Hot Stuf’ #4 (1977)

Hot Stuf’ was another example of what was called a "ground-level" comic back in the mid-’70s. That term is almost meaningless in 2005, but in the ’70s, it was used to describve a comic that was neither an underground (meaning R. Crumb or S. Clay Wilson-type creation of comic strips that were pure expressions of the id – meaning mostly sex and violence – onto the page) nor an overground (meaning sacrificing one’s values at the altar of getting a steady paycheck from Marvel or DC. Much like Star*Reach’s publications (I wrote about their Quack earlier this month), this comic represents a middle ground where craftsmanship is competent and stories are linear. Of course, those definitions don’t imply anything about quality, but what else is new?
Actually, there are a few nice stories in this issue. The best is a piece by the legendary Alex Toth, starring his adventurer The Vanguard, as he breaks up an illegal mob-run gambing operation. I have no idea of Toth ever reused this character, but he looks like a jet-setting playboy with a beautiful girlfriend who wanders around helping his rich friends. Toth’s art is, as always, gorgeous, and the printing job on the story is spectacular.
Which brings up another important point about the ground-level books: the production values were much higher here than they were in the mainstream or underground books. The big publishers were always looking to cut corners with cheaper printing technologies and paper, which often made Marvel and DC book unintelligible. Meanwhile, the ugs were always run on a shoestring, preventing good quality printing for the most part.
Hot Stuf’, however, was published by a man named Sal Quartuccio, who primarily printed art portfolios and posters. The portfolios were absurdly overpriced sets of art by well-known artists; their best quality was in the spectacular printing quality of the pieces. Sal Q, as he was known, applied those same principles to his comic, which resulted in a terrific-looking comic.
Anyway, back to the comic. Then-fans Jan Strnad and Ken Barr presented a short piece about aliens taking over a spaceship. Later on in the comic, the team of Bob Keenan and Ernie Colon revisit the spaceship setting for a tale that seems influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Neither piece is special, but neither is especially bad either, and Colon’s art especially has a really interesting touch to it.
The funny piece in the issue is "The House on Whore Hill" by Mike Vosburg, a longtime fan-turned-pro who worked for Star*Reach and also for Marvel and DC. Voz always seemed to play up the sex and nudity in his ground-level stories, and this cute piece about the ghosts of a brothel taking over a beautiful real estate agent has that. It’s a cute story.
The other main piece is a bit of oddness, a Japanese Samurai yarn with a twist ending, by someone named William Thomas Stillwell, M.D.. I’ve never seen anything else by the good Doctor, but this is a solid little eight-pager that probably had a really unique setting in ’77 but seems old hat now. Dr. Stillwell has a nice wash-oriented style that looks really pretty with this nice printing. Who was this guy and did he do any other comics?
Hot Stuf’ is a neat find, and one of the reasons I’m so fond of ’70s comics. There was so much that was odd and unique that came out in that era that there are always a few more obscure treasures to be found.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: