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 #47:

WRAPAROUND COVER: Hulk vs. Spider-Man (and SHIELD) by Michael Golden

STORY: Hulk/Spider-Man/SHIELD by Bill Mantlo (co-plot and Script) and Michael Golden (everything else).

This is not an inventory story. It was commissioned specifically for Marvel Fanfare but, by the time it was finished, the hulk was no longer green, Spider-Man was no longer wearing his original costume, and Nick Fury was no longer head of SHIELD. Nevertheless, this is the kind of story I expected to see in Fanfare all along. If there had been more stories like this and fewer inventory stories, Fanfare would have undoubtedly been around much longer than it was. 

Isn't that Superman exiting bottom right? I can only think of two characters at Marvel with red capes; one, Scarlet Witch,, is stage center. The other is Thor, and he doesn't have those boots.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #45:

"Isn't that Superman exiting bottom right?"

Oh, yeah! I was gonna point that out but forgot. Thanks!

(I guess it could be Adam Warlock, though.)

Oh, I also forgot to point out that #47 is one of those I bought new.

I'd been a fan of Michael Golden's ever since Micronauts Special Edition.

ISSUE #48:

FRONT COVER: She-Hulk by Kerry Gammil

BACK COVER: Vision by Ron Wilson

FIRST STORY: She-Hulk by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Kerry Gammill. Jen Walters had an antagonistic relationship with her father throughout The Savage She-Hulk, which was resolved in the 25th and final issue. Yet Morris Walters had not been seen since. This story is set after Jen became the She-Hulk "permanently" in the She-Hulk graphic novel, but she hasn't told her father. The forearm on the cover belongs to her cousin (on her father's side), and the relationship between her cousin and her aunt is contrasted with hers to her father. In the last panel, Morris Walters tries for a further reconciliation, but the story is lest unresolved and open-ended. Since I don't recall seeing her father again after this point, I can guess his plea wasn't well-received.

SECOND STORY: She-Hulk by Sue Flaxman and Don Perlin. She-Hulk is contacted, via a dream, by an "old friend" who is involved with dream research. He is being forced to use his work against his will, and She-Hulk tries to help. They enter the dream realm together, and it is Jen Walters who neutralizes the threat. both of these stories are too ambitious for one-shots. If they're never going to be followed up on, what's the point?

THIRD STORY: #48 was to have been an "All She-Hulk" issue, with one of the stories by John Byrne. But he was "off the title" by the time it came to do it and he didn't want to draw her again at that time. So Al Milgrom threw in another out-of-date inventory story, featuring the Vision. In then-current continuity, the Vison was bleached white, but in this story he's read. The splash page clumsily accounts for that ("When Wanda decided to take our children and visit our old teammates  on the East Coast, I had a strange aversion to the idea of accompanying her") and the second page is a pure info dump  (and not even necessary because his history as the Human Torch doesn't have anything to do with the story). The main story is about a drug-addled and hallucinating Viet Nam vet stereotype. Vision "cures" him (somehow) by partially materializing his hand inside the man's head.

This series is really hit or miss. #47 was great, but #48 sucks

I always perceived Marvel Fanfare as an odd mix of cool original stories and stuff pulled from the inventory drawer before it got too stale to use. Consequently, I treated like I treated team-up titles like Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-in-One and The Brave and the Bold: I got it only when the cover or the guest stars for that particular issue drew me in.

ISSUE #49:

WRAPAROUND COVER: Dr. Strange, Nick Fury and Dum-Dum Dugan in the Old West by Alan Weiss

FIRST STORY: Dr. Strange, Nick Fury and Dum-Dum Dugan in the Old West by Alan Weiss. Fury and Dugan follow a mental compulsion to go to Dr. Strange's sanctum sanctorum in Greenwich Village. Wong ushers them to a time-warp, left open by Strange, who is already in 1883 Puma, AZ. He is there to stop a tribe of super-powered Indians from altering history by attacking the U.S. which would lead to genocide. Alan Weiss doesn't do comics very often, which is perhaps just as well  because when he does do them they are usually somewhat... odd. I always think of the issue of Captain America he guested in which he put Nick Fury in a barbarian's fur out fit... for no other reason than he felt like drawing one. In this story, Dugan is dressed in a Union sergeant's uniform. Fury is dressed in buckskins with a Confederate officer's hat, yet beneath the buckskin jacket he's wearing a Union uniform. 

SECOND STORY: Two-Gun Kid by Mike Barr and Tod Smith. Tombstone, AZ, 1880. Lawyer Matt Hawk successfully defends bad guy "Rattler" Redlin against charges of which he is innocent. the judge releases Redlin, which makes neither one of them very popular. On their way out of town, they are ambushed by Redlin's gang, who hope that, in the absence, of the judge and lawyer, Redlin will by lynched and "Bear" Bronson can take over the gang. It doesn't work out that way, and the reader is left with the impression that Bear and his men with testify against Redlin for other crimes he did commit in order to save their own necks. 

I never read this issue before and never will again.

Doc Holliday Strange?

