Many comic books are collected and archived in trade paperbacks, easily findable at bookstores and the Internet. Others are found only in dank back issue bins and the horrifying dark corners of eBay, even though they contain excellent stories and art by awesome creators. They must be released. They must be read. They are the Uncanny Un-Collectibles!
This edition's entries by Paul Benjamin, Cullen Bunn, Joe Crowe, Mark Finn, Tony Salvaggio, and Shannon Wheeler
Micronauts #1-59, Annual #1-2 January 1979-August 1984 and The X-Men And The Micronauts #1-4 January-April 1984 Marvel
Written by Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont, and Peter Gillis
Illustrated by Michael Golden, Howard Chaykin, Pat Broderick, Steve Ditko, Jackson "Butch" Guice, Kelly Jones and others
I’d imagine a lot of writers, when penning a series of comic books based on a line of interchangeable robots, would be sorely tempted to phone it in and cash a check. It would be far too easy for a writer to craft a series of pointless stories featuring toy-based gimmicks and dialogue and characters who changed body parts for the sake of merchandising. Starting with the first issue of Micronauts (1979), Marvel Comics writer Bill Mantlo went out of his way to prove that a licensed property could be the launching pad for epic space opera, engaging characters, and thrilling plots.
Over the course of 65 issues (the regular series, two annuals, and a four-issue X-Men/ Micronauts limited series), the series chronicled the war between the title heroes and Baron Karza, a despot so bent on dominating Inner Space that he turned down godhood in pursuit of conquest. Numerous artists helped to bring the comic to life, but the series is most closely associated with Michael Golden, who helped Mantlo bring the series to life in the beginning, and gave the book a look that set it apart from any other comic on the market.
The adventures of the Micronauts took them across the Microverse, through the Prometheus Pit and into the Marvel Universe (where they met numerous guest stars and villains) and to the dawn of time itself, yet the series has never been collected and is, for now, banished to quarter back issue boxes. A second 20-issue series, Micronauts: The New Voyages was also published, and key members of the ‘Nauts have appeared in Marvel comics, especially in recent years (Mantlo’s greatest heroes were only loosely based on the toy licenses). A new limited series, cleverly titled The Enigma Force (after an almost Biblical power from the original series) was recently released. -Cullen Bunn, author of Sixth Gun
#1-20 (February 1979–September 1980 Marvel
Written by Doug Moench and others
Illustrated by Herb Trimpe and others
Long before Robotech and Force Five combined disparate anime series into their own revamped narratives, Marvel took a chance on a comic based on a revamped Japanese toy series from Mattel. Since Marvel wasn’t beholden to the original series the robots came from, they allowed writer Doug Moench and artist Herb Trimpe to put their own spin on the giant battling robots.
The story centered on a multicultural team including an American stuntman, a female Japanese test pilot and an oceanographer (!?) from Madagascar. They are the only ones who can pilot the Shogun Warriors (Raydeen, Combatra, and Dangard Ace) and battle an evil alien race that had once been buried beneath the Earth. Rollicking robots vs. monster action abounds, and there is even a crossover with the Fantastic Four near the end of the series. Sadly, Marvel lost the license to the property and the Shogun Warriors ended at issue 20.
With the popularity of manga and anime and the 80s nostalgia resurgence, Shogun Warriors would be the perfect series for Marvel to re-release if licensing issues weren’t in the way. Maybe a recent movie tie-in to the Shogun Warriors may bring this classic super robot experiment back from obscurity. –Tony Salvaggio
#1-74, Annual #1-4 December 1979-February 1986 Marvel
Written by Bill Mantlo
Illustrated by Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko, and others
ROM was one of many in a seemingly endless wave of comics based on toy properties that Marvel released in the 1980s. However, Rom (like Micronauts and G.I. Joe) quickly became a better comic than the doomed toy line warranted. While the first few issues suffer from the pitfalls of introducing a licensed character and having to feature all the "cool" gadgets the toy has, writer Bill Mantlo (of Alpha Flight, Micronauts, and many other Marvel comics) dives headfirst into a tale of sci-fi superheroics, doomed planets, and shape shifting villains.
