Friday, November 30, 2012

BobRo Archives: Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #1

This blast-from-the-past is the compilation of two columns that originally appeared online more than a decade ago...


   In the previous installment, I gave you some background about the “DC Explosion,” how it came to an abrupt end, and how the resulting “Implosion” spawned a near-mythic double-volume series that have sparked fan interest for more than two decades. Some of the material in CCC did eventually see print, but much of it never did.

   Though the cover of the volume was blank blue cardstock, CCC #1 did have a “cover.” Drawn by Allen Milgrom, it depicts a virtual army of DC characters lying in the road as a truck with a DC bullet careens away from them. The price box reads “Still 10c! No Ads!” but you couldn’t buy it for a dime or a dollar or even $1,000 at the time.

   Leading off the volume are the complete contents for Black Lightning #12. In “Lure of the Magnetic Menace,” former Green Lantern foe Doctor Polaris shows up in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum to do battle with Black Lightning. But is he really the old Green Lantern enemy? The Polaris in this tale is Baxter Timmons, a fact discovered by his runaway nephew. In Who's Who, DC’s official guide to the characters, Dr. Neil Emerson is Dr. Polaris and he’s listed as having no known relatives. One wonders if writer Denny O’Neil was the one who ignored continuity or if the editor did. In either case, this particular Polaris never appeared anywhere else.
   The back-up feature stars The Ray and retells (with some revamping) the origin of the character. The story provides another little tidbit didn’t make it to Who's Who: “Happy” Terrill’s first name is given as Langford. Also of note is that this story begins where The Ray’s appearance in CCC #2’s Secret Society of Super-Villains #16 ended. As you’ll discover when we get to that tale, The Ray is presumed dead by the villains. And obviously, had I been able to continue with my plans for the Freedom Fighters, they would have been short one member.
   This first chapter concludes with an ebony-costumed character named The Dark vowing to destroy our hero. Alas, we shall never know what writer Roger McKenzie (who scripted from a Mike W. Barr plot) intended. John Fuller and Bob Wiacek did the art.
   Nor will we know what would have happened to Black Lightning, though this section concludes with the cover of #13 which shows the hero unconscious and chained to a wall.

   Claw the Unconquered #13 is next. In case you don’t remember him, Claw was DC’s answer to Conan, created to cash in on the then-hot sword-and-sorcery market. As “The Travelers of Dark Destiny” begins, Claw is involved in a barroom brawl, but it suddenly concludes when a silver-gowned woman named Trysannda arrives on the scene.
   Though Claw had managed to chop off the monstrous hand that gave him his name in the previous issue, it manages to find him and reattach itself. All this as the hero joins Trysannda on a quest to Ravenroost. Despite having a full 25 pages for this tale, not much more is accomplished Claw-creator David Michelinie’s story (with art by Romeo Tanghal and Bob Smith) is continued in the next issue.
   This issue was complete with a letter column too. Marty Greenberg, who in the 1950s published Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories in hardcover, offers “constructive criticism” of Claw on the page.
   We’re not left to wonder what happened to Claw and Trysannda as Claw was one of those titles that was ahead of schedule back in 1978. The complete issue #14 follows, though this time it’s Tom DeFalco taking up the scripting chores. Tanghal and Smith are again the art team while the cover, which features Claw and Trysanndra battling Rat-Men, was provided by Joe Kubert.
   “When the River of Ravenroost…Ran Red” (Ah, such alliteration… the titles just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?) pits Claw against a living mountain (more like a hillock, actually), those aforementioned Rat-Men, and a giant mystical snail. But, despite another 25 pages, this saga is still not at an end. The cliffhanger finds Claw and Trysanndra in “a world gone suddenly and irreversibly mad!” A grotesquely gloating foe warns them, “Welcome to the Lair of Lunacy—from which you’ll never leave alive!” One suspects he was right since there was no fifteenth issue.

   The Deserter #1,  a western series created and scripted by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Dick Ayers and the prolific Romeo Tanghal. This series was originally slated to appear in Showcase (as confirmed by the fact that all the pages are labeled with that book’s title), but instead got the go-ahead for its own book. Ultimately, of course, it never appeared anywhere but in CCC.
   The story opens in 1874 with a stranger riding into the town of Cooper’s Canyon, Arizona. Within moments of his arrival, he stops a potential shoot-out between the town’s sheriff and  a gunman. When the stagecoach to Dry Water arrives with its drivers shot to death, we find out that Jase Carson, the “biggest landowner this side of St. Louis,” is behind it. Seems Carson wants to buy part of Dry Water, a part owned by newspaperman Will Olsen, and threatened to burn the town down if the people in it didn’t force Olsen to sell. A coded letter to Olsen from Washington D.C. is on the stage, so the stranger volunteers to deliver it.
   Not long after the stranger leaves on his mission, a former Union soldier arrives in Cooper’s Canyon. Ex-Sergeant Willie Dredge tells the sheriff the story of Aaron Hope, who deserted the Union Army during a Civil War battle. Dredge, who’d been maimed during the battle, vowed to bring in Hope and, ten years later, was still in pursuit. The sheriff, though he recognizes a picture of Hope, does not help Dredge.
   Meanwhile, Hope avoids an ambush by Jase Carson and his men and, after a confrontation in Dry Water, the villainous landowner is arrested for murder.
   Back in Cooper’s Canyon, the sheriff confronts Hope about whether he deserted the army. The issue ends with Hope telling him that perhaps the sheriff should first hear his side of the story. Alas, no one but Gerry Conway and editor Paul Levitz know Hope’s side; the second issue was not completed.

   Next up in the volume is “Tapestry of Dreams” by Cary Burkett, Juan Ortiz and Vince Colletta. This 25-page story, sporting a Michael Kaluta cover, was originally scheduled for Doorway To Nightmare #6, but eventually saw print in an issue of Unexpected.

    Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom and Bob McLeod provide “The Typhoon is a Storm of the Soul,” originally scheduled for Firestorm #6. Most of the first half of the issue focuses on the Nuclear Man testing his powers of transmutation. At the same time, a private detective named Liam McGarrin, hired by Professor Stein because he’s concerned about his “blackouts,” is trying to figure out why Professor Stein keeps disappearing. Firestorm fans already know it is because Stein and Ronnie Raymond are “fused” into the hero and the professor is only cognizant of his role when Firestorm is in action.
   Elsewhere, aboard a research vessel in the South Pacific, we’re introduced to Jonathan Shine, who, it turns out, is the son of New York mob boss “Shoe” Shine. Shine, however, is trying to escape his family background and has established himself as the world’s foremost authority on deep sea diving. Determined to prove himself, Shine goes on a dive. He is exposed to tremendous deep-sea pressure and radioactive water and becomes a living storm.
   Back in New York, McGarrin spots Ronnie Raymond leaving Stein’s lab and decides to follow him. (Uh-oh, is Ronnie’s double identity in jeopardy?)
   Meanwhile, in the South Pacific, one of the ship’s crewmen spot a swirling column of water headed towards them and calls it a tornado. “Not in the South Pacific,” corrects another sailor. “It’s a typhoon!” (Actually, a typhoon is the Pacific version of a hurricane. What they’re seeing is a waterspout, the oceanic version of a tornado. Obviously, Gerry Conway did not think Waterspout was as effective a name for a villain as Typhoon.) Typhoon makes short order of the ship and heads away.
   Back in the Big Apple, Ronnie Raymond has an argument with his father, gets into a shoving match with classmate/ pain-in-the-butt Cliff Carmichael, and spots the school’s principal being kidnapped by “Spit” Shine, brother to guess who.
   When Firestorm arrives to rescue the principal, his mission is interrupted by the arrival of Typhoon, who has made his way across the Pacific and the United States to Brooklyn. The mandatory battle ensues, ending when the Firestorm, using his newly-tested transmutation powers, is able to change Shine back to normal.

   Closing out CCC #1 is a pair of 20-page Green Team stories by Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti and Creig Flessel. Unlike the other material in this volume, there were no plans to actually publish “The High Price of Food” and “The Deadly Paper Hanger” as part of the DC Explosion; both had been written off in 1977.
   The Green Team, something of a cross between Richie Rich and the Boy Commandos, made their only official appearance in First Issue Special #2. Between the giant lobster attack in the first story and the wallpaper designs that come to life in the second, it’s not hard to see why they never got an encore.


Next time, a look at the contents of CCC #2.

BobRo Archives: The DC Implosion

More than a decade ago, I wrote an online column for Silver Bullet Comic Books. In addition to trivia quizzes and answers to questions, I wrote on a variety of topics of interest to comics fans. Those columns were archived online for many years, but I recently learned that they are no longer available.
For your reading pleasure, I will re-present these musings with minimal editorial changes...


Spiraling inflation spelled doom for the 35c price of comic books in early 1978. (Yes, imagine that, a standard 32-page comic book for 35c!) Faced with having to raise the price a nickel to 40c, publisher Jenette Kahn opted instead from something much bolder: DC would add eight pages of new story material and raise the price to half a buck. It was promoted as “The DC Explosion,” though no one at the time realized just what kind of a big bang would result.

