Grail Quests Redux

All collectors have a short list. I mentioned a few items on mine in this piece a while back, and also in this one here.

This is not to say that I am feverishly pursuing these items all the time. Especially since so many of them are priced way out of my budget; I can’t afford to.

To take one handy example, the Marvel Planet of the Apes magazine, which is damnably difficult to find in back issues, FINALLY got a nice archival reprint series– and the price of those four reprint volumes immediately rocketed into the stratosphere. It is literally cheaper to get a hardcover first of the original Apes novel from Pierre Boulle– which generally moves in the thirty to fifty-dollar range– than the hardcover archive editions from Boom! Studios, which rarely are seen for under a hundred and usually run closer to two hundred. (I’m a little bitter about this.)

The archive hardcovers don’t reprint any of the ancillary articles and reviews anyway, which are a lot of fun, so I’m just going to stick with hunting the original magazines.

Marvel actually did a lot of movie adaptations back in the 1970s; I don’t mean just the Super Specials, I mean the earlier ones sold as standard newsstand comics. The Apes movies all were done this way– reprinted from the magazine multi-parters and colored– and there were several others as well.

Now remember, in these long-ago days before HBO and home video technology even became available, this was often the only way someone like fourteen-year-old me would ever get to experience these stories, and certainly the only permanent, on-demand vehicle available was the print adaptation. I quickly learned that if I couldn’t get to a movie, there was often a comic… and where there was a comic, there was also, equally often, a book. This is how I knew about Star Wars well ahead of its premiere in theaters back in 1977.

Which brings me to Logan’s Run.

The movie was sort of on my radar in 1976, in the way everything to do with science fiction and fantasy was on my radar during that time. But I didn’t get interested until Marvel put out a comic.

As it happened, the comic was being drawn by this George Perez guy that I’d seen on the FF and the Avengers, and I really liked his work. And here he was being inked by Klaus Janson, who had a wonderfully slick, zip-a-toned look back then. Perfect for the chrome-and-monorail visual style of the movie.

To my mild annoyance, the first issue ended in a cliffhanger.

I was never good with delayed gratification in my teens. (I’m still not, if I’m honest.) So I thought I’d go to my usual work-around when a comic adaptation left me hanging… I’d get the licensed tie-in paperback.

What my youthful self didn’t know, though, was that the movie was based on a novel, and as often happened, if the novel got adapted for TV or movies, publishers just put out a new printing of the book with a movie-poster cover. I got tripped up this way a few times when I was a kid.

I didn’t really mind when this happened, because I usually enjoyed the book version on its own terms. (Martin Caidin’s Cyborg eventually led me to his ManFac and Aquarius Mission and Marooned and so on. I was always up for a new author.)

Certainly I didn’t mind with Logan’s Run, the novel. It just about blew me out of my chair. I loved the story but even more I loved the actual prose style of it– the way the chapter titles counted down from ten to zero, the terse way Nolan would just drop future-tech terms into the story without explanation, the relentless pulp-fiction pace of the thing…the reader pretty much had to get on board or get left behind. It was about as close as you got to an action movie you could hold in your hands. I was already a devotee of that kind of stream-of-consciousness storytelling from guys like Ian Fleming and so on, but this moved even faster. Here’s the novel’s version of the scene in the ruins of Cathedral with the feral kids…

Jessica looked at him. “Do you ever wonder what your mother was like, who she was, what she felt, how she looked? Do you think she’d be ashamed of what you’ve become?”

“She may have been a runner, too,” said Logan evasively. “I’ll never know what she was.”

Jess frowned angrily. “I think you should. I think children should know their mothers and be loved by them. Little Mary-Mary should have a mother to love her. A machine can never love you… only people can love people.”

“Where did you work before you ran?” he asked her.

“I was a fashion tech at Lifeleather trim. Three hours a day, three days a week. I hated it.”

“Then why did you stay there?”

“Because it was a job. What can anyone really work at? You can paint or write poetry or go on pairup. You can glassdance or firewalk in the Arcades.” Her voice was scornful. “You can breed roses or collect stones or compose for the Tri-Dims. But there’s no meaning to any of it. I just—”

A scream from the tunnels.

“That was Mary-Mary!” Jess lunged forward, but Logan restrained her.

“Wait,” he said. “Here she comes.”

The child ran out of the darkness into Jessica’s arms. “The bad people! Bad, bad, bad!”

A howling group of cubscouts burst from the tunnel mouth to surround them. A strutting, feral-faced thirteen-year-old headed the pack. From the waist up he was dressed in the bloodstained uniform of a DS man. Below the ripped black tunic he wore sweat-darkened skintights. “Here now and look what Charmin’ Billy led you to.” He smirked. “The little rat-trapper and two stinkin’ runners.”

Mary-Mary stomped her foot. “You go on away!” she demanded. “This is my place. Go back upstairs!”

Charming Billy ignored her. “Going to have us a time, we are!”

Logan measured the pack with his eyes. He could summon the car in another five minutes. How do you buy five minutes? He’d take out the blocky cub to his right first and then go for Charming Billy if nothing else worked. He eased Jess and the child behind him…

I was instantly a fan. I was first in line for the sequels when they showed up, Logan’s World and Logan’s Search. Lost and replaced them both several times over the years.

Today I have all three novels in this nice omnibus edition which is in itself long out of print and something of a collector’s item.

And we have the movie and the TV show here on DVD as well.

But the comics that sparked my original interest? Long gone… and I have never run across them available anywhere, online or at shows, except at gouger’s prices. The difficulty isn’t just that it’s early George Perez artwork, but #6 also featured a backup story starring Thanos and the Destroyer.

Now, I don’t give a shit about that story, it was a nothing little filler piece. What I was interested in was how Marvel was going to continue the story of Logan and Jessica beyond the movie. And I was thrilled when I saw new scripter John Warner had clearly read the novel and was going to incorporate it into the new run.

This was before even the sequel novels came out, so it was brand new stuff. Sadly, the book was canceled with #7, so we only got a little taste of the new direction.

I haven’t seen those comics since I was in high school. Finally, though, at the age of 59, I found the entire run on eBay for a laughably low price and snapped it up.

So basically this is all me gloating. I’m ridiculously excited to have these in the collection again. I wish someone could get the reprint rights sorted out, because the art really deserves a nice book presentation.

But in the meantime, I’ll happily take the single issues. Precioussss!

*

I got to scratch another weird little collector itch from long ago this week as well. You all probably know the movie Airplane!

I loved it as much as everyone else and despite all the people quoting its catchphrases until you want to smack them, it still holds up. But when it first came out, I daresay I was one of the few people who found the story weirdly…. familiar. It seemed like the Mad Magazine version of a book I’d read back in junior high…

Mom was really into Arthur Hailey, even before the Airport movies became a thing. Starved for something to read one afternoon when I was about twelve, I’d picked up Mom’s copy of Runway Zero-Eight on a whim, just because of the back-cover blurb.

It really was a cool and exciting story, and I’ve always kind of had a hanker on to get it back in the home library… certainly, this was a very low-level thing in my book-collector brain, nowhere near the urgency of the Logan’s Run or Planet of the Apes comics referenced above. But that’s why, when I ran across a nice Book Club hardcover for a couple of bucks, I vacuumed it right up.

Thinking I’d mention it in the column, I did a little research into it. Turns out the book was actually a licensed tie-in adaptation of Hailey’s own screenplay, Flight Into Danger, originally produced for Canadian television. (Star Trek‘s James Doohan played the shaky vet pressed into service as pilot when the captain falls to food poisoning.) A year later it was made into the feature film Zero Hour! and that’s what Airplane! used as its blueprint.

So now I know. And I look forward to revisiting the book that started it all for me.

*

One more. Again, this one was in no way urgent but I’m very pleased at knocking it off the list. Regular readers know I have a soft spot for men’s adventure paperbacks like the Executioner and the Liquidator and the Destroyer and that whole crowd. But one guy got there ahead of all of them. Nick Carter, Killmaster.

Nick Carter actually began life as one of the first continuing-character story papers in the late 1800s and was rebooted for the pulps a couple of decades later. Then he was rebooted again in 1964 into a series of paperbacks as part of the superspy craze, and that outlasted everything else.

No writer was ever credited. The paperbacks were ghosted by a variety of authors ranging from reliable paperback hacks like Michael Avallone to guys like Martin Cruz Smith that would go on to write Gorky Park. As such the quality is all over the place and I’ve found a few of them go a long way. They’re something I really have to be in the mood for.

But I was kind of interested in this one when it came out.

The 100th in the series, Dr. Death, was published at a slightly larger size and had a nifty die-cut cover. You lifted it up to reveal… well, the generic Carter illo that usually was in the upper-left corner. (Often these men’s-adventure numbered series paperbacks had the same kind of corner-box thing going on as a Marvel comic book.)

But the reason I was interested is because I’d been reading Peter Haining’s wonderful book The Fantastic Pulps where he explained about how the Buffalo Bill and Nick Carter story papers of the 1880s eventually gave birth to the pulp heroes of the 1930s, and this paperback, in addition to the main story, also reprints the first Killmaster story, Run Spy Run, AND one of the vintage pulp tales. I remember picking this up new on the stands back in the 1980s and thinking hmm, and then I’d put it back. Never saw it again but always kind of wondered about it. It’s the sort of thing that intrigues my pop-culture-historian, continuity-fan lizard brain.

So when I ran across it completely out of nowhere last week for a dollar, of course I grabbed it. At that price why not? If nothing else I’d get column fodder out of it, I reasoned.

And so I have.

Back next week with something cool.

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7 Comments

  1. Le Messor

    I’ve actually read the original Planet Of The Apes and Logan’s Run novels, but ages ago.

    Oddly enough, I have several reprints of that Thanos story but none of the actual LR comic. (What is a pure 616 story doing in a licensed comic anyway? What does Thanos have to do with Logan? Uh, the running one, not the Canadian one.)

  2. Jeff Nettleton

    I was always curious about the Nick Carter, Killmaster series, but never read one. Mainly because I couldn’t find the earlier ones to get backstory. I read the Executioner and the spin-offs (Able Team, Phoenix Force) a couple of Destroyers, one Death Merchant and a few others; but, never that.

    My cousin had issues 1, 3 and 5 of the Logan’s Run comic, which was my intro (after the tv commercials for the movie), plus he had the novel, which I flipped through (mostly the tie-in photos). I didn’t get to see the actual movie until after college, when I bought my first VCR. The tv series was CBS and the local affiliate was far enough away that it was hard to tune in; so, missed it, too. I have both film and tv series dvds, and I eventually bought the first novel. Bought the comics, while in college, for 50 cents each, including stone face. That was before everyone went nuts for Thanos (since he was a dead statue, at that point and also Bronze Age back issues were pretty cheap, apart from X-Men. I bought up Starlin Captain Marvel, Gerber Defenders (especially the Guardians of the Galaxy issues and their Marvel Presents issues), Deathlok, Killraven, Perez Avengers & FF, Byrne Avengers, JRJR Iron Man, etc, etc…..most for about 50 cents each. Heck, I bought the entire first year of New Teen Titans (I had the first 2 and 7 &8, but they were long gone) for 50 cents each, except for issue 1, which I bought for a couple of bucks, and the second, for which I paid about ten bucks to replace my old newsstand copy that was gone. I don’t think I paid more than a couple of bucks for a back issue, until the 90s, when I started picking up Silver Age Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD material (mostly the Strange Tales issues), though I skipped over a lot of stuff that was more than I would pay, like X-Men. I cured the X-Men jones with the Classic X-Men reprints, while in college)

    I had that omnibus and love the cover art, especially the artist’s choice of the Calico 9mm machine gun for the Sandman’s “gun.” The weapon had a cylinder magazine that had a helical feed mechanism that carried 50 or 100 rounds, but fed from the rear, keeping the size down. It looked futuristic and it fit into the description of “the gun” as being like a Colt Peacemaker six-shooter. I always felt that if they ever re-did the movie (as they always made noises about), they should use those for the prop weapons.

    I also picked up the Barry Blair Logan’s Run and Logan’s World, from Malibu. They were adapting the novels, and Blair’s style fit with the idea of a youth society; but, it was pretty bland, visually, as Blair wasn’t exactly the guy you went to for creative visuals.

  3. Edo Bosnar

    Yeah, I mentioned this in my comment to your fb post about acquiring the Logan comics, but I’ll repeat: I love that series so much I had my single issues bound.
    Also, I’m surprised that the prices have gone up. I bought the whole set from Mile High sometime in 2007 I think – back when their international shipping rates were reasonable – and didn’t pay more than $2 for any single issue. In fact, the average price was such that I got them all for less than $10.
    What I have had trouble finding for quite some time now is any edition of the novels. You’re right about the current prices on the omnibus (which I’d love to get); the prices for the paperbacks from the 1970s are similarly ridiculous last time I checked. They aren’t high priority, but I’d consider those some of my remaining grails.

    1. Le Messor

      I’ve just checked MyComicShop, and their prices for all issues but #6 aren’t bad – no more than $5, most closer to $2.

      I haven’t had trouble with Mile High’s international shipping, but that’s because I’ve only shopped there a couple of times, in person, and spent so much they just shipped it to my home for free. 🙂 (Their base prices are usually higher than MCS.)

  4. jccalhoun

    The Logan’s Run comic was part of a big box a guy who worked with my mom gave me when I was kid back in the mid 80s. I don’t think I had ever heard of the movie at that time. I had the Thanos issue and I think I sold it a few years ago when I was short on cash.

    It was a fun series and definitely got me to check out the movie when it was on tv at some point. I still love the movie today.

    As far as the novel, however, I have to disagree. I think both Logan’s Run and Planet of the Apes are the rare examples where the films are better than the books. Clearly they both have great ideas but the execution isn’t great – especially Planet of the Apes.

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