Thursday 23 February 2017

DC Special Series #27 Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk

In 1975, DC and Marvel both attempted to gain the rights to publish a comic adaptation of the Wizard of Oz, eventually deciding to co-publish the project. The result was the tabloid-sized "MGM's Marvelous Wizard of Oz". DC and Marvel quickly agreed to another co-publishing venture, and in early 1976 "Superman vs. Spider-Man" was released as a one-shot tabloid. Five years later DC and Marvel revisited the Superman and Spider-Man team-up in Marvel Treasury Edition #28, and later that same year DC took their turn at an inter-company crossover in the final issue of DC Special Series. DC Special Series was an umbrella title for one-shots and special issues published by DC Comics since 1977. Each issue featured a different character and varied in format, published as either Dollar Comics, 48 page giants, digests, or treasury editions. 

DC Special Series #27, released September 24, 1981, is a comic book of 64 tabloid-sized pages (25 cm x 33 cm), with a cover price of $2.50. Neither the umbrella title nor the numbering system appear on the cover, the title "DC Special Series" appearing only in the indicia, with the cover banner reading “DC and Marvel Present: Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk”. DC Special Series #27 features cover and interior artwork by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Dick Giordano (Inker), with a story, “The Monster and the Madman", by the legendary Len Wein. When a story features Bruce Banner working at a division of Wayne Research, assisting in the development of a gamma-gun designed to cure diseases, and the Joker is intent on stealing that selfsame gamma-gun, well, you know serious mayhem is going to follow! This epic tale was the last tabloid-sized comic published by DC for almost twenty years.

Friday 17 February 2017

Disney’s Peter Pan Lenticular Image

1966 seems to have been a banner year for the W. C. Jones Publishing Co. out of Los Angeles, CA. This was the year they released a slew of licensed lenticular images based on Walt Disney productions. Lenticular printing is a technology in which an array of magnifying lenses are used to produce printed images with an illusion of depth, or 3D. One of the nicest of these W. C. Jones images we have come cross is this 20 cm x 25 cm example of Peter Pan flying over Captain Hook’s ship! Most of the lenticular images released by W. C. Jones were postcards, only about 13 cm x 18 cm, and did not include a plastic frame. The fact that this item has survived with its frame for more than fifty years, while showing very few signs of wear, is remarkable!

Peter Pan is a 1953 animated fantasy-adventure film produced by Walt Disney and based on the play ‘Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up’ by J. M. Barrie. It is the 14th Disney animated feature film and was originally released on February 5, 1953, by RKO Radio Pictures. Peter Pan was one of Walt Disney's favourite stories and he had intended for Peter Pan to be his second film after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However he could not get the rights until several years later, after he came to an arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, to whom Barrie had given the rights to the play. Peter Pan was praised by most critics during its initial release, and Peter Pan is today considered one of Disney's animated classics.

Saturday 11 February 2017

Ronson Premier Varaflame Lighter

During the 1950's, as butane lighters gained popularity, Ronson launched its own butane-run lighter, the Premier Varaflame (short for variable flame), in 1957. A breakthrough in gas-lighter development, this lighter had it all, from a beautiful design by Seymour Rappaport, to a state-of-the-art burner-valve mechanism conceived by Conrad Zellweger. The Premier Varaflame was Ronson’s largest product launch and was an immediate success. In 1958 many previous models were re-engineered and introduced into the Ronson Varaflame collection. This example, approximately 6.5 x 3.8 cm, comes complete with the original box, case, and warranty, and has beautiful blue enamel running along both sides of the body. 

The Ronson lighter company was started as The Art Metal Works in 1886 by Louis V. Aronson, and began by designing various decorative home related objects, such as figurines, bookends, and table lamps. By 1910 Aronson had created and patented his first lighter, and in 1926 released an "automatic operation" lighter, which became a great success and led to further patents. In the 1940’s, lighters had become so popular that Ronson discontinued all other products to concentrate on their development, and by 1954 “Art Metal Works” was completely dropped from the company name. At almost sixty years old, this lighter still shines when brought into the light.

Monday 6 February 2017

'The Curse of the Ring' Art Portfolio by P. Craig Russell

In 1980 the publishing company Schanes & Schanes released the ‘The Curse of the Ring’, a limited edition portfolio of 1200 copies by American comic book writer, artist, and illustrator, P. Craig Russell. The portfolio, signed by the artist on the first plate, consists of six black-and-white plates based on Richard Wagner’s cycle of four operas ‘The Ring of the Nibelung’. The set is housed within an illustrated folder that measures approximately 12.5" x 18" when closed. P. Craig Russell returned to the operatic themes of ‘The Ring of the Nibelung’ twenty years after this portfolio was released with the mini-series ‘The Ring of the Nibelung: Rhinegold’ through Dark Horse Comics in 2000. Central to the mythology of this operatic cycle is the curse, the fall of man and the consequence of submission to selfish desires. Russell’s elaborate artwork, evocative of Art Nouveau illustration, has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards.

In 1971, the Schanes brothers (Steve, age 17, and Bill, age 13) co-founded Pacific Comics, which started out as a mail-order company selling to consumers via ads in the Comics Buyer's Guide. This ultimately led to tangible retail stores, with the first Pacific Comics outlet opening in Pacific Beach, California, in 1974. In 1979, Pacific dipped its feet into publishing when they released Warriors of Shadow Realm, a John Buscema portfolio of six signed, coloured plates to accompany a three-issue Weirdworld story in Marvel Comics Super Special #11-13 (June-Oct. 1979). Schanes & Schanes was the name Pacific Comics used for their printing of art portfolios and autographed prints. In addition to work by Russell and Buscema, Schanes & Schanes also published portfolios of other popular properties such as Elfquest (1980) and Cerebus the Aardvark (1981). In August, 1981, Pacific Comics launched Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers by Jack Kirby, the first issue of which sold 110,000 copies! However, by 1984, with the company $740,000 in debt, Pacific Comics was forced to close. 

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Marx Tin Train Set

During a recent inventory an unmarked box was brought to light, and inside a Marx train set was discovered consisting of a pressed steel locomotive, six tin cars, and fourteen sections of track. The locomotive appears to be a ‘New York Central Lines’ COMMODORE VANDERBILT streamliner 0-4-0 (Marx Model 232), the key wound variety produced by Marx starting in 1934. However, this particular locomotive and cars are equipped with tongue-and-slot couplers (TSC) which Marx started using about 1936, information which helps to date these items more accurately. Although the locomotive has some superficial chips in its paint, the ‘New York Central Lines’ front name plate is still affixed, and its wind-up motor still runs beautifully. This eighty year old toy is a testament to the Marx company motto "give the customer more toy for less money"!

Louis Marx and Company was an American toy manufacturer incorporated in 1919. By early 1920's they were producing a large array of tin and wooden toys for girls and boys. Eventually their line included tinplate buildings, tin toys, toy soldiers, play-sets, toy dinosaurs, mechanical toys, toy guns, action figures, dolls, dollhouses, toy cars and trucks, and, of course, trains. Unlike Lionel and American Flyer, its main competitors in the toy train business, Marx never set out to make the fanciest toy trains, but rather to make quality toy trains at the lowest price. For Depression-era kids and their parents, a complete Marx railway could be had for the price of a single Lionel train! Sadly, too slow to jump on the electronic-toy bandwagon, in 1972 Marx was purchased by Quaker Oats. By 1975, its manufacturing facilities were closed.