Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

March 30, 2022

MIKE TINGLEY, ‘The Abstract Prince’, Decca (Netherlands) LP, 1968

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MIKE TINGLEY, “The Abstract Prince” Decca Records (Netherlands), 1968

One curious phenomenon in the music world is the record not released in the artist’s
home country. Some are declined by the label’s domestic branch and then only released overseas (Ringo Starr’s OLD WAVE , Phil Ochs’s GUNFIGHT AT
CARNEGIE HALL), while some involve artists who record while working in
other countries (the Beatles in Hamburg , The Sorrows in Italy).

How California singer-songwriter Mike Tingley wound up in Holland we do not know.
How he convinced the Dutch branch of Decca to bankroll a well-produced album (including strings and horns and complex arrangements) of his original compositions
is not known. What is known is that singer-songwriter-guitarist Tingley recorded an amazing album called THE ABSTRACT PRINCE for the Dutch branch of Decca in 1968, an album that could have been released on A&M or Elektra in the US or Immediate or Harvest in the UK.

Tingley is a literary songwriter, the kind of person who’s probably read Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS but also spent much time with Dylan’s BLONDE ON BLONDE. The album’s title track begins with the lines

I’m the abstract prince of glass and satin
from the plastic dreams that can never happen

my timeless energy can never diminish
and yesterday’s dream you will never get to finish

and continues with a kaleidoscopic stream of language (and trippy yet
densely arranged musical support that is reminiscent of the album Andrew Loog Oldham produced for Del Shannon in 1967 London) until it hits the listener with
a sucker punch in the final line: the entire song has been in the voice of Death!

Tingley might have had his roots in folk music, but he totally understood the innovations of Love, The Byrds, and The Beach Boys, and while he’s more West Coast singer-songwriter than Pink Floyd wanna-be, there’s enough raga-rock and complex wordplay to satisfy the psych-head..

Beautifully produced, with a wide variety of instruments (tablas, lute, accordion) used in support of the songs (all originals), this would have been widely acclaimed as a classic and gotten significant underground FM airplay had it been released on, say, Elektra or Reprise or Epic. Alas, that did not happen, which is why I’m championing it now…better late than never.

Postscript: In 2008, Mr. Tingley made a comment attached to the listing of his album on
Rate Your Music. We should let him have the last word: Well, 40 years later it appears that a few people are still listening to my Lp. Hey, thanks! Pretty quaint stuff hey? What can I say…it was the sixties. I remained a professional musician for about 10 years and I still compose and record (with my son). I have been a winemaker in California for the past 28 years. It’s a good life! Anyway, thanks for listening.

——————————

Bill Shute (originally published in 2014 in the UK)

Note: the above tribute was published in the UK newspaper Tooting Free Press in 2014. I did an ongoing series there championing lesser-known LP’s from the 60s and 70s. TFP was an offshoot of Tangerine Press, well-known for their wonderful reprints of the work of American poet William Wantling. Since I wrote this review, there have been a few reissues of the album, including a gold vinyl LP which can be scored on Discogs for under $20. Of course, you can easily find the album online and it’s well worth hearing.

March 23, 2022

Western Racketeers (1934), starring Bill Cody, directed by Robert J. Horner

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Director (and con-man, read the fascinating story of Horner’s financial con-games at the Old Corral website) Robert J. Horner was responsible for a number of z-grade westerns during the late silent and early sound eras. I’ve seen two of his silent westerns, and like Black z-grade director Oscar Micheaux, Horner is a much worse sound director than a silent one. Every scene is one-take, which gives the film a certain life-like quality, since we occasionally stumble over our words in real-life just like the actors do here, and like them we just correct ourselves and move on. Many of the scenes seem randomly framed, and some of the close-ups do not match the medium shots very well. Horner did assemble an interesting cast of Gower Gulch regulars, including the great George Chesboro as the heavy (chewing the scenery), Wally Wales as the sheriff (who seems like he was handed the script five minutes before the particular scene–Wales is a real pro and fakes it OK, but he seems to be line-reading), the silent-film team of Ben Corbett and Pee Wee Holmes, Budd Buster, Richard Cramer (so good as the crooked gangster town boss in Richard Talmadge’s THE SPEED REPORTER), and even silent comedian Billy Franey. Leading lady Edna Aslin seems to have made mostly z-grade westerns in her brief career, but she seems as though she might be good as, say, a gangster’s moll or a gum-chewing, tough-talking waitress in non-Western films. I’ve seen a dozen Bill Cody westerns, I’m sure, but I’ve never seen him so loose and casual as the “hero.” For much of the film, he floats around with an odd grin on his face as if he’s not really part of the same world as the other characters. At first, I thought he might be hungover or up all night playing cards before the shoot, but that doesn’t seem so–it’s clearly intentional. I like the goofy aspect of his performance in this film. The plot, such as it is, involves a crook whose hired muscle are keeping the local ranchers from taking their cattle to market over a pass which is located on Government land and hence open to all. If you can imagine yourself living in some backwater small town in 1934, a place with really nothing to do, and there is a tiny, rundown theater that shows mostly independent, states rights westerns, and that’s all that’s available to you and what you are used to seeing, this film is not as bad as I remembered it being. With such professionals in the cast who had done this kind of thing dozens if not hundreds of times before and who could probably act out a passable scene at a moment’s notice ANYWHERE and with a four-year-old behind the camera, WESTERN RACKETEERS is passable z-grade entertainment of the lowest order, and nowhere near as bad as PHANTOM COWBOY or LIGHTING BILL or THE IRISH GRINGO. I’d also rather see something raw like this than, say, a Fred Scott western. Still, this film is only for the poverty-row-western completist.

Although I would not be as charitable had I been conned out of money by the man with the promise of a role in a film, the world is a more interesting place because Robert J. Horner was in it and left such a curious body of work, fascinating in the way an unfinished building left to decay is fascinating, or a home-recorded 1930s acetate found in a junk store under a box. A film like WESTERN RACKETEERS is “real” in the sense that it’s a kind of crude cinema verité documentation of making a film of western play-acting. I just watched it again for a third time here in 2022 and was entertained for 55 minutes and caught the whiff of the fun and spontaneity felt during the shoot.

(Bill Shute–originally published online, in a somewhat different version, in 2005)

March 16, 2022

The Nasty Rabbit, aka Spies A Go Go (1964)

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The Arch Hall version of It’s A Mad Mad Mad World

The films produced by Arch Hall Sr. and starring Arch Hall Jr. are overall an entertaining lot, considering the low budgets. They made a juvenile delinquent film (the Choppers), a horror comedy (Eegah), a rock and roll film in the Jailhouse Rock vein (Wild Guitar), a gritty crime film (the Sadist), and eventually a western (Deadwood ’76), so it’s not a surprise that they would make a slapstick comedy, and since this was made right after IT’S A MAD MAD MAD WORLD, I’m assuming the filmmakers saw this as in that vein, with a little rock and roll thrown in. Arch Jr. plays Britt Hunter, a rock and roll singing spy who is assigned to defeat a Russian agent who is carrying a rabbit that is carrying a vial of lethal bacteria…or something like that. A bunch of Keystone Cops-style international spies–played as broad ethnic stereotypes reminiscent of Jerry Lewis’s “japanese” characters–are also after the rabbit and the Russian. If I saw this at a rural drive-in with a few kids in the car and maybe a beer or two in my system, I think it would work quite well as a film. I remember seeing this on TV as a kid and thinking it was as funny as, say, a typical Beverly Hillbillies episode. Arch Hall, a bit nervous on-screen in The Choppers, his first film, was relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera by this time, and he does a good job, looking good and acting cool. I don’t know why this film is bashed so much– I’d put it on the same shelf with the 1966 rock and roll spy parody OUT OF SIGHT, except that that film had a much bigger budget and was made by a big studio, Universal. The Nasty Rabbit is MEANT to be a ridiculous, exaggerated slapstick comedy played on such a broad level that children would enjoy it. The color photography is nice (and the Rhino VHS video is letter-boxed!), and considering the small budget that the Halls surely had to work with, they made an entertaining product. Where else can you see Arch Hall Sr. in a dual role–in fact, near the end of the film, he is playing in the same scene with himself!

(Bill Shute, originally published online in 2005)

March 13, 2022

coming in May 2022…’LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES’ from BILL SHUTE (KSE #419)

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LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES

by Bill Shute

contains the book-length poems TOMORROW WON’T BRING THE RAIN, COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES, and TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (AFTER MURILLO), all written and originally published during the Covid lockdown (2020-2021).

154 pages, hardcover, 6″ x 9″

KSE #419

expected publication date: late Spring/early Summer 2022

$16.00 ISBN: 9798757742496

cover art by Wyatt Doyle (see image above)

Although the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t exactly over, the most dangerous periods in 2020 and 2021 have passed, the periods when businesses and schools were closed and/or gravitated to operating online, when hospitals were full of the dying, when people were kept apart from their loved ones.

I did continue to work remotely, so I had no time off, but with nowhere to go during my free time and with not having to commute to the workplace downtown, I had more time to dedicate to poetry writing, and I composed three long-form works in the 40-50 page range which further extended the poetic form I developed in RIVERSIDE FUGUE while capturing life during a pandemic and lockdown.

These three works were published independently in 2020 and 2021 and have been well-received, though I myself never thought of them as any kind of trilogy or any unified series of works. However, a number of readers (I’ve gotten at least a dozen e-mails and texts on this subject) have suggested to me that I should consider combining the three pieces into one book, presented as a document of the pandemic/lockdown, and they argued that there is a consistency within the images/content and form/structure which is perhaps clearer to the reader-consumer than it was to the writer-creator. They also suggested that readers looking for literary responses to the pandemic, now that it is more in the rearview mirror with each passing day, would locate these works more easily in the literary marketplace if they were marketed as “pandemic poems” in a more obvious manner.

I’m certainly happy to oblige, and thus LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES was created…and will be published in HARDCOVER by KSE in late Spring/early Summer of 2022 (so as not to compete with the original softcover separate volumes, which are still available).

In terms of “new” poetry, I continue to work (when I have time) on a piece tentatively titled NEUTRAL, which is both more expansive than the recent poems but also more minimal (I learned a lot from my close study of Frank Samperi’s poetry as a teenager back in the 1970s and I often find myself returning to his work), or more accurately ‘pointillistic’ (I’ve been listening to a lot of Jürg Frey in the last year or two, often for entire days while composing/editing/formatting NEUTRAL, along with Webern at his most astringent and of course my regular companion the John Cage ‘Number Pieces’). I began work on NEUTRAL in March 2021, focused on it during my Summer 2021 writing vacation in Vicksburg, Mississippi (and what a wonderful time that was!), and Opelousas, Louisiana, and will return to it during this coming Summer’s writing vacation in Central Louisiana (never too far from Evangeline Downs). NEUTRAL is providing me with the largest canvas I’ve ever worked on in poetry, so it will continue to take time, and I would not expect a draft to be ready for publication before late 2022 or early 2023.

Until then, LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES will be ready in a month or two, and I’ll let you know when it’s live and ready to order.

Oh, and if anyone asks, I’m using the term CORRESPONDENCES in the Swedenborgian manner….

March 12, 2022

Jack Kerouac, March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969

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JACK KEROUAC, born 100 years ago today….

March 9, 2022

GUNFIGHTERS #82 (Charlton Comics, January 1984)

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Charlton Comics was running on fumes by the mid-1980’s. They still had a distribution network, but their non-comic publications such as HIT PARADER were not what they once were (HIT PARADER in the mid-to-late 80’s was a metal-oriented magazine! More often than not, Ozzy was on the cover. I also remember they would champion the 1980’s Kinks, for which I thank them). I cannot quote chapter and verse on this, but from the Charltons I bought back in the 80’s and the ones from that era which I’ve found cheaply and purchased in the years since then, it seems they relied a lot on reprinting older material (they were so starved for cheap content, they even encouraged fans to submit comics for consideration). Many of Steve Ditko’s earlier Charlton comics were reissued in this period, although at the time, I did not know if they were new or old. Ditko liked the creative freedom he’d been given at Charlton (kind of like director Edgar G. Ulmer at PRC Pictures….if you would work cheap and were a professional who could deliver a product on time, you could do what you want creatively–the boss was concerned only about having product), so whenever I stumbled across a Ditko piece in HAUNTED or GHOST MANOR or some other Charlton title back then, I did not know if he was back at Charlton again or if it was older work being re-used (and with the exhaustive comic histories now available on the internet, I’ve learned that some of his work re-published by Charlton in the 80’s was more than 25 years old!!!). After all, there is a timeless quality to a horror comic.

The same was true for western comics. It’s not like those would date, and Charlton was never a publisher to go for contemporary or edgy/artsy comic art. It’s kind of surprising that there was still an audience for western comics in 1984. I would still buy them here and there, but based on my observations at the time, I’d say that they tended to be most popular in the small and moderate-sized towns of the Midwest, South, and Southwest. Charlton had had a number of successful western comic series over the years, some based on figures such as Billy The Kid, others based on western film stars such as Lash LaRue or Tex Ritter. When I was growing up in Colorado, there were still many “ghost towns” and also small towns that still looked like they belonged in some 1930’s independent western shot on real locations and not constructed sets. As a teenager I worked at the County Fairgrounds (right down the hill from where I lived), which featured rodeos, and there were always horses there (and shoveling horse manure and digging post-holes there was my first “real” job at age 14, not counting earlier lawn-mowing and the like), so when you add all that up, it’s no surprise that I chewed tobacco as a teenager and wore cowboy boots for a few years (I had to re-learn how to walk properly after I finally got rid of the boots) and read western comic books….and was still buying them in my 20’s (heck, I STILL buy them today, when I stumble across them at junk stores and antique malls and they are cheap).

GUNFIGHTERS is a series Charlton ran in the 60’s and then revived from 1979-1984 (this particular issue is the second-to-last). Of course, that’s such a broad concept that you can throw almost any western comic property into it. Western comics tended to have more gunfights and bank robberies than the cattle rustling or water-rights plots you’d see in B-western films. I suppose cattle rustling would not look too exciting on the comic page. This later run of GUNFIGHTERS consisted of a lot of old western material from the 50’s and 60’s, reused here in a new package. Much of the content in this 1984 comic is reprinted from a 1966 issue of OUTLAWS OF THE WEST. In fact, the cover of the 1984 GUNFIGHTERS comic is just a re-tooling of the old OUTLAWS cover (see pictures of both).

At the core of this issue we have three stories dealing with outlaw Cole Younger, of the Younger Brothers fame, and colleague of Frank and Jesse James. The stories depict various bank robberies, his time with Quantrill’s Raiders, and his time in the Confederate army….the “Blazing Fast, Six-Gun Action” ballyhooed on the cover is certainly delivered, but Younger is not really depicted in an interesting way. Even in a minor Billy The Kid product–movie or comic book or pulp story or whatever–Billy is usually either wacko or charming or misunderstood or whatever, but there’s some motivation for him to do what he does. The same is true for Jesse James. The stories here tell of how Younger worked his way up to his famous outlaw status….and we do get a story devoted to the legendary botched Northfield, Minnesota robbery that ended his criminal career, as well as explaining his final years in prison after that. The problem is that he’s basically a cipher, a place-holder. There’s nothing really distinctive about him in any of the three lengthy stories, no backstory that provides motivation (and that could have been provided in one or two panels, as most kids reading this might know his name but not his “legend,” whatever THAT was), not even any character quirks or distinctive habits.

However, I cannot imagine some 12 year old living on a ranch outside Goodland, Kansas, would be complaining much. There’s action, gunfights, scheming outlaws, colorful western settings, the expected clichéd western dialogue, etc., and Cole Younger is one of those famous “outlaw names,” so what else could the juvenile or adolescent reader want? Charlton, cynical though it may have been, certainly knew its audience.

And speaking of audience, it’s often said that if you want to know a publication’s audience, look at the advertisements. Clearly, most of the ads are aimed at adolescent and even adult (in their 20’s or 30’s, maybe) readers, NOT children. There are the expected Charles Atlas-style “be a he-man” ads, but there are THREE different FULL PAGE ads that deal with wanting to use mind-control over another person, and it’s strongly suggested that that’s a woman. One is selling a plastic “Venus Love Goddess” statue, which you are supposed to use “thought power” on and then MAKE SOMEONE LOVE YOU FOR ONLY $3! There’s another one promising AUTOMATIC MIND COMMAND and then another selling some booklet on HOW TO READ ANYONE’S MIND, with a picture of a woman in a bra having her mind read (presumably by the sweaty-palmed reader). It does not take Dr. Freud to figure out what audience these ads are aimed at and what deficiency (or perceived deficiency) in the readers’ lives is being manipulated here. The ads for weight-loss products (do 12 year olds need those?) and hair-loss products further confirm the older members of the audience for this mag.

For me, the glory days of lowest-common-denominator, mass-market comic books died out with Charlton’s going under in the late 1980’s. When you pick up a late-period Charlton comic such as this one, you are taking a walk into a pre-Internet world where comic books were not some specialized, fetishized cult product around which a nerd-underground would form. No, they were a taken-for-granted, low-end part of popular culture. They were considered throwaway, of no lasting value. And that, of course, is why they are of value, why they are a pure creation, why they are a window into a world that will never return, a world that is little understood by those who did not live through it in the belly of the whale, a world that revisionist historians and cultural critics don’t even bother to get wrong as they don’t care about it. We remember, however. And we’ll never forget, until we reach that Dodge City in the sky, where there’s no internet, where people are not chained to portable devices feeding them corporate content and manufactured info-tainment masquerading as news, where there are still UHF stations that fill their broadcast days with dubbed historical Italian adventure films starring Lex Barker and Guy Madison and public domain 1950s TV shows, where Charles Starrett and Tim Holt and Gene Autry come to mind when the word “hero” is spoken (and where we know the names of their horses), where Mickey Spillane is still writing new books and doing beer commercials, where Mamie van Doren is entertaining the troops overseas, and where Elvis is still around and appearing next week in Wichita or Tulsa. If you wanted to, you could drive for five hours and catch The King live….and if you are a lady, he might throw you a scarf. Unfortunately, the King is dead…and I’m not what I once was either….but I refuse to get a smart-phone and I don’t drink lite beer….I’m not interested in whatever “app” they want me to download, and I will not pay Starbucks $4 for a bitter yuppie cup of coffee.

March 3, 2022

Massimo Magee on Improvisation (March 2022 interview)

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When Kendra Steiner Editions stopped issuing music CDR’s in December 2018, one of my biggest regrets was not being able to continue releasing newly created works from artists such as saxophonist Massimo Magee and guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante and percussionist Lisa Cameron, pioneering musicians and thinkers who were issuing a new album each year on KSE. Listeners around the world looked forward to the next chapters in these vital artists’ creative journeys, and I was proud to have provided an outlet for their work, presented in its purest form. Fortunately, Magee, Diaz-Infante, and Cameron are still issuing new work regularly on any number of labels/platforms–just Google their names or check Discogs.

Although any of Magee’s works embody important aesthetic questions and/or set out to explore particular areas of potential expression, he is also an articulate theorist, and I’m happy to share this new interview with him, found on the 15 Questions.Net website. It is a wonderful window into his thinking and into this work, including a discussion of his seminal 2011 release, Collected Solos, a 26-cd and book project which I’m honored to own a physical copy of and which I turn to often when I need to turn to music/art which is pure and distilled to the essence, while also being mysterious and ever-becoming.

You can read the interview here:

https://15questions.net/interview/massimo-magee-about-improvisation/page-1/

Many releases are available on MM’s Bandcamp page, with funds going directly to the artist:

https://massimomagee.bandcamp.com/

Be sure to keep up with Massimo Magee’s exciting artistic journey….and speaking of Discogs, you can always go there to see if any of his KSE releases are still available on the secondary market–the last time I checked, two or three were….

March 2, 2022

TOP DETECTIVE #9 (I. W. Comics, 1958)

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As with the music business and the film business, I’ve always been fascinated by the products of the murky underbelly of the comics industry. They’re edgy, they’re unpredictable, and they don’t play by the established rules.

I. W. COMICS (1958-1964) was one of those companies. Comics.org explains the company’s origins, which really tell you all you need to know about the outfit: “I.W. Publications (1958-1964) was part of I. W. Enterprises, and named for the company’s owner, Israel Waldman. Reportedly, Waldman came into possession of a printing company and among the assets were the production materials for several hundred comic books previously published by various publishers as well as a limited amount of previously unpublished material. Waldman equated possession of production materials as the right to reprint and I.W. became notable for publishing unauthorized reprints of other company’s comics, often with new covers as Waldman’s windfall did not often include the production materials for covers. The later half of the company’s existence, it published comics under the Super Comics name. Usually these companies were out of business, but not always.”

This was one of a number of 50’s crime comics I recently purchased from Golden Age Reprints.com. Crime/detective/mystery comic books have always been among my favorites, so I intentionally chose some comics I’d never heard of, figuring I might stumble across something interesting, and even if I did not, I’d have some enjoyable crime-comic reading, the equivalent of watching a B-crime film or reading a paperback original 50’s crime novel.

The main story, and the one on the cover, features a character named “Young King Cole,” a detective with reddish hair, glasses, and a bow tie. The plot involves a woman who has been kidnapped and is being held on a seedy cargo ship. Twelve pages of action allows for a bit of backstory and plot development (Cole’s assistant gets a job on the ship to infiltrate), and I could see this being re-tooled as a Charlie Chan or Boston Blackie film.

Then comes a two-page short story called “End of the Line,” featuring one of the most common plots in crime fiction and films, the newly released prisoner who seeks revenge on someone he blames for his situation. What can one say about filler stories in comics? I enjoy them because they are quick and can be read when one is too tired or burned-out-from-work to even read a comic book or watch a 30-minute episode of a crime TV show such as HIGHWAY PATROL or HARBOR COMMAND. They also provide a change-of-pace from the comic content–similar to the role of a yeast roll or a slice of cornbread with a downhome meal!

Next we’re introduced to detective Homer K. Beagle in “The Missing Worms.” Beagle is a bumbling yet interesting character (yes, he’s a human, not a dog detective like McGruff), sort of like if Eb from GREEN ACRES decided to take his mailorder detective degree and put it to use. It seems someone has stolen the worms from the zoo because it’s fishing season and worms are very much in demand and the price is so high they are worth stealing, the way people steal copper from old buildings today. Putting a comedic detective story in the middle of the comic is a good idea in terms of changing the mood. Think of it as functioning the way a five-minute Smiley Burnette comedy sequence in a Charles Starrett “Durango Kid” western does to lighten the mood (and pad the length of the feature) and get you ready for the serious action coming up next….or so we hope!

The comic finishes with an eight-page story featuring “Dr. Drew, The Zoo Man,” another light-haired (reddish blond–does someone not like dark-haired detectives at this publisher?) Shamus. One odd feature of this one is that Drew has a South Asian (I’m guessing a comic like this does not make distinctions between cultures and nationalities outside of the USA) assistant named Gray who wears a loincloth and has a monkey to aid him. He also refers to himself in third person the way Senator Bob Dole used to. Everyone Drew encounters in the typical city in which the comic takes place just accepts the man in the loincloth and the monkey, so they must have an established history of crime-fighting in the area….or the people there are like New Yorkers, so jaded and having seen it all that nothing fazes them. This plot involves a snake farm and a crooked banker who convinces the local rural folk to take their money out of traditional savings accounts and put it in cash into a safe deposit box at his bank….and then he kills them and takes the money out of the deposit boxes with his duplicate key. After all, who would know what they put in the box, right? The plot aspects of this story are easy to follow even if you are tired or hungover while reading….the crooked snake farm and the thieving and murderous banker’s schemes are all explained thoroughly in a series of cram-packed dialogue balloons. Drew seems like he could be an interesting character, but with all the odd happenings here, the plot exposition, and his sidekick and his monkey, he’s almost like a guest star in his own comic.

With the usual ads for trade schools (I worked at a trade school once, and we found that our targeted TV ads brought in the most response when we advertised on local professional wrestling programs, so I can see why comic books feature ads from these places), novelty products, and rip-off books (like “Learn Ju-Jitsu At Home”), TOP DETECTIVE COMICS #9 was an enjoyable time-killer of a read.

When I finished reading it for the second time (I want to get my money’s worth!), I was even more convinced of an initial impression: although the book had a 1958 date, it seemed very dated, at least eight to ten years out of date. Then, in the tradition of the private detectives in the comic, I did a little sleuthing of my own and found out that most if not all of the pieces here were lifted from earlier comics (see the explanation of Israel Waldman at the top of this review). On this low rung of the comics ladder, the publications these were ripped-off from were probably too under the radar to ring any bells of recognition…and this kind of thing was far easier to get away with in the pre-internet age. It’s like the comics equivalent of an exploitation film being shopped around in the hinterlands for decades under different titles. In this case, the book’s content is lifted from a 1948 comic called Criminals On The Run, and one of the stories from that had already been re-printed once in another 1951-52 Avon comic (thanks to comics.org for the information on this).

Also noteworthy is that I. W. Comics lists this as #9 in the series of TOP DETECTIVE COMICS, when it’s actually the one and only issue in the series. No doubt people would be more likely to buy something that seemed like an ongoing series (which must be successful to be ongoing) than a one-off, particularly when they could open the comic and find something that looked and sounded like 1948…but it’s 1958!

I once worked for a supermarket chain back in Virginia (which will remain nameless) which instructed us to cut the rotten sections off fruit and vegetables and meat (hey, I had a family to support!), re-date them, re-color them, etc. They were “refurbishing the product,” we were told, and “offering budget-minded consumers access to premium products at an affordable price.” (My only other employment opportunity in that semi-rural area was the competing grocery chain, which routinely locked employees in to work an hour or two off the clock each night.) Hats off to I. W. Comics (Read I. W. Comics–They Are Top Quality Comics….we are told in a crudely inserted box at the bottom of page one, no doubt where the publishing info on the original 1948 comic was) and Israel Waldman for working in that time-honored American tradition of re-selling dated and third-rate content in a new package to unsuspecting consumers like me. A lot about life and contemporary society sucks, but a beer and a crime comic book at the end of a long workday (even if the content is recycled) make it a slight bit more tolerable. I can live in my imagination in a world where the detectives wear glasses and a bow tie and where people can wander around in a loincloth with a monkey sidekick without calling attention to themselves. A place where I can buy a 10-cent comic like TOP DETECTIVE from a poorly-lit rack in the back of a seedy neighborhood grocery or drug store to keep my feeble mind occupied until my girlfriend Mabel gets off work at the diner at 2 a.m. And nice guy that I am, I also bought Mabel a copy of the Charlton comic SOAP OPERA ROMANCES at that same store. She appreciates good reading too. No wonder we get along!

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