Uncanny X-Men, Part 15: 1974 and 1975 – The Last Tales of the Original X-Men

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

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Welcome to post 15 of my re-read of the X-Men, which began in the Silver Age with X-Men #1 in 1963. We’re now well into 1974. We’ve gone through pretty much every appearance and guest appearance of the X-Men and even some X-Men-adjacent characters and we’re only a year away from Len Wein and Dave Cockrum’s new take on the X-Men in Second Genesis.  I’m going to talk about five issues in this post and note a few others for those who want to read in a really completist way.

The first set of issues is a two-part Magneto appearance in The Defenders #15-16. I glossed over Magneto’s Amazing Adventures appearance against the Inhumans in the last post because he was bringing a bit of a tired plot to the table (creating a bunch of mutants from scratch to command and send into battle).

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James Davis Nicoll on Five Science Fiction & Fantasy Works Inspired by Role Playing Games

Sunday, July 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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I enjoyed James Davis Nicoll’s recent posts here at Black Gate, Ten Classic Unplayed RPGs, and Ten WTF Moments from Classic RPGs. James and I were both introduced to role playing games in Canada in the late 70s, and he shares both my fascination and enduring sense of wonder with the early games of that era.

James maintains his own site, jamesdavisnicoll.com, one of the better SF book blogs. (This month he’s reviewed Roger Zelazny’s 1969 minor classic Creatures of Light and Darkness, David Gerrold’s A Matter for Men from 1983, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s just released Mexican Gothic, about a perfect blend of old and new in my book.) But what I want to highlight today is his regular column at Tor.com, and in particular his June 10 article “Five SFF Works Inspired by RPGs.” Mostly because it showcases one of the greatest webcomics ever created, Rich Burlew’s brilliant Order of the Stick.

Of course, the standard by which RPG-themed satire is judged is Rich Burlew’s long-running Order of the Stick (2003 to present). What began as a gag-a-strip stick-figure webcomic mocking the quirks of 3rd and 3.5th edition D&D quickly grew into something more. Sane Man fighter Roy Greenhilt has assembled a ragtag gang of eccentric colleagues and set out to defeat the evil lich Xykon. Seventeen years later, the lich is still… uh, “alive” may be the wrong word… active.

What began as a simple plan to find and kill an undead being of unparalleled power and evil has spiralled into an epic tale featuring grand sieges, true love, tragic death, character growth, and increasingly alarming revelations about the likely fate of this world. It’s an impressive work. There are reports that a conclusion looms, so this would be a good time to catch up on the archive. Note that print collections are available.

The article also discusses J. Zachary Pike’s Dark Profit Saga, Meg Syverud & Jessica “Yoko” Weaver’s webcomic Daughter of the Lilies, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 2016 novel Spiderlight, and Phil Kahn and T Campbell’s long-running webcomic Guilded Age. Read the whole thing here.


Uncanny X-Men, Part 14: 1973 and 1974 – Magneto, the Hulk, Banshee and Post-Watergate Captain America

Saturday, July 4th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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Welcome to part 14 of my X-Men reread! The X-Men are still in their publishing purgatory that lasted from 1970-1975. During this time, the X-Men series is reprinting middling mid-1960s material. Hank McCoy lasted 6 issues as the star of Amazing Adventures and the Silver Age X-Men seem to have had so little impact on the 1970s working creatives that artists, writers and colorists don’t know them well enough to get powers, personalities or even costumes right. It’s a dark era for X-Men fans.

But before getting into the main guest appearances in this post, I’m going to go back in time to cover four issues where the X-Men had at best a tangential role in the story because I like being something of a completist. Just before Hank McCoy’s run on Amazing Adventures, the title had been devoted to the Inhumans, who often split the issues with Black Widow. In issue #9-10 (Nov, 1971) Gerry Conway and Mike Sekowsky concluded an ongoing story-line with Magneto looking to make Blackbolt leader of a bunch of mutants Magneto would create.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 13: Englehart’s Bronze Age Monster Horror – The Beast

Saturday, June 20th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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Welcome to Part 13 of my complete reread of the X-Men. We’ve covered all the original X-Men run, many guest appearances and side stories. We’re now in 1972 and in my last post, Gerry Conway and Tom Sutton had taken the moribund second-strong superhero Beast and thrown him solo into the world of Jekyll-Hyde monster horror. In this post, we’re going to cover the remaining five issues of Amazing Adventures that follow Hank McCoy’s sundering from the X-Men.

Amazing Adventures #12 opens with Hank McCoy’s most obvious problem: His Jekyll and Hyde moment has permanently turned him into a twisted, inhuman beast, and he can’t change back. He can’t even pass for human. And he needs to pass for human to have a chance of marshalling his biochemical skills to cure himself. The artwork by Tom Sutton and Mike Ploog is perfect for a horror story, and we’ve seen Ploog do beautifully eerie with Doctor Strange’s contemporaneous stories in Marvel Premiere. Check out the splash page below.

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As Close as We’ll Get to a Completed Big Numbers: A Glimpse of a Lost Masterwork by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz

Monday, June 8th, 2020 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

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Big Numbers issues 1 and 2. Mad Love, April and August 1990. Covers by Bill Sienkiewicz

It’s one of the great might-have-beens of comics history. First announced in 1988, Big Numbers was going to be a 12-issue series written and conceived by Alan Moore with art by Bill Sienkiewicz about a major American shopping mall being built in a small English town. It would be an intricate social-realist story touching on colonialism, gender issues, and more — all tied together by the symbolism of fractal mathematics. Moore felt it would be the logical follow-up to Watchmen in terms of complexity and formal daring, following characters in the town as the mall changed their lives in various ways, and depicting their various interconnections, large and small.

Unfortunately, it never saw completion. Two issues came out in 1990 and a third was completed before Sienkiewicz, feeling overwhelmed by the project, stepped away. The series never resumed publication, and later plans for a TV adaptation came to nothing.

But back in 1988 Moore had created a massive grid-like outline, outlining the related stories of the various main characters. Comics artist James Harvey has now put up a strikingly well-designed web version of that chart, along with annotations from transcripts of an extensive conversation with Moore about the series as preparation for the TV show. Well-placed links help bring out the connections Moore had planned. It’s an excellent, easy-to-use resource for Moore fans — as well as a good read. And likely the most complete version of Big Numbers we’ll ever see.


Uncanny X-Men, Part 12: X-Men Guest Appearances in 1971-1972 and Hank gets Furry!

Saturday, June 6th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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We’re back in the Bronze Age, baby! We left the original X-Men in John’s Byrne’s X-Men: The Hidden Years and in this 12th installment in my reread of all the X-Men, we’re now into the guest appearances our merry mutants made in the dark period between 1970 and 1975 when they weren’t being published regularly.

I want to go over The Amazing Spider-Man #92 (guest-starring Iceman), The Incredible Hulk #150 (guest-starring Havok and Polaris), Marvel-Team-Up #4 (featuring Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel and Professor X), Amazing Adventures #9-10 (starring the Inhumans against Magneto), and finally Amazing Adventures #11, the most significant issue discussed today, because of permanent character changes to Hank McCoy.

I slagged a bit on The Hidden Years in the last post because it was a comic of the year 2000 with a 1980s writerly sensibility. We’re diving back 20 years now, where the action was more slap-dash and energetic, the dialogue more over the top, and the social-political positions both surprisingly advanced and backwards for the time.

The Amazing Spider-Man #92 is a quick single-issue story with pencils by Gil Kane, inks by John Romita Sr, and writing by Stan Lee. The webslinger finds Gwen Stacey and Sam Bullit, a secret criminal boss running for New York D.A. against Foggy Nelson.

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Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Friday, May 29th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Kirk-Spock-McCoyDo you remember your first hero? Any kind of hero. It could have been a hero from a movie or a book or a television show, even a hero from real life.

As a child of the 1970s, one might think Luke Skywalker was my first hero, but I would turn eight years old a month after the original Star Wars was released in theaters, and by then I already had plenty of heroes.

Re-runs of the original Star Trek TV show from the 1960s were still airing, and I watched every one of them. Of the crew of the Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk seemed the most heroic of the figures presented to us viewers, or at least he stood in the most traditional of the heroic modes.

Then there was the Six Million Dollar Man, starring actor Lee Majors from 1973 to 1978 on television. For those not familiar with the series, Majors played U.S. astronaut Steve Austin who was seriously injured in an accident. Not only did Steve survive his accident, but the government decided, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” And they did. Steve got some bionic legs and an arm and an eye. He fought crime. And Bigfoot. It was awesome.

Some might not consider Godzilla a hero, but by the time of my childhood in the ’70s, Godzilla was mainly a good guy, so he was a hero of sorts to many of us. For better or worse, my first Godzilla movie was Godzilla vs. Megalon, a film sometimes not remembered fondly by Godzilla fans. Either way, I was maybe five years old when my dad drug me into an old downtown theater to witness the spectacle of this movie, and again, I have to say it was awesome.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 11: Storm, the FF and Phoenix in John Byrne’s The Hidden Years

Sunday, May 24th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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Welcome to my 11th installment of my epic rereading of the X-Men, starting in 1963. I say that like it’s a big thing I’ve done, but to put things in perspective, I’ve done 10 posts before this and I haven’t even gotten to Giant-Sized X-Men #1 yet! Partly for that reason and partly because there are some swings and some misses in X-Men: The Hidden Years, and I really want to get back to the Bronze Age appearances of the X-Men.

Let me start with some of the negatives with X-Men: The Hidden Years. I don’t start here to scare anyone off. I think the things that don’t work are generalized problems with this series and are also certainly not fatal. X-Men: The Hidden Years was in fact selling well and was only cancelled at 22 issues because Marvel saw it had too many X-Men books at the same time and needed to cut one.

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Rogue Blades Author: How Robert E. Howard (and Glenn Lord) Changed My Life

Friday, May 15th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

The following is an an excerpt from Roy Thomas’ essay for the upcoming book from the Rogue Blades Foundation, Robert E. Howard Changed My Life.

I’ve told this story so many time by now that I figure everybody who would want to know it is tired of it already, but I can’t make up new facts just because I have to write a new article, can I? Well, maybe there’ll be a few twists in my tale this time, because I want to tell it a little bit more from the angle of Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) and Glenn Lord (1931-2011).

Robert E. Howard came first, but just barely.

I had, to the best of my memory, never heard of Robert E. Howard — or of Conan or any of the other Howard characters — when the Lancer Books paperback Conan the Adventurer appeared on the racks in 1966, some months after I started working for Stan Lee at Marvel Comics. Well, truth to tell, he was mentioned in a couple of paragraphs in my fan/friend Richard A. Lupoff’s 1965 book Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventures as one of the literary heroes inspired, at least in part, by Tarzan of the Apes… but that part of Dick’s study slipped right past me, leaving no imprint on my mind. When I saw the first Conan paperback, my eyes were drawn — as they were meant to be — by Frank Frazetta’s stunningly savage cover. I bought that book as I’d been buying others of an ERB ilk, pastiches of Burroughs by Otis Adelbert Kline, Gardner Fox, Lin Carter, whomever. I didn’t always actually read those pastiches, but I kept a little collection of them on a shelf in my apartment. One day I might get around to them.

castle of blood brunner the bounty hunter Rage of the Behemoth

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 10: John Byrne’s The Hidden Years #1-4

Saturday, April 25th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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Holy cow! We’re into double digits of my reread of the X-Men story that began in 1963. I include a full set of links to the post series at the bottom of this post. As we saw last time, some later creators have had some fun in writing stories that fit into those empty years between 1970 and 1975 when X-Men was just a reprint title. One of the most famous is John Byrne’s 1999-2001 series X-Men: The Hidden Years. 

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