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Uncanny X-Men, Part 21: Epic Magneto Triumph and More X-Men Death!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 21: Epic Magneto Triumph and More X-Men Death!

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I started collecting comics in 1981. I was lucky that a friend had been collecting for a while and didn’t care much for X-Men. I ended up trading comics with him and ending up with X-Men, which was my favourite. Because of that, for the longest time, the earliest X-Men issues I had were #112, #116 and #118. Occasional trips to the comic shops in Toronto and my many visits to my town’s lone second-hand book store helped me fill in many gaps, although it wasn’t until the 1986 reprint series Classic X-Men that I got to read issue #111.

That experience of just trying to collect all the stories of your favourite characters seems alien to my son, who has trade and omnibus editions, can read digitally for a pittance and so on. My reading experience growing up was not knowing what was in the missing issues which felt like standing on an island and looking across the way to another island I couldn’t reach, but could imagine.

Welcome to my 21st post in my ongoing blog series of my reread of the X-Men starting in 1963. We’ve reached 1978, just three years before I started collecting, and we’re into issues now that form part of my biographical comics playlist. These were among the stories that shaped the outline of my creativity. The art and story and emotion still leave me in a bit of awe.

So put on your bell bottoms, check your medallions and pull up a chair to 1978. If you need help getting into the mood, the radio was playing Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty, September by Earth, Wind and Fire, Just What I Needed by The Cars and Abba asked us to Take a Chance on Me.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 20: Iron Fist, Blame Canada, and Some Strike-Outs

Uncanny X-Men, Part 20: Iron Fist, Blame Canada, and Some Strike-Outs

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This Quixotic blog series of my reread of the Uncanny X-Men has gotten to twenty posts! When I started in December, I wasn’t sure how long I could do this, but it’s been a lot of fun! In this post, I’m going to go over two gems from 1977: the Canadian Invasion in Uncanny X-Men #109 and the dinner party gone bad in Iron Fist #15. Then I’m going to take a bit of a higher level look at a few swing-and-a-miss guest appearances and another issue where a fill-in art team mangled an issue.

You’ll recall that at the end of X-Men #108, the X-Men, along with Princess Lilandra, had just come home after Phoenix saved the universe. Except for their vacation-trap in issue #101 this is basically the first break the X-Men get since issue #98. #108 is the first issue in over a year that didn’t end with some kind of a cliffhanger!

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 19: Phoenix, Firelord, and the Imperial Guard!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 19: Phoenix, Firelord, and the Imperial Guard!

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Welcome to Part 19 of my reread through the Uncanny X-Men. In this post I want to cover Uncanny X-Men #105-110, which finishes the first part of the Phoenix Saga, from their last fight with Eric the Red, the alien Shi’ar spy, to the fate of the M’Krann Crystal, which fully shows the full set of changes that Jean Grey has undergone when she resurrected herself in issue #101. This post begins though, with a side-trip to Iron Fist #11, which was also being written by Claremont, and drawn by Byrne and inked by Dan Adkins. We do this only to see Jean and Scott leaving the hospital.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu Part Twelve

Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu Part Twelve

MOKF 61Master of Kung Fu in 1978 was in the process of finding its footing again. Paul Gulacy’s departure from the title left an enormous hole for the series’ two new alternating artists, Jim Craig and Mike Zeck to come up to speed and offer readers a comparable level of accomplishment. Just a few years earlier, martial arts mania had swept much of the Western world on the strength and charisma of Bruce Lee. Marvel had quickly responded with the creation of Shang-Chi and Iron Fist (among other characters). Master of Kung Fu soon spawned a companion magazine, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. By 1978, only Master of Kung Fu was left to showcase a non-superpowered martial artist hero. Morally complex scripts and artwork that took its cue from Jim Steranko’s groundbreaking work for Marvel in the 1960s were the essential ingredients to keep this niche title from fading in sales with the waning martial arts fad.

Issue #61 kicked off the epic-length “China Seas” story arc that saw writer Doug Moench drawing inspiration from Milton Caniff’s long-running newspaper strip, Terry and the Pirates. Moench and Jim Craig launch the story with Shang-Chi having moved in with Black Jack Tarr at the Savoy. Sir Denis Nayland Smith is visiting Melissa Greville in hospital where she is  finally recovering from injuries sustained back in issue #51. Leiko Wu is struggling with loneliness and regret as she sits in her apartment listening to “Dreams” from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours LP. Black Jack Tarr buys a print of Frazetta’s “The Silver Warrior” from an art gallery before meeting up with Sir Denis as Clive Reston arrives to visit Melissa in hospital.

Jim Craig’s artwork was improving dramatically with a truly lovely rendering of Melissa preparing for her discharge. Moench’s script and Craig’s artwork renders the start of Clive and Melissa’s relationship surprisingly sweet. Shang-Chi, lost in his thoughts of Leiko and with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” running through his head is set upon by a Chinese assassin called Skull-Crusher. Their fight is brutally realistic and intercutting it with the supporting characters’ normal interactions is surprisingly effective. Leiko attempts to rekindle her relationship with Clive only to discover he is now dating Melissa. Shang-Chi is in the dark about who has hired Skull-Crusher to kill him until Clive and Melissa deliver a letter mailed to Shang-Chi care of MI5 from Juliette which will send him back to Hong Kong to aid the other woman who broke his heart and take him back into conflict with Shen Kuei, the Cat in an unexpected call back to issues #38 and 39.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu Part Eleven

Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu Part Eleven

Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_52Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_53Master of Kung Fu was a critically acclaimed series in 1977, but one which was burning out its creators in their efforts to maintain the high standard of quality in an industry that required juggling numerous assignments each month in order to earn a living. Artist Paul Gulacy had recently departed over the pressure and writer Doug Moench was struggling to keep up with deadlines as well. The series had just concluded an epic eight-part story arc with issue #51 that saw Shang-Chi separated from both his estranged father, Fu Manchu and the mentor who had become his father figure, Sir Denis Nayland Smith. Readers eager to find out what would happen next in Shang-Chi’s life would have to wait 90 days as issue #52 was a flashback to an untold and largely comedic adventure set a year earlier in the continuity while issue #53 was a reprint.

Issue #52 saw the return of Groucho Marx as cabbie, Rufus T. Hackstabber now paired with W. C. Fields as his equally disreputable cousin, Quigley J. Warmflash in a misadventure that seemed better suited to Steve Gerber’s contemporaneous Howard the Duck series. This Moroccan interlude involved the return of rogue Si-Fan agent Tiger-Claw seeking Fu Manchu’s elixir vitae which he believes is hidden inside an elusive antique statuette of an elephant. The story is a fun mash-up of The Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Casablanca, and The Maltese Falcon. A man-sized statue of the Black Bird itself can be glimpsed among the bric-a-brac crowding Warmflash’s curio shop. The story features not one, but two spectacular crashes of Hackstabber’s taxi cab and also provides Warmflash with a lovely (but rather dim) nightclub singer/belly dancer daughter, Dinah. A hoot to be sure and returning guest artist Keith Pollard did an excellent job capturing the likenesses of two Golden Age of Hollywood comedy legends, but Tiger-Claw’s return was squandered amidst the barrage of laughs and outrageousness on display.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 18: Juggernaut and Magneto – For The Very First Time!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 18: Juggernaut and Magneto – For The Very First Time!

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Welcome to part 18 of my Quixotic reread of the X-Men, starting with issue #1 in 1963. We’re now in 1976 and I ended my last post partway through #101 because Phoenix’s introduction is the real climax of the last arc and it made sense to stop there.

After Phoenix’ appearance and the hospital reunions, a new story arc starts, insofar as one can ever say a story starts or ends in Claremont’s braided narrative. In this post, I’m going to cover the last half of Uncanny X-Men #101 to the end of issue #104 because it covers the new X-Men’s meeting with two hugely important and iconic villains: the Juggernaut and Magneto.

Personally, this set of stories fits into my life in that I read issue #101 in French in B&W as an 11 year old in 1982, and couldn’t afford to read issue #102-#104 until the summer of 1987 when they were reprinted in the Classic X-Men. So I’d been waiting 6 years for these stories. The Classic X-Men reprint series was great — it allowed me to fill out all the story gaps in my collection; by then, by trading with friends or buying from the comic shops in Toronto, I’d already gotten a complete run from #134 onward.

With Phoenix in the hospital in issue #101 (October, 1976) the X-Men, led by Banshee, go to Ireland on a forced vacation. Jean needs rest and support the Scott and Professor X can offer, and the new X-Men need to get out from underfoot.

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Understanding Gamers through Belly Laughs: Knights of the Dinner Table by Jolly R. Blackburn

Understanding Gamers through Belly Laughs: Knights of the Dinner Table by Jolly R. Blackburn

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Three issues of Jolly Blackburn’s long-running Knights of the Dinner Table, all shipped simultaneously: #273, 274, & 275

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with virtually every aspect of life around the globe. That was driven home to me (again) when three issues of my Knights of the Dinner Table subscription were delivered in a single envelope last week.

