X-Men, Part 4: Issues #24-39: The Middle Years of the Original Team

Saturday, January 18th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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While travelling in November, I loaded a bunch of X-Men comics onto my phone for the airports. I haven’t stopped reading and I started blogging about my reread. I’ve made the reread slightly more complete by adding in stories that were written later but fit into the canon. I’ve talked about:

  • Part I: X-Men #1 (Nov, 1963) to X-Men #20 (May, 1966)
  • Part II: Early X-Men guest appearances (1964-1965), X-Men #21-23 (1966), and X-Men: First Class Volume I (2006)
  • Part III: X-Men: First Class, Volume II (2007)

In this post, I’m covering my thoughts on X-Men #24-39, with cover dates 1966-1967 which cover, most significantly, the introduction of Banshee and the multi-part Factor Three story. I mention the dates though because for the older issues I often spool up music from the corresponding year to play in the background for flavour. If you’re reading along at home via Marvel Unlimited or trades or Masterworks, give it a try. It’s weird way to situate yourself in the historical era.

It’s also important to situate ourselves in the comics era. During this period, Roy Thomas was getting his feet under him, with maybe as many hits as misses? Elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, Kirby and Lee were introducing the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and the Black Panther. On TV, the Adam West Batman series was premiering, as was the animated Spider-Man series, the first Fantastic Four animated series, as well as Marvel’s old Thor, Captain America and Iron Man cartoons which were half animated, half motion comic. It was a heady time to love superheroes, although I missed it by 15 years.

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X-Men, Part 3: X-Men: First Class, Volume II and First Class Finals

Saturday, January 11th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I am continuing my perhaps Quixotic reread of The X-Men. I started in 1963 and am working my way up to the present, and I’m including not just the main series, but some significant cross-overs and the series that retcon some good stories.

My first blog post covered X-Men #1-20. My second post covered X-Men 21-23, some early cross-overs, and the 2006 series X-Men: First Class. For this one, I read X-Men: First Class, Vol II, #1-16, which continued Jeff Parker’s excellent story of the original five X-Men, with art by Eric Nguyen, Roger Cruz, Nick Dragotta and others.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Ten

Friday, January 3rd, 2020 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

MOKF 44Master of Kung Fu #44 kicks off an eight-part story arc that builds upon the events of the series’ preceding six issues while also serving as the culmination of the ongoing storyline involving Shang-Chi’s father Fu Manchu and sister Fah lo Suee and their decades-long battle for control of the Si-Fan. Marvel approved a six-part story with some reluctance, but the team of writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy were making the series one of Marvel’s very best of the 1970s and had the clout to push boundaries further so long as sales and critical recognition continued. Of course, the first thing the two men did was plot a prelude and epilogue which extended the story from six chapters to eight. The results are both more and less than what one might reasonably expect, though they certainly succeed in terms of ambition and scope.

The principal difference in quality is Gulacy’s art. While never disappointing, he simply fails to match the standard of the previous five issues he illustrated. The challenge of maintaining such a high standard month after month was wearing and would result in Gulacy’s decision to leave the series that had brought him such acclaim. Likewise, Moench remained one of Marvel’s most overworked writers and despite the care he took in structuring the story, it was inevitable that moments appeared rushed and even underwritten. It was never a question of Moench’s skills, simply that he also could not maintain the same high level of quality writing when juggling so many titles each month.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 2: Early Guest Appearances, X-Men #21-23 and X-Men: First Class Volume I

Saturday, December 28th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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While I was travelling, I loaded a bunch of X-Men comics onto my phone for the airports. I haven’t stopped reading and I started blogging about my reread in Part I two weeks ago, which covered X-Men #1 (Nov, 1963) to X-Men #20 (May, 1966). It’s been a lot of fun, with not too many cringey moments.

This second post, I’m continuing my reading, but altering the experience a bit. I’m not just going to include the core X-Men series. I think I would like to try reading the stories in the chronology that Marvel sort of had in mind for each story.

So I’m going to start including guest appearances and cross-overs and later series that added history to this period. So this post will cover Strange Tales #120, Fantastic Four #28, Tales of Suspense #49, Journey Into Mystery #109, and X-Men issues #21-23, all of which were published between 1963 and 1966, and Volume I of X-Men: First Class, which was published in 2006-2007, but whose events occur before X-Men #24. I hope this ride is not too disorienting for you or me!

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Cover Reveal: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by christopher paul carey

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Science fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, wrote four novels and a novella about former stuntman Carson Napier and his wayward adventures on the planet Venus (or Amtor, as it is known to its inhabitants). Now get ready to transport yourself into the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe with the first new Carson of Venus novel to be published in more than fifty years: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts.

The Edge of All Worlds releases Spring 2020 from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and launches the canonical ERB Universe series of interconnected novels.

Stranded on the planet Amtor for nearly two decades, Earthman Carson Napier returns from his latest adventure to discover a mysterious enemy has struck his adopted nation of Korva and reduced one of its cities to ash and cinders. The trail of the mysterious threat leads Carson and his love Duare through dark cyclopean corridors deep beneath Amtor to a distant land, where they must confront both a powerful new alien species and the shadows of Carson’s past.

I’m pleased to present the exclusive cover reveal for Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds, featuring the artwork of the amazing Chris Peuler.

