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Friday, June 9, 2017

Reviewing Back Issue magazine #97 (July 2017)

About 9 months ago we received an inquiry from one of our readers on our twitter about an interview we posted with Jack C Harris a few months prior.  We're actually BIG fans of collaborating with other comic enthusiasts, so we did our best to help him with a research question he had.

Not too long after that, we received an e-mail from Back Issue magazine editor Michael Eury requesting permission to use an image from our website (which we happily obliged). Eury was a DC editor in the late 80s/early 90s, and we selfishly took this opportunity to pick his brain about his behind-the-scenes work at DC comics during this era -- which led to this fantastic interview. [Eury is actually a very patient and friendly chap, and we couldn't have asked for a more interesting interviewee.]

We thought that was pretty much the end of our correspondences with Back Issue magazine, but last week this suddenly showed up in our mail:

cover of Back Issue #97 -- why yes, that IS a George Perez illustrated Hawkman on the cover!

To date, I have never purchased a physical copy of Back Issue magazine. I've viewed a few samples pages from the digital version, saw they were good, and made a mental note to grab an issue if I ever saw any at my local comic book shop -- but the opportunity has never presented itself to really take an in-depth look at one.

Right off the bat, this appeals to me because it was shipped in a flat cardboard box (the same way you'd ship a vinyl record in the mail) and didn't get folded in half. I've subscribed to a few mail-order magazines in my day, and there's nothing as discouraging as finding a permanently curled magazine in your mailbox (even if it was just GQ magazine). I appreciate this, Tomorrows Publishing.

shipped in a rigid cardboard mailer

Just flipping through without really reading anything, I immediately notice that it's a really gorgeous, well laid-out magazine. Back Issue magazine is full-color and makes use of images that compliment the articles -- you're going to see a lot of DC house ads from that era, original art, a few comic interiors and various comic book covers. Every now and then, a recent head shot of a creator (writer, editor or artist) will be included in the article, which I find to be a nice touch since it's always nice to put a face to a name.

crisp colors and nice layouts

Since Hawkman is on the cover, I'm expecting to see a lot of Hawkman coverage in this publication. This issue does not fail to deliver:

-As this issue's lead feature, Doug Zawisza provides one of the most comprehensive reviews on the Hawkman's Bronze Age history that I've ever read. Zawisza's article spans a whopping seventeen pages and covers everything from Hawkman's early '70s appearances in Justice League of America up to the end of his own ongoing series in 1987. This article goes above and beyond as it not only gives us very detailed background info on the conception and execution of 1985's The Shadow War of Hawkman, but it details everything that happened with Hawkman following the mini up until the end of his ongoing series (this includes behind-the-scenes editorial decisions and comments from series writers Tony Isabella and Dan Mishkin). I assure you, this would've been no easy research feat -- I know because I've tried.  Kudos to Doug Zawisza (and Back Issue magazine) for pulling this one off.

-Marc Buxton provides a detailed play-by-play of Hawkgirl's first adventure (sans Hawkman) in 1981's DC Comics Presents #37.

-Steven Wilber examines the 1989 Hawkworld mini-series and the subsequent ongoing series. This is a nice 8-page feature filled with behind-the-scenes info from editor Mike Gold, artist Graham Nolan and writers Timothy Truman and John Ostrander.

The theme of this issue is 'bird people', so we get a few additional articles about some of DC's avian-themed characters:

-Bryan D. Stroud wrote an extremely inclusive article about the history and evolution of the Penguin (including his mysterious origins and several creators talking about their take on the character). No word of a lie, the Penguin is easily one of my favorite Batman villains (probably as a holdover from my Super Powers Collection days), and was a character I was actually thinking about lately as there doesn't seem to be much info about him floating around out there.

-Michael Eury gives us a very in-depth history [14 pages!] on Hawk and Dove -- everything from their 1960s debut up to the new 52 relaunch. He even includes interview snippets from Dick Giordano, Karl Kessel, Mike BaronBarbara Randall Kessel and Greg Guler. I really dug this article as it is extensive and gives us a lot of great info about the evolution of the characters.

-There were a few articles that I skimmed through but didn't actually read: an article about Dynomutt and Blue Falcon by Mark Arnold, a look at Disney's 1981 Condorman film by Andy Mangels, and an interview about late 90s Nightwing with Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel (by John Trumbull).

Initial thoughts:

I lucked out since this particular issue of Back Issue had a lot of 1980/90s DC comics coverage (i.e., The Shadow War of Hawkman, Hawkworld, Penguin Triumphant, Hawk & Dove). These articles were informative and revealed new details and facts I was previously unaware of. I feel this magazine goes the extra mile by being attentive to the details -- which is important. The interviews with the creators were a very nice touch. If it's written by fans, it'll most likely answer questions fans are curious about.

I would definitely recommend this issue to a Hawkman fan -- this is probably the closest thing you can get to a modern-day full-color Hawkman fanzine. If all other issues of Back Issue magazine are anything like this one, you can count me in. Eury mentions the possibility of a Matt Wagner Grendel issue in the near future -- I'll be keeping watch for that one.

Back Issue reminds us that you can order previous issues of their magazine as physical or digital copies -- but once the physical copies are gone, they're gone. I'm used to reading things on my Samsung tablet, so I really have no objection to obtaining digital copies of this publication -- in this case, however, I'd probably opt for the physical magazine.

Back Issue is a REAL magazine and has large pages than a standard comic book, and it looks much nicer in physical form than it would on my 10.1" Samsung tablet (see pic below). All this to say, since I'm considered to be an 'international' buyer, I'd opt for the less-expensive digital subscription, but if I ever saw reasonably-priced physical issues from a local vendor, I'd pick those up instead. It's worth buying the physical copies. Everything about Back Issue looks great and reminds me that the art of the print magazine is still alive and kicking.

Back Issue magazine vs my 10.1" Samsung tablet

In conclusion, seeing my name mentioned in the credits of an article really went a long way towards boosting my ego. I'll probably frame this issue once I'm done re-reading it.



  1. Great article! Can't wait to get my copy as well. A true collector's item for Hawkman fans!