The Second Day.

§ June 18th, 2009 § Filed under Uncategorized § 1 Comment

Here come more answers, such as they are, to your questions. Read on, if you dare:

  • Derek B. Haas asks

    “Do you have a superior at Ralph’s? I’ve never quite understood if you’re a trusted employee, manager, or (although I suspect not on this one) part owner of the place.”

    Last time I did one of these question-and-answer sessions, someone asked me that, and I let folks know that yes indeedy, there is in fact a Ralph who owns the shop I’ve been managing lo these many years now. Unlike last time, however, I thought I’d provide an actual photo of the mysterious Ralph in his natural setting. Now, the two of us took a normal picture and a goofy picture, so, of course, here’s the goofy one:

    I didn’t shave for the photo. Neither did Ralph, apparently.

    Also, some of you may remember that Alan Light posted his photos of the 1982 San Diego Comic Con to his Flickr account a while back. Well, guess who’s in one of the photos?

    detail from a photo by Alan Light

    Yup, that’s Ralph. I’ve put together that old convention display board of his once or twice over the years. I think we even still have copies of that blue flyer posted in the lower right corner of the board.

    “All impressions are that the place would be lost without you, regardless!”

    Mostly just because I’m the only one who knows the passwords to all our online accounts. If I die unexpectedly, all the guys at the shop are screwed.

  • Alex wonders

    “Have you ever read the Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels? I ask because the new Darwyn Cooke hardcover adapting ‘The Hunter’ is dropping real soon, and I’m super stoked, and wondered if you might be too.”

    While I’m familiar with the names, from my old librarian years, I’ve not read any of his work. But if the comic adaptation excites the author’s fans the way it’s excited you, then I hope it does well!

  • Stanley very possibly opens a can of worms by asking

    “If I remember correctly, you had a hand in creating Anime Jack for The Rack webcomic. Whether or not that’s the case, who is the biggest ‘fan-atic’ you’ve encountered? Someone who just lives and breathes whatever they’re interested in, and by proxy must tell you ALL about it?”

    Yes, that is absolutely correct…I did guest-write the installment of The Rack that introduced “Anime Jack,” and you can see it right here. But sure what you want to do is find out how you can get your own print copy of this fine strip, and many others as well, in that convenient “paperback” format all the kids are raving about nowadays.

    I did come up with the name, Birdie the fantastic visual, and I’m thrilled to see Birdie and Kevin still use him from time to time. The character and situation is, as you may already have guessed, based on Real Life Events.

    To address your actual question, let me relate to you a story I may have told before, but likely bears repeating. One particular person in his early to mid 20s, who may or may not have been an inspiration for Anime Jack, was obsessed with one specific anime property. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say it was Naruto. It wasn’t, I promise, but it’s close enough. Anyway, this fellow would talk about Naruto to the exclusion of anything else while in the shop. If another customer even so much as glanced sideways at the manga section, our Naruto fan would immediately start trying to talk up said customer about the virtures of Naruto. He would stand by the register and try to talk to the employees and anyone coming up to the register about Naruto. In short, he drove us crazy.

    Let’s now focus on a particular Christmas season. I was at a Major Department Store in a local mall, desperately searching out gifts. As I was walking through the crowds, I espied at a distance our Naruto fan talking to customers, a 20-ish couple, by one of the store’s counters. I noticed that the fan was wearing a nametag for the Major Department Store. Hey, the fan got a job! An actual job with some measure of responsibility and nothing at all to do with Naruto! Good for him!

    I walked closer. I was able to see the expressions on the couple’s faces…that of a strained politeness. I could hear what the fan was talking to them about.

    Yes indeedy, it was Naruto.

    Now, a brave and kind man, especially one who has had prior experience in dealing with this type of fannish obsession, could possibly have stepped in and edged our fan away from the precipice, and nudged our hapless couple toward safety.

    I, on the other hand, suddenly became very interested in the sock display on the other side of the store and got the hell out of there. Hey, I’ll put up with the guy as part of my job, but I ain’t doin’ it for free.

  • Just Some Guy wonders

    “Is it possible for the comic book industry to grow again? Or will the remaining big publishers continue to spin their wheels until the fan base shrinks enough and prices rise enough to finally be unsustainable? Will the whole thing pop like a soap bubble in a matter of months or will it be a long slow bleed out (assuming we’re not at that point already)?”

