Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fangoria #342

Fangoria magazine celebrates the Goddess of Gothic: Barbara Steele.  Enjoy a retrospective of the film Satan's Children, preview L.A. Slasher and Oliver Robins of the new Poltergeist is interviewed.

Fangoria goes on the set of We Are Still Here, catch another preview, this time of The Nightmare and the Borely Rectory goes underground.

Barbara Steele and Dick and Lainie Miller are interviewed, Lost River is featured, Mark Damon recounts his long horror film career and pack up and visit the Circus Of The Dead.

Preview Der Samurai and Burying The Ex, Joan Van Ark chats with Fangoria as does Brad Dourif and it's time to go to First Rites, drop of at the Postal Zone, beware of a Monster Invasion, Watch The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops, dream about the Nightmare Library and read The Dump Bin Diaries.

Watchmen #1

DC Comics' Watchmen 12-part maxi-series changed everything!

Back in 1986 writer Alan Moore proposed a revolutionary new idea for a comic book series to DC Comics' executives.'

DC Comics had purchased the rights and characters from the defunct Charlton Comic Book company.

Key characters DC purchased were Captain Atom, The Question, Peacemaker, Blue Beetle, Nightshade and Thunderbolt.

Moore wanted to stir up things a bit and outlined a story were the Charlton heroes acted, reacted and often behaved badly like ordinary people did. 

He also wanted to emphasis the point that people with super powers can make foolish, bad and dangerous decisions and are as fallible as the ordinary guy on the street. What would real super-beings be like if they existed?

At first DC embraced the idea.  But, as with most corporate politics, the decision was made to stay with the status quo.  Meaning that DC bigwigs didn't want to soil the Charlton characters.

Moore then proceeded to create his own characters based on the Charlton characters.  They were The Comedian, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Nite-Owl and Rorschach- all members of the Watchmen.

In issue #1 Rorschach investigates the death of The Comedian who was thrown out of a high rise upper floor and plummeted to his death.

As the story progresses Moore skillfully introduced the members of the Watchmen  and their reactions to The Comedian's death and offered a hint to as yet an unknown conspiracy.

By doing so Moore compelled readers to follow the story each issue offering just enough clues to whet readers' curiosities.  In addition the back-up stories about the original Watchmen and a parallel pirate story added to the mystery and suspense Moore so skillfully laid out.

Artist Dave Gibbons (another Brit brought to the United States by DC) provided the art.

Gibbons had garnered quite a reputation for himself on his stellar work at DC, among them a lengthy run on Green Lantern.

With Watchmen Gibbons let his creative energies run wild.  Every panel evoked a darkness and complexity mirroring Moore's script.

Visual clues were sprinkled throughout the max-series, culminating in one of the most talked about final issues ever created for comic books.

With Watchmen Moore and Gibbons ushered in (with fellow writer/artist Frank Miller) the 'Dark Age' of comic books.  Suddenly heroes became almost indistinguishable from villains and villains from heroes.

It would be nearly a decade later before a gradual change back to a defined line between good and evil was reestablished. 


Even today superheroes cross the line.  Comic books had suddenly grown up and the fan base ate it up.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction #720, July/August

Novella by Rachel Pollack

Novelets by Tamsyn Muir, Van Aaron Hughes, and Matthew Hughes

Short stories by Richard Chwedyk, James Patrick Kelly, Oliver Buckram, Betsy James, Naomi Kritzer, and Gregor Hartmann

Departments include:

Charles de Lint’s Books to Look For, on titles by Alex Bledsoe and others

Books by James Sallis, on a novel by Laura van den Berg

Films by Kathi Maio, covering Cinderella and Merchants of Doubt

Science column by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty

Traveling Through Time a “Plumage from Pegasus” vignette by Paul Di Filippo

Curiosities by Bud Webster, on a book by Peter Beagle

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Alpha Flight #1

Fresh off his successful run as penciller on Marvel Comics' The Uncanny X-Men, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, John Byrne began writing and penciling Marvel's flagship title: The Fantastic Four.

While on his run on the X-Men both he, and writer Chris Claremont, introduced a Canadian superhero team that Wolverine originally belonged to until he left and joined the X-Men: Alpha Flight.

Alpha Flight caught on with Marvel Comic book readers and at the urging of Marvel John Byrne introduced the team in its own comic book of which he wrote, drew and inked.

In the book readers were introduced to the team members, among them Vindicator, Sasquatch, Aurora, Northstar, Puck, Snowbird, Marrina and Puck.

The first issue also pitted against the team against their first foe: Tundra.

It was also in this issue that each member of the team was given their due.  Backgrounds, kinships and the entire dynamic of the team were shown. 

Considering the amount of pages in the first issue, John Byrne did an excellent job covering such a broad area.

Over the following issues Byrne would guide the team through a series of adventures, even the death of one its members.


Alpha Flight continues to be a part of the Marvel Comics Universe but it has never regained its popularity that it had under Byrne's creative guidance. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Maggie

What would you do if your child was infected by a zombie virus and you were forced to watch them slowly turn into a flesh eating atrocity?

Would you leave them to their fate or would you do everything in your power to try and save them?

That's the situation Wade finds himself in as he watches his beloved daughter Maggie, (as played by Abigail Breslin) slowly, inevitably turn into a zombie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger proves that he's not all muscle and brawn as he takes on a completely new type of role for himself: one as a concerned father who will do whatever it takes to save his daughter.

Sure, there's enough tough-guy Arnold moments but Schwarzenegger shows a surprisingly tender side as tries to protect his daughter from those would kill her before he has the chance to find a cure.

Maggie, from Lionsgate, is a different kind of small movie most people would not expect Arnold to tackle.  It just goes to show there is more than just muscle behind Arnold, there's also a heart.

Extras included on the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD include: a making of featurette, a deleted scene, interviews and commentary.

Crisis On Infinite Earths #1

The DC Comics Universe was a mess.  For years DC writers and artists had thrown continuity out the window.  To make matters worse during the Silver Age the concept of alternate universes and Earths was used to maximum effect.

So many Supermen, Wonder Women, Batmen and other DC heroes and villains existed readers needed a score card just to keep track.

Meanwhile Marvel Comics', DC's chief competitor, sales numbers continued to increase.  While DC's Universe lacked consistency and continuity, Marvel thrived on the fact that it had both.

Something had to be done.

Writer Marv Wolfman (along with penciller George Perez) pitched the idea of a massive event that would 'clean the slate' of the DC Universe and kick-start it with a whole new beginning.

DC execs agreed and in 1985 DC Comics' Crisis On Infinite Earth maxi-series was launched.

The series found the entire DC Universe in a state of flux.  Entire alternate Earths and universes were destroyed by a devastating ant-force.  Billions died, including many of DC's alternate heroes and villains.

The series tied into all of DC's titles and as Crisis progressed changes swept the DC Universe. 

The first issue set up the 'Crisis' and introduced several key players: most notably the Monitor, Pariah, Harbinger and a mysterious dark force.

Later key DC heroes would die: the Flash and Supergirl among them.

Once finished the series would alter and condense the DC Universe into a manageable cohesive entity.

Several important mini and maxi series would occur during the 1980s,  Besides Crisis, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke and Watchmen would forever change the DC Universe and greatly affect how comic book sorties were told.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sons Of Anarchy and Breaking Bad

Two cable TV shows have pushed the envelope of acceptable content on TV.  Both series have recently ended.
Sons Of Anarchy, is edgy, in-your-face and often shocking.
Recently Mezco Toyz created a series of figures based on the series' characters.
One its 12-inch figures, Jax Teller, President, showcases just how much careful detail and work went into each figure in the series.
Jax stands defiantly with his tattooed right arm resting on his right hip.  Three fingers have rings and can hold the knife packaged with the figure.  His left arm hangs to his side and the left hand's thumb barely touches the chain hanging from his left pants pocket.
The figure is clothed in blue denim pants nod vest, white t-shirt and white tennis shoes.
Pay particular attention how the partial articulation points are cleverly placed as to not detract from the figure itself.
Clothing folds and wrinkles follow the contour of the figure and look natural.  Little extras like the silver buttons on the vest, the t-shirt sleeve stitching, how the folds follow the slight bend in Jax's legs, the silver chain, rings on the fingers, tattoos on the hands and arms of the figure and even the 'President: Men of Mayhem and Redwood Original' blue text on the four white horizontal strips on the front of Jax's vest, along with other text makes the figure look incredibly realistic.
Jax's face is a study in tempered anger.  His blond hair is combed straight back while his blond eyebrows and slightly pointed blond beard give his scowling face and almost devilish look.
Check out his the piercing look of his eyes made even more so by the clever 'moist' accent.  I really like the layered look the cloths have and the paint and color application is spot on with no ragged edges, clean crisp details and a careful attention to application.
The sculpting work is perfect capturing the look and feel of the actual character.  The face and hands are especially impressive.
Jax comes in a clear front panel display box dressed up with the Sons Of Anarchy logo and pictures of Jax and the other series characters on its side and back.
The 6-inch Opie figure, although smaller, is equally impressive.  Facial, body and accessory sculpting is top rate with lots of attention given to the stance and composure of the articulated figure. 
Opie has long dark hair and a beard.  He comes dressed entirely in black: jacket, shirt, vest, pants, boots and each piece of clothing looks realistic with its folds and wrinkles.
He too has writing on his jacket.  Other details include his under vest's silver zipper, silver belt buckle, long silver chain hanging from his right side and the long knife, included with the figure, which can be clutched in either hand.
Opie's face is well defined, yet stern, with his combed back hair accented his receding hairline, sharp features and deep set eyes.
The figure comes in a clear bubble pack decorated with the show's logo and photos of the other figures in the series on the back.
Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Beauty and the Beast) stars as Clay in the series and Mezco has recreated hs figure in Booblehead form.
Although the figure features an oversize head and small figure there is no mistaking Ron Perlman's face. Long and narrow, his gray beard short cropped gray hair and deep scowl are easily identifiable. 
He stands with legs apart and with his hands in his pockets.  Tattoos are visible as is his watch and silver chain.  His attire consists of dark jeans, t-shirt, vest and heavy black work boots. 
Packaging is a small study box with clear front panel decorated with logo and photos.
The Breaking Bad 12-inch Heisenberg partially articulated figure has every bit of detail as the large Jax Teller figure.
Packaging is similar and like the Jax figure the Heisenberg figure is securely fastened into place with plastic tie cords and snuggly nestled in a form fitting clear plastic cocoon.
Clothing details are impressive with his black jacket with silver zipper, maroon shirt with white buttons, black pants with black belt and silver buckle, white t-shirt and black shoes.
His trademark black hat and sunglasses are also included.
Realistic clothing folds, wrinkles and body conforming wraparounds are the rule of the day with the clothing.
Heisenberg's bald head with his reddish brown eyebrows and goatee make his pale face almost glow showing off partially closed eyes.
Look how gaunt and stressed the figure's face is.  You can almost feel the inner tension.
Sculpting is tight and realistic with no rough edges of flashing of any kind.  Color application is smooth, clean and very accurate.
The Jesse Pinkman 6-inch, articulated figure comes with a gas mask tray and chili pepper-all very accurate and perfectly in scale.
Jesse is dressed in a full body yellow jump suit with full torso white zipper. His white t-shirt shows at the neck.  He wears black and white tennis shoes.
His short hair accents his pale skin tone, high forehead and chiseled brow and down swept eyes.  Facial and body details capture the look of the real Jesse, right down to his thin lips and small ears.
Packaging is similar to the Opie figure.
Saul Goodman's figure is more flamboyant with his flashing turquoise shirt and yellow tie and black suit coat and pants, black belt with silver buckle and yellow handkerchief in his suit coat's pocket.
A 'Better Call Saul' business card is included.
Saul stands with arms raised and right hand pointing as if making a sale.  Like Jesse his features capture the look of the real character with his receding hairline, sideburns and narrow face and determined look.
Clothing and color detail is perfect with nice little details.  Like all of the figures mentioned the sculpting is extremely well done as is the entire figure presentation.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Magnum Robot Fighter #1

It's been said that great things always start small.  And in the case of comic books getting a huge resurgence in popularity and readership, it's true.

Not long after he was ousted (fired, quit, retired) form Marvel Comics as its Editor-In-Chief, Jim Shooter still wanted to be in the comic book industry and shake up things a bit.

With a few financial backers, Jim started Valiant Comics and acquired the rights to publish comic books based on Nintendo properties.

While the sales numbers were respectable, Jim wanted to get back into mainstream comics.  He was able to acquire the rights to the old Gold Key characters, Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok and Doctor Solar.

Helming the writing chores, Jim launched a limited print run of Magnus Robot Fighter with the assist from artist Art Nichols with inks by Bob Layton (another former Marvel Comics artist) and Kathryn Bolinger, colorist Janet Jackson, letterer Jade and editor Don Perlin.

I remember ordering the book through Diamond's Preview catalog as I was a big fan of Magnus growing up.  The book garnered enough advance orders to justify a print run.

Suddenly Shooter had a hit on his hands.  The initial 4-issue 'Steel Nation' storyline resonated with fans of the old series and new readers, pleased with the writing and art, rushed to find an issue.

Being that the print run was small (approximately 20,000) there were not enough issues to go around.  The series became hot!

Shooter also instituted something that made the books even more sought after.  In each of the four issues a set of four trading cards were included as 'coupons'.  Fans could send in all four sets and in return receive by mail a special #0 Magnus.

The response was phenomenal.  It also made complete early Magnus Robot Fighter issues even more valuable and sought after.

At about that same time Image Comics came into being and taking a clue from Valiant, it too began offering 'special' incentives and 'limited edition' special covers.

The comic book glut of the early 1990s was soon in full swing.

Speculators began snatching up huge runs of comic books hoping they would escalate in value.
Problem.  The more copies of a book printed, the less the value.  When the speculators went to 'cash in' on their investments they discovered that the books were worth (in most cases) less than they paid for them.

Speculators pulled out and suddenly comic book companies were stuck with huge print runs of comic books that no one was buying.

As a result many companies went under (Valiant included), shops, stuck with inventory no one bought, closed their doors and the comic book industry almost died.

It is true that big things start small. But, in the case of Valiant Comic Books what started out as a publishers' desire to create great stories and art, grew to an infectious monster that almost destroyed the health and life of an entire industry.

The blame should not be placed only on Valiant's doorstep.  Greed took its toll on publishers, speculators, investors, collectors and the entire industry.

Under new management, Valiant is back in the comic book publishing business and is doing quite well.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Currier & Ives Dinnerware

During the 19th Century and part of the 20th Century Currier & Ives prints were much sought after art prints.  Calendars, posters and various other merchandise often featured the prints.  The public loved them.
Imagine taking such much beloved prints and putting them on dinnerware.   It was a huge success and much sought after by collectors of Currier & Ives Dinnerware today.
Schiffer Publishing and Debbie and Randy Coe present a brand new book: Currier & Ives Dinnerware, that traces the history of manufacturing of the dinnerware by the Royal China Company.
Full color photos, brief descriptions and price listings make this book an invaluable guide to any Currier a& Ives collector.  

The Saga Of The Swamp Thing #21

It's that time again.  Time for a another comic book history lesson.

Since I've seriously curtailed my new comic book purchases I thought it would be interesting and informative to go back over the last few decades and write about certain comic books that changed people's perceptions of comic books, pivotal moments and first appearances of key characters.

