It’s now the 100th Anniversary of the day that Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, and the United States officially recognized women’s right to vote. We’re once again flying a “19th Amendment Victory Flag” to mark the occasion. I wrote about this flag last year. It’s based on the flag of the National Women’s Party, a gold, white and purple tri-color with 36 stars added for the thirty-six states that approved the amendment. The story about how the amendment passed is great. It’s also amazing that something that seems so unequivocally the right-thing-to-do by modern sensibilities came down to a single vote. You can find that story in last year’s article, 19th Amendment Victory Flag.
A turning point in that story involved a political cartoon where Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was sweeping the letters “RAT” toward the letters “IFICATION,” symbolizing the campaign to support the amendment. When I was thinking about what to write this year, I spent some time looking for that political cartoon. If you’ve read this blog, you know I like to write about comics and I like to write about history and flags. History and flags are part of the “The Universe and Everything” part. Anyway, at some point I put “Carrie Chapman Catt” and “Cartoon” into duckduckgo.com and I stumbled upon something in the nice triple intersection of the Venn diagram that’s implied above. Ha! Math! There’s another thing!
I’ve always considered DC Comics to be the more conservative of the two major comic book companies. They were static for a long time while Marvel was innovating and they were so dedicated their own house style that they had other artists redraw Jack Kirby’s pictures of Superman when he was working on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. I get that those are small-c conservative, but you have to admit that’s pretty conservative. It’s like putting pants on Michelangelo’s David.
So, what was in that intersection mentioned above? “Wonder Women of History” a back-up feature that ran in Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman for twelve years starting with Wonder Woman #1 in 1942. Each issue featured a short biography of 1 to 5 pages, full of cheesiness and hyperbole. These included the stories of figures like Abigail Adams, Joan of Arc, and Marie Curie. Among the women featured were two important leaders of the suffrage movement taking us from the Seneca Falls Convention to the passage of the 19th Amendment.
And in honor of the Centennial that Amendment, here is the biography of Susan B. Anthony from Wonder Woman #5 (June-July 1943).
We also present the reason for the search result; Comic Vine tells me that Carrie Chapman Catt is a comic book character in Wonder Woman #26 (November-December 1947). That has the incongruous title of “Speed Maniacs from Mercury.” Luckily, that’s not the story in which Mrs. Catt appears.
Eventually, Wonder Woman of History was replaced with makeup tips and advice on landing a husband because DC is so progressive. But the Wonder Women of History were fun while it lasted. If you like these, there are a lot more here. It was nice when comics tried to educate as well as entertain.
Happy Belated Fantastic Four Day! Fifty-nine years ago this week Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands and to quote Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew, “Nuthin’ was ever gonna be quite the same again.” The Fantastic Four is one of those things that I’ve liked as long as I remember. As a kid, I knew them first from their 1967 animated series. I don’t remember it that well; (it’s not like we form a lot of detailed memories when we’re three), but I liked it. Here are three personal firsts that are related to the Fantastic Four to mark the anniversary.
My First Fantastic Four Comic
The first Fantastic Four comic I remember buying was Fantastic Four #126 (September 1972). This was about a year before I decided I was “officially” collecting comics; I was getting comics pretty sporadically at the time. But what an amazing place to start! Inside, the title is “The Way It Began!” and the cover is a stunning recreation of Kirby’s cover to FF#1 drawn by the inimitable team of John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. This comic defined my mental picture of the FF for all time.
The story is good as well. Initially, Roy Thomas treats us to the standard flavor of family brouhaha with which Lee and Kirby brilliantly began so many issues. Reed tinkers and then does the absent-minded-professor thing. Ben and Johnny bicker. Sue tries to keep things on track. Also Alicia. Classic. This leads us into a framing sequence where Ben is reminiscing using Reed’s thought-projector helmet which does exactly what one would expect a thought-projector helmet to do.
Ben then narrates a shortened version of the origin from FF #1, which ends with the iconic image below. I expect that many copies of this issue are missing this page; it’s one of the quintessential team pin-ups.
Short summaries of the team’s first encounter with the Mole Man and the Mole Man story from issues 88-90 follow. In that last story, the Mole Man uses a device that blinds the team and Ben has an epiphany. If the Mole Man’s device can blind and cure the team, maybe he can use it to cure Alicia’s blindness. He storms off intending to help her.
After a year or two, FF #126 was made into one of those Power Records sets with the recorded dialogue. If Johnny’s voice sounds familiar, that’s Peter Fernandez, aka Speed Racer! (The “!” may be obligatory). Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can experience the entire issue with the dialogue abbreviated somewhat here.
My First Blog Post.
Two years ago Marvel published a facsimile edition of Fantastic Four #1, part of the promotion for the latest series of Fantastic Four that started shortly thereafter. That seemed like a big deal at the time. “The World’s Greatest Comix Magazine” had been off the market since April 2015 because some executive at Marvel was having a pissing match with 21st Century Fox and didn’t want to do anything to promote Fox’s latest FF movie including publishing their own flagship title.
Anyway, I’d wanted to review the Facsimile edition. I’d previously done some short reviews that I posted on Facebook, like this one and this one here, but a Facebook post was utterly unsuitable for what I wanted to do for the Facsimile edition. I wrote All In Color for Forty Dimes and a week or so later I had a blog. This blog.
My First Fan Letter
The letter itself is pretty self-explanatory. It wasn’t printed because as I now realize it’s much too long. For your edification, an open letter to Dan Slott, referencing Fantastic Four (2018) #2. What do you need to know about the book to appreciate the letter? Not too much. This is the first time we’ve seen Reed, Sue, and the kids since Secret Wars. They, along with Molecule Man and the Future Foundation have been rebuilding the multiverse one universe at a time. Franklin rebuilds the universes and then the group explores them; they’ve been at it for five years or so and time seems to have passed more quickly for them than it has on Earth. Franklin and Valeria are teenagers.
At some point, Franklin loses the ability to create universes. Evidently, all is now right with the multiverse; Franklin is done.
And the “Multiverse” has to fight back as the personification of one of the fundamental forces of nature.
Confrontation commences. It’s not pretty. Then this.
You can read the rest for yourself; here’s my letter.
Fantastic Four has been my favorite comic for almost forty years. I’m thrilled to have Fantastic Four back on the spinner racks; the Marvel Universe doesn’t work correctly without its first family. When I heard that you’d be helming the book, I was pleased. You always seemed to have a good understanding of the characters; from their guest appearances in Amazing Spider-Man, to your 8-issues on The Thing and everything in between.
Issue 1 was an unadulterated pleasure. I also really enjoyed issue 2, but there was one false note I’d like to address.
Reed is a tricky character to write; this was never more evident than in Civil War. Tony is an engineer who thinks pragmatically. His position in Civil War made sense. Reed by contrast thinks like an academic working forward from first principles. He has strong sense of right and wrong. He should have been the first person to come over to Cap’s side, rather than the last. Reed’s characterization in that series is wildly off the mark, it’s almost closer to Victor than it is to Reed. Civil War 2, incidentally, showed us how necessary the Four are to the Marvel Universe. In that series, Reed was the person we needed to refute Carol’s arguments, but Reed was unavailable.
