Just when I thought I was out….

§ August 19th, 2019 § Filed under eyeball § 5 Comments

Had another setback with one of my eyes over the weekend, which was annoying as my vision was very nearly back to (relative) normal. As such, I will continue our discussion of comic books and reprints thereof hopefully later in the week, after I get a little doctorin’. Thanks for your patience, and I’ll be back typing at you soon enough.

William Burns, what have you wrought?

§ August 16th, 2019 § Filed under question time § 10 Comments

One thing I didn’t spell out in Wednesday’s post about what comics I’d like to see in new trade/hardcover collections is, well, the financial end of it. I’m sure every publisher would like to have everything in print at all times for ready sale, monetizing their past as much as they’re able.

But printing these things cost money. And ordering these things cost money. I wish I had copies of every single trade paperback available in my shop, but leaving aside where I’d store ’em all, even my vast Deathmate-built fortune couldn’t swing paying for such stock. Picking and choosing what I carry and being willing to special order items is the best I can do.

And going back to the publishers…even if they did, for example, do an extensive reprinting of all the Groo the Wanderer issues in a series of nice, new trade paperbacks, there’s no guarantee that they’d sell well enough to justify the effort, to cover the costs of keeping them all in print and available at all times. Now, I know they’re great, and you probably know they’re great, but despite what that one movie said, just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. In an ideal world they would, but, well, you know.

Also, publishers only have so much money and resources and personpower to spread around, so I’m trying to hard not to read too much into the fact only two Groo paperbacks are currently available, that perhaps they’re just focusing on something else at the moment. It’s hard to publish and sell comics in the U.S. nowadays, so like how I have to pick and choose what to carry at the shop, publishers have to pick and choose what they throw their efforts behind.

So, I’m not trying to be critical of any publishers and their efforts to maintain a solid reprint line by wondering “hey, why don’t they do this?” We’re just wishing aloud here about what we’d all like to see, and I’m sure many publishers would like to see them too, if they were able to do so.

That was a lot of apologizing for someething nobody complained about. Er, sorry about that…I just kept thinking someone was going to call me on it ever since I posted on Wednesday, and had to get it out of my system.

If I may follow up on something else, longtime reader Rruce noted that one of my suggestions, ELementals, would be a bit tricky as its creator, Bill Willingham, never had the opportunity to really complete his work on the title, and the Elements comics that followed were…well, likely would seem out of place in a comprehensive collection of the title and wouldn’t make for a satisfactory read in toto.

Which brings up the topic of collecting incompleted work, which I’d count Elementals under, as well as BobH’s suggestion of 1963. The interesting thing about the Dover reprints I talked about last time, for Puma Blues and Border Worlds, was that the creators provided, if not outright conclusions, then at least new chapters to bring those books to more satisfying endpoints. Granted, the likelihood of the same being done for Elementals or 1963 is slim to nonexistent, which is too bad. It’s a loss, is what it is…it’s good, solid creative work that’s now strictly in the realm of those comic fans who feel like piecing together runs from back issue bins, rather than in the larger, potentially more lucrative world of The Fancy 1963 Complete Hardcover Featuring That Annual That Would Have Been Published Originally Hardcover, giving someone yet another Alan Moore book they could have sold.

Onto happier news, Bully, the Little Bull Stuffed with Carrots, wanted a Flaming Carrot collection. Well, as mentioned by that darn BobH, there is one coming! There have been reprint volumes for the Carrot before, but they’re long out of bring. It’s called the Flaming Carrot Omnibus, and when it was announced, the weird selection of issues included (#1-2, #4-11, #25-27) is peculiar, but 1) Flaming Carrot ain’t exactly continuity-heavy and messing up the order won’t hurt much, and 2) this get the Flaming Carrot/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles team-up in that first volume, so hopefully that’ll goose sales enough to keep the books coming.

One other series came to mind that I’d like to see a trade of is Jim Valentino’s normalman. Yeah, okay, it’s been collected twice…original by Slave Labor Graphics (I have that one!) and later by Image (which includes some of the post-mini appearances) but both books are in black and white, and boy does this series scream for color. I loved the look of the original comics, and would much appreciate having that experience duplicated in a nice color collection for current audiences. As I said when I started today’s post…that probably wouldn’t be cheap to make or sell.

Probably have yet another post in me on the topic, so I’ll get back to it next week. Thanks for reading, pals, and as always, please keep leaving your comments. They’re always appreciated.

I am kind of curious regarding the legalities re: reprinting Groo/Conan, since, y’know, Marvel.

§ August 14th, 2019 § Filed under publishing, question time § 3 Comments

So there were lots of good, interesting responses to the question that was posed to me and I reposed to you, regarding the reprint volumes you’d like to see of non-Marvel/non-DC comics material. Both in the comments to that post and on Twitter folks had some solid suggestions. I’m not going to note every single one here in today’s weblogging entry on the World Wide Web, but please feel free to peruse those links and see what you, the people had to say.

BobH brings up what should’ve been the most obvious example, and I’m surprised I didn’t mention it (though I believe I’ve lamented before on the site about the lack of accessible reprintings): Groo the Wanderer. Okay, granted, the majority of them were published by Marvel, but originated elsewhere and remained creator-owned to this day, so we’ll let this one slide.

There is a lot of Groo, and as BobH says, a whole bunch of it never got reprinted. Even those trades collection the Marvel run didn’t get that far into the run, and as I recall the earlier volumes were falling out of print even as newer volumes were being released. And the availability of trades for the Dark Horse run is spotty at best. I just now did a search on Diamond’s retailer site for Groo trade paperbacks, and the only two currently available are Play of the Gods (which is a follow-up to Fray of the Gods, currently out of stock) and Friends and Foes Vol. 2, the second half of that year-long mini-series.

Just two. That’s it. I’m sure nobody is happy about it, especially Sergio Aragones and longtime writer/collaborator/whatever-he-does-er Mark Evanier. I’m pretty sure Evanier mentioned on his blog that plans were in the works for some kind of reprinting, but no news yet that I’ve seen.

It’s a real shame. That so much work, purt’near four decades’ worth, by one of the world’s top cartoonists is not readily available is such a waste.

In fact, that so much work by anyone is out of print is a waste. Even digital availability is better than nothing, though clearly my own bias is toward physical editions.

I mean, there’s hope…that company what did Puma Blues and Border Worlds (even getting Don Simpson to create a new chapter for the latter), so maybe someday we will get that reprint of Bernie Mireault’s The Jam (a great suggestion by Rob)…I mean, it’s not impossible. Also, speaking of Don Simpson, I wouldn’t mind having all of Megaton Man in one place…the series, the one-shots, the webcomics, etc.

Mike’s suggestion of Sam Glanzman’s Hercules had some amusing timing, as I was just talking to pal Dorian during last weekend’s visit to the shop about this very thing. (You can see some examples of this amazing comic right here on this very site from…urgh, 9 years ago.) It was Dor’s impression that a trade or something of this series was coming, and I could’ve sworn that was true, but can find no trace of it in Diamond’s datebase, either current or forthcoming. Maybe I’m not searching the right terms. Maybe the words “Glanzman” or “Hercules” appear nowhere in the solicitation. I wouldn’t put it past some publishers. A lot of his war stuff and the repint of his weird caveman strip Attu turn up, but no Herc.

EDIT: Okay, so I was wrong…Jim points out that Dark Horse did publish one only last year…my mistake was searching only “currently available” and “not arrived yet” entries in Diamond’s database, not the “what has already come and went” section. Sure enough, it came out in 2018, but is currently unvavailable from that distributor. As Jim notes, copies can still be snagged on Amazon.

Cassandra Miller brings up Cutie Bunny, and I adore Joshua Quagmire‘s work on Cutey Bunny. That five issue series plus various other appearances here and there would be great to have under one cover. (And for bonus content, throw in all those bonkers entries for the title from the Amazing Heroes Previews Specials, with details on forthcoming issues that, far as I can tell, were entirely invented for those specials.) Those comics were just crammed full of swell cartooning and funny jokes and all kinds of craziness, and wouldn’t it be nice to have those on nice, clean, white paper with crisp printing.

Augh, I have more I want to say about more of your suggestions, but surely you’re read enough of my typing for the day. Let’s get back to it on Friday, shall we?

Just picture that scene with Bruce reciting the lyrics to Clark in Batman V Superman.

§ August 12th, 2019 § Filed under question time § 23 Comments

At long last, back to your questions!

William Burns has a hot take about

“What non-Marvel/DC currently uncollected comic (book or strip)do you know you could sell the heck out of if they would only collect it?”

That feels like it should be an easy question to answer, but it really isn’t. There’s the stuff that’s out of print that I would like to see published in new editions, like…I don’t know, all of the Alan Moore/Don Lomax back-ups from American Flagg!, maybe, but I’ve no idea how it would sell. Or the latter portion of Chester Brown’s “Ed the Happy Clown” stories from Yummy Fur (or at least all the Bible stories), which…well, might sell okay, I suppose. But I’m having a really hard time thinking of something that would really take off that hasn’t already been snapped up by somebody for repackaging.

You know, I get the occasional inquiry from folks looking for the various knock-offs of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that came out during the black and white boom of the early ’80s. Maybe a collection of some of those weirdo comics all slapped together under one cover could be a surprisingly popular item.

But otherwise…geez, I don’t know. I think a book putting together all of Bill Willingham’s Elementals might do okay, if there’s any bleedover from fans of Fables looking for more of his work.

Or how ’bout archival reprintings of Cracked magazine? I still get a little interest in Cracked and I suspect it could sell, especially with all that John Severin work in a lot of the issues.

But beyond that…geez, I’m drawin’ a blank. Maybe some of YOU out there have some ideas.

• • •

Brad Walker flies this in

“I just re-read the origin of J’onn J’onzz. Was there ever an in-story reason why his fellow JLAers Superman and Green Lantern didn’t give him a lift back to Mars?”

I…wondered that a lot myself when I was but a Young Mikester. I think that may have been part of the reasoning behind the various permutations of the Martain Manhunter’s assorted backstories. “Everyone else is dead” or “it was from long ago in the past and Mars is dead now” or “JJ is the last survivor of Mars<" or "Mars is at war they don't want him back/banished him" and so on. Not having read every early Martain Manhunter story, I don't know if this particular query was ever directly addressed in the texts, but I suppose the answer back then would have been "then we wouldn't have any Martain Manhuter stories to tell."

• • •

Chuck V. telepathically sent me

Oh, I can read your mind, Chuck V., and you’re thinking “that recent spate of DC movies could only have been improved by the inclusion of sequences just like this one,” and I can’t disagree, friend.

• • •

philfromgermany has a word for

“Any characters or concepts you’d like to be given the DC/Kamandi Challenge treatment?”

Well, Swamp Thing, natch. Just issue after issue of cliffhangers featuring our favorite muck encrusted mockery of a man. …Hey, I think we have the premise for our Swamp Thing: Season Two comic!

In which I only use the f-word once.

§ August 9th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 3 Comments

JohnJ wrote, in response to my post about the final Swamp Thing episode:

“…After I recently watched the 11-episodes of Titans I am curious whether Swamp Thing also dropped as many ‘f-bombs’ as Titans did. I didn’t count them but there were soooo many. More than 50, less than 100 I would guess. Enough that it was painfully obvious what somebody thinks ‘mature’ means and from every character.
I’ve watched the first episode of Doom Patrol and don’t remember the language being that salty.”

Well, there were a few choice uses of that particular vulgarity throughout Swamp Thing‘s run, but relatively few and far between. In fact, it was a surprise whenever one would drop.

Not like in Titans, where, hoo boy, they weren’t shy about their pottymouths. The sheer incongruity between what our perception of what the Teen Titans has always been versus what the TV show presented probably made the that particular swear stand out…oh, and the fact that they used it like a million times, that helped too.

It just felt somewhat tonally inappropriate, whereas in Doom Patrol, where our favorite f-bomb was used with a significant amount of frequency and enthusiams, it seemed, well, natural. Probably from a comic fan perspective of knowing that Doom Patrol spent time under the Verigo banner, therefore swearing, and just from the general feeling that this show is “different” and all that usage of Carlin’s Seven Words is just another example of how this superhero show is different from other superhero shows.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that Doom Patrol is genuinely funny. The enbtire attitude of the program is “hi, we’re super weird and we totally don’t give a shit” perhaps makes all the swearing just, well, part of the fun. Whereas on Titans, the swearing just feels like “look how edgy and adult we are” and it can feel like it’s just trying to hard to convince the viewer that this is all serious business, that’s why Robin has to say “fuck.”

