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“…And that’s how pogs saved our bacon.”

§ September 20th, 2017 § Filed under batman, market crash, retailing § 5 Comments

Okay, still trying to extract some old Batman ’89/early comics retailing memories from my head to supplement the last couple of posts. A few of you have contributed your own memories, and I shall be commenting upon them soon, oh yes, so prepare yourself for that.

As it turned out, I was talking to my old boss Ralph the other day and pestered him a bit about the impact the first Tim Burton Batman movie had on the shop. In line with what I told you the other day, Ralph said that business had pretty much exploded what with all the excitement over the film’s release, and while lots of different things were doing well, Batman comics and merchandise were of course doing the best. One thing he mentioned that I should have remembered was what happened to prices on the 1970s Joker series, which suddenly skyrocketed. Prior to this period of time, you could get them dirt cheap…I’d bought a copy of #1 for one slim dime at a comic book convention, and Ralph had issues scattered throughout his 50-cent bargain bins. Ralph recalled that when the Bat-craze hit, and prices shot up, he dug through the bargain bins to pull out all those Joker comics. Of course, one or two got missed, and Ralph would just have to cringe inwardly as he sold the $20 comic (or whatever it was) for four bits.

On a related note, I had asked Ralph what his invoices were like at the time…I had vague memories, but wanted some confirmation. Ralph said that during the boom years, the weekly comics invoice would easily reach several thousand dollars, at a time when DC and Marvel comic book prices were still, what, about $1.50 each, and indies were $2 to $3? Ralph said he was ordering hundreds of copies of several books and mostly selling through on them…and the back issue market was still strong enough that we were selling a lot of back-numbered comics as well. So basically money was just pouring in the door, to the extent that Ralph had bought a new truck about that time and paid for it entirely in cash. That’s the sort of thing that would probably set off alarms today, but back then, in the wild and crazy days of the late ’80s/early ’90s, ’twas no big deal.

As I’ve said in the past, when the crash came, it came quick, and we didn’t know it was a crash at the time. We figured it was a brief lull in sales, and that folks would be back, and orders continued to be placed as if sales would be back up shortly…and it eventually became fairly evident that wasn’t happening. For business to go from doing so well to [crickets] was a shock, and the store had nearly died before orders could be adjusted back to realistic levels. One specific example Ralph gave (and gave me permission to relate here) was having a new comics invoice that cost about $12,000, and then making only about $7,000 for that week. As you can imagine, having too many weeks like that could drive any business into the ground…and it did, for many comic shops at the time. We were able to ride it out, once we scaled orders back, and plus we had game products in the store that supplemented our income, and we were still the biggest comic shop in the area, so we still did some comics business. Oh, and pogs helped too. No, really.

It was a strange time to live through, and one that I hopefully learned from as I run my own store now (he said, juggling numbers to get those Marvel lenticular covers). Anyway, next time I’ll talk more Batman ’89 and less “I SURVIVED THE ’90s COMICS CRASH AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS FOIL-LOGOED SHADOWHAWK T-SHIRT.” If you have your own Batman ’89 memories, feel free to chip in!

“I had the strangest dream, as if I’d posted about POGs on my weblog for an entire week.”

§ August 13th, 2012 § Filed under swamp thing § 10 Comments

So I get an email from Joe, and Joe sez to me, he sez: “there’s a new Swamp Thing toy out” and I sez “okay, well, off I go then, as there’s a Major Toy Store Chain along the path from my home to my place of employment at the Ventura Comic and Cardfight Vanguard Shop and Video Deli and I shall make a stop during my journey to work, oh yes.”

And what is this toy, you dare ask? Well, there are these things called “Squinkies,” it seems, which are little squishy rubbery toys that are indeed very very tiny and perfectly sized for fitting one or four into each nostril, not that I’ve ever done that, nor have I taken pictures of it, but there is a line of DC Comics Squinkies, and you can see Joe’s pics of his own purchases right here.

The deal here is that each package of twelve “Squinkies” includes three that are “blind-packaged,” so you can’t see what they are. Swamp Thing is one of those “blind-packaged” ones, apparently to avoid riots at toy stores as people rushed in and mobbed the aisles trying to get their hands on the latest Swampy item. The blind-packaged Squinkies not randomly packed, and if you were to pick up the package marked “Series 2,” you too could have a wee elemental that looks a little something…like this:


Here’s the little guy next to somethin’ to give you a sense of scale:


The other two “blind” Squinkies in the Series 2 package are Kamandi and Sinestro, the latter of which actually looks a little like a bee from the back, or maybe a member of Stryper, what with the yellow and black costume he’s wearing.

I almost, almost bought Series 1, since there was a little squishy Darkseid in that package, but, you know, it’s already problematic as it is that I purchased the one set.

So anyway, if you’re a Swamp Thing collector and you need one of these, look for the package with a picture of Green Lantern on the backer card in the lower right hand corner…also, note that a couple of other Squinkies in the package are Batman and Aquaman, to help you identify that you’ve got the right set. And when you’re buying your Squinkies, tell ’em Mike sent you…I mean, chances are pretty good they know a Mike, they’ll just assume you mean him.

Another look at Marvel Super Heroes POGs.

§ May 10th, 2006 § Filed under pogs Comments Off on Another look at Marvel Super Heroes POGs.

Well, a good chunk of them are just pictures of the characters, with their logos:

Then there are a handful of group shots:

Some group shots are “themed,” such as “Brusiers” (with Hulk, Venom, and the Thing), or “Fire ‘N Ice” (Human Torch and Iceman), or this one, featuring a skull motif:

This one brings up some vague memories of the Great POG Scare of the early ’90s, particularly that the “skull” POGs were considered more desirable, for some reason. Or maybe I’m confusing them with the “poison” POGs (not to be confused with these guys)…or maybe the skull POGs and the poison POGs were the same thing. I don’t remember. I don’t really want to remember.

At any rate, the themes get a little strained, like this one:

Because, you see, the Thing is rocky, and Ghost Rider…rolls, I guess, since he has a motorcycle. ROCK AND ROLL, DUDE.

And there are quite a few POGs that just have logos:

The sample pack we opened was primarily just logo POGs.

All those images above were taken from a promo poster we were sent a few days back, by the way. I’m half-tempted to put it up in the store just to see customer reactions: “No, not POGs! Not again! Nooooooooo-“(deep breath) “-ooooooooo!

I think this attempted POG collectible revival may be about five-to-ten years too early for the typical 20-year “nostalgia gap” that most things like this seem to have. Assuming, of course, there will be nostalgic interest in these at any point in the future…most of my customers who had bought them as young’uns seem embarrassed by it now, and in my case, I’m embarrassed that I even sold them here at the shop.

Given that the superhero trading card market is fairly moribund (it primarily consists of people not buying new cards, but trying to sell their old Marvel sets to us and being surprised that they’re not worth much of anything now), I don’t think the tangentially-related superhero POG market is going to take off. Unless, of course, they sell it as a gaming item (since there is a game of sorts associated with POGs, mainly involving throwing things at other things) to the kids buying the Yu-Gi-Oh collectible card game and the like, but even the CCG market sorta looks like it’s slowing down.

POGs. Geez, of all the things I thought I’d never have to deal with again….

Please don’t tell me if “poggery” actually means something dirty.

§ April 23rd, 2018 § Filed under collecting, market crash § 9 Comments

So reader John, the fella what related the horrifying yet strangely satisfying tale of the shredding and recycling of 14 long boxes of Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1, emailed recently to inform me of more bulk stashes of the ’90s funnybooks that came into his hands.

Specifically, he had several long boxes of ’90s comics, abandoned at a local storage facility, fall into his possession, multiple copies of each, all in Mylar sleeves, and all of the Usual Suspects when it comes to collections like this. Singled out by John was this photo he took of all his copies of Man of War #6 from Malibu Comics:

…specifically because he felt, as I am a man of poggery, I would appreciate the included pogs in each sealed factory-polybagged issue:

This was during the time of, of course, the Big Pog Invasion, but also during the time of Everyone Gets A Superhero Universe, including Malibu Comics which was doing this universe, with Man of War and the Ferret, while also doing the Ultraverse, with Prime and Firearm and so on. Did those two Malibu Universes ever cross over with each other? I imagine it would have been relative easy, being published by the same company an’ all, unless there’s some behind-the-scenes ownership stuff I don’t know about. Regardless, if they’d made it into the 2000s maybe that would have happened.

Anyway, there’s come collector excess for you, but at least they seem to have been kept in better shape than the comics in this tragedy. John said that the majority of the comics in this accumulation met a fate similar to the aforementioned Turok…well, not shredded in a spectacular fashion, but certainly disposed of, save for some Deadpools and a few other goodies that may actually be sellable. But here’s hoping that Man of War movie never comes to fruition, or I would weep openly on John’s behalf for such a lost lucrative opportunity.

…I’ll take two years.

§ February 12th, 2018 § Filed under question time Comments Off on …I’ll take two years.

This is probably the longest I’ve let one of these “question time” posts go unanswered. Remember back, nearly a year ago, when I last took questions from you all? Maybe I should make a concentrated effort to actually get through them before it actually becomes a literal year. So, let’s get a few out of the way today:

philip snipes

“How do you decide what to put on eBay? am someone who mostly looks for large lots of ‘readers’ for cheap, so I’m curious to know the calculus behind what goes up, and what doesn’t, from the Vast Mikester Archives™.”

Well, it’s a combination of things, really. Sometimes it’s stuff that doesn’t really fit into the usual items that sell in the shop, and I feel would have a better chance moving online. For example, I have (or had) several pieces of music industry memorabilia that I don’t really have any place for in the shop, or for which I don’t believe I have any sort of perceived clientele. Y’know, things like radio station promo buttons or calendars, or industry mags, or that sort of thing. I feel like would have better luck finding customers for those online than from the local community.

Sometimes it’s stuff I’m looking to turn around right quick, sometimes at prices that would likely make it a more difficult sale in the shop. Not too long ago I had a Richie Rich #1 from 1962 that, again, I was selling on consignment for somebody. He wanted to make a certain amount of money on it, and I wanted to make a certain amount of money on the item over that amount, which would have put it way above guide for the condition it was in. And, comparing prices on eBay, my slightly outrageous price would have fit right in with recent sales there, so, after taking lots of pictures and writing a exactingly-detailed description of the condition, I put it on eBay to hopefully turn it over as soon as possible. …As it turns out, I should have asked for more money, I guess, since it took, no exaggeration, less than five minutes for it to move. I probably spent twenty minutes taking pics and prepping the actual listing.

Sometimes it’s just clearing space. I have several boxes of backstock I have yet to go through sitting in my backroom, mostly acquired on the cheap. As such, I’m able to blow out large quantities of books at inexpensive prices. Or sometimes it’s clearing out the overstock…as a professional funnybook salesman, I almost never make ordering mistakes, but, well, on that once-or-twice-a-decade occasion that I do, I try to use eBay to unload that excess.

Sometimes it’s, well, the time spent processing the item for listing/shipping vs. the price realized. It takes a non-zero amount of time to get pics of the item, write up descriptions, prep the listings, and get these things packaged to survive the tender mercies of the postal office once they sell. Though I’ve got the process streamlined about as well as I can, the time spent is still relatively fixed, whether it’s a $100 item or a $1 item. As such, I’ll usually pass up the less-expensive items in favor of things with a higher cost. Not that I don’t list less-pricey things…and let’s be honest, none of these “rules” are set in stone. Sometimes it’s just straight up whim that gets me to put some goodie online for sale.

• • •

Simon says

“In your sourcing mix, what are the %ages of DCD, DBD, Ingram, B&T, others?”

Probably comes as no surprise that Diamond is the largest source of product, just for convenience’s sake, with a little bit of extra stock coming from other sources. Don’t really want to get into exact percentages, but Diamond is way up there.

“If that’s confidential then pick another question, Mike, any question:”

I kept everyone waiting on these answers, so I’ll say a little something about each of your extra Qs:

“How does the Marvel collapse affects your operation?”

Any “collapse” that may be happening is something that’s been going on since the Big Two decided relaunching with new #1s rather than maintaining consistent series was a good idea…my general strategy has been, as always, order conservatively and keep a close eye on sales numbers. And of course keep an ear open as to what customers want and like.

“How have you proofed against a DM collapse?”

Urgh…not really at all, to be honest. I mean, I could get books and such from other sources, but the comics market as it is now depends on that weekly influx of new periodicals, and if there’s nobody there to make sure the monthly books are getting out to shops, well, that’s bad news. Eventually…eventually, the market may move over to primarily trade format books that could be available from a variety of sources, but the market ain’t there yet.

I mean, I guess I could always just sell back issues. Wouldn’t want to have to depend on just that, however. Maybe pogs will be big again. (Okay, less silly answer: diversify my product. If the direct market goes away, I’ll have to find stuff to sell that doesn’t depend on direct market distribution, since that’s what I primarily deal with. At the very least, if the DM goes away, I can spend more time moving all that pending eBay stuff.)

“And against the exodus to online and digital?”

All I can do is provide good service and a willingness to order/reorder items people are looking for. If someone’s dead-set on leaving behind the physical comic world for bits and bytes, I can’t force them to stop, but being a decent retailer will hopefully keep people remembering that actually going to a physical comic book store can be rewarding.

• • •

Okay, maybe I’ll try to finish off the remaining questions next time. I promise, next time I do this, I won’t take a year!

Your 2017 Predictions, Part Six: Worldwide Cheersmack.

§ January 24th, 2018 § Filed under predictions § 5 Comments

Okay, here it is, the last installment of looking back at your 2017 predictions (parts one two three four five)! Well, there’s still one more part looking at your reactions to the last few posts, but the national nightmare is almost over! Thanks for sticking with me through this annual trek of mine.

Also, if you want to be part of the adventure next year, throw in your 2018 predictions here, even though we’re about 1/12th of the way through 2017 already.

LET’S GO PREDICTIN’ NOW:

Andrew sends me off on a true life adventure with

“Marvel reacquires at least some Fantastic Four rights, and revives Benjy Grimm of ‘Thing Ring, do your thing’ fame/infamy as a Netflix show.”

As you might have heard, Disney may be getting some of their properties back for film use via their Fox deal (barring any legal blocking of said deal), so we may actually see new FF or X-Men movies in the eventual future. …I’m going to guess that, sadly, the Thing Ring will not make a reappearance.

“Some sort of live-action Crisis or Convergence or Zero Hour happens to merge the CW shows because Berlanti finally figures out that Earth-1 should not be a world without a Superman. Swamp Thing will play a pivotal role.”

If they keep getting John Constantine cameos on the CW shows, maybe Swamp Thing will turn up someday. But for your main prediction…we actually did get a “Crisis” story on-screen, involving multiple Earths, which still seems impossible despite having watched it with my own eyes. No merging of parallel universes just yet, but if we recall our first season Flash episodes, there was that newspaper from the future that had an article about a “Crisis” event, red skies an’ all. So, yeah, I imagine sooner or later we’ll get all our characters living together on Earth-CW, but maybe not for a while.

“The Goldsman/Liefeld deal results in a Supreme movie heavily inspired by Alan Moore’s work. It will make all the money, and heads at Time Warner will roll. Fanboys will be confused when director Joss Whedon or Quentin Tarantino aim the camera so that Suprema’s feet are in every shot.”

Nothin’ yet, though I’d love to see how people react to an Alan Moore-inspired Supreme film. It would likely require replacing Silver Age Superman nostalgia as its building blocks for…I don’t know, Christopher Reeve nostalgia? Any way they do it, it’ll be weird. And your comment about the focus on feet…I’m going to read that as a comment about Liefeld’s apparent reticence for drawing feet, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE.

• • •

Philippe Leblanc wires me the following

“Legion of Superheroes will become the latest DC/CW TV show. People walk in comic shops to buy the latest Legion comics only to find confusing reprints of former series instead.”

Close…we got a small intro of them just before the end of the year in Supergirl, but didn’t get a full-on appearance ’til this year. Haven’t seen much in-store interest in Legion stories, but yeah, aside from the occasional one-off appearance (like the Bugs Bunny or Scooby-Doo crossovers), just a handful of reprint books are available. Bad time to not have an ongoing Legion comic at least for the already-buying-comics folks who might have picked it up if they saw it on the shelf.

“Marvel’s dropping of digital codes drives regular audience away. In order to revitalize sales, Marvel begins releasing exclusive Pogs to drum up sales. It’s a major success leading to a huge Pogs revival.”

Dropping those codes did annoy a few customers…a lot of folks who still liked getting the physical editions enjoyed having the digital codes to put the books on their electronical doohickeys, and removing the codes did damage the perceived value of the books. Thankfully Marvel did reverse the decision before they had to initiate the Pog Directives.

“DC Comics launches a new comic called ‘Swamp Thing & friends.’ The first issue features Swampy investigating a comic stealing crime that leads him directly to Sterling comics. Mike Sterling makes a cameo in a Swamp Thing comic. Swampy’s catches the crook too late and the owner of Sterling comics is killed. Swampy, in an act of kindness take Sterling to becomes part of the green, makes him immortal. They hang out regularly during the course of the series, doing all sorts of fun activities like canoeing, camping, having fondue and talking about the thing Swamp Thing likes the most, himself!”

• • •

Jerry Smith rigs these up

“Marvel’s sales slide will increase, with fans rejecting their pushing of classic characters into the background for new PC versions. Marvel will ignore this and figure the problem is that they’re not replacing enough classic characters.”

If anything, Marvel seems to have decided the opposite, given some statements here and there. However, a good case has been made that the problems Marvel has been facing are more endemic to their ongoing business practices more than to their attempts at attracting new audiences.

“An Image comic will get a movie deal.”

Wasn’t sure, so I did a quick Googling, and this was the top result. So yes, an Image-published comic did indeed score a movie deal! A couple more of ’em are listed here, though I’m wondering what they’re going to call the Invincible movie since there was already a film by that name in 2006. “The Invincible Chronicles?” “Invincible Man?” “LET’S GET INVINCIBLE?”

“A Planet of the Apes/Sugar & Spike crossover will be announced.”

“Gbtlz spzts!”

“GASP! The human babies spoke…um, I think!”

• • •

David Alexander McDonald farmed up these

“DC will see another show canceled with POWERLESS flopping on the No Bugger Cares channel. It won’t matter; there’ll be another 12 new DC shows by the end of 2017. On the publishing front, the two-year Rebirth overarc will be looking pretty ridiculous by June as Geoff Johns and his team of trained gerbils try to explain it all. The DC Omnibus program will gain traction and do well. A fanatical group will rise up with Superman’s Red Trunks as its banner.”

Those are a lot of predictions squeezed into here, David, so let’s see: Powerless did die, which is too bad since it started to get pretty good; not 12 shows, but the numbers are slowly increasing; we’re getting the wrap-up to the 2-year arc now so we’ll see how it goes; Omnibus program still exists, so close enough for horseshoes; “fans,” for short. (For shorts! Ha, get it, because…okay, fine.)

“Marvel will continue to pump out omnibus volumes of *everything*. Ike Perlmutter will be eaten by Washington. Marvel’s books will continue to be schizophrenically split between the endless restarts that go thuddy thud thud and the cute, funny, clever books like Ms.Marvel and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Marvel’s movies continue to do well, and some do great, but the non-Netflix TV shows will continue to have issues (although LEGION will get a lot of positive attention) with INHUMANS going down to ignominious doom despite the IMAX opening.”

Yes; pretty much; ain’t that the truth; nailed the movie/TV thing.

“Dan Slott will move into a penthouse in Las Vegas, never again to be seen by most men. Reports will periodically come out that he’s lying naked on a bed, watching ICE STATION ZEBRA over and over.”

Now you got me here at the house, late at night, thinking about Naked D. Slott. ARE THERE NO END TO YOUR CRIMES, DAVID ALEXANDER MCDONALD.

(Nothing personal against Mr. Slott, who I am sure is a perfectly acceptable naked person…DAMMIT, DAVID, LOOK AT THESE THINGS YOU MAKE ME TYPE)

• • •

Dan (presumably not Mr. Slott) contributes

“The sleeper hit of the summer 2017 blockbuster season is a gritty live action reimagining of ‘WordGirl.’ Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy becomes Public Enemy Number One after killing Captain Huggyface with a meat slicer.
In 2018 it sweeps the Oscars, winning the Big Five.”

Okay, had to look all that up because for a second there I thought our friend Dan had some kind of seizure. I vaguely recalled Wordgirl, and sure enough, those other characters exist too. Frankly, I think we’re still too soon on the ironic dark reboot of the property…the kids who watched that in the 2000s probably still need a few more years to get into positions of power in the entertainment industry. I suspect the fanfiction may be way ahead of them, however.

• • •

Anthony puts all this to a merciful end with

“Marvel won’t do any crossovers with other companies.”

Well, maybe not in the way you mean it, but Marvel teamed up with Archie Comics to get some digests into supermarkets via Archie’s ancient distribution deal. And, well, this almost happened, but probably also not what you meant.

