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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

Super Blog Team Up -- January 2020 edition: Gimmick comics

Happy 2020! We hope you had a restful/joyous holiday season. To kick off this new year, the Super-Blog Team Up (SBTU) decided to run a series of articles on gimmicky comics. Remember to check the links below to view articles by other fellow SBTU bloggers. For this installment, Mark Belkin and I (Justin) decided to write about our favorite DC gimmick comic memories.

I think there's a bit of confusion as to what a 'gimmick' is.

Back in the early 90s comic industry, the term 'gimmick' was usually reserved for something with an over-the-top attention-grabbing cover -- maybe it was a chromium cover, a hologram cover, a die-cut cover, or an embossed cover -- that made the book stand out on the shelves among a sea of other comics at the comic book shop. These were colloquially known as 'gimmick covers' and usually cost a bit more than the same issue with a regular cover. By association, comics that included special inserts such as trading cards, posters, bookmarks, postcards, ashcans or other exclusive collectables would also fall under the 'gimmick' designation. 

*Super Blog Team Up contributor, Comic Reviews by Walt, gave an extremely detailed look at the gimmick era of the 90s: 

For the sake of this special SBTU feature, a gimmick is anything that hooked you into buying a comic book. Maybe the issue was polybagged. Maybe it was a cross-over issue that tied in with a bigger event, an issue with a variant cover, a 3-D issue that came with 3-D glasses, or only available in an alternate-sized format. Either way, it was something that edged out your decision over choosing this comic instead of that comic. We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.



JUSTIN's picks:

Note: I didn't start buying my own comics until 1990, so anything in my collection prior to that was either a hand-me-down from one of my older cousins or something my dad picked up at flea market for me (not complaining). So, for the sake of accuracy, this list will not include anything prior to 1990. Thankfully, the nineties were the 'gimmick era' and man, did I buy a lot of comic books. I'm only going to list my top 5 most memorable gimmick covers, since there are way too many to list and I'd probably hog the whole article. Also, by no means is this in chronological order.

Robin II: The Joker's Wild! #1 (1991). cover by Dick Giordano.

1. Robin II: The Joker's Wild #1 (hologram variant cover). I remember digging through a comic book shop's back issue bin, finding this, and -- believing that I had found a hidden treasure -- guarding it with my life until I got to the cashier to purchase it.You know when you're shopping at the grocery store and you find a lone family pack of chicken in the frozen meat section that the stock boy must've accidentally under-priced? Yeah, that's how I felt -- like I'd won the fanboy lottery. Do you see that bluish tinted image of Robin swinging on a rope on the right-hand side of the cover? That was a 'hologram'. That was the gimmick that got me. I use the term 'hologram' loosely here, because any way you tilted that cover Robin still looked two-dimensional. These were the same 'holograms' that the Impel/Skybox Cosmic Cards and Cosmic Teams trading card sets used. The issues with the holograms on the cover cost $0.50 USD more that the non-hologram cover (illustrated by Kevin Maguire). There were five variant covers to this issue (four with the hologram and one without), and if I had do it all over again I would've preferred the Kelley Jones cover variant. Ah well, beggars can't be choosers. I was lucky (at the time) to get any issue at all. At some point, ALL of these 'holograms' (from issues 1 to 4) were re-issued as trading cards, but I'm not sure how they were distributed.

As an added bonus, Robin II: The Joker's Wild #1 featured the death of Mr Freeze (killed by the Joker, no less)...

panels from Robin II #1. Illustrated by Tom Lyle and inked by Bob Smith.

...and Mr Freeze was dressed in his classic Super Power Collection costume. I seriously thought I had picked up a real collector's item here. Alas, it was not to be. This was not the death of Mr Freeze, and he would re-appear in many many Batman comics after this. I've always wanted to ask writer Chuck Dixon what was up with that... was it an oversight on his part? Was Mr Freeze just knocked out and not killed? Or maybe Mr Freeze was killed off in this story and DC senior management said "No way! You can't do that!", so everything had to go back to status quo? Either way, for a few years, I thought I was sitting on a fortune (ex: the death of prominent Batman villain Mr Freeze).

Because I'd missed the first Robin mini-series, this was my first exposure to the Tim Drake Robin. It wasn't a bad issue per se, but I didn't track down the other three issues in this mini (if that tells you anything). I'm sure I purchased this after 1993's Knightfall and before 1994's KnightsEnd, when everything Batman-associated was still considered blazing hot.

The Spectre v3 #1 (1992). cover by Tom Mandrake

2. The Spectre v3 #1: This issue had a glow-in-the-dark cover. Let that sink in for a second... a glow-in-the-dark cover! As a youth, my bedroom was filled with glow-in-the-dark models of the solar system because they looked so damned cool when the lights went out. I still like glow-in-the-dark anything. So obviously, a glow-in-the-dark Spectre cover was high on my want list. If any character was befitting of a glow-in-the-dark cover, it was the Spectre. This spooky poltergeist appeared out of nowhere wearing only green underwear, matching green gloves and a hooded cape, and turned people into candles or whatever. This was not really a gimmick cover, because there was no alternate cover. This was it! Either it was a glow-in-the dark cover illustrated by the very talented Tom Mandrake, or NOTHING. Back in the day, I was unable to find this issue for purchase, and did I ever want it BAD.

Years later, I managed to purchase The Spectre: Crimes and Punishments TPB which sported a more superior (if that's even possible) glow-in-the-dark cover by Tom Mandrake. It's more superior because when exposed to the dark it shows the Spectre's skeleton (and this whole time I thought he was incorporeal):

The Spectre: Crimes and Punishments TPB. Cover by Tom Mandrake.

*Fellow Super Blog Team Up contributors Pop Culture Retrorama covered a few more glow-in-the-dark books from the 90s. Check em out here:

Batman: Shadow of the Bat v1 #1 (1992). Cover by Brian Stelfreeze.

3. Batman: Shadow of the Bat v1 #1 (collector's set). As a DC comics fan, this was a very difficult issue to pass up because: it was the first issue of a Batman series (and these were always hard to find if you missed out the first time), it was polybagged, and it included the motherload of inserts: two Brian Stelfreeze posters, a special edition bookmark, a blueprint of Arkham Asylum, and a 3-D Arkham Asylum pop-up! I'm sorry to admit that this issue spent the better part of the nineties in its polybag before I decided to crack it open. If I had opened it, I would've discovered that this was the first appearance of Mr Zsasz AND Jeremiah Arkham, and just how detailed this 3-D Arkham Asylum cardboard pop-up was:

The previous photos were courtesy of Etsy user smt7734575 who sells a lot of scarce DC comics promo items from the 80s and 90s. Take a look at their shop and all the cool swag they've got for sale, when you get a chance. 

I remember buying this polybagged collector's set during a comic book shop's 'closeout sale' in the early nineties (this was actually a pretty common thing during the early nineties, believe me) and the real mystery is how I managed to keep it unopened for so long. The regular version of this issue cost $1.50 USD, while the collectors set cost $2.50 USD. Not a bad bargain for one extra US dollar. I'm pretty sure I bought this around the same time I bought the Robin II comic, just not at the same location.

Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 (1992). Cover by Bart Sears and Mark Pennington.

4. Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1. This was the kick-off issue to DC's 1992 annual event (as in: the storyline ran throughout DC's summer annuals). What you probably don't realize by looking at the cover above is that the purple diamond Eclipso is looking at you with is actually a hard piece of purple plastic glued to the cover. Who the heck gives the okay on affixing a pointy piece of purple plastic to a comic book cover? (I had to make sure that this comic was always at the top of my stack to ensure that the comic lying on top of it didn't have a diamond-shaped indent in the back cover.) Editor Michael Eury, that's who! I interviewed him about it, and he took the credit/blame. 

All kidding aside, I purchased this issue at a dollar store that was trying to unload a stack of overstock comics from (I'm assuming) bankrupt comic book shops. While the cross-over event itself wasn't that bad, somehow it didn't make the big splash DC was hoping and it kinda got demoted to the dollar bins.

Justice League Task Force #1 (1993). Wrap-around cover by Sal Velluto.
5. Justice League Task Force #1. Hey, do you remember the nineties? When the Justice League was a hot property? When it was such a hot property, that they decided to expand on it and create spin-off books? There was Justice League America, Justice League Europe/International, Justice League Task Force and (not long after) Extreme Justice? Was Justice League DC's answer to Marvel's ultra-successful X-titles? No, but it was fun to pretend.

Justice League Task Force was sort of that series nobody was really paying attention to until it somehow got tied into the KnightQuest storyline with issue #5. Prior to that, nobody really cared for it, except me of course. And why should they? The only significant thing that happens in issue #1 is that Nightwing kinda/sorta joins an extension of the Justice League. 

I'll tell you why Justice League Task Force #1 was significant: 

#1) This issue opens with the Martian Manhunter beating down on a militant French Separatist terrorist cell. For some reason this made our local news. Quebecers are pretty much tickled pink whenever anyone outside of Quebec pays notice to us. The fact that Quebec Separatists were noteworthy to be depicted as villains in a 'fancy' American comic book amused us to no end. That made this issue significant, but not as significant as Marvel's Civil War II Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau variant cover.

#2) It included a Justice League Task Force membership card. Didn't you notice the "Join the JLTF inside!" blurb on the front cover? Hence, the gimmick. This was actually a pretty shoddy idea that was probably thrown together at the last minute. You call this a membership card?

The above images courtesy of The Idol-Head of Diabolu blog. We actually interviewed Diabolu Frank back in 2016.

To be honest, I can't remember if I bought this for the membership card or because it was the first issue of a new Justice League spin-off series. Either way, it ended up in my collection. I'm pretty sure I picked this up in a back-issue bin, so I'm sure I paid more than cover price for this issue.

..and this concludes my top 5 gimmick-era memories. An honorable mention to those Reign of the Supermen issues with the die-cut covers introducing the new 'pretenders to the throne'. Before you ask: no, nothing about that storyline was cheesy and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Another shout-out to all those Zero Hour 'zero issues' I wish I hadn't bought since Zero Hour was a gimmick in the truest sense of the word. And finally, one final kudos to the embossed cover of 1993's Catwoman #1 (illustrated by Jim Balent) that I had to hide from my parents for fear that they would throw it out thinking that it was porn. Let's just say that a blind person could run their fingers over the cover of this issue and know exactly who was on the cover. (see: Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose)

Catwoman v2 #1 (1993). Cover by Jim Balent.
Over to you, Mark...

MARK's picks:

Hot list, Justin! I stopped collecting in the 90's, other then a few months here and there, so I missed many of these. I'm going to set my focus on the gimmick covers of that fantastic decade of the 1980's. (and sticking to DC). Because there was very few "physical" gimmick covers, I'm going to focus on the gimmick covers that emerged from a graphic design, printing process, or concept. DC did try out a few physical differences to make the covers more special, and I'll mention them, but they weren't a "thing" until the 1990's. Let's jump right in.

All Star Squadron #50. Cover by Jerry Ordway.

6. Crisis on Infinite Earth is what got me into buying comic books. It will always have a part of my heart that very few other stories can have. It's that special story that made me fall in love with something, a love that remains to this day. So when I saw a cover that had a huge banner saying Special Crisis Crossover, I HAD TO HAVE IT. This wasn't the first All Star Squadron issue that I bought, but this was the very first Crisis crossover that made me say "I NEED IT." Jerry Ordway did a lot for the Crisis comic as well, inking over George Perez's pencils, so this felt like it was part of the universe.

Being 10 years old, my funds were limited. I had to pick and choose what to buy, and eventually, I wasn't buying every Crisis crossover I could. I still haven't read all of them, but I certainly bought some issues I had no interest in just to have it as part of the "collection." The story itself was a crazy golden age inspired story by Roy Thomas. I'm pretty sure Roy hated the idea of Crisis, so he may have not been crazy writing this one, but it still was a good one.

Dark Knight Returns #1
. Cover by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.

7. Dark Knight Returns was the world's introduction into the Prestige Format. Which became a super gimmick for DC in the 80's. I remember if it was Prestige Format, I was buying it. The paper felt important, and it felt like Batman was coming off the page. This pretty much changed comic books forever, and really, everything about it felt like some evolution. Into some other world of art. History of DC Comics, Hawkworld, Longbow Hunters, Blackhawk. The formula was to take an amazing artist/creator, give them a character to update, and put it in Prestige Format. And I was there for that formula until the end of the decade.

