Back Issue #25 December 2007 (magazine review).

With a cover of Iron Man in chains, it should spur interest in a look at his old issue of ‘Back Issue’ from 2007, sub-titled the ‘Men Of Steel Issue!’. If you’re going to explore your geek aspect of collecting, patiently waiting for something you want to read to reach a price you can afford is good for your patience and exploring on the Net.

Editor Mike Eury points out that not every character associated with ‘steel’ is covered in this issue but you do get a large and varied selection starting with a look by Dewey Cassell at ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ and ‘The Bionic Woman’ in Charlton Comics that attracted even the likes of Neal Adams to draw a cover of it. Much of the interior art was down to Joe Staton. There’s a cross-reference to the next piece about Marvel had also been after this contract and had they got it, then there would have been no Deathlok. Such is the ways of the world, although I do suspect Deathlok in some form would have popped up sooner or later.

Speaking of which, the Rich Buckler interview with Michael Aushenker about his famous character is actually the first of his on the subject. It goes without saying that Deathlok was the anthesis of Steve Austin, clearly showing he is a cyborg, albeit an unwilling one when Luthor Manning’s brain is embedded in his rebuilt body. As Buckler related, he had been given carte blanche to create his own character and have a share in any money related. Quite unprecedented at the time and now the norm. At creation, it wasn’t even set in the Marvel Universe in 1980, seen a long time off in 1974. I know it was a big influence in getting me back into comicbook collecting when I first saw it and a lot of gaps are filled here.

Zack Smith explores what happened after Buckler’s tenure and the second Deathlok, police officer Michael Collins being embedded in the body and firmly established in the Marvel Universe and establishing different protocols with his computer ordered not to kill.

Mike Grell as interviewed by Phillip Schweier reveals a lot of the background behind ‘The Warlord’ at DC Comics. It does present one obvious flaw in his storytelling logic, which he dismisses as it being its just comics, that by not giving perimeters it places the series as fantasy than SF. Granted he plays between both genres but considering the storytelling improved when his then wife ghostwrote for him then shows the flaw. Whether its comics or books, people like to explore realities and want to know the edges and rules that are being applied, even if its ‘just comics’.

Allan Harvey’s look at Mister Machine who became Machine Man, hits on Jack Kirby’s creation for the ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ comicbook series that transcended that into the Marvel Universe and the creators that followed him. After Kirby, the series had a bevy of top creators involved from Herb Trimpe to Steve Ditko and Barry Windsor-Smith, so they must have seen something in the character.

Of course, the main topic of this issue is the 80s Iron Man from David Michelinie and Bob Layton with two successful runs on the title, dimensionalising and turning Tony Stark into an alcoholic and upping Shellhead’s selection of armour. Bear in mind this was the major influence in the latter ‘Iron Man’ films, this is an interesting read. When you see the number of pictures by Bob Layton, its also obvious that there were also the odd tweaks to get better covers and what was wrong with the first versions making for some interesting lessons.

Something that was definitely not shown over here was the two 60 minute episodes of ‘Legends Of The Superheroes’ and Andy Mangels goes into detail with a lot of photos from 1979. Costume-wise for the period some were hit and miss and some more successful than others. I suspect if they were found and released on DVD, they would be seen as curios now but they certainly had a large selection of characters.

The look at the short-run series of ‘Steel The Indestructible Man’ is also that of another cyborg, caught up in the DC Implosion but ultimately got a military commission as Commander Steel and his name carried on by his grandson.

I often wondered why John Byrne’s ‘Rog-2000’ was missing from ‘Back Issue’ and here he in this edition as Al Nickerson interviews him on the subject. There’s also a ‘how to’ piece showing how to draw the robot from that time. Considering how expensive the ‘Rog-2000 Collected Edition’ has become, its long over-due for a cheaper re-issue.

Tom Stewart gives the lowdown about the fourth member of the Fantastic Four, H.E.R.B.I.E. when the Human Torch wasn’t available because of contractual issues elsewhere. What I didn’t know was that Dave Cockrum was involved in its design. I have vague memories that the animated series might have been shown in some regions in the UK but not where I lived.

It’s always worthwhile looking around the early issues of ‘Back Issue’ as they rarely go over old ground and it builds up into a collected detailed history of comicbooks.

GF Willmetts

April 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price: I just got lucky at auction. ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it digitally for $ 4.95 (US))

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