Clearly, October affects folks strangely. Sober, staid adults dress up in funny clothes. Children demand candy from strangers. And comic books are positively odd.

Spooky stuff

- The World's Mightiest Heroes battle all their dead comrades in "Avengers" 11, including Captain MarVell, Dr. Druid, Hellcat, Mockingbird, Swordsman, Thunderstrike and Wonder Man. Most of these heroes were pretty lame, which explains why they were knocked off in the first place. Still, it's got to be pretty difficult to fight a dead guy. And for more Assembler action, don't miss "Avengers Forever" 1 (of 12), which features Eternal Sidekick Rick Jones and another battle between the masters of time, Kang the Conqueror and Immortus. Should be fun.

- "The Supernaturals" 1-4 stars alternate versions of Marvel's existing "monster heroes" but promises to be a disappointment. Not only do these variants of Brother Voodoo, Black Cat, Gargoyle, Ghost Rider, Satana and Werewolf by Night lack the soap-opera angst that is Marvel's main appeal, but the glossy preview sent to the Captain was rife with misspellings, tortured syntax and lousy grammar. Call Captain Comics anal retentive (and please be consistent if you do), but his experience is that creators who are sloppy with the details are often careless with the Big Picture.

- If you're fabulously wealthy, you might pick up the Sandman statue ($195) or the Sandman pocket watch ($89.95). If you like the Sandman universe but have an income more closely comparable to the Captain's, you might buy instead the final issue of "House of Secrets," "The Girl Who Would Be Death" 1 (of 4) or "The Dreaming" 31, which features the House of Secrets appearing in the real world on Halloween. Oooo, scary!

- The Biker-Babe Vampire Chicks from Heck return in DC's "Vamps: Pumpkin Time" 1 (of 3). I admit it, I'll buy anything with biker-babe vampire chicks.

- The former "Mad" magazine marginalia artist joins the Dia de Los Muertos madness with "Sergio Aragones's Day of the Dead Special" from DC Comics. Aragones has long been a personal favorite of the Captain's - after all, not only is he a very funny man, but he's the only artist I know with a bigger mustache.

- "Dracula, Lord of the Undead" 1-3 continues Marvel's exploration of the Bram Stoker character. Similarly themed offerings include "Action Planet Comics Halloween Special" (Action Planet), "Vamperotica Halloween Honies Pictorial" (Brainstorm Comics), "Isle of the Sorcerors" 1 (Caliber Comics), "Chastity: Rocked" (Chaos! Comics), "Black Magic" 1 (Dark Horse) and others as the funnybook nod toward the annual holiday.

Meanwhile . . .

- October is clearly Wade Wilson Month at mighty Marvel, where the merc-with-a-mouth stars in "Baby's First Deadpool Book" (complete with cut-out dress-up dolls), "Deadpool Team-Up Starring Widdle Wade" (a homicidal Li'l Archie doppelganger), "Deadpool: Mission Improbable" (reprinting the first five issues of the ongoing title) and "Encyclopedia Deadpoolica" (which seems self-explanatory). "Deadpool" is reportedly teetering on the edge of cancelation, so this flood of product starring the irreverent, psychotic assassin-for-hire is inexplicable. Still, as his own mental state deteriorates, the Captain is coming to appreciate this superficially repulsive character.

- So-called "3-D" comics have failed routinely ever since they were first introduced in the '50s, but that's not stopping DC from publishing 3-D specials featuring Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Legends of the DC Universe. The Captain will read them - even though they give him a headache - for the nostalgia value alone.

- For those who've been quivering to learn about the future Marvel Universe in Marvel's new M-2 line, quiver no more. "A-Next" 3 features the future Defenders, "J2" 3 pits our young hero against an aging Hulk, and "Spider-Girl" 3 stars the all-new Fantastic Five. The Captain usually yawns at future versions of existing heroes - they don't really "count," after all - but the M-2 books have been consistently entertaining.

- "Slingers" 1 features heroes who don't really exist. Well, that is, they started out as four costumes Spider-Man tried out when he was hunted by the law and couldn't appear in his red-and-blue togs. But Dusk, Hornet, Prodigy and Ricochet are suddenly honest-to-Odin "real" people, and four alternate versions of "Slingers" 1 explains how they got that way. These books simply scream "rip-off," but the Captain admits to some curiosity.

- Comics legend John Byrne brings his skillful hand to the first new Spider-Man books in the webslinger's ongoing revamp, "Spider-Man: Chapter 1" issues 1 and 2. These stories take place in the dawn of the Marvel Age, retelling early Stan Lee/Steve Ditko classics from the POV of supporting characters. The Captain is unsure what more can be said after the 25-issue "Untold Tales of Spider-Man" series of a couple years ago, but anything that evokes the magic of those early issues is worth a look.

- "Babylon 5: The Price of Peace" reprints the DC miniseries of the same name, and the Captain doesn't usually tout reprints. But comics have almost completely ignored "B5," and I never miss a chance to mention that fine series in this space.

- J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter from Mars, is largely unknown to the vast majority of humankind, despite being a member of every version of the Justice League since its inception and the first of DC's "Silver Age" heroes (debuting in 1955). "Martian Manhunter" 1 is the first of an ongoing series set to rectify this oversight, even though J'onn J'onzz - pronounced "John Jones" - is a really stupid name.

- Acclaim Comics makes a comeback with "Turok: Adon's Curse" and "Turok 2: Seeds of Evil Official Strategy Guide." OK, so they're based on violent video games. I like violent video games. Got a problem with that?

- "Secret Origins 80-Page Giant" 1 gives us the lowdown on the "Young Justice" heroes, Robin (Tim Drake), the new Superboy and Impulse, the junior Flash. The Captain has really enjoyed these characters - who are written as the immature but budding young heroes they are - and his e-mail reverberates with their popularity. Give it a try.

- Kitchen Sink does us all a favor by reprinting the first three prose adventures of old California's greatest hero in "Zorro: The Curse of Capistrano - The Original Stories Vol. 1." These have been hard to find for a lo-o-o-ong time.

- "Superman: War of the Worlds" pits a 1938 Man of Steel against H.G. Wells's Martian invaders from the famous Sci-Fi novel, and "Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table" 1 (of 2) explores the concept of Bruce Wayne at Camelot in the 5th Century. I told you this was a strange month.

- Did I mention strange? Action figures this month include Spy vs. Spy and Alfred E. Neuman from "Mad" magazine and Jay & Silent Bob from Kevin Smith movies like "Chasing Amy," "Mallrats" and "Clerks." Jay & Silent Bob, against all expectations, have made a successful transition to a very funny comic book at Oni Press. Go figure.