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Yes, that one paragraph is a single sentence, I apologize.

§ August 28th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics § 10 Comments

Roel asks

“Hi Mike! If I wanted to understand current DC continuity, what is my best resource? Is there a website that would help clarify where things stand, and maybe point out key issues that can get me up to speed? Thanks for any suggestions!”

Hi Roel! Boy, that’s a doozy of a question, particularly when it comes to DC Comics and its shared superhero universe. Ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC continuity has been a patchwork mélange of refits, restarts and reboots, a constant schizophrenic scramble forwards yet backwards trying to put everything back in the original packaging while also simultaneously declaring their product “new!” and “improved!”

But even that continuity eventually felt generally smoothed out and consistent compared to the kicking-over-of-the-table “New 52” initiative, a publishing strategy that to all appearances was a last-second decision, so deleterious to DC’s universe that if it had been much planned ahead of release, one could be forgiven for thinking they were deliberately trying to reinvent and outdo the confusion that followed Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In fact, it was such a mess that DC was compelled to follow up with the linewide “Rebirth,” with more restarts and…maybe not so much “reboots,” but rejiggerings of characters and concepts across the board. Compared to the New 52, Rebirth felt like a little more thought was put into it, a little more care was taken to keep the things that worked, and to try to fix the things that didn’t work. Most notable, perhaps, was getting rid of the mostly* objectionable New 52 version of Superman and replacing him with the preferred post-Crisis/pre-New 52 one (to no small measure of irony to those of us who remember the negative reaction to that Superman’s introduction in the ’80s).

The ultimate overarching statement of “Rebirth” was “oh yeah, the New 52? That was actually Watchmen‘s fault” as explained in Doomsday Clock. When you write off a publishing initiative in-universe as the result of an attack by a “bad guy,” that certainly sends a message.

Now, my friend Roel, I know none of this really answers your question. All I’m trying to do is explain why your question is hard to answer. The best response I think to getting a handle on the current version of the DC Universe is maybe getting your hands on a copy of DC Universe Rebirth, the 80-page one-shot that kicked off what’s going on now. DC’s usually pretty good about publishing occasional one-shots that give you an idea where everyone’s at just prior to whatever event is about to happen (Countdown to Infinite Crisis was another). Now these one-shots are set-ups, of course, establishing mysteries and situations to be dealt with over the next year or four of DC Comics, but they do provide an overview of its universe as it stands At That Moment.

In DC Universe Rebirth‘s case, its eventual resolution in Doomsday Clock ended up not really resulting in anything of any impact on the mainline universe. The ballyhooed “return of the Legion of Super-Heroes” it was supposed to bring about already happened before the series concluded, for example. So, basically, you could read just this and not miss a whole lot.

If you wanted to jump into the DCU as it stands now, however, just jump in with whatever character you like, and eventually you’ll get an idea of whatever the prevailing continuity is, particularly in relation to whatever title you’re reading. Now, Justice League could be the most wide-ranging of the titles, as it should give you whatever the current accepted DC Universe versions of the primary superhero characters. You may or may not get specifics of each character from their own titles…like, maybe they’ll mention that Superman’s identity is now public, for example.

I mean, aside from that…perhaps your best bet is to not worry about continuity, and just enjoy the books you enjoy. Let continuity sort itself out. And chances are, with DC’s recent cuts and reorganizations, we could very well be heading to another “fixing” of DC’s publishing line. Maybe not an explicit reboot, but I’ve put my dime down on a reworking everything into a shape that’s a little more media-adaptation friendly, more accessible and less tied to the minutia of a shared universe.

Okay, you’d asked for websites that could set you straight. Well, frankly, I’d advise you to avoid all comic book content online as that way lies madness…surely reading my site has taught you that! But you can probably find some pretty good resources just by Googling “dc comics reading order” and you’ll get some folks who’ve already done the hard work of figuring out what to read and where.

And naturally there’s always Wikipedia. Not always perfect, but given the obsessive nature of the sort of comic fans who’d spend time editing Wikipedia articles, chances are they’d do a reasonable job explaining whatever recent histories of characters you’d need. FULL DISCLOSURE: this is coming from the fella who once edited the “Abby Arcane” Wiki page to correct the first appearance notation.

There are also specialized Wikis for purt’near everything. This DC Fandom Wiki would likely come in useful.

