From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1692:
“We stand today on the edge of a new frontier, the frontier of the
1960s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier
of unfulfilled hopes and threats. The new frontier of which I speak
is not a set of promises; it is a set of challenges.”
-John Fitzgerald Kennedy
In CBG #1691, I presented an incomplete breakdown of comic books
published in my birth month of December 1951 with a promise to do
the same for comics published in December 2011 in this exciting
issue. Were I a politician, I’d claim I never made that statement
then wince as Jon Stewart ran a clip of me saying exactly what I
claimed I never said. At which point I’d blame the liberal media.
I’m not a politician.
However, I am a columnist who came to a realization I didn’t care
much about the comics published in December 2011 when there were so
many more past months that did interest me greatly. My career and
life in comics has had several milestone months: the month I first
went to work for Marvel Comics, the month the first first issue of
Black Lightning was published, the month I bought a comics store,
Superman’s 50th anniversary, the month I closed my comics store and
the month the second first issue of Black Lightning was published.
Then there’s the month (July 1963) I bought Fantastic Four Annual
#1, realized folks made comic books for a living and decided I also
wanted that job. That’s the month I’m breaking down for you this
Mike’s Amazing World of Comics lists 137 comics published in July
1963, down from the 153 it lists for December 1951. The gap is
certainly wider than indicated. Several 1951 publishers were missing
from Mike’s list while the relatively small ACG and humor mags MAD,
Cracked, and Sick are the only omissions that come to mind from 1963.
DC was the most prolific publisher:
DC.....28 issues (20.4%)
Gold Key.....26 issues (19%)
Charlton.....25 issues (18.3%)
Harvey.....18 issues (13.1%)
Marvel.....15 issues (11%)
Archie.....14 issues (10.2%)
Dell.....11 issues (8%)
Missing in action: Fawcett, Quality, Fiction House, Eastern Color,
and United Features. These departed publishers accounted for 29.4%
of our incomplete December 1951 totals.
There were 62 comic books based on licensed properties in December
1951, 40.5% of our incomplete total. It was down to 35 comic books
and 25.6% in July 1963. Noting once again that there will be some
overlapping, here’s a breakdown by genre:
Humor.....20 issues (57.1%)
Celebrity, Movie, TV.....11 issues (8%)
Funny Animal.....11 issues (8%)
Adventure.....4 issues (2.9%)
Comic Strip.....3 issues (2.2%)
Mystery.....2 issues (1.5%)
Western.....2 issues (1.5%)
Doctors/Nurses.....1 issue (0.7%)
Science Fiction.....1 issue (0.7%)
Teen Humor.....1 issue (0.7%)
Crime.....no issues (0%)
Humor dominated the comics racks more than in 1951 with 60 issues
to the earlier year’s 41. That’s 43.8% to 26.8%. Once again, I’ve
broken the humor books into categories: funny animal, teen, kids,
domestic, babes (such as Millie the Model) and miscellaneous, while
adding supernatural humor to cover Casper, Hot Stuff and Wendy the
Good Little Witch. The Flintstones and The Jetsons gave me pause,
but, ultimately, I decided that, despite their backgrounds, both of
those were domestic humor titles with, at least in their TV show
counterparts, stories not far removed from TV family and marriage
Crime comics are gone from the racks in 1963, as are sports comics.
There are two new genres: doctors/nurses and hot rods. Horror has
metamorphosed into “mystery.”
Super-Heroes.....24 issues (17.5%)
Teen Humor.....16 issues (11.7%)
Miscellaneous Humor.....11 issues (8%)
Adventure.....10 issues (7.3%)
Kids Humor.....10 issues (7.3%)
Supernatural Humor.....10 issues (7.3%)
Funny Animal.....9 issues (6.6%)
Romance.....8 issues (5.8%)
War.....8 issues (5.8%)
Science Fiction.....7 issues (5.1%)
Western.....7 issues (5.1%)
Doctors/Nurses.....5 issues (3.7%)
Domestic Humor.....5 issues (3.7%)
Mystery.....4 issues (2.9%)
Hot Rods.....2 issues (1.5%)
Babes Humor.....1 issue (0.5%)
Crime.....no issues (0%)
Super-heroes are beginning their decades-long domination of comics
racks, rising from 7.8% to 17.5%. Romance fell from 13.7% to 5.8%
while westerns comics fell to 5.1% from the December 1951 total of
17.7%. Teen humor comics rose from 5.9% to 11.7%. Miscellaneous
humor rose from 3.3% to 8%.
Genres showing gains: kids humor, war, science fiction, domestic
humor. Genres showing loses: adventure (slightly), funny animals,
horror/mystery, babes humor.
I won’t be doing such breakdowns every issue. How often I do them
depends on reader response. If you fell asleep after I mentioned
Fantastic Four Annual #1, I won’t do them ever again. Of course,
that might force me to go with editor Brent Frankenhoff’s monthly
themes. His October theme is “Halloween Costumes of Comics Pros.”
Trust me when I say you do not want to see me in my Dr. Manhattan
costume. I look like a pervy Papa Smurf.
If you need a reminder of how dearly Harvey Pekar will be missed,
look no further than Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland [Zip Comics/Top Shelf
Productions; $21.99]. With compelling art by Joseph Reminant, this
108-page graphic novel is both an autobiography of the writer and
a historical/social/political/artistic history of the city in which
he lived. Indeed, it’s the city Pekar made his by revealing it to
his readers across the country and the world. Not even Superman,
Cleveland’s other iconic comics con, was ever so in tune with the
heart and soul of the city and its people.
