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Let me just start off this post with something that would have blown the mind of teenaged me.

§ November 17th, 2017 § Filed under market crash, pal plugging, publishing § 6 Comments

First, the plug:


Steve Bissette (whom you may remember having drawn a certain swamp monster of some note) has published a new book, Cryptid Cinema, where he discusses a few of his favorite movie critters. Along the way of the production of this volume, Mr. Bissette asked for my assistance, particularly regarding some of the goofy Swamp Thing merchandise that was produced way back when. Well, specifically, he asked if he could quote some of my old blog posts on the topic, to which I of course said “sure!” So here we are, a big ol’ book by ME ME ME with some help from Steve Bissette that you can order just by clicking on this little box here:


Tell ’em Mike sent you! And when they say “who?” just turn around and run, run like the dickens.

And of course, a big, big thanks to Mr. Bissette for asking me to be involved!

• • •

Okay, now back to Progressive Ruin, which is already in progress:

Dan wonders in the comments to Monday’s post:

“I was never able to find out what exactly ‘Mando’ or ‘Baxter’ paper is besides ‘a kind of paper they printed comics on.’ Are they brand names? Named after inventors? What other uses do the have? Newsprint I get – it’s what they print newspapers on.”

I…don’t know. I just assumed they were names assigned to various kinds of paper stock by the manufacturers. Just doing a quick Googling I found a couple of references to “MANDO paper,” as in the “Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company. I didn’t find many specific references to this being the same mando paper stock as used in comics, outside a message board entry or two, but maybe someone who knows better can clear it up.

Baxter paper I’m not so sure about…there are some references to a couple of paper companies with “Baxter” in their name, including, confusingly enough, a fictional Leland Baxter Paper Company that supposedly constructed the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building. I’m pretty sure that, like I said, it was just a name assigned by the manufacturer to its product, and again, if anyone has a more specific answer, please chime in!

EDIT: Thom H. notes in the comments that Baxter paper appears to have originated from the Great Northern Paper Company (which was one of the possible sources I turned up in my own search). Ben backs this up in the comments to my Monday post, and both fellas point to this weblog posting and comments for sourcing.

From Wednesday’s post, James G. asks

I got out of comics for a while, and was pulled back in by Transmetropolitan, which is a pretty awesome way to get back into the medium. So there is a bunch of stuff that you mention (Deathwatch 2000, X-Men #1) that I don’t even know what that means, or what it’s implications to the direct market, retail system, etc were. I don’t even know what a Deathmate is, unless it’s an ex-GF (buddum-chihhh, I’ll be here all week). Can you elaborate a little, or is there somewhere (other than googling that for me) that you could recommend?

James, I apologize. I’ve been doing this so long (I mean, selling comics, not just blogging about them, though that’s likely the case as well) that I just throw out references here and there and everywhere and assume that just because I know what I’m talking about, that everyone else will too. I do attempt explanations when I can, but some events just loom so large for me in my recollections of the Comics of Decades Past, I forget not everyone was there experiencing the same magical times that I was.

The big deal with X-Men #1 was that there were five variant covers for the issue (which you can see right here, with the newsstand edition included as well), with each cover released in subsequent weeks. The first four covers formed a larger image, and the fifth variant featured all four covers linked together in a wraparound foldout cover. This came out around the peak of the comic market boom, and orders on these comics were out of control. I think the combined total made this the highest ordered comic at least in the modern age, or maybe even since the Golden Age…trying to look this up to confirm just brought me to a bunch of comic book “investment” sites, which depressed me, but trust me…there’s a lot of copies of this.

Now, don’t get me wrong…the comic sold great. We sold a ton of them at the time. Hell, even I bought one. (Just one!) But we had a bunch left over as well, as at the time the store purchasing strategy was “this is the first issue of a new ongoing X-Men series, the first since the Silver Age, better have lots on hand for all that back issue demand!” I’ve joked that even since opening my own shop, I’ve acquired a small backlog of some of these first issues without even really trying to buy any, and by “joked” I mean “accurately described my specific experience.” They just kinda…show up, man. They do still sell even now, on occasion. Of course, even given the large amounts of copies that were printed, perhaps copies are not as easy to track down now, given that many stores at the time that may have had overstock are now gone, and that a significant percentage of people who bought it at the time either lost them or didn’t store them properly. This is something I discussed a while back, if you’re interested.

Deathmate was the greatly-anticipated crossover between the then new and hot publishers Image Comics and Valiant Comics. I actually did a write-up on this, oh, about 12 years ago, which is good because I could barely remember the “story” details now. Anyway everyone overordered it, it had problems with shipping delays, I think some people were put out that Spawn wasn’t involved (or only just barely) and it turned into a huge backroom burden because it didn’t sell anywhere close to expectations. As noted in that post I linked, I was happy to rid myself of these for the princely sum of one slim nickel each, and good riddance.

“Deathwatch 2000” (boy, comics were big on death then, you know, not like now) was the big crossover event from Continuity Comics. Continuity was the company run by legendary comics artist Neal Adams, with most of the titles seemingly drawn by him or at least drawn in his house style. They had bit of a following…in particular Armor, Samuree and Megalith seemed to be the most popular. Now, here’s where things get a bit fuzzy, as I don’t remember the specifics, but I seem to recall some kind of special “#0” issue that was part of the storyline but wasn’t, like, sold on the stands. Specifically, there were some hoops for readers to jump through in order to “qualify” for getting that issue…honestly, I just can’t recall what it was. I just remember we had too many of that comic. (And no, I’m not talking about the Valeria the She-Bat comics Continuity released as yet another hard-to-get premium comic, the details for which I also can’t recollect.) Hopefully, as I plow through those boxes of old promotional material from the previous place of employment, I’ll be able to glean some clues as to what specifically was going on.

Zoot Koomie zoots

I had completely forgotten about Continuity Comics. If you’re looking for content to write about, I’d be interested in a retrospective.

As you see just above, my memories of Continuity are pretty limited. I didn’t read any at the time (though I was tempted by Echo of Futurepast, their anthology comic). I’ll see if I can come up with anything more.

I was buying lots of Dark Horse, First, and Eclipse books at the time and still didn’t recognize most of their titles when I looked them up just now. How did they sell compared to the other small publishers?

Pretty well, actually. There were the Big Two (National Periodical and Timely Comics) and then there were the larger small-press companies (the three you mention, plus probably a couple of others), the not-quite-as-big-as-the-bigger-smaller-publishers (companies like maybe Fantagraphics and, yes, Continuity), and then the small-small publishers, who did their one or two titles every few months and that was that. Of course, that’s just talking about periodicals…once you factor in Fantagraphics’ book publishing, that boosts them up a bit. And plus, I’m just going on personal experience…maybe there were stores where, say, Jon Sable Freelance outsold X-Men. Hey, it could happen.

I sort of touch on this topic in this post, where I mention that it was kind of a different comics market back then, with people more willing to try books from indie publishers. Sales on what probably look like strange, offbeat books to current eyes likely sold better than you’d expect. Probably at numbers that Marvel and DC would love to have now.

Doing this post reminds me I still have a couple of questions left to answer in that old post where I asked you for those questions.

§ November 10th, 2017 § Filed under publishing § 6 Comments

Okay, going back to that post about Boris the Bear and variants an’ stuff….

Jim Kosmicki says

“well, there were the variant covers on Justice League and Firestorm where they tried a younger skewing trade dress, but never mind. Looking those up in the GCD, that experiment was about a year after this was published…so no, in my feeble memory, there was no other precedent.”

The covers he’s talking about are these…Justice League #3 (1987):

…and Firestorm #61 (also 1987):

As best as I can recall, these were just sent out to newsstands in scattered areas around the country. Our local area seemed to me hit with a lot of copies of Justice League, but I personally bought a copy of the Firestorm variant from a newsstand in Oxnard, so some did make it out here. But I recall having at the previous place of employment a sizable stack of the JL book that, frankly, didn’t show much sales movement…I suspect the higher prices in the price guide reflected the secondary market in areas where said variants didn’t get sent, while out in sunny Califor-nee nobody much cared. The Firestorm cover, however, I almost never saw come through the shop, so I assume 1) it wasn’t as widely distributed around here and 2) well, duh, just realized Justice League sold quite a bit better than Firestorm so of course there’d be more of the former.

• • •

Daniel T goes a little something…like this:

“Boris was released in November and Man of Steel I’m 90+% sure was out late June/early July. How many other two cover comics could there have been? I’d think Boris could have been the SECOND comic with a variant. So I have no idea what ‘other’ comics are being referred to unless the two versions of MoS #1 count as the ‘other’s.”

Yeah, that sounds right. I think it’s fair to say that perhaps Dark Horse was being a little…politic in not directly saying naming DC Comics and saying it was all their fault. There was also a parody of Man of Steel called Man of Rust that also had two variants, but that was out around the same time as that issue of Boris the Bear. I wonder how many of the early “variant covers” wave were just variations on Man of Steel?

“And the letter wasn’t really explaining the idea of 50/50 variants so much as the fact that every copy of Boris #4 was going to have both covers, just half of them reversed.”

Well, okay, maybe there weren’t doing that specifically…perhaps I was simplifying/extrapolating a tad. It was still a press release explaining “variants,” which I thought was amusing given that it’s kinda old hat now. It’d be like putting out a press release for announcing, I don’t know, “Majority of standard comic books will continue to use staples.”

• • •

Eric L presents, in response to my assertion that newsstand-edition comics were likely ordered in lower numbers at comic shops

“But at the time if you wanted the newsstand cover all you would have had to do was wait two weeks and pick it up at the local 7-11. At the time they were readily available. And I always liked the newsstand cover better anyway.”

That’s fair, but there were probably enough people going to comic shops who knew their comics would be out now and didn’t want to wait two weeks for the other edition to hit newsstands, assuming local newsstands would even get the book in question (and sometimes not all of them did). It just became easier to have one place to go to get all their comics, instead of touring the neighborhood hitting all the convenience stores to get the issues they needed. …Though between you and me, sometimes I have that nostalgic feeling about riding my bike from 7-Eleven to 7-Eleven, hunting and gathering the latest releases every Tuesday and Thursday.


Andrew wonders

“I’m thinking of Marvel, and how in either the lettercolumns or Bullpen Bulletins they had to reassure people that the cover differences between newsstand and direct market copies were only about the distribution method, and neither one was meant to be seen as rarer than the other or a variant of some kind. Maybe that’s what the flyer’s referring to.”

I don’t think the flyer’s referring specifically to that, given that they’re addressing the multiple cover images on Boris. However, though I haven’t had many inquiries about this in a long time (since it’s mostly not an issue anymore), I did used to get people asking me if it made any difference if there was a UPC code on the cover, or if there was a little picture of Spider-Man where the UPC code should be? Actually, I just remembered I talked about this very topic at length a year or so ago right here.

• • •

From the post about The Nam, Bryan recalls

“Re: The Nam’s sales and collectability, didn’t the series actually start off rather popular? I can remember the first issue being a on-the-wall-behind-the-cash-register-for-$10 book within months of its first publishing.”

Yes, actually, it took off right away and the first issue did acquire some premium pricing in short order. Weird for a non-superhero comic from the Big Two at the time…I remember rarely if ever having copies of that particular issue in stock at any given time. In later years, that issue and the ones with, um, the Punisher (sigh….) still retained some demand.

• • •

And from the Classics Illustrated rack post, Alvin inquires

“Speaking of First, any inside dope on their collapse? IIRC, the bottom dropped off for them well before the real market implosion.”

Not really anything too juicy, alas. They replaced long-running series that were probably experiencing dips in circulation with proposed ongoing series of mini-series, which I’m guessing they were counting on sales bumps from new #1s every few months. I don’t know how successful those minis were, but it was probably still a comedown from having several ongoing regular monthlies on the stands at the same time. I also think First was looking into, or just beginning to start, a chain of retail comic shops, and if I’m recalling that correctly, that may have eaten up some resources too. And I there was other stuff, I’m sure…I’ll have to go back through my Comics Journals from the period and see if there are any write-ups about what was goin’ on.

Believe it or not, I still occasionally have to explain the very idea of variant covers to customers that have been buying comics for years.

§ November 3rd, 2017 § Filed under publishing § 9 Comments

So the latest find in my recent adventures in digging through boxes of ancient comic book promo material was this 1986 letter to retailers from Dark Horse Comics:


…which amuses me mostly because of the effort extended in explaining the idea of “50/50 variant covers,” a once novel concept in which most retailers today are well-versed at best, entirely sickened by at worst. Anyway, here are both the covers of Boris the Bear in color, and if you haven’t yet, check them out…these are fun comics that are more than just parodies of then-current comic trends.

One thing I’m wondering about is where they say they’re “sensitive to the problems created recently by other ‘two cover’ comics.” The only comic from that period that immediately comes to mind, probably because it’s the very comic being riffed on by those Boris the Beat covers, is Man of Steel #1. I don’t recall there being any particular issues with the dual covers on that comic, but then again, this was a couple of years before I started working in comics retail, so maybe I missed something. Far as I know they were equally available in comic shops, but maybe there was some kind of “order 1 of this one for every 2 of the other” deal goin’ on there, which admittedly would seem a bit out of place in the mid-1980s (but not so much in 21st century Marvel solicits).

Wikipedia’s entry on variant comics specifically notes that Man of Steel #1 was the first comic marketed with two different covers, so maybe some confusion reigned at the time, with customers wondering which cover is the “real” cover. Or maybe retailers, new to the whole variant-ordering thing, ordered less of the “newsstand” cover versus the “direct sales” cover, causing a self-created shortage of the newsstand cover in the direct market.

I’m not 100% certain, so if you can remind me of any other variant cover shenanigans of the time that might be the ones referred to in this letter, please let me know. Also, if you can think of simultaneously-released variants prior to Man of Steel, because I feel like there must have been something. Either that, or variant covers have been so much a part of our lives it’s hard to imagine they had a beginning. Just an endless parade of variants, infinite holograms and chromium enhancements and foil logos, looping through time from the beginning to the end and back again.

Oh, did I say “briefly?”

§ October 27th, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, teen titans § 6 Comments

So earlier in the year I spent some time talking about DC’s “hardcover/softcover” publishing program for New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, etc. (posts 1 and a 2 and a 3). Thus, if you still need an explanation of what it’s all about, please refer to those posts, because I’m gettin’ back into it briefly for today’s entry.

Before I get to my main point, let me present this to you. Despite being reprints of the direct-sales only New Teen Titans title, the newsstand editions didn’t reuse the previously-published covers, but instead had brand new covers commissioned for each issue, which you can see over at the Grand Comics Database. Some of those covers were pretty sharp, and then there was this weird-ass thing Brian Bolland unleashed upon your unsuspecting 7-11s and Stop ‘n’ Go shops:


Imagine being the fella cutting open bundles of the latest periodicals to fill the racks and seeing that staring back at you. “THE KIDS THESE DAYS, WHAT ARE THEY INTO?” you’d clearly be thinking to yourself. I mean, that’s an amazing drawing, and one you won’t soon forget, but hey, it’s Comics Code-approved, so I guess the kids are safe. Oh, Brian Bolland, you’ve done it again!

Anyway, what I really asked you all here for is to talk about the last issue of Tales of the Teen Titans, #91 from 1988:


…with its Justice League #1-inspired cover acknowledged by artists Michael Collins and Romeo Tanghal. What’s particularly interesting is the frankness of the editorial page inside, explaining that while they wanted to keep all Titans fans caught up with their adventures, the sad fact was that this reprint series just wasn’t selling enough to keep it going. The newsstand customers for this comic are then implored to seek out the direct-sales “hardcover” version of New Teen Titans at comic shops or other venues, or to use the subscription ad in the inside back cover to start getting that series in the mail.

And here’s where my question about this comes in. At the end of the book is a back-up story of sorts, with Nightwing and Changeling giving a brief synopsis of the “missing year” between the main story reprinted in this issue, and the events in the current issue of New Teen Titans, so any readers making the jump from newsstand edition to direct sales edition wouldn’t be lost. The story ends with this panel:


…but the ad he’s pointing to on the inside back cover is this:


…which features only Action Comics Weekly, Power of the Atom and The Wanderers. What I was wondering…was there a separate coupon just for New Teen Titans bound into the comic at this point (seems unlikely), or…if you’ll look back at that scan above of issue #91, you’ll see there’s no UPC code. Thus, this was a copy sold through comic shops…despite being published specifically for newsstands, copies were also available through the direct market for those completists or the thrifty, as previously discussed. To finish my thought, what I was wondering was if there were maybe different subscription ads inside the back covers of copies that went to newsstands versus those that went to comic shops. Alas, I don’t have a copy of the newsstand edition on hand, but it definitely exists.

I honestly don’t know the answer. The previous place of employment no longer has copies, else I’d check there, but maybe one of you can check the copy in your collection and let me know. For your effort, you’ll win the prestigious “Hey, That’s My Name in a Progressive Ruin Post!” award, with a cash value of exactly nuthin’.

My initial thought was that they would have changed the subscription ad for comic shops so that they weren’t explicitly telling readers to send money directly to DC instead of spending money at the place where you presumably purchased that copy of #91. But, then again…that’s still a subscription ad, including (I think) the direct-sales only Wanderers. Anyway, I don’t know, but if you know, please let me know. You know? I realize this isn’t the most vital information in the world, but I am curious. And hey, if you’re a Titans completist, maybe now you’re aware there’s kinda sorta a new story in the back of that last issue you need to have.

Speaking of curiosity, I was wondering just what the sales numbers on this comic were near the end there, and luckily for me, I found the yearly Statement of Ownership in the first issue I looked at (#88):


…and if I’m reading the statement correctly, this sales on this series would put it solidly in the top 25 today. Times have certainly changed. And hoo boy, that’s a lotta returns.

And don’t get me started on “Copper Age.”

§ October 13th, 2017 § Filed under advertising, batman, publishing, retailing § 5 Comments


Found this in the boxes o’old promo stuff…an ad slick for the videotape release of 1989’s Batman, since we were talking about that very thing a few days back. (The reverse side of the page is a larger, greytoned version of the ad.) If I remember correctly, when I put a reserve on a copy at our local video shoppe, I paid $19.99…saved a whole $4.99 like the bargain hunter that I am! I believe I still have my copy of the video around here somewhere, in case I feel like having a Pan ‘n’ Scan Party in the entertainment den.

Anyway, let me take care of a little business right now, so y’all can go on and enjoy your weekend:

  • Alas, looks like the End of Civilization for this month will in fact be postponed ’til next time. Sorry, my free time was less free these last few weeks, so it’s the blogging what pays the price when that happens. This is also what put a crimp in my Patreon plans this month…Swamp Thing #8 is the next issue to be covered, and it will be covered, I promise. Just gotta clear the schedule.
  • From the comments section for my October 9th post, rag notes

    “[Seventh Generation] sounds somewhat similar to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_of_the_Superheroes

    Yeah, that was brought up to me on the Twitters as well. For those who don’t know, that’s an Alan Moore proposal for a company-wide event at DC Comics, in which shenanigans are afoot in a dark future for Earth’s superheroes, and part of the plot involves characters coming back to the past (our present of 1987 or so) to prevent whatever was going to cause said dark future. Or you can just read the Wiki link there. That’s not an uncommon trope (like I mentioned, it’s happening in the Justice League comic right now), but funny that it popped up twice in two different DC event books, neither of which ended up happening. Maybe the descendants of Dan DiDio traveled back from the 23rd century to prevent those series from getting published. And if so, why couldn’t they save Frank Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder?

  • Jmurphy quite reasonably wonders

    “Mike, there was an omnibus of some kind released on the 4th. Will we be hearing about it here?”

    Yes, yes indeedy. The Swamp Thing Bronze Age Omnibus (and part of my brain still rejects the “Bronze Age” label as a dumb marketing term to help make those old issues of Human Fly seem sellable) is in my hands and ready for my perusal. But, related to those “free time” problems mentioned previously, I still haven’t even removed the shrinkwrap. But there it is, staring at me from atop the pile of comics from the last few weeks that I also haven’t read. However, rest assured, Jmurphy, that the Omnibus is on my Omni-genda.

  • From the comments for October 11th, Zoot Koomie zoots

    “I’m curious about the New Universe cancellation story. How was the implosion of that imprint covered at the time? Was information about the behind-the-scenes turmoil leaking out or was it just hype about line reconfiguration around the Pitt crossover?”

    It was just a short article about how four titles in the New Universe line were cancelled due to poor sales, and would be replaced by as-yet-undetermined new series. The replacement of the editor for the imprint was also noted, from which one may infer behind the scenes troubles, but nothing was explicitly detailed. As far as more general coverage elsewhere in the Comics ‘Zine-a-verse…I don’t remember. I’ll have to look through the Amazing Heroes and Comics Journal collections to see what at least the general tone there was. …Actually, I can probably already guess.

  • DanielT cashes in with

    “Any particular reason your eBay prices are all $ xx.97?”

    Well, as you know, if you price something at $9.99 instead of $10, the $9.99 price point looks like it’s a whole dollar cheaper, right? Well, that $xx.97 price is me undercutting everyone listing things at $xx.99, like the crafty capitalist storeowner that I am, as opposed to those sons-of-bitches undercutting me with their $xx.96 prices, the jerks. How dare they!

  • William Burns fires me up with

    “They have comics in Japan? What ever happened with that?”

    Japan? Never heard of it.

  • The JRC store called, and they said

    “I always like CSN, especially the semi-regular oversized season preview issues that covered the coming quarter/or six months.

    “I was surprised, shocked really, to get a copy a few months back when I happened into a previously unexplored shop.

    “It is little more than reprinted press releases, but there’s still something neat about holding a newsprint style paper in hand.”

    I wonder just how widespread the distribution is on Comic Shop News. I know some stores don’t carry it, which seems weird to me given its low cost and its usefulness to customers, which I’d mentioned in that post. But they must be doing okay…I did a little searching on the Diamond website, and it looks like the per-bundle cost has only gone up a dollar in the last few years, which seems reasonable enough. I know the number of copies per bundle dropped a little bit at some point, but that was prior to the oldest entry I could find in Diamond’s database. I’ll take that to mean that orders on CSN are holding relatively steady. Or they’re charging more for ads to subsidize the price, one of those.

    I’m glad they’re still around. Yeah, it’s a lot of press releases, but as mentioned that’s how many customers get their comics news, so that’s okay. It’s not like there are any other print mags or ‘zines covering the current market, or at least nothing with the reach of CSN. It’s hard to beat “free at the store’s front counter” for distribution.

    And there’s more than just press releases. You get those great Fred Hembeck covers on the special issues, there’s the occasional “Red K” awards issue that pokes fun at recent comics industry hoohar, there are interviews, and of course there is the surreal experience of the Spider-Man newspaper strips that are reprinted therein. How can anyone do without those?

Okay, pals…thanks for sticking with me. Back with More Stuff™ in short order.

Greater than a hecto-villain, but nowhere close to a yotta-villain.

§ October 9th, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, swamp thing § 5 Comments

So I was digging through a few boxes of old comics promo materials when I found this, a 16 page black and white book of DC’s publishing plans for 1989-1990 that was given to retailers:


I only scanned half of the “cover” there, but you can see they were pushing the Batman movie pretty hard, as you might imagine. No, no, don’t worry, I’m not doing another round of Bat-talk just yet (though I did find a couple of relevant Bat-items that I may showcase here in the near future), but there are couple of interesting items of note inside.

First ,there’s this blurb for the sadly never-finished Swamp Thing: Deja Vu mini-series that would have reunited Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson:


Wrightson only drew a handful of pages before deciding the project wasn’t for him, and Wein’s attempt to get another artist to complete the book was met with the reaction of “not interested unless Wrightson was doing it” from the powers-that-were. (I believe I read about that particular bit of business in the Swampmen, which is where you can see some of the pages Wrightson did draw for the project.)

And then there was this story on the last page of the booklet:


Games being the Marv Wolfman/George Perez “final hurrah” as a team on the Teen Titans, which didn’t come out in 1990 as planned…and in fact didn’t actually show up until 2011, over twenty years later! Wolfman writes about what happened here.

But what I wanted to talk about was this:


…a big crossover event series planned for this publishing period, which I couldn’t recall ever having heard of. At first glance, I thought maybe it was a working title for some other event, but reading the synopsis, it didn’t sound like any crossover thingie DC had published. (Though, funnily enough, it reminds me a bit of the “children of the Justice League” storyline currently running in, er, Justice League.)

Did a little Googling, and there’s not much on the series to be found, as you might imagine. Turns out, according to Roger Stern, mentioned in the article as one of the writers involved, it never really got too far past “hey, here’s an idea.”

CLICK TO EXPAND MIGHTILY

And this excerpt from American Comic Book Chronicles that turned up on Google Books ties us back yet again to the Bat-Burton film:


And yes, I got screenshots as well as links there, as there’s nothing like sorting out dead links in decade-old blog posts to make one appreciate the mercurial state of the World Wide Web.

Anyway, what I find of interest in this article is how much is promised regarding this series, given that, as Stern says, it didn’t really get that far along in the creative process. A “new mega-villain” is probably a given for a big event like this, and “new characters,” I guess, so that’s a gimme. The format of the series, with increasing page-counts for each subsequent pair of issues, is…a little weird, and I don’t recall that specific idea being implemented any time later. I mean, sure, last issues of crossover comics can be double-sized or whatever, but that’s not exactly the same as what’s being described.

Now I realize what the world probably doesn’t need is yet another superhero crossover event on the books, but I am intrigued enough by this premise, and by the proposed writing team of Stern and John Ostrander utilizing DC’s major characters, and by the new characters that would have come out of it that I wouldn’t have minded seeing it. But it feels just a little weird, to find out now there’s a missing event series, a comics ghost flickering in and out of existence behind all the Batmania.

Yes, I know zombies in The Walking Dead don’t actually say “braaaaiinnns.”

§ September 8th, 2017 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, pal plugging, publishing, swamp thing § 1 Comment


So customer Ryan came by the store on Thursday with the above gift for me…a full page pencil drawing of Swamp Thing that he drew. He said “I began to realize that you kind of like Swamp Thing, so I thought I’d do this for you!” That was very nice of him. I actually have a bunch of art in frames ready to hang up, I just haven’t found time to do so yet…I do have this piece by pal Matt on display, but I’ve got several others that need to go up. Someone remind me to do so.

Also, I may need to redact part of my post from Wednesday, in which it turns out the extra story pages only present in the variant’s variant (sigh…) are in fact preview pages from the next issue, so readers won’t miss out on any material. It was just a little something extra to give me a headache for the lucky fan who was able to get their mitts on it. Anyway, glad I moved my copies already. I’m not sure how I’m going to edit that post, but I’ll put an explanation at the top so they’ll know to take my rantings with a grain of braaaaiinnns. Thankfully nobody reads blogs anymore, so I didn’t get many complaints.

In Patreon news…I will have a new installment in the Swamp Thing-a-Thon up soon. I’m just retooling the format a bit, oh, and also trying to find time to write it, which hasn’t been easy of late. I didn’t give up, I’m just a wee bit behind. I’m attempting to make the process a little less time-consuming, so that a biweekly schedule won’t become an enormous burden. I’ll let you know when the new one is up.

And in news that’s not all me me me me me me, Bully, the Little Funnybook-Pricing Bull, and his pal John are selling comics to support good causes! Plenty of photo evidence at the link! If you’re in the area, why not drop by and pick up some great comics at low, low, low prices…and that’s no Bull(y)!

Which isn’t to say I didn’t put ’em on eBay…look, I’ve got bills to pay.

§ September 6th, 2017 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 1 Comment

(EDIT: I spend a lot of time in this post complaining about something that isn’t a thing…turns out the extra pages are from the following issue due in a month’s time, so wherever I complain about that here, just ignore it. Thought about just deleting the whole post, but let it stand as a warning against other publishers thinking about making new story material difficult to find for the fans, and as a warning against jumping the gun on writing complain-y blogs.)

So a few months back I placed my orders for the current issue of The Walking Dead, due out in your local funnybook venue this week. And then, a few weeks back, said issue of The Walking Dead turned up on the Final Order Cutoffs, where retailers get a last chance to fiddle with their order numbers before print runs are committed. At that time, as happens on occasion, additional items not offered in the original catalog are put up for order…in this case, a variant cover by Lorenzo de Felici was added that was “free to order” (as in “I can order as much as I’d like,” as opposed to “order 10 of the regular cover, get 1 variant!”). I placed my numbers and that was that. (As an aside, I got so used to ordering two covers for each Walking Dead a while back that just ordering one cover throws me off!)

Tuesday, I received my weekly Diamond shipment which included these two Walking Dead variants, broke everything down, sorted ’em, counted ’em, pulled them for comic savers, etc. At that point, I get a call from another comic shop owner, someone I’ve known for decades, who wanted to give me a heads up that there’s a rare variant of this new issue of Walking Dead. At first I thought he meant the de Felici variant just on its own…I’m sure some retailers may have missed ordering it when it came up on the Final Order Cutoffs (or wherever else it may have appeared…there’s more than one place for these things to be added after the fact), but I didn’t think that was enough to make it rare.

My friend explained further, that the variant itself had a variant, that a minor visual cue on the variant’s cover indicated interior variations…specifically, the letters pages and other editorial content were replaced by an additional seven pages of story not in the other versions of this comic, either the regular cover or, um, the regular variant cover, shall we say.

I know this is being compared to comics like that Team Titans #1, which had multiple variations of its contents, each featuring a different short story in addition to the main feature which was the same in all versions. But that had sufficient warning…people knew DC was going to pull that stunt ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise to find different/additional content in each issue, and if you wanted all versions, they weren’t hard to get. Or even Thump’n Guts by Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley was mentioned to me, which had multiple variations on content, but even that was marketed as a part of the gimmick for the book.

But doing this to Walking Dead feels like it’s a little more frustrating. Yes, I’m sure the pages will turn up in the trade paperbacks, but the folks reading the monthlies don’t necessarily get the trades as well. Making part of the story an exclusive “chase” variant is different from just doing rare covers…basically it’s telling fans who have been following that particular franchise “hey, we’re hiding some of the story from you!” …Maybe it’s not as bad as all that, and I’m sure there are…illicit methods of finding those pages, but I’d rather not encourage that behavior.

My hope is that those extra pages turn up in a later issue, so people who don’t want to buy the trades ,and don’t want to go on a scavenger hunt to piece together the entire story, can read ’em. I know I’d be put out a bit if a comic I really liked suddenly decided to sneak extra pages past me so that only a lucky few got to see them. …Are they in the digital version? Maybe someone can let me know.

Anyway, here’s hoping they don’t do that again. I know they probably meant well and wanted to do something different and have fun and make people excited, etc. etc. But this can easily turn into an aggravation, and nobody wants that.

I looked through my Amazing Heroes Preview Specials for way too long trying to find that book’s original title.

§ August 18th, 2017 § Filed under pal plugging, publishing, self-promotion § 1 Comment

A couple of reactions to Wednesday’s post:

Eric L asks

“OK, but was Radioactive Adolescent Black Belt Hamsters any good? The title sounds like a blatant rip off, but it seems to have lasted a while so maybe it had something going for it?”

The fact that the title “Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters” was so on the nose was pretty much part of the joke, and folks kept putting out books with more tortured variations of that title format. Even Marvel was going to get in on the act, with a one-shot titled Grown-up [or Adult] Thermonuclear Samurai Elephants, but it took so long to come out that the fad had passed, and it was renamed Power Pachyderms prior to its eventual unleashing.

But Hamsters was the first out of the gate in the “‘borrowing the Turtles’ sauce” race, and…well, as these things go, it wasn’t bad. I only had one copy of the comic in the store for me to flip through and remind myself of the actual contents:

…and of course it was the 3D special, which was a small bit of a challenge to my aging eyes. But, you know, it was amusing enough, and professionally done…it did its job as a funnybook. Also as I recall, other issues featured work by Ty Templeton and Sam Keith, so there were some interesting art jobs on the series that you probably wouldn’t have expected. Yes, it will always be remembered as “The First Knock-off of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and it deserves some credit (or, more likely, blame) for leading the way for the [blank] [blank] [blank] [animal, maybe] titles that would follow, but as black and white boom comics go, it’s certainly nowhere near the bottom.

Dave Carter says

“The comic I remember most from the B&W boom was Mark Martin’s Gnatrat. I recall quite enjoying it at the time (though may tastes may have been less discerning in those days…)”

Trust your memories at least on Gnatrat and related titles, Dave…as I mentioned in this post about The Boom, Mark Martin’s comics were Quality Products by a talented cartoonist, definitely top echelon of the period. They are Batman/Daredevil/Frank Miller parodies, but they hold up. There was a complete Gnatrat trade paperback a few years back…out of print, but used copies are cheap on Amazon at that link.

• • •

In other news:

  • The next installment in the Swamp Thing-a-Thon at my Patreon should be up over the weekend, or Monday at the latest. Only one dollar gets you a extra giant wall of text from me twice a month!
  • Alan David Doane notes a recent David Letterman interview where the talk show host reflects on frequent guest (and comics legend) Harvey Pekar. I remember watching all of these as they aired all those years ago…usually funny but so uncomfortable. I think it was in that final appearance that Dave got pissed at Harvey and referred to American Splendor as “this Mickey Mouse thing.” I suppose I could go look this up on YouTube, but that’ll probably just make me agitated.
  • Bully, the Little Bull Stuffed with SPF 300,000 sunscreen, looks directly at the Sun-Eaterwithout protective lenses! Bully, NO! Always be safe when observing solar events!

Blogging about that particular comic in the year 2017.

§ August 3rd, 2017 § Filed under pal plugging, publishing, self-promotion § 1 Comment

First, my pals Matt and Chris took listener questions for the latest episode of the War Rocket Ajax podcast, and you can literally hear joy die in their voices when they get to mine (at about the 53:50 mark). Don’t worry, fellas, some day you’ll come around to my way of thinking!

Second, if you follow me on the Twittererers, you may have seen this thread a while back where I talk about a fella who used to be in the magazine distribution business who came by to see if I’d be interested in buying comics. He didn’t have any on hand at the time, but from the sounds of things his particular heyday was about the late ’80s/early ’90s period of the comics boom. Of particular note, he mentioned receiving a notice from a publisher to not distribute some bundles of a particular comic that had been delivered to him, and to have them destroyed. Well, he said he kept a couple of bundles intact “just in case,” though he couldn’t recall that actual title in question.

And just yesterday, the gentleman came back in with a sampling of the comics that were in his possession. Plenty of those Jim Lee X-Men #1s, one of the bagged X-Force #1s (though the bag had been slit at one end and the trading card removed), and a copy of the recalled comic of which he still had hundreds of copies. And that comic was:


…the Saved by the Bell Special from 1992.

To start with, this is assuming the gentleman’s account is correct, and that this is the comic the publisher asked to be pulped. I only saw the one (very beat up) copy (the scan above was stolen from the Grand Comics Database). He said he had plenty more of this very comic, and for the sake of argument I will take him at his word.

Next, my initial assumption was that there was a publishing date discrepancy…the comic the gentleman had contained a March 1992 publishing date in its indicia, whereas the GCD listing linked above had it dated at March 1993. Maybe there was a licensing issue, thought I, and Harvey wasn’t actually allowed to send out that comic for whatever reason…a problem cleared up a year later when they reissued it. However, the Comic Book Database gives the comic a 1992 date as well, so maybe there’s a typo at GCD? I don’t know.

Also the Holiday Special is a nearly direct reprint of the first Saved by the Bell comic from 1992, so I thought maybe that was just the previous edition’s indicia…except this indicia very clearly stated it was for the “Saved by the Bell Special.”

Ultimately I can’t find any reason for this to have been pulped, other than the sheer fact it was a Saved by the Bell comic. The gentleman said he definitely got a letter from the responsible party instructing him to shred these things, but unless he tracks that letter down (and he may yet…he says he thinks he still has it) I have no idea why this issue was allegedly held back. I don’t recall anything from the time, since that definitely falls within my early years of working comics retail, and I can’t find anything on the Recalled Comics site, so…who knows? It’s a Mystery for the Ages, one to pass down to your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren, all the way ’til the end of time. Or I find more information, one of the two.

And third, the next installment of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon should be up over at my Patreon page soon…if not by Friday, then on Monday. Thanks for your patience!

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