Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mighty Comic # 43

Sometimes I think we just got lucky. It’s not as if each and every cover of the classic Justice League of America series (that is, the Silver Age Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky series) made it onto the cover of Mighty Comic or All Favourites Comic. It’s not even as if every classic or iconic DC cover made the cut in the K.G. Murray series (just think of the many unreprinted Silver Age Batman or Detective Comics covers).

Consider that the follow-up issue of the US Justice League of America didn’t appear in the following issue of Mighty, but a month later in All Favourites Comic #45; consider also that one of the first four Crisis team-ups didn’t get the cover treatment (“The Most Dangerous Earth of All” from Justice League of America #30 was on back-up feature duties for All Favourites Comic #48) and you begin to see why I’m grateful to see the cover of Justice League of America #21 reprinted on Mighty Comic #43.

But I’m also grateful because it’s a better reproduction than the reprints in both the Crisis on Multiple Earths TPB and Justice League of America Archives Vol. 3. The inking in both these reprints is muddy and indistinct (unforgiveable on Murphy Anderson) whereas the Mighty copy is crisp and clean. It even manages to reproduce the colouring errors in the original issue (Dr. Fate’s collar, Green Lantern’s chest emblem) which were corrected in the TPB. And of course, the bold purple background is reproduced with integrity, albeit with a bit license - a deeper, richer shade than the original, which somehow imbues the scene with a greater sense of royalty and ceremony.

So sure, it’s not quite the original cover. The image is cropped by the 100 Pages spine banner, and the text boxes have also been rearranged, and the masthead of the Mighty Comic arches over the smoke formation rather than nestling into it as the Justice League of America logo does, altering the arrangement of the elements (to greater effect, in my opinion).

So sometimes, we just got lucky. And sometimes, K.G. Murray just got it right.

Mighty Comic # 42: The Parallel World Factor and the Desire for Geekoscopies

I picked up a small batch of Mighty Comic’s a couple of months ago, including the Mighty Comic #42 pictured above. This copy is missing the back cover, the spine is ripped, it’s riddled with creases, edge tears and stains, the splash page has a name stamped on it, and if that wasn’t enough to turn off any prospective purchaser, get this: it is missing over a dozen pages.

But I gotta say, despite all this, this issue has really caught my eye. Sounds crazy, but it’s as simple as this: I still get a kick out seeing K.G. Murray covers for the first time.

Over the last few years we K.G. Murray fans have been spoilt for information by James’ site with its wonderful ever-expanding index and cover gallery, and our own little spin-off networks, sharing info and scans and trading issues. All of this has been a wonderful boon of course.

But strange as it is to say, there’s been an unexpected tradeoff, and that is the diminishing surprise factor.

There’s a few I have a hankering to discover. Superman Supacomic #7 comes immediately to mind. I’d like to confirm my guess for Tip Top Comic Monthly #8. And Mighty Comic #6 hasn’t turned up at all that I can recall. There’s a few Hundred’s, Century’s, Colossals and Five-Score’s I haven’t seen. Offhand I would guess there’s 20-odd issues I haven’t seen from the core post-1956 series I’m interested in, and most if not all would be pre-decimal issues.

Which explains why I was so pleased to come across this poor specimen. I recognize the Mike Sekowsky cover from Justice League of America #23, but it’s still a kick seeing US images reprinted in Australian editions with the Mighty Comic (or insert any title!) masthead – I call it the Parallel World Factor in which everything is exactly the same apart from minor yet critical differences. A familiar trope to DC readers I’m sure…

It also maybe explains why I don’t mind so much that this copy is incomplete to the extent that I cannot even provide full contents details. There’s still something left to the imagination and for future discovery. Sure, there’s a couple of Westerns in there and a Challengers of the Unknown reprint. And apart from the Justice League feature the most noteworthy reprint is probably the Eclipso reprint of Hideout on Fear Island by Alex Toth, which has also been reprinted in All Star Adventure Comic #95 as noted in my first Alex Toth Reprint Stocktake a few months ago.

But I’m not in any rush to find out the rest of the contents for this issue. There’s plenty of other issues queued up in the junkyard lab. I’m happy to wait for a complete copy to find its way to me, and at that point I’ll get the forensics instruments out and put the white gloves on and give it a good ol’ geekoscopy.

PS This was written a couple of months ago, and for some reason I neglected to put it on the blog – I think it was lost in the mix when I took a break. Since then I’ve found a Tip Top #8, and a new fresh copy of Mighty #42, and even a copy of Mighty #6. And the image above is actually my new copy, the old copy having been passed along to another desperado. And the thorough geekoscopy will just have to wait a little longer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Alex Toth Reprint Stocktake Part 8

A couple more Alex Toth reprints:

Who is Haunting the Haunted Chateau?
Weird War Tales #10, January 1973
Also reprinted: DC Special Series #18, Fall 1979
Terror Tales Album #10

The Great Dimensional Brain Swap
House of Secrets #48, September 1961
Aso reprinted: House of Secrets #96, February-March 1972
Haunted Tales #35

The latter has the better title, but the former is the better piece of work.

Also like to mention I picked up another Toth comic – The Witching Hour #11 – which features the story The Mark of the Witch as well as framing sequences by Toth.

This is the sort of sample (see image above) I was referring to previously when I mentioned the suitability of muted tones to Toth’s art, especially on older printed comics. I know the style is not to everyone’s taste, but for me it is enough to warrant seeking various printings or editions of in order to fully appreciate the art. Or rather, to fully experience the variety.

I guess it’s analogous to the fetish over different mixes and pressings of favourite records... just to equate meaningful junk with meaningful junk.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Super Heroes Album #18 - The Missing Issue

Is there a Super Heroes Album #18? I haven’t seen a copy, and after asking around this week and drawing a blank on confirmed sightings I’m willing to bet there wasn’t one published.

It’s difficult to provide proof of an absence of course, but I’ve reviewed the contents of the issues close to #18 and I don’t see any evidence of a gap.

The series kicked off in 1976 as Super Heroes for the first two issues before changing to Super Heroes Album with #3, and cover-featured Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes which had previously been appearing regularly in All Star Adventure Comic.

The series converted to a Justice League of America series with issue #15. This issue reprinted the US Justice League of America #150, continuing the K.G. Murray Justice League reprints which had been appearing in Super Adventure Album until #14 reprinting JLA #’s 147 and 148. JLA #149 was obviously lost in the transition, but was slotted into Super Action Album #15 (which, just to confuse things, actually picked up the issue numbering from Super Adventure Album!)

After issue #15, Super Heroes Album reprinted the JLA stories in sequential order for issue #’s 16, 17, 19 and 20. Indeed #19 reprints the JLA features from #’s 153 and 154, suggesting that the skipped issue may have been noticed by the K.G. Murray editors after all, but not in time to correct the issue numbering.

After #20, the final issue of the series, the JLA stories appeared in a variety of one-shots and series. Tracking the JLA reprints in the K.G. Murray titles is a task in itself and which I will probably get around to some day (James has already made a great start on this tracking).

But that’s for later. For now, if anyone does happen to have a copy of Super Heroes Album #18, send me the details and I’ll gladly retract my claim. Until then, I reckon you can all scratch that issue off your wants list.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ghostly Tales # 9

Ghostly Tales #9, c. 1979/1980
Cover artist: Steve Ditko

Music of Murder
Steve Ditko
(Ghostly Tales #69, October 1968)

...To Die A Witches' Death
L. Sabalys/Enrique Nieto
(Ghost Manor #27, January 1976)

The Eternal Oak
Steve Ditko
(Ghostly Tales #71, January 1969)

Beyond The Grave
(Original unidentified, 10 pages)

Live Happily Forever and Ever
Joe Gill/Wayne Howard
(Ghost Manor #21, November 1974)

The Death Mask
Joe Gill/Sanho Kim
(Ghost Manor #18, May 1974)

Terrible Teddy
Tom Sutton
(Ghost Manor #23, May 1975)

A House with a Different View
Jim Aparo
(Ghostly Tales #67, July 1968)

Ghostly Tales #9 is good value for a Charlton-centric K.G. Murray horror comic with a great mix of artists and features. With a couple of Steve Ditko reprints it was always bound to meet my criteria for an issue worth seeking out. Add a Charlton-era Jim Aparo story and the bonus points start to accumulate.

But the real gem in this issue is the Tom Sutton classic, Terrible Teddy. This is a truly delirious 6-page psychodrama about a killer one-eyed teddy bear, with dozens of curved knives for teeth, which stalks and attacks a thief-turned-killer on the run.

