Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"A Lotta Stuff"

You might wonder what the two above comics have in common. Well...not much, save that they were both published in the earlier part of the 1960's.

But these are a couple that I've won here recently from on line auctions, and there were reasons I wanted them back into my collections again.

The Superman #170 is from 1964, and yes, again I'll have to get into a long-winded tale from my youth. When I was a kid, from as early on as I can recall until I was at least 18 years old, my mother tried to drum religion into my head by having me sit on a pew anytime our local Christian Church had its doors open. That included Sunday school and church as well as the youth meeting and church services on Sunday night, Wednesday night prayer meetings, vacation Bible school, etc., etc., and once a year we had this Christian youth meeting day in Louisville, Ky., where a couple of volunteers (usually one of which was the minister) would herd all of us young folk into a couple or three vehicles and haul our ungodly asses up to the Christian College there.

Then there'd be a fellowship meeting for at least a couple of hours and a service of sorts, and finally a picnic and softball game held out in Iroquois Park. Somewhere along the way they'd stop at a store so we could get a Coke or candy bar or what-have-you on the way back home. I went to at least two such of these, one in June of 1964 and the other in the same month of '65, and they'd always be in that first weekend or so after school let out for the Summer.

On the way back home from the first said occasion we stopped at "The Glass House". This was a restaurant, truck stop type of thing that was in the center medium of the Interstate 65 HWY, and there were two of them as I recall (although both have long since been torn down). One just right above (or below) Elizabethtown, Ky., and the other at about Shepherdsville (just 12 miles or so South of Louisville).

Well of course I bought comic books in 1964 and that's the first thing I looked for in The Glass House, which they had but in one of these upright vending machines with a glass front for viewing the various titles. And they were an outrageous 25 cents each! My Lord! That was TWICE what I always paid for a comic book anywhere else! But there it was begging my eyes to look it over, a copy of Superman #170 with an imaginary tale of what things in the DCU would have been like had Lex Luthor been Superman's father. Yes, I just could not resist it. I eagerly stuck that sole quarter I had into the machine and pushed the button.

Now...I don't really remember a whole lot about that comic today, save outside of that particular story revolving obtaining it originally, but I do recall that it had that President Kennedy Tribute Tale as the opening feature; a story that had previously been slated for publication before Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and DC had shelved. They decided to go ahead and run it in the late president's honor, and it was about Superman trying to get everyone involved in JFK's physical fitness program. I can remember the splash page of a symbolic Kennedy in the background and Superman flying past The White House, and one panel it seems of Clark Kent faking being exhausted from doing exercise. I can't really recall the feature tale at the moment, but I'm sure that all of that will come back to me whenever this comic gets here. The neat thing about the issue I won (which isn't the above as these are scans I swiped) is that it has a date stamp on the front cover of June 8, which is probably just about the time I would have gotten that first copy.

Now the second cover to Strange Tales #114 means something totally different to me. I first bought this comic off the stands in 1963. The image of "Captain America" drew me to this cover, and it may very possibly have been the first time I'd ever seen what the character looked like, since I was 12 years old at that time. (The copy I won unfortunately is a "bottom-feeder" and not in anywhere as good a shape of the above pictured.)

Jack Kirby, who started the artwork on "The Human Torch" series in Strange Tales, had returned to draw this story due to it being about his and Joe Simon's Golden Age creation. Naturally, I didn't know all of that back then. I just thought the guy in the blue and red with wings on his cowl and a shield was pretty neat! Turns out over the years that this was a real turning point in Marvel's Silver Age history.

The character was really not Cap, but an earlier Torch villian called "The Acrobat", who was using the good Captain's image and name to be a thief. The Torch finally captures him, and as the scene closed on that story we see "Johnny Storm" sitting there, reading an old GA copy of Captain Ameria Comics, and wondering whatever became of the real "CA"? Yes; it was a try-out story to see what the reader's response to the hero would be and if Marvel should bring him back into the "present day", as they'd done with versions of their other big-time 1940's heroes, "Sub-Mariner" and "The Human Torch".

Oddly enough, the cover date is the same month as the assassination of JFK.

What this comic means to me today is a close on the foundations of the creation of the Marvel Universe. By this time, Marvel had established pretty much all of their well-known characters, save for one, "Daredevil". Iron Man had gotten rid of his clumsy golden armor into a sleek, red version, Giant-Man had replaced Ant-Man, The Hulk's original 6 issue run was over, "Tales of Asguard" had already begun as a back-up in Journey Into Mystery with THOR, the first Fantastic Four Annual had been published as well as the LAST Strange Tales Annual, Millie the Model had been changed from a humor format to that of a soap opera storyline, the fantasy stories by Heck, Kirby and Ditko (primarily) were gone (if not completely), and soon most of the major Marvel characters would receive thier own series in various titles. Soon Iron Man would have to share Tales of Suspense with Captain America; Giant-Man would share Tales to Astonish with The Hulk. The "age of innocence" was disappearing as Kenndy died and a scant 4 months later, The Beatles appear and Marvel's last great SA creation, Daredevil, hits the stands, and the real Captain America is reintroduced in the pages of The Avengers #4.

This issue marks the beginning of "Dr. Srange" in his own series as well after a two issue hiatus from the title, and is his third appearance. Thus closed the first stage of Marvel in the 1960's; a stage which would last until 1968 when many of their old titles would change and reappear in numbering continuity as solo books of The Hulk, Thor, and Dr. Strange and Captain America, and other characters such as Iron Man and Sub-Mariner would get completely new comics of their own. And you'll notice too that a LOT of Marvel got much more "serious" after 1963.

Getting along here to other things...

Our t.v. set started going out on us last night. It'd started having these problems a couple of weeks ago, where it'd just suddenly go off, then a few minutes later, come right back on. I'd say something in it's over-heating and shorting it out, and then when it cools off, starts working again. But last night it started doing that every few minutes. So finally I unconnect and unplug the thing and haul it into my pc room (as if I needed yet something else in the way in here) and brought my smaller 10" sceen w/built-in VCR into the living room and hooked it up. It's okay and watchable even with the smaller screen. Soon I'll have to just break down and go get us another set. We've had this one for quite some time, and within the next couple of years we'd have to replace it anyway due to the reformating of digital signals which will make older sets usable only for just playing games, DVDs and tapes.

And, speaking of t.v....This morning I was watching "Good Morning America" and they were going to have this segment on the mummified dinosaur remains found back in '99 in South Dakota. Didn't get to watch it though as my mom called right before that and wanted me to follow her to her local mechanic and drive her back home because of a light that kept coming on saying her engine was over-heating (which is probably just a sensor going bad). I was going to wait and do that AFTER the GMA report, but first they took a break and the local station gave a weather report, then they gave an updated local news report, then they came back and gave a long-range weather forecast, then there was about 20 commercials before finally they got back to GMA. Which, instead of giving the dinosaur report, started jabbering on about Christmas lights and other non-interesting things until I finally just asked my wife to let me know what all had been said about it. Anyway...this is a major dinosaur discovery which will change so much about what we "think" we know about them. Previously, the most all sceintists have ever had to go on about dinosaurs were skeletal remains and the few occasional fossilized skins imprints. This mummiified one shows patterns of scales, a different formation of hind leg muscles and even indications of striped patterns. This coming weekend there's going to be a National Geographic Special about this amazing discovery, so check your local listings!

And I finished watching the third installment of "Tin Man" on the SCIFI Channel last night, which I thought, over-all, was pretty good. A real interesting rethinking of the Oz storylines (but I'm sure that a lot of Oz fans will hate since all they've ever taken time to watch is that over-played musical shown every Thanksgiving).

So, finally, to my Jewish readers, I hope you have a very nice Hanukkah!


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