Wednesday, May 31, 2017

0018: The Post Anniversary

[I'm starting this later than I hoped because I just checked my Blogger dashboard and found out that my Christmas music blog, which typically gets about 70 to 200 pageviews a month in the spring, despite not being updated since Christmas 2013, just got over 80 hits this morning alone, apparently from China. That blog has been set up to filter out porn spam from the comments so that I no longer have to check them three times a day. If anyone has a blog they haven't worked on in a while, use your dashboard to check the comments quickly. (That way you don't have to go to each post individually and you can see anything awaiting moderation.)]

The cover on the left is a scan of my well-worn copy of Marvel Tales Annual #1, "published by Non-Pareil Publishing Corporation". That's what it says in the indicia. Of course it says "Marvel Comics Group" in the box in the upper left corner of the cover, but what many fans never understood is that it wasn't referring to a group of comic book series, which would be the reasonable assumption. Nor was was it a group of creators, which regular readers might have guessed from the editorial tone of wacky camaraderie Stan Lee cultivated in letters' pages and even ad copy. No, it referred to a group of comic book publishing companies all owned by Martin Goodman, all at the same office address, all edited by Stan and staffed by the same personnel, written and drawn largely by the same small set of freelancers. In the late 1960's, Goodman sold his controlling interest to a company that kept the Marvel brand and style but consolidating the business end of things into a single name: Magazine Management Corporation. In 1973 they gave in to inevitability and renamed the company Marvel Comics Group, making it one of the world's most famous Rorschach tests. If the cover seems familiar, it's because in the post "The Lost Anniversary", I included a scan of the last page with an ad using all the same art, but integrated into mock-ups of the covers of the titles in which each character appears.

Last week I posted several pages from my notes on Marvel's publication schedule, comparing 1957 to 1958. The short take is that Atlas published 81 titles with 1957 cover dates, but only 16 of them continued in the last two months. After switching to a distributor controlled by the owner of a larger competitor, Martin Goodman's Atlas was only able to operate under limits to the number of titles it published each month. It's true that in the first few years following the 1954 Congressional Hearings there was a downturn in sales generally and many smaller publishers closed down for good, but Atlas was doing well enough. To illustrate the magnitude of their loss of rack presence, consider Charlton. At the end of 1953, before the hearings, Charlton had been a magazine publisher for about twenty years and published comics for about ten. Fawcett had been doing both for much longer, but after losing a lawsuit to DC (too long a story to go into here), Fawcett closed down its comics department. Charlton was publishing about a dozen titles at the time and acquired nine from Fawcett which they continued with cover dates in the first six months of 1954 and three more that they resumed in 1955 for some reason. Also during 1955 they picked up titles from Toby, Comic Media and the entire Simon & Kirby owned Mainline company. After two years their 12 titles became 60 (during that time only four were cancelled), five times where they started. Two years after that, when Atlas was experiencing its forced downsizing, Charlton had stabilized its roster at about 50 titles. In general, their titles didn't publish as frequently as Atlas (which would all be bimonthly until 1960). If they had, Charlton would be taking up three times the rack space. In practical terms, it would more likely seem like twice the space. DC, for comparison, ended 1957 with about 50 titles (not including three seasonals) averaging about 34 issues a month. Goodman's company (whatever it would be called after the end of 1957) had 16 titles shipping exactly 8 issues a month. There was no established fan network then as there is now and comics were marketed as impulse entertainment, so visibility was presumed to translate into sales. The owners of DC may have deliberately given Goodman a limit (rather than turning him down for distribution altogether) in order to to squeeze his cash flow so that he would eventually have to borrow money to pay his printer. The owners of DC, even before they became comics publishers, acquired numerous publishing businesses in this manner, that is, buying up a company's debt for less than face value from lenders who would some money now than more money later. Underworld ties made this easier. Rather than close Goodman's company down, they may have intended to buy it at a discount. Something stopped them and by most accounts, that something was Jack Kirby. Oh, and the U.S. Postal Service. But mostly Jack Kirby.

