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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Letters, I Get Letters ~~ Boody Rogers ~~ Part Two of a "Comical Wednesday" Post

I must admit, up until 1987 or so, I'd never heard of Boody Rogers. His 1984 autobiography, Homeless Bound, was advertised regularly in issues of Comics Buyer's Guide. Among other things, the ad claimed that Rogers had worked on the first comic book. And although comic scholars have long debated what should be considered the very first comic book, I figured that this autobiography was definitely worth a shot.

Along with my payment for his book, I sent a copy of my recently-published comic, The Bird #1, written by myself and drawn by my creative partner, Skip Simpson.

Before receiving Homeless Bound, I received the following letter from Rogers:

I was a bit surprised by his saying that I "used some words that [he] never could have gotten away with when [he] was drawing." What words were those? I thought. I certainly didn't remember anything objectionable in the book. Then I looked at The Bird from the perspective of a parent in the 1930s or 1940s whose child would have read it. And remember, comic books back then were largely considered to be strictly a children's medium!

(Oh, if you're wondering about the expression "Holy horsecrud," which nobody in the real world ever said, suffice it to say that it was a private joke at Entertainment Publishing.)

I was a bit jarred by Boody's mention of Milt Caniff, creator of two classic comic strips, Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. Rogers' offhand reference to Caniff's having "kick[ed] the bucket" seemed a bit irreverent at first, but then I realized that while Caniff was (and is) one of my personal comic "gods," to Rogers, he was just an old buddy!

Boody himself was best known as the creator of the Sparky Watts feature, which appeared in Big Shot Comics as well as his own title.

In his letter, Rogers also mentioned a "hillbilly gal" named Babe, whom I was unfamiliar with at the time. He mentioned that she was "more fun than doing Sparky," and I assumed that Babe, drawn in the 1940s, was no doubt one of those impossibly-dimensioned women that populated comics at the time. I was somewhat pleased to find that such was not the case. It was Babe's offbeat and hilarious adventures that were notable, much more than her physique. In fact, I now own two original issues of Babe, and have read most of the others, thanks to the highly-recommended Digital Comic Museum website.

Boody's autobiography was incredibly entertaining, despite the fact that he told very little about his comic strip and comic book work! Boody's real first name was Gordon, and his full name was usually given as Boody Gordon Rogers, despite the fact that someone's nickname is usually placed in quotes, between their first and last names, as in Star Trek's Dr. Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy.

Also, he got the nickname "Boody" in the first place from when he played football as a youth, because of the way he could "boot" the ball. Which makes me wonder why he ended up as "Boody" Rogers rather than "Booty" Rogers, but hey, now that we're in a world where some people insist on using "booty" to refer to someone's derrière, I guess we can leave his spelling alone.

Boody Rogers, 1904-1996

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

One of My Earliest Memories

Today's post is one of those "just because I feel like it" posts.

I have only three memories from when I lived in my first home, but since my family moved away from there when I was just two years old, I think that's not too shabby.

One of those memories involves the very first toy I can remember getting (shown above). It was called Mr. Joggi. My sister Kathy and I both got one. The toy's hidden wheels, adorned with a series of suction cups, would stick to most surfaces. All we had to do was pull their strings, and then my sister and I would watch the little b@$t@rd$ crawl right up a wall (or, as I can vaguely remember, up a door jamb)!

Mr. Joggi originated circa 1952, manufactured by a company called Tigrett Industries. I've seen three different colors online. There's a blue version, like the one I got when I was roughly two years old, a red one like the one my sister got at the same time, and one that's kind of an aquamarine. I've only seen that last one on eBay.

And speaking of eBay, you know I went on eBay as soon as I thought of it to find the thing, right? I didn't even know what it was called, nor did it look exactly as I remembered it. (I recalled it looking more like Archie Andrews' jalopy in Archie Comics.)

This, of course, is not what Mr. Joggi looked like!

It took a few months, but every so often, I would do an eBay search in the "Vintage & Antique Toys" section, using only the term "suction cup," believe it or not, and eventually, I found the sucker! I bid on the first one I saw, so I ended up with a red one (still in its original package), like my sister had gotten, rather than a blue one like the one I'd owned over fifty years earlier.

Anyone else out there recall any of their earliest favorite toys?

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Letters, I Get Letters ~~ C.C. Beck ~~ Part One of a "Comical Wednesday" Post

Comic "god" Sheldon Mayer (For more info on Mr. Mayer, click here and scroll down a bit!) drew the above illustration to send to those readers who wrote fan letters to his remarkable Sugar and Spike comic, published by DC Comics from 1956-1971.

Sheldon Mayer died in 1991, and I wish I could say that I met the man, or that I owned something autographed by him. Or both. But I can't.

However, I do have several personal letters that I've received from various comic book professionals, and for the next few "Comical Wednesday" posts, I'll be bragging about them telling you about them.

I wrote a two-part post last summer about my attending TerrifiCon 2017 in Connecticut. Here, I told of meeting writer Marv Wolfman and artist Jerry Ordway, and here, I told you how I met writers Steve Englehart and the great Roy Thomas. But I only got signatures from them, not actual letters.

C.C. Beck, co-creator and initial artist of the original Captain Marvel (Yeah, that's right, the "Shazam" dude.), drew Cap from his first appearance until 1953.

And as for other comic work by Beck... Circa 1943, a character called Captain Tootsie started appearing in full-page comic book advertisements for Tootsie Rolls. The Captain's stories were supplied by the C.C. Beck Studios, and Beck had a hand in producing most of them. There was even a Captain Tootsie comic that ran for two issues in 1950, but they were not drawn by Beck. By the mid-1950s, the character was gone.

As told in detail in my post about the original Captain Marvel (linked to above), CM's adventures came to an end in 1953. In 1967, a short-lived publisher called Lightning Comics -- their only other title was called (I swear!) Super Green Beret -- came out with a character called Fatman, who starred in his own title, Fatman, the Human Flying Saucer. C.C. Beck drew the character, whose outfit pretty much resembled the original Captain Marvel's costume, only Fatman's was green instead of red, and he had a flying saucer for an emblem instead of the familiar lightning bolt.

When DC Comics licensed the rights to publish new stories about the original Captain, they hired Beck to draw him once again. However, Beck left the title after ten issues, citing "creative differences." Apparently, he felt that DC's writers were treating Captain Marvel too much like a clown.

C.C. Beck in 1982. Photo by Alan Light.

By 1988, C.C. Beck was writing a regular column for The Comics Journal called "The Crusty Curmudgeon." In it, Beck constantly lamented the tendency of modern comics artists to draw their books in styles that Beck thought were too realistic.

That summer, I wrote Mr. Beck a very nice fan letter, enclosing a copy of The Bird #1, written by me and drawn by my partner Skip Simpson in 1987. Beck's response, polite as it was, was to tell me that he thought the book's artwork was "too cartoonish" to be taken seriously. (Well, after all, it was a humor title...)

I had also asked him why The Comics Journal published his column at all, considering that their editorial viewpoint was more-or-less that comics should aspire to being great art, while Beck pretty much thought that comic books were and should remain a medium for children. He replied that the editors of the magazine and today's "yuppish liberals" were having a bit of fun at the expense of this "relic from the golden age."

His letter was typed, but at least he had hand-written the signature.

Only a few months later, I spent a couple of months with Skip Simpson and his family in Dunnellon, Florida. As it happened, C.C. Beck then lived in Gainesville, Florida, which was just an hour's drive away. Skip suggested I contact Beck and ask if we could visit him, but for whatever reason, I declined.

I wish I'd reconsidered. Charles Clarence Beck died roughly one year later, on November 22nd, 1989, at the age of seventy-nine.

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My First 10th Anniversary... Huh?!?

Today, February 11th, 2018, marks the tenth anniversary of my first blog on Blogger, David'Z RantZ. If you click on that link, the blog's still there, but when I stopped posting new entries on it, I re-named it The David'Z RantZ Archives.

If you're familiar with the occasional posts I do here on The Lair of the Silver Fox with the "David'Z RantZ" label, you have an idea of what most of the posts on my other blog were like.

This coming October 12th will mark the tenth anniversary of this blog, The Lair of the Silver Fox, and on that date I'll subject you to a more detailed tale about my blogging history.

But until then, I'll be relatively merciful to y'all.

Here (more or less) is the updated look at that old blog 's appearance:

This blog is officially "retired," but my other blog,
"The Lair of the Silver Fox," is still open for business!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh, They Mean Well, But...

First (Imaginary) Scenario: I'm with a friend at McDonald's -- or Wendy's, or Burger King -- and the girl at the counter is... not really rude, just rather indifferent. My friend and I proceed to our table.

Friend: Well, there you go.

Myself: There I go... what?

Friend: There's your next post.

Myself: How's that?

Friend: Your next blog post, your next rant! There you go!

Myself: What are you talking about?

Friend: That waitress, the rude one. There's your next rant.

Myself: She wasn't really rude.

Friend: Well, there's your next rant.

* * * * *

Second (Imaginary) Scenario: A friend and I drive through an area I haven't passed through in over thirty years.

Myself: Wow... I haven't been around here in ages. Maybe even since I was a kid! [pointing] See that store? I must have gone there dozens of times when I was a kid. I'm surprised it's still open.

Friend: You should write a blog post about it.

Myself: What?

Friend: You should write a post about it.

Myself: Nahh... Nothing there to really write about. It's just a random memory.

Friend: You should write a post about it.

* * * * *

Third (Imaginary) Scenario: I'm giving a friend a ride, helping her do a few errands.

Friend: They moved it again...

Myself: Moved what?

Friend: [Names favorite new TV program] They changed its night again. How's it supposed to build up an audience and keep from being canceled if they keep changing the night it's on?

Myself: [shrugs]

Friend: That should be your next rant.

Myself: [shrugs]

Friend: Are you listening to me?

Myself: Yes. I'm also trying to watch the road.

Friend: It should be your next rant.

Myself: [shrugs]

Friend: Well, don't you hate it when they do that?

Myself: When they do what?

Friend: See? You're not listening!

Myself: Yes, I was...

Friend: Don't you hate it when they keep changing the night a program's on, so it doesn't get a chance to build up an audience, and it gets canceled?

Myself: [almost shrugs again, but thinks better of it] Sometimes. It doesn't bother me that much.

Friend: It should be your next rant.

* * * * *

Okay, friends -- and by "friends," I mean just that, my real friends in my real life, rather than other bloggers -- here's the new deal:

I'll write 'em. You read 'em. But you know how I feel about unasked-for advice, right? If it doesn't click for me, I'm not going to write it.

So if you really want to see all these ideas of yours on the 'net... Git yer own blog.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

They (Almost) Never Were a Nickel! ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" AND "David'Z RantZ" Post

I HATE IT WHEN (Comic Book Edition)...
  • Non-comic-book-readers write a newspaper or magazine article about comics, and the theme is either "There's Money in your Attic," or "Comics Aren't Just for Kids Any More."
  • Non-comic-book-readers automatically think FLASH! BAM! POW! or the like whenever they think of comics, thanks primarily to the silly 1960s Batman television show.
  • Non-comic-book-readers respond to any mention of comics with "Holy smoke, Batman," or something similar, thanks, once again, to that damned TV show. (Y'see, Robin, Batman's sidekick, often said "Holy [something]" in response to... well, just about anything. And his holy whatevers were usually pretty weird, if they made any sense at all. For example, in one episode, Batman realizes that three specific letters are missing from a bowl of alphabet soup -- I told you it was a silly show -- and Robin's response is "Holy Uncanny Photographic Mental Processes!" Well, non-comic-book-readers often think to use a "Holy..." line, but never come up with anything interesting or creative like Robin did in any of those episodes. Nine times out of ten, it's just a simple "Holy smoke, Batman," or "Holy shit, Batman!")
  • Some non-comic-book-reader in his fifties or older says he (or a friend) still has comics from the 1960s or earlier that are "all in their original plastic bags." Well, folks, with the exception of some multi-packs put out very briefly by DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and King Features in the mid-1960s, comic books weren't sold in plastic bags until the mid-1980s or so, when some publishers started including free trading cards or other junk stuff along with certain comics.
  • Older non-comic-book-readers say "I remember them when they were a nickel!"
Well, fellow babies, today's post is about these "nickel" comics.

Comic books in their current form (more or less) were a product of the early 1930s. The very first comic books from that era were promotional giveaways. The first comic book in the modern format that had an actual price tag on it was marked 10¢. Before long, almost all comics being published consisted of sixty-four pages (a count which sometimes but not always included the front and back covers, inside and out, thus the covers added four pages to the count). And they were all 10¢. They were never a nickel!

Well, actually, I should say that they were never a nickel... except for the ones that were.


In 1938, Dell published a one-shot, 512" x 712", 68-page comic book called Nickel Comics (shown at the top of this post). It had a color cover and a black & white interior, and sold for... 5¢.

In 1940, Fawcett (which also published the comics featuring the original Captain Marvel, as well as a lot of other titles) came out with eight issues of a bi-weekly, again called Nickel Comics (shown below). It starred a character called Bulletman. It had 36 pages (32 "real" pages, plus covers) for... 5¢.

So obviously, whenever someone says "I remember them when they were a nickel!" I cannot, in all fairness, reply "No, you don't! They were never a nickel!"

And what makes it worse, from the 1930s until relatively recently, comic books were sold mostly by newsstands on what was called a "returnable basis." Newsstands were supposed to return whatever comics were unsold when the new copy of each title was shipped. But to save work (and lifting) for all concerned, magazine distributors allowed the newsstand dealers to cut the title of each magazine or comic off the book, and send that back to the distributor, which would then give the newsstands credit for all the unsold copies.

The newsstand dealers were supposed to throw the remainder of the magazine or comic away, but a lot of them didn't. Ever see (or own) a comic that looked like the following two illustrations?

Laugh Comics #30, 1946

Batman #34, 1946

Those two -- and millions like them, over the years -- should have been thrown away, but some of the more unscrupulous newsstands put them out for sale at a price naturally lower than 10¢. Sometimes that reduced price was as high as 8¢. Sometimes it was as low as 3¢.

And other times... *sigh*... it was a [razzer-frazzer] NICKEL!

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

So... Where's the Money Going?


From the ages of two to nineteen, I lived in the town of Oxford, Massachusetts. During my grammar school and high school years, I was a patron of what was then referred to as the Charles Larned Memorial Library. (Now it's called the Oxford Free Public Library, but I'm not sure when they made that change.) The above picture shows what the library looked like during most of the twentieth century, before an add-on in the rear, completed during the year 2000, approximately doubled the building's size.

My childhood patronage was back in the good old days -- I refuse to say "back in the day" -- when "SHH!" was the word most heard there, and thankfully, it was also long before cell phones existed, so no one had to listen to idiots carrying on conversations that needed to be taken outside.

But I digress. What else is new?

For the past few years, I've been spending quite a bit of time at this library and the one in nearby Webster, the town in which I now live.

A couple of days ago I was there, reading a brochure about The Friends of the Oxford Free Public Library. Here's a brief section from that brochure:

The Friends of the Oxford Free Public Library was formed and incorporated in 1992 with the purpose of maintaining a membership of people who are supportive of the library, to focus public attention to library services, facilities, and needs; to simulate gifts of books, magazines, collections, endowments and bequests, and to communicate the needs of the community to the staff and the library trustees.

If you read that carefully, maybe you caught what I did, the sentence that includes "to simulate gifts of books, magazines, collections, endowments and bequests".

Uhhh, do ya think they mighta meant to write "stimulate" rather than "simulate?" Cuz if they didn't, that means that they're only pretending to do those things, which means that somebody in the organization is embezzling their funds!

And if that's the case, I wonder where the money's really going?

A relatively recent drawing of the Oxford Free Public Library, from
an angle that shows the building as it's looked since the year 2000.

Thanks for your time.

P.S. ~~ And yes, in all seriousness, I told them about the typo and they promised to fix it.
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