Any excuse to reuse that GIF I made back in 2006.

§ April 1st, 2020 § Filed under batman § 8 Comments


I’ve mentioned before on the site that one of, if not the very first, Big Event What Got Real World News Coverage I had to deal with upon entering the world of comics retail in 1988 was the Death of Robin. Or “A Death in the Family,” which was the actual name of the storyline.

In case you need reminding, that was the series where at the end of the second issue of the story (at least in the direct market versions) readers were asked to actually phone in and decide if Robin lived or died after having the Joker do this to him:


I wish I could remember more specific retailing shenanigans I experienced at the time regarding this event, aside from vague memories of phone calls and walk-ins wanting to know more about Robin’s impending doom, but this was a while ago, and “Mike writing about comic events on computers” was still a few years in my future after discovering BBSes.

But, I was reminded of all this after watching a recent episode of “DC Daily,” which is the weekday news/discussion show on the DC Universe streaming service. The topic of discussion was this very storyline, being discussed in the context of celebrating Robin’s 80th anniversary, and given that the guy on the panel that they usually joke about being the “old man” of the group is a decade and a half younger than I am, I think most, if not all, of the participants here, didn’t experience this story until well after it was published.

Which is fine, doesn’t make me feel old at all, no sir/ma’am/other, but it feels weird to me to have this just be something that was always an established part of the character. Like, it’s some odd bit of history that you have to unearth after the fact, rather than something that you and everyone you know that was into this same sort of thing experienced together as it was happening. “Yes, Mike, tell us more about the passage of time and how new things become old things,” I know, I know, but it’s always a strange experience to listen to people experiencing something (or describing experiencing something) for the first time after the fact, that you yourself lived through first hand.

(As an aside, I’m experiencing the same sensation listening to this very funny podcast where a couple of folks are experiencing the Star Wars movies and associated nonsense for the first time. Sometimes it can be immensely frustrating and I get all worked up over them calling Jawas “droids” or whatever, but that’s more a comment on my own obsession. It’s a good lesson in “not everyone is as overly involved in the same dumb things you are.”)

The one thing the DC Daily panel brought up, that I can’t really remember for sure from the time, is that general fan reaction to this particular Robin, who was the second Robin Jason Todd, was not positive. That for some reason people didn’t really like Jason and that putting him on the chopping block for the public to decide was pretty much proof that he was not liked.

My general recollection was that, in the issues leading up to his death, Jason Todd was being written in a way to make him seem…at least darker, if not less heroic. I think the issue just before the “Death in the Family” storyline had a bad guy fall to his death off panel, and it’s strongly implied (in other words, “straight up taken as read”) that it was Jason who caused his demise. It felt like he was being written in a way that would make readers glad he was gone.

But prior to that, I don’t recall much negative response to the Jason Todd Robin. I wasn’t a regular reader of the Batman titles at the time, so maybe there was some pushback against him in the letter columns, but I don’t have any memory of there being any open disdain for the character in the fan press. He was originally around for only, what, five years? Doesn’t seem like long enough for some kind of hate-campaign to build up around a character that I thought was a mostly indistinguishable replacement for another character in those pre-wide-access-to-the-internet days. Not like the hate that built up around Damian Wayne when he came on as the new Robin years later, before everyone realized he was in fact awesome.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve come to ask you all, if you’re old like me and actually read mid-1980s Batman comics. Did you dislike Jason Todd…I mean, before they were deliberately writing him as a jerk near the end there? Or were they writing him as a jerk prior to that? What was going on there?

Least appropriate use of he phrase “all the rage” thus far.

§ March 30th, 2020 § Filed under collecting, retailing, self-promotion, sterling silver comics § 5 Comments

So over the last few days I’d been getting requests for two specific issues of Spectacular Spider-Man. No, not that series. Or the other series. Or that other one. I’m talkin’ the original one, the one that began with “Peter Parker, The…” before the title. …No, not that one.

Anyway, my curiosity was piqued as to why these issues, and though I (almost certainly correctly) suspected one of those websites or apps that “inform” folks intent on speculation and investing was responsible, I was wondering just what specific thing was driving this demand.

As you all know, things have been a tad topsy turvy this past week or two, so I had other things on my mind besides researching peculiar demand for a couple of issues of a Spider-Man comic that generally, and no offense to any fans or involved creators, back issue bin filler of no particular note.

But I had some time on Sunday, my first break in a while (more on that later in this very post) and finally sat down an did an eBay search on these requested issues. And I found many a listing with multiple variations on this title:


They’re in demand. Because there’s a character named “Corona” introduced in these books.

Oh come ON.

Needless to say, there’s no connection between Corona the comic book character and the coronavirus, aside from the names, much like there’s no connection between Corona the beer and said virus (but if you saw any of those articles claiming that Corona the beer had suffering sales as of late due to the pandemic, here comes Snopes to clear that particular misconception).

This doesn’t smell like “investment” so much as a recommendation by others to buy ’em cheap out of back issue bins of unsuspecting dealers and then bilk someone on eBay for a lotta dollars by making them think they’re getting a rare collectible.” Well, okay, that’s investment of a sort, but there’s no way something like this is any kind of long-term investment. It’s “buy and flip quick” while the coronavirus is all the rage.

Look, I’ve said before, however people want to enjoy the comics hobby, that’s fine, knock yourself out. But when I found out what was driving this need for these comics…well, my mostly-working eyes couldn’t help but roll awfully hard. Sheesh, “it’s an ill wind…” and all that.

Speaking of ill winds and what they don’t blow, my shop and I have been lucky enough to avoid such zephyrs and actually take in normal income since the California shutdown a couple of weeks back, despite being closed to walk-ins. My doors may be shut, but I’m working hard behind them all by my own self, taking phone orders and internet orders and eBay sales and getting ’em all packed up and shipped out. Now I don’t know how long that’ll last, given I did have a boost from a last new comics shipment from Diamond on Wednesday (resulting in sales that were pretty much on par with regular non-shutdown New Comics Day sales). But folks have been eager to throw business my way, and even prepay for material I won’t receive ’til Diamond revs up the ol’ supply line again.

Now I have been very busy, as it seems like I just take a phone or email order, start packing stuff, get another order called in, add that to the pile, then get more orders, and so on. Like I said above, I haven’t really had a chance to sit and relax for a moment at the shop until I had a brief respite on Sunday. And even then, I began posting some random books in a Twitter feed and on the store Instagram and will likely do more of that as time allows.

And speaking of the Instagrams, I offered (and am still offering) a special deal…$20 (which includes shipping) gets you 30 random comics. Good way to get you some comics for reading, giving to the kids, cutting up for art projects, and the like. And it clears out some stock from my backroom, too! It’s a win/win! Just PayPal $20 to my store’s email address (mike at sterlingsilvercomics dot com) and I’ll send you a package, too! Domestic customers only, though if you live in another country let me know and maybe I can get something worked out for you.

Bet you weren’t expecting a commercial. Sorry, gotta find ways to keep that cash flow active, especially if things get a bit leaner as this situation continues.

Anyway, stay safe out there, follow Nancy’s advice, and let’s all get through this so we can get back to focusing on fun stuff…all them funnybooks. Tell you what…next post I make here will be virus-free. …Er, you know what I mean.

Sluggo Saturday #134.

§ March 28th, 2020 § Filed under sluggo saturday § 2 Comments

ALWAYS PRACTICE


SLUGGO DISTANCING

from Comics on Parade #72 (June-July 1950)

Or just send me shoeboxes filled with twenties.

§ March 25th, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 8 Comments

As I’m sure you’ve already heard, Diamond Comics has, after this week’s shipment, suspended delivery of new comics to retailers until further notice. I feel this is, in general, a good thing, preventing unsold stock from piling up in stores in currently locked-down areas (like mine) with bills for invoices piling up.

I mean, at least in the short term. The new comics I have now I’ll be shipping out to customers who’ve paid via PayPal or called-in credit cards…packing is going to be taking up most of my Wednesday. It won’t be as lucrative as a normal New Comics Day, but it’s still going to be income, and I can still use it, as I do have to pay for this week’s shipment. And last week’s, as I’m on a “net-14” pay schedule with the distributor, meaning I have two weeks to pay each invoice. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem covering both bills, I think, as customers have been pretty willing to buy stuff from me over the last few days, thankfully.

I’m not 100% looking forward to new comics-less weeks and not getting those sales, though I have have enough stock here to sell to hopefully keep at least some money coming in. The trick is getting it up somewhere where folks can pick through it. I don’t have an online store aside from my eBay listings, and that isn’t necessarily representative of what I’ve got in the back issue bins and on the shelves. A lot of my business came from walk-ins, and that’s where I focused things. Now that I don’t have walk-ins, I’ve got to figure out a new strategy, which will be my new project once I’m done dealing with this week’s new comics cycle.

One place to keep an eye on is my Instagram page, where I’m probably going to be posting some choice items out of the case in the next few days. That’ll be relatively quick and easy, though I don’t want to overwhelm the feed. And I may be posting things on my store website, so keep an eye out there, too.

Of course, you can just send me want lists, and I’ll see what I’ve got. I never have a problem with that.

I do have to admit, I wasn’t entirely prepared for this, but then I wasn’t expecting most of the U.S. economy to just up and shut down. But I plan to hang in there, and I think I can make it through to the other side of this. I mean, what else am I going to do, quit the comic business and get a real job? FERGIT IT

Working harder closed than I did when I was open.

§ March 23rd, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 4 Comments


So I have a stack of Free Comic Book Day promotional material set aside at the shop, that either has to be discarded or repurposed since, as you probably heard and probably shouldn’t be surprised by, the event has been postponed to maybe the summertime? We’ll see…it all depends on how our current situation works out.

And when I say “repurposed,” I mean, like, what if the FCBD crew issues a bunch of stickers with the new date, once it’s established, that we can just slap over the old “May 2nd/First Saturday in May” tags on the posters and shelftalkers and such. Unless it’s just cheaper to reprint everything, I don’t know.

Pictured above is the Free Comic Book Day pen…I ordered a bundle for the store, and, now that I look at it, it really could have used a second line of print reading “FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY” to be properly promotional, but, you know, as it turns out, that didn’t really matter this year. Regardless, I just kinda look at that bag of pens and have this…sorta sad feeling, I guess? Sad that we got all this stuff for the big comics store event of the year and now it was just all for nothing. Yes, I know, not nothing since a FCBD is still supposed to happen eventually, but still, having this material on hand when most of it is, as it stands now obsolete is pretty affecting.

But this FCBD pen is still good. And it even writes!

In other “the store is closed to the public due to the CA shutdown” news…my shop is doing okay with phone and mail orders, along with a couple of very generous prepayments for future product. I managed to go through my comic saver list and call everyone, and already have had a lot of folks setting up mailing schedules on their items, or just straight up paying me for whatever’s in their box which they can pick up once the world settles town a tad.

Still haven’t heard from Diamond to discuss how to handle payment of invoices for the time being, since my income is going to take a hit, and how I can make sure the new weekly shipments will still head my way. Did call my landlord to tell him that next month’s rent may be a bit tricky to pay, but fortunately he’s on board and willing to work with me on that, too. What choice do any of us have, really?

Anyway, doing my best to keep my shop viable, and not turn this site into a “closing a store for good” document. Here’s hoping things ease up soon…not just for my store, of course, but for everyone’s health and safety.

Well, here we go.

§ March 20th, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 9 Comments

The California governor has issued a statewide stay at home order, with only essential services to remain open, like grocery stores, gas stations, law enforcement, that sort of thing.

As much as I’d like to think my shop is an essential service, that means I’m gonna have to shut down as well.

Now it’s my understanding I can still work in the shop, just not have it open to the public, and thus I’ll be able to receive shipments, mail orders out, etc. I have some funding options and emergency grants I can pursue, and I’ll have to call Diamond tomorrow and see what I can do about managing my invoices there on my assumed reduced income.

Of course, Wednesday and Thursday were very good days of business at the store, but even as good as it was, that’s not going to pay for my incoming inventory without financial assistance. Hopefully some of the options I’ll be exploring will provide it.

Anyway, I’ll try to keep folks updated here, and naturally on all my store’s various online venues, as to what’s going on. If you are a regular customer of mine, feel free to call or email me…the plan is to be at the store my regular work hours, more or less, so I’ll do my best to work with you during these troubled times.

Good luck to everyone out there, and absolutely feel free to contact me. Thanks for reading, pals.

Look, you’re gonna need something to read while you’re stuck at home, right?

§ March 18th, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 1 Comment

So…business continues to be within normal averages. Monday was slow, aside from a sizable purchase, but Mondays are generally slower days anyway. Plus, it was pouring rain most of the day and that historically keeps people from wanting to go out and buy items made of paper. And Tuesday’s sales were pretty typical for a Tuesday.

The real test will be how my Wednesday sales go. I did get my comic shipment on time on Tuesday, with an emailed message from Diamond informing retailers that we were permitted to sell the new product upon receipt, rather than waiting for the usual on-sale date. On top of that, there have been some notices from publishers regarding retail support in the form of full returnability for titles during certain ship weeks. I also spoke to a distributor rep about direct assistance regarding the impact of current events on invoice payments and such, and was told that Diamond is working with retailers to, well, keep them in business.

As it stands right now, barring enforced closure of all businesses and a stay-at-home order, it’s possible I’ll still be able to generate some income. Folks are still out and about, so I’m getting some walk-ins, and I’m seeing a number of phone orders/internet sales as well. No idea if that’ll last or not, but it is a slight relief that I have the option of working something out with Diamond if things really go south. Hopefully the landlord will be equally willing to work with me…as well as the various doctors also expecting payments. Sigh.

So yes, I’ll be open for business regular hours until further notice. Most of the other shops ‘n’ such in my particular strip of businesses have either reduced their services (restaurants all pretty much just doing take out), closed up entirely (noooo, not the massage parlor), or at the very least have encouraged “curbside assistance” (the veterinarian asking folks to bring their pets to the door and knock, rather than coming into the waiting room). So hey my Wednesday customers, there’s plenty of parking!

With any luck I can ride this out…it may be tight, it may be ugly, but I’m thinking I can probably make it. I hope. I mean, I gotta…too many people depending on me to get them Bad Idea comics.

Maybe I can pay for the weekly comics shipment with toilet paper and bottled water.

§ March 16th, 2020 § Filed under cranius, pal plugging, retailing, swamp thing § 4 Comments

So I expected some kind of dropoff in business this weekend due to the coronavirus, but surprisingly sales remained within their usual range, if not, perhaps, slightly above what I estimated. Now it could be people coming in and loading up on reading material for their sequestering, or that the full impact of what’s going on hasn’t quite settled in (though that’s hard to argue if you’ve seen the state of any grocery stores in the last couple of days), but so far, I’ve been doing okay.

Now whether that continues as everything continues to shut down and more people decide to stay home, I don’t know. Or it could be that folks are just in initial panic mode and that perhaps behavior will begin to normalize as the realization sets in that the world isn’t ending just yet. Again, don’t know.

It’s a level of uncertainty that I’m not particularly enjoying, as I’m sure most people out there are also experiencing. “How do I make money if I don’t work?” “How do I make money if no one is making money to spend at my store?” “How do I make money if people stop going out to shop?” It’s pretty rough. I have to worry about paying my rent, paying for the weekly Diamond invoices, paying myself so I can pay my regular expenses, oh, and saving up for a tax bill that I didn’t think I was going to have up until about two weeks ago. If money stops coming in, then I’ve got no money to go out, and that will be that.

Like I said, business has remained relatively steady, and it could be I’m worrying too much. Could be I’ll ride this out just fine, pinching pennies here and there, taking in few collections, while income is still coming in, even at slightly reduced levels. And I’m still doing mail order, and have offered my local customers the option to ship their books to them if they would rather not make the trip. But if things cut off entirely…well, my landlord and Diamond and my various utilities will hopefully be understanding.

Sigh. Anyway, so it’s not all doom and gloom, let me show you this pic that pal Matt Digges gave to me as a birthday present this weekend:


Heck yeah that’s Arcane and Cranius from Swamp Thing! And you guys know I loves me some Cranius.

Okay, let’s see what the week brings us. Hopefully things will get better, we’ll all start trying to lead normal (if health-conscious) lives, and panic rushes on grocery stores will subside. I mean, I certainly hope they do, I’m runnin’ short on paper towels.

99.

§ March 13th, 2020 § Filed under old § 11 Comments


I bought this book sometime in the very early 1980s, and I remember taking some time to save up enough money to pay that remarkably high $3.95 cover price, which was like, what, six, seven, eight times the cover price of the monthly Mad. I was fascinated at the time by the very idea of this oversized squarebound collection, so much larger than the other Mad paperbacks I would occasionally acquire.

And once I had it in my hands…frankly, when I pulled it off my shelf to scan that picture above, I was surprised it was in as good a shape as it was. By all rights it should have been in tatters, I read it so often. It’s such a great compilation of the variety of Al Jaffee’s output for Mad over the years, with parodies and weird inventions and his Snappy Comebacks to Stupid Questions…he’s synonymous with the Fold-In, but he did so much more.

Jaffee is 99 years old today. He is purt’near the very definition of a living legend and I’m glad he’s still around and able to see how much everyone loves his amazing work, both old and new. I follow his Instagram and there’s almost always something delightful going on there.

And I’m very happy I get to have my 51st birthday on this momentous occasion. And happy birthday to my atomic blogging brother Andrew as well.

Not to be confused with “Bad Idea Jeans.”

§ March 12th, 2020 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 6 Comments

So you may have heard about this new comics company (comprised, I think, of several former Valiant Comics folks) called “Bad Idea,” which the more I talk about this publisher the more hilarious and clearly self-aware its name sounds to me. Anyway, their deal, which is admittedly a bit weird, is that they’re initially only going to be offering their comics to a limited number of retailers, and that said comics wouldn’t be reprinted, collected, digitized*, variant-ized, or spindled or mutilated too, I’m presuming. Originally they announced it was only going to be 20 retailers, then they upped the number to 100, and, well, clearly I’m talking about it here because I managed to get my store on that list.

When I first heard about this, I contacted the publisher, expecting, like, there was going be a $1000 buy-in or something in order to participate. But, nope, just had to fill out an application/agreement thing, and then after whatever selection process was completed, got the email that I was in. I’m not being forced to order more comics than I’m comfortable with, so, you know, I’m willing to give it a shot. And after I announced it on my site and social media outlets, and after the list of retailers showed up elsewhere, I started getting interest from my customers and requests to add their titles to pull lists, so let’s see how it goes.

It is a weird business model, contrary to most business strategies, or what passes for them, at most comic companies. Conventional wisdow is that collected edition sales is where the longterm profit is at, and that digital sales is what all the kids are into, or where the future of comics is at, or that sort of thing. Plus on top of everything else, putting a cap on the number of outlets allowed to even order the books…I mean, it certainly got everyone’s attention, but I hope they’ve figured out a way to make money on this. I’m sure they have, but it certainly seems odd. Which, I guess, is the point.

I don’t know how long these particular strategies are going to remain in place, or how long they’ll stand against general market forces, but I’m glad I’m in there on the ground floor and trying this company out. No idea how it’ll all do, but it has my interest. One thing I’m wondering about is just how to order on these. Like I said, I’ve already had a bit of demand for these from customers, so that gives me at least an idea on what to order. But I can see folks who aren’t near a shop carrying Bad Idea books going down the list of retailers and calling each one, looking for copies to mail order. I like mail order, I do a lot of mail order, so I wonder how many copies extra I should have on hand for this sort of demand? I do not know. Don’t want to go overboard on numbers, but don’t want to be stuck short either. But if any of you reading this want any of these comics, let me know, I’ll be happy to send it to you!

You can read more about the publisher on its site.

* At least officially…sigh.

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