01 May 2011

Comic relief?

Old days/Good times I remember
Fun days/Filled with simple pleasures
Drive-in movies
Comic books and blue jeans
Howdy Doody
Baseball cards and birthdays...

-'Old Days', Chicago VIII, Chicago, 1975

As we've worked on the renovation at Mom's, I found a few old comic books that my late stepfather must have had-some Marvel westerns from the early 1970's. They look to be in OK shape and a check of our friend the Net shows a possible value of around $2.00 each. I'm going to take them to the local comic shop and see what Comic Book Guy will give me for them. I'd take 50 cents to a buck each-I don't want the things and anything for them is better than nothing.

There's some great titles: The Western Kid, Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, Ringo Kid (the saga of an outlaw-son of a traveling drummer from Liverpool, no doubt), and Kid Colt, Outlaw. There's a theme running through all of those titles, I think-but I suppose 'The Middle-Aged Outlaw of Buffalo Chip County' doesn't have much zip.

Now, I'm not much into the comic book scene anymore. I think the last comic (oh, excuse me! Graphic Novel! La-de-da!) I bought was the adaptation of Harold Coyle's Team Yankee from the mid 1980s. But when I was a kid, I read a lot of them. Mom would go uptown and pick up a pack of four comic books for a dollar-mostly Gold Key funnies type. I personally was a big fan of DC's Sgt. Rock of Easy Company. Rock and E Company fought all over Europe during WWII and I think must have been responsible for tying down nearly 15 German divisions all by themselves. Second was Marvel's Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. I believe ol' Fury is still around after nearly four decades, reinvented as Nick Fury, head of some bunch in Marvel's superhero universe. The last third of the triad was DC's Weird War Tales, which was a series of military-fantasy-sci-fi-supernatural-Twilight Zoneish stories. Great stories and art and I might buy a compendium of these if DC were to ever release one. I never cared much for any of the superheroes and never read them.

These comics I found dated from around the early 1970s, when I was in my big comic reading era. I looked through a few of this find and got a kick out the ads splattered throughout the mags. Great stuff, like the 'clubs' where a company got some kid to sell seeds or greeting cards to their unfortunate relatives in order to receive great prizes, like walkie-talkies (long before cellphones, remember), or a flash camera (again, long before cellphones), or an electric football game (long before Madden 2011 on the PS3). Or the companies that sold novelties like joke pepper gum, the infamous 'X-Ray Glasses' (only 95 cents!), and Sea-Monkeys (which, as you may or may not remember, were simply brine shrimp, freeze-dried or some such). Or the 'record clubs', like the Columbia Record Club. Such a deal-14 LPs for only $2.98. Never mind the small print. Let's see what they have. Led Zeppelin III-OK. Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride. Not so bad. Procol Harum's Broken Barricades. Like them. The Partridge Family. The Carpenters. Bobby Sherman. Well, that train went off the tracks quick. But definitely a cross-section of the early 1970s pop music scene! I'm surprised they don't have the option to get these on 8-track or them newfangled cassettes.

As I remember all the ads, I remember thinking how super neato some of that stuff would be to own, but my tyrannical mother wouldn't allow it. Said I had enough stuff as it was. As I look at the ads now, I think 'What ingenious ways those companies had of parting hard-earned nickels, dimes, and dollars from gullible seven-to-ten-year-olds!' This must have been before we got all of the consumer protection bureaus and laws and people lived by the old saying 'caveat emptor' (That's 'Let the buyer beware' for all of you who slept through Latin, Rome, and the Romulans).

Like I said, I fell out of the comic book scene when I got to be of an age where girls started to look all soft and curvy, and I don't know much about the genre today, except that I gather adults buy comic books, never read them, and stuff them in envelopes in the vain hope that they might be worth something someday. Given the sad shape of the economy, who knows? Postwar Brazil used aspirin tablets as currency for a time, and the cigarette was the universal currency of Europe in the late 1940s. So maybe the comic book is as good an investment as buying stock in a company whose idea of raising share value is to move the factory overseas.

Most of you readers are of course from Australia/New Zealand, and I have no idea what comics were big down there. But I'd bet a lot of the ads and content were similar, and for much of the same crap that was peddled here. It should have been cheaper for younger kids there since it wasn't so far to ship the stuff from Hong Kong.

Fill me in, citizens. I'll trade old issues of The Two-Gun Kid, The Western Kid, Ringo Kid, and Rawhide Kid for your Kookaburra Kid, Kid Boomerang, Dropbear Kid, or The Eucalyptus Kid!

yankeedog out.


  1. Well I've been following the continuation of Farscape and there's the web comics I follow (Schlock Mercenary is well worth a look)

    As to the past the parents ran a caravan park for a few years and seeing it had a milk bar and service station, I could read the comics if I didn't mark them. So I had a good read of Commando and others that now slip my memory.

  2. "reinvented as Nick Fury" who is now portrayed in the comixs and played on the big screen by Samuel L. (snakes on a plane, Macefrakingwindu) Jackson

  3. +++So maybe the comic book is as good an investment as buying stock in a company whose idea of raising share value is to move the factory overseas.+++

    Was for a while, and some old comics are still immensely valuable. On the other hand, around the early nineties the comic publishers decided to try and get more of the golden eggs and duly gutted the goose. An explosion of cynical, gimmicky "instant collectibles" did a lot to kill that side of things: contrived story crossovers, Big Event stories, limited-edition foil covers and so on.

    Which isn't to say that there isn't still cool stuff being done in comics, or that the collectors' market is completely dead. But I think we're past the days where you could do something like a friend-of-a-friend in my university days, who had carefully bought multiple copies of each issue of all his favourite comics through his teens, and then paid his way through university by selling one or two of them a week.

    +++I have no idea what comics were big down there. But I'd bet a lot of the ads and content were similar, and for much of the same crap that was peddled here.+++

    "Similar" as in "identical". There's never really been a big local comics industry, the economies of scale are stacked too heavily against it. There were some valiant attempts every so often: somewhere I still have a run of stuff from Cyclone! Comics from the eighties, who managed to keep up a run of titles for something like a year or so before they folded. Their main lineup was the "Southern Squadron" superhero team, and a cosmic-level superhero called "Dark Nebula". Then there was a weird, trippy superhero duo called "Niteside and the Rock", and "Bug and Stump" which started out as a strip in one of the student papers and was launched as its own comic with great fanfare. I scored a free poster for that one but I forget what became of the comic.

    After that came Platinum Grit, which got its start in print but has been reincarnated as a reasonably successful webcomic. Oh, and an attempt to launch a round of superhero comics sold via CD that flared up a few years ago. Cute idea, but undone by immature tech (CDs as a medium got overtaken by high-speed internet and media like smartphones and tablets) and, well, not being very good.

    All of this is niche stuff that even the comic geeks had to consciously seek out, though. The mass-market comics we grew up with were simple imports or reprints of overseas ones, mainly the Big Two from the USA and 2000AD from the UK.

    I'd go with eBay for those old issues, though. More chance of finding an enthusiast who's after those particular issues and might be willing to pay more for them.

  4. Bangar-I still read Dilbert (the patron saint of Cubicle Dwellers) and I miss The Far Side. But I don't do too much comics stuff.

    Barnesy-Where ya been? Whoa! They really DID reinvent Fury! Last I remember, he was white and chomped cigars. Turning him into a balding black guy? Well. At least Jackson's playing him-and that's all right.

    Matt-Welcome, troop. Seen ya 'round the Burger. Great insight on the comics scene Down Under.

    Yes, I do know that comics were tremendously overplayed as collector items. They can't ALL be collectable. And a 'collectable' isn't worth much if everyone has one.

    Odd, but I know people who earned college money by breaking into their sports cards collection.

    Ebay-yeah, not a bad idea. Might well fetch a few more dollars that way.

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