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 #40:

FRONT COVER: The Angel by David Mazzucchelli

BACK COVER: Storm by Craig Hamilton

FIRST STORY: The Angel by Ann Nocenti and David Mazzucchelli. I think I might have bought this one new, but I don't remember. If I did, I bought it for the Mazzucchelli art, not the cover story. In either case, I didn't read it until today. If you'd have asked me even as late as this morning I would have told you that this story was a follow-up to the injuries Angel sustained in X-Men #169-170, but the story in fact flows from issue #3 of 1987's "Mephisto vs..." limited seires (which I did not buy). Angel is nursed by a senile old woman. Highly forgettable. 

SECOND STORY: Storm by Chris Claremont and Craig Hamilton. This story has an even older pedigree. It takes place during Rogue's disappearance in X-Men #185 (1984). Storm and Mystique meet at a dance club, and Mystique tells her where she might find Rogue. After Storm leaves, Destiny joins Mystique and reveals their foreknowledge of Destiny's vision that whoever seeks Rogue will suffer the fate intended for her (i.e., the loss of her powers). 

I don't know where these stories were originally intended to appear, but if they didn't see print soon they would no longer be relevant (if, indeed, they were in 1988 when Fanfare #40 was published.

PIN-UPS: Dr. Strange & Clea and Kazar, shanna & Zabu by Craig Hamilton; Sub-Mariner painted by Kent Williams; Elektra painted by George Pratt. 

ISSUE #41:

FRONT COVER: Dr. Strange by Dave Gibbons

BACK COVER: Interior panels by Dave Gibbons

STORY: Dr. Strange by Walt Simonson and Dave Gibbons. Actually, I read this story about a week ago when, inspired by the Sandman TV show, I read a bunch of "Nightmare" stories and pretended they were intertwined with Gaiman's Morpheus. It was reading this issue that inspired me to resurrect this thread. #41 is not actually a Nightmare story per se, but it's by Simonson and Gibbons so no complaints there. 

PORTFOLIOS: Al Milgrom will occasionally commission pin-ups from an artist known primarily for his inking. This issue features the early Avengers (circa #2, vs. the space Phantom), Nick Fury (Steranko era), Wonder Man (circa Avengers #9 with the Masters of Evil), Captain America (Kirby TOS era), Daredevil and Sub-Mariner (circa Daredevil #7), Fantastic Four (vs. Dr. Doom, circa #5) and Spider-Man (Romita era mostly). All of these pin-ups are chock full of characters and/ot background details. In addition, also included are the Black Panther, Hulk, Iron Man, Punisher and Thor by Bill Reinhold. Again, all of these are filled with detail. In fact, the Black Panther was was, decades later, used as the cover to a tpb collection of the Black Panther serial by Don McGregor and Gene Colan from Marvel Comics Presents

ISSUE #42:

FRONT COVER: Spider-Man by Carl Potts

BACK COVER: Captain Marvel (and Dracula) by Bob Hall

FIRST STORY: Spider-Man by Carl Potts and Terry Shoemaker. A convoluted story in which Spider-Man tries to do a good deed at the cost of his own rent money.

SECOND STORY: Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) by Dennis Mallonee (who?) and Bob Hall. In the post-vampiric MU,  Captain Marvel undertakes a mission to the past to get a sample of Dracula's blood. 

ISSUE #43:

FRONT COVER: Sub-Mariner by Mike Mignola

BACK COVER: Human Torch by Greg Brooks

FIRST STORY: Sub-Mariner by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola. Sub-Mariner succumbs to the effects of the Sargasso Sea (or swims through a time warp, take your pick) and has a love affair with a female pirate. When her ship becaomes entrapped in the Sargasso Sea, Namor swims ahead to save it and either recovers from the effects of the waters or swims back through the time warp (take you pick) where he finds the remains of the pirate's sunken ship. I didn't buy this issue new but I have read it before, like in the wake of Namor (2003) when I read all my Sub-Mariner comics as a "project." 

SECOND STORY: Human Torch by Bill Mantlo and Greg Brooks. The story begins with an accident in Mr. Fantastic's lab that the Torch can't solve with his powers, leaving it to the thing to solve instead. Later, the Torch must solve a similar problem in real life. Structurally sound but not terribly interesting.

