Chicago 2019: LCS Graham Crackers Comic Loop

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When my brother and I were young our mother took us on two cross-country trips. The first trip we drove through the northern half of the lower 48 States to California and came back through the southwest and the midwest. The second trip we drove to Alaska and came back through British Columbia and again the midwest. Both journeys were made in our family minivan and we camped the entire way. These were amazing vacations and we were blessed to be able to see some of the most wonderful things in the United States and Canada. One of the highlights of both of these trips was visiting local comic shops in the towns and cities we drove through.

Each vacation was meticulously arranged months in advance with many visits to AAA for maps and trip-tics. During those planning stages, we would use the Overstreet Price Guide and the list of comic retailers in the front of the book to see if there were comic shops in the places we were going. If there were, we’d mark them on the maps. My mother knew that if she was going to stay sane driving 500 to 700 miles a day with two young boys in the back seat that she was going to have to find ways to keep us quiet and not play “he’s touching me” for the entire time. We were both avid readers so plenty of books were packed but comics were really going to do the trick. It was these family trips that instilled in me the desire to look for a comic shop whenever I travel. 

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This past July, I was asked to be part of the team traveling to Chicago for the National Conference our company hosts for the US and Canadian consultants that sell our products. We arrived on a Monday morning, a day before the truck would deliver all the items needed for the show, so I had time in the afternoon to explore a little bit on my own. Thanks to Google Maps and Uber I was able to visit Graham Crackers Comics Loop right off Millenium Park.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the shop was the huge wall of recent comics. This wall went the entire length of the store and turned the corner in the back. They obviously do quite well based on the inventory they seemed to move. It was not like the piles on the racks contained months worth of back issues, each stack seemed to go no more than one issue prior to the current month if that. The opposite wall was filled with Manga, trade paperbacks, and hardcover collections (we don’t call ‘em graphic novels on this blog unless they contain an original story and not reprinted material). The back of the store contained a nice amount of back issue bins, the dollar, and fifty-cent bins, and some “wall” books.  The most amazing thing about the place was that it had very few toys and even fewer Funko Pops. Sure they were there but they did not occupy much more than a couple of shelves. All in all, it was a wicked nice shop, now let’s get to the stuff I picked up. 

The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #11 and #13

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Creators
Writer – Gerry Conway
Artist – Pat Broderick
Artist Embellisher – Rodin Rodriquez
Letters – Adam Kubert
Colors – Gene D’Angelo

If I come across the late seventies, early eighties era DC comics in the cheapo bins there is an almost one hundred percent chance that I will buy them. There are several series I am currently working on collecting, DC Comics Presents, Arak: Son of Thunder, and Infinity Inc. The discount bins are great places to work on those lines. On this trip, I was just looking for some fun stuff to read back in the hotel when I got off work at night and I came across these early issues of Firestorm. 

Due to the way modern comics are written where the reader almost always has to have all the issues in the story arc in order to understand what’s happening, I am usually hesitant to pick up non-consecutive issues for a series. Reading comics out of order, or not starting with issue #1 can make me a little twitchy. With older comics though, if the story does span multiple issues there is almost always enough exposition and narration to get the reader caught up. This is because back then any given comic really could have been someone’s first issue and the publishers and editors livelihoods depended on that. I was comfortable buying these two comics knowing that #11 was not the first part of the story. I’m was sure whatever was going on would be explained and that issue #13 would provide plenty of recap from whatever I was going to miss from not reading issue #12. 

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The story actually starts in issue #10 but it is clear from the get-go what’s happening. Firestorm has been attacked by a were-hyena and is now cursed, slowly turning into a monster himself. The story concludes in issue #13 and it was a fun ride. Ronnie and Professor Stein have to overcome the curse and not being able to separate the Firestorm matrix and return to their normal selves. The story was very enjoyable and the conflict between Ronnie and the Professor, while they were trapped, was intriguing. There was plenty of great action and Pat Broderick’s art was outstanding. I’d buy more early Firestorm comics if I came across them in a heartbeat. 

Dark Shadows – #13

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Creators
Writer – Mike Raight
Illustrator –  Nacho Tenorio
Colors – Carlos Lopez
Letterer – Troy Peteri
Cover artist – Francesco Francavilla

Honestly, I’ll buy any comic in a discount bin with a Francavilla cover. This caught my eye because not too long ago I started watching the original Dark Shadows series and am loving it. This comic had two things going for it, a subject I’d love to read a comic about and a great cover artist. For fifty cents this was a no brainer pick up. 

Blue Beetle #14 and Crossfire #15

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Creators

Blue Beetle
Writer – Len Wein
Penciller – Paris Cullins
Inker – Dell Barras
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Spanking New Editor – Denny O’Neil

Crossfire
By – Mark Evanier & Dan Spiegle
Lettering – Carrie Spiegle
Coloring – Jo Meugniot
Created by – Mark Evanier and Will Meugniot

I picked both of these up because they are series that I am collecting. I got into this Blue Beetle recently while reading BackIssue #79, the issue that is all about Charlton’s Action Heroes line. Of all the Charlton characters that DC purchased the rights to Blue Beetle was one of the most successful. I love Paris Cullen’s art and you cannot go wrong with Len Wein writing.

I discovered Crossfire recently at a show in New Hampshire. I pulled a good-sized stack of issues from one dealer’s bins simply because Mark Evanier’s name is on the cover. I love his writing and had never heard of the comic. I’ve liked what I’ve read so far and have decided to try and find the complete series. 

This is WildDog #1

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Creators
Writer – Max Collins
Penciller –  Terry Beatty
Inker – Dick Giordano
Letterer – John Workman
Colorist –  Michele Wolfman
Editor – Mike Gold

I grabbed this one because of Chris Sheenan and his exploration of the complete run of Action Comics Weekly. There are two arcs with WildDog and I liked both. Finding the first issue of the first mini-series featuring the character and for fifty cents, I could not say no. One of the most interesting things about this story is that they do not reveal who WildDog actually is until the last issue. There is also a great editorial from Mike Gold detailing how WildDog came to be. 

It’s funny how I enjoyed reading this comic now.  This was something my brother read when it came out. I was reading Punisher at the time and was at a stage in my life where if my brother liked something I would say I didn’t like it. I probably made fun of him for reading a comic about a Punisher rip off with a stupid hockey mask. Looking back though WildDog might be the more interesting comic. It was a short mini-series and the character did not get tired and overblown. 

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Marvel Superspecial Magazine  #20

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Creators
Script – Dennis O’Neil
Pencils & Colors – Marie Severin
Inks – John Tartaglione
Editor – Jim Shooter

I love Marvel movie adaptations and the Super Special line. I think I have three sets of the two-issue limited series for Dragonslayer because if I see it I feel like I have to rescue it. It is just one of those things with me. This was the first time I had seen the magazine edition and had to pick it up. I was only six dollars and in my experience, that is a decent price for a Super Special magazine. 

The story is a very faithful adaptation of the movie. Fun fact, the movie was released as a joint venture between Paramount and Disney. At the time it was the first Disney movie that contained a nude scene. This magazine contains the complete story as well as a great behind the scenes article about the making of the movie and some wicked production shots. I was very pleased to be able to add this to my collection.

Wrap Up

For the better part of my life, I have been able to travel both across this country and around the world. I am quite fortunate for having been able to do that. I’ve seen lots of amazing things and had wonderful adventures. All those journeys have been special, but some more than others if I was able to find a local comic shop. 

I want to close with a picture of a collection of polyhedral dice. In the last few years, whenever I visit a new comic shop I buy a twenty-sided die to mark the occasion. This picture is just some of the dice I’ve purchased. The one in the front came from Graham Crackers Comic Loop. 

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Kwik-y-Comics All Star Comics 61

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It has been quite some time since I have written anything for this blog. I find that between reading the comics I buy, managing and cataloging my collection, and enjoying my other hobbies I find it difficult to devote time to writing. This time out I thought I would do something a little different and do a short piece, just to get back into the groove of things. This time I’ll be looking at All-Star Comics #61 from July 1976.

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Creators:
Writer / Editor – Gerry Conway
Illustrations – Keith Giffen & Wally Wood
Colorist – Carl Gafford
Cover Artist – Ernie Chan

When I came across this in the cheapo bins I was super excited. I’m a huge fan of the Justice Society having grown up with the All-Star Squadron. For me, they are one of the greatest teams in all of comics. There is a great diversity of characters on the team that can really lead to some interesting interactions. In good writer’s hands, characters like the brash and strong-willed Wildcat and the Mystical Dr. Fate can have some wild adventures. Throw in a blind scientist like Dr. Midnight or Superman’s cousin Powergirl and well then, you’ve really got something.

Ever since Mark Waid’s “A Midsummer’s Nightmare” and Grant Morrison’s JLA brought DCs heavy hitters back together on one team I have felt as if we are living in the era of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Waid’s, Morrison’s, and many others take on the Justice League have given us great stories over the last 22 years but I often find myself looking for more from DC and those yearnings usually take the form of the characters from the JSA. Give me Dr. Fate, The Star-Spangled Kid, and Starman and I’m a happy guy.

Hellfire and Holocaust

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The story in this issue picks up from the previous issue with Green Lantern and Dr. Fate fighting the villain Vulcan. We get a nice recap on the opening splash where we are told that Vulcan was formerly NASA astronaut Christopher Pike who was turned into Vulcan during a recent mission where he was orbiting the sun. (Christopher Pike? Vulcan? I guess Gerry Conway is a big Star Trek fan). There is quite a bit of destruction as Green Lantern and Fate engage with Vulcan. Green Lantern tries to protect the city while Fate takes on the villain directly. The building that they are fighting on collapses and Fate is buried in the rubble while Vulcan blasts away to safety.

Elsewhere the other members of the JSA are standing around bickering while their headquarters burns. The damage is a result of their battle with Vulcan from the previous issue. The Flash’s wife, Joan, shows up and tells him that she worries about him going back into action since he’s retired and asks him to come home. He does. Power Girl, Wildcat, and the Star-Spangled Kid argue about Kid’s use of the cosmic rod. At this point, I have no idea where Starman is.

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Eventually, Green Lantern summons the JSA’ers to have them rejoin the fight against Vulcan. As the firemen douse the flames that have engulfed their former HQ the team is getting ready to leave when Powergirl flies off on her own without telling everyone else what’s up. Come to find out she heard over the police scanners about a UFO crashing in another part of the city. When she arrives at the site she is greeted by an alien that looks like a large frog in green battle armor.

When Wildcat and Doctor Midnight finally meet up with Green Lantern they find him trying to remove the rubble of the destroyed building that Dr. Fate is buried under. The problem is that there is so much wood in the debris that GL is having trouble completing the rescue due to his rings weakness with wood. With the help of Doctor Midnight’s goggles, the heroes are able to locate Dr. Fate and quickly dig him out.

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Power Girl and the frog alien continue to trade blows when the alien starts to send her psychic messages. He’s trying to tell her that he is there for Vulcan. Speaking of Vulcan, we rejoin him while he is fighting with the Star-Spangled Kid and Hawkman. Power Girl shows up with her alien buddy and tries to explain to Hawkman and the Star-Spangled Kid that the alien is there is help Vulcan. It turns out the frog-like alien is the one who rescued Christopher Pike and transformed him into Vulcan in order to save him from crashing in the sun while he was orbiting the star.

There was a problem with how the alien saved Pike and he accidentally left this doll set to evil. He has come to Earth to correct that mistake. Vulcan reacts poorly to this news and kills the alien. Just as he is about to turn on the members of the JSA Powergirl tells the Star-Spangled kid that the problem with Vulcan is that he is super sensitive to sunlight. The same exact type of energy that powers the cosmic rod flag boy is carrying. Star-Spangled Kid fires a blast from the cosmic rod at Vulcan destroying him.

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I enjoyed the heck out of this comic and it really pushed a lot of buttons for me. First of all, I really dig anything that is related to the United States Bicentennial and right there on the cover, DC is saluting the country’s 200 birthday. According to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, this issue was released in April of 1976 with a cover date of August. This is also the 17th issue in the series of July and August comics to be featured with the Bicentennial banner. At the time DC was running a promotion where readers could send in 25 different cover headings and they would receive a Superman belt buckle. At this time comics were still widely thought of disposable instead of as collectibles so getting kids to cut up their comics was not quite as crazy as it sounds.

Mike’s Amazing Comics also credits Keith Giffin as the artist and Wally Wood as the inker on this issue. I always think of it as being a bonus prize when I pull a comic out of the dollar bins that Wally Wood worked on. According to Keith Giffin’s Wikipedia page, his first published work was released in January of 1976, so this comic was most likely one of the earliest things he worked on. Wood’s inking really makes the art tight and clean and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t help out the young artist with some of the rough parts.  

Another aspect of this issue that I really enjoyed was the dynamic between the members of the JSA. The younger members, Power Girl and the Star-Spangled Kid, seem to want to exercise their abilities more while the older guard, Wildcat and the Doctor Midnight, are trying to keep them in check. This conflict made me want to read more issues to see how they get along going forward.

Finally, the story is not just the typical heroes beating up on the villain. Green Lantern and the rest of the team are genuinely concerned about the city and the people around them. When they are fighting Vulcan at the beginning of the story Green Lantern is shown several times saving the crowds around them from debris from the buildings getting destroyed. Heck, the team’s headquarters is burning down due to the fight with Vulcan in issue 60. It was really great to see the heroes dealing with the consequences of their actions.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved these characters. This is the first issue from the 1970s era of All-Star comics that I’ve ever read and it did not disappoint. I’ll close this piece out with the ad for the Superman belt buckle promo. If you’ve got 25 issues from this list maybe you could send the covers to Dan Didio and see if he’s got any of those belt buckles laying around.

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NorthEast Comic-Con Spring 2019

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It’s not the Emerald City Comic Con, also taking place this weekend in Seattle, but the NorthEast Comic-Con is a fun medium sized show and a good place to find some deals and get some decent comics. I’ve been several times over the last few years both when it was in Hanover and the last few times when it has been in Boxboro. The show can be hit or miss for me depending on how many comic dealers attend. This weekend was a hit, there was a large crowd, a good mix of dealers, and people selling toys & collectibles. I picked up some neat stuff from the dollar bins and got a couple of issues to cross off my want list.

There were people selling high-end stuff, expensive graded, non-graded, highly collectible comics like Marvel Premiere #15, Conan #1, and DC Comics Present #26 (a comic I aspire to own one day). There were also plenty of tables selling nice selections of silver and bronze age books as well as my favorite, the dollar bins.

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Generally, there are two types of cheap bins. There are the ones where the dealer is trying to unload an overstock of recent comics and then there are the ones where they are trying to sell older comics that are typically not worth much and the condition can vary greatly. It is the latter type I am most interested in. I’m mostly looking for something fun to read, and on the off chance pick up something that I cross off from my want list.

 

Speaking of my want list,  I track my collection using the excellent software from Collectorz but I manage the specific things I am looking for using old fashioned pen and paper. I carry the small notebook pictured above with me to every comic shop and show that I attend. I’ve had it for years, it is compact and well made. The notebook and the messenger bag I carry are all part of the ritual that is one of the most enjoyable aspects of collecting comics, the search. For this piece, I want to recap what I purchased at the show but to make it more interesting I will also discuss why I made the purchase.

Gold Key & Whitman

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The Black Hole #2
Turok Son of Stone #85 & #86
Uncle Scrooge #107 & #113

None of these comics are in any kind of condition to make them considered valuable to a collector, but they are all readable. The covers are worn and have creases but they are attached and in certainly in acceptable condition. I’ve been a Disney Duck fan since I was a kid and when I find a decent Whitman Scrooge comic for a buck I will almost always pick it up. These two issues happen to have Carl Barks stories in them which is a huge bonus.

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I got into Turok with the 2010 Dark Horse series that Jim Shooter wrote. Since then I’ve been getting the different series that Dynamite has put out. Turok is a great character who ends up on wild adventures, usually involving dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Lately, I’ve been reading the old Valiant series by David Michelinie and Bart Sears. These Gold Key issues are the first two I’ve seen in such nice condition and I was very pleased to pick them up at such a great price.

Finally, there is the Black Hole comic. I love movie tie ins and picking this up was a no brainer. It has a great photo cover and will fit nicely with the rest of the movie adaptations in my collection. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the first part.

More Movie Tie-ins and Licensed Marvel Properties 

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Sheena #1 & 2
Battlestar Galactica #15
Fraggle Rock #1
Bladerunner #2
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade #1
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book #1

This bonanza of comics featuring licensed properties all came from the same booth. The Sheena and Bladerunner books are both movie tie ins that I do not already have. The Indiana Jones book is the third movie adaption and the only one I don’t have yet. It might have been a mistake buying just the one issue as these mini-series are typically sold in combined sets so there is a good chance that I’ll end up with another #1 in the future if I find the whole set at a decent price.

The original Battlestar Galactica is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. It only lasted for the one season and while the comic book series lived on after the show it was also short-lived. There were only 23 issues and this one is one of the last three that I need in order to complete the run.

I’m a big fan of the Bill and Ted movies. They are outlandish and silly but nothing beats their message to “Be Excellent to Each Other”. Evan Dorkin wrote and drew this issue so that was a neat surprise.

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Fraggle Rock is also a special series from when I was a kid. We did not have cable in our house until I was in high school. This is not a complaint, just a fact. My exposure to HBO usually came when we were with my dad on the weekends and we would visit his friends and colleagues. There was one family that we visited often enough that when their children were not around for us to hang out with we got to watch their TV for a couple of hours and this was when my brother and I were introduced to the wonderful world of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. I’ve been reading a lot of the Jim Henson comics that Boom Studios has been publishing the last couple of years so I was pretty excited to find this issue from the Marvel comic Star line of kids comics.

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I find that the Jim Henson properties like the Muppets and Dark Crystal lend themselves well to the comics medium and this issue of Fraggle comics was no exception. The story was fun and the Marie Severin art was really excellent. It was very detailed and the coloring really evoked the Fraggles bright look. It reminded me of Mercer Mayer’s monster books.

Early Bronze Age DC comics

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Shade the Changing Man #2
Time Warp #5
First Issue Special #1, #6 and #11

Last year at Terrific-Con in Connecticut I bought a copy of Shade the Changing Man #1. It was a series I had never read before and knew very little about. I read the issue that night in the hotel while chowing down on pizza and RC Cola. I was a great supper and a great comic. Ever since then I’ve been searching for the second issue. This weekend I finally found it. I paid five dollars for it and that was honestly more than I wanted to spend, but it was the end of my time at the show and I was still under my strict spending limit so I pulled the trigger. It was the most I paid for any comic on the day and I am very glad to be able to read it.

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Chris Sheenan over at Chris is on Infinite Earths turned me on to 1st Issue Special. The whole series is filled with fun and wacky introductions to different concepts and heroes. Try out stories can be really interesting artifacts. With hindsight, we can see what worked and what didn’t. The best thing about the issues I picked up was that two of them, Atlas and the Dingbats, are Jack Kirby creations. I really enjoy Kirby’s DC work. Many believe that he was not at his best when he was writing, drawing, and editing himself, and there is probably some truth to that but I still enjoy it.

Time Warp is a science fiction anthology series that I honestly know very little about. I bought one other issue previously and dug it so I thought I’d try and collect the rest of the series. The comic has a dollar cover price and is oversized. It combines my love of anthology comics and science fiction and I was able to get these two issues at a great price.

The Indies

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Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #3-4, #6-7, #11
Breed #1
Local #1-4
Sword of the Swashbucklers #1-9

I picked up the Sword of the Swashbucklers for several reasons. The first two are because they were cheap and it was an almost complete run. The third reason is the most important though. This is a comic my brother has told me he enjoyed very much as a kid so I thought I’d give it a whirl. And, yes, I know Marvel Epic comics are not an independent comic, but it’s close so I put it in this group.

Jim Starlin’s Breed is a series I’ve been piecing together and I was very happy to find #1. I’m a big fan of Starlin’s work and am always looking for new stuff of his.

I was first introduced to Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers on Professor Alan’s Quarter Bin podcast. Since then I’ve picked up a couple of issues and it is a wicked fun series. The comic has some historical significance as it was one of the first comics published by Pacific Comics. Kirby helped put Pacific on the map as a publisher, where they previously only in the distribution business. This is a series that I’ve seen sell for quite a bit so I was glad to find issues in very nice shape in the dollar bins.

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Local is a comic I have never heard of, published by Oni Press, which I have read next to nothing from. What grabbed me though was that is was written by Brian Wood, a favorite of mine. I loved The Massive and Rebels that he put out over at Dark Horse. I also really enjoyed Briggs Land so I am willing to try something written by him without any previous information. This particular dealer was really trying to move the stuff he had brought to the show, offering the comics at a dollar a piece or ten for five dollars. I pulled out twenty books including these four issues of Local. I plowed through them when I got home and am sorry that I did not find the other eight issues. The premise of the series is pretty cool, stand-alone stories that take place in different cities and towns, and the only connective thread is that the character Megan McKeenan will appear in each story in some fashion. This is a series I’ll certainly seek out in the future.

Stuff from the Want list

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Arak Son of Thunder #3, #46-47
Merc #12
Atari Force #14
Madballs #4-5, #8

Not too long ago I put together a complete run of All-Star Squadron. Now I’m working on Infinity Inc. and Young All-Stars. I’m a big fan of Roy Thomas’s work. Last summer I heard him talk about how much he enjoyed writing Arak and that really got me interested in it. I’ve already mentioned I’m a fan of adventure comics, see Turok above, so picking up Arak seemed like a win-win situation.

Marvel’s New Universe was a valiant effort that was doomed just as it was getting ready to launch. (I’m pretty proud of the joke in that previous sentence and I hope that if someone reads this they get it). I’m very, very slowly working on a complete set of the original New Universe line. When I had originally decided to start that endeavor I had found a long run of Mark Hazzard: Merc that had issues one through eleven and the annual. Now I finally have the last issue and it should be interesting to read the series straight through.

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Atari Force is an under-rated space saga created by Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and Ricardo Villagran. I’ve been piecing together the twenty issue set and am one step closer with this pickup.  At this point in the series, Conway and Garcia Lopez had moved on, with the latter only working on the covers.

Madballs is simply a guilty pleasure. In recent years I’ve become quite obsessed with the gross line of toys from my childhood. The comics are absurd and dumb but fascinating nonetheless. I mean how did a comic about gross bouncing balls get published in the first place, and last for ten issues for that matter? What could the stories even be about? I’ve just got to know and that’s why I picked up these issues.

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Final Thoughts

One of the things I enjoy most about comics fandom and collecting comics is seeing what other people are buying.  I like to see what they picked up and learn why. Was it an investment? Was it the last issue they needed to complete the run? Was it something they always wanted to read? A lot of the people I follow on twitter regularly post pictures of what they have acquired and it really is fun to see what they share. One of the great things about collecting comics is that there is something for everyone and there is always a story behind why someone bought the comic they did.

I’m going to close out a pic of DC Special Series #2 that reprints Swamp Thing #1 and 2. It features a fantastic Bernie Wrightson wraparound cover. The comic is pretty worn and feels well loved. It will fit nicely into my collection.

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Go-Bots

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Every day we are asked to pick a side, Liberal or Conservative, Instagram or Twitter, Coke or Pepsi. You get the idea. Back in the mid-eighties, we had to pick our favorite transforming robots, Transformers or Go-Bots. Transformers were big, flashy, and had lots of moving parts. Gobots, on the other hand, were smaller, less articulated, and nowhere near as popular as their larger competitors. Despite all that I really liked the tiny robots.

Go-Bots were marketed in the US by Tonka, who partnered with Bandai which had created the toy line in Japan. There they were known as Machine Robo. Go-Bots were about the size of a Matchbox car, maybe a little bigger, when they were in their vehicle form. When they were transformed into their robot form they were about three inches tall, with moveable arms and legs. They were so small they didn’t have knee joints so there was not much to be done when posing the figures other than to put them in a kind of Frankenstein stance with straight legs and outstretched arms.

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In the last few years, IDW publishing has really tried to capitalize on the ’70s and 80’s toy nostalgia trend producing titles like ROM, Micronauts, Transformer’s, G.I. Joe, and My Little Pony to name a few. I’ve read several of these series and enjoyed them, so when the Go-Bots comic was solicited I was pretty excited. The series is written, drawn and lettered all by Tom Scioli. I am personally not very familiar with his work but his bio notes that he was co-creator of the “Godland” comic at Image, and he drew and co-scripted the “Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe” at IDW. The later series is described “as an insane adventure that the A.V. Club called #%$^&ing awesome”. After reading the first two issues of this series I would have to say the same thing.

The first thing that is notable about the comic is the cover. It is a portrait of one of the “good-guy” Go-Bots, Leader 1. What is so striking about the image is that it looks like something that a talented artist might draw in a notebook using colored pencils in high school. You can see the line work in the shading. It is not a highly polished, heavy inked, digitally enhanced, picture that you would find on any other mainstream comic.

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When you open the comic right away you can tell you are in for something different. There is no opening splash page, instead, there are seven panels laid out unlike anything else you would see in traditional comics. The word balloons are large and plentiful, yet they don’t get in the way of anything. The lettering itself has the same hand done look that the art does and it has an almost childlike quality to it. That is not to say that it is messy, it looks like the same talented high school artist who drew the cover trying to write neatly and clearly and succeeding. The words that require emphasis are simply done with a heavier pencil line, instead of selecting the bold font on the computer. The coloring is soft and almost has the washed out look of watercolors. The ink work has a very light touch and does not take away from what I think might be colored pencils.

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Every page of the story has a different panel layout with no page having less than seven panels. There is a lot of dialog. For me, this is reminiscent of older comics where the creative teams would fit whole stories into single issues.  The entire package is unlike else being done today and I really liked it.

The story is a wild adventure. In this world, Go-Bots are the robot companions of humans. They provide transportation, protection, and entertainment. We are first introduced to Leader 1 and his pilot Condor. They are on a rescue mission to free some prisoners from an enemy jail. After that, we meet A.J and her Go-Bot companion Scooter. He’s dropping her off at school. In A.J.’s class, we get a little bit of exposition about the history of Go-Bots who were created to solve a parking problem.

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From there we meet Matt Hunter, race car driver, and his car/pal the aptly named Turbo. After that, we really get into the story. Matt and Turbo are approached after a race by a mysterious bald man in a limo who has a business proposal for the two of them. The bald man takes them to a private arena where Go-Bots are battling each other to the death for the human crowd’s amusement. As the people in the arena chant “Kill-Kill-Kill” as Go-Bot with two wheels on his shoulders beheads his opponent. This fearsome Go-Bot, named Cy-Kill, wants more challengers and eventually decides he wants to fight Turbo. Matt and Turbo are disgusted and try to leave.

The crowd is not having that and they through Matt to the arena floor to face Cy-Kill. Matt mentions that Cy-Kill’s G chip will prevent him from harming a human. Cy-kill questions that theory and Matt trys to get away. Turbo saves Matt and they escape, returning later with the police. The arena is empty except for the bodies of dead Go-Bots and now humans.

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These events kick off the whole series. From this point on there is a wave of Go-Bots “going bad” and revolting against the humans. The evil Go-Bots are led by Cy-Kill. It is an all-out revolution. Go-bots that once aided humans, like police cars, turn against them. The Go-Bots that still want to work with humans are brought together to by Leader-1. There is plenty of action and surprises throughout the next couple of issues. Eventually the Go-Bots head to outer space and to the homeworld Gobotron

The series has not been fully released but many of the memorable toys do make appearances in the comic. Screwhead, Scorp, Cop-Tur, Spacy, Zod, and the Command Center all show up. The series is dramatic and the art style provides an excellent juxtaposition for it. Because every page features a different panel layout this does not feel like any other mainstream comic. It is simply a ton of fun.

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My brother and I had a couple of Gobots that I remember; Dive-dive, the submarine, Leader-1, the F-14, and Scorp, the scorpion were a few of them. Due to their smaller size, they fit in well with Kenner’s Star Wars figures and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe line. They were also less expensive than their larger cousins, the Transformers, which helped when asking for a new toy. Of course, there was a cartoon but I don’t have any real memory of watching it. Reading about it on the interwebs these days it is not well regarded.

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This comic brought back a lot of fond memories and led me down a couple of fun rabbit holes while I researched the history of Go-Bots. As I write there is one more issue due out and I cannot wait to see what happens. Tom Sciloi does not have a huge body of work, probably due to the fact that he has an unusual style, as he writes, draws, colors and hand letters all his work. He did the backup Super Powers stories in Cave Carson has Cybernetic Eye. I have to admit I did not know what the deal was with that story and didn’t know it was Sicoli when I read Cave Carson and did not pay much attention to it. After reading Go-Bots though I’ll have to go back and check it out.

I want to close with something one of my friends said when we were talking about this comic, that I think really sum it all up very well. “He’s [Sicoli] put into comic book form what it used to be like to play with actions figures as a kid”. I could not have said it better.

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Quarter Bin Gem – Rogue Trooper

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This piece is inspired by Professor Alan from the Relatively Geeky Podcasting network and his show the Quarter Bin Podcast. I am a big fan of mining the cheapo bins for treasure, but most of the searching I do is in dollar bins. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting family in Burlington Vermont and was able to take time to visit the only store in New England with a real honest and true quarter bin, that I am aware of, Earth Prime Comics. I did not leave with very much on this visit but I did buy a copy of Rogue Trooper Classics #5 from IDW.

Rogue Trooper is a comic that first appeared in 2000 A.D. and was created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. He is a genetically engineered soldier created to fight in a civil war on Nu-Earth.  Rogue Trooper’s unit was betrayed from within and everyone was killed except Rogue and the traitor. Rogue Trooper saved his buddies, Gunner, Helm, and Bag-man, bio-chips and installed them in, you guessed it, his gun, helmet, and backpack. Now Rogue Trooper wanders the wastelands of Nu-Earth searching for the traitor, and aiding the Southers who created him in their struggle against the Norts.

Rogue Trooper has mostly appeared in a serialized strip in 2000 A.D. and various Judge Dredd comics. IDW published a new story in a four-issue series back in 2014 as well as a series of reprints in Rogue Trooper Classics. This particular issue contains two full strips and a third that is part one of the story that, I assume, is continued in the next issue.

The Petrified Forest

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2000 A.D. Credit card
Script Robot – Gerry Finley-Day
Art Robot – Mike Dorey
Lettering Robot –  Bill Nuttall

The story begins on a Nort satellite orbiting Nu-Earth. A heavyset man sits with a group of men at a large round table are discussing their troubles with Rogue Trooper. The problem, as it is put so callously, is not what Rogue Trooper does to the Nort forces, but how he inspires the Southers. He makes the Southers believe they can win this never-ending war. The fat man challenges the group to come up with a way to stop Rogue Trooper. Satellites are launched to sweep the surface of the planet searching for their target.

Meanwhile down on the planet, Rogue Trooper wanders, searching for the man who betrayed his unit. He happens to be in the petrified forest and notes that all life is gone due to the chem-strikes. All that remains are brittle dead trees. A shot from high up a tree rings out and Rogue Trooper dives to dodge the bullet. He shoots the sniper out of the tree and cuts his oxygen tubes. The atmosphere of Nu-Earth is poisonous to humans so they must wear special containment suits with gas masks tied to oxygen pumps in order to survive.

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The attack on the snipers does not go unnoticed by the men back on the satellite. They decide instead of sacrificing good Nort men they will send down a group of ape-men that were meant to serve as soldiers in the Nort army but are too undisciplined. As Rogue Trooper and his buddy Gunner (the gun) admire their handwork a group of Nort foot soldiers gets the drop on them. With the aid of gunner and an electro-flare from bagman (his backpack), Rogue Trooper is able to take out the whole squad with a few shots.

Rogue Trooper finds a bombed out farm in the forest and decides to camp for the night. Gunner is put on watch and Helm (his helmet) is put on pillow duty. Meanwhile, the Nort ape-men make planetfall. Without too much trouble they sneak up on Rogue Trooper’s camp and take Bagman and Gunner. Rogue Trooper wakes up and fights back with his only weapon, Helm. He gets away from the ape-men and leads them on a chase into the petrified forest. Eventually, the ape-men surround him.

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The ape-men do not attack all at once so Rogue Trooper tries to start a fight with the biggest looking ape who he believes must be the leader. The ape attacks Rogue Trooper who dodges several of the advances. As he is backed up to a tree he realizes he is in the same spot he killed the Nort snipers earlier and the oxygen tubes are still hanging from the branches. He fashions the tube into a bit of a noose and chokes out the ape-man. The other ape-men start howling, seemingly a show of respect for Rogue Trooper defeating their leader.

The ape-men return Gunner and Bag-man. Back in his possession Rogue Trooper activates the universal translator in Bag-man so he can understand the ape-men. Similar to Rogue trooper the apes tell him the story of how they were genetically modified to fight but were treated badly by the Norts. Soon the shuttles that dropped the ape-men off on the planet return to pick them up. When the Norts see that the apes are not returning they gas the petrified forest. Since the Rogue Trooper is impervious to chemical attacks he is able to stand and fight while the ape-men collapse to the ground.

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Rogue Trooper shoots one of the troop carrier ships and it crashes into the other ship. The men watching from the satellite monitor the situation but think the pilots have just crashed into each other and do not realize the ape-men have rebelled and that Rogue Trooper still lives. While Rogue trooper tries to help the poisoned ape-men the leader of the group comes too and grabs Gunner from Rogue. When he tries to fire on Rogue Trooper but the gun jams and the ape turns it around to inspect it. A shot rings out and the ape leader is dead, shot in the face by Gunner who doesn’t just let anybody pull his trigger.

The story ends with Rogue Trooper directing the ape-men to another part of the forest so that when more Nort landing parties arrive they do not take them back or worse. He then runs out of the petrified forest into the open area making sure the satellites pick him on their cameras and the Nort leaders know he is still alive.

War of Nerves

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2000 A.D. credit card
Script Robot – G. Finley-Day
Art Robot – Colin Wilson
Letter Robot – Tony Jacob

This story is a brief one chapter story that gives the reader an idea what the civil war on Nu-Earth is like. A group of Souther soldiers is trapped in a series of foxholes, charged with defending their position. They have been apparently been doing it for weeks. They are being bombarded with digital propaganda messages in the sky by the Nort army. Some of the messages are “Hullo, Soon it will be goodbye” and “Tonight you die Johnny”. The men are worn out and scared. One soldier who is sick of the waiting rushes out of the fox-hole and into the battlefield. He is almost immediately killed by incoming mortar fire.

The surviving men decide that it is too much and abandon their post. When they rush off they run into Rogue Trooper who, to put it mildly, is disappointed in this squad. Rogue Trooper chastises the squad and leads them against the Nort mortar encampment. They breach the mortar silo and defeat the Nort soldiers inside. Next, we see Nort reinforcements arrive at the silo only to trigger a boobie trap. A digital message appears above the silo telling the Nort soldiers to watch this space when a bomb goes off destroying the whole facility.

Bagman Blues – Part I

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2000 A.D. Credit Card
Script Robot – Gerry Finley-Day
Art Robot – Brett Ewins
Lettering Robot –  Bill Nutall

Rogue Trooper is walking through the foggy ruins of a small town on Nu-Earth. The town is littered with bodies indicating a recent battle. As Rogue Trooper explores he notices one of the seemingly dead men get up. The two fire on each other and Rogue Trooper hits and kills the man in the gas mask. The Nort soldier manages to get one shot off and hits Bag-man who starts emitting a high pitched wail. Gunner tells Bag-man to shut up but it doesn’t work. Rogue Trooper removes the bio-chip and tries to repair it.

The loud siren emitted from the damaged chip has attracted other Nort soldiers and Rogue Trooper and Gunner are forced to defend themselves before they can finish Bag-man’s repairs. Rogue Trooper defends himself against incoming forces while the “wounded” Bag-man slowly empties his contents on the ground taking inventory, all the while singing nursery rhymes. That is where this chapter ends.

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Final thoughts

I’ve been a big fan of Judge Dredd going way back to my youth. I do not remember how I discovered him but I certainly have enjoyed the apocalyptic tales of justice over the years. Back in the early 00’s several Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, and Rogue Trooper collections were published. Since I liked Dredd so much I thought it might be fun to look at some other 2000 A.D. characters. I liked both new series but I really got into Rogue Trooper.

The grim anti-war message combined with the stoic soldier, Rogue Trooper, and his simplistically named companions Gunner, Helm, and Bag-man all work together to make a great science fiction story. The oddly colored wasteland of Nu-Earth serves as a great backdrop for the blue-skinned hero searching for the man who betrayed him years prior. It is like a futuristic version of Stephen King’s Gunslinger chasing the Man in Black across the desert. The soldiers wearing full body containment suits and gas masks and bombed out locations are all reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.

The plots were pretty formulaic but the writing and art are really gripping. Writing a comic about a soldier talking to himself page after page has got to be challenging but guys like Gerry Finley-Day really were able to put together some pretty good stories.

At this point, I must ask myself if I think this comic was worth the quarter I paid for it and my answer is that is certainly was. Petrified Forest with the ape-men was fun, and who doesn’t love a story with gorilla soldiers? The War of Nerves had a pretty standard never give up message, but the most interesting part was the digital propaganda machine that wrote demoralizing messages in the sky for the enemy. Brett Ewins art in the final chapter was the best in the book, nice and clean with sharp lines. The story itself was short but the damaged Bag-man singing nursery rhymes is a nice call out to HAL singing “Daisy, Daisy” while he is powered down at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”. Interesting note, “Daisy, Daisy” is the first song ever performed by a computer in 1962.

Finally, I have to thank Professor Alan for his inspiration to write about a real gem of a comic that I picked up for only a quarter!

 

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