Since moving back to the Midlands last August, I’ve been working part-time at my local comics shop. They just moved to a new location, and I’m using my bookselling, librarian, and organizational skills to help get their backstock in order, and to sell more comics!

In the process of filing multiple variant covers of the latest lukewarm title (if it were hot, there wouldn’t be unsold copies!), I’ve come across some interesting and unusual titles. Like paving stones buried under decades of dirt, mulch, and muck, this shop has many curiosities accumulated over 40 years!

Of course, like most readers, my mind tends to glaze over as I encounter polybagged copies of Superlative Cyberblood Taskforce 3000, but sometimes, I stop and pull the issue out, if only to check the credits inside. Rare is the issue that gets pulled, priced, and purchased to add to my ever-growing mass of comics and graphic novels!

Here’s an annotated listing of what I bought last week! (All title links lead to the Grand Comics Database.)

There’s A New World Coming

Published by Spire Comics, this is one of their comicbook adaptations of a prose Christian text. In this comic, adapted by Al Hartley, anonymous teens find themselves inside a crazy vision, as they discover The Book of Revelation and how current (1974) events might signal the end times. Economic catastrophe, extreme weather, war… it might be that the Dominionists are trying to jumpstart the prophecies now.

There’s nothing too evangelical about these Spire Comics… they’re earnest in their message, but there’s nothing that would offend those who believe otherwise (unlike Jack Chick’s minicomics). I collect them because they’re early examples of non-fiction “applied comics”, and not too pricey. (I paid $3.)

Famous Naval Battles of WW2 #2

Well…  not really “famous”, as the Battle of the Java Sea ended very badly for the Allies in January 1942.

This is a Golden Age reprint modern telling, presented in the style of an EC war comic. Ronald Ledwell presents the facts with enough dialogue to keep it interesting, even if the battle doesn’t seem that impressive. A few maps, especially a campaign map at the end, would have helped immensely, with perhaps an epilogue describing what happened afterwards as the Japanese continued their march towards Australia.

New England Comics advertises 20 other titles in this series, including seven issues about the Waffen SS, and three issues about the numerous attempts to assassinate Hitler!

Worthy of reprint? Probably not. It’s easier to hire an expert like Larry Hama who can draw every and any armament, as well as present dramatic events with excitement and authenticity.

Target Spider-Man: Back in Black

This is one of six magazine collections sold via Target for $4.99. Aside from the inside front cover (listing the titles in the series) and the back cover advertising subscriptions to Marvel’s then four “all ages” comics, there are no house ads inside the magazine. Instead, readers get reprints from:

That’s 96 pages of comics! $12 worth of single issues for $4.99!

The Sandman! Doctor Octopus! The Tinkerer! Green Goblin! Hobgoblin! Stiltman! Rocket Racer. Leap-Frog?

Compare and contrast with DC’s Walmart 100-page giants. It should be noted that most of the Marvel Adventures success came from subscription sales. Pick up a copy if you find one… they’re fun stories!

Fastball Express #1

Part of the Ultimate Sports Force imprint, one of 18 issues in the line. This cover features Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Chan Ho Park, Hideo Nomo, and Roger Clemens as armored superheroes!

Is this as cheesy as NFL Super Pro? Probably not, as this is approved by Major League Baseball, MLB Players Choice, and the Comics Code Authority. (There are also basketball issues approved by the NBA.) Have I read it? Nope. I bought it to give to my comics-and-sports-geek nephew, who I hope will blog about it himself!

Sports-themed superheroes…  Were I not already mired in other sub-genres of comics, I’d be tempted to delve into that murky corner of authorized and unlicensed comics! Want to start on your own Hall of Shame path? Start here, with Stan Lee and Neal Adams creating superhero mascots for the National Hockey League!

Comics Debut #1

Published by Comic Shop News, this issue features seven previews of comics from 1993. Four-color throughout, with five to six pages of snippets from various publishers. Madman Adventures has the best story, but I was most surprised to see an adaptation of Mack Bolan: The Executioner from Innovation! (Who’s that? tl;dr: He’s the long-running hero from Harlequin Romance’s male-adventure imprint Gold Eagle.)

Nothing really intrigued me to buy any of the comics featured (I already own Madman Adventures), although I wonder what undiscovered licensed comics, ready for reprinting, exist in Innovation’s catalog?

Comics Debut #2

One second, while I take a break.
Okay….  not a bad set of previews. Codename: Stryke Force (yawn), Jack Kirby’s Teen Agents (with a great set of creators), Steel Harbor (a Barb Wire intro), Lucifer’s Hammer (a painted comic adaptation of Niven & Pournelle’s novel), Plasm, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Again, I wonder if Lucifer’s Hammer is suitable for reprinting.

Image Plus #1

Only one issue was published, which isn’t surprising, since this is basically an “official handbook to the Image creators”.

It’s all mostly typeset from questionnaires, but the fun part are the caricatures from a young J. Scott Campbell!

What will you learn from reading this? How about Todd McFarlane’s TWO middle names?  What the “J” in “J. Scott Campbell” stands for! Birthplaces! Pet peeves! It’s the Tiger Beat of Image Comics! (And here’s hoping Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky parody this in an upcoming issue of Sex Criminals!)

Wizard Presents: Kurt Busiek’s Astro City #1/2

This cost me $7.50. Do I already own multiple and various copies of this? Of course! Why buy more? Because it’s one of the best superhero stories ever written. Like “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”, it’s short, concise, and will surprise you both with the story itself, as well as inciting incident that you’ve seen numerous times but never really thought about. I’ll probably gift this as an anniversary present.

You can read it here, for free. If you want to buy a paper copy, I recommend the Image reprint, which contains a nice text story as back-up.  (And then go read Love and Capes #10!)

Comic Book #11 [sic] (Generic Comic)

This one is a mystery. It’s a plain purple cover, with generic white text on the cover. In the upper right, we see “#11 $1.95”. In the middle of the cover, “Comic Book”. On the back, a mysterious cartoon figure, opening his trench coat to display a modern barcode: 6 55667 43637 4 01111.

No title page or indicia or copyright. 16 pages of comic, which means 17 pages of story (it starts on the inside cover), and one pin-up on the back-inside-cover.
The story? Generic Man answers the door at his home, fights a superhero team, and joins. Then his mother shows up. Hilarity ensues.

There’s an issue #7, and #3, if the editorial footnotes are to be believed. Yup… thirteen issues, including one over-enhanced variant cover!

Would I read a collection? Probably not. The humor isn’t that great. I bought it because I’m a process junkie, and like weird comics.

Planet of the Apes Book & Record

No record, so I paid cover price. This is part of the Power Records imprint of Peter Pan records, which published read-along comic which came with a 45-rpm single.

As a kid, I owned the Spider-Man/Man-Wolf set.

Wizard Ace Edition #16: Marvel Comics #1 

I paid $10 for this reprinting of Marvel Comics #1, more for the overlay cover signed by Glenn Fabry, less for the comics inside.

The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, and Ka-Zar appear inside. Nothing too amazing, but a nice specimen.

Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #13

Back in the 1980s, I’d buy these giant-sized reprints from Marvel for about $1. Now, they’re highly collectible, and this copy cost $6.

What’s inside?

What’s most interesting about these stories? The copyright notices! The Fantastic Four is “reprinted courtesy of Canaam Pub. Sales Corp.”; Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and The Watcher “Vista Pub. Inc.”; The Hulk “Zenith Pub. Corp.”. The entire issue is published by “ANIMATED TIMELY FEATURES”.   I wonder if anyone has collated all of the various holding companies for Marvel, Timely, and all the other magazines published by Martin Goodman? (Probably one of Disney’s legal beagles!)

As for the stories…  The first appearance of the Super Skrull! Black Widow! Nightmare! And the ads! Suits for $10! Squirrel monkeys for $19! And comics dealers…

Shotgun Mary #1 (with CD)

To quote

Comics with CD. Compact Disc Edition cover by Joseph Wight. Story by Herb Mallette. Art by Joseph Wight, plus pinups by Fred Perry, mpc, Shon Howell and Pat Kelley. A spin-off from Warrior Nun Areala, featuring a rogue nun with a penchant for bikes and big guns. Investigating a young woman’s murder, Mary encounters a family that is making sacrifices to demons, but she may be too late to stop what they’ve summoned. Also featuring Shotgun Mary pin-ups from various artists in the Atlantic Press stable. This edition of the comic shipped with a CD containing a demon-stomping soundtrack by retro-synthpop band Pink Filth. Includes CD. 32 pages, Full Color. Cover price $8.95.

Mint in polybag, so no idea how good the comic is. Bought as a curiosity.

Force Works #1

I bought this because it has a pop-up on the cover, designed by VanDam, publisher of those amazing pop-up maps!

Here’s their webpage, describing the project.

As for the comic? It continues the storyline from West Coast Avengers. After the WCA is disbarred and disbanded, Tony Stark decides to set up his own team on the West Coast. It includes a disillusioned USAgent, the second Spider-Woman, the Scarlet Witch, and Wonder Man. Scarlet Witch sports a new revealing costume/swimsuit, and Julia Carpenter’s costume is so tight, it produces cleavage. (Which it did not do on Battleworld.) (Are the symbiotes so clingy that they accentuate body parts? They are sentient, so one could have a bad touch, at least worst than the usual ickiness of having a clingy alien covering your body.)  Otherwise, it’s not bad as most 1990s Marvel comics.

…and finally….

The Illustrated Comic Art Workshop, Volume 1

This is the first of four planned volumes, published by Garco Systems in 1982. It reads like a graphic designer textbook from the same era, except that it’s illustrated with drawings instead of photos.

Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin, and John Romita offer advice and techniques, with spot lettering supplied by Todd Klein!

Volume Two was published by Skymarc, but I can find no reference to the other volumes. A similar title, The How to Draw Comics Comic #1, exists, but was not continued.


  1. “Also featuring Shotgun Mary pin-ups from various artists in the Atlantic Press stable.”

    Are you sure that isn’t supposed to be Antarctic Press?

  2. I also bought those Marvel Collectors Item Classics (and Marvel Tales, and Fantasy Masterpieces). They were my first exposure to early-’60s Marvel, and the only affordable way I could get those stories as a kid. Good memories!

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