Okay... this is starting to get a little weird.
It has been pointed out to me that whenever I reminisce about something, then right around the same time... it suddenly reappears in print. A new trade collection, or a new printing, or ...something. I'll be talking about something cool I remember like Omega the Unknown and a friend will say, "You know Marvel just put that out in paperback, right?" In other column venues or even just shooting the breeze with pals, I have, at one time or another over the last couple of years, wished for collections of Celestial Madonna, The Avengers-Defenders War, the Serpent Crown storyline, the Kirby Captain America, the Kirby Jimmy Olsen, the George Perez FF, the Englehart Captain America and the Englehart/Brunner Dr. Strange... and all of them appeared on bookshelves.
At first I thought it was just a coincidence. Marvel was just discovering their 70's backlist at the same time I was waxing eloquent about it, that was all. But the coincidences are mounting. And it's not all Marvel. I started to notice it around the time I was writing about the Champions and a few weeks later the Champions trade collection showed up. A wistful column about Superman, Lois Lane, and the ending of Superman II and in San Diego, Richard Donner gives us the news of a new Superman II DVD restoration. Then a column referencing Earth-2 and the various JSA revival attempts at DC and lo, here comes Justice Society volume 1, collecting the "Super Squad" stuff from the 70's All-Star, and on deck is a trade of the original Earth-2 Huntress adventures.
I still think it's coincidence. But just in case it's not... here's the stuff that I have been wishing for that publishers HAVEN'T done yet. Now, some of these I already own in the original, but I still think they should be collected, so other people can see them too. I'm trying to think of the greater good, here. With great power comes great responsibility.
Dark Horse now has the license for a couple of different properties that they are really doing right by. I love that they are issuing the old Roy Thomas Conan and the Joe Kubert Tarzan in beautiful new collected editions. But hey, why stop there? We have the Joe Kubert Tarzan, sure, but what rocked just as hard was the stunning Roy Thomas/John Buscema Tarzan.
For that matter, there's other Burroughs properties too. How about John Carter of Mars by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane? Let's get that back into print, Dark Horse people.
And I was delighted beyond reason to hear the news of the upcoming Essentials collecting stories from Marvel's various horror books like Tales of the Zombie and Monsters Unleashed and so forth. I am tickled that Simon Garth and Daimon Hellstrom and Man-Thing are all getting the Essential treatment, and I'm first in line, believe me.
But I can't help but notice a couple of glaring omissions. Where the hell is Essential Sub-Mariner? For crying out loud, if Ant-Man gets one, Namor certainly should. Seriously, what's that all about?
And I know there's a trade collection of the Starlin Captain Marvel out there, but honestly, for my nickel Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom and Scott Edelman did work just as good and often better on Mar-Vell.... you had the trial of Uatu the Watcher in there, a shootout with the Stranger, all sorts of cool stuff.
And Roy Thomas and Gil Kane did some great work before Starlin as well... I particularly remember Mar-Vell versus the Hulk, but there was other stuff too. An Essential Captain Marvel would be nice to see. A couple of volumes would give you the whole original run.
While we're on the subject of Marvel and the cosmic 70's, it'd sure be a good idea for someone to take the trouble to get Star-Lord gathered into a trade collection. This was a strip that started as an audition in Marvel Preview by Steve Englehart, and though it never quite got off the ground, nevertheless Star-Lord was probably the biggest success Preview ever had, he came back three or four times and it was always fun. The adventures of Peter Quill gave us one of the earliest pairings of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, as well as fine work from Doug Moench, Gene Colan, Terry Austin, and Carmine Infantino. That'd be a fun book to see.
DC seems to have finally gotten the Essential hint with its Showcase Presents books, but there's another Marvel riff I'd like to see their version of.
What about DC Visionaries? Just as Marvel has its Visionaries books celebrating Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, Peter David, John Romita, etc., etc.... why isn't DC doing books that are best-of collections of the big names there? I would be all over an art book collecting the greatest hits of, say, Jim Aparo.
I can think of a half dozen right away. Why not DC Visionaries: Denny O'Neil? Or Robert Kanigher? Archie Goodwin? Curt Swan? Elliott Maggin? Nick Cardy?
Not to mention the guys like Jack Kirby and Gil Kane who did extraordinary work at DC as well as Marvel. The only creator-centric collection DC's ever put out besides the Neal Adams Batman hardcovers is The Art of Walter Simonson, which by the way is a fine, fine book... but even that's out of print. It's nice to have the Adams Batman books, but come on, that stuff's hardly ever been out of print. Give some of the other guys a shot.
There has been so much foofaraw about Miracleman, Gaiman and McFarlane and the rights to that series, that people forget Eclipse put out some other very fine books too. A couple of my favorite indies got their start at Eclipse.
Ms. Tree from Max Collins and Terry Beatty was an amazing book. It got its start as a strip in Eclipse Magazine, then graduated to its own title, and then jumped around from Aardvark-Vanaheim to Renegade Press to end up at DC. But it was always Collins and Beatty and it was always good. Easily the best hard-boiled mystery series ever done in comic books, it was a clever pastiche that riffed off Spillane's Mike Hammer, Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, and even Dragnet, butÂ never lostÂ its own unique voice. Again, it'd be nice to have it all in one place. Eclipse did a couple of trade collections of the first few storylines, but the later stuff, you have to track down the original issues from a dealer and pray he doesn't put the boots to you on price. Even the Eclipse trades are long out of print. I have no idea how the original contracts shake out but it seems to me that Collins and Beatty must still own the rights. Won't some forward-thinking publisher make them an offer?
Eclipse was also the original home of another of my favorite independent series of all time: Crossfire from Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle.
As it happens, Crossfire recently had an abortive attempt at a digest reprint series. I wanted this to succeed so badly that I bought two copies of the first one, despite already having the originals. (Gave 'em as gifts.) Because Crossfire was AWESOME. The run started as a kind of super-hero thing spinning out of DNAgents, but it quickly became its own wonderful unique self, with bailbondsman Jay Endicott dealing, both in and out of costume, with the madness that is show business. Think The Rockford Files. In Hollywood. With tights and secret-identity stuff and the occasional supervillain. That was Crossfire. A pox on all of you that ignored the recent reprint book from About Comics, and I hope someone gives it another shot one of these days. I guess that one would be a wish that didn't pan out, so I'm wishing it again. Next time BUY it, you slackers.
And as long as I'm wishing, this time let's include Evanier and Spiegle's delightful almost-sequel to Crossfire, Hollywood Superstars.
This was a story about a hard-luck detective agency that was scrambling to make a living in Tinseltown, and it was every bit as likeable and funny as Crossfire.... just no costumes this time, which is apparently why fans ignored it. It ran five issues from Epic and serves as a kind of coda.
Speaking of books that were fun and funny, another one that I followed from publisher to publisher and enjoyed in every incarnation was The Trouble With Girls, from Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones.
(Yeah, the same Gerard Jones that wrote for DC and is doing all the cool history books now.) ThisÂ started asÂ a hilarious secret-agent parody that managed to end up satirizing pretty much anything and everything, and was really way too subtle for its own good most of the time... though it made for GREAT comics.Â Mainly the art was by a gent named Tim Hamilton and he had aÂ wonderfully light touch, with a real gift for understated caricature andÂ facial expressionsÂ that fit the book like a glove. A lot of the laughs reading the book came just from seeing the consternation on Lester Girls' face as the chaos swirled around him, and that was all Hamilton.
I imagine this series is a bitch to track down in back-issue bins because it started and stopped a couple of different times from different publishing houses, including Marvel/Epic at one point, and that's a shame because it was smart and cool and laugh-out-loud funny. Those of us that bought it loved it fiercely, so you can bet we're not parting with any of OUR copies. Really it would be a public service for someone to gather it all up and pay the creators a reprint fee and put it in trade, soÂ everyone can enjoy it.
That's my list. I'll probably think of a dozen more when I post this, but this will do for the moment. Here's hoping the lucky streak of books magically matieralizing after the reminiscence continues. Or, failing that, at least that a few reprint editors read this and take the hint.
See you next week.