The hustle and bustle of the first day of the new school year is ongoing as I write these words. Eddie and Kelly left the house around quarter after seven this morning and - presumably - made it to their respective schools without incident. Barb left for work shortly thereafter. I'm putting together today's TOT, which posts at midnight if I manage to finish it, in between getting ready for some after-school activities which, apparently, couldn't wait until the *second* day of school, and making sure I do some other thing Barb asked me to do which I can't remember. There's a good chance this will not end well.
Memory is a funny thing. I remembered today's opening cover perfectly. I even remembered it was the cover of ADVENTURE COMICS #392 [April, 1970]. I remembered it was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Murphy Anderson. However, beyond that, I have absolutely no recollection. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org] says there were two Supergirl stories in this issue. The first was "The Super-Cheat" by Cary Bates (script) and Kurt Schaffenberger (pencils and inks). The second story was the cover story: "Supergirl's Lost Costume" by Leo Dorfman (script), Win Mortimer (pencils), and Jack Abel (inks). Mort Weisinger was the editor of record, but, this issue being so close to the end of his time at DC Comics, I would bet that most of the "heavy lifting" was actually done by assistant editor E. Nelson Bridwell.
I have two reasons for remembering the cover of this otherwise forgettable issue. The first is that a classroom filled with young women in Supergirl costumes is...well...really hot.
The second reason is even more twisted. In the unlikely event that I ever become wealthy, I would commission Murphy Anderson to redraw the cover...replacing the young women in Supergirl costumes with young women in Zatanna costumes. This is the kind of thing I only blurt out when I haven't had enough sleep and I still have to write a column.
One of these days some editor is going to figure out that the best way to get me to do pretty much whatever they want me to do is to wear a Zatanna costume when they ask. I just pray to God it's not Joe Quesada.
Let's see what else I have for you today.
THE TRADE PAPERBACK DREAMS OF ALEX NESS
My buddy ALEX NESS runs a truly spiffy website by the name of POP THOUGHT. It has columns by a variety of talented commentators, a lively message board, and a smattering of fiction. However, the choicest bits on said site are generally those written by Alex his own bad self. He posted a swell interview with Mike Gold recently and also - the subject of this item - a column listing the comics trades he would most like to see.
Some of my works were among Alex's choices, so I'm taking this opportunity to engage in a little back-and-forth on his comments, a kind of column crossover.
The CHAMPIONS (Marvel).
A pleasant if odd team up of Marvel's 2nd tier of characters. Never a book about deep themes, continuity importance or high sales, this book featured fun stories. I list it first because comics like this ALWAYS ought to be collected. Even if sales do not match its quality, this is a TPB that ought to be. Initially Tony Isabella and Don Heck provided story and art, eventually Chris Claremont and John Byrne arrived, but whatever the creative talent, this was a fun book.
I don't understand the regard fans have for this short-lived series, though I'd be thrilled to cash the checks if Marvel did reprint it. It's not that I think I did a bad job with the strange roster of heroes who starred in the book. It's that it was never the book I wanted to write.
The book I wanted to write was a buddy book starring the rich Angel and the middle-class Iceman. They were cool characters who weren't being used in the X-Men relaunch. They would have had this hilarious "Odd Couple" thing going for them. In addition, once I'd written out their boring girlfriends from the 1960s X-MEN comics, I would have involved them with a succession of women who were just no damn good for them.
Just my luck I pitched that book on a day when two of the best writers in comics, who were also my editors, had been replaced by their imperfect Bizarro duplicates. Which is the short answer to the question of how a book about two pals ended up featuring every Marvel super-hero who wasn't already spoken for.
Alex also wrote this:
BLACK LIGHTNING V.1 & V.2 (DC).
Jefferson Pierce has the power of lightning within his hands. As a moral agent fighting the corrupt city officials in a city that could be the Cleveland of our non-literary reality, Black Lightning is also a moral being in his daily life, as a teacher serving his community. Tony Isabella wrote this and Trevor VonEeden and Eddy Newell provided most of the art. Perhaps a disappointment in that it is a saga unfinished twice, in TPB form the character's goals and ethics could well inspire, and hopefully lead to a new series.
I can't think of two collections of my work that would please me more, especially if I could package them myself. For the first volume, I would ask the comedian Sinbad to write an introduction; I would write a foreword describing the creation of the character. The book would reprint BLACK LIGHTNING #1-10, which are the first series issues I wrote, followed by an afterword covering the period between these issues and the second series.
The second volume - in Tony's dream world - would reprint the eight Isabella-written issues of the second series and also include four all-new stories, the ones I would have written to finish out the first year of that second series.
However, with or without my participation or any new material, I doubt very much we'll ever see BLACK LIGHTNING trade paperbacks. You'll have to ask DC Comics why.
Finally, Alex wrote this:
THE SHADOW WAR OF HAWKMAN (DC).
I like Hawkman and have enjoyed his adventures, but there have been precious few works on the character that are both true to the character and are viable as an ongoing series. Tony Isabella (HIM AGAIN!) wrote this and it is evidence that a comic that is written unironically and without rancor or cynicism can be still be fulfilling and modern. It has issues in the delivery (particularly the coloring) but it is a wonderful book. Placed along side various Hawkman collections it would hold its own.
Does Alex have excellent taste or what?
I would love to see my Hawkman - the mini-series, the special, the issue of DC COMICS PRESENTS, and the ongoing series up to the truncated conclusion of the war - collected in one volume. Space and DC allowing, I'd love to include an afterword describing how the war would have ended in that dream world of mine.
Even without the afterword, don't hold your breath waiting on this trade collection either.
Alex's remaining choices were pretty sweet as well:
All good choices...though there may be a few legal issues with two of the collections.
I'm not sure Marvel still has rights to Fu Manchu (father of Kung Fu master Shang-Chi) or the other characters from the original Sax Rohmer novels. If they don't, and if they couldn't work out a reprint deal with the Rohmer estate, they would have to re-draw the characters and re-letter any reference to them. That might not be practical from an expense standpoint.
In recent weeks, I have heard reports that the rights to the Blue Beetle might not be as clear-cut as what I'd always believed. Charlton might not have had clear title to the Beetle when it sold the character to DC. Another claimant to the Beetle might be out there. However, if that is the case, I would hope that DC and this perhaps mythical third party could come to enough of an agreement to allow the reprinting of those Ditko gems.
If you'd like to read Alex's column in its entirety, you can find it here:
From there, you'll also find links to the rest of the goodies on the POP THOUGHT website.
Tell them Tony sent you.
LIFE'S LITTLE VICTORIES
Cartoonist Keith Knight, whose work I enjoy on the informative SALON website [www.salon.com], occasionally devotes his strip to a celebration of...life's little victories. Every time he does this, my head nods in recognition.
Sainted Wife Barb and I enjoyed one of those little victories the other night. We were going grocery shopping and, for once, we were ready for the job. We checked out the ads supplements in the local newspapers. We pulled coupons from our coupon file box. We remembered to bring the store "Bonus Card" which would allow us to take advantage of certain special.
We got $113.41 worth of mostly actual foods - snacks were held to a minimum - for only $87.15. If that isn't a little victory, I don't know what is.
Since I stole Knight's line, it's only fair that I direct you to his website with the recommendation that you check out his very funny work:
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: