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Before we begin, don’t forget to give me your 2016 comic industry predictions so that I can talk about ’em in 2017. NOW BACK TO THE POST, WHICH IS ALREADY IN PROGRESS:
So my old pal Brandon asked me on the Twitter the other day if I’d ever written anything on this here comic book blogging website about DC’s 1960s “War That Time Forgot” series in Star Spangled War Stories.
Now, “The War That Time Forgot,” for those of you who don’t recall, revolved around a lost island where U.S. soldiers would occasionally find themselves stranded, and oh yeah, there were dinosaurs on that island, too, resulting in situations not unlike this one:
And honestly “soldiers fighting dinosaurs” is second only to “Native Americans fighting dinosaurs” when it comes to the Best High Concept Comic Book Premise of All Time.
As it turns out, for me personally, as a collector, I had room for only one “________ fighting dinosaurs” comic book in my ongoing quest of unknowingly building stock for the eventual opening of my own comic book store, and Turok Son of Stone was the funnybook what got the nod. That’s not to say I didn’t try…I did have a few of those Star Spangleds in the Vast Mikester Comic Archives over the years, but had long since traded them off for other comics more to my liking. Not that I didn’t like them…they were goofy fun, and well drawn as DC’s war books often were, but I decided I couldn’t collect everything and decided to part with them.
A large portion of these stories have been reprinted in one of DC’s black and white “Showcase Presents” softcovers. My pal Brandon hopes for a second volume, but the Showcase line’s output has slowed down considerably, and despite that, I don’t think there really are enough of the War That etc. tales to fill a second volume, unless DC padded it with other oddball stories from their war books. There ain’t no shortage of those, surely. TWTTF was revived a couple of times in G.I. Combat and Weird War Tales, so maybe those can be plugged in as well. And there were more modern revivals in a couple of DC mini-series from within the last decade or so, but those wouldn’t fit tonally.
That’s all probably moot, anyway, as unless there’s a War That Time Forgot: The Movie And/Or TV Show on the CW Starring Good-Looking 20-somethings Playing Teens Playing Dinosaurs in the works, a Showcase volume 2 or some kind of color omnibus aren’t going to happen. NOTE TO READERS: this is where you jump into the comments and tell me that Amazon has a Volume 2 listed for a 2018 release that I somehow missed in my Googlings.
I do remember, at the previous place of employment, that we received enormous numbers of requests for these throughout the 1990s and maybe into the 2000s, and DC’s war books were hot hot hot. I don’t know if that’s quite the thing any more, as I can’t recall the last time we had folks banging our doors down for them, but I imagine there’s still some brisk business to be done in old dinosaur war comics. I mean, c’mon, “dinosaur war comics” is a phrase that forever pays…surely they’re still circulating among fans new and old.
One weird thing is that in the middle of all those War That Morris Day and The Time Forgot comics was one issue that skipped that regular feature in favor of one of the greatest comic book stories of all time:
Possibly the only story better than soldiers or Native Americans fightin’ dinosaurs is that. In case you’re wondering…yes, I had that issue in my Star Spangleds and kept it when I sold off the others. I have the complete Sgt. Gorilla run, and couldn’t bear to break it up.
So for this week’s Question Time over at ye olde Trouble with Comics, we were asked about the greatest comics gift we’d ever received. (You can read Alan’s response, posted separately as a Stan Lee’s Birthday special). As per usual, I delved into the inquiry at length, relating a gift I received when I was but a young Mikester. But it got me thinking about the number of comic book gifts I actually have received over the years.
As I say in my excessive preamble to the response over at TWC, I usually didn’t get comics as gifts because either 1) I bought what I wanted during my trips to the comic shop, or 2) I bought what I wanted during my work hours at the comic shop. I sorta feel funny asking other people to buy me comics, a habit that continues to this day as I was recently admonished for not informing a certain significant other that a book set I’m thinking about buying for myself could have been a good Christmas gift for her to get for me.
That said, there have been a couple of comic book presents I’ve received over the years. The most recent were a handful of Starman trade paperbacks, catching me up on the James Robinson series I’d just started reading, but that was some years ago.
A few years prior to that (which may have been just before my entry into comics retail) was a massive tome that caught my eye after being drawn back into world of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics in the mid-1980s. It was Don Rosa (whose work I’d enjoyed in various fanzines) that got me back into the Disney books, but that got me to rediscover Carl Barks, and boy, when I saw this book on the shelves at the comic book store:
I had to have it. Several classic Barks stories, fully recolored, in a nearly 400 page volume that stands 13 inches tall. It’s something else. One thing I remember is that my mother, who used write inside any books purchased as gifts “to my son, Christmas ’82” or whatever, told me that she specifically didn’t write anything inside this book if I ever decided to resell it. Well, fat chance of that happening…even having nearly all the stories inside reprinted elsewhere, this is a special enough item that I don’t want to let it go. There’s even an introduction by George Lucas, with whom some of you may be familiar.
And earlier than that, I received this book as a gift for my 12th birthday:
This extensive encyclopedia helped put some of the pieces together on Superman’s early adventures, which I was only getting here and there in assorted reprints. It certainly helped explain who, say, the Ultra-Humanite was, after I read his reappearance in a Justice League/Justice Society crossover event. And they’re not kidding about the “book length biography of Superman” — Superman’s entry, and nearly every other character’s entry, is essentially a chronological summary of purt’near every appearance of that character. I spent many hours perusing this book, and it wasn’t so long ago that DC reprinted this in softcover, so you can check it out yourself if you’d like. This is a precursor, in a way, to the Marvel Universe/DC’s Who’s Who comics, though the Great Superman Book is a little more convenient in giving specific issue numbers for story events beyond just first or last appearances.
One thing I found odd at the time was that the cut-off date for materials referenced in the book was, with few exceptions, the mid to late 1960s despite being published in 1978, but now that I think about the amount of time that had to be spent researching this book (i.e. the “seven years” they mention right on the cover), they had to draw the line at some point. Still, sort of odd to have no entries for “Morgan Edge” or “Darkseid,” but this is still a wonderful reference book for the Golden and Silver Age adventures of Superman.
There were others in this series, covering Batman and Wonder Woman (and also reprinted by DC in the last few years) but I don’t think I ever saw them in the wild when I was a kid. Which is just as well…just one of these volumes kept me busy enough.
And I think that was it for funnybook presents. I mean, I did keep bugging Santa for a Yummy Fur #9, but I ended up having to buy it myself. Which is just as well, since I was beginning to get odd looks at the mall whenever I sat on Santa’s lap to ask for it.
So early on in my store’s history, I made a crack or two on the Twitters about now being able to get all the comics I want for freeeeee, about loading up on DC Archives, etc. which alarmed a couple of retailer pals. I promised them I was only joking, that I’d be a responsible consumer. In fact, if anything, I’m probably getting fewer comics now…I’d rather leave ’em on the shelf for customers. (For example, see my answer to the first question here.)
That goes for graphic novels/trade and hardcover collections as well. My plan was to replace some of the comics I gave up to the shop (like Preacher and Invisibles) with the reprint collections eventually, but I’m in no great rush. Those particular titles aren’t in any danger of going out of print anytime soon, and even if they do, they should be in enough supply that copies will probably be available on Amazon forever.
As for new collections, I’m trying to restrict myself to items I’d already been acquiring, like the Complete Peanuts books. Only one volume to go in the series, kinda dumb to stop now. There are collections I’d love to own, like the Eightball slipcase, but I already have all the comics (which I didn’t give up to the shop!) so I’ll just leave that on the shelf for someone else.