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #49:

ISSUE #50:

FRONT COVER: X-Factor by Joe Staton

BACK COVER: Wolverine by Mark Badger

STORY: X-Factor by Jo Duffy and Joe Staton. This is the third comic book penciled by Joe Staton I didn't know I owned that I've discovered in the last week! This one is inked by Joe Rubenstein, a pairing I don't think I've seen before. I remember being so exited at the prospect of X-Factor, but that excitement didn't last long after the series debuted. I don't know whether the series unfolded the way Bob Layton intended or if he just didn't think it through, but from my point of view, he quickly wrote himself into a corner due to the series' premise. 

The original X-Men banded together to publicly form a group of mutant hunters called the X-Terminators, while actually working behind-the-scenes as X-Factor to help mutants. There was no way for the mutants being "hunted" to know that they were actually being "helped," and all they managed to do was to sow anti-mutant sentiment. The story in #50 plays off that, in which an old flame of the Angel's (and possibly the mother of his child) hires Arcade to kill him. Angel is presumed dead at the time, so Arcade offers a two-for-one special allowing the substitution of Iceman and the Beast.

This story does have a framing sequence with the blue-skinned Angel with mechanical wings and the blue-furred beast, but the main story is set when the Angel was presumed dead and the Beast was in human form (the cover is deceptive that way), and this was originally an inventory issue. Nevertheless, it's better than most actual issues of X-Factor were. 

PORTFOLIO: Five (including the back cover) truly ugly paintings of Spider-Man, [a female character]*, Gargoyle, and Thor by Mark Badger. 

*(Could be Storm or Dazzler or Crystal, I'm not really sure.)

ISSUE #51:

WRAPAROUND COVER: Silver Surfer and Mantis vs. Mangog by John Buscema

MAIN STORY: Silver Surfer by Steve Englehart, John Buscema and Jack Abel. Along with #1-4 and #29, this is one of the issues I bought new and have reread most often over the years. (I eventually bought a second copy, one to file with Marvel Fanfare and one to file with Silver Surfer, so I would always be able to find it right away.) When Marvel first considered reviving the Silver Surfer's solo title, it was to have been a 12-issue series, each issue double-size, like in the old days, with art by John Buscema. Steve and John got started while the editorial staff haggled over direction and plotlines. It was eventually decided that the series would be ongoing (it would last 146 issues), but somewhere along the line, Buscema dropped out to be replaced by Marshall Rogers. This previously unpublished version of issue #1 focuses much more on the life and child of the woman who is Mantis at Marvel, but was also Willow at DC and Lorelei at Eclipse. The story pretty much completely contradicts the story that was eventually published in Silver Surfer (1987) #1, but Englehart was able to develop some of the elements introduced here. Years later, Englehart was worked Marvel Fanfare #51 into continuity, after a fashion, as an alternate reality.

BACK-UP STORY: An eight-pager featuring Nightmare, written by Dean Schreck, penciled by Gene Colan and inked by Al Williamson. 

PIN-UP: Silver Surfer (with Galactus) by Ron Lim

USPS STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP: Circulation holding steady at 50,425 per month.

"When Knights Were Bold (An Epic of the Crusades)"

ISSUE #52:

FRONT COVER: Black Knight by Ernie Chan

BACK COVER: Doctor Strange by Gene Colan

FIRST STORY: Black Knight by Steven Grant, Scott Hampton and Ernie Chua

SECOND STORY: Dr. strange by Dean Schreck, Gene Colan and Al Williamson

PORTFOLIO: Captain America, Sersi & Diamondback, Dr. Strange & Clea, and Silver Surfer and Nova (with Galactus) by Paul Ryan. how many pin-ups constitute a "portfolio"? More than three, I would thing, but that's what they are labeled.

ISSUE #53:

FRONT COVER: Black Knight by John Buscema

BACK COVER: Iron Man by Dave Ross

FIRST STORY: Black Knight by Steven Grant and John Buscema

SECOND STORY: Iron Man by Dan Mishkin and Dave Ross

PORTFOLIO: Black Widow and Hellcat by June Brigman (another lightweight "portfolio")

ISSUE #54:

FRONT COVER: Black Knight by Tod Smith

BACK COVER: Wolverine by Richard Howell

FIRST STORY: Black Knight by Steven Grant and Tod Smith

SECOND STORY: Wolverine by Richard Howell (story, art, letters and colors). Part one of two.

PORTFOLIO: The rest of June Brigman's portfolio: Dagger, Energizer (Power Pack) and She-Hulk.

