Comic purists usually shoot a cross with their fingers at me when I admit that I stopped buying actual comic books years ago. As soon as it was available, I switched abruptly to digital through Comixology. While I absolutely hate the fact that I can’t purchase the comics directly though their app anymore, I still love the immersive, guided reading experience that they offer because it’s the closest I can get to replicating the similar feeling I got when I was a kid reading the old See, Hear, and Read book and record sets, only sans audio.
Regardless of not collecting hard copies anymore, that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good comic expo. I’ve been to shows that had 5 tables of comics and to the ones where you can barely navigate through the sea of cosplayers. Fortunately, in the middle, are Pug’s Comic Expos of North Jersey. Pug Productions has faithfully put on comic book shows around North Jersey ever since I can remember. My Dad took me to these in the early ’90s when they were basically the premiere comic convention in Jersey without having to cross the river over to New York. Mind you, these shows are far from being on the level of a New York Comic Con, but they make up for their scale by laser focusing on comic books. Sure, there’s always a few tables with some action figures, trading cards and random plush toys, but for the most part, the Pug comic shows are meant for serious comic collectors without all the B.S and veiled advertising of the big shows.
Sunday welcomed the early signs of Spring and I happily absorbed every bit of it. The insane sub zero conditions and constant snowstorms made this winter excessively depressing in New Jersey this year, so this was a perfect chance to get out of the house and look through a hundred long boxes of dusty old comics with Matt from Dinosaur Dracula, who actually came up with the great idea to go. With the sun shining and temperatures warm enough to start melting mountains of snow that piled up throughout this abysmal winter, a quick drive up the Garden State Parkway was just what the doctor ordered.
Arrived: Community Recreation Center – Clifton, NJ
I noticed the old school NJ Devils mural above me as I walked into a big bright room that was starting to fill up with a bunch of mellow comic lovers. It was as if it was in some kind of artists loft.
Since I wasn’t looking for anything specific, I really left fate in the hands of the cover art. If it grabbed me then I grabbed it. With comic books, the covers are deceiving and are rarely a good indication of whether it’s going to be a worthwhile read or not. Chances are slim that I actually wind up reading any of these though. They’ll probably get more of a thumb-through job at most. Sounds pretty dirty, but accurate. The two limited collectors’ editions may get full-on reads, but I’ll get to them last.
It’s been unpopular to be a DC guy for most of my existence on Earth (Earth-One that is!), but I’ve been one for better or worse since 1982. Hence, as expected, my haul was DC heavy with a GI Joe and Vampirella thrown in for good measure. Most of the comics I bought ranged from 50¢ cents to $10 dollars. Let’s see what I came home with:
JLA #121, December 2005
Arrow and Black Canary on the cover was the driving force of this pickup. Actually, who am I kidding? There was no way in hell I would pass up Black Canary’s lady parts all up in my face! C’mon, we know Canary is agile and even acrobatic, but in this issue, every chance she gets she’s putting her vajayjay on displayay. There’s no way the artist didn’t realize this. Before even opening the book, there was a possible 69 situation with one of my favorite female characters in all of the DCU, but after skipping through merely 3 pages…BANG there’s another one! As Black Canary narrowly escapes the path of Green Arrow’s exploding arrow, she’s spread eagle again, er, spread Canary more appropriately. For the record, here’s a “Hey now!” Worth the price of 50¢ cents, I’d say.
Canary Crotch Count: 3
GI JOE ACTION FORCE #13, May 1987
I was pretty pumped to come across some back issues of Action Force for $2 bucks. Quickly, I remembered their larger format didn’t necessarily equal quality due to their super-thin paper that gives them a cheaper, newspaper supplement feel. It’s unimportant though when you check out the diabolically evil face on Destro playing Cobra like a marionette puppet. I love the concept and the colors really pop here too.
Inside, there’s a cool little scene where Scarlett takes the ferry to Manhattan from Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, our neighbors. You can see the Twin Towers in the background as they sail back from Manhattan. Later in the issue Destro stars in a Casablanca parody, you know, cause he loves his Bogey films.
VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #18, September 1995
Although I’ve owned some Vampirella comics for many years, I’ve never actually read any of them. I’ve always meant to though. Although I adore it’s cover, this issue is not going to be my first foray into the exploits of the half naked seductive vampire. Not too much of interest inside this one, although the back cover is a completely different story. Hello nurse! I was greeted with a full page of Vampirella cosplay advertising Vampirelly strikes #1. And this stupid autocorrect keeps changing Vampirella to Vampirelly. VampiREALLY? Get off my back.
THE NEW TITANS #71, November 1990
This double sized issue is the first in a nine part storyline and it’s probably the most intriguing and well written of the stash I brought home. Why do you seem so stressed out, Nightwing? What I gather from the cover is that The New Titans 10th anniversary party didn’t go well so now Dick has to seek counseling. Starfire wasn’t happy with the puff pastry hors d’oeuvres and the Crab Rangoon was cold, WTF? The balloons were overinflated and they started to pop midway through the party (f*cking seriously?) which caused a ruckus in Cyborg’s earpiece. Shucks, this party was a bust guys.
Seriously though, Nightwing reminiscences about his team on their anniversary and we get a tour through his mind and get a front row seat of his thoughts and memories of each member. We see a retelling of some origins and his perspective of what qualities each member brings to the team.
There was also an interesting piece about how the Titans now have to keep track of all their cases, likely because it was becoming the technology age. As he sat near a computer, Dick described how different the team operates now, in some ways it’s easier but more challenging in others. Unlike the old days, they now worry about their finances! Can you imagine an entire one-shot comic detailing the bumpy road that Cyborg had to navigate to successfully file his income tax return? See, things were even meta back then since Dick was talking about licensing each team member for their own action figures.
A bizarre coincidence happened when I read through a panel that took place at the opera. A quick cameo by one of my favorites, Jillian Jackson, a.k.a Beast Boy’s girlfriend, made a comment to him about how she had tickets to see New Kids. What are the chances there would be an NKOTB reference in this comic? This proved to be even more weird since I bought Miss Sexy Armpit a couple of packs of unopened New Kids on the Block trading cards at the comic expo as well.
Possibly my favorite part was this whacked out convo about why Starfire needs to wear a bathing suit at the beach and how bathing suits make her feel inhibited. Meanwhile Dick is disguised as a ’70s porn star. This was the best thing in the whole comic haul. As an added bonus, there’s a cliffhanger with Deathstroke getting enlisted to help the Titans against that bastard Wildebeest to continue the story into the next several issues.
SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, LIMITED COLLECTOR’S EDITION, 1976
This book was a dollar originally, and if it came out today, given it’s size and the overinflated prices we see nowadays, it would probably be $12 at least. The first thing that hit me when I opened it up is that it totally stinks inside. The inside smells so foul it’s like a castle dungeon from the dark ages filled with decomposing corpses. That may have been too graphic, but I know actual people who were born the same year this came out and they don’t smell half as bad.
The book is in excellent condition otherwise and it was well worth the price of $10 bucks, in fact I might actually read this one eventually if I can survive the paper of eternal stench. The two page spreads of the diagram of Legion Headquarters and the wedding photo pinup of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are awesome and frame worthy.
The other grabber for me here was Saturn Girl. I may cut her out and hang her on the wall of my prison cell if I ever wind up in jail.
SHAZAM: THE ORIGINAL CAPTAIN MARVEL, LIMITED COLLECTOR’S EDITION, 1974
My motivation for getting this one, in addition to mildly enjoying the character, was actually assembling the diorama that’s touted on the cover, but that would mean ruining the comic. I decided to look through all the pages to see what I’d be massacring. Turns out that it was filled with some pretty goofy, comic-strip type adventures. There’s no doubt that I enjoy these types of stories, but not enough to make me say say that I won’t cut the shit out of the back cover. Sorry Shazam. All things considered, I think having the diorama is going to be more fun in the long run than stashing away the comic in a pile of comics. Of course, when the Shazam movie comes out and this book’s price skyrockets to $150 on eBay, I will be kicking myself in the nuts with the strength of Hercules.
When buying stuff from discount long boxes under the tables, it’s easy to feel like you spent too much money since you’re probably going home with a bunch of books, but then you remember they were the least desirable books in the rec center that day, so you feel justified. You too can give books like these a new home for merely a stack of coins. Next show is March 29th! http://www.njcomicbookshows.com