Saturday, April 22, 2006

From the three-for-a-dollar box

There was a neighborhood-wide garage sale event in my old stomping grounds up on the Ridge today, so I went up to look for some house stuff and discovered a guy selling comics from a bunch of boxes (not collector boxes, just cardboard boxes) on his deck. For the first time in a long time, this kind of opportunity actually included titles I wanted! Here's a selection of the fistful of appealing issues that I found among the dross of mutants, grim 'n' gritty vigilantes, and pneumatic hyper-babes and bought for 33 1/3 cents each:

Whoa, Nellie #1 (1996, Fantagraphics). I think that Jaime Hernandez's Archie-inspired art is just beautiful, and I do love me my Love and Rockets, especially Mechanics. Besides, what says excitement better than ass-kicking, middle-aged zaftig lady wrestlers? Not much, in my book!

Not Brand Ecch #2 (1967, Leading Magazine Corp.)[ yeah, that's what the indicia says]. This is a wonderful historical artifact. Not only does it have a cool indicia, it parodies Batman at the height of his TV popularity, takes on characters such as Magnus and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. from other publishers, and even includes caricatures of Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. Much of the art is by Marie Severin, a much-underrated talent (who also happened to live in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn).

Electropolis Numbers 1 and 2 (Image, 2001). I'm not really sure what this is, but it has flying cars with fifties tailfins, cigar-smoking robots who wear porkpie hats, and zeppelins - who could say no? It's by Dean Motter, the fellow whose Mister X I have read some of and liked a little, but it put me in mind of The Blue Lily, an unfinished work by Angus McKie that I really dug, and that's probably why I got it. (I bought both issues but thought this one had a better cover.)

Charlton Bullseye No. 7 (1982, Charlton Publications). I got this to see if it could possibly be as crappy as Charlton Bullseye No. 1, featuring the Blue Beetle and The Question, which has remained in the Shortbox by accident, and which is one of the worst "professional" comics I have ever seen. If this book is even close to being that horrible, Captain Atom hasn't got a prayer despite his snazzy, old-school yellow outfit. Since there is a Nightshade back-up feature from Bill Black, my hopes for the captain are not high.

Starfire No. 1 (1976, National Periodical Publications). Here's a little piece of the DC Explosion, ladies and gentlemen, and we'll see if it shows whether the talent in the issue really was stretched a little too thin during this period - what's your guess? And I just have to say that our heroine's one-legged, green-giraffe skin cutaway unitard is not the most outrageous outfit in this Barsoom-esque story - I will post about this just to show the martial-artist-cum-priest's doublet and slouch hat ensemble.

Captain Action No. 3 (1969, NPP). Okay, I bought this one just for the "I had that!" factor. Not only did I have this comic when it first came out, and not only did I have a Captain Action doll (I don't think we called them action figures then), I also had a Dr. Evil doll (we're not talking the Mike Meyers character here). Plus, this issue has some cool artwork by Gil Kane, inked by maybe Mike Abel, although some panels look a lot like Wally Wood.

Machine Man Numbers 1 through 4 (1984, Marvel Comics Group). I don't know too much about this character - I think he was spun off from Jack Kirby's version of 2001: A Space Odyssey and then became part of the mainstream Marvel universe. All four parts of this mini-series are here, so maybe this will clue me in. I have always liked the look of the character, anyway.

Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents No. 3 (1985, Deluxe Comics). I can't recall (or never knew) the backstory of Deluxe and how they were related to Wally Wood or his estate, but I do remember this revival of Dynamo, Lightning, Raven, Noman and the rest as being fairly competent. This issue contains a main story by Dave Cockrum (with inks by Murphy Anderson ?!), a Keith Giffen Lightning story, and Noman solo penciled by Steve Ditko (although in most panels his art is completely overwhelmed by the pedestrian inks of Greg Theakston).

The Atom No. 17 (1965, NPP). And saving the best for last: this is solid silver, folks. Gardner Fox story, Kane & Greene art, non-psycho Jean Loring, the Atom traveling by telephone wire, letters to the editor with home addresses printed -- all this, and a backup story featuring a special guest appearance by Jules Verne! (Sound Cue: Those Were the Days, My Friend by Mary Hopkins)

Next week: Back to the insides of some comics.

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