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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 360

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the comics posted so far!

In honor of the blizzard that has wreaked havoc here in the Northeast, I’ve decided to spotlight a classic John Byrne issue of Alpha Flight (I think you might all know what I’m thinking here)…

Enjoy!

Byrne used a very interesting approach to the early days of Alpha Flight. When he created the characters for use in the pages of the X-Men, they were little more than throwaway characters. When they were then given their own series, Byrne realized that he had to give these characters personalities ASAP, so after an introductory issue and then a team-based story with the Master of the World, Byrne began to devote a long string of issues to spotlight the various individual members of the team more than the team as a whole (and he had been doing back-ups from #2-on telling the various origins of the team and its members). This lasted from #5 through #11, and when the team got back together for #12, well, while we all know that the term “game-changer” is over used, it certainly applies to Alpha Flight #12.

In any event, issue #6 was the chance to spotlight Snowbird, and it was titled “Snowblind.”

The issue showed an interesting approach to superhero secret identities, as the government had created an identity for Snowbird to use to pass as a human – that of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. Well, as you might imagine, there are a bit fewer opportunities for a RCMP officer to sneak away to do superhero stuff that, say, a freelance photographer or an eccentric billionaire, so when the original commanding officer of her post (who was clued in to her situation) died, she was in a pickle. It’s an interesting take on a familiar superhero trope by Byrne.

Meanwhile, there’s also a subplot of Guardian (the leader of the team) coming to terms with the fact that he’s now unemployed but also effectively the Captain America of Canada.

Anyhow, a bad guy shows up and Snowbird has to escape from her prison cell and take on the bad guy, and here is where Byrne uses one of the more inventive (and humorous) storytelling sequences you’ll see in a superhero comic book…

Pretty darn cool, eh?

Early Byrne Alpha Flight was filled with a lot of experimental storytelling (and risky plot decisions). Good stuff from Byrne.

18 Comments

Risky is definitely the right word for it. You have to be confident in your storytelling abilities to try something like this, but he pulled it off.

Wow. Nice story, but how did “Fool it now” (instead of “feel it now”) get past the editors?

I hope you also spotlight #13. As one lettercol writer put it (this is from memory): Byrne’s pictures without words are better than his words without pictures. That was a nightmare-issue comic that gave me the heebie-jeebies.

And of course, how can you not spotlight #12– it was my intro to Alpha Flight, and it rapidly became my favorite comic, the first one I can remember actively hunting for every month. And this was before the direct market had become as widespread and exclusive as it is now, so it was hunting at supermarkets, drugstores, and 7-11s for me.

“Nice story, but how did “Fool it now” (instead of “feel it now”) get past the editors?”

@ CPADave71: I’m sure that besides the fact that nobody’s perfect, the editorial may have been less lax in the ’80′s than they are now.

@ Mr. B.C.: Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this particular issue a part of that “Assistant’s Editors Month” during that year? Hence the experimental stage from Mr. Byrne that he got away with.

Being Canadian myself, I enjoyed the Alpha Flight series, especially when it was done by John Byrne (a Canadian himself). I felt that the first 28 issues was the best and was sorry that he left when he did to do the Incredible Hulk.

Eh, it’s one of those tricks you can pull off because no one else has done anything else like it, but the end effect isn’t all that impressive.

Brian, thanks for spotlighting Alpha Flight. I wish there were more articles (and comics) being done about these heroes as they were original and groundbreaking, yet never held up as being so. I guess it just goes to show Byrne’s talent, that, with characters he didn’t really care for, he was able to create a fresh take on super hero comics and tell some unique stories in some unique ways.

That first year of Byyrne’s ALPHA FLIGHT was amazing. It is probably the best long form intro of a super-team. It is remarkable how little it amounted to in the long run,

Byrne was a true risk tacker not to mention he with that story showed snow bird is a force to not mess with .

I really go to hate Byrne’s Alpha Flight because it seemed that he tried to make fun of the readers or comicbookdom by killing guardian repeatedly and then bringing him back to live. I got tired of this after the second time. Then I picked an issue some months later and he had been killed again. I’m glad I had decided to drop it.

@marco

Byrne only killed Guardian once. His first “resurrection” (the one and only time Byrne did it) was a fake out and was revealed to be a robot sent by Jerry Jaxxon to infiltrate Alpha Flight. It was later writers who brought Mac back from the dead only to kill him again in what seems to have become a running gag.

I haven’t read a great many Alpha Flights, but I have this one and I’ve always loved it.

“I haven’t read a great many Alpha Flights, but I have this one and I’ve always loved it.”

@ Mary Warner: A lady after me own heart! ;-)

So did he get paid for “drawing” those pages?

Yep.

Sorry, but everyone pretty much made fun of this one at the time, including Marvel themselves – It was part of Assistant Editors Month, where each title had some gag content. Also, around that time, What If did a comedy issue which included “What If Silver Surfer, White Tiger, Night Rider, Iceman, & Moon Knight Fought Wendigo In A Snowstorm” and “What If The Black Panther Fought The Shroud In A Coal Mine”, which were nothing but all-white and all-black panels.

I’m not a Byrne fan, but let’s give credit where it’s due. Panel borders, captions and sound effects are used perfectly here to replace actual art. You can practically “see” what is happening in every panel.

I think Byrne pissed his talent away, but that’s something else again. This is a great little piece of comic book storytelling, and it deserves to be celebrated.

Doug M.

Can I be the one who asks “who was the letterer, the person who did most of the real work?” It looks like Orzechowski to me, but it could be someone else.

Truly one of the laziest bits of storytelling in the history of comics.

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