/2 (with a fake cover drawn by Dick Ayers). Timm’s art is sometimes cartoonier than Kirby, but the comic is sure to please fans of early Silver-Age Marvel. While I found the Avengers & FF DOMINATION FACTOR mini-series ultimately to be a disappoinmtent, there were some nice nostalgic moments when the heroes travel into the past. FF: Domination Factor #2.3 is my favorite of that mini, since a Kirbyesque style is used nearly throughout the issue.

Although John Byrne has often been the target of fan griping, I find that I’m enjoying his current series X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS which takes place during the period in the early 1970s when the series was a reprint comic, before Giant-Size X-Men #1. Byrne is inked by Tom Palmer here and the result -- as well as the locale of the Savage Land in the storyline -- is reminiscent of Neal Adams’ celebrated X-Men run.

Current issues of AVENGERS by Busiek and Perez are usually pretty good, although sometimes I wonder if they ought to be better than they are. I have no such reservations about the recent ”Ultron Unlimited” storyline (#19-22). The weariness of the Avengers at the end of #21, having to fight an army of Ultrons, was palpable, like we had gone through the fight with them. Another stand-out among the recent issues was #25, which features Hercules back in his classic outfit (after some annoying trendier looks in recent years). These are the heroes we remember, not changed into strangers in an attempt to follow the latest fad. As the members stare out at the reader on the cover of #25, we can see that these are heroes with a history, the ones we grew up reading, and I thank Busiek and Perez for returning them to their former glory. (Cap in particular looks great. Perez is probably the best Captain America artist who has never drawn an issue of Cap’s own series.)

It’s great to see Alan Moore more prolific and visible than ever with his America’s Best Comics (ABC) line. My favorites of the ABC line are TOM STRONG and the anthology series, TOMORROW STORIES. Tom Strong is like a cross between Doc Savage and Superman, presumably an attempt to get back to the original, pure concept of what a superhero (or, ”science hero”) was. Tomorrow Stories usually features four self-contained stories per issue, featuring such characters as Greyshirt (a cross between an old pulp hero and Will Eisner’s Spirit), First American (a cross between Fighting American and early MAD), Cobweb (a kinky Golden-Age style heroine), and Jack B. Quick, boy genius (which is like a cross between old DC science-fiction and Superboy’s Smallville) -- a wonderful mix of the strange and absurd!


Affordable and attractive reprints of old comics are released every month. DC is reprinting certain historic issues all this year, a few each month, as MILLENNIUM EDITIONS, usually for around $2.50 or $2.95 each. DC has also reprinted old 80-Page Giants, most for $4.95 each. These comics are ones I feel that shops should always keep in stock, since the issues have proven their long-term importance and the originals are usually beyond the budget of most readers. Last year, DC completed its reprinting of the 1950s MAD comic-size series in inexpensive color magazine format. (Both the reprinting of the whole series and the recent Millennium Edition of MAD #1 had newstand distribution, potentially exposing these classics to a larger, more appreciative audience than those who frequent comics shops.)

Marvel has followed suit with their own monthly reprints: two MARVEL SELECTS series which reprint early 1970s Spider-Man and FF comics. More interestingly, Marvel is scheduled to begin releasing 100-page issues of certain Marvel comics which will feature a new 22-page lead story, with the remainder consisting of reprints, for only $2.99. The first of these ”100-page monsters” will be Avengers #27 in February, followed by Thunderbolts #39 in April. Other recent affordable Marvel reprints include three Golden-Age one-shots, a western one-shot (GUNSLINGERS), a Hulk vs. Thing collection, and reprint comics concerning Ultron and Magneto; most of these comics are more than double-sized and priced at around $3.99.

One of the most exciting reprint projects of the past few years has been Gemstone’s EC reprints, which are in full color for only $2.50 per issue. As soon as the more familiar EC runs were reprinted, Gemstone turned to the less familiar ones, and finally to the truly obscure. I find these more obscure titles fascinating, and Gemstone has now reprinted the complete runs of Panic, Piracy, Valor, Impact, Aces High, M.D., Psychoanalysis, and Extra! What’s next? It looks like the pre-New Trend era is next, with reprints of the 1948 series War Against Crime and Crime Patrol beginning in February. If you enjoy old non-superhero comics, these great reprints are not to be missed.


Roy Thomas and John Buscema reunited for the 3-issue CONAN: DEATH COVERED IN GOLD. Buscema, who both penciled and inked the mini-series, appeared more at home here than in last year’s Amazing Spider-Man Annual, which he also drew. Joe Kubert inked a half-dozen pages of son Andy’s pencils in Captain America #16 & 28.

Upcoming comics featuring work by old favorites include Legends of the DC Universe #28 & 29 (in March and April), featuring a Green Lantern/Atom story penciled by the late Gil Kane; and Amazing Spider-Man #18 in April, which is scheduled to have John Romita Sr. inking John Byrne’s pencils. The upcoming Orion series by Walt Simonson will have a short backup drawn by Frank Miller in its 3rd issue and one by Dave Gibbons in its 4th. The team of Dave Michelinie and Bob Layton are scheduled to reunite for an Iron Man mini-series scheduled for July. And who knows what other surprises might pop up. It pays to look through the Previews catalog each month and advance-order your comics, so you won’t miss out.