I don’t think I can sum up the last year, or the last decade, any better than that.
Well, okay, maybe I can mention a couple of things I liked from the last ten years. Like Schizo #4, a beautifully-done tabloid-sized collection of cartoons by Ivan Brunetti, released in 2006.
And then there were all those comic strip complete-reprint projects, most notably Fantagraphics’ Peanuts, as well as the long-awaited Bloom County, those gargantuan Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes tomes, IDW’s Dick Tracy, Dennis the Menace, Fantagraphics’ second go at E.C. Segar’s Popeye, and more I’m probably forgetting. It’s a good time to be a fan of classic comic strips. Plus, we have a complete Nancy series to look forward to next year! (Still hoping for a nice collection of those early B.C. strips!)
Dark Horse put out a three-volume set of that ’60s cult classic Herbie, so I can finally stop trying to track down those back issues. And they’re also reprinting John Stanley’s Little Lulu, having moved the reprints to an all-color format after a brief hiatus in releases. Which makes me wonder, of course, if they’re going to go back and reissue the previous volumes in color.
For your standard-issue funnybooks, I think Fables and its associated spin-offs have remained very solid, even if the main series feels like it hit its natural end, but kept going anyway. Incredible Hercules was bit of a surprise, being a far more witty and engaging superhero book than I think anyone expected. Jeff Parker’s Marvel Adventures: Avengers book gave us the double-whammy of the all-MODOK issue and the Ego the Living Planet issue, two of the funniest mainstream superhero comics in recent memory. And Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men provided a nice tour through the trappings and clichés inherent in that particular franchise, while showing how to breathe some new life into them. Over at DC, Morrison and Frank Quitely presented the near-perfect All Star Superman, a stripped-down Superman book that evoked the Silver Age sense of wonder without necessarily copying it or “paying homage.” And on the flip side was Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All Star Batman and Robin, which, given Miller’s particular sense of humor and multiple shifts in tone, was a bit of a challenge for some folks, but, I think, paid off for those who were able to get into it and stick with it. Shame about its scheduling of late, though.
A couple of other albums from earlier in the decade…Mister O and Mister I, both by Lewis Trondheim, are two fine collections of pantomime gags that are easier to show than describe, so check out previews at those links.
I am in no way pretending that this is anywhere close to a complete year-end overview, but there are just a handful of things that have come out over the last ten years that I’ve quite enjoyed, and thought I should mention. There are plenty of other top-lists out there in Comics-Internetland that I’m sure you’ve come across…who knows, maybe you’ll find something new on those lists, or maybe even what’s passing for my list here, for you to try.
One thing I would like to see the last of, however…really late-shipping supposedly-monthly comics. Not like a month or two or even three. But like years. I’m almost on the verge of starting “All Star Batman Day” to celebrate the year anniversary of that comic’s last issue. Has it been a year? I’ll have to check. And the as-yet incomplete Marvels: Eye of the Camera mini-series had its most recent issue back in April. Regardless of the reasons for the delays, this is a huge pain in the ass, and as a person trying to sell these things in a store, it’s no fun having to repeatedly explain why something that should have been out months/years ago still isn’t out yet.
Well, let’s not leave this on a negative note. Hey, there was The Spirit movie! Okay, that came out in 2008, but I didn’t see it ’til 2009, and that’s good enough for me. Yeah, that’s right, I loved The Spirit. Anyone want to say anything about it, I’ll totally fight you out by the monkey bars after school. See you there.
And Howard the Duck finally came out on DVD. Truly we are living in an age of miracles.
That’s enough for now. I hope all of you have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you tomorrow in the brave new future of 2010, The Year We Make Contact.
image from Conan the Barbarian #95 (Feb. 1979) by Roy Thomas, John Buscema & Ernie Chan
I would give an equal amount to never see the word “MUTANTRIVIA” again.
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Blackest Night #6 – aaaaaand that’s pretty much it, aside from a variant Fall of the Hulks Alpha which, frankly, didn’t sell all that great in the first place, so I don’t know that we need a stack of variants, too. Oh, and a couple of freebie items Marvel is putting out…a calendar and a Siege preview thingie.
But Blackest Night #6…Employee Timmy kept giving me grief about not giving up any copies to the employees, and I kept telling him that I was going to recount the box of our copies every night to make sure he didn’t take one, because I am cruel and heartless. But by golly, I kept to that street date even if some retailers out there didn’t, thus ensuring that Diamond never attempts street dates ever again. Because, you know, it would have been nice to get the new books a few days early on a regular basis so we could break down the orders, get replacements for any damages or missing items before we had to sell them (instead of asking people to come back next week for anything that needed replacing), pull comic savers, what have you. I suppose, though, some funnybook sellers would rather get that extra $3.99 in their pockets a week early, instead of using the promise of that specific in-demand and popular comic to get customers back in the shop during what could be a dead week. But what do I know?
Anyway, we’re also having a week-long graphic novel sale, and those always do well for us. And not having new comics or comic savers to deal with will give us time to catch up on some back issue processing and mail order and, oh, helping the occasional customer, I guess.
By the way, not that this has anything to do with anything, but I was just reminded right now…next year will be the 30th anniversary of the shop. How ’bout that.
In other news:
Andrew pulls out another Nobody’s Favorite from the history of comics, and it’s…no…no! Not him! I thought this guy was pretty cool, even with that costume.
I’ve been behind on my internetting lately, so thankfully Pal Cully pointed me in the direction of this new Rick Veitch Swamp Thing commission, which is one third of a triptych that he’ll be revealing over the next few days. Looks good so far!
Customer Andres has started up his new weblog Pibegardel’s Miracle Machine, and he’s writin’ about some classic Legion of Super-Heroes comics, so go check it out!
And now, for no good reason, a brief snippet of Superpup:
I’ve seen the full pilot, quite some time ago…believe it or not, it’s not quite as bad as you might think. Lord knows I’ve seen worse. I mean, those Tom and Jerry cartoons where they’re friends? Talk about your abominations.
On the Wednesday before Christmas, pal Sean dropped by the store and we exchanged Christmas gifts. Usually we open our gifts right then and there, because we’re adults and we’ll completely spoil Christmas for ourselves by opening presents early. Delayed gratification is for chumps. But this time, Sean told me that I had to wait until I saw pal Dorian before I could open the small box he handed me.
So when I saw pal Dorian on Christmas Eve for our gift exchange, he handed me this heavy ol’ present with the world’s largest ribbon and bade me to open it. And inside was, as the title of this post may have given away, an Xbox 360 gaming system. Needless to say, I was blown away by the generosity of the gift…I know Dor had floated the idea several months ago of taking up a collection to get one of these for me, since this is exactly the kind of thing I’d love to have but could never justify the expense. And to be honest, I’d completely forgotten that he’d made that suggestion, so I was genuinely surprised when I unwrapped the present.
And in pal Sean’s box was a 12-month Gold membership for the online Xbox stuff, packaged with a small keyboard that attaches to the controller, plus a headset. So, yeah, that would have given away the surprise a bit had I opened it early. (Sean also kicked down a spare Xbox wireless connector he happened to have, which saved me, what, $70? $100? That was most kind.)
Anyway, I wanted to express my thanks here to Dorian, who is a wonderful friend and a swell guy. And to Sean, who’s been a cheerfully energetic presence in my life for many years. And to employees Aaron and Timmy, who also contributed and, I guess, I have to be nice to them now.
And to a bunch of guys who also contributed that I’ve never even met, aside from maybe speaking to some of them on the phone once or twice, and yet through our extensive online interactions over the last few years I still feel they’re real pals: Kevin, Chris, Ken, Andrew, Benjamin, and Josh. Well, okay, I’ve actually met Josh, but I got along with him swimmingly, and I’m going to assume that experience would be shared with any theoretical real world interaction with the rest of those folks.
I suspect the ulterior motive for these guys to get me an Xbox is to have the opportunity to shoot me in the face during a group session of Grand Theft Auto. But, hey, that’s what friends are for, right?
Thanks, guys. I was really touched by the gift. You’re all a bunch of swell cats.
And because you’re gonna ask: my gamertag is MikesterJr. Not doing any online gaming just yet, since I’m not yet accustomed to a video game system that isn’t the Atari 2600, but I’ll get to it eventually. But I have to tell you…streaming Netflix is a little bit like Heaven.
I should also note that a Secret Santa out there sent me a copy of the Watchmen: Ultimate Cut DVD set that I discussed last week. No card inside, no e-mail, no nuthin’ telling me who sent it my way. Just showed up Christmas Eve and I was totally surprised. That really wasn’t the intention of that post of mine (mostly I was just commenting on apparent DVD sales, and hoping maybe to get some sales referrals on Amazon). But to whoever sent that to me…thanks! Very much appreciated.
Okay, so this isn’t all just “Mike got awesome stuff for Christmas,” here’s some comics content:
First, I’m a little behind on my funnybook reading due to my pre-Christmas shopping panic, so it took Employee Timmy to point out a DC Universe cameo appearance of Swamp Thing in the latest issue of Action Comics (#884):
That I didn’t get a bunch of e-mails telling me about it over the last couple of weeks sort of indicates to me that no one is reading it. Or none of my readers are reading it. Or everyone just assumed my Swamp Thing sense picked it up already, which, admittedly, is usually pretty good about this sort of thing.
Second, in another Employee Timmy-related incident, Timmy was asking me about time-traveling Jonah Hex stories (well, specifically, stories where Batman is working side-by-side with Hex, but expanded to time-travel Hex stories in general), and I mentioned DC Challenge:
Briefly, DC Challenge was a mini-series where randomly assigned creative teams would set up puzzles and cliffhangers in each issue to be solved or elaborated upon by the following creative team in the next issue. It was a convoluted bunch of nonsense, but entertaining nonsense with interesting art teams (Curt Swan and Terry Austin! Gil Kane and Klaus Janson!) and an amusing mix of characters (B’wana Beast and Congorilla turn up in early issues). It was a fun series, and sadly mostly forgotten.
I’m only joking about quitting this site, by the way. But I bet there may be a night or two where my posting may be a bit…light, due to Xboxing. I’ll try not to let that happen, though. However, if only I can get by on two hours of sleep a night, then maybe I can catch up on everything.
Images from Action Comics #884 (Feb. 2010) by James Robinson & Cafu, DC Challenge #2 (Dec. 1985) by Len Wein, Chuck Patton & Mike DeCarlo
That’s from the animated Batman episode “Holiday Knights,” adapting most of the stories from this Batman Adventures special. It’s a nicely paced episode, squeezing four stories and multiple villains into a 20+ minute runtime without making it feel cramped, and with enough clever storytelling to avoid making it feel like just a bunch of fight scenes.
This is also the episode that introduces 1) the new, younger Robin (who gets his origin told in the next episode in sequence) and 2) the somewhat simpler and more streamlined character designs. Most drastically changed is the Joker, who now has pitch-black eyes and is quite a bit more creepy:
Though admittedly, he was quite creepy before the redesign, but at least there was some semblance of recognizable humanity in his face. Demented, evil humanity, but still a human being. This redesign…man, that’s just all monster, there.
So we got our copies of Blackest Night #6 this week, since we agreed to Diamond Comic Distributor’s terms that we would hold sales on this comic until the street date of December 30th (which would be during the week Diamond is doing no shipping to retailers). Every retailer that received their copies of Blackest Night #6 had to do the same, and agree to hold sales on it ’til next week. In the box we received with these comics, there was a bright green piece of paper stating, in big bold black letters, that the comics packed within are absolutely not to be sold until December 30th.
At our shop, I was enough of a hardnose about it that not even the employees got copies. I only even had the comics out of the box long enough to count them during the order breakdown in the morning, and put ‘em back in the box when I was done.
I then put a sign on the new arrivals shelf stating that Blackest Night #6 (as well as other 12/30 street date items, like a Fall of the Hulk variant and assorted Marvel freebies) will be available starting next Wednesday. Hopefully that, and the promise of some in-store sales and the kids with fistfuls of Christmas money, will help shore up the shop’s income during Diamond’s skip week.
Some cynics would say that there are folks out there who, despite entering a business agreement with Diamond regarding terms for the street date on these items, despite the repeated reminders about the street dates (on that bright green paper, and on the invoice itself), would put out Blackest Night #6 a week early anyway. And that some enterprising soul would already have scanned and posted said comic to the torrent sites. But those would be dick moves, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that.
The last reprint I expected from DC…well, after Sugar & Spike. And after Scribbly. And The Three Mouseketeers. And…er, anyway, the extremely-unlikely reprint I didn’t dare hope for is, believe it or not, the 1970s treasury edition Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali. It’ll be in two hardcover editions: a deluxe version with bonus features and a new cover by Neal Adams (but hopefully not colored/textured/whatevered by him), and another hardcover edition presenting the comic in its original tabloid size. This really is one of my all-time favorite Superman comics, with some fantastic art and a very silly but fun story, and dude, it costars Muhammad Ali. It’s hard to believe I first read this about thirty years ago, and I am very happy it’s being reissued. It is (dare I say) A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. Well, a provisional miracle, anyway, depending on these things’ price points.
So I was digging through one of the loose dice bins in the game shop and spotted this lone six-sided die sitting among the others. Half of the faces of this die had the Superman logo:
…and the other half had the face of Darkseid:
I’m presuming this is from some DC Comics role playing game or other, which I’m sure several of you out there are about to tell me in the comments. But that such a thing as this die even exists…well, if that doesn’t fill your heart with the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will.
§ December 22nd, 2009§ Filed under watchmenComments Off
During my Christmas shopping excursions, I’ve been sorta looking at various stores’ DVD selections trying to spot the Watchmen: Ultimate Cut DVD set since, if I’m going to buy the thing, I’m going to want the whole enchilada. And I have yet to see it in an actual store anywhere. I realize I can buy it online, and probably will end up doing so, but mostly I just find it curious that nobody seemed to carry it, or carried so few copies that they already sold out and haven’t bothered to reorder. Or, of course, it could be a huge hit and stores just can’t keep it in stock…but that doesn’t seem terribly likely.
The version of the movie I’ve seen the most is the single disc “Theatrical Cut” version, mostly at low, low “please, for the love of God, take these off our hands” prices. Some stores had stacks of them, which possibly could account for the lack of stocking of the Ultimate Cut.
I have seen a few copies of the two-disc “Directors Cut” here and there, and as it came out at the same time as the single-disc version, this seems to be the version people wanted and the reason why the single-disc ended up being a shelf-warmer. I realize some people don’t care about special features and deleted scenes and all that stuff, but if you had to choose between the single disc version and the double disc which has extra stuff embedded in the film itself, that’s a little different. ‘Course, I know some think any extra run-time on the Watchmen flick is no bonus at all, but they’re not likely to be buying any of these. And it doesn’t have as much extra material as the Ultimate Cut anyway.
I happened to spot this version at Best Buy, which appears to be an exclusive edition of the Director’s Cut packaged in…um, a Rorschach head complete with a cloth mask. I put a wee little picture of it to the side, there, but you can see a great big picture of it right here. It’s just a tiny mask which you can’t remove and wear, I think, which is probably just as well.
I haven’t really looked at the stock on the Blu-Ray edition of Watchmen since I’m still using plain ol’ DVDs because I’m a dinosaur. Please do not mock my tiny brain or useless forearms.
I can report that the actual Watchmen graphic novel appears to be selling again…of course, not nearly at the levels it was before the pre-film excitement started and the local demand for Watchmen was really oversaturated. But that we’re moving any copies at all is a bit encouraging. I even had a collector express interest in the original issues, which is something that hasn’t happened in a while.
Also, there’s a part of me that wishes the Watchmen film had been an enormous hit, enough so that a sequel would have been inevitable, and that even possibly new comic book follow-ups and tie-ins would have been published. Because really, the fanguish that would have caused would have been epically awesome.
Speaking of movies, the film I can’t wait to see is Sherlock Holmes, because 1) you had me at “new Sherlock Holmes movie,” and 2) it’s Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock, which promises to be fantastic. I suspect some…liberties will be taken with the interpretations of the characters and the sorts of situations they’ll find themselves in, but after over a century’s worth of Sherlock pastiches and parodies, what’s one more?
And I haven’t made it to Avatar yet simply because I haven’t had the time. But I have to say, it does look pretty, but I’ve been hearing some pretty dire things about it story-wise. What say you, internet pals?