Weird War Tales #13 cover
When I was a kid in the early 1980s our subdivision used to have garage sales almost every weekend during the summer. Saturdays would be spent by me and a friend going sale to sale looking for anything worthwhile. Since it was the early ‘80s it seemed like a lot of the things at the garage sales were items originally bought in the ‘70s from charm bracelets to books and comics too. And it was at those garage sales where I found the first few issues of the comic books Creepy, Eerie, Swamp Thing, Mystery in Space and Weird War Tales, to name a few, all from the ‘70s which is where my love of horror comics was born.
While the early ‘80s were a boon for independent comics publishers, horror comics that had been popular in the late ‘70s were out of favor by that point. Creepy ceased publishing in ’83 and while Swamp Thing was, and still is, a popular character, in the early ‘80s he was between the creative high from his debut by the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson then Alan Moore’s reinterpretation of Swampie in the mid-‘80s.
But because those comics weren’t popular anymore at the time they were the ones that would turn up at garage sales.
I’m not sure if kids who originally bought the comics had moved onto other things and simply didn’t want them anymore or if their moms decided to throw them out, but at the time garage sales in my neck of the woods used to be chock full of these kinds of comics.*
So, during those summer weekends I’d spend every penny I had hitting garage sale after garage sale looking for interesting comics. I specifically remember one garage that had a run of Swamp Thing #1–10 where I bought as many as I could and another where I found a few issues of Creepy.
Which later meant that when I’d go to our local comic shop I’d buy even more back issues of Creepy and, a personal favorite of mine, later runs of aforementioned Mystery in Space and Weird War Tales too.
For a while I had quite a collection of these horror comics. While I don’t have many of the actual garage sale comics anymore, in later years I did end up re-buying a few issues here and there of ones that had made their mark on me. In fact, over the last few years Dark Horse Comics has been re-releasing collected issues of Creepy a few of which I own, and to this day I still find myself picking out an issue or two of these horror comics and reading them when the mood strikes.
Which got me thinking; shouldn’t I have grown out of the horror comics phase at some point?
As a kid I always figured that at as an adult I’d grow out of comics and sci-fi and horror and start doing things that are more adult in nature. Like watching sports or playing golf or buying a boat. But that never really happened. Over the decades the one thing that’s been consistent in my life is that as an adult I still like most of the stuff that I liked as a kid.
I suppose that’s just something about my makeup. I’ve always thought that life changing events would lead to me being a different person. In fact, when I started high school I burned most of my comic collection stupidly thinking that I’d moved onto bigger and better things — since only kids read comics, right?
But the one consistent in my life is that, to quote Buckaroo Banzai, “No matter where you go, there you are.” And just because I’m now an adult and not eight doesn’t mean that I don’t love horror comics any less than I did back then.
Though now, admittedly, that thinking seems a little dated. Back when I was growing up there was a definite division between what kids, teens and adults were “allowed” to do and still be considered “normal.” Kids could watch cartoons, teens could not. Teens could read horror comics, adults could not.
And when you were an adult watching superhero cartoons or reading comics would mark you as an outsider. But that’s not the case anymore.
Even by the mid-‘80s I remember seeing loads of adults in comic shops buying comics as, ahem, “investments,” and now it’s not uncommon to see grown men and women sporting superhero t-shirts too. The movie that’s made the most money at the box office in recent years was The Avengers that’s a comic book adaptation and one of the most successful TV series of all time, The Walking Dead, is a horror comic played out on the small screen.
Still, I suppose rather than feeling guilty whenever I pickup an old issue of Weird War Tales rather than reading some piece of fine literature I should just tell myself that I’ve always loved this stuff and I probably always will. Even if it means I never end up reading War and Peace.
*In the early 1980s it was very common to find comics for sale at garage sales for 10¢ a piece — until later in that decade. That was when the comics market exploded in value and moms started seeing comics that they would have thrown out a few years before as something that might be able to put their son or daughter through college with instead.
Dinosaurs Attack! is all but forgotten today — other than by a few middle-aged sci-fi fans like me who can remember where they were the first time they saw this trading card set. (I was at Keltsch in Georgetown where I discovered the cards on clearance for just 10¢ each and ended up buying every pack I could afford!)
An homage to Mars Attacks!, the Dinosaurs Attack! cards featured dinosaurs, ripped from their time and transported to our own by a mysterious force, rampaging across the planet in fully illustrated bloody gory detail. The original release of the card set didn’t do well which meant that a comic book which was released at the same time was cancelled along with the cards. Luckily for us, though, IDW Publishing revived the Dinosaurs Attack! comic and republished the entire series along with issues that were shelved after cancellation.
I’d be lying if I said that the Dinosaurs Attack! comic isn’t “so bad it’s good,” but I still adore this old/new series.
It’s probably been at least 15 years since I bought a Star Wars comic book, and that’s coming from a guy who used to buy everything Star Wars related I could get my hands on. But what got me collecting Star Wars comics again in 2013 was the new comic The Star Wars. This comic is an illustrated version of George Lucas’ original Star Wars screenplay written years before the movie was filmed and is quite different to what ended up on screen. While the overall plot and character names are similar between the two, there are quite a few differences between Star Wars and The Star Wars like Skywalker being a grizzled old Jedi general, Darth Vader being just another Darth of many and R2D2 speaking! It’s an interesting “what if” look at sci fi history.
If archeology has its Indiana Jones to make that science “cool,” then astronomy has its Chasing Venus to make that science cool too — and everything in Chasing Venus actually happened.
Back in the 1700s scientists knew that Venus would cross in front of the Sun twice that century. And if measurements could be taken at several points on the Earth of this transit it would be possible to measure the distance from the Earth to the Sun. But since these measurements needed to be taken across the globe, it meant that scientists would have to spend years sailing to far off points on the map or trudging across frozen Russia to be in the exactly right place at exactly the right time to witness this event. These journeys were so difficult and harsh that one scientist who spent years sailing to a far off island to see the first transit decided to stay and wait for the next transit rather than going home. An event he’d have to wait eight years for!
I’ve been interested in astronomy my whole life and in the last decade have gotten accustomed to seeing a satellite or two traveling the night sky. But over the last few years with the launch of more and more satellites into orbit and seeing more and more of them nightly, I’d gotten interested in knowing the names of what I was seeing pass overhead. That’s why the app Satellite Safari is so cool.
It shows from the viewer’s perspective on the ground what satellites are overhead right now or 10 minutes from now, or tomorrow, or next week, or next year. For an astronomy geek like me that’s heaven.
I used to collect all sorts of crazy comics as a kid. Sure, I bought Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman comics, but I also bought things like Battlestar Galactica, Strange Adventures and Weird War Tales comics too. That’s why I’m so jazzed that DC put out a 576 (!!!) page collection of all the crazyness that was Weird War Tales. The series lasted 124 issues and this first volume covers just the first 21 issues of the comic. So, hopefully DC will be releasing more collected editions of Weird War Tales in years to come.
Make love, not war!