Thursday, March 31, 2011

Strange Tales #88

I'd been hunting for this book for my collection for some time. It's one of the comics from my childhood that made an exceptionally big impression on me. I think it was just the cool-looking monsters on the cover and the striking colors used here. This is a cover that grabbed me and left its image imprinted there forever on me old brain.

Strange Tales #88.

I used to think that it was a Ditko cover, but the figures of the people are obviously by Jack Kirby. So over the years I finally figured that it must have been penciled by Kirby, or perhaps he laid down some rough layouts and Ditko finished it up. But the inking is definitely all Ditko. There are a few examples over the early years of Marvel where Ditko went in and inked over Kirby's pencils. Not often, but it did happen from time to time. Steve Ditko is one of those artists whose style is overpowering, so his inks tend to hide the original pencil work to a great extent.

Anyway, I have my copy, now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

And they say there's no such thing as superheroes.

Or super-villains, depending on your point of view.

British riot police looking for all the world like some kind of dark versions of Capt. America.

Wanna rumble? I didn't think so.

Add yer own icon here. Endlessly customizable.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Donald Duck #26

Here is a book that was really tough for me to land. I'd passed on some really lower grade copies and I missed out on one auction that I should have won because I wasn't paying attention. What I wanted was about a very good copy of Donald Duck #26.

While the number was '"26", it was technically #1 of Donald's first comic book series. Before this one, the Donald Duck comics had all appeared under the Dell Comics tryout title commonly referred to as "Four Color Comics". The Four Color title could appear at a rate of several times per month, mainly showcasing some of the many properties that Dell licensed from various film, TV, comic strip, and novel sources. In the case of Donald, the character was licensed (of course) from Disney and all previous issues had appeared as Four Color issues. But with sales blossoming and solid, Dell and Disney decided that it was time to give the cussed Duck his own continuing series. As they reasoned, he'd been featured in 25 previous "Four Color" books, so it was the logical thing to do to start the numbering of his own title with #26.

Thus, #26 is technically #1. And as a #1 book it's in high demand. I have had a really hard time getting a copy for my collection and I am very happy that I have this one. It's not a bad looking book, and I suppose it would grade out at about a 4.0 if I had it slabbed. But I'm going to just keep it around in a mylar bag so that I can take it out from time to time and enjoy that 52-page Carl Barks story inside!

Big kid me is very happy today.

Although I know this story has been reprinted, I've never read it. Tomorrow I plan to take a long, lingering look at this classic Carl Barks Duck story. I'm convinced that Hiyao Miyazaki used the witch from this Barks story as the template for his witch characters in his film SPIRITED AWAY (my favorite of his movies).

The back cover was actually a cut-out project for some lucky kid. You sliced off the back cover, cut out along the dotted lines and--presto!--you had a Donald Duck Halloween mask. And a disfigured comic book. But of course comics were considered throwawy literature back in them thar days. Read 'em, abuse 'em, then toss 'em.

Monday, March 28, 2011


There's a new short story collection out with one of my stories. DEAD BAIT 2 has just seen print from the publisher of my novel THE LIVING END (Severed Press). I got a huge kick out of writing the story for this one, "The Krang", which I covered in an earlier post. The thing about creating a story for this anthology is it got me interested in the short form again after spending so many years strictly creating novel length work. And, of course, it got me obsessing over new plots for novels.

What can I say?

I am looking forward to getting my contributor's copies of the book. There's a Ramsey Campbell story in this one, and he's probably--to my way of thinking--the greatest living writer of weird fiction. Nobody can create atmosphere the way Campbell can. He seems to actually transport you to the world he's writing about. This can be quite harrowing.

So buy a copy of DEAD BAIT 2.

Kickass cover to DEAD BAIT 2.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Charlotte ComiCon

Last Sunday I went to Rick and Dave's one-day Charlotte ComiCon. This place is where I get my back-issue fix. I always walk out of there with lots of old comics and a lighter wallet. What can I say? It's a great show, so plan to attend if you're in the area.
Opening time at 10:00 am. There was quite a line!

