Back Issue #32 February 2008 (magazine review).

May 7, 2022 | By | Reply More

My search for early issues of ‘Back Issue’ finally accomplished with this 2008 edition. Not being able to see the small print, I wasn’t quite sure what it was about, more so as it had the Spidermobile on the cover and did that mean a look at super-hero vehicles. Actually, that’s not too far off the mark as this issue covers the ‘Marvel Universe Handbook’ and ‘DC’s Who’s Who’.

However, the start is an interview with Green Lantern illustrators Joe Staton and Ethan Van Sciver by Mike Eury at a 2008 Pro2Pro interview. Several interesting things and reminders came out of their conversation. Staton was responsible for the designs of several significant Green Lanterns, including Kilowog, Arisia and Ch’p, based on the needs of his writer, Steve Englehart. Oh, he also designed Guy Gardner’s costume, NOT George Perez which was thought at the time. I hadn’t realised that Gil Kane based Hal Jordan off actor Paul Newman, something both artists have also followed, although neither mentioned the larger hairstyle.

Michael Aushenker’s look at ‘ROM: Spaceknight’ from editorial Al Milgrom and Jim Shooter is quite revealing. The success of ‘The Micronauts’ and Parker Brothers wanting to enter the toy market with ROM but failed. In contrast, the comicbook succeeded and lasted 3 years, a success from writer Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema for a greater part of its 75 issue run. Shooter’s observation that media/toy comics brought in readers who might not normally read comics makes a lot of sense.

I remember back in the day, noting that ROM was part of the Marvel Universe and its multiple cross-overs with characters brought in dutifully meant to keep up with what was going on, especially as there was a connection to an early Doctor Strange story with a sentient house in Strange Tales # 120, although that was missed out in the article. In many respects, ROM’s run is a complete story to itself and kept reasonable sales. Although it rarely had name artists inside the book, it did so on the covers, including four annuals by Bill Sienkiewicz, shown here.

The main contention is with DC Comics prepping there ‘Who’s Who’ and Marvel Comics getting their Handbook series out first. Both book series took a lot of work. Robert Greenberger interviews Len Wein and Marv Wolfman who got the ‘DC Who’s Who’ started before the latter moved onto the ‘Crisis On Infinite Worlds’ and we get some of the history. One thing I would disagree with them is not setting particular specs for the characters. They see it as a breech of imagination, although when you see how John Byrne reigned in Superman in the reboot, it clearly wasn’t universal.

Both DC Comics and Marvel had impossible strength feats going on over the years. For DC, Superboy standing on his head and moving the Earth for a super-feat in ‘The 100 New Feats Of Superboy’ (originally in Superboy # 58 and reprinted in Adventure # 329) amongst other things and, as an adult, moving the Earth on the cover of World’s Finest # 208 which I’ve now read with chains made by Doctor Fate. At Marvel, probably the most critical was Hercules towing Manhattan Island in Marvel Team-Up # 28 which had loads of letter protesting, not so much at the strength feat but the damage to the infra-structure pipes to the inhabitants. Having limits to super-powers or at least explaining a once in a life-time feat, like Spider-Man’s effort to get out from under factory debris in Amazing Spider-Man # 33 is playing fair to the reader.

I wasn’t aware that part of the reason for the specs in the Marvel Handbook was for role-players but both companies saw their books as a means to show their wares to merchandisers. The fact that both books became loose leaf later was to facilitate new entries. My argument for having some sort of specs is to avoid the mess we had with Superman just getting increasingly more powerful. A super-being that has no limits makes it rather difficult to provide any sort of challenging opponent on a regular basis, unless they were equally as powerful.

This neatly moves on to Dusty Abell interviewing Eliot R. Brown about his technical drawings for the ‘Marvel Handbook’ and the Punisher and Iron Man Manuals that followed. Much of Brown’s influence came from cutaways from other books and often to make sense of the vehicles he investigated. His example of the Avengers’ Quinjet having 5 engine exhausts and hence its name got messed a little with the need to provide two in the undercarriage to land vertically, rather than swivel them around. I wish other vehicles and technology was explored more but Brown’s work laid the foundations down properly for the Marvel Universe for some time.

Dewey Cassell’s look at ‘Dial H For Hero’ covers Robby Reed back in House Of Mystery # 162-173 in the 1960s to the 1981 version where readers could contribute their characters and the problems that caused. With the original, Jim Mooney was the artist and he pointed out that creating new characters all the time didn’t mean a change in his pay scale and took a lot more work. There is an interesting question how a dial with 10 digits could make a variety of words although no one points out that it is an alien script so some levels might have had different emphasis or twin meanings or become composites.

These days, I suspect with what we do in TXT messaging, that the verbs would have been dropped although I doubt dialling ‘HR’ would make much sense but ‘VLLN’ might today. Thinking a bit more here, if there had to be one vowel, then I would plump for ‘O’ as the brain can make the connection with the other vowels. Of course, as it was alien symbols, they could mean anything and Robby Reed just lucked out.

That should be enough comment to make you consider picking up this early ‘Back issue’ if you come across it. If my luck continues to gather, I might well find all the early issues eventually.

GF Willmetts

May 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 6.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get a slightly scuffed copy for $ 6.95(US) or digitally for $ 4.95 (US))

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Category: Magazines, Superheroes

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About UncleGeoff

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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