Saturday, February 13, 2010

Harvey Comics--where'd they go?

Above is an interesting flea-market find I made last weekend....a Laramie Toys 1/64 diecast Rolls-Royce from 1981 licensed as Richie Rich's Rolls....I love comics and die-cast cars, and have come to discover that these things are actually quite rare to find.

From GoAntiques:

Laramie, a toy producer and distributor from the Philadelphia, PA area produced a 2 door convertible in their Richie Rich cartoon series and is identified on the blister card as an Old time Car. The model is of a late 30's 2 door convertible with spare tires in the front fenders. The tope is down. The body is bright yellow with a black interior and tonneau cover.

A staple of my youth was Harvey Comics. They had several well-selling (I'm assuming) titles featuring popular properties (Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, etc.,...). I was one of those publishers I just kinda took for granted as a kid, because....well....they'd always been there.

Imagine my astonishment a few years ago when I suddenly woke up and realized one day that Harvey had ceased publication at some point during the previous decade. Seems they were an early casualty of the speculation market that ballooned out of control in the 1990s, and the sad thing is, it isn't because they were over publishing worthless books or they were adding to the useless hype and frenzy that other upstart companies were attributing to, it was a case of them just not being able to change their business and publishing model to adapt to the new market climate. Simply put, nobody was buying the books, so they simply had to shut the doors.

What amazed me beyond that was that around the time this happened, they weren't licensing anything....outside of the Casper property (which ironically had just been the focus of a big-screen adaptation courtesy of Universal Pictures that starred Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci)....nothing was getting licensed. I honestly believe that it was a case of no one having an interest in them, much like the monthly and bi-monthly comics periodicals.

Which is sad, really. If one can remember the publishing modules of the past, I can guarantee that Harvey was no slouch. We're talking about a company that was publishing at least half a dozen titles devoted to each individual property they had in house, which were around a half a dozen themselves....meaning at least 30 to 35 books a month on the newsstands were Harvey material, at a point int time when if a book wasn't selling 100,000 copies a month, it was considered a poor seller and canceled. Do the math: for around a forty year period, Harvey was publishing and selling over three million books a month, possibly close to half a billion. Now, take a look at today's market. If a monthly book is selling 25,000 copies a's a bonafide hit. Marvel and DC publish, what? Around 30 titles a month these days apiece....and sell about 10% of what Harvey did for decades.

In the last 20 years, Marvel has been bankrupt, made poor editorial and creative decisions that piss their readership off and, what? Sell out to Disney for 4 billion dollars.

And poor Harvey Comics couldn't keep their doors open. Sometimes, there's no justice in the world.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Favorite Jerks Part 2: Guy Gardner

I'm a HUGE Green Lantern fan...have been since I was a kid. Over the last thirty years of collecting, if there's been at least one common thread, it's that I've been a regular buyer of whatever monthly book that happens to be on the stands that features a GL....any Lantern (I wasn't one of those nutjob "HEAT" guys when Hal went bonkers and Kyle was ring slinging...I accepted Kyle, even if I didn't exactly condone what had been done with Jordan). heart lies with Hal. It always has....but if one was to ask me which Lantern I love unconditionally...I'd probably reply, "Guy Gardner". Guy's like a guilty pleasure...he's a jerk, sure...but his heart's in the right place, even if his brain isn't....

Gardner's the poster boy for every bad cliched male stereotype (especially those we of that gender gained in the 1980s). He's misdirected machismo given a voice....

I started reading Green Lantern in 1979, and stuck through Hal's lapses in confidence...which led to the book's reins being taken over by the character of John Stewart soon afterwards, which in turn led into the period in which the book was heavy tied into the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS event in 1985 and afterwards...probably my favorite. I love that span of issues (from around #192 until #224, the final issue of Hal's original book), and the group of Lanterns that came in and out of Hal's life at the time (right around then, Hal's magazine took on the title GREEN LANTERN CORPS, and became more of an ensemble book featuring a team of Earthbound GLs)...

Above: Green Lantern Corps #201- featuring Katma Tui, John Stewart, Hal Jordan, Salaak, C'hp, Arisa, and Kilowog...

The one reason I love Guy is his stubbornness. It's not that Guy is arrogant (he is), it's just that he can never admit that he's wrong....and being a completely pig-headed chauvinist only complicates matters. But, even having said seems that his bull-headedness is his biggest asset, as well. He's like a punch drunk boxer who won't lay down. It's said that one of the biggest factors in getting a power ring is the wearer's ability to overcome fear. Well....I honestly believe that either Guy is too stupid to be afraid of anything....or, fear is just a completely abstract concept to the man. Kinda like, if someone mentioned what it was like to be afraid to him, he'd react as if he'd never heard of it, probably because the concept had never crossed his mind. Ever. And that doesn't necessarily make him "stupid" just sheds a little light on the amount of will power and drive the character has. Hardcore fans will remember....this is the guy who was in line ahead of Hal Jordan to get a power ring (and possibly more qualified in the eyes of the Guardians at the time)'s only that Jordan was closer in proximity to Abin Sur when the time came. Jordan basically became Earth's "Emerald Guardian" practically due to a technicality...

Oh...did I mention that Gardner has suffered several head traumas, too?

From Wikipedia:

The appointed Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814, an alien named Abin Sur from the planet Ungara, crash-landed on Earth after being mortally wounded. As Sur died, his power ring sought and found two potential successors: Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan. Jordan was nearer to the crash, so he was chosen over Gardner.[4] In the later Booster Gold series it was shown that a time traveling Booster convinced Gardner to visit his dying father, thus ensuring that Jordan would be the candidate in closest proximity. Gardner was relegated to backup status should anything happen to Jordan.

When Jordan became aware of Gardner's status as his backup, he went out of his way to set up a chance meeting, and the two became friends. Though Gardner was originally naive to Jordan's secret identity, he eventually assisted Jordan during his adventures.

During an earthquake, Gardner was hit by a bus while attempting to rescue one of his students. During his recovery, the Guardians recruited John Stewart to be Jordan's new backup.

Some time later, during a period where Gardner was performing his duties as a backup Green Lantern, Hal Jordan's power battery, the source of the ring's energy, exploded in his face and trapped him in the Phantom Zone. Jordan and Kari Limbo, Gardner's girlfriend at the time, both believed him to be dead, and the two developed a romantic relationship, and ultimately culminated in a marriage proposal. Gardner was able to interrupt the wedding by contacting Limbo telepathically. By then, however, Gardner's bus accident, the power battery explosion, his assimilation into the zone, and the subsequent torture at the hands of residents of the Phantom Zone had affected his mind. When Gardner was released from the Phantom Zone, he was diagnosed with brain damage and was comatose for a number of years.

During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Guardians of the Universe split into two factions over how to confront the Crisis. A minority faction of six Guardians emulated their former brethren, the Controllers, by recruiting a Green Lantern to directly attack and destroy the forces of the antimatter universe. For reasons unknown, Gardner was revived by the renegade Guardians, given a power ring not tied to the Central Power Battery on Oa, and given a mission. He was to recruit and command the deadliest and most powerful criminals in the universe to launch a strike against the home base of the Anti-Monitor.

Gardner's brain damage manifested itself in the form of an arrogant, violent, unstable, and often childish new personality. Gardner believed himself to be the last "true" Green Lantern, superior to all the others, particularly Jordan. Five of the renegade Guardians were slain by a wave of antimatter, and the sixth eventually reconciled with the rest of the Guardians. In the meantime, Gardner succeeded in his task of recruiting powerful villains. Both Hal Jordan and John Stewart prevented Gardner from completing his mission, which would have ultimately destroyed the universe.

Plus, there's his participation in the J.M. DeMatteis/Keith Giffen era Justice League, which may quite possibly be my favorite run of a DC Comic published during my lifetime. Ever. And, IMO, Guy was allowed to not only shine, but was completely fleshed out, and given a clever amount of depth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Favorite Jerks

Now, I've noticed a trend in my collecting tendencies.....I love protagonists in comics that are absolute jerks. Heroes (sometimes in the loosest of terms) who tend to possess little or no redeeming social skills whatsoever.

I began to notice this a while back, when I started buying DC Comics' newest attempt at a comic based upon the mercenary intergalactic police force L.E.G.I.O.N., this time around called R.E.B.E.L.S....I was a big fan of the original series (which ran from 1987-1993) and the biggest reason for that was L.E.G.I.O.N. founder and leader, Vril Dox aka Brainiac 2....

I love Dox because he's not really evil...he's just completely arrogant, without any visible scruples, and power essence, everything a good villain should be, but he realizes that real power stems from bureaucracy...and he's smart enough to be the one applying the red tape. He's kinda like Victor Von Doom...if Doom was slightly less meglo-maniacal than he actually is, and a hell of a lot less noble. Dox is the kinda guy who views all of his acquaintances as assets, because he doesn't have the patience for the concept of friendship or meaningful relationships. Plus, he's a pretty quick wit and sarcastic to the core...he's the reader's superego given a voice, because the shit that comes outta his mouth makes perfect someone who possesses no tact or compassion......imagine Mr. Spock, only without a moral compass.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Showcasing the Essentials.....Part 1: Bob Hope

Ouch. Sorry, bad title. You try coming up with something clever and witty about this subject, then....

Inspired by a recent discussion with Freeman Williams over at his blog, Yes, I Know., where the subject turned to trade paperback collections of comic books one would like to see, I began thinking of books I'd love to witness getting this treatment, but for whatever reason will never see the light of day (or at least the probability of such an event occurring is very slight).

The Adventures of Bob Hope (1949-1970, DC Comics)
Why I Want It:

I discovered this nearly forgotten gem in high school in the early 1990s after I bought a HUGE collection of Silver Age comics from one of the teachers at the high school I attended. Weird thing about that particular collection was it's structure and components, which revealed that my high school economics teacher had some odd tastes as a kid : Tons of Silver Age Marvel and DC (and various other publishers such as Dell and Charlton) war books...Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos, Star Spangled War Stories, G.I. Combat, etc,....a pretty decent run of Marvel's Journey Into Mystery leading into a healthy run of early Kirby-driven Mighty Thor, lots of Tales to Astonish leading into a nice collection of early Incredible Hulk (Herb Trimpe was an artist that I didn't learn to enjoy until later in life, but I ate the Severin stuff up).....

...and, The Adventures of Bob Hope. Specifically the later part of the series, the last few years worth, which I came to discover was a pretty funny little satire on the majority of stuff that was making the rounds in popular culture during the era of it's publication. Everything from the Beatles, the growing interest in the classic Universal monsters amongst the kids of the 60s, to the "Batmania"- driven resurgence in the popularity of superheroes was poked fun at....and along the way writer Arnold Drake and penciller Bob Oksner crafted some incredibly madcap screwball comedy stories which IMO resulted in one of the best humor comics published in the 1960s, probably second only to Ogden Whitney's devilishly clever and completely oddball HERBIE...which was another book I discovered from buying the aforementioned collection (thankfully Dark Horse Comics recently began collecting the adventures of Herbie Popnecker, the Fat Fury in nice hardbound volumes, or I'd be writing one of these little rants about that particularly obscure piece of 1960s fanboy delights)......

What Needs Collected:
I'd love to see the aformentioned run of issues traded, simply because it's the pinnacle of the book's absurd brand of weirdness. Starting with issue #86, we're introduced to Hope's anthropomorpic basset hound staright man, Harvard Harvard the 3rd, a character that I love so much that not only is he the subject of my avatar pic here (see above), but about a year back I purchased a basset, whom I named Harvard. Go figure.

Then, there's the faculty of Benedict Arnold High School, who are homages/parodies of the classic Universal attendance at B.A.H.S. is Tadwallader Jutefruce, Bob's fictional egg-head teenage nephew who transforms in the superhero Super-Hip....a nudge and a wink and the Batmania and Beatlemania craze.

Oh...and one of the funniest things about the series has nothing to do with the writing....the last five or six issues were pencilled by a guy you may have heard of: Neal Adams...doing his best to ape Oksner's style....

Why It'll Never Happen:

Other than the simple fact that I want it, there's one major stumbling block that prevents this book from ever getting traded or reprinted: licensing and rights. I know it's a tough job to maintain a comic that's licensed from an existing property or real world figure, so I can only imagine the tangled knot of trouble it would be when you're talking about a property that hasn'tbeen in publication for nearly 40 years, coupled with the fact that it's protagonist, Hope....well, he's kinda dead. I'm sure this would involve long, drawn out negotiations with the estate....and, well....unless there's a HUGE surge in Hope's post-mortem's just never gonna happen. Super-Hip, though, still might be considered canon....little known fact: his only appearance outside of The Adventures of Bob Hope was in Doom Patrol #104 (June 1966), another Arnold Drake production that contained the wedding of Patrol members Rita "Elasti-girl" Farr and Steve "Mento" Dayton....