Sunday, January 13, 2013

Whitman's Starstream Comics

As a child I not only haunted the toy section of whatever department store that my parents carried me to but I also haunted the book section as well.  Unless my parents were looking to buy me clothes or shoes, we pretty much had a pact that once we were inside the store I veered off from them heading for the toy department and if they didn't find me there they would find me in the magazine / paperback section where I would be reading the latest Cracked, Mad, Eerie, Creepy or whatever else in that format I could get my hands on.  I was an avid reader and by the age of six I was reading full length novels (by the age of 8, after I was introduced to pron by finding a Playboy in the woods, I really did start reading adult magazines for the articles ...). 

In Hattiesburg there was a chain owned department store called "Rose's" and it was the equivalent to a 1970's version of Walmart ... not the Super Walmart with the grocery section and automotive, just a plain Walmart minus the automotive and garden section.  Today it would probably be the equivalent of a Dollar General or Fred's Dollar Store but back then it was all we had (Walmart wouldn't arrive for another decade) but I digress ...

Rose's had a pretty good toy department, several isles worth ranging from boy toys to girl toys to games and even a decent selection of plastic models ... and surprisingly, there in the back, stuck in with the coloring books and children's story books was a series of books with really interesting covers ... Whitman's "Starstream" comics.  I guess you'd call them trade paperbacks today but back then they were unlike any comic book (or "funny book" like my dad referred to comics) that I had ever seen.

And so, like I usually did when my parents were shopping in a department store, I sat down on the lowest shelf of the book rack, picked up a Starstream and started to read each one from front to back.

Oh, man!

These were some good stories ... no, they were awesome stories and I drank these books in as liquid nourishment for my thirsty imagination.  At the time I didn't realize that the authors of these stories were none other than some of the greatest science fiction authors that ever lived but years later I did realize that.  There were greats like Asimov, Niven and even the first illustrated science fiction story from one of my favorite horror authors, Dean Koontz.

Starstream was an interesting gambit for Whitman comics ... take well known (and some not so well known) science fiction stories from well established giants in the genre and illustrate them in comic book form.  The art was okay and the stories were outstanding.  

Starstream has aged pretty well and while my original issues are long gone in the garage sales of my youth I was lucky enough to acquire all four copies on Ebay a few years ago.  Flipping through them again with a glass of syrupy-sweet iced tea took me on a trip down memory lane.  Once again I experienced some of the joy that I had as a child way back in 1977 when I first sat there on the lower shelf of that wood magazine rack and read to my imagination's content while my parents shopped elsewhere in the store.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials

Handy in case of close encounters ...

A friend asked if I still had this ... not only do I have it, I have the 1979 first printing. I bought it a few years ago off of Ebay and I see that some of these are going for upwards of $900 now (I didn't pay anywhere near that ...) and I'm wondering ... if you think you're going to get $900 for this then whatever you're smoking ... if and when they make it available in pill form ... the line to get a 30 day supply starts behind me.

I particularly like getting used books that have notes in them to someone else. Apparently this book was a gift to "Jake" on June 2, 1982 and it was given to him by a woman named "Ruby" who says "It seems to me that I've spotted a number of these characters in your station on occasion. Happy Birthday, Ruby."

I guess "Jake" owned a gas station or worked at a gas station at one time and I know that June 2 is Jake's birthday. Happy belated birthday, Jake, if you're still alive somewhere ... out there. I've got your old book, buddy, and I'm taking real good care of it.