Tag: Wally Wood

With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights

With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights

I find that as fans get deeper and deeper into comics, we often develop a slavish respect for the comic books themselves. While originally designed to be a cheap, disposable medium, the standard comic book becomes a thing of awe.

For example, I recently purchased a 1950s issue of Boy Comics for my dad as a Christmas gift. When I read it before I gave it to him (‘natch), I carefully placed the book on my drafting table. I gingerly turned the pages, keeping the book as flat as possible. I kept my coffee far away to avoid any clumsy spills. When I was done I put the comic into a new Golden Age comic bag with a new acid free backing board.

When my dad read it, he sat in his favorite chair, snacked a little and bent back the cover. “That was great,” he told me. He clearly enjoyed it, and he did it without that collector’s mentality. There was a time when I would have scolded him and explained things like “condition”, spine-roll and “collectability”. Now I’m envious of the way he enjoys it all and kind of think, “that’s the way to do it.”

Maybe that’s why I enjoy coverless comics so much. In the old days, the newsstands would buy a bunch of comics and then return the ones that weren’t sold.  Over time, everyone realized it would be easier, and shipping would be less costly, to  just to rip off the covers, return those and destroy the leftovers. (Sometimes they just ripped off the top third, with the logo.)  But newsstand owners often would pass along the coverless comics, or even sell them at a discount.

A comic shop in Cortland, NY, Heroes and Villains, is “a little shop that could.” It’s run by a hard-working husband and wife team. They just acquired a stash of coverless comics and are now selling them for 50 cents each.

I scooped up a small stack and reading them is joyous. Because they are coverless, and essentially non-collectible, there’s no carefulness to the reading. I still can’t bring myself to curl back the pages, but the reading process is very casual for 50 year old comics.  And I’ll probably put most of them into my Halloween Giveaway Comics Box, in fact. Continue reading “With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights”

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe / A plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve. – Frank Zappa, “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?”

For those who have been following the long and lingering death of Mad Magazine, a couple days ago things took another turn for the worse when it was announced that after two more inventory-burning issues, the legendary publication would stop running new material.

That’s sad. 67 years ago Mad changed the nature of our culture, being the first comic book to confront our nation’s culture and its many foibles head-on. It was an important part of a vital movement in the 1950s spawned by innovators such as Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Second City, Ernie Kovacs and Moms Mabley. Mad was all the more important by being the first specifically oriented to those not yet old enough to vote. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…”

Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics

Last summer, as we were getting this site up and going, one of the first things that I did was reach out to legendary comic letterer and artist John Workman. I had met him at a couple of conventions in the past, and he had told me some interesting stories about how comics were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I felt that the stories were amazing insights into the world of comic making, and I wanted to get all the details so that we could share those incredible stories with all of you.

My intent for our initial interview was to clarify some details he had told me about making Thor in the 80’s with Walter Simonson. What ended up happening was an almost two-hour conversation and a truly life changing event for me. I clipped out a little bit of our conversation for a column last year called When Thor Road the Bus.

Before I get too far along, I must say that John Workman is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He is thoughtful, considerate, inquisitive, and incredibly talented. Since our initial phone conversation, John and I have spoken a couple of more times over the phone, and my wife and I spent a lovely afternoon with John and his wife Cathy at their home last November. He has become a regular email pen pal of mine. I consider John a friend, and I am lucky for it.

The purpose of this article is to share with the world some of the amazing things that we spoke about. The topics range from the page counts for comics in the 70’s to his time at Heavy Metal. There are some funny stories about Harlan Ellison and Wally Wood. There is the tale of the “Lost Mignola Batman Story”, and much more. So hang on and I will try my best to navigate all this history and bring it into the world so that we can all share in its wonder.

Jeannette Kahn and Dollar Comics

I had mentioned to John that the title to my column on PCS would be called “Continued After the Next Page” as a throwback to comic days of yesteryear. He broke out into some pretty cool comics production history.

John Workman: I worked at DC from 1975 to 1977 before I went to work at Heavy Metal. During that time, as had been true since the early 1950s, there were thirty-six pages [thirty- two interior and four for the front and back covers] in a regular comic book. Of those pages, somewhere over 20 (27 in the ’60s) were devoted to actual comics material with the rest being made up of a combination of paid ads and “house ads” that let readers know about other DC publications. Shortly after I arrived at DC, the number of comics pages dropped to seventeen, and I remember two things that we had to do. We [the production department] had to white-out all the pages numbers down in the corner so people would be a little less aware that they were only getting seventeen pages of comics, and we had to go in a lot and put in “Continued After Next” or “Second Page” or whatever, because the seventeen pages of comic material was broken up by more ads. There were a lot of in-house ads to fill out the issue because seventeen pages was only one more than the total number of pages in a book.

I was shocked at this and felt the need to clarify Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics”

With Further Ado #004: (Not) Afraid of Flying

With Further Ado #004: (Not) Afraid of Flying

I was struck by how many smaller publishers were exhibiting at San Diego Comic-Con. Maybe “smaller” is the wrong word. It diminishes the efforts and passion that’s behind all these efforts. Maybe I should instead call them up-and-coming publishers.

And I’m drawing a line between this idea – the hopes and dreams of small publishers –  and the fascinating book I’m reading, Double Ace by Robert Coram.  It’s the story of one of the most celebrated World War II pilots, Robert Lee Scott, Jr.  He was a war hero who shot down an astounding number of enemy pilots during WWII. 

Comic fans used to love aviation heroes. There were titles like Wings, Flying Aces and Air Fighters. There were heroes like Airboy, Blackhawk, Flying Jenny, Black Venus ( a couple of them, in fact) and Sky Wolf.

Guys of a certain age, like me, graduated from the TV steam punk of the Wild, Wild, West to Baa Baa Black Sheep, a (mostly) fictionalized TV series about another real life war pilot, Pappy Boyington.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #004: (Not) Afraid of Flying”