I’m sure there are more, and that friendly readers of this site will drop their suggestions in the comments. I hope this helps, Roel!
 
 

* Yes, the character did have some good moments, but never felt like he quite “gelled,” never really felt like Superman.

Honestly, I did wonder about the taller Dollar Books for a long time.

§ August 14th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics § 3 Comments

Wayne sallies forth with this query:

“…What are *your* memories of it as you heard from others (or read up on) over the years?”

I was born in 1969 (as the ever-changing tagline on my website might suggest) and while I did read various comics throughout the 1970s, I didn’t really start being a “comic collector” in earnest ’til 1980-1, aside from my short-lived attempt at getting each new Star Wars off the shelf. I was, what, 9 when the original DC Implosion happened in 1978, and since I was only picking up the occasional comic book here and there at the time (or badgering my parents into buying them for me) I wasn’t aware of it at all.

But how I became aware of it later…I’m not sure, honestly. It’s just one of those bits of background noise accumulated over the years as I read more comics and bought more back issues (usually from second-hand bookstores, then from actual comic shops). I don’t think I ever wondered “huh, there sure seemed to be a lot of comics that got canned around the same time” or anything.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would bet my first awareness of the DC Implosion came from spotting the Cancelled Comic Cavalcade entry in the Overstreet price guide. I remember getting my hands on one of the guides pretty early on and just poring through the thing, looking at all the different titles and the tiny black and white cover images that adorned each page. That must be where I first learned of a mass cancellation of books at DC, seeing that there were limited run collections of the unpublished comics.

I’m also going to presume that my love of fanzines and prozines (stuff like The Comic Reader and The Comics Journal) helped flesh out my knowledge of the event, particularly once I started picked up back numbers of those that came out as the Implosion was occurring. What was nice about the Comic Book Implosion book that I noted at the beginning of Wednesday’s post was that it pieced together excerpts from articles and interviews from the time, including material that I already had in my own collection of ‘zines, and gave me more of a narrative, and an understanding, of what happened and how. I actually learned quite a bit from the book (including the whys and wherefores of DC’s Dollar Book line — to entice newsstands into carrying a more profitable form of comic — as well as letting me know that some of the Dollar Books being physically taller was a deliberate strategy).

Okay, enough commercials for Two Morrows books, let’s get back to what’s going on at DC now, about which I don’t really know anything more. I did post on Twitter just some thoughts about what could happen, based on what little I read in some of the more reliable articles on the matter. I was going to summarize, but it’s late, I’m all headache-y from lasers in the eyeball this morning, and so I’m just gonna cut ‘n’ paste here:

Comics prediction re: the Warners/DC reorg – we’re going to see Jon Kent and Damian Wayne go away, as well as the Lois/Clark marriage. I can imagine the line as a whole reverting to almost Silver/Bronze-y type comics.

I mean, just modern *enough* to appeal to today’s readers, but simplified continuity, no more reality-bending Crisis type events/reboots, definitely no Dr. Manhattan’s naughty bits sharing a panel with Mary Marvel.

Just sort of a gut feeling based on what I’ve been seeing around. No idea what’s actually going to happen, but I think my assumptions could come to pass.

Meanwhile, on the DC Universe streaming service message board, it’s a pretty fair mix of “THE END IS NEAR” and “surely they won’t take THIS away from us!”

Anyway, I know it’s WAY too early to say, but the general belief is that the focus will be on exploiting DC’s properties in licensing and media, with comics more as an afterthought. I mean, that’s not much different from before…

…but it sorta sounds like they’ll want the comics to be more “marketing/licensing” friendly, so streamlining the continuity (if continuity even remains a concern) and matching public perception of the characters feels like the simplest path to that goal.

Again, just talkin’ out my butt.

I’d be sort of okay with a more accessible DC Comics, but I wish we could have reached that state without the human cost. However, the idea that any new, challenging material may be resisted (i.e. MISTER MIRACLE) is kinda rough.

I don’t know if there had been any new news about what’s happening at DC, as I’ve been otherwise occupied (LASERS IN THE EYE an’ all) but given what little has been said, I don’t think any of this is out of the question. Other folks responded on Twitter noting that there may be a reemphasis of focus on Young Adult and all-ages titles for bookstores, while others lamented the end of seeing any new challenging work from DC ever again (my thought: maybe curtailed for now, but maybe will creep slowly back in). Some suggested, both there and on this site, possible licensing of characters to other publishers (like Marvel’s deal with the Marvel Action line at IDW). It’s possible, but maybe we’ll see more backlist material get reprinted by other publishers, letting them take the financial risk? I don’t know. Nobody knows.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll be returning to this topic again and again for the foreseeable future, so I’m going to end it here tonight and we’ll talk again on Monday. Thanks for reading, pals.

