A MODEST COMIC COLLECTION PART 1

MARVEL CUTOUT

Below are a selection of some comics from my modest  comics collection. They are all my personal property but of course the images are copyright the various comics companies mentioned.They are there for descriptive purposes only and no infringement is intended.They will , of course be removed if there is any offence. I will add more photos later.Collectors are an odd lot and there are many kinds. I’ve always collected music, for example and being interested in art I was drawn to comics when I was a small boy.Not everyone wants to hold on to the comics they have read though or keep copies of music albums they might like, so the collectors are the odd fish.

I’ve no problem with that because collecting comics has given me much pleasure over the years. I hasten to add that I no longer buy continuously as I might have done as a boy or a teenager…or even as an adult.Comics become more of a magical talisman than simply a collection of story -pages ,to a collector..They become prey to be hunted down or a grail to be pursued as if the eventual finding or discovery will sate an urge.Sometimes the chase can be better than the end result. They can also be a door to memory or nostalgia. That’s collecting.

What I have initially photographed here {on my kitchen floor} is a fair selection of  some of the comics{American} that have mostly survived from the 1960’s . They are not the whole story , which also includes UK, European and various alternative comix, comics and connected “pulp” fiction .Mixed throughout are a few examples of earlier comics  from the 1940’s or the 1950’s.The majority of the Marvel comics were bought on the day they arrived,  in a little newspaper shop in my home town ,that is now long gone. Being American comics , they’d been published a couple of months previously and they were relatively rare in those days before there were any comics shops or comic marts in existence ; they would have been packed as part of the ballast in ships’ holds and were random at most.Being relatively hard to find, they were “one-offs” so they were treasured and treated with care. Once they had sold out the limited shopkeepers supply , that was the last they’d be seen in the shops. That is the only reason that they have survived intact.Many young comic readers  may have treated their comics with much less care , but I, like many comic lovers was not like that.That is why none of them were ever rolled into a paper  tube and stuffed into a pocket. That is why they never developed “spine roll” .The covers were never bent back  or creased. They were carefully stored away from daylight in a box under my bed and in  later years  upgraded to some more substantial  archival protection.My mother knew better than to give them away during my absences from home, given that I had shown so much interest in them and pestered her for extra pocket-money to buy them.

These examples  are only a percentage of what actually existed in total because many in the original collection were sold or traded over the succeeding  years for other comics.There would  originally have been long continuous runs of issues containing stories of all the original Marvel Comics’ characters as the concept of a Marvel universe was being cobbled out .We comic fans knew we were on the the ground floor of something very new and special long before the rest of the world had heard of Spider-man, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man , Agents of SHIELD, the X-men , the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Daredevil, Ant Man and all the rest of the colourful characters and their convoluted narratives.We were reading Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, Strange Tales and all the rest.

There comes a point , of course, when you either have to move to  bigger home to accommodate your desires   or take a long hard look at where this collecting bug is taking you and re-think. I took that step some time ago to pare down some of the fat,  but even so there still remains many remnants of what was an extensive comic collection.

 

ditko spiderman

 

This is what remains of the great Steve Ditko’s seminal work on the Spider-man character.The character went on to become a hugely popular super hero but Ditko defined the character’s look and no one ever succeeded in bettering his weirdly appropriate artwork and story-plotting. There has always been controversy about the creation of these lucrative comic characters.Stan Lee tends to take the credit for most of Marvel’s  rise to fame and there is no doubt that he was a great generator and hustler for the brand.That said, it has been speculated that Jack Kirby actually came up with  the character  design and because of  work demands , handed the character to Steve Ditko for development . Ditko is said to have come up with much of the plotting as well as the artwork. He clashed with Lee  over the integrity  of the character’s world , which he thought should have been separate from the rest of the Marvel universe.There’s no doubt though that Lee’s vision for an integrated Marvel world with cross-over story lines were a major factor in Marvel’s eventual success.That all said, no one could draw Spider-man quite like Steve Ditko and much of the weird magic left the strip when he abandoned ship after some thirty eight issues.That notwithstanding , Spider-man went on to become a huge success in others’ hands.FF SET I

FF SET 2Jack Kirby was the powerhouse artist behind the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Thor , Iron Man and virtually every other character Marvel produced .A man , small in stature but his imagination and skill was massive ;an obvious observation  considering the lack of  much inspirational work at Marvel Comics after his departure from the “Bullpen” .In a red-hot period of creativity beginning in 1961 but based on some twenty years or more prior development , Kirby came up with characters and concepts for virtually every story  that Marvel produced  and then  went on to DC National  Comics to create another slew of new characters. Everything that Marvel Comics visualised  came from his mind and hands at a modest drawing table in a corner of his home .The illusion that Marvel comics were a product of some shiny studio in Madison Avenue  was just that…a partly true illusion.The imagined collective of artists, together in one studio were  actually a bunch of diverse free-lancers working in their own studios or homes. There was an editorial core , of course.There were colourists such as Marie Severin and letterers such as Artie Simek  who provided the finishes .Stan Lee may have added  some story springboards and ideas,editorial and suggestions and he was undoubtedly a great brand promoter but Kirby did all that hard work of realising the story in his unique dynamic manner.

