“Blazes! It’s that swamp-creature — with the Batman?!”

§ June 9th, 2014 § Filed under batman, swamp thing § 9 Comments

The last couple of my posts have had me in a bit of a Negative Nelly mode, discussing some current retailing/publishing shenanigans, so I thought I’d try to focus on some of the stuff I love about comics this week, you know, for a little balance. And what’s better than Batman and Swamp Thing busting in on some thugs and giving them what for:


That would be from Brave and the Bold #176 (July 1981) by Martin Pasko and Jim Aparo, about a year prior to the launch of the ongoing series The Saga of Swamp Thing, also written by Mr. Pasko.

Ah, man…Jim Aparo didn’t draw Swamp Thing nearly enough, but I’m glad we got what we did. (Check out Brave and the Bold #122 for another Aparo-drawn Swampy/Batman adventure, written by Bob Haney no less.)

Mostly I write these just to make up names for comic book series.

§ June 6th, 2014 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 6 Comments

So it sounds like, based on reports of order numbers, the forthcoming Rocket Raccoon series has achieved that perfect storm of movie tie-in combined with variant cover availability based on exceeding certain percentages of orders of previously-published strong-selling comics, resulting in what sounds like an enormous amount of copies about to flood the market in just a few months. Oh, those variants should sell out just fine, they usually do, assuming their prices aren’t hiked up to ridiculous heights. But the regular cover editions…well, you know how hard it is to find a copy of the regular cover for Superman Unchained #1? There you go.

Of course, it feels like those percentages we have to beat are creeping up ever so slowly, but that may just be my innate paranoia from being in this business for too long. To get those “Deadpool Dressed As Princess Leia” variants on Ultimate Slapstick #1, you have order numbers on the regular cover that either meet or exceed 125% of your orders on Man-Thing Team-Up #17, and of course that was the issue you ordered extra on because, go figure, Man-Thing was teaming up with Deadpool in that issue. So, you have to order lots of Ultimate Slapstick because if you don’t get those “Deadpool Dressed As Princess Leia” variants, the store in the next town over will, and people will go there to get their comics if they think you can’t get them, and you can’t have that.

And then, a couple of months down the road, the debut issue of This Will Be A New Marvel Movie Soon, We Hope #1 will pop up in the order forms, and to get the “Wolverine in Various States of Undress” variant cover, you’ll have to exceed 125% of your numbers on Ultimate Slapstick #1. And so on, and so on, until all the trees are gone and the Lorax departs the Earth in disgust.

Now, it’s not necessarily chained like that, with one book you need to inflate your orders on tied to a previous order-inflated book…I’ll need to go back and do some of that “research” I’ve heard so much about. However, every time I see that “exceed X%” instruction, I feel like I’m being taken for a ride. Of course, nobody’s forcing me to do it, but like I said, if I don’t, another shop will, and in the current comics marketplace, you don’t want to give your customers a reason to not come to your shop.

The only way to fight back is for no shops to order any of these types of variants, but that’s not likely to happen. Or maybe to wean the direct market off dependence on Marvel and DC [imagine hysterical laughter here].

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the publishers. The whole variants scheme is to keep numbers up in a marketplace where retailers would prefer to keep their overhead low, by encouraging orders to maintain at certain levels. Sure, you could order just 20 copies of this, but there’s a special 1 in 25 variant cover you can probably sell for a premium, so why not just bump up the order just a bit, why don’t you? Thanks, you’re a pal!

Some of the smaller publishers, like Boom! and Dynamite, have order percentage incentives as well, but it’s more along the line of “we’ll give you an extra discount if your order on this issue of this series matches or exceeds 90% of the previous issue,” and that seems a little more reasonable to me. Or, in some cases, matching orders on a previous issue would result in returnability, which I’m pretty okay with, too. I’d love if the returnability option was a little more widespread with Big Two releases, but I suspect the discounts we enjoy with them would shrink by a considerable margin once those publishers start shouldering more of the burden of unsold stock. It’s more in the publishers’ interests for the retailer to warehouse their books, whether they sell or not.

In conclusion, I think that Rocket Raccoon comic actually sounds like it’ll be a fun read. I certainly hope everyone will want to read it. I mean, we pretty much need them to.

Not that Marvel’s been all that much better.

§ June 4th, 2014 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 13 Comments


So one thing that occurred to me recently, and may have been brought up somewhere on the Internet since DC launched its New 52 initiative three years ago and I missed since I can’t read the entire Internet, is how this “The New 52!” slug that’s slapped on all of DC’s covers is like one more barrier to new readers. It’s a very minor barrier, and one that’s easily explained if someone in the know is around to explain it, but it’s still one more bit of weird information, the meaning of which is not immediately obvious, one more thing that says “this is an indicator for people already in the club, and not for people such as you.” “52 what?” I’ve heard more than once.*

We’re probably stuck with that “The New 52″ logo for the time being, even as others have noticed that the majority of the original 52 titles DC launched in September 2011 have since been cancelled, or at least retooled and restarted. Abandoning the New 52 idea would be tantamount to an admission on DC’s part that the publishing initiative was a failure, and I don’t expect that to happen. More likely is that, assuming Warner Brothers would want to continue publishing comics and not just turn all those properties over to the toy companies and animation departments, there would be a new rebranding of DCs publishing line, and yet another overhaul of their books. It would allow them to save at least some face to some extent, by spinning it as not giving up on the New 52, but instead moving the DC Universe forward to…the Great 38! Or, you know, something like that.

Since DC is stuck with the New 52 concept, I would almost prefer that DC would fill out their line of non-Justice League/Batman/Superman/Green Lantern comics with mini-series. I mean, intentional mini-series, marketed as such, not just planned ongoings that get canned after eight months. There’s no shortage of characters and concepts in DC’s vaults that could stand to be aired out a bit…put ‘em in a series for six to twelve months, collect it into a paperback when it’s over, and now DC has something to show as a pitch for a new movie or TV pro…I mean, something they can sell in bookstores. And if it sells really well…what the hell, then make it a new ongoing series. I realize that’s more work, editorially, but if books are getting cancelled left and right anyway, might as well jump up right after falling down and declare “I meant to do that!” (And it would make my job a little easier, since problem I describe here is now comic-ordering status quo.)

Going back to what I was talking about at the beginning: a lot of what we, folks what read the funnybooks on a regular basis, take for granted is confusing to the uninformed. They are confused that there can be more than one ongoing series starring the same character, each with its own storylines and continuity, but they sometimes the series do tie in together, but not all the time. Batman and Detective are two entirely separate series, except when they’re not.

The very idea of issue numbers can be confusing. It’s such an obvious thing to me, and to you, that I don’t know how they can be confusing, but to someone not used to the vagaries of comics publishing, they are. That there are so many different series, several of them at least superficially no different from many others (“all these say ‘Avengers’ on them…they’re all the same, right?”), with so many numbering schemes, with so many restarts and reboots, it’s…well, it can look like bit of a mess.

The alternative is no issue numbers (at least on the cover…one could be present inside with the copyright information), and emphasizing the cover date, maybe. But that would create new problems, with people looking for, I don’t know, the April and May 2014 editions of Hawkeye, for example.

And then there’s the series within the series:


That’s Action Comics #32, but it’s also “Enemy of the State Chapter 1″ and it’s part of the “SUPERMAN: DOOMED” crossover event. But it’s not Chapter 1 of the SUPERMAN: DOOMED event, since we just wrapped up the “Infected” segment of DOOMED that ran through all the Superman books. It helps that DC put the additional visual cue of the border around the edges of the cover to clue people into the idea that all these comics with similar borders are related to each other. But that’s still a lot of information to throw at someone not used to comic book company design and marketing decisions.

I mean, I get it. In this marketplace everyone’s struggling to make their comics stand out, and making each issue part of some crossover event or special storyline is an attempt to make that comic seem like essential reading, like you’re missing out if you’re not grabbing the latest installment of this exciting adventure!

Of course, this assumes that new, uninitiated readers are taking in all this information being shoved into their eyesockets and trying to parse it. Sometimes it’s just enough Batman is on the cover, and that’s all the information they need.
 

* At least “Marvel NOW!” seems a little more obvious in meaning and intent, if not any less coated in flop-sweat.

Surely somewhere there is a photo of Gorgeous George with Bess Truman.

§ June 2nd, 2014 § Filed under sir-links-a-lot § No Comments

Progressive Ruin presents…the End of Civilization.

§ May 30th, 2014 § Filed under End of Civilization § 13 Comments

Here he comes, here comes Progressive Ruin, he’s a demon on Previews, as we once again take a look through the industry catalog to see what’s ahead of us on the funnybook racetrack. Grab your copy of the June 2014 Diamond Previews, leave this tortured introduction behind, and let’s gaze into the world that’s coming:

p. 94 – Star Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie #2:


Man, if anything called out for one of those 3D covers, it’s this trial run for DC’s “Giant Phallic Symbol Cover Month!”

p. 111 – Harley Quinn #9 & #10:


Two issues scheduled for the month? Well, that’s one way DC can catch up with Marvel.

p. 158 – Cerebus High Society Digital/Audio Experience:


Dave Sim reading Cerebus to you, doing all the different voices, plus sound effects and music and such, while the panels progress before you, all on DVD.

This has inspired a similar project from me, “The Progressive Ruin Experience,” where I’ll just come to your homes and read off old website posts to you. And eat your food. And probably rifle through your wallets and purses when you aren’t looking. INVITE ME IN.

p. 233 – Spawn #246:


You know how I’m usually against constant reboots and restarting series with new first issues and all that? Well, for certain cases, I’d make an exception.

p. 254 – Momeye the Sailor Scout #1:

“She’s Momeye the Sailor Scout! She’s Momeye the Sailor Scout! She gets her bravado from fresh avocados, she’s Momeye the Sailor Scout! In this action/comedy from Fred Perry, Magical Sailor Scout Momeye and her best frenemy, Bruta buddy-brawl their way though one adventure after another. It’s not just gender-bent, it’s gender-punched through the celiing!”

I…I, uh…um…I don’t….

…Okay, you got me. I can’t resist a Popeye parody. But someone’s going to pay for “she gets her bravado from fresh avocados” — and I think that someone…is all of us.

p. 415 – Soul of the Dark Knight SC:


Finally detailing those lost early years of Bruce Wayne during his time at Motown.

p. 419 – Doctor Who The Official Guide on How to Be A Timelord HC:

First, be fictional. Next, um, wear a fez, I think. And be all timey…wimey, right? Is that it? Then kidnap innocent people and make them travel in time with you. And get a robot dog, but surely that goes without saying.

p. 421 – Star Wars in 100 Scenes:


NOTE: all scenes personally reedited by George Lucas to match his final, final vision of the films. Greedo shooting Lando during the Death Star II battle. Ewoks dancing and singing before Senator Palpatine at the Hoth rebel base. Chewbacca running over Jar Jar with Luke’s landspeeder while being chased by the Geonosian army. Biggs is everywhere. The Return of the Jedi post-credit sequence, with the rise of Darth Yoda, his little ears sticking out from either side of his black helmet. All of your favorite moments, featured in this exciting volume!

p. 425 – Marvel Chess Collection Absorbing Man:


Unfortunately, this piece tends to confuse things by turning light or dark depending on what square he’s on.

p. 434 – Doctor Who Stacked Tenth Doctor White T-shirt:


Ah, so it is “timey-wimey.” Also, Time Lord skeletons look weird.

p. 436 – Previews Exclusive Clothing spot ad:


Okay, I wasn’t paying attention when I turned the page, and had my hand covering up part of this image when I looked down and I thought, very briefly, that Diamond was selling shirts with this logo. Not sure if I’m relieved or disappointed by the truth.

p. 442 – Hawkeye Minimalist T-Shirt:


“Hey, I like purple books, too!”

“Uh, that’s not….”

“Dude, I thought Snake Eye’s mask was silver.”

“Huh?”

“I don’t like that your shirt’s telling me to look down at your crotch, you weirdo.”

“BUT IT’S NOT…AUGH”

p. 448 – The Big Bang Theory “I Love Soft Kitty” Black Boxers:


This doesn’t say very good things about me, but “Soft Kitty” was not the first term I associated with that cat face.

p. 455 – Batman Classic TV Series Batman Vinyl Bank:


[drops coins into Best Batman Bank]

“Well done, old chum! It is always wise to put away a little money…for a rainy day.”

“Did…did you just talk to me, Best Batman Bank?”

“Of course, citizen! Open communication is the hallmark of a healthy society!”

“I…I love you, Best Batman Bank.”

p. 460 – Marvel The Infinity Gauntlet Bank & Gold Pewter Keyring:


Okay, bank, fine. Keyring, fine. How ’bout an actual wearable Infinity Gauntlet? This was close, I think, but, like, something affordable. And make it quick, this dishwashing glove with the marbles glued to it isn’t going to last much longer.

Marvel Previews p. 38 – Iron Fist The Living Weapon #5:


Hmmm….


HMMMM….


HMMMM….


…well, maybe not.

p. 63 – Wolverine #12:


Will this be the end for any future Wolverine #1s? Find out in next month’s Wolverine #1!

I guess “GLUB” counts as a sound effect.

§ May 28th, 2014 § Filed under this week's comics § 8 Comments


Jim Starlin, the creator of Thanos, returns with artist Ron Lim to fill in a gap or two in the character’s past while setting up yet another Infinity Something-or-other series, which is fine with me, actually, so long as Starlin will be involved. The annual comes with three variant covers, and of course there’s only one choice as to which I’d get.


Collecting Jason Yungbluth’s longform post-apocalyptic Peanuts (and other comic strips!) parody, both from previous print appearances and the online strips, plus other goodies new to this collection. I’ve been a fan of Weapon Brown since first encountering it in Yungbluth’s Deep Fried comics, though I sort of fell behind keeping up with the webcomic and am glad to have it all here in one giant lump.


This is supposed to be the “Batman ’66″ variant, though that mostly has translated to “‘characters drawn by Mike Allred in the usual Mike Allred style’ variant,” which is perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong. But everyone’s costumes need to be, I don’t know, a little baggier, maybe? At least one giant “KA-POW!” sound effect, somewhere? Swamp Thing (looking more like the Dick Durock portrayal from the first film) dancing the Swamptusi with an Abby Arcane who looks suspiciously like Eartha Kitt in a white wig with black stripes?


Been digging Matt Kindt’s covers on this series. The story’s interesting as well, giving us outsiders’ views of the Original Trilogy’s core characters. I suspect this and the other ongoing Star Wars monthly may be the last hurrahs for these characters in this form for a while, as the franchise switches over to Marvel and the ramp-up to Episode VII begins.


This issue goes a long way to establishing that the Fantastic Four are dangerous and possibly crazy people, which is something that probably should have been obvious from the get-go but James Robinson has a lawyer really go after the team on this and it’s hard to argue that the lawyer is wrong. It’ll all wrap up with our heroes coming out of it just fine, surely, or at the very least forgotten when the next writer comes along or the new first issue comes out, or both, but it makes for a compelling story in the meantime.


Was actually sort of surprised this wrapped up as quickly as it did, in only six issues, but there probably isn’t much more to say on the topic, really. A lot got squeezed into these comics, and the tone of the last issue swings from touching to appalling and back again, in true Garth Ennis fashion.


REMINDER: Swamp Thing appearance in Aquaman this week, about seventeen years since the last time that’s happened, so, you know, we were about due. Also, I have just dropped dead from old age, in case you were wondering.

I am generally disinterested in all things Woody Woodpecker, but I shall make an exception for this comic.

§ May 26th, 2014 § Filed under golden age § 3 Comments


Found this 1953 promotional comic while just sorta randomly going through the Grand Comics Database, and now there is almost nothing I want to know more than how our friend Scotty MacTape, of the Clan MacTape, helps Woody defeat an invading fleet of alien spacecraft with rolls of Scotch Tape, new formula or no.

I’ll have to track down a copy of this for myself someday, though perhaps I can wait ’til a slightly less dear example happens along. In the meantime, I’ll just assume Scotty uses his taping powers to strap together a whole bunch of cabers into one giant uber-caber that Woody, using the immense strength borne of his nigh-infinite well of anger, tosses into the Martian forces, giving them what-for and all that.

3,000 copies of the Swamp Thing one-shot should be about enough.

§ May 25th, 2014 § Filed under retailing § 1 Comment

So on Friday I sat down and started crunching some numbers on how to order the coming Futures End 3D covers. As I’m sure you remember, the last time DC tried 3D covers, it turned out production time was longer than they expected and they couldn’t fill initial orders. This time around, however, retailers are being asked to send in orders well in advance of release to allow (hopefully) sufficient lead-time for DC to print enough copies.

Last time, sales were driven by demand created by news of short supply. People were more or less interested in the 3D covers as it was, but the news that retailers weren’t receiving full orders created a huge buying frenzy, much higher than anyone would have expected. It’s hard to say, had initial orders been filled in full and no short-supply sales frenzy had ensued, just how accurate my original estimates of sales would have been. I think I would have been close…numbers enough to cover pull lists and rack sales and then a reasonable number of extra copies to handle what I guessed would be the additional sales the fancy covers might have attracted. There was no way to predict that 1) DC would end up allocating orders, and 2) that panic buying would have resulted.

This time, my planning includes numbers enough to cover pull lists and rack sales and then a reasonable number of extra copies to handle what I guess may be the additional sales the fancy covers will attract. The comics won’t be here for four months, two more months than the usual gulf of time my precogniscent comic-ordering abilities normally have to span, and if I have trouble predicting an out of the ordinary comic-buying frenzy two months out, I don’t have a chance at four months.

Now, it’s not hard to guess on some titles. The 3D covers for Batman and Harley Quinn and Justice League and other top-tier titles will probably sell great, and will continue to sell for some time to come, assuming no panic-driven immediate sell-outs. Orders for other titles, like Trinity of Sin: Pandora, with readerships about half that of my grocery lists, can probably safely be ordered at significantly lower numbers. Again, assuming no panic-driven immediate sell-outs.

Perhaps you sense a recurring theme. “I should have enough, assuming something I can’t reasonably predict doesn’t happen.” I can order enough to cover regular sales. I can, in general, guesstimate orders on enough extras to cover additional sales driven by interest in the 3D covers. I can’t guess if there will be, say, a mass media driven frenzy from people who don’t normally buy comics coming into stores to grab what they can. Or, some other kind of interest spike that will come as a surprise.

Will this be Superman #75, the Death of Superman issue, where retailers’ orders of lots of copies were completely overwhelmed by an insane amount of consumer demand? Or will this be Adventures of Superman #500, the “sorta the beginning of the return of Superman,” which retailers ordered huge numbers on, anticipating an demand equal to that of Superman #75, and, well, go ask some retailers how many unopened cases of that book they still have. But not me, or I might throw an unopened case of, um, a certain unnamed book at you.

There are lots of outcomes here. Given the extra lead time to print these new 3D comics, every retailer should get what they order. But will too many retailers order well in excess of what they actually need, assuming a demand similar to what happened with the 3D covers last year, resulting in a flooded marketplace and depressed sales? Will retailers order too conservatively, with the possibility of perhaps supply only just meeting, or just barely not meeting demand, giving the impression of more shortages which will cause, like last year, a spike in demand for books simply because they’re “hard to get?”

And there is that unpredictable factor I mentioned several times already, that a huge demand will come out of nowhere, or at from outside the usual comics-buying market, outstripping anyone’s guesses or predictions, causing the 3D cover supply to dry up yet again.

My best guess right now is that, this year, everyone will order just a few too many, that there should be plenty to meet expected sales, and there probably won’t be an unpredicted excessive demand stripping our shelves of these books. But, as mentioned to me by Ralph…remember Ralph? co-owner of the store and owner of all the old comics Ralph…if everyone orders too much this year and gets stuck with copies, then if they do this again next year, everyone will cut orders, and there won’t be enough to go around, and I’ll have to go through this again but with any luck I’ll finally be in my dream job of deep sea fishing by then and won’t have to think about any of this.

Regarding this year’s crop, however, we’ll see how I did on my ordering in a few months. Hopefully at that point this site won’t turn into “Mike Sterling’s Progressive 3D Cover Marketplace” where I try to get you guys to buy a different Futures End book each day. On the plus side, that’ll get me back up to posting seven days a week.

• • •

Between my writing this post Friday night and finishing it Saturday night, there was of course that terrible shooting in Isla Vista. I attended UCSB in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and would regularly wander through I.V. between classes, have lunch, shop at the record and book stores, or just hang out. It was an interesting and crowded community, and to hear about this awful tragedy there was just sickening. My sympathies to everyone there, to the victims of the violence and to their family and friends.

Hi, pals.

§ May 24th, 2014 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin § 4 Comments

I started writing a long ol’ post about comic book ordering, but I’m not going to finish anytime soon, and it’s already really late, and your pal Mike needs his beauty sleep. I mean, really needs it. Have you seen Mike lately? Sheesh.

Anyway, I know my site has been a bit light in content lately…I’m still here, I promise. My goofin’-around-on-the-blog time has been in short supply, and some nights I’ve been getting in too late, too tired and too scatterbrained to put together an entry of any real substance (not that scatterbrainedness has ever been in the way before).

My comic ordering post should be up on Sunday, then I’ll be back on Monday and I’ve got an End of Civilization post coming this week (already? are months like only two weeks long now or something?) so I’ll be back up to speed soon.

I was going to maybe do a Sluggo Saturday post, but I almost can’t bring myself to get up, go to the other room, grab the stack of Nancy comics and flip through ‘em for inspiration. This is terrible. My mind is going, I can feel it. Daisy, Daisy, give me…your answer…do

Looking forward to the eventual 14-part crossover with Swamp Thing.

§ May 21st, 2014 § Filed under cranius § 6 Comments

Guys, did I somehow miss this before, or is it first revealed in this week’s issue of Sinestro


…that Swamp Thing’s semi-nemesis Cranius is a member of the Yellow Lantern Corps?

Because this is the greatest thing.
 
 

image from Sinestro #2 (July 2014) by Cullen Bunn and Dale Eaglesham

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