The DC Implosion Mark II.

§ August 12th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics § 10 Comments

So I just recently finished reading the above book detailing the history of the “DC Implosion,” in which DC Comics in the 1970s is hit with immense cutbacks by its parent company resulting in lost jobs and a linewide culling of books in the midst of a planned publishing expansion.

Well, it happened again, with layoffs across Warner Bros. also hitting DC…not that DC was in the middle of a big publishing push, and no idea what’s going to happen to any of the comics they are publishing, but I expect it’s not good news. But plenty of people lost their jobs both at DC and the DC Universe streaming service, and of course my condolences and best wishes to those folks so affected.

I saw a lot of doomsaying online about how this was the end of DC Comics, which seems…premature. Okay, it’s probably the beginning of the end of the streaming service, which seemed doomed from the get-go, and its new shows all are migrating to HBO Max anyway. (Here’s hoping they find a way to keep the digital library of comics going.) DC’s inhouse collectibles division DC Direct is done as well. But DC Comics itself…it’s been through tough times before, and I feel like if this was the end, it would have just been shuttered completely instead of cut down and a new person being installed to oversee things.

According to that last link, there are publishing plans in place for DC going forward, though it looks like the Black Label line may be on its way out. Which is a shame, given that it’s been quite successful at least for me, but apparently, according to said article, DC’s new general manager ain’t a fan of the more “grown-up” comics so don’t expect a new Vertigo to arise from the company anytime soon. There’s a lot of other speculation in that article regarding what will happen (larger push to digital? licensing characters to other publishers?), but we’re all going to have to wait and see.

I’m not sure how I feel about any of this yet. I mean, aside from my sympathies for everyone losing their jobs, of course, especially right now in this COVID-19 impacted society we have here in the U.S. As a retailer I have some uncertainty, naturally, given I don’t know what this means for titles currently being released, or for DC’s graphic novel backlist. I’m hopeful that there will be a leaner, stronger DC Comics that emerges from this reorganization, though the human cost to get there is admittedly terrible. I just have to hope it all works out in the end, but I have to prepare for what will surely be some rough times ahead for the industry. Not that I haven’t been riding out those rough times since the ’90s comics bust, right?

I think the world is ready for a Concrete/Thing crossover.

§ June 22nd, 2020 § Filed under cerebus, dc comics, marvel, publishing § 15 Comments

So remember last week when we were talking about the Marvel/DC crossovers, and which ones I thought we the good’uns? Well, a couple of you had questions, so let me address those first:

John Lancaster tossed his line into the water with

“Seems to me that a lot of good crossovers that aren’t Marvel/DC are getting forgotten”

and then he proceeds to list some ones that are indeed good. My focus of the post was specifically just the Marvel/DC encounters, but I had planned on address some of the crossovers involving other companies as well. In other words, let’s talk about Deathmate:

Ah, just ribbin’ ya a little, and I’ve already talked about Deathmate at length if you want to go relive that.

But yes, there were plenty of crossovers among the smaller companies, sometimes even with either Marvel or DC. A personal favorite is 1994’s Archie Meets the Punisher (AKA Punisher Meets Archie, as per the Marvel-published diecut cover version):


General reaction to this at the time when this was announced was “Whaaa–!?” and for good reason, though it turned out to actually be a bit of fun. with art by Stan Goldberg and John Buscema.

Archie Comics, in fact, seems pretty game to cross over their character with other companies even to this say. John mentioned Archie Vs. Predator (which featured some fairly shocking content for an Archie comic, but in this post-Afterlife with Archie world, pretty much anything is fair game, I suspect). We’ve also had Archie meet up with Batman ’66, and the Archie gang turned up in issue #13A of Gen13 back in ’96:


I remember that one surprising me more than the Punisher crossover, for some reason. Like, Marvel and the Punisher were fairly “mainstream” and high profile, versus a relatively unknown (though admittedly popular) indie book. Wasn’t sure what Archie was going to get out of that…except, after thinking about it for a second, exposure of the characters to an audience that might otherwise not have paid attention to them, duh.

I suspect creator-owned titles are a little easier to negotiate with when it comes to crossovers like this, simply due to less layers of bureaucracy being involved. I mean, I’m about to exaggerate a little, but assembling the deal to make this happen feels like it probably only took about five minutes:


Don’t write to tell me I’m wrong, I know I am, but you have to admit the process of Todd ‘n’ Dave getting together to team up Spawn and Cerebus probably was a great deal less involved than JLA/Avengers. And Mr. Sim wasn’t shy about letting Cerebus show up here and yonder in other people’s independent comics, which again probably consisted of a fax asking if they could use the character, and Dave faxing back “yeah, sure.” Okay, granted the two that immediately come to mind are Journey and normalman, both Aardvark-Vanaheim publications at the time, like Cerebus, but I know there were others. Alas, the fabled X-Men/Cerebus didn’t happen (beyond a piece of promo art). But look, all I got for that Mr. Monster/Swamp Thing proposed team-up was a single piece of art as well:


…so we all just have to suffer.

More on specific crossovers next time, maybe, but let’s address Thom H.’s query briefly:

“I mean, is it that difficult or costly to have an inter-company meeting to discuss splitting the costs and profits 50/50? It seems like something two lawyers could do via email.”

As it was explained to me by someone also in the comics publishing business, it’s the potential profits that are a problem. Apparently neither Marvel nor DC feel like they’d be making enough profit on bringing any of these back in print, that having only 50% of the take isn’t enough. Now it seems to me making a little money is better than making no money (believe me, I’ve told myself that plenty of times at the shop after looking at the end-of-day receipts) but the Big Two don’t see it that way, I guess.

My half-facetious solution was that each company get the rights to publish their own paperbacks reprinting their crossovers…like, DC could publish JLA/Avengers under their own trade dress, and Marvel could do the same, titling it Avengers/JLA and putting it out with their trade dress, and they could agree to just keep all the profits from their versions. But I can see other problems arising from this (like, what happens when Marvel lets theirs fall out of print almost immediately…can DC still keep publishing their own?) so that may not be much of a solution.

So I don’t know, Thom…maybe when we enter a cashless society then someday all these comics will come back into print. In the meantime…WRITE YOUR CONGRESSPERSON! I’m sure they have nothin’ else going on right now, let them deal with this issue.

Okay, more crossover talk next time? Eh, we’ll see. In the meantime, be good to each other, wear your masks and wash your hands, and for God’s sake quick setting off your firecrackers at night, old comic shop owners need to get their beauty sleep.

Money on the table.

§ June 15th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, marvel, Uncategorized § 6 Comments

Continuing from Friday’s post, where I was going on about intercompany crossovers…well, once again I ran out the clock on my blogging time, so let’s see what I can cover at least briefly here. I did want to mention a couple more favorites of mine…though, oddly enough, I ended up putting a couple of them on sale here at the shop, like a big dummy, but I suppose I can replace them someday.

The first two Marvel/DC ones I wanted to point out as being particular notable, and the first tow have one thing in common: John Byrne. Now, Byrne seems to be most in his wheelhouse when playing in Jack Kirby’s playground, and that’s definitely the case with Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger:

It helps that Galactus is a character I’d liked since I was a kid, and that Byrne’s Galactus is the one that I was really into, so it was nice to see Byrne returning to him. And pitting two of Kirby’s big baddies from either side of the publishing aisle is hard to resist. Sadly, it’s been a while since I’ve read this, so I forget most of the details (again, wish I hadn’t given up this comic) but the conclusion, as I recall, is a pretty good and clever defining moment for each character.

The other Byrne-produced crossover was Batman/Captain America, presented as a period piece with both characters in the World War II-era incarnations. You’ve likely seen the much-scanned-and-posted sequence from this book where the Joker, discovering that his partner in crime, the Red Skull, is a Nazi, turns on him, declaring himself an all-American criminal (shades of The Rocketeer movie). It’s a good scene, and the comic overall is a lot of fun…Byrne gets to play with Kirby’s Cap, and I’ve always liked his version of Batman.

Of note, I had a copy of this in the shop recently, and posted a pic on the store Instagram. I received a lot of requests for it (not just on Instagram, but in email, via Twitter DMs, etc.). Alas, had but the one to sell, but it certainly demonstrated the demand for these things.

