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.
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
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.
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
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
Writer – Len Wein
Penciller – Paris Cullins
Inker – Dell Barras
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Spanking New Editor – Denny O’Neil
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
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.
Marvel Superspecial Magazine #20
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.
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.