My Comics and Music Purchases Yesterday

Written: 1 June, 2001

Yesterday I decided to make my usual trip to my local comics shop to pick up the comics that had been accumulating in my pull bag for the past few weeks. (Yep, this is another one of those posts, going into detail for no reason about what I bought yesterday.) I also turned in my order form for August.

First let me list what comics I put on my advance order form that I turned in yesterday...(going by memory here, since I turned it in without making another copy for myself). They were: PROMETHEA #16, TOM STRONG #15; DESPERADOES: QUIET OF THE GRAVE #4; MIDNIGHT NATION #10; CEREBUS #269; GLORY TO GOD #1 (new Biblical indie comic); CROSSGEN CHRONICLES #4; DRAWN & QUARTERLY VOL 4 #1 ($24.95 book); COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE #85 (Cover #A, EISNER SPIRIT, $5.95 magazine); BEST OF FAWCETT COMPANION ($15.95 book); JACK COLE AND PLASTIC MAN by Art Spiegelman ($19.95 book). That's not counting the Marvel & DC stuff I have on my monthly pull list: Avengers, Captain America, Wonder Woman, etc.

Before stopping at my local comics shop, I decided to check the records at a local "used stuff" store. It's one of those huge places that sells stuff that people give to the Salvation Army, I think. Anyway, they have vinyl record LPs for 50 cents each, and sometimes they have some good ones there. It looked like yesterday that they had fewer records on the shelf than usual, but I found a bunch to buy anyway. Here's what I bought:

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, Let Me Be There (1973)
I usually don't get records like this, but the front & back cover showing a young Olivia's face looked so attractive that I figured I should get it for novelty reasons alone. (You can take a look at the album by clicking here.) Also, it features covers of some songs I like, such as "Angel of the Morning" (a Chip Taylor song made a hit by Juice Newton), John Denver's "Country Roads" and Bob Dylan's "If Not For You," so I knew that I'd like some of the songs already even without having heard the album. After listening to the album, I'd say it's okay. The "If Not For You" version was good, faithful to the twanging guitar sound of the Dylan and Harrison versions.

THE CARPENTERS, The Singles: 1969-1973 (1973)
Whenever I've seen that VH-1 "Behind the Music" about the Carpenters, and hear some of those beautiful songs like "Close to You," I've wished that I had a Carpenters album. Well, this one seems to have all the Carpenters songs I wanted: "Close to You," "Top of the World," "Rainy Days & Mondays," "We've Only Just Begun," and "Hurting Each Other." This record also reminded me of why I like LPs, since it came with a big booklet inside talking about the songs, providing the lyrics, etc. If this was on a CD, it would have been shrunk down into a little size, to fit into the CD case. I was surprised to see that this booklet was still in the sleeve when I got home, because sometimes when ya buy things used, it's missing the extra stuff like that. (Incidentally, the store also had a copy of the "Jesus Christ Superstar" LP and which included the big booklet that came with that, but I didn't buy it because I already have that on CD. But I noticed that the booklet on my CD version is super tiny compared to the booklet that comes with the LP, so that the artwork is smaller, etc.)

EYDIE GORME, The Look of Love (1968)
Good thing for the internet, so I could easily find out what year this came out. I figured that it had to be the late 1960s because the title song, "The Look of Love," is mentioned as being from "Casino Royale," which I believe is the name of that 1960s James Bond parody flick. Anyway, the reason I got this album is because I'd heard a Steve Lawrence/Eydie Gorme song on the radio once, without knowing who it was by at first, and thought it was really cool. When the DJ said who the song was by, I was surprised because I'd thought Steve & Eydie were supposed to be boring Lawrence Welk type music. Until I saw this record at the store yesterday, I had no idea that Eydie had put out records on her own, but I decided to get it because I remembered liking her voice in that song I heard. Well, it turns out that this is a really cool record. "The Look of Love" song is one we've all heard before..."The look..." (she sings slowly, teasingly, wistfully) "...of in....your eyes..." Eydie takes even Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" and turns it into a sexy, jazzy number. I guess this would be defined as a "lounge" record. It evokes for me a kind of playful, flirting, swinging sound.

W.C. FIELDS, The Original Voice Tracks from His Greatest Movies (1968?)
One of the things people forget about the 1960s (although I wasn't alive back then, but I believe this to be true) is that there was a lot of nostalgia for personalities and styles of previous decades -- Bonnie & Clyde, for example. Even comicbooks benefitted from this revived interest in old stuff. The anti-hero was "in" and so someone like W.C. Fields could fit into that description. The cover of this LP is pure late 1960s, a colorful drawing done in an old-fashioned turn-of-the-century style (which, as I said, had suddenly become hip again). The cover has a note that reads: "Free Pop Poster Inside! A Man who hangs the enclosed poster of W. C. Fields on his wall can't be all bad." Amazingly, as with the Carpenters booklet, the W.C. Fields poster was still inside! Anyway, this record consists of snippets of W.C. Fields dialogue (taken from his films), supplemented with new narration by Gary Owens (the "Laugh-In" announcer) and new music that features something like a harpsichord which gives it a kind of late-1960s Sgt Pepperish feel. Interestingly, the Decca Records paper sleeve inside, which advertises other albums on the label, doesn't include any rock albums. "A new world of sound...on Decca" the motto reads, and we see every genre from "country and western" to "spoken word" to "organ" to "Hawaiian Music," but no rock & roll. It looks like a very different record industry than the one we have today, where teen music dominates the charts and albums for older listeners are pushed into a tiny corner. For example, the store where I work sells CDs, and everything from Yanni to Duke Ellington to Beethoven to Barbara Streisand is put into a tiny "Easy Listening" category, which is smaller in size than the "Soundtracks" section.

SHAKESPEARE, Soul of an Age (1962?)
This album apparently consists of the vocal tracks of a NBC TV special of the time focusing on Shakespeare. (Can one imagine such a thing today?) It starred Michael Redgrave and was narrated by Sir Ralph Richardson. This LP gave me yet another reminder of what I like about LPs: You open up this LP and on the left page you have the track listings and a lengthy introduction about the album. Then, to the right, you notice that there are a few pages containing full color photos and more text about Shakespeare. If you've ever seen the Magical Mystery Tour LP's inside pages, then this is like that.

Well, those are the five records I bought at the "used stuff" place. My total cost for the records came to around $2.65, counting tax.

I then made my way to the local comics shop. A longtime friend of mine works there, so I talked with him for awhile as I looked around the shop. I asked him what he thought about Marvel dropping the Comics Code and he said it was a great idea, long overdue. He said that he is really against censorship and wanted me to slap his hand to that proposition. I resisted because I said that while I was against censorship, I was uneasy about the idea of companies marketing inappropriate material to kids. I also told him that I thought Marvel's dropping of the Code might cause retail stores to stop carrying them, which would mean that -- even moreso than at present -- a kid might never see a comic outside of a comicshop. He told me that he was all for keeping mature comics out of the hands of kids and said that he won't sell comics like Spawn to children. I wonder if other people who work at comics shops are as responsible-minded, however.

He told me that he did get an "evil" feeling from Marvel lately, and he didn't like how they were apparently limiting print runs so that the comics would become "collectibles." He said that didn't make any sense to him because it wasn't helping the shops who won't be able to sell comics they don't have. I mentioned how DC recently reprinted Green Arrow #1 because of big sales and wondered if DC had deliberately underprinted so that they could sell out and then create more publicity for the comic by creating the impression that it was a "hot" series. But my friend said that his store sold out of Green Arrow #1 within hours of its release and that the shop hadn't seen it coming. If they'd have known it would have sold so well, they would have ordered more the first time. He said that probably happened to many shops who weren't sure how well GA #1 would do, given that Green Arrow is not a character known for being a hot property. So, he said that DC was just responding to demand on that one.

Anyway, I picked out my comics, most of them in my pull bag, and many of them specially ordered through Previews a few months ago. Here's what I bought...and I'll list first the ones I've read so far:

AVENGERS #42 (Marvel, $2.25)
By Busiek & Alan Davis. Nice art, and kinda suspenseful I guess, in the sense that I wonder how the Avengers are going to defeat Kang, but in a way it was kinda dull and boring. I'm a little bored by these big "save the world from being destroyed and fight lots of minions" plots. Just the other day I was thinking about how much I liked an old early-1980s Avengers issue where they were sent to fight ... Ghost Rider! (And Cap & Tigra talked about how terrifying he was!)

TOM STRONG #13 (ABC/DC, $2.95)
This is an homage to Captain Marvel Adventures #100, I think...which was reprinted in the old 1970s "Shazam from the 40s to the 70s" book. It's a self-contained story told in many chapters like a 1940s Marvel Family comic. Russ Heath draws the "Young Tom Strong" chapter, Kyle Baker draws the funny-animal Warren Strong chapter (why is he called Warren? I think a better name would have been something like Hop Strong...), and best of all Peter Poplaksi draws the final chapter, "The Family Strong," in a style that is like a cross between C.C. Beck and R. Crumb. Nice comic.

ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP #4 (Marvel, $2.25)
By Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Allred. I bought it for the Allred art. It's a little weird (apparently everyone knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man in this Ultimate universe) and a quick read, but I really liked the scene where Tony was talking with the Latverian representative at his office...some nicely-written dialogue in that scene.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #43 (Marvel, $2.25)
Written by Dan Jurgens, inks by Bob Layton and guest pencils by Dave Ross. I wasn't sure if I'd like Ross' pencils or not, but they are nice; I wouldn't mind having him as the regular artist. There's a nice bit of dialogue in here where the villain compares his plan to take over the world to the way in which "large corporations are gobbling up smaller ones right and left." Has a very nice surprise ending, too.

