Douglas Adams (holding The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy double LP) is on the left; Nick Landau (co-founder of the original Forbidden Planet and Titan Books, holding the just published Hitchhiker’s novel) is right. All comics 12p!
Archive for the 'Comic Book Stores' Category
Nightmare in Blood (spoilers ahead) is a cult film directed by John Stanley, who was writing for the San Francisco Chronicle at the time and went on to host Creature Features (replacing Bob Wilkins) at KTVU from 1979 to 1984. The plot surrounds a series of murders at a horror convention and the event’s guest of honor, a famous vampire actor named Malakai, who turns out to be a real vampire. And Malakai’s “public-relations men,” B.B. and Harris, are actually William Burke and William Hare, the famous 19th century serial killers. The film is loaded with winks and nods to early horror fandom and classic horror films.
When Malakai arrives at the convention, filmed at Oakland’s Fox Theater, he’s greeted with cheers by his young fans, many of whom are—oddly—wearing ape masks. The kids were members of a Planet of the Apes fan club, and one of them was a teenage Fred Dekker, soon-to-be writer-director of Night of the Creeps (1986) and The Monster Squad (1987), two wildly fun films that are now cult classics.
The film features, in a way, Gary Arlington’s The San Francisco Comic Book Company, the first comics-only store in the U.S. The store opened in 1968 and was a nexus of the underground comix scene throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Robert Crumb was a frequent presence, and Simon Deitch, Rory Hayes, and Flo Steinberg all reportedly worked at the store at various times. The hippie character in the clip is not just based on Gary Arlington, he’s named Gary Arlington. Arlington himself, with his own stock, tried to recreate his Mission District store at a bigger location for the scene Stanley wanted. (The San Francisco Comic Book Company was notoriously small, some 200 square feet.) Arlington died at the age of 75 in 2014.
Compare the Nightmare in Blood clip to the absurd scene in Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, when Samuel Jackson’s character dotes on a vintage comic book illustration in his comic book “art gallery,” and then berates the man who wants to buy it for his boy because “art” is not for children. What makes it absurd is that the scene is played straight—entirely devoid of humor. A comparison of both films, in fact, explains quite a bit about the transformation of sci-fi/fantasy/horror fandom from a bookish, establishment-wary subculture into a mainstream, corporate phenomenon.
Emil J. Novak, Sr. opened Buffalo, New York’s Queen City Bookstore in 1969. He and his family still own and run the place. I found all of the remarkable photos on the website’s history gallery. Some of the gems I spotted are posted below.
What can I say that I haven’t said before? We need more stores like this. Kids need more awesome stuff like this. They deserve the chance to roam around in places that exist with them in mind (I’m talking about libraries too), flip open a random book, and have their minds blown forever. What we now dismiss as “obsolete physical media” once propped up local communities and ignited the imagination of generations. It’s not just books that influenced and inspired me, but the places I found them in.
You can see more book stores and comic book stores here.
The guy wearing the hat in the second photo is wearing an X-Men t-shirt—the hat may also say X-Men. The movie posters hanging from the ceiling are Raid on Entebbe (1976) and High Risk (1981). Can’t make out the arcade cabs.
More comic book stores here.
Among the many ruined institutions of post-internet life lies the pulp book shop, where deviant human beings of all ages, nauseated by the mundane modern world and its small-minded minions, once went to find comfort and adventure. My dream is to open one and slowly go broke as three or four or five of us roam the aisles, sifting through and savoring all the accumulating treasure.
I went to the San Diego Comic-Con once, in 2008 or 2009. Never again. It no longer caters to the intelligent, discerning patrons you see above.
I’m intrigued by the Orange County Nostalgic Society seen in the second photo. That’s Neal Adams in the last photo.
The pictures are from Comic-Convention Memories, an amazing love letter to the early cons and the people who got them started. It’s run by Mike Towry, one of the founding members of the SDCC.
Richard Alf, at age 17, co-founded (with Shel Dorf, Mike Towry, and Ken Kreuger), chaired, financed and organized the first San Diego Comic-Con in 1970.
Above: Alf at the opening of his comic book store, Comic Kingdom, in 1975—a great year for comics. Those are Frazetta posters on the wall. One of Alf’s notable achievements was expanding Comic-Con to include the fantasy and sci-fi genres (Ray Bradbury appeared and spoke in 1970).
Below: Alf (in glasses) with Jack Kirby and fans in 1969. Shel Dorf is second from right.
I’ll post some early Comic-Con photos later today.
My daughter and her friends will know the exhilaration of spending summer days sifting through stacks of books and comics. If I have to open my own store and lose money steadily over several years to make it happen, so be it.
(All images via Comic Pix Jones)
The ad, showing Vancouver’s The Comic Shop, is from The First Vancouver Catalogue. The pic on top shows rows and rows of fantasy paperbacks in the glorious heyday of fantasy paperbacks. Several editions of Conan appeared between 1966 (Lancer Books) and the early ’80s. They included Howard’s original stories and new works by contemporary authors, notably L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
The Marvel titles in the bigger photo are mostly obscured, but what a great look at all the magazines. Will Eisner’s Spirit, 1984, The Hulk! (formerly The Rampaging Hulk) #10 (Val Mayerik cover art), and The Savage Sword of Conan #33 (killer Earl Norem cover). On the second row, you’ll see a `Jaws vs Ape’ headline. That’s Famous Monsters of Filmland #146.
Not cover specialist Bob Larkin’s best work, and why the hell is the ape beating on Jaws, anyway? Here’s my best guess.
1976’s A*P*E (no shit, it stands for Attacking Primate MonstEr) is compellingly awful, and introduces a young Joanna Kerns (the mom in Growing Pains). RKO sued the production company for its blatant attempt to rip off Dino De Laurentiis’s 1976 King Kong remake, hence the hilarious disclaimer at the end of the trailer.
Also, listen for the very poorly edited “See giant ape defy jaw-shark!” I’m sure the narrator originally used ‘jaws’, but was forced to change it due to legal pressure from Universal Pictures. So, in true exploitation fashion, they replaced the ‘s’ by dubbing ‘shark’ over it.
I’m happy to report that The Comic Shop is still there. On the website’s history page, I found a bonus photo of co-founder and owner Ron Norton in 1975. You can spot several more comic magazines behind him, including Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #1, and more fantasy and sci-fi paperbacks (Zelazny, Silverberg) in the foreground.
(First image via Sequential: Canadian Comics News and Culture)
(Video via TrashTrailers/YouTube)