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So a while back I mentioned in a footnote to this post that the above comic book, Superboy #208 from April 1975, was the first comic book I ever read featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes. Now, I don’t recall if I read this when it was new (which would be probably January or February 1975, given the usual difference between cover dates and the actual release dates) and I was five years old, or if my original copy was purchased from a used book store a bit later, when I was around, say, seven years old.
Either way, I was quite the young fellow when I was exposed to that weird-ass story where Lightning Lad stepped out of a spaceship left foot first, bad luck on his planet, and ended up losing an arm because of said bad luck! Okay, things weren’t quite what they seemed, but still, that stuck in my head for years, along with several other images and bits of dialogue from this issue that floated around in my brain. I’d long since lost my original copy, but picked up a replacement sometime later at my previous place of employment.
Now, at my current place of employment (being Sterling Silver Comics, located in the heart of lovely Camarillo, CA), I bought another collection of 1970s comics that was heavy on the Superman and Superboy comics. And in this collection was yet another copy of Superboy #208 (said copy scanned and posted above). As I was processing the collection, I did what I sometimes like to do with old comics and glace at the letters page, looking for missives from future comic creators, customers of mine from either shop (more common that you’d think!), or letters from around my local area. I never recalled doing this with my own copy of #208, so I went ahead and checked this copy, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a letter from someone from my own hometown:
…and that’s pretty neat an’ all, but I started thinking. As I recall, perhaps not every letter that appeared in these old comics were, shall we say, on the up-and-up. As in, “not actually written and sent in by real readers.” Whether it was just to fill up space, or to lead into a plug for other comics, or whatever, sometimes there was a little fudging of the truth in those letter columns. (I don’t know if the practice continues today, though in the ’90s a pal had a letter printed in a particular superhero comic that was edited from being critical to being quite praising, so there were still shenanigans of some sort going on.)
Anyway, this only comes to mind because two of the main drags in Oxnard, California are “Rose Avenue” and “Gonzales Road,” which actually intersect not too far from where I’m living now. Now, “Rose Gonzales” is hardly a rare or unusual name or anything, but that certainly seemed like quite the coincidence, like someone needed a name to attach to a letter (or a seeming excerpt from a letter), whipped out the Book o’Maps, picked “Oxnard” for the letter writer’s city, and picked out a couple street names to comprise the name as a gag. (I regularly spot letters with “Oxnard” or nearby “Ventura” addresses in ’60s and ’70s comics, so I imagine the city names were at least somewhat familiar to some editors.)
Now I have no idea if that’s what happened…granted, seems like a lot of work just to create authenticity for a line or two of inconsequential text to fill space in a layout. Could just as easily been “Mary Smith of New York” and it’s not like anyone was going to check. And I certainly can’t check now, as anyone involved in the editorial process here is either, um, departed, or not going to want to take any calls from a dude asking about 40-year-old letter columns they don’t remember.
I just thought it was an oddly interesting thing to note in this old comic that I have strong nostalgic feelings for…that now has an even stronger connection with its ties, real or spurious, to my hometown.
So one of the truisms I often repeat is that the great irony of owning a comic book store is having less time to read comics. I mean, I’m doing my best, and it’s not like I get all that many to begin with, but trying to find the free time to sit down and read them is quite the challenge. Usually, the evening after the new shipment arrives, I’ll try to get through as many as I can from the batch I’ve taken home, but if I don’t get through them all…well, generally, the ones I don’t finish will just roll over to the next week and add to the next pile of new comics, and you can see how this can turn into a problem.
Again, I don’t get all that many, but even falling behind on a couple series can build up the need-to-read stack faster than I’d care to see, especially with DC’s current biweekly schedule on a number of their titles. I am trying to put a little more effort into catching up, and I’m slowly doing so…and it’s not like there’s anything I’m particularly anxious to cut from my reading lists. I do like everything I’m reading at the moment, so there’s nothing that really stands out as being in need of a culling. And having this iPad and a Comixology account ain’t helping.
