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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Lately I've been reading long-form DC comics on non-glossy paper stock (Swamp Thing, Sandman). For a little variety, I though about peppering my project with some short-form Marvel comics on glossy stock and immediately though of this thread.


Jeff of Earth-J said:

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.

I brought this discussion right up to the point I had initially dropped the series, then dropped the discussion. I am now prepared to continue with...

ISSUE #28:

WRAP-AROUND COVER: Alpha Flight by Ken Steacy

EDITORI-AL: Al Milgrom touts this as an "All-Canada" issue (but he counts Steacy four times). 

STORY: A well-researched (but now dated) story about the aftermath of the October Crisis and Canada's FLQ movement. It's written by Bill Mantlo. (It always makes me sad to think of his fate.)

ISSUE #29:

FRONT COVER: Hulk by John Byrne

BACK COVER: Captain America by Norm Breyfogle

EDITORI-AL: Full page panel, matching lead story

FIRST STORY: Hulk by John Byrne (told in full-page panels)

SECOND STORY: A (nearly) wordless Captain America story (titled "Story") by Norm Breyfogle

Here it is, only three months since three consecutive issues of "Weirdworld" caused me to "drop" the title. I got this thread up too the point I dropped Fanfare, then I dropped the discussion. I would continue to buy Marvel Fanfare from time-to-time whenever a particular feature interested me. I will point out when that happens, but from here on out I will, for the most part, be reading these comics for the first time.

In 1986, John Byrne's Alpha Flight had recently crossed over with Bill Mantlo's Hulk resulting in the creative teams switching titles. This led to six of the best consecutive issues of Hulk in some time, #314-319, story and art by John Byrne. As I understand it, Marvel Fanfare #29 was intended (by Byrne) to be Hulk #320,  but the editor (Denny O'Neil) objected, causing John Byrne to leave the series prematurely and take his story to Al Milgrom to be printed in Marvel Fanfare.

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. 

ISSUE #30:

WRAPAROUND COVER: Moon Knight by Brent Anderson

EDITORI-ALANDERSON: Breant Anderson "takes over." (Why am I commenting on these? I'm going to stop unless they reveal something about the story.)

STORY: Moon Knight by Ann Nocenti, Brent Anderson and Al Williamson.

I have often said that the Hulk was my "first favorite character." I have had many favorites over the years, but I never bothered ordering them in sequence beyond the first. All I can tell you is that, at one point, Moon Knight was my favorite character. It was my first favorite character which led to my future favorite character, in a way: the first Moon Knight story I every read was the back-up story in HULK! (magazine) #11. That was a good jumping on point as it was the beginning of the (back-up) series, but I was to read only one more installment (from #12) and that was the last I saw of the series first run. Doug Moench wrote both stories, but the art was handled by Gene Colan on the first part, Keith Pollard on the second; Moon Knight's definitive artist, Bill Sienkiewicz came aboard with #13.) 

Skip ahead a few years, circa 1982 or so. At the time Marvel was conducting an experiment with three of its titles, offering them for sale via the direct market only. Moon Knight was one of those titles. One-by-one I sampled them all, my first issue of Moon Knight being #18. Then, in 1983, Marvel released the three-issue Moon Knight Special Edition series which reprinted the HULK! back-up stories, and I was sold. Moon Knight became my new favorite character for a time, and I soon had all the back-issues. 

But it is said that all good things must come to an end, and #30 was Moench and Sienkiewicz's last issue together. Moench stuck around for three more issues, but the title began a slow and steady decline at that point, and was eventually cancelled with #38. It returned a year later, subtitled Fist of Khonshu, which I dutifully read. But it just wasn't the same and was (deservedly) cancelled after only six issues. I've barely read any Moon Knight since, and what I have read doesn't hold up to the Moench/Sienkiewicz run.

Marvel Fanfare #30 is on par with the Fist of Khonshu series, and couldn't finish reading it fast enough. I really don't want to spend any more time on this 35-year-old comic than that. At lest the art's nice.

I love Brent Anderson's art. When you said this was a wrap-around cover, GCD doesn't have it, but I was able to find it on marveldatabase.com/wiki.

It really is a beautiful cover (wrapped around a mediocre story). The story concerns a filmmaker and the lengths to which he will go to achieve his "realism." His actions trigger an Earth elemental to be created (or, more likely, his actions trigger a mutant's latent powers). Perhaps I'd be a bit more forgiving of the story's flaws if I weren't 140+ issues into Swamp Thing at the present time.

ISSUE #31:

FRONT COVER: Captain America by Kerry Gammil

BACK COVER: Dr. Strange by Mark Wheatley

FIRST STORY: Captain America by J.M. DeMatteis and Kerry Gammil

SECOND STORY: Dr. Strange by Mark Wheatley

THIRD STORY: Daredevil by Norm Breyfogle (3 pages)

Speaking of favorite characters (as I was yesterday), Captain America was once my favorite, probably around the time DeMatteis was writing the monthly title. the first thing that strikes me about this story is how "wordy" it is in comparison to comics of today. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but take page five for example. The action is broken down into seven panels: three across the top tier, one in the middle and three along the bottom. The dialogue is presented in no few than 19 balloons. 

Gammil is a solid storyteller who never really became a fan favorite. I met him once, at the "Superman" festival in Matropolis, IL. Well, perhaps "met" is too strong of a word. I filed past his table and collected my swag. We nodded at each other and he personalized one of the prints of Superman he was giving away. There was a single line to see all of the guests, of which he was the first. the others were (in sequence): Alex Ross, Gerard Christopher and Sara Douglas. But I digress.

Prominently featured in the story is Frog Man (son of the original Leap Frog), a favorite character of DeMatteis' (although not, I must admit, of mine). The villain of the piece, although not revealed until the end, is the Yellow Claw. Yellow Claw was used only sporadically in the Silver and Bronze Ages, and he wasn't all that prominent in the 1950s except in his own short-lived title. He did have the pedigree of being penciled first by Joe Maneely then by Jack Kirby, however. That he is an underused villain is all right with me; that makes it all the more easy to dismiss his appearances which contradict Jeff Parker's Agents of Atlas EYKIW. the story is continued next issue.

Many creators, both writers and artists, have a pretty decent Dr. Strange story demanding to be told. This is Mark Wheatley's. (It has been my observation that few have been able to maintain interest, either readers' or their own, on the ongoing series beyond the initial set of issues.)

ISSUE #32:

FRONT COVER: Captain America by Kerry Gammil

BACK COVER: Vision by Paul Smith

FIRST STORYCaptain America by J.M. DeMatteis and Kerry Gammil

SECOND STORY: Vision by Roger McKenzie and Paul Smith (Vision partners with Ben Urich to stop a serial killer)

I really said all I have to say about J.M. DeMatteis and Kerry Gammil and Captain America and the Yellow Claw and Frog Man yesterday. this issue folds Spider-Man into the mix, plus Angel, Iceman, Beast and the Human Torch in non-speaking roles (except for the Torch and the Beast who get one line each at the end). Today I'd like to comment on the "Marvel 25th Anniversary" blurb that has been appearing (up until this issue) in the cover corner box. 

Marvel Comics had "always" been around (as far as I was concerned). Sure, DC had been around for 50, but 25 (counting from 1961) was nothing to sneeze at, either. And Image wasn't even around back then. Now things have changed. Now Marvel has been around for 80+ years (counting from 1939), but they keep undermining themselves by constantly cancelling and restarting their longest-running series. Marvel has recently released (or will soon release) issues numbered 900 or 1000, but they had to "cheat" to get there, either by combining the numbering of different "volumes" or just by plain cheating (Wolverine #900, Marvel Comics #1000, Amazing Fantasy #1000). I look at the new Marvel comics on the shelves each week and I no longer get any sense of history or continuity, even among Marvel's longest running characters.

The recently-cancelled Spider-Man series was only in the #90s;

Fantastic Four, #40s

Hulk, #50

Avengers, #50s

Thor, #20s

Captain America, #30

X-Men, I don't even know.

I look at those low numbers and realize Marvel's "legacy" characters will never attain the legacy they one had, especially if Marvel keeps cancelling and starting over. It's very frustrating. Even the upstart Image Comics is up to 260-something issues of Savage Dragon and well over 300 of Spawn

SIGH

ISSUE #33:

WRAPAROUND COVER: X-Men by June Brigman and Terry Austin

STORY: X-Men by Chris Claremont, June Brigman and Terry Austin

PORTFOLIO: Silver Surfer, Conan, Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist. Electra, Punisher and Iron Man by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey

Marvel Fanfare's two most controversial topics are 1) inventiry stories and 2) portfolios, and this issue features one of each. Remember the Questprobe series from 1984? (I don't blame you if you don't.) It was a tie-in to some video game or something. I was working that summer as a lifeguard at a summer camp, 100 miles away from the nearest comic book shop, but I wouldn't have bought it anyway. It was a three-issue series featuring (sequentially) the Hulk, Spider-Man, the Human Torch and the Thing. but it was supposed to have been a four-issue series, the final issue featuring the X-Men. Fanfare #33 presents that issue after sitting in a drawer for three years.

The story takes place on Magneto's island and is set during the time when Magneto had "reformed." The story's a mess, the less said about it the better. Not only is the plot incomprehensible, the script features Claremont's particular brand  of overblown, overwrought dialogue which drove me from X-Men in the first place. 

ISSUES #34-37:

#34:

FRONT COVER: Warriors Three by Charles Vess

BACK COVER: Loki by Charles Vess

STORY: Warriors Three by Alan Zelenetz and Charles Vess

PORTFOLIOS: Four pin-ips by Charles Vess (actually, the covers of #34-37 without copy), plus six by Mike Mignola: Atuma, Nightmare, the Red Skull & Baron Zemo, Kraven the Hunter, the Dread Dormammu and Kang the Conqueror. Al Milgrom introduces Mignola as "an artist who I personally discovered and groomed for comic stardom."

35:

FRONT COVER: Hogun the Grim by Charles Vess

BACK COVER: Loki by Charles Vess

STORY: Warriors Three by Alan Zelenetz and Charles Vess

PORTFOLIOS: Nightcrawler, Dark Phoenix, Vision & Scarlet Witch, Cloak & Dagger, Colossus and Kitty Pryde & Lockheed by Craig Hamilton; Dr. strange, Weirdworld, Frankenstein's Monster and Man-thing by Bret Blevins.

36:

FRONT COVER: Fandral the Dashing by Charles Vess

BACK COVER & INSIDE BACK COVER: Man-Thing by Tom Sutton

FIRST STORY: Warriors Three by Alan Zelenetz and Charles Vess

SECOND STORY: Man-Thing by Michael Fleisher and Tom Sutton. I don't know which publication this story was drawn for, but the copious (yet judicious) use of zip-a-tone and other shading techniques tells me it was intended for black & white reproduction.

37:

FRONT COVER: Loki (plus Warriors Three & Thor) by Charles Vess

BACK COVER: Fantastic Four by Norm Breyfogle

FIRST STORY: Warriors Three by Alan Zelenetz and Charles Vess

SECOND STORY: Fantastic Four by Mark Borax (who?) and Norm Breyfogle. Reed is running late for his date with Sue. He needs another hour, but she's already on her way to hail a taxi. He decides to complete work on his new sidereal displacer, then use it to transport himself an hour back in time. What could go wrong?

PIN-UPS: Storm by Bret Blevins, Hobgoblin by Arthur Adams, Man-thing by Tom Sutton and Iron Man by Walt Simonson

These four issues I bought new because: Charles Vess. Vess was born to do the Warriors Three and the Warriors Three were created to be drawn by Vess. In 2010, the late, lamented (by me) Marvel Premiere Classics Library line reprinted all four of these issues, plus #13, plus Marvel Spotlight #30 in volume 49 of the hardcover series. The only thing missing was The Raven Banner graphic novel. 

ISSUE #38:

FRONT COVER: Moon Knight by Judith Hunt and Bill Sienkiewicz

BACK COVER: Dazzler and Rogue by Colleen Doran (but I wouldn't've recognized her)

EDITORI(G)AL: Namedropping women in the field

FIRST STORY: A typical post-Moench/Sienkiewicz fill-in/inventory story by Jo Duffy and Judith Hunt, rendered obsolete (I am guessing) by  the recent changes to Moon Knight's costume in the then-new "Fist of Khonsu" series. (If my guess is correct, it's odd that the belt and armbands are included, but the crescent moon symbol on his chest being replaced by an Ankh is not.) The story is about a boy band whose unscrupulous managers are stealing life energy from the teenybopper crowd, turning them into old ladies. The band, too (predictably), are senior citizens. 

SECOND STORY: Dazzler and Rogue out clubbing by Jo Duffy and Colleen Doran. This story came out after I stopped reading X-Men but, although I knew they were both on the team at the same time, I was surprised to see the two women interacting as friends. (I guess that dates me.) I've heard that one is never supposed to tell an artist that you prefer his or her earlier style; no chance of that here.

PORTFOLIO: Balder the Brave, Longshot, Black Bolt & Medusa and Magik by an artist neither whose style nor signature I recognize. (Milgrom seldom introduces the portfolio artists, but I usually am able to recognize their work.) 

ISSUE #39:

FRONT COVER: Hawkeye by Joe Staton and Kim DeMulder

BACK COVER: Moon Knight by Bill Reinhold

EDITORI-AL: USPS Statement of Ownership: Circulation: 71, 595

FIRST STORY: Hawkeye by J.M. DeMatteis and Joe Staton. I have always liked Joe Staton's art, from the first of his stories I ever read: E-Man #1 in 1973. I really became a fan of his, though, in the '80s when he was dong Green Lantern and especially when he (briefly) became Howard Chaykin's replacement on American Flagg! It would be difficult to find an artist with a style as different from Chaykin's as Staton's, and I respected that, like casting Patrick Stewart as captain of the Enterprise following William Shatner. The vast majority of fans didn't agree, however, and he didn't last. Now here's a Staton comic I didn't even realize I owned!

The story is written by J.M. DeMatteis. Hawkeye is in a slump and meets Black Crow, DeMatteis' own Native American character, in Yosemite National Park. They smoke a pipe full of something "meant to purify your mind" and he gets his mojo back. At the end of the story, Black Crow promises that, on the day Hawkeye fully understands what happened there that day, they will meet again. As far as I know, that hasn't happened yet.

SECOND STORY: Another inventory story featuring Moon Knight in his old costume, this one by Michael Carlin and Bill Reinhold. Reinhold is best known for his work on Badger and I really like his style. This six-page story ends with an example of racial profiling intended to be funny (?). 

PORTFOLIO: The Black Knight (vs. Dragon Man), Dr. Doom, Galactus, Iron Man and Silver Surfer by Bob Layton.

Joe Staton, Bill Reinhold and Bob Layton all in the same issue?

I was a sucker when it first came to Marvel Fanfare. First, I thought it would be a highlight comic, with new and the very best of current writers and artists, and would be collectible thanks to the quality. But as of #3, I figured this would just be a promo magazine for OTHER features at Marvel. Issues 3 and 4 were so different (the very rationale of turning humans into pre-evolved creatures was changed) that I knew it was going to be junky - and seeing that those four stories were Claremont did nothing to assuage my apprehensions.

I collected it anyhow until the Weirdworld issues too and finally gave up. Just too tedious a task of reading Marvel Fanfare instead of enjoying it, and that at a time when I was looking for reasons to stop collecting some books. Sadly, this series was easy to drop. Once I figured it was an inventory title to get filler product into print, I was pretty disillusioned and disappointed.

I remain,

  Sincerely,

Eric L. Sofer

The Silver Age Fogey

x<]:o){

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