The Marvel Infinity War Spider-Man 30 Inch Inflate-A-Hero says hello.

§ March 20th, 2019 § Filed under freak out § 1 Comment






Sad Sack fans, just send your hate mail to “mikester” at this domain name.

§ March 18th, 2019 § Filed under comic strips § 15 Comments

So as a young Mikester, I had a lot of newspaper strip reprint books. You know, the small 4 by 7 inch ones that were, what, `00 or so pages pages with a strip per page (or maybe a Sunday spread across two pages). Yeah, you know the type.

I read them from a pretty young age, and actually still have most of the books I had managed to gather up back then. The strip for which I had the most reprint books was Peanuts, which was probably far and away the most popular of these sorts of things. A distance second was B.C., though I had a pretty good supply of those as well…a weird and great strip in its heyday. And at some point I got into Beetle Bailey and got my mitts on several of those books over the years.

There were other scattered paperback strip reprints that passed through my hands…some I kept, some got passed on or lost over the years. I do still have the couple of Wizard of Id books, and it surprised me that I didn’t try to get more, because I really enjoyed that comic. Not so surprised that I didn’t keep the one book of Crock I had, which I did not care for.

Somewhere in the boxes of books I still have the first Doonesbury collection I was ever given (An Especially Tricky People), presented to me by my grandmother shortly after its initial publication in 1977, when I was eight years old and probably had a heck of a time making heads or tails of the thing. I got that parts of it were funny, and that Honey wasn’t getting the attention from Duke that she wanted, but the political content just whizzed over my head. (In later years, I ended up tracking down and buying just about every Doonesbury book, from the one reprinting the college strips up through, say, the 1990s.)

Some of the books I had but didn’t keep around were titles like The Family Circus and Dennis the Menace, which I liked well enough, I suppose, but the one-panel, essentially non-sequential nature of those comics didn’t really provide the…narrative, I guess, that I wanted from these comics as a kid. I mean, sure, I’ve come to appreciate them a bit more now (“oh, Not Me, you’ve done it again!”), but they just weren’t scratching that comical itch.

Another one I didn’t keep around was the one paperback of Tumbleweeds I somehow had on my shelves.

I was thinking about Tumbleweeds a bit over the last day or two, as it had been reported that the cartoonist behidn the strip, Tom K. Ryan, had died. Well, okay, sure, I was thinking about the strip a few weeks ago when I made this gag at the end of the post here (and it was a gag…that’s not what I gave pal Dorian for Christmas…I gave him a gift card to Tower Records). I do remember reading that one book I had…I remember reading it multiple times, because when you’re a kid you do things like that, since you have lots of time to kill and your imminent death from old age isn’t just around the corner.

I seem to recall thinking it was…well, I don’t recollect my exact reaction to it, but it was something along the lines of “it was okay, at least it’s not the Peanuts books I own and have reread a million times.”

However, for some reason, as I got older, I found that Tumbleweeds just wasn’t for me. It just didn’t appeal to me…the art rubbed me the wrong way, I had trouble even parsing the appearances of the characters, the jokes didn’t do much for me…man, at this point, I can’t even remember any of the character names from the strip. Was there someone actually named “Tumbleweeds” in the comic? I couldn’t tell you. And I think the strip changed over to some sort of mechanical lettering versus hand lettering…no, sorry, couldn’t do it.

To be fair, it wasn’t like I was declaring from the rooftops “As God is my witness, I hate Tumbleweeds or anything…it was more “this is not for me, but for other people” and left it at that. It doesn’t fill me with anything like the revulsion I have for Sad Sack, a comic that just seems wholly terrible that I can’t understand anyone ever tolerating, much less supporting multiple titles for so many years. Yeah, sure, I realize this all sounds pretty rich from a guy who likes, well, you know, but for the longest time just a partial glimpse of Tumbleweeds on the funny pages made me avert my eyes and move on.

Well, seeing the write-ups of Tumbleweeds of late (and getting a tad bit of pushback from the Christmas gift “joke” I mentioned earlier) has made me decide to give this comic a second chance. I will buy a copy of one of the paperbacks (preferably one reprinting slightly older strips, maybe from the 1970s) and I’ll give it another shot. Could be that I’ll still not like it. Could be I’ll find myself collecting yet another series of strip reprints that I’ll have to find room for. I don’t know.

If anyone has any suggestions as to which book to try, feel free to let me know in between your defenses of Sad Sack. My preference is to try out one of those small paperbacks, like the ones I got as a child. Maybe, if I can figure it out, I’ll try to find a copy of the one I originally had.

I however won’t be revisiting Crock. Sorry, friends, I have my limits.

“Keep it a little short,” he says.

