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I think “The Violence and the Vulgarity” was my prom theme.

§ October 22nd, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing, question time, retailing § 3 Comments

I’ll get back to the topic of extended breaks in ongoing series (1 and 2) shortly, but I wanted to get a couple more questions ahead if at all possible:

William opens the gate to the following:

“Let’s talk about that evergreen topic, The Bat Penis.

“Maybe I’m cynical, but it seems like the image was provided just to garner controversy (and sales) for that issue. The image does not play into the plot, and is basically superfluous. It’s only there to either satisfy the kinks of the creators or stir up word of mouth and demand, which if it was the latter, it did magnificently.

“My question is this. I know you touched on this briefly in your post on the subject, but, as a retailer, do you feel that DC left you out to dry in this case. I am old enough to remember the Friendly Frank’s raid when it was current events, and while a lot of things changed since then, a lot of things stayed the same. I know the book was advertised as mature readers from the get go, but it seems DC didn’t let retailers in on just how ‘mature’ the book really was. And there is a difference between ‘expletive-laden’ mature readers and ‘Let’s look at the Batwang’ mature readers, and parent would be far more upset if the latter landed in their kids hands.

“I’m just wondering if you wish DC was more upfront about what the mature content was beforehand or if it didn’t really make a difference. I’m not a censorship guy, but an informed retailer can better avoid any potential legal entanglements that might cause. I’m curious on your opinion on the matter.”

So I’ve been watching that new Titans series on the DC Universe streaming channel, and…well, if you’ve been following my Twitterings, you’ve probably seen a few of my comments on the show. Overall, I do like it, but it does inspire a bit of eyerolling when they lay on the violence and the vulgarity. Especially in that one scene from the premiere episoide, the one that made it into the pilot, with Robin, um, expressing his opinion about his former crime-fighting partner. What I tweeted was

“Yes, in context Robin’s ‘F Batman’ line is totally gratuitous and tacked on as the buzz-creating ‘everyone will talk about this’ free advertising moment it was meant to be.”

Okay, maybe when they were writing this scene, they were simply intent on making this as “adult” and “gritty” as possible, and that meant the occasion f-bomb…but they still put that scene into the trailer, knowing full well that would engender some controversy and get mouths yappin’ and fingers typin’ about this new TV show.

That I think was an intentional usage of unexpected “mature” content to garner attention. I honestly don’t think Full-Frontal Bruce in Batman: Damned was the same situation. I don’t know the specific reasons why they decided to include that image (if the creators were interviewed about that topic, I haven’t seen it) but my guess is that they took this new “mature readers” “almost anything goes” imprint at DC to heart and, well, went for it. I could see ’em saying “mature imprint, huh? Let’s see if THIS gets past the editor” and then a while later: “oh dang it did.”

I don’t think I was blindsided by the image…I knew it was a mature readers title, and granted, the image itself it relatively minor…silhouetted, almost easy to miss, not like other popular comic book penises like Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan. His Lower Manhattan just popped up (heh) in DC’s Big Event Series Doomsday Clock, and seems more like a thing (ahem) than Batman’s deal. I think exposed wedding tackles fit well within the subject matter covered by the “mature readers” label. Now if there were explicit close-up images of Tab A being inserted into Slot B, that’d be a different story…one likely published by Avatar or Boundless.

I don’t think I felt legal problems were potentially a threat here…I mean, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund still exists for a reason, but the naughty Batman comic probably received more jokes about it on late night talk shows than actual complaints from concerned citizens. Raina Telgemeier’s publisher probably receives more letters from uptight parents about her graphic novels per week than the whole of DC does all year. Superheroes are “mainstreamed” now, and I think enough people have been exposed to tie-in media where Batman says “shit” or where Deadpool gets, um, rogered roundly, or where Robin says “fuck Batman” that the idea of an adult-oriented comic book isn’t quite the foreign idea it once was. I’m not saying problems wouldn’t, or don’t, happen, just that Batman: Damned probably wasn’t going to open those particular floodgates.

Not that I shouldn’t be careful, of course. Keep the Bondage Fairies off he kids rack an’ all that.

File under “death, beaten to.”

§ October 17th, 2018 § Filed under publishing, question time § 16 Comments

Following up on the last post, where I answered Paul’s question about “longest publication gap” in a series, I feel like I may have confused the issue a bit. So let’s clarify:

THE PRODUCTION DELAY: what I think Paul was specifically referring to, where an ongoing series, which is intended to continue or complete, experiences a huge unintended delay between issues. Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, with its years-long pause between issues, is my go-to example of this, though there are plenty of others (like Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, or Camelot 3000, or anything in the Dark Knight Returns ongoing saga).

THE RETURN FROM THE GRAVE: where a series totally ends, and is not intended to continue at the time…but the title is later revived and continues the numbering. Seems like such a foreign idea now, where any given comic book series seems to have a new #1 every few months or so, but there was a time when the Golden Age Flash series would end at #104, and a few years later, after the introduction of the Silver Age Flash, said series would be resurrected beginning with issue #105. Those “Blackest Night” one-shots which purported to be, like, issue #48 of the canceled Power of the Shazam series and whatnot, would fit in here, as well as those new issues of long-canceled Marvel titles (like Power Pack #63). Ghost Rider #94 would probably fit here, too, since as far as anyone was concerned at the time, #93 was the end of that series, and it wasn’t like there was an editor impatiently waiting nine years for script pages to come in so they could wrap the title.

THE INTENDED SPORADIC RELEASE: where there are extended gaps between issues, but more from design than because of any particular delays in production. I’m pretty sure something like Zap Comix would go here, where it was just released as the participants came together to produce it. (Unless Zap was intended to be monthly, in which case hoo boy did they blow it.)

There are other permutations and variations, but I think those are the big divisions, there. The recent Miracleman reprints probably span a couple of these categories, and some of the longrunning Disney comics which nobody thought would go away for long but definitely stopped publishing at times ’til a new publisher put ’em out again. but I think I’ve created enough headaches splitting these funnybook hairs like this.

Separate from all that are the aborted series, where an issue or three came out and then never continued. I mean, sure, this happens all the time, but it’s relatively unusual from Marvel and DC. Daredevil: The Target is one fairly high profile series that got out one issue and then vanished, never to be seen again except when we dug out our unsold copies of that first issue to return them to the distributor for credit. Or something like Sonic Distruptors, which I liked, but stopped at 7 out of the intended 12 issue run.

But I think what we’re specifically talking about is the first category: the comic that did eventually complete in the format and numbering in which it was intended, just with excessive pauses/delays in the release schedule, and never officially intended to be over and done with. Like Ronin with a much delayed final issue.

That’s the spirit in which I took the question, and sorry if I confused the topic initially. You all had interesting (and some extreme) examples of extended gaps in comic series publication, mostly of the resurrected title kind, which would probably be an all new post just by itself! DON’T TEMPT ME

So, with all that in mind…what’s the record production delay in a comic that did eventually publish an issue after said delay? And again, not meaning a revived title that picks up the numbering, but rather has everyone involved going “holy crap, is this book late.” Excluding Ghost Rider #93/#94 for reasons noted above, would that Spider-Man/Black Cat mini, with 3 1/2 years between issues, be in the top spot?

Let the answering of questions begin!

§ October 15th, 2018 § Filed under publishing, question time § 12 Comments

Here’s Paul, filling my comment section with this, the first question from this post I’m addressing:

“What is the current winner in the “Longest Delayed Issue” contest? Completion of a mini-series, etc. Please feel free to discourse on this title as much as you wish:”

…which he follows with a mention of the never-released follow-up to the as-yet-unfinished comics classic All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder by Frank “The Spirit” Miller and Jim “Put a Collar on Everybody” Lee.

Now, I’d meant to bring home my copy of the Überstraße comical book pricing guide for research purposes, but dumb ol’ me left it sitting on the front counter at work, so what’cha gonna do. So, I’m going to depend on online databases like the Grand Comics Database for my info here.

For the purposes of argument, let’s just consider series that did have a follow-up issue after an extended pause in publication (which would leave out something like that All Star Batman follow-up, which is more theoretical at this point anyway, not to mention technically being a separate mini-series aside from the original).

The first thing that comes to mind is of course Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, a six part mini-series that had a three-year gap right in the middle there. That’s one of the more obnoxious examples of this sort of thing.

However, there’s an even longer gap from another Marvel title: the 1990s Ghost Rider series, which ended at #93 in 1998 even though an issue #94 had been intended to wrap up the series, sales (and orders!) just didn’t warrant the expense to publish it! Eventually, Marvel did publish #94 as an extra-sized special in 2007, 9 years later, which included a reprint of #93 as well as the heretofore unpublished #94, finally bringing closure to that run.

Then I suppose there’s the legendary underground comic Zap Comix, which published #15 of its run in 2005, and #16 (the final issue, supposedly) in 2016. I mean, this is slightly different from the other examples, in that its not a serialized story that was suddenly interrupted, keeping everyone in suspense until the shocking conclusion was released. …I mean, I suppose once you start looking into undergrounds, there may be all kinds of long publication gaps between issues like this. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of research.

Then there are circumstances like this one, where a Buck Rogers #1 was released in 1964, and then 15 years later, in 1979, when the title was revived due to the TV series, the comic continued with an issue #2. I feel for the Buck Rogers fan who picked up #2 on the stands and lamented that he just missed the first issue, surely containing a prequel to the television show.

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Miracleman, which doesn’t quite fit the criteria I established above in that it hasn’t yet had the follow-up to its final issue in 1993, and the continuation would have had a newly numbered series anyway. But Marvel came close, coming within a couple of issues in its recent reprint series to finally getting to the promised new material. Had that come out when expected, that would have been a 23 year gap. And though it wouldn’t have had “#25” on the cover, it would have been “The Silver Age” Part 3, so maybe we can consider that the numbering system that was so cruelly interrupted. It’s all a moot point anyway, since those new Miracleman stories don’t appear to be arriving anytime soon, and frankly I’m surprised Marvel hasn’t thrown some version of Marvelman into the Avengers or whatever, and try to recoup whatever money and resources they put into acquiring the character.

Oh, and I just remembered Amazing Fantasy, which had a somewhat famous issue #15 in 1962, followed by #16, #17 and #18 in 1995. Plus, there were all those Blackest Night books that purported to be the next issue after each series’ last issue (like Atom and Hawkman, ending with #45 in 1968, getting a new one-shot event tie-in special #46 in 2010). I’m not sure I’d count these specific cases as “interrupted series runs” as clearly these next issues weren’t part of the plan when the original series were canned.

Well, that’s certainly a lot of typing. Paul, these are the best examples I can think of off the top of my head. I haven’t yet looked into the Disney conics, as I’m pretty sure here there are some lengthy publication gaps, particularly in the 1970s. Admittedly I got a bit off track near the end there, so if anyone can think of any series with lengthy publication gaps that retain their actual numbering, and clearly were meant to continue on but got horribly delayed (as opposed to my examples where a series definitely had its ending, but then had follow-up issues that continued the numbering), just let me know.

Gimme Qs to A.

§ October 8th, 2018 § Filed under question time § 24 Comments

I’m well on my way to having the new End of Civilization post ready…but alas, there’s too much stuff and I’m not going to get it done in time for Monday.

So what do you get? You get QUESTION TIME! Yup, that’s right, ask me a comics-related question (just one per person, please) in the comments, and I’ll do my best to give you an answer. Hopefully I won’t take as long as last time, where I dragged out the proceedings for about, what, 20 years or so?

Anyway, ask away in the comments, and I’ll give you answers as opportunity arises. Again, just ONE QUESTION PER PERSON, PLEASE. Or just one topic suggestion…I’ll take those, too! I do reserve the right to reject questions/suggestions, because I’m a jerk.

Okay, back to producing the End of Civilization…I’ll have it up shortly.

Underwear that’s fun to wear.

§ February 19th, 2018 § Filed under question time, superman § 8 Comments

So last time I was wrapping up my responses to that long-ago call for reader questions, and I ended with a more recent question asked by a certain Mr. Hal Shipman. His question was regarding the recent news of the return of Superman’s red trunks, which had been discarded during the New 52 reboot a few years back. He wondered if that was actually going to be the official costume here on out, or if that was just hype for some covers and pin-ups that would have the red trunks and that was it.

Going by what I’d read about the re-trunkening thus far, it seemed like, yes, Superman’s duds would no longer lack the shorts. If I’d waited just a tad longer, however, I would have had access to an even more complete and official answer to the question via one of the comic news sites:

“…There will be an in-story explanation for why Superman has decided to go back to displaying his red trunks outside of his costume again.”

…which appears to be occurring in new regular Superman writer Brian Michael Bendis’s story in Action Comics #1000. Of course, I can’t wait to hear what that explanation will be…”Oh, they’ve been in the wash.” “These aren’t shorts…on my world they stand for Hope.” “Gah, Batman bought these for me for Christmas, I have to wear ’em or I’ll hurt his feelings.” “Um, the local parents groups have been complaining about me being too, uh, revealing.”

Or, of course, there’s always the scenario I laid out here, which would make Action #1000 a Doomsday Clock tie-in, something we’d all want, I’m sure.

The other thing in that quote is the specific mention of “displaying his red trunks outside of his costume again,” which could imply he’s been wearing them this whole time, just under that blue armor or whatever. Could just be reading too much in the statement, which, honestly, I almost never do on this site.

Anyway, Hal, there’s as complete an answer as I can give you about the current status of Superman’s red trunks, without having the actual issue in front of me so I can describe the event in excruciating panel-by-panel detail: “OKAY, ONE LEG’S IN THE HOLE…what happens in panel TWO, I wonder?”

As a follow-up to a comment I made near the end of the last post, where I said I didn’t see exactly what was “new” about the costume, which I’ll picture here again:


…’twas David G what solved the mystery, as I missed Superman’s new sleeve cuffs. Those little angular things that I suppose are evoking the look of the tops of the boots, but for all the world just remind me of Wonder Woman‘s logo. …I guess I can give ’em that, so long as we never see that terrible collar again, but I give ’em like a year before artists just forget or straight-up stop on purpose drawing those cuffs into every panel that “needs” ’em.

Next step, of course, is getting Henry Cavill into those trunks for the next four or five Justice League movies. Or maybe going back and digitally adding trunks back into various films and cartoons from the last few years. …And as long as I’m on the topic, let’s see Justice League: The Moustache Cut too. I mean, why not.

Spreading weird cheer since 1969.

§ February 16th, 2018 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

Here we go, wrapping up my responses to all your questions from ye olden tymes (i.e. last March):

CalvinPitt digs in with

“Mike, you mentioned some time ago that quite a few of your customers don’t spend time on the Internet reading articles or blogs about comics. Do you notice a difference in how they respond to things like Big Events or ‘shocking’ deaths, or things like creative team changes?

“Are they more interested or curious in those than folks who have been reading about them online for weeks, or does it depend on the person?”

That’s…getting harder to determine, actually. As pretty much the sole pilot of this particular retailing ship, I interact with literally every customer who comes through the door, and it seems like just about everyone has some online awareness. There are a couple of customers I’ve known for years who had previously always been the “seeing it on the rack is their news” folks are now paying more attention to online comic news venues and YouTube channels and the like. I mean, I still have a couple of customers who pretty much just stick to the weekly Comic Shop News to keep informed far as I can tell, but it seems like of late internet news/reviews sources have been more fully integrated into the comics shopping experience. I don’t know if anyone’s really caught off-guard any more by particular turns of events…well, I mean, they are, but it’s, like, two or three months ahead of the book being available for sale, it seems.

• • •

Dan wars fights on with

“Did you ever catch those girls that were terrorizing you with love in 2010?”

Dan is of course referring to these peculiar incidents from, urgh, eight years ago now, where a group of young gals kept leaving trinkets and ribbons and…well, you can read about it there. Alas, John Law never caught up with them, and far as I know, they still roam the lands, traveling from comic shop to comic shop to spread their particular form of weird cheer.

• • •

philfromgermany wants to know:

“Are there any more kids buying comics? I mean honest to goodness kids spending their allowance, not dads buying comics for their kids to get them away from the computer but real kids interested in super-heroes?”

Oh, sure, I see kids in the shop all the time, piling their change on the counter to pay for their purchases. Buying superheroes, buying My Little Pony, buying Steven Universe…I have that one kid who only wants Disney books from the 1950s and ’60s, the young girl who wants webcomic strip collections…I’m seeing plenty of children actively interested in comics. It helps that I’m near a popular restaurant, a music school, a martial arts center, and so on, all with sizeable young clienteles who spot my store and invariably exclaim “OOOH! Comic books!”

• • •

David G drops large with

“Did the world really need ‘adult’ versions of old Hanna Barbera cartoons in comic book form?”

Sure, if they’re good! The Flintstones was a remarkable bit of dark satire that, if I may more or less paraphrase what I’ve said about it before (because I’m too lazy to look up my exact wording), sounds like a bad idea on paper but absolutely sticks the landing. The current Snagglepuss comic is just about as strong a book so far, two issues in. The Dastardly & Muttley mini-series was completely bonkers, and the still-ongoing Scooby Apocalypse remains a very strange but thoroughly entertaining book.

Now, the question I think you’re maybe asking is “do we need adult versions instead of kids versions,” and, yeah, ideally there would be. Well, okay, two-thirds of the available monthly Scooby-Doo comics are all ages, but part of the problem is if there would be a perceived market for an all-ages Dastardly & Muttley series, or an all-ages Snagglepuss series. I’m sure there is, or that one could be built, but the “adult” gimmick is the strategy that would get them attention and sales more quickly. It’s marketed to adult readers’ nostalgia, since nobody’s doing new, say, Snagglepuss cartoons to any real extent, compared to Scooby-Doo, which is still generating new cartoons even today, keeping the property in front of children’s eyes.

• • •

Hold on, it’s philfromgermany again, asking

“Please talk a little bit about Crossgen. How did it sell back at the old place in the olden times? Is there still any demand for it? Did you ever read any and if so, which series would you recommend?”

Sold pretty well, as I recall. And CrossGen had this thing where you could order and maintain a backstock on issues, either directly from them or some mail order outfit they were partnered with (don’t recall, exactly), so that readers could always get in the ground floor. Plus they had a good trade paperback program, getting those issues collected right away. Now, I didn’t read too many of them…I read El Corazon, their pirate comic, and Abadazad, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Plogg’s fantasy series, and I enjoyed both of those. Their earlier mainline books, like Scion or Crux or whathaveyou, I didn’t get into, though I’d flip through ’em as they came in and they all looked perfectly fine. Just, you know, didn’t have the time, or they didn’t really grab me, for whatever reason.

The two I wish I did read were the Sherlock Holmes-esque Ruse, or the well-regarded horror series Route 666. Both of those sounded right up my alley, and I kind of regret not picking them up at the time. Well, What Can You Do?

I don’t really have any requests for these titles today…I have a few around the shop, and even some in the bargain bins, but I haven’t had anyone asking me for any CrossGen of late. Marvel’s attempt at a brief revival a few years back never went anywhere, unfortunately, since I think there’s probably still some potential in these properties.

• • •

Okay, that’s it for all the questions from that long-ago post, but here’s a BONUS QUESTION from Hal Shipman, from my Doomsday Clock review-thingie:

“re: [Superman’s] red trunks – Are they really changing them?
The one piece of art that anyone is referencing as proof of this change is Lee’s work for Action #1000. Of course there are going to be pin-ups of the old suit in there. Has anyone in editorial actually said this or is everyone taking that image and running with it?”

Uh…good question! Are they definitely going back to the old costume, or is it just “let’s look back at the history of Superman” via, like you said, pin-ups and such. But I was pretty sure they said yes, the trunks are coming back, and here it is on the press release on DC’s site:

“The Jim Lee-drawn cover features a new costume that integrates a variety of classic and new elements, including the Man of Steel’s trademark red trunks.”

…so if they’re calling that the “new costume,” then those red shorts appear to be very definitely back in style! Though despite what the release says…that just looks like the old Superman costume to me:

What “new elements” am I missing? To be fair, I didn’t study the image much beyond “NO COLLAR, good; RED TRUNKS, also good.”

• • •

Okay, and that finally wraps up this latest round of Question Time. Thanks for your patience, everyone, and I promise, I won’t take so long next time. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week.

…I’ll take two years.

§ February 12th, 2018 § Filed under question time Comments Off on …I’ll take two years.

This is probably the longest I’ve let one of these “question time” posts go unanswered. Remember back, nearly a year ago, when I last took questions from you all? Maybe I should make a concentrated effort to actually get through them before it actually becomes a literal year. So, let’s get a few out of the way today:

philip snipes

“How do you decide what to put on eBay? am someone who mostly looks for large lots of ‘readers’ for cheap, so I’m curious to know the calculus behind what goes up, and what doesn’t, from the Vast Mikester Archives™.”

Well, it’s a combination of things, really. Sometimes it’s stuff that doesn’t really fit into the usual items that sell in the shop, and I feel would have a better chance moving online. For example, I have (or had) several pieces of music industry memorabilia that I don’t really have any place for in the shop, or for which I don’t believe I have any sort of perceived clientele. Y’know, things like radio station promo buttons or calendars, or industry mags, or that sort of thing. I feel like would have better luck finding customers for those online than from the local community.

Sometimes it’s stuff I’m looking to turn around right quick, sometimes at prices that would likely make it a more difficult sale in the shop. Not too long ago I had a Richie Rich #1 from 1962 that, again, I was selling on consignment for somebody. He wanted to make a certain amount of money on it, and I wanted to make a certain amount of money on the item over that amount, which would have put it way above guide for the condition it was in. And, comparing prices on eBay, my slightly outrageous price would have fit right in with recent sales there, so, after taking lots of pictures and writing a exactingly-detailed description of the condition, I put it on eBay to hopefully turn it over as soon as possible. …As it turns out, I should have asked for more money, I guess, since it took, no exaggeration, less than five minutes for it to move. I probably spent twenty minutes taking pics and prepping the actual listing.

Sometimes it’s just clearing space. I have several boxes of backstock I have yet to go through sitting in my backroom, mostly acquired on the cheap. As such, I’m able to blow out large quantities of books at inexpensive prices. Or sometimes it’s clearing out the overstock…as a professional funnybook salesman, I almost never make ordering mistakes, but, well, on that once-or-twice-a-decade occasion that I do, I try to use eBay to unload that excess.

Sometimes it’s, well, the time spent processing the item for listing/shipping vs. the price realized. It takes a non-zero amount of time to get pics of the item, write up descriptions, prep the listings, and get these things packaged to survive the tender mercies of the postal office once they sell. Though I’ve got the process streamlined about as well as I can, the time spent is still relatively fixed, whether it’s a $100 item or a $1 item. As such, I’ll usually pass up the less-expensive items in favor of things with a higher cost. Not that I don’t list less-pricey things…and let’s be honest, none of these “rules” are set in stone. Sometimes it’s just straight up whim that gets me to put some goodie online for sale.

• • •

Simon says

“In your sourcing mix, what are the %ages of DCD, DBD, Ingram, B&T, others?”

Probably comes as no surprise that Diamond is the largest source of product, just for convenience’s sake, with a little bit of extra stock coming from other sources. Don’t really want to get into exact percentages, but Diamond is way up there.

“If that’s confidential then pick another question, Mike, any question:”

I kept everyone waiting on these answers, so I’ll say a little something about each of your extra Qs:

“How does the Marvel collapse affects your operation?”

Any “collapse” that may be happening is something that’s been going on since the Big Two decided relaunching with new #1s rather than maintaining consistent series was a good idea…my general strategy has been, as always, order conservatively and keep a close eye on sales numbers. And of course keep an ear open as to what customers want and like.

“How have you proofed against a DM collapse?”

Urgh…not really at all, to be honest. I mean, I could get books and such from other sources, but the comics market as it is now depends on that weekly influx of new periodicals, and if there’s nobody there to make sure the monthly books are getting out to shops, well, that’s bad news. Eventually…eventually, the market may move over to primarily trade format books that could be available from a variety of sources, but the market ain’t there yet.

I mean, I guess I could always just sell back issues. Wouldn’t want to have to depend on just that, however. Maybe pogs will be big again. (Okay, less silly answer: diversify my product. If the direct market goes away, I’ll have to find stuff to sell that doesn’t depend on direct market distribution, since that’s what I primarily deal with. At the very least, if the DM goes away, I can spend more time moving all that pending eBay stuff.)

“And against the exodus to online and digital?”

All I can do is provide good service and a willingness to order/reorder items people are looking for. If someone’s dead-set on leaving behind the physical comic world for bits and bytes, I can’t force them to stop, but being a decent retailer will hopefully keep people remembering that actually going to a physical comic book store can be rewarding.

• • •

Okay, maybe I’ll try to finish off the remaining questions next time. I promise, next time I do this, I won’t take a year!

Kept having to make sure I wasn’t spelling it “marital.”

§ December 11th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 9 Comments

Okay, my eyes are a’burnin’ something fierce, being irritated from the ash in the air and all, so let me go back to those questions you folks left me way back in ye olden times and knock a couple of those out in short order today:

Gareth Wilson kicks this one my way:

“Are martial arts interesting enough to be the basis of a modern superhero?”

The short answer is “sure, if the comic is any good.” With the right creative team, a clever enough take, and a wee bit of luck, pretty much anything is fair game superhero-wise.

The big problem is translating the excitement of a martial arts battle that one could see in live action into static images on a page, and have it compete on anywhere close to an equal basis for a kung-fu fan’s attention. It helped that the huge faddishness of martial arts during the 1970s stoked desire of pretty much anything along those lines in any medium, so that did feed into comics readership. And it didn’t hurt that comics like Master of Kung-Fu and Iron Fist were generally pretty good.

Not to say martial artist-type characters weren’t around prior to that…DC had Karate Kid, for example, and there was Karnak of the Inhumans over at Marvel. However these guys weren’t the primary focus of their respective books/appearances, but rather team players whose powers would be used as the plot warranted. They were just part of the mix.

Nowadays we’ve got…I guess just Iron Fist as the martial arts title from the Big Two (and there was a Bruce Lee comic from an indie company, though it’s been a while since one has come out). Iron Fist does fien, and Bruce Lee seemed to be gathering a reasonable following while it was running. Oh, and there was that Master of Kung-Fu one-shot that came out a week or two ago…that sold okay. So, I don’t think there’s any particular objection to martial arts heroes in the comics marketplace…they have as much of a chance at being of interest to a comic reader as anything else. As I said, depends on execution and a little (or, well, maybe a lot of) luck.

Now whether it’s interesting enough to carry a live-action superhero in, say, a TV show on a video streaming service. …No. No, it’s not.

• • •

Mike Loughlin wonders

“Are there any superstar comic book creators left, I.e. anyone whose comics sell on the basis of their involvement alone?”

Well, there are certainly creators who’ll get people to pick up books, sure, but you’re saying “superstar,” like BIG BIG NAME people. Like, say, Frank Miller or John Byrne at their 1980s heights, is how I’m interpreting this. Folks who’ll grab everyone‘s attention on whatever project they’re working on, regardless of what it is, and whose movements are forefront in the fan press, and so on.

You don’t really see too much of that sort of thing anymore, mostly because most comic book sales are down in the dumps and that’s hardly the place from which superstars spring. Well, I mean, you’ve got Raina Telgemeier, who is a genuine Comics Superstar, who’s probably put out single volumes of things that have larger print runs than all of Marvel’s monthlies put together, but that’s probably not what you mean.

In the regular ol’ comic book market, as opposed to Telgemeier’s dominance of the bookstore market, I don’t know if there is one single Big Name Personality that would have fit the old Miller/Byrne mode. I mean, I guess Miller still does, in that anything he’s attached to tends to attract eyeballs and discussion and so on, if maybe not sales (though Dark Knight III did well). Todd McFarlane is kind of out of the public’s eye right now, though I bet if one day he said “f**k it, I’m gonna draw Spider-Man again” he’d rocket right back up to superstar status.

Honestly, though, I can’t think of a Big Time Creator still doing work who crosses enough lines of interest like that. Maybe Brian Michael Bendis a few years bacK? Honestly, I’m not sure who, if anyone, quite fills that criteria any more. If you have any suggestions, drop ’em in the Usual Place, if you’d like.

And I say this as someone who’s enjoyed the recent Superman films.

§ September 13th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

Hey, remember those questions I asked you for way back when? Hoo boy, it’s been a while…let me see if I can knock a couple more of ’em out today:

Cwolf howled

“Like to read your thoughts on the reports about Marvel’s retailer conference this weekend.”

Uh oh, this question was asked on…egads, April 3rd, so let me look things up for a moment…

[tempus fugit]

…Oh, right, Marvel’s whole “our audience doesn’t want diversity” thing, based on the idea that a number of titles featuring non-traditional (i.e. not white male) leads weren’t doing well solely based on the idea that the leads were the problem, and not, say, a symptom of Marvel’s own publishing policies that undermined both retailer and consumer confidence in their titles. I mean, I don’t think I had too many customers…or any customers…complaining about Thor being a woman. If anything, that boosted sales a bit, at least for a while…but Marvel’s starting and stopping and relaunching and rebooting doesn’t help things, and sometimes it strangled new titles in the crib before they even had a chance to grow up, so what can you do? Marvel’s “Legacy” initiative (restoring original numbering to many of their long-term titles) may go a little way toward repairing that damage, and maybe readers might be a little more willing to try something new is they think there’s a chance it won’t be restarted from #1 if the issues get to close to double-digits.

Anyway, I know I’m a bit late to the party discussing this particular situation (though I’ve addressed this general topic on my site plenty of times before), but this article from The Atlantic gives a pretty harsh but not-inaccurate assessment of what all this rebootery has done to the marketplace.

• • •

Jerry Smith hammers out the following:

“Would you like to see a comic book movie or TV show do an actual, colorful comic book costume (within reason, that is)? You know, Wolverine in something close to the comics, Iron Fist in his traditional mask (with probably the modern track-suit costume) or anyone in something not black leather? I get tired of the black ninja crap on everyone, and long for attire closer to the comics (again, without being ridiculous).”

Well, sure I would. I know that’s probably not the in-thing in live-action representations of comic book characters nowadays, but there’s probably a way to do it without looking too ridiculous. Like, I always thought the costume in Batman: Dead End looked nice…fitting in well with the usual “dark” takes on the character without replacing the standard costume from the comics with the plastiformed muscle armor you usually see in movies.

But I think making the costumes appear to be some kind of armor or athletic outfit or something other than just tight-fitting spandex is one of the methods filmmakers use to support that willing suspension of disbelief. It’s a small touch of “reality” that helps ground the fact that the character can fly or run at the speed of light or whatever. I think Daredevil’s live-action costume looks fine, for example, and helps sell the “grittiness” of the character and setting that a ersatz circus outfit probably wouldn’t.

That said, I’d be happy to see a Superman movie where Superman is back in blue tights with red trunks and a big red flowing cape without any excessive detail noodling or lines or seams or such to somehow sell the “reality” of the costume. It’s a costume. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than to say “Hi, I’m Superman, I’m here to help.” By all rights, it should be silly-looking just on its own, but virtually every actor we’ve seen in that classic costume elicits the reaction, not of “hey, look how goofy he is wearing that,” but “hey, it’s Superman!” I bet if you got Henry Cavill into that costume and let him smile more, he’d probably get that response, too.

I still feel bad about the John Ritter thing.

§ July 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 13 Comments

Okay, finally back to more of your questions:

CP Bananas appeals to me with

“If you had unlimited funds, what’s the one thing you’d add to your store? Signage? Fixture? Ice sculpture? Water slide? Something more/less ridiculous?”

Crazy idea: movie theater. I have two rooms in the back of the store, and I can store stuff in the smaller room, and use the larger part of the backroom as an indoor theater of sorts. The walls would need repainting, and I’d need to cover that concrete floor with something, but that’s a lot of space that needs some using. Plus, I’d have to look into what sort of licensing I’d need to have in order to screen films, and some reasonable form of air conditioning that wouldn’t be too loud…but I could probably seat, I don’t know, a couple dozen people back there? It’s something to think about.

More realistically, I could knock out part of the wall that divides the store between the front and the back, and expand into that larger backroom area with more fixtures and products. “WELCOME TO MIKE’S COMICS AND POGS” the sign in front of the store would boldly declare to all passerby.

• • •

MrJM asks

“As I recall, every iteration of the team had substantially the same origin: the Legion of Superheroes started as three kids from different planets with different powers joined together to combat the powers of evil in the 30th/31st century.

“But why would anyone dub the founding trio of Rokk Krinn, Imra Ardeen & Garth Ranzz ‘the LEGION of Superheroes?’

“A Roman legion was a unit of 3,000–6,000 fighting men. Even colloquially, ‘legion’ is synonymous with horde, throng, multitude, host, crowd, mass, mob, gang, swarm, flock, herd, score, army. No matter how you slice it a ‘legion’ is a whole bunch of folks.

“While the group would certainly merit the name in the end — including everyone from Bouncing Boy to Invisible Kid to Quislet to another Invisible Kid — at the founding no one could have know that. It was just three people.

“Within the continuity of the story, ‘Legion of Superheroes’ simply made no sense as the name for the original trio!

“And so my question: Has this ever bugged you?”

No.

• • •

Thom H. inquires about

“I love reading stories about customers. Can you share a good story about a memorable customer, whether it’s good, bad, weird, surprising, or something else?”

I’ve had several memorable customers over the years, but aside brief, amusing (or occasionally aggravating) incidents, I have a hard time relating actual stories about them, I mean, I have written about a couple of longtime customers who had passed away (like Errol, or Bruce, or Sean and his tragic end – they did end up catching the guy who killed him).

There was the fellow who always wrote enormous checks for expensive comics, the only personal information on his check being his name…my old boss had been dealing with him since long before I worked at the shop, and he always told me “the check’s fine, don’t worry about it.” And, far as I know, his checks always were fine.

There was the kid who collected Adam Strange comics…because his name was also Adam Strange.

There was the time, shortly after I started working in comics retail, when the shop was suddenly filled with lady wrestlers all in costume. I was like “is this what selling comics is going to be like all the time?” And the answer to that was, of course…yes, yes it was.

There was the young lady who’d been coming to the shop since she was a kid…and now, college age, she had come to the store and asked me if I wanted to see her new tattoo. I said “sure!” and before I knew it she had basically removed her top with her back to me, presenting her new full-back tattoo in all its glory. (Coworker Sean, who was working on the other side of the store at the time, later asked me “what the hell was going on over there?”)

There was the teaching assistant at the college I was attending who found out I worked in a comic book store, and would request comics that I’d bring up the next day that he’d then pay me for.

There was customer Marlon, who dressed as the Milestone character Icon one year for Halloween, and as the John Stewart Green Lantern another year, in absolutely perfect costumes with the perfect physique. It’s like the characters had literally come to life in our store.

There was the fella researching vampires in comics, and was trying to buy every single comic featuring a vampire appearance. On one visit we stayed for hours after closing assembling his several-thousand-dollar purchase.

There was MC Chris, who stopped by the shop prior to performing at the local music venue, and proceeded to plug the store onstage.

There was the time I thought John Ritter was just some creepy guy planning to shoplift from us.

Those were all at the previous place of employment. I’m trying to come up with any really unusual stories from the new store, but aside from the endless repetition of “this is just like Big Bang Theory!” I haven’t had any really weird stories burn into my brain yet. I’ve had lots of great, friendly customers who have been very supportive, I’ve also had the occasional time waster or problem creator (like the mom who was upset that I made her pay for comics her children destroyed…and to this day, when she passes by I here her tell her kids “no, you’re not going in there”). Or the elderly gentleman who just did not seem to understand that, no, I didn’t want to carry the sports jerseys he was wholesaling.

But I don’t want to focus on the bad things, really. I prefer to think of the helpful folks, like customer Mark, whom I’ve met since opening my new shop, who will occasionally show up at events at my store (like Free Comic Book Day) dressed in his great Batman costume and entertaining the other customers.

Or the mom who told me that her little girl loves Squirrel Girl comics so much that she takes them to bed and sleeps with them at night.

I haven’t had anything really epically strange happen yet…mostly just nice people buying comics nicely and doing nice things. …PLEASE DON’T TAKE THIS AS A CHALLENGE, ANYONE READING THIS.

• • •

Oh, okay, back to MrJM’s question…no, I never really thought about it, to be honest. Looking back at the Legion’s origin as presented in Superboy #147, I don’t see where it’s established who names the team thusly. Given that the fella financing the team, R.J. Brande, is responsible for naming two of the founding members “Lightning Lad” and “Cosmic Boy” (and probably named “Saturn Girl” as well, though not explicitly stated), it’s likely fair to say Brande dubbed the team “The Legion of Super-Heroes,” too. Calling it a “legion” from the get-go is surely Brande anticipating that new members would eventually join…and it’s probably also just simple marketing. “Legion” sounds impressive. “The Three Kid Band of Space Heroes,” not so much. R.J. Brande is the richest man in the 30th Century…he knows how to sell stuff!

• • •

So long to Flo Steinberg, original member of the Marvel Bullpen, who passed away on Sunday. She was just as much a part of the team as Stan, Jack and Steve, and Marvel wouldn’t have been Marvel without her.

Several years ago a bunch of comics folks were swapping mix discs, and as a “bonus” at the end of my disc was a recording of a Merry Marvel Marching Society record that I digitized from a copy of the flexidisc that had turned up in a collection. I later heard from, I believe, Fred Hembeck, who thanked me for including that on there. “It was so nice to hear her voice” he said. It sure was. That gal had character to spare!

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