Tuesday, September 12, 2017

0057: Sax and Drugs

In 1978 Eclipse Enterprises began publishing graphic novels with SABRE (by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy), followed in 1979 with the graphic album NIGHT MUSIC (by P. Craig Russell) and two more graphic novels in 1980, DETECTIVES, INC. (by McGregor with Marshall Rogers) and STEWART THE RAT (by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan). All of these were clear successes, but circumstances at the time would cause the young company to change direction. Mike Friedrich's Star*Reach had stopped publishing comics in 1979 and became an artists' representation company, finding work and negotiating rates for creators, usually finding larger audiences for them than if they had published their work directly. The second warning sign for Eclipse was that Marvel began publishing EPIC ILLUSTRATED, clearly intended to be an American response to Heavy Metal and made frequent use of Star*Reach's clients. For a company like Eclipse, run by two Marvel letter column regulars (Dean Mullaney and Cat Yronwode) and at that point publishing works by former Marvel writers and artists, when Marvel itself to begin poaching in what everyone had thought was a niche market of stories for adult audiences that were neither super-hero nor counter-culture 'underground' subjects it became obvious that if Eclipse didn't expand its visibility it would become lost in the marketplace to the audience it had helped to cultivate.

In 1981 Eclipse launched an eponymous B&W magazine of comic stories and serials, offering readers 64 pages for $2.95. This was several months before shipping their fifth and final pre-ISBN graphic novel, ex-Marvel artist Jim Starlin's THE PRICE, his sequel to the EPIC ILLUSTRATED serial "Metamorphosis Odyssey". At about the same time that ECLIPSE THE MAGAZINE #1(05/81) was released, Eclipse also published a slightly smaller (7" X 10") B&W comic book compiling "Mike Mist Minute Mist-eries" that had previously appeared in a syndicated newspaper feature during 1979-1980. The Mike Mist comic was printed on cheaper pulp paper compared to the stiffer, whiter paper used in the magazine and offered 40 pages for $1.50. Despite having an earlier April 1981 date in the indicia it contained the same ad for the second issue of the magazine found in the first issue of the magazine. The reason that the ad is significant is that it means that the first issue of the magazine had already been put together and the second issue was being planned when the Mike Mist comic was compiled. (In other words, why advertise the second issue if the first issue hadn't already come out?) The same creative team behind the newspaper strip, Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty, were introducing a whole new feature in the first issue of the magazine, called "Ms. Tree".

Ms. Tree was a character clearly meant to be Mike Hammer's widow, seeking vengeance for her husband's murder in the first serial arc entitled "I, For An Eye". It was the only serial in that first issue and it was clearly conceived as a graphic novel but the noirish, pulp magazine feel of the story made it a great candidate for being told in installments. The character was even used in that ad for the second issue.

On the page immediately preceding the first Ms. Tree chapter was the far more whimsical one page story, "Loose Hips Sink Ships" by Chris Browne and Trina Robbins. Although Ms. Tree evoked the style of Depression era pulp magazines it took place in the present day. "Loose Hips..." on the other hand took place at a 1930's radio station, complete with Orson Wells as a character. Robbins' very clean, art deco-ish art was a great match for the period. It was also the kind of distinctive, instantly recognized art that any savvy editor would want to draw readers to a new anthology title. Robbins gained fame in the undergrounds and was one of several who very easily transitioned to the early independents when the direct market and other fan-oriented systems of circulation emerged in the 1970's, bypassing the Comics Code but more importantly bypassing distributors who expected audiences to serve the needs of the distribution systems and not vice versa. If you need any proof of the significance she had amongst readers, publishers and other artists at this time, you need only look at the fragment of credits taken from the cover of that first issue (see above). She's the only artist who the editors were confidant could be identified by readers using only her first name.

When I checked Diamond Comics website today for comics shipping tomorrow (Sept. 13th, 2017), the titles from IDW included the long awaited hardcover compilation of Trina Robbin's adaptation of Sax Rohmer's DOPE. Most people who recognize Rohmer's name at all probably remember him only as the creator of the fictional character Fu Manchu, the villain at the center of a string and lurid adventure novels filled with gratuitously racist supporting characters. Despite the ugly caricatures, the novels survived beyond the early 20th Century when they were written because of the nail-biting escapes from truly original death-traps that became the signature of the franchise. Every episode of "Wild Wild West" is essentially a theft of a Fu Manchu story. DOPE, however, is far more serious in tone and, while it's true that the Fu Manchu stories set an unreasonably low bar, the badly stereotyped Chinese characters in DOPE are at least human and can be differentiated. The difference was necessary to tell the story, which hinges on the complexity of the problems involved in drug use and trade. In terms of quality and intelligent examination of the topic, it's not as good as the excellent British television mini-series "Traffic" but much better than the moronic feature film based on that mini-series.

The first chapter of Trina Robbins' adaptation appeared in ECLIPSE THE MAGAZINE #2 (07/81), along with Englehart and Rogers' "Coyote" feature. By the end of 1982, Eclipse had begun publishing color comics with the DESTROYER DUCK one shot and the ongoing SABRE series. The last issue of the magazine, #8 (01/83) coincided with the color comics line shifting from Mando to Baxter paper, DESTROYER DUCK returning as a series and the debut of SCORPIO ROSE. Englehart and Rogers concluded their Coyote story in the last issue of the B&W magazine and their SCORPIO ROSE mini-series (originally intended as a Madame Xanadu origin story rejected by DC) would have been their next project but was derailed by creative conflicts. Englehart took the Coyote character to Marvel's new Epic imprint (a line of comics ostensibly tied to the EPIC ILLUSTRATED magazine but more closely aligned with their line of graphic novels) with Steve Leialoha doing the art. Rogers stayed with Eclipse, resurrecting a character he and Englehart had used in the first issue of the B&W magazine, The Foozle. After considerable delays, the first issue of the magazine's color replacement, ECLIPSE MONTHLY, shipped with a August indicia date. The cover of the first issue is at the top of this post. That's the Foozle surrounding the logo. Also on the cover are new features Doug Wildey's "Rio" and Steve Ditko's "Static", B.C. Boyer's "Masked Man" (which replaced "Ms. Tree" in issue #7 of the magazine) and in the center Trina Robbins' DOPE adaptation. The first three issues of ECLIPSE MONTHLY present the final three chapters in color, which immediately presented the question of whether the expected collected trade would color the first seven chapters, reprint the last three in B&W or present them mixed, as they were originally published. For three and a half decades that's been a pretty academic question which is now finally being answered. Logically, because Robbins had no way of knowing when she started that the publisher would shift venues from a B&W magazine to a color comic, the entire story is now being presented by IDW (under the It's Alive! imprint) in B&W for consistency. As aesthetic choices go, it's hard to argue against losing the color and not my choice anyway, but it should be stated somewhere (and why not here?) that the color job was as gorgeous as it was unnecessary. The colors in the other features were usually credited to Denis McFarling but no one was credited for the "Dope" chapters. Obviously the device you use to read this blog will determine how the colors in the third scan here will look, but in most cases it should reproduce faithfully.

It's embarrassing that it took so long for this story to be compiled. Even during the 80's most of the other features from the magazine and color comic got their own comic title or trade. The Englehart/Rogers "Coyote" story was compiled as graphic novel by Eclipse in 1984. Ms. Tree got her own series which eventually moved to Aardvark-Vanaheim and Renegade, who published "I, For An Eye" and subsequent stories as trades. "Masked Man", "The Foozle", and "Rio" all became comics titles; "Ragamuffins" became a one-shot. It's possible that the ethnic caricatures made the story a lower priority when scheduling titles to release and a year after the story ended Eclipse received an influx of orphan projects when Pacific Comics went out of business. The end of 1984 was preoccupied with completing the first Rocketeer story, "Somerset Holmes", "Twisted Tales", "Alien Worlds" and "Sunrunners", as well as picking up other projects. When 1985 began, Eclipse had launched over two dozen color comics titles in all, including one-shots and minis. When 1985 ended, of those only CROSSFIRE and MASKED MAN were still published regularly and even they would both end by April 1986. They would return in 1987, as would ZOT! But aside from rare sporadic appearances of NIGHT MUSIC, the rest of the Eclipse roster was entirely different from its first three years. I don't know if it was a coincidence, but between the end of the B&W magazine and the first issue of the color anthology, while "Dope" was in limbo between chapters seven and eight, Marvel canceled its MASTER OF KUNG FU  title. Since "the fiendish doctor" brought an ignominious end to Peter Sellers' career in 1980, those final three chapters awaiting publication were the last bits of Sax Rohmer to reach popular culture outside of the novels themselves. I don't know how much more distance was needed to consider the comic adaptation dispassionately as a separate work but apparently we passed that point while we weren't paying attention. Two years from now the original novel will turn 100 years old. I'll have to be satisfied to reread the comics in their original form.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

0056: The Spirit of the Holidays

It's too early for Christmas, I know, certainly for two items about a month apart.
When I posted about a rare Kirby Sandman story in mid-August (#0046: Turn On Your Magic Beams), I had considered saving it for December because it was a Christmas story, but a Sandman Special was imminently due and that 1970's character is so rarely used that I wanted to tie into it. I also realized that I might just own every published appearance of him and should put together a post outlining his history, which skips around multiple titles, spread out over decades. To give myself a little time to do that, I thought I'd take advantage of another Christmas item I found about a week ago.

The item on the left isn't a comic book itself. It's a thin supplementary catalogue (64pp) of merchandise available from Capital City Distributors. Capitol was briefly a publisher itself, launching NEXUS, BADGER and WHISPER, which were all continued by First Comics in the 1980's. Since then its publishing has mostly been premiums and brochures related to their distribution business, such as their monthly Advance Comics which carried solicitations from a variety of publishers. This supplement, "Comicopia", offers previously solicited perennial items like trades, posters, clothing, etc.

The art on the front cover is there to tie in with the release of a collection of Spirit Christmas stories originally published once a year as part of the newspaper supplement in the 1940's. The first printing in 1994 (from Kitchen Sink) sold out and a second was due out in October 1995 ahead of the holiday season. This is the same art used on the book, but the date of "89" under Eisner's signature in the bottom right corner tells me that this (a) wasn't part of the original run and (b) wasn't drawn specifically for a book published five years later.

After the newspaper supplement ended The Spirit was published (usually reprinted) in comics form by companies as different as Harvey and Warren. In the 1970's, Kitchen Sink Press began publishing reprints first as a magazine and then (starting in the early 1980's) as a standard sized comic book on higher grade paper. None of the covers from that series use this art, although it's possible that a back cover did. I don't have a complete run of the comics and the issues I do have simply run in-house ads for Kitchen Sink titles on all the back covers. I know that the magazines sometimes had wraparound covers, but I don't remember the comics having any. What I did find is that a comics and music retailer in Sweden named Alvglans was publishing a magazine sized Spirit reprint series during the 80's and this art was used for their late 1989 issue. The other issues used cover art created for the Kitchen Sink comics. If a Spirit fan out there knows of an American publication of this art prior to the 1994 book, please let me know about it in the comments.

Less than a year after this Comicopia (Vol. 2) came out, Capial City Distributors was absorbed into Diamond Comic Distributors. I don't know if there was ever a Vol. 3. Kitchen Sink only lasted a few years more than that, after which Eisner's work was brought back into print by DC under his own imprint: The Will Eisner Library, which included Archive hardcover compilations of the newspaper sections. Dark Horse has continued to keep his work available.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

0055: Syndicate Features Kings (and Queens)

I don't think I'd buy a movie on DVD simply because an artist I like drew the art on the packaging. There are plenty of DVD's and VHS tapes that have (and will) show up on this blog because I wanted the movie anyway, usually because the package artist played some part in creating the source material for the movie's subject (as with the Charles Burns costumes and set designs for "The Hard Nut" ) or was simply a good match for the art director and happened to be a comics artist. It's more rare that the artists themselves are the subject of the movie. I did have one such documentary early on, Comic Book Confidential . They're the sorts of things that I would naturally be attracted to, given my hobby. Here's a more recent one, from 2014:

The credits list 59 persons interviewed on camera and a further 18 whose interviews were to be made available online. Most of those persons were creators of syndicated newspaper comic strips, past and present, including the elusive Bill Watterson, who did the art for the front cover of the DVD box, seen above. The disc was available through the mail or by streaming at the website named on the back, StrippedFilm.com. You could very likely get it new or used, through any number of online sites you're more familiar with. I got mine by pre-ordering it through my preferred comics shop.

After the film hit art house theaters in February of 2014, Watterson became more active than he had been in the nearly 20 years since ending "Calvin And Hobbes". He did a guest week pencilling "Pearls Before Swine" and became the subject of an exhibit at Ohio State University. The exhibit can be revisited through its catalogue, "Exploring Calvin And Hobbes". That year he was also awarded the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, which ordinarily goes to European artists.

Extras include an optional directors' commentary track (there's two directors, so that apostrophe is right where it's supposed to be), a theatrical trailer and an 86-minute interview with Jim Davis which technically doubles the length of the film. Slightly more so if you consider than a good chunk of the 12 minutes of closing credits includes listing every individual contributor to the crowd-funding for the project, hundreds of them.
[Spoilers appear below the disc image.]
You can fast forward through the contributors if you want, but don't skip the credits completely or you'll miss the surprise Kate Micucci music video that's incorporated into them. Why that isn't mentioned anywhere on the outside of the box is a mystery. There's also no booklet, but that would be a disincentive to those streaming the movie. And besides, anyone would expect the booklet to include work by any of the dozens of creators who appear in the film. They can't all fit into a little insert and I'm sure the producers knew that they'd catch hell over whoever got left out by fans devoted enough to comic strips to buy a documentary about them.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

0054: You Got The Way To Move Me

Thanks and apologies to Neil Diamond, I guess.

I haven't done a record art post in a while, nor have I done a shorter post in a very long time. I thought of a way to kill two birds with one stone. Below is the sleeve art from the band Skullflower's 7" single "Ponyland" (7:20) b/w "Fake Revolt" (5:12) on the label Sympathy For The Record Industry SFTRI 275 (US) April 1994.

The cover art is by Larry Welz (signed in the lower right corner) with color by Evan Mack. Comics fans may recognize the young woman in the foreground as Cherry Poptart, Welz' long-running character who appears primarily in adults-only comics stories. The art has been dated " '94 ", but a test pressing of the record has surfaced with the date October 15th, 1993. As per usual, the test pressing had no art because those are never intended for public circulation.

Both the band and the label got their start in 1988, but SFTRI is only one of dozens of labels the band has appeared on. There's also the matter of having a rate of personnel turnover rivaled only by Uriah Heap, Spinal Tap and McDonald's. The back of the sleeve is a photo of the band members for this record, named Matthew Bower, Stuart Dennison and Russel Smith. Nothing explains who played what instrument, or even who wrote which songs. Their publishing company, Sacred Conspiracy, is listed as the copyright holder on the label. Aside from the label's then-current slogan ("A name you can pronounce since 1988"), there are no further liner notes. There's no indication of where or when it was recorded or who produced it. However, in 1995 the band released a full length album on the same label named "Transformer". According to its liner notes, all the songs on it were recorded in 1995 except for the last two, these songs, which seemed to be tagged on to the end of the CD as if they were bonus tracks. I'm assuming that the recordings on the album are the same as the recordings on the single, and not different takes. It says that the basic tracks for "Fake Revolt" were recorded at DNA in London in Sept. 1992 with "A. DiFranco" on guitar and "Ian McKay" engineering. That's Anthony DiFranco, not Ani (short for Angela) and similarly "McKay" is not a misspelling of "MacKaye". Then, in Feb. 1993 both tracks were completed at AO studios in Millom with Barry Vernon engineering. The personnel were Bower and Smith on guitars and Dennison on drums and vocals. Actually, it would be more accurate to say 'vocalizations' than 'vocals'. There aren't many lyrics. I haven't heard this in 20 years, so I found a clip on YouTube of both songs played back to back. It sounds as though a death metal band had been listening to nothing but Galaxie 500 and Erik Satie for a year. It's still kind of gloomy but seriously mellowed out.

I have no clue as to how Welz got the job for the sleeve art. He's a Californian underground cartoonist (although he has since moved to New Mexico and sells his original art online; the best selling work of the underground is mostly available in bookstores and is no longer "underground" in any real sense). The band is British. The music doesn't evoke the character Cherry (or vice versa). It could be that someone at the label knew him, but as I said above, there's no further info on the sleeve.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

0053: Is That A Light Sabre In Your Pocket? Part 2

If the spelling of the word "light sabre" in the title looks a little off to you, then you might not be a big Star Wars fan. A big Star Wars fan would tell you that's it's not 'a little off', it's completely and definitely wrong. And they'd be... almost right. You see, the term 'lightsaber' (one word and westernized) has appeared in print and online hundreds of thousands if not millions of times. This post (and the previous one) are about that hectic first year and a half from the release of the Ballantine edition of the Star Wars novel, through the movie's release and the comic book adaptation to it's reprints in different formats.
This is the back cover of the Del Rey/Ballantine mass market paperback reprinting all six issues of the comic book adaptation. The series was released monthly, starting before the release of the movie, and continued beyond the sixth issue with new stories. Marvel coordinated with Lucasfilm to keep things consistent as much as possible in a franchise that's become a yardstick for synergistic marketing: comics, novels, toys, clothing and even a Christmas album all came during the next year. It worked out eventually, but the first movie was adapted to comics before there was a final edit. There was a lot of guess work involved and one of the wonkier bits of trivia that arose from that situation is that the word 'lightsaber' was occasionally spelled 'light sabre' in the comics.
Compared to making Jabba humanoid, the spelling was a minor glitch.

When I left off in the previous post it was with a scan of Stan Lee's Introduction, something that had become obligatory in Marvel trades back then. Usually that made perfect sense since, more often than not Stan had written the stories being reprinted in the few trades that were published during the 70's. At the very least, he would have been the original editor. For "Star Wars", though, Roy Thomas was editing his own script. His take on the events are in the Preface seen here on the right and continued below.

The contents of the book begin with four unnumbered pages, all but the first of which appear in scans in the previous post. The numbered pages follow with Stan Lee's Introduction (1-2), this Preface (3-4) and each of the six issues introduced by a different full page of art announcing the chapter number, a second page with the original cover and then the full story content for that issue. Since issues #2 and #3 had 18 pages of story and the other four issues had 17 pages, the story accounts for 104 pages. Add the six chapter pages and six covers and you get 116 (numbered 5-120). The four unnumbered pages and the four text pages make 124. The final four pages are pin-ups, the first of which is in the previous post.
The real detective work involves identifying the artwork used in the chapter pages. Some of them are easy. The art for the Chapter Two page is just taken from the cover to issue #7. The art for the Chapter Three page is a detail from issue #1, page 9, panel 3 that depicts Grand Moff Tarkin walking with Darth Vader. (I sometimes suspect that scene from the movie was the inspiration for the perpetual "walk-and-talk" sequences on "The West Wing".) The Chapter Five page is the most obvious; it's just the image of Luke excerpted from the cover of issue #1.
That leaves One, Four and Six.

The Chapter One page looks like a million other knock-offs of the movie poster. Actually, the original Tom Jung poster feels like a knock-off of a million Frank Frazetta barbarian paperback covers. Luke is holding his light...um, thingy straight up over his head, Leia is kneeling in front of him looking slinky and holding an enormous pistol. An over-sized spectral image of Darth Vader's head looms in the background against a night sky. (Because eight-year-olds and studio executives think that night time is "when outer space comes out".)

Of course, in the Jung poster, Luke, Leia and Darth are all facing to the left. In this illustration, using art from an in-house advertisement appearing in Marvel's comics and drawn by Tony DeZuniga, Darth has turned to the right. I suppose that makes a nice complement to the Rick Hoberg cover used for the first tabloid collection and again for this paperback.

Here, Darth is still looking to the left but Luke and Leia are turned around.

The art for the Chapter Four page looks as though it comes from the cover of the second tabloid collection. The truth is that it comes from the advertising for that tabloid. Check out this excerpt from the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page for comics cover dated January 1978 (which would have shipped in October, the month before this paperback came out).

Note the hand in the lower left corner of the cover and the fact that there's a ceiling and a back-ground. Now compare both of these to the cover the way it actually shipped.

This scan taken from Grand Comics Database at comics.org
In the published version, the background is gone and they're in outer space. Or it's just night time again. The hand is missing from the corner in order to free up space to make R2-D2 more visible. C3PO is also more exposed and in a different position. The art here could be by Howard Chaykin (who did the art for the adaptation). Chewbacca has the sort of more-gorilla-than-dog appearance that readers complained about in the early issues. That was one of the problems attributed to working on the art before the movie was finished. The tabloid's credit is for "Covers by Howard Chaykin and Tony deZuniga". That doesn't specify if the front and back covers were each done by both artists or if the front was done by one and the back by the other.

The art from the back cover of the second tabloid was used to create the Chapter Six page. Aside from dropping the text of a "May The Force Be With You" blurb and some minor cropping it looks pretty much the same. The first page of the second tabloid became page 123 of this paperback (see right). The second page became page 122 (below page 123) and the third page became page 124. All three originally appeared with text boxes providing viewers with a recap of the story up to that point. For the first page (123), the boxes were in the upper right and lower left corners. On the second page (122) the text appeared at medium height and on the right edge. On the third page (124) the text was also at medium height but on the left edge.

By the time this paperback came out in November 1977, Marvel began to run three pages of a Star Wars serial in every issue of PIZZAZZ, an ostensibly 'teen' magazine that definitely spoke to a younger demographic. In February 1978, the Marvel UK branch began publishing STAR WARS WEEKLY, an anthology which started by reprinting half of each issue of the American Star Wars comic plus other Marvel science fiction stories similarly cut into smaller portions and serialized.

By April of 1978 the movie was still playing in theaters but had dwindled from a peak of just over 1000 screens to just over 100. In July it would be officially re-released (to over 1700 screens, according to IMDB) and in anticipation of that, Marvel published a third tabloid which collected all six issues in color in one volume for the first time. The third tabloid had new front and back covers by Ernie Chan. The inside covers used the same B&W photos taken on the set of the movie that were used in the second tabloid with the indicia and other text changed. It had 112 interior pages (the length of the previous two tabloids combined) for $2.50. Besides the 104 pages of story, the remaining eight pages were:

  • p.36 the cast and crew page used in the first two tabloids
  • p.55 a pin-up of Obi-Wan Kenobi by Tony deZuniga from the British STAR WARS WEEKLY #7.
  • pp.56-57 are a cover gallery
  • p.58 is a pin-up of Sandtroopers (Stormtroopers on Tatooine)
  • p.59 is a Carmine Infantino pin-up of Luke and the Droids
  • p.94 is a Carmine Infantino pin-up of Han and Chewie
  • p.112 is a full page ad with the cover of issue #14 of the monthly series.
The pin-ups on pages 58, 59 and 94 have all also appeared in STAR WARS WEEKLY, as did the pin-ups from the first two tabloids. However, it is less obvious in the case of the third tabloid whether the pin-ups appeared there or in SWW first.

I suspect that the additional materials included in the tabloids have been incorporated into the bonus materials of the first STAR WARS OMNIBUS: THE ORIGINAL MARVEL YEARS, but I don't know how well it documents (if at all) when that material appeared in the British weeklies.

All I know is that I've got to follow up on a Jack Kirby Sandman post with a 'what ever happened to...'. Plus, I found some more record sleeve art. And an advertising flyer. And some very old movie passes. And an actual old movie reel. And a couple of jigsaw puzzles....

Friday, September 1, 2017

0052:Is That A Light Sabre In Your Pocket? Part 1

First of all, I'd like to thank Khairul Hisham and Joe Sokolowski for inspiring the idea for this post. Joe posts daily on Google+ with questions about the experiences of other collectors. When he asked everyone what Star Wars comic they read first, Khairul replied that he read the B&W mass market paperback collection of the original Marvel adaptation.

This (on the left) is it, I believe. Marvel began publishing a monthly comic book series based on Star Wars in April of 1977, just as the movie was reaching some theaters. It was rare back then for any movie to have simultaneous national releases across the country. A movie would usually premiere in Los Angeles or New York or both, then open almost immediately in chains and large capacity theaters in major cities. If it took off and demand increased due to word of mouth or rave reviews, more prints would be created and shipped to theaters in "the boondocks". If not, existing prints would be split between some of those theaters in remote areas and 'second run' theaters in the cities. Or just destroyed.

"Star Wars" (1977) opened in late May in fewer than 50 theaters nationally ("43 screens" according to IMDB, but that might be fewer actual theaters). By the time it reached my (not unsubstantial) town in June it would have passed 300 screens. By August it peaked at about a thousand more screens than it started on.

The first six issues of the monthly comic book series formed the adaptation of the movie (now retroactively known as "Star Wars IV: A New Hope") and were cover dated July through December.
Page ii
Remember, the first issue actually shipped before the movie. That means that the art was sent to the printers as far back as March. It was written and drawn from a shooting script and some early production stills. That's why there's a scene with Biggs in the first issue and Jabba is the size and shape of a human (and wearing clothes) in issue #2. When fans found out that the comic could possibly include something, even a scrap, of material not available in the movie, the already healthy sales turned into an insatiable demand that comics hadn't seen in many years. Newsstand comic books simply didn't have second printings-- period. If a comic sold out completely (logistically tricky with newsstand distribution), the publishers would just try to put the same characters into as many titles as possible, hoping to duplicate in future issues whatever caused the previous issue to sell out. Star Wars was a different case, because the franchise started in a different medium with potential readership in venues beyond the comic racks. Not only could new printings of the individual issues be packaged in bags for department stores, but the stories could be reprinted in different formats because it would be sold to an audience without preconceived notions of what was
Page iii

appropriate for a comic book.

In late July, between issues #4 and #5, Marvel published a Tabloid sized Treasury with the title MARVEL SPECIAL EDITION featuring STAR WARS. It was the first of two and it reprinted the first three issues. In early October, after issue #6 of the monthly series, the second tabloid came out reprinting #'s 4-6. In fact, the last page of the second tabloid is a full page ad with the cover of issue #7 of the monthly series, "On Sale Now!"

From 1974 until 1981 Marvel published an ongoing series of tabloid sized color comics called MARVEL TREASURY EDITION. It lasted 28 issues, but there were more than 20 additional tabloids published under other titles, such as MARVEL TREASURY SPECIAL or MARVEL SPECIAL EDITION. Most of those used licensed characters (although four of the MTE's were of Conan). The Star Wars volumes were unusual in that most of the comics in that size were 80 pages for $1.50 at that time. The two Star Wars adaptations were 56 pages for $1.00. [All of the other tabloids and comics that Marvel published from 1968 up to 1981 always had a multiple of 16 for the number of
Page iv
interior pages. Not counting the covers, they were 32, 48. 64, 80 and 96.] Aside from being twice the size of a normal comic book the appeal of these books was the modicum of new material and no ads. The inside covers of both, front and back, had B&W production photos, including one of George Lucas and Sir Alec Guinness in the second volume. The front and back covers had new art. The art from the front cover of the first volume was shrunken to be used on the cover of this mass market paperback (see the first scan above), consequently losing much of the detail. After reprinting issue #1 (17pp) and #2 (18pp) there's a full page devoted to the cast and other credits, as it appears in the second scan (Page ii) above. The remaining 20 interior pages are a reprint of issue #3 (18pp), a full page ad for the second volume and a page with miniature reproductions of the covers of the first three issues. The back cover was an untitled portrait of the rebels by Rick Hoberg and Dave Cockrum, who also did the front. This back cover art was recycled for the mass market paperback. Type was added providing credits for the production involved in the reprint, which differs from those in the tabloids. (see page 121 below)
Page 121

For the second tabloid, since all three reprinted issues (#4,5 and 6) contained 17 pages of story, that left five pages to be filled. Curiously, the covers aren't reproduced at all, even in miniature. The page of movie credits, which already appeared in the first volume, appears again, this time between issues #5 and 6. As mentioned earlier, the last page is an ad for issue #7. The other three new pages are pin-ups, possibly newly made for the tabloids, possibly rejected cover ideas, which are grouped in the front of the book as background for a small amount of text to recap the events of the earlier three issues. In the mass market paperback, they are grouped at the back without the text.

Both of the tabloids were printed in Marvel editions and Whitman editions. It's easy to tell the difference; a white box in the upper left corner of the front cover will have the volume number, the price and either a Curtiss Circulation distribution mark (two letter "C"s inside a larger "C") or a large "W" with the name "Whitman" written across it. Whitman also printed reprints of the individual issues.

Around the time that issue #8 (02/78) of the monthly series was coming out in November 1977, the mass market paperback came out. It measured 4.25" X 7.00", roughly half the size of the originals, or a quarter of the tabloids (10.00" X 13.50"). It was published by Del Rey Books, a division of Ballantine Books. Ballantine published the original Star Wars novel ahead of the movie in 1976. The Del Rey imprint was then created in 1977 to specialize in publishing science fiction. It handled subsequent printings of the paperback as well as all the other Star Wars related novels through the 1980's. Knowing that, it becomes less surprising that this wasn't published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster that published color mass market paperbacks of Marvel Comics stories beginning that same year. Simon and Schuster also published larger trades of Marvel material under its Fireside imprint, such as ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS, etc. This would all become a moot point by 1980 when Marvel published an adaptation of "The Empire Strikes Back" in issues #39-44, but also as a single volume magazine, tabloid and a paperback under their own imprint, Marvel Illustrated Books.

With a cover price of $1.50 the Ballantine paperback was actually cheaper  than buying the individual issues at cover price ($1.90). It was published before barcodes had become ubiquitous (although the comics and tabloids had them). It does, however, have a ten digit ISBN, # 0-345-27492-x. That five digit string, "27492", doubles as Ballantine's stock number on the front cover. The number appears on the book's spine, minus the first "0". It was also assigned a 13-digit ISBN (retroactively?), #978-0345-27492-2.

The book contains 128 pages (four unnumbered, 124 numbered). The inside covers are both blank, and the unnumbered pages consist of a featureless title page (omitted here) and the pages whose scans above I've labeled Page ii through iv. The next four pages (1-4) are introductory essays by Stan Lee (above and left) and Roy Thomas (which are going to have to lead off the second half of this post-- this will take forever to finish otherwise).

I may or may not be caught up this weekend, so I'm going to finish this after Labor Day if I am or before if I'm not.
See you when I can.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

0051: This Artist, This Man

This is the second half of the post "This Man, This Artist" (#0050). The title is a play on the title of one of Jack Kirby's most beloved art jobs from FANTASTIC FOUR #51 (06/66), "This Man, This Monster". (If you haven't read it and plan to, be advised that the rest of this paragraph is a Spoiler. The post continues in the next paragraph.) It takes place after the first Galactus story (#48-50) with the team trying to get their lives back to normal. The Thing is bemoaning his condition when a stranger invites him in from the rain. The stranger (who is never named during the story) turns out to be a scientist jealous of Reed Richards' success and drugs Ben then uses his own technology to turn his own body into the Thing and the Thing's body back into Ben's original form. Hoping to infiltrate the Baxter Building as the Thing to get close enough to Reed to kill him, the stranger instead learns that Reed's public persona is his own and not the hypocritical façade he had always assumed it to be. He realizes that his chances to find success on his own terms were squandered when he focused all his energy on revenge. During a crisis, the stranger sacrifices himself to save Reed. His death causes the real Ben to revert to the Thing. Each of the three men, Ben, Reed and the stranger, are either men or monsters depending on perspective. Ben fears that he is a monster, Reed is characterized as one and the stranger discovers that he is one. The stranger isn't named in the story because it gives thing a kind of universality. He didn't do wrong because of his name or who he is, but because of the limited way in which he saw things. That could have been any of us.

The thing that makes Kirby so universally name dropped is not simply because he touched a large number of people, many of whom went on to be comics creators. Fans, critics and publishers keep revisiting his work because of the wide variety of future creators who imprinted on him like ducklings. Eventually the ducklings grow up and swim away from momma, but if you could see under the water then you'd know that their legs are still kicking the same way. 31 years ago when Fantagraphics published the one hundredth issue of AMAZING HEROES they noticed that it would coincide with Jack Kirby's birthday on August 28th. They then cast a wide net asking anyone working in the industry to contribute a brief message to Jack. Dozens replied with anecdotes, observations, sketches or some combination of those. I included scans of half of them in the previous post and now here's the rest, along with my own short descriptions of the contributors.

  • William Messner-Loebs is now known primarily as a writer but he also drew his own scripts on JOURNEY, published by Aardvark-Vanaheim and then Fantagraphics. He had just concluded the series months before this article and had begun scripts on JONNY QUEST for Comico with various artists. He began several years at DC with art on WASTELAND and scripts for DR. FATE, FLASH and WONDER WOMAN. These tend to be overshadowed by scripts for THE MAXX and EPICURUS THE SAGE, both with Sam Keith.
  • Gilbert Hernandez (who often signs 'Beto') is one of several Hernandez Brothers, two of whom (Gilbert and Jaime) are markedly more prolific. Along with Mario they created all of the features in the magazine-sized anthology LOVE & ROCKETS (which was recently revived as a new series). The serialized features (like "Palomar" and "Poison River") were gradually compiled in a series of trade paperbacks under the umbrella title LOVE & ROCKETS, even though some had only tenuous or no connections to the others.

Gilberto also contributed to the all-ages anthology MEASLES and girl-band-from-space series YEAH! as well as the adult oriented BIRDLAND, LUBA and GRIP.
  • T.M. Maple was a prolific fan letter writer in the 70's and 80's, when nearly every title carried a letters' page. He died shortly after Jack.
  • Don Heck was working at Marvel when Jack returned there in 1958. On more than one occassion Don would have an extended run pencilling a feature that Jack started and left, notably THE AVENGERS and IRON MAN. He passed away about a year after Jack did.
  • Al Gordon is more likely to be the inker who started at Marvel in the late 70's rather than the Golden Age penciller, if only because he signed off here with the phrase "'Nuff Said!" He also worked on DNAGENTS for Eclipse while Jack was drawing DESTROYER DUCK.
  • This statement by Wally Wood was provided to the editors by Jim Valentino from materials prepared for a convention booklet, since Wood had died in 1981. A few years after this article when the Harvey Awards added a Jack Kirby Hall of Fame category, Wood was the first in.
  • Steven Grant started writing for Marvel in the late 70's after being published in STAR*REACH and other independents. He went from the HULK! magazine and SPIDEY SUPER STORIES to the PUNISHER mini-series (collected as CIRCLE OF BLOOD) and First Comics' WHISPER when this article came out. Two years ago he brought back Warren's "The Rook" for Dark Horse.
  • Milton Canniff was the creator of the newspaper strips TERRY AND THE PIRATES and STEVE CANYON. He was ten years older than Jack and died a couple years after this article ran.
  • Don Rico was a Golden Age contemporary of Jack's who did art for Victor Fox, Lev Gleason and others. He went to work for Marvel in 1942 to draw Captain Marvel after Simon and Kirby left. He stayed there right through the change to Atlas until the restructuring in 1957.
  • Michael T. Gilbert is most famous for refurbishing a forgotten Golden character (Mr. Monster) and has a regular column in the magazine ALTER EGO.

  • Joshua Quagmire was the creator of Cutey Bunny and now works primarily through his website.
  • Chas. Gillen, according to several online sources, was the real name of the Charlton artist who signed his work "J. Gill". I recognize Gillen's name (and stylized signature) from fanzines like this one, but I can't recall seeing his (or Gill's) name after the 1980's.
  • Stan Lee-- if I have to explain to you who Stan Lee is then you might be reading this blog by mistake. Perhaps I can interest you in a cat video?
  • [Jim] Steranko had a pair of short-lived action series for Harvey comics in 1966 when he got a chance to ink Jack Kirby on the S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in STRANGE TALES. He soon began finishing Jack's layouts and eventually was pencilling and writing the feature, taking it to a full-length monthly NICK FURY series in 1968. By the end of that year he began short stints on X-MEN and CAPTAIN AMERICA. His work on all three titles was reprinted as Baxter paper mini-series a few years before this article appeared.
  • Burne Hogarth is another artist whose comments were provided by Jim Valentino. He was both a commercial illustrator and comic book artist. He drew the Tarzan Sunday newspaper strip for over a decade, but today is probably best known for a series of instructional books about drawing anatomy, especially anatomy in motion.
  • Roy Thomas became a comics fan in the 1940's, contributing to the pioneering fanzine ALTER EGO, and currently edits the modern version of it published by TwoMorrows. In the mid-1960's he began a long association with Marvel, usually succeeding Stan Lee's writing duties on various titles as the company's line expanded and Lee's editing duties became more demanding. Eventually, he succeeded Lee as Editor-In-Chief as well. Most notably, he took over X-MEN and AVENGERS. He also talked the company into abandoning it's policy of avoiding licensing characters in order to adapt the first CONAN comics, which he wrote for over a decade. He also wrote the adaptation of STAR WARS in 1977. In the 1980's he became DC's go to guy regarding Golden 

Age characters, scripting ALL-STAR SQUADRON, YOUNG ALL-STARS and INFINITY, INC. When CRISIS eliminated that history, he was given a new monthly title, SECRET ORIGINS, to write or edit a new one. He may be the only person working in comics to have created as many durable, recurring characters as Stan and Jack.

  • Jaime Hernandez, who often signs as "Xaime", is one of the Hernandez Brothers (see Gilberto, above). Jaime did a number of mini-series that spun off supporting characters from LOVE & ROCKETS, such as PENNY CENTURY and WHOA, NELLIE! and numerous album covers.
  • Don Simpson is the creator of the long-lived super-hero parody "Megaton Man", but Dover Publications has just recently collected his science fiction opus BORDER WORLDS into a single volume for the first time ever.
  • Jonathan Peterson became an editor at DC around the time that this article ran. By the time he left in 2000 he had also done some scripts.

  • Rick Veitch is a writer and artist who has worked for Marvel and DC but might be best remembered for his creator owned work published with smaller companies, such as BRAT PACK, MAXIMMORTAL and RARE BIT FIEND. In the 1970's he left undergrounds to work in the majors, doing art for SGT. ROCK (DC), colors for FLASH GORDON (Western), letters for STAR WARS (Marvel) and all three for his own scripts in HEAVY METAL. After providing art on SWAMP THING for a year and a half he took over scripting when Alan Moore departed, staying for another year and a half. His website is both beautiful and easy to navigate.
  • Gil Kane was working at DC in the 1950's when Jack left to join Marvel. At about that time, Kane was playing a huge part in launching DC's Silver Age, leaving behind "Rex the Wonder Dog" and "Trigger Twins" for the new "Green Lantern" and "The Atom". Beginning in the mid-60's Kane became one of the select few to work at both Marvel and DC simultaneously. He was still working for both when this article was published and continued to do
so right through the 90's. He passed away in 2000.
  • Mark Alexander was an inker discovered by DC's title NEW TALENT SHOWCASE, but at the time of this article was working on one of Marvel's "Official Handbook" series, which must have forced him to think about numerous Kirby caharcter designs.
  • Scott Shaw! is (like Fred Hembeck and Sergio Aragones) one of those rare humor cartoonists who becomes tied into super-hero comics for reasons that become obscured with time. His anthropomorphic comics appeared in QUACK! (published by Star*Reach) along with Dave Sim, Frank Brunner, Steve Leialoha and others. He worked on Marvel's Hanna-Barbera titles in the late 70's while Jack was there (see the Howard the Duck post, #0045) He was drawing CAPTAIN CARROT for DC while Jack Kirby was doing CAPTAIN VICTORY for Pacific Comics. Shaw brought unpublished stories of features from QUACK! to Pacific, which became WILD ANIMALS, but Pacific went under before the second issue was ready. At the time of this article he was probably working in animation, but clearly made time to write a substantial entry. In fact some of the submissions for this issue were so long that they were published as full articles in this same issue. They include "Kirby!" by Doug Moench, "Jack Kirby's Gods & Heroes" by Greg Potter, "The King And I" (an interview) by Mark Evanier, "10 Great Jack Kirby Stories" by Richard Howell, "That Old Jack Magic" by Greg Theakston and reviews of key issues by R.A. Jones in the same style normally used to review current comics.
Well, I hope that these two posts provide you with several days of amused reading. I also hope that Gary Groth doesn't have a conniption fit over me reproducing so many pages that he never had any intention of reprinting in a million years anyway. It'll also give you something to point to the next time someone says, "You can't get that many people with that many different tastes to agree on anything..."

Previously on "Sieve Eye Care"...