Thursday, September 7, 2023

Re-run? Re-Edit! The Killers #1, 1947 / L.B. Cole's Rogue Gallery

It's been too long between posts here, but I've been busy, dammit :D 

Getting the kids off to school involved much travel, energy, and anticipation, and the first time with an empty nest in almost 20 years is something else, too.  SO QUIET. Except for the hum of the scanner, whoop whoop.

Also distracting (and fun) has been my first foray into selling on eBay.  Oh, the buying I'm well acquainted with, but this other side of the coin is a different ballgame.  My regular readers have seen me make fun of collectors over the years (lacking a bit of self-awareness on my part, as I've come to realize, I, too, despite my preoccupation with filling out the scan record, am a collector).  Now I've got a better view of what makes up another large part of the market (particularly the comic market) - the speculators.  Flippers, slabbers, dealers that ride their reputation and customer base.  These people deserve to be made fun of, too.  And if you can't beat 'em, join em, eh?  Hustle hustle.  I'd rather sell to a collector than a speculator, but you know who I really like to have all the comics and the mags and the pulps? THE READER.

Anyways, I don't know why I've taken so long to take stock of all the magazines, comics, and newspapers I've collected over the years, but every box I dig into is a surprise.  An absolute wonderland in my closet (a big, overflowing closet, heh heh).  Sure there's junk in there - wonderful junk.  I've got magazines I couldn't sell for five bucks that I'm gripping to more tightly than some golden age and pulp treasures.  It's proof that collecting for me is more of a sentimental thing.  

In previous moves, I've witnessed the peace following a possessions purge.  Do I really need all this shit?  No.  Am I going to part with my favorite girlie pulps? Hell no.  But two kids in college is expensive (FOR REAL, don't get me started) and, by streamlining my collection, I can ease that pain ever so slightly and along the way flip old treasures into new ones, because it's not like I'm gonna stop tracking down scan targets.  Scan hunter for life, baby.

But getting rid of books isn't so simple for a scanner.  Every book I consider selling begs questions.  Has this been scanned?  What does that scan look like?  A beautiful scan by somebody else makes this easy.  I'm often happy to ship a book if I have a nice scan.  No, a scan isn't the same as a book you can touch and feel and smell.  On the other hand, you can read a scan on the toilet with greasy fingers, put a thousand of them on your phone, read them with the lights out, and they don't make your house smell like skunky pulp (a smell I love, my wife not so much) or litter your bed with pulp flakes.  As a READER, scans have a lot to offer.  It's sad in some ways, but I don't buy as many new books in print anymore.  Digital is nice for a lot of things.  Not to mention the paper waste, transportation costs, etc., involved in the analog process might be reduced in our ongoing societal shift. 

Still, the death of the magazine pains me.  I love magazines.  This thing I've studied for decades now and that I cherished before that is gone.  My kids don't know about checking the mailbox for BMX magazines or thumbing through the family Newsweek or reading that issue I got at the record store of MRR for the third time.  I'm going to celebrate all these things for my readers here, but that shit's gone.  And I could type of the vapidity and current state of journalism (TEN THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THIS MOVIE - yeah, that's a title that'll suck me in you Gen Z stooge) but it's best I not go there.  That Vonnegut paperback I read as teen, pages falling out, moisture stains all around? It's more precious to me than 99.9% of the books I own.  Well, today, I'm likely reading a new "paperback" on a screen, never to hold the actual book in my hands.  It's ok, I can do this.  Art books and the like I still buy, and I'll buy physical copies to support authors or publishers (support living artists, yo), but the paper copies of books don't pile up like they used to, that's for sure.  

When I used to travel as a young man - any town worth being in - two sites I'm going to see #1 the local record store (still do that) and #2 used booksellers (my wife learned over the years just to send me on my own during that portion of a trip zzz).  Pre-internet, when I wanted to find books by favorite authors, it's not like you'd hit Google and have a bibliography.  Maybe you'd get a hip recommendation from a friend or professor, more often you're looking at the first page of the book you have and the "books by this author" page trying to discover your next destination.  Looking for more Ishmael Reed?  Maybe a Jim Thomspon you didn't know about?  The place I found that stuff was all over in little secondhand bookstores.  A beautiful treasure hunt.  Would I trade those old experiences for what we can do now and find almost any out of print print paperback dirt cheap, delivered to your door in two days?  Nah.  

Even better, with digital, I can lay hands on a book or magazine seconds after a random thought.  As a historian and even just a reader, this is like a superpower.  The way an agile digital historian can navigate through the golden age of comics right now is unprecedented or wander through covers and indicia of obscure magazines.  Mind you, the record needs to be filled out for all of these publications that will never see the inside of a library, but that's what we are about on Darwination Scans isn't it.  And if you consider yourself a collector and bearer of some of this arcane history (I'm talking to you, pulpsters), IT IS YOUR DUTY TO SEE THE RAREST PARTS OF YOUR COLLECTION SCANNED.  I do not give a fuck if you have the most beautiful pulp collection with high grade covers or runs of magazines I've never even seen a copy of.  I do appreciate your insights into these things, though.  However, I'd appreciate the whole world's insights even more.  These are our texts, and easy access means a wider understanding.  Sure I can pontificate about the wonders of something like Duke magazine. And I will.  But scanning my copy and putting it on the Internet Archive means everybody else can, too.  And somebody else is that way going to write something brilliant about those magazines I'd never even think of.  This paper is going to crumble (pulp and newsprint very quickly).  If three guys have the last copies of a scarce 20s pulp, and that means those three are super valuable and there is hesitation to put it on the scanner glass, I get that. And yet, somebody has to see to it. One of those three guys, specifically.  Sure, microfilm or some atrocious institutional scan might be out there, but we can do better than that.  A photo scan if need be, but do consider that a good scan celebrates the art and legacy and is the best way to get next generations to understand the wonders of a the people's library. 

Wow, did I get off track there *cough* Anyways, before I sell a book, I end up going through my scan or other people's scans and checking what the scan record shows.  If a scan by somebody else can use a cover upgrade, I'll do that (like this one this week, the copy that got scanned was lacking blue inks on the cover).  Maybe if the existing scan is super small or otherwise not what it might be, I'll go ahead and scan my copy before I let it go.  As I look back at my old scans, too, I see improvements that might be made.  In some cases, as I'm upping these books to the Internet Archive (my shelf), I'll go back to the edited .tifs and release a higher resolution version, maybe tweak some colors, fill in pages that were missing, etc.  Today's scan is one of those.  This is a comic that I acquired from the Philippines in rough shape (very) with a big part of the front cover missing.  Fortunately, I was able to use a Heritage image for the cover restore, but unfortunately the excellent two page text story from Gardner Fox was damaged.  Now, with Worthpoint, a nice resource for a scanner these days, a friend was able to locate a low-res but readable image of the damaged page I was able to use to make the page complete.  Looking at older scans can be tough for a self-critic, but this was pretty decent.  I did perform a fresh color edit, though, from the original .tifs (taking some of the yellow out of the page color and tweaking colors and saturation here and there) and while I'm at it, offer higher quality images.  I've done pretty well at staying ahead of the curve in terms of image quality (width people, width) compared to norms but nonetheless welcome higher quality images to go with the rising storage and bandwidth capabilities we have today over 15 years ago.   Some of the earliest scans of rare comic books have to be redone.  Not because of the poor scan but because of the way they were presented (dial-up, anyone?).  Comic collectors have issues šŸ˜‚ and the need to have small files for the purpose of a large, uniform archive probably wasn't the most forward looking approach to preservation.  A pity when we are talking about valuable or, worse, scarce comics that will need to hit the glass again. Enough already out of me!  Let's get to what you're here for - THE KILLERS

A better look at the cover here.

L.B. Cole, 1947.  A rouges' gallery, bodies stacked high in the foreground.  I don't know if I've talked about Cole here on my blog before, but he was an absolute genius.  What he does with color and composition, man.  I've been working on a gallery (working mainly from auction house images, I can't afford his classics) that you can peep here, more additions to come.

Get the high-res comic scan straight from the horse's mouth (signed with scanner tag) here.

or you can view it online or download alternate formats at the Internet Archive here.

From Magazine Enterprises in 1947, this issue is a notorious example of Pre-code mayhem.  On Overstreet's top ten list of crime issues, this is one of the comics your mama warned you about, violent filth! yassssss

I'll post the Gardner Fox story since that's the reason for the re-edit. Text repair is a bitch (just ask my fellow pulp scanners if you really want to know), but sometimes necessary for completing a story or reconstructing an indicia.  This particular story is a great example of a well-done two pager.  These stories could be horrible, often went unread, and are little appreciated.  However, there's some good ones yet to be "discovered" too.  Gardner Fox was prolific with these and provided thousands of text stories in the comics (and I do wish his wiki I've linked there gave a little more weight to his pulp work).  Sometimes these two pagers would be at the centerfold, sometimes elsewhere.  I really like this approach with the story on the inner front and back cover (prime advertising space, I know).  Hopefully this is easily readable in Blogger's image system, but doubtful, grr.

 The lead story, Mr. Zin - The Hatchet Killer from Paul Parker, a violent take on the Yellow Menace.

A better look here.

A member at the Digital Comics Museum remarked this week on this comic, "Very well done comic, but so violent and racist by today’s standards!"  Yes, indeed.  And I think it was even by then standards, as Dr. Wertham gives it mention in his Seduction of the Innocent. However, we aren't about throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the comics, pulps, and magazines of  yesteryear, and I'm sure I'll find a much more offensive example than this one to occasion a deep dive on that topic šŸ˜…

If a hatchet to the head or running down cops isn't enough, how about a little flagellation, that Dr. Zin is a bad, bad man.

I like the weird villain in the third entry, Poison Claw Killer, artist unknown


A better look here.

And even if there's some racism and stereotyping in this type of comic, check the awareness of the realities. The third entry, from Charles Quinlan (who I dig), in They Tricked the Schoolgirl's Killer! pretty succinctly shows the plight of the black man.

Of course, Black Ace never gets mentioned in the story again after that LMAO, sigh.

And, lastly, there's the fun Ace High, Private Eye story from Vernon Henkel in which a very strange villain meets a loopy end.

Anyways, enjoy the comic.  I know I enjoyed returning to it, and I'm happy to have a new version out with the complete Fox text story.

I'm not going to do this often (and doubt I'll have the occasion to so neatly), but the physical copy I worked from can be yours on eBay in all it's tattered glory right here.

Man, I need to do this more often, as I've enjoyed myself this morning.  Blogging is a funny thing, as the inspiration comes and goes.  Just sitting down at the typewriter is the first and hardest step for me, I don't know why.

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