Though we have a general consensus that the Star-lord Special Edition by Claremont and Byrne is one of the awesomest Bronze Age comics, Star-lord fans know a few gems awaiting those who dig deeper. Consider this origin story by the prolific Doug Moench. And dig that opening splash panel by Tom Sutton!
Do you absolutely desire your own copy printed on tree corpses? You can buy Star-lord’s origin in Marvel Spotlight #6; Marvel Comics, 1980. Oh, the scent of vintage paper!
One of our earliest childhood friends was a huge Moon Knight fan, so let’s have a look at some highlights of the series from the 1980s. The first issue declares the “macabre” Moon Knight, and elements of the supernatural and spooky would remain an integral part of the character. “Macabre” may be overstating the horror element, but you know how bronze age Marvel thrived on alliteration!
The artwork is nowhere nearly as experimental as what Bill Sienkiewicz later developed for books like Elektra: Assassin. We have heard Moon Knight compared to Batman, and Sienkiewicz delivers a style that seems well-suited to attracting a Batman audience accustomed to the classic work of Neal Adams and Marshal Rogers. Sienkiewicz shows an early flair for dramatic layouts and panel shapes, as these pages show.
Doug Moench cranks up the macabre in issue #12 by introducing Morpheus, a walking nightmare with a face only his mother could love and lots of icky black goo. This otherworldly menace gives Sienkiewicz a license to get weird, with dark and dramatic renditions of creepy interiors and conflicts.
The energetically odd-shaped panels remind us of Neal Adams’ work on the X-Men during his brief stint with Roy Thomas on the title. In a 2001 interview with Comic Book Resources, Bill admitted his fascination with Adams’ style: “Studying Neal’s work… I became obsessed… and became fixated on it. It was like my intention was to be Neal… There was no one at this point saying don’t do that, you’ve got to be your own person… When I finally got started, what got me hired was the fact that I drew like Neal. Neal in fact called up Shooter and said, ‘I’ve got this kid fresh off the street and he draws like me. Is that a problem?'”
Next up, let’s have a look inside issue #15. This one is so insane: something about white supremacists breeding rats in army helmets, and then a giant talking rat-man named Xenos shows up to assassinate a politician with a gun. WHAT?
But, #15 also has some cool ‘Moon Knight Files’ that discuss his weapons and origin and his different personalities. Though not as kooky as the Badger, Moon Knight had a thing about his identity. “Shades of Moon Knight” by Doug Moench also tells us about the development of the character as a concept.
Of all the issues we’ve read of this series, #24 stands out the most in terms of art and story. Focusing Moon Knight on crime takes him out of the spandex-clad superhero vibe and gives us some powerful human drama, masterfully rendered by Sienkiewicz. Let’s just look at the opening pages from this mini-masterpiece. Sienkiewicz treats us to visually appealing ‘stained glass window’ shapes, lots of dark shadows defining people and spaces, and great depictions of Moon Knight in stark black-and-white.
Pretty awesome, huh? If the whole series had been this intense, we might have tried to fill in every issue in our set!
We also dig this illustration from a subscription ad that portrays Moon Knight in an iconic pose rendered entirely in black and white. This needs to be a poster! More dramatic black-and-white Moon Knight art appears in an ad for #25.
Before we go on, let’s pause for the sake of interested collectors. You can collect these 1980s issues very inexpensively as the single issues of Moon Knight Volume 1, or in the black and white reprint Essential Moon Knight. Essential Moon Knight covers, in three volumes, all kinds of early Moon Knight stories, the Moench run, the first six issues from the second series, and more! Don’t forget the Moon Knight Special Edition, which reprints on higher-quality paper the early back up stories from The Hulk. Now let us move forward in time to the short-lived Moon Knight Volume Two!
Marvel cancelled the title and brought it back in a second volume with a new creative team, printing “Fist of Konshu: Moon Knight” on the cover. Frankly, we don’t understand why. It doesn’t have a significantly different vibe from volume one, and it revisits the themes of ancient Egypt and Morpheus in its early issues. We get a hint that Moon Knight’s split personality and new relationship with his power source will be a focus of the series, but it isn’t all that different from before.
The Morpheus tale in #3 really is creepy, but Marvel’s “new” printing process makes the colors decidedly garish to our eyes. (We processed them here to look a little more normal.) Many books circa 1985 had this look, and we don’t like it any better now than we did then. It seemed like an attempt to move into today’s high-quality formats, but without really having a clue how that would work. Despite this harsh judgment, we dig the disturbing nightmare worlds created for some criminally insane residents of the institution! Totally twisted.
The new creative team finds its feet in the first few issues, but then the book gets passed around. In #5, Jo Duffy gives us a morally grey tale where Moon Knight may or may not be in the right when he tries to stop a murder.
Issue #6 sports one of our all-time favorite Moon Knight covers, a wonderfully painted and suitably spooky scene. James “Priest” Owsley steps in for a tale that ends our collection. Moon Knight jumps through a closed window and then hugs a crack whore before busting out of some chains in classic superhero style. All in a day’s work!
Priest gave us some memorable stories in the 80s and our favorite Black Panther story more recently before moving out of comics and on to other endeavors. We also moved on to other things besides Moon Knight at this point in our early teenage collector days. The second series was cancelled after just six issues. What was the point of the reboot? We don’t know.
But, we have always had a fondness for the character, probably because he just looks so awesome when drawn well: the white cloak, the ankh, the face shrouded in darkness. We can’t help but wish that Sienkiewicz had some day returned to the character with his more lavishly abstract style, loaded with shadows and supernatural weirdness. Moon Knight works best the farther he gets away from standard superhero fare and off into the world of madness, mystics, and dreams.
It’s our birthday today, so we offer you an origin story. But not just any origin story: Trashman! Bearded hero of the people’s revolution: Trashman! Sometimes called “the Superman of the New left”: Trashman!
Subvert #1 by Spain Rodriguez contains the origin of his guerilla resistance character, Trashman. This off-beat 1970 story published by underground comix legends Rip Off Press describes the transformation of average guy Harry Barnes into an Agent of the Sixth International. He even masters molecular disintegration — whoa!
Murder, nuclear apocalypse, covert agencies, class struggle, satire — and that’s just the origin! The longer story which completes Subvert #1 involves some sexually hungry female revolutionaries. It’s a hoot, but forgive us for not sharing a few pages of THAT with you here.
Collector’s Guide: You can still find well-read copies of Subvert #1 for a few dollars if you are willing to dig. We found a VG- copy at the local comic store for 3 or 4 bucks, or you can go right to Subvert #1 on Amazon. Fantagraphics published a wonderful collection of all the Trashman stories from 1968 to 1985: Trashman Lives! It fetches a hefty price on Amazon these days, but we found a copy at a used bookstore for less than $20.
Jim Starlin’s single-page origin of god and his short origin of death originally appeared in the first issue of the 1974 series Star Reach. Star Reach Productions published its own Greatest Hits in 1979. In 1984, Eclipse reprinted six issues of highlights from the series as Star Reach Classics. We recommend it for fans of classic 70s science fiction. It’s in stock far more often than the original issues, and Eclipse printed it on high-quality paper, a really nice production. You can get most of them for just a couple dollars a piece.
Starlin gives us some of his finest 70s illustration, artistically superior to his more famous work on Captain Marvel, and on par with his best Warlock stories. If you enjoy these, you will enjoy Starlin’s Darklon the Mystic from that same era. Diversions of the Groovy Kind hosts some pages from Warren’s Eerie magazine where you can read part of Darklon in black and white. Or, you can drop a dollar on a back issue by Pacific Comics that reprints the complete Darklon story in color.
New Teen Titans #7 gave us the origin of Titans Tower: the T-shaped building serving as their headquarters, home away from home, and high-tech clubhouse. We see that Cyborg’s father built the Tower, a fact hidden from the reader for the first six issues.
Cyborg blames his father for the research accident at S.T.A.R. Labs that killed his mother and disfigured Cyborg. This issue gives us more insight into those events, and takes an unexpected turn for Victor and his father.
