Wednesday, April 23, 2014

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 54

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 54th installment of that series.

The cover of The Rawhide Kid #69 [April 1969] is my least favorite of all the Rawhide Kid covers. The Kid’s big fearful face and all those small figures of him roaming around it like Lilliputians on Gulliver. It just never worked for me. The Grand Comics Database credits it to Larry Lieber (pencils), John Tartaglione (inks) and John Romita (alterations).

“And Now –- The Executioner!” (22 pages) is written and pencilled by Lieber with inks by Tartaglione. As I’ve said previously, I like this team on the Rawhide Kid’s adventures.

Alienation is the key to this story from the get-go as Rawhide buys supplies from a nervous shopkeeper. The opening caption:

There is no weight as heavy as infamy--for it’s the only burden that a man can never put down!  Thus, even when the Rawhide Kid is merely making a simple purchase...eyes widen, hands tremble, and skirts flutter.

The townspeople fear this “ruthless gunman,” but are, nonetheless. eager for a gunfight when the gunslick called the Executioner rides into town looking for the Kid. The Kid tries to talk the gunfighter out of doing the shoot-out thing, but the Executioner is determined to face the Kid. Here comes the first plot twist.

When Rawhide gets a good look at the gunslinger, he recognizes the man as “the one hombre that I can’t fight.” Before the townspeople, the Kid refuses to fight. With the Executioner’s gun trained on his back, Rawhide mounts his house and rides away slowly.  The citizens don’t understand why the Kid backed down from the fight. However, the Executioner knows the ironic truth:

I came all this distance to fight a famous gunslick...not knowing, never suspecting that it would turn out to be him--the one man on this Earth who can’t fight me...not because he fears for his own safety, but because he fears for mine!

Cue the flashback. The Rawhide Kid is being chased by “some mighty unfriendly Mescalero Apaches.” He takes cover to make a stand, but he’s outnumbered. If he reloads his guns, his attackers will be on him in an instant.

The Kid’s salvation comes from above. Cole Yorby, who we know to be the Executioner, is on a hill picking off Apaches with his rifle. The warriors flee. Rawhide and his rescuer exchange introductions.

The Kid gives his real name of Johnny Clay. Neither man knows how famous/infamous the other is. They part as friends.

After that second encounter with Yorby, all Johnny wants is peace and quiet. Removing his guns, he seeks and gets a job at the Lazy-B Ranch. The foreman doesn’t think the young man is cut out for the tough work, but, since he’s shorthanded, he gives Johnny a chance. Before long, Johnny has proven himself to the boss and his fellow  ranch hands.

Amos Clanton, the owner of a nearby ranch, wants the Lazy-B, but it’s not on the market. He decides to send gunmen to ambush the Lazy-B crew. He’s kind of a dick.

The Lazy-B hands are surprised that Johnny does not wear a gun, but he tells them he doesn’t much cotton to hardware. He thinks:

I aim to change my ways completely! From here on out, the only iron I want in my hand is a branding iron–-not a shooting iron!

 The Lazy-B crew have made camp for the night when they are ambushed by Clanton's men. Though the Kid has promised himself no more gunplay, this changes things:

I’m a part of the Lazy-B ranch! Those are my pards that are getting cut down!

Grabbing a gun from one of his wounded buddies, Johnny takes down the attackers in three half-page panels. His friends have questions about how such a young fellow got so good with a gun. Johnny tells them who he really is and that changes things again.

The Lazy-B crew were friendly before, but now they are frightened of the gunfighter among them. They avoid him. They scamper at his slightest move, even when he reaches for his hat. But the foreman will have none of this:

Now you hombres hear me good! I don’t gave a dang about the Kid’s past! Since he’s been here, he’s worked hard and never thrown his weight around! And lest yuh forget...the only time he’s picked up a shootin’ iron, it was for the purpose of savin’ our necks. In my book, the Kid has earned our gratitude and our friendship!

The ranch hands agree and all is good. Well, except for Clanton. He still covets the Lazy-B. He hires the Executioner to fight the Rawhide Kid.

Yorby tries to turn down the job, saying the Kid won’t fight him. The rival rancher tells the gunslinger he has to goad Rawhide and push the Kid to his breaking point. He ups the price on the Kid’s head to two thousand dollars. If you’re wondering, that price would be over fifty thousand of today’s dollars.

Yorby takes the job, but he says it’s for a reason other than the money. It’s something personal.

It’s payday, so the Kid and his buddies go to town. Yorby calls out the Kid. Rawhide still won’t fight the man who saved his life all those months ago. Yorby threatens to start gunning down the Lazy-B hands if the Kid won’t fight him. The Executioner is bluffing, but Rawhide doesn’t know that. He has to protect his friends.

The shoot-out is short. The Rawhide Kid fires once and Yorby drops to the ground. Yorby is alive,  but not long for this world.

Clanton has been watching the fight from around a corner. He pulls his gun to shoot Rawhide in the back. A Lazy-B ranch hand calls out a warning and the Kid manages to dive out of the way of the bullet. He takes out the rancher with one shot.

I hated having to gun the Executioner! But it’s a pleasure to put a varmint like you out of business!

Rawhide returns to Yorby’s side and gets an explanation for why the man who once saved his life wanted to fight him:

YORBY: You’re still young, Rawhide, but wait...wait till the years pass,,,and the gunfights add up...and night becomes your worst enemy...for that’s when you see the ghosts of men you’ve sent to their untimely deaths!

YORBY: And then you contract a painful and fatal illness which makes each day a living Hell!

RAWHIDE: So you decide to end it all with one last gunfight!

YORBY: Yes! And you pick the fastest gun around for the job! The Rawhide Kid!

YORBY: So you see, Kid, you’ve repaid a debt! I saved your life and in return...you’ve given me the one thing I wanted most...an end to mine...

The Kid looks down at Yorby and wonders if he’s looking at his own death down the road. He decides not to go back to the ranch. What happened here is a memory he wants to put far behind him.  He rides off into the sunset:

And so, the young outlaw pushes on...silent and alone...his heart heavy, his future uncertain...in this, the untamed west of yesteryear!

This is another of Lieber’s best Rawhide Kid stories, even though, once again, Johnny makes the foolish choice to move on from a new life among people who had accepted him. No wonder readers continued to suggest the Kid settle down. We all figured he’d earned a bit of happiness in his life.

This story has never been reprinted in the United States. That’s a shame because it’s a great one.

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Next up is the “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page. Just imagine my surprise when I saw the lead-off letter was one of mine. I’d forgotten about that. Now imagine my horror when I realized how I’ve changed my mind on almost everything in this letter:

Dear Stan,

“The Hostage of Hungry Hills!” was a good story, but not great. Why not expand the Kid’s adventures to the full 23 pages available for stories? The extra eight pages would do a lot of good for him. And as good a job as Larry does, you should inject some new life into the mag. Let everyone in the Bullpen, including yourself, do a story or two.

The Kid Colt story was very good, but it would have been great with more room. Bring back the Kid in his own mag, or start running new stories in the MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN. Holy Ankles of Annie Oakley! Linda Fite is a darn fine writer. Let’s see more stories from her. Werner Roth and Herb Trimpe did excellent art for the Kid Colt story. They make a great team. Happy trails to you.


That was then. The more I reread Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid stories, the more I think he was the best man to replace Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the feature. I shudder when I think of how DC has injected “new life” into its characters to the almost universal detriment of those characters.

Though that Kid Colt story with its glorification of the Southern slavers horrifies me today, I remember Fite’s work on The Claws of the Cat with fondness. She was a good writer.

With this issue, Marvel resumed answering the letters they printed in its comic books. Here’s how some anonymous staffer responded to  my letter:

...And may your boots be free to scorpions, Antonio! Thanks for the comments on RAWHIDE #67 - especially that idea for a greater cross-section of writers and artists to be represented in Western mags. We’re working on just such a project right now and hopefully you’ll  see the results in a few months. Calamity Linda will probably be doing some more writing - if she can get up the energy! She spends most of her time perfecting her Southern drawl...and that tends to slow her down a wee tad. ‘Nuff said, y’all.  

I’m thinking the unnamed project mentioned in the response was the 68-page Western Gunfighters launch which was cover-dated August 1970. The first issue featured new work by Dick Ayers, Herb Trimpe, Jerry Siegel, Gary Friedrich, Werner Roth, Roy Thomas, Syd Shores, Mike Friedrich and Tom Sutton.

The three other letters on the page all point out errors in other stories. They were written by Bud Cavadine of Cashton, Wisconsin, L/Cpl Richard L. Huey (stationed in Vietnam) and Carole Ianacone of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

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The letters page was followed by a two-thirds page house ad for The Mighty Marvel Western #4 and the annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation. The 68-page Mighty Marvel Western had a new cover by Herb Trimpe and reprints of Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt stories by Larry Lieber, Dick Ayers, Stan Lee and Jack Keller.

The Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation is in mini-type and hard to read. The average total paid circulation of this title was 216, 045 of a print run of 320,400. The paid circulation of the issue nearest to the October 1, 1968 filing date was 256,881 on a print run of 400,100. Were these accurate figures? Your guess is as good as mine.

Come back next Wednesday for another wild west edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday!” Come back tomorrow for other stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THUD

My life has been particularly challenging in recent weeks/months. I don’t need/want to go into the details - rest assured that I am in good health - but I’ve had to rethink a lot of my plans for the rest of this year.

My original plan was to use some “found money” to pay the bills as I worked on projects from my long bucket list of projects I want to write before I kick the bucket. Naturally, as often happens, there were a number of unexpected expenses that ate up a goodly chunk of that found money.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m disappointed and frustrated that my plans had to change, but I’m very glad I had the money to deal with the unexpected expenses.  I’ll figure out how to get my dreams back on track. They haven’t been derailed, just slowed.

One of my more modest current goals is to catch up on the e-mails and requests I have not been able to answer or fulfill during the roller coaster rides of 2014. My target date for achieving that is the end of the month.  Wish me luck.

My mind is spinning too much and too fast for me to write reviews for today’s bloggy thing. Instead, I’m going to drive into various notes I jotted down over the past few days. Don’t worry if some of these topics don’t interest you. There will be another along in a paragraph or two.

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The great news is that Not Brand Echh is finally being reprinted. Marvel Masterworks Not Brand Echh Volume 1 will be released in June of 2015. It will collect Not Brand Echh #1-13 and humorous shorts from several Marvel annuals of the 1960s. Contributors include Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Arnold Drake, Stu Schwartzberg, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Don Heck and the woman who was born to draw stories for this comic book...MARIE SEVERIN!  While it’s true this 456-page volume is priced at a gulp-inducing $69.99, it’s been my experience that you can find really good discounts if you look for them.  I am a happy Marvel maniac.

The bad news is that Marvel will no longer publish those big, fat, wonderful Essentials editions.  Even in black-and-white, I thought those books delivered amazing bang for your bucks and their passing leaves me sad.

Instead of the Essentials, Marvel will be publishing more of their Epic Collection books. On sale in July of 2014, Fantastic Four Epic Collection: Into the Timestream will collect FF #334-346, FF Annual #23, and material from New Mutants Annual #6, X-Factor Annual #5 and X-Men Annual #14. The 504-page, full-color softcover is due on July of 2014 and has a cover price of $39.99.

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I love seeing photos of old newsstands filled with comic books and pulp magazines. People post such photos on line from time to time, but that’s not enough for me. So here’s a free idea to anyone with the means and time to utilize it...

Put together a book of such photos. Print the photos as big as you can. Annotate the contents of the newsstands as best you can. Take us back in times to those glorious days when comic books were found in every store and from many sidewalk vendors.

If you make this book, I will buy a copy. Heck, I’ll probably buy several copies and give them out as gifts.

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In looking through the April Previews catalog from Diamond Comics  Distribution, I noticed that Archie Comics has raised the prices of their double and double double digests by a buck. They used to be $3.99 and $5.99. Now they will be $4.99 and $6.99. They are still a good buy at those prices. Just not as good a buy as they used to be. Inflation marches on!

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This is the sort of thing I don’t usually notice. My subscription copy of MAD #527 arrived last week. From ComicList, I noticed the issue is scheduled to arrive at comics shops this week. So I got my copy almost a week before the comics shops.

Back when I owned and operated a comics shop, I used to supplement my direct market comics with comic books and other magazines from the local newspaper distributor.  My direct market copies arrived a good two or three weeks before the newsstand copies.

Do the comics shops still have that advantage over local newsstands and bookstores? Has that release date gap been eliminated, expanded or eliminated since the 1980s? I don’t have any real need for this information. I’m just curious.

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In recent years, I have backed a number of Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding projects. I was happy to do so, but I’m cutting way back to the point of near-extinction on donating to such projects. In most cases, I’m spending more to get these books than I would be spending if I simply waited for them to be published and available in the marketplace. Yes, I know some of these projects might never be published without crowd-funding, but it can get expensive to be a patron of the arts.

These days, I’m much more likely to donate to charitable efforts. The Hero Initiative does a great job helping creators in need, but they can’t solve all the financial woes for all the creators they would like. I always buy the most expensive Hero membership that I can afford because I believe in the organization’s mission.  I wish I could do more.

I pay for my more expensive Hero membership by only buying the most basic Comic Book Legal Defense Fund membership. The CBLDF seems to get much more attention than Hero, probably because Hero does not publicize every creator it helps. CBLDF lets you know whenever they do something, even that something doesn’t actually involve comics. Truth be told, I wince a bit every time I read of the CBLDF joining some non-comics effort. I would prefer they focus on comics...and I’d also like to know if the backers of the non-comics efforts ever reciprocate when it’s comics that are under attack.

My funds are limited, as I’m sure are yours. I try to put them to the best use I can. That usually involves helping comics people as opposed to backing projects above the cost of buying those projects directly.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for another installment of our “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 21, 2014

TONY'S TIPS #52

Today in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Bad For You, Constantine and Daredevil: Dark Knights. Please check it out and, if you would be so kind, comment on it there.

JULY 1963: THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #78

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 138-plus-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.  I’ve added the “plus” to my description of this series because there may be a few issues I missed in my initial explorations.

The Adventures of Jerry Lewis #78 [September-October 1963] has our boy cracking wise with a Viking who clearly doesn’t appreciate the humor. The Grand Comics Database opines the cover is penciled and inked by Bob Oksner. I’m inclined to agree.

The inside front cover advertises the Magic Art Reproducer which we’ve seen before.  Indeed, every outside ad in this issue is one we’ve seen in other DC Comics titles from this month.  The line-up: Tootsie Rolls, 207 Stamps, Tootsie Roll Pops, Missile Attack, 104 Cars, Tootsie Roll Fudge, 104 Kings’ Knights, 100 Toy Soldiers, the Blast Off space game, the Christmas cards from Wallace Brown and 204 Revolutionary War Soldiers.

