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Usually, when I think of “the black and white boom” (as we have been over the last couple of posts), I tend to associate it with the more exploitative end of this publishing fad…the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knock-offs, the parody books, the comics that might as well have just been blank inside given they were cranked out solely in the hopes some investor would snap up cases of them for Turtles-esque resale value. And there were the rumors of various forms of funny business in which some comics were supposedly “in short supply” but, oh, hey, this one place that totally isn’t in cahoots with that comic’s creators just happens to have a limited stock of copies for only $19.99 each! What a deal!
It’s easy to forget in the midst of all this, actual quality work was being put out and getting lost in the shuffle and swept away when the End Times came for all the black and whites, good or bad. One such book, mentioned by kiwijohn in the comments to the first post linked above, was Alien Fire:
…a comic I never got around to reading, but the covers always did grab my eye when I came across ’em at my previous place of employment. I bring it up specifically because one of the creators, Eric Vincent, popped up in the comments to express his lament at the series taking the hit when the b&w bust finally happened. Thanks for giving your perspective on the situation, Eric! (Co-creator Anthony Smith also stopped in.)
Internet pal C. Elam was good enough to point out that Border Worlds, another title cut short before its time, is due for a complete reprinting from Dover Books, including a brand-new 30-page conclusion! This is what I get for not keeping up to date on all of Don Simpson’s blogs. This is good news, and if it’s anything like the Puma Blues hardcover (another great black and white book from the period), this will be a tome definitely worth having. Can’t wait to see it.
The black and white boom was an interesting time, and I wish I was a little more involved in the retail end of things then to have more insight on the matter. I mean, I certainly read plenty of black and white books throughout the ’80s, and I sort of miss seeing those oddball titles populating the stands. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of too many black and white title periodical comics (as opposed to the mostly b&w manga titles) on the stands now…and when they are, it’s likely more for aesthetic purposes than a cost-saving measure. I’m pretty sure they could afford to put The Walking Dead out in color, for example. (I’m betting we’ll get color editions of The Walking Dead eventually, anyway, like the color reissues of Bone. Probably not from Scholastic, though.)
I keep saying “I’m going to try to dig up more black and white titles from the ’80s to recommend” and I keep not having the time to research (i.e. “dig through my own collection”). I still plan on doing it, so keep your eyes out for at least one more post on the matter. Or three or four. You know how I am.
So a few of you had some suggestions re: good comics from the black and white boom, including several that I own and of course couldn’t dredge up from my memory to include in the initial post.
kiwijohn mentioned a couple of titles that I enjoyed, like Border Worlds by Don Simpson:
…a serious science fiction adventure/mystery from the creator of Megaton Man, that, as kiwijohn noted, never got to complete its story. Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve read this…I still have ’em, in what remains of my personal comic collection, so when I have a moment I need to poke through them again. As I recall, the art was gorgeous in this series.
Another kiwijohn mentioned was Xenozoic Tales:
…probably remembered by a good chunk of the population as Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, a somewhat more commercial name for marketing purposes. Written and drawn by Mark Schultz, and boy, what drawing! The word “lush” was pretty much invented to describe Schultz’s art. There were a number of spin-off comics under the C&D title published by Topps Comics in the ’90s by other creators…can’t say how good those were, but the original Xenozoic Tales is the stuff.
Iestyn Pettigrew is aghast, aghast I say, that I didn’t mention The Trouble with Girls:
…and Iestyn is correct, I should have mentioned it, as it’s a hoot. It’s a parody of manly-man adventure novels/movies/etc. (by Will Jacobs, Gerard Jones and Tim Hamilton) in which our hero, Lester Girls, just wants a quiet evening in with a relaxing book but is constantly beset by spies, ninjas, terrorists, beautiful but deadly ladies, and all your other typical baddies that you’d find in your typical James Bonds or your Executioners or your Destroyers and so on. All very hilarious. Most of it was published by Malibu/Eternity, but it was briefly in color at Comico Comics, and there was a color mini-series at Marvel during one of its short revivals of the Epic Comics imprint. A side note: I think because of our proximity to the publisher, at my previous place of employment it seemed like copies of the first Trouble with Girls paperback collection were always showing up in collections. And not always just a single copy…I think I remember a dozen or more turning up at once in the same assortment. Go figure.
Matthew mentioned To Be Announced:
…a series that I actually did try to collect. You’d figure, only being seven issues long, it wouldn’t be that hard, but I am still missing a couple. The comic is primarily by Mike Bannon, who was one of the cast of regular characters in the old Cerebus letter columns and is probably the main reason I sought this comic out. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read the issues I do have, but I recall being amused by it and I’m sure someday I’ll get around to completing the set.
Hooper mentions Neil the Horse, which I talked about a while back, as well as Tales of the Beanworld:
…also noted by MrJM in the comments, and which I’ve also discussed many times in the past on this site. It did come out during the black and white boom, but I always forget that since the comic is just so unlike anything else on the stands. It’s hard to picture it as part of a “movement” (or “phase,” or “fad”) when it’s totally its own weird thing.
That Augie character (who just hit his 1000th Pipeline column…congrats!) mentions Nervous Rex by William Van Horn:
…and Van Horn, some of you may best know as one of the primary American creators of new Disney Duck comics in the ’80s and ’90s, along with Don Rosa. As an avid reader of the Duck comics during that period, I was very familiar with Van Horn’s work there…but I already knew his name from his children’s books, which I’d encountered during my librarian days. Nervous Rex was one of those comics I’d always meant to look into, as the old job had most, if not all, of them, but just never got around to it, sadly. They always looked like they were delightful.
Anyway, there are a few others mentioned in the comments and I’m going to see if I can add any more personal favorites to the list in my next post. And if you have any more suggestions, you know where to leave ’em!
So I received a used copy of this hardcover in a collection I purchased the other day:
And, well, I did have it in the shop as a new item before, but I never really did sit down and give it a good looking-at then, despite my enjoyment of Don Newton’s Batman. Thus, before putting it out for sale I thought I’d take it home and give it a read…what, it’s going to get more
used? …Well, okay, yeah, I suppose it is, but I’ve the gentle touch of a professional comics handler, and can easily peruse this volume without causing further discoloration, dogearing, spine stress, or, God help us, foxing.
Anyway, I was a fan of Newton’s work, both on Batman and on Infinity Inc., which he had just started to work on when he passed away in 1984 at the too-young age of 49. Reading this book, I find myself struck by one thing, which will hardly be a new or original comment in regards to these sorts of reprint projects, but nevertheless it’s still an honest reaction. The pages are just too white and clean. The Young Mike that’s still rattling around in my head is expecting to be reading these stories on brown-ish newsprint. In fact, when I mentally picture Newton’s art, I imagine dark, moody images…all shadows and mystery. Reprinting in this book on bright pages with bright coloring, even the shadows look like you’re staring at the sun. …Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but still, it was a bit jarring to have the art right in front of me and contradicting my memories of same.
And before you say anything, yes, Infinity Inc. was printed on bright white paper with eye-searingly bright colors, but Newton’s sadly brief tenure there doesn’t have the nostalgic hold his Batman work has for me.
As I was writing this, another sorta unsung comics artist fave of mine came to mind that I’d like to see reprinted in a book like this. I’d totally be all over The Complete Irv Novick.
• • •
One of my readers was kind enough to point out that, in an old post of mine…I mean, really old, within the first month of this site’s life…one of the links I’d posted way back then had apparently since gone feral and now pointed to a porn site. Okay, first off…porn on the Internet? When did that start? And secondly…yeah, link rot. This site is on the verge of turning nine years old, and I’m sure many links in a lot of my old posts now go to destinations I did not originally intend. I mean, if I was sending you to a dirty filthy dirty site
, I was usually pretty good about warning you up front.
I’ve heard about some people going through and consistently maintaining and / or removing links on old posts, but frankly, it’s hard enough to find the time to keep with new posts, or sleep. And then there was the great Blogger-to-Wordpress shift I underwent in early ’10, which resulted in some formatting and archived-post issues, and then whatever that company was that was supporting the old commenting system cut that support, so links to those comments are now no bueno, I guess, and…man, sometimes I feel doing a reboot, and just starting this website from scratch. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNEW BEFORE: WELCOME TO THE NEW PROGRESSIVE RUIN! and then I’d never refer to anything before that date ever again.
I’m not going to do it, but, back past a certain point, my site’s a mess. I do still go back and fix links and formatting and stuff if I have occasion to link to an old post, so I’m not letting things totally fall into barbarism, but…well, just assume any super old link is probably taking you straight to a site that’ll sell you V1aG4a or promise you pictures of people inserting Tab A into Slot B.
However, I am happy to note that I still occasionally edit my very first post to make sure it’s still sending you where I want you to go. Man, had I known they’d be fiddling with those addresses every year or so, I’d have picked something else for my debut entry.
• • •
Reader d asks
“Hey Mike, we all know you have every Swamp & Man Thing appearance, but do you collect The Heap as well? Just curious.”
Well, I don’t have every Man-Thing appearance…I do have every one written by Steve Gerber, as well as the first appearance in Savage Tales (not by Gerber), but from about the ’90s forward, I’ve been a little pickier about touching Man-Things.
That has nothing to do with the actual thrust of your question, which is all about the Heap, the original comic book swamp monster dating back to the 1940s. Sadly…no, I haven’t gone out of my way to seek out Heap comics, though I have picked up some of the latter day revivals, such as this 1971 one-shot I’ve discussed in the past, or this new version from Moonstone, or the Airboy/Mr. Monster one-shot from 1987, in which the Heap plays a prominent role, and is a great comic, to boot.
The original Heap comics are about to be reprinted in a series of three hardcover volumes, and I’m still waffling a bit on whether I can afford to pick these up for myself. My usual argument to talk myself into such things is “if I don’t get them now, I’ll probably never have another chance, at least this (relatively) cheaply,” so we’ll see. I am tempted.
• • •
On a related note, in that it’s asked in the same comments section, Casey wonders
“Mike, have you ever done a post about toxic Teen Titans continuity?”
Oh God, no. What I’d wished I had done is recorded pal Dorian and myself going on and on and hashing it all out and realizing that some of the time frames involved would make some of the adult characters a lot older than they should be, or that some of the lengths of time of team membership would be extremely short, or…hell, I don’t remember now. This was prior to DC kind of pushing the “sliding scale” of the Modern DC Superhero Universe to being about 20 years old, as of Identity Crisis, which I recall thinking was a slightly more reasonable time frame, given the amount of “important” events and continuity, not just for the Titans but for everyone, you had to squeeze in there.
Of course, post-Flashpoint, that scale is now about 5 or 6 years, depending on who you ask, I guess, so it’s all a moot point. And I hear tell Titans continuity has even more exciting problems now, as in some indecision whether there were previous Titans teams or not, but I leave the pondering of that question to younger, abler folks than myself.
• • •
And then sometimes I repost a gag I already made on the Twitter
, such as presenting this gag header from Archie’s Joke Book
#134 (March 1969 – hey, my birth month!) and lamenting the fact that in no way does the story live up to this title:
…which is just as well, since Archie couldn’t participate anyway:
Oh, scatological humor! You’re the best
• • •
To bring things back around to the nostalgia of Young Mike from the beginning of this post, just before I soiled it all with continuity nitpicking, porn, poop jokes, and Man-Thing innuendo, I found myself the other day discussing the joys of Omega Men
with a customer of mine.
Although I had read the introduction of the Omega Men in those three or so issues of Green Lantern, I didn’t follow them to their own series (which experienced some small controversy in its early issues due to depictions of violence, back in the “they didn’t know how good they had it” days of fandom). It took Alan Moore, a writer of some note, writing a back-up in two successive issues of the series (#26, pictured, and #27) to get me to take a look…and quite wisely, a new storyline in the main feature started up at that same time, giving Moore-ites like me a solid jumping-on point. It helped that 1) the new regular artist on the series was Shawn McManus, for whom I was developing a strong appreciation, and 2) that the comic itself was just a darned weird, creepy, and plain ol’ interesting sci-fi adventure.
As I was talking about the book with the customer, a couple of things dawned on me that, I suppose, shouldn’t have surprised me but did anyway. The actual run of that “new direction” for Omega Men, from #26 to the book’s eventual cancellation, was only 13 issues, plus an annual. It sure felt like it was longer…not in a bad way, I mean. It’s that a whole lot of stuff happened along the course of that comic, and it’s hard to believe they managed to fit it all into only about a year’s worth of stories (well, technically a year…I think some issues ran a bit late, if I recall correctly). Also, there was a Teen Titans crossover, and, of all things, a Crisis on Infinite Earths-engineered Blue Devil crossover, and an appearance in DC Comics Presents, so that probably helped in the perception of the comics’ apparent length.
The other thing that dawned on me was that the series wrapped up while I was still in high school, which doesn’t feel weird for anyone but me, I realize, but still, it seems like it’s more recent than that. Ah, well…tempus fugit, and all that.
I’ve since picked up the remainder of the series, which of course includes the first appearance of Lobo (which guides at a low $7.00, which sort of surprises me, except I suppose Omega Men print runs at the time were fairly large), and despite the occasional terrifying Kevin O’Neill art job, those earlier issues were fairly staid compared to the outright craziness of the McManus-era stories. Still fun, and worth checking out if you can find ’em cheap, which they usually are.
• • •
Just to let you folks know, I’m probably entering Low Content Mode for the rest of the week, or at least lower
content mode…the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up, and I’ve also got another project I’m working on at the moment that requires the focus of my creative energy, he said in a hopefully non-New Agey way, so probably you’ll not be seeing much more out of me this week aside from maybe a pic or two. Or you can follow me on the Twitter
where I’m still likely to spout off about something. At any rate, I’ll see you on the other side, and please enjoy your Thanksgiving, where applicable, and everyone else, enjoy your Thursday. Thanks for reading!
• • •
the end of the post! I was wondering where that was.
So I was asked in the comments to my post on Tuesday to say a little something more about Jupiter:
This was a series by Jason Sandberg that ran for nine issues in the late 1990s. It was an anthology series, where half the book was usually devoted to short strips and one longer story, with occasional appearances by this fella:
…and the other half (more or less) of the comic was devoted to “Pelasgus,” who is the gentleman with the nose on the cover of #1 up there at the top of this post. Pelasgus came into being on the planet Arcadia, and as other humans begin to appear, Pelasgus offers his advice and guidance to help direct these primitive humans towards a more civilized culture:
Over the course of the nine issues, barter systems are created, laws are codified, government is formed, currency is minted, religion begins to take hold, disputes are resolved…and murders happen and drug abuse increases, and Pelasgus and the people of this society try to deal with their changing world. It was fascinating reading, a literal experiment in world-building as problems arise and Pelasgus makes straightforward and cogent arguments on how to deal with them.
Interestingly, in his downtime Pelasgus would make paintings in a style that, perhaps, may look familiar to some of you comic book fans out there:
“Somehow all these creations have become separated from their creator,” continues Pelasgus. “Their hearts are filled with grief as they roam through space and time for eternity.” …Obviously a comment on Jack Kirby’s situation, but I read it as foreshadowing for what was to come for Pelasgus: the world he’s helping to create perhaps will someday separate from him as his influence over it reduces to nothing.
An author’s note in issue #9 promised longer “Pelasgus” chapters in future issues, but alas, that was the last issue, and I’ll never know if my speculation in regards to that Kirby connection would ever come true. Well, I suppose I could just email Mr. Sandberg if I wanted to bug the poor guy, as a previous lamenting of Jupiter‘s loss on this site put me in contact with him, and we’d had some friendly interactions over the years. He even provided a good pile of his mini-comics for me to give away on Free Comic Book Day, which I thought was very kind.
He is still active artistically, creating fine art and children’s books (including the eBook Candy and the Cankersaur) and you can learn more about what he’s gettin’ up to over at jasonsandberg.com.
I don’t know how easy to find issues of Jupiter are…I’m not even sure we still have a full run at the shop, and I know I kept reordering copies from some of the indie distributors to have them around. But they’re definitely worth the search.
By the way, I reread all my issues of Jupiter just prior to writing this, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m hooked again…with no more to come! AAAAAUGH
So I was just poking through the Vast Mikester Comic Archives when I took note of the cover date on this comic.
Barring the usual cover-date-usually-a-month-or-three-off shenanigans usually involved in comics (though this was a small press book, and may actually have come out in April), this comic is now 20 years old.
The series is cartoonist Jeff Nicholson’s parody/homage/take-off on the Japanese giant-hero-versus-monsters TV show Ultraman, and unfortunately, this is the only issue of the series I own, so I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it. (You can read a more extensive appreciation of the series here.) Not sure why I wasn’t following it, exactly…Nicholson’s stories in this issue were amusing, and it wasn’t like I was shunning indies or black-and-white titles or anything. Probably just a case of “I can’t read everything” more than anything else.
But the reason I did buy this issue was due to it containing a back-up story by Yummy Fur‘s Chester Brown, in which his bunny character visits Japan and finds himself in the midst of one of Ultra Klutz’s monster battles:
Brown’s art seems a little more rough than normal, but still it’s an enjoyable short. And I’d completely forgotten about the fact that there’s a three-page Dishman
story in here as well. Yes, Dishman. Read about him at the link, there. (Someday I need to find the rest of the Dishman mini-comics to round out my collection.)
Anyway, I don’t really have a “review” as such of this comic….like I said, I grabbed it off the rack for the Brown back-up, was reasonably entertained by the rest of the book, and then stored the comic away. Plus, as far as I can remember, this is probably the first time I’ve read the comic since my original reading of it all those years ago. Mostly, I’m just amazed that, well, here’s something I just bought on a whim for a few minutes of entertainment…and here it is, still in my possession, two decades later.
And here I am, just a few lines of this post back, thinking about looking for more comics to buy to plug holes in the ol’ collection. We really are slaves to our possessions, sometimes.
But on the other hand, all those comics are helping to feed this here website, so it’s not all for nothing, I guess!
Gantar – The Last Nabu #1 (December 1986) – art by John A. Peck
Chester Brown, who brought us the alternately nightmarish/dreamlike comic book Yummy Fur (which gave us the immortal piece of dialogue “I’m not a penis! I’m the President of the United States!”), and the unfortunately truncated Underwater (not to mention the Bible adaptation back-ups in both series), recently had a hardcover collection of his Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography released by Drawn & Quarterly. It is honestly one of the best looking hardcovers I’ve ever seen.
In searching for links, I found a missing-the-point review of Yummy Fur collection The Playboy [EDIT: link dead] (the review from May 28, 2001), and some three-year-old news about a Yummy Fur movie [EDIT: link dead]. Wha huh? There’s a Yummy Fur band, too.
(post updated 7/2016)
Licensable Bear is a cute comic written by Nat Gertler, with a fun site to go with it.
Particularly amusing is the “Products They Should Have Licensed Me For” page.
(post updated 7/2016)