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Actually, I acquired it last week, but, you know, other things popped up that kept me from telling you about it earlier than this. But here it is, the hard-to-find Kilian Barracks magazine-sized edition of Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics #1 from 1981:
I didn’t realize (or had forgotten) these were serially-numbered, so my copy is #2171 out of 6,500 copies:
…or however many copies still exist today, after who knows how many have been lost/destroyed/tossed out over the years.
Now, I’ve actually read this at some point…someone I knew had a copy and I was able to read theirs, but this was years ago, and at this point, this is going to be a brand new reading experience for me.
I’ve said before I’m not really collecting a whole lot of old comics for myself at this point…I’m trying to finish out my collection of Seaboard/Atlas, there’s an issue or two of Inferior 5 I still need, and a handful of Three Mouseketeers, and I’m always on the lookout for fanzines. But this comic here, this Flaming Carrot mag, is one I’ve been wanting to own for a very long time, and when I saw one turn up for cheap on the eBays, I had to grab it. Most copies up there seem to be alleged “high grade” copies, or slabbed in those plastic tombs, and selling for hundreds of dollars. As you can probably see from the scans, this was a…well-loved copy, and actually priced at a reasonable amount. (An amount made even more reasonable by a 10 dollar “thanks for being a swell cat” discount code that eBay had sent me.)
Now all I need to do is get copies of the earliest Flaming Carrot appearances in those Visions mags. Well, I’m sure I’ll win the lottery any day now.
This is a scan of the cover to the first issue of What If, dated February 1977. In fact, this is my personal copy. When this comic was released, I was seven years old, and I was at home, sick, suffering one of my several bouts with bronchitis. My dad, about to go grocery shopping, asked if there was anything I wanted while he was out, and I asked him to buy a comic book for me. Didn’t specify which one…pretty much anything would have been good to seven-year-old me.
And What If #1, the very copy pictured above, is the one he picked out for me. Now, as a seven-year-old Mikester, I don’t really recall just how familiar I was with either Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. I mean, sure, I suppose I knew Spider-Man from the cartoons, at least, and I’m pretty sure I’d seen FF comics once or twice…my cousin had a copy or two I remember perusing, and I know I inexplicably had a copy of this terrifying comic from just a few months prior, so I had some passing familiarity with the concept. And though I don’t specifically recall watching any, I’m sure I’d probably caught an FF cartoon or two along the way.
As such, this comic was more or less one of, if not the, earliest Spider-Man and/or Fantastic Four comic of My Very Own, and naturally it’s one that played with the established continuity of the characters.
I got the concept, I’m reasonably certain. Repeated exposure to the old Land of the Lost TV show and its heady-for-’70s-kid-vid sci-fi concepts of parallel universes and time paradoxes and whatever probably helped prime me for the premise of this comic. The Watcher, the bald fella what lived on the Moon and watched things, would present to us, the bronchitis-afflicted seven-year-old readers, what could have happened if things just went a wee bit different in the Marvel Universe that we knew. Or, in my case, only barely knew, though this issue did a good job of explaining “here’s what really happened, and now here’s what we propose might have happened” and even my young illness-addled mind could grasp it. Helping matters is a one-page catch-up on the origins of the characters, which I’m sure I appreciated.
Also helping was a two-page spread where the Watcher goes into detail about what he means by “parallel realities” and “alternate times” and all that other hoohar, providing examples from previously-published Marvel comics. Amusingly enough, the spread also includes this bit of business referencing the company’s recent crossover with DC Comics, in which ol’ Web-head meets Superman:
…and of course plays coy as to whether or not this actually took place in another universe or not. I hadn’t read that particular crossover yet when I first read this first issue of What If, but I knew about it from ads I’d seen, and even then I knew that a character from Marvel Comics meeting a character from DC Comics was a Big Deal. I felt at the time like somebody was getting away with something by sneaking Superman’s blue-sleeved arm into this comic…and you know, decades later, looking at it now, I still feel like that, and it makes me laugh.
Anyway, this comic sure packed in a lot of information about the Marvel Universe, introduced me to a lot of characters (like Namor and the Puppet Master), and through its emphasis on “this is different from what actually happened!” I was surprisingly not confused by what was regular Marvel continuity and what was alternate-continuity shenanigans. I ended up being mostly a DC Comics kid, as it turned out, but this issue of What If gave me at least a small level of comprehension of what to expect from the House of Ideas whenever I delved into their catalog.
Oh, and those copies of the Origins of Marvel Comics and Son of Origins books, reprinting classic early Marvel stories and that I would eventually discover on my local library’s shelves, helped a lot, too.
I didn’t end up following What If on a regular basis, but I would pick up the occasional issue as the whim struck me. I think a large part of the appeal was the sense of, perhaps, finality to some of the stories, or the idea that Big Things could happen here that couldn’t happen in regular continuity. Okay, “and then [x] dies at the end!” was a common theme, as was “What If [x] Never Became [Superhero Identity]” (answer: [x] becomes [Superhero Identity] anyway), but even still there was a sense of no one being safe, the threat of inevitable tragedy, the permanent change to the status quo, even if it’s just for that one-off story.
It’s probably my primary nostalgia-trigger for comics collecting. Seeing a stack of What Ifs (like I did over the weekend, prepping more back issues at my store) reminds me of that rush of discovery, long ago, from picking through that first issue over and over again. It also pulls the old comic book sales trick of asking a question on the front cover, a question that’ll compel the potential reader to plunk down his 50 cents (or more, adjusting for inflation). The question’s built into the title of the series, which is brilliant. “What if Spider-Man kept his cosmic powers?” I don’t know…what if he did keep his cosmic powers? I must pay whatever the cover price is for that particular issue to find out!
I’ve had a lot of comics from that time of my childhood fall to the wayside…read to pieces, thrown out, lost. But I held onto that What If, nearly forty years on. And it looks it: Comic Book Retailer Mike is aghast at the condition Young Comic Book Reader Mike let that comic fall into. Clearly, however, that was a comic that was read and loved, over and over again.
Loved it so much I put my name in it so none of you rotten thieves could claim it for yourself:
Probably the one time I got top billing over Stan Lee. Also, I apparently required many different pens to scribe my name into this comic. And just to let you know, I’ve since learned to spell my name correctly on the first try. Usually.
The new Trouble with Comics Question Time is up, and the question de la semaine this time around is “What are the five most powerful or affecting graphic novels you have read?” As I noted on the Twitterers, I had a real “one of these things is not like the other” response, but I think I had a pretty good mix there. A few of the books I’ve discussed on the site before (like here and here).
Another book I discussed at TWC I did briefly mention here long ago, like within a week of the site’s launch. The link to the official site is dead, I didn’t bother with any scans at the time, so here’s the cover of Dan O’Neill’s Hear The Sound of My Feet Walking (1975), the book I discussed then, and again this week at TWC:
A few years later, while perusing the stacks at the comic shop as a mere customer rather than the retail powerhouse I would later become, I spotted the other book in this series, The Collective Unconscience of Odd Bodkins (1973), sitting on the shelf. I picked it up and looked at it during a couple of consecutive weekly visits, before finally pulling the trigger and taking this book to the register:
“I was wondering when you were going to buy that!” former-comic-guy-later-former-boss Ralph said to me when I plopped it down on the counter. “Huh, I didn’t know he was paying that much attention to me,” thought Young Mike, prior to his spending nearly three decades in comics retail and remembering still which of you out there bought Youngblood #1.
This is one of the last back issues I got for myself from the old job before departing my employment there:
…I’d forgotten that I even had it, until I came across it while reorganizing some comics at home. I tried glancing through it right now, and boy, I think I’ll need to wait ’til I’m more awake than I am because I just can’t just process the information this comic is throwing at me. I mean, I can barely run the gauntlet that is this book’s cover, there’s so much going on there. The stories do give the appearance of trying really
hard to achieve that crazy anything-goes wackiness that all you late 1960s nutty teens were into.
The best, or at least most tolerable, of the bunch is probably the Bikini Luv story:
…drawn by Jim Aparo, of all people, sorta/kinda circling around a vague Wally Wood-esque style.
Since opening my shop, aside from the few new comics I pick up every week, I’ve kept precious little for myself from any collections that have entered the store. In fact, it has primarily gone in the other direction, the vast Mikester Comic Archives having been about 1/2 to 2/3rds sacrificed to the store’s back issue bins. But there have been one or two things that have made it back to my house, such as finally putting this in the ol’ swamp monster collection. And there was this comic (speaking of 1960s comics trying awfully hard to be funny) which nicely filled a hole in a run.
But I’ve been good. I need to make money, and I can’t make money if I keep everything for myself, so I’ve been behaving. I did mention to a customer that I kept that Supernatural Thrillers, and he said “that collecting urge never really goes away, does it?”
No…no, not really.
So in that big collection I picked up last weekend were a couple of rare-ish goodies, such as this digest-sized parody of Charles M. Schulz’s religiously-themed non-Peanuts cartoons:
That’s just the title from the front cover; clicking that image will bring up the entire cover which may offend the more sensitive viewer. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, as eBay tends to be a bit iffy on adult-y material like this, taking some auctions down and leaving other auctions for the exact same item up seemingly at random. Not that other people having this same thing on eBay would have been much of a problem…the only Google references I could find at first were some webpages from one of the artists responsible. However, you can now find this review from pal Nat
, since I avoided the whole eBay issue by selling the darned thing to him.
Another rarity is Rick Altergott’s first self-published issue of Doofus from 1992:
…prior to Fantagraphics unleashing
across an unsuspecting world. It’s in a squarish format, about 8 by 8 inches, with a stated print run of 350 copies.
• • •
I apologize for the extended communications blackout over the last week and a half. A combination of a lingering illness and extra hours/projects at the new store have left me with little blogging energy in the evenings. Thank you for sticking around and hopefully I’ll be back up to speed here sooner rather than later.
So this here is one of those comic book series whose omission from my personal collection is almost nearly inexplicable. E-Man
seems like it’s right up my alley; a mostly-lighthearted superhero adventure comic, veering into parody and satire, created and originally written by Nicola Cuti, and co-created and (I think) always drawn by Joe Staton, one of my favorite comic book artists. And it’s not like I didn’t have opportunity to buy the series…I was following several of the comics being published by First Comics in the 1980s, of which the E-Man revival series was one. Plus, at the shop I work at I am pretty sure we have all of those First issues and the original ’70s series
available in the back issue bins. Even if we don’t, First Comics also reprinted those on what would almost have to be better paper than whatever castoff printing scraps that 1970s Charlton Comics usually ended up using.
Anyway, I didn’t buy these series at the time, and someday I should, because if it’s one thing I need in the house, it’s more comic books.
However, as you may have guessed, considering I have it pictured above, I did buy one issue, mostly because I was being a Phil Foglio completist, and he, along with his sci-fi character Buck Godot, make a one-page cameo appearance in one of the Hostess parody ads that E-Man would regularly run:
I like the looks of this fella:
So that’s the one issue of E-Man
I own, and honestly, I should own more. At the very least, I should have the issue previous, since it has a Cutey Bunny parody ad, and I’ve mentioned before that I’m an easy mark for the work of Joshua Quagmire
And wouldn’t you know it, I just did a little Googling trying to find a list of creators who did parody ads for E-Man and just discovered someone starting, mere days ago, his own retrospective on the First Comics run of E-Man. Not trying to jump someone else’s train here or anything…it was just a coincidence! Plus, it’s not like I really had anything specific to say about E-Man anyway, so please go read what he has to say to learn more about that particular property, and to see another creator’s take on the Hostess parody ads!
