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Friday in the Bargain Bin

by  in Comic News Comment
Friday in the Bargain Bin

Well. Usually Friday’s entry from me comes early, but today it came late. I wish I had a better reason for the delay but the plain truth is that I got snarled up in an administrative mess over at the comics message board I volunteer at and by the time I was done trying to handle various complaints from the people who post there, about five hours had gone by and I was fed up with superheroes, comics, and fans. For a while there I was right there with my friend Mordechai — I was tempted to say he didn’t go far ENOUGH in his condemnation of the comics-fan freak show. I’ve had a decent night’s sleep now and mostly shaken it off, but still… geez. Some of them folks are CRAY-ZEE.

So in an effort to cheer myself up and remind myself why I got into this stuff in the first place, I’m going to spend time talking about things I like.

One of the things I like a lot is finding old comics for cheap on eBay. I’m having a lot of luck there, partly because my kick that I’ve been on lately is non-superhero adventure books, and people seem to be letting those go for almost nothing. In particular, having pretty well cleaned up the Savage Sword of Conan/Robert E. Howard want list, I am nosing around for Edgar Rice Burroughs tie-in comics. Tarzan, John Carter Warlord of Mars, Korak, Weird Worlds, Tarzan Family, that stuff.

Here’s a nice lot of books that I got for about seven dollars including the shipping. They arrived a few days ago and I have been working my through them all week. These are amazingly good comics, especially the hundred-pagers. Kubert was born to draw macho jungle adventure books and these are just plain good. I’m thrilled that Dark Horse is collecting the Kubert stories in nice fifty-dollar hardcovers and I urge all of you with that kind of disposable income to seek them out. But realistically, I’M never going to have that kind of money so I get them this way.

The bonus of that method is …well, the bonuses, all the other stuff. Lots of other people worked on these books besides Joe Kubert. Backup stories featuring Carson of Venus by Mike Kaluta, John Carter by Marv Wolfamn and Murphy Anderson, text features from Allan Asherman about Tarzan in the movies (illustrated with photos from his collection) and — my favorite — newspaper strip Tarzan reprints with work by Hal Foster, Russ Manning, and Burne Hogarth. For a Burroughs fan this run of books was the mother lode, especially early on when Kubert was adapting the Tarzan novels in the front of the books and then there’d be all the bonuses in the back. Later in the run, right before the Burroughs people moved from DC to Marvel but after the DC Implosion in the late 70’s (show of hands? Anyone remember how thin DC books were in ’77? Those really WERE pamphlets) but even then, you had Denny O’Neil and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez turning in a nice adaptation of Burroughs’ Tarzan the Untamed. You had to read it in what felt like twelve-page installments, and when that was the whole bi-monthly package, it was no wonder readers were turned off; but getting a big chunk all in a row from the bargain bin like this, it reads just fine.

Here’s another recent score:

It was the Tarzan that I was after here, of course, but I was pleased about the other two books as well. Gold Key adventure books get almost no love from current fans unless they’re geezers like me, but I still have a soft spot for them. They are clearly aimed at a younger audience, but those were some good-looking comics, especially with the painted covers. And for my money the Tarzan books — Gold Key published both Tarzan and Korak for years — were the top of the line, particularly everything by Russ Manning. In fact, that was how I discovered Burroughs, reading the first couple of installments of Manning’s adaptation of Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. The neighbor kid who had the comics didn’t have all the parts (it was 1971, and that meant it took real dedication to get ALL the installments of a multi-part serial. Especially if you were nine.) So I went to the public library to get the actual book. Years later Dark Horse put out some nice digest-sized trades of the best of the Manning stuff with new covers by Mark Schulz, and those are great. But Dark Horse wants quite a bit more than a dollar apiece for them, and I got all three of the Gold Key books in that photo for 99 cents. Even if the Twilight Zone books suck, and they probably won’t, a buck is a deal for any Gold Key Tarzan. The one pictured here was in fact the last one from Gold Key before the Burroughs people moved to DC and the Kubert era began, so I guess I’m working my way back.

Changing it up a little, here’s a nice bunch of Kung Fu books from Marvel:

Little more spendy now; this bunch o’books set me back a whopping seven and a half dollars. Per book, though, it was the best deal of the bunch. After you add in shipping it still worked out to about sixty cents a book. Even my wife Julie got kind of excited over that. She’s not much on comics but she loves thrift shopping.

I’ve rhapsodized here over the black-and-white kung fu magazines from Marvel in the past, so I won’t go through all that again, but I am always intrigued when I see books I’ve never heard of. In between all the Shang-Chi (which I’m delighted to get, don’t get me wrong) there’s a couple of ringers. This happens a lot on eBay, especially when you blunder into something like this where it’s somebody’s brother or mother or something cleaning out an attic and stumbling across a lot of old comics. Like getting lucky at a garage sale. You get all kinds of interesting oddities that way.

Of course a lot of it’s crap. This time the ringers are a couple of issues of what looks like a real dog from the late 80’s/early 90’s, in there somewhere:

I think this may be the single worst piece of cover art I’ve ever seen, and after thirty years, I’ve looked at a lot of bad covers. And the story promises to be pretty awful, too. I mean, “Gams”? That’s the villain’s NAME? I haven’t actually read this yet, and the GCD couldn’t tell me a thing about it. A quick Google turned up the moderately-interesting fact that this was one of Darick Gross’ first jobs, apparently, and that “She-Bat” had kind of a successful run for a year or two there. At least until Gams showed up and, from the look of it, detached her leg and started beating She-Bat with it.

But that’s life in the eBay bargain bin. Sometimes you get cool old Twilight Zone books thrown in as a bonus, and other times you get a cowgirl hooker with a detachable leg. I gotta say, though, at these prices I can’t really complain. When you can find the entire run of the original Omega the Unknown for eight bucks when Marvel is charging thirty dollars for the trade paperback reprinting those same comics, it’s no contest.

See you next week!

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