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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….

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.

I apologize in advance for referring to Batman ’89 as “Burt-Man.”

§ October 2nd, 2017 § Filed under batman § 5 Comments

Okay, before I return to Bat-Talk, let me inform you, my two remaining readers, that due to a somewhat hectic week I am way behind on everything, and that includes the new End of Civilization post. I didn’t get a chance even to look in the new Previews ’til Sunday morning, so EoC will be later this week, most likely.

Now…WHAT HAS COME BEFORE: 1 2 3 4 5 6

And here’s what’s coming now:

philip wrenches over the following:

“I walked out of the Burton Batman movie ANGRY that Alfred let Vickie Vale into the Bat Cave. Alfred is a paragon of loyalty and would never reveal Batman’s true identity to anyone. I was legitimately ANGRY. My girlfriend was embarrassed. She dumped me not long after. She was probably right to do it.

“Liked Keaton. Didn’t like Nicholson. Have only seen the movie that one time.”

I was…sort of okay with that particular plot twist, even though I totally see your point as well. Since then, the “secret identity” trope has pretty much gone through the wringer in media adaptations (and in the source material, too, for that matter), and it’s become much less of an issue that it’s used to be. It probably has something to do with the lead character looking like kind of a jerk by keeping his/her secret from friends, and by giving the superhero a “support team” who are all in the action and making things more exciting, I guess. It really came to a head in the Flash TV show where it seemed like everyone knew he was secretly Barry Allen, except for Iris, and that made everyone watching just a little uncomfortable. Even Superman’s not free of this, since in Supergirl everyone in the Secret Government Alien-Awareness Patrol (SGAAP for short, since I can’t be bothered to Google up the actual name) seems like they’re in the whole Clark Kent deal.

Granted, that’s slightly different from Bruce’s trusted associate Alfred totally exposing the secret without any warning, but as a one-off plot point in one movie, in that Alfred is trying to do the right thing to help the man he’s protected his whole life…I can live with it. Anyway, she mysteriously “slips” and “falls” into an “unreachable” part of the Batcave between films, so the point is essentially moot.

To your final point, like I’ve said I do want to revisit the movie. I remember liking both Keaton and Nicholson, but I felt at the time Nicholson was maybe…too known a face to disappear into the role? Of course ol’ Jack was a big selling point of the film and may have got some fence-sitting butts into seats, so what do I know? Again, a rewatch is in order.

• • •

Thom H reveals

“I don’t remember where I saw the first Batman movie, but I do recall thinking it was kind of cheesy and watered down. I had really liked The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, and I remember thinking that everyone seeing the movie didn’t really ‘get it’ the way I did. I was ‘deep’ in high school, though, so most experiences were beneath me at the time.

“I did really like the soundtrack by Prince, especially the single Batdance, which has not aged well. And talk about cheesy. Yikes.

“I do remember seeing Batman Returns at the drive-in with my boyfriend. That’s when it hit me how big a deal the Bat-phenomenon was and how it probably wasn’t going away anytime soon.”

I’m assuming you saw that first Batman during its initial theatrical release? I suspect, since the release of newer Batman films, young folks encountering that first film in recent years may indeed find it kind of hokey (or, dare I say, “campy?”). But I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if you caught onto the goofier aspects of the film, since they’re definitely present…the argument can be made that this is more a Tim Burton film that happens to have Batman in it, versus a Batman film directed by Tim Burton. I think by and large folks who were worried about this sort of thing were happy that the film at least seemed dark and moody, versus the then wrongly-maligned 1960s Batman TV show they were all afraid the film was going to be. But then again, Dark Knight Returns was goofy as all get-out in parts, too, so, y’know, maybe Burt-Man wasn’t too far off the mark. Just needed more Mutant Gang Members!

I have to be honest and say I haven’t heard “Batdance” in a while, so let me have that play in the background as I tackle your next comment.

