Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Comics And LP Cover Cavalcade # 3

A lightly-annotated but otherwise random collection of images of comic book and rock 'n' roll album covers.

This was my favorite comic book in the summer of 1968 (a summer which offered a lot of favorite comic books for your eight-year-old future blogger). Although I'm more of a DC Comics guy overall, I loved (and still love) Marvel Comics, too. In the '60s, my toppermost-of-the-poppermost comics were superhero team-up titles, and my very favorite was either Adventure Comics (starring The Legion Of Super-Heroes) or The Avengers. The cover of The Avengers King-Size Special # 2 is so great, a gorgeous John Buscema rendering of the then-current Avengers facing off against the original Avengers. The book itself continued the storyline from the regular Avengers series, included cameos by virtually all of the Marvel superheroes, and was just epic. It was the first time I'd ever seen The Incredible Hulk as a member of The Avengers, and I wished he'd remain among the assembled thereafter.

My first Rolling Stones LPs were Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) and Got LIVE If You Want It!, purchased respectively from the used bins at Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights and Mike's Sound Center in North Syracuse during my senior year in high school, 1976-77. These were followed by a cutout Metamorphosis and a second-hand Aftermath. The best, most cherished of the lot was the amazing Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass), which I bought from a collectors' shop in Brockport circa Spring '78. Big Hits is just an incredible collection of The Rolling Stones at their best, from "Not Fade Away" to "The Last Time" to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Get Off Of My Cloud," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Tell Me," "It's All Over Now," "As Tears Go By," "Heart Of Stone," "Play With Fire," and "Time Is On My Side." "Good Times, Bad Times" was the only track I didn't flat-out love, and there was really nothing wrong with that one either. Combined with Through The Past, Darkly, this was the best 1-2 punch of rock 'em sock 'em Rolling Stones you could imagine (and lacking only the later track "Happy" to include all of my favorite Stones cuts). A couple of years later, my girlfriend Brenda borrowed my copy of Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass), as well as my best-of sets by The Who and Buddy Holly, and basically just kept 'em. I had to marry her to get the albums back. I regret nothing.

Radio Comics was the nom du biff-bang-pow of Archie Comics' superhero line in the '60s. These were mostly written (in painful high-camp style) by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Marvel veteran Paul Reinman. Most comics fans recall them as...well, terrible, I guess. But I dunno, I have a bit of a soft spot for them. My affection, light as it may be, isn't entirely rooted in nostalgia; I didn't see many issues of The Mighty Crusaders or Mighty Comics until almost a decade after the fact. The only Radio Comic I saw as a young kid in the '60s was Mighty Comics # 43, cover-featuring The Shield and The Web, with an unbilled adventure of The Black Hood nestled in between. It was one of three comic books I discovered one late '66 day in the magazine stand in our bathroom at home; the others were both DCs, The Brave And The Bold # 70 (starring Batman and Hawkman) and World's Finest Comics # 164 (my second ever Superman-Batman team comic book).  Each book met my pervasive and prevailing litmus test for great comics at the time: MORE SUPERHEROES! I dug The Shield and The Black Hood, and I also enjoyed the tale of the hen-pecked hero The Web. But really, I especially liked Pow Girl, The Web's wife. Man, she was cute.

I do not remember Paul Revere & the Raiders from the '60s. I must have seen them; I had a teenaged sister, and we did watch Where The Action Is!, the daily TV show that featured the Raiders as house band. But the specific memory ain't there. Later on, I was aware of their sole # 1 hit, "Indian Reservation," but didn't associate the song with a group's name. Instead, the Raiders became part of my mass embrace of 1960s rock 'n' roll in the mid '70s. I bought 45s of the Raiders' "I Had A Dream" and "Him Or Me--What's It Gonna Be?" from my friend Jay, fell for "Kicks" via a TV commercial for some various-artists set, and began my Raiders LP collection with a used copy of their second album, Just Like Us! I confess I didn't even like it all that much on first listen, and almost got rid of it. Glad I didn't do that! The cover tunes never mattered much to me, but "Steppin' Out" and especially the awesome Wilson Pickett meets The Kinks burner "Just Like Me" would soon dig in and take over. I was on my way to being a Raiders fan.

I saw ads for The Spectre's appearances in DC's tryout comic book Showcase in '66, and subsequently bought the first issue of his own title off the rack at Sweethearts Corner in North Syracuse in 1967. I liked The Ghostly Guardian immediately, and continued to buy the title whenever I could. I'd missed The Spectre's appearance in the 1966 Justice League of America/Justice Society of America crossover, and bemoaned the fact that he wasn't used often in the annual JLA/JSA team-ups that followed. DC killed the already-dead character off in Justice League Of America # 83 in 1970. He would return, big time, in the pages of Adventure Comics in 1974.

I had a summer job at Hofmann Sausage Company in 1979. One of my coworkers was into Rick James. I had seen print ads for James' album Bustin' Out Of L Seven, with its comics-style cover and promise of punk-funk, but hadn't heard any of the music. My coworker recommended I stop listening to that punk rock crap and get hip to some Rick James already; he also recommended I start cheating on my girlfriend with as many willing young lasses as I could find, so I took his advice with a grain of salt. I didn't hear Rick James until he appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1981, performing "Give It To Me Baby" and "Super Freak." I was impressed. Some short time after that, the girlfriend (same one as in '79) and I saw a young rock 'n' roll band at a local bar, and their repertoire of Rolling Stones and Who covers also included Rick James' "Give It To Me Baby." I was instantly struck with the continuity of a group of white rock 'n' roll kids covering contemporary black music, just as The Rolling Stones had covered R & B gems over a decade before. I was sold. And I bought myself a copy of Rick James' Street Songs album.

The fifth and final issue of Charlton Comics' Blue Beetle was a coverless purchase after the fact. I don't remember whether or not I had seen any previous issues of Blue Beetle before this. If I even knew who writer/artist Steve Ditko was, it would have been through DC Comics' house ads in 1968, trumpeting Ditko on The Hawk And The Dove and Beware The Creeper! I was too young to know Ditko's earlier work on The Amazing Spider-Man, a character he co-created. I also didn't know who Ayn Rand was, but Ditko tried his level best to impart Randian philosophy in Blue Beetle # 5. Heavy-handed? Oh yeah. But also gripping and engaging, as Blue Beetle teamed with The Question to face down the anonymous mediocrity of Our Man, "The Destroyer Of Heroes." Now that DC owns the Charlton Action Heroes, I occasionally dream of a Justice League/Justice Society/Action Heroes crossover, and I imagine Our Man as the antagonist. Though that might be too ambitious for Our Man.

I have never owned a vinyl copy of The Runaways' eponymous debut album. And I had never heard of them before fumbling across a used copy of that LP at Record Revolution over Christmas break 1976-77. But I saw Cherie Currie staring at me from the front cover, and I was in love. I saw Sandy West, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, and Joan Jett--and Cherie again--on the back cover, and I was in love with them, too. It was a gatefold interior, unsealed, giving me one more chance to fall in love with all of them at the same time. Good-looking girls my age in a rock 'n' roll band? Thank you, God! But...I didn't know them. I'd never heard them. I didn't want to risk the investment, so I put the pretty, pretty LP back in the bin. I regretted that decision in short order, but I was back home in Syracuse before I had a chance to reconsider. After that, I read about The Runaways in Phonograph Record Magazine, and finally heard them when I got to college in the fall of '78. Instant fan. Belatedly. I bought all subsequent Runaways LPs--Queens Of Noise at the North Syracuse K-Mart, Waiting For The Night at The Record Grove in Brockport, Live In Japan at a Battlefield Mall record store in Springfield, Missouri, And Now...The Runaways from wherever I got it--but I didn't own a copy of The Runaways until finding a CD reissue at Media Play, decades later.

The Atlas Comics line only lasted about a year, from 1974 to '75, before buckling under its own weight. Though its lifespan was brief, I was thrilled that it existed at all, and disappointed it didn't last longer. As we discussed in our Mighty Comics entry above: More superheroes! My first Atlas book was probably The Scorpion # 1, starring a 1930s-era mercenary whose pulpy exploits thrilled this teenaged fan of The Shadow and Doc Savage. I knew writer/artist Howard Chaykin from his work on Batman in a then-recent issue of Detective Comics, and I thought this stuff was brilliant. Alas, Chaykin was only around for the first two issues (and with a lot of help on The Scorpion # 2). By the time of the third issue, Atlas was on the brink of collapse, and The Scorpion became a generic contemporary (boring) superhero. Chaykin redid his concept of The Scorpion for Marvel, re-naming it as Dominic Fortune.

As a young rock 'n' roll fan in the '70s, I did not care about Elvis Presley. I may or may not have appreciated his importance, but I certainly didn't care about him on any direct level. He had started to become a subject of parody, and I didn't see anything of value beyond the parody. But it was in fact a parody that drew me into the appeal of the real Elvis. Comedian Andy Kaufman was on The Tonight Show, doing his own already-familiar schtick. Kaufman segued into a letter-perfect Elvis impersonation, not exaggerated or distorted, but just...true. Genuine. Sincere. I know it's silly, but Kaufman's Elvis opened my mind to the King. "Heartbreak Hotel" became my favorite. I wasn't a full-on Elvis fan, but I wasn't criticizing him anymore either. He was supposed to play in Syracuse in 1977, his second-ever appearance in the 'Cuse. I had no intention of going. A few days before his scheduled show, my favorite FM rock station started playing a lot of Elvis songs, back to back. It didn't take me long to realize that it wasn't a tailgate party for Elvis in Syracuse; the King was dead. I owned two Elvis 45s, hand-me-down copies of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel." I saw the '68 comeback special some time later, and his movie Loving You, and I understood. A few years later, my first Elvis album was the 2-LP 40 Greatest on pink vinyl, purchased from Brockport's Main Street Records in 1982. I also bought albums by Roxy Music and The Lords Of The New Church on the same visit. I no longer considered Elvis as separate from the stuff I liked. Thenkyew. Thankyewverymuch.


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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.

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