Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Titans Hunt: first impressions part 2

Welcome to the second of two articles with Erik Tramontana's review of the 1990 - 1992 Titans Hunt story arc that ran through New Titans #71 to New Titans #84

This is Erik's very first reading of Titans Hunt, and he managed to read all 14 issues in one sitting. The are lots and lots of SPOILERS in this article. You've been forewarned.

When we last left off, the Titans had definitely seen better days: Titans Tower had been blown up, a few Titans had been killed off or gone missing, and one of their own had been revealed to be the leader of a criminal organization hell bent on destroying the Titans. More importantly, where are Starfire, Raven and Changeling/Beast Boy in all of this?

The New Titans # 77 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

One of the rockets [from issue #75] lands in Russia, where it is found by Red Star.

re-introducing: Red Star! Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

Back in NYC, emergency crews respond to the explosion of the Tower. Nightwing, Pantha, Phantasm, Arella, and Mento fly the T-Jet to follow the path of the rocket to Russia.

In "Science City" Russian scientists are trying to repair Cyborg. His body was damaged by the rocket crash and he has no memory of his previous life. The Russians don't want to give him back, so they order Robot Vic to attack the Titans.

Cliffhanger #4! What's up with Cyborg? Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 78 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Lewis, Montano, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Wonder Girl and Terry return from vacation and are (understandably) shocked to see the ruins of Titans Tower. Police tell them that the Titans owe the city money for the damages.

Back in the USSR, Cyborg is ordered to stand down -- the Russians were just trying to prove the point that Cyborg belongs to Mother Russia now. The Titans insist on taking him back, and Cyborg switches to attack mode for real this time. Red Star promises to watch over him in America while the Titans try to restore his memory: compromise! The Titans, Red, and Cyborg return to the States. 

the NEW and IMPROVED Cyborg! 

Donna gets a hold of the team on her communicator. Back at the apartment Pantha and Donna fight until Phantasm breaks it up. After the good guys explain what happen, Wildebeests attack the apartment. They take Nightwing, and then some weird God-Thing takes Donna away.

Nightwing finds himself in Jericho’s lair, where he discovers the Titans were never actually launched in rockets (well, except for Cyborg). It was all a ruse and they are strapped naked to some kind of mind transference machine.

Cliffhanger #5! Also: warranted nudity!

The New Titans # 79 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Cullins, Swan, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


Joe keeps killing henchmen who ask too many questions. Terry Long is freaking out at Troia’s disappearance. Cops are looking for clues about the missing Titans. The captain’s relationship with Nightwing is strained now that City Hall wants the Titans out of NYC for good. The Captain and a detective find a grizzly murder scene. Councilwoman Alderman is attacked in the bathroom and tied up and gagged. Someone is now impersonating her. None of this is interesting.

A "Terry Long" moment.

Aqualad busts out of his bacta tank- he is choking and doctors don’t know how to help. Back in the lair, Joseph begins the mind transference machine, but wait... what? Terra is back? How?? And who are these jabronis with her???

Cliffhanger #6!

The New Titans # 80 (1991), by Wolfman, Cullins, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

The editor’s note says “To Be Read After New Titans Annual #7”, but we’re not doing that. Waverider peeks in and determines Nightwing is NOT going to become Monarch (oh dang, is this an Armageddon 2001 tie-in? PASS).

In the far-off future of 2001 we are introduced to the Team Titans of Future Past: Nightrider, Mirage, Killowat, Redwing, Birdguy, Goth-Chick, Face First, Migraine, and Terra. They are boring and nobody cares about them. (I just made half of them up just now and you didn’t even notice.)

Donna Troy’s baby is destined to be Lord Chaos, I guess, so the Team Titans need to go back in time and KILL SARAH CONNOR DONNA TROY. They make the leap back to 1991. Lord Chaos monologues that Troia did not teach him to use his powers properly so he had to kill her, and all the other Titans too. Some other garbage happens and Lord Chaos also timejumps back to 1991. To save the future, Donna Troy Must Die.

"DONNA TROY MUST DIE!" -- what a twist!

[Editor's note: I told Erik that he didn't have to get too in-depth with the somewhat forgettable Team Titans spin-off series, and he happily complied. Any volunteers? -Justin]

The New Titans # 81 (1991), by Wolfman, Swan, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Aqualad is in critical condition. Lilith calls to say she has info about Donna. Lilith says Donna is no longer on Earth.

Now Pariah from Crisis on Infinite Earths is at Lilith’s apartment, where he warns that all creation will be destroyed but he welcomes the peace and quiet. Pariah tells Phantasm that the universe will end and there’s nothing to be done about it. Riveting stuff.

After a heart-to-beard talk with Terry Long, Pariah says Troia is on New Olympus. And then New Olympus appears... to be continued in War of the Gods. A crummy commercial?

The New Titans # 82 (1992), by Wolfman, Grummett, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

The Jericho Gambit, Part 1: Jericho is monologuing to Nightwing again and he breaks out of his restraints. Wildebeests want to kill him but they have orders to lock him up instead. In the cell with him is the original Wildebeest.

At the apartment, Raven’s mom points out that Jericho has a soul-self like hers and Raven’s, but his is a lion and therefore more powerful. Terry Long bitches her out.

Back at the ranch, Arella had been attacked by that same soul monster and it killed a bunch of people. Now she realizes it was Joseph’s soul. It tried again to kill her but couldn’t, and that’s where Terminator found her way back in issue #73

Lilith and Slade begin to suspect that Trigon has been possessing Joseph. Troia comes back from War of the Gods, pissed off and ready to brawl.

I'm not even sure if this is considered a BIG REVEAL or not...

The Team Titans from the future are spying on this meeting from a neighboring rooftop.

The OG Wildebeest tells Nightwing that he started the group as an offshoot of HIVE, with the idea that they’d all look the same but would only pull jobs one at a time, hiding numbers and motives. Then Joseph took over through force, and when the real Wildebeest questioned him they locked Wildebeest in the dungeon.

Slade discovers the location of Joseph’s lair by studying his paintings of the New York skyline (which is such a Grand Admiral Thrawn move) and they all sneak in. A door inside the hideout leads to...wait for it… AZARATH!

This MUST be a cliffhanger...

Meanwhile. the editorial team seems to have a sense of humor, and have updated the letterhead to the letters page:

The New Titans # 83 (1992), by Wolfman, Grummett, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

The Jericho Gambit, Part 2: Joe has the (naked) Titans strapped to the machine, while Deathstroke and company find themselves in Azarath, only it looks different since the last time Lilith was there.

Joe kills Original Recipe Wildebeest and brings Nightwing out from his cell.

Slade splits the team into pairs. Phantasm is somebody we know, and Slade has figured it out, but advises him not to tell the others yet.

Redstar, Troia, Pantha, and Lilith beat the hell out of some Wildebeests. They break into the lab where the Titans are being held (including Nightwing now). Nightwing is all “get me outta here”. Deathstroke and Phantasm find a brain in a jar, and are promptly attacked by Beests. Hey guess what, Nightwing is now being controlled by Joseph. He lets loose the soul-lion and fights Pantha. Joe knocks out Deathstroke (WHICH IS BOLLOCKS) and chains him up in the lab. Joe monologues that “I- We- Are Azarath!”

Here’s a little backstory: Way back in New Teen Titans #5, Trigon and the souls of Azarath merged and lay dormant inside of Joseph Wilson for years. The souls want to inhabit the Titans’ super-bodies to level up, with the end goal of using Superman as a host. As the souls try to enter the Titans, Joe has a moment of clarity and tries to fight the souls away. He is unsuccessful and the body swap proceeds as planned.

Joe briefly regains control and he asks his dad Slade to kill him. AND... HOLY CRAP! ... HE DOES IT!!!

Now THIS is how you resolve a 14-issue story arc!

And, in this issue, more fun with the New Titans letterhead:

The New Titans # 84 (1992), by Wolfman, Grummett, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

The Jericho Gambit, Part 3: Stabbing his only living son in the back with a sword messes with Deathstroke’s head a bit. Danny Friggin Chase (remember him?) is all “Durrr, I did what you told me to Dick. Nobody was supposed to die.” I thought this moron died back in issue #73. The Titans are alive but still unconscious. Joe crumbles to dust in Slade’s hands. Slade understandably starts wrecking the place. Azarath possesses the Titans according to plan. The one inhabiting Starfire tries to upgrade to Donna, but is kicked in the tits by Nightwing (seriously). Beast Boy turns into a dinosaur thing and fights Redstar and Pantha.

Raven beats up on Danny and Lilith, Lilith tries to get through to Raven, they fight. Danny ports them inside the evil soul and they fight naked red Raven. They use the power of Azar to defeat Trigon and Azarath. Danny doesn’t make it (too bad).

The second (and hopefully FINAL) death of Danny Chase.

Azar calls all the souls back home and the Titans are themselves once again. They all cross the dimensional bridge home, THE END.

Issue #84's letterhead for the letter page:

BONUS: Issue #85, which I didn’t read, apparently explains what the deal is with Phantasm and Danny Chase, and it’s unbearably stupid:

convenient explanation ejecting Phantasm from the team

...and one final letterhead:

This letterheads hints at the upcoming battle between Nightwing and Deathstroke in New Titans #86. Incidentally, Dick's costume get thrashed, and he gets a new, updated Nightwing costume afterwards.


Wow. I can see why this storyline had a reputation as a must-read for all these years. For one thing, it’s completely nuts. Like Hush would do years later, this story throws nearly every villain the Teen Titans ever fought at them all at once, at breakneck speed. If you were a lapsed Wolfman-Perez New Teen Titans fan in 1991, I imagine this was a total blast to read.

Yeah, it’s way too long (with two separate crossover events getting their own issues plus whatever the hell Team Titans is supposed to be) and it’s a blatantly obvious attempt to make the Titans more like the X-Men, but darn it if I didn’t really enjoy reading this. Sure, there are too many characters, the villain’s plot makes no sense, and there are more dangling lines than a bass fishing tournament, but this is superhero comics, baby! I’ll take ten more stories like this -- where seasoned pros are working their asses off to give the people what they want -- than any of the juggalo noise coming out of the post New-52 DC “Entertainment.”

Titans Hunt is well worth the time and effort it takes to track down. Who knows, maybe if the new version sells really well we can get a nice hardcover omnibus to display on the shelf next to our Teen Titans Games Graphic Novel. Stranger things have happened.


...and this concludes Erik Tramontana's review of the early 90s Titans Hunt story arc. In his final e-mail to me after submitting this article for posting, Erik concluded with "I think I'm done with Titans Hunt. I'm exhausted."

We really want to thank Erik for 'taking one for the team' on this one. He's also absolutely right; there is currently NO version of this story arc available in collected format, and Erik needed to track down these individual issues himself (e-bay?). Really impressed with his dedication here. 


If you liked this review, you're also probably going to enjoy our interview with Tom Grummett from the 2016 Montreal Comicon, in which he spoke his work on the Teen Titans and his participation on the Death and Return of Superman. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Titans Hunt: first impressions from reviewer Erik Tramontana

Inspired by Michel Fiffe's recent New Teen Titans deep dive, I decided to finally read a story arc I'd heard about for years but never actually read: Marv Wolfman and Tom Grummet's Titans Hunt. And lemme tell ya, it's a doozy.

I'd read all of the Wolfman-Perez classics, and the Lonely Place of Dying issues of New Titans, but other than that I went into this run cold. I was slightly worried that I wouldn't be able to piece together the status quo as I went, but it turns out it didn't matter since the status quo is blown up, literally and figuratively, over the course of these fifteen issues. If you, too, know and love the New Teen Titans characters but lost touch with them some time around 1986, take a journey with me through the at-times-incomprehensible-but-never-boring Titans Hunt.

[If it isn't obvious by now, there's going to be lots of spoilers in this review. If you have any interest in reading Titans Hunt and experiencing first-hand all the cliffhangers and 'big reveal' moments that await -- stop now, track down the story arc, and re-visit us when you're done. Otherwise, read on. -Justin]

The New Titans # 71 (1990), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

There's going to be a party tonight for the Titans' anniversary. They are not "Teen Titans" anymore, though, as it states that Dick Grayson is 21 years old. Donna "Troia" Troy and Terry "That Creep With The Beard" Long are going on a vacation to Greece. Dick "Nightwing" Grayson and Kori "Starfire" Anders are blissfully in love, but surprise, Dick is acting uptight.

In the hours before the party, Nightwing helps a girl who wanders onto a window ledge and Starfire foils a mugging-- but the victim injects Kori with a hypodermic needle. A monster beats up Starfire and pays the old lady -- with exploding money (lol) -- out of sight of any witnesses. Dick rescues a little girl.

exploding money

The monster, now identified as Wildebeest, attacks Vic "Cyborg" Stone next, as he reminisces about the events of New Teen Titans #1.

Vic is trapped in an explosion while trying to rescue schoolchildren. Wildebeest then captures Raven as she tries to help a woman trapped by a mental patient. The complete madness she experiences overwhelms her empathetic abilities. Wildebeest captures Joseph "Jericho" Wilson when he is out on a date. Gar "Changeling, not Beast Boy" loses control of his animal powers at the opera. Nightwing finally shows at the restaurant for the party and is promptly taken out by Wildebeest. Changeling's adopted dad, Mento, hires Slade Wilson (aka: Deathstroke: The Terminator) to find the kids.

The New Titans # 72 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, McCraw, Peterson- Ed.

Terminator is supposed to meet Aqualad and Golden Eagle, but Wildebeest shows up instead. Wildebeest kills Golden Eagle (it's OK, I never heard of him either).

death of a relatively unknown Titan. art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

Deathstroke goes to Nightwing's apartment and Wildebeest is waiting for him and they fight. Wait, what, there are TWO Wildebeests? Deathstroke jumps from the fire escape. The two Beests argue over whose assignment this was supposed to be, in a scene right out of The Venture Bros.

Mento and Deathstroke go to Titans Tower and use the computer to look up known Titans associates. A Wildebeest follows them and snoops in on the non-password protected computer after they leave the room. Then the Wildebeest Society chases Slade and Mento to Donna's apartment and blow it up. Luckily Donna and Terry (eww) are still in Greece.

Aqualad's body is found, not breathing and unresponsive.

Cliffhanger #1 - death of Aqualad? Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 73 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Mento and Deathstroke bring Aqualad to the hospital. They put him in a convenient water tank while they wait for a response from STAR Labs.

Back at Titans Tower, Mento contacts the family members of Titans while Deathstroke takes the Titans jet to see Raven's mom, Arella. On the farm, Slade finds dead bodies everywhere (along with Arella in a state of shock and "Paradise Lost" written on the wall in blood). Meanwhile, two Wildebeests are sent to find Danny "Cousin Oliver" Chase. Arella tells Terminator that she tried to create Azarath on Earth, but now everyone is dead and she blames herself for bringing Trigon to this dimension. Deathstroke tells her it is not her fault and the Wildebeests are the ones responsible. Arella leaves on the jet with Slade.

At a mall, Danny Chase is telepathically tormenting some would-be jewel thieves when the Wildebeests show up and begin to attack him. Danny appears to be vaporized.

Danny Chase being a sadist

Arella and Deathstroke arrive just in time to fight off the Council of Wildebeests (who by this time are given henchmen numbers so the reader can tell them apart), and then somebody called The Phantasm shows up and scares away the bad guys.

introducing: Phantasm! art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 74 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Introducing Pantha! In the secret lair of the Council of Wildebeests, Beests # 8 and #14 are punished for their failure back at the mall. As punishment, 14 must kill 8. A mysterious female figure watches from a rooftop. 8 and 14 fight, 8 flees. Beest #9 catches him -- and is killed by 8, who takes 9's mask and passes himself off as Beest 9 (IMPORTANT NOTE: BY THIS TIME I AM THREE BEERS IN AND THIS NUMBERED WILDEBEEST THING STARTS TO GET REAL CONFUSING). 

Meanwhile X-24, aka Pantha, is chased through the Wildebeest compound. She kills #29 and escapes. 14 wanders into a mad science lab, where an evil scientist is trying to mutate somebody. So far Weapon X-24 is the only successful experiment. Back outside and on a rooftop, Pantha vows to kill all of the Wildebeests, and then foils a mugging.

introducing: Panthra! art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

Deathstroke and Arella show up because the police band radio said something about a mugging and super powers. They fight with Pantha and she runs off. They follow her in a helicopter, while the mysterious Phantasm looks on.

Some of the Wildebeests are suspicious of #14 and his habit of asking questions and not murdering people. 8 (in #9's mask, remember) tries to kill 14 because he thinks 14 is a spy. Turns out Wildebeest #14 is Nightwing!

minor reveal

Nightwing fights the Beests, who let slip that they are only after Titans with super powers. Dick is beat up and dragged off by Beests. Pantha finds a shred of Nightwing's costume, and then Deathstroke and Arella try to get her to help find the Titans, but she refuses. After she leaves she is approached by Phantasm who says, "You and I will join forces. And neither Wildebeest nor Titan will stop us." There was a lot going on in this issue.

The New Titans # 75 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Nightwing is beaten by the Wildebeests and shown the stasis tubes where the Titans are being held. Bumblebee, Francis Kane, Chris King, Cyborg, Starfire, Changeling, Raven are all naked and cryogenically frozen. Outside, the Beests blow up Deathstroke's helicopter. Deathstroke lands in the river and makes a swim for it, then finds himself being sucked up through the filtration intake right into the Beest hideout. Deathstroke finds Nightwing inside and discovers that his son, Joseph (aka Jericho), is the leader of the Wildebeests!

Big REVEAL #1! art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

Why is Joe evil now? How can he talk all of a sudden? WHO KNOWS. Pantha and Phantasm fight Beests outside, and Pantha breaks back into the lair. Eeevil Joseph presses a button that launches the stasis tubes like missiles, and they shoot into different directions. One of the rockets explodes -- a Titan has been killed! What a cliffhanger!

Cliffhanger #2! WHO DIED? Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 76 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Jericho takes over Pantha's body with his mind-control powers. Somehow Phantasm pushes him right back out. Joe monologues a bit about being "The Voice! The Harbinger! The Power!" and then starts wrecking it up, causing the lab to blow up. The good guys escape and Joe vanishes into thin air.

Everyone reconvenes at Titans Tower. Pantha and Deathstroke scuffle, because there's only room enough for one Wolverine on this team.

Teen Titans? More 'Team Tension'! Amirite?

Slade leaves her tied up. Wildebeests attack the tower and Phantasm releases Pantha from her bonds. Nightwing and Deathstroke fight off the Beests and Pantha and Phantasm join the fray. They try to unmask one of the Beests and he self-destructs. Arella freaks out and heads to the sub-basement to hide. Suddenly all of the Wildebeests start disintegrating -- it was a suicide mission! Turns out the attack was only a diversion, as the Wildebeests planted bombs all around Titans Tower during the fracas.

Phantasm magically tosses all of the bombs that were on the T-Jet out through the skylight and they take off, just as Titans Tower explodes!

Cliffhanger #3! Homeless Teen Titans! Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

To celebrate this momentous occasion, the letterhead for the letters page in issue #76 had been updated:

[Okay, we're only 6 issues deep into Titans Hunt and we've seen Golden Eagle killed, Danny Chase vaporized, Aqualad put into a coma, Titans Tower blown up, Jericho turned traitor, two new characters introduced (Phantasm and Pantha)... but most importantly, this article has run longer than our allotted character count for a single web page.

Join us for part two as Erik Tramontana reveals who died in that rocket, the mystery of the Team Titans and how this whole story arc resolves. There's still (at least) eight issues left to this thing. -Justin]

Monday, March 19, 2018

2018 Toronto Comicon 'Spring edition'

It was a deceptively cold March weekend [-6 Celsius, but felt way colder with the wind chill], yet that didn't stop comic book and anime fans from coming out in droves to the Spring Edition of the FanExpo Toronto Comicon being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It was a 3-day event -- overlapping St Patrick's Day -- spanning from March 16th to Match 18th, and featured a diverse selection of special guests.

As an 80s/90s DC comics fan, I was very interested in meeting Dave Dorman, John McCrea and Howard ChakyinTy Templeton was around somewhere, but co-editor Mark Belkin already interviewed him at the 2016 Montreal Comiccon -- and I don't think I could ever top Mark's interview -- so he wasn't an urgent priority.

As a fan of comics from the 90s, I was hoping to chat with Howard Mackie and Richard Pace.

Also appearing at this convention, which I suspected was the reason we saw a lot of Flash cosplay, was John Wesley Shipp -- who is best known for playing Barry Allen/The Flash on the live-action TV series that aired on CBS during the early 1990s (and now has a recurring role in the new CW Flash TV series as Golden Aged speedster Jay Garrick). Thankfully, Shipp held a celebrity Q&A on Saturday, and we were lucky enough to attend.

This photo of John Wesley Shipp as the Flash was NOT taken by Samy Osman

As a special treat, my guest photographer for this event was Samy Osman -- probably the most famous person I personally know -- who did an excellent job of taking photos of the cosplayers and going-ons at this event. Almost every photo you see in this article was taken by Samy.

As mentioned, this was the Spring Edition of the Toronto Comicon -- I'd consider it a 'warm-up' for the main event: Toronto's FanExpo convention which is held late August/early September.

We arrived on a Friday evening around 6pm and the convention centre was already buzzing with fans. A few cosplay pics we snapped on Friday evening:

cosplayers dressed up as Marvel's Silver Sable and DC's Rorschach 

gang of Harleys cosplay

It wasn't the usual sea of Harley Quinns and Poison Ivys (don't get me wrong, there were some Quinns and Ivys), and there was lots of diversity in this event's DC cosplay. Amazons and Wonder Woman were a pretty big theme this time (no doubt inspired by the success of the recent film and rumor of a new Wonder Woman film in production), plenty of Flash-themed cosplay (due to John Wesley Shipp's appearance, naturally) and Teen Titans cosplay (most likely inspired by press release photos of the new Teen Titans live-action TV series in the works). As for non-DC cosplay, Marvel's X-Men was a pretty big theme this year -- and we saw a lot more X-Men characters than we were used to. Asgardians were also a recurring theme, thanks to last summer's Thor film (and because everyone secretly just wants to dress as vikings).

A tour of the convention floor showed us what to expect these next few days: a huge emphasis on Star Wars, Dr Who, Ghostbusters, anime, and -- of course -- comic books (not in that order).

The 501st Legion -- Star Wars cosplay enthusiasts -- has this rad life-size diorama of Jabba the Hutt and his Throne Room you could pose for photos with. Seeing as how that was my favorite part of Return of the Jedi, I though this was absolutely brilliant.

The Doctor Who Society of Canada (self-explanatory) had a cool little exhibit set up in which you can take photos with Daleks.

The Ontario Ghostbusters were also onsite with an interactive exhibit booth.

Kurt Lehnar & son
One of our first interviews was with Kurt Lehnar -- Canadian illustrator and animation artist. We talked at length about various DC projects he was involved in. He also told us about a few other cartoons from our youth he had a hand in. Kurt's enthusiasm for the medium is contagious, and we'll be posting a complete interview with him in the near future.

John McCrea
We had a chance to talk to John McCrea, and I really wished I had asked him about working with Garth Ennis on Hitman. Instead, we chatted a bit about pencilling chores on DC's The Demon and Hitman (and his contributions to the stories). McCrea is a really friendly and interesting guy, and speaks with a heavy Irish [?] accent. Stop by and talk to him if you ever see him at a convention.

Dave Dorman
Before Alex Ross, there was Dave Dorman. Well -- that's not completely true, but Dorman *IS* responsible for some of my favorite trading card art from the 1994 Skybox DC Master Series -- a set I truly do cherish.

Two Dorman-illustrated cards from the 1994 Skybox DC Master Series set

My mind went kind of blank talking to him and couldn't think of any profound questions to ask him. PRO TIP: Sometimes you meet an artist, and you really can't think of anything much to say except for how impressed you are with their work. Sometimes it's just best to leave it at that rather than strain yourself trying to look "knowledgeable".

Howard Mackie signing a copy of Marvel's Ghost Rider

Before the evening was over, Howard Mackie made time for us. Among the many Marvel titles he's written for in the 80s and 90s, Mackie is best known for launching the 'new' 90s Ghost Rider (of which he wrote the first 69 issues and then some). Marvel's Ghost Rider v3 had the unique distinction of being the ONLY Marvel title I wasn't allowed to bring into my very Catholic household during my teens -- mainly because the lead protagonist rode a motorcycle and had a flaming skull (looking very demon-like). I made a point to (jokingly) communicate this to Mackie in a stern way. Mackie's reply: "You should've told them that it was written by a Catholic boy, and all the characters were Catholic, and it was taking place in a Catholic cemetery."

While Ghost Rider had a bit of resistance from the sales team regarding a new series relaunch (ex: brand new 'unknown' creative team, combined with Ghost Rider v2 [1973 - 1983] being cancelled due to low sales), offending religious readers was not something that ever crossed the sales team's mind. "We'd done demonic characters before in a way without reflecting any religion (ex: Damian Hellstrom)", Mackie explained, "so they didn't give it a second thought. It was all about the numbers. Publishing is all about the numbers."

I had to hide this issue very carefully from my parents.
Unbeknownst to most fans, Mackie was one of the four comic pros (among John Byrne, Mark Gruenwald and Tom DeFalco) who had managed to turn Jim Shooter's self-imploding New Universe imprint (for Marvel comics) into something worth reading. Mackie told us how he initially didn't want the job:
"I had gotten a promotion [at Marvel], and there were a lot of things going on -- when I got the promotion, I was told the last guy who was editing the New Universe ahead of me was fired and they were giving me the job. And I didn't want it."
Mackie went to his supervising editor, DeFalco, and pleaded not to get the promotion. Mackie was concerned that he would be fired next, by Jim Shooter, when the doomed-to-failure New Universe imprint inevitably didn't succeed and would leave a black smear on Mackie's writing career.

Instead, it was Shooter who was fired from Marvel within two weeks of Mackie begrudgingly accepting the promotion.

With Shooter no longer imposing creative restraints, Mackie was able to bring on his own creative teams for New Universe titles (ex: John Byrne, Peter David, Fabian Nicieza and Mark Gruenwald). 
"Bringing John Byrne, at that point, bringing him back in [to Marvel] was kind of a coupe. Because at that point, he had been doing Superman [for DC comics]. He had left Marvel, and I had brought him back. Not only did I bring him back, but I brought him back in to do a book that, for all intents and purposes, he should not have wanted to do. I became known, for a long time, as 'the Byrne Whisperer' -- because I could always get John to do things he didn't want to do."

"The way I did it -- and he knows, because John is a good friend of mine -- I would call him up and I would say, for instance, "Hey John, you'd never thought of doing StarBrand? Ah, no no no -- what am I talking about? You'd never think of that." and I'd hang up the phone. And then the phone would ring back -- and I knew it was John -- and I wouldn't answer. Then... an hour later... I'd finally pick up, and he'd say "Goddamnit Howard, all I've been able to do for the last hour was think of StarBrand stories!" and I'd say "Okay, well if you WANT it... sure! You can have the book. You don't have to beg." And I did the same thing to him with Marvel's West Coast Avengers."

Star Brand v1 #12 (cover by John Byrne and Tom Palmer), Star Brand v1 #16 (cover by John Byrne)

We talked a bit how not too long after the New Universe imprint ended, elements of it still appeared in Marvel's Quasar. "That was Mark [Gruenwald]'s doing", Mackie assured me, "Mark was so tightly tied in to both."

Mackie explained that sometimes books are targeted for cancellation by the sales team, and there was really no way of getting around it. The New Universe creative team saw the writing on the wall. The only thing Mackie asked for was the ability to end the imprint the way the creative team wanted to, and that's what they did. In his own private joke, he made sure to have "#32 in a thirty-two issue limited series" above the title of each book. "I felt like we had told the story and we were allowed to wrap it up, which just wouldn't happen today." He felt that the New Universe imprint finally thrived when they were just free to create as they pleased. The key thing, he explained, was to "just let creators create".

Mackie's 'private joke'. Now you're in on it, too. ;)

Regarding the direction of the New Universe imprint: "'The World Outside Your Window'. That was the conceit of the New Universe, but the reality is that the first time that world changes, it's no longer the world outside your window. One outside event and it changes EVERYTHING."

I had way too much fun interviewing Mackie, and I feel a little guilty that we're not 'Marvel in the 80s' because I'm sure he had stories that could've entertained us for hours. A truly charismatic guy, that Howard Mackie.

...and that concluded day 1.


We came back on Saturday and the attendance had seemingly doubled. Lots of cosplayers on Saturday sporting lots of DC-themed costumes. Some of the stand-outs included:

Golden Age Dr Fate (Kent Nelson) and Raven (of Teen Titans)

Teen Titans! Left to Right: Donna Troy/Troia, Kid Flash, Nightwing, Aqualad/Tempest, Changeling/Beast Boy. Also: Deathstroke's head photo-bombing us. 

Lobo and Wonder Woman. As mentioned above, Wonder Women and Amazons were pretty numerous in attendance this year (and they all looked great) -- we selected this WW cosplay pic because it's the classical costume we grew up with during the 80s.... and, if nothing else, we're a sucker for the classics over here at DC in the 80s.

Lobo's back

Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) and more Teen Titans (Raven and Changeling/Beast Boy). FUN FACT: Friday's Rorschach (scroll way up and see Friday cosplay photos) was also cosplayed by the same guy who was the Golden Age Flash.

