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So we’ve been receiving giant box after giant box from this one gentleman at the shop, each one filled to the brim with comic books, children’s books, toys, what-have-you, dating mostly from the late ’60s through the very early ’90s, with a few from earlier still. One unique element of this collection, very seemingly out of place amongst the ’70s Archie comics and miscellaneous Disney merchandise (including a – gulp! – $300 Donald Duck statue and an Uncle Scrooge “Gold Train” set that is probably even more expensive), was a pile of bagged ‘n’ boarded Silver Surfer #50s, approximately 100 in number, and you can see Employee Aaron with a small selection of them in a photo I posted on the store’s site.
Now, some of the items we didn’t really have any interest in or need for, mostly the children’s books, but this fellow who was selling them to us is in the process of moving and didn’t really want any of this stuff back. Thus, anything we didn’t end up buying, we ended up getting anyway. Alas, one of the reasons we didn’t want many of the children’s books was because, due to poor storage, the majority of them were water-damaged and / or moldy or otherwise just too damaged to be salvaged, and had to be discarded. As a former librarian, and as a lifelong lover of books, I hated disposing of them, but there was no helping it.
Some of the books were able to be saved, and I ended up taking home a bunch of them for myself…and in that pile was this little hardcover book (with dustjacket) from 1940:
About 40 pages or thereabouts, with little black and white illustrations and about three to four jokes per page, most of them about as good as this:
Yup, just full on making fun of overweight people, and
making sure to explain the pun with a parenthetical aside just in case you didn’t get it.
Okay, it’s not all terrible. I really like this dumb joke, although you would probably get punched for telling it and rightfully so:
The book also gets all religious-y on you out of nowhere, while simultaneously denying the ineffable essence of our cetacean brethren:
And just to emphasize that inherent superiority of soulful humans, here’s a joke that utilizes stereotyping of Chinese people:
That’s one of two
jokes in this book based around our Chinese friends, who are the only ethnicity singled out, surprisingly enough.
And, um, well:
Here’s a joke that probably got a whole lot funnier not much later:
The judges would also have accepted “Timothy Leary.”
The inner flap of the dustjacket features a short introduction to this volume, ending with
“This is a good size book to slip into your pocket and produce at a moment’s notice in order to confound your friends or superior adults who we guarantee will never be able to guess the answers.”
Well, yes, they’ll certainly be confounded:
There’s an extra helping of mental trauma in that joke, Little Billy! Enjoy your next meal!
from Famous Funnies #209 (Dec. 1953)
from Pep Comics #48 (May 1944)
From Detective Comics #355 (Sept. 1966):
Man, our Native American friends are always getting it in the shorts thanks to our old funnybooks. I’d like to think that, maybe, the comic is commenting on the short-sighted, stereotyping attitudes of some of the wrestling match’s audience members, but since the story also gives the Arizona Apache an “AIEEEEE” battle cry, well….
On the other hand, maybe it’s a subtle criticism of the usage of stereotypes within, not just the world of pro wrestling, but entertainment in general, which is a layer of metatext too great for some dumb mid-’60s Batman comic (which clearly just used these clichés to sell the character’s Indian-ness) to support without collapsing into a black hole of overanalysis.
Didn’t stop me from trying, though, did it? Sigh…such is the burden of the comics blogger.
In other news:
- I mentioned it here, and I gotta tell you, after the weekend, we’re down to one copy of Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters. Okay, we didn’t start with too many to begin with, but that we still managed to move copies of this book is just mildly stunning.
- Also following up on that Wednesday post of mine, we sold through all our Captain America #34s, but solely to our regular comic buyers. In our area, at least, all that real world coverage just preached to the converted, if it influenced them at all. So it did sell a little better than normal, just not “crazy better” like the “death” issue did. So, basically, it sold like we thought it would.
I’ve noticed that some of the real world coverage is still rolling out, here and there, so I suppose there’s still the possibility of a new customer or two curious enough about this here new Cap fella to make it to the shop and inquire after copies. ‘Course, they’ll have to wait until the “variant cover” 2nd printing, or the dreaded “Director’s Cut,” if they’re still interested.
- With that Project Superpowers #0 priced at a buck, people are a little more willing to buy two copies in order to get both halves of that Alex Ross connecting cover (pictured at the top left right here. It would have been nice to have one wraparound cover instead, however.
- If I may direct your attention to the sidebar for a little shameless shilling, I’d like to point out that due this week is the animated Turok Son of Stone DVD…I’ve only seen this trailer, which makes it look like it’s sticking, more or less, with the original concept of the character, and none of the sci-fi “dinos with guns” trappings tacked on later. Well, maybe with a lot more blood, but close enough. No idea if it’s any good, but thought some of you would like to know that it’ll be unleashed this Tuesday.
Also, I missed that the new Ms. Tree novel Deadly Beloved and the latest Wild Cards novel Inside Straight have been released. So, I thought I’d pass that info along (as well as Amazon store sidebar links, nudge wink) in case any of you missed that, too.