Another book I wanted to mention was Incredible Hulk Vs. Superman, featuring beautiful art by Steve Rude (and honestly, would you expect any less from The Dude?). As was noted in the comments to my last post, it’s a nice retro-presentation for both characters, with the early ’60s version of the Hulk and the Golden Age-esque style of Superman, which nicely matches Roger Stern’s story placing this encounter early in the careers of both.

It’s a common thought I have about comic works of notes, but it’s a real shame material like this is out of print and difficult to come by. A nice, permanent edition of this (or any of thse intercompany crossovers) would be perennial sellers. I realize there are economic reasons that make it difficult to keep these in print, but still, what a waste and what a shame.

Crossing the streams.

§ June 12th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, marvel § 9 Comments

Okay, it’s been a long day, and I’m starting to write this late, but thankfully reader Matthew Murray dropped in a question that I can type about for a few minutes here:

“…What are your favourite intercompany crossovers?”

OOH BOY. There are quite a few, actually, and now that I’m pondering the question I realize this is a post that could go on for a while. So, let’s see what I can do tonight before Mr. Sandman whisks me away to sleep.

Well, JLA/Avengers, already discussed, is a great one, I think. Really, you look at it, you look at how crammed full it is of, well, everything, and there’s literally no way it could have worked in this particular form except for the fact that it’s by Kurt Busiek and George Perez. It should have been a disastrous mess, but instead it’s a towering achievement. Good on them.

The very first intercompany crossover I bought was the second Superman/Spider-Man crossover from 1981, published as Marvel Treasury Edition #28:


…and in many ways, it still remains my favorite. Marvel and DC, for their first batch of superhero meet-ups, were trading off the producution duties, so DC did the first Superman/Spidey, Marvel did this one, DC did Batman/Hulk, and Marvel did that X-Men/Titans one.

And I think it was the Marvel-ness of it that made me really like this particular event. It very much felt like “What If Superman Was a Marvel Character?” with Supes drawn in a very Marvel style by one of the most Marvel of artists, John Buscema, and colored in more somber tones than the usual brightness of DC’s Super-books. It felt…gritter, more “realistic” if you’d pardon the expression. This was not a version of Superman I was used to seeing, and I very much took to this version of the character.

Alas, I no longer have that original treasury edition, or any of those original four crossover books from the ’70s/’80s (not counting the Wizard of Oz adaptation DC and Marvel teamed up to produce) as I have that trade paperback reprinting of the four instead. Kinda loses something shrunk down like that (especially since my eyes would probably appreciate the larger format right about now). Also, I could be wrong on this, but it feels like they colored Superman’s costume even darker in the reprint than in the original tabloid. But, it’s still a good read, if you can find a copy.

Now I briefly mentioned the other super-crossovers between Marvel and DC published around that time. I actually liked them all quite a bit, but that second Superman/Spider-Man team-up is the tops of the bunch for me. But look, that Batman/Hulk treasury was full of giant pages of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art, and X-Men/Titans was chock full o’Walt Simonson. Those initial four comics have images and dialogue that have been stuck in my head for decades now…just a lot of fun.

Yeah, okay, surprise surprise, I’m being long-winded about this. Let’s pick up on this topic on Monday and I’ll try to think what more recent (i.e. 20 years ago) intercompany crossovers really strike my fancy.

Guess I should have just stocked up the trades while they were still available.

§ June 10th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, marvel, publishing § 11 Comments


So the 11-year-old niece and the 9-year-old nephew were telling me the other day how much they wanted Marvel and DC to have their characters meet. Specifically, they wanted the Justice League and the Avengers to fight.

“Oh, they already did that!” I told them. “I can show you a book of–”

“A BOOK!?!?” they exclaimed. “Why would you want to read a book of that? We meant a Marvel and DC movie!”

Well, I figure we’re some time away from a movie like that…probably going to take the collapse of the superhero film industry to make everyone desperate enough to band together, much like the ’90s collapse of the comics industry encouraged such crossovers. But, boy, speaking of which we sure did have a lot of those crossovers between Marvel during the ’90s, and while they used to be as common as dirt in the back issue bins before, now that some time has passed they’re not quite as plentiful.

I’m sure part of the reason is the same one I’ve given before, that a lot of the shops that existed during that period, and had wholesaled stock of those titles from distributors and possibly still had extras in storage, are now gone. Maybe their stock made it to other shops, maybe that stock is languishing in some poor bastard’s garage or storage unit, but whatever the cause, those crossovers don’t seem to pop up as often as they used to. Not long ago I had a copy of the Batman/Captain America team-up, and I’d posted a pic on my Instagram…and I had multiple requests to buy it. Demand definitely outstripped supply in that case.

And it’s just not that comic…once common, low-demand examples of Marvel/DC crossovers like Spider-Man/Batman or Batman/Daredevil never seem to last long. And high-demand ones like Hulk/Superman barely even get a change to get put in the back issue bins before it’s out the door.

It’s a shame that the deals between the companies that could result in keeping them in print (like they did in a series of paperbacks collecting them all together) are gone. And no more terrible example of this is JLA/Avengers.

I pulled my copy of the oversized, slipcased hardcover set to eventually show to the niece and nephew, who will probably glance at it briefly, shrug, and tell me “this isn’t a movie,” which is fine. But it was nice to look through it again…and at this size, it’s a lot easier for me to enjoy given the eyeball problems I’ve had of late.

It really is amazing…it’s nothing short of a miracle and Kurt Busiek and George Perez were able to cram in pretty much every character ever associated with either team, fill each page witih multiple panels and plenty of dialogue, and still have it come out at the end beautiful and readable. Sometimes you hear folks talk about how “not an inch is wasted” when discussing comic art, and boy howdy, does it ever apply here.

The real shame here is that it is not in print. This should be a perennial seller, constantly available, and it practically sells itself. So much money being left on the table by not having this available, and so many new fans just missing out on it. Well, okay, some people are just downloading it for free via file-sharing, I’m sure, but they’d probably do that anyway even if it was in print.

I’m saying the book should be available, as well as the other crossover collection paperbacks. But, it was pointed out to me on the Twitters when I was griping about this very thing, the economics of it probably don’t work very well, with money on each copy sold would have to be split between Marvel and DC. My idea was that maybe each company can just publish their own version of the paperbacks and keep all the profits from their own book. Like, DC could put out JLA/Avengers, Marvel could release Avengers/JLA, identical except it’s under the Marvel label and they get all the cash. I don’t know, there’s probably reasons why that wouldn’t work (least of which that the two companies probably wouldn’t want competing products that were essential the same), but…I just want JLA/Avengers back in print. Somehow. Just look at all that work that went into it…only for it to be dropped down the memory hole.

I would like to see Marvel/DC crossovers again…I tended to enjoy most of the ones that were released. I never did get my Swamp Thing/Man-Thing comic, despite cameo gag appearances. Ah, well. I know Todd McFarlane was throwing the idea out there of a Spawn/Spider-Man team up, to generate some excitement and get folks into stores after the retail shutdowns. That’s Image/Marvel, not DC/Marvel, but it’s the same kinda thing.

In conclusion, the niece and nephew better like seeing my copy of JLA/Avengers. At the very least, I’m sure they’ll enjoy that crazy “every character from either team ever” image on the slipcase. Honestly, what kid could resist that?

I have no idea if Gilgamesh II is even still available.

§ June 8th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, fakeapstylebook, real world stuff, retailing § 10 Comments

So…it still feels weird to be writing about comics right now. Things continue to be in a huge state of upheaval, folks are remaining angry (and rightfully so) and even as changes to the system are appearing to be slowly progressing, the pushback is still hurting folks and costing lives. If you wish to contribute to resources helping out Black people, this list is a good place to start (which also includes support for the gay and transgendered). There may be organizations local to you that could use help as well. I know wallets are pretty much emptied after months of state shutdowns, and you might not be able to donate. At the very least, promote resources like those linked above, and be vocal in your support of those in need of it.

• • •

So the comic news that’s kinda hard to ignore even with everything else going on is the fact that DC Comics is bailing entirely on Diamond Comics as a distributor of its product.

Okay, when DC decided to start distributing their items through a couple of other sources during Diamond’s shutdown, I figured things were going to change for the industry. Mostly I thought we’d see a lot more publishers, mostly indie types, deciding to either split from Diamond themselves, or at least wholesale their items directly to retailers in addition to offering them through the usual system. Mostly, I anticipated having to go through a half-dozen catalogues and cut separate checks to everyone every week, like The Good Ol’ Days. However, I didn’t anticipate DC leaving Diamond entirely. That came as bit of a shock.

