Lies, damned lies, and comic books.

§ October 21st, 2019 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

Time to wrap up the entries from the last Question Time post, don’t you think?

Dave’s not here, man, with

“What do you as retailer think about weekly books? I just picked up really nice run of just about every issue of ACTION COMICS WEEKLY back from the 80s and wonder if you had any thoughts about that book, the weekly concept (seems Busiek/Bagley book is largely forgotten) in general, as both a fan and a retailer.”

I’m…pretty okay with them, on the whole, so long as they’re not a financial burden on the reader (or, you know, the poor bastard who has to order them for the shelves). I think 52 at $2.50 was within reason. Doing one now at $3.99 or $4.99 per installment would be a tad on the oppressive side.

The content matters, too…I mean, duh, right? I think I’m more in favor of a weekly anthology title with multiple ongoing stories with varying durations (like the Action Comics Weekly you mentioned, and the biweekly Marvel Comics Presents) over one looooooong story. 52 worked out okay in keeping readers interested, I think, but a couple of the following attempts at a weekly or biweekly from DC felt like…well, one I called something like “10 pounds of story in a 20 pound bag.”

As a fan…I loved Action Comics Weekly. Couldn’t wait to read each issue…very few clunkers in there. That was also the only place to read new, ongoing Green Lantern comics for a while, which is weird to think about.

Marvel Comics Presents I didn’t read continuously, but picked up a string of issues here and there to follow certain characters and/or storylines. But I think the biweekly schedule is, perhaps, preferable, speaking as a fan and a retailer, in that it doesn’t feel like a constant conveyor belt of content being fed at you without a break.

I mentioned that I thought 52 was pretty good, but DC’s later weeklies/biweeklies weren’t quite up to that level. Again, not bad, just not…well, memorable. I read every issue of Countdown but I had to look up the title so I could type it here in this post. These other titles just didn’t feel quite as compelling, not the must-reads that would make you want to grab each new issue as it was cranked out each week/fortnight.

Would I want a new weekly series? I mean, a longterm series like the ones we’ve been discussing, not short-term weekly minis like Contagion where retailers could only cut orders on the fifth and last issue after seeing how that first one sold. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t mind seeing a weekly or biweekly anthology series along the lines of Action or MCP, but I feel like the way comic prices are now, a $3.99/$4.99 cover price would turn people off. If they could do it cheap…like, $1.50 for a 16 page comic with two or three stories per, that’d probably be acceptable, and probably the barest minimum of a format that customers would be willing to pay for.

• • •

Dave Carter, Warlord of Mars, Pennsylvania, asks

“Do you find that comic sales in your store eternally track with sales of the industry overall? Or are there some comics that are popular at Sterling Silver that barely make the Diamond charts (or vice versa)?”

That’s a good question, he said, stalling for time. …Well, actually, I took a look at a couple of Diamond “Top 100” sales charts, and yes, it looks like in gerneral, relatively speaking, orders/sales on my comics are about directly proportionate to the industry trends.

I mean, that makes sense…most stores are going to order heavier on Big Cosmic Hoohar That Changes Everything ’til the Next Hoohar #1 published by one of the major companies, while Unicycle Tragedy #47 from Sterling’s Poverty Publishing House gets a pity copy ordered by every fifth retail outlet.

But there are outliers, of course…I notice I don’t move, or at least order, as many copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at my shop as would be indicated by its position on that Top 100 list. Even now, while sales have bumped up a bit at my shop as it approaches its hundredth issue, my numbers aren’t even really close to put it up where it is on Diamond’s charts.

I don’t think I have anything selling way above and beyond its position on that Top 100. I do recall that time at the previous place of employment where we had a huge follwing for Evan Dorkin’s Pirate Corp$, spurred on my coworker Rob and myself…to the point where after we put in our monthly orders, someone at Diamond would call us up and ask, “uh, are you sure you meant to order this many?” Kinda my goal now to get someone at Diamond to do that to me on an order I placed. I mean, on purpose, not because I fumbled on the keyboard.

• • •

Come Clean turns on the heat with

“Be honest now: what’s the biggest lie you ever told a customer with a straight face? Was it worth it to hold on to his/her business?”

YOU GOT ME…I did it…I told a kid to invest in Warriors of Plasm because it was sure to be worth Big Money someday!

…Okay, not really. But, and I’m being as honest as I can about this, I don’t believe I’ve ever deliberately lied to anyone just to get their custom. I mean, I’m sure I’ve accidentally lied, because I was misinformed or mistaken about something, like when someone was going to take a title off his pull list, and I told him it was getting cancelled soon anyway if he just wanted to keep it on to the end…and the series went on for another, like, three years or something. I wasn’t trying to trick him, I honestly thought I read somewhere it was getting canned soon-ish, and I told him what I thought was the truth.