§ March 15th, 2019 § Filed under I have no idea how to tag this § 6 Comments

Thank you for all the birthday wishes yesterday, here and on the Twitters. It made my move into the middle third of my life a little easier.

I’m going to keep it a little short today, just because, hey, I’m old now, I tire quickly, but I’ll just run through a couple of things here:

First, just to reassure you all, I don’t hate Golden Age comics, despite entry #36 in Wednesday’s post. I mean, yes, there’s a lot that’s, shall we say, barely competent, and even some of the Big Name Titles from Publishers You’ve Heard Of are hardly readable to modern sensibilities. But of course there’s plenty of good stuff, too, like Captain Marvel (aside from the racism), Archie (aside from the racism), the Spirit (aside from the racism), Wonder Woman (aside from the racism), and so on. And I’ll ride or die for Siegel and Shuster Superman. Oh, and not to mention Carl Barks and his duck books, And depending on how fuzzy a line you draw on comic ages, EC Comics, are I dare say inarguably the best newsstand comics ever produced. So, you know, it’s not all terrible. Just don’t read those original Blue Beetles. HOO BOY.

Speaking of my list, reader Joe, who has some comics retailing experience of his own, left a couple of addendums which are fairly spot on. And I came up with another yesterday do, basically “always have comic bags on order even if you think you have plenty, because it takes just one guy redoing his collection to wipe you out, and being a comic shop with no comic bags is terrible.” …Pithy, no?

Thelonius_Nick had a question regarding back issues:

“Regarding #49, I’ve heard it said that one reason few comic shops carry extensive back issue selections nowadays is because they’re a turnoff to new customers (‘I have to read all those to understand comics? Forget it!’).

“Have you found that all those back issue longboxes actually have that effect, or is it solely a matter of presentation? (That is, if you have dozens of beat up longboxes scattered haphazardly around your dimly-lit store, of course it’s a turn-off, while neatly lined up boxes in their own corner are fine?)”

Hm…I hadn’t heard that before, but I can maybe understand it. In my experience (and my experience on the retail end has pretty much only been with an extensive back issue stock, he said modestly) is that customers like seeing lots of back issues. Even folks new to, or just generally unfamiliar with, the hobby, find all the available older comics to be, well, neat. My assumption is, yes, as long as they’re clean and organized, as I always try to be with my stuff, that would probably make a great deal of difference.

I mean, I don’t know…if someone walked into the store, saw all the comics, was intimidated, and left, I don’t think I would have heard back from them. (Unless this is what my 2-star review was about…”This store was too thoroughly stocked with product! Unacceptable! TWO STARS”)

And what’s a birthday without presents! I was surprised by a box showing up on the day before the Big Day, from that most birthday-appreciative of stuffed bulls, Bully, which included one of these:

As I noted on Twitter…”I like how Sluggo’s face almost supplants mine in the reflection. TAKE THAT, FELLINI.” …Thanks to Bully for the great gift, and thanks to his pal John for helping reach the higher shelves to get it!

I also bought myself a birthday present, something I’d been thinking about since I revisited the MAD Magazine movie Up the Academy all those years ago:

…a sealed copy of the official soundtrack album! (Which didn’t remain sealed for long as I totally opened it up and played the thing). Interestingly, some of the featured artists in the film (like Iggy Pop and Lou Reed) weren’t represented on the record, but there’s still plenty of good stuff here to enjoy. A meh movie with a great collection of music. …Now to get a copy of the Howard the Duck soundtrack!

Thanks to you all again for the birthday wishes…it was quite kind of you all, and I’ll do my best not to make you regret them over the next fifty years. I’ll see you all back here on Monday.


§ March 13th, 2019 § Filed under old § 31 Comments

And now, 50 things I’ve learned from, or discovered about, comic book retail over the last thirty or so years I’ve been doing this:

1. “Collector’s Items” aren’t.

2. New first issues are jumping-off points as well as jumping-on points for readers.

3. A whole lot of folks unfamiliar with comics think that Hawkman is called “Birdman,” and that Green Lantern is “Green Hornet.”

4. There’s only one real way to put your standard comic book storage box together, but hoo boy have I uncovered any number of ways folks have forced their boxes into shape using tape, staples, baling wire, what have you.

5. 95% of the comic supplies I’ve sold have been “current” (or “new”) sized, but the supplies I find on collections I acquire are almost invariably the larger sizes.

6. Folks who ask “have the movies and TV shows improved sales?” are always surprised to hear “um, not especially.” They are pleased to hear that the primary effect is that everyone knows who Groot is now.

7. I still kind of freeze up a bit whenever anyone asks me if I have any “key books,” as my definition of “key book” may not be the same as theirs. “Why yes, I do have a copy of Honey Bunny’s first appearance in Bugs Bunny #108!”

