12/30/05 - While reading Wizard #170 recently, I was struck by the following quote offered by current Captain America writer Ed Brubaker on certain issues/stories being "taboo" in comics:
""No, see, the unspoken rule is there really are no unwritten rules. Or at least, if there are, they were not-written so long ago that now everyone has forgotten why they were so unspoken in the first place. The only rule is: Is it a good story?"
Brubaker was specifically addressing concerns about his current storyline revealing the formerly very dead Cap sidekick Bucky had survived and was alive in the Marvel Universe. His comment shows incredible ignorance about what makes Captain America tick in my opinion and outlines an inherent problem throughout the current Marvel stable.
When Captain America was resurrected by Marvel in 1964, Stan Lee, as only he could, added layers to the character to make him relevant to current readers. One of the most important aspects was the fact Bucky died during the accident that also put CA in deep freeze for 20 years. This fact has haunted the character since his revival. Multiple stories, some classics, throughout the last 40 years have addressed his grief for surviving instead of Bucky. Resurrecting the sidekick cheapens both characters and the storylines that defined them. Continuity has been thrown out the window because one writer, and apparently the current Marvel administration, think it was a good idea. I should be surprised but, frankly, I'm not. Marvel has shown an increasing disregard for their history; all in the interest of "shocking" readers. The current Spider-Man is another example...
No one at Marvel has done more to damage a character as J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) has since he started writing Amazing Spider-Man. Where do I start? He came up with the brilliant notion to reveal Parker's identity to Aunt May. Sullied the most beloved character in the Spidey mythos, Gwen Stacy, by revealing she had pity sex with Norman Osborne (Green Goblin) and had a set of twins contrary to any feasible timeline in the comics. And finally, has come up with a radical revamp of Spidey's origin by suggesting the radioactive spider bite wasn't an accident and Parker is a part of some grand mumbo jumbo Spider heritage. There have apparently been many Spider people over the years. All of these events have severely damaged the character in my eyes. And I can't wait to see how they retcon the whole JMS run...
I've said it before and I'll do so again: Any hack writer can take a character and come up with a decent new story. We see it all the time with fan-fiction. A great writer is one that takes the character and builds upon the history instead of tearing it down. Marvel used to have a great stable of writers that followed this rule for years and made the Marvel Universe a coherent environment that fans wanted to explore and learn about. A unified continuity is good for any comics company as readers become interested in other titles separate from the core titles they're reading. Not because they suddenly want to read about a new character but because they want to read about the whole universe. Result is increased sales across the line.
DC is an example of a company which has taken it's history and crafted storylines that have increasingly drawn in readers. Starting with Identity Crisis and continuing with the current Infinite Crisis, DC has weaved a seamless continuity that embraces what's gone on before and doesn't insult reader's intelligence they can't follow storylines that are continuity-heavy; a claim made by Marvel repeatedly. Their success has generated new readers to the company's titles across the board and are challenging Marvel's #1 spot on the sales charts. When you can make Wonder Woman a top seller, you know you're doing something right...
Recognizing this, Joe Quesada, current Marvel Editor-in-Chief, recently made news when he accused DC of using the current "Marvel formula" to re-energize their line. Quesada is dead wrong. DC isn't following the "Marvel formula" because Marvel doesn't use it anymore...the "Stan Lee formula" is probably more apt. Maybe Joe needs to look a little closer at DC's success and see what he can do to re-float a sinking ship. Because the current Marvel mindset is in danger of seriously damaging what was once a jewel in the comics community...
12/27/05 - I haven't posted much over the last month due to some rather serious computer problems both hardware and software related. That's what I get for deploying with an old computer. Nonetheless, I've found solutions to most of the issues. A major problem was scanning. I couldn't scan pictures without rebooting my computer a couple of times. I've narrowed it down to conflicting software and, hopefully, have the bugs worked out where it won't be an issue. Hopefully...
12/27/05 - Part 6 will cover the Alka Seltzer/US Club wrap found in Marvels cover dated October 1973...
