A Glance at the Gallery by Michael McFadden, CGC Quality Control
Greetings, fen! Michael McFadden here, CGC's QC Doctor, touting a selection of the latest arcane artifacts added to our groovtacular DigiGallery. From Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man #196, at 9.9 the highest certified, to Centaur's Keen Detective Funnies #20, at 5.0 the second highest we've seen of this classic cover, it's been a stellar month. Let's begin the tour, shall we?
One of the prime job perks for me at this CGC gig is seeing glamorous copies of uncommon books like the legendary short-lived Centaur line. It was one thing to read about them in my well-thumbed copy of Raymond Miller's Illustrated Comic Collector's Handbook back in 1966, and quite another to feast my dazzling blue orbs on a splendid 9.0 copy of the November 1939 Amazing Mystery Funnies v2 #11. Featuring the ever-ridiculous Speed Centaur (who wouldn't want to be a superhero that's half man and half horse?) and the 1939-40 New York World's Fair masked vigilante, the Fantom of the Fair, this book sports one of the earliest robot covers on record. Anything earlier? Get those Gerbers out now, boys and girls! It's said that bad distribution doomed this line and by early World War II they were gone. Now, there were millions of Archie Comics pubbed in the late 40s and 50s, but kids loved 'em, passed them around, and since they were "good" comics, didn't have 'em thrown out by their parents. Consequently, kids read most copies to death. Archies that survive in 8.0 or better, like Archie's Girls, Betty and Veronica #s 3 and 4 are understandably seldom seen.
We don't see a lot of Fox's Wonderworld Comics either. That's a shame, because these early issues had content produced by the S. M. Iger / Will Eisner production house. So many have amazing Lou Fine covers, like #7 (9.0) and #12 (9.0, Larson). Yummo! Dell avoided the superhero bandwagon, so Popular Comics #52 (9.4) is an actual, very uncommon Dell superhero cover. Martan the Marvel Man might look more imposing to his enemies if he wasn't wearing such a hot micro-mini skirt and boots … shorter than his girlfriend's, actually. I think it's great we're so enlightened today, but in June 1940, maybe there was a good reason for Dell to stay out of the superhero game.
This month's sizzling #1s and firsts include DC's Star Spangled Comics #1, the seventh member of its Golden Age powerhouse "Big Eight" lineup. This 8.5 copy is the highest certified to date and is the first full-story appearance of Jerry Siegel and Hal Sherman's Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy, who had debuted the month before in a special preview in Action Comics #40. Eventually morphing into a more successful war book, this issue anchors a 335-issue run that continued to 1977. Beginning a 174-issue run, Adventures into the Unknown #1 served up lame supernatural stories until the summer of 1967. This 8.5 copy is the second highest we've seen. Gold Key's Space Family Robinson #1 at nine-oh tied for the top spot. Though some collectors today assume this book is yet another Gold Key TV adaptation, it actually predates the September 1965 CBS debut of Lost in Space by three years. Eventually, it added Lost in Space to its logo as part of a legal settlement with Irwin Allen Productions, but never adapted the television show.
A dazzling Fantastic Four #3, highest certified at 9.6, debuts the FF's uniforms, the Fantasti-Car, their Baxter Building headquarters and on the cover, the Torch's second left hand. Ouch! A couple of months later, Flash #129 (9.6, highest graded tie) is the first Silver Age appearance of the Justice Society of America in a flashback that chronicles their last adventure in All Star Comics #57, "The Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives!" As a kid, that double page spread so totally blew me away that I asked artist Carmine Infantino to sign it for me when he was in St. Louis a few years back! Showcase #62 at 9.6 is tied as highest certified. Featuring the origin and first appearance of the Inferior Five, DC fen like myself were all psyched for the third classic Julie Schwartz / Gardner Fox / Murphy Anderson Spectre tryout issue … and what we got was this piece of crap. Ugh! Only two nine-ohs grade any higher than Adventure Comics #210 (7.5), the debut of Boy of Steel's quadruped companion. Second-highest honors go to Our Army at War #83, the first true Sgt. Rock appearance. And only two copies grade sharper than this 9.4 copy of Justice League of America #9, which after two and a half years since the JLA's debut finally revealed their oft-requested origin.
Among magazines we saw this month were an impressive group of Uber-Fan Forry Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland. Issues 5 (9.4), 9 (9.2), 15 (9.4), 21 (9.4) and 22 (9.6) were joined by the Famous Monsters of Filmland Yearbook #nn (1964) at an impressive 9.8. Also across our desks: Warren's Creepy #17 (9.6), Eerie #5 (9.8), #9 (9.6) and Vampirella #7 (9.6).
Wow! We're seeing a lot of SigSeries books on the Alter of Autographs in the cavernous confines of the Fortress of Qualitude and the summer convention season isn't even in full swing yet. Comic fandom assembled clearly is voting that CGC's SigSeries is the greatest idea since tasty canned ocelot! Really, we could fill the DigiGallery — and this column — with new SigSeries entries if we didn't have to spend so much time grading books. George Perez says he draws slowly, but the Duke of Detail geared it up on a Fallen Son #3 with a fabulous head shot of a pensive Scarlet Witch. Wow, that is one tight perm, Witch! Check out Doug Mahnke's dynamite homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths #7's cover featuring Man of Steel and Lead-Riddled Avenger. Please tell me CGC's Sultan of SigSeries Paul Litch didn't add those goofy word balloons himself when he graded the copy! Also notable are sketches by Bachalo on Dark Avengers #1 and Ryan on Secret Invasion #1. For Firefly fans, we added 9.8 copies of Serenity #s 1 and 2, both signed by cast members and creator Joss Whedon. Keep scanning those convention guest lists and check our newsletter for shows we're doing.
Pedigreed copies this month include some terrific Marvels: Amazing Spider-Man #62 and Avengers #50, both 9.8, Curator, Silver Surfer #s 5, 14 and 18, all 9.8, Rocky Mountain. We also added a non-pedigreed Surfer #3 as well. Steranko's classic X-Men #50 (9.8) cover was another Rocky Mountain entry. Justice League of America #18 (9.6) from the superb Pacific Coast collection tied for highest graded honors. A Fiction House Spirit #3 (Bethlehem) at 8.0 was the first copy we've seen in the office. Charlton's Underdog #1 (9.6) was also a Bethlehem copy. Thrilling Comics #3 at 8.0 (Nova Scotia) was only the sixth we've seen. Eh! #2, rare Charlton work for Dick Ayers, came in at 9.0 (River City). The San Francisco copy of Flash Comics #65 was 9.4, nestled comfortably amidst our unbelievable offering of Mile High Flash Comics on the DigiGallery. Red Dragon Comics #9, from the Crowley collection, notched 9.2. From the Ohio pedigree, we saw an 8.0 Blackhawk #16. A Dell File Copy of Barbie and Ken #3 was at 9.4, almost as pristine as Barbie imagines herself. The poster child for obsessive-compulsive disorder, Little Dot, checked in for CGC slab therapy with 9.8 issues # 110, 118 and 123, Harvey File Copies all.
Weird Science's second issue, #13, represented the prized Gaines File Copy pedigree admirably at 9.6. So did Piracy #4 and a Mad #20, at a slightly lower 9.4. Also from E.C. this month were pre-trend books Gunfighter #11 with a western cover by brilliant horror artist Graham Ingels, and Saddle Romances #9.
Other notable additions to our addiction? Added to last month's mix is Holyoke's Green Hornet #2 (9.0). America's Best Comics #2 offers a rousing World War II vintage patriotic cover. Also with a war cover from Nedor, a 9.0 Exciting Comics. Strange Tales #107 (at 9.4, only two certify higher) is the classic Jack "King" Kirby cover pitting the Human Torch versus the Sub-Mariner, a Silver Age homage to their Golden Age roots. I always preferred the adventures of Kid Krypton to Man of Steel, so we added Superboy #s 14, 15 and 17, all highest-grade or tied. Flash #s 153 and 166 were both 9.8 as was Fantastic Four #100, Avengers #24 and Amazing Spider-Man #s 88 and 102. One of the earliest Charlton books, Zoo Funnies #2, wowed us at 9.6.
Dell's Lone Ranger #2 was an imposing 9.6, DC's offbeat and underrated western Bat Lash #5 was 9.8. In at 9.6 is Hopalong Cassidy and the Mad Barber, #nn, a 1/3 size promo comic for Bond Bread (don't knock it — it's Hoppy's favorite!). The Mad Barber, huh? I think a bunch of us at CGC must visit this guy. Anyway, this comic seems to show the Mad Barber about to go all Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blonde on Hoppy's ear. Stealers Wheel "Stuck in the Middle With You," anyone? Who would have guessed Sweeney Todd was Hoppy's barber?
How 'bout some highest certified copies (and ties)? The Circle 8 copy of Atlas's Uncanny Tales #53, with a Bill Everett cover that screams 50s fashions, hit 9.0, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #80, a 9.4 copy with a Walt (Pogo) Kelly cover, and Adventure Comics #227 (9.2), with a Curt Swan and Stan Kaye cover, all were added to the DigiGallery. A Fantastic Four #16, their first meeting with Ant Man, was a stellar 9.8 and #20 reached 9.6. From Toby Press' seldom-seen three-issue 1951 run of Buck Rogers newspaper strip reprints, the River City copy of #101 was 8.5. Man oh man! Man Comics #12 was 9.6, River City, as well. 8.0 is the current high-water mark for All Star Comics #27. The 100th issue of Wonder Woman crushed the previous highest-graded champion, 9.4 to 8.0. Highlights at eleven.
The Northford copy of Amazing Adventures #2 (Ziff-Davis, 2/51) is 9.4 and has a lovely Alex Schomburg cover. Why is it that so many gruesome alien life forms are apparently sex perverts who can't get a date on their own planet? Why is it they love to lustfully leer at scantily-clad Earth females? You know, the ones they just ABDUCTED? And while I can accept that these same aliens would put their captive cuties in cells, why would the cells be labeled in English? Has their own language no phrase for "hot Earth chick I just stalked and kidnapped?" Oh yeah, I forgot my Star Trek education … hot Earth babes and English, the interplanetary standard of universal understanding. And is that his tongue hanging outta his chops? Yeccchhh!
Comments and questions regarding the DigiGallery? We're fans, too. We enjoy hearing from you, unless we don't. You can contact me any time. Thank you for your time and do remember — be good to yourself. Be CGC-ing you!