I haven’t had the chance to sit down and write about my first time at Asbury Park Comic Con a few weeks ago, but let me start by highly recommending this great event. I find that the best conventions are those that focus on the original creators rather than just the movie stars and pop culture icons, and this con did just that, with guests ranging from Evan Dorkin and Denis Kitchen to Chris Claremont and Jim Steranko.
I experienced this one from a slightly different perspective, however, helping author, designer, and comic book historian Craig Yoe at his table for a few hours before exploring room after room of the beautiful Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel. The view really added to the whole experience, but my primary goal was to camp out at the table and help Craig sell his excellent books, learning about each one in the process. If you ever wanted to discover more about the origins of comics or delve into the minds of some of craziest and most creative people to ever put pen to paper, you’re going to want to check out anything from Yoe! Books. Here’s a few impressive yet affordable hardcovers I would recommend ordering from yoebooks.com.
• “Haunted Horror Vol. 1: Banned Comics from the 1950s:” I’ve been buying the single issues of this collection of out-of-print ‘50s horror comics, but this book collects the first bunch with an introduction by the Misfits’ Jerry Only. Unsurprisingly, Yoe’s horror books are his bestsellers, so if that’s not enough for you, check out “Jack Cole’s Deadly Horror,” “Bob Powell’s Terror,” “Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein,” and “Zombies,” all part of his “Chilling Archives of Horror Comics” series.
• “The Art of Steve Ditko” and “The Creativity of Ditko:” As a longtime Spider-Man and Dr. Strange fan, I always wondered whatever happened to their often overlooked co-creator. As it turns out, he’s a crazy recluse who doesn’t really wish to be found, but he’s also an incredibly gifted artist who was never given his proper due. If you want to begin exploring his work outside of Marvel, these books containing strange stories for long-defunct comic companies are a good place to start. His little-known monster work is also collected in “Ditko Monsters: Gorgo!” and “Ditko Monsters: Konga!” featuring his take on generic versions of Godzilla and King Kong, respectively.
• “Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman Co-Creator Joe Shuster:” Yes, you read that title correctly. Shuster was famously screwed over by DC Comics, so he had to do something for extra money – that something was apparently drawing kinky images to be sold in seedy underground markets. Sex, the mob, a murder trial – all things you wouldn’t expect in an art book, but that’s exactly what makes it all so fascinating.
• “Comics About Cartoonists: Stories About the World’s Oddest Profession:” Using the medium they’re famous for to tell the wacky stories of cartoonists, everyone from Jack Kirby to Winsor McCay to Will Eisner to Charles Schulz gets involved in this quirky collection. If you ever thought about becoming an artist, check your sanity at the door and pick this one up.
• “Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman: A Celebration:” Krazy Kat is the loveable comic strip that started it all for many artists, yet you’ve probably never heard of it. This collection is a rare and informative look into Herriman’s innovative genius.
• “Frazetta Funny Stuff:” He may be best known for his epic fantasy art, but Frank Frazetta also had a sense of humor, drawing silly animals and hillbillies as only he could. This one serves as an education for even his biggest fans.
• “Felix the Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails:” As a silent film fan, I also enjoy old-timey cartoons, but I’ve found that there’s also plenty of comics from that era to explore as well. Felix the Cat may not be recognizable to many children growing up today, but the character was just as important as any “Looney Tune,” so dig into this bag of magic tricks and discover some Golden Age treasure by original creator Otto Messmer.
• “Popeye: The Great Comic Book Tales of Bud Sagendorf:” Much like Felix, Popeye is better known for his animated cartoons, but there were also comic strips by creator E.C. Segar and cartoonist Bud Sagendorf. This best-of collection of Bud’s work should blow you down.
• “Alice in Comicland:” This one isn’t even out in stores yet, but it was available at the con and for preorder online. You’ve probably seen dozens of interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” but this collects some versions you’ve never seen before, throwing Alice into horror stories, flying saucers, and sex changes. This was an eye-catching and popular seller, and it’s easy to see why.
I could list many more, but these will get you started. You’ll be broke, sure, but you’ll thank me for being a helpful salesman.
-Rich Howells is a lifelong Marvel Comics collector, wannabe Jedi master, and cult film fan. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.