8. There are some people who feel entirely no shame in asking things like “where can I download all these new comics for free?” or “can I take pictures of all the pages of this comic with my phone?”

9. Any new person who comes into the store declaring “WOW! I love comic books! This is going to be my favorite shop, I’ll be your best customer!” will never be seen again.

10. Yeah, sure, y’all make fun of him, but I’m telling you, Rob Liefeld comics usually sell. I’m still selling copies of Youngblood #1, for God’s sake.

11. I was bothered by the continual “Hey where’s Sheldon?”/Big Bang Theory-related comments I’d get from people who’d pop into the store, until I realized at least the non-comics reading public is at least associating comic book stores with something they like. Quite a change from just a few years ago.

12. When someone encounters The Walking Dead comics for the first time, the general assumption is that it’s based on the TV show, not the other way around.

13. A lot of people think Maggie and/or Hopey from Love and Rockets is based on them. (Perhaps specific to the Ventura County area.)

14. When a publisher doesn’t give you any information about an upcoming comic aside from “TRUST US, YOU’LL WANT TO ORDER PLENTY,” most of the time you can safely not order plenty.

15. Used to be bemused by people bringing in comics that “used to belong to my late grandfather,” implying heavily that these were old, old books, and then they’d turn out to be Spawn and Witchblade…until I realized recently these have been around long enogh that they would likely be found in Grandpa’s comic boxes now.

16. Folks just don’t get tired of Batman. Other characters wax and wane, but Batman just keeps chugging along in a variety of formats and stories. It is a perpetual comics machine.

17. Most everybody, fans and non-fans alike, love Stan Lee. …I know his legacy is a bit more…nuanced than that, but I found it best not to disillusion these folks. Nobody likes a party pooper.

18. Readers don’t mind high issue numbers. They certainly find them less frustrating than constant reboots/relaunches. When Marvel did their “Legacy” initiative and briefly restored original numbering to a lot of their books, my sales went up on them.

19. If something doesn’t have a price marked on it, and the customer says “that means it’s free!” they don’t care for it when you replay “no, it means I can make up whatever price I’d like…ONE MILLION DOLLARS PLEASE.”


21. When people ask me “do you know anything about this Swamp Thing character,” I’ve learned not exclaim John Lithgow-style “oh DO I!” and immediately drop an infodump on them. …Only took about two and half decades in the business to break that habit.

22. As annoyed as I generally was by Wizard, I kinda miss it now that I realize the part it played it getting kids excited about comic books. That was certainly better than today’s kids being, I don’t know, being exposed to YouTube videos about how icky girls are ruining Marvel or whatever.

23. It’s a common assumption that I get to read comics all day at work. Man, I barely have time to read comics at home.

24. As a comic shop clerk/owner, you are assumed to have seen every superhero TV show/movie as soon as it’s released, if not sooner. (NOTE: I’m behind on every CW DC show, and I didn’t see that last Avengers movie ’til it made it to home video.)

25. Every Furry customer I’ve ever had has been nothing less than friendly and kind, except for that one guy who was an annoying jerk, but that really didn’t have anything to do with him being a Furry.

26. Turns out if companies go to the “DEATH OF [CHARACTER]” well too often, the general public will stop falling for it.

27. That said…it took a long time to stop hearing “there are new Superman comics? I thought he died!” from people who weren’t joking.

28. “Comic shop” is just a catch-all for “store that carries any weird thing I can think of” for some folks. I’ve taken calls from people looking for inflatable sheep, or asking if I buy “slightly used” Halloween masks.

29. Role playing games (and collectible card games) have become so associated with comic book stores, people are shocked to discover a shop like mine that doesn’t deal in them.

30. If anyone comes through the door looking for sports cards, it’s only because they want to sell you some, never because they want to buy any.

31. No matter how busy I’d been just previously, when the store clears out and the next person comes into the now-empty shop, there is a non-zero chance of him or her saying “so…slow day, huh?”

32. Nobody wants Woody Woodpecker comics. NOBODY. If any of you write in to say you do, I will have to assume you’re either lying or deranged.

33. If someone tells you they have a comic book at home in Near Mint, it’s probably been set on fire at some point.

34. Just realized that I don’t hear “I remember when they only cost a nickel!” so much any more is because, um, persons of that particular age group…uh, aren’t, um…how can I put this?

35. Nobody who says “I have a copy of the first appearance of Superman” at home actually has one. …I mean, somebody has copies of Action #1 out there, they’re just not going into comic shops and telling the clerks about it.

36. There are a whole lot of Golden Age comic stories that, well, aren’t very good. YEAH THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT

37. There are a whole lot more comics autographed by Jack Kirby than you think. Some of those comics were even done by him.

