Cosmicon

Last week I had an amazing piece dropped off to me for next week’s Canadiana auction we’re running on eBay (items will be posted May 29th and the auction will run for 10 days). Behold this beautiful Cosmicon poster with artwork by Jim Steranko promoting the 1975(?) event held at Toronto’s York University. Comic artists in attendance included Jim Steranko. I am going to need some help confirming which year this poster promoted. Cosmicon ran for 4 years from 1972 to 1975 with each one growing in size and stature. I know the 1974 edition was held January 25-27 so this poster can’t be for 1974, which had attendees that included retailer Phil Sueling and artist Neal Adams and I think Stan Lee. I looked online but couldn’t nail down the exact year this poster was for, I think 1973 was held in January as well. There is a picture online of the inside front cover to some underground comic featuring Cheezy Nuggets by Alex Emond but it advertises the same Steranko poster with a January 24 to 26 1975 date? Perhaps early organizers and attendees, that means you Ron Kasman, Art Cooper, Vince Marchesano and Ivan Kocmarek, can help me identify for which year this poster was made. This is a wonderful piece of Canadian Comic history.

I’m such a sucker for this Gil Kane Tomb of Dracula cover. Comics.org says John Romita added some alterations as well. The cover screams early 1970s Marvel horror and gives us a classic battle cover with a beautiful damsel in distress for good measure. Those 20-cent Marvels felt so much beefier in the hand than the 25-cent Marvels: I’m not sure what month the switch over was but the 1975 issues were so much narrower and used really thin paper stock, holding one of each side by side is disheartening.

Check out this early in-house DC ad from All-Star 6, September 1941. These are early days, just as the superhero phenomenon is exploding in popular culture. Note this is before the US entered World War II and before titles like Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman.

I tried to get this ad in last week but it lost out to the joke book ad which reminded me of Norn MacDonald. I thought I’d slide it in this week in honour of commentor Dave who often reminds us that in the 1950 and 60s there was no internet and fans were starved for information and photos of their favourite stars. There were monthly magazines catering to these fans, mags like Teen Beat. Deluxe Photo Service out of New York caught on to this demand and offered 631 movie and TV star pictures for 25 cents! Kim Novak looks fetching but wow Perry Como, hubba hubba!

Our internationalcollectiblesexchange weekly eBay auction was another busy one with some great results. I thought the House of Mystery lot of 7 comics did well. These early 70s DC horror books are hard to snag; not many quality copies come up for sale. This lot didn’t really have any iconic covers in it yet they are part of the run and did well I thought.

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Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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  1. The Steranko is great! Back in the 70’s growing up in Colorado I dreamed of going to a comic show! By the time I moved to California I didn’t think I could afford anything but small local shows… oh well! Back in the early 70’s I for some reason wasn’t into ToD… now I have about 70% of the run and that Dracula/Wolfman cover is one of my favorites. The horror I was starting to get into in the early 70’s was all E.C.
    This selling comics is now starting to feel like a new occupation! I have a grading/ packing/ photographing space dedicated to selling my collection. I am surprised at what is selling and not selling. A copy of FF 53 came in at a bit lower then I anticipated, but Batman 251…the response to that book blew me out if the water and sold for so much more then I anticipated for a raw comic. Its one I hadn’t even looked at in years!

  2. If the 25-centers had the same quality of feel of the 20-centers, they would have been 35-centers and we wouldn’t be having this discussion and my money would be in bitcoin. Treasure the feel of those 25-centers.

  3. Gerald, you selling on ebay? what’s your name on there so I can peruse your sales? Thanks mate

  4. By my calculations you have 29 issues of a monthly book for the 20c. ASM#103 – #131, nice little run there! ToD would be #1-19 (that #19 is a great issue too!)…Daredevil #82 – #108 (goes Bimonthly).

  5. Just copied this from Ron Kasman’s post on FB on March 3 of this year which was the 50th anniversary of the first Cosmicon in 1972 and that is the year that the Steranko poster is from:
    Today, March 3rd is the fiftieth anniversary of Canada’s first modern comic convention*, Cosmicon. Of the eight billion people in the world I expect that I am the only one who has noticed this. Be that as it may, it still means something to those of us who were there. Times change. The hobby has grown. Cosmicon reflected a hobby that was getting up and learning to walk and for that it was very, very cute. Here…
    1. Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes played at Cosmicon on the Saturday night. Admission was free with admission to the convention. Really.
    2. Admission to the convention was $3.00. As an aid to adjust for inflation, a chocolate bar was a dime, a comic book was $.20 and a year of university was $600. Free passes were donated to charitable children’s community organizations.
    3. Dealers tables were free. Journey into Mystery #83 was $3.50. There was a copy of Conan #1 for a nickel.
    4. Jim Steranko, the most popular artist in comics at the time, created a surrealist, day-glo poster to promote the convention, for free. He was a guest of the convention. He displayed his paintings, his comic art and even made signs for the hallways.
    5. The convention was not organized for profit but to break even.
    6. The organizers were fans in their late teens and early twenties.
    7. Except for Alain Resnais, Jim Steranko and Gray Morrow, all guests came up to Toronto paying their own plane fare .
    8. Even on their own dime, guests at one Cosmicon included Stan Lee, editor-in-chief of Marvel, Carmine Infantino, editor-in-chief of D.C., Jim Warren, Publisher of Warren, P.J.O’Rourke, editor-in-chief of National Lampoon, Michele Eury, cartoon editor of Playboy and Harvey Kurtzman, founder of Mad Magazine. Many of the other major creative forces in comics attended as well because it was the place to be.
    9. While the convention was associated with a nearby hotel there were free accommodations for whoever wanted them. Many stayed in the student residences in vacant rooms. I slept in the student common room.
    10. Security was by the Laffguards not by security guards. These London, Ontario comic fans did so in exchange for student residence sleeping accomodations.
    11. You could walk through the convention at a natural pace even at one o’clock on Saturday afternoon. As the convention grew, the Winter’s College organizers negotiated with nearby colleges, Vanier, McLaughlin and Founders, for more space.
    12. All attendees received a free poster and a program booklet filled with artwork donated by the attending professionals.
    13. The seed budget was $600. That was sufficient.
    14. Comic conventions were special. There were annual conventions in NYC and Detroit at the time. I don’t think they had begun in Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Montreal, Chicago or the other large eastern cities. Today, in the warm months, there are multiple conventions every weekend. I attended a convention in Tilsonburg a few years ago.
    15. Young men and young women in near equal numbers attended Cosmicon which was not the case at any other comic or SF convention at the time.
    16. It was a 24 hour a day convention because all night movies were shown in a very large lounge area.
    17. Police were not present at the convention. They would come only if their presence was requested.
    18. Cosmicon had an on site pub and at least three others you could go to without leaving the building. I sat on the floor outside of The Absinthe across from the most influential comic artist of the period while he was on LSD. I didn’t even know he was stoned.
    19. All autographs were free. I don’t remember anyone charging for a sketch.
    20. It was in the dead of winter.
    There were four Cosmicons. By year three the convention was the top headline on the front page of the Toronto Star. I don’t have a copy. I remember that the headline was in red type and said something like, “Comic Book Freaks converge on York University”. In year four it became an issue for the university in a time of Canadian nationalism. The campus newspaper accused Cosmicon of using student money to subsidize American dealers, artists, writers, etc. We didn’t need the aggravation. And besides, we were graduating. One of our number trademarked the name and we walked away.
    Today money and love are the fuels that keeps comic fandom going. That’s OK. When I was new to all this, fandom also ran on money and love but they were proportioned differently.
    * Modern Comic Convention– advertised, associated with hotel, dealers room, admission fee, program booklet, guests, concerning comic books, speakers, panels, presentations, art exhibits.

  6. You’ll find that a lot Gerald, things you thought would go higher don’t and things you thought would go cheap get great prices, the market is ever changing.

    I accept what you say Meli but I don’t have to like it.

    Spider, I’ll have to check but I want to know what month they went to the flimsy format, was it with the 1st 25 center?

    This is what I was looking for Ivan, thanks. I thought the poster was for 1974 but by the look of that underground comic ad for the 1975 event, the con used the image for its whole gun.

    I will put 1972 on the poster description when we run it on the auction.

    Oh, and you have to tell us more about this infulential artist tripping on LSD…

  7. As a student of Steranko all these years I have not seen or heard of this poster or conference. And I was in a position to. And nothing in my files collected along the way.

    May 3 of 1973 the Winnipeg Art Gallery opened The Structure of Comics curated by Philip Fry, their contemporary art curator. A great poster featuring the dramatic architecture of the new art gallery by Gus de Rosa (who we just lost) but no catalogue. Phil, deep into semiotics at the time, managed an article in a French academic journal.

    In 1974 I had both the National Gallery circulating exhibition of the Bell Features comics to which I added the Vancouver comics (with permission) and a historical exhibition of pinball machines I had curated that circulated around art museums of western Canada for two years to world wide attention. The 1970s were a great period for attention to the popular arts by museums & galleries. And I might say Canada, the UK and the French were looking hard at the US popular culture before they paid much attention.

    Philip Fry was invited back to do another show at the WAG when teaching at the U of Ottawa. He and Ted Poulos choose James Steranko based on their work on the previous exhibition. Steranko: Graphic Narrative: Story-telling in the Comics and the Visual Novel (1978) was a big hit and the catalogue should be reprinted. I treasure my signed poster (designed by him and of him) and a small dinner we curators had with him before the opening.

    In 2015 Steranko was at an event in Windsor and the PR shouted the first time he had been in Canada since 1978.

    On May 29 an exhibition of Steranko’s drawings will end at the Butler Musuem of American Art in Youngstown Ohio.
    I do not know if there is a catalogue.

    Thanks Ivan for sharing that history… so important.

    m.

  8. Awesome share Ivan!!!

    Walt, I thought 20c run between cover-dates of December 1971 and April 1974. You’re holding ToD#18 which is March 1974….so did the 25c era start out with good quality (similar to 20c) and then convert to a lower quality/thinness? 30c start in Sept 1976 by my reckoning…2 1/2 year era of 25c

    As an experiment:
    Are we hypothesizing that somewhere in the ASM run between #132 until #159 (the 25c era) we will discover a change in quality? Interesting!!!

  9. And since you asked…

    The influential artist just died. It was Neal Adams. He wrote on the internet that he used LSD once, he was happy with it but never used it again. I was sitting across from a young aggressive comic artist who was trying to seduce a beautiful university student. He probably scored. We were on the floor outside a pub called the Absinthe. I would be referred to today with a compound word, eleven letters long, that starts with a C and ends in an R. But really, I was just a naive kid who wanted to talk to a professional artist. Neal Adams was across the hall about ten feet down, wearing a suit and also sitting on the floor. He was very quiet. I had no idea that he was stoned. I must have found out the next morning.

    It was a while ago but what I remember was that the Steranko poster was used year one. Year two there was a Neal Adams poster. Year three we reused the Steranko poster with small changes to account for guest list and date change. Year Four it was a Bill Payne image that had already been used in the first program book.

  10. That was one cool hallway Ron, thanks for sharing.

    I have to note that Art Cooper, who was at the show, tried to post a comment that bounced – attention Scott – Art notes that there are not many of these posters left in nice shape, most were torn off the walls by students and many were tossed, torn, taped, trampled and tortured so finding a prestine one is an event. By the way, the one up on the Canadiana auction is a beauty!

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