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CSBG Archive

Cross-Hatchings for June 2010

Bits and pieces. This and that. You know.

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Convention Shopping Dep’t.: It wasn’t worth a column all by itself but we did have fun a few weeks ago visiting the Shoreline Comix ‘N’ Collectibles show.

It was strictly a dealer’s room event, there was no artist’s alley or guest creators or anything like that. But it was a fun way to kill some time on a Saturday doing a little shopping.

We picked up some stuff from occasional CSBG commenter Alvin, who runs Secret Fortress up in Fremont.

that's Alvin there in the blue. And my wife's shoulder and elbow in the foreground as she prowls relentlessly for a bargain. I love comics, but Julie loves SHOPPING. She's much better at it than me.

That's Alvin there in the blue. And my wife's shoulder and elbow in the foreground as she prowls relentlessly for a bargain. I love comics, but Julie loves SHOPPING. She's much better at it than me.

Since I’d been on a Black Panther kick lately, I was pleased to find a complete set of the prestige mini-series Panther’s Prey, Don McGregor’s last hurrah on the character.

These were actually better than I remembered. These were actually better than I remembered.

These were actually better than I remembered.

My feeling about Don McGregor’s writing is that you really had to be there, back in the Bronze Age, to genuinely enjoy it; his style hasn’t aged well and you kind of need that extra push of nostalgic indulgence to get past some of its excesses.

Even his Black Panther stories, generally regarded as his high point at Marvel, suffer from that problem. I recalled Don McGregor’s Panther run as being fun, but also often talky and overwrought. That’s still true, but honestly these books were better than I originally thought. They had quite a bit more pulpy action going on in them than I remembered, and the art from Dwayne Turner is very good, though the coloring is horribly garish. (Marvel was still trying to figure out how 4-color process worked for comics back then.)

These were actually better than I remembered. These were actually better than I remembered.

Less standing around talking and more hitting and blowing stuff up than I thought there would be.

What’s most interesting about them, as is often true for a McGregor book, are the extras — his impassioned text pieces on the behind-the-scenes struggle to get the book done and out there. It was sort of funny to read of the trials and tribulations McGregor went through to secure permission from Marvel editorial for T’Challa to marry the nightclub singer Monica Lynne, and indeed the whole Panther’s Prey miniseries is built around that idea — but in the end McGregor decided not to do it, and I think — can’t swear to it –this was pretty much the swan song for the character of Ms. Lynne. One wonders what would have happened subsequently if McGregor had actually gone ahead and married them off — I can’t imagine that fifteen years later Marvel would be so high on the Panther-Storm marriage idea that they’d have divorced T’Challa from Monica first, or, God help me, done some sort of Mephisto-driven retcon, just to clear the decks for it.

I also found some other stuff. Mostly quarter-box things, pleasant surprises that popped up while we were stocking up on cheap giveaway books for my cartooning students.

Good stuff! Good stuff! Good stuff!

Good stuff!

The big finds were one of the old 100-page World’s Finest books (the lead story was reprinted in the Saga of the Super Sons collection, but I love those old 100-pagers and I usually can’t pass one up if I can find it cheap.) And a Korak I didn’t have, as well as an issue of Sword Of Sorcery, DC’s short-lived series adapting Fritz’s Leiber’s Lankhmar stories.

Julie did all right too — she picked up a set of Mr. Stuffins from Alvin.

Good stuff! Good stuff! Good stuff!

Julie loves Mr. Stuffins.

What can I say? Chicks dig the bear.

We also loaded up on a zillion copies of Viz Comics’ Aqua Knight that we found in the cheap boxes.

Not the best format for manga, but the students like these books a lot.

Back when U.S. comics publishers were still trying to figure out how to sell manga to an American audience, there were a lot of these attempts to reformat the stuff into an American-style comic book.

The series itself looks worth checking out though.

