The Adventures of Sgt. Shark!

Matt and I are both big, BIG lovers of comic ads.  I mean, if you can’t appreciate the sheer lunacy of those classic Hostess ads where Big Time Hero defeats Never-Again-Seen Villain by exploiting their fried pie weakness the we are just not on the same page!.  Not to mention all those O.J. Dingo ads!

But I recently decided to give in and read The Great Darkness Saga, and I found this masterpiece in Legion of Superheroes #291:

That’s right, it’s a story about a regular rough-and-tumble dude JUST LIKE YOU (and his one-eyed parrot, of course,) who uses his bro-tastic shark tooth pendant to PUNCH A SHARK AND REDIRECT A SUBMARINE!

Friends, my $5.95 is already on it’s way to Florida.

No Capes! Tuesday or Strange Tricks

In the last year or so my comic collecting has become more whimsical. As I’ve said before, I’m at a point in my collecting where I’m rarely hunting through boxes for a specific issue of a book. Nowadays I sift through boxes looking for anything that might catch my eye. Often I leave a convention or a shop with old educational/ promotional comics, a few cheap and beat up Jimmy Olsens, or a Charlton war anthology. My interest in comics has become such that I’ll pick up and read almost anything if the price is right. It’s taken me some considerable time to get to this point. Ten or fifteen years ago I would never have considered picking up some of the books I’ve gotten in the last year. I’ve become one of those guys that reads something just because it’s a comic, and it’s bound to show me something I haven’t seen before.

Case in point: Charlton’s Love Diary #94. The last time friend-of-the-blog-rakmO and I went on a comics run, I picked this up along with that Batman vs. Yeti hybrid and a few other books; it was in a buy five, get one free box. I like to think that this is my free book. I was drawn in by the cover. I mean who doesn’t like covers that talk to you? Who could read this cover and not want to find out why she’s a, “snake.”

There were three stories in the book and they’re the sort of stories Stephanie Meyer* would write if she weren’t an ardent feminist.

1. “My secret love” – A beach bunny has to choose between a reckless Sonny Bono look-a-like and a Steve Rogers look-a-like who is a by the book young highway patrolman. Since it’s written by someone’s dad, naturally she chooses the cop. Here’s the twist: she doesn’t tell her friends she’s dating a cop because she’s afraid they’ll murder him.

2. “In love again” – Boy marries girl, parents threaten to beat them both senseless. Annulment occurs. Time marches on. Bearded man reconnects with girlish woman.

3. “Manhater” – This is the one to which the cover refers. Because all of the men in her life are such poor role models,  Eve becomes a serial dater. That is until she meets Jeremy. He’s sensitive, funny… in a dad sort of way… and he talks to Eve instead of hitting her or shoving his tongue down her throat. Friends try to warn old Jerr off of Eve and her wicked ways to no avail. The story ends with love… true love.

So the stories were pretty indoctrinating, silly and fluffy… and probably written by a 40 something, pipe smoking dad. That’s only one of the reasons I love this book and will work to find more. The ads are something else! It never occurred to me that comic book ads could ever be targeted to girls/ women, and yet the entire book is slanted that way. There are ads for record sets and posters of David Cassidy, there’s an ad for t-shirts with girly sorts of images, and an ad for jewelry made from silverware. My money’s worth was found in the ad for Pursettes Tampons. It reads a bit like a Hostess ad but with almost no production value. Read and enjoy below.

My collecting just took an unexpected turn for the weird.

*for those that might not know, Stephanie Meyer wrote the Twilight series. That Gloria Steinem hasn’t issued a Feminist fatwa on Meyer is a mystery for the ages.

Quarter Bin Treasure Chest

One of my favorite things about cons is back-issue diving.  And one of my favorite things about that is discovering insane old Silver Age books.  I thought I’d share a few I found at Denver Comic Con.  None of these were a quarter, but they were all under $2.

I’ve never read a Blackhawk comic before, but that’s just Silver Age madness!

The superhero boom is obviously upon us!

I thought this was the same character from our, but I was mistaken.

A note from the editor right on the cover? Always a good sign.

I don’t have to explain why this is awesome, right? It’s Superman and he Guardians!

It gets even crazier when Hitler shows up! Oh damn, I ruined it.

Giant robot? Check. Creepy old-school sci-fi name? Double-check.

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Secret identity hijinx!

Denver ComicCon, Day 3

Yup, there’s a TARDIS.

At this point on Sunday Denver ComicCon has wrapped up, bringing to an end a very, VERY successful convention.

I’ve mentioned a few times that the con is a benefit for Comic Book Classroom, but I don’t think I’ve stressed how many kids were running all over the floor.  It’s a great thing to see, kids coming up in comicdom, after so many years of comics being stuck in the lowbrow end of the entertainment spectrum.  And to that end it’s been such a family-friendly show, deliberately so. 

The other interesting thing about DCC is not only is it extremely comic-focused, it’s very CREATOR-focused.  As expected there were dealers about, and I managed to find some great bargains, but it wasn’t wall-to-wall back issues.  I’d say a good 40-50% of the floor space was filled with comic creators.  That leads to a much different vibe, because with less retailers I think there were more people TALKING about comics than other shows where we all slide from longbox to longbox with our pull lists, hardly taking time to speak to the people around us other than comparing scores.

Dalek Boy, Doctor Who Boy, Cyber MAN.

It’s a strange thing to say, since I spend roughly 40% of my waking hours thinking about comics, but I still left the convention center each night even MORE enthusiastic about comics.  (It doesn’t hurt that the Cellar Door anthology that FotB Andrew and I contributed to was out and available at the show, but it’s not even the main reason.)

With a little more time to let it sink in, I’m sure I’ve got some suggestions for how to make DCC better for next year, but it’s worth noting that the Denver Post is reporting that attendance could hit 20,000 for the weekend, making it the second-largest opening for a convention either.  (They also did the legwork and found out the floorspace is 100,000 square feet, so thanks to them for taking that off my plate.)  And as the con was wrapping up, the DCC organizers made the announcement that will keep guests talking about the Denver’s con throughout the next year: Stan Lee has been confirmed as a guest for 2013.

I’ve got to say I’m exhausted, and all I’ve done is work a couple 4-hour shifts and wandering the floor for three days.  The organizers, who have been living and breathing this con for the past 3 years must be ready to collapse.  But I hope the exhilaration of pulling of such a massive undertaking keeps them going long enough to grab a pint of Fantastic Pour and rest on their laurels for a bit.  But just for a little while, because we’re going to do this all over again in 12 months.  See you there.

This is my favorite picture from the con.

Denver ComicCon, Day 1

 

I not sure why the bear is so angry…

After months of anticipation, we’re finally here: the first day of the inaugural Denver ComicCon.  I admit, I was a bit worried.  Ever since I moved out to the Mile High City, I’ve felt it’s the right size for a good comic convention.  Sure, there are a few hotel cons every year, but those are hit or miss.  The bad ones are REALLY bad, and even the good ones can just be back issues with the occasional local creator.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I love those cons! — but I’ve always thought Denver could support more.

While I hoped for the best, I wasn’t really sure what to expect on a Friday night — or at all — from the convention.  Would guests come?  Would talent come?  Let me say, whatever my expectations were they were far exceeded. 

We got off to a bit of a rocky start.  There’s little signage in the lobby, so it’s not obvious where to go for anything, from tickets to the convention floor entrance.  However, it just took a little wandering to find the ticket line.  I bought my ticket in advance, but the line to claim wristbands for entrance took about 45 minutes to work through.  It moved at a brisk clip, but if tomorrow is anything as busy as I expect (rumor has it the con has sold out of all 10,000 Saturday passes) there should really be twice as many ticket booths, along with line guides to make knowing where to go a bit easier.*

Fortunately it moves quickly.

When walking into the main hall the first thing you see is the Comic Book Classroom, a program that helps get kids into comics and reading.  This is really as it should be, since CBC is the beneficiary of all con proceeds, and the intent of the con is to make the kids the stars of the show.  And it works great!  The kids are front and center, drawing, making Captain America shields and other arts and crafts, and sitting next to other family-friendly creators.

Doin’ it for the kids of Comic Book Classroom.

Moving further in…Well, it’s everything you’d expect!  Not as big as a San Diego, obviously, but certainly bigger than the sadly-defunct Big Easy Comic Con (the only other “major” convention I’ve been to).  Everything is logically and easily laid out.  Artists Alley takes up most of the center-rear of the floor**, with celebrity signings along the back wall.

Jason Aaron will sign a LOT of comics for you! Also, be super-cool.

Off to either side are the dealers, everything from anime to steampunk gear to Star Wars squadrons to toy and comic dealers.  Oh, and the guy selling replicas of Batman ’66 gear, which I’m afraid to say may be my splurge of the con.

What I found most reassuring was the focus on comics.  Sure there were media and game people there, but comics really are the focus.  And to that end, there were far more creators of indie books and artists than even back issue dealers.  I find that somewhat disappointing as a collector, but exciting as a lover of the medium.  The floor felt more excited and engaged and everyone I spoke to was really excited about COMICS, rather than snagging an exclusive toy or catching a movie preview.

But because it is so heavily comic-focused there are some really top-notch creators present this weekend.  I got a chance to meet Jason Aaron (Ghost Rider, Wolverine, X-Men), Ben Templesmith (Fell, Wormwood), and Paul Horn (Cool Jerk).  Also present and on the to-meet list for the rest of the weekend: Mike Allred (Madman, X-Statix, I, Zombie), Gail Simone (Secret Six), James O’Barr (The Crow, ’cause I’m a secret goth) and Ethan Nicolle (Axe Cop!) 

And as I stagger to bed to try to prepare for another full day of conventioneering, I sleep soundly knowing the gaming tables will be running all night long.

Pretty remarkable costumes on the floor.

* I admit, I say this with a bit of self-interest.  I’ll be working the crowd control line tomorrow afternoon!

** Behind the Rock Band stage and the famous cars of stage and screen display.  Pictures to come, don’t you worry.

A New Project

I’ve done a little shilling for the Denver Comic Con in these pages lately (June 15-17, get your tickets now!), but there’s something else comic-related happening this summer.  Cellar Door, a Denver literary anthology, is releasing an all-comic issue timed to come out around the convention.  Titled (and themed) “Ancient,” you’ll see work by some great and committed Denver-area cartoonists.  If you’re able to track down a copy, you’ll also see a 9-page story titled “What REALLY Happened to the Seven Wonders of the World,” drawn by FotB Andrew with words by me.  It’s a humorous (hopefully!) look at what destroyed mankind’s greatest engineering marvels, and if nothing else it will be amazing to look at. 

There’s also a Kickstarter going on to help defray printing costs, which is worth checking out for a little more backstory on the project and the opportunity to snag a copy once it comes out, potentially for less than cover price.

If you’re even remotely curious what happens when we don’t even attempt to come close to honesty keep your eyes peeled, we’d appreciate your support!

No Capes Tuesday!

Archaia's Tale of Sand

It’s no news to say that I’m a big fan of the Muppets, but it’s more accurate to say that I’m a fan of Jim Henson. These two ideas are not necessarily the same. A great many people love the Muppets, Sesame Street, and the Fraggles without every appreciating or “get”ting Dark Crystal. And that same crowd has almost certainly never seen Henson’s experimental film “Time Piece.” If you’re honest with yourself and think of yourself as more of a Muppet fan than a Henson fan, Tale of Sand is is not something you should buy simply because Henson’s signature is writ large on the front cover. Tale of Sand is decidedly non-Muppet.

Briefly, for those unfamiliar,  Tale of Sand was co-written over a seven year period, starting in 1966, by Jim Henson and Muppet head writer Jerry Juhl. To put it in perspective of Henson’s career, during that time period Henson was guest appearing regularly on a variety of television shows (Jimmy Dean, Ed Sullivan, etc…), developing the concept of Sesame Street, and producing television specials featuring the Muppets telling fairy tales. With all of these projects going, Henson and Juhl were also looking for money to make Tale of Sand. At some point they stopped shopping it around, and it ended up forgotten in a file drawer until recently. Henson Associates decided it would make a good graphic novel. The weren’t wrong.

Story-wise, this is straight forward in a convoluted way. Basically a man is on the run. Neither he nor we as an audience find out why. The disorientation, seemingly surreal events, and betrayal that occurs is actually reminiscent of The Prisoner. Even through the end, there’s no clear answer to any question a reader will have. There isn’t much dialogue so the bulk of the story is carried visually.

At first glance, Ramon Perez’s style is similar to Jeff Smith’s in RASL. His figures are fluid and distinct. There’s a nice realism that verges just this side of caricature. From his novel layouts, I cannot imagine that it was easy translating the screenplay and it’s multitude of descriptions and scene changes. As a final nice touch, pages of the screenplay are visible in the gutters between each panel. Perez and company made the best choice in avoiding coloring everything in the book. The minimal coloring in this book keeps the layouts and visuals from being too busy. This is a truly stunning book to look at.

This is a great book for students of the graphic novel form; the visual story telling here is phenomenal. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’d warn again, this isn’t a Muppet book. If you can wrap your brain around that, it’s a great piece of art and Jim Henson history.

Last Dispatch: Wizard World New Orleans.

So…yesterday was a good day at the convention, but today was a great day. Like most other conventions, Sunday is the day to really get to talk to people and move around. There just aren’t as many people around. If you’re daunted by the price of the two day admission, but you want to get some autographs, some books, and chat up some pros, trust me when I say that the Sunday beats the Saturday. Everybody from looky-loos and casual fans to hardcore fans on a budget go on Saturday. Sunday is much more relaxed. So it was again this year at this con. There’s only one downside to Sundays: sketches are hard…if impossible to come by. I’ll post some time about getting sketches from folks, but for now suffice it to say that the artists are working during the second day to fill the obligations of the first…mostly.

But my general thoughts on attending a con are not why you’re here. You probably want to hear about the Stan Lee panel and the William Shatner Q & A.

As you might surmise from his exuberance in the media, Stan Lee looks like he’s genuinely having fun. His interactions with the crowd at the Q&A were warm and friendly. The man seemed to enjoy being there and interacting with the people. Sure there wasn’t anything revelatory today, (after so many years that wasn’t likely anyway) but it was a joy to listen to him speak about his career and his creations. As an English teacher, the greatest part of the session was his genial insistence on proper grammar. He corrected the moderator and a fan. It was a hoot! For an 89 year old man, there was a great deal of sharp give and take with the crowd. It was easily the best panel I’ve ever been to, and most likely ever will go to. AND I got to take a picture with him! It’s a rare thing for me to smile outside of laughing, but standing next to Stan Lee in that photo is a fool with a huge goofy grin.

The Shatner panel was a fairly different tone. Although he was standing in front of the table the entire time, there was a greater sense of distance between him and the audience. Mr. Shatner was entertaining, and he certainly knows how to work a room, but the tone was more like a monologue than a conversation. After he mentioned that he’s about to open a one-man show, I realized that this panel was probably a rehearsal for his show. Answers to questions were followed by anecdotes that didn’t always tie to the question. It felt like he had these set things he was going to say come hell or high water. Distance and all aside, it was an enjoyable panel.

Another thing worth noting about this year’s convention is the increased presence of costumes. There were some really impressive ones too. You’ll see a couple below taken by friend of the blog Southall. Remarkably, steam punk seemed to outnumber any other theme. There were quite a few Dr. Whos and Star Wars stormtroopers. Regrettably there were also a hand full of goddamn furries.

Well, that’s it until next year.

Game Tape: FCBD Edition

This year’s Free Comic Book Day was probably the best I’ve had in a couple of years. Everything fell into place: there was cake; there were sales; there were excellent comics. The only down side was that limits were imposed. In ten years, this was the first time I had to carefully select which books to take home. Apparently this isn’t rare; my brother in Boulder, CO, has always had limits. I’m hoping there are some books left Wednesday that I can snag then. I haven’t read all of them yet because I’m mingling these with the books I got from the sales. Here’s what I picked up on Saturday’s holy day of obligation.

The Intrepid Escape Goat was quite clever and fun. Presenting a full story, the book served as a preview for a series that’s starting in June. Imagine Harry Houdini as a goat and a globe-trotting adventurer.  I’m going to read more, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be reading the issues or the trades. This was a flip-book with the companion being Stuff of Legend. I’ve heard good things about this, and I’ve been curious. This sealed the deal. I’m not sure of the timing on this, but it shares some ideas with Grant Morrison’s Joe the Barbarian. At any rate, this was a preview for the third volume.

Jesse and I have long been fans of The Tick, but I don’t think either of us have regularly read the books/ collections since Edlund was writing it… so it’s been a while. This book was a treat for me returning to an old friend. The plot is sufficiently silly with cameos by characters I knew and several I hadn’t heard of. Thankfully, there’s a Who’s Who style supplement in the back.

Speaking of Who’s Who supplements, Image’s promised origin issue of Super Dinosaur was still just okay. Complete with supplement, we get a one-sided origin story told exclusively by the preteen protagonist. I’m betting a plot point later in the series will be the fact that the bad guy isn’t as bad as we are led to believe. I want to like this book. I love the idea of this book: wunderkind with anthropomorphic/ cybernetic T-Rex has adventures and saves the world. It’s just that Kirkman has forgotten how to write a story of all-ages. Invincible was once my favorite book because it could appeal so broadly, and it was well written. Then Kirkman turned every issue into a slasher film. Super Dinosaur sees the pendulum swing away and toward saccharine simplicity. While it’s got elements that could succeed, these first two outings read more like one of DiC’s Saturday morning cartoon from the 1980’s.

I picked up the Mickey Mouse book and Geronimo Stilton/ Smurfs book, but I haven’t read either of them. I’ve heard good things about the Mickey Mouse stuff, and I’m looking forward to Fantagraphic’s collections. Mickey never should have left his surreal roots in favor of a “friendly” dull character. I also grabbed the Atomic Robo book.

I was intrigued by the Adam West book until I saw that it was another abysmal entry in Blue Water’s bio-book series. I regretted reading the Stephanie Meyer book, and I still haven’t forgiven them for their Leprechaun books. So… it’s just as well that I didn’t see a copy. I might have been compelled to burn it or shred it.

Wednesday, I hope to grab the Captain America/ Thor book. I’m still holding fast on not picking up the Green Lantern book, but I may see about getting Slott’s Spider-Man.

That’s what I picked up. What kind of cool things did you guys get?