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A Study in Scarlet

We talk a lot here about comics. We talk about the stories and the interior art chores and the characterization. We talk about “key” issues and first appearances. We talk “line-ups” and “team-ups.”

But we all know what really gives us the biggest charge from comic collecting. What reaches into the depths of our brains and illuminates a moment in time from our personal histories. What reminds us where we were when we first held, read, bought a specific comic book. What we wore in those days. Who we were dating. What our favorite foods were.

It’s the covers, damn it!

While thinking about writing an Avengers column, I dug back into my memories and was reminded of just how many memories were trapped in my brain that revolved around these particular images. Preserved in amber in this head of mine that couldn’t tell you as I write these words where the heck my keys are.

Maybe not the most important issues in Avengers history, but important to me. Important because of their timeline in my evolutionary growth as a reader and comic fan.

AVENGERS #161: Bugs crawling all over our heroes. The truly weird part of this cover wasn’t that it creeped me out. It was that I was just feeling the tingle of my pre-teen years and the Scarlet Witch totally turned me on. Bugs and chicks. It explains a lot about who I’ve become.

AVENGERS ANNUAL #7: Jim Starlin. The Avengers in an  “Epic Cosmic Conflict!” It’s Avengers Star Wars.

AVENGERS #167: The Avengers in space again! The Beast taking the lead! The beginning of the ten-part (10!) Korvac Saga! Weird-ass aliens from the future! Doesn’t get any better.

AVENGERS #177: The last of the ten-part Korvac saga. Don Blake, his little doctor’s bag open, just pounds on everyone, sweat dripping off his brow. It’s violent and it disturbed me. And Wanda is in need of some serious mouth-to-mouth.

AVENGERS #181: One of those “the old guard changeth” covers, where everyone is hovered around the Avengers table-round, terribly afraid of the dude with the orange crew-cut. Gyrich. What a great villain.

Even better was the interior scene, where a totally different Avengers crew is seated around the table, and this time they all look like they’re going to kill this guy. Did I mention Wanda is in full-on dominatrix mode? Whoo-baby!

AVENGERS #187: There’s Wanda again. Only this time, she’s seething evil. A devil dominatrix, enjoying every minute. Again, it explains a whole lot.

AVENGERS #189: I always loved those “WHO?” “WHAT?” “WHY?” “WHERE?” covers. Pretty much any comic cover that asked me questions piqued my interest. It was like a game show and I had to open the pages to see how I did. And, umm, Wanda’s on the cover…

AVENGERS ANNUAL #10: This time, it isn’t questions thrown at us. It’s a series of temptations. “SEE!” “WITNESS!” “OBSERVE!” “BEHOLD!” There’s also a “Shock mystery guest!” and a great, incredibly tiny depiction of an Avengers vs. X-Men scene, with Wolverine giving them his version of the “finger”. Ever notice that Wanda and Hawkeye share the pointy-mask-headress thingamajig?

AVENGERS #223: Wow. Just brilliant. A cover conceived by the great Ed Hannigan. Ant-Man looks like he’s going to literally fly off the page and up our noses. If only Wanda was on the cover, it would have given a whole new meaning to the “SOMEBODY’S GONNA GET IT!” line.

There’s more, but I’ll wait until next week. Right now, I’m going to turn off my computer and go reminisce about a woman named “Maximoff”, the lady in red who did so much for me in the 70s and early 80s.

Yeah, I know it’s weird! But don’t you dare tell me you don’t have a favorite of your own that kept you up at night. And just maybe that cover is still hidden away in your closet for those very special and veeeery personal occasions…


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Welcoming the Future, Treasuring the Past.