LET'S LEVEL WITH LEE!

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

Monday, June 14, 2010

AL WILLIAMSON R.I.P.

I was sad to hear of the passing of legendary EC comic book artist Al Williamson. Williamson was the youngest of the EC comics artists. He was friend and collaborator of the late Frank Frazetta. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few times at Comic Con. He's a giant to me and countless other comics fans.





GRAND COMIC BOOK DATABASE



If you collect comic books, you probably already know about the Grand Comic Book Database, but in case you don't, you should certainly check it out. The goal of the GCBDB is to catalog all the comics ever made. I've made a whole lot of searches, and it seems like they are about 90% complete in that task. They have a small and medium size scan of each cover, and they list the cover artists. They list the creators of each story inside, including script, pencils, inks, colors and letters. They list the genre, characters, a plot synopsis of each story, and where the story was reprinted, or reprinted from. They list the cover price and on sale date. They list know variations. There are also notes, and those can be the most interesting thing.

This is an incredible resource! The Overstreet Price guide lists only a tiny bit of this information. They usually center on a small list of artists that they consider "Collectable", and ignore many noteworthy artists.

When I am looking over a run of comics these days, I invariably consult the GCBDB. There is always a wealth of interesting information there. I always learn something new when I check the GCBDB. Of course this slows down my work as I just have to check out some of the stuff they mention!



As a random example, here's some interesting info I found when doing a search of the relatively obscure 1970s series "Marvel Premiere". It was interesting to me, at least! Maybe it will be interesting to you, too.
Issue #2, Phil Kane, a character from a 1956 Jack Kirby Yellow Claw reprint was retouched to be Nick Fury! (This I 'gotta see!)
Issue #15 Although uncredited, Klaus Janson certainly inked at least pages #8-11.
Issue #24 The Marvel softball team appears on pages 15-17 of this issue, with Marie Severin providing most of the likenesses. Chris Claremont, Len and Glynis Wein, Marv Wolfman, Tony Isabella, Irene Vartanoff, Herb Trimpe, Mark Hanerfeld, Bill Mantlo, Mike Kaluta, and Al Milgrom are featured. See the letters page to Iron Fist #2 for more information.
Issue #50 Letters page article on making this issue including the credits and a photo of Roger Stern, Jim Salicrup, and Alice Cooper.
Issue #53 Cover is by Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein . (I didn't know that!)
Issue #54 Another Frank Miller cover!



I'm sure that there are numerous errors and omissions on the database, but people can submit corrections and cover scans when needed. It's just going to get better and better. This is a really great resource. It's one of the many things that make's one thankful for the internet.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

BOOK BURNING

Did you ever do a couple of things at the same time that made you appreciate heretofore unforeseen connections between them? Here's an example from my own life from a few days ago.



The other night I thought it would be fun to watch a move, so I asked my daughters to choose one. They chose Fahrenheit 451, and we proceeded to watch it. The movie is based on the famous 1950s novel by Ray Bradbury. In the move (and in the book) firemen don't put out fires. They burn books. Books, of course, have disturbing, provocative ideas in them, so they have to be eliminated for the common good. I was thinking about what a crazy idea this was, even for a science fiction film. And then it dawned on me that on that same day, I was reading a book about censorship called "The Ten Cent Plague", by David Hajdu.



They burned tens of thousands of comic books right here in America, in numerous separate events! The most hated of those comic books was the EC line, which ironically included adaptations of Ray Bradbury's own stories. So, in 1953, at the same time that Fahrenheit 451 came out, EC was putting out comics like the one below that were very likely being burned. Bradbury's vision remains stronger then ever.



Here's an excerpt from "The Ten Cent Plague", by David Hajdu.

Groups of students continued to burn comic books in school yards around the country, some under the sway of their parents and teachers, some in concord with them, some unsure of their own points of view and doubtful of the propriety of disagreeing with their elders, some emboldened to defiance through the burnings themselves. In one case, a grand public protest organized in Rumson, New Jersey, an affluent town near the seashore, the young people involved were exceptionally young, Cub Scouts, and they were only part of an elaborate plan arranged by a Cubmaster, Louis Cooke, a scout committeeman, Ralph Walter, and the mayor, Edward Wilson. As it was announced on January 6 at a "fathers' night" meeting of the Rumson High School PTA, the event was to involve a two-day drive to collect comic books "portraying murderers and criminals," a journalist at the meeting reported. A group of forty Cubs would tour the borough in a fire truck, "with siren screaming, and collect objectionable books at homes along the way." Then the mayor would lead the boys in a procession from Borough Hall to Rumson's Victory Park, where Wilson would present awards to the scouts and lead them in burning the comic books. The Cub who had gathered the most comics would have the honor of applying the torch to the books. When the national office of the Cub Scouts of America declined to support the bonfire, and news≠papers as far-flung as Michigan's Ironwood Daily Globe questioned it, the Rumson event was revised to conclude with the scouts donating the comics to the Salvation Army for scrap.

A few weeks later, a Girl Scout leader in the farm-country town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Mrs. Thomas Mullen, guided her troop and local students in a comic-book burning, unencumbered. (The event had not been widely publicized in advance.) The scouts, fourteen- to eighteen-year-old members of Senior Troop 29, began gathering crime comics, as well as western and romance titles (because of their shootings and sexual innuendo, respectively), then turned the burning over to students at St. Mary's, a Catholic high school of about 275 housed in an austere redbrick building, a refurbished old hospital. Following a script by the parish pastor, Rev. Theon Schoen, the students conducted a mock trial of four comic-book characters, portrayed by upperclassmen who pleaded guilty to "leading young people astray and building up false conceptions in the minds of youth." The trial, held on the school grounds after classes, concluded with a "great big bonfire," as one of the students, Bonnie Wulfers, would remember it. As the books burned, Schoen led the assembled group of more than four hundred students from St. Mary's elementary and high schools in a version of the now-standard pledge to "neither read nor purchase objectionable publications and to stay away from retail establishments where such are sold."



A comics burning in Binghamton, NY, 1948.

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
--Ray Bradbury

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

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