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

Scott and Dan hit up the comics racks from 33 years ago!

This week for RETRO HOT PICKS, Scott Tipton and I are selecting comics that came out the week of Aug. 25, 1988 — the first time we’ve done this particular year.

Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Aug. 18, 1983. 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 Aug. 22 and Aug. 28.)

So, let’s set the scene: Ronald Reagan was in the final months of his presidency, with Vice President George H.W. Bush running to replace him. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was tops at the box office. Yeah, OK, but you could also go see Midnight Run, which came out in late July and just happens to be one of the funniest movies ever. An absolute classic.

August TV meant reruns, reruns, reruns — so the Top 3 shows in the Nielsens were reruns of The Cosby Show, A Different World and Cheers, respectively. Monkey, by George Michael — a song I do not remember — led the Billboard 100. Tracy Chapman’s eponymous debut album was No. 1 on the album charts.

I still don’t remember it.

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

Batman #426, DC. The first part of A Death In the Family. I was fascinated by this story at the time (though I didn’t think it was all that great) just because it was such a big deal. I confess that when it came time to choose whether Jason Todd should live or die, I seriously considered voting for his demise because I thought it would make for good drama and be historic. But when it came down to it, I just couldn’t bring myself to kill Robin, so I voted for him to survive. I’m glad I made that decision, and in retrospect, I’ve come to pretty much loathe anything that has to do with this.

Scott adds: Man, I thought this was a terrible, tasteless stunt at the time, and all these years later, I still don’t like it. The Jim Aparo art is its only saving grace. And for the record, I voted for Robin to live.

Superman #24, DC. Hey, aren’t Mongal and Rampage pretty much the same character? That’s what I was thinking when I watched The Suicide Squad.

Conan Saga #19, Marvel. So what if it’s a reprint? This is Thomas/Buscema/Alcala Conan! (The original was 1978’s The Savage Sword of Conan #28.) That’s also a reprint of Earl Norem’s cover.

Speedball #4, Marvel. Speedball actually had his own series. I’m not sure I knew that. If I did, I forgot. But, hey, Steve Ditko! (Inked by Dan Adkins.)

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

The Prisoner #1, DC. I was (and remain) a huge fan of the original Patrick McGoohan television series, so at the time I was super-excited about this, but ultimately nothing can ever live up to McGoohan’s unique brand of psychedelic, paranoiac secret-agent derring-do. It’s not that the book was bad; not at all. It just wasn’t THE PRISONER.

Valkyrie #3, Eclipse. Back in the mid- to late ‘80s, there was a little indie comics publisher out of Northern California called Eclipse, and they put out a ton of great books, my favorite of which was a revival of the Golden Age aviator hero Airboy, originally published by Hillman. Airboy soon became the biggest seller in Eclipse’s lineup, with lots of accompanying miniseries and specials. This one starred the series’ femme fatale Valkyrie, a reformed Nazi fighter pilot turned romantic interest for Davy Nelson, aka Airboy. If you ever stumble across these at a convention, grab ’em up.


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Aug. 18 — in 1983! Click here.

— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Aug. 11 — in 1979! Click here.

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

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I agree with you–the “Death of Jason Todd” was tawdry and a cheap ploy for ratings. Jason was a poor attempt to capture lightning in a bottle again, by making him a Dick Grayson Clone, then making him a street punk did nothing for him either. I thought his arc with Nocturna was probably the best take on the character. I voted to keep him alive; but after he was dead and gone, DC should have left him there.

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    • Thank Goodness DC has moved away from using cheap and tawdry ploys for ratings with the Robin character, today.


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  2. I’ve read “Batman: A Death in the Family” online about two years back, and Jason Todd’s death as Robin was a real gutwrencher.

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  3. Midnight Run is one of the best comedy/buddy movies of all time…does not get enough credit or recognition…
    Bought Conan Saga…loved the black & white artwork.

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  4. When people said/say that they never liked Jason Todd as Robin, what they really mean is that they didn’t like Jim Starlin’s version of Jason Todd. Mike W. Barr was writing (and Alan Davis was illustrating) a run on Detective in 1986 and ’87 that had, hands-down, not just the best version of Jason Todd, but one of the best versions of any Robin, period. Also, the Doug Moench-Don Newton pre-Crisis Jason Todd was pretty terrific, too. But Jim Starlin has said repeatedly that he never liked Robin, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that a person who couldn’t stand the character couldn’t write a good version of the character. But with so much evidence of others writing the character well, the problem wasn’t Jason Todd, it was Starlin. Personally, I don’t think anything from the Starlin era on Batman holds up very well.

    I was 15 when A Death in the Family came out. I didn’t like the story then, and I don’t like the story now. I felt it was tawdry and sensationalistic to have readers decide the outcome of a story. And even though I thought it was a cheap stunt, I gritted my teeth and voted for Jason to live because I thought that the character deserved better.

    For the record, I’m not opposed to character deaths if they’re done well and serve a legitimate narrative need. For all the series’ faults (and there are many), Supergirl’s death in Crisis is still emotionally affecting. And I think Frank Miller’s in-story references to Jason’s death in The Dark Knight returns were handled quite well, and having that future event hang over the character (without it ever happening in the present) gave the character a bittersweet poignancy. Reading Barr and Davis’ run on ‘Tec, with its more lighthearted approach to Jason, actually had more weight and emotional resonance knowing that this innocent character was going to (someday, in the far off future) die an untimely death. But actually showing the death (and corrupting the character as Starlin did in the year-plus leading up to A Death in the Family) nullified any of that emotional resonance in TDKR when re-read post-A Death in the Family.

    I know that I seem to be taking way too seriously a 30-odd-year-old four-issue mini-series about the death of a fictional character. But the post-Crisis DC Universe had so much promise that was extinguished by 1990. And it was cheap stunts like this that were the catalyst for that (to this day unparalleled) run from 1986 to 1990 to end prematurely. For me, this story was the beginning of the end of my love affair with comics, and about a year later (early 1990), I began my 10-year-long separation from comics before I came back as a reader in the early 2000s.

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