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Back Issue #17

A book review article by: Jason Sacks
Each issue of Back Issue is a feast of nostalgia for fans who love comics from the '70s and '80s. Every issue contains interviews and features that discuss obscure but wonderful topics from those eras. For instance, BI #17, the "Super Girls Issue", explores the histories of such characters as Tigra, Supergirl, Flare and Spider-Woman. None of those characters would be well-known to people who aren't hard-core comics fans, but that fact is kind of the strong point of the magazine. Unfortunately, what the magazine contains in fun content, it sometimes lacks in depth of content. There are several times in reading the magazine that I found myself missing some small extras, implied in the text of the articles, which would have made the Back Issue even better.

Take for instance the ten-page article about the pre-Crisis Supergirl. Ten pages just felt too short for a piece about a character that was around for so long. Heck, the article about Flare, a much less well known character, takes up eight pages. But more than that, what I found frustrating about the article is that the artwork chosen didn't really match the key points of the article. For instance, writer Brian Morris mentions a new costume that Supergirl gets in Adventure Comics #397, but we’re not actually shown what the costume looks like. Also, the character's long run in Superman Family is mentioned, but we never see art or a cover from it. Some of the art shown is wonderful - I love the page of Supergirl with "A Head Full of Snakes" that's shown - but more variety would have made the article even better.

Similarly, Al Nickerson's interview with Marv Wolfman about Teen Titan Donna Troy was interesting but left many tantalizing details unexplored. Wolfman seems ambivalent at best at the direction that Donna took in light of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Since Wolfman wrote Crisis, it would have been interesting to explore his opinions of the impact of Crisis these days. Wolfman’s short three-page interview didn't leave enough space to explore that interesting question.

But there is an awful lot of interesting stuff for Bronze Age geeks like me. I absolutely loved reading the inside story of the Cat, a short-lived Marvel heroine of the '70s who was transformed into Tigra. I've been fascinated by Marvel's second-stringers for a long time, and it was wonderful to get commentary from the people who worked on the character at the time. It was especially nice to read a short interview with Linda Fite, who wrote the character, since for years I had no idea who she was. It's great to have these formerly abstract names on paper come alive to explain the decisions they made when creating their comics.

Similarly, the article exploring the career of Spider-Woman was also entertaining. It was wonderful to read about the genesis of the character, and see some longtime urban legends about the character confirmed. Even there, though, a tantalizing comment by Carmine Infantino isn't questioned. If it's obvious through his work which characters Infantino cared about, what are the signs to look for? How can readers tell?

But add in articles about the de-powered Wonder Woman, a look at female characters in animation, and a wonderful cover and portfolio by Bruce Timm, and all the sins of Back Issue are easily forgiven. This is a really fun magazine for those of us who care about the comics minutia explored in it.

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