Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 22, 2012

Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Epic Illustrated


The mystery for me looking back on my comics consumption from my return to the form in late mid-1979 and through my college years is piecing together exactly what the heck it was I was buying from 1980 to about 1984. A lot of the comics I thought were published 1981-1984 consistently end up having been released three years later than my original guess. One complication is that these years constituted my back-issues phase, where I bought the comics I had missed during my brief time away, bought the comics I had as a younger child, and then bought as many comics all the way back to 1961 that my allowance and all the extra work I could find would allow. (Granted, this was an era when the most expensive X-Men other than #1 -- #94 -- cost $13.) It's hard to recall what I was buying new and what I was buying old. It could very well be that I was buying very few new titles and a lot of old ones. Considering my hometown of Muncie had no comics shop as of yet, but I was buying my back issues from a pawn shop in the winter and about a half-dozen back-issues dealers set up in Shipshewana in the summer, this seems likely. Focused selling beats grocery store every time. At one point I became so enamored of older comic books, mostly Marvels, that I taped them above where I slept, making my bedroom the first place I encountered the terrifying Wall Of Comics so well known to every direct market shopper.

I know I bought Epic Illustrated, though. I assume without knowing that Epic was Marvel's stab at some of those Heavy Metal or Warren Publishing dollars, or perhaps a general rowing against what looked like the shudder and collapse of the entire comic book enterprise. Epic seemed like a big deal artistically, too, although definitely within the narrow parameters of providing a platform for slightly off-key genre material as opposed to formulaic superhero work. While I was familiar with Heavy Metal and bought it with friends whenever we could find it, Epic was much more widely available. You could find it at the drugstore in the town I spent my summers growing up, on the bottom shelf near the spinner rack. Heavy Metal they sold near or even with pornography, at least in my stated. Epic was a good deal because that could be your "get one thing" when your parents allowed it. My first issue was #2. I was enamored of the fantasy material, particularly the Roy Thomas/Tim Conrad adaptation of Almuric (full of bat-people; I was inordinately fond of bat-people) and Jim Starlin's Metamorphosis. The former plugged right into that part of my brain that figured I was destined for greater things in some kind of world one went to on a ray beam or by scrambling through a wardrobe or going biking with the Powell children. The latter I liked because I understood the rudimentary parable unfolding in front of me and every smart kid loves that first meal at the adult's table, no matter what's being served.

I read the first several issues religiously and continued to read Epic off and on for several years. The place where I bought my comics eventually changed, but I still needed to go to the drugstore and buying a comics magazine when there was a new one seemed like a great thing more often than not. I remember finding the Marada serial skeevy (the rape stuff) and the Elric material fascinating (the decorative art and somber tone), but mostly I held onto the smaller glimpses that flashed in and out of the various issues. Cholly and Flytrap. "Shiny Beast." By the time Galactus showed up, I had checked out -- at least emotionally. For one thing, I was pretty sure no one was going to whisk me away to fight Evil Lord Anything.
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