Military Insert Mania - Part 6
-The Alka Seltzer/US Club Wrap-
Three months after the appearance of the Mennen wrap, another ad insert was placed in Marvel comics sold in military exchanges. The Alka Seltzer/US Club (AS/Club) wrap. The wrap goes by either name in collecting circles due to the ads that appeared on the insert. The wrap is not found in the centerfold like the NDS/MJ inserts. The ad was placed directly behind the front and back covers on similar slick paper. The ad campaign lasted exactly one month and can be found in Marvel comics cover dated October 1973.
Page 1 contained the Alka Seltzer ad. Based on the cartoon, it's clear the ad was focused towards military members. A somewhat gruff Army sergeant is shown yelling at a lowly private with accompanying text hyping Alka Seltzer as curing headaches as well as upset stomachs. Looks to me the Sergeant could use some medication himself....
Page 2 advertised the United Service Club. The Club claimed they could get you great deals on flying your family to either London or Frankfurt. $278 roundtrip from Los Angeles for example. I've never been able to get a roundtrip ticket to the States for less than $700. It looks good on the surface but since this ad came out in the early 70s, I'm not sure that the costs would seem cheap in 1973 dollars. For awhile I wondered if it was possible there was another wrap that focused on trips to Pacific areas. Didn't make sense that a GI in Japan or Thailand would care to send his/her family to Europe with them not being there. I finally found confirmation these wraps were indeed in Pacific copies when I bought a couple of Oct 1973 issues containing the wraps with a stamp on the back identifying them as being bought at the Yokota AB, Japan base exchange. So the Pacific GIs were apparently out of luck...
Page 3 is a recruiting ad targeted to boost Army re-enlistment. Since the Vietnam War was still going on, I'm sure the retention rate from draftees wasn't high. In some respects, the Army is currently having the same trouble due to extended deployments to Iraq. Retention rates are down significantly over the last three years not only in the Army, where the problem is most acute, but military-wide as well.
Page 4 features a mail order music cassette and 8-track ad, with slight modifications, as was found on the Mennen wrap and NDS insert.
Below is an example of the AS/Club insert wrap taken from Marvel Spotlight #12 Oct 1973. Click on thumbnail scans for a bigger view of each page. The same insert was used throughout all Marvel titles...
The AS/Club inserts can be found in the following comics (I've confirmed those with an asterisk as having the insert):
Adventure into Fear #17 *
Amazing Spider-Man #125 *
Astonishing Tales #20 *
Avengers #116 *
Captain America #166 *
Combat Kelly #9
Conan the Barbarian #31 *
Crypt of Shadows #6 *
Daredevil #104 *
Defenders #9 *
Doc Savage #7 *
Fantastic Four #139 *
Frankenstein Monster #6
Ghost Rider #2
Hero for Hire #14 *
Incredible Hulk #168 *
Iron Man #63
Journey into Mystery #7
Kid Colt Outlaw #175
Marvel Premiere #11 *
Marvel Spotlight #12 *
Marvel Tales #46 *
Marvel Team-Up #14 *
Marvel's Greatest Comics #45 *
Marvel Super-Heroes #39 *
Mighty Marvel Western #27
Millie the Model #225
Monsters on the Prowl #26
Rawhide Kid #116
SGT Fury and his Howling Commandos #115 *
Special Marvel Edition #13 *
Strange Tales #170
Sub-Mariner #66 *
Thor #216 *
Tomb of Dracula #13 *
Two Gun Kid #113
Uncanny X-Men #84
Vault of Evil #6 *
Warlock #8 *
Werewolf by Night #10 *
Western Gunfighters #18
Where Monsters Dwell #24 *
Again, the AS/Club insert can only be found in Marvels cover dated October 1973. The inserts were not carried in other companies' comics such as DC or Gold Key. Also, if the comic has the insert it should have a MJ cardboard insert in the centerfold. Comics shouldn't have one or the other. Comics missing one or the other is an incomplete comic in my opinion and should be treated as missing a page. I have a couple of theories on why this is. One found without the MJ insert was probably pulled out by a GI for ease of reading. The cardboard inserts can make reading the comic awkward. One without the AS/Club insert was probably pulled by a comic collector or dealer due to the GI actually cutting out the coupons. Pulling the insert out eliminates the stigma of having a comic with a coupon missing and increases it's price in the marketplace. Remember, both should be stapled in the comic...
So that concludes the Marvel military insert series for now. It's recently come to my attention another wrap could have been placed in Marvels in the mid 80s. I won't be able to confirm this until I get access to my collection in March. If so, I'll write another article covering the wrap. Until then, I'm going to continue with the other comic companies which carried the MJ inserts. Next up is DC and that'll be the focus of Part 7...
12/27/05 - Update to the Amazing Spider-Man #129 Mennen insert detailed below. CGC received the comic back from Comiclink and determined the label was in error. The issue does not contain the Mennen insert. I applaud them for quickly resolving the issue. You can still buy this issue from Comiclink, now for $740 vs. the $588 amount the sale was pending before I caught the error, but the picture shown in the ad remains the error copy.
Also of note, the Pedigree Comics website had the same issue for sale. It has since been taken down.
Remember, the Mennen insert will only be found in July 1973 Marvels with a MJ insert included. If either of the three are missing, the comic isn't complete as a true military insert issue...
11/27/05 - The comic below, noted as "Sale Pending" on Comiclink, illustrates why I started the Military Insert series. Note the mention of the MJ and Mennen inserts on the label. Only problem is the comic is cover dated February 1974. If you read my last article, you'll immediately notice the problem. Only Marvel comics cover dated July 1973 have the Mennen insert wrap.
Apparently this comic was disassembled, insert or inserts added, reassembled, and sent to CGC for grading. CGC apparently missed the work. I don't blame CGC for not knowing about the insert timeline though. This comic was graded awhile ago and before CGC changed the look of their blue labels. I wasn't even firmly aware of some aspects of these inserts until I started studying them over two years ago. Hopefully by writing these articles, collectors will be more aware and less likely to be screwed if they happen to want to start collecting the inserts...
11/26/05 - Part 5 will cover one of two additional inserts that were included in Marvel comics sold at overseas military exchanges. The first was the Mennen insert wrap...
Military Insert Mania - Part 5
-The Mennen Wrap-
In addition to the National Diamond Sales (NDS) and Mark Jewelers (MJ) inserts included in Marvel comics, there were a couple of other unique ad supplements directed at overseas military personnel. The first is what has become to be known as the Mennen insert wrap.
The wrap is not found in the centerfold like the NDS/MJ inserts. The ad was placed directly behind the front and back covers on similar slick paper. The ad campaign lasted exactly one month and can be found in Marvel comics cover dated July 1973.
Page 1 and 2 contained a Mennen sponsored "Live Like a Millionaire" sweepstakes directed at military personnel hence the name associated with these inserts. Military members were asked to fill out a coupon and mail it in to enter. The Grand Prize was an all expenses paid vacation on the Italian Rivera. Included was a private villa, servants, meals, and $1700 worth of Italian Lira (approx 1 Mil). Sounded like a great time. Other prizes such as motorcycles, golf clubs, and shavers were offered for those unlucky enough not to win the Grand Prize.
Page 3 advertised mail order albums and 8-track tapes from 1955 to 1971. This same ad was used in early NDS inserts.
Page 4 contained a membership ad for Pentagon Federal Credit Union. In fact, branch offices can still be found on most overseas facilities. On a personal note, I refuse to use them and tell anyone that'll listen not to give them their money as they conveniently kept my wife's money when she and I left a European assignment in the early 90s. Despite repeated attempts to get her money, and being stonewalled throughout, we finally dropped the matter (it wasn't that much money) as the irritation wasn't worth it...
Below is an example of the Mennen insert wrap taken from Kill the Conqueror #9 July 1973. Click on thumbnail scans for a bigger view of each page. The same insert was used throughout all Marvel titles...
The Mennen inserts can be found in the following comics (I've confirmed those with an asterisk as having the insert):
Amazing Adventures #19 *
Amazing Spider-Man #122 *
Avengers #113 *
Captain America #163 *
Captain Marvel #27 *
Chamber of Chills #5
Conan the Barbarian #28 *
Creatures on the Loose #24
Crypt of Shadows #4
Fantastic Four #136 *
Frankenstein Monster #4
Hero for Hire #11 *
Incredible Hulk #165
Iron Man #60
Jungle Action #5
Kid Colt Outlaw #172
Kull the Conqueror #9 *
Marvel Feature #10 *
Marvel Premiere #9 *
Marvel Team-Up #11 *
Marvel's Greatest Comics #43 *
Marvel Super-Heroes #37 *
Mighty Marvel Western #25 *
Rawhide Kid #113
Red Wolf #8
Ringo Kid #21
SGT Fury and his Howling Commandos #112 *
Special Marvel Edition #11 *
Sub-Mariner #63 *
Thor #213 *
Tomb of Dracula #10 *
Two Gun Kid #111
War is Hell #4 *
Werewolf by Night #7
Western Gunfighters #16 *
Where Monsters Dwell #22
Worlds Unknown #2
Again, the Mennen insert can only be found in Marvels cover dated July 1973. The inserts were not carried in other companies' comics such as DC or Gold Key. Also, if the comic has the insert it should have a MJ cardboard insert in the centerfold. Comics shouldn't have one or the other. Comics missing one or the other is an incomplete comic in my opinion and should be treated as missing a page. I have a couple of theories on why this is. One found without the MJ insert was probably pulled out by a GI for ease of reading. The cardboard inserts can make reading the comic awkward. One without the Mennen insert was probably pulled by a comic collector or dealer due to the GI actually cutting out the coupon to enter the sweepstakes. Pulling the insert out eliminates the stigma of having a comic with a coupon missing and increases it's price in the marketplace. Remember, both should be stapled in the comic...
The Mennen insert wouldn't be the last ad campaign of this type targeting military members. Just three months later we would see another insert wrap used in Marvels. The Alka Seltzer or US Club insert. And that'll be the focus of Part 6...
11/20/05 - Part 4 and the final article in the timeline for the Marvel Age of Military Inserts. As well as goodbye to military directed comic inserts altogether...
Military Insert Mania - Part 4
Marvel Mark Jewelers Inserts
-The Colored End of an Era-
October 1986 - July 1991
In Part 3, the Mark Jewelers (MJ) slick numbered inserts ended in Marvels cover dated September 1986. Starting the next month, October 1986, were new slick MJ inserts with one striking difference from those previously. The ad codes, used to identify different inserts and also as a tracking mechanism to identify which comics the ads came from by Mark Jewelers, disappeared. At the same time, the ads started sporting vastly different color schemes. The first inserts in the series featured colored trims surrounding the borders. This quickly morphed into solid colors being used on the whole insert. Also, the frequency in which an ad would change increased. Some of the previous ads would run in a title for as long as a year before being replaced. These new colored inserts would change on average every four months or so. Some lasted one month.
Why the change? One reason is the lack of having to track the inserts put out by different comics companies. The inserts stopped in DC comics a couple of months before this new series appeared. Marvel was now the only comics company used by Mark Jewelers to advertise their wares. Because of this, tracking various inserts by the company was probably simplified and ad codes were no longer required.
The colored inserts would run each month in 32 page Marvels for a little under 5 years. Even though some inserts can be found in Marvels cover dated July 1991, they are few and seem isolated to the Spider-Man line. The inserts were probably placed in these comics to exhaust overstock. In reality, the inserts started to phase out in May and June 1991.
Below is a typical MJ colored insert taken from Uncanny X-Men #277 June 1991. This is also the last X-Men issue you will find the insert...
Overall, there are at least 25 different MJ colored inserts used. I'm not going to list all the colors here as they pretty much covered the whole color spectrum, with the exception of yellow, and sometimes used different shades of the same color to differentiate ads.
Confirmed last titles/issues containing MJ inserts:
Silver Surfer #49
Captain America #386
Fantastic Four #353
Incredible Hulk #382
Iron Man #269
Spectacular Spider-Man #177
Uncanny X-Men #277
West Coast Avengers #71
Amazing Spider-Man #349
Web of Spider-Man #78
This isn't a complete list. Only those I've confirmed as being the last issues with the inserts in a given title. For other titles in which I don't have data, you can be reasonably sure June 1991 will be the final issue with the inserts. Also, I have to emphasize yet again, the inserts will only be found in normal 32-page comics. No giant size or squarebounds. There is a common misconception that Amazing Spider-Man #300 has the insert. I even thought my copy purchased off the military racks contained one. Also, I believed CGC had certified a couple copies. I was wrong. My copy doesn't have the insert. My friend's copy, who also bought his off the military racks, doesn't have one. And CGC has confirmed they haven't graded any #300s with the insert.
Once these inserts ended, it marked the last time military members would see jewelry inserts in their monthly comics. From this point on, all newsstand copies would be identical to their stateside brethren. And would mark the end of a rather interesting period for comics in my opinion.
Though this part takes us to the conclusion of the inserts in Marvel comics, it's not the end to the series. There's still the other comic companies' inserts to tackle. But before we get to those we will stay with Marvel for a little longer. Part 5 and 6 will cover a couple of military directed inserts included in Marvels in addition to the MJ ads. The Mennen and Alka Seltzer insert wraps...stay tuned...
11/14/05 - I'm starting a new series today with a look at 1984's"Book of the Dead" issues which were released in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #13-14. We hear almost semi-annually Marvel's, or some other comic company's, hype suggesting characters will die in such and such story arc and will stay dead never to be resurrected. Fan boys rush out and buy the issues and are saddened when a favorite character of theirs bites the big one. Or in reality they usually just bitch up a storm on the Internet...but that's an entirely other issue. Seasoned collectors have long known that these "stay dead" promises rarely pan out. But I thought it would be fun to go through the complete "Book of the Dead" and see exactly how many characters have in fact stayed deceased. So...let's get started...
Well...Yes and No
The first entry in the Book of the Dead is none other than, arguably, Galactus' most favored herald, and Silver Surfer's replacement, Airwalker. Galactus in case you don't know is the world eating behemoth of the Marvel Universe who uses a herald to scout the universe in search of perfect gourmet planets to sedate his hunger. A new herald was required after the Surfer decided New York nightlife and hot blind women sculptors were more exciting than searching for biggie-sized snacks for the big "G". And who could blame him, have you ever seen a woman gently molding clay?
After the Surfer's defection, Galactus, probably hungry as an overgrown ox in a nebula, picked up a Xandorian ship whose Captain, Gabriel Lan, was deemed ideal to acquire future meals. How you recruit for these jobs is unknown but Gabriel evidently met the requirements. After a short interview, Lan accepted the job and, viola, Airwalker was born. During their appetite appeasing travels, the new herald got into a nasty fight with a race named the Ovoids who has a serious problem with Galactus' choice of eateries and was subsequently killed. Galactus was so distraught, he created an exact robot replica and transferred Airwalker's consciousness into the new and improved version. Which when you think of it, a toaster oven is an improvement...
This brings up loads of questions. If Galactus can give a robot the Power Cosmic, why the hell does he keep recruiting heralds of the flesh and blood variety all these years? All they've done is give him grief and eventually turned on him at some point. All he needs to do is whip up a fancy robot and keep the off button close in case of malfunction or general disobedience. Could you imagine what kind of bad-ass herald H.E.R.B.I.E. would have made? Sounds like Galactus isn't the brightest bulb in the galaxy after all...
Now that should mean Gabriel is dead right? Well, it's not that easy. All of this death and rebirth soap opera happens before his first appearance in Fantastic Four #121. In that issue, Galactus sends his robot friend to Earth in an attempt to get Surfer to reassumed his place by his side. I guess the robot wasn't working out. Surfer refuses and destroys Airwalker...which must really suck. Not only did he die once but now he has to do it all over again. Galactus then says his farewells, leaves the sheet metal (what a guy!), and leaves in search of other troublesome heralds.
By the time the Book of the Dead was published, Airwalker had been revived once again only to be destroyed, yet again, in Thor #305-306. This time apparently for good hence his mention in the comic as deceased. But you can't keep a good beaten-up robot herald down for long. He reappeared as part of the "Herald Ordeal" storyline in Silver Surfer #73 (1992). So as expected, the first "death" mentioned in the Book of the Dead didn't stay lifeless or, in this case, deactivated. I mean Gabriel is dead but he still lives as a robot...but is that death? My head hurts. I hope the other entries are more cut and dried but I fear I should get the Motrin out beforehand...
11/13/05 - I've received a couple e-mails asking me how many comics I shipped during my move. Here's the answer...
And this doesn't include the comics I shipped to Korea. I may need to pare it down a bit once I return to the States...
11/13/05 - Sometimes even I'm amazed at the stupidity of scammers. Case in point this eBay auction. Forget the fact this dirtbag doesn't understand the CGC numbering system. Look at the bottom of Spidey's word balloon and you'll see they couldn't even be bothered to delete a stray "6" used to manipulate the label! Classic case of Bubba Gump style mental gymnastics going on here...
11/12/05 - Well hello again! After a couple of months of vacation, traveling, sitting on my bum with no computer, deployment, and, finally and most frustrating, numerous computer problems, I've gotten around to updating this site. I expect to update frequently as without my family here in Korea with me, I will have plenty of time to waste as an outlet from the boredom.
My shortbox of comics made it here quite well. Hardly a nick. Thanks to all who suggested various articles you'd like me to address. I'll be getting to them in short order. Also, since I left Germany, and was essentially incommunicado, many important issues have arisen in this hobby, good and bad, that I wish to address as soon as I get some other housekeeping out of the way.
And as far as overdue housekeeping is concerned...let's jump right into it...
11/12/05 - Without further ado, the continuation of the Military Insert articles...
Military Insert Mania - Part 3
Marvel Mark Jewelers Inserts
-The Slick Number Era-
May 1978 - September 1986
In Part 2, the Mark Jewelers (MJ) cardboard inserts ended in May 1978. During the same month, new MJ inserts appeared in Marvels on slick paper of the same consistency as those used on the covers. You will find either the cardboard or slick inserts in May 1978 cover dated comics as the cardboard inserts were apparently exhausted before the switch. The reason for the new paper could be cost related. It was probably cheaper to use the slick paper vs. cardboard. These new series of inserts restarted the numbering of the identification Ad Codes and would start tracking alphabetically once the single digit numbering was used up.
The format of the slick numbered ads themselves would change as well. Instead of a rectangle card to send to the company to get your desired gems, a half page ordering form was devised complete with self adhesive edges. Fill out the order form, bend in the middle, lick, seal, and mail away. No postage required.
These slick numbered inserts would run each month in Marvels for over 8 years. As has been mentioned in previous articles, the ads were only placed in typical 32 page comics. No squarebound or giant sized comics were used in the ad campaign..
The switch will cause some insert collectors no small matter of annoyance. Finding comics with cardboard inserts in the back issue boxes is generally an easy endeavor. There's no question when handling one that there's an insert in the centerfold due to the cardboard giving the comic a ridged feel and bulk not found in normal copies. The slick inserts on the other hand are difficult to differentiate unless you actually open the comic. And they are not easily visible when looking at the comic edgewise. So for those looking for these, you have your work cut out for you...
Below is a typical MJ slick numbered insert taken from Fantastic Four #195 June 1978...
Overall, there at least 27 different MJ slick numbered inserts used. The different ads can be easily identified by numbering on the order form on the inside centerfold wrap. Confirmed numbers used:
2, 22, 222
4, 44, 444
5, 55, 555
6, 66, 666
AA, BB, BBB, CC, D, E, F, G
Alphabetical codes were used from May 1985 until September 1986 once single digit numbering was exhausted.
As mentioned, the slick numbered inserts lasted over 8 years until switching to a non-numerical tracking system. There are a couple of reasons for this which I'll cover in the next and final installment of the MJ Marvel insert series. A part of that change has to do with DC...