I'm pretty sure that Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson's The Cult had some raising of the cover, giving it a different feel. I don't know if anything had done that before? That might be the first "Let's try to change the physical structure" of a cover. I'm not sure though. 

Sandman #1. Cover by Dave McKean

8. I know there had been multi-media covers before, but this Sandman cover just blew me away when I first saw it on the stands. It didn't look like anything else coming out, and I remember how powerful it felt compared to the other comics at the time. I was buying it anyways, because it had the formula of Karen Berger + British Writer, but this cover made me excited. Beyond just my interest, I know the covers drew in many people who had never read comics, and they were introduced to Neil Gaiman and many became life long fans. The multi media concept became a big thing for the trades of the series, and for many Vertigo comics into the 90's. Sometimes, I feel I took the covers for granted. If I walked into a museum and saw one of these, I would certainly bug out.

Did you like the early 90s Vertigo comics? Check out our Vertigo zine!

Covers by George Perez, Jim Aparo, Keith Giffen, Jerry Ordway.

9. Baxter Stock. It's the name of our Zine (Thanks to Michel Fiffe for the suggestion). It was also a gimmick that allowed DC to re-launch it's more popular titles, with their hottest creative teams, and run two comics of the same title simultaneously. You had to go to a specialty shop to get them, so you didn't see these on newsstands and the supermarket. These four in particular hold a special place in my heart, and each one felt like an event. Prestige felt like art, but Baxter Paper #1 issue felt like an event comic in itself. I can still feel and smell these today just looking at the covers. And my favorite of all was the Question. Just going to put this cover here because it's so dang good.

The Question #1 by Bill Sienkiewicz

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Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1. Cover by Keith Giffen.
10. This one stuck out for me. It's a cover by Keith Giffen, who had the best sense of humor in comics during the 80's, in my opinion. It has the note from editor Dick Giordano on the cover, a picture of the group with a thumb in it, and in general made me wonder what the hell it was. I've since read it 20 times, and it still makes me laugh to this day. This, Ambush Bug, and Justice League from 1987, are all Keith Giffen CLASSICS.

...and one more for good measure:

Man of Steel #1. Covers by John Byrne.

11. When John Byrne relaunched Superman, DC figured it would be popular. To me, it's still the best Superman stories ever, but some people are whatever about it. Either way, they had TWO covers for #1. I remember being confused and wondering if I should spent my money on the two covers. I didn't, and just bought the one with the big S. I then smudged it with something, and it still has a weird discoloration on it. Oh well, it was never worth a lot, and I never did get the second version. But it did start the Variant cover thing which is still huge today, even if it doesn't make sense to me.

Thanks for reading!


Felling nostalgic for the 80s/90s? Want to read more about gimmick covers? Aren't you in luck! Check out the rest of the Super Blog team articles covering this comic industry phenomena:

Super-Hero Satellite: 70s-80s Photo Covers. A snapshot of pre-90s era of gimmicks, the evolution of a trend through the years.

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Blog): Adventures of Superman #500 (White Bag/Lenticular Cover/etc.)

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Podcast): Episode 33: Team Titans #1 (1992) Five Variant Covers… and five variant stories!

Comic Reviews by Walt: The '90s Revisited: Shiny Covers

Source material: Spider-Man Torment (issues 1-5) by Todd McFarlane Daredevil 319-325 - Fall from Grace - Gimmick covers and a new costume 

The Telltale Mind (Geoff) - Worlds Collide - The Intercompany Crossover

Between The Pages: Guerilla Marketing

Comics In The Golden Age (Mike): Fawcett’s Mighty Midget comics.

Unspoken Issues: Darkhawk #25

Dave's Comic Heroes Blog: Connected Covers gimmicks:New Teen Titans #37/ Batman and the Outsiders #5 

When It Was Cool (Karl): Polybag It! The Blight of the Polybagged Comic Book 

Pop Culture Retrorama: Chromium… Glow In The Dark Covers

In My Not So Humble Opinion: It Came From the 1990s: Force Works #1 Pop-Up Cover

Black & White and Bronze Comics Blog: Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine 1968. Stan Lee’s foray into the magazine format.

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]