Favorite Quotes

"The fact that you think you are a person is a socially induced hallucination. There is not such thing as a person."
- D. Chopra, Playboy March 2011 interview

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Marvel Zombie Society

One of the best things about the Golden Age of comic book fandom (1960s) was the fanzines.  They now fetch hundreds of dollars on EBay because of their low print runs and nostalgia factor.

But print fanzines didn't end with the 1960s.  In fact, there were probably more printed in the 1970s than in the 60s and there were of a much higher quality than those ditto zines.  Even with the Internet, there are still printed fanzines.  Ditkomania is one I still get.

In that era just before the World Wide Web, I belonged to one which was one of the better ones, The Marvel Zombie Society.

 Marvel Zombie Monthly #18 (December 1989) [Marvel Zombie Society]

The monthly newsletter was a little different than most as it was a cross between a typical fanzine and an (Amateur Press Association) APA.  It had an extensive feedback (or comment) section.

The more than 6 pages of comments on previous articles, reviews, and previous comments was almost half this 15 page issue.  That was pretty typical.  If you added Readers Replies to the monthly poll, this was a chatty group.
 There wasn't much art in the issues, as this issue only had a graph I included in an article I wrote for the issue.

But that chattiness is what made this group of fans special.  It became a tight group that even went to the San Diego Comicon together a few years latter.  Not surprisingly, there were several well known letterhacks and a few others who became industry professionals like myself and Charles Novinskie.

By this time a year later, it had become the MZS-APA and that is when it really became a tight group.  That's when we went to San Diego Comicon and had a lot of fun.  The membership remained at 30 people even though members came and went.  We even had some artists who went on to do some work for Marvel & DC.

Doing a little Internet search, I discovered it is still hanging on, but there was something about a farewell issue.  So it may be on its last legs.  Something like 270 issues or so.  Has a Facebook page if you are interested.  Not bad for a zine that started in 1988.   No DC Deviants need apply.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Clean Up By Comics Czar

Puttin' Out The Fire

Today in 1954, it was reported that Comic Books Are Being Cleaned Up.  The first Comics Magazine Association of America censored comic books would be hitting the newsstands in the next few weeks and Judge Charles F. Murphy wanted everyone to know about it, so he held a press conference.
Pittsburgh Press - ‎Dec 29, 1954‎ pg 7

It always fascinates me to see how different newspapers cover the same story.  The New York Times has the story on page 8:

NEW' COMIC BOOKS TO BE OUT IN WEEK; First 'Approved' Issues Put More Clothing on Heroines and Tone Down Violence. By DOROTHY BARCLAY
"Tidied-up comic books carrying the seal of approval of the recently formed Comics Code Authority are expected to appear on newsstands early next week."

Pittsburgh PA was a two newspaper town in 1954, so it is interesting to see that on the same day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette only had a 3 paragraph story, but on page 2.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Dec 29, 1954 pg 2

The Milwaukee Journal had quite a different slant on the story on page 4.  Since it was from the NY Times News Service, it was probably closer to the New York Times story than the Pittsburgh Press United Press (UP) story.

The Milwaukee Journal - Dec 29, 1954 pg 4

Meanwhile, the St. Joseph, MO Gazette had it on the front page at the bottom right corner.  Other front page articles included Russia May Soon Free 3 Americans, France Into Final Arms Debate, Few Leads In Ballot Theft, and '54 Births Will Top 4 Million For First Time In U.S.

St. Joseph Gazette - Dec 29, 1954 pg 1

Where as the Spokane Daily Chronicle had the UP story buried on page 13 with the classifieds.

Spokane Daily Chronicle - ‎Dec 29, 1954‎ pg 13

Canada had the story the next day, when the Montreal Gazette carried the NY Times Service article on the Women's Page (pg 8) among such heavy articles as Facts and Fancies, Baby Is Healthy But Wakeful, Better Eating, and Running Away From It All Doesn't Solve Anything.

The Montreal Gazette - Dec 30, 1954 pg 8

It even made news in Melbourne, Australia in The Age.

The Age - Dec. 30 1954, pg 4

So, within 2 days, the story had been carried by at least 5 news services (UP, AP, INS, AAP, and NY Times) and probably hundreds of newspapers around the world.  I'd say Judge Murphy's press conference was successful.

Now to get that bad taste of censorship out of our mouth, I'll close with the Pogo strip that was also in newspapers today in 1954.  Its even kind of appropriate as they were trying to put out a fire like Judge Murphy.

If that doesn't do it, go Give Money to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  A better organization cannot be found.  And be sure to check out Tom Spurgeon's interview with 2 head honchos of the CBLDF (Charles Brownstein And Larry Marder) at The Comics Reporter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Box Score Reprise 1: Lev Gleason

Mark Twain said there are 3 kinds of lies:  Lies, Damn Lies, & Statistics.  You can add marketing to that.

Crime Does Not Pay (December 1947) [Lev Gleason Publications Inc.]

Note that this cover says "6 Million Readers Monthly".  That may be a lie and it may not be as studies at the time found that kids did trade and pass around their comic books in the late 1940s.  But we can guesstimate how many kids had to read each copy.

During the last 6 months of 1947, Lev Gleason Publications Inc., was publishing just 4 titles, Boy, Crime Does Not Pay, Daredevil, and Horse Feathers.  According to the SM News Box Score I posted not long ago, Lev Gleason had 9 issues and a total circulation of 6.48 million with an average sale per issue of 720,000.  So its impossible that each issue of Crime Does Not Pay sold 6 million copies as it had six issues during that time.

The issues covered by that time frame may have been three issues of Boy (#35-37)  and six issues of Crime Does Not Pay (#53-58).  But three issue of Daredevil Comics (#43-45) were also out in the last half of 1947.  The indicia name in Daredevil is Daredevil Publishers Inc. even though it is at the same 114 East 32nd St. address as Lev Gleason.  So maybe it was treated separately by SM News even though it was all one company.

Also coming out in this time period was Horse Feathers #1 (Nov. 1947), which also does not seem to have been counted.  It could be that not all the titles or issues were submitted to The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).  Its odd that some titles omitted from the SM News numbers, but its possible at least Horse Feathers wasn't submitted to the ABC since it's second issue didn't come out until April 1948.  Maybe it was intended to be a one-shot.

In any event, if the 6 million number has any validity, every child that bought a copy shared it with more than other 8 children for each of those 9 issues that were published.  Or maybe shared it with more than 10 others, if it is just referring to Crime Does Not Pay.  But it obvious that the 6 million is not referring to actual sales.

This exercise does demonstrate some of the limitations of the SM News Box Score and the way publishers conducted business.  Too much extrapolation from a single set of data can sometimes be misleading.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kitchen Sink Pipeline 100

Kitchen Sink Press Pipeline #100 (December 1993) [Kitchen Sink Press]

This was a promotional flyer available to retailers in bundles of 25 to be given out to customers.  This was for items expected to ship in December 1993.  Enjoy a great Berni Wrightson cover of his humorous sf series Captain Sternn.  Here's the actual cover to issue #2 as it shipped. 

Compare the cover to the one solicited below.  At the time, Kitchen Sink was doing four series as well as many one shot comic books and related material.

Since these all were supposed to ship in Dec. 1993, lets see what actually shipped on time.  Here are 7 of the titles listed and when these issues got to the retailer from Diamond.

Captain Stern: Running Out of Time #2  - 12/1/93  (note that Diamond miss-spelled Sternn)
From Hell v. 3   - 1/12/94
Melting Pot #2  - 12/22/93
Spirit: The Origin Years #10  - 3/9/94
Messozoic  - 12/14/93
Druuna: Morbus Gravis 1  - 12/1/93
Visions of Arzach  - 1/12/94

Not bad, more than 50% came out in December.   Fans of Kitchen Sink books would not be overly disappointed by a week or two late.

Also of note is that Kitchen Sink "distributed" 3 of those titles.  From Hell was published by Mad Love Publishing, while Morbus Gravis and Visions of Arzach were published by Heavy Metal.   Sometimes a larger publisher would include another actual publisher's title under their solicitations to help them out, probably hoping for better orders or other reasons.  These were actually physically distributed to direct market retailers by the regular distributors like Diamond and Capital.