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The Simple Comic Newsletter!
Issue #7

I would like to apologize for skipping last month. It is just with setting up the new website, some sacrifices had to be made and this was one of them. Now that all the tough stuff is behind us and the new web page is running smoothly, I should be back on a normal schedule with Just Newsprint. I hope to expand the size of it, starting next month.   Now onto the issue and enjoy!

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The Many Incarnations of Tarzan

One hero who has made the rounds from one company to another is Tarzan. The king of the jungle has grabbed the vine from Dell to Gold Key to DC to Marvel to Malibu and finally to Dark Horse. Man does he get around!

In the meantime we have seen the quality of the stories and art go from good to bad to worse and back to good. From the gorgeous covers and no frills stories of the Dell to the goofiness of the Marvels to the deeper stories at Dark Horse, we have seen alot of sides of the jungle man. But which is really the best version? Which is the one that best captures the true essence of the character. Not just the glamorized version of Hollywood, but the more savage version from the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.

While it may be a matter of taste, I really enjoy the new Dark Horse versions. They combine some good writing and very pleasing art. The stories tend to be a few issues long. They are the right length to where you are left wanting and you aren't bored. Plus, you get to see him team up with Burrough's other famous creation and my personal favorite, John Carter of Mars.

While the Dark Horse are probably my personal favorites of the Tarzan comics, I feel the Dell come a close second. The painted and especially the photographed covers are wondrous. They really draw you into the book, like a good cover should. The interior art is quite basic, the house style at Dell. It does its job of conveying the story without distracting from it. The stories themselves are quick and simple. They are the kind you read under a shaded tree on a summer day. They flow much like the welcomed breeze.

The other versions have their pluses and minuses, but none have anything that makes them stand out. They are decent reads and welcome additions if you find them cheap. I cannot bad mouth them as I am too big a fan of Tarzan. Having read all the novels in my youth, I can still remember my first trip to Jewel city of Opar or the first vivid memories evoked from seeing the words "Elephant Graveyard". So I have a special fondness for the jungle king and tend to find the best in all his books.

They Will Always Be First
Of all the companies that ever produced comics, my favorite is still First Comics. Sure Marvel and DC have given me plenty of great stories over the years, but no company consistently produced books I had to have like First Comics.

Many of my all-time favorite comics were produced under the First banner. Such great titles as Jon Sable, American Flagg, Nexus, Badger, Grimjack and many others kept me reading and reading. There was a constant level of quality that seemed to infect all their titles. For a period, they seemed to do no wrong.

Unlike many companies, First was willing to take a chance. American Flagg was considered very controversial for the time. They were the first company to bring in Manga work with Lone Wolf & Cub. This risk taking did eventually spell their doom as they sunk a great deal of money into their revival of the Classic Illustrated, which didn't do as well as expected. This coupled with a gradual deterioration of many key titles and you had the end of a great company.

But the Impact of First comics can still be felt in the industry.   They were one of the first who realized there was a market for the Japanese comics and Lone Wolf and Cub was the beginning of a growing stream of material that has been brought over here.  They also realized that diversity was important for a healthy market and offered a large selection of material.  They also became a haven for many great creators and their creations.  They gave them an avenue to do their books in an age when Marvel and DC were more interested in their own creations. 

But the success of these creators unfortunately led them to other companies and these properties which First owned rights to were put into the hands of other artists and writers and most of the time they suffered for it.  Grell left Jon Sable and went to Green Lantern, Baron eventually left Nexus and Badger for the Flash and Punisher, Chaykin left American Flagg for Blackhawk and even Paul Smith went from Nexus art to doing the Uncanny X-Men.

In conclusion, First Comics was a pioneer and a force in the comic industry.  From their great selection of comics to their large selection of graphic novels (one of the first third party companies to do this), to their introduction of Japanese comics to the Western Hemisphere to doing the first computerized comic (Shatter), First left their mark on the industry.  They will not soon be forgotten and for this comic fan, they will always be First in my book!

Top Ten Best Superpowers
With this continuing to be the section that receives the most feedback, I decided to do another installment. As long as my fertile mind can keep coming up with them, I will be doing them. This month is a list of what I think are the best superpowers to have. Each power counts as one entry, or else I would say that I want to be Superman with his dozen or so powers. I am also only including the "natural" powers, i.e.: the ones that aren't based on some technology or artifact. So without any further adieu, here are the TOP TEN BEST SUPERPOWERS!

10. Invisibility-While it would be one of the most practical powers, it does have its limitations. I know that if I had it, I would only use it for selfish purposes like sneaking into events and pranks (not to mention what every red blooded male would do with this power). So it would be best for everyone if this power wasn't available to me.

9. Super Strength-While I would enjoy being able to kick some serious hiney, this is one power that could cause more harm than good. If you don't have some amount of invulnerability to protect you, you would break alot of bones in your body. It would also be depressing as I would have the power to hit 1000 foot homers and not enough hand/eye coordination to connect with the ball.

8. Flight-This would be one sweet power! Nothing would impress friends like a good flight around the town. But with all the power lines, buildings, planes and such, it would be pretty scary up there. But what a view!

7. Super Speed-Carl Lewis eat your heart out! How about a five second mile? Now this would be really cool. Imagine throwing a touchdown pass and also catching it! Would be really great, until you find out you are standing in the endzone wearing the proverbial birthday suit, because your clothes couldn't keep up with you.

6. Super Stretch-I cannot think how many times I wanted this power. All those times when what I need is on the other side of the room or I just locked my keys in the car. Wouldn't it be nice to make a mock key with your finger or to always be able to fit in your clothes because you can stretch to fit any size. Belts would be a thing of the past!

5. Super Memory-Know how Superman remembers everything (the super computer brain)? Wouldn't that be a really awesome and quite practical power. Just think of the money you could make on Jeopardy! Tests would be a breeze! Plus for parties, you could memorize every joke ever written, so you would always have something funny to say!

4. Body Possession-This is the power that characters like Jericho (from the New Teen Titans) and Deadman have. You know where you can go into and control another person. Think of what you could accomplish with this power! Take over an auditor and have the government give you a big refund instead of owing money or hop into Saddam Hussein and make him resign as ruler of Iraq, the possibilities are endless!

3. Invincibility-Imagine skydiving without a parachute or jumping in front of a bulldozer for kicks. Sure would make life easier knowing that nothing could hurt you. Health insurance would be a distant memory. Just think of the jobs you could do and how much in demand you would be.

2. Breathe Underwater-I always thought it would be so awesome to be able to live underwater. To be like Aquaman or Submariner and be able to go back and forth. While there are quite a few hazards in the sea, it would be nice to know you could go down and stay there.

1. Changeling-My all-time favorite power and one I have dreamed of for decades is the ability to be able to turn into any animal, real or imagined. Like Changeling from the New Teen Titans or where I first saw it, the guy from the Arabian Nights that ran on the Banana Splits show. Just think, anything from a lowly fly to a towering dragon! Dare to dream!

Bargain Bin Bonanza
This month's bargain bin book is one from the aforementioned company, First. It is the unforgettable American Flagg. This is the story of a lawman that comes down from Mars to Earth to restore peace. He finds that Earth is quite lawless and his first duty is to stop the riots that come after the airings of Bob Violence, a television show. It is creative stories like this that were the draw to the title. Oh yeah and the mature themed material. It was interesting the stuff they came up with like basketball being an illegal, underground sport.

Rueben Flagg, the main character, was a man's man. He was tough and shot from the hip. In a lawless world, he had to try and bring some sanity to Earth, a place where the general populace was sterile and morals were in rapid decay. Chaykin's art fit the series to a tee and this was where he perfected his style. It was a style he mimicked too often in the future, as all his leading characters would end up looking like Rueben Flagg. But here it was new and fresh. It was also risky and helped pave the way for more widespread acceptance of more mature comics that weren't porno comics (though Chaykin's Big Black Kiss, did unfortunately fit the latter mold). Another step by the comic community to make comics a more adult market and step away from the almost exclusive kid market. Comics were growing up and American Flagg was one of the books that helped speed up the process.

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Powerful Message

This Animal Man cover is still probably one of my all-time favorite comic covers. It has a very strong message and really hits home. From the pure white background, which pushes forward the image to the look on Animal Man's face, it is a very moving cover and one that still sticks with me to this day. I guess it is my love for animals that is touched as I view this cover. The sheer senseless waste of such a majestic creature really hits home. Especially being the national bird, it makes the image that much more powerful.   Brian Bolland, the artist had a wonderful run of great covers on the Animal Man series (not to mention his work on Judge Dredd) and I feel these would be reason alone to buy this series. But the stories are also quite good and you soon forget the silly costume and name that Animal man was stuck with.

What covers had an impact on you? Is there a certain one that stands out for you? Let me know and maybe I will feature it in an upcoming issue. While comics were once deemed as silly kid's stuff, it is covers like this that prove that comics can be a medium to get across powerful messages.

Villain of the Month
This month's villain is the ever deadly, Absorbing Man. Crusher Creel began in the Thor comics (Journey into Mystery #114) where he went from a lowly thug to a super powered being. With his ability to absorb the properties of any substance he came in contact with, this proved to make him both very deadly and very unpredictable.

More dangerous than his powers was his general lack of a conscience. He really didn't care if innocent lives were lost. His personal gain was all that mattered and he would stop at nothing to get what he wanted.

Crusher Creel battled Thor on numerous occasions and always gave his a good battle. But the thunder god wasn't his only foe. He also battled the Incredible Hulk on numerous occasions. He also locked horns with the Avengers as well as some not so powerful heroes like Daredevil.

His biggest flaw and one that halted him too often was the very same absorbing power. Too many times he was knocked into glass or something and ended up absorbing its powers only to be defeated. While it was clever at first, it later proved to be a crutch that too many writers leaned on.

One of the reasons I chose him is that I just picked up his action figure. I will occasionally buy action figures for my kids when I find them on clearance and at $3.00, I couldn't pass him up. I would have loved an action figure of the Absorbing Man as a youth, but we were severely limited in the selection available.

To Be Young Again
Having grown up in an era of a handful of superhero toys (I am 32 years old to give you an idea of the time frame), I am amazed and quite a bit jealous of the selection available to children today. Characters I only dreamed of ever having an action figure are now available and more are popping up every day.

One walk down the aisles of the local toy store will be enough to make me want to reverse the aging process. As I stare at the rows of heroes and especially villains, I dream of the battle I could have. Characters like the Rhino, Scorpion, Galactus, Sentinels, Manbat and more are like dreams come true, only a bit too late. Even lesser characters that I never dreamed would be molded into plastic are popping up with greater frequency. Characters like Swarm, Absorbing Man, Zzzack and Poison Ivy were characters I never dreamed would be available. The selection is absolutely stunning!

While I cannot turn back the aging process, I do have the ability to relive the magic through the eyes of my children. While they are too young to play with the figures now, I do occasionally buy a figure or two when I find them cheap (and this happens with greater frequency). So I have over the past few years, built up a large selection of heroes and villains for them to enjoy in a few years. I only hope they enjoy playing with them as much as I enjoy buying them. Maybe I will videotape them opening all the toys and playing with them and show the tape to toy collectors to watch them cringe as the near mint, carded figures are opened and played with.

New on the Web Page
If you are reading this, you have obviously seen some of the improvements done to the New Tomorrow's Heroes web page. Some are quite subtle and others are more obvious. Here are a few of the new areas or updated areas.

-Classic Comic Ads-Here is a section devoted to those great commercials we all remember reading in the comic books. From the bizarre to the fondly remembered ones. I have broken this down into five unique sections:

    *Classic Ads
    *Toy Ads
    *Comic Ads
    *Subscription Ads
    *Hostess Ads

There are a decent amount up right now, but look for more to be posted in the coming months!

Thanks for your patience and look for Just Newsprint to return next month, sometime in the first week! I will do my best to keep adding to the web page and making it a place for comic fans to come and relive some memories and make some new ones. Submissions are always accepted for the newsletter and your feedback is greatly appreciated!

-Tom Zjaba