Wednesday, September 27, 2017

0060: Knights and Days

This December will be the 40th anniversary of Cerebus The Aardvark, which must be the longest running self-published comic in history, at 300 issues. When I started rereading the series lately I found something not directly related to Cerebus that I had completely forgotten about.

The entire series is now available as 16 trades (except for five issues collected as CEREBUS #0 in 1993), but the early issues were reproduced several times as the print runs of issues in the 80's increased and new readers seeking out the scarcer early issues saw their prices rise. From 1981 to 1984 the first 25 issues were reprinted as a series of thin trades under the name SWORDS OF CEREBUS. Each volume would present the stories from four consecutive issues with introductory essays and a new story or feature of some kind. Those extra short stories were collected as CEREBUS WORLD TOUR BOOK in 1995. The indicia of some issues of CEREBUS published while SWORDS... was in production stated that the series was published fifteen times a year, meaning the twelve monthly issues of the original series plus three issues of SWORDS... It didn't work out that way in the long run. After the first three volumes came out in 1981, only one volume per year came out for the next three years, unless you count the second or third printings of the earlier volumes which occupied those spots on the release schedule. From 1982 to 1984, Aardvark-Vanaheim had added comics by other creators to their roster, briefly publishing under the imprint Renegade until the early 1985, after which Renegade became a separate publisher.

After a year of publishing only CEREBUS, creator Dave Sim took up two new ventures: a new imprint, Aardvark One International, to publish a new series PUMA BLUES and a trade paperback collection of the story arc HIGH SOCIETY, from CEREBUS #26-50. His decision to sell the trade by mail order only was initially ignored by comics distributors. But when it was followed in January 1987 by a trade of the first 25 issues (again) and in June by a trade of the third arc, it became obvious that the trades were selling and not just an indulgent vanity project. The distributors wanted a cut and in 1988, Diamond Comic Distributors decided to take a hostage. They threatened to stop distributing PUMA BLUES, cutting its sales by roughly a third, unless Sim used their services to distribute his trades. To keep their audience, PUMA BLUES moved to Mirage, the publisher of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. To fill their spot on the schedule and mollify Diamond, Sim created CEREBUS BI-WEEKLY, which would reprint the entire series from the beginning, including the editorial content and cover art in color and anything else ordinarily forgotten when the stories were compiled in trades.

By making the reprint series bi-weekly, distributors would be able to offer twice as much Cerebus back catalogue material as new material every month, not just twice a year. It would take about a year to recreate each trade, by which point the reprint series would possibly reach the point where the main series reached its peak sales and print run and the demand for reprints would dwindle. Realistically, it would never catch up to the main series.

The first issue of ...BI-WEEKLY (December 2, 1988) reprints the first issue of CEREBUS in its entirety, right down to the opening editorial and indicia (with the exception of the original address for the publication offices, which had since changed, to avoid confusion). Even this ad, which appeared on the inside back cover of the original, was reproduced with an added annotation above it.

I checked, and sure enough the entire portfolio could be seen on Pinterest and Flickr, which wouldn't even exist until after CEREBUS ended and a couple of decades after Sim began distributing his trades on the direct market. I don't know how many "personal copies" Gene Day held onto but now the whole world has copies, in a sense. As detailed as the art is, it isn't nearly as good as Day would become in just a few years. Despite being shut down by Lucasfilms, Day went on to ink the authorized Marvel STAR WARS series less than a year later. But he was probably first noticed for inking Mike Zeck on MASTER OF KUNG FU and, like Steranko inking Kirby on S.H.I.E.L.D., eventually taking over the pencils as well as his talent developed exponentially. Shortly before he died in the fall of 1982, he began pencilling the STAR WARS series but only completed two issues (#68-69) with Tom Palmer. One of the first new titles Renegade published after splitting from Aardvark-Vanaheim in 1985 was GENE DAY'S BLACK ZEPPELIN, compiled from small press and unpublished stories with the cooperation of his brothers Dan and David. Although some of the stories involving other creators have been included in their own trades, the exclusively Day material isn't and is overdue for reexamination since it spans his earlier, cruder underground origins as well as his better known professional fantasy work. It's just a few more years until his 70th birthday, and it would make a fitting commemoration to finally curate his work.

Monday, September 25, 2017

0059: ...Or, as they say, "It nearly killed him!"

NOTE: Despite having a large collection of comics and related material, comparatively little of it contains lots of gore. Because of that, I never developed a protocol for when a trigger warning would be appropriate. The current post doesn't have any bloody images, but it does have a song title that's not for the easily queasy or the professionally outraged. And if you don't recognize the punchline referenced in the post title, then maybe you should just enjoy the pictures. Or maybe you should read on, you might learn something.


Most science fiction fans probably know Swiss surrealist painter/sculptor H.R. Giger as the designer of the Aliens made famous in Ridley Scott's films. They are one of three works that, perhaps unfairly, overwhelm the visibility of his enormous body of original art, books and lithographs. The others are the record jacket art for Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery" and a poster of a painting entitled "Penis Landscape" that was included in the Dead Kennedys' LP "Frankenchrist". That poster resulted in an infamous trial in which a district attorney running for office tried to prosecute lead singer and label head Jello Biafra for distributing "harmful matter" to minors. The charges and the incoherent arguments to support them were ridiculous, but the expectation was that all parties would plead guilty to avoid the cost of the trial and to bargain for lesser penalties, while the prosecution enjoyed a taxpayer funded election ad. They had not reckoned on Baifra's capacity for spite and righteous indignation. At the cost of his marriage, the acrimonious dissolution of his band and over $50,000 in legal fees, he fought the charges. A deadlocked jury sent the decision back to the judge, who threw the case out as frivolous.

The use of Giger's art was unusual at the label, Alternative Tentacles, whose bands usually found artists for record packaging closer to home, occasionally from their own members. Montage artist Winston Smith provided art for many of the Dead Kennedys' projects and continued working with Biafra on his solo projects, beginning with the spoken word albums "No More Coccoons" and "High Priest Of Harmful Matter".

Eventually, other bands recording on Alternative Tentacles took advantage of the fact that one of its most famous vocalists/lyricists was without a band. Musicians recording elsewhere formed splinter groups as an excuse to record with him. In the span of a few years he had released albums with NoMeansNo, D.O.A., Mojo Nixon, Lard and others. In 1991 he released an album called "Tumor Circus" that became the name of the group assembled to record it. That was primarily Biafra, Charlie Tolnay (of the band Lubricated Goat) and three members of Steel Pole Bathtub.

The album was accompanied by a 7" single of two non-album songs, "Take Me Back Or I'll Drown Our Dog" and "Swine Flu" backed with the album track "Fireball". By the end of the year, one more previously unreleased recording came out with an unusual bit of a bonus.

































Horror writer Clive Barker allowed the art seen in the first scan above to be used for the sleeve. Instead of a standard square paper envelope into which a single would ordinarily be dropped, the sleeve was printed as a single 7.25" X 14.50" piece of paper folded in half and held in a clear plastic sleeve. That was what enabled me to flatten the sleeve out and make the scan used here. The art originally appeared in the book "Clive Barker: Illustrator", published earlier that year (1991) by Eclipse Books in both hardcover and paperback. The second scan shows the A-side label with the song title, "Meathook Up My Rectum" and explains why the B-side is so difficult to play. As it turns out, Barker provided an original sketch recreated as an etching where the B-side would be. I apologize in advance if there are devices on which this doesn't appear.

This came out while Barker's stories were being adapted for the Eclipse Comics anthology "Tapping The Vein" and Marvel's Epic line was publishing both a "Hellraiser" and "Nightbreed" series. He had also written the introduction to the trade paperback of Sandman's "A Doll's House". In another two years the Marvel Razorline imprint would briefly publish stories written by James Robinson, Elaine Lee and Fred Burke from concepts provided by Barker. So, as unlikely as it sounds, "Meathook Up My Rectum" became one of the most mainstream releases on the label in the early 90's.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

0058: "Early Days of Triiumph"

[Silver Age Marvel History Part 7 -- see ADMIN03 ]

In the first half of the 1970's, as I entered elementary school and began getting my own comic books, reprints were ubiquitous. Marvel and DC were beginning to dominate the racks. They each published ongoing reprint titles (DC only briefly, mostly in 1973), printed double- and triple-length comics mixing new lead stories with reprint back-up stories, published lines of tabloid-sized treasury editions and on rare occasions licensed select old stories to book publishers. That was the only way you could find comic book stories in a large bookstore; if anyone other than the comic book publishers printed them.

