LET'S LEVEL WITH LEE!

By Lee Hester, owner of Lee's Comics of California.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

IRON MAN SETS THE WORLD ON FIRE

The reviews for Iron Man are incredible! On the Rotten Tomatoes web site it scored an amazing 95% positive rating.

"Iron Man kicks off summer on a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measure up." -Rolling Stone

"Over the years, there have been only a handful of exceptional superhero movies, and Iron Man is among them." -Reel Views

Hey I think I'll give this a shot. I'm a huge movie fan, and a huge comic book fan, but I usually don't like comic book movies. When you combine the two things, it usually doesn't work out, at least for me. The public disagrees because they are going to see these in droves. Meanwhile comic book sales are getting smaller all the time. Go figure.

Here's a little video that is sure to whet your appetite.


Actually, I like this one better.

Monday, April 28, 2008

WRITE BLOGS, EARN MONEY

As I wrote earlier, I am committed to updating this blog at least once a day for the Month of April. A few days ago, I added Google Ad Sense to the listings. Those are the little boxes at the bottom of the page exhorting you to click! click! CLICK!

Well someone finally did click, and the money is rolling in! I've got 26 cents in my account now! Move over Penny Arcade, and Girl Genius Online, here comes Lee Hester, Blog Baron! So, keep clicking those links so I can quit my day job. (The boss is a S.O.B.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

FAIL

When something bad happens to you, it's tragedy.

When it happens to someone else, it's comedy.

With that thought in mind, here's some images on the theme of Failure.

These, and many more can be found on "FAIL", a blog I just discovered yesterday. Be warned. Some of the images there are disturbing and are not suitable for children. This stuff is also more addictive than candy.

Heart Positioning Fail


Enthusiasm Fail


Security Fail


Smoking Fail


Disabled Fail


Decoration Fail


Bad Parking Choice


Steering Fail


Sunroof Fail


Bull-run Fail


Dogfood Fail


Lazy Worker Fail


Protests Fail


Copycat Fail


Photo Pose Fail


Dancing Fail


Career Fail

Saturday, April 26, 2008

FINE MOVIES

Here are some really fine movie trailers, which you are sure to love.

EBONY, IVORY AND JADE


FOXY BROWN


THE THING WITH TWO HEADS


DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE


TROUBLE MAN


DOLEMITE


TRUCK TURNER

FRENCH MILITARY VICTORIES

Recently I ran a Google Search of "French Military Victories"

Here are the results.

Friday, April 25, 2008

LONG BOXES

I just bought a collection of 22 long boxes from a long-time customer. That's well over seven thousand comics. Like most collections that we buy, most of the material is from the 1980s and up. We can't pay a lot for bulk collections of modern books. The first thing you have to do with a collection that size is to make the job smaller. I do a pass through the collection and take out all the bargain books. Sadly, there is not much of market for most back issues from the last 25 years, at least at a local (non-Internet) store, so most of them do go into the bargain section.

This time, I decided to try out some comics in the back-issue bins that we would normally put straight into the bargain section. This includes 1980s Fantastic Four, Captain America, and Avengers. All in near mint condition, of course. Most moderns in less than near mint condition always go right into the bargain boxes.

I was looking at a stack of Iron Man. These look recent to me, because they came out when I was in business. Also you see plenty of them come though the store. Normally they just sit, unsold in the bins. We don't even bother with them. In light of the new Iron Man movie coming out, I figured that I would give these another try in the back issue bins.

I looked at the date of the first comic book in the run of Iron Man. It was 1982. When you stop to think about it, that was over twenty-five years ago, and the comic book is normally too recent and too common to put in the back-issue bins! Back in the year 1982, 25 years earlier would have been 1957. You didn't see lots of people bringing in stacks of like-new condition comics from 1957. Heck, you didn't see too many nice stacks of high grade stuff from 1967, for that matter. Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15 were still rare in any grade, and they had come a little over 20 years earlier. You were lucky to get one a year to sell. I know that many dealers no longer deal in back issues at all, let alone expensive ones like FF #1, AF #15, Avengers #1, X-Men #1 etc. Let me tell you something. I have been dealing in comics for 25 years as a store owner, and for 5 years before that before my store. I have always been keen on buying key books like that, and I have never had a hard time selling them. There has been much speculation about the bubble bursting, and the prices going down on these key books. I have never seen it happen. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for this to happen.

To my view, 1960s and older comics are the ones with the real, lasting value, and have real scarcity, especially in high grade. The 1970s books are the grey area. Most of the 1980 and up books are still common. The passage of time has not improved this, in most cases. What was desirable 25 years ago is still desirable now. There is a reason for this: Direct distribution.