    I think it’s possible, surely…you never know when someone will come out with that One Comic that’ll grab everyone’s attention, and unlike the usual short-lived sales bump created by stunts like “The Death of Captain America” (which get customers for that comic and nothing else, especially not “The Return of Captain America”), maybe this new audience would find other works of value within the medium. And retailers and publishers alike, having learned their lesson from the short-term exploitations of the collectors’ mentality, and the subsequent crash of the market, will attempt to grow the audience and their interest in their publications organically, reasonably, without pandering to greed or obsession.

    And perhaps in the process I can sprout a brass band out of my butt that will play a ska version of Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra upon demand.

    So in other words, I don’t know that it’s very likely that we’ll see a sudden growth in the comics marketplace. Things are slowly healing, though with some bumps along the way, but I have a hard time seeing the market being the juggernaut (relatively speaking) it once was. It’ll survive, I think, but it’s going to take some serious changes on the part of retailers and publishers. Perhaps that would make a good topic for a future, more detailed, post. Let me dwell on that.

  • Julius Brown queries

    “Do you think DC really has any faith that the Red Circle and Milestone characters have a chance of selling well or are they just trying to take up more shelf space?”

    I’m sure neither DC nor any publisher puts anything out hoping it won’t sell well. They probably always hope for a huge hit, but I’m guessing that from the get-go on any new project they have a pretty good idea how it may be received and what sales levels they can reasonably expect. Now this Red Circle thing has J. Michael Straczynski involved, and his work usually sells okay in the direct market and generally gets some attention. Plus, there is some slight…well, very slight, nostalgia value in these properties, even if just from people who remember the Impact comics line instead of the original Archie-published comics.

    And the Milestone titles were, during their time, well-regarded and good mid-range sellers, so there’s still some life in those properties, I think. Reintroducing them via other DC titles is a good idea, but I think they’re still strong enough to give a solid comic rack showing.

    Though it probably wouldn’t hurt for DC to grab back some of that rack space Marvel’s been gobbling up. I haven’t done an exact count, but I think in general Marvel has at least 2 new issues every week for everyone 1 DC gets out. At least, that’s what it feels like sometimes.

  • Andrew Davison asks many a thing:

    “Finally read ‘All Star Superman 1-12’ due to your comments, and loved it. Quite possibly it’s replaced ‘Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow’ as my favourite.

    I’ve heard ‘Superman for All Seasons’ is another strong contender for ‘best’. Any comments?”

    Superman for All Seasons is a good one, a solid effort by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. While Sale’s giant-faced Superman does take some getting used to, the art in general is very open and beautiful, and gets across a good sense of the wonder that the Superman comics often forget about. Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s Secret Identity (about a normal person in a normal world, named Clark Kent, suddenly gaining super-powers) is another nice once to give a shot. A very thoughtful and well-illustrated work.

    “What happened to Warren Ellis’ in your sidebar links?”

    Sometimes the sidebar links get moved around or edited, for various reasons.

  • Jonboy says

    “Do you have any idea where I can find a copy of Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #29? Been looking for it for a couple years now to no avail. Driving me crazy.”

    I checked our stock, and the highest number we had of this series was #16. I’m sure #29 is out there somewhere…it was nearing the end of the series, so sales and print tuns were likely low. Good luck, my friend!

  • Super-Rob ironically asks

    “Non-superhumans only (like, you know- in case the meta-gene and all magic goes bad or whatever): Nick Fury, Jon Sable, The Question, Rorschach, Karate Kid, Green Arrow, and I’ll throw in Wildcat for kicks. Batman and Captain America are dead. Who would you put on YOUR team? (And if you really need to, you can prop Cap and Bats’ dead bodies up in the corner of the room for inspiration.)”

    Well, we knew Cap wasn’t going to stay dead, and while the characters in the books think he’s dead, we know Batman is still alive!

    Now, am I supposed to be putting together a team to take on your team? That’s probably not what you meant, but let’s try that anyway. So let’s go with…oh, the Punisher, Shang-Chi, Archie Comics’ Moose Mason, Rick Jones, the Badger, and all of them backed with the finances of Richie Rich. LET’S GO.

  • Bully the Little Stuffed Bull posits

    “Ernst Stavros Blofeld versus The Michelin Man. Who would win?”

    I’d have to go with the Michelin Man. I think he’d always bounce back.

  • Andrew Leal asks

    “Related to the queries about your recommendations and what sells and what customers ask for, how much call does your store get for ‘funny’ funny books or at least non superheroic (vintage John Stanley Lulu, Sluggo, Melvin etc., Carl Barks, the better Archie, those weirdo Dells based on TV sitcoms)?”

    We do carry lots of this material, so we do a good amount of business in this material. We’re heavy on Disney and Archie, and those get gone through on a pretty regular basis. So there’s still demand for it out there!

    “And a rider: I think this also came up in a previous Q&A bout, but what would you recommend of recent books (especially if there are any series, not trades) that are genuinely, *intentionally* funny (and no, I don’t mean All Star Batman or anything like that; light reading preferred but not utterly mandatory)? Since I’m the kind of guy that goes into a comic store seeking Howie Post Little Audrey or asking ‘Get any “My Friend Irma” in lately?'”

    My mind always blanks when I get asked about stuff like this…I know it’s out there, but I can never call up names when I need to. But let’s see…there are old stand-bys like Groo (new series in the works, apparently), and the occasional issue of Amelia Rules, and the standard Archies and Cartoon Network tie-ins, if your tastes run in that direction. There was an attempt at getting Ralph Snart up ‘n’ running again, Knights of the Dinner Table is funny (if aimed at a very specific demographic), and there are examples out there of humorous adventure books (like Girl Genius). And there’s more I’m sure I’m forgetting. But they’re out there!

  • Pal Dorian jerks my chain a little with

    “What does it sound like when doves cry?”

    It sounds like when I’m too demanding, and you’re never satisfied.

    “How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?”


    “What becomes of the broken hearted?”

    They just kinda walk around and whine a lot about tumbling fruits of love and stuff like that.

    “What has it gots in its pocketses?”

    A baby’s arm holding an apple.

  • Tom Spurgeon terrifies me by asking

    “Do this month’s DM charts prove a Sterling Effect has hit Watchmen?”

    Oh God, I hope you’re the only person calling it that. Anyway, Tom’s referring to my constant experience with comics sales as tied to their movie tie-ins…in particular, that if there’s a sales bump, it’s almost always before the film’s release, to be followed by a paucity of sales following the release. In my case, Watchmen, formerly a consistent seller, peaked prior to the film coming out, and then stopped selling at all since then.

    There are plenty of reasons for this. Other bookstores carrying the book (though it doesn’t look like they’re selling any either), interest dropped off after overexposure in mass media, the local potential audience is saturated, or whatever, and it takes time for demand to build up again. And I’ve been in contact with stores in other parts of the country where Watchmen is still selling, so maybe it simply varies region by region.

    I don’t have numbers or even chart rankings right in front of me, unfortunately…the “archive” section of Diamond’s website doesn’t seem to be working at the moment…but for May 2009, the Watchmen TP is near the bottom of the Top 300 Graphic Novels sales list. Again, it’s probably just oversaturation…a ton of copies entered the marketplace over the last few months…so a dip in orders is to be expected. If things are still the same in a year or so, and we still haven’t moved many copies, then that may be a point where worry should set in a bit.

  • And from Keith K:

    “Question time, would not be complete without some more important questions pertaining to the secret master of Mike Sterling’s sucess: Employee Aaron.
    After seeing a picture of employee Aaron, I have one question: Why is he so short? Can he get any shorter? (sorry, two questions). Do you wear platform shoes in order to tower over Aaron (who I suspect is of a normal vertical dimension)? Sorry, three.”

    Aaron’s not short; he’s simply conserving space in this overpopulated world by shedding unnecessary height. Also, compared to my towering, imposing 6′ 7″ height, he can’t help but look small.

    Okay, okay, I’m not all that tall either. But it’s not like Aaron is a leprechaun or anything. He’s a good height. He’s just tall enough for his feet to reach the ground when he stands.

    Anyway, here’s another photo for you Aaron fans, this time posing with the one person in the shop he towers over:

That’s enough for today. More tomorrow, hopefully!

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