It didn’t really work very well — manga material is laid out and paced for a digest, and this format doesn’t serve the stuff at all, but my kids like them, so we scoop these kind of books up whenever we see them in a quarter box. Which is often. I liked what I saw of Aqua Knight, though, and I might have to look and see if it ever got a real digest-style publication over here. (Note: this account of the Shoreline show has been sitting in the “Cross-Hatchings” folder for a while, but I can tell you that when I did eventually pass out the books in class last week they were a huge hit. So it was a big thumbs-up on Aqua Knight from the 7th grade demographic, for what it’s worth.)

Far and away the thing we enjoyed the most at the show was one particular toy we saw, from the table next to Alvin’s.

An ‘action figure’ of Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Kids are clamoring for this! Honest!

Kids are clamoring for this! Honest!

Now, I know that these things are marketed to collectors and not actual kids, but nevertheless Julie and I couldn’t stop giggling over the sheer silliness of the thing, especially the premise that it could serve as an actual toy. Forget for a moment that The Birds came out in 1963 and is mostly unknown to anyone under the age of fifty. Just as a toy, this is pretty lame. If you are a toy manufacturer doing Tippi Hedren in The Birds, I think you should put a little more into it than just a Stewardess Barbie with a plastic crow sewn to her hip. (Especially for the exorbitant asking price.) At least a facial expression of terror, maybe even a little sound chip with a scream and that Bernard Herrmann scraping-violin VREET VREET VREET we associate with Hitchcock horror –although, he added pedantically, Herrman wasn’t really that involved with scoring The Birds, the famous violin riff is actually from Psycho. — sorry, nerd moment. Moving on…

Anyway, if you’re doing a figure from The Birds, really you should do one of those bad-ass crows, or maybe the seagull from the phone booth scene. With glowing red eyes. Then you’d have something. If any toy moguls should happen to be reading this. You’re welcome.

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From the Mailroom Dep’t: One of the minor pleasures of doing this column thing is that readers send you stuff, and sometimes it’s stuff worth sharing.

Adam Garcia sent a couple of preliminary promo illustrations from the Green Lama novel he’s doing for Airship 27.

This is by Mike Fyles, who also did the cover for the anthology book reviewed here a couple of months ago.

This is by Mike Fyles, who also did the cover for the anthology book reviewed here a couple of months ago.

You may recall that of the three stories in the Green Lama anthology mentioned here a couple of months ago, I thought Adam’s was far and away the best, so I’m looking forward to seeing the novel.

Coming soon, Adam says.

Coming soon, Adam says.

This time artist Mike Fyles is apparently doing the interior illustrations as well as the cover, and I think it’s going to be a nice-looking package judging from these samples. I’ll let you know more when it’s out.

And artist Scott Phillips continues to do his commissioned re-creations of Fred Pfeiffer’s Doc Savage covers, and he kindly shared a couple of those with me. Here’s The King Maker.

the original of this is probably my favorite of the Pfeiffer Doc covers.

The original of this is probably my favorite of the Pfeiffer Doc covers.

And finally, Mateusz Marek writes all the way from Poland to ask us to review the webcomic he’s doing in collaboration with his pal Lukasz Jarzabek.

The promo poster for FR33.

The promo poster for FR33.

I haven’t really got the time or the space to go through all fifty episodes and do a real review, and anyway I think what they really are hoping to do is get the word out.

It’s a fumetti, which is to say a comic created with still photos. That’s the hell of a lot of work to do any kind of strip at all, let alone fifty of them, which in itself is worthy of respect just for the craft and care it takes to pull off something like that in the first place. I have a soft spot for anybody with the DIY hustle and work ethic to stick with something for that many episodes, and certainly I can manage a minute to put up a link and let you judge for yourselves. So here you go. Give ‘em a look and see what you think.

“Not strictly comics, but….” Dep’t.: I mentioned a while back that in looking into the Hammer novelizations by John Burke, I happened across some information about another series he did that looked enticing.

Hammer time! Still kind of interested in these, though I already have all the movies on DVD.

Burke was a go-to guy for paperback movie and TV novelizations all through the 60s and 70s, but he also did a lot of original novels on his own and has a pretty fair rep in Britain as a horror writer to this day. Of those books, his Dr. Caspian novels caught my eye just because there seemed like a bit of a Dr. Strange vibe there.

Come on, that's a Doc Strange look, isn't it? i'd love to know if the Dr. Caspian cover artist knew anything about Dr. Strange when he did this cover.

I'd love to know if the Dr. Caspian artist knew anything about Dr. Strange when he did that cover.

Probably just the cover art, but the jacket copy sounded cool, too. And I’m a Dr. Strange guy, he’s been a favorite of mine since the Englehart-Colan days. So I made a mental note to track the books down and see if they could be had for cheap.

Sure enough, I found the three Dr. Caspian novels from an online dealer for a buck each, and in hardcover, too, so I thought what the hell. I’ve been meaning to get around to them for a while now, and they finally made it to the top of the pile a few weeks ago.

These actually get better as you go. Black Charade is better than Devil's Footsteps and Ladygrove is the best of the three. These actually get better as you go. Black Charade is better than Devil's Footsteps and Ladygrove is the best of the three.

These actually get better as you go. Black Charade is better than Devil's Footsteps and Ladygrove is the best of the three.

Turns out it’s the best three dollars I’ve spent in a while. These are great books. The Devil’s Footsteps introduces us to Dr. Alexander Caspian, a former stage magician who now works as an occult investigator and debunker of sham psychics. He meets young Welsh beauty Bronwyn Powys, who as it happens is genuinely psychic, and together they must work to defeat a demon that has possessed all the residents of a small British farming village.

In the second installment, The Black Charade, Dr. Caspian and Bronwyn are now married and share a telepathic bond, which is soon put to the test as they try to stop the cult of Ilona. Two deaths– by water and earth– have already occurred; deaths by air and fire will follow unless the Caspians can dispel the bad vibes that hover around a sweet young woman who has fallen under the spell of the cultists.

In the third and final installment, Ladygrove, the Caspians once again find all their occult expertise and psychic gifts tested to the utmost as they try to prevent a family curse from falling upon a young duchess and her unborn child, and in so doing uncover a hideous secret from centuries past.

Burke got better at these as he went along — they’re all good, but I think Ladygrove, the third installment, is the best of them. Think Dr. Strange and Clea, but doing Dr. Thirteen’s supernatural-detective job in Victorian London. The mysteries of the plot are very engaging and keep you guessing, and Caspian and Bronwyn are entertaining protagonists. Burke uses the repressed hypocrisy of the Victorian social setting to full advantage, as well. I don’t want to spoil them because too much of the books’ charm is tied up in the twists and turns of the plot, but I will give them the highest recommendation. If you like Dr. Strange or the Phantom Stranger then you’ll love these… and even if you don’t care for those comics you might very well enjoy these books anyway. Most dealers seem to have the hardcovers listed somewhere between a penny and two dollars plus shipping, so it’s not like you’ll be risking a whole lot.

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And that clears the In Box for this time, I think. We are off to collect our godson Phenix for another night at the movies… I think we’ve found something right up his alley, but we’ll see.

How could any six-year-old boy not love this? It's made of pure AWESOME!!

How could any six-year-old boy not love this? It's made of pure AWESOME!!

See you next week.

16 Comments

i’d have to say even people under the age of 50 KNOW about Birds, but it is more than likely that they haven’t seen the movie. But i’d bet the farm that you could find some youngster and they would at least know of the movie.

If you can find a 100 page Giant in the quarter box, jump all over it.

How do you think we learned about the Golden Age?

100 Page Giants are the reason The Vigilante and The Shining Knight showed up on Justice League Unlimited.

We’re not that old, dammit!

“How could any six-year-old boy not love this? It’s made of pure AWESOME!!”

Not just six-year-old boys. I used to show Gwangi to 5th grade classes as a reward (which is how I first saw it) and they LOVED it – boys and girls! I know special effect movies have a lot more bang to them these days, but I’ve found that the kids enjoy stop motion and models just as much. As long as it’s got a cool story and doesn’t drag they get into it. Now that you’ve reminded me how much I like it, I just might have to pull it out and watch it again before the weekend’s over. :)

DCs 100 Page Giants were my introduction to Supergirl, Batgirl, and the Marvel Family, my intro to comics actually. Weren’t you going to do an entire column on them sometime – or did I miss it?

Now you’ve got me interested in those Burke books. Used bookstores here I come. You’re an expensive columnist to read Mr. Hatcher. :)

Another enjoyable column!

When I was a kid I read an issue of Wonder Woman that a friend owned, from her non-powered period (which really confused me at the time– I couldn’t figure out if she was really the same character or not). The story featured Fafrd and the Grey Mouser, and ended with an ad for their new series, ‘Sword of Sorcery’, which I never heard of again. Years later I heard about Leiber’s stories (which I still haven’t ever read) and immediately thought of that issue. But I never heard of DC ever having the rights and I’d wondered if perhaps my memory was playing tricks. Thank you for proving me right.

I received a bunch of those 100 page DCs without covers when I was young. It was my first exposure to the Golden Age, too (and the Silver– mostly Silver, I think). I didn’t realise they were old stories until a few years later.

I’ve seen a lot of weird Barbies lately, but that Birds one is something special. Saw Flinstones, Greese, and Carol Burnett ones at a closeout store last week. But all were better done than the Birds.

Great, now I want those Dr Caspian books. This after you caused me to pick up the Sacketts books (from the Saturday in the Comfort Zone piece 10/24/09).

I love columns like this that show me the rich history of comics (and comics related) that I’ve never seen. Sure I can get the latest big event crossover, or for the same price I can find a stack of these older titles that I’ll probably enjoy even more.

DCs 100 Page Giants were my introduction to Supergirl, Batgirl, and the Marvel Family, my intro to comics actually. Weren’t you going to do an entire column on them sometime – or did I miss it?

Right here.

I seem to recall Priest doing something with Monica Lynne in his fantastic Black Panther run, though for the life of me I can’t remember what. A good excuse for me to bust out those issues again, at any rate.

No offense meant, but I don’t think you and Julie are approaching this whole “collector’s edition Barbie” concept from the right direction. These aren’t action figures or pitched at kids. Imagine going to a collectibles show, spotting a Doc Savage reprint omnibus, and saying “This shouldn’t be here! No kids today have heard of Doc Savage, so why would they want this? And what’s up with this price?”

Barbies are of no interest to me personally, but I know someone who likes them and she’d go for this. And I gotta admit, the Carol Burnett one made me laugh; I still remember that sketch. At any rate, we should show the same tolerance toward other fandoms we would want offered to our own.

Penny said: “You’re an expensive columnist to read Mr. Hatcher.”
Join the club, Penny – I’ve spent more than a little money over the past few years tracking down & buying stuff Greg has highlighted here in his column (interestingly, most of that stuff was NOT comics….)

Definitely agree with everybody above about the dollar comics, whether the ones with a lot of reprints or those with all-new stories. Along with the digests, they were always my favorite books by DC back then – so much to read at such a reasonable price.
As for Black Panther, I haven’t read anything since that McGregor/Colan story in Marvel Presents, so I’m really out of touch: I really have no idea how he ended up marrying Storm, instead of – to me, the natural choice – Monica Lynne. Interesting how the writers who took on Black Panther after McGregor would get rid of Monica, and then McGregor would bring her back. All this to say that, yes, now you’ve got me interested in Panther’s Prey & I’ll probably end up getting it (*heavy sigh*).

Mysterious Stranger

June 27, 2010 at 1:33 am

I picked up the Mr. Stuffins collection for my girlfriend and she loved it. She described it to me as “Chuck” if he were a teddy bear, which honestly sounds kinda awesome. I’ll have to sneak it away from her and read it soon.

Travis Pelkie

June 27, 2010 at 2:34 am

Is that Black Panther mini reprinting the story from Marvel Comics Presents? I’ve got a few parts of that. Oughta break it out again.

My girlfriend picked up a copy of Mr Stuffins a couple of years ago at a local comic shop on FCBD. I never got to read it, and she must have lost it in a move. Chicks do dig the bear.

I was thinking of you today, Greg (well, yesterday, now) because I picked up a pb copy of Ron Goulart’s (can’t remember the exact title) History of the Pulps. For some reason it says original illos, but the illos in it I saw were just from pulps.

And since I don’t know where else to post this, Saturday 6/26, in the comic strip Crankshaft features a couple not knowing which “Netbusters” movie to watch, so they go to the movies. On the screen we see Ant-Man’s distinctive helmet. Now, since the artist is Ayers, I figured it might be Dick, who drew those early Ant-Man stories. However, I see that it’s Chuck. Hm, I wonder if they’re related, and that’s what led to putting Ant-Man in there…

Is that Black Panther mini reprinting the story from Marvel Comics Presents? I’ve got a few parts of that.

No, this is the follow-up. “Panther’s Rage” was the first in McGregor’s sort-of trilogy. Then “Panther’s Quest” in Marvel Comics Presents with Gene Colan. And finally this one in the 1990s. (Before Priest’s run, that is, for those keeping score.) That’s how McGregor explained it in his text piece, anyway.

No offense meant, but I don’t think you and Julie are approaching this whole “collector’s edition Barbie” concept from the right direction. These aren’t action figures or pitched at kids.

We actually do understand that. My snarking off was aimed at the manufacturer, not the fans… the point being that it’s a bad, artificially-created collectible that exists largely as a cash grab, and we were amusing ourselves thinking of it as a lame toy. (This was mostly later in the car, it wasn’t as though we stood there in front of the display pointing and laughing hysterically.) As a collectible, even for a Barbie completist, it strikes me as being the equivalent (for comics fans) of a hologram cover, or the Spider-Man #1 in a permanently-sealed baggie. Apart from all that, it looked like it was thrown together from bits of other toys. Any custom fan job would have been better. And probably cheaper.

I picked up the Mr. Stuffins collection for my girlfriend and she loved it. She described it to me as “Chuck” if he were a teddy bear, which honestly sounds kinda awesome.

That’s pretty good but it’s really more like “Chuck if agent John Casey was a teddy bear.” Which is WAY awesome.

Yeah, my first reaction to that Birds figure was “Yeesh, now Barbie is ripping off old movies??” Seriously, when will they write and *original* story for the character? It just feels like she jumps into whatever the current fad is. There even was a Trollz Barbie once!

And I saw Gwangi as a kid in the 70′s, too (on TV) and I think it’s a very good movie, both in concept and in FX. It can be criticized for never adequately explaining how the dinos survived in that valley but nowhere else, or having gypsies as the bad guys, but otherwise, a pretty cool movie.

And thanks for introducing us to characters like Dr. Caspian. I really enjoy hearing about these fantasy novel characters. All in all, another really enjoyable column. :)

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I checked out all 51 pages of the FR33 web-comic, and it’s not too bad. Lots of swearing, drug abused visions, bizarreness. Similiar to A Softer World, except that ASW has 3 pictures, with surreal, ironic, and sarcastic statements. FR33 actually have dialogues, and strange thoughts balloons (not quite balloons but something like it).

Not for the easily offended.

I can’t believe I missed this post. THANK YOU, Greg.

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