Monday, February 29, 2016
Logan’s Run Adventure Comics (Malibu Comics) #1 Review and *SPOILERS* - Just For the Hell Of It Mondays
Thankfully, We’ll Never Fall Victim to a Youth-Obsessed Culture of Technological Distractions
Art By: Barry Blair
Letters By: Clem Robins
Cover Price: $2.25
Cover Date: June 1990
*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*
Logan’s Run February is finally at its close, and what a long, strange trip it’s been. Seriously. I’m not just quoting the Grateful Dead to be wistful, this examination of the initial novel and four adaptations has taken a lot more time than expected and has been supremely strange. I wish I could say I learned something from this venture, but if there’s anything to take away from this month of Logan’s Run, it’s that the human capacity for creativity is boundless, provided we think there’s a little money to be made. Unfortunately, in the case of these adaptations, the effort exceeded profit by a wide margin. But hey, I don’t want to give it all away in the intro, you’ll never know for sure unless you check out my review of Adventure Comics’ Logan’s Run #1, the comic book version of the original novel! And you can do so if you simply read on!
For this review of the Adventure Comics’ edition of Logan’s Run #1, I’d like to tell a story I call How the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Almost Destroyed the Comic Book Industry.
The year was 1984, and the comic book business had nearly congealed into the closed-shop, specialized system we know today (at least, until the recent advent of digital comics and online retail sales.) A hybrid retail model cobbled together partly from comics-friendly head shops and partly from an exponentially increasing interest in comics collecting, the direct market was a long-term answer to the loss of newsstand placement to glossy, higher-priced magazines. By the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second presidential term, and continuing on through his Vice President George Bush’s ascendancy, comic books could mainly be found at specific stores that received a bulk discount on comics under the provision that unsold product could not be returned. If you're scratching your head, wondering why someone would even entertain such a crazy economic model, consider that this is the precise system under which brick-and-mortar comic book shops operate today—except that there is now one distributor for all stores, instead of the handful of distributors that operated in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The accounting departments at Marvel and DC must have gone on a four-day celebratory bender when the direct market started to pick up steam, yet one curious side-effect was that underground comix—mostly black and white, crude shock comics espousing counterculture values—suddenly shared the same relative space as Batman and Tales of the Green Lantern Corps. Underground comix were not new in 1984; pornographic Tijuana Bibles and sequential art propaganda pamphlets had been around for several decades, and a reasonably thriving scene of creators including Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar produced comic book works—distributed through independently-owned head shops, next to bongs and copies of Rolling Stone magazine—throughout the 1960s and 70s. By the end of the 1970s, in response to the burgeoning direct market for comic books, a lot of head shops became your local comic book store, and newly-opened comics outlets tended to carry underground comix as well. This led to cult hits Cerebus by Dave Sim and ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini, proving there was a viable fan base for independently-created comic books now that there were places they could easily go to read and buy them. But the business had seen nothing like the Turtles.
In May of 1984, a black and white comic book, independently-produced using tax refunds and a loan from Kevin Eastman’s uncle, hit comics shops—and the response was phenomenal. Eastman and Laird had been clever to drum up interest with a full-page ad for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 in Comics Buyer Guide, but severely underestimated the demand by printing just over three-thousand copies. With a cover price of $1.50, original printings of issue #1 almost immediately began to sell for ten times that amount—then twenty, then fifty, and kept increasing from there. Today, a near-mint copy of the first printing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can sell for around $15,000. Comics retailers and speculators took notice: the fact that a comic could be purchased and flipped almost immediately at several times the cost was too sweet a plum for even casual investors to pass up.
Now there was a rush to comics stores to snatch up copies of the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dozens of ludicrously-titled crappy comics appeared, boasting “Number One Collector’s Item!!!” bursts on the cover. The marketplace was getting very crowded, and publishers were no longer printing measly three-thousand copy runs of their stories about radioactive squirrels and nuclear wildebeests. Instead they produced them in quantities of tens of thousands, counting on the sale of several issues per speculative customer. Of course, this practice was amplified several fold for books coming from Marvel and DC, who began producing variant copies of number one issues to maximize their sales. This practice reached its zenith in 1991, when Marvel published X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont and superstar artist Jim Lee. This comic had five variant covers, and shipped over eight million copies to retailers, making it the Guinness Book of World Records’ best-selling comic book of all time. Practically from this moment, the whole shell game began to collapse under the weight of hundreds of thousands of unsold comics, as well as the growing realization that there wasn’t an immediate aftermarket for mint condition copies of Aztec Ace. Combined with a few other industry missteps worth noting and mentioned elsewhere, the rapid deflation of the speculative market led to the closing of thousands of comic shops virtually overnight and Marvel eventually declaring bankruptcy—but these are stories for another silly pop culture rumination.
A year before Claremont and Lee’s X-Men #1 came out, Logan’s Run #1 hit the stands. Published through Malibu Comics’ superhero imprint, Adventure Comics, I don’t know that this particular comic was part of the industry’s speculative boom, though the fact that it can be purchased for under a dollar today indicates that there are more than a few lying around out there. The book boasted art and plotting by Canadian comics entrpreneur Barry Blair, who had made a name for himself publishing ElfLord and Samurai, as well as some well-known "Adults Only" material. His manga-inspired, coquettish pixie art lent itself well to this literal interpretation of the Logan’s Run novel, in which Lastday occurred at age twenty-one, so the characters in the story are really teenagers and children, not the young adults portrayed in the film, television show, and Marvel comic book.
And that’s why I have used this space to talk about the climate in which this comic book was released, and I am not going to bother recapping this issue of Logan’s Run #1: it is such a faithful adaptation of the novel, it fairly well follows the story exactly. There are some unique visual aspects—the Sandmen wear leather jackets and everyone’s got a spiky, punkish haircut, for instance—but story-wise it goes beat for beat along with the novel to a slavish extent. It’s a good comic book; the art is a little simplistic but it wears well as you read along. Indeed, if you were interested in the story that influenced the film and haven’t read the novel…I might recommend picking up issues one through five of Adventure Comics' Logan’s Run instead. With the comic book, at least the gratuitous scenes of nudity contain crudely-drawn nudity.
Bits and Pieces:
Wrapping up Logan’s Run February, we look at the comic book industry conditions in 1990 that allowed a comic like Logan’s Run #1 to exist. It’s a good comic book, nearly identical to the novel word-for-word, and it’s therefore somewhat redundant to read both. The comic, however, features artwork by the esteemed Barry Blair, which may itself be enough to put this over the text-only option.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review, and if you’ve been following along with Logan’s Run February, where I reviewed a different adaptation of the original novel Logan’s Run on this website each Monday, I hope you’ve enjoyed that as well. For me, it’s been an interesting but not altogether enjoyable romp across the fertile minds of corporate licensees and comic book nerds. I began this venture simply because I think the MGM film Logan’s Run is a gas. But now, I’m not so sure that the gas isn’t weaponized, and should probably be considered a war crime under the tenets of the Geneva Convention. My recommendation for anyone considering consumption of the same Logan’s Run-related material that I did—in a pretty tight time frame, to boot: run, Runner! Run!
Next Week: Logan’s Run, ??????????