Whatever it Takes to Get 15 Minutes of Reading Time...

Whatever it Takes to Get 15 Minutes of Reading Time...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Big Dumb Lists: Ray's 17 Haunted Comics Smorgasbord For Halloween

Thank you to all the comics publishers who participated in today's Halloween ComicFest.  I saw a lot of newbies to comics coming into the shop and catching that magic spark in their eyes as initiates.  Nothing draws a crowd better than freebies and given the expense of Free Comic Book Day, I think it's very special the industry ponies up for a second big giveaway day with Halloween ComicFest.  My kiddo scarfed up quite a bit of the offerings, while I'm eager to dive into Dark Horse's Harrow County,  Benitez Productions' Wraithborn,  Aftershock's B.E.K.:  Black Eyed Kids  and Action Lab's Zombie Tramp vs. Dollface.   Marvel's You Choose the Story serving of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl  seems like a groovy fun ride as well.

I celebrate Halloween all month long in October, loading up horror movies, horror film scores and of course, taking boyo to all of his various costume parades, trunk-or-treats and such until we giddily celebrate the actual Ghouls' Night Out.  Last week I was fortunate to catch TCM's special theater engagement of Stanley Kubrick's rendition of The Shining.  Considering I was only 10 years old when it came out originally in 1980, to see it on the big screen was sublime wish fulfillment.

With our trip for this year's Halloween ComicFest notched, I've reserved a special block of time (namely when the family's in Snoresville) for a selection of 17 all-I-can-eat horror comics gorging event that'll likely start between commercial breaks during the World Series and go until I pass out.  Check in with me to see if I actually make it all the way through my handpicked Halloween comics stash:

1.  The House of Secrets  # 126:  DC (Charlton being their indie rival) was king of horror comics during the 1970s and early '80s.  This is but one their numerous offerings featuring a tale of the classic triple-dog-dare you moment among arrogant youth and haunted houses.

2.  Ghosts  # 31:  Another one of DC's supernatural horror lines.  Toward the end of its run, Ghosts  got predictable as did many of the books following the EC brand of horror comic storytelling, but hell if this one isn't creepy merely at face value.  Only Piers Anthony's Death in the Incarnations of Immortality  books is more intimidating than this one.

3.  Vampirella  (Warren) # 102:  Ah, the titillating Warren years and Vampi's black-and-white, erotic pulp anthology magazine.  Here, the alien nosferatu squares off against the hung-out Blood-Red Queen.  The ongoing Pantha story "A Night Full of Zombies" is an equal highlight.

4.  Alan Robert's Killogy featuring Doyle:  The former Misfits guitarist had himself quite a brutal comics romp in this gnarly one-shot that delivers the gruesome answer to his old band's tune, "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?"

And Misfits fans will recognize this  off-the-bat, the accompanying artwork to the "Die Die My Darling" single.  I had a poster of that in my teenage bedroom years ago, nostalgic sigh.  Along with EC Comics, another batch of pre-Code gems, YoeBooks' wrangling of comics your mother warned you about such as Weird Mysteries, Voodoo, Worlds of Fear, Beware, Web of Evil, Weird Chills  and Adventures Into Darkness...the Haunted Horror  anthologies.  If there's time after knocking out the master list, this one's definitely in order.

5.  Afterlife With Archie  # 7:  Would that I had time to jet through the whole set again to this point.  Kudos to Archie Comics for giving out the first parts of each of the major story arcs in this brilliant zombie apocalypse series today at Halloween ComicFest.  Though this riotous variant cover here doesn't indicate the story, this is the Thanksgiving issue where the remaining cast members troll through what they're most relieved about, versus thankful for, considering all they've lost.

6.  The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina  # 1:  I kinda had the hots for Sabrina when I was much younger.  K, so I still do.  What poor Sabrina's gone through in this stellar drop down the hellhole into the maw of Satan is one of the most remarkable bits of horror fiction on the market.  I adore the horror flick variant covers toasting Creepshow, Carrie, Satan's Cheerleaders and this one for Flowers in the Attic.

7.  Nailbiter  # 14:  This is the Silence of the Lambs  of comic-dom.  Scary good.

8.  Faust:  Act 2:  Love of the Damned  # 1:  I still  haven't been right since I got turned onto this explicit sex and splatter series long-ago.  Faust  proves nothing is taboo, crikey...

9.  Ferals  # 7:  What's the goriest werewolf film you've ever seen?  Pussy compared the Ferals  comic, I promise.  Nearly as uninhibited as Faust.

10.  Batman & Dracula:  Red Rain:  Along with Gotham by Gaslight,  the pinnacle of DC's daring Elseworlds run in the 1990s.  Scarier than The Long Halloween  by miles.

11.  Spectacular Spider-Man  # 38:  Morbius, you either liked him or you didn't.  Remember when Marvel dished out promotional plastic vampire teeth when they gave the super-powered vampire his own short-lived series?  Yeah, I could be reading Vampire Diaries or Preacher  for far nastier vampire business, but I think a little break from the intensity seems in order at this point in the queue.

12.  Screwed  # 4:   Xenescope makes their bread and butter spreading the cheese, as you can infer by this risque variant cover for number 4 of the six-issue miniseries I was well dialed-into, and not necessarily for the skin trade--though I wouldn't fault you one bit for accusing me otherwise, given other selections on this list.   Screwed  did have actual substance, as a patchwork femme-Frankenstein returns from the dead and wrecks havoc over those who took her to pieces and unwittingly reassembled a limb-tearing monstrosity who's not so hard the eyes, undead she may be.  Just watch out for your own  eyes around this chick.

13.  Hellblazer  # 62:   One of the greatest antiheroes in comics, John Constantine is a post-punk, smart-assed, pint-pounding, demon squasher who was my sheer addiction on the Vertigo run.  He made me finally understand what a wanker means after laughing curiously a hundred times to the word gnashed by English hardcore legends, The Exploited.  John works best in a mature audiences format, am I right, people?

14.  Tales From the Crypt  # 25:  The greatest horror comic of all-time, along with Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear.  The holy grail of this genre, banned and literally burned in the Fabulous Fifties age of McCarthyism.  Pushed all the nasty buttons long before anyone else.  I can't really tell you my favorite yarn out of the whole lot, but this one speaks for itself.

15.  Creepshow:  Berni Wrightson and Stephen King in an EC Comics tribute worthy of the real deal.  This is my most-read comic in my entire collection, 37 times, destined for 38.  A masterwork of horror comics.

16.  Elvira's House of Mystery # 1:  And we're back at DC horror.  House of Mystery  was another of the imprint's legacies and probably its most popular.  It was re-branded briefly in the 1980s with horror maven Elvira hosting the comic when she was the biggest terror celebrity outside of Freddy Krueger.

17.  Grindhouse:  Doors Open at Midnight:  Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll:   Assuming my eyes aren't bleeding as much as the pages I'll have consumed to this point, I'll be wrapping with Alex de Campi's Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll  from her rad and often gonzo Grindhouse:  Doors Open at Midnight.  If you thought Karen Black duking against that rat bastard voodoo doll in Trilogy of Terror  was nutty enough, hang on to your wigs here.  Alex was kind enough to print a few of my letters in both of the Grindhouse  miniseries and she was a treat to talk to in-person at a signing event for her hilarious Archie vs. Predator.   Her doodles to go with the autographs on my books are treasures.  Alex may be sicker than all of us crammed into a locked room with no key to get out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Book Reviews: Lightning Round Edition Part Deux

I'm pleased by the reception of this page out there by you readers, thank you, thank you, thank yewwwwww...   Things are going well here and I've even booked an interview guest to appear at Confessions of an Old School Comics Nerd  in the near future, so keep coming back for that along with other goodies in store related to comic books.

It seems that last week's Lightning Round edition of my new book reviews was a hit, so let's have second helping, eh?

Betty Boop  # 1
Roger Langridge and Gisele Lagace
Dynamite Entertainment

Boop-oop-de-cute!  Retro is in and you don't get more retro than Ms. Boop, the queen of all animated divas.  If you can, think back upon a time when comic books were ruled by Little Lulu, Andy Panda, Fritzy Ritz, Felix the Cat, Popeye, plus long ago femme protagonists Katy Keene, Brenda Starr, Sheena and Phantom Lady.  Dynamite Entertainment returns to the platinum age of comics by sweeping Betty Boop into the 21st century...without changing a thing about her.  As one of the earliest feminists of pop culture, the enduring Betty Boop couldn't be more popular today.  In this debut issue by Roger Langridge and Gisele Lagace, Betty is hoodwinked by supreme creep Lenny Lizardlips, along with his pointy-eared wraith minions. They trick Betty's senile, would-be scientist Grampy by nudging him homeless as foreclosing reps from the hilarious The Completely Normal Bank of Normalness.  It's up to Betty, who's already skating on thin ice at the Oop-a-Doop Club to dash out from a gig and send Lenny and his scumwads running.  With zoot-tooting lyrics splashed along these pages like a vintage Betty Boop cartoon and usual cohorts Koko and Bimbo plus the swinging Scat Skellington, this revival series looks to be a way gone good time.

Rating:  8

Moonshine  # 1
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Image Comics

Been missing the hell out of 100 Bullets?   Yeah, me too.   Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso rekindle their magic in this new book which could readily be subtitled 100 Shotgun Shells in the Appalachians.  Azzarello never was one to waste much time getting your attention and in Moonshine,  he thrusts his New York mobster Lou Pirlo into Deliverance,  Prohibition-era.  Pirlo is in search of Hiram Holt, reputed bootlegger with a knack for the east coast's finest hooch and no qualms in showing Fibbies their gory shallow graves.  Pirlo's leash rattler, Joe "The Boss" Masseria, has sent him on a business errand with the intent of buying in to Holt's shine operation.  Holt's response is, suffice it to say, something to rival anything Masseria can dish out.  Prior to, we've learned Holt has a few familial skeletons rattling from their proverbial closets.  This early-on standoff is brutal noir as only Brian Azzarello can deliver.  Within this first issue, the story is set for a wild voodoo twist, given where Pirlo ends up after being chased away by Hiram Holt.  As the late George Jones used to wisp, whewwwwwwwww, white lightning...  Thus far out the gate, perfection.

Rating:  10

Jessica Jones  # 1
Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
Marvel Comics

She's a Netflix hit and further destined for a spotlight in the upcoming Defenders  miniseries.  In the Marvel U, she's the estranged wife of Luke Cage, Power Man.  After running with the New Avengers, she keeps her powers on the down low these days.  Having been released from prison and attempting to resume her fruitless life as a private investigator, she's being stalked by supers close to Cage.  For someone who was written as having borne witness to the epochal moment Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, Jessica Jones, once Drew, runs a parallel life culminated from Suckville.  Not just because she and Peter have seen their mutual share of Green Goblin attacks.  Fitting that Marvel and Brian Michael Bendis re-introduces Jessica Jones to comics in another mature format series, as the character debuted in 2001 in the Marvel MAX book Alias.  Having gone under such monikers as Jewel, Knightress and Power Woman, where Bendis places Jones in this new series is being chased around by Luke Cage and his friends in search of the couple's baby.  We're thrust into a skirmish between Jessica and Misty Knight and a subsequent run-in with Spider Woman, who tries to empathize with Jones having had her own child within the past year.   As Jessica's procured a bizarre case to work, it all leads to a nerve-wracking cutoff once Cage catches up to her while on stakeout.  Brian Bendis creates an edgy and sometimes crass Jessica Jones whom we know is holding back her true potential, despite what Misty Knight draws out of her.  Can't wait to see what hell is wrought out of Jessica from Luke in the next issue.

Rating:  9

DC Rebirth:  Flash  # 8
Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico
DC Comics

As successful as The Flash  television series has been on The CW, it's perhaps inevitable the comic series mirrors the show to slight extent.  Our Barry Allen here is the tried and true adult Flash, doubling as forensics expert.  In the Rebirth series, we've seen the same speed force phenomenon that turned Allen into The Flash affect a generous handful of people in Central City.  Dubbed "speedsters," the Rebirth story has moved like gangbusters as a new quasi-villain emerges, Godspeed.  In some ways, the genesis of Godspeed is similar to Zoom, whom we all know from this series and the television show, killed Barry Allen's mother way back when.  Godspeed is fanatical, believes in his own twisted ideals and gives Barry a purposeful trail of corpses to thread toward his identity.  At this point in the Rebirth series, we've learned Godspeed is Barry's partner on the police force, August Heart.  August, who violently lost his brother, considers himself an avenging archangel.  Hell-bent on snuffing Zoom as long-overdue justice for Barry, it's revealed in this issue August has killed the wrong person he believed killed his brother.  Enter the second Wally West, aka Kid Flash, whom Barry is starting to groom.  Together, they take down August, forming the foundations of a Flash tag team.  Considering the original Wally West effectively launched the whole Rebirth project, it'll be interesting to see the inevitable meeting of the Wallys down the road.

Rating:  8

Cannibal  # 1
Jennifer Young, Brian Buccellato and Matias Bergara
Image Comics

The creative team describes this series as an "anti-apocalypse story."  What that means is tapping into the human psyche ala the original Dawn of the Dead,  in the midst of a calamity set inside an Everglades region.  The concept is intriguing.  A hundred year-old hibernating yellow fever is uprooted and spread in the wake of a Category 5 hurricane from 1994.  This virus triggers the uncontrollable urge to consume human flesh.  Not exactly a zombie and certainly not third world Cannibal Ferox, those who have been affected and not treated by a Y-Pak treatment are susceptible to human eating frenzies.  The kicker here in this series is that remorse for the bloody consumptions come into play.  Beneath the expository carnage is the introduction of main character Cash and his stripper lover Jolene, aka "Candy."  Writers Jennifer Young and Brian Buccellato lead their readers to believe Cash is a psycho-sexual deviant in the way he kidnaps Jolene with a bag over her head, only to have it revealed the couple simply likes a danger element to their kink.  The intent to this series is to purposefully slow cook it with an assumed shit storm of skin chomping as it goes on.  We can assume Cash is going swing this plot hard after finding Jolene missing in the midst of a ransacking at the end of the first issue.

Rating:  8

Black Panther  # 7
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chris Sprouse
Marvel Comics

Ta-Nahisi Coates is the laureate of comics.  Seriously.  I used to do a lot of open mike poetry and frequently at the coffee houses I read at, it was considered good form to recite others' work aside from your own, even if you were the feature.  Especially  if you were the feature, as I was a few times.  I can promise you if offered another feature slot on an open mike venue, I'll be toting one, if not two of Coates' triumphant Black Panther  books.  The kingdom of Wakanda couldn't be in better hands than this guy and Issue # 7 is split between traditional bad guy thumping and another of Coates' gorgeously-written parables en route to a tragic ending.  For the mondo team-up geeks, we have a super posse coming to the aid of King T'Challa, who is being challenged by Ezekiel Stane for his throne.  Enter "The Crew," consisting of Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Manifold and Storm, the latter sporting her rad Eighties mohawk.  Even with his hands cuffed behind his back, T'Challa is a supreme badass, and with a little help from his friends, Stane's coup is squashed handily, Marvel-style.  This naturally leads to the likelihood of a soul-powered team book and a damned good one by suggestion.  Meanwhile, T'Challa's sister Shuri continues to consult an astral form of her mother in learning more about the history of Wakanda via The Djalia, a collective subconscious recollection of the land's culture.  As a subplot, the reeling dagger comes from a betrayal upon Changamire by his son, Tetu, as this dynamic issue closes.  Just pass the Eisner here.

Rating:  9

Monday, October 24, 2016

Classic Comics Ads: If the Gloves Don't Fit, Maybe the Dingo Boots Will

A bit surreal after all these years, isn't it?  OJ Simpson as pitch man for Dingo Boots.  From a time when the man had all of America at his feet...along with Dingo Boots.  Back when the Dingo Kid ruled comic book ads, the only controversy here was whether or not OJ's autograph on the promotional photo was real or photocopied.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Book Reviews: Lightning Round Edition

I write music reviews for Blabbermouth.net, the CNN of heavy music.  Thus you can expect I have a lot to say when discussing an album as I do when profiling a lone comic book issue here.  I'm old school and write like the music journalists I read as a teenager.  Comic book reviewers, I've noticed, are chatty at-large, which is a good thing, assuming you can handle the risk of spoilers.  I love the passion involved to break down a 22-page body of work as painstaking as possible in the interest of celebrating this medium and its creators.

Still, I feel the need to challenge myself.  Brevity can work if you give enough of the goods to entice a reader or the very least be informative.  So let's put it to the test and have a lightning round review edition of new comic books hitting the market:

DKIII:  The Master Race  # 6
Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello
DC Comics

Does anybody really know where this eight part series is going?   Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello just might've bitten off more than they can chew here, or they might've been holding back all this time, waiting to dropkick their readers after a slow-cooker that's finally starting to boil.  It all seems subtly accountable to Batman v. Superman,  which of course hoisted some of its omelette-like plot to Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.  A lot of what's been presented to this point has been abandoned as the armor-plated, senior-aged Bats and Supes wage war (along with the denizens and police force of Gotham City) against the marauding Kandorian Quar and his band of Kryptonian hellraisers.  As a standalone, Issue 6 is pretty damned intense, yet it's all over with so quickly, even with the Lara-Diana scrum insert story.  Where the hell is the rehabbing Flash in all of this, and how much of a role does Carrie Kelley, escalated from the "female Robin," stand to play in the final two issues, which presumably blows the roof away?  Is Batman, with nothing to lose as an old fart, about to cross over, as the ending implies here?  Oh, wait, he still needs to be around in the future to train some kid with the last name of McGinnis to take over the mantle...

Rating:  7.5

DC Rebirth:  Aquaman  # 9
Dan Ebnett and Scott Eaton
DC Comics

If Greg Rucka wasn't kicking his peers' asses on Wonder Woman, this would the series to beat in DC Rebirth.  Dan Ebnett and Scott Eaton have been electrifying on this series and the rotating coloring and inks teams have sucked me down into the realm of the sea with their astounding grandeur.  "The Drowning" being one of the most epic story lines in modern Aquaman history, we find ourselves in "Unstoppable," as Arthur leads the forces of Atlantis against a seemingly impervious monstrosity set loose by the new Black Manta, who has usurped control of N.E.M.O.  While this plot rings alarm bells of a Doomsday in the sea, the differentiating factor has us forced to watch Aquaman take one hell of a beating in an effort to prove himself worthy independent of the Justice League.  He is, for all intents and purposes, estranged from them given prior events including a showdown against Superman in issue 6.  How Arthur wins the day despite the dogging protests of his man-at-arms, Murk, is a doozy.  This, and Wonder Woman  are my DC drug books, and the reason I don't balk at the capitalizing bi-weekly release schedule.

Rating:  8.5

Archie  # 13
Mark Waid and Joe Eisma
Archie Comics

Mark Waid is a man possessed.  How he goes from All-New, All-Different Avengers  to Champions  to Strange Fruit  to Archie  and the other titles he's responsible for is a lesson in commitment for all would-be comics creators.  Picking up the aftermath of Archie and Veronica's brutal separation in Issue # 12 of this stellar re-brand, the story focuses largely on Ronnie's assimilation into a boarding school in Switzerland, where she's set to cross paths with none other than the ruthless redheaded bombshell Cherry Blossom.  Waid writes their new-gen meeting as two reality t.v. stars from different seasons relocated across the seas.  What's been nice about Waid's interpretation of Veronica Lodge is how he's quickly evolved her from a rich girl snot into an empathetic creature who just so happens to have money.  Archie in this series has completely grounded Ronnie to this point and their agonizing pining for one another (along with Betty's disrupted life from her own affair with Sayid) is deeply moving.  The opening few pages of Archie going through the ruts imagining Veronica is still with him is wonderfully written.  With the introduction of Cherry, you just know nothing good's going to come about and sure enough, she's a royal bitch with designs on tearing Ronnie down as early as next issue.  Mark Waid has taken the core adolescence of the original series along with the maturing intrigue of The Married Life  and perfectly re-envisioned the series to the same effectiveness as Afterlife With Archie.  No zombies to be found here, but there's still no getting enough of Waid's hip new Riverdale.

