Thee Comic Column #91: Adventures in the Dollar Bin!

CAM00800Last Wednesday I wandered into The Comic Bug in order to pick up my weekly pull – including Stray Bullets: Killers #4 and Trees #2 – and found that Mike and the guys had purchased someone’s entire collection. As with most comic shops, this happens from time to time at the Bug. They’re always buying stuff, but once in a while they get a MASSIVE collection, and that was definitely the case here. Once acquired this stuff often goes to form a daunting Dollar Bin display which takes considerable time and effort to go through but which, for the willing, can pay off tenfold. Case in point, the previous time I was privy to this happening was, coincidentally around the same time last year and on that particular occasion I scored pretty much John Byrne’s entire run on StarBrand, thus filling in some gaps in my reading that goes all the way back to the formative years of my comics habit – the 1980’s, when I was still in the single digits and inhibited by the parameters of my weekly allowance. This time too, the collection the guys had gobbled up appeared to lean heavily on the era of my youth so I diverted from my usual browsing and dove into the dollar bins looking to find more long-lost stories from the days of my childhood.

What’d I find? Brothers and sisters, let me just tell you!

CAM00874Spider-Man Life in the Mad Dog Ward – Web of Spider-Man #33 (Part 1), The Amazing Spider-Man#295 (Part 2) and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #133 (Part 3).

This 3-part series was written by Ann Nocenti and illustrated by Cindy Martin. I can remember handling this series when it was fresh on the shelf, circa 1987. I never read Spider-Man consistently, however this series came directly after the seminal Kraven’s Last Hunt, a Spider-Man series I did happen to buy at the time, and which completely transformed my understanding of comics. Thus, I was looking for another such series and when I saw the creepy, scrawled art of this follow-up I was very close to buying it. Actually, I’m not really sure what kept me from bringing these issues home at the time; either low funds or an intuition that NOTHING could follow that Kraven story. Either way, I finally brought these home this week and I’ll say, I love a lot of what Ann Nocenti wrote in the 80’s – especially her run on Daredevil – but this does not even come close to the sophistication of J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s Kraven story. Not that it was trying to. Just saying, the expectation was there. And that’s not necessarily Ms. Nocenti’s fault; KLH was an anomaly at the time, especially for marvel. The sophistication with which comics are written today was definitely not the norm in 1987, unless you were reading Frank Miller, Alan Moore, ect. I’ve always thought KLH was Marvel experimenting with applying that “Year One” type of storytelling to what was arguably their most iconic character at the time, and as such this follow-up may just have been a return to status quo. Either way, I enjoyed finally reading Life in the Mad Dog Ward (not the title of the series, but it doesn’t actually seem to have an overall title so it will have to do), even if it was a bit clunky.

CAM00876What If? #6 – What If… The X-Men Lost Inferno? I’ve stated this before: I am not a fan of crossovers. Never have been. Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. The early X-book ‘events’ were very different than what they have become today. The Mutant Massacre was a story that revolved around a single incident – the massacre of the underground population of “Morlocks” – the mutants who claimed no allegiance to any X-team and had shunned human society for the tunnels beneath New York. The thing that was different about this series, which was the first X-Men family crossover, as well as it’s successor The Fall of the Mutants, is the main story did not sprawl out over a core event book or several months worth of various ongoings. Instead, both these series had a central event and the books that participated kind of showed the reader different perspectives or cross sections of that event. This allowed for a more relaxed financial commitment and a more natural feeling within the continuity of the individual, participating series. However these two events were followed by the first of the Crossovers to set the template that we know today (more or less) and although I’m not a fan of that template Inferno was a grand slam in tone, structure and storytelling and reigns supreme as my all-time favorite story in any X-book ever. So how the hell could I not buy the book taking the adverse outcome of the series where Illyana Rasputin lost control of Limbo and N’astirh and S’ym rained demons on NYC? Mailboxes eat people, Madelyne Pryor got hotter and hotter as she became more and more evil and a handful of sacrifced infants were used to open a pentagram in the sky. Now I ask you, what’s not to love? Certainly the fact that, unlike every crossover in the X-books from here out, status quo is most definitely NOT returned and everything was not ‘alright’ by the end of the series. And for that of course, we the brilliant Chris Claremont to thank. So thank you Mr. Claremont!

CAM00877New Gods #1 (1984) – written, drawn and edited by Jack Kirby.

If you read this column or watch Drinking with Comics, which is sort of the video accompaniment to it, you know that of late I’ve been highly critical of DC. And really, I grew up with Marvel’s books – DC’s stuff always looked a little… clunkier to me. Until Vertigo that is. In recent years however I’ve become interested in the foundations of the DCU’s more cosmic elements. This interest was almost single-handedly stirred up by Grant Morrison and his runs on JLA, Seven Soldiers of Victory, Batman and Final Crisis. And the more I’ve looked into the magma at DC’s core the more I’ve become acquainted with – from a distance at least – Jack Kirby’s work and the beautifully cosmic scope he brought to comic books. Kirby’s stuff influenced so very much – from Morrison’s work to Simon Furman’s Transformers to much of the continued “Space Opera” genre in prose science fiction. And honestly, I can talk shit up and down about most of the DCU, but Darkseid is one bad ass mutha, so seeing this book, crowned with the wonderful exclamation, “INTRIGUE! VENGEANCE! BLAZING CONFRONTATIONS THAT DWARF THE INFINITE” how the hell could I not pay ten dollars for this, let alone one?

Okay, that’s it for Adventures in the Dollar Bin this time. Hopefully they’ll be another chance to browse those boxes before they get completely picked over by other like-minded collectors, historians and fans of all things comics!


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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