PORTFOLIO & PIN-UPS: The Hulk, Moon Knight & Wonder Man (?), Wolverine, Daredevil, and Human Torch & Vision by Brian Murray; Silver Surfer & Ardina (mis-colored) by Alan Weiss; Mephisto by Kerry Gammill.

ISSUE #44:

WRAPAROUND COVER: Iron Man (vs. Dr. Doom) by Ken Steacy

STORY: Iron Man (vs. Dr. Doom) by Ken Steacy. This is another one I bought new (for Steacy's distinctive art). He had previously done an Iron Man two-parter in #22-23, and this is another one commissioned specifically for Fanfare (as opposed to an inventory story). It also features Rhodey and Ant-Man, but mostly it's good to see Iron Man as a hero again. what's it  been? 15 years since Marvel ruined him? 20? 

USPS STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP: Circulation = 50,860. That's a precipitous drop (more than 20,000) since the previous year. 


Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #29:

What makes this story unique (or at least unusual) is that it is told entirely in full-page panels. (Some would say "splash pages," but I dispute that terminology.) Walt Simonson was soon to produce such an issue of Thor (#380, editied by Ralph Macchio), and "The Death of Superman" famously concluded using the same technique in Superman #75. I'm not entirely sure what O'Neil's objection was, but I sure wish John Byrne would have stayed on Hulk more than six issues (and an annual). If anyone here knows more behind-the-scenes details about this situation than I do, please share them here. 

What I recall from the comics news coverage at the time was that editor Dennis O'Neil thought a comic told entirely in full-page panels short-changed the reader. Why did Walt Simonson get away with it in Thor? Probably because O'Neil wasn't his editor.

As for "The Death of Superman," that had the full support of the DC brain trust, because the four issues that featured Superman actually in the fight with Doomsday were drawn so that the first one was told with four panels per page, the next with three panels per page, the next with two panels per page, and the climax with one panel per page. 

I'll have to break those out again.  I'm so damned dumb that I never noticed that.

ClarkKent_DC said:

As for "The Death of Superman," that had the full support of the DC brain trust, because the four issues that featured Superman actually in the fight with Doomsday were drawn so that the first one was told with four panels per page, the next with three panels per page, the next with two panels per page, and the climax with one panel per page. 


Did you read Squirrel Girl's battle with Nightmare?


Jeff of Earth-J said:

I read a bunch of "Nightmare" stories and pretended they were intertwined with Gaiman's Morpheus.

"Dennis O'Neil thought a comic told entirely in full-page panels short-changed the reader."

Yes, that sounds familiar.

"Did you read Squirrel Girl's battle with Nightmare?"

Ha! No, I don't have that one.

ISSUE #45:

WRAPAROUND COVER: MU characters featured inside by John Byrne.

This is the infamous "ALL PINUP ISSUE" of Marvel Fanfare. Since the title's inception, its two most controversial features have been 1) inventory stories, and 2) portfolios. Me, I prefer original stories to portfolios, but I prefer portfolios to inventory stories. This issue features 32 pin-ups of I-don't-know-how-many-characters by 32 different artists. There's is little to say about this issue other than that, if you have a favorite character or artist (active in the late '80s), chances are that his or her work will be represented here.

"Dennis O'Neil thought a comic told entirely in full-page panels short-changed the reader."

Those six issues by Byrne (#314-319) were a highlight of the series. It's a shame they couldn't've reached some sort of compromise that would have allowed Byrne to stay on the book longer. O'Neil was gone with #319, anyway, replaced by Bob Harras as of #320. 

ISSUE #46:

FRONT COVER: The Fantastic Four (vs. the Mad Thinker) by Tod Smith

BACK COVER: The (early) Fantastic Four by Tod Smith

FIRST STORY: The Fantastic Four by Mike Barr and Louis Williams. The Mad Thinker tricks his way into Mr. Fantastic's computer system. I know Mike Barr primarily from his work on Batman and Batman and the Outsiders. This is a well-structured story with a beginning, middle and end, but nothing special.

SECOND STORY: The Thing by Danny Fingeroth and Tod Smith. A continuity implant which spans  the period from a week before the FF's fateful flight right up to the beginning of Fantastic Four #1 and tells the story of Ben Grimm's hitherto unknown last girlfriend before becoming the Thing. It's an all right but inconsequential story. 

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