Welcome my friends, to the Weekly Haul. It has been too long since our last installment, but you know how it is around the Holidays. I didn’t intend to do several over-sized editions in a row, after all this is supposedly a weekly feature, but the life of a swamp ghoul intervenes. Once more I’ve been up and down the Eastern climbs of this country, a traveling Ghoul in a shabby truck listening to Glenn Campbell on cassette. I’ve been helping the Widow Sunday adjust to life at her Mortician’s school, wrapping up a few old jobs in the local burying grounds, and visited my family for Thanksgiving, a Holiday who’s inception I was present for in the days when my tribe was not being slaughtered by buckle-hatted interlopers. I caught up with my brother Blackwolf and his newborn moon child, and managed along the way, to accumulate a lot of comic books. As you can see in the blurry photograph, Mr. Jackson is curled up with one right now. And on that note, let’s see what’s in the stash this week, shall we?
The last week of November was a busy one, I have a lot of digging to do while the ground is still soft, and we had quite a bit of rain which was no help. But on a blustery Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, I had the chance to swing by the newsstand and pick up some comics to read on the rocky train ride through misty mountain passes on my way home. I got a brand new Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., a stand alone story borrowing the artist of Joe Golem, that was pretty good. The new issue of Harrow County, which I’m saving for a rainy day, has a great cover. The second issue of Cage! was excellent, a lot of style and fluff, but very satisfying. In a dollar bin I found the first issue of a recent Black Knight series from Marvel, which I bought for the Eric Powell cover, and was decent reading on the train, but not much else. And last but not least I picked up the most recent two issues of Star Wars by Jason Aaron, to scratch a particular Star Wars itch I have. Star Wars has consistently been good since it started at Marvel two years ago, as was Darth Vader, and it’s not hard to see, as they are written by Jason Aaron and Cullen Bunn respectively, but I dropped them both after 15 or so issues for budgetary reasons. Even so, this two issue sampling shows me it’s still as good as ever, with a heavy emphasis on good story, over simple exploitation of a popular license.
It’s also worth mentioning that I spent some time reading through Head Lopper (see Giant-Size Weekly Haul #3 ) over this week-long ramble, as well as Hand of Fire by Charles Hatfield, which is an excellent read on Jack Kirby, that has a home right here on WordPress. And yet, never having enough to read, I found myself journeying to the old trading post of the Eastern marshland, and as always, I found a wealth of treasures there.
There is a lot to unpack in this photo. Least not of which is Mr. Jackson smelling my comics like a creep.
The very top of the list is a first edition over-sized ALIEN The Illustrated Story. This is the stunning 1979 comic adaptation of the Ridley Scott movie written by the legendary Archie Goodwin and beautifully drawn by Walter Simonson, published by European Sci-Fi Comics giant heavy Metal. This is something I’ve searched for a long time. ALIEN is an almost perfect horror film in my book, I don’t think even our co-contributor Max would argue with me on that point. It’s a classic, primal, gothic horror story, where there is a slimy monster running around a dark castle, except it’s in space, with badass fox Sigourney Weaver. Also it has Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton as space janitors. As I’ve mentioned before, comic adaptations tend to be utter crap, but this is the exception to the rule. Archie Goodwin is an unsung hero of comics, a truly gifted writer who wrote almost any title you could think of, and plenty of horror stories for Creepy and Eerie. And Walter Simonson is just hitting his stride in the late 70’s, an incredible draftsman and designer with a particular eye for scale and perspective in story telling. He is a perfect choice to adapt this richly visual story to the gloriously over-sized page.
In another cobwebbed bin in the old trading post, I found Detective Comics #572, the 50th anniversary issue, featuring a tale by Mike W. Barr in which Batman teams up with Sherlock Holmes, with art by Alan Davis, Dick Giordano, and golden-age Batman artist Dick Sprang, among others. I also grabbed Thor #251, with an iconic cover by Jack Kirby for one dollar, and people say there’s no God. Another big find here is Savage Tales (Featuring Conan the Barbarian) #5, the classic black and white magazine that would become Savage Sword of Conan. This issue in particular was published in July 1974 and features Conan and Ka-Zar and dinosaurs in the cover by Neal Adams, not to mention the feature Conan story The Secret of Skull River by Roy Thomas, Jim Starlin, and Al Milgrom. There are two more books in the pictures which did not come from the trading post, at least on this trip. Star Trek #5 was a gift from Tricky Rick Dixon, of the Space Station Wagon blog, being the second half of an excellently weird “haunted house in space”* story with a Frank Miller cover. The second book you’ll see is Kamandi #1, by Jack Kirby, a lustrous Jewel of my collection. Kamandi was the book Jack wrote for DC comics after seeing the poster for Planet of the Apes. Kamandi is the saga of the last boy on Earth, in a post-apocalypse America ruled by warring tribes of mutant animal men. It is an awesomely comic-book-y comic, and I found this copy for ONE AMERICAN DOLLAR at the same swamp trading post mentioned above, only many many years ago. It went missing from me for years until I dug it out of a moldering crate in a toolshed behind my family’s crumbling Victorian on Thanksgiving. It is good to be reunited with it at last.
*Haunted House in Space, just like Alien, eh?
The long weekend ended and I took that rickety train back home to my swamp, back to work and toil in my ghoulish endeavors. But before I knew it, Wednesday rolled around again and I picked up the regular monthly titles.
The first haul of December brings us Conan the Slayer #5, Witchfinder, and Spookhouse #2. It also came with a brand new Ghost Rider #1 with Robbie Reyes’ originating artist Tradd Moore. At the top of my personal list this month, is Black Widow #8, hands down my favorite book currently being made by Marvel or DC. Then we have two winter annuals, which are excellent little yearly bonuses of double-length comics. Star Wars Annual #2, and Batman Annual #1. Star Wars, once again, is a book I haven’t followed in a while. In fact, neither is Batman. Not in any reflection on their quality, but for the sake of saving my dirty money and dusty shelf-space. That said, last year’s Star Wars Annual was a great stand alone story, which in the tradition of the great summer annuals of the silver and bronze age, really took advantage of the double-length format to tell a sweeping, action packed, self contained story. Like a good TV movie, it sticks to the ribs. And the Batman Annual has snowy Gotham city on the cover, and that’s all I needed to see before my money was on the counter. Any time they set a Batman story in Gotham city in the snow, it instantly becomes twice as appealing.
And finally there are two more items, it’s been a hard two weeks on my wallet, but I found some good stuff. I found Thor vol. 1 by J. Michael Straczynski and Oliver Coipel, a book I’ve wanted to read since it came out back around 2006 or so, for a mere $5. The story is great and the art is fantastic, and six issues for five dollars is a good deal anywhere. And then, yesterday, on a long walk through the wind and rain, trying to outpace the blues (the Widow Sunday is on a lecturing tour amongst the morgues of the great white North, and this place is just not as gloomy without her) I stepped into a tavern, where I beat a beer distributor from Sweden in the Indian Knife game for his copy of Thor Masterworks vol.5. clearly, I’m in something of a Thor mood lately, and Volume 5 includes the first appearance of Ego, the Living Planet.
Ego is one of Jack Kirby’s most bonkers concepts, and as you can tell from the above pictures, this particular collection boasts some of Jack’s best work, operating at the absolute hight of his powers, in this era.
I would say “that’s all”, but that sounds diminishing to such a substantial pile of comics. It’s been a long two weeks, but they’ve had some fantastic reading in them. Hold your loved ones close, gather round the Yule log as the nights grow colder, and find yourself something good to read. I’ll see you soon, boils and ghouls.