I think the art in this issue, and the writing especially, were more consistently solid and reminiscent of the old days than some of the earlier issues have been (where the art style would fluctuate more from page to page and the writing would sometimes ring false). This time everything works, although it is perhaps not as exciting as the previous issues were. This issue is a generic "FF in space fighting Dr. Doom" issue. But it's nice to be able to read a brand-new comic done in the old time style.

WONDER WOMAN #169 (DC, $2.25)
By Phil Jiminez and George Perez. When Phil first took over Wonder Woman, around 6 issues ago, I felt that the opening storyline (featuring the Batman family) was not exactly my cup of tea, but that eventually he'd produce a dynamite issue. Well he did, but it's #170 (below), not #169. #169 is Part 2 of the "War on Paradise Island" story, and while it's beautifully drawn and everything, I just felt a little like this issue was a bit of a chore to read. Like I said, I'm not crazy about these big "war" type epics, and prefer the quieter stuff, which is probably why I vastly prefer the issue below!

WONDER WOMAN #170 (DC, $2.25)
By Joe Kelly and Phil Jiminez. This issue is titled "A Day in the Life" and shows Wonder Woman being interviewed by Lois Lane on the cover. That's really what this issue is all about: Lois following WW around on a typical day, and making observations in her captions about what she thinks of WW's life. From that info, I figured that I would like this issue. I wondered, however, if I'd like it so much when sitting down and reading the issue. After all, it's one thing to approve of a comic's plot or focus in theory, but when you actually sit down to read it, you might not like it. Well, this comic exceeded my expectations. When I was done reading it, I wanted to read it again! Heck, I just wanted to keep it by my side for awhile afterward, just to keep the memory of the read fresh in my mind and keep the good feeling lingering. I urge everyone reading this to buy this issue if you like "slice-of-life" type issues. I liked the way that WW wore different clothing throughout the issue depending on where she was, or what she was doing. Like, when she appeared on the TV talk show, she dressed like a normal person (not in her superhero costume), and when she appeared at the White House, she was dressed in a traditional-looking long flowing dress and cape thing, and when she is shown playing basketball she is wearing a tanktop and shorts outfit that is reminiscent of Wonder Girl's first costume but which could also be worn by anybody in public in real life without looking weird.

Here are the other comics I bought at the comics shop yesterday, ones which I haven't read yet:

DEFENDERS #5 (Marvel, $2.25)
X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS #20 (Marvel, $2.50)
X-FORCE #116 (Marvel, $2.25; 1st issue by Mike Allred)
U.S. AGENT #1 by Ordway & Kesel (Marvel, $2.99)
DESPERADOES: QUIET OF THE GRAVE #1, drawn by John Severin (Homage/DC, $2.95)
SOULSEARCHERS & COMPANY #47 by PAD (Claypool, $2.50)
BONE #42 by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books, $2.95)
CEREBUS #266 by Dave Sim (1st issue of final arc, $2.25) [Jeff Smith responds to Sim's challenge (from #264) in the letters page!]
LOVE & ROCKETS Volume Two #2 by Jaime & Beto (Fantagraphics, $3.95)
LOUIS RIEL #6 by Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly, $2.95)
CROSSGEN CHRONICLES #3 by Barbara Kesel & George Perez (CrossGen, $3.95)
MIDNIGHT NATION #7 by J. Michael Straczynski & Gary Frank (Image, $2.50)
GOLDEN-AGE MEN OF MYSTERY #29 (AC, $6.95; B&W Golden-Age superhero reprints)
HERO COMICS #1 (ACG, $2.95; B&W Golden-Age superhero reprints)
COMICS REVUE #181 (magazine reprinting classic B&W comic strips, $5.95)
ALTER EGO #8 (magazine, $5.95)
THE COMICS JOURNAL #233 (magazine, $5.95)

I also got some Crime Suspenstories reprints (issues #2-5) that had been published in 1993, but were "offered again" by Gemstone recently in Previews. Nice stuff.

And I also picked up THUNDERBOLTS #49 (Marvel, cover-dated April 2001) for 50-cents in a discount shelf.

My total for the above comics came to $85.93, but after my usual 30% discount, I only had to pay $60.65 for the above comics.

The store had recently sold out of the recent Jim Starlin-drawn issues of Thor and Captain Marvel. I'd seen the Starlin Thor issue a few days ago at the local Waldenbooks, so I stopped there on my way home from the comics shop and bought it. Good issue, although the ending is too much like Jurgens' "Death of Superman" ending (that's probably deliberate, but I found it a little annoying nonetheless, making Thor's defeat into some cheap in-joke).

And when I got home, I found the latest issue of CCM Magazine in my mailbox (I have a subscription). So, it looks like I have a lot of reading to do!