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I’m sure I’ve mentioned the giant stack of Amazing Spider-Man #129s we used to have, too.

§ September 4th, 2019 § Filed under batman, retailing § 3 Comments


Used to be I’d see these on a pretty regular basis at the former place of employment…copies of Batman #181 from 1966, featuring the first appearance of Poison Ivy, used to stack up on us. They were plentiful, they were not terribly expensive (particularly in the conditions they were usually found), and generally had copies available for anyone who happened by and asked for one.

Which is why I was a tad surprised when, after I received the copy pictured above in a collection, sold it within literally a minute after posting it to the store Instagram account. But then, the time of Batman #181s aplenty that I was reminiscing about above was sometime in the early to mid 1990s. The comic was only about 30 years old then. It’s closer to a fifty year old comic now.

Age, of course, isn’t the sole attribute determining a comic book’s demand and/or value, as anyone who’s had to respond to the assertion “it’s old, it has to be worth something” knows. But age can impact availability…the more time passes, the more older comics like these get absorbed into collections, or outright destroyed. Particularly nowadays, with the new influx of collectors seeking “key” issues, items with significant importance to the hobby (like, say, the first appearance of o villain for a major superhero character) are snapped up in short order, particularly if they’re “raw” (i.e. not already slabbed in those plastic cases with an “official” condition grade) and reasonably priced (as my copy here was, in my humble opinion).

Not to say they’re hard to find, which I realize I have been saying. You probably can’t swing a dead Catwoman around on the eBays without hitting a half-dozen or more of Batman #181s, sealed up in those cases and premium-priced. But the days of finding stacks of them, unslabbed, like at my old job back in ye olden tymes, are, if not gone entirely, at least far less common than they used to be.

That’s a lot of typing just to say “tempus fugit,” but fugit tempus does, and with me entering my 31st year of comics retail this month, I just got to thinking about how things have changed in this business. I mean, not big things, like “there’s only one distributor now” and “remember when comics used to sell” but minor shifts in collecting habits and back issue supply, like I was saying in all that stuff up there.

All the news that’s fit to get around to eventually.

§ June 24th, 2019 § Filed under atlas, batman, dc comics, publishing § 4 Comments

Okay, first off, right now it looks like everyone’s all “woo-hoo, it’s the 30th anniversary of that first Tim Burton Batman movie starring Prince” and I’ll have you know I’m so ahead of the game, I posted about that film for its 28th anniversary! Take that, Batty-come-latelies! Anyway, I even created a special category for those posts where I talk about my retail memories of that exciting time when the words on everyone’s lips were “Mr. Mom is Batman!?” so be sure to click on that link there and bask in the nostalgia.

Now, one of the problems of doing a comics blog that updates usually about three times a week (or less, depending on which of my eyeballs has exploded this time) is that I don’t tend to concern myself with the day-to-day Hot Comical News that’s all the rage on your Mastodon incidents and no other short-form social media sites. I figure everyone else has got it covered, no one’s coming to my site for anything hot off anybody’s presses, they’re coming here to see me talk about Frank Miller’s The Spirit or Swamp Thing or whatever. I mean, after Journalista folded, I tried once or twice to do big ol’ linkblogs to “hey here’s what’s going on” but quickly learned that was the sort of thing I enjoyed seeing other people do, not, you know, do myself.

But occasionally things come up that I have to say something about, like this relatively old but surprising news that the Seaboard/Atlas Comics of the 1970s, mostly notable for launching big then, um, flaming out, have been optioned for movie/TV deals. And I gotta be honest, my first thought when I heard that was “every single other comic book thing must have been taken” — and please don’t take that the wrong way. I adore those Atlas Comics. I’ve written on and off about collecting them here on the site…and I’m about 80% of the way to having a full collection, so this movie news kinda irks me a bit in that I’m sure the issues I still need will suddenly get cranked up in price.

But back to my point that this seemed like a really strange thing to do. And that’s coming from someone who does like these comics. I’d love to see what they’d do with a Grim Ghost movie, for example, even though the reaction would likely be “that’s just a rip-off of Spawn!” grom the grandparents in the audience old enough to remember the Spawn movie. I mean, I guess some characters might be fun to see in live-action…in discussing this with a customer he mentioned that seeing Morlock 2001 on the big screen would be something else, and by God I can’t disagree. And I think Ironjaw would be kind of amazing as well. So, who knows, I shouldn’t judge too harshly. It’s still pretty surprising…who saw that coming?

Another thing announced a little more recently was the impending return of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and there are a bunch of reports about it on the Googles, but I’ll link to this one because it talks about some tie-in Flight Ring replica merch. I mean, good, I’m all for a new Legion series…they’ve been teasing the Legion, after an extended newsstand absence, in Doomsday Clock, but it’ll be nice to just have a full-on Legion of Super-Heroes title on the stands again.

That said, I don’t know if I’ll be back for it, personally. I hope it does well, I hope it gets a new audience that’ll stick with it and not peter off after a year or two, requiring yet another relaunch. I stuck with the Legion books for a long time, and enjoyed them best I could, but finally gave up after relaunch and reboot and re-whatevers…I didn’t pick up the New 52 titles, and frankly I don’t think I ever finished reading the last couple of issues of the incarnation just prior to that.

The thing that might get me to try it out is 1) the artist, Ryan Sook, seems well-suited to the title, and 2) I have enjoyed the writing of Brian Michael Bendis on the Superman titles, and his take on the Legion may be…”modern” enough, for a loack of a better term, to get the attention of current comic fans, and maybe break the perception that the Legion is a relic of an older time in comics. Well, when you get right down to it, all superheroes are relics of an older time in comics, but anyway.

Like I said, I hope it does well, and I hope it lasts a long, long time, in a marketplace where publishers don’t keep their comics running for a long, long time. One of the things that appealed to me about the Legion was the idea that there was a line you could draw from that first appearance in Adventure Comics #247 in the 1950s to the (then) current pre-first reboot issues. That the “Five Years Later” Legion was the same Legion that had, at one point, had to deal with the Fatal Five or the Super Moby Dick of Space or whathaveyou. That the characters and relationships and such had a continuity to them, a history, that you could see where they’d come from and wonder where they were going. (See also “X-Men.”)

That’s not a feeling that’s going to be replicated in a new series, I realize. Too much water under the bridge, too much resistance to giving readers a new book with a steep learning curve and the idea that “you’ve already missed a lot of what’s happened.” Not saying a new Legion can’t been good, just saying it’s not going to give me that ineffable essence of what I enjoyed about the original Legion, which can’t be helped.

Okay, I typed too much and my eyes need their beauty sleep, but let me just touch upon DC’s recent reorganization of their publishing imprints. We’re down to just plain ol’ DC for their main line, DC Kids for kids what read the DC, and “DC Black Label,” which basically replaces the to-be-shuttered mature-readers, occaionally creator-owned Vertigo label. That makes sense, I suppose…DC’s Black Label books have been a sales success of late, whereas the Vertigo brand doesn’t move books like it used to, just by virtue of having “Vertigo” on the cover. I’m sad to see it go, given Vertigo outlived the other similar imprints from DC and Marvel, like “Helix” and “Icon” and…does “Barkerverse” count as an imprint? Let’s say it does, just to annoy you.

I guess that’s fine, which I’m sure relieves DC to no end. But I kind of wish the Vertigo label would stick around, but if a whole series of Sandman-related titles couldn’t revive it sufficiently for DC’s tastes, I guess that’s that. Gonna be strange seeing the Black Label logo on preacher and whatnot. I do wonder what’s going to happen to the Young Animal imprint…I presume that’s Black Label now, though the “Young Animal” thing actually does get in new readers looking specifically for those. I haven’t read every news story on the topic, so I presume somebody covered this somewhere. Same with “Wonder Comics” Maybe the new imprints will have sub-imprints? EDIT:: Yes apparently so.

Oh, and in other news, the Swamp Thing TV show is still canceled. The jerks.

Gonna party like it’s 1989.

§ May 22nd, 2019 § Filed under batman, collecting, retailing, this week's comics § 2 Comments

So I haven’t said a whole lot about new comics and mags lately, mostly because, due to current eyeball issues, I can’t really read comics and mags at the moment. As such, I’m building up bit of a backlog of recent goodies at home, on top of the backlog I already had, for me to attempt to plow though once my peepers are in order. Therefore I’ve been trying to be a little pickier about what I set aside for myself, though sometimes I can’t resist a certain special something.

What I definitely don’t need to be taking home for eventual reading are those magazines with articles and interviews about comics past, like Back Issue…a fine publication, but it just takes me forever to get 1) to them, and 2) through them, so I try to make sure it’s got something I really want to read about…especially right now, as who knows when I’ll finally have good enough vision to properly absorb them.

That said, they just got me for two issues in a row. The previous issue, #112, had a special focus on “nuclear heroes,” with a cover and feature on DC’s Firestorm, a character whose comics I very much enjoyed throughout the 1980s. I always like learning more about the comics I read as a somewhat-younger Mikester, so that’s how they got me there.

Issue #113, the one pictured above, came out this week, with its focus on the 30th anniversary release of the first Tim Burton Batman film, and all the Bat-hoohah and goings-on in the comics industry at the time. As some of you may recall, because I keep bringing it up, there were two major events I had to deal with shortly after I first entered the world of comics retail way back in September of 1988. One was “The Death of Robin,” and the phone calls and large number of walk-ins we had involving that. The other was, of course, that very Bat-film, and the huge explosion of interest in comics that ensued.

I talked a lot — and I mean a lot — about this film and its impact on the business about a year and a half back (here are links to that particular series of posts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 — and that is a whole lot to take in, but at least check out Wayne’s anecdote at the end of post #9. Trust me on this). But anyway, this issue of Back Issue is hitting the double-nostalgia chord with me…not just learning more about the Bat-comics I read at that time, of which, like most comic fans around then, I read a bunch. It’s also reminding me of a simpler time of comics retail, when I was just a teen, or barely out of my teens, manning a register and shuffling around comics and, okay, it’s not that different from what I do now, but I’m also paying the bills and placing the orders and just plain keeping the doors open. Not like back then, when I just had to focus on ringing up custmers and talking about comics and reading comics without also worrying about owning an actual business. I miss those days sometimes…but overall, I prefer what I’m doing now.

Put these in the live action movies, you cowards.

§ January 30th, 2019 § Filed under batman, cartoons § 6 Comments

So on the DC Universe streaming service, I decided to try once more to brave the 1970s New Adventures of Batman cartoon, featuring the voicework of Best Batman, Adam West, and also featuring the character Bat-Mite, that I wish I could’ve heard the producers explaining to West once he was on the job.

Anyway, it’s hard to top this nightmare fuel, but…well, okay, this episode (“Birds of a Feather Fool Around Together”) didn’t even come close, but it did have a couple of points of interest.

First, this character, Gigi:


…the Pneguin’s partner in crime, and is basically a female Penguin. She’s got the body shape, she has the nose…was she supposed to be, like, his sister or something? Or does Penguin have a type, and that type is, um, himself? I suppose that would fit his ego an’ all, but perhaps best on to dwell on it.

Most interestingly, she basically has the voice of Harley Quinn. No, really, check it out on the service or on a non-YouTubian video site (unless you want to drop $1.99 to watch this on YouTube)…it’s uncanny the similarity. Found that amusing, is all.

Second thing of note…the Penguin’s car:

Oh, did I mention the Penguin’s ego? Holy cow, Penguin’s makin’ sure everyone knows he’s headed their way to commit some bird crimes.

Oh great, I’m going to have to make sure I have both the direct and newsstand editions of all my Swamp Thing comics.

§ November 30th, 2018 § Filed under batman, collecting, retailing § 3 Comments

So I may have been a little quick to dismiss the whole “direct market vs. newsstand editions” thing from the other day. Let’s start with this comment emailed to me by Reader John:

“I wanted to add another distinction in the direct market vs newsstand discussion. It’s my understanding that some collectors (or perhaps they’re speculators) prefer newsstand copies released after 1988 or so because of a belief that the newsstand copies are rarer and thus more valuable (especially in higher grades since those tend to get mangled on the racks as you pointed out on Twitter). You can see this in the asking prices of auctions for Spawn #1 on eBay.

“Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that whether a comic has a UPC or an ad/Spidey head in a white box on the cover can affect the value of that book. For that matter, I also think that the presence of a jewelry ad insert should not add value to a comic either, but apparently some collectors do.

“Interestingly, there is one small subset where a logo instead of an UPC is considered more valuable by certain collectors. In the mid 90’s, after DM copies had UPC’s, DC did some multipacks sold outside of the direct market. The comics included in these had a DC Universe logo in the UPC box. I once had someone offer me $100 for an issue of pre-Zero Hour Legionnaires (I don’t think it was even one of the Adam Hughes covers, but I might be wrong.) just because of that logo!