Look, not to say I didn’t like Titans. I thought it was fine, enjoyable superhero nonsense. Still don’t get that portrayal of Dove…though she and Hawk look perfect, but like I’ve said before, if Dove is supposed to be non-violent like in the comics, they must be grading on a scale compared to everyone else in the show. And the show is super-violent, but at least it’s mostly nicely-shot, easy-to-follow violence that my eged eyes and brain can appreciate.

Anyway, last time I was talking about Swamp Thing I said I was going to try to go into specifics about what I thought went wrong with the show. And…well, beyond rushing the hell through Swamp Thing’s character evolution, I honestly don’t have much to complain about. The one really unnecessary element was likely the Dan Cassidy/Blue Devil stuff, which pains me to say, being a Blue Devil fan since that 16-page preview in that long-ago issue of Firestorm. Just…what did he add to the story, exactly? He saved Abby and Liz at one point, but that could have been handled another way without him. And he was a test subject for Woodrue’s medical shenanigans, I suppose, but aggain, no reason for that to have been specifically that character.

My thought was that they were going to be leading to a contract between Alec Holland being trapped in a body we was tortured by, versus Dan being trapped in Blue Devil’s body, and having a grand ol’ time while doing so. But clearly that’s not what happened, and the truncated nature of the series meant Dan getting his happy ending, free of the curse or whatever after waiting around for years to save Abby that one time, which clearly wasn’t the intended resolution for that arc but that’s what we got. Oh well.

Anyway, I suppose my main complaint was “not enough Swamp Thing doing Swamp Thing stuff,” but that’s generally my complain about every TV show and movie. It’s the main reason I never watched Friends.

Also this post is perhaps a little self-congratulatory as well.

§ August 7th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 8 Comments

So longtime tolerater of my site Thelonious Nick asks in the comments of my previous post:

“Just out of curiosity, what sorts of things do visitors from an adult day care center end up purchasing? Is it different than what the average customer buys? Or do they mainly browse?”

What the Thelonious One is referring to was a tweet I made the other day, where I said this:

“Had a nice visit from folks from a local adult day care center, who called and asked if I could open early to accommodate their group. Went very well, and they should be coming back on a regular basis!”

Okay, I know that’s a little self-congratulatory an’ all, but hey, what is Twitter for but tooting one’s own horn a bit, oh and also commiserating with our friends about our impending doom, but mostly it’s to talk about how great I am.

Like it says there, the gentleman in charge of this group of folks from the adult day care center gave me a call to arrange to visiting time prior to opening hours, which was fine…and apparently the intention is to make this a regular thing, about once a month or so, which I’m all for. It was quite a few folks from the center who paid a visit, along with a handful of chaperones who took plenty of pictures of them holding up the comics they were buying, or just looking around the store. It was a pleasant visit, everyone was nice and polite and I’m of course totally open to their return.

As to what they buy…well, first nearly all of them bought something. Even one of the chaperones bought something for himself. Mostly inexpensive comics…I have dollar boxes and plenty of cheaply-priced back issues, so there was no shortage of choice for those with limited budgets. So, lots of books out of the bargain bins, some of Marvel’s recent $1 reprints, a handful of ’80s superhero books priced to move (like Iron Man, even a Funko Pop. One of the older members of the group asked after Dennis the Menace comics, which I had plenty of, a fact that made this gentleman very happy. I did have another person splurge a bit on that recent Amazing Spider-Man #25.

So all in all…no, not a high dollar transaction total, but it weren’t nuthin’, and the comics they did buy made them happy, and they all seemed to enjoy their outing to the store. As I mentioned to someone else on Twitter, as a person with a mentally disabled sister, I am particularly willing to help out those with special needs. I know things aren’t necessarily easy for them or for the people who care for them at times, so I’m glad to help in my small way.

Nick also asked if it was any different from what my regular clientele buys, and…no, not really. In fact, one member of the group was one of my regulars, and likely the person who encouraged his friends and caretakers to make this trip. He would generally come in and buy inexpensive comics with his favorite superheroes, and this really isn’t any different from any of my customers who just have a few dollars to spare but still need some four-color fun. That’s why I always make sure to have inexpensive comics for sale, even cheaper than the new monthlies…not everyone is there to buy my Strange Tales Annual #2 for $225.