38. Anyone looking for Tales from the Crypt comics are generally surprised to find out there are other similar comics from the same publisher (like Vault of Horror, and so on). I mean, if there was a Vault of Horror TV show that ran for years, it’d go the other way, surely.

39. The old Robotech comics from Comico in the 1980s used to sell better at our shop once they were in the back issue bins than they did on the new shelf. Weird, huh?

40. All those foil/die-cut/hologram covers from the ’90s nearly did the industry in, but customers today who weren’t around then for all that nonsense think those fancy covers are great now! I can even sell Turok #1s!

41. The worst damage that can happen to any comic book is cat pee. I will accept no counterpoints to this.

42. Someone will invariably read the “1ST SATURDAY IN MAY!” on the Free Comic Book Day promo material as “May 1st” and show up on the wrong day.

43. Related: it still comes as a surprise to many that comic shops have to pay for the FCBD comics. I know everyone tries to get the word out about this every year, but it’s still news to some.

44. “It’s old, therefore it’s worth money” is a very common belief. Well, I’m old, and I’m worth practically nothing, so there you go.

45. Not every licensed comic, but enough licensed comics based on non-superhero properties eventually do a story involving superheroes somehow.

46. The Number One Giveaway that someone’s come from another hobby to try their hand at comic book collecting was when I repeatedly was asked for “comic book Becketts in the early ’90s. Nothing else ever came close.

47. “Crumb comics” is slowly becoming the generic term for “underground comix.”

48. Folks who haven’t been in a comic book store in a while are always surprised to discover Spawn is still being published.

49. Turns out if you carry a variety of product in an organized, welcoming store, you’ll acquire a diverse customer base, including plenty of women and children. Who knew?

50. Also found out that blogging is a fun way to not only educate others about the industry and day-to-day realities of selling comic books, but also a great way to promote one’s business, organize one’s thoughts about running said business, and maybe learn a little more about just what it is I think I’m doing. It’s also a fine way to connect with the many wonderful people out there on the internet (no, really, there are some!) who have supported both my shop and my silly online endeavor here for so many years. Thanks, everyone.

50 1/2. I also learned that blogging brother Andrew shares his birthday with me! Happy birthday, Andrew!

I’m telling you, Marvel fans back in 1974 really wanted that Shanna the She-Devil stamp.

§ March 11th, 2019 § Filed under hulk, retailing, wolverine § 5 Comments

So since opening up Ye Old Comics Shoppe in Camarillo, CA, available seven days a week for your funnybook purchasing needs, one of big surprises I’ve had in my acquisition of collections was just how many copies of Incredible Hulk #181 I’ve come across.

Now, maybe it’s not as surprising as the one and only time a copy of this showed up in my shop, but given the rather higher profile of this Hulk #181, being the first (full-length) appearance of Wolverine, it still amazes me every time I see it.

One thing about these #181s that I’ve been getting…more often than not, and I mean a lot more often than not, they have the Marvel Value Stamp cut out of ’em. (Read more about the Marvel Value Stamps right here!). This promotion of Marvel’s is the bane of many a dealer in old comics, as we gotta page through Marvel issues of a certain vintage and make sure that damned stamp hadn’t been cut out. And here’s the weird thing…about 98% of the time, when I’m checking most Marvels that have these stamps to make sure they’re still intact, they are. But when I’m checking Hulk #181s, the stamps are cut out, like, 90% of the time. It’s like those kids back in ’74 knew I was going to try to resell these. “Let’s stick it to that 5-year-old Sterling kid who’s gonna try to make a buck off these in about 4 decades or so!” Anyway there’s a reason why I made that #181 joke in this post.

Anyway, the thing about Hulk #181 is that they sell very quickly, stamp or no stamp. I’ve yet to have a copy in the store overnight, in fact. I either move it on eBay immediately, I call someone up on my list of Folks What Want the Fancy Books and they dash in and buy it, or a lucky walk-in grabs it. Good thing it sells so fast, because (gulp) I sure do spend a lot of money on these, and would like to recoup the cost right away (and make some much needed profit besides).

I’m bringing this all up because about a week ago I had another copy of Hulk #181 oome into the shop. And the reason I don’t have an actual picture of that copy of the comic I acquired (instead linking to the Grand Comic Database instead, just in case you needed a reminder of what this comic looked like) is because almost immediately after handing my guaranteed-good business check to the seller, completing the transaction of ownership over this back issue, I had someone in the store say “I’ll buy that!” Just as quickly as I’d acquired it, it was gone. Nice when a collection purchase turns out like that.

