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Back Issue #16

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2006
By: Michael Bailey

Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing

An entire issue devoted to the toys I played with as a kid.

Was there any doubt that I would want to read this issue?

Seriously, as one of that seemingly large group of people between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five, I remember, sometimes vividly, the action figures and comic book tie-ins from my youth. G.I. Joe. The Transformers. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Super Powers. Secret Wars. Star Wars. Thundercats. All of the series that are currently enjoying renewed interest thanks to DVD releases and Hot Topic. I spent untold number of hours watching cartoons, playing with the toys and reading the comics back and not much has changed since then outside of playing with the toys because, well, there is something unsettling about a thirty-year-old man sitting on the floor playing with action figures.

I see nothing wrong, however, with buying them, taking them out of their packaging and putting them on a shelf. That's called splitting hairs.

The issue kicked off with an interview of Arthur Adams regarding two Gumby specials that I had no idea existed. While I won't be scouring the back issues bins for these books, the article was interesting on its own. Michael Eury, former DC editor and editor of this magazine, conducted the interview, which seemed more like a conversation between old friends. This was followed by articles, both written by Christopher Irving, focusing on two of the biggest toy lines of the eighties: The Transformers and G.I. Joe. The Transformers article gave a nice overview of the comics but was a bit too short for my tastes. The G.I. Joe article was meatier, and Irving did a better job, giving the reader a feel of what that series was like. Both featured original artwork, though again the G.I. Joe article had more to offer including a rare sketch by Larry Hama of his "Fury Force" and an awesome cover re-creation by Mike Zeck with Storm Shadow and the Punisher, who was standing in the place of Snake Eyes.

The Super Powers feature, written by Tom "The Comics Savant" Stewart, was a bit of a let down. Instead of giving a behind the scenes look at the series, it read more like a tribute to Jack Kirby. I like Kirby's art and respect what he accomplished, but it seems this article would have been better if it explored more of the series and the toy line. Dewey Cassell's feature on the various comics DC published based on the Masters of the Universe was much better, and I liked the tag team interview feel the article had. On a personal level, I would have liked to have seen more on the Star Comics He-Man book, but that is only because it was the first comic I tried to collect.

Yeah, I know that's kind of sad.

The "Rough Stuff" section of this issue was devoted to Mike Zeck, and it had a lot of great pencil work. One of the highlights was the full cover to Secret Wars #1, which originally had more characters who were removed, not only for space considerations but also because certain characters were dropped from the series. There was also another great cover re-creation, this time of Web of Spider-Man #32, where Batman crawled out of a grave instead of Spider-Man. "Rough Stuff" is always a treat, and Mike Zeck is probably one of the best artists from the 80s, especially the covers he produced.

I was very disappointed with Allan Harvey's "Looking to Buy a Used Car" and the "Off My Chest" written by Milton Knight. Harvey writes about the vehicles used by Superman and Spider-Man and tries to be funny while doing so. He fails, though some interesting information is given. My main problem with Milton Knight's guest editorial is that he comes off as very bitter, and while some of the comments he makes are valid, I just didn't like the piece as a whole. I'm sure this would have had more resonance if I had the slightest clue of who the man was.

The "Pro 2 Pro" interview with Sal Buscema and Jackson "Butch" Guice conducted by Dan Johnson was a real treat and focused on their work on Rom and Micronauts respectively. I consider both men to be underrated as artists and "hearing" them talk about how they approached the licensed series and what it was like working with Bill Mantlo was great. These "Pro 2 Pro" interviews are usually a lot of fun, and this issue was no exception and frankly, it's one of the main reasons I buy the magazine in the first place.

Plus it dealt with Rom and Micronauts, two series that outlived the toys they were supposed to shill. Ah, the 80s, where even a bad toy line could make a bad ass comic book.

Andy Mangels, who is probably one of the best fan reporters when it comes to television series and movies based on comic books, tells a "Greatest Story Never Told" about a toy line that I remember hearing about but could never dig anything up on outside of Les Daniels' Wonder Woman: The Complete History: "Wonder Woman and the Star Raiders." Picture if you will a line of toys based on Wonder Woman and four other female characters, including altered version of Dolphin, Ice and Fire (renamed Solara), riding unicorns and fighting a bad guy named Purrsia. This article has everything you could want to know about this failed attempt at giving Wonder Woman not only a line of toys but also an animated special and a comic book tie-in.

In The End: I cannot say enough about this magazine. If you are like me and have a deep love and respect for comics from the 70s, 80s and even the early 90s, this magazine is for you. This issue was particularly strong and sported an awesome Snake Eyes cover by Mike Zeck. There were some clunky articles, like the last one about Captain Action, but the good features far outweighed the bad. Any magazine that can mix He-Man, G.I. Joe and Gumby is well worth owning.

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