Part of the fun of Back Issue! comes from all the inside stories of the comics industry that are told in its pages.
I know that for some readers, that kind of stuff is dull, boring; too much the story of what is behind the page rather than what is on the page. That’s a fair argument. However, that just means that BI is not for you. For those of us who are amateur comics historians, who revel in the backstories and legends of this crazy industry, Back Issue is heaven.
Take the cover story, a comprehensive look at Adam Warlock, perhaps Marvel’s most cosmic hero, by Karen Walker. Walker does a wonderful job of taking a comprehensive look at the work that Jim Starlin did on the character, going into great depth in describing the storylines and ideas that Starlin expressed in his book.
But the aspect of the article that I enjoyed the most wasn’t the
story recaps. Instead, I loved the little behind-the-scenes pieces that Walker threw into the story. I enjoyed reading the reaction inside the Marvel offices to the controversial “100 Clowns” story, a story that depicted many Marvel staffers as clowns. I also enjoyed the tidbits that Walker offered about the tie-up of the original Warlock saga in a couple of annuals. I remember loving those annuals at the time and wondering why they came out as they did. Finally I get to learn the backgrounds behind those moments.
Several articles this issue are all about behind-the-scenes stories. J.C. Vaughn’s interview with Jim Shooter is replete with wonderful stories about Mort Weisinger, Murray Boltinoff, and the chaotic structure of Marvel in the mid-1970s. I especially liked a story Shooter told about how he and artist George Evans were completely befuddled when assigned to do a story employing the “Marvel method” of plots first, rather than full scripts.
Dan Johnson’s article about the New Universe goes into nice depth on the stillborn genesis of Shooter’s brainchild for the 25th anniversary of Marvel Comics. While many of these stories have been told elsewhere, the inclusion of such important team members as Eliot Brown, Ron Frenz and Shooter himself in the article adds a sense of definitive verisimilitude to the stories, and goes a long way towards explaining why the line turned out to be such a dud.
Michael Eury’s background story on Crisis on Infinite Earths is a bit of a dud since so much has been written about that series over the years. Dick Giordano is a convivial interview subject, but is unable to offer much in the way of new insights into this much-discussed comic.
However, Dewey Cassell’s detailed investigation of Marvel’s mid-’70s sci-fi series Logan’s Run is terrifically entertaining. Cassell speaks to almost all the parties involved in the comic, including George Clayton Johnson, who cowrote the the book on which the Logan’s Run movie was based, along with comics scriptwriter David Anthony Kraft and artist George Perez. Logan’s Run is a well-remembered series from that era, and it’s a thrill to see stuff like an unpublished page of Tom Sutton art that was completed for an issue of the series that was never published.
If you want proof of how obscure the topics can be in BI!, look no further than Lex Carson’s look at the Marvel Slurpee cups of 1975 and ’77. Carson is obviously a devoted collector of these cups, and gives readers all kinds of insights into the genesis and delivery of these great pop-culture items. He even tracked down and interviewed Paty Cockrum and Marie Severin, two Marvel staffers who were closely involved with the production of the designs that appeared on the cups.
Mark DiFruscio delivers an entertaining piece on yet another obscure sci-fi series of the ’70s: DC’s Star Hunters. While the article contains a bit more summary than I usually enjoy in these articles, he offers some fascinating behind-the –scenes tidbits in the piece, including the rather shocking reason why writer David Michelinie left the series that he co-created.
One of my favorite pieces is yet another chapter in Bob Rozakis’s alternate history of the comics industry, this time discussing the work that Jack Kirby “created” in the ’70s for Rozakis’s imaginary AA Comics. It’s a tantalizing and fascinating article. The article also made me sad with its discussion of the revival of Kirby’s romance comics in that world. Kirby drew a handful of romance comics in the ’70s, including Soul Love and True Divorce Cases; to get to read those comics is a bit of a holy grail for many readers.
Michael Eury delivers another very solid issue of Back Issue!, full of tantalizing stories and entertaining art. For those of us who live for those stories, this is a magazine not to be missed.