Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reprint This! Five Short Suggestions

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Normally, I have a full feature on the first of each month, but once a year or so, I put together a cheat-page, because there are plenty of other great comics that deserve to see the light of day as well, but for one reason or another I just don't have quite as much to say about them to fill a long entry. Here, then, are five comics which would be great to see again in collected form... comics which I'd certainly buy if only my local shop could order them from somebody, and so might you!


Together with its more commonly-seen counterpart, Marvel's FOOM, this professionally-assembled "fan"zine brought together interesting news features, interviews and otherwise-unseen production art, giving a fascinating look behind the scenes of the publisher in the 1970s. I only had two issues as a kid, one of them a special issue spotlighting the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV show, but I enjoyed the heck out of them. Back issues are both ridiculously scarce and jawdroppingly pricey, particularly the high-demand one looking at the Legion of Super-Heroes.

This is the sort of thing that, if DC doesn't really want to bother repackaging, they could certainly license it out to TwoMorrows or somebody, who have shown, with all of their archiving of classic fanzines, that they could do a great job with it.

NERO WOLFE by John Broome and Mike Roy

For just over a year, from 1956-57, there was a daily Nero Wolfe comic strip. While credited to Wolfe's creator Rex Stout, it was actually drawn by Mike Roy and scripted by Silver Age DC Comics superstar John Broome, best known for his writing the resurrected Flash and Green Lantern adventures in the sixties.

Stout reportedly wasn't very taken with the strip, and while this sample shows that Broome correctly noted Mr. Wolfe's eccentric schedule, he otherwise got much of Wolfe's fussiness wrong. The fan group "The Wolfe Pack" assembled a PDF of many of the strips, which you can view at their website, but several of the strips are unfortunately in very poor quality. One of these days, I may have to trek up to Athens and spend the day in the UGA Library printing pages from fifty year-old papers to read 'em myself. Or somebody like IDW could just put a nice book out for me...

ONE BIG HAPPY by Rick Detorie

Perhaps one of the least likely suggestions I've come up with for this feature. NBM released some collected editions of this popular daily feature in the late 90s, but none of them apparently sold very well, and I think this very overlooked daily has probably missed its chance to be a major breakout.

Readers know that there's a lot to it beyond the silly puns and wordplay; Ruthie and her older brother Joe are just about the most perfect little kid double-act on the modern comics page, every bit as weird and oddball as my own two children. If you're one of the many who lost touch with One Big Happy over the years, I suggest it's absolutely worth another look.

PONYTAIL by Lee Holley

Holley worked as an assistant to Hank Ketcham in the late 1950s before starting this incredibly cute daily panel comic about a freewheeling teen girl. I have not seen very much of this comic, which ran for twenty-eight years and is well-remembered by comic aficionados both for Holley's wonderful, loopy inking style, and for its sweet, nostalgic depiction of small-town teen life, with malt shoppes, pizza joints, hot rods, lettermen's jackets and jalopies. Either IDW or Fantagraphics would do well to look into this classic.

Sherm Cohen has been posting scans from Dell's 1960s Ponytail comic book over at Cartoon SNAP for the last month or so. You can also read one of the backup strips from that comic over at my own Zarjaz Journal from last year.

SUPER-HIP by Arnold Drake and Bob Oskner

Don't say I never gave you anything, Johnny Bacardi, because this one's for you! In 1950, when comic books were downright ridiculously weird, DC (or, more accurately, National, the company that would become DC in time) used to publish comedy titles "starring" movie stars like Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis. The Bob Hope comic was among the longest-lasting of these, but by 1965, even it had shown its age. So to keep things all groovy and relevant for the kids, Arnold Drake and Bob Oskner turned the book into a demented melange of superheroes, wacky monster comedies and with-it Carnaby Street Swingin' London cool. Enter, with issue # 95, Bob Hope's nephew Tadwallader Jutefruce, the secret identity of the flying, guitar-playing, shape-changing Sultan of Swingers, Super-Hip!

I only have one of these issues, and it's one of the nuttiest comics I own. They're actually scarce as all get-out, because Silver Age collectors, only interested in superhero continuity, never thought twice about the Bob Hope comic, and often had no idea that DC's most genuinely odd creation was fighting vampires and squares within its pages. DC long ago lost the license to reprint the Bob Hope comic, and I imagine his estate would probably charge a penny or two for reupping the license rights, but it would seem that in the last fifteen issues of The Adventures of Bob Hope, Bob only appeared as a host character.

Actually, I wonder whether the trademark on Super-Hip has lapsed. Normally, a publisher has to use a character somewhere, somehow, every few years to keep the trademark active, but Super-Hip hasn't appeared in any comic book for four decades. If so, any enterprising publisher could tweak the "Bob Hope" image and call him "Ted" or "Bill" or something and otherwise reprint these outright, couldn't they? Well, if anybody does, I hope they just remember to cut Drake's and Oskner's estates a royalty check or two. They were great talents, and their offbeat little creation should, in a just world, be earning a little money from people like me who'd love to snap this up. (Of course, if DC still owns Super-Hip, we're probably in for a long wait. They still haven't said a word about Angel and the Ape, The Inferior Five OR Sugar and Spike, the cads!)

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