So here’s this weird thing, released in conjunction with DC’s fiftieth anniversary in 1985, which, as the title promises, lists fifty people/licensees/products responsible for the company’s success and endurance. This would include the business people who started and / or ran the company:
…and the creative types who created the characters and produced the high-profile projects:
There are also entries dedicated to studios producing the films (like Fleischer Studios and Hanna-Barbara), actors who portrayed the characters (including Lynda Carter and Best Batman Adam West
), the World Color Press, and of course, a page devoted to Superman Peanut Butter:
…which may seem a little silly at first, but that sure helped to keep Superman in the minds of kids. It’s no crazier than Donald Duck Orange Juice
The entries for Bob Kane and Bill Finger are interesting for what they say and don’t say, as noted here by Boys of Steel author Marc Nobleman.
Alan Moore doesn’t rate a mention, having only worked on Swamp Thing for a year or so at that point, and the endless piggybacking of his work was still in DC’s future. Helen Slater gets a page, having portrayed Supergirl in the big-budget film flop from the previous year, which seems odd on the face of it. However, she made a good Supergirl, even if the movie itself wasn’t, and it remains, then as now, the only big-screen adaptation starring one of DC’s heroines. (EDIT: I mean, aside from that other one.)
One of the neat things about this booklet were the caricatures, credited to Steven Petruccio, of some of the personalities involved, illustrating various aspects of that person’s involvement in Making DC Great. You can see examples above in that scan of the M.C. Gaines entry.
Bookending the publication are some color cover images of DC’s major publications with brief notes as to why they’re important, such as indicating that issue of New Fun from 1935 was DC’s first comic book. (House of Secrets #92 is among those covers, making this yet another Swamp Thing appearance, kinda sorta, I had to own.) Along with those pics are quotes from notable folks occasionally about DC but mostly just about comics in general, from some diverse personalities as movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, underground comix legend Richard Corben, the Muppets’ Jim Henson, Stephen King, and Stan Lee.
I’m not even sure why I bought this at the time, beyond it catching my eye as the oddball release that is was, and perhaps appealing to my budding interest in the history of the medium. Plus, it felt sort of fanzine-y, and I do so love ‘zines.
A couple more comments on this: I may have inadvertently stole my “Suddenly, [X] Years Later” gag from that cover. And, if DC were to put this out today, surely it would be Fifty-Two Who Made DC Great!
So for a while there, price guide/news/interview mag Wizard
would offer special issues of various ongoing comic series, usually numbered as “# 1/2” (and there may have been a “#500” in there once or twice, too) that you could send for by mail using the special certificate ‘n’ envelope enclosed. And also by sending that check or money order, too…hey, Wizard ain’t runnin’ a charity, here. The comics themselves generally contained a new short story unavailable anywhere else, plus some sketchbook work or similar backmatter rounding out the publication.
I only availed myself of that particular scheme a handful of times…I sent away for the Sin City #1/2 and Daredevil #1/2 and probably a couple of others I’m forgetting.
And, of course, the comic pictured above: Prime #1/2, by Len Strazewski, Gerard Jones and Norm Breyfogle. Prime, for those of you too young to remember or have just generally driven the ’90s comic market out of your memory, was a modern spin on Captain Marvel, in which a kid gains the ability to transform into a seemingly adult-aged superhero. In this case, the kid, I don’t know, exuded some kind of fleshy substance to, in effect, grow his superhero body around his actual body, and I think I probably need to take a look at these comics again and remind myself that was what was actually happening.
At any rate, it’s my memory that this was one of the better titles that came out of the Ultraverse superhero line published by Malibu, even though it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve read these and that semi-recollection of our hero’s abilities the paragraph previous is about as much as I can recall at this time. Even flipping through this #1/2, now that I have it out of the box, it all looks brand new to me. And I did read the series, at least for 18 issues of its initial run.
I always say “I should pull these out and reread these” when I’m reminded of some comic I know I read and enjoyed a long time ago and haven’t looked at since. But, there’s only so many hours in the day, and sometimes it’s just going to have to be enough to know that I did enjoy them at one time, even if the specific details have faded away.
Oh, and back to the whole Wizard #1/2 thing…these special issues usually came with one of these “Certificates of Authenticity,” to ensure you weren’t receiving one of those cheap knock-off bootleg #1/2s that were flooding comic markets all across the world:
Thank goodness, this comic is an authentic! It’s the authentic-est
This wasn’t the first issue of this particular series that I’d purchased…it was #2, which had a Not-Safe-for-Work-ish cover
I didn’t want to spring on you without warning.
