Wednesday, April 30, 2014

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 55

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 55th installment of that series.

Why did it have to be snakes? The cover of The Rawhide Kid #70 [June, 1969] is penciled by Larry Lieber. The Grand Comics Database opines Lieber also inked the cover.

“The Night of the Betrayers” (22 pages) is a Western version of The Prince and the Pauper. Even the villains are European. The tale is written and penciled by Lieber with John Tartaglione on the inks. As with the other issue-length Rawhide Kid adventures of the era, this one has never been reprinted.

The fast-paced story begins with the Rawhide Kid stopping to assist magic elixir huckster “Dr. Druid” with a busted wagon wheel. Their initial conversation got a laugh out of me.

RAWHIDE: That medicine you’re sellin’–-does it really work?

DRUID: Not a chance! That’s why I need a wagon that does! I’ve got to keep on the move!

This is an ambush. Three owlhoots grab the Rawhide Kid from behind and chloroform him. When the Kid wakes up, he’s in an escape-proof room. It’s a nice escape-proof room, but the bars on the window and door detract from its charm.

Count Zamora, the “premier of the sovereign state of Koslavia,” is behind the kidnapping. The Kid is the twin of young Prince Stephen. Zamora plans to have Rawhide replace Stephen, allowing the premier to become the actual ruler of the country. Stephen is horrified by this betrayal by a man he thought was his most loyal subject. The Count explains:

Loyalty ends where opportunity begins! The opportunity to unseat a noble sovereign...and substitute a mere figurehead whom I can control...as I never could you.

Turning to Johnny, the Count continues: 

You see, gunman, the crown will be yours–-but the power will be mine!

Rawhide doesn’t plan to go along with it. Zamora is surprised that the young outlaw has scruples, but is certain those scruples can be overcome. At gunpoint, the Kid and the Prince are forced to change clothes with one another.

Zamora tells his thugs to escort “the new Prince” to the cellar to be shown the price of defiance. That’s when Christina, daughter of the Count, bursts into the room. She’s not down with this scheme of her father’s at all.

Johnny takes advantage of the distraction to punch out the Count’s henchmen, only to be knocked out by a gas pallet. Zamora orders his daughter to her room.

When the Kid awakes, his hands are tied and he’s on a plank over a pit of rattlers. If Johnny doesn’t cooperate, the Count’s men will pull the plank out from under him. Our hero is left to consider his options while Zamora moves on to the next part of his plan.

Christiana, loyal to the true Prince Stephen, drops a flower pot on the sole henchman guarding the  Kid. She frees Johnny, then tells him her father’s plan to kill Stephen:

He’s been taken to town, dressed in your clothes! My father will turn him loose among your countrymen–-to be hunted down and slain as a fugitive.

The Kid sizes up the situation:

The Prince hasn’t the experience–-the savvy–-of a man on the run! He doesn’t stand a chance! I’ve gotta bust out of here and get to town pronto!

Things happen pretty fast. Prince Stephen wakes up in the town and is immediately spotted and mistaken for the real Rawhide Kid. He eludes capture for a few pages.

Back at the ranch, Christina distracts another guard to allow Rawhide to escape. Johnny punches out another guard, takes the man’s gun and heads for his horse.

The mob catches up with Prince Stephen. Fiscally conservative, the townspeople feels trials are long and expensive. The figure they’ll just lynch the man they believe is the Rawhide Kid.

Enter the real Rawhide, who rides into town on Nightwind, wings the guy holding the rope, scatters the rest of the mob and grabs up the Prince. The brave townspeople aren’t about to go up against two “outlaws” and decide to call it a day.

Rawhide and the Prince hatch a scheme of their own, knowing Zamora will be expecting the Kid to seek vengeance. They switch clothes. The Prince, pretending to be Johnny, knocks on the door. He tells Zamora Stephen is dead and, since the killing has already been done, he might as well profit from these events.

Zamora is impressed: Excellent! I admire a man who faces life’s realities-–and exploits them!  

While this mutual cooperation stuff is going on, Johnny sneaks his way into the house and gets the drop on Zamora and his goons. But one of the owlhoots sneaks up behind him. The Kid drops the rifle-toting henchmen easily, but, in that brief moment, Zamora and his men take cover and start shooting. The Rawhide Kid is pinned down.

Johnny leaps for a chandelier and swings down into the table some of his foes are hiding behind. The Count’s men are no match for the Kid’s guns. Zamora knows he’ll be next, but he’s counting on Johnny following him into a secret room.

The Count thinks: So come ahead, Rawhide! Come and see how your famed colts stand up against the blazing fire power...of a Gatling gun!

Pretty good as it turns out, but mostly because one last henchmen leaps at Johnny from behind. The Kid ducks and the thugs sails over him into the Gatling gun’s spray of bullets. The surprised Zamora loses focus for a second and, in the next second, the Rawhide Kid sends him into eternity.

Christina knows her father’s ruthless ambition “could only end in death for him...and disgrace for me!"

Prince Stephen will have none of that. Christina is a loyal subject of the realm, noble and untainted.

The Kid decides to push on. Asked to where, he answers:

Not “to,” but “away from!” Away from the sound of gunfire...and the memory of yesterday! Adios!

Digression. It’s a shame the Kid didn’t follow Christina and Prince Stephen back to Koslavia. My man Larry could have spun some mighty interesting yarns about an American outlaw seeking a new life far from the Wild West.

“The Night of the Betrayers” is another of my favorite Rawhide Kid stories. Lieber took the lessons he learned from creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s run on the title and added his own sensibilities. That made for great comics that were somewhat different from other Marvel titles. I like these isues   more with each rereading.

There are two half-page house ads in this issue. One is for Mighty Marvel Western #5, a 68-page comic book with a new cover by Herb Trimpe and reprints of Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt Outlaw stories. The other is for the Spider-Man and Thor plastic pillows that have been around for several months now. The full-color items cost $1.50 each plus fifteen cents for postage.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page has three missives from readers. Tim Snow of Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada bemoans the recent cancellations of Ghost Rider, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt. He suggests a bimonthly mag featuring all three of those heroes...and the Rawhide Kid.

The editorial response says such a magazine is in the works. Which was kind of sort of accurate. The Ghost Rider would return as one of several strips in Western Gunfighters. Kid Colt Outlaw and Two-Gun Kid would also return to regular publication but those titles would feature reprints of previous adventures.

Owen Mahon of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania gushes about Larry Lieber’s penciling. He suggests Larry take over Silver Surfer (drawn by John Buscema) or Sub-Mariner (drawn by Gene Colan). After a few jokes, the editorial response:

Larry’s just burstin’ with pride thanks to all the nice words you said about his talented pencils...but we doubt if anybody is big enough to take over the SILVER SURFER from Big John!

David Lomazoff of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is fairly critical of issue #68's “When Stalks the Cougar” but eventually concludes that it was a good story.

That’s “adios” for another Rawhide Kid Wednesday. I’ll be back on the morrow with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

HOT CARS, HOT CHICKS, ONE BIG MONSTER

Last week was one heck of a week and not in a good way.  It wasn’t one of those weeks where the bear got me, but it certainly let me know I had been in a fight.  By mid-week, I was in serious need of some stress relief...and that relief came in the form of a pair of low-budget monster movies.

The movies were The Giant Gila Monster (1959) and Gila (2012). The former is the original, the latter is the remake. I watched Gila on Wednesday night and The Giant Gila Monster on Thursday afternoon.  I loved them both.

Directed by Jim Wynorski, Gila is set in the same late 1950s era as the original. It’s a little choppy in places, but that might be due to the film having four writers: William Dever, Steve Mitchell, Jim Nielsen and Paul Sinor. Here’s how the Internet Movie Database has summarized the movie:

A giant lizard terrorizes a rural mid west community with a group of heroic young people led by Chase Winstead attempting to destroy the creature.

We get to see the CGI monster in the opening scene when it attacks two young lovers. The young man meets his demise quickly, but the fate of the young woman, who we later learn is the daughter of the arrogant and heavy handed mayor, isn’t revealed until later in the movie. The monster looks pretty good and I think its occasionally jerky movements are meant at a homage to the original movie, which used a live lizard and miniature sets.

We quickly meet the cast members. Chase [Brian Gross] might be into drag-racing, but he’s a good guy who works as a mechanic to provide for his mother and his polio-crippled kid sister. His girlfriend Lisa [Madeline Voges] is feisty and gorgeous. The other kids in the group are standard background characters, though the movie gets some funny moments from a Swedish exchange student and the fellow courting her.

Bad boy Waco [Jesse Janzen] has a chip on his shoulder for the town he feels has never given him a break and for Chase in particular. Waco’s girlfriend [Christina DeRosa] is beginning to question her choice of man and sets her sights on Chase. Other key players are the sheriff [Terence Knox], his flirtatious, wise-cracking deputy [Kelli Maroney], the grizzled and well-armed veteran Chase for whom Chase works [Rich Komenich] and Chaee’s sister Missy [Jenna Ruiz]. Outside of Knox, I wasn’t familiar with this cast, but they all played their roles with an earnestness that suited the film well.

Once you accept the giant monster dining on citizens in the rural setting of the movie - and that’s a given with giant monster movie fans like me - Gila plays out in an exciting, suspenseful manner. The threat always seems real, especially when the beast is closing in on Chase’s mother and sister. Neither character changes of heart or the climatic battle between Chase and the Gila monster come out of nowhere. It’s a solid little movie.

My complaints about the movie are that it goes on a little too long after the climatic battle and it failed to include/improve on the scene in the original movie where the monster crashes its way into a teen dance. That moment in the original scene was limited by the movie’s use of a real lizard being prodded/poked from off-camera. In the remake, the scene could’ve been very effective and  perhaps even memorable.

My only other complaint is a gory scene earlier in the movie when two men are splashed with toxic waste. It’s nothing we haven’t seen in other movies and this movie doesn’t dwell on it.  But it still struck me at odds with the rest of the film.

Those are minor complaints. Gila is a blast and the perfect way to spend an hour-and-a-half on a lazy afternoon or in the spring chill of an evening. I recommended it to my giant monster-loving friends and readers. You can get it from Amazon where it’s currently priced at $14,.95.

******************************

The Giant Gila Monster [1959] appears to be in the public domain. It’s available on YouTube and showed up in the fifty-movie Horror Classics pack I bought almost a decade ago and have barely watched since.  It’s also available from several different manufacturer of DVDs. You won’t have a hard time finding it.

I hadn’t watched this movie since I saw it on Cleveland television as a kid and, on viewing it again, was amazed at how closely Gila followed it. Hard-working hot-rodder Chase Winstead [Don Sullivan] is still supporting his wife and sister, though he’s not adverse to breaking the law ever so slightly, like when he “borrows” the tires off a vehicle damaged when the monster ate its driver.  But he is still the alpha male of the town’s teens and someone the sheriff relies on for help. His climatic battle with the giant monster is pretty much the same as in the remake, though the remake was able to do it better.

There are some other differences between the two. There’s no Waco. The town is too small for the sheriff to have a deputy. There’s a star disc-jockey who appears in the original, but not in the newer version. Do they even have star disc-jockeys anymore in these days of iTunes and such?

The main difference is in the monster. Mock CGI all you like, but it’s far superior to using actual lizards and clumsily irritating them into “acting” in the movie. And, as mentioned above, there’s no monster party-crashing in the remake.

Here’s some Giant Gila Monster trivia “borrowed” from the Internet Movie Database...

The Gila Monster in the movie is actually a Mexican Beaded Lizard.

Ken Knox, who plays disc jockey Horatio Alger "Steamroller" Smith, was a real disc jockey working at radio stations in Texas owned by Gordon McLendon, the uncredited executive producer of this film.

This was one of two features produced by an independent company in Texas and meant for release as a double feature. The other feature was The Killer Shrews (1959). Unlike many such features produced in the South, these films received national distribution.

Gordon McLendon, who owned a number of radio stations and theaters in Texas, was the uncredited executive producer and financier of this film. Some members of the McLendon family were given roles in this film.

Not mentioned was that Don Sullivan, who was Chase Winstead in the original, has a small part in the remake.

The Giant Gila Monster turns out to be the little movie that could. It has been referenced in dozens of movies, shown by Elvira, mocked by the oafish Mystery Science Theater 3000 - I'm not a fan of the show  - continues to be enjoyed by B-movie devotees and has been remade in much the same family-friendly manner of the original. That might not get it into a movie hall of fame, but it’s an ensuring success nonetheless.

The Giant Gila Monster was a delightful follow-up to my viewing of Gila. I recommend a double-feature of the two movies with popcorn, soft drinks and a box of delicious nostalgia.
 
I’ll be back tomorrow with "The Night of the Betrayers" as we celebrate another "Rawhide Kid Wednesday."

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 28, 2014

TONY'S TIPS #53

This week's TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder features my reviews of Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time, Dinosaurs Attack and John Byrne's Doomsday.1. Please check it out and post comments.

MIGHTY MOUSE ADDENDUM TWO

This is a page from the Yellow Jacket story in Adventures of Mighty Mouse #160 as discussed in today's bloggy thing. If you can identify the artist, please post a comment or send me an email. Thank you.

MIGHTY MOUSE ADDENDUM ONE

This is a page from the Mighty Mouse story "The Sinister Barbershop" as discussed in today's bloggy thing entry on Adventures of Mighty Mouse #160. If you can identify the artist, please post a comment or send me an email. Thank you.

JULY 1963: ADVENTURES OF MIGHTY MOUSE #160

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 138-plus-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.  I’ve added the “plus” to my description of this series because there may be a few issues I missed in my initial explorations.

The Grand Comics Database comes up woefully short when it comes to Adventures of Mighty Mouse #160 [Gold Key; October 1963]. The entry has the cover and the cover date.  Hopefully, today’s bloggy thing will correct this lack of data.  I’m thrilled to be able to assist the GCD, which is clearly the most mind-boggingly useful research tool for comic-book fans in the known universe.

We don’t know for certain who wrote and drew the stories in Mighty Mouse #160. A visit to Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999 notes that Fred Fredericks wrote, penciled and inked Mighty Mouse comics circa 1963-1965.  If the name sounds familiar and it should, it’s because the now-retired Fredericks had quite a career in both comic books and comic strips.  He drew Mandrake the Magician from June 1965 to his retirement in July 2013. In addition, according to Wikipedia, he drew these Gold Key comic: Nancy, Boris Karloff, The Twilight Zone, Mighty Mouse, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, O.G. Whiz presents Tubby, Bullwinkle, Mister Ed and The Munsters.  The hard-working Fredericks also inked a number of comic books for DC and Marvel.

If Mighty Mouse looked like Mandrake, even an amateur art spotter like me could tell if Fredericks drew this issue. Since the heroes and their worlds couldn’t be more different I can’t.  However, what I can do is post a few pages of this issue as addendums to today’s bloggy thing. Maybe some one far more knowledgeable than I will be able to make a definite identification.

Moving right along...

The inside front cover of this issue is a black-and-white house ad that has a special offer for readers. For $1.25, “lovers of action and adventure” can get six issues each of Turok and Tarzan.  That’s both titles for $1.25. 

“Panic from the Sun” (8 pages) is this issue’s cover story.  Mighty Mouse is called by the police to investigate a crime wave in which only awnings and sun umbrellas are being stolen.  These thefts are part of a plan by the Clutching Cat. Mighty Mouse tracks the crimes from Mouseville to Catville, which is also part of his foe’s plan. A massive explosion sends our hero spinning into space and knocks the Earth off its axis just enough to turn the Mouseville into a tropical hellscape. With nothing to protect them from the heat, the mice flee their town and into the claws of the waiting villains.

Mighty Mouse shakes off the effects of the explosion and returns to Earth. But the scorching head is weakening him. He flies back into space and channels all his remaining energy into punching the Earth hard enough to set its axis to rights. He captures most of the cats and puts them to work sewing awnings and sun umbrellas for all the people of Mouseville. The Clutching Cat manages to escape, but he’s suffering from a terrible case of heat rash.

Next is The Yellow Jacket in “Smashing the Bank Gang” (4 pages). Most and maybe all Gold Key comics would have a feature unconnected to the star of the title in each issue. The Yellow Jacket poses as the elderly caretaker of a wax museum, but he’s actually a “flying fighter against crime.”

A grocer and his daughter are driven from their store by two cops who tell them the property has been condemned. The phoney cops are bank robbers using high-pressure torches to melt their way into a bank vault next door to the grocery. The hero makes short work of the gang, after all, he only had four pages to work with. The next day, the grocer’s daughter visits the museum to tell the caretaker what happened. She’s amazed to see he already has a display of the tools the robbers used. The girl didn’t realize he was a friend of Yellow Jacket. He says:

Oh, yes...as a matter of fact, we’re very close!

Digression. There was a time when many Gold Key comics had a rule about captions and word balloons touching panel borders. It was a dumb rule and it hurt the overall look of the art.

Mighty Mouse returns in “The Sinister Barbershop” (7 pages). Tony’s is the only barbershop in Mouseville. It even has a barbershop trio that sings to customers. Then, unexpectedly, the barbershop closes for several days. When it reopens - Tony nervously says that it was closed for repairs - customers start disappearing.

Evil cats - as if there were any other kind in Mighty Mouse - have kidnapped Tony’s wife and forcing him to help them seize the mice who come into his shop. Mighty Mouse investigates and the cats try to kill him. Deadly acid doesn’t work, but Tony passes it off as an accident. In the basement of the shop, some captured mice use old wires to send a morse-code message through the lit barber pole of the shop.

Mighty Mouse returns to the shop. The cats cuff him to a chair and spin it around at high speed to make him dizzy. That works for half a page and then the cats gets theirs. As a bonus punishment, Tony shaves their heads.

“Scrambled Eggs” is a one-page prose story and I was never one for reading comic-book prose stories. It involves friendly wolf twins, a hungry fox, newly-hatched birds and an angry bird mom. The moral of a story: Don’t mess with a mother, especially if she’s an eagle.

The prose story is followed by “Mirrors of Doom” (6 pages), another Mighty Mouse adventure.  A new Catville gang forms to use mirrors to capture mice. They trick a mouse hayride into going off the road by making the driver of the truck think the vehicle’s reflection in a mirror is an oncoming truck. As he flies over the woods, Mighty Mouse hears a cry for help.

The cat criminals use mirrors to confuse and blind Mighty Mouse, but he recovers quickly and goes after the gang. Our hero knocks down three cats with one punch, but the leader threatens to throw a bag of mice off a cliff if Mighty Mouse takes one step closer to him. Ironically, the cat is looking at a Mighty Mouse reflection in a mirror.

Mighty Mouse comes at him from another direction, saving the mice and capturing the gang leader.  Since the hayride truck was damaged in the crash, Mighty Mouse makes the cats tow the vehicle back to Mouseville.  Which is fifteen miles away.

“Cry Torpedo” (6 pages) is the issue’s final story. Captain Steve’s sightseeing boat is struck by a torpedo that lodges in the craft’s hull. It’s a giant hollow torpedo that works like a submarine and is manned by...all together now...evil cats looking to capture the mice. Mighty Mouse is on the job, but these criminals are clever.

Ramming Mighty Mouse doesn’t work, but the grease on the outside of the torpedo makes him hard for him to grab it until he uses ocean sponges to scrub it clean. He tears his way into the now-surfaced sub, but is tricked into holding a basket of nitroglycerin.  Drop it and all the mice die.