As a teenager I learned more about the histories of the comics published by the two remaining majors, long before I knew the histories of the companies themselves. I found that by organizing a publisher's titles by their cover dates I could get a rough idea of when the  cover prices changed. I also noticed that the trade dress designs weren't just random decorations but that they would change simultaneously across the line and enable me to find other stories by my favorite creators or with my favorite supporting characters. I also learned that the diversity of formats I had grown up with hadn't always been the norm. Just a few years before I started reading, both Marvel and DC had exactly two price points. The standard comics for each had 32 interior pages for 12¢ (from roughly late 1961 to early 1969, then 15¢ until 1971). For DC, the larger price point was 80 interior pages (with a rare exception) for 25¢ and consisted almost entirely of reprints. For Marvel, they began at 72 pages for 25¢ and halfway through the decade dialed back to 64 pages for the same price. Despite the disparity in production costs, they did this with comics that were entirely new, entirely reprints or some combination of both. There was no public rationale for this, no manifesto explaining their reasons; you either bought what was on the rack or you didn't and two months later it wouldn't matter because any unsold comics would be destroyed. The publishers hoped that whatever they offered you was something that you wanted more than you wanted the quarter. However, it could be that Marvel was selling a brand identity as much as Spider-man stories. They had witnessed DC launching the 80pg/25¢ format when standard comics were still 10¢ in 1960 and keeping it even after the standard went up to 12¢. When they introduced their own line of exactly two annuals in 1962, one was all new and the other all reprint. Both were the same length and price: 72pg/25¢.
When the standard price at both companies rose to 15¢ in early 1969, they each chose again to keep the price of their longer format at 25¢ but this time DC was forced to reduce their page count to 64 pages in order to do that. A few had short stories or framing sequences of new material, but they were still primarily reprints. Marvel by that time had both a small line (fewer than ten) of summer annuals with new lead stories and features and reprint back-up stories, but also had several bi-monthly all-reprint series the same length and price. The summer annuals as of that year were all-reprint and wouldn't have new material again until 1976. [The quarterly Giant-Size comics published in lieu of annuals in 1974-1975 are a whole other breed; if I live long enough to cover all the Silver Age reprints, I would love to pick apart the Giants.]

In 1971, with another price increase looming, the 25¢ price point shrank to 48 pages at both companies, but at DC they decided to make that the standard format (for a year, anyway). Their last four Giants were 64pg/35¢, overlapping with the introduction of their 96pg/50¢ "Super Spectacular" format and the introduction of B&W magazines, digests and tabloids at both companies. For me, that diversification of formats is the demarcation between the Silver and Bronze Ages.

The cover above is my personal copy of MARVEL COLLECTORS' ITEM CLASSICS #3 (06/66). It represented a shift in the role of special format reprints. The first in 1962, STRANGE TALES ANNUAL #1, reprinted all suspense stories. The second in 1963 was STRANGE TALES ANNUAL#2 with a new Human Torch story followed by more suspense reprints, but that same year the first Fantastic Four Annual  included a reprint of the first 13 pages of FF#1, the start of Marvel's Silver Age super-hero roster. By the summer of 1964, suspense stories had just been phased out of the standard Marvel comics, so the reprint special for that year, MARVEL TALES ANNUAL #1, reprinted the super-hero origin stories that followed FF#1. It had the first six pages of the first Hulk story, the first Thor and Spider-man stories and both the first appearances of Ant-Man and Iron Man and excerpts of their upgrades (Giant-Man identity and stream-lined armor, respectively). It also had the first six pages of the first Sgt. Fury story, acting as an origin for his title. While Sgt. Fury wasn't exactly a super-hero title, Nick had already made his present day appearance in FF#21 and was fixed in the new burgeoning continuity. There were also no other war titles at the time; the last one Marvel published had been BATTLE #70, cancelled in 1960 to make way for Archie knock-off MY GIRL PEARL. Speaking of which, the four remaining teen humor titles had been represented by MILLIE THE MODEL and PATSY & HEDY Annuals, but there was no Annual or other reprint title for the three remaining westerns, the only other surviving genre in 1964. There was definitely a concerted attempt to convey the feel of the super-hero books onto the westerns, beyond just having Jack Kirby covers. Letters pages were added to all titles in late 1964. RAWHIDE KID #45 (04/65) presented a newly retold "Origin" story. KID COLT OUTLAW #121 (03/65) featured a crossover team-up with Rawhide Kid and #125 (11/65) had Two-Gun Kid. But in late 1965 the short five page back-up stories were replaced with reprints. By that time there were eleven monthly titles and five bi-monthly titles to put out, not counting the three new reprint series and various specials. Western back-ups weren't the best use of an artist. Then, out of the blue, beginning in the summer of 1966, three consecutive issues of KID COLT OUTLAW #130 (09/66)-132 (01/67) became 64pg/25¢ reprint specials, although only the first used the trade dress common for the annuals at the time. It was one of several "testing the waters" events that both Marvel and DC toyed with in the latter half of the '60's.

Part of the reason for tentative experiments with format surely had to be the zeitgeist of the decade. Asking why and pushing boundaries were the order of the day in business, academics and art; comics had always been an 'adapt or die' industry, jumping on fads and exploiting trends. If you as a publisher didn't look for something new and different in 1966, you could bet your readers would. Another part of the explanation was probably the mid-season television debut of the "Batman" series in January. [For younger readers: before cable and multi-platform viewing there were three(!) American commercial broadcast networks and most of their new shows began in September each year. A typical season was 35 episodes, but if the first dozen of those perform badly in the ratings (and every year a few shows do) then it will be prematurely cancelled and replaced in January with a series reserved for that purpose.] "Batman" was a replacement series and ran two episodes a week for 17 consecutive weeks. The second season was 30 consecutive weeks- 94 episodes in a year and a half. It was a pop culture phenomenon and DC, who were already publishing two 80pg Giants of BATMAN every year responded only by squeezing a third into their schedule in 1966. Most of their capitalization on the success of the TV show took the form of licensed products and increased sales of their existing titles. Bizarrely, they never increased the frequency of the main title. To put things in perspective:

DC Comics began 1955, their implementation of the Comics Code, by publishing:
  • Ten monthly comics titles
  • Twelve titles that came out eight times a year (the equivalent of eight monthly titles)
  • Twenty-two bimonthly comics titles (the equivalent of eleven monthly titles)
44 titles, averaging 29 shipments a month (not counting one Rudolph comic at Christmas),

DC Comics began 1966, when the Batman TV show debuted, by publishing:
  • Six monthly comics titles
  • Eighteen titles that came out eight times a year (the equivalent of twelve monthly titles)
  • Twenty-four bi-monthly comics titles (the equivalent of twelve monthly titles)
  • Twelve monthly 80pg Giants (the equivalent of 2.5 monthly titles)
Not counting the giants, that's 48 titles averaging 30 shipments a month. That's not much growth for a pop culture boom and Marvel had nearly doubled their own output since 1958, on top of having increased sales per title. The really bizarre part of this is that the remaining monthly titles were BLACKHAWK, which had been acquired from Quality after 1955, and five pre-Code anthologies, including the three oldest titles they published: ADVENTURE, DETECTIVE and ACTION. Of their other pre-Code titles, all the super-hero titles at that time were published eight times a year. Of the titles introduced since the Code was implemented, only JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, GREEN LANTERN, LOIS LANE and FALLING IN LOVE were eight-per-year titles. Yet, neither DC or Marvel had introduced an anthology title since Marvel's AMAZING ADVENTURES in 1961, excepting reprints [DC acquired the last two titles from the defunct publisher Prize Publications in 1963, both romance anthologies]. LINDA CARTER, STUDENT NURSE and HULK were cancelled, but all Marvel's other new titles since 1961 started as bi-monthly and became monthly before 1966. Why DC had such deference for their anthology titles is curious enough, but denying monthly status to SUPERMAN, BATMAN, JLA, FLASH, etc. is mystifying. The anthology titles by that time weren't still true anthologies anyway. In general, they had a lead story and a back-up. ADVENTURE had been running reprints as back-ups to their Legion of Super-Heroes stories since 1963 and during 1966 would eliminate those to publish issue length LSH stories until 1969. The attention brought by a television series would be the perfection situation for releasing material more frequently, but none of those titles would go monthly until the 1970's, and even then only some of them.

Meanwhile, Marvel was not only producing their super-hero stories more frequently they were repackaging the earliest stories for new readers who came in late. When the first MARVEL TALES came out there was also an all-new AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 and a second FF Annual reprinting the first appearance of Dr. Doom from FF#5. When the second MARVEL TALES came out in 1965, the third FF Annual (reprinting FF#6 and 11) and second Spider-man Annual (reprinting AS#5, the first story from AS#1 and the second story from AS#2) were joined by the first annuals for JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (reprinting Thor stories from #'s 85, 93, 95 and 97) and SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS (reprinting #'s 4 and 5, plus a two page feature from #1). The MARVEL TALES itself reprinted the first issues of X-MEN and AVENGERS and the origin story of Doctor Strange from STRANGE TALES #115. There wasn't much else that would fit the 'Secret Origins' format they had carved out for the book. Dr. Droom (who preceded the FF in AMAZING ADVENTURES) had a first appearance they could have used, but not an origin story. More to the point, he never made it to 1962. The Human Torch feature in STRANGE TALES wouldn't have had an origin separate from the one for the rest of the FF already reprinted in their annual. Chronologically, the next new feature would be Daredevil, whose first story wouldn't physically fit in the remaining pages. After that, the origin story of Captain America had just appeared months earlier in TALES OF SUSPENSE #63 (03/65), and the first S.H.I.E.L.D. story more recently in STRANGE TALES #135 (08/65). The Submariner feature had started the same week in TALES TO ASTONISH #70 (08/65), but his origin had been in the first FF Annual and it seemed excessive to reprint a 37-page story just for the flashback sequence. Instead, the remaining pages were filled with the final ten pages of HULK #3, a random suspense story from AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #8 and four in-house ads. It became clear that the titles and features they had were too successful for Marvel to need enough new ones to fill a 72 page special with origins and first appearances every year. Finally, a nice problem to have.

With the summer past, Marvel planned to forego annual specials of reprints and instead publish a regular quarterly special of early stories called MARVEL COLLECTORS' ITEM CLASSICS. As their first year-round series of specials it would be 64 pages instead of 72. It focused on the best sellers, with the first issue reprinting FF#2 and AS#3 with enough room left over to reprint the second Ant-man story, the first "Tales of Asgard" back-up and a house ad. The second issue reprinted the next installments of FF, Spider-man and Ant-man, but replaced the "Tales Of Asgard" with paid ads and changed the indicia to read "published bi-monthly". While it was on the stands, the Batman TV show debuted, the impact was almost immediate and the third issue (see above scans) was different. When combined with the revised MARVEL TALES, which would ship the following month, they would reproduce all the super-hero features Marvel introduced from the Fantastic Four to before X-Men/Avengers, as close to chronologically as space permitted. They did this by splitting the two best sellers between them: FF stayed with MCIC, Spider-man went with the new MT. They then shuffled the Ditko and Kirby art. Since MCIC had FF, MT got the Human Torch and Thor. Since MT had Spider-man, MCIC got Doctor Strange and Iron Man (which had variable artists, including both Kirby and Ditko). This left enough wiggle room in MCIC for short pieces (like the Watcher back-ups from TALES OF SUSPENSE) and the question of what to do with the short-lived Hulk series answered itself. The six issues, which were originally published with chapter breaks in some issues and short stories in others, would be serialized. The first two MARVEL TALES Annuals had already used such segments, MCIC would just complete them.

As with the first two issues, the third issue would employ a composite cover using the covers of the comics where the reprinted stories originally appeared. MARVEL TALES would also adopt this method starting with its third issue as well as using the inside front cover to describe contents and production credits. The rest of the contents are:

  • Reprint FANTASTIC FOUR #4(05/62) "The Coming Of... Sub-mariner!", 23pp
  • Reprint TALES OF SUSPENSE #40 (04/63) [Iron Man] "~ Versus Gargantus!", 13pp
  • Reprint STRANGE TALES #110 (07/62) [Dr. Strange] "~ Master Of Black Magic!", 5pp
  • Reprint TALES OF SUSPENSE #49 (01/64) [Watcher] "The Saga Of The Sneepers!", 5pp
  • Reprint INCREDIBLE HULK #3 (09/62) "Banished To Outer Space", 11pp
The remaining seven pages and both sides of the back cover were all paid ads.

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"...