I did say “collection,” because there was more than just the Hulk #181. There was also Hulk #180, which I did take a picture of:

And if you don’t happen to know the significance of this comic…the reason I specified #181 being the first “full-length appearance” of Wolverine is that he appears throughout that entire issue. #180 is in fact his real first appearance, in the last panel of the final page of the book:

BONUS: reference in caption to Hulk’s green butt. You’re welcome.

Anyway, this issue doens’t have quite the demand the follow-up does in the collector market, despite literally being the character’s first in-story appearance. In one of the few times back issue demand actually makes some sense, the comic with the awesome red-background cover that actually features Wolverine, and contains Wolverine throughout the issue, is in much higher demand than the one where he pops up just in one panel on the last page, Hulk butt talk in the caption or no.

And this specific copy I acquired…hoo boy. Not only was the value stamp in this one missing as well:

…but some young person had gone scissor-mad with power after clipping the coupon, and trimmed a segment out of one of the center pages as well:

I had no real confidence in selling this book…well, okay, that’s not true. The ol’ Canucklehead’s panel was still intact, and you know, there’s always someone out there looking for this, regardless of condition, if it’s priced right. …Amd priced right it was, because I also managed to sell this very quickly. Not as fast as the #181, but still, it moved out the door faster than I expected.

It’s nice to get the big ticket items like this and turn ’em around almost immediately. It definitely helps subsidize the cost of the other items in the collection which aren’t as pricey and aren’t in nearly as much demand, and thus may sit around in the boxes a little longer. Which isn’t to say they’re turkeys, by any means…they’re just not Hulk #181. Or even #180. But it’s still, like, Kirby Tales of Suspense and that sort of thing. They’ll sell.

That’s one of the fun parts of owning a comic shop…never knowing what’s going to be in the next collection that walks in the door. I mean, sure, it’s usually a run of Team Youngblood or something, but once in a while, you get a nice surprise. Even if it does have the Marvel Value Stamp cut out of it.

Progressive Ruin presents…the End of Civilization.

§ March 8th, 2019 § Filed under End of Civilization § 7 Comments

STOP! Don’t pass up this End of Civilization entry! My LIFE depends on it! Is this the last stand of the March 2019 edition of Diamond Previews? Mike stakes his life on–YOU!

p. 71 – MCMLXXV TP:

Greatly anticipating the sequel MCMLXXVII.
p. 74 – Paradox Girl Vol. 1 TP:

“Mike, when is Paradox Girl coming out?”

“In two weeks.”


“In one week.”

“But you just said….”

“In half a week.”


“In one fourth of a week.”

p. 116 – Minecraft Vol. 1 TP:

“Wow, we have to go to a second printing on the Minecraft comic! Send someone out to get more sugar cane!”
p. 120 – Disney’s Frankenstein Starring Donald Duck TP:

“No, no, Frankenstein is the duck, Frankenstein’s monster is….”

“Peg-Leg Pete?”

“No, it’s not h–anyway, look, we can’t call him ‘Peg-Leg’ anymore, it’s not very sensit–”

“Okay, Black Pete.”

p. 121 – Disney’s Dracula Starring Mickey Mouse TP:

Now this has me thinking about Disney’s Night of the Living Dead. “Gawrsh, they’re coming to get you, Minnie! AH-HYUK!”
p. 190 – Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica #1:

I was going to make some kind of gag about this, but there’s really not much to add, is there?
p. 286 – Archie’s Big Book Vol. 6 High School Yearbook:

“Dad, I need to pay for the new yearbook, can I have some cash?”

“Archie, we already have like eighty yearbooks, do we really need another?”
p. 288 – Fathom #1:

So Fathom gives in to the current hot trend of relaunching your series with a new number one. I mean, they’ve only done it [checks notes] at least seven times before.
p. 308 – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshmen Force: New Party Who Dis? One-Shot:

Well, sure, why not. …Anyway, where’s my President Taft comic book? “TAFT SMASH PUNY MONOPOLIES!” C’mon, someone get on this.
p. M42 – Captain Marvel Feature Fashion Doll:

Cue the onslaught of angry dudes on YouTube videos complaining how a lady Captain Marvel is ruining their beloved medium of fashion dolls.
p. M88 – Cell Phone Girl Elder Sister Mobile Phone Stands:

“Hey, where’d I put my phone? I need to tweet something.”

“Um, it’s right where you left it, Mr. President.”
p. M103 – Captain Marvel Empire Collection Toaster:

“And they’re ruined toasters now, too! Is there no end to their perfidy?”

“Well, look, surely the Rorschach Toaster did more to….”


DC Previews p. 6 – DCeased #1:

Look, DC, just put out a book called “DC Zombies.” You know that’s what you wanted to call Blackest Night. Anyway, Dave Sim kinda sorta beat you to this title.
Marvel Previews p. 4 – Savage Avengers #1:

If Conan’s back in the Marvel Universe, will it be long before this guy worrying about the yen versus the dollar is back, too?


Should also note, in fairness, Alan Moore probably would have had the Question say “Good question,” too.

§ March 6th, 2019 § Filed under this week's comics, watchmen § 7 Comments

[maybe some SPOILERS for Doomsday Clock #9 ahead)

I keep telling myself I have another deep-dive post on the whole Doomsday Clock thing, as a follow-up to this entry (and a bit more here) but it never really coalesces around much more of a center than “man, are you seeing this?” which, oddly enough, is sort of the tone of Doomsday Clock itself. “Man, are you seeing Batman fighting Rorschach? Man, are you seeing DC superheroes using swears?” You know, like that.

Issue #9, due out at your finer funnybook emporiums this week, is sort of the ultimate expression of that, where we finally get what we paid that admission price to see. It’s the DC Universe Super-Pals versus Dr. Manhattan, and I’d be lying if I said this isn’t exactly what I wanted from this comic book. I know they’re trying to say some heavy stuff about the political and society impact of superheroes in the DC Universe, a somewhat less subtle mirroring of one of the themes, itself not so subtly expressed in Watchmen. And they’re leaning hard on the anti-hero sentiment (again, as seen in the older series, and also, I’ve read Legends, thanks). And yes, we’ve got the President in here, too…we don’t see his face, but it’s Trump, tying these shenanigans to the here and now, versus the inherent weirdness of seeing Nixon as President in the original’s time frame of the late 1980s.

Hmmm…didn’t mean to do a whole “Watchmen is like this, but Doomsday Clock is like this” thing there, but it’s pretty much hard to avoid when discussing a series that on a very surface level is aping its inspiration while trying to shoehorn the format into a milieu for which it wasn’t really suited. The trappings are all there, the art is quite nice, it remains, as I’ve written before, oddly compelling almost despite itself, but it doesn’t feel right.

It certainly succeeds in not being like pretty much anything else DC has ever published…or it could be exactly like material DC has published, with characters forced to conform to a structure for which they weren’t intended. Even Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, as different from the usual comic book mold as it was, still felt like a natural extension of what had come before. Doomsday Clock feels like having your Star Wars action figures fight your Micronauts toys. Yeah, you bet it’s fun, but clearly the two lines were never really designed to be compatible.

I’m still interested…I’m looking forward to seeing the metatextual hoops the series jumps through where the Watchmen property is being used to explain DC’s real world New 52/Rebirth publishing initiatives (which, while not a fan of how we got to this point with a surfeit of reboots/relaunchs, I still contend is a clever aspect of the Doomsday Clock project as a whole). And, as a longtime Superman fan, I am very curious about Dr. Manhattan’s connection to that particular bit of DC’s continuity changes (hinted at very briefly, but More on That Next Time, I take it).

In conclusion, it’s all been worth it just for Guy Gardner is this issue.

“Complains too much about online reviews – TWO STARS.”

§ March 4th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments

So late last year, I receiving the following online review for my business in one of the usual places one finds reviews for one’s business:

“A quite [sic] little place in Oxnard. Pretty good food. Good service.”

Okay, you may have noticed a couple of problems there, I mean, aside from the typo. First, my comic book store isn’t in Oxnard. It’s in Camarillo, which is next to Oxnard, but it is not Oxnard. Also, while one could perhaps allow for the most generous interpretation of “good food” to mean “oh, yeah, there’s good food at the restaurant next door” or “that meatball sub Mike was eating looked pretty delish,” I’m going to presume that, in conjuction with the follow-up comment, they meant that I served good food. The “good service” note probably wasn’t specifically about me either, despite being 100% accurate.

At any rate, it’s pretty clear someone made a mistake and placed a review for some eatery or ‘nother on my listing. Also, it was a three star rating, a middling review (though it sounds like they liked whereever it was they were actually reviewing just fine), which dinged my average a smidgen. I replied to the review noted that it seemed to have been left in error, but never got a response. It took complaining to the platform to get it removed…which itself took a couple of months, but with the amount of traffic they’re dealing with, I understand.

I don’t generally worry about reviews of my store. I was more bemused by the situation I described than anything else. But I realize that you just can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had some very kind folks leaving positive reviews of my shop in various places, which is gratifying and showing that perhaps I’ve somehow learned to do a comic shop right after three decades in this industry.

But I’ve had some middling reviews, too, and part of my job as Business Owner is to address those reviews, especially when they don’t leave any comments beyond a star rating. I tend to read “3 stars” as “good, but not great,” which is, you know, reasonable, but I would like to know what it is specifically I did to not earn higher, if a comment wasn’t left. I always try to be nice and polite when responding, asking what I could do to improve their experience, etc. Have yet to hear back from anyone, but, well, what can you do. I mean, other than try harder, that is!

The reason I’ve been thinking about this lately is that someone dropped a two-star review on me, and again, with no explanation as to why. Just “here you go, two stars,” which…I don’t know, man. I don’t recall anyone being particularly unhappy with me of late. I have had a recent influx of people looking for role playing game stuff, and perhaps this was from one of these folks (“Didn’t carry product line that was never promised or even implied by business that it carried – TWO STARS”). I left a response, again asking “what specifically did you dislike? How can I improve,” but I don’t think I’ll get a reply to this one, either.

At least this person appears to have actually been to the store…I looked at the reviewer’s profile just to make sure it was a real person who’s visited the shop and/or dealt with me, and not one of those folks that firehose reviews all over the place to improve their “Top Reviewer” ranking or whatever — had one of those a while back, whose review has since been deleted — and judging by the pattern of places rated this person at least appears to have been in the area. But I have no idea why the reviewer didn’t like my shop, or me…how can anyone not like me, I’m adorable. Wasn’t shy about leaving very specific comments about other reviewed businesses, but all I’m left with is my assumption that the person objected to the fact that I carried comics.

Reminder: I said I “generally” don’t worry about reviews. But this one stuck in my craw a little, as perhaps you were able to tell. It just leaves me wondering. What did I do? Did I do anything wrong? Was there dissatisfaction with my available stock or back issue pricing? Or was it something entirely out of my hands? I did have to shut the store down for one day without warning due to some post-surgery complications…maybe the reviewer came by that day and dinged me for that. I don’t know.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll get a response and find out. And please do not contact that person on my behalf, should you happen to see the review…I do not want to be one of those guys that “sics” readers/followers on others. Everyone’s entitled to their informed opinion! Like I said, you can’t please everyone, and that’s okay. So long as I’m doing my best.

I know that’s a lot to type about something that I’m claiming to be ain’t no thang, and to be really honest, it doesn’t bother me. I presume one of the reasons you (yes, YOU) read this site is for some insight on the day-to-day stuff that goes into running a comic store. One of the things i have to do is, well, respond to customer concerns, and maintain some kind of control and/or interaction with my online presence. That includes social media, online sales, and, of course, reviews of my store. It’s just a thing I gotta do, and hopefully you gleaned some useful info from all this.

If nothing else, when you have to leave a middling to negative review for anything, at least leave a brief comment saying why, if you can, just so the reviewee has something to work with. Positive reviews are self-explanatory, I think, and probably don’t need commentary, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy reading “Mike is great! I wish he’d adopt me!” or whatever. But if someone isn’t happy with their experience with me or my shop, I’d like to know a reason.

On a related note, recently comics writer Gail Simone asked on her Twitters for comments from her lady followers about guys who were welcoming and open to them regarding their “nerd interests.” I was pleasantly surprised to be mentioned twice, from longtime customer Jo:

“I was welcomed by @mikesterling who let me, as a child, enjoy comics and feel safe in my LCS. And as I grew and my tastes changed, he always knew to keep issues of Titans and Nightwing waiting for me. We would laugh and talk and discuss. Please go and support him if you can!”

…and from other longtimer, Weshoyot:

“That would be @mikesterling when he worked at a local comic shop. He was ways inviting, helpful and encouraged me to put my own Kinko’s copied comic in there. He now runs his own shop. Stand up guy. One of the good ones.”

I’ve known both these great ladies since they were but wee tykes, and it makes me very…well, emotional to know that they grew up with these kindhearted memories of me. God knows I’m not perfect, and I’ve made dumb mistakes, and probably more than earned the occasional two-star review at times…but reading these nice words from Jo and Weshoyot make me think that somehow during all these years, I managed to do okay.

Well, sure, I’ve been to Hollywood.

§ March 1st, 2019 § Filed under big red cheese § 17 Comments

So in response to my dipping into the “I hate that they just call him ‘Shazam'” well yet again, a lot of you suggested DC instead revive the old “Captain Thunder” moniker they used for the ersatz Cap in Superman #276 from 1974. There were somewhat convoluted reasons for DC using that version of Captain Marvel, and that name in in particular, in their regular DC Universe Superman book (which I’ll let Brian of 12 Years Ago tell you about), but while I do appreciate that name’s history and deep cut-edness, I’m not a particular fan of that option.

I’m sorry, pals, I don’t mean to risk alienating you by being contrary to the will of the people, as I almost never am, but at this late date, I feel like adding “Thunder” into the nomenclature mix is just compounding the problem. My personal preference of simply adding “Captain” in front of the current “Shazam” name would be the simpler solution, not to mention saving us the trouble of having to explain “no no, his name’s really Captain Thunder, ‘Shazam!’ is his magic word.” So you know, at least when people called him “Shazam,” they’d be half-right.