Batman Returns is as a good indicator as any of the pop culture staying-power of Batman, in that while the faddish aspects of Batmania had mostly died down, the film could still attract a general audience. Even the third film got people into theaters, and it wasn’t ’til the fourth film that people stayed away in droves, and that was clearly more from the fact the film was seen as a stinker, and not because people suddenly didn’t like Batman. Though like I said about the audience reaction to the Batman Begins trailer several years later (groans, and lots of them) everyone was still willing to give a new Batman film a chance. And of course through all this were the various animated incarnations of the character. Batman ’89 wasn’t just a one-time fluke, but rather it opened up whole new audiences for something that had mostly been over and done with as far as the “real” world was concerned.

Okay, back to “Batdance,” which reminded me that, aside from Dio’s “The Last in Line,” which is amazing, all music videos are stupid. Yeah, even as someone who appreciates Prince’s extensive catalog of fine recordings, “Batdance” is just, um…well, I certainly hope Prince put whatever money he made on that to good use. Frankly, I’m surprised the ’60s TV show-style “BATMAN!” call-outs were allowed, since I seem to recall an effort to avoid such references as to not impugn the dignity of this serious cinematic endeavor. And okay, that half-Batman/half-Joker look of Prince’s is iconic. Iconic of what exactly, I don’t know.

• • •

GE charges in with

“What always comes to mind for me was something you mentioned previously: popular doubts (at the time) that Mr. Mom could play Batman. Which is strange, to say the least, since the only live-action Batman most of us knew before then was Adam West, who certainly didn’t get all dark and grim and gritty. It was probably the influence of The Dark Knight Returns (et al) that put that doubt into the zeitgeist.”

That’s…a good point, actually. Dark, Gritty Batman was a relatively new-ish development in the comics, after decades of Swashbuckling Batman, or Time-Travel Crimes on Venus Batman, or Just Plain Ol’ Superhero Batman. I mean, the ’60s TV show wasn’t that far off from the source material, when you get right down to it. I suppose the case could be made that Golden Age Batman stories were a lot more grim than in following years, but that’s probably not what those fans were thinking about when they insisted this new Bat-film accurately reflect the Dark Avenger of the Night that they all knew and loved. The immense popularity of Dark Knight from just a couple of years prior was, as you say, likely the prime mover for that response, despite Dark Knight itself having strongly satirical/parodic overtones.

“Those doubts about Keaton culminated in a parody of Escape Club’s “Wild West” that kept playing on a morning radio show (probably Scott and Todd on 95.5 WPLJ in the NY/NJ market – don’t know if it was theirs, or they just played it…?), titled ‘Adam West’ and poking fun at the idea of Keaton taking over the cowl and cape. Big Bro even taped it off the radio (y’know, the way we used to have to do that, with a boom box and all!), and I’ve got the MP3 of that recording right here – we spent the last few years scanning/transferring everything we had (video, audio, drawing, writing…) to modern digital formats.”

As an avid Dr. Demento listener in my youth, I knew that particular song sounded familiar, and sure enough, here it is. Someone decided to add visuals to the song, but in this case it’s okay, because it’s Best Batman. So I guess that’s two music videos that aren’t stupid.

• • •

MrJM has this to say for himself

“Although many of our friends were worrying about whether the titular ‘Mr. Mom’ could pull it off, my brother and I weren’t worried — the previous year, we went to a screening of ‘Clean and Sober’ specifically to vet Michael Keaton as a grim actor.

“What a pair of nerds.”

Okay, nothing to do with the Batman movies, but I did something a little similar, in that in the mid-1980s I heard Shawn McManus was going to illustrate a forthcoming issue of Saga of the Swamp Thing (this one, in fact) and I wanted to know just what that was going to look like, since I wasn’t familiar with his art. I ended up buying something current with art at the time…don’t remember what it was, but it was a title I didn’t regularly read…and looked it over to reassure myself that he’d be at least okay at drawing my favorite character.

And of course McManus ended up being one of my favorite comic book artists, what with his run on Omega Men starting about a year later, and his Dr. Fate, and Sandman and so on. See what my approval can do for you!

No I didn’t forget, just didn’t feel like typing “…AND Beta” every time.

§ September 27th, 2017 § Filed under batman, reader participation § 1 Comment

PREVIOUSLY, ON BAT-TALK: 1 2 3 4 5

Hoo boy, I opened up a real can of worms on this one. I’m going to be commenting on comments to my comments for this particular set of theme posts for the rest of time…though realistically I’ll have to cut off the discussion somewhere, or I can just go ahead and change the site name to “Batgressive Ruin.”

Anyway, let me at least wrap up the comments from the very first post:

Chris G presents:

“I was 14. I wore a Batman t-shirt on the end-of-year class trip to Hershey Park and kids in my class who I barely knew were asking me where I’d gotten it. I saw it twice on opening day and bought a poster of Jack Nicholson’s Joker sitting on a beach that hung in my room for years. The Prince ‘Batdance’ song was everywhere. And it was a HUGE thing when the movie arrived on VHS less than six months later, priced to sell to consumers rather than to video stores – that had never happened before and was the beginning of a sea change in home video.”

Since I was a big Oingo Boingo fan at the time…well, okay, still am…I remember being slightly put out that Prince’s Batman “soundtrack” (with songs “inspired by the film” if I remember correctly) was being released first, while the actual score of the the movie, composed by Boingo frontman Danny Elfman, was coming out much later. A silly thing to be concerned about, I realize, especially since I totally understand now that “NEW PRINCE ALBUM” was definitely going to sell better. Also, Prince is amazing. But Elfman’s soundtrack is good, too, and practically immortal given how many times they’ve reused that theme. There’s room for both, Mike of 1989! Don’t be so uptight!

The VHS thing…I remember getting myself put on a waiting list for the VHS release of Batman at…$20, I think, which was pretty reasonable for the time. I could have sworn there were some videotape releases prior to this that were a tad more consumer-friendly pricewise, and this Straight Dope discussion (and this article linked from there) do mention a number of attempts at consumer pricing on some films in the early to mid-1980s. There were still plenty of $100+ VHS tapes being sold to stores for rental purposes, of course, and what exactly constituted “affordable” pricing encompassed a wide variety of options. (I remember asking a friend at a video store to look into any videotape releases of the original Land of the Lost, and he found a couple of tape, each with two episodes, at I believe $39.95 each…this may have been late ’80s/early ’90s.)

It’s possible the relative cheapness of the Batman home video release, and subsequent popularity, may have been the impetus to push more and more VHS out into the market at reasonable pricing. Plus (and I’ve heard this argument a few times in the past) pricing the tapes down may have lowered piracy, as the hassle of having to patch together two VCRs to record a rental from the local video store may have been worth it when prerecorded videotapes were $100 a throw, but at $20 or so it was less of a pain in the ass just to straight up buy a copy.

• • •

Adam recalls

“I was almost 7 when the movie came out. It was a revelation. I knew the Adam West show from reruns but this is something else. Everything was so serious, expressive and dramatic, even the silences. There were things that weren’t explained that made it intriguing. I must have seen it five times begging anyone who was willing to take me.

“I didn’t start reading the comics at this point. My grandmother volunteered at a library and gave me a copy of ‘Batman & Other DC Classics’ which reprinted excerpts of comics to convince people to try buying collections. And I loved that comic but it didn’t convince me to start picking them up regularly. Instead I was buying toys and stickers and buttons. And then, the VHS tape which I nearly wore through. I still occasionally think ‘you can’t watch a Warner Bros. movie without a Warner Bros. ballcap.’

“And as huge as Batman was, it’s worth noting there were a lot of big movies in 1989. Consider that Batman came out the same day as Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (5th highest box office of 1989) and a month after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (2nd highest). Every year has its share of classic movies but 1989 was stacked. Check out the full list since there’s too many to mention here. All these movies combined to give 1989 had the highest box office ever (without inflation) and wouldn’t be topped until 1993. And Batman was the biggest of them all.”

I can imagine the sort of impact this film would have had on a small child. A lot of it was super weird and creepy and I can imagine it frightening little kids…and fascinating them, as you say, Adam. That’s the right age to sort of absorb all this stuff at face value, without worrying about or even noticing the undercurrents of humor and self-parody involved.

I remember that Batman & Other DC Classics preview comic…probably still have one in my collection somewhere. And it seemed like for years at the previous place of employment I kept turning up copies. Gave away a whole lot of those…it was a nice little sampler.

And it’s funny that you point out 1989 at The Big Movie Year…for us just slightly older folks, 1984 is the year that always gets singled out as the Year o’The Hits…but I have to tell you, just browsing each year for the 1980s sure pulls up lots of formative films for a young Mike (though I don’t recall seeing this one on any Top Lists there).

• • •

And Jason has this to say

“I can only chime in as a film fan, because I don’t remember what I was reading in 1989. (I honestly think it was Captain America and not Batman!)

“When I say Batman was one of the darkest films I ever saw, I mean that quite literally. I saw it at a Drive-in as a kid, and and some scenes were simply too dark to decipher what was happening on screen. That bit where Vikki wakes up and Bruce is hanging upside down like his namesake? I didn’t see/comprehend that until I saw it again on video.

“I can’t think of any other movie that plays so fast and loose with the color black. Are super hero movies lit differently than ‘regular’ movies? Does anyone know offhand? Or are there simply more night scenes in super hero movies?”

Well, drive-in projection as I recall wasn’t the best for lighting and color nuance…I remember seeing that first Nightmare on Elm Street at a drive-in and it was a little hard to make things out in certain scenes. It could also be a problem with the actual physical projection…I know a theater local to me was having real problems with brightness levels on movies. That recent Harry Potter spin-off the name of which I can’t remember and don’t feel like Googling, for example, was nearly pitch black in some parts, and Rogue One, even in the scenes that were clearly supposed to be in bright, sunny daylight were desperately underlit by the projectionist. The theater improved since then, but I’m still reluctant to attend a flick there.

I don’t know enough about lighting or cinematography to intelligently answer your question about how they’re specifically doing superhero films…but not every film is mired in darkness. Spider-Man: Homecoming is nice and brightly lit…even in the night scenes, everything is clear as day. Occasionally I feel like dark shots are in our superhero moving pictures to conceal some dodgy special effects or CGI (something that occurred to me during at least one Harry Potter film). But man, of course Batman was filmed with lots of the color black…he is the Dark Knight, after all!

But seriously, I need to see that film again. Y’all are making me want to pop it back into the player.

The VHS player.

I’m not going to say how many different Legends of the Dark Knight #1s I bought for myself.

§ September 25th, 2017 § Filed under batman, retailing § 8 Comments

And so BAT-MONTH CONTINUES…okay, maybe it won’t be the whole month, but I am still going back and addressing some of your comments to my previous posts (1 2 3 4). I’m not addressing every single comment made, but if I skip yours, I still like you, I just didn’t have anything to add.

AWAY WE GO:

Bryan sez, he sez

“My recollection is probably skewed because a comic book store opened within a ten minute walk of my house in the spring of 1989, so I could suddenly go all the time, but I certainly remember ‘The Many Deaths of Batman’ (John Byrne and Jim Aparo! Together!) and ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’ (I don’t even want to think about how many different colours of that first issue I bought) and the ‘Arkham Asylum’ graphic novel, and the computer-drawn Batman GN that was heavily promoted, made the summer to late fall of 1989 feel like something huge was happening with the character, and DC was really able to piggyback the success of the movie to make me want to buy anything Batman.”

So I’d been wondering, since we last spoke, about whether or not I was overstating how huge of an impact that first Burton Batman made. Keep in mind at the time I was only about 20 years old, give or take, and thus squarely in that demographic Makers of Big Blockbuster Films prefer to target, and also I was, y’know, working in a comic book store, so maybe my awareness of said Bat-film was somewhat predetermined.

Now a lot of your comments seems to be supporting my asserting that the Batman movie was huger than a huge thing that’s huge, at least as far as cultural influence goes, so it’s not necessarily my biased memory coloring my recollection of history. One specific thing I remember is hearing radio deejays chatting about Batman and Batman comics and whathaveyou between songs…you know something’s big when Richard Blade is talking about Dark Knight Returns during his KROQ shift.

And yes, Bryan, as you say, DC Comics wasn’t bein’ run by dummies…they were squeezing every Bat-cent out of the character that year and pumping out all kinds of stuff to exploit interest in the character. The “computer-drawn” graphic novel was Digital Justice, and people sort of derided it at the time (while still selling well in the way all Batman was selling well), but I guess that book had the last laugh since computers are used in pretty much every aspect of comic creation now. And comics fandom. In fact, a computer is writing this very blog right now beep boop.

Some of those other books bring back a few memories of the time, too: like first issue of the “The Many Deaths of Batman,” which was dialogue-free except, I believe, for the very last page (or panel), which actually caused a customer to call the shop after he got home and read the issue, believing it was somehow misprinted and all the captions and word balloons were left out. Well…that sort of wordless storytelling was pretty unusual in superhero comics (though the famous G.I. Joe silent issue was about five years previous), so I guess I can’t blame the person too much.

The different covers on Legends of the Dark Knight was one of the early examples of multiple-cover variants in the industry, and at a time when nobody was quite used to the idea, the reactions were very mixed. There were the folks mad that they had to buy one of each version to keep the collection complete. (Keeping in mind the only difference was border colors.) There were the folks asking which one was the rarest, and therefore destined to be the most valuable. There were the folks who just thought the whole thing was a scam. And so on. Still sold of lot of them.

The Arkham Asylum graphic novel was greatly anticipated, and we had a waiting list at the shop that I can almost still mostly picture in my mind. I mean, not the names on it, of course, but I can still remember pulling that sheet out and adding names and phone numbers to it on a relatively regular basis. I was still going to college at that time, and working at the shop in the afternoons, so on the day of release, between classes, I got on a payphone (hey, it was 1989) and called the shop to make sure those jerks held a copy of the book aside for me. Guess I should have added myself to the waiting list. More fool I.

• • •

Jack notes

“My local comic shop, which had been doing okay but not world beating business, had a massive uptick in business. So big, in fact, that they moved out of the tiny location they were in to a much bigger one across the street, where they still are to this day. (They survived the 90s crash by pivoting to card games, and were ahead of the curve big time on the Pokemon phenomena.) Saying that the country had Batmania in 1989 is not an exaggeration, if anything it doesn’t do it justice.”

I believe it was in the very next year, 1990, that the shop moved across the street to its GINORMOUS location, easily 3x the size of the little shop we were moving out of, and we would never, ever fill up, never in our wildest dreams…so of course a few years later we completely outgrew that location and moved into a spot twice as large next door, where the shop still exists now.

In 1990, the boom was still booming. In, I believe it was 1997 when we made that final move, the business was…well, the crash had crashed, but I think things were slightly improving at the time. At the very least, we had adjusted to this new post-crash comics economy and were more or less ordering, planning, and spending accordingly. Plus, a full half of the store was dedicated to gaming (role playing and Magic: The Gathering) and that certainly helped the cash flow. Like Jack mentions about his shop, having differing stock lines (like the card games) at our store helped us ride out the lean years, though we still attracted plenty of comics business simply by reputation of having a large selection of new and old material.

I’m guessing the ironic result of Batmania was in encouraging stores to expand like we did, only to have the following market crash leave owners with newly-expanded locations they could no longer support. We were lucky that we were able to muddle through as well as we did.

• • •

Longtime customer and pal Casie (to whom I probably sold comics when she was 11!) relates

“I was 11 when the movie came out. Only read a couple Batman comics at that time but only knew the Adam West version which was colorful and fun. Had no idea what to expect from the 1989 movie. The whole dark side of Batman was new to me. After seeing it I was smitten.”

And related, from Dean:

“From what I remember as a tiny child at the time (I was 12 years old) this ‘dark, serious’ take on Batman was HUGE. This was before we realized that Burton Batman was just as goofy and stylized as Adam West Batman, just with the lights turned down.”

I think that was one of, if not the major elements, to what attracted people to this movie, that we would finally be getting the dark and gritty Avenger of the Night we deserved this whole time, the one we knew from the comics, and not that silly old TV show Batman. And like Dean says, these Burton films are camp in their own way (or rather, they’re Tim Burton films more than they’re Batman films), but there are still moments of darkness mixed in with all the goofy stuff. When we first see Batman capture those ruffians, with his gruff “I’M BATMAN” — it’s been mocked a bit since then, sure, but it’s still an effective introduction to the character. And that scene in the “doctor’s” room, pleading with Napier that he’s done all he could, just look at the tools he has to work with (quick shot of bloodied knifes and other instruments), the swinging lamp, only seeing Nicholson from behind…it’s a nightmarish scene, probably the best in the film.

The sequel, Batman Returns, is notable for turning up the darkness — turning down the darkness? you know what I mean — maybe a bit too much. There were complaints about the Penguin maybe being a little over the top in grotesquery, for example. Can’t say if the inherent goofiness in the film was also increased accordingly, as it’s been a while since I’ve seen either film. I’ll have to put that on the list of things to do When I Have Free Time, Maybe After I Break A Leg or Something.

• • •

More Bat-talk to come! Can you believe your luck?

Keeping in mind that Batman and Robin isn’t really THAT bad of a film.

§ September 22nd, 2017 § Filed under batman § 9 Comments

So I’ve been looking back at your memories of the first Batman film from 1989 and all the surrounding hooplah (here and here and also here) and yeah, a whole lot of what you folks have been saying sure rings true with what I remember of my experience at the time.

I’m going to respond to the last comment I received first, from Andrew, who asks:

“Does Ralph remember any effect like this for the earlier Superman movies? What happened for subsequent Batman movies?”

I’ll ask Ralph when next I speak to him…he opened his own store in Ventura in 1980, but he was working with a partner at a shop in Santa Barbara for a few years prior to that, and working comic conventions and swap meets, too, so he probably experienced the response (or lack thereof) to that first Superman film in 1978. I’ll get back to you on that.

As far as the following Burton-Universe Bat-films go…well, it was diminishing returns, of course. The excitement over that first Batman movie was because it was “new” and “different” wasn’t there when Batman Returns hit in 1992, since we kinda knew what to expect now. I mean, obviously the film did well, and DC Comics did their best to exploit Batman during that period, but it’s not like DC wasn’t going to try to sell Batman comics, right? However, in 1992 the Bat-fad and the related comics boom had mostly run its course, and the comics crash was on its way, and the hordes of people who had suddenly discovered comic books in the late ’80s/early ’90s were beginning to find other things to do, so we weren’t going to have anywhere close to the cultural impact with the follow-up movies that the original Batman film had. Again, that second film was a blockbuster, and tie-in products sold well…but it wasn’t the culture changer its predecessor was.

The third film…I can’t remember if that had much of an impact at all. There was some slight interest because the lead was recast, but I don’t recall anything unusual aside from the typical merchandising one might expect from a Big Movie. And the fourth film…well, I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first saw the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s first Bat-film, Batman Begins, people in my theater literally groaned when they realized what they were seeing what a come-on for a new Batman film. Given that under normal circumstances the general public might be more positively predisposed to Batman, I most attribute that reaction to the trailer to memories of Batman and Robin, even if it was a whole eight years prior. That film cast a long shadow, however, which meant Batman Begins had a bit of an uphill battle to convince moviegoers that hey, maybe a Batman film can be good again.

Ooh boy, this is going to be a wordy post. Let me address a couple more questions and then we’ll continue into parts 2 through about 19 or 20:

James G. reacts to a non-Batman aside I made about the comics boom, noting

“I didn’t know about the sports card market crash helping the comic speculation market.”

Well, honestly, this was my assumption that I had at the time, and one I never really questioned or thought about much, so I can probably be refuted by someone with “knowledge” or “facts” or any of that wild stuff. But as I have related many times in the past, during the comics boom I had many people coming into the store asking after “comic book Becketts,” “Beckett” being the primary publisher of sports card price guides. That became a sure indicator of someone from the card collecting hobby, or at least familiar with it, trying their hand at the ol’ funnybook game.

I wasn’t really involved in the sports card market, beyond Ralph carrying a few boxes of this and that, so I don’t know a whole lot, but it was my understanding, from Ralph and some of his friends who did run sports card shops, that the card market, much like the comics market, was way overproducing at the time. I did a little Googling and did find, for example, this article that seems to corroborate those memories. It would seem that the card market preceded the comics market in its collapse, allowing some time for collectors of one to try to switch over to the other. That’s certainly what it seemed like what was happening then, but if anyone has more specific recollections, please let me know! All I know for sure it’s pretty tough to find a sports card shop around our area nowadays.