Kirby has never  really been given his due for the torrential onslaught  of work and ideas he produced for Marvel, relentlessly, month after month at all hours of the day and night. Being basically  “an artist for hire”, as were most of those  comic creators , everything they created was owned by the company which employed them and there was little financial gain from characters rights or future developments such as toys, clothing, television and films. Even their original artwork was kept from them and it wasn’t until  many years later that they received any of that back . Much of it had by then  been disabused or stolen from the storage files.What might have been a source of income or a pension -fund  when such artwork  later became valuable, prized  commodities for fans ,was much – depleted by the time an artist’s rights deal had been hammered out .Stan Lee, on the other hand ,became the “face” of Marvel Comics and although giving artists such as Kirby, some glory, controlled  the basic origin story of the company .He is the survivor who cameos in most of the Marvel films.He has become Mister Marvel. As they say…If the truth doesn’t fit …print the legend.

1940s to 1960s comics1

There were other American comics companies  besides Marvel and DC National, of course, and they produced a huge variety of work of mixed quality .My collection contains a cross-section of choices from across the board.Modern Comics , Plastic Man , the Spirit, Fox and Crow, Herbie and Flash Gordon rose to cult status either on the strength of the artwork, scripting   or humour . During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s there was a huge interest in all things “Western” .The cowboy films and series on television were incredibly popular and spawned an industry producing toys and games, in association with them. Comics were not immune. There were a plethora of  titles relating to all sorts of mythical or obscure cowboy and western heroes. Above and below are a random  selection of some  of these comics dating from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.1950S AND 1960S COMICS 1

An excellent source of comic stories in the early 1960’s  came from a company called Alan Class Comics. These were fat reprinted digests of comics from  a variety of comics companies  back catalogues , in a time before Marvel Comics were even reprinted in the UK.Many of these featured pre-super-hero stories by Kirby and Ditko and many of the themes that later influenced the Marvel heroes own stories  can be seen in these pages .They were produced as compendiums , mixing a variety of comics together at times, with a page count of over sixty. They were presented usually with a colour cover copied from an original title but the inner pages were black and white.These were excellent value for money, initially selling at one old shilling in the early 1960’s  and came with  striking titles such as “Sinister”, “Suspense”, “Uncanny” or “Secrets of the Unknown”. Many of these comics titles were  printed  and reprinted over the following  decades until Marvel UK became the main source for comics in the UK.Below is a Youtube interview conducted in the  excellent 30th Century Comics  shop in 2015 in which Mr Class explains exactly how and why he got into publishing this excellent line of comics

 

ALAN CLASS COMICS 1

A selection of Alan Class reprints ALAN CLASS COMICS 2

More Alan class Comics  above featuring mostly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko artwork.ALAN CLASS COMICS 3

More Alan Class Comics.ALAN CLASS COMICS 4

Above is a copy of “Suspense” with one of Jim Steranko’s  psychedelic  Nick Fury , Agents of SHIELD,  covers from a mid-1960’s issue .  MARVEL COMICS 1960S ASSORTED

More classic 1960’s Marvel Comics..X-Men and the Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby.MARVEL COMICS 1960S

Former horror titles were gradually used to introduce the Marvel characters in continuing linked story-lines ; so you had Iron Man and Captain America, revived  in the 1960’s from Kirby’s original 1940’s stories ,  each getting half of “Tales of Suspense”.Sub Mariner, again revived from the 1940’s comics, would share “Tales to Astonish” with the Hulk equally.”Strange Tales” would feature  ditko’s creation Doctor Strange with a team -up  line of stories about the Thing and the Human Torch characters from the Fantastic Four magazine .

Annuals were always especially  anticipated with their greater page count and usually a  uniquely special story re-uniting old adversaries in an all -action tour- de- force ,or a special occasion such as Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s mad wedding with every super villain and super-hero in attendance….as happened in Fantastic Four Annual #3.MARVEL COMICS ANNUALS 1960S PLUS

These super sized annual specials soon spawned a lucrative line of reprints for Marvel . They were also a handy method of filling in those missing back-stories in those pre-comic shop days. They were the only way to read the earlier stories at one point ,before comics were treated as  Art Books and valid collections.This started  with things like DC National’s  Superman, Batman and Flash Annuals  and their line of fat “Eighty Page Giants”  such as “Secret Origins”which featured character origin  stories from past titles  .Marvel ran with the concept ,beginning with  the first two “Marvel Tales” Annuals before turning it into a continuing reprint title  accompanied by  “Marvel Collectors Item Classics”. Between them these two lines lucratively reprinted not only the origin stories but also began to re-cycle  the entire line , thus scooping up the late-comers pennies too.MARVEL TALES 1960S PLUS

PLASTICMAN  AND MUTT AND JEFF COMICS 1940S

Jack Cole’s character Plastic Man began in the 1940’s “Police Comics” above  before the character was given his own title.Cole was a unique cartoonist who also worked for “Playboy” magazine  doing beautiful one page cartoons. He had an untimely death.”Mutt and Jeff” reprinted Bud Fisher’s wonderful newspaper strips which had been running in the American  national press since 1907 and is regarded as the very first proper comic strip. It featured two equally daft “tin-horns”, a delightful “idiot tradition” double-act  continued by the likes of Laurel and Hardy  and more recently in such classicaly daft films as “Dumb and Dumber”.THOR COMICS

The Mighty Thor may be the most uninteresting character in the Avengers films but that wasn’t always the case .Certainly not in the hands of creator and artist Jack Kirby, who with some input from Stan Lee, produced an almost Shakespearean set of worthies based on the Norse Gods ‘ fables of yore, who rollicked variously through the pages of “Journey into Mystery” comic before Thor  claimed  the title for himself. This series was a pre-cursor for some of Kirby’s later ideas in his “New Gods” for DC National. These are a few of what remains in my collection.

Watch out for part two.

 

 

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