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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!

Pretty sure there was an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold too.

§ June 23rd, 2017 § Filed under question time Comments Off on Pretty sure there was an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold too.

Back to your questions, and that good man Gunga Din asks

“Can you talk about Jonah Hex? I miss him :(“

Well, sure!

The real tragedy of the Jonah Hex movie from 2010 is that a lot of the pieces were right, or at least close-to. Josh Brolin made a good Jonah Hex, most of the supporting cast was pretty solid, the film had the right look…this could have been a good film. Alas, nothing ever really gelled here, and it’s probably just as well the movie gave up and hit the credits at the one hour, 12 minute mark because it just plain wasn’t working.

Now, I joked at the time that instead of ending the narrative at 72 minutes, they should have taken what was at best a mediocre movie and turned it into the Best Film Ever Made by tacking on another half-hour or so of Jonah Hex trapped in the post-apocalyptic future. You know, just like the comics. I mean, what, were they afraid that might end up with a bad flick?

But seriously, it’s the time travel gimmick that makes Jonah Hex stand out from other western heroes, and one that’s come into play in other media adaptations of the character. In both the Justice League animated series, and in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, we are given a Jonah Hex (or Jonah Hexes, I guess) who is an old hand at dealing with people from other times. In the latter show, Jonah and Rip Hunter are already old acquaintances when we first meet him. And in the cartoon…well, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I believe the gag is that shortly after encountering the Justice League in disguise in the Old West, he realizes what’s going on and states “oh, you’re time travelers.” And it’s made clear he’s dealt with time travel before. In both series, it works…it’s an amusing twist on the expectation that someone from the past would be shocked/surprised by people from the future. Instead, Hex is fairly blasé about it all, and that’s pretty funny.

The actual Jonah Hex comic…okay, to be fair, I haven’t read a whole lot of the original series, but I’ve read enough, and what I read seemed like a standard-issue western. That sounds like I’m being more critical than I am…I mean “standard issue” in that there really wasn’t anything in the series that wouldn’t expect in a western. Not a comment on quality, but rather just a description. No weird monsters, no ghosts, no time travel…well, not ’til issue #92, which was the precursor to the infamous Hex series I’d linked before. Instead, the gimmick of the series was that Hex had those famous and somewhat improbable scars on his face, giving him his distinct look. And I say “improbable” because I once read in a comics mag somewhere a person opining that if an actual cowboy had had a flap of skin like that over his mouth he probably would have cut it off long ago, and that’s been stuck in my mind ever since.

Anyway, after the future Hex series, the first big revival of the character was as a run of mini-series under DC’s Vertigo label, and it was here that we started to get more expansion of the genres ol’ Jonah found himself in. Suddenly, it was a horror comic, with the “weird monsters” I’d mentioned earlier, living up to the title of the comic in which he’d debuted long ago: “Weird Western Tales.” After that, the next major revival was in the 2000s and it was (as I recall) more or less a straight (and very well done!) western, followed by the New 52 relaunch as All-Star Western, which eventually brought us back to Time-Travelin’ Jonah. Of course, Jonah ended up back in his own time, and continued on as normal, making his journey into the future just another thing he had to deal with.

I like having that particular element as a now more-or-less permanent aspect of Jonah Hex. He’s a bounty hunter in the Old West who sometimes has to deal with time travel and it’s No Big Deal. Those stories I mentioned above were from the comics he himself starred in…that doesn’t even mention similarly-themed stories with Jonah as a supporting character, like this 1978 Justice League of America comic, or that one Swamp Thing, and a DC Challenge, too, if that counts.

Oh, and there was that issue of Secret Origins that maintains the whole future Hex series was still part of Jonah’s official continuity, which makes me happy.

In conclusion, Josh Brolin’s Hex should have teamed up with Stiletta and fought Borsten over control for the Soames pills. I’m sure you all agree.

For more Jonah Hex stuff, I recommend Matching Dragoons, probably the most comprehensive Jonah Hex site on the planet. I’ve written a bit about Jonah, too, over the years, but not as much as that guy!

You never know when I’m going to call YOU with questions about Cap’n Quick & A Foozle.

§ June 9th, 2017 § Filed under low content mode, pal plugging, question time § 1 Comment

Okay, to follow up on Chris Gumprich’s Cap’n Quick & a Foozle question from a few days ago, on whether or not it sold:

Yes, I did speak to my old boss Ralph about it, and his initial response was “…boy, that was a long time ago.” What he remembers, however, appears to jibe with my semi-educated guesses, that it sold okay at the time, due to 1) being a different kind of comics market then, with more people sampling oddball indie titles, and 2) being created by Marshall Rogers, who was an active “name” artist then (and not the gone-too-early legend he is now). Not a huge seller or anything, but did well enough. At any rate, we agreed it probably moved units that Marvel and DC would probably kill for now.