Back in the early 1980s DC Comics'  bigwigs decided that they needed some new blood and talent to shake up DC's titles and boost sales.

One of the key factors was to travel to the British Isles and draft a whole slew of new writers.  Alan Moore was one of those.

Moore had garnered a name for himself with his stories in British comic books.  His quirky, insightful and unique scripts were just the thing DC Comics needed.

Moore accepted DC's offer and after a few random stories he was offered the writing reins on The Sage Of the Swamp Thing beginning with issue #19.

Issues 19 and 20 saw Moore getting his creative writing feet under him-sort of feeling out the character and then came issue #21!

In that one issue Moore set the entire world of The Swamp Thing on its collective ear and totally shocked the comic book fan base as well as many of the professional employed by DC, Marvel and a handful of other publishers.

In the story a captured, and supposedly dead Swamp Thing has been taken back to a laboratory for study by Dr. Woodrue (astute comic book collector's should recognize that name).

While there The Swamp Thing's body is frozen, preventing it from defrosting and springing back to life.

In an orchestrated 'accident' The Swamp Thing revives and discovers that it is not a man who turned into a plant but a plant that thought it was a man!

For years it was thought that Dr. Alex Holland's consciousness had been transferred to swamp plants after his body was consumed in flames and chemicals that somehow let the transference happen.

When The Swamp Thing discovered who he really was, his reaction was not pleasant, especially toward the man who was responsible for his capture.

After issue #21 hit the stands and the fan base and comic book creators took notice, a notable change occurred in the quality of stories found in comic books. 

Other British writers were drafted and encouraged to follow their own muse and before long an entire industry changed.


Moore would later go on to write his ground-breaking Watchmen series, several key DC issues, his own imprint: America's Best Comics, and successfully pave the way for the 'Dark Age' of comic books along with his fellow British scribes and another writer/artist who managed to shake things up: Frank Miller.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jurassic Adventures, Sherlock Homes and Television Legends

I'm a sucker for classic TV shows, Legendary TV performers and movies about dinosaurs.
As it turns out Mill Creek Entertainment has just released three DVD collections that fit all three descriptions.

Jurassic Adventures presents a four movie collection : two based on classic books by Jules Verne and two modern pieces, one original and one a follow up to a Verne classic.

If you like tales of prehistoric times then you've got to check out Adventures In Dinotopia, The Lost World, Return To The Lost World and Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

For a slightly more modern TV series based on another literary classic-this time by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, be sure to look for TV Guide Classics Sherlock Holmes The Complete Series of 39 episodes.

Starring Ronald Howard as the astute Edwardian detective, the TV series was shot in France and includes all of Sherlock's most interesting and dangerous cases.

There are certain TV personalities that define the medium.  Three legendary and trend-setting comedians make up this 17 hour tribute DVD.  They are Mr. Television: Milton Berle, Mr. Late Night: Johnny Carson and Mr. Tightwad: Jack Benny.

For classic comedy without all the filth and obscenities so prevalent with today's comedians, TV Guide Television Legends serves up plenty of chuckles and guffaws.

My Life With Comic Books

My love for comic books began in a hospital.  You'd never know to look at me now but when I was young I was a small and sickly child.  I was born prematurely, weighing in at just over five pounds.  I tended to get sick easily.

At five years old I developed a severe case of dehydration.  As a result I was put in the children's ward for two weeks at St. Joseph's Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan.

Children wards back in the 1950s usually consisted of about a half dozen small beds in a single room.  Children who were sick, for various reasons, shared the rooms.  The nursing staff would make frequent visits, checking on each child.

I remember my hospital visit vividly.  Those who were sick, but not operated on, were placed in rooms shared with children who had their tonsils or appendix out.  Back then a tonsillectomy required children to stay in a hospital for at least a week and their recovery was not always a pleasant one.  Children coughed, their throats bled and they seemed to constantly cry.

I was one of the fortunate ones in that my bed was tucked away in a corner.  I had very little contact with the other children except when I started to recover and was allowed to play in the hallway-usually wheelchair races!

My mother would faithfully visit me each day.  We lived 20 plus miles away in the small town of Milford, Michigan.  

Mom would hitch a ride with my older half-brother Dallas who worked at Pontiac Motors, who dropped her off at General Hospital in downtown Pontiac.  From there she would take a bus to St. Joseph's on the north end of town. 

In order to kill time before the bus would arrive she would stop at the local Salvation Army and Good Will stores to look through clothing and other items and to buy me some reading material-comic books!

Both stores had large vertical racks that were stuffed with hundreds of comic books dating back to the Golden Age.  My mom would buy me two dollars worth of comic books at two for five cents about twice a week.

Because she was unsure of what I liked she would purchase a hodgepodge of titles ranging from funny animals to superheroes comic books.  Little did she realize she created a whole new addiction for me-comic books.

My favorites were Harvey Comics with Casper The Friendly Ghost, Spooky, Wendy The Good Little Witch, Dot, Little Lulu, Baby Huey and the like.  Following close behind were Batman, Superman, Strange Tales and a smattering of war and monster comics. 

Occasionally a propaganda filled WWII comic book was thrown in for good measure.  Often they would depict the Japanese as fanged or buck tooth caricatures and the Nazi as savage, disfigured monsters.  

A Japanese grade school friend of mine, Ben, loved them for some reason-especially the funny-looking Japanese soldiers.  Go figure.

During the summer I would go with my mom twice a week back to the hospital for her allergy treatments.  We'd always stop at the Goodwill and Salvation army stores, she would shop, I would pick out a few comic books and we would be on our way.

While my mother got her treatment I would sit in the waiting room content to read my latest stash of comics.  Several months later I was back in the hospital, this time for tonsillitis.  I was one of the fortunate few who recovered quickly from the operation with little pain. 

Once again my family would supply me with a steady stream of comic books further feeding my addiction.  Once back home and in school I shared my hobby with other kids, swamping issues and regaling each other with the cool adventures in the various titles.

When summer rolled around, I fell back into the twice a week regiment of accompanying my mom to the hospital.  Only this time something happened that would radically affect the type of comic books I would read from then on.

It was 1961. I was eight. After shopping at the Salvation Army we were walking to the Goodwill store.   Along the way there was a magazine street vendor. Hanging on the side of his portable magazine kiosk was a rack containing comic books.  Needless to say, I had to take a look. 

On the lower part of the rack, tucked behind a DC title was a strange comic book.  On its cover was a quartet of people who obviously had super powers but they were not wearing costumes!

I was intrigued.  Even more startling was the fact that one of them appeared to be a large orange monster.  They were battling a large green creature which had broken through a city street.  The title, of course, was the Fantastic Four #1.  

Little did I realize at the time that that one comic book would profoundly affect me for the rest of my life.

Up until that point I had never bought a new comic book.  I was enamored with the Fantastic Four comic and dug a dime out of my pocket and paid the vendor.  I rolled up the comic and put it in my back pocket.  

Right about now comic book collectors are repressing a group chill.   Folding a comic book!?  Especially one as valuable as Fantastic Four #1!?  Were you nuts!?

You have to realize that back in the 1950s and early 1960s comic books were a disposable form of entertainment.  No one realized at the time that a simple comic book, priced at 10 cents, would become a valuable collectible.

We continued onto the Goodwill store when I bought a few more titles with my allowance.  But, my mind could not get off of the new comic book I had bought. 

We arrived at the hospital after taking the bus and as my mother received her treatments I unrolled the comic book and began to read it!

Wait a minute!  These so called heroes argued with each other!  In fact one of them resented having super powers!  It boggled my young mind.  Superheroes are supposed to like each other!  They never argue. And the Thing doesn't like being the Thing!?  What kind of comic book is this!?

I had to see more of this strange phenomenon.  And I did.  Over the following two years I began to pick up all of the fledgling Marvel Comics titles.  Still the Fantastic Four was my favorite, followed by Spider-Man.  For the next few years my stable of comic books consisted of mainly Marvel Comics, although I still enjoyed other titles. but not as much as Marvel's

During the summer my mother and I would visit my Aunt Esther's farm in Kentucky beginning when I was around eight years old.  

We would usually spend about a month at my Aunt's farm.  This went on until I was in my early teens. While on our Greyhound trip to visit my aunt we would stop off at my Aunt Dorothy's home in Dayton Ohio.  Down the street was a small grocery and, you guessed it, there were comic books!

Our trips from Michigan would start at the Greyhound station in Pontiac where my brother would drop us off on his way to work.  From there we would catch a bus to Detroit to the main Greyhound terminal.  Our stopover was usually two to three hours.

I would walk around the terminal and frequent the pay phones every few minutes.  There was a whole bank of them and by monitoring the callers I would check the phones just used and pick up any spare change left over from calls.

By the end of our stopover I would have in excess of $10 in dimes, which was a lot of money back then.  That would be my spending money while on vacation.  One guess as to what I would spend it on?

My aunt's farm was located a little over one mile from a small village.  A Rexall Drugstore was located there that also housed a soda fountain.  Once a day I would walk into the village, stop by the drugstore, buy a soda pop or milkshake, spin the comic book rack and select a few titles and head back to my aunt's.

The next day I would start the whole routine over again.  By the time our visit was over I had accumulated a large stack of comic books which I reread during our bus trip back home.

Back home I had started a paper route and with part of the money each week I would go to Foster's Rexall Drugstore on Thursdays and pick out the latest and greatest comic books-mostly Marvel.  Mr. Foster always made sure I saw the new comic books before anyone else. What a guy!

It was about that time that I began my long friendship with the man who would help fan my comic book collecting flame, the owner of The Shutter Shop, Mr. John Doliber.

Mr. Doliber was a comic book collector before there was such a thing.  His passion was Golden Age comics.  They were the books he grew up with and he was fanatical about collecting them.  In fact, almost his entire store's basement was stacked with comic books.

Occasionally he would sort through his stacks and sell me, at a reduced price, a key issue I was missing from my Fantastic Four collection.  Mr. Doliber was also a frustrated comic book artist and he would spend his free time recreating his favorite Golden Age comic book covers in pen and marker.

I too started drawing and to my surprise I discovered I was quite good at it.  I was no Neal Adams, but I could swing a pretty mean pencil-or so I thought.

During the  summer of 1970 Mr. Doliber asked me if I would like to attend a comic book convention being held in Detroit and help him with his booth.  I said yes, of course, and so I was off to my very first comic book convention--and what a convention it was!