The one memory I have of deliberately lying to a customer was not to sell her something, but to keep her from buying something. At the old shop, a lady called and asked us to hold aside some…magazines, I think, that she’d purchase when she came through town in a week or so. However, a friend of hers called and said he was going to buy them for her and surprise her, and asked me not to say that the friend bought them, but that they weren’t held and they were sold out, so sorry for the inconvenience.

Now, this was a long time ago, I don’t recall exactly how this played out, and I do know now I wouldn’t put myself in this stupid position. I don’t think she was pissed (or at least too pissed) when I told her “UM SORRY I KNOW WE SAID WE’D HOLD THEM BUT OOPS THEY SOLD TO SOMEONE WHO TOTALLY WAS NOT YOUR FRIEND WHO ALREADY BOUGHT THEM FOR YOU” but presumably everything worked out in the end. Assuming that “friend” wasn’t some competing collector who tricked me into selling him the comics I’d held for her.

I know, Come Clean, this probably wasn’t the tell-all answer you were looking for, but I always tried to be honest with customers. Being dishonest would just create unnecessary complications and frankly, making a living in retail is hard enough.

He’ll always be Doog Boog to me.

§ October 18th, 2019 § Filed under doog boog § No Comments

As you may remember, I was a proud supporter of the Kickstarter for Steve Lafler’s Complete Dog Boy hardcover (which you can see here, along with the sketch inside). Well, that Lafler fella is looking to relaunch his Cat-Head Comics publishing concern with some new paperback collection. Check in at that link for multiple contribution levels, each with its own publication that you’d receive (including a softcover of the Complete Dog Boy), or, if you’re flush with extra coin of the realm, you can spring for the “Gimme Everything” level.

I’m an old fan of the output from Cat-Head, so I’m glad to see it (hopefully) coming back!

• • •

Okay, planned to answer more questions, but your pal Mike has had a long day and I’m hitting the sack. And also going to bed. I’ll be back with more stuff next week. Thanks for reading, pals.

Keeping in mind I actually like the show.

§ October 16th, 2019 § Filed under freak out, pal casie, question time, wood eye § 5 Comments

Pal Casie asks me this:

“I remember that hilarious mini-comic you wrote called, ‘Things NOT to say to a comic book shop employee’. Anything new to add to that list with time and now being an owner of a fab shop?”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


“WHERE’S SHELDON?”

 
 

“WHERE’S SHELDON?”

 
 

“WHERE’S SHELDON?”

No Go Pogo.

§ October 14th, 2019 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

Let’s tackle the ol’ virtual mail pile and get to more of your questions, shall we?

GiantsinThoseDays looks back with

“Doomsday Clock posits the DC metaverae responds to changes in the Superman story (and I think Milk Wars said something similiat, which is why Superman couldn’t be subject to the retcon). What’s your most controversial opinion about Superman?”

Huh. I’ve read Superman comics for a very long time…started in the late ’70s sometime, reading them off the stands off and on, then buying every issue of Superman and Action (and related titles like Man of Tomorrow and other series that work into the ongoing continuity) after the mid-1980s relaunch.

In all that time, I don’t know that I’ve had anything that’s a really controversial take on the character. My feelings on Superman tend to conform to what I believe is the general conception of Superman. Like, “Superman is the moral center of the DC Universe,” or “Superman should always win,” and “Clark Kent is secretly Superman, shhhh, don’t tell anyone.”

As I recall there was some pushback from fans during the ’80s reboot regarding some of the changesto the franchise…not everyone, obviously, but a non-zero number, so I suppose saying “I’m okay with New Luthor, and with the Kents still being alive, etc.” would put me in the “controversial opinion” side of things with them.

Maybe the one event from that period that got up the most people’s noses is Superman executing the Phantom Zone villains from that alternate universe (long story, go read the back issues, they’re cheap)…and I was okay with that, actually, which probably puts me on the other side of the fence from most fans who read this story. The “Superman Doesn’t Kill” aspect of the character was…well, still is…pretty important, and having this occur came as quite the shock at the time. I think what saves it is that it was not without consequences, with repercussions running through the Superman comics for months afterwards, culminating in Superman’s vow to never again take a life, at least until he seemingly kills Doomsday in Superman #75. Anyway, it worked for me, but I can understand if some folks felt that was an unnecessary tainting of the character.

Aside from that, I don’t really have any “hot takes” on Superman. I always liked pal Dorian‘s idea that Superman should have always been a period piece, that his stories should always take place in the 1930s. In place of my own controversial opinion, I’m going to steal his.

• • •

Thelonious_Nick underscores his question with

“You’ve mentioned Pogo before, and as a lover of old comic strips (Popeye, Prince Valiant, Peanuts, Annie, even, God help me, the reprint editions of the early Blondie & Dagwoods) I’ve long thought about trying Pogo out.

“But it’s a bit more intimidating than some of those others maybe, since I think there was some level of continuity and I believe also Pogo doubled as a commentary on the politics of the time.

“Is there a place you recommend somebody unfamiliar with the strip start? Is Vol. 1 of the Fantagraphics reprints a good place, or are the early strips only for completists? Is there a good cheaper collection if I’m not sure I’ll like the strip?”

Um…hate to tell you this, but while I have mentioned Walt Kelly’s Pogo one or twice on the site, I’ve never actually read much, if any at all. My primary exposure to Pogo is this issue of Swamp Thing a weird tribute to the strip. Oh, and also I watched a VHS copy of this stop-motion animated movie that the aforementioned pal Dorian let me borrow several years ago. He’s more of an aficionado of the strip.

For some reason, as I was exposed to several different comic strips via paperback collections as a kid, Pogo never made into my hands. Doonesbury did, somehow, but Pogo never made it into my grubby little hands.

Now keep in mind this is nothing against Pogo, or some kind of unwillingness on my part to give it a shot…just circumstances and time have never really quite allowed me sufficient exposure to the strip. I’m aware of the characters and general premise, but as to any actual specific knowledge of the strip, sufficient to send you in the proper direction.

Mark Evanier, who’s involved with the new Fantagraphics reprint volumes, has had plenty to say on his site about Pogo and you can probably learn a lot more from him. He does say that the most recent volume, the fifth one, “contains two prime years of what I think is the best newspaper strip ever” and that sounds like a fairly solid recommendation to me.

• • •

Gareth Wilson volleys the following to me

“Robin Hood and King Arthur have been handled badly in recent movies, and some people have suggested that modern movie-makers have problems handling old public domain characters. Have comics done any better with these two characters? What about similar characters like Sherlock Holmes?”

Well, there have certainly been a lot of comics featuring all three of these guys, as I’m sure you know. I think comics might have a better chance at doing interesting and possibly even good things with them, as comics are perhaps a bit less beholden to studio interference, test marketing, and so on. Of the three, Sherlock Holmes has had a lot of play in the funnybook realm, probably because the general success of TV and movie adaptations spurred on comic publishers riding that zeitgeist. Dynamite has published several series that weren’t bad, I think.

The King Arthur legend has seen several weird permutations in comics, either changing the setting or flipping genders or what have you, whereas the film/TV adaptations tend to hew a little closer to the source material. Right now there’s the popular comic Once & Future from Boom Studios, there was Once and Future Queen from Dark Horse a year or two back, and Matt Wagner’s Mage is a take on Arthurian legend. Gotta say, though, Camelot 3000 is still a favorite of mine.

Robin Hood is a little harder to nail down…there have been plenty of Robin Hood comics, both adaptations of the original legend and transformative reworkings, such as Zenescope’s multiple Robyn Hood series. To be honest, I haven’t really been exposed to enough of these to have an opinion as to their quality, but this one was drawn by Tim Truman, so how bad can it be. Though I guess basically any superhero with a bow and arrow is inspired by Robin Hood (Green Arrow being the more obvious of them).

My general sense is that comics may have better luck dealing with these public domain properties, just through sheer numbers and more willingness to experiment with them. One of the fascinating aspects of these characters is how they’re adapted and changed to relate to new audiences, to reflect new circumstances. Not always successfully, but rarely without value, either. And when this happens, sometimes we get Tomb of Dracula, and sometimes we get

In which I shamelessly bend the rules.

§ October 11th, 2019 § Filed under question time § 5 Comments

So remember that time I asked you all for questions and you gave me a bunch of questions and I started to answer your questions until I got distracted by other questions which raised more questions? Anyway, I’m back to your questions:

DolphusRaymond dives in with

“Between Doomsday Clock’s [JSA]/LSH simmer, the return of Wally West (and consequent ‘no twins’ meltdowns), and the Zatanna “OMG Young Justice really existed what does it mean?!?” in the new Young Justice, do you see post-Crisis pre-New52 continuity making a comeback?
Is this my generation’s ‘I miss Barry and Hal bring them back?’
Will the comics world ever see more than 3 of the 52 multiverses published at the same time? (I count Main Continuity, Freedom Fighters Earth-X, and Shazam! …I don’t know if Bendis creates a pocket universe around his writing or not.)”

Ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths it seems like creators at DC kept looking for ways to bring back the stuff they liked from the pre-Crisis continuity. And of course later reality-changing events like Zero Hour and The Kingdom were intended to bend our new DC Universe back into a shape somewhat resembling the Old DC Universe, and all these reboots and retcons and so on is what brought us to the point of having a story where all the continuity problems were pinned on Dr. Manhattan, which is probably not a thing anyone saw coming a few years back.

Anyway, I don’t really see DC just straight up going back to the way things were post-Crisis/pre-New 52. Like, just ignoring everything that’s happened since and starting right up again from just before all these reboots/relaunches happened, like restoring from a back-up. But I imagine DC will continue its habit of picking and choosing the pieces from the past that it likes and reworking them into the comics of the present. We essentially have the post-Crisis Superman in our current DCs and that seems to be going okay so far.

As far as the “number of different universes in play at any given time at DC…I don’t know. Do the Sandman books count as a parallel universe? Scooby Team-up?

But everyone, hold everything: things are about to get more complicated (and more headachey for your retailer pal Mike) if this business about DC’s “5G” plan is true. So, basically, ignore everything I wrote prior to this paragraph because I’m honestly just hearing about this supposed coming hoohar from DC right now. So now I suppose the ultimate answer to your question, DolphusRaymond, is “who the hell knows?”

• • •

Synonymous means only one thing when asking

“So why _was_ the ‘Mike’s Magical Comics Fort’ name rejected?”

Mr. S is referring to this lightly prophetic post of mine (posted only a few months prior to, well, my actually opening a shop), in which I suggest that as a possible name for my no-longer-so-theoretical store. (Though I’m kind of partial to the store name “Ventura Fun Time Comic Book/Magic Card Store and Video Deli,” originally posted here…though I’d probably have to change “Ventura” to “Camarillo.”)

Anyway, I didn’t use the “Magical Comics Fort” name because people would continally come in thinking I had Harry Potter comics and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Unless they accepted Books of Magic comics as a sufficient replacement, of course.

RELATED: Brian followed up the previous question with

“Is it true that Mike’s Magical Comics Fort actually does exist, except that it’s your secret fortress of solitude, with statues of Swamp Thing and Sluggo holding up a giant long box in the central hall?”

And it’s constructed entirely from pogs.

• • •

De demands da dope:

“After crossover minis with Star Trek and Green Lantern, what’s the next natural mash-up with Planet of the Apes?”

Ooh, I immediately want to say Twilight Zone, given Rod Serling’s connection to both, but maybe that’s a little too wide-ranging an idea. Um…Kamandi seems like the natural one, given POTA was the inspiration for the Last Boy on Earth in the first place. Or…I mean, you can always throw Superman or Batman into any crossover thingie like this and probably come up with something workable.

Oh, wait, I’ve got it…Swamp Thing! Yeah, I know, gee, who saw that coming, but hear me out: “PLANT ELEMENTAL OF THE APES.” Don’t tell me you don’t want to see that.

• • •

ExistentialMan makes me ponder my existence with

“What do you consider the single best year of comics publication in your lifetime?”

Holy shit. I mean, pardon my use of the word “holy,” but man, that’s a good question. I’m going to say 1986. You had Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, the relaunch/reboot of the Superman books by John Byrne (hey, I think they still hold up, mostly), you had Dan Clowes show up with Lloyd Llewellyn which I bought off the stands because it looked so amazing, the first Mage series by Matt Wagner was still going, there was the two part “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” by Alan Moore, Curt Swan and pals, Englehart and Staton’s Green Lantern turned into Green Lantern Corps and started to get weird (and also introduced Kilowog!), Dark Horse Comics and Slave Labor Graphics started up, we had ‘Mazing Man, Flaming Carrot was still going, Cerebus was still good, Love and Rockets was around (as it still is!), Swamp Thing hit issue #50, we had regular Groo the Wanderers…man, there are lots of things to love about 1986. I’m sure I could pick out any other year and find things to love about it, but 1986 was the first one to come to mind.

Oh, and the New Universe started in 1986, too. Don’t forget that!

• • •

Jason Sandberg contributes TOO MANY QUESTIONS but he advertises on my site so I will let his filthy lucre sway me into breaking the “one question per customer” rule:

“What holds the Winter Soldier’s mask on his face?”

Our hopes and dreams.

“Am I correct that ‘Captain America and the Mighty Avengers’ issue 9 was better than the entirety of ‘Avengers: Time Runs Out?'”

Since you advertise on my site, I’m going to say “yes, you are correct, sir.” I mean, mostly because I’ve read neither and have no basis for judgement.

“What dark and sinister medial moguls are thwarting the progress of the DREADSTAR film/TV franchise?”

Alas, it appears the frailty of human flesh may be the cause, as according to this interview with Jim Starlin, the producer died and that kinda scuttled their plans. He’s still hopeful to get it on TV, but, well, you know how it is.

“Robbie Reyes ‘ghost rided’ a dead Celestial. Could he ‘ghost rider’ Galactus’s Taa II? Where would he go, what would he do?”

“Rided?” Anyway, I suppose Mr. Reyes could pull that off. As to the question “Where does a Ghost Rider ‘ghost-riding’ Galactus’ home base/spaceship go?” and answer is of course “anywhere he wants to.”

“If I ever make it out to the West Coast, where would we go for lunch, dude?”

Anywhere that takes your credit card, my friend, because I’m not going to restaurants too often on a comic shop owner’s salary.

• • •

And with that bout of sheer favoritism, I think that’s enough Question Time for today. I’ll try to get to the remaining questions in short order instead of making you all wait so long again. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll see you Monday.

March 1981 was apparently a good month for comics I didn’t buy.

§ October 7th, 2019 § Filed under collecting § 12 Comments

I’m sure those of us who collect comic books have specific memories tied to particular issues in their collections. Like Uncle Scrooge and every piece of currency in his money bin, where each item interred there is not kept (mostly) out of sheer avarice, but because of the events or emotions that they can evoke.

I’m probably overselling the premise of the post a bit here, as mostly I’m just talking about recalling the exact circumstances surrounding the acquisition of, or encounters with, certain comics. I don’t mean, like, the Big Ones…I’m sure you’re gonna remember doling out the kid’s college fund to snag that copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 or whatever. Rather, I’m talking about memories tied to, you know, just random issues…nothing remarkable or hugely sought after, but just your typical comic purchase made as part of your day-to-day or week-to-week regular comic purchases.

For example, I remember riding my bike over to the Circle K near the Seebee base in Port Hueneme and buying my copy of Saga of the Swamp Thing #4. Or driving up to the comic shop, picking up the newest issue of Watchmen (#11), reading it, then driving back to Oxnard for my high school graduation. That’s the sort of thing I mean.

I was reminding of this particuilar phenomenon when the following two comics popped up in collections I was processing at the store (which is, of course, Sterling Silver Comics, located in beautiful Camarillo, CA, where I also provide mail order service to locales near and far). Now, in these cases, these weren’t comics I’d purchased at the time (coincidentally, both cover dated March 1981, so likely were released close to the new year), but instead other people’s comics that I’d read. That makes it even slightly more unusual that I’d remember the circumstances of my encounters with these books without having them in my possession as constant reminders.

First was Flash #295:


I don’t remember whose comic this was, but I do remember where I first saw it…in my 6th grade class. Don’t worry, I wasn’t, like, sneaking it in my textbook when I was supposed to be studying, like I’ve seen in that old Daisy BB gun ad or in movies/TV shows but never in real life. It was during some free time, perhaps during an indoors recess period during inclement weather outside, but it was handed to me, and by gosh that’s how I read about Gorilla Grodd fighting the Scarlet Speedster, a story best absorbed in an educational setting.

I’ve never owned the comic, never felt the urge to go back and fill in my collection with a back issue purchase of it. But every time I saw it after that, I would think back to my 6th grade classroom (even down to where I was sitting in that room at the time) and how I first saw that comic there. Eventually, I would start buying The Flash on ‘n’ off with issue #300, which would be a good one to start with. And I’d keep reading, all the way through the whole “Trial of the Flash” storyline which 0killed wrapped up the series. …Hey, I liked it.

The other comic was Action Comics #517:


…which was an issue of the series I had missed, somehow, despite buying the Superman books fairly regularly around this time. Hey, when you’re in sixth grade, even doing the rounds of all the local convenience stores and supermarkets and even making regular trips to the well-stocked newsstand we had in town, stuff sometimes slipped past you.

But this issue didn’t slip past my friend David, and I still remember sitting in a room in his house and reading this issue cover to cover. And again, like that Flash above, every time I saw this a copy of this comic after that, I’d think of David and that day I was at his house, reading his comic book instead of, like, being sociable.

Now the thing about this comic…years later, when I was still working at my previous place of employment, David actually stopped by with a stack of comics to sell. And yes, one of the comics he was selling was that very copy of Action Comics #517 I’d read so many years ago. As it turned out, the boss didn’t buy much (if any) of his stuff, since it wasn’t really in resellable condition (probably not my fault, I’m sure even as a child I handled his comics with the gentle touch of the comics retail professional I would someday become), and I wish the story ended with “so I asked David if I could keep that copy of Action so that someday I could blog about having it in my possession, once blogs are invented” but alas, he took them away to some unknown fate. Probably living happy and free on a farm upstate, and not thrown away or burned in a fireplace.

I suppose technically I own copies of these two comic books now, since they’re in my store with my price tags on them. But it’s weird how two comics I otherwise have never owned have loomed so large in my comic book memories after all this time.

Whatever else you might think about these comics, Spitfire and the Troubleshooters was actually a pretty good name.

§ October 4th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

Just a quick follow-up to the recent New Universe post…I did indeed talk to my old boss Ralph about how things transpired regarding the sales of Marvel’s 1986 publishing initiative. I told him I had to ask him about it since I hadn’t yet entered the world of comics retail at that point. “You weren’t around for that?” he asked, and I replied “no, but I was around for its ending…I’m sure there’s a connection.”

Anyway, yes, when the New Universe started it sold great…but tapered off fairly quickly at the shop. Some titles maintained reasonable sales…Star Brand probably being the strongest, with Justice and D.P. 7 following, which likely probably doesn’t surprise too many of you, since those seemed to be the most traditional, or traditional-seeming, of the bunch. The others settled at sales levels that were…not so great. They had their fans, but it was pretty clear, at least at this one retail outlet, the New Universe wasn’t the overwhelming success Marvel was hoping for. Oh, and apparently of the bunch Kickers Inc. was a non-starter…maybe the first issue sold, but folks decided right away that’s not the comic they wanted. Again, probably not a surprise to most of you.

As the initiative dragged along to its eventual demise in 1989, there were a couple of upward bumps in sales. As expected, John Byrne taking over Star Brand did increase sales on the title at the shop…not a lot, but, you know, not nothing. And then when the retooling of the New Universe began with everyone’s destruction-of-Pittsburgh comic The Pitt, sales were pretty good on that one-shot special as well, spurred on by curiosity about what exactly they were going to do to the New Universe, as well as, Ralph recalls, actual media coverage because they were, you know, blowing up Pittsburgh.

The Pitt‘s sales, unfortunately, didn’t transfer over into the follow-ups The Draft™ and The War™, which didn’t sell very well at all.

And shortly after that, the New Universe died, never to be seen again except for several more times in various comics over the next couple of decades.

So there you go, straight from Ralph’s beard and onto my webpage. Try as I might, I can’t really remember any specific memories about the New Universe from that period, where my first couple of years behind the counter overlapped with the last couple of years of that imprint’s lifespan. Probably too busy fielding endless phone calls about Batman stuff to pay attention to much else. Ah well.

Still waiting for my Nancy and Sluggo Funko Pops.

§ October 2nd, 2019 § Filed under nancy, this week's comics § 3 Comments

Your reminder that, while you’re out buying the new Nancy strip collection by Olivia Jaimes, out this week at better comic shops, and even mine:


…you should also be on the lookout for this other Nancy item by Jaimes, released to ye olde funnybooke stores this week as well:


Nancy’s Genius Plan is a children’s “board” book, with thick pages designed to take extra rough handling by young kids or, say, by whoever it was that went through my back issue bins a couple of days ago.

Anyway, it’s a short one, as you might imagine, but features several great full color illos by Jaimes. Also, the book is “interactive,” in that the reader is encouraged to physically interact with the book, like knocking on a window in one page to distract a character in-story, or turning the book upside-down to help Nancy get by an obstacle. Not a lot of Sluggo involvement…mostly he’s just one of the supporting cast in this particuliar adventure.

One thing I’d like to note is how, at first glance, the portraits of Nancy on both covers look identical. It’s basically the same features present on both faces, but with just the slightest adjustments, the open, genial face of Nancy on the strip collection:


…becomes that conniving Nancy on Genius Plan.

So it’s a good week to be a Nancy fan, like I know I am. Maybe I can finally make an effort to read some comics this week so that Doomsday Clock isn’t the only thing on which I’m caught up. Okay, granted, I did read Genius Plan already. Pretty much can read the book just by barely glancing at it, but then I suspect I’m slightly older than its target audience.

Still turned the book upside-down to help Nancy, though.

Yes, I know Shatterstar was in the movie too.

§ September 30th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 4 Comments

So I got a set of these in a collection the other day:


…and by “set,” for those of you who weren’t around in the early 1990s to experience this particuliar phenomenon, I mean “all five initially released versions of X-Force #1, each prepacked with one of five different trading cards sealed within the polybag.”

Now your pal Old Man Mike was there manning the comic shop front lines when this comic was unleashed. We had tons of them, and as I recall we set up a table near the front of the store to put them all out for easy access, divided up by inserted card. Which means, yes, we had to go through the cases and divvy ’em up.

The point is, we ordered a lot, and we sold a lot. And yes, I know you bought them. Yes, you, right there, reading this blog post right now. I saw you do it. We caught it on camera. WE HAVE EVIDENCE. Anyway, plenty of copies got circulated out there, and we had a reasonable, and surprisingly not overwhelming, stock of copies of that first issue stashed away for future back issue sales.

Well, things go as they go, and what was eventually became not, and X-Force and its ilk fell out of favor…as, well, did most comics as the ’90s wore on, in favor of pogs and Magic: The Gathering. And back issue demand for that particuliar first issue of X-Force did trail off, even as the series kept on keeping on.

It never fell entirely out of awareness, of course…X-Force #1 remained a notable artifact of the excesses of comic collecting in the 1990s, a cautionary tale along with the 5 covers for X-Men #1 and the “bagged” editions of Spider-Man #1 and thankfully the industry has learned its lesson and no longer depends on multiple variant editions of its publications to shore up sales.

The end result was that, for many years, X-Force #1 was not generally traded in the aftermarket for premium prices. If anything, it was slash-priced, marked down to move, for the love of God please take these off our hands…dollar boxes aplenty were fed by copies of this book across this great nation of ours, and that’s just how things were. Not to say that some venues didn’t keep copies in the bins marked at ye olde Overstreet prices, and they did sell occasionally, but its star had long since faded.

CUT TO: your pal Mike, getting a collection of comics over the weekend…some good stuff, some stuff basically dumped on me, but most of it still usable. Within was that set of X-Force #1s that I mentioned about 4 or 5 thousand words ago. I’d been literally turning these down as they showed up in the hands of hopeful sellers coming through my door, but, eh, here they in this box of stuff I got, might as well price ’em up and put them out.

And evidently it’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity of price this issue, because imagine my surprise to find out the guide has the version with the Deadpool card priced at $18. The one with the Cable card is priced the same. The other three card variations are a somewhat more reasonable, but still seemingly optimistic $6.

I feel like, at some point during one of the three or four previous times that Deadpool’s popularity peaked, that I did check our price guide and/or online sales to see if there was any increased demand for the Deadpool-card version of X-Force #1, and at that point it was big ol’ “nobody cares.”

But, obviously, things have changed. My initial thought was my pet theory about things that used to be common and in deep stock at stores through the ’90s boom period have suddenly become harder to come by, as shops from that era die out and, sometimes, take their stock with them. Or that copies that did make it into the hands of collectors were either damaged due to poor storage (a not-infrequent problem, even with the hardcore collectors at the time) or just discarded outright (after losing interest and/or failed attempts at recouping their money via resale back to shops that either didn’t want them, or offered only a pittance).

Mentioning this on Twitter, I received this response from Tony:

“They are everywhere and people will drop $5-10 easy on them. Its shocking. It’s a mix of the age of the book, new fandom from the popularization of Marvel movies, and those early 90s fans that are now wanting to rebuild their collection.”

And yes, those are factors as well. I know “age” doesn’t always equate with “price,” but I’ve seen demand for the novelty publications (bagged, like this X-Force, or foil/chrome/die-cut covers) from customers who hadn’t even been born yet when these items were in their heyday. And, like Tony mentioned, I’ve had customers who did collect these as they were new, who had since lost or discarded their collections and now want to reconstruct them. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia, friends.

The actual pricing seems pretty…extreme, and my response to Tony that it might be a case of “hot because it’s hot.” Not priced according to any supply/demand thing, but because “Deadpool is in a movie and these should be hot now.” The X-Force #1 with the Deadpool card is priced a little higher than normal, people notice, start picking them up, which encourages more up-pricing, a self-fulfilling prophecy that cycles on and on.

This is not to ignore that variation with the Cable card, also priced at $18 in the guide, which surely must solely be the fault of the character’s appearance in the Deadpool movie. That they’re both $18 makes me think it was specifically the movie causing the price bump, since in comics alone Cable isn’t nearly as popular as Deadpool, unless I’m about to hear from the International Cable Fan Club in my comments here.

So anyway, that was quite the shock, mostly because I’d expected this to happen a while back, it didn’t, I figured that was that, then suddenly IT HAPPENED. Don’t know how many people are actually successfully selling these for nearly $20 a pop. A quick look at the eBay shows it trading for far less than that…there seems to be more interest in issue #11 of the series (the “first appearance” of the real Domino, as it had been an imposter Domino in the comics prior to that…um, SPOILER, I guess).

Still not sure what I’m going to price my copy at. Maybe $100, really screw the curve there. But while I think about that, here’s a picture of me holding that bountiful treasure of X-Force #1s, as taken by the Mighty Matt Digges:


Hey, if you buy all these from me, maybe I can afford a razor to shave my face!