Patrick recalls

“People would be shocked at how Batman and Joker shirts were EVERYWHERE. And so many of them you would see see the same one twice in a day on people. And they were on a lot of people.”

Preach it, brother. Okay, I was working in a comic book store, so it’s only natural that I’d see lots of people in Bat-shirts. But when I would occasionally slip my chain and venture out into the wilds of Ventura County, yes, Bat-clothing was all over the place. Little kids, grandmas, the occasional nun, everyone was into Batman. Like I said in my own recollections of the time, we had waiting lists of people special ordering specific Bat-shirt designs.

The fad had to run its course eventually, and all those Batman shirts got put into closets one final time, never again to see the light of day. I can’t remember ever noticing the frequency of Bat-fashion declining…it was just something that was always there, background noise, until one day it wasn’t.

Okay, Bat-shirts aren’t gone forever…outside the peaks of 1960s and 1980s Batmania, incidence of Bat-clothing returned to its normal levels. But I wonder what happened to all those millions of Batman shirts that were purchased during that most recent boom time. Thrown out? Donated to Goodwill? Buried deep in a box in a closet for the original owner’s children to discover and wear as some kind of retro get-up? I bet if I dig into my closet, I probably can still find my own Batman t-shirt from the time, if only because I don’t clean old clothes out of my closet often enough. …Hey, my MC Hammer pants are back in style now, right?

• • •

As promised we’ll continue Bat-memories on Monday, same Bat-time, same B–okay, sorry sorry. But that means there’s still time to add more of your own!

I still feel bad about the John Ritter thing.

§ July 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 13 Comments

Okay, finally back to more of your questions:

CP Bananas appeals to me with

“If you had unlimited funds, what’s the one thing you’d add to your store? Signage? Fixture? Ice sculpture? Water slide? Something more/less ridiculous?”

Crazy idea: movie theater. I have two rooms in the back of the store, and I can store stuff in the smaller room, and use the larger part of the backroom as an indoor theater of sorts. The walls would need repainting, and I’d need to cover that concrete floor with something, but that’s a lot of space that needs some using. Plus, I’d have to look into what sort of licensing I’d need to have in order to screen films, and some reasonable form of air conditioning that wouldn’t be too loud…but I could probably seat, I don’t know, a couple dozen people back there? It’s something to think about.

More realistically, I could knock out part of the wall that divides the store between the front and the back, and expand into that larger backroom area with more fixtures and products. “WELCOME TO MIKE’S COMICS AND POGS” the sign in front of the store would boldly declare to all passerby.

• • •

MrJM asks

“As I recall, every iteration of the team had substantially the same origin: the Legion of Superheroes started as three kids from different planets with different powers joined together to combat the powers of evil in the 30th/31st century.

“But why would anyone dub the founding trio of Rokk Krinn, Imra Ardeen & Garth Ranzz ‘the LEGION of Superheroes?’

“A Roman legion was a unit of 3,000–6,000 fighting men. Even colloquially, ‘legion’ is synonymous with horde, throng, multitude, host, crowd, mass, mob, gang, swarm, flock, herd, score, army. No matter how you slice it a ‘legion’ is a whole bunch of folks.

“While the group would certainly merit the name in the end — including everyone from Bouncing Boy to Invisible Kid to Quislet to another Invisible Kid — at the founding no one could have know that. It was just three people.

“Within the continuity of the story, ‘Legion of Superheroes’ simply made no sense as the name for the original trio!

“And so my question: Has this ever bugged you?”

No.

• • •

Thom H. inquires about

“I love reading stories about customers. Can you share a good story about a memorable customer, whether it’s good, bad, weird, surprising, or something else?”

I’ve had several memorable customers over the years, but aside brief, amusing (or occasionally aggravating) incidents, I have a hard time relating actual stories about them, I mean, I have written about a couple of longtime customers who had passed away (like Errol, or Bruce, or Sean and his tragic end – they did end up catching the guy who killed him).

