I’ve been thinking of starting this discussion for a long time. It used to be, when I couldn’t decide what to read, I’d pull out a copy of Marvel Fanfare at random and read whatever I picked. But long gone are the days when I could decide what to read because I couldn’t think of anything. These days my indecision is more likely to be cause by having too much I’m in the mood to read. Or, other times, I’m in the midst of some ridiculously long “project” (such as “the first 200 issues of Daredevil” or whatever) and am simply in the mood for something different. In either case, I’ll get this discussion going and it will be here when I need it.

I bought the first issue of Marvel Fanfare the day it shipped, and I was quite enthusiastic about it for a while. It soon became apparent that the title was being used as more of a clearing house for inventory material than it was for work newly commissioned specifically for Fanfare. After three consecutive issues featuring “Weirdworld” I had had enough and dropped the title with #26, although I would still buy an issue from time to time. Years later, I bought up most of the rest of the series at a quarter sale. I filled in some holes after that, and currently have every issue except one.

COVER: Spider-Man, angel and Sauron by Michael Golden. I don’t know if this was my Michael Golden or not, but it was certainly the issue that put him on my radar.

BACK COVER: Daredevil by Frank Miller

INSIDE WRAP-AROUND: Spider-Man and the Silver Surfer by John Byrne. This poster originally appeared, in black & white, as part of the John Byrne portfolio. It was intended to be a centerfold, but the last-minute expansion of the first issue from 32 to 36 pages forced it to be run inside the front and back cover with the comic in between.

FIRST STORY: Tanya Anderson seeks Warren Worthington’s help to seek her fiancé, Karl Lykos, in the Savage Land. Lykos is a mutant “energy vampire” who the X-Men had pursued to the brink of the Savage Land in #60-61 of their own title. He presumably died there, but Tanya recently spotted him in a photo-spread in National Geographic. J. Jonah Jameson gets wind of the expedition and decides to send Peter Parker by virtue of his having been there before (Spider-Man #103-104). A few days later, they are on their way. Angel thinks about the last time he was there (X-Men #63-64).

After an eventful landing, Peter Parket, Warren Worthington and Tanya Anderson make their way to Garokk’s domed city (X-Men #113-116). They are attacked by Zaladane’s followers, Angel is attacked by Vertigo, and Peter Parker pushes Tanya off a cliff to the relative safety of the river below, then switches to Spider-Man. He, too, is ambushed by Vertigo and also attacked by Gaza and Barbarus. Meanwhile, Tanya is threatened by a tyrannosaurus rex.

Spider-Man awakens, strapped to a tble next to Angel, in Magneto’s citadel and is greeted by Brain Child, who introduces Amphibious and the other of Magneto’s “neo-mutants” (they are not referred to as “mutates” even once). Magneto’s machine has now been modified to devolve as well as evolve, and Brain Child sets about using it on Spider-Man and Angel.

EDITORI-AL: Marvel Fanfare was the brainchild of editor Al Milgrom, who uses a nine-panel grid comic to introduce each issue in lieu of a traditional editorial.

NOTEABLE IN-HOUSE ADVERTISEMENT: Moon Knight, Micronauts and Ka-zar the Savage have been converted to “direct sales only” titles. Ka-Zar was the only one I had heard of, and I wasn’t particularly interested in any of them at the time. It would be a few months yet before I tried them.

SECOND STORY: Daredevil by Roger McKenzie and Paul Smith (his first published work) in a story about a street-corner Santa who was mugged and lost faith in humanity.

SHOOTER’S PAGE: Not yet officially called ”Shooter’s Page,”Marvel Fanfare #1 featured “An Open Letter to Stan Lee” written by Jim Shooter, four years into his reign as Marvel’s editor-in-chief. The cynic in me says he wrote it to blow his own horn while simultaneuously plugging Marvel’s new graphic novel line, Epic imprint and Marvel Fanfare.

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ISSUE #6:

FRONT COVER: Spider-Man and Scarlet Witch by P. Craig Russell.

BACK COVER: Dr. Strange by Charles Vess.

EDITORI-AL: Nothing of note. (Going forward, I won’t even mention this feature unless it is in some way noteworthy.)

FIRST STORY: Spider-Man and Scarlet Witch vs. Xandu (occasional Spider-Man & Dr. Strange villain) by Mike Barr, Sandy Plunkett and P. Craig Russell. Spider-Man is out of his element and Scarlet Witch is over-matched due to being body-swapped with Xandu’s dead girlfriend. Great visuals.

MARVEL FANFLAIR: Fans weigh in on the content: fan favorite creators, new talent, inventory stories, super-hero, non-super-hero, etc. Milgrom solicited other opinions, which inspired me to write a letter, which will be printed in issue#11.

SECOND STORY: A kind of “Twilight Zone-y” story by Roger Stern and Charles Vess about a novice magician who challenges Dr. Strange for the title of Sorcerer Supreme. Very Ditko-esque.

SHOOTER’S PAGE: After inviting submissions in a previous installment shooter was deluged with requests for what an actual plot submission looks like, so he prints the plot for Team America #9. (I wonder how many extra copies of this dog were sold by this ploy…?)

ISSUE #7:

FRONT COVER: The Hulk, Blob and Unus by Joe Barney.

BACK COVER: Daredevil by George Freeman.

FIRST STORY: A tale of friendship by Steven Grant, Joe Barney and George Freeman. Unus’s power is out of control, pushing away not only food, but soon, oxygen. The blob stands by him, though, making sure he has enough to eat, using his power to get food to him. He defend Unus from the Hulk, but loses. Unus strives against the Hulk, and somehow his excess energy is dispelled. In the last panel, though, little pebbles are pushed away from his feet.

SECOND STORY: Daredevil by Bill Mantlo and George Freeman. A little boy’s seeing eye dog is frightened away by an accident and they become separated. Daredeivil spens the day trying to reunite the blind boy with his dog, and finds it just after it has been euthanized by the pound. The story is just as sad to me now as it was when I first read it. I don’t think I’ve re-read these stories too often (if at all) over the years, but both of them have stuck with me.

SHOOTER’S PAGE: Shooter relates a letter (probably apocryphal) from a fan who shopped his plot around a con recently to Marvel (Shooter) and “the competition” (presumably DC). “DC” wanted a formula; Shooter suggested other ways to make the plot better. He segues into an upcoming Thor limited series by him and Bill Seinkieweicz which he describes as “afr, far from the beaten track,” and goes on to say, “I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like the series you’re going to see from Bill and me sometime next year.”

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Shooter... segues into an upcoming Thor limited series by him and Bill Seinkieweicz which he describes as “far, far from the beaten track,” and goes on to say, “I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like the series you’re going to see from Bill and me sometime next year.”

I think that must be the project that wound up as the I, Who the Gods Would Destroy graphic novel (plot Shooter, script Jim Owsley, art Paul Ryan and Vince Colletta). Supermegamonkey says "It seems to have been a story that was in the works since 1983, when it was advertised in Thor #336."

"I think that must be the project that wound up as the I, Who the Gods Would Destroy graphic novel..."

That could be. I had no memory of this comic until I looked at the cover. I have never read/see it. I had stopped buying Marvel graphic novels by the time it was released. Thanks for clearing up a 36 year old mystery!

ISSUE #8:

FRONT COVER: Dr. Strange by Carmine Infantino and Terry Austin. (P. Craig Russell’s cover, deemed too different from Infantino’s interior art, will appear as a pin-up in #11.)

BACK COVER: Mowgli and Shere Khan by P. Craig Russell

EDITORI-AL: the cover price has increased from $1.25 to $1.50.

FIRST STORY: Dr. Strange by Peter Gillis, Carmine Infantino and P. Craig Russell (with angles so sharp they can almost cut you). There is a lot of Dr. Strange in these early Fanfares.

SECOND STORY: “Wolf Boy,” the first of Gil Kane’s adaptations of stories from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books. If there are two things I know Kane like to draw, they are opera and animals.

PORTFOLIO: This is the first of a controversial feature Milgrom would continue to run in Marvel Fanfare throughout its run. Some people loved them; others considered them a waste of pages. This one is by Bill Sienkiewicz and features Dazzler, Dr. Strange, Julk, Shanna and Thor.

SHOOTER’S PAGE: His New Year’s column, an overview of his first five years as EiC. I always saw Shooter as a “work-for-hire” guy, but he has always presented himself as a champion f creators’ rights, as he does here.

ISSUE #9:

FRONT COVER: Man-Thing by Brozowski and Morrow

BACK COVER: Black Widow (promoting next issue) by Milgrom

EDITORI-AL: Milgrom is tired from editing Peter Parker, Avengers, US1 and Marvel Fanfare as well as pursuing art and writing assignments.

FIRST STORY: Man-Thing by J.M. DeMatteis and cover artists. A rock and roll band barter their souls for success.

SECOND STORY: The second in Gil Kane’s “Jungle Book” adaptations.

PORTFOLIO: Butch Guice featuring Wolverine, Kitty Pride, Powerman (and Iron fist), Gorgon (the Inhuman) and Howard the Duck (and Beverly).

SHOOTER’S PAGE: this is the most memorable of all Shooter’s columns to me. He wrote of “Perfect Personality-illuminating Panels” or “definitive shots” using a Lee/Kirby panel from Avengers #4 as an example. If you’ve read Avengers #4, you’ll probably remember the panel in question. In it, the Sub-Mariner hoists Captain America over his head while Cap thinks, “He’s stronger than me—but I’ll find a way to out-maneuver him!”

That’s Captain America,” concludes Shooter. “He’s in the grip of the submariner, one of the mightiest beings to ever walk the face of Earth—he’s split seconds away from being splattered—and he’s calmly observing that his foe is ‘stronger’ than he is, but he’s certain he’ll “find a way to out-maneuver him.” That’s certainly one way to look at it. Me, up until that point, I had always considered that panel to be an example of bad writing. [Incidentally, that scene has been revisited in this month’s issue of Invaders, much to my satisfaction.] But that doesn’t make it a bad idea, though. Shooter went on to give several other examples, and I have kept “Perfect Personality-illuminating Panels” in my mind ever since.

ISSUE #10:

FRONT COVER: Black Widow by George Perez

BACK COVER: Jungle Book by Gil Kane

EDITORI-AL: Continuation of last issue’s joke (Milgrom is tired; see this month’s “Shooter’s Page”).

FIRST STORY: The Black Widow by Ralph Macchio and George Perez (also credited as co-plotter). This four-parter is soon to be presented in chronological order in the Black Widow Omnibus, but it was all I could do not to read it during my recent “Daredevil” discussion; there’s no way I’m going to wait until March at this point.

SECOND STORY: The third in Gil Kane’s “Jungle Book” adaptations (this time scripted by Jo Duffy).

PORTFOLIO: Brent Anderson featuring the Thing, Captain America, Wolverine, Master of Kung Fu and Moon Knight.

SHOOTER’S PAGE: Shooter announces that Al Milgrom has given up all of his editorial duties (except for Marvel Fanfare) to become a full-time writer and artist. Carl Potts is named as Milgrom’s successor on Defenders, Hulk, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four and Thing.

That cover looks like Black Widow just took out Wildfire from the LSH.

That's going to be the "DM variant" cover for the BW omnibus (March 25). I don't know the artist for the main cover, but I generally buy the classic/vintage variant, anyway. Previews often doesn't show both covers. :(

ISSUE #11:

FRONT COVER: Black Widow by George Perez. I noticed something about this cover I never noticed before: it is signed Perez/Layton ’78. BACK COVER: Jungle Book by Sandy Plunkett and P. Craig Russell.

EDITORI-AL: About writing US1 and editing Fanfare.

FIRST STORY: Part two of the Black Widow story by Macchio and Perez. A footnote places the story before she changed her costume and her hair as seen in recent issues of Daredevil while simultaneously identifying it as an inventory story (if the signature/date of the cover didn’t give it away). It will be interesting to see when the Black Widow Omnibus places this story: when it was commissioned or when it was published. Another footnote explains that credited inker “J.J. Sinnable” is actually Joe Sinnott and Jack Abel.

The Widow’s foes this issue are a rather generic grpoup of baddies: N’Kama (a Zulu warrior), Deadshot Darrance (a big game hunter), Iron Maiden (and armored Russian agent), Laralie (a rodeo queen), Black Lotus (an Asian Mercenary) and Kono (a Sumo wrestler).

SECOND STORY: The fourth and final of Gil Kane’s Jungle Book adaptations.

PORTFOLIO: “Unusu-Al Pin-Ups”: Cloak and Dagger by Terry Austin (an inker), Hulk by Jim Shooter (inker by Austin), Man-Thing by Bob Wiacek (also an inker) and P. Craig Russell’s unused cover to issue #8 (deemed too different from Infantino’s story within).

SHOOTER’S PAGE: “M Day is Coming!” (Don’t ask.)

MARVEL FANFLAIR: I responded to Milgrom’s poll in issue #6, but I never intended my letter to see print. Thinking of the first four issues (with the X-Men, Spider-Man and Ka-Zar in the Savage Land by Golden, Cockrum and Smith), I simply stated that I preferred Fanfare to have one continued story and one standalone story each month, to which Milgrom replied, “Okay, Jeff, does this Black Widow series fill the bill? We thought so.”

Actually, I did approve of the Black Widow story, inventory or not, but I wasn’t too pleased with the Jungle Book adaptations. I thought that material would have been best presented as a standalone one-shot rather than part of what was otherwise a superhero anthology. First Comics later revived Classics Illustrated and adapted Kipling’s Jungle Books, but I prefer Gil Kane’s art to Jeffrey Busch’s.

Speaking of adaptations, I frequently hear ERB aficionados deride the Johnny Weismueller “Tarzan” movies (a view I do not share, BTW), but I’ve never heard Kipling’s fans criticize what Walt Disney did to The Jungle Book!
ISSUE #12:

FRONT COVER: Black Widow by George Perez

BACK COVER: Roger Stern (dressed as Captain America) and Ann Nocenti by Al Milgrom

EDITORI-AL: It’s “Assistant Editors’ Month.”

FIRST STORY: Part three of the Black Widow story, featuring Jimmy Woo. The last page introduces her antagonist for next issue: Snap Dragon.

SECOND STORY: “Marvel Annfare” featuring assistant editor Ann Nocenti. “Assistant Editors’ Month” was so stupid. The month’s worth of Marvel comics that came out in August, while the editors were at the San Diego ComiCon, were supposedly editied by the respective titles’ assistant editors, without the editors’ knowledge… as if the contents were not prepared months in advance. You could Marvel’s best series at the time (John Byrne’s Fantastic Four and Walt Simonson’s Thor) as the ones affected by this silliness the least.

PORTFOLIO: Rick Leonardi: Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Storm, Thor and the Angel.

SHOOTER’S ROBBIE’S PAGE : Because Shooter is in San Diego, he turned this month’s installment over to Robbie Carosella in the stat room.

Holy cow! I'm going through my boxes of comics getting ready for a small toy show this Sunday, and I actually have a copy of this comic. What a coincidence!

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #12:

FRONT COVER: Black Widow by George Perez

BACK COVER: Roger Stern (dressed as Captain America) and Ann Nocenti by Al Milgrom

EDITORI-AL: It’s “Assistant Editors’ Month.”

FIRST STORY: Part three of the Black Widow story, featuring Jimmy Woo. The last page introduces her antagonist for next issue: Snap Dragon.

SECOND STORY: “Marvel Annfare” featuring assistant editor Ann Nocenti. “Assistant Editors’ Month” was so stupid. The month’s worth of Marvel comics that came out in August, while the editors were at the San Diego ComiCon, were supposedly editied by the respective titles’ assistant editors, without the editors’ knowledge… as if the contents were not prepared months in advance. You could Marvel’s best series at the time (John Byrne’s Fantastic Four and Walt Simonson’s Thor) as the ones affected by this silliness the least.

PORTFOLIO: Rick Leonardi: Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Storm, Thor and the Angel.

SHOOTER’S ROBBIE’S PAGE : Because Shooter is in San Diego, he turned this month’s installment over to Robbie Carosella in the stat room.

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