September. When you're a kid, it either means back-to-school or you've been back for a few weeks. It's the month we give up our summer vacations and pick our backpacks back up. (Well, except for this year. But let's not think about 2020 right now...) When Ol' Groove was Li'l/Kid/Teen Groove back during the Groovy Age, comics helped ease the pain from the transition between summer's freedom and our back to school "confinement." No matter how good or bad getting back into the swing of school went, I always knew I'd have my Marvel or DC friends waiting for me at home, or on the spinner rack ready to go home with me, which helped give me something I could look forward to. I don't think Ol' Groove was the only one around here who felt that way, right?
Recently, Ol' Groove has been thinking about the comics that "helped me through." Not the biggies. Not the blockbusters that we all know were the best of the best (and September spinner racks were almost always filled to the brim with awesomeness during the Groovy Age). No, Ol' Groove was thinking of the (unjustly) little-remembered mags that just, for some reason, hit me right where I lived. They had that special something that made me wanna read them over and over no matter how good or bad my day at school had been. Here's a sampling of my "comfort" mags from my school days. First grade through twelfth, 1969-1980...
1969 (First Grade): Yeah, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #20 was mostly reprints (and the final ish, to boot!), but man, that Chic Stone cover just screamed at me from off the rack. It was the first issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents I'd seen, and did it ever grab me. The art, the characters--the COSTUMES! I'd luck out and find other issues as the years went on, but I read this one until, you guessed it, the covers fell off!
1970 (Second Grade): Li'l Groove liked Supergirl. What can I say. This sports-centric issue was especially cool to me back then, as it was kinda/sorta "relevance-lite"...and Johnny Dee was a GREAT character. Wish they'd done more with him. My favorite part of the issue, though, was the previously-unpublished Golden Age Black Canary tale in the back. It really whetted my appetite for more Golden Age comics!
1971 (Third Grade): Everyone rightfully remembers the far-out Morbius issues of Spidey by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, but their follow-up, this trip to the Savage Land, was a hoot! So much lighter than the previous issues, with some funny scenes--and Groove's always a sucker for jungle heroes and giant monsters!
1972 (Fourth Grade): No way can there be a list of Groove's favorites without a Batman comic in there somewhere, right? This one had two things that I still really, really dig to this day: Man-Bat and Frank Robbins' art on Batman and Man-Bat. Robbins was a superior writer, to boot!
1973 (Fifth Grade): Captain Marvel in a Daredevil comic? A Jim Starlin cover (though it was obviously tinkered with by the Bullpen)? Sal Buscema inking Bob Brown? Young Groove couldn't drop those dimes fast enough. This is the mostly forgotten chapter of the original "Thanos, Mad Titan" saga, by the way. As far as I know, the only time it's been included in a Thanos collection was 2013's Avengers vs. Thanos.
1974 (Sixth Grade): Ol' Groove can remember distinctly buying this one off the shelf at my beloved Mack's superstore on the way home from my first day of 6th grade. It was my first time giving Shang-Chi a try. I wasn't all that interested in kung-fu at the time, and honesly? It was the Captain America vs. Batroc reprint that made me buy this issue. I loved it, though, and kung-fu fighting (comics, anyway) became part of my dna!
1975 (Seventh Grade): See what I mean about kung-fu? Of course, Iron Fist is one of my favorite characters, and nobody did him better than Chris Claremont and John Byrne. This issue gave us a tale of Danny Rand's life in K'un-L'un. Creepy-cool fantasy AND kung-fu action. Whaddya want for a quarter? THIS!
1976 (Eighth Grade): Teen Groove was getting in touch with his "grown up" side by devouring Marvel's black and white mags. My favorite was Doc Savage! I'd been reading the novels, and Doug Moench (who'd evidently never read those novels) was KILLING IT with his take on Doc and his Amazing Five. This particular issue was bee-yoo-tee-fully drawn by Tony DeZuniga and was filled to the brim with action, globe-hopping, sorta-supernatural villains--and featured a gorgeous gal, natch. Those Doc mags are a treasure, Groove-ophiles!
1977 (Ninth Grade): Under this intriguing Jim Aparo cover lies the finale of Paul Kupperberg and Joe Staton's Doom Patrol revival featuring the "all-new, all-different" team. It was a great run of three issues and I could never understand why the DP didn't immediatly get their own series once their Showcase debut was over.
1978 (Tenth Grade): Bam! From out of the blue came David Anthony Kraft and George Perez's long-lost Man-Wolf stories from the cancelled Creatures On the Loose! How did that comic get cancelled right before the most awesome issues went to print? Sheesh! The fantasy/sword-and-sorcery take on Man-Wolf was so freakin' far-out. Had many of us crying for a continuation, but alas, it was all soon forgotten by the powers-that-were.
1979 (Eleventh Grade): At one time, Marvel Two-In-One's "Pegasus Project" was one of the most well-regarded and remembered storylines of the Groovy age. The inclusion of a ton of cool "B-and-lower-list" characters made this way more than "two-in-one", but none of us cared! This soul-searing conclusion by Mark Gruenwald/Ralph Macchio/George Perez/Gene Day was one of those times when an epic ended in an amazing and satisfactory way thanks to "A+ List" writing and art.
1980 (Twelfth Grade): Marvel was knocking 'em out of the park with their annuals. This is one of the very, very best, thanks to a super-cool story by Denny O'Neil (Doc Doom vs. Doc Strange with Spidey caught in the middle! Take my money, already!) and amaaaaaaaaazing art by Frank Miller and Tom Palmer. (And yeah, the interiors are as sweet as this cover!) It's a classic from start to finish and I read it a gazillion times!
Okay, Groove-ophiles! It's your turn! What "little" comics got you started off on the right foot during your grade school to high school years? Share 'em in the comments! Pax!