I mentioned earlier that Charlton acquired a publisher called Mainline owned by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. When that happened, they both went back to work for DC where Jack did Green Arrow back-up stories and introduced The Challengers of the Unknown. That feature, the new Barry Allen version of the Flash and a solo Lois Lane feature saved the Showcase title (which had a rockier first year) and all were rewarded with their own title. But Jack was also trying to break into the more lucrative newspaper strip syndication business with a space oriented strip. His best chance to make that possible would have required a DC editor who didn't work on the strip taking a percentage of the royalties in perpetuity. Jack stormed out, leaving behind enough uninked penciled pages that DC was still publishing comics with his art after newer comics he began drawing for Goodman's titles were already on the stands. Jack's monster, western, romance and war comics gave the new post-Atlas comics solid sales and his covers gave them an identity during those few years when they really didn't have a collective name. And if they could move more and more copies of each issue, shipping fewer issues became less of a problem. It never hurt Dell, although that's because their sales were often over half a million copies. Marvel wasn't close to that. But as DC continued creating new, science-based versions of their Golden Age heroes Goodman was getting antsy about finding something to compete with the Justice League. There was (reportedly) an unwritten condition to being distributed by Independent News that they wouldn't carry super-hero comics from Goodman's companies. Stan and Jack had been reusing some of the giant monsters in the science fiction and fantasy comics so that they might at least have a roster of recurring characters. They also considered making the human scientists and occult experts who defeat them into recurring heroes, trying a "Dr. Droom" feature in Amazing Adventures in 1961. But if Goodman wanted a team of heroes, that meant combining science fiction monsters with the Challengers of the Unknown, resulting in The Fantastic Four. The first issue was on newsstands in August 1961 (with a November cover date), but they didn't wear costumes until the third issue (out in December). At that point, DC would have a hard time explaining to retailers why they weren't getting a popular new title  they've already carried. The second time they tried to use the "Kirby monster as hero" formula was with the Hulk, whose title mysteriously failed to sell. In some districts, not at all. Stan Lee smelled a fix. To circumvent that kind of interference they wouldn't introduce a new feature in its own title for another year. As the initial sales figures for Hulk #1 came in in May 1962 (the pull-down date on the cover), Marvel was preparing August and September cover date titles to reach newsstands in June. These stories would all be running in established titles. Since they were disguised to look like the science fiction and fantasy titles (and one, Ant-Man, was actually a spin-off from them), that's where they would appear. Ant-Man would run in Tales to Astonish, Thor would run in Journey Into Mystery, Human Torch would run in Strange Tales and Spider-man would run in Amazing Fantasy. Then, as the sales figures for those titles dribbled in, a news item unnoticed by much of the country inadvertently changed comics history.

Sometime before Atlas downsized, even before the Comics Code Authority was formed, someone at the U.S. Postal Service noticed that the post-war increase in America's population would gradually and relentlessly translate into an increased volume of mail that would become unmanageable with the systems in use at the time. A Zoning Improvement Plan would need to be put in place before that happened because waiting until after it happened would make a difficult task impossible. Studies about mail traffic volume that should have been routine started revealing strange patterns. By August 1962, over 100 postal employees had either been indicted for their involvement in a massive narcotics ring, or else quit to avoid being caught. Drugs were being sent by mail under false cover, sometimes using the cheapest possible postage for printed matter on packages that clearly were not made of paper. Personnel and resources were being used to move illegal narcotics often without being paid for at all. By stepping up enforcement of the Statement of Ownership requirement on mass mailings of periodicals in 1960, they now had documentation to prosecute. Even though Independent News wasn't involved in the narcotics ring, they did have underworld ties going back to Prohibition and they did make a significant amount of money on subscriptions. They wanted to avoid scrutiny and having to answer questions about why 100,000 copies of Hulk #1 can't be accounted for during a two-month period. The irony is that the skeletons in their closet might be discovered by federal agents making a routine inspection of their legitimate business. With the hope of a new, unabashed super-hero title not being withheld from distribution, the Spider-man feature was immediately discontinued and the title it appeared in was cancelled. Amazing Fantasy started as Amazing Adventures (remember Dr. Droom?), and replaced Two-Gun Kid on Marvel's tight schedule. When it was cancelled, it was replaced by a redesigned Two-Gun Kid series, now with a mask and a secret identity. By December, the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man (with a March 1963 cover date) was ready with two short stories, the first of which has a job code V-816, contemporary to stories Marvel ran five months earlier. [Fantastic Four #6(9/62) has the job code V-835] The second issue also contains two stories, the second of which has a job code of X-171. [The same cover date as Fantastic Four #14 (5/63), with job code X-144.] Since the last issue of Amazing Fantasy had a 'Fan Page' announcing that Spider-Man will continue to appear in it, I'm guessing that the V-816 story and the two uncoded ones may have been intended to run in unpublished issues of Amazing Fantasy.

The first Marvel Tales Annual from 1964 reprints stories merely two years old because Marvel's distribution at that time meant that more people might see a second or third appearance of a character than the first. It contains the entire Spider-man story from Amazing Fantasy #15 (08/62), the first six pages of Incredible Hulk #1 (05/62), first Ant-Man story from Tales to Astonish #35 (09/62) and a two-page abridgement of a three page Giant-Man sequence from #49 (11/63). Then there's this ad:

After the ad is the first six pages of an introductory Sgt. Fury story from Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos #1 (05/63), then this original feature:

That's followed by the first Iron Man story from Tales Of Suspense #39 (03/63) and four pages (edited from five) about his newer armor from #48 (12/63). Finally, there's the first Thor story from Journey Into Mystery #83 (08/62) and the ad I included in last week's post. The inside front cover, inside back cover and back cover were all paid ads. The whole thing was contemporary to August 1964 cover date Marvel comics.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

0017: Change of Suits

With all seven of the songs which were recorded in March 1996 finally released on vinyl singles (on four different labels), The Action Suits needed to record new material, but they would have to do it without Peter Bagge. While their original drummer, Al Columbia, didn't perform on the new single, he was available to do the sleeve art:

This time the record label was Spot On! but there's no indication on the packaging or the record itself what the catalogue number would be. The trail-off grooves each have "ASV-001-" followed by either "A" or "B" as appropriate. One would have to guess that denotes "Action Suits Vinyl", but that's only a guess. There is a London record label called Spot On, without the exclamation mark and with a different logo, but it releases only house and trance. Here's the interior:

The note straddling the crease says, "Thanks to Steel Wool for equipment, John Troutman for the Mustang, Joe Sacco and Chelsea Cain for cheerleading, Steve Fisk for being the coolest guy in the world, Al Columbia, John Ramberg, Jeremy Eaton & Pete Bagge for inspiration, and Rhea Patton for everything else. All proceeds donated to the Humphrey Muskie Preservation Society." Either there used to be a town in Washington called Humphrey with an endangered fishing area that's no longer on the map or they're simply referring to the unsuccessful 1968 Democratic Presidential ticket of Hubert Humphrey and Ed Muskie.

 Both songs were recorded on June 28th, 1997 at the Rathutch in Ballard, WA by Zach Aubrey on 4-track.
Mixed by Mr. Steve Fisk. There is no producer or running times given. These songs are also not included on the compact disc compilation released in 2006.

Both songs written by Eric Reynolds

Eric Reynolds: Guitar & Vocals
Andy Schmidt: Bass
Chris Jacobs: Drums
Demian Johnston: Lead Guitar

About ten years after this, Chris Jacobs was the General Manager of SubPop Records. Demian Johnston is a prolific mainstay on the the Seattle music scene playing with (and as) a variety of group names. He also works in design and print-making.

All that remains for the discography (to my knowledge) is the CD compilation.

Friday, May 26, 2017

0016: The Lost Anniversary

I was glad to see a year long acknowledgement of Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary in 2013, because I had long feared that the specific date of the anniversary would be drowned out by retrospectives of the Kennedy assassination. (The first episode of "Doctor Who" aired the day after the assassination in November 1963.)

This year is a bit crowded with anniversaries as well. In 1977, three successive generations of chart-toppers, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Marc Bolan, all died within a few months of each other. Gary Gilmore gave Nike their slogan. Carter was inaugurated. Etc. Then of course there's "Star Wars" (both the movie and the comic series), Bakshi's "Wizards", the Spider-man and Hulk TV shows, the Cerebus comic (at 300 issues, I'm betting it was the longest running self-published comic ever) and numerous character first appearances that would be more relevant to comics fans. And that's just one year ending in "7". By the time this is posted there will be multiple editions of the Beatles' 1967 Sgt. Pepper album available. The first Oscar winning film, "Wings", was released in 1927. And for comics fans, there's an event in 1957 that many often forget and many more are not aware of: it was the year that Atlas ended and set the stage for Marvel to begin a new life.

[The page above is the final page of Marvel Tales Annual #1 (1964)]

Short bit of history: Marvel began in 1939 when pulp magazine publisher Martin Goodman expanded into publishing comics by hiring on creators from the content provider Funnies Inc. The initial issue was called "Marvel Comics" (retitled "Marvel Mystery Comics" with the second issue) and a roster slowly expanded throughout World War II despite paper shortages. For reasons never explicitly explained, Goodman published comics under a variety of publisher names. All listed him as the publisher in the indicia and all had the same office address (with a few rare exceptions), starting with Timely Publications, Inc. (or Timely Comics in some), joined by U.S.A. Publications, Inc. in 1941, then Select, Newsstand and Complete Photo Story in 1942. By 1943 the number of alternate publisher names appearing concurrently in the indicia (and rarely on the covers) ballooned to over a dozen. The two common theories for doing this were for tax purposes or to limit liability in the event of a bankruptcy. Whatever the reason, Goodman's Marvel Group evolved its trade dress somewhat throughout the 1940's and after their June 1950 cover dates it dropped the use of the wheat symbol it had been using for years. They spent over a year without much outward brand identity other than a common font for the issue number and cover date while Goodman organized his own distribution company which would share a name with his new, uniform publishing company name: Atlas.

Starting with November 1951 cover dates, Goodman's comics carried a globe symbol with the name "Atlas". Although the main purpose was to be certain that his magazines, comics and newly begun line of mass market paperbacks were given priority in distribution, such systems are only profitable if they take on a large number of clients and make their money by eliminating redundant infrastructure costs. Instead of seven small publishers sending mostly empty trucks all over the state to deliver their comics, one large distributor sends one or two large, full trucks along the same route. Even better, retailers have one set of paperwork to deal with every week, making them more likely to devote store space to comics than if they had to track product for each publisher. It worked well for a few years, but the controversy from the 1954 Congressional Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency stigmatized comic books and sales plummeted. Atlas was big enough to survive, but the smaller publishers it distributed did not. Goodman closed down his own distribution operation and signed on with American News, unaware that they were under investigation by the feds (for reasons unrelated to the newspapers or magazines they distributed). Caught without a way to circulate his product in 1957, Goodman seriously considered stopping his comics division. Instead, he signed a disadvantageous distribution deal with Independent News, whose majority owners were also majority owners of one of his two biggest rivals, DC Comics (known then as National Periodicals). It limited the number of titles shipping per month and the total number of titles. Unofficially, it purportedly also prohibited Goodman from publishing comics with super-heroes. That last part might seem surprising today, but Goodman gave up on super-heroes in 1949 and an attempt to revive them in 1954 failed. He may have been aware that DC had unexpected success with a revamped version of one of their Golden Age heroes, The Flash, but he may not have cared. Besides,  unwritten stipulations are unwritten for a reason.

For purposes of scale, this is Atlas in 1957. The dates given are cover dates, not release dates:

The last Atlas comic was "Dippy Duck" #1 (10/57), sharing a cover date with the first post-Atlas Goodman comic, "Patsy Walker" #73 (10/57). From that point on there was no outward brand identity; there were still several publisher names in the indicia but no names or symbols such as the wheat or globe on the cover, nothing to indicate that they were related to each other. This was the shipping schedule for 1958:

There were sixteen surviving titles total. All were bimonthly to start. Eight would ship one month, the other eight shipped the next. Each month shipped in two waves. I've marked the waves A,B,C and D in the chart above. To introduce a new title, an existing title would be cancelled. For instance, "Strange Worlds" took the place of "Navy Combat" on the schedule. "Journey Into Mystery" was an older title that was revived and replaced "Marines in Battle". The titles "Miss America" and "Homer the Happy Ghost" would be replaced by the new titles "Tales of Suspense" and "Tales To Astonish". There would also be two titles replaced in 1959 and two more in 1960, after which four titles became monthly and the total number shipping per month became ten. It wasn't until the spring of 1961 when "Patsy Walker" #95 (06/61) an "Journey Into Mystery" #69 (06/61) became the first comics to carry a tiny rectangular box on their covers with a capital 'M' over a capital 'C'. That easy-to-miss little mark was the first indication of a brand identity for the new Marvel Comics Group. And it only took almost four years.

Yeah, that's the short bit of history I mentioned earlier. There's a longer one coming, but that one has WAY more pictures. The first one is near the top of this post.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

0015: Four Suits Make A Deck

Four bananas make a bunch, and so do many more, but there aren't many more after this. This Fourth Action Suits single was released on yet another label, this time in a sleeve that opened to reveal liner notes.

Unfortunately, this wraparound sleeve won't display its two halves side by side in anything but the smallest size, so I'm going to display them twice.

And below we have the liner notes. Again, my scanner doesn't the full breadth of the image.

This particular single was made available on clear vinyl with illustrated labels:

Side A: "Cancer Father" (written by Eric Reynolds)
Lead Vocals: Eric
Trail-off groove: "L-47111 MR-037-A KM"
Produced by Steve Fisk
Running time: 3:40

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass
Peter Bagge: Drums. Percussion
Steve Fisk: Piano

Side B: "Visualize Ballard" (written by Andy Schmidt)
Lead Vocals: Andy
Trail-off groove: "L-47111-X MR-037-B KM"
Produced by Steve Fisk
Running time: 3:19

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass
Peter Bagge: Drums, Percussion
Mayhem: Andy and Steve

And if I want to get this done before midnight I'm going to delay researching a brief history of Man's Ruin Records and just follow up with the third part of the comic strip from the 2006 CD booklet.

Two more installments.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

0014: First Gear, It's Alright

In 1981, DC published a free promotional comic in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It was called "Batman: Belt 'Em For Safety", and unlike the sort of Radio Shack comics inserted in their newsstand titles at the time this was in black and white, measured about 3½" X 5½" and folded out instead of being in the more conventional saddle-stitched magazine style. If the panels had been rearranged into standard sized comic book pages, it would have been about two pages long. Marvel and DC would both produce a large number of public service comics during the 1980's, many of them far more impressive. In !983 there were three anti-drug comics published using the New Teen Titans, each sponsored by a large corporate interest. So, it made sense that they should approach safety belt issues in a similar manner:

The American offices of Honda Motors was apparently expecting the Helen Slater "Supergirl" movie (in theaters November 21, 1984) to be a star they'd want to hitch all their wagons to (or is that "to which they'd hitch..."?).

While the New Teen Titans public service comics were printed in the same manner as DC's newsstand titles, this comic was printed on the heavier stock paper used for the direct-only titles DC had introduced that year for Infinity Inc., New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-heroes. It enabled the pages to be presented in the borderless, "full-bleed" style visible on page 1 (the third image in this post).

← front cover

← inside front cover

Yes, that's Bob Dole's wife.

The fact that she's presuming the readers will be "getting your driver's licenses soon" makes the target audience for this high school students. I don't know how many people at that age will take their behavioral cues from a Supergirl comic, but with a vocabulary that includes "delirious", "empaths" and "tangible" the grade level seems about right.

← page 1

Future "Shadow" scripter and Paradox editor Andy Helfer provides the dialogue; industry veteran Joe Orlando writes and provides the color. When a friend of Supergirl is rendered comatose by a car crash (he wasn't wearing a safety belt), Superman provides her with Kryptonian technology that enables her to bring her friend back to consciousness to recreating the crash in fantasy scenarios that eventually end with choosing to wear a seatbelt and avoiding the worst of his injuries.

← back cover

After the 28-page story there are four more pages and the inside back cover, each of which has exercises to reinforce facts about driving safety. There was a second issue in 1986, but that one was aimed at a younger audience. I don't know if that was because this edition worked so well that they wanted to expand the audience, if this edition failed and they wanted to start over or if that fact that Supergirl died in Crisis in 1985 meant that they needed to reach an audience that wasn't yet aware of that.

One last note: many years later DC reprinted Crisis on Infinite Earths as an Absolute Edition (an oversized slipcase with added features). That edition included a companion book that cited uses of most of the alternate Earths DC has created over the years. This story and many other non-continuity stories are said to have occurred on Earth-32, for what it's worth.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

0013: Suit Piece Three

The third Action Suits vinyl 7" single is actually the british version of "Fun Flies", with a different B-side, different sleeve art and once again a different label. Wiiija Records of London is probably better known for acts like Cornershop and Bis but they've also released an album and several singles by an act called Sgt. Rock. I never said that I had every comics-related rock record, so if anybody out there knows if that band (or guy?) uses comic art in their/his/her packaging, let me know.

Side A: "Fun Flies" (written by Eric Reynolds)
Lead Vocals: Eric
Trial-off groove: "Simon- The Exchange WIJ52A"
Produced by Steve Fisk
Running time: 2:56

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass, additional Guitar
Peter Bagge: Drums, Percussion, Harmony Vocals

Side B: "Your Soft Light" (written by Eric Reynolds and Peter Bagge)
Lead Vocals: Eric and Pete
Trail-off groove: "Simon- The Exchange WIJ52B"
Produced by Steve Fisk
Running time: 2:53

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass
Peter Bagge: Drums, Acoustic Guitar

If you look closely, you may notice that the sleeve is die cut in the center to show the hand-lettered label of the record itself. The labels of the previous two records were typeset. The women on the sleeve are Valerie and Lisa, Buddy's girlfriends from the Bagge comic book series "Hate". When these songs were recorded in March 1996, "Hate" #22 was being released and the series had switched from B&W to color about two years earlier, Buddy and Lisa moved to the suburbs and Valerie was seen less and less.

The Simon named in the trail-off grooves is Simon Davey, an engineer with his own mastering facility in London called The Exchange. Both sides also have the name of the pressing plant-- Damont.

I'm just going to round out this post with two more pages from the 2006 CD booklet:

Next post will probably be something relatively mainstream from comics. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

0012: Check-off's Siegel

[Before I go any further, brownie points to anybody who got the title pun for this post. If you don't get it at all, let me know in the comments.]

Many small comics publishers don't make much (or any) profit,  but few announce it for the record. Fandom House, based in Colorado, probably published around or about twenty comics from 1982 to 1990. Even so, they had at least two imprints, True Fiction Publications and Sputnik Press. And if we are to believe the indicia from the inside front cover reproduced below, they did it as a non-profit publisher. That may be how they were able to get the last two published scripts by Jerry Siegel. At least I think they're the last. I've spent the last few days scrolling through databases online (never rely on just one) trying to find anything scripted since then. There were some new text pieces, most notably a remembrance of Joe Schuster that ran in the Superman titles with November 1992 cover dates. (Schuster died that July and the text pieces were in stores by September; Siegel himself passed away early in 1996.) However, when I found this recently, which I had pulled out of a bargain bin because it had a scrap of Matt Howarth art in it, and found a Jerry Siegel writing credit for what appeared to be a new story it prompted me to ask, "Well, what was the last new Jerry Siegel story to be published?" As a comics fan, shouldn't I already know that?" After having done a little research I've concluded that you shouldn't be beating yourself up if you don't. Check it out:


Above we have the cover to "Near To Now" #1 (Summer/1987), a B&W science fiction comics anthology. 32 pages plus cover, no ads, for $2.00. Siegel's contribution was the script to an 11 page story called "It's Sgt. Space Cop!", illustrated by Scott M.F. Johnson, who also contributed to "Astronauts in Trouble" years later. A note from Johnson about his predictable reaction to being offered the job can be seen in the scan of the inside front cover, above right. There was one other issue later in the fall, but Siegel wasn't in it. The actual last script was (I believe) the origin story for Sgt. Space Cop which ran in a 64 page "Near To Now Special" in 1990 which Fandom House released under the Sputnik Press imprint. I'll keep an eye out for that; I might have bought it years ago and put it in a box of miscellaneous indie comics because it was an anthology from a publisher name that couldn't fill a box of its own.

What I knew of Siegel, aside from the fact that he and Schuster created Superman, is that he had been screwed over by DC for years as editors and administrators exploited the fact that he obviously had some sort of socialization disorder long before there was even a terminology to deal with it. He had been given several 'one-time' settlements over his claim to Superman profits, which even combined didn't amount to a fraction of the licensing revenue taken in by Superman, Inc. (a company separate from DC set up by its owners specifically to market Superman). He often worked in obscurity and under pseudonyms while getting fewer and fewer assignments at DC in the 60's. Some of the Human Torch solo stories over at Marvel were actually written by Siegel, as were many of the Red Circle hero stories over at Archie. Then his bitter private feud with DC became very public and very messy very quick when the Superman movie came out in the late 1970's.

Over at Marvel, Steve Gerber tried to assert control over his character Howard the Duck and was promptly removed from the title by editor-in-chief Jim Shooter (who, not so coincidentally, was the kid that DC editor Mort Weisinger hired to replace Siegel scripting Legion of Super-Heroes stories in Adventure Comics). Jack Kirby, who was writing and drawing several titles for Marvel left abruptly at about that time as well. In 1980, Eclipse published Gerber's graphic novel "Stewart the Rat", the same year that he and Kirby saw their "Thundarr The Barabarian" debut on television. In 1982, when Eclipse decided to publish their first color comic, it was Gerber and Kirby's "Destroyer Duck". Next, they did a colorized two-issue reprint of their first graphic novel, Don McGregor's and Paul Gulacy's "Sabre". By January 1983, both titles became ongoing series, with a new Jerry Siegel feature, "The Starling", as the back-up feature in "Destroyer Duck". Val Mayerick (the original Howard the Duck artist) drew "The Starling" and it ran until "Destroyer Duck" ended with issue #7. Unable to find publishers for his often off-kilter story ideas, Siegel found a receptive audience for stories about his and Schuster's early struggles to enter the industry. Eclipse published two issues of "Dateline: 1930's", full of rejected newspaper strip proposals, et al. A two issue set reprinting stories drawn by Ralph Reese included a 1974 Skywald story scripted by Siegel. Then, in spring of 1987, shortly before "Near To Now" #1 was published, Eclipse published a 3-D comic reprinting 1951 Ziff-Davis "Lars Of Mars" stories drawn by Murphy Anderson, including a previously unpublished (?) 12-pager. So, in the ten years since the Superman movie brought him to the awareness of the general public he was able to parlay that into 48 pages of "The Starling" in color and 20+(?)  pages of "Sgt. Space Cop" in B&W. In the meantime, there were three more Superman movies.

Here's the first page of that Sgt. Space Cop. There are too many obscure text bits by Siegel, including letters to fanzines, forewords and blurbs, to track down but maybe I could use this space to provide a checklist of latter day Siegel works.

(Eclipse Comics)
⌂ Destroyer Duck #2
⌂ Destroyer Duck #3
⌂ Destroyer Duck #4
⌂ Destroyer Duck #5
⌂ Destroyer Duck #6
⌂ Destroyer Duck #7
⌂ Dateline 1930's #1
⌂ Dateline 1930's #2
⌂ Reese's Pieces #2
⌂ Lars of Mars 3-D #1
(Fandom House)
⌂ Near To Now #1
⌂ Near To Now Special #1

Now you can check off Siegel as you find him.

Researching these are kind of fun. If readers have any suggestions for examining 'missing' periods of a creator's career, I can't make any promises but I'll consider digging through old files to see what I can find out.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

0011: Suits Me, Too

Earlier this week I put up scans of the sleeve of a 1996 vinyl 7" single by the Action Suits, a power pop band whose members include writer/artist Peter Bagge and his occasional inker Eric Reynolds. Several singles resulted from their first recording session, recorded at Avast Studios in Seattle, Washington with Stuart Hallerman engineering and Steve Fisk producing. The second one appears below. Unlike the first, which was released on Fluffer (a label in Seattle), this one was released on Cherry Smash Records in Los Angeles.

Side A: "Fun Flies"(written by Eric Reynolds)
Lead Vocals: Eric
Trail-off groove: "U-43235M-A CS-036A"
Produced by Steve Fisk
Running time: 2:54

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass, additional Guitar
Peter Bagge: Drums, Percussion, Harmony Vocals

Side B: "Before" (written by Eric Reynolds)
Lead Vocals: Eric
Trail-off groove: "U-43235M-B CS-036B"
Produced by Steve Fisk
Running time: 3:34

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass
Peter Bagge: Drums, Percussion, Harmony Vocals

The sleeve art was again by Bagge and Reynolds and, according to the two-sided sheet Cherry Smash included as their "Summer 1996 catalog", this single was the largest print run of the ten vinyl titles listed with 2000 copies. I can only find about forty releases on the label from 1993 to 1998. Fluffer Records, while far less prolific, seems to be releasing vinyl and mp3's as recently as last year.

Now, since the previous Action Suits post offered a band history from their 2006 CD booklet, I figured I'd tack on a bit from the same booklet for this post:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

0010: Hamming It Up

The American Radio Relay League (which you can reach yourself at: The ARRL Home Page ) has been zipping around the planet in their underwear long before the internet became a household mainstay. I'm not sure what prompted them to join forces with Archie Comics to produce this free promotional comic, but a decade later, they reissued it. The copy I have is from the late 90's, but the original is from 1986. The differences are subtle; the interior pages are printed on recycled paper and a text piece has changed its title. Otherwise, not much really needed to change. The advisors listed in the indicia have even included their call signs, which, if you're a serious ham operator I'll get a magnifying glass and pass on to you.

Below we have the front cover and inside front cover:


The fact that the introductory text is entitled "Parents' Page!" should indicate that the ARRL was hoping to reach a new generation and it makes sense that ten years later they would need to do so again. Yet, in the late 90's, Marvel themselves made several attempts to reach younger audiences. (i.e., "Adventures of Spider-man" in 1996, "Spider-man: The Manga" in 1997, "Spider-man: Chapter One" in 1998 and "Spider-man Unlimited" in 2000, not to mention reprints of the original 1960's stories and series like "Untold Tales of..." and "Web-Spinners" which expand on that period. Similar titles for the X-Men characters and "Marvel Adventures" tied into televised cartoons popped up often.) By 2007 it probably would have been more helpful to create a ham radio oriented video game.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

0009: Suits Me

Even before getting a recording contract, one of the milestones for upcoming rock bands is making the leap from playing clubs in surrounding towns to playing out of state. In some cases it involves driving for four or more hours and sleeping in the car since the gig doesn't pay enough to cover gas and a hotel room. So, what does it say about a band when their first out of state gig is the 1996 San Diego Comic Con? It says that the members include comic book artists.

I picked up this Action Suits 7" single for the Peter Bagge sleeve art, obviously, but the classic power pop sound of the band was a pleasant surprise. The specifics behind the recording remained a mystery for about 10 years until the release of a CD compilation whose booklet gave a brief history of the band:

The single doesn't actually have a catalogue number on the sleeve or the label, so I'll note the matrix numbers scratched into the trail-off grooves.

Side A: "4-Track Mind" (written by Eric Reynolds) Lead Vocals: Eric
Trail-off groove: "U-43196M-A FL-003A"
Produced by Steve Fisk

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass
Peter Bagge: Drums, Percussion, Harmony Vocals
Steve Fisk: Hammond Organ

Side B: "My Janeane" (written by Eric Reynolds and Peter Bagge) Lead Vocals: Eric and Pete
Trail-off groove: "U-43196M-B FL-003B"
Produced by Steve Fisk

Eric Reynolds: Guitars
Andy Schmidt: Bass
Peter Bagge: Drums, Percussion< Harmony Vocals
Steve Fisk: Mellotron

There were three singles released that year, apparently all recorded during that session in March 1996.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

0008: "There was ANOTHER use for blacklights?"

I'll have to thank CBC'ers Joe Sokolowski and John Platt for putting this topic in my frame of consciousness. About two months ago (Mar. 8, 2017) Joe asked readers in a Google+ post in the Comic Book Community about comic book themed posters from their youth (or present). John recalled a blacklight poster of Doctor Strange and eventually found the image online.

Just recently I was cleaning off a rarely used bookcase and found a small thin catalog from a novelty retailer in Englewood Cliffs, NJ named Collywobbles. The catalog was a bit acidified but otherwise had slight normal wear, despite obviously dating from the early 1970's. Among the items offered for mail order was the two page spread below:

A little research showed that these were printed in 1971 by a New York based company called Third Eye. There were 24 in all, three of which (Conan by Barry Smith, Sub-mariner with Spider-man and Blackbolt) are missing here. In the past five years or so a promotional poster with all 24 was auctioned off for hundreds but something this catalog has that the poster didn't is the stock numbers that Third Eye used for orders. The posters in the catalog account for #'s 4001 through 4022, except for 4014, which must be one of the three missing. The other two must be 4023 and either 4024 or, depending on where the numbering starts, possibly 4000. It doesn't say here, but the posters measure 21.50" X 33.00".

Nine of these images were also among those used for 24 greeting cards (6.25" X 9.00") produced by Third Eye. There were jigsaw puzzles produced, too, but I haven't yet found images of them. I don't know why the cards and puzzles weren't included in the catalog, unless the catalog itself is from 1971 and the other licensed items came out in 1972. Maybe not. In any event, I'll keep an eye peeled for similar advertisements with information on out of print merchandise. My main interest, though, is still going to be taking stock of the the actual items lying around.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

0007: Mann 'Splaining?

Many years ago I worked in a large, chain bookstore. Unlike many of its competitors (and some of its suburban mall locations), we had a pretty literate and knowledgeable staff. Inevitably, some of the quirkier corporate decisions about organization caused knowing eyerolls to be exchanged. Most were really subjective, coin-toss decisions, but one that bothered me, as a science fiction and fantasy fan, is that whenever a book falling into either of those categories was a hack, by-the-numbers, franchise installment it was shelved in the sci-fi/fantasy section, but if it was a critically acclaimed work of literature (Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Michael Crichton, even Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein") then it would be kept out of the section and shelved in General Fiction. Seeing the buzz currently surrounding the television series based on Margaret Atwood's excellent "The Handmaid's Tale", it burns me to know that people seeking out more of her work won't be finding it surrounded by Edwin Abbott's "Flatland" or Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles". At least it will be spared the indignity of competing with Volume 15 of "The Laser Gun Wars Imperative Saga" or whatever is getting mechanically cranked out these days.

On the bright side, there's the internet. Someone surfing to find out more about Atwood might come across the documentary "In The Wake Of The Flood", a record of her innovative book tour to promote her "The Year Of The Flood" before turning 70. That might lead to links about the director, Ron Mann, best known for his self-produced documentaries "Poetry In Motion" (1982), "Dream Tower" (1984), "Tales of Rat Fink" (2006) and "Altman" (2014). I'm hoping their attention will also be drawn to another film he directed which, like "In The Wake Of The Flood", was a bigger scale production involving a lot of travel and some co-producers. "Comic Book Confidential" (1988) was the right film at the right time. Four years later, one of the artists profiled would be the first graphic novelist awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

Below are the cover and first page of a promotional comic published in 1988, when the documentary was released in Canada, both drawn by Chester Brown. At the time, Brown was creating the comic Yummy Fur (published by Vortex after life as a mini-comic) and was about two-thirds through the "Ed the Happy Clown" feature. By late 1989, Ed was over and Yummy Fur would begin 1990 reinvented as an autobiographical comic.


The inside front cover were typeset credits for the movie. The credits for the comic, such as they are, are in the indicia on that first page, below Brown's art. The inside back cover is all text mini-bios of people credited on the inside front cover. Pages 2 and 3 are below, designed by Mark Askwith and bpNichol with lettering by Ron Kasman (per the indicia):


Pages 4 through 14 each have two capsule biographies    
and self portraits of the creators profiled. The portraits
are usually assembled into posters to package or
promote the movie, as on the back cover (right) →

Finally, the remaining pages, 15 and 16, are a short story
by R.G. Taylor called "Addicted", actually a four-pager.

If you're curious about what else was published by Sphinx Comix, don't lose any sleep over it; Sphinx Productions is Ron Mann's film production company in Toronto, Ontario, home of several small comics publishers. Sphinx Comix was no doubt created solely to create the promotional comic and rented the resources used by any of several publishers in the area.

During the 90's the movie made the rounds on VHS (ISBN# 1559401613) while a new generation of innovators (Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Julie Doucet, Adrian Tomine, Seth, Joe Sacco and others) emerged, often from the same publishers carrying the artist profiled in the film. The tape was followed by a CD-ROM in 1994 (ISBN# 1559402644) that added "over 120 pages of comics by the film's featured artists". Don't ask me what the contents are, specifically. I'm just quoting the package copy.

The DVD was released in 2002, including what must be the extras from the CD-ROM since, in addition to the trailers, etc., there are short stories by each of the artists that I would estimate total about 120 pages. Below is the sleeve, then the inside front cover and first page of the booklet. Brian Azzarello writes the new introduction.

The remaining eleven pages of the DVD booklet reproduces pages 4 through 14 of the free promotional comic, so if you pick up the DVD you can enlarge each of the scans above and reproduce the experience of finding the free promotional comic. It won't reproduce the experience of 1988 movie ticket prices, but what do you want from a free blog?

Previously on "Sieve Eye Care"...