This is the second post in a row I looked for a “Spider-Man” category to tag it with, but I didn’t have one.

§ March 4th, 2024 § Filed under marvel § 2 Comments

So last time we were talking about that scene in Fantastic Four #274 (1985), in which the alien symbiote that had been Spider-Man’s costume is freed from the lab where it had been contained. Here is a better look at the page in question (as drawn by John Byrne, Al Gordon and apparently Dan Adkins):


It was brought up in the comments that it was a little weird that this important moment in Spider-Man’s history happens in a Fantastic Four comic, but commenter “S” reminds us that the scene did appear in Amazing Spider-Man #261 (February 1985) by Tom Defalco, Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein:


Slightly embarrassing in that I read this Spider-Man comic and should have remembered, though I think I can be forgiven since it’s probably been close to forty years since I’ve done so.

S also mentions this drone incursion was possibly sent by the Kristoff version of Doctor Doom (remember that period?), which is confirmed by this panel from Fantastic Four #278 (May 1985) by Byrne and Jerry Ordway:


As we see in the Spider-Man page, “Doom’s” plan didn’t explicitly involve “freeing the alien symbiote,” but somehow that critter managed to attract the probe into investigating further. Hence, the release of the symbiote putting it well on its way to Venom-ness, and leading into the release just a couple of months later of Web of Spider-Man #1, where said symbiote plays a part.

So there you go. Hopefully these couple of posts sucked all the Venom out of my blood and it’s no longer in my system, and I can finally move on to different topics. Like the Spider-Man villain Carnage, I could probably do a couple of weeks on him.

I still can’t believe that “Corona” thing.

§ March 1st, 2024 § Filed under collecting § 11 Comments

So I was processing some back issues at the shop, and flipping through the pages of Fantastic Four #274 (January 1985):


…and I was reminded of this sequence from the end of the book:


…in which Spider-Man’s sentient and shape-changing black costume escapes from Reed Richards’ lab, which is where it had been kept since being forcibly removed from Peter Parker’s body in Amazing Spider-Man #258 (November 1984). And then eventually the costume, AKA “the symbiote” bonds with Eddie Brock, pushes Peter Parker onto a train track in Web of Spider-Man #18 (September 1986), then makes its on-panel debut as Venom in Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988).

And, I don’t know, maybe I’m leaving some post-Peter Parker pre-Venom appearances of that pesky extraterrestrial outfit out of my little overview there, but I’m not really hear to give you an Amazing Heroes-style Hero History of the Alien Symbiote. Mostly the question that came up for me, while I was pricing up a stack of back issues for sale (as you can see what with the price guide visible in the photos above), is why isn’t this comic pricier than it is?

Look, I’m not trying to be the “hot” “key” “investor” guy here, but it struck me as odd that this weirdo appearance of the suit prior to its becoming Venom hasn’t been glommed onto by The Usual Suspects. Even the Hot Comics App just has it at three bucks and doesn’t even mention the symbiote’s appearance in the issue. On eBay I see a couple of folks getting a little more adventurous with their pricing (outside the always-overpriced “slabbed” copies), but by and large most of ’em are pretty cheap. Even when they note this particular cameo, that doesn’t seem to guarantee a sale or even a bid. It just seems like a big, fat “nobody cares.”

It wasn’t that long ago, during that mid-pandemic investment panic when collectors were looking for any reason to make any comic A Hot Commodity, that a comic like this would have been bought by the armful if they could. I mean, speaking of the pandemic, there was a Spider-Man comic that became a sought-after item because it introduced a villain named Corona. Did a feel a burning shame for our industry as a whole as I was typing that? I won’t say “no.”

I also won’t say this behavior has gone away completely, since I still see people with their apps out tracking down that secretly hot comic that’s had a sudden burst in demand that isn’t reflected by the price I put on the book, say, three years ago. But it’s not nearly as prevalent, especially as the prime mover of this form of collecting, the Marvel movies, are currently approaching the nadir of their cultural relevance, making comics with related character appearances to those in the films not quite as attractive.

Anyway, just an interesting trend I’ve noticed in the marketplace lately, at least locally. Your Market May Vary.

The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty-Seven.

§ February 28th, 2024 § Filed under final countdown § 13 Comments

And here we are, at long last, with the final part of the ’80s Countdown, where I tallied up your votes for your favorite 1980s indie book and presented the winners, in ascending order, over a particularly extended period of time. But we’ve reached the conclusion, with the top vote getter, including my own vote, and it should be no surprise which title it is.

Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics 1982-1996)

For over forty years, the Hernandez Brothers (Jaime, Gilbert, and occasionally Mario) have been gifting the comics world with some of the best cartooning and most realized worlds and characters to have ever graced the medium. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, as you look at the work being produced and you can see no decline, no lessening of their powers — only an ever-continuing evolution and refinement of their craft. The stories remain as entertaining and compelling as they ever were, the artwork perfectly expressive. Every new comic from them is a master class in How To Do Comics and we are lucky to get them.

Did I oversell it yet? Honestly, I don’t think I have.

Reams have been written on Love and Rockets and its ancillary works and I’m honestly not sure what else I can add to it. I can say this series has special meaning to me, in that the brothers hail from Oxnard, CA, as do I, and I can often recognize references to the area in their works. Especially when they just straight up put my previous place of employment in the background:


In full disclosure, I should mention that I’ve known the brothers for…well, about as long as I’ve been in the comics business, currently 35 years and counting. They were already friends with my former boss, Ralph, when I started working for him…they had even helped move his store when he upgraded from one tiny hole-in-the-wall to a slightly larger hole-in-the-wall. Ralph was, in fact, the first comics retailer to carry their original self-published version of Love and Rockets #1 (often referred to as the “black and white” edition), which I will show you here scanned from my own personal collection, he bragged:


But before I met them in person, I was already a fan. I kinda knew Jaime and Gilbert’s work already, in that their art would adorn stickers and fliers for various local punk rock bands…somewhere I think I still have a sticker or two by Jaime from ye olden tymes. But getting a whole magazine filled with their work…well, that was pretty great. And coincided with my specific attraction at the time to independently-produced comics outside the worlds of Marvel and DC. Not that I didn’t still love reading those, but getting to read different, “weird,” and personal comics scratched an itch that the four-color super books didn’t.

And Jaime and Gilbert (and sometimes Mario, who once drew my old boss Ralph into an issue!) have continued to scratch that itch over the decades, with ever-wonderful and innovative work. Jaime’s stories generally focus on the inhabitants of Hoppers 13 (essentially Oxnard), primarily Maggie and Hopey and their assorted friends, enemies, and frenemies. Gilbert’s focus is mostly on the Latin America town of Palomar, a generational saga based around Luba and her family, plus other inhabitants. Which isn’t to say there aren’t other unrelated stories and gags that appear during the run, but those are the biggies. And following these comics for forty years, watching the characters age and change, is a rare and rewarding experience in comics.

There have been five iterations of Love and Rockets over the years, starting with the self-published issue I scanned above. This was followed by the 50 issue run published by Fantagraphics from ’82 to ’96, which then published a twenty issue run in a standard comic book format (as opposed to the previous magazine-sized issues) from 2001 to 2007. This was followed by Love and Rockets: New Stories, publishing eight annual issues from 2008 to 2016 as squarebound graphic novels. Then Love and Rockets returned in 2016 in its original magazine format, and continues publication to this day.

Amongst those various L&Rs, Jaime and Gilbert released many minis and one-shots that, mostly, to various degrees, tied into their ongoing sagas. Of note was Gilbert’s Luba’s Comics and Stories (running eight issues from 2000-2006), Penny Century by Jaime (seven issues, 1997-2000), and Whoa, Nellie! also by Jaime (three issues in 1996).

The comics are usually in black and white, but there are been the rare color editions, such as the Mechanics mini in 1985, mostly reprinting some of aime’s work from the earlier issues with some new material. There was also the Maggie and Hopey Color Special in 1997, with new material by Jaime.

Gilbert has produced, and is still producing, several standalone graphic novels, tangentially related to the L&R Universe, featuring the character Fritzi in her various movies. Proof That The Devil Loves You is probably a good place to start with these.

And just so we’re clear, this doesn’t even cover all of the L&R material that has been put into the world. Usually in this series of posts I like to list the various reprintings of the comics being discussed, but boy howdy are there a lot of options here. A brief glace at the Fantagraphics catalog gives you an idea of what’s available. There are paperbacks devoted to either Jaime or Gilbert, reprinting their stories from the magazines and comics. Some comics have been reformatted into standalone graphic novels. For the adventurous among you, you can get the collection of the first fifty issues.

At any rate, there’s a lot of material here, and it’s hard to tell you where to start, other than “the beginning,” so maybe that “first 50” collection isn’t such a bad idea after all. But aside from just jumping onto the newest issue and hoping for the best, I’d probably recommend the collection Heartbreak Soup for Gilbert, and “The Death of Speedy” by Jaime (reprinted here). I mean, those are the obvious ones, but any given issue of the current series would probably give you an idea if these comics are for you. And I certainly hope they are, because they’re great.

• • •

And here we are, finally at the end of this series of posts that took, oh, only about ten months to finish. It was fun, though, looking back at all these indies and seeing what you folks liked and reminding myself of why I liked many of them. Thanks for participating in the poll, and…will I do another poll like this for 1990s indies? I don’t know, let me recover from this one first!

Ramona, Enrique, and Leroy.

§ February 26th, 2024 § Filed under obituary, publishing § 7 Comments


Legendary comics artist Ramona Fradon passed away this week at the age of 97, having only retired from her popular commissions practice a month or two ago. If you’ve seen any of those commissions, you know her illustrative skill hadn’t lost a step. (The official gallery of art appears to have been taken down, but Google up some of her art…you won’t be disappointed.)

Above is a great shot from Super Friends #28 from 1980, a comic I picked up ages ago as it’s nominally a Swamp Thing appearance. As you can probably infer from the dialogue (by E. Nelson Bridwell), those characters aren’t the real, but rather folks in costumes magically transformed into the beings they were dressed as. But, eh, close enough for horseshoes. It’s a fun story, featuring the various superhero stars of the TV cartoon fighting weird creatures, some of whom likely wouldn’t make it past the network’s Standards and Practices. (“Who’s this?” “Oh, that’s the Demon, he–” [giant DENIED stamp pounded on the script])

She was a great talent, and you can read Mark Evanier’s obituary (and follow-up post) to get an idea of the breadth of her work and the regard in which she was held by her peers.

So long, Ramona.

• • •

Should also note the passing of Enrique Badia Romero, artist of Modesty Blaise and Axa. Sorry I don’t have as much to say about his art, other than that it was expertly crafted and beautiful linework, but this overview should tell you all about him and present nice samples of his ability.

I mean, a long time ago I was selling some Axa books on eBay and they got bounced off for being “too adult” for the general listings. Meanwhile, plenty of Faust and Leather and Lace to be found there. Romero was just too sexy for eBay, I guess!

So long, Enrique.

• • •

So I posted links to my post on the EC Comics revival at Oni Comics on both Bluesky and Xwitter a few days back, It’s pretty unusual for me to use Xwitter now, but I still check in from time to time to say “hello” and of course shill for myself. But this time there was a nice payoff as the literal President and Publisher of Oni Press responded to my tweet:


So there you go, straight from the horse’s mouth, we’re getting the original Leroy-style mechanical lettering in the new EC books. Maybe this may sound odd to anyone not familiar with the original ECs, but that lettering will go a long way to selling this revival to me.

Now he also mentions that other comments I’ve made presaged some of their other plans for the books, and if you read the original post there’s not a whole lot I said that would sort of fit into that category. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing semi-consistent creative teams on some of these books. I don’t know, we’ll see, and I’m looking forward to finding out.

Spidey cars, Living Lasers, Aero / it’s a duck-blur!

§ February 23rd, 2024 § Filed under disney, marvel, publishing § 9 Comments

Just been a week for surprise comics news, I guess, as Marvel has finally announced that they’ll be doing an Uncle Scrooge McDuck comic: Uncle Scrooge and the Infinity Dime. Multiple covers, natch, with the “main” cover as such:


…and feast your eyes on the Alex Ross variant cover:

Now, if you read the description of the comic at the link, it certainly sounds like the most Marvel-type comic they could be doing with this Disney property. Is there a multiverse involved? Of course there is.

Speaking with a pal of mine, he asked “just who is the audience for this?” And ideally it should be children, and at my shop I get enough children passing through that children’s comics are a viable product line for me. I know this may not be the case at some shops, either by accident or design, but I think overall the target audience for this book may not getting exposed to it.

However, ain’t nuthin’ wrong with getting some of those Marvel readers to try out Uncle Scrooge too, either through some of that DuckTales nostalgia, or the fact that it’s being written by noted comics scribe Jason Aaron, or that Alex Ross cover, or that it’s being sold as a (quoting from the press release) “time-honored Marvel adventure,” and so on. Just getting the big push from Marvel may get more people to try it out aside from the usual Disney fans.

It looks like it’ll be fun, and. it’ll be a welcome return of Scrooge and Donald and the nephews to comic book stands. I hope it’s successful enough to generate follow-up comics, and that it creates new fans, especially young ones, for Disney comics.

I’ve seen several comments online hoping this means actual team-ups between Marvel’s heroes and the Disney gang. I would prefer this wouldn’t happen, but I can’t deny that they’d likely sell well until Marvel does too many of them. But I’ll tell you what, Donald Duck Vs. Howard the Duck: Battle for The Pants — Marvel/Disney, I would write that for (almost) free.

And the comics retailer in me has a wish or two of his own, like trade editions of Marvel’s previous forays into adapting Disney’s animation, like their Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast series. Or Marvel’s two Roger Rabbit graphic novels…people still like Roger Rabbit, they’d sell!

• • •

In even yet more news, DC Comics is returning to Wednesday on-sale dates for their new comics, starting this July. Just as well, since hardly anyone noticed the change to Tuesdays in the first place. I mean, there were a few early birds, but otherwise folks just waited ’til Wednesdays.

DC should do their own version of these Marvel variants from around the time DC originally made the move in 2020.


“DCs Back on Sale Wednesdays!” variants would be all the rage, I just know it.

Horror ECs? How’s bayou?

§ February 21st, 2024 § Filed under publishing § 6 Comments

So some surprising comic news this week, with Oni Press announcing their revival of the EC Comics brand. By which I mean the brand that brought us Vault of Horror and Weird Science, and not, say, anything along the lines of Lucky Fights It Through.

This isn’t the first time that there’s been an attempt at bringing back EC Comics, specifically with new material and not just reprints of the originals. Usually it’s been a revival of the best-known of the ECs, Tales from the Crypt, which has been disinterred at least a couple of times in the last few years with new stories “in the EC tradition” under the familiar TFTC logo. For example, here’s issue #8 of the Papercutz-published version from 2008:

What’s interesting about Oni’s use of the EC brand is that it’s not starting off with yet another Tales from the Crypt series, or a revival of any of the other original titles. Instead, they’re doing brand new series, leaning on the EC brand itself to establish themselves, rather than depending on the name recognition of the title made part of pop culture for modern audiences primarily thanks to a TV show.

As such, they’ve tried to come up with new series names that evoke the EC experience…one working maybe a little better than the other. The first is the wonderfully-titled Cruel Universe:


…and the other is…well, Epitaphs from the Abyss:


…which gets points for trying, I suppose. It’s better than just swapping out synonyms for “tales” or “vault” or “horror” or “fear” I guess, but actually saying the name out loud (as I had occasion to do the other day) it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

That said, the covers look swell, and I like the classic “SCIENCE” and “TERROR” banners in the corners. And they’ve got a pretty solid collection of creators to work on these books to start off, with folks like Jason Aaron, Cecil Castellucci, Peter Krause, Kano, Stephanie Phillips, Malachi Ward, Cullen Bunn, and Jay Stephens, among many others. One hopes that they retain use of the Leroy lettering of the originals, which is as much a part of the look ‘n’ feel of EC as any of its artists.

Another part of what made EC “EC” was its relatively small-ish and consistent roster of artists. Not saying these new ones won’t have great work in them, judging by the creatives announced, but part of the appeal of the originals was knowing you’d get new stories from the regulars. You crack open a Crypt, you expect a Jack Davis story and a Graham Ingels story, and so on. Sure, it wasn’t the same artists in every issue every time, but there was enough consistency that each title, or each genre of title, had its EC “house style,” that you knew what to expect. It’s too early to say what the Oni-era EC is going to do, but are we going to get, say, a Peter Krause story in every issue? Are the majority of the stories going to be written by Cullen Bunn and Jason Aaron in every release?

That’s not how modern anthology books work, and we’re likely to see a much wider range of stories and artwork from far more people than had worked on the originals. More dependence on freelancers than a bullpen (did EC have a literal bullpen?), which isn’t necessarily a comment on resultant quality. But it’ll certainly result in a different feel in the type of books these new releases will be. Beyond the fact that there’ll be about seven decades between the two versions of EC, of course. And there ain’t nuthin’ wrong with more points of view and life experiences informing the stories. (Cue the complaints of “wokeness” from the Usual Suspects, who obviously had never read an EC comic before.)

Trying to capture that EC style has been a continual windmill tilted at by the comic publishers over those decades. Outside of DC and Marvel’s Comics Code-approved “mystery” titles like House of Secrets, which followed in the short story anthology format (and featured plenty of good work of their own), one of the primary spiritual successors to EC is the output of Warren Publishing:


…especially with its own artistic excellence and its willingness to, shall we say, skirt the boundaries of taste in an occasionally tongue in cheek manner.

And one would be remiss to not mention the oeuvre of writer Bruce Jones, responsible for various 1980s EC-type indies like the following:

And even now, Image Comics is publishing Creepshow, a comic inspired by the Stephen King movie that was itself inspired by EC Comics:


This is hardly a comprehensive list, as the original ECs cast a long shadow and many, many publishers and creators have tried to follow in its footsteps. Given the creators involved, the publishing strategy taken with new and not revived titles, and the involvement of original publisher William M. Gaines’ daughter and grandson in this effort, I am at least cautiously optimistic. The immense regard in which EC Comics are held must surely be somewhat daunting to any new folks working on these books, but I am hoping what we get approaches the high precedent set by the originals.

Just don’t forget that Leroy lettering! I MEAN C’MON

The cowl stays on.

§ February 19th, 2024 § Filed under batman, dc comics, publishing § 23 Comments


Last time, jmurphy brought up

“But the good news is that LCE #51 is being reprinted full size.”

And indeed they are! The Limited Collectors’ Edition #51 treasury edition from 1977 is coming to shelves in a facsimile edition next month, collecting together theh original Ra’s al Ghul saga by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams. Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano.

The only image I can find on the distributor sites for this facsimile is the one I posted above, showing its original cover. I’m hoping the cover is reproduced authentically, and not “retouched” as they did with 2004 reprint of DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #6 (original / reprint). Or (ahem) “recolored” as some other Adams reprints have been.

I realize I’m probably worrying for nothing, as DC’s facsimile editions of late haven’t had that much after-the-fact fiddling and are presented more-or-less as originally printed. (Though to be fair I haven’t really taken that close a lot to see if the Golden Age facsimiles, like the Superman #1, are the redrawn versions that appeared in the early DC Archives).

The big change of course is getting the material on nice, white paper, versus the newsprint of the originals. Of course, yes, I’ve commented before about the dissonance about seeing work that originally lived on newprint suddenly being all bright and shiny, but having it on those nice, big treasury-sized pages will certainly be welcome and much easier on the ol’ eyeballs.

This will be, I think, DC’s first reprint of a treasury duplicating the original format, versus the treasury-sized hardcover edition they did of Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (which is Peak Neal Adams Superman in my opinion). There was also a smaller “deluxe edition” hardcover published at the same time, with a new Adams cover and extra bonus material not included in the larger facsimile. I don’t know if the smaller book was given the “recoloring” treatment. Anyway, that story needs to be seen at full size, so I’m not sure why you’d want that “deluxe” version anyway.

But back to this Ra’s al Ghul treasury, which is probably about as good as this particular Bat-villain ever got in print form (outside the frankly demented and evil and great usage in the Batman Beyond cartoon). The treasury includes his first appearance and conflict with Batman, including the famed shirtless (but not cowlless) sword fight:


…and c’mon, if anything deserves to be reprinted on bigger than normal pages, it’s this.

