As I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into loving, reading, writing about, and researching comics, I’ve also come to develop a strange fascination with quarter and dollar bin books. Not in a treasure hunting sense of the dig like those collectors searching for holy grail issues, but as a way of finding joy in oddities or appreciation in the overlooked. Over the past months I have discovered some funky and fresh reads in musty smelling boxes at Half Price Books or my LCS. My goal in starting this column is to encourage fans of the comic arts to look beyond the high-dollar collectible books and see the beauty (and sometimes the humor) in stories lost to time. I hope to learn a lot along the way too. Let us jump on the cosmic treadmill and take a trip through time!
My first bust-out of purgatory is Justice #20 from June 1988. Part of Marvel’s New Universe publishing line started in 1986, this comic is the product of some (for me at least) big names, writer Peter David and artist Lee Weeks. Weeks, especially, is cool for me to see because his work during DC Rebirth (Batman/Elmer Fudd, for example) has been extraordinary. This is very early Weeks though because it is not as majestic as the Batman stuff I’ve read lately, but HELL it was the late 80s!! From what I can glean, this title is among his first big two published work. He jumped on Justice with #15.
I got my hands on this comic recently when I was given a stack of twenty-plus books by a neighbor for free just because they were getting rid of them and I happily said I would save them from their recycle facility death march, so I set out to read them all (or most…I need to eat, sleep, and live y’all!). I had never heard of Justice as I typically read or am familiar with DC characters, but I was game, and I liked the cover enough to flip through the book and explore the “new universe” awaiting me. Keep in mind I haven’t read anything related to this title before ever so what follows is my exploration…
This comic takes place largely at an outdoor concert dubbed “Pitt-Aid” featuring strangely drawn (Weeks, gotz to be better at capturing rock n pop stars man) musicians such as Bono, Madonna, Mick Jagger, and Aretha Franklin (RIP) singing their big hits while the title character (a judge, jury, executioner type dude) tries to stop a paranormal creep from harassing a young girl who may or may not be Justice’s daughter – the big ol’ pervert unfortunately wears a Grateful Dead emblazoned jean jacket (one of my favorite bands…sigh) and looks a bit like Alfred E. Neuman because of his super-powered mutant ears which came about because of an event referred to as the “White Event”.
Meanwhile a caped longhair named Seraph vows to protect paranormal citizens and ends up in a huge brawl with Justice. A side plot involves a National Security Council representative named Terrance Updike sleazily lying to a woman named Miriam Morse in an attempt to get her and her paranormal powers to “work” for the government. It seems to be convincing as she shakes his hand, but we see nefarious government operatives colluding against her. I don’t have a good feeling about that. The fight between Seraph and Justice is hard fought and eventually draws police attention to the scene. The cops beat Justice brutally, but he protects his daughter from the rushing crowd of onlookers. That is where the issue ends.
Trash or Treasure?
For having no knowledge or interest in the characters going in, I can safely say this comic entertained me, but a lot of the weirdness and gross plot beats made it a strange journey. The music fanatic in me totally LOVED the single panel portrayals of Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, and U2, etc. and the concert setting is a fun place to set a comic. The art is fascinating because of who the artist is, but it’s not particularly spectacular here. I wont be scavenging for more Justice, yet I will be holding on to this issue mostly for the music references.
So that’s that – thanks for reading…Do you have stories of favorite (or worst) dollar bin comic finds? Share! I’m on Twitter @teflonbeast