Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nine books, magazines and comics that made a great Tuesday afternoon even better

One of the extremely fortunate side effects of being flown to Sydney to hear the new Doctor Who talk last week was that I got a free couple of hours to kill in the centre of town in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, which meant I could hit up the local comic shops for the first time in a couple of years.

It was the perfect way to fill time between chats with famous people, and I managed to find a few gems in the back issue bins, and one appropriate brick of a book on the bookshelves, and a Bicentennial Battle in a glorious mess.

How do you make the greatest Tuesday afternoon even better? With comics!

Captain America's Bicentennial Battles
By The King

My favourite comic shops are messy comic shops, and one of my favourite messy comic shops is Comics Kingdom on Liverpool St in central Sydney. There are all sorts of weird gems in that place, hidden beneath unloved copies of '80s Doctor Fate comics.

I last went there in 2010, and it was just as random and colourful as I remembered when I returned. I came away with a couple of things I'd been after for literally decades, but it was the random shit I was looking for, and I found the ultimate example.

Maybe they were just too big, or maybe the print runs were too small to send stuff all the way around the world, but I would never see the treasury comics that Marvel and DC put out. The stories might eventually show up in cheap, smaller, black and white reprints from Australia, but those big-ass comics never made it to my end of the world.

And I ached for them, because I'd see them in the ads in the regular comics, promising exciting thrills and gigantic art that I would never see. That ache only grew over the years, as I'd read about those comics in things like Back Issue Magazine, and I did see the odd one floating about at conventions and stores, but they were always priced incredibly high.

So, of course, Comics Kingdom has a small box full of Marvel and DC Treasury editions in good condition for less than twenty bucks, and the only trouble I had was deciding which one to get. In the end, despite a longing for those big, important Legion of Super-Heroes tabloid comics, I had to go for Captain America's Bicentennial Battles by Jack Kirby, because if you can only get one bold, brash and bright Treasury Special, it should be the boldest, brashest and brightest.

Because it's a Kirby-psychedelic trip through the history of the USA, with all the right-on political correctness you'd expect in a comic from 1976. It's glorious and silly, and massive, and perfectly random.

Wimbledon Green
By Seth

The comic collectors and traders who make up the cast of characters in Wimbledon Green would doubtlessly sneer at me for implying that anything as mundane as a Kirby Captain America comic from the 1970s could be rare, but it's the same strange obsession, at different scales.

I'm surprised it took me so long to get my own copy, instead of mooching off the library, because Wimbledon Green might be my favourite Seth comic. It's partly because I recognise that obsession, and partly because it was a book created on a lark, with no hint of self importance or real pretension.

It still manages to be a withering portrayal of men destroying lives over trivial objects, but it's also a hilariously deadpan and subtly complex  story, even if it is just a lark.

2000ad # 761
By Tharg and chums

Even in this age of instant gratification, and the assurance that you won't ever miss anything you don't have to, I still miss the odd issue of 2000ad, and sometimes I have to travel to other countries to plug the gap.

As a reading experience, it can be a total pain in the arse, but it's enormously satisfying to find that one single issue you're looking for, especially when they're hard to locate.

Alec: The Years Have Pants
By Eddie Campbell

Every other time I've been in Australia in the past few years, I've thought I should get Eddie Campbell's excellent collection of his decades-spanning Alec comics, because it seems like the sort of comic that should be bought in the country that stars in many of his strips, but I've always decided not to, mainly because it's such a brick of a book that I'm pretty sure it will put me over the limit of my baggage allowance when I fly back home to New Zealand.

This time, it was a two-day business trip, so I had loads of spare weight in my bags heading home, so I had no reason not to load up on hundreds and hundreds of pages of real-life boozy autobiographical comics.

There are many reasons why somebody might buy a certain book at a certain time, and this is probably one of the dumbest.

Judge Dredd Annual 1985 / Star Lord Annual 1982
By TB Grover, John Howard and John Wagner

British hardback comic annuals weren't as rare as the Treasury comics, and some years there would be a huge variety showing up at the local bookstores in the 1980s, but not always. Some years, there would just be those same tantalizing ads, with no chance of actually reading them.

So the local shops would be flooded with copies of the Judge Dredd Annual 1981, or the 1986 2000ad annual, but I've still never even seen the 1983 annuals anywhere.

So I can never resist getting them when I do see them, even if they're $12 for books that have had coffee spilled on them, with the spine coming away. And they might be full of one-off, unimportant short stories and flagrant reprints, and that Star Lord annual might be a particularly cheap affair, with a Blake's 7 cover, just after the gritty space programme was unceremoniously dumped, but I don't care.

I'll get them anytime I see them, because I might never see them again.

Running Through Corridors
By Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke

The authors of this book watched every episode of Doctor Who, in order, two a day, and wrote to each other, saying what they think about the episode. It's going to take them months and months, and several books – the one I bought in Sydney, 20 minutes after Peter Capaldi grinned at me, only covers the sixties episodes.

It's a mammoth effort, and a pretty silly thing to do, devoting so much time and effort to this ridiculous little television show, and I'm totally going to have to do it too now.

Flash #71, Ronin #4
By Miller, Waid and LaRoque

Man, I've been after these fuckers since 1992.

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