Marvel Riot #1 (December, 1995)
“X-Men Alphalpha”, Page One
Plot – Scott Lobdell
Words/Art – Hilary Barta
Inks – Rurik Tyler
Letters – Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors – Mike Worley
Edits – (Mariano) Nicieza, Potts
Okay gang – what follows might be the stupidest… or laziest idea I’ve had in a long while.
Now, if you’ve been following along during our X-Men Vignettes endeavor, you might know that I’m missing a few of the issues of Classic X-Men I’m gonna need in order to see it through (stupid self-imposed rules) — and, with Vignette #27, we’ve reached one of them. I’m still on the lookout, and will be dedicating a few trips over the next few days to tracking them down — so, the project is by no mean abandoned… it’s just on a (hopefully very brief) hiatus.
I considered pulling a Todd McFarlane, and just skipping to Vignette #28… and just backfilling whenever I got a hold of #27… but, I can barely keep this stuff straight as it is! Even linear numbers are too damn mindboggling for your humble host.
So, what’s an idiot to do when he wants to keep putting out daily content… but has hit a roadblock such as this? Well, I think over the past six years I’ve proven to be rather adaptable… when, and only when, I’m forced. So, here goes nothin’.
Yesterday I figured I’d just cover 1995’s Marvel Riot #1 here today. I mean, it’s weird, it’s X’y, it’s not something you see everyday — and, hell — even as the Fake-Ass Comics Historian I claim to be, I didn’t even know it x-isted until happening upon it in a random “M-Bin” a few months back! I gave it a quick read that same day — thought it was a lot of fun — but, didn’t really think about it again.
But, ya know, duty calls, right? I thought this’d be a perfect bit of weirdness to share here today. An Age of Apocalypse piss-take — and a brutally honest one, at that — by Hilary Barta and Friends, what could go wrong?
Well — here’s what might go wrong — there are so many fun nods, gags, and references crammed into every single page (almost every single panel), that if I were to do the normal CioIE piece on this, I’d very likely miss a bunch of ’em! As I sat down to give the ish a proper re-read last night, it took me several minutes just to get through the first page. My mind started darting in several different directions… I started getting that researcher’s “itch” — I wanted to be able to try and get and share every reference I could — and, even as a self-professed Fake-Ass Comics Historian — I’m not sure I’ll be able to!
I’ll try my best though.
But how though? Well, by going page-by-page and doing my damnedest to Annotate this wonderful little piece of 90s satire. I’ve heard that there are video and podcast series that dedicate entire installments to a single minute of a piece of film, or television show. I’ve never watched or listened to one, because, if I’m being honest, that sounds prrrrrrretty dreadful… at least to me.
Today though, I’m gonna steal a page outta that book — and begin our look at Marvel Riot #1… One Page at a Time.
Like I said at the jump… this might be my stupidest… or laziest idea yet!
By the way — if you notice that I missed (or misidentified) a reference, please let me know so I can add/correct! Thanks!
Marvel Riot, Page One – Panels 1-3
This page echoes the first page of X-Men Alpha almost perfectly. Not exactly a panel-by-panel recreation (obviously), but pretty damn close. This is Bishop’s climb up the stack of putrefying bodies in Seattle. As a pretty big fan of the Seattle area (which is to say, I land at Sea-Tac, pick up my rental and get outta the city as quickly as possible), this checks out. Anyway, Bishop climbs over the “rotting comic book characters” — hopefully I’ll be able to name most of ’em.
We’ve got Mickey Mouse — and, I respect all of you far too much to make an “isn’t that ironic” sorta statement. Also, Deadman, Bugs Bunny… a few (seemingly?) generic toons… and a dead baby. Wow, nothin’ sez startin’ off hot like a dead baby in panel one!
I should probably at least try and do the Cosmic Treadmilly thing here, eh? Okay, okay…
Mickey Mouse first appeared in the 1928 cartoon short, Steamboat Willie. His first comic appearance was as a King Features strip which debuted on January 13, 1930, written by Walt Disney with art by Ub Iwerks and Win Smith (later Floyd Gottfredson). The strips would start being collected in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories in 1940 — published by Dell Comics. The series continues even to this day, having jumped publishers several times over the past 80 or so years — though, oddly (but somewhat unsurprisingly), never published by Marvel!
In 1995, Mickey’s comic adventures were being published by Gladstone in Walt Disney’s Donald and Mickey… which ran until July. This would be replaced by Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse (also from Gladstone). I guess new #1’s were a thing even in mid-90’s Disney comics?
Bugs Bunny first appeared in 1940’s A Wild Hare… though, his “preliminary debut” is considered to be as “Happy Rabbit” in Porky’s Hare Hunt (1938). His first comic appearance (as far as I can tell) was in Large Feature Comics #8 (1942) published by Dell Comics. LFC was a pretty strange series to look at through “current year” eyes. It’s comprised of various licensed characters from the newspaper funnies. We’ve got Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Popeye, Pluto, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. Very interesting stuff… if you’re into that.
Come 1995, Looney Tunes comics were being published by DC Comics — and, believe it or not — still are! Gotta assume Bugs showed/shows up there from time to time.
Deadman first appeared in Strange Adventures #205 (October, 1967) and was created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino. We’ve talked plenty about ol’ Boston Brand here at the site — and, if I had the hours to dedicate to properly installing “tags” to the several thousand posts here — I’d make those discussions very easy to find! For now though, if you’re interested in my take, just queue up “Deadman” in the search bar!
Deadman actually had a wee bit of a presence in 1995 — which, surprises me somewhat. He would appear in Lobo/Deadman: The Brave and the Bald one-shot (January, 1995). A collected edition containing the Mike Baron/Kelley Jones prestige-format stories Exorcism and Love After Death would be released as Deadman: Lost Souls (May), Boston would also pop up in Underworld Unleashed: Abyss — Hell’s Sentinel #1 the same month as Marvel Riot (December, 1995).
Bishop continues his climb, making his way past Batman, Donald Duck (with a face on his butt?), and… this might be a reach… but, I think the fellow in the pointed hat is supposed to be Moebius’ Arzach? Yeah, let’s go with that for now.
If you’re reading this site, Batman probably needs no introduction. If you accidentally stumbled upon this site while looking for something far more interesting… here’s the beyond quick n dirty. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939), and was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger… or Bill Finger and Bob Kane, whichever you prefer. I actually covered his first adventure here on the site, as it was reprinted in Detective Comics #627 (1991). Give’re a click if yer interested.
As far as Bats circa-1995… well, he cries out here that he’s got a film career, so — to quote a certain song, “Same as it ever was”. Back in ’95, despite the fact that (just like today) DC pumps out several dozen Bat-Books (a week), all anybody wanted to talk about were the movies. 1995 was Batman Forever year, yes? I can’t speak to the quality of the flick, as even as a jaded, cynical 15-year old, I knew I didn’t need the movies in my life.
Odd and pointless little aside, back around 1995 I bought my first portable CD player. Probably spent a couple hundred dollars on it — so, I could just barely afford the machine, but no CDs… which, obviously isn’t ideal. Since I was the “comics kid” in my family, I’d be gifted a copy of the Batman Forever soundtrack… because, obviously that’d be right up my alley, yes? Needless to say, that year I listened to Seal’s Kiss From a Rose and U2’s Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me more than anybody else on the planet.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Batman. Just like now, nobody cared about the comics back in 1995.
Donald Duck first appeared in 1934’s The Wise Little Hen cartoon short. His first comics appearance was in the February 10, 1935 Mickey Mouse strip “Editor-in-Grief”… though his first appearance in print was an ad in the June, 1934 issue of Good Housekeeping. His first comic book appearance was in Odhams Press (UK)’s Mickey Mouse Weekly #67 (May 15, 1937) in a fifteen-page story called Donald and Donna. The Donald Duck comic strip would debut on February 7, 1938 and would run until 1995 (maybe that’s why he appears to be “dead” in this panel (hmmm…. okay, probably not)!
