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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Cool thread, Jeff! I don't have a lot of issues of Fanfare -- I think I bought the Cloak and Dagger issues off the stands, and that was about it at the time. But I recently picked up the Charles Vess run of Warriors Three stories (Fanfare issues in the early 30s) from a dollar bin! This is a good reason to pull them from the convention buys pile and give them a read!

I have them all, and I think you summarized its use and volatility well, Jeff. Some issues were pretty good, some were obviously inventory. It declined in quality the longer it ran.

I saw an issue of this at my LCS a couple of weeks ago, and realized I've never read an issue. I might have an issue or two in my unread boxes.

Still a neat thread, Jeff.

ISSUE #2:

FRONT COVER: Ka-zar vs. a mutated Spider-Man by Michael Golden

BACK COVER: Mr. Fantastic vs. Annihilus by Trevor Von Eeden (un-inked pencils with color).

EDITORI-AL: Milgrom’s cartoony style reminds me a bit of Harvey Kurtzman’s “Hey Look!” (and that’s the nicest thing you will ever hear me say about it).

FIRST STORY: Ka-Zar arrives, rescues Tanya Anderson from the t-rex and takes her to the village of the Fall People where she is reunited with Karl Lykos. They are then attacked by Zaladane’s forces and devolved versions of Angel and Spider-Man. Angel flys off with Tanya, Ka-Zar and Lycos follow. At the citadel, Vertigo prevents Ka-Zar and Lycos from devolving Tanya. A big fight ensues and the transformer is destroyed. Lycos uses his power to restore Tanya, spider-Man and angel, but transforms into Sauron in the process. Peter Parker and Warren Worthington leave the Savage Land, but Tanya remains behind.

SECOND STORY: Mr. Fantastic by Roger McKenzie and Trevor Von Eeden. Another unsuccessful attempt to cure the Thing. Reasoning that positive cosmic rays turned Ben Grimm into the Thing, Reed Richards concludes that negative cosmic rays (whatever they are) might cure him. But he needs a nega-crystal from the Nagative Zone to test his theory. He carelessly lets Annihilus escape and must sacricfice the crystal to send him back.
ISSUE #3:

WRAPAROUND COVER: By Dave Cockrum and Bob McLeod, who also illustrate the main feature.

EDITORI-AL: Mildly humorous, Milgrom reveals that Daredevil is now outselling X-Men and pokes good-natured fun at Chris Claremont.

FIRST STORY: When the Angel left the Savage Land last issue, he went only as far as Deep Ice Station Alpha where he contacted the X-Men. As the story opens, Wolverine, Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler arrive and hook up with Angel, who fills them in on issues #1 and #2. (Cyclops is ill and Sprite stayed behind to take care of him.) An unnatural blizzard hits the base, followed by an earthquake. The X-Men take the main land entrance into the Savage Land and find the village of the Fall People decimated. They are then attacked by the neo-mutants, including a new member to their ranks, Timberius, master of the wolfpack.

The X-Men are defeated and brought before Sauron, who reveals that Ka-Zar is in Pangea. The angel flees and tries to lure Sauron into the upper atmosphere, but Sauron sense the trap and turns back, just before Angel himself succumbs to the cold and falls to the ground in the jungle below. The citadel itself is surrounded by a will-sapping energy field. Sauron’s plan is to use his power to drain the mutants’ energy, then use the mutant energy accelerator to devolve them, then “re-evolve” them one at a time and repeat the process. Meanwhile, the angel revives in the camp of someone he recognizes: “YOU?!?

BULLPEN BULLETIN SPECIAL: I’m not going to summarize the whole thing, but one of the titles being hyped was the then-new G.I. Joe #1. I used to play with the actual G.I. Joe dolls back before they became “action figures.” I bought the first issue of the comic but found it to be so boring I couldn’t even finish it. I liked Herb Trimpe from his Hulk days, and he became better known among newer fans for G.I. Joe than the “Jolly Green Giant.” The title when on to have more than 200 issues under another publisher, which offered a $1 reprint of #1 a couple of years ago. I bought it just to give it another try and, once again, found it so boring I couldn’t even finish it.

SECOND STORY: Hawkeye by Charlie Boatner (who?) and Trevor Von Eeden. Milgrom explains using Von Eeden stories two issues in a row so fans could compare his pencils when inked by Armando Gil to those inked by Joe Rubenstein.

MARVEL FANFLAIR: The new letters page. Lots of fans complained about the inside wraparound cover in issue #1. Also, contributor Paul Smith wrote a letter.

Cyclops is sick and Sprite is nursing him? As excuses go for a character's absence, that's pretty lame. Couldn't they have been in space? Busy with a mission of their own? Trapped in the Phantom Negative Zone?

Seriously, this suggests that this is, indeed, an inventory story, set at a time when Cyclops and Kitty weren't with the team. Is there a run of books with the team that appears in this story? If not, then my theory is blown. If so, we might can figure out when it was commissioned.

Charlie Boatner wrote one of my favorite comic book stories.  



Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #3:


SECOND STORY: Hawkeye by Charlie Boatner (who?) and Trevor Von Eeden. Milgrom explains using Von Eeden stories two issues in a row so fans could compare his pencils when inked by Armando Gil to those inked by Joe Rubenstein.


THAT story was an instant classic.

Dave Palmer said:

Charlie Boatner wrote one of my favorite comic book stories.  



Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #3:


SECOND STORY: Hawkeye by Charlie Boatner (who?) and Trevor Von Eeden. Milgrom explains using Von Eeden stories two issues in a row so fans could compare his pencils when inked by Armando Gil to those inked by Joe Rubenstein.


Captain Comics said:

Seriously, this suggests that this is, indeed, an inventory story, set at a time when Cyclops and Kitty weren't with the team. Is there a run of books with the team that appears in this story? If not, then my theory is blown. If so, we might can figure out when it was commissioned.

According to Dave Cockrum, the Fanfare story led to his return to Uncanny X-Men:

they asked me to do that Marvel Fanfare with the X-Men in the Savage Land and it was fun! I called up Chris and said, "This is really fun! If Byrne ever wants to leave the book, give me another chance at it." And Byrne left the book that following Monday.

Mike's Amazing World tells me Marvel Fanfare #3 came out the same month as Uncanny X-Men #159. Cockrum's recollection implies the story was drawn around the time #143-#145 were in preparation, #143 being the last Byrne issue and #145 Cockrum's return. That was the period when Cyclops had left the team and was working for Lee Forrester.

That was also the point when Ka-Zar's 80s title started. The X-part of the Marvel Fanfare story is a two-parter. Maybe Cockrum's part was intended as the first part of a crossover.

#144, drawn by Brent Anderson, guest-starred the Man-Thing. At that point Man-Thing had a title and Claremont was writing it. Perhaps Claremont wanted to do a Cyclops/D'Spayre story, to address where he was psychologically, and took the opportunity to bring Man-Thing into it. (D'Spayre first appeared in a Claremont/Byrne Marvel Team-Up story featuring Man-Thing.)

Anderson was drawing Ka-Zar the Savage, and Uncanny X-Men and Ka-Zar the Savage were both being edited by Louise Jones. I guess that's how he came to draw the first post-Byrne issue.

Perhaps the Marvel Fanfare four-parter was intended as a Savage Land mini-series? But I think Marvel only began doing minis a bit later.

ISSUE #4:

WRAPAROUND COVER: By Paul Smith (also main feature artist).

FIRST STORY: Angel awakens in Ka-Zar’s camp and recaps issue #3 for him. They both go to attack Sauron’s citadel where they find Tanya and Shanna devolved into Neanderthals. Ka-Zar frees the X-Men, Meanwhile, Sauron has captured Angel. Storm generates a Katabatic blizzard to defeat Sauron. (According to Wikipedia, “A katabatic wind (named from the Greek word κατάβασις katabasis, meaning ‘descending’) is the technical name for a drainage wind, a wind that carries high-density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity.”) Then Wolverine maims him for good measure and he reverts to Karl Lykos. They devolve the neo-mutants back to their original state and destroy the accelerator. Back in Westchester, Professor X. cures Lycos. Kitty and Cyclops make a cameo appearance.

SECOND STORY: A six-page Deathlok story by David Anthony Kraft and Michael Golden, chronologically the earliest. Fanfare #2 was published in 1982. World War III occurred in Deathlok’s reality in 1983. (See “Where Do You Draw the Line?”)

THIRD STORY: Tony Stark has a dream, five pages. David Winn (who?) is credited with “visual plot,” but I’m not sure what that means because the story also has credits for “final plot and script” (David Michelinie), “pencils” (Michael Golden) and “inks” (Dan Green). So what does “visual plot” mean? “Idea”?

SHOOTER’S PAGE: As a follow-up to his “Open Letter to Stan Lee” in issue #1, Jim Shooter is given a regular column, to write about whatever he wants to, starting this issue. He mentions that 1981 was Marvel’s best year ever, surpassing 1980, the company’s previous best. He mentions that there are fewer than 400 people in the field, divided by six major companies and a few smaller ones. He then solicits submissions for new talent and provides guidelines for writers, pencilers, inkers, letterers and colorists. “I won’t be able to give critiques or instructions,” he says, urging each applicant to take an objective look at his or her own work. “Is it in league with Marvel’s best published work? Unless you are good enough to offer you work, you’ll receive only a polite no thank-you letter from us in reply.”

I did not respond to this particular offer, but I did send a submission right around this time and I did, indeed, receive “a polite no thank-you letter from [submissions editor Carl Potts] in reply.” I did write Shooter a letter on a different matter, though (somewhat critical, as I recall), also right around this time, but I don’t remember specifically what it was about, and I received a hand-written reply on Marvel letterhead stationary which said simply, “WE HEAR YA!” written and signed by Shooter.

ISSUE #5:

WRAPAROUND COVER: By Marshal Rogers and P. Craig Russel

EDITORI-AL: Marvel has just recently moved their offices to 387 Park Ave. South. Milgrom announces his intention to use new talent (try-out jobs?) as well as fan favorites in Fanfare citing Paul Smith (who will soon take over X-Men) as an example.

FIRST STORY: Dr, Strange by Claremont, Rogers and Russell. A little girl arrives at the Sanctum Sanctorum under the spell of Nicodemus (Defenders #53) allowing him access to attack. Strange responds mystically from the astral plane while Clea plays a hunch and attacks in the physical world at Nicodemus’ former HQ, but she walks into a trap. She helps Nicodemus steal stange’s power knowing that it will overload him and burn him out. The little girl is returned to her home with no memory of what has happened.

So many times I have initially mispronounced comic book characters’ names, sometime not realizing it until years later. (Sub-Mariner and Magneto I found out fairly early; Jarella not until recently.) I never have been quite sure how to pronounce the name of Dr. Stange’s disciple, Clea. When I first read it, I pronounced it CLEE. Later I determined it was probably pronounced CLEE-ah. Now I’m kind of leaning toward CLAY-ah. What do you think?

SECOND STORY: Captain America by Roger McKenzie and Luke McDonnell. In WWII, Cap and Bucky defeat a Nazi in a hydraulic “iron man” suit filming a propaganda film. Instead of recording Captain America’s defeat, he records his own. Decades later, his grown son decides his father’s mistake was to attack the legend, not the man. He ambushes Cap at a charity gig, dresses him in a Nazi uniform, and dons Cap’s costume himself. He attacks Cap with his own shield, but defeating the man wasn’t as easy as he had thought it would be. He ends up impaled by a flagpole flying a Nazi flag.

There are some issues of Marvel Fanfare I have read many times over the years (the “Savage Land” story from #1-4 being a prime example). But there are others, such as this one, I haven’t rerad since their initial publication and barely remember

SHOOTER’S PAGE: Shooter responds t a lengthy letter written by a black fan complaining about the portrayal of blacks in Marvel comics.

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