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!

So now there are two different comics called Flash: Rebirth to go with the two different Flashpoint series.

§ June 8th, 2016 § Filed under this week's comics § 5 Comments

SPOILERS AHEAD

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So this is the first Flash comic I’ve bought in…six years, I guess? Since the previous Flash: Rebirth and a couple of issues of the follow-up regular series, at least. I just decided, at that point, that I’ve read enough Flash comics, and was a bit put off that franchise anyway due to starting/relaunching/returning to the old numbering at about that time. Plus, having discarded Wally West (the previous Kid Flash, who had taken over his mentor’s mantle) and going back to Barry Allen as the Flash seemed very…retrograde, particularly after a couple of decades of Wally as the Flash and the then-deceased Barry as the ideal Wally always tried to live up to – a scenario that worked very well, I thought. Of course, all those botched re-relaunches killed whatever sales momentum the Flash franchise had, necessitating some desperate measures…in this case, bringing back the character who was one of the two big deaths from Crisis on Infinite Earths.

That said, there were a couple things here that at least got me to try out this new Flash: Rebirth #1. First, there was DC Universe: Rebirth, which brought back the old, pre-New 52 Wally West, stuck in the Speed Force and trying to find some touchstone to bring him back to Earth. The touching scene between him and his uncle Barry was quite effective, I thought, and I wanted to see more of that relationship, as well as where things were going to lead with the larger metaplot of “Just What Is The Deal with This New 52 Universe, Anyway?” And yes, we do get a little bit of both, though it doesn’t go much farther than what we’ve already seen in that Rebirth one-shot from a couple of weeks ago, but it is, at least partially, from Barry’s perspective. I don’t know if we’ll see much of said metaplot when the Flash series proper starts up, but it looks like it might continue over in a Teen Titans, based on what happens here.

Now I don’t know if my interest in the series will continue outside of this larger picture subplot stuff, but it at least got me to pick up an issue of The Flash again for the first time in forever. I see that the book, at least in part, reflects the TV show (or perhaps the other way around…again, haven’t read it in a while) in that Barry’s father is present in an advisory/support position, and that his situation (framed for the death of Barry’s mom) is also similar. Now, some of the groundwork for this way be in the original 2010 Rebirth mini, but man, I don’t remember now. Regardless, it’s a nice familiar touchstone for anyone coming to this title new who may only know the TV show, especially given the larger DC Universe Event hoohar that’s also thrown in.

Other new books:

Action Comics #957 – the old numbering is back, which is nice. But speaking of DC Universe Event Hoohar, the background to everything going on in this Superman book is a lot to take in. The New 52 Superman died, with the Superman from the pre-New 52 universe, who has been hiding out in the New 52 universe for years raising his son Jonathan with his wife Lois, taking his place, and I’m assuming the eventual payoff to this, once the other shoe from this Rebirth event drops, is some kind of “streamlining” of the DC Universe reality so that there’s always been just one Superman. In the meantime, as odd a set-up as that sounds, it actually all works in context, and it’s quite the interesting hook for Superman adventures, at least for the time being. It helps that Dan Jurgens, one of the main contributors to Superman over the last couple of decades, is on board as the writer. It feels like the old Superman (well, okay, the post-1986 John Byrne reboot Superman) versus the New 52 Universe, which is going to be the recurring theme as this all plays out, I guess.

Popeye #47 – still reprinting Bud Sagendorf comics from the 1950s. No idea how this reprint project has lasted so long, but I’m so glad it did.

Daredevil #8 – okay, I’m no Daredevil historian, but I’m pretty sure this issue does things (or rather, doesn’t do things) with his powers that haven’t been seen in a Daredevil comic before. Very clever.

Wacky Raceland #1 – you got me, I haven’t read this yet, but I’ve enjoyed the Hanna Barbera revamps so far, so I’m willing to give this one a shot. A quick glance through the book shows a somewhat more extreme take than either Future Quest or Scooby Apocalypse, so I’m not entirely sure how this is going to go, but you certainly can’t fault that terrific Tommy Lee Edwards “Penelope Pitstop” cover, which the variant I decided to take:

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Anyway, I have a feeling this comic is going to be the hardest sell of the new HB lot, but we’ll see.

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:

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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!

THE CHAMP.

§ June 3rd, 2016 § Filed under obituary § No Comments

mali600
 

from All New Collectors’ Edition #C-56 (1978) – by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Terry Austin

If I were in charge of DC, those characters would absolutely appear in Scooby-Doo Team-Up.

§ June 3rd, 2016 § Filed under dc comics, retailing § 7 Comments

So when I’m not answering your questions, foolin’ around on Twitter, or allowing comic creators to vent in my comments, I’m running a comic shop, and of late I’ve been worrying about sales on the whole DC Rebirth thing.

batrebirthMy initial thought was that, like Marvel’s multiple reboots/restarts on their titles, the number of sales I can expect to receive on yet another round of first issues was not necessarily going to be very much. This wasn’t going to be like the New 52 relaunch from five years ago, where it was a month full of new #1s in a newly-formed (and, frankly, not quite done cooking) continuity all thrown at us at once, and the sheer novelty of it translated to big sales, even for the titles that traditionally didn’t do very well. Of course, sales atrophied on the New 52 eventually, with Batman and Justice League still doing respectable numbers, but everything else mostly just slowly fading.

DC’s “Rebirth,” by contrast, was going to be spread out over several months, with most titles effectively getting two first issues (a “Rebirth” one-shot, to sort of reestablish the characters vis-à-vis where they left off prior to the start of the “Rebirth” event, and an actual #1 to kick off the new thread of adventures, presumably). Add to the fact that most people weren’t 100% clear on what “Rebirth” was actually going to be (most of my customers seemed to assume it was another full-on reboot)…well, I had a hard time figuring how this was going to sell.

To DC’s credit, they probably assumed everyone was going to feel that way, so the early issues are returnable, which eases the burden on poor ol’ retailers like me a bit. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I’m going to order a thousand of everything to make darned sure I have enough to go around…I still have a budget, I still have other comics to order, and I don’t really want to tie up that much money in product for, likely, months while I wait for the go-ahead to send ’em back. So I ordered about what I estimated what I thought I could sell, plus a little more for good measure, and hoped for the best.

And then the DC Universe: Rebirth came out a couple of weeks ago.

Now, on that book, the 80-page, bargain priced one shot that was kicking off the whole thing, I ordered a ton. I ordered numbers on that book specifically so that I’d have it around for the next couple of months, as all the new “Rebirth”-branded relaunched books came out and people asked “so what’s this all about, hah?” I could hand them a copy of the 80-pagers and tell them “all the answers you seek are in here, my son.”

It, of course, sold out by the weekend.

Now, a second printing and a third printing have been announced, with the 2nd print due in stores next week (and at the more reasonable-for-the-publisher price of $5.99). That part didn’t worry me…I figured another printing would be rushed out. What did worry me was how many of those I sold, and how quickly. The first wave of new Rebirth comics were coming next week, Mike of Last Week thought, and judging by demand for that one-shot, does that mean I’m going to have crazy demand for all the Rebirth comics? Maybe I ordered too low! Can I get reorders in on time? Am I panicking? IS THIS THE END OF MIKE?

garebirthI worried mostly for naught, because for the four Rebirth titles that launched this week, I appear to have ordered more or less correctly. I probably could have used more Batman, but that wasn’t entirely my fault, as a portion of the order arrived damaged, with replacements hopefully arriving next Wednesday (and more copies heading my way, thanks to an early reorder). But even still, I appear to have had enough to meet demand. This wasn’t a New 52-scale epic rush on the stands to grab handfuls of books, but what I sold was certainly far above what I’d been selling on these titles…even Batman, which had been a strong seller prior to this Rebirth hoohar. Now that I have an idea of how Rebirth will be received, that helps me judge orders for future weeks, and it’s certainly a load off my mind after worrying about how these were going to do.

One question I’ve been getting since last week’s DC Universe Rebirth one-shot came out was “where are the plot threads introduced in that book going to play out?” I think everyone was expecting “BATMAN VS. [REDACTED]” in his first issue, or that there would be some central “Rebirth” mini-series where that stuff would be addressed. From what I understand, we’ll be seeing elements from that one-shot in the DC books over the next couple of years, but if it doesn’t culminate in a series of “DC Character Versus [REDACTED] Character” one-shots, followed by a big DC Universe Rebirth: Omega giant-size special to wrap it all up, I’ll be terribly disappointed.

Y’all heard the man.

§ June 1st, 2016 § Filed under question time § No Comments

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, no 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!)

We as a people don’t talk often enough about Ron Wilson’s swell comics work.

§ May 30th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

“No questions, NO QUESTIONS…well, okay, a few questions.”

ChrisD wonders

“With the Free Comic Book Day coming up, this is a chance for comic book stores to connect more with the community. But it is only once a year. How else should a comic book store connect with the community, besides as a seller of goods? Does it offer any ‘complementary services’ like a comic book meeting club?”

Er, I’m getting to this a bit late, obviously, though I suppose next year’s Free Comic Book Day is technically coming up (see y’all on Saturday, May 6th, 2017!). But in terms of connecting with the community, just in the most basic of ways, the very fact that the thought of “hey, comic shops give away free comics every May, where’s the nearest comic shop?” drives the interested parties in the local community to discover (or be reminded of) your store.

And there are other methods of outreach, too…not to give away all my secrets, but I did mention here a few days ago that I donated a bunch of leftover FCBD comics to a nearby school (and have been getting some new customers in return, specifically citing that donation!), and I regularly donate merchandise or gift certificates as prizes for contests, auction items, and so on for various organizations and causes.

An actual comic club, with meetings an’ all, sounds like fun, but maybe more viable in the pre-internet days, I think? Nowadays if you’ve got an opinion about comics, you just hop online and yell at other people thoughtfully trade ideas with your peers, but perhaps an actual physical place where folks can gather and just chat about funnybooks for an hour or two…hmmm. It’s not like I don’t have a large-ish backroom area that’s little used at the moment…this might be something to ponder.

• • •

DanielT glues me down with

“It seems because his hood was permanently attached to his head, Baron Zemo had to be fed intravenously. Why didn’t he just cut the fabric from his mouth?”

Now, my thought was that the dreaded Adhesive X, which was dumped onto Zemo’s head and bonded his hood to his skin, somehow strengthened the hood’s fabric in the process, preventing it from being cut. However, the hood still was permeable enough to allow him to breathe, so Adhesive X…I don’t know, molded so finely with the individual strands of the hood that it retained its basic physical shape (allowing air to pass through as before) but was now many, many times stronger and couldn’t be damaged? I’m sure all of this hypothesizing is fully supported by current science.

• • •

Turan, Emissary of the Fly World, mightily crusades for this question:

“Marvel and DC are determined now to let none of their trademarks lapse, and so no matter how poorly a character’s previous appearances sold, he is guaranteed to return every few years, or at least have his name attached to a new character.

“Given that, why has there been no return of the Super Boxers? Or has there been, and I have missed it?”

Ah, man, Super Boxers by Ron Wilson (script by John Byrne). That’s a comic that probably needs to be revisited and re-appreciated, since I don’t recall it going over that well at the time. At the very least, Ron Wilson is an artist that definitely was inspired by Jack Kirby, or at least working in a similar style as Kirby, but doing it in his own wonderful way. Go check out his Marvel Two-in-Ones or the 1980s Thing series for some great action-packed work.

Anyway, Super Boxers…I don’t have a copy right in front of me, but a little online research seems to indicate that Super Boxers is actually owned by Mr. Wilson, so if it’s ever to come back, he may have to do it himself. I honestly haven’t heard of any revival attempts over the decades, so…I don’t know. Marvel recently reprinted Greenberg the Vampire from their old graphic novel line, so who knows…maybe we can get Super Boxers out on our shelves again!

And by “oddities” I don’t necessarily mean the other Trouble with Comics folks, or Ryan.

§ May 27th, 2016 § Filed under collecting, pal plugging, self-promotion § 4 Comments

Trouble with Comics had a massive response to Question Time this week…so massive that the responses were posted in three parts, all of which can be found here. The Question this time around is “what are your three favorite current titles?” and you can find my response at the end of Part Three.

Also, Twitter pal Ryan is Kickstartererering a comics-related novel he’s written, Four Color Bleed, and you can check out the details about that, including a preview sample of the novel, right here. Plus, my pal Weshoyot is one of the artists on the project, so you’ll be helping her out, too!

• • •

A few days ago I was chatting with pal Nat, and somehow the topic came up about a particular bagged four-pack of comic books published by Hamilton Comics in the mid-1990s that was distributed exclusively through the Walmart store chain. Three of the included books were the Eek! the Cat mini-series, pictured here in a scan “borrowed” from this eBay auction:

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Nat wrote one of the stories featured in this comic, which is why he owns a couple of copies of the four-pack, and also why he was able to let me know the fourth comic in said pack was inexplicably the comic book adaptation of the Alex Winter/Tom Stern horror/comedy film Freaked:

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(Image also “borrowed,” this time from the Comic Book Database.)

Now, why Eek! the Cat and Freaked were paired up like this, aside from Hamilton having these apparently piled up in a warehouse and undistributed to comic book shops (sadly, because I would have been all over that Freaked comic) I don’t know. But this was bit of an oddity, I thought, and what use is this blog if I can’t showcase oddities?

In which I complain about spoilers before getting into spoilers.

§ May 25th, 2016 § Filed under pal plugging, retailing, this week's comics § 10 Comments

In regards to my previous post, pal Andrew had his own take on the decline of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and makes a cogent argument that it wasn’t necessarily Zero Hour what done the deed.

And hey, blogging brother Tim has also opened the floor to questions, so while you’re waiting for me to finish answering what you’ve asked me, why not pick Tim’s brain?

BIG SPOILERS FOLLOWING for DC Universe Rebirth #1 (like you don’t know ’em already) and…well, I don’t really spoil Captain America: Steve Rogers #1

So anyway, about this:

STL007326
First, I’m not thrilled about full spoilers for this comic getting spread all over the place days before it’s even available for sale. Comics can be a hard enough sell already, without removing yet one more incentive for buying. “What shocking surprises await within? Well, read this website and find out…save yourself buying the comic.” Gee, thanks guys, not like I didn’t order a pile of these for my shelves.

There are a couple of things that keep this from being entirely disastrous, saleswise. It could be that said spoilers might encourage people to pick up the comic, in a “I gotta see this” kind of way. Not to mention, actually reading the comic is an entirely different experience from reading a list of plot points. And there’s the fact that it’s 80 pages of comics for $2.99, which is a swell deal, though I suppose the more critically-minded may be of the “the food was terrible, but such great portions!” opinion on the matter.

Plus, there’s the fact that, believe it or not (and as I’ve mentioned on my site before) some people going to comic shops aren’t plugged into every social network and comic website, and their engagement with comic news begins and ends with walking into the comic shop, looking at the rack and picking out their books, and walking out again. Oh, and reading them eventually, too, I guess.

Anyway, I enjoyed the comic, and hopefully my customers will, too. Oddly enough, it’s actually strangely touching at one point, when a character who’s returned from the pre-New 52 universe finally connects with one of the rebooted characters. It’s probably as emotionally affecting as it is because it’s not just that we’re seeing these two characters reuniting, but that the fictional universe we readers thought was washed away forever may have a chance at coming back. Yes, that’s a silly thing to get emotional over, but I’m not made of stone.

I know DC has tried to walk back, or at least refurbish, revamps/reboots before…Kingdom and “Hypertime” being the most notable line-wide attempt at doing so. That the New 52/Flashpoint reboot was so obviously a last-minute decision, with the cracks showing almost immediately, the overall story premise of “Rebirth” being a pushback against a timeline purposefully inflicted by unknown parties upon the DCU certainly brings all these shenanigans to an almost metatextual level. That these parties appear to be the characters from Watchmen, one of the sources of the “grim/realistic” superhero trend that “Rebirth” appears to be rebuffing…well, no danger of subtlety of theme here, I suppose.

And speaking of which…holy crap, they’re using the Watchmen characters in a DC Universe thing. And not in a dream sequence, either. My guess is the same as when “Before Watchmen” was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world — Watchmen TP sales are moribund, and this is a way of spurring interest in the book again. Or maybe someone figured, hey, what the hell, this will get everyone’s attention, and lo, they were right.

Yes, yes, I suppose I should be angry about the violation of the sanctity of a classic work, but I have to tell you, I laughed and laughed. Partially because I’m amused by the idea of, I don’t know, Batman vs. Rorschach or something, and partially because I love seeing everyone else’s reaction to it. Anyway, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted and I’m sure I’m a bad person for thinking so.

Seriously, though, this whole “New 52 was an attack on the DCU” thing is a weird but interesting way of dealing with continuity issues, and would be quite clever if it were the planned outcome of the New 52 way back when, and not just a way to directly address a rushed reboot that didn’t quite take. This Rebirth one-shot is still an entertaining read for the continuity-minded superhero fan, a snapshot of where the DCU is now, what brought us here, what problems need to be resolved, and the sheer hilarious gall of bringing Watchmen into it. That’s gotta be worth your $2.99.

STL004471
And you guys had to go and try to spoil this story for everyone, too! CAN WE NOT HAVE NICE THINGS

In which I basically don’t define any terms and just assume you know what I’m talking about.

§ May 23rd, 2016 § Filed under legion of super-heroes, question time § 13 Comments

From the Question File, DavidG doesn’t make it easy on me with

“In the long run, The Legion of Superheroes never recovered from the Post Zero Hour reboot, in which baby boomers destroyed years of continuity in a misguided, nostalgia based decision to make the Legionnaires teenagers again, even though they were more popular as adults. Discuss.”

Yeah, well, that was somethin’, wasn’t it? I think, in its defense, and in the short term, the Zero Hour reboot worked, as the twisted timelines/multiple Legions hoohar was resolved in an effective and not entirely unemotional manner during a DC Universe-wide event. And, unlike the usual shoehorning of the Legion into these events (difficult, given the Legion was set 1,000 years later than the rest of the DCU), it actually seemed to fit about as naturally as these things can.

Now, the problem here is that a lot of the appeal of the Legion is its soap opera aspect, with decades of character development and relationships mixed in with the superhero action, creating a significant fanbase in the process. The Legionnaires whose lives you were following in, say, the 1980s were essentially the same Legionnaires that started to be introduced in Adventure Comics #247 (1958) and continued to pop up for many years following. There were the occasional reboot or retcon (the whole post-Crisis Superboy thing, the “Five Years Later” timejump) but you can still draw a line from the beginning of the Legion to, well, the end as represented by the Zero Hour tie-in.

With that Zero Hour conclusion to the Legion saga as we knew it, the chain was broken. Granted, Legion fandom wasn’t what it once was by the time Zero Hour rolled around (what comic’s fandom hadn’t?), but that was the final break between What Had Come Before and What DC Was Going to Try to Attempt in the Future. Even Crisis on Infinite Earths didn’t cut off the Legion’s progression, despite throwing some serious monkey wrenches into the works (like, as previously noted, the whole Superboy thing).