Team books like Justice League  would carry 25-page stories which “gives us something we haven’t had for the better part of a decade: the chance to do full-length stories with fully-developed sub-plots and characterization,” Kahn explained in her Publishorial “Onward and Upward.”

Other titles, rather than expanding a single story, would become the home for new back-up features as well as old favorites. As Kahn put it, “some of your favorite characters that haven’t been able to carry an entire 17-page title: Enemy Ace, The Human Target, The Atom, and OMAC.” Well, that’s almost true. After all, The Atom’s own magazine lasted six years in the previous decade… certainly impressive considering the average lifespan of a comic book today.  Even OMAC, which ran for 8 issues over a little more than a year, outshines much of the current output.

“We’re not stopping here,” Kahn promised. “We’re continuing to grow and branch out, to boldly go where no comics company has gone before.”

Actually, she was following a path similar to one chosen by her predecessor, Carmine Infantino, six years earlier. At that time, with comics set to raise prices from 15c to 20c, Infantino added sixteen pages of reprints and pushed the price to a quarter. The plan was apparently “unacceptable to retailers” and soon after, DC was back to 32-page books for 20c, like the rest of the industry. [One has to wonder why a retailer, who makes his money off a percentage of cover price, would want cheaper magazines. The owner of the mom-and-pop store where I bought my comics had been quite happy to have me handing over a few extra quarters a week. When the prices dropped by a nickel, he grumbled about “those %&#$ publishers” taking money out of his pocket.]

And where Infantino’s plan was unacceptable to retailers, Kahn’s plan was shot down by her bosses upstairs at Warner Publishing. Even as DC was launching the Explosion, horrendous sales reports for the winter months were coming in. Thanks to a series of blizzards and ice storms, hundreds of thousands of comic books never even made it out of warehouses, reducing sell-through percentages to their worst-ever levels. Taking this on a strictly dollars-and-cents level, the Warner Publishing powers-that-be told Kahn and company President Sol Harrison to cancel the plans for bigger books and cut the line to 20 32-page titles at 40c each.

Faster than The Flash could outrun a bullet, writers and artists were stopped in mid-assignment. Books were canceled, new projects were axed. Twenty-five page stories were chopped down to fit into the old 32-page format. Back-up features were tossed into filing cabinet drawers. And more than a couple of people lost their jobs. The publishing breakthrough that had been hailed as an Explosion suddenly became known as “the DC Implosion.”

From the rubble emerged Cancelled Comics Cavalcade,  two blank-covered volumes of the material consigned to the filing cabinets. Ostensibly created to protect the copyrights on all the material, CCC was also a way for the fanboys on staff to create something of a collectible for the people who worked on the axed features. Thirty-five copies were produced in the Warner Duplicating department (and “Neil of the Magic Finger” was thanked for his efforts); thirty-four went to the creative folks involved and the copyright office. The last copy went to Price Guide publisher Bob Overstreet “to show the world it actually happened.”

The contents of CCC are not exactly a tightly-guarded secret. Overstreet reports that in 1989 a set of the two volumes was sold for $1200. Through the years, duplicates have been made and circulated from either that set or one of the others. (Not surprisingly, no one has ever come forward to claim credit for “leaking” the copies.) Just last week, after I mentioned that CCC would be the subject of my column, emails circulated about the availability of “twelfth-generation copies.” With so much money to be made auctioning things off on eBay and similar sites, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before an original set turns up there.

One little-known fact about CCC: At the time we were about to hand out the 34 copies, I suggested to then-Editorial Coordinator Paul Levitz that we should mark the originals, by having some of us sign random pages in colored ink. That way, any pirated duplicates could be recognized instantly. Though he agreed with the concept, it wasn’t done, leaving the door open for someone with a bit of skill to make bogus “genuine” copies.


Next time, a look at the contents of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


For the first time in more than thirty-five years, Laurie and I did not host Thanksgiving dinner, which also meant it was the first time in decades that I was not up in the middle of the night dealing with the cooking of a giant turkey.

Some months ago, Rebecca's parents, Jim and Debbie, asked if we would be willing to transplant the event to their home in Fairfax, Virginia, because their son and daughter-in-law were able to join the festivities. They graciously invited our other Turkey Day regulars, my brother Richie's family and the Greenbergers, so that we could all still be together.

In the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, Laurie and I headed off. We stopped in Jersey City to pick up Chuck and Rebecca and then headed south. Shortly after noon, we rendezvoused with Sammi at the motel we'd be staying in; she had made the trek from her home in southeastern Virginia. After checking in, we drove to Jim and Debbie's house.

As always, there were large quantities of food (and many pies) and everyone ate heartily.

