Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Alex Ross Marvel Encyclopedia Cover

To close out 2009, Alex Ross’ wonderful painting for the Marvel Encyclopedia.

alex ross Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 1 by alex ross

We’ll see all of you True Believers back here in 2010, when these heroes hopefully return to classic form.  Nuff Said!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monster Monday: Ghost Rider promo by Javier Saltares

Ghost Rider promo by Javier Saltares months before GR 1, from romitaman

Here's a 1990 drawing by Javier Saltares that I found on Romitaman's website.  According to the description, this was a promotional drawing for the "second-generation" Danny Ketch Ghost Rider that debuted later in 1990.  Nuff said!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Déjà vu: Seasons Greetings from Gil Kane, 1976

Marvel Treasury Edition 13 1976 by Gil Kane and John Romita, Joe Sinnott

Here is the original black and white artwork for Marvel Treasury Edition #13 (1976) by Gil Kane (inked by either Romita or Sinnott or both).  You can see the paste-up logos over the artwork.  Nuff said!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Isotope Comics in San Francisco: James Sime, Toilet Seats, and Doctor Strange, What A Wonderful Store!

James Sime, owner of Isotope Comics (Dec 2009)

After years of reading about Isotope Comics in San Francisco and reading various interviews with the owner, James Sime, I finally indulged myself in a trip to his unique store.  James was sitting at the counter when I arrived, as friendly and enthusiastic about comics as I am.  It’s a good quality for an owner to have.  I had a brief feeling of Déjà Vu after meeting James, who is well known from CBR, Flickr, Twitter, and various podcast interviews.  Never before had I met a store owner who is well known on the Internet!

Doctor Strange costume at Isotope Comics

Within seconds of my arrival we started talking about Doctor Strange—after I spotted his costume hanging in the balcony.  We both agreed that the current Strange series is somewhat lacking.  In fact, James’ theory is that anything with the title “Strange” isn’t all that good.  There was the JMS series a few years ago where Marvel attempted to reboot the good doctor.  And if you remember the 1990s era comics where Doc split into two entities—one called Strange—this theory seems spot on!  We both agreed that Brian K Vaughan’s The Oath series was one of Doc’s finest tales.

View from balcony at Isotope Comics in San Francisco

Isotope’s interior design is equally friendly.  There are no long white boxes that you have to step over as you walk around.  It does not look like a refuge for seedy characters.  It is a store where you feel comfortable looking around at cool things  The store is brightly lit, there are comfortable seats where you can read stuff, and they have interesting graphic novels on display everywhere.  They have new comics as well as mini-comics.  There is also a selection of original art on display.

Gallery of toilet seat covers at Isotope Comics

Isotope is famous for having unique events where creators come to do signings.  James can really think out of the box and tries to make these events special—by offering limited edition pint glasses for Darwyn Cooke or scotch tastings for Warren Ellis.  James started getting these creators to create a drawing on toilet seat covers; I’m sure it started off as a lark, but now Isotope’s upper wall is covered with dozens of them.  And James has so many, he can’t display the entire collection at once.  There’s a Warren Ellis piece featuring Spider Jerusalem right next to one by Darick Robertson, and Mark Millar drawing his rendition of Superman.

Darwyn Cooke toilet seat Catwoman at Isotope Comics

This toilet seat drawn by Darwyn Cooke makes me supremely envious.  It’s just perfect and captures everything great about Cooke’s style.  I showed this picture to my wife Teresa (who is not a comics fan) and she instantly recognized Catwoman.  That’s a testament to Cooke’s ability to draw the character in an iconic form.  Teresa wondered why no one has made a business out of selling toilet seat covers with images?  There probably is one, but not with comic characters.  I’d certainly buy this one if DC made this a licensed product.  But I wouldn’t use a backhoe to steal it.

I only spent an hour at Isotope before I had to return to work.  I bought a few great collections, Northlanders (vol 1 & 2, awesome stuff) and Criminal (2 volumes).  If you work in the financial district as I do, it’s really a convenient trip.  You can get on any outbound Muni at Embarcadero, travel to the Van Ness stop, walk up to Fell, make a left and walk 2-3 blocks to the store at 326 Fell Street. 

When I was in my 20s, I always had a fantasy vision of what my ideal comics store would be like.   I always imagined a place where collections were readily available, top-notch creators would come and socialize with fans.  And perhaps share a drink or two on special occasions.  James Sime is my idol—he not only dreamed about such a place, he made it into a reality!  Nuff said!

