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    Here's still another amazing treasure shared with the world by comicbookplus. Jerry Siegel teams up with Alex Schomburg for this very different type of adventure mag. Our thanks go out to Henry Peters for uploading this one, from the first and only issue of Jon Juan, published in the Spring of 1950. Jon Juan, you'll gather, is immortal, which means he still lives somewhere among us. It it possible he now resides in Tacoma, WA under the name Napier? 

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  • 07/26/18--05:00: Sherlock Socks

  • Tough Jim Gaston wants a pair of each, and so do you. 

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    I've been itching for a look at some Harry Whittington westerns, and finally picked up three on a recent roadtrip. This one got the nod as my first because it has the coolest title. The edition I got (pictured below, not above) is a bit odd. The copyright page says it was:

    Produced in Israel for 
    PRIORY BOOKS, London, England by 
    Tel Aviv

    I'm not sure what to make of all that. An American, English language western called Hangrope Town seems a weird choice if it was intended for Israeli readers. The back cover lists prices for the U.K., U.S.A., Australia, South Africa and Canada, but not Israel. And while it says "first published by Ballantine Books," there is no copyright date - not even a year of publication.

    Familiar only with Whittington's Gold Medalish suspense novels, I sort of expected to meet a western ne'er-do-well obsessed with an oversexed western babe who drives him to his doom. But this wasn't that. At least, not exactly. 

    The first half of the book, though, is damn good. Our hero is a forty-dollars-a-month marshal named Curt Brannon, appointed by the feds because the two-bit town of Sage Wells needs law, and is apparently too cheap to hire their own sheriff. And right away, he has a damn big problem: The town is quaking in its boots because a really bad dude just released from prison is coming to exact his revenge on the folks who sent him up.

    As a teenager, the really bad dude, who happens to be a half-breed, terrorized the town before killing the no-account son of the richest rancher. In the years since, he's been sending threatening letters to members of the jury and everyone else involved. Now the rancher is trying to turn the citizenry into a lynch mob. Marshal Brannon, a noble and stubbon soul, insists they can't touch the guy until he commits a crime. 

    Whittington ratchets up the tension as Brannon pisses off the whole town while awaiting the bad dude's arrival. When he finally arrives, halfway through the book, he's every bit as nasty as advertised, but he's not packing heat, so Brannon is powerless to arrest him. 

    After that build-up, I expected a high-octane finish. Instead, the story sort of fizzles. Brannon suffers a lot of anguish, as does the rich rancher, both primarily due to the idiocy of the rancher's daughter. Another no-account is murdered, and there's a lot of worrying about whodunnit, but if that's ever definitely resolved, I didn't notice. After more diddyling around, things come to a head, and Brannon and the bad dude come to conclusions, but I had the feeling Whittington had lost interest in the proceedings, and was trying to get it over with. 

    That said, the prose is consistently tight and tough, and the book is short. So while the second half did not meet expectations, it wasn't long enough to be boring. I'm hoping the other two I picked up, Desert Stake-Out and Charro!, will be better.

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    For you fans (like me) of "The Brain-Bats of Venus" (HERE), here's another classic from Mr.Wolverton. This first adventure of the Space Patrol appeared in Amazing Mystery Funnies Vol. 2 #12, for Sept. 1939. I found it on comicbookplus.

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    Earlier Frank Hamilton posts HERE.

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    For the past couple of years I’ve been working my way through this series, and recently finished the seventh and last (to date) installment, The Woman Who Died a Lot.

    I was hesitant in trying to explain what this series is all about, because even the most basic description is likely to make me sound batshit crazy. But since you probably already think (or know) that I’m insane, I decided to give it a shot.

    First off, you have to know that for this to make any kind of sense, you have to start at the beginning. That’s The Eyre Affair, published back in 2001. It takes place in Wessex, England in a similar but generally wacked-out universe. Among the differences, not they’re really essential to the plot, are that Neanderthals have been cloned, and now function among the general population, that vampires, werewolves and what-have-you are real and must be hunted down when they get out of line, and that people are obsessed with toast and black market cheese. 

    More germane to the plot are the facts that time travel is possible, that all facets of existence are pretty much under the thumb of the multi-national Goliath Corporation, that all religions have converged into belief in a General Standard Deity, and that a meteor is hurtling in the general direction of Earth, expected to arrive thirty-some years in the future. But at least in this first book, all that stuff is pretty much by-the-way, and the important thing is that everyone readsand is wildly passionate about one sort of literature or another.  Didn’t I tell you it was insane?

    Thursday Next is a minor agent in a minor division of the multi-layered SpecOps Bureau, an agency need to keep all the aforementioned stuff, including literature, from going off the rails. In The Eyre Affair, Thursday learns of the existence of a Book World, sort of an extra dimension in which everything (and every character) ever written carries on a life of its own. By some crazy means or another, Thursday finds her way into the Book World, and Jane Eyre in particular, where she is unable to resist changing the ending. This makes her a hero to some and villain to others, and carries her into the next book, where she goes much deeper into the Book World.

    From there on, things just get nuttier. Some books are light on plot, with heavy sprinklings of humor. Others are heavy on humor, with light sprinklings of plot. You won’t care which. You’ll be having too much fun.

    In Lost in a Good Book (2002) we meet Thursday’s father, a time-travelling agent of the ChronoGuard, and her mad scientist Uncle Mycroft. Thursday spends some time in Great Expectationsand Kafka’s The Trial while working as an apprentice of Jurisfiction, the Book World’s own policing arm, goes chasing after a lost play of Shakespeare, and helps her father prevent the destruction of the real world.

    In The Well of Lost Plots(2003), we enter a special area of the Book World devoted to unpublished manuscripts. While living inside an unpublished detective novel, Thursday become head of Jurisfiction and battles to save the Book World from destruction.

    Something Rotten (2004) gets even crazier, as characters (such as Hamlet) start crossing into the real world and more real people make trouble in the Book World. In First Among Sequels (2007), Thursday meets and gets pains in the neck from fictional versions of herself. In One of Our Thursdays is Missing (2011), one of those fictional Thursdays takes the stage, searching for the real Thursday. 

    Finally, in The Woman Who Died a Lot (2012), she tries to avoid her home town being smited by the Almighty (He has now revealed himself and is getting serious about sin) and avoid the world’s destruction by that meteor mentioned back in paragraph four. Meanwhile, folks are searching for a way into (and plotting nefarious uses of) the Dark Reading Matter—another extra dimension populated by unwritten stories, lost books and imaginary childhood friends.

    That last novel ends with Thursday planning a visit to the Dark Reading Matter. On his website, Jasper Fforde says that will be the title of the next Thursday Next book, which he hopes to start writing a couple of years from now. Hope that’s true. Meanwhile, I’ll soon be beginning the journey again, with a second reading of The Eyre Affair. Didn't I tell you I was insane?

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    These little bytes of advertising history were all found on comicbookplus.

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    Talk about an all-star cast! This tale (found on comicbookplus, 'natch) is said to be a collaboration by these four gents, along with Angelo Torres. I'd be surprised if there isn't a panel-by-panel analysis somewhere positing who did what, but if there's such a thing, I failed to find it online. 

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    This book has been a long time coming. Way back in 1995, Mr. Carl Richter, in collaboration with Robert Crumb himself, produced Crumb-Ology: The Works of Robert Crumb 1981-1994, an 81-page hardcover published by Water Row Press. Four years later, he followed up with a supplement covering another four years.

    Now, at last, Fantagraphics is publishing Mr. Richter's vastly expanded 320-page work, The Crumb Compendium, and the book will be officially released either Oct. 31 or Nov. 6, depending which website you look at. It's now available for pre-order.

    I have no idea what illustrations will be included, so I googled up a few strange and wondrous things to whet your appetite (and mine). 

    Here's a description of the book, gleaned from the blog of the same (just a coincidence, I'm told) name:

    The Crumb Compendium lists and organizes all of Crumb’s published work to date: comics, papers and other periodicals, books, catalogs, posters, juvenilia, cards and all other printed ephemera. Records and CDs as well as merchandise like buttons, statues and shirts are also included, as well as listings of articles and interviews, characters and comic strip titles and published photographs.

    Richter’s research is impeccable — he has been a valued consultant on The Complete Crumb Comics library since its inception — and virtually all listed items were examined first hand without relying on the research of others. Most of the material is from the author’s own collection; other items were examined in private collections and university archives. In a few cases photostats or scans from other collections and institutions were acquired, and Crumb himself served as a consultant to ensure the most accurate information.

    The Crumb Compendium will be heavily illustrated with rare pieces from Crumb’s career, making this an essential text for all Crumb collectors and scholars. 320 pages of black-and-white comics and illustrations.

    The Crumb Compendium lists and organizes all of Crumb's published work to date and serves as the definitive guide to the work of greatest cartoonist of all time. Comics, periodicals, books, catalogs, posters, juvenilia, cards and all other printed ephemera are included along with records and CD's, buttons, statues and shirts plus listings of articles and interviews. It will be heavily illustrated, making this an essential text for all Crumb collectors and scholars and having had Crumb himself serve as a consultant ensured the most accurate information.

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    After sitting on this book for more than thirty years, thinking it was kind of cool to have an unread Jonathan Latimer on hand, I finally decided the time was right. And I have to admit, it wasn't worth the wait.

    It's a mystery, of course. You can tell that by the Crime Club logo on the cover. But the real mystery is - why did Latimer write this thing?

    As a mystery novel written by a nonentity like "Peter Coffin," it's okay. Far from "The Season's Most Startling and Diverting Mystery Story," as claimed on the cover and title page, but okay. But as a book written by Jonathan Latimer - a fact they took no great pains to disguise - it's a snoozer.

    How do we know it's Latimer? Well, you can read the big fat clue on the inside flap of the dust jacket, which I've provided here. But the clincher is that halfway into the book, the protagonist gets a phone call from Colonel Black, the head of a large detective agency, announcing that Black will be joining the cast of the story. This same Colonel Black, as anyone who's read the Bill Crane series knows, is the head of the agency Crane works (between drinks) for.

    I can't recall if the Colonel ever appears on stage in the Crane novels, or if he's just a presence in the background and a voice on the phone. But we meet him here, and he's the most insteresting thing about the book. More about him later.

    "Peter Coffin," we learn on page 2, is the narrator and lead character of the novel. His uncle Tobias Coffin has just summoned him, and the rest of the clan, to his secluded manor house somewhere in the wilds of Michigan. After a creepy and atmospheric trudge through the forest, he arrives at the estate, where he finds a bunch of relatives he's never met pointing guns at him. It's all pretty much downhill from there.

    Some of these relatives are mildly quirky, and others mildly unpleasant, but nothing rising to previous Latimer standards. Nothing much interesting happens except that his uncle's gets chopped off, and, as you know from the title, goes missing.

    Peter Coffin is not a detective, and makes no effort to act like one. He's a California college professor specializing in the Restoration period of English history. He spends most of his time being bewildered and worrying about the others thinking him a coward. As the story progresses, that wondering focusses on a certain nice looking Miss Leslie, to whom he is apparently not related by blood. Yes, there's a sniff of romance in the air.

    So what we have here is your basic Classic English-style Manor House mystery, with a bunch of not-especially-interesting people shut up with a murderer, wondering whodunnit and waiting for the next inevitable killing. The main thing that sets this one apart is the fact that the killer lops off heads with a meat cleaver rather than employing a rare poison. The minor thing that sets it apart is that there's no compelling reason all these people to stick around, except to offer their necks to the killer. 

    So what possessed Latimer to write such a thing? The dust jacket calls it "utterly foreign to his usual work," and that's an understatement. There is no humor. No banter. No carousing. No drunkeness. No fun. I'm guessing he did it on a bet or a dare. Someone told him he couldn't write a Manor House mystery, and he proved them wrong. But so what? He merely proved that he could be ordinary.

    Lopping off heads just wasn't enough. He should have gone the whole hog and done a proper send-up of the sub-genre, with his usual recipe of humor, banter, carousing, drunkeness and fun. He had a chance to hit a home run, and bunted instead.

    As for Colonel Black, it was nice to see him fleshed out, but he was still only mildly engaging. As a Classic detective, he's an expert in every subject that comes up, including Elizabethan dramatists, fine brandy, flowers, bees and cows. The silliest thing he says is "I try to catch you in a lie, because one of the primary principles of detection is that no one ever lies but the criminal." Jeez, what fictional world is he living in? It can't be the same one inhabited by Bill Crane and Doc Williams.

    Meanwhile, I'm curious to know what you think of this little Crime Club booger. After ignoring him for years, and thinking he just looked awkward and uncomfortable, I took a closer look and realized he spells CRIME. Awkwardly and uncomfortably. I know - big whoop. Did somebody think this was pretty cool beans back in the '30s? Maybe it was the editor who proclaimed The Search for My Great-Uncle's Head to be "The Season's Most Startling and Diverting Mystery Story."

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    Once again from comicbookplus, here's an adventure of my great-great-great grandson Lance Lewis (named by my descendants, no doubt, for Lance Casebeer), as drawn by Ghastly Graham Ingels. This one is from the May, 1947 of Startling Comics (aka No. 45). Of special interest are the cheater panels, where Ingels reuses his own potatohead alien artwork. Can't really blame him, but it was pretty ballsy to do it on successive pages.

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     Lance Casebeer, beer in hand, points the way (probably to the keg).
    I have no drinking problem, says his shirt. I drink. I get drunk. I fall down. No problem.

    Books . . . 

    books . . . 

     . . . more books.

    Tom Lesser scores a stack of digests.

    The noble profile of Cap'n Bob Napier

    Me and somebody's head.

    More of the usual suspects.

    Bruce Taylor surveys the scene.

    The booking never stops . . . 

    . . . never.

    Murder for auction.

    Marilyn makes an appearance.

    Who remembers the USFL? Dick Wald does. The Portland Breakers was our pro football team (for almost two whole years).

    Lance's legendary basement . . .

     . . .  where it was wall-to-wall paperbacks. 

    The Cap'n hoarding his booty.

    The guy who put the Lance in LanceCon.

    Pics, as always, thanks to the Official Photographer of LanceCon, Arty Art Scott.

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    After picking up The Further Chronicles of Conan at Goodwill recently, containing Robert Jordan's fourth, fifth and final Conan novels, I decided to go back and reread the first two. (I read all six back in the '80s, so for some this is the third time through.)

    I jabbered about the first novel, Conan the Invincible, a couple of years ago (HERE), so it's now time to say a few words about the second.

    Conan the Defender takes place a year or two after Invincible, and involves two Jordan creations introduced in the first book. Most important is Hordo, a one-eyed former bandit chieftan who's now involved with a smuggling ring. In this book, he ably fills the role of Conan's sidekick and drinking buddy. The other returnee is a flame-haired she-devil named Karela, formerly known as the notorious bandit leader The Red Hawk. She, too, is a good character, but that's all I'm going to tell you about her, because to say more would be a SPOILER. 

    Conan, a thief in the fist book, has graduated to mercenary, and has set his sites on forming his own Free Company (which is a whole band of mercenaries). He's left Shadizar behind, and now has just arrived in Belverus, capital of Nemedia. As usual, there are several nubile maidens on hand, and the obligatory evil sorceror dabbling with forces beyond his control. Of greater interest, there's a plot to usurp the throne of Nemedia from an unpopular king.

    Robert Jordan made no attempt to ape Howard's style. Instead, he created his own, which lacks the poetry and rhythm of REH, but still has its charms. His Conan is more thoughtful, a bit more scrupulous, and has a wider-ranging sense of humor. He'd be a good guy to go carousing with. Finishing one of these books makes me want to start right in on the next, which is as it should be. 

    Strange to say, parts of this story seem somewhat dated, a problem I never encountered in the Howard stories published sixty years earlier. How did this happen? Well, as part of the plot to overthrow the king, the conspirators stir up unrest among the city's artists, poets and free-thinkers. This little band of radicals believes in the power of peace and love, and hopes to bring about politcal change without tarnishing their ideals with violence. How quaint. That may have reflected the climate when this book was published in 1982, but if it were written today the protestors would be wearing masks and helmets, and throwing bottles at the City Guard.

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    This pre-MAD dust-up with Pot-Shot Pete appeared in Billy the Kid Adventure Magazine #9, from March 1952. I found it on comicbookplus, as uploaded by "movielover." Stay tuned. Pete will ride again!