So what didn’t ring true in FF #647/2? That Reed would bypass 208 realities teeming with life to secure a better chance of saving the rest. Reed decides things based on principles, not pragmatics. When Galactus lay dying, it was Reed who insisted on saving him despite the risk; Tony, the pragmatist, was overruled. Reed is confident; he strode into the afterlife without hesitation to save Ben. We see this confidence after the Future Foundation was routed by the Griever. It should have been evident before then. Reed doesn’t make tactical retreats nor does he take the easy way out. In the Galactus Trilogy, a tactical decision might have been to try to quickly develop a way to preserve some life, while Galactus consumed the Earth’s energy. Instead Reed confronted Galactus with the Ultimate Nullifier. A riskier decision, but one that preserved virtually all life on Earth.
I hope this is helpful. Aside from this, these first two issues were like a trip home. You have to be careful writing Reed. When you start pulling parts out of what makes him Mr. Fantastic, you could end up with the Maker and that would be a travesty.
Joseph F. Kolacinski Horseheads, NY
Reed’s characterization has been hit-or-miss for a while; at least since Civil War. One of those posts that’s been waiting in the wings is called “Writing Reed Right,” but that’s a big undertaking. I don’t even have a guess as to when that might be finished.
Where’s a thought-projection helmet when you need one? I hope you enjoyed my reminiscences. We’re now on a twelve-month countdown to the 60th anniversary. We’ll need something pretty big for that. Any suggestions? Do you remember your first Fantastic Four comic? Let us know in the comments!
Back in November, I stumbled across three beat-up vintage comics at my local comic shop: Adventure Comics #265, Action Comics #257, and Superboy #76. The issue of Superboy has become my retirement plan as it is the first appearance of Beppo the Super-Monkey. As soon as the DCEU decides to make a movie about his exploits, I’ll be on my way to Easy Street.
One of the first things I noticed when I got these books home is that all three share a cover date of October 1959. I find that intriguing for two reasons. The first is that this is almost precisely 60 years ago. It was when I bought them anyway. On second thought maybe not-quite-so precisely after all; these probably hit the stands in July or August. I contemplated calling this post “Attack of the 60-Year Old Comic Books;” but that is dangerously close to treading on someone else’s turf, even as an homage. And as the universal brouhaha of 2020 interferes with my ability to blog it’s becoming more and more inaccurate. We’re basically at 61 years at this point.
The second intriguing thing is that these three books were right together in a box in the back room. The odds of that occurring by mere happenstance must be infinitesimal. Much more likely is that these were first purchased at the same time from the same place by the same person, thoroughly enjoyed and then, possibly years later, given up for some reason. It’s fun to contemplate what these comics’ collective journey must have been, but sadly this is something that we could probably never discover.
In choosing one of these comics as the focus of this post, I eventually settled on the issue of Adventure for one particular reason. After World War II, superhero comics faded away; horror comics, western comics, crime comics, and other genres took their place on the newsstand. Only a few superheroes remained in publication. Most people are aware of three of those, namely Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The remaining two were Aquaman and Green Arrow; they survived within the pages of Adventure Comics. Even though we’re well into the Silver Age proper by 1959 and the Comic Code Authority had been established years before, I was justifiably curious about this unflagging outpost of the superhero genre and the features within it.
The main feature of Adventure at this time was Superboy who was only the 6th DC hero to receive his own title and the only one to gain in popularity between the end of World War II and the Silver Age. Superman and his satellite characters maintained widespread appeal, so there can be little doubt that the Man of Steel’s popularity helped carry this title through the interregnum between the Golden and Silver ages.
Sadly, our lead story, The First Superman Robot, reads like an episode of Three’s Company. How does the plot progress? It opens with Clark building a Superboy robot. As he is leaving to go on patrol, “Dad Kent” as he’s referred to in this story decides to “try out his new tool chest” while Clark reminds him of the rules; he is not to use the robot unless there is a dire emergency. But Pa or Dad or Jonathan or whoever has lost the key to his tool chest and decides to have the Superboy robot melt the lock with his x-ray vision. Yes, you read that correctly and no, I don’t get it either.
Of course, Superboy sees this and becomes very upset. He decides to prank Jonathan to teach him a lesson. Now, I did not experience the 1950s, but I have watched enough Leave It To Beaver to know that this is not the way things worked back then. I suppose if you’re young enough, making rules that your parents have to follow might rank up there with flight and super strength.
The form of the prank itself is… odd. Superboy builds a Superman robot and pretends to be aged unnaturally to adulthood. He uses his “time telescope” to spy on his future self and get the face correct because the secret to a character-building prank like this one lies in the details.
It occurs to me that both Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke wrote stories about devices like the Time Telescope, but that bit of trivia adds nothing here. I now return you to our regularly scheduled program.
Anyway, nothing is ever this simple. Pa or rather “Dad” gets wise to the prank and decides to turn the table on our young hero.
And he does. There is a certain amount of strangeness here that permeates the entire story. Dad thinks of and calls Clark “Superboy” consistently while Superboy thinks about “Clark” in the third person as though he’s a separate character.
Check out the look on Clark’s face as Jonathan carries his “favorite playthings” away. He knows he’s taken things too far and resolves to make things right with Dad when he gets home from the store. Conveniently, the Superman robot begins to malfunction and explodes in a conveniently helpful way, removing it from the story. Clark, with some time to kill, decides to entertain himself using the time telescope which might be even better than the internet. Imagine being able to watch any cat at any time throughout all of history and not having to wait for someone to post a video. Sounds great!
Clark tunes in on his future self while Superman is watching that very instant from the future. We get to see Clark watching Superman watching Clark watching Superman watching Clark ad infinitum. This opens a “time pathway” that causes Clark to change places with his adult self.
It’s not clear to me why in these panels, Superman would have a time telescope “by sheer chance.” If I had had a device that allowed me to look through time as a boy, I’d damn sure have one now. Just sayin’ as they say.
Hilarity ensues. Clark tries to talk to Dad Kent, who refuses to believe he’s now the actual, real, adult Clark from the future and not the robot. Even Krypto believes he’s an enemy and forces him from the house, guarding it so Adult-Clark cannot return.
This, of course, is a problem. Clark needs access to the time telescope so he can set things right and return to his own time. After some gratuitous adventures in Smallville, he manages to trick Krypto long enough to access the time telescope and make the switch. The tone of this sequence, like so much of this story, is odd. Clark remains unmoved by seeing his long-dead parents. At least he didn’t try to order a Pepsi Free, accidentally woo Martha or invent Rock and Roll. For that, we can all be thankful. Both Clark and Dad Kent learned their lessons, so we wrap things up a bit too nicely. It seems to me that Clark could have broken all of space-time with those time telescope shenanigans. Seriously, let’s have some perspective here.
The remaining two stories, as mentioned before, feature Aquaman and Green Arrow. Both are lightweight enough that, judging only by these stories, I’d have to assume that the popularity of Superboy was mainly responsible for dragging these characters into the Silver Age. When their original home of More Fun Comics switched to an all-humor format, these features moved to Adventure along with Superboy starting in issue 103 (1946). Green Arrow remained through issue 269 (1960) when it was supplanted by Congorilla of all things. Aquaman persisted until issue number 282.
The Aquaman story is probably the weakest and the blandest in this comic. A man named Roxroyd offers Arthur a large sum of money to transport a heavy safe to a particular spot in the ocean.
Despite the suspicious nature of the request, Arthur agrees after a startlingly lax vetting process, which mainly consisted of using his pet octopus as a lie detector. He transports the safe to the agreed-upon location.
But Arthur’s still not suspicious even after a group of thugs try to break into the safe and eventually blow the door off. It isn’t a safe at all, it’s a solid block of stone. Now he gets it, he’s been duped; Roxroyd is a counterfeiter who dumped his equipment at the bottom of the ocean and then tricked Arthur into dropping the now-immovable stone atop them, making them inaccessible. Within four too-brief panels, Arthur tricks Roxroyd into confessing and all is once again right with the world.
The final story features Green Arrow. I previously wrote about Green Arrow’s encounter with the Clock King from World’s Finest Comics #111 (1960). The Amature Arrows is NOT better, but maybe it’s just a little charming. It starts out with GA and Speedy “out west” visiting the “Green Arrow Camp for Boys” that’s paid for with “all” of GA’s “reward money.”
The kids at the camp are all excited to see Green Arrow and Speedy; they are particularly anxious to show them a collection of special arrows that they invented in Arts and Crafts. There’s a doughnut arrow, a baby-rattle arrow, a candy cane arrow, a bubble gum arrow, and a bait arrow that flies through the air and quacks like a duck. GA and Speedy are rightfully dubious, but the kids are convinced that the arrows will help them fight crime. Suddenly, the most obvious thing possible occurs!
A group of escaped criminals gets the drop on our heroes and the boys. They force the archers to throw away all their specially-made trick arrows but not, inexplicably, their bows. Doubling-down on the obviousness, GA and Speedy then use the inane arrows to capture the bad guys. It’s obvious, but it’s not without its nice touches; the panel where the “desperado” is swamped by ducks is hilarious. As an old guy, I’ve gotten to really enjoy some of the silliness here, but overall it doesn’t do much for me.
Six-year-old me might have been a different story. I can see kids of a certain age really enjoying this story.
So, bottom line, if you’re looking for a serious-comic-story, there isn’t one here to be found. If you’re in the mood for a little silver-age silliness, on the other hand, this comic is pretty good. As a bonus, you get a sense of the two lesser-known superheroes to survive the golden age.
Two things that you should know about me: I like cats and I like comics. One of my favorite novels is The Door Into Summer by Robert Heinlein because it features, in Petronius the Arbiter, possibly the greatest cat character in all of literature. Combining these two interests, I recently did a pretty extensive overview of Chewie the Cat from Captain Marvel for this very blog. You can find it here: The Book of Goose.
So, when I saw the cover of Marvel Action: Captain Marvel #1, I knew I had to pick up a copy. Sadly, it’s insipid; the very thing I feared back when Disney first bought Marvel.
I’m not really a fan of Disney the corporation. Walt, as far as I know, was great. From his drive to make his parks amazing to the “this-is-how-we’ll-go-to-Mars” programs with Werner Von Braun to the whole cryogenics thing. Fascinating stuff from end to end. But in high school, I would occasionally read the Mickey Mouse strip in the Sunday paper and it was terrible. It was unfunny, preachy and an insult to the intelligence of anyone who happened to read it. When The Tao of Pooh was on the best seller list and I decided to write a parody called The Hedonism of Tigger with the premise that, to borrow a different metaphor, eastern philosophy is Mr. Miyagi while America philosophy is Cobra Kai. It never got written but while I was thinking about the project, I did buy and read Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. When I did, I realized how diminished these works were in the Disney adaptations I had liked as a kid. When you watch the original Disney Pooh shorts, Tigger, for example, is merely the wacky, gregarious comic relief who likes to bounce.
In the original books, Tigger has a child-like quality that to me comes across as a charming innocence. He’s a much richer character and he still loves to bounce. Occasional, accidental encounters with bits of the Disney Afternoon in the days before TiVo convinced me that, at least in the 90s, modern Disney entertainment was predominantly an empty vessel.
Let me back up a bit. What the hell am I reading? It’s not your everyday Marvel Comic. Disney has thankfully left those pretty much alone. The “Marvel Action” line is a collection of comics featuring Marvel characters that are not published by Marvel. Disney has licensed the characters to IDW and according to the descriptions on line, these carry an “all ages” rating. I think I understand that; early Warner Brothers’ cartoons were delightful and entertaining for kids but they also contained plenty of entertainment value for adults as well. Older viewers might recognize Edward G. Robinson or characters taken directly from Of Mice and Men. And who could forget this masterpiece, which makes a pretty salient point about the Arms Race?
But that doesn’t seem right. Other descriptions suggest that this comic is for “Middle grades” and I discover that that means ages 8 to 12. Middle grades, I guess, for back in the long-long-ago when elementary school lasted until grade 8. That doesn’t seem right either. I started reading comics when I was 8 and even then I can’t imagine having the patience for this comic. I still remember reading the three comics pictured below when I was 8 and I enjoyed them.
Those were far more complex than Marvel Action: Captain Marvel. Maybe I’m wrong about what “all ages” means. Maybe it means “really little kids.” I look up some lists of “all ages books.” Nope. My first thought was right. Harry Potter and The Hobbit aren’t my cup of tea, but they’re interesting. Shel Silverstein makes my skin crawl but ditto. I know I could sit down right now with a Dr. Seuss, or Where The Wild Things Are or Harold and the Purple Crayon and enjoy it. The Winnie-the-Pooh books are excellent! And evidently there’s something called Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I want to read that right now! Why does the pigeon want to drive the bus? Does it even have a license? Is the regular driver ill? I want to know! All of this is great stuff. Sadly, what’s not great is Marvel Action: Captain Marvel #1.
IDW’s Captain Marvel is exactly like the Disney Afternoon shows from the 1990’s. Simplistic and uninteresting. There are no layers, no nuance, nothing to interest anyone other than small children. I also find the art off putting. It looks rushed to me. More distracting is the fact that the two main characters are women, presumably in their early 30s, and they’re drawn like children. I’ve seen some of Sweeney Boo’s other work and it’s far better.
Clearly this comic wasn’t written for me, not even 8-year old me, but it might be fine for little kids. The cats are cute and there’s a thread of story. And if there’s anything that would intrigue small children about the Captain Marvel story, it would be Goose. Or Chewie. Whomever. So, that’s a good place to start and the book works somewhat well on that level. But it’s a weak effort that diminishes the Marvel brand and I worry what the long term effects of that might be.
Marvel Action Captain Marvel, IDW Publishing, August 2019
This was initially published in a slightly altered form on Quora.
I hope everyone who’s planning to see Spider-Man: Far From Home has seen it by now. (If not, Spoiler Alert! Stop reading!) If you have, you know that the mid-credits scene involves J. Jonah Jameson broadcasting Peter’s identity to the world. We won’t know how that will play out until Spider-Man: The Cows Come Home or… Spider-Man: Phone Home or… Spider-Man: Something Else Home (I don’t know the title. I’m just guessing.) but maybe the comics can give us a hint. Maybe not. The MCU is a very different place from Marvel’s mainstream continuity; in particular, it seems far more hostile to secret identities. Let’s check it out anyway, just for fun.
As far as I know, Jonah learned Peter’s secret twice. The first time was in Civil War (2006) #2 and simultaneously in Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #533. To set the stage, Peter had been working with Tony at Stark Enterprises. The universal brouhaha over the Super-Hero Registration Act began with Tony leading the Pro registration forces. He convinces Peter to reveal his identity in a televised press conference as part of the Act’s media strategy.
Jonah watched this on television, it goes more or less the way you’d expect.
So, Jonah’s more hurt than angry, but he’s still angry. He sues Peter for fraud asking for the money he’d paid for photographs of Spider-Man over the years. When Robbie Robertson stands up to Jonah, arguing that the vendetta has gone too far, Jonah fires him.
Of course, Jonah forgets about Peter’s secret identity after it’s magically made secret again in the One More Day storyline.
I don’t believe that Peter would actually reveal his identity on television; he was famously careful about his secret identity and always refused to put his loved ones at risk. Still, the writers laid some groundwork for the decision and the reveal was one of the few compelling things about Civil War.
Back to the topic at hand. Time passes. Jonah has a heart attack, and the Bugle is sold out from under him. He becomes Mayor of New York City; his wife, Marla dies; he is forced out of office and becomes a commentator on The Fact Channel. Meanwhile, Aunt May meets, falls in love with and marries John Jonah Jameson Sr. This makes Jonah and Peter family in a very real sense. Functionally, they’re step-brothers. Not long before Jonah learns Peter’s secret a second time, his father dies, Marla is resurrected and dies again and Jonah is fired from the Fact Channel, after which he begins writing a blog. Also, at some point, his adopted-daughter died. Whew. Comics… am I right?
Spoiler Alert here, by the way. If you haven’t read Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (2017) by Chip Zdarsky, go get the trade paperbacks or track down the back issues or something. It’s great. Especially issue #310 which just won the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue. I’ll wait.
So then, how does the second time that JJJ discovers Peter’s secret come about?
It starts in issue #5 of the aforementioned series; Jonah is on the verge of breaking a big story and needs to talk to Spider-Man. It’s about someone Peter is trying to help and Jonah agrees to share what he knows.
The interview takes up most of issue #6, (which is the other highlight of the series btw). It’s interesting and turns into quite a heart to heart. There are some expected dimensions and some that are less expected, like Peter admitting to Jonah why he became a crimefighter.
And of course, it gets heated.
Eventually, Peter realizes just how miserable Jonah is, “M-my father is dead! My daughter is dead! The Bugle, the only thing worth a damn in the world, has rejected me! My wife is dead! My wife is dead… Interview’s over! I’ve got — got nothing in my life now! You win —”
“You’re not!” I find this far more believable than the incident in Civil War. This action is born out of compassion and maybe a little responsibility. That’s exactly who Peter is.
And it pays off in an unexpected way. Without going into much detail (seriously get it, read it! This is not a paid endorsement!), Peter’s immediately put in danger because of the interview. In the next issue, (number 279 #MarvelMath) he temporarily gets clear and then this happens.
Jonah helps. He knows Peter and very clearly trusts him and on some level, he probably wants to make amends for what he’s done to Peter over the years.
This starts a new dynamic and Jonah becomes a sort of a side-kick, around frequently and determined to help Peter be a better hero. It’s delightful. This is from # 309.
It’s still noticeably Jonah. He’s still headstrong. He’s still sure he’s smarter than Peter. He still fails to think things through carefully. But after almost 60 years, it’s really nice to see a new dynamic between these two characters. I’m a bit disappointed that we haven’t seen more of this in Amazing Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, but I hope this is the new status quo for years to come.
Civil War (2006) #2 and #3.
Amazing Spider-Man (1962) #533
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (2017) #5–309
This was originally written to answer the following question on Quora.
What are some things someone just getting into comic books should know?
If you’re just getting into comics, welcome to the club! You have years of entertainment to look forward to!
If you’re thinking about getting into comics, the first thing you should probably know is whether you actually enjoy comics; reading them, looking at the artwork, learning the contours of each new universe and so forth. If so, you’re a reader. You might also ask yourself if you enjoy experiencing comics: the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, the satisfaction of completing a run and the look of a stack of books, all nicely bagged. In that case, you may just be a collector. Some people want to try and make some money on their collection; that’s fine. If you enjoy the other aspects of the hobby, you could become an investor. If you don’t enjoy the comics themselves, however, I would recommend against that. A portfolio of mutual funds is probably far easier to manage and more profitable than speculating on comics.
This is a good time to start.
You’ve decided to join the hobby at a good time; it’s easier than ever to find things to read whether you’re interested in new comics or back issues. Absolutely, your first step should be to find a Local Comic Shop (LCS) if there’s one nearby and get to know the folks there. Most of them love the hobby and enjoy talking about it. They can tell you which current titles have the best buzz and once they get to know you, they can point you towards things you might like, new and old. Many LCSs will also let you start a pull list and will put books aside for you. This helps you to avoid missing an issue and it helps them to know what to order. In any event, your LCS can be an essential resource.
If you’re interested in older stories, many comic stores have a selection of back issues that you can purchase.
I took this picture in Graham Cracker Comics last time I was in Chicago and the set up is pretty typical. High demand and interesting books are displayed on the wall while the more common back issues are alphabetized and in boxes. There are also significant on-line opportunities. I’ve bought many comics on e-Bay and most of my experiences have been positive ones. A lot of bigger stores also have their own websites where they sell comics. New Kadia and Mile High Comics are good examples.
If you’re interested in older stories but you don’t want to collect back issues, your LCS probably also stocks “collected editions” which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here’s a random selection from my shelves.
The Marvel Masterworks in the center is a prestige format hardcover collecting Fantastic Four (1961) #1-10. The other two are “trade paperbacks,” which is the most common format of collected edition. Some of those, like the book on the left, try to reprint a lot of books inexpensively. That one is printed in black and white on pulp paper. Others collect a smaller number of issues of an ongoing series or a complete mini-series. There are also “graphic novels.” I personally use that term to refer to any complete comic story that’s more than a couple of issues in length. Occasionally complete stories will appear in trade paperback for the first time; those are called “original graphic novels.”
There are also digital options. Individual issues can be purchased at DCComics.com and ComiXology,com. You can buy individual comics at Marvel.com and, when you buy one of their physical comics, you get a code to download a digital copy of the same issue. ComiXology Unlimited and Marvel Unlimited are Netflix style unlimited services where a monthly or annual fee gives you full access to a large digital library of comics.
One cost-effective approach to reading a large number of titles is to buy the titles you really want to collect from your LCS and then wait for the remaining titles to hit an unlimited service.
Buying Back Issues
There are two basic strategies when it comes to buying back issues. You can focus on buying issues to collect or buying issues mainly to read. Either way, you don’t want to overpay or pay a premium for the wrong book.
Condition Can Really Matter
Possibly the best illustration that condition matters is a story from about 6 years ago. Deanna and David Gonzales purchased a home in Elbow Lake, Minnesota. In the process of renovating, they ripped open the walls and amidst the old newspapers that were used for insulation, they found a copy of Action Comics #1.
Action Comics #1, for those of you who don’t know, is the first appearance of Superman and probably the quintessential collectors’ item. The advent of superheros, beginning with this particular issue remade the entire medium and there are only about 100 copies known to exist. Needless to say, every copy is highly sought after. The nicest existing copy sold on e-Bay for $3.2 million in 2014.
The Gonzales’ copy could have sold for $250,000 but they tore the back cover when they were removing it from the wall. That tear cost them about $75,000.
The moral? You should have at least a rough idea of how to grade comics, that is, to determine their condition. If you’re looking for something particular, you should have an idea of its value. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is a good resource for both of these things. There are also online resources; I tend to use ComicsPriceGuide.com and they have their own explanation of the grading system. A quick internet search will reveal more options. If you’re looking for fair market value another place you can check is the sold listings on e-Bay. Lots of recent comics are actually available for less than cover price in Near Mint, but it seems to me that the price guides are hesitant to list books for less than that. Using the sold listing also gives you immediate information; prices can fluctuate after a guide is printed.
Whether you’re buying a comic to read or to collect, you should decide the minimum condition you’re comfortable with and get a sense of what a fair price for that book would be in that condition. Why worry about that? The good comic stores will generally know how to grade books and price them accordingly. But there are less professional vendors or even vendors, like pawn shops and used book stores who think any comic that’s old is valuable who may price books without investigating the value. There are others who will price every book at near mint regardless of the condition either because they don’t know how to grade or because they don’t understand how it effects the price. If you know what to expect from the price, you’ll be able to avoid over paying.
Sometimes, You Can Compromise on Condition
The point where condition isn’t very important is when you’re buying back issues to read rather than collect. You, of course, need to decide for yourself the condition with which you’re most comfortable. But comics that are in very good (VG) condition or better should be complete and readable. VG books should sell for about 10% of the mint price. Below that there are still plenty of books that are nicely readable but you may run into issues like fragile paper or cutouts that can diminish the reading experience.
When I was collecting in the 1970s and 80s I collected a lot of reprint titles like Marvel Tales, Marvel’s Greatest Comics and Marvel Super Action. These reprinted Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Avengers respectively and gave me an inexpensive way to read a lot of classic stories from the Silver Age. But there were drawbacks. A Comic reprint can be significantly different from the original. The print quality can be noticeably worse as the company generally no longer had access to the original artwork. Further, the comic could be recolored and sections of the story might be deleted to fit the comic into a smaller page count. Whereas an original comic might be highly sought out and valuable, mostly these reprints are barely even considered collectable. Unless you’re collecting them for sentimental reasons, there are much better options for reading old stories such as trade paperbacks and Marvel’s and ComiXology’s unlimited services.
You Can Be Really Intense About Condition If You Want.
If you have a special comic that you want to carefully preserve you can send it out to a third party grading service. The most famous of these is the Certified Guarantee Company or CGC. For a fee, these companies will grade your comic and then seal it in a hard plastic shell that documents the condition and presumably protects it from further harm. This process is called “slabbing” and it’s controversial within the collecting community. The upside is that, if you want to sell your comic, its condition is well established so buyers can have confidence in its accuracy. Because of this, slabbed books tend to sell for more than their free range counterparts. The downside is that the slab prevents you from even touching the comic itself. In a medium that’s supposed to be read, experienced and enjoyed, some collectors find slabbing offensive.
Another thing to keep in mind as you shop for back issues is that you want to be sure you’re buying the correct book. Consider the following listing that I encountered on a well known auction site a few weeks ago.
If you’re not knowledgeable about comics, and you don’t look too closely, it might seem to you that this is a copy of Silver Surfer #4 from 1969. After all, that’s what the listing claims to be. The problem is, it isn’t. Here’s a picture of the genuine article. The comic in the listing is actually Fantasy Masterpieces #4 from 1979. It’s a reprint of the Silver Surfer comic. And the big issue here is the price.
ComicsPriceGuide.com tells us that Silver Surfer (1968) #4 in near mint (NM) condition is worth $1000, while Fantasy Masterpieces (1979) #4 lists at $4. That’s a huge difference and I hope no one actually paid $290 for a $4 book.
This issue isn’t just restricted to auction sites. At a store in St. Louis I saw the comic on the right, priced as though it were the comic on the left. This is an easier mistake to make than the Silver Surfer/Fantasy Masterpieces confusion, and this example, it turns out, is trickier than most. But there’s still a big difference in terms of price. ComicsPriceGuide.com tells us that the original book goes for $160 in NM while the reprint is worth $4 in the same condition. This was in a large store that had many boxes of back issues but also sold used books, used DVDs and used video games. The staff may have been somewhat knowledgeable about comics, but comics certainly weren’t the focus of their business.
So, how do you avoid this? Well the first thing you need to do is identify the actual title of the series you’re dealing with. That’s not necessarily the title on the cover. To get the official title of the series, you need to look at the indicium , which is the comic’s publishing information. It’s usually found at the bottom of the first page or on the inside front cover of the comic. Here’s the indicium for the older comic.
The title of this series is clearly indicated: “Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.” Not “S.H.I.E.L.D.” like you might think from looking at the cover and with a comma that we don’t see on the cover. On the other hand, this is the indicium from the 1983 series.
So the title of this series is “Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD.” No comma. Ironically, the series with the comma on the cover has no comma in the official title and the series without the comma on the cover does has a comma in its title. This series is also a “volume 1” since, because of that comma, the titles are not exactly the same. It’s important to know the proper title because that’s how the book will be listed in the Overstreet Price guide.
Here’s the listing for these comics in the 2009 edition of Overstreet. It’s easy to see which listing goes to which book since we’ve figured out the real titles. If there’s ever a question, you can go by the dates of the issues, which are also in the indicia. Modern conventions delineate the different series by the start year so in comicbookdb.com, you see these titles as Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD (1968) and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD (1983). You can see the values for each issue on the right for the conditions good, very good, fine, very fine, very fine/near mint and near mint.
Finding the Right Comic
When I’m collecting, I like to find a complete run of a title before reading so that I can read a bunch of issues back to back. If you’re merely reading comics in trade paperback form or online this isn’t an issue, but if you’re collecting the individual issues, it can get tricky. Nothing here is a major problem as long as you know what to expect, but if you’re not careful, you can end up with a comic you don’t need.
This was not an issue when I started hunting for back issues around 1980. At that point, most titles had a single volume with a single consecutive numbering. There was one run of Amazing Spider-Man of about 200 issues. Flash was closer issue 300, but that included the entire run of Flash Comics, dating back to January 1940. This is no longer the case. Comics now restart their numbering frequently and it can be a nuisance to keep track. Sometimes the companies renumber a title because the creative team is changing, sometimes it’s because of some company wide event. Sometime there’s no apparent rhyme or reason except that maybe the numbers have gotten a bit too large. Depending on how you count, there have been 11 or 12 comics that are technically “Captain Marvel #1″ published by Marvel since 1968. There have been at least 8 volumes of The Avengers and that doesn’t count New Avengers or Mighty Avengers or All-New All-Different Avengers or West Coast Avengers or Avengers Forever or Avengers AI or Solo Avengers… you get the idea.
So, do you need a copy of Avengers #2? Which one? There are at least 8, not counting reprints that might look like Avengers #2 (see “Caveat Emptor” above). A simple answer might be to make sure you know the cover, but that too is not as simple as it once was. When I started collecting, every comic had but one cover, but that also is no longer the case.
This is because of another trend in comics. There is now a proliferation of variants. Variants are copies of the same issue of a series that are absolutely identical except for the cover. To me, this is getting excessive. There are variants to encourage dealers to order more; there are variants with some special gimmick on the cover; there are variants to celebrate a special event and variants to popularize a particular character. Many, like the “Special Inauguration Day Edition” of Amazing Spider-Man #583 are rare enough to be worth considerably more than the standard version but most probably have no additional value at all.
When the latest volume of Fantastic Four hit the stands last August, there were at least 42 different variants of the first issue, some of which are shown above (you can see three more here). This title has averaged roughly nine variants per issue since its inception less than a year ago.
So, if you can’t just go by number and you can’t just go by cover, what do you do? One answer is to make sure you know the publication date. If you’re looking at back issues in a comic store, you can always check the indicia. As long as your book has the correct publication date, it should be the correct book.
You can’t always see the indicia, such as when you’re shopping on line. Going by the cover can still be a good plan in a lot of cases. If there’s only one cover to the book you need, make sure you’re familiar with it. That’s the case with the vast majority of older books. Even if a comic has multiple variants, most copies will have the main cover so it pays to know it. But maybe you’d prefer a different cover or perhaps the main cover is sold out and isn’t an option. Maybe you just want to own the issue and you don’t care which variant you end up with. Many comic websites have a cover browser function. Here’s the cover browser for Hawkeye (2017) from comicbookdb.com.
This would be easy to print out or access on a tablet if your LCS has WiFi. Armed with this information, you have all the potential covers at your finger tips and it’s easy to tell if the comic you’re looking at is the correct one or not.
Preserving Your Comics
The final thing we’ll cover here is storage. Given the importance of condition, you’ll want to protect your books.
You might think that lying your comics flat and storing them in a stack would help them stay flat. In fact, since the spine is thicker than the rest of the book, the exact opposite is true; stacking comics can lead to “spine roll.” You’ll want to store your books vertically, as shown here. Luckily, there are supplies designed for just this kind of storage.
There are 2 sizes of comic boxes from which to choose called, creatively enough, long boxes and short boxes. A long box is about 28 inches wide and holds about 300-350 comics. A short box is half as wide and holds half as many. Long boxes cost about half again as much, so it’s more cost effective to use long boxes, but a full long box weighs about 50 pounds, making them more unwieldy and therefore more difficult to move and organize.
You should store your comics in acid-free bags. It can be bad for your comics to store them in a bag that’s too big or too small, but most comics published after 1974 fit nicely in a “current” comic bag. Comics have gotten narrower over time. Generally, comics made before the early 1950’s need “golden age” bags while comics published from the mid 50’s to 1974 require “silver age” bags. There are also different materials available.
Most comic bags are either polyethylene, which has more of a matte finish or polypropylene which is clearer and shinier. Opinions vary, but I prefer the polypropylene. I think bagged comics look better with the shiny bag and I find that polyethylene bags stick together after being stored for a long period of time. Many collectors also place a backing board in each bag with a comic. These are thin pieces of cardboard which prevent bending and protect the corners of the book from blunting. Boarding every comic in your collection is probably excessive, but it’s a good investment for your favorite or most valuable books.
That’s probably enough information to throw at you all at once; I hope it helped. If you think of additional questions, you can add them to the comments and I’ll try to answer. There will be more for beginning collector coming soon.
In the comics, the name of Captain Marvel’s cat is Chewie and she’s a she. If you have Marvel Unlimited or access to enough Marvel trade paperbacks through your library or somewhere else, it wouldn’t too hard to read through all of Chewie’s appearances. You can find a list of them here:
Levine’s post goes through November 2013 here are some highlights.
Chewie’s first appearance is in Giant-Size Ms. Marvel #1 (April 2006). In the story, Carol is remembering being Captain Marvel during the House of M timeline. While fighting Sir Warren Traveler, who, evidently had been Sorcerer Supreme in this version of history, Carol encounters a cat,
and promptly throws her at the bad guy!
Seriously, NOT COOL, CAROL! I don’t care if you promised tuna. Cat’s are not weapons! Doubly so against super villains! Either way, this is an inauspicious first appearance.
The fastball special disrupts a time travel spell Traveler is casting and he and Chewie disappear to some undisclosed location.
The next time we see her is in Ms. Marvel (2006) #4. Chewie appears in Carol’s apartment as a precursor of an attack by Traveler.
Dr. Strange gets involved and he and Carol defeat Traveler and mostly, Chewie is on the sidelines, but along the way, Chewie does get to be an avatar for the proper Sorcerer Supreme when Steven contacts Carol in a dream.
That happened in Ms. Marvel (2006) #5. After all is said and done, Carol has a cat. Here I must say I approve; this is a proper way to get a cat. Cat needs you; cat shows up; you have a cat. I’ve gotten more than one of the little buggers that way.
After that, Chewie is mostly around in the background. If you want to see these appearances without digging through all of the issues, I refer you again to Jason Levine’s site. He does a nice job of showing them all.
Chewie gets things to do interesting things again in the Captain Marvel (2014) series. Carol decides to head out to space on a voyage of self-discovery with Chewie in tow. Issue 2:
Eventually, she and Carol encounter the Guardians of the Galaxy, where Rocket identifies Chewie as a Flerken.
If it isn’t obvious, this begins the main part of Chewie’s story that is source material for the 2019 film. Of course, in the film, it’s Talos making the flerken argument.
At the end of the issue, Carol’s ship is stolen with Chewie aboard by a stowaway named Tic.
In issue 3, the ship is recovered and, Carol decides to help Tic after hearing her story.
As a side note, this is a testament to this creative team’s understanding of cats. I’ve seen this sort of comforting behavior many times.
We don’t see Chewie again until issue 7 when Carol and Tic return to Carol’s ship. It’s been under the care of Rocket and the argument as to whether Chewie is a cat or a flerken resumes. While Carol’s been gone, Rocket has been putting out feelers; to see if a flerkin could be sold and for how much.
This attracts pirates who commandeer the ship and suddenly, the flerkin argument becomes moot. Chewie lays eggs. Lots and lots of eggs.
Things come to a head in issue 8.
The ship is boarded,
Rocket and Chewie make peace and of course…
the flurkittens are all fine. There’s a lot of nice touches and these two issues are the apotheosis of Chewie stories. If you like cats or you like Chewie, you should check out these two issues even if you don’t check out anything else.
The final Chewie-centric storyline occurs in issues 12 and 13. Haffensye pirates attack Carol’s ship and abduct Chewie, intending to use her as a weapon.
Unfortunately, most of the action involves getting the ship repaired, navigating through a dangerous region of space and fighting off pirates without weapons or propulsion.
Once Carol catches up with the Haffensye ship, she makes short work of the pirates, rescues Chewie and commandeers the pirates, ship for Tic.
After the pair returned to Earth, Chewie reverted to being a background character which she has remained for all of her subsequent appearances.
And that then is the story of Chewie or Goose if you prefer. There’s always hope that she will be featured in future Captain Marvel stories or join the Pet Avengers or star in her own Major Motion Picture.
There’s much more fun to come, I think, and Carol’s come a long way from the cat flinging incident. She must have sensed it at the time because this was her response to Chewie’s very first disappearance.
I read the first issue of the New Superior Spider-Man when it first came out and I wasn’t inspired to invest in the series. Not even Terrax was enough to inspire me to purchase issue 2. But while my car was being serviced, I noticed that the first issue was available on Marvel Unlimited. I decided to give it a second read. It did not get better. The set up is obvious, Dr. Octopus’ mind now resides in a cloned body of Peter Parker, with all of the powers that implies. He’s teaching at Horizon University in San Francisco and trying to be a better hero than Peter. The whole thing has a perfunctory “been there, done that” kind of a feel. It’s the same themes as volume 1 without having Peter’s story to bolster my interest.
The art isn’t superior either; it’s competent, but all the characters look like posed manikins. I’ve seen people talking about how they really like this series and it isn’t terrible. Maybe I’ll return to it in a couple of years, once the entire run is on Marvel Unlimited, but then again, maybe not. I can’t see investing in this series for the individual issues.
Also, do you remember a time when comic book companies tried not to overexpose their characters? In the 1940s Superman, Batman and Flash couldn’t be in the JSA because each had his own book. Similar policies persisted for a long time. But now Peter has two books, Miles, Gwen and Otto have books and there’s something called “Symbiote Spider-Man.” If Marvel isn’t careful, we’ll all have brand fatigue before long.
I had a few issues of this title during my first period of collecting (1973-1976) and I’d been slowly amassing issues since the early ’80s. When the last few issues fell into my lap in February, it became time to once again spend some time with the title. In this post, we’ll talk about the first three issues.
I had fond memories of this title from when I was a kid and depending on which issue I first owned and when I obtained it, my exposure to this title might predate my decision to become an actual collector. There’s a lot to like about WANTED; there appears to be a lot of golden and silver age goodness between these covers and the marketing is wonderful; The World’s Most Dangerous Villains promises drama and high stakes! There’s also a heavy representation of the Earth Two characters who I had first encountered in the pages of Justice League. I took an immediate liking to the Golden Age characters and the JSA in particular; immediately preferring them to their more modern counterparts.
I have to wonder if this book and its sister title Secret Origins of Super-Heroes and Super-Villains weren’t a repository for the reprinted material no longer appearing in oversized 25-cent issues, but I’m not sure the timing completely supports that.
The title of the book is immediately tested in the opening story of the first issue, “The Signalman of Crime,” reprinted from Batman 112, December 1957. “World’s Most Dangerous Villains?” I actually had to look this guy up to determine that this wasn’t his only appearance in addition to being his first. It isn’t, but even switching to being a Green Arrow adversary under the name of “Blue Bowman” this gentleman doesn’t exactly have a distinguished career.
He’s a small-time hood who can’t recruit a gang and decides he needs a gimmick to make a make a name for himself. Inspired by the Bat Signal, he settles on committing crimes using signs and signals. Seven lackluster but vaguely charming pages later, Batman and Robin apprehend the Signalman after many sign related puns and a wholesome lack of Danger.
The second story is the “Crimes of the Clock King” from World’s Finest 111, (Aug 1960). Clock King has no real powers to speak of, but he does move a minute hand forward to enable himself to steal some jewelry. Sadly, the strongest impression made by this story is the extent to which Green Arrow used to be nothing more than a pale imitation of Batman. We see the Arrow-Signal and the Arrow Car and I can’t help but wonder if there’s an Arrow Cave somewhere. The story is filled with puns and features a giant prop, in this case, an hourglass. At least I’d heard of the Clock King and the time-related puns weren’t quite so dreadful as the sign related puns.
Finally, there’s “Menace of the Giant Puppet” from Green Lantern #1 (July/August 1960), a monument to early Silver-Age tropes. A villain called the “Puppet Master” is controlling small-time hoods, making them commit crimes. Meanwhile Carol, despite the progressive move of having her running Ferris Aircraft, spends a lot of energy pining after GL, trying to maneuver him into a proposal. We find out she actually called her dad and asked permission to date GL. The titular confrontation with the giant puppet feels kind of tacked on, driven mostly by the interesting visuals rather than the plot. In the final confrontation, the Puppet Master’s defeat is embarrassingly easy, especially given the book’s sub-title.
Ultimately, issue 1 features three profoundly second-string bad guys.
The second issue finally gives us some big name villains; the Joker and the Penguin team up in the “Knights of Knavery” from Batman #25 (Sept/Oct 1944). which reminds us strongly of the fact that comics, as good as some may be were initially publications for children. There’s a cheesy sit-com quality to the story. The villains, who strangely enough are sharing a cell, manage to escape through the masterful ploy of borrowing a broom.
There’s also an extended sequence where Penguin is pulled aloft by a handful of helium balloons with Batman and Robin in tow. Not only is this physically impossible, but it also appears that Penguin has super strength of which we weren’t previously aware. Over the course of the story, the two villains bicker, then team-up and then let their desire to one-up
each other proves to be their undoing.
Really, the best thing about this story is the narration. If you’ve ever seen the Batman TV series, you can’t help but hear that series’ narrator in your head when you read this. It’s evident that comics from this era or at least the stories written by Donald Clough Cameron ( credited as C.A.M. Donne) had a strong influence on the voice of that program. This makes a rather mediocre story much more enjoyable.
The other story in issue #2 gives us another “name brand” villain; it reprints the second appearance of the Trickster from The Flash #121 (June 1961).
James Jesse, The Trickster, we’re reminded, was a famous aerialist, who invented shoes that made it appear as though he could walk or run on air. He began a life of crime using gimmicks and gadgets as a trademark.
At the beginning of the story, Jesse, a. k. a. inmate 10828 is allowed to build toys for orphan children in the prison yard. He escapes by installing a compressed air system in a model plane.
Once out of jail, Jesse makes sure that he’s on the scene whenever Flash apprehends any criminals, then he uses one of his gadgets to “make off with the loot.”
Eventually, Flash tracks Jesse down to a toy factory where he builds his equipment. We momentarily think Flash is defeated, only to be treated to a careful explanation of his escape.
Flash apprehends the Trickster with ease. For a 12-page story, this one, much like the Green Lantern story in issue #1, seems surprisingly lightweight. There is little drama and any jeopardy was ephemeral. The high stakes promised by the title are nowhere to be found.
The third issue returns to giving us no brand name villains but is 100% Golden Age. All Earth-Two all the time. Sadly, the first story was a bit of a slog. It’s “The Little Men Who Were There” from Action Comics #69 (Feb 1944). In this, The Vigilante faces
The Dummy who is either a small man resembling a ventriloquist’s dummy or a ventriloquist’s dummy brought to life. His original gimmick was to pretend to be inanimate so that his ventriloquist was thought to be the real gang leader. We might give this story some credit for trying to match the book’s subtitle. The Dummy was one of the most prominent members of the Vigilante’s Rogues Gallery and could be considered the hero’s archnemesis. The two met many times including a number of times in stories featuring the Seven Soldiers of Victory. In pre-Crisis continuity, the Dummy killed Vigilante’s sidekick, Stuff, the Chinatown Kid.
In the story, the Dummy and his gang are using a shrink ray to sneak onto planes and robbing them reminiscent of train robberies in the old west. Eventually, they use the shrinking ray on the Vigilante and Stuff and leave them to the mercy of a chicken. This should be hilarious, as we all know that chickens are inherently funny, but no such luck. I’ll give the writers some credit for using the phrases “thieving jackanapes” and “homicidal homunculus” but it’s not enough to save the story.
The second story gets more interesting as Doctor Fate encounters “The Fishmen of Nyarl-Amen” from More Fun Comics #65 (March 1941). Nyarl-Amen, with his fishmen to serve him, ruled the world from his undersea city 50,000 years ago. With little explanation, he now seems bent on returning to power.
To that end, Nyarl-Amen interrogates an American serviceman and his Fishmen invade Hawaii almost a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fate confronts the Fishmen’s leader and then destroys their city, killing everyone within. This story and its reprint are Nyarl-Amen’s only appearance.
The final story in the issue is “The Human Fly Bandits” featuring Hawkman and Hawkgirl from Flash Comics #100 (Oct 1948). This is towards the end of Hawkman’s run in Flash Comics which ended with issue 104, although he remained featured in All-Star Comics through early 1951. The plot revolves around a gang who have stolen a gyrocar and a gyrobelt that allow the possessor to defy gravity. It’s the so-called science in this 8-page that makes it so abysmal. We do get an oversized prop; the Hawks are captured and left to drown in a huge thermometer, which is being heated by a stove so that the mercury will rise. They escape by causing an explosion which throws them through the glass with no ill effects. I guess we know much more about the toxicity of mercury than we did in 1948.
Also, the Gyrocar can drive up the side of a building and park there because of gyroscopes. The gyrobelt works the same way, because “the rotary action of a gyroscope overcomes the force of gravity.” Nonsense! You can see how gyroscopes work here. I hope this is the low point for the series. The plan is to cover the remaining issues, but that might be a long time in coming if these don’t get a bit better.
Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains #1, DC Comics, July/Aug 1972
Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains #2, DC Comics, Sept/Oct 1972
Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains #3, DC Comics, Nov 1972
I’ve been reading comics since 1973, but I really have no idea who the Eternals are. I know they were created by Kirby and I remember Sersi being an Avenger for a while. And I know there’s that one guy who wears the Superman color scheme, whose name I feel like I should know. That’s about it, although I just learned that Eternals #2 is the first appearance of the Celestials, which intrigues me. I’m going to take the plunge and learn about these guys in advance of their movie. To that end, here’s a review of their first issue.
You may wonder how, being a Marvel guy, I missed the Eternals. Blame economics. My limited reading budget in 6th grade was progressively being focused on novels and I quit comics cold turkey (not to worry, I came back) when the cover price went up to 30¢. That gave me two months to notice the Eternals, but I never actually did.
Spoilers follow if one can spoil something published 43 years ago.
When I was in college, I tried to read Harlan Ellison’s “For I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” three times. The first page is both excellent and electrifying. Offbeat and dark, it leaves you dying to know what happens next. I never found out. Each time I lost interest around the third page and I never successfully finished the story. Eternals #1 is a lot like that.
The first four pages are spectacular. The splash page is dominated by a “Kirby machine,” with small characters in the corner teasing some sort of great discovery. This expands to an amazing and intricate two-page spread. The Kirby machine of the first page is the head of the Incas’ “Space God.” The discovery is a huge statue of the Space God in his vehicle with myriad attendants along side and there’s so much interesting detail that you could pour over this page for quite some time. Page 4, another full page shows more of the Gods’ (now plural) equipment.
But then it gets kind of tedious. One of the characters is named Ike Harris and it dawns on me that the guy with the fashion sense of Superman might be called Ikaris. He is. Inwardly, I sigh; my least favorite thing about Kirby-as-writer is his names and these are going to be as cheesy as usual. Ikaris reveals himself to be an Eternal and he is searching for a Cosmic Beacon. He wants to summon the Gods so that they will return to Earth.
We’re also introduced to the Deviants. Monstrous creature’s with names like “Dog,” “Kro” and “Tode.” They’re as determined to prevent the Gods’ return as Ikaris is to bring it about.
Along the way we learn more about the Space Gods. They are aliens who came to Earth ages ago and genetically manipulated the ape creatures they found here. This lead to the creation of three species. The Humans, the Deviants who are genetically unstable with no fixed form and the godlike Eternals who are few in number, powerful and immortal.
Interesting, but still ultimately tedious. One reason, I realized, is that in panel after panel, the captions do nothing but describe what’s clearly happening in the artwork. I had thought that Kirby’s writing had improved a great deal by this point, but this undermines that. If anyone should understand “show, don’t tell,” it’s an Artist/writer.
Like a lot of Kirby’s writing, there’s lots of good ideas but I find the execution kind of flat. I remind myself that this is an introductory issue and those can be dull; the characters have to be introduced, the situations have to be laid and out and the universe needs to be built. That calls for a lot of exposition and that can leave very little room for story.
Unlike a lot of Kirby’s writing, it feels derivative. There is very little that feels new. The premise is essentially the same as 2001: A Space Odyssey which Kirby had just adapted a few months before. This comic falls between the 2001 Treasury Edition and 2001 the ongoing series which, at least so far, I find a lot more interesting. The rest of the story feels a lot like the Inhumans with some of Erich Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods mixed in.
The cliffhanger at the end of the issue is that the Space Gods have arrived and we’re told they’re called the Celestials. I’m still intrigued. More to come.