Tuesday, February 26, 2008

George Rears (Again!) - 1973

sg George Rears The Super Friends. It's funny how it all leads back to them.

Today, as the entire world celebrates the release of the New Frontier DVD release (They are going nuts in Quraq, I hear), I figured it was time for a confession.

I came into comics because of the Super Friends. There. It's out. I remember watching them back in 1973. The most memorable thing about the show to me was the cool instrumental theme song--I remember before we moved overseas I asked my Dad if he could "write the music down" so I could hum it whenever I wanted. My Dad tried his best, but instead of hearing me reciting lyrics, he had to try to write down me singing "Duhhhh-Duh-Duh-Duhhh-Duh-Duh-
. That didn't work out so well.

My Super Friends were the Wendy and Marvin era. If I remember correctly it was only the original five: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Robin. These days, I can't remember any specific image or episode. I just remember I loved it. Watching these episodes made me familiar with the characters, so I guess that explains why I gravitated to DC when I bought comics off of the rack.

Ironically, I didn't make the connection between the Justice League and the Super Friends until years later. I always thought of the Justice League as Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and the Atom...besides, Wonder Woman (at that time) and Robin weren't members of the JLA.

When we lived overseas, I remember wishing the American station would pick up The Super Friends, but they never did. Eventually, we got the Super Friends comic, which I did not enjoy. It was too childlike! Of course I didn't realize I had changed more than the Super Friends had.

Returning to America, I did get to see some of the Super Friends, except now they had shape changing aliens instead of Wendy and Marvin. There were more members--they had the whole Justice League plus Black Vulcan and Apache Chief...and some Samurai dude. That was pretty cool. Still, they never got to fight the villains. No punches thrown. It wasn't allowed on Saturday morning TV. By the time I got to see these cartoons, my window of opportunity was up. I had outgrown the Super Friends.

The cool thing is I'll always have happy mis-remembrances of the 1973 Super Friends. I'll remember incorrectly the galactic battles with super villains, and I'll falsely recall the awesome slugfests that apparently only exist in my mind.

I don't think any of the real early episodes from this era are out on DVD yet, so I think my implanted memories are safe.

So today, go out and celebrate New Frontier Day! We’ve come a long way in the last thirty-five years, and thankfully, so has comic book animation.

George Rears - 1980

sg George Rears I was late to the X-Men party. Being a DC Guy, I was always a bit hesitant to pick up extra Marvel books as it could potentially stop me from buying more DC stuff.

But by 1978, DC had pulled back their line, and I started buying Marvel books. I started with books that were either "mainstream" such as Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, or books that seemed like DC could publish them like Captain America and Iron Man.

I also picked up Avengers because my mom bought me a lunch box, and I couldn't identify the green and red guy (The Vision). I enjoyed these books (especially Avengers and Iron Man) and they opened up a brand new social world to me: The Marvel Zombies. The Zombies loved to talk about a book called The X-Men. The little I knew about the X-Men was confined to the book Son of Origins published in the early 1970s. I figured that I was OK with my 7-8 Marvel purchases a month, and went on with my life.

Finally, however, they wore me down. I gave in and bought X-Men issue 138. This is a strange, but great book. Strange, because I had never seen a non-anniversary book use the mono-color back issue cover montage as a background image before. Strange, because it is a standalone story right in the middle of two of the most important storylines in the history of the Marvel Universe ("The Dark Phoenix Saga" had just wrapped up, and in just two more issues, the "Days of Future Past" story would start). On top of all that, the issue was a recap issue...of the entire X-Men history to date!

I read later that this issue was supposed to be very different since Jean Grey was not supposed to die in the issue before. Instead of reflecting on his loss, Scott would be preparing to leave the team to take care of Jean. In retrospect, the recap of the history of the team probably required less re-work, since after the introduction sequence, the story jumped immediately back in time. I find it interesting that despite the re-work done to 137 to change the ending, that this book was even finished. I remember thinking at the time that it always takes longer to do a history paper than creative writing, so this book must have taken forever to put together. Combine that with the last second changes done to "The Death of Phoenix" in 137, and it is amazing this book made it out.

To some it seemed odd that the Byrne/Claremont team, firing on all cylinders, would stop and do this little history lesson. However, to me, it was a great jumping on point. I knew nothing about the X-Men before the issue, and after reading it, I knew their entire history. I even immediately bonded with one of the lead characters (unfortunately, it was Cyclops, who left the team in that very issue). There was a certain sense of reality to this book that other comics didn't have.

Reading their history, I felt that these characters could be real people that I would eventually meet when I was in my early twenties. With other comics, I always felt the characters were just that, characters. Spider-Man, the poster boy for the "this could be you character" never seemed to be as real as these guys. The X-Men seemed like they could be older brothers or sisters, given, of course, than an older brother could shoot force beams out of his eyes.

It wouldn't take long for John Byrne to become one of my favorite artists--right up there with George Perez--whom I had discovered on The Avengers and followed over to the New Teen Titans. Within a year I had bought the entire "Dark Phoenix Saga" in back issues, and had become a die-hard X-Fan.

I was shocked when John Byrne left the book, but I kept reading the book though the Dave Cockrum (second time around) and Paul Smith eras. I kind of lost interest with the Brood storyline and the Morlocks, and I just eventually stopped buying the book. However to this day, X-Men 138 is probably the more read book in my entire collection.

Monday, February 25, 2008

History On Sale

This fairly legendary photo was another one sent to me by my pal Tommy, who runs the super-fun Batman fan site The Bat-Blog. Thanks again, Tommy!

If you look on the bottom row, you can see three fresh and minty copies of Action Comics #1 on sale! Wow!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vincent Bartilucci - 1972

sg Vincent Bartilucci And there it is! Justice League of America #98, the first comic book I can remember buying. Or rather the first comic I can remember picking out and my mom buying for me.

As I mentioned in my first rambling recollection on Hey, Kids! (please, send in your stories--Rob's getting sick of hearing from me!
[Editor's note: Not True!]), I don't remember the first comic I ever owned. They were always just sorta there, y'know?

However, I can say that this is the first "comic-buying" experience I remember. I was five and a half years old so the memory is kind of hazy. I know that it was a sunny day. I know that I had just gotten my hair cut. And I think that we bought it at a stationery or card store. But not Clearview, the store I've mentioned often on Hey, Kids!

Y'see, I grew up in Plainview on Long Island and we didn't have a 7-11 anywhere nearby. So, I bought all my comics at stationery stores. Most at Clearview which seemed to have the biggest selection and which, eventually, got a spinner rack (coolest sight of my young life). But I'm certain this wasn't bought at Clearview. I think it was purchased at a store next to the barbershop where I got my haircut. Both establishments were in a small shopping center across the street from a NatWest Bank, maybe 10 blocks, tops, from my house.

Not to sound too pretentious but that stationery store (and that barbershop) are like wisps of smoke that I can't quite grab hold of. They both closed before I turned eight or nine and, apart from this one experience, I don't have any memories of either place.

But it was sunny. And my hair was short.

Recently, just for fun, I went to Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics and starting going backward from this issue month by month using Mike's Time Machine feature. I was looking for the oldest comic book that I own. The oldest one that wasn't bought as a back issue, that is. That comic?
Superman #236. Go take a look.

The cover of the oldest comic I own depicts Superman trying to save a burning Lois Lane at the fiery gates of Hell. According to Mike's, that comic came out in Feb. 1971. I was four and a half years old! What were my parents thinking?!?!?

The oldest comic I actually remember picking out in a store is
Justice League of America #98. Take a look at that cover. Superman, Batman, and the rest sitting around a big old pentagram summoning Lord knows what.

In the immortal words of Felix Unger,
"Oscar! I am Rosemary's baby!".

P.S.: Until this very minute I did not realize that the JLAers were performing their séance within a circle made to look like Green Lanterns ring. I've owned this comic for
thirty-five years! That's me, Eagle-Eye Bartilucci!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fahrenheit 451

This sad, pathetic photo of young adults cheerily burning comics is from Binghampton, NY, in 1948. I imagine these were the kinds of kids that ratted out other kids and were always kissing up to teachers, parents, and coaches.

This photo, like yesterday's, was sent to me by my pal Tommy, who runs the super-fun Batman fan site
The Bat-Blog. Thanks again, Tommy...I think.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Love Me Comics

Here are two stills from Help! featuring The Smart One and The Cute One playing the organ with a whole mess of comics in front of them. I can make out copies of Superman, Adventure Comics, and Jimmy Olsen. Interesting--I would've pegged the Beatles are more Marvel guys.

These photos were sent to me by my pal Tommy, who runs the super-fun Batman fan site
The Bat-Blog. Thanks Tommy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

George Rears - 1974

sg George Rears I met her right after finishing first grade. An older woman. blonde, beautiful, smart, and strong. Very strong. So what if she had eight years on me. I was only seven, anyway. I had a crush.

I discovered comics the summer I moved into a new neighborhood. Since we moved in May, I had finished school while the kids in my new school-to-be were still wrapping up their school year. This made for a lot of time just hanging out, reading. That's when I met her.

When I went to the book store to buy comics, I bought the 20 cent books. I left the exotic 100 page super spectaculars for those rich kids--or at least the older kids who had an allowance. After I was done reading my Flash, Action, Superman, Legion, and other comics, my brother would let me (at least I think he let me--perhaps I snuck in his room?) read his books. The expensive ones--100 pages for only 60 cents! Batman and Detective were nice. Brave and the Bold--that was whacked (in a good way).

Justice League rocked--and when it went down to a quarter a few months later, I was all over that. Then there was Superman Family. My first thought was what a goofball name for a book. I want to read about Superman. Not his family! Then I read the book. It was there that I met her: Kara.

Now Kara had a few years on me. She had just finished college, and was doing some kind of guidance counselor thing. She definitely knew right from wrong. So I guess the job fit. She seemed to have a lot of friends. I don't think I could have picked a better girl to have a crush on.

As time went on, we grew apart. As I hit my teens I discovered other books, and Superman Family didn't keep me interested any more. I picked up her books occasionally, just to keep in touch. The she started to change. She moved to Chicago. She changed careers. She changed her outfits. She picked up an Olivia Newton John aerobics headband. I could see that she was headed down a downward spiral, but I was helpless to stop her.

By my senior year in high school, I had pretty much moved on. I wasn't buying any of her books. They actually ended up canceling her title. By the summer, I was thinking of graduation and the next phase in my life. Then the news hit. Kara had left us. I couldn't help but wonder: If I had bought her magazine would she still be with us?

The picture included here is from a stick-on set released in 1973. To me, this will always be the iconic image of Supergirl. To be honest, though, all the images in this set represent the iconic image of the DC characters to me. I never had a set of these until recently, but seeing the ads for these while growing up burnt the images in my mind.

As I get older and I re-read some of those stories from the 70's I understand why I fell in love with her. As a young kid, the short done-in-one stories got right to the point. There were always guest stars: Sometimes Superman, sometimes Batgirl--one issue had the whole JLA possessed by Cleopatra! Even the artwork--looking back on it--was kid friendly--not too detailed, minimalist backgrounds.

Then again, maybe it was the hot pants.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

George Rears - 1978

sg George Rears "The DC Explosion"--Big things were happening for me in 1978. After spending four years in West Berlin, Germany, my dad was moving the family back to New Jersey.

Pretty soon I'd be able to buy comic books and baseball cards everywhere, and even start collecting Slurpee cups. Almost as cool as that, was this hot news trumpeted all over DC Comics that Spring. The DC Explosion, beginning June 1. Twenty-five pages of comics for just fifty cents!

As I was leaving Berlin, I started picking up these new 50 cent books. And I loved them. Cool back up features. The Human Target, The Atom, The Ray, OMAC...I was just at an age were I appreciated the history and the tapestry of the DC Universe. No longer would I settle for just my regular dose of Justice League-related titles, now I could have it all. We were promised all these great things...and then the world came crashing down.

I moved back from Berlin that summer, and started sixth grade in Willingboro, NJ. I was disappointed to find out that not as many kids read comics stateside as they did overseas. I was disappointed that Slurpees were not doing super-hero collector cups anymore. I was also disappointed that kids stopped using lunch boxes in 6th grade: My Mom bought me a cool Avengers lunch box, which I took to school dutifully every day--despite abuse from the pre-teen fashion police. How was I supposed to know that lunch boxes weren't cool in sixth grade? I often think being big for my age caused me more anguish (You're too old for that), but in reality it probably kept me out of fights.

So anyway, living back home wasn't this Utopia I had imagined, but I still had comics! Those glorious DC Explosion comics. All was right in the world. Until Month Four. I couldn't believe it. All the books were forty cents. Some books were just flat out gone. No Freedom Fighters! No Secret Society of Super Villains! No Steel! No Black Lightning! No Firestorm! It seemed like the only books left were the old mainstays.

It seemed like comics had regressed back to 1974, when I had started collecting. In many, ways they had. There was essentially the same number of titles out as back then, but now they didn't seem to have the heart. I didn't know then that a snowstorm the past winter (when I was still in Europe) had caused a massive drop in comic sales that forced Warner executives to end the experiment. But one thing I did know: many of the writers and artists seemed to be doing uninspired work. The stories didn't seem as magical, and the art seemed less dynamic. It would take two years for DC to recover.

As for me, I eventually got back on track. By seventh grade I was taking a bag lunch in, and even made friends with a Marvel Zombie. By Eighth grade, life was getting better. Ironically, DC once more raised the price to fifty cents, and added back-up features. By the time the New Teen Titans arrived, life was back on track.

I guess it is odd to think as comics as a metaphor for life, but I guess it was only fitting that Crisis on Infinite Earths came out during my Senior year in High School, and that at age 36, there occurred a mid-life Identity Crisis. I’m really worried about the upcoming Final Crisis. Really Worried.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Russell Burbage - 1976

sgRussell Burbage I got Secret Origins of Super DC Heroes for Christmas 1976. This is the title that I always called it, because the DC bullet came straight between the words "super" and "heroes." I don't know if that is the correct, legal title, but I don't care. That's what *I* called it.

Christmas 1976 was a good year for me to get books about comics: along with this I also got The Origin of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee.

Ironically enough, I liked the covers of both of these books more than I liked what was actually inside. Stan's cover was a painting by John Romita featuring the main Marvel heroes jumping off of a piece of paper protruding from the typewriter. It was eye-catching, to say the least, and to my twelve-year-old mind much more interesting than fifteen-year-old Kirby and Ditko art for stories that I had probably already seen in some other collection. (I always liked Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, but not The Hulk, Thor, or most of the other main Marvel characters, so that was a drawback, too.) As for this book, as you can see, it boasted an awesome Neal Adams cover.

I look like I'm about half-way through the book at this point. I'm sure I realized as soon as I opened it, though, that my favorite character, Aquaman, who was not drawn on the cover, wasn't anywhere to be found on the inside, either. I was used to his appearances in Justice League of America, and he hardly ever made it on the cover of that book, so I had hoped...yet not only was he not featured in this book, but in a direct slap in the face for our Sea King, his rightful place was taken by some jerk named Plastic Man. Plastic Man?!

Now, as an adult, I can appreciate that Plas is a classic character. But you couldn't tell that to me in 1976. I knew Aquaman from comics, from the Filmation cartoons running weekdays in St. Louis on KDNL Channel 30 syndication, and from The Super Friends cartoon on ABC. Who the heck was Plastic Man?

In my mind, it was all Denny O'Neil's fault. He was the editor/commentator of Secret Origins, so I figured that he had chosen the stories to include (or not!). Soon after I read this book I found out that when Denny was writing Justice League he had only used Aquaman in one single adventure. Obviously, he hated the character. This was all the more painful for me because I knew Denny was from St. Louis, just like me. As a fellow Missourian I *wanted* to like him. He was making it hard for me, though.

Besides the fact that Aquaman is not featured in this book, I can't tell you much else about it. That really did become the pivotal bit of information regarding this book, at least as far as I was concerned. I don't really remember which origin stories were featured, either. I remember that in neither the Golden Age or Silver Age Atom origin stories did the Atom actually appear in costume. This was a fact that Denny mentioned in his introduction, so I guess Denny's comments were a little interesting after all, since I somehow managed to retain that totally useless fact some thirty years later.

I actually *do* remember the Plastic Man origin story; Plas stretching up a flight of stairs to catch some crooks and Eel O'Brien waking up and stretching his face into puddy. Could it be simply because Plas took what I considered Aquaman's spot that I remember this story? Or perhaps it was the amount of talent that Jack Cole put into the story? Probably a little bit of both.

Eventually I came to grips with this book and what it represents. Denny O'Neil was a "realist" who wanted to write social dramas starring semi-realistic characters in semi-realistic situations. The King of the Seven Seas doesn't fall into this category, so he chose to ignore him. Fine. But for me, at the tender age of twelve, a book that could easily have been one of my all-time favorites ended up being just "ehh." Like so many other books with covers by Neal Adams, the cover is the best part.

By the way, my sister was going to Beloit College at the time, which is why I'm wearing a Beloit turtle t-shirt. I loved that shirt.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rick Phillips - 1966

sgRick Phillips The late 1960's were a fun time in comic books. One part of the fun for me was the DC comics 80 page Giant comic books. Mostly they were reprints of stories that came out years before I was born but they were new to me. Most of the stories I don't recall that well to this day but I remember enjoying them.

In Batman #182 my favorite story was the one with the Rainbow Batman. I don't remember the story but after seeing Batman in drab gray and dark blue it was fun to see Batman in bright colors. I usually saw them at my cousin Steve's house. He was, actually he still is, three years older and we would play together and he would let me sit on his bed and read his comics. I could tell he was wanting to play more games as he could read these anytime he wanted.

For me reading these books opened up other worlds to me that I didn't have access to any other way. I lived too far from stores that carried them and had to depend on Mom and Dad to bring them home to me or wait till we were in town to get them. So to see these books at my cousins house was always exciting.

One time after leaving there I was in the car reading a book that had the origin of Robin. I don't remember if Steve let me borrow it or if I got it from Mom and Dad. I had never read the origin of Robin till then. I had also never saw the word origin before. I asked Mom and Dad how to pronounce it. They told me to try to say it phonetically. I did but I said orange. My Dad pronounced it correctly but it still sounded like orange to me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Steve Spatucci - 1982

sg Steve Spatucci When I think back upon my formative comic book buying years, between early elementary school (when most of my comics came from the newsstand), and later teenagedom (conventions and comic stores), there was a long stretch in the middle when I got my comics almost exclusively from a flea market.

For New Jersey residents, it was the Columbus Farmer's Market. Don't let the name fool you, though--farming equipment had left the market by the 1950s, but the name remained. Columbus was and is a sprawling indoor/outdoor marketplace where items like CDs and DVDs, hardware, fresh produce, clothing and accessories, electronic gadgets and computer gear--practically anything you were looking for--could be procured for low, negotiable prices.

Though the Farmer's Market was only opened on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, my father and I would head there on Sunday mornings. Thursday was a school day, of course, and if my memory is correct, the vendors on Saturdays were only allowed to sell "new" merchandise--meaning, t-shirts, luggage, sunglasses, but not the typical yard sale-style random articles people had either owned, purchased, or found specifically to sell.

Those types of items ruled Sundays, though, and my father loved the thrill of the hunt--especially for old cameras and photography gear--so Sunday was our day.

While my father was off doing his searching, he would give me five dollars, and I was allowed to strike out on my own expeditions. Though I was always searching for cool toys, games, or a dirt cheap drum set (never happened), the one stop I always made--and the place where I spent a good 80% of my time--was at one particular vendor's comic stand.

A few people on this blog have already discussed their first experiences discovering the existence of back issues--this was mine. There were two or three big comic vendors on any given week, and plenty of tables with makeshift boxes or stacks of unorganized comics to be quickly shuffled through. But shortly after my first outing to the Farmer's Market, I became a regular of one vendor in particular.

I can't believe I remember his name more than twenty-five years later, but I do--he was Bruce. I think it sticks with me because he didn't look at all like a "Bruce"--Wayne or otherwise. He was slightly pudgy, usually unshaven (hey--it was Sunday), always in colorful, loungy clothes and his signature floppy beach hat--and, typical of the early 80's--insanely large sunglasses. He looked a lot like Bill Murray--goofy and affable, and a perfect comic book salesperson.

Bruce was a friendly guy--chatty in the way that truly good salespeople are. Standing at his tables (all covered by a series of canopy tops, thus providing protective shade to his back stock), he made you feel zero pressure to buy anything. He was happy just to talk about comics to anyone standing around.

Bruce would let you browse or even open a bagged comic and read it (people are putting comics in bags, and sticking thin white cardboard behind them?!). This was probably a large factor in my choice to patronize his business--I could hang there as long as I liked, just looking through back issues. It didn't take me long before I'd made a point to save my money until I got to Bruce's stand, even if I did take a few minutes to peruse his competition first.

The day I most remember came early on in my visits to Bruce's stand. On this day, as I was digging through the Marvel boxes, I came across a copy of Special Edition X-Men #1--reprinting, of course, Giant-Size X-Men #1 from 1975. However, being young and naive (translate that to "a moron"), I wasn't aware of the concept of reprints.

In my mind, I had somehow lucked upon an actual copy of the first issue of this blockbuster comic that had enraptured me for the past couple years--and for only few dollars! Unbelievable! I suppose the fact that that the cover stated "The VERY FIRST Adventure of the New X-Men!" could have thrown me off, but I really should have used some whatever rudimentary critical thinking skills I had at the time. I remember the feeling of desire rushing over me like a wave of pure comic book lust.

I don't think I had visions of ever selling the book (perish the thought--sell a comic book?), but I knew the first issue was quite valuable, and the idea of merely owning this artifact from half a decade earlier was absolutely thrilling. I wanted this comic in my possession as quickly as possible, before the any pricing error could be discovered.

I put the book in my pile, along with a couple other new releases (I guess I was hoping to throw Bruce off) and handed them over for him to ring up. I remember what he said next very clearly. I didn't fully appreciate his words at the time--nor did I absorb the deft way in which he delivered them. However, after a couple years had passed it struck me just how perceptive Bruce was, and how much sensitivity he had used in handling the situation.

Bruce took my comics and started to hand-write a receipt. As he was going through my short stack, he must have noticed me bubbling with glee. He said, in a totally off-the-cuff tone, "You know, this reprint of the first issue of X-Men really is a great buy, since the original is so darn expensive and hard to find now. I always make sure to point it out to my customers when they're buying a reprint, just so they don't think they're getting something that's worth more than they think. It really is a good buy, though--anyway, I'm sure you knew that. So, do you still want everything here?"

I was dejected, but tried to maintain my composure. Thinking quickly--sure, I still wanted to actually read the story in the issue--I said "yes," in a pseudo-confident tone. Nope, there was no doubt that I knew I was buying a nearly-valueless reprint--I knew it all along...

What stayed with me, and what I appreciated more over the years, was the way Bruce made such an effort to say, "I always make sure to point it out my customers when they're buying a reprint..."--like, "Hey--this is just standard policy--something I do for everyone whether they need the information or not."

He wasn't condescending--I mean, really--I was a worldly eleven-year-old--certainly I didn't need the benefit of his knowledge, but you know a ten-year-old might have...And he even gave me a chance to back out of the purchase the reprint while still saving face. He was one cool dude.

For a long time, whenever I'd re-read that issue, I'd think about that moment, and how embarrassing and disappointing it would have been had Bruce not been so honest and respectful with his young customer. It would have been easy for him to just ring up the sale, and just as easy for him to have pointed out the fact that I was buying a reprint in a loud, crude way that would have made me feel like a fool, especially in front of the older teenage customers surrounding me. Instead, he handled the situation with grace. I haven't forgotten it.

Eventually--inevitably--one Sunday my father and I went to the Farmer's Market and Bruce's stand wasn't there. He'd missed a couple weeks from time to time over the years, but this time he never came back. So, Bruce the Columbus Farmer's Market Comic Guy from the 80's, if you're out there--you did good. And--thank you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hey Kids, Monkees! - 1966

sgI found this groovy photo in the first issue of Warren Publishing's Freak Out, U.S.A., which I'm talking about today over at All in Black & White for 75 Cents.

That's Davy Jones enjoying World's Finest, while Mike Nesmith prefers Green Lantern.

So I got two day's worth of posts from one magazine--that's just good blogger sense.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rick Phillips - 1974

sgRick Phillips The year is 1974. My Mom and Dad would on occasion drive to Cincinnati, Ohio to go shopping at the McAlpin's department store that is now called Dillards. I was thirteen years old and allowed to roam the store on my own and sometimes the downtown area since my parents knew my regular stops. This was in the days before it started being reported that children were being kidnapped in broad daylight.

