RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale This Week — in 1988!

Scott and Dan hit up the comics racks from 35 years ago…

This week for RETRO HOT PICKS, Scott Tipton and I are selecting comics that came out the week of Dec. 6, 1988.

Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Nov. 29, 1969. 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 Dec. 3 and Dec. 9.)

So, let’s set the scene: Endings and beginnings. On Dec. 8, Republican President Ronald Reagan gave his final press conference before leaving office the following January. Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev had just completed a brief official visit to the U.S., meeting with Reagan and his successor George H.W. Bush. In a U.N. speech, Gorbachev promised major cuts in defense spending. When asked if he trusted Gorbachev, Reagan responded with a Russian proverb he’d adopted as a signature phrase: “Trust but verify.” That’s how diplomacy is supposed to work.

Also worth noting is that six days earlier, Bush held a joint press conference with Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, whom he’d defeated in the presidential election. Because that’s how democracy is supposed to work.

The hit movie Twins, starring Ahnuld and Danny DeVito opened Dec. 9 and supplanted the wildly popular The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! as the top-grossing film in America. By the way, if you’re still debating whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, 20th Century Fox clearly didn’t think so: The flick came out back in July.

Meanwhile, actor Gary Busey on Dec. 4 was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident. Busey was riding without a helmet and his head injury put him in a coma for weeks. The incident intensified the debate over wearing helmets, which really should never have been a debate at all. Busey recovered and, years later, delivered this immortal line:

The Nielsens were led by the usual suspects: The Cosby Show, A Different World, Cheers, Golden Girls — and Roseanne, which had premiered in October and was an instant smash. But an up-and-comer was a new show that debuted Nov. 14: Murphy Brown, starring Candice Bergen.

A song called Look Away by Chicago led the Billboard 100. I have zero memory of this song. None. At all. U2’s Rattle and Hum led the album charts.

My friends and I learned to appreciate Roy Orbison thanks to the movie Blue Velvet. We weren’t alone. Because of the 1986 David Lynch classic, Orbison enjoyed new popularity both on his own and with the supergroup Traveling Wilburys. In 1988, Orbison was on tour and came through Boston, where I was living at the time. I passed on going, figuring I’d see him another time. I was wrong. The In Dreams crooner performed his final concert in Ohio on Dec. 4, because on Dec. 6, he died of a heart attack. He was only 52 but since his initial popularity largely pre-dated the ’60s British Invasion, he was perceived to be an old man. Far from it.

In dreams I walk with you. In dreams I talk to you…

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

Detective Comics #596, DC. You know what I really appreciated about Alan Grant’s Batman stories (and still do)? They were mostly adventures in the Bronze Age mold. The Darknight Detective was grim and determined but not all angsty and angry as he was being portrayed elsewhere, especially in Batman, which was dealing with the A Death in the Family aftermath. This ish was the last co-written with John Wagner and, despite the cover credits, featured art by Eduarto Barreto, filling in for Norm Breyfogle, who did the rad cover.

The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, DC. The Clown Prince of Crime was hitting new heights of popularity, with the stark and startling Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke and the aforementioned A Death in the Family. Jack Nicholson had been cast to play him in the Batman movie due out the next year. Only makes sense DC would tap into the zeitgeist with this hardcover collection, featuring Kyle Baker’s memorable cover. (There was a Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told hardcover too, natch.)

Captain Atom #25, DC. I had zero grounding in the Charlton character but I really dug this ’80s series. It was one of the few non-Bat, non-Super titles I was reading at the time.

Zot! #23, Eclipse. Just to remind you that comics in the ’80s were much more than the Big Two.

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

Action Comics Weekly #636, DC Comics. In those heady post-Crisis days, DC tried really hard to make Phantom Lady a thing, but readers just weren’t buying it.

Airboy #46, Eclipse. The beginning of the end for Eclipse’s solidly satisfying Airboy run, penned by Chuck Dixon. Artist Ernie Colon was brought in to draw a big 4-part story, but publishing delays and internal politics ultimately led to the end of the series, which unfortunately closed on a cliffhanger. A most unsatisfying end for such a great series.

Invasion! #3, DC Comics. The finale of Bill Mantlo’s only notable work for DC (plotted by the great Keith Giffen and drawn by Bart Sears). One of the more fun event series in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

West Coast Avengers #43, Marvel. I’ll say this for John Byrne: He knew how to shake up a book. What he did to the Vision here absolutely shocked me.


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Nov. 29 — in 1969! Click here.

— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Nov. 22 — in 1963! Click here.

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

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Do NOT get me started on lines from Point Break.

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  2. So glad to have worked on the DC committee selecting the greatest Batman and Joker stories. Every fan’s dream come true!

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  3. I had stopped buying the mainstream stuffy this time and ZOT was one of the many
    comics that was a breath of fresh air from the usual MARVEL AND DC.

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  4. I remember the month but I was a little busy and only saw the Joker book. But I remember the song “Look Away.” My Brother had the cassingle (remember those?) And is that the World Trade Center getting zapped on the Zot! cover? Brrrrrr!

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  5. IMO, “The Greatest xxx Stories Ever Told” collections that DC put together in the late 1980s and early 1990s have never been equaled. I have a complete set and every story selected for those volumes was worthy of inclusion. You could complain about what was left out, but you couldn’t complain about what was included.

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  6. Always enjoy the retro look back at the titles of that day(s), but the stage setting is equally good, spanning the events in the real world and pop culture which usually includes items that aren’t ‘the ones you’d expect’. So nice job, Dan. Always look forward to these.

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