For people who wish to buy comic books, an antique store is a found of two things: absurdly overpriced comics, and ridiculously underpriced comics. Comic book stores are very experienced at knowing both the price and liquidity of comic book stores, but someone selling stuff from their uncle's garage at a flea market will usually believe either that old issues of Alpha Flight or X-Factor will go for 5 dollars each...or else that a box of comics from the 1970s won't be worth much more than a box of Reader's Digests from the 1970s. So yesterday, while waiting for a bus in Newport, Oregon and perusing a flea market with stalls from people selling things on consignment, I found a package with two comic books, back to back, with a price of one dollar and fifty cents. The cover price was 20 cents, meaning early 1970s.
And that is how I ended up with a copy of Shazam #3, and a copy of The Phantom Stranger #21
. If not exactly priceless treasures, these seemed to be a good find, interesting if nothing else. When I finally got home and opened my package, the first thing I saw was the back cover, a black and white ad that stated "THE HIT THAT ENDED THE BALL GAME. SCORE IN SPORTS", with a photograph of a hand clutching a needle between them. Given what I knew about SHAZAM!/The Original Captain Marvel, this ad seemed incongruous, since the average Captain Marvel reader might deal with "hyper from too much bubble gum" as their substance abuse issue. Not to be put off by this advertisement, I opened the comic and started reading.
The story had three stories. But the very first thing that I noticed was the art style. Captain Marvel/SHAZAM was a super-hero comic, by some accounts more popular than Superman before it fell afoul of comic book laws, but in DCs 1970s reboot, the art style is very much Archie/Richie Rich, with rounded, rubbery bodies and cartoonish facial expressions, and large blocks of solid color for a background. This isn't necessarily wrong, but it was a surprise to me. This art style, combined with the short story length, makes me think that this was definitely marketed towards children. In the first eight page story, Billy Batson is worried because while in suspended animation, he lost track with the happening youth culture that didn't exist in 1953, but while trying to magically solve that, an evil wizard turns people to stone and then he defeats the wizard. In the second story, an inventor has invented an antigravity device, and comic stereotypes of Arabs, Chinese, Frenchmen and Englishmen attempt to steal it. And in the third story, which was a reprint of an original, golden age Fawcett Comics story from 1946, a group of witches attempt to kidnap their sister who wishes to go into radio broadcasting. The final story, written over two decades previously to the other ones, has a clearly different, more realistic art style.
So after reading what was a rare find, and a piece of comic book history (The legal wrangling between DC and Fawcett, and later Marvel comics, over the likeness and name of "Captain Marvel" is a decades long legal story), I wished I could give you some type of summation. The stories, however, were so disjointed, so stuck between being a kiddie comic and a super-hero comic, and whose stories were so silly and pointless that I couldn't get anything much out of it.
So, while the collector in me is glad that I picked this up at what is easily a 90-95% discount, I really can't say that I was left with any type of impression to share. Still, if you ever see any comic book with under a 25 cent price being sold for under a dollar, buy it, whatever it is.