Back Issue #20 February 2007 (magazine review).

The biggest surprise in finding a copy of this rare paper 2007 issue of ‘Back Issue’ is the opening editorial being changed to showing an unused page of X-Men # 94 noting the death of its artist Dave Cockrum. For those who didn’t know, the opening run of the New X-Men was originally going to be Giant-Size X-Men # 2, so being split between two issues, pages were lost although this is the first time I’ve seen one.

As a character piece between Storm and Thunderbird, I can see some redundancy, mostly because details of the latter’s evaluation of self-worth in the team was covered in other pages. From the start, John Proudfoot was a redundant character, with some attributes similar to Wolverine to quote Chris Claremont, but also never firmly established powers. Back in the day, I attributed his abilities as more akin to Captain America, but without the super-serum formula.

TwoMorrows has a new book on Cockrum coming out this year so maybe they’ll be reprinting this page a bit larger so the dialogue can be read.

Anyway, this Back Issue is devoted to looking at secret identities in some way. The start is looking at DC Comics’ Firestorm and his creator Gerry Conway wanting to emulate aspects of the early Spider-Man in having a teen character enjoying using his abilities and having a mentor in his head giving him advice. It’s rather interesting to see that Firestorm’s costume had been added to the choices to make the number up for selectrion and as artist Al Milgrom pointing out, he then had to keep doing the elaborate design on the chest.

Jennifer M. Contino’s ten ways to conceal yourself for a secret identity are all the subtle ones. It would have been interesting seeing how it works for the likes of Ben Grimm when he wants to look less obtrusive. Come to that, you do have to wonder at the bigger villains wanting to hang out when not wearing their battlegear. If you can’t tell, I’m getting into the swing of the title.

Zack Smith’s interview with Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema about Captain America giving up one identity to become Nomad during the ‘Secret War’ saga illustrates the problem of being the representation of a nation and then disliking what it was turning into.

An early interview with comicbook artist Jerry Ordway did present an interesting comparison to his artwork of later years when I looked it over, as he certainly doesn’t appear to be playing around with his pencils finding what he needed to achieve and his work on ‘Shazam!’.

I am horrified to think you Americans think that the great alien editor of ‘2000AD’ Tharg does not exist. You’ll be telling me next that Kryptonians aren’t flying across your skies.

Dan Johnson’s look at Moon Knight did raise an odd question about super-heroes with multiple identities and their mental health. I think I would raise my hand and say it depends on who they think they really are. Even Bruce Wayne only plays being a playboy and prefers the cowl. With Moon Knight, Marc Spector uses the identity he feels works best for him to get the results he wants which is more akin to what the Shadow used to do.

It’s rather interesting reading the multi-discussions about Clark Kent being a disguise for Superman or vice versa with the various writers made for interesting thoughts. The biggest surprise was John Byrne stating he wasn’t happy to lose the Superboy adventures aspect in his reboot but got over-ridden by editorial, who obviously didn’t realise the complications it made for the Legion Of Super-Heroes.

Bob Mcleod’s case for how good an inker Vince Colletta was does make a lot of sense. His early work, especially on Kirby, took more care than later when the more pages he inked the more he got paid and took short-cuts. Although inkers are now part of the royalties system now, you would think they should have been better paid back in the day.

The look at Steve Ditko’s Carlton creation, The Question, there and later at DC Comics does see some evolution. The Question was, of course, influential in the creation of Rorschach, so you can draw some comparisons here. One thing that it did make me think about was his name, Vic Sage, mostly because it looks like a corruption or split of the word ‘visage’. It’s all to do with the mask.

Finally, the first part of an article by Roy Thomas looking at Captain Marvel’s The Monster Society Of Evil from the 1940s, reprinted in 1989, where it introduced the little worm, Mr. Mind. To get the second part, you need Alter Ego # 64, alas only available digitally now unless you’re lucky to find a paper one.

It’s worth picking up this issue for the amount of art displayed. The articles cover a wide range of detail although I do think its worth exploring secret identities more, even if it just to find out how no one identifies Green Lantern or Green Arrow in civies, let alone any of them who rely on harlequin masks to conceal who they really are.

GF Willmetts

January 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $  (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it digitally for $ 4.99 (US))

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