With any luck this facsimile will do well enough to open up more reprints of DC’s treasuries (and spur Marvel along to do the same). It’s obvious why they started with this one (Batman drawn by Neal Adams, duh), but it’d be nice if they brought the Superman Vs. Wonder Woman story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez back into print — it did get a treasury-sized hardcover reprint a few years back, but man, it should always be available.

And personally I’d like some of those Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer treasuries just to get more Sheldon Mayer in my life. Not really holding my breath for this to happen, honestly.

I hope future treasury reprints, if any, will focus on the ones with new stories that have only appeared there, versus reprinting books that contain reprints themselves. Not to say that something like this Adams Batman collection isn’t worthwhile, and nice to have on Big Ol’ Pages, but I’d rather have any new material from these show up in its original dimensions rather than being shrunk down.

Sluggo Saturday #138.

§ February 17th, 2024 § Filed under sluggo saturday § 7 Comments

THE PRESCIENCE


OF SLUGGO

 
 
 
 

Nancy strip mentioning Taylor Swift from way back in 2009, as recovered by pal Nat

That unofficial Aquaman/Sub-Mariner crossover probably is left out too.

§ February 16th, 2024 § Filed under dc comics § 8 Comments

Big news is that Marvel and DC are bringing their intercompany crossovers back into print…well, most of them, anyway, as the one pictured above obviously is out, and JLA/Avengers I suspect will come along eventually. Probably too soon after the last reprinting, maybe, but I suspect the demand for that book goosed Marvel and DC into finally realizing “oh hey we’re leaving money on the table.”

Everything else is being reprinted in two of the Omnibus editions, those large, thick, relatively ungainly hardcovers. One will have all the standalone crossovers, including the O.G. (am I using that right?) Superman/Spider-Man team-ups, Batman/Hulk, and X-Men/Teen Titans, along with all the one-shots that popped up in the 1990s. The second volume will include the Marvel Vs. DC mini-series, the Amalgam one-shots (featuring “merged” versions of Marvel and DC characters, like Wolverine and Batman being combined into “Dark Claw”) and the two Access mini-series (starring the character who can cross between the Marvel and DC universes).

On one hand, from a personal perspective, I wouldn’t mind having these for myself, simply because I gave up nearly all of these to the shop when I opened up lo these many years ago. And having them in this larger format would certainly be easier on the eyes…I do still have my copy of the original trade paperback reprinting the 1970s/1980s crossovers, and having those treasury edition-sized comics squeezed down to regular comic dimensions is not so easy on the peepers any more.

On the other hand, this is a terrible way to rerelease everything. Will the small number of sales at the much higher omnibus price point equal out to selling more copies at a cheaper price point in a more standard comic book format? I could probably sell tons of most of these crossover comics as, say, individual $7.99 facsimile editions. Or even $9.99 ones, versus the tiny handful of omnibus editions that, by the way, generally only sell at discounted prices. Even a series of trade paperbacks gathering all these together would be preferable.

On the third hand, I suppose this is easier on the publishers, not worrying about some trades selling better because they had the choice team-ups, and letting other trades fall out of print right away. Or having to go through the trouble of soliciting for individual reprints. The omnibus lets ’em say “here’s everything in two books, you want that Steve Rude Hulk/Superman, you gotta take that Punisher/Azrael-Batman crossover too.”

I am sort of curious about how they’re going to arrange the comics in the volume with Marvel Vs. DC and Amalgam. The first wave of those Amalgam comics take place, and were released, between a couple of issues of the Marvel Vs. DC mini. I wonder if they’ll keep ’em that way in the book.

Anyway, if you want these, order ’em now. Like the ROM and Micronauts omnibuses, they’ll likely not be in print for very long. Again, they’ll almost certainly be discounted upon release, but once they’re out of print and “collectible” — urgh.

Late night and an early morning…

§ February 14th, 2024 § Filed under merchandise § 13 Comments

…so let me remind you MEN (sorry, ladies!) to wash up with only the most superheroic of soaps, as spotted in my local grocery store:


LATHER UP, BOYS

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