So here’s a back issue of particular interest to me, Mike, the guy what runs Sterling Silver Comics who also happens to be a huge fan of the comic book character Swamp Thing. Issue #140, the issue just previous to the one pictured above, featured what was supposed to be the first part of an ongoing serial starring the Patchwork Man, a misunderstood Frankenstein’s Monster-ish menace spinning out of the early issues of the original Swamp Thing series. I bought my own copy of that issue, a few decades back, but was never able to track down a copy of #141…I was never even able to confirm that there was a Patchwork Man story in #141, as the price guide didn’t mention it, and there was no World Wide Web at the time were I could further research the matter.
In the intervening years I did discover that the Patchwork Man only had his one installment that was published in the United States, and it turns out the second part intended for the following issue only saw print in a foreign release (that, alas, I have not yet acquired).
Anyway, back to the issue above…there was a four-month publishing gap between issues #140 and #141, during which apparently some editorial decisions were made and it was decided not to continue on with ol’ Patchie’s adventures. What we got instead were a couple of stand-alone horror stories, including one written by Batman’s co-creator Bill Finger…who actually had died a couple of years prior to this comic’s release, so this story had been sitting around a while.
This is the first copy of this comic I’d ever encountered, after all these years of being curious about it even after learning about its unfortunate lack of Swamp Thing-related content. I’m glad I finally got to see it in person!
A team-up for the ages! The Flaming Carrot, the oddball surreal superhero, joining forces with Herbie Popnecker, the star of an equally-strange comic book series from the 1960s! If I recall correctly, Carrot creator Bob Burden had actually sought out Herbie’s creator, Ogden Whitney, for an artistic collaboration but Mr. Whitney had unfortunately passed away in the 1970s. Burden is more than up to the task of presenting the inherent weirdness of Herbie, however. FUN MIKE FACT: the Flaming Carrot’s secret identity is a long-standing mystery, and I was half-convinced that the Flaming Carrot was, in fact, a grown-up Herbie. One would think this particular issue would have put that theory to rest, but frankly, given the sorts of adventures both characters were involved in, that still isn’t a deal-breaker!
A classic example of the “villain as hero” comic book series, The Joker had a short but memorable run in the 1970s. Because he was the villain, despite being the star of the book he usually met with a Comics Code Authority-mandated defeat at the end of each issue. However, plenty of guest-stars, heroes and villains, popped up in the comic, including Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor, the Creeper, Catwoman, and, as in the issue pictured above, Sherlock Holmes! Okay, in the story it was an actor playing Sherlock Holmes, but close enough! An oddball classic by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick and Tex Blaisdell!
This issue from DC Comics’ short-lived adaptation of the popular 1970s sitcom, illustrated by Ric Estrada and Bob Oksner, was written by Mark Evanier, now known for his collaboration with Sergio Aragones on Groo the Wanderer and his work on various iterations of the Garfield cartoon. However, he had also worked on the actual Welcome Back, Kotter TV show as an editor and writer, making him quite ideal for this particular assignment!
The modern era of Thanos begins in 1990’s Silver Surfer #34, returning after his seeming death in the late 1970s (and a cameo appearance here and there). And he’s hardly left after that, starring in multiple event series (such as Infinity Gauntlet and its several follow-ups), and showing up everywhere from Ka-Zar to Guardians of the Galaxy to even the Marvel live-action movies ever since reappearing in that comic pictured above. Not too bad for a dead guy! Thanos will be featured in a new ongoing monthly series due out in November, so clearly he’s not going away again any time soon!
There’s been a long history in Marvel and DC’s comics of stories outside the regular continuity of their superhero comics, in which either minor changes to characters and situations (“What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four?”) or more drastic alterations (“What If Superman and Lex Luthor Were Brothers?”) were explored. These were called (as may come as no surprise) “What If” stories by Marvel, and “Just Imagine” or (mostly) “imaginary stories” by DC, though DC would adopt the “Elseworlds” label in later years.
One of the most famous (well, next to Kingdom Come) of DC’s Elseworlds is Superman: Speeding Bullets, in which the infant Kal-El is rocketed to Earth and, instead of being found the Kents in Smallville, is instead adopted by the Waynes in Gotham City. Effectively, it’s “what if Superman became Batman,” with even Lex Luthor becoming a variation of one of Batman’s most famous villains over the course of the story. In a way, Speeding Bullets is an updating of the “Bruce (Superman) Wayne” stories that ran in the 1980s…a similar set-up (Kal-El raised by the Waynes) only actually becoming Superman from the get-go. (You can see a cover blurb for those stories on this cover).
Nowadays, DC has mostly avoided doing new Elseworlds stories in favor of trying to establish the main continuities for their characters, but has been in the process of bringing them back into print (such as the recent Elseworlds: Batman trade paperbacks). Fun stuff, and individual Elseworlds specials are still pretty easy to find in the back issue bins.
The comic fans couldn’t believe was going to happen…and then still couldn’t believe it once it came out! A precursor of sorts to more recent comics like Archie Meets The Ramones or Archie Vs. Sharknado, this crossover between the family-friendly teen shenanigans of the world of Archie with Marvel’s dark ‘n’ gritty gun-toting vigilante shouldn’t have worked, but somehow it did! Legendary Marvel artist John Buscema handled the Punisher-side of the art chores, while classic Archie artist Stan Goldberg took on that side of the book, and inker Tom Palmer provided the overall finishes, bringing a unifying look to the art job that didn’t sacrifice the visual qualities specific to each character.
Of note is the die-cut cover on the direct market edition, pictured above, with Archie peering through the target sight hole, evoking the Punisher’s first appearance from Amazing Spider-Man #129. In contrast, the “regular” version of the comic (titled Archie Meets the Punisher) was more in the style of the typical Archie Comics gag cover. And now, over twenty years later, this still remains one of the champion oddball crossovers of all time!
Supergirl’s last ongoing series hurrah prior to her final (well, as final as things usually get in comics) fate in the Crisis on Infinite Earths event mini-series that would appear just a few years later. This Supergirl series featured the artwork of Carmine Infantino, best known for his work on The Flash and Batman, and would later introduce the short-lived very-1980s costume redesign with the headband. The “Daring New Adventures of…” part of the title would also disappear during the later part of this comic’s short life, wrapping up with issue #23. If memory serves, a new ongoing starring Supergirl and Superboy in their own adventures was planned after the end of this series, but the aforementioned Crisis on Infinite Earths would have put the kibosh on that, if such a thing was actually in the works.
The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl series was notable for also having solo Lois Lane stories as back-ups in several issues. Issues 1 through 12 have been reprinted recently in a trade paperback (but not with the Lois Lane stories, alas). And of course, several years and reboots/revamps after that Crisis series, Supergirl has returned to the stands in one form or another, and is currently on the shelves in a new title as part of DC’s “Rebirth” publishing initiative, with a comic that more closely reflects the popular new TV show.
Discovering that the early Mickey Mouse newspaper strips from the 1930s had fallen into the public domain, Eternity Comics began a reprint project of those strips by legendary Mickey artist Floyd Gottfredson. The “Uncensored” part of the title came from the fact that these early strips presented a Mickey who was a little rougher around the edges than we all were used to, as well as featuring characters and situations that, in modern eyes, could be potentially offensive. The solid black front cover did not mention “Disney” or “Mickey Mouse” at all, and the entire comic was sealed in a plastic bag to prevent anyone from peeking within and witnessing the naughty antics of Mice Gone Wild.
It may come as no surprise that the Walt Disney Company was unamused by this particular publishing effort, and after some legal wrangling, the series was cut short with the second issue, pictured above. You can read more about what happened right here.
These strips were later reprinted in the officially-sanctioned Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse series of hardcover collections from Fantagraphics Books, but Uncensored Mouse remains as an interesting artifact of 1980s comics publishing.
The early 1990s were a period of excess in terms of the cover enhancements publishers would attach to their various titles in order to attract attention in a crowded marketplace. Die-cut foil fold-out covers that glowed in the dark overwhelmed the racks, and one of the most famous (or perhaps infamous of these was the first issue of Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 (July 1993). This was a relaunch/revamping of a title previously published by Dell Comics/Gold Key from the mid-1950s until the early 1980s. This was a formula its publisher, Valiant Comics, had followed with previous titles, relaunching other Dell/GK properties like Solar Man of the Atom and Magnus Robot Fighter (alongside new titles like Harbinger). Many of Valiant’s back issues had become, in common monthly price guide magazine parlance of the time, “hot.” Early issues of their other titles were in high demand, and commanding hefty prices, which encouraged retailers at the time to place large orders on this new comic.
Well, you can probably guess what happened. Part of the reason those early Valiants were in such high demand was scarcity…orders were relatively low on the earlier issues of their previous titles. Demand far exceeded supply for those comics, but for Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1, where every retailer had stacks and stacks of them available…there was no shortage of these at all. Also happening at this time, and perhaps discouraging sales on this issue, the industry-wide collapse of the comics market was beginning to happen, as overproduction and an overwhelming emphasis on “collectability” and “investment” (as opposed to simply just reading ’em!) began to take its toll. Whether Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 was a symptom or a cause of said collapse can be debated. It’s not that the comic didn’t sell to customers, but it just didn’t sell to the expectations of its initial orders, leaving behind excess stock and the perception that this comic was a sales failure.
Twenty-plus years on, however, and the gimmick-covered comics that once flooded the shelves and were the symbol of the market troubles the industry faced in the 1990s have regained a little of their luster. Now consigned to back issue bins, they’re once again odd and attractive novelties to be discovered, not a wall full of shiny attention-grabbers to be endured. Even poor ol’ Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1, with its bit of overkill in the chromium card glued to an embossed cover, topped with a red foil logo, may be gaining a new appreciation today. It’s a weirdly attractive comic, and a fun read (like many of those old Valiants were), and outside the context of tumultuous market forces, deserves a second look.