Friday, February 27, 2009

Dart Adams presents Black Like Me: Black Comic Heroes Through The Ages Revisited Part One 1967-1988

I knew that I had to do an update for this drop immediately after I did it last year as several factors contributed to me having to cut it short. One was the fact that I couldn't find images for many of the characters that I wanted to feature originally like Garantua T. Potts of Action Comics who first appeared in 1938. In the Flash Gordon comic strip that first went into print in 1934 it was clear that Prince Thun was a Lion man from a country on Mongo that resembled Africa. When he first sees Flash he comments about him being White...if he wasn't something other than White himself why would he say that?

Another issue had to do with the ethnicity of some of the characters that were called "Black" while some that had similar appearances or ethnic backgrounds weren't. Both of those issues caused me much confusion. Hero Cruz, Darwin, Tag, Sunspot, Cecilia Reyes and Angel Salvadore are all dark Latinos but they're listed as "Black" while Feral and Thornn are of the same skin tone and ethnicity but they aren't on the same lists? I had to go back and just deal with the whole issue and add everyone so there wouldn't be any any confusion. I used the "Manny Ramirez to David Ortiz scale" with my decision making (I kid).

Also, do I include cartoon characters with Black voices that weren't actually Black as well? In that case what do I with Hong Kong Phooey, Jazz and Blaster of the Transformers or Panthro of the Thundercats? Penny from Inspector Gadget was voiced by Cree Summer but she's clearly an exception to the rule isn't she? I went back and added quite a few characters I missed even though ones like Cal from Doonesbury (1971) and Ossie, Li'l Leroy and Big Sonny (1971) from the DC teen comics (Binky) couldn't be repped because I couldn't find any images of them anywhere online in time. Enjoy:

1967

Joe "Robbie" Robertson first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #51 as the right hand man of J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher/owner of the Daily Bugle that employs Peter Parker. Robbie is a sympathetic ear and much more level headed than Jameson hence people tend to go him rather than the boss. He also is Jameson's most trusted advisor and one of the most widely respected Editor-In-Chiefs of the New York newspaper industry. He's also is one of the most well rounded non hero characters in the Marvel Universe.

1969

Martinex is one of the Guardians Of The Galaxy and he first appeared in Marvel Super Heroes #18. His body has been altered so he can survive in extreme conditions like the ones that exist on Pluto. He can also withstand the bitter cold rigors of deep space and the intense heat of stars giving his the ability to generate blasts of intense heat or cold from his left or right hands. In 1990, it was revealed that Martinex was in actuality a Black man. His name should've tipped people off: Martinex T'Naga...I shit you not! © Robert Wuhl

1970
Healer Randolph first appeared in the pages of the DC title Tomahawk #128. His back story that he was once a slave that learned herbal remedies and folk medicine and one day saved his master using his knowledge. His master happened to be a doctor that taught him everything he knew and allowed him to use his last name. During the Revolutionary War, he was freed and he encountered Tomahawk and his Rangers. They needed a medic and he agreed to accompany them provided he just saved people and not carry a weapon or engage in battle himself. After the Tomahawk title ceased it's run the character was never used again.


Josie & The Pussycats first jumped onto the scene in 1970. They hailed from Riverdale, the same town that Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Betty and Veronica lived in but the difference being that Val was the first Black person from there. Josie, Melody and Val went on tour with their own pals (also from Riverdale) and spent a fair amount of time on the air in cartoon form and also as recurring characters in Archie comics. There was even a 2000 film adaptation where Rosario Dawson played Val. Josie, Melody and Val would also go to outer space one day, but that is another story.



The Harlem Globetrotters had their own cartoon running on television from 1970-1973 about their world traveling basketball exploits. In damn near every episode they were losing a game but they went on a furious comeback and scored a gang of baskets in the most amazing ways to a funky soul music soundtrack.


1971
Not to be outdone, the Jackson 5ive from Gary, Indiana had their own cartoon produced for them by Rankin/Bass studios. It ran from 1971-1973 and detailed their rise to fame and fortune, their signing to Motown with the aid of Diana Ross and Berry Gordon plus a gang of odd adventures with the brothers riding around in a busted old jalopy of a car. At least they performed a gang of songs on the cartoon, huh?



1972
In 1972, Bill Cosby first aired his super popular cartoon series "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" with the aid of Filmation Studios. He made the show educational while incorporating storylines from his stand up comedy act about growing up in Philadelphia and his gang of friends. Kids learned life lessons every single week from Mudfoot and the Brown Hornet as well. Why do I have the urge to listen to some Dilla now?


1973
The super villain Chemistro made the first of numerous appearances as a foe of Luke Cage and later his brother from another mother Iron Fist in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #12. He was a scientist that developed an Alchemy Gun capable of changing the very chemical or molecular structure of an item or thing merely by shooting at it. There have been multiple Chemistro throughout the years, all of them being Black males. The newest Chemistro has the power to change the composition of things without the aid of the Alchemy Gun, though.


Marvel fans got their first of many views of Nightshade, a deadly assassin and self taught technological genius the pages of Captain America #164. She rocked rough and stuff in her afro puffs, leather bikini and thigh high boots, didn't she? The entire storyline looked like it was jacked directly from a Blaxploitation flick because Nightshade had developed a serum to turn people into werewolves that did her bidding. She got caught and locked up but earned a doctorate in prison but when she came out no one would hire her except for jobs she was overqualified for. She got fired from one job for pointing out an error made by a doctor she was working for...rehabiliation can eat a dick!

Nightshade is still a thriving character in the present Marvel Universe as her expertise in the areas of biochemistry, science and several advanced technologies has put her right back in the thick of the underworld via MODOK and the all female supergroup Femizons. At least she finally settled on a look that suits her.


So...an Egyptian mummy went crazy and began terrorizing New York. He took a Black chick with an Afro hostage because she somehow reminded him of a woman from his distant past. It's crazy how far comics have come that I remember that my older brother's friends owned this issue on the strength that it was about some Black folks for a change.

1974
Another one of Luke Cage's fiercest enemies was the Harlem gangster known as Cottonmouth. Cornell Cottonmouth sent goon after goon at Luke Cage, Mr. Slick, Mike & Ike, Big Ben, etc. all ended up either tossed out of a window or getting beaten into hamburger. Luke Cage faced off with Cornell Cottonmouth and took he and his gang down once and for all. This storyline was originally going to be used for the proposed Luke Cage film but it's been rewritten and pushed back to 2010. It's probably for the best.


Thunderball of the Wrecking Crew burst onto the scene in Defenders #17. He was physicist that had created a gamma ray bomb and when it was stolen from him he went to steal it right back. He was caught and imprisoned. While in prison he befriended the man known as the Wrecker and he told him that he was going to escape from prison and obtain a crowbar with mystical power given to him by the evil Karnilla the Norn Queen.

When Wrecker got his mystical crowbar, Thunderball obtained powers that made him almost indestructible. He was impervious to bullets and he was given superstrength and endurance stemming from huge wrecking ball attached to a four foot chain that he could use to create highly destructive attacks. While The Wrecker is the leader of the group, Thunderball is the brains of the outfit, hands down.


The megalomaniacal arms dealer Moses Magnum is hands down one of the greatest villains Marvel ever thunk up. He is originally from Ethiopia but he joined the Italian army and worked with those that occupied his own country because they were better armed. He came to the United States and became president of an arms company. He has fought Punisher, Spider-Man, Deathlok, Luke Cage and the X-Men in addition to teaming up with Apocalypse and Tyrannus on occassion in hopes of conquering the world. One day, I'll do a full post on this nuts exploits and do his character the justice it deserves.


In Riverdale, there wasn't a gang of diversity going on for about 35 years until the Claytons showed up in town! Chuck Clayton dreams of becoming a cartoonist and he's rarely seen with art supplies of some nature on his person. Chuck's dad is Floyd Clayton, better known as Coach Clayton at Riverdale High. He coaches multiple sports in addition to teaching a couple of classes.

The addition Chuck and Floyd Clayton paved the way for even more minority characters to eventually show up in Archie Comics. They even decided it would be a good idea to give Chuck a girlfriend since Archie, Jughead and Reggie did not feel like sharing their chicks with him at all.

1975

Snake Eyes was leader of The Black Hand, a gang/terrorist organization bent on ruling Harlem and one day all of New York City. They were all well versed in martial arts and had a considerable number of soldiers down for the cause but they were often foiled or flat out stopped by the Sons Of The Tiger and the other heroes contained in the pages of Marvel's The Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu comic books. Now, only oldheads and retro fans are even aware that these cats even existed.



The Battle For Asgard was on and poppin' when the All Father Odin went missing and every god you could imagine began popping out of the woodwork to take them down in the interim. The Egyptian gods of Heliopolis descended upon Asgard and battled the Norse gods in hopes of taking shit over but they had to contend with Thor, The Warriors Three, Sif and all of Odin's kin. Osiris, Anubis, Set, Isis, etc. all appeared in the next few issues but were ultimately defeated. They returned to Heliopolis and waited for another oppurtunity to get their revenge.

1976
The Sphinx is the official arch rival of Nova, having first appeared in Nova #6 and subsequently in other titles that Nova was in all the way down to having his wife take his name and vow revenge on Nova years later as a member of the New Warriors. All of Sphinx's powers emanated from his manipulation of the magical Ka stone or the Jewel Of Ka.

He could travel through space and time, make himself immortal, super strong or manipulate energy of several types and emits beams of them from his hands. He often had to be fought by multiple beings possessing cosmic powers to be stopped such as Nova, The Fantastic Four, Galactus, Silver Surfer or large supergroups like the New Warriors when his wife altered reality to avenge him.


Nancy Woods is the only other sista other than Chuck Clayton's mom (whom we never see) and Val of Josie & The Pussycats (who's always on tour on in space or some shit like that) to pop up in Riverdale. The crazy part is that for years the writers couldn't agree on what to make Nancy's last name be as it changed with different writers. Nancy also didn't always attend Riverdale High depending on whom was writing the story at the time. She often thinks that Chuck spends too much time drawing and not enough time with her, he's probably just busy drawing a world where there's more than one token negro around.

1977
Bushmaster was one of the deadliest villains to ever grace the pages of Marvel Comics. For one, he had his arms and legs taken off by the propellers of police boats while he hid from the cops. His brother brought him to Sidewinder who, with the aid of the Roxxon Oil Company gave him cybernetic arms with poison filled blade like fangs and a tail like a snake. He ran afoul of Punisher. Luke Cage and Captain America on many an occasion as a member of Serpent Society. He's still active in the Marvel Universe.


The original Thunderbolt was a frequent enemy of Luke Cage and a Harlemite (big surprise). He had the ability to run at superhuman speeds at he used it to steal or just to beat up and intimidate people. Luke, of course ending up winning their battles and now someone else using the original Thunderbolt's uniform/suit.

1978
Kiber The Cruel is one of the Black Panther's main adversaries. His name is well earned due to his savagery in battle and the fact that he siphons the lifeforce and psionic energies of his opponent to both fuel his own power and his insatiable thirst for the energies given off by the human body. He is also a genius of equal intellect to Henry Pym and he can create various machines and devices to aid him in his quest for global domination.

1979
Lucius Fox is Bruce Wayne's right hand man as well as the President and CEO of Wayne Enterprises. His keen ability to invest, forsee the direction the financial marketplace is taking and direct the day to day operations of Wayne Enterprises keeps The Dark Knight's business ventures in the black (*insert Harvey Pekar groan here*) year after year. He's also good at advising Bruce Wayne in his everyday life.


"Rickety Rocket" was a Ruby Spears cartoon about a group of Black teens with a detective agency that solved crimes in space in a shitty space hooptie with bug eyes and big ass lips with a speech impediment. For 16 episodes we were treated to some bullshit of the highest level. Whereas "Speed Buggy" wasn't a problem at all, this cartoon was a Bad Idea Jeans commercial come to life. Rickety Rocket, fuck off!



"Superstretch and Microwoman" was a cartoon about a husband and wife crimefighting duo, the husband could stretch like Plastic Man or Mr. Fantastic and his wife could shrink like Ant-Man and ride the family dog Trouble. This cartoon was hella corny but it was cool to see two Black folks married, gainfully employed and fighting crime sans cooning in a Saturday morning cartoon for a change.


1980
Stevie Hunter first appeared in the pages of X-Men #139 and she was Kitty Pryde's personal dance instructor as well as a trusted confidante of hers. At times she served as a surrogate mother for Kitty as well. She eventually became a larger part of the X-Men's lives when she taught ballet to the New Mutants and had a brief clash with Storm because she was jealous of Stevie and Kitty's relationship. Stevie was the first person that Kitty Pryde told about her feelings for and relationship with Piotr Rasputin (Colossus) and Stevie often assisted the X-Men when they were in trouble.

1981
In 1981, a new Saturday morning cartoon series based on the Hanna Barbera favorites Space Ghost and the Herculoids was produced called "Space Stars". One of the segments was called "Teen Force" and the Black guy was called Moleculad. He had the power the manipulate not only the molecular composition of his own body but whatever he came in direct contact with. "Teen Force" only had 13 episodes and few people except for olheads can ever even recall the cartoon existing at all.



1982
Stalker and Roadblock were two of the first Black members of G.I. Joe when the toy's first generation of figures was produced by Hasbro. Shortly thereafter, Hasbro, Marvel Comics and Sunbow Productions decided to make a comic book and an animated series to accompany the toy line. In the early issues of G.I. Joe the ranger Stalker and cook/heavy artillery specialist that spit 4 bars of heat every time he spoke were both featured prominently. It would be a minute before the other brother would appear in the pages of the Marvel comic.


During the early run of the original Moon Knight comic book, Marc Spector's greatest competition were the Slayers Elite, all employed by the megalomaniacial Nimrod Strange. Strange was leader/general of the Third World Army, a terrorist organization bent on bringing the United States to it's knees. After Moon Knight managed to body all of his men except for his all female harem/personal guard, Strange simply decided to design a battle suit.

He employed his prodigious fighting skill and used all of his men's leftover weapons and his skills to become a one man army named Arsenal. While he did manage to bust Moon Knight's ass in their first encounter, he died a few issues later during a terrorist attack on New York City. You knew he wasn't gonna last. I bought this issue with my lunch money more than 25 years ago and I still own it to this very day.


In 1982, NBC created a cartoon based on the TV movie starring Gary Coleman called "The Kid With The Broken Halo". Gary Coleman provided the voice for the main character Andy LeBeau and only 13 episodes were ever produced. He tried to keep his neighborhood friends from being swayed by a minion of the Devil named Hornswaggle. It still occassionally airs on networks like Boomerang.


The team formerly known as the Thunderriders had now become Team America and their lead mechanic was the automotive and creative genius Lee Hibbs, better known as Wrench. He not only designed, built, modified and repaired all of Team America's gear but he also instrumental in their success as a unit. His girlfriend Georgianna went along for the ride as Team America toured the country doing exhibitions.

Whenever AIM, HYDRA. Ghost Rider or random hired goons showed up, here came The Marauder. A biker who was stronger than all of the members of Team America combined. Marauder could ride the hell out of a bike and kicked more ass than Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li stapled together. When Team America rode with him they were Michael Bay movie unstoppable. The final issue of the limited series it was finally revealed who the mysterious Marauder actually was:

Wow! Who saw that coming? Oh wait...I did. To make it sadder, I was 7 when I first read this 4 issue limited series and I knew Georgianna would end up being The Marauder. It turns out that the members of Team America were all mutants and they could transfer all of their combined abilities into a host body and take it over without the person even being aware of it. It turned out that without Wrench and Georgianna, Team America would suck more than Tyler Perry's House Of Payne.

1983
Doc was the Harvard University and Johns Hopkins educated medical officer in the employ of G.I. Joe. Not only was he a brilliant doctor and he was handy in a firefight but he could also invent things and had quite a handle on higher technology. In the comic book as well as the G.I. Joe cartoon, Doc saved G.I. Joe's ass from Cobra, the Crimson Guard and the Dredknots on several occasions. After a few years he was replaced by Lifeline and relegated to background status just like Stalker was on the cartoon while still being a focal point of the comic book storyline. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Someone at NBC said "Hey, let's give Mr. T a cartoon, too!" and so they did. Mr. T led/coached/did security for a travelling gymnastics team (?) across the country doing expeditions. When they appeared in a new city or town they often ended up fighting crime and solving mysteries as well. It helped that all of the multiethnic teens assembled had gifts like high intelligence, photographic memory and the mystical martial art known as Gymkata to aid them. There was also a kid named Spike who imitated Mr. T voice and appearance and his dog had a mohawk like Mr. T, too. It's cute and NOT racist, I assure you! *Rolls eyes*

1984
Way back in 1984, Kevn Eastman and Peter Laird independently created a comic book entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In their second issue, they introduced Baxter Stockman, a Black inventor that created Mousers to exterminate sewer rats and his computer programmer/lab assistant April O' Neil. April discovered later that Baxter was using the Mousers to rob banks and that he was batshit crazy. The Turtles, of course, saved the day but Baxter Stockman would come back in many guises over the years in the pages of TMNT. Once he was a cybernetic organism with the same brain.

When the cartoon series was made Baxter Stockman became a tiny blond White man in the employ of the Shredder and April worked as a reporter. In the latest cartoon incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 25 years later they made Baxter a Black man again. My neice and nephew thought they changed him from the older cartoon until I explained to them what actually happened and broke out my old ass TMNT comics.


1985
Mister Bones first appeared in the pages of Infinity Inc. and was a creation of Todd McFarlane. He had a unique set of powers as well, he had a cyanide touch because his skin and his perspiration were both of a toxic nature and due to a side effect caused by his parent's allowed him to be experimented on while in the womb he was born with invisible skin. He also possesses superhuman strength and enhanced fighting ability.

Though he is actually Black, he appears to the human eye as a walking, talking skeleton although in a uniform or clothing you can clearly tell that he's human. Bones was one of the foremost villains in the DC Comics universe but is now a hero known as Director Bones of the DEO and often aids the Justice Society Of America when needed.

Onyx Adams was once a reputed street fighter in Gotham City that was adopted into the League Of Assassins. She returned to Gotham and eventually aided several DC heroes such Green Arrow, Black Canary and Wonder Woman before accepting an offer from Batman to mentor his protege Orpheus and run the Hill Gang in Gotham.

Orpheus got merked and Onyx and the Hill Gang immediately went into action so as to avenge his muder at the hands of Black Mask. Onyx is one of the few freelancers/vigilantes that operates without interference from Batman in Gotham City today and has the appearance befitting her role as one of the monks of the League Of Assassins Sanctuary.


In Captain America #310, Sidewinder introduced the newly formed Serpent Society. They were a group of supervillains with reptilian themed powers and among their ranks was the deadly Egyptain female Asp with the power to concentrate energy into a killing attack she called venom bolts. She could also recharge her energy by doing a variation of belly dancing she referred to as her snake dance. Asp is still used in the current Marvel Universe.

Cottonmouth was a Black man and an altered human once under the employ of the Roxxon Oil Company. He was given the ability to complete unhinge his jaw and solid steel teeth in addition to increased strength and endurance. He's fought Captain America, Luke Cage and Black Panther on numerous occasions.

1986
Apocalypse made his first appearance in X-Factor #5 and he has since been tied to some of the most powerful creatures, beings and people in the Marvel Universe. Apocalypse himself is arguably one of the most powerful and influential mutants in the entire history of the Marvel Universe. He was born in Africa thousands of years ago with grey skin and he's only gotten more powerful with the passage of time.

He can manipulate energy, he's invulnerable, he can alter his size and mass at will and he wields technologies far beyond the comprehension of most of his enemies. He has a gang of villains under his control and even the great mutants in Marvel history have come under his control at one point or another. The Age Of Apocalypse being one of those events. I'd get carpal tunnel syndrome if I ever decided to really go in about Apocalypse.


Spider-Man has fought a gang of odd criminals but was one of the better ones, a chemical engineer named Jalome Beecher discovered a way to eliminate friction between substances and surfaces. He wanted to go forward with his research but discovered that he was going to be out of a job. He decided to steal the money to fund his reasearch and build his own lab and company but discovred that the man that elimainated his job was involved in illegal activity and decide to take him down, too. Spider-Man interferred but Slyde slid away with the loot.

Slyde is a frequent enemy of Spider-Man and often was employed by The Kingpin. He was recently bodied by the Maggia when he refused to work with them following the fallout from the Superhero Registration Act. Hopefully, someone dons his suit like what happened with Chemistro and Thunderbolt because Slyde is too cool a character to fade from the Marvel Universe.


Winston Zeddemore of the Ghostbusters was put into animated form and later comic book form when "The Real Ghostbusters" cartoon series first premiered in syndication back in 1986. All of the other members of the Ghostbusters are geniuses, PHD's or experts or ghosts or the undead. Winston is merely a former firefighter that took a job when it became available. Without him they'd be screwed since he's the only one really used to a hard day's work in the first place.

1987
In 1987, the 65 episode cartoon "Bionic Six" premiered in syndication. The story revolved around a family with a crime fighting father with bionic augmentations. One day, the family ends up in a nearly fatal accident that the father Jack AKA Bionic 1 survived. The doctors and the scientific team that created Jack decided that the best course of action was to give his entire film bionic augmentations like Jack's to save their lives. Jack and Helen Bennett had two adopted sons. Bunji was a Japanese teenager and the youngest, the eldest was a genius called JD.

JD was known as IQ and his bionic augmentations gave him super strength in addition to boosting his already high intelligence level with a brain capacity increase granting him super intelligence. Whenever the team needed a tech related solution to a problem IQ had the answer. At first, Black characters were all stupid and couldn't speak proper English or mangled grammar. All of a sudden, every damn Black cartoon character is a genius? Maybe I'm just seeing something that isn't there.


"The New Archies" featured all of the most popular members of the Riverdale gang in addition to two new characters, Eugene and Amani (guess which ones they are? C'mon guess!). Eugene was a computer genius and the class nerd/tech expert (sense a pattern here, people?) while Amani was the coolest girl in class that was up on all the newest fashions and music plus she was the best dancer in class (so what stereotypes did we miss? Oh yeah, sports! *smacks forehead*). They developed crushes on each other and end up boyfriend and girlfriend. You notice that they're both in the bottom of this screencap, right? 'Cism! LOL

The syndicated cartoon "Beverly Hills Teens" featured the school gossip reporter Chanel/Shanelle Spencer (it's spelled differently depending on what source you read). It was interesting that she was the lone Black chick on the show but everyone had to keep running to her and trying to appease her/stay on her good side out of fear that she'll reveal some dirt about them on TV or the radio. The show has recently become available on DVD.

1988
Chunk is a enormous man who's also a genius with superstrength and invulnerability in addition to having the odd power of matter absorbtion as well as eating. He has actually eaten entire machines in the past in addition to whole humans just to send them to an alternate dimension known as the Void where he has the ability to transport himself occasionally. Chunk has worked with The Flash mostly in the past but was chosen by Amanda Waller to join the Shadow Fighters and defeat the supervillain Eclipso as well.

Next up: Black Like Me: Black Comic Heroes Through The Ages Revisited Part Two 1989-2009

One.

17 comments:

Acai said...
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Teech said...

I drew that first pic of Thunderball (with the crow bar and ball n chain) a million times when I was maybe a freshman in high school. Funny thing is, I have no idea what comic it was in or where it came from! Great post!

Vee (Scratch) said...

WHERE CAN I GET THAT BROWN HORNET DVD?!?!

Acai said...

I have no idea what comic it was in or where it came from! Great post!

Teeth Whitening said...
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Amenda said...
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Lance said...
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Acai Juice said...
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annarose27 said...
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Anonymous said...
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Red Wine Extract said...
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Sophie said...

i read your post this is quite amazing. I like to know more about this character.
Jenny Craig
Jenny Craig
Jenny Craig

Omaha Steaks said...

You are doing a wonderful job. You are providing very nice piece of information, I would love to know more about it.

Doris said...
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Anonymous said...
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stella said...

Great post! But Im curious if this comics are still available to purchase or have they become collectors' item?

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MSR Hubba Hubba 2 said...

wow that is a really extensive list. I haven't seen most of those comics before.