Sunday, September 7, 2014

Remember back in the old days, during the Cold War, when there weren't so many nuclear-armed superpowers?  Things have gotten way out of hand with the proliferation of mass destruction.  I'm pretty sure there's plenty of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium circulating around out there thanks to the Soviet Union's collapse.  But back when they were the other potential driver of human extinction, we Americans had our atomic secrets and people like Colonel Steve Canyon of the USAF to keep them safe.

This was back when we atom-bombed the shit out of the Nevada desert and all those Pacific atolls we had lying around after beating Japan, when all those old school European imperialists were licking their wounds and going soft on the commie menace.  Or else turning Red themselves.  Nothing like a balmy tropical paradise for testing hydrogen bombs.  Or T-bombs, whatever those are.  Canyon could tell you, but he's not talking because you might be a mole or a fellow traveler and a guy can't be too careful.

Looking back, I have no idea what we were thinking.  Sure, you'd find magazine articles on how the domino theory would lead to Southeast Asia becoming a Marxist staging point for invading Japan, then Hawaii and then Boise, Idaho.  But there had to be a better way to protect and preserve our way of life than blasting our obsolete battle fleets with nuclear bombs and polluting the atmosphere with fallout.  I wonder why these damned things had to be tested so often anyway.  Once you have a trigger mechanism that works, why do you need another?  And if it's the fissile material that's in doubt, you can't un-blow a proven sample and use it again.  I think all these Pentagon brass hats and physicist types were more or less like kids with really big firecrackers-- the largest-- and some really super keen model ships they couldn't help blowing up for kicks.

These happy images with their subtext of promised global apocalypse are from Dell Four Color Comics #641 (October 1955), reprinted in Hermes Press' new-to-digital offering Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon: The Complete Series Volume 1.  This one stands out for me because I find myself reading accounts of weapons testing in my downtime.

And who would dare argue with that swanky painted cover, which has a "Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew meets James Bond" charm about it?  I'm not a big proponent of painted interior art because it tends to look more like a collage of pretty still images rather than a sequence of events, but give me painted covers anytime.  One of this book's strengths is its full-page reproduction of these beautiful paintings.  The front cover itself features a dramatic image of Canyon and his enlisted driver gritting out a rocket launchpad fire that's too close for comfort.  You can almost feel the heat and the frenzied background action gives the scene a sense of urgency that's only helped by Canyon's raised arm and grimace-creased face.  The interior art may have a few Caniff touches, but it's largely by Ray Bailey and William Overgard, two names with which I'm not familiar.  I will be getting acquainted as I dig into this book.

The point is, here's some sweet 1950s espionage action that falls right in my wheelhouse.  My dad and I used to follow the daily Steve Canyon strip in its latter years, but I've neglected Caniff and people like Noel Sickles for far too long.  I'm not just a student of comic book art filling in the gaps in my education, I'm a student of this historical era, and comics like these give us a feel for time, when we Americans felt ourselves surrounded by danger and locked in a death struggle with a diametrically opposed ideology.  Our good guys sometimes wore white cowboy hats and sometimes they wore blue service caps with eagles pinned to them.


Friday, September 5, 2014

"Forget it, Kitty! You're not good enough for us 'X-Babies!"

Ah, I remember New Mutants #13 (March 1984) when Kitty Pryde was like, "Oh, guys, can I hang out with you?" and Dani Moonstar was all, "Nuh uh!  You called us 'X-Babies,' so you can take your sorry butt right on out of these woods we're hanging out in and suck an egg!"  I was thinking about that the other day.  I've always loved the cover by Tom Mandrake.  Crying Kitty's in the foreground in her garish green circus costume, phasing sadly through a fallen tree, and the New Mutants are behind her looking fierce.  Especially Dani, who Mandrake places in this pose of haughty dismissal.
The story inside is heavy on Amara, Kitty and Doug Ramsey, none of whom I had the least interest in back in the day.  I briefly gave up reading the series right around this issue because the book seemed moribund.  No more Bob McLeod art, the team's central conflict-- Dani versus a Brood-controlled Professor X-- had long been resolved and the X-Men were back from space, where everyone had believed them dead.  There was really no need for a junior X-Team, unless it was to give Chris Claremont's complex narratives in Uncanny X-Men extra space to play out as a kind of main story footnote.  Hardly a compelling reason for another title, although it's standard operating practice at both Marvel and DC these days.
Rather than establish a distinct identity, New Mutants in its second year tended towards dull, generic super-kid stories. It hooked me again when Bill Sienkiewicz became the regular artist and Chris Claremont re-established his unique authorial voice by taking the kids and their narrative in a darker direction.  Demon bears, slumber parties, shape-shifting cyber-aliens from outer space.  All classic stuff.

But I loved this conflict between Kitty and Dani.  I took Dani's side, of course.  Who wouldn't?  Dani is only Marvel's greatest post-Jack Kirby creation.  Kitty's fine, but there's no competition there.  Mandrake's cover stuck with me for years after I'd forgotten Amara gets her codename in the story, long after I'd given up comic book reading for serious literature only to start in with them again, kind of the same way I did with New Mutants.

Every so often, I want to revisit that cover image, only my brain invariably turns it into something that only slightly resembles the Mandrake original.  Like with this drawing, which I knocked out the other day before work.  I felt like working on a foreshortened pointing pose, because I'd convinced myself Mandrake had drawn Dani that way.  Actually, if you take a look at New Mutants #13, she's just sort of waving her hand at Kitty.  And I really thought since Dani was establishing herself as team leader and spokesperson she was the one who let Kitty have it with the cover dialogue.  How wrong I was!  Well, my little sketch is poor Kitty Pryde to Mandrake's powerful Dani Moonstar.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Things to be excited about: Silver Age Teen Titans, Ghosts and Dark Horse's reprints of Marvel Star Wars...

I dropped some mega-bucks on DC's Silver Age Teen Titans Archives volumes 1 and 2, Showcase Presents Ghosts and Dark Horse's Star Wars Omnibus:  A Long Time Ago... volume 4.  These four massive books are on their way to me as I type this, through wind and rain.  Yeah, it's a dark day here in Japan with changeable weather threatening to wash out any weekend activities people may have planned now that the temperatures are easing off from the sauna range they stayed in all summer long.  Of course, with dengue fever closing Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, it's probably just as well.  Yet within my heart is a bright, warm light and its source is anticipation of some classic comic book reading material.

The Silver Age Teen Titans Archives books particularly delight me, since this is one of those series I've fallen madly in love with.  I just cannot seem to get enough of Bob Haney's socially aware writing or Nick Cardy's art.  Most especially the latter.  I've bought this material both in digital form and in Showcase format.  The digitals, on Comixology, never seem to advance past the five or so comics available in Silver Age Titans Archives volume 1.  The relatively inexpensive Showcase Titans books seem to be going out of print now.  I have copies of both volumes stored back in the US, I only have one here in Japan.  No luck getting the other one for a reasonable price.   So my unreasonable solution was to complete my Haney-Cardy-Neal Adams-and-others Teen Titans collection by paying even more for hardcover full-color stories I already own in multiples.

Teen Titans is no mere comic book series.  It is a way of life.

And since I was on a classic DC kick, what better choice to complement the superheroics than yet another Showcase Presents book featuring a horror anthology?  The artist line-up in DC's old horror books reads like a list of my favorites:  Cardy, Alfredo Alcala, Frank Redondo, Nestor Redondo, Sam Glanzman, Ramona Fradon, Jerry Grandenetti, Wally Wood, George Tuska, Gerry Talaoc and so many more.  And with Halloween coming up, I need some fun and spooky reading material.

Finally, my addiction to Al Williamson inspired my purchase of the Dark Horse Star Wars Omnibus:  A Long Time Ago... book.  I have the first three, which means I have Williamson's The Empire Strikes Back adaptation.  It also means I need his Return of the Jedi work.  And I certainly am not going to complain about having to look at stories by Carmine Infantino, Walter Simonson and Ron Frenz with inks by Tom Palmer.  This book also contains Star Wars #74, "The Iskalon Effect" (August 1983), with art by Frenz and Palmer.  It's one of the few non-Al Williamson Star Wars comics I bought during Marvel's original run of books.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Marvel's Marvelous Movies #9: Conan the Barbarian (Marvel Super Special #21, August 1982)

John Milius and I are probably diametrical opposites politically (and in most other ways), but I have to admit I admire the hell out of him.  The guy simply fascinates me.  He's collaborated with people like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and a fella name of Francis Ford Coppola on a little flick called Apocalypse Now.  Lucas based the John Milner character from American Graffiti on Milius, and he served as partial inspiration for Walter Sobchak in the Coen Brothers' Big Lebowski

On his own, Milius has made a number of romantic adventure films laced with a lot of his personal philosophy, which is somewhere to the right of right wing.  He's got kind of a sketchy commercial record, but he's never bored me with his movies.  At its best, his work achieves a kind of powerful macho poetry and beauty, and I find myself exalted by themes and moments I wouldn't ordinarily celebrate.  The Wind and the Lion, Big Wednesday and Rough Riders come to mind. 

Sometimes his movies are just sort of silly.  Red Dawn

Or poetic and silly at the same time.  Which brings us to Conan the Barbarian (Marvel Super Special #21, August 1982). 

Other than the rough outlines of its fantasy setting and few names and incidents here and there, this movie has little  to do with Robert E. Howard's most famous creation.  Milius and co-screenwriter Oliver Stone (yes, THAT Oliver Stone; Milius doesn't seem to let ideology affect his choice in collaborators, which is another reason I respect him) reinvent Conan to suit their revenge story and also because of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in just his second dramatic role (his first being as Hercules in a low-budget comedy with Arnold Stang), didn't have the acting chops to carry the film's narrative.  This reduces the title barbarian himself to kind of a passive meathead thoroughly out-charismaed by his partner-in-crime and lover Valeria, played with scene-stealing verve by Sandahl Bergman.

Script:  Michael Fleisher/Story and art: John Buscema

But Arnold as Conan-- Schwarzenegger, not Stang-- probably contributes the largest portion of the public's perception of the character.  Thick accent, not a lot to say, and most of that borrowed from Genghis Khan.  The rest more than likely comes from Marvel's comic book series starring Conan, which hews closer to Howard's version without quite getting it right, either.  And since Marvel was also in the business of adapting movies, their doing a Conan the Barbarian film comic was inevitable. 

Who better to adapt and draw it than John Buscema, the top Conan comic artist of the day?  As a geek, I tend to associate Buscema with the character almost as much as I do Robert E. Howard himself.  Buscema has Michael Fleisher provide the words for his adaptation, which may or may not have been a smart move.  I say this only because I wish we could have read something even more purely Buscema just to experience what his word choices and tone might have been like.  Together, Buscema and Fleisher reduce the naked sex and sexy naked parts and expurgate most of the gore to produce a newsstand-ready Conan magazine that's Marvel and Milius at the same time.

Script:  Michael Fleisher/Story and art: John Buscema

Buscema draws Conan how he was used to drawing him in the Marvel comics rather than try to depict him as Arnold.  In fact, Buscema makes no attempt to caricature anyone other than James Earl Jones as villainous Thulsa Doom.  And even his Doom is more or less a general likeness, aided by Jones' distinct look as the character. 

Doom is a mean guy with a Bettie Page hairdo and a pack of horseback raiders who follow him around in search of money and murder.  They slaughter everyone in Conan's village and then Doom hypnotizes Conan's mom and chops off her head.  The orphaned Conan spends a number of years pushing a stone wheel around until he's as big as a bodybuilder.  Sold as a gladiator, he learns swordplay and Nietschean philosophy while also providing stud services.  Freed, he sexes up a werewolf witch, meets pro surfer Gerry Lopez and soon learns Doom has reinvented himself as head of a cult that sells snake-worship franchises throughout the land.  Conan also meets Valeria, who doesn't dominate the story in the comic quite as much as she does in the movie.  Buscema draws Valeria as the standard Buscema beauty, with thick eyelashes and high cheekbones.  Like Bergman, she's statuesque and blond, but that's where the resemblance ends.

And that's really enough.  If I wanted the characters to look exactly like the actors, I'd just watch the movie again or look at some photos.  I love when an artist does caricatures or likenesses, but it's not always necessary.  If likeness is an artist's strength, then he or she should focus on that.  If not, then filling the pages with a lot of off-model faces poorly copied from stills and publicity material is simply a distraction.  Some can do both, but either way the storytelling is much more important.  Things like pacing and clarity of sequence.  Vigor.  You don't find many storytellers more vigorous than John Buscema in sword-and-sorcery mode.

Script:  Michael Fleisher/Story and art: John Buscema

And in contrast with the disappointing Raiders of the Lost Ark, Buscema inks himself this time.  He's well within his comfort zone, and, as with Al Williamson on Empire Strikes Back, we've got an artist perfectly matched to the material.  Whoever made the decision to return to the painted color style of some of the earlier Super Specials needs singling out for praise, too.  D. Pedler (sorry, I don't know who this is, but I wish I did) and the legendary Lynn Varley do a sensational job here, giving Buscema's already gorgeous art a luminous quality, giving each location a rich look full of depth and atmosphere.  Snowy woods look cold, the barren wastes look hot and dry.  This Super Special is a visual treat with a richness a few of the preceding issues sorely needed.  The result?  It's classic Buscema Conan guest-starring in the Milius movie

The writing preserves many of the movie's best lines except for my favorite part, which is Conan's prayer, which it truncates to get to more action.  Conan's prayer is probably the most bad-ass prayer ever capture on film next to the ones for George Bailey at the beginning of It's a Wonderful Life

And I must quote the film here:

Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!

Before we toddle off to Crom's mountain where we'll laugh at the four winds, here's a page with a funny panel a Buscema group I'm in on Facebook hashed over recently.  Look at the middle panel of the bottom tier:

Script:  Michael Fleisher/Story and art: John Buscema

"Valeria!  No-- please no!" 

Neither Howard's nor Milius' Conans spend half a second begging like that.  Where the word balloon arrow points is to the rescued princess, but considering her ungrateful characterization the rest of the way (and the fact she didn't know who the hell Valeria even was) make me believe this is Conan speaking.  Hardly the stuff of the guy who tells his own god to grant him revenge or go to hell.

Who gets the blame for this?

Fuck it, Dude.  Let's go bowling.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy Jack Kirby Day!

August 28th, Jack Kirby's birthday.  It should be a national holiday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Marvel's Marvelous Movies #8: For Your Eyes Only (Marvel Super Special #19, June 1981)

For your eyes only, can see me through the night
For your eyes only, I never need to hide
You can see so much in me, so much in me that's new
I never felt until I looked at you 

--Sheena Easton

Bond.  James Bond.  I've read many of Ian Fleming's books, I own Sean Connery's films on Blu-Ray (except the silly Diamonds Are Forever, which has never appealed to me beyond a few moments here or there involving Wint and Kidd) and I even own a 12-inch Connery doll.  He's in a nice black pullover sweater and matching slacks, the way he appeared in Goldfinger, a film many (myself included) consider the series' 1960s apex, although I'm slowly being swayed by the growing From Russia With Love heresy and I get my biggest kick from Thunderball.

Roger Moore was the big screen Bond when I was a kid and teenager, and looking back, I don't remember being as excited about a Bond flick as I was for For Your Eyes Only, which promised to bring James Bond back to earth after his over-the-top space adventure in Moonraker.  It was supposed to mark a return to the series' earlier, glory days when Bond relied on his physicality more than Q's inventions and those of the special effects team.  A more "realistic" Bond. 

Of the two, I still prefer the over-the-top Moonraker.  It was the reason I was so excited about this new Bond, because Moonraker had blown me away when I saw it with my parents one New Year's Eve.  Wow!  Zow!  Moonraker has space!  John Barry!  Shirley Bassey!  Jaws in love!

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

What does For Your Eyes Only have?  A visual style on par with a particularly well-made episode of Magnum, P.I.  A creepy subplot where an underage ingĂ©nue makes moves on a Bond who appears positively grandfatherly by contrast.  Carole Bouquet, a woman I consider the most glacially lovely Bond girl, but completely lacking in chemistry with Moore.  Their low-energy romance comes across as something both actors have to endure rather than the cheerful hedonism we've come to expect from Bond couplings.  Slapstick fights and chase scenes, the former featuring a hockey team, the latter on skis.  The reliance on so much comedy really undermines the supposed return to realism, especially with Moore's increasingly detached portrayal of the famed super spy as a character content merely to stroll onto the set after his stunt double takes a pounding then offer a quip or a pun.  At this point, Moore seems to have settled on the idea Bond's role is to point out for the audience in as placid a manner as possible the absurdity of all these busy little people putting forth so much effort over some preposterous gadget or other.  And then to get a manicure or a relaxing massage.

But it also has Marvel Super Special #19 (June 1981), written by Larry Hama and penciled by Howard Chaykin.

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

These two make an ideal team for doing James Bond's more "realistic" escapade chasing after a lost code machine wanted by everyone's favorite Cold War enemies, the Soviets.  Remember them?  They're still around, just under a different name. 

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

Hama largely eschews the caption-heavy approach of previous film adapters for a tighter focus on action and dialogue.  Hama even includes Moore's little quips, with Chaykin emphasizing most of them with inset close-ups that match Moore's tongue-in-cheek Bond portrayal.  This makes for a fast-paced read that provides some much-needed energy to the familiar Bond schtick.  Chaykin draws some mean fight scenes, too, chopping the action into small vertical panels within pages opening and closing with larger establishing shots and you don't have to worry about spotting a stunt-Bond.  This gives them added verisimilitude.  Chaykin's page designs are top-notch throughout.  Bursts of panels that read fast when Bond leaps into action, then large panels that allow us to savor the ritzy locales and beautiful people.  Roger Moore in particular appears made to become a Chaykin hero, and while the artist doesn't spend a lot of time with the bikini girls in the early going, his Carole Bouquet is worth spending time with as you zip along between the chases and underwater fights. 

If ever I wanted a late period Moore Bond transferred from the big screen to the pages of a comic book magazine-- and I did and still do-- I'd pick Hama and Chaykin to do the honors once again.

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

Ah, and Vince Colletta.  His inks here are adequate, the comic book equivalent of director John Glen's workmanlike take on the movie's James Bond festivities.  Glen's lack of visual panache means there's nothing distinctive about the look of the films in this Bond era (the films are in focus, they're clearly lit and the camera doesn't jitter all over the place, so there's that), and Colletta similarly gives us some clean lines if little else, and still allows some of Chaykin's distinct eyebrows and facial constructions to bleed through.  Without having seen Chaykin's original pencils, I can't tell if Colletta used his eraser more than he did his brushes this time out, but some of the backgrounds remain featureless voids, and others are rendered minimally.  This in itself isn't a necessarily wrong, because simplicity in art can be a virtue, but with the colorist simply leaving so much of it white-- you know, possibly because there's so much ice and snow due to the ski resort setting-- there's something a little skimpy about the finishes.  So, much like director Glen's bland framing of events and the movie's photography, the inks and colors do the job, if not in an especially memorable way.

After reading this, I think it would have been an entertaining book if Marvel had sprung for the license and had Hama pen a monthly Bond.  As it stands, Marvel would take one more crack at Bond and we'll be taking a look at that one as well.  Of course I bought it despite my disappointment with For Your Eyes Only, because, as you now know, I'm a Bond enthusiast.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marvel's Marvelous Movies #7: Why was there never a M*A*S*H comic book, or an E.T. adaptation?

M*A*S*H aired its final episode on February 28, 1983, less than a year after Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial opened to boffo returns on the big screen.  These were both cultural phenomena at the time and yet neither inspired any comic book spin-offs beyond parodies in MAD and Cracked magazines.

Granted, a M*A*S*H comic book doesn't seem likely.  Then again, the show itself didn't seem very likely, either.  A thirty-minute sitcom set during the Korean War, premiering on network television as the divisive Vietnam War ground to its disappointing, confidence-shattering denouement?  Gee, I hope they fired the doofus who came up with that idea!

The series began doing its best to match its big screen inspiration, Robert Altman's groundbreaking satire (at least by CBS-acceptable standards), but eventually became more serio-comic.  Its position as a mainstream TV show in a time before cable meant M*A*S*H could never be quite as searing as some of us might have liked (unlike the movie, which openly and mercilessly mocked American traditional values like religion, patriotism and football).  But the show still gave us pause for reflection between the laugh-track outbursts with occasional episodes where the doctors work around the clock to avoid being drowned in an ever-rising tidal flow of wounded young men then collapse, exhausted, in their bunks; in its blood-spattered operating theater (no laugh track during those scenes, remember); and even in the way Hawkeye, Trapper John and later B.J., pursue boozing and pranks as a way of maintaining at least a semblance of humanity in an inhuman situation.

War has long been an American comics staple, but I can't imagine anyone at either DC or Marvel managing to strike the balance between pathos and chuckles M*A*S*H at its finest managed, though DC seems to have given it some serious consideration.  Still, in a world where Gold Key gave kids an exploding, earth-killing H-Bomb in its Beneath the Planet of the Apes one-shot, and Marvel put out comic book adaptations of movie musicals, I'm still shocked we never got a Marvel Super Special or Treasury Edition version of "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen."

After all, there were M*A*S*H dolls, for the love of Hotlips!

Okay, so maybe a M*A*S*H comic is an even worse idea than a Xanadu comic.  But you can't tell me E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial didn't deserve an adaptation.  With Marvel doing versions of just about every sci-fi flick out there, including ones that seem to defy your usual comic book storytelling techniques like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which relied largely on internal conflict rather than fisticuffs and required artists Walt Simonson and Klaus Janson to come up with a new visual vocabulary for depicting photographic light effects with black linework and negative space and ordinary comic book coloring, the lack of an E.T. adaptation leaves a massive gap in the parade of Super Specials in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Its as if the Snoopy balloon burst just before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade took off and they didn't know what to do without it so they just marched along and left Willard Scott and Connie Chung to fill in with banter during the dead zone. 

Given their performance on Close Encounters, I'm going to stick my neck out there and declare Simonson and Janson would have done a bang-up job on E.T. 

I remember searching the spinner displays and magazine racks all over town in the months following E.T.'s June 11, 1982, release date.


E.T. dolls, E.T. records-- including one narrated by Michael Jackson The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983 edition) eventually gave 5 stars (indispensable)!-- E.T. bubble gum cards, E.T. storybooks and infamous video game cartridges.  E.T. everything.  Except a comic book.

So confused was I that I even attempted an E.T. adaptation of my own, written in faux-Marvelese.  I managed to do the first two pages.  The way I remember it, there was a large top tier panel with E.T.'s spaceship descending from a starry sky.  The pencil fill depicting night just about broke me, but I persevered.  Beneath that were a couple of panels with E.T. and his space exploring buddies collecting samples.  I partially concealed them with foliage not because I felt incompetent to draw them (obviously I felt more than capable, considering the hubris of even attempting something this idiotically grandiose), but because I made the conscious decision to ape the film's opening gambit of mystery and wonder.  Quick cut on the second page to the government researchers rushing up and scattering the aliens every which way.  I can't remember if I added narrative captions, but I do remember maintaining the government operatives' anonymous menace by framing their figures in such a way the panel rule lines chopped off their heads and other identifying anatomy.  And I think I had one of  them tersely refer to the Peter Coyote character-- the head guy with the keys-- as merely "the Man."  I got as far as painstakingly copying from photo reference the image of a forlorn E.T. gazing down at the city lights, right before the film introduces Elliott and family.

That's right.  It took me two pages to blast through the first five to ten minutes of the movie and I'm pretty sure most of those panels if I found them now would consist of an arm or a leg against a field of smeared graphite, and then a really large dialogue balloon with something stupid in it.  Archie Goodwin I was not.

Those pages stayed in the top drawer of my desk at home (always meant to do more when I found the time) until we moved to a new house and I tossed them while trying to dump as much crap as I could to avoid having to pack it.  I'd give almost anything to have them back.  Maybe I'd even finish the remaining 46 pages or so.