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Assistant Editor’s Month (1984, January)

August 8, 2014

The Big Wide Calm came today. So now I’ve got two books to read. But for today, no specific comic. Instead, I’m going to quickly go over all the Assistant Editor’s Month comics.

Assistant Editor’s Month happened in September 1983, and involved pretty much all the comics cover-dated January 1984. What happened is that all the editors, including Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, went out to California for San Diego Comic-Con. That left the Assistant Editors in charge, and they decided to have some fun with it. I’ve already gone over the X-Men titles from that month, and I also mentioned Fantastic Four. So here’s the rest.

Amazing Spider-Man #248 had, as a back-up story by Roger Stern and Ron Frenz, The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man. Spider-Man visits a kid named Timothy Harrison, Spider-Man’s biggest fan. A newspaper article tells us all about the kid and his collection, while Spider-Man shows off for the kid. Eventually, Spider-Man even reveals his secret identity as Peter Parker. The story ends with a line from the article saying Timmy’s dying of leukemia, and only has a few weeks left. It’s an incredible, powerful story. It’s vastly different from what all the other books were doing – they were all having fun, but Stern and editor Bob DeNatale decided to do something more moving. And man, it was so good. One of the all-time great stories.

Moving on, though. Avengers #239 had them on the Late Show with David Letterman. It was mostly reserves who went on – Wonder Man, Beast, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Black Panther. Hawkeye was the only one active at the time. His new wife, Mockingbird, was also there, backstage. The Avengers were attacked by one of the all-time great running gags, Fabian Stankowicz, who’d appeared a few times previously, trying to defeat the Avengers to show how much of a genius he is. This story was less ridiculous than Spider-Man teaming up with the original SNL cast. And Fabian Stankowicz was always awesome. So it was good.

Captain America #289 had a back-up story where his then-girlfriend, Bernie Rosenthal, dreams about being Bernie America, with Steve Rogers as her weak and fearful boyfriend. It’s a really fun, funny story. Daredevil #202’s back-up story had a kid, Dirk McGirk, doing a class presentation on Daredevil. He claims to be Daredevil himself. The teacher’s mad at him, until Turk (another fantastic running gag character) gets thrown through the window by the real Daredevil. Also really fun. The kid’s presentation is hilariously awful.

Defenders #127 had a quick two-page opening by Ann Nocenti and Marie Severin, with Ann Nocenti dreaming of going mad with power. It’s cute. But I have to say, Ann Nocenti’s self-caricature is adorable. This image comes from the corner box of that month’s Marvel Fanfare:

Look at how adorable that image is!

Incredible Hulk had an intro with Ann Nocenti, where she’s visited by Bruce Banner (who was, at the time, able to retain his identity when he became the Hulk). He’s feeling torn up, unsure whether to reveal that Thunderbolt Ross is a traitor, and Ann helps him make his decision. It was kinda meh, to be honest. A cute idea, but not a terribly interesting one.

Iron Man #178 had an opening story that was partially satirizing the ongoing Iron Man story, with Tony Stark wallowing in alcoholism. The story in #178 had a bunch of kids playing Avengers. They stop a kid named Blackie from spraypainting a car. They then kick their Iron Man out of the group, since he’s no longer an Avenger in the comics. Then someone else takes over as “Iron Man,” and starts acting like a dick. When the other “Avengers” hear about it, they go find the kid they kicked out, who’s been drowning his sorrows in Coke. The kid decides to do something about the imposter Iron Man, who turns out to have been Blackie. It’s really funny. The second story has a cop offer Tony Stark $50 if he can stay sober until midnight. That story’s pretty powerful.

Marvel Fanfare #12 had an opening page of Ann editing the book, and just going along with what every writer and artist who comes in asks. These include Claremont re-writing the Bible so Eve becomes god and kicks Adam out of Eden, and Frank Springer doing an issue-length story of US1. There’s also a back-up story of Ann trying to get Roger Stern in the right mood to do a Captain America story. Both are fun.

Marvel Team-Up has Aunt May team up with Franklin Richards. May becomes Galactus’ newest herald, the Golden Oldie, and satisfies Galactus’ hunger with Twinkles. Basically, it’s an issue-length parody of those old Hostess Fruit Pie ads that used to run in Marvel and DC comics. It is hilarious. Seriously, it’s just so damned good.

Spectacular Spider-Man #86 had Al Milgrom angry at his art for the issue being rejected. Instead, Assistant Editor Bob DeNatale hired Fred Hembeck to do the issue. Hembeck, of course, was famous at the time for his work in the fan press. It makes for a really, really weird issue. Reasonably fun, though. A nice change of pace, if nothing else.

Power man and Iron Fist #101 had Luke and Danny taken out on the first page, so the issue followed Misty Knight and Colleen Wing as they tried to solve a case and save their lives. It was pretty good. It was cool seeing the ladies kicking some ass for a change.

Rom #50’s contribution to the month was a one-page gag at the end, with Rom and Brandy (trapped in Spaceknight armour herself) as a simple married couple. It was weird and goofy, but pretty cute. The Thing #7 had him fight Goody Two-Shoes, a big Swedish guy wearing atomic boots. It’s a big fight, with the Thing struggling to win, and almost getting killed, but ultimately coming out victorious. Then it cuts to him reading the issue, and getting angry. He storms into Marvel’s offices and explains how the fight really went down – Goody kicked him to no effect, and Thing beat him with a flick of his finger. The issue’s silly and stupid and really fun. It was written by Byrne, who also actually drew the second portion, in the Marvel offices.

And that’s all the issues that took part.

Assistant Editor’s Month was a lot of fun. It led to some hilarious stories, and a few really touching ones. I think it’s long past time for Marvel to do another one. I really, really think they should. It’s something they should do every few years – just have a month where all the editors sit back, and let the Assistant Editors step up to handle everything, and then see what comes out of it. I suppose part of the problem is that there’s just so much editorial guidance in general now, and has been for a long time. So now, if Marvel wants to do something similar, they’re more likely to put out an anthology, as they did a few years ago. But still, I think this original month was generally well-received, and it was a great concept that is, in my mind, well worth revisiting. A month where all their comics are just a little more fun, even if only through a back-up story.

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From → 1980s

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