The characters in ROM became popular enough that they crossed over to other prominent Marvel properties, as the X-Men battled the Dire Wraiths and Rom and Nova warred with the Skrulls. Sadly, Marvel lost the rights to the Rom license long ago, preventing any further appearances of this particular Spaceknight in comics or collections. While nostalgia may fuel most comic fan interest in Rom the Spaceknight, the legacy in the Marvel Universe that it left behind is more than enough reason for ROM to receive a proper collected release. –-Tony Salvaggio
#1-67, Annual #1-3 September 1981–March 1987 DC
Written by Roy Thomas
Illustrated by Rich Buckler, Jerry Ordway, and others
DC's Justice Society of America has been on a roll. Nearly all of their series are in trades. The Golden Age ones are in hardback archive editions. The regular series comes out in trades every few months. The All-Star Squadron is better than all of them.
In All-Star Squadron, Roy Thomas mixed World War II history with superhero continuity, and got himself a stew going. The stories made modern-age superheroes out of silly old Golden Age knock-offs. Only the Legion of Superheroes came close to its sheer bulk of membership. In one issue, a double page spread still did not contain every member. I stared at those pages, stirred with geeky wonder, at dozens of heroes drawn by Jerry Ordway into tiny panels.
It raised a generation of continuity nerds. That's why some fans today fret when a story contradicts something that happened last month. Roy Thomas spent most of the stories in All-Star Squadron fixing continuity stuff that bothered him. Besides all that, the stories were white-bread, grade-A superhero goodness.
In the early 1980s, All Star Squadron was a welcome vacation from nearly every other comic, where heroes tried to find themselves or had human problems. The All-Stars had problems, too. But then they beat up super-Nazis.
The JSA collection needs to be complete. Do it for the super-Nazis. –Joe Crowe, RevSF producer and resident RevolutionSF humorist
Warrior #1-21 March 1982-August 1984 Quality Communications and Miracleman #6-16 February 1986-December 1989 Eclipse
Written by Alan Moore
Illustrated by Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Beckum (Austen), Rick Veitch, and John Totleben
Alan Moore shits gold. He's made a career from eating the world's worst comic book garbage, digesting it, and shooting out stories that smell like roses. Apologies for the mixed metaphor.
Alan Moore's stories are, typically, not-so-gentle retellings of ancient stories with even older characters. Watchmen, Top 10, Swamp Thing, From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls are his top credits. Their commonality is that they're all derivative.
Marvelman is no exception. It's a sloppy-joe style re-serving of last week's hamburger. Superman was such a hit that imitators swarmed like flies. Miracleman is an imitation of an imitation of a copy. Superman, Shazam, and Marvelman all claim some parental creative rights to Miracleman.
Which makes it even more odd that the books have ended up in a legal cul-de-sac. The details of the litigation tying up these books are easy to Wikipedia. But they are painfully boring.
Several people say they own it. Some might be dead, or not. Anyone with conversation-halting iPhone / Wikipedia access can drone on about which party involved is the greedier bastard. I see it as children fighting over an imaginary cookie: No one wins and the argument is stupid.
Miracleman books chronicle the trials, temptations, disillusionment, anger, struggle, rise and fall and rise, of a Superman. The books operate on a personal level but with a grand scope. They deserve the credit of helping usher in a revolution in comics as literature.
Grant Morrison liberally borrows ideas and themes from Miracleman in the amazing All-Star Superman stories. Moore, with Miracleman, wrote the creative bible for the disenfranchised omnipotent hero. One can't criticize Grant Morrison too much since Alan Moore's bread and butter is borrowing.
Miracleman, like 93.5% of what Alan Moore has written, are amazing. He created believable characters from the cloth of the ridiculous and he placed them in a world that implies a universe. Alan Moore has taken ideas from other writers and written stories that will inspire other writers to steal from him for years to come. The only real crime is that these great books are not available in print. -Shannon Wheeler, creator of Too Much Coffee Man and author of I Thought You Would Be Funnier, a collection of strips rejected by The New Yorker
The Legion of Super-Heroes
#287-313, Annual #1-3 May 1982-July 1984, DC
Written by Paul Levitz
Illustrated by Keith Giffen and others
Now that Paul Levitz has been reunited with the Legion of Super-Heroes, it’s about time some of his greatest work returned to store shelves. The DC Archive Editions include Levitz’s early Legion stories but there’s a noticeable gap in DC’s collections: a long run by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen beginning with the Great Darkness Saga. While that seminal storyline of the Legion vs. Darkseid has been collected, the rest of their run is only available to folks willing to delve into dusty longboxes.
These are some incredible stories, from the Legion Espionage Squad’s infiltration of the Khund home world to a tale of the Green Lantern Corps in the 30th century that could have important links to recent events in Green Lantern and Legion of Super-Heroes. The end of the Levitz/Giffen run is collected in Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye for an Eye.
But those stories in the middle were so strong that Geoff Johns brought them back into DC continuity with Legion of Three Worlds.
Now that Levitz is back in charge of his favorite characters, it’s time to treat fans to the stories that inspire the latest tales. Long live Levitz and Giffen! Long live the Legion! –Paul Benjamin, writer, editor, supermodel
Elementals, Volume 1
Justice Machine Annual #1 1983 Texas Comics and Elementals #1-23 1984-March 1988 Comico
Written and illustrated by Bill Willingham and others
In a decade that was defined and defiled by the tension between comics’ earnest desire to take on new things, new ideas, and go in new directions, and mainstream media’s "Pow! Zam! Comics Aren’t For Kids Anymore!” mentality, it’s a bit of a wonder that Bill Willingham’s first major success, Elementals, never made it into the limelight. Created and drafted before Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen, this series was actually the first to depict and explore the concept of heroes in the real world. Four ordinary humans, all dead, are given elemental power, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and brought back to life to confront the nemesis of the natural order, an evil mastermind named Saker, who has his own team of bad guys, the Destroyers, to help him achieve his goals. From the first issue, Willingham comes out swinging, dealing with politics, sex, death, religion and all of the things that Vertigo has built their empire on. Except that this was better, because no one did it with superheroes before!
Unfortunately, Willingham sold the rights to his creation in the 1990s and the publisher literally dropped the ball, taking the series in different directions and killing the monthly comic at a time that trade paperbacks were just starting to emerge. A collection of even the first volume would read like a template for the mid-nineties plethora of dark and edgy comics that flooded the market. The difference is that, because the Elementals broke that ground first, before anyone else really got to it, the series actually has the substance to back up the style. -- Mark Finn, author of Blood & Thunder, founding member of Clockwork Storybook, and RevolutionSF Editor-At-Large
Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
Two issues of Fresh Jump April 1983 and June 1983 and 245 chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump 1983-1984
Written by Buronson
Illustrated by Tetsuo Hara
Since 1983, this hyper-violent manga by the writer/artist team of Buronson and Tetuso Hara has been a cultural phenomenon in Japan. Firmly rooted in the 1980s, the post-apocalyptic story (complete with mohawked toughs and all manner of baddies lifted from action flicks) centers around martial artist Kenshiro, heir to a deadly martial art called Hokuto Shinken which allows him to dispatch enemies by touching their pressure points to cause all manner of body-destroying fatalities.
Quite the tough guy epic, Kenshiro gorily destroys wave after wave of martial arts toughs in martial combat. Despite its success and pop culture influence in Japan, Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star) has never had a successful comics release in the United States.
It has been released in an edited form by Viz Communications and unedited and a colorized version by Gutsoon! Entertainment, but neither company was able to finish the full run of the comics. Manga nostalgia doesn’t appear to sell well here, so fans can only hope the new DVD release by Diskotek Media or the upcoming console game Ken’s Rage will revive enough interest to get a proper release of the manga here in the US. -Tony Salvaggio