• • •

Blogging sister Tegan has the latest installment of her essays up at her site: “Tegan and Sara Made Me Queer” is #11 in a series, and you can encourage this sort of behavior by contributing to her Patreon, like I know I do.

• • •

Sorry for the short post, but your pal Mike needs to get some of this “rest” he’s read about in books. I’ll be back Monday with more of this exciting typing you’ve come to know and love!

Frankly even the top-selling comic book would have at best “a cult following.”

§ May 29th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

THE QUESTIONS, I’M BACK AT ‘EM:

Mikey Wayne lays the following on me:

“In light of the promises/suggestions that both the JSA and Legion of Super-Heroes will soon rebirth themselves into comic stores everywhere:

“For each team, which member would you most like to see rebirthed and why? If you could choose the creative teams for each book, whom would you choose?”

For the Legion of Super-Heroes, that’s easy…I’ve said before I’d like to see a Brainiac 5-centered Legion relaunch. Brainy as the cool, rational, scientific center surrounded by the utter madness of “Bouncing Boy” and “Matter-Eater Lad” and so forth, just trying to do his job despite all the crazy nonsense in which he finds himself mired. As far as a creative team…I’m always bad at picking out folks for this sort of thing, but I feel like Warren Ellis would make this absolutely bonkers. He’d give us a Brainiac 5 that actually seems like he’s intellectually superior to everyone around him, I’d think. And yeah, he’d probably be all bastardly-like, but not on purpose…he’s trying to be helpful, to fit in, but he’s so far beyond everyone else that he comes across as kind of a jerk without meaning to. (As opposed to some previous portrayals, where he pretty much was a jerk.)

For an artist, I’d say…well, so long as we’re playing pretend here, Paul Chadwick. I’d love to see the 31st century as drawn by him…I’m picturing a more futuristic sci-fi version of his series The World Below. Like, weird to the point of being creepy, which I bet Ellis could work with quite nicely. Man, now that I’ve described it, I’d love to see it.

With the Justice Society o’America, that’s a bit harder to choose. I really want to say Jay “Golden Age Flash” Garrick, but the Flash family is already pretty mired in the whole “Rebirth” thing and I’d prefer a character that’s a little more standalone. I’d maybe say Wildcat, partially because I think pal Dorian rubbed off on me after all these years and I would like to see a new, ongoing title starring his favorite character. I don’t really have a hook for the character as such, except even as I started typing this sentence the creator “Matt Wagner” came to mind and I can totally see Wildcat sorta remodeled by him into a Spirit/Shadow/Green Hornet-ish type crime fighter. I mean, he’d still totally be a boxer who puts on his Wildcat outfit and goes out to punch crumb-bums what need punching, don’t get me wrong. But Wagner could make just that much weirder, with only the occasional intrusion from the superhero element (maybe treated as a more supernatural occurrence) but with plenty street-level action with gangsters, creeps, dames, and beat cops. I would read that in a heartbeat.

• • •

Dani makes me retreat with

“Mike… one thing I’ve been wondering… just between us nerds… What exactly did you say to Encyclopedia Brown to make him snatch out your eye?”

Friends, sometimes running jokes from my beloved BBS days of decades ago follow me into the wide world of the internets.

…But basically what I told that Brown guy was “BUGS MEANY IS RIGHT.”

• • •

Chris Gumprich wonders

“1. Have you noticed an uptick of non-comics people coming in and asking for comic versions of the various DC-TV heroes?”

This is sort of a variation of the question “do the movies help comic sales?” and the answer is generally “not a whole lot.” The movies and TV shows increase awareness of the characters, certainly, but as discussed in the past, people who are fans of comic book movies and TV shows don’t suddenly acquire the “go to a comic shop on a regular basis” lifestyle. That’s not to say I haven’t had the non-initiated come in and ask for Supergirl comics, or grab Flash off the shelf. There is a slight increase, but compared to the number of people who get all the Flash and Supergirl adventure they need a couple of dozen weeks out of the year, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot. But, you know, a little is better than nothing!

“2. Do you think CAP’N QUICK & A FOOZLE would sell today? Did it sell in 1983?”

Well, for the latter part of the question, I’m going to have to say “I don’t entirely know,” since that was about five years before my entry into the world of comics retail. I’ll have to ask my old boss Ralph when next I talk to him, so I’ll update you later. My guess is that it sold…okay, in that this was the early days of the indie market still, and the black and white boom and its subsequent effect of making people not want to buy indie books was still in the future. Probably people were experimenting a little more with trying out different things, and Cap’n Quick & a Foozle may have benefited from that. Plus, Marshall Rogers was still a draw, so it may have sold just on his name alone. Again, I’d have to ask someone who was there to be sure.

Would it sell today? This is going to sound bad, and it’s no reflection on the great work of the late Mr. Rogers, but the answer is probably “no.” It’s too hard for any new titles to get real traction, so just by pure percentages, a series, particularly a weird-ish indie series, may get a small cult following but probably wouldn’t sell all that greaet. Just too tough of a market nowadays. Maybe “Cap’n Quick and a Zombie,” or “Deadpool and a Foozle.”

• • •

Andrew Davison schools me with

“If Swamp Thing falls over in the forest, and there’s no’one around to hear him, does he make a sound?”

Now, in the similar question regarding a tree falling in the forest, with no one to hear…in that case, I would say it doesn’t make a sound. If no one, meaning the lack of presence of ear canals that can interact with the resultant vibrations caused by the tree’s impact that can in turn be translated by an attached brain into what could be interpreted as “sound,” then no, no sound was made. The potential for sound is created, but no “receivers” as such exist to covert that potential and have it be recognized as sound.

However, Swamp Thing has anywhere between one and two ears, depending on who draws him, so he’d hear himself making a sound as he fell. I mean, assuming he’s real, and not just drawings on paper, of course.

You probably thought I forgot about your questions, didn’t you?

§ May 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 6 Comments

Okay, it’s been exactly a month since I last dipped into the most recent question pool, so let’s knock out a couple right here:

William Burns lights a fire under my butt about

“Do the Black Mask Studios comics sell much for you?”

They do…okay, I suppose. Some better than others. There was a while there, a year or two back, where the investor-types were looking into new releases from indie companies for their next fortunes. It’s still happening to a somewhat limited extent, but mostly with, say, Aftershock and Scout, possibly because nobody’s quite sure how to order on a lot of these, meaning if one catches one, any given store is likely to be caught short.

But with Black Mask, Four Kids Walk into a Bank and Young Terrorists still get a small bit of attention…in fact, I just turned a customer on to the latter title, and he thinks it’s great, so, you know, they’re still capable of finding new readers. It’s hard, though, in the current marketplace, to get any sort of traction, but I’m glad companies like Black Mask, and Aftershock, and the rest are still hanging in there.

• • •

Rob Staeger grills me with

“I’ve recently been reading a bunch of old Warlord issues. They’re so enthusiastically batty! I was wondering what your thoughts are on Mike Grell and the evolution of his career. Are you/were you ever a fan?”

Sure, I liked Mike Grell well enough. I wasn’t a huge follower of Warlord but I had this digest collecting his several-issue battle with his wizardly arch-nemesis Deimos, and that was pretty good. I tried the monthly series for a while (though at this point I can’t remember if Grell was still involved with the series or not) but I didn’t like those single issues as much as that digest, so I didn’t keep reading.

I don’t know if I would say I was a “fan” in that I was a devotee of his work, but usually his art was professional and effectively presented the the stories it was illustrating, like in Green Lantern or in Legion of Super-Heroes. I haven’t read Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters in a while, so I don’t know how that holds up…all I seem to remember are some unfortunately violent bits that may not have aged well in the nearly 30 years since its release. And I read Jon Sable Freelance for a time, too, and the “usually” qualifier I used just a moment ago applies to this title, as the art got a little…sketchier that I preferred in the later issues of this series. I never did get around to reading Starslayer, though I own several issues for the Grimjack back-up stories and that early appearance of Groo the Wanderer. Should probably look at the stories in the fronts of those books someday.

Overall, I think his work is fine. I know he’s done a few covers for the recent Green Arrow series, and those have been nice. I can’t recall how much interior work he’s done of late (aside from a couple of those Arrow TV show tie-ins), but I wouldn’t mind seeing his storytelling in action on a regular basis again. I mean, if they can give Neal Adams regular Batman and Superman minis for him to be his Neal Adams-est, why not give Grell a short-run Green Arrow or Green Lantern (or Green Arrow AND Green Lantern) series? I’d read that.

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