Keep in mind that in New Teen Titans #6, the Teen Titans just got done preventing satan from taking over the universe — satan being Trigon, Raven’s demonic dad from an alien hell. They arrive home at Titans Tower to find something amiss. If only they could find what every superhero lair requires: a cool schematic!
About half of this issue concerns the battle with the team of supervillains that infiltrated Titans Tower. Although beautifully drawn by George Perez, it has little to do with our focus here: Titans Tower. Soon the bad guys get the upper hand and produce Cyborg’s dad. His unexpected appearance carries a big reveal: He built the Tower! Insert more epic super battles here.
After the Titans defeat the enemy team, Cyborg’s dad needs to get something off his chest. Victor reluctantly listens, but soon his resentment gives way to compassion. Although he blames his father for both his own fate and his mother’s, Victor learns the same mishap began slowly killing his dad, too.
The final two pages of this story could not be farther in tone from the somewhat typical good guy/bad guy showdown that led up to them. Wolfman and Perez condense the final days of a father and son into a montage, a cinematic effect enhanced by Wolfman’s narrative “voice over” in the captions.
The closing scene begins a new era of peace for Cyborg. Changed forever by making peace with his father, he becomes less prone to lash out angrily at an unjust world. Soon, he will begin working with children who also have prosthetic limbs, playing baseball with them, and inspiring them to be strong. He will even learn to love again.
Men of War #1 gives us the first half of the origin of Gravedigger in his first appearance in DC Comics. Author David Michelinie would conclude next issue with a tale of Gravedigger’s breaking into a military installation, an unlikely story that plays well as a comic book nevertheless. Gravedigger earns his nickname digging graves in a non-combat unit. He wants to fight in the war, but the color of his skin gets him assigned to an all-black non-combat unit.
While films and novels have dealt with racism in the military before, Michelinie sticks to a theme of institutional racism. We do not see Gravedigger suffer from physical and verbal abuse, but we do see him confronting a racist system. Artists Ed Davis and Romeo Tanghal deliver a realistic style in the vein of DC’s other 1970s war comics like Sgt. Rock. Let’s have a look!
People complain about Marvel’s constant renumbering of titles these days, and you can count us in on a vote for the ridiculousness of all that. But do you remember that in 1968, Marvel’s first volume of Captain America began at #100? Up until then, Cap had filled the pages of Tales of Suspense. When TOS rolled over from #99 to #100, it became Cap’s own book. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee present Cap’s origin, which they would also do a year later in #112, perhaps to bring even more and more fans on board. To be fair, this one only covers Cap’s defrosting by the Avengers.
The Teen Titans series from the late 1960s is a trip. Robin saying, “Peace, baby!” to a bunch of aliens? Aqualad and his girlfriend going to a rock concert? Whoa!
The series isn’t even close to the brilliance Marv Wolfman and George Perez would bring to the Teen Titans in the 1980s. However, we’d like to share with you this origin of Wonder Girl because it has none other than Marv Wolfman scripting it. Marv Wolfman describes the impetus for the origin of Wonder Girl on his site.
Some of these same scenes would be masterfully recreated and expanded by George Perez in one of our favorite super-hero comics of all time: New Teen Titans #38, Who is Donna Troy? In that story, Dick ‘Robin’ Grayson uncovers the mystery behind this strange scene where Donna is a helpless infant in a burning building.
Collector’s Guide: From Teen Titans #22; DC Comics, 1969. Script by Marv Wolfman; art by Gil Kane and Nick Cardy.
The story of Norrin Radd’s abandoning a life of luxurious complacency to wield the power cosmic remains our favorite Origin of all time. If you ever have a chance to be the herald of Galactus, don’t think about it — just do it! We’ll see you in the spaceways.
Dig this slightly abridged version of Silver Surfer #1. We kept in all the origin parts, don’t worry! A nicely recolored version from one of the more recent reprints, it truly does justice to the all-powerful artwork of John Buscema.
Collector’s Guide: If you need a copy of Silver Surfer #1 for yourself — and believe us, you do — then here is a list of every time Marvel has printed it. Have fun shopping!