From left to right: Andy Smith (Marvel comics artist--no relation), Budd--Cavewoman--Root, James R. Smith hisownself, and Brad Parton.

Guy behind the table is my main back issue pusher man, Earl Shaw.

Lovely retro-style model Vera Van Munster and her Munster.

Who ya gonna call?

Comic book artist Al Bigley has a discussion with tattoo artist and painter Elf.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Journey Into Expensive Stuff

Here, then are recent additions to my collection, these being issues of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY which later became the comic book The Mighty Thor. This latter bit is problematic for me since I collect the book for its anthology content and not for the Thor yarns. And because of recent developments in both collecting and in film, the issues featuring Thor are getting really expensive. I guess I can always try to land low-grade copies.

Great Jack Kirby cover. His monsters were like God Himself.

A low grade copy of Journey Into Mystery #88. The fifth appearance of Thor. Low grade, yes, but at least now I have that cool Ditko story in the back of the book.

And I got a great deal on this copy of issue #91. More strange tale weirdness in the back of the comic.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Strange Tales Here!

Of the old Marvel anthology titles, STRANGE TALES is likely the cheapest one to purchase when it comes to the post-hero numbers. The most valuable issues are #101, which was the beginning of the stories featuring the Human Torch--Jack Kirby's version of the Carl Burgos character, and #110 which was the issue that was used to introduce Steve Ditko's creation, Dr. Strange. Since I only want the pre-hero issues featuring the work of Ditko and Kirby, and the ones containing Dr. Strange chapters by Steve Ditko, this will likely be the easiest to complete of my Marvel titles. I already have the toughest to purchase Human Torch/Dr. Strange issues, so now I just have to concern myself with buying up the books preceding #101.

Annual #1. This is a very cool book. Square-bound and packed cover to cover with Kirby, Ditko, and Don Heck artwork. And tremendously silly stories purportedly "written" by Stan Lee. His hilarious names are painted on the title pages of each of them--that alone is almost worth the price of admission.

Issue #96. These multi-panel covers were common on Marvel titles in the late 50s and very early 60s. I have to assume that they were Kirby's idea, as so many of them were illustrated by him. Of course it could have been an editorial request--much the same as DC's common use of gorillas on the covers of their science-fiction titles. It must have increased sales since it was used so often.

Some of the most childish superhero stories occurred in the changed anthology titles. Obviously thrown together under heavy deadline pressure by the likes of the overworked Jack Kirby and with dialogue tossed in haphazardly and in a hurry by editor Lee. It's a rare story here that wasn't goofy beyond belief. These certainly were for young kids. Quite often the artwork was by the likes of Dick Ayers over very spare Jack Kirby layouts.

This issue is kind of difficult to nab in an auction. Fortunately my main back issue source, Earl Shaw, landed me a copy at a good price. One of the first cover appearances of Capt. America since the mid 1950s during an earlier attempt to revive superheroes at Marvel/Atlas. When you read the story, however, you learn that this guy is not Capt. America, but merely a criminal acrobat pretending to be Cap.

Ditko did not get a chance to do very many superhero covers other than The Amazing Spider-Man. I've never figured out why this was so, unless he just wasn't prolific enough to do covers for other titles, or if Lee didn't like Ditko's covers, or if he was just too darned busy doing other work. My suspicion is that Lee just didn't care much for Ditko's cover work.

And speaking of strange can get my new zombie novel THE LIVING END at your favorite online bookseller or have your local bookshop order a copy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Peerless Book Store

Saturday, after we left Michele and Jeff for their trip to the mountains, we did a little shopping in an antique mall in Decatur, then headed over to Peerless Book Store for my signing. Carole met up with an old friend who had moved there and they also headed up to the mountains to visit a winery. So I settled in to my space for the singing event and waited for the customers.

Peerless Book Store is a brand new store. I arrived just in time for the first week mark. In fact, the shop is not even 100% set up, but was neat and clean and functional for my arrival. Best of all, they already have a good customer base, with many seemingly already loyal readers popping in to say hello and buy some books all during my time there.

I mainly do signings at the big box stores. And of course those are being reduced by the anemic economy and the results of years of competition between mass retailers. While I enjoy signing at all shops, I especially like to do events at smaller, independent shops like Peerless Book Store. I find the staff to be especially helpful and friendly, and eager to work hard to make a book sell better. Peerless Books was just such a place.

Sign at the entrance of the store.

The storefront of Peerless Book Store.

Am I famous yet?

I'm not? Those are copies of THE FLOCK in that window!!!

Some of the friendly folk at Peerless.

The author rests at the signature table.

The great publicity folk at Tor Books sent Peerless this cool foam board standee.

Carole's friend Michele who moved from the Charlotte area to the Atlanta area. She was kind enough to buy an autographed copy of the novel.

I hadn't seen my niece Leslie in many, many years. So she came to the signing and brought her aptly named son Chase and her sweet daughter Megan to the shop.

After the signing event we drove toward Kennesaw where Leslie lives and hooked up with them to eat dinner at Carabba's. I got to meet her husband, Mark Harris, whom I'd never met. Everyone was great!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Atlanta Signing, Atlanta Family

Carole and I headed off Friday morning to Atlanta. We had arranged to stay at the home of my niece Michele and her husband Jeff (and their dog, Petunia). Carole and I spent the first part of the day visiting my old neighborhood of Oakhurst and walking around downtown Decatur. But then we headed over to see Michele and Jeff. We also made plans to have dinner so that all of us could link up with Michele's older brother Shane (named after the title character of the film version of SHANE).

I had not seen Michele in decades, and had never met her husband. Michele has grown into a sweet and beautiful woman and her husband Jeff is a very nice fellow. They both work for the Federal government in downtown Atlanta. And for you WALKING DEAD fans, some of the scenes were filmed behind the building where Michele works!

They have a very nice house in Tucker in a neighborhood with many great trees. One thing that I had forgotten about living in the Atlanta area is that it is home to vast numbers of grand old trees. Someone needs to write a book or pamphlet on the groves and individual great trees of the Atlanta area.

Where Michele and Jeff live. Nice big house!

We all link up and head over to The Farmstead in downtown Decatur!

Shane, Jeff, and Michele standing for a quick photo. Well, Shane was squatting down--he's really tall.

My niece Michele, me, Carole, and my nephew Shane.

The Farmstead is in a converted train depot. Very cool place! Good food, too!

And the next day, off to Peerless Book Store to work to make sure I can do this gig long-term. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fine Memories

I traveled down to Atlanta to attend a signing even at the brand-new Peerless Book Store in Alpharetta, a northern suburb of the city. But one thing that I wanted to do was see the neighborhood where I lived when I was a boy. From the time I was eight years old until I was almost twelve we lived on Mead Road in Decatur, Georgia. It was an absolutely great place for a kid to grow up for much of the time we were there. True, the neighborhood degenerated into a war zone so fast that, looking back on those days, it seems almost impossible how far the place fell in so short a period. My parents tried to tough it out, but when the rocks came flying through the windows at night, it was time to go.

These days the community (called "Oakhurst") is now a Yuppie haven and the neighborhood is once again a safe and desirable place to raise a family. When we were there we lived directly beside the elementary school that I attended from the ages of eight to eleven. All I had to do was walk out the front door, stroll a few yards, and I was walking into Oakhurst Elementary School. Those were the days. After we moved away, the Boys Club of American bought our house and for a while it was just that: a Boys Club location. Then they sold it and it was torn down and is now a playground and part of the school.

But most of the other houses that I recall from my childhood are still there. Most of them have been renovated and are pretty expensive real estate now--$400K and up. It felt good to stand along the street and look down the way, recalling those days when I would stroll from street to street, looking for my pals, wandering around, sometimes playing in the parks, sometimes hunting for salamanders in the creeks, sometimes going to the local drugstore to see what new comics were out, or maybe strolling down to the hobby shop to see the new Matchbox cars.

It was a great place to be a kid.

The front entrance of my childhood grammar school: Oakhurst.

The low building on the right was added after we moved away. Our house once stood just beyond the baseball diamond on the far right of the photo.

This is the view much as I would have seen it walking out the front of our house and looking down the street, deciding which of my pals I would go visit.

Where our house once stood is now a playground. Alas.

At the end of the street I would often walk down to this building which held two businesses: an auto repair shop and the local drug store. The drug store was totally cool. It had an old fashioned fountain and grill and LOTS of shelves of new comics. The owner-operator had several times won the Atlanta Soda Jerk competition for his skill at making shakes, malts, and sodas.

Many were the times I would walk through that door and buy the latest issue of STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES and read about "The War that Time Forgot"!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Superhero Comics

When I started collecting comics again it was to buy the back issues containing the work of several artist/writers who I admired. Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Carl Barks, and John Stanley. Except for the Amazing Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, I was going to try to stay clear of buying very many superhero books by Kirby and Ditko. Mainly, I was out to buy up the pre-hero science-fiction, fantasy, and horror comics that these two men produced for the nascent Marvel Comics. And I've covered that aspect of my collecting quest in this blog in the past.

As I've also covered, I find myself forced to buy some superhero titles that I had not originally intended to add to my collection. These books are the former weird story anthologies that Marvel was producing before they switched completely over to the superhero genre. For instance, Strange Tales soon became the domain of the Human Torch and Dr. Strange. Journey Into Mystery became the venue for the Mighty Thor. Tales of Suspense was given over to Iron Man. Tales to Astonish to Ant Man/Giant Man. And so on.

As I've also covered here, there was a backlog of genre stories that had been commissioned and illustrated for these titles. Not wishing to allow the material to just languish unpublished, the editors instead used these tales as backups in the newly superhero-dominated titles. So for a couple of years the hero books contains at least one, sometimes two weird tales. This went on until the backlog of produced work was exhausted, and thereafter Marvel Comics became essentially a publisher of superhero titles with merely a few holdover books in the form of romance, western, and war comics. Beyond that, Marvel was strictly superhero fare and soon the weird fiction was only a fond memory.

Here, then, are recent acquisitions to my collection, showing how the anthology books became superhero titles, but which often contain sf and horror stories that pretty much force me to add them to make the theme of my collection complete.

Kirby and Ditko may have created, illustrated, and plotted all of the stories, but one thing about the titles that pretty much can't be argued is that Stan Lee named most of the characters, from the monsters and villains down to minor supporting characters. He had a thing for total silliness, alliteration, and the use of common words turned slightly on their heads by altering a letter or two. He was also not averse to using names over and over again. Witness a monster called "Elektro", a name that would appear a few years later when Steve Ditko created the Spider-Man villain "Electro".

Here's a Kirby creation called "Metallo". DC Comics also had a character with essentially the same name, a Superman villain.

Lee had a penchant for slightly changing familiar words to make them into names for monsters and villains created by his stable of artist/writers. Here's a Kirby creation called "Bruttu".

And here I find myself forced to buy superhero books I hadn't originally intended to purchase. The early hero-altered books like Tales of Suspense may have been taken over by Iron Man, but they still published weird yarns by the likes of Kirby, Ditko, Reinman, and Heck. I've got to have them, but I don't look forward to shelling out for things like Tales of Suspense 39 (the first appearance of Iron Man).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Critters are Sweet

A Great Dane and a kitten.

Good grief you can't get any sweeter than that.

The now-famous tsunami dogs.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Here is where I'll be appearing over the next few days: On Saturday March 19th from one p.m. until whenever, I'll be at:

Peerless Book Store 8465 Holcomb Bridge Rd Alpharetta Ga. 30022 770-650-7323

Then, on Sunday, March 20th from 10am until four pm I'll be at:

Charlotte ComiCon being held at Charlotte Crown Plaza Hotel 201 S. McDowell Street Charlotte, NC 28204 (704) 372-7550

Hope to see you there where I'll be signing and selling copies of THE FLOCK and THE LIVING END.