Back Issue

Back Issue

Back Issue #18

by Michael Eury, et al


Amusingly, the latest installment of Twomorrows’ Back Issue ‘zine is touted as the “Big Green Issue”; and this is to be taken quite literally as pretty much every article hews faithfully to that theme, covering a character who has the word “Green” in their name, a writer/artist who is associated with one of the aforementioned characters, or a hero/villain who is mostly, yes, green. The only two notable exceptions are a love letter to the resurrected E-Man comic and a mini-portfolio of artist David Gibbons’ rough sketches. But, c’mon, it’s Dave Gibbons! There’s some gorgeous Green Lantern Corps rough drawings, so all is forgiven. (Ha!)

Indeed, the combination of feature material, interviews and roundtables with seasoned professionals, expressions of devotion to a character/title, or concise historical recaps of a character’s exploits make Back Issue a fine purchase and keep up the level of quality that I associate with the Twomorrows stamp.

John Wells’ recapping of the Martian Manhunters’ somewhat convoluted continuity, from the late 1950s until last year, complete with issue numbers, is an excellent pop-culture research tool that I should hope ends up on the web soon. Good, good stuff. Jim Kingman’s piece on the “solo” adventures of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, post Green Lantern/Green Arrow, follows in a very similar, well-researched vein; however, Kingman goes hog wild and augments his own chronology/commentary with reflections and insight offered forth by many of the creators involved in these issues — giving you a sort of director’s cut look behind the curtain. Al Nickerson uses much the same methodology, but with a much more subjective bent, to show why Guy Gardner was the best of the Green Lanterns. Writer/artist Mike Grell holds forth on his critically-lauded ’80s Green Arrow run — one that culminated in one of the first DC graphic novels, Longbow Hunters — discussing stylistic influences and his conscious decision to take Green Arrow into a more realistic, urban environment.

Michael Browning assists the creators behind the 1990s revival of Green Hornet in telling their side of the story; it’s an enlightening, but ultimately frustrating tale of a promising title being chocked under the weight of business nonsense. Writer Peter David is more than happy to look back at his lengthy Hulk run and discuss the various shifts he made to the Hulk persona. Neal Adams hands over gobs of Green Lantern/Green Arrow sketches and studies (from the politically aware and influential “Hard Travelling Heroes” run) and holds forth on everything from his fondness for science to making a good 3-d comic. The most eye-opening piece of the whole magazine, however, has to be the Roundtable discussion with august creators Gerry Conway and John Romita Sr. on their decision to kill Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin back in 1973, a decision that still has repercussions to this day for the Marvel “universe.” Conway and Romita both evince total bemusement at how that, for many, has become the pivotal Spider Man tale; they plead innocent to “killing the Silver Age,” and simply state that they were trying to tell a more realistic, serious Spider-Man tale. Despite protestations that they were just trying to meet a deadline and tell a good story, without thought to long-term consequences, the ease with which they explain their motivations and retrace the writing process behind that issue seems to hint that this is not something that’s been far from the minds of either man for very long.

Awesome. Back Issue is one of my favorite Twomorrows periodicals. It’s less burdened by the responsibility of history that Alter Ego bears so well and it’s more freewheeling and freeform than the writer/artist or collector-oriented titles. More prone to fevered rhapsodies or fannish recaps of a character’s entire “career” and minutiae (with passion) like that, which I love. Like a more organized, though still anarchic and subjective, message board, just without the trolls.

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