“Even though fans will want one, there will still not be a solo Swamp Thing animated movie. (REALLY hoping I’m wrong)”

Ol’ Swampy’s been turning up in various animated places, so we’re probably closer than ever to this actually happening soon!

“The rights for the comics of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street will continue to remain lost.”

Does seem weird that it’s been a while since either of these properties have turned up on the stands. At the very least, I’d like a reprint of Marvel’s black and white Nightmare on Elm Street magazine (written by Steve Gerber) since I sold my copies off like a dummy. Ah, well, if no one’s planning on comics based on these properties right this moment, I’m sure they will be again soon. Licenses like these come back from the dead fairly often, appropriately enough.

• • •

Well, looks like that was it! Thanks for reading and contributing, pals, and I’ll have one final post following up on some of your more recent comments reacting to these last few entries. See you all on Friday!

“Suddenly, fourteen years later….”

§ December 5th, 2017 § Filed under suddenly... § 7 Comments

Hey, remember blogging? That’s a thing this fellow you’re reading right now has done for fourteen years, long past anyone’s interest in actually reading blogs! That’s okay, I’ll probably soon switch over to that all-video format all the kids are into. Auto-playing video, of course…that’s what the people want.

But honestly, thank you to everyone who’s kept reading this site after all these years, and of course big thanks to my internet pals who continue to support this behavior. Special thanks to my girlfriend Nora, my family, and pal Dorian, who have all pretty much just accepted this is how I’m going to waste my free time. Big thanks to Neilalien, The Most-Firstest of Comics Bloggerers, for his longtime support.

This year, my store Sterling Silver Comics just had its third anniversary, and it’s still going strong. If you’re in the area, drop by and say hello! If you’re not in the area, feel free to give me a call. Oh, and buy something, if you’d like…I won’t stop you!

I still have a Patreon, though my planned regular reviews of Swamp Thing comics hit a snag when suddenly my extra blogging time disappeared. Still planning on keeping that going, though perhaps at a more reasonable pace…I keep saying the new installment should be up soon, but really, the new installment should be up soon. No, really, stop laughing.

Speaking of free time, I still chime in on the Twitterers once in a while, opining on your favorite comic book movies:

…or talking about my day-to-day delights running a funnybook store:

…or relating the vengeance Diamond Previews has exacted upon me for all my End of Civilization posts:

…or telling you about my exciting dream life:

…or remembering this especially-timely Brush with Greatness:

…or admitting this very specific personal problem:

…or just straight-up twittering about Twitter:

…and sometimes my friends pipe up with some True Facts:

Anyway, enough about me posting stuff online, now here’s more about me posting stuff online! Once again I’ve pointed out the highlights, the lowlights and a few of the middling-lights on this site from the past year for your perusal, entertainment, or reawakening of terrible memories. Enjoy, won’t you?

DECEMBER 2016:

The Teen Titans are weird, the passing of my girlfriend’s mother, METRON VERSUS DISCO, some comic book lettercol funny business involving my home town, boy Suicide Squard was not a good movie, so long Carrie.

JANUARY 2017:

Unleash the Youngblood trading card, a nice Swamp Thing pic by a pal and a Richie Rich cover I messed around with, who else dares to draw a connection between Wolverine and the Three Mouseketeers.

FEBRUARY 2017:

So long Dan, at long last the Flaming Carrot one-shot is mine, Wendy the Good Little Witch versus the World, I end up talking a lot about Swamp Thing in this Justice League Dark movie review believe it or not, the award-winning (well, not really) story about Willie and the Bug comic, “The Arch” if you can believe it, BAMM-BAMM CAN SEE YOU.

MARCH 2017:

This is a terrible joke I’m totally proud of, I write a bunch about Don Rosa, I made a joke here about Dr. Manhattan stealing Superman’s red trunks that other people came up with independently and it turned into this whole Twitter thing and anyway I still think it’s funny, this birthday post worked out nicely, so long Bernie, DC’s “hardcover/softcover” plan (parts one and two and oh here’s three), Archie Vs. Swamp Thing, Archie Vs. Arcane, a brief discussion of DC’s Hanna Barbera books.

APRIL 2017:

A little about Logan, rating Swamp Thing creative teams (one and two), that is one fancy-pants leap, a look at the initial installment of “The Button,” what in the comics world has caught me by surprise of late, presenting a Halloween ad in April because why the heck not.

MAY 2017:

Oh my God Reggie, Free Comic Book Day before and after and after-er, we’re very close now to finding out how Nekkid Manhattan will actually be handled, so long Rich, the first freebie installment of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon which I will be getting back to soon I promise, yet another Howard the Duck movie post in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Seventeen.

JUNE 2017:

And here’s another Howard the Duck movie post, let me know when Riverdale shows Jughead doing this, so long Best Batman, the amazing Ing takes my ideas and makes them beautiful, the Zero Month video is both terrifying and beautiful, Brit buttons, JONAH HEX TALK, I sold this comic so it’ll be another 10 years before I see another one, on second thought maybe you’d better just shoot Charlie Brown, FOX AND THE CROW TALK.

JULY 2017:

The Spidery-Mans movie, JUGHEAD WANTED BY JOHN LAW, come to think of it Betty’s legs do seem awfully scrawny, that’s a weird use of dialogue I don’t think I’ve seen too often, who were those mystery Legionnaires (as to be seen soon on The CW, “Dare to Defy”).

AUGUST 2017:

The mystery of that specific issue of Saved by the Bell, always time for a little Garcia-Lopez Superman and Firestorm, you probably hadn’t heard how good this new Mister Miracle comic is so thank goodness I’m here for you, can you believe some dumbass got on my case about taking the apparently extreme position of not liking Hitler, I will be talking about the Death of Superman ’til the day I die, your guide to price guides, I think Helper was probably my earliest “what th–!?” moment in comics, I still can’t believe I had this comic in my hands even briefly, it’s no Google Doodle but here’s a Kirby tribute.

SEPTEMBER 2017:

Where’s my Eisner…nay, my Pulitzer…for how I altered this Preacher page, let’s not do this again, a customer-made Swamp Thing drawing, so long Len, Batman ’89 retail and cultural memories and the market crash and a little Dark Knight thrown in (one and two and three and Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice).

OCTOBER 2017:

Good Lord Batman CONTINUES (here and here and also here), the missing DC Comics event book, Comic Show News issues #1 and…#0, the Swamp Thing Omnibus and an old ad slick, the return of Maximortal, the end of the original New Teen Titans series.

NOVEMBER 2017:

Boris the Bear is here to teach you about variant covers, Marvel wasn’t quite sure what to do with this comic were they, the Classics Rack, more about variants (specifically those DC test covers), a promo for Swamp Thing #60, Valiant would like you to order more Valiant please, a follow the book plug with PAPER TALK, an old promo poster and some Xerox humor, the joy of Not Brand Echh.

DECEMBER 2017:

However tangentially I still consider this a Death of Superman post.

• • •

A very sincere thanks to every one of you for sticking with me for all these years. I can’t say how much I appreciate it. I hope you come along with me as I work my way through year 15 of this silly ongoing project of mine.

For reading all that, here’s a pic of me taken literally moments ago, sitting at my store counter waiting for Godot my weekly Diamond Comics shipment to arrive:

Thanks again, and I’ll see you again in a couple of days.

Yes, this was before Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 came out.

§ November 15th, 2017 § Filed under market crash § 5 Comments


Here’s an interesting artifact of the early ’90s comics market boom/bust…a letter from Voyager Communications (the publisher of Valiant Comics) encouraging retailers to lessen their dependence on the Big Two companies and be more open to upping orders on indies (like, oh, say, Valiant Comics). I like the list of then-current perceived problems in the direct market at the beginning of the letter. I vaguely remember the Marvel/DC retail chain thing. I don’t remember there being any distribution/”apportioning” problems with the Robin hologram covers…I just remember there were too many of them! And toys…man, toys are still a weird thing for comics shops to deal with, given that on some items it’s way too hard to compete with chain stores re: wholesale pricing and release dates.

The advice in this letter isn’t bad, by any means…a more diverse product line is usually a healthier option. And “consider trimming orders of titles that don’t sell for you” may seem like “no duh” advice, but trust me, that wasn’t happening as often as it should. Plus, by the time this letter got around (late 1991, I think, given the letter was with a Shadowman #1 promo), it may have been too little, too late for some shops. There were more excesses yet to come, with the Death (and Return) of Superman right around the corner, and I think X-Men #1 may have been happening about the time of this letter, and we still had Image Comics on its way, not to mention a certain title mentioned in the very subject line of this post. Money was being made, yes, at least for a time, but too much unsold stock was piling up as well, and when that crash hit, those high orders would kill you. (Wrote a bit about that a couple of months ago.)

I see also that Dark Horse Comics and Continuity Comics were cc-ed this particular memo, presumably to…I don’t know, get them to chime in or something. They had their own then-forthcoming attempts at seizing market share that may have helped spread some retailers thin…”Comics’ Greatest World,” one of too many new “universes” companies were trying to get off the ground, or Valeria the She-Bat, which required some hoop-jumping in order to get the early (and as it turned out, almost the only) issues of the series. And there were some kind of shenanigans with the “Deathwatch 2000” crossover that I barely recall now, but just remember it was a pain in the butt and it turned out nobody cared anyway.

And I won’t even mention Deathmate. Well, except right then.

Basically, there’s a lot of blame to share in the 1990s market crash. It ain’t just on Marvel and DC’s shoulders, and some bad choices by some retailers themselves didn’t help either.

Anyway, thank goodness weird publishing initiatives like that are all behind us now! Just smooth sailing ahead for the comics industry!

I want my coffin to be carried along by a mass of Arcane’s Un-Men.

§ October 6th, 2017 § Filed under batman § 5 Comments

Okay, one last post on this topic before going on to…I don’t know, three weeks of talking about Robocop 2, maybe. But here’s what I’ve posted about Batman ’89 and related subjects previously: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

…And here’s what I’m posting today:

Jason had a few things to say:

“I had started reading DC Comics when Millennium came out* (So 1987 or so). So I was aware of Dark Knight and had been reading Batman for about 2 years. I was extremely excited about the movie. As a Junior in high school at the time, of course I had been aware of Batman through the usual means (The Adam West show, Superfriends, Scooby Doo), but the comics were the only real serious take on the character at the time.”

Yeah, I feel like the release of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and its general acceptance by the public at large, beyond the usual comic-book reading suspects, along with the subsequent…”awareness,” I guess, of comics overall (helped along by Watchmen and other non-traditional, more adult-y funnybooks) helped whet the appetite for a big budget Batman film that would be dark and grim and serious and…well, we got a Tim Burton film. It had enough of the trappings of grim grittiness that the fans wanted, however, so that was good enough. Or, more to the point, it wasn’t the goofy ’60s show or the Super Friends cartoon or whatever it was fans were afraid of seeing. I mean, comics weren’t the only vector through which this demand was created, as special effect-driven action films were becoming increasingly prevalent and technology had improved to the point of making such things less costly and more feasible.

But all those previous media tie-ins were probably just as responsible for the film’s impact and success as anything else. Character recognition is a huge part of getting the public’s attention, and Batman being one of the most recognizable fictional characters in the world is due in large part to Adam West, et al. So what I’m saying is, every thank Scooby Doo for helping make Burton’s Batman a hit.

“Let it not be said that 80’s crossover events were not good jumping on points (at least for me). I started seriously reading Marvel when Secret Wars II started, and started reading DC when Millennium started. I remember Millennium being extremely confusing for a new DC reader, but it was a good introduction to a lot of DC books and characters that I had never heard of.”

Millennium had that clever gimmick of having “Week One” and “Week Two” and so on emblazoned across the top of each tie-in’s cover, which made it a lot easier for someone to decide to drop their cash on it. The cover designs all looked like it was part of the same story, so it was hard not to grab those issues. And like you say, it was a “good introduction” to other DC properties — that’s the main purpose of all these crossovers in the first place. It’s why the Justice Society appeared in All-Star Comics so long ago…if you picked it up because you were a regular Flash Comics reader and you saw the Flash was in the JSA, and then decided you liked that Green Lantern character who was also in it, maybe you’d start buying the solo Green Lantern book, too. Every crossover wants you to start buying more comics. GASP…the horrible secret, revealed!

On a related personal note, if I recall correctly one of my first shop jobs after entering comics retail was going along and pulling off all the bagged Millennium tie-in comics that had been displayed in a row on the wall above the comics rack. That was one of the very, very, very few times we had actual comics attached to a wall for display purposes.

“Of course after a couple of years, I went from obsessively buying every book from both publishers (and a lot of other publishers too) to buying no comics whatsoever, but that’s a different story.”

Ah, yes, the 1990s.

• • •

And let me wrap up things with his amazing story from longtime ProgRuin-ite Wayne, who left this remembrance in the comments for the one post I don’t have in my numbered links up there:

“Here’s [my true story]. I have no photos, because I am certain the funeral home in question did not want to be sued.

“It was a gig I had for about two weeks in October of 1989. I was broke, ready to take any job. And I ended up dressing in a Keaton Batman-like suit and attending wakes and funerals in a suburb South of Chicago. The funeral home honestly thought that the kids would be less sad if they knew that whomever was in the casket was friends with Batman. No idea why ANY kid would believe that, but there I was, bat-ears and all, sitting in the back of the viewing room and on at least four occasions, being a pallbearer and standing at the gravesite looking properly somber.

“I was in college and was paid $15 in 1989 dollars for each viewing I was able to attend, with an extra $2 thrown in if I was a pallbearer.”

This is insane. Is this a thing that happens now? Do people go to funerals in character costumes today to, um, lighten the mood for kids? I’m half-tempted to Google search but I don’t think I really want to know if someone’s dressing up as, let’s say, Twilight Sparkle to keep the children calm during the service.

I can see maybe having like a side thing to entertain the children while the actual funeral is going on…MAYBE. But Wayne was actually carrying the coffin. Like, four times.

So if you ever had any doubt just how much of an influence that first Tim Burton Batman movie was, there you go. Batman was everywhere you looked, and followed you everywhere you would go…even into the cold embrace of the grave.

• • •

Thank you for putting up with so much Bat-talk over the last few weeks. You folks are real troopers. Back soon with more, mostly Bat-free, content!

Yes, I know it’s “Catwomen.”

§ October 4th, 2017 § Filed under batman § 1 Comment

Okay, ALMOST done with Bat-Talk…next time should be the wrap-up, but until then….

BEFORE: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

NOW:

Bryan sez

“I seem to recall the issue was less about Keaton’s comedic background (although that was certainly a factor) and more that his receding hairline and less than powerful jawline didn’t make him seem ‘heroic.’ A quote I’ve long enjoyed (no idea who to attribute it to) is ‘only Tim Burton could work on a film with Alec Baldwin and Michael Keaton, and decide to cast Keaton as Bruce Wayne.'”

I remember reading some interview with somebody at the time…let me know if I’m providing TOO much detail…that the conceit was that “well sure, Bruce Wayne would look like this, because then nobody would suspect that he was Batman.” That stuck with me, so when someone came into the shop about the time the movie opened, and noted how Michael Keaton didn’t fit what Batman should look like, I repeated that explanation. The customer kinda went “pffft, yeah right” and looked at me like I was an idiot, and he probably wasn’t wrong. That particular explanation certainly sounds like after-the-fact justification now vis-à-vis the actor’s appearance, back in the day before we realized Michael Keaton, much like the late Adam West, was perfect.

• • •

Andrew returns to say

“I wonder why today’s movies don’t have the same effect on comic book sales that these earlier movies did?”

Novelty, I guess? Superhero movies are a regular occurrence now and just part of the whole mediaweb-thing that constantly surrounds us, versus that 1989 Batman movie being like the first major serious attempt at a comic book film since the Christopher Reeve Superman run. And there were other factors going on as well, such as a preexisting heightened awareness of comics thanks to Watchmen and Dark Knight, an increased interest in comics collectability, and so on. It was just the right stuff at the right time, and thus are fads born.

Oh, and as Bryan says a little later in the comments, comics were still at newsstands and convenience stores and such, so anyone interested in Batman and his super-pals had a lot easier time of getting their hands on their adventures.

“At the time of the first Batman movies, didn’t DC start publishing the ‘Greatest Stories’ series for Batman, etc? But is there anything like that now, say for Wonder Woman?”

Well, sort of. DC published Wonder Woman: Her Greatest Battles, a $9.99 paperback with mostly recent-ish stories of her fighting various villains, and that 75th anniversary hardcover, which are probably closest to the “Greatest Stories” paperbacks you mention. Plus there were the collections of John Byrne’s and George Perez’s runs, and Wonder Woman and the Justice League of America reprinting some early ’90s stuff…there was no shortage of WW books available.

• • •

Gareth depresses me with

“One of the ‘Batman Begins’ people said they saw a TV report about poor people in Africa, and one of them was wearing a Batman T-shirt. They said it really hammered home how famous the character was.”

Well, I guess that’s sorta right, in that Batman was so famous and popular that they went way overboard in manufacturing the shirts, and the giant mountain of overstock had to go somewhere.

• • •

Longtime Progressive Ruiner (er, there has to be a better way to put it than that) clues me in on the following

“My memory of the Legends of the Dark Knight color covers was that first, they were a cheap paper second cover, not regular cover stock.

“But that’s because they were a last minute addition. I remember reading interviews in the day where DC administrators said they added the color covers because they were VERY concerned that comic stores had ordered way too many copies. They borrowed a trick from the paperback publishing side of the house in terms of having different colors (remember The Hotel New Hampshire and other best-sellers would do this at the time) as a marketing gimmick. They were trying to make some sort of distinction that might help stores sell more than one copy to customers…

“But since it was a last minute decision after the orders came in, they weren’t able to put the plan in the ordering information. And as I recall many stores were unhappy because they would have ordered MORE if they’d known about the 4 different colors. So the plan DC had to help sell what they thought was over-ordering would have potentially led to MORE orders if they’d publicized it in the solicitations…”

Just thought I’d plug that whole enchilada into the main body of a post…I do remember that the different colored covers were just overlays over the regular cover. I didn’t recall any of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that resulted in those covers in the first place since that was early in my comics-selling career and just probably forgot. However, as someone who haunted all the local bookstores, I do remember the “variant” paperback covers that were available at times. If memory serves, the novelization of Raiders of the Lost Ark had shiny metallic covers that came in different colors. (Mine was silver, in case you were wondering.)

I wish I could tell you just how Legends of the Dark Knight sold, but it was a new Batman #1, so I’m assuming it sold just fine. I do remember instances of people buying all four color variations, which felt really strange to me, since the comics boom was in full swing just yet and that kind of behavior hadn’t really caught on during my then-brief comics retailing experience.

• • •

argh.sims arghed

“And [Batman Returns] set up the Catwoman ‘mythology’ that lead to the Halle Barry movie. That Halle Barry was in a Catwoman movie that is almost impossible to watch is a crime. It could have been so good. :-/”

I think I mentioned on this site, or on Twitter, or on MySpace, that the Halle Berry Catwoman movie at its start feels like it could be a good, if not great, superhero action film. BUT IT’S A TRICK, DON’T FALL FOR IT LIKE I DID

But yeah, you’re right…dead gal revived by heaps of cats, live action or CGI or otherwise. That’s how you get your Catwomans.

• • •

Zoot Koomie zoots

“There were an enormous number and variety of tie-in products for Batman. The whole world was branded Bat for a short while there. But there was no indication that there were any comics. All the schwag was very movie specific. The comics Bat-boom could have been even larger if any effort had been put into cross-branding at all.”

And the comics boom was enormous, so imagining it even larger puts images in my head of me diving into my money bin. I wonder if the assumption at the time was that “we don’t need to cross-promote Batman comics with movie merch…of course everyone knows Batman is from the comics.” And as we know from most comic book movies that came after, a lot of the people into the mass media tie-ins and adaptations don’t necessarily cross over to the source material. Now, in the case of Batman, it was such a huge fad that it couldn’t help but drive people into comic book stores to buy comics, but I know from my experience then that a pretty good percentage of folks were more interested in the shirts and toys and posters than they were in following the various monthly publications. Which is fine…if they preferred their Bat-adventures to be live action rather than on the print page, then who am I to argue?

• • •

DanielT wonders

“Has there been a pop culture phenomenon in the last 28 years that’s reached the height of Bat-mania? The Star Wars prequels and Harry Potter are the only things I can think of that come close, but I don’t feel like either really reached the same level of frenzy.”

Oh, I get what you mean. That first Star Wars in 1977 is probably the closest, in that basically Everything Changed because of that movie. Between the Prequels and Harry Potter, I’d probably say Harry came closest, in that it gave the ol’ Young Adult market a boost, paving the way for other similar book series to follow. The Prequels were more about the revival of Star Wars as a marketing brand, not so much reinventing culture as just reestablishing its place in it. Though in terms of pure frenzy I suppose it’s hard to top the pre-screening line-ups that were all the rage at the time.

Anyway, we probably won’t see another huge world-changing movie event like 1989 Batmania until James Cameron gets all those Avatar sequels out. YOU MARK MY WORDS.

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