A&R1985: Vicki Valentine

Vicki Valentine (1985) #1-4
by Barbara Rausch and Bill Woggon

I definitely had this series as a teenager, but I don’t remember anything about it. Let’s read the first four pages:

Oh, this was originally planned as a one-shot? But was expanded into a quarterly series, which I take to mean that the first issue sold pretty well?

Oh my god, it’s so… it’s so pretty! I almost said “gorgeous” or “beautiful”, but I think “pretty” is the right word here. Just look at that top left panel: Everything is just perfect. I mean, the angles and perspective are somewhat off, and they’ve all got staring eyes as on dolls… but that just makes it even more perfect. It’s beyond perfect.

I’m sitting here with a stupid grin on my face, and that smile lasted all the way through the series.

Punky fashions!

Vicki Valentine is written by Bill Woggon, the creator of Katy Keene, about which I know nothing. Let me google that for a second…

Ah, it was published by the Archie people:

Katy Keene was introduced in Wilbur Comics #5 in the summer of 1945, and appeared in subsequent issues of Wilbur and various anthology comic series in the 1940s including Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica and Ginger, eventually receiving her own title in 1949 which ran for 12 years.

Isn’t that the prettiest cowboy shack ever?

The artist here is Barb Rausch, and I know her work from Neil the Horse (here in a cross-over panel sort of) and several other 80s romance comics. She seemed to be involved with all of them? But mostly as a background artist, I think? This is the only book of hers I can recall that’s done fully by her.

She should have done more, because the artwork here is delightful.

Cheesecake, too.

Now, this is a book aimed solidly at small children, so we get some colouring pages, of course.

And paper dolls to cut out. (Pretty thin paper here, but I guess you can glue more solid paper to it…)

And a fashion show with famous characters.

Oh, yeah, I’ve forgotten to mention the plots… they’re pretty basic plots, but they’re fun. Vicki Valentine is a struggling designer who finds work as an assistant to a more famous designer, and hi-jinx ensue. Very mild hi-jinx.

Heh. That’s a pretty unique paper doll.

Awww! They’re so cute!

Barb Rausch died in 2001. I’m trying to find the article that was written after her death, but I just can’t find it. I vaguely remember it being written by her friend (and fellow romance comics enthusiast) Trina Robbins about visiting her at home, and trying to whip up some food in her kitchen. When she switched on the over, Rausch came running and quickly switched it off, because she stored the overflow of her doll collection in the oven.

A character!

Readers submit ideas for dresses… and… er… most of them are good or fun, bit this one is a bit… unfortunate?

Finally! Integrating the paper dolls into the storylines makes a lot of sense.

All the stories are a breeze, except this one. Bill Woggon is a golf enthusiasm, and tries to smuggle that into the series here, and… well…

Otherwise! This is such a delight to read. It’s just such a pleasure to look at Rausch’ artwork, and the stories are a breeze…

The series was cancelled after the fourth issue.

Heidi MacDonald writes in Amazing Heroes Preview Special #3, page 123:

VICKI
VALENTINE
Written by BILL WOGGON; illustrated by
BARB RAUSCH
32 black-and-white pages on newsprint;
$1.70; direct-sales distribution; published
quarterly by RENEGADE PRESS
Forget about Boy George and Prince,
forget about Madonna, Joan Collins
and the Wasp. When it comes to
fashion plates, Vicki Valentine is where
it’s at. And she’s a real don, too—paper
doll. anyway. Vicki #4 is the Summer
Fun issue, featuring a salute to Lady
Liberty’s 100th birthday. an event which
includes a guest appearance by Morrie
Turner’s Wee Pats, as well as a whop-
ping big birthday cake. We also meet
Angel Cake’s A.G.-—Adoring Grandma,
that is.
Then, alas, Vicki will go on an in-
definite hiatus, though it’s possible that
there will be future book-sized collec-
tions of Vicki paper dolls. Fashion will
out, after all.
—HMacD—

These books have unfortunately never been reprinted, but you can still pick them up pretty cheaply:

Trina Robbins writes in The Comics Journal #237, page 35:

As a young teenager,
Rausch had been one of those
fans who sent in designs to
Katy Keene comics, and
whose designs were used by
Katy Keene creator Bill
Woggon, who even selected
her to be Designer Of the
Year. She never stopped being
a fan of Bill Woggon, and in
1986, she collaborated with
him on four issues Of Vickie
Valentine (Renegade press)
one of many attempts in the
1980s by various artists, all
unsuccessful, to revive girls’
comics. During this same
period, She also penciled a
number Of stories for my own
unsuccessful attempt to
revive girls’
comics,
California Girls, (Eclipse)
which lasted all Of eight
issues, and for Arn Saba’s
beautiful series, Neil the
HO rse.
While Rausch’s drawing
style — she was probably the
“girliest” of all the girl car-
toonists — worked beautiful-
ly with the above-mentioned
indie books, and with others
as diverse as Joshua
Quagmire’s Cute)’ Bunny, the
all-woman
anthology
Wimmen} Comix and the
benefit
AIDS
book,
StripAIDS USA, there was
little place for her in the grim
n ‘ gritty testosterone world
of 1980s mainstream comics,
although she did contribute
to the 1989 all-woman
Wonder Woman special.

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.

A&R1985: Gene Day’s Black Zeppelin

Gene Day’s Black Zeppelin (1985) #1-5
by Gene Day and others

Gene Day died in 1982, but left behind a number of half-finished projects. This series collects these bits and bobs along with other pieces already published in fanzines, as well as new comics from friends of Day. It’s a pretty unique series in that way. (And one I feel even less comfortable saying snide things about, I mean, doing an insightful, deep critique of, than usual.)

Let’s look at the first four pages:

There’s a letters page in only one issue, and apparently starting this series with this Gene Day comic (inked by his brother David) was controversial? Because it’s a humour piece? It’s pretty amusing, anyway.

This storylet by Charles Vess was meant for the original never-published version of Black Zeppelin. (Which was announced, and they apparently took orders (via mail) for it, but then it never happened. It’s like Kickstarter three decades too early.)

Anyway, the Vess piece is very interesting visually… or… misprinted? I’ll go with the first one. It’s not much of a story, though.

Several of the pieces are based on short stories (scripts?) by Gene Day, that have been adapted by one or both of his brothers. Here’s Dan Dan.

This quite twisty strip is by Dave Sim. Visually interesting and very accomplished.

This Dan & David Day (from a story by Gene Day) has a twist ending, as usual, but this one I totally didn’t see coming. Kudos! It’s interestingly told, as well, and that tree sure is pretty.

This is Larry Dickinson from a Gene Day script, and again, it’s a simple twisty story, and again, it’s visually quite interesting.

Unusual credits here, but here’s the explanation: This was a strip Gene Day had sold to a publisher, but it had never been published, and the original artwork was lost. But they had bad xeroxes of it, so David Day has re-drawn it from those xeroxes.

A lot of work has gone into this series!

The first three issues were the normal 24 pages of an Aardvark-Vanaheim or Renegade comic, but they switch to 32 pages with the fourth issue. The series was projected to last for six issues (depending on how much material they we finding), and I guess this meant that they had more material than expected, and didn’t want to go for seven issues?

Anyway, the fourth issue introduces a three-part serial by Mark Shainblum, Gabriel Morrissette and David Day… and the connection to Gene Day is somewhat unclear? The introduction doesn’t state that this was intended for the original Black Zeppelin, so I’m not sure where this came from?

I guess it fits in with the rest… but it’s odd: It’s about a super-hero or something who can skip between realities and inhabit other people. Here he’s in a Fascist Canada, but he conveniently has a talking computer who can explain to him how this world works without anybody getting suspicious.

Yeah, I know.

This Dave McCarthy/Dave Sim thing is more in tune with the rest of the book. And that’s a very different rendering technique to what Sim usually uses.

The three-part serial never finishes, because only five issues of Black Zeppelin were published. I’m guessing… low sales? Enthusiasm running out?

This is a surprisingly coherent and pretty enjoyable series to read. There’s only one thing that’s… like… bad: This thing by Gordon Derry, Barry Blair and David Day. The inking (by David Day) is the only thing it has going for it.

The coming attractions on the inside back cover lists Black Zeppelin #6, and says that it’s featuring the Gravedigger’s Banquet story… which was printed in #5!

In Vicki Valentine issue, there’s this ad.

So who knows what went on here? Certainly not me. Let me do some googling…

So it wasn’t discontinued due to lack of material:

More of his work appeared posthumously in Caliber Comics’ anthology series Day Brothers Presents, which also featured the work of Day’s comics-artist brothers, David Day and Dan Day.

Hm:

The first story is titled, “The Strip”, with story and art by Gene, and is a very candid look at his life as a comic book artist. Rarely as comic book readers do we realize just what these artists have to go through to produce the quality of work we all get to enjoy, and Gene gives us a good glimpse of his life behind the drawing table.

Well, there isn’t much about this series on der untertubes, which isn’t surprising.

Heidi MacDonald writes in Amazing Heroes #62, page 24:

Black Zeppelin is a new science
fiction-fantasy anthology book due
from Aardvark-Vanaheim around the
end of March. This is a prdject
begun by the late Gene Day some
years ago, but left on the shelf after
his death. It is being put together by
Joe Erslavas, an associate of Day’s
and artist whose work appeared in
the magazine Dark Fantasy some
time ago. Day’s widow, Gale, is also
working on assembling the book.
The first two or three issues of
Black Zeppelin will be what
publisher Dave Sim (a close friend
of Day’s) calls “a monument to
Gene,” containing stories by Day
and others, such as Charles Vess,
who worked with Day and were in•
spired by him. Day’s influence on
other artists was a vitalizing one,
Sim explains, helping them try
things they’d never done before. “l
know I did a lot of stuff with him that
I never would have done on my own.
Somehow he made it plausible.” In
this connection, there will be
severaltextpieces by the artists on
their work with Day.
After this, the book will remain as
a shopcase for short pieces, and a
place for new talent to develop. Sim
feels it’s important merely to have a
place tike this available for writers
and artists. “If someone has a
science fiction story they want to
do, they’ll have this.”

Oh! Dave Sim originally intended this to be a continuing anthology series.

Dan Day is interviewed in The Comics Journal #111, page 116:

BELL: Gene obviously left a large number of
unfinished projects. Can you tell us
how Renegade’s Black Zeppelin came
about?
DAY: Deni Loubert approached me last
year in Ottawa, at Maplecon 6, and asked
me about doing some work for Aardvark-
Vanaheim. She mentioned Black Zeppelin.
Joe [Erslavis] has edited these, along with
a large number of partially finished stories
that Gene was working on before he died.
With all that, and a couple of new stories,
there was enough to fill six issues.

Jim Wilson writes in The Comics Journal #105, page 45:

Each of the first three issues contains four
features—original strips by Day and others,
adaptations of Day’s short stories, and an
occasional illustrated poem. All save the
poems are preceded by an introductory page
with information about the piece and those
who worked on it. Those familiar with
Gene Day only from his Master of Kung Fu
are in for a delightful treat, for the book is
an excellent showcase for the full range of
Day’s skills as a comics artist, writer, and
collaborator. The stories are uneven, as is
the case with most anthologies, but all are
at least worth the reader’s attentior„
Several of the stories are reminiscent of
the better stories one can find in Warren
magazines of the early ’70s, with their hor-
ror/SF subject matter and ‘ironic twist Of
fate’ endings. In fact, I was half expecting
Uncle Creepy or Vampirella to show up at
the conclusions of “Slaughterhouse Passing,”
“Quiet in the Green,” ‘ ‘It Waits,” and “The
Eaters.” On a more serious level, several
Other stories are worthy of special note:
Charles Vess has a striking feature called
“Priest,” which Vess himself notes is not so
much a story as an “excuse to draw some
which images are disturbing
Images..

[…]

None of these stories are very long—each
issue of the book is only 24 pages (though
the publisher promises more pages in issue
#4), but the material is easily worth the
cover price for fans of short strips and a
must for those who liked Gene Day. The
excellent entertainment and admirable artis-
try here make Day’s death even more tragic
in retrospect.

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.

February Music

Music I’ve bought in February.

Let’s see… yes, it’s the usual mix of new and old stuff? Except that there’s a bunch of Mort Aux Vaches CDs in there…

The discovery (because I’m slow on the uptake) of the month was this:

The Sets & Lights album by Xeno & Oaklander. It’s so 1983! Even though it’s from 2011! I love it!

And then there’s this one, which really is from 1983, and is the original version of the concert album by Little Annie that I got in January. Ironically enough, I thought it was recorded in like 1997, because that’s what it sounds like.

It’s all a time warp to me.

A&R1985: Valentino

Valentino (1985) #1-3
by Valentino

I remember this comic well from when I was a teenager. It seemed fresh and new and original: An autobio comic.

Now, this isn’t exactly the first autobio comic ever: I think people usually point to the Binky Brown thing by Justin Green, and there had then been a bunch of underground autobio comics (Aline Kominsky etc), many of which I’d read at the time — and, of course, American Splendor. But this seemed like a different approach: More lighthearted and more… well… mainstream?

It’s also the first Renegade #1 to be published, I think.

Let’s look at the first four pages:

It’s a story about how Valentino dodged the draft by getting a friendly doctor to certify that he’s an acid basket case. It’s fun!

But the longest piece in the first issue (almost half the page count) is this illustrated text thing about his grandmother dying, which… isn’t?

Back on safer grounds in the next issue (published a year later) about teenage horniness…

… and an unfortunate experience with belladonna, which left him hallucinating for two months. Perhaps that kindly doctor wasn’t all wrong!

It’s fun watching Valentino experiment with a number of rendering styles. The main problem, though, is that his characters are pretty stiff and awkward, so it looks a bit odd when you try to render them more moodily…

Another long text piece in issue two…

Fortunately the third and final issue is all comics. Valentino has deep insight into how his own mind works.

The longest piece in this issue is about trying to quit smoking, and the funniest bit there is this … thing he went to. He paid $500 to sit in a room, getting shocks while smoking several packs of brands of cigarettes he doesn’t like.

I guess it’s aversion therapy?

(It didn’t work.)

Oooh! I remember that riddle from my childhood! I’ll save you the bother of holding your laptop upside down:

Err… that’s… not… That’s not an answer? The answer is that 25+2 = 27, and 27+3 = 30.

Drama! Valentino meets Harvey Pekar (who’s friendly) and Joyce Brabner (who isn’t). It’s amusing to contemplate deep, heart-felt rivalries in the autobio community…

Valentino started drawing super-hero comics a bit after this? I’ve always boggled at that, but perhaps panels like this shows that he’s on his way.

Anyway, these three issues are quite entertaining.

Somebody writes in Amazing Heroes #133, page 190:

In conclusion, Valentino reiterated the
book’s lighter perspective than the two
preceding ones„ but for those who likes
it, he p’romises to “get heavy again next
issue” (#4), which, for future reference,
will be called “Drawn and Quartered”
and as it looks now will be one continu-
ous story throughout.

I think some (or most?) of these stories were reprinted in a book called Vignettes in the 90s (and that’s the title Valentino wanted to use for this series). He’s done a handful of autobio comics after this… I remember reading A Touch of Silver in the late 90s? Don’t remember anything about it, though.

There’s an autobio survey in The Comics Journal #162, page 67:

JIM VALENTINO
Valentino
Before the superheroes Shadowhawk and Guardians ofrhe
Galary and after the superhero parody normalman, came
Valentino’ s autob i ographical series for
Renegade Press.
These three issues are de-
pressing when the reader pauses to
consider the diversity of storytelling
techniques and moods in these stories
— which have by now been aban•
doned for How 10 Draw Comics the
Marvel Way. Of interest to American Splendor readers.
“The Day I Met Harvey pekar” is a tlwughtful piece; it can
be found in Valentino the 3rdJP

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.

MCMXXXIX XLV: Allegheny Uprising

Allegheny Uprising. William A. Seiter. 1939.

Wayne!

This seems… like an in-between western? I mean, it’s certainly not like one of those cheap, cheerful earlier western serials, and it’s not like one of those later, epic westerns?

The people look kinda… gritty (almost all of them have torn clothes and greasy hair), but the repartee is very bright?

It’s very odd.

The previous scene was a jolly tavern scene, and this one is about Native Americans killing and scalping this woman’s children.

Yes, that’s John Wayne.

This is pretty good?

It is a very entertaining movie.

This blog post is part of the 1939
series
.