Teen Titans! Love this pic! Left to right: Raven, Nightwing, Starfire and Robin. FUN FACT: The lady cosplaying as Starfire also cosplayed as Silver Sable (scroll way up) on Friday night.

Harley Quinn and Joker to the left, Teen Titans (now including Cyborg) to the right. There were quite a few Harley Quinn and Joker cosplayers at this event, but we went with this duo since they looked like dead-wringers for the Batman: The Animated Series Joker and Harley. Upon closer inspection, I'm realizing that 2 out of the 3 Titans in the second photo where in the group shot several photos above, but what can I say? I'm just excited that Teen Titans are getting more attention.

This is writer Howard Chaykin. We appreciate that he took the time to answer our inane questions about comics he wrote 30 years ago. He's a stand-up guy and we truly admire him for being so patient with us.
We toured the convention a bit more and managed to fumble our way through an interview with Howard Chakyin. We'll post that interview shortly.

Richard Pace -- who has quickly become one of my newest favorite illustrators (the man draws like Bernie Wrightson -- seriously) sat down with us for almost an hour and told about the numerous DC projects he has worked on (including a few future projects we're not allowed to mention, yet). We'll be posting that interview shortly. Until then, please enjoy this photo of Pace attempting to describe the size of the trophy pike he caught last weekend while ice fishing in Ontario. ;)

Richard Pace

John Wesley Shipp (right) at the Celebrity Q&A panel
The last event we attended on Saturday was the Celebrity Q&A panel featuring John Wesley Shipp. Prior to this weekend, I really hadn't ever given the 1990 The Flash television series a second thought, but after this weekend, I'm thinking it's probably time for an episode guide. Shipp spoke for about half an hour regarding his experiences on the 1990 live-action television series (as the lead character, Barry Allen), and his experiences on the new 2014 The Flash live-action television series (as supporting character, Jay Garrick). After the first half an hour, he opened the floor to questions.

And now for the burning question you've all been wondering: was John Wesley Shipp a big Flash fan before he got the role?

Shipp did NOT collect or read Flash comics, or even know WHO the character was BEFORE he was offered the role for the 1990 TV series. "They said to me 'Flash', and I said "You mean Flash Gordon?" I didn't know anything -- it was a process of discovery." He elaborated, "I took everything I needed from the scripts, but then I got curious."  He acknowledges that fans have made The Flash the success it is, and wishes to respect that comic fandom legacy -- particularly the Barry Allen/Jay Garrick relationship.


This article wouldn't be complete with a round-up of the other non-DC cosplay we saw, so here were a few that stuck out for us:

I really get a kick when kinda obscure Marvel characters are cosplayed. Here we've got Bishop and Jubilee. Jubilee left her pink sunglasses in the car, and her friend had ran out to retrieve them, she explained to us.

Black suit Spider-Man and Black Cat on the left. Kraven the Hunter on the right. I seem to recall Kraven hunting black suit Spidey during the 80s, so this all works out.

Doctor Strange cosplay on the left. Agent Venom (of the Guardians of the Galaxy) on the right. Yeah, I keep up with current Marvel comics -- I'm only human. ;)

By Crom! I'm pretty sure this is Conan the Barbarian cosplay -- but if I'm wrong, may the gods forgive me.


The convention was packed all day long. Plenty of enthusiastic comic/anime fans. A great showing from Toronto.

One thing I will say about this event is that it just flew by so quickly. Lots of things happening, and before I realized it, the afternoon was already over. I didn't get to spend as much time in the retailers section as I would've liked to (I love looking for bargains) -- I normally like to poke around and look for complete trading card sets -- but I was on a tight schedule and didn't have the time to peruse the tables like I normally do. I did, however, pick up these:

Yep, I collect pins and patches now.

The 2018 Toronto Comicon "Spring edition" was an extremely well-organized and entertaining event. Lots to see and do: bring a reliable camera, a few comics you'd like autographed and prepare to be entertained for the better part of a weekend.


Big thanks to Jen and Jess of Touchwood PR for allowing us to cover this excellent event. Another HUGE thanks to Samy Osman for taking the beautiful photos. Samy is sure to win an Oscar someday, so check him out now while he's still an up-and-coming indie star.

NOTE: If you didn't see your cosplay photo on this page, and we snapped a pic of you, check our 2018 Toronto Comicon spring edition Facebook cosplay gallery. There was lots and lots of great cosplay this year, and choosing photos to post in this article was a pretty difficult task.