Greetings, tenebrous travelers, and welcome back to the weekly haul. I have crossed this crumbling continent twice over in this past week, through ice and rain and fog, and an honest-to-God supernatural sand storm. It fell upon me to read the ancient spells to the mummified Witch-Queen of the western desert, so that her merciful slumber may last another thousand years and spare us her wrath. But wouldn’t you know it, her tomb was empty. Hope that doesn’t come back to bite me. But while I was out there, I picked up an old, hitch hiking gold prospector named Abernathy Buckner, and drove back East. And along the way, found comics. Kittycat Jackson grows weary of these long-winded introductions, so let’s see what’s in the stash this week, shall we?
After days of travel through the deserts and mountains, The senile coot prospector and I decided to stop in on an old Fiend, and crash his place for a day. Tricky Rick Dixon resides in an abandoned civil war fort in what is now a rusting industrial keystone city in middle America. This was the first time I’d been in this neck of the woods since the day I decided to stop hanging out with the Niúachi tribe after the Chief’s daughter brought some French weirdo home, and that place got played out real fast. But in the time since I left that muddy river bank life, it’s developed into a really cool town full of smoke stacks, barbecue, and not as many fur trappers or white devils as I would have imagined. It is also home, it turned out, to one of the first comic book specialty stores in America. Guess where we went.
In this particular store, I grabbed Conan the Slayer #6, and a copy of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones Omnibus vol. 3. This book has been out of print for a while, and the cover price is considerably cheaper than any I’ve seen online. The stories are great adventure comics, I mean it’s Indiana Jones, you get what you pay for. But this volume in particular boasts art by Steve Ditko for a solid 80% of the pages.
Steve Ditko is the mad genius who’s creative legacy gave us Spiderman, Doctor Strange, the Question, and Gorgo. He is famous for his characteristic 9 panel grid page layouts, which at a glance may seem claustrophobic and cramped, but are dense with rich detail and amazingly succinct storytelling. When you look at a Ditko page panel-by-panel, it is astounding how much detail, mood, and style he packs legibly into atypically vertical compositions. You can see a perfect example of all this in the Doctor Strange Page above, along with it is a sample of his Indiana Jones material for comparison, and a sleepy self-portrait because I like it. Indiana Jones is later Ditko, and I imagine a purely-for-the-money gig, as he was by this point justifiably at odds with Marvel, the publisher. Still, I find it to be great. Even when he isn’t trying to push the artistic envelope and make wild shit like Doctor Strange or Mister A, Steve Ditko can’t help but draw the hell out of a comic. He is the definition of a visual storyteller.
Later that very day we went to another comic shop. Yeah. Two. And digging around their fantastic bins of silver-age treasures, I dug up Dark Horse Comics #6, and Devil Dinosaur #1. Dark Horse was a great anthology book from the early days of Dark Horse Publishing. It ran mostly existing properties that they had the rights to, like Alien, Predator, Robocop, and Star Wars. Now this is purely coincidental, but this issue features an Indiana Jones cover story by Gary Gianni, involving a giant octopus. I am a sucker (eh?) for monstrous mollusks and sizable cephalopods, and Gary Gianni is an incredible illustrator, so this dollar bin find went home with me. And Devil Dinosaur is the premier issue of a Jack Kirby book about a giant red dinosaur and his missing-link friend Moon Boy. That was a no brainer.
We left Tricky Rick at sunrise, and the road led us finally back to the northern swamps of my ancestry. I promptly ditched Abernathy at a roadside diner, and on my way back to the swamp mansion, couldn’t resist dropping by the old trading post to see what was in. Here, I picked up Darth Maul #1, a double-sized issue written by Cullen Bunn, writer of Harrow County as well as Conan the Slayer. There was a $1 reprint of The Incredible Hulk #181, by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe, which I had to have. This was the first appearance of Wolverine, and a great story with weird nordic witchcraft, and solid Herb Trimpe art.
I also picked up Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #1, Harrow County, and the Hellboy Winter Special #2. Baltimore is a series I love, and I’m excited to see it’s return. Harrow County is my favorite book, and Hellboy speaks for itself, a winter annual with every artist, writer, and character I could possibly want. And lastly, buried deep in a dusty dollar bin behind some taxidermied crows, I found Detective Comics #627, an anniversary of Batman’s 600th appearance in the title that debuted him. This contains four versions of the first Batman story, including the original by Bill Finger and (allegedly) Bob Kane, and three re-imagingings, by Mike Friedrich and Bob Brown, Marv Wolfman and Jim Aparo, and Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. 80 musty, faded pages of Batman by creative teams spanning four decades, for one American dollar.
I packed away my riches, and headed south for my Mansion home, where The Widow Sunday and Mr. Kittycat Jackson awaited me. Jumping the alligator pit, I managed to tuck and roll with my new comics and leap from my 1973 AMC Gremlin before it went over the gorge and exploded spectacularly on the far side, and made it back to the house. And now here I am, exhausted, ready to curl up and read some of these treasures with Mr. Jackson and the widow. That’s all for this week, Boo Believers. Happy snails to you.