“Since you and GregA were discussing it on the Twitters and all … Did you find any more info about the proposed cancellation of Captain America back in the ’80s? That was at least a minor deal back then, and I seem to remember it was going to end around 300, with Cap being aged and having his ‘final’ victory over the Red Skull”
Yup…Twitter pal Greg posted a scan of a news item from an old Amazing Heroes (#69 from 1985, to be exact). I hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing said scan to present it here, since I’m too lazy to scan it myself:
My memory at the time is that is was kind of a minor deal, as you say. Mostly surprise that Marvel would even think about ending one of their…well, maybe not a flagship title, as such, but certainly a long-running title with one of their most famous, if not top-selling, characters. You know, back in the day when every ongoing series didn’t get relaunched every 18 months.
And yes, I did spend some time going through subsequent issues of Amazing Heroes trying to find any kind of follow-up on this announcement, as well as going through the Amazing Heroes Preview Specials that would preview the next few months’ worth of content for individual titles. Alas, I couldn’t track down what I was looking for, which was confirmation of my vague-ish memory of someone at Marvel basically saying “hey, we realized that we couldn’t cancel Captain America, of all titles — that would be be crazy!” I said in the Twitter thread that followed that my belief was that said cancellation might have been forestalled by licensing deals that might have been dependent on Marvel continuing to publish and support the character, but that’s just a mostly uninformed assumption on my part.
Anyway, I am relatively certain that it was said somewhere, in some news story or interview, that the cancellation of that particular title was reconsidered because of the nature of the character and its importance to Marvel. And, if I recall correctly, I think it was also said by someone that the title wasn’t actually in danger of cancellation, and that its inclusion on the list above was a mistake. Now, I owned and have read a lot of comic ‘zines over the decades, so I don’t know where exactly I saw all this…or even if I did, since I should probably accept that possibility. If anyone has more specific information, feel free to let me konw.
“Have you ever been witness to a major collapse of shelves or avalanche of comics?
I have seen some pretty precarious shelves in the backs of comics shops before and it was always a concern of mine going into the back room of your old place of employment (though admittedly that was purely anxiety driven).”
Well, true enough, the shelving in the back of my old place of employment was very end-of-Raiders of the Lost Ark-ish, with shelving stretching up to the ceiling, filled with countless comic boxes. It was all quite sturdy and secure, however, and in the three different locations that store had while I worked there, I don’t believe there ever was a major collapse or shelf failure.
Now, that one time someone busted in through the ceiling to steal some…uh, Witchblade and Spawn comics, I thought maybe some of our bookshelves out front were knocked over, but from the look of things it was just a huge mess made by broken ceiling tiles and insulation.
The only time I can remember any sort of in-store shelving collapse was a hook busting loose that connected a shelf to its supporting unit and a bunch of books falling off. No life-threatening epic disaster stories to tell, thankfully. But here’s something to tide you over:
Okay, it’s the third post regarding this particular publishing plan of DC’s from waaaay back in the ancient times of the 1980s. If you’re just joining us, you can read just exactly what the hardcover/softcover thing is in these twoposts. If you’ve been here for the whole exciting saga, you’ll be glad to know that, as promised, I did ask my old boss Ralph about sales on the New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes comics during that period.
As it turns out, sales in Ralph’s shop were pretty much as you’d expect. The new printing-on-fancy-Baxter-paper direct sales only series sold great, and their newsstand counterparts still sold quite well as long as they continued presenting new stories. Once the newsstand versions started to reprint the stories from the new direct-sales series, sales on the newsstand series plummeted. They did still sell a handful of copies, so either someone was still following the series in the cheaper format, or just completing the run, or it was simply random, non-consistent purchases from walk-ins not necessarily following the comics but just wanted something to read.
Ralph didn’t recall if there were any holdouts who didn’t want to spring for the extra cost of the newer series, but instead waited for those stories to be reprinted in the less-expensive partner series. However, some readers left comments saying they did just that, based on wanting to get the maximum comics bang for their bucks with the limited amount of financial resources at hand. So, you know, I would guess that this particular buying strategy was a tad more common than I assumed.
I also asked Ralph if there was any grumbling from his regulars about now having to buy two series of, say, New Teen Titans a month, instead of the normal one. He didn’t really recall any, as it seemed to him at the time customers were excited about the new higher-quality Baxter-format comics, even at the higher price. Plus, DC picked a couple of series with strong enough fanbases that the prospect of more material available each month was generally welcome. …Man, that was a long time ago.
Personally, I dutifully bought both versions of New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes, up until the newsstand books went into reprints (except for the initial Titans one, since that reprinted the first appearance, which I didn’t have at the time, and a story from a DC digest which I did already have, but didn’t mind having in the full-sized format). I suspect, for readers who had the scratch and were within hopping, skipping and/or jumping distance of a devoted funnybook store, that was usually, but not always, the case.
Reader Michaellikened this to Marvel’s 1990s experiment with direct sales/newsstand editions of some of their books, like X-Men and Wolverine. However, the wait time between releases was only a couple of weeks or so, and the pricier, fancier version came out first, with the less expensive version on the less fancy paper coming afterwards. As I recall, the plan was to see which format would sell better in the direct market, and, as Michael notes, of course the fancier one sold better because people didn’t want to wait even that short of a time to keep up with these particular titles. My main memory of these was, when restocking the back issue bins, having to keep track which issue numbers of which titles had the two different formats, and making sure both were represented in the old comics boxes.
…This all seems so quaint, compared to the modern practice of “here’s a new number #1 for a character/franchise that’s already had multiple new #1s in recent memory, some of which are still going.” I often thought at the time that future price guides and collectors would have a hard time puzzling out the different permutations Titans, Legion and Outsiders went through trying to satisfy two different retail markets. Little did I know what was coming.
There were some good comments regarding DC’s “hardcover/softcover” publishing move for their comics in the 1980s. I plan on returning to the topic soon, but, like I said in that post, I still want to ask my old boss Ralph a question or two about how they sold for him/what customer reaction was like to this program, since that was just before my comics retailin’ time. What I’m really curious about is if anyone pooh-poohed that newfangled New Teen Titans comic on the fancy Baxter paper and just stuck with the regular Tales of the Teen Titans series, figuring the stories will get reprinted there eventually anyway, for a cheaper cover price. Anyway, I’ll see if I can get any more info about customer buying patterns on these books from Ralph, and I don’t see why I wouldn’t, since it’s only been a little over 30 years and surely still fresh on his mind.
In other publishing news, I’ve been emailed and tweeted at regarding the Swamp Thing Bronze Age Omnibus, with plenty of details as to what said omnibus would contain at that link. Now, I’ve discussed this forthcoming volume before, about a year ago, at which point its Amazon listing described it (and still describes it) only as containing House of Secrets #92 and Swamp Thing (first series) #1 through the unpublished #25 (which was likely a typo).
The newer content listing contains a boatload of Swampy comics, much more than that older listing. It almost seems like it’s too much for one volume, but a quick comparison to what’s in my Man-Thing Omnibus shows it’d be about the same size. I forget how huge these volumes can be. Also, given what’s in the book means there won’t be a Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 since we’ll be well into the 1980s with any follow-up material, which is the Copper Age or whatever name people are trying to saddle that particular period of comics with in order to make them sound more marketable.
Anyway, this will be the first time the majority of the post-Wrightson issues of the original series will be reprinted, I believe (after getting #11 – #13 reprinted a few years back in a hardcover), and the first comprehensive reprinting of the pre-Alan Moore Saga of the Swamp Thing, though leaving out #19, the conclusion of Marty Pasko’s run on the book. Maybe it’s seen as a…transitional issue, between Pasko’s run and the beginning of Moore’s run, though traditionally Moore’s first issue on the series, #20, has been seen as the transitional issue, left out of early trade paperback reprintings of his initial storyline. And #18 seems like a weird issue to stop on, as it was a reprint of #10 from the original series, with 4 pages of new wraparound by the then-current creative team, and something of a cliffhanger-y issue to boot. Does this mean Original Series #10 will appear twice in this book? Again, like the inclusion of issue #25 in the initial Amazon listing, maybe this too is just a typo and Saga of the Swamp Thing #19 will be in here. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.
BobH has a few things on his mind, in reaction to my oddball analogy in a recent post:
“I wonder if, in retrospect, the direct/newsstand plan DC did was considered a success or a failure? The reprints lasted about 30 issues, which isn’t too bad, but they only added one other book to the plan, OUTSIDERS, and that one only lasted 8 issues into the reprints.”
Without going back and check exact dates on various titles (well, okay, I double-checked Omega Men) DC was experimenting quite a bit with “direct sales only” (i.e. only available in comic shops and your slightly more comprehensive newsstands*) titles in the early-to-mid 1980s. This was slightly before I entered into my lifetime of comics retailing, so I don’t have specifics on sales numbers and customer reactions and what have you to this turn of events, beyond anecdotes like BobH’s own. The “hardcover/softcover” plan, which, as previously described, was DC publishing stories in the direct market first, then reprinting them in their newsstand titles a year later, was a way for DC to establish a greater foothold in comic shops, using their biggest title (New Teen Titans) and the comic with a then still-strong fandom (Legion of Super-Heroes) while hopefully not abandoning their newsstand-only fans.
Now, was it a success? In the short term, if my memory of the sales charts in the Amazing Heroes magazine was correct, the direct-only NTT and LSH did sell quite well, and each series did last a long time (over 100 issues each, back in those “we don’t have to reboot a title every dozen issues” days), and the newsstand reprintings lasted about 3 years for the Titans, a little less for the Legion. I guess that’s not too bad on the newsstand reprints, though I suspect print runs were pretty low on those later issues. I wonder how many fans of either property bought both versions, just to keep their runs going? Even so, there must have been, at least for a time, enough people just buying the newsstand versions to keep them going even that long.
Also, was reminded of one of Marvel’s attempts (or only attempt? I’m drawing a blank) to duplicate the hardcover/softcover plan, the short-lived Dreadstar and Co.. That was a weird choice (an oddball creator-owned sci-fi book, though Marvel distributed other creator-owned books to newsstands, like Groo and Elfquest) though I don’t know that Marvel had enough big name direct-sales-only titles that would really fit this particular type of publishing/reprinting program.
“I always get the feeling that it ended up disrupting the momentum of TITANS and (especially) LSH, taking them from DC’s flagships to more fringe books. But I’m not sure how much of that was the publishing plan and how much was the quick change in artists (Perez only lasting two issues as full artist, three more as penciller and then gone, Giffen only two as penciller, three more co-plotting and then gone).”
At the very least, this seemed to be the beginning, or the middle-ing, of the abandonment of newsstands, by splintering the fandoms these titles in this way (in addition to the many direct-sales-only titles both Marvel and DC were producing). The newsstand reprints, though holding on for a while, were probably doomed to eventual cancellation as sales shifted toward comic shops and the folks who could only buy comics at newsstands were left behind. Widespread casual sales and awareness of these particular characters gave way to the “preaching to the converted” sales in the specialty comic shop, where people who were already comic fans were going anyway. …That’s a huge simplification (yes, of course there were some new people going to shops and discovering titles) but I think I’m reasonably on target.
Creative team changes probably didn’t help a whole lot in the direct market end of the equation, but New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes still had some solid artwork even after the departure of the artists most associated with each title. I’m sure some people were disappointed and stopped reading, but these comics still remained quality titles for quite some time. Again, I wasn’t there at the time except as a reader/buyer of funnybooks, but my sense is that sales probably were still doing fine after losing part of the creative teams that started ’em all off.
My own memories of the time are a little hazy, what with being 48 years old now an’ all, but I suspect I can ask former boss Ralph how sales were going on these comics at the time. Lemme get back to you.
* A local newsstand I used to go to seemed to have a lot more comics than your usual supermarket and convenience store racks…I don’t know what distributor they used, but they’d often get comics earlier than your traditional outlets, and even carried ‘zines like The Comic Reader and various indie publishers, like Fantagraphics and PC Comics.
So twenty or so years ago, when Mystery Science Theater 3000 was still on the air, and a feature film was in the offing, there was a not-insignificant amount of MST3K merchandise floating about. There were the t-shirts, of course, and a promo set of nine trading cards for the film (one of which is pictured to the right, there), and a Dynamic Forces lithograph, and all the stuff from the official fan club…and there was a planned comic book. Acclaim Comics was going to release a Mystery Science Theater 3000 comic book which, if my aged brain recalls correctly, was going to feature Mike and the ‘bots riffing over old Gold Key comics, presumably with their silhouettes superimposed at the bottom of the panels, or something similar.
The comic never did get come out, perhaps due to the MST3K feature film effectively being killed by its very limited release, or perhaps due to comics publishing/marketplace issues…whatever the reason, we didn’t get the funnybook that I, and probably many other MST fans, were hoping for.
Now, in 2017, with a new Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV series in production, and with years’ worth of DVD releases keeping the flame alive, and with the various similar spin-off projects finding new fans (most famously Rifftrax), now apparently is the time to try the comic thing again. Thanks to Johanna for pointing this out, as I somehow missed the announcement, but Dark Horse Comics has entered into a merchandising partnership with MST3K, explicitly mentioning a comic book series as part of the deal. Now, Johanna hopes it’s not just the adventures of the MST crew, and it probably won’t be. I’m sure it’ll be riffing old comics, like the Acclaim series was likely to be…though to be honest, I wouldn’t mind an “Adventures of New Host Jonah and the ‘Bots” series. But man, what I wouldn’t give for some kind of Avengers Forever/Watchmen/Crisis on Infinite Earths/Earth X/Kingdom Come type series tying together all the different iterations of MST3K into one cohesive continuity. Fully painted by Alex Ross, of course. …C’mon, you know that’d be great.
• • •
In response to Turan’s comment regarding what kicked off my Atlas/Seaboard collection, asking if it was the Bog-Beast what did the deed. The answer is no, believe it or not…when I was but a young Mikester, I was given a bag of old (well, perhaps not so old, then) comic books that were purchased at a thrift store. As I wasn’t yet the wizened old comics coot I am today, most of these comics were new to me…including the first issue of Grim Ghost. I thought that comic was pretty great, and when the opportunity arose, I picked up another issue of that series…and eventually, I started picking up others from the publisher, just because they were so like typical ’70s Marvel and DCs, but just different enough to feel sort of weird and mysterious and compelling. I don’t think I decided I was going to try for them all until after I was actually working in comics retail, but I think I figured there were few enough of them that it was worth a try. ‘Course, nearly three decades later I’m still trying to track some down, but that’s okay. All part of the fun of comic collecting!
By the way, I only remember a couple of other comics from that thrift store bag…one was this issue of Shazam! and the other was the Classics Illustrated version of Frankenstein. Man, thank goodness I didn’t get bit by the Classics collecting bug. “Finally collected all the first printings of the series…now to start on the second printings!” said 88-year-old Mike.
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 Raypredicted), 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.
• • •
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.
So Roel asked, regarding my link to last week’s Question over at Trouble with Comics, just why that particular Alan Brennert Christmas story with Supergirl and Deadman was referred to as “infamous.”
To be honest, I didn’t think much about that particular description…I just figured it had something to do with the pre-Crisis Supergirl appearing in the post-Crisis universe and someone somewhere, either a pro or a fan, got bent out of shape over it or something. And, it appears, after being pointed in the direction of this article by my fellow Troublemakers, that there more hoohar swirling about this particular comic than I realized.
The article itself focuses on the (basically confirmed) idea that folks in charge of the Superman comics weren’t terribly enthused about the pre-Crisis, totally-wiped-from-continuity Supergirl all of the sudden being brought back for a Very Special Story that was not under the purview of the Super-editorial offices. And if one were to look to the comments on said article, rumors aplenty are to be had about what may or may not have happened in regards to the release of this particular story…rumors that I’ll thank my kind readers not to reproduce in my comments section here, please. But anyway, there’s the “infamous” bit of business about it, I suppose.
I also saw elsewhere (in a post on a comic news site that has since been deleted, it seems) some commentary inspired by the Trouble with Comics Question column, wondering just why this specific Supergirl/Deadman story is held in such high regard. I personally think it’s a good, strong story (in a comic filled with some top-notch funnybookin’), in which Deadman learns a Very Important Lesson that just because no one knows about the effort and sacrifice one makes to do the right thing, doesn’t mean that doing the right thing isn’t important or unappreciated. For Deadman, who is literally an invisible spirit that the living world can’t know about, it’s an idea he needs to learn to accept, that he isn’t any less a hero just because his heroism is unrecognized.
For the reader, who is presumably aware that this is the Supergirl who was written out of the DC Universe due to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, we are reminded that just because the characters don’t “exist” in “current continuity” anymore doesn’t mean those stories suddenly stopped meaning anything to us, now. It’s hard not to read a sort of implied criticism in this story about how stories and characters “count” or “don’t count” in terms of where they fall vis-à-vis universe-wide continuity-changing events. This comic is copyrighted 1988 (with a cover date of 1989), so this was only a year or two past DC’s kinda/sorta linewide reboot in Crisis, which would make Supergirl’s appearance here one of, if not the, earliest return of a pre-Crisis character that specifically references the pre-Crisis universe. Kind of a surprise kick in the pants to folks still getting used to the New DC of the “there’s-no-stopping-us-now” variety.
I don’t know that really explains why this is as highly regarded as it is, beyond it being a well-written comic with great art by Dick Giordano. It could be seen the sort of fan-targeted deeply-referenced insular story that isn’t good for the long-term health of the medium, with a punchline that only makes sense if you were there for Crisis and can understand just who that blond gal is talking to Deadman. But it is a nice Christmas gift to those fans, a quiet metatextual reminder after the bombast of the crossover event, that those characters and stories may be in the past, but they’re not forgotten.
Plus, who doesn’t love a good Deadman story? C’mon, let’s get serious here.
In response to my having noted the inclusion of the previously-unpublished conclusion in the Puma Blues hardcover, reader bad wolf wrote
“[It] makes me wonder how many other series/runs could be completed with only an issue or two’s worth of material, that would add immeasurably to their interest/resale value?”
In particular, he (I’m assuming “he,” apologies if I’m wrong) specifies the Silver Age Marvel pastiche 1963 by Alan Moore and pals, and Rick Veitch’s run on Swamp Thing. Now, Veitch’s truncated Swamp Thing run, for better or worse, was picked up, continued, and wrapped up kinda/sorta by other hands, so likely as far as DC Comics is concerned, that specific period is packagable and marketable as a completed product, should they decide to release trades of that material. Not that it seems likely…they’ve only reprinted Veitch’s run up to issue #81, and that was in a trade paperback that was released in 2006. DC has since skipped ahead to reprinting the Mark Millar (with Grant Morrison on the earlier installments) that start at #140, skipping right over the end of the Veitch run and the conclusion by the replacement creative team. I would love to have a paperback with Veitch’s “alternate” (i.e. original) ending, but unless there’s a sudden explosion of Swamp Thing-mania, I’d be surprised if anyone would go through the trouble to make that happen.
Ultimately, in retrospect it seems so silly. DC objected to, and killed, a story in which a time-traveling Swamp Thing encounters Jesus in what, as far as I can tell, seemed a relatively reverent manner (well, as far as you can go with the Messiah hangin’ with a swamp monster, I guess), and then later publishes Preacher in which God is just straight-up the bad guy. Just goes to show you…well, something, I guess.
Now, the 1963 series was planned to run six regular issues, and then it would be wrapped up in the 1963 Annual, where the retro-styled heroes introduced in the main series would encounter the “Image Universe.” This Wiki entry pretty much sums up why it will probably never happen, even though being able to publish “THE COMPLETE 1963” in a fancy hardcover would probably sell…well, slightly more copies than the series is currently selling now out of quarter boxes in comic shops across the world. Not having that final annual doesn’t hurt the entertainment value of the other six issues, but once you reach that last issue with the cliffhanger ending, you can’t help but wonder what could have been.
Bad wolf wonders about other stories cut down before their conclusions, and other reader Touch-and-go Bullethead suggests a few good ones, especially that Sergio Aragones “T.C. Mars” serial from Sojourn. I’ve actually come across copies of Sojourn over the years, which was a tabloid-sized comics newspaper, so I have seen T.C. Mars (who’s also appeared on a cover, or back cover, of my favorite fanzine Comics Reader). I wouldn’t mind seeing Sergio returning to that.
A couple story endings I wouldn’t mind seeing, though these ships have sailed, sank, and been covered with silt long ago: the Andrew Helfer/Kyle Baker Shadow, which over Conde Nast’s dead body would that be allowed to happen, I’d suspect; and Sonic Distruptors, though after reading Andrew’s review, perhaps I’m better off leaving that in the past.
Oh, and I’d like to see the ending to Eye of Mongombo too, so long as I’m wishing.
So I was asked in the comments yesterday regarding the complete Puma Blues book if the “new” Alan Moore story in this collection was in fact the story from issue #20, published back in 1988. And the answer is, yes, the four-page story “Acts of Faith” written by Moore, and illustrated by Steve Bissette and Michael Zulli, is the one included. In fact, in the hardcover’s copyright information, it is specifically stated that only pages 44 through 47 of issue #20 are included in this volume (though see below).
I had forgotten that issue #20 of Puma Blues was an anthology issue, with multiple shorts (some only a page long) by a wide variety of creators, taking place in, or inspired by, the Puma Blues milieu. Creators include Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman, Rick Veitch, Dave Sim, Dan Day, Tom Sutton, and a whole lot more. From what I can tell, only the Moore/Bissette/Zulli story appears in the hardcover, along with Sim’s one-pager which is included with the hardcover’s introduction, and a page from the story “Pause” by Stephen Murphy, Zulli, and Bissette, included with Bissette’s afterword. As I recall, #20 was a benefit/tribute/something-or-other issue resulting from the Aardvark-Vanaheim/Diamond Comics brouhaha, which seems likely as the comic includes a timeline of events surrounding the incident.
Anyway, many of the contributions were pin-ups, and most of the actual stories were outside the main narrative, so you’re not missing any pieces of the plot if you only have the hardcover. But still, it’s something to look for after you’ve finished this Codex Gigas of a graphic novel.
I was also asked in the comments if I had any quality issues with the binding, and I have to say, no, not that I’ve noticed. Seems pretty solidly put together. It may be a different story as I enter, say, month ten of reading the thing, but it looks okay for now.
And in case you’re wondering, I did sell my shelf copy of the book in-store, after a handful of people picked it up and gave it a glance-through. More people than I expected actually remembered the series, after being gone well over a couple of decades, which honestly surprised me. Ultimately it went to someone who’d never seen the series before, and bought it on my recommendation after he spent some time paging through it. Hopefully he’ll like it and not come back and throw it at me in anger and disgust…that book could concuss a blue whale.
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In other news: the latest Question Time is up over there at Trouble with Comics, and the question o’the week is “which work of Alan Moore’s is the most neglected?” Sadly, I cheated a bit and used a rewritten version of this post (which I do own up to in my contribution there). If I had time to actually write a brand-new entry, I might have picked Moore’s back-up serial from American Flagg! but it had already been covered in good detail here. Or maybe that pin-up he drew for that first Dark Horse Comics Godzilla black and white one-shot…that was pretty amazing.
But please go forth and take a look at my contribution there…it was based on a five-year-old post here, so maybe if you’d read it before you’ve forgotten it by now. Everything old is new again!