Concord of the Long Boxes
Saturday, I organized and fused together all of my non-Big Two comics. A few bizarro treasures revealed themselves.
For example, Lust of the Nazi Weasel Women, a series by Fantagraphics from the early nineties. The book starred the Easter Bunny, and contained the brain of Hitler transferred into the body of a parrot, as well as the titular (though never seen) Nazi Weasel Women. A fine premise, though I don't recall the series being particularly good. (I didn't have time to re-read 'em this weekend before actual work intruded and forced me to return them to the long boxes.)
That being said, man, what a title. As a teenage boy with a love of both absurdism and boobs, could I have possibly resisted a comic entitled Lust of the Nazi Weasel Women? Of course not.
I remember trying to find the fifth issue back in my completist days, and wondered how long the series survived. How many Nazi Weasel Women did I miss? A quick scan on Ye Olde Internette shows that the four issues in my long boxes are all that were published.
I don't know if I should be proud of that or not.
Oh, what the hell. Let's say I am.
Hot Rods is one of my "mystery comics," of the sort that every collector has somewhere. You know the kind: the comics we not only forgot we owned, we forgot how they ended up in our collections or what possessed us to get them in the first place.
An added bonus of coolosity: the issue was cut improperly. The right-hand edge of the book is at a slight angle. Ah, old-skool production values. Better still, if you look closely on the cover, you can see the "hoodlum" being tackled by one of the heroes is clearly a young Robert Blake, fresh off the set of In Cold Blood. Everyone remembers him for Baretta and his murder trial. How often do we bring up his work as a comic book actor?
Mystery comics are the prizes in the bottom of the cereal box. They aren't great, but after you blow away the Cap'n Crunch dust and open the little plastic bag, they bring a little joy. In my case, all of my "mystery comics" were the product of the early days of collecting, when I snapped up anything and everything comic-esque and tucked it away. Old Beetle Bailey comic? Sure! Captain America Versus Tooth Decay? Righteous! The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man? Oh yeah!
Ah, to be young and foolish.
Behold The Green Hornet #1. This cover is pure radness. Jim Steranko did a kickass job, as you'd expect. The Green Hornet series itself, not so much with the radness.
The Hornet was the tentpole for NOW Comics in the early nineties, and a comic I stuck with for longer than I should have.
The Green Hornet ran for two series, the cover to the left being the first issue of the first series. The first run spent seven issues setting up the family lineage of the Hornet, tying in the old radio show, the teevee show of the sixties, Bruce Lee, and it even managed to work in the Hornet's familial tie to the Lone Ranger without violating copyrights. This is all good. But the comics weren't all that exciting.
It felt like...well, it was written like an "action" television show of the period. Not awful, just not fun or wild or cool. Jeff Butler's art, which I enjoyed in the Marvel RPG game books of oh-so-long-ago, felt stiff, which didn't help.* The first series wheezed to an end after fourteen issues.
The second series improved on the first. More fluid art and an overheated writing style by new guy Chuck Dixon turned the Green Hornet into a decent crime comic.** I lasted fifteen issues into the second volume of GH before I gave up. It never reached the heights of kickassery suggested by the Steranko cover. Nor that of very first issue of the first volume, which was pretty darn cool.
Still and all, finding the Green Hornet stash was rad. The comics were unremarkable, but the memories they dredged up were happy ones.
I do so love digging in the longboxes.
Another discovery: the detritus of my eBay madness. For a few months in 2002 or 2003, I forget which, I went nuts on eBay buying runs of comics I'd ignored in the nineties. I coughed up a few bucks here and there to satisfy my curiosity about the Would-Be Third Major Publishers of the past. Harbinger, Archer and Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, Savage Dragon, Shadowman, I got lots of 'em. Sometimes the slabs-o-third-company-comics are downright curious.
How the hell did I end up with a full run of Ninjak?
*Though the coloring process added to that--early Valiant comics had the same color printing method and the same stiffness. I doubt that's coincidence.
**The Hornet v2 was my first exposure to Dixon, or at least the first time I noticed him as a distinct writer. His writing was a marked improvement, and I've had a warm spot for him ever since. In the letter page for the first issue, NOW's staff dubbed him "The Master of Action." That is a title I covet and must someday claim for myself.
I read a blurb by Dixon regarding the Hornet job. Someone asked him what he remembered from writing the Hornet. "I remember having a hard time getting paid," he answered. Ouch.