The issue-length story is untitled and runs 26 pages, though three of those pages are half-pages that fall at the end of the chapters. The writer is unknown, but he or she does a terrific job capturing Jerry’s voice and speech mannerisms. I could “hear” the performer in every word balloon.  The story is drawn and signed by Oksner and it has everything you’d expect from that great artist: great facial expressions, fluid motion and a gorgeous girl.  Of course, like his fellow DC star Bob Hope, Lewis was blessed (or cursed) with a face that looks like a cartoon.

The story opens with an obsessed Jerry going to the library because he wants to read about pirates right now.  However, all the books on pirates have already been checked out by “Professor J. Overlap Peasplitter” and are overdue.

Jerry explains why he must have a book on pirates:

I want it should be on pirates on account of I broke a dish today and it broke into pieces of eight. Get it? Now if that doesn’t call for a pirate book, what does?

Jerry goes to the Peasplitter home where he meets the absent-minded professor and the professor’s gorgeous daughter Mary. Peasplitter is working on a time machine and planning to research the pirates of the past. He cons, ah, convinces Jerry into taking the trip for him. The chapter ends with Jerry in the machine and realizing that he might be making a mistake.

“Teen Age Views” is a half-page filler, four panels of teenagers sharing humorous definitions: An example: “Psychiatry is the art of teaching people how to stand on their own two feed while lying down on a couch!” The creator or creators of this feature have not yet been identified.

“Inside Hollywood” is a full-page prose column reporting on various celebrities. Stanley Holloway, who played Eliza Doolittle’s father in Broadway’s My Fair Lady has been signed to play the role in the movie. Kirk Douglas’ government-sponsored speaking tour in Brazil was a triumph. Alfred Hitchcock has slimmed down to 200 pounds “and endangered his profile.” Imogene Coca is making her motion-picture debut in Under the Yum Yum Tree.

Back to Jerry Lewis. The second chapter opens with the professor’s time machine sending him to a baseball stadium where he arouses the ire of...wait for it...the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jerry makes his way back to the Peasplitter house. The professor says the machine just needs a few adjustments.

Before the second time travel attempt, the professor gives Jerry a two-way transistor radio so they can stay in touch. As Jerry goes back through time, the music playing on the radio changes to match the eras through which he’s passing. We get songs like:

I’m just a lonely minute man looking for a Minuet maid...

Jerry ends up in the time of Vikings, who, after all, were feared pirates. He narrowly dodges a welcoming spear thrown by Skag the Peace-Lover. Jerry is relieved by the name until Skag explains what it means:

Yes! Ha-ha! But unfortunately for folks, I only find peace after a good messy fight! Ha-ha-ha! Grrr! Ha-ha-ha!

The third and final chapter opens with Jerry fleeing from Skag and trying to contact the professor on the radio. He runs into Astrid, the daughter of the chief of the people Skag is presently invading. Astrid looks exactly like Mary.

Astrid thinks the radio is magic and asks Jerry to use his magic to make her wheelchair-bound father invincible. Chief Leif looks like the professor. Miraculously, when Skag tries to slice the chief in half, the old man leaps to his feet and runs away. According to the law of the land, Skag must catch the chief to claim the village and the lovely Astrid.

The two sides settle on a boat-racing contest. Skag has a crew to propel his boat. The chief has Jerry’s wizardry. This doesn’t look like it will end well.

As per the chief’s request, Jerry gathered food for the trip. The problem: the chief asked for “food fit for a Norse” and Jerry heard “foot fit for a horse” and brought “alfalfa and oats” and “Kentucky blue grass.” Fortunately, they don’t have to look at what they are eating because a thick as pea soup fog rolls in.

Days later, Jerry, Astrid and Chief Leif make land...at Plymouth Rock. Which we know is Plymouth Rock because the name is painted on the rock. As a hail of arrows descend around them, Jerry learns the chief’s full name is...Leif Ericson. The chief discovered America before Columbus did.

The indigenous Americans aren’t at all happy about the arrival of Jerry and the Ericsons. They shout at them from the shore.

Nobody expected on rock till 1620!

Pilgrims got first reservation!

Later they send us to reservation!

Viking go home!


The story is running out of pages so Jerry uses the radio to call for help from the future. He finds himself back in 1963, but with Professor and Mary Peasplitter who, for some reason, have a Viking boat of their own.  No one quite knows what happened and we never find out what happened to Chief Leif and his daughter.

The final panel has Jerry back at the library. This time, he’s in a hurry to take out books on ghosts.  However, according to library records, a “Dr. Spook” has borrowed them all. The library asks if Jerry would like to contact the doctor. As Jerry flees the library, he tells the librarian to just send him a card when the doctor brings the books back.

Despite its weak ending, I enjoyed this story.  As I’ve said in the past, I would eagerly purchase a Best of Jerry Lewis or a Best of Bob Hope collection. While DC probably doesn’t have the rights to the material anymore, they could probably come to an agreement with Lewis or the estate of Hope to publish such books with a portion of the profits going to charities near and dear to Lewis and, when he was alive, Hope.

Such volumes could sell to fans of the comedians and also to comics fans who would be attracted by such great artists as Oksner, Mort Drucker, Neal Adams and others. In the case of Jerry Lewis, later issues of his title features guest appearances by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash.

The only DC house ad in this issue is a full-page subscription form that lists ten books: Fox and Crow, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,  The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, The Adventures of Bob Hope, Sugar & Spike, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Superboy, Justice League of America and Tomahawk.  Readers who subscribed to the titles would get two years worth of issues “at the low low price of 10 cents per issue” as opposed to the cover price of 12 cents per issue.

Coming later this week: The Adventures of Little Archie #28

I’ll be back tomorrow with some other stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 18, 2014

VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF SALE 4/18/14

Welcome to my second ONLINE Vast Accumulation of Stuff Sale of 2014. I thought about how to make these sales run more smoothly and profitably for me while also giving my customers good value for their money.  I guess I’ll see soon enough if I’ve succeeded in those goals.

Here’s how the sale works...

First come, first serve. In other words, the quicker you e-mail me, the better your chances of getting the item or items.  Only e-mail orders will be accepted and you should not send payment until you get a confirmation e-mail from me.  All listed items are in good or better condition unless otherwise noted. 

Let me stress that “e-mail only” rule.  Most of the few mistakes I have made in assembling/shipping orders have happened with orders I accepted via phone or Facebook message.  So...I’m not gonna break my own rule anymore.

You should always include your mailing address with your orders. That speeds up the packaging and the shipping.

Items will be shipped via United States Postal Service.  There is a $5 shipping/handling charge for all orders of any size unless I specify otherwise in the item description. If your final order is over $100, shipping is free.

Payments are by check, money order or PayPal.  My PayPal address is the same as my email address.  Purchases will generally be shipped within a week of checks clearing,  money orders received or PayPal payments received.

Because this is a one-man operation done between family, household  and work responsibilities, these items are only available to buyers within the United States and to APO buyers.

When you receive your order, please check it and let me know of any omissions as soon as possible.  I’ll be double-checking the orders on my end, but, if there’s a problem, I want to make it right in a timely fashion.

Changes from my previous sale. The sale will end on Thursday, April 24. Some items that were ordered but never paid for and some unsold items are being carried over from my previous sale. In most cases, I’ll list an item three times before it goes into my garage sales.

As always, your orders are greatly appreciated.

Here are this week’s items...

1000 COMIC BOOKS YOU MUST READ by Tony Isabella. A fun ride through the history of the American comic book that showcases the variety of the field. Hardcover. Signed on request. Free shipping. $25

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #26 [January 22, 2008]. Reprints The Mean Arena by Tom Tully. Magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #27 [March 18, 2008]. Reprints The Mean Arena by Tom Tully. Magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #28 [May 13, 2008]. Reprints The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and three “Future Shocks” written by Grant Morrison. Magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #29 [July 8, 2008]. Reprints Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade. This magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #30 [August 18, 2008]. Reprints of Robo-Hunter, Anderson PSI, Walter the Wobot and Tharg. This magazine is approximately 9" by 12". 114 black-and-white pages. $2

AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DAUGHTER OF SPIDER-MAN? By Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz [Marvel; 2007]. “Meet May ‘Mayday’ Parker, the daughter of Spider-Man!” Softcover reprinting material from Amazing Spider-Girl #0-6. $5

ARCHIE’S FUNHOUSE DOUBLE DIGEST #2. $1

ATTACK OF THE JURASSIC SHARK (DVD). $5

BETTY AND VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST #221. $1

BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2013 [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]. Edited by Jeff Smith. Series editor Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. 372 pages. Hardcover. $10

BLACK PANTHER: CIVIL WAR by Reginald Hudlin and Scot Eaton [Marvel; 2007]. Reprints Black Panther #19-25. $6

BREATH OF BONES #1-3 by Steve Niles and Dave Watcher [Dark Horse; 2013]. All three issues for $3.

CATWOMAN: THE REPLACEMENTS Will Pfeifer and David Lopez [DC; 2007]. Collects Catwoman #53-58. $5

CIVIL WAR: MARVEL UNIVERSE [Marvel; 2007]. “Whose side are you on?” Softcover reprinting material from Civil War: The Initiative, Civil War: Choosing Sides, Civil War: The Return and She-Hulk #8. $4

COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE #112 [May 2004]. Atlas Horror. Alan Class. Weird Mystery Tales. $3.50

CROCZILLA (DVD). $5

FREEBOOTERS COLLECTION by Barry Windsor-Smith [Fantagraphics; 2005]. Fantasy hero meets mid-life crisis in this 184-page graphic album in black-and-white and color. Oversized hardcover. $10

JAPAN IN YOUR POCKET VOLUME ONE: A LOOK INTO JAPAN [Japan Travel Bureau; 1999]. A literally pocket-size softcover encyclopedia of Japanese customs and traditions covering 100 topics. $1

OGENKI CLINIC VOLUME 1-4 [Studio Ironcat; 2000-2002]. Comedic manga series about a clinic that treats sex disorders, often of the most bizarrely hilarious kinds. It’s seriously adults only. Four volumes of around 200 black-and-white beautifully-drawn pages. I’m selling this as a lot. $20

POP MANGA: HOW TO DRAW THE COOLEST, CUTEST CHARACTERS, ANIMALS, MASCOTS AND MORE by Camilla D’Errico and Stephen W. Martin [Watson Guptill; 2013]. Softcover. $7

RASL VOLUME TWO: THE LOST JOURNALS OF NIKOLA TESLA by Jeff Smith. Oversized softcover. $7

ROBERT ASPRIN: ANOTHER FINE MYTH [Donning/Starblaze; 1978]. Edited and illustrated by Polly and Kelly Freas. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTH CONCEPTIONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1980]. Edited and illustrated by Polly and Kelly Freas. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTH DIRECTIONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1982]. Edited by Hank Stine. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: HIT OR MYTH [Donning/Starblaze; 1983]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTHING PERSONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1984]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: LITTLE MYTH MARKER [Donning/Starblaze; 1985]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: M.Y.T.H. INC. LINK [Donning/Starblaze; 1986]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

ROBERT ASPRIN: MYTH-NOMERS AND IM-PERFECTIONS [Donning/Starblaze; 1987]. Illustrated by Phil Foglio. Softcover. $2

SUPERMAN: CAMELOT FALLS by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino [DC; 2007]. “A hero will rise and a world will fall.” Hardcover reprinting material from Superman #654-658. $6.50

SUPERMAN: UP, UP AND AWAY by Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns, Pete Woods and Renato Guedes [DC; 2006]. “A hero without powers. A villain without scruples. And the fate of a city hangs in the balance.” Softcover reprints material from Superman #650-653 and Action Comics 837-840. $5

TERMINATOR: ONE SHOT [Dark Horse, 1991]. By James Robinson and Matt Wagner. $1

TIM SALE: BLACK AND WHITE [Image; 2008]. Revised and expanded with new color section and sketchbook, this hardcover book is an art and career retrospective. 272 pages. $13

Thanks for your patronage.

Tony Isabella

MAN OF A THOUSAND PARTS

Charlie Grant was born with the bizarre ability to dismember every part of his body, and then mentally control each. This break-apart hero lives and operates in Portland, Maine, and is often referred to as "Maine’s only living super-hero." Created by Gary Kato and Ron Fortier, “Jiggy” has been around since 1976 and won the 2010 Champion City Award for best ongoing indie comic series.

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Jigsaw since I first saw him in Scary Tales #38 [Charlton; May 1983]. I liked the character so much that I sent a copy of that issue to Don Thompson at Comics Buyer's Guide because I knew he’d love it, too, and because I hope that, between him and me, we could spread the word about this truly special hero.  Jiggy has never achieved the recognition and success he deserves, nor have my pals Gary and Ron received the fame and fortune they deserve. Still, against all odds, Mr. Jigsaw continues to manage at least one new issue every year and continues to be one of the most enjoyable of indie comic- book series.

Mr. Jigsaw #11 [Redbud Studio; $2.99] came out last year, but had to be reprinted due to some pages printing out of order.  “The Life of Pie” kicks off with our hero getting a pie in the face. By the time the 28-page story has reached its conclusion, Fortier and Kato have delivered one of the wildest time-travel adventures ever seen in comics.

In Mr. Jigsaw #12 [Redbud Studio; $2.99], Jiggy and his friends are on the shakedown cruise of a sea research vehicle. “The Pirates of Perchance” (23 pages) has action and daring-do on the high seas and nods to Gilligan’s Island. A letters page follows the story.

Mr. Jigsaw is a white-hat super-hero. He’s not really the result of nostalgic yearnings because very few white-hate super-heroes of the past were this clever and playful. Charlie is a good guy who makes friends with other good people. They may not be the most realistic bunch of characters, but they’re fun to hang out with every now and then. I wish the “now and then” was more like “monthly,” but, alas, that’s not in the cards at present.

Would I want all super-hero comic books to be like Mr. Jigsaw? Of course not...save that I also wish all super-hero comics were as much a product of love as this one. Having said that, yeah, there should be room for a few more white-hat super-heroes even in these days of Hollywood-driven comic books.

Mr. Jigsaw isn’t available through Diamond Comic Distribution, but you can order issues directly from Redbud Studios. While you’re at the site, be sure to check out their other titles as well.

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Add Batgirl to the growing list of DC’s “New 52" super-hero titles that make me throw up a little in my mouth as I read them.  Barbara Gordon is a hero. Commissioner James Gordon, her father, is a hero. They put themselves on the line time and time again to protect the people of Gotham City, even though anyone in their right mind would have left that mad metropolis decades ago.

Batgirl inspires nausea in me for a couple of reasons.  One would be the blight that reaches across all the seventeen hundred Batman titles DC publishes. For all Batman and his posse do, for all the seventeen million pages devoted to their efforts, Gotham City never gets better. It’s a hell hole, pure and simple.

Getting more specific to Batgirl, which I am, admittedly, at least a year behind the most recent issue, I’m lurching and vomiting my way through a storyline in which Batgirl’s brother is a monster who turned his mother and his sister over to the Joker, a monster who is responsible for the maiming of his mother and a monster who is trying to use the mother to lure Batgirl into a trap.  His mother. His sister. If I were Commissioner Gordon, I’d be thinking that I brought this sick puppy into the world and maybe it’s time I took him out of it.

Every time I read one of these DC comic books in which the heroes and innocent people are brutalized by monstrous villains who always live to brutalize another day, I am forced to conclude that those who create these comics must hate these characters. They’ve turned the DC Universe into a universe of sequels to Saw. They pander to their worst impulses and those of their readers. They ignore the basic optimism of the super-hero genre.

The DC Universe needs an enema.

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Always striving to be original, DC Comics killed off another Robin. Damian Wayne, son of Batman and Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, was killed by Heretic, an aged clone of himself. Apparently, Mom liked the clone best.  You’ll forgive me if I remain disgusted by the DC habit of killing children to sell comic books.

Batman #18 [May 2013; $3.99] features “Resolve” by Scott Synder and James Tynion IV with art by pencilers Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev. Regular readers of this bloggy thing of mine know that I have never been enamored of Synder’s Batman. Indeed, it boggled my mind that so many readers actually found merit in the ponderous and tiresome “Court of Owls” storyline. I bring up that piece of schlock so that you may better understand the enormity of my next statement.

“Resolve” was one heck of a story. We got a grieving Batman going off the rails in a believable if self-destructive fashion. We got a supporting character who truly understood what Batman must stand for. It has an actual satisfying ending and not one of those cliche last-page appearances of the next loathsome villain doing something brutal and further draining the last vestiges of happiness from the city of Gotham. Despite this being a story about a father mourning his murdered child, it was a hopeful ending.

I’m amazed and delighted by Batman #18. More like this one please. It may not be too late to redeem the DC Universe.

I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 53

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 53rd installment of that series.

The cover of The Rawhide Kid #68 [February 1969] is by Larry Lieber (pencils) and Sal Buscema (inks). Costumed villain The Cougar is hanging from a tree and has apparently startled the Kid into almost falling from his horse Nightwind.

“When Stalks the Cougar!” (20 pages) is written and drawn by Lieber with inks by Buscema. Sal was new to Marvel, but quickly proving to be an indispensable addition to the company. He could ink as well or better than most. He could draw dynamic figures. He could tell a story visually in the same exciting fashion. Speaking from my own experiences, scripting pages drawn by Sal was always fun and easy. He brought out the best in many writers.

The Rawhide Kid didn’t face many super-villains during this era of his adventures, but the Cougar would have been a stand-out at any time. The masked train-robber wore massive paw-like gloves which could smash through a wall. He had special soles on his boots that allowed him to scamper up walls and afforded him sure footing even on top of a speeding train. But this story was much more than a hero/villain battle and one of my favorite Rawhide Kid thrillers.
  
The story opens with the Kid trying to relax in a saloon. But he’s not likely to sit still when a saloon girl and the dude she’d been sitting with are bullied by three goons. The dude doesn’t want any trouble. The goons are all about dishing out trouble. The Kid makes short work of the goons.

The dude is Wayde Garrison, the son of J.S. Garrison, owner of the railroad line. The elder Garrison is sore disappointed by the son he considers a spineless coward and a disgrace to the family name. We get a philosophical debate between Rawhide and J.S.

KID: Toughness isn’t everything! A man needs to be compassionate - to love other folks!

J.S.: Bah! That’s woman talk! The measure of a man is in his will to win...in his uncompromising drive to overcome all odds! That’s how I built my railroad empire!

Despite the Kid being a wanted outlaw, Garrison wants to hire him to catch the Cougar and the villain’s gang. He offers to hire the finest lawyers to help prove Rawhide’s innocence. The Kid takes the job, but isn’t thrilled that Garrison wants “this worthless whelp” (Wayde) to work with Rawhide:

Nothing else has made a man of Wayde! Maybe fighting alongside the Rawhide Kid will do the trick!

Ed Dolan, the railroad security officer, isn’t thrilled with this hire. He says the Kid could be the Cougar. The Kid says the Cougar could be anyone, even Dolan. Hmm...

When Wayde goes missing for half an hour, Rawhide goes looking for him and finds him coming to. The young man says he was attacked by the Cougar. The Kid races through the cars and finds the villain in the engine car. The Cougar’s plan is to stop the train so his gang can rob it.

Rawhide and the Kid fight in the train and on top of the train, but the Kid is outmatched and, when the Cougar’s men surrounds the now-halted train, he’s likewise outnumbered. A stray bullet grazes the Kid’s scalp and takes him out of the fight.

Dolan is wounded. The Cougar and his men escape with the payroll. Rawhide and Wayde jump on their horses and go after the criminals. Wayde panics and alerts the outlaws.

Rawhide is outnumbered, but he’s on solid ground now. He clobbers the Cougar with a rock and out-shoots the rest of the gang members. Then comes the removal of the Cougar’s mask and a surprising moment for the Kid. Wayde is the Cougar.

KID: I’m plumb flabbergasted! But why? And how??

WAYDE: First, how...it was easy! Two cougar costumes - one hidden on the train, the other in the mine!

WAYDE: I was able to change identities at will! I even pretended to have been attacked by the Cougar to keep you from getting suspicious!

KID: But why? You’re rich! So money couldn’t be the motive!

WAYDE: The motive was revenge - against the tyranny of a man whom I couldn’t fight any other way!

The father and son reunion isn’t a happy one. The elder Garrison has done some self-reflection, albeit it too late to do his child any good.

J.S.: I was a fool who never looked at you close up...who never saw what was happening to you! You’ve committed crimes, but none as bad as mine! I crushed your manhood...then ridiculed you for having none!

The Rawhide Kid is still a young man and young man can make really dumb mistakes. The Kid doesn’t want his well-earned pay.

KID: The money for those lawyers is soaked in too much sadness and grief! I couldn’t accept it! All I want it to push on...to follow my own beckoning star...and forget how men can destroy their own and themselves!

Near as I can tell, “When Stalks the Cougar!” was never reprinted in the 1970s and hasn’t been reprinted since. That’s a shame.  It’s a story that deserves a new audience.

The issue’s other story is “Slap Leather, Lawman!” by Stan Lee and Don heck. Originally a four-page story when it appeared in Rawhide Kid #22 June 1961], it was cut to three pages for this reprinting.

It’s a mediocre four-page short wherein an aging sheriff has a gun fight with a rustler.  Though the much younger man draws first and hits the sheriff, the lawman doesn’t go down.  The sheriff disarms the rustler with a shot to the shoulder.

The townspeople are amazed. They all saw that the rustler’s bullet hit the sheriff first. The sheriff speaks only to his relieved wife and says: “I reckon it was only, fittin’, Marcy! I spent my whole life fightin’ for this tin badge...”

Marcy finishes her husband’s sentence: “And now it’s paid you back, dear...by saving your life!”

The sheriff holds his badge in his hand.  It has a dead-center dent where it stopped the rustler’s bullet.

Rawhide is literally a red-haired stepchild in the Marvel Universe of this period. His is the only original material western and will remain so until the 1970s.  The only other Marvel western is The Mighty Marvel Western, a double-sized title reprinting stories of Rawhide, Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid. In about nine months, Kid Colt Outlaw resumes publication, but it, too, comes back as an entirely reprint title.

Rawhide Kid #68 does not feature the Marvel Bullpen Page. It does not mention The Mighty Marvel Western, which seems like a serious oversight to me. The only Marvel house ad is for those inflatable plastic pillows of Spider-Man and Thor...and the Marvel super-hero t-shirts we’d seen many times before.

There is the usual “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters column. It features five letters from readers with no editorial responses to any of them.  This “no editorial response” was something Marvel tried out for several months. It was no popular with the readers. At the bottom of the letters column were the six “hallowed ranks of  Marveldom” and descriptions of each rank. As much a Marvel maniac as I was and despite that these ranks were more or less created by my dear friend Mark Evanier, I never cared for them.

I am not a rank. I am a free fan!

Going to the letters...

Kirk Robbins of Lancaster, Ohio wanted to see a modern-day Marvel character, preferably Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, or one of the Fantastic Four travel back in time to appear with Rawhide. He also wanted Marvel to try Civil War characters, Revolutionary War characters and characters of ancient history in its Marvel Super-Heroes title.

Willie B. Carson, a Marine serving in Viet Nam, enjoyed “Ride For Vengeance” in issue #65. If the Kid ever settles down, he wrote, it should be with Lucy Tanner from that story.

Jeffrey Avidano of Long Island, New York thought it “would be neat to team up Kid Colt, the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid against some famous outlaws like Jesse James and Sam Bass.”

Darrell D. Wright of Hopkinton, Iowa also wanted to see Marvel do a comic about the American Revolution. He wrote, “You should have a warlock (male witch) as the hero.”

Finally, Bill Boyle of Kitchener, Ontario pointed out a error in a back-up story and requested a no-prize. Good luck with that, Bill. Despite my having fifty or more letters published in various Marvel titles, I never got a no-prize. Despite working at Marvel, I never got a no-prize. I didn’t get a no-prize until sometime in the early 1990s. I pitched some ideas to a Marvel editor and he mailed me a  no-prize in response. I chose to be amused.

That’s all for today. Come back next Wednesday for another Rawhide Kid adventure. Come back on Friday for other cool stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella