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“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:


…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:


…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:


…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:


…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:


…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:


…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…


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:


…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:


…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:

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…


(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?

Questions within questions.

§ June 13th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

In response to last week’s post, David asks

“Have you ever seen a market for ‘misprint’ comics?”

Well, in fact, I was Googling up a couple of misprinted titles that I remembered, and what appeared before my eyes was the site Recalled Comics, which appears to be a very thorough database of what it says on the tin, there. Not just recalled comics (like the infamous Elseworlds Giant and that Hooters comic) that were presumably error-free, but things like that Venom: Lethal Protector #1 where errors in the foil application resulted in some oddball variations (and enormous eBay prices).

One specific error comic that I’m still interested in obtaining is the All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #10, in which the naughty words in the dialogue that were supposed to be “censored” by black boxes were in fact still legible due to the insufficient opacity of said boxes. It did answer the question, at least in the case of this specific release, that when comics do the redacted black-box thing, the actual words they’re blacking out are there. My memory of the event is that, when this comic first was released, the copies that made it out into the wild did end up on the eBays for a significant amount of money. Right now, just doing a quick search, you can get a copy for around $20. so there’s still some demand for this, too.

That comic was quite literally recalled at the last second, as it was on the invoice that accompanied that week’s shipment. Our copies were pulled out of the boxes prior to being shipped to us, but other stores did get their allotment, and I’m sure in some cases they “sold” “out” before word of the recall came down.

Not all errors result in demand, of course. Comics with the pages out of order and never corrected with reprinted editions (like Batman: The Cult #4) or comics reissued with corrected cover prices (like a recent issue of IDW’s Popeye, initially released with a $3.99 price, with a $4.99 replacement coming a week or so later)…nothing’s ever happened with those. And there’s that All-Star Squadron annual where everyone’s green for half the issue…it’s amusing, but it was never corrected either, so there’s no rarity to it.

So, David, my answer is “yes, sometimes, depends on the comic.” In general, if every copy of the comic has the same error, there’s probably no extra demand, but if only a few copies have the error and was re-released in corrected form, some demand may accrue. In general, I repeat myself. I’m sure there are exceptions.

And then there’s this comic, where the error can only repel due to its disgusting nature:


Anyway, so that’s my commercial for the Recalled Comics website (which I’ve been enjoying over the last few days), and was also me pushing reader David ahead in the old Question Time queue. Back with more in a day or two.

The worst use of the word “realistically” ever.

§ June 10th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 5 Comments

Let’s tackle a couple more of your questions, shall we?

BRR chills me with

“I’ve seen some recent distinctions between newsstand and direct market editions of some back issues in a couple online marketplaces. Do you have back issue customers seeking one or the other?”

By and large, no, not really, unless there’s something else different about the comic beyond whether it has a UPC code instead of Spider-Man’s head in the little box on the cover there. Like, for example, that one Amazing Spider-Man annual where Peter and Mary Jane were finally married, for ever and all time, never to be undone. The direct market comic shop edition had Peter ‘n’ MJ in a tux and wedding dress, respectively, whereas the newsstand edition had Peter in the red and blue longjohns. Usually there’s a preference either/or when someone’s looking for that comic. And then there’s the early Image Comics releases, like Spawn and WildC.A.T.s, that had newsstand editions with different cover stock and (in the case of WildC.A.T.s #2) a non-enhanced cover to contrast with the foil-y shiny cover that went to comic book stores. Or there were those covers DC test-marketed to newsstands (on the far right here).

I seem to recall very early on, a few decades back when I was but a young comic shop employee and not the stogie-wielding/martini lunch-having comics retail mogul I am now, that there would be some resistance from certain back issue customers against buying one version of the cover or the other, when the only difference was whether or not it had a UPC code. I tried to reassure some folks, when they questioned the difference, that there really wasn’t any, but some people just preferred one over the other for aesthetic reasons.

Now I just did a quick eBay search on the word “newsstand” in the comics section, and I see a lot of entries where people are emphasizing “NEWSSTAND VARIANT” or words to that effect on items where it probably doesn’t make any real difference (like an issue of Harley Quinn, where the only change is that the one that went to comic book stores had “DIRECT EDITION” with the UPC code on the cover). And I see one of those aforementioned Spawns that went to newsstands with an adventurous $50 price tag. But for the most part it looks like “newsstand” is being thrown around as yet another descriptor to make one’s listing stand out.

I mean, yes, for the sake of informing the customer, letting them know this was the version of the comic distributed on newsstands versus comic shops is yet another detail to more finely describe the item for sale, but I haven’t looked into it enough to know if “newsstand variant” (in which the only difference is UPC code vs. Direct Market UPC code vs. picture of Spider-Man’s head) is enough to create a significant jump in demand/pricing. Online sales, particularly eBay sales, can be a whole different animal than in-store sales, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some subset of collectors are seeking out newsstand editions only. I’ll have to look into it a little more.

• • •

The Mutt mixes up a couple of breeds with

“The Fat Fury v Swamp Thing. Who wins?”

Well, I love ’em both, as some of you readers out there already know. The personal bias is for Swamp Thing, of course, but realistically Swamp Thing would likely find himself outmaneuvered and stymied at every turn by Herbie “The Fat Fury” Popnecker’s nigh-magical influence over man, nature, basically all of creation itself.

Now, Herbie versus Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil…that’s a fight!

Boy, those are some old posts of mine that I’m linking to.

§ June 6th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

So a couple of weeks back I passed a question asked of me along to you about your favorite single issue comic book story. Frankly, I’m not sure what I was planning to do here…going through and commenting on every submitted story would try everyone’s patience (not that I’ve been shy about that in the past), and there really wasn’t enough of a consensus to declare “a winner.”

That said, a few stories did pop up more than once, like Doom Patrol #34, by Grant Morrison and Richard Case, in which the Brain and Monsieur Mallah…well, I’ll let pal Dorian explain it to you in this guest post on my site from way back in the Golden Age of Progressive Ruin.

“The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” from Amazing Spider-Man #248 is another good’un, one I actually picked up off the stands at a time when I was only sort of sporadically reading Spider-Man comics. This Wikipedia entry tells you about it, but really, try to read it for yourself if you haven’t already, before looking at any spoilers. It’s probably one of the best short stand-alone Spidey stories, right there along with the origin from Amazing Fantasy #15. The Wikipedia entry also mentions its semi-adaptation into a 1990s Spider-Man cartoon that I swore I’d written about on this site at some point, only for how badly they botched it.

“This Man, This Monster” from Fantastic Four #51 is also brought up a couple of times, featuring one of the all-time classic covers:

The story, in which a no-goodnik steals the Thing’s appearance in order to infiltrate the Four and destroy Reed Richards, but learns about nobility and sacrifice in the process, is certainly superheroic melodrama in the Mighty Marvel Manner, but it’s touching and effective nonetheless. (And yes, there are subplots ahoy for ongoing storylines here, too, but that’s just how Marvel was then, and I think we can let that slide.)

Some mention was made of Superman #400, the extra-sized anniversary issue that was basically an anthology that featuring how Superman would be perceived at increasingly distant points into Earth(-One)’s future. (An interesting note about the comic…artists were chosen for the book based on their not really having drawn or been associated with the character in the past, including a pin-up by John Byrne who would be taking over the franchise a few years later.) It’s not really a single story, as per the foggy parameters of this particular inquiry, but there is that common theme through the book, and it’s a good comic to boot, so I’d recommend seeking this one out, too. And, like was mentioned in the comments, I’m also surprised some more permanent edition hasn’t been reissued recently, given the piles of talent therein.

James wonders in the comments if anyone had read “Master Race,” a short story by Bernard Krigstein that appeared in EC Comics’ Impact #1. Oh, yes indeedy I have, and it’s definitely one of the classics…when people talk about comics being “cinematic,” this story is practically the definition of it. It’s been reprinted a number of times, such as in the Gemstone reprint line from the 1990s/early 2000s, or in 1981’s awkwardly-titled A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics, which should be easy to find in libraries or used book stores or this handy Amazon link. And just Googling up “master race ec comics” will get you plenty of discussion about it.

There were plenty of good suggestions in those comments, and I will probably go back and respond further to them. And I apologize for the nebulous constraints as to what I was and wasn’t accepting as “a single issue story.” Mostly I was trying to exclude multiple issues collected into a trade paperback as a single story. But short stories that were only part of the issue are acceptable, too, like that “Master Race” story,” or the story from Detective Comics #500 that William mentioned…I think pretty much every story in that comic qualifies!

A list of Eisner winners for Best Single Issue was copy ‘n’ pasted into my comments — Jackie never did tell me which was her favorite — and there are a few quality comics in there, to be sure. Sandman #22-#28 winning the category one year seems to be stretching the definition of “single issue” a bit. Yes, it was the “Season of Mists” storyline, but that seems to be six issues over the limit of “single issue.” NOT SAYING IT WAS BAD I put in ALL-CAPS to stave off complaints…I quite liked those issues…I was just wondering how this was rationalized at the time.

