Back in the day - and that day would have been circa 1964 - I could buy all the Marvel super-hero comics for a buck and change. There were only nine of them and, initially, they weren't even all monthlies. Indeed, it wasn't long before I started buying Marvel's one war and three western titles as well. The company had its own distinctive style and I loved it.
Having already surrendered to weepy nostalgia this summer, I'm launching a theme for the next few weeks. I'll be opening TOT with the first issues I bought of those initial Marvel titles, breaking them up occasionally to show you the DC titles I also bought during those months. I don't still own these books - except in reprint - but I'll reminiscence about them as best I can.
We start with FANTASTIC FOUR #7 [October, 1962]. I bought the book because of the striking cover by Jack Kirby (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks). I'd seen mobs on the covers of occasional DC comics, but those folks seemed positively sedate next to the angry citizens of Kirby's New York City. Oh, for a return to the days when comic book covers were this dramatic!
Inside the issue, the Fantastic Four were doomed to become the "Prisoners of Kurrgo, Master of Planet X." Kurrgo was a jaundiced little tyrant with a giant robot who turned our world against Reed Richards and company because he needed them to rescue his subjects from the coming destruction of his world. The story is only even remotely notable because of a glaring error in the final panels of the issue that confuses "shrinking gas" with "enlarging gas." It's an error that's usually corrected when the story is reprinted...as it has been on several occasions.
Here's the rub.
I didn't like FANTASTIC FOUR #7. The squabbling between the Human Torch and the Thing and the subsequent property damage they caused offended me. They were so immature; this wasn't how the DC super-heroes behaved at all. I was generously overlooking the too many times Superman would play cruel tricks on his friends to teach them a lesson.
I wouldn't buy another Marvel comic book for over a year, but, when I did, it would change my life. The retelling of *that* story will be coming around here in a day or two.
I checked recent completed auctions on eBay and was surprised by how many issues came and went without any bidding activity. Six auctions, ranging in condition from good to fine and with starting bids of $75 to $219.95, didn't attract a single taker.
Four copies of the issue did sell during this time, including a 8.5 CGC-graded copy for $900 to its only bidder. The other sales were as follows:
Fair/Good.....$66 (with 8 bidders)
Good/Very Good.....$42.50 (with 6 bidders)
Low Grade.....$28.97 (with 5 bidders)
Let's see what else I have for you today.
COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE
The first magazine-format issue of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE made its debut a couple weeks back. Dozens of readers have e-mailed me wondering what I thought of the new CBG, so, in a clear conflict of interest, I'm going to sort of review it today.
CBG #1595 [August; $5.99] felt real good when I first held it. It's 246 pages of comics fun and information...and it looks as if future issues will be even thicker. The cover isn't a work of art, but that's okay by me. It's not there to be hung on a wall; it's there to sell the magazine to a mainstream audience.
I'm credited as a "contributing editor" on the indicia page. Just so you know what this means:
I'm not on salary and I don't make any editorial decisions in the magazines. I do offer suggestions and try to set some sort of standard and tone for the reviewers. If I'm trying to do anything as "host" of the reviews, it's strictly by example. I would like to encourage my fellow reviewers to reveal more of themselves and their personalities/quirks/tastes in their reviews, the better for our readers to be able to judge whether or not they might enjoy the items being reviewed.
The magazine? Maybe I'm hopelessly biased, but I'm loving it to pieces. There is so much good stuff in this initial issue that it took me days to read it. Even the price guide - which I would normally ignore on account of I don't have any money to buy comics with anyway - has interesting modules (sidebars) on each and every page: reviews of new comics, "retro-views" of older comics series, factoids, extended timelines for key titles, sales and collecting information. A feature I created as a sidebar for my "Tony's Tips" column was moved (with my permission) to the price guide section, where it will be appearing starting with the second monthly issue and with some frequency.
Associate editor James Mishler did a terrific job writing up SPIDER-MAN 2 and its comics connections in a trio of articles. In their own columns, Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt and Andrew "Captain Comics" also covered Spidey's comics history.
Fred Patten wrote about anime and manga to introduce a section of anime and manga reviews. This was followed by a section of DVD reviews.
Editorial director John Jackson Miller, columnist Mike Doran, and retailer Joe Field wrote about current industry issues. Miller also interviewed CEREBUS creator Dave Sim on that title's recently concluded 300-issue run.
I kicked off the comics review section with my "Tony's Tips" column, which introduced the new Chuck Fiala-drawn Tony heads and a slightly modified ratings system. I'm not using any ratings or Tony heads online, but that could change if any of the artists who read TOT come up with new looks for me...and if my e-mail continues to weigh heavily in favor of my going back to the "Tony scale" for my online reviews.
My column was followed by 15 pages of comics reviews, some of them written by me, and a special treat: Harlan Ellison's plot for the Julius Schwartz tribute story which he's collaborating on with Peter David. Naturally, David's "But I Digress" column is part of the new CBG, along with new versions of the formerly weekly columns by Heidi MacDonald and Chuck Rozanski.
Letters from CBG readers, comic strips, comics and convention news, and CGC grading/sales information have also made the switch to the new format. I wasn't kidding when I wrote that it took days for me to read this issue. I'm thrilled to be a part of this new era in the publication's history.
The bottom line? CBG still won't appeal to the pseudo-elite of the comics field; it covers too wide a range of comic art and it does so with great respect for that range. It might not appeal to the younger pseudo-hip readers who believe the height of comics art is when Wolverine guts someone or an artist-who-has-never-seen-an-actual-woman draws huge breasts on impossibly thin waists and legs. However, I think the majority of comics readers - those who cherish the best of the old and appreciate the exciting new talents working in our field - will find much of value in the new CBG.
Here is the revised ratings system I'm using in "Tony's Tips" for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE...
FIVE TONYS: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
FOUR TONYS: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
THREE TONYS: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
TWO TONYS: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
ONE TONY: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
ZERO TONYS: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness. Oh, I'll still love you if you buy them, but things will never quite be the same between us.
Would you like me to resume using these ratings for my online reviews? Let me know.
TONY SAYS YOU'RE WRONG
The new CBG allows for more and varied page designs than the previous format. Wanting to take advantage of that, I've tried to come up with sidebars to appear within my column. My editors liked one of my ideas so much - it's called "Tony's Back Pages" - that it ended up in the price guide section.
Hoping to get a little friendly back-and-forth going between the columnists and the readers, I came up with this other sidebar feature which will run occasionally within my column.
TONY SAYS YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU BELIEVE THAT...
...the human story in GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH - GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK lessens the movie. My esteemed colleague Oliver Chin reviewed the film in CBG #1595 [August, 2004]. Writing of the generational conflict between reporter Yuri and her admiral father, Chin wrote "the distractingly melodramatic family feud eats up screen time from the beasts."
I beg to differ.
Yuri and her dad are our touchstones to this battle of the beasts. They keep the film from being just another big costumed punch-up. Additionally, the emotional and professional distance between them adds a note of reality to the fantastic...and their growing respect for each other's courage and resolve gives the film one of the most satisfying endings of any Godzilla movie. I'll see Chin's two-and-a-half stars and raise it to four.
Think I'm wrong about something? CBG columnist or reader, don't be shy about telling me. I'll make room for the comments in future "Tony's Tips" columns.
I've got another one of these in my files and you can expect to see it in TOT before the end of the week.
The nigh-legendary TONY POLLS are up and running again. This week's questions, which will remain open for voting until sometime next Monday, involve the just-opened SPIDER-MAN 2...and Hollywood's most beloved, bankable characters. You can stay up and be counted by going to:
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: