Last Sunday's Field Trip

Just a little one, to the June 3rd Seattle Comic-Card Show... but it still was a whole lot of fun.

As always, I told my classes, "The school won't pay for it, but if you want the guided tour and an introduction to the artists, I'll be there at one o'clock." The middle-school kids are always a bit jaded after Emerald City's over with, and this close to the end of the school year it's hard to get them excited about anything anyway -- so I wasn't surprised that they gave last Sunday's event a pass despite my sales pitch.

However, I'd still call it a successful class outing. Even though I usually am writing about the middle-school cartooning kids in this space when I'm talking about students, they're not the only students I have.

I also teach cartooning for elementary-school kids at the Alki Beach Art Studio, and since that class doesn't get to work the Emerald City Comic-Con -- combining two different sets of 6th and 7th graders is enough of a headache already -- I always push the Seattle Center one-day shows especially hard at the studio. So the art studio kids showed up in force, and they were so excited to be there that their enthusiasm was irresistibly contagious. Even the parent chaperones were getting a little excited. "Does this sort of thing go on all the time?"

No, just a couple-three times a year. But it's always fun. Oddly enough, there were no big marquee names this time out, but my kids don't care about that stuff -- they just like talking to working comics pros. There's no snobbery in them; they don't differentiate between Marvel or DC celebrity artists and small-press locals. They just are excited to meet real creators, see real artists drawing and look at real original art pages.

We do have a fine bunch of local comics folks in and around Seattle.

Quenton Shaw and the QEW Publishing crew have been great friends to the class over the years. We always see them at the ComicCard shows and Quenton always has an an encouraging word for the students. He took the time to chat with Gabrielle and Emma about what kind of comics they liked to work on, what they liked reading, and so on. Very casual, he treats them like peers. It's just a little thing, but the kids really remember that attitude of hey, we're ALL doing comics... and a professional taking time to talk to the kids the way Quenton always does makes a hell of a good impression on their accompanying parents, too.

This time QEW was represented by artist Ben Hansen, and also, in her new capacity as editor, Heidi Meeley. I had heard about Heidi taking on an editing gig for Quenton, and it was nice to get a chance to take a few minutes and really get caught up with her and her husband Jim. We'd only had time for a hurried hello at the Emerald City Con, though my students got to talk to her there (Heidi is always really great with the kids as well.) We compared notes about the current state of the comics blogosphere; in particular, the Mary Jane statue flap and how it had dominated conversation for weeks. I told her that between that damned statue and Citizen Steel's chromed crotch, and all the links to us we got just for those two items, I was starting to think that we were becoming known as Comics Should Be Groin-y.

Next to QEW's table was Blue Water Productions, from Bellingham.

I was not actually that familiar with their stuff, but they were wonderful with the kids. Here's writer and Blue Water president Darren Davis trading autographs with my seven-year-old student Ryan.

Ryan was so awed and delighted at Darren asking for HIS autograph he actually became tongue-tied. Sadly, our camera once again crapped out on me, so this was the only photo I got at the show. But all the kids had that same look of awe and wonder that you can see on Ryan, there. Especially when Darren told them about his niece's project, Violet Rose...

... and the fact that she sold this script when she was twelve. (I'm pretty sure that beats Jim Shooter's record for youngest first professional comics publication.) It really is quite clever and fun, too. You can find it as a backup feature in the Legend of Isis trade collection... which is a fair amount of fun in itself.

Blue Water also has recently acquired a license to produce a new line of books that I thought was really interesting.

They've partnered with Ray Harryhausen to put out a line of books based on his movies. Wrath of the Titans, pictured above, is the first, and I was delighted to hear about their upcoming Sinbad book since those movies are MY personal favorites from Harryhausen.

The other nice thing about the smaller shows is there are terrific deals to be had. The students were overcome with collector lust when they saw boxes of manga digests half-price, and as for me, Randy's Reader Comics was there, so I got to shop for myself too.

Randy's got kind of an odd system going. He almost never brings the entire inventory. What he'll do is bring maybe the first half of the alphabet's worth of boxes, or the last half of the alphabet. So you only get titles from N to Z, or something. This time he changed it up a little -- DC books he had from A to N or so, and the Marvel books were L to Z.

It worked out fine for me: I was on the prowl for audition books, specifically Marvel Premiere and DC's First Issue Special. I get a hanker on for books after writing about them here, more often than not. And Randy's always got good prices. Every book I bought was a dollar. I ended up replacing some books I'd lost thirty years ago, and also acquiring some others that I'd always meant to read but never got around to.

