Wednesday, March 14, 2018

They Might Be Giants! (1965) ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post!

Another snowstorm, one that dropped about two feet of that white shit crap on my area, but I managed to post this on Wednesday nonetheless!

So here we go again, fellow babies! This edition's focus is on the giant-sized comic books (or annuals) which hit the stands in 1965.

Well, mainly...

You may very well be wondering, whuzzup with the Giant Superman Annual #2, pictured above? That book came out all the way back in 1960!

Well, y'see, I estimate that it was in 1965 that I first saw that annual, which belonged to either my friend Jeff or my friend Kevin. Only his copy looked more like this:

That's right, no front cover! But plenty of great stories in it, nonetheless! It reprinted the first appearances of villains like Brainiac, Metallo, Bizarro, and -- I swear -- Titano, the Super Ape! And no, in case you're wondering, Titano did not wear a freakin' mask like Ace, the Bat-Hound did!

And there's another ultra-cool, giant-sized book that I missed, this one back in 1961... and why I'm even mentioning it will be apparent very, very soon, I promise.

Since 1961, DC has come out with a lot of Secret Origins annuals, series, one-shots, etc., but the first one I ever saw devoted to that theme was yet another issue of the 80 Page Giant series!

80 Page Giant #8 was the first of a terrific four-issue run.

That issue contained mostly cool stories, as I recall, except for (maybe) the Flash story, "The Origin of Flash's Masked Identity!" Back in the 1940s, y'see, the original (Golden Age) Flash, Jay Garrick, never wore a mask... and yet, no one ever realized that Jay and the Flash were the same guy! (Hey, it worked for Superman, right?) Well, in this particular story, the new (Silver Age) Flash, Barry Allen, daydreamed about how his life would be if he tried the maskless route. He ended up deciding it was a stupid idea. What a surprise.

So, now we're back to the real 1965. Or something.

I was still at the stage where I thought The Flash was one of the coolest superheroes ever, and 80 Page Giant #9 reprinted plenty of early appearances by members of Flash's Rogues Gallery, plus "Flash of Two Worlds" from The Flash #123, the landmark issue which established that the modern-day DC heroes (and villains) lived on an Earth called Earth-One, while DC characters from the Golden Age had existed on a different Earth, called Earth-Two (actually an entire universe)!

Actually, the so-called Earth-Two heroes came first, so their universe probably deserved to be called Earth-One instead. It gets complicated... and I'm barely scratching the surface, believe me!

DC and Marvel, which produced all of the giants and annuals that I'm gushing about in this series -- except for one, in my next installment -- seemed to enjoy re-publishing first appearances of certain characters, hero or villain origins, and the like. Both companies really knew what their audience wanted.

(Well, they knew I wanted, anyway. I can't speak for the rest of the country's comic book readers.)

Two examples of "re-publishing first appearances of certain characters, hero or villain origins, and the like" would be the reprinted debut of The Kryptonite Kid, as well as the story which told how a teenage Lex Luthor met Superboy and became his friend at first, only to end up as his greatest enemy.

And speaking of Lex Luthor, the next issue of 80 Page Giant featured several stories of the adult Lex Luthor against Superman... and in one case, Superboy.

How did that happen? Via time travel!

In a fairly well-told, effective story called "The Impossible Mission," Superboy decides to go back in time to prevent the assassination of none other than Abraham Lincoln. Purely by coincidence, Lex Luthor, who is an adult in "our" time (1960, when this story first appeared), is in Washington, D.C. on that very same day! Apparently, he'd traveled to 1865 just to hide from Superman. No, really.

Luthor spots Superboy, and assumes that Superman had sent his own younger self to capture him (Luthor). Lex luckily has some Red Kryptonite with him. "Red K" is a variation of plain ol' Green Kryptonite, which can kill Superman or Superboy. However, Red Kryptonite doesn't kill Superman/Superboy. Instead, it causes strange effects, transformations, etc. that last (in most stories) for forty-eight hours, but that period sometimes varied, depending on the writer of the individual stories!

In this instance, the "Red K" completely immobilizes Superboy, while Luthor stands there gloating. Suddenly, a commotion from nearby begins as news hits the streets that Lincoln has been shot. A tear runs down Superboy's face because he knows that he's failed in his mission. Luthor, hearing the uproar and seeing Superboy's reaction, realizes the real reason Superboy was in 1865. With an "I'm evil, but not that evil!" kind of attitude, the horrified Lex exits the room (and, presumably, leaves 1865 by whatever method he'd used to get there in the first place).

Whew! And all that just to teach Superboy that it was impossible to change what's already happened.

Now, on the Marvel Comics side of things...

The Mighty Thor had been introduced back in 1962, in a title called Journey into Mystery. The comic was later renamed The Mighty Thor, but as of 1965 J.I.M. still bore its original title. That's why the first annual featuring Thor was actually Journey into Mystery Annual #1.

This annual introduced Marvel's version of Hercules in an all-new story. And if that wasn't enough, it reprinted the first appearances of the Lava-Man (whom I'd first seen in The Avengers #5), the Radioactive Man (whom I'd first seen in The Avengers #6 as a member of The Masters of Evil), and last but not least, Thor's perennial nemesis, his scheming half-brother Loki!

It seems like every year brought us little Marvelites yet another superb annual or two or three, and 1965 was no exception. The third Fantastic Four Annual featured the wedding of Reed Richards ("Mister Fantastic") and Sue Storm, a/k/a "The Invisible Girl." And almost every Marvel hero appeared, and more villains than you could count tried to disrupt the proceedings. At this point, who needed reprints, you may well ask, but F.F. Annual #3 had those, as well!

For today's final selection: In 1965 "Mighty Marvel" gave us a brand new, slightly-more-than-double-sized comic. This was Marvel Collectors' Item Classics, which became an ongoing title. Its first issue contained extremely early stories of the F.F., Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and the "Tales of Asgard" feature which served as a back-up to Thor in Journey into Mystery.

Yep, I was pretty spoiled when it came to relatively recent stories from DC and Marvel being reprinted, but I had no real hopes of ever seeing anything from the supposed "Golden Age." It looked like those would be forever out of my reach.

Well... As it turned out, I didn't know everything!

Next week: 1966, another banner year! (Uhhh, no pun intended, Hulk fans!)

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

They Might Be Giants! (1964) ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post!

Welcome to my Comical-Wednesday-on-a-Thursday post! Lots of reasons this one's a day late, mainly a snowstorm that made the libraries close early Wednesday and open late Thursday... but it's only a freakin' blog, so no crime's being committed by my falling behind.


I don't know about you, fellow babies, but I'm really enjoying this series!

My previous Comical Wednesday post, "They Might Be Giants," dealt with the year 1963. The last comic book scan shown was the cover of Giant Superman Annual #8, which was released at the very end of that year. 

And by the way, fellow babies, I'd like to point out that I am not attempting to list all of the annuals or giant-sized comics that I read back in my younger days! I'm only talking about the ones that made the greatest impressions on my li'l self back in the period from 1963-1968 or so.

One annual I really recall enjoying was the one-and-only Giant Superboy Annual, from back in the good old days when Superboy stories told "the adventures of Superman when he was a boy," as opposed to whatever the hell DC Comics is doing with the character nowadays.

It's kind of strange for me to note that, although I was (and still am) a fan of Batman, there aren't many issues of Giant Batman Annual or any other Batman "giants" that made a huge impression on me. As I explained last time, I was only starting to realize back then that all these stories that were being thrown at me were reprints, and not all current tales.

One annual that did catch my fancy was Giant Batman Annual #7, which reprinted the very first appearances of the original Batgirl, and a character I absolutely loved as a child, a pixieish little guy who called himself Bat-Mite. There were other assorted nutty stories in this annual, too.

You see, by the time I started reading the Batman titles (Batman, Detective Comics, and World's Finest) in the early 1960s, Batman's world had come a long, long way from the moody, down-to-earth detective stories of the late 1930s and early 1940s, and had gotten rather silly. In addition to Batman and Robin, the stories featured Batwoman, Batgirl, Bat-Mite, and (I swear) Ace, the Bat-Hound! (Ace, you see, was a German Shepherd who wore a mask to protect his secret identity!) Batman's adventures also included time-travel stories, stories where aliens appeared on Earth, or conversely, stories where Batman and Robin visited other planets...! This was the craziness that was the status quo when I was learning to read, but most of this nonsense was scuttled by the so-called "New Look" in 1964, and rightfully so.

The back cover of Giant Batman Annual #7 featured the so-called "Batman Family."

Interestingly enough, this "portrait" of the 1950s-1960s Batman Family resurfaced in the ultra-moody and realistic Batman: The Killing Joke in 1988.

Shortly after Giant Batman Annual #7 came a big surprise. After being advertised as the Giant Superman Annual #9 (shown at the top of this post), the comic actually hit the stands as 80 Page Giant #1, which only "featured"  Superman. (You can even tell that the 80 Page Giant logo was pasted over the previous form of DC's "Giant [Whatever]" logo!)

This began a brand new monthly series called 80 Page Giant, which, over time, featured Superman, Jimmy Olsen ("Superman's Pal"), Lois Lane ("Superman's Girl Friend") The Flash, Superboy, Batman, and many other stars. The first fifteen issues kept their own independent numbering. After that, the numbers were "shared" with individual issue numbers of various titles! (For instance, 80 Page Giant #G-16 was also Justice League of America #39, 80 Page Giant #G-17 was also Batman #176, etc.!)

In my "$1.56" post, I told how I was given a stack of Marvel Comics during early 1964, a collection which turned me on to a lot of titles I'd neither seen nor heard of before. That summer, Marvel released the second issue of Fantastic Four Annual. The entire issue featured stories concerning Doctor Doom, who was Darth Vader before Darth Vader was Darth Vader!

FF Annual #2 contained an all-new, expanded origin for Dr. Doom, a reprint of his first appearance from FF #5, and a terrific story called "The Final Victory of Dr. Doom!" Another of my all-time favorite annuals!

The summer of 1964 also saw the very first Amazing Spider-Man Annual! In this issue, Spidey fought "The Sinister Six," half a dozen of his deadliest foes, teamed up against him. Each battle Spider-Man fought with these nemeses included a spectacular single-panel shot drawn by the inimitable Steve Ditko. I've reproduced all six of these mind-blowing full-pagers below!

As a bonus feature, writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko supplied this three-page bit of craziness.

And yet another of -- Yeah, you guessed it! -- my all-time favorite annuals was the first Marvel Tales Annual! This one featured an incredible array of Marvel "firsts."
  • The first appearance and origin of the Amazing Spider-Man!
  • The first appearance and origin of the Incredible Hulk!
  • The first appearance of the original Ant-Man in costume, plus a brief reprint of when he first became Giant-Man!
  • The first appearance of the Mighty Thor!
  • Pages from the very first story of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!
  • The first appearance and origin of Iron Man, plus a short sequence from the issue where he replaced his bulky gold iron suit with a more streamlined red and gold outfit!

And if all that wasn't enough -- although it would have been for me -- Marvel Tales Annual #1 also contained two pages of photos featuring the biggest names in the Marvel stable!

Of course, DC was still churning out their 80 Page Giant series. Issue #4, dated October, 1964, featured more early stories of The Flash.

To Be Continued, natch!

In our next installment, we take a look at the "giants" of... 1965! (But you probably saw that one coming, huh?)

And thanks for your time!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Short Shorts ~~ Harvey, and Heineken

1. The other day -- Thursday, to be exact -- I thought of someone I hadn't thought of in many years: famous Formula One race car driver Sir Jackie Stewart.

I never actually followed racing, but sometime in the mid-1970s, I was visiting my friend Wayne, who was watching some sports program on TV (probably ABC's Wide World of Sports) where Jackie Stewart was a "color commentator." Something about this cocky little Scotsman appealed to me, and I saw him a few more times at Wayne's.

So, as I said, I hadn't thought of him for years, but his name just popped into my head on Thursday.

At this point, you may very well be thinking, Uh-oh, every time David thinks about someone whom he hasn't thought about in ages, that person dies! (At least, I'm assuming you thought that, as well as assuming that you correctly used "whom" rather than "who.")

Well, I wasn't too worried that I would jinx this poor guy as I searched for his Wikipedia entry, because I was pretty darned sure that I'd heard he'd already died a few years back...

And I was wrong! I was quite pleased to learn that he was still alive at the ripe old age of seventy-eight.

That was Thursday.

On Friday, I was doing something I rarely do, namely, sitting in a bar having a couple of beers. Less than five minutes after I arrived there, one of the bar's half-a-dozen televisions began playing a Heineken commercial, and said commercial actually showed some VFX-enhanced archival footage of... none other than Jackie Stewart. At the very end of the commercial, it showed him as he looks nowadays.

I followed up by doing a little research on the commercial itself, only to discover that it's over a year old.

Over a year old. But I never saw it until one day after I thought of someone whom I otherwise haven't thought of for several years.

What are the odds?

*  *  *  *  *

2. Ever since the "fall" of Harvey Weinstein and the increasing activity of the #MeToo movement, I've been seeing more and more exposé-type articles bemoaning the fact that multiple instances of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault have suddenly been "discovered" in one industry, or occupation, or whatever. And people are shocked to discover that such things have been taking place in this "new" walk of life.

Oh, really?

Why the hell is anyone surprised?

Anything involving more than one person, whether they're male and female mixed, all male, or all female, is a potential situation for sexual harassment/assault. And this behavior is carried on by cosmeticians, sanitation workers, Uber drivers, juice bar employees, butchers, bakers, candle-stick makers...

People just suck, okay?

You want to be outraged by sexual harassment or assault? Good. You should be. You want to speak out against it? More power to you! You want to try to actually do something about it? My proverbial hat is off to you!

But if you're actually surprised that such behavior exists in any occupation?

Don't be.

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

They Might Be Giants! (1963) ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post!

Well, fellow babies, this week's "Comical Wednesday" post is not a segment of my recent, ongoing "Letters, I Get Letters" series. That'll be back sooner or later, though, so don't worry.

Today's post is the first of a (relatively) light-on-text, heavy-on-illustrations series that looks at the many comic book annuals (a/k/a "giants" or "specials") that came out at such a rapid clip during my formative comic-book-reading years. Kind of a roller coaster ride through the mind of a boy aged (roughly) six to ten years old.

Today we deal with the sensory overload I experienced during the year 1963.

The first comic book character I formed an affection for was Batman, and I'm pretty sure that the first "giant" I was ever made aware of was the Giant Batman Annual #5, from the summer of 1963, pictured in the DC Comics house ad shown above. I've included the ad rather than an image of the book itself because I never actually got to own or even read the damned book until several years later.

At that very young age -- six-and-a-half or so -- I knew (and could read) the word "giant," of course, but didn't realize that the word "giant" in the title of Giant Batman Annual referred to the increased page count of a so-called "annual" comic book. (Hence the twenty-five cent price tag in an era when most comics were twelve cents apiece.) I mean, look closely at that cover shown above! It calls itself Giant Batman and then shows a Batman who's giant-sized! I was six, fer cryin' out loud. What a way to confuse a kid that age!

(Another thing I didn't realize until much later was that the somewhat misnamed Batman and Superman "annuals" came out twice per year, every six months or so!)

Comics in my early childhood didn't often contain issue-to-issue stories that changed very much about their characters' status quo, so at first I didn't realize that the stories in these annuals were reprinted tales from a few years earlier.

My first Giant Superman Annual was #7. My favorite story in the issue was probably the one that told of a teenaged Clark (Superboy) Kent's meeting with a teenaged Bruce (Batman) Wayne. But the whole book was exciting to me, and it's here that I learned that the character of Superman had been around, like, forever. Twenty-five years! An eternity!

And right around the time that The Flash #138 (my initial exposure to that character) came out, the first and only issue of the Giant Flash Annual hit the stands. I basically OD'd on the character of Barry (Flash) Allen in the summer of '63! I absolutely loved the character. (For more of this relatively one-sided "love affair," go here!)

This is one of my all-time favorite annuals. Not only did it provide a plethora of early Silver Age Flash classics, it also reprinted a Golden Age Flash story! So there was another Flash (a/k/a Jay Garrick), one from the far-off 1940s? Boy, I was learning a lot that summer!

And this? This was a special feature showing how... Well, see for yourself!

I can't recall if my sister Kathy bought this second Giant Lois Lane Annual, or if I did. I mean, Lois may have been Superman's girlfriend, but she was still... well... a girl! I know, I know, she was a woman, but at six years old, I was hardly able to recognize and verbalize such minute non-sexist distinctions. But I found the stories contained therein to be quite enjoyable. And it was a kick for me to see Lois Lane briefly dress up like Batwoman in the issue!

I do recall that it was indeed my sister who bought the very first Marvel comic I ever read, Fantastic Four Annual #1 (as told here, and here!). Something about the packaging, the scripting, the artwork, and so forth was just... different... somehow. But this was my intro to the Marvel Universe, which was still a spindly colt, as it were. It was also my first glimpse of Spider-Man.

