Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Comics I gave Away, And the Comics I bought to give away

Over the years as a comic book fan with a blog, with a website, and reviewer with companies sending product for review, I felt a responsibility to send comics to fans, and especially to people who weren't able to buy any for themselves.  I sent comics to poor men, sleeping overnight at friend's homes with only a PO Box.  I sent comics to military members overseas.  I sent comics to many people and I didn't do it for praise, I did it so that my conscience could be clear should I not review a comic it would immediately be placed in a box for other people to read.

But those were not the only comics I gave away.  I gave away some kick ass comics from my personal list of great comics as well. I would look for cheap copies and try to buy as many if I found them cheap.   This is a column featuring the comics I gave to people, and the comics I chose due to greatness.

You could no doubt point and choose a lot of great comics, they exist.  But these are from my years in the trenches.  And I do get asked, "how many have you mailed out".  I've given away at conventions, schools and through the mail a total of over 4000 comics.  And at no point did I regret any of it.

The Spectre: Crime and Punishments by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake is a fabulous collection, however small it seems.  DC regrettably did not make it 6 issues thick, nor did they follow up with more, but it is stunning, and the series itself is beautifully bright, smart, and provocative.  Who knew a comic could raise questions about God and Good and Evil in Heaven and Earth.  Good stuff.  I gave a copy (of many I've shared) of this to friend Barry Keller who read it and said, you know this fella Tom Mandrake might have a future in comics.  I surely agreed, and that cat Ostrander ain't too bad either.

Hexbreaker: A Badger Graphic Novel is a hoot.  Mike Baron tells a fun, mostly light hearted story that has action, fun characters, and interesting philosophies.  People I've given it to say they like it but, are split often between wanting Kung Fu (ala the ABC series in the 1970s) or Mortal Kombat style action.  This work is too thoughtful for one, and t0o humorous for the other.  Instead it is just really good.

Gotham By Gaslight is a Batman Elseworlds short graphic novel.  It is set in the Victorian era, and Jack the Ripper is in his day, ripping and notoriously taunting those who hunt him.   The Batman comes into being in this alternative time line 100 years earlier, and has to catch the most vile serial killer of all time.  This is a brilliant work and I've given away well over 25 copies of this.

Silver Surfer Parable is a work that kicked my ass, and then ran a steamroller over me.  I had always seen the potential for greatness in Silver Surfer but I was rarely satisfied with any work I read.  It was either a mediocre story with great art or shitty art and interesting writing.  But here, even with the fact that Stan Lee hasn't ever really moved me as a writer, we see Galactus land upon earth, and people rush to him, convinced he is their God.  Silver Surfer must now stop him, and save earth, all the while knowing, one false move, and Galactus will act with no shame, as the consequence of holding him to his word will not work for long.  I think I bought five of the softcover of these, but kept my hardcover.  And then I traded the hardcover and started seeing hardcovers for sale.  It is a book I love, because Moebius was born to draw characters in space, and flying. 

Giving away comics I was very aware that people outside of comics often think super heroes are stupid or juvenile.  I am a 52 year old male with a Master's Degree in History with some work in Political Science and I've had two IQ tests that suggest I have an IQ in the range of 150.  I think super heroes are not stupid, nor are they juvenile.  What they are is wearing uniforms, just as a legendary hero attacking the dragon wears armor, or carries a shield with a marking of the king, so to do these heroes.  It is a symbol, not realism.  Still, not everyone thinks like me, or like that.  (Thank God for the first, and oh well to the second).  So, the comic Scout is perfect to give.  A world where the US has fallen and is struggling while we are fighting to stay alive against the vultures who wish harm to come to us?  Sounds recent.  Kings in Disguise is a historical comic, told from the point of view of young boy who runs away, becomes a hobo, and travels the Depression era US.  It is so deep it makes me feel like we are still in the Depression.  And Automatic Kafka?  It is a comic book you give to the artists and thinkers in your life.  Ashley Wood and Joe Casey created something so different the parent company DC canceled it before the audience could find it, but if it had been allowed to grow, I can only imagine the heights it would have reached.  It isn't for everybody, but it is genius work.

I know people who hate these books, but I would make sure not to give these books to those kind of jerks.  These are stories told where the heroes from the comics are morphed into characters from classic movies, and the archetypes they follow meld the two worlds and characters together.  And the beauty of these is that if you don't like them you can set them down, never pick them up again, and move on.  I personally think DC is brilliant to have done Elseworlds as they call them because Alternative worlds allows the reader to see the grace and power of the characters they love, without the trappings of costume or world they live in.  It can't really be done with less iconic characters, so Alternative stories at Marvel rarely ring true.  But, I'd be willing to be wrong.  These books I've given three sets (and kept a set for myself, shamelessly.)  I really like these and if I could I'd share more.

As many who follow my writings and interviews here know, I like the work Winter World and the reason I like it is for the great writing and the incredible art.   This is a series that went unnoticed for years, so, I was able to buy a number of sets for cheap, and share them.  Most people liked the story, some were iffy about the setting, thinking it was anti global warming, which it was so not.  (At the time it was written it was between the 70s fear of a new Ice Age and the early 90s Global Warming).  But everyone admitted, every aspect of the work was amazing. 

Under rated is how I would describe the value of Airboy, by Chuck Dixon, and a cast of many different artists, but in the beginning it had Dixon, Timothy Truman & Tom Yeates.  Although it had some flak for being a book of combat in a world that, in the 80s, was becoming more alarmed by brushfire wars, the comic itself was magnificent.  I gave away perhaps 10 or 12 sets of these, and never heard a sour pus remark in return.  As is proper.  IDW is collecting the series now and it is magnificent.

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