ExtraComicular Activities #4: We Return to The Clifton Comic Book Expo!

2016 is history and I haven’t posted a damn thing in 2017 yet, but history is gonna change…

Recently, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula expressed to me that he was really charged up to dig through some long boxes. Coincidentally, there was a comic show coming up by me and I’m always up for comics. There’s nothing better than an old school comic book show. Picture a big room filled with geeks awkwardly attempting to navigate around other people trying to scan through thousands of old comics crammed too damn tight into long cardboard boxes. I’m talking about a true comic show run by local dealers where you can actually get some steals. This is the type of show that isn’t bogged down in ridiculous hidden advertisements from media conglomerates and not speckled with tables hawking products or podcasts that have nothing even remotely to do with comics.

Since NJ is my thing, let me clue you in on the city where this comic show went down. It’s the city where Rupert Pupkin hails from, the birthplace of Vera Farmiga and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, it served as the backdrop for a ton of scenes in The Sopranos, and it’s also home to a legendary place called The Gates of Hell. If you’re from the area, you know exactly what I’m talking about, but maybe you didn’t realize that they also have a pure, longstanding comic show that has been unfazed by trends. This is the Clifton, NJ comic show, the same show that I wrote about a couple of years back. Matt was super excited for that one as well. He’s onto something because stocking up on reading material during a cold ass winter ain’t a bad idea at all! He’s also detailing his windfall of comics over at Dino Drac so check that shit out when you’re done here! I can easily say that the plastic grocery bag I hauled home this time is 1000% better than that last time. Wanna take a look at some? Here’s 10, solely based off how eye catching their covers are.

1. Dracula Versus Zorro #2 (of 2)

Topps Comics, November 1993

During the comic book boom of the early ’90s, every company wanted IN on the comic book game. Though they were almost never in the same conversation as DC and Marvel, Topps had some decent comic book offerings. Starting in 1992, their lineup of well known licenses can only be described as wildly eclectic. During their 6-year stint, Topps ran comics from mega movie hits like Jurassic Park, TV shows like The X-Files and Xena: Warrior Princess,  horror icons like Dracula, Frankentstein, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface, and even the indescribably bizarre Barbi Twins Adventures. Shuffled in between was a classic hero who’s said to have inspired Batman. Zorro was created in 1919 and he’s still popping up in the comic pages, most recently with Dynamite Comics. Much like the Lone Ranger, I was introduced to Zorro as a young kid by my Dad (of course!) Reinforcing my interest in these characters were toy lines and cartoons for both LR and Zorro in the early ’80s.

I had forgotten that Zorro once faced Drac, but I’ll be damned if this cover doesn’t have me totally intrigued right now. The backdrop of a stained glass window bathes this cover in gorgeous hues of pink and purple. In the corner to my right, wearing all black, the man who leaves his mark in the form of a slashed Z, ZORRO, meets his match against the blood sucking DRACULA himself…and the Z-man even takes second billing! Since this is the second issue of a two-parter, we pick up the adventure right when the getting’s GOOD! It’s like an old fashioned swashbuckling movie serial where everyone’s fate (including the readers) is in Zorro hands! Giant rats are about to eat Zorro alive, but he’s fighting ’til the death. All veiny and gnashing his fangs, the ghoulish Drac is about to pounce as the enraptured Carmelita looks on in wicked delight. This is an old fashioned heroic horror adventure and now I have to hunt down the first issue.

2. G.I. JOE #43

Marvel Comics, January 1986

This issue was another one I picked out solely based off its badass cover. The grim reaper blasting a machine gun?!! Of course, auto-included. Wish there was a G.I. Joe figure of that guy. The story is thin and there’s nothing worth noting about this issue except for a two page ad where Spider Man plays detective and goes on a search to find Cap’n Crunch.

3. Betty and Veronica #104

Archie Comics, October 1996

With the upcoming premiere of Riverdale, everyone’s going to try to claim their lifelong alliegience to Archie Comics, but let’s be honest, before they revamped the characters with a horror/supernatural twist, the Archie gang wasn’t necessarily in the spotlight. I actually read the books quite often many years before the revamp because I always found them to be stupid fun, but mostly due to my affinity for the art by Dan DeCarlo and Dan Parent. Through the years, I’ve posted a few cool Archie items I picked up here and there, and I’m genuinely excited for the new era of these characters. Ironically, when I was a kid I thought the Archie comics were pretty dopey, so I think I’m aging backwards. Regardless, Betty and Veronica have consistently been one of the more entertaining aspects of Archie Comics, and the shenanigans depicted on this cover are a prime example. Betty faking the need for CPR so Archie comes and makes out with her, aw man, that’s the sales pitch right there. This book is filled with cheesy jokes and a few ridiculous storylines, but what do you expect? What will happen when Betty trips over Veronica’s in-line skates? Will Betty sue Veronica for real or is this just a ludicrous misunderstanding? You must read it to find out!

4. Darkhold: Pages of the Book of Sins #7

Marvel Comics, April 1993

I’ve got to be completely honest here, I’ve never heard of or read this comic series before, but look into those mesmerizing eyes! What the hell could she be so freaked out about? Oh, right, the SLIME! Coincidentally, DEATH BY SLIME is how I want to go out. Frankly, I don’t even care what’s inside this book because this cover needs to be framed. From what I gather, and I’m probably only a quarter accurate, is that the Darkhold book is sort of like the Necronomicon of the Marvel Universe. And go easy on me if that’s way off base. This comic features Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, a giant monster, demonic war planes, and…Ectoplasm Raining From The Freaking Sky. Ectoplasm Raining From The Freaking Sky. Sold. I’ll take it!

5. ALF #24

Marvel Comics, December 1989

Alf’s girlfriend Rhonda always amused me with her ginormous super wacky pink hair. Naturally, this one was a must buy. The cover to this issue features wordplay involving the fact that Rhonda’s Back with an obnoxious arrow pointing to Rhonda’s “back,” but we really know what they were going for. Marvel worshipped that Melmacian ass. How can you go wrong with a comic that proudly offers Alf making uncomfortably perverse jokes on the cover of a comic geared toward 7 year olds? In the oh so slight chance that none of that appeals to you, this issue includes a random Rocky reference. Alf’s working out with a boom box blasting “Gonna Fly Now” while rocking a Philadelphia shirt and doing Sly Stallone impressions. A++.

6. The Real Ghostbusters #3

NOW Comics, January 1992 

Out of all the comics I used to collect when I was a kid, NOW Comics were in a class by themselves. At the time, even mentioning NOW made my friends confused because it wasn’t Marvel or DC. In retrospect, NOW didn’t get enough credit. Unlike other independent comic companies, the majority of their books were printed in full color on high quality paper while even the big companies were still using cheap news type paper. I was hooked on all their big titles including Fright Night, Terminator, Married with Children, Twilight Zone and all of the Green Hornet iterations. What was cool about their Real Ghostbusters series was that it was perfectly in line with the cartoon and enriched the RGB lore with further adventures. You’d even see some ghosts that you didn’t see in the show. Many of the issues offered some outstanding art (especially some of the later run) and this line is worth a day of nostalgic marathon reading.

This cover is worth it just for Egon and Ray’s getup. If you dig the cover, you get a free pinup poster of it inside! As a kid, the idea of that was better than the actual poster itself. It would cause me so much heartache to know that I had to try to dismantle the staples from the comic in such a delicate way as not to ruin the comic while trying to remove the poster. Didn’t they ever hear of perforation? Currently, I have a class action suit against all comic companies in the ’80s for taking years off my life.

Also within these pages, you’ll see the winners of the draw Slimer contest, you’ll witness Ray vs. the Loch Ness Monster, and to sweeten the deal even more, you get to see what the actual Tobin looks like, yes, that guy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide fame! Oh, and there’s one more bizarre feature that I have been holding out on. In the ’80s, when adults needed tips on parenting, they usually picked up the latest issue of The Real Ghostbusters comic where Egon had his own section, “Egon Spengler’s Parent’s Guide For Health and Safety.” No, I’m not lying, and he even signed it at the end! Step off Dr. Phil.

7. G.I. Joe Action Force #23

Marvel Comics, August 1987

Picking up these magazine sized Joe issues at the US-1 Flea Market back when I was a kid was one of my favorite things. I was hesitant to include Action Force because I know it’s considered more of a magazine rather than an actual comic book, and I already brought up a Joe comic in this post, but whatever – this cover is too incredible not to show off! Simple, yet effective. This Cobra soldier really has a chip on his shoulder. It’s either that, or he’s been inhaling whatever’s in that toxic canister. If it’s none of the above, the sweats and bloodshot eyes could mean he’s coming down from some crazy drugs, or maybe he’s just MAD! Ultimately, it all ties back to my fixation for toxic stuff since I’m from New Jersey and live with a talking pile of sludge.

8. Toxic Crusaders #1

Marvel Comics, May 1992

Thumbing through thousands of comics you’re bound find some treasures. For me, that means finding some classic issues that I forgot had and buying them again. In this case, I probably have at least 2 or 3 copies of Toxic Crusaders #1, but it’s so good that it’s worth owning more copies just so I can make one into a Japanese war fan. The premiere issue spins the classic tale of how Toxie became New Jersey’s favorite superhero and met such cohorts as Headbanger and Major Disaster and foes like Dr. Killemoff. For a New Jersey freak like me, it’s a historical document as far as I’m concerned, and all for 50¢!

9. VAMPIRELLA #106

Warren Magazine, July 1982

You know that old saying, “I’ve never seen a Vampirella cover that I didn’t like?” Well, I resemble that remark. If I had the resources I’d buy every damn Vampirella comic that I came in contact with just so I can frame all the covers. That was the main thing that hooked me as a kid. I’d drool over the gorgeous art on the covers, then I’d thumb through the pages and notice they were black and white. FYI, my turn offs include: Black and White comic pages. See, I was able to watch black and white movies as a kid, especially horror and comedies, but when it came to reading a black and white comic book, I was flabbergasted. In my young mind, I thought “how could a B&W comic book have the audacity to sit on a shelf amongst fellow comic books that were overflowing with vivid, colorful artwork?” No matter how exciting and vibrant the covers are, the inside totally lets me down. It was false advertising if you ask me. Take this cover as evidence. It’s so unbelievably awesome that it sends your mind into a spiral of thoughts. It makes me think if the cover is this cool looking, I can’t even fathom what’s inside, but not so much. Vampirella’s dead husband is in it trying to seduce her, that’s for sure, in all his black and white glory. (womp womp)

10. DC Who’s Who Vol. XXI

DC Comics, November 1986

With the hundreds of comics that I have from when I was a kid, I don’t think I have more than one or two issues of DC Who’s Who. As a kid in the comic shop, you had to weigh your options. As it was, I used to be lucky enough to get a stack of comics on a weekly basis, but even my parents knew which ones were worth the purchase. To keep up on the main ongoing storylines, you need the base titles, not the comics that were character encyclopedias masquerading as an actual comic.

In the back of my mind I always wanted to have every single issue of Who’s Who and keep them in that badass binder. That’s right, at one point, Who’s Who came with three hole punches on the left side of the book so you can put them in a DC Who’s Who binder. It was a masterfully concocted gimmick, but still a stretch for me to justify. Doing a Google image search for DC Who’s Who will convince almost any DC fan in about 0.1 seconds that they need every single issue of Who’s Who that ever existed. That’s what made me pick up issue XXI. I’m a DC guy and reading obscure character bios makes everything right in this crazy world.

Now onto why I was hooked by that cover! Judging by this illustration of Solomon Grundy, I started thinking about how he could’ve had a career in the WWE back in 1993 against Yokozuna. Holy shit, I’ve never seen Grundy drawn to the point where he’s busting out of his shirt from eating over 4,000 White Castles. In addition to the character bios, there’s a map of Skartaris which details the Warlord’s stomping grounds. It was known to be a land where Dinosaurs somehow found their way to even though they were extinct on Earth.

Talk about stocking up on good reading material for the cold winter season! Trust me, there’s no better way to spend a snowy Saturday than to study the personal data and histories of Space Cabbie, Spawn of Frankenstein, Spellbinder, and The Spook, than in the yellowed pages of a limp, 50¢ comic.

Get yourself out to a local comic show and seek out the cheap bins! You never know what you will find. Until next time friends – thanks for reading!

  • I’m on the same page with the Black and White comics. Just feels incomplete.

  • code24

    I collected the GI Joe comics as often as I could back then, but I have never seen a cover that badass. Great article!

  • dirtyearsbill

    This post made me want to dig through a hundred long boxes and buy 30 pounds of 80s and 90s comics for $12. Thanks for writing.

  • I never even knew Now Comics existed until this post… nor did I know that there was a Real Ghostbusters comic in the 1980s (not that it surprises me, though). Something else to keep my eyes peeled for.

    Who’s Who is a lot of fun; same with the Marvel Handbooks. On the one hand, it feels like they ought to be completely obsolete in the days of the web, where you can just go to a Wikia and find all the details. But on the other hand… nowhere else, and I do mean absolutely nowhere else are you going to find a professionally-written bio for some perfect Z-lister with an illustration that was specifically created for that bio.

  • Now Comics always had some strange properties. A comic based on The Real Ghostbusters seems pretty normal compared to most of the stuff they published. I mean, they published a series based on Mr. T! Craziness!

    I actually have that issue of G.I. Joe in my closet. It’s definitely a strange one, and since I don’t have the issue before or after it, I have no clue what’s up with the nearly undefeatable old man. It’s still a badass cover though, even if it didn’t introduce us to a hooded machine gun toting skeleton.

    Darkhold was one odd series. It definitely had a Lovecraft sort of vibe to it, and it actually creeped me out a bit. One of the earlier issues actually saw Sabertooth helping the team try to defeat an army of monsters released by the wizard Mordred, and it was pretty graphic for a mainstream Marvel comic. At least, it was for me at the time I read it.

  • Shawn

    The Darkhold is actually the featured story arc on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season. Who knows your copy may just jump up in value as a result.

  • Jason

    That Action Force is actually a U.K. release (easy to tell by the cover price), which is why other issues ate harder to track down in long boxes at shows. That Toxic Crusaders is pretty awesome since it was done by Sam Kieth. He’s long been my favorite comic artist, and it’s quite surprising that I do not yet own it.

  • Jason

    That Action Force is actually a U.K. release (easy to tell by the cover price), which is why other issues ate harder to track down in long boxes at shows. That Toxic Crusaders is pretty awesome since it was done by Sam Kieth. He’s long been my favorite comic artist, and it’s quite surprising that I do not yet own it.