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Uncanny X-Men 1-20 – Part I: Introducing The Strangest Super-Team of All

Saturday, December 14th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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Sometimes when life is too busy, I don’t have the bandwidth for entertainment that engages too deeply with me emotionally or intellectually. It seems like all of 2019 has been like that. Earlier in the year, I talked about rereading the first hundred and twenty issues of Marvel’s The Defenders. Last month my brain needed another break, so I started rereading the original X-Men. It was fun and full of nostalgic feelings.

The problem is, I can’t just do 500 words on the X-Men. They were certainly a second-string title in the 1960s that, publication and profit-wise, was on a slow train to moth-balling by 1970, despite a brief renewal under Roy Thomas and Neal Adams. But five years later, the Claremont-Cockrum-Byrne team modernized the X-Men mythos for the Bronze and modern age and by the late 1980s, the soap operatic X-Men had become an economic juggernaut (sorry).

I lost touch with the X-Men in the 1990s when I left comics, and found the mythos so ornate as to be impenetrable once I came back to comics in 2007. It was too vast.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Nine

Friday, December 6th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Master_of_Kung_Fu_Annual_Vol_1_1Master of Kung Fu Annual #1 was a reworking of what would have been Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #5 had Marvel’s short-lived line of quarterly publications not been prematurely discontinued. As it stands it was the only King-Size Annual Marvel published for the series. Marvel Annuals were generally a mixed bag and this is no exception. A few select ones offered truly special longer stories which were a delight for loyal readers, but most were either hurriedly produced or generally disappointing tryouts for aspiring Marvel writers and artists to demonstrate their handling of established properties. Master of Kung Fu Annual fell in the former category with Doug Moench and Keith Pollard tossing off Shang-Chi’s first encounter with Iron Fist.

The story itself isn’t terrible, but Shang-Chi is almost a guest star in what is essentially an Iron Fist story that is centered on the character’s origins. The visit to the otherworldly dimension that Iron Fist calls home to take on an invasion force led by a sorcerer really seems to be more of a martial arts spin on Doctor Strange. The artwork utilizes some of Steve Ditko’s interdimensional concepts, but without any of his sense of abstract wonder. I was not acquainted with Iron Fist having a mystical background and the story did nothing to make me care much either way as it was clearly knocked off quickly by the overworked Doug Moench. Like the companion magazine, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, this seemed largely a wasted opportunity. Fans of the character may be interested that there is a brief continuity reference to an ongoing storyline involving Daughters of the Dragon in the companion magazine which one suspects might have made for a more engaging crossover for Shang-Chi, although based on their crossovers in the magazine, perhaps it would have fared no better.

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The Moon is a Harsh Master: Lemire and Smallwood’s Moon Knight

Saturday, November 16th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I’ve never been a big Moon Knight reader. I’m not sure why. I certainly remember seeing beautiful Sienkiewicz art. I also remember the shift in the comics industry out of the corner stores, with Moon Knight, Ka-Zar and Micronauts being some of the first books that made the switch.

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Tor.com on Six-Guns and Strange Shooters

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Territory Emma Bull-small Dust Devil Blu Ray-small Jonah Hex Face Ful of Violence-small

It’s been a very good year for science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy, and overall I am content. But, you know, I’m never totally content, because really, what’s the point of that? This year my crankiness originates from a near total lack of Weird Westerns. It’s like the genre dried up and blew away in the wind in 2019.

At least there are a few Weird West books, movies and comics to fall back on. Earlier this year at Tor.com Theresa DeLucci shared her picks of some of the best in Six-Guns and Strange Shooters: A Weird West Primer, and she managed to point out more than a few I haven’t tried yet, including Emma Bull’s fantasy retelling of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Territory, and the 1990 film Dust Devil. And she reminded me I need to read more Jonah Hex. Here’s what she said about everyone’s favorite creepy gunslinger.

Forget the terrible movie. (You know Josh Brolin wishes he could.) The original 1977 DC comic is considered one of the first popular representations of the Weird West. The bounty hunter marked by a demon’s brand seeks out the West’s worst and also, sometimes, less earthly quarry. He also sometimes time travels and gets into a gun-fight with a T-Rex. Jonah Hex‘s best and creepiest run was written by east Texan horror master Joe R. Lansdale and come highly recommended.

Theresa also showcases The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, the Golgotha novels by R. S. Belcher, the great Deadlands: Reloaded RPG, and much more. Check out her article here.

See all our coverage of the best of the Weird West here.


A New First Comic Strip Robot

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

1903-03-01 Adventures of Inventor Wheelz and his Wonderful Dummy 23 panel 1

Paleontologists constantly push the date of the first known human or the first known use of symbols earlier. Word detectives compete with one another to spot ever earlier uses of a word or phrase or bit of slang. And historians take their reputation in their hands whenever they state that such-and-such was the first one in history.

In my book, Robots in American Popular Culture, I cited Hans Horina’s short- lived robot series, Professor Dodger and His Automatic Servant Girl, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune Sunday comics section in late 1907, as the first comic strip to feature a robot. I didn’t dig that up myself. I found it on Stripper’s Guide, the wonderful blog on old newspaper comics run by Allan Holtz.

As inevitable as Homo Nadali, another comics historian, Alex Jay, found an even earlier robot strip and posted about it on Stripper’s Guide. But there’s a catch. Is it a robot strip or isn’t it?

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