Remembering My 100-Page FAKES! (DC Comics Spectaculars That Never Were)

Well over a year after posting my last 100-Page FAKE!, it occurs to me that I probably never made any official announcement that the series was kaput. I did mention their demise here, but otherwise I never really got around to bidding a proper farewell.

The series began in May of 2018, designed as a proudly fannish attempt to concoct a bunch of 1970s DC Comics 100-Page Super Spectaculars that never were. I announced the series’ transition from the original DC Comics-centric 100-Page FAKES! into the less-restricted (but ultimately still DC-centric) Spectacular Comics 100-Page Specials in April of 2020. I then concocted four monthly issues of Spectacular Comics, with the fourth and final issue posted on July 24, 2020.

At that time, I think I still intended to continue slappin’ these things together. But a few factors combined to make me re-think that intent, and ultimately abandon the concept entirely. The fake books were very time-consuming to create, and they became even more time-consuming when I liquidated my digital comics stash entirely. The final efforts were constructed from a mix of public-domain comics pages available on line and scans of comic books in my collection. Even with all of that, I might have continued doing them if a format change at Blogger hadn’t made the process so much clunkier to accomplish. The inconvenience was more than I was willing to bother messin’ with. Sayonara, FAKES! and Spectaculars.

But I’m glad I did them. They were a cool way to connect with my inner adolescent, the 12-15 year-old kid who loved DC’s 100-pagers in the ’70s, and wished there had been more of them. I wrote a history of DC’s (real-life) 100-pagers, and I felt I wanted to expand on the real world a little bit. Here are links to every one those fabrications:

Adventure Comics # 435
The Shadow # 6
Rima The Jungle Girl # 1
Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains # 4
The Brave And The Bold # 111
Detective Comics # 446
Justice, Inc. # 1
The Sandman # 1
The Phantom # 67
All-Star Comics # 58
Metal Men # 45
DC Special # 16 (Super-Heroes Battle Super Gorillas)

E-Man # 11

Secret Origins # 1

The Six Million Dollar Man # 1

Adventure Comics # 436

Secret Origins # 2

Detective Comics # 447

The Brave And The Bold # 118

Super-Hero Grab Bag # 1 (with The Seven Soldiers Of Victory)

Rima The Jungle Girl # 2

Adventure Comics # 437

DC Special # 14 (Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains)

Detective Comics # 448

Wanted: The Secret Society Of Super Villains # 1

The Shadow # 5

Detective Comics Special Edition

*MARVEL WEEK [in memory of STAN LEE]:

*Sub-Mariner # 72 [a DC-Marvel hybrid]

*Giant-Size Spider-Man # 3 [with Doc Savage]

*Marvel Feature # 1 [with The Defenders]

*Astonishing Tales # 1

Adventure Comics # 438

Adventure Comics # 439

Adventure Comics # 440

Adventure Comics # 441

Adventure Comics # 442

Adventure Comics # 443

Rima The Jungle Girl # 3

Detective Comics # 449

Detective Comics # 451

Adventure Comics # 444

Detective Comics # 452

Adventure Comics # 445

Detective Comics # 453

Adventure Comics # 446

Detective Comics # 454

Adventure Comics # 447

Detective Comics # 455

Adventure Comics # 448

Detective Comics # 456

Adventure Comics # 449

Adventure Comics # 450

Adventure Comics # 451

World’s Finest Comics # 245

Sensation Comics 100-Page Super Spectacular [starring Wonder Woman]

Green Arrow & The Black Canary 100-Page Super Spectacular

Adventure Comics # 452

Detective Comics # 457

The Brave And The Bold # 119

Batman # 262

Batman # 263

The Sandman # 2

The Sandman # 3

The Sandman # 4

The Sandman # 5

The Sandman # 6

All-Star Comics # 59

The Sandman # 7

Shazam! # 36

The Phantom # 68

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 1

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 2

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 3

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 4

From the Spectre to the Phantom, with a cast of multitudes: BatmanAquamanSpider-Man, the original Captain Marvelthe ShadowSupermanSuperboythe Justice Society of AmericaE-ManDaredevilDoc SavagePlastic ManWonder Womanthe Silver SurferBlue Beetlethe Lone Rangerthe Seven Soldiers of Victorythe SandmanRima the Jungle Girlthe Six Million Dollar ManSpy SmasherDial H For HEROMetal MenCaptain Americathe Bat SquadKa-ZarDick TracyBatgirlTorchyBulletman and BulletgirlDr. StrangeHawkmanBlackhawkBlack Canarythe Vigilantethe Creeperthe DefendersHydromanthe Elongated ManWildcatthe Doom PatrolDoll Man and Doll GirlIbis the Invinciblethe Boy CommandosSub-MarinerHot WheelsCaptain ActionZorroDetective ChimpJonny QuestGreen Arrowthe Secret Society of Super-Villains, and Astra, Girl of the Future, plus many more. It was mostly about DC, but it included properties DC licensed or acquired from QualityCharltonFawcettMattelIdealJerry Lewis, and The Chicago Tribune, and it included MarvelECComicoMighty ComicsFoxMLJLev Gleason, more from Charlton, and other purveyors of four-color fantasy. 

I regret I never got around to using Vampirella. But I did what I could, until the time came to move on. They weren’t real. But they were Spectacular.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

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Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Annotated)

Following up on my recent post The Notebook Notions: Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, here’s a slightly expanded look at what DC superstars would appear as guests in each issue of this imaginary twelve-part series.

When editor Murray Boltinoff and writer Bob Haney planned out what would happen in The Brave And The Bold in the ’60s and ’70s, I would presume they picked a guest star first. My fancies here started out that way for the first seven chapters; for the four final chapters, I switched to story idea first, as I expanded on the notion of all of this as an inter-related serial. Chapter 8 was a last-minute add-on.

I rejected a few ideas along the way. “World’s Finest!” would have been a gathering of the Superman family (Lois LaneJimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, plus the Man of Steel himself) and the Batman family (Robin and Batgirl), a nod to the Superman Family and Batman Family series DC ran in the mid ’70s. “A Piece Of The Outer Space Action” was originally a DC Comics Presents idea, teaming Superman and Green Lantern in a story concocted specifically so the villain could channel Donovan while protesting, “Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothin’ on me, see?” I am too cute for casual description, but my mind couldn’t see that as a Batman story. A Justice League of America story called “The Trial Of Dr. Light!” was actually among my many failed DC submissions, and it didn’t fit here, nor did Batman solo stories “Nightmare Resurrection” and “The Day I Met The Batman.” I considered “Bounty Hunter’s Back In Town,” reprising a one-off hired assassin created by Haney for The Brave And The Bold # 101, and “When Gotham Freezes Over,” continuing Mr. Freeze‘s quest for revenge from “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze.” The latter story would have to be told in this series, but could be chronicled within the events of the later chapters.

Among the other guest stars I considered for this hypothetical B & B exercise: Jimmy Olsen, Blue BeetleThe Crimson AvengerThe Martian ManhunterThe Challengers of the UnknownDolphinKid EternityDoll Man, and The Seven Soldiers Of Victory. Now, let’s have a look at the twelve chapters I decided to include.

BATMAN & AQUAMAN:
“The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze”
The only chapter I’ve ever completed, and I’m crazy, stupid proud of it. I think this can stand alone as a purple prose Batman pulp short, but it also serves as the spark for this series.

BATMAN & WONDER WOMAN:
“Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears”
My satisfaction with “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” led me to think about expanding that storyline. Picking up on Steve Trevor‘s cameo in the Mr. Freeze story made Wonder Woman a logical candidate to guest star in Chapter Two, for which I wrote a teaser intro. I also wanted to incorporate the amoral Ruby Ryder, whom Haney created for The Brave And The Bold # 95, one of my favorite issues. Ryder appeared in several subsequent issues of B & B, and I think she’s the only B & B-specific supporting character Haney ever re-used.

BATMAN & SHAZAM!
“Between Arkham And Eternity”
The billing says “Shazam, ” but we’re referring to The World’s Mightiest Mortal, the original Captain Marvel. I became a fan of Captain Marvel in the early ’70s, and ol’ Cap was likely the guest star I would have most wished to see in The Brave And The Bold. In an interview many years later, B & B artist Jim Aparo agreed that he would have enjoyed drawing Captain Marvel (or, even better, Cap’s younger pal Captain Marvel Junior) in B & B, and didn’t know why that never happened. I suspect licensing concerns may have complicated things: DC was still just leasing the character from original publisher Fawcett Comics at the time, and wouldn’t get around to owning the character outright until the ’90s, I think.

BATMAN & THE SANDMAN
“Bring Me No Dreams”
Golden Age comics greats Joe Simon and Jack Kirby reunited for the 1974 one-shot The Sandman # 1, starring a new titular character with no connection to the previous DC hero of the same name. It was very goofy, very out of place in the milieu of ’70s superhero comics, but it had an energy that was sorta kinda fun. From what I’ve read elsewhere, I gather that some glitch in sales reports led DC honchos to the erroneous conclusion that The Sandman # 1 was a smash hit on the spinner racks, prompting an order to series. Neither Simon nor Kirby stuck around for the unexpected second issue, leaving the reins to writer Michael Fleisher and artists Ernie Chua and Mike Royer. Kirby returned with the fourth issue, and Neil Gaiman much later incorporated the character as a tangent to his own acclaimed Sandman series. Writer Len Wein provided my favorite use of the character in 1983’s Justice League Of America Annual # 1.

BATMAN & RIMA THE JUNGLE GIRL
“Welcome To The Jungle”
As comics sales seemed destined to dwindle to a vast and empty void throughout the ’70s, DC publisher Carmine Infantino scrambled to find ways to scrounge up sales, trying different formats, different genres, any damned thing that might stick. One half expected a new DC title called The Kitchen Sink. Jungle girls (particularly the iconic Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle) had been popular in comics in the ’40s; Marvel Comics started its own latter-day Sheena counterpart Shanna The She Devil in 1972. Rima the Jungle Girl was a public domain character, from the 1904 novel Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson. Artist Nestor Redondo rendered Rima as a strikingly beautiful character in the DC comics version, while still avoiding the cheesecake good girl art style of the classic Sheena. Batman and Rima would be an odd team-up indeed, probably involving time travel, and (if I were writing it) definitely featuring Poison Ivy as the big bad.

BATMAN & ?
“The Phantom Of Gotham City”

No, it ain’t The Riddler (though maybe I should make him the villain of the piece, just ‘cuz). The mystery guest-star concept of “Batman And ?” was first used in The Brave And The Bold  # 95 (the same issue that introduced Ruby Ryder), and reprised for The Brave And The Bold # 150. At this time, I have no intention of telling you who my Super Secret Mystery Guest Star would be. I will say that I’m playing fair with the selection itself: it’s a DC Comics character, one who was part of DC continuity in the mid ’70s milieu I’ve chosen for this Brave And Bold project. And ’70s B & B letter columns indicated that there had been requests for this character to appear as B & B co-star, requests that were never answered…until NOW! Sort of. Fans familiar with Silver Age DC continuity might find a clue in the “Phantom” part of this story’s title. That’s all you’re gettin’ outta me about it today.


BATMAN & THE BLACK ORCHID
“Who Is The Black Orchid?”
The Black Orchid‘s three cover-featured appearances in Adventure Comics made her a star in my eyes, and I followed her subsequent appearances as a back-up strip in The Phantom Stranger. The Black Orchid’s true identity was a mystery, to crooks and to readers, and I always figured this had to be a job for the World’s Greatest Detective, Batman. In her original ’70s incarnation, The Black Orchid never interacted with the rest of the DC universe, though I think writer E. Nelson Bridwell, bless ‘im, used her–and Rima the Jungle Girl!–in Super Friends.

BATMAN, OMAC & SGT. ROCK
“Our One Man Army At War”
As noted above, this was a last-minute choice, and I began to second-guess it immediately. OMAC–Jack Kirby’s One Man Army Corps–much, much later became a large part of Batman and DCU continuity, though I would ignore all of that here. But I don’t feel any real affinity for the idea either. “One Man Army Corps” put me in mind of DC’s long-running war book Our Army At War, and its star (and frequent Batman B & B co-star) Sgt. Rock. Rock doesn’t work for me outside of a World War II setting, so the only Batman-Sgt. Rock team-up I really liked was the first one, 1969’s “The Angel, The Rock And The Cowl” in B & B # 84, which was set in WWII. (I didn’t see B & B # 162 until years later; it was published in 1980, during the brief period when this cash-strapped college student stopped buying comics altogether. Its Batman-Sgt. Rock story also went back to the ’40s, but it was written by Bill Kelley, not Haney.)

BATMAN & THE SPECTRE
“The Judgement Of Gotham”
One of my favorite characters since I was a kid, the ghostly avenger The Spectre replaced The Black Orchid as the star of Adventure Comics in a new series of stories by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo, stories which became notorious for their grim and gritty revenge fantasies. Brrrr! “The Judgement Of Gotham” was a title in my original notebook notions of half-baked story ideas, and it was intended to introduce my new villain Torquemada, a fire ‘n’ brimstone zealot determined to cleanse Gotham’s sins in a funeral pyre. The Spectre vs Torquemada? A match made in Purgatory!

BATMAN & THE JOKER
“The Death Of The Joker”
One of the many little bits that delighted me in the creation of “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” was my idea of The Joker putting himself into a catatonic state at will, allowing himself an opportunity to re-invent himself according to whatever his mad whims dictate. A line early in “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears” tells us that The Joker had awakened from his slumber, but had been affected by the emotional miasma felt worldwide at that first story’s climax. What if this made The Joker…sane? What if it gave him a soul, a conscience, and an overwhelming sense of guilt over his own murderous actions? What if The Joker felt that, in penance, it was time for him to die?

And what if The Batman disagreed?

BATMAN & HIS GREATEST FOES
“A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot”
The events of both “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” and “The Death Of The Joker” would culminate in “A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot,” a free-for-all finding Batman battling alongside some of his enemies, including The Riddler, Poison Ivy, The PenguinTwo-Face, and Catwoman.

BATMAN & 4 FAMOUS CO-STARS
“Hope In Crime Alley”

Writer Dennis O’Neil‘s “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” (Detective Comics # 457, cover-dated March 1976) is one of the all-time classic Batman stories, a perfect balance of the tragedy that birthed The Batman and the undying hope that belies the story’s title. There is hope, or at least there can be, even in dark circumstances. The original story introduced Leslie Tompkins, a woman who comforted young Bruce Wayne in the moments after he’d witnessed his parents’ murders. Tompkins has been brought back in many, many later stories, but “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” is the only time her character was ever done right. In my opinion. Harrumph.

I can’t say whether or not my own indirect sequel “Hope In Crime Alley” would render Tompkins correctly, but the story would build on the feeling of hope Gotham needs after all that its citizens have been through in the year since Mr. Freeze attempted and failed to conquer death. The “4 Famous Co-Stars” billing was first used for The Brave And The Bold # 100, then referring to Robin, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary. Here, our fab four is Wildcat (opening a youth gym in the Crime Alley neighborhood, to help give direction and purpose to the children of its streets), Plastic Man (using his own experience as a reformed criminal to inspire marginal individuals to better themselves), Robin the Teen Wonder (to help his mentor retain the hope he needs), and Wonder Woman (because…well, that would be telling). Challenges would arise. Despair would threaten. Hope would prevail. The Batman, as always, will make damned sure of that.

And there’s my twelve-part fantasy edition of The Brave And The Bold. And though it’s been said many times, many ways, it bears repeating: B & B seeing you!

In this issue, a future blogger identified as “Carl Cafrelli” suggests Batman be teamed with The Shadow. I do not recall making that request. And no, The Shadow is not the co-star in “The Phantom Of Gotham City.”

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It Was 1965

It was 1965. Anything could happen in 1965.

That’s a line from the Paul Revere & the Raiders chapter in my work-in-progress book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). I’ve written many times of my affection for 1965, of my belief that ’65 was pop music’s best year ever. There was something magic about 1965, at least in my mind, in my curated memory, edited by my brain in earnest effort to reconcile the facts and figures recorded by history with my recollections of being five years old. It was 1965. Anything could happen in 1965.

It wasn’t necessarily only good things that could happen. My Godmother, my Aunt Connie, died in 1965, and I was just devastated. My brother Rob was in a horrible car accident that he was fortunate to have survived. Great songs on the radio couldn’t fix any of that. 

But those great songs still remain a conscious inspiration to me. From The Beatles to Wilson Pickett, 1965 stands out as the year when the best stuff was popular, and the popular stuff was best. 1966 may have offered higher highs, and 1964 gave us the giddy rush of the British Invasion, but ’65 was consistent. Top of the pops. 

So 1965 looms large in my legend, and it’s well represented in my book. But…that line. “It was 1965. Anything could happen in 1965.” I wrote it as a summary of the world of possibilities opening up for Paul Revere & the Raiders in ’65, but it’s become something more to me. I can’t explain (1965!), I think it’s love. And I think it’s a line I’m going to use again in a different project.

I’ve been toying with an idea for an extended story. I can’t tell you anything about it, and it’s in a very early stage of creation. It’s a story I’ve been picking at for quite some time, but I’ve been…I dunno, reluctant to even work on it, concerned about spoiling its pristine conception by trying to make it real. Currently, it’s in that perfect fantasy state of vague, undeveloped notion; I kind of know what it’s going to be, but neither nuts nor bolts (nor even blueprint) exist yet. 

It’s fiction, and it’s set in the present day. I see it as a comic-book mini-series rather than a prose work, but we’ll see. I’ve just begun the long process of committing some of the broad strokes to the blank computer screen that is my canvas. And it opens with a dream-sequence flashback: 

It was 1965. Anything could happen in 1965.

Maybe nothing will happen with it this year. I have other projects in need of attention, especially that Greatest Record Ever Made! book that I hope will capture the fancy of some publisher. But I also want to work on this idea, this love letter to an imaginary 1965, when anything could happen.

Maybe this is the year I make it happen.

By Carl Cafarelli

1966 cover date, on the stands in ’65.

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Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR’N’RR Allstars–Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone–offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks’ classic “Waterloo Sunset.” That’s supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of “Infinite Soul” by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen’s WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It’s exquisite. You need this. You’re buying the digital download from from Futureman, and/or the CD from Kool Kat Musik.

(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)

Get MORE Carl! Check out the fourth and latest issue of the mighty Big Stir magazine at bigstirrecords.com/magazine

Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

Amazing Heroes: My Secret Origin As A Freelance Writer

My first sales as a freelance writer were to a magazine called Amazing HeroesAH was published by Fantagraphics, and it catered to a mostly traditional superhero comics fanbase. This was in contrast with Fantagraphics’ better-known publication The Comics Journal, which generally took a more cerebral approach in its celebrations of more artistically ambitious comics outside of the costume-strewn mainstream.

Me? I was a fanboy, and I loved superhero comic books. Writing about ’em for Amazing Heroes was a great way for me to break into freelancing.

I don’t recall all of the specifics of my path to Amazing Heroes freelancerhood, but I think it was as simple as reading in the magazine that the editor was accepting submissions, and appropriate hijinks ensuing thereafter. It was 1984. I was a 24-year-old wannabe writer, four years out of college, working as an assistant manager at a late-night fast-food restaurant. I was trying to write, with little to no success. I submitted some pretty terrible proposals to DC Comics, attempted some pop journalism intended for either Creem or Trouser Press, and presumably poked at some non-starting short story notions. My writing career was getting nowhere, and not even getting there fast.

The idea of trying to write about comics may not have even occurred to me prior to learning of the opportunity in AH. It was a paying market, albeit a very modest one, and I was a less-than-choosy beggar. By whatever sequence of events–pitch? cold submission?–I wound up writing “The Call Of The Mockingbird,” a history of the 1960s DC title The Secret Six, which was accepted by AH editor David W. Olbrich and published in Amazing Heroes # 58, cover dated November 1, 1984. The check cleared. It was a pittance, sure, but I was now officially a published, professional writer.

Meanwhile, I lost my fast-food job, but got a job working in a record store–upgrade! Seeking to be more than a one-hit wonder with Amazing Heroes, I quickly turned around to write and sell “When Worlds Collide!,” a speculation about a shared DC-Marvel Comics superhero universe, which appeared in AH # 61 (December 15, 1984). 

I didn’t appear in AH again for a while after that. “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This,” an attempted history of the Sandman character created for DC by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, was rejected. My next AH sale was “Positive Energy,” a history of the great Charlton Comics character E-Man, in AH # 88 (2/1/86). This was followed by “Up, Up And…Oh, Well,” an article about comedy superheroes (AH # 92, 4/1/86). 

Olbrich had left the magazine some time back, and the editor by now was future superstar comics writer Mark Waid. Waid bought my short blurb “The Camp Knight Returns,” a collection of quotes about actor Adam West‘s evolution from never wanting to play Batman again to wishing he could return to the role for a then-upcoming major motion picture. My final AH sale was “Who’s…Who?!,” an A-Z of actual DC comics characters too obscure to receive entries in the company’s official Who’s Who In The DC Universe series. The piece appeared in AH # 109 (1/1/87), and it was very well received. DC’s Robert Greenberger wrote a letter of appreciation, so…yeah! The original article was exhaustively re-typed for an appearance right here at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do).

Alas, my Amazing Heroes affiliation ended there, though I didn’t know it at the time. Waid had accepted my history of The Joker (“The 53rd Card In The Deck”) to appear in an unspecified future issue, but it was trashed when his own stint with Fantagraphics came to an abrupt, unpleasant, pyrotechnic conclusion. I, collateral damage. The folks at Fantagraphics didn’t know me, didn’t know about the Joker piece I’d written, and couldn’t get off the phone quickly enough when I called them to ask wha’ppen. 

At least Fantagraphics wasn’t my sole freelancing gig by then. I’d made a sale to Krause Publications‘ Comics Collector in 1985, when that magazine’s editors Don and Maggie Thompson bought “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel,” my retrospective of the 1966-68 Batman TV series and its effect on the character and the comics (Summer 1985). This entry point with Krause eventually led to the twenty years I spent freelancing for the company’s music tabloid Goldmine.

Although my Amazing Heroes stint sputtered to a halt quickly and badly, it’s where I got my start: my secret origin, who I am and how I came to be. From a history of The Secret Six to Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do), I still have a few amazing things I’d like to write about.

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JUKEBOX EXPRESS: An imaginary soundtrack for a film that never existed

Jukebox Express is an imaginary 1958 rock ‘n’ roll movie, something that exists only in my mind. I created Jukebox Express for this blog in 2018, born of a notion to concoct a jukebox flick made entirely by preexisting fictional characters. The made-up individuals who made Jukebox Express–the producer, the director, the writers, the stars, the musical acts, even the guy writing the look back at this movie that never was–are drawn from many different pop culture properties, including Gilligan’s IslandThat Thing You Do!The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselMarvel ComicsHappy DaysSingin’ In The RainRoom ServiceI Love LucyThe MonkeesBatman: The Animated SeriesMy Favorite YearEllery QueenKing CreoleAnimal HouseBack To The FutureThe Girl Can’t Help ItWKRP In CincinnatiBye Bye BirdieThe Andy Griffith ShowKing Kong, and more. You can read the Jukebox Express piece here, and see a guide to its make-believe players here.

But…man! I forgot to do a Jukebox Express album. So I’ve remedied that oversight. Here ’tis:

JUKEBOX EXPRESS Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Produced by HOWARD STARK with TONY MILLER

Howard Stark Records, 1958

SIDE ONE:

1. LEATHER TUSCADERO: Jukebox Express

2. OTIS DAY AND THE KNIGHTS: Shake And Shout

3. RICKY RICARDO: Babalu

4. KATHY SELDEN AND CHRISTINE MARLOWE: Jukebox Rumba

5. LEATHER TUSCADERO AND CONRAD BIRDIE (with BOBBY FLEET AND HIS BAND WITH A BEAT): Fever

6. DANNY FISHER: Jukebox Rock

7. LEATHER TUSCADERO: Devil Gate Drive 


SIDE TWO:

1. LEATHER TUSCADERO WITH OTIS DAY AND THE KNIGHTS: All Aboard

2. BOBBY FLEET AND HIS BAND WITH A BEAT: The Train Kept A-Rollin’

3. CONRAD BIRDIE: Honestly Sincere

4. GINGER GRANT: Someday He’ll Notice Me

5. LEATHER TUSCADERO WITH OTIS DAY AND THE KNIGHTS: You Could Be My Baby

6. LEATHER TUSCADERO AND GINGER GRANT: More Kisses For You And For Me

7. LEATHER TUSCADERO: Nothing Stops This Train

At fourteen tracks, this is probably a little bit long for a 1950s beat music soundtrack LP, but if we’re suspending disbelief anyway, I say what the hell. I still left out a couple of artists established to have appeared in this imaginary movie, specifically the Cry-Baby Combo and producer-inventor Howard Stark‘s favorites Sven Helmstrom and his Rhythm Kings. One presumes a 21st-century expanded reissue of the album would have added those as bonus tracks, along with more soundtrack delights by the movie’s star Leather Tuscadero and more hot performances by Otis Day and the Knights. Maybe something by Shy Baldwin, too.

While the album is almost entirely fabricated, three of its tracks do exist in our mundane real world. Suzi Quatro, in character as rocker Leather Tuscadero, lip-synced her own 1974 number “Devil Gate Drive” on an episode of Happy Days; that’s the sort of anachronism I’d prefer to avoid in a period-specific fancy like Jukebox Express, but it’s also established canon for the character–i.e., we’ve seen that this character sang this song at Arnold’s Drive-In in 1950s Milwaukee–so it’s fair game. Shag haircut notwithstanding. As Ricky RicardoDesi Arnaz sang “Babalu” on I Love Lucy, and Broadway cast and motion picture soundtrack albums of Bye Bye Birdie give us Conrad Birdie singing “Honestly Sincere.”
Otherwise, this soundtrack album imagines tracks that could have been made for the movie. “Fever” and “The Train Kept A-Rollin'” are covers of real-world ’50s songs, and the rest are my inventions. “All Aboard” is not the Chuck Berry song of the same name, but woulda been if ol’ Chuck had written it in ’58 rather than ’63. Ginger Grant‘s “Someday He’ll Notice Me” shows the film’s heroine Kirby Lee pining for the clueless mail lead Archibald Toby (played by Troy Chesterfield), while the Leather-Otis Day collaboration “You Could Be My Baby” and the Leather-Ginger duet “More Kisses For You And For Me” imply an interracial rendezvous and a girl-girl (or girl-boy-girl) relationship, respectively. 

Again, Jukebox Express does not exist, has never existed, and could never exist. But I wish it did. I want to see this movie. And now, I wanna hear its soundtrack.
But, in the words of Mama Mamammia (played by Sophie Lennon) and Kirby Lee: That’s rock ‘n’ roll. And that’s the end.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Easybeats

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

Building upon our influences plays a large role in shaping who we are, and what we become. As a kid in the ’60s, and as a teenager in the ’70s, my personality, and my likes and dislikes, were molded in part by the pop culture I absorbed via TV, comic books, movies, and AM radio. A Hard Day’s Night. BatmanThe Monkees. Pulp paperbacks. Jukeboxes. DC ComicsMarvel ComicsGold Key Comics, all kinds comics. WNDR-and WOLF-AM in Syracuse. Throw in some baseball, some random 45s, some more TV (from Gilligan’s Island to The Guns Of Will Sonnett to Star Trek to Supersonic), some books on World War II, some DisneyMarx Brothers, and Jerry Lewis flicks, and some surreptitious glances at Lorrie Menconi and Barbi Benton in Playboy, and you have a partial portrait of the blogger as a young man.

Y’know, it ain’t polite to stare, mister!

And throw in some rock ‘n’ roll magazines, too. I’ve already written at length about the importance of the ’70s tabloid Phonograph Record Magazine, and I will still have more to write about PRM in future posts. I saw an issue of Circus some time in the mid-’70s, and I fell in love with Suzi Quatro when I saw her on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Later on, I’d immerse myself in Trouser PressCreemNew York RockerRock ScenePunkThe Pig Paper, and also a little thing called Goldmine, for which I freelanced for almost twenty years. But the most important single issue of any rock mag I ever read? No contest; that was the February 1978 issue Bomp! magazine: the power pop issue.

The way I read and re-read and re-re-read that issue, it’s a miracle its cover is still attached. I was 18. I was a fan of The BeatlesThe MonkeesThe KinksThe Raspberries, and The Ramones. I’d just seen The Flashcubes for the first time, so I was already a fan of theirs, too. The power pop issue of Bomp! was Heaven-sent, a manifesto for what I already believed, but couldn’t yet articulate. And its pages contained scores of recommendations for more acts I should check out as a nascent power pop acolyte, bands like The Flamin’ Groovies (whom I’d already heard, but needed to hear more), The CreationThe Dwight Twilley Band, and The Nerves; and there was quite a bit of coverage of some band called Big Star, and some group from the ’60s: an Australian band named The Easybeats.

Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza!, the auteurs behind Bomp!‘s power pop extravaganza, cited The Easybeats alongside The Kinks and The Who as power pop’s founding fathers. That’s pretty heady company to keep, so I certainly wanted to learn more about The Easybeats. If there were any Easybeats records in print in the U.S. in ’78, I wasn’t aware of them; I don’t think I could even find an Oldies 45 reissue of the group’s lone American hit, “Friday On My Mind.” So Easy Fever had to be deferred for me.

It may seem odd in retrospect that I’d never heard “Friday On My Mind,” but I don’t think I had. I finally heard it in–I think–the summer of ’78. Tip-A-Few, a bar on James Street in Eastwood, specialized in playing oldies while thirsty patrons tipped a few (or, sometimes, more than a few). The DJs at Tip-A-Few were armed with a massive collection of 45s–no need for LPs, because they would only play hit oldies–and I was there with decent frequency, tippin’ a few while requesting singles by Gene Pitney, The Beau BrummelsThe Knickerbockers, and The Fireballs. And, one night, I requested “Friday On My Mind” by The Easybeats.

I liked it, of course, It wasn’t immediately revelatory, but it was catchy rock ‘n’ roll music, and that was fine by me. That fall, I picked up a used copy of David Bowie‘s covers album, Pin Ups, which contained the former Mr. Jones’ take on “Friday On My Mind.” That track was, in fact, the very thing that prompted me to buy my first Bowie album, so yes indeed, thank you, Easybeats! I did eventually score an Oldies 45 of The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind,” a record which I grew to love more and more with each easy spin.

It took me a while to expand my Easybeats stash beyond that one 7″ single. In the mid-’80s, Rhino Records‘ The Best Of The Easybeats rewarded me with a glimpse into the true and enduring greatness of The Easybeats. “Friday On My Mind” was their only Stateside hit, and on some days I’ll agree it was their best track. But most days, I’ll dig in my heels, and I’ll insist, Yeah, “Friday On My Mind” is great, but “Sorry” is better!  “Sorry” struck me as the perfect melding of The Monkees and the early Who, so sign me up for a new religion based on those Australian pop gods, The Easybeats. “Good Times.” “Made My Bed (Gonna Lie In It).” “St. Louis.” “She’s So Fine.” “Sorry.” “Friday On My Mind.” Scripture. Chapter. Verse. Easy!

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FAKE BANDS! Professional (and also amateur) Liar Creates Rock ‘n’ Roll Groups

For someone who can’t sing, write songs, produce records, or play any instruments, I’ve created a fair number of musical acts. I’m not talking about fantasy air guitar combos–though I have a bunch of those, too–but fictional musicians I’ve used or intended to use in stuff I write. Yeah, I’m a regular Raybert (and only Monkees fans will get that reference). Here are a few of the musicmakers I’ve created: 

GUITARS VS. RAYGUNS

After decades of nonfiction freelancing, my first fiction sale was my short story “Guitars Vs. Rayguns,” purchased and published by the good folks at AHOY Comics. The story namechecks a number of real-life acts, from Chuck Berry to the Ramones, but the planet-hopping group at the center of it all is never identified. Well, folks, they call themselves Guitars Vs. Rayguns. Obviously. This was intended as a one-off story, until an AHOY fan wrote a letter to the editor wishing for more. So, I’m working on it. I’ve had no discussions with AHOY about this yet, and I may never get around to writing it. Keep watching the skies.

COPPER 

Other than (presumed) shared reference points, my character of Copper has nothing to do with this Jaime Hernandez illustration from the great Love And Rockets comics.

Copper is a 17-year-old punk bassist in the mid 1980s, and she’s the star of my most recent short story sale, “Chaos At The Copperhead Club.”  That story has been purchased but not yet published by AHOY, and is in the same shared continuity as my previous stories “The Last Ride Of The Copperhead Kid,” “The Copperhead Strikes!,” and “The Copperhead Affair.” Copper’s band is not named in the story, so let’s name ’em now: please welcome to the stage Copper and the Pit Vipers!

THE DUST BUNNYS

Fabricated power pop group the Dust Bunnys kicked bassist Jenny Woo out of the band–and through the window of a high-rise building–at the start of Eternity Man!, my proposed rock ‘n’ roll time travel superhero novel. Don’t worry! She’s one of the stars of the novel, so it’s no spoiler to say that she’s immediately saved by Eternity Man himself. I wrote the first five chapters of Eternity Man! before setting it aside. It’s not necessarily abandoned, as I often sketch out ideas, leave them alone, and then return to them weeks, months, or years later. Hell, Eternity Man!‘s fourth chapter includes my first public mention of the Copperhead Kid, long before I wrote and sold “The Last Ride Of The Copperhead Kid.” Some ideas have an expiration date; some do not.

In that first chapter of Eternity Man!, our Jenny mentions previous stints in some other fictional combos: Elegant Cream Vehiclethe Lemming PipersAttica’s Finch, and Warriors of Romance. A friend of mine came up with the name “Elegant Cream Vehicle,” and I came up with the others. 

Elegant Cream Vehicle and Daddy’s Soul Donut (a name also suggested by a friend, taken from an episode of The Simpsons) turned up (alongside Archie’s Band, who were from  Queens, not Riverdale) in this trifle. And Warriors of Romance well predate Eternity Man! What was the action-packed, pulse-pounding origin of Warriors of Romance? Face Front, True Believer:

WARRIORS OF ROMANCE

In the ’80s, when I was scrambling to try to write professionally, one of my many, many stillborn concepts was Marvel Girl, intended as a new character with a familiar name. Marvel Comics‘ original Marvel Girl had been Jean Grey, a founding member of the uncanny X-Men; Jean had been upgraded to a new identity as Phoenix, so I figured Marvel might need a new Marvel Girl to retain its trademark. Helpful? That’s me! I also tried to concoct a new Supergirl for DC Comics for the same reason. Neither notion even got as far as a draft proposal, both existing only as figures in my sketch book.

Marvel Girl would have been Debbie McCullagh, aka Debbie Mack, drummer for a struggling psychedelic group called (you guessed it) Warriors of Romance. Memory suggests I intended her to have Superman level powers, but with the powers only manifesting either as needed or sporadically (a notion possibly inspired by the Hulk or the original SHAZAM!-shouting Captain Marvel). The idea was not thought through, and was never executed. ‘Nuff said.

WILLINGTON BLUE, SKIP KELLER

Willington Blue and Skip Keller were characters in my unsold short story “Home Of The Hits” (formerly “Hitcore”). I had high hopes for this one, and I was surprised that it was rejected. The story references a previous group that included auteur Blue, and songwriter/record label contractor Keller is mentioned as having been in a boy band, but neither act is named.  

THE SHAMBLES

Yeah, I’m aware that there is a terrific real-life recording act called the Shambles, but I hope Bart Mendoza will forgive me for coming up with the same name independently in 1979. My set o’ Shambles was concocted for a lackluster entry in the journal I kept for a college class called Fantasy And Science Fiction. It was terrible. The actual Shambles are much, much better.

BEN ARNOLD AND THE TURNCOATS

Aw, this one never had any chance in hell of happening, but I wish it did. Ben Arnold and the Turncoats were the mid ’60s American rock ‘n’ roll group at the heart of The Beat And The Sting, my idea for a comic book mini-series based on the 1966 TV version of The Green Hornet. I particularly like Kato‘s line that the Turncoats’ hit “You Won’t Get Me” is derivative of the Kinks, and Britt Reid‘s preference for being more of an Al Hirt man. I posted a blurb for the idea, and the first few script pages, but it doesn’t make sense for me to continue it as fanfic. Another challenge for the Green Hornet? Sadly, not this time.

AND THE REST!

Those are the ones I’ve used in…something. There are others attached to projects too embryonic to discuss here: the Frantiksthe Ragtagsthe Limey FruitsButterscotch Peacemongersthe Terry Legendthe Broken ThingsRock Lobster, and Bright Lights. Those all require more rehearsal and woodshedding before they hit the stage. If they ever hit the stage.

And a-one, and a-two…!

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Doc Savage, Man of Bronze!

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.
I wish I could remember where or how I first heard of Doc Savage. In the early ’70s, even before reading about The Man of Bronze in Steranko‘s History Of The Comics, I somehow already knew Doc was a precursor to Superman. But I hadn’t had any exposure to the character, and I knew nothing at all about him.

When I was 11 or 12, maybe as old as 13 or thereabouts, I would occasionally help my Dad when he worked in the visitors’ clubhouse at MacArthur Stadium. MacArthur was the home of our AAA baseball team the Syracuse Chiefs, and Dad ran the clubhouse for the visiting team’s players. Dad was responsible for keeping the place clean and stocked, unpacking the players’ uniforms and arranging their individual lockers, and making sure there was an ample supply of food and beverage. Dad did this for years and years, and it was something he loved doing. This connection also gave me an opportunity to meet Mickey MantleJoe DiMaggio, and Whitey Ford, among others. My older brothers had helped Dad at the clubhouse in previous years, so I also gave it a shot when I grew old enough to try.

God. I was inept.

My recollection is that Dad was pretty patient with my woeful efforts to do the damned job. I tried, but I was just too slow. Still, I spent a lot of time at the ballpark, and I unearthed a few treasures in my spare moments. I found an old Detroit Tigers uniform, which I combined with a skull mask one year to create a Halloween costume as The Ghost Of Ty Cobb. And one day, I found a paperback novel: specifically, a Doc Savage novel, The Land Of Terror by Kenneth Robeson.

I had never read a pulp novel before. My heroes were the heroes of comic books, with strict codes against killing. So I was surprised to read this early Doc Savage adventure, and to see our hero Doc dispense with a bad guy. Permanently. Clearly, this was not how The Justice League of America would handle things!

Subsequently, I learned that the character of Doc Savage would himself regret this early use of fatal force, and would later eschew killing entirely. This copy of The Land Of Terror was missing a page, but it served as my initiation into a whole new world of heroic fiction, a world in which I would immerse myself through much of the ’70s.

Doc Savage had flourished originally in the 1930s and ’40s, the star of his own pulp magazine. Each issue of Doc Savage featured a complete purple-prose pulp adventure novel, credited to the Kenneth Robeson pseudonym, and usually written by main Doc Savage scribe Lester Dent. In the ’60s, Bantam Books began a very successful line of Doc Savage paperback novels, each book reprinting one of Doc’s old pulp adventures, generally wrapped in a stunning new cover painted by James Bama. Bama’s chiseled, gritty rendition of Doc looked nothing like Doc’s original likeness in the pulps, but it was irresistible, and it sold a lot of paperbacks.


I couldn’t tell you the name of my second Doc Savage novel, but I sure read a bunch of ’em. My parents even got me a box of them as my Christmas gift one year, and that was really cool. As noted above, I read more about the history of pulp magazines in Steranko’s History Of The Comics, and learned about just how much Doc Savage influenced the creation of Superman, right down to both characters having the same first name (“Clark Savage, Jr., meet Clark Kent. Kent, Savage. Savage, Kent.”). The Man of Bronze and the Man of Steel even shared a fondness for Arctic retreats, which they both referred to as a Fortress of Solitude. Doc’s fightin’ entourage, which Bantam hype referred to as “The Fabulous Five,” was also a big influence on both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, especially on their earliest work with The Fantastic Four.

Given how much Superman and Batman lifted from Doc Savage and The Shadow, it’s amazing Street & Smith never sued DC Comics  for copyright infringement. I mean, DC sued Fawcett Comics with less justification, claiming Fawcett’s hero Captain Marvel copied Superman.

Doc Savage’s paperback success was sufficient to prompt Marvel Comics to license the character for his own comic book series in 1972, and a feature film, Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze, was released in 1975. I liked the comic books, and really wanted to see the movie (starring Ron Ely, who had been TV’s Tarzan in the ’60s), but I don’t know if it even played in Syracuse. My cousins in Florida saw it and loved it, but reports that it was a campy take on the character dimmed my enthusiasm. I have yet to be able to sit through the film in its entirety.

I never exactly lost interest in Doc Savage, but I did kind of move on. The Shadow became my favorite pulp character, manifested in a terrific DC Comics series and some paperback pulp reprints courtesy of Pyramid Books. Bantam’s Doc Savage books had those gorgeous James Bama covers, but Pyramid’s Shadow books offered equally eye-popping cover paintings by Steranko. The ’70s were a golden age of vintage paperback pulp, with Doc and The Shadow joined on drugstore spinner racks by the likes of The AvengerTarzan(with cover art by my then-favorite comics artist, Neal Adams), The PhantomFlash GordonThe Lone RangerOperator 5, and G-8 And His Battle Aces. I can’t tell you how much I loved this stuff at the age of 15. I wanted there to be new Batman pulp novels, and I wanted to write pulp novels. In high school, I wrote two short stories starring The Shadow for publication in The NorthCaster, and I even started writing a pulp novel called The Snowman. (The only decent, original pulp work I ever finished writing remains The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze, which was completed for this blog.)

But it all started with a Doc Savage paperback, a battered little book I discovered when I probably should have been cleaning or sweeping or unpacking a visiting player’s bag. That was my Fortress of Solitude.

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Buying Comic Books Since 1966

Except for a brief pause when I was in college, I have been buying comic books since I was six years old in 1966. Over 55 years! I’d read comic books before that–older siblings, don’tcha know, armed with issues of Metal MenTales To AstonishOur Army At WarSuperman, and an 80-Page Giant starring Superman’s girlfriend Lois Lane–but in ’66 the Batman TV series inspired an obsession with superheroes, an obsession I’ve never seen any need to outgrow. And that interest manifested in a need to own superhero comic books.

As a kid in the ’60s, my “buying” of comic books generally meant I would pick a four-color prize off the spinner rack and either Mom or Dad would supply the twelve cents necessary to complete the transaction. The earliest specific purchase I can identify is Batman # 184, plucked from the rack at a grocery store in Aurora, Missouri while on vacation in the summer of ’66. Tales To Astonish # 84 followed in short order, located and acquired at (I think) a feed store in Verona, MO, with a copy of Superboy # 132 purchased in there somewhere, from the same store that sold us the above-mentioned Batman. It’s possible I got the Superboy before I got the Batman. Six-year-old me was less than exhaustive in keeping records of this stuff. Slacker.

I don’t know if these were my first comics purchases–and, as noted, they definitely weren’t my first comic books–but they are the first two I can ID with certainty as books I selected myself. (My 1966 Signet Batman paperback may have been my first comic book purchase, though it wasn’t technically a comic book. I scored that one at either Switz’s variety store or J.M. Fields department store back home in North Syracuse, NY, presumably prior to the summer visit to grandparents in Missouri. Unless it was after that, in which case it wasn’t first. Damn my record-keeping skills at six!) 

In North Syracuse, my go-to purveyor of funnybooks was Sweethearts Corner on Route 11. A (very) partial list of comics I got at Sweetheart includes Justice League Of America # 55-56, Fantastic Four # 73, Not Brand Echh # 4, The Spectre # 1, The Avengers # 42, Judo Master # 96, Teen Titans # 11, X-Men # 36, World’s Finest Comics # 162, Wonder Woman # 175, Inferior 5 #1, Doom Patrol # 115, Metamorpho  # 15, Spyman # 1, Green Lantern # 57, House Of Mystery # 173, and JLA # 61 (with “Operation: Jail The Justice League!”). My Aunt Rose bought me a copy of JLA # 57 at a drugstore in Liverpool, the next suburb over from North Syracuse. Every grocery store, drugstore, or other retail outlet with comics on display became a destination for me to increase my stash o’ treasures. Adventure Comics # 368. The Amazing Spider-Man # 48. Action Comics # 356. Aquaman #  30. Dell Comics‘ oddball Super Heroes # 4. A three-pack of King Comics titles at Clancy’s Silver Star. MORE! 

A cover-compromised copy of Superboy # 129 (my favorite individual issue of any comic book when I was a kid) was my introduction to coverless comic books (and yet another possible candidate for my first comic book). Many, many more examples of such contraband would follow. In the late ’60s and well into the ’70s, and even the ’80s, I grabbed these illegal, discounted comics as often as I could, with VanPatten’s Grocery in North Syracuse my biggest supplier.

Summers were a fantastic time for kids who loved comics. The annual team-ups of the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America were obvious highlights. A 1967 trip to Vermont netted me World’s Finest Comics # 168. Before traveling (usually to Missouri again), Mom and Dad would let me pick out a stack of new comics to read on the trip. During an extended time away from Syracuse in the summer of 1968, that same Missouri grocery store took in my 12- and 25-cent payments in exchange for  Marvel Super Heroes # 15-16, Not Brand Echh # 10, Avengers # 56, Avengers King-Size Special # 2, Sub-Mariner # 7, Superman # 207, and DC Special # 1. Extending the ’68 vacation’s route to a California visit, I picked up Adventure Comics # 384 and Aquaman # 41, the latter over the objections of a female second- or third-cousin who didn’t want me to buy a comic book in her presence. (This was an early step in my long history of being occasionally puzzled by the opposite sex. And by, y’know, people. Of any gender.)

Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, summer vacations offered a seemingly endless bounty of comic book purchases, from Astonishing Tales # 2 and a giant-sized issue of The Brave And The Bold in Florida in 1970 through Show-Me State acquisitions of Secret Origins # 5, JLA # 107, and…it’s a long list.  A rest stop at the Greyhound station in Cleveland got me Marvel Feature # 1, the first official appearance of the Defenders. The Springfield, MO bus depot provided DC’s The Shadow # 1. I loved ’em all.

Other than trades with comics-collecting pals, and a bounty of tattered ’60s books passed on to me from my sister’s boyfriend, I don’t remember the what or where of my first back issue purchases. Mighta been at the flea market in Syracuse, or at North Syracuse’s wonderful World Of Books. I was an old hand at back issues by the time I got to the Super DC Con in New York City in 1976. Among other dealers’-room transactions at Super DC Con, I picked up Funnyman # 5, which was one of the oldest complete (i.e., not coverless) comic books in my collection at the time. I still have that one.

Throughout all of this, I continued to buy both new and coverless comics at various stores in the Syracuse area. Page counts varied, prices increased. The familiar 12-cent cost became 15 cents by the end of the ’60s. 15 cents became 25 cents, then slid down to 20 cents before resuming the 25-cent level. Onward and upward. DC had 100-Page Super Spectaculars for 50 cents, later for 60 cents, before that format collapsed. 

I kept on buying comics through high school, and into my freshman year of college in 1977-78. Writer Steve Englehart‘s run on Batman in Detective Comics # 469-476 (which I purchased in installments at Gold Star Pharmacy in North Syracuse and at Liftbridge Bookstore in my college town of Brockport, NY) knocked me out, but it spoiled me for everything that came after that. I hadn’t outgrown comic books. I had just moved on.

I came back to comics after graduating in 1980. It wasn’t an immediate resumption of superdoer fandom, but I’d retained my interest in superheroes (manifested in exulting in Christopher Reeve‘s portrayal of Superman on screen). I stayed in Brockport for a couple of years after attaching the B.A. to my name, and I started visiting a new local store called Comic Book Heaven, “Where Fantasy Reigns But You Never Get Wet.” Frank Miller‘s work on Daredevil and Marv Wolfman and George Perez‘s revival of The New Teen Titans hooked me anew, and I’ve been buying my comic books again ever since.

Living in Buffalo from 1982 to 1987, I was within walking distance of the fabulous Queen City Bookstore, where I regularly stocked up on new issues, and scored a ton of coverless and/or crappy condition ’60s DCs out of the bulk bin. Returning to Syracuse in ’87, I became a regular patron of Twilight Book And Game Emporium, owned by Bob Gray, one of my old comics-trading pals from the early ’70s. When Twilight closed at the turn of the century, I switched to Comix Zone in North Syracuse. I pick up new comics at Comix Zone every week.

A few recent acquisitions from Comix Zone.

What do I buy at Comix Zone? Well! My current pull list includes all of the AHOY Comics titles, plus BatmanThe Amazing Spider-ManBuffy The Vampire SlayerSupermanJustice LeagueAction ComicsDetective ComicsThe Other History Of The DC UniverseMoney ShotFantastic FourFantastic Four Life StoryGroo Meets TarzanThe MarvelsCheckmateShazam!Superman BatmanAmazing FantasyInfinite Frontier, and more. I’m way behind in reading them–I have two very tall stacks of comics awaiting my attention–but I keep getting them, and I enjoy most of them.

I rarely buy comics from any resource other than Comix Zone. Other than the (very) occasional eBay purchase, the only notable recent exception was when DC published a line of 100-page comic books for sale exclusively at Wal-Mart. Hadda have some of those, and it was kind of a kick to buy comic books from a mass-market retailer, just like when I plucked comics off the rack at Sweetheart in the ’60s and ’70s…

…or grabbed an 80-Page Giant (featuring Tales Of The Bizarro World) at the grocery store in Aurora in 1968…

…or snapped up The Brave And The Bold # 78 at a Piggly Wiggly in Kansas…

…and The Brave And The Bold # 91 (featuring artist Nick Cardy‘s absolutely gorgeous rendition of the Black Canary) at the GEM store (Government Employees’ Market) in Syracuse…

…or discovered the Golden Age Plastic Man via DC Special # 15 at a drugstore in the Northern Lights shopping center… 

…or badgered Mom to take me to Carl’s Drugs in Liverpool, for the specific drugs this Carl craved, like Adventure Comics # 428…

…or bought the sultry Vampirella (while also sneaking peeks at Penthouse) at White-Modell…

I actually got this one at World Of Books, but…close enough!

…or E-Man # 10 at a pit stop in Arkansas…

…or The Joker # 1 and an issue of Charlton Comics‘ Yang at a convenience store in Clifton Park, NY…

…or Shazam! # 1 and Howard The Duck # 1, both hoarded by deluded speculators across the country, both purchased by me off the rack, both at Gold Star Pharmacy, the former in 1972 (when Gold Star was still Henry & Hines) and the latter in 1976. Speculation? Comic books are for reading and cherishing, you fools…

…or Detective Comics # 438 from the literal stack of Detective Comics # 438s at Two Guys department store… 

…or Doctor Strange # 50, with art by Steve Englehart’s former Detective Comics collaborator Marshall Rogers, discovered at a candy shop on Victory Boulevard while visiting my girlfriend on Staten Island…

…or my truly crappy-condition Batman # 100, courtesy of an antique shop in Brockport.

The comic books of my life. The Wal-Mart books sure looked cool, too, and they were part of that decades-long tapestry of colorful, action-packed wonder.

I’m not a collector anymore. If I don’t like a book, I stop buying it, and I often get rid of a comic book after I’ve read it. I’m a fan. I still have some of the books I bought as a kid, for 12 cents or 25 cents or whatever. The prices are a little higher now; they start at $3.99 to $4.99 and go up from there, though some retailers (including Comix Zone) offer discounts for subscribers. It’s okay. You can’t assign a value to dreams, and comic books remain the stuff that dreams are made of. Screw the Maltese Falcon. Gimme my comic books.

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Hoppy The Marvel Bunny

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.
My 50+ year love affair with comic books is based primarily on my fondness of superheroes. But I’ve dabbled in other comic-book genres at times. Carl Barks‘ Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stories are recognized classics, Sheldon Mayer‘s Sugar & Spike deserves wider recognition, and I’ve been known at various points in my life to follow the four-color sagas of ArchieEnemy AceBat LashGroo the WandererMs. TreeTomb Of DraculaLove And RocketsFish Police, and Fission Chicken.

Although it was never a specific interest, I’ve occasionally had some affection for funny-animal superheroes, too. My first such passions were Mighty Mouse and Underdog on TV, followed by Henry Boltinoff‘s single-page (or less) Super Turtle fill-in strips in various DC comic books in the ’60s. And I also dug Super Goof, a Gold Key Comics title, which starred the familiar Disney character Goofy; whenever our dear Goofy gobbled down one of his secret supply of Super Goobers, he’d upgrade into the costumed, super-powered Whatever-The-Hell-Goofy-Was Of Steel, Super Goof. Sure, you can laugh, but it was the closest Disney comics ever came to an ongoing superhero book. Er, unless you count Zorro….

But neither Underdog nor Super Goof was the first anthropomorphic critter to don a cape and fly through the sky to punch evil in the eye. One of the first–if not the first–was Captain Marvel Bunny, better-known as Hoppy The Marvel Bunny.

In the 1940s, the original Captain Marvel was so popular that Cap’s real-life masters at Fawcett Comics figured that spin-off characters would be well warranted. Cap gained a younger counterpart, Captain Marvel Junior, and a sister, Mary Marvel; each of these characters was popular enough to star in separate cover-featured series (in Master Comics and Wow Comics, respectively), and to appear in his/her own solo comics, as well. The three teamed up (often with non-powered, non-starring supporting character Uncle Marvel) in the pages of The Marvel Family, too. Someone at Fawcett must have decided that a funny animal version could sell to even younger readers, so Hoppy the Marvel Bunny was born.

Hoppy’s first appearance was in Funny Animals (aka Fawcett’s Funny Animals# 1 in 1942. His debut revealed that the soon-to-be-magic bunny rabbit was a big fan of Captain Marvel–wasn’t everyone?–who discovered he could also become the World’s Mightiest Lagamorph by speaking Cap’s magic word, SHAZAM! In a flash of lightning, Hoppy became Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, and adventure was afoot. (A rabbit’s foot! See what I did there?)

Hoppy remained the star of Funny Animals for years, and also starred in 15 issues of his own comic book. In the early ’50s, the Captain Marvel connection was dropped, as Hoppy became a more traditional funny-animal feature. When Fawcett folded in the mid ’50s, Charlton Comics picked up the rights to Hoppy, and reprinted some of the Marvel Bunny tales under the name Magic Bunny.

Hoppy was never much on my radar; he was gone from the comics racks long before I was born, and never had sufficient pop-culture oomph to merit a nostalgic revival. I probably first heard of Hoppy while studying comics history in the books All In Color For A Dime and Steranko‘s History Of The Comics, tomes that I devoured in the early to mid ’70s. Even when DC Comics acquired Captain Marvel and company, Hoppy was certainly the lowest of priorities.


Well, at least until DC Comics Presents # 34 in 1981. For the second and concluding chapter of a team-up between Superman and The Marvel Family, writer Roy Thomas pulled Hoppy the Marvel Bunny out of his hat as a climactic surprise guest star. This was clever, unexpected, and so cool. Hoppy saved the day, and even told Superman that he was his favorite comic book hero.

Heh. I thought Hoppy was supposed to be a Captain Marvel fan! Traitor. Just can’t trust a rascally rabbit.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.