For longtime Legion fans, that was a lot of investment in the characters that was seemingly just discarded by DC, but in DC’s defense, they couldn’t depend on just the longtime Legion fans to support the title. They had to pursue new readers and build the audience for this particular franchise, and usually the #1 strategy comic publishers go to when trying to bump up sales numbers is, well, new #1s. Or in this case, #0s, where as part of the Zero Hour event issue #0s were released in which the status quos of DC’s various titles were reestablished. And, in the case of the Legion titles, the adventures were rebooted…started from scratch and presenting a hopefully fresh, new jumping on point for readers previously intimidated by the decades of backstory.

It worked, for a while anyway, and as I recall it sold reasonably well at least for our shop, gathering some new readers as hoped, and old Legion fans (like me) sticking around out of curiosity and, oh, because the comics were actually pretty good. This version of the Legion went through some interesting permutations, I thought, including the dark but still enjoyable Legion Lost mini-series, which followed the end of the previous Legion comics.

There were a couple more series set in that Legion continuity, but eventually (and presumably sparked by a need to improve sales) a new Legion series was launched, rebooting from scratch again. It was a fun comic, I thought, with some new takes on old characters, but this reboot of the Legion only made it five years (versus the second reboot’s ten years), and then suddenly we were into our next rebooting of the Legion, which was actually more of a reinstalling of a back-up of the original Legion continuity into then-current DC continuity (with some minor tweaks here and there to jibe with the DCU as a whole).

Following that was a mini-series connected to the Final Crisis event, in which all three (or three and a half, depending on how you feel about that last reboot-ish thing) versions of the Legion encounter each other, and I think it was around this point that I sorta lost the Legion thread. I love the Legion, I read ’em for years, and it was even the only extended DC Archives hardcover set that I collected. But after reboot and relaunch and wait we didn’t mean to reboot it again let’s go back to how it was before…I couldn’t do it any more. Like I said, one of the appealing aspects of the Legion was getting immersed in the soap-operatic nature of the stories, but the multiple reboots just gave me the feeling of “well, if they write themselves into a corner, they’ll just reboot instead of trying to write themselves out of it” and that sort of soured me on the books.

I realize this is a complaint you can have about ANY comic that has a history of rebooting/restarting…I’m guessing DC’s New 52 relaunch hit a lot of people this way. But specifically with the Legion, with such a long history behind the title, to see what was special about it fragmented this way, was disappointing. The reboots seem to have shorter and shorter lives, with the New 52 version of the team (which I guess was still more or less the original continuity still, I guess?) lasting around a couple dozen issues. I’m hoping letting the team’s shelf presence rest a while (its first extended break that I can think of!) will help, and that whatever forthcoming relaunch may occur will be more well received.

There are ideas I hope DC would attempt at refurbishing the Legion for current audiences. Maybe they could appear as supporting characters in another title, or perhaps a new title could launch focusing on just one member of the team (like Brainiac 5) with other Legionnaires appearing as needed. Or maybe the Legion can just say out of the public eye until someone has a really good idea how to use them…but with hints at their existence in the Supergirl TV series, I suspect any possible media presence may force DC’s hand sooner rather than later.

So yes, DavidG, I think the Legion’s involvement in Zero Hour did cause the long-running franchise to stumble and never quite find its legs again. Not to say there weren’t good comics that came out of all the reboots, because there were, and that a five-year run of a series isn’t something to sneeze at. However, I’m not sure if or when the team will ever find any kind of extended traction again. Like Hawkman, the Legion was “fixed” until it was broken and…wait, that’s it!

Hawkman and the Legion of Super-Heroes! I did it! I fixed ’em both! DC, get on this right away!

EDIT: Pal Andrew has additional wise insight on the matter.
 
 
 

PICTURED: the first Legion of Super-Heroes comic I ever read – Superboy #208 (April 1975)

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