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Tomorrow's Heroes
Tom Zjaba 1997 - 2015      

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Issue #4

Introduction
Welcome to another fun filled issue of Just Newsprint, the fun and free comic newsletter. Take a walk back to when comics were on newsprint and it only took pocket change to buy them. We take a look at comics from the sixties to the eighties and place the emphasis on fun. This may sound strange, but before comics became big business, they were considered entertainment. Much like renting a movie, comics were a source of fun for kids and adults who wanted to dream. We are trying to recapture that with the web site and this newsletter. So put your price guides away and take those books out of the Mylar sleeves and read them!

Give Those Ducks a Try
In my many years behind the counter at a comic store, one of the toughest tasks was getting people to take the Disney duck books serious. I tried and tried to get people to read Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck and more. I pleaded with them to just give them a try. I even gave away copies (which I guess were handed to kids and never read).

I did convert a few people to the wonderful stories in Uncle Scrooge. Carl Barks and Don Rosa both did grand adventures as the ducks globetrotted from one exotic locale to another. They were Indiana Jones way before Harrison Ford cracked that bullwhip. Uncle Scrooge has been searching for these lost artifacts for decades.

The stories were fast paced and full of action and even some humor. While they were meant for all ages, they weren't kiddie stories. These provided enough entertainment for the whole family and were suitable even for the younger readers. How many books can make that claim? The artwork was bright and colorful and provided enough detail to enhance the story, but not too much as to detract from it. Some of the artwork was downright gorgeous, especially some of the newer Don Rosa stuff.

All in all, the Disney ducks are anything but kiddie books. So get over your phobia and give them a try, you may just be pleasantly surprised!

A Hero is only as Good as his Gear
-With so many different superheroes out there, sometimes it is something as simple as the gear that sets one hero apart from another. We have many super powered heroes and take away Thor's hammer and you just have another. Ditto for Captain America and his shield, would he be half as cool and popular without it? With this in mind, I decided to come up with a top ten list of what I feel is the best superhero gear. Once again, this is only my opinion and your may vary. Feel free to send in your own lists. (Note: I didn't include things like Wolverine's claws as they are more a part of him as opposed to the rest of these items).

10. Daredevil's Billyclub-While not quite as known as the rest of these items, it proves to be an invaluable item for the very mortal hero. It works as both a projectile weapon and a means of transportation. When you cannot fly and don't have super powers, you need any edge you can get.
9. Green Arrow/Hawkeye's Trick arrows-Since they both are pretty much the same (net arrow, exploding arrow, etc...), I put them together. While the bows are neat, it has always been the thrill of seeing what unique arrow they could come up with next. Also, it was fun to see how many similar arrows they each had.
8. Silver Surfer's Surfboard-Hang ten with the alien! This had to be both one of the coolest and one of the strangest items a superhero ever possessed. With it, he could glide across the cosmos.
7. Batman's Utility Belt-The Wal-Mart around the waist! This thing had everything! There was nothing you could throw at Batman that his belt couldn't counter! That sucker had to weigh about 500 pounds.
6. Wonder Woman's Lasso-Not only does it catch evil doers, but it forces them to tell the truth. A device like this could be quite useful in the O.J. trial, Whitewater, etc...
5. Iron Man's Armor-Even if he did have more types of armor than most women have pairs of shoes, they were still awesome! Not only was it a powerful weapon in the fight against crime, but it was an advertisement for Stark Enterprises. Much more effective than a plain old business card.
4. Spiderman's Web Shooters-While these items were cool, I think it was the thought that a person designed them and built them. Not some alien technology or major corporation, but just a regular man (with a very high IQ). Plus, he needed to work just to be able to afford the supplies to make more web fluid. My one question is did these have an adjustable nozzle or something? I mean they could shoot a strand of webbing or a whole web.
3. Green Lantern's Ring-"In Blinding day, in darkest night". The Green Lantern ring give him unlimited power and only his imagination and willpower can limit the ring's potential. My only gripe was the lack of imaginative things he did with the ring. Until recent times, it seemed like he would mostly do about a dozen things (make hammer, huge hand, etc...) with the ring. I would be having fun and dropping green anvils on villains and scaring the beegeebees out of them with giant green monsters.
2. Captain America's Shield-How he can make that round shield do all those tricks is still beyond me? It can bounce off four walls and two villains heads, plus disarm a person and then return to Cap in time to stop an oncoming bullet. Only thing it cannot do is dice potatoes.
1. Thor's Hammer-This is probably the coolest item ever in comics! With it, Thor can control weather, fly, take out building and teleport. Plus, no one else can lift it (ok, almost no one else as there have been a few people) and it always returns to its master.

Best Kept Secrets
Some of the best kept secrets in comic book collecting is the very enjoyable and very affordable early issues of Marvel Team-up and the DC 100 giants from the 70's. Both feature a bunch of great stories reprinted and with some searching, can be found very cheap. The early Marvel Tales book in the double digit range ($10+), but I have been able to find them as low as fifty cents and usually never more than a few bucks (this is of course for ones that are good to very good shape). The issues in the teens and twenties would have one Spiderman story and two other stories featuring the Human Torch in one and the Mighty Thor in the other. Is that a great combo or what? Plus, you can see the beginnings of many of the classic villains like Crusher Creel, Paste Pot Pete and the Lizard. Paste Pot Pete was ridiculous looking in his old costume. Not that the name was much better.

The DC Giants came out in the 70's and ran in the usual DC books. But unlike regular books, these were 100 pages long and had about six different stories in them. A Detective comics I recently added to my collection had two Batman stories, a Manhunter, Elongated Man, Atom, and a Dr Fate story. A great selection of stories for the mere buck I paid! A great and very affordable way to read many golden age stories. Plus, the different books would have different stories, like the horror ones would feature more horror related stories. There were also romance and other of these giants and I urge anyone who really wants to read a great mix of stories to search these out!

Complicating Comics
I was at a flea market and saw both copies of the Two Gun Kid mini-series from the Marvel Select line. Being a Marvel western fan, I always wanted to read these, but since the cover price was a prohibitive $6.95, I never bothered to buy them or even order them for my comic store. I knew a bad idea when I saw it. Western books weren't very popular when it came out (1997) and at $6.95 an issue, it was doomed. But at the flea market, they were only a fraction of the price, so I picked them up and was finally able to read them.

My first impressions was that the art had too much detail. Unlike the original series that featured the simple, yet effective art that was a Marvel trademark in their heydays, this art was more like the art of today, too busy. While I can overlook this, I could not overlook the fact that they made the story too complicated. Half the joy of the old westerns is they were much like the Spaghetti westerns of the era, basic storytelling with a healthy dose of action.

But this new incarnation was nothing like that. instead you have international intrigue with Japan, Russia and Canada involved in a hunt for some white minks. There was none of the charm of the old series, just more of the same that we have learned to live with in this era of more is better. After finishing the story, I was glad I went with my original instinct and didn't buy them at the highly inflated price. Not that the story was bad, it just wasn't the Two Gun Kid. It was a hollow shell of its former self and the only similarities was the name and the mask he wore. Everything else was different and in my opinion, not as good. Just another example of how far the comic industry has come. Once again we see that there are sacrifices in the name of progress.

Bargain Bin Bonanza
A series that once was somewhat expensive and quite popular (it even had a movie based on it) was the venerable Howard the Duck. The cantankerous duck who was as known for his stogie as he was for his temper. The famous line "Trapped in a world he never made" introduced us to every issue of the series. The series contained alot of great humor and spotlighted Steve Gerber at his best. Howard and his girlfriend of sorts, Beverly made their way through the streets of Cleveland and faced some of the most bizarre characters ever assembled in a comic. The Bong and many of the others kept the comic from ever being predictable. Now that time has passed by Howard, the series can be found quite affordably. The only issues that may cost you are issues #12 and #13, because of the appearance of the rock group Kiss. If you like Howard, you may also want to check out Steve Gerber's other duck book, Destroyer Duck. This was done to raise money for his lawsuit against Marvel over the Howard the Duck character.

Question of the Month
Once again I borrow from the very popular, Retro Times. One of the most popular features is the question of the month. This is where I ask a question and give the readers a chance to respond. It is a chance to give your opinion. So without any further adieu, here is the QUESTION OF THE MONTH! If you could have any one super power, what would it be? I purposely did this because if I just asked which superhero you would want to be, the majority of us would want to be Superman with his tons of powers. But with just one power, you must think a little bit about the consequences of that power. I think I would probably want Aquaman's ability to breathe and withstand the pressures of the sea. I think it would be great to be able to live under the sea. While there would be some possible dangers (sharks, eels, etc...), I think with some caution it would be quite enjoyable. Plus, with all the wrecks and stuff down there, you would have no problem building a home.

Classic Commercial of the Month
While reading a great issue of Marvel Tales (issue #16), I noticed a small ad at the bottom of the page. It was unique enough to get me to read it. It was only a print ad, so here it is:
"HOME MADE ROOT BEER-Amazing new kit contains recipe and special extract for making sparkling, delicious Old Fashioned root beer right in your own kitchen. One kit makes up to 5 full gallons with simple, easy to follow instructions, KIDS...make up to $10.00 profit on each batch with your own "HOME MADE" root beer stand. Rush only $2.00 for this amazing offer".

I was stunned! Right after reading this, I went and polled all the people who would have been comic reading age when this issue came out. I asked what it was like to be able to drive down the street and buy homemade root beer from these stands. I was bummed that I missed on it as I do love a good root beer. After polling as many people as I could, I could not find one person who ever remembers buying home made root beer. Was I in the wrong part of the country? Were the people around here just too lazy to brew their own root beer? Did they just opt for the hassle free lemonade stand? Guess I will never know.

I did send a letter to the company, probably in vain. I was hoping they were still in business and maybe I could sell sparkling (I have never seen sparkling root beer have you?), delicious root beer on the internet. Keep tuned to see if we become Tomorrow's Heroes Comics, Games and Root Beer. Wonder if Hires got his start this way?

Pacific Comics, Ahead of Their Time
One of the forgotten companies was one that had lasting effects on the market that are still felt to this day. Back in the early 80's, a company name Pacific Comics challenged Marvel and Dc for market share. They were the first real threat in a long time and they really made the comic industry take notice.

While many of their books are unknown to many readers, they were quite popular at the time. Books like Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds attempted to capture the essence of the EC Comics, while books like Captain Victory and Destroyer Duck gave fan favorites like Jack Kirby and Steve Gerber a place to spotlight their creations. Also they catapulted creators like Mike Grell and Sergio Aragones into the spotlight. While both were around before that, their work on Starslayer for Grell and Groo the Wanderer for Aragones helped to make them even more known to the average comic fan.

While their stable of comics was quite diverse and their pool of talent was quite formidable, it was the impact they had on the big two that really is their legacy. Before they came, Marvel and DC had a stranglehold on the industry and there seemed to be nothing that could change that. Sure there were independents out there that had achieved some success, like Elfquest and Cerebus, but they did nothing to keep Marvel and DC from owning a 90%+ share of the market. But Pacific not only came onto the scene, but also went after the superhero market, a mainstay of the big two. For the first time, Marvel and DC had to fight back and they did it in a way that would have made Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart) proud. Instead of fighting fairly, they tried to squeeze out the competition.

It was at this time that Marvel and DC introduced something that still remains to this day. The advent of the miniseries came into prominence during this era. Also the trade paperback became a staple in this era. While these may seem like good ideas, their origins were alot more to fill the shelves and force the comic dealers and newsstands to spend all their disposable income on Marvel and DC products and try to push out Pacific. They will undoubtedly tell you another story, but it is obviously more than coincidence. Why, after decades of status quo, did they all of a sudden begin trying all kinds of new stuff? This was also a time when the amount of new titles and spin-offs were really growing.

But it was more than Marvel and DC's tactics that did in Pacific Comics. Their business practices and eye for quality can both be questioned. They did extend credit too easily to too many people and ended up getting burned. Also, they started to put out alot of bad books. Books like Skateman, from Neal Adams, is a prime example of a book that should never been published. Add these to more and more titles shipping late (Ms Mystic was a fine example of their lateness) and the exodus of some of the talent and you had the downfall of Pacific. Too bad as they really did have some great books.

While the company is gone, their legacy is still alive. Not only are the miniseries and the trade paperbacks a major part of the comic market, but companies like Image and Dark Horse owe a debt to them. While they failed, they did show that the market can and will support more than the big two. They gave many companies that followed (like First, Comico and Eclipse) hope. They proved that even the big boys could be shaken and the market has never been the same since.

My First Super Hero Comic
Much like many other firsts in ones life, I still remember the first superhero comic I ever bought. While I had been reading comics for a long time before I ever read a superhero comic, it was the first book that really opened my eyes to the boundless possibilities of the comic market. Before this, my only exposure to comics was the three packs of funny animal comics I used to get at a local bookstore. As far as I knew, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Pink Panther and others were the comic market. I enjoyed these and never even bothered with anything else.

But one day I was staying over my friend Dave's house and he pulled out his comics for us to read. There was Thor, Captain America, Human Torch and the Hulk. I remember the enjoyment I received from reading these books. Unlike the short and humor driven stories I was accustomed to, these feature action and lots of big, scary creatures. So the next day, we headed to 7-11 and I purchased my first superhero comic. I plopped down my money and bought a copy of Invaders Annual #1. I still remember why I bought it, I got three popular characters in one book. Instead of having to choose if I wanted a Captain America or Human Torch comic, I could get both and Namor to boot. What a deal!

While my original copy was read so many times that it fell apart. But I did pick up a copy a few years back and treasure it. Once in awhile, I will pull it out and try to recapture the magic.

Conclusion
Well, I did expand the size once again. It is my goal to constantly make a better and longer newsletter for you! As always, your comments are greatly appreciated! Also, submissions are always welcomed! See you in a month when we give it another try!


Tom Zjaba