Notable events of 1981 in comics. See also List of years in comics.
- 1 Events and publications
- 2 Deaths
- 3 Exhibitions and shows
- 4 Conventions
- 5 Awards
- 6 First issues by title
- 7 Initial appearances by character name
- 8 References
Events and publications
- Capital Comics makes its entree into publishing with the release of Nexus #1.
- Frank Miller takes over full writing duties on Daredevil with issue #168, and creates Elektra.
- "Days of Future Past" storyline debuts in Uncanny X-Men #141 (continues in Uncanny X-Men #142).
- The reprint title Marvel's Greatest Comics, with issue #96, is cancelled by Marvel.
- The reprint title Amazing Adventures vol. 3, with issue #14, is cancelled by Marvel.
- The reprint title Tales to Astonish vol. 2, with issue #14, is cancelled by Marvel.
- Jenette Kahn becomes president of DC Comics, succeeding Sol Harrison. Kahn retained the title of publisher, which she had held since 1976.
- Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 2 #272 features an insert previewing the upcoming "Dial H for Hero" series in Adventure Comics by Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino.
- March 8: The final episode of Stan Lynde's Rick O'Shay is published.
- March 17: In a widely mediatized event Hergé finally meets his old Chinese friend Zhang Chongren again in Brussels, whom he hadn't seen again for almost half a century. Zhang was the inspiration for the Tintin character Chang Chong-Chen. Hergé's longing to see his old friend again inspired the story Tintin in Tibet.
- March 19: The first episode of Raoul Cauvin and Philippe Bercovici's Les Femmes en Blanc is published in Spirou.
- Robert Crumb launches the American adult comics magazine Weirdo, which will run until 1993.
- Marvel takes notice of the growing direct market and produces a title specifically for comic shops — Dazzler #1 sells 400,000 copies.
- Marvel Preview (published until now by the Marvel imprint Curtis Magazines), with issue #25, changes its name to Bizarre Adventures and becomes an official Marvel Comics publication.
- Detective Comics #500: 84 pages, 7 different anniversary stories by several well-known creators, including television writer Alan Brennert and Walter B. Gibson, best known for his work on the pulp fiction character The Shadow.
- "The Exaggerated Death of Ultra Boy" story arc begins in DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes #273. Written by Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, and Paul Levitz, with pencils by Jimmy Janes and Steve Ditko, the story arc concludes in Legion of Super-Heroes #282 (December).
- Mystery in Space (1951 series), with issue #117, is cancelled by DC Comics.
- Captain Canuck, with issue #14, is cancelled by Comely Comix.
- John Byrne and Terry Austin leave The Uncanny X-Men with issue 143 being their last.
- May 8: The first issue of Eclipse Magazine is published by Dean and Jan Mullaney. It will run until January 1983.
- Master of Kung Fu #100: "Red of Fang and Claw, All Love Lost," by Doug Moench, Mike Zeck, and Gene Day.
- Ghosts #100 (DC Comics): Edited by Jack C. Harris.
- With issue #66, Charlton revives The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, cancelled in May 1978.
- June 15: Doug Marlette's Kudzu makes its debut. It will run until 2007.
- June 26: In Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County Opus the Penguin makes his debut.
- Weird War Tales #100 (DC Comics)
- Final issue of The Hulk! published by Curtis Magazines.
- Debut of the comics industry magazine Amazing Heroes (published by the Fantagraphics imprint Zam, Inc.. With later issues, until it folds in 1992, Amazing Heroes will be "officially" published by Fantagraphics).
- Superman and Spider-Man, "The Heroes and the Holocaust," a DC/Marvel intercompany crossover ("sequel" to 1976's Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man).
- Man-Thing vol. 2, with issue #11, is cancelled by Marvel.
- John Byrne begins his 62-issue run as writer/artist on Fantastic Four with issue #232.
- DC's The Flash reaches its 300th issue and celebrates its 25th anniversary.
- Justice League of America #193 features an insert previewing the upcoming All-Star Squadron series by Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler.
- Final issue of Marvel Premiere (#61) published by Marvel Comics
- With issue #47, DC cancels Super Friends.
- "Doomquest" storyline debuts in Iron Man #149 (continues in Iron Man #150)
- The Warlord #48 features an insert previewing the upcoming Arak, Son of Thunder series by Roy Thomas and Ernie Colón.
- DC Special Series #27 — Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, an intercompany crossover between DC and Marvel Comics. This marks the final issue of DC Special Series (1977 series), a catch-all series primarily for one-shots of different formats, released on an irregular schedule.
- September 21: Guy Gilchrist and Brad Gilchrist's newspaper comic based on The Muppet Show is published for the first time and in more than 80 countries across the world on the same simultaneous date. An exceptional event.
- September 24: Kamagurka and Herr Seele's Cowboy Henk makes its debut.
- The Defenders #100: Double-sized issue written by J.M. DeMatteis. (Marvel Comics)
- "Block Mania" storyline begins in 2000 AD. (continues through December)
- November 2: Steve Bell's political comic strip If debuts in The Guardian.
- Jinty merges with Tammy (Fleetway).
- Pacific Comics makes its entree into publishing with the release of Jack Kirby's Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #1
- The reprint title Marvel Super Action, with issue #37, is cancelled by Marvel.
- December 17: Stéphane Colman and Stephen Desberg's Billy the Cat makes its debut in Spirou.
- Specific date unknown: Bill and Steve Schanes establish Pacific Comics.
- February 16: William Edwin Pidgeon, Australian comics artist (The Trifling Triplets, In and Out of Society), dies at age 72, from complications of a traffic accident. 
- February 20: Enzo Magni, aka Ingam, Italian comics artist (Pantera Bionda), dies at age 76.
- February 22: Michael Maltese, American screenwriter and comics writer (Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera comics), dies at age 73 from cancer.
- February 25: Arne Ungerman, Danish painter and comics artist (Hanne Hansen), dies at age 78.
- February 29: Carlo Bisi, Italian comics artist (Sor Pampurio), passes away at age 91.
- March 10: Jack Oleck, American novelist and comics writer (wrote horror comics for EC Comics and DC Comics and series like Kong the Untamed) dies at age 67.
- March 31: Cees van de Weert, Dutch illustrator and comics artist (Marco Polo, worked for Marten Toonder), dies at age 63. 
- April 23: Vivie Risto, American animator and comics artist (Disney comics, particularly Bucky Bug, Looney Tunes comics), dies at age 78.
- April 24: Howard Purcell, American comics artist (co-creator of Sargon the Sorcerer, Gay Ghost, Enchantress), passes away at age 62.
- May 7: Jaap Veenendaal, aka Javé, Dutch comics artist, painter and illustrator (Bongo), dies at age 77. 
- May 12: Henry Formhals, American comics artist (continued Freckles and His Friends, assisted on Ella Cinders and Joe Jinks), dies at age 72.
- May 25: George Clark, American comics artist (The Neighbors, Side Glances), passes away at age 78.
- June 11: Eppo Doeve, Indonesian-Dutch illustrator and comics artist (Mannetje Bagatel, Kleine Isar, de Vierde Koning), passes away at age 73.
- June 19: Lotte Reiniger, German film director and animator (The Adventures of Prince Achmed), dies at age 82.
- July 17: Odd Harrong, Norwegian comedian, singer and comics artist (Bokholder Blidberg, Harrongs Komikk, Blidberg og Stribert, Kjakan, Jumbo, Samegutten Anti, Knokkelmannen, Den Usynlige Mannen), dies at age 68.
- August 25: Guillermo Cardoso, Mexican comics artist and illustrator (worked on Little Lulu, Disney comics), dies at age 59. 
- September 2: Andrija Maurović, Montenegrin-Croatian comics artist (Stari Macak, Dan, Old Tom-cat and Radoslav) passes away at age 80.
- October 12: Lawrence Lariar, American comics artist, writer, novelist, editor and cartoonist (Barry O'Neill, Best Cartoons of the Year series), dies at age 72.
- October 14: Jim Raymond, American comics artist (continued Blondie), dies at age 64.
- November 2: Wally Wood, American comics artist (Mad Magazine, Sally Forth, Heroes, Inc. Presents Cannon, Daredevil) commits suicide at age 54.
- November 12: Ralph Heimdahl, American animator and comics artist (Bugs Bunny comic strip), passes away at age 72.
- November 18: Fredric Wertham, German psychologist and author of the anti-comics book Seduction of the Innocent which paved the way for the Comics Code censorship, dies at age 86.
- December 1: Russ Manning, American comics artist (Magnus, Robot Fighter), dies at age 52.
- Harry "A" Chesler, American comics entrepreneur (Chesler's Studio), dies at age 83.
- George Swanson, American comics artist (Flop Family, Salesman Sam, High Pressure Pete, Officer 67/8, Elza Poppin' ), dies at age 93 or 94.
Specific date unknown
- Ferdinand Bis, Croatian comics artist (comics for Mickey Strip), dies at age 70 or 71.
- Freddie Chaplain, British comics writer (Rupert Bear), dies at age 67 or 68.
- Noel Cook, New Zealand-Australian comics artist (Roving Peter, Bobby and Betty, Kokey Koala), passes away at age 84 or 85.
- Ester Gill, Swedish comics artist (Lillans Morgongröt, Den Egenkära Gunilla, Sara), passes away at age 87 or 88.
- Sam Leff, American comics artist (continued Joe Jinks as Curly Kayoe), dies at age 64 or 65.
- Jim Raymond, American comics artist (assisted on Blondie and Jungle Jim), dies at age 63 or 64. 
Exhibitions and shows
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- Comicon '81 (British Comic Art Convention) (London, England) — 14th annual (and final) edition
- May 3: Colorado Comic Art Convention (Rocky Mountain School of Art, Denver, Colorado) — official guests include Kirk Alyn (guest of honor) and John Severin
- June 27–28: Creation Convention (Hyatt Regency, Washington, D.C.) — guests include Stan Lee, Bob Wiacek, Terry Austin, and Savage Sword of Conan artist Kenneth Morris
- July 3–5: Comic Art Convention (Statler Hilton Hotel, 33rd Street and 7th Avenue, New York City) — special guest of honor George Pérez; other official guests include Burne Hogarth, Harvey Kurtzman, Howard Chaykin, Gil Kane, and Art Spiegelman
- July 3–5: Multicon 81 (Lincoln Plaza Inn, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) — guests include John Byrne, L. B. Cole, Jim Engel, Chuck Fialla, Mike McQuay, John Wooley, and Ron Wolfe
- July 17–19: Chicago Comicon (Pick-Congress Hotel, Chicago, Illinois)
- July 23–26: San Diego Comic Con (El Cortez Hotel, San Diego, California) — 5,000 attendees; official guests: Jerry Bails, Dave Berg, L. B. Cole, Jim Fitzpatrick, Dick Giordano, Bil Keane, Julius Schwartz, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Dave Sim
- August: Atlanta Fantasy Fair (Dunfey's Royal Coach, Atlanta, Georgia) — official guests include Al Williamson, Michael Whelan, Bob Burden, Mike Jittlov
- September: OrlandoCon (Orlando, Florida) — guests include C. C. Beck
- September 19–20: FantaCon '81 (Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany, New York)
- November 14: Mid-Ohio Con (Quality Inn Park Place, Mansfield, Ohio) — special guest of honor: John Byrne
- December 5–6: Greater Cincinnati Comic and Card Convention (Drawbridge Motor Inn, Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky) — special guest Bob Layton
Presented in 1982 for comics published in 1981:
- Best New Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
- Roll of Honour: Roy Thomas
- Favourite Artist (UK): Mick Austin
First issues by title
- Release: Self-published by Los Bros Hernandez
Initial appearances by character name
- All-Star Squadron in Justice League of America #193 (August)
- Arak in The Warlord #48 (August)
- Bushmaster, in Super Friends #45 (June)
- Electrocutioner, in Batman #331 (January)
- Danette Reilly, in Justice League of America #193 (August)
- Fearsome Five in New Teen Titans #3 (January)
- Omega Men in Green Lantern #141 (June)
- Plasmus, in New Teen Titans #14 (December)
- Houngan, in New Teen Titans #14 (December)
- Trigon, in New Teen Titans #05 (March)
- Nekron, in Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #02 (June)
- Mari McCabe, in Action Comics #521 (July)
- Angela Roth, in New Teen Titans #03 (January)
- Andrew Bennett, in House of Mystery #290 (March)
- Neutron, in Action Comics #525 (November)
- Arisia Rrab, in Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #01 (May)
- Mary, Queen of Blood, in House of Mystery #290 (March)
- Angela Hawkins III, in New Teen Titans #14 (December)
- Typhoon, in The Flash #294 (February)
- Warp, in New Teen Titans #14 (December)
