Scott and Dan hit up the comics racks from 42 years ago…
This week for RETRO HOT PICKS, Scott Tipton and I are selecting comics that came out the week of Feb. 8, 1981.
Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Feb. 1, 1979. Click here to check it out.
(Keep in mind that comics came out on multiple days, so these are technically the comics that went on sale between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11.)
So, let’s set the scene: Ronald Reagan was in the first weeks of his presidency. The two biggest movies in theaters were absolute polar opposites — Fort Apache, the Bronx, starring Paul Newman, and The Incredible Shrinking Woman, starring Lily Tomlin. I mean, that is a striking disparity of subject and tone. The ’80s were already getting weird.
Dallas was the most popular show on the tube but this week also featured the 8-hour, 3-part, ABC event East of Eden. Miniseries like these were prestige TV in those days. Check out the cast, which is chock full of pretty leads, great character actors and stars in their twilight: Timothy Bottoms, Jane Seymour, Sam Bottoms, Hart Bochner, Bruce Boxleitner, the great Soon-tek Oh, Karen Allen (!), Warren Fuckin’ Oates, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Duff, the brilliant Anne Baxter, M. Emmet Walsh (“No movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad.” — Roger Ebert) and Richard Masur.
The No. 1 song in all the land was the anthemic Celebration by Kool & the Gang — whose legacy has lasted for 42 years and counting. That song is still played every day at ballgames, weddings, bar mitzvahs and forced corporate bonding “off-sites.” But don’t hold that against it because that song is the bomb.
On a more personal and wistful note, John Lennon had two songs among the leaders: Woman (No. 6) and (Just Like) Starting Over (No. 7) — and the top-selling album, Double Fantasy, by John and Yoko. Lennon had been murdered in December, just weeks after the album’s release, and songs like these and Watching the Wheels became testaments to what might have been. For all too brief a time, we got to see John appear comfortable in his own skin, perhaps for the first time.
Actually, go check out the chart after you finish this column because there’s some great stuff in there.
I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll…
Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension
Batman #335, DC. Looking back, I realize that the final chapter of the criminally underappreciated The Lazarus Affair was the end of an era for me. The story, by Marv Wolfman, Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin (with a great Jim Aparo cover) tied up threads first spun by writer Len Wein and was the penultimate issue under the stewardship of editor Paul Levitz. While there were plenty of great Batman stories to come — obviously — I never quite loved the flagship monthly as much as I did in those years of early adolescence. I was on the verge of turning 14 and while my love for the Caped Crusader is in many ways more ardent now than ever, there was something about that time that was special, haloed by a golden hue. But that’s pretty much the definition of nostalgia, isn’t it?
DC Comics Presents #33, DC. The first of a two-part Superman/Marvel Family team-up that remains my favorite to this very day. Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano put together the quintessenial Earth-One/Earth-S crossover.
Scott adds: I could never, ever pass up a Supeman-Captain Marvel team-up.
The New Teen Titans #7, DC. This really was a helluva week for me as a reader. All three of these issues are personal classics — and probably favorites of yours too. On the face of it, this issue features a battle with Dr. Light but really it’s a guided tour of Titans Tower and its capabilities. Click here for much more on this groovy issue.
Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #1, DC. Part 1 of the landmark three-part miniseries by Mike W. Barr, Wein, Joe Staton and McLaughlin, with an instantly memorable cover by Brian Bolland.
DC Digests, DC. Two of them this week! Best of DC #12 was an all-Superman affair while DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #9 brought you a selection of Secret Origins of Super-Heroes. (I don’t know about you but I love having digests in my collection. They are, however, awfully tough to read with these ol’ eyeballs.)
Famous Monsters of Filmland #172, Warren. Hey, look what’s on the cover!
Scott Tipton, contributor-at-large, 13th Dimension
Justice League of America #190, DC Comics. Here it is: the birthplace of my love of Starro the Conqueror. Man alive, this Bolland cover creeped me out as a kid.
Micronauts #29, Marvel. One of the things I loved about Micronauts was the weird and unexpected crossovers with the rest of the Marvel Universe that would regularly take place. This issue alone has pop-ins from Doctor Strange baddie Nightmare and Doc Samson from the pages of The Incredible Hulk.
Wonder Woman #279, DC Comics. It was the Huntress backup stories by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton that were selling me on this comic every month.
Dan adds: Exactly what Scott said! Still her best run of stories.
— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Feb. 1 — in 1979! Click here.
— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Jan. 25 — in 1975! Click here.
Primary sources: Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, the Grand Comics Database.
February 8, 2023
Great stuff. Remember getting the Green Lantern Corps. and the Micronauts again from the 7-11 spinner rack (I bought a lot of comics from that store back in the day)
February 10, 2023
I remember these! I probably still have a couple of them in a crate somewhere! (Superman/Shazam definitely!) And Scott and Dan, you are sure right about these ol’ eyeballs!
February 10, 2023
I’m pretty happy with these picks from 1981. They really come alive.
February 11, 2023
All in one week? I’m surprised I was able to get so many of them with my limited 10-year old budget. They were GREAT! I bought DCCP, New Teen Titans, JLA, and the Secret Origins digest; my brother also got the Superman digest, now in my possession. Good times!