X-Factor (1986) 27

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Gifts is just that, a gift from Louise and Walter Simonson.

X-Factor (1986) 27

X-Factor (1986) 27

X-Factor – and the mutant population of the Marvel U – are at a crossroads. The X-books are poised to dominate the comic book market. Already they are more popular than flagship titles like the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man.

X-Factor 27 is a lull before the deluge of mutant kind on evereything Marvel. Apocalypse and his four horsemen have been beaten. The X-Men are dead – supposedly. It’s Christmas Eve.

The aftermath of the previous battle is assessed. Many homes have been destroyed and people hospitalized. X-Factor and their mutant charges are no strangers to the bigotry shown them, but neither are they heartless enough to ignore the plight of others.

A majority of New Yorkers are grateful enough to show their appreciation for X-Factor’s sacrifices. A tree and presents flood their new home. But the children understand it is the season of giving and wish to return the bounty to others more needful than themselves.

The story not only offers a transition from one story arc to another, but allows readers a chance to focus on Christmas with the characters. Some of the background stories bleed through, but can be ignored to enjoy a holiday tale.

X-Factor itself began in 1986 with the reunited original X-Men: Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Ice Man.

Angel, Beast and Ice Men were members of the Defenders when X-Factor launched. The other title was due to be canceled allowing them to return to their original fold.

Their beard against mutant bigotry is to become mutant hunters. The plan is “capture” mutants and teach them how to use their powers. Much like Professor Charles Xavier when he first formed the X-Men.

The title is currently in its fourth incarnation, having launched this year as part of Dawn of X.

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The Punisher Summer Special (1994) 4

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Summer officially ended when the clock tolled at midnight.

Saying goodbye is the final installment of the The Punisher Summer Special. The perennial series ran four years, 1990 to 1994, before Marvel began to feel the industry falter and titles became casualties.

While the book suffered from various writers and artists, issue four made for a worthy swansong.

Don Lomax, a Viet Nam veteran, took a sabbatical from Apple’s Viet Nam Journal to pen the first story, Soiled Legacy. Alberto Saichann gave the story life through his pencils.

Frank Castle, aka Punisher, stumbles upon a poaching ring. Teaming with an African official, the two travel back to the dark continent for justice.

Killing An Afternoon is a welcome Chuck Dixon romp with some dark humor and justice. Frank gives the dentist’s office a worse reputation.

There are still warm days ahead, but the inevitable is coming. Hope the summer was good. It’s a long wait ’till the next one.

Punisher Summer Special (1994) 4

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Hazel & ChaCha Save Christmas (2019) 1

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The days are shortening and Christmas is beginning to peek around the discounted summer items. If the hands of time could be turned back, the Sears Wish Book would be on its way.

So, it’s not too early to begin thinking about Christmas. Shopping has already started. It’s the only way to include everyone on your list without resorting to selling organs.

The ambassadors today are Hazel and ChaCha, two hitmen from the Temps Aeternalis. Their mission is to kill a specified number of Umbrella Academy members, 00.05, but aren’t picky about collateral damage.

In this special, they are commissioned to track down a rogue time agent and cross paths with a plot to discredit Christmas.

With no background on the pair or situation, I cannot honestly give an opinion of the book. To me, it was confusing, jumping between the title characters and the guest stars. Neither seemed to mesh in any sort of storytelling fashion.

Even when the explosions settled, I wasn’t sure what had happened.

The two are supposed to be Netflix favs. Again, I know nothing about that. There’s not even a Wikipedia entry on the two. How famous can they be?

If a fan, try it out. If not, do some research first.

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Amazing Spider-Man (1963) 248

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For a brief time in almost as brief a life, Timothy Harrison is given an opportunity to meet his hero.

Roger Stern writes a doubleheader in this issue, but it’s not “And He Strikes Like a Thunderball” that’s remembered. Cover story and second feature, “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” is the focus of the book. It also makes a strong case for today’s observance:  National Tackle Kids Cancer Day.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) 248

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) 248

After reading a column in the Daily Bugle, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is made aware of a fan. While readers won’t learn the real reason for the rare visit till story’s end, we are able to enjoy the wide-eyed innocence of the fan and the bittersweet revelations made by the hero.

With an unprecedented gesture Spider-Man leaves his young fan to face another day. If one is granted. The final panels reveal Timothy has leukemia. His time is short.

Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children. The American Cancer Society estimates leukemia will claim 22,840 lives this year. About three out of four leukemias among children and teens are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Most of the remaining cases are acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

For more information, log onto the ACS Web site.

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National Comics (1949) 1

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The original Uncle Sam and comic book hero each have a colorful story. One we celebrate today with the presidentially proclaimed Uncle Sam Day.

Uncle Sam began as slang to identify barrels of meat supplied to soldiers during the War of 1812. The recently formed United States of America was shortened to the stamped U.S. on the barrels. Soldiers began to identify these as being from Uncle Sam, aka meat packer Samuel Wilson of New York.

National Comics (1949) 1

National Comics (1949) 1

The first depiction of Uncle Sam appeared in Harper’s Weekly for a political cartoon. Thomas Nast is credited with the version we know today, bedecked in top hat and striped pants.

Montgomery Flagg was the artist who portrayed the steely-eyed, stern Sam on the iconic “I Want You for the U.S. Army” posters proliferating America during World War I.

Our Uncle was originally published by Quality Comics in 1940. This four-colored Sam was rumored to be the ghost of a Revolutionary War soldier who died fighting for the new nation from England.

Sam jumped ship for DC in 1950 when National Periodicals bought out Quality and its stable of characters. He wouldn’t see much print before the 1970s when he became a supporting member of the Justice League of America.

As the U.S. began obsessing over the bicentennial, Sam returned leader of the Freedom Fighters.

The character continued to undergo various incarnations over the years, based on the whims of writers.

On Sept. 13, 1989, President George H.W. Bush signed Uncle Sam Day into existence. Samuel Wilson’s birthday was used as the date, which coincided with the bicentennial of his birth city Troy, NY.

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Spider-Man Family and His Amazing Friends (2006)

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For those who remember Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from Saturday mornings, here’s a little love letter. It also helps us celebrate National Video Games Day today as the trio battle Video Man.

Spider-Man Family and His Amazing Friends (2006)

Spider-Man Family and His Amazing Friends (2006)

The issue celebrates the 25th anniversary of the series with cover story “Opposites Attack.” Sean McKeever authors an updated tale of Spider-Man meeting Ice-Man and Firestar. Spidey becomes entangled in a semi-love triangle as envisioned by wife Mary Jane.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was originally broadcast on NBC bridging three seasons. In its first year, Amazing Friends appeared with the 1981 Spider-Man show. In its second season, the series partnered with the Hulk animated series as The Incredible Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man.

The show ran from 1984 to 1986 in re-runs and was dusted off again in the latter part of the 1980s in the 90-minute Marvel Action Universe syndicated series.

Firestar was created for the series. The Human Torch was originally scheduled to appear, but was unavailable due to licensing obligations.

To show appreciation for the non-holiday, participants are recommended to stock up on their favorite creature comforts and post pix on #NationalVideoGamesDay.

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Care Bears (1985) 1

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For the diabetics in the audience make sure your insulin is handy, today is Care Bears Share Your Care Day.

The Care Bears were created as a painting for greeting cards in 1981. By 1983 they had a firm claw hold in merchandising with plush animals. The licensing onslaught was enabled by television specials The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings and The Care Bears Battle the Freeze Machine.

Care Bears (1985) 1

Care Bears (1985) 1

Half-hour advertisements – cartoons – aired from 1985 to 1988. Three movies were also forthcoming.

Care Bear likenesses were plastered on everything from toys to school supplies. That included comic books. Marvel Comics jumped on the gravy train with the Star Comics imprint for 20 issues from 1985 to 1989.

Like all fads, the Care Bears faded from public consciousness until the youth who worshipped came full circle wishing to return to their childhood again. The Care Bears were revived in 1991, again in 2002, 2007, 2012 and, to date, 2019.

To celebrate with these undying denizens of plush cuddliness, “…spread the caring and encourage fans to spread caring, love, friendship, acceptance, fun and happiness to those you love every day.”

Care Bears Share Your Care Day has been recognized as a non-holiday since May of 2015.

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Action Comics (1938) 159

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Today we celebrate a day of work by not working; today is Labor Day.

Action Comics (1938) 159

Action Comics (1938) 159

As evidenced by the cover of Action Comics 159, Superman is going to be doing the heavy lifting.

This August, 1951, dated issue comes from a simpler time. One when readers would plunk down a dime for a story in which Lois Lane convinces Superman to sign a promissory note agreeing to perform all her wishes over a three-day period. The paper is lost, only to be found by Oscar Whimple, who proceeds to work the Man of Steel like a dog.

Also, included in this issue is Showdown in Suez! Starring Congo Bill. The character would later become a full-fledged ape known as Congorilla appearing in DC Comics Vertigo imprint.

Tommy Tomorrow appears in The Planeteer from the Past! The journeyman comic book character bounced through different DC titles from 1947 to 1963.

The Vigilante takes justice into his own hands in The Trigger Trail of ‘Wild’ Eddie Meeks! Greg Sanders, aka Greg Saunders, was the original Vigilante, riding the trails in the old west beginning in Action Comics 42.

An early origin of Labor Day is attributed to the Knights of Labor in 1882. Central Labor Union Secretary Matthew Maguire is credited with the proposal of a national holiday to celebrate the worker.

A second theory is Peter J. McGuire, vice president of the American Federation of Labor is the father of Labor Day.

Whichever the case, President Grover Cleveland backed a September commemoration and Labor Day became officially recognized as a federal holiday in 1894.

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Whiz Comics (1939) 2

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In case any readers out there still remember what a newspaper is, today is National Newspaper Carrier Day.

Standard bearer for the day will be Billy Batson, aka Captain Marvel.

Not that Captain Marvel.

The one who starred in Shazam.

Captain Marvel was created by artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker. Fawcett Comics debuted The Big Red Cheese on the cover of Whiz Comics issue 2 and within a couple years was the best-selling super hero of the 1940s. Even more so than Superman.

Captain Marvel is the alter ego of newsboy Billy Batson. A wizard bestowed the ability to gain the combined best attributes of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury by saying his name: Shazam.

Whiz Comics (1939) 2

Whiz Comics (1939) 2

Design of Captain Marvel was based on the late actor Fred MacMurray. Whiz Comics issue two was published in late 1939 with the Captain as the headliner. His main foil, Doctor Sivana also premiered in this issue.

In 1941 Republic Pictures presented a serial, the Adventures of Captain Marvel.

Detective Comics, better known as DC Comics today, filed a lawsuit against Fawcett in 1941 citing Captain Marvel was too similar to their bread winner, Superman. It wasn’t until 1948 the case actually saw the inside of a courtroom. Captain Marvel was found to be a near clone, but DC was also found to have been negligent in copyright laws allowing Superman, and his concept, to fall under public domain.

Fawcett won the decision passed down in 1951.

DC appealed and the initial verdict was overruled. The Captain Marvel character was not found to be an infringement, though certain of his characteristics could be considered infringements. The matter would have to be retried.

Rather than continue the endless litigation, Fawcett settled with DC out of court. In 1953, they agreed to cease publication of super hero comic books and paid $400,000 in damages.

Fawcett closed its doors that same year.

DC obtained the rights to Captain Marvel and, under the leadership of Carmine Infantino, brought him back to the four-colored page in 1972. Marvel Comics had grabbed the unused Captain Marvel moniker meaning DC now had to use Shazam as the book’s title.

Initially, the book was called Shazam! with the sub-title The Original Captain Marvel, but the cross-town rival took umbrage and filed a cease and desist order. The subtitle was changed to The World’s Mightiest Mortal with issue 15.

Though never regaining the popularity he enjoyed in the 1940s, Marvel and family have endured through each of DC’s crises and incarnations. Most recently the good Captain starred in own self-titled movie that grossed $364 million world-wide. A sequel is in production.

To celebrate today, add something special for your carrier’s delivery route.

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Captain America (1968) 292

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An American Christmas! acts as a backdrop to tie up some loose ends before the original Secret Wars kicked off.

Captain America (1968) 292

Captain America (1968) 292

Steve Rogers/Captain America is haunted by a recurring dream that isn’t a dream. A black crow visits Captain America while Steve goes about his holiday happenings.

Supporting characters receive the spotlight with J.M. DeMatteis moving the story along. The season acts as so much background with snow and Christmas decorations in the periphery.

The Black Crow is dispatched by stories end with the epilog showing the Avengers as they speed toward their destiny with the Beyonder.

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars was a 12-issue mini running from May 1984 to April 1985. The series is most notable for the licensing deal with Kenner and the introduction of Spider-Man’s black costume.

A sequel, published from 1985 to 1986, ran nine issues and spilled over into most of the Marvel Universe in the form of cross overs. While the best-selling comic book of the year, it is also one of the most despised.

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