It’s always the 1990s here on Progressive Ruin Dot Com.

§ December 31st, 2014 § Filed under collecting, death of superman § 7 Comments

So being in the comics retail industry in a location close to where Malibu Comics’s home base was located when it was active, we’ve seen a lot of the material produced by that company. And I don’t mean just the regular stuff, but promotional material, rare items, and just lots ‘n’ bundles of multiple copies of various products. I remember at one point obtaining what must have been a case of The Trouble with Girls graphic novels.

I’ve seen a pretty large number of the variant covers over the years, such as the full-cover hologram variants for Mortal Kombat and Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the like, not to mention plenty of those foil-variant Ultraverse covers. In fact, the other day I had a fellow who identified himself as a former employee of Malibu (and Marvel, after that company bought out the former) come by the shop, hand me a small pile of comics, and tell me “here, I’ve been sitting on these a while and you can have ‘em if you can use ‘em.” And yes, there were a few of the usual items in there, like those hologram covers I mentioned, and what I thought was just another foil Ultraverse variant:


…until I noticed this embossed stamp on the front cover:


…and this certificate explaining just what it was:


…and I was all set to write up a whole post about this, but just like two weeks ago this Ultraverse blog already put together a far better and more informative post about this very thing than I would have. The thing I learned from that post I found most interesting was that, despite the certificate stating “limited to 500 copies,” far fewer than that were actually created and distributed. The number given is about 30, though the picture in that blog post shows a certificate numbered 134, but who knows what kind of numbering shenanigans were going on. Perhaps earlier numbers were being reserved for employees and other special persons, since the copy in my hands is #7.

Anyway, I put it on the eBays to see who’d salute, so we’ll see how it goes.

Also recently acquired was the Platinum Edition of Adventures of Superman #500, which you can tell is totally the platinum edition of the comic because the bag surrounding it is clearly printed with the words “PLATINUM EDITION” along the bottom:


It’s kind of a drag that someone had this pinned up on a wall, apparently, as there are a couple of pinholes in the top center of the polybag…who’d buy a “hot, rare collectible” in a time where “hot, rare collectibles” were the be-all, end-all of the comics retail industry and then pin the sucker on a wall? That seems almost counter-intuitive to the investment mentality running rampant in the business then. It even had the $125(!) price tag still affixed to the comic bag it was being stored in.

I’ve come across these bagged platinum editions before, and always wondered if just the polybag itself was supposed to be the “platinum” bit (as this bag was black and silver, versus the red and white of the regular version) or if the comic inside was platinum-ized. I suppose if I really wondered that much, I could have Googled or eBay-searched it for myself before now, but I finally looked and found a few of these for sale:


This is one of those “pro-graded” slabbed copies, where they apparently removed the polybag before sealing the funnybook into its little plastic coffin. The color of this cover may be dimmed a bit, as you’re seeing it through about 1/16 inch or so of plastic, but that is definitely a “platinum” (well, silvery-whitish) version of a cover that is normally black. Plus it says “platinum” in the corner and they wouldn’t print it if it weren’t true. Another difference is that the logo on the platinum version features raised lettering while the regular version does not, a fact I just now went to check with my copy of the non-platinum version down in the No-Longer-Quite-As-Vast Mikester Comic Archives.

Speaking of polybags, I also picked up one of these:


…which is the regular cover edition Superman #82, which also had a chromium cover. However, this version of #82 polybagged with a poster was, according to my two seconds of Google research, a Walmart variant which I don’t believe I’d seen before. No UPC code on the comic cover, but said code was provided on the back of the bag itself. I don’t know what the poster itself looks like…my guess is that it’s that cover, but maybe someone can let me know.

Twenty-plus years on, I’m still talking about the Death of Superman. Let us look forward to a happy 2015 and, with any luck, even more posts about the Death of Superman. See you then, friends.

I’ve collected comics for less reason…well, okay, I haven’t.

