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I’ve had a particularly long Tuesday, so all I have energy for, before I crumble to dust before your eyes, is to type out this link to Pal Andrew, who has answered my question posted to him re: his favorite Swamp Thing story.
I should ask him more Swamp Thing questions…he’s good at answering them!
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!
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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?
In regards to my previous post, pal Andrew had his own take on the decline of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and makes a cogent argument that it wasn’t necessarily Zero Hour what done the deed.
And hey, blogging brother Tim has also opened the floor to questions, so while you’re waiting for me to finish answering what you’ve asked me, why not pick Tim’s brain?
BIG SPOILERS FOLLOWING for DC Universe Rebirth #1 (like you don’t know ’em already) and…well, I don’t really spoil Captain America: Steve Rogers #1
So anyway, about this:
First, I’m not thrilled about full spoilers for this comic getting spread all over the place days before it’s even available for sale. Comics can be a hard enough sell already, without removing yet one more incentive for buying. “What shocking surprises await within? Well, read this website and find out…save yourself buying the comic.” Gee, thanks guys, not like I didn’t order a pile of these for my shelves.
There are a couple of things that keep this from being entirely disastrous, saleswise. It could be that said spoilers might encourage people to pick up the comic, in a “I gotta see this” kind of way. Not to mention, actually reading the comic is an entirely different experience from reading a list of plot points. And there’s the fact that it’s 80 pages of comics for $2.99, which is a swell deal, though I suppose the more critically-minded may be of the “the food was terrible, but such great portions!” opinion on the matter.
Plus, there’s the fact that, believe it or not (and as I’ve mentioned on my site before) some people going to comic shops aren’t plugged into every social network and comic website, and their engagement with comic news begins and ends with walking into the comic shop, looking at the rack and picking out their books, and walking out again. Oh, and reading them eventually, too, I guess.
Anyway, I enjoyed the comic, and hopefully my customers will, too. Oddly enough, it’s actually strangely touching at one point, when a character who’s returned from the pre-New 52 universe finally connects with one of the rebooted characters. It’s probably as emotionally affecting as it is because it’s not just that we’re seeing these two characters reuniting, but that the fictional universe we readers thought was washed away forever may have a chance at coming back. Yes, that’s a silly thing to get emotional over, but I’m not made of stone.
I know DC has tried to walk back, or at least refurbish, revamps/reboots before…Kingdom and “Hypertime” being the most notable line-wide attempt at doing so. That the New 52/Flashpoint reboot was so obviously a last-minute decision, with the cracks showing almost immediately, the overall story premise of “Rebirth” being a pushback against a timeline purposefully inflicted by unknown parties upon the DCU certainly brings all these shenanigans to an almost metatextual level. That these parties appear to be the characters from Watchmen, one of the sources of the “grim/realistic” superhero trend that “Rebirth” appears to be rebuffing…well, no danger of subtlety of theme here, I suppose.
And speaking of which…holy crap, they’re using the Watchmen characters in a DC Universe thing. And not in a dream sequence, either. My guess is the same as when “Before Watchmen” was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world — Watchmen TP sales are moribund, and this is a way of spurring interest in the book again. Or maybe someone figured, hey, what the hell, this will get everyone’s attention, and lo, they were right.
Yes, yes, I suppose I should be angry about the violation of the sanctity of a classic work, but I have to tell you, I laughed and laughed. Partially because I’m amused by the idea of, I don’t know, Batman vs. Rorschach or something, and partially because I love seeing everyone else’s reaction to it. Anyway, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted and I’m sure I’m a bad person for thinking so.
Seriously, though, this whole “New 52 was an attack on the DCU” thing is a weird but interesting way of dealing with continuity issues, and would be quite clever if it were the planned outcome of the New 52 way back when, and not just a way to directly address a rushed reboot that didn’t quite take. This Rebirth one-shot is still an entertaining read for the continuity-minded superhero fan, a snapshot of where the DCU is now, what brought us here, what problems need to be resolved, and the sheer hilarious gall of bringing Watchmen into it. That’s gotta be worth your $2.99.
And you guys had to go and try to spoil this story for everyone, too! CAN WE NOT HAVE NICE THINGS
Turning out to be another Low Content Mode week at the ol’ site, due to other plans and Free Comic Book Day prep and so on. Sorry about that! One of those plans involved a family member buying me and the girlfriend tickets for Captain America: Civil War for a Thursday night viewing, so I’ll be rushing out of the shop and straight to that this evening. I’ve been hearing that it’s almost as good as Batman V Superman, but I guess I’ll see for myself soon enough.
I’ll probably get back to your questions starting next Monday, but in the meantime, remember to attend Free Comic Book Day this Saturday wherever you shop or bank, but try to come by my shop and meet ME ME ME and oh also Jaime “Love and Rockets” Hernandez, who’ll also be there, I guess. “Love and Rockets” is his actual middle name, by the way. I wouldn’t lie about that.
Also, I responded to the latest Question Time over at Trouble with Comics, re: my plans for convention season (do those plans involve excessive nudity? You’ll have to click that link to find out!). And pal Andrew is continuing his “Me and the Terrible ’90s” series, if you want to read good comics blogging, unlike what you’ve been finding on my site lately.
Anyway, happy Free Comic Book Day to everyone this weekend, and I’ll be back this Monday. Though I bet I’ll probably show up here before then plugging Free Comic Book Day again. Did I mention Free Comic Book Day? FREE COMIC BOOK DAY
First off, let me point you in the direction of pal Andrew’s latest endeavor, a personal retelling of his frontline battles that could only be called “Me and the Terrible ’90s.” That link will take you to Parts One and Two of the series, and will also show you the immediate precursors looking at awful merch ads from Wizard (as opposed to all those great merch ads). Anyway, it’s more great writing from Andrew, and that’s always worth celebrating.
Now, if I may plug myself (“…In public!? GASP”), here is the most recent Question Time over at Trouble with Comics, in which we discuss those creator(s) that we did not like at first blush, but gained an appreciation for as time went by. Please note my use of the parenthetical pluralization on “creator(s)” is mostly theoretical, as each and every one of us somehow managed to pick the same person. And it’s the worst person we could have picked for this. We are all horrible people. At least I can manage to lightly salve my soul with the knowledge that I once got to shake this person’s hand and thank him for all his great work. I don’t know what all those other guys at TWC are gonna do. (Also, the last link in my answer is supposed to go to this…not sure how that other link got published, since the correct link is in my final draft of the response, but we’ll get it fixed!)
Now let me address a couple of questions from my latest “ask me stuff” post:
Thom H. ashks:
“Any thoughts on the Ellis/Shalvie/Bellaire book Injection? I think it’s the best book on the stands right now — not to mention the best thing Ellis has written in years — and I don’t see much written about it on the Internet. How does is sell for you? Have you read it? How does it compare to other Ellis work in your opinion? etc. etc.”
I haven’t had a chance to read it…the dread irony of owning a comic shop is less time to read comics, I’m sure I’ve said before. But, it’s selling reasonably well for an Image book…not Walking Dead heights, no, but certainly better than some of their D.O.A. titles. It has a consistent following, and the occasional latecomers who catch up on the back issues. It’s also one of the few comics that customers regularly point out to me as one of their favorites, so…you know, that’s encouraging. As far as how it compares to other Ellis titles…well, like I said, I haven’t read it, but that customers are regularly talking about it makes it probably one of his most well-received books since Moon Knight.
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Jay from Tennessee graces my land with
“Of course in your opinion, what is the best series of Shadow comics in the past 40 years and why?”
Well, that would be the Andrew Helfer/Kyle Baker run during the late 1980s…actually, the whole 19-issue run was good, with Bill Sienkiewicz on the first story arc, and the four-issue mini-series that kicked this iteration of the Shadow off, by Howard Chaykin, is a hoot as well. But Helfer/Baker’s particular brand of irreverence and black humor really did it for me, and you were never quite sure just what horrible thing was going to happen next. That they managed to (um, SPOILER ALERT, I guess) kill the Shadow and keep him dead for several issues was a remarkably entertaining feat, and the cover to the final issue is a thing of beauty.
I’ve read and liked other Shadow comics since, but they all seem so staid and mannered compared to the freewheeling craziness of Helfer/Baker’s run. I did write a bit about this series over a decade ago, so some of the links in that old post are going to be broken. Sorry about that! But this was a fine series, and now it’s been 27 years since I started waiting for that one-shot to wrap it all up!
Congrats to pal Nat for winning an award for his Snoopy Treasures book!