I got to meet Jim Steranko, Berni Wrightson, Rich Buckler and a host of other famous and up and coming artists.  There was an art gallery there and it seemed like I looked at the art for hours.  Hard to believe, but most comic book pages sold for around $5!

I realized then that I wanted to become a comic book artist.  I submitted work to Marvel and while I didn't get to work from them then Marvel editor John Romita Sr. sent me a very nice letter encouraging me to keep trying.

During that same time period I made friends with a boy my age named Paul.  Paul's parents owned an auction house and my mother and I would stop by about once a week to visit and see what was up for sale.

Paul's dad kept a foot locker filled with old comics and he would let me go through them and pick out what I liked at 15 cents a piece.  A little steep for the time but I gladly paid the price for issues I was missing.

Then the unthinkable happened.  I discovered girls and lost interest in comic books.  They were too 'immature' for me.  I sold my collection to a friend and for the next few years I never touched a comic book.  I started college, got a girlfriend, worked and did the whole 'teenage' thing.  After two years of college I was ready for some time off.

In 1973, at the age of 20, I moved to Homestead, Florida to visit my brother who had moved there to work for Southern Bell.  I wound up staying while my brother and his family moved back to Michigan.  Mom decided to move to Florida and for a time we shared an apartment.

I worked at a local five and dime, got my own place and on my first trip to the local food store: Minor's, I stepped back into the world of comic books. 

Minors had a small wire rack with old comics selling at 15 cents each.  Over the next year I reacquired many of the old comic books I loved as a kid and began buying new ones at a local drug store.

After two years I received a scholarship from the University Of Miami and moved on campus in 1975, sans comic books.  Graduating in 1977 I moved back to Homestead, met my future wife, married in 1979 and moved to Grapevine, Texas where I was a staff illustrator for a Christian publishing house.

The job lasted only a year as the upper management and myself had a difference of opinion about editorial decisions.  It was also there that my manager, Mr. Ward, made it clear that superhero comics were an 'abomination to God'.  After all who ever heard of humans with super powers?  Although it seemed perfectly normal for animals to wear clothes and talk in 'normal' comic books to him.

Mr. Ward brought in some Golden Age comic books that his grandmother had left him and unceremoniously declared that he would be destroying the superhero comics but keeping the funny animal ones.  If what he told me what he had was true many a mint superhero comic book collection was destroyed.  It boggles the mind!

My wife and I lived in Texas for two years.  One day we stopped in at a local used book store and as fate would have it the store owner had just procured a box of comic books.

I was immediately drawn to the John Byrne X-Men and Frank Miller Daredevils.  I bought most of them.  My addiction to comic books had reasserted itself!

Not long thereafter I found a comic book shop not far from my new job with Homelite.  The shop, Remember When, had a weekly comic book pull service and I quickly signed up for The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans.  Each week I would buy two or three back issues, mostly the X-Men.

In 1981 we decided to move back to Homestead.  We owned a home there that we rented out.  We stopped by Jacksonville, Florida on the way to visit my wife's older sister Paula and her husband Sherwood.  We wound up staying with them and within a month I was working at an Ad Agency: Hal Davis and Associates.

Over the next nine years I learned a lot about advertising and graphic design-all the while buying new comic books each week at a local comic book shop: Xeno's.

Frank and Mary Xeno were the owners and through them I met with and associated with other comic book fans, some comic book professionals and even for a short period wound up doing freelance work for Frank's fledgling comic book publications through Bill Black's Americomics.  My work never saw print.  Frank and Bill went with some foreign artists in order to save money.  Both titles only lasted a few issues.

Occasionally I would find a stash of old comics at flea markets, used book stores and garage sales.  I traded some new titles to some friends who just wanted some reading materials for their Silver and Bronze Age comics.  A large percentage of my current collection consists of books traded during that time.

After leaving the ad agency I worked for Educational Community Credit Union in the marketing department.  The comic book speculator glut of the early 1990s was in full swing and in order to pay for my comic book addiction I worked one night a week at Xeno's, pricing old comic books.

Customers got in the habit of stopping by and asking me about old comics and back issues sales went up nearly 500%.  That was great.  The only problem was I wasn't getting my work done.  I asked the store manager if he would object to me writing a single-page "What's Hot and What's Not" newsletter for customers to read instead of taking up my time.  He agreed.

I had no way of knowing that that decision would profoundly affect my life from that point on.

After a few issues it became obvious that my newsletter (Comics' Corner) was catching on fast with fans.  What started out as a single page, one-side publication soon blossomed to a single-page, both sides to a two-page, both-sides, four-page, both-sides publication that all of Xeno's stores carried.  As the word got around other shops in the area wanted to carry the newsletter and before I knew it I had a sizable audience.

After roughly a year of publication one of Xeno's customers, Karl, approached me about doing a cable TV show about comics that we would both host.  After a couple of failed pilot episodes and discovering that 'public access' cable is not about really being free, it depends on whose palm you grease, my TV career hit a dead end.

Something far more important happened because of it.  While setting up our pilots I suggested to Karl that we contact some comic book companies for samples of their books to review and use as giveaways.  I made up some stationary and the first company I contacted was Valiant Comics.

Valiant was riding high on popularity and it just so happened they had created special issues (gold covers, etc.) as prizes for their readers who promoted their books.  It was a match made in heaven.  Soon Valiant Comics came streaming in.

After our failed attempt at a cable show, Karl had to bow out because his job required more time from him.   I carried on with Comics Corner.  I figure if Valiant Comics would supply review samples why not other comic book companies?  I sent out a bundle of letters and before long, boxes of review samples started showing up at my door.

This was before e-mail had become a common form of communication. 

I figured since comic book collectors usually collected more than comics I expanded my coverage to include toys, trading cards, books, etc.  More letters went out and soon boxes of review merchandise showed up almost every day of the week.  My newsletter continued to grow in readership and merchandise continued to arrive.

Much of the items I received I either gave away or had contests so readers could share in the goodies.  When the 100th issue of Collectors' Corner (I renamed it to better suite its purpose) I approached publishers and manufacturers about donating items for a massive giveaway.

They responded-boy, did they respond!  So much merchandise arrived that I not only had a Grand Prize but First, Second, Third and Fourth prizes!  The Fourth Prize winner went away with over a box filled with merchandise.  Imagine what the Grand Prize winner received!

Things went along smoothly through the 1990s.  The newsletter was doing well.  The comic book industry survived the speculator and black and white glut, Marvel barely avoided bankruptcy, the Dark Age of comics brought real life to comics, Vertigo Comics introduced 'mature' titles, comic book companies came and went and suddenly the internet hit like gangbusters.

Collectors' Corner survived because of ad money from retailers.  As paper and printing costs rose, I downsized the newsletter, mailed out electronic PDFS and eventually converted the entire publication over to a website and blog.

When Comics Corner was first born very few publications of its type existed.  It catered to a small demographic of people and did quite well.  As the age of the internet approached more and more collectors created basically 'fly-by-night' websites hoping to score review samples from companies.   

Most were found out and unfortunately those of us with legitimate websites and who had been publishing for years were clustered in with them.

Some websites claimed 'millions of readers per day' which is ludicrous.  I've discovered many of these so-called mega-sites count their readership from strikes of websites linked to their own.  

Collectors never really visit their sites but visitor counters count them as if they did.  Many sites have gone so far as to fake their numbers by using software that constantly hits on their sites so their numbers look far larger than they are.

It is getting more and more difficult to convince companies that Collectors' Corner is the perfect avenue by which they can contact collectors.  It seems everyone is interested in numbers over quality.  So it goes.

I've never claimed to have a huge readership.  But, those that do visit my sites are serious collectors and they buy collectible merchandise-lots of it.  Publishers and manufacturers need to take note of those facts.

Enough ranting.  While my week to week new comic book purchasing days are long gone since I retired, I still purchase a few titles now and then.  Honestly comic books are getting too expensive. 

I love looking through my old issues.  I encourage others to take up the hobby and I'm satisfied that I will have wonderful comic book memories until the day I die. 

I sure hope there are comic books in Heaven!

Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

Comic books have become a mainstream pop phenomenon.  Or rather, the comic book characters themselves have entered the collective consciousness of the public's minds.  

Superheroes especially.  Many movie goers have never picked up a comic book.

People still buy comic books, but in dwindling numbers.  Which probably partially accords for the increase in costs.  Now that I'm retired I can no longer afford to buy new comics in any quantity.

The majority of today's collectors know very little of the history of comic books and how they have evolved over the decades.

Like any other medium comic books changed with the times.  Comic books have always been on the cutting edge of societal evolution.

Marvel Comics' Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 is a perfect example.

Back in the mid to late 1960s artist/writer Jim Steranko virtually recreated comic book story-telling on his own.

After a brief stint at Harvey Comics Jim brought his portfolio to Stan Lee at Marvel Comics.
Stan was so impressed by Jim's work that he assigned him to take over the creative chores of Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seen in Marvel's Strange Tales.

With a little layout guidance from veteran comic book artist Jack Kirby Jim totally transformed the title into comic books' version of James Bond.

Steranko introduced Op Art, Pop Art, visual effects, striking perspective and point of view panels, experimental color schemes and much more.

His stint on Fury became so popular and profitable that Stan and Marvel graduated Nick Fury up to a full issue series of its own.

With issue #1 Steranko let loose his creative muse.  The story stats out with several pages with no dialogue and proceeds at breakneck speed to introduce a new villain (Scorpio) and pits Nick against his own organization.

It presents a stunning visual cinematic story.

The series would continue to revolutionize comic book graphics and writing for several issues until Steranko couldn't keep up with the monthly schedule.

Steranko would then go on to revitalize Captain America, the X-Men and the occasional single issue.


Steranko's body of comic book work was relatively small but highly influential.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Diary Of A Jackwagon

If you've never seen a video of or attended a live stand-up comedy routine of Tim Hawkins you need to. The guy is hilarious and here's the kicker!  He's a Christian and all of his jokes and routines are clean.
In this age of where obscenities and rude behavior are considered comedy Tim Hawkins goes against the grain and proves that humor can be clean, wholesome and downright hilarious.
Tim's new book, from Nelson Books, Diary Of A Jackwagon, contains tidbits of wit and wisdom from Tim that are as every bit as funny as his standup routine. 
For over 20 years Tim has proven that clean humor is funny humor and he must be doing something right as his social network numbers continue to climb into the millions.
Within the book Tim shares his unique takes on marriage, family, work and all other aspect of life, even aging and death.
Once you pick up this book you'll have a hard time putting it down unless its to massage your ribs from laughing so hard.

Previews, July

COMIC BOOKS & GRAPHIC NOVELS
Jughead #1 l ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS
Crossed +100 Volume 1 TP/HC l AVATAR PRESS INC
Wild’s End: The Enemy Within #1 l BOOM! STUDIOS
Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz HC l BOOM! STUDIOS
Aliens/Vampirella #1 l D. E./DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
Alice Cooper Vs. Chaos #1 l D. E./DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
Step Aside Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection HC l DRAWN & QUARTERLY
Usagi Yojimbo: Special Edition SC l FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS
Rick & Morty Volume 1 TP l ONI PRESS INC.
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Year Two #1 l TITAN COMICS
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two #1 l TITAN COMICS
Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir GN/HC l TOUCHSTONE
Yo-Kai Watch Volume 1 GN l VIZ MEDIA LLC



BOOKS
Tintin: Herge’s Masterpiece Hc l ART BOOKS
Comic Book People Volume 2: Photographics From the 1990s HC l COMICS
The Marvels: An Illustrated Novel HC l FICTION - YOUNG READERS
Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History HC l MOVIE/TV
Neil Gaiman: The Sleeper and the Spindle HC l NEIL GAIMAN

MAGAZINES
The Walking Dead Figurine Collection #3: Michonne l EAGLEMOSS
The Walking Dead Figurine Collection #4 :The Governor l EAGLEMOSS
The Hobbit Motion Picture Figurine Magazine #1: Gandalf The Grey l EAGLEMOSS
The Hobbit Motion Picture Figurine Magazine #2: Thorin Oakenshield l EAGLEMOSS
Marvel Fact Files Special #8: Black Widow l EAGLEMOSS
Marvel Fact Files Special #10: Ant-Man l EAGLEMOSS
Star Wars Insider #160 l STAR WARS

TRADING CARDS
Bowman 2015 Chrome Baseball Trading Cards l TOPPS COMPANY
Topps 2015 Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens Trading Cards l NON-SPORTS CARDS

APPAREL
Spider-Gwen Womens Hoodie l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
DC Swamp Thing: “Flip Mask” Black T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
DC Deathstroke: “Flip Mask” Black T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
Vitruvian Deadpool Red T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
DC Lex Luthor: “Justice League” Black T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
Deadpool: “Space Wade” Black T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
DC You: Harley Quinn T-Shirt l GRAPHITTI DESIGNS
Reverse Flash Symbol T-Shirt l GRAPHITTI DESIGNS
Bat-Manga IV by Kuwata T-Shirt l GRAPHITTI DESIGNS

TOYS & STATUES
Back To The Future Monopoly l DIAMOND SELECT TOYS & COLLECTIBLES
Star Wars Black 6-Inch Action Figures l STAR WARS
Star Wars Black 6-Inch Deluxe Action Figures l STAR WARS
Star Wars: “Vader Prints” Black T-Shirt l STAR WARS
Star Wars: “Animate Wars” Turquoise Heather T-Shirt l STAR WARS
Star Wars Polyethylene Guitar Strap l STAR WARS
Daredevil: “Nelson & Murdock” Coffee Mug l MARVEL COMICS: MARVEL KNIGHTS
Daredevil: “Nelson & Murdock” Red T-Shirt l MARVEL COMICS: MARVEL KNIGHTS
Marvel: Daredevil Symbol 3930 Flex Fit Cap l MARVEL COMICS: MARVEL KNIGHTS
Marvel: Iron Fist Symbol 3930 Flex Fit Cap l MARVEL COMICS: MARVEL KNIGHTS
Jessica Jones: “Flight” Navy T-Shirt l MARVEL COMICS: MARVEL KNIGHTS
Guardians of the Galaxy: Baby Groot 1/1-Scale Premium Motion Statue l MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
Megaman: Protoman Statue l MEGA MAN

IMPORT TOYS
Super Mario Bros: Diorama Playset D S.H.Figuarts l NINTENDO
Super Mario Bros: Fire Mario S.H.Figuarts l NINTENDO
Fate/Zero: Saber Extra RAH l ANIME
Batman Arkham Knight Play Arts Kai: Robin l BATMAN
Marvel Universe Variant Play Arts Kai: Thor l MARVEL HEROES
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Play Arts Kai: Man On Fire l METAL GEAR SOLID
Predator Variant Play Arts Kai: Predator by Kondo l MOVIE/TV
Silent Hill 3: Robbie the Rabbit RAH l VIDEO GAMES

COLLECTIBLES & NOVELTIES
DC Heroes: Harley Quinn Head Glow-in-the-Dark Bank l DC HEROES
DC Bombshells Vinyl Decals l DC HEROES
Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon Figural Bank l MARVEL HEROES

GAMES
Legend of Zelda: Yahtzee Collectors Edition l USAOPOLY
D&D Attack Wing Wave 11 l WIZKIDS/NECA

DVDS & DIGITAL MEDIA
Patlabor The Movie 3: WXIII l Anime
Persona 4: The Animation: The Complete Collection l Anime