Betty…what are you wearing?
(Dan DeCarlo, you scamp!)
…by enjoying this picture of Wetsuit Jughead:
So I received a used copy of this hardcover in a collection I purchased the other day:
Anyway, I was a fan of Newton’s work, both on Batman and on Infinity Inc., which he had just started to work on when he passed away in 1984 at the too-young age of 49. Reading this book, I find myself struck by one thing, which will hardly be a new or original comment in regards to these sorts of reprint projects, but nevertheless it’s still an honest reaction. The pages are just too white and clean. The Young Mike that’s still rattling around in my head is expecting to be reading these stories on brown-ish newsprint. In fact, when I mentally picture Newton’s art, I imagine dark, moody images…all shadows and mystery. Reprinting in this book on bright pages with bright coloring, even the shadows look like you’re staring at the sun. …Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but still, it was a bit jarring to have the art right in front of me and contradicting my memories of same.
And before you say anything, yes, Infinity Inc. was printed on bright white paper with eye-searingly bright colors, but Newton’s sadly brief tenure there doesn’t have the nostalgic hold his Batman work has for me.
As I was writing this, another sorta unsung comics artist fave of mine came to mind that I’d like to see reprinted in a book like this. I’d totally be all over The Complete Irv Novick.
I’ve heard about some people going through and consistently maintaining and / or removing links on old posts, but frankly, it’s hard enough to find the time to keep with new posts, or sleep. And then there was the great Blogger-to-Wordpress shift I underwent in early ’10, which resulted in some formatting and archived-post issues, and then whatever that company was that was supporting the old commenting system cut that support, so links to those comments are now no bueno, I guess, and…man, sometimes I feel doing a reboot, and just starting this website from scratch. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNEW BEFORE: WELCOME TO THE NEW PROGRESSIVE RUIN! and then I’d never refer to anything before that date ever again.
I’m not going to do it, but, back past a certain point, my site’s a mess. I do still go back and fix links and formatting and stuff if I have occasion to link to an old post, so I’m not letting things totally fall into barbarism, but…well, just assume any super old link is probably taking you straight to a site that’ll sell you V1aG4a or promise you pictures of people inserting Tab A into Slot B.
However, I am happy to note that I still occasionally edit my very first post to make sure it’s still sending you where I want you to go. Man, had I known they’d be fiddling with those addresses every year or so, I’d have picked something else for my debut entry.
“Hey Mike, we all know you have every Swamp & Man Thing appearance, but do you collect The Heap as well? Just curious.”
Well, I don’t have every Man-Thing appearance…I do have every one written by Steve Gerber, as well as the first appearance in Savage Tales (not by Gerber), but from about the ’90s forward, I’ve been a little pickier about touching Man-Things.
That has nothing to do with the actual thrust of your question, which is all about the Heap, the original comic book swamp monster dating back to the 1940s. Sadly…no, I haven’t gone out of my way to seek out Heap comics, though I have picked up some of the latter day revivals, such as this 1971 one-shot I’ve discussed in the past, or this new version from Moonstone, or the Airboy/Mr. Monster one-shot from 1987, in which the Heap plays a prominent role, and is a great comic, to boot.
The original Heap comics are about to be reprinted in a series of three hardcover volumes, and I’m still waffling a bit on whether I can afford to pick these up for myself. My usual argument to talk myself into such things is “if I don’t get them now, I’ll probably never have another chance, at least this (relatively) cheaply,” so we’ll see. I am tempted.
“Mike, have you ever done a post about toxic Teen Titans continuity?”
Oh God, no. What I’d wished I had done is recorded pal Dorian and myself going on and on and hashing it all out and realizing that some of the time frames involved would make some of the adult characters a lot older than they should be, or that some of the lengths of time of team membership would be extremely short, or…hell, I don’t remember now. This was prior to DC kind of pushing the “sliding scale” of the Modern DC Superhero Universe to being about 20 years old, as of Identity Crisis, which I recall thinking was a slightly more reasonable time frame, given the amount of “important” events and continuity, not just for the Titans but for everyone, you had to squeeze in there.
Of course, post-Flashpoint, that scale is now about 5 or 6 years, depending on who you ask, I guess, so it’s all a moot point. And I hear tell Titans continuity has even more exciting problems now, as in some indecision whether there were previous Titans teams or not, but I leave the pondering of that question to younger, abler folks than myself.
Although I had read the introduction of the Omega Men in those three or so issues of Green Lantern, I didn’t follow them to their own series (which experienced some small controversy in its early issues due to depictions of violence, back in the “they didn’t know how good they had it” days of fandom). It took Alan Moore, a writer of some note, writing a back-up in two successive issues of the series (#26, pictured, and #27) to get me to take a look…and quite wisely, a new storyline in the main feature started up at that same time, giving Moore-ites like me a solid jumping-on point. It helped that 1) the new regular artist on the series was Shawn McManus, for whom I was developing a strong appreciation, and 2) that the comic itself was just a darned weird, creepy, and plain ol’ interesting sci-fi adventure.
As I was talking about the book with the customer, a couple of things dawned on me that, I suppose, shouldn’t have surprised me but did anyway. The actual run of that “new direction” for Omega Men, from #26 to the book’s eventual cancellation, was only 13 issues, plus an annual. It sure felt like it was longer…not in a bad way, I mean. It’s that a whole lot of stuff happened along the course of that comic, and it’s hard to believe they managed to fit it all into only about a year’s worth of stories (well, technically a year…I think some issues ran a bit late, if I recall correctly). Also, there was a Teen Titans crossover, and, of all things, a Crisis on Infinite Earths-engineered Blue Devil crossover, and an appearance in DC Comics Presents, so that probably helped in the perception of the comics’ apparent length.
The other thing that dawned on me was that the series wrapped up while I was still in high school, which doesn’t feel weird for anyone but me, I realize, but still, it seems like it’s more recent than that. Ah, well…tempus fugit, and all that.
I’ve since picked up the remainder of the series, which of course includes the first appearance of Lobo (which guides at a low $7.00, which sort of surprises me, except I suppose Omega Men print runs at the time were fairly large), and despite the occasional terrifying Kevin O’Neill art job, those earlier issues were fairly staid compared to the outright craziness of the McManus-era stories. Still fun, and worth checking out if you can find ‘em cheap, which they usually are.
So I don’t buy older back issues for myself too much anymore…partially because I just don’t have the budget to do so, and partially because I have far too many comics as it is, and it’s already a Heculean task awaiting those who have to clear out my home after my eventual demise. But, “he says, after going super-dark in the very first line,” I find a deal I can’t pass up, and this week’s deal is…
Anyway, I do love giant special comics…when I was a kid, I sought out those special anniversary issues, like Detective Comics #500 and Justice League of America #200…I bought the annuals, the anniversary issues, and a couple of decades back, I started collecting all of DC’s Eighty Page (then 64-page, then 48-page) Giants, back when they were still affordable. I used to fish DC’s 100-Page Giants out of the quarter bins, back when “aw, these are just reprints, who wants these” was the prevailing school of thought. I guess that’s just the…frugal side of my collecting bug, wanting more for my money.
Plus, there just seems to be some more…significant about the extra-sized issues. The historical value of the reprinted stories. The special event-ness of the superhero anniversary issues, where, like the “mythology” episodes of X-Files or Lost, something wrapped up, something concluded, something was revealed or something changed, where the running-in-place status quo actually seemed to run forward an inch or two (until maintainers of the franchise forced things to return to where they were). Or, like this Archie annual, the sheer amount of content you received for your money was in itself special, where you were getting, like it said on the cover, a “BIG COMPLETE BOOK” with a squarebound spine and everything, not like that floppy, thin, and not nearly as permanent-seeming magazine that you could get every month.
And as I drove home, with this copy of Archie Annual #9 sitting on the seat next to me, I thought about how there were once stacks of these sitting on newsstands over 50 years ago, in brand new condition, being bought by kids with their quarters, brought home, read, passed along to friends, confiscated by teachers, or left behind and tossed out when it came time for parents to reclaim the former rooms of their grown-up children, and how this copy, this very copy right here now sitting on my desk next to me as I type this, managed to survive the decades and end up with me. So thanks to that kid, who may have been seven or ten or so years old at the time, who’d be at least in his or her sixties now or just about, for investing your quarter so long ago and beginning the chain of events that continued with my Thursday purchase of this comic. And that chain will continue on when the time comes for this comic to move on to someone else.
To that person who eventually gets this comic, hopefully sometime in the distant future, who may think back about the people were part of the chain that eventually passed it down to him: you’re welcome.
Oh what in the Sam Hill is this?
Anyway, drink in the Jughorse, who certainly takes his place in the ranks of Disturbing Archie Pictures, along with this.
Speaking of this week’s comics, I had a couple of variations of this discussion (which ties in what I’ve been going on about over the last couple of days):
Customer (looks at Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #1): “So, is this a new Deadpool one-shot?”
Customer: “Oh, it’s another Deadpool mini-series?”
Me: “No, it’s the first issue in a new ongoing series.”
Customer: “So wait…Deadpool has two ongoing series now.”
Customer: (rolls eyes)
Some people bought, some people didn’t. But most people who commented on it demonstrated varying levels of disbelief.
Which, just as a tangent here, reminds me of something else that occurred to me today. our sales on the current version of the MAX-line Punisher and the sales on the created-pretty-much-just-to-tie-into-events Marvel Universe Punisher series together equal about what the MAX Punisher series on its own sold under Garth Ennis’s tenure. Of course, as it was pointed out to me, this is Garth Ennis writing the Punisher we’re talking about, so it may be a bit of an unfair comparison. But still, thought it was interesting to note.
Oh, and that Captain America: Reborn thing started this week, and while we did get our anticipated upsurge in interest from our regular clientele, Marvel’s hoped-for repeat of high demand from the general public for Cap’s death didn’t materialize. Which is why we don’t base our orders on the potential of media coverage, because 1) it may not happen, and 2) it may turn out nobody cares. I seem to recall talking a lot about this on the site around the time of Cap’s alleged death. Don’t really want to repeat myself, but I’m pretty sure you get the gist.
But our customers want it, and I got enough for them, and everyone’s happy. Looks okay, too, as these things go…I’m not really a Cap fan, and I can count the number of his comics I own on the fingers of one hand, if I use the hand with the extra pinky, so it’s not like I’m the target audience for this anyway. Hopefully the people who do read it enjoy it, and if it does generate some new Cap readership beyond the stunt aspects of this particular saga, even better.
Some good stuff that came out this week includes Muppet Robin Hood #2 (not the exercise in perfection that the Muppet Show comic is, but still amusing and well-drawn), Batman and Robin #2 (a streamlined machine of a comic, not a word or an image wasted and absolutely wonderful), Fantastic Four #568 (penultimate chapter of the Millar/Hitch run, with a guest-scripter over Millar’s plot…the build-up of what seems to be a truly menacing villain continues, though with one issue to go, I suspect the defeat will be relatively prosaic compared to what came before), Tales Designed to Thrizzle hardcover (the first four issues, now with the black and white bits in color, but still just as fantastic and funny), Prince Valiant Volume 1 (a new and gorgeous hardcover reprinting the Hal Foster original strips from 1937 and 1938), and Solomon Grundy #5 (sorry, my “Swamp Thing in the DCU” need is still not fulfilled, though this isn’t a bad read by any means).
I don’t normally buy current publications from Archie Comics, and when I do, it’s almost always books that reprint their work from the ’60s and earlier. Such was the case with last week’s Archie Digest #236, which reprints Archie’s first appearance from Pep #22, along with a full reprinting of Archie #1 from 1942.
One of the stories from Archie #1 has Archie involved in a series of mix-ups on a train with another passenger, and the poor railroad porter gets caught in the shenanigans as well. The porter looks and talks like this:
I’m not saying this shouldn’t have been reprinted as is. If you’re going to reprint your old material for historical purposes, it should be reprinted as it was, warts and all*. And that’s what folks have been doing…a glance through your Shazam Archives and your Golden Age Wonder Woman Archives, among others, will show you examples of political incorrectness similar to that bit of business with the porter. But these are high end reprints, aimed at comic collectors, who are presumably familiar with the poor way minority groups were portrayed. Disclaimers aren’t uncommon, noting the usage of such caricatures were typical of the time, and left unchanged for historical reference.
This Archie digest, however, is aimed at a young, general audience. It’s one of the few modern comics actually sold in places where people who aren’t comic fans shop. At my grocery store, they’re right up there at the checkout line, next to the TV Guide and the Weekly World News. How will kids take the porter’s portrayal — how will the parents? — particularly since there is no disclaimer that I can find noting the historical reasons for that portrayal.
I’m very curious as to the response Archie Comics will receive.
“Do you think we’ll ever see comic books back in supermarkets and convenience stores?”
It’d be nice, and in some cases apparently you can find comics in some convenience stores…but a widespread revival of this manner of distribution? Not unless 1) comics get a whole lot more popular, and 2) the profit potential for them is enough for store owners to risk valuable space on them.
“Do you think Gemstone will keep publishing Disney comics for very long?”
Hard to say…my gut feeling says “no,” since their number of publications has declined, and their prices have gone up. Their last Don Rosa reprint book has sold very well for us, though, so maybe there’s some life there yet.
“There are those who insist that monthly super-hero comics will be dead sooner rather than later. Do you see a trend in that department? What’s your take on the viability of our beloved monthlies?”
I think if the price point of the standard comic book goes much higher, something is going to have to give. My guess is a regular comic book will eventually undergo some form of evolution, possibly into a much thicker publication with more stories, at a slightly higher price point (but giving a higher perceived value to the reader), and just loaded with ads to help subsidize the cost of the magazine.
There are a lot of economic factors there that I’m overlooking (such as whether or not a comic book publication could attract enough ads, and get enough money from them). At the very least, I don’t think monthly books will go away, but they’ll have to become something new to give readers more perceived value for their money.
“Where the hell did all these investors come from in the first place? I mean, why did everyone suddenly get the idea that these comics would be worth a lot of money? Comics had been around for decades and decades, and then — all of a sudden, out of nowhere — all these non-comic book fans start investing in them? Why? Was there some sort of triggering event? I don’t get it.”
Apparently there was a large crash in the sports card market just prior, and it was just a lateral shift from collecting one thing to another…I don’t have exact details, but it appeared to be common knowledge at the time. I can personally testify to the number of investor-types requesting “comic book Becketts” — Beckett being the publisher of several sports card price guides — so that lends credence to that theory.
Also, the greater awareness of comics among the general populace, driven by movies and media-hyped events, combined with a possible economic downturn and plenty of newspaper stories dragging out the old “did you know old comics are worth money?” thing…that made comics a large, attractive target for investing, without all that “dealing with brokers” stuff.
“Oh, another question — why are you so remorseful about selling pogs? How is that any worse than selling, say, a trading card or an action figure? People wanted pogs, and they wanted to give you money in order to own them. What’s the big crisis of conscience there?”
Because I can see the value of a trading card or an action figure. Though technically, I realize, there’s only a slight difference between a trading card and a POG, but least trading cards were numbered, sometimes had cardback text, and could be put into sets. They had something to them. POGs (or, rather, milkcaps) were, with some exceptions, just random pictures on bits of round cardboard, and just felt to me like it was worthless junk. The alleged “game” involving milkcaps was essentially jacks or marbles, without the skill….you threw a heavy disc down onto a pile of cardboard discs. and you kept the ones that turned over, or some damned thing.
I understand this might just be bias on my part, since there are plenty of folks who think comics are worthless junk too, but even if customers were willing to part with their money for POGs, I felt like I was giving them nothing of value in return. I was essentially turning their money into crap. I know I should feel like this when I sell someone a copy of, say, Purgatori, but I don’t.
Yeah, cheap shot at Purgatori, sorry, but I can accept that someone might find entertainment value in that comic. Somehow. I just don’t see that value in milkcaps.