COVER STORIES for 09/25/2005
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #20
Welcome to this 20st edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!
Well, not this time... because every fourth column or so... it'll be time for...
As you may recall from four weeks back, when you see that additional heading, we're delving into comics that don't exist in our world, so don't look for them in your copy of Overstreet, don't even think about searching for 'em on eBay! They don't exist!
But I'll talk about them as if they do! So strap yourselves in as I set the Kurtzberg Alternative Reality Device, and let's see what we find in the back issues!
Well, looks like we've found a few comics that it's probably just as well they didn't make!
David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust #1
In the early 1970s, Gold Key felt a bit experimental, and for whatever reason, decided to license David Bowie and his Ziggy Stardust character for a one-shot comic book! Perhaps they thought they'd get a different crowd buying them than they had buying Disney books, or maybe someone just made a bad decision.
It doesn't appear that whoever wrote this comic was a fan of Bowie, and simply took the idea of the 1971 album ("The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars") literally, but without listening to the album at all. So, the Spiders From Mars in the comic book aren't Bowie's band, but are rather the enemies of Ziggy Stardust. I'll quote from the splash page, which should give you an idea of what the book was like:
"My name is Ziggy Stardust, and my mission is to travel the galaxy to foil the plots of the evil Spiders From Mars. My mission has taken me to countless worlds, but until now, the Spiders From Mars have left their closest neighbor, Earth, alone. My current assignment: Find where the Spiders From Mars are hiding on Earth, stop their evil plans, and destroy them. If successful, I'll be able to travel to their base on Mars and finally rid the galaxy of them. If I fail, however, it could well mean my death."
This is delivered like the Captain's Log on "Star Trek," via a word balloon from the electric guitar-shaped starship that Ziggy is flying through space in. Ziggy's drawn pretty much like he looks on the cover photo throughout the book, but I haven't a clue who the artist is.
Basically, Ziggy's ship arrives in Earth orbit, and his scanners detect a group of Spiders From Mars congregating near San Francisco, as well as one near London. He goes to San Francisco first, where he meets up with a group of hippies who don't act like he's unusual at all, but are also able to somehow see the Spiders From Mars, who are usually invisible to Earth people (it's implied that their taking drugs has something to do with this). The hippies lead Ziggy to the San Francisco lair of the Spiders, where Ziggy has them stand back while he battles them, shooting lasers out of his headpiece. He then gives the hippies each a silver coin with his picture on it, saying that if they need his assistance at any time, to hold the coin to their foreheads and say his name, and he'll know he's needed.
Ziggy then teleports to London (which he does by assuming a lotus position on the grass, then rising into the air before blinking out), where he meets a group of Swinging Londoners, but this group isn't much help to him. His own senses allow him to detect the Spiders' lair under Carnaby Row, and again, he battles them. He does learn, however, that the Spiders' plan on Earth was to invade the minds of young people "because the young people are the future, and the Spiders want the future to be in their own hands!"
Leaving London to return to his ship, Ziggy reports to his superiors (called "Stardust Command," indicating that "Stardust" is a title instead of a name), reporting that the Spiders have been removed from every planet except one, Mars. He receives his orders to go to the Red Planet and destroy them once and for all. And that's where the book ends!
Apparently, after the book came out, David Bowie himself read a copy and reportedly laughed himself silly over how his whole persona was interpreted, but these days will deny the book even exists. Only a few copies of this book really made it onto the streets, because most bookstores and newsstands wouldn't put it on the shelves, instead returning them the first chance they got. The only place copies were available were "head" shops and the like... but apparently most people who had a copy didn't take very good care of them, because there's nary a copy to be had these days, and Overstreet won't even list the book!
Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention #1
Did I say Gold Key waited until the 1970s to experiment? Well, okay, so I lied. Case in point: Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention #1.
This was a truly weird and bizarre comic book, and reading a copy today, it's almost completely incomprehensible. Rumor has it that Frank Zappa himself wrote the comic, and that various members of the Mothers were involved with the artwork (although it was apparently inked by someone at Gold Key, who tried to make the artwork more like conventional comics). There's no real story to be had in this book - it really comes across more like a "stream of consciousness" than anything else, and Frank and the Mothers hardly appear in it at all!
I'll try to describe it in brief... basically, Frank himself introduces the book, and welcomes the reader to a mind-blowing ride... and then... hmmm... well, there's stuff with multi-colored birds that turn into spaceships and flying pies, some stuff about thinking for yourself, and not letting anyone else define your reality for you... that's followed by a sequence with talking animals that apparently are supposed to be Frank and the Mothers, defining what is "groovy", and the whole thing gets even more incomprehensible from there.
I strongly suspect that the book would make a lot more sense if I read it while under the influence of something... ANYTHING!
Adding to the rumors surrounding this book are that Frank bought up most of the run himself, so he could give them out to those he felt would understand his message, or needed it the most. Another rumor about this book, incidentally, is that Frank went to Gold Key, they didn't come to him - the legend is that he apparently didn't think it was cool that his buddies in the Monkees got a comic book, but he and the Mothers didn't!
Little Richard Mystery Comics #1
Truly, the most bizarre licensed comic book of the late 1950s was Dell's one-shot "Little Richard Mystery Comics"! Still, props to Dell for doing even a one-shot comic featuring a black entertainer, when the times probably weren't right for it (Sammy Davis Jr. Comics, anyone?).
Apparently, Dell had the rights to use Little Richard, but not any member of his band! So, Dell created a band for him... "Sticks" Wingo was the drummer, "Sax-Man" Samuels was the saxophonist (I know, there are at least two saxophonists on the cover!), and "Strings" Mitchell was the guitarist. Oh, and there was also "Giant-Size" Davidson, who was Little Richard's bodyguard, and earned his name (the running gag involving Davidson - purely visual, nobody referred to it in the book at all - is that very few panels "Giant-Size" was in were large enough to show him from more than the chest down, and sometimes not even that much of him!).
The book starts out with Little Richard and the band performing at some nightclub for the teenagers, to which they receive mass applause. As they're packing up to head back to their hotel room, however, a short, fat man bursts onto the stage, holding his hands to his chest. He collapses at Little Richard's feet, but staggers back to his knees to utter the cryptic sentence, "Restaurant of Destruction" before he dies of the bullet wound his hands were covering.
"Good golly, Miss Molly!" Little Richard shouts. "Looks like we've found ourselves in the middle of another mystery!" The rest of the band look dismayed, but we don't know how "Giant-Size" feels, because his head's out of the panel! Searching the victim's pockets, they find he was a famous pool player, Bill "Pockets" McGuire, and they come across their first clue, a matchbook with the name of a local pool hall on it. Soon, a local detective arrives on the scene, "Nosey" Nussbaum, who doesn't see the matchbook because Little Richard pockets it. "Nosey" tells the band, he's heard they're amateur sleuths, but they should leave this to the professionals, and they all pretend to agree with him.
The address leads them to meet Lillian "Legs" Diamond (yep, everyone has a nickname in this comic), who was "Pockets" latest flame, and she points them to her ex-husband, "Loudmouth" Jones (a gambler, he lost a lot of money betting against "Pockets," "Legs" left him for "Pockets," and so on). Jones insists he didn't kill "Pockets," but claims that "Pockets" was into a loan shark for a bundle, and he hasn't been on his game lately so he hasn't been able to pay the loan shark back.
I'll keep the rest of the synopsis brief... the loan shark tells them "Pockets" borrowed ten grand, but wouldn't say what it was for, but says there was a guy with Pockets that might know something about it - the guy was a real estate salesman. Tracking him down, the boys learn that Pockets was going to use the money to open up a restaurant/nightclub, because "Legs" was an aspiring singer, and Pockets figured the best way to give her a break was to buy his own place! But what Pockets didn't know was that the site for his proposed nightclub was being used by a gang of criminals who were hiding stolen goods while waiting for the heat to die down, and they shot him when he came upon their cache. There's a brief fight scene where Little Richard and the gang fight the bad guys (well, mostly Giant-Size, but the rest of their band get their licks in, too), and finally Nosey arrives on the scene to tell Little Richard that he and the band got lucky this time, but next time they could get hurt or worse.
Little Richard tells Nosey that as long as they keep coming upon mysteries, he'll be bound to solve them!
It's not known if Little Richard ever did see a copy of this book... but rumor has it that Pat Boone (star of his own comic book at the time) tried to use it as an example of how his own comic book stories could be more interesting, believe it or not!
Now, let's hit the "reset" switch on the Kurtzberg Alternative Reality Device, and return back to our home reality again as I wrap up this week's column. In four more weeks, we'll check the other reality again for more comics that never were!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !