I’ve had an on again / off again habit of buying comic books for as long as I can remember. My earliest purchases were Archie Comics and ones based on cartoon shows I’d watch such as Tail Spin or DuckTales. I really took nothing from these comics aside from Archie, which taught me to take the crown off my head before I leave Burger King, and that there’s no point in choosing between Betty and Veronica. If a scrawny, sweater-vest wearing ginger could balance a love triangle so nicely, why couldn’t I?
I’d move on to your typical superhero stories from the likes of Superman, Batman, or the X-Men, and as I got older took an interest in more adult-oriented series, most notably Garth Ennis’ work on Preacher and The Boys.
I’ve seriously cut down comic book spending in recent years, but have gained fast appreciation for science fiction comic series focusing on stand-alone tales as opposed to books with extended story arcs. Chalk that up to a short attention span if you must, but it relates to my love of shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits that explore a wide range of topics and give many different writers a chance to tell their story.
These types of comics, which I pull mainly from the Silver Age, can be highly collectible. This means I can’t just pull them out of their protective sheets in a comic store and flip through them. I use the cover to give me a good taste for what’s in store.
I’ll give you an idea of my thought process is like when I’m flipping through the comic bins.
Tales of the Unexpected #92
Looks like the guy on the left couldn’t get trapped soon enough, leaping to meet his watery tomb halfway. Do they ever think of, you know, just walking out of the raindrop? It’s bad enough they’re all caught in the same one, so you think they’d want to stretch out a little. Don’t tell me they’re just there to protect the girl. They must know all too well how moody Becky gets when something messes her hair on a salon day.
Before someone tells me that I’m looking too deeply into these illustrations, don’t ruin my fun. I know they have an answer to any question I may have. I wasn’t born yesterday. This is no ordinary Earth rain, but a new breed of storm developed by a new breed of animal: Super-fish!!
Years of pollution in a high-traffic river led to the mutation of normal water-dwellers, giving them super intelligence. Secretly developing their own technology, they eventually think up a way to give man a taste of his own medicine. Their objective is to capture all humans in clear, liquid-filled capsules, much like their allies at the pet store are sold off to families in plastic bags. Will fish finally swim freely, or will the captors grow to regret drowning the land-dwellers, missing the sweet taste of factory-made fish flakes?
While that rainstorm looks mighty intriguing, what drew me to this cover was “The Man Who Dared To Die”. That would make for one heck of a gravestone. I’ll probably get cremated, though I don’t think gluing my ashes to spell this out would have the same impact. Throw in some uncooked elbow macaroni, and you’d have the darkest pre-school artwork my future grandchild could ever hope to create.
House of Mystery #105
For a man with such a keen eye, imagination, and attention to detail, I’d like to think his peripheral vision would be a bit better.
The above shows the problem many comics seem to have. They try to put too much on the cover. You have to include the creature he’s referring to in the shot, and they have to have the drawing be instantly recognizable to the audience as said creature. Recognizable is putting it mildly. This chap got it one-hundred percent on-the-nose.
That must be the cause of the peril he’s seconds away from reaching, the freaking narcissist! Is he so full of his own skill that he has tunnel vision? He’s practically done his drawing. Do those final ankle hairs demand such deep focus?
The Unexpected #148
Another comic with a seemingly skewed perspective shot. Allow me to bail out the artist on this one.
The mother (I’m assuming she is) cannot read the grim “You Will Die” message her son stacked up. Alphabet blocks do not have the same letters around each side of the block. To her shock, what she sees on the hidden side of the blocks is “Mom Love Joe”. Of course, it was this perceptive young mind’s way of acknowledging his mother’s near-crippling addiction to coffee. She feared it was in recognition of the secret lust she has for Joe, her fitness-instructing, shirtless lawnmower of a neighbour.
The “You Will Die” message was intended for his father, shown stiff as a board in the background. Mother, the source of the deathblow, opened the door so quick and forcefully because she could not bear to hear another verse off the Raffi album playing on Junior’s record player.
Forbidden Worlds #139
The Proper Spirit! Based on that name and manner of dress, I expect some sort of southern gentlemen-type from the 1800s. I’m not sure how “EEYA-HA-EEEEEE!” fits into that. I don’t think I’ve heard of any ghost saying this nonsense. Perhaps Slimer would make a similar sound when gargling down food, but he’s the exception and not the rule. If he’s trying to do the whole ghost thing by the book, he’s failing miserably. IT GOES “OOOOOOOH!!!!!!”!!!
Maybe the use of proper is slang in an old-school British sort of way. “Eee’s a proper spirit, in’he?” That horrible Cockney accent would be at least as bound to annoy you as it is to put a scare in you.
I really don’t know what constitutes a proper spirit or ghost. Casper The Friendly Ghost might be considered proper, but everybody was too bummed out to hang around a dead kid long enough to make note of his manners. Ghost Dad was definitely proper, since becoming a ghost helped him grow closer to his family. If making sure your loved ones are taken care of after you die isn’t proper, then I don’t know what is.
Mystery In Space #74
Here’s a plot that never grows tired! Of course it does. It was played-out before the ink could dry.
The good old double showdown. There’s always that plea with the third party over which one is real, and a fast decision must be made or else something sinister might happen. But there’s always a clever way in which the original is discovered. What is it this time? The real Adam Strange would sacrifice himself if it means his evil doppelganger will also perish? The real Adam Strange can be identified by a freckle on his left eyelid? It couldn’t be some weird sexual secret between Strange and the woman that the clone wouldn’t know about. If so, the Comic Code Authority has lowered their content standards.
Are they waiting for the woman to drop the handkerchief to the ground before firing? She must be choosing favorites because she’s giving the man in the foreground a clear advantage. Unless the Adam Strange on the right has a lazy eye, he stands little chance of seeing that cloth hit the ground.
I dig the silhouette of the city skyline. However, I’m not sure why it’s orange and not darker, and I’m also not sure why futuristic architecture has to be modelled after chemistry sets and crazy straws. They must figure our descendants will have an obsession with inefficient elevator systems.
Here’s a foreign title that popped up one day on my eBay homepage. sggryeryr
“El hombre con la cabeza de saturno” is probably “The Man With The Saturn Head”, and he’s thinking something like “My Saturn Head is Going to Destroy The Planet. Gulp!” (Guess I’m close enough)
I don’t speak a lick of Spanish, but I’d buy this comic just to write my own dialogue. It’s like a Seanbaby project waiting to happen.
I’ve yet to cosplay at any comic conventions, but something like this one would get a nomination for most obscure costume. I think I’d model the head after the Pogo Ball. That way it will be bouncy enough to reflect any punches I’d receive from those envious of this hipster’s excuse of a costume, and it’ll be able to spring me back off the ground, useful due to the frequent face-plants I’d make since I’d be walking blind.
My Greatest Adventure #28
There’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary with this one. I’ll just use it as a demonstration of a common element in many comic covers. More often than not, it seems, that whenever you get speech or thought bubbles on the front cover, you have someone spelling out exactly what’s going in spite of how cheesy it comes across.
Could this have worked well enough with just the woman’s comments? Perhaps not. You could think that this is just a comic about an ordinary circus performer. One who dresses like a birthday cake sitting on a doily, but ordinary besides that.
The reader needs to be drawn in by something that is out of this world. The mask is just the bait a young viewer needs, and the “My” next to “Greatest Adventure” sinks the hook in deeper. There’s nothing more satisfying than convincingly implying to an audience young enough to believe in Santa Claus that this story might be autobiographical.
“All it took was obliterating Mars into millions of small pieces, but I did it! Now every Earthling has their own floating tombstone, just as you envisioned.
They thought you were crazy! “Earth is for the living.” That was your motto, pop! Dig up those corpses and send them to the stars. You had many great ideas on how we could use that land you’d free up. Underground habitats for the homeless. Fallout shelters we can rent out by the hour. Maybe the (shudder) forests they grew in their place didn’t exactly synch up with your vision, but at least now there’s no chance you’ll be buried next to your brother-in-law.”
I had to take out every man that stood in your way. Since they were all unarmed senior citizens, the task proved simpler than I’d hoped. Heck, finding a decent parking space took more effort.
Mother’s doing fine. She doesn’t talk much of you these days. She also hasn’t talked to me lately. Is that bad? I guess we all go through the grieving process differently. I hope she gets over it soon because my kids are still with her on a visit, and I’m starting to forget their names.
Farewell, father. I’m off to lead my newest campaign against the post office. In a world where you can order a piping-hot pizza just by thinking about it, you can’t teleport an issue of Dollhouse Quarterly onto my coffee table without creasing it? Wake up!!”
Tales of Suspense #37
All those Hagg collected are labelled as inhabitants, but the creature from Mars is referred to as merely a specimen. First Manhunter, now Hagg. What’s with the second-class treatment of Martians? It’s bad enough he dried him up like a stick of beef jerky. Surely he could have been posed in a more flattering fashion.
It’s like he made that label up as an afterthought, with consistency far from his mind. The frame only holds four different species, not even enough space to cater to the rest of the solar system. Too lazy to search Jupiter to find anything?
I can’t think of anything else for this one. I’m too disgusted by his lack of organization to even be bothered.
Tales of the Unexpected #97
If Disney were to acquire Star Trek in the manner they did Star Wars (and Marvel, and Pixar, and, God willing, the rights to the Care Bears), this could see the light of day. On the surface, you’d think a droid would stand a good shot at winning a fight against a human. Of course, Threepio isn’t your average robot, and Khan isn’t your average human.
In the Star Wars universe, droids were subservient to humans, often sold as property to humans for menial labour. If Data was asked so little as assist with some cargo in Shuttlebay 3, Picard would lecture you about his rights as a sentient being until you’re the one left feeling like a lower life form.
How long could such a battle last? C-3PO knows trouble when he sees it. He’d take one look at Montalbon’s pectoral muscles, throw his arms up in surrender, and hope his master didn’t abandon him for something more useful.
Tales To Astonish #4
Shouldn’t that guy know what’s in the script or not? Too busy nailing that Sinatra look to catching up with the re-writes, I suppose. He made the right choice by switching to a different type of directing because he’s absolutely useless on a film set. But enough about that hat!
It’s not just him, but everybody on set seems to be going along with it. In what scene could the context “This isn’t part of the movie!!” have any relevance? This is most likely the set of a B-movie, so his acting can’t be that convincing considering the feeble-minded director he’s stuck with.
Even the head of wardrobe doesn’t resent the fact that these “actors” aren’t even wearing the costumes she designed (For sake of argument, I say she’s the blonde with glasses on the far left). I guess she’s quiet for a reason. Those costumes look great! Why not sit back quietly and take the credit?
Tales To Astonish #33
And I thought Charles Bronson looked old in Death Wish V: The Face of Death. Dead Storage does sound like an appropriate title for one of his movies. Please allow me to reveal the story for the Bronson film the world never knew, and in a manner that only I will find amusing:
(works to best effect when read in 1970’s movie trailer voice)
There are days when you wish you’d stayed home from work. This is one of them.
“But he died three days ago. He was embalmed this morning!!! What do you mean he just walked out the door?”
Charles Bronson is Victor Marshall, curator of Silver Acres Funeral Home. He may be the man in charge, but he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. The job responsibilities include stacking bodies and digging graves. He puts in long hours, but the work isn’t done until every body is taken care of.
Bronson. Surrounded by foes who don’t know the meaning of “Rest In Peace”.
“In my thirty years running this place, I’ve never seen it so lively.”
Bronson. Opening his doors to a rare breed of people that doesn’t fear death. But they will learn to fear the living.
“I SHOULD’VE CREMATED THE WHOLE LOT OF YOU!!”
Also starring Jill Ireland as the gorgeous Isabella, Victor’s dear, departed wife, and spiritual guide to the afterlife.
Eli Wallach as Father Guillermo Suarez.
“I’m a man of faith, but this… is beyond belief….”
And Roddy McDowall as Brownstone, former business partner turned leader of the Undead Army!
“Why is it that we always meet up under such grave circumstances?”
Watch Bronson in the fight of his life to keep himself out of…
Big Town #48
I’d love to see how this plays out.
“What are you doing with that lighter, Wilson?”
“Don’t you know anything, Jenkins? Moonmen can’t be exposed to fire.”
“That’s ludicrous!! From which Asimov story did you read that hogwash?”
“Weeks of training and research have led me to this proud moment.”
“This isn’t going to be like that time you shamed a homeless man into giving you his change cup, is it?”
“Not a chance! I can assure you that I am legally sober.”
“What’s your angle? I can’t count the number of times I missed Dragnet by working all this pointless overtime.”
“This small convenience of a pocket lighter that you and I take for granted on a daily basis has everything an extra-terrestrial can’t handle. The rapid flickering light triggers their proneness to epilepsy. The heat reminds them of the hot passion and roaring spirit threaded through the hearts of each and every American. The bright orange and yellow colors of the flame cause them to grow extremely uncomfortable and anxious, quivering in sadness as they begin to long for the bland color schemes used in their home land.”
“Well, if you’re positive, let him have it. I need a new anecdote for the company Christmas party.”
“Alright, baldy, HOT ENOUGH FOR YA!!!???”
“Do you happen to have any breath mints on you? I’ve got another theory about Tic-Tacs.”