Saturday, March 25, 2017

Punnily Enough

One of the greatest Topps inserts ever came with the 1967 AFL Football cards.  With no NFL license at the time, Topps was in the doldrums and, for a second year, down to a 132 card set of the new-ish league's players. So of course this limited type of set contained the fantastic 31 sticker set known as Comic Pennants.  But wait....there's a lot more to the story! For some reason known only to Topps, there are three varieties of this set.

Right now I'm tracking a die cut sticker variety and a numbered and unnumbered variety on cardboard stock. Both cards are exactly that: cards and they are not die cut. There could be a non-die cut variety on sticker stock as I've seen a reference to same but can't find one in the wild and am presuming it's a red herring at this point after checking with some noted FB collectors. The set has been discussed here before but not in depth.

Here's a die cut sticker and reverse:

A numbered card and its reverse;

And the unnumbered card with reverse:

All three types are standard sized.

But I'm not really here to dissect the different flavors of this set today.  I'm here because the current BST Auctions offering, which is full of wondrous treasures (and run by some friends of mine) has an uncut sheet of the stickers and it is a thing of beauty:

That's a 90 sticker array (10 x 9) and it's obvious not all subjects are printed in equal quantities. There can be 2, 3, 4 or 6 imprints of the same sticker on this sheet!  It looks like a full sheet and Topps, from what I have seen, did not print A and B sheets of their inserts like they did with the regular issue cards.  The breakdown is quite odd but of course it's an odd set.  I've capitalized the names of actual schools, places (but not Transylvania!) and AFL teams in the checklist below and listed the number of times each appears on the sheet in parentheses:

1. Navel Academy (4)
2. City College Of Useless Knowledge (2)
3. My Teacher Looks Like The Hunchback of NOTRE DAME (3)
4. Psychedelic State (4)
5. MINNEAPOLIS Mini-Skirts Are On The Rise (2)
6. School Of Art - Go, Van Gogh (3)
7. WASHINGTON Is Dead (4)
8. School Of Hard Knocks (2)
9. If I See Her ALASKA (3)
10. Confused State (4)
11. YALE Locks Are Tough To Pick (2)
12. University Of Transylvania (3)
13. Down With Teachers (4)
14. They Caught Me Cheating At CORNELL (2)
15. You're A Fink If You Don't Root For The HOUSTON OILERS (3)
16. I Flunked Out Of HARVARD (6)
17. Diskotech (2)
18. Dropout U (3)
19. Polluted AIR Will FORCE You To Wear Gas Masks (2)
20. Nutstu U. (2)
21. MICHIGAN State Pen (3)
22. The Girls In DENVER Look Like BRONCOS (4)
23. I Left BUFFALO Without Paying My BILLS (2)
24. ARMY of Dropouts (3)
25. In MIAMI I Was Bitten By Two DOLPHINS (4)
26. KANSAS CITY Has Too Few Workers And Too Many CHIEFS (2)
27. Everything Is Banned In BOSTON Except PATRIOTS (3)
28. Fat People In OAKLAND Are Usually Ice Box RAIDERS (2)
29. I'd Go WEST If You'd Just POINT In The Right Direction (2)
30. NEW YORK Skies Are Crowded With JETS (3)
31. SAN DIEGO Police Will Press CHARGERS (2)

Or, to present it another way:

Two Times: Nos. 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 29, 31 - Thirteen Cards
Three Times: Nos. 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30 - Ten Cards
Four Times: Nos. 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 22, 25 - Seven Cards
Six Times: No. 16  - One Card

That's an odd pattern, even for Topps. Harvard gets 6 impressions, which leads me to believe one other subject was pulled and replaced by the "Crimson Tide". That would make 32 subjects and I could easily see another to make 33, using the common 11 divisor of the time. Maybe a second sheet does exist, it would not surprise me given this way the above sheet is arrayed. If that's the case, it may have started life as a standalone set.

The set is full of anarchic style humor and was clearly worked on by some of the underground comix artists Topps used as free-lancers at the time.  I'd say Wally Wood did a lot of the artwork but the captions sound like Jay Lynch had a hand in them.

The set is also known as Krazy Pennants.  I have seen anecdotal evidence a wrapper by that name exists and it's possible the cards were found in those or perhaps they were stiffeners in the following year's Krazy People Posters. The possibility of Fun Pack distribution always exists as well.

There is some speculation the insert set was pulled due to its shocking humor and according to Friend o'the Archive Mike Blaisdell, wax boxes are known with the Sticker splash panel covered over with a sticker of its own indicating extra cards were in the packs. As Comic Pennants was the only insert in 1967 Football, nothing else could have replaced it in the packs so I guess Topps had to do something to stay ahead of Philly Gum's NFL cards!

