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Tag: Arizona

Comic-Shop Memories: Fog Hollow Comics, Phoenix, Ariz., 1986-87

Old Town Scottsdale is the kind of place where tourists like to overpay for snakeskin cowboy boots, extra-hot salsa, cheap turquoise jewelry and elaborate Kachina dolls. On the plus side, you can just as easily find some really good tacos and cold Mexican beer.

My family moved Oct. 2, 1986, to Scottsdale, Arizona. We lived in a home in what was then the north edge of town, somewhere between Shea Boulevard and Cactus Road, just west of 92nd Street. My comics collection at the time fit in one long box.

Of course, the first thing I did was consult the phone book for a nearby comics shop, finding several listings but none nearby. The first one I found and the closest was Fog Hollow Comics, located at 3215 E. Thunderbird Road, almost nine miles away. (Thanks to the AZFandom.org folks for recalling its name!) It’s still today an 18 minute drive, without traffic, each way, from our old address. So it wasn’t convenient, but at least it was a place I could make it to once my perception of what’s too far away to drive to adjusted to Arizona standards.

At the time, there were no freeways in the area. Phoenix and Scottsdale were massively spread out areas with nary a two-story building in sight. It was, truly, a city built more for cars to live in than people. And being on the edge of Scottsdale made pretty much everything you wanted to do, aside from going to the grocery, a trip of 10 or more miles on surface streets with lights that never synched up except to ensure you hit every single one in red.

Not the actual car I owned, but a photo of the same model and color. It had the original floor mats, 4-speed manual transmission and ran on regular gas — back when you could still buy such a thing.

Nonetheless, with two younger sisters and two working parents, my drivers license made sure I was kept busy dropping off or picking up somebody around the entire north quarter of Phoenix in a yellow 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle. Thank god it had a tape player. It did not have AC. That deficit’s seriousness would not make itself fully known, however, until the following spring and summer. Either way, it was a lot of time spent in the car.

At the time, I was buying pretty much only Marvel comics. I knew exactly which ones were coming out each week, thanks to Marvel Age Magazine, and I had them on subscription at Fog Hollow — my first pull file. Money was tight, so I’d calculate the exact cover price minus the discount plus the sales tax to ensure I could pay for my comics before making that drive. More than once I paid for my weekly haul to the penny.

Fog Hollow was located in a strip mall suite and, unlike many comics shops, had large windows on two sides of the space and was therefore bright and open and inviting. There was the usual back-issue bin in the center, with new releases on racks around the edge. Under the back-issue bin, behind a small door, was where the subscriber books were kept.

I remember on my first visit finding at least two comics that eluded me in Edmonton and really shouldn’t have: X-Men #192 and Power Pack #27. The former I just never could find in any of the back issue bins at the shops I frequented despite being only a couple years old and all the issues around it being easy to find. Power Pack #27 was part of the Mutant Massacre storyline and had sold out instantly in Edmonton, but was still racked in the new comics when I rolled in to Fog Hollow. That made me happy, and I was a steady customer of the shop through the summer of 1987, when it closed.

I remember stopping in on Friday afternoons to pick up my books. (New comic-book days on Wednesday were not a thing at that time — at least not one I was aware of.) I’d take home the comics I was reading at the time — from memory, standard Marvel stuff, such as X-Men, The New Mutants, Alpha Flight, The Amazing Spider-Man, Classic X-Men, X-Factor, Marvel Saga, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, The ‘Nam, Strikeforce: Morituri, Power Pack, some New Universe titles and Cloak & Dagger — and would spend most of the evening after dinner reading, re-reading, admiring and thinking about the new books. I didn’t have anything else to do, really.

Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1 (Feb. 1987) is one of my all-time favorite comics. Cover art by Mark D. Bright.

Among the cool items I procured at this shop: A copy of X-Men #141 that I scored for a whopping 50 cents in the back-issue bin, and later took to the 1993 San Diego Comic-Con to be signed by both Chris Claremont and John Byrne; a second printing of The ‘Nam #1, as I was completely in love with this series and the great Michael Golden art; Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1, which was easily one of my most re-read books for the next year; and a copy of the first printing of the Wolverine TPB, collecting the original miniseries by Claremont and Miller, costing me a whopping $4.95, plus Arizona sales tax. (A quick note: I had a tough time adjusting at first to sales tax because there was none in Alberta. There, if it cost 99 cents and you gave them a dollar, you got back a penny. In Arizona, if it cost 99 cents, you had to hand over $1.07.)

Cover to the first printing of the Wolverine trade paperback, which collected the four-issue series by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller and Josef Rubinstein for the first time. Cost me all of $4.95!

Fog Hollow was run by a woman named Susan Putney, whom I later realized wrote a graphic novel for Marvel called Spider-Man: Hooky, that was drawn by no-less-a-great than Bernie Wrightson. When I eventually acquired a copy, I really enjoyed it. I also found a site that referenced a quote from former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, who said he really liked Putney’s work and thought she could be good — but she kind of vanished after Hooky and Shooter himself was out at Marvel around the same time.

Cover to Spider-Man: Hooky, published in 1986. Art by Berni(e) Wrightson.

A little Googling reveals Putney also wrote a science-fiction novel called Against Arcturus that was published in 1972 as a a flip-book paperback with Time Thieves, by no-less-a-great than Dean R. Koontz.

From Google, the flip covers to Against Arcturus and Time Thieves, published in 1972.

I remember she would ring up my sub titles and give me a knowing “good reads,” especially the third week of the month when X-Men, The ‘Nam and Marvel Saga all arrived.

I also remember lusting after the copy of X-Men #94 displayed behind the counter. I recall her mentioning how she’d already sold one to a kid who paid the $100 or so the book cost in cash. You never know what a motivated kid can do.

There was an arcade-style video game in one corner, that played a music loop the staff had memorized and timed down to the second. And I remember one time the staff opening a box from the distributor that included fresh copies of First’s Lone Wolf & Cub reprints. I was not yet smart enough to pick those up, but the staff was sure excited.

Later that summer, I remember coming in to pick up my books one Friday afternoon and Susan was upset, said that the store was closing and subs’ orders had been transferred to another store, called AAA Best Comics, over on North Seventh Street — even farther away from home. It was sad, she was nearly in tears. I said thank you, I had really enjoyed shopping at the store and was sorry to hear it was closing. I didn’t know what else to say — I was only 17 years old.

I proceeded to get into my car, and trek on down to AAA Best Comics, which was a fixture in my life for the next eight years or so.

And I think I may track down a copy of Against Arcturus.

But before that, my next post will feature a detour to the longstanding champion of Phoenix comic-book shops, also sadly no more. Stay tuned.

U2, Martin Luther King Day and Arizona — A Defining Battle of the 1980s

U2 plays “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” on its most-recent tour.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, which always makes me think of my early days in Arizona in 1986-1987.

Just weeks after moving from the Great White North to the Grand Canyon State, a Mormon car salesman named Evan Mecham was elected governor. He was a Republican who had won the election with some 40 percent of the vote because a third-party candidate split the Democratic support between them. Mecham was a very conservative candidate, but also a political novice. One of his first acts was to cancel the Martin Luther King Day as a state holiday, citing improper political procedure used in creating it by the previous governor, Bruce Babbitt. He defended his action with words that did not serve anyone’s best interest, saying to supporters of a King holiday something along the lines of: You don’t need a holiday, you need to get a job. This immediately became a lightning rod in Arizona politics of the sort that seems so cute and quaint in the age of President Trump.

Welcome to Arizona, pal.

The result was predictable: Boycotts, and lots of them. Stevie Wonder said he wouldn’t play Arizona. Harlan Ellison, one of my favorite writers, said much the same. You could hear the echo of Little Steven Van Zandt’s anti-Apartheid anthem Sun City — you know the words! “I! I! I! I! I! I! Ain’t gonna play Sun Citaaayyyyyy” — took on a second meaning because one of Arizona’s most conservative towns was a sleepy, seniors-only, “I don’t want to pay taxes for other people’s kids’ schools” municipality called — you guessed it — Sun City. Plus, that record featured the original version of Silver and Gold, by Bono and Rolling Stones members Keith Richards and Ron Wood.

The MLK issue presented a potentially big problem for U2, which was preparing to release its now-classic album The Joshua Tree in March 1987. The album heavily evokes the Southwest desert as a place of, alternately, despair and escape. The supporting tour was set to open with multiple dates at Arizona State University in Tempe, and a few more down the road in Tucson.

Clearly, U2 had to do something to address the Arizona MLK situation. Since the release in 1984 of The Unforgettable Fire album, which included two King-praising tracks in the hit Pride (In The Name Of Love) and the elegaic album closer MLK, the band was heavily associated with Martin Luther King. There was no way they could play Arizona without addressing the controversy, but the band had found a lot of support for its music in Arizona and not playing for them was no solution.

Instead of backing down, U2 followed King’s example and stood up for what it believes in. The band donated $10,000 to the recall effort against Mecham and made a strongly worded statement that was released the day the tour was to start and read on the radio and by promoter Barry Fey to the audience at the ASU Activity Center just before the show. (You can see this statement being read on the documentary U2 – Outside, It’s America, which aired through 1987 on MTV and can be seen online and on the DVD included in the deluxe edition of the 20th anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree.)

The segment “Governor Mecham & MLK” begins at the 23:30 mark of “U2 – Outside, It’s America.”

As for Mecham, he had a penchant for sticking his foot in his mouth. He obliviously referred to African Americans as “pickaninnies’ and I think he was truly stunned to find that was not considered a term of affection. He also insisted the press was out to get him, and that laser beams were monitoring his brains. Garry Trudeau turned him into a two-week running gag in the Doonesbury comic strip. One of the local radio stations turned all this into a novelty song done to the tune of Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al.

The video for “You Can Call Me Ev,” which features ASU alumnus turned talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel.

When U2 returned to Tempe for two nights in December 1987 to shoot a concert movie at ASU Sun Devil Stadium for the upcoming feature film Rattle and Hum, things got a little weird. This story I did not know until a few years back, when I was reading issue #281 of the U.K.-based music mag Mojo, which put the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree on the cover.

The cover of Mojo #281. The CD was not very interesting.

The feature inside begins thus:

“Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona, December 20, 2987. It is the final night of the Joshua Tree tour and, on-stage, in the hyper-alert minds of the four members of U2, the air is bristling with danger. The FBI are here, scanning the 55,000-strong crowd for a potential gunman who has issued a death threat against singer Bono, declaring that he will be shot tonight if he dares to sing the third verse of Pride (In The Name Of Love), which directly addresses the assassination of Martin Luther King, 19 years before.”

The story, written by Tom Doyle, recounts the story so far and then tells us what happened next:

“Seventeen songs in, U2 launch into Pride. In the third verse, Bono crouches at the front of the stage and closes his eyes to sing. ‘I looked up at the end of the verse and I clearly wasn’t dead,’ he laughs. ‘But not only that … Adam Clayton was standing in front of me.’

“Astonishingly, U2’s bassist had protectively stepped between Bono and the audience, ready to take a bullet or disuade the shooter. ‘It’s weird what goes through your head,’ says Clayton now. ‘Or maybe not even through your head. Maybe it’s just an instinctive thing of daring someone to carry out a threat like that.’

“The Edge, with the guitarist’s habitual gift for understatement, says, ‘I just thought, That’s a mate …'”

I love this story, but it’s not 100 percent accurate. There’s video of that night’s show on YouTube, and it doesn’t go down the way Doyle describes. Check it out below; the third verse starts at the 2:42 mark.

U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love) – Live at Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 20, 1987.

I doubt everyone was making this up, which means they were likely talking about the previous night’s show, which happens to be the first U2 show I attended and the one that made me an instant fan of the group’s music. Now, I can’t find video of that night’s show (if you know of one and you’re reading this, let me know!), but I do have audio of it, which you can check out below.

U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love) – Live at Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 19, 1987.

That night, Bono introduced Pride by saying: “There’s two words that aren’t allowed into this stadium; there’s six words that are. This is Pride (In The Name of Love).” Well after the third verse, Bono says at the 3:53 mark, “The two words: Ev Mecham.” Of course, he botched the pronunciation and said “Mee-chum” instead of “Mee-kam.” But whatever.

Ev Mecham was eventually impeached for violations of campaign finance laws and the Arizona Legislature removed him from office on April 4, 1988. Exactly 20 years after Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. I was amazed no one at the time seemed to mention this.

The aftermath of Mecham’s removal lasted for years. Secretary of State Rose Mofford stepped in as governor and became the first woman to head Arizona’s state government. She had a rockin’ white beehive hairdo, to boot. Various propositions were floated, one changing the electoral system to prevent another gubernatorial candidate from being elected without a majority. That was put to test in the 1990 election, when the thin margin of write-ins and obscure third-party candidates left Republican J. Fife Symington III and Democrat Terry Goddard with just under 50 percent of the vote. That required a repeat of the election with only those two candidates on the ballot. (Side note: It was around this time that Symington’s son had a minor fender bender with me and my 1980 Toyota Celica one morning on the way to class at the University of Arizona. He paid for the damage to my car, but wasn’t nice about it.) Symington won, but was forced to resign in his second term after he was convicted of bank fraud and Arizona law forbade convicted felons from holding office.

The Martin Luther King holiday became a constant source of political idiocy. Arizona’s strong conservative bent meant many people objected to establishing a new holiday in which state employees got the day off with pay because it was a waste of government funds. So attempts were made to eliminate another holiday so MLK Day wouldn’t reward slacker government employees with an extra day off. But they picked Columbus Day for elimination, and the folks descended from Italians took offense. There were competing and especially confusing propositions on the ballot in nearly every election. The result was all the support for an MLK day was split up. I remember covering elections in November 1990 as a journalism student and going to bed rather late on election night with the various MLK propositions leading comfortably, only to wake up and find that the rural results kept any of them from passing. Strangely enough, it was the promise that the NFL would bring the Super Bowl to Phoenix — the city got its team in 1988, when the St. Louis Cardinals relocated to Sun Devil Stadium — that eventually made MLK day official starting in 1993. The Super Bowl was played in the Valley of the Sun in 1996. (I will someday blog about the horrors of seeing Billy Ray Cyrus “singing” the national anthem at a Cardinals’ preseason game and then climbing the rafters during a post-game “concert” in 100-plus degree heat for a marathon rendition of “Achy Breaky Heart.”)

As for Mecham, He continued to rattle around Arizona politics for a while. He was acquitted of criminal charges of campaign fund misappropriation. He tried and failed to create a conservative daily newspaper to counter what he saw as bias against him on behalf of The Arizona Republic. He made some efforts to run for office, including U.S. Senate, but he was a no-go. When he died in 2008 at the age of 83, the obits revealed a lot of facts that weren’t as well known during those pre-internet days when he was a big controversy, including his service in the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II. He earned the Purple Heart and the Air Medal.

I’ve rarely heard U2 talk about Mecham and MLK in the intervening years. I do remember Bono saying something like “We’ve been here before” during the Zoo TV Outdoor Broadcast concert at Sun Devil Stadium in October of 1992. But perhaps that’s for the best. They still play Pride, and it still rocks. I haven’t lived in Arizona since 1996, and it’s not as weird as it used to be. But it’s still weird, and I can’t imagine it ever being not weird.

Random Notes: TV Comics, Back Issues and a 1990s Flashback

Sons of Anarchy #1

* Lots of TV shows (of the prestigious variety!) have been making the jump into comics, with Boom! putting out a very cool Sons of Anarchy series and Marvel taking Dexter on a tangent with a series by the character’s creator Jeff Lindsay and a second coming soon. That’s in addition to The X-Files: Season 10 series that’s more like the sort of thing you expect to see in comics. Sons of Anarchy is a show I’ve only tangentially watched, but I enjoyed the comic quite a bit.

Dexter #5

Marvel’s Dexter series was quite good and a lot better than the last few seasons of the Showtime series. I read the first Dexter book a few years back after Showtime dropped a copy in the gift bag from a Dexter TV show party at Comic-Con and really enjoyed it. Turns out there’s a long-running series of books that take Lindsay’s original idea in a different direction. Lindsay is enjoying doing comics (at least he said so on his Reddit blog). It’s always interesting to see creators from other fields tackle comics, and I think comics could benefit from more novelists jumping into the fray to counter the overdone screenwriting influences and the decompressed storytelling it inspires.

As for The X-Files: Season 10, I still think writer Joe Harris is doing a good job and it’s cool that creator Chris Carter is pitching in, too. I don’t think this show will ever quite re-capture the same zeitgeist it did in the 1990s, but it is nice to revisit the characters and ideas in comic book form, which has a bit more kind to the series than the big-screen sequel of a few years back.
Grendel #1

* I visit my old stomping grounds in Arizona once or twice a year, and finally managed to make time for a visit to All About Books and Comics. I used to frequent the store during summers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and always enjoyed the depth of the back issue selection in particular. I’m happy to report that hasn’t changed a bit, and a good portion of the store was devoted to selling inexpensive packs of classic comics runs from the past 30 years or so. I snagged a batch of Captain Canuck originals and the first 10 issues of Comico’s Grendel series, as well a lengthy run of the original Power Pack run — all for a great price. I briefly chatted with owner Alan Giroux about the old days and how much we both like shops that stock lots and lots of back issues. I am grateful that Los Angeles has so many great comics shops, but one that stocks back issues like All About is at this point just another item on my want list.

Shade: The Changing Man  #1

* Also in Arizona, I found some boxes of old Star Trek and V paperbacks from the late 1980s and early 1990s, along with a few relics from the speculator age of comics: three sets of X-Force #1, three sets of X-Men #1 and polybagged black cover and green cover copies of Spider-Man #1. I also found a poster from Atomic Comics’ 1993 Mega-Jam, signed by a ton of creators, including the late Steve Gerber. I don’t remember where it came from, as I didn’t attend the event, but it’s totally extreme, dude. And just to show I don’t have completely horrible taste, this box also included most of Steve Ditko’s 1970s DC Comics series Shade: The Changing Man. That was some funky, weird, cool stuff.

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