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!