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Marvel Fanfare #25
posted July 2, 2007


Creators: Doug Moench, Pat Broderick, Brett Breeding, Rick Parker, Dave Sim, Bill Mantlo, June Brigman, Terry Austin
Publishing Information: Marvel, comic book, 32 pages, March 1986, $1.50
Ordering Numbers:

With today's frequently long-delayed individual issues of comic book series and tightly controlled continuity between books, it's hard to think of Marvel as a publishing house s awash in inventory pieces and off-genre one-shots. But that's exactly what they were 20 years, as evidenced by the mid-1980s anthology Marvel Fanfare. Marvel Fanfare was for its fans an experience like sitting around a favorite restaurant after close with a chef bringing around various items from the fridge. Some are better than what's on the menu, some are dog food, but all are presented in a kind of laid-back, no-pressure kind of way. Comics by David Mazzucchelli and Barry Windsor-Smith and Charles Vess were among the best of what the magazine offered.

imageThe issue presented here doesn't have those kinds of stories; the ones they do have are pretty awful. A forgettable Bill Mantlo and June Brigman piece featuring Captain Universe, the hero who could be you, provides some unintentional humor in that its overheated public school hallways filled with full-on teacher assaults and slit throats can be seen as a concentrated version of the nightmarish New York City that all of Marvel's second generation seemed to depict in those days, a roving street gang in every alley. It's still pretty miserable.

The lead story is part of a Weirdworld serial. Weirdworld was Marvel's answer to JRR Tolkein's popularity and the superhero comic's mid-'70s decline, a series of uninspired fantasy comics that strongly indicate the exact question put to Marvel included the words "lifeless" and "cheap-looking." "Raven's Dark Sorcery" includes scenes of generic fantasy mayhem and magic of the Lee Horsley variety. It's the kind of story where one of the characters being called "Mud-Butt" approximately 57,000 times is supposed to be hilarious rather than make you want to kill yourself, the female lead sports a fur bikini and Barbara Mandrell's hair, and the dwarves look like Michael Jeter with a bushy mustache. This issue's tale, an arbitrary march down passageways and through various secret portals so random and perfunctory you can practically smell the Cheetos, Mt. Dew and plastic dice, fails to entertain even according to the not very rigorous standards of Weirdworld.

The real reason anyone would want this comic these days is that the issue's pin-ups were drawn by Dave Sim, working in a kind of roughly-realized distant relative of Neal Adams' art that one finds in Cerebus from the original Palnu trilogy up through the second half of High Society. The portraits are odd and blocky and weird, more of a reflection on Sim's approach to such art than a road not taken for mainstream funnybooks. You also get a sense of what characters the noted self-publisher found interesting, and in that Sim shows good taste. That may not be reason enough to spend a lot of money on this orphan of Marvel's mid-'80s flush period, but it's hard to imagine anyone asking for more than a buck.