Anyway on one trip I saw the Bonanza Books Superman from the 30's to the 70's and Batman from the 30's to the 70's. I believe there was one for Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel too but my memory isn't what it should be anymore. I do know those books existed but I am not sure if they were for sale at that store at that time. For some reason I didn't buy it when I was with my Mom and Dad.

Now my Mom and Dad would let me take the bus to Cincinnati. One day not long after seeing the books at McAlpin's I ask my cousin Randy to go with me on one trip. As my cousin Randy liked to read as much as I did I asked him if he wanted to go to Cincinnati with me. His Mom wasn't so sure we should but when my Mom said she would let me wander the downtown area, as back then it was safe to do so, she said it was ok.

We took the bus and arrived at the Dixie Terminal. We walked to McAlpin's and bought the books. I remember Randy buying the Batman book while I bought the Superman one. They were now on sale for $3. Sometimes it pays to wait.

We went to some of the other places I normally went to. The guy who sold newspapers and magazines on the street corner. I bought Nova #1 from him but not on this trip. There was some records shops and the Ohio Bookstore. There must be a story or two I have in me from visits to that store. We got some lunch and then caught the bus home. It was a fun day to share with Randy. We talked on the bus and even read some of the stories on the way home.

Eventually I did buy the Batman book too and even the Wonder Woman one. I don't have the Wonder Woman book anymore. I still have Superman and Batman. I hope to keep them forever as they bring back some wonderful memories.

Friday, February 1, 2008

George Rears - 1978

sg George Rears "World's Finest Contest!"--"You could be a winner in the second Superman movie contest!" Superman The Movie, released in December, 1978 spawned a neat little marketing campaign by DC Comics. All of the DC Comics released in October 1978 (cover dated January 1978) came with the aforementioned quote on the front cover.

I always loved comic book marketing stunts like this; however, usually they involved some form of mutilation to the poor comic books. Marvel Value Stamps required cutting items out of the letter pages--still annoying back issue buyers to this day. My previous favorite promotion was "DC Salutes the Bicentennial". This genius idea required you to buy twenty-five DC comics that month (out of a possible thirty-three--I hope you like Tarzan Family) and then cut of the cover masthead of each book and send it in. Then, 6-8 weeks later, you would receive...(wait for it)...a Superman Belt Buckle!

This one, however, was different. No mutilation. No scissors, no pen and ink. Instead, each book had a unique trivia question, all that was required of you was to buy enough books so that you could answer fifteen out of twenty-five trivia questions correctly. Piece of cake.

I answered my questions. I mailed it in. I waited. I forgot about it.

Months later I found out I won a third prize, which was a one year subscription to any DC comic. Pretty cool. Free comics. Much better than belt buckle. So--what to pick? Well, I'm no fool--I thought over the whole economics of the thing, and realized that a bi-monthly dollar comic would be a much better value than a monthly forty cent book (that's $6.00 vs. $4.80 for the mathematically impaired).

I was already buying Superman Family and Detective Comics, so I decided I'd buy something else. Time Warp was cool, but would it last? Then there was G.I. Combat and All Out War--but I wasn't into the war books. The Unexpected was neat, but I didn't want that coming in the mail. However, there was one dollar book left: World's Finest Comics.

World's Finest was the one DC super hero book I never really picked up. I liked Superman and Batman, but what was up with those crazy Super-Sons? The series always seemed to be a little off. So I never bought it. However, this time the price was right: free.

The thing I remember most about World's Finest Comics: Well to be honest, I don't remember much about it. The stories were ok. Lots of fun backups, Overall, I was happy with my selection. I was pretty much getting every DC super hero title, and I would now be ready for the next trivia contest when Superman II came out.

Fast forward three years. No trivial contest for Superman II. But that was OK--I was still getting World's Finest mailed to my door. And it kept coming. And coming. I wasn't even upset when it dropped down from the giant size to regular. Comics were now $.60, and it was like getting $7.20/year for free. I actually started getting into the book when it went to the smaller size. The creative teams focused on just the Superman/Batman stories, and they even did continued stories occasionally.

I thought I was going to get the book forever, but then one night a red sky was overhead, and the Monitor spotted me picking up the book from the Mailbox. With that came a great crisis. And the end of World's Finest.