Comics Guaranty, LLCNumismatic Guaranty Corporation
June 2003  
 
Version 2, Issue 6  
   
1. Flash Comics
   
2. House of Mystery #195
   
3. A Kinder, Gentler Horror
   
4. Heritage Comics Publishes Electronic Version of Overstreet
   

 


UPCOMING EVENTS

July 17-20, 2003
Comic-con International

San Diego Convention Center
San Diego, CA


August 8-10, 2003
Wizard World Chicago

Donald E. Stevens
Convention Center
Rosemont, IL

 

 


Nolan's Niche Flash Comics
Michelle Nolan

Many comic collectors now in their 50s like to tell the tale of being startled to find “The Flash” #105 on the newsstands early in 1959. That was, of course, the first issue of the Silver Age series from DC Flash Comicsfollowing four tryout issues in Showcase #4, 8, 13 and 14. But a few readers and budding collectors, aged 8–15, couldn't help wondering about the earlier issues of this Flash series.

Even in 1959 – when comic fandom had not yet formed and when news out of the industry was non-existent except for house ads and the earliest DC letter pages – most comic fans knew they couldn't have missed 104 issues!

Some of those young fans, having seen the fleeting references to the Golden Age Flash series in Showcase #4, alertly figured the numbering must refer to the previous series. Other fans, such as myself, had seen house ads from a few 1940s comics and figured out the truth from those intriguing ads. But not a few Baby Boomers remained puzzled for a while.

Flash Comics, despite the name, always was an anthology with only one Flash story. It was the only one of DC’s “Big Eight” 1940s anthologies whose title matched the name of one of the featured characters. DC could just as easily have started its 1959 series, which initially was devoted entirely to The Flash, with #33, since the old All-Flash title ran 32 issues before expiring with the Dec. 1947/Jan. 1948 issue – a little more than a year before Flash Comics also ended. But in those days of 10-cent comics, when DC’s editors did not even include “No. 1” on the covers of most first issues, the powers-that-be must have figured that #105 carried more panache.

True enough. What also has always been true is that for many collectors, the late issues of the original Flash Comics are far more desirable than early issues – again, the only such distinction held by any of the eight anthologies!

It's not hard to explain why. The artwork by developing stars Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino, back in the days when they were 20-something phenoms, emerged as some of the most compelling and entertaining in any super hero comics of the period. The stories and characters had a nifty tone of serious yet tongue-in-check adventure – a tone that was missing during most of the more cartoony 1940-1946 issues.

Flash ComicsThe nifty costume heroine Black Canary, which made her DC debut in the Johnny Thunder strip in #86, puts issues #86-104 over the top. Those 19 issues contain the only Golden Age appearances of The Black Canary outside her Justice Society teamups in All Star Comics #38-57. Flash Comics #86-104 are all valued at well over $100 in “good” in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, and many of them sell for $200 and up – way up in some cases – in “very good.”

Although issues #100-104 are generally considered scarce, many collectors prize issue #92 the most, what with a strikingly gorgeous white cover of The Black Canary bursting through a hoop held by Hawkman and The Flash to indicate the beginning of her own series (and the end of Johnny Thunder). Many collectors consider this one of the top 10 DC issues of the Golden Age.

Beginning with #92, all of the final 13 issues have the same contents – The Flash, Hawkman, The Black Canary, The Atom and The Ghost Patrol – except The Atom does not appear in #96 and 101. As they so often did, The Flash and Hawkman alternated covers beginning with #93.

In addition to the superlative #92, the finest covers in the #86-104 run include Everett Raymond Kinstler’s Hawkman/Hawkgirl cover of #87 and the striking Hawkman covers on #100, 102 and 104 by Kubert, along with The Flash baseball cover by Infantino on #90. Some like Kubert’s cover introducing The Flash villainess, The Thorn on #89.

The only genuine super heroes of interest to appear in Flash Comics #1-85 are The Flash and Hawkman, although The Whip (last in #55) and The King (last in #41) marginally qualify as costume heroes, both of relatively little note. The intriguing Hawkman covers on every other issue from #7-67, mostly by Shelly Moldoff, make these comics seem much more attractive than they really are. Hawkman also appeared on many later covers, as well. Hawkman first appeared on #2, but to show how unsuspecting DC editors were, #3 featured Cliff Cornwall, Special Agent; #4 led with The Whip and #5 spotlighted The King before The Flash finally returned with #6 after his debut on the cover of #1.

Most of The Flash covers through #84 – many by E. E. Hibbard and Martin Naydel and usually cartoony in theme – were among the least attractive covers of any DC comics of the period. The Flash character, though, apparently was strong enough to carry sales. By far my favorite Flash cover among the first 85 issues was the dynamic window-breaking “School for Crime” cover on #38 (Feb. 1943).

In retrospect, DC should have done much better by Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who debuted in the Hawkman story in #24 and first appeared on a cover in #29 – one of the best covers of the early series. The Hawkgirl covers of #37 and 39 also are highly cool. Hawkgirl did not appear on a cover again until #85 (July 1947) – a mysterious span of four years! I've never understood why DC didn't do more with Hawkman in the 1940's, especially considering he was the only Justice Society constant through the legendary run in All Star #3-57.

The best advice for a collector regarding Flash #1-85 is to consider buying the issues whose covers appeal to you – after you check the interiors, especially for the Hawkman stories. But you really can't go wrong on #86 either. All are genuine gems!

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House of Mystery #195
Shawn Caffrey

My past articles have covered a broad range of independent comic titles and publishers ranging from Pacific to Fantagor. All of those books are great, and I could spend countless more newsletters discussing each title, but I wanted to hit a more mainstream area first. In one of my past articles in particular, I had written a biography of Berni Wrightson and discussed a wide range of his work, but never any work specifically. As I was going through my comics last week, I flipped through my run of House of Mystery by DC Comics and one issue caught my eye. Next thing I knew, I was paging through the book and enjoying it so much, I decided to write this article on it.

House of Mystery, #195 is bound to catch the eye of anyone who happens to be perusing any long box of Silver Age DC horror titles. The cover illustration by Berni Wrightson depicts a monstrous vampire bat swooping down on a poor helpless man fleeing in sheer terror and is titled in big red letters, “Bat out of Hell!”. The dark shadowing around the human figure and the bat add to the horror element of the cover and would coerce anyone into purchasing it. But beyond the cover, about four stories into the issue, is an incredible story. It is titled “Things Old….Things Forgotten” and is also illustrated by Berni Wrightson. It’s a great story about how one’s greed for power can also be one’s demise. Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide states this story as “Swamp creature story by Wrightson similar to Swamp Thing”, which makes it even better considering it came out within a few months of House of Secrets #92. But the story itself, about a madman dictator trying to construct a road through a dense forest to lead an invasion, is a suspenseful and horrific tale. Wrightson was at his peak with his storytelling and clean penciling and inking. His line work on the human face could tell the horrific story itself and his signature body posturing sets the suspenseful tone.

The story takes an ugly turn when workers building the road begin to report some strange figures that seem to be stopping construction. Fearing that the forest is haunted, workers begin to desert the construction, which leaves the madman no choice but to find out for himself what it is that is driving away his people so he can finish the road and begin his invasion. But what he finds is that the forest is inhabited by “Swamp Thing” like creatures that are trying to stop the devastation of their home. In the end, the madman is overcome with his greed for power and ultimately suffers his rightful demise. I won’t give away specifics, in hopes that the reader will find this story just as horrific and suspenseful as I did. What I will say, however, is that this story is one of Wrightson’s best, and one of House of Mystery’s finest issues.

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Collectors' Society Boards

 



Phil's Corner A Kinder, Gentler Horror
Phil Kaltenbach

Fans addicted to Atlas horror comics have long found little relief in inexpensive generic reprints. The EC enthusiast has his choice of formats in which to acquire, at relatively little cost, any story he wants, and DC used reprinted material extensively when they expanded the size of their “horror” and mystery titles. Anyone seeking Atlas stories, unfortunately, had to get a second job, resort to petty theft, or, worst of all, accept low-grade copies of these books.

In the early 1970’s Marvel launched a number of titles, like Vault of Evil and Uncanny Tales, that promised to alleviate this unhappy drought. Sadly, these comics always seemed to me to be half-hearted attempts, aimed primarily at flooding the comic market and not at providing quality horror reprints. The stories often have a washed-out look, and Marvel obviously cared little about crediting the original creators of the material. The worst misstep, though, was that the editors at Marvel occasionally felt compelled to alter the stories, often with unintentionally hilarious results.

My favorite example is a story entitled “Propaganda,” originally the cover story in Uncanny Tales #9 (June 1953). In it unfolds the tale of Gulov, a Communist troublemaker, who has traveled to Africa to purchase, with “knives, gewgaws and perfume,” 20 men whom he transports to Indo-China. There they receive training in terrorist activities and strategies. Gulov and his cronies plan to unleash these hooligans on the native population, then make it known that the oppressed indigenous people are revolting against their imperialist oppressors. Pretty great plan to generate Marxist propaganda, right? Sadly for our hero, however, before they can be fully indoctrinated, the Africans begin praying to their tribal gods for deliverance from their evil instructors. These deities, which turn out to be violent and ravenous monsters, suddenly appear and utterly obliterate Gulov and his henchmen, leaving the Africans wondering what the heck “propaganda” is, anyhow.

This story turns up again 20 years later in Uncanny Tales #1 (December 1973) but, apparently in the spirit of detente with the Soviet Union, the editors made a couple of changes. In the original, as the natives’ indoctrination begins, they are shown pictures clearly portraying Stalin, Lenin and Mao, while their instructor proclaims, “Forget your old tribal gods! There are TRUE gods for you!” In the next panel he holds out a flag with prominent symbols and says, “And here is your flag…the hammer and sickle of Communism!” Very straightforward stuff. In the reprint, however, the details in the portraits have been coarsened, making them pretty unrecognizable. Best of all, in the second panel the speaker holds out a blank red sheet, rather like a bullfighter, and announces “And here’s your map of the territories to be destroyed!” The whole situation becomes quite nonsensical and downright hilarious, and in a wonderful twist of irony, the changes drive home the very point the original story tried somewhat awkwardly to make.

I know of at least one other example of this kind of editorial meddling that I will share in a future column. The primary lesson I take from this is that the people at Marvel did not have proper respect for the integrity of the work of their creators, or for the sophistication of their readers.

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Heritage Comics Publishes Electronic Version of Overstreet

For the first time ever, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is available for download in alphabetically indexed and searchable (by any keyword), Adobe Acrobat format. Available exclusively through Heritage Comics Auctions, this new version of the Guide is designed to add another dimension of convenience to your collecting and dealing.

More info

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