Links:  Isotope Comics, James Sime on Twitter

Update: Comments on my old MT blog...


Yeah. I stumbled upon Isotope while making my way back to my dad's after a super long walk to another comic shop. I partied there at the APE Mayhem parties both nights this year. And one of my personal goals in this business is to have my own toilet seat on the Gallery Wall. No awards, no huge accolades. Just a throne.
Isotope is easily one of the coolest if not THEE coolest comic book shops I have ever been in. In a city known for its distinction of culture and art, Isotope stands tall in the City by the Bay.
I wouldn't dare piss over the woman cat on my toilet seat. And those eyes fixed upon you all the time in moments of privacy...
This guy awfully resembles ambassador Molari from the Babylon 5 series.This helps explain the alien design of the products.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monster Monday: Vicente Alcazar's Man-Thing

Here’s a pinup that I’ve waiting to share for a while…

Vicente Alcazar Man-Thing pinup from Marvel Preview 8, 1976

Man-Thing, by Vicente Alcazar, in the frontispiece for Marvel Preview #8, 1976.  Great use of the light source held by the boy, illuminating Manny in all his freakish glory.  Alcazar always worked well with ink washes, but he dropped off the comics radar after 1980 or so.  You can read a small bio of Alcazar on Wikipedia.  Nuff said!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mike Mayhew New Avengers Splash, Black and White versus Color

New Avengers Annual #3 went on sale recently, featuring the dynamic art of Mike Mayhew.  If the story alone (featuring Hawkeye in the clutches of the Dark Avengers) isn’t enough to grab you, Mayhew’s art should be reason enough.


Here’s the double page splash to pages 2 and 3, in black and white, from Mayhew’s Deviant Art page.  I just love how Mayhew uses the subtle shades of grey tones, combined with the light sources, to make all of these characters seem three dimensional.  I’ve no idea anymore what artists use a medium.  Pencil?  Ink wash?  Is it all done on the computer?  Please let me know what Mayhew uses.

New Avengers Annual 3 splash by mikemayhew in color

Here’s the same double page splash after Andy Troy applies the color.  It looks wonderful in this form as well.  Troy doesn’t obliterate the shadows and tones with over-saturated color.

Personally, I’d love to see both versions printed.  A while back Marvel printed black and white versions of Simone Bianchi’s Wolverine issues.  It would be cool if they could they same for one of Mayhew’s projects.

For more original New Avengers Annual art, please visit Mike Mayhew’s DeviantArt site.  Nuff said!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archives and Doug Moench's Unpublished Apes Stories

Doug Moench, prolific writer of many Marvel and DC comics.

A fan named Dave Ballard wrote and alerted me to this ultra-cool website, Hunter’s Planet of the Apes archives.  A while back I had published two posts, one about Marvel’s POTA movie-themed covers and the other one featuring Marvel’s POTA characters.  Apparently, the cover scans (with the POTA logo and cover copy removed) were retouched by Dave for this site.

Hunter’s site has a fascinating page on Doug Moench's unpublished Apes stories.  Apparently the POTA magazine was cancelled abruptly when the licensing fees were going to be increased.  Moench had plans for a new series featuring a time-travelling character who would visit different eras and different worlds in the universe of the Apes.  Visit this page on Hunter’s site for more details, including some of the actual unpublished scripts.  Nuff said.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Neal Adams Savage Tales Starring Conan, Ka-Zar, and Zabu, Too!

One of my favorite Marvel magazines of all time was Savage Tales #2, featuring Barry Smith's Red Nails adaption.  I blogged about that giant-size wonder earlier this year.  Apparently Red Nails made Savage Tales a hit, and editor Roy Thomas commissioned Neal Adams to do three covers that would spin the magazine in a different direction.

Savage Tales 4 cover by Neal Adams, 1974

Savage Tales #3 (1974) features Conan going berserk, about to behead another barbarian before he can defile that babe in the metal bikini.  I think it's terrific; Adams always excelled at portraying characters losing themselves in rage.  A painting like this could sell a comic, regardless of the content inside (which happened to be quite good in this case).  Adams also did a series of paintings for a line of Tarzan paperbacks, which again, were quite irresistible.

