I had some requests to run another column on classic comics that are a relative bargains. Here are a few choices from a variety of publishers and genres.
OK, the comic book may not be quite as cool as the TV series, but The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is still a lot of fun. It is really too bad that the spy genre fell out of favor, because I’ve discovered that many of my favorite series of the 50s and 60s feature secret agents, sassy dames and megalomaniacs. Gold Key’s fine adaptation of Napoleon and Illya’s adventures should not be a secret any longer. It’s a lot of fun, and the artwork is first rate – especially the issues penciled by Don Heck and Mike Sekowsky. I’ve always felt that the tremendous talents of those two fine gents were poorly served by the Second Superheroic Age, and they truly shine in these pages. The back-up feature, Jet Dream, is fantastic fun – beautifully stuck in the 60s. As these TV tie-in books can attract a wide range of collectors, some of the early issues can command a steep price in high grade, but I’ve found that most of these books are very affordable in mid-grade.
Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Charlton’s Yang borrows pretty heavily from the David Carradine Kung Fu TV show, but have I ever complain about too much of a good thing. It’s the classic ‘rudderless loner traveling through the Old West’ story. By the way, he’s also Chinese, knows Kung Fu and has a crazy love/hate relationship with the daughter of the evil warlord. Her name is Yin (get it?) and she never knows whether to kiss or kill Yang. It makes for a pretty interesting (if a bit repetitive) premise. It’s quite an entertaining read, and I came to appreciate Warren Sattler’s economical pencils. These books can be had for next to nothing (I’ve never paid more than a buck). This isn’t up to the Master of Kung Fu level, but it’s good for some cheap fun. Don’t get sucked into the inferior House of Yang series – not a favourite of mine.
There aren’t many Marvel Silver Age deals out there, but Tower of Shadows is one of them. What if I told you there was a series featuring new work by Neal Adams, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Gene Colan, Jim Steranko and John Buscema? You’d be pretty interested in checking it out, wouldn’t you? In addition, what if I threw in some very early work by Barry Smith and Tom Sutton? The real treat here is the fact that the artists ‘host’ their stories, complete with a self-portrait. There something special (or perhaps creepy) about Wally Wood or Barry Smith breaking the 4th Wall and speaking to you, the reader. There are some real standout stories here (‘One Hungers’ by Neal Adams art and the Thomas/Palmer adaptation of Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model” come to mind) and some choice reprints. While the first issue can be pricey in high grade, I just did a quick scan of recent eBay sales and most books sold in the $2-$4 range. Keep in mind, the King-Size Special collects stories from issues #1 and #2, with one Atlas era Ditko reprint. All in all, it’s good stuff, and a bargain compared to most of Marvel’s output from that time.
If you like lush, glorious artwork – you owe it to yourself to rush out and grab the full run of Rima, the Jungle Girl. This series is based on William Henry Hudson’s novel Green Mansions (see also Classics Illustrated #90). So often during the 70s, a Joe Kubert cover was used to as a bait and switch, and readers found fair inferior artwork on the inside. This was not the case with Rima, as the Redondo studio did an unbelievable job of this book. The stories are very entertaining, and I believe that this series was one of Bob Kanigher’s last great works. The back-up strips are decent, and Alex Nino fans will enjoy the ‘Space It’s readily available and since there are no signs that DC will be reprinting it any time soon, it’s worth tracking down in floppy format. Completists should note that Rima made an appearance in the Super Friends series, of all places.
Finally, I’d like to mention Dell’s Space Man. I don’t know this series all that well, as I’ve only read a few issues, but I’m in love with it. This series is space opera on a grand scale. Borrowing heavily from pulps such as Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, the strip is full of big ideas and fast paced action. The write (Joe Gill?) obviously sought to cram as much into each issue as possible and it’s all wonderfully laid out by Jack Sparling. The series ran a scant 8 issues (the final two were reprints, published after a long hiatus) and I’m fully dedicated to piecing together a full run. I'd buy it for the covers alone.
So there are a few ideas for spending money that you might not have. Hopefully, I’ve at least help you to spread it around a little more. For more random comic talk, visit my blog Seduction of the Indifferent and don’t hesitate to email me at scottshouldbegood at yahoo.com