Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Farewell to EC Horror books

This was a neat book I ran across on ebay a little over a year ago. I wasn't really looking for it - but it fell in my lap cheaper than I thought it would. I made a low-ball bid offer and won it.

No one was more surprised than me. This is the 2nd to last issue of  EC's venerable Tales from the Crypt series. It is a low distribution issue.

What I found most interesting about the book was what was printed on the inside front cover.

Following the publication of Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent , horror and other violent comics had come under very intense scrutiny by parents, schoolteachers, clergymen, psychologists, and others who viewed the material as dangerous to the well-being of children and a significant contributor to the juvenile delinquency crisis in America. Think of it as McCarthy-ism for comic books.

Matters came to a head in April and June 1954 with a highly publicized Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Hearings targeted violent comic books—which fared poorly in the proceedings. While the committee stopped short of blaming the comics industry for juvenile delinquency, they did suggest it tone down the product. Publishers were left reeling. They could see the writing on the wall and recognized that the end of their industry was at hand if they didnt band together and DO something as a collective group. What they did was the Comics Code Authority.

The Code was essentially self censorship. It was meant to appease the groups giving them grief. It was a last ditch effort to stay afloat and keep the doors open.

This Tales from the Crypt #45 book and in particular the inside cover - marked a farewell to EC Horror titles

The letter on the inside cover acknowledged all of EC's woes, put them on the table and said "Eff ewe" to a certain extent. They had effectively been driven out of business and gave up in a very public statement that very few people saw, because of the limited distribution.

I thought it was quite powerful, poignant and understated given the circumstances.

R.I.P. EC. Horror.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

HeroesCon 2013

To be perfectly frank - I wasn't 100% sure if I wanted to go to this years HerosCon. I was on the fence. I didn't want to make the three hour drive by myself. Then, out of the blue, I got an mail from and old friend. A plan was made.

I went thru the personal "Archive" trying to figure out what I wanted signed and by whom. They had more creators there, than I was actually aware of. I guess that the point, to get more exposure, increase awareness - get the word out about things you may not have heard about and get people interested.

I couldn't remember the last time my friend and I just hung out without kids, wives or some "event" giving us an excuse to get together. This was genuinely cool and then I really started looking forward to; and getting excited about the Show. If it were possible for us to have had a "love child" on our last adventure, that kid could have driven us. It was that long ago since we road-tripped.

The drive to Charlotte from Raleigh was a wet one. Tropical Storm Andrea was on the tail end of visiting our area and she left a lakes of water in parking lots everywhere. Rain. Gray sky's. very tired windshield wipers.. Then, somewhat suddenly, the Sun broke thru. A gorgeous day fought its way out after a sloppy start. While trying to park we had a possible Jim Steranko sighting.

After parking, we got tickets easy-peasy (ie. very small line) and waited for the magic moment to strike where they let the riff-raff into the convention hall. Grabbed a couple of copies of The Women of Geekdom Calendar. Flipped thru it as we waited. There was maybe a couple hundred folk in front of us in the line. It flowed quickly and I did not feel pushed around in the herd. I get edgy when that happens I like some space and personal distance. Things that are too crowded wigs me out. I don't shop on Black Friday for this very reason.

So now we were waiting for the turnstiles to start moving...
Cos-players always amuse me and they did not disappoint. They were milling about getting like the rest of us. There were blocky pixelated Minecraft characters (Not to be confused with the German game Meincraft). Indiana Jones, Deadpool, Stormtroopers and even a little kid dressed as a Storm-trooper. He was more like a Lego mini-figure of a Storm-trooper.

The requisite cleavage queens were in attendance making infants everywhere very thirsty. However, the oddest Cos-player I saw by FAR was the large black fellow dressed as Storm. He had the flowing cape the big classic head-dress and a booming baritone. The juxtaposition was frightening. I would have made my usual snarky-jokes, but I was afraid I'd wind up as a greasy spot on the floor. Maybe he was there because he lost a bet....

Once in the hall my biggest priorities were to visit with Steranko and Roy Thomas. Mission accomplished. Both guys were genuinely into the scene and seemingly happy to mingle and spend some time with the fans. They are fine, fine ambassadors for the hobby and consummate professionals.
Much respect!

So the strategy was to get the signings and then work our way from one end of the convention hall to the opposite side before lunch. A quick first pass. To ID the guys who had the wall books I was craving, from the guys with glorified dollar boxes. After visiting with my childhood driving fetishes - the Bat-mobile and the DeLorean from Back to the Future; it was time to get to work and fill up my back-pack.

Lots of stuff there....
My gracious it was overwhelming. I walked around until my feet hurt.
I got some of my favorite Mylar bags there. Saw some of my favorite vendors there. Earl Shaw and Tomorrows Treasures were in attendance. My fellow day-tripper found me hawking over some bins and he brought me a beer. Not that this was unheard of, I've killed many a brain cell in this fashion with this friend. But I found drinking beer and looking at comics kind of oddly disorienting.

I even saw Shelton Drum on the floor. The MAN for putting this show together for the past 31yrs. I would have said "Hi" - but I didn't have the heart to bother him on his busiest weekend of the year.

Over the years, I have gotten GREAT deals off of all of these guys. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything I couldn't live without this go-round. I was in a very specific Silver Age Key Book kind of mood.

After much hunting, and internal debating - I finally got a book on my bucket list. I even found some good deals on a couple of T-shirts to bring back home to my kids.

Then it was time to go home.

In closing - What a great "Little Comic Show".
I have been able to make the HeroesCon in Charlotte two of the last three years. Its wonderful. No disrespect; but Charlotte isn't quite the same draw in the way that New York, Philadelphia, Chicago or San Diego are. I get that. The "Big City" shows certainly get exposure and interest from the all fans, vendors and science fiction and fantasy celebrities in attendance.

And deservedly so, I love that stuff and its a BIG DEAL. The signings, appearances and the event spectacle of it are really cool and all, but if you are there just for the BOOKS - then Charlotte is the show for you need to be at. You need to make the special effort to get to the Charlotte show!

I could actually walk around without feeling claustrophobic. Perhaps the availability of beer made people more tolerable for me. It was a strange sensation drinking beer and looking at comics.

The plan, the drive, the show the return trip. Smooth as glass.
Fantastic little day trip!

Living Legend - Jim Steranko

As I was sitting in traffic, waiting to park and get tickets for the show, I noticed a quick sprightly older gentleman making his way to the entrance of the Charlotte Convention Center. I thought to myself that had to be Jim Stedenko. (I know thats not really his name... force of habit - I've watched too many Cheech and Chong movies..) I mentioned it to my fellow road tripper.

He had no idea and I was uncertain. A quick glance at a distance... who could be 100% certain? It was either an artist or a pimp. He was wearing a cream colored suit and black turtleneck with perfectly groomed silver locks.

His booth was my 1st stop on the convention floor. We were in line behind abut 20 people. I was determined to get his autograph on several items. Earlier in the week, I decided the Nick Fury Agent of Shield #1 and Captain America #'s 110, 111 and 113 to be signature worthy.

In those books Jim did these dynamic 2 page centerfold layouts. Magnificent stuff.

Imagine equal parts Jack Kirby, Roy Lichtenstein, Salvidor Dali, M. C. Escher with some Op Art thrown in for giggles and I think you could assemble your very own "Franken-Steranko".

The mans very signature is art. Big bold vibrant and exciting. Many folks have gotten their signatures down to a symbol or "mark". A scribble. Not here. This is gor-ge-mous.

Jim seemed to be genuinely happy to be out and about with the fans. He wasn't the most loquacious fellow. I think perhaps his throat was bothering him a bit. Maybe he was just pacing himself for a long weekend - who knows. His warm smile and handshake spoke volumes.

Seems I'm not the only one ^ who was stuck in a moment of awe.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bucket book

I could go into a long spiel about how things have been a bit of a challenge lately for me on a personal level. No need to. We all have stuff to deal with...

All you really need to take way from that is that it was time to treat myself.
I scoured the Charlotte Convention Center looking for either a Journey Into Mystery 83 or Incredible Hulk 1.

No dice on the Hulk - There was not an ungraded copy on the convention center floor on Saturday. It simply didn't exist. I'm not in the position to pay a used car price for something that I cannot drive. I have to dumpster dive for an affordable value. I have to go on the low-end. Something with enough flaws to get it into my window of affordability. Torn back cover, UK copy, a couple of loose pages - whatever it takes. Gotta be cheap.

However - I scored on the Journey Into Mystery 83.

Made the 1st pass and acquired the target... walked around to see if there was a better deal on another book. Then came back and took a hard look at it.. talked price with the seller. Walked around and thought it over. I had one nagging doubt. In addition to its numerous flaws the cropping on the right edge made me think it was trimmed. Had to compare it to some other books and make sure it was the right size and unaltered. It checked out to my satisfaction. I told the guy this would be my last stop before I left the Con that day.... and walked away.

As I was walking away - I took a few paces and I wondered "Why in the Hell AM I walking away?"
I found the right book, at the right price. It was there, I was there - whats the freaking problem?

So I went back and bought it. Attacked it like a shark... Bump, bump BITE!
Maybe I'll get it restored later.

Living Legend - Roy Thomas

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from Roy Thomas.
I had heard a few cautionary tales about him being a cranky old codger, irascible, ill tempered and occasionally mean spirited. Maybe he had a damn good reason to be angry and the folks doing the talking conveniently remember it wrong, who knows.

He displayed none of that in my few minutes with him at the Heros Con.
He was the consummate professional and gentleman. He seemed genuinely happy to be there and to be interacting with the fans. He signed 5 books for me, after the 1st one, he politely asked me to make a donation toward the Hero Initiative. No problem, happy to kick in for the old timers. Roy has been a long-time champion for creators.

Roy signed my Conan 1, Star Wars 1, Marvel Premiere 5, Creatures on the Loose 10 and Chamber of Darkness 4. A real signature not a rushed scribble scratch.

Wait, isnt that Berni Wrightson too???

Roy doesn't need me to be his agent. His body of work is overwhelming. If you read a Marvel book in the 60's, 70's and 80's you already know who he is... I was going thru my comics trying to figure out what I wanted to pull out for him to sign. I decided to go with the fantasy themed stuff. The licensed material he adapted for Marvel is some of my favorite work.

I asked him my pet question for the Letter Column Resource Listings page-
"What was the 1st letter he had published before he entered the comics field?"