Monday, December 31, 2007

Rick Phillips - 1974

sgRick Phillips When I was a boy my Dad worked very hard. Not only did my Dad have a full time job but he also had two or three part-time jobs. One of them, back in 1974, was working weekends as a janitor or cleaning carpets. It was his own business so he would at times take me with him so we could spend time together. I would at times vacuum, wash the windows or when cleaning shag carpet I would rake the carpet after it was shampooed to raise the fibers and make it look neat for the owners.

One Saturday night after I had washed the windows and vacuumed the carpet I had nothing to do. Dad was buffing and waxing the non-carpeted part of the floor. The carpeted part was not shag so I was pretty much done unless Dad needed help with something. Being bored I started doing something that any boy would do when left alone in an office. I started opening drawers. I had no intentions of taking anything I just wanted to see what was inside. Suddenly in the bottom drawer of the desk I saw to my surprise...comic books. These weren't funny animal books either. These were fairly current Marvel Comic books. The one I remember being on top was Ghost Rider #6. I immediately took it out, sat on the floor and started to read it. For some reason I felt like I was doing something wrong but I didn't know why. After all I was only reading a comic book and I was going to put it back as soon as I was done. I was near the end of the story when I heard my Dad calling. I ignored him as I was near the end and wanted to finish and I also was afraid Dad would scold me for reading when I was suppose to be working.

Suddenly my Dad came from around the corner of the desk and loomed over me. He started to smile and asked me where did I get the book. I told him where I found them and I wanted to finish the story. He continued to smile as he said "When you're done over here and help me move this piece of furniture." So when I was done I did what he told me to.

Now I loved being with my Dad but I hated cleaning up after other people. I especially hated washing the windows. However, this new discovery made it easier to go with him on those Saturday nights. When I was done with my part I went over to the desk and started to read whatever comic books were in the bottom drawer. Dad got a kick out of telling my Mom about how if he needed me he could always find me behind that desk reading a comic book.

Then one night I got a surprise. I opened the bottom drawer and there were no comic books. I opened a few more drawers and found them and started reading. It was in that drawer for a few more weeks till one day all the drawers in the desk were locked. My Saturday night supply was cut off. I thought it was an accident that they were moved a few weeks before but I guess the owner of the desk knew someone was reading them and didn't like it. Moving them didn't stop me so he locked it. In my young mind I didn't know why someone wouldn't want to share the pleasure of reading their comics. That is something I still don't quite understand today but that is another story.

Still how did he find out? I always put them back the way I found them and I never touched anything else. Only the comic books. Later my Dad told me that he also found some old girlie magazines in the mens room. Dad knew who the books belonged to as there was only one man in the office. Dad never did like those magazines as they were demeaning to both men and women and he offered to throw them out. Of course Dad used the excuse that they were old to have them thrown out. He said no as he wanted something to read during the slow times of the day. He probably told him that I found and I read his comic books and he didn't want me to find and read these. Since I don't recall seeing those girlie mags I bet the offices owner put them all in his desk and locked it up so I wouldn't see them.

I am proud that my Dad took a polite stand for his beliefs. But I wish the office owner would have left the books outside the desk on Saturday for me to read. Saturday nights at that office weren't as fun once the desk drawers were locked.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Happy Childhood Equation

sg Rob Kelly I haven't wrote about this particular memory yet, even thought its one of my favorites, since it's not a story per se, more like just a series of random impressions. But sometimes life is like that, I guess.

One of my most beloved childhood memories was during the late 70s and early 80s when my Dad would take me with him to his office at Hartford Insurance, located in Voorhees, NJ.

But it wasn't during the work week--no, this was the occasional time when my Dad(who was the manager of his branch) had so much work to do to he went in on a Saturday. And since my Mom worked a part-time job on weekends, that left me without anyone home so I went with my Dad. We had the entire building--all two floors of your typical huge-o office building--to ourselves. Including...the cafeteria.

Now, the cafeteria wasn't anything exicting...pretty much just a room with tables and a whole bunch of vending machines. But everytime I went with my Dad, we'd first stop at Woolworths or some store like that and he'd buy me a pile of comics, and a lot of them ended up being treasury editions. Maybe because I needed to be kept out of my Dad's hair(what was left of it) and he thought I would be getting more bang for his buck, but I seemed to end up with them more on these office visits with my Dad than any other time.

Anyway, once we got into the dim, uber-quiet building, he'd sit at his desk and I would plop down at his secretary's desk right outside his office. I'd have a pile of comics to read, and I would get so engrossed in them that I would barely make a peep during the whole time my Dad was trying to work. (Having now spent a lot of time on the other side of the Adult/Child dynamic, and seeing how quickly kids get bored, I'm sort of retroactively impressed with myself that just a couple bucks' worth of over-sized comics was enough to mollify me for an afternoon)

When I would get hungry, I'd take a book with me to the cafeteria, where the soft hum of the vending machines selling coffee, tea, chocolate milk(my favorite, then and now), chips, cookies, and pre-fab sandwhiches sounded like angels to me. I would buy two or three snacks, bring them to a table, and go back to my reading. At age seven or eight, I generally was too shy to ever buy food on my own(not that I ever really needed to), so this sorta made me feel like an adult--deciding for myself what I wanted, paying for it, and cleaning up afterwards. Immersing myself in the giant world of a treasury comic while eating delightfully crappy junk food is one of my most, er, treasured memories.

I don't know if I believe in the theory of reincarnation, but I have an affinity for cafeterias that I think was in me before I ever made these trips, so I wonder if in some former life I worked in Manhattan in the forties and ate lunch daily at the Automat. My eyes would grow wide when my Great Uncle Fred would tell me stories of eating there when he was younger, and also when I'd see that one Bugs Bunny cartoon set in a department store and he visits an Automat.

I have to think all this layed dormant in me and when I got to do my scaled-down version in the 70s and 80s and that's partly what made these trips so exciting. To this day when Tracy and I are somewhere--an Ikea or a hospital, even--she'll mention the existence of an in-house cafeteria in a sing-song voice, knowing that I'll want to head there as soon as possible.

Eventually my Dad retired from the Hartford, and that building--which is only about fifteen minutes away from here--stayed under the Hartford's stewardship for years. Every so often I'd drive by there and imagine, was there any way I could visit the place, just to grab a chocolate milk and a pack of cupcakes in the cafeteria? Of course I never tried, and then the chance was gone forever when the building was demolished and replaced by a Target.

If my guess is right, the cafeteria would've been right around where Target's greeting cards are now. But it just ain't the same...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Past

sg Rob Kelly Surprisingly, I don't have many--if any--memories of getting comics for Christmas. As you can see from these photos, I frequently had Mego Christmases, and, from 1978 on, Star Wars Christmases, but I really don't ever remember getting comics from Santa.

Maybe that's because, at the time, comics were cheap, so if we ever saw one I wanted, I usually got it right there and then, not needing it to be put on my Christmas list. A
thirty-five cent issue of Brave and the Bold is one thing, a Death Star Playset is another.

I had great Christmases growing up, as you can see. I hope all of you had the same, and for those of you who have kids, are giving them Christmases they'll remember as fondy as I remember mine.

Happy holidays everybody!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

George Rears - 1975

sg George Rears A Christmas Story--My Mom had a super power. A very specific one. It would probably not get her into the Justice League, unless you are talking about the Giffen-era Justice League Antarctica.

When I was still a young Lad, about eight years old, I was still new to comics, discovering the exciting world of super-heroes. The Flash was my favorite, and Green Lantern was cool, because he had brown hair (Needless to say I’m starting to resemble the Earth-2 Flash more than GL, now). The Justice League really rocked. All these super heroes, star spanning adventures, and different heroes in every issue. All was good. Until Christmas.

I believe it was 1975, but it may have been 1976. After negotiating an allowance that allowed me to buy all the DC books I wanted (pretty much whatever by older brother wasn't buying). I discovered there were books about comics. Real books. Books with a flat spine and real "book" paper. Real books that exceeded my allowance.

I was in the book store (we only had one book store in town--well not exactly, let’s leave it as one American book store in town) and had noticed that right next to the Origins of Marvel Comics series, there was this brand new book: Secret Origins of DC Super Heroes. This was way too cool. It looked much more interesting than the book to the right, which was some sort of History of Comics dating back to the 1940s. I wanted this book. I needed this book. I asked for this book for Christmas.

Part of the problem with turning in your list too early, is that your parents start monitoring you to see if you really want what you say you want. As the holidays approached, I didn't realize my mother was tracking my every move. I especially didn't notice that my mom must have seen me check out this amazing book, the Secret Origin of DC Super Heroes, from the library (Heck, she probably drove me and let me use her card).

This all led to the fateful Christmas Day. I sat in front of a sea of presents (when you are young they always seem like a sea of presents, don't they?), and spotted instantly what could only be my requested paperback. I saved that for last, as I opened up some really cool Mego Action figures...then came the big gift. The secrets of my new Heroes was to be secret no more.

It was then that I discovered my Mom's secret power. It seems that she has the ability to find exactly what you want for Christmas, and then buy the thing immediately to the right of it. And that is how I still own to this day, a pretty cool History of the Comics dating back to the 1940s, instead of the Secret Origins book.

I was upset for a few days, until then I actually read the book. I can now credit my appreciation for history back to comic books, and of course my Mom's Super Power. Maybe next time I'll write about what I got when I asked for Trivial Pursuit a few years later….

Monday, December 17, 2007

In A Gallery Far Far Away - 1977

sg Rob Kelly Until I was eight, my parents and I lived in a suburb of Philadelphia. Most of our everyday shopping needs were met by the nearest mall(called the Nashaminy Mall) and all the myriad other local establishments.

The first time I can remember going to actual downtown Philadelphia was in 1977, when we went to shop at what was then a big-time mall called The Gallery.

The Gallery was(and still is) located over one city block in Philly, and you could park in a building across the street. There was a walkway crossing from building to another, and to a kid of seven walking through a brightly lit, glass and steel walkway, with the city streets dozens of feet below, made me feel like I was in some space-age futuristic mecca. Kids are like that.

Anyway, I followed along with my parents from store to store, and then at some point we must have hit a bookstore or department store, because my parents bought me this comic--Star Wars #7, written by Roy Thomas with art by Howard Chaykin.

For anyone who doesn't know, Star Wars #7 is the first non-movie-adaptation issue of the title, and to a Star Wars-obsessed kid, seeing any adventure set in that world outside of the (then)one lone film was simply The Most Exciting Thing Ever in History.

The story follows Han Solo and Chewbacca on a trip to pay off Jabba the Hutt, and on the way they meet all kinds of new characters, with names like Crimson Jack and Azoora.

I was so completely entranced by the book--and the newly-expanded world it was showing me in its twenty or so plus pages, that I can remember from tha trip afterwards was trying to follow along with parents, walking through the busy mall, never taking my eyes out of the book.

We followed my Mom some clothing store and my Dad and I waited in the outer lobby of the dressing rooms while she tried stuff on. Normally I would've been fidgeting and bored, but I just kept reading and studying the panels. I even remember some vague comment a store employee made to my Dad(or maybe it was to me, who knows?) about how wrapped up I was in the book.

The only other thing I remember is walking back through that walkway, this time not even noticing it--I was busy reading.

I don't keep up with much(read: any) Star Wars fandom nowadays--a combination of growing up and the second trilogy did a good job of watering down my passion for all things Star Wars--so I don't know how much credit the Marvel comics get for keeping the brand alive during those long, pre-internet three-year intervals between films.

But for this kid, they were an indispensible part of the magic that was Star Wars.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tales of the Spinner Rack, Part 2

sgI started to realize maybe I wasn't the only one who owned an gen-u-ine comic book spinner rack when I saw this December 2, 2005 Funky Winkerbean daily.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Neal Patterson - 1976

sgNeal Patterson Christmas Eve 1976--I'll always remember the Christmas of 1976 as a time of mixed emotions. My parents had entered into a legal separation the summer before, and my brother had gone off to college in Florida soon after. Six and a half years older than I, my brother was my source of wisdom and strength, especially when my parents were at odds with
each other.

Now I was left to fend for myself while my parents carried on with their contentious relationship. Also, my mom and I were living alone in the house. It felt scary not to have any grown men around to protect us. To cap the year off, my grandfather's brother, whom we knew as Uncle Jack, died after a brief illness. We had to bury him on Christmas Eve.

As a form of defense, I had retreated further into the fantasy worlds of comics and science fiction. I was a huge Star Trek and Space:1999 fan, so I was really excited when MGM re-released 2001:A Space Odyssey in theatres. Regrettably, I couldn't make heads or tails out of the story, but I was completely blown away by the special effects and the amazing view of the future, which I hoped I might see as an adult. I soon realized where Space: 1999 had copped its visual style from.

After seeing the movie, I wanted to get Jack Kirby's comic adaptation, but for some reason, it was nowhere to be found in the stores I frequented. I read his regular comic which continued where the movie left off, but I really wanted that treasury-sized adaptation.

My everyday world was pretty gloomy during the months leading up to Christmas Eve, but I had reason to feel hopeful. For one, my brother was home from college, and we both realized how much we missed talking to each other and generally goofing around. My father, whom I suppose was trying to earn points with my mom, had been exhibiting his best behavior during the time of my uncle's illness, driving Uncle Jack's wife back and forth to the hospital and running errands for her. He was also providing much needed support to the family during the funeral. My parents were getting along again.

As can be imagined, Christmas Eve that year was chaotic. After the funeral, on one of the coldest days of the year, my mom and I went home while my father and brother tended to Uncle Jack's wife. We agreed to meet up at the local Big Boy for dinner that evening. While we ate, my mom nuzzled against my dad for warmth in the drafty restaurant. The gesture filled me with happiness. Maybe we could be a whole family again.

Entering into the cold, blustery night, my brother went home with my mom while I decided to stick with Dad for awhile. We stopped off at a mom-and-pop deli/convenience store nearby. While my father was roaming the store, I scanned over their small rack of magazines hoping to find some comics I hadn't already bought or maybe a new Starlog magazine. I was about to give up hope on their paltry selection when I noticed on the top shelf a copy of the treasury book 2001:A Space Odyssey. Since it was put out months earlier, I had given up hope of ever finding a copy, but there it was!

As soon as my dad returned, I went directly into begging mode. I knew this was a dodgy proposition on Christmas Eve, but I was desperate. He gave me the usual excuses about how I was going to get lots of presents tomorrow, but I countered with the fact that this was a collectible and had been off the shelves for awhile already. This was a real find! I guess I tapped into his good behavior mode because he reluctantly agreed to buy it for me.

Back home, I laid out the giant-sized comic on the living room floor and read through it. Kirby's art seemed so strange blown up like this, but the space sequences were awe-inspiring. I was also able to finally understand the story...sort of. By the time I finished it, my dad was leaving for the night, promising to return for Christmas morning. I went to bed eager to spend Christmas with my family back together.

Of course, nothing stays the same. My brother dropped out of the college in Florida after the spring semester. My parents divorced when I was 16. I'm now about the age my parents were then, with plenty of wear and tear to show for it. But I still have that 2001 comic book, and my memories of that Christmas of hope.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I Was So Much More Polite Than This Kid

sg From "How Are Your Shopping Manners?" PSA in Justice League of America #1, Nov. 1960.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mike Middleton - 1978

sg Mike Middleton The year 1978 was probably the most exciting year of my childhood. I was eight years old and was pretty much obsessed with two things, Star Wars and DC comics.

My parents had gotten divorced the year before and I would go and see my dad every other weekend. I don't know if it was guilt over the divorce or not, but Dad used to let me do whatever I wanted for the most part on those weekends. I had seen the Super Friends cartoon and was starting to get interested in the comics the different characters appeared in. Dad would then take me to the convenience store not far from his place and let me pick up the latest Superman, Action, JLA, and most of the other titles DC was putting out at the time. That was great but it got even better the next year because I discovered a store about a mile from my dad's place that sold nothing but comics.

Clint's Comics in Kansas City, MO was one of the first comic specialty shops. In 1978, it was doing great business and I was one of its more frequent customers. It was there that my dad bought me my first treasury comics. I had never seen them before and was blown away at the size. It was awesome seeing my favorite heroes in action almost twice the size of the normal comics I bought. I enjoyed them all but one stood out above the rest. All New Collectors' Edition C-54, the epic WWII era battle between Superman and Wonder Woman. I read this thing over and over. I was hooked. I couldn't get over the beautiful Garcia Lopez art.

I was pretty familiar with most of the DC artists but for some reason hadn't encounted Lopez before, at least not that I noticed anyway. I was (and still am) a huge Jim Aparo fan. The Brave And The Bold was my favorite book. I also loved Curt Swan's Superman. This book to me combined what I loved about DC art. Lopez's clean, yet dynamic style really got me hooked. There was no going back. Thirty years later, I'm still a huge fan of Lopez's and that whole era of DC. One of my fondest convention memories was getting to meet Lopez and having him sign my worn out copy of that treasury.

Clint's is still going strong in KC. In fact, my dad and I went there just a couple of weeks ago. It was a great nostalgic rush. Unfortunately, I had to buy my own comics. Oh well, it was definitely worth it. Too bad there were no new treasuries to get.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rubber Stamp Madness - 1979

sg Rob Kelly Sometime around 1978 my parents bought me this, an awesome Marrvel Superheroes Stamp Pad Set.

Even though I was always more of a DC kid, Marvel had some really cool merchandise around this time, and in a lot of cases it was better-looking than the DC stuff. While DC seemed to let its licensors pretty much do what they wanted, Marvel's stuff always used very dynamic poses and art right from the comics(like the shots of Spidey, Hulk, Cap, and IronMan you see on this package).

Unfortunately, my parents generosity in buying me the thing really didn't pay off for them, since the minute we moved into our new house in New Jersey, I spent a fun afternoon vandalizing our new house:
sg a kid doing this seemed totally harmless, yet I look at it now and say "What the hell was I thinking?" It's not like we didn't have paper in the house, and maybe, just maybe, my parents didn't want their new basement decorated with Silver Surfer and Mighty Thor stock art.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rick Phillips - 1982

sgRick Phillips The year was 1982. I had been a comic collector for years but had been to very few comic book conventions at that time. A small con was being held not far from my home in Ky at the Drawbridge Inn. I went with my friends Chuck and Mike. While there we ran into my cousin Steve. Now it was fun to be attending such a thing with three men who I was very close to. But amongst all of the fun I learned something that day.

You see it was close to my birthday. Chuck and I had become fans of the Pacific Comics publication called Starslayer. It was created by Mike Grell who wrote and drew the stories. For those of you who don't know the story it is about a time-displaced Celtic warrior named Torin MacQuillon. He was taken seconds before he may have died. I say may have as in the first issue it was said that according to history he just disappeared. Now he was traveling through space in the far future. It was near impossible to take him back as it may change the time line. Anyway, I didn't catch on 'til halfway through the first six issues. So I was always looking for the first three. By this time I had five of the six. However, I was missing the first issue.

Later that day Chuck came up to me and gave me the first issue of Starslayer and told me Happy Birthday. He found it at the convention and bought it as a gift. I was very happy and quickly read it when I got home. However, since the series was originally conceived as a mini-series it now meant that I had the entire series. My happiness turned to sadness when I suddenly realized that my fun was now over. I was enjoying the hunt for this series. Each time I found an issue I felt like I had discovered buried treasure. I treasure this memory and thank my friend Chuck again for getting it for me if he is reading this site. However, I will always remember the lesson that half the fun of collecting anything is the search.

I know the series was continued eventually at First Comics. While it ran for over 30 issues and even had a successful spin-off with Grimjack, it wasn't as much fun anymore so I only bought the first 6 issues. Part of the reason it wasn't fun anymore is I could easily keep up with it each month. The thrill of the hunt was gone.

Monday, December 3, 2007

D.C. Dill - 1975

sgD.C. Dill My best Christmas memories are associated with super heroes. In fact, almost all my childhood memories are associated with superheroes.

Every Christmas, Santa would bring comics and leave them sticking out of the top of my stocking. It was practically ensured that on Christmas morning I would have some new four color wonders for perusing. We're all aware about the differences in hunting for comics between then: spinner racks of the seventies, and now: safe little subscription boxes in comic stores. I would respectfully submit that there's also a vast difference in getting Christmas comics as well. We'll never get back to our childhoods, no matter how hard we try.

Christmas of 1974. I was five years old. Santa brought me four Mego bend-ems, Superman, Batman, Robin, and Shazam, and the treasury edition Christmas with the Super-Heroes(also know as
Limited Collectors' Edition #C-34). I had several treasury editions sticking out of my stocking that Christmas morning. But the Christmas treasuries were always my favorite. In thinking back, I think it's because the other treasuries would focus on one hero or team, while the Christmas editions offered the kind of variety that I didn't get to see much.

This particular treasury was a huge, mind-blowing treat. Superman and Batman, of course, and Captain Marvel. But also Teen Titans and Angel and the Ape. Neither of which I had ever heard of. The Angel and the Ape story was okay. But that Titans story was sheer magnificence. Thanks to this treasury, I was familiar with the Titans version of this story before I ever heard the original A Christmas Carol. And the line-up! I had no idea that Wonder Woman and Flash had kid sidekicks. But that was nothing to this brand-new 'Aqualad' character!!! A kid sidekick for Aquaman!? This was the best Christmas ever!

That scene where Aqualad wades through the oily ground 'like an eel' and starts belting crooks right and left was my favorite. At the time, I didn't know who Nick Cardy was, but from that point on I would recognize his style.

Also, the Captain Marvel story in this treasury is sheer beauty. Captain Marvel and Billy Batson give each other Christmas presents in the end. It boggles the mind.

Contrary to what my friends and co-workers will tell you, I don't hate Marvel. Far from it. I just prefer DC. Now, I mean no disrespect to the Marvel fans out there, but when it came to the Christmas Treasuries, Marvel just didn't get it. They don't hold a candle to the Christmas stories that you can find in DC's library.

One of the best parts of this Treasury is the back cover with the heroes in the Christmas ornaments. I stared at that for hours. Both the front and back covers are sheer Christmas treats. So much so that as an adult, I try to display the covers for Christmas. We don't have a mantle, but I've constructed substitutes a couple of times in the past so I could stand these up in the living room for Christmas. I've definitely shared this treasury with the kids a couple of times.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sunday In The House With Power Records

sg Rob Kelly Take this image(off of the back of the Superman: City Under Siege 45), subtract the girl, the boy's mane of hair, and add about one hundred pounds, then you've got a pretty good representation of my day today.

It's cold, snowy, and rainy out today, so I chose to stay in(except for walking our little Johnny who, as half-American Eskimo, loves this weather) and get caught up on all my blogs.

I recently bought a few Power Record Book and Record sets on ebay(ones I've never had before, like The Adventures of Holo-Man and their adaptations of Robin Hood and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea), so I put them on as I'm at the computer. I even made one trip out to get a Slurpee to complete the Sundays Of My Youth effect.

Fun stories return tomorrow!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Comics Out Of Time, Part 1 - 1975

sg Rob Kelly You could probably start a whole other blog if you wanted to just on the subject of when comic books appear in movies or TV shows and they're chronologically wrong.

Like a car expert who notices a wrong make or model in a period movie, comic fans(like me) immediately notice stuff like this and it always give you a chuckle and of course it goes by most everyone else.

One of my favorite examples is this one, from a fourth season episode of M*A*S*H(called "Der Tag"), where we see comic reader Radar O'Reilly reading a 1969 issue of The Avengers in 1952. How'd he do that?

What perplexes me is that this episode was filmed in 1975, so this comic was already six years old by then. Was this book from crew member's basement? Grabbing a current comic off the stands to use as a prop is a common, easily-made mistake, but this is even more unusual!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Vincent Bartilucci - 1976

sg Vincent Bartilucci I can't be certain, but I think the Battle of the Century made the evening newscast. After all, if Superman battling Spider-Man isn't the very definition of newsworthy, I don't know what is. Not that, at the age of ten, I was regularly watching the evening newscast.

No, one of my parents must have alerted me to the fact that there might be something of interest mentioned during that long, boring hour of television. Or maybe there was a mention in the newspaper that my folks clued me into. However it happened, I'm pretty sure that I knew about the big DC/Marvel crossover prior to seeing any ads for the treasury in a comic.

Yep, I knew about it and I wanted, needed, coveted--is coveted too strong a word?--that comic like no other. It's actually kind of strange since I was never a huge fan of either character. Oh, I've read some great Superman stories in my time and some superb Spidey tales, as well. But, regarding the characters themselves, I've always been fairly apathetic. The reasons are unimportant. Suffice to say that of the two, I guess I understood Superman's appeal a bit more than Spidey's. There is something very attractive about the biggest, the strongest, and the first of anything. It wasn't attractive to me, mind you. But I could see why the Man of Steel was so many kids' favorite hero.

Spider-Man, on the other hand, just baffled me. He certainly wasn't cooler than IronMan, Thor, Captain America, or the FF(give me a break, I was a ten year old boy!) Nope, he just whined more. Yet, he had three comics--Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, and Marvel Tales--and before 1976 was over he'd have a third--Peter Parker, The Spectacular You-Know-Who. It wasn't until I read reprints of the original run of stories by Lee and Ditko that I began to understand Spidey's, or should I say Peter Parker's, charm. But that Peter disappeared when Ditko left the book and I've never connected with the whiny male model who took his place.

So, if I was backing either character in the big face-off, I'd have to say it was Superman by default. Regardless of my apathy for the principle participants, I still knew "cool" when I heard it and, boy, did that comic sound cool! I remember trying to figure out how Superman wouldn't win the fight in one panel. I arrived at the conclusion that Mr. Mxyzptlk must be involved. But which one of Spidey's villains would be working with Mxy? Man, I had to get that comic!

When I saw the ads featuring that great, iconic cover, "coveted" definitely entered the picture. I looked for that comic every time I went to Clearview Stationery. In other words, every time my mother needed to visit that particular strip mall. In other, other words, not nearly often enough. Why couldn't my mom understand that I needed to go to Clearview two or three times a week at a minimum so I wouldn't miss the Battle of the Century?

By the time February arrived, I knew I had missed out on the coolest, most important comic book event of all time. My mood was just shy of inconsolable. Even the week off from school smack dab in the middle of the month was no consolation because I couldn't spend that week tracking down the one that got away. Instead, my family was driving from our home on Long Island to upstate New York to visit relatives.

My dad wanted to get an early start on the drive so we hit the road bleary-eyed at about 5:30 in the morning. As we reached the expressway, my mother handed me a large paper bag. Within the bag were Action Comics #438, Justice League of America #129...and the Superman Vs. the Amazing Spider-Man Treasury! To say I freaked out is to put it mildly. Apparently, my dad had picked the comics and the treasury up at a newsstand in Penn Station and had hid them from me until the trip. I dove into the treasury immediately even though it was still a little too dark to actually read it! Luthor! Doc Ock! A ray to make Spider-Man the equal of Superman, at least temporarily! Wow!

