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Batom Comics – The Untold History Chapter 1

posted on May 31, 2014

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Prologue

 

In the spring of 1972, federal agents entered the converted warehouse on West Third Street in Cleveland that housed the editorial offices of Batom Comics. They were looking for Barry Martin, Batom’s publisher and they found him busy at work in a small corner office just off a large open room with creaking wooden floors and tall mullioned windows. Hung high on the opposite wall and running the length of the room were giant panels featuring the comic book heroes from Batom Comics glory days.

 

They were all there: The Lunar Cadets, Charlie & Chuck, The Black Ghost, The Arizona Ranger, Tank Thompson, The Amazing Mr. Sponge and Absorbing Junior, The Cockroach, the majestic Blue Astra and of course Batom’s stellar hero Starbuck Jones. It was The Cockroach the company’s last creation who had proved Batom’s undoing. Its long legal battle with its aptly named rival Mega Comics had finally ended in the Fall of the previous year with a Federal Court upholding a lower court ruling that The Cockroach substantially violated Mega Comics copyright on Arachnid-Man. To fulfill the damages awarded by the court, Batom Comics, which had always run on a paper thin profit margin as it hung on against the industry giants, now essentially belonged to Mega-Comics.

 

The star crossed history of Batom Comics had finally come to an end although its comics would continued to be fondly remembered and collected by the comic book cognoscente. Though Batom had always been a hole in the wall company operating in the Mid-West far from the New York City spotlight, to a certain faithful and fanatic following, it loomed as large as any of the other comic book publishing giants. It was the little comic book company that could and this is its story.

 

Stay tuned for more of the history of Batom Comics on upcoming Starbuck Saturdays.

 

 

 

 

Toledo Mud Hens

posted on May 21, 2014

Mud Hens

I was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Toledo Mud Hens game last week. No, wait… let me correct that, a ceremonial pitch. No team in their right mind wants me to throw out the first pitch unless they want to be one run behind before the echoes of the National Anthem have even faded. That being said, my toss was a little high and nicely over the plate and the kick-off to a very enjoyable evening.

 

I’ve written so much over the years about Ed Crankshaft’s time with the Mud Hens and how on a sultry summer night he faced down three of the greatest hitters of the era and showed what might have been had the fates only been a little kinder, that it’s a little like returning to the scene of the crime for me. Although the Mud Hens beautiful new stadium is a far cry from the one that Ed played in, it’s still the Mud Hens and so I try to soak up as much of it as I can.

 

I didn’t get to see a lot of the game because I was busy signing the new Crankshaft book by the Hens Nest sports shop, but I did get to meet a lot of nice folks and folks who were Crankshaft fans. Crankshaft has been in the Toledo Blade from its inception and with the changing media landscape, we seem to have entered the fin de siecle of the American newspaper comics page. But, much like Ed Crankshaft’s golden summer, it was nice to spend a summer evening in the Mud Hens stadium among friends and fans of the strip.

 

I’d like to thank everyone involved with the Mud Hens for all of the courtesies shown to my wife Cathy and me while we were there and of making it such a memorable experience. For those interested in the new Crankshaft baseball book ‘Strike Four’ you can find it by going to the Books section on this site. For now, that’s about the size of it.