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 couldn't 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 two.

COVER: Spider-Man, Angel and a pterodactyl (or is it a pteranodon?) by Michael Golden. I don’t know if this was my first 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 #20:

FRONT COVER: The Thing vs. demons by Jim Starlin

BACK COVER: Dr. Strange vs. Xandu by Al Milgrom

EDITORI-AL & MARVEL FANFLAIR: The vote is running against the caricature.

STORY: This Starlin two-parter is one I have pulled out and read frequently over the years. Part one is basically a Dr. Strange/Thing team-up which morphs into a classic Hulk/Thing slugfest in part two. It is also another example of a “file” story that was rendered out-of-date by recent developments. Specifically, Dr. Strange banished Hulk to the “Crossroads Dimension” in Hulk #300, and the Defenders reformed onto the new Defenders in [New] Defenders #125. Dr. Stanges part of the story opens in his Sanctum Sanctorum with the “old” Defenders, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, Hellcat, Son of Satan and the Gargoyle. What follows is the convoluted dialogue supplied to shoe-horn this story into current continuity.

“Recently, while monitoring the Hulk in the Crossroad dimnension to which I’d banished him, I noticed some spark of Bruce Banner’s intellect resurfacing in his mind! I summoned several members, past and present, of the Defenders to my sanctum, along with the Hulk, who I could now restrain with a spell of somnambulance.”

Man! That elevates “Cyclops has a cold and Kitty stayed behind to take care of him” to a new level of storytelling brilliance. Dr. Strange’s explanation makes even less sense today than it did 35 years ago. Y’know what I would have done? I would have added a footnote stating, “This story takes place before Hulk #300 and Defenders #125.” Easy peasy.

FIRST PORTFOLIO: Heimdall, Loki, Odin, Thor, Hela and the painted cover to The Raven Banner graphic novel (with no cover copy) by Charles Vess. Milgrom commissioned the five pen and ink drawing specifically for Marvel Fanfare to run as a portfolio in lieu of running an actual advertisement.

SECOND PORTFOLIO: Hulk, Cloak & Dagger, the New Defenders, Dr. Stranhge and Power Pack by Carl Potts.

ISSUE #21:

FRONT COVER: Dr. Strange, Thing and Hulk by Jim Starlin.

BACK COVER: Thing vs. Hulk by Jim Starlin.

INSIDE BACK COVER: Full page ad for The Life of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin.

EDITORI-AL: The “cover corner caricature controversy” (which was not much a “controversy” at all). Milgrom lost in a landslide. Punchline: the Milgrom caricature will be replaced by a Shooter one.

STORY: An issue-length Hulk/Thing slugfest with no room for “Shooter’s Page,” “Marvel FanFlair” or a portfolio. The issue was inadvertently published on Baxter paper instead of Mando.

ISSUE #22:

WRAPAROUND COVER: iron Man vs. Doctor Octopus (and Sandman, Electro and Grey Gargoyle on the back) airbrushed by Ken Steacy. (NOTE that Milgom’s caricature in the crner box is airbrushed, too.)

EDITORI-AL: Still whinging about the corner box.

STORY: Part one of the Iron Man/Doc Ock fight by Roger McKenzie (script) and Ken Steacy (everything else). Stark International has been contracted to redesign the security of the Ryker’s Island super-human containment facility, and Tony Stark is on the premises when Doctor Octopus regains the adamantium set of arms he lost in Daredevil #165, which he uses to free Sandman, Electro and the Grey Gargoyle. Tony Stark switches to Iron Man and defeats the other three, but Doc Ock beats the snot out of him, ripping the armor from his chest. Later, tony Stark drowns his sorrows in booze.

This is one of the better stories run in Fanfare.

PORTFOLIO: Conan, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Spidey, Nick fury and the FF by Steacy.

MARVEL FANFLAIR: Milgrom addresses the mix-up with the paper stock last issue. The entire run was printed before the error was discovered. This issue also contains the annual circulation figures. Monthly circulation for Marvel Fanfare was 113,629, a respectable figure at the time for a title sold only via the direct market. That’s enough for the title to have gone monthly, but there wasn’t not enough material available to support such a move.

OK, I think I've officially spent too much time on the Internet -- because at first glance, that cover looks like Doc Ock unzipped his fly and there's a tentacle coming out. 

Yeah? And what does this one look like?

Oh, yikes!

Starlin had previously drawn a Thing vs the Hulk story for Marvel Feature #11, and later wrote a team-up for the graphic novel series that Bernie Wrightson drew.

Mike's Amazing World says #22 came out the same month as Iron Man #198. The combination of Tony drinking and Iron Man places the Fanfare story before #169-#170.

To be fair, a tentacle coming out of a man's pants would be terrifying, even if you were Iron Man.

"Starlin... later wrote a team-up for the graphic novel series that Bernie Wrightson drew."

The Big Change. Inspired by the Marvel Fanfare Hulk/thing dust-up, I re-read The Big Change over the weekend. It's a lot of fun

"The combination of Tony drinking..."

It has been a long time since I last read Marvel Fanfare #22-23. Tony Stark only appears to be "drowning his sorrows in booze" at the end of #22; in #23 it is revealed that he is drinking ginger ale. Mea culpa.

I wonder if that was an after-the-fact editorial change to bring an inventory story up to current continuity? And maybe something emphasized by Shooter after #22 was published? 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

It has been a long time since I last read Marvel Fanfare #22-23. Tony Stark only appears to be "drowning his sorrows in booze" at the end of #22; in #23 it is revealed that he is drinking ginger ale. Mea culpa.

“I wonder if that was an after-the-fact editorial change to bring an inventory story up to current continuity?”

Given that Marvel Fanfare #22 came out the same month as Iron Man #198, I think it was more likely that they wanted to burn up an inventory story in which Tony Stark wore the red & gold armor. He switched to the original grey armor in #191, and in #200 he would switch to red & silver.

ISSUE #23:

WRAP-AROUND COVER: Iron Man vs. Doctor Octopus by Ken Steacy.

EDITORI-AL: Another joke about the cover corner cartoon.

STORY: Conclusion to the Iron Man/Doc Ock story begun last issue.

PORTFOLIO: Cloak & Dagger, Guardian, Dr. Strange, Power Pack, Storm and Deathlok by Steacy.

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