other night I was flipping through the channels on my
television, desperately searching for some form of programming
that a.) wasn't reality based, and b.) didn't require
me to have seen all of the prior episodes in order to
follow it. Unfortunately, as most of you already know,
that is a near impossible mission, so my end results
were nothing more than a minor case of eyestrain and
a cramp in my index finger from pressing the channel
button on my remote control nearly 400 times. Just as
I was ready to throw in the towel, a familiar voice,
that of the late Jerry Orbach, caught the attention
of my ears. To my relief, I looked up to find that I
had caught the beginning of an episode of Law and
Order, one of those great shows where each episode
has its own self-contained story that begins and ends
in the same airing hour.
After I watched the episode, I felt I had enough television for one day, and
decided to go through my stack of comics and read a few titles. As I looked
through my stack of about 50 or so, I realized that most of the books I bought
were identical to the type of programming I wasn't in the mood for. But tucked
away at the bottom of my stack was a #1 of a title that I didn't realized I
had ordered; Fell,
published by Image Comics. Written by Warren Ellis (Planetary, Transmetropolitan)
and illustrated by Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night), Fell stars
Detective Richard Fell, a detective transferred to a cesspool of a city called
Snowtown, where he joins a force of only three and a half cops (one has no
legs) working the entire city. Richard is written as an interesting character,
a talented detective with an excellent gift at reading people, who starts his
job the minute he moves in, stumbling across a murder mystery in his own apartment
building. This crime sets the story for issue one, and will take any reader by
surprise with its strange but brilliant twist, which, revealed afterward by Ellis,
is based on a true story.
Ben Templesmith's art is sharper and more refined than what he brought us in
IDW's 30 Days of Night, and with the majority of the book laid out in
nine panel pages, it's easier to follow. Ben's gritty, Sienkiewicz-like art style,
mixed with his use of colors, truly express the level of depravity in Snowtown.
For those Ellis fans out there, this title is unlike any other he has done. Fell is
similar to Law and Order, in a way where the storyline is self-contained,
so each issue tells a different mystery behind a crime. No need to pick up any
previous issues to be able to follow the storyline, it's all wrapped up within
the jam-packed 16 pages of story. Even if mystery, Sherlock Holmes type books
aren't on your want-list, I highly recommend Fell. With Warren Ellis
attached to any on-going crime book, it's bound to be a fun yet interesting ride.
(Not to mention the cover price of only $1.99.)
For Immediate Release: Speakeasy Makes the Grade
2005 — Speakeasy Comics, the new premier publishing
house for all graphic literature, and CGC, the premier
collectibles grading company, today announced a deal
which makes CGC the official grading service for all
Formed by industry veterans to bring new comics projects to the market in 2004,
Speakeasy is gaining a respected position in our hobby
as a leader of quality creator-owned publishing. With
18 titles and growing, Speakeasy promises to provide
a new home for existing creators and projects as well
as a starting point for up and coming comics creators.
With hot new titles like The Grimoire, Beowulf and
Smoke & Mirror, Speakeasy is positioning itself to
be a market mainstay.
"We cannot be happier to add Speakeasy Comics to the list of publishers we are
now the official grading service of," said Steve Borock, President and Primary
Grader of CGC. "We can't wait to provide their creators and fans CGC certified
product. Collect what you love — and with Speakeasy, there's a lot to love!"
"As a collector and a publisher, the services available through CGC are invaluable," commented
Speakeasy President, Adam Fortier. "Personally, and professionally, I'm very pleased
to be in business with them."
For more information about Speakeasy Comics, visit their Web site at www.speakeasycomics.com To
learn more about CGC, visit our Web site at www.cgccomics.com.
More of Street & Smith
After covering The Shadow, Street & Smith's flagship comic book title during the Golden Age, in the previous Nolan's Niche, we'll talk about the rest of the famed publishing empire's comics of the 1940's.
Street & Smith gave up comic books in 1949, at about the same time as the "Fiction Factory" — as the firm was known in a popular 1950's book — stopped publishing standard-sized pulps. The company was a colossus in the pulp and magazine world, but was never more than a second-tier publisher of comics.
That doesn't mean the Street & Smith line should be ignored. The company produced a number of highly collectible comics in addition to its 101-issue run of The Shadow, which was by far its most successful title. But the best advice I can give anyone about to purchase a Street & Smith comic is "check it out from front to back." The quality varied widely in terms of story, art and content, even from issue to issue in the same title. Although the likes of Bob Powell and Ed Cartier graced much of the company's post-war art, much more of the company's artistic and story output is mediocre at best.
Outside of The Shadow, Street & Smith's best-known title for collectors today — but far from its most successful in the 1940's — is Doc Savage. Like all Street & Smith titles, Doc Savage was actually an anthology, with a host of characters often adapted from the pulps. The title ran only 20 issues from 1940 to 1943, all 68-pagers in the classic Golden Age mold, and may have been a victim of World War II paper rationing. The last eight issues were listed as Vol. 2 #1-8.
Doc Savage ran 8-page stories in the first three issues but thereafter had lead stories of 16 to 20 pages — unusual in comics of the period. Other costume heroes included Ajax the Sun Man in Vol. 1 #2 through Vol. 2 #5; Norgil the Magician in #1 and 5; Astron the Crocodile Queen in Vol. 1 #5 through the end of the run except for #9 and 11; The Avenger in Vol. 2 #4; the parody Supersnipe in #9; and The Thunderbolt in #10. True-type stories and humorous features filled out many issues. Issue #5 is perhaps the representative of the batch.
One of the first prototype war comics was Bill Barnes, Air Ace which ran 12 issues from 1940 to Oct. 1943. This one escaped rationing problems, but the title became Air Ace with Vol. 2 #1 in 1944 and ran 20 issues, through Vo1. 3 #8 (March 1947). Collectors of air-oriented comics can find a lot to enjoy in this title, especially since it's one of the least expensive in the Street & Smith group. Again, you'd best check out the contents thoroughly.
Street & Smith was such a pulp king that it even had a best-selling sports pulp — Sport Story Magazine — which ran 429 issues over 20 years through 1943. That was an amazing publishing feat, considering that the total number of all other sports pulps from more than half a dozen companies was less than 1,200 issues! That led Street & Smith to publish 50 issues of True Sport Picture Stories, by far the most successful of all sports comics (the first four issues were entitled Sport Comics, long before Sport Magazine hit the post-war scene). If you're a sports fan, check out this title. The covers ranged from superb to awful.
Street & Smith did a book called Army and Navy Comics for five issues in 1941-42, then turned it into the clever, popular parody Supersnipe, a.k.a. Koppy McFad, "the boy with the most comics in the world." Supersnipe ran from Vol. 1 #6 (Oct. 1942) through Vol. 5 #1 (Aug.-Sept. 1949, the 44th issue) and was so well-liked it outlasted most of Street & Smith's other titles. In one of the weirdest crossovers of all time, Doc Savage guest starred in the Supersnipe story in Vol. 1 #7! Supersnipe made a 6-page debut in Army and Navy #5, then appeared in a phenomenal run of long stories in his own title, ranging from 22 to 26 pages in almost every issue. Supersnipe is an acquired taste. Some collectors wouldn't be caught with one, while others can't get enough of the kid.
Street & Smith put out a great first issue entitled Super Magic Comics (May
1941), with a 37-page Blackstone the Magician story, plus a nifty super hero called
Black Fury. That first Black Fury story is a pip, but the strip became Rex King,
Adventurer when the title changed to Super Magician Comics with Vol. 1 #2 (Sept.
1941), then Rex King was never seen again in this title. Super Magician ran through
Vol. 5 #8 (Feb.-March 1947), for a total run of 56 issues. Blackstone's stories
were probably at the time the longest regular feature in comic books — they
were all 31-39 pages in the first 18 issues! Blackstone continued through Vol.
4 #10 (Feb. 1946) before four different companies — S&S, Vital, EC and Marvel — combined
to publish seven issues of Blackstone's adventures in 1946-48. Never have so many
companies published so few issues featuring one character!
I consider the first series of Red Dragon Comics to be Street & Smith's most collectible title. Continuing from Trail Blazers #1-4, Red Dragon was published as #5 (Jan. 1943) through #9 (Jan. 1944), every issue a 68-page gem. There were no fewer than eight costume heroes in this five-issue series, though no one issue contained them all. The most representative issue is #6 (March 1943), which contained Rex King, Red Rover (the Crimson Crimebuster), Captain Jack Commando, Minute Man (not the same as Fawcett's character), Red Dragon, and the Black Crusader. Every issue of the first series of Red Dragon is well worth checking out for Golden Age super hero buffs.
The second series of Red Dragon #1 (Nov. 1947) through #7 (May 1949) and is best known for some of pulp illustrator Ed Cartier's comic book art in most issues. These are all worth checking out too.
Street & Smith left the field too soon to get in on the romance comics craze. That was ironic considering the company published 1,158 issues of Love Story Magazine from 1921-47.
Book and Comic Art Rarities Featured in Upcoming Heritage Auction!
Graded Books Among the Highlights Heritage Comics Auctions (HCA) will hold their
latest auction of rare and collectible comic books, original comic art, and related
memorabilia on October 14 & 15, 2005, in their Dallas, Texas headquarters.
"One of the highlights of this upcoming auction is the staggering collection
of Mile High comics that we're offering," said Ed Jaster, Director of Acquisitions
for HCA. "On hand, we'll have such significant books as More
Fun Comics #53, CGC-graded NM+ 9.6 with White pages and Adventure
Comics #72, CGC-graded NM/M 9.8 with White pages. From the same prestigious
collection, we've also got the highest-graded examples of Blackhawk#9,
CGC-graded NM/M 9.8 with Off-white to white pages and Wings
Comics #1, CGC-graded NM/M 9.8 with Off-white to white pages." Read
of us at the Certified Collectibles Group extend our
deepest sympathy and heartfelt concern to all those
affected by Hurricane Katrina. The devastation and
aftermath is unimaginable, and we are hoping for the
most expedited recovery possible.
We have created a Community Bulletin on our Message Boards for collectors and
dealers to post temporary contact information and details about business interruptions.
You can post directly by visiting the boards, or we can add a post for you. Please
contact Customer Service to have your post added.
Katrina Community Bulletins
The Certified Collectibles Group conducted a donation drive and offered to match
donations to the American Red Cross made by its Authorized Dealers, Collectors'
Society and Message Board Members.
This donation drive ended Thursday, September 15th and we are pleased to report
that the final donation total was $16,881.00. A portion of this amount was raised
during an auction held by NGC on the message boards. All proceeds from the auction
were donated to the American Red Cross.
The Certified Collectibles Group made its matching donation to the American Red
Cross on September 19th.
Thank you to all who participated in this donation drive!