Critics and reviewers far more literate than me, such as Alan Moore
in his introduction to this book, will wax more eloquently on the
craft and genius of America’s comic-book everyman. I’ll settle for
telling you that Pekar’s voice speaks strongly to me as a reader,
a writer, and a former Cleveland resident. It didn’t speak to me
when I first read his earliest American Splendor comics, but I did
eventually “get” him and his work. My comics experience and yours
would be incomplete without Harvey Pekar.
Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland is the best graphic novel of 2012. Every
other graphic novel is competing for second place.
That other Cleveland comics legend features prominently in Superman
Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero
Battled the Men of Hate [National Geographic; $16.95]. Author Rick
Bowers, a noted journalist who frequently writes of the struggles
to secure civil rights, explores the histories of Superman and the
real-life villains of the Klan to their seemingly inevitable clash
on the airwaves.
The more I learn about the Klan, the scarier that vile organization
reveals itself to be. These racists exercised great power and not
just in the South. They were a powerful political force in nearby
(to me) Akron Ohio at one time and, if you want to talk chilling,
I can direct you to a old photo of hooded Klansman assisting Santa
Claus in giving out presents to clearly frightened white children.
The Klan were and remain a clear and present danger to my country,
diminished though they may be in today’s America.
Superman was created as the champion of the oppressed. Something
that was lost as he deferred increasingly to authority in the 1950s
and 1960s. When he opposes authority today, it appears to be more
because it interferes with him personally than because it oppresses
Yet in the years following World War II, at a time when the comic
book was under fire on many fronts, Superman’s radio program earned
praise for stories preaching tolerance within its exciting stories.
In 1946, Superman’s battle with the “Clan of the Fiery Cross” hit
the airwaves with locomotive force. The Clan was so similar to the
Klan - its members used actual code words from the Klan - that the
program needn’t have bothered with the alias.
The book is a page-turner, a thriller. Its tight 160 pages make it
perfect for an afternoon’s reading. Superman is at his finest as a
hero for social justice, when he fights for and is one of us. I
wish that guy was still around. In the meantime, Superman Versus
the Ku Klux Klan reminds us of the character’s greatness and shows
a path for restoring him to that greatness.
Big Nate Goes for Broke [Harper; $14.89] by Lincoln Peirce is the
fourth “chapter book” based on the author’s comic strip, which has
been running since 1991. Title hero Nate Wright is a sixth-grader
who aspires to greatness. His energy and rebellious nature combine
with his disinterest in his school work to put him at odds with his
teachers and various bullies. He’s no stranger to disappointment,
but Nate is always game for the next challenge.
Peirce combines prose with panels from his comic strip, including
pages drawn by Nate. Though I can’t speak for the book’s intended
audience (ages 8-12), I get a kick out of this storytelling method.
Like the earlier books in the series, Big Nate Goes for Broke is a
fun book with an appealing hero. Check it out.
Heroes for My Daughter by Brad Meltzer [Harper; $19.99] showcases
60 heroes, role models for his daughter Lila. It’s a follow-up to
Meltzer’s Heroes for My Son [Harper; $19.99] and is as powerful a
exaltation of real-life heroism, both boisterous and quiet, as the
Part of the fun of this book is seeing what hero you’ll find next
when you turn the pages. I won’t give away too many of Meltzer’s
choices, but I will tell you that any book of heroes that includes
the Three Stooges speaks to me deeply. I think you’ll be surprised
to learn why Meltzer selected those performers.
There are stories here that will bring tears to your eyes, others
that will remind you how much amazing courage and good is present
in our world. Though Meltzer makes no such claims, these are holy
books for today. No ancient writings translated my men driven by
their agendas and their eras. Just simple tales of humanity at its
best. Lessons brave and true for 2012. I recommend them highly.
Heroes for My Daughter: ISBN 978-0-06-190526-1
Heroes for My Son: ISBN 978-0-06-190528-5
Charlton Spotlight #7 [Argo Press; $7.95] features a “conversation”
with cartoonist and former Charlton editor George Wildman and his
friend and fellow cartoonist Hy Eisman. Lots of information about
the odd-but-beloved Charlton Comics.
Also in the issue, writer Paul Kupperberg and publisher Ron Frantz
share memories of Dick Giordano, another former Charlton editor and
one of comicdom’s most accomplished artist, editor, and executive.
All told, Charlton Spotlight is 48 pages of comics art and history
in a handsome magazine.
Charlton Spotlight is only available directly from editor Michael
Ambrose. You can find ordering details at:
I have never found zombies very interesting. Seen one Night of the
Living Dead and, as far as I can tell, you’ve seen them all, though
I did enjoy Shaun of the Dead. One original, one brilliant spoof.
Zombie-wise, I was good.
Other exceptions to my “not finding zombies interesting” semi-rule
are the Simon Garth stories in Marvel’s Tales of the Zombie (1970s)
and The Walking Dead. Two movies, two comic books. Zombie-wise,
I was still good.
Then comes Rex, Zombie Killer #1 [Big Dog Ink; $3.50] by writer Rob
Anderson and artist Dafu Yu. Fifty-six full-color pages of three
dogs, a cat and a gorilla seeking safe haven in the aftermath of
your basic zombie apocalypse. Terrific characters, crisp writing,
good art and storytelling, thrills a’plenty, and outstanding bang
for your three and a half bucks. Zombie-wise, I’m now quite a bit
better than good.
Rex, Zombie Killer is a smart smart comic book. The only downside
is that reading it will make your brain all the more appetizing for
those darn zombies.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella