Monday, August 28, 2023

What Were YOU Reading in 1983?


Forty years ago in August of 1983, we had these items of trivia occupying our minds and media:
  • 12-year-old Samantha Druce becomes the youngest female to swim the English Channel (21 miles), at 15 hours, 27 minutes (and locks it in for good--the minimum age for solo attempts to swim the Channel is now 16 years)
  • John Sain of South Bend, IN builds a 3.91-meter house of cards (hopefully avoiding drafts)
  • San Diego Comic-Con International opens at Hotel San Diego
  • La Cage aux Folles opens at the Palace Theater, NYC and runs for 1761 performances, winning 6 Tony Awards
  • Revival of the Jerry Herman musical Mame starring Angela Lansbury closes in NYC after 41 performances
  • Albums released: Billy Joel, "An Innocent Man"; Elvis Costello, "Punch The Clock"; Jackson Browne, "Lawyers In Love"; Heart, "Passionworks"; Cheap Trick, "Next Position Please"; Bette Midler, "No Frills"; Rick James, "Cold Blooded"
  • Rock singer David Crosby is concurrently sentenced to 5 years in Texas state prison for possession of cocaine and 3 years for illegal possession of a loaded handgun (i.e., the 5-year sentence controls) (I believe he ended up serving nine months--there are conflicting accounts as to when he was released)
  • Nuclear tests are carried out by the U.S. (Aug. 3 and Aug. 27), France (Aug. 4) and the USSR (Aug. 18)
  • Marriages: Paul Simon (41) and Carrie Fisher (26) (divorced the next year); Film director Philippe de Broca (50) weds actress Margot Kidder (34)
  • Birthdays: Chris Hemsworth (39); Andrew Garfield (39); Mila Kunis (you guessed it, 39)
  • Top Five Songs in the U.S.: (1) "Every Breath You Take" (The Police); (2) "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" (Eurythmics); (3) "She Works Hard For The Money" (Donna Summer); (4) "Maniac" (Michael Sembello) (no relation to this guy); (5) "Is There Something I Should Know" (Duran Duran)
  • Deaths: lyracist Ira Gershwin (86); actress Carolyn Jones (53); actor Simon Oakland (61)
  • Cost of Living: Avg rent, $335/mo.; Gallon of gas $.96; Ford Mustang $6,572; Avg. income/year, $21,070; Price of a comic book: $.60

And speaking of your hard-earned 60¢...

The Marvel checklist of books published during August of 1983.
What were you reading around this time?

Like any Marvel checklist, chances are that, like myself, you didn't pick up every issue listed, but focused instead on your own "pull list" and let your instincts guide any other purchase(s) you decided to make while browsing at the store. So following are brief glimpses into my own selections for that month and a few accompanying thoughts.

Captain America #284
J.M. DeMatteis, Sal Buscema, Kim DeMulder

Seeing artist Sal Buscema once again sending Cap hurtling into action was reason enough to make this purchase a no-brainer--but DeMatteis (as always, no matter the book) scripts a memorable issue that explores not only the character of Nomad's doubts about his future, but also has Cap re-examining his own compass for following his instincts in a crisis situation. And even though you may believe you have the scene above pegged as to its outcome, you'll want to read the entire story to enjoy DeMatteis' treatment of the situation.

Amazing Spider-Man #243
Roger Stern, John Romita Jr., Dave Simons

Peter Parker is over the moon about acing his first-year graduate-studies finals, but has concerns about his second year given the additional amount of time he'll have to devote to his school and lab work. Stern's solution may have you thinking of a similar storyline for the character posted elsewhere in the PPC--can you recall it? I sure hope so, because your befuddled host is drawing a blank! :)

Fantastic Four #257
John Byrne
Read The PPC Review

Mr. Byrne practically writes a dissertation on why Death believes Galactus should stop questioning his actions and focus on fulfilling his purpose in the universe (which turns out to be lousy timing for the Skrulls). Meanwhile, Johnny Storm rents a loft for himself; and Reed and Sue finally come to the conclusion that the Baxter Building is no safe haven for their growing family. (Though their position has done a sharp 180 by the time a later story pits them against the NYC Child Welfare Department.)

Doctor Strange #60
Roger Stern, Dan Green, Terry Austin
Read related PPC material

Dracula wants to get his hands on the Darkhold, currently tucked away in a secured vault in Avengers Mansion. Will Strange, the Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel, and Hannibal King be enough to prevent the vampire lord from gaining a tome which will bring him almost immeasurable power?

Mighty Thor #334
Alan Zelenetz, M.D. Bright, Vince Colletta
Read related PPC material

To return the consciousness of Jane Foster to her own body, Thor and the lady Sif must retrieve the mystic runestaff of Kamo Tharnn. But the ritual fails--so where do they go from here? It's a feasible enough plot, building on the original story's events, but the script by Zelenetz fails to imbue it with the spark it needs to retain the reader's undivided attention as it unfolds.

Invincible Iron Man #173
Denny O'Neil, Luke McDonnell, Steve Mitchell

Tony Stark has relapsed into alcoholism, a situation exploited by business competitor Obadiah Stane to wrest his company away from him. Subsequently, Stane sends two of his thugs to find and bring the down-in-the-dumps Stark to view the humiliating sight, compounded by the dissolution of his top staff. It's a fair plot for O'Neil to sink his teeth into--but the lack of true dramatic impact on these pages makes me wonder if a letterer other than Rick Parker could have infused them with more impact and invested the reader more fully in the scenes.

Incredible Hulk #286
Harlan Ellison/Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema, Kim DeMulder
Read the PPC Review

Mantlo adapts a 1957 Harlan Ellison story (which made it to "The Outer Limits" in 1964) to send the Hulk into a future where soldiers mindlessly follow battle orders given over their helmet receivers. Mantlo ends up doing a great deal with Ellison's premise, while also tapping a classic Marvel villain as the heavy.

Avengers #234
Roger Stern, Al Milgrom, Joe Sinnott

As is evident, Stern focuses primarily on Wanda's past while taking her mind off the Vision's recent injury, doing a thorough job and covering the bases up to this point in time (though longtime readers realize in hindsight that this character will eventually become unstable and viciously turn on her teammates). The issue's closing page serves as a teaser/lead-in to the Doctor Strange story above.

Uncanny X-Men #172
Chris Claremont, Paul Smith, Bob Wiacek
Read related PPC material

The X-Men gather in Japan for the nuptials of Mariko Yashida and their teammate, Wolverine--a prime opportunity for the Viper and the Silver Samurai to strike. Writer Claremont has also begun implementing his plans for Storm, whose mood and perception of self will change thanks in part to a chance meeting with Wolverine's old friend, Yuriko.

Defenders #122
J.M. DeMatteis, Don Perlin, Kim DeMulder
Read related PPC material

This issue appears primarily intended to set the stage for the New X-Men (er, Defenders) lineup (the Beast, Iceman, Angel, Gargoyle, the Valkyrie, and Moondragon) by making use of the homicidal Elf With A Gun to deal with the original non-team. DeMatteis also nicely spotlights the marriage plans of Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan) and Patsy Walker (the Hellcat).

The Thing #2
John Byrne, Ron Wilson

The Thing is given a series of his own with writer/inker Byrne joining with Wilson to take a more in-depth look at the character, here reconnecting with an old flame, Alynn Cambers, who refused his offer of marriage to choose instead a career as an actress. It was her loveliness, in part, that made her (as Alicia Masters put it) "one of the most beautiful women in movies, perhaps in the world"--but Byrne holds their reunion scene until story's end in order for Ben's recollections of their time together, and his misassumption that her upcoming visit may indicate deeper intentions on her part for the two of them, to set up their more tragic scene.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #81
Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom, Jim Mooney

Spider-Man is after Cloak and Dagger when it becomes apparent that a drug gang has been targeted, only to discover that a certain gun-wielding vigilante has broken out of prison to bring his brand of punishment to his true target, the Kingpin. Thanks to the teaser ending, you can only wonder how and why the Punisher doesn't end up putting a bullet in the head of a man who epitomizes his raison d'ĂȘtre, which must turn out to be the case in order for the Kingpin to continue as a character--but that would be telling, wouldn't it?

Hulk Annual #12
Bill Mantlo, Herb Trimpe
Read related PPC material

Mantlo rounds out his tour de force in this post by having Bruce Banner (as the Hulk) intervene when an alien woman is retrieved by parties unknown--but when Banner is brought to their world, he finds a war of oppression which doesn't ease even when he helps to overthrow the oppressors.

As for Marvel Team-Up #132, I did happen to pick up that issue that month--but look forward to a full posting of its two-part story coming up.  ;)  In the meantime:


How about a couple of other mementos from August of 1983? For instance, a sampling of magazine covers from that month:

(You can't really unsee a loin-clothed John Travolta, can you?)

And finally, a booking schedule for acts appearing at Houston's Rockefeller's club in August. (The Neville Bros.? Count me in!)


Colin Jones said...

The only one of those Marvel covers I recognise is Fantastic Four and in August 1983 I was at the end of my first Marvel-reading era from 1974-83. I didn't buy a Marvel comic again until 2008 and I've been a sporadic reader ever since - the most recent Marvel publication I bought was the graphic novel of King Conan which collected King Conan #1-6 originally published from December 2021 to July 2022.

Big Murr said...

Whoof. A parched and desolate wasteland for comics. For me, anyway.

After being a young and loyal completist collector of "Thor" and "Avengers" for over 150 issues, I'd abandoned both titles at #300 and #200 respectively. The trauma of this decision still stung. The unpredictable mess of "Power Man & Iron Fist" had not had any diamonds in the rough for many issues by this point.

I still visited the store every week, hoping, hoping, hoping. I sampled "X-Men" for Paul Smith's art and "Fantastic Four" for John Byrne's art. However, the writing of Chris Claremont and John Byrne did not make either of those titles "must get reading". Just dilettante browsing.

A stretch of time as close I've ever come to walking away from the hobby. Well, there have been several more times since then, but this would have been the First, Momentous, End-of-Childhood leaving.

That decision was derailed as a Mr. Walt Simonson would take over "Thor" a couple of issues from now...and I was hooked again!

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I had no idea your Marvel reading ended so abruptly in the Bronze Age. You missed some of Roger Stern's best Avengers issues, as well as Walt Simonson's entire body of work on Thor. (Though at least you'd caught John Byrne's most notable work on the FF.)

Murray, I never invested time or money in Power Man/Iron Fist, nor did I particularly care for David Michelinie's run on The Avengers. Smith's work on Uncanny X-Men for me took some getting used to, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. I didn't know quite what to make of Simonson's art on Thor at first, having been introduced to it when he was paired with Tony DeZuniga--but his writing and the direction he was taking both Thor and the Asgardians in won me over very quickly.

Anonymous said...

You surprise me, Comicsfan - did you not read Marvel Graphic Novel #7?
I'd have thought you'd be up for the return of Killraven by Don McGregor and Craig Russell. Dauntless Don had learned to ease up on the word count in his narrative captions, and Killraven had had a haircut since Amazing Adventures #39, but otherwise it was like they'd never been away!

The only other thing Marvel put out in August '83 that I enjoyed wasn't even on that checklist you included in the post. That would be Daredevils #8, featuring - along with a Miller DD reprint - the (then) latest part of Alan Moore and Alan Davis' brilliant Captain Britain run. For anyone familiar with Marvel UK's output back then, it was an astonishing development for them to be putting out something that was a better read than you could find in the import US monthlies.

Mind you, in general Marvel's output wasn't impressive at this point. I agree with Murray about the general quality on offer from the House of Ideas.
But Murray: why did you consider giving up on comics? There were some pretty good ones at this point from - PPoC trigger warning! - other publishers...


Anonymous said...

I'm amazed to hear these views because I've always thought 1980-1985 era of Jim Shooter's Marvel was one of the peaks of Marvel just after the glorious years of Lee/Ditko/Kirby. Not that they didn't have misfires (I see US1 in the checklist), or that there weren't some good comics in the late sixties or seventies, but I thought the consistent quality of the stories of this era was quite high. So hearing a view that it was a desolate wasteland is quite shocking to me.

We are in the midst of some very strong storylines here - the Hobgoblin in the Spider-Man titles, the destruction of vampires in Dr Strange, the Wraith War is beginning to kick into high gear in Rom and spread into other titles, the Paul Smith era of X-Men, Stern's run on Avengers was some of the best of those titles ever (and Strange and ASM!), and many others. I'm not a big fan of O'Neil's portrayal of Tony Stark's alcoholism. It might have been more realistic, but I didn't think it was fun to read at all. Although I did like Rhodey's time in the armor. And there were plenty of great stories that had been told earlier or would start soon.

Jim Shooter has revealed when that Mantlo Hulk story was approved that neither the editor or he had known it was plagiarized from Harlan Ellison. Stern had just informed Shooter that it was right before an angry Ellison called threatening to sue Marvel.


Anonymous said...

Chris, its a weak month. Personally, I think the 80-85 Shooter-era is a mixed bag. If Comicsfan had chosen the start of the year for a post like this I'd probably have raved about Miller's Daredevil, Sienkiewicz coming into his own on Moon Knight, and Byrne's FF (which, like Stern's Dr Strange seemed to go off the boil); and later in the year things began to pick up with Simonson's Thor.

But of course thats just a personal opinion, and I entirely accept that it may only seem that way because of my changing taste. Its quite possible the Avengers was better than it had been a few years earlier, but in my late teens that kind of regular super-hero book just didn't interest me as much as it once had.
Not when I had the option of reading comics like Frank Miller's Ronin...


Comicsfan said...

I actually did read the Killraven graphic novel, Sean, though I grant you my brief comment on the subject (mostly for Murray's benefit) could be taken as not exactly a ringing endorsement of the work.

Chris, I totally agree with you on Stern's Doctor Strange and Amazing Spider-Man work during this period, though I had some qualms as to Rhodey standing in as Iron Man (mostly due to writer/artist quibbles). BTW, if you're curious, that linked Hulk review also provides some bts info as to the various steps taken to mollify the parties involved in the Ellison matter.

Anonymous said...

C.F. - My Marvel reading ended in 1981/82, even earlier than Colin's! Powerman & Iron Fist's Kerry Gammill era had some outstanding issues. After Byrne left the X-Men, P & IF kept me from throwing in the towel! Issue # 66, & particularly # 74, were standouts. The issue with Iron Fist posing as a Karate beginner, to take down Chaka's gang, was also great.

Chris - To me, a Marvelite's perception of what's a "great era" depends on age receptivity. The 70s - some good comics? I recall outstanding comics, like Starlin's Warlock, Conway & Shooter's Avengers, the New X-Men getting started, and many others. But I was 8-10, at that time, so Marvel comics were magic to me (of course, Marvel UK also reprinted great early 70s stuff, too - like Colan & Palmer's Daredevil.) For yourself, being slightly younger, your golden age would be---the titles you mentioned, perhaps?

As regards mid-80s stuff, which I saw later...

To me, seeing Beta-ray Bill on a Thor cover, I thought: "Has Marvel gone totally insane? They've transformed Thor into a giant, cartoon sheep? Marvel has desecrated all that is holy, and I'm well out of it!" So, judging a book by its appalling cover, Simonson's writing never got a chance, from me!

Sean - I've got the Killraven graphic novel, somewhere (bought decades later.) It was pretty okay.


Colin Jones said...

CF, I've mentioned my 25-year hiatus from comics before on the PPoC but I'll forgive you for forgetting about it ;)

Anonymous said...

C.f. - Hope you've battened down the hatches, what with the hurricane. Keep safe!


Comicsfan said...

Thank you, Phillip--surprisingly, my neck of the woods emerged relatively unscathed. We've had much worse.

Anonymous said...

Philip, as I said there were some good Marvel comics in the seventies. The ones you mentioned plus the first Michelenie/Layton Iron Man were all great. And there were some classic minor runs like Englehart's Captain America and Doctor Strange.

But I think a lot of the flagship titles were just mediocre. The FF, Spider-Man (both titles!), Thor, Iron Man before Michelenie and Layton, Daredevil, most of Cap, and Defenders all had long runs of mediocrity. Most of the new titles started in the seventies were just not written well and rightfully disappeared even though I liked many of the characters. The quality really went down in-between Stan Lee stepping down as EIC and Shooter beginning in 1978 IMO.

That doesn't mean you cannot find good stories or great runs. Of course you can. Incidentally, while I agree that nostalgia gives you rose tinted classes, my favorite Marvel eras are 1962-1968 (the Kirby/Ditko era) and 1978-1987 (the Shooter era) while most of my Marvel comics reading only happened in 1985-1992 (although I continued to collect some Marvel titles until 2002 or so). So many of my favorite creative runs predate me buying comics myself. I just don't have a high opinion on most (though not all) of the Marvel stable of writers from the seventies (Len Wein, Tony Isabella, Gary Friedrich, etc. I even think Marv Wolfman and Steve Englehart are overrated although they had a few strong runs on certain titles). The later batch of writers coming in the late seventies had much stronger work IMO.

But people have different tastes. And if we get into the nitty gritty of certain comics in whatever era, I'll find stuff I like or even love and others I hate.

I do agree that seeing Beta Ray Bill for the first time seemed absolutely stupid to me... until I read my first Thor stories by Simonson. Then my perception absolutely changed.