And here’s a reminder that I’m still taking your questions and suggestions for the blog right here. I may start responding on Tuesday, due to my needing to get an early start for something on Monday and possibly won’t want to stay up late Sunday working on the site. …I’m the worst blogger.
1. I’m still taking questions and/or topics for discussion re: this crazy comics business we’re all interested in, if you’d like to contribute any. I’ll probably start going through them this coming Monday.
2. The latest Question Time over at Trouble with Comics involves creators we once liked but not so much anymore, and my response is more about my changing attitudes and perceptions rather than a reflection on the creator in question. It’s not you, pal, it’s me.
3. Hey, pal Dave resurfaced at his currently-retired site to present a comic he wrote.
Sorry, haven’t had a whole lot of blogging time this week, but I did contribute an extensive thingy to the latest Question Time over at Trouble with Comics in which we were asked our opinions on variant covers for comic books. And opinions we did have, let me tell you, friend.
Pal Andrew wrapped up his month-long visit with the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Shrinking Violet, and had a few smart words to say about both her and the franchise from which she was born.
Bully, the Little Bull Stuffed with Atomic Breath, presents one of the greatest confrontations ever unleashed within the pages of a Marvel comic.
And in case you missed it…the End of Civilization returned to the virtual pages of Progressive Ruin earlier this week. Sorry, I didn’t realize I’d let the feature rest for so long. I can’t promise it every month, but I won’t let half a year go by again without one.
So the other day a lad and his grandmother came to the shop to look around, and everything was going well until the grandmother took a close look at the new comics rack and exclaimed “comics cost $3.99!?” It was a bit of sticker shock for her, as that was quite a bit higher than the new comic prices she remembered from her youth.
I mentioned this on the Twitters, and as the discussion continued from my initial post there, I realized there were two different issues that were perhaps being conflated. The first issue, and the one of greatest interest to those of us who regularly consume this particular artform, is that of perceived value. “Did I get my $3.99’s worth out of this comic?” “Did I just blow through this $3.99 comic filled with splash pages and no dialogue in two minutes?” “Did I just spend 20 minutes slowly absorbing the intricacies of dialogue and appreciating the beautifully-rendered art?” All questions we’re familiar with, I’m sure. And it is an important concern, that everyone from the reader to the publisher to the retailer needs to worry about: is the product worth it?
There’s no simple answer, of course. Maybe you don’t like the all-splash page comic with no dialogue, but maybe someone else loves the art in that comic and is thrilled to have huge images and no text to get in the way. Maybe I like dialogue-heavy comics that take me a while to read, and maybe someone else thinks if they wanted to read a prose novel, they’d have bought one. Everyone decides for him-or-herself if the price they’re paying for a comic is worth the value they get from it.
Anyway, we’re all comics people, we know all that. But the other issue I was thinking about, based on that grandmother’s response to seeing the price, was the very fact that the price itself is a barrier to new readers, independent of whether or not the contents could deliver on the cost of admission.
This isn’t a very deep topic, admittedly. “High price drives away customers” – no dur-hay, right? But it reminded me of when I wrote about DC’s “The New 52!” slug that they had on their covers for the last few years. For those “in the know,” it told us “hey, this is part of DC’s newly-rebooted continuity!” For anyone else who hasn’t read comics, it told them “you have no idea what this means, so clearly this isn’t for you.” Even though the New 52 initiative is no longer marketed as such (ending when it did just as reader Ray predicted), the phrase still exists on back issues and on the trade paperbacks and I still hear “hey, what does this mean” from folks new to the industry all the time.
Basically, it’s something on the cover that warns people not already reading comics “this is not for you.” And maybe the higher price points on the regular monthly series (currently averaging $3.99, with Marvel slowly getting us used to $4.99) are yet another warning. Okay, maybe it’s mostly a warning to people who remember when comics were ten or fifteen or thirty-five cents and have somehow wandered back into a comic shop only to discover 1) wait, they’re still making Howard the Duck? and 2) it’s $4.99 a throw? And I don’t think four bucks is too bad a price point for what you’re getting…that’s like a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards (I think…it’s been a while since I’ve had to sell any), or…fancy coffee, I guess? But it’s not “toss the guy a coin and not think about it” pricing…it’s not a significant amount of money, but it’s not nothing, either. And that’s just one more barrier to someone new to comics trying to decide if he or she really wants to take the plunge.
Again, this is hardly a new observation, but it brought me to think once again about what the breaking point is going to be. I’m sure those of us who were around a couple of decades back buying comics for, what, $1.25 or $1.50 each, would have laughed in your face if told we’d be buying essentially the same comics for $3.99. But here we are. And so far any comics that have been $4.99 or higher have had higher page counts or nicer production or some other aspect that improved the perceived value of the item. But then, so did $3.99 comics at one point. And so did $1.99 comics.
My thought was that eventually periodical comics would have to evolve into thick anthology magazines, front-loaded with ads to keep costs down, but attracting advertisers is a problem now for comics, too. So who knows where it goes from here…moving to a trade paperback-only model? Everyone moves to digital comics? Your pal Mike shutters his store and has to find a real job? I don’t know…it’s a thing I have to worry about, and it’s a situation that’s coming whether anyone likes it or not.
Boy, that’s cheery stuff, right? Anyway, this isn’t a “comics industry is doomed” thing, since people have been saying for decades that the business’s death is “five years away.” I’m just curious about what’s coming next, and hopefully whatever’s coming will appeal to new customers rather than try to block them out.
• • •
I wanted to post a brief note regarding pal Dave’s decision to end his blog
, at least for the time being. He’s one of my favorite writers…smart, funny, and very
insightful, with plenty of interesting things to say on a wide variety of topics which as I type it sounds like a remarkably generic thing to say about someone, but it’s really true in his case. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but his posts on the various games he’s played were just as fun to read as his occasional comics or movie post, which fell more within my specific wheelhouse.
I’m sorry he’s taking down his virtual shingle, but I’m glad he shared as much with us as he did. Plus, I still get to bother him on Twitter, at least until he blocks or mutes me. Thanks for all the good work, Dave, and hopefully we’ll see more from you in the future.
…but I just couldn’t do it. I got, I don’t know, about 40 minutes or so in, over a couple of attempts on consecutive nights, and decided it just wasn’t worth the effort. It did have 1) Helen Slater as a charming Supergirl despite everything, 2) Peter Cook being as Peter Cook-ish as the movie would allow, and 3) Matt Frewer in a brief role as a street creep, but that just wasn’t enough, I’m afraid. There is a fine line between the filmmakers allowing the viewer to fill in narrative gaps and filmmakers just not giving half a darn, and I’m afraid Supergirl veered more closely to the latter. It’s the kind of thing that brought us “Phantom Zone Villain Levitation-Ray Finger” and “Restore-Great-Wall-of-China-Vision” in the Superman films, the “who cares/it’s good enough” method of storytelling that tells anyone even vaguely familiar with the source material that they, and said source material, don’t matter enough to be treated with even the slightest respect.
I tried to be more charitable…even the venerated Superman: The Movie isn’t without its flaws, but even trying to view Supergirl as a near-dreamlike fairy tale, which one suspects was at least partially the intent, it’s just not very well done. Or it’s just that what passed for cutting-edge superhero movie-making in the mid-1980s just hasn’t aged well into the early 21st century. Or maybe I just plain wasn’t in the mood for it. Whatever the reason, it was more than I could bear, so back in the ol’ Netflix envelope it goes. Sorry, #1 Fan of the 1984 Supergirl Movie That I’m Sure I’ll Be Hearing from Soon.
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In other news: I’ve been trying to come up with a follow-up to my last post, in particular the response from blogging brother Tim, but I’ve been having a hard time of it. It’s a complicated issue, regarding how best to return an old series to the stands after years of absence, and there’s no good answer. You can just ignore what came before and start afresh (like Valiant), you can reissue everything previously published prior to starting new material, either in individual issues (Miracleman) or in book collections (Beanworld).
Or, in the case of the Badger, which, as I’d said before, is pretty continuity-light, just bring him back in new adventures and reintroduce old characters/situations as needed. Old fans will be satisfied, and new fans won’t feel like they’re out of their depth with missed backstory.
I don’t know…it’s tough, and anyone, from new creators to long-established ones, trying to claim a little space on retailers’ shelves among the multiple Batman and Deadpool comics has my sympathies and understanding. It’s a small, tough marketplace and you’ve got your work cut out for you.
• • •
In other, other news, pal Andrew will be featuring Shrinking Violet from the Legion of Super-Heroes all this month. Why, you may ask? Why not, I reply.
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