PAR HOLMAN ANSWERS QUESTIONS FROM MICHAEL EVANS
How early did the Cosmic Aeroplane sell comic books — new and old comics?
Ken Sanders and Dave Faggioli set up a stand of comics in the Cosmic’s old head shop location near the Union Pacific train depot, around 1969 or so. I bought a 1954 issue of Superman for 75¢ — The Cosmic, being a head shop, also sold underground comix, which were my main focus at the time.
Michael’s Notes: The Cosmic Aeroplane’s address was at 369 West South Temple when they set up the comics stand. The late Tom Fagan, mentioned as a customer above, was a mutual friend of Par Holman and myself. True to fan-form, Tom also bought an actual, functioning GREEN LANTERN while Cosmic-shopping. One could actually FIND those kinds of things in that store!
When did you start handling collectible Comic Books for the Cosmic Aeroplane?
I believe it was the reason I was hired part-time in 1976.
As I understood at the time, Dave Faggioli had done the job, but went on to other endeavors. Dave’s grading on the comics was so good that they were getting feedback from the customers who appreciated it. I tried to match his standards when I began grading.
How did you learn about collectible comic books?
In 1959 I sent Mike Britt (who turned out to be a boyhood friend of Robert Crumb)
25¢ for his fanzine Squatront #2. It had a long article about the artists of EC Comics (Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Mad, etc).
In about 1960 I read the infamous 1954 anti-comics screed by Dr. Fredric Wertham, M.D. which had an effect Dr. Wertham never expected:
I took any titles he listed in his book as being among the worst comics for children, and made them the focus of my attention. I wanted those bad horror and crime comic books!
From there I started sending for fanzines, got on mailing lists, and received a com-
plimentary copy of Jerry Bails’ and Roy Thomas’ fanzine, Alter Ego, which taught me about the DC superheroes of the 1940s. I started trading and buying from collectors and found myself really interested in the comic books that had been published years before.
I am Facebook friends with some of my early sixties fellow fans. Regrettably, some of my friends from early sixties comics fandom have died: Ronn Foss, Grass Green, Jerry Bails, Biljo White. I still trade occasional e-mails with Mike Britt.
Did you ever write or draw comics yourself?
I dabbled, but nothing much came of it.
Michael’s Notes: Par Holman’s New ‘Toons Number One and New ‘Toons Number Two were excellent examples of his work. They were written, drawn, and published during his tenure at the Cosmic Aeroplane:
(Reproduced with express permission of copyright holder Parley L. Holman.)
Read the original Noo Toons Number One as a PDF — © Par Holman 1979
Read the original Noo Toons Number Two as a PDF — © Par Holman 1980
Par Holman writes in 2017: I was looking to self-publish, but a prior attempt had ended in disaster. So I resolved to publish something printed on one piece of paper, with as much stuff as I could crowd onto the pages. I drew everything twice up, which is why you practically need a magnifying glass to read it.
Because Noo-Toons was cheap to print I was able to give them away, charging only a 15¢ stamp to out-of-town correspondents. I was such a piker. I could have easily paid for my own stamps, but it was probably another of those things that always nagged me: that giving something away devalued it in the eyes of the consumer. That isn’t necessarily true, and the Internet proves it. Nowadays I can just post it and it can have absolutely zero value for the reader, but I didn’t pay anything extra to post it, either. It evens out.
Michael’s Notes: High-resolution scanning makes Noo Toons as easy to read as anything else on the Internet! Noo Toons are part of the collection of the Billy Ireland Museum of Comic Art in Columbus, Ohio. Par Holman also has a page in Lambiek’s Comiclopedia, an index of international comic artists — see the link at the bottom of this page.
Were there any problems separating new and current printed materials and comics from back issues and collectibles?
No; the Golden Age comics were kept in the back room.
Darvin Metzger and Jon Bray were the young guys who handled the other comic book room, with the Silver Age collectibles. They did a fantastic job pricing and selling. They had many customers and they knew what they were doing.
Do you remember any of the fads among comic book buyers?
Often I could hear the customers outside my area talking to Darvin or Jon.
X-Men was the most popular title of the era, and everyone was looking for key issues.
Did you deal in super-old comics, ’50’s comics, 60’s comics — how old was the oldest one you ever saw at the Cosmic?
I handled the comics that were from the thirties up to the Silver Age titles, which began about 1956.
The oldest one I saw that I can remember was Tip-Top Comics #1, from 1936.
It sticks in my mind because Tip-Top Comics #1 was featured in a plot point in the Philip K. Dick novel, The Man In the High Castle. Comic books, before Superman exploded onto the scene in 1938, were mostly reprints of newspaper comics.
Do you remember any particular comic books that had interesting histories, or remarkably high prices?
There were a lot of them. What I remember particularly was a guy from Texas, who bought many of our long run of Blackhawk comic books. Blackhawk was a flying ace who led a group of fliers called Blackhawks.
The comics were well written and well drawn, and this guy was a big fan. He wrote us once to say he could not really afford them, but every time he saw one of our ads listing those Blackhawk comics he thought about their beautiful condition and he ended up buying them. I wondered out loud … if the Cosmic Aeroplane was unknowingly complicit in any bank robberies in Texas.
Do you still participate in the field of Comics?
In 2006 I started my blog, Pappy’s Golden Age Comics
(which you can find at http://pappysgoldenage.blogspot.com),
Because of my background with the Cosmic Aeroplane pedigreed comics, and my interest in that era as related to the comics, I thought I had some expertise.
Little did I know I was sending my opinions and the “facts” I had gleaned from years of casual study out to people who are more knowledgeable Golden Age fans than me.
They are quick to correct any mistakes I make, and I soon found out I knew less than I thought I did. That is okay, because there is enough in the field to keep anyone busy.
In 1948 there were as many as 400 titles on the stands, produced by hundreds of people who made their livings from the industry. In the days before television became a force comic books were extremely popular. Millions of comic books were sold every month.
Because of their popularity, and because comic books, even the comics designed for older readers, were all lumped together as children’s literature, there were also powerful forces, parents, teachers, politicians, that came together to fight the comic book “menace.” I find that particularly interesting. The same comics that people thought were pernicious and evil in 1948, in 2015 are considered funky and cool. That is what keeps me going in my continuing effort to present the comics on my blog.
See Par Holman’s entry in Lambiek’s Comiclopedia, an online index of Comic artists.
We actively request your contributions of pictures, memorabilia, and oral histories concerning the Cosmic Aeroplane and related enterprises — please contact our blogmeister:
Blogmeister Michael Evans is an author and historian.
He also drew illustrations for his book
The Great Salt Lake Mime Saga and Amsterdam’s Festival of Fools.