In England, from the 1960s through the 1980s, a gentleman by the name of ALAN CLASS reprinted American comics from a variety of publishers - including Marvel, Charlton, and ACG - in square-bound black-and-white editions measuring about 7 inches wide and 9 inches high. It was common for stories from multiple publishers to appear in the same issue. This was a shoestring operation, but the comics captured my fancy from the moment I first held one. Many of the stories have never been reprinted in the United States, which adds to my interest in them.
UNCANNY TALES #92, likely published between 1972 and 1974, is unusual for an Alan Class book in that it reprinted an entire issue of an American comic book. It contains all five stories from NOMAN #1 [Tower; November, 1966], a short-lived spinoff from the somewhat more successful THUNDER AGENTS. The cover shown above was drawn by Al Williamson and Wally Wood for the original comic.
NOMAN #1 is a good example of why Tower Comics never became a true success. The title character, an elderly scientist who gives up his physical humanity to exist in a series of android bodies, is terrific, but the stories are almost uniformly mediocre.
All of the stories are 10 pages. Here are their titles and known credits:
NoMan in "Trapped in the Past" by Steve Skeates (script) and Ogden Whitney (art);
NoMan in "Secret in the Sky" by John Giunta (art);
NoMan in "Fingers of Fate" by Gil Kane (pencil art) and Paul Reinman (inks); and,
NoMan in "NoMan and the Good Subterranean" by Ogden Whitney (art). NoMan also appeared in the Lightning story.
Skeates, who would quickly become one of the most interesting writers of the 1960s and 1970s, wasn't quite there yet in the two stories he wrote here. "Trapped in the Past" has aliens trying to conquer Earth by wiping out the cavemen. "The Warp Wizard's Master Plan" is to teleport super-speedster Lightning away from the scenes of his crimes, a plan foiled when NoMan uses his multiple bodies to impersonate his fellow agent.
The "Secret in the Sky" is a weather-controlling satellite and the already-weak tale is further undone by the stiff art. The Kane art enlivens "Fingers of Fate," but not enough to rescue the tepid "international jewel thieves" story.
The stand-out story is "NoMan and the Good Subterranean." It's a tale with a message, namely that no race of people is essentially evil. Though predictable, the story doesn't pull any punches when it comes to condemning intolerance. Given how the present-day GOP leadership has made encouraging intolerance one of its strategies for winning elections, we could use more message stories like this in today's comic books.
This issue of NOMAN was also reprinted in DC's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS ARCHIVES VOLUME 4. Copies of the original issue can generally be found on eBay for prices ranging from $5-$50 depending on condition and the like. My recommendation would be to go for the DC archives book, which also reprints NOMAN #2, THUNDER AGENTS #11, and DYNAMO #3, all of which have some decent material.
Watch for more ALAN CLASS coverage in future TOTs.
LIGHTNING ROUND REVIEWS
I'll have some longer CIVIL WAR and ONE YEAR LATER reviews for you in the coming TOTs, but, for today and the rest of this week, let's see how many items I can cover.
CFQ, previously known as CINEFANTASTIQUE, is still one of our best-looking fantasy/horror/sci-fi/super-hero magazines. But what makes it a great magazine is its combination of attractive, vibrant layouts and knowledgeable writing on the many subjects covered in its pages. Its May/June 2006 issue [$7.99] had articles on all the big movies - Pirates of the Caribbean 2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Superman Returns - but it also had an interview with director J.J. Abrams on his planned Star Trek movie and so much more. TV series like Stephen King's Desperation. Movies like Room 6 and Poseidon. Video games based on movies. Samurai films. Reviews of books and music and movies. There's so much stuff in its 84 pages, but the CFQ designers still manage to keep its look invitingly open. It's a classy, entertaining, informative publication...and that's why it earns four out of five Tonys.
If I were into gaming, I would have loved DORK TOWER #34 [Dork Storm Press; $3.49] with its 21-page, full-color "A Brief History of Gaming" comics story. I'm not. But I can and most certainly do appreciate writer/artist John Kovalic's passion for the subject and applaud his trying something different with this issue, which also contains a 6-page illustrated text feature on "The Codex of Tabriz the Arcane"...whatever that is. Taking into account my appalling lack of interest/knowledge, I'm giving this comic three out of five Tonys. I'm sure those of you into gaming will rate the issue much, much higher. As well you should.
Kovalic writes and Christopher Jones draw DR. BLINK, SUPERHERO SHRINK #3 [Dork Storm Press; $3.49]. BLINK is a labor of love for these creators, something they do in between other assignments and their busy lives, and, I'm telling you, I can feel that love as I enjoy their short, but very funny vignettes. Blink's "patients" in this issue include parodies of Spawn, Galactus, and our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. There's also a spiffy "team-up" of Blink and Ultra-Gal by guest writer/artist Alex Robinson. All told, the issue gives us 24 full-color pages of Blink, a pair of Dork Tower gag pages, and three pages of additional features. That's terrific bang for your bucks, earning this issue four Tonys.
DECIMATION: GENERATION M [Marvel; $13.99] collects the five-issue series by Paul Jenkins and Ramon Bachs. For those readers who missed my earlier reviews of the individual issues, it's the story of mutants who lost their powers in the aftermath of HOUSE OF M and are trying to make their way in a world new to them. Adding to the challenge is a serial killer of ex-mutants.
Their stories are being told by reporter Sally Floyd, a non-mutant who has also suffered a recent loss. Simply put, she is the best Marvel leading lady since Jessica Jones.
GENERATION M is Jenkins' finest writing to date. Bachs' art brings the story and the characters to life. I decided recently to be less generous in handing out top marks to the comics and other items I review, but I don't hesitate to give this trade paperback the full five out of five Tonys.
Look for more lightning round reviews tomorrow.
No one does "stupid" better than people in my beloved Medina County. A group of kids in Brunswick, which is one city over from my home town of Medina, apparently thought they could get high on cow dung. No, I'm not s------- you.
In the most wee hours of the a.m., by a fence at an elementary school, Brunswick police saw what looked like a juvenile running away from them. At the fence, they found cow manure with flexible drinking straws stuck in it and six abandoned bikes. They believe the owners of the bikes were trying to get high from sniffing the bovine poop.
THE [Medina] GAZETTE quoted police sergeant Kevin Scullin in its July 22 edition:
What I was told is that somehow you put a cup or something over it, then you put the straw in and suck the fumes. It sounds like they didn't even know how to do it right.
The closest police could come to any known drug connection was that psilocybin mushrooms can be grown in cow manure. One officer speculated that methane gas from the dunk might trigger a euphoric feeling. This is why we have the Internet.
I ran a quick search on the sniffing of cow dung and came up with this item from the 5/1/03 issue of WEEKLY WORLD NEWS:
TODAY'S KIDS SNIFF COW CHIPS!
By MIKE FOSTER
ABILENE, Texas -- So many U.S. teens are now getting high from sniffing manure that horrified educators, family values advocates and law enforcement officials are calling for a ban on the stomach-turning practice. But a group says that idea stinks -- because members sniff manure to improve their health and claim a daily whiff of cow pie can keep a host of illnesses at bay, ranging from Lou Gehrig's Disease to brain tumors!
"Sniffing manure for medicinal purposes has been a tradition in Asia for thousands of years," notes activist Jim Wingold, an outspoken advocate of the practice and director of the Dallas-based Manure Use Rights Coalition. Peasants swore by dung as a cure for a variety of ailments, including arthritis, hemorrhoids, impotence, heart disease and even cancer.
"The U.S. government shouldn't ban this. It should be encouraging and funding scientific studies to see just how powerful a cure-all manure really is."
Lawmakers turn up their noses at that proposal, noting they've been swamped by calls from parents of teens addicted to manure-sniffing. But Wingold declares, "Politicians can't let themselves be swayed by a bunch of hysterical know-nothings. Lives are at stake here."
It was in the early 1990s that recreational manure-sniffing first surfaced in the U.S., believed to have been brought over by Malaysian immigrants. Enthusiasts say that breathing in fumes from fresh cow dung induces a natural high more potent than heroin or cocaine -- not to mention cheaper.
Since then, the craze has grown steadily, especially in the Southwest. Educators say they've seen the "corrosive effects" of the trend, claiming the manure-sniffing fad has led to increased truancy and vandalism.
"You'll see a bunch of kids cut class and head out back to the pastures," says a high-school teacher in Abilene. "They come back with a glassy look in their eyes and a stupid smile on their faces. You look at their shoes and you know exactly what they've been up to."
But advocates of cow-pie snorting insist it has improved their health. "I used to suffer from terrible acne and no medicine worked," says a 22-year-old manure user who asked to be identified only as Sam. "Then a friend told me about sniffing cow manure and I thought, 'What do I have to lose?' After sniffing cow manure for six months, my acne cleared up."
Editor's note: Weekly World News does not endorse manure sniffing in any way, shape or form. Always consult with your physician before sniffing cow manure.
Wait. There's more, this time from Chuck Shepherd's "News of the Weird":
1992 -- Malaysian deputy interior minister Megat Junid Ayob told an anti-drug conference in January in Kuala Lampur shortages in heroin and cannabis have caused some addicts to get high by sniffing fresh cow dung. Addicts put a coconut shell over the patty, with a hole at the top for sniffing.
My message to my young readers is this:
Just say "no" to cow dung. Trust me, by the time you reach my age, you'll have had to deal with more crap than you can imagine. Why go looking for it now?
A few months back, after the nominations for the 2006 EISNER AWARDS were announced, we ran several weeks of TONY POLLS questions asking you to vote on these nominees. It took several weeks to get through them because there were a lot of EISNER AWARDS categories. And it's going to take several columns to get through the results of our unofficial polling and see how your choices compared to the actual winners. We begin.
We're asking you to vote on both the biggest news to come out of this year's Comic-Con International and the news which was the most personally exciting for you. These questions will be active until sometime after midnight Monday night, at which point they'll be replaced by new questions.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
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.
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