Savage Tales 5 cover by Neal Adams, 1974, featuring Conan and Ka-Zar

The baton was passed from Conan to Ka-Zar in Savage Tales #4 (1974).  If one barbarian magazine was successful, why not two?  (If one Deadpool book is successful, if one Wolverine book is successful, if one X-Men get the idea.)  This was Conan's last appearance in Savage Tales before Roy Thomas spun him off in his own super-giant magazine, Savage Sword of Conan.  It would be up to Ka-Zar and Zabu to carry ST forward.  Zabu looks very intimidating here, doesn't he?

This cover always made me think that a time travelling team-up between Conan and Ka-Zar would have been a nifty idea.

Savage Tales 6 cover by Neal Adams, 1947, featuring the new lead, Ka-Zar

Ka-Zar took cover the masthead in Savage Tales #5 (1974), with another rip-roaring cover.  Within this painting, Adams captured all the elements that should make Ka-Zar a fantastic series.  He's surrounded by prehistoric creatures, about to get his chest ripped to shreds, with Zabu the Sabretooth Tiger as his backup.  And the requisite modern babe in the foreground waiting to be rescued.  Shanna the She-Devil and SHIELD agent Bobbi Morse (who later became Mockingbird) joined Ka-Zar in subsequent issues.

Notice also that the figures of Ka-Zar and Zabu from issue #4 were used on the corner masthead.  Nuff said.

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


These Adams covers are absolutely gorgeous. I've seen them all before over the years, but put them altogether like this and they're simply stunning. Thanks!
Superb. I think the 70's had extraordinaire artists. I mostly like the way that the pencils and inking were done back then. There was this liberty and exuberance in the art style that the modern artists kinda fail to deliver. I am buying all the Conan Savage Sword TBPs from Dark Horse, and one of the motives is that they include all the black and white covers inside. A truly joy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Comic-Book Reading Judge From Corpus Christi, Texas

Judge Margarito Garza and his creation, Relampago, by Richard Dominguez
My family moved around a lot when I was a kid; we lived in several places in California, Alaska, and in 1974, my parents moved our family to Corpus Christi, Texas.  It was a real culture shock for me to move into what they call The Bible Belt

I went from having lots of friends at my old home to having none.  I had to adjust to life at Hamlin Middle School, where a strange concoction of Rednecks (aka the White kids), Mexican-Americans, and African-Americans attempted to get through to high school.  Compared to the Norman Rockwell-esque school I had attended in Anchorage, I was faced with kids who seemed like adults.  They were selling drugs between classes and talking about wild parties the night before.  Violence seemed to be ready to erupt at any minute—the Rednecks eyed the black kids with steam pouring out of their nostrils as they walked near each other.  I belonged to no group. I felt like I existed in the Phantom Zone.
Howard the Duck 1 1975

I was lucky to have one thing in my life remain constant: comic books.  And in those days (before specialty stores), my senses were poised to detect comics wherever I could find them.  I was like Kraven the Hunter wherever I went.  I had scoped out three places that I could reach on my bike: a drugstore, a supermarket, and a 7-Eleven.  All three received comics each week, although only the 7-Eleven specialized in monster magazines from Marvel and Warren.  One day at the supermarket, I found Howard the Duck #1 on the lower rack of the magazine stand.  I had to reach between a lady’s legs to grab it.  I had no idea about the speculation fever on this comic, it was just special to me because Howard had first appeared in Man-Thing.  Howard’s tag-line, Trapped In A World He Never Made, seemed like my life at the time.

All of this was happening when I was thirteen years old.  I hadn’t really known anyone else my age who was as fanatical about comics as I was.  I certainly didn’t know of any adults who read comics (outside of the comics professionals in New York City). 

One day, I read an article in the newspaper about a special store in Corpus Christi that only sold comic books!  I asked my Mom to drive me over there. I don't recall the exact location, but it was in an older suburban area, probably a house that was converted into a store. Inside were dozens of boxes of back-issue comic books. We met the owner, a Mexican-American man who was also a Judge in Corpus Christi. Judge Margarito Garza.

Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD 1, 1968

This was a historic occasion!  For the first time, I met an adult who was also a comic book collector!  Not only that, he was a well respected person in the community.  My enthusiasm burst out of my mouth, a constant stream of chatter about this or that character.  My Mom seemed both amused by the Judge and impressed by the store.  We talked with him about the recent Wonder Woman TV movie starring Lynda Carter.  I’m paraphrasing from 30 year old memories, but he said:  One thing about that movie didn’t work for me.  Wonder Woman is walking down the street in that outfit, and every guy just walks right by her.  If any woman dressed like that and walked by, I would definitely take a look!

His store seemed like paradise.  The Judge didn’t sell new comics, only back issues, but he had all the ones I lusted after.  All 18 issues of Silver Surfer were in the back issue bins, along with the Kree-Skrull War issues of Avengers, and all kinds of King-Size Annuals I had wanted to buy.  The walls were adorned with posters, including some reproductions of famous comic book covers the Judge had drawn himself. The one he did for SHIELD #1 looked so interesting that it led me to Jim Steranko's work.

tcr-108_Doctor Strange_Frank Brunner
My money didn’t go very far in Judge Garza’s store.  I made several return trips.  Since either the Judge or his patient wife were there running things, my Mom felt safe with having me visit there.  One day I found them preparing a stack of comics for another customer, and saw an item that looked interesting.  It was a fanzine called the Comic Reader.  I had never seen a fanzine before.  It was a mystery to me how you could even buy one!  But it was fantastic, with a neat cover and loaded with news on upcoming comics.

I think my Mom was worried about how much time I spent with comics.  She probably remembered the newspaper articles from the 50s about Wertham and Seduction of the Innocent.  The Judge did me a great favor by explaining to my Mom that comics were good for kids.  Contrary to popular belief, comics had good moral values; they kept young people out of trouble.  (Which was true in those days.)  There it was—comics had been stamped with a seal of approval for my Mom—by the ultimate authority figure.
We left Corpus Christi in 1976 to return to California.  I was relieved to get out.  My parents even seemed very relieved to leave that world behind.  I didn’t really miss anything about that area—except for the Judge and his wonderful store.

Note: This is an adaption of an article I originally wrote in 2006.
A reader named Corando Gallegos left a comment on my original post with their memories:
…the Judge's name was Judge Margarito Garza. Even though I grew up in Alice (a town about an hour west of Corpus Christi), my mom would come to Corpus once a month and leave us at this haven of comic books. It was located down McArdle and Airline and was there for the longest time. Unfortunately, after the Judge died awhile back the store was sold and closed and is not there anymore. My brother and I would spend all day there reading and looking for the right combination of issues we wanted. Even worse, I moved away for awhile and did not realize what had happened to this place until much later.  The Judge himself was the biggest comic fan I knew and while he was strict with his customers he was fair and his store had it all!  Now fortunately, there are a few places again in Corpus to buy comics but nothing like this one where you hang out lose yourself in the world of superheroes and science fiction.

Visit Judge Margarito Garza’s Wikipedia page to learn more about him and his superhero creation, Relampago! 

Thank you to his friends and son Lawrence who wrote me a few years ago.  Nuff said!

Update: Here are some additional comments that appeared on my previous blogging platform:


"my senses were poised to detect comics wherever I could find them. I was like Kraven the Hunter wherever I went."
LOL!!! Thanks for your amusing reminiscing! You are fortunate in having had your mother as an ally. My own mother was a librarian, and only frowned on all my reading and collecting of lowly, stupid, ugly comics -- so I usually had to sneak out of the house for my weekly visits to a local newsstand kiosk in Oslo, where Norwegian-only editions of DC and Marvel and Disney comics were sold. In my teens, I began ordering the Real Thing by mail from a great comics store in Copenhagen, Fantask. They still exist, now doing brisk online business here in Scandinavia:

the store's name was "collector's world". as i child i saw the man my parents called simply "the judge" a nickname i thought, for the man who would always make this weekly trek through flea-markets and yards sales looking for lost of thought usless old superhero action figures. it was during a routine errand with my mom that i can vividly remember first going to what i would later simply call "the judge's place" the walls where stack with current and long forgotten comics all bagged and boarded far before it had become a staple of other comic shops. whole sections on the store just for the displaying of the judge's personal action figures, ranging from the dc and marvel of the 60's and on, from 12 inch gi joe's and orignal star-wars figures. all safe behind a clear plastic wall safe from every child and child at heart who wanted nothing more than to get their hands on them. as an aspiring comic artist myself, i owe the judge a hudge dept for opening my eyes to the wonderly huge world of comics. i remember the man himself stading taller than most, and no not because of fact i was still a very small child. no he walked around with a strength and dignity that i saw only in comic heroes. the store may have been sold but i pass by the building every now and then,it may be some "titan sporting goods" now, but as a pass it by, i do glance over at it. and for a remeber the sign and the superheroes they had painted on the side and i smile.

The superheroes painted on the side of the building! I had forgotten that, it was pretty special. I had also forgotten the name, Collectors World.
Thanks for sharing your memories of the Judge!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marvel Treasury Edition #1: A Super Giant-Sized Smorgasbord of Spider-Man Delight

In 1974 Marvel introduced us to something a heck of lot larger than good old Giant-Size comics: Marvel Treasury Sized Editions. 10” x 13” suckers that were so big, they fell over on the newsstand.  And while they mostly contained reprints, Marvel put in a few special features in the early editions.

Marvel Treasury Edition 1 classic cover by John Romita Sr, 1974

100 Pages of Spider-Man were wrapped around a John Romita (Sr) cover featuring the web-slinger in a classic pose.  I say thee nay—classic is too weak a word. It’s archetypal!  How could a kid not want to buy this comic if they were a Spidey fan?  If I were Disney, I’d take this image and slap it on mugs, T-shirts, and all kinds of merchandise.

Marvel Treasury 1, Spectacular Spider-Man by John Romita

Here is the original art to this Treasury cover. I just looked this up on Heritage Auctions, it sold for $44,812.50! Wow!

Marvel Treasury Edition 1 intro by Stan Lee

The inside front cover featured an editorial by Stan the Man—can you dig his mad mod haircut and full beard?  Crazy, man.

Marvel Treasury Edition 1 Daily Bugle page 1

There was also a double page mockup of the Daily Bugle, with Marie Severin providing the “photographs”.

Marvel Treasury Edition 1 Daily Bugle page 2

The second page of the Bugle shows the Bullpen hard at work and also announces Ross Andru joining Gerry Conway on Amazing.

Marvel Treasury Edition 1 table contents page, classic villains

The table of contents page featured a gallery of headshots by Romita, comprised of Spider-Man’s friends and foes.

Marvel Treasury Edition 1 back cover by Romita Sr

The back cover was another Romita headshot, accompanied by the possibly the most famous quote from any comic book.

I was thrilled to get this in 1974, and I still get one when I pull out my beat up copy.  The Treasury Editions that followed in the first year were pretty good as well—most notably the Fantastic Four (with the Galactus Trilogy) and Conan (with Barry Smith’s Red Nails) editions.  Nuff said!

Update: Comment from my old blog...


Nice post. Like yourself, many Bronze Age bloggers recall these treasury issues with great affection. I'm an oddball on that front, I guess, as it took me the longest time to warm up to this format. The treasuries couldn't be stored with my other comics and they were just too big for my then-little hands. It's only in recent years that I've finally started to add them to my collection. Of course, today, they fill my warm fuzzy like most other Bronze Age books do!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monster Monday: Tales of the Zombie ads

Zombie Ad

I’ve been collecting scans of Marvel house ads for some time and just ran across this collection of ads for Tales of the Zombie magazine.  The ad above, for the first issue of the magazine, shows the original Bill Everett drawing of the character from a short story published before Marvel became the House of Ideas.  You gotta love the blurbs:  No Grave Can Hold Him!  The Zombie Cometh!

Zombie House Ad

The ad for the second issue started featuring the art of regular artist Pablo Marcos. 

Zombie Dracula House ad

The color ads for TOTZ could appear in Marvel Comics, but Zombies themselves could not appear in any comics-code approved book.  Fans seemed to crave a team-up between the Zombie and Spider-Man.  We didn’t get that, nor any team-ups with any other horror characters. 

Tales of the Zombie 9 promo ad

This ad is for my favorite issue of TOTZ—featuring the Steve Gerber story where Simon Garth gains his life back for one day, A Day in the Life of a Dead Man.

I hope you do not feel like a zombie on Monday, dear readers!  Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thing Tuesdays: John Byrne's Raging Thing

The Thing pinup by John Byrne, 1984

The Thing pinup by John Byrne, featured in the Fantastic Four Special Edition that I yakked up two weeks ago.  Byrne portrayed Ben Grimm as he appeared in the early issues of the FF, somewhat lumpy in places, rather than his modern rocky design.  Nuff said!