§ December 29th, 2014 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 4 Comments

So it came time for your pal Mike’s Teen Titans collection to be given up to the store in sacrifice, but I’m still a’keepin’ a couple of them in the no-longer-so-vast Mikester Comic Archives: this special by Bob Haney and Jay Stephens, this issue of DC Super Stars that I’ve had since I was a kid, and this issue:


…the not-so-stealthy “crossover” with a superhero team that may be somewhat similar to the DNAgents. I partially retained it because it was illustrated by Nexus cocreator Steve Rude:


…but I was actually on the fence about it for a minute or so until I glanced through it and spotted this panel in the George Perez-illustrated back-up story:


I am an insanely easy mark, sometimes.

This was a hard run of comics to give up to the shop, but it helps that I recently just reread the early “prime” issues of the Wolfman/Perez run, up to about issue 50 or so, enough to realize that if I really want to keep these stories around for posterity, I’m going to want to invest in one of the recent reprint volumes. I don’t know if you’ve looked at your copies of those earliest issues lately, but time and paper stock has not been kind to the printing on those. Or maybe it’s just a decline in my own eyesight, but that would mean I’m aging and clearly that’s not possible.

My pricing of the Titans comics hasn’t quite reached this issue yet, which, if you haven’t read the “Titans Hunt” storyline, was a much-needed revitalization of the Titans franchise, and really kept you on the edge of your seat wondering what was going to happen next. It honestly did feel like “anything goes” and had an energy to it that the series hadn’t had since its earlier days. The storyline certainly made me a fan of artist Tom Grummett, who I think was probably the best artist on the series aside from Perez.

Hopefully I didn’t just talk myself into keeping those comics, too.

• • •

In other news:

  • The article in the online version of the county newspaper about my store that I linked to a few days ago finally made it to Sunday’s print edition, resulting in a few more folks discovering my shop. It also resulted in a handful of customers of mine from my previous employment realizing “oh, that’s where Mike went.”
  • My post about shipping to prisons resulted in a couple of people contributing their own stories on the topic that I think you might enjoy reading. I certainly found them interesting.
  • Special thanks to ProgRuin reader/commenter Walaka for dropping by the store over the weekend! Always happy to meet in person my online friends!

Do not write directly on your screen.

§ December 25th, 2014 § Filed under Christmas § 7 Comments


Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all my readers…thanks for sticking with me!
 
 

image from Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-24 (1973)

On the Zeroth Day of Christmas, a stuffed bull gave to me…

§ December 24th, 2014 § Filed under Christmas § 4 Comments

…this 1986 Love and Rockets comic shop store hours sign featuring illos by Jaime Hernandez:

landr
Just arrived in the mail, courtesy a little bull stuffed with Christmas cheer! How did a little tiny bull like Bully manage to wrap this package with this hooves and get it into a mailbox all by himself? IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!

Norm Breyfogle needs your help.

§ December 23rd, 2014 § Filed under help § 2 Comments


Comics artist Norm Breyfogle has recently suffered a stroke, and is in need of financial assistance to cover medical costs. If you’re able to contribute a little something, here is where you’d do it. Even if you can’t contribute anything at this time, at least spreading the link around will go a long way toward helping this talented gentleman out. Thanks.

cover to Detective Comics #619 (August 1990) – art by Norm Breyfogle

The more I think about what they were doing with those covers, the more horrifying the weapons I imagine being crafted from them.

§ December 22nd, 2014 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 7 Comments

So I was asked to participate in one of these “know the new business” questionnaires for the county’s main newspaper, and just yesterday it was posted to its website (no idea if it’s in the print edition). It looks like it was slightly edited for space, which, in a shock twist for all of you I’m sure, I may have run off at the mouth keyboard a bit. It’s nice to get a little more local attention, and hopefully that turns into even more business heading my way.

My favorite response to my store of late was from a seven or eight-year-old boy, who took a couple passes around the interior of the shop and said the following to me, as immortalized upon my Twitter:


Excellent. My plan to bend the will of local youth to my nefarious ends continues apace.

Speaking of the Twitters, I was reminded by another fellow’s posting about having to ship, on occasion, items from our store to prisons. Blogging brother Tim noted that would make an interesting topic of discussion right here on Progressive Ruin Dot Com if I hadn’t discussed it before. I don’t believe I have, but to be frank, there’s not a whole lot to say about it, “he said before expounding upon the subject for several paragraphs.”

There may have been others, but there are two customers to whom I remember shipping items. One was a incarcerated fellow who, via a relative who’d come into the store, asked for a new Diamond Previews every few months or so. The only real requirement I recall was that the package feature a store shipping label of some kind on the outside.

The other, the one referenced in my Twitter posting, was a person who wanted Dungeons & Dragons gaming books. Like for the previous prisoner, a store shipping label was required on the package. However, in addition to that, I was told I needed to mark the outside of the package “HOW TO PLAY BOOKS,” which I thought was an odd way to phrase that, but maybe “GAME BOOKS” wasn’t descriptive or specific enough. Now, it’s been a while, but I believe another requirement was that only paper could be used for packing material. I don’t know if a specific type of paper was required, or forbidden…like, I could only use plain brown paper versus newspaper, but I’m pretty sure it was “paper,” versus, say, styrofoam peanuts, which I wouldn’t blame them for refusing because oy, what a mess.

One thing I do remember being told by the person arranging for this transaction in-store was that the hardcover D&D books would have those covers stripped off by the staff receiving and inspecting these packages. Apparently they didn’t want anyone with ill intent getting their hands on these bookcovers and…well, I wasn’t 100% sure what they’d do with them, honestly. I suppose they could theoretically be made into weapons. I wouldn’t one of these covers jabbed hard into my neck or any other softer bits edgewise…it probably wouldn’t kill you, but it would probably make you not want to do anything other than kinda lay down for a bit and try to not move. Anyway, I didn’t ask, and now I’m stuck relying on my imagination, picturing Sing Sing in flames, rioting prisoners armed with shanks carved from copies of Monster Manual II. But the reality is more likely dudes kinda bummed that the books had to be ripped apart, but figuring that was a small price to pay for some healthy distraction in an unhappy place.

I’ve only had limited experience with shipping to prisons, so those are my two examples of the processes I had to follow. Anyone in a retail position who’s had to do something similar, I’d be interested to hear about it.

If I had the means, I would just spend my day paying artists to bring my every Swamp Thing whim to illustrated life.

§ December 19th, 2014 § Filed under swamp thing § 1 Comment

So Spider-Woman now has a new costume, discarding most of her yogawear in favor of a jacketed look, leading into some spirited superheroes-in-jackets discussion on the Twitterers. Of course, in my usual “not helping in the slightest” method of participating in the conversation, I decided to post this:


Proving that no annoying deed goes unrewarded, longtime blogging compatriot Chris Karath responded with this Twitter post:


…accompanied by this illustration created specifically for the occasion:


Well, well, I do believe we have the next iteration of the New 52 Swamp Thing right before us. Ball’s in your court for the relaunch, DC, even if you feel the need to add the collar.

I promise you, Red Lanterns isn’t a bad comic.

§ December 18th, 2014 § Filed under dc comics § 6 Comments

Yup, they’ve canned the latest iteration of Swamp Thing. Okay, they cancelled some others, too…some surprisingly, some less so.

Swamp Thing actually sold relatively well, both at my previous place of employment and at my current headquarters (which would be Sterling Silver Comics, conveniently located just off the 101 Freeway in lovely Camarillo, CA!), for reasons that had nothing to do with me forcing everyone who walked in the door to buy a copy, honest. No, really, it seemed like it was a pretty good mid-range seller for us…er, me, outselling most of the comics with “X-Men” in the title in fact, which may be a more damning statement about the X-Men than a positive statement about Swamp Thing, come to think of it. My suspicion is that Swamp Thing will return in a new, relaunched title, like New Swamp Thing or Swamp Thing Adventures or Swamp Thing A-Go-Go or, you know, like that. Even if not, at least we’ll have him in Justice League Dark or he can join one of the Lantern Corps or something.

Speaking of Lanterns, it wasn’t really much of a surprise that they’re scaling back the Green Lantern-and-related books. As I noted at the end of this post, DC making a big deal out of Geoff Johns leaving the GL franchise and publishing an extra-sized conclusion to all his plotlines and such essentially gave readers full permission to abandon the franchise as well. I don’t have the numbers right in front of me, since those numbers technically belong to a store I don’t work at any more, but my memory is that sales dropped by around half. The main GL title wasn’t hit as hard as the others, but there was still a big dip in the number of copies we were moving. The constant crossover events helped for a while, but eventually even the effectiveness of those wore off, judging by how not-well this current New Gods storyline is affecting the secondary GL titles. The big loss is Red Lanterns, which was far better than it had any reason to be.

Batwoman was sort of another surprise, since that seemed to have been improving slightly in sales, both at my old shop and at the new one, but it was the poorest selling Bat-title, so I guess it was only a matter of time. Others aren’t too shocking: they might as well have been titled Infinity Man and the Forever People’s Soon-to-Be-Cancelled Series and Star Spangled Cancelled Stories. I don’t say that snarkily in the slightest: these really did not seem like titles that were going to find sufficient audiences to survive from the get-go, an assumption almost immediately borne out by sales. I mean, good on ‘em for trying, and I really enjoy Infinity Man, but, yeah, no surprise here.

Secret Origins was a $4.99 anthology title…the first issue sold well, as did the Harley Quinn issue, but that was pretty much all she wrote on that. Klarion just did not attract readers, and…I hate to say this, but I tried reading it and it just didn’t do anything for me, and I was one of the folks looking forward to a Klarion series. Trinity of Sin I’m surprised they even attempted…I liked it, anyway, since I’m always up for more Phantom Stranger comics. And Worlds’ Finest I had thought was already cancelled and kept getting surprised by its continued presence in the order forms, so that probably says something.

Aquaman and the Others…well, that we got one Aquaman comic doing reasonably well on the stands is surprising enough. A second Aquaman title was DC pushing its luck. I don’t really have much to say about Arkham Manor‘s loss aside from maybe there were one too many ancillary Batman titles launched at about the same time, perhaps?

I’m sure some of these concepts will pop up again, either in relaunches or, more likely folded into other titles. Justice League Dark could probably accommodate Klarion, Phantom Stranger and…hell, G.I. Zombie from Star Spangled, too. So long as they don’t crowd out Swamp Thing.

My idea of rotating intentional mini-series for DC’s New 52 program is one I wish could be implemented. Concepts could be tested in short runs, which could improve sales if readers know that they’re getting a beginning, middle and end on the comics they’re reading. Plus, a series ending as scheduled is probably better P.R. than “here’s our latest dozen or so titles cancelled for low sales.” If sales warrant, a mini could lead into a regular ongoing series. There are probably logistical reasons preventing this from happening, but something’s got to be better than constantly throwing titles at the wall and seeing nothing sticking.

“Established 2014″ reads the sign that I may someday get to display.

§ December 15th, 2014 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 7 Comments

So one of my behaviors that I’ve noticed since opening the new store is that I am, just slightly, a little bit defensive. Hopefully not obnoxiously so, but every once in a while someone new will pop in the door and say something like “oh, hey, a new comic book store! When did you open?” and I’ll respond with “just a little over a month ago butI’vebeendoingthisalongtime Iusedtomanageanotherstoreforyearsandyears butIownthisoneIknowwhatI’mdoingIswear” and that hasn’t frightened anybody off yet but I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

I think it’s a reaction to no longer having the history of my previous place of employment backing me up. I used to be all “yeah, we’ve been around a while…thirty-five years a while” and then leaning back, smiling with arms crossed, as I bathed in the awe and amazement. Okay, I wasn’t that smug about it well maybe a little but I liked being able to reassure customers that this wasn’t some fly-by-night shop and that I wasn’t some schmuck who didn’t know his job…we’d been at it for some time, we’ve got it down, don’t worry, friend.

My current circumstances require me to pretty much start again, to rebuild my reputation as a comic book guy who’s got it together, and so far I’d like to think I’ve impressed upon the newer members of my clientele that I do in fact know what I’m doing. This article in the city paper did help quite a bit in letting interested parties know my history in the business, and this page on my store’s site did the same. In fact, I was starting the “butI’vebeendoingthisawhile” info dump for one customer who pretty much stopped me with “yeah, I know, I saw the webpage!”

Now, the customers I have now who did know me from my previous funnybook-retailing life…I can only assume that they’re used to my particular quirks and, well, “better the devil you know” and all that. …Okay, I’m just joshin’ a little. I do appreciate their loyalty to me, and frankly, I’m touched that they came with me or, at least, are splitting some of their comic-buying business with me. (And for those of you who are curious…that wasn’t an unexpected result of my leaving, and things are still okay between me and my old shop. Read my reply to Roel here for details.)

I’m about a month and a week into this new life of mine, and thus far everything seems to be going great. I’m doing good business, I’m meeting new customers, and it’s beginning to feel a lot less like “I hope people will eventually come into this big box where I’m storing comics on shelves and in boxes, and also I’m so lonely” and more like “hey, I’m running a comic book store, look at all these people who want comics.”

I’ve also gone from “I hope I’m not making a huge mistake” to “why did I wait so long?”

Thank goodness.

Still kind of wondering what 250 consecutive issues of Youngblood would have been like.

§ December 12th, 2014 § Filed under retailing § 13 Comments

So I was being a little sarcastic on the Twitters the other day (“what? Sarcasm? On Twitter? The devil you say!”) and posted my surprise at being asked about new issues of Spawn.

That wasn’t just me randomly abusing a comic for no good reason. I was actually genuinely surprised to encounter real Spawn fandom in the wild, after years of my usual Spawn-related in-store interactions primarily being 1) “They’re still making Spawn?” and 2) “What’s my Spawn #1 worth?” (and related, “Will you buy my Spawn #1?”)…oh, and 3) someone busting through our ceiling and stealing Spawn comics.

Now, I am in a new location with a new store, which means a new marketplace with new customers and new demands for product and I’ll stop saying “new” now. What was a mostly moribund seller at the old shop may be a best seller at the new one. Okay, perhaps “best seller” is pushing it a bit, but that anyone is exhibiting any enthusiasm about Spawn at all, and I mean enthusiasm about current and future Spawn issues, not just “ah, I remember reading Spawn 20 years ago,” is bit of a refreshing experience for me.

The other possibility is that Spawn #250 is coming out, with the attendant promotional push, and perhaps that’s helping to stir up some interest in the title again. I made a somewhat mean joke on that darn Twitter account a while back about there being more variant covers for Spawn #250 than I had customers looking to buy it, but perhaps the joke is on me. Wouldn’t be the first time.

I hope I’m not super-offending any Spawn fans out there. I’m really not trying to. Yes, I poked a little fun at the comic, but you have to give it credit for still keepin’ on keepin’ on, after all these years, with Savage Dragon as the only other original Image Comics launch title still hanging out on the racks with a mostly-consistent publishing run. And, at my previous employment, we did sell Spawn…just not a whole lot. I had a few pull list customers who got each issue, and then we’d move fewer-still copies on the rack.

Perhaps in a marketplace where every other comic has a Big New #1 Issue! Relaunch! Reboot! about once every year or two, a comic that just keeps coming out, ticking up those issue numbers into the triple digits, without drawing any attention to itself, simply generates that contemptible-familiarity you’ve all heard about. It’s always there on the stands, no longer the exciting monthly event it once was, but instead a semi-regular missive to those few fans still hanging in there and enjoying it.

I am curious if anyone reading this has been following Spawn for its entire run. I don’t mean “I read it back in 1992, and I just picked it up again recently.” I mean, you started with that first issue way back when, and stuck through the title through thick and thin, never missing an issue, and are now about to buy issue #250 which should be out Any Day Now. I know those fans are out there…there’s always someone who’s the lifelong fan, or maybe simply someone who kept getting and reading each issue out of inertia, or whatever. I would like to know what they think about having read the series as a whole. I mean…is it good? Am I missing out on something? Can someone even just give me a brief synopsis about what’s going on? The title seemingly has taken some fairly wild changes in direction over the years, and I have no idea what it’s even about at this point.

But anyway…250 issues of Spawn. That ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at.

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