“Off the record, I took his $100 and used it to purchase several mid-grade silver age Adventure issues.

“Thank you for taking the time to read this!”

Some of these points were also brought up by other commenters on Wednesday’s post, and Thelonious_Nick pointed out this page on the Mile High Comics site which goes into detail regarding their handling of newsstand comic pricing. And the reason I even mentioned it on Twitter in that link I edited into John’s comment above was that, totally coincidentally, one of my regular customers brought up the very topic to me at the shop, mentioning how newsstand editions are often harder to find in higher conditions due to poor customer handling and/or lack of attention from the sellers, as opposed to stores run by annoyances like me who are all “AUGH! Don’t bend the comics!”

As John noted, I just haven’t had that much experience with folks specifically looking for newsstand editions versus the direct market editions (specifically those just differing in their UPC codes or lack thereof). That’s just a clientele I haven’t noticed over the years, and as I’ve repeatedly reminded any of you who happen to glance my way, I’ve been doing this for many, many years. Okay, it could be collectors are seeing those out on the sly, not cluing in your pal Mike that’s what they’re after in the off-chance I’d decide to bump up the price on said books (…who, me?). But after all this time I figure at least someone would put in a request like that, pulling a comic out of the bins and asking “do you have the newsstand version of this?”

Also brought up in the comments by Nicholas is the fact that sometimes the direct market editions of certain comics would have some extra art ‘n’ such in the UPC box, replacing the missing UPC code. Usually it would be filled with company-promoting slogans like “The New DC! Stop Us Before We Kill Again” or “Have You Read This Crossover Yet? C’mon, What, You’re Too Good for It?” But as was mentioned as an example, Todd McFarlane would often fill the UPC box with extra bits of art, which could make the direct editions a little more appealing to the Spidey fan.

This has given me something to think about, or at least pay closer attention to, as you might imagine. I’ve spent a long time with the assumption stuck in my head that there’s no real difference between the two versions if the only difference is the presence of a UPC code. Well, I guess that isn’t necessarily the case. I don’t know that I’ll be going through and raising prices on my newsstand variations, but at least now I’m a little more aware of the phenomenon.

• • •

I saw discussion here and there online that it’s the 30th anniversary of the whole “Death of Robin” call-in-and-vote Batman thing, and I just wanted to point out that this was the first major regular-public-attracting comics event I had to deal with from behind the counter, rather than as a the mere mortal comics fan I was just a few mere weeks prior. I think I’ve spoken before about how I don’t have quite the recall of this hoohar that I do of the not-that-much-later “Death of Superman,” but I certainly remember the phone calls and the concerned walk-ins and so on. Speaking of newsstand versus direct editions, the version of Batman #427 had the phone number to call to vote on Robin’s fate, and the newsstand edition didn’t. Either version still flies out the door, regardless.

I think “The Violence and the Vulgarity” was my prom theme.

§ October 22nd, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing, question time, retailing § 3 Comments

I’ll get back to the topic of extended breaks in ongoing series (1 and 2) shortly, but I wanted to get a couple more questions ahead if at all possible:

William opens the gate to the following:

“Let’s talk about that evergreen topic, The Bat Penis.

“Maybe I’m cynical, but it seems like the image was provided just to garner controversy (and sales) for that issue. The image does not play into the plot, and is basically superfluous. It’s only there to either satisfy the kinks of the creators or stir up word of mouth and demand, which if it was the latter, it did magnificently.

“My question is this. I know you touched on this briefly in your post on the subject, but, as a retailer, do you feel that DC left you out to dry in this case. I am old enough to remember the Friendly Frank’s raid when it was current events, and while a lot of things changed since then, a lot of things stayed the same. I know the book was advertised as mature readers from the get go, but it seems DC didn’t let retailers in on just how ‘mature’ the book really was. And there is a difference between ‘expletive-laden’ mature readers and ‘Let’s look at the Batwang’ mature readers, and parent would be far more upset if the latter landed in their kids hands.

“I’m just wondering if you wish DC was more upfront about what the mature content was beforehand or if it didn’t really make a difference. I’m not a censorship guy, but an informed retailer can better avoid any potential legal entanglements that might cause. I’m curious on your opinion on the matter.”

So I’ve been watching that new Titans series on the DC Universe streaming channel, and…well, if you’ve been following my Twitterings, you’ve probably seen a few of my comments on the show. Overall, I do like it, but it does inspire a bit of eyerolling when they lay on the violence and the vulgarity. Especially in that one scene from the premiere episoide, the one that made it into the pilot, with Robin, um, expressing his opinion about his former crime-fighting partner. What I tweeted was

“Yes, in context Robin’s ‘F Batman’ line is totally gratuitous and tacked on as the buzz-creating ‘everyone will talk about this’ free advertising moment it was meant to be.”

Okay, maybe when they were writing this scene, they were simply intent on making this as “adult” and “gritty” as possible, and that meant the occasional f-bomb…but they still put that scene into the trailer, knowing full well that would engender some controversy and get mouths yappin’ and fingers typin’ about this new TV show.

That I think was an intentional usage of unexpected “mature” content to garner attention. I honestly don’t think Full-Frontal Bruce in Batman: Damned was the same situation. I don’t know the specific reasons why they decided to include that image (if the creators were interviewed about that topic, I haven’t seen it) but my guess is that they took this new “mature readers” “almost anything goes” imprint at DC to heart and, well, went for it. I could see ’em saying “mature imprint, huh? Let’s see if THIS gets past the editor” and then a while later: “oh dang it did.”

I don’t think I was blindsided by the image…I knew it was a mature readers title, and granted, the image itself it relatively minor…silhouetted, almost easy to miss, not like other popular comic book penises like Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan. His Lower Manhattan just popped up (heh) in DC’s Big Event Series Doomsday Clock, and seems more like a thing (ahem) than Batman’s deal. I think exposed wedding tackles fit well within the subject matter covered by the “mature readers” label. Now if there were explicit close-up images of Tab A being inserted into Slot B, that’d be a different story…one likely published by Avatar or Boundless.

I don’t think I felt legal problems were potentially a threat here…I mean, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund still exists for a reason, but the naughty Batman comic probably received more jokes about it on late night talk shows than actual complaints from concerned citizens. Raina Telgemeier’s publisher probably receives more letters from uptight parents about her graphic novels per week than the whole of DC does all year. Superheroes are “mainstreamed” now, and I think enough people have been exposed to tie-in media where Batman says “shit” or where Deadpool gets, um, rogered roundly, or where Robin says “fuck Batman” that the idea of an adult-oriented comic book isn’t quite the foreign idea it once was. I’m not saying problems wouldn’t, or don’t, happen, just that Batman: Damned probably wasn’t going to open those particular floodgates.

Not that I shouldn’t be careful, of course. Keep the Bondage Fairies off he kids rack an’ all that.

So let’s rap about Batman’s penis.

§ September 24th, 2018 § Filed under batman § 6 Comments

So when I initially ordered Batman: Damned, there were a couple of points against it that kept my orders on the conservative side:

First, its dimensions. It’s larger than your standard issue comical book. It is, for all intents and purposes, a graphic novel, a nearly-identical format to the Marvel and DC graphic novels from the 1980s. 8 1/2 by 11 inches and thin. Magazines and magazine-sized comics are generally harder sells.

Second, the price. Yes, okay, cover prices are creeping up (the coming Uncanny X-Men relaunch has a $7.99 price tag on the first issue, egads) but price is still a factor, Raise that price, lower those sales expectations.

On the plus side, it’s a strong creative team, and the book was bound to look gorgeous. It’s the opening salvo from a new DC Comics imprint. It’s Batman. It’s John Constantine. All factors that can push those numbers up.

Thus, a couple months ago, and again a few weeks back when I had the opportunity to rejigger those numbers, I decided what I was going to order and that was that. Not terribly high, but it certainly seemed like plenty to me, based on my customer base ond likely demand.

Then last Wednesday came along, and throughout the day the book sold about how I had expected it to sell. It moved briskly, and at some point in the day I decided to put in a reorder for some more copies, as once I’d actually seen the final product and saw how my customers responded to it, I figured it had some legs and was good for more sales. My assumption was that it would be treated as a trade paperback by the publisher, kept on the backlist for the foreseeable future, but I wanted to grab a few more while it was still currently available, rather than wait for DC to go back to press after the eventual sellout.

I was left with one copy at the end of the day. And then the phone calls began.

As you’ve probably heard, there’s a scene in the comic featuring a fully-nude Batman (or Bruce Wayne, I guess…feels funny to call him Batman without the Bat-costume) that reveals his…well, look, it’s totally his penis. Obscured by shadows, yes, but there it is, regardless. Holy short arm inspection!

After this particular bonus content was noticed, DC quickly announced that the Batpole would be stricken from digital editions and all future reprints. And of course, being comics, you know what that means. INSTANT COLLECTIBLE.

Probably a good 95% of the phone calls received at the store since Thursday morning have been people asking for Batman: Damned #1. Sunday I think I had only one call that wasn’t someone asking for that comic. The majority of those calls were not from anyone that I recognized, so the plus side is that new folks are seeking out comic shops and finding me, America’s Most Powerful and Beautiful Comic Shop Owner. The downside is, of course, not having that book they want. And they’re not wanting any future editions that may come down the pike…they want that first printing.

Now the reordered batch (ahem) I’m expecting is all pretty much already spoken for. Assuming of course they show up not damaged, which is sometimes the trick with these shipments. I mean, beyond folks looking for the aforementioned INSTANT COLLECTIBLE, there are those who may have been waiting to buy the story once it was completed and collected into a final edition, or were on the fence about picking it up, or whathaveyou, but were goosed into action by realizing if they wanted the uncensored version, they’d better grab it now. And I understand the impulse…when I finally got around to buying a CD copy of “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking,” I didn’t want the U.S. version with the stupid and insulting black box over (gasp) a lady’s naked bottom, I wanted the cover that didn’t treat me like an idiot, so I had to hunt around for the Canadian release.

So anyway, in the true Streisand Effect fashion, by trying to hide Batman’s Boy Wonder, DC has only drawn even more attention to it, even to the point of the comic being mocked on late night talk shows, and the brave new launch of an upscale line of serious comic books has been reduced to a vector for dick jokes. I know, I’m not innocent, there’s a couple in this post right here, but the whole situation is ridiculous, it’s hard (ahem) not to make fun of it. But I guess at least people are laughing at it rather than saying “LOOK AT WHAT THEY’RE SELLING TO KIDS, WE MUST BAN COMICS” though that’s probably out there too. There’s always somebody.

On a related note: I sure sold a lot of magazine-sized bags and boards on Wednesday.

Oh, and I found yet another Death of Superman thing while looking up stuff for today’s entry, but it can wait ’til next time.

§ August 29th, 2018 § Filed under batman, death of superman § 4 Comments


Reader Allan asks:

“I actually would like to hear your thoughts on the whole Knightfall/Quest/End saga if you haven’t already done so.”

Thiis is of course asked in response to my last post, where I once again talked too much about the death of Superman and wrapped it up with a partial scan for Knightfall pogs…er, “Skycaps.”

For the uninitiated, the whole Knightfall/Quest/End/Epilogue/Sorta-Sequel/Constant-Visual-References-to-Bane-Breaking-Batman hoohar involved Batman, in an event not at all inspired by dollar signs appearing in DC’s eyes with an accompanying “ka-CHING” sound after the Death of Superman took off, getting his back broken by new baddie Bane (pictured in that giant scan above), and then being replaced by Cyborg Superman new sorta-goodie character Azrael while he recovered. And then the whole Knightquest and Knightsend thing was about Bruce Wayne continuing to recover and eventually attempting to reclaim the Batman identity from Azrael, who turned out to not be tempermentally suited for the job, as I recall.

Okay, I don’t honestly know if Doomsday moneymoneymoney goosed DC along into having a similar situation involving Batman, as that scan above came from the same solicitation catalog as all that “Death of Superman” promotional material I featured last time. Granted, that was just introducing the Bane character, and I haven’t any idea if “the breaking of the Bat” was a planned thing at this point, or even planned to be as big a thing as it turned out being, taking over the Batbooks for as long as it did.

But whatever the reason, ’twas the season for replacing superheroes, I suppose, and Classic Batman was knocked out of the picture and New Coke Batman stepped in and that was that. Now, as to what I personally think about it…

…Well, to be honest, I really don’t have the memories or experiences of even particularly the interest in maintaining an informal history of sorts of the Knightfall event, like I’ve been with Superman’s temporary demise. Now, I read at least all of Knightfall (where Bane plans out, and eventually succeeds in, the defeat of Batman), and probably most of the following Knightquest series, but I’m about 97% positive that I checked out before the concluding Knightsend issues of the Batman comics had proceeded too far along.

