Back Issue #118 February 2020 (magazine review).

I have to confess that when I first saw Back Issue # 118’s cover in the advances, I thought this was going to be some sort of 3D issue. The colouring is actually a look at psychedelic or day-glo colouring, although inside, this is really for a couple pages. Don’t forget your sunglasses.

Obviously, any issue featuring an interview with Alex Ross and showing some of his art, especially not been in print, is worth a look. This goes back to 2017 when he put forward an art proposal for the Fantastic Four as a mini-series when the original comicbook was no longer in print but ran into a problem when a writer already had dabs on the FF if it was ever resurrected. All to do with contracts. Even so, the art here, pencil and ink essentially must surely get Marvel to have a re-think even for a mini-series.

As you should guess by now, this Back Issue is all about comicbook stories that never saw print. Well nearly. Some did eventually or were transformed into something else. If you’ve ever heard rumours about such project and what happened, then you will want this issue.

At one time, before the Implosion, DC Comics had a massive inventory of stories to see print. Some have eventually. I do agree with writer John Wells that the removal of the ‘Showcase’ and ‘1st Issue Special’ comics removed a way to test a new series before letting it loose. Looking at how many series failed at that time shows that they should have been kept. Then again, back in the day, publisher Carmen Infantino thought he needed to equal the number of titles Marvel were producing as a means to spread sales but that ultimately failed and he lost his job.

Dewey Cassell interviews Frank Thorne about a missing issue of ‘Red Sonja’ when he left the title but was only left at the prelim stage.

Of course, there were apparent dream cross-overs that were discussed before work schedules and apparent craziness dismissed them. Such is what happened to a mix of the X-Men and Cerebus The Aarkvark which I did hear about back in the day. A similar topic was potentially in the works for Mike Grell’s character, Jon Sable, at First Comics to encounter the Batman but that also fell through.

One category that rarely comes up is recasting an idea into something else. Larry Hama had an idea for a elite military team called ‘Fury Force’, led by Nick Fury’s adult son. Although editor-in-chief Jim Shooter didn’t think it was ready to go, when Hasbro needed Marvel input and a comicbook, he merged the two and allowed Hama to make the transition from artist to writer on the successful ‘G.I. Joe’ comicbook.

I’m less familiar with the original ‘The Target’ from 1940 or its 1980s attempt at a remake. Likewise with DC Comics’ ‘Impact’ imprint or the attempts to save it, although obviously none succeeded.

Steve Englehart explains about the ‘non-compliant contract’ he signed when he was asked to look over the Batman scripts prior to the Tim Burton film and where they were going wrong is oddly insightful. More so, because of the success of his, Marshall Rodgers and Terry Austin had on their original run on the ‘Batman’ title, the suits didn’t want them associated with the title, enough to effectively blackball (my British word for what he is describing) from working on it for many years and then only one second mini-series. In a second piece, Brian S. Stroud explores the Englehart/Trevor Von Eeden Batman/Mad Hatter 1982 tale was never published. Seeing the page samples here, you do have to wonder what DC Comics were playing at.

One person I didn’t think would ever be included here is Curt Swan. After he was finally taken off ‘Superman’ with the update by John Byrne, he was given work on Ed Hannigan’s ‘Skull & Bones’ but it got cancelled mid-pages.

Finally, last August, ‘Back Issue’ finally won the 2019 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Comics-Related Publication/Journalism. Glad that the industry realised something I’ve known for a long time now. Don’t miss an issue.

It’s very odd. Generally, I like to spread reading ‘Back Issue’ over several days so I can savour each morsel or at least absorb it better. This time, it was read in two days and totally absorbed. Not a bad feat for a subject that, at the end of the day, I would have to classify as being non-canon and not needed in my head. That’s impressive.

GF Willmetts

January 2020

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 9.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 9.95 (US))

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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