RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale This Week — in 1981!

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 Nov. 15, 1981.

Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Nov. 8, 1972. 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 Nov. 12 and Nov. 18.)

So, let’s set the scene: Ronald Reagan was in the White House and on Nov. 17 made a fateful decision that would metastasize into the defining scandal of his presidency. In a White House meeting of the National Security Council, Reagan chose to support the Contras, a rebel military force that would fight the leftist government of Nicaragua and protect the right-wing government of El Salvador. The move would ultimately lead to the Iran-Contra affair, which emerged five years later.

On Nov. 12, the space shuttle Columbia became the first space vehicle to be reused, launching from Cape Canaveral. It was only the second shuttle mission overall and it ended prematurely, two days later.

Fernandomania! 21-year-old Mexican pitching sensation Fernando Valenzuela of the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers became the first rookie to win the Cy Young Award.

Nov. 18 marked the end of a era: Fredric Wertham, the psychiatrist whose sensationalistic 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent nearly destroyed the comic-book industry through a media frenzy that led to outlandish congressional hearings and the creation of the industry’s self-censoring Comics Code Authority, died at the age of 86.

The top-grossing movie of the week was Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. Also in theaters was the sophisticated comedy of manners, Porky’s.

Meanwhile, Academy Award-winner William Holden, 63, one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men, died at home Nov. 12, evidently after tripping on a rug and hitting his head on the edge of a nightstand. His body wasn’t found for four days. “To be killed by a bottle of vodka and a night table! What a lousy fadeout for a great guy!” said movie director Billy Wilder.

The Wedding of the Year was back in the summertime when Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer. But the fictional Wedding of the Year was broadcast Nov. 16, when Luke and Laura (Tony Geary and Genie Francis) tied the knot on the soap General Hospital. The “nuptials” were watched by 14 million households, setting a still-extant record for a daytime TV show. It wasn’t quite the Royal Wedding but it was a bona fide thing. It’s estimated that 30 million viewers tuned in.

(By the way, Dallas was the top-rated show on television. New shows that fall included The Fall Guy, Gimme a Break! and Father Murphy. Simon & Simon would premiere the next week.)

Good-girl Olivia Newton-John’s oddly oversexed Physical led the singles charts, followed by the barely listenable Private Eyes by Hall & Oates. I’m not trying to be unkind but while I liked a lot of what the duo had to offer, this one always got on my nerves. But whatever. The No. 4 single on the list is one of the greatest rock songs of all time — the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up, a staple of their concert tours for decades now, as well as a mainstay of sports stadiums and arenas of every level. The album Tattoo You, on the other hand, was No. 2, behind the outrageously inferior 4, by Foreigner, the most generic band in the history of musickind.

Anyway, the Start Me Up video is one for the ages, as Mick goes full-on Mick (while Charlie, ever the adult, just seems amused by it all):

Ride like the wind at double speed, I’ll take you places that you’ve never, never seen…

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

The New Teen Titans #16, DC. Kory falls in love with a douchebag because she’s on the rebound after Dick friend-zones her. The guy’s wrapped up with H.I.V.E. and things go as you pretty much expect. Mostly, this is one of those Titans-as-civilians issues that usually made for good reading. Plus, Captain Carrot! (By the way, why didn’t Dick and Donna ever have a thing? They seemed like such a natural couple.)

What If? #31, Marvel. A classic in the annals of What Iffery.

Marvel Team-Up #114, Marvel. I’m sure I’ve said this before but Spidey and Falcon should be more of a thing. Two characters who complement each other very well.

Archie Giant Series Magazine #512, Archie. I love Archie comics. I really do. But can you explain to me what Betty and Veronica actually see in Archie? I suppose with Veronica it’s that she likes the control and the way he worships her, but Betty, you can do so much better. You’re the best character in the whole series and that guy doesn’t deserve you.

Scott Tipton, contributor-at-large, 13th Dimension

Batman #344, DC. Gene Colan’s amazing Batman work always feels overlooked to me.

Dan adds: It is overlooked but there’s also something slightly off about this Bat-era. Gerry Conway did a really good job and basically turned Batman and Detective into a biweekly comic but there wasn’t much that was buzzy about it until we got to the original Jason Todd. But I will say that while I admire Colan and he should have been a Batman natural, his work never quite clicked with me. I much preferred Don Newton, who was working in Gotham at the same time. Newton was one of the all-time Batman greats and he never gets enough credit himself.

Star Wars #56, Marvel. Wow. Lobot is dropping a Captain Kirk-style two-fisted punch on Lando. You don’t see that every day.

Fantastic Four #239, Marvel. I found it amusing that the Fantastic Four seemed to have a rotating spot on the team for Johnny Storm’s girlfriends.

The Avengers #216, Marvel. Tigra’s first stint as an active Avenger was brief, but I enjoyed it.


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Nov. 8 — in 1972! Click here.

— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Nov. 1 — in 1984! Click here.

Primary comics sources: Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, the Grand Comics Database.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. The Batman of this era is very hard to put into a collection.

    No stand out arc. Entertaining but never groundbreaking. Even though you had to buy both titles to get the full story, thousands didn’t.

    Shame really

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  2. Colon’s work at DC -at least as published-was just not as good as his work at Marvel. It might have been less compatible inkers (really, no one inked Colon like Palmer), it might have been that his style had moved too far away from superheroes. Whatever it was, I remember being really excited to hear he was taking over Batman, but really disappointed in the results.

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  3. “Foreigner, the most generic band in the history of musickind”…. can’t disagree more. For me, they were up there with 38 Special, Journey etc…. music that got you out of second gear in a hurry.

    I liked Newton’s BATMAN but wasn’t in love with it. Something always seemed a little loose to me. I always enjoyed Colon’s work but, his Marvel work stands alone for sure.

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  4. Always loved F.F. 239 . Great single issue in Byrne’s run.

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  5. My Golden Age (1981-82)! Thanks for posting

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  6. I really enjoyed What If #31. But, for some reason, I didn’t pick it up until I was at a bookstore about a year later. That wasn’t an unusual occurrence back in those days. Unlike today where the mantra seems to be to toss it out if it doesn’t sell like hotcakes.

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  7. I have a follow up question. Why are Betty and Veronica friends? One is sweet the other snobbish. One comes from a middle class family, the other believes the only important thing is money. Oil and water.

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  8. And Betty and Veronica also are interested in the same boy. It doesn’t make sense, Randall. Some controversial
    views on music this time, Dan. I think “Private Eyes” is catchy to this day. While I love ONJ’s music, “Physical” grates on me. I do enjoy these looks at the events and pop culture of the day, though. Thanks for putting the effort into them.

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