Everyone loves a bargain, right? And like many comic fans, I love finding lost treasures in a comic shop’s back issue bargain box. While I’ve never found an issue of Action #1 in a bargain bin, or even a friendly neighborhood garage sale, I am delighted and amazed that comics I find in these long white boxes. Like forlorn playthings trapped on the Island of Misfit Toys, these comics just need to find the right person to enjoy and appreciate them.
Now let’s be realistic. If we all only spent money on back issues bargains, every comic store would go out of business. But for shops, the bargain bin can be a way to invite customers in, add to a customer’s purchase or just blow-out inventory. And those are all good things.
So, in the spirit, this column is a celebration of the recent treasures that I’ve rescued from back issue bargain bins, along with a little shout-out to each comic shop too.
Mad Dogs #1, #3
This short series is a gritty police drama in that walks down that dingy, well trodden path established by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson in the Death Wish. Author Chuck Dixon brings a pulpy veneer, and bit of panache, to the proceedings. In this world, there’s no due process, and it’s clearly not needed with the rottenest of the rotten bad guys the heroes face. The art is by Victor Toppi, presumably an Argentinian with style not unlike Ricardo Villagran and Jorge Zaffino. His strong inking almost gives it all a Noir-by-way-of-Hill-Street-Blues vibe.
I was just fascinated by this one -I missed it the first time, so I reached out to Chuck Dixon.
“Two editors from Semic, Sweden were basically touring the USA in the mid-80s looking for new properties to publish,” he told me. “I ran into them toward the end of their tour and pitched a bunch of ideas. I had contacts with the Villagran Studio in Argentina and could deliver top-notch, European level comics at a reasonable rate per page. I wound up doing several projects for them including Time Jump War with Enrique Villagran, Invasion ’55 with Lito Fernandez, and The Vanishers with Victor Klacik. They also had me write a few scripts for their long-running Chuck Riley private eye series. That was when they approached me about writing a police procedural story for them. They said they wanted something hard-edged and violent. But when I delivered it they were horrified and never published it.”
And so Dixon offered it to Eclipse to publish instead.
I wasn’t familiar with the series’ artist, Victor Toppi, but Chuck filled me in. “He mostly worked for an Italian company and did a lot of stuff in British weekly comics before the Falklands War ended the Argentines’ relationship with UK publishers,” said Dixon.
How did this series do? “I think it did well for Eclipse at the time,” recalled Dixon. “Black and white comics were hot for some reason. But I just got too darned busy to ever get back to it.”
Rescued from the $1.00 bargain bin at Comics Cloud City, Syracuse NY
Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #58
Comics for Collectors is a great comic shop in Ithaca that I think I first shopped there in 1981. Yikes- tempus fugit, right? Their bargain box is an amazing deal : 5 comics for $1. Like my old friend, Bootman used to say “You can’t afford not to buy it!”
Truthfully, Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #58 isn’t a great comic. But the letters column had a fascinating tease for an upcoming Dr. Strange movie that was in some stage of development. (After such a fantastic Dr. Strange movie was really made, it makes you wonder what could have been.)
Rescued from the Five-for-a-$1.00 bargain bin at Comics for Collectors, Ithaca NY
I never had much interest in this character until I read the recent article in Back Issue Magazine #107. (Full disclosure: I also have an article in this issue, exploring Archie’s Red Circle Sorcery comics.) In the article “Archie Comics in the 1970s and 1980s” by John Jackson Miller, I learned to think about Thunderbunny as the quest of creator Martin Greim. He worked hard to find ways publish his character. To me, that’s the cool part of it all.
In Red Circle/Archie’s Thunderbunny #1, I was struck by the back-up story entitled “The Greatest Story Ever Told” . This one takes place at a New York comic convention and includes real life comics professionals as characters in the story. Appearing are creators like Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Frank Thorne, Russ Cochran and many more. I still need to figure out who they are all, in fact.
I also snagged Thunderbunny #8 from the characters subsequent run published by WaRP. This issue has a fascinating editorial by Richard Pini reflecting on comic consumer buying habits in the 80s and a Miss Moon story with art by Gary Kato doing his best Steve Ditko riffs.
Rescued from the 50 cent bin at A & S Comics, Teaneck, NJ
Crossfire #1, 2, 3
I have these at home somewhere, but this series definitely deserves a re-read. Writer/creator Mark Evanier told me a couple of great stories about Crossfires’s car, a 1957 Thunderbird. I put them in a sidebar one of my recent Back Issue articles (It was the JSA issue: Back Issue #106, and it’s still available here)
Crossfire had a unique pacing and vibe for it’ time, and I don’t think I appreciated it enough then. I did, and still do appreciate, the engaging art by Dan Spiegle.
Rescued from bargain bin at Emil’s Queen City Book Store, Buffalo NY
Richie Rich and His Girl Friends #3
I just loved this cover, and in era when a mega-rich president is having so many issues with past girlfriends, it seems like there’s a joke in here somewhere. Taking photos of multiple girlfriends? Doesn’t Richie know how disastrous that could become for a wealthy adult? Maybe I should leave it up to fellow columnist Mike Gold to squeeze the best joke out of this one. It’s right up his alley.
Of note: this comic pushes the traditional splash page to page 3, and instead page 1 promotes an old NBC new Saturday morning cartoon line-up (maaaaan, I loved that Filmation Flash Gordon cartoon) and the November on sale dates for Harvey Comics!
Rescued from the 50 cent bin at A & S Comics, Teaneck, NJ
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I’ll be rescuing more treasures soon! And there’s lots of other great comic shop bargain bins, like those at Larger Than Life (Syracuse, NY) and Main Street Comics (Middletown, NY) that I want to celebrate.
How about you? Find any bargain bin awesomeness lately?