The cats make a break for it. Mighty Mouse throws the nitro basket at them.  However, since this isn’t Itchy and Scratchy, the blast only stuns the villains.

Mighty Mouse fixes the sightseeing boat. The passengers think that it was the greatest sightseeing trip ever. The captain wonders if he can get Mighty Mouse to do it on every cruise.

Final digression. I am writing today’s bloggy thing under protest. As the owner of a cat named Simba, who probably thinks she owns me, I’m appalled by the blatant species bigotry shown by the characters and the creators of this comic book. Cats are wonderful creatures. They don’t deserve to be physically and verbally abused by a brute of a mouse who wears red-and-yellow long johns. End of digression.

The inside back cover is a black-and-white “Keys of Knowledge” fact page on physical therapy. Number seven in a series, it shows how to do a “jackknife and scissors” exercise.

The back cover is an ad we’ve seen in other comics this month: 204 Revolutionary War soldiers for only $1.98.

I hope you’re enjoying my JULY 1963 series. Later this week, I will be looking at Adventures of the Fly #27

I’ll be back tomorrow with reviews of The Giant Gila Monster and Gila. See you then.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 25, 2014

JULY 1963: THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #28

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 138-plus-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.  I’ve added the “plus” to my description of this series because there may be a few issues I missed in my initial explorations.

******************************

I first attempted my JULY 1963 series in 2012, but, since I didn’t have the comics as I wrote about them, I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I dropped the series, but always knew I would return to it someday. I went back and read what I posted about today’s subject in May 2012 and liked it well enough to repeat it before getting into more expanded commentary.  I wrote:

Fantastic Four Annual #1 came out in July 1963 and changed my life. It made me realize that writing and drawing comic books was a for-real job...and I wanted that job.  I have worked at many other jobs in my six decades on Planet Earth, but, when anyone asks me what I do, I always tell them I’m a comic-book writer.  To celebrate that awakening, I’m writing about other comic books that were shipped tonewsstands in that pivotal month.

The Adventures of Little Archie #28 [Fall 1963] is not a comic book I would’ve read back then.  The only issue of Little Archie I owned as a kid had a dinosaur on the cover.  My love of such prehistoric critters outweighed another strong emotion.

Comic-book stories about adults and teens when they were children creep me out.  I didn’t care for Little Archie.  I didn’t care for Superbaby.  I shuddered at stories where the Legion of Super-Heroes or Lois Lane were turned into toddlers.  Even Tiny Titans has been a tough sell to me and it’s hilarious.

It’s not directly related to this phobia of mine, but TV shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms disgust me.  The idea of tarting little kids up with the full consent and participation of parents, teaching them to shake their little asses like strippers, and then putting them on TV for the delight of pedophiles...that’s as wrong as it gets.  Every adult who appears or works on those shows should be arrested, convicted and jailed.  But I digress.

The Adventures of Little Archie #28 was a 68-page comic book.  The comics stories were divided between Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor, both of whom wrote and drew their stories.  The cover is by Bolling and, according to the Grand Comics Database, it’s the only time he drew a cover based on one of Taylor’s stories.

Most of the Little Archie adventures are just that: adventures of one kind or another.  The kid goes after a car thief, befriends an alien frog-creature come to Earth to investigate the “inferior human race,” contends with a stranger attempting to steal a doll from Veronica and, with Betty, survives an auto accident because he and she were wearing seat belts.  A few of the stories are of the more realistic “kids learning valuable lessons about life” variety.  It sounds like an entertaining mix for those readers who weren’t as  creeped out as I was.

Maybe I should face my phobia and write some kids comics.  Little Punisher, anyone?

******************************

That was before. This is now...

The inside front cover has a full-page ad for the Pearl Splendor Christmas Card assortment. You can make $32.50 for selling 50 boxes and it costs nothing to try. This Cheerful Card Company seems to be a different company from the one advertising in DC Comics titles.

Bolling’s “Sneak, Squeak and Creek” (9 pages) is disturbing on two levels. Early in the story, Fred Andrews keeps berating the driving skills of his wife Mary. The man is a total dick in these scenes, completely unlike the character in most other appearance. Then, once we get to the Archie trying to catch a burglar stuff, I was stunned by Archie’s insane recklessness and the brutality of his encounter with the burglar. It’s the comics equivalent of the exploitative reality shows I mentioned above.

Next up is a “Li’l Jinx” single-page gag strip by Joe Edwards. It’s  the ancient joke of a fortune-telling machine that gets everything wrong, including the user’s weight.

That’s followed by a subscription ad offering four giant issues of Little Archie for a buck plus one free coloring book.

“Little Archie and the Astral Amphibian” (10 pages) is that alien story and it’s also by Bolling. The frog-being has an insufferable superiority complex but ends up appreciating the sense of fun that human beings embrace and enjoy. I liked this one. So did others. According to the Grand Comics Database, Jaime Hern├índez named this as one of his favorite Bob Bolling stories. The GCD also points out the Lodge family butler is named “Jarvis” in this story. That was changed to the usual “Smithers” in reprints.

This was followed by a prose article child star Hayley Mills, one of two such articles in the issue. Near the back of the comic book, there’s an article on Elvis Presley.

Dexter Taylor’s “Little Archie Learns To Be Nice To Little Girls” (9 pages) has the Andrews lad taking after his father and not in a good way. He takes advantage of Betty by having her carry his books home from school. This inexplicably leads to Archie’s folks telling him how they met...with each telling a different tale. Archie takes two things away from this. His parents tell stories that might not be the truth and he should be nicer to Betty. The kid vows that he will only let her carry four of his books tomorrow.

In another Li’l Jinx one-page by Joe Edwards, she writes a letter to her friend Greg. She writes very slowly because...Greg doesn’t read very fast.

The anguish continues. In the two-page “In Good Taste,” Archie is shown to be lazy. In the single-page “Troubles of a Money Lender,” he makes foolish loans to his friends and only makes an attempt to collect from the only kid he can lick. At least the one-page “Laugh Along with Little Archie” - which consists of four one-panel gags - doesn’t feed my growing disrespect for the lad.

Note: The GCD says “Laugh Along with Little Archie” features “the last appearance of Ambrose (who had already been dropped from the main stories) in the original run of "Little Archie." He returned in the '80s.”

“Billy Wins with Bendix” is a one-page advertisement in comic-book form. Allegedly, a “Bendix automatic transmission and power brake” will make your bike go faster.  If this were a Little Archie story, he’d be involved in illegal gambling on bike races.

In Taylor’s “A Perfect Afternoon” (6 pages), Archie’s neighbors are watching him while his parents are off on a trip. The neighbors are so worried about Archie causing accidents that they themselves are the cause of several. I don’t like this kid.

This story is followed by a page of half-page ads for “Task Force” (America’s Most Exciting War Game) and “Convoy Terror” (a Nuclear Naval Battle Game).

Taylor’s “The China Doll Mystery” (8 pages) is this issue’s cover story. Mr. Lodge buys a small statue for Veronica. One man tries to buy it. Another man tries to steal it. Grabbing the statue from the thief, Archie ends up throwing it at him. The crook’s head and the statue break. The latter has jewels in it. The Lodge cook offers to make whatever Archie wants. The kid asks for chop suey.

This is followed by another page of half-page ads: U.S. Royal bike tires and, in comic-strip form, Popsicles.

“Highway To Danger” (5 pages) is by Taylor. The GCD synopsis covers it well: Little Archie and Betty are riding in a truck with Betty's brother Chick. When the brakes get jammed and the truck crashes, they escape unharmed because they were wearing seat belts.

This story is sort of a public service message and not a bad one at that. I don’t remember seeing Chick in any modern stories, so I’m guessing his luck eventually ran out and the loss was too painful for Betty or her parents to ever mention him again.

This one is followed by the Evil article mentioned above and a page of half-page ads. The first ad offers readers a chance to get cash or premiums for selling Cloverine Brand Salve. I think Cloverine is Wolverine’s adorable little sister. The other ad is one we’ve seen elsewhere this month: 100 Toy Soldiers for $1.25.

Little Archie’s pal Jughead wraps up the issue with “Food Facts” (3 pages), again by Taylor. Admonished by Miss Grundy for eating in a classroom, Jughead insists he thinks about other things than food. But, when he mentions going to a baseball game or watching TV, he is actually thinking about eating a hot dog and the show he watches is a cooking show. It’s mildly amusing.

Next is a full-page ad for the Wallace Brown Christmas cards that we’ve seen advertised elsewhere.

The inside back cover offers a free lucky piece when you join the Archie Comic Book Club. To join the club, you have to subscribe to one of these titles: Archie, Pep, Laugh, Jughead, Betty & Veronica, Archie’s Joke Book, Life with Archie or Archie’s Mad House.  Those who joined got ten issues for a dollar.

The back cover ad proclaims “GIVE ME JUST ONE EVENING AND I’LL TEACH YOU TO HYPNOTIZE EASILY!” For the full-refundable $1.98, you could get the complete 25-lesson GUIDE TO HYPNOTISM. It sounds like a long evening.

Today’s bloggy thing probably craps on the beloved childhood memories of those who loved The Adventures of Little Archie. However, while recognizing that there were, indeed, wonderful stories published in the title, I remain profoundly disturbed by the concept of turning horny teenagers into precocious children. That only gets worse in the way-too-many stories in which elementary schoolgirls Betty and Veronica battle for Archie’s affections. Shudder.

Coming next in my JULY 1963 series will be The Adventures of Mighty Mouse #160, which was published by Gold Key. However, I’ll be back tomorrow with something else.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some other stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 24, 2014

WHAM!

These are days of late when I feel like Flash Thompson in that old Spider-Man panel. However, while I may get knocked about a bit, I haven’t been knocked out. I stay in the ring and make adjustments to my fight strategy as necessary.