 I don't think we are done looking at this set yet...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jay Lynch 1945-2017

Some of the readers here may have seen this already in the news or online but Jay Lynch passed away on March 5th, age 72.  In addition to being a renowned underground comix artist, Jay freelanced on many Topps projects over almost fifty years and worked closely with Woody Gelman on the creation of Wacky Packages. He was also one of the main artists and gag men on Garbage Pail Kids and the longtime writer of Bazooka Joe comics among many other projects.  He was a founder of Bijou Funnies to boot and can be seen below in a picture from the first issue holding the artwork from Nard 'N Pat, his most famous strip. Quite the assemblage, no?


I was put in touch with Jay by Jeff Shepherd and he was quite helpful when I was researching my book, The Modern Guide To Topps Chewing Gum: 1938-56. From what I have seen, he was like this with everybody.  I'm slowly working on a Topps artists project and while I won't be able to hit him up for information, he will be a focal point nonetheless. I'm also sorry I didn't get a chance to get into longer discussions with him about Woody and folks like Len Brown and Ben Solomon. He was around the place for such a long time, through the IPO in 1972 and the ceding of control by the Shorin's later on, through the sale to Michael Eisner in 2007 and beyond.

His papers (which are voluminous) are being donated to Ohio State University. They include documents and artwork from his entire career; he apparently saved everything he could over his 72 years. Considering the circles he worked in, this will be a valuable resource to a number of disparate folks.

Topps has put out a commemorative set to help his family defray his medical expenses, it's available here if you are interested.

RIP Jay.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Oh, Oh, Mexico

Hola Amigos!  Some interesting tidbits from the southern part of North America today, although they result in more questions than answers I think.

Friend o'the Archive Ken Cope contacted me to see if I knew anything about a Superman, The Movie card he acquired in a stack of Mexican issued Topps sets.  I most certainly did not, so of course I was intrigued.

Behold the card in question:

Compare that the the US issue:

What you see above is all I know about the Mexican issue.  I have to wonder if they also issued the second series, red bordered cards in Mexico.  I knnow there were at least two series of Star Wars released in Mexico. Charlie's Angels and the Six Million Dollar Man are also known to me, as is the 1977 NFL Football issue. In addition Mr. Cope advises he has a set of Mexican Planet of the Apes cards, which, presuming they are for the TV series and not the movie, would be roughly contemporary with Six Million Dollar Man, i.e from 1974-75, depending upon the vagaries of the Mexican TV schedule vs. that in the US. I've posted before about some of these other issues if you are interested.

Mexican, Venezuelan and other issues south of the US border are poorly documented and checklisted. I assume there are, in addition to the Topps issues described above, many others from additional manufacturers. I am aware of an Argentinian card guide but beyond that, can't swear there are any others specific to North America (outside of the US or Canada), Central or South America. And North America would include Cuba, which has issued many interesting sets over the decades.

Back to my original thought-if you have any information on this Man of Steel from Mexico (or the Apes), let me know!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Steve & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Whoever said there's nothing new under the sun must not have been very inquisitive.  We are rolling through our ninth year here and I still find stuff on a regular basis that I haven't seen before. Today brings a melding of the venerable, albeit erstwhile, Exhibit Supply Company (ESCO), and Soloman & Gelman, the small commercial art studio that morphed into the Creative and Art departments at Topps.

I've written previously about Triple Nickel Books, a line of paperbacks put out in the 1950's by Ben Solomon and Woody Gelman. These 15 cent softcover stories seem to follow two lines of characters: historical ones like Davy Crockett and Wild Bill Hickok, and 'tween adventurers/sleuths such as Barbie Lane or the Power Boys.

The Power Boys seem to be the most popular part of the series, which ran to about fifteen books overall, near as I can tell, and the Power Boys were the subject of at least eight of them.  Here's a representative cover:

The author is Arthur Benwood, which is an amalgam of Ben and Woody's first names.  It's not clear if they wrote the Power Boys stories or were just being clever with the pseudonym.  Like any serious line of books aimed at the youth of the country, an advertising and marketing campaign had to be developed. One approach taken by the Triple Nickelers was to use the back of 1950's Exhibit cards. Check out this Walt Dropo, provided by Friend o' the Archive Glen over at Net54:

Isn't that something?!  You can see the Mystery of Marlow Mansion title in the ad to boot. Compare to the back cover of a standard Triple Nickel (yet again referring to the title above):

It's worth noting that while a later series of hardcover books also known as The Power Boys, published in the mid 1960's, was unrelated to the previous incarnation, the father of the latter brood was called Thomas, so maybe the author (Mel Lyle) took inspiration from the past in a way.

A Stan Musial Exhibit with Triple Nickel advertising also is known; the ad back is rare even among the universe of scarcity that defines Exhibit backs of the era.