In 1995, Donald Duck was very much alive in comics form — despite his strip being canned. As with Mickey, his exploits were being published by Gladstone, where he’d appear in the aforementioned titles as well as The Carl Barks Library of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories in Color (that’s a mouthful of reprint material), Donald Duck, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Adventures, Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge, and Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge Adventures. Donald was a very busy boy indeed!
Assuming that pointy-hatted feller is Arzach, he’s a character I’m not terribly experienced with. The works of Moebius were definitely on the short-list for Cosmic Treadmill/Weird Comics History episodes, which sadly never came to be. One of the things about working on those projects was that it would incentivize reading things I normally wouldn’t make the time for. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again — but, when you’re reading-for-content-creation, you have precious little time for “side projects”. As such, the works of Jean Giraud have kinda fallen off my radar.
So, together, let’s learn us a bit about this Arzach, eh? He first appeared in Metal Hurlant #1 (December, 1974). Metal Hurlant was the French Magazine from Moebius and Friends, which we in the States would later know as Heavy Metal. Arzach would appear in five issues of Heavy Metal, four in 1977 and one in 1992. The four 1977 appearances would be collected into Heavy Metal Presents: Arzach (also 1977), which is notable as Moebius’ first-ever English language collection. Marvel’s EPIC line would publish a slew of Moebius works as graphic novels from 1987-1991, six of which would feature our pointy-headed pal. In 1992, Kevin Eastman’s publishing house Tundra would release a six-issue Legends of Arzach series, featuring the talents of Moebius, as well as a who’s who of the comics industry (Wendy Pini, Paul Chadwick, Mike Mignola, among others).
1995 didn’t see any Arzach stories, however, in 1996 Dark Horse Comics would release a collected reprint titled Moebius: Arzach. That same year, Caliber Comics would release a six-issue series simply called Moebius Comics. Arzach appears in it.
Good grief, but I’ve been at this for a long time — and we’re only three panels in! This third panel has Bishop pulling himself even further up the pile… with the help of Plastic Man’s tongue! In addition to Plas, We’ve got Will Eisner’s The Spirit, some cowled fella… and another fella in a red and black striped shirt. If anybody can help me identify the last two, please do!
Plastic Man first appeared in Police Comics #1 (August, 1941) published by Quality Comics and created by Jack Cole. In 1956, DC/National Comics would obtain the rights to the Quality characters, but would not reintroduce them until 1973. These included The Freedom Fighters (Uncle Sam and the Gang). In 1995 it had been a minute since Plas had done all that much — he’d become a lot busier in the years that follow in JLA and eventually another go at his own solo ongoing. He would pop up a couple of times during the calendar year, though – first, he’d be one of the skatey-eight hundred DC Comics characters to show up at the opening of Guy Gardner’s Warriors Bar in Guy Gardner: Warrior #29. Later on in the year, he’d appear in The Golden Age by James Robinson and Paul Smith.
The Spirit… is kinda like our new friend, Arzach — a character I wish I knew more about, and who was most definitely prepped for a ride on our Cosmic Treadmill. One of our final episodes of Weird Comics History was a discussion on Eisner/Miller, the book that contained a bunch of transcribed chats between Frank Miller and Will Eisner. This was to serve as a primer for some future Eisner-centric coverage, including (obviously) The Spirit. So, let’s meet him… together!
Will Eisner’s The Spirit first appeared in… The Spirit #1 (June 2, 1940). The Spirit was an eight-page weekly comic strip that was inserted into several American newspapers. Eisner created the character along with Everett “Busy” Arnold, the Golden Age Publisher of Quality Comics — so, this is a very “Quality-heavy” panel, eh? Come 1995, ol’ Denny Colt wasn’t doing a whole heck of a lot outside of being in some very expensive collections (like 1995’s The Christmas Spirit) published by Denis Kitchen’s Kitchen Sink Press who held his publishing rights. Those rights have bounced from publisher to publisher — come the turn of the century, DC Comics would have ’em, followed by IDW, and (as of this writing) Dynamite Entertainment.
Thank goodness, we’re on to the second row of panels! I really thought this was gonna be a “gimme”! Anyway, this fourth panel features characters whose sales have died… and they include Doctor Strange, The Punisher, and (I’m assuming) The Old Witch from EC Horror Comics.
Doctor Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (July, 1963) and was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko… or Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, if you prefer. I’m not sure its fair to say his sales had completely died by this point, as his own solo ongoing was… well, still going (for another six months or so). Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme ran for 90 issues, from cover-date November, 1990 until cover-date June, 1996. If you were to ask me, the only noteworthy thing about the entire volume was the fact that the singer Amy Grant sued Marvel over her likeness being used on the cover of issue #15.
The Punisher is a curious pick for this panel… at least my own skewed rose-colored hindsight sez so. Even doing a bit of research now tells me that Frank had a couple of ongoings still… ongoing (Punisher and Punisher: War Zone), along with Punisher 2099! Though, in fairness, I wanna say a couple years before this, he probably had twice as many. Also, in 1995 his original ongoing was canned and relaunched with a brand-new #1… maybe he did need a bit of a zsuszing in the sales department? Oh almost forgot, his first appearance was in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (October, 1973), and he was created by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, and John Romita.
The Old Witch… if that is in fact The Old Witch is — say it with me, another character I have little-to-no experience with. Oh — and stop me if you heard this a time or two before — Golden and Silver-Age horror comics were on the Cosmic Treadmill list! Anyway, T.O.W. first appeared in EC Comics’ Haunt of Fear #15 (May, 1950). I wanna say she was created by Al Feldstein… but, I can’t say for sure.
By 1995, it might’ve been safe to say that the era of the classic horror comic was over. Or, at the very least wasn’t selling the way it would back in the pre-Code days… and even into the Bronze-Age. The Old Witch, however, would pop up quite a bit in reprints this year — published by Gemstone. Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Crime Suspenstories reprints came out all year long! If I were a betting man… and y’all know I’m not… I’d suggest they didn’t exactly burn up the sales charts.
Onto the characters who died due to the glut of crossovers! Wow, once again, cue up David Byrne, cuz it’s “same as it ever was”. Here we’ve got Swamp Thing, Captain America, and… some cartoony-looking dude with a bullet hole in his chest. If anybody can identify that perforated puppet-man, please let me know!
Swamp Thing is an interesting inclusion, as this is one of the characters who had a seminal run that defined comics writing for a generation. That generation, by 1995… was long over. Now, Swampy first appeared in Swamp Thing #1 (November, 2011) and was created by Scott Sny… err, waitasec, listening to the wrong podcast — Swamp Thing (Alex Olsen) first appeared in House of Secrets #92 (July, 1971) and was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. The Alec Holland Swampy most of us know would first appear a little over a year later in Swamp Thing #1 (November, 1972).
By 1995, Swamp Thing (vol.2) fka. Saga of the Swamp Thing was nearing the end of its run. It had been shifted over to the Vertigo Line some years prior, and would run until issue #171 (October, 1996). From there, Swamp Thing wouldn’t have his own ongoing until the turn of the century. I can’t say for sure that his series met its end due to the glut of crossovers — though, I suppose I can’t say it didn’t either. Swamp Thing as a series was only sucked into one crossover post-Vertigo, The Children’s Crusade (Swamp Thing Annual #7 – 1993) — however, maybe the monies demanded by the glut of other comics being in constant “crossovent” mode caused Swampy to fall off’a some folks pull lists?
Captain America is a pretty ironic inclusion here — as, in late 1995, he was just a few months away from literally losing his book due to a glut-sized crossover event! Onslaught and Heroes Reborn is just around the corner! Anyway, Cap first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (December, 1940). He was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Oh boy, we’re finally here — the end of… page one. Ya know, maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. Here Bishop is just about to the top of the rotting comic character cluster. He’s begging us to turn the page — but, not so fast, kemosabe — we’ve still gotta do ta t’ing. Among those comic character corpses is… Alfred E. Neuman, Zippy the Pinhead, I wanna say… Snoopy, I also wanna say… Dick Tracy, and… maybe Walt Wallet from Gasoline Alley? Maybe the drunk neighbor from Hi and Lois? I really don’t know who this dude at the bottom is — if anybody can help, please do!
So, let’s start with Alfred E. Neuman. First though, full transparency – MAD Magazine has never really been my thing. In fact, I can say with certainty that I own zero issues of the thing. I’ve got a reprint of MAD #1 back when it was a comic book — but, never the mag with the gap-toothed kid on the cover. MAD was… sigh, say it with me… a multiple-part Cosmic Treadmill topic in the waiting. Reggie and I did cover an ish from its comics days — but, never got to discuss the mag. The mag’s mascot (magscot? madscot?) Alfred E. Neumann first appeared on the front cover of The Mad Reader from Ballentine Books (November, 1954) — this was a collected edition of comics from the first couple of years of MAD.
He would next appear almost hidden on the cover of MAD #21 (March, 1955) as part of a phony rubber mask advertisement. His rubber mask was called “The Idiot”, and came with a price tag of $1.29. Alfred was created by Harvey Kurtzman… and, his whole story deserves a lot more time than I have to give right now. Maybe somewhere down the line we’ll revisit Neumann. Maybe I’ll even have a little help?
Zippy the Pinhead first appeared in Real Pulp Comics #1 (March, 1971) from Print Mint created by Bill Griffith. A very unpleasant-looking character, who I’ve never been able to read… because he’s so unpleasant to look at. Though, in fairness, that is kind of by design. Griffith stated he was inspired by the movie Freaks (1932), which featured a microcephalic character called Schlitzie to create Zippy. Zippy would get his own strip in The Berkeley Barb, a weekly underground newspaper in Berkeley, California in 1976… it would only take a few months for it to by picked up and syndicated nationally by King Features Syndicate. Worth noting, Zippy actually coined the phrase “Are We Having Fun Yet?” in Yow Comics #2 (Last Gasp-1978). Learn something new every day!
Next up is… I wanna say Snoopy. Snoopy first appeared in Charles Schulz’ Peanuts on October 4, 1950.
He wouldn’t be named “Snoopy” until the November 10, 1950 strip.
And, I mean… it’s Snoopy. You know who Snoopy is.
Finally (and I do mean finally), it’s… I wanna say Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy is a comic strip character based on Eliot Ness, originally called “Plainclothes Tracy” created by Chester Gould who made his newspaper debut on October 4, 1931 in the Detroit Mirror. Early on, Dick Tracy (the strip not the character) would be called out for its violence… which, I suppose when you’re sharing the funnies page with Little Orphan Annie, it wouldn’t take much to look hyperviolent. Dick Tracy, like Alfred E. Neumann, and Snoopy above — hell, like most of the character above — would require pages and pages of my chatter to do even the smallest amount of justice to. So, we’ll put a pin in ol’ Tracy for now. Maybe there’ll be some offbeat Weird Comics History-esque content in the offing? I’ve suddenly got the itch…
Anyway — it’s probably about time for us to finally give in to Bishop’s request and, ya know, turn the damn page. Next time out… if there is a next time… I’ll be pulling double-duty, cuz what follows is a good ol’ two-page spread! If you enjoyed this weird little ditty, please do me a favor and let me know. Hell, if you didn’t like this — please do me the kindness of letting me know.
One last thing before I jam — here is Page One from Riot… and Page One of X-Men Alpha, so you can fully appreciate the homage being paid here.