But once in a while, I gotta splurge, as I did for the complete Puma Blues hardcover this week:
Look at the size of that thing. Here’s a better look at the cover, from Diamond’s site:
This is an beautifully-illustrated ecological sci-fi adventure/treatise/poem-kinda-sorta by Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli (and a small bit of material by Alan Moore) published in the mid-to-late 1980s. Some folks may remember the comic as being a bit of a pawn in a battle between its publisher, Dave Sim, and Diamond Comics.
It had been a while since I read it…in fact, I’m not sure I sat down and read it as a whole since it was originally released. I bought each issue as it came out, and, as I recall, I found it to be a challenging and enjoyable work. It’s one of those things that had always been in the back of my mind to revisit someday, as it’s still sitting there in one of my remaining back issue boxes at the house. When the solicitation for this hardcover popped up in Previews, noting that it included the previously-unpublished 40-page conclusion to the series…well, Fan Mike outvoted Retailer Mike on this one and made sure I ordered a copy for myself. (And one for the shelf, too…I don’t know if any customers will go for it, but I like having it there, so that’s good enough reason.)
And, well, here it is, in my hot little hands, waiting for me to peruse it. Also included is the Puma Blues #24 1/2 mini-comic, which I seem to recall having some copies floating around my old place of employment, though for the life of me I can’t remember how we got ’em. I have a vague memory that they were distributed with one of the original Puma Blues trade paperbacks. At any rate, I never got one, so that’s a little more added value to the book.
Just briefly glancing through it, the reproduction seems nice and clear…no idea if it was shot from the original art, or scanned from printed pages, but it looks nice, especially now that it’s on white paper instead of newsprint (not that the newsprint was all that egregious). The original color covers are not reproduced…in fact, I’m not sure if the covers are in there at all, which is a shame as they were quite lovely. But overall, this is quite the tome and I’m glad to have it.
Well, now I’m at the point where the to-read pile of comics is beginning to creep every so slightly upwards each week, as I find myself with decreasing amounts of time to keep up with them. The side effect of owning a store, surely, particularly since it’s still just me running the place seven days a week, so “free time” is no longer the easily-obtainable commodity it once was. “Read ’em at work,” I’m sure someone may cry out, but I’m generally too busy trying to make some coin of the realm while at the shop, and I’m sure it wouldn’t help matters any for comic book guys ‘n’ gals across the nation to perpetuate the idea of “wow, a job where you just sit around and read comics all day…sounds like hard work, har har.”
It’s not as if I get all that many comics, either. And I manage to make time to read the Peanuts reprints and last week’s release of Kate Beaton’s new book, so it’s not as if I have towers of unread runs of Those Other Avengers and Swamp Thing’s Kung-Fu Force teetering over me in my Gentleman’s Reading Room. Like I said, it’s a slow creep, a small stack getting gradually, almost imperceptibly higher each week, filling me with no small amount of nostalgic lament for the days when I’d bring home the week’s new comics, and just sit there and read ’em ’til I was done with the stack. Now I have my allotted comic reading time, where I read what I can until I have to go on and do whatever the next thing is.
Okay, it’s not quite as regimented as that, but I’m a little more aware of the free time I have and more careful about how I spend it. Like spending an hour or so every other night writing a comics blog.
Some of the comics that are getting backlogged on me:
The Maxx – Sam Keith and William Messner-Loebs’ weirdo Image comic from the early days of the company, now being reprinted issue-by-issue by IDW. I read the first six issues of the original release back in the ’90s, and cut it from my reading list in a cost-saving measure, I think, and sort of regretted it ever since. I fell behind on reading the newest reprintings, but knowing this is a finite run makes it easier to deal with. I suspect this comic holds together better reading all together over a short period of time, anyway, rather than absorbing it in monthly installments.
Haunted Horror and Weird Love – two of Craig Yoe’s bimonthly reprint series, which are great, don’t get me wrong. However, being as how most of the stories contained within date from a time when comic publishers weren’t scared of piling the text into each panel, it can take a little longer to properly appreciate each issue. Which is great…get that $3.99’s worth out of each installment, but sometimes they get sorted to the bottom of the pile as other, more current, more easily absorbed titles get read first.
Miracleman – well, sure, I read ’em all the first time when Eclipse Comics published them decades ago, and still have those issues in what’s left of The No Longer Quite So Vast Mikester Comic Archives. I’m still buying the reprint issues, partially to appreciate the recoloring/remastering, partially to complain, and partially to support the series so that we can finally get the new Miracleman stories by Gaiman and Buckingham, picking up from where they left off twenty years ago, or whatever it was. Tends to get left for last because I don’t feel like prying off the mostly-unnecessary polybags.
In conclusion, “a bloo-bloo, I don’t have time to read my funnybooks,” which is the whiniest of my complaints ever. I think I’m in good shape, though, so long as I don’t backlog myself into a warehouse full of boxes filled of unread comics, awaiting that day I’m bedridden with some horrible yet non-reading-impairing illness that will allow me to catch up.
And that’s just comics. Here’s a stack of hardcovers sitting on an endtable in the bedroom, and the Netflix queue, and…ugh, someone tell the Grim Reaper I can’t fit death into my schedule for the next few decades, I have too much entertainment to follow.
• • •
This week’s Question Time over at Trouble with Comics addresses the most terrifying of queries: “DO COMICS MATTER?” The answer is of course, NO WAY, NUH UH, FORGEDDABOUDIT…well, okay, we all say they do, more or less. SPOILERS. Also, this time around everyone’s question is put up as a separate blog entry, so this little ol’ link here
to this week’s question time should take you to all of them. You’ll need to scroll down a bit to see mine…stop when you find that one somewhat familiar picture of me (which has been altered ever so lightly).
Sorry for missing out on my usual Monday post…turns out Sunday night your pal Mike’s body said “NO BLOGGING, MUST SLEEP,” and I had to give it a pass.
I’m still a little wiped out, but I was reminded of a story from the Comic Collecting Adventures of Young Mikester, in the far-distant mists of time, of that near-fabled year of 1985. It was then that I picked up a copy of The One #2 off the rack, attracted by the strange looking cover and the fact that it was by that Rick Veitch guy whose work I’d enjoyed in Epic Illustrated:
I looked around the shop a bit, looking for a copy of the first issue. When I couldn’t find it, I put the request in to Ralph
(the shop owner and, a few years after this, my boss) for that initial issue. He didn’t have it available just then, but said he’d try to get one for me.
So, for the next couple of weeks, when I made my usual new comics day journey to the shop, I would bug Ralph about the status of my request. “Is The One #1 in yet?” “No.”
“Is The One #1 in yet?” “No.”
“Is The One #1 in yet?” “NO.”
Until finally, one week, I asked if it were in again and Ralph replies “YES! Yes, I have it! Here you go!” and hands me a copy.
With a twelve dollar price tag on the bag.
I know I said “…uh….” I’m sure I blanched a little. As cheap as I am now, I was even cheaper then and I certainly wasn’t expecting that price for the comic.
And then Ralph laughed at my reaction and quickly scratched the “1” out of the price, making the comic two bucks. And thus I learned my les…okay, I didn’t learn anything. Well, except to do similar pranks to my own customers, but that was still a few years away.
Anyway, I actually still have that sticker attached to my copy of The One #1:
I’ve even replaced the bag on that comic at some point since then, carefully removing the sticker from the old bag and placing it on the new one.
Here’s a closer look:
According to the most recent price guide, near mint copies of this comic now price out at $3.00
. Hah, I got this comic out from under Ralph for only 2/3rds guide! What a (thirty-years-in-the-making) deal!
When I initially opened my shop, I was primarily feeding the back issue bins with comics from my own collection…sure, there was the odd long box or two I picked up along the way, but a lot of the books were collected by my own hands, picked up once a week at ye olde comick shoppe (later ye olde place of employmente). I was, and still am, by and large, okay with parting with most of the stuff…I’ve read and enjoyed it all — well, enjoyed most of it, anyway — and I don’t mind it going to new homes for new folks to enjoy. And some stuff (like, say, Preacher) I can always get in reprint form.
I’ve noted before that not everything went into the shop. Obviously I kept my Swamp Thing comics…I mean, duh. My Don Rosa Disney comics I didn’t have otherwise reprinted. My Groo the Wanderers. My Cerebus. That full run of Yummy Fur I finally finished and am selling over my dead body. And so on.
But there are a few things that I put on the tables at the shop that I kind of regretted, and as I’ve acquired more collections and filled up more of the store with a wider selection of back issues (and not just “whatever Mike was reading when he was in high school”), I’ve felt like I can take back some books I planned on sacrificing to the greater good and return them to the personal collection. Not that I’ve done it very often…the odd book here and there, DC’s Who’s Who, that’s about it. Not anything that was really selling at the shop anyway.
…Like, as I said above, Dr. Fate.
I doubt there will ever be an extensive reprinting of these particular comics, unless DC decides to counterprogram Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie with a Dr. Fate film and merchandise appropriately, and I will go to the hat store, spend an hour picking out a hat, buy said hat, take the hat home, gently remove the hat from its packaging, cook the hat for about an hour and a half at 350 degrees, take the hat out, let the hat sit for about fifteen minutes, garnish the hat lightly, and then eat the hat if that should actually happen. Anyway, I really enjoy this particular run of the book, from the ’80s into the ’90s, starting with this three-issue reprint series:
…which includes a Golden Age Fate story, plus a kick-ass story where Fate fights a mummy, as drawn by Walt Simonson:
The remaining two issues reprint the Dr. Fate back-ups from The Flash
…which features Keith Giffen’s art to better effect on the nice white Baxter paper than it did in its original newsprint presentation, which had lots of color holds and heavy inks and other visual hoohar that kind of got lost in translation initially.
A little bit later was this all-new mini-series establishing a new status quo for the good Doctor, again illustrated by Giffen, who’s joined by J.M. DeMatteis:
With DeMatteis along, things get a little more spiritual and mystical (even for a character already mired in magic, that’s quite the trick), and occasionally a bit abstract:
…which makes complete sense in context, I promise.
DeMatteis continues to bring his more introspective perspective to the character in the follow-up ongoing series, primarily illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Shawn McManus:
That’s not a typical cover for the series…usually it’s line-drawn images, but I always liked that weird cover so there it is, representing the ongoing series on this here website.
With issue #25 William Messner-Loebs, Vince Giarrano and Peter Gross come on board, and…if memory serves, it’s not quite as bonkers the preceding 24 issues, but it’s still not bad. Can probably stand to reread the series and refresh my recollections of it, but if only I had a full run of…oh, wait, I do! I can’t believe my good fortune.
…Of course, this will be the week someone charges into my shop, waving a fistful of hundred dollar bills in his hand, demanding that he be able to buy full runs of the above Doctor Fate series right this instant.
So being in the comics retail industry in a location close to where Malibu Comics’s home base was located when it was active, we’ve seen a lot of the material produced by that company. And I don’t mean just the regular stuff, but promotional material, rare items, and just lots ‘n’ bundles of multiple copies of various products. I remember at one point obtaining what must have been a case of The Trouble with Girls graphic novels.
I’ve seen a pretty large number of the variant covers over the years, such as the full-cover hologram variants for Mortal Kombat and Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the like, not to mention plenty of those foil-variant Ultraverse covers. In fact, the other day I had a fellow who identified himself as a former employee of Malibu (and Marvel, after that company bought out the former) come by the shop, hand me a small pile of comics, and tell me “here, I’ve been sitting on these a while and you can have ’em if you can use ’em.” And yes, there were a few of the usual items in there, like those hologram covers I mentioned, and what I thought was just another foil Ultraverse variant:
…until I noticed this embossed stamp on the front cover:
…and this certificate explaining just what it was:
…and I was all set to write up a whole post about this, but just like two weeks ago this Ultraverse blog already put together a far better and more informative post
about this very thing than I would have. The thing I learned from that post I found most interesting was that, despite the certificate stating “limited to 500 copies,” far fewer than that were actually created and distributed. The number given is about 30, though the picture in that blog post shows a certificate numbered 134, but who knows what kind of numbering shenanigans were going on. Perhaps earlier numbers were being reserved for employees and other special persons, since the copy in my hands is #7.
Anyway, I put it on the eBays to see who’d salute, so we’ll see how it goes.
Also recently acquired was the Platinum Edition of Adventures of Superman #500, which you can tell is totally the platinum edition of the comic because the bag surrounding it is clearly printed with the words “PLATINUM EDITION” along the bottom:
It’s kind of a drag that someone had this pinned up on a wall, apparently, as there are a couple of pinholes in the top center of the polybag…who’d buy a “hot, rare collectible” in a time where “hot, rare collectibles” were the be-all, end-all of the comics retail industry and then pin the sucker on a wall? That seems almost counter-intuitive to the investment mentality running rampant in the business then. It even had the $125(!) price tag still affixed to the comic bag it was being stored in.
I’ve come across these bagged platinum editions before, and always wondered if just the polybag itself was supposed to be the “platinum” bit (as this bag was black and silver, versus the red and white of the regular version) or if the comic inside was platinum-ized. I suppose if I really wondered that much, I could have Googled or eBay-searched it for myself before now, but I finally looked and found a few of these for sale:
This is one of those “pro-graded” slabbed copies, where they apparently removed the polybag before sealing the funnybook into its little plastic coffin. The color of this cover may be dimmed a bit, as you’re seeing it through about 1/16 inch or so of plastic, but that is definitely a “platinum” (well, silvery-whitish) version of a cover that is normally black. Plus it says “platinum” in the corner and they wouldn’t print it if it weren’t true. Another difference is that the logo on the platinum version features raised lettering while the regular version does not, a fact I just now went to check with my copy of the non-platinum version down in the No-Longer-Quite-As-Vast Mikester Comic Archives.
Speaking of polybags, I also picked up one of these:
…which is the regular cover edition Superman
#82, which also had a chromium cover
. However, this version of #82 polybagged with a poster was, according to my two seconds of Google research, a Walmart variant
which I don’t believe I’d seen before. No UPC code on the comic cover, but said code was provided on the back of the bag itself. I don’t know what the poster itself looks like…my guess is that it’s that cover, but maybe someone can let me know.
Twenty-plus years on, I’m still talking about the Death of Superman. Let us look forward to a happy 2015 and, with any luck, even more posts about the Death of Superman. See you then, friends.
So it came time for your pal Mike’s Teen Titans collection to be given up to the store in sacrifice, but I’m still a’keepin’ a couple of them in the no-longer-so-vast Mikester Comic Archives: this special by Bob Haney and Jay Stephens, this issue of DC Super Stars that I’ve had since I was a kid, and this issue:
…the not-so-stealthy “crossover” with a superhero team that may be somewhat similar to the DNAgents
. I partially retained it because it was illustrated by Nexus
cocreator Steve Rude:
…but I was actually on the fence about it for a minute or so until I glanced through it and spotted this panel in the George Perez-illustrated back-up story:
I am an insanely easy mark, sometimes.
This was a hard run of comics to give up to the shop, but it helps that I recently just reread the early “prime” issues of the Wolfman/Perez run, up to about issue 50 or so, enough to realize that if I really want to keep these stories around for posterity, I’m going to want to invest in one of the recent reprint volumes. I don’t know if you’ve looked at your copies of those earliest issues lately, but time and paper stock has not been kind to the printing on those. Or maybe it’s just a decline in my own eyesight, but that would mean I’m aging and clearly that’s not possible.
My pricing of the Titans comics hasn’t quite reached this issue yet, which, if you haven’t read the “Titans Hunt” storyline, was a much-needed revitalization of the Titans franchise, and really kept you on the edge of your seat wondering what was going to happen next. It honestly did feel like “anything goes” and had an energy to it that the series hadn’t had since its earlier days. The storyline certainly made me a fan of artist Tom Grummett, who I think was probably the best artist on the series aside from Perez.
Hopefully I didn’t just talk myself into keeping those comics, too.
• • •
In other news:
- The article in the online version of the county newspaper about my store that I linked to a few days ago finally made it to Sunday’s print edition, resulting in a few more folks discovering my shop. It also resulted in a handful of customers of mine from my previous employment realizing “oh, that’s where Mike went.”
- My post about shipping to prisons resulted in a couple of people contributing their own stories on the topic that I think you might enjoy reading. I certainly found them interesting.
- Special thanks to ProgRuin reader/commenter Walaka for dropping by the store over the weekend! Always happy to meet in person my online friends!
So I made good on my promise…well, my passing whim, at any rate…and dug deep into the back issue bins at the store to pull out a set of the 1970s Charlton run of E-Man. Most of it, at any rate. We had several copies of some issues, in a wide range of conditions, but alas, issues 8 and 10 were not to be found. Sure, I could have settled for the reprints of those original issues First published later, but given the choice, I’m going for the older books, what with the swell covers and the tanned pages and the terrible ads and what have you.
I’m not much of a stickler for condition; so long as they don’t fall apart in my hands or smell like gasoline I’m okay. Most of these were in the Very Good to Fine range, and the worst condition copy was #2, which was in Good (i.e. “the eBay ‘Fine Plus'”):
Speaking of the eBay, it’s probably to the Internet auctionings I go to fill out the run, unless I’ve got #8 and #10 hiding in the backroom of the shop somewhere (and given the “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” state of the backroom, it’s not unlikely).
It does look like we have all of the First Comics series, and then things get a tad complicated after that, looking at the Wikipedia page. Then there’s all the Mike Mauser stuff, Mauser being a private detective supporting character in E-Man and having his own back-up series in Charlton’s Vengeance Squad. I think we have those at the shop, but those are also reprinted along with the original E-Man stories by First Comics, and that series also has some previously unpublished work and now I’m thinking I should have just taken home the reprints instead.
AAARGH. Now I’m waffling. I may bring back the originals and go for the reprints. But the originals have the cool Ditko back-ups. Man, these big decisions are the worst. I’m going to end up buying both versions and hating myself. LOOK WHAT YOU’VE MADE ME DO.
There was also a series teaming up Mike Mauser with Ms. Tree, Ms. Tree being a series I did read and I tell you right now, without checking my inventory list, I couldn’t tell you with any confidence whether or not I own that mini. I’ve seen it at the shop plenty of times, but my memory tells me I didn’t pick it up because I wasn’t familiar or just indifferent to Mauser, but my collector-fanboy-sense tells me I did pick it up because it’s a Ms. Tree tie-in. I have no idea. Okay, hold on for a second, I’ll check.
Looks like I don’t have ’em. Well, I guess if reading E-Man is going to turn me into a Mike Mauser completist, I guess I’d better pick those up at some point, too and fill out that Ms. Tree collection at the same time.
Now, all I have to do is find time to read all these. I’m sure that’ll be no problem. I’ve almost made it through #1!
…or, possibly, both:
Anyway, that’s not what I originally planned this post to be about. This image was taken from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man
#90, cover-dated May 1984, and is notable primarily for being one of the first appearances of Spidey’s then-new black costume.
The subject came to mind when, on our store’s Facebook page, a customer questioned an assertion I made on our regular website that Amazing Spider-Man #252 was the black costume’s first appearance. “Isn’t it Secret Wars #8?” he wondered, and I explained that even though Spider-Man is shown first receiving the costume in SW #8, that is actually a good seven months or so after the costume made its debut in ASM.
However, even that’s apparently not cut ‘n’ dried, since in Overstreet it’s noted that ASM #252, the aforementioned Peter Parker #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 are “tied” (Overstreet’s terminology) for the costume’s first appearance.
Today’s Marvel is more than happy to crank out four or five or six Avengers or X-Men titles the same week, but it was my memory that wasn’t Marvel’s habit way back when, when all these comics were hitting the stands. So it had me wondering, even though they’re all cover-dated May 1984, did they all come out the same week, or on succeeding weeks, and which one was first?
Alas, though our store was open then, those invoices/cycle sheets/what-have-yous were discarded long ago. A little Googling finds some discussion (like this example), based mostly on “I-was-there” memories, plus additional blurring of the costume’s history with the inclusion of prior promo pieces from Marvel’s news/interviews comic Marvel Age and elsewhere.
A mention of Amazing Heroes #39 as a possible “first appearance” of the costume (speaking of blurring the lines) reminded me of a feature of Amazing Heroes, the “Coming Distractions” section, which would list all the new releases for that month, including specific release dates. Thus, I pulled out #40, the issue with the relevant information, out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, and here is what it says:
Amazing Spider-Man – “ships 1/10, newsstand o/s 1/31”
Marvel Team-Up #141 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 1/14” [typo – supposed to be 2/14…see below]
Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #90 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 2/14”
And, yes, of course there’s that typo in the Marvel Team-Up listing, confusing things. But it’s certainly a typo: every other comic with a ship date of 1/24 is listed as being on sale on newsstands February 14th. (Both December 24, 1983 and January 14, 1984 would have been Saturdays, whereas every other date listed is on a Tuesday. In addition, no other book with a December shipping date is noted, so the 1/24 date doesn’t seem to be a typo.)
According to the information provided by Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man #252 was at least planned to ship out at least two weeks before the other books, making this the first in-story appearance of the black costume. This is of course assuming things worked out the way they should have. Shipments could have been delayed, books might have been late, etc. etc., so it is within the realm of possibility that some of the books may have been released, at least in some locales, simultaneously.
And then there’s the fact comic shops in the direct sales market received their books weeks prior to newsstands. I wasn’t on the business side of the counter in those days, but my memory is that direct shipping of new books wasn’t quite the exact science it is today, he said half-sarcastically, so again, it’s possible that even if the books stuck to Marvel’s schedule, who knows what order they showed up in which comic book stores.
On top of that, there was the usual speculation/hoarding shenanigans that turn up whenever something in the comic market smells like it could be “hot,” so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some people remember seeing Marvel Team-Up #141 before Amazing #252, since all the 252s were immediately scooped up, bagged, boarded, and thrown in boxes marked “DO NOT OPEN ‘TIL EBAY.” And even beyond that, the disparity between new arrivals in comic shops and new arrivals on newsstands could have meant people spotting the latter Spidey books at their comic shops before seeing #252 pop up at the local 7-11.
Anyway, I wish I knew back then I’d be writing this blog today, so that I’d have taken better notes. As it is, at the time I did buy Amazing Spider-Man #252, from a newsstand no less, because I was semi-collecting that series anyway. I don’t recall when those other Spider-Man comics in question came out in relation to 252, since I wasn’t reading those at the time and didn’t pay any attention.
I was also going to discuss whether or not Web of Spider-Man #18 should be considered the actual first appearance of Venom, but I think we’ve all had quite enough of this sort of talk today. (And if you say ASM #252 is his first appearance, I’m gonna pop you in the nose.)
image from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #90 (May 1984) by Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney
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