I’m just going to do a quick Friday post dedicated to some of my favorite comic books that most people overlook. Of course, what titles most people overlook, most comic book fans absolutely love so keep that in mind before you post your comments later. Anyways, lets begin:
Master Of Kung Fu
All I’m gonna say about this title is I loved it as a kid and apparently so did a lot of people because it ran until the mid 80’s. This book was the illest thing in the world to me until my boy Robert Soohoo introduced me to real Kung Fu comics from Hong Kong. It was a wrap for this book since that day back in 4th grade.
One of the worst toys ever made (despite the back of Marvel comic book ads that made us think it'd be hot) but it produced one of the best comic books of the 80’s that ran for 65 issues. Back when I posted the old Toy to Comic book post I didn’t include this title because it shares a special distinction with another Marvel title popular with old school comic book nerds (that my boy Dallas Penn has previously illustrated here ), it was one of the few comic books based on a toy line that ended up outliving the toy itself and becoming a popular title in it’s own right. The storyline followed the story of the inhabitants of Gallidor and their fight with an evil shape changing race called the Dire Wraiths. In order for the people of Gallidor to effectively fight the Dire Wraiths they had to give up their bodies and assume these armors customized with weapons that would allow them to see Dire Wraiths even when they were disguised and a weapon that banished them to Limbo. They also had the regular lazer beams and super strength included as well and powers changed from spaceknight to spaceknight. Rom was the first to volunteer and he became the leader of the whole Space Knight army. After they banished the Dire Wraiths from Gallidor they ran to the far reaches of the galaxy, eventually even landing on Earth, Guess who showed up on Earth to merk ‘em?
It was overshadowed by Garth Ennis’ Preacher title but it was just as great in my opinion. While Hollywood tried to option the Preacher book into a film and fans fell in love with with it they damn near forgot about Tommy Monaghan. A mix of Punisher, Chow Yun Fat and Batman (if Batman straight up murdered muthafuckas) that ran around Gotham City handling the grimiest of the grimy bad guys including demons, zombies, super villains, vampires and mobsters that want him dead. If you never checked the book out before you need to browse one of the trade paperbacks...start at the beginning.
Howard Chaykin is a genius. This comic book was about 10 years ahead of it’s time and when I used to read my brother’s friends copies I had to ask a LOT of questions because I didn’t get most of the stuff that they referenced in the book. Needless to say, reading this title as a kid made me smarter. First Comics also produced another title called E-Man that I used to browse but American Flagg was the joint that I used to wait do drop every month. That book made me hit the encyclopedia like crazy back in the days. What bugged me out the most was that I had bought Non Phixion’s “The Green CD/DVD” the Tuesday it dropped and during the DVD movie Ill Bill goes to a record store and picked up a copy of “American Flagg” and began praising it. Great minds think alike, I guess.
Very few heads stateside even know anything about this manga title or the subsequent 50 minute movie based on it. This is the premise, a kid get into a car accident with his family and they end up dying. This evil corporation takes their bodies and uses them for scientific experimentation, they develop this parasitic worm that when given a host gives them a series a superhuman powers, strength and abilities. The teen is injected with the worm called Baoh and it accepts his body. Later on the teen wakes up in the hospital and finds out what happened to his family and escaped from the hospital. On the road he encounters a liitle girl that happens to be a psychic and a runaway, eventually the evil corporation sends agent to retrieve him and extract the worm for it’s host. Much to their dismay, the boy seems to be able to control his powers and the worm doesn’t want to leave the host. Hollywood jacked the idea but turned it into the movie “Species”. Ill book if you can find the old Viz reprints in graphic novel form anywhere.
Another classic Viz Comics title than has since been overshadowed by the anime series and live action films based on the source materials (commonly known as Golgo 13 Syndrome). Overseas the “Crying Freeman” mini series is as large as the other legendary manga series’ like “Fist Of The North Star” and “Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind” (I’ll be doing a drop on these joints later this summer) but in the States? Naaaah. I read the books before I saw themovies back in the early 90’s (no subtitles, just VHS’ recorded off of Japanese LaserDiscs) and the books are crazy. After you’ve seen the anime it’s a wrap, though. If you haven't seen the anime series yet I suggest you Netflix them joints as soon as possible.
One of the most underrated Marvel Comics superhero group titles from the 70’s and 80’s. Overshadowed by the Avengers, X-Men and other super successful group titles and since forgotten it was pretty much a group of heroes that didn’t work in any other superhero group. The membership of this group changed so frequently it did become hard for most readers to really get a good feel for them. This book bumps “Alpha Flight”’s previous spot in the list (but once again, Dallas Penn beat me to it )
The Inhumans were all children of the royal family of a race that lived in a city called Attilian on the dark side of the moon. They were exposed to something called Terrigen Mist purposely and they developed odd superpowers, some of them even mutated into weird creatures. The title was written by the team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and they were a sort of spinoff of “Fantastic Four”. Black Bolt and Karnak were two of my favorite characters as a kid and this title was one of my favorite “over the shoulder” reads of the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Mai, The Psychic Girl
This book was a Japanese manga book that was brought to America while it was still hot in Asia and became a popular title amongst comic book fans in the late 80’s. A 14 year old girl named Mai is pursued by a corporation that wants to use her powers to help them control the world and mantain their grasp on the power that currently have. Her psychic abilities are apparently so powerful that she is a threat to them so they send agents to either recruit her or neutralize her. This book had so much buzz around it at one point that near the end of it’s run (1989 or 1990) that there was a pitch to make it into a feature film with Winona Ryder as Mai. It was shot down because producers felt Mai should at least be played by a Asian actress...oddly enough that ended up killing the project. There weren’t any bankable young Asian actress in Hollywood’s eyes back in 1990? How times change.
Easily one of the best manga series’ ever made, Yoshisha Tagami created this legendary title and did double duty by writing it and doing the penciling. Surprisingly enough, the anime based on the same source material was hot garbage. Grey: Digital Target was sold as a $89.95 VHS (not including shipping & handling) in the back of each Viz Comics issue, if you had drug dealer cash and you copped the flick out of curiosity (I got a $10 dollar Laserdisc copy on VHS) you would have been heated. As great as the book was you expect the anime to be even better, didn’t happen. This is one of the reason why few folks Stateside are aware of. It’s a damn shame, too. Grey is about a post apocalyptic future in which all of humanity has been classified into groups and remanded to numbered cities under the government of super computers. The only way to move up and become a citizen is to enter the Battle Theaters and fight small armies and destroy them. You’re given credits every battle you win and survive based on how many enemies you kill and you get more points for killing tougher enemies and destroying advanced equipment. This series was ridiculous, if you can get your hands on the graphic novels or the original 8 individual issues for a good price, cop ‘em. You won’t regret it.
Matt Wagner created this classic title for the old school company Comico (these old school comic book publishers remind me of defunct record labels). “Mage, The Hero Discovered” was overshadowed by his “Grendel” title on Dark Horse but if it wasn’t for Wagner’s early work on “Mage” no one would’ve felt “Grendel” like they did. He used mythology and folklore from Norse and Sumerian legends while intertwining the legend of King Arthur and Camelot with Shakespearian references from Hamlet and The Tempest...I used to read this comic book when I was in the 6th grade. I didn’t fully understand it until I was a fuckin’ senior in high school on some “Ohhh!” six years later shit. They’ve recently began reacquiring the rights to the characters and publishing the old “Mage” stories from the early 80’s.
Bill Mantlo is often credited with being the man who wrote the old Moon Knight stories in the mid 70’s that led to the eventual “Moon Knight” solo books that Marvel produced in the 80’s. However, his actual original creator, Doug Moench took the reins back and gave the job of penciling to the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz (also the artist who made the cover of RZA’s Bobby Digital In Stereo). Marc Spector is a world travelling adventurer and gun for hire stumbled on some ruins in Egypt where roaming peoples still worship the old gods. The Egyptian god of the moon, Khonshu offers to save a nearly dead Spector if he’ll represent him on Earth. Spector accepts and becomes Moon Knight. I still have old issues of the first and second editions of the title to this day.
Warren Ellis wrote it and it was on DC’s imprints Helix and Vertigo during it’s full run. This was easily the illest cyberpunk comic book ever made as Ellis also used it as a platform to get things off of his own chest about things happening in society. Not only was it political and satirical but it was also funny at the same time. The main character Spider Jerusalem was a former writer who had retreated to a shack far away from the corrupt city (New York) and all of the commercial interest that plagued his writing career. He owes his publisher two books and they come for him. The only way to avoid being in breach of contract is to move back to the city, embrace technology again and work off his debt by working for the cities biggest newspaper (owned by the publisher) called “The Word”. Any fan of writing and smart comic books or sci fi will love this book. This was one of my regular reads during my time working at Newbury Comics and CD Spins back in 1999 and 2000. Cop the trade paperbacks if you’re into this type of thing cuz I highly recommend it.
The Micronauts comic book was based on the successful line of Mego toys (Baron Karza and Acroyear were to of the illest figures of all times). Bill Mantlo came up with an excellent premise for the title that drew readers in. The story was sent in the subatomic universe called the Microverse where the aristocracy had free reign of theses things called “body banks” that held the body parts and organs of the poor and disenfranchised. Anytime they needed a body part to continue their lives they merely went to the body banks and claimed whatever body parts they wanted...The main villian Baron Karza was obsessed with living forever and becoming a God. The only people that stood in his way were the Micronauts. They were all from races that were being oppressed and/or destroyed by Karza himself so they fought him to the far reaches of the Microverse in hopes of freeing it. Sometimes, they ended up on Earth by mistake and Earth heroes (like when they teamed with the X-Men below) and villains took a left turn at Albuquerque and ended up in the Microverse as well over the years .
It's wrap for now. This June I'm going to try to get back to writing about more Hip Hop and films while reppin' my hometown the right way and even getting back to uploading a few rare joints that I have from my crates. Be on the lookout for it.