Since the 1980s, most comics are sold in comic book stores on a non-returnable basis. New comics that do not sell are not returned or pulped. They are put back on the market. Since the 1980s, people started to discover the high value of old comics, so they keep their comics, rather then throwing them away or recycling them like they did in the past. Mom doesn't throw them away any more. Perhaps she should!

Back in the 1970s when I was collecting, I had a heck of a collection of comics that I was able to store in just a few boxes. I had a nearly complete run of Spider-man, Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Conan among other Marvel Comics. I had every comic book that Neal Adams, Steranko, Berni Wrightson and other artists that I liked drew. I had all the Superman titles from the late 1950s and up. All of these treasures took up around 5 long boxes, as I recall. Collecting was much more affordable too. I bought all these treasures with money I earned from babysitting and yard work. Try to collect a marvel run with chump change these days, even in low grade! (Lots of the books in my collection were high grade. I took any grade that I could find.)

Lots more people seemed to collect runs of comics when I was young. Heck, several kids on my street collected. Now there is so much stuff that it's hard to collect all the Marvels and DCs like you could back then. Most of the comics from the collection that I just bought were bought new, not as back issues. 90% of the collections I see are mostly comics bought new off the stands 1980s and up. When I was a kid, me and other collectors bought new comics, but we bought lots of back issues, and filled in runs.

If I was going to collect again, I would probably choose to get a nice run of Marvel comics from the beginning with Fantastic Four #1 in 1961, to around 1975. It would be interesting to read the comics in order, including the letters columns editorial pages and ads and study the development of the Marvel style. Beyond co-creating the characters and writing most of the stories through the 1960s, developing the Marvel style is something that Stan Lee deserves massive accolades for . He brought in a sense of excitement and fun. Even as a dealer, with the ability to purchase wholesale, it would be an expensive proposition. If I was to collect just one title, I would probably get Amazing Spider-man. Up through around issue 100, perhaps continuing to issue 150 would be fine for me. A really nice short box of treasure.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

PORKY PIG BLOOPER

I saw this clip for the first time in a small theater called the Festival Cinema in downtown Palo Alto. It was located right around the corner from Comics and Comix's original Cowper Street location. They would always give away passes. I loved going there with my friends. These Saturday programs were outstanding, especially for kids. They would play short features like the Three Stooges, and the Little Rascals, plenty of great vintage cartoons, Serials like Flash Gordon, and comedies such as the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy in abridged versions. You never really knew what would come next, and there was different material each week.

They seemed to play various fun features all day on Saturdays. You could come in any time, and stay for hours. They had giant pillows near the screen that you and your friends could relax on. We would kick back and enjoy the movies for hours until we had our fill. Eventually we would file out, and ride our bikes home. We would usually be carrying a bag full of comics that we bought from the comic book store to read later. Those were happy times.

I never knew when the movies started or ended on Saturdays at the Festival Cinema. It just seemed like an endless buffet. I have a great nostalgia for those days. I always assumed that revival houses like that one would be around forever. It was one of two such places in Palo Alto, a town of just 60,000 people! I would love to have a place like this these days, playing a program like this so I could take my kids to it.

Anyway, enjoy the clip.

FUNNY COVER


Here's another comic book cover that cracks me up. Boy, that Dr Doom is one mean guy. He stops at NOTHING!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

20 WORST COMIC BOOK MOVIES

Entertainment Weekly has a pretty nice rundown of some very bad comic book movies.
Many of them I had forgotten.
Even more, I wish I could forget.

Check it out.

LEE'S COMICS WINS AWARD!

In my very last post, I recommended that you check out the Fake Stan Lee Blog. Well, I checked it myself today, and found a wonderful write-up of my store! I am the first winner of the EXCELSIOR AWARD FOR COMIC BOOK SHOP EXCELLENCE. I am really floored! This is really neat. I have no idea who writes this blog, but all his info is right on the money.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

FAKE STAN LEE

Go check it out!

Fake Stan Lee Blog. I don't know who's behind this, but It's almost if they are channelling what Stan would write about current and past goings on if he was able to speak freely. It's a riot!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

CREATURE FEATURES

If you grew up in the Bay Area in the 1970s like me, Bob Wilkins and Creature Features probably left an indelible impression on your mind. In a world of conformity, Wilkins seemed to speak directly those of us that didn't quite fit in with the others. Wilkins showed us that there was another world out there, outside of the mainstream.

I haven't heard the theme song for 30 years, so it really brings back some memories. I was a little disappointed when Bob Wilkins left the show. He was replaced by the very knowledgeable John Stanley, but I really missed Wilkins, so I did not watch Creature Features as much.

More recently I had a chance to meet John Stanley several times at conventions, and found him to be a fascinating, friendly, and likable guy. I have talked to him at length, and he always treats me like an old friend. I privately felt bad about not enjoying his program more as a kid.



Here is some info on an upcoming Creature Features event. I'll be attending with Mark Arnold. It's open to the public, and if you can make it, I hope to see you there!

Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong
A New Creature Features Documentary

World Premiere Benefit Screening for
The Bob Wilkins Foundation

Thursday, May 15th at 7:00 PM

The Grand Lake Theater
3200 Grand Avenue Oakland, California


Conceived and Produced by Tom Wyrsch, Written and Directed by Michael Monahan
Camera and Sound by Eric Yee, Edited by Anthony Cava and Robert Napton.

Featured interviews: Bob Wilkins, John Stanley, Bob Shaw, Ernie Fossellius,
August Ragone, Sally Wilkins, Erica Stanley, Rob Wilkins, Nancy Wilkins,
Scott Moon, and Tom Wyrsch

Running time: 90 minutes

Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong, a new feature length documentary celebrating the unique and lasting contributions of hosts Bob Wilkins and John Stanley to Bay Area broadcasting, makes its premiere at Oakland’s historic Grand Lake Theater in a benefit screening for the Bob Wilkins Foundation. Special guests at this event will include one-time San Francisco Chronicle entertainment writer John Stanley, Sally Wilkins, Bob Shaw, Ernie (Hardware Wars) Fossellius – with others yet to be announced.

KTVU’s Creature Features (1971–1984) remains the most-loved, best-remembered local program in Bay Area broadcast history. "Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong!" was the rallying cry of host Bob Wilkins as he lured unsuspecting audiences into viewing the type of film usually found clinging to the bottom of the cinematic barrel.

After nearly eight years enticing viewers with the irresistible promise of the awful, Bob Wilkins passed the torch to John Stanley, author of six editions of the Creature Features Movie Guide, who expanded the creative boundaries of the program, offering a singularly ambitious vision of Creature Features for many years after. John's latest book, I WAS A TV HORROR HOST, is now available and recounts the history of this fabulous Bay Area-based TV series.

Blending newly filmed interviews with crew, family and fans with rare footage unseen since originally aired, Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong recalls the strange and wonderful era of local television. The film is an affectionate tribute to a special time and place – and to the special people who entertained and inspired a generation of viewers.

In recent years, Bob Wilkins has struggled with the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Proceeds from this film will go directly to the Bob Wilkins Foundation to assist in his care.

Tom Wyrsch is the author of The Bob Wilkins Scrapbook and The John Stanley Scrapbook. He is also the Creature Features Archivist.

Michael Monahan is the Associate Producer and Researcher for American Scary (2006) and author of an upcoming book on the national history of the TV horror movie host.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

COMMANDER McBRAGG

One of my favorite cartoon characters is Commander McBragg. It was created by the Total Television studio, and first appeared on the Underdog show. Total Television also created Tennessee Tuxedo, King Leonardo, Klondike Kat, Go Go Gophers, and Tooter Turtle, among others.

McBragg was the consummate blowhard. He would corner a hapless member of his gentleman's club and launch into one of his long winded tall tales. The cornered person, despite himself would become interested in the story, and would provide a quip at the end. The character is based on actor C. Aubrey Smith's portrayal of General Burroughs in the movie "Four Feathers". The first time I saw this movie, I said to myself "Wow!, The real Commander McBragg!" Check out the move if you have the chance. I had the opportunity to meet the co-creator of Total Television, Buck Biggers, and he confirmed my suspicions about the origins of McBragg.

This selection does not have all the usually elements, but it's the only one I could find that had the opening song intact. If you like it, there dozens more of them on Youtube. These things slay me. Years ago I had a friend that used to poke fun at me when I started to tell a story. He would start to sing "This is the world of Commander McLEE!" That would crack me up, too.

My friend Mark Arnold is working on a book about Total Television. He also had a recent article about it in Hogan's Alley magazine.

Friday, April 18, 2008

YOUNG @ HEART

Speaking of Grandma Kay, I think that she would really like the new movie, Young @ Heart, which opens today. Connie, the twins and I saw a sneak preview on Wednesday. We wanted to bring Kay along too, but she was out with Connie's sister Barbara at a fancy dinner. Kathleen used to tap dance in a group called "The Dancing Grannies", they would perform at theatres and malls, and their act brought down the house every time. We all thought that Kay was the best dancer in the group. Grandma had to stop when breathing got too difficult for her to continue. She just finished heart bypass surgery and heart valve replacement this morning. When she's out of the hospital, and feeling better we are going to take her to this movie. I wouldn't mind seeing it again.

The move is about a group of seniors that tour in a vocal group. Instead of doing songs like Abba Dabba Honeymoon, and Ukulele Lady, They do songs like the Ramones' "I Want to Be Sedated" and Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia." Those are the novelty songs, and they provide some humor in the movie. These seniors are able to poke fun at themselves, just like grandma did in "Dancing Grannies".

There are also some very poignant moments in this film. Many of the members of the group are in their 80s and 90s, and some are in failing health. Two of the members die while the documentary is being filmed. This is the finale of the movie, and it has got to rank with the most moving scenes from a move this year. It's Fred Knittle who is suffering from congestive heart failure. He was going to do this song as a duet, with a very close friend, but the friend died before the show, and now Fred has to sing solo. Fred is also very sick. This is likely the last time he will sing to an audience. Check it out. If it doesn't choke you up, you are probably the kind of person who would kick a kitten.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

KATHLEEN

Pictured here is Kathleen McGuire, my Mother-in-law. This picture was taken when my daughters Hannah and Sohhie were just babies. They are now 12 years old. Kathleen is scheduled to go in for heart surgery on tomorrow. She has been a very important and positive influence on our family.

When Connie got pregnant, she was getting bigger much faster then we expected. When we went to the doctor's office to get her an ultra-sound, we found out that she was expecting twin girls. This was shocking news for Connie. I was thrilled.

We immediately decided to buy a house for us to live in, and for the twins to grow up in. We decided to get a house near her mother's in South San Jose. We figured that we would need help in raising the twins. We got a real estate agent and started looking at homes in the neighborhood. We wound up selecting a two-story 2,200 square foot house on a quiet cul-de-sac located three blocks away from Kathleen's house. This was 1996, and it cost the princely sum of 220,000. This home had sat on the market for 6 months without an offer. Luckily for me, the '90s had been good years. I had been making decent money, and I had a few CDs in the bank. I withdrew those early, to put a down payment on the house.

The real estate market had been slow, and there were any number of houses in the neighborhood that you could have bought for the same price. The smaller, one-story houses in the neighborhood were going for $190,000. The real estate boom started a couple of years later.

Kathleen's house is right across the street from the elementary school that the children attend. It's the house that Connie and her brother and sisters grew up in. It's the same elementary school that Connie went to. They go to Grandma's house after school. She helps them with their homework, and drives them to swimming, gymnastics, and band practice. She is caring and patient. Her influence on the family has been immeasurable.

People kid a lot about Mother-in-laws. I must say that Kathleen is one of the finest people that I have ever met. In all the years I have known her, she has never said a harsh word to me. Everyone who knows Kathleen is hoping for a full and speedy recovery from the surgery. Hopefully I will have good news about Kathleen to share in a future installment.

HEMBECK

If you are reading this blog right now, it is likely that you did so at the behest of Fred Hembeck. He was kind enough to give me a plug on his blog, Fred Sez. If you didn't come from there, please go there and check it out. Check out all the neat features on the site. They are really delightful, and introduced by a charming cartoon version of Fred himself. I've loved Fred's work since I was a teenager. His love for comics is infectious. He's also a really nice guy with a marvelous personality. In the 1980s, when my store was new, I wrote Fred a fan letter.

A week later, to my surprise, I got a envelope from him with two free drawings inside. One of them was of Jimmy Olsen. I told Fred in my letter that I always liked Jimmy Olsen comics better than all the other Superman titles. I thought that Jimmy was cool, and that a lot of comics fans just made fun of him. Fred drew a picture with the caption "Jimmy Olsen's Pal Lee Hester!" You can bet that I was absolutely floored. I put the drawings in frames, and had them on display in my store for years. Unfortunately they were drawn in felt pen, and they faded away to nothing over the years. If you were an early customer in the Alma Plaza days, you might remember them. I with I had thought to make xeroxes of them. One thing today's comics market needs is more Fred Hembeck, and we'll be getting it soon, and here it is:

Yes, that's right, over 900 pages of Hembeck goodness is coming at you from Image comics. It's a little late already, it was supposed to be out in February. I plan to keep this in stock at Lee's Comics in permanent perpetuity!

It will help to introduce a new generation to the great Fred Hembeck.

GIVE US NOW, OUR DAILY BLOG

If you are one of the people that wander over to this blog now and then in the vain hope that something new might be posted once every third blue moon, I have some news for you. I am going to attempt to post stuff here on a daily basis. I don't know how long I will last in this endeavor, and it won't necessarily be any good, but I will try to post. If I can keep it up, and after a month or so I have a few readers, perhaps I'll keep it going for longer. So how about a little encouragement. Get out of lurker mode for a moment and post. What would you like me to talk about? Oh, and just in case you don't know, I send out a email newsletter now and then. Some people seem to like it. To sign up for my newsletter, go to my home page and enter your email at the bottom. I will be re-cycling some articles from the newsletters for blogs. I will also be using some blog material for newsletters. There will also be stuff that only appears in one place. Make sure to read both. Just like a large group of monkeys, If I type for an infinite amount of time, the secrets of the universe might just spill out. You wouldn't want to miss that, now would you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

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Imagine a World with no comic books. Not worth living.

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