Of the Marvel Premiere replacements, the one I was most pleased about was the Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin adaptation of the Solomon Kane story, "Red Shadows," in Marvel Premiere #33 and #34. I'd already seen Kane in the little 8-page backup stories appearing in Savage Sword of Conan, but hadn't thought much of him then. Mostly I think it was the visual --the Pilgrim hat with the buckle and the long hair really put me off. As historically accurate as it might have been, I just couldn't get my head wrapped around a tough guy dressing like he's in a Thanksgiving pageant. Chaykin's redesign put him in a vaguely piratical outfit and blessedly dumped the headgear, and I was a fan of his art anyway (Monark Starstalker, in the previous issue of Premiere as it happened, really had blown me away.) I recall many fans at the time being very annoyed about Kane's new look, but I loved it. This story got me so revved up back in 1976, I immediately went out and bought the first Robert E. Howard Solomon Kane paperback I could find, and Kane is still my favorite of all Howard's creations.

Another one I was happy to see again was the original Weirdworld try-out...

And Mike Grell's first Warlord story as well.

And this was a sentimental buy for me, more because I'd got it when it first came out and lost it years ago than on its actual merits. But I was nevertheless pleased to get it -- the final issue of First Issue Special, with the first of many tries at reviving Kirby's New Gods.

I also was pleased to finally get hold of Marv Wolfman's Torpedo solo audition two-parter.

I admit this was another sentimental buy -- the Torpedo's first appearance, in Daredevil #126, was the first issue of DD's own book I ever bought. I'd quite enjoyed it and Daredevil went on the regular-buy list... but somehow I'd missed the Torpedo's first (and only, I think) headline appearance. Sadly, I think this was the last work ever from the late Bob Brown, who'd been the regular DD artist until he passed away shortly before this book came out.

Of the books that were new to me, I was really interested to see what Jack Kirby had been doing for First Issue Special. I passed on Dingbats of Danger Street, but I did pick up these two.

Both Manhunter and Atlas are interesting books (Manhunter a little more so) but the odd part is that they both end on cliffhangers. They are clearly meant to continue, but I don't believe Kirby ever came back to do anything with either.... though Steve Englehart tried to wrap up some of the Manhunter stuff in his Justice League run. Still, I wonder what Kirby's actual plans were.

The best acquisition of the day wasn't a tryout book, though. It was the one issue I'd been missing from one of my favorite -- maybe even THE favorite -- comic book runs of all time.

Of all the format and price experiments comic books went through in the 1970's, far and away my favorite was DC's "100-Page Super-Spectacular." 20 pages of new stuff -- usually a 12-page lead feature and an 8-page backup story -- and 80 pages of reprints in between from DC's huge library. And of those 100-page books, my favorite was Detective. For the first part of that period, you had Archie Goodwin doing Batman in the front and Manhunter in the back, and then when Goodwin left you had Len Wein and Jim Aparo's awesome "Bat-Murderer" epic.

Yeah, I know, it doesn't make sense for Batman to have on a second mask over his mask or that the bad guys don't shoot him while he's struggling to get out of his coveralls. I don't care. "Bat-Murderer" was still an awesome story.

I have been at some pains to replace these books, starting with "Deathmask" in Detective #437 that kicked off the Goodwin run, and ending with the conclusion to "Bat-Murderer." This one, #444, was the only piece of "Bat-Murderer" I was missing and I've been after it for YEARS. It's not that rare, but I could never bring myself to pay the insane prices dealers were asking for it: $25 and up, usually. Randy, bless him, had it for cheap and I grabbed it so fast I think I left a smoke trail.

Now the only one left on my list is #441... The Batman and Robin story "Judgement Day" with Howard Chaykin doing the art, and the award-winning Manhunter short "Cathedral Perilous." Plus some awesome Golden and Silver Age reprints. Maybe next time. If Randy brings the D's again.

Even so, I was well satisfied. Considering Julie wasn't there to encourage me (she's still convalescing, and doing very well, thanks) that's still quite a haul. And the kids made out like bandits too. Even without Big Celebrity Creators or spending a bunch of money, I'd call it a really successful convention. Certainly I had a better time than I did the last time I tried fighting the crowds at CCI in San Diego. Sometimes smaller is better.

See you next week.

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