Category Archives: Features

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Underrated: A System to Organize your comics

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  A system to organize your comics.


Okay, bear with me. A lot of the comic readers I chat with at my LCS fall into one of three categories; those using an app to track their comics, those with an eidetic memory or those who just do the best to remember what they have generally but buy based on a specific want list. I tend to fall into the latter category; I’ve a list of the books I’m hunting on my phone, but when it comes to the books I already have, I’m less prepared. I tend to rely on what isn’t on my list and memory… which is fine when I’m looking at comic runs that I know I’ve finished, but less ideal when I come across a book I’m not sure if I have and am not actively collecting.

So what are my options to help me file and organize my books?

An excel or google doc spreadsheet is one of the simpler and less flashy methods, but also one of the most effective if you’re just listing which issues you do and don’t have. The more comfortable with spreadsheets then the more you’ll be able to customize how much information about each comic you want to put in, but at the end of the day it’s all reliant on what you put in.

Of course there’s comic book collecting apps designed to help you organize your books such as CLZ that for $14.99 a year allows you to track your books with a barcode scanner or the Comic Book Collector’s Database. I can’t honestly give you much information about the apps because I don’t use them (and never have), but they’re an excellent option for those who want a little more of a user experience than a basic list or spreadsheet.

You could also probably pay someone to catalogue your books but why waste the money on that when you can buy more comics?

Ultimately how you track your books is entirely up to you; but if you’re new to the comic collecting and reading community then eventually you’re going to want to track your collection somehow because unless you’re really good at remembering what you have (I’m not) then you’ll probably end up with a couple doubles of books you probably don’t need doubles of (I’m looking at you Wolverine #36).


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: X-Cutioner’s Song

The cover of the trade I don’t own.

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: the multi-part crossover event X-Cutioner’s Song.


The first chapter of X-Cutioner’s Song was published in November 1992 in Uncanny X-Men #294, with subsequent eleven parts coming in issues of X-Factor, X-Men, X-Force and Uncanny X-Men. With the series being billed as revealing the origin of Cable (it didn’t – that came in 1994), there was significant hype and buzz around the comics when they were hitting the shelves nearly thirty years ago, but because I wasn’t into comics at the time, I never heard any of it.

Instead, I noticed a cover when restocking the boxes at my LCS and decided to pick up the arc after the shop owner gave it a quick recommendation. Fortunately, we had a full set (or seven) in stock, so I grabbed the individual issues rather than hunting down a collected edition (partly because I am also building an X-Men and Uncanny X-Men collection, but also because I wanted to read it as it was originally presented in comic form. Complete with the polybags still sealed for some off the comics (I won’t lie, I was tempted to leave them sealed, but at only a couple bucks a comic it didn’t seem worth it.

Plus, I wanted the feeling of cracking those bags and getting to be the first person reading these comics.

I forget sometimes how much dialogue and text there used to be on pages in comics.

Without question, comics from this era were technically published before I started buying single issues, but that doesn’t mean that these issues didn’t kickstart a sense of nostalgia for the old UK reprint magazines that I first came across this arc in. The first issue felt oddly familiar, but beyond that…? It was pure 90’s joy.

After all, 90’s comics aren’t bad. There’s just a huge number of them in longboxes across the country because so many were printed. That just makes them worth less than the comics from the 70’s and 80’s, but it doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading.

“If mankind waited for the ‘right time’ to address the winds of change it’s unlikely we’d ever have crawled from the primordial ooze.”

Scott Lobdell, Uncanny X-Men #294

I don’t know if I had forgotten about the amount of times characters within X-Men comics in the 90’s spouted pearls of wisdom, but I was less than halfway through this first part of X-Cutioners Song and I already had enough one liners to make me sound like I a semi professional couch philosopher thanks entirely to the less than subtle messaging. Messaging that seems just as relevant today as it ever did (and I’m sure we’d all hoped that would be different).

The main plot of X-Cutioner’s Song isn’t fully revealed in the first issue, but there is more than enough information here to reel you in hook line and sinker. The crossover cost me less than $20 to put together, and it was worth every penny to do so – not only because of the nostalgia factor, but primarily because this is a damn good story that holds up today (even the funky fashion choices for the street clothes the X-Men wear don’t detract too much).