The drive was a long one. When I finally finished reading the epic meeting 'tween Supes and Spidey, I read the JLA(bummer ending) and Action(first half of a two part story of which I've never read the second half). Then I reread the treasury. When we arrived at our destination, I left the comics in the car--I couldn't risk anything happening to them.

A week later, on the ride home I read the treasury again. The story was just as thrilling the third time around. About halfway home we stopped for breakfast at a roadside restaurant that might have been a Howard Johnson's. It definitely had that HoJo feel to it. Next to the cashier was a small two-tiered magazine rack with, among other things, comics. You'd run into comics in the strangest places in the 1970's! As my father paid for our meal, I quickly rifled thru a group of titles I had never seen before. There were comics featuring Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and a host of other funny animal cartoon characters. Nothing this super-hero loving kid wanted anything to do with.

sgI did find two intriguing covers in the bunch. One featured a pair of American Indians(the accepted term of the day) in what looked like the Land of the Lost. The other showed a white man and a black man, both armed with spears, side-by-side next to a line of portholes. Neither one was a super-hero comic but the painted covers--something I had never seen before--looked so exotic. I snatched them up and dug out my four bits.

The comics in question were Turok, Son of Stone #93 and The Brothers of the Spear #11, the first, heck, the only Gold Key comics of my youth. Both comics were unlike anything I had read before. I loved 'em. The Brothers of the Spear issue, in particular, held a certain fascination for me, mainly because the white character's name was Dan-el. Obviously, this was a bastardization of the name Daniel, but at the time I was ready to make the connection to another, more famous "el". Maybe Dan was the long lost second cousin of Kal whose spaceship landed in Africa and who, as a baby, was inadvertently exposed to whichever kryptonite robbed Kryptonians of their powers. Sure it was a silly idea. Like I said, I was ten.

sgBack on Long Island, I looked for more issues of Turok and The Brother of the Spear but I never found any. A store at the local mall, Newberry's(sort of a 5 and Dime with delusions of grandeur), carried some of the funny animal Gold Key / Whitman / Western titles but I didn't see any of the adventure titles there except for the Buck Rogers movie tie-ins a few years later. A while back, I purchased the entire run of The Brothers of the Spear on eBay and it is a nifty little series. I understand that it was a back-up in the pages of Gold Key's Tarzan comic for years prior to receiving its own title. I'll have to track those issues down someday.

Thinking about Superman Vs. Spider-Man and those Gold Key comics led me to consider some of the pluses to being a comics fan in the 21st century. When DC and Marvel released JLA/Avengers, I never doubted that I'd get a copy of each issue from my local comic shop, Collector's Kingdom. If a new title strikes my fancy like The Brothers of the Spear did all those years ago, the guys at Collector's make sure that any new issues are pulled for me. And between my friends at Collector's, my monthly Previews mag, and the internet, I know darn near everything that's coming out. Nope, I never miss a thing.

But, on the minus side, I don't run into "intriguing" or "exotic" comics in "the strangest places" anymore. And that's kind of a shame.

Post Script 1: A few days after our trip, I must have left my copy of Superman Vs. Spider-Man on the living room table. After dinner that night, my father turned to me and said, "so, Superman almost killed Spider-man, huh?" My jaw dropped. Of course, he was referring to the sequence in the comic when, after taking a pummeling from a super-charged Spider-Man for several pages, Superman has finally had enough and throws a punch at ol' Webhead's webbed head. Supes realizes almost immediately that his punch could kill Spidey so he pulls back at the last second. But the air pressure from the punch is enough to send Spidey flying in a glorious, splash page kind of way. Now, I don't know if my dad had just scanned a few random pages of the comic or if he read the whole story, but I started discussing it with him like he'd done the latter. For a long time, he listened like he was interested. He probably wished he hadn't said anything.

Post Script 2: During one of my many rereads of the treasury, I accidentally made a small tear in one of the pages making Superman Vs. Spider-Man the first comic that I ever tried to repair with tape. The less said the better.

Post Script 3: I mentioned this trip upstate to my older sister recently and she insisted that it occurred in February of 1975 almost a full year before the Superman Vs. Spider-Man Treasury hit the stands. Wait...what? So, I went online and, sure enough, Turok, Son of Stone #93 and The Brothers of the Spear #11 were both released at the very end of 1974. I guess it's possible that my sister is mistaken and that those Gold Key comics sat on the shelves for over a year. Or it's possible that I received the Superman Vs. Spider-Man Treasury (and JLA #129 and Action #438) the following year in conjunction with a different trip--hey sis, when did we go to Disneyworld?

To heck with it. I like my timeline better than reality, anyway!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Naked City - 1962

sg This still from a particularly historic episode of the TV series The Naked City was sent to me by my pal Tony Isabella.

I didn't have a post for today, so his timing couldn't have been better! Tony, did I ever tell you you're my hero?(and not just for that photo of
you and Angelique Trouvere!)

sgThis moment is so ridiculously historic that it seems like it's a fake, yet it's not. I don't care what these two actors made for the day, had they turned around and taken just those two books from the set, they could've retired early.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Memories, M*A*S*H - 1982

sg Rob Kelly A few weeks ago, Trace and I were watching the M*A*S*H reruns they show on Nick at Nite, and this episode from the 11th season--"Run For the Money"--came on, and I just happened to be working on this blog at the same time.

It was like a thunderclap went off in my head--all the memories I had of watching this episode when it first aired in 1982 came flooding back to me. It's not like I haven't seen this(and every other) episode five thousand times since, but maybe it was the combo of the two at the exact same moment that made the connection for me.

The main(or "A") plot is about Father Mulcahy running a race to win money for the orphange, but it was the "B" story that really hit me.

A wounded solider, a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, arrives, and we find out he stutters. His comrades deride him for it, even after the M*A*S*H doctors tell them to knock it off. We see that this constant berating has left the solider, named Palmer(played by actor Phil Brock), insecure and painfully shy.

Dr.Winchester(played of course by David Ogden Steirs) befriends him, going out of his way to be friendly to young man. He is perplexed by this, and we in the audience are too, knowing what we know of Winchester.

Throughout the episode, we see that the Palmer reads comic books, and there are a couple of brief glimpses of them as he rests in his cot(we never get a good enough shot to see what any of them are).

Winchester takes him in another room and talks to him about his shyness and how he shouldn't let stuttering hold him back. During this wonderful sequence, Winchester reveals that he, too reads(present tense!) comic books, like Captain Marvel! "You read Captain Marvel, too?" Palmer asks incredulously. "Ever since he was a Non-Com!" replies Winchester.

Winchester shows Palmer his(Palmer's) personnel file, revealing an above-average IQ, and names several accomplished people who also stutter, like Winston Churchill. He tries to convince Palmer that he is smart enough to tackle other forms of literature, and gives him a leather-bound copy of Moby Dick. "I read the Classic comic book" Palmer jokingly replies.

With this, Palmer seems more sure of himself, realizing that his stutter is not some symptom of unintelligence, and is grateful to Winchester. He asks why he is doing this, but Winchester dodges the question and takes him back to his bunk. Later we see the doctor lay in his cot, drinking a cup of tea and his listens to an recorded letter from his sister Honoria. It's here we discover that his cultured, erudite sister stutters too.

The effect this episode had on me was enormous. As I've mentioned before, growing up I didn't see comics in the popular culture too much--you didn't see a lot of TV or movie characters read them--so when they showed up it was a big deal. Seeing them mentioned on TV, and on my all-time favorite show(then and now) was just so thrilling to my eleven-year-old mind.

I remember being shocked--shocked!--that the high-class, brilliant Charles Emerson Winchester(the third!) read comics, and even though I knew it was fiction it made me feel a little less sheepish about it. I was already on my way to being way ahead in English and Spelling in school, and my parents chalked that up to all the comic book reading I did as a kid.

And though I never stuttered, it always seemed like a particularly cruel affliction. I talk--a lot(and I have five daily blogs to prove it!)--so not being able to communicate easily would be Hell on Earth to me. Seeing a guy retreat into the world of comic books, and then having them be the thing that Winchester connects with him over, had a sizeable impact on me. Yet I never quite realized how big an impact until just last week.

When I got the idea for this post, I decided to try and talk to the people who wrote it. As you can see from the first screen shot, this episode was written by Elias Davis and David Pollack, with an additional story credit by B.J.Hunnicutt himself, Mike Farrell!

Well, I found that Mr.Farrell has a website, so I emailed him asking about the episode. I got a response the next day(!), from either him or(more likely) his duly-designated webmaster telling me to try Davis and Pollock. How the heck do I do that?

Luckily, I'm friends with
Ken Levine, another M*A*S*H writer(I can't believe I get to write that sentence!) so I asked him if he could hook me up with either of them. Ken helpfully fwd'd my email to David Pollock who wrote me later that day! Wait a minute--I grew up watching M*A*S*H, idolizing the geniuses who put the show together, and I'm trading emails with two of the writers in the same day? Hello, what wonderful planet am I now on?

Anyway, I asked David if he had any specific memories of how the comic book angle got into the show. I knew it was a long shot(we are talking almost twenty-five years ago now), and David let me know that he didn't have any particularly amazing story; most likely the plot was hatched in the writer's room, each of the staff throwing out a little bit here and there until they has a complete story. (My dream that David would tell me he was sitting at home by a window, trying to come up with a story, when all of a sudden a comic book came flying through his window and he goes "A-ha! Comic books!" was for naught.)

David did tell me "
As it turns out, Elias and I won an award for that particular episode from the National Stuttering Association back in 2002. In fact, a clip was shown at their annual convention."

They certainly deserved it, because it's a fine examination of the issue, not to mention just a damn good episode. And it resonated with me, and continues to, all these years later.

And while I know he didn't need the money, I hope Winchester kept all his comics; they'd be worth a fortune by now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hey Girls! Comics!

sg ...this seems so, so long ago--young girls reading comics.

And there being comics for them to read...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Russell Burbage - 1975

sgRussell Burbage In the spring of 1975 I was only nine years old. More importantly, I had only been reading comics for about a year, and most of those were JLA. For all intents and purposes, I was still pretty green behind the gills when it came to certain comic book conventions.

For example, I hadn't realized yet that death traps were(almost) never fatal. Sure, in the story preceeding this one five JLAers are "killed" by Kanjar Ro and I knew that they hadn't really bought it, but this time was different. In JLA 120-121, Superman and the Flash were part of the group that had been "killed." Even by that point I *knew* that they, Batman, and Wonder Woman were indestructible. I guess I kind of thought that those characters who didn't have their own series were still vulnerable.

So if it had been only Black Canary and the Elongated Man who had been shot by Kanjar Ro, I would have found it one hundred times more dramatic. This time, however, it was only one character who had died: Aquaman! And I had read enough JLA letter pages to know that Aquaman was not one of the most popular members. I can still remember the shock I felt when I pulled my copy of JLA 122 out of the subscription shipping label. I thought, Could this, really, be the death of Aquaman!? Notice that he isn't featured in the Roll Call across the top of the cover, either! "No, no, no!" I thought, flattening out the crease down the middle of the comic before diving into the story.

As soon as I got into it, my heart sank: it turned out that Dr. Light was behind the whole thing. At the time, he was still a deadly force to be reckoned with(this was several years before his New Teen Titans silliness). Up through page ten of this eighteen-page story it appeared that the JLA really was getting knocked off, one by one! Not to give too much away, but Aquaman is caught in an explosion of a lantern fish as he swims away from Superman's Fortress of Solitude. To my nine year old mind, full-panel explosions had to be fatal…didn't they???

You probably guessed that Aquaman didn't really die in this story. On page eleven, when the JLA arrives to capture Dr. Light and he says, "Well, atleast Aquaman is still dead," I nearly let out a little hooray of my own when The Sea King suddenly shows up fine! Not only was he fine, but he gets to explain how he had managed to save almost the whole JLA from Dr. Light's traps all by himself!(Something Batman, the big show-off, tended to do!) By the end of this story I had such a huge smile on my face like you wouldn't believe. How could anyone who reads this issue think Aquaman didn't belong in the JLA???

Aquaman had some great lines in this issue, too, saying, "A booby trap….and I was supposed to be the booby!", calling Superman "old buddy," explaining that lantern fish aren’t found in the Arctic, and my all-time favorite, his reference to the song, "Let Me Call You Sweet Heart," I think of every time I hear that song, "I have a few nastier names for you, crud!"

Of course, re-reading it years later it doesn't stand up quite as well as I would have hoped. The plot is pretty convoluted and out-right contrived, but still, you couldn't have told that to the nine-year old boy who had just learned not to believe everything he saw on the cover of a comic book.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hey Yogi! 3-D!

sg Not to be outdone, now we have baseball hall of famer(and avid comic reader, according to legend) Yogi Berra enjoying the very same comic from yesterday's post! Sockamagee!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hey Kids! 3-D!

sg This is a photo I've seen in a bunch of different places--hard to find a more iconic 1950s shot than this!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Steve Martin/"Born Standing Up"

sg "I loved comic books; especially the funny ones, like Little Lulu--and man oh man, if Uncle Scrooge was in the latest episode of Donald Duck, I was in heaven."--Steve Martin, from his new biography Born Standing Up

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hey Kids! Thanks!

sg Rob Kelly This blog is of course all about beloved childhood memories of comics; but just yesterday I had an experience that I'm sure will resonate with me just as strongly as any I had as a kid.

My pal Paul Kupperberg is writing a book about DC's classic Showcase title, which will be published by TwoMorrows. Not only is he a fan of the legendary book, he actually wrote some issues of it, so he has a unique perspective on the title.

Anyway, he asked me awhile back if I would be willing to contribute to one of the chapters, about three characters who, after long careers of being support characters, got their own Showcase tryouts and soon after their own series: Lois Lane, Aquaman, and Tommy Tomorrow.

I of course said yes; I was honored that Paul would ask me to contribute to one of his projects, not to mention that the book itself just sounds cool, the kind of thing I'd want to read anyway.

So while I was going over Paul's outline for the book last night, I came across this sentence: "The Showcase Companion is written by Paul Kupperberg (who also scripted four issues of the 1977 Showcase revival), with contributions from former DC staffers and/or comics historians Bob Greenberger, Bob Rozakis, Brian Morris, John Wells, Jim Beard, and Rob Kelly."

Whoa, whoa...wait a minute. Me? A Comics Historian? While I admit I've done my best to examine the histories of the subjects my blogs cover, I never would've thought to consider myself worthy of such a title, and it literally left me speechless when I read it. Having a comics pro whose work I grew up reading call me a "Comics Historian" means more to me than any half-dozen magazines that have featured my artwork. It was the first thing I told Darlin' Tracy when she came home that night, and I couldn't stop talking about it on our nightly walk.

So while this blog is about fond memories, I'm taking a moment here on Thanksgiving to say "thanks" to every single one of you who has taken the time to read what I've been doing, leave a comment, or write an email to say how much you enjoy what I do. It means the world to me--much more than I ever could have imagined--and to think that none of this was in my life a little more than a year ago simply astonishes me.

For someone who grew up obsessed with comics, then went to the Kubert School to learn how to do them, being at all in that world just seemed like a dream too good to be true. And when it dawned on me that my work would lead me down a different path, and that I would always just be an observer in the comics world, it was a disappointment, sure, but I moved on.

But just in the last year, I've gotten to talk to--and in some cases make friends with--people like Mark Evanier, Joe Staton, Bob Rozakis, Erik Larsen, Tom Yeates, Rich Buckler, Ken Landgraf, John Morrow, Craig Hamilton, Steve Skeates, Tad Williams, Shawn McManus, Jim Calafiore, Norman Alden, Dan Mishkin, Nick Cuti, Joe Jusko, Chris Ryall, Angelique Trouvere, Paul Karasik, and of course Mr. Kupperberg, and to me its all just so amazing. I'm so lucky I stumbled my way into this and now I love it. And if all of you weren't reading what I was doing, no one else would really care, either.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Inflatable Hulk - late 1970s

sg Rob Kelly My pal Brian has been doing some wonderful work collecting photos and memories of various live, "event" appearances of superheroes over at his blog Plaid Stallions, but the one memory I've never been able to confirm with anyone else was one featuring the Hulk.

I have a distinct memory of going to the mall with my Dad(this was when we lived in Pennsylvania, so it would be sometime before 1979) and there was promoted an appearance by the Hulk!

Except the Hulk they had was not a guy from the local gym painted green, but a giant, inflatable version that pretty much...just stood there(this pic is not the one I'm thinking of, but it was the closest thing I could find). From what I remember, it stood something like twenty to thirty feet high!

Even as a kid, I knew that it was just a big balloon, essentially, and not the "real" Hulk, so I wasn't interested in getting a picture taken or even getting a closer look. But dammit, I know I saw it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

George Rears - 1980

sg George Rears The recent discussion of El Dorado by Rob has made me think back to my first ever visit to a comic book store...which if memory serves, is the aforementioned El Dorado comics...

By the age of thirteen, I was a now a seasoned comic book collecting veteran...I had lived through the DC explosion, and then the DC implosion. I was experiencing classic Marvel tales through the Dreaded Deadline Doom that was forcing reprints in every other Marvel book in the late 70's. I was there for the DC rebirth when George Perez and Marv Wolfman brought DC back from the brink of death with The New Teen Titans. One thing this old wizened, yet newly christened teenager comic aficionado, had yet to experience, though, was a comic book store.

I always remember seeing those ads in the comic books for comic books stores. My favorite was for Mile High Comics. They must have been good, because they had two full pages. Unfortunately, I lived nowhere near Denver, so I wouldn't be making any trips to that store. However, I had just recently moved to New Jersey, and figured there must be one nearby. It wasn't long before I found a guy who liked comics as much as me--except he was a Marvel guy. More importantly though--he actually knew where a comic book store was. It wasn't long before we were planning a trip there. I remember washing my sister's car in exchange for a ride; a ritual that would become quite common the next few years.

When I first got to the store, I was impressed--but disappointed. I had seen back issues before in an old books store. Granted, the comic book store had a better selection...yet what really frustrated me were the new comics.

I looked up on the wall...all these comics that were a full month ahead of what was on the newsstand! It should have been paradise. My own personal Shangri-la! But no, this know-it-all's first reaction was "Look at it--they are all Whitman editions--they are all worthless reprints!"

So what is the source of this idiotic conclusion? In the mid 70s, DC and Marvel put UPC codes on their books. Meanwhile, with the growth of comic book stores, an increasing amount of fraud was going on as comic books stores where ripping off the covers of their heavily discounted non-returnable books and sending them in as newsstand versions for a full refund. The publishers soon got wise, and created a different cover for comic books stores. Marvel put a diamond on the price tag, and along with DC, put either a character head shot (Spidey) or a trademark ("DC: Where the Action is") in the UPC box.

These covers ended up looking very similar to reprint editions packaged by the Whitman group--who would reprint books, bag them and sell them at discount stores. Having been "burned" by buying the Whitman books, I was not going to be fooled by this comic book store that was buying nothing but Whitman editions.

Apparently, this genius of a kid never wondered how all the Whitman reprint editions managed to get out prior to the original editions on the newsstand. It took me about 6 months to finally buy one of the books--after a whole bunch of therapy and counseling.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chris Franklin - 1984

sg Chris Franklin "Green Arrow has a beard now?"

My dad asked me this question as he looked over my shoulder at some point, circa 1979 or so. What I was looking at isn't quite clear, but I imagine it was either a World's Finest, or a JLA, or maybe even a Brave and the Bold issue. I of course responded "Yeeeaaaah", and was then given quite the education.

"Back when I was a kid, he was clean-shaven. And he had a boy that ran around with him. He dressed like him, but wore red. I can't think of his name. And they had a car, and a plane...just like Batman and Robin". As my Dad blurted all of this out, I tried to wrap my 4-year old brain around it. Green Arrow was like Batman? Since when?

I believed my Dad, but had no evidence to support his claims. I tucked the knowledge into the back of my brain and went on about my business, impressed that my Dad even knew who GA was. I just assumed my father only knew of the big guns who made it onto TV, Superman, Batman, WW, Captain Marvel, etc.

Boy was I surprised when I picked up a copy of DC Special Series #23, Feb. 1981. That World's Finest Digest contained as story that introduced me to a clean-shaven Green Arrow and his sidekick, Speedy. MY DAD WAS RIGHT!!!

After that, I felt like GA and Speedy were family friends. Old pals of my Dad. I got one of those suction arrow and bow kits and was constantly both Green Arrow and Speedy for awhile. Over the years I would discover that my Dad also knew some of the other Golden Age heroes, like Jay Garrick and Alan Scott. I had already encountered those two in the 70s JSA revival in All-Star and Adventure Comics, but knowing my Dad read their adventures as a kid made me appreciate them much more. Its an appreciation that lasts to this day.

I think this is what started my love of the Earth Two characters, and made me a fan of Roy Thomas' All-Star Squadron series. My favorite moment of that series came in issue #31, where the full membership of the Squadron finally meets. Therein was assembled almost every DC and Quality mystery man(and woman) of the time. I remember getting that issue on the way home from school. We had been dismissed early due to snow, so I got to pour over the pages for hours after my Mom had brought me home.

When my Dad arrived, I practically assaulted him, begging to know if he remembered Sargon the Sorcerer and The Whip. We went through them one by one. He didn't know most of them beyond the main guys, but the memory of looking at the comic with him still sticks with me today. Its why its still one of my favorite comics of all time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Steve Englehart/Comic Book Artist #18

sg I frequently re-read the old issues of TwoMorrows' Comic Book Artist magazine, it was such a fine, in-depth publication.

I was just going back over issue #18--the "Cosmic Comics of the 1970s", featuring interviews with people like Jim Starlin, Alan Weiss, Al Milgrom, Frank Brunner, and...Steve Englehart.

These two sections are clips from that interview with Steve, where he talks about re-discovering comics, via the new books from the upstart Marvel Comics. Like a lot of his generation, Steve had pretty much given up on comics and then discovered a whole new approach coming from the House of Ideas.

So until I can someday get a tale or two directly from the legendary comics scribe, I thought it'd be fun to run these!


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hey Kids! Rock Stars! - 1982

sg Two very unusual comic book appearances in MTV videos, if you can believe it--the Clash's "Rock the Casbah", where we have Joe Strummer(R.I.P.) reading the DC Dick Tracy treasury comic, of all things!

Even more unusual was Duran Duran's "Rio" video of the guys in the band that's not Simon LeBon reading an issue of Charlton's Fighting Army. Charlton. This video probably got the company more exposure than every comic they ever printed, combined.

Strange coincidence: both videos debuted in 1982. That issue of Army is contemporary(its #157), but that Dick Tracy comic was seven years old by the time the Clash shot the video. Was it from someone's personal collection?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Steve Spatucci - 1976

sg Steve Spatucci When I was six, my dad took me into his work for a very special occasion--Batman!

He was a manager in the Electronics Department of Two Guys, a New York/New Jersey department store that existed from the late 70's to the mid 80's. Besides being a manager at the store, he was also a photographer--so he had plenty of gear on hand to capture the moment when I met my hero.

My memories of that day are somewhat shaky, but they’ve been bolstered by many family recountings. I remember my dad not telling me why I was going into work with him--it was a big surprise. When I got to the store, he pointed to a line of kids and parents, and at the head of the line was the Caped Crusader himself! My heart leaped with excitement and joy--I had no idea Batman made these kinds of appearances.

I didn't have to wait in the line, however--because of my dad’s position in the store--and, as I later learned--he'd been the one to schedule Batman for his appearance--I would be having a private meeting with Batman after he'd finished his public appearance. I felt a little guilty that I'd be getting more facetime than all the other kids...but not guilty enough to decline the opportunity of a lifetime--I was no fool.

I waited in a cramped back office, simultaneously nervous, excited and terrified to meet my hero in close quarters. My dad set up a camera, tripod and light, chuckling the whole time as he prepped me for the meeting. "He’s going to come through the door in a couple minutes, Stevie! Are you ready?!" I was and I wasn’t--but the door opened, and in he walked.

In retrospect, his look was pretty close to the image I held from the television series--my strongest memory was the blue satin of his costume--it was so saturated, my eyes almost couldn't take it. He was tall, and if not muscular, appropriately built for the look of the costume(and probably a bit more in shape than Adam West in his latter days portraying the hero). I think I quickly decided that, though he wasn’t "the real" Batman, he was definitely a close proximity--probably a hand-selected emissary to fight crime and greet shoppers when his mentor was otherwise occupied.

In looking at the photos now, I can see the cowl could have been better fitted, and the points on his gloves were kind of flimsy--little details I didn’t notice or care about at the time. He was friendly in a goofy kind of way, and my dad had us strike various poses as he took a battery of photos. The awkward handshake was my dad's idea, and the buck-toothed smile on my face must have been purely inspired by the moment--I've never seen that grin in another picture of myself before or since.

I'm sure my dad knew he was planting a memory in my head that would always stick with me, and he really seemed to get a kick out of it--especially when he'd remember that day years later. "You should have seen the look on your face when he walked through that door!"--I'm sure it looked just about as giddy and triumphant as it does in the photos.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Order Now! - 1982

sg Rob Kelly Continuing our theme of damaging fragile old comics, here's yet another ad(from Justice League of America #25) I felt compelled to fill out the order form for, yet never had any intention of sending it in. What the hell is wrong with this kid?

(start begging code):hey, if anyone reading this has been thinking of writing something up and sending it in, now would be a really good time to do it. (/end begging)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Hope It's Not Too Late! - 1982

sg Rob Kelly This ad ran in a 1963 issue of Justice League of America; at the time it was the cheapest, oldest issue of the book I could afford. To an eleven-year old, 1963 seemed like Ancient Egypt.

...but as you can see, that didn't stop me from filling out the order form, which confuses me on several levels:
1)As I mentioned, the comic book was nineteen years old; I was a dumb kid, but not that dumb
2)I had no money
3)I never liked war toys anyway!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What's The Frequency, Howard? - late 70s

sg I saw this photo referred to on Occasional Superheroine(who was, in turn, linking to this site) featuring R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck at the comic book store he worked at, circa the late 1970s.

I'm sure this job prepared Buck well for his future career as a Big-Time Rock Star--the fame, the thrills, the groupies; all the things that come with working at a comic book store.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Time Machine - 1982

sgRob Kelly One of the most magical things about visiting my first comic shop(the aforementioned "El Dorado" in Cherry Hiil, NJ) was getting to see for the first time, in person, tons and tons of old comics. Sure, seeing covers of old books in the Overstreet Price Guide was nice, but it was a revelation to see some for real.

One of the things I would occasionally do is just search out the oldest comic I could get for the money I had, which wasn't much after buying my regular books like Justice League, Star Wars, and Brave and the Bold, etc.

But one time I came across this comic, and even though I couldn't open it up to look at it, this cover pretty much gives you all the info you need to mentally carbon-date it.

Once I got it home, it felt like I had taken a trip back in time--to 1945, to be exact--and even though the content bored me to tears(it was mostly stories about football--I used comics to get away from stuff like sports, for pete's sake!) it was still an amazing read. It was the first of many, many purchases I would make in my life, exploring the world of comics that existed before I picked up my first book.