Saturday, August 11, 2007
A little Swamp joy, a little Swamp heartbreak.
So customer Kevin, who is an art assistant for a Big Name Comic Artist, just out of the blue gave me an original Man-Thing pencil drawing of his:
Pretty cool of him, no? And yes, for some reason Man-Thing is carrying a naked lady. Maybe there's a nudist colony at the edge of Manny's swamp or something. She's obviously not afraid, since "whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch" and all that jazz.
And this is how much of a jerk I am:
Kevin: "Here, Mike, this is for you."
Me: "Wow, thanks, Kevin! It'll look great on eBa...er, I mean, my wall!"
Kevin: "You jerk!"
Yes, he knows I was joking. We give each other a bit of friendly grief, until employee Aaron walks into the room, then we both turn on him.
In other swamp creature/eBay news, I discovered that searching completed auctions on the eBay can only lead to tears, as I missed out on a whole bunch of these period Mexican Swamp Thing editions from the '70s:
They went for twelve bucks a pop, so it's just as well I missed them. I probably would have tried to buy them all despite being short on coin of the realm at the moment. But don't they look fabulously lurid?
Friday, August 10, 2007
I'll stop talking about the break-in soon, honest.
Some bad news regarding the theft at our store. Since the glass case containing our EC Comics collection had been disturbed, I made some time on Thursday to pull all the books out and perform an inventory. At first glance, the books in the case simply looked like they'd been pushed around a bit, but after checking our notes, it appears that six issues of Weird Science are missing. It seems the thief (or thieves) just reached in and grabbed a pile at random. We did find a Weird Science on the floor beneath the case Wednesday morning, so it was probably knocked out in the crook's rush to grab the books out of the case.
I've been trying to piece together what exactly happened that morning, and so far it's something like this:
1. Perp drops in through ceiling, sets off motion detector alarm.
2. Perp rushes to the first class counter, grabs Witchblade, Spawn, some other recent books.
3. Perp rushes to one end of the second, much larger, glass counter. Reaches in and grabs a few variant cover comics from that end.
4. Perp then goes to other end of counter, reaches in and grabs a pile of ECs at random, dropping one Weird Science on the floor, as well as one of the Witchblades.
5. Charges into the backroom, apparently tripping or kicking the bottom-most new comics shelf closest to the backroom entrance, breaking it.
6. Tries to head to the back door, takes path by office, kicking over a box and some books in the process.
7. That path is blocked at the end by a number of boxes currently in the process of being rearranged (a nigh-endless process, as anyone who's survived a trip to our backroom can verify), so the perp doubles back and takes the next aisle over to the back exit.
8. There are three doors in the general area of the exit. He tries the bathroom door (no go), the closet door (Fibber McGee, look out!), before finally finding the actual exit and getting out, setting off the back door's alarm signal.
Elapsed time: about a minute.
I'm using the singular term of "perp" because one, I'm pretty sure it was just one guy (it seems like the same guy was poking around in both cases, and nothing else in the store appeared to be ransacked), and two, it makes me feel like Judge Dredd. "DON'T MOVE, CREEP!"
So while I'm still somewhat bemused by the amount of effort this criminal put into breaking into our store, and his focus on a bunch of Image books that peaked in popularity a decade ago, the EC thing is quite irritating. Especially since it was obviously an afterthought..."I got the rare and valuable Spawn books...hmm, maybe I'll grab a pile of these old books, too, just in case." GAH. I'm almost insulted by the poor taste of our thief.
Seriously, though, we were lucky. Things could have been much worse. A lot more stuff could have been stolen, a lot more could have been broken. I just have to look at it that way, even though my semi-amusement at what was stolen has been muted by the loss of actual hard-to-find valuable material. On the plus side, those Weird Science books will stick out a lot more than a bunch of common recent comics, so I made yet another round of calls to notify nearby stores about them.
But losing those Weird Sciences bummed me out for most of Thursday. Even playing this LARD album at the end of the work day didn't break me out of my funk. Even actual funk couldn't break me out of my funk:
Well, okay, I lied...that helped a little.
Customer: "So, did you guys make the paper with the robbery?"
Me: "Yeah, we got in there...on the radio, too."