Commenter D asks if anyone has a run of The Comic Reader fanzine, where Don Rosa featured a Comic Book Hall of Fame in some of his columns. As a matter o’fact, I have a sizable run of The Comic Reader, complete from about issue 90 or so to the end of the run in the 200s, so, like I said in the comments, if I can turn up from free time, I’ll take a look for it!

Anyway, that’s a solid batch of good funnybookin’ in those comments, there…if you’re looking for some fine reading, that’s a nice place to start making your lists!

Y’all heard the man.

§ June 1st, 2016 § Filed under question time Comments Off on Y’all heard the man.

Just a couple more answers to questions for today:

Hulk It Up, Y’all impresses me with his user name and then asks

“Did you ever read Toyfare when it was running? If so, what was your opinion of the magazine, especially Twisted Toyfare Theater?”

I didn’t read it as a regular thing, by any means, but I would poke through the occasional issue. On the whole I liked it a bit more than its sister magazine Wizard. It’s my memory that perhaps Toyfare was a bit less…mercenary, maybe, not so concerned with the value of this and the hotness of that as the comics magazine was. It’s possible I’m not remembering that right, that I wasn’t so concerned with the collectible toy market that I kinda glossed over all that, whereas I would regularly shake my head at some of the nonsense in Wizard, a magazine about the hobby that did occupy most of my attention.

“Twisted Toyfare Theater” (a feature in Toyfare that was basically photo funnies with action figures) was usually pretty amusing…some good, solid, occasionally…well, mostly…sophomoric chuckles were to be had. The paperback collections of those sold well for quite a while. Of course the spirit of Toyfare Theater lives on in the television series Robot Chicken, which some of you may have heard of (and carried over some of the Toyfare Theater creators, which I hadn’t known ’til Googling it up).

• • •

ExistentialMan has gone too far with

“Not sure if you’ve addressed this before but how do you manage customer pull-lists? Do you use a web-based site like Comixology, Diamond software or app, paper forms, or some combination of all of the above. What is your policy/approach to clients who visit infrequently and let issues stack up for months? In general, what percent of your average weekly sales can be accounted for with pre-ordered books on pull-lists? Yeah, three questions, I know. Sorry!”

GASP! How dare you! Three questions, indeed!

Ah, well, what can you do? As to your first question, in Ye Olden Days we actually did use paper forms, featuring as many of the currently published titles as we could fit onto there, with extra space for write-ins, that customers could mark off and we’d use to pull books. Of course, that meant updating the forms on a reasonably regular basis and transferring all the customer info from old forms to new ones and sheesh that was crazy. Eventually, we dragged ourselves into the 20th century and started using computerized spreadsheets which made things a lot easier to update and print out for weekly pulls.

As far as pick-up policy, I tend to be a lot more stringent at my new shop than I was at the old, since I’m a smaller store and it’s a bit more of a ding if I get stiffed on a comic saver. Unless arrangements were made with me otherwise (or if you’re a regular of mine from the old shop and I’m familiar with your purchasing habits/timelines), I tend to give people a call after about a month if I haven’t seen ’em. I tend to wait a little longer than I should, and give people multiple calls/emails before I give up on them. Even then I might hold onto their pulls a little bit longer just in case (even if I don’t pull anything new for them) before I file everything back into the stacks.

This brings up something I had gone on about on the Twitters a while back, about how there were pull list customers who hadn’t been in for a while, and I called multiple times, and then I finally close out their boxes…and then they walk in the door, apologizing that they hadn’t been in, that they’ve been getting my calls but haven’t had time to come by. …Okay, if you’re getting my calls, it’ll take a whole, what, 30 seconds to call back and say “Hey, I’m coming in, keep pulling my stuff!” Or you can reach me on Facebook. Or by email. Or on Twitter. I’m not in the Witness Protection Program…I’m easy to reach! If I’m calling you repeatedly about your comic saver, that’s a hint that maybe you’re not going to have a comic saver for much longer unless you call back.

On the topic of “percentage of business” – without getting into specific numbers, let’s just say it’s a not insignificant chunk. It’s good to have a dependable source of income like this…I mean, more or less, discounting situations like those in the previous paragraph. (And thankfully, there haven’t been too many of those!)

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