(PREVIOUSLY ON PROGRESSIVE RUIN: would you believe I’ve written about X-Force and the Deadpool card before? Here and here? I can’t believe it either. Look for my next post about this in 2022!)

Well, this went off on a tangent.

§ September 27th, 2019 § Filed under collecting § 9 Comments

Robcat17 says

“And as much as I may question your Swamp Thing collection, I will buy Legion of Superhero books… every reboot, every time Giffen kills Karate Kid, I’m there. Which makes me ask other collectors ‘What’s your “sucker” book?’ You know the one. It may be bad, but you buy it anyway because you’re hopeful, or loyal, or whatever… but you really just love the character…”

You are indeed wise to question my Swamp Thing collection. No reasonable human should own a pair of these.

But yeah, “sucker books,” I get that. I’ve followed many a character through, shall we say, rough times, simply because that character was a particular favorite of mine. It goes without saying that Swamp Thing is one of those characters for me, though fortunately there have been very few Swamp Thing comics over the years from which I haven’t derived any entertainment value. Yes, there have been some stinkers here and there that I feel no need to revisit, but, eh, no biggie.

An example of a book that I kinda stuck through for the entire run despite things going, well, I won’t say “bad” but “not entirely to my liking” is the second Firestorm series, the one that run 100 issues. I used to say “the first 20 were good, the last 20 were good, the middle 60…um, maybe not so much.” But did I continue buying through that 60-issue slump? Oh yes I did, because I sure liked Firestorm, and though I didn’t much care for the stories they were in, I was still interested in what was going on with Ronnie and Martin (and Cliff).

To be fair, I’ve softened a bit on my opinion on those middle issues. I still bought them, I still enjoyed them, even if I thought they weren’t quite up to the standards of the entries at either end of the series. And I still have them…when the time came to populate the back issue bins in my store with material from my own collection, the Firestorms I kept. Maybe a big chunk of them were dopey comics, but they were my dopey comics and part of my life, a monthly ritual I followed from that first issue in my grade school days until that final issue came out when I was in college.

And I’ll still buy Firestorm whenever he (or they?) turns (or turn) up. But the main impulse, to follow a character, is somewhat undermined by the various reboots/relaunches that have happened. I followed the ongoing subplots and development of Ronnie and Martin in Firestorm, even through the lean years, because I liked those characters and wanted to know what happened to them, how each incident in their lives built on each other and moved forward. The reboots etc. break that chain…suddenly a character can be back at square one, all previous development removed from the story, and my need to see where things go is lost.

Now, it can be done and still maintain reader involvement. The mid-80s reboot of Superman kept my interest, and even as creative teams changed and fictional universes got fiddled with, it still felt like I was following the same character that got re-introduced in Man of Steel #1. The New 52 initiative kinda broke that line for a while, but it’s kinda come around again with, well, more universal retooling shenanigans, and while not quite back to where we were with Supes, it at least is within spitting distance.

One place where it didn’t work with me was the Legion of Super-Heroes, which I read for years and years and years and through a couple of reboots (both soft: the Five Years Later thing – and hard: Zero Hour)…and then finally the New 52 relaunch was just one new beginning too many. I’m willing to give the new Legion of Super-Heroes title a try, but….

…Well, sometimes I’m at war with my own nostalgia and that can get in the way of reading a new take on a character (or team of characters) that I like. Yes, I would like some consistency to the characters that I follow. But no, I can’t honestly expect everything to be of a piece with a comic I read 20, 30, 40 years ago. Things change with the times, and concepts have to be retooled to be appeal to current audiences, even if that retooling means casting away the old to make way for the new.

The way the Superman comics were done, I still feel like I’m reading the same guy (with a couple of exceptions) that’s been around since the 1980s. Legion of Super-Heroes, I feel like maybe they bent it ’til they broke it, and they lost me. Maybe they’ll grab me again with this new run, I don’t know.

Anyway, that got a bit away from Robcat17’s question, maybe. I think what I was trying to say is that a seeming consistency (if not necessarily explicit continuity) of the characters can be enough to carry you through any quote-unquote “bad” comics they may appear in. When that consistency is disrupted, suddenly it’s harder to tolerate even what was once a favorite character in a comic you don’t care for.

I’m probably way overthinking this. And I’m aware of the irony of ballyhooing the seeming consistency of the Superman character starting in ’86, given that one of thee main complaints about the Superman relaunch then was that this new iteration didn’t feel like Superman. For some people, that Byrne reboot was the disruption in the line…”this isn’t the same character I irst started reading in 1938!” …Hey, you don’t know, it could have happened.

Thanks for reading…whatever that was. I’ll get back to more of your comments and questions soon.

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