- So at the store, we regularly get free merchadise bags from a promotional company that produces said bags advertising various movies and TV shows. We’ve had Torchwood bags, and South Park bags, and, currently, we have a bunch of bags advertising the Terminator TV show. The box they came in was getting a little ratty, so I decided to move our stock of these things into a new container…and in the process, I found this little doodad, packed in among the plastic sacks:
It was a little Terminator flashlight keychain, which I thought was kind of a neat thing, so I threw it in my pocket and continued the repacking of the bags.
When I got home later that evening, the porch of my house was pretty dark, and I remembered that I had the flashlight on my person. Instead of briefly fumbling with the keys, trying to get the right one into the keyhole, I thought I’d save myself that one whole extra second and shed a little light on the matter. And I was surprised to see this:
I though it was just a plain ol’ flashlight, but it instead projects an ad for the show. That pic’s a little blurry, but you can see the Terminator skull and the logo. Cool!
I know, it doesn’t take much to amuse me. Also, it hasn’t inspired me to start watching the show, so I guess as a TV show promoter, it makes a good dark porch illuminator.
- For those of you that were wondering, and I bet you were…my copy of the Swamp Thing TV show DVD set came in the mail a couple days ago, containing two full seasons of wonder and beauty. Well, okay, actually it just contains the Swamp Thing TV show. There are a couple special features, interviews with the character’s co-creator Len Wein, and with the actor under the rubber swamp outfit, Dick Durock.
I only just started watching the episodes themselves, and I’d forgotten just how…metallic and gravelly, if you get my meaning, Swamp Thing’s voice sounded on this show. Also, I have lots and lots of footage of Arcane’s Dennis Miller-esque hairdo to look forward to.
I hadn’t seen the show in years, and for some reason, my brief exposures to the show left me with the impression that there were lots of shots of Swampy standing in bushes, behind walls, etc., all to save the cost of having to get poor Mr. Durock in the full get-up. I guess I’ll be seeing if that impression was true.
And remember, kids…do not bring your evil here, or face…
THE WRATH OF SWAMP THING
I don’t normally buy current publications from Archie Comics, and when I do, it’s almost always books that reprint their work from the ’60s and earlier. Such was the case with last week’s Archie Digest #236, which reprints Archie’s first appearance from Pep #22, along with a full reprinting of Archie #1 from 1942.
One of the stories from Archie #1 has Archie involved in a series of mix-ups on a train with another passenger, and the poor railroad porter gets caught in the shenanigans as well. The porter looks and talks like this:
I realize it’s no shock to anyone familiar with comic book history that racist caricatures of black people (and Asians, and Native Americans, and so on) were common in early stories (and this isn’t even the worst example from this particular story, with other panels including dialogue like “I done thought…” and “Mus’ be dat bump on yo’ had!”). Not having an original Archie
#1 lying around the house, I’m going to assume the porter has been recolored slightly for the reprint, even though all his stereotypical dialogue appears to have remained intact.
I’m not saying this shouldn’t have been reprinted as is. If you’re going to reprint your old material for historical purposes, it should be reprinted as it was, warts and all*. And that’s what folks have been doing…a glance through your Shazam Archives and your Golden Age Wonder Woman Archives, among others, will show you examples of political incorrectness similar to that bit of business with the porter. But these are high end reprints, aimed at comic collectors, who are presumably familiar with the poor way minority groups were portrayed. Disclaimers aren’t uncommon, noting the usage of such caricatures were typical of the time, and left unchanged for historical reference.
This Archie digest, however, is aimed at a young, general audience. It’s one of the few modern comics actually sold in places where people who aren’t comic fans shop. At my grocery store, they’re right up there at the checkout line, next to the TV Guide and the Weekly World News. How will kids take the porter’s portrayal — how will the parents? — particularly since there is no disclaimer that I can find noting the historical reasons for that portrayal.
I’m very curious as to the response Archie Comics will receive.
Okay, one last round of “Mike Remembers Barely Making It Through the 1990s:”
- Commenter Stavner asks
“Do you think we’ll ever see comic books back in supermarkets and convenience stores?”
It’d be nice, and in some cases apparently you can find comics in some convenience stores…but a widespread revival of this manner of distribution? Not unless 1) comics get a whole lot more popular, and 2) the profit potential for them is enough for store owners to risk valuable space on them.
“Do you think Gemstone will keep publishing Disney comics for very long?”
Hard to say…my gut feeling says “no,” since their number of publications has declined, and their prices have gone up. Their last Don Rosa reprint book has sold very well for us, though, so maybe there’s some life there yet.
- H of the Comic Treadmill doth ask
“There are those who insist that monthly super-hero comics will be dead sooner rather than later. Do you see a trend in that department? What’s your take on the viability of our beloved monthlies?”
I think if the price point of the standard comic book goes much higher, something is going to have to give. My guess is a regular comic book will eventually undergo some form of evolution, possibly into a much thicker publication with more stories, at a slightly higher price point (but giving a higher perceived value to the reader), and just loaded with ads to help subsidize the cost of the magazine.
There are a lot of economic factors there that I’m overlooking (such as whether or not a comic book publication could attract enough ads, and get enough money from them). At the very least, I don’t think monthly books will go away, but they’ll have to become something new to give readers more perceived value for their money.
- Commenter Roel asks
“Where the hell did all these investors come from in the first place? I mean, why did everyone suddenly get the idea that these comics would be worth a lot of money? Comics had been around for decades and decades, and then — all of a sudden, out of nowhere — all these non-comic book fans start investing in them? Why? Was there some sort of triggering event? I don’t get it.”
Apparently there was a large crash in the sports card market just prior, and it was just a lateral shift from collecting one thing to another…I don’t have exact details, but it appeared to be common knowledge at the time. I can personally testify to the number of investor-types requesting “comic book Becketts” — Beckett being the publisher of several sports card price guides — so that lends credence to that theory.
Also, the greater awareness of comics among the general populace, driven by movies and media-hyped events, combined with a possible economic downturn and plenty of newspaper stories dragging out the old “did you know old comics are worth money?” thing…that made comics a large, attractive target for investing, without all that “dealing with brokers” stuff.
“Oh, another question — why are you so remorseful about selling pogs? How is that any worse than selling, say, a trading card or an action figure? People wanted pogs, and they wanted to give you money in order to own them. What’s the big crisis of conscience there?”
Because I can see the value of a trading card or an action figure. Though technically, I realize, there’s only a slight difference between a trading card and a POG, but least trading cards were numbered, sometimes had cardback text, and could be put into sets. They had something to them. POGs (or, rather, milkcaps) were, with some exceptions, just random pictures on bits of round cardboard, and just felt to me like it was worthless junk. The alleged “game” involving milkcaps was essentially jacks or marbles, without the skill….you threw a heavy disc down onto a pile of cardboard discs. and you kept the ones that turned over, or some damned thing.
I understand this might just be bias on my part, since there are plenty of folks who think comics are worthless junk too, but even if customers were willing to part with their money for POGs, I felt like I was giving them nothing of value in return. I was essentially turning their money into crap. I know I should feel like this when I sell someone a copy of, say, Purgatori, but I don’t.
Yeah, cheap shot at Purgatori, sorry, but I can accept that someone might find entertainment value in that comic. Somehow. I just don’t see that value in milkcaps.
* As far as story content goes, anyway…I realize the comics in question have been recolored and (it seems) relettered for clarity.
So the Bunny family just happens to have a huge ol’ picture of the Pilgrims battling the natives hanging on the wall?
Here are a few more panels from Tip Top Comics #158 (Sept/Oct 1949) that I didn’t include with that previous post, since it didn’t seem terribly appropriate.
These panels are from the “Broncho Bill” story, and yes, I know it was a product of the time, and that in cowboy ‘n’ Indian stories, the Indians were gonna be the bad guys…but still, after reading Nancy and Sluggo and the Katzenjammer Kids in the same book? Yikes:
…And those last two panels ended this exciting installment, but with the promise that we’d get to see more authentic Native American portrayals in the very next issue of Tip Top
“You’re Black Lightning, aren’t you?” Well, duh
By the way, G.A., I know you meant it only as a diminutive version of Black Lightning’s superhero moniker, but you may want to rethink the nickname…someone might take it the wrong way:
Way to bail on Black Lightning, too, G.A. “Oh, this is your
fight, I’ll just be…well, I’m busy that night, sorry, man.”
(from World’s Finest #259 (May 1979) by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin & Frank Chiaramonte)
This is from an old WWII-era coverless comic I had floating around the house…I believe it’s an issue of Animal Comics
. It’s missing a couple of the interior pages, so all I have is the splash panel of the story (pictured above) and the two panels that follow:
Beyond the Indians getting the short end of the stick — again
— isn’t that a grotesque drawing of a dog? That’s not a funny animal…that’s a disturbing
Big Chief Wahoo #7 (Winter 1943/44?)
Man, early comic books were always sticking it to our Native American friends. Though, given how comics also treated Blacks and Asians, I suppose no one should be terribly surprised. At least in this instance Big Chief Wahoo was the star of the strip, but was still saddled with stereotypical Indian dialogue (“ugh” and “how” and “-um”s).
Lots more information on this remarkably non-politically correct character can be found at the excellent Toonopedia. This comic book is actually a collection of reprints of a comic strip, and as much as I like old strips, I am woefully uninformed regarding them. Therefore, it comes as a surprise to learn in that Toonopedia article that the Big Chief Wahoo strip, which was originally The Great Gusto, eventually became Steve Roper and Mike Nomad!
And, just for the heck of it, here are some Big Chief Wahoo gum packages.