With any story crossing over four series, the creative team is, as expected, pretty hefty. There are names that at the time were relatively new faces to the X-Men, but now… well now we consider them as creators who have made significant contributions to the comicsphere, frequently drawing large crowds at conventions;

  • Writers: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza and Peter David.
  • Pencillers: Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee and Greg Capullo
  • Inkers: Terry Austin, Mark Pennington, Al Milgrom and Harry Candelario
  • Colorists: Mike Thomas, Marie Javins, Glynis Oliver, Joe Rosas and Steve Buccellato.

But despite the big names, the characters and import associated with the story, it’s an arc that can easily get overlooked when when you’re looking in the longboxes because the story came in the early 90’s, before the big bust in the comics market. Despite having heard a little about it over the years, largely through comments in UK reprints, I had never actually read the book before. Something I was more than happy to do with a story that is far more Underrated than I ever expected.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Black Beetle: No Way Out

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Black Beetle: No Way Out


Another week, and yet another case of “Alex bought something for Underrated without knowing anything about it beforehand.” This week we’re looking at the first volume of Francisco Francavilla‘s Black Beetle: No Way Outanother book that I found at a thrift store for an absolute bargain price. Actually, bargain is understating things. I paid $1 for this book (technically $1.25, but at but 4 get 1 free it works out to a dollar). Which is an absolute steal of a deal for a hardcover trade.

Black Beetle: No Way Out is published by  Dark Horse, written and drawn by Francavilla, and takes the form of a modern reinterpretation of the old pulp novels of the 30’s and 40’s, with all the semi futuristic-steampunk technology and sleek lines that includes.

This throwback feeling permeates the entire graphic novel, genuinely allowing it to read as a pulp novel from a bygone era – but one with the tonal sensitivities of today. It’s within this area that Francavilla tells the story of a vigilante who is equal parts the Shadow, the Spider and the Black Bat – and though comparisons to Batman will be made, the only similarity there is that Batman is more prevalent in the cultural awareness of our medium than the other three characters previously mentioned. I’m not saying the comparisons are unfair, but that the similarities are more in line with the characters Batman took inspiration from rather than Bruce Wayne himself.

The story, then, that is told within No Way Out is very reflective of those pulp novels, especially the original covers that are used as story breaks between the individual issues. Francavilla’s artistic approach is very evocative of the art styles of the time – simple colours, thick lines and a sense of foreboding. With Francavilla handling both the writing and the art duties in the book, we’re given a tour-de-force of a creative offering as he delivers an incredible experience.

And that, ultimately, is why I loved this book so much. It’s an incredibly fun pulp story, a classic hero romp with a hero who in’t shy about using his guns. Of course that does leave a little room for folks to be concerned about a lack of substance in the plot, but I think for the most part that is a concern that can be put aside by the artistic offering.

This is a book that’s absolutely worth a read.

Yes, I only paid $1 for it, and yes, I only bought it because it was in a thrit store, but I am so glad that I did. Black Beetle: No Way Out is easily the best thing I have read all week – including the four other books I picked up – and I am frankly astounded that I had never read this before. I’m equally as astounded that I’d never even heard of the book before.  Consequently, this is a book I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

UNDERRATED: THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The Man Who F#&%ed Up Time.


Time travel comics are always interesting. How the writer plays with chronology in the story can make an otherwise A to B story take on an entirely new journey when you start to realize just how much small things can impact each other.

One of my favourite time travel stories is the twelve issue series from Valiant Ivar, Timewalker, released a half decade or so ago. One of the strengths of that story is how time travel is played relatively straight – Ivar’s journey is linear even if it doesn’t happen in linear time.

Similar things can also be said about The Man Who F#&%ed Up Time, only as you’ve probably guessed from the title there’s a lot more humour in this book, and as such a lot of what happens is genuinely funny as the proverbial shit starts really hitting the fan. The book, written by John Layman with art by Karl Mostert and colours by Dee Cunniffe, was published by Aftershock in 2020. I picked up the collected edition second hand from my comic shop this week solely to read for this column and then intended to trade it back, though after finishing the book I’ve shelved it away because it’s the kind of story I know I’ll want to read again.

I’m not going to tell you too much about the plot beyond what is on the blurb on the back:

Sean Bennett is just your everyday, ordinary lab worker in a high-tech lab with a prototype time machine. And, yeah, he’s got the same temptations any of us would have about going back in time, just a bit, to correct mistakes of the past and right old wrongs. So, when he meets a version of himself from the future who encourages him to do just that, Sean takes the temporal plunge. Only…can you guess what happens next? Did you read the book title? Yup. All of TIME is f#%&ed up now, and it’s up to Sean to correct it – or else!

www.aftershockcomics.com

The writing in the book is top notch, but it’s the vibrant and enthusiastic art that really sells the story; Mostert and Cunniffe bring their A game with The Man Who F#&%ed Up Time.

This book is a lot of fun, and will make an excellent diversion on a lazy day sat with your feet up. Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of time travelling goodness?


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

A Spotlight on Indigenous Creations

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: A Spotlight on Indigenous Creations.


This week I’m doing something that I have never done; spotlighting books I haven’t read. You see this week 751 unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of an Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, Canada. This is on top of the 215 bodies found in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. These children were taken from their homes, horrifically abused, and far too many were murdered and forgotten. The Indian Residential Schools, the first opened around 1830, were a concerted effort at cultural genocide by the Canadian government (and later the Catholic Church) upon its involvement and escalation of the residential schools in the 1870’s. I’m not going to tell you what I know about the system because frankly I don’t know enough, but I do want to make you aware of them. I also want you to know that the last school closed in 1996. That is recently enough that a lot of us remember that year – and the Canadian Government and Catholic Church were still operating residential schools. This isn’t something from the distant past, and the impact of the residential schools have been generational and culturally devastating.

For more on the residential schools, read The Residential School System By Erin Hanson (2009), with updates and revisions by Daniel P. Gamez & Alexa Manuel (September 2020). Wikipedia is a good place to start to learn more, though not as detailed as the former article.

The mortality rate for Indigenous Peoples in the residential schools was greater than those of Canadian soldiers in World War One. Many families who lost children never found out what happened to them. It is a heartbreaking truth to learn, and non Indigenous Canadians have a lot of learning and listening to do.

The publishers and comics.

I hope if you’re reading this then you at least read the Wikipedia page above, and maybe you’ll check out some of the links below; all will take you to art, graphic novels, comics and novels created by Indigenous writers and artists. This column isn’t going to come anywhere close to reconciliation, but as a white man I feel it’s my responsibility to encourage others to listen to and read the stories of Indigenous People. I’m going to link you to publishers and some sample stories; please note that none of the below are affiliate links for Graphic Policy, nor are these the only books located at each publisher – these are just a selection.

Eaglespeaker Publishing Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Eaglespeaker write, illustrate, publish and distribute bestselling paperbacks and eBooks worldwide. With titles that feature over 250 First Nations throughout North America. I’ve included a small number below with the link to the book on the publisher’s site, but there’s a lot more on the website.

The Secret of the Stars A young man’s journey to find four fallen stars.After watching the stars falling to earth, he is whisked into the land of dreams where he is told that the discovery of each star will also reveal one of life’s many secrets. A voyage that takes him across distant lands, into the realm of dreams, and back again. Ultimately the young man begins to understand the deeper purpose of why he was put on this path and what finding all the stars truly means. A story about the wondrous places your dreams can take you.

The Did Not Quit The story of the first all-female team to finish the 3200km Cain’s Quest Snowmobile Endurance Race. Their dedication and strength helped them overcome the challenges that racers experience during cross country snowmobile races. Their goal was to inspire more females to join the male dominated sport, and that they did.

Mukwa And The Suitcase Boozhoo (Greetings) – storytelling has been an ancient tradition of North America’s original people since time immemorial. The truth of the Indigenous experience, and the impacts of colonization, is a story that has been silenced for far too long. Mukwa and The Suitcase takes you on a storytelling journey, through the eyes of an Indigenous child facing the impacts of disconnection from his identity and culture. When hope is at its lowest, Mukwa finds the beginning of a new journey … a journey of re-connection to his identity and his community.

UNeducation Vol 1: A Residental School Graphic Novel This quote from the author, Jason Eaglespeaker, says it all: “I am often asked about the backstory of UNeducation. The original version was a scrapbook, one single copy that I put together when my local school district asked me about residential school resources. At the time there were very few that were instantly engaging. My mom and all of her 8 siblings attended the notorious St Paul’s Residential school in Southern Alberta, so I decided to just make a resource. I set up a little area in my basement, gathered everything I had, and jam-packed a coil bound Hilroy Notebook with articles, interviews, photos, quotes, first hand accounts, and graphic novel illustrations of my family’s experience (completely uncensored). I brought it to the school. By noon, they asked for 10 more copies. So, I hand crafted and coil bound 10 more in my basement (took me a week). I brought them to the school. By the next day, the district wanted 100 more copies. So, I hand crafted and coil bound 100 more in my basement (took me a month). I brought them to the school. By the next week, Alberta Health said they wanted 1000 copies! So, I hand crafted and coil bound 1000 more copies in my basement (took me 3 months!). Since then, UNeducation has gone on to sell well over 220,000 copies, but, I no longer hand make them (lol). It’s now in schools, universities, libraries, addictions programs, and healing initiatives throughout North America and beyond.”

Strong Nations is an online retailer and a publishing house located in Nanaimo, BC, specializing in Indigenous literature and art.

7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga Edwin is facing an uncertain future. Only by learning about his family’s past—as warriors, survivors of a smallpox epidemic, casualties of a residential school—will he be able to face the present and embrace the future.

Indigenous Story Studio  formerly known as the Healthy Aboriginal Network, has been a registered non-profit Society in the province of British Columbia since 2005. There is a wealth of stories on this site, that I haven’t had a chance to full investigate, let alone read.

Strength Of The Sash Our Métis story is about a struggling young man finding refuge and a sense of self-worth in his rich heritage. It’s an 18 page story and you can preview 4 pages of the education content [at the link in the title]. The content in these stories may stir up unpleasant feelings or thoughts. Please consider reading them with a family member or friend. This is a two-sided book; the other half being the First Nations story.

Inhabit Education Books is a Nunavut-based educational publishing company with a mandate to provide educators and parents with educational resources that are infused with authentic Northern perspectives, ways of life, and imagery. Their publishing initiative always considers stories and information in an educational context. All of their publications are developed by a team of Northern educators and language experts. These titles incorporate concepts that students are familiar with—counting, animals, family, traditional stories, and so on—within a Northern context.

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection Inhabit Education Books is proud to distribute this important collection of Indigenous comic stories, originally published by Alternate History Comics. This collection features stories by Indigenous authors and artists from across North America and showcases the rich heritage and identity of Indigenous storytelling. From traditional stories to exciting new visions of the future, this collection presents some of the finest comic book and graphic novel work on the continent.

Portage and Main Press publishes a wide range of innovative and practical K–12 educational materials, including two new graphic novels. They build dynamic learning communities by bringing together authors, educators, and students. Founded in 1967 as Peguis Publishers, the company quickly established a reputation for publishing quality educational resources in addition to Indigenous literature and regional history. Portage & Main Press remains an independently owned Canadian company.

Further reading and resources

Where to donate to support survivors of residential schools


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Valiant Masters: Ninjak: Black Water

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Valiant Masters: Ninjak: Black Water.


Ever since I’ve started to collect Valiant comics, I’ve been picking up the hardcover deluxe editions here and there as a way to catch up in bulk on some of the series I’ve missed, and also because I just like the look of them. A while back I did a cost analysis as to whether it was worth buying the deluxe editions verses the softcover trades or single issue floppies at cover price; generally the savings were negligible depending on the size of the book (less than $5, I think) between the hardcovers and soft covers, but the difference between the hard covers and cover price floppies varied greatly depending on how many books were collected (and it didn’t factor in the cost of the floppies after they’ve been on the market for a while, as they can fluctuate higher or lower depending on different trends).

This is relevant only because the Valiant Masters hardcovers generally contain the first eight issues of the original Valiant series (either 1-8 or 0-7 depending on the stories within), which means that for $25 you end up paying about $3.25 a comic. Whether that’s a good price for the early Valiant books depends on which book you’re looking at; I’ve paid $20 for the first appearance of Rai, $6 for the first appearance of Ninjak and around $1 for others, so it’s largely a crap shoot, but for the most part the individual issues collected in the Valiant Masters are going to be cheaper than the hardcover itself depending on which one you’re looking at.

The point I’m making here is that while I’m talking about the hardcover today, in reality I’m really looking at the eight issues within the book (Ninjak #1-6, before giving us his origin with issues #0 and #00), and those you can probably find easier than the hardcover which may be out of print now. The floppies will likely be cheaper given how out of print Valiant hardcovers tend to sell for higher than cover price.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of these Masters editions is in comparing what I know about the characters from their 2012 relaunch and the versions that appeared in the 90’s. The Ninjak of the 90’s had his differences from the modern version; born to English parents as part of an experiment to grow enhanced humans, he grew up in Japan and learned the ways of the ninja from a temple he sought refuge in after his father was murdered. The rest, his technology and such, differ only in what was conceivable to the writers of the time.

Black Water has the titular ninja taking down an international conglomerate. It sounds fairly cliche now, but the story’s echoes of Batman and James Bond set it apart from the general run of the mill hero vs corporation stories. The story is only the first two issues of the series and , but by the time that story had wrapped I felt like I’d read a full trade – one of my favourite things about comics from the 90’s and before has always been the amount of content packed into each issue. The first six issues we get are wonderful. Reading these, and the other early Valiant, I can understand why the publisher gained such a strong following over the years. Compact, exciting, and with some truly exciting art (I acknowledge that comic art has come a long way since the 90’s, but these issues of Ninjak hold up very well even today).

There may only be a limited number of folks left who, like me, want to explore the original Valiant comics of the 90’s that haven’t already done so, but these hardcover editions are a brilliant gateway to the past, and great encouragement to go hunting for the comics that haven’t been collected – and may never be at this point. That’s why I think these books are underrated; because so few of you will be looking for them. Which is a shame because those early Valiant stories are fantastic.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Night’s Dominion

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Night’s Dominion.


The first volume of Night’s Dominion was published by Oni Press late 2016/early 2017 as the first six issues of, funnily enough, Night’s Dominion. The volume was written and drawn by Ted Naifeh, and presents itself as a prototypical fantasy story with the added flavour of modern superheroes (though not literal modern superheroes). So what’s the story about?

Taken from the blurb:

A thief, an assassin, a mage and a cleric walk into a tavern in the ancient city of Umber. Awaiting them is a mysterious bard with a dangerous scheme: to break into the dungeon of a powerful death cult in search of treasure. For these five desperate criminals, it’s the last chance for hope in a city of corruption and despair. But what they find instead is an undead army preparing to conquer the world. Now, they must fight to protect the city that pushed their backs to the wall, or watch it burn. 

Night’s Dominion is a fun distraction, though the plot is fairly by the numbers in terms of fantasy stories, it’s still engaging and entertaining enough to keep you moving the pages.

I was able to pick up the first six issues for about $12, and it was absolutely worth the price of admission (if I’m honest, I had it sat in my To Read pile for almost a year before I finally picked it up last night). I don’t know if I’d pay more for it than that, but I’m happy with the price I paid. Naifeh’s art is atmospheric and moody, although a couple of his characters look similar enough that it can be hard to tell them apart at some points, I’ve really no major nitpicks with the art style or the writing – the story is good, if not groundbreaking, and it was exactly what I wanted to read (and just about what I expected when I first saw the series solicited half a decade or so ago).

Unfortunately you don’t hear a lot of people talking about the series, which comprises of two volumes as of this writing, and so for that reason I wanted to focus on it for today’s column. It’s a fun book, and it gives you a break from the traditional superhero comics without fully ignoring the genre (if that sounds strange, it’ll make sense when you read it), and until I was googling the cover I had no idea that it wasn’t a self contained story, so the lack of a pesky cliffhanger is always a bonus.


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

Underrated: Marvel’s Facsimile Comics

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Marvel’s Facsimile Comics.


Recently Marvel Comics have been releasing what they call Facsimile Editions of some of their key issues, which essentially just reprints those issues for (modern) cover price. The cynical person would say that this is just a cash grab from a publisher looking to take advantage of people who want to own a copy of those stories in print, whereas I’m looking at it as a great opportunity to own an exact copy of Giant Size X-Men for less than a fraction of the actual cost.

Before you say that it’s available on Marvel Unlimited, I don’t care. Mainly because I don’t have Marvel Unlimited, but mostly because it allows me to read a print version of the story – something I haven’t yet been able to do.

Yes, I understand that some of us may have a copy of two of the original story already, but are those copies exact to the original printing?

Probably not.

(It should be said at this time that I have never been able to touch an original of any of the comics that the Facsimile Editions reprint, much less actually read one, so I have no way of actually verifying this myself but at least that’s the idea).

Because most of us will never get a chance to view an original copy of many of the original comics, these Facsimile Editions are a great alternative to seeing the original comic (not the stories, because you can find those in a multitude of other place – I own several versions of Incredible Hulk #181, just not an original), including the ads. It’s a recreation of a piece of history in much the same way a reproduction Velociraptor claw is. Which exactly how I’m looking at it; there’s no way I would ever read an original copy of Giant Size X-Men #1 or Incredible Hulk #181 if I was ever lucky enough to find one for a non-exorbitant price, but I sure as hell will read these Facsimile Editions.

Because I’m the kind of nerd who loves looking at old comics; the ads, the commentary… it’s a snapshot of where the industry was at the time, and in many ways the older comics mean more for that than the story inside (because those I can read elsewhere).

That’s why these books are underrated.


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 8 – In the Beginning Was…The World Within

Guest contributor Gene Selassie is back with his latest retrospective of Marvel‘s The Avengers. Steve Englehart takes the helm of the series as issues #105 to #114 are covered here!


First things first, I wanted to give a shout out to the audience. As we reconvene for the next leg of this journey, reading every issue of The Avengers from the beginning, I wanted to say thank you for coming along on this zany ride. During these issues, we see how a new writer at the helm fares. We also bear witness to the return of several villains that have close ties to members of the team. Moreover, we see affairs of the heart push a few Avengers to the limit. Finally, the icons on the roster have to juggle their responsibilities to the team with the goings-on of their own books, more than ever before. Hop aboard the Quinjet as we take flight.

Avengers #105

Iconic scribe Steve Englehart takes the helm of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with issue #105. The transition in writing duties from Roy Thomas to Steve Englehart appeared seamless. I’m used to the modern era, where every new writer has to put their “stamp” on the franchise. These issues featured Englehart continuing plot threads from prior issues, such as Scarlet Witch’s relentless search for her missing brother, Quicksilver. Unfortunately, the demeaning writing of women continues. In issue #105, while battling Beast-Brood of the Savage Land, Lady Sif (one of several Asgardians staying at the mansion due to events in Thor’s comic) became overwhelmed and needed rescuing. FFS, CAN WE HAVE ONE DAMN ADVENTURE WITHOUT THE OVERUSED CLICHÉS WHEN IT COMES TO WOMEN??? SHE’S A DAMN ASGARDIAN! Issue #113 opens with the aftermath of an adventure from Astonishing Tales #18, where the Statue of Liberty was severely damaged. We now see the Avengers repairing said damage. Wanda is almost crushed by falling debris, but Vision saves her. I am completely over Wanda “Damsel in Distress” Maximoff. Though he tended to use more bombastic narration and had the characters use more slang then they ever have previously, Englehart was the perfect person to carry the torch after Roy Thomas.

Villains that have personal scores to settle popped up quite a bit during this series of issues.

  • Issues #106-108 feature the return of the Grim Reaper, who has aligned himself with the Space Phantom (not seen since issue 2). While the Phantom wishes to kill the Avengers, Reaper reveals the truth in that Wonder Man’s body isn’t able to be revived. Eric’s real plan was to offer him Captain America’s body for Vision’s mind to be transferred to. With the Space Phantom obviously having no intention of honoring their deal, Reaper sides with the Avengers to help take him down.
  • Issues #110-111 feature the team heading to the long-hidden X-mansion to assist the X-Men, who were besieged by an unknown assailant. Wanda quickly deduces that the attacker is Magneto. The Master of Magnetism arrives and takes mental control over the X-Men AND Avengers due to his learning to control the iron content in blood flow to the brain. I loved the X-Men costumes of this era, especially Cyclops’, Marvel Girl’s and Angel’s. Magneto’s plan was to attack a conference for the Atomic Energy Commission and force them to increase atomic output to springboard a rise in mutations. Thor, Black Panther, and Vision are forced to call in backup…backup in the form of Black Widow and Daredevil.
  • In the issues leading up to #114, we saw Mantis and a silhouetted associate planning on meeting and joining the Avengers. In this issue, it’s revealed that her paramour is the Swordsman, who has turned over a new leaf and wished to join the team to make amends. It was so annoying how Mantis only referred to Swordsman as “my man”. Can ONE WOMAN in this series not be defined by her significant other?

Though some of these villains are favorites of mine, I am thrilled that they only appear every once in a blue moon. Modern over use of these characters have made me care less and less about them with each passing year.

Avengers #107

Wanda and Vision FINALLY made their feelings known to each other at the end of issue #108, though some were not happy about this.

  • The opening page to issue #110 shows Thor interrupting a sparring session. He gathers the team in the communications room as they’ve finally received contact from Quicksilver. He explained what happened after the attack on the Sentinel base in issue 104. Lockjaw of the Inhumans teleported himself and Crystal of the royal family to Pietro, completely by accident. They took him to the Great Refuge and nursed him back to health. Along the way, they fell in love. Pietro announces that he and Crystal are getting married. Wow, that was fast, even for Quicksilver. Yet when Scarlet Witch tells him that she and Vision have declared their love for each other, Pietro flips out, telling her it is wrong to be involved with a robot. Man, for someone who constantly snaps at their teammates for not understanding the struggles of being a mutant, Quicksilver sure comes across like a hypocrite during this era.
  • Hawkeye, who unsuccessfully made several passes at Wanda in prior issues, handled the news like an angry teenager and decided to leave the team. He heads out to San Francisco to see the Black Widow…even though she’s currently dating Daredevil. With her not being home, Clint decides to hang out in one of the trees out front until she gets there. Good grief, Clint wouldn’t take no for an answer back in the day. At the end of issue #111, Cap offers membership to both Daredevil and Black Widow. DD declines on behalf of both of them, which ticks off Natasha. Though she was right to be upset at Matt Murdock making that decision for her, she then got mad when Matt peacefully departed. Both she and Clint have issues they need to work out before they get into any more relationships.
  • In issue #113, Wanda and Vision’s relationship goes public. A group of hate mongers are sickened by the thought of a mutant and an android together and try to kill Vision, via suicide bombing, to prevent “androids taking over”.

This was quite the rough opening weeks for one of the defining couples of this franchise. Yet, their love would endure for quite some time.

Many of the resident Avengers have a multitude of duties. The ones that have their own books (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Rick Jones/Captain Marvel, and Black Panther) are beyond swamped during this run, nearly to the point of neglecting their duties elsewhere, or even neglecting their secret identities.

Avengers #110
  • In issue #110, Black Panther has been urged to return to Wakanda to take the throne once again with no more extended leaves of absence. Before he can make a decision on his future with the team, a bunch of Black protestors show up at the mansion and demand that T’Challa return to Africa. These protestors break down the front doors of the mansion and try to take Panther by force. They are led by a reporter, who we thought was slain a few pages earlier. Panther falls under his mental thrall, apparently like the protestors were. When the other Avengers step in to confront him, the reporter transforms into the Lion God, the centuries-old rival of the Panther God. He sought to siphon off all of T’Challa’s knowledge about the Panther God, but the Avengers, primarily Thor, were able to subdue the deity long enough to free the Panther. T’Challa decides that it’s not just Wakanda that needs him, so he decides to stay with the Avengers.
  •  During the Space Phantom/Grim Reaper ordeal, Captain America was flooded with memories that he had no recollection of. These memories were of him and Rick Jones storming a HYDRA base in Cap’s own book. The memories were wiped from Cap’s and Rick’s minds as this was part of the Space Phantom’s overarching plan. During this era, it seemed like Captain America was in five places at once, given all of his adventures outside of the Avengers book.
  • In issue #113, after Vision is critically wounded by one of the suicide bombers, T’Challa, Tony Stark and Doctor Don Blake have to work to repair him. Tony has to excuse himself so he can “go find Iron Man”. The armored Avenger gives Steve and Wanda an assist. Another of the terrorists attempt to detonate. Iron Man flies him high into the skies right before the explosion. Suddenly, Stark returns to assist the scientists, letting us know he’s alright. He tells Doctor Blake to “go roust out Thor” and pretty much hints that he knows Blake is Thor. Thor was pretty good about keeping his alter ego hidden, so if Tony knew, who knows how many other heroes knew at this point?

One of the reasons that I’ve always gravitated to the Avengers is that, for the longest time, it was the central hub of the Marvel Universe goings on. Be that as it may, despite enjoying seeing the big guns on the team, it seemed that many really needed to take a leave of absence to handle their other responsibilities.

When next we meet, we will recount the second event story and first official “crossover” in Avengers lore, The Avengers/Defenders War. With heavy-hitters like Doctor Strange, Namor, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer filling the Defenders ranks, how will Earth’s mightiest heroes stand up to such power? Until next time, Avengers Assemble!

Underrated: The Bill Schelly Reader

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The Bill Schelly Reader.


I’ve never been shy about my interest in comic book history, and it was when I was searching for some new books to scratch the itch, I came across The Bill Schelly Reader, a book by Bill Schelly that collects some of his finest prose work on the early history of comics and fandom.

Borrowing the text from the back of the book, because that’ll give you a better synopsis than anything I’ll write:

Bill Schelly has been writing about comics and fandom since 1965. In over 50 years one can do a lot of writing, and The Bill Schelly Reader includes some of the author’s best work on subjects ranging from the golden age of comic fandom to James Bond.

Schelly takes us back to the very beginnings of comic fandom with such articles as:

  • “Batmania”: a short history of the early 1960s fanzine (the first fanzine Bill Schelly ever read) credited for a resurgence of interest in Batman comics during a time of dwindling sales
  • “The First Comicons”: a retrospective on the first conventions organized by comics fans, from the Alley Tally Party to larger events in major cities like New York and Chicago
  • “It Started on Yancy Street”: an issue-by-issue look at the first fanzine devoted entirely to Marvel Comics, and why an unwelcome decision by Marvel led to its demise

In addition, book includes articles about the Silver Age Batman, Hawkman by Joe Kubert, the James Bond books by Ian Fleming, and an interview with the author. With dozens of vintage photos and images!

I’d never knowingly read one of Schelly’s essays before, though that’s mostly because I never got much of an opportunity to read Alter Ego where a lot of his essays were published. Over the course of The Bill Schelly Reader, Schelly dives into the early stages of comic fandom in the 1960’s, exploring the emergence of fanzines and the very first conventions. His essays are deep and incredibly interesting for those of us who want to learn more. A lot of the information that Schelly presents, while by no means the definitive history, paints enough of a picture so that you grasp what those days were like for fans. Remember this was long before any websites or even widely published magazine like Wizard, and so fanzines often had circulation numbers running at less than a thousand issues – and were put together by folks who also had other jobs (not unlike a lot of comics websites, but we don’t need to worry about publishing, printing and distribution of our content).

The essays run an average of ten pages or so each with a lot of additional images that add flavour to the text, and it’s amazing how much info Schelly crams into each one. There’s the odd moment where I found my interest waning, but for the most part the book held my attention from cover to cover (though I’d only read an essay or two a night).

If you’re at all curious about the early days of comic fandom, then I’d highly suggest you take a look at this book. Schelly’s literary work often goes out of print (well, as far as I know from my fifteen minutes of research, anyway), and then inevitably the prices spike. Grab this one if you’re at all interested.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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