Rating:  9

Han Solo  # 4
Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks
Marvel Comics

I've been on the fence with this series the whole time and I confess much of it has to do with the fact I always had  to be Han Solo during playtime in 1977.  Han's always been my man--may Kylo Ren burn in every single frame of Episode VIII.  I hold the character to such a high standard to the point I recall even snarling here and there while reading Brian Daley's Han Solo paperback trilogy from 1979 and '80, though through adult eyes, I admit Daley did a wonderful job.  I like the premise of Marvel's Han Solo.  I'm totally down with Han and Chewie running the dangerous Dragon Void race in the Millennium Falcon as subterfuge for a mission for the Rebel Alliance.  Princess Leia having minimal faith of success in Han, yet fighting the romantic urges swirling inside her, it's Star Wars  101 captured accurately.  We're in Issue 4 and Han has already made not one, but two points-of-contact while dodging obstacles that make a run through the hedge maze in The Shining  look like amateur hour.  Still, despite a run-in with the Imperials and a lesson in humility from the race's shining star, the four-armed, amphibious Loo Re Anno, I'm not feeling that edge that makes Han Solo the scruffy-looking, nerf-herding scoundrel he is.  Marjorie Liu knows when to drop the right spots of humor and the art team of Mark Brooks, Sonia Oback and Matt Milla create terrific backdrops and colorful character interplay.  I'm just not sure about that tiger-headed Dorae, much less who the real spy upon the rebellion is.  Whatev, I'm more interested in seeing how many parsecs its takes for Han and Chewie to dust Loo Re Anno.

Rating:  7

Peepland  # 1
Christa Faust and Gary Phillips
Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics

I came to this title lured both Hard Case Crime, which released two of my favorite contemporary Stephen King novels outside of Under the Dome, Joyland  and The Colorado Kid.   Likewise, I was hooked by UK-based Titan Comics (aka Doctor Who Central), who has rapidly become one of the best indie publishers in the world with great stuff like Death Sentence, Sally of the Wasteland  and Tank Girl:  Two Girls, One Tank.  I'm always up for giving their books a shot and thus I tripped over Peepland.  Ironic I had heard The Tubes' "She's a Beauty" and Alcatrazz's "Stripper" the same day I grabbed the debut issue, since I firmly believe in kismet.  Cutting to the chase, Peepland  follows the misadventures of a Manhattan-based peep booth diva, Roxy, circa 1986.  Roxy has a suspicious videotape dumped upon her by a regular who ends up killed on the subway rails, victim of a group of goons trailing him.  The video in question appears to be a soft porn tape for Roxy and her reunited ex, Nick to grind to, but there's something amiss as the show rolls...an unintentional, real death scene.  Here's where we're left as the mystery behind Peepland  begins.  The first issue is vulgar (as are most of the Titan books I've dived into) and focused mostly on exposition until the shock drop at the end.  I'm feeling cautiously optimistic where this thing's headed.

Rating:  7.5

DC Rebirth:  Superman  # 8
Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke
DC Comics

Alright, so Issue # 9 came out this week, I know, I know.  There's only so many hours in a day.  I feel compelled to flag the eighth issue following what was the most wonderfully simplistic Superman story I'd read in ages, "Our Town" in Issue 7.  I don't know how everyone else feels, but I'm loving the maturation of this new Super-fam Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have gestated.  This is everything we'd hoped for in a marriage between Lois Lane and Superman.  Jon is exactly the prodigal son DC needed in order to raise a believable Superboy-in-the-making--particularly since he has the real Man of Steel (at least an alternate world's version) for a papa.  The series' opening battle with The Eradicator was decent, but more absorbing for the development of this lovable family.  "Our Town" gave Clark Kent a purported day off, spent with his family at a local state fair with the promise of no crime busting.  The punchline was delicious and Lois' reaction a gut-buster.  So when "Escape From Dinosaur Island Part 1" dropped in Issue 8, I'll admit to feeling flat about it.  There have been enough scraps against dinos in Superman's life that I was automatically skeptical about this issue.  I shouldn't have worried.  In fact, I was downright jubilant by the last page.  The story is equally simplistic as Issue # 7 and that put me into a secure place as a reader:  Jon's goofed science project sends himself and his dad into a war-torn version of Dinosaur Island.  Superman and his child continue to learn how to work together as they're attacked by giant fish and pterodactyls, all the while finding remnants and corpses from a huge battle, circa World War II.   What took my breath away was the primary casualties on Dinosaur Island was The Losers!  If you grew up reading war comics like Sgt. Rock  and The Losers, you no doubt had a geek out moment as I did here.  K, excuse me now, gotta read Issue 9 pronto.

Rating:  8

Meme-O-Rama: Norrin Gnad?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New Book Wednesday Pick of the Week: Evil Dead 2: Dark Ones Rising

Now I know conventional comics wisdom would have me taking the overdue sixth issue of Frank Miller's DK III:  The Master Race  for this week's pick or even DC Rebirth's Batman  # 9, which looks to be a monster story with Bats recruiting the Suicide Squad for a hard run at Bane.  Both are on deck in my reading pile, along with another contender, Black Panther  # 7 and Usagi Yojimbo  # 158 from the inimitable Stan Sakai, a guaranteed pleasure pill.  The debut of Infamous Iron Man  today featuring Dr. Doom in his own special battle suit?  Intriguing and no doubt flying off the racks this week.

 Hey, Halloween will be here faster than you can say "Bubba didn't do it!!!" (i.e. the superb teleflick  Dark Night of the Scarecrow) and we're knee-deep in blood and shit with Season 2 of Ash vs. Evil Dead  on the Starz network.  Me being as much a gonzo horror geek as well as comic book nerd, it was a lock the minute I saw the mock Friday the 13th  variant cover to Space Goat Publishing's second Evil Dead 2  spinoff miniseries, Dark Ones Rising.

I'll never forget 1987 when Evil Dead II:  Dead By Dawn  hit theaters.  I was precisely two months shy of my 17th birthday when the film came out, which you'll recall (assuming you were alive that magnificent year) was rated NC-17.  Now I'd gotten myself and my neighborhood posse into the Friday the 13th  slashers as early an age as 14, so suffice it to say, I was livid to be denied entry into Evil Dead II  over a two month technicality.  Yeah, I tried.  I even bribed an usher I was friendly with by offering him a batch of Hustlers  I'd pilfered from my dad's bachelor pad.  No dice.

I've thought of this during every episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead,  in particular the barf-inducing second episode of this season.  You know where I'm going if you've seen it already.  The same place Ash went, where nobody, not even James Tiberius Kirk himself has ventured:  up the scrote and bunghole of a cadaver.  As a Facebook friend of mine posted, you can't unsee that sequence ever.  Here I thought The Human Centipede  had set the bar on debauchery decades after the nauseating Cannibal Holocaust  and Make Them Die Slowly.

Thus, it's anticlimactic coming to SGP's Evil Dead 2:  Dark Ones Rising,  thus far a much tamer ride, largely due to slowly cruising in expository mode.  Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment already ran their courses through expansions of Army of Darkness.  SGP has since acquired the licensing to take Evil Dead 2  to all sorts of looney places (to the feet of martians, Jack the Ripper, Krampus and freaking Adolf Hitler via the Evil Dead 2:  Revenge  one-shots) with the proposal a lot of crazy crap occurred along Ash's trek to Hell's version of Medieval Times.  This involves resurrecting Professor Knowby's daughter, Annie as Ash's enduring sidekick, this despite her biting it at the end of the Evil Dead II  film.

Prior to Dark Ones Rising,  SGP ran the Evil Dead 2:  Tales of the Ex-Mortis  miniseries, where Ash and Annie fought their trans-dimensional way back to Earth, which is where this new one picks up.  Annie has survived, and presenting the first "hmmmmm" moment, she torches the Necronomicon and breaks the demon dagger in half.  Now, you Evil Dead  freaks are likely to be doing what I did pausing on this page:  singing "Weeeee'rrrrrrrre goooonnnna geeeeet youuuuuuu...weeeeee'rrrrrrrre goooonnnna geeeeet youuuuuuu..."

Though Annie's presumed Ash to be dead upon her re-entry into the real world, this is  the Evil Dead-verse, which means Ash's return is somewhat of a spectacle.  Writer Frank Hannah brings Ash back into the picture through the mud hole of a cow pasture.  The way the scene is artistically portrayed, one could interpret Ash being shat out of bovine butt, which would've been one to rival Episode 2, Season 2 of Ash vs. Evil Dead.  In fact, we being the degenerate horror hounds we are, we kind of expected  such a grody arrival.  This is a teen-rated comic, though.  NC-17 doesn't bind it to the same splatter convictions as its namesake, though we're hoping for the red red groovy in the next two issues.

Seemingly defenseless without the proper artifacts needed to take on deadites (including Ash's missing stump-saw, his restored hands being more in line with the original Evil Dead  film), a soul-collecting Goliath emerges from a massive chunk out of the road where a small town used to be.  With Ash finally starting to get back to his wisecracking self after coming off as vulnerable and shell-shocked, he and Annie are forced to hightail it.  Annie has a plan on the assumption this is the only force of hell they're contending with for this round.

We know better, don't we?   Theyyyyy'rrrrrre gooooonnnnna geeeeeet themmmmmmm... 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Classic Comic Ads: Doom Pitches Duds

Anyone see the hilarious Snickers ad running in DC Comics these days?  How can you miss it, since it's been running in everyone's books for three months now?  You know, that  one with with Superman and Batman confronted by Doomsday, in actuality a cheesed-off Wonder Woman who settles down once they slip her a Snickers bar?

Marketing can be fun at times, particularly in comic books.  While most ads in contemporary comics are pitches for the imprints' other offerings, back in the day, there was a lot of advertising gold.

Your ol' buddy Ray is here to unearth some of that nostalgic advert treasure, you're welcome.  So keep on dropping by for some of these fun nuggets like this goofy two-page spread featuring Dr. Doom guilt tripping us Gen X readers of the day into scarfing Milk Duds.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Retro Replay: Vampirella Vol. 2 # 1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

Halloween's just around the corner (Halloween ComicFest 2016 is October 29th, mark your calendars), which means it's time to troll the horror comics on top of kicking out the fright jams on the tube.

 As they have done with Red Sonja, Dynamite Entertainment continues to hit the reset button on their other big moneymaker franchise, Vampirella, by hauling in new creative teams to start over from scratch.  Kate Leth's current Hollywood-steampunk inception of the legendary vampiress has its supporters, particularly a new generation of readers who've balked at Vampi (and Sonja's, for that matter) gratuitous skin trade.  For me, though, Dynamite had a hell of a good thing going with Gail Simone on Red Sonja  and in Vampirella's case, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Nancy A. Collins.  Thongs and swinging cleavage being secondary to the bigger attraction:  tremendous writing from two of the industry's pros.  Collins, who also had terrific comic book runs on Swamp Thing, Sunglasses After Dark, Dhampire:  Stillborn, Predator:  Hell Come A'Walkin' and Jason vs. Leatherface, vowed to bring the buxom nosferatu back to her horror roots on her run from 2014 through '15.  In her brief but bountiful stint on Volume 2 of the series, Collins well made good on that pledge.

Since 1969, ol' Vampi has emerged as a supreme badass from her black-and-white pulp gestation during the Warren Publishing years.  Archie Goodwin's space vamp heroine predates Marvel's masculine vampire assassin Blade, who, with a hard-edged portrayal by Wesley Snipes, thrust his alpha-pointed katana into the hearts of fans (much less bloodsuckers) during the Nineties.  Prior to Blade, Marvel had Morbius, who has tormented Spiderman on occasion and returned now and then to haunt readers on his own.  Let us not forget other fang bang comics over the years such as The Tomb of Dracula, Planet of Vampires, I, Vampire, The House of Mystery, 30 Days of Night, Vampire Tales and the red-hot contemporary series American Vampire.  While we're at it, Vertigo just released a Lost Boys comic this week.

Under Dynamite's wing, Vampirella regained her prestige in the wake of onscreen vampire vogue such as The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and of course, the adolescent-targeted Twilight series.  Personally, I would flag the Swedish film Let the Right One In  and its equally powerful American remake Let Me In  as not only the finest horror fiction story in more than a decade, but the primer to making a schlock queen like Vampirella a returning overnight sensation.

With revived interest in Near Dark, The Lost Boys, Fright Night, Max Schreck's Nosferatu (my vote as the best vampire flick of all-time) and Christopher Lee's suave Dracula for Hammer Studios, Vampi's resurrection seemed a given.  In the care of Eric Trautmann, Vampirella  turned out to be a bigger success than even Dynamite themselves probably anticipated.  As with Red Sonja, the imprint has spun off numerous Vampirella miniseries, one-shots and crossovers to the point some might argue she's become a pop Drac, an older comics world equivalent to Kristin Stewart.  In the care of Nancy A. Collins, however, the spinoffs, one-shots, annuals and miniseries were either goofy fun (i.e. Feary Tales)  or downright horrifying, as with Prelude to Shadows, a prequel to the first issue of Collins' outstanding debut, the six-part "Our Lady of Shadows." 

Eric Trautmann rebooted Vampirella  properly when taking charge of the franchise for Dynamite in 2010, but the publisher's jump back to the primitive in 2014 rang not to high heaven, but you-know-where.  Nancy A. Collins went straight for the jugular (pun intended) in her Vampi debut in "Our Lady of Shadows" by thrusting the daughter of Lilith unto the feet of Ethan Shroud and his nefarious Cult of Chaos.  

Vampirella is sent by the Vatican to investigate the kidnapping of a little girl, Emma Baxter.  Emma is marked as a sacrifice to be performed on The Feast of Shadows, one of Chaos' most unholy rites.  As it turns out, the girl's father, Bill, happens to be a member of the cult.  Having had plenty of her fill of the dreaded warlock and high priest Shroud in the past, Vampirella begrudgingly accepts the task set before her. 

Things don't go well for Vampi as she's captured and submitted to a brutal ritual, branded as a future vessel for Umbra, the Lady of Shadows, effectively the governess of Chaos' blood-flung realm.  There's nothing at all pop-minded and pretty to Collins' exposition in this story, in particular the gruesome final stanza of issue # 1.  Chaos has eviscerated Mrs. Baxter and left her for dead hanging upside down.  The biting (sorry for another bad pun) closure to this opening act finds Vampirella forced to feed on Baxter and end her suffering.  

Collins immediately turned the Vampirella ethos on its head with this scene, given the fact our scantily-clad heroine has sworn to protect humanity by destroying only her own kind.  In this issue, Vampirella is twice a victim of obligation.  Having to disavow her principles this quickly into the series was, well....cool.  As Vampirella is fated to become the high mother of the global vampire sect during Collins' 13 issue run, to call Volume 2 of Dynamite's hold on the franchise a game-changer is hardly doing it justice.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Book Review: Reborn # 1

Reborn  # 1
Mark Millar and Greg Capullo
Millarworld/Image Comics

Separate yourself from DC Rebirth and the title of Mark Millar and Greg Capullo's new sci-fi/fantasy series, Reborn.   

Likewise, don't be deterred with a false impression this series is stuffed full of religious diatribes and puritanical cleansing.  Its protagonist is as secular as it gets, and given all that's happened within her mortal life, her rejection of God is a very real, new-gen form of fundamentalism spreading around the world--even if Bonnie Black is an elderly misanthrope.  It's no secret the church as an institution has seen better days and held a firmer grasp over humanity than it does today.  The concept of one, all-powerful deity and a subterranean devilment waiting to singe wrongdoers has been more of a control construct than people have been willing to acknowledge.  Until now.  Preacher  crossing over from Vertigo to AMC is telling of where we're at as believers in contemporary society.

Really, without the mandate of preparing one's soul for a perpetual afterlife of harmony at the threshold of heavenly nirvana, we humans would be extinct as a species.  Lawlessness, especially murder, would be the prevailing norm without a checks and balances system reinforcing that crime does time and Satan feasts on your innards once the justice system is done with you.

Keeping this in mind, Mark Millar and Greg Capullo exploit this very fact within the opening pages of their brow-raising Reborn.  It's not often you begin a fantasy series with a gory spree killing sequence, but these brothers go right for the jugular and slash it open before we're ever introduced to our lead character, Bonnie Black.  Yet there's a purpose to this gratuitous nihilism, which is immediately halted with a peek into the world we're about to enter, a fantastical realm Millar insinuates is built partially of one's own design.

Bonnie Black has lived a sad and cruel life.  She's lost her husband to the very sniper introduced in Reborn  # 1.  Her father suffered a squishy death in a steel plant, her mother dying shortly thereafter.  Bonnie Black is in the waning moments of her senior life and like any rational mortal, fears what is to come.  The writing here is magnificent as Bonnie reflects upon her finest life moments in the wake of her past tragedies and looming death.

Though a forthright cynic, we feel  her pain inside one single panel, which Greg Capullo illustrates with heartwarming innocuousness:  a young Bonnie, married, suckling her newborn, nestled beneath the nook of her husband's arm.  Mark Millar cites it perfectly for us to get where Bonnie has been and why her life's a blown tragedy:  "I'm twenty-six and feeding Barbara, loving the way she blinks as she swallows.  Loving the fact she  needs me so much.  Carson on the box.  Harry beside me.  Never happier than this perfect moment."

Instead of turning this story into a would-be "Kick the Can" or Cocoon  for comics, there's no magical youth restoration, at least in the real world.  Bonnie Black is doomed to die, but magic does  play into our story.

We've all had dreams, even nightmares, where we reunite with our departed loved ones, often in surreal settings.  The foil of mortality, however, is we awaken from those dreams, forced to face reality, compelled to keep going no matter how sensational it might've felt we've escaped our humdrum grinds forever.  Our loved ones remain departed and honestly, do we really  know if we ever rejoin them after crossing over?  There's no concrete attestation for what lies beyond, much less whether or not angels' wings come in plus-sizes and Heaven's gates are pure alloy or merely gold-plated.  Where does reincarnation come into play, assuming you subscribe that theory?

It's often said amidst idealists that when we die, we come back to the next plane in our prime.  We're not babies, we're not elderly husks, we're the full essence of ourselves, assuming we've been given the appropriate time to live to our fullest.  So we like to think.  In Reborn,  Mark Millar sweeps Bonnie Black into a Conan-meets-Terminator fantasy realm where dragons, warlords and soaring battle craft collide.  This a weird, blood-soaked world Bonnie is set to figure prominently in as it's revealed everyone's been waiting for her to arrive--in particular a bear-sized, barbarian reformation of her father.

What this series proposes at face-value is a sweeping and gruesome adventure where death is not the end, it's merely preparation for something grander and more explosive.  Beneath the surface, however, is a latent tapping into Bonnie Black's horrific experiences.  As the audience, we should expect whatever psychosis she has suffered in her life as a result of so much terror will inevitably come back to haunt her as this series rolls.  The expressionistic creatures sprawled into this opening of Reborn may be figurative, or they may be Bonnie Black's hellish new reality.  This duality makes the series intriguing off-the-bat.