I guess that description either has you turning your attention to something far more edifying, or you have already begun scouring eBay for copies. To the latter junkhounds I say keep in mind that the original appearance in Ghost Manor #23, May 1975 is behind a painted Sutton cover based on this story, whereas the reprint in Ghost Manor #50, May 1980 simply reprints a panel for cover duties. It was also reprinted in the ACG Christmas Special #1, 1999.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Alex Toth Reprint Stocktake Part 7

I‘ve come across another Alex Toth reprint , Is A Snerl Human?, in Weird Mystery Tales #39. This story is written by Sheldon Mayer, and originally appeared in Adventure Comics #431, January-February 1974.

It would have been great to see the Jim Aparo Spectre series, which ran in Adventure Comics beginning with this issue, also reprinted in the K.G. Murray editions.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

...and the Gredowns just keep on comin'...

I’ve had a few more emails this week advising me of even more Gredown issues – some horror, some non-horror – so, without further ado or ceremony:

Curse of the Werewolf
Frozen Fear

E-Man 1-2
Ironjaw 1
The Golden Years of Sinbad 1
The Brute

I understand from Kevin that a couple of the Sinbad stories are based on a screenplay by Brian Clemens. Clemens is probably one of the first writing credits I picked up as an inveterate consumer of mystery and supernatural tv series in the 1970’s. He may be best known for The Professionals or The Avengers, but his series Thriller was one of my favourites. I wonder whether he ever wrote any comics...?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Mammoth Annual # 8: Cover source identified

Following on from yesterday’s post, it turns out the cover to Mammoth Annual #8 is indeed based on a Curt Swan cover, for Action Comics #309.

Another mystery solved, thanks to my UK correspondent (I feel like Lamont Cranston with operatives lying low around the globe until their particular skills are required for the cause…):

To quote directly from his report: “There are all the signs of Amos-isation: Lori Lemaris has gone, the generic banner and balloons appear, Clark Kent has gone (so there's no story to be told...) and Lois is kissing Superman in a pose right out of Kurt Schaffenberger (but with a semi-Amos Superman...probably derived from the original but with a new face and arm position - looks like a traced and adapted copy). I'd bet on the Lois figure being derived in the same way from another DC comic.

"Interestingly, the Batman figure is original DC, even though he looks like the Amos version!”

Oh, and I also received another note identifying Action Comics #309 as the source (see below), so again, my thanks to Michael. My thanks also to Mark Cannon who helped with some queries I had in preparing yesterday's post.

Note: image above sourced from GCD.

Something else just occurred to me – as my UK correspondent mentioned in his report, the story from Action Comics #309, “The Superman Super-Spectacular!”, is the one in which JFK stood in for Clark Kent, and which hit the stands just shortly (within days? a month?) of his shooting. I don’t see this story reprinted in a Superman Supacomic or Super Adventure Comic of the period, so I’m guessing it was consciously dropped from the publishing schedule by the K.G. Murray editors, probably as a sign of respect. Hence the 'spare cover’ is available for duty as a Mammoth cover. The fact that the Clark Kent figure – JFK – is omitted further supports this theory. Of course it helps that it is modified as a celebratory birthday cover which makes it appear as a regular Mammoth cover. So unless I’m wrong and “The Superman Super-Spectacular!” is in fact reprinted some time in circa 1964, I’m going to run with this theory.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Mammoth Annual # 8

The 'genuine' Mammoth Annual #8 is also a curious cover image in its own right. Offhand it looks like another regular Australian image – especially the prominent Superman figure and the Batman figure in the background – however many of the figures also look like Curt Swan illustrations. It may be that an original Swan illustration was adapted.

It’s also odd that it features some Legion of Super-Heroes characters, and this may be a clue to identifying the original image. The older gent in the rear is unknown to me, maybe that is also a hint. So if any of you eagle-eyed forensics experts out there have any suggestions as to the original source of this image, or segments of it, drop me a note.

My copy contains the following rebound issues:
Superman Supacomic #89, January 1967
Superman Supacomic #90, February 1967
Superman Presents Wonder Comic Monthly #23, March 1967

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mammoth Annual # 9

Mammoth Annual #9 exhibits symptoms of a rush job.

For one thing, it is misnumbered as #8.

For another, it is the first of the Mammoth or Gigantic Annuals to sport an original DC cover (by Curt Swan and George Klein from Action Comics #348, March 1967) and not an original Australian cover.

The advertisement date code on the on inner back cover is KGM.M.1068

My copy contains the following rebound issues:

Superman Supacomic #109, September 1968
Super Adventure Comic #34, September 1968
All Star Adventure Comic #52, August 1968