Customer: "Hey, free advertising! So long as they spell your name right...."
Me: "Um, well, about that...."
We had a few people ask us "Hey, what's with the 'Seth's Comic Corner' thing?" so I've had to explain a few times that the two store names got conflated, somehow. So much for the free advertising silver lining...but I did see a few new faces, so maybe just the knowledge that there was a comic shop in Ventura, regardless of its name, caused folks to seek us out.
Hey, let me have my improbable dreams. But really, after nearly 30 years of business, I'm half-surprised that there are still people around here who haven't heard of us.
Not robbery related: a brief conversation between Employees Jeff and Aaron outside the shop, related to me by Jeff...they're talking about a friend of theirs, who's about their age (mid-20s):
Jeff: "...And he met and married this woman, with two kids, and she's 39!"
Aaron: "Wow! 39? That's even older than Mike!"
Ah, yes, that's very amusing. I'm sure Aaron will enjoy telling that story at wherever his new job will be.
Pal JP has been posting some great goofy Batman images lately...the most recent post has a couple "adult" LP covers (NSFW - naked butt alert!) with Batman images that will haunt your dreams, and another recent post has an eyesight-damaging off-register Japanese Batman. God bless pal JP and his unerring sense for wonderful Batcrap.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
TRUE CRIME STORIES.
So we've actually been robbed like this once before, about...geez, nearly 18 years ago now? When we were still in the small shop across the street from where we are now (from about two moves ago), someone busted into our small side window, climbed down the wall (demolishing a bunch of metal role-playing game figurines in the process), walked past the glass case with thousands of dollars' worth of comics, and stole the register drawer. Total loss: about twenty bucks or so in coins, plus whatever it cost to replace the drawer and the broken window.
We were lucky with this latest robbery, for the most part...according to the alarm company records, about one minute elapsed between the motion detector picking up something moving in the store and registering the opening of the back door. So the burglar (or burglars - who knows?) spent one panicked minute running around our shop in the dark, burglar alarm blaring, searching through the glass cases for something to take until they decided on Witchblade, Spawn, some variant covers, and a few other recent books.
Now, I received some incredulous responses to the fact that Witchblade and Spawn comics were stolen. Here's how my several explanations at the shop went on Wednesday:
Customer (upon seeing the mess): "Wow, what happened?"
Me: "Someone broke into the store this morning."
Customer: "Did they steal anything?"
Me: "Yeah...they got some Witchblade and Spawn comics."
Customer: (laughs) "No, really, what'd they steal?"
I figure whoever did this was just a kid, or someone only superficially familiar with the collectible aspect of comics, recognized Witchblade and Spawn and some recent "hot" books, and decided that's what they had to have. (Thanks, Wizard!) They may have some pricey book values, but, as commenter Michael notes, this isn't 1995 any more. The days of Spawn and Witchblade = quick turnover for big cash are pretty much over.
At any rate, it seemed like a lot of effort for such little result. But, then again, grabbing a royal buttload of EC Comics and trying to unload them would stick out more than trying to sell the relatively common recent books that actually were stolen. I did put out a call to some nearby stores to keep an eye out...not sure if the comics will turn up at any of them, but you never know.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
We wuz robbed.
At about 2:40 Tuesday morning, our store (Ralph's Comic Corner, in Ventura, CA) was broken into and robbed. The burglar(s?) came in through the ceiling, knocking out electricity in half of the store in the process. One of the shelves on our new comics rack was busted, our ECs and undergrounds in the large glass case were stirred around a bit (but otherwise unburgled), and the only things we appear to have lost were early Witchblades and Spawns, a handful of Spider-Man, and a couple recent variant covers.
Mostly, we're pissed about the mess left behind than we are about the missing books. What a nuisance. There's still a big pile of ceiling tiles and wiring around our graphic novel section and our toy shelves that needs to be cleaned up. Plus, we just had a lot of rewiring work done on that side of the store, which has all essentially been undone.
Yes, we're still open for business, and new books are out for sale. The show must go on, as they say.
EDIT: Our intrepid local newspaper has the story on its site, so here are my corrections: there are two stores - Ralph's Comic Corner (the store I manage), and Seth's Games & Anime (the games and, you guessed it, anime store we lease out space to). The street address we use is 2379, the Ralph's storefront, though I suppose I can't blame them for getting that wrong...the space Seth occupies is technically 2343, but no one uses that address for anything.
No one can see into the unfathomable soul of Spider-Man.
from Meet the Amazing Spider-Man (Golden Books, 1996) by Michael Teitelbaum & Kirk Jarvinen
The snarkiest post ever posted on Progressive Ruin.
No, really, this may be the snarkiest thing I've ever had here. I've never been snarkier than this. You may have seen snark on other comic book weblogs, but you've never seen snark like the snark I'm about to give you.
I'm normally not big on snark, but I've got some snark building up inside me, and that snark's gotta go somewhere.
No, honestly. I'm about to unleash some real snark, here. The more delicate among you may wish to avert your eyes.
I mean it...this post will never be featured on Snark-free Corner.
Okay...if you've come this far, you must be ready for some snark. Prepare yourself for the snarkfest I'm about to unleash.
Image from this Wikipedia article on Power Pack's resident alien antagonists, the Snarks (AKA the Zr'nx).
Yes, I'm thoroughly ashamed of myself.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Mad, Marvel, Maggin, and (Un-)Men.
Pal M.A. Masterson left a comment to yesterday's post where, aside from correcting my spelling of "potrzebie," recommended a review of the Mad Magazine board game. His instincts are good; I did indeed own the Mad board game, and, as M.A. says, the object of the game was to get rid of all your money. Alas, the board game is packed away somewhere in the depths of the parents' garage, along with my other old board games, and I have not yet been able to recover it. However, you can read more about it at Boardgamegeek, which has lots and lots of photos of the board and of box covers from many lands.
I also want to find that box o'games, because I desperately want to recover my copy of the Greatest Board Game of All Time, The Sinking of the Titanic. But I digress.
Anyway, what I do have is the Mad Magazine Card Game, published by Parker Brothers in 1979:
Similar to the board game, the object is lose all of the cards in your hand, while forcing your opponents to acquire more cards.
The card faces all feature artwork by Jack Davis:
The numbered cards feature sequential gags (I left a couple out in this particular sequence to fit 'em on the scanner):
Don't really have much more to say about it than that...Boardgamegeek has more pics, plus more foreign editions.
Hey, remember when I used to talk about comics on this site, once in a while?
Monday, August 06, 2007
Mad Magazine Presents Up The Academy (1980)
So the Mad Magazine content of the 1980 feature film Mad Magazine Presents Up The Academy is essentially the following:
1. It says "Mad Magazine Presents" at the beginning of the film (the title of the film is also presented in the Mad logo font):
2. A live-action Alfred E. Neuman appears at the close of the opening credits (reprised for the closing credits), courtesy of a fellow in what may be the most disturbing face mask of all time:
3. At the end of the film, as our main cast drives down the road into the sunset, they pass by our live action Alfred E. Neuman, who waves goodbye to the audience:
4. ...And also has some parting words of wisdom:
5. There's also a statue of Alfred E. Neuman involved, somewhere, but unless I blinked or was otherwise distracted or something, that statue never appears in the film itself. It's there in the trailer, though:
Now, I hadn't seen this film in years...like, twenty-five years at the very least, catching it on cable when I was but a young Mikester, and I could remember virtually nothing about it. The only gag from the film I remembered was the antagonist, Major Liceman, getting ready for the evening, and putting condoms in his wallet...giving one to his pet dog, as apparently the dog was expecting a little action from the ladies as well.
In the intervening years since I've originally seen the film, I learned that Mad' s publisher William Gaines wanted nothing to do with the film, and demanded all references to the magazine be edited out. (And apparently, that was screwed up anyway, as some unedited versions of the film were distributed internationally.) And, of course, there was that two-page parody Mad itself did of the film, allegedly cut short by editorial because the film itself was so awful.
I'd somehow discovered recently that the film has since been rereleased on DVD, with the cuts restored, so I thought I'd give it a Netflixing and see how bad it was.
It's one of the many, many Animal House knock-offs rushed out in the wake of that films success, in which a bunch of misfits take on the Establishment at whatever college/camp/high school/etc...in this case, a military academy. It's only marginally funny, with fart jokes and an offensive stereotype or two (Tom Poston...Tom Poston...as a gay caricature, taking a little much joy in checking young men's inseams for uniforms, among other uncomfortable moments). The Karate Kid's Ralph Macchio makes his screen debut here, as a standoffish tough guy sent to the school to be straightened out, and finds himself bunked up with a bunch of other outcasts (the politician's son, the preacher's son, the larcenous son of an Arabian Sheik). They're under the oppressive, watchful eye of Major Liceman (played by Ron Leibman, who, perhaps wisely, had his name removed from the credits).
Here, have a pic of Leibman as Liceman:
The thing about Liceman is that he doesn't come across as particularly evil or nasty...yeah, he's kind of a jerk, but that's hardly deserving of the utterly humiliating "revenge" the kids exact upon him at the climax of the film. True, he had done a few unpleasant things to them during the course of the movie, but one could argue the kids provoked him with their own misbehavior and troublemaking. He just seems kind of sad and lonely...he gives a big speech about how he only found friendship at the academy, the only place he felt he belonged, which colors how we see him through the rest of the film.
Okay, he's not a good guy...but he's not entirely unsympathetic, either. He's not the irredeemably evil Neidermeyer from Animal House, in other words.
More jokes fail than work, but there is one solid gag I enjoyed. During a reception, a group of hideously off-key singers massacre a song, causing listeners to double over in pain from the sound, as well as busting glasses, bringing down buildings (via stock footage), and shattering the film itself (as the picture breaks apart and falls to the bottom of the screen). More of that type of humor would have been welcome.
Surprisingly, despite the bad jokes and other problems, the film remains halfway watchable. The actors do their best with what they're given, it all moves along at a reasonable enough pace, and the soundtrack, which almost never lets up for the 90-minute duration of the film, is pretty damn good. Iggy & the Stooges, Pat Benatar, Cheap Trick, the Kinks, Blondie, Lou Reed, and plenty of others; check it out. It'll never happen, but a CD release of the soundtrack would be welcome.
It's just none of it has very much to do with Mad Magazine, really. I mean, aside from Alfred's cameos. But what was I expecting...animated short "The Lighter Side of..." gags? Sergio's Marginals running up and down the edges of the screen? At least one gratuitous use of the word "Potrzebie?" Fold-In: The Movie? Maybe something a little more like the early seasons of MADtv, with outright pop culture parodies with interspersed "Spy Vs. Spy" and Don Martin cartoons?
Anyway, there it is...Mad Magazine Presents Up the Academy. Not a good movie, but an interesting product of its time. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, I should note that it's directed by Robert Downey, Sr. You know, Iron Man's pop. Don't that beat all.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
The value of nothing.
Finally...finally...got around to doing something with those four or five long boxes' worth of comic book collections that were basically just dumped on us. I didn't have any time to deal with them when they were given to us, and I didn't have any place in the back room where they wouldn't be completely in the way, so I just piled 'em up behind the counters in our trading card area and said "I'll deal with them later."
Now, "behind the counters in our trading card area" is not an appropriate comic book storage area, I realize, but at the time, that's the space I had, and that's where they went. And not just one collection, multiple collections. "Sigh, another box of comics dumped on us...well, put 'em with the rest of them, and we'll get to them eventually."
'Course, things being what they are, this is what happens. I need to go to the trading card area, to pull out boxes of singles for someone, or to get a set or two out of one of the cases. I have to maneuver around the boxes to get to anything behind those counters. I think "Gosh dang it, I have to do something about these stupid comics." Then my work day continues, and I have other, more important things to do than go through a bunch of comics we didn't really want in the first place, and so there they sit, out of sight, out of mind until the next time I have to get into the trading card cabinets. Which, to be frank, isn't that often, which is the other part of the problem...since those collections aren't constantly in my way, they remained low priority.
I realize this may not present me in the best light, but surely some of you folks out there have had a project or two to do that wasn't exactly pressing, that wasn't going to pay off for the effort you had to put into it, but sorta needed doing anyway. The kind of project that makes you think, "I'll get to it eventually," but you have other things that need doing, like, I don't know, shaving the cat or arranging your socks by color, that are more important.
Anyway, like I said at the beginning, there, I finally got around to doing something with them on Saturday. The County Fair is going right now, so a lot of the townfolk are attending that rather than patronizing their local small businesses, leaving me with a little extra time to attend to those unloved, forgotten funnybooks. Well, the Bangles are playing there, and I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend that REO Speedwagon is playing, too, so, really, how can we compare?
The ultimate goal with those comics is to dump 'em all into our bargain bins near the front of the store, which, you may be asking yourself, "Hey, why didn't Mike just do that from the get-go, instead of bein' all lazy?" Because, Ian, there's some minor level of processing that needs to be done first. We need to make sure they're all bagged...we have a box of used (but still good condition...we throw out the gross ones) comic bags taken off comics from other processed collections that we use for the bargain books. The comics that are already bagged need any preexisting price stickers removed or blacked out. We also need to get rid of the books I wouldn't even sell in the bargain bins -- torn, worn, cat pee, that sort of thing. The flip side of that is pulling out the books that I don't want to sell in the bargain bin because they actually do have some value, or maybe we just happen to need them in the front of the store right now, and this saves me the trouble of digging our copies out of the storage room. For example, out of the books I was looking through, we needed a handful of Batman, Flash, and Silver Surfer books. Nothing major, nothing expensive...just run of the mill issues that we were missing up front and hadn't yet been restocked.
Also, when I said these books were about four or five long boxes' worth, that was just an equivalency. They didn't come to us in long boxes...these books were in beaten, hammered brown cardboard boxes, or computer paper boxes, and the like. They were awkward, not easily stacked, which makes me wonder why I didn't get around to the books before this. Except for the fact that the ugly, ungainly boxes just encouraged me to think "I really don't want to deal with those right now."
The reason I bring this up -- and there's a minor point to all this, somewhere...I'm circling around it, hopefully landing soon -- is that there have been an awful lot of abandoned and dumped collections lately. You might remember this collection with its 117 copies of The Falcon and whatnot...but there have been several collections where we buy a handful of books from the person, refuse the rest...which end up being given to us anyway. Or, in some cases, we go through the collection, find nothing we want, and the person doing the selling tells us "Well, I don't want to store them anymore, so you can have them." It'd be nice if these were boxes full of, say, Adventure #247, but usually it's the same '90s X-books or Superman books or Valiant/Image books or whatever. Stuff we've seen plenty of, stuff we have plenty of, stuff we don't want more of...and yet, there they are, dropped in our laps.
I realize that we're our own worst enemies in this...we could very easily say "No, take the comics with you, we don't want them." We have said this, particularly in cases where the comics were obviously in unsellable condition. But, if it's just common, low demand books, in relatively decent shape, we figure we can just use them for the bargain bin and take them in. But the sheer number of collections we've acquired like this lately -- probably the other reason I've put off dealing with them, due to the overwhelming amount of books -- has me curious. It used to be that if there was a collection we didn't want, or even just a portion of it, the person would take those comics back and move along, either putting them back in storage or taking them to another store. If we didn't value the books, the seller would sometimes take the position of "These are collectibles, I collected them, they must be valuable!" -- and take them to another store to try to move there.
But today...maybe it's folks moving out of the area due to the local increase in housing prices, dumping their collections because it's less stuff to transport. Or after holding on to the comics for so many years, they finally realize they'll never get anything for it, and rather than recycle the books, they'd dump them where they think people would appreciate them. Or for any number of reasons...but the collection dumpings are all from the result of people realizing their comics are worth nothing, or resigning themselves to the fact that they'll never find buyers, or just deciding a large comic book collection is no longer something they need in their lives. One or two incidents of collection-dumping every once in a while is one thing...several in the space of the year is a little worrying. Almost certainly just coincidence, but that still seems like a lot of people in a short timeframe all deciding their comics were no longer of value enough to keep, either as a collectible or as an artform. I know I'm overthinking it, but it's a curious trend, at any rate.
At least our bargain box hunters will be happy with all the new stock we're getting.
The last few days: