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The garden of funnybook delights.

§ April 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

Let’s dip back into the ol’ question pool for our next inquiry, coming from young Matthew Digges:

“Having been in comics retail for as long as you have, I imagine you’ve seen just about everything. Is there anything recently that filled you with surprise and/or delight?”

Goin’ on just about thirty years now in the ol’ comics retail game, he said all folksy-like. And it can be very easy, working behind the counter, to get a little jaded, to lose that sense of wonder and excitement, as you have to consider order numbers and sales and other business-type stuff just to keep the doors open. The trick is not letting that get in the way of the actual enjoyment of the art form, which of course you need to have in order to make informed decisions about all that running-the-store rigmarole.

It’s hard to be surprised by things, too…even back in ye olden tymes when I was but a mere customer, like many of you, I still had access to ‘zines and publisher handouts and such that kept me informed as to what was coming. That was nothing compared to today, with an internet rife with spoilers, and solicitation information easily accessible, and…well, I don’t have to tell you. Very few surprises catch us off guard any more, since most everything is telegraphed one way or another in advance. Even Marvel is ballyhooing some last page “internet-breaking” reveal in a new comic they’ve got coming up, so 1) we’re already primed for something at the end of that comic, and 2) now we get to spend a few months guessing what it is, and more likely than not overthinking and over-anticipating what that actual surprise is.

On the other hand…that’s just “surprise” over events and gimmicks and the like. I can still be surprised by picking up a comic I wasn’t planning on reading and getting immediately sucked in. The most recent example was Curse Words by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne. Now, I like pretty much everything I’ve read of Soule’s work for DC and Marvel, but even so I wasn’t planning on picking up Curse Words…’til I read the small preview I was sent, which hooked me immediately and now I’m regularly recommending that comic to customers. Now that’s a surprise, getting a comic I didn’t think much about before beyond “I wonder how many I’ll realistically be able to sell on the shelf,” suddenly becoming one of my favorites.

Or the recent Flintstones reboot from DC…I planned on at least looking at the debut issue because I liked the artist…but that first issue was so different from what I was expecting I really didn’t know how to feel about it at the time. Since then, it’s become one of, if not my favorite comic of the past year, and I never thought I’d be saying something like that about a Flintstones comic. That definitely put Mark Russell on my “always buy work by this writer” list.

Now, for just plain “delight” at a comic’s very existence…well, I tend to enjoy all the comics I take home to read. But certain comics do stand out, mostly from amazement that they actually exist in today’s marketplace. The main one I’m thinking of here is Popeye, IDW’s ongoing reprint series of the original Bud Sagendorf Popeye comics of the 1950s/60s. That it’s lasted this long is shocking to me, but I’m glad it’s still here, showing off Sagendorf’s classic cartooning. In fact, a lot of IDW’s recent reprint work is great, such as reprints of 1950s mystery comics in Haunted Horror, or the complete reprinting of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County family of strips. Getting access to material like this is always a surprise and a delight.

There’s another aspect that I was going to say is unique to being a shop owner/employee, but upon a moment’s reflection, I realize it’s just another side of the same coin. As a comics shopper, I would get excited at looking through a box of unsorted, unknown comics, at a store or at a convention, not knowing what strange wonders I may find within. I get that same feeling now, when someone brings in boxes of comics that they’re hoping to sell to me. Yes, there’s a part of me that immediately responds with “oh boy, bet it’s another run of Brigade,” but there’s something about sorting through a long box of comics, wondering if there’s going to be anything unusual or neat about to pop out at me. It could be a Giant-Size X-Men #1 that I can sell for a lot of money in the shop, or it can be some rare fanzine that I don’t already have in my ‘zine collection. You never know!

And then there’s that feeling of finally filling that one hole in the collection. That’s always a delight, no matter how long you’ve been doing this.

So yes, Young Matthew, I can still be surprised and/or delighted by comics. This doesn’t even bring up how happy I feel when there’s, say, a new issue of Groo that’s out, or more Love & Rockets, or that Walt Simonson is doing a series based in the Norse legends. But there’s still plenty of joy to be had in the comics field, if you look.

“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.

Top of the Swamps.

§ April 10th, 2017 § Filed under question time, swamp thing § 4 Comments

Okay, I asked you for questions and/or topics, and you gave me some, and I’m going to start taking a crack at ’em today. And, if you want to add to the list…feel free!

Anyway, Rich asks

“How would you rate each of the various eras of Swamp Thing, in terms of the work each writer-artist team did during their tenure?”

Well, sure, Rich, start me off with something easy, why don’t you?

Now there’s the thing…I think, almost inarguably, the two pinnacles for the character are the original Len Wein/Bernie Wrightson comics from the 1970s, and the Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totleben/etc. of the 1980s. Trying to pick which one is better than the other is almost impossible. Perhaps the Moore-era books are more effective in evoking a more modern-seeming feeling of horror, but they wouldn’t exist without the groundwork of the Wein/Wrightson stories. Also, few are the people who were better horror artists than Bernie Wrightson. In a way, both runs tread similar ground, in that they explored some of the more traditional horror themes (witches, vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, and so on) while giving their own particular twists on the topics.

Getting down to it, though, if I had to pick one over the other, I’d give the nod to Wein/Wrightson, setting the bar so high right out of the gate, which is probably mixing metaphors a bit but you understand what I mean. It’s because of them that we expect a certain standard of quality out of our Swamp Things, and it’s disappointing when that level isn’t reached. Moore ‘n’ pals would be a very close second, building on Wein/Wrightson’s creation and updating the storytelling for current sensibilities. Ideally, if someone were to ask me which Swamp Things they should read, these would be the ones.

As for the portions of the series by other creators…well, they all succeed at certain things in their own ways. The issues that followed Wrighton’s tenure featured beautiful artwork by Nestor Redondo…while the comics are not the legendary classics of the preceding issues, they are still excellent in their own right, and only probably overlooked now due to their lack of reprints (a situation about to change with the forthcoming omnibus).

The Marty Pasko/Tom Yeates run that opened the Saga of the Swamp Thing series that returned the character to newsstands is one worth revisiting as well. Its lengthier storyline, pulling together a new cast of supporting characters and giving more of a focus on ongoing subplots, was one that, if I recall some of the letter columns correctly, met with some resistance from older fans of the character. Things were maybe a little too wordy, and subplots stretched out a little too long, for their tastes, though I suspect that’s more a generational change in reader expectations from serialized comic books. Multi-part soap opera-esque stories were more the norm at DC as the 1980s rolled on, perhaps inspired by the success Marvel had along those lines in their own books. Looking back, the initial story wrapped up after only 13 issues, which…well, come to think of it, many stories nowadays come in 5 to 6 issue easily-trade paperback-able chunks, which are only approximately half the size of this Swamp Thing story. But, the point is, people are more used to not getting done-in-one stories in their comics today, which they weren’t back then, which may have affected their perceptions of this then-new Swamp Thing comic. Particularly since it couldn’t help but be compared to the classic ’70s run, which was mostly self-contained stories with only the barest minimum of subplots connecting issues together.

That’s all discussion about structure, not content, I realize. I think Pasko/Yeates put together a fine run, presenting effectively scary stories within the confines of the Comics Code Authority that weren’t necessarily variations on traditional horror topics…okay, there were the punk rock vampires, but there was also a story about Vietnam vets, a story inspired by a then-recent spate of child murders, a medically-themed body horror story, a weird alien-possession tale, and the whole storyline ending up with [SPOILER ALERT, I guess] Swampy going toe-to-toe with the Anti-Christ, which was probably not something anyone expected, but there it is. It wasn’t the Swamp Thing of the 1970s we were used to, but Pasko/Yeates certainly expanded the character’s scope, paving the way for the Moore/Bissette/Totleben stories to follow.

I hadn’t yet touched on the stories Bissette/Totleben did with Pasko pre-Alan Moore, but I think I’ll do so in Part II of “Mike Discusses How Good or Bad Certain Runs on Swamp Thing Were.” Yeah, there’s going to be a part two. At the very least. And I may eventually mention how this particular topic may be related to the special Patreon-only (at least temporarily) content I was talking about a while back. Stay tuned!

“You people bring questions for Mikey?”

§ March 30th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 28 Comments

Well, I was planning on doing some comic reviews, but ran myself out of time and energy, so I’m gonna put those off ’til tomorrow. But, in the meantime, since I’ve been thinking about doing this lately, I’ll go ahead and do it right now: let’s do Question Time again, where I welcome (hopefully comic book industry-related) inquiries from you, the people who haven’t realized you’re not supposed to be reading blogs anymore, and I answer them to the best of my ability. Or you can just suggest a topic you’d like me to discuss…at any rate, please just one question/suggestion per customer, deposited right here in the ol’ comments section.

Like the last time I did this, I won’t be answering your questions all at once in a week-long series of too-long entries here. Instead, I’ll probably address one or two topics per post, interspersed amongst the regular content and features of Progressivelyruinated.edu, such as “It’s the End of Civilization Already Again” and “Your Weekly Moment from Frank Miller’s The Spirit,” over the next few weeks or months or possibly eons…we’ll see.

Anyway, you guys ‘n’ gals usually cook up some good Qs for me to A every time I do one of these, so I’m looking forward to what you have to say. What, a website actually looking forward to comments? What decade is this? Again, please, one question or suggestion per person, gently placed in this welcoming receptacle. Thanks!

“You drive to the Final Order Cutoff, get out of your car, cut off your Final Order….”

§ July 22nd, 2016 § Filed under question time, retailing § 3 Comments

Okay, he also has some pog-related questions there, but I’m not quite ready to tackle those yet. However, PTOR has the honor of having the last question from that last Question Time post from all those months ago, and that question is THIS:

“How do you keep on top of Diamond / Previews constant ‘newly announced product’ and ‘just now added-on variants and reprints’ that are announced DAILY (with their own dedicated web pages on the Previews site)?

“I’m just a guy trying to keep up with the solicits of pretty much ONE CHARACTER (Doctor Strange, natch) and the constant newly announced stuff is hard to consistently track.
How do you do it for your entire store’s new inventory?”

It’s actually not as bad as it seems. Yes, there’s a constant stream of emails and announcements and whathaveyou, but when it comes to actually ordering all these different items, there’s generally only one or two places to go.

In the Diamond retailer website, you’ve got the Final Order Cutoffs page, where you can adjust your initial orders on comics and toys and other products from select vendors…generally Marvel, DC, IDW, Dark Horse, Image, Zenescope, and some others. Usually any newly announced variants or reprints from these companies will get listed here. This is the place where, if you noticed that your order of 100 copies of X-Squirrels isn’t selling very well on the rack, and you feel like your pending order of 75 copies of issue #2 is going to be way too much, when that issue shows up in the Final Order Cutoff listings you’ll have your chance to drop those numbers down to the far more reasonable 5 copies you should have ordered in the first place.

Then there’s the Previews Plus order page, where all the new products…not just comics, but pretty much everything Diamond carries…show up for your ordering pleasure. Sometimes there’s overlap with the Final Order Cutoff page, but if there is whatever numbers you may have placed will be shown here too. But generally this is the place where you put in your numbers for new product that didn’t show up in the monthly catalog.

Pretty much all new product that Diamond announces shows up in one place or the other. There are rare exceptions, such as the rush print job DC tried to do on the 2nd print of DC Universe Rebirth. We were told to contact our sales rep directly with orders, as, due to its rushed nature, it would not be in the Final Order Cutoff listings.

Occasionally there are special lists made available for other new products (like offers for some San Diego Comic Con exclusives), which are made obvious to anyone logging into Diamond’s site. Like, literally a banner across the top of the page telling you “HEY, PLACE YER ORDERS ALREADY, SHEESH.” Well, maybe not in those words exactly.

And then there are periodic liquidation sales and other special offers, which either show up in email or just when you go to Diamond’s site, but that’s for previously-available product and not quite as vital, but definitely welcome. You just kinda have to keep an eye out for those.

New product, though…the announcements come all the time, but there’s really only a couple of places to put in your orders, so it’s reasonably easy to keep up on that stuff.

And now that I’ve revealed all these secrets to you, PTOR…I’m afraid I’m going to have to kill you. Nothing personal. But that’s just how it goes in the world…of comics retail.

Most of these had print runs that some big publishers would kill for today.

§ July 13th, 2016 § Filed under indies, question time, reader participation § 9 Comments

So a few of you had some suggestions re: good comics from the black and white boom, including several that I own and of course couldn’t dredge up from my memory to include in the initial post.

kiwijohn mentioned a couple of titles that I enjoyed, like Border Worlds by Don Simpson:

bworlds4cvr

…a serious science fiction adventure/mystery from the creator of Megaton Man, that, as kiwijohn noted, never got to complete its story. Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve read this…I still have ’em, in what remains of my personal comic collection, so when I have a moment I need to poke through them again. As I recall, the art was gorgeous in this series.

Another kiwijohn mentioned was Xenozoic Tales:

xenozcvr

…probably remembered by a good chunk of the population as Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, a somewhat more commercial name for marketing purposes. Written and drawn by Mark Schultz, and boy, what drawing! The word “lush” was pretty much invented to describe Schultz’s art. There were a number of spin-off comics under the C&D title published by Topps Comics in the ’90s by other creators…can’t say how good those were, but the original Xenozoic Tales is the stuff.

Iestyn Pettigrew is aghast, aghast I say, that I didn’t mention The Trouble with Girls:

twgcvr

…and Iestyn is correct, I should have mentioned it, as it’s a hoot. It’s a parody of manly-man adventure novels/movies/etc. (by Will Jacobs, Gerard Jones and Tim Hamilton) in which our hero, Lester Girls, just wants a quiet evening in with a relaxing book but is constantly beset by spies, ninjas, terrorists, beautiful but deadly ladies, and all your other typical baddies that you’d find in your typical James Bonds or your Executioners or your Destroyers and so on. All very hilarious. Most of it was published by Malibu/Eternity, but it was briefly in color at Comico Comics, and there was a color mini-series at Marvel during one of its short revivals of the Epic Comics imprint. A side note: I think because of our proximity to the publisher, at my previous place of employment it seemed like copies of the first Trouble with Girls paperback collection were always showing up in collections. And not always just a single copy…I think I remember a dozen or more turning up at once in the same assortment. Go figure.

Matthew mentioned To Be Announced:

tbanncvr

…a series that I actually did try to collect. You’d figure, only being seven issues long, it wouldn’t be that hard, but I am still missing a couple. The comic is primarily by Mike Bannon, who was one of the cast of regular characters in the old Cerebus letter columns and is probably the main reason I sought this comic out. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read the issues I do have, but I recall being amused by it and I’m sure someday I’ll get around to completing the set.

Hooper mentions Neil the Horse, which I talked about a while back, as well as Tales of the Beanworld:

talesbean7cvr

…also noted by MrJM in the comments, and which I’ve also discussed many times in the past on this site. It did come out during the black and white boom, but I always forget that since the comic is just so unlike anything else on the stands. It’s hard to picture it as part of a “movement” (or “phase,” or “fad”) when it’s totally its own weird thing.

That Augie character (who just hit his 1000th Pipeline column…congrats!) mentions Nervous Rex by William Van Horn:

nerrex2cvr

…and Van Horn, some of you may best know as one of the primary American creators of new Disney Duck comics in the ’80s and ’90s, along with Don Rosa. As an avid reader of the Duck comics during that period, I was very familiar with Van Horn’s work there…but I already knew his name from his children’s books, which I’d encountered during my librarian days. Nervous Rex was one of those comics I’d always meant to look into, as the old job had most, if not all, of them, but just never got around to it, sadly. They always looked like they were delightful.

Anyway, there are a few others mentioned in the comments and I’m going to see if I can add any more personal favorites to the list in my next post. And if you have any more suggestions, you know where to leave ’em!

This post brought to you by Tom Peterson.

§ July 11th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 24 Comments

Nearing the end of the Qs here for me to answer:

Bretsector went no other way with:

“From one Yummy Fur fan to another…any hidden gems from the B&W boom/bust of the 80’s? I’ve been going through my old long boxes and found old Aircel, Fish Police, TMNT clones, Cynicalman, Giant-Size Mini-Comics, Poison Elves, Underwater, Caliber Press, etc. and wondered if any other one else on the planet still had a soft spot for some of these floppies?”

Funny you mention Yummy Fur, as I just came across those in my collection the other day (the personal collection in my somewhat less-vast Mikester Comic Archives, not the collection at Sterling Silver Comics, located in maybe too sunny Camarillo, CA) and paused for a moment to reflect on how long it took me to finally complete the run (with the last issue I needed coming from Scott McCloud’s collection, believe it or not). Yummy Fur was a fine, oddball series, but one I started reading just a little too late, and didn’t start picking it up ’til about issue #10 or so. At the time, most of the back issues were readily available, at least around here, and there was an eventual trade collection, so I at least had the full Ed the Happy Clown story (but not the Bible story back-ups or the letters pages).

But that’s not what you’re asking about. I entered the comics retail world in the late ’80s, after the peak of the post Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired black and white boom that began a few years earlier. I mean, I was buying comics, of course, but didn’t have the perspective of actually having to deal with stocking the things, or not stocking, as the case may be. Judging by later perusal of store backstock, former boss and then-provider of my funnybooks Ralph ordered fairly conservatively on the small press b&w titles. He did order them, because, y’know, you can’t sell ’em if you don’t have ’em, but he didn’t do anything like that one poor bastard I saw at a convention once, desperately trying to unload his longboxes full of Shadow of the Groundhog.

Okay, that’s still not you’re asking about. I was attracted to the small press stuff, having had an early fascination with do-it-yourself amateur publishing (both comics and prose), so I’d at least peruse the indies and see what caught my eye. One of my favorites from that period was…

drradium2cvr

It’s Science with Dr. Radium by Scott Saavedra, published by Slave Labor Graphics starting in 1986 and running on and off, via minis and one-shots, ’til the early 2000s. Silly jokes, bad science, time travel, Elvis-worshipping alien invaders (called, of course, the Elvi) and fine cartooning by Mr. Saavedra. This was a good’un. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve exchanged correspondence with Mr. Saavedra over the years, and he sent me this swell Swamp Thing drawing some time ago, and he’s even visited my new shop…but I assure you, my love for Dr. Radium was fully established long before any of that happened. Honest!)

Also recommended from the b&w boom period was PURT’NEAR ANYTHING BY MARK MARTIN:

darerat gnatrat

An identifying characteristic of the b&w boom, in addition to the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] [animal] rip-offs of the Turtles, was parodies of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Mark Martin’s various Gnatrat comics (Gnatrat: The Dark Gnat Returns, Happy Birthday Gnatrat, Darerat & Tadpole, and Gnatrat: The Movie) ran from 1986 ’til 1990, and unlike a lot of the parody comics, were written and drawn with some real wit and style, getting some out-loud laughs while managing to go some fairly dark places, too. They really didn’t look or feel like any other comic on the market, and Martin would go on to do some pretty amazing comics work after this.

Stig’s Inferno by Ty Templeton was another good’un:

stigs2cvr

…though, sadly, the series was ended before the story was completed. As you might infer from the title, it’s about a fella named Stig who ends up journeying through Hell (without his pants) and hilarity ensues. Wonderfully drawn, with busy panels and funny background gags and well worth seeking out. And you can seek it out here on Mr. Templeton’s official site, where issues are scanned for your reading pleasure.

The last one (for now, ’til I can think of more) may seem a bit out of place, and probably not that obscure, given that it’s one of the first two publications to come from Dark Horse Comics:

boris1cvr

…yup, Boris the Bear (begun in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley and James Dean Smith), which I think kinda belongs here as the first issue is clearly a reaction to the influx of Turtles knockoffs and parodies flooding the marketplace at the time. And by “reaction” I mean “Boris straight up murders thinly-veiled characters from other black and white comics.” It’s all in fun, more or less, and clearly cathartic, though I wonder if I was actually in the retail end of things at the time, how much more cathartic it would have been. Anyway, Boris continued on through Dark Horse and other publishers, generally parodying (usually in a less violent manner than the first story!) a different aspect of the comics world in each issue. Of note is a gag in issue #2, where a Portland, OR street scene is covered with “Tom Peterson” signs, which I would not have understood if I didn’t have a good friend who was a Portland resident at the time (and still is!), and had already explained to me who Mr. Peterson was. (And also had sent me a “Moon over Portland” postcard with Peterson’s face in place of said Moon.)

These are just a few that immediately came to mind. I need to dig further through the collection and see if there’s anything a little more on the obscure side that I can feature. Like Ant Boy:

antboycvr1
You said you liked Cynicalman, Bretsector? Here’s another comic by Cynicalman’s pappy, Matt Feazell. Well worth seeking out both issues!

DC Comics will never, ever call me.

§ June 30th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 7 Comments

Bet you thought I forgot about those questions!

Zeb muscles in with

“We all know anthologies just don’t work in the North American market–at least not as ongoings–but why is that? Is it the cost? The format? Just plain ol’ ‘I want only one story and damn you to Hades if you can’t give it to me’?

“Have you found the usual reluctance of people to commit to anthologies with the Legends of Tomorrow book? I was curious about whether this could finally be the book that breaks the curse but have seen nothing about it anywhere online.”

There was a point when regular monthly or quarterly anthologies were the norm rather than the exception in comics, way back in Ye Golden Age, with the idea being that even if a potential reader doesn’t care for one or two features therein, there’s gonna be something that grabs him or her. Why, just having one character or story in a comic would be a disaster! What if a kid doesn’t like that one thing? THAT’S A LOST SALE!

At least, that’s how the conventional wisdom went, anyway. If I were to hazard a guess as to why anthologies have a harder time getting traction in today’s market, it’s possibly the costs involved. A comic reader, faced with the cover prices in today’s market, isn’t going to want to spend money on a comic that he or she may only partially enjoy. If you’re spending $3.99 on 22 pages of comics, you don’t want 6 pages of that comic spent on a back-up story you’re not interested in reading. That’s a bigger risk than dropping a quarter on a 64-page anthology back in the 1940s. And yes, inflation and all that, but still, people tend to be a little more risk-resistant with their comic book dollars nowadays.

Not to say anthologies haven’t been successful…Marvel Comics Presents had a good run, featuring multiple serialized stories in each issue, though having a Wolverine story cover-featured on most of ’em helped. Action Comics Weekly didn’t do too badly, either. And there are tie-ins to crossover events, like Civil War II: Choosing Sides, where hopefully the interest in the event itself will be enough to attract sales, even if perhaps not every story in the issue may be of equal attraction to everyone.

A lot of what I’m talking about here doesn’t completely apply to indie anthologies, but even those have bit of a struggle on comic store shelves. A couple of recent ones started out strong, but even those have petered out to low sales. Dark Horse Presents is still hanging in there, but sales really depend on who’s in the book. Again, it’s possible it’s the perceived value versus cost…why spend that much money on something you’re not going to read completely.

You bring up Legends of Tomorrow, where DC took a handful of planned titles that would probably struggle on their own and squeezed them together into a bargain book (“an $11.96 value for only $7.99!”). That’s selling…okay, but I suspect it’s not long for this world either. I’m reading it, and I’m enjoying all of it, but I can see not every comic in the volume appealing to every reader. I’ve mentioned on the site before that this particular format DC has used of late is potentially the future of periodical comics, but a more tightly-themed presentation (the all-Superman one, or the all-Wonder Woman one) and the context of “this is the only place to see the ongoing in-continuity adventures of your favorite characters” is what’s going to make the sales.

Aside from that possible fate, anthology comics, at least from the Big Two or Four or However Many There Are Now, will probably be limited to the occasional short back-up in one of the regular monthlies, as opposed to a dedicated book with four or five stories in each issue.

Again, this is a fairly myopic view, focusing on superhero ‘n’ related anthologies that publish on a regular monthly, or semi-monthly, basis. This doesn’t address the annual or bi-annual or one-shot comics anthologies like Kramers Ergot, which are different animals entirely, filling entirely different audience demands.

• • •

Pal Skinslip dares to ask

“You can turn any existing other character in the DC Universe into the new Swamp Thing, who do you choose and why?”

Dan Cassidy, in a last ditch effort to rid himself of the Blue Devil costume that had been mystically bonded to his body, finds himself in a remote Louisiana bayou. Here, he has heard of many strange paranormal events, and believing he can tap into whatever magic that may exist in these dark waters, Cassidy begins the final ritual to cast off his azure-hued prison.

However, something goes terribly wrong. The ambient magical forces that drift through the air react violently to the many candles lit as part of the ritual. Flames exploding around him, his own “skin” burning, Cassidy casts himself into the swamp in an attempt to alleviate the pain…unknowingly diving into the same murk long ago imbued with the bio-restorative formula that permeated the seared flesh of a similarly aflame Alec Holland.

Soon, the waters are still, the fire dwindled away in the wet of the surrounding bog. Hours pass. And unseen, beneath the surface of the bayou, plants altered over the decades by chemical formulas and magical events wind their way into ruined human flesh.

Days pass. The water’s surface begins to tremble. Then, busting out of the marsh, a hideous…thing arises. Covered in mud and moss, the faintest hints of blue peeking through skin of green and brown, two misshapen horns jutting out from its ungainly head…red eyes flash open…the eyes of…

…SWAMP DEVIL.

(And Skinslip? You ask “why?” I say “why not?” Also, I like the recursion of a guy trapped in one unwanted “body” being trapped in yet another one.)

I wonder if Ian ever notices when I reference him in my blog posts.

§ June 20th, 2016 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, how the sausage is made, question time § 4 Comments

Back to your questions…cruisin’ in with the following is Pedro de Pacas:

“So how DOES the sausage get made?”

Well, I take some of the excess bits of Progressive Ruin, ground it up, and…okay, that’s not what I do. Generally, before I turn in for the evening, I plop myself down in front of the ol’ Atari 800 and start to type away. Now, typing’s the easy part. I’m a goood tipyst. It’s the actual content that can be tricky, since, as you likely know, I’ve been hackin’ away at this blogging thing and generating content for nearly 12 1/2 years now, and that’s not counting my previous online behavior at LiveJournal or on message boards or on local BBSes and of course the secret journals that can only be revealed after my death and I’m long past Ian’s vengeful reach. Point is, I’ve said a lot of stuff, and covered a lot of ground, and I’m not sure I have any more “good ol’ ‘Death of Superman‘ days” stories left in me.

In general, though, posts on this site can come from just my daily adventures in retail and overall retailing philosophy, seeing something odd in an old comic, reminiscing about past events, reacting to current comics news, occasionally reviewing comics, and just being silly…you know, the usual stuff comic blogs are made of, but hopefully I provide enough of a unique perspective to keep you all coming back every couple of days. I mean, I see my stats, and that can’t all be search engine spiders and people in the Ukraine trying to crack my password.

The one source of blog content I do miss is interactions with store employees, most of whom were about halfway nuts and therefore good inspirations for postings. Like, for example, this interaction I had with Employee Aaron about the Dungeons & Dragons comic, or my conversations with Kid Chris. Sadly, now, at my own store, it’s just me and my volleyball Wilson, and he doesn’t say much.

And on a related note, googum googums

“Anything new and good in what’s left of the comics blogosphere, or is it all over?”

I’d been sort of dreading this particular question, since I felt like this would be a big topic that I couldn’t do justice to. For example, I might end a sentence with a preposition.

However, I wouldn’t say the “comics blogosphere” is over, by any means, though even typing the phrase “comics blogsphere” whisks me away on nostalgic winds to the year 2004. Even now, you can go take a look at the current iteration of the Comics Weblog Update-A-Tron 3000 and see the latest updates from many still active comic book weblogs. (And I always point out that I saddled the previous iteration of the Update-A-Tron with that particular name, an act for which I likely should apologize.)

The comics blogosphere as it existed Way Back When in the early/mid-2000s, when I entered the mess, is largely gone, of course. I don’t just mean “folks ain’t around,” though folks did move on, leaving behind blogs to move into actual paying writing jobs, or just leaving when they decided they were done, or guided their blogs toward other topics, or just lost interest and let things peter out. A lot of the interaction between bloggers is gone, too, as others have mentioned…inter-blog discussions and debates and the infrequent feud (joking and otherwise) aren’t as common as they used to be. At least, not that I’ve seen, and that’s another thing….

…I don’t frequent other blogs as much. It used to be, before I’d post, I’d do a quick rundown of the latest posts on the Update-A-Tron to make sure I wasn’t accidentally duplicating another person’s content. Seems crazy now, since I’m pretty sure I was the only person championing All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, and besides, even if I was tackling the same topic as another blogger, I’d like to think my voice is unique enough to put my own personal spin on the matter. Nowadays, however, I simply don’t spend a lot of time reading comic blogs. I mean, I do follow some, and I have ’em in my feed reader, and sometimes other sources (like Twitter) will direct me to blog posts that interest me. But that level of interaction I used to have, going directly to other sites, leaving comments, building conversations…there just isn’t enough time anymore.

Another change in the blogging world that initially discouraged me was the advent of the group blogs, the ones hosted at the comics news/press release sites that had several people creating multiple posts every day, and how was one poor dumb blogger like me going to compete with that amount of content? Why go to Progressive Ruin and his handful of posts per week, when you can go to The Big Professional Comics Blog Emporium and get dozens of posts about Lois Lane having to become a Black woman every hour upon the hour? …Okay, I’m teasing slightly, but it was a bit imposing at first, until I accepted this wasn’t a competition, that several folks working for these sites were people I liked, and that my site had the one thing I was “selling” that other sites couldn’t: me! Sure that’s a bit egotistical, but one doesn’t write a comic blog with his name in the title, relating his opinions for nearly 13 years by being a shy, retiring wallflower. (Also, I did write for the group comics blog Trouble with Comics for a while until some scheduling problems took me away from the site for the time being, so take my group-blog comments with a grain of virtual salt.)

The other thing is that online comics discussion is always evolving…traditional blogs may have been “the thing,” and for lots of people they still are, but there’s Tumblr, there’s Instagram, there’s Twitter, there’s podcasting, and so on. I’m sure there’s some platform people are actively using to discuss comic books about which I am totally unaware, because I am an old person and not hep to your current jive. I suspect I’ll be sticking with my trusty WordPress installation long after everyone’s moved on to BrainJet DirectConnext online communications since I tend to hold onto things way past their shelf life.

In short; yes, googum, the comics blogosphere, or Twittersphere, or Tumblrsphere, is not yet over. It’s not the same as it was, but that’s a good thing. …But I’ll require someone to tap me on the shoulder when it’s time to go, because I won’t be able to tell, myself.

I’ll mention that Multiversity issue here in the subject line, since I forgot to do so in the body of the post.

§ June 16th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 9 Comments

ScienceGiant looms over me with

“Wow, have the Charlton heroes been ill-served by DC, or what? With the most egregious example being what’s happened with The Question.”

Oh, I don’t know. I mean, if all that was ever done with the Charlton heroes at DC was serve as inspiration for Watchmen, that would have been a worthy use of them.

Overall, though, I think DC has found some good use for the Charlton heroes over the years. I remember when DC first acquired said heroes from that publisher, this was just before Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the Blue Beetle was introduced in that series as, I guess, the representative of whatever parallel Earth he was supposed to be from. “Earth-Charlton” didn’t last very long, as the characters were folded into the DC Universe proper and we got that Blue Beetle series, Captain Atom, a Peacemaker mini, and so on. Plus, of course, we got Blue Beetle as part of the more humor-inclined 1980s Justice League series, which has pretty much defined that version of the character to this day.

In more recent comics, we have the new Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle, who’s had a couple of short run series with a new ongoing on its way, and has been prominently featured in several of DC’s animation projects.

Now, the Question…he had a sizeable and well-regarded run of a series (that even featured him “meeting” his Watchmen counterpart Rorschach), a weird but great mini by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards, and was replaced by Renee Montoya from the Batman comics (and cartoon). A popular interpretation of the character was his portrayal as a super-conspiracy theorist in the Justice League cartoons (voiced by fellow Oxnard native Jeffrey Combs).

So overall, the Question’s done okay, though his most recent, post-New 52 interpretation as some kind of being from parts unknown, punished by cosmic powers with the removal of his face and memories and cast down to Earth, where he hung out with Pandora and the Phantom Stranger, was…perhaps a little off-model. Points for trying something different, but it just didn’t seem right. Also, the Question’s alter ego Vic Sage appeared in one of the Suicide Squad titles, but I didn’t know about that ’til I looked at the Wikipedia page. So, yeah, the Question’s use of late has seemed a little sloppy, but as we all know after reading DC Universe: Rebirth, New 52’s continuity/character issues were all caused by Dr. Manhattan, which seems kind of fitting in the Question’s case given the relation between his Charlton origins and the inspiration for Watchmen.

As a whole, the Charlton heroes have had a fair shake at DC, I think, despite some recent lack of use/misuse. I’m sure they’ll pop up again…plus, there’s Blue Beetle, who is popping up again, like I’d said.

And ScienceGiant had another question:

“Also (yeah, yeah, one per commenter. I know. But I gotta know) what was the deal with Pandora from DC’s New52? Or should I call her Poochie, based on the way she disappeared after Trinity?”

…which was sort of made moot by recent events, which ScienceGiant responded to just a few days ago. Yes, you can ask another question if you’d like!

Anyway, my initial answer was that I thought she’d have a more metatextual function, relating to whatever undoing of the New 52 continuity would eventually happen, given her introduction in Flashpoint presented her knowledge of multiple timelines/universes/etc. I guess that was sort of right, considering her ultimate fate and where/how it happened. And there was that bit of business where she had cameos in every(?) New 52 launch title, implying that she was super important, and, well. You got that one Justice League story and that one short-lived series, and I suspect whatever ultimate plan was originally plotted out for her, it never really came to fruition. I mean, I don’t know. Sometimes stuff works out, sometimes it doesn’t. What Can You Do?

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