You may be wondering what all this has to do with the picture of The Joker: The Clown Prince of Crime trade paperback in the corner of this post, there. That, my friends, is a scan of a trade paperback I actually acquired in late 2013, when I was still at my previous place of employment, and I never made the time to actually sit down and read. Yes, even when I was but a mere manager of a comic shop, and not the All-Mighty Lord and Master of My Own Funnybook Store, I was having difficulty keeping up on everything I wanted to read. Usually, the periodicals would come first, then I’d make my way into the collections like these…which of course meant the trade paperbacks and graphic novels would sometimes sit around a bit before I’d finally get around to them.
And in this case…okay, it only took me three years. What reminded me of this book was the fact that I was going through The Formerly-Vast Mikester Comics Archive at home, found I had this comic in one of my boxes, remembered “oh yeah, I bought a trade that reprints all these,” and brought the comic to work to put out for sale. Simultaneously I also remembered “hey, I never got around to reading that trade paperback. I should do so.”
As it turned out, I’ve been a little under the weather lately…feeling better today, but in case you were wondering why I didn’t update this site with a Monday post this week, that’s why. But as such I’ve been resting at home in the evenings, and doing a little comic book readin’, and this Joker TPB was amongst the materials I’ve been perusing. Now, it’s a fun series, and one I’d been intermittently acquiring in singles (which I’ll tell you more about in a moment), but never finished, so this book fit my collecting bill, or, you know, something like that. It’s a breezy read, with entertainingly funny stories by Denny O’Neil, Marty Pasko, and Elliot S! Maggin with art by Irv Novick and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. It even makes an attempt at some slight continuity, with a consistent supporting cast, or at least recurring characters (such as the henchman named “Southpaw”). Every story pretty much ends with the Joker’s defeat, naturally, since he is a villain, despite being the star of this show.
One weird aspect of reading this series comes from both the change in preferred storytelling techniques from then ’til now, and the change in the actual portrayal of the Joker. Back in the ’70s, when this series first appeared, thought balloons revealing a character’s internal monologue were still a thing (and would continue to be a thing until mostly falling out of favor in recent years). As such, in this comic we were occasionally privy to the Joker’s “private” thoughts…not that anything deep or meaningful was revealed, no hidden motives or secret pasts referenced, but we were still given a peek into just what was going on in that head of his. This had bit of a “normalizing” effect on him, from my perspective, especially when contrasted with his appearances in more modern comics as an unknowable, terrifying monster with no thought balloons. Or at least fewer…don’t have every recent Joker appearance right in front of me, but my memory is that, given the de-emphasis on thought balloons in comic book storytelling, we weren’t given the same insight, as it were, into Joker’s thoughts as we did back in this series and other comics at the time.
Of course, adding to this contrast is that the older version of the Joker is more…well, “friendly” is almost certainly the wrong word, but was definitely more a cartoony, funny character who shocked you by also being a murderous clown, versus the modern Joker who from the get-go absolutely looks like he’s going to kill you and everyone you know. Not saying one version is better than the other, but it’s interesting to note the change.
Another neat bit I took from the trade paperback: the very idea of a “crooked entomologist,” as per this panel:
Selling black market beetles? Smuggling drugs via luna moths? Waiting for his moment to make his strike against the world? “RISE, MY POTATO BUG ARMY, RISE!” I love the idea of an entomologist just pretending to be a fine, upstanding insect scientist by day, while committing the most heinous of crimes at night. BUG CRIMES.
Anyway, I’m glad I’ve finally got to read this book, after it had been sitting on shelf at home, unloved, all this time.
Now, the first time I read an issue of this series, it was from buying a copy of #1 at one of the monthly comic book conventions in Los Angeles, sometime in the late 1980s. This was prior to the release of the first Tim Burton Batman movie, so sales and prices on Bat-stuff hadn’t yet gone completely crazy, which is why I was able to find a copy of The Joker #1 in someone’s dime box. No, not a dollar box, or even a quarter box, but a dime box. For a measly 10 cents, I got my hands on that first issue. As I recall, it was the only comic I bought from that particular dealer…making him give me change back from my dollar for this one lowly issue. No idea what other treasures I passed up there…probably stacks of Incredible Hulk #181 and Uncanny X-Men #137, but I had that Joker #1 and that was all I needed.
And then the Tim Burton Batman movie came out and everyone lost their minds and I ended up eventually selling it for, like, $30, so there you go.
Not long after the Burton film and the attendant Bat-price increases, when I was still just a fresh-faced young kid working at the comic book store, one of our regulars fished a copy of The Joker #1 out of our 50-cent boxes. Needless to say, this wasn’t a 50-cent comic any more at that point, but we played fair and sold it to him at that price, with both of us knowing what a deal he got. Naturally, after he left, we zipped through the bargain boxes to make sure no other “great deals” were to be found. And nope, just a bunch of DC’s 100-Page Giants from the 1970s…those were mostly all reprints, and nobody was ever going to pay big money for any of those, ever.
So longtime internet pal PTOR reminded me that he did a pretty thorough job a few years back covering that Dr. Strange calendar I featured in Wednesday’s post. He’s an huge Dr. Strange fan — you know, one of those guys! — and I of course recommend that you check out his post about that great old calendar.
And what better day than today, opening day (more or less) for the new Doctor Strange movie, starring that one person and co-starring that other lady! Anyway, word is that it’s pretty good, if very Marvel-formulaic…I saw someone on Twitter (I forget who) say something along the lines of “don’t worry about any spoilers…at this point, what about these films will surprise you?” But if you enjoy Marvel movies, and I generally do, here’s another one to watch.
And with that stirring endorsement, let’s move on to some other topics:
- Tomorrow, November 5th, will be the second anniversary of the opening of Sterling Silver Comics, my little comic shop that could, located in the heart of Camarillo, CA. I’m still here! I’m still selling comics! They haven’t run me out of town yet! Thanks to all you folks out there for your support, financial, emotional, and otherwise. I’m still growing the business, but things have been going fairly well so far. Not filthy rich yet, but I’m sure that’ll happen at some point in the next four to six months.
- You may remember my discussion of a recently acquired iPad and my particular strategy vis-à-vis personal back issue collecting. Well, when I went to purchase the recent Boo! anthology (which I’m linking to again because in the first version of this post I stupidly left out the link), I also decided to grab the first issue of Kamandi, which has been a ridiculously giant hole in my Jack Kirby reading for far too long. They had the first couple of dozen issues up there for 99 cents a throw, and with the upcoming Kamandi Challenge being a must-buy (since I adored the previous DC Challenge), I figured it wouldn’t hurt to grab an issue every other week or so. It’s not like I wasn’t familiar with the concept, but “knowing about a Jack Kirby comic” and “having a Jack Kirby comic straight-up just punch you in the face” are two different things. It’s a fun read, as I’m sure most of you know already, and the suicidal despair felt by Kamandi, as he’d rather die and take everyone with him instead of living as a pet in a world of intelligent animals, was a much darker turn than I was expecting. That Kirby fella, he knows how to get your attention. Looks like I’ll be picking more up in the future…and trying very hard not just to buy them all at once.
- And no, they don’t have the ’60s Metal Men up there yet. That I probably would buy all at once.
- Another thing I downloaded just last evening was the new DC Legends game. Ah, what the heck, it was free, and I guess Swamp Thing is in it, so hell, why not. I mostly avoid mobile games because I have this terrible fear that I’ll inadvertently make in-app purchases and suddenly I’m in for $500 of, I don’t know, Swamp Thing tuber upgrades and extra power rings. That actually doesn’t appear to be an issue here, though after playing through the introductory screens I’m still not 100% certain what’s going on and what everything means, since I’m old. But some of the animations are pretty neat, and the “cut-scene” dialogue is amusing (“You only show up when we’re all screwed!” Zatanna says to the Phantom Stranger at one point), and it’s fun to touch the screen and watch things explode, in case you’re wondering where my brain is at right about now.
So a couple of weeks ago my parents got themselves a pair of new iPhones, and as part of the deal they received a couple of free iPad Minis. They kept one, and gave the other to me.
Now I was trying to figure out what to do with it, exactly…I have another tablet, a Nook, which I used primarily for book readin’, as I generally used desktop computers for fooling around on the internet. But given my recent entry into store ownership (that store being Sterling Silver Comics, located in the heart of beautiful Camarillo, CA) and my increased work hours, I’ve been falling behind on my reading, be it comic books, actual physical novels or virtual novels on said Nook. Now, I did power up the Nook again just recently, to take advantage of the recent ebook settlement credit I had in the Barnes and Noble account to finally get that final Dexter novel, and I totally plan on reading it as soon as I finish these other two books I’m in the middle of (yes, two, I paused reading one to read the other). If it takes me this long to get around to reading something on my Nook (which I do enjoy, by the way), what am I going to do with yet another tablet?
Well, I think I may have found a possible use…the Comixology app.
GASP! What? A gentleman whose livelihood depends on the selling of physical media comic books, delving into the digital alternative of same? MONOCLE LOSS: IMMINENT.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Mostly I poked around some of the free offerings just to see what reading a digital comic on one of these newfangled contraptions was like. Of course, I tried it out with Swamp Thing #1 (1972), and enjoyed the guided reading, where it goes from panel(s) to panel(s), zooming in when necessary, as you swipe the screen from page to page. (I did notice Swamp Thing’s word balloon from this page was miscolored…don’t know if that was a deliberate artistic choice or a mistake.) Anyway, for an Old Person like myself who still prefers holding an actual comic book in my hand, I found the Comixology thing an interesting novelty. I know many people find it a convenience, and it’s certainly a cost-effective way for smaller publishers to get their material into the marketplace.
Now, while I would prefer comics on actual paper, the digital alternative does seem to solve a particular dilemma I have as an owner of an Actual Comic Book Store That Sells Actual Back Issues.
Recently, I acquired another collection of ’60s and ’70s comics, including a small stack of Metal Men. Metal Men is one of those series I’d always meant to collect…it was one of those series I’d planned on tackling after finishing my run of the original Doom Patrol, though after completing that run, I never got around to seeking out the other series. It’s not like I didn’t have opportunity, as my previous place of employment usually had a good selection of them. But it was financial constraints, not really wanting to get started on chasing down more comics, getting distracting by other shiny objects…there were a whole lot of reasons why I never got around to it.
And here we are, years later, at this point in my comic collecting, and I’m still not really looking to start yet another back issue hunt. Yes, I’m still filling holes in my ’70s Atlas/Seaboard comics, I need a couple more comics to round out my Inferior 5, and I’ll grab any fanzines that come within reach, but I’m now buying back issues to resell in the store, not to fill my own boxes at home. I need to show some restraint, as any old comic I decide to keep for myself is suddenly a comic that’s not going to make me any money. As much as I’d love to take all these recently-acquired Metal Men home and love them and pet them and squeeze them and call them George, I need them to make me some scratch. I don’t even particularly want to “borrow” them and take them home, since it might take me a while to get through them and I don’t want to take a chance on losing a sale. (And no, I don’t really have time to read comics at the store.)
Here’s where the digital comics thing comes in. If I were to buy them as digital comics, that’s not taking product out of my store that I could resell, and that reduces the time I’d spend searching for these. I don’t necessarily need to have all these Metal Men in the original physical format…I’d just like to read them, and digital versions would be good enough.
Of course, after thinking about all that, it turns out those original Metal Men are not available through this app, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time. If DC eventually does some softcover color editions, as opposed to the high-end DC Archives or that black and white Showcase book, I’d rather get those, but digital would be fine. But this particular strategy might come in handy for any other older comics I’d like to read but not take away from store stock…or even comics that I’m likely not to see anytime soon, like that New York World’s Fair book.
So this iPad Mini looks like an interesting way to supplement my comics reading…I certainly don’t want digital to replace my beloved physical comics, but I realize the day may come sooner than I’d want it. Just give me two or three decades to make a living off of selling actual items before you younglings push Old Man Mike out of the way to download Marvel’s newest line of monthly first issues.
Trouble with Comics had a massive response to Question Time this week…so massive that the responses were posted in three parts, all of which can be found here. The Question this time around is “what are your three favorite current titles?” and you can find my response at the end of Part Three.
Also, Twitter pal Ryan is Kickstartererering a comics-related novel he’s written, Four Color Bleed, and you can check out the details about that, including a preview sample of the novel, right here. Plus, my pal Weshoyot is one of the artists on the project, so you’ll be helping her out, too!
• • •
A few days ago I was chatting with pal Nat, and somehow the topic came up about a particular bagged four-pack of comic books published by Hamilton Comics in the mid-1990s that was distributed exclusively through the Walmart store chain. Three of the included books were the Eek! the Cat mini-series, pictured here in a scan “borrowed” from this eBay auction:
Nat wrote one of the stories featured in this comic, which is why he owns a couple of copies of the four-pack, and also why he was able to let me know the fourth comic in said pack was inexplicably the comic book adaptation of the Alex Winter/Tom Stern horror/comedy film Freaked:
(Image also “borrowed,” this time from the Comic Book Database.)
Now, why Eek! the Cat and Freaked were paired up like this, aside from Hamilton having these apparently piled up in a warehouse and undistributed to comic book shops (sadly, because I would have been all over that Freaked comic) I don’t know. But this was bit of an oddity, I thought, and what use is this blog if I can’t showcase oddities?
So here’s a Superman comic that I bought off the stands way back in 1983. That’s a scan of the actual comic, straight out of my collection, up there. There’s nothing particularly of-note about it, as individual issues go. It’s not a key issue, no first appearances (aside from Superman’s “brother,”
whom I believe is never seen again), not particularly scarce by any means. Just your plain ol’ Superman comic, with a dime-a-dozen Gil Kane cover, and yet another art job, the latest in a string of hundreds of assignments on the character, from Curt Swan. Another story by Cary Bates (plot only this time, scripted by Paul Kupperberg).
So, you know, nothing special…
…we thought at the time.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to wander into a local newsstand (or even my own store, though that dispels the nostalgia somewhat) and be able to pick up a new Superman comic, with another wonderful Gil Kane cover like the one above, with more beautiful Curt Swan art, written by either Cary Bates or Paul Kupperberg…or, you know, both. Or with Kurt Schaffenberger art. Or with Elliot S! Maggin scripts.
Or…well, you get the idea. The Superman comics were always just sort of there, but looking back at them today, knowing that exact style of Superman comic will likely never return…well, they all seem a little more special now.
Even the ones where Superman meets a brother he didn’t know he had. No, really. And his brother’s a secret agent! It’s all pretty awesome.
EDIT: See the comments for more comic book appearances of Superman’s brother.
Before we begin, don’t forget to give me your 2016 comic industry predictions so that I can talk about ’em in 2017. NOW BACK TO THE POST, WHICH IS ALREADY IN PROGRESS:
So my old pal Brandon asked me on the Twitter the other day if I’d ever written anything on this here comic book blogging website about DC’s 1960s “War That Time Forgot” series in Star Spangled War Stories.
Now, “The War That Time Forgot,” for those of you who don’t recall, revolved around a lost island where U.S. soldiers would occasionally find themselves stranded, and oh yeah, there were dinosaurs on that island, too, resulting in situations not unlike this one:
And honestly “soldiers fighting dinosaurs” is second only to “Native Americans fighting dinosaurs” when it comes to the Best High Concept Comic Book Premise of All Time.
As it turns out, for me personally, as a collector, I had room for only one “________ fighting dinosaurs” comic book in my ongoing quest of unknowingly building stock for the eventual opening of my own comic book store, and Turok Son of Stone was the funnybook what got the nod. That’s not to say I didn’t try…I did have a few of those Star Spangleds in the Vast Mikester Comic Archives over the years, but had long since traded them off for other comics more to my liking. Not that I didn’t like them…they were goofy fun, and well drawn as DC’s war books often were, but I decided I couldn’t collect everything and decided to part with them.
A large portion of these stories have been reprinted in one of DC’s black and white “Showcase Presents” softcovers. My pal Brandon hopes for a second volume, but the Showcase line’s output has slowed down considerably, and despite that, I don’t think there really are enough of the War That etc. tales to fill a second volume, unless DC padded it with other oddball stories from their war books. There ain’t no shortage of those, surely. TWTTF was revived a couple of times in G.I. Combat and Weird War Tales, so maybe those can be plugged in as well. And there were more modern revivals in a couple of DC mini-series from within the last decade or so, but those wouldn’t fit tonally.
That’s all probably moot, anyway, as unless there’s a War That Time Forgot: The Movie And/Or TV Show on the CW Starring Good-Looking 20-somethings Playing Teens Playing Dinosaurs in the works, a Showcase volume 2 or some kind of color omnibus aren’t going to happen. NOTE TO READERS: this is where you jump into the comments and tell me that Amazon has a Volume 2 listed for a 2018 release that I somehow missed in my Googlings.
I do remember, at the previous place of employment, that we received enormous numbers of requests for these throughout the 1990s and maybe into the 2000s, and DC’s war books were hot hot hot. I don’t know if that’s quite the thing any more, as I can’t recall the last time we had folks banging our doors down for them, but I imagine there’s still some brisk business to be done in old dinosaur war comics. I mean, c’mon, “dinosaur war comics” is a phrase that forever pays…surely they’re still circulating among fans new and old.
One weird thing is that in the middle of all those War That Morris Day and The Time Forgot comics was one issue that skipped that regular feature in favor of one of the greatest comic book stories of all time:
Possibly the only story better than soldiers or Native Americans fightin’ dinosaurs is that. In case you’re wondering…yes, I had that issue in my Star Spangleds and kept it when I sold off the others. I have the complete Sgt. Gorilla run, and couldn’t bear to break it up.
So for this week’s Question Time over at ye olde Trouble with Comics, we were asked about the greatest comics gift we’d ever received. (You can read Alan’s response, posted separately as a Stan Lee’s Birthday special). As per usual, I delved into the inquiry at length, relating a gift I received when I was but a young Mikester. But it got me thinking about the number of comic book gifts I actually have received over the years.
As I say in my excessive preamble to the response over at TWC, I usually didn’t get comics as gifts because either 1) I bought what I wanted during my trips to the comic shop, or 2) I bought what I wanted during my work hours at the comic shop. I sorta feel funny asking other people to buy me comics, a habit that continues to this day as I was recently admonished for not informing a certain significant other that a book set I’m thinking about buying for myself could have been a good Christmas gift for her to get for me.
That said, there have been a couple of comic book presents I’ve received over the years. The most recent were a handful of Starman trade paperbacks, catching me up on the James Robinson series I’d just started reading, but that was some years ago.
A few years prior to that (which may have been just before my entry into comics retail) was a massive tome that caught my eye after being drawn back into world of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics in the mid-1980s. It was Don Rosa (whose work I’d enjoyed in various fanzines) that got me back into the Disney books, but that got me to rediscover Carl Barks, and boy, when I saw this book on the shelves at the comic book store:
I had to have it. Several classic Barks stories, fully recolored, in a nearly 400 page volume that stands 13 inches tall. It’s something else. One thing I remember is that my mother, who used write inside any books purchased as gifts “to my son, Christmas ’82” or whatever, told me that she specifically didn’t write anything inside this book if I ever decided to resell it. Well, fat chance of that happening…even having nearly all the stories inside reprinted elsewhere, this is a special enough item that I don’t want to let it go. There’s even an introduction by George Lucas, with whom some of you may be familiar.
And earlier than that, I received this book as a gift for my 12th birthday:
This extensive encyclopedia helped put some of the pieces together on Superman’s early adventures, which I was only getting here and there in assorted reprints. It certainly helped explain who, say, the Ultra-Humanite was, after I read his reappearance in a Justice League/Justice Society crossover event. And they’re not kidding about the “book length biography of Superman” — Superman’s entry, and nearly every other character’s entry, is essentially a chronological summary of purt’near every appearance of that character. I spent many hours perusing this book, and it wasn’t so long ago that DC reprinted this in softcover, so you can check it out yourself if you’d like. This is a precursor, in a way, to the Marvel Universe/DC’s Who’s Who comics, though the Great Superman Book is a little more convenient in giving specific issue numbers for story events beyond just first or last appearances.
One thing I found odd at the time was that the cut-off date for materials referenced in the book was, with few exceptions, the mid to late 1960s despite being published in 1978, but now that I think about the amount of time that had to be spent researching this book (i.e. the “seven years” they mention right on the cover), they had to draw the line at some point. Still, sort of odd to have no entries for “Morgan Edge” or “Darkseid,” but this is still a wonderful reference book for the Golden and Silver Age adventures of Superman.
There were others in this series, covering Batman and Wonder Woman (and also reprinted by DC in the last few years) but I don’t think I ever saw them in the wild when I was a kid. Which is just as well…just one of these volumes kept me busy enough.
And I think that was it for funnybook presents. I mean, I did keep bugging Santa for a Yummy Fur #9, but I ended up having to buy it myself. Which is just as well, since I was beginning to get odd looks at the mall whenever I sat on Santa’s lap to ask for it.
So early on in my store’s history, I made a crack or two on the Twitters about now being able to get all the comics I want for freeeeee, about loading up on DC Archives, etc. which alarmed a couple of retailer pals. I promised them I was only joking, that I’d be a responsible consumer. In fact, if anything, I’m probably getting fewer comics now…I’d rather leave ’em on the shelf for customers. (For example, see my answer to the first question here.)
That goes for graphic novels/trade and hardcover collections as well. My plan was to replace some of the comics I gave up to the shop (like Preacher and Invisibles) with the reprint collections eventually, but I’m in no great rush. Those particular titles aren’t in any danger of going out of print anytime soon, and even if they do, they should be in enough supply that copies will probably be available on Amazon forever.
As for new collections, I’m trying to restrict myself to items I’d already been acquiring, like the Complete Peanuts books. Only one volume to go in the series, kinda dumb to stop now. There are collections I’d love to own, like the Eightball slipcase, but I already have all the comics (which I didn’t give up to the shop!) so I’ll just leave that on the shelf for someone else.
But once in a while, I gotta splurge, as I did for the complete Puma Blues hardcover this week:
Look at the size of that thing. Here’s a better look at the cover, from Diamond’s site:
This is an beautifully-illustrated ecological sci-fi adventure/treatise/poem-kinda-sorta by Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli (and a small bit of material by Alan Moore) published in the mid-to-late 1980s. Some folks may remember the comic as being a bit of a pawn in a battle between its publisher, Dave Sim, and Diamond Comics.
It had been a while since I read it…in fact, I’m not sure I sat down and read it as a whole since it was originally released. I bought each issue as it came out, and, as I recall, I found it to be a challenging and enjoyable work. It’s one of those things that had always been in the back of my mind to revisit someday, as it’s still sitting there in one of my remaining back issue boxes at the house. When the solicitation for this hardcover popped up in Previews, noting that it included the previously-unpublished 40-page conclusion to the series…well, Fan Mike outvoted Retailer Mike on this one and made sure I ordered a copy for myself. (And one for the shelf, too…I don’t know if any customers will go for it, but I like having it there, so that’s good enough reason.)
And, well, here it is, in my hot little hands, waiting for me to peruse it. Also included is the Puma Blues #24 1/2 mini-comic, which I seem to recall having some copies floating around my old place of employment, though for the life of me I can’t remember how we got ’em. I have a vague memory that they were distributed with one of the original Puma Blues trade paperbacks. At any rate, I never got one, so that’s a little more added value to the book.
Just briefly glancing through it, the reproduction seems nice and clear…no idea if it was shot from the original art, or scanned from printed pages, but it looks nice, especially now that it’s on white paper instead of newsprint (not that the newsprint was all that egregious). The original color covers are not reproduced…in fact, I’m not sure if the covers are in there at all, which is a shame as they were quite lovely. But overall, this is quite the tome and I’m glad to have it.
Well, now I’m at the point where the to-read pile of comics is beginning to creep every so slightly upwards each week, as I find myself with decreasing amounts of time to keep up with them. The side effect of owning a store, surely, particularly since it’s still just me running the place seven days a week, so “free time” is no longer the easily-obtainable commodity it once was. “Read ’em at work,” I’m sure someone may cry out, but I’m generally too busy trying to make some coin of the realm while at the shop, and I’m sure it wouldn’t help matters any for comic book guys ‘n’ gals across the nation to perpetuate the idea of “wow, a job where you just sit around and read comics all day…sounds like hard work, har har.”
It’s not as if I get all that many comics, either. And I manage to make time to read the Peanuts reprints and last week’s release of Kate Beaton’s new book, so it’s not as if I have towers of unread runs of Those Other Avengers and Swamp Thing’s Kung-Fu Force teetering over me in my Gentleman’s Reading Room. Like I said, it’s a slow creep, a small stack getting gradually, almost imperceptibly higher each week, filling me with no small amount of nostalgic lament for the days when I’d bring home the week’s new comics, and just sit there and read ’em ’til I was done with the stack. Now I have my allotted comic reading time, where I read what I can until I have to go on and do whatever the next thing is.
Okay, it’s not quite as regimented as that, but I’m a little more aware of the free time I have and more careful about how I spend it. Like spending an hour or so every other night writing a comics blog.
Some of the comics that are getting backlogged on me:
The Maxx – Sam Keith and William Messner-Loebs’ weirdo Image comic from the early days of the company, now being reprinted issue-by-issue by IDW. I read the first six issues of the original release back in the ’90s, and cut it from my reading list in a cost-saving measure, I think, and sort of regretted it ever since. I fell behind on reading the newest reprintings, but knowing this is a finite run makes it easier to deal with. I suspect this comic holds together better reading all together over a short period of time, anyway, rather than absorbing it in monthly installments.
Haunted Horror and Weird Love – two of Craig Yoe’s bimonthly reprint series, which are great, don’t get me wrong. However, being as how most of the stories contained within date from a time when comic publishers weren’t scared of piling the text into each panel, it can take a little longer to properly appreciate each issue. Which is great…get that $3.99’s worth out of each installment, but sometimes they get sorted to the bottom of the pile as other, more current, more easily absorbed titles get read first.
Miracleman – well, sure, I read ’em all the first time when Eclipse Comics published them decades ago, and still have those issues in what’s left of The No Longer Quite So Vast Mikester Comic Archives. I’m still buying the reprint issues, partially to appreciate the recoloring/remastering, partially to complain, and partially to support the series so that we can finally get the new Miracleman stories by Gaiman and Buckingham, picking up from where they left off twenty years ago, or whatever it was. Tends to get left for last because I don’t feel like prying off the mostly-unnecessary polybags.
In conclusion, “a bloo-bloo, I don’t have time to read my funnybooks,” which is the whiniest of my complaints ever. I think I’m in good shape, though, so long as I don’t backlog myself into a warehouse full of boxes filled of unread comics, awaiting that day I’m bedridden with some horrible yet non-reading-impairing illness that will allow me to catch up.
And that’s just comics. Here’s a stack of hardcovers sitting on an endtable in the bedroom, and the Netflix queue, and…ugh, someone tell the Grim Reaper I can’t fit death into my schedule for the next few decades, I have too much entertainment to follow.
• • •
This week’s Question Time over at Trouble with Comics addresses the most terrifying of queries: “DO COMICS MATTER?” The answer is of course, NO WAY, NUH UH, FORGEDDABOUDIT…well, okay, we all say they do, more or less. SPOILERS. Also, this time around everyone’s question is put up as a separate blog entry, so this little ol’ link here
to this week’s question time should take you to all of them. You’ll need to scroll down a bit to see mine…stop when you find that one somewhat familiar picture of me (which has been altered ever so lightly).
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