The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe is one of my all-time favorite comics. One of the reasons for this is because it was something my brother and I shared growing up. It was a comic we read together. We would read each issue and pass them back and forth. We would debate who were the most interesting characters. We would quiz each other over the details of the entries. It was and still is a shared passion and that means a lot to me.
When I am bin diving it is something I will usually pull just to read without having to dig out the issues from my collection. That was the case with this copy of Vol VI which covers Daily Planet to Doctor Polaris. According to the DC Fandom Wiki, the cover was done by Paris Cullins and Dick Giordano. This issue contains entries for some of my favorite comic characters of all time including Darkseid, Dr. Fate, and Doctor Midnight. For this piece, I wanted to take the time to quickly discuss my favorite entry in the issue.
It was actually a pretty difficult choice. There are five entries for Jack Kirby creations; Darkseid, Deep Six, Demon, DeSAAD, and the psychic entity known as Doctor Bedlam. There are three entries with art by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez; Dark Destroyer, Dart, and the gorgeous Deadman page. Finally, Walt Simonson gets in on the action with an utterly creepy Dr. Phosphorus. While those are all great choices the one I picked as my favorite though is Dawnstar by Jim Sherman.
I know almost nothing about Jim Sherman’s work, but a quick Google search led me to the fact that he co-created the character Dawnstar with Paul Levitz. I also know very little about the character Dawnstar. Legion of Superheroes is one of the comics that my brother collected that I did not get into. What made me choose this one then? Personally I think there is a lot to like about it.
The text entry is not too long but still gives the reader a good deal of information about the character. I certainly learned enough that I would not feel lost if I were to read a comic with Dawnstar.
It is the art that really stands out though. The foreground image really shows off the character. It is an action pose that portrays the character’s ability to fly well. Her hair and fringe on her costume are all flowing upwards as if she is coming in for a landing. The costume is sexy with Native American qualities. Her wings are wonderfully detailed. The background image consists of several images, the primary one being a beautiful portrait of the character. The logo is cool and the yellow in it matches the costume. Altogether it is a dynamite image. For all those reasons it was my favorite entry of the issue.
I was originally going to do a long-form piece on Skateman #1 but after doing a little research on the interwebs I decided to change the focus of my discussion for this comic, but I’ll get to that in a bit. I found a copy of Skateman #1 from Pacific in a dollar bin at the Baltimore Comic-Con and pulled it because it was Pacific Comics. It was Neal Adams and the titular hero was wearing roller skates for crying out loud. I’d never heard of the comic and thought it looked like the kind of fun stuff that I love to find in cheapo bins. The fact that it was a Pacific comic and had Neal Adams name on it were added bonuses.
The title and cover alone are so silly that I was intrigued and eagerly showed off my find to my brother and friends that evening. We all got a kick out of it and it even came up in the Oddity Prodigy podcast we did discussing the convention, which can be found here. One of the most curious things is that Skateman is a registered trademark of Neil Adams and this is prominently displayed on the cover. Now it is widely known that the creators who published their stories with Pacific Comics owned their characters and stories, they do not usually have the trademark right on the cover. To me, this comic was a curious artifact.
After finally reading the comic I learned a couple of things. The first is that this comic is bat-sh*t crazy. The story involves a Vietnam war veteran driven to vigilantism on roller skates due to tragic events in his life. Something else I learned is that even Neil Adams can be a lazy writer when he punishes the main male character by having his girlfriend murdered, the event that drives him to become the hero Skateman. The final thing I learned, and the reason I changed the focus of this discussion, is that this comic is infamous as being considered one of the worst comics ever written.
When I finished reading the story I did some poking around the internet and found this comic has been discussed time and time again on blogs, comic history sites, and even Reddit. The critical opinion of Skateman is that it is an awful comic. The Wikipedia entry alone contains several references to articles where it makes some all-time worst comics lists. I was blown away by how notorious the story was. This comic was all that I thought it would be and quite a bit more.
Skateman was silly and goofy but it was also more violent than I expected and there are a couple of racist phrases that wouldn’t feel out of place in a mature comic but come off as inappropriate in this screw-ball story. The use of the death of the main character’s girlfriend as the impetus for him to become a vigilante is a worn-out trope that wasn’t necessary, even in 1983. Finally the ending is very abrupt and there is no real closer to the story.
Once you get through all the negative aspects of the comic there are a couple of positive things to examine. The art is action-packed and energetic, signature aspects of Adams works when he was at his best. Skateman gives the reader a lot of story in nineteen pages including a detailed origin. Finally I love that the dude on skates takes out several bad guys with nunchucks, my favorite martial arts weapon. Overall I am very happy to own a comic that has such a place in comics history and even better I got it for a buck.
Way back in October of 2019 I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was at the Baltimore Comic-Con with my brother and friends for our annual pilgrimage. On Saturday morning I was bin diving and I happened to walk up to a dealer’s booth and while I was there he announced what he was calling Sunday Fun-Day pricing. He told the people at his booth that the boxes, I happened to be looking through, were now all one dollar, instead of the marked price.
Most of the books were alternate covers of recent Marvel books that he obviously had quite a few of and was trying to move, mostly so he didn’t have to bring them home I suspect. There were also runs over older books, Batman, Spider-man, Deadpool, and such. What really made this worth my time though was that he had seeded the boxes with books from his other bins where the good, more expensive, comics were. It was just enough that a customer would look through all the boxes looking for gems and would probably pull out the stuff he was trying to get rid of as well. That was exactly what I did. I walked away with a huge pile of comics that I was very excited about owning and reading.
The copy of New Mutants #93 pictured here is one of the comics I bought that day. I’m not a fan of this era of the comic and will leave it there as far as negative comments go. I bought this comic because the cover is Liefeld and McFarlane, and I still enjoy McFarlane’s art. It is a pretty cool action shot and the green background is really brilliant. It was also in nice shape, which normally doesn’t matter to me, but it is nice to find good copies of comics, especially when they are one dollar. Even after reading the story I am very pleased to own such a good copy of this comic. Looking around online it looks like non-graded copies sell from anywhere between four and twenty dollars. Based on all that, this was a good pickup for Sunday Fun-Day on Saturday.
This evening I was going through more comics when I came across a very early Donald Duck comic from Gladstone. Now I don’t know about you but when I am sorting and bagging comics it is very hard to not stop and read. In my case it is especially difficult when I get to a Disney Duck book. I started looking through this issue and decided to read the editorial column. In my opinion Gladstone was one of the finest publishers of comics there ever was. They really cared about producing a excellent product and it was especially important for them that the creators were credited. Anyway the point of all this is that I learned something while reading the opening column.
This was written by Gladstone assistant editor and resident letterer Leonard (John) Clark. In the column he is discussing the process of buying Disney stories that were created in Europe. He mentions that the stories could be purchased from Disney or the foreign licensee. The really fascinating thing is that the stories were ordered by code number. This code number is in the left corner of the first panel, see below.
Speaking for myself I have always noticed the code but have never known what it meant. Thanks to Mr. Clark I learned something new thirty four years later.
I was born the same year this comic came out but if I was of comic reading age when it was released there would be no way I could resist buying this from the newsstand. The cover is amazing. Please allow me to elaborate.
First up is the corner box and the logo. Back when comics were sold on a newsstand they were usually lined up in such a fashion that you could only see the corner box. For this reason Marvel comics would put the characters that appeared in the comic in the corner box. That was done so that some young Avengers fan only needed to search for Captain America and Iron Man’s faces to snag a copy of their favorite comic from the shelf. In this case the barbarian warrior brandishing a sword and shield would be enough for me to at least look at this comic.
Now if I had pulled it from the shelf I would have been sucked in with that great logo. Thongor! Go ahead, say that out loud. The name alone makes one think of a muscle bound hero battling evil forces to save a kingdom or princess.
Next there is some fantastic trade dress. “Doom of the Serpent Gods” “Sword vs Sorcery in the Land that Time forgot!!!” These phrases written in bold fonts are exciting and promise the reader some wonderful action, all for twenty cents.
Finally there is the main image. There is a hideous beast about to devour a beautiful woman currently tied to a stake. The hero Thongor has sprung into action and appears ready to drive his massive sword though the creature’s skull. In the background a crowd appears to be cheering for the lizard beast and throwing spears at Thongor. It is electrifying.
All the images, trade dress and logo make this comic irresistible and if I were seven years old again, kneeling on the newspapers, I would have begged my mom for this sword and sorcery adventure.