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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 § No Comments

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!

In which Mike just rambles on, making baseless and crazy assumptions.

§ June 30th, 2017 § Filed under publishing, supergirl § 4 Comments

Just following up on a couple of comments from my most recent post:

Andrew responds with

“I want to read those comics NOW (well maybe not the Fox and Crow, since my pocket money is finite).”

Fox and the Crow is actually pretty good, though I understand not having the scratch to throw down on everything. The particular issue being plugged in that ad is issue #95, which was the first appearance of “Stanley and His Monster.” Now, the lead stories were based on what I assume is a now-obscure series of animated shorts…at least, nobody seems to be trying to market or “reboot” the characters at the moment, so I’m pretty sure they’re mostly forgotten. But the comic lasted a good long time, with new Fox and the Crow stories illustrated by Not That Jim Davis, squeezing out endless variations on the Crow pulling some kind of scam on the Fox.

But, with the introduction of Stanley and His Monster in the mid-1960s, at a time when lighthearted monster-based entertainment was really taking a foothold, Mssrs. Fox & Crow began to lose their starring position in their own comic. Eventually, with issue #109 of the series, Fox and the Crow were discarded entirely as the title of the book changed to Stanley and His Monster. The previous stars likely seemed too old-fashioned, particularly in a comics marketplace that was focusing more on weird concepts and wacky “modern” humor, where Stanley and friend seemed to fit right in. Too little, too late, however, and the series ended with #112, though S.A.H.M. would be revived years later in a Phil Foglio mini-series and as supporting characters in a Green Arrow storyline, of all things.

Fox and the Crow, however, have mostly vanished, though it looks like they’ve made cameo appearances, or where at least mentioned in dialogue, here and there. I think technically they were licensed characters, so I don’t even know if DC has the rights to them now. I keep thinking about all the licensed books DC published over the years, and how it would be great to have a collection of, say, The Adventures of Bob Hope, despite the fact that the potential audience for such a thing ain’t exactly expanding of late. I’d love to have a Fox and the Crow collection, but given it took years of consumer demand to get even one reprint book of old Sugar & Spike comics out the door, I suspect the forgotten obscurities, especially ones that would cost extra licensing fees, will continue to languish.

But honestly, DC had two chances to get a Stanley and His Monster trade out to an audience that may have been interested by the characters’ revivals. Ah, well.

Andrew also adds

“It looks like those issues of B&B before Batman took over have been passed over for reprints.”

Well, if this series went to a volume 2, they would have reprinted this Supergirl/Wonder Woman team-up. Alas, ’twas not to be.

• • •

Wes Wescovich writes

“I think this may be the first time that Supergirl logo was used on a cover?”

I’m not 100% sure, but I think you may be right. My first instinct was that the logo showed up on one of the 80 Page Giants, and it sure did…a few months later. I don’t see the logo on previous issues of Action, where Supergirl primarily appeared, so it could very well be that the logo made its cover debut on that very issue of Brave and the Bold. If someone knows otherwise, hopefully they’ll let me know.

Once thing I noticed while looking at the Action covers on the Grand Comics Database is there’s about a three year gap between Supergirl’s introduction in #252 and her “going public” to the people of DC Comics Earth in #285. In the meantime she was “Superman’s secret weapon,” privately training and keeping the existence of Supergirl a secret. Three years probably seemed like an eternity to keep a plotline like this going in the late 1950s/early 1960s, though it’s not like this was the grand scheme planned from the get-go. I’m sure it was more like “okay, this is how Supergirl fits into the Superman family of books” at the start, and eventually “hoo boy, this ‘Supergirl’s a Secret’ thing is a drag, let’s put an end to that.” But I’m just imagining a bunch of kids who read the Supergirl stories at the start, grew out of reading comics a few months later, and went the rest of their lives thinking that Supergirl went on continuing her superheroic deeds in hiding from the general public. You know, watching the new Supergirl TV show and thinking “this is all wrong! She’s superhero-ing out in the open!”

I do wonder if anyone at the time made it all the way from Supergirl’s first appearance to her eventual introduction to the world. I’m sure someone did, even with the huge turnover readership likely had at the time. Like I said, three years was a long time in comics then, even if now it can be a not-unheard-of gap between issues in high-profile series. Or, more commonly nowadays, that’s not too far from how long it takes for some event stuff to pay off (like the whole Watchmen in the DCU thingie). Funny how we went from long-running titles with a high turnover in readership to a huge turnover in restarted/rebooted titles trying to get the attention of folks who’ve been reading comics forever. …Well, maybe not so funny.

Maybe Dr. Manhattan can work on the Marvel Universe next.

§ May 15th, 2017 § Filed under free comic book day, publishing, watchmen § 1 Comment

Well, all I can figure is that Free Comic Book day took a lot out of me, as I didn’t really have the energy during the past week to generate that award-winning [NOTE: not actually award-winning] Progressive Ruin content the entire comics industry depends on [NOTE: nobody depends on it]. But I’m well-rested [NOTE: mostly] and in fighting trim [NOTE: nothing about Mike is trim] so let’s see what trouble we can stir up today:

I had a couple of comments in response to my FCBD post-mortem I wanted to address. First, Dave Carter of Earth points out, in response to customers (and me) wanting a Sonic the Hedgehog freebie this year:

“Archie appears to have lost the Sonic license, or at least they aren’t publishing any Sonic comics any more.”

Well, by cracky, that appears to be the case, doesn’t it? I guess I hadn’t really noticed…when you’re slogging through 500 pages of Diamond Previews, it’s easy to overlook the fact that maybe something that should be there isn’t. And, a quick check at the distributor’s website shows nada forthcoming from Archie Comics involving any sort of spiny mammal content. I did a quick buzz about the Internets and saw a lot of discussion on the topic, so I guess I’m just not looking in the right spots to have had this particular bit of information at my fingertips. It’d be a shame if the Sonic comic book franchise did vanish from the stands…especially since Archie still has that prime grocery store placement.

Dean wonders

“Mike, as a retailer, what’s your opinion of Marvel’s HYDRA FCBD promotion?”

Hoo boy. The Secret Empire event comic is the wagon Marvel is hitching all its chickens to for the next several months, so of course Marvel is going to want one of their FCBD comics to be a plug for it, like their Civil War 2 freebie was last year. Now, by and large, a lot were given away, and a handful of conversations I overheard seem to be at least intrigued by the concept — “whoa, Captain America is a bad guy!?” It’s yet another “how does our hero get out of this one?” story, designed to unfold over the next several months and keep readers in suspense. No one really thinks Cap is going to stay a bad guy, and that everything will be fixed. How it will be fixed is naturally the hook for the event.

But.

I suspect a number of people are coming into this fresh, and haven’t encountered the online brouhaha and the somewhat controversial “Hydra makeover” promotion and the whole “so is Hydra the same thing as Nazis or what?” debate. Without all that baggage, this one-shot could have been fine as a come-on for Marvel’s big event. A bit overwrought, maybe, but what superhero crossover event isn’t, really. However, that baggage does exist and there’s a tone-deafness in the responses to the online anger regarding this series, its promotion, its timing, and the defense of it by those involved. Basically, it’s turned into a huge mess and a public relations issue for Marvel, to the point where they had to put out a press release to tell fans “look, Cap’s gonna be fine, we promise.”

That’s a lotta typing around Dean’s question, so let me see if I can narrow it down a bit. For folks coming into the “Secret Empire” event fresh, the FCBD giveaway may be have been an intriguing introduction to the event. For folks who are more aware of the historical context and of the current reaction to said event, the FCBD book was probably just digging that hole a little deeper.

Personally, I feel like this is a bit like the Spider-Man Clone Saga from the ’90s. If they told the story, were in and out and done in, like, six months, it would have been fine. But dragging it out like this, particularly in the face of increasing consumer rejection, isn’t doing the company any favors. The Clone Saga almost killed the Spider-Man franchise, leading to a more-or-less still ongoing series of relaunches and reboots. Not that Marvel’s been shy about relaunching/rebooting any of their titles lately, but I suspect Cap may need some serious refurbishing after this to get readership back.

On the other hand, Secret Empire sales in the shop have been ticking upward in the last week or so, so what do I know.

• • •

In happier news:

…I hope this never, ever stops.

Of reprints and Patreons.

§ April 26th, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, legion of super-heroes, publishing, self-promotion § 6 Comments

So a while back on the Twitterers I complained that a joke I had planned for an End of Civilization post was undone by the fact the publisher actually didn’t mess up something I thought they had messed up. I’ve been meaning to get around to telling the one or two of you who might remember that and still care just what I was talking about. And what I was talking about was the Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes hardcover volume one, as solicited in the March 2017 Diamond Previews:


That’s the image they’re using to solicit the collection, but obviously not the actual, final cover since that’s a pic of the Legion treasury edition the book will be including.

Anyway, my assumption is that there were going to be some issues skipped between the last of the DC Archives reprintings of the Legion of Super-Heroes and this volume, which picks up in the 1970s. However, to my surprise, this new book picks up exactly where the Archive editions left off, so for those of us depending on DC’s reprint program to gather up all those classic Legion stories in chronological order, like I know I was, that’s good news. Of course, this new format won’t have as many stories per volume, but also it won’t be $75 like that Archives generally were near the end there, so at least there’s that.

Like I mentioned, the treasury edition, featuring the wedding of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad (hey, stop snickering, this is a big deal) is in this book, and I was greatly anticipating its appearance in the never-forthcoming Legion Archives Volume 14. At some point, around, I don’t know, 2008, I even passed up on a copy of the treasury because I figured I would eventually get that story in the archive series. Well, took a little longer than expected, but it’s finally on its way. Hopefully. Assuming it isn’t cancelled or postponed.

Now if we can get DC to pick up reprinting Sugar and Spike where that last archive edition left off….

• • •

And now, for a brief commercial message…as mentioned just the other day, plans are continuing apace for the Swamp Thing-a-Thon, my attempt at reviewing every Swamp Thing comic, that will be an exclusive, at least for a time, for Patreon supporters. I finally updated my Patreon page to include that reward tier in the sidebar.

Since I have the reward tier set at the lowest level (I mean, I don’t think you can contribute less than a dollar a month, can you?), anyone who supports my Patreon at any level will get access to the Swamp Thing-a-Thon posts. If you’re already a supporter, you’ll get access. If you click the “Become a Patreon” button and donate that generous $150 a month I know you want to, you’ll get access. You don’t have to click on that $1 Reward button to get access, that just makes it easier for you to chip in. If you’re contributing at all, you’re in.

Like I’ve said…the content there will make it over to this site eventually, but not for a while. If you can provide support, that’s great, but if you can’t or don’t want to, that’s perfectly okay too, and you’ll get to see that stuff anyway, if you don’t mind waiting a bit.

Thanks to you folks out there who still read this “comics” “blog” after all this time. I appreciate all the support and readership you’ve given me for so many years.

“Star Wars demoted to bimonthly” is hard to imagine now, too.

§ April 17th, 2017 § Filed under captain america, pal plugging, publishing, question time, retailing § 6 Comments

Back to your questions:

Argh!Sims arghed:

“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.

• • •

Old pal Brandon wants to know

“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:

• • •

In completely unrelated news…pal Andrew could use a little assistance, if you’re able.

The DC Comics Hardcover/Softcover Plan: The End of the Thrillogy.

§ March 22nd, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, retailing § 3 Comments

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 two posts. 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 Michael likened 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.

Also it appears to leave out Swamp Thing’s appearance in Super Friends #28.

§ March 17th, 2017 § Filed under publishing, swamp thing § 7 Comments

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.

Was going to joke about newsstand reprintings of Watchmen with Dr. Manhattan having little bikini briefs edited in, but that’s probably what’ll happen in Rebirth.

§ March 15th, 2017 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 8 Comments

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.

In the much-closer-than-I-was-expecting future.

§ February 17th, 2017 § Filed under atlas, publishing § 10 Comments

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.

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