Monday, May 22, 2017

International Comics, International Crime Comics, Crime Patrol, The Crypt Of Terror and Tales From The Crypt (EC Comics)

Much like our prior post on Marvel Comic's Amazing Fantasy, EC Comics has an interesting history of title shifting before striking with lightning. Today we're taking a look at how EC Comics evolved several titles during the 1940's into one of the most beloved series of all time - Tales From The Crypt.

International Comics
EC Comics

It all started in 1947 with the series International Comics. The stories focused mainly on satire style horror, and really didn't feature a cast of characters that were all that notable beyond the "monsters" that were terrifying each page.

Horror comics were popular among GI's returning from World War II who had grown tired of the super hero genre from their youth. These now adult males were more interested in tantalizing tales full of violence and sex.

International Crime Comics
EC Comics

In 1948, EC shifted the title to a more crime (cops and robbers) type format. However, in doing so, they still kept the monster aspect intact for the series. International Crime Comics lasted for one issue, continuing the numbering scheme where International Comics left off, before the title was changed again.

Crime Patrol
EC Comics
1948 - 1950

Under the banner of Crime Patrol, the title continued the numbering from where International Crime Comics left off. This iteration of the series lasted for two years focusing on crime and monsters before change would come again.

The Crypt Of Terror
EC Comics

Once again continuing the numbering scheme from its predecessor, The Crypt of Terror removed the crime aspect of the series, shifting the focal point of the series to that of straight up horror / murder. It was with this element that the book shifted into it's last, and most popular iteration...

Tales From The Crypt
EC Comics
1950 - 1955

Though many fans of the series know of it due to the vintage HBO series which featured a cackling Crypt Keeper ghoul, the comic book didn't actually feature this version of the character. Yes, there was a Crypt Keeper, but it was simply a mysterious with a cane, and long hair running down his face to hide his features. However, the Keeper was not limited to just hosting each story. He occasionally made appearances which stood to tell his biography in bits and pieces. Additional hosts in the series were the Vault Keeper, and Old Witch.

Tales From The Crypt ran from 1950 - 1955, and quickly became one of EC Comics most popular titles. Unfortunately by 1954, horror genre comics came under heavy fire by the public, and sales declined rapidly after that point.

Violent comics in general were being blamed for the decline in behavior of America's youth which all came to a head in a senate hearing which targeted comic books directly. Rather than be censored by an outside source, the comic industry agreed to form two groups - Comics Magazines Association of America (CMAA), and the more widely recognized Comics Code Authority (CCA). These groups placed strict stringent on comic book publishers, forbidding them to publish books with words such as terror and horror in their titles, and additionally forbid the depiction of what was deemed gruesome characters.

Seeing a no win situation, and feeling directly targeted, EC Comics shut its doors after releasing its final Tales From The Crypt issue in February / March 1955.

Tales From The Crypt would see a major resurgence in popularity in 1989 with the HBO series which ran for 93 episodes between 19898 and 1996. Theatrical movies were also produced and released with the banner throughout the years of this newly revived popularity. All of this helped to solidify EC Comics original comics in history - So we suppose they got the last laugh.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Amazing Adventures, Amazing Adult Fantasy and Amazing Fantasy (Marvel Comics)

One of the most interesting aspects to the history of comic books (for us) is to see how titles evolved into the icons they became. Take Amazing Fantasy number fifteen. Pretty much every comic book connoisseur knows that this was the first appearance of Peter Park / Spider-Man. However, what many fans don't know is that if you go looking for Amazing Fantasy number one through fourteen, you'll never find them. Why? Because they don't exist.

Amazing Adventures
Marvel Comics

The series that would eventually become Amazing Fantasy started in 1961 as Amazing Adventures. The story points for most of the issues revolved around science fiction or drive-in-movie style monster characters. Each story was drawn by either Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko - Legends in the Marvel Universe.

Amazing Adult Fantasy
Marvel Comics
1961 - 1962

After issue number six, Amazing Adventures changed its title to Amazing Adult Fantasy. This iteration of the series stayed focused on its original premise of monsters and science fiction. The stories were drawn by Jack Kirby, and written by an up and coming Stan Lee.

Amazing Fantasy
Marvel Comics
1962 and 1995 - 1996

All of this culminated in what would be the equivalent of a meteorite hitting the heart of a city with issue fifteen. Now titled simply Amazing Fantasy, the cover introduced the world to Spider-Man in 1962. The world of comic books would never be the same.

Marvel continued the Amazing Fantasy title decades later in the 1995 - 1996 series of the same name. Unfortunately it was really just a gimmick, and the books never caught the magic of that first appearance of Spider-Man - Not that they were intended to.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Calling All Sculpters and Custom Action Figure Makers

I'm looking for one or two people who would be interested in undertaking a joint venture Kickstarter program with me. Without throwing all the details out here, I have a project in development for a non articulated mini figure line, and am looking for one or two folks who can produce professional quality sculpting and painting for prototypes that could be (somewhat) mass produced for the orders received. Additionally, I need someone who can produce molds based on the finished prototypes.

Much like any Kickstarter project, there are no guarantees of funding which means at this time this is non a paying gig. However, those involved with the project would potentially have the option of being brought on in a "partner" capacity for future projects. Should the project be funded, you would then be compensated at an agreed upon percentage of the backing for your work.

If you are interested in "applying", please leave a comment here with your e-mail address. Your e-mail address will not be published or distributed. It will only be used for the purposes of me getting in contact with you.

So that I am up front with anyone interested, you would be required to sign a non disclosure form before discussing any of the details of the project. Sorry, I don't want anyone running off with my idea.

Monday, May 8, 2017

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Image Comics and Devil's Due Publishing)

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
Image Comics
2001 - 2003

"The story lines in the G.I. Joe comic book series over the past decades are far superior to that of the cartoon series." - Abraham Lincoln

Image Comics and Devil's Due Publishing did an amazing job of breathing new life into the limp / dying body of G.I. Joe. The all new series which began in 2001, and seamlessly picked up where Marvel Comics left off is one of our favorite reads of all time. The stories seemed well thought out, and the artwork was some of the best in the industry.

In general, comic books and G.I. Joe go hand and hand. They've been around every decade since the 40's - granted not the Hasbro iterations. Additionally, they've also been the birthplace of characters that would later go on to become majorly popular - Such as the Baroness who appeared in issue 1 of the Marvel Comic series in June of 1982.

The franchise is even notable for seamlessly crossing over with other Hasbro properties such as Transformers - Which occurred on numerous occasions. This has helped to show the series versatility to be integrated with various "realities" in the comic book universe, which has only helped to solidify its popularity even further.

Though Image Comics began publishing the all new series in 2001, the fact was that Devil's Due were the right holders. They were simply going through Image for the publishing of the books. Fan referred to the series as A Real American Hero (volume 2), and also Reinstated (which was the title of the first four issues) - Though neither of these ever became official for the series as a whole.

The new series was originally conceived as a four issue mini series. However, due to massive sales, and immediate selling out of first prints, the series was put into production as an ongoing monthly title.

The story line picks up seven years after the last Marvel Comics issues, and shows us several vintage characters now aged, and in Bazooka's case, out of shape. It also introduces us to several new Joe characters as well as Cobra agents.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
Devil's Due Publishing
2004 - 2005

Devil's Due Publishing eventually split from Image Comics, taking with them the G.I. Joe franchise. The company continued to publish the title for another year or so, picking up where the Image title had left off both in numbering and story.

Unfortunately, as often times the case in this day and age, interest dwindled shortly thereafter on the series, and publishing ceased. However, this wouldn't be the last we'd see of G.I. Joe in comic book format. They would soon return, but that's a topic for another time.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Star Wars Van / Star Wars Van Set (Kenner)

Star Wars Van / Star Wars Van Set

May the 4th be with you!

It's a phrase that has allegedly been used since May 4, 1979 when Margaret Thatcher took office as Prime Minister. A Danish public broadcaster claims that her political party place a congratulatory advertisement in the London Evening News saying, "May the fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations."

As for celebrating the day, this first took place on May 4, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. The day featured Star Wars related Trivia, a costume contest, and several fan films shown on a big screen at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Since 2013, The Walt Disney Company recognizes the day, and "celebrates" by gouging treating fans with Star Wars related festivities at Disneyland and Disney World.

That's not to say that the Sith don't get their share of love. Fans have denoted May 5th to the "holiday" Revenge of the Fifth.

Though we're huge fans of Star Wars here at The Toy Box, we honestly don't do much of anything other than roll our eyes at the whole concept of both the May 4th and 5th Star Wars days. However, in the spirit of friendly participation, we've put together a post on one of the more obscure Star Wars toys produced by Kenner in conjunction with the first film.

As many Star Wars toy collector's know, nobody knew the impact that Star Wars would have on the world, so when the film was released in May of 1977 there were no toys to be had. As Kenner scrambled to release action figures, they also searched other areas that would help them mass produce Star Wars merchandise quickly. One such avenue was toy cars - Vans to be specific.

Kenner released only two cars before pushing headlong into the far more lucrative action figure business. Each car featured a fantastic paint job showcasing either the heroes from the film (white van), or Darth Vader (black van).

While each car was released separately, Kenner also produced a two pack van set. To date, it is much harder to track down the individual cars. Well, let us rephrase that - Because a lot of the cars are open, it's more difficult to track down a sealed two pack vs. the individual packs. Obviously a lot of the loose ones available could have come from the set.

Each van featured what Kenner called SSP (Super Sonic Power). This was essentially the high pitched sound the vehicle made when the "T" stick was pulled through it. Speaking of which, the "T" stick is what made the wheels start spinning so that when you put the car down it would take off. In other words, it was a ripcord that was thread through the car, then quickly pulled out.

Finding these vans on secondary markets isn't difficult. Especially if you don't mind getting them loose. It's when trying to track them down in the package that things get a little tougher. Loose they sell for about $15.00 to $20.00 each. However, it is note worthy that at this price the vans are typically missing their "T" stick. If you want a complete one, you're looking at spending about $45.00 - $50.00 a piece for them.

There is however a major disadvantage to buying loose - Well, other than you don't get the box. The paint jobs on a lot of vans are scratched up, scratched off, and in general usually in pretty bad shape. That's what happens when kids play with toy cars (as they should). That's not to say that all the loose vans are in this condition. Just be cognizant, and inspect all sides before making your decision to buy.

Loose van sets are fairly rare. However, you can tell if you're buying one because it will have all the cones and barrels with it - With of course the "T" sticks. The set includes six yellow barrels, six blue barrels and six orange cones...From a galaxy far, far away. We've only seen one complete loose set available, and it sold for $90.00.

If you're a mint in the box collector you're going to need to be a little patient in tracking these down. They're not rare, but they're certainly uncommon. The individual vans will run you around $130.00 to $150.00, and the two pack set sells for between $230.00 and $250.00.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Marvel Comics, Marvel Mystery Comics (Timely Comics)

May 6 is Free Comic Book Day. As typical here at The Toy Box, that means we're dedicating the entire month to look at some of our favorite comic book series from yesterday. As is customary, we're only looking at series that have completed their run, so we're not looking at anything current. Sorry, folks. No Walking Dead just yet.

Marvel Comics
Timely Comics

This is it, folks. This is where the era of the super hero all started. 1939's Marvel Comics, published by Timely Comics. Though it is technically considered to be issue number one, you won't actually find that anywhere on the cover or inside the pages.

The book featured The Human Torch, and Namor, The Sub-Mariner all under one cover. If that wasn't enough, it also featured characters that would become staples of the Golden Age era of comic books; Ka-Zar, The Masked Raider and The Angel.

"Wait a minute," you say. "How can this be accurate if this comic is from Timely Comics?" Let's take a trip through history for that answer.

Timely Comics was the first publishing "arm" of publisher Martin Goodman. Though Goodman used the Marvel branding on several books, most notably by labeling books with, "A Marvel Comic", it wouldn't be until 1961 that Marvel Comics was officially adopted as the companies name / brand.

Though the book is a great read, you're only source for this is probably going to be a digital copy online. Comic guides value the book's worth at over $500K, Probably not something many of us could part with on a whim.

Marvel Mystery Comics
Timely Comics
1939 - 1949

Marvel Mystery Comics is the official continuation of the title. The book started with issue number two in 1939, and picked up with the now famous Human Torch and Namor characters. Over time, other characters would also make appearances - Most notably was Captain America in issue 81.

Due to the period in which these books were published, you will notice that they lean heavily on WWII themed stories which feature the heroes battling it out with Nazis and the Japanese. As such, in today's perspective, the can seem, shall we say, not so politically correct. Still, if you can appreciate the stories for their period "correct" narrative, they are still good reads.

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