Essential Alpha Flight Vol. 1
Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Even if I wanted to, I could not hide my love for 1980s comic books. It’s when I went from being just a casual reader of comics to a full-blown collector. In 1982, my family moved to the Kansas City suburbs, and the first group of friends that I found all read and collected comics. So I quickly started picking up books left and right. In particular, any new title that was starting up with #1 was a great adventure for me. Batman and the Outsiders #1, G.I. Joe #1, New Mutants #1, and more – I had them all! But my favorite title to come out of this era was easily Alpha Flight, the super-hero team of Canada!
Alpha Flight was first introduced in the pages of X-Men, to help provide more teases to the mysterious origins of Wolverine and to be able to go toe-to-toe with the mutants when they inevitably showed up. Marvel kept pressing artist John Byrne to do a monthly book with these characters, but he resisted most of their early requests. Finally, Byrne relented, fearing that someone else would be given the title if he didn’t take the book. Working as writer and artist, Byrne stuck with the book for 28 issues, before deciding to walk away after having told the stories that he wanted to do. The first year on the book, Byrne spent time with each character individually, telling their solo stories, before bringing the team together in a fateful encounter. Following the events of issue #12, a new leader takes over, and the group dynamics shift with the changes to the team. New members join Alpha Flight, just in time for a soul-shaking conclusion with issue #28.
If you have followed my work for any time now, you know that I run a side blog, EssentialShowcase.com, where I look at the Marvel Essentials and the DC Showcase Presents. I’m a big fan of these black & white phone book editions, and this has been a great way to read (or re-read) some classic storylines. Unfortunately, Marvel chose to cancel the Essential line at the end of 2013 before Alpha Flight (and many other titles!) could receive the black & white reprint treatment. What is a fan like me supposed to do?
For me, it was taking my 28 Byrne issues to the good people at Houchen Bindery in Utica, NE. For years, I have been lurking on comic book binding boards, watching as other collectors like myself took their treasured stories and had them bound into a hardcover collection. Some people opt for a generic blank cloth cover, while others when with a graphic cover featuring art from an issue in the collection. Regardless how you cover it, the comics inside the covers are sewn together to form one book. There are so many possibilities in creating your own collection like this!
Working with Tim Benson at Houchen, he designed a cover for my collection to mirror the Marvel Essential line. Tim is a comic-book reader first and foremost, and each of these projects is just as important to him as they are to the customer. Tim goes out of his way to make sure that every detail is perfect for his clients. Within a month of getting the books to Houchen, I had the hardcover edition pictured above in my hands. I kid you not, I was shaking in anticipation as I unwrapped it from the mailing package.
I will be getting more comics bound to look like Marvel Essentials and DC Showcase Presents. This weekend, I will be traveling to the Omaha Comic Con, where Houchen will have a booth set up and taking orders. What will be my next project? Stay tuned and find out!
The John Byrne issues of Alpha Flight have been collected into three Classic editions. However, that’s going to cost you $75. Instead, try hitting your local comic book store. Find these issues in the back-issue bin, and build your own collection via a comic book bindery. For those readers in the Kansas City market, I would point you downtown to Clint’s Comics. Located at 3941 Main Street, Clint’s has one of the greatest back-issue selections in the midwest, as well as new comic books, trade paperbacks, toys, t-shirts, and more. Whether tracking down copies of Alpha Flight or some other prized book from your past, Clint’s is a great place to start your back-issue treasure hunt!