Anyway, Airlock was a short-run black and white anthology series that I bought primarily because it contained “Taffy and the Pirates,” a humor-adventure strip by Cutey Bunny creator Joshua Quagmire:
There are other stories of note, too: issue 2 has “The Iluvlussey,” a funny and nicely-cartooned take on Greek myth by Tim Burgard, “Lost in The Jungle” by To Be Announced
‘s Mike Bannon, and the Swamp Thing parody “Yuck Thing” by Jorge Pacheco:
It wasn’t all humor strips; there was an ongoing “Caligula” serial by Rod Underhill and Topper Helmers that was fairly elaborate and certainly mature reader-oriented, as you might imagine.
Issue three cover-features Panda Khan…or rather, “X-Khan,” as he’s known in the story within, and…well, I didn’t realize, or I’d forgotten, how science-fictiony these Panda Khan comics were, though looking now I see this cover of Mr. Khan on a meteor fighting a guy shooting a laser gun, so what do I know. I never read those comics, so beyond being vaguely aware of his ties to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my knowledge of Panda Khan’s adventures is alarmingly deficient. This is also the most I’ve typed the words “Panda Khan” in my entire life.
The Taffy strips return and wrap up in this third issue as well. Quagmire (along with Dean Norton) also provides an illustrated prose short “Cyberfox,” which is some funny-animal sci-fi business.
There was a first issue, though I don’t recall having seen it, and that’s probably the sort of thing I should have checked for at the shop prior to writing this entry here. My usual sources don’t have any info on what was in the first issue, so I don’t know if I’m missing any Quagmire there. The “Taffy” story in the second issue pretty clearly starts there, and I’m also fairly certain the me of 1991 would have sought out that #1 if I’d known there was something in that issue I had to have.
I’m still going to check for it at the shop anyway.
So I was looking at this little stack of Cat-Head Comics from the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, trying to decide which one to talk about, when I decided “ah, heck, let’s throw them all up there.”
Duck & Cover #1 (1988)
Duck & Cover #2 (1989)
Satire and poetry written by Stephen Beaupre and Steve Lafler, taking on politics, religion, big business, and more. A special appearance from Dog Boy in #1, putting the bite on Rupert Murdoch!
Femme Noire #1 (1989)
Femme Noire #2 (1989)
Mystical detective shenanigans by Lafler, with Maria (the title character) and her occasional love interest, Dog Boy’s pal BenB (the hollow-eyed fella on the cover of #1). Dog Boy makes appearances here and there over the course of the story.
Out the Next #1 (1987)
A Beaupre solo book, more or less, with “ART • DESIGN” and a cover by Lafler. Mostly text/poems by Beaupre with accompanying photos and drawings. The condition of this copy is a little rough, having found in a quarter box sometime in ’88/’89. You can see the tears at the top of the cover caused by careless box-thumbing. JUST SAY NO TO CARELESS BOX-THUMBING. No Dog Boy appearances aside from the back cover ad.
Prometheus’ Gift #1 (1992)
A couple of short stories, including the Jack Kirby-esque “Snakes!” Tiny Dog Boy cameos in a two-page art/text collage and on the cover, as well as two unpublished Dog Boy covers rounding out the book (as a “sleazy way to fill up space,” Lafler himself admits in the introduction).
Those Dog Boy appearances aren’t in the Doggie Style collection (unless I missed something), since that was primarily reprinting his solo stories from his own titles and Buzzard. Most of the above would have been out of place there.
Anyway, there’s some fine and strange comic-booking in the above publications, some of which I suspect are pretty difficult to find at this point (the indicia for Prometheus’ Gift includes the note “first printing October 1992, barely two thousand copies if we’re lucky”). Poking through all these again makes me want to go back and try Bughouse one more time, since that was the one Lafler project that never really grabbed me. I do own the first issue…I’ll give it another go and let you know what I think.
You can keep up with what Lafler is up to at his official site.
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