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..."

Monday, August 28, 2017

0050: This Man, This Artist

Jack Kirby lived to be just over 76 years old. That's how long ago Captain America started punching Nazis. On Monday, August 28th, 2017, it will be Jack Kirby's 100th birthday.

The cover on the left is for AMAZING HEROES #100 (Aug.1st, 1986), a fanzine published by Fantagraphics. AH began as a B&W magazine, the same size as Fantagraphics longer lived fanzine THE COMICS JOURNAL, although I remember it being thinner. As TCJ began to devote more space to the legal and ethical issues facing comics publishing and retail, AH took over the materials more commonly sought by fans, such as release dates, previews of upcoming series and events, histories of Marvel and DC heroes and news about licensing for film and merchandise. Whereas TCJ would publish 50 page career spanning interviews with writers and artists, AH would interview them about recent projects and career highlights. Beginning with issue #14, AH shrunk down to standard comic book dimensions. It was still printed in B&W on newsprint, but of the two fanzines it was the one whose readership more likely included comic fans who didn't buy anything else of magazine dimensions that wasn't designed for a bookshelf. For their convenience, AH would then fit in a comic storage box.
Seeing as how this Kirby tribute issue is 31 years old, the people paying tribute may not all be familiar to modern audiences, although most should be. I'm not going to make any assumptions about who you'll recognize, so...

  • Steve Rude is an artist probably best known for drawing Mike Baron's Nexus (as his first and definitive penciller). Look for Rude's own character The Moth. He also drew a MISTER MIRACLE Special for DC that was on sale in January following this article.
  • Richard Corben emerged from undergrounds to be one of the defining contributors to the American HEAVY METAL. His SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE mini-series for Dark Horse is ending soon.
  • Robert Loren Fleming is a writer who collaborates with Keith Giffen on AMBUSH BUG.
  • If you read comics, you already know who Frank Miller is.
  • Michael Kraiger had just started contributing the feature "Zone" to Fantagraphics' anthology THREAT months before this article. It moved to Dark Horse a few years later. He then became an editor at Marvel.
  • Jim Baikie worked on 2000A.D. and other Fleetway titles in the U.K. before pencilling DC's ELECTRIC WARRIOR.
  • Jim Rohn contributed his "Holo Brothers" feature to Fantagraphics' THREAT anthology shortly before this article and their Monster Comics imprint published the 10 issue miniseries that continued the story.
  • Gary Fields regularly contributed "Enigma Funnies" to THREAT but lettered comics for several other creators.
  • John Romita briefly drew Captain America stories in the fifties.When Kirby left Marvel in 1970, Romita was assigned to follow him on FANTASTIC FOUR. He's probably best known for his work on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
  • Jack Katz created the genuine epic FIRST KINGDOM, currently complete in hardcover from Titan.
  • Bob Laughlin self-published KITZ 'N' KATZ, which was distributed by Eclipse in the 80's.
  • Arthur Byron Cover is best known as a science fiction author who has occasionally worked in comics, notably with Harlan Ellison on DAREDEVIL #'S 208-209.
  • Flo Steinberg was, I think, technically the receptionist at Marvel in the 60's, but according to Stan Lee and others she effectively handled just about every task around the office not directly involving comics production, such as sorting fan mail and keeping the fan club memberships organized. At the end of the 60's she left for a non-comics editing job but was involved in undergrounds and early independents, eventually becoming a publisher herself.
  • Rick Norwood was an editor for COMICS REVUE, a fanzine from the publishers of COMICS INTERVIEW.
  • Dennis O'Neil is a writer who worked for Marvel briefly in the mid-60's and more prominently in the 80's but made comics history with Neal Adams for their work on Batman and Green Lantern in the early 70's.
  • Julius Schwartz was an early fan of science fiction pulps in the late 1920's and went on to become an editor at DC, where he revived the company's Golden Age heroes in the late 50's as s-f based characters, creating the Justice League to replace the Justice Society.

  • Barry Windsor Smith became famous for drawing the first CONAN THE BARBARIAN comics in 1970. Before that, he drew in a cruder style that looked like a Kirby imitation. In just a few years his art became both original and beautiful but he kept an affection for Kirby's characters. Two years before this article he finished and inked Herb Trimpe's pencils on the MACHINE MAN mini-series. In the 90's he created ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG, RUNE and STORYTELLER.
  • Dave Garcia was the creator of Panda Khan, which was a back-up feature in A DISTANT SOIL before this article and afterwards became its own title from Abacus Press.
  • Monica Sharp scripted and edited the Panda Khan stories, often with Garcia.
  • Bob Wiacek is an inker who did some work at DC in the mid-70's just Kirby was leaving, but in 1977 began a long tenure at Marvel working on just about everything, including STAR WARS and IRON MAN.

  • Dave Gibbons is a British artist who drew for both 2000 A.D. and DOCTOR WHO WEEKLY from the beginning of each. In America, he became famous for WATCHMEN with Alan Moore and GIVE ME LIBERTY with Frank Miller.
  • Kevin O'Neill is another British artist, probably best known for MARSHALL LAW and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. That's his illustration of a 'Marshall Law' type gun on the left.
  • Mike Royer is a longtime inker of Kirby who has followed him through several publishers for about 20+ years.
  • Stephen DeStefano was doing the DC title 'MAZING MAN when this article came out. He went on to do brilliant humor comics (including INSTANT PIANO and JINGLE BELLE) whose audience was dwarfed by that for his animation work (including "Ren And Stimpy" and "The Venture Brothers").
  • Charles Meyerson wrote text pieces for First Comics in the 80's.

  • Steve Parkhouse is a British artist who sold some scripts to Marvel in the late 60's. When Marvel created a U.K. branch in 1972 it was initially all reprints, but Parkhouse was one of the early writers they called on when easing into publishing original stories. He wrote three different features for HULK COMIC (later HULK WEEKLY) but also drew his own scripts on the SPIRAL PATH feature and Alan Moore's BOJEFFRIES SAGA for Fleetway/Quality's WARRIOR. Eclipse reprinted SPIRAL PATH as a mini-series while this article was out. Today you can see his art in Dark Horse's RESIDENT ALIEN (highly recommended.
  • Bill Mantlo was a prolific writer at Marvel in the mid-70's to mid-80's, probably most famous for MICRONAUTS and ROM, but also wrote INCREDIBLE HULK for years and all of the B&W magazine version of HOWARD THE DUCK. He also created Rocket Raccoon for an uncompleted science fiction serial. He has been unable to write for 25 due to traumatic injury by a car.
  • Vince Argondezzi drew NEXT MAN for Comico before this article came out and drew INFINITY, INC. for DC afterwards.
  • Rick Bryant iinked Keith Giffen's pencils on a one shot comic from Lodestone called THE MARCH HARE, which Giffen co-wrote with Robert Loren Fleming.
  • Scott Hampton had completed SILVERHEELS for Pacific comics two years before this and adapted Robert E. Howard's 'Pigeons From Hell" for Eclipse two years later. Not to be confused with brother Bo Hampton, Scott is currently finishing P. Craig Russell's layouts in AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS from Dark Horse.
  • George Pratt works as much (if not more) as an illustrator than as a comic book artist. Like Hampton, he often paints comics and is probably best remembered for the graphic novel ENEMY ACE: WAR IDYLL.
  • Larry Marder is the creator of TALES OF THE BEANWORLD, originally with Eclipse and now with Dark Horse. He was made Executive Director of Image to overcome their early chaos.
  • Steve Ringgenberg is a freelance comics writer who also writes nonfiction about comics industry.
  • Dark Horse Comics had only just started publishing when this article was released. The lineup shown here is, left to right, Concrete (by Paul Chadwick), Boris The Bear (by James Dean Smith), Garrett from "Mindwalk" (by Randy Stradley and Randy Emberlin), Mercy St. Clair from "Trekker" (by Ron Randall), Conrad from "Black Cross" (by Chris Warner), Roma (by John Workman) and Charlie from "Hellwalk, Inc." (by J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Badger). Boris had his own series and the others appeared in DARK HORSE PRESENTS. Two of them, however, hadn't even debuted when this illustration ran. "Trekker" would debut in #4 (01/87) and "Roma" would debut in #5 (02/87). The "Hellwalk, Inc." feature didn't start until issue #2 (undated; probably September), but the image of Charlie used here can be found in #1 as part of a small ad teasing the next issue. Also in #2, the art seen here is also used in a two page ad in the centerfold.

  • J.M. DeMatteis is a comics writer who was writing war and horror stories for DC's anthologies in the late 1970's and eventually doing some super-hero back-up stories. In the early 80's he worked at Marvel, including writing DEFENDERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA. When this article came out he was writing the last stories of the original JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA series and would go on co-write, with Keith Giffen, the new JUSTICE LEAGUE series that would follow the LEGENDS mini-series. Those would be some of his best remembered scripts, along with the GARGOYLE mini-series for Marvel and MOONSHADOW and BLOOD: A TALE, both minis for Marvel's Epic line and both later reprinted by DC's Vertigo.
  • Scott McCloud is now best known for the nonfiction comics-format book UNDERSTANDING COMICS, but at the time of this article he was known primarily as the creator of ZOT! from Eclipse.
  • Jerry Ordway is both a writer and a penciller on numerous titles but his close association with Superman was beginning to develop after this article ran and ALL-STAR SQUADRON was cancelled.
Whew! And that's just half the article! Give yourself some time to read some Jack Kirby stories today and I'll complete this article during the week. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

0049: All Together Now

NOTE: As promised in the previous post (ADMIN03), this post will be a condensation of the posts 0035-0039, offering information about Silver Age Marvel reprints but without the context of the impact Beatlemania had on pop culture. It will also skip the scans and details of the four Lancer mass market paperbacks. That information is still available in those posts; to find the full versions, click on the label "Beatles" in the list on the right.

First, the notes from #0035, accompanying scans of the cover and inside front cover of MARVEL COLLECTORS' ITEM CLASSICS #2 (04/66):
As with the first issue, the IFC has production credits and a sort-of table of contents. The publisher is once again listed as "Animated Timely Features" (and will be until 1968). It still features reprints of Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Ant-Man stories. In fact, these are the stories immediately following the ones reprinted in issue #1. And it's also still 64 pages for 25¢. What's different is that where the first issue filled the page count with a "Tales Of Asgard" reprint and an in-house ad, the second issue replaces those with paid ads. It also changes the publishing frequency from 'quarterly' to 'bi-monthly'. in the two months following this issue, MCIC will join MARVEL TALES and FANTASY MASTERPIECES as Marvel's only new titles between DAREDEVIL in 1964 and GHOST RIDER (the western) in 1967. And they were all reprints.

The contents of this issue are:

  • Reprint FANTASTIC FOUR #3 (03/62) "The Menace Of The Miracle Man", 23pp
  • Reprint TALES TO ASTONISH #37 (11/62) [Ant-Man] "Trapped By The Protector!", 13pp
  • Reprint AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 (09/63) "Nothing Can Stop...The Sandman!", 21pp
  • (seven pages of paid ads)

Any reader who didn't see the scans from MCIC #2 can find them in the previous post. And since  I went on a bit about parallels between the Avengers greeting reporters at the dock in AVENGERS #4 and the Beatles landing at Idlewild, maybe I should share this with you. It comes from STRANGE TALES #119 (04/64) a few months after the Human Torch fought an imposter Captain America in #114. It's an ad for AVENGERS #4 (03/64) with the first Silver Age appearance of Cap, which despite the different cover dates would have shipped the week before ST #119. Because of the Human Torch story, the original version of the cover (this one) had the words "The Real..." over Captain America's name. The first AVENGERS OMNIBUS has this cover in B&W, but I thought you might like to see it as readers at the time would have.

The highlights from post #0036 -0039 are:
Jan. 3rd, 1964-- Captain America returns in AVENGERS #4 (03/64) and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (including Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver) debut in X-MEN #4 (03/64). Later that month, DC's Doom Patrol would introduce the Brotherhood of Evil in #86 (03/63) of their own comic. TALES TO ASTONISH #54 (04/64) runs its last suspense back-up story. It will run Giant-Man lead stories and Wasp back-up stories that will each vary in length.
The following week The Black Widow made her first appearance in TALES OF SUSPENSE #52 (04/64). Two part stories begin in both AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #11(04/64) and FANTASTIC FOUR #25 (04/64) and both advertised the upcoming DAREDEVIL title. The FF story involves the Avengers, now with Cap, searching for the Hulk.

Jan. 23rd-- DC releases SGT. ROCK'S PRIZE BATTLE TALES (Win/64) under the banner "Giant 80 Page War Annual", which serves as an annual for all DC's war comics despite Sgt. Rock's name and picture on the cover. That makes it the only anthology annual besides SECRET ORIGINS in 1961.

[In the first week of February] the Enchantress and Executioner [made] their first appearance in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #103 (04/64). Also out that week was DAREDEVIL #1(04/64). It would be the last time in a long, long while that Marvel debuted a character in their own title. Since the restructuring in 1957 this had only happened 7 times: Kathy, Linda Carter, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Sgt. Fury, X-Men and Daredevil. All but Kathy were within a three year period. The next three new titles would be the reprint titles I've been posting about. The western Ghost Rider (1967) was transparently a character done for Magazine Enterprises (since defunct) in the 1950's by the same artist but given a different secret identity for legal reasons. Peter the Pest stories were actually recycled Melvin the Monster stories. The Li'l Kids comics reprinted Li'l Willie, Awful Oscar, etc. from the 1950's. Conan wasn't an original Marvel character. As far as I can tell, the winner is... Archie knock-off HARVEY #1(10/70)? Looks like it. And the next candidate is Luke Cage in HERO FOR HIRE #1 (06//72), a full eight years after Daredevil.

Of course, plenty of new characters were introduced and new titles launched in that time, just not simultaneously. In fact, of all the characters granted their own features during that time it wasn't until Captain Marvel was introduced in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #12 (12/67) that a character was even introduced in their own feature. And yet, this was not a creatively or commercially sluggish time for Marvel; they were thriving. By the end of the decade they would be on the verge of overtaking DC in sales. The idea of giving new features and new titles to characters who were introduced in existing features starring other characters was just contributing to their strengthening sense of continuity. This was being done at a time when there were no trade paperbacks in the sense we know them today. If you wanted to know where the character you've just started reading came from, you'd have to keep an eye on the reprint titles until they got around to reprinting it.

During [mid February] Marvel released the conclusions of two-parters in FANTASTIC FOUR #26 (05/64) and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #12 (05/64) (which ran a fan letter from Dave Cockrum). More notably, in TALES OF SUSPENSE #53 (05/64) the Watcher was given an origin and, on the cover, Iron Man's name was printed larger than the actual name of the comic. This was a trend that was going to be repeated.

Initially, of the super-hero titles only FANTASTIC FOUR ran a letters' page, even stating explicitly in an early issue that FF outsold all their other titles by such a margin that they assumed that anyone buying any of their super-hero comics must have bought FF first anyway. (From #9: "...you [fans] seem to feel that the FF mag is sort of the headquarters, or clearing house for the others.") In 1963, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN got a letter's page and in the first week of March, AVENGERS #5(05/64) and X-MEN #5(05/64) got their first letters' pages. They'd be followed by SGT. FURY in May. That same week that AVENGERS and X-MEN got letters' pages, Thor's name became larger on the cover of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #104(05/64) than the series' title.
In the second week of March, TALES OF SUSPENSE #54 (06/64) ran its last suspense story, "Skrang Strikes Tonight!", which makes it the last such generic anthology story Marvel produces until they bring back the format with TOWER OF SHADOWS and CHAMBER OF DARKNESS in 1969, since JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY ran its last one the week before. The Wasp and Watcher back-up features had not been terribly different up to that point. In fact, at first they had been made by having each character narrate an old suspense story script, but TALES TO ASTONISH #56 (06/64) in the first week of March was the last time that method was used for the Wasp; she would star in short stories in the next three issues in stead of narrating them. The Watcher had already made the same change in TS#53. Newly drawn versions of the narration style would be used for the Watcher back-ups in SILVER SURFER beginning in 1968.

This meant that all the comics that still had science fiction/fantasy titles were now super-hero series with a lead of 13-18 pages and a back-up of 5-9 pages. Thus, STRANGE TALES #121 (06/64) began the perhaps overdue practice of giving Dr. Strange a portion of the cover. He had only been mentioned in blurbs since #117 and only ever appeared before on #118. It was just in time for him to guest star in FF#27 that week.

The only titles left that hadn't been renovated (aside from trade dress matters) were the 'teen humor' comics. Beginning in the first week of April, that changed as well. PATSY WALKER #115 (06/64) and MODELING WITH MILLIE #31 (06/64) converted from multiple short stories and pin-ups to 18 page lead stories with five single-page features in each issue. The next week MILLIE THE MODEL #121 (07/64) would do the same and in mid-May PATSY AND HEDY #95 (08/64) would become the last Marvel title to abandon the multi-story anthology format. The switch took half the time the westerns took. Once genuinely humor comics, these titles had been drifting more towards more of a soap opera feel for a while. With the cancellation of KATHY (to make way for DAREDEVIL in February), there really weren't any actual humor comics left at Marvel.

In the second week [of April], the Green Goblin makes his first appearance in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 (07/64) where the Hulk guest stars. The X-Men guest star in FANTASTIC FOUR #28 (07/64), where the letters' page mentions plans for a MARVEL ANNUAL that summer. DC comics publishes the 80-page GIANT SUPERBOY ANNUAL #1 (Summer/1964) on Apr. 23rd. In many respects it is much like the 20 DC Annuals which preceded it. However, it is actually the start of a different kind of streak.

Wow, that wasn't nearly as much material as I thought it might be. I only hope that the second half of 1964 can be summarized as neatly, since that's when Marvel's and DC's use of their 'annual' formats change.

ADMIN03: Silver Age Marvel Recap

I noticed that I'm approaching the 50th post (or past it if you count the previous two administrative notes). While that's a little early to be patting myself on the back to celebrate, it's a good excuse to reflect and assess. Checking the dashboard, it tells me that seven of the ten most viewed posts involved Marvel and that six of those are from the ongoing Silver Age reprint history I started. However, it also tells me that everyday for the last few weeks there have been one  'view' each for many of the posts, sometimes going back a few weeks. What I can't get from pure stats is a definite explanation for that. It can't tell the difference between one person (a different person every day) discovering the blog and reading backwards or jumping around by using the labels/tags, or, possibly, several people being referred to the blog by a search engine or other link not acknowledged under "traffic sources". For whatever reason, "traffic sources" only accounts for a fraction of readers. Since I rarely link to this blog outside of the G+ Comic Book Community, and I think it's improbable that multiple people are scrolling down past dozens of other CBC posts and each selecting a different post of mine every day, then I think the two best explanations are either different people just 'taking a me hour' or else the blog is turning up in searches which Google/Blogger isn't tracking for some reason.

I haven't forgotten about the Mister X trades. The short verdict is that the volume that shipped in paperback this spring is the best of the bunch, but there is still some apocrypha and other non-essential extras it left out. I'm going to give myself a few more months to dig out some contemporary Vortex comics and see what kind of unique material may have been used for promotional purposes and when.

After spending a week detailing the Beatles chart action looming over the rest of pop culture in 1964 I started to worry about readers burning out on the topic, which is why I wanted to restore a sense of variety since then. Now that I know that I haven't lost the capacity to write about anything but 1960's release schedules I think it's safe to continue the series as one more item in a larger mix of things. To that end, I must be honest with myself about the fact that my inclination to work puns and other gags into the titles of the posts might make it difficult for casual readers to trace the series from its beginnings. Simply clicking on the labels "Publication history" or "Marvel" or "1960's" would call up all of the posts, but in reverse order. As a mea culpa, I'm going to list the links chronologically below.

  1. #0016: The Lost Anniversary
  2. #0018: The Post Anniversary
  3. #0023: "From The Glorious Past..."?
  4. #0027: It must be a collectors'item; it says so on the cover
  5. #0031: Three Shots, Four Victims
Those first five post include a quick explanation of Marvel's Golden Age and a detailed examination of their development during 1957-1963, giving particular attention to the extra-length format comics from both Marvel and DC during that time. The scans include unique material from the earliest issues of Marvel's three main reprint titles from 1964-early 1966.

These next five posts put changes at Marvel in the first half of 1964 into the chronological context of Beatlemania. I've decided to do a condensed, non-Beatles distillation of these as a single post to start the rest of the series. If you like, you can consider that #6. If you want the full versions, they're still here:

  1. #0035: Paar For The Course
  2. #0036: Lancer Corporeal Part 1
  3. #0037: Lancer Corporeal Part 2
  4. #0038: Lancer Corporeal Part 3
  5. #0039: Lancer Corporeal Part 4
The scans include the unique parts of MCIC #2 (which I'll reproduce) and four of the six Lancer mass market paperbacks (which I won't).

See you soon.

Monday, August 21, 2017

0048: Save Us, Fred Lerner!

Thanks to decades of multi-billion dollar misinformation campaigns, there are millions of people here in the U.S. who will only believe the opposite of what scientists tell them. I was thinking about that during all the coverage leading up to the eclipse event that will take place on the day this is originally posted. There's really no new information; as always, people who know about these things are quick to warn dim-bulb newscasters that they must warn the general public not to look directly at the eclipse. The reasons for this will be ignored (because the world would come to an end if TV news devoted more than 30 seconds to a story, apparently), but the message is still unequivocal. Don't look into a total eclipse with your bare eyes. Period. Then I looked at the path of "totality", the areas on the Earth that will be most directly beneath the path of the moon as it passes in front of the sun. Not California, not the northeast: it will cut through states that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. You know what that means: the same people who were cheering on the elimination of publicly funded health care will suffer everything from severe nausea to lifelong blindness and possibly death. It's been a long time since these people put their trust in someone who deserved it. It would help them immensely if they had someone they could identify with who would tell them, "Hey, it's not good for you to drink toxic waste." (I'm sure a lot of people are thinking "It would help the rest of us immensely if they didn't.") Maybe it could be someone with a military rank. On basic cable. Possibly with a mullet. Hmmmn...

These are stickers that, according to the copyright date, were produced after the first of six seasons of what must have been the most prolific cartoon of the 90's. And for a series with several redundant plotlines, resisting the urge to fall back on reruns is admirable. It probably went on as long as it did to accommodate the celebrities willing to do voice roles (you don't have to trust this scientist-- find it at IMDB and click on "Full Cast").
The limited animation and limited dialogue kept me from watching more than a couple of episodes but my preschool nephew loved it and it lasted long enough for him to enjoy it right through elementary school. These were probably bought for him by his grandparents and forgotten before they could give them to him. Sometimes I open a box of my things and find unopened fast food toys I don't recognize. I've become accustomed to being the family wrangler for comic/cartoon related items. What I can't sell as collectibles goes to yard sales. These are easy to store, though, and if my nephew ever gets a pang of nostalgia he's welcome to them. Me, I'll be back to comics soon enough. It's just a question of what I trip over next.

Friday, August 18, 2017

0047: I'll Take Manhattan Minuet

For people of a certain age, often their first exposure to either jazz or classical music was the incidental background music in Warner Brothers cartoons. These seven or eight minute shorts were created to be shown in theaters as part of a program of short films that preceded the main feature film. In no particular order, movie-goers arriving for the full program would see a newsreel, a cartoon, a serial chapter, a musical short (often a sing-along), trailers and/or other bits as well. Depending on the year (or desperation of the theater) there might be a raffle held live in the theater or a charity appeal. After all that, the feature film (often 70 minutes long) would begin. By the mid-1950's television had seriously cut into the movie industry's cash flow and it responded by competing with spectacles it knew television couldn't provide. Wider screens, brighter colors, longer features and so forth was what studios invested money in and theaters who wanted to show the best of what was available needed cash for up to date equipment. They couldn't to that by scheduling fewer screenings of longer movies, soooo... bye-bye shorts. While newsreels and trailers mouldered until they could be repurposed as kitsch, cartoons and serials were more easily packaged for television. By the time one generation of children had seen twenty years worth of a studio's back catalog several times, a whole new batch of children would become old enough to discover them. Everyday after school throughout the 1970's there was always one channel or another that aired an hour or two of theatrical shorts with what I didn't know were seriously outdated pop culture references. I can quote many of them to this day.
Booklet cover.

On a good day you could be lucky enough to watch Fleischer Studios stuff, although you never saw Superman or Betty Boop except on PBS. Popeye was often what made it into syndication packages. If you were unlucky it was the Popeye cartoons from the early 1960's and you got a little more fresh air that day. MGM's "Tom and Jerry" and anything by Tex Avery made life worth living, but the Warner's stuff for some reason always had the best music. They even came out under imprints called "Merrie Melodies" and "Looney Tunes". The secret was Carl Stalling. After Walt Disney completed "Steamboat Willie", the first synchronized sound cartoon, he hired Stalling (who played music live in theaters over silent movies) to retrofit music onto two earlier silent cartoons. The two went on to launch a line of "Silly Symphonies" cartoons. Shortly after that he joined Ub Iwerks when Iwerks formed his own studio (although Disney was a major client of theirs). But when Iwerks' studio was absorbed by Leon Schlesinger (in 1936), Stalling began a run of an estimated 1000 cartoon scores over the next two decades.
Inner side of jewel case inlay card.

Stalling had an amazing talent for writing scores that he could mentally synchronize to an animation script. That's not completely impossible; unlike live action films, animation scripts are plotted out to the second in order to estimate the total number of frames and therefore man-hours to draw and shoot them. Since Stalling would conduct the recording sessions he could certain that the music would be played at the tempo he intended. So, not impossible, just inhumanly difficult. To produce score at this pace, Stalling drew on his experience playing live and spontaneously over silent movies. His 'compositions' were often patchworks of quotes from classical works both well-known and rarely heard elsewhere, mixed with hooks from popular songs of the day. His own original writing linked one to the next creating the illusion of these unrelated parts being conceived as a whole work. A real godsend for Stalling was the emergence of Raymond Scott in 1937. Scott had been the pianist in his brother's band but the lively evocative pieces he wrote, while popular with audiences, were murder on musicians accustomed to improvisation and looser arrangements. They required precision. So, Scott formed a "quintette" (not counting himself) and rehearsed them relentlessly. The results were regular radio appearances and numerous records. He spent most of World War II as the music director for the CBS Radio Network and by the time he left for Broadway he had gotten enough of his compositions on the air to provide Stalling with the quotes and cues for over 100 Warner Bros. cartoons.
Outer side of jewel case inlay card.

The music on this CD is played by The Beau Hunks Sextette, a Dutch ensemble originally formed to reconstruct and perform the lost scores to Hal Roach films (their name comes from a Laurel & Hardy film). They went on to record them and when they decided to remain a performing entity in their own right, the first composer they tackled outside the original project was Raymond Scott. Their first album of Scott music was "Celebration On The Planet Mars", released after Scott's death in 1994. For some reason, on the original Dutch release the band is identified as The Wooden Indians, but when this album, "Manhattan Minuet", came out in 1996 on the Basta label, it also reissued the 1994 with the Beau Hunks name. According to the liner notes, the recording was done with the cooperation of the Preservation Committee of the Raymond Scott Archives, whose advisory board includes several musical luminaries: Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), David Harrington (Kronos Quartet), Dick Hyman, Robert Moog, Andy Partridge (XTC), Henry Rollins and Hal Willner.

Sharp eyed comics fans have already recognized the artist responsible for the distinctive art on these scans, the primary reason for including this CD on the post. I'll quote the last two paragraphs of the booklet.

The Acme Novelty Library was a phenomenon of craft intersecting art in the 1990's that is unlikely to ever be equaled, certainly not in my lifetime. The first ten issues alternated size and shape so radically from one issue to the next that I pity any collector trying to track them down in their original forms. It then briefly became a series of thin paperbacks of uniform size, then hardcovers. Ware's projects have been few and far between in the past decade, peppered by occasional New Yorker covers. I don't know if that's just to keep a toe in, or to maintain name recognition or if Françoise Mouly has nude pictures of him. But when a project does surface, like 2012's "Building Stories", it turns heads and occasionally even induces hernias. I love Ware's stuff and would pick up oddball items simply because they had unique art of his. I can't know when I'll next come across some, but when I do I'll make a point of sharing some images with you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

0046: Turn On Your Magic Beams

When Jack Kirby left DC in 1958, they were publishing PETER PORKCHOPS, FLIPPITY AND FLOP, FOX AND THE CROW, THE THREE MOUSEKETEERS and SUGAR AND SPIKE. He hadn't been working on them but there had always been a sense that there was a selection of anthropomorphics (called "funny animal comics" back then) that would appeal to small children just learning to read but able to follow simple stories from the actions of the characters. Once they learned to enjoy reading, they were potentially part of the audience for the comics Kirby did work on: westerns, war, romance, super-heroes, science fiction and more besides. He took that versatility to Marvel while it was in the process of rebuilding after massive cancellations. In its scaled down and informal state, he made an enormous impression on its eventual, more fully formed identity. That new identity slowly, gradually started eating DC's lunch, so to speak. By the late 1960's Marvel was in a better circumstance to expand than when Kirby joined them and an infusion of new talent at both companies allowed for new titles and characters to emerge rapidly. During 1967 and 1968, Marvel began ten new ongoing titles and DC began 16. By the end of 1969, Marvel was still publishing five of theirs. DC was publishing only the final three (all of which began with 1969 cover dates) and DC SPECIAL, which had no regular feature. The price increase (from 12¢ to 15¢) that year had something to do with it, but it was still clear to observers that, even if Kirby was still a big fish, that Marvel was no longer a small pond. If he wanted to his new ideas to be noticed he'd have a better chance creating them in his own space rather than trying to shoehorn them into Marvel's mushrooming continuity. Despite Julius Schwartz' efforts to place DC's super-heroes into the same setting, the deeply Balkanized mindset of the company regarding editorial duties made that an uphill battle. Stan Lee, as Marvel's sole editor-in-chief for years, was able to shoot past him towards that goal. But this situation provided an opportunity for Kirby to write his own stories and to plot them in ways that didn't require him to keep track of events in the other books. In 1970, he returned to DC.

The sales of SUPERMAN"S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN weren't great, so Kirby could use it to introduce his new characters. A few months later his new titles, FOREVER PEOPLE, THE NEW GODS and MISTER MIRACLE (along with some stories in SUPERMAN'S GIRLFRIEND, LOIS LANE) formed the first leg of his Fourth World epic. There were also some random horror short stories and two aborted B&W magazine titles during this time, but for two years the Fourth World became the way Kirby was defined to fans. They're still easily the most frequently reprinted stories of his from the 70's. At the time, though, DC considered them beautifully drawn failures. Jimmy and Lois went back to their dreary pre-Darkseid lives until 1974 when poor sales forced them (and SUPERGIRL) to combine into the triple-length (later double-length) SUPERMAN FAMILY. The first two Fourth World titles were cancelled and MISTER MIRACLE became more of a super-hero series as it entered the second third of its existence.

Overlapping the end of the Fourth World was the start of DEMON and KAMANDI, followed in 1973 by reprint titles CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN (resuming the old numbering), BOY COMMANDOS and BLACK MAGIC. Because DEMON and KAMANDI were (mostly) monthly, Kirby's output had actually increased while he juggled three settings instead of three books with a shared setting. Although lovingly remembered by artists, DEMON started to falter. MISTER MIRACLE followed. To replace them, DC issued a collaboration between Kirby and his estranged long-time partner Joe Simon. It was big enough deal that a new job code sequence was created for it, SK-1 for the story and SK-2 for the cover. The project was THE SANDMAN and it was... different. It certainly wasn't the Golden Age hero that the pair had taken over in 1942.

About a year after Kirby's return to DC, the last of the anthropomorphics and even the 'teen humor' titles were cancelled. Aside from a single issue of LAUREL AND HARDY and a single delayed issue each of SWING WITH SCOOTER and DATE WITH DEBBI, there wasn't much being offered for young children after 1971. In fact, by the end of 1973 the only humor comic they had for any demographic was PLOP!. Simon's own satirical PREZ was being cancelled and DC didn't seem to be happy with many of Kirby's ideas, but the Golden Age reprints of their work used to expand comics for the "Bigger and Better" and "Super Spectacular" formats seemed popular enough. They could milk nostalgia, but the whole reason Kirby left Marvel was to do something new.

That 'something new' was a colorful, kid-friendly hero whose modus operandi was inspired by an old name. Unlike Wesley Dodds, the new Sandman was exactly that-- no secret identity and he travels through people's dreams. The specifics of the hows and whys (and the whats and the wheres) were as fuzzy as the who. Wise cracking monster sidekicks Brute and Glob (controlled with a Hypnosonic Whistle) help him come to the rescue of orphan Jed-- and that's all readers need to know. Drawn and edited by Kirby with a script by Simon, the indicia gave "Quaterly" as the official frequency and the cover date read "Winter", but the story ended without an on sale date for the next issue (a standard practice at DC at the time). Months went by during which the monthly KAMANDI soldiered on alone, joined in the summer by the bi-monthly OMAC, THE ONE MAN ARMY CORPS and Kirby's often overlooked stint on OUR FIGHTING FORCES #151(10/74)-#162(12/75).
When SANDMAN did return at the beginning of 1975, Joe Orlando was the new editor, Michael Fleischer was the new writer and Ernie Chua was the new artist. The only holdover from the first issue was inker Mike Royer. Simon and Kirby had split again, although both contributed series proposals to FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL (a monthly 1970's version of SHOWCASE). Kirby offered ATLAS (#1), MANHUNTER (#5) and THE DINGBATS OF DANGER STREET (#6) and Simon offered THE GREEN TEAM (#2) and THE OUTSIDERS (#10).
A clue to what happened with the SANDMAN series might lie in Joe Orlando's job codes, clearly visible throughout the series.

  • J-3780 story "The Night Of The Spider", drawn by Chua for #2 (04-05/75)
  • (Note: HOUSE OF MYSTERY #228 (12/74-01/75) uses codes 3784-3787 and 3794-3795 on reprints newly edited by Orlando)
  • J-3813 story "The Brain That Blacked-out The Bronx!", drawn by Chua for #3 (06-07/75)
  • J-3848 story "Panic In The Dream Stream", drawn by Kirby for #4 (08-09/75)
  • J-3879 cover by Kirby for #2
  • J-3886 letters' page by Orlando for #2 [last element needed to print]
  • J-3888 story "The Invasion Of The Frogmen!" by Kirby for #5 (10-11/75)
  • J-3947 cover by Kirby for #3 [no LP; last element needed to print]
  • J-3994 letters' page by Orlando for #4
  • J-4003 cover by Kirby for #4 [last element needed to print]
  • J-4015 story "The Plot To Destroy Washington, D.C.!" by Kirby for #6 (12/75-01/76)
  • J-4060 letters' page by Orlando for #5
  • J-4074 cover by Kirby for #5 [last element needed to print]
  • J-4080 story "The Seal Men's War On Santa Claus" by Kirby intended for #7
  • J-4115 cover by (?unsigned, credited to Bill Draut in Amazing World of DC Comics #7 and more recently the second volume of the Jack Kirby Omnibus) for #6
  • J-4116 letters' page by Orlando for #6 [last element needed to print]
The job codes are generated when an assignment is passed out. Obviously, stories take longer to complete than covers or editing reprints. Yet, Kirby was assigned the fourth issue before the cover or letters' page for #2 had even begun. I tried to find a little information about this series from Ronin Ro's often hyperbolic Kirby bio "Tales To Astonish" (Bloomsbury, 2004), but it gives the false impression that after Kirby created OMAC that he and Simon did one issue of SANDMAN and that after that Jack refused to work on the book again. That's obviously not true, because he completed four stories from Fleischer's scripts. What could be true is Ro's assertion that the series was Simon's idea but that after the first issue Kirby no longer wanted to continue collaborating with him. That would explain why it took a year before the next issue came out. Had it been any other title, publisher Carmine Infantino would have simply handed the book to a new editor and told him to find a new creative team. There would be nothing to gain from that since the only reason for the book's existence was to sell the marquee names of the creators. It took nearly a year, but maybe fan demand eventually convinced them that the character might sell anyway. If so, why wait until Kirby returned for the fourth issue before printing the second? It's times like this I wish I hadn't stopped getting JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR just because each issue was larger than my house.

Anyway, the scans you've been reading around are taken from THE BEST OF DC (BLUE RIBBON DIGEST) #22 (03/82). The front cover above was drawn by Richard Buckler and Dick Giordano (who doubled as managing editor). This back cover was drawn by George Pérez. The inside covers have the contents, credits and indicia in front and an ad for CAPTAIN CARROT #1 in back. Everything else is a reprint except for the 18 page Sandman story intended for the unpublished SANDMAN #7. Four excerpted pages are seen in the other scans here.
While the series was being published, Kirby also did the last three issues of JUSTICE, INC. and one of RICHARD DRAGON. Also during that time, Marvel comics with October 1975 cover dates included the monthly Bullpen Bulletins Page as usual, but that particular month it had the title, in all caps, "THE KING IS BACK! 'NUFF SAID!" (The titles, before and after this, were normally silly alliteration gags that tried to use as many obscure words beginning with the same letter as possible, going as far as assigning the titles alphabetically. The August page started with 'E', September with 'F' and November with 'G'.) After SANDMAN #6, the only Kirby comics DC published were KOBRA #1 (02-03/76), which continued without him as a short-lived series, and the remaining issues of KAMANDI up to and including #40 (04/76). Robert Kanigher went back to writing "The Losers" in OUR FIGHTING FORCES. Editor Gerry Conway (since issue #33) took over writing KAMANDI with issue #38. Writing duties and editorial duties both turned over on that title several times in the first year after Kirby left and it lost its monthly status. When Jack C. Harris came on as editor the cancelled OMAC title was tied in by establishing that Kamandi was his grandson. In 1978, with Harris writing, it crossed over with Karate Kid to explain why the future of OMAC and Kamandi diverge from the future that led to the Legion Of Super-Heroes. Then came the Implosion. DC's plans to circumvent the loss of sales due to the frequent price increases of the 1970's by offering more pages (which worked well enough in 1971) went horribly wrong for reasons too complex to discuss adequately here. Over two dozen titles were cancelled in the year leading up to it (including revived versions of NEW GODS and MISTER MIRACLE) and another dozen during the three months that the page increase lasted. The last issue of KAMANDI #59 (09-10/78) was expanded by 8 pages with the first chapter of a new OMAC origin by Jim Starlin. The lead story was the first chapter of a story that would further incorporate Kirby concepts into a single continuity parallel to the other DC worlds (Earth-K?). Many of the cancelled titles, including KAMANDI, had further issues in various stages of completion when the surprise cancellations happened. Two massive volumes of photocopied pages were created (but not sold) for legal purposes. Leaked copies revealed that the next two issues (#60- 61) would have Kamandi discover a vortex that would enable him to travel to other timelines (i.e., the rest of the DCU). While there, he is grabbed by Brute and Glob, who have mistaken him for Jed, the boy who features in the Sandman adventures. In a framing story, the Sandman tells Kamandi that the story of meeting Santa Claus (meant to be published in its entirety) demonstrates that the myths in one timeline might be the reality of another.

Eventually, the OMAC back-up feature was substantially altered and ran briefly as a back-up feature in WARLORD in 1980. A year later or so, the digest above came out. The story was published again this past January as part of those final two issues of KAMANDI in the KAMANDI CHALLENGE SPECIAL (03/17). It was included in the 2013 THE JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS VOL. 2 as part of the original series, but unfortunately the nature of that collection required omitting the two issues drawn by Ernie Chua. That's why in two weeks I hope to have a post that proposes a Sandman trade collecting whatever is available for this character. I had hoped to get this post out earlier to coincide with the release of the SANDMAN SPECIAL on Wednesday, August 16th,2017, but I had lost track of the digest above. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to read the special before I get to the trade post.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

0045: How to lay an egg

Howard the Duck pretty much ceased to exist when Steve Gerber was removed from the book. In 1978, the very public dispute that Jerry Siegel had revived with DC over Superman caused Gerber to raise questions about creative control that Jim Shooter didn't want to hear. Demands for creative control sounded to management like demands for copyrights or trademarks. Gerber was off the book, which changed frequency from monthly to bi-monthly and two fill-in issues (out of continuity) were done from his notes until Bill Mantlo could write two final issues. The title was cancelled along with tons of other Marvel titles at the beginning of 1979. By that time, Gerber was long gone, along with Jack Kirby, who dropped three titles (BLACK PANTHER, DEVIL DINOSAUR and MACHINE MAN) abruptly. They worked together on the animated "Thundarr The Barbarian" television show in 1980.

Gerber had been the only writer to handle Howard since creating him for a Man-Thing story in ADVENTURES INTO FEAR #19 (12/73), which continued into the new series MAN-THING #1 (01/74) in which Howard fell into the void of space, supposedly gone forever. Gerber hadn't created Man-Thing, but a succession of writers on that feature turned over quickly. Man-Thing's first appearance in the B&W SAVAGE TALES magazine in 1971 was written by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway and drawn by Gray Morrow and intended to begin a regular feature, but the planned second issue didn't happen. The title would eventually restart at #2 in 1973 with new material after the stories originally slated back in 1971 were mostly cannibalized. The second Man-Thing story by Len Wein and Neal Adams, for instance, had already been incorporated as a flashback into a Roy Thomas/John Buscema Ka-Zar story in ASTONISHING TALES #12 (06/72)-13 (08/72). A third story, which takes place before the Ka-Zar story but after the flashback, was written by Tony Isabella with art by Vincente Alcazar. Bear in mind, that's four writers and four artists for three stories. That third story didn't appear until it ran in the B&W magazine MONSTERS UNLEASHED in 1974, after Man-Thing had his own title, but reads as though it was drawn from an earlier, unused script. It might have been a new story, or it might have been intended for a hypothetical SAVAGE TALES #3 in 1971.

The letters' page of ASTONISHING TALES #13 told readers looking for more Man-Thing that he would be getting his own feature soon, but couldn't confirm where. "Even we aren't sure-- but it'll definitely be in one of our presently featureless monster mags, FEAR, WHERE MONSTERS DWELL or MONSTERS ON THE PROWL." It turned out to be two months later in ADVENTURES INTO FEAR #10 (10/72) with another story by Conway and Morrow, the last before Gerber was handed the feature and also the last to be under a dozen pages, a sign that it, too, might have been planned for the B&W magazines. When Gerber took over, he not only expanded the page count but the scope of the stories as well. Man-Thing was still a swamp monster, but the readers learn that the unlikely combination of events that caused its creation were compelled to happen in order to fill a need-- to produce a guardian at the Nexus Of All Realities, a point in space that enables travel to and from any of the parallel worlds. Over the course of issues #11-19, a wizard named Dakimh uses the muck monster and a gifted magical trainee named Jennifer Kale to fight demons and illusions, all of it directed by a villain named the Overlord who intends to exploit the Nexus for conquest. It is strongly implied that the army he is building to storm the other realities is populated by characters from comic books which, by 1973, had fallen out of favor with readers: war comics, westerns, period adventures, straight science fiction, etc. The only comic characters Dakimh can gather are a Sword & Sorcery barbarian (Korrek) and an anthropomorphic 'funny animal' (Howard). As the battle takes them between one reality and another, Howard trips en route and falls into the infinite void, having served his narrative purpose of establishing that comic book 'alternate Earths' need not be limited to being variant versions of super-heroes, but could occasionally cross genres without necessitating that the characters always occupy the same continuity.
One of these guys has an Oscar. Just sayin'.

Man-Thing continued his monthly series for 22 issues plus 5 quarterly Giant-Size (twice the pages) supplements. The last two included new short stories starring Howard solo, explaining that he fell back to the last reality he had come from, but rather than land in the Everglades he wound up in Ohio. The fan reaction was positive. Thus, as the sales of monster comics waned at the end of 1975, MAN-THING was cancelled and HOWARD THE DUCK began bi-monthly with #1(01/76). After a few issues it went monthly and he began to run for President. He was the cover story of FOOM #15. After only seven issues, he was granted a Marvel Treasury Edition. Do you know who didn't get one? Iron Man, Daredevil, X-Men, Sub-Mariner, Captain Marvel, any of the western characters (still being published through the 70's), Sgt. Fury or Power Man.. It's true that some of those characters got stories in the Christmas issues, but that's hardly the same as getting your own volume. And Howard's back catalog was so thin that it required that a third of the treasury be devoted to a new story, which took place between issues #7 and #8. Around the time of the treasury and the election, George Lucas was in contact with Marvel and Roy Thomas, providing materials from which the comic book adaptation of "Star Wars" could be made ready by spring 1977 when the movie was due for release. Lucas said years later that he had long enjoyed the Howard comics and it couldn't have hurt that Gene Colan had become the regular penciller months earlier. Colan is known for having a photographer's eye when creating layouts, giving individual panels the sort of innovative 'camera angles' that would catch the attention of a film school student turned successful director in the auteur-friendly 1970's. Of course, Lucas and Howard both had pretty good years in 1977. Lucas' has been well documented; Howard introduced KISS to comics, got an annual and a syndicated newspaper strip. Pretty good for a four year old character. 1978 began almost as auspiciously, with a two-issue Star Wars parody/tribute (Man-Thing, Dakimh and Jennifer Kale return as Chewbacca, Obi-Wan and Leia, respectively). Then, as mentioned above, Gerber ran afoul for trying to run a fowl and was out the door before the Superman movie even made it to theaters.

With both the color comic and newspaper strip cancelled, Marvel moved Howard to their B&W magazine line. At first, he appeared in one-page gags in CRAZY #50(05/79)- #54(09/79) and #59(02/80) [except #52 and every third issue following it, which where reprint specials]. Then, Mantlo scripted Howard's own magazine series #1(10/79)-#8(11/80) and #9(03/91), during which Alan Kupperberg (who drew the last six months of the newspaper strip from Marv Wolfman's scripts) produced a Howard story for MARVEL TEAM-UP #96(08/80) and Steve Skeates and Pat Broderick handled the majority of the three-page Howard stories in CRAZY #63(06/80)-#77(08/81) [again, except for every third issue from 64 to 76]. A one-page Howard gag by Kupperberg turned up a year later in the all humor issue of WHAT IF...? #34(08/82), but aside from a cameo in Fred Hembeck's FANTASTIC FOUR ROAST (05/82), that was it for a year. Not only was there no feature, but there were no guest appearances.

In the latter half of 1978, fill-in stories scripted for Marvel by Steve Gerber were published, a solo Beast story in AVENGERS and a Lilith story in MARVEL PREVIEW. That appeared to be the end of his affiliation with them, except that he was scripting Hanna-Barbera stories for editor Mark Evanier under the anagrammatic pseudonym "Reg Everbest". All six of the H-B titles got the ax in the same cull that cancelled the Howard color comic. But Evanier (who has since written extensively about his Hollywood experiences) provided a route to animation, and "Thundarr the Barbarian". After the cartoon premiered in September 1980, Eclipse published Gerber's graphic novel STEWART THE RAT in November. The following year, Eclipse began publishing a B&W anthology, ECLIPSE MAGAZINE, and Gerber occasionally contributed to it. Back on fans' radar, DC took his scripts for a PHANTOM ZONE mini-series and Dr. Fate back-up feature in FLASH for 1982. Jack Kirby, not surprisingly, had kept busy, too. Pacific Comics published two series of his, CAPTAIN VICTORY and SILVER STAR, from 1981 to 1983. During that time, Kirby and Gerber collaborated on a personal project that Eclipse agreed to publish as their first full color comic, taking the place on their schedule of the May 1982 issue of the B&W magazine. It was DESTROYER DUCK, a clear and obvious protest for creators' rights and a specific condemnation of Marvel's treatment of Howard in Gerber's absence. Originally advertised to come out on December 15. 1981 [on the back of ECLIPSE #4(01/82)], it was probably out by February (the July issue of the magazine was due to ship in April, according to The Comic Reader that year). The issue of WHAT IF...? with the Howard page would have shipped to the direct market in early May with a newsstand 'on sale' date by the end of the month. Of course, Marvel had bigger problems than Howard. The emergence of publishers like Pacific, Eclipse and Capital had forced them (and DC) to offer collectors comics made with better materials and printing methods. Initially offering reprints and graphic novels, then special projects, by the time Marvel formed a Baxter paper imprint (Epic) Destroyer Duck had become an ongoing series at Eclipse, joined by SABRE by fellow disgruntled former Marvel employees Don McGregor and Billy Graham. Eclipse's color roster continued to slowly grow while Marvel cancelled the last of their B&W magazines (except SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN), converting the last issue of BIZARRE ADVENTURES #34(02/83) into a Baxter color comic, including an eight-page Howard Christmas story by Steven Grant and Paul Smith (who had just started work on UNCANNY X-MEN). Smith also drew Howard's half-page entry in the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #5(05/83). Butch Guice provided a Howard pin-up for MARVEL FANFARE #9 (07/83), which had a Man-Thing cover story. Then, in 1984 both Howard and Destroyer Duck disappeared. George Lucas wanted to turn his love for Howard into a movie, which would make it Marvel's first full-length theatrical feature film. Gerber was, on paper, hired as a consultant but little of his creation made it into the movie. In it, the plot centers on Howard's homeworld being another planet, not an alternate Earth, although great pains were taken to furnish scenes of his homeworld with 'duck' versions of American Earth culture. The social satire was gone, replaced by an occasional sarcastic quip. The script was provided by the producer and director, old classmates from Lucas' film school days who felt that the movie would more appropriately be animated. Every step towards getting this film into theaters seemed to involve everyone concerned second-guessing their own instincts and acting counter-intuitively, So much wasted talent, wasted money and wasted opportunity, it has become justifiably notorious in both comics and film circles. Leading into its release in August 1986, the only comics appearances Howard made in the previous three years were HOWARD THE DUCK #32(01/86) (by Steven Grant and Paul Smith again), a pin-up by Dave Sim in MARVEL FANFARE #25 (03/86) and HOWARD THE DUCK #33 (09/86) (by Christopher Stager and Val Mayerik, his original artist).

The storybook I have excerpted above was published by Grosset & Dunlap, who licensed Marvel characters for puzzle books in the late 1970's. By the way, the Read-Aloud story book mentioned on the back cover had ISBN #0448-48606-7 and the Book-And-Cassette set had ISBN #0448-48619-9. What I find strange about that is that by 1986, Marvel had expanded to publishing books and that by volume, most of them were children's books featuring many of the licensed characters which also appeared in their Star Comics and toy-based titles: Transformers, Heathcliff, Madballs, Sectaurs, Muppet Babies, etc. These came in the form of story books, paint-with-water and coloring books, activity books and so on. There was even at least one Howard the Duck sticker book called "A Walk Back In Time" (ISBN #0871-35157-9). So why was this handled by another publisher? It may have been a contractual obligation of the studio or distributor, but I simply don't know for sure.

One last note for the curious: the images scanned above were originally 8.5" X 11.0".

Previously on "Sieve Eye Care"...