And folks, all this and we're still in 1963!!! And keep in mind that these are only the annuals we're talking about. Rest assured, I was reading a lot of stuff besides these giant-sized comics. As soon as I could read -- somewhere around the age of four, by my estimation -- I read just about everything I could get my grubby li'l hands on (and not only comics, no matter what I've implied here and elsewhere).

Right around the time of my seventh birthday (late 1963), Giant Superman Annual #8 appeared. As you can see by the illustration, this issue contained some incredible stories, like a tale that told of Superboy's first meeting with an other-dimensional sprite named Mxyzptlk (pronounced "Mix-yez-pitel-ick," although during my earliest years, I pronounced it "Mixy-zup-tulk" in my mind), a story about how Ma Kent made Superbaby's (and later Superboy's) costume out of the blankets left in the rocket that brought him from Krypton to Earth, the background on how Lois Lane first started wondering if Clark Kent could be Superman, and others!

Wow, what a way to end the year!

To Be Continued...

And thanks for your time!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lobster Tanks and the Not-So-Holy Grail

I am old.


How old?

Well, I'm so old that I was a kid in an era when even the best mother could leave a child completely alone in a supermarket, standing in front of the lobster tank while she did all her grocery shopping, and she could be perfectly certain that the little tyke would still be standing there, safe and sound, when she returned for him! Provided he stayed there while she shopped, that is.

And "he" being "me," of course I stayed there! I used to stand by the lobster tank in whatever grocery store my mother chose to shop in, and she knew I wouldn't leave until she came back.

Y'see, fellow babies, I was fascinated by lobsters as a pre-schooler. In fact, the very first superhero I ever created as a five-or-six-year-old was the rather unimaginative "Lobster Man." He looked like a cooked lobster, bright red with a blue cape that had a big "L" on it.

I received a lobster toy or two, but it took what felt like years of pleading with my mom to buy a real lobster for me before she actually broke down and acquiesced. But when we finally got it home, I was horrified to learn that my mother intended to cook the thing!

You may be thinking "Awww, how sweet. Even at that young age, the little Silver Foxlet couldn't stand the thought of the lobster being boiled alive."

And you'd be wrong.

Screw the stupid lobster. I was just pissed off that I was being gypped out of getting a pet!

*  *  *  *  *

And somewhere around the same stage of my life came another childhood fixation: Speedy Alka-Seltzer!

I don't specifically remember any television commercials featuring Speedy, the mascot for Alka-Seltzer tablets. But somewhere during my very early years, I developed a fascination for the little guy. A pharmacy I sometimes accompanied my mother to had a cardboard promotional stand-up for Alka-Seltzer, probably, if not exactly, like the four-feet-high one shown above. The combination of my mom's indulgence of her young son's wishes, plus the same kind of pleading which got me the live lobster, eventually convinced my mother to ask the pharmacist for the stand-up display!

He said yes. And I'm pretty sure he didn't charge her for the thing, although she probably offered to pay him something.

But even more exciting for little ol' me was this little sucker!

Again approximately four feet high (including its base), this was made out of an unknown (to me) material. Hard plastic, ceramic... I dunno. And he even talked and sang... sort of. He didn't move at all, IIRC, but those holes in his Alka-Seltzer tablet "belly" was where Speedy's voice came from.

This giant Speedy figure was at the end of an aisle in one of the supermarkets which my mother frequented. Instead of stationing me at their lobster tank, my mom would leave me at the end of said aisle while she shopped for our food.

I can still recall part of the song that he sang, and it was not the familiar "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz" jingle that became popular years later. The whole song & speech probably lasted less than a minute.

There was only one minor problem. The Speedy display was about four feet from floor level. I, as a four or five-year-old, couldn't reach the button to start the damned thing!

Luckily, I wasn't shy where my selfish little wants were concerned. Every single time the recording ended, I would approach some total stranger, male or female, and say "Mister?" (or "Lady?"), and then ask if he or she would push that button for me. And of course, they would.

Now, just in case you're wondering about the whole "not-so-holy grail" bit in the title, let's just say that the talking and singing Speedy Alka-Seltzer is the ultimate collectible for me. I'd probably part with almost every other collectible I own in exchange for a working model of this one. In approximately twenty years, I've seen one listed on eBay, and the bidding had reached $4000 or so before the auction was cancelled for whatever reason.

So, do you know anyone who has one that they'd consider selling?

Thanks for your time.


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