Saturday, February 11, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: June, 1983

My memories of June, 1983 reading are fuzzy. I know at some point a copy of Power Man and Iron Fist #97 came out of a three pack, but that would have been months if not years later, and I'm not even sure it was mine. Not the strongest impression, obviously. I specifically remember looking at Alpha Flight #2, and despite being intrigued by the ferocity on Marrina's face, it was Marrina, and she was in Alpha Flight. I recall tossing through the adaptation of Superman III, whose unintended side effect was to turn me off to seeing the movie entirely. I loathed Curt Swan as a kid.

Since the summer months were less than fruitful for my new comic purchases, I wanted to take a moment to play catch-up on a few missed entries. I've mentioned Gemco a number of times here, which was a retail chain that went defunct in 1986. My family's store of choice was K-Mart, which had a fine selection of toys I liked, such as G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Mego Pocket Heroes, and especially the various cheapskate Remco lines (Universal Monsters, Dukes of Hazzard, Sgt. Rock, The Warlord, American Defense, Crystar, Mighty Crusaders, The Karate Kid, etc.) We went to K-Mart seemingly every Saturday, if only to pick up my grandmother's prescriptions from their pharmacy. Gemco was only an occasional stop, and I loved them because their toy selection was completely different, and often amounted to out of date clearance items that K-Mart had already dumped. Unlike K-Mart, Gemco also had a comic selection, including three-packs, a spinner rack of new releases, and even some Treasury Editions collecting dust.

Sometime in late '82 or 1983, I had the opportunity to buy one (and only one) such edition. I'm uncertain of the selection, but I'm pretty confident Batman #1 wasn't part of it, as it would have provided serious competition. Detective Comics #1 might have been there, but one Batman story and a bunch of plainclothes ballast would have been easily forgotten. I'm pretty sure one of the two Wonder Woman reprints was there, which would have been awesome to read, but a combination of Harry G. Peter art, Greco-Roman bondage fantasy, and the sheer girlishness probably weren't an easy sell to a kid. I suspect All-Star Comics #3 was there, but to be honest, I thought the Justice Society of America looked like a bunch of stupid weirdos back then. The Flash's tin-pan hat was a deal breaker, but the creepiness of the Atom, Hourman's hideous color scheme, Sandman's stupid mask, and the amateur dorkiness of the rest made it a no-show. Whiz Comics #2 might have been there, but I never chose the fake Superman over the real one, and it had the same problem as Action Comics #1 of featuring one super-hero story and a bunch of other junk.

My ultimate choice was clear, Famous First Edition #9, reprinting Superman #1. I loved that book to pieces, literally. Despite my affection for the movies; between them, reruns of the George Reeves TV show, the contemporaneous comics, and even the cartoons; the Man of Steel was kind of wussy. He had so much power that he used so unimaginatively against clearly inferior opponents. In the treasury though, I saw the seminal, primal Superman of Siegel and Shuster. He was still powerful, but more on the level of a Spider-Man type, although with a vastly different attitude. His opponents were still unimpressive, but his actions were not. When a knife bent against his skin or he barged through a steel door, it was realistic, and you could feel the might being wielded. Shuster had a raw thrust to his work, just detailed enough to be tangible while clearly representing only a snapshot of figures in motion. As great as it is to fly, Superman leaping really high and running across power lines was more real to me. I still occasionally have dreams of jumping up and briefly soaring low in the air, "Matrix style," and landing to do it again. I don't think that's a Freudian sex thing, since I'm perfectly happy to have those represented graphically. I think it's more like a temporary, believable escape from the bonds of reality. Also worth noting is that on the rare occasions I do dream of flight, it's Star Brand type practical levitation.

Part of the joy of the book was that Superman could overcome any obstacle, whereas I'd grown up on him having the "off button" of kryptonite that saw him consistently crumble like a house of cards in a stiff wind. Nothing could stop this Superman, which was a thrill, but the creators still found ways to create tension. For instance, an innocent woman is set to die at midnight, so Superman races against a clock ticking away in caption boxes to gather a defense to save her. Realistically, Superman could have just pulled her out of her cell first, but shut up already, it was cool. In another story, a war profiteer is taken to join an undercover Superman on the front lines. You experience the guy's terror, as well as satisfaction in his being made to realize the means by which he was turning a buck. It was somewhat sadomasochistic at its core, but covered in wholesome morality. Superman was essentially a socialist bully, but it was easy to fall in line with his logic and indulge in the power fantasy. It was clearly more satisfying than the passive authority figure he'd become by 1983.

Another comic I would have bought around this time was a three-pack collection of Marvel's adaptation of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I was a huge fan of the film, and as recently noted by Bitter Andrew, this was the closest thing we had the video back then. I remember going to the park and spinning the merry-go-round alone as fast as I could. I would then grab a rail, and let it drag me along the ground, like when Indy trailed a truck down a desert road by the length of his bullwhip. I had a few of the Star Wars-sized figures from the local Gemco. Once, I found an Indiana Jones doll partially open at a Toys-R-Us. It was missing his gun and maybe his whip and/or hat, plus a price sticker. There were no bar code scanners in those days, so my mother wasn't sure we could buy it in that condition, which made me cry until a sympathetic stock girl made up a price ($6? $9?) and pegged it with her gun. On her own, my mother ended up buying me a Ken doll and a couple of Barbies (not all at once,) so that Indy would have other dolls in his size range to play with. I eventually got a nude Gene Simmons "Demon" KISS doll second hand, so he was the obvious villain. My grandmother worried that there might be something wrong with my having all those Barbie dolls, and consulted her doctor. He told her that since I had boy and girl dolls, it might actually be good for developing social interaction skills. He was probably right, since I've never had any feelings of confusion regarding gender or sexuality, and get along well with others. My stepfather was less secure, and gave them all away behind my back.

Anyhow, the adaptation was written by Walter Simonson, with art by John Buscema and Klaus Janson. Not a bad team, and it sufficiently jogged my memory about favorite scenes in the flick in between viewings on broadcast television before VHS came along. I still have a copy somewhere in some format, probably the comic-sized collection of all three issues.

Since this edition was meant to discuss comics bought in June, I should mention the one that made it home. Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi was a superior viewing experience for a kid, and had me waving an imaginary lightsaber out the car window on the drive home. I'd seen all three of the movies at the cinema, the first at a drive-in, and at the time it replaced Raiders as my favorite film (until being unseated by Aliens in 1986.) The first issue had nice art by Al Williamson and a memorable Bill Sienkiewicz cover, but I never bothered with the rest of the mini-series.

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