Dynamite’s first Lone Ranger series ran for twenty-five issues. It was clearly ‘written for the trade,’ so we waited until the whole series was over before buying it up. We were not disappointed! The story and the artwork really come together when you can read the complete stories without that thirty-day lag between issues.
About half of this issue covers the tragic incident that begets the Lone Ranger. We’ll share that with you today. The other half consists of flashbacks (not included) interspersed within this scene that give you a feel for the Ranger’s relationship with his father and brother.
Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko rock stories of the far-out, freaky, and fantastic in the first issue of Amazing Adventures! We’ve got the 2-part “Torr,” “Midnight at the Wax Museum,” and the first appearance and origin of “Dr. Droom!”
Marv Wolfman and George Perez took a lackluster DC property called Teen Titans and gave it a shot in the arm back in 1980. The Titans have done well since then, although never attaining the cult status of their contemporaries, the X-Men.
Wolfman and Perez created some new characters to spice up the dull routine Titans had become: Raven, Cyborg, and Starfire. The series kicked into high gear from the first panel, never slowing down for the usual hum-drum origin stories. Fans waited two whole years before Wolfman and Perez fully revealed the pasts of their new creations — and it was worth the wait!
Here is the complete origin of Koriand’r for you, the star-powered alien Princess who was sold into slavery, tortured, and ultimately empowered. It has been one of our favorite single issues ever since we first read it. If you like, check out our scans from New Teen Titans #1 later. The Titans’ first adventure centered around rescuing Koriand’r during her escape from the evil Gordanian Slavers. It’s a lot of fun!
Writer Steve Englehart delves into the twisted origin of The Vision in Avengers #135. Along the way, we get the origin of Hank Pym’s problematic robot creation, Ultron-5! We see how evil Ultron used the android body of the original Human Torch to build the Vision. And, we see what a suck-tastic design Ultron originally had!
In fact, Steve gets so jazzed about telling origins of Avengers that he even throws in a three-page origin of Moondragon. What glorious Origin Overkill! With a splash page of Thanos, Moondragon’s origin comes from Jim Starlin’s Captain Marvel. Jim Starlin contributed the cover for this issue, too!
Every geek has their own secret origin, a time when the world of comic books magically came to life for them. I’ve never changed into a costume in a phone booth or elevator, but I did transform into a mutant in a garage many times during my childhood vacations.
My family lived in rural Missouri for many years. My parents’ families mostly lived in small-town Ohio back then. In most Decembers of my pre-adolescent years, Mom, Dad, Sister, and I packed our bags to drive roughly ten hours north and spend Christmas with the families.
Mom’s parents had a detached garage off their modest but cozy three-bedroom house. The backyard had trees, a bench swing, a small garden, a clothesline. To get to the garage, I walked along square, concrete tiles with black pebbles in the spaces between. A waist-high chain-link fence separated the small path from the driveway. A wooden door opened into the darkness of the garage, which at that time of year was always cold. When the moon was up or the back porch light was on, I saw my breath.
The garage possessed a unique scent. Grampa smoked cigarettes in there and framed pictures at his work bench. Dust, sawdust, stale cigarette smoke, and mold. Dampness, but frozen. It’s not the bouquet you might associate with happiness, twenty-five years later–unless you were there with me to turn on the dim light, squeeze between the cars, and approach the ramshackle shelves on the far wall. Those shelves held every comic book my grandparents had purchased for their four children from the 1950s through the 1970s, and some that Gramma still liked to follow in the 1980s, like Conan, Dr. Strange, and Mike Grell’s Warlord. She always called them “funny books”, whether they were funny or serious.
Every year I dug out a new section of the stacks–hundreds, maybe thousands of books. Some years, I excavated completely unknown buried treasures. Some years, I found an issue I’d read before: a copy of World’s Finest #147 featuring Superman and Batman, or Tales of Suspense featuring Thor, Iron Man, or the Human Torch. With a year between visits to Ohio, it was like meeting an old friend. Early issues of X-men and Spider-man sat under so much dust and time and disuse that I sometimes got sick. I had pretty bad allergies to dust and mold at that age but zero qualms about risking my health to read those books. I would take an armful back inside the warm house, find a comfy spot to curl up, and be absorbed for hours. If the adults wanted to stay up late and play Euchre at the kitchen table, I might even make two or three trips to the garage.
Some of those books wouldn’t interest me now as an adult reader, but many have stood the test of time or have such intense nostalgia value that they’ve appeared on this blog. I regret that I wasn’t able to buy the collection when it was sold in the 1990s. Despite the books not being in great shape after decades of exposure to the elements, even a collection of Fair to VG+ vintage comics is a wonder to behold.
Those books took my mind on so many adventures and fantasies as a kid, and you can’t really put a dollar figure on fuel for your imagination. But these days, if the nostalgia becomes too acute, I can find most of them at MyComicShop.
In an age when giants walked the world, he was the mightiest of them all: Devil Dinosaur!
Jack Kirby‘s Devil Dinosaur and his pal Moon Boy inhabit “Dinosaur World.” Devil Dinosaur, as a result of a mutation, is bright red, smart as a human, and super-strong. It’s a fun ride, so hold tight to your Tyrannosaur and get ready to rock!
The first issue of Kull from 1971 packs so much action that we’d almost rather you just skip this exposition and get right into it. Roy Thomas gives the reader a novel’s worth of story in less than 25 pages. Hard to believe that fans got all that for 15 cents in 1971, when Marvel usually gives us 1/6 of a story for $3.99 now!
If you’re thinking Kull was just another Conan rip off, skip ahead to the last page in our gallery and get hip. Kull came first!
We love everything about this issue: Kull’s explanation that only the weak live in fear of words. Kull’s fatal solution for a girl sentenced to be burned alive. Kull’s entire mercenary career rendered in a splash page by Ross Andru and Wally Wood.
But most of all, Kull has one major cool factor that Conan lacked: He has magical powers from the Tiger Goddess. Yes! It sends us into a geek frenzy when Kull goes tiger-power! Dig page nine where Kull explains the moral superiority of the tiger, then gets apotheosized with the moon and a ghostly tiger form. Whoa! As much as we love the monsters, mayhem, and manning-out of this series, the Tiger Goddess really rocks our world.
Collector’s Guide: From Kull the Conqueror #1; Marvel, 1971. (Later, Kull the Destroyer.) As they’ve done with Conan, Dark Horse reprinted the Kull series in high quality collections: The Chronicles of Kull TPB.
Today, we share with you the very first issue of Hero For Hire featuring the origin of Power Man. We always liked that Power Man mostly went by his real name of Luke Cage. If we were invincible and could smash walls with our fists, we’re pretty sure we’d just use our real name, too.
Luke has been alternately lauded as a positive step in multi-racial integration of super-heroes and lambasted as just an example of crass blaxploitation. In reality, he was probably a little of both. But, his character was solid, and he just gets better with age. We have some more recent Luke Cage goodies to share with you, including a slightly modified origin story where Cage ponders his incarceration in a stark contrast to his personal hero, the Black Panther, King of Wakanda.
Hats off to Marvel for finding fresh ways to sell a gazillion Wolverine stories to today’s newer fans. We’re glad our favorite mutant can keep the lights on at the House of Ideas! But things were simpler before all this “Wolverine Origins” explosion. Part of Wolverine’s appeal was that we did not know all of his past! Bill Mantlo (with artist Sal Buscema) pulled back the veil ever-so-slightly in the first volume of Alpha Flight. We learned a little bit more about how Wolvie got his adamantium skeleton.
For those without photographic recollection of the plot lines, all you need to know is this: James MacDonald “Mac” Hudson was the founder of Alpha Flight. Alpha Flight was the name of a government project to create a Canadian super-team. Logan and Mac were buddies back when the team was coming together. Mac’s wife Heather donned Mac’s costume following his death in Alpha Flight #12. Here, Wolverine and Heather have a heart-to-heart in the forest before they get jumped by a horde of pissed-off samurai/ninja creeps.
No spandex. No referring to yourself in the third person. Just a shambling muck-encrusted mockery of the man that once was Alec Holland… Swamp Thing! Here are his origin and very first issue for you to enjoy. And it only gets better from there!