Friday, February 22, 2013

VIXEN "...is a Lady Fox" Conclusion

...with one of the worst-rendered color schemes in comics history (she's supposed to be wearing silver and gold, not yellow and light blue)...
Fashion model Mari MaCabe's repressed memories of her father's death are re-awakened when she sees General Mantioba, President of D'Mulla, on TV.
(Manitoba killed her father, C'Mellu Dantogi, when the two struggled for leadership of their country, D'Mulla seventeen years earlier.
The trauma of seeing her father slain gave Mari, then an eight year-old child, amnesia.
Her father's friend, Reverend Peak, brought her to America, where he enabled a loving couple to adopt and raise her.)
Mari takes a talisman necklace left to her by her father with the proclamation "Wear it always and one day it will give you power!", researches it and discovers it's actually a totem of an ancient cult than can impart enhanced, animal-like abilities to it's wearer!
Successfuly performing a ritual to "activate" the totem, the now more-than-human woman, garbed in a costume to strike fear into Manitoba's heart, leaps into action...

(Note: Most of this tale was scanned from 2nd or 3rd generation photocopies of the original art, so it might be a bit muddy.)
You'll note the final page isn't lettered.
It's not known if the copy simply hadn't been pasted-down when the "kill" order was given or if it was still being scripted or re-written at the time.
Either way, you never saw this cover...
...staring out at you from the racks in the fall of 1978, because the "DC Implosion" occurred.
Let me explain..
In the spring of 1977, DC Comics, was losing newsstand marketshare to Marvel Comics due to a flood of titles (both new and reprint) from The House of Ideas.
DC planned to increase their volume of titles to retake the racks.
This was promoted as the "DC Explosion"!

At the same time, both companies raised their prices because of higher costs for paper and printing due to inflation.
Standard 32-page comics were 17-18 pages of story for 35 cents, and, while Marvel was going to just increase the cover price to 40 cents without adding pages, DC decided to increase their page count to 44 pages (adding 8 pages of story) with a 50 cent cover price!
DC hoped that, with the extra pages, the audience would view their books, though more expensive, as a better value.

Keep in mind the fact that comics were produced in a three-month cycle from concept to printed/distributed book.
So in June, the month the price changes went into effect, DC had two more months of 48-page, 50-cent books somewhere in the production cycle.
That same month, Warner Publishing execs saw the sales figures for DC's books from the previous winter (which was particularly harsh), resulting in lower-than-expected sales.
The execs did what management types usually do...they panicked!
They immediately ordered the entire DC line reduced to only 20 titles, and that those books be the same page count and price as Marvel's.
As a result, 20 titles were cancelled, some in the middle of ongoing plotlines (which were uncommon at DC in those days.)
Some had only 1 issue published before cancellation.
5 more books (including Vixen) never even made it to the stands.
The 44-page, 50 cent format ran for three months before DC's remaining titles shrank back to the same format as Marvel and everyone else.
The unpublished material (including letters pages) were photocopied from the original art and put into two "ashcan" issues made up of bound 8 1/2 x 11 one-sided pages (with new covers) to establish copyright.
Copies of this were distributed to creators and staff.
Vixen appeared in the second of those volumes...
Art by Alex Saviuk
...she's in the lower left, if you're looking.
Some of the material eventually was published in various DC books, but not Vixen #1.
Mari Macabe finally debuted three years later in Action Comics #521 (1981)...
Art by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano
...which, ironically, was a 50-cent comic!
(Comics had raised their cover price again, from 40 to 50 cents, in the summer of 1980.
But the page count remained the same, at 32 pages [plus cover])
Be here next week, when we present another tale of classic comic grrl power!

Friday, February 15, 2013

VIXEN "...is a Lady Fox" Part 1

Here's the never-published (at least to the public) origin...
...from a premiere issue that was cancelled before it appeared!
(Note: Most of this tale was scanned from 2nd or 3rd generation photocopies of the original art, so it might be a bit muddy.)
"...and then..."
"...and then..."
"...and then???"
The untold origin concludes...next week!
(Don't you just hate cliffhangers?)
If you come back, we'll toss in the story of why this tale (or any other issues of Vixen's first series) were never published!

Friday, February 8, 2013

LADY SATAN II "What is Evil, and What is Not?"

We learned the origin of the first Black anti-heroine HERE...
...now let's continue her never-reprinted, all-too brief (and uncompleted) saga, as she researches the story of Tituba, the Black servant whom Salem residents thought was a witch back in the 1600s...
Written by Al Hewetson (under the pen-name "Howie Anderson") and illustrated by Ricardo Villamonte, this never-reprinted tale from Skywald's b/w magazine Scream #3 (1973) presents an extremely-exaggerated version of historical events during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93.

Friday, February 1, 2013

FRIDAY FOSTER "Meet Friday Foster"

Over forty years ago, history was made...
...on January 18, 1970, Friday Foster became the FIRST mainstream syndicated comic strip to star a Black woman as the title character.
Here's the first seven never-reprinted Sunday strips...
(Jackie Ormes' earlier Torchy Brown was, unfortunately, only published in black-owned newspapers which had relatively-limited circulation.)
Friday Foster was also the FIRST mainstream comic strip to star a Black title character, male OR female!
(The humor strip Quincy by Ted Shearer debuted later in 1970!)

Writer Jim Lawrence was no stranger to newspaper adventure strips, having previously written Captain Easy and Joe Palooka.
After his stint on Friday, he scripted a revived Buck Rogers comic strip based on the 1980 tv series!
And, he penned a 1970s paperback novel series, Dark Angel, about a Black female private eye!

Artist Jorge Longaron had done a number of comic strips in Europe, but was unknown in America. Friday was his Stateside strip debut.

The series was a combination of adventure, soap-opera, and social commentary, about former fashion model-turned-photographer's assistant (and later professional photographer and model) Friday Foster.
Supporting characters included photographer Shawn North (her boss and later business partner) and millionare playboy/romantic interest Blake Tarr.
The strip lasted until late 1974, with some of the final sequences illustrated by DC Comics legend Dick Giordano and a then up-and-comer named Howard Chaykin (American Flagg, The Shadow)!

Besides the strip, there was a one-shot comic book in 1972, and a feature film in 1975 (a year after the strip was canceled) starring action-movie goddess Pam Grier as Friday,
Thalmus Rasulala as Blake Tarr, Yaphet Kotto as Detective Colt Hawkins, plus Eartha Kitt, Jim Backus, Godfrey Cambridge, and in one of his earliest roles, Carl Weathers, as an un-named assassin!
While there was a soundtrack album, curiously, I've never seen a novelization (and, in the '70s, they did novelizations of movies that weren't even released in the US, just shown overseas)!


If you're looking for a cool gift for the Black History aficionado or grrrl hero fan in your life, you can't go wrong with a Friday Foster mug, bag, shirt or other goodie from Atomic Kommie Comics™!