- Rod Reilly, in All-Star Squadron #01 (September)
- Auron, in Green Lantern #141 (June)
- Arlok, in What If? #27 (July)
- Astron, in What If? #27 (July)
- Avalanche, in Uncanny X-Men #141 (January)
- Elektra, in Daredevil #168 (January)
- Hybrid, in Rom #17 (April)
- Mad Jim Jaspers, in Marvel Superheroes #377, published by Marvel UK (September)
- Pyro, in Uncanny X-Men #141 (January)
- Rogue, in Avengers Annual #10
- Siryn, in Spider-Woman #37 (April)
- Stick in Daredevil #176 (November)
- Rogue Trooper in 2000 AD. #228, published by IPC Media
- Syzygy Darklock in The Price, published by Eclipse Comics
- Thrud the Barbarian in the British fanzine Arken Sword
- Zanardi in the Italian anthology Frigidaire
- "Executive Shifts at DC" Amazing Heroes #1 (June 1981) p. 25
- "Harrison Retires from DC Presidency" Amazing Heroes #1 (June 1981) pp. 31-32
- Manning, Matthew K. (2010). "1980s". In Dolan, Hannah (ed.). DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
Within a sixteen-page preview in Legion of Super-Heroes #272...was "Dial 'H' For Hero," a new feature that raised the bar on fan interaction in the creative process. The feature's story, written by Marv Wolfman, with art by Carmine Infantino, saw two high-school students find dials that turned them into super-heroes. Everything from the pair's civilian clothes to the heroes they became was created by fans writing in. This concept would continue in the feature's new regular spot within Adventure Comics.
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 193: "The comic responsible for DC's name reached its 500th issue with the help of a variety of talented comic book icons...In a dimension-spanning story by writer Alan Brennert and fan-favorite artist Dick Giordano, Batman traveled to an alternate Earth to save the parents of a young Bruce Wayne...Writer of pulp icon the Shadow, Walter Gibson, spun a prose story of the Dark Knight, illustrated by Tom Yeates
- The Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio), June 15, 1981.
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 194: "In an oversized treasury edition carrying a hefty $2.50 price tag, the Man of Steel paired for the second time with Marvel's iconic web-slinger...The issue came together thanks to the script of writer Jim Shooter, a bit of plotting assistance by Marv Wolfman, the pencils of longtime Marvel luminary John Buscema, and a veritable fleet of inkers."
- "All-Star Squadron, DC's new World War II-era superhero series debuts in May in a 16-page preview insert in Justice League of America #193." as noted in "Thomas Revives WWII Superheroes" Catron, Michael Amazing Heroes #1 June 1981 pp. 28-29
- "Arak, Son of Thunder, described as an 'Indian/Viking,' makes his debut in a preview insert in Warlord #48, on sale in May." as noted in "Thomas's Indian/Viking to Roam Medieval Europe" Catron, Michael Amazing Heroes #1 June 1981 pp. 29-30
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 195 "Written by Len Wein and illustrated by José Luis García-López, the comic saw...Batman and the Hulk doing battle with both the Joker and Marvel's ultra-powerful Shaper of Worlds."
- Misiroglu, Gina (April 2012). The Superhero Book: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Comic-Book Icons and Hollywood Heroes. ISBN 9781578593972.
- Dallas, Keith; Sacks, Jason; Beard, Jim; Dykema, Dave; McCoy, Paul Brian (2013). American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s. ISBN 9781605490465.
- "Howard Purcell Dies" Amazing Heroes #3 (August 1981) p. 23
- Schönfeld, Christiane (2006). Practicing Modernity: Female Creativity in the Weimar Republic. Konigshausen & Neumann. p. 174.
- Mastrangelo, Joseph P. "Browsing for Comic Books," Washington Post (June 29, 1981).
- Hamerlinck, P.C., "I'll Never Forget C. C. Beck: C. C. Beck, Captain Marvel's Chief Artist," Fawcett Companion: The Best of FCA, Fawcett Collectors of America (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2001), p. 137.
- wordsandpictures.org. "Bill Sienkiewicz-Awards, Exhibits".
- Austin profile, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999.