Now, don’t get me wrong on the “interest” part. I don’t mean “I’m not interested in talking about this,” what I’m trying to say is “I wasn’t that interested in Batman to keeps tabs on or revisit the story.” I’m not even sure I have any particular retailing memories of the Knightfall event. I know the Vengeance of Bane comics still sell. I know this specific issue featuring you-know-what still has significant demand. And this one cover featuring Catwoman is always popular for…reasons.

Basically, most of my thoughts and memories surrounding this event is more involved with the decades-later back issue market aftermath, as well as the current semi-popularity of the trade paperback collections. I can very easily remember events of the day when Superman #75 was released. Couldn’t tell you a thing about what happened when Batman #497 came out. I mean, I know it sold well, but that’s pretty much it. No crazy rumors about issues selling for hugely-inflated prices, or about people buying copies by the truckload, or anything like that.

It’s weird that I’m drawing such a blank on it, but that’s just what happens, I guess. Death of Superman sticks out because that was the first really big EVENT I had to deal with upon entering the high stakes world of comics retail. Well, sure, there was the “vote to kill Robin” weird-ass promotion DC did, which I got behind the counter for just in time…I remember getting calls and questions about that. But that wasn’t a patch on Death of Superman, which was such an unusual event that memories of that were burnt into my brain’s ROM files, while the Knightfall shenanigans were just more high-selling comics in a boom market that lived in my brain’s RAM for a bit, until it got flushed out by the next thing I had to deal with.

I am surprised that we haven’t seen DC have a go at one of their animated movie adaptations of the storyline, though if the current “Death of Superman” multi-film series does well, “Knightfall The Cartoon” may not be long after. There was an episode of one of the Batman animated series which featured Bane, picking up some elements from the comics, but that’s pretty much it. Oh, and the live action movies, of course, where he appeared as Poison Ivy’s henchman in one, and then there was that other lesser film he was in.

Hmmm…okay, I probably still have a few more points to cover about all this, but I’m calling it a post for today, I’ll be back Friday with more excessive typing. Thanks for reading it, folks!

“Realistically.”

§ July 11th, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing § 9 Comments

In response to my not-at-all-about-Batman-#50 post from the other day, I’ve had a few folks here and there note that a “these characters get married!” comics event isn’t really the same as a “this character dies!” event, and, well, yeah, sure. There’s more of an implied permanence, I think, with marriage in comics, versus a death in a comic basically having the “well, how will our hero get out of this one?” question implied. (Though maybe that question is implied in the former situation as well…joking, I’m joking.)

However, to clarify my thoughts on the matter…I don’t think the nature of the event itself matters so much as the fact a specific event was specifically marketed and then not delivered. It’s kind of a moot point now, I suppose, as the initial sales window for Batman #50 has come and gone, and hopefully retailers managed to sell the majority of their copies that they almost certainly ordered large-ish numbers on. I mean, yes, realistically, Batman and Catwoman shouldn’t get married, such a major change to iconic characters may be too much…but then again, Superman and Lois Lane are married. And have a kid. And for that matter, Batman has a child as well. Those are all fairly significant changes to the status quo, so yet another marriage didn’t seem entirely out of the question. And besides, all these changes could be swept away in the next series of relaunches/reboots when everyone gets tired of dealing with them.

Like I said, no beef with the story itself, or the tie-in “Prelude to the Wedding” issues and whatnot. But the “invitation” postcards and retailers being encouraged to do in-store celebrations…that’s the sort of thing that seemingly should only be occurring with an event that’s actually happening, not “FAKE-OUT! Nothing’s changed!”

It reminds me in a little way of the Fantastic Four issue where it was promoted as a big deal character death (complete with putting the issue in a black polybag deliberately reminiscent of the “Death of Superman” issue) and it was reasonably clear within the story itself that there wasn’t really any death happening. I wrote about it way back when, and yeah, a character goes missing, and the rest of the team is bummed and thinking he’s dead, but…it just felt like marketing overhyping a minor plot line that would get resolved in short order. I mean, most character death stories are like that, I guess, but this one in particular. Under normal circumstances that issue would have been follwed by the next one emblazoned “THE SEARTH FOR THE HUMAN TORCH!” and then we’d have that goin’ on for four or five issues.

So that’s that. I know a lot of you agree with me that the Batman “event” build-up was misleading, which I appreciate. Everything sold great anyway, so yeah yeah, I know, what are you complaining about, Mike? I just hope it doesn’t encourage more fake-outs: “hey, if we just TELL them that Iron Man is going to lose a leg in isue #12 and then never actually do it…they’re still gonna buy it!”

Okay, no Batman marriage stuff in the next post…I mostly promise!

Spoilers for Batman #50.

§ July 6th, 2018 § Filed under batman § 15 Comments

So you’ve found out that Superman is about to be killed, fighting the alien monster known as Doomsday. Pretty wild, right? I mean, it seems pretty obvious that DC Comics wouldn’t actually kill off Superman…er, would they? There’s a lot of anticipation and promotion building up for the issue where the deed is done. It’s being talked about, not just in the fan press, but on actual real news programs on actual television. It’s popping up on talk shows, in newspapers. You decide…hey, you need a copy of that! You’d better get yourself to the local comic book emporium and…whoa, stand in line to get in? In a huge line? Wrapping around the building? Holy cow, this must be huge! You can’t wait to get your hands on it!

And finally, it’s yours! You were lucky enough to get a copy, and at cover price even, despite stores being caught very off guard by the immense demand for a comic they’d placed order numbers for about two or three months prior. And look at that bag! That solemn black bag with the bloody red “S” on the front…that’s gotta mean Superman is dead, right? Defying all laws of collectability, you tear open that bag, marveling at the black armband you can wear to mourn Superman’s passing, at the promotional trading card advertising the forthcoming “Death of Superman” set, at the stamps highlighting characters from this momentous event. All these geegaws and tchotchkes, produced specifically to support the idea that the Man of Steel is gone, sacrificing himself for the greater good.

But the story, the story…! How does it actually happen? Everyone and everything is telling you that Superman dies, but just how exactly does he die? You’d better sit down and read the darn thing…I mean, you opened the bag, might as well. And you pore over the story, flipping through splash page after splash page of this knock-down, drag-out battle with Doomsday, as Superman’s friends and family look on in worry and fear.

And then, there it is. The climactic moment…Superman and Doomsday unleash their mightiest blows upon each other, each felling their opponent with their final exertion of strength. Now, there they both are, silent and unmoving on the ground, the air still with shock from the onlookers. Lois rushes to Superman’s side, tears in her eyes…tears matching the ones in your own eyes as you turn to the story’s final page…

…Whereupon Superman opens his eyes, sits up, puts a firm hand on Lois’s shoulder, and reassures her “Oh, I’m fine, Lois…that was some battle, huh?” Superman then stands, as the crowd that had gathered around the scene lets out an exuberant cheer! “Thanks, everyone! But you’d better stand back while I and the good men and women of the Metropolis emergency services clean everything up! We’ll have our fine city back in tip-top shape in no time!” You look at the final image of the story, with Superman’s smiling face winking at you, the reader, with the concluding caption reading “NEVER the end!” scrolled along the bottom of the panel.

And you wonder…okay, this was pushed as the Death of Superman. All the promotion, all the ads and radio spots and news stories and the cardboard tombstone standees DC sent out, was around the idea that Superman dies. Stores were encouraged to participate in their own homegrown celebrations — or, rather, wakes — for Superman’s passing. And despite all that, despite the endless promises of his demise, no such thing happened. Not to say it was a bad comic, by any means. It was professionally done, entertaining, and presented a kind of extended physical conflict for Superman that was rarely seen in the comics. But, regardless, you feel a little bit like you experienced something of a bait-and-switch, where marketing promised you one thing, but the actual storytellers had something entirely different in mind. That maybe the story should just have been left to work out as it worked out, without the ultimately misleading promises that this was an “event,” an unprecedented occurrence in the Last Son of Krypton’s life, rather than simply another exciting adventure.

There can be red herrings, and fake-outs, and surprise endings in stories, and you think that’s fair play. That’s all part of storytelling. But you think it seems a bit unfair when the marketing pushes the story as being one kind of event, with the implied promise that if you follow that story, the event would be delivered. …Oh well, lesson learned, you’ll be a little more wary of the insidious workings of the hype machine next time. But honestly, what are the chances they’ll try something like this again?

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