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Beau Smith

by beau Smith

The tall figure of Captain America moved purposefully to the fallen thug. The man was unshaven, and his eyes , when he eventually opened them, were weak and shifty. He sat against the wall, his legs straight in front of him. Rogers leaned over him.

“Okay, fella. It’s time for some talking.”

“I don’t know nuthin’,” The man grunted sullenly.

Rogers bent, and fixed his gauntleted fist in the man’s shirt. He rose smoothly to full height, pulling the heavier man with him. He shook the man twice, jerking his head back and forth.

“Let’s not be stubborn.”

“I-I…” The man’s eyes had glazed , and his mouth hung slackly. He was slumped , limp, in Rogers grasp. but he had stolen a covert peek at the crude desk on the side of the room.

Rogers let the man fall, sprawling to the dirt floor. With two quick strides he was at the desk.

Captain America: The terrific Gold Steal

Of course that man “Rogers” was none other than Captain America. That little bit of text was from the 1968 paperback The terrific Gold steal written by Ted White. It was published by Bantam Books. It starred marvel Comics Captain America with a dazzling, moody painted cover of Cap standing with his shield in one hand and very amazing looking device pistol in the other.

The Avengers battle the Earth-Wrecker

The year before that, Bantam books had published The Avengers battle The Earth-Wrecker by Otto Binder, another fun paperback with a wonderful painted cover. I was in Jr. High school when these came out. I can remember reading these over and over, soaking up every word and scene. other than the covers, there were no illustrations. Your mind took you on this trip and it was quite a ride.

Unlike today, there weren’t a lot of outlets for comic book readers. No video games, no internet, no comic book shops, and no news sites devoted to just comic book news. It was really the time of being a hunter/gatherer. Being in the best place at the best time had a lot to finish with it.

I can still remember the thrill of stumbling across these books when I was at the corner drug store. I had to look twice to make sure that I was really seeing these. They were 50 cents, the price of two comic book annuals at that time. I thought that was a terrific deal. After all, these books would last a lot longer than a 10-15 minute comic book read. plus I was bound to get much more insight on the characters because it was in prose and longer than 22 pages.

The tragic part of this find was that as a kid, I thought there would be more. like comic books, I thought that Bantam books would be doing much more of these using different marvel superheroes. I was wrong. I searched the newsstands and book stores for years after that always searching for Daredevil, Iron man or maybe even Sgt. Fury. It never happened.

The Phantom: Killer’s Town

Granted, there were others in the form of The Phantom by Lee Falk that Avon books published. They also had fantastic painted covers and were even a little much more violent than the comic strip and comic book versions of The Phantom. That was terrific news for me. I had grown exhausted of the “goodie-two shoes” writing of the strips and the comics. I think I read somewhere that these Phantom novels were ghost written. I think that’s why they were better.

Recently I got these books out of my collection and re-read them. I was amazed how well they stood up to the test of time and my self-proclaimed manly sophistication. I was really amazed with The Phantom paperback Killer’s Town. It was written in 1973 and had a real good hard edge to it for The Phantom.

In the last couple of years, Marvel, DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Moonstone and a few others have done much more prose books. The format has been all over the place, some in hardcover, some in trade paperback form, Manga sized as well as others. If memory serves me right, I think marvel and DC farmed their novels out through book distribution. I’m sure they were available for the direct market as well. I know that author Greg Cox has written quite a few of them and he always does a very good job. I like his work. Comic book creators, Peter David, Bob Greenberger and mark Schultz have also done their fair share and added to the fun.

From a publishing standpoint, prose books don’t cost as much to print and put together as comics. creative costs are lower and if the best format is chosen they could cost even less to publish. It’d be good to dress ‘em up a little with chapter illustrations and such. There are an terrible lot of writers out there in comic books that can and are available for prose books best now. It would also be interesting and entertaining to read even much more superhero prose books by some of the current popular writers.

In a prose story there is so much much more character that could be explored.There are so numerous much more characters that could be spotlighted and showcased. I believe that the direct market is much more than ready for some economical prose books, much more so now than ever before. The essential would be to keep the price low so that the books would be attractive and worth the risk for the reader to invest in. possibly putting them out as eBooks and only charging 99 cents, talk about a true impulse purchase where you can’t go wrong! later these stories could be collected into a large hardcover or some sort of slipcase edition that is signed and numbered. The main thing would be to give the readers a place where they could get to know the characters even better; a stage for the writers to have a larger area to expand a story and really flesh out and develop characters.

Years ago this wouldn’t have worked. It was the time of heavy speculation and supposedly art driven comics. best now comics are back to being what they ought to be, story driven with art that equals the task. It is no longer lop-sided. It’s a lot like it was in the late 60s and mid-80s when art and story walked hand in hand. That’s why I think now is the time for prose books to flourish. I will say that I think marvel and DC have much more to acquire from this best now. After all, the direct market is superhero driven. Yes, I think the Indy market would prosper as well from doing this, but to really get a hook into readers I think the superhero side of it is going have to be recognized to make the snowball bigger. It’s also where the money is to be made on a bigger scale… as long as these prose stories are not over priced.

I’m not sure who has the rights to the two Bantam books with Captain America and The Avengers, but it would really be worth the trouble for marvel Comics to check into and see about reprinting them in a new economical format to test the waters in the direct market. I’m sure there are lots of comic book readers who would love to read these stories and see what they were all about. As far as I know these haven’t been reprinted ever. I could be wrong and if so I hope someone out there reading this will let me know.

Marvel and DC want younger readers. we all do. We’re all eager to have someone to pass the torch to. After re-reading these two Bantam books I’d say that they are geared to all ages. After all, I read ‘em when I was young and now that I’m not so young. I got a lot of enjoyment out of them. A good writer can make anybody of any age delight in a story. What marvel and DC would have to do now days is ride herd on the writers not to be too adult. I know many of today’s writers and they would see this as a chance to throw a lot of cussin’ and sex in. A really good writer can write an entertaining story without leaning on shock as a crutch. A lazy writer or one who just wants to satisfy their own interests will take the easy way out. A good editor with the company and reader’s best interest is needed. Not someone who wants to read what only interests them. Comic book editors and writers need to be a little much more selfless.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on some very hero prose books. I’m sure everyone here at Westfield Comics would also. I hope that some of you out there have read The terrific Gold steal or The Avengers battle The Earth-Wrecker. I’d love for you to share your thoughts on them with the other readers of Beauology 101. Comics used to be a community that always shared. So let’s share.

Remember, next time you’re in a used book store or surfing Ebay, look for these books or throw some money and bids on paperbacks like Doc Savage, The Phantom, The Shadow, The Avenger and Tarzan. then write to marvel and DC and let ‘em know you wanna see some prose with The Avengers, Captain America, Hawkman, Wildcat, Sub-Mariner and …..B’Wana Beast!

Your book reading amigo,

Beau Smith

The flying Fist Ranch