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

With new comics on hold, Scott and Dan pick the titles they would have been looking forward to — decades ago…

With new print comics on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic (click here), we’ve pivoted to picking comics from the same week — decades ago!

A little fun in the darkness, y’know?

Last week, it was books that went on sale the week of April 1, 1975. (Click here to check it out.) This time, it’s the week of April 8, 1981. (Keep in mind that comics came out on multiple days back then. So these are technically the comics that went on sale between April 5 and April 11.)

Dig it.

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

The New Teen Titans #9, DC. By this time, The New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez was definitely the best book DC was putting out. I couldn’t wait for it to come out every month and it was surpassing the Batman books at the top of my list. That was a huge deal for 14-year-old Dan. (Though with Robin the star, I still considered this part of the Batman family of titles.)

Adds Scott: I’ve talked about how great the first few years of The New Teen Titans were ad nauseum over the years, but this bears pointing out: How crazy is it that George Perez was penciling Justice League of America and The New Teen Titans at the same time?!

The Best of DC: Blue Ribbon Digest #14, DC. Oh, come on, a digest spotlighting Batman’s villains? With a glorious cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano? The five stories are all Bronze Age classics, featuring talent including Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Irv Novick. Not just that, there are recaps of the origins of the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler and Two-Face, illustrated by Denys Cowan and Dick Giordano, among other bonuses.

Batman #337, DC. This was a bit of a letdown period for me on the Darknight Detective’s flagship book. A couple months earlier was the finale to the fantastic, underrated The Lazarus Affair, so everything in the immediate aftermath felt kind of pedestrian. (The Lazarus Affair was just collected in hardcover for the first time, by the by. Click here.) But, hey, this one’s got pencils by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, so there’s that! (This story will be included in the forthcoming Legends of the Dark Knight: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez hardcover. Click here.)

DC Comics Presents #35, DC. During this time, I was pretty much buying anything Batman-related, so this Superman-Man-Bat team-up by Martin Pasko, Curt Swan and Vince Colletta definitely counted.

Wonder Woman #281, DC. I picked up WW back then for the Huntress back-ups. In this one, Helena Wayne takes on the Joker — by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell.

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

The Micronauts #31, Marvel. The first year’s worth of Micronauts usually gets all the press, and rightly so: The first 11 issues by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden are, in my opinion, some of the best comics of the era, bar none. But after Golden left the series, Mantlo had several other great collaborators, one of whom is providing art for this issue: Pat Broderick. Broderick had a slightly cartoonier style that brought out the more relatable side of the Micronauts, especially Arcturus Rann and Mari, who never seemed more human and in love as when Broderick was drawing them.

Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #3, DC. When I was a kid, there was one house in my neighborhood that gave away comic books on Halloween, and this was one of the comics I got from that house. I never saw another issue of it. And the story kind of melted my brain, because it had hundreds of new alien Green Lanterns that I’d never seen before, all fighting a colossal skeleton. Wearing a cape and disco collar. In space. Needless to say, this issue is highly recommended.

Adds Dan: This was one of the few non-Batman books I read at the time. Like Scott, the sheer number of Green Lanterns blew my mind. By Mike W. Barr, Len Wein, Joe Staton and Frank McLaughlin.

What If? #27, Marvel. It’s hard to describe to modern readers how truly traumatized X-Men readers were by the death of Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix storyline. People just didn’t get over it. So when we saw this on the racks, we reached for it in hopes for that happy ending we all longed for. However, writer Mary Jo Duffy and artist Jerry Bingham instead managed to somehow deliver a tale that was even more depressing. Well worth reading, though.

Justice League of America #192, DC Comics. This was my sweet spot with the Justice League as a young reader. The Satellite Era JLA was the height of their membership and influence, with DC’s then-hottest new hero Firestorm their latest recruit, and their adventures being chronicled by arguably two of the best creatives in comics at the time, writer Gerry Conway and artist George Perez. This issue took a deep dive into the origins of the League’s resident android, Red Tornado, and attempted to settle once and for all the question of whether not Reddy had a soul. This is really good stuff.

So how to get these issues? Obviously, we make these recommendations without urging you to go to the store. But here’s what you can do: First, check your own collection because it might be fun to dig out your own copies this week and read them. If you’re store is open and they have a healthy back-issue selection, you can always try to work out a mail-order option. Of course there are also online retailers and eBay. And if all that fails, you can always go the digital route. Many of these are available to download — but do NOT fraternize pirate sites. That’s exceptionally uncool. The best thing to do right now is to support small retailers. But I’m certain Marvel, DC and other publishers would also appreciate direct support. Your call. Just stay safe and stay home.


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of April 1 — in 1975! Click here.

Primary source: Mike’s Amazing World of Comics

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. That was my first issue of DCCP. Hadn’t found NTT at that point, but would within the year. These are fun!

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  2. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but we’re spoiled today with the reprint collections we get and the way we can look up stuff on the internet. I can’t tell you what a great resource that Batman’s Villains digest was to me when I got it. I started collecting Batman in the fall of 1976, but the one page origins in the digest, along with the earlier Legends of the Batman mini-series, were the first exposure I had to some of the villains origins.

    A weird little note about the Villains Pin-Up that has what is supposed to be Batman’s greatest rogues : Poison Ivy isn’t on it. Lets you know just how obscure she was a the time. She appeared in JLA, Lois Lane (fighting the Thorn), World’s Finest (fighting Wonder Woman) and Super Friends, but really only had the cameo in Where Were You the Night that Batman Killed in a solo Bat-title. Well, the Pin-Up needed to make room for really important rogues like Captain Stingaree and The Getaway Genius.

    Thanks for sharing, and I got a good number of these off the spinner rack (including, obviously, the Batman’s Villains digest.

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