O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
The penultimate Reason is here! As for the missing entries, some wonderful guest writers have stopped by to fill in the holes in the archive. I’ll rig up a catch-all post later so you don’t miss out on any of the retconned-in entries, but for now, you can dive into the archive and go hunting.
Today, however, I turn on the wayback machine to propel us back, back in time, to the strange, delirious days of… 1993! Wait, no, that can’t be right. It must be…
…1963! Image’s kooky six-issue pastiche of classic 60s Marvel was the brainchild of the bearded one himself, Alan Moore! Surprising, I know, but true. He teamed up with a bunch of his ridiculously talented friends for this project– friends like Rick Veitch, Dave Gibbons, Steve Bissette, Chester Brown, John Totleben, Jim Valentino, John Workman, Don Simpson, and more! The series served as both a loving look and a biting satire on ’60s comics and culture.
The titles included Mystery Incorporated, No One Escapes… the Fury, Tales of the Uncanny (featuring USA, the Ultimate Secret Agent, and Hypernaut), Tales from Beyond (with N-Man and Johnny Beyond), Horus, Lord of Light, and the Tomorrow Syndicate. The main characters served as plays on the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Dr. Strange, Thor, and the Avengers, with numerous other touches thrown in as well. On their own, the 1963 books stand as excellent comics. They even come complete with throwback touches like editorial captions to past issues, bulletin pages, letters pages, and cheesy ads (“Shamed by you English?”, Soil-Monkeys, and numerous Commie-bashing items). The issues serve as brilliant tongue-in-cheek packages. They’re also the complete antithesis to everything else Image was publishing at the time.
I picked up several of these books right around when they originally debuted, but it’s taken me until this year to finally complete the set. And boy, these are great works– fantastic throwbacks to a different time, but still telling super-compressed, exciting action/adventure stories. Moore’s able to laugh at old-timey comics and old-timey ways of thinking and still appreciate the storytelling value of these classic comics. It’s kinda like a Friar’s Roast to the age of Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Heck, and all the rest– it serves as a tribute to them while mocking them at the same time. And it’s all done brilliantly in-character. And oh, what characters! Crystal Man! Neon Queen! Kid Dynamo! The Planet! The Fury! The Voidoid! Red-Brain! Infra-Man! I can go on. These things are marvelous (pun lovingly intended). The stories bring across themes of conflict and travel between eras, cultures, and worlds.
However, the experiment never truly ended. It was meant to wrap up in a final one-shot drawn by Jim Lee and featuring a crossover between the characters of 1963 and the popular Image characters of 1993! In the end, it didn’t materialize, so it stands as an unfinished work. What is finished, however, was a stunning trip back to a bygone era, flawlessly produced as a product from that era. Pick ‘em up if you haven’t; they’ll never see collection. For evidence of just how glorious and ’60s-y they were, check out the pages I’ve provided for you– one from each story.
When I was a younger lad, I didn’t quite understand that these books were crazy one-shots. I thought I’d stumbled upon actual relics from a long-lost company or something! I really wanted to seek out all the old stories referred to within 1963’s pages! Of course, I did cotton on to the fact that it was all a gag, but the comics held enough power to convince me otherwise, even for just a short duration.
These books have to be read to be believed; summary can’t do them justice. For more on the dimension-jumping, Commie-smashing, rip-roarin’ madness of 1963, however, then check out these annotations, read this look back (complete with in-character interviews by the creators), and check out Greg Burgas’ own Comics You Should Own column on the series. You can also read more thoughts on 1963, as well as the fake ads within the issues, here.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.