I’m still alive.

I’ve just been busy.

I got married a week ago, we’ve got a honeymoon happening relatively soon, and most of this year’s been eaten by the planning of either those two things or home renovations.

I’ve been out at the markets plenty (Brimfield was fun this year, as was my home market’s season; I actually brought people there the morning after the wedding), I’ve got a bunch of stuff to share from those excursions as soon as I can properly come up for air, I even somehow managed to finish 2000 Topps Football in the middle of all of this chaos, and I’ll be trading again over the winter (Bo and I are trying to sneak one in as I type this, of course).

In the meantime, feel free to talk amongst yourselves, and here’s a Mego party. They’re back in business and making new figures, you know.  As a result, it’s gotten much busier around here since this post.

Good (Albeit Cardless) Flea Market Day!

Between heat, rain, travel and the one time that the parking lot was literally too full to get into, I haven’t managed to get out to my local flea market a lot this season, but I was there today, and there was some good stuff. Here’s some of the highlights!

The 2nd Naked Eyes album! I’m sure copies of it are around, but I don’t think I’d ever seen one in person. Happy to grab it for a buck.

I think this is like my 3rd or 4th copy of Metal Gear Solid. I may actually try keeping this one. Looking forward to playing it again.

This one, I’ve never played, but people have spoken very highly of it, and the price was right.

I just recently got the awesome hardcover of this entire series, and have been buying and enjoying the revival of the title (which, unfortunately, like most Dynamite titles, is due to last long enough for about 1 trade paperback), but I’m still picking away at originals of the first series, and as the graphic novel that launched it is just amazing, I had to.

Speaking of creator-owned Marvel/Epic titles, I’ve had the only other 2 issues of Void Indigo (created by Steve Gerber of Howard The Duck fame) since way before it was really proper for me to be reading that messed up stuff. I never had the GN that launched this, either, and now I do, so it should be interesting to 1. re-read this as an adult and see if it makes more sense to me than it did when I was a kid (I feel like starting with the regular series made it really hard to follow) and 2. see exactly how much of a mess it is by 2018 standards. For some perspective, this seems to have only really gotten published, as legend has it, because Standards and Practices weren’t paying attention, and it got canned 2 issues into the regular series, as Marvel/Epic (either Archie Goodwin or the higher-ups) weren’t happy with how seriously Gerber and Mayerik had taken the word  “graphic” in “graphic novel”.

Starting to very slowly pick away at this pretty long Silver Surfer run.

Kirby of any kind, in any condition, is a good idea!

Short mini-series that I’d sold, like a fool, once upon a time, but I’ve got it again. Love me some Paul Smith X-Men art.

Working toward rebuilding my Sienkiewicz New Mutants run, too, before it becomes very difficult to afford. The Legion appearances have gotten to be a little bit of a pain in the ass, but they’re not out of reach yet. Bill’s art on these books, covers and interiors, changed not only comics but art itself. As much as people say about this run, it’s still underrated.

Love the cover for this first issue! Carmine Infantino pencils with Alex Nino inks!

Over most of my life, when I’ve come across Red Circle/Archie hero books from the ’80s, I’ve picked them up. I’m gradually getting to where having all of them, without actually putting effort into getting them, is probably a pretty reachable goal. This Comet series (with, as mentioned, Infantino pencils, inked by Alex Nino on the main feature and Rudy Nebres on the Hangman backups) was supposed to go 6 issues, and it only ran for these 2 issues. Paging Michel Fiffe

An overlooked ’80s key in multiple regards. The origin of Red Tornado (or one version of it, anyway), and also the first appearance of the All-Star Squadron!

I got one more pretty solid key from that era…the issue of (not “Superboy and the”) Legion of Super-Heroes when Superboy leaves. I’ve actually made some nice progress on old Legion books lately. I feel like, while I’m definitely not going after the Adventure Comics originals (too expensive; maybe I’ll get trades at some point), it’d be really fun to build a full run and read from about #197, through to the Baxter series and eventually the Five Years Later run, and then stopping right before the reboot.

No cards worth buying at the market today, but I did get this fella, for free, no less!

“Get some cold cuts!”

“Get some cold cuts!”

Bless you, Ickey Woods.

Now, I do not collect trains as an adult, but as a kid, I had a lot of fun with HO Scale trains (the only one I’ve kept is my Shazam! box car, which I’ll have to show off here eventually…), and let me tell you, if you were at my local flea market today, you would’ve found a TON of HO Scale stuff. I took a picture of this piece, because I can remember it 1. being fun and 2. rarely working correctly, despite being pretty fun.

I didn’t buy this, either, but I had to get a picture of it, so it could haunt you, too.

How’d y’all do this weekend?

“…this is a job only WE can handle!”

I’ve had something of an urge of late, call it nostalgia, call it curiosity about how the material had aged, to revisit the work of John Byrne, one of the most popular comic creators of the 1980s, so I’ve been picking up a bunch of it and trying to put together complete runs (some of it, I’d owned previously and sold, while other books, I still had). As a lot of his stuff can be found in dollar bins still, I’ve made quick work of finishing my Byrne runs of The Incredible Hulk, West Coast Avengers and, yes, Canada’s super-team, Alpha Flight.

So, over the past 10 days or so, I made it through the entire John Byrne Alpha Flight run (1-28 of Volume 1), about half of which I’d bought as they came out, and a few issues of which I’d gotten as back issues over the years before I swooped in on all of ’em recently. It had probably been 30 years or more since I’d read any of it.

How did reading it as a grown-up go? Well, it takes its time getting started, but the story really starts moving around issue 11, by which time Byrne had stopped aping Claremont’s narrative style so much, and finished establishing the backstories and personalities of most of the individual characters. When the whole thing does kick into high gear, it really doesn’t stop moving through the rest of the run. Byrne’s run even ends on a cliffhanger (several, in fact, but one very big one in the last panel), right before he switched books with Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola and went over to The Incredible Hulk (I’ll be reading those 6 issues next) to wrap up his first run at Marvel.

Beyond that, what I noticed while reading the book was that, while a bunch of things were cringe-worthy in the way that older comics often are when dealing with women, or with pretty much any other part of society that’s underrepresented or othered, there were also a lot more of those people in Alpha Flight (not all of them caricatures, either) than there were in most books of that time period, and, in some cases, this one. The whole thing was this experience of pretty regularly saying “Oh, he totally fucked that up” as I was reading through the issues, then remembering that, between 1983 and 1985, almost no one was even trying to fuck up the subjects in question that John Byrne was dealing with. It’s very far from a perfect series (and in particular, Byrne’s insistence on making almost all the female characters in the book a little younger than he should’ve is vexing and creepy to see now, given the benefit of hindsight, but also pretty far from unique in the genre at the time), but at the same time, it still broke all sorts of ground in mainstream comics that I’m not sure if Byrne’s getting credit for these days. It’s a case of very mixed feelings about the book for me now, which boil down to the question of whether it’s better to try to do representation in fiction and fuck up pretty regularly (and again, I’m aware that people were way less enlightened in the 1980s than we all thought we were at the time, so it’s sort of hard to decide where to set the bar there), or if it’s better not to try at all. I’m gonna lean ever-so-slightly here toward it being better that Byrne tried and fucked up a bunch.

Where the art’s concerned, it was Byrne at or close to his peak (and the covers, as you can see, were particularly amazing on a few occasions, especially in the first year; by the way, thanks/apologies to Marvel Database for the covers I ganked from there, to save myself some scanning), but the paper quality back then did his work (as well as his colorist Andy Yanchus’ work) no favors at all, and there are points in the run where Byrne’s workload seems to catch up with him a little (he was also writing, penciling and inking Fantastic Four at the same time he was doing all 3 on Alpha Flight), but from issue 16 on, he gets assist from Bob Wiacek and Keith Williams on the inks.

Overall, it was definitely worth it to catch up with some old friends, fill in some of the gaps in my memories, and do something of a “Your Childhood Favorites: Were They A Trash Fire?” study on a book that a bunch of us were pretty fond of back then, but I’m not walking away from it feeling like I read great literature, and I don’t know if I’d recommend it to anyone coming in cold on the material. It is definitely a mess in parts, and I don’t think it stands up as an all-time classic by any means, but I’m not sure that it was written to be one, either. I think that, going by both the source material and some background I read in interviews over the past few days, John was just trying to make the best of a story people weren’t going to let him not tell, working with what he knew at the time.

Hey, y’all, a card trade!

 Bo recently got himself into the pre-1978 card collecting game, finally, with a pretty big vintage purchase, so I was finally able to trade him some old stuff, and he did the same for me.

Got some ’67-’69 cards, so we’ll go in order. I cannot get over Don Sutton ever being this young. He looks like he’s 12 here.

Damn, I love this McCovey.

Onto ’68s, where I’m across the 400 mark on the set now (of course, the last 191 cards have something like 30 Hall of Famers, including Mantle and the Ryan and Bench rookies, so I probably won’t finish that soon). Never have a problem with getting a Hank Aaron card I need, though. (The other guys don’t suck, neither.) Keep ’em coming!

Billy Williams, with some artistic embellishment.

I’ve been buying cards for 38 years, and have owned hundreds of thousands of cards over those years. This is, amazingly, my first ever and only playing-era flagship Eddie Mathews card.

Pops cards seem to come to me late in set-building, too, so this is welcome.

Elston Howard looks thrilled both to be a member of the Red Sox and taking this picture.

Bill White looks cool, like he usually does.

This card of Pete is almost in condition as bad as my Munson rookie. Fine with it. Upgrading intentionally would be money I don’t wanna spend on this guy anymore.

Ken Boyer and Superman both go to the same barber.

I also crossed the 400 mark on ’69! (I never would’ve guessed that I’d ever be anywhere near that.)

I have at least 2 Joe Niekro on the Cubs cards now, and it’s still not something I’m used to yet. Looks like some alternate universe shit.

World Series cards, lookin’ awesome.

GREAT card of Odom. He’s got that “Don’t even try it” look in his eyes.

Here’s Rico…

…and Sutton, still looking way too young, to close it out. I went through his cards after I scanned these, and figured out that the back of the ’71 card is when Don looks like he went through puberty.

(Borrowed from The Trading Card Database because I didn’t wanna get it out of my album.)

Suddenly, he looks like a grown-up. It’s like he saw some shit during the ’69 off-season, and he’s a man now.

Thanks, Bo, for trade #5939203582010382!

Still Here, Hella Busy, Here’s Some Stuff

So yeah, between health stuff (the flu this year was a nightmare and I was sick to some degree or another for 3 months, but I am better now), wedding planning, home renovation and other things, it’s again been quiet here of late. So, let’s wake things up a little with a few pictures.

Holy crap, new Megos! I traded a spare that I had, and got these two well-loved but still pretty solid looking guys in exchange! I haven’t had a Falcon figure since 1986 or so, and I’d never owned a Mego Aquaman before I got him (one of only a few from the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes line that I hadn’t owned; I’ve still never owned an Invisible Girl, Penguin, or the regular, non-Fist Fighting Riddler…). They’ve both taken up residency on my desk, along with some others from my Mego loose figure collection.

(From back to front, though some will need no introduction: Superman, Batman, Mr. Fantastic, Mr. Spock, Iron Man, Falcon, Aquaman, Lizard, and a 7-Eleven Metamorpho cup in front of Lizard, also a relatively recent add.)

Our local flea market opened for the season recently, too, which was a blast, because it seems like every year on opening day, all of the vendors have a real “I’m so glad we made it through another winter” vibe about them, like a very real appreciation that we’re all still here together, and even if “here” kinda sucks sometimes, we’re at least at the flea market.

I only ended up getting one picture in the field on opening day, taken of an APF TV fun Pong clone. I don’t see a bunch of ’em in the wild these days. I passed, because I’ve got a Super Pong, an Ultra Pong, and Atari 2600 Video Olympics, and for me, that’s Pong enough. Still good to see ’em surviving, sorta.

Here’s what I did pick up on the comic book end of things. These were all very affordable, even the Avengers #181 (which I’d forgotten was the first appearance of Scott Lang, who becomes Ant-Man not long after that). From left to right: Avengers #181, New Teen Titans Vol. 1 #7 and 8, Infinity Inc. #1, Moon Knight #24 and 26, Marvel Premiere #51 (Black Panther), Captain Canuck First Summer Special (always happy to find some original Comely goods in the wild), and Fantastic Four #232 (the beginning of John Byrne’s big FF run).

Don’t worry, people who came here by way of cards. I got some cards, too!

I had a few of these (Palmer, Slaton, and Doyle Alexander are doubles, and all are available for trade), but generally, if I see Hostess cards, I buy Hostess cards. Very happy to snag a Carew (his cards in any set ever are tough for me, for some reason) and, of course, SIXTO!

So, what’ve y’all been up to?