Friday, October 31, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Cover for Space Man (Dell, 1962 series) #9


Cover for Space Man (Dell, 1962 series) #10

I've saved the best for last. The two beauties pictured above were the last books I bought at the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con. They are SPACE MAN #9 from July 1972 (top) and SPACE MAN #10 from October 1972 (bottom). SPACE MAN was published by Dell Comics and debuted in FOUR COLOR COMICS #1253 in 1962. He received his own title (beginning with issue #2) in May of that year. The series ran nine issues (#2-10) ending in October 1972. Issue #9 reprints FOUR COLOR COMICS #1253 while #10 reprints SPACE MAN #2, so I effectively have the last two issues and the first two issues of this series.

These books are in gorgeous condition. The covers really pop and my lovely wife Judy thinks I should have them framed and hung on the wall of my man cave. That's not a bad idea.

As mentioned above, these were the last two books I bought at the con. I stopped at a booth with comics for sale and asked the dealer if he had any Dell and/or Gold Key comics for sale.

"I've got two of them right here," he said, immediately going to a long box where the two issues of SPACE MAN were. "They're the only ones I brought."

He wanted $25.00 apiece for them. I asked him if he'd take $20.00 each.

"Cash?" he asked.

"You bet, " I replied.

"Deal."

I gave him the money and walked away with two really cool comics at a fair price. If the dealer had brought more material like this, I would have certainly spent more money with him but as is, I'm thrilled to have these books.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TSUI HARK'S VAMPIRE HUNTERS


I was first introduced to the cinema of Tsui Hark in the late 1980s when my buddy Kelly Greene and I saw the Hong Kong sword and sorcery/fantasy/action/adventure film ZU WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (1983) sometime in the late 1980s at the long gone but never to be forgotten Dobie Theater. We were both blown away by the over-the-top, wildly choreographed and orchestrated sword fights, martial arts battles and the utterly baroque and bizarre visual style of the film. Did it all make any sense? Hell no. Did we love it? You betcha.

Tsui Hark, who graduated from the University of Texas in 1975 (I enrolled there in 1974 so we were on campus at the same time), began his career as a Hong Kong filmmaker in 1979 with THE BUTTERFLY MURDERS. He's still making films today with his latest production, THE TAKING OF TIGER MOUNTAIN, released this year. In between, he's produced an astonishing body of work as a director, writer and producer of some of the greatest Hong Kong action films ever made. Kelly and I saw Hark's PEKING OPERA BLUES (1986) and his magnum opus ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1991), ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA II (1992) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA III (1993). What, no ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA WALKS AMONG US?

Hark and fellow Hong Kong filmmakers John Woo and Ringo Lam formed a holy trinity of action directors whose films ranged from modern day shoot-em-ups to sword and sorcery fantasias set in distant worlds and times. These films began to make their way to the U.S. in the late '80s and early '90s and when they landed in Austin, they were screened at either the Dobie Theater or on the UT campus at either Hogg Auditorium or the Texas Union theater.

Kelly and I made a point of seeing as many of these films as we could. We became instant fans of this bold, brash, go-for-broke style of cinema. It was something fresh, new and invigorating and we loved almost every film we saw. I often thought that discovering those Hong Kong films in the late '80s and early '90s was akin to what film fans must have experienced in the '60s when the Italian made Spaghetti Western films hit urban cinemas across the nation.

Tsui Hark himself was on hand in a UT classroom following the screening of one of his films and for the life of me, I cannot remember which one it was (Kelly, when you read this, if you remember the film, help me out). I do recall that Kelly and I attended the screening and then hustled over to the building where Hark was scheduled to hold court. I remember him being a short, slender man who was very gracious and patient with his fans and the multitude of questions and comments we all had to offer.

I found a copy of TSUI HARK'S VAMPIRE HUNTERS in a thrift store the other day for a buck. I hadn't seen a Hong Kong action film in many years and I figured it would be fun to revisit this genre that I found so richly rewarding those many years ago. Besides, the price was right.

Tsui Hark is credited with writing and producing VAMPIRE HUNTERS (released in Hong Kong as THE ERA OF VAMPIRES) while the directing credit goes to Wellson Chin. It's not as good as 100% Hark but it's a serviceable exemplar of the kind of horror/action/comedy film that could only be made in Hong Kong.

Yes, there are vampires in this film, but they're vastly different than the kind found in European and American films. There are also zombies (and a zombie wrangler to boot!). The plot concerns four young warriors and their ancient mentor who devote themselves to battling the undead wherever they find them in 17th century China. There's plenty of sword fights, marital arts battles,and bodies spin through the air courtesy of some good-but-not-great wire work. There are pretty girls, blood and guts and a few laughs here and there. But it's far from the greatness of the early Hark masterpieces. Maybe if the master himself had directed it, VAMPIRE HUNTERS would have been a better film. As it is, it's a fun movie and I enjoyed spending an afternoon with a celluloid friend whose acquaintance I'd missed over the years.

If you're a fan of Hong Kong cinema, check out TSUI HARK'S VAMPIRE HUNTERS. If you're a newcomer, you might want to start with some of the earlier films listed above before watching this one. You'll enjoy it more with some experience and exposure to the wild, wild world of Hong Kong action films under your belt.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HUSBANDS AND WIVES


I watched Woody Allen's HUSBANDS AND WIVES (1992) for the second time the other day. The first time I saw this film was when it was released in 1992. I don't recall liking the film very much at that time but when I watched it again last week for the first time in twenty-two years, I found it to be a singularly unpleasant film.

It pains me to write that about a Woody Allen movie. While I haven't seen all of his films, I've seen a lot of them and for a long stretch of years, I made it a point to see every new Allen film in the theater upon its' release. I stopped doing that several years ago and I've missed most of his output of the last dozen or so years. I'm sure I've missed some great films. I'm equally sure I've missed some bad ones.

It's the law of averages. When you write and direct a new movie every year for the past 40+ years as Allen has, you're bound to hit an occasional home run every now and then just as you're bound to strike out every so often. HUSBANDS AND WIVES is one big swing and a miss.

The film focuses on two married couples, Gabe and Judy Roth (Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, respectively) and Jack and Sally (Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis). At the beginning of the film, Jack and Sally announce to Gabe and Judy that they are separating. This bit of news causes some uneasiness to come between Gabe and Judy. Jack soon takes up with Sam (Lysette Anthony), a young, blond bimbo, while Judy plays matchmaker for Sally by introducing her to Michael (Liam Neeson), a handsome young graphic designer. The trouble is, Judy is secretly in love with Michael and wants the budding relationship between the two to fail.

Meanwhile, Gabe, who teaches writing at Columbia University, becomes enamored with one of his young students, Rain (Juliette Lewis). He thinks she has real talent as a writer and he shows her the manuscript he's been working on. Rain, it turns out, is some kind of magnet for older men, with a series of affairs under her belt.

In the end, Jack and Sally get back together. Gabe and Judy divorce. Judy and Michael get married. Gabe is tempted to sleep with Rain but resists the urge. He's left alone, the odd man out, at the end of the film.

My problems with the film are many. To begin with, Allen shoots everything with a handheld camera that's constantly in herky-jerky motion. In almost every scene, his camera whirls around rooms and open spaces, darting here, zooming there, sometimes focusing on the character that's speaking, sometimes leaving them off screen. There are also multiple quick, jump cuts within scenes. All of this visual hugger mugger is, of course, meant to reflect the inner states of the characters. They're in turmoil over the disruptions their lives and relationships are undergoing. But the effect is tiresome and wearying after a very short while. To make matters worse, Allen does lock down his camera for scenes where the main characters address the camera straight on as subjects being interviewed by an unseen documentary film maker. Who this person is and why he wants to document the lives of such screwed up, morally reprehensible characters, is never explained. It's a narrative device that gives Allen (and the audience), a chance to catch our breaths from the visual roller coaster and let the characters have their say about their situations and philosophies.

The three main women in the film, Farrow, Davis and Lewis, are all, to my eye, aggressively unattractive. I've never understood Allen's attraction to Farrow and Judy Davis, while a talented actress, is far from attractive. Juliette Lewis has a larger forehead than Paul Begala and is ready made to play the part of Exeter in a remake of THIS ISLAND EARTH. I've always thought Lewis gives off a major skank vibe in every film I've seen her in.

HUSBANDS & WIVES contains very few laughs. Allen doesn't leaven the marital train wrecks on display with much humor. There are some jokes, but they're not good or memorable ones.

Surprisingly, HUSBANDS & WIVES received two Academy Award nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Davis) and Best Original Screenplay (Allen). Neither one won an Oscar but the film did receive much critical acclaim at the time. Go figure.

Finally, HUSBANDS & WIVES, is yet another Woody Allen film about extremely successful, uber-neurotic New Yorkers who lead such insular lives that it's hard to relate to any of the characters as real people. The themes of adultery, marital infidelity, failed relationships, unfulfilled desires and thwarted passions, are once again front and center. Allen seems obsessed with this material along with his increasingly creepy attraction to younger women. Hey Woody, if you're going to have a relationship with someone younger than you, at least pick someone better looking than Juliette Lewis.

I still admire Woody Allen. Films such as ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, rank as some of my all-time favorite movies. He is truly one of the great American filmmakers of both the 20th and 21st centuries. But he can't produce a masterpiece every time. HUSBANDS & WIVES is a stinker.

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 10

Cover for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Western, 1964 series) #12

I scored a nice copy of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA #12 (May, 1968) at Wizard World. This is one of several nice Gold Key books I got at a nice price from a very friendly dealer. Based on the ABC-TV series of the same name, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA ran for 16 issues beginning in December 1964 and ending in April 1970. It outlived the Irwin Allen produced television series by a couple of years.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA premiered on ABC on September 14th, 1964 on Monday night. It moved to Sunday night for the second season and remained there until September 1968. The first season episodes were broadcast in black and white while all subsequent episodes were in color. I have the complete Season One on DVD as well as the feature film that the series was based on.

VOYAGE was one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid. It started out as a fairly straightforward science fiction adventure series with some elements of espionage and intrigue. By the time it was over, it had become a "monster-of-the-week" show with the underwater monsters becoming more and more ludicrous. Still, I loved it and I love the comic books based on this fondly remembered program.

Friday, October 24, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 9

Cover for Turok, Son of Stone (Western, 1962 series) #38

At the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con, I stopped into a very small, cramped booth where a guy was selling vintage comics. He didn't have a very large inventory but I figured it was worth a try.

"Got any Dell or Gold Key comics?" I asked.

"I've got an issue of TUROK. Want to see it?"

That exchange is verbatim and it's fascinating (and slightly troubling). One, the guy knew his stock. He knew he had exactly one issue of TUROK SON OF STONE in one of his long boxes and he knew exactly where it was. And it was the ONLY Dell or Gold Key comic he had for sale. The only one!

He apologized for not having more of the comics I was looking for. "I've got more of those at my shop but space is limited, booths are expensive and I've got to bring what I know, or think I know, will sell," he explained.

I bought the comic, of course. If he'd had more Dell and Gold Key titles, I would have bought more. But this beauty, TUROK SON OF STONE #38 from March, 1964 is now mine. I was nine-years-old when this issue hit the stands. I don't recall buying it then but I did buy TUROK on a semi-regular basis. It's one of my all-time favorite comic book series. My inner nine-year-old kid still loves the concept of American Indians and dinosaurs thrown together in a lost world. Great stuff!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MAJOR WEST, MEET MAJOR WEST


The year was 1965. The network was CBS. The month was September. On Wednesday, September 15th at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, LOST IN SPACE premiered. Among the cast was Mark Goddard who played Major Don West. Then, two nights later, on Friday, September 17th and also at 6:30 p.m. Central, THE WILD, WILD WEST debuted with Robert Conrad in the title role as Major James West.

It's fun to imagine that perhaps the worlds of THE WILD, WILD WEST and LOST IN SPACE were somehow linked with Major Don West being a descendant of Major James West.

Oh, and let's not forget HONEY WEST starring Ann Francis which also debuted on Friday, September 17th on ABC-TV at 8:00 p.m. Central. Maybe she was also a member of the television West family.

Thanks for playing TV Trivia Time. We have some lovely parting gifts for you and our fabulous home version for you and your family to enjoy.

See you next time!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

HEY KIDS! IT'S TV TRIVIA TIME!


Hands up if you remember when television sets looked like this! Our first color television was a Zenith model very similar to this one. We bought it in 1967 from Bond's Television on West Lynn in Austin, Texas. What fond memories this picture brings. But enough reminiscing. Let's get to the trivia.

On one network during the same year, the same month, hell, the same week (!), two brand new television series made their debuts. The shows were totally unrelated in every way but one. They both had a character with this name.

Think you know the answer? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

THE RETURN OF THE DISCONTINUED MAN


Time is broken in Mark Hodder's new novel, THE RETURN OF THE DISCONTINUED MAN (2014). It's the fifth book in his Burton & Swinburne sf/steam punk/time travel series. The series is comprised of the following books: THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING-HEELED JACK (2010), THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN (2011), EXPEDITION TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON (2012) and THE SECRET OF ABDU EL YEZDI (2013). Of those, I've read SPRING-HEELED JACK and ABDU EL YEZDI, as well as his stand alone science fiction novel  A RED SUN ALSO RISES (2012).

The series relates the adventures of Sir Richard Francis Burton and his friend Algernon Swinburne, real people who lived in England during the Victorian age. The stories also include appearances by other real people from history, a tradition which continues in DISCONTINUED with guest stars H.G. Wells and the late sf author Mick Farren.

The Burton and Swinburne novels also rely heavily on time travel and alternate histories and Hodder once again returns to those tropes here. At the beginning of the book, Burton experiences hallucinatory visions of other time lines and other realities which all share one common event: an experiment in 1860 using technology scavenged from a time travel suit from the future. In one of these alternate time lines, Burton travels to the far distant future of 2032 where his consciousness inhabits the body of one Edward Oxford, a traveler from the future whose journey to the Victorian Age in  SPRING HEELED JACK, caused time to split into an infinity of parallel time lines.

Burton and Swinburne, along with a team of chrononauts, outfit a dirigible with a time machine and set off into the future to set things right. They make stops along the way in 1914, 1968 and 2020 before reaching their final destination, the world of 2032, a nightmare dystopia of haves and have-nots ruled by the iron fist of a mechanical despot. Burton discovers that Oxford's consciousness has taken up residence within the body of the mechanical man and the two engage in a fight to the death.

During the battle, Burton is shown his real history, the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton as it really occurred in history. It's nowhere near as exciting and dramatic as the adventures that he has experienced in these novels. Spoiler Alert: Burton dies (at least his body does) but his consciousness is transferred to the mechanical man and the novel ends with the new Burton and a cloned Swinburne looking out over the landscape of 2032.

Where does this series go from here? Will Burton and Swinburne remain in the future and explore this brave new world or will they return to their original place in time? Your guess is as good as mine but you can bet I'll read the next episode in this series.

DISCONTINUED MAN is a page turner full of cinematic sweep and an epic vision of possible futures. The ideas are well developed, the action fast and furious when it comes and there's just enough humor to lighten some of the darker moments. There are too many secondary characters clogging the plot however. While they do serve to advance the narrative, none of them are given enough space and time to be as fully developed as Burton and Swinburne are. And, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I have to admit that it does all seem a bit too familiar. Hodder seems obsessed with telling as many different time travel variations involving Burton, Swinburne, et al. as he possibly can. They're novel and exciting but it may be time to move this series into an entirely new direction. Will that happen?

Only time will tell.

Monday, October 20, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 8

Cover for Space Family Robinson (Western, 1962 series) #37

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #37 from October, 1973. This science fiction series began in December, 1962 and lasted 49 issues before ending in October 1976. The "Lost in Space" tag line was added to the title when the Irwin Allen television series of the same name debuted on CBS TV in 1965. The comic book and the TV show had one main similarity: a family named Robinson that was lost in space. But the "lost" Space Station One in the comics was radically different than the Jupiter 2 on television and in the comics, there were only four Robinsons (dad, mom, son & daughter) and none of the supporting cast found on television. Gotta admit I much preferred the comic book version with brilliant, bold painted covers like this one and the always superlative interior artwork by the great Dan Spiegle over the campy, juvenile and just plain stupid television show.

This is one of several nice Gold Key comics that I bought for five bucks apiece from one dealer at the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con. Great comics, great prices. Can't beat that.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 7 OR THE ADVENTURE OF THE HIDDEN COMIC BOOK

Cover for Four Color (Dell, 1942 series) #1245

Pictured above is DELL FOUR COLOR COMICS #1245 featuring THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. This issue was published in late 1961 and it's the second appearance of the durable sleuth in the long running Four Color series. I scored this beauty at the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con but finding it took some time and effort. Allow me elucidate Watson.

I stopped at one of the few comic book dealer booths I could find at the convention. There was a nice, friendly guy behind the table and behind him was a wall display of comics. Along the bottom row were some Dell and Gold Key comics that caught my eye. I couldn't get to them though because the entrance to the interior of the booth was blocked by a table full of long boxes. I asked the guy if I could please see the books that had caught my eye and he politely complied.

The books I examined were an issue of Gold Key's HANNA-BARBERA SUPER TV HEROES, a Gold Key issue of SUPERCAR and a Dell issue of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. HB SUPER TV HEROES had a price tag of $75.00, too rich for my blood. SUPERCAR had a price tag of $75.00 also. Again, a nice looking book and one I'd certainly like to have but not at that price. THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW issue was in incredibly rough shape yet the dealer wanted the same $75.00 for it that he was asking for the other two books. Three books, three different conditions, same price each. Not for me.

Still, I didn't want to give up. I figured if this guy had these comics on display, he might have some other lower priced goodies in stock so I asked him if he had any other Dell and Gold Key comics. He did but he first had to disappear under his table, move several other boxes of comics and resurface with a short box in his hands. He proceeded to pull out and hand to me no more than about a dozen Dell and Gold Key comics. He said they were all he'd brought to the show, that he had many more back at his shop and that his shop has a website where those books are posted for sale. All well and good but I wanted to buy something in the here and now. After all, that's what I'd come to Comic Con to do: buy comic books.

I finally settled on the comic book pictured above. I paid $25.00 for it. It's in very nice shape, I'd never seen it before and as Frank and Mike on AMERICAN PICKERS always say, "the time to buy something you've never seen is when you see it." Truer words have rarely been spoken.

But I would have bought it much sooner if it had been on display instead of hidden in a box under a table where only the dealer could get at it. Lesson learned, Watson? When you don't see what you're looking for at first glance, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes you''ll find a real gem.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"TRACK 'EM FIND 'EM KILL 'EM"


I scored a used Blu Ray copy of THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) for four bucks at a thrift store the other day. I figured I'd take a chance on this one at that price.

For the record, this is the only EXPENDABLES film I've seen. I have not seen EXPENDABLES 1 and EXPENDABLES 3 and I doubt I will. I think one iteration of this franchise is enough for me. However, I still think it would be cool if, following the Kelly Greene/Frank Campbell rule of third sequels that EXPENDABLES 3 be entitled EXPENDABLES WALK AMONG US. Just saying.

You're probably aware of the basic premise of this series. Over-the-hill action stars from the '80s are back in business as a team of professional mercenaries. There are some new faces mixed in with the old and that's where I have a bit of a problem. These guys I know: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. These guys I don't: Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan (the first female member of the team).

The film starts with a bang with an extended action sequence that's like the opening of a James Bond film on steroids. The action just goes on and on. The Expendables attack the fortress of an Asian warlord in an attempt to free a hostage and in the process, pretty much kill everything that moves. The whole thing plays out like an issue of SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS turned up to 11. Their mission completed, Jet Li disappears from the team (and the rest of the film).

There follows some relatively quiet, character development scenes which are soon interrupted by Bruce Willis as a shady government operative who sends Stallone (with a droopy face that rivals Robert Mitchum's mug) and his boys (along with Yu Nan) on a dangerous mission.

An Expendable gets killed early during the mission which makes it personal for these meat heads. Several action set pieces ensue with a terrific tongue-in-cheek, self-referential appearance by Chuck Norris in one sequence. Things come to a bullet strewn climax with a shoot out in a Russian airport (where did that come from?) and a final fight to the death between puffy lipped Stallone and dead eyed Van Damme.

THE EXPENDABLES is a fun, fast paced, action packed movie that never takes itself seriously and neither should you. There's enough sly wink-wink nod-nods to the past screen personas of the major actors to make a fan of '80s action films smile and chuckle. Thousands of rounds of ammunition are expended in gun battles, there's some nifty martial arts fight scenes and things blow up real good. What more could you want?

Friday, October 10, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 6


Pictured here is Marvel Masterworks Atlas Era Heroes Volume 3. It's a beautiful hardcover volume that reprints SUB-MARINER #33-42 from 1954-1955.  The artwork on the Sub-Mariner stories is by the legendary Bill Everett (creator of Prince Namor), while Dick Ayers provides the art on a handful of Human Torch stories. All this and a fact filled introduction by Roy Thomas.

These issues were published by Atlas Comics (formerly Timely, later Marvel) in the mid-1950s during the oh-so-brief revival of the company's big three super-hero characters: The Human Torch, Captain America and Sub-Mariner. None of the books starring these characters caught on with the reading public, although the Sub-Mariner series lasted longer than titles featuring the Torch and Cap.

This was the second book I bought from the dealer selling trade paperbacks at half price at the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con. Originally published in 2008 with a cover price of $60.00, this baby was a steal at half that price. The dust jacket is slightly shop worn but otherwise in entirely acceptable condition for my eyes.

I didn't much care for Bill Everett's artwork when I was a kid. I didn't consider him a bad artist, just someone who didn't draw like Jack Kirby (my all-time favorite comic book artist). You couldn't find two more different and distinctive styles of comic book art than that of Kirby and Everett. Everett 's work had a unique, highly stylized look to it that I now regard as extremely well done and quite attractive to look at. As creator of Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Everett can rightly be called the definitive Subby artist, although I have a slight preference for the work of Gene Colan and John Buscema on the character. Hey, those were the guys drawing the strip when I first started reading it and their versions of the character have always stuck in my mind as pretty darn good.

Still, a big hardcover book full of Bill Everett Sub-Mariner stories (few of which were ever reprinted) is a down right treasure to be enjoyed for many hours to come.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 5

Cover for Mighty Samson (Western, 1964 series) #18

Funny, I just posted an entry here not long ago about the Gold Key comic book series MIGHTY SAMSON and look what I found at Wizard World Austin Comic Con last week! This is issue #18 from May, 1969. Great stuff from a great dealer who gave me a heck of a deal on this comic along with the other two Gold Key comics I've already posted here (LAND OF THE GIANTS and M.A.R.S. PATROL: TOTAL WAR) and a couple more comics I've yet to blog about. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 4


Just so you know, I didn't spend all of my money at Wizard World on Gold Key comics (a lot of it, though, certainly). Case in point, the beauty pictured above.

This handsome hardcover reprints MEN'S ADVENTURES #27-28, CAPTAIN AMERICA #76-78 and HUMAN TORCH #36-38. All of these comics were published by Atlas Comics (later to become Marvel Comics) in 1954 during the very short lived revival of the big three Timely Comics Golden Age super-heroes: Captain America, Sub-Mariner and The Human Torch. The stories feature artwork by such masters as John Romita, Dick Ayers and Bill Everett. There's a nice introduction by Roy Thomas (my all-time favorite comic book writer), a gent who knows a thing or two about golden age comics.

This massive hardcover volume was originally published in 2008 with a retail price point of a whopping $59.99. I scored it for half of that cost from a dealer who had several boxes full of hardcover and trade paperback graphic novels and reprint collections all at half price. I'll post the other book I got from him soon.

Half price books like this one at a con are always a great deal but this guy's stock had been pretty seriously picked over. There were some books that I probably would have purchased if they'd been in better shape. We're talking broken spines and almost loose page signatures. The book pictured here has only moderate wear and the condition is entirely acceptable to me. But bad condition books, even at half price, are still bad condition books and not, in my opinion, a bargain.

Still, there's hours of reading fun to be had in this baby for a very reasonable price.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 3

Cover for M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War (Western, 1966 series) #10

I found a nice copy of M.A.R.S. PATROL: TOTAL WAR #10 (Gold Key comics, August 1969) at Wizard World on Friday. The cover art on this final issue is by George Wilson and I think it's great!

The series began in 1965 and was originally entitled TOTAL WAR. This lasted for two issues (with terrific art by Wally Wood) before the title was changed to M.A.R.S. PATROL: TOTAL WAR for the next eight issues. M.A.R.S. by the way, stood for Marine, Attack, Rescue and Service and each letter in that acronym corresponded to one of the four primary color-coded (red, blue, yellow and green) fighting men that starred in each issue. The four men were a racially diverse team with one member an African American, and another an Asian American. The men fought against the purple clad soldiers of an enemy force that had invaded North America.

M.A.R.S. PATROL offered realistic combat action with a futuristic science fiction flair. I was nine-years-old when I bought that first issue of TOTAL WAR. I flat out loved this series from the get go and when I found this beauty at a fair price at the convention, I had to have it. Great stuff!

"PARDON ME BOY...."


Getting to Wizard World Austin Comic Con this year was a breeze thanks to Austin's Metro Rail commuter rail line. My lovely wife Judy is a part-time employee of Austin Community College so I used her parking pass to park for free in the ACC Highland Mall campus parking lot. From there it was a short walk to the Highland Mall station where I bought a ticket and waited for the train to arrive. I spent the time waiting reading a book and enjoying the beautiful weather. When the train arrived, I boarded, found a seat and continued to read while the train rolled southward to it's final destination, the Austin Convention Center, the site of Wizard World. How convenient is that? I didn't have to fight downtown traffic and pay for a place to park. The train took me right to where I wanted to go. It was quick, easy and cheap. I like that last part!

However, I do wonder about something. Friday was the third time this year I've ridden the Metro Rail train to the Austin Convention Center. Each time I've dutifully paid my fare at the kiosk and received a ticket. Each time, no one from Capitol Metro has ever asked to see my ticket, coming or going. I had the ticket in my pocket, ready to show it to anyone who asks but no one has ever done so. I'm beginning to think that with no ticket verification mechanism (human or mechanical) in place, I can probably ride the train for free the next time I need to use it. And I can't help but think that many commuters are already doing so.

Just how much money is Capital Metro losing by not having some system in place to verify that all riders have paid their fares? I know for a fact that you can't begin to ride a New York City subway without first paying and swiping a ticket at the turnstile. Same with the Underground in London, England. I've ridden both of those public transit systems and there was no way to get on for free to either of them.

I'm not advocating breaking the rules. I think if you're going to ride the train, you should buy a ticket. But if there's no way to enforce that rule, then it may just be all aboard for free for as long as it lasts.

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 2


I didn't know that any toy company had ever produced an action figure of Kamandi. But I found this at Wizard World and just had to have it.

The figure, based on the title character of Jack Kirby's magnificent sf/adventure series KAMANDI: THE LAST BOY ON EARTH was made by Mattel for the Walmart exclusive line of DC Comics 75 Years of Super Power action figures. I collect action figures based on Jack Kirby (my all-time favorite comic book artist) characters. The dealer wanted twenty bucks for this baby but he let me have it for fifteen. Kamandi now has a place of honor on one of my bookshelves alongside other action figures based on Kirby DC characters.


"AND YOUR CHICKS FOR FREE"


I finished reading MONEY FOR NOTHING by Donald E. Westlake Friday morning before heading off to Wizard World Austin Comic Con. This 2003 novel is classic Westlake: a suspense thriller leavened with just the right amount of comedy.

The plot sounds like something straight out of the Hitchcock playbook. An innocent man, Josh Redmont, gets a check in the mail in the amount of $1,000.00. The name on the check is "United States Agent". Josh does his best to find out who this mysterious benefactor is but to no avail. He deposits the check in his bank account. The check clears and Josh is one thousand dollars richer.

The next month, another check arrives, in the same amount, from the same sender. Josh deposits the check as he does all of the subsequent checks he receives in this manner over the course of several years. He's now a family man with a wife and young child and a job at a New York City advertising agency. One day he meets a strange man who tells him that he's with "United States Agent" and it's time that Josh starts earning all of the money that he's been sent.

Josh, of course, has no idea what's going on but it's soon revealed that he was paid to be set up as a sleeper agent by foreign agents who are now ready to "activate" Josh in a nefarious assassination plot that will involve the shooting of a foreign head of state at a ceremony in Yankee Stadium.

Josh's wife and son are held hostage and his apartment becomes a storage depot for crates of AK-47s, foreign military uniforms and one Tina Pausto, a stunning Mata Hari  wannabe. Josh has one ally in this insane tumble down the rabbit hole, Mitchell Robbie, an over-the-top actor from a hole-in-the-wall off-off-off Broadway theater who is also a sleeper agent of "United States Agent".

Can Josh and Mitch outwit the professional killers they're mixed up with, clear their names, prevent the assassination and rescue Josh's family? What do you think? Westlake spins a good yarn here. He keeps things moving at a good clip and while parts of the novel are dark and sinister, the scenes with Mitch and his fellow players provide good comic relief. Josh and Mitch make a good "odd couple" as they must work together to save the day.

MONEY FOR NOTHING is a good, fun read. If you're a fan of Westlake, you know what to expect. If you're not, give MONEY FOR NOTHING a try and see why Westlake has been called the master of the comic crime novel.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 1

Cover for Land of the Giants (Western, 1968 series) #1

Pictured here is LAND OF THE GIANTS #1 (November, 1968),  a Gold Key comic book based on the Irwin Allen produced television series of the same name. The series ran on ABC-TV on Sunday nights from September 1968 to September 1970. I bought this beauty at Wizard World Austin Comic Con yesterday. More treasures to come, plus a longer post about the entire Comic Con experience (good and bad).