Has Bonnie really died and transcended to a butcher block landscape, or is she deep in a coma, powerless to fight the demons ravaging her from the depths of precognition?  Shudder to think in either case, but what appears very much real is we're in for a messy, dramatic and potentially cathartic ride.

Rating:  9.5

New Book Review: DC Rebirth: Action Comics # 965

Action Comics  # 965
Dan Jurgens and Stephen Segovia
DC Comics

For me, Dan Jurgens is one of the most trusted writers when it comes to sustaining Superman's longevity--not that Supes is in any danger of extinction.  If anything, the congenial, spot-on introduction of Tyler Hoechlin for Season 2 of Supergirl  says The Man of Steel is in snug hands.  Even Henry Cavill, despite coming off as a mopey Robert Smith version of Superman in Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice,  still captures the imaginations of today's youth with his rugged physique and snarling fisticuffs.

Jurgens, however, gets the Superman mythos better than anyone, even Grant Morrison, who turned it all upside down in glorious fashion with All-Star Superman  and J. Michael Straczysnki, who delivered a rollicking revamp with Superman:  Earth One.  Jurgens first started his long-running affair with the legend of Kal-El as a penciller on The Adventures of Superman  Annual # 1.  As a DC Comics mainstay (and chronicler for Marvel's Thor, Spiderman, Daredevil and Captain America), it spoke loudly when the imprint gave Jurgens the ball for the pivotal "Death of Superman" arc.  It was equivalent to the Pittsburgh Steelers on third and goal, calling a running play everyone knows is coming, but in the hands of Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, you know that pigskin is breaking the goal line.

For me, it was a gimme when I saw Dan Jurgens was returning to Action Comics  on the Rebirth launch.  With the botched Doomsday scrum in Batman v. Superman,  it's appropriate Jurgens was given the reins to unleash what we're to assume is a doppelganger Doomsday (who had also appeared in the New 52) in a massive, bi-weekly brawl with a cross-dimensional Superman slowly making his way in place of the died-twice Superman of our world.  "Path of Doom" was nearly the spectacle of Doomsday's original rampage, and yet there's a maturity to Jurgens' storytelling here as a new Supes acknowledges possible mortality, having once barely beaten the Doomsday which trashed his world.  Add to the dilemma a Lex Luthor usurping the House of El seal for his own as would-be savior of Metropolis (thus becoming a mistrustful, forced hand ally) and a powerless Clark Kent, whom everyone has presumed to be the real McCoy...what a spiraling ball of confusion, cue The Temptations.

This means completely dicking with readers' heads as to what the hell is up with this other Clark Kent, physically ordinary as you or I, but still an aggressive journalist finding himself in a serious pickle.  Ironically, this Kent needs the new Superman's help as things take a tumble while he attempts to uncover shady goings-on with Geneticron.   Double-jeopardy, the Geneticron building's somehow vanished!

Jurgens has a firm grasp on the rules of Superman, which have been veritably amended in Rebirth.  Alter-Earth's Superman is in full wedlock with Lois Lane and they have a son, this lad's inevitable path aligned to become a next-gen Superboy.  As our new Superman is compelled to forgo his anonymity on this planet in light of the recent events in Justice League  and now unraveling in Trinity,  this world has become Jurgens' to tinker with.  Lord,  has he tinkered with it, and what a refreshment!  How rich is it this Clark Kent is given a Superman signal watch like the original did so many years ago with Jimmy Olson?  In lesser hands, it would've rang of schlock.  Jurgens, on the other hand, completely sells this as if he and Jerry Siegel were scripting it in the same room.

Though Action Comics  # 965 is the first breath-catcher of Jurgens' rambunctious Rebirth run, it's still set to be a game-changer.  "Lois Lane, Back at the Planet, Part 1" trails behind the recently-established Lois as she attempts to gain a piece of her old journalism life in a new world.  Like the Superman of this world, its Lois has vanished, allowing our current, motherly Lois Lane to re-enter society in an official context on the rails of Lex Luthor's bullet train to Metropolis and The Daily Planet.  

Why Dan Jurgens is such an excellent writer is how well he probes the psyches of his characters.   "Lois Lane, Back at the Planet, Part 1" is naturally told from her perspective and it's a treat watching Jurgens thread Lois amidst people she knows, intimately or by acquaintance, and yet everything is different.  Jimmy Olson, ecstatic upon Lois' return, offers to bring her "favorite" dish of lemon trout almondine.  Of course, this is his  Lois' favorite, not our  Lois'.  Lex Luthor, now owner of The Daily Planet,  is not what our Lois has come to expect (much less us veteran Superman readers) and then of course, there comes that moment,  the awkward path-crossing with a Clark Kent who is not her own.

As Jurgens switches back-and-forth between Lois' familial life in upstate New York and her risky picking-up of someone else's pieces in Metropolis, the intimacy between Lois and her Superman, along with her silent stumble-bumming at The Daily Planet  offices is beautifully orchestrated.  So too is the organic friendship between little Jon and his new friend Kathy, whom we've already established via the Rebirth Superman  title, is holding the secret of Jon's still-developing superpowers.  Every Superdude needs his own Lana Lang, of course.

For her bravado (equal to her counterpart in this world), our Lois is bound to stumble upon a major surprise, revealed upon the splash of the final page of this issue.  If you're reading the crossover Superman books (i.e. New Super-Man and Superwoman), this will come as no surprise to you.  

The second part of "Lois Lane, Back at the Planet, Part 1" is bound to be a doozie, but already skipping to November, Action Comics  looks to peel away once again with Lex and the new Superman crossing wits in "Men of Steel" and then in Superman,  Supes and Jon are slated to have a fateful first meeting as a foursome with Batman and Damian Wayne.  Hold onto your capes, kiddos.

Rating:  8.5

Friday, October 14, 2016

Big Dumb Lists: 10 Memorable Moments Working in a Comic Book Shop

Back in the early 1990s, I worked in a comic book store aside from waiting tables, going to college full-time and running track.  It was probably the  busiest period of my life in terms of accounted-for time not in bed, and I only slept an average of 4.5 hours a night.  Looking back, it's amazing I still had time to date girls.  I had one day off in my final semester of college, that being Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, I had to drop the comic store job that December when they wouldn't give me time off to study for my pre-graduation finals.  It's okay, since I was forking over more than 30% percent of my store income back to the owners since we had a bodacious employee discount.

I'll always cherish my time in the comic shop, since it was a chance to peek behind the curtain, as it were.  Like most of my generation, I'd spent most of my young collecting life trolling the spinner racks at local convenience stores and pharmacies to get my comics stash.

With the advent of actual comics emporiums and small specialty stores in the Eighties, having my chance to work inside the business made me wiser about how the comics industry works.  Additionally, I became acclimated with all the crossover products I had never accounted for in the past.  In a hurry, I had to learn the entire Star Trek  universe, since, my second day on the job, I was wrangled up to work a table for the store at a local Trek  convention.  Having only watched the original series as a kid on local UHF channels (old school, baby!) I'd looked completely stupid trying to service customers asking for anything with a Borg on it.  William Shatner may be taunted by echoes of "Klingons!" but for me, the haunting reverberation assuredly rings to "Borg!"  At least I got to say hello to DeForest Kelley on my break--boss!

I had to learn what rolling for initiative meant, since Dungeons and Dragons  had become a way of geek life and I can't tell you many times I had to count sides on polyhedral dice to help a customer.  Considering my fingertips were often blue from the carbon slips of those old knuckle buster credit sliders, it was even more of a comedic sight.  The expected response from us clerks would be, "No, sir, I'm sorry, we don't have any 20-sided in stock right now, but the owners have some on back order if you want to check back next week."

To protect the innocent, I will name the store I once worked at Comics Shop X.  We were a professional retail store and expected to wear shirt and ties.  No Simpsons-esque Comic Shop Guy pissiness or elitism allowed.  If someone you didn't have weekly rapport with thought X-Factor, Ravage 2099  and Eclipso  were tops, you kept your contradictory opinion to yourself and directed that person to its alphabetized location on the rack.  Don't forget to cross-sell Doom 2099,  which started the following month.  We had a set of brainy folks who kept Bone  in their pull boxes and would take a couple months before picking them up, considering there were other brainy folks without a subscription service shambling around and muttering how our store sucked because we couldn't keep Bone  on the shelf.

While I watched Kevin Smith's often hilarious Comic Book Men  (the fanboy's real-time version of Clerks) I thought back to my time working at Comic Shop X and my comrades, whom I'll name Skip and Chad.  It took them awhile to warm up to me, but we all had good times in the long run.  The owners were older and again, they thought of their business as upscale-specialty for a would-be upscale-specialty demographic.  Yes, we had classy customers, in particular a lot of business folk.  We even had Rolling Stone  critic J.D. Considine among our subscribers.  That didn't mean the pinheads, dweebs and what I call the cock-sparrers (swiped from the old punk band) weren't regulars.  What are cock-sparrers?  The ones who will take you to the mat arguing Darkseid would kick Thanos' ass, or vice-versa.

So while I'm riding the rails of nostalgia, here are ten of my most memorable moments working at Comic Shop X:

1.  The nefarious though bombastic "Death of Superman" arc.  This was the  comic book event of the early Nineties, never mind the ascension of Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee.  Yes, this was the epic Doomsday clash beginning in Justice League  and crossing over all of Supes' books, tragically ending at Superman  # 75.  We took pre-orders for the whole set of books, which included a deposit.  Surprisingly, the gambit worked.  We had people from all walks of life, many non-comics readers who were looking to cash in on what was purported to be the final stand of an icon.  Psych!!!!   # 75 went through multiple printings and we had a line down the entire strip center on Black Friday for second  run.  For me, the whole thing was a pisser since I was a regular Superman reader and had to adhere to the store's customers-first policy.  I went to a competitor to get all the books, and I'm happy to say they're still my provider today.  Their  name I'm happy to mention, as they've taken excellent care of me:  Cards, Comics and Collectibles in Reisterstown, Maryland.

2.  I made a royal asshole of myself once when I was helping a customer browsing through our Star Trek  pins when (still in the midst of learning the nuances of The Next Generation  and Deep Space Nine)  I cluelessly asked him, spotting the button upon his jacket, what planet used the pink triangle for their symbol.  Lower forehead, upraise palm at fifty miles an hour.

3.  Anytime I hear "Have a Cigar" on the radio or play Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here  album, I chuckle at least once, thinking of all the times, myself, Skip and Chad would mimic the sliding synthesizers in tandem.  Geeky to the bitter end.

4.  I defy you to out-nerd the legendary fanboy scrums over the 1990s X-Men  books.  If the owners would've let us eat inside the store, I guarantee you I would've gotten fat on popcorn and Mountain Dew from those spectacles.

5.  As I mentioned, J.D. Considine was one of our regulars and everyone, including the owners, would fall over each other to kiss his ass.  Pretty nice guy, but I never sucked up to him.  Instead, I would hover and re-arrange the stock so I could listen to his stories about music journalism.  When I waited on him, I might bring up a band in casual speak, just to see what I'd get out of him.  Often he was in a hurry, but what I learned from him being a silent fly on the wall led to my own career as a music journalist.  Sidebar, he did remember me vaguely when I wrote him years later, now one of his peers.  Thanks, mate!

6.  The comic business is always full of gimmcks, variant covers being today's rage.  Back then, bagged issues, foil-embossed and prism covers were the industry's cash cows.  If you were a reader,  you were guilt-tripped into buying two copies, one to open, one to leave sealed, since collectors dictated the market then.  Yes, I opened my bagged copy of Superman  # 75 so I could wear the stupid black armband in the attempt to be more elite than the elitists.  I learned that exercise in futility from The Sneetches.   Yeah, I had a second sealed copy too.  DC Comics 1, Van Horn zip.

7.  I can't tell you how amusing it was convincing newbie readers looking for "something more intelligent than superheroes in underwear" that a sword-swinging aardvark named Cerebus was fine art--which indeed it was!

8.  The guy to girl ratio in a comic shop back then was a despairing 9 to 1.  The few girls who did show were often mousy nerdette girlfriends who hovered silently at the front door, expected to wait up to an hour without interrupting her nerdboy in all his minute glory.  At least the ratio in today's market has been whittled down 4 to 1 and, bless the contemporary female, they're involved in the scene.

9.  I was there to watch the rise of the independents as viable competitors, i.e. Image and Valiant.  Anyone who was anyone in comics fandom were scarfing up Youngblood, Shadowhawk, Wetworks, Spawn, Savage Dragon, X-O Manowar, Rai and Eternal Warrior.  You could be looked down upon if you were reading Legends of the Dark Knight  and no Image or Valiant books--even if you had Sandman, Akira, Hellblazer  and Swamp Thing  on your pull lists.  Talk about Sneetchville.

10.  Coming up with alternate superlatives amidst the hipper customers fifteen minutes prior to close to outmatch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' "radical," "tubular," and of course, "cowabunga" colloquialisms.  Most of our substitutes shouldn't be repeated in polite company, but "gnarly" will suffice for retrospection.

And remember, kids...