With Further Ado #250: 250th Anniversaries

Great bouncing Icebergs!*  It’s the 250th anniversary of this column.  That’s a lot of weekly columns.  And as is the case for so many of the things in the life of a geek culture enthusiast, I tend to translate and filter milestones through the lens of comic books.

For example, I can never go to a wedding and not imagine, albeit briefly, if a super-villain will interrupt the proceedings. That always happens to superheroes, doesn’t it?

Likewise, a 250th anniversary makes me think of how publishers typically celebrate the 250th issues of their comic series.

When John Byrne was writing and drawing the FF (it seems like just yesterday) , he celebrated The Fantastic Four’s 250th issue with guest stars from his past series, the cover proudly announced it was a “Special 250th Anniversary”. Other Marvel heroes like the X-Men, Captain America and Spidey dropped in to share the adventure.  Of course, some of them were Skrull imposters, but you get the idea.

Captain America #250 really “shouldn’t” count, as the numbering for this series switched over from a previous one, but in this issue John Byrne, along with writer pal Roger Stern (more on him later), crafted a very memorable tale.  It wasn’t so much an “all the toys in the toys box” type story, but rather a thoughtful proactive exploration of politics, the divisiveness of our society (probably even more relevant today) and the role of the individual.  This done-in-one story is often reprinted because it is so concise, impactful and well-crafted.

Unrecognized Anniversaries

When I was a younger collector, not all anniversaries were created equal. In fact, 250 wasn’t a big deal in the old days.

Superman #250 sports a wonderfully creepy Neal Adams cover. I really loved the interior art too. I was really into Curt Swan pencils topped off by the lush Murphy Anderson inks back in the day.  I still am in, fact.

But I was always disappointed when Terra Man, the space cowboy, showed up to face off against the Man of Steel.  And I am sure that back in the day I didn’t get how the title of the main story “Have Horse, Will Fly” was derived from Have Gun, Will Travel.  That outstanding radio show/TV program is a favorite of mine now.  But both then and now, the fact is irrefutable this important title’s 250th anniversary seems to have been ignored.

Also on the spinner racks in 1972, Our Army At War (featuring Sgt. Rock) #250 didn’t even give a nod to the anniversary either. But as you can see by this wonderful Joe Kubert cover, Sgt. Rock and Easy Company were focused instead on the matters at hand.

The following year, Batman #250 was similarly a big yawn. It was a non-event.  It is worth noting that this issue does have one of the greatest Batman stories as a back-up: “The Batman Nobody Knows” by Frank Robbins and Dick Giordano. In this tale, Bruce Wayne hears, firsthand, several young kids’ interpretations of Batman and struggles to understand their viewpoints.

Also, of note in this issue – the two lead stories (one for Batman, one for Robin) are both are illustrated by an outstanding Bat-artist; Irv Novick. I’m hip deep into an in-depth Back Issue Magazine article focusing on Novick’s long stints illustrating the Caped Crusader. I’m even more in awe of his talents the more I focus on his work.  It’s due next year – don’t miss it!

(And it’s a the 150th Anniversary Issue of Back Issue Magazine too.)

THIS Is How It’s Done

I tend to like Roger Stern’s style. He was a guest at the recent ITHACON in April, and was so warm, engaging and fun.  And you know what? He seemed to “get” what an 250th anniversary issue should be.

Amazing Spider-Man #250 (from 198x) featured Spidey’s climactic battle with the Hobgoblin. We had been waiting months for that one!  And Avengers #250 was an oversized issue with “Double-Size Double-Team Excitement”.  Roger essentially combined both Avengers franchises (at that time) into one overstuffed adventure.

Now that’s how you celebrate a 250th Anniversary. I think I’m treating myself to an overstuffed sandwich once this week’s column is published.

*As Yukon Cornelius was fond of saying