There was the fellow who always wrote enormous checks for expensive comics, the only personal information on his check being his name…my old boss had been dealing with him since long before I worked at the shop, and he always told me “the check’s fine, don’t worry about it.” And, far as I know, his checks always were fine.

There was the kid who collected Adam Strange comics…because his name was also Adam Strange.

There was the time, shortly after I started working in comics retail, when the shop was suddenly filled with lady wrestlers all in costume. I was like “is this what selling comics is going to be like all the time?” And the answer to that was, of course…yes, yes it was.

There was the young lady who’d been coming to the shop since she was a kid…and now, college age, she had come to the store and asked me if I wanted to see her new tattoo. I said “sure!” and before I knew it she had basically removed her top with her back to me, presenting her new full-back tattoo in all its glory. (Coworker Sean, who was working on the other side of the store at the time, later asked me “what the hell was going on over there?”)

There was the teaching assistant at the college I was attending who found out I worked in a comic book store, and would request comics that I’d bring up the next day that he’d then pay me for.

There was customer Marlon, who dressed as the Milestone character Icon one year for Halloween, and as the John Stewart Green Lantern another year, in absolutely perfect costumes with the perfect physique. It’s like the characters had literally come to life in our store.

There was the fella researching vampires in comics, and was trying to buy every single comic featuring a vampire appearance. On one visit we stayed for hours after closing assembling his several-thousand-dollar purchase.

There was MC Chris, who stopped by the shop prior to performing at the local music venue, and proceeded to plug the store onstage.

There was the time I thought John Ritter was just some creepy guy planning to shoplift from us.

Those were all at the previous place of employment. I’m trying to come up with any really unusual stories from the new store, but aside from the endless repetition of “this is just like Big Bang Theory!” I haven’t had any really weird stories burn into my brain yet. I’ve had lots of great, friendly customers who have been very supportive, I’ve also had the occasional time waster or problem creator (like the mom who was upset that I made her pay for comics her children destroyed…and to this day, when she passes by I here her tell her kids “no, you’re not going in there”). Or the elderly gentleman who just did not seem to understand that, no, I didn’t want to carry the sports jerseys he was wholesaling.

But I don’t want to focus on the bad things, really. I prefer to think of the helpful folks, like customer Mark, whom I’ve met since opening my new shop, who will occasionally show up at events at my store (like Free Comic Book Day) dressed in his great Batman costume and entertaining the other customers.

Or the mom who told me that her little girl loves Squirrel Girl comics so much that she takes them to bed and sleeps with them at night.

I haven’t had anything really epically strange happen yet…mostly just nice people buying comics nicely and doing nice things. …PLEASE DON’T TAKE THIS AS A CHALLENGE, ANYONE READING THIS.

• • •

Oh, okay, back to MrJM’s question…no, I never really thought about it, to be honest. Looking back at the Legion’s origin as presented in Superboy #147, I don’t see where it’s established who names the team thusly. Given that the fella financing the team, R.J. Brande, is responsible for naming two of the founding members “Lightning Lad” and “Cosmic Boy” (and probably named “Saturn Girl” as well, though not explicitly stated), it’s likely fair to say Brande dubbed the team “The Legion of Super-Heroes,” too. Calling it a “legion” from the get-go is surely Brande anticipating that new members would eventually join…and it’s probably also just simple marketing. “Legion” sounds impressive. “The Three Kid Band of Space Heroes,” not so much. R.J. Brande is the richest man in the 30th Century…he knows how to sell stuff!

• • •

So long to Flo Steinberg, original member of the Marvel Bullpen, who passed away on Sunday. She was just as much a part of the team as Stan, Jack and Steve, and Marvel wouldn’t have been Marvel without her.

Several years ago a bunch of comics folks were swapping mix discs, and as a “bonus” at the end of my disc was a recording of a Merry Marvel Marching Society record that I digitized from a copy of the flexidisc that had turned up in a collection. I later heard from, I believe, Fred Hembeck, who thanked me for including that on there. “It was so nice to hear her voice” he said. It sure was. That gal had character to spare!

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