Alas, one Thanksgiving tradition that did not translate to the new location was the visit of Sammi's friend Karl to join us for dessert. His arrival is always greeted with a "Cheers"-like shout of "Karl!"


Our Friday plans were for sightseeing in nearby Washington DC. Laurie, Sammi and I took a tour of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. We've all been in printing plants plants before and I'm happy to report that printing money is not all that different from printing comic books.

Rozaki in Washington DC
Chuck and Sammi recreate a pose from a visit to DC twenty-five years ago. In the original, they are much shorter and you can see the Capitol behind them.
We then met up with most of the clan -- eleven of us in all -- and quickly realized that everyone had different things we wanted to do. Laurie, Chuck, Sammi, Bob, Debbie and I went to lunch. Chuck and Sammi split off to visit the Aquarium and tour the monuments. Bob and Deb and Laurie and I hiked across town to the Library of Congress and Supreme Court, then split up as there was only time to visit one and each couple had a different choice. After our tour of the LoC, Laurie and I then walked back to where we'd parked to meet up with Chuck and Sammi.

Following dinner at a Tex/Mex restaurant, we reconvened with the clan for a family karaoke that Chuck has coordinated. Among the highlights was Jim and me reprising our rendition of "Sunrise, Sunset" that we first sang at Chuck and Rebecca's wedding.

On Saturday we headed home, but, unlike the drive down that had been virtually traffic-free, we crawled on a long stretch of the Jersey Turnpike. Overall, it was a nice change of pace for us, but I look forward to a return to tradition next year. If nothing else, I miss having all the leftovers...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Mystery Box Sale

My pal Tony Isabella has been clearing out his Vast Accumulation of Stuff with weekly sales. (Check it out by clicking One of the items he's been offering is the Mystery Box, filled with a wide assortment of comics and other "stuff." He's inspired me to put together some Mystery Boxes of my own, which are available right now as part of Cyber Monday.

Boxes A, B, C, D, and E each contain more than 100 comic books, plus magazines, trading cards, old promotional stuff, and at least one autographed item, all from my Cabinet of Goofy Stuff. -- Boxes A, B and C -- SOLD.
Box F has dozens of DC 100-Page Super-Spectaculars instead of the comics. -- SOLD
Box G has an assortment of trade paperbacks. -- SOLD
Box H is the widest array of stuff of all, including comics, magazines, DVDs and more. -- SOLD
Boxes F, G and H also have the "plus-items" of the other boxes.

$30 each, first-come, first-served. Contact me at if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post-Sandy Post 4

The Verizon truck parked in front of our next-door neighbor's house yesterday signalled that our block is finally "fully-connected" again. They were the last to have electric power restored -- on Saturday evening -- and we were only a day ahead of them as far as phone service; our phone was finally back in service late Sunday afternoon.

We got our cable and internet connection restrung last Thursday. The work was done by a man who said that he didn't mind the cold and the snow on the ground because he was from Wisconsin. He worked on our house as well as those of two of our neighbors, refusing our offers of coffee and water. (He did accept some fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies Laurie had just baked.)

Still to be done are the removal of the tree stump and sidewalk repair, replacement of the fence, and repair of the solar panels on the roof.


Having been in the dark for six days, I can certainly understand the anger being expressed by my fellow Long Islanders who waited (and waited) for their power to be turned on. There is no gratification knowing that 95% of us have been reconnected if you are in the remaining 5%.

What I don't understand is the disparagement of LIPA repairmen by people who had the work done by crews from Tennessee, Florida, Quebec and many other areas around the U.S. and Canada. All of these men and women -- including those who work for LIPA -- appeared to be working exhausting schedules to replace snapped utility poles and restring downed wires. Last Wednesday afternoon, with heavy wet snow coming down, I saw a sizable crew that appeared to be both LIPA and out-of-state workers replacing two downed poles and stringing new wires.

If there is something to direct anger at, it is the management and coordination of all these crews to get the maximum work done in the shortest period of time. I have no idea what amount of staff is necessary to collect and assess all the information coming in and then coordinate the crews in the field. It may be determined that LIPA management was under-prepared for this and was then overwhelmed, but for those who have been doing it these past two weeks, it has to be a thankless job.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Go Vote!

A few years ago, when she was a U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton gave the commencement address at SUNY Farmingdale. As Laurie is a professor there, I got to attend and hear the speech.

One of the points Senator Clinton focused on in her speech was voting. When people came to her to complain about something that the government was doing or something that it wasn't doing, she would ask them if they had voted in the last election. Not "Did you vote for me?" Just "Did you vote?" If they responded that they hadn't, she would point out that they really had no justification to complain about the government, as they had not exercised their right to elect it.

That said, be sure to vote tomorrow. Your candidates may or may not be elected, but the next time you to complain about something the government did or didn't do, you will be able to answer Hillary Clinton's question in the affirmative.

Post-Sandy Post 3

There was a flurry of activity yesterday. In the early afternoon, a Town of Oyster Bay work crew came and removed the trunk and branches of the fallen tree that had been pushed to the sides of the road.
Then, at about 4:00, three LIPA trucks arrived. The crews examined the utility pole that was on a 60-degree angle, discussed options, and went into action. First, they secured the pole by tying it to the other, still-standing tree in front of our house. Then they repaired the cross-beam at the top of the pole, hoisted up the two parts of the heavy-duty line that had been split and spliced them together. Meantime, another worker spliced new wiring to the line from our house to the pole, which was then attached to the line.
Within about ninety minutes, some six days after the lights went out, the power was back on. Needless to say, there was much rejoicing in our house.


There are still about a quarter-million homes and businesses in Nassau and Suffolk waiting to be reconnected. In six-plus days, LIPA has restored power to upwards of 700,000 customers. While that is of little solace to those still in the dark, it can be taken as a sign that they are doing the best they can. Based on what I saw in front of my house, the crews are working quickly and efficiently and should be applauded for their efforts.
Certainly what they do not need is posturing by the Governor, first saying that he will replace the higher-ups if they are not "responsive to their customers" and later saying that there will be an investigation into whether LIPA was adequately prepared for Hurricane Sandy.
Of the latter I can only ask, how could anyone have been "adequately prepared" for the disaster that occurred? And even if there were a plan in place that might be deemed "adequate," who was supposed to pay for it? Should we start paying now so that LIPA can have a plan in place for all of its customers lose power, rather than just 90% of them?


Speaking of paying, we're still waiting for an announcement of a "government investigation" into the price-gouging that is going on at those gas stations that are able to pump fuel. Sparked by media reports that the power outages would limit the availability of fuel, many people took to the streets to fill their tanks. Not surprisingly, news reports of closed stations sparked even more people to join the hunt.
This resulted in blocks-long lines at gas stations and waits of hours to fill tanks, many of which were not really in need of filling. (Come on, how many people normally fill their gas tanks when they have 3/4 of a tank?) Yes, there are certainly people who did not heed warnings and fill up before the storm, and now they need gas to get to work, etc. But how much fuel is wasted by people driving all over looking for an open station and by those sitting in their cars for hours with the motor running?
Meantime, stations that were selling gas for about $3.75 a gallon eight days ago are now charging $4.30 a gallon. Where's the justification for this increase other than, "Hey, here's our chance to rake in a nice pile of extra cash because we have power to pump the fuel and the guy down the road doesn't"?
Where's the governor's sabre-rattling on this one?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Post-Sandy Post 2

As I write this, more than half a million LIPA customers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties are still without power. There has already been grumbling -- folks on the radio wanting to know why it is taking so long and Governor Cuomo talking about an investigation -- but if you take the positive view, they have restored power to somewhere around 400,000 customers in three days.

Though we have heard from friends around the Island who have their lights back on, we are still in the dark... and fairly far down the LIPA list. When they came to turn off the power yesterday so that the tree, which had been across the road and sitting on a pole and wires, could be cut down, they were then able to restore power to a few-block area just to the south of us. Unfortunately, two of our neighbors across the street, who had had power throughout, are now in the dark. So, we are now just four homes in need of a crew to restring the power lines to our houses.

On a positive note, both Laurie and I have power in our offices at work, so we've been able to recharge phones and laptops. We're becoming masters of cooking things on the gas grill; last night we had fried eggs, ham steak, and toasted English muffins all on the grill. We have been able to go to our friend Gudrun's house to shower and have dessert in the evening.  And then we return home to watch DVDs on the laptop before heading to bed.


The lines at gas stations bring back memories of the oil embargo back in the '70s. Cars are lined up for blocks, many of the drivers pushed to sitting in lines by media reports of shortages. There are many people who need gas to run the generators they have powering their homes and others whose vehicles are very low on the fuel they need to get to their jobs, but there are also those who are in "panic mode" and will spend as much fuel driving around trying to find an open station as they will be able to purchase.

Local government officials continue to tell us that these shortages will be short-lived, especially since part of the problem is that many stations don't have power to pump the gas. As the power is restored and the roads are cleared for deliveries, this will, hopefully, resolve itself without any nasty incidents.


Finally, here is the tree, in a photo taken by our neighbor, Danielle Geddes.