But ultimately, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what the second half of his name is (I mean, so long as it isn’t, like, “Disney” or something), but I feel really strongly about having “Captain” in there. I just can’t picture him not being called “Cap.” Pretty sure at no point did anyone call him “Marv.” Would they call him “Thund?” I pray God he’s never referred to as “The Shaz” in any medium.

As commenter Turan notes with this bucket of cold water, ain’t nobody gonna change no names what with a multi-million dollar movie about to come out with that one specific name as its title. Unless, as he says, it’s a big ol’ stinky flop, in which case they could change his name to “Captain Howard the Duck” for all anyone would care.

But I bet they could get away with “Captain Shazam,” movie or no movie. That’s close enough to not make Warner Brothers executives twitchy, isn’t it? …I have no idea, I’m not a Hollywood guy, but I feel like that’s the place DC may eventually land with the character. Yeah, they’ll probably note make a big push while he’s a current movie star, but sooner or later someone’s gonna bite the bullet and finally get that “Captain” rank in there somewhere. SO PREDICTS MIKE.

Thus endeth my, what, sixth blog post proselytizing for “Captain Shazam?” Collect ’em all, kids.

A big week for folks with lightning bolts on their chests.*

§ February 27th, 2019 § Filed under this week's comics § 12 Comments

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, either here or on the Twitters, due to my recent eye travails my ability to read at the pace I’m used to has been somewhat curtailed. I can read, but it takes a lot longer to get through a comic book than it used to. As such, the “to-read” pile at the secret Mikecave headquarters is beginning to pile up a smidgen, which is why I haven’t done a “this week’s comics” post on the ol’ site here in a while. By the time I get around to some of these comics, it’s more like “last month’s comics.” Which, granted, on Monday I did talk about a comic from a few decades ago, but, y’know, that’s different.

Despite all that, I have been trying to keep up with some comics…I’m current on all the Superman books, for example, and I’ve been reading the Detective issues leading up to #1000, and all the Hellboy stuff (though I think I’mm getting lost on some of the ongoing plot details again…I mean, I just reread ’em all back in 2013, guess it’s time for another go), and some others. And there are those I let stack up a bit before plowing through a bunch in a row (oh hello Flash).

But one comic I definitely kept up with was Mage: The Hero Denied (as you may have guessed I was leading up to, as per the image above), which would be the first on the stack to read every time a new one was unleashed over the last purt’near two years. Just when I got used to having a new one every few weeks, it’s gone again.

And even though it does come to a conclusion, I know I’m going to keep expecting a follow-up series in a decade or so. As I neared the end of this final issue, I kept expecting, I don’t know, something that stood out as a hint at more Kevin Matchstick adventures in our future. There’s a bit a dialogue that suggests, hey, maybe, but I’m pretty sure we’re done with Mage comics. BUT I’M STILL GONNA HOPE GOSH DARN IT.

So is it a satisfying conclusion? I think so…pretty much everything’s tied up, a plot point from earlier in the seies I kept waiting to come back to the forefront finally does, and all questions are answered about as much as you can expect them to be. And yes, there’s a fold-out. Wouldn’t be the last issue of a Mage series without one.

It’s hard to believe…I was going to say “hard to believe it’s over,” but it’s more than that. When I read the first Mage series, I was in high school. When the second Mage came out, I was managing someone else’s comic book store. This third Mage came out when I owned my own comic book store. I think it’s more like “I can’t believe something that was released and periodically returned during distinct phases of my life over a period of decades continued in a consistent and enjoyable manner and came to a conclusion on its own terms.” Not pithy, but it’ll do.

Okay, in fairness, I haven’t read this yet, but man oh man look at that cover by Michael Cho. That’s pretty swell. Even so, it was a hard choice to make as to which cover I wanted, since the “regular” cover was all Mister Mind-riffic:

I love the fact that the “serious” versions of Mister Mind DC cooks up still evoke the original design:

As to the series itself…it’s fine. Cap’s creator C.C. Beck would hate it (he hated pretty much all modern comics except Axa), but as far as current superhero comics go, it’s fun enough, and I liked the ongoing thing about Billy trying to come up with a superhero name for himself that isn’t just “Shazam” — a feeling I relate to since I really don’t like that’s what the character’s called now, as perhaps I’ve mentioned only about a hundred times on this site already.

But still…just look at that cover.

* Also, Flash came out this week…he’s got a lightning bolt on his chest, too. And there’s probably somebody else I’m forgetting. Look, there are lots of superheroes, I can’t remember them all.

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