Marvel Fanfare #52-54 are not issues I bought new, but I have read them several times since I did pick them up. Black Knight never took a turn as my most favorite character, but he's always been a favorite character. He has never been really popular, and therefore not overused, so was a relatively easy thing to acquire all of his appearances early on. Plus he has an interesting character arc: an Avenger, a Defender, being turned into a statue, the McGuffin in the Avenger/Defenders clash, becoming trapped in the past, returning to the present, rejoining the Avengers, leaving the Marvel Universe and becoming the leader of Ultraforce, returning to the MU, etc

I last when through a "Black Knight phase" in 2009 upon the release of the Marvel Masterworks edition which collected the 1950s Black Knight series. That series' back-up feature was "The Crusader"; even though the Crusades were hundreds of years after the time of King Arthur (when the "Black Knight" was set), the features are thematically linked, I suppose. Dane Whitman, the modern day Black Knight, is the descendant of Percy of Scandia, the original. After his body was turned to stone, his spirit was thrust into the body of an ancestor at the time of the Crusades; although not Sir Percy, obviously, I like to think "The Crusader" was his ancestor. All of the '50s Black Knight stories, followed by all of the '50s Crusader stories, followed by Marvel Fanfare #52-54 makes for a nice little read. The Fanfare issues also slot rather nicely directly following the "Avengers/Defenders Clash" (FYI).

And while I'm on the topic of the Black Knight (and not likely to be again any time soon), I will point out that the best (my favorite, anyway) Black Knight stories were published in serial form by Marvel UK in Hulk Comic (later Incredible Hulk Weekly). For years those stories were not available in the U.S. but now have been since 2011 in the Captain Britain Omnibus (v2). These stories lead directly into Alan Moore's run (in Captain Britain Omnibus v3). Dane Whitman's story can be followed from v2 into Avengers #225.

ISSUE #55:

FRONT COVER: Power Pack, Magik and warlock by Colleen Doran and Bob Wiacek

BACK COVER: Wolverine by  Richard Howell

FIRST STORY: Power Pack (with Magik & Warlock) by Terry Austin and Colleen Doran. There are certain titles I am perfectly content to ignore, at least until they cross over something I read. Power Pack was certainly one such title. Then John Byrne started crossing the characters over into Fantastic Four so I picked up a couple of issues. they were... okay, I guess, not really my thing. This story, written by Terry Austin, was originally commissioned specifically for Marvel Fanfare, but the original penciler "kept it for ages and returned it untouched." Whoever it was kept it so long, the status quo had changed by the time it was assigned to Colleen Doran. Austin made some tweaks to the plot but, by the time Doaran turned it in more changes had been made, so it was published with a footnote that placed it before Power Pack #52 and New Mutants #73. I am reading it for the first time more that 30 years after the fact, so I don't really care one way or the other.

SECOND STORY: The second part of Richard Howell's Wolverine story begun last issue. 

ISSUES #56-59:

ISSUE #56:

FRONT COVER: Shanna the She-Devil by Chiodo

BACK COVER: Marvel Universe action figures dolls come to life by Don Heck

FIRST STORY: Shanna the She-Devil by Steve Gerber and Carmine Infantino

SECOND STORY: A boy plays with his dolls by Bill Mantlo and Don Heck

PORTFOLIO: Howard the Duck (in a "Cloak" costume) & Dagger, Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, the Punisher, Thor and Captain America by Mike Vosburg.

USPS STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP: Circulation: 51,438

ISSUE #57:

FRONT COVER: Shanna the She-Devil by Chiodo

BACK COVER: Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) by George Freeman

FIRST STORY: Shanna the She-Devil by Steve Gerber and "A. Novice" (actually Bret Blevins)

SECOND STORY: Captain Marvel by Bill Mantlo (script) and George Freeman. According to Al Milgrom: "For personal reasons, the writer who plotted this story did not want his name on the credits. I'll just say he's someone close to the character and leave it at that." (I'm guessing Roger Stern.)

PORTFOLIO: Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Elektro vs. Spider-Man, Grey Hulk vs. Green Hulk (Rick Jones), Wasp and "The Captain" (Steve Rogers) by Norm Breyfogle.

ISSUE #58:

FRONT COVER: Shanna the She-Devil by Chiodo

BACK COVER: Vision and Scarlett Witch by Sandy Plunkett and Armando Gil

FIRST STORY: Shanna the She-Devil by Steve Gerber and Bret Blevins

SECOND STORY: Vision and Scarlett Witch by Bill Mantlo and Sandy Plunkett

PIN-UPS: Wonder Man by Jeff Johnson; Nick Fury by Jim Lee; the Punisher by Andre Smith Coates

ISSUE #59:

FRONT COVER: Shanna the She-Devil by Chiodo

BACK COVER: Patsy Walker and Daimon Hellstrom done by Richard Howell in the style of a Simon & Kirby Romance

FIRST STORY: Shanna the She-Devil by Steve Gerber and Tony DeZuniga

SECOND STORY: Patsy Walker and Daimon Hellstrom done by Richard Howell in the style of a Simon & Kirby Romance. His recent Wolverine two-parter was kind of lame, but I really enjoyed this S&K romance pastiche.

The first three of these issues' lead features were written and drawn in 1978, probably intended for Rampaging Hulk of Savage Tales. when Milgrom decided to run them, he hired Steve Gerber to write the conclusion, which he did, but by 1991 he had no idea how he had originally to end the story. I have already discussed these issues in much more depth on pp. 7 & 8 of the Kazar the Savage discussion back in 2019. 

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