So big thanks to that center for bringing their charges to my shop…it was a completely fine experience and I look forward to hosting them again.

Not even a single Un-Man.

§ August 5th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 3 Comments

Near the end of the episode, Abby says to Swamp Thing that she’s fascinated by this new world she’s seeing through her relationship with him, and that she “wants to see more.” And she might as well be talking about the show, because I’m pretty sure most of us would like to see more…more seasons, more episodes, more weirdness from the comics, etc. Of course, Abby also tells Swamp Thing “I’m not going anywhere,” for that extra bit of ironic knife-twisting.

So anyway, that was ten episodes of Swamp Thing we got, cut down from thirteen a while back, and then eventually just plain ‘ol canceled for reasons that have never exactly been nailed down. But whatever the reason…it wasn’t a perfect translation, it had some problems, but overall it was a reasonable translation of the comics that maybe rushed through the concepts a little too quickly, plugged in some strangely irrelevant elements (I like Blue Devil an’ all, but still not sure why he had to be there), but it looked right and by and large, it felt right. And cudos for Swamp Thing being a dude in a costume, and not a CGI effect.

I seem to recall at the time, when word got out they were cutting episodes, that producers were also being told to kinda wrap things up best they can in episode 10. And now that I’ve seen said episode, with the very knowing title “Loose Ends,” it definitely feels like folks desperately trying to put as nice a bow on things as they could while not necessarily preventing continuation of any of the plotlines. Okay, one or two things were a little cliffhanger-y, but what can you do. One final curiosity is the inclusion of a post-credits scene, setting up a conflict for a second season that will never come. No, it’s not Arcane, but you can probably hie yourself hither to the YouTubes and see that scene yourself. It is, at least to me, an unexpected payoff to a character we’ve seen all season. Didn’t think they were going to go for it, but go for it they did.

But that’s as far as it’s going, and it’s too bad. Maybe a little more of the craziness from that final scene may have goosed the series along to survival, if the show’s survival did indeed depend on positive response (whether from viewers or highers-up at Warner Bros.). Like I said, both just above and in the last time I wrote too much about this show, they seemed to plow through Swamp Thing’s evolution from “man become monster” to “nope, just the monster, sorry” with all those cool elemental powers Moore gave him once he was on the comic. With the first season devoted to Swamp Thing accepting his place and his power, the “origin” was effectively over and maybe we could have moved on to just straight-up swamp monster adventure.

I half-joked on the Twitters about a SWAMP THING SEASON TWO comic book, and I would kinda like to see that just to get an idea of what the producers of the show had in mind. I think I read somewhere they had ideas for the next couple of seasons, and if those were presented in comic form, I think that would be interesting.

I mean, it would have been nice to see their idea for Abby’s uncle Arcane, Swamp Thing’s arch-nemesis, beyond that shadowy dream-figure I assumed was him from a past episode. In my last post on the show, I noted that it totally looked like they were going to introduce Arcane via Matt Cable’s car crash, the same way the character was re-introduced in the comics, but nope, big ol’ red herring for comic nerds such as myself. Ah, well, that’s probably all for the best.

So, Swamp Thing…a pretty good show, not a great show, but better than expected and certainly lots of potential for future installments. A shame it ended.

I will note that the DC Universe talk/news show DC Daily did finally start explicitly referring to the end of the series, with even some lamenting that they’re not going to see certain things before the show’s conclusion. I’m not sure they’re going to say anything about why the show is ending, not just because no one else seems to quite know, but I wouldn’t expect a DC promotional program to do that anyway. Probably we’ll get a “sad to see it end,” and that’s it, which is probably as much as we can expect, and rightfully os given the nature of the venue.

I’ll probably have to think a bit if I’m going to get into more specifics about what worked and what didn’t about the show (like getting into the whole Blue Devil thing and the superfluity thereof). Maybe next time. In the meantime…bon voyage, Swampy…better luck in your next live action incarnation. Maybe on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow…c’mon, why not.

Please buy “Eyeballs and Dollars,” my new fantasy role-playing game.

§ August 2nd, 2019 § Filed under retailing § No Comments

I know I still have a post full of questions from you folks that I need to get to, and I will, but let me address a few of these from the most recent installment of ProgRuin.

First off, Thelonious Nick wonders

“…Why have an awesome variant cover that lots of people will want to pick up because it’s so awesome? Why not just make that your main cover?”

I’ve wondered that myself, on this very website more than once. The one specific instance I’m recalling is that a Star Trek comic of some sort had a 1-in-10 ratio variant that was a swell photo of William Shatner as whas-his-name, Captain Sheridan or whatever, and how that made for a spectacular and eye-catching cover. I don’t recall if I said “why didn’t they make that the main cover…what’re they afraid of making money?” but I should have if I didn’t.

And yes, a lot of the variant covers are quite awesome and I’ve love to be able to sell them in vast quantities to customers, and even take some home myself. But for some folks, part of the appeal of the limited variants is the fact that they are limited, and even a great cover might languish on the shelf if it were readily available, rather that being some rare gem that you’re lucky to get your mitts on. Anyway, I don’t know…it’s not like artists and publishers and such aren’t trying to make every cover attract attention and grab eyeballs and dollars. But the very existence of a rare variant could also result in the “grass is always greener” attitue…”why settle for this regular cover any common person could obtain? I want that special cover or nothing!”

Anyway, it’s a fine line to walk sometimes.

• • •

Allan Hoffman picks my brain with

“What are your thoughts on DC’s upcoming acetate covers?”

Well, it’s fine, I suppose…it’s the “regular” cover, and I’m going to have to guess if this will mean extra sales or if everyone’s burned out on the whole “gimmick” thing. I mean, if they look nice, I’m sure they’ll sell. At least they don’t cost more, which is the big problem with the recent “cardstock cover” variants, all of which cost a buck more and have been a big flop with my customers for that very reason. Since the acetate comics will be shipping with those pricier cardstock variants as well, I’ll likely be shifting by new comic budget away from one and toward the other. Which I’ve been doing anyhow, after seeing how those cardstock covers have been doing.

• • •

Hooper had this in the hopper

“I’m surprised they haven’t started selling collections of variant covers. I’d totally buy a nicely packaged colkection of the Lego Covers or that run of Darwyn Cooke variants.”

…and I planned on responding with this very book but Turan beat me to the punch in the comments there.

Occasionally there’s some kind of collection of variants…if I recall correctly, Marvel did a freebie reprinting all the hip-hop covers. And this isn’t quite the same, but Marvel’s doing something called Marvel Monograph, the first of which featured the cover art of J. Scott Campbell, and there’s many more to come with other artists.

In regards to the cover on that DC book, Hooper…there was a direct market variant, naturally enough, featuring Frank Cho’s art:

…so, y’know, there are options!

That Lego thing still burns me up.

§ July 31st, 2019 § Filed under pal plugging, retailing § 5 Comments

So occasionally my pals Chris ‘n’ Matt will put out the call for questions for them to answer on their War Rocket Ajax podcast, and this time, instead of breaking their wills with my usual Frank Miller’s The Spirit-related inquiry, I asked them:

“What are your thoughts on the vast proliferation of comic book variant covers?”

…and you can hear their response in this very episode (just under the wire at the one hour twenty-five minute mark).

You can hear what they said there, and I don’t disagree with any of their positions…and there are a few positions one can take on the whole “variant cover” thing. Yes, it’s good to offer customers a choice…if one cover doesn’t catch his/her eye, maybe another will. And it gives artists more opportunities for work, in an industry that’s often short on opportunities and, well, money.

But as Matt says, it’s probably not good to build a business model that depends on the sale of multiple covers to the same person, but in a way, that’s what I’m doing when I’m ordering them for the shop. Multiple covers are a way to push those numbers up…maybe not by much, maybe I’ll order 5 each of Unicycle Tragedy #18 if two covers are offered, instead of just 8 copies if only one cover were available, because yes, there is a percentage of customers who’ll buy one of each. Or if an incentive cover is avaiable…if there’s a variant that’s availble to purchase if you order 25 copies of the regular cover, and my order is at 23…well, maybe I’ll justify the extra expense.

So we’re not talking about big adjustments in ordering on a case by case basis, usually. But an extra copy here, an extra two copies there…it begins to add up, both in my expenses and in the publishers’ income. Every little bit helps them, and may actually help certain titles reach their bottom lines.

One clever use of variant covers was in the ’90s, when Marvel started to offer two different covers for the second issues of new series (of which they had several starting up at around that time). Traditionally, when a new series started, retailers would order larger numbers on the first issue, then cut orders on the second with expectations of a drop-off in sales. Marvel’s issue #2 variants countered this a tad, by offering different covers, which would encourage retailers to up their orders a bit in anticipation of, again, some folks wanting to own both versions.

Of course, that was back around the beginning of the end of retailers wanting to have lots of copies of the eary issues of new series around for future back issue sales. Now there still may be a drop-off with issue #2, but #1s are being ordered so close to the bone (given that there’ll be a new #1 for the same series sooner rather than later, killing back issue demand for the previous series) that just doing variants on everything is pretty much the only way to encourage any upward bumps in numbers.

Chris brings up that he would prefer that the covers actually reflect the contents of the book, and, yup, I’d have to agree. Though to be fair, that’s been a problem even without variant covers. How many Amazing Spider-Man covers during J. Michael Straczynski’s run were just “generic Spider-Man action pose #4” or whatever? Yes, I mean, sure, Spider-Man’s inside the comic, so at least the cover is that accurate, and they weren’t bad drawing by any means, but they revealed nothing about the story inside. Nothing telling the reader “hey, dig this crazy story that’s in this issue…can you believe what’s going on here on the cover? Better buy the issue and find out what’s up!” They weren’t all like that, of course, but enough of them were.

But the variants can be a problem, too, like the covers featuring characters that aren’t in the actual comic, but just on there to promote a coming event or movie or whatnot (like the current Carnage variants) or the covers featuing concepts people actually showed interest in buying ’til they saw the contents didn’t refect the image on the front (I’m looking at you, DC Lego variants).

And don’t get me started on when a specific variant beomes “The Hot One” for no real good reason whatsoever and people start calling the day before release for it. Which, of course, is usually too late to order more.

I mean, yeas, sure, many of the variant covers are nice looking, and folks put a lot of work into them. It can just be frustrating ordering these, and also adds an unnecessary level of consumer confusion to a product that’s already facing an uphill battle in obtaining and maintaining a customer base.

Thanks to Matt ‘n’ Chris for responding to my question.

Of course I bring “The Death of Superman” into this.

§ July 29th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 2 Comments

[SPOILERS ahead for Swamp Thing episode 9, “The Anatomy Lesson”]

So we get a whole lotta stuff goin’ on in the ninth (and penultimate) episode of DC Universe’s streaming Swamp Thing series. Titled “The Anatomy Lesson,” it is very loosely based on the classic Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totleben story of the same name, in which Everything Is Changed and Nothing Will Ever Be The Same.

And, well, that was the case in the comics, least until the whole “Brightest Day”/New 52 stuff happened. That was the story where we learned that Swamp Thing wasn’t a transformed Alec Holland at all, but rather plant life, affected by Holland’s formula, that absorbed his memories and molded itself into a humanoid appearance. All these years thinking he was a human being and seeking a cure for his condition, only to find out there is no cure, this is what he always will be…it was quite the shocking change to the status quo after the then-12 years of this character’s existence.

This is what happens in this episode as well. Swamp Thing, after being brought down in the previous installment (by being frozen, not shot through the head as in the comic, so they missed out on one of the great cliffhangers in funnybook history) is dragged into a secret facility for Dr. Woodrue to examine. Yes, it’s still Woodrue…not the former Justice League “Floronic Man” villain like in the original, but still a Woodrue, cutting Swampy apart in delightfully gross fashion.

In the comic, we learn of the odd nature of Swamp Thing’s inner workings (lungs that don’t process air, a heart that doesn’t beat) as commentary from Woodrue as he’s rooting (heh) though the inert corpse. The TV show makes it…well, weirder, by having Swamp Thing awake, restrained by bonds and a magical Kryptonite-esque light that apparently weakens him somehow. As such, Woodrue tells Swampy to his face just what he’s finding during his biopsy, cutting and slicing into the body as Swampy groans in agony.

Like I said, it’s weird and gross and that’s all fine. But it does pale in comparison to the original on a few points. First, like the various media adaptations of “The Death of Superman,” Superman isn’t really away long enough for the impact of the supposed “death” to really be felt. He was goine in the comics for a while…the Superman series themselves were even briefly suspended. While the comic fans never really believed Superman was dead, the way it played out in the comics couldn’t help but make some small, irrational part of you think “…but what if he is?” The actual physical presentation of the story, with several months of Superman comics without a Superman, and even a brief time without Superman comics, made you feel that loss. Compare to the adaptations, where he dies and comes back in the same film, or he dies and comes back in the very next film…the latter being a slightly better translation of the loss, but still not really the same since it’s not like there were a bunch of Superman movies put out in between where Superman was just dead and buried.

That’s a lot of set-up for my rather minor analogy, in that TV Swamp Thing hadn’t really been around long enough, that we hadn’t really spent enough time invested in his and Abby’s search for a cure, for the Shocking Revelation to have anywhere close to the same impact. I mean, I get it, they probably wanted to get that out of way early so they didn’t spend the next couple of seasons explaining why Alec just didn’t go with Abby to a friendly clinic somewhere to help him. But that reveal hits a lot harder after over a decade’s worth of stories he was a Scientist What Was Done in by Science and trying to find a way out.

And just to say again, leaving out the bit from the comics where Swamp Thing is shot through the head and you’re left to wonder “hokey smokes how’s Alec getting out of this one?” ’til the next issue was a real missed opportunity. I so wanted to hear this iteration of Woodrue declare “you can’t kill a vegetable by shooting it through the head.”

The other big difference is that, since Swamp Thing was never “killed” in the show, we don’t get the comic’s cool revival scene where he grows back, fresh and new, after Woodrue disables the freezer where his body was being kept. And of course we don’t get the reason for that freezer shutdown, which is Woodrue’s elaborate plan to kill his “benefactor,” Avery Sunderland. No screaming Swampy chasing Sunderland through the corriders of his gleaming building, and no final kill. I’m sure they wanted Sunderland around for future seasons of the TV show, which is a moot point now.

A couple of other notes about this episode:

  • Blue Devil finally appears! It’s brief, and Dan Cassidy apparently can change (unwillingly) from human form to Blue Devil form (iinstead of being a dude magically stuck in his costume, which would have made for an interesting comparison to Swampy). Let’s see how this plays out in the future (“checks notes”) one episode.

    However I suggested on the Twitterers that maybe they can replace the Swamp Thing show with a Blue Devil show, and have Swamp Thing’s plots transfer over to that for continuation. DC is free to use my brilliant idea.

  • Another Marty Pasko-era supporting character turns up, this time Dennis Barclay as a doctor from a mental health institution. No connection to Liz Tremayne, like in the comics, but who knows? Probably not us, ever.
  • As a payoff to the “you were never Alec Holland” plot, we do get a reenactment of this cover to issue #28:

    …as Swamp Thing hauls Holland’s corpse out of the murky waters. Another version of this same cover was used in promotional material, but with Swampy holding a more skeletal body, like in the original, versus the slightly more enfleshed one we see in the episode. Anyway, it was nice to see this classic Swamp Pietà actually used in the narrative.

  • The big thing in this episode is that Officer Matt Cable gets in a car wreck…which, if you’ve read your Swamp Thing, like I knoq I have, then you know this is what leads to the return of Anton Arcane, Swamp Thing’s arch-enemy. Arcane, escaped from Hell following his death in his last match-up with our mossy hero, possesses Cable’s body and and wreaks some havoc, as is his wont.

    Of course, we haven’t had that Arcane in the series yet (despite all my crazy talk last time), though we may have seen him in that nightmare/flashback/vision thingie Abby had a few episodes ago…a cloaked figure obscured by the darknbess dragging Abby through the swamp. Now, in the TV show, that Arcane may also be long dead and could come back in Cable’s body, or some other ghost or dark spirit from the swamp could take him over. I don’t know, it’s all speculation, but we’ll see what they do with it next week. And only next week.

And that’s almost that. Unless some miracle happens, or a rich benefactor with the initials “M.S.” donates a hefty sum to Warner Bros. with the caveat that more episodes of Swamp Thing get produced, we’re just about at the end of the line. It looks like we have a few pretty significant plot developments that will have to get tied up next time, probably not in a terribly satisfactory fashion…but it was nice having a reasonably well-done Swamp Thing TV show while it lasted. But perhaps I’ll save the eulogy for next time…though I suppose I’ve been eulogizing it since the start.

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