There won’t be an online Vast Accumulation of Stuff sale this week. I’m catching up on some writing, working on a business matter and keeping myself loose if my father comes back home from the extended care facility he’s been in for close to month.

My legendary Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales aren’t going to start until the first weekend in June this year.  Between such important events as daughter Kelly graduating from The Ohio State  University in May, the new Godzilla movie hitting the theaters in mid-May, and the out-of-start wedding of our neighbors’ oldest son at the end of the month, I’m not going to be able to devote as much time to preparing the garage sales as I had hoped.  When the sales do start, though, they’ll be held almost every Friday and Saturday morning, 9 am to noon, through the month of September.

I remain in good health and in good financial shape. However, with the likelihood of additional expenses for this and that coming my way, I’ll be taking on more paying gigs than I’d originally planned for 2014. Some of these have already been lined up, but I’m open to others as well. E-mail me if you’re interested.

I’ll be attending PulpFest 2014 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus, Ohio, August 7-10. I’m not a guest of the show.  I’m just going to hang out with friends and relax.  Unless I’m invited to a really great convention this summer, one that will cover my hotel and travel expenses, that’s the only convention I’m going to this summer. I will be attending the Wizard World Ohio Comic-Con and the Akron Comic-Con later in the year.

Let’s see what else I have for you today.

******************************

I watched Frozen over the weekend with Kelly, my “other daughter” Giselle and Sainted Wife Barb. I liked it a lot, so much that I’d rank it as one of the best “Disney Princess” movies. Apparently, a bunch of right-wing lunatics have deemed the film an attack on all that is holy. Now the right-wing baffles me frequently, but I can usually figure out where their ignorant complaints are coming from.
In this case, I had to go online to suss it out.

Much to my surprise, Frozen is a challenge to things the right-wing finds alarming. A scene in a sauna that takes about a second of the film may or may not indicate the presence of a same-sex couple with children. Elsa’s empowerment is a threat because she probably won’t be happy earning 77% of what male rulers earn. The love between her sister Anna is maybe kind of gay. Women have minds of their own. Living snowmen are dark sorcery from Hell, which makes me wonder if that place has, indeed, frozen over.  I didn’t dig any deeper, but there’s probably something kinky about the reindeer.  And, not that it has anything to do with Frozen, but the Disney Company no longer donates to the Boy Scouts of America on account of the Boy Scouts discriminating against the gays.

There are two things to take from this.

One, the right-wing is ridiculous. If they weren’t nigh-criminally insane and capable of hurting so many innocent people, I would hire them to entertain at parties.

Two, I like Frozen even better now than I did when I first watched it. Go figure.

******************************

Speaking of movies, I’m hoping this summer’s Vast Accumulation of  Stuff garage sales are successful enough that I can afford to buy some of the great and not-so-great films that will be available on Blu-Ray soon.

A 40th anniversary edition of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles will be released next month. I’ve never made a list of my top ten favorite movies, but, if I did, this crazy western spoof would be on it.  The movie made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it and, all these years later, it still makes me laugh out loud.

The most recent Previews catalog offered a trio of Godzilla movies from the 1960s and 1970s on Blu-ray: Ebirah Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster), Godzilla Vs. Gigan (aka Godzilla on Monster Island) and Godzilla Vs. Hedorah (aka Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster). I already own all the Godzilla movies - as well as all of  the Gamera movies - on DVD, but I have a hankering to upgrade them to Blu-ray versions. The three Godzilla movies are due to hit the stores in early May.  The two-volume Gamera: Ultimate Collection is also due out next week.

The 1998 Godzilla movie by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich wasn’t really a Godzilla film, but it did spawn a pretty terrific cartoon series. Godzilla - The Complete Animated Series will be available next week, but only on DVD. I’ll buy it anyway.

******************************

Here’s an interesting observation from my friend Tom Hegeman, who has given me permission to share it here:

I assume that new Donald Duck stories are still being produced, if not here, then in other parts of the world. And I assume that some of the stories feature the Junior Woodchucks. I wonder if [these stories] still have the nephews reading a paper copy of the Junior Woodchucks Guidebook, or if they are using it as an app on their smart phones.

Now I’m wondering, too. If the Guidebook has been adapted to such technology, I’d love to see scans of panels showing Huey, Dewey and Louie accessing the Guidebook by computer or phone.

******************************

Much to my surprise, I received a small check from DC Comics marked “participation” for the fourth quarter of 2013. It was a wee tiny check, but it came with 22 pages of confusing documentation which I assume all those means were meant to show where the small amount of Black Lightning money was coming from. It should surprise no one who knows DC Comics that it did a piss poor job of that. I added up the participation amounts on the 22 pages. The total I arrived at was around $500 more than what DC paid me.

If DC would simply return all Black Lightning rights to me and sign a license allowing me to reprint my own Black Lightning stories, I would be happy to give them 30% of whatever profit I make from my use of Black Lightning. It would be an honest accounting instead of this horseshit they send me.

I arrive at the 30% participation payment because, though I remain adamant that I am the sole creator of Black Lightning, I would also give 10% of whatever profit I make from my use of my character to artists Eddy Newell and Trevor Von Eeden. That would be 10% each. In addition to what I would pay them to draw new Black Lightning stories once I figure out how to revamp Jefferson Pierce for 2014 and beyond.

I’m sure DC will be calling me any second now to accept this deal. It’s a much better one than the company gives me.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 54

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 54th installment of that series.

The cover of The Rawhide Kid #69 [April 1969] is my least favorite of all the Rawhide Kid covers. The Kid’s big fearful face and all those small figures of him roaming around it like Lilliputians on Gulliver. It just never worked for me. The Grand Comics Database credits it to Larry Lieber (pencils), John Tartaglione (inks) and John Romita (alterations).

“And Now –- The Executioner!” (22 pages) is written and pencilled by Lieber with inks by Tartaglione. As I’ve said previously, I like this team on the Rawhide Kid’s adventures.

Alienation is the key to this story from the get-go as Rawhide buys supplies from a nervous shopkeeper. The opening caption:

There is no weight as heavy as infamy--for it’s the only burden that a man can never put down!  Thus, even when the Rawhide Kid is merely making a simple purchase...eyes widen, hands tremble, and skirts flutter.

The townspeople fear this “ruthless gunman,” but are, nonetheless. eager for a gunfight when the gunslick called the Executioner rides into town looking for the Kid. The Kid tries to talk the gunfighter out of doing the shoot-out thing, but the Executioner is determined to face the Kid. Here comes the first plot twist.

When Rawhide gets a good look at the gunslinger, he recognizes the man as “the one hombre that I can’t fight.” Before the townspeople, the Kid refuses to fight. With the Executioner’s gun trained on his back, Rawhide mounts his house and rides away slowly.  The citizens don’t understand why the Kid backed down from the fight. However, the Executioner knows the ironic truth:

I came all this distance to fight a famous gunslick...not knowing, never suspecting that it would turn out to be him--the one man on this Earth who can’t fight me...not because he fears for his own safety, but because he fears for mine!

Cue the flashback. The Rawhide Kid is being chased by “some mighty unfriendly Mescalero Apaches.” He takes cover to make a stand, but he’s outnumbered. If he reloads his guns, his attackers will be on him in an instant.

The Kid’s salvation comes from above. Cole Yorby, who we know to be the Executioner, is on a hill picking off Apaches with his rifle. The warriors flee. Rawhide and his rescuer exchange introductions.

The Kid gives his real name of Johnny Clay. Neither man knows how famous/infamous the other is. They part as friends.

After that second encounter with Yorby, all Johnny wants is peace and quiet. Removing his guns, he seeks and gets a job at the Lazy-B Ranch. The foreman doesn’t think the young man is cut out for the tough work, but, since he’s shorthanded, he gives Johnny a chance. Before long, Johnny has proven himself to the boss and his fellow  ranch hands.

Amos Clanton, the owner of a nearby ranch, wants the Lazy-B, but it’s not on the market. He decides to send gunmen to ambush the Lazy-B crew. He’s kind of a dick.

The Lazy-B hands are surprised that Johnny does not wear a gun, but he tells them he doesn’t much cotton to hardware. He thinks:

I aim to change my ways completely! From here on out, the only iron I want in my hand is a branding iron–-not a shooting iron!

 The Lazy-B crew have made camp for the night when they are ambushed by Clanton's men. Though the Kid has promised himself no more gunplay, this changes things:

I’m a part of the Lazy-B ranch! Those are my pards that are getting cut down!

Grabbing a gun from one of his wounded buddies, Johnny takes down the attackers in three half-page panels. His friends have questions about how such a young fellow got so good with a gun. Johnny tells them who he really is and that changes things again.

The Lazy-B crew were friendly before, but now they are frightened of the gunfighter among them. They avoid him. They scamper at his slightest move, even when he reaches for his hat. But the foreman will have none of this:

Now you hombres hear me good! I don’t gave a dang about the Kid’s past! Since he’s been here, he’s worked hard and never thrown his weight around! And lest yuh forget...the only time he’s picked up a shootin’ iron, it was for the purpose of savin’ our necks. In my book, the Kid has earned our gratitude and our friendship!

The ranch hands agree and all is good. Well, except for Clanton. He still covets the Lazy-B. He hires the Executioner to fight the Rawhide Kid.

Yorby tries to turn down the job, saying the Kid won’t fight him. The rival rancher tells the gunslinger he has to goad Rawhide and push the Kid to his breaking point. He ups the price on the Kid’s head to two thousand dollars. If you’re wondering, that price would be over fifty thousand of today’s dollars.

Yorby takes the job, but he says it’s for a reason other than the money. It’s something personal.

It’s payday, so the Kid and his buddies go to town. Yorby calls out the Kid. Rawhide still won’t fight the man who saved his life all those months ago. Yorby threatens to start gunning down the Lazy-B hands if the Kid won’t fight him. The Executioner is bluffing, but Rawhide doesn’t know that. He has to protect his friends.

The shoot-out is short. The Rawhide Kid fires once and Yorby drops to the ground. Yorby is alive,  but not long for this world.

Clanton has been watching the fight from around a corner. He pulls his gun to shoot Rawhide in the back. A Lazy-B ranch hand calls out a warning and the Kid manages to dive out of the way of the bullet. He takes out the rancher with one shot.

I hated having to gun the Executioner! But it’s a pleasure to put a varmint like you out of business!

Rawhide returns to Yorby’s side and gets an explanation for why the man who once saved his life wanted to fight him:

YORBY: You’re still young, Rawhide, but wait...wait till the years pass,,,and the gunfights add up...and night becomes your worst enemy...for that’s when you see the ghosts of men you’ve sent to their untimely deaths!

YORBY: And then you contract a painful and fatal illness which makes each day a living Hell!

RAWHIDE: So you decide to end it all with one last gunfight!

YORBY: Yes! And you pick the fastest gun around for the job! The Rawhide Kid!

YORBY: So you see, Kid, you’ve repaid a debt! I saved your life and in return...you’ve given me the one thing I wanted most...an end to mine...

The Kid looks down at Yorby and wonders if he’s looking at his own death down the road. He decides not to go back to the ranch. What happened here is a memory he wants to put far behind him.  He rides off into the sunset:

And so, the young outlaw pushes on...silent and alone...his heart heavy, his future uncertain...in this, the untamed west of yesteryear!

This is another of Lieber’s best Rawhide Kid stories, even though, once again, Johnny makes the foolish choice to move on from a new life among people who had accepted him. No wonder readers continued to suggest the Kid settle down. We all figured he’d earned a bit of happiness in his life.

This story has never been reprinted in the United States. That’s a shame because it’s a great one.

******************************

Next up is the “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page. Just imagine my surprise when I saw the lead-off letter was one of mine. I’d forgotten about that. Now imagine my horror when I realized how I’ve changed my mind on almost everything in this letter:

Dear Stan,

“The Hostage of Hungry Hills!” was a good story, but not great. Why not expand the Kid’s adventures to the full 23 pages available for stories? The extra eight pages would do a lot of good for him. And as good a job as Larry does, you should inject some new life into the mag. Let everyone in the Bullpen, including yourself, do a story or two.

The Kid Colt story was very good, but it would have been great with more room. Bring back the Kid in his own mag, or start running new stories in the MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN. Holy Ankles of Annie Oakley! Linda Fite is a darn fine writer. Let’s see more stories from her. Werner Roth and Herb Trimpe did excellent art for the Kid Colt story. They make a great team. Happy trails to you.


That was then. The more I reread Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid stories, the more I think he was the best man to replace Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the feature. I shudder when I think of how DC has injected “new life” into its characters to the almost universal detriment of those characters.

Though that Kid Colt story with its glorification of the Southern slavers horrifies me today, I remember Fite’s work on The Claws of the Cat with fondness. She was a good writer.

With this issue, Marvel resumed answering the letters they printed in its comic books. Here’s how some anonymous staffer responded to  my letter:

...And may your boots be free to scorpions, Antonio! Thanks for the comments on RAWHIDE #67 - especially that idea for a greater cross-section of writers and artists to be represented in Western mags. We’re working on just such a project right now and hopefully you’ll  see the results in a few months. Calamity Linda will probably be doing some more writing - if she can get up the energy! She spends most of her time perfecting her Southern drawl...and that tends to slow her down a wee tad. ‘Nuff said, y’all.  

I’m thinking the unnamed project mentioned in the response was the 68-page Western Gunfighters launch which was cover-dated August 1970. The first issue featured new work by Dick Ayers, Herb Trimpe, Jerry Siegel, Gary Friedrich, Werner Roth, Roy Thomas, Syd Shores, Mike Friedrich and Tom Sutton.

The three other letters on the page all point out errors in other stories. They were written by Bud Cavadine of Cashton, Wisconsin, L/Cpl Richard L. Huey (stationed in Vietnam) and Carole Ianacone of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

******************************

The letters page was followed by a two-thirds page house ad for The Mighty Marvel Western #4 and the annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation. The 68-page Mighty Marvel Western had a new cover by Herb Trimpe and reprints of Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt stories by Larry Lieber, Dick Ayers, Stan Lee and Jack Keller.

The Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation is in mini-type and hard to read. The average total paid circulation of this title was 216, 045 of a print run of 320,400. The paid circulation of the issue nearest to the October 1, 1968 filing date was 256,881 on a print run of 400,100. Were these accurate figures? Your guess is as good as mine.

Come back next Wednesday for another wild west edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday!” Come back tomorrow for other stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THUD

My life has been particularly challenging in recent weeks/months. I don’t need/want to go into the details - rest assured that I am in good health - but I’ve had to rethink a lot of my plans for the rest of this year.

My original plan was to use some “found money” to pay the bills as I worked on projects from my long bucket list of projects I want to write before I kick the bucket. Naturally, as often happens, there were a number of unexpected expenses that ate up a goodly chunk of that found money.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m disappointed and frustrated that my plans had to change, but I’m very glad I had the money to deal with the unexpected expenses.  I’ll figure out how to get my dreams back on track. They haven’t been derailed, just slowed.

One of my more modest current goals is to catch up on the e-mails and requests I have not been able to answer or fulfill during the roller coaster rides of 2014. My target date for achieving that is the end of the month.  Wish me luck.

My mind is spinning too much and too fast for me to write reviews for today’s bloggy thing. Instead, I’m going to drive into various notes I jotted down over the past few days. Don’t worry if some of these topics don’t interest you. There will be another along in a paragraph or two.

******************************

The great news is that Not Brand Echh is finally being reprinted. Marvel Masterworks Not Brand Echh Volume 1 will be released in June of 2015. It will collect Not Brand Echh #1-13 and humorous shorts from several Marvel annuals of the 1960s. Contributors include Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Arnold Drake, Stu Schwartzberg, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Don Heck and the woman who was born to draw stories for this comic book...MARIE SEVERIN!  While it’s true this 456-page volume is priced at a gulp-inducing $69.99, it’s been my experience that you can find really good discounts if you look for them.  I am a happy Marvel maniac.

The bad news is that Marvel will no longer publish those big, fat, wonderful Essentials editions.  Even in black-and-white, I thought those books delivered amazing bang for your bucks and their passing leaves me sad.

Instead of the Essentials, Marvel will be publishing more of their Epic Collection books. On sale in July of 2014, Fantastic Four Epic Collection: Into the Timestream will collect FF #334-346, FF Annual #23, and material from New Mutants Annual #6, X-Factor Annual #5 and X-Men Annual #14. The 504-page, full-color softcover is due on July of 2014 and has a cover price of $39.99.

****************************** 

I love seeing photos of old newsstands filled with comic books and pulp magazines. People post such photos on line from time to time, but that’s not enough for me. So here’s a free idea to anyone with the means and time to utilize it...

Put together a book of such photos. Print the photos as big as you can. Annotate the contents of the newsstands as best you can. Take us back in times to those glorious days when comic books were found in every store and from many sidewalk vendors.

If you make this book, I will buy a copy. Heck, I’ll probably buy several copies and give them out as gifts.

******************************

In looking through the April Previews catalog from Diamond Comics  Distribution, I noticed that Archie Comics has raised the prices of their double and double double digests by a buck. They used to be $3.99 and $5.99. Now they will be $4.99 and $6.99. They are still a good buy at those prices. Just not as good a buy as they used to be. Inflation marches on!

******************************

This is the sort of thing I don’t usually notice. My subscription copy of MAD #527 arrived last week. From ComicList, I noticed the issue is scheduled to arrive at comics shops this week. So I got my copy almost a week before the comics shops.

Back when I owned and operated a comics shop, I used to supplement my direct market comics with comic books and other magazines from the local newspaper distributor.  My direct market copies arrived a good two or three weeks before the newsstand copies.

Do the comics shops still have that advantage over local newsstands and bookstores? Has that release date gap been eliminated, expanded or eliminated since the 1980s? I don’t have any real need for this information. I’m just curious.

******************************

In recent years, I have backed a number of Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding projects. I was happy to do so, but I’m cutting way back to the point of near-extinction on donating to such projects. In most cases, I’m spending more to get these books than I would be spending if I simply waited for them to be published and available in the marketplace. Yes, I know some of these projects might never be published without crowd-funding, but it can get expensive to be a patron of the arts.

These days, I’m much more likely to donate to charitable efforts. The Hero Initiative does a great job helping creators in need, but they can’t solve all the financial woes for all the creators they would like. I always buy the most expensive Hero membership that I can afford because I believe in the organization’s mission.  I wish I could do more.

I pay for my more expensive Hero membership by only buying the most basic Comic Book Legal Defense Fund membership. The CBLDF seems to get much more attention than Hero, probably because Hero does not publicize every creator it helps. CBLDF lets you know whenever they do something, even that something doesn’t actually involve comics. Truth be told, I wince a bit every time I read of the CBLDF joining some non-comics effort. I would prefer they focus on comics...and I’d also like to know if the backers of the non-comics efforts ever reciprocate when it’s comics that are under attack.

My funds are limited, as I’m sure are yours. I try to put them to the best use I can. That usually involves helping comics people as opposed to backing projects above the cost of buying those projects directly.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for another installment of our “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 21, 2014

TONY'S TIPS #52

Today in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Bad For You, Constantine and Daredevil: Dark Knights. Please check it out and, if you would be so kind, comment on it there.

JULY 1963: THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #78

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 138-plus-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.  I’ve added the “plus” to my description of this series because there may be a few issues I missed in my initial explorations.

The Adventures of Jerry Lewis #78 [September-October 1963] has our boy cracking wise with a Viking who clearly doesn’t appreciate the humor. The Grand Comics Database opines the cover is penciled and inked by Bob Oksner. I’m inclined to agree.

The inside front cover advertises the Magic Art Reproducer which we’ve seen before.  Indeed, every outside ad in this issue is one we’ve seen in other DC Comics titles from this month.  The line-up: Tootsie Rolls, 207 Stamps, Tootsie Roll Pops, Missile Attack, 104 Cars, Tootsie Roll Fudge, 104 Kings’ Knights, 100 Toy Soldiers, the Blast Off space game, the Christmas cards from Wallace Brown and 204 Revolutionary War Soldiers.

The issue-length story is untitled and runs 26 pages, though three of those pages are half-pages that fall at the end of the chapters. The writer is unknown, but he or she does a terrific job capturing Jerry’s voice and speech mannerisms. I could “hear” the performer in every word balloon.  The story is drawn and signed by Oksner and it has everything you’d expect from that great artist: great facial expressions, fluid motion and a gorgeous girl.  Of course, like his fellow DC star Bob Hope, Lewis was blessed (or cursed) with a face that looks like a cartoon.

The story opens with an obsessed Jerry going to the library because he wants to read about pirates right now.  However, all the books on pirates have already been checked out by “Professor J. Overlap Peasplitter” and are overdue.

Jerry explains why he must have a book on pirates:

I want it should be on pirates on account of I broke a dish today and it broke into pieces of eight. Get it? Now if that doesn’t call for a pirate book, what does?

Jerry goes to the Peasplitter home where he meets the absent-minded professor and the professor’s gorgeous daughter Mary. Peasplitter is working on a time machine and planning to research the pirates of the past. He cons, ah, convinces Jerry into taking the trip for him. The chapter ends with Jerry in the machine and realizing that he might be making a mistake.

“Teen Age Views” is a half-page filler, four panels of teenagers sharing humorous definitions: An example: “Psychiatry is the art of teaching people how to stand on their own two feed while lying down on a couch!” The creator or creators of this feature have not yet been identified.

“Inside Hollywood” is a full-page prose column reporting on various celebrities. Stanley Holloway, who played Eliza Doolittle’s father in Broadway’s My Fair Lady has been signed to play the role in the movie. Kirk Douglas’ government-sponsored speaking tour in Brazil was a triumph. Alfred Hitchcock has slimmed down to 200 pounds “and endangered his profile.” Imogene Coca is making her motion-picture debut in Under the Yum Yum Tree.

Back to Jerry Lewis. The second chapter opens with the professor’s time machine sending him to a baseball stadium where he arouses the ire of...wait for it...the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jerry makes his way back to the Peasplitter house. The professor says the machine just needs a few adjustments.

Before the second time travel attempt, the professor gives Jerry a two-way transistor radio so they can stay in touch. As Jerry goes back through time, the music playing on the radio changes to match the eras through which he’s passing. We get songs like:

I’m just a lonely minute man looking for a Minuet maid...

Jerry ends up in the time of Vikings, who, after all, were feared pirates. He narrowly dodges a welcoming spear thrown by Skag the Peace-Lover. Jerry is relieved by the name until Skag explains what it means:

Yes! Ha-ha! But unfortunately for folks, I only find peace after a good messy fight! Ha-ha-ha! Grrr! Ha-ha-ha!

The third and final chapter opens with Jerry fleeing from Skag and trying to contact the professor on the radio. He runs into Astrid, the daughter of the chief of the people Skag is presently invading. Astrid looks exactly like Mary.

Astrid thinks the radio is magic and asks Jerry to use his magic to make her wheelchair-bound father invincible. Chief Leif looks like the professor. Miraculously, when Skag tries to slice the chief in half, the old man leaps to his feet and runs away. According to the law of the land, Skag must catch the chief to claim the village and the lovely Astrid.

The two sides settle on a boat-racing contest. Skag has a crew to propel his boat. The chief has Jerry’s wizardry. This doesn’t look like it will end well.

As per the chief’s request, Jerry gathered food for the trip. The problem: the chief asked for “food fit for a Norse” and Jerry heard “foot fit for a horse” and brought “alfalfa and oats” and “Kentucky blue grass.” Fortunately, they don’t have to look at what they are eating because a thick as pea soup fog rolls in.

Days later, Jerry, Astrid and Chief Leif make land...at Plymouth Rock. Which we know is Plymouth Rock because the name is painted on the rock. As a hail of arrows descend around them, Jerry learns the chief’s full name is...Leif Ericson. The chief discovered America before Columbus did.

The indigenous Americans aren’t at all happy about the arrival of Jerry and the Ericsons. They shout at them from the shore.

Nobody expected on rock till 1620!

Pilgrims got first reservation!

Later they send us to reservation!

Viking go home!


The story is running out of pages so Jerry uses the radio to call for help from the future. He finds himself back in 1963, but with Professor and Mary Peasplitter who, for some reason, have a Viking boat of their own.  No one quite knows what happened and we never find out what happened to Chief Leif and his daughter.

The final panel has Jerry back at the library. This time, he’s in a hurry to take out books on ghosts.  However, according to library records, a “Dr. Spook” has borrowed them all. The library asks if Jerry would like to contact the doctor. As Jerry flees the library, he tells the librarian to just send him a card when the doctor brings the books back.

Despite its weak ending, I enjoyed this story.  As I’ve said in the past, I would eagerly purchase a Best of Jerry Lewis or a Best of Bob Hope collection. While DC probably doesn’t have the rights to the material anymore, they could probably come to an agreement with Lewis or the estate of Hope to publish such books with a portion of the profits going to charities near and dear to Lewis and, when he was alive, Hope.

Such volumes could sell to fans of the comedians and also to comics fans who would be attracted by such great artists as Oksner, Mort Drucker, Neal Adams and others. In the case of Jerry Lewis, later issues of his title features guest appearances by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash.

The only DC house ad in this issue is a full-page subscription form that lists ten books: Fox and Crow, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,  The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, The Adventures of Bob Hope, Sugar & Spike, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Superboy, Justice League of America and Tomahawk.  Readers who subscribed to the titles would get two years worth of issues “at the low low price of 10 cents per issue” as opposed to the cover price of 12 cents per issue.

Coming later this week: The Adventures of Little Archie #28

I’ll be back tomorrow with some other stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 18, 2014

VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF SALE 4/18/14

THIS SALE IS CLOSED.

Welcome to my second ONLINE Vast Accumulation of Stuff Sale of 2014. I thought about how to make these sales run more smoothly and profitably for me while also giving my customers good value for their money.  I guess I’ll see soon enough if I’ve succeeded in those goals.

Here’s how the sale works...

First come, first serve. In other words, the quicker you e-mail me, the better your chances of getting the item or items.  Only e-mail orders will be accepted and you should not send payment until you get a confirmation e-mail from me.  All listed items are in good or better condition unless otherwise noted. 

Let me stress that “e-mail only” rule.  Most of the few mistakes I have made in assembling/shipping orders have happened with orders I accepted via phone or Facebook message.  So...I’m not gonna break my own rule anymore.

You should always include your mailing address with your orders. That speeds up the packaging and the shipping.

Items will be shipped via United States Postal Service.  There is a $5 shipping/handling charge for all orders of any size unless I specify otherwise in the item description. If your final order is over $100, shipping is free.

Payments are by check, money order or PayPal.  My PayPal address is the same as my email address.  Purchases will generally be shipped within a week of checks clearing,  money orders received or PayPal payments received.

Because this is a one-man operation done between family, household  and work responsibilities, these items are only available to buyers within the United States and to APO buyers.

When you receive your order, please check it and let me know of any omissions as soon as possible.  I’ll be double-checking the orders on my end, but, if there’s a problem, I want to make it right in a timely fashion.

Changes from my previous sale. The sale will end on Thursday, April 24. Some items that were ordered but never paid for and some unsold items are being carried over from my previous sale. In most cases, I’ll list an item three times before it goes into my garage sales.

As always, your orders are greatly appreciated.

Here are this week’s items...

1000 COMIC BOOKS YOU MUST READ by Tony Isabella. A fun ride through the history of the American comic book that showcases the variety of the field. Hardcover. Signed on request. Free shipping. $25

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #26 [January 22, 2008]. Reprints The Mean Arena by Tom Tully. Magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #27 [March 18, 2008]. Reprints The Mean Arena by Tom Tully. Magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #28 [May 13, 2008]. Reprints The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and three “Future Shocks” written by Grant Morrison. Magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #29 [July 8, 2008]. Reprints Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade. This magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #30 [August 18, 2008]. Reprints of Robo-Hunter, Anderson PSI, Walter the Wobot and Tharg. This magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DAUGHTER OF SPIDER-MAN? By Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz [Marvel; 2007]. “Meet May ‘Mayday’ Parker, the daughter of Spider-Man!” Softcover reprinting material from Amazing Spider-Girl #0-6. $5

ARCHIE’S FUNHOUSE DOUBLE DIGEST #2. $1

ATTACK OF THE JURASSIC SHARK (DVD). $5

BETTY AND VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST #221. $1

BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2013 [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]. Edited by Jeff Smith. Series editor Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. 372 pages. Hardcover. $10

BLACK PANTHER: CIVIL WAR by Reginald Hudlin and Scot Eaton [Marvel; 2007]. Reprints Black Panther #19-25. $6

BREATH OF BONES #1-3 by Steve Niles and Dave Watcher [Dark Horse; 2013]. All three issues for $3.

CATWOMAN: THE REPLACEMENTS Will Pfeifer and David Lopez [DC; 2007]. Collects Catwoman #53-58. $5

CIVIL WAR: MARVEL UNIVERSE [Marvel; 2007]. “Whose side are you on?” Softcover reprinting material from Civil War: The Initiative, Civil War: Choosing Sides, Civil War: The Return and She-Hulk #8. $4

COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE #112 [May 2004]. Atlas Horror. Alan Class. Weird Mystery Tales. $3.50

CROCZILLA (DVD). $5

FREEBOOTERS COLLECTION by Barry Windsor-Smith [Fantagraphics; 2005]. Fantasy hero meets mid-life crisis in this 184-page graphic album in black-and-white and color. Oversized hardcover. $10

JAPAN IN YOUR POCKET VOLUME ONE: A LOOK INTO JAPAN [Japan Travel Bureau; 1999]. A literally pocket-size softcover encyclopedia of Japanese customs and traditions covering 100 topics. $1

OGENKI CLINIC VOLUME 1-4 [Studio Ironcat; 2000-2002]. Comedic manga series about a clinic that treats sex disorders, often of the most bizarrely hilarious kinds. It’s seriously adults only. Four volumes of around 200 black-and-white beautifully-drawn pages. I’m selling this as a lot. $20

POP MANGA: HOW TO DRAW THE COOLEST, CUTEST CHARACTERS, ANIMALS, MASCOTS AND MORE by Camilla D’Errico and Stephen W. Martin [Watson Guptill; 2013]. Softcover. $7


ROBERT ASPRIN: ANOTHER FINE MYTH [Donning/Starblaze; 1978]. Edited and illustrated by Polly and Kelly Freas. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTH CONCEPTIONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1980]. Edited and illustrated by Polly and Kelly Freas. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTH DIRECTIONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1982]. Edited by Hank Stine. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: HIT OR MYTH [Donning/Starblaze; 1983]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTHING PERSONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1984]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: LITTLE MYTH MARKER [Donning/Starblaze; 1985]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: M.Y.T.H. INC. LINK [Donning/Starblaze; 1986]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTH-NOMERS AND IM-PERFECTIONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1987]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

SUPERMAN: CAMELOT FALLS by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino [DC; 2007]. “A hero will rise and a world will fall.” Hardcover reprinting material from Superman #654-658. $6.50


TERMINATOR: ONE SHOT [Dark Horse, 1991]. By James Robinson and Matt Wagner. $1

TIM SALE: BLACK AND WHITE [Image; 2008]. Revised and expanded with new color section and sketchbook, this hardcover book is an art and career retrospective. 272 pages. $13

Thanks for your patronage.

Tony Isabella

MAN OF A THOUSAND PARTS

Charlie Grant was born with the bizarre ability to dismember every part of his body, and then mentally control each. This break-apart hero lives and operates in Portland, Maine, and is often referred to as "Maine’s only living super-hero." Created by Gary Kato and Ron Fortier, “Jiggy” has been around since 1976 and won the 2010 Champion City Award for best ongoing indie comic series.

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Jigsaw since I first saw him in Scary Tales #38 [Charlton; May 1983]. I liked the character so much that I sent a copy of that issue to Don Thompson at Comics Buyer's Guide because I knew he’d love it, too, and because I hope that, between him and me, we could spread the word about this truly special hero.  Jiggy has never achieved the recognition and success he deserves, nor have my pals Gary and Ron received the fame and fortune they deserve. Still, against all odds, Mr. Jigsaw continues to manage at least one new issue every year and continues to be one of the most enjoyable of indie comic- book series.

Mr. Jigsaw #11 [Redbud Studio; $2.99] came out last year, but had to be reprinted due to some pages printing out of order.  “The Life of Pie” kicks off with our hero getting a pie in the face. By the time the 28-page story has reached its conclusion, Fortier and Kato have delivered one of the wildest time-travel adventures ever seen in comics.

In Mr. Jigsaw #12 [Redbud Studio; $2.99], Jiggy and his friends are on the shakedown cruise of a sea research vehicle. “The Pirates of Perchance” (23 pages) has action and daring-do on the high seas and nods to Gilligan’s Island. A letters page follows the story.

Mr. Jigsaw is a white-hat super-hero. He’s not really the result of nostalgic yearnings because very few white-hate super-heroes of the past were this clever and playful. Charlie is a good guy who makes friends with other good people. They may not be the most realistic bunch of characters, but they’re fun to hang out with every now and then. I wish the “now and then” was more like “monthly,” but, alas, that’s not in the cards at present.

Would I want all super-hero comic books to be like Mr. Jigsaw? Of course not...save that I also wish all super-hero comics were as much a product of love as this one. Having said that, yeah, there should be room for a few more white-hat super-heroes even in these days of Hollywood-driven comic books.

Mr. Jigsaw isn’t available through Diamond Comic Distribution, but you can order issues directly from Redbud Studios. While you’re at the site, be sure to check out their other titles as well.

******************************

Add Batgirl to the growing list of DC’s “New 52" super-hero titles that make me throw up a little in my mouth as I read them.  Barbara Gordon is a hero. Commissioner James Gordon, her father, is a hero. They put themselves on the line time and time again to protect the people of Gotham City, even though anyone in their right mind would have left that mad metropolis decades ago.

Batgirl inspires nausea in me for a couple of reasons.  One would be the blight that reaches across all the seventeen hundred Batman titles DC publishes. For all Batman and his posse do, for all the seventeen million pages devoted to their efforts, Gotham City never gets better. It’s a hell hole, pure and simple.

Getting more specific to Batgirl, which I am, admittedly, at least a year behind the most recent issue, I’m lurching and vomiting my way through a storyline in which Batgirl’s brother is a monster who turned his mother and his sister over to the Joker, a monster who is responsible for the maiming of his mother and a monster who is trying to use the mother to lure Batgirl into a trap.  His mother. His sister. If I were Commissioner Gordon, I’d be thinking that I brought this sick puppy into the world and maybe it’s time I took him out of it.

Every time I read one of these DC comic books in which the heroes and innocent people are brutalized by monstrous villains who always live to brutalize another day, I am forced to conclude that those who create these comics must hate these characters. They’ve turned the DC Universe into a universe of sequels to Saw. They pander to their worst impulses and those of their readers. They ignore the basic optimism of the super-hero genre.

The DC Universe needs an enema.

******************************

Always striving to be original, DC Comics killed off another Robin. Damian Wayne, son of Batman and Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, was killed by Heretic, an aged clone of himself. Apparently, Mom liked the clone best.  You’ll forgive me if I remain disgusted by the DC habit of killing children to sell comic books.

Batman #18 [May 2013; $3.99] features “Resolve” by Scott Synder and James Tynion IV with art by pencilers Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev. Regular readers of this bloggy thing of mine know that I have never been enamored of Synder’s Batman. Indeed, it boggled my mind that so many readers actually found merit in the ponderous and tiresome “Court of Owls” storyline. I bring up that piece of schlock so that you may better understand the enormity of my next statement.

“Resolve” was one heck of a story. We got a grieving Batman going off the rails in a believable if self-destructive fashion. We got a supporting character who truly understood what Batman must stand for. It has an actual satisfying ending and not one of those cliche last-page appearances of the next loathsome villain doing something brutal and further draining the last vestiges of happiness from the city of Gotham. Despite this being a story about a father mourning his murdered child, it was a hopeful ending.

I’m amazed and delighted by Batman #18. More like this one please. It may not be too late to redeem the DC Universe.

I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 53

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 53rd installment of that series.

The cover of The Rawhide Kid #68 [February 1969] is by Larry Lieber (pencils) and Sal Buscema (inks). Costumed villain The Cougar is hanging from a tree and has apparently startled the Kid into almost falling from his horse Nightwind.

“When Stalks the Cougar!” (20 pages) is written and drawn by Lieber with inks by Buscema. Sal was new to Marvel, but quickly proving to be an indispensable addition to the company. He could ink as well or better than most. He could draw dynamic figures. He could tell a story visually in the same exciting fashion. Speaking from my own experiences, scripting pages drawn by Sal was always fun and easy. He brought out the best in many writers.

The Rawhide Kid didn’t face many super-villains during this era of his adventures, but the Cougar would have been a stand-out at any time. The masked train-robber wore massive paw-like gloves which could smash through a wall. He had special soles on his boots that allowed him to scamper up walls and afforded him sure footing even on top of a speeding train. But this story was much more than a hero/villain battle and one of my favorite Rawhide Kid thrillers.
  
The story opens with the Kid trying to relax in a saloon. But he’s not likely to sit still when a saloon girl and the dude she’d been sitting with are bullied by three goons. The dude doesn’t want any trouble. The goons are all about dishing out trouble. The Kid makes short work of the goons.

The dude is Wayde Garrison, the son of J.S. Garrison, owner of the railroad line. The elder Garrison is sore disappointed by the son he considers a spineless coward and a disgrace to the family name. We get a philosophical debate between Rawhide and J.S.

KID: Toughness isn’t everything! A man needs to be compassionate - to love other folks!

J.S.: Bah! That’s woman talk! The measure of a man is in his will to win...in his uncompromising drive to overcome all odds! That’s how I built my railroad empire!

Despite the Kid being a wanted outlaw, Garrison wants to hire him to catch the Cougar and the villain’s gang. He offers to hire the finest lawyers to help prove Rawhide’s innocence. The Kid takes the job, but isn’t thrilled that Garrison wants “this worthless whelp” (Wayde) to work with Rawhide:

Nothing else has made a man of Wayde! Maybe fighting alongside the Rawhide Kid will do the trick!

Ed Dolan, the railroad security officer, isn’t thrilled with this hire. He says the Kid could be the Cougar. The Kid says the Cougar could be anyone, even Dolan. Hmm...

When Wayde goes missing for half an hour, Rawhide goes looking for him and finds him coming to. The young man says he was attacked by the Cougar. The Kid races through the cars and finds the villain in the engine car. The Cougar’s plan is to stop the train so his gang can rob it.

Rawhide and the Kid fight in the train and on top of the train, but the Kid is outmatched and, when the Cougar’s men surrounds the now-halted train, he’s likewise outnumbered. A stray bullet grazes the Kid’s scalp and takes him out of the fight.

Dolan is wounded. The Cougar and his men escape with the payroll. Rawhide and Wayde jump on their horses and go after the criminals. Wayde panics and alerts the outlaws.

Rawhide is outnumbered, but he’s on solid ground now. He clobbers the Cougar with a rock and out-shoots the rest of the gang members. Then comes the removal of the Cougar’s mask and a surprising moment for the Kid. Wayde is the Cougar.

KID: I’m plumb flabbergasted! But why? And how??

WAYDE: First, how...it was easy! Two cougar costumes - one hidden on the train, the other in the mine!

WAYDE: I was able to change identities at will! I even pretended to have been attacked by the Cougar to keep you from getting suspicious!

KID: But why? You’re rich! So money couldn’t be the motive!

WAYDE: The motive was revenge - against the tyranny of a man whom I couldn’t fight any other way!

The father and son reunion isn’t a happy one. The elder Garrison has done some self-reflection, albeit it too late to do his child any good.

J.S.: I was a fool who never looked at you close up...who never saw what was happening to you! You’ve committed crimes, but none as bad as mine! I crushed your manhood...then ridiculed you for having none!

The Rawhide Kid is still a young man and young man can make really dumb mistakes. The Kid doesn’t want his well-earned pay.

KID: The money for those lawyers is soaked in too much sadness and grief! I couldn’t accept it! All I want it to push on...to follow my own beckoning star...and forget how men can destroy their own and themselves!

Near as I can tell, “When Stalks the Cougar!” was never reprinted in the 1970s and hasn’t been reprinted since. That’s a shame.  It’s a story that deserves a new audience.

The issue’s other story is “Slap Leather, Lawman!” by Stan Lee and Don heck. Originally a four-page story when it appeared in Rawhide Kid #22 June 1961], it was cut to three pages for this reprinting.

It’s a mediocre four-page short wherein an aging sheriff has a gun fight with a rustler.  Though the much younger man draws first and hits the sheriff, the lawman doesn’t go down.  The sheriff disarms the rustler with a shot to the shoulder.

The townspeople are amazed. They all saw that the rustler’s bullet hit the sheriff first. The sheriff speaks only to his relieved wife and says: “I reckon it was only, fittin’, Marcy! I spent my whole life fightin’ for this tin badge...”

Marcy finishes her husband’s sentence: “And now it’s paid you back, dear...by saving your life!”

The sheriff holds his badge in his hand.  It has a dead-center dent where it stopped the rustler’s bullet.

Rawhide is literally a red-haired stepchild in the Marvel Universe of this period. His is the only original material western and will remain so until the 1970s.  The only other Marvel western is The Mighty Marvel Western, a double-sized title reprinting stories of Rawhide, Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid. In about nine months, Kid Colt Outlaw resumes publication, but it, too, comes back as an entirely reprint title.

Rawhide Kid #68 does not feature the Marvel Bullpen Page. It does not mention The Mighty Marvel Western, which seems like a serious oversight to me. The only Marvel house ad is for those inflatable plastic pillows of Spider-Man and Thor...and the Marvel super-hero t-shirts we’d seen many times before.

There is the usual “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters column. It features five letters from readers with no editorial responses to any of them.  This “no editorial response” was something Marvel tried out for several months. It was no popular with the readers. At the bottom of the letters column were the six “hallowed ranks of  Marveldom” and descriptions of each rank. As much a Marvel maniac as I was and despite that these ranks were more or less created by my dear friend Mark Evanier, I never cared for them.

I am not a rank. I am a free fan!

Going to the letters...

Kirk Robbins of Lancaster, Ohio wanted to see a modern-day Marvel character, preferably Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, or one of the Fantastic Four travel back in time to appear with Rawhide. He also wanted Marvel to try Civil War characters, Revolutionary War characters and characters of ancient history in its Marvel Super-Heroes title.

Willie B. Carson, a Marine serving in Viet Nam, enjoyed “Ride For Vengeance” in issue #65. If the Kid ever settles down, he wrote, it should be with Lucy Tanner from that story.

Jeffrey Avidano of Long Island, New York thought it “would be neat to team up Kid Colt, the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid against some famous outlaws like Jesse James and Sam Bass.”

Darrell D. Wright of Hopkinton, Iowa also wanted to see Marvel do a comic about the American Revolution. He wrote, “You should have a warlock (male witch) as the hero.”

Finally, Bill Boyle of Kitchener, Ontario pointed out a error in a back-up story and requested a no-prize. Good luck with that, Bill. Despite my having fifty or more letters published in various Marvel titles, I never got a no-prize. Despite working at Marvel, I never got a no-prize. I didn’t get a no-prize until sometime in the early 1990s. I pitched some ideas to a Marvel editor and he mailed me a  no-prize in response. I chose to be amused.

That’s all for today. Come back next Wednesday for another Rawhide Kid adventure. Come back on Friday for other cool stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG

When the fine folks at Valiant learned I had not been reading their relaunched titles, they sent me review copies of the first volumes of several of their titles. Then they started sending me the new issues of the titles as they were published. Then, outside of some comments here and there about how much I liked the titles, I kept putting off reviewing any of them. Bad Tony.

This churlish neglect of some darn fine comic books is mostly but not entirely my fault. I enjoyed the Valiant collections enough that I wanted to read all of the issues between the initial volumes and the later issues they were sending me.  While it’s not exactly a case of “the first one is free,” the end result is the same. I’m hooked on Valiant.

My favorite of the new Valiant titles is Archer & Armstrong by Fred Van Lente with art by Clayton Henry, Emanuela Lupaccino, Guillermo Ortega, Pere Perez and Khari Evans. Archer is “youthful idealist Obadiah Archer, who was adopted and raised by an evil organization called the Sect.” The branch that raised Archer was the Dominion, but I’ll get to them after this digression.

Digression. While it’s not exactly a flaw, it is worth noting that every Valiant series has at least one and often more than one evil secret organization. It’s a good thing these evil organizations are secret because if the average citizens knew about them they would be even more paranoid than Fox News viewers.  End of digression.

Armstrong is Aram Anni-Padda, one of three brothers who stole this mystical thingamabob called the Boon about ten thousand years ago. This did not bode well for the brothers or the world, but it left Aram immortal. He scattered the pieces of the Boon throughout the world and then got down to serious adventuring, drinking and sex. This is a simplification, but not much of one.

Everybody in the Sect wants Aram dead, but not until they get the parts of the Boon. Archer won the Dominion Teenage Assassin crown and is sent to kill Aram and recover the Boon. He is being played, but I’m sure you already figured that out. If you’ll look down at the next paragraph, I have another digression for you.

Digression. Archer can do all kinds of stuff and knows all kinds of stuff. Though the captions pointing out his abilities and knowledge are sometimes difficult to read, they are also both informative and amusing. If it’s not too much trouble to make them a little larger for us old folks, but only if it’s not too much trouble, that would be nice and, yes, I’ve turned into your passive-aggressive granny. I think we all knew it was just a matter of time. Which brings us to the end of this digression.

Van Lente brings a Steve Gerber-like wit to the proceedings. Aram and Obadiah are likeable characters. It’s easy for the reader to be in their corner. They screw things up from time to time, but they always try to make those things right. Some of their exchanges had me chuckling out loud. But nothing in the series is more delightful than the wild and crazy secret organizations that are part of this series.

The Dominion are pseudo-fundamentalists with their own theme park. The Sisters of Perpetual Darkness are sword-wielding nuns. The One Percent are exactly who you would expect them to be.  We also get hashish-eaters, actual gnomes of Zurich and the Black Bloc, whose members wear boxes on their heads.

Van Lente’s writing is the biggest attraction for me, but the art is always excellent as well. Though the artists change every three or four issues, the characters are always easily recognizable. “On model” is what we used to call this back in the day. It’s a concept with which I wholeheartedly agree.

The production values on Archer & Armstrong and all Valiant titles are high. The individual issues and collections look good.  Pride in appearance is also a concept with which I agree. Which leads me to another digression.

Digression. Before I decided I had to have the Archer & Armstrong issues between those collected in the first volume and the first of the single issues (#16) I was sent, I had no trouble following the story despite not having read issues #5-15. There are two reasons for this. One, the inside front covers of the single issues have a helpful summation of what has gone before. Two, being not just a good writer but also a skilled writer, Van Lente makes it easy for a reader to stay in the loop.  End of digression.

Archer & Armstrong is a fine series. If you like super-hero comics that are outside the norm and reasonable self-contained, you will like this series. I’m liking the heck out of it.
  
Archer & Armstrong Vol. 1: The Michelangelo Code (collects Archer & Armstrong #1-4)

ISBN: 9-780979-640988

Archer & Armstrong Vol. 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior (collects Archer & Armstrong #5-9)

ISBN: 9-781939-346049

Archer & Armstrong Vol. 3: Far Faraway (collects Archer & Armstrong #10-13, 0)

ISBN: 9-781939-346148

Archer & Armstrong Vol. 4: Sect Civil War (collects Archer & Armstrong #14-17)

ISBN: 9-781939-346254

Every week or so, I’ll be writing about another of the new Valiant titles. I’m awaiting the X-O Manowar collections I’m missing, but they should arrive in a day or two. After that, I’m thinking maybe Harbinger or Shadowman. But I’m open to reader suggestions, so feel free to weigh in on this.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” bloggy thing. The title of the story is “When Stalks the Cougar” and has the Kid being pursued by an incredibly hot older woman.  Marvel was always ahead of its time.

© 2014 Tony Isabella