All the way back in March and April when the plague really started spreading quickly and Massachusetts rolled out it’s lock down and stay at home orders I thought I’d get a lot of reading and writing done. I turned the dining room into a comic sorting den. I wrote a bunch of short quick posts based on the things I was reading like random Who’s Who issues, Skateman, and some X-Men comics that I got a great deal on. Things changed as the virus quickly spread across the country and the rest of the world.
Due to complications caused by Covid-19, comic publishing ground to a halt as did my sorting and writing. My wife and I were working longer hours and were more worn out at the end of the day. DC Comics suddenly announced that they were cutting ties with Diamond Distribution. Everything seemed to be up in the air and no one really knew what was going on. New comics eventually started getting printed and shipped again but there was still a lot of uncertainty. Some stores were able to weather the challenges with what was happening while many could not.
My comic guy, his shop closed years ago but he kept his business running for his most faithful customers, was having a hard time getting any news out of his Diamond contacts. Most of us bought DC books, with only a few Marvel, Image and other publishers thrown in. We collectively decided it wasn’t worth it for us and him to pay the outrageous shipping costs just for the handful of comics we would be able to get from Diamond and then try and work out how to get DC books. It was over.
Since I stopped getting comics from my guy I have gone to a couple of shops to pick up a handful of new books. But that has only been a few times. I still don’t like going out much beyond the most necessary errands so I’ve missed buying plenty of issues and will have to fill in quite a few holes eventually. On the flipside, I haven’t actually missed reading piles of new comics. While I still enjoy Daredevil, Superman, and the stuff I was reading regularly, it’s been easy to let keeping up with stuff slide. I had pictured spending hours filling out orders with Midtown comics or some other website where I could get a subscription of some kind but that never happened for many reasons, laziness, lack of desire, depression, whatever you want to call it, I didn’t do that.
Finally in August I filled out an order with DBCS for October release comics. This first order was a test to see if I wanted to keep going through them. It was easy and the price was great. The order arrived tonight and due to how great the whole process was, if I decide to keep buying new comics I’ll definitely be going with them. There is something wonderful about getting a box of comics in the mail. I decided to wait until after work and dinner to open it and really savor the moment.
Opening the box was a joy. They packaged everything really well. All the comics, magazines and digests were bagged and the comics boarded. Everything was surrounded by foam to hold it in place and prevent anything from getting dented, bent or crushed. On top of the pile were a couple of Archie digests. Under that were the comics, followed by a couple of magazines and finally the Previews catalog. A new copy of Previews is a little magical, I mean how could you not love looking through a catalog filled with comics, toys and games?
Opening that box was like reuniting with old friends, Archie, The Flash, and Alfred E Newman were all there. Sure, I have tons of unread old and new comics, but as a collector there is something special about brand new comics. As a lifelong comic collector, I’m always chasing that rush of buying some new adventure fresh off the newsstand. This also means I’ve got decisions to make, and sooner rather than later, but for the rest of tonight I’m just gonna be a happy guy on new comic day.
The Super Blog Team Up is back and bigger than ever. A group of like minded Bloggers and Podcasters have banded together to talk and write about pop culture expanded universes. What are expanded universes you ask? Well it all starts with a franchise of some kind, whether it be a movie, TV show, book (or comic book), you name it, that eventually become so popular that the stories branch out to other media or forms of entertainment. It could be a movie that other stories are written in novels, or a toy line that also had a cartoon series and a comic book. I think you get the picture. We’ve all picked different franchises to write and talk about. Please take a look at all the wonderful contributors links at the end of this piece, I’m sure you’ll find some fascinating and wonderful blogs and podcasts.
I’ve chosen Indiana Jones for the universe that I wanted to write about. I’m old enough to have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theaters and still remember the fear and revulsion I felt when Indy and Satipo entered the cave at the beginning of the movie and they had spiders crawling all over them. I have loved the Indiana Jones films my entire life and yet I know very little about the broader Indiana Jones Universe. I’ve never played the role playing game, I’ve never read any of the novels. Heck I’ve never even seen all of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles! My brother and I had a couple of the toys so we certainly had our own adventures but that is neither here nor there. So what made me choose the swashbuckling pulp hero of eighties cinema?
Well in the past few years I have picked up the Marvel movie adaptations for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade. Most recently I started working on putting together a complete set of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, also from Marvel comics. The comic series was released between January 1983 and March 1986. This means that it was released well after the movie Raiders of the Ark – 1981, and well before The Last Crusade – 1989. Temple of Doom was released in 1984 and the movie adaptation came out that summer as well. I do not have the whole Further Adventures series but in the issues I have read there are definitely some incongruities between the events of the comics and the third and *cough* *mutter* fourth movies.
It is actually those incongruities that can make expanded universes so much fun for fans to explore and discuss. We love to compare what is considered canon and then pick apart everything that is “wrong” or “made up” in some other story. We love to look at adaptations of stories and find the differences or extras. In fact, a podcast I really dig, “I Read Movies”, does exactly that. Paxton Holly reads movie novelizations and then discusses the differences between the movie and the book. It’s a great time and I highly recommend checking it out. By the way he’s also joined the SBTU gang for this outing so make sure you check out his piece. Simply put it is a lot of fun to get into the worlds of our favorite characters and find them to be fleshed out, wonderful places we can repeatedly visit.
Creators Script and Layout – John Byrne Finished Art – Terry Austin Letter – Joe Rosen Colorist – Bob Sharen Editor – Louise Jones EiC – Jim Shooter
That line up reads like Marvel royalty, but what is interesting is that Byrne only wrote the first issue and provided art for the first two. According to Keith Dallas in the “American Comic Book Chronicles – The 1980’s” John Byrne did not like the editorial process imposed by Lucasfilm. After completing the first issue and finishing the plotting the second one Lucasfilm requested changes to the already approved story. John Byrne left the series at that point and the second issue was completed without him.
That is certainly one of the challenges involved with expanded universes, the owners of the property can be very particular about the stories their characters are used in. In the comics industry Byrne is certainly not unique in being challenged by the demands of Lucasfilm. Roy Thomas created the character Jaxxon, a green bunny-like alien, that Han Solo recruits in the first Star Wars comic story after the adaptation of the movie was completed. Lucas apparently did not care for the character and after that initial storyline he was not heard from again until 2018 and has since become the poster child of Star Wars expanded universe eratta. That’s enough about green space bunnies and prickly writers though, let’s get to our hero, Indiana Jones in one of his earliest non-movie adventures.
The story begins at the university where Indy teaches, in his class, where he is practicing his skills with a bullwhip by knocking a cigarette out of one of his student’s mouth. It is quite over the top. Marcus has just come into the room and is horrified but he’s there to bring Indy back to his office to greet a former student Charlie Dunne. As Indy and Charlie exchange pleasantries we see a mysterious figure outside the office window with a very large dagger, that seconds later ends up in Charlie’s back. Charlie had just finished telling Indy he knows where the Ikons of Ikammahen are before he collapses on the desk. Indy doesn’t believe they are real and Charlie never gets the chance to prove him wrong.
Marcus and Indy do not give chase and instead start going through Charlie’s things before they call the police. They find maps and details about what Charlie was working on and right then and there Indy decides he’s off on his next adventure. When Indy arrives in Krikambo (Africa) he meets up with Charlie’s sister Edith. They get back to her hotel room only to find it ransacked and the perpetrators still hanging around. They fiends grab Edith and take off through a window. Indy cold cocks one of the men and then chases the other one who has Edith.
After a couple of panels with Indy following Edith’s kidnapper through the village he ends up in a booby trapped dead end. An Iron door falls in place behind Indy, trapping him, when another door below his feet opens and drops him down a chute into a room crawling with rats. The chase scene is very similar to the one from Raiders where Indy tries to rescue Marion. Indy eventually breaks through a locked wooden door only to find Edith being held prisoner in a throne room filled with gold. In said throne is a very large, well dressed man named Solomon Black. It turns out Mr. Black was expecting Edith’s brother Charlie, not the world renowned adventurer Indiana Jones. He wants the Ikons of Ikammanen that Charlie had discovered. Under the threat of Edith’s life Indy agrees to work with Solomon to find the Ikons.
We cut to a boat with Solomon Black, Indiana Jones, Edith, and a sea captain whose big, bushy, white beard would rival the Gorton Fisherman. They are reviewing the charts and the captain doesn’t believe there is land where Charlie’s maps indicate. Of course he is proven to be incorrect as they eventually reach the location only to find the island packed in dense fog. The island’s coast is littered with wrecked vessels so Indy, Edith and a couple of Solomon’s goons are forced to take a dinghy ashore.
The landing party finds the beach booby trapped with arrows flying at them as soon as they touch the dry ground. One of Black’s henchmen bites it while Indy knocks Edith to the ground. Indy and Edith eventually make it off the beach and into the jungle. Soon afterwards they reach a village in a valley surrounded by mountains. The village appears to be deserted but it is built around a huge structure that to me looks like a giant chimney but is probably a temple.
Indy and Edith explore the village and make their way to the temple and head inside. In the middle of the building is a round room lined with alcoves. In each alcove is a golden figure most of which have looks of extreme anguish and terror on their faces. Indy examines one of the figures pulling it from its resting place. When he does this it breaks at the ankles and human bones fall out. Before Indy even gets the chance to be horrified he is struck from behind. When he wakes up he’s tied to a chain, with Edith, suspended over a hole in the floor. Below them molten gold. In the room are several men dressed in ceremonial garb, waiting to lower their prisoners to their death and turn them into golden Ikons of Ikammahen!
What an ending! This is exactly what I would want in an Indiana Jones Adventure. Indy has to leave his dull, but necessary, work at the university in order to find a mysterious treasure. Throughout his journey he encounters one peril after another. Joining him for the fun is a beautiful woman. As an adventure story is a perfect fit for a comic book. Turning the story into a serial means the author can stretch it out, introduce new challenges along the way and end the first couple of issues with a cliffhanger keeping the reader engaged, wanting to buy the next issue to see how Indy escapes. Is there a better way to sell a comic book?
Even with all that awesomeness, there are a couple of flaws. The art, while excellent, suffers a bit in my mind because all the characters look like typical John Bryne characters. There is not a lot of uniqueness to them. The highlight of the art is once Indy gets into his adventuring gear, i.e. the leather jackets and fedora, he really does shine. The fact that Edith gets kidnapped and needs to be saved two minutes after meeting Indy is a little bit much with the whole female character needing to be rescued by the big, strong man. Overall though it is a really well done, pulp style adventure.
Creators Plot and Script – David Michelinie Pencils – Kerry Gammill Inks – Sam Dela Rosa Letterer – Joe Rosen Editor – Louise Jones EiC – Jim Shooter
I want to talk about this issue for a couple of reasons, only one of which is that I don’t have issue #2 to discuss and finish the previous story. Actually the reason I want to look at this one is that it has a bit more of an Indiana Jones feel to it than the one John Byrne wrote in my opinion.
The story begins with Indiana breaking into a French monastery in order to retrieve an artifact. There is a group of thieves that are posing as monks into order to cover up their operations stealing treasure and smuggling it to parts unknown. Indy gets what he came for but his escape does not go to plan as the gang of the thieves catch him in the act.
Once he is home safe and sound he learns from Marcus that the paper he grabbed to wrap his prize artifact in is actually a map that could lead them to the fabled people of Shintay. Marcus tells Indy that the Shintay are a legend, a tribe of people that left Atlantis and settled in sub Saharan Africa. Their conversation is interrupted by none other than star reporter Marion Ravenwood. After a small lovers spat Marion invites herself on Indy’s quest to see where the map takes them.
Once they are in Africa they are forced to continue their journey into the jungle without guides as all the hired hands joined an expedition that came though just before Indy and Marion arrived. In the depths of the jungle the raft that they are on is attacked by a pissed off hippo. Using his whip Indy is able to get Marion and himself to safety just to end up in a tree with a giant boa constrictor above them and hungry crocodiles below them. They swing away from those monsters but end up in quicksand. They are rescued though by the men from the mysterious expedition that hired all the help from the village.
The rescue is almost too good to be true and in fact is. Indy and Marion are brought back to the camp where they clean up and are offered dinner and a tent to spend the night. Indy is a bit suspicious and snoops around the camp when everyone appears to have gone to bed.
He discovers a tent filled with supplies that after a little poking around are in reality Nazi ammunition and not the medicals supplies the crates are labeled with. Just as Indy figures this out his hosts discover him and bum-bum-ba they are in their full Nazi uniforms. Lousy tricksters. Indy creates a distraction with his lantern, grabs Marion from their tent and gets out of the camp as quickly as possible. The find a small cave to hide in while the Nazi’s search for them. They are not alone in the cave though and the issue closes with a growling beast making its presence known as the Nazi search party passes by.
This story really has quite a few elements that really stand out and make it an excellent tale. First the issue begins with Indy already in the middle of a caper. The reader does not know how he got there or what he’s doing but we sure are along for the ride. It’s an action packed opening that really grabs you right away.
Marion shows up in this issue, but she is not in need of rescue or saving, instead she puts herself in the adventure working as Indy’s equal, a partner. When she’s in danger in the river later in the story Indy is as well. Instead of just Indy saving her and moving on, he is saving both of them and things keep getting worse until they both need help from the Nazi explorers.
Finally the antagonists are Nazis just like the first and third movies. Also like those movies there is a politeness to the adversaries because they are treasure hunters first and foremost and then evil would be world conquerors. All in all the characters in this issue are more dynamic and interesting then the one dimensional ones from the first issue. The story is another good pulp adventure that ends with a cliffhanger that really keeps the reader interested. Both stories are classic Indiana Jones adventures that I really want to find the next issues of so I can see how Indy, Edith and Marion get out of the jams they are in.
That wraps up my entry into the expanded universe of Indiana Jones. I cannot wait to get back out to the dollar bins and comic shows to see if I can track down the remaining issue of the series that I’m missing. Back in 1983 reading these comics off the newsstand would have been a great way for young kids and comic collectors to relive Indiana’s adventures while they waited for the Temple of Doom to be released.
Finally I want to Charlton Hero for leading the charge and the great graphics he provided for all us SBTU-ers. I also want to thank Between the Pages for coming up with the Expanded Universe idea for this event. It was fun writing this piece and working with the SBTU community.
Now, if you enjoyed this look at Indiana Jones beyond the movies I would like to direct your attention to the other entries in the Super Blog Team Up look at expanded universes, just click the links below to go on another amazing adventure!
Normally on this blog I write about the comic books that I read. I do it mostly as a journal but I also hope that there is the chance that someone else might read it and enjoy it. I’m writing this piece though in an effort to express my feelings of sadness and loss after hearing that Reggie, podcaster extraordinaire, has passed away.
I first discovered Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill through the #besteventever “Eclipso: The Darkness Within” article on the Retroist website. I listened to their podcast entry for the event and was hooked from that very first episode. Here were two guys talking about something I loved, comics. They obviously researched everything they talked about and had a great re pore. Their work was tight and kept the listener entertained. That was in June of 2017. Over the course of the next nine months I listened to every episode of their podcast and am still a loyal listener.
Reggie had a great voice for podcasting. It was a voice that was fun to listen to. He sounded confident, smart, and passionate. It wasn’t just his voice though. There was something about the way that he and Chris talked on the show. They cared, and still do care, about whatever the subject was whether it was Fredric Wertham, the Doom Patrol, or Shade the Changing Man. No matter what the topic was you could tell it was something they treasured and wanted to share it with anyone who would listen. That came through in every episode.
I wrote to them fairly regularly to tell them how much I liked the show. I offered up my own stories about the comics they featured, tried to provide some feedback, but generally I just wanted to reach out to let them know I was listening. The first time that Reggie read one of my email messages on the show I was over the moon. It made me feel like I was now part of the club. It made me feel like if I ever had the chance to meet Reggie or Chris that we could be great friends.
As time passed I developed some kind of relationship with Reggie and Chris, or at least what constitutes a relationship between people who have only communicated over email or messages on Twitter. One day Reggie reached out and asked if I was interested in being on his show where he was examining what it means to be a collector. I jumped at the offer. For me it was an opportunity to actually talk to Reggie and let him know how much I enjoyed his work. When the day finally came I was thrilled and nervous but Reggie made me feel comfortable and walked me through the whole process to put me at ease. He was really great that day and I was fortunate to have someone so skilled walk me through my first podcast.
Today, as I was reading what people were saying on Facebook and Twitter, I learned that my case isn’t so unique. Reggie had tons of fans and friends whose lives he touched, just like mine, in many different ways. He was someone who loved life and the people in it whether they grew up with him or listened to him on his shows. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and friends and my prayers tonight are with them as they work through this. My thoughts are with Chris, his podcasting partner and his friend.
As I was wrapping up work I wanted to hear Reggie’s voice again so I downloaded the Cosmic Treadmill episode where Reggie and Chris talked about Sheldon Mayer and the comic Sugar and Spike. I picked that one because it is one of my favorite episodes of their show. Reggie made a comment once that he didn’t quite understand why I liked that episode so much. Listening to it again today I can tell you why I liked it so much. It is because Chris and Reggie are a little looser than normal, they swear a little (which they don’t normally), and they have a lot of fun with the material. They made all the work they put into the show just seem so easy and effortless in that one set and I loved it.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am working on putting together a collection of Groo comics. That collection includes more than just issues of Groo the Wanderer though, I also buy comics and magazines with Groo on the cover. Sergio Aragones is a master of one-page gags and Groo is a perfect character to be the subject of those cartoons. One place that Aragones and Groo were featured fairly regularly was the covers of Marvel Age, the Official Marvel News Magazine.
Groo was on the cover of Marvel Age seven times, and thanks to Mike’s Amazing World I’ve learned that those covers were all released right around Christmas. Issue 49 was released on January 6th, 1987, and issue 96 was released on November 20th, 1990, and all the rest were released in December. That explains why all of the issues except issue 24 are Christmas jokes, something I didn’t notice until I had all my issues together in one spot.
I’m missing two of the covers but since I recently got all the issues I do have together I wanted to take a closer look at them. Issue 24, above, is the first time Groo was on the cover of Marvel Age. The article in the magazine talks about how Groo left Pacific Comics and came to Marvel with a bit of story preview of what Sergio And Mark Evanier have planned for the first couple of issues.
The article claims that Mark and Sergio wanted to see Groo reach a wider audience, which at the time meant newsstand sales along with the direct market. It indicates that they left Pacific because they only did direct sales. Mark Evanier has a slightly different explanation in the Groo Special released by Eclipse that involves Pacific and how they were unable to produce the comics anymore. Either way, Marvel published Groo for 120 issues along with two original graphic novels and a prestige format reprint series, so I suspect the relationship between Marvel and the Groo creative team was a pretty good one.
The cover for issue 49 is the first of many Christmas gags featuring the inept barbarian. Groo looks rather menacing as an intruder comes down the chimney. His katana is drawn and the light reflected from the moon shines through the frosty window. It’s a good joke that gets right to the heart of everything Groo does, that is wreck or destroy everything around him.
The article in this issue is a good piece on how successful Groo has been at Marvel and all the things that Sergio and Mark are working on besides the monthly comic. It also previews the upcoming graphic novel “The Death of Groo”. There are some great scenes from the comic and there is a neat little bit about the secret message that Mark tries to get into each issue.
The holiday cover for issue 61 features a bunch of kids in tears because they have no tree to hang their ornaments on because Groo used the branches for a fire and roasting skewers for his dinner. The best part of the gag is the nonplussed look on Groo’s face as he eats his cooked lizard. The only bit about Groo in this particular issue is in the last feature of the magazine, an open letter from Santa about the new Marvel graphic novels. Santa is requesting that Marvel send a bunch of copies of the Death of Groo to his workshop because the barbarian’s adventures are a big hit with the elves.
This cover is probably the sweetest of the bunch. There is a huge cast of the characters from Groo, including Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, and Stan Sakai in the back row all singing Christmas Carols. Well, all except Groo who cannot read and is holding his carol booklet upside down. My favorite thing about this cover though is Ruferto in the lower-left corner with his “lips” pursed as if he is whistling. It is a cute image and anytime dogs appear to have lips I find it funny.
The Groo news in this issue covers two really cool topics. The first is the reprint collection that is going to be released that will contain the original Pacific comics, the Eclipse special, and lots of other Groo stories. Sergio and Mark also promise lots of extras and seem excited to get Groo into a prestige format book. The other news is that there is going to be a new original graphic novel, The Life of Groo. This will be a follow up to the successful Death of Groo released the previous year.
With this cover we see Groo doing what he does best, wreaking havoc at the most inappropriate time. It is an image that is reminiscent of the margin gags Sergio is famous for doing for years in Mad magazine. This is the last issue of Marvel Age featuring Groo that I have. Hopefully, at some up-coming comic show or dollar bin I’ll be able to track down 96 and 109.
There is no news to announce in this issue, instead there is a two-page piece that gives a nice publishing history of Groo from Pacific all the way up to the Groo graphic novels. It is a nice reminder that Groo is still going strong, in fact, the same month this issue of Marvel Age came out Groo #62 was on the stand, just over halfway through it’s run with Marvel comics!
Groo is the only comic that I collect where I put such effort into collecting the comics and related items. It is a series I have read and enjoyed for most of my life. It is a rare book that has always been creator-owned and has been published by five different publishers. You would think that by now Sergio and Mark would have run out of stories. Maybe they have, the last new stories published by Dark Horse, were released in 2017, but I wouldn’t bet my cheese dip on it.
I’ll close with the house ad promoting the double-sized Groo the Wanderer #50 featured on the back cover of Marvel Age 73.
Back here I told a story about how I was at the right place at the right time when a dealer said the comics in several boxes were now all a dollar a piece instead of their marked price. The were mostly variant covers of recent Marvel boxes, Batman & Spider-man comics, but also mixed in were various, mostly older comics, seeded in to get the buyer to look through the whole bin and spend more money. I was one of those buyers and I walked away with a big pile of comics I am quite pleased to now own.
The copy of X-Men #137 pictured here was one of those books. This particular comic is in pretty rough shape. The staples are off center hence the poor cropping and visible spin. There is some ink on the advertisement on the back cover. There are plenty of visible creases and tears, but despite all that it is still a very readable copy of X-Men 137. It is still the Death of Jean Grey, the end of the Dark Phoenix story, and above all an excellent issue.
This is Chris Claremont and John Byrne at their best. The Dark Phoenix saga is one of the greatest stories in modern comics. It is something all other X-men stories are compared to. The story has been reprinted dozens of times, heck I own several of them. As a collector though there is something very exciting about coming across this comic in a dollar bin. There is a lot to be said to be able to take this comic out of the bag and reading it. I’m able to feel the old paper, to smell that “old comic smell”. Reading the single issue like this I can reminisce about what it must have been like reading fresh off the newsstand. The whole thing is an experience and I’m glad I was able to do that!