Given all the upheaval the world has gone through in just the last five months, it was an eerie look into the recent past to open the first of them, issue #273 (planned on-sale date: May 2020) and read Jolly R. Blackburn’s editorial, written in March 2020 and titled “And Just Like That — Everything Changes.” Children of the Apocalypse, gather round and read these words from the long ago before-time:

Hey folks — I hope this finds each of you reading this, healthy, safe and doing well. Clearly, with what has transpired in recent weeks, that is most certainly not the case for everyone. Many of you have likely lost loved ones. are sick, unemployed, wondering what the future will bring or all of the above. This is indeed something that has left no one untouched.

I [know] that Knights of the Dinner Table has always been a refuge of sorts from the hard realities of the real world. Readers come here to forget their worries, have a laugh, possibly be touched and celebrate the love of rolling dice and gaming with friends. That won’t change… we’re all in this together, despite differences.

As I write this, there is a lot going on. The nation is in a state of self-isolation and shut down. I wanted to tell you what that means for KenzerCo and the Knights even though in the grand scheme of things, it might be the last thing on your minds. We are fortunate in that we are a small company with our own warehouse and shipping facility. Barb and I continue to ship product twice a week and can do so without interacting with others. So we are completely safe in doing so.

Here’s the glitch. Our distributors recently announced they will NOT be shipping product to retailers until this is all over. Which is understandable because many game and comic shops are currently shutting down and there’s no place to ship product to.

On top of that. the printer who publishes our monthly deadtree issues is in a shutdown also!

Take it from me: It’s tough to keep a monthly magazine going when both your printer and your distributors cease operations. But Jolly and team battened down the hatches and did it, producing digital issues, and getting them out to subscribers, on time. And when their printer opened up again they did a bulk run of all three issues, shipping them to subscribers as quickly as possible. Getting all three at once allowed me to read the issues back-to-back, and re-appraise just what it is that Jolly is doing, and how much it’s impacted the hobby.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 17 – 1976: Sentinels in Space and the Rise of Phoenix!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 17 – 1976: Sentinels in Space and the Rise of Phoenix!

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Welcome to part 17 of my quixotic reread of the Uncanny X-Men, beginning in 1963. I’m seeing how far I can go. Issues #97 to #101 are special for me because they loom large in my personal experience of collecting the backstory. This post covers a special period for X-Men and Marvel history too.

The introduction of Phoenix as the new incarnation of original x-man Jean Grey was a gigantic development, with impacts on the Marvel Universe that continue to play out in comics in 2020. An argument could be made that the creation of Phoenix was as significant an event as the creation of characters like Wolverine or the Silver Surfer. Each character opened up new kinds of stories to be told in the Marvel Universe.

Issue #97 (February, 1976) was created by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum with Sam Grainger on inks, whom I personally find too rough to catch the finesse of Cockrum’s pencils. The issue opens with alien space ships and a huge space opera battle.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 16: Enter Wein, Claremont and Cockrum in 1975

Uncanny X-Men, Part 16: Enter Wein, Claremont and Cockrum in 1975

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Welcome to the 16th installment of my reread of the X-Men, starting from issue #1 in 1963!

Today’s post is kind of a big deal, because Giant-Size X-Men #1 is the launch pad for the modern X-Men. This of course leads to the gigantic sales success in the early 90s, the cartoons, the movies and everything. In essence, after a five-year absence of new X-Men stories, Giant-Size X-Men #1 adds to the X-pantheon three previously-created, but little-known mutants (Sunfire, Wolverine and Banshee) and four brand new ones (Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Thunderbird).

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It Has Everything I Hate. And Yet…

It Has Everything I Hate. And Yet…

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I find it delightful. Though so much about it means I shouldn’t.

Good afternoon, Readers!

I have been, for the past week and a bit, binge-watching InuYasha (English subs, as I much prefer the voice acting in Japanese). It is a series I began long ago, then just stopped watching. When I saw that Netflix had it, I decided to give it another go. After all, I had vaguely fond memories of it. Let me tell you, I am finding it absolutely delightful, even though it is choc-full of all the tropes that I generally despise. I’m struggling to figure out why I like the series so damned much. Make no mistake. I do. I have finished all the episodes in the original seasons, watched all of the movies, and am not far off finishing The Final Act, where the story is finally, after a long break to permit the manga to catch up, coming to a close.

There is so much about this show that I shouldn’t like. Yet somehow… well, I absolutely love it. To the point where I’m considering buying the whole lot on Blu Ray to binge whenever I please without fear of my streaming services dumping the series after a while (as they so often have with various shows).

First, let’s start with the trope I despise the most in any medium. The love triangle.

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