Still not sure what the ultimate impact of this will be to the industry as a whole, or to me personally. I mean, aside from not knowing when the new DCs will arrive each week. Hard to meet DC’s new Tuesday on-sale time when I don’t get the books ’til a few hours before closing that day. The actual process of ordering from this other distributor is fairly easy, and I noticed they changed the user interface to make things more organized and convenient. Items don’t always get listed in alphabetical order, which I would prefer, but they weren’t at Diamond either so I’ll live. [EDIT: Oh wait, now that I look at the new distributor’s website with newly cleared vision, following the most recent eyeball procedure, I can see there are teeny tiny buttons that let me change the ordering of the lists. NEVER MIND]

Plus, I’ve yet to experience a single damage or shortage on DC product from this other distributor, so that’s a nice change. I am curious about backlist titles, as so far the only older items the new distributor has is whatever they had come in since they started shipping out DC books to retailers in April. I presume eventually more books (and older comics) will move over there, but far as I can tell I can still order that product from Diamond. Wonder how long that’ll last? Will DC buy it all back from Diamond to move to their other outlets, or is Diamond going to be stuck trying to sell those Gilgamesh II graphic novels ’til the end of time?

Also of concern is the financial impact on Diamond. With the loss of one of its two biggest vendors, that’s gotta cause the ol’ pursestrings to be tightened a little. I presume that means fewer employees manning phones and packing/shipping product, but there’s also less product to be packed/shipping, so maybe it’ll all balance out? I suspect we’ll see soon enough. I know Diamond told retailers directly that losing one vendor, even a large one like DC, is something they could ride out, and I can believe it. So long as Marvel doesn’t Heroes World-it again and also depart, I suspect we’ll still have Diamond to kick around a while longer.

On the personal side of things, my business has been doing…okay so far now that I’ve been able to reopen. Most days have been having normal business, though my Wednesdays have been pretty short of what they once were. Almost by necessity, since new comic shipments are only a fraction of what they once were, and Marvel’s only shipping a handful of titles every other week. As my former boss Ralph once told me, decades ago, “as Marvel goes, so goes the industry,” and it certainly feels like it’s Marvel that drives the folks in the door each week for their fix. Anything else can wait ’til it’s convenient to show up, but the new Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man must be bought right away.

The big question coming up is Batman #92, which prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns was The Big In-Demand Comic, what with that issue’s focus on the new villain Punchline. I’d actually ordered quite a bit on that, expecting a rush, plus having to meet the demands of advance requests for multiple copies, etc. Now I’m wondering it that same demand has maintained itself over our extended break? I’m curious to see. I’ve also noticed a decrease in Random Hot Books, where there’s one comic nobody expected, or ordered a lot of, that suddenly everyone wants so they can flip it on eBay or whatever. Last week was the first example of this in a while (the “B” cover for most recent installment of Blackwood, selling for around $30 online the day of release). Oh, this crazy business.

• • •

In other news, Fake AP Stylebook has come back for the nonce, in our time of greatest need. Yes, I’m writing for it again. Probably not getting another book deal out of this comeback, but that’s okay, we’re doing it out of love. And bitterness. And just pure, unadulterated sarcasm. Anyway, no one stopped us, so it’s back. We regret nothing.

“Welcome to Walt Disney’s Progressive Ruin.”

§ February 28th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, retailing § 8 Comments

So the follow-up to last week’s release of Batman #89, which nobody had enough of because everyone decided they needed it after orders were locked down, was this week’s Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #3, which also experienced a huge amount of demand that wasn’t there prior to its orders being solidified.

And unlike Batman #89, which at least had a chance at being ordered in reasonably high quantities, Hell Arisen #3 was, at least in these quarters, ordered pretty close to the bone, for pull lists and to accommodate numbers sold on the shelf for issues #1 and #2. Probably not a lot of extras of those floatin’ around, I’d imagine. Batman‘s got a shelf life beyond its initial week of release, the presumably concluding mini-series to an event that, despite its title, was definitely around for like eight or nine years, ain’t going to be picking up a bunch of brand new readers, so I’m presuming orders were very conservative.

But it’s an early appearance of a new character, or characters, I’m not even entirely sure, so I don’t even have to check in on the eBays to see what usually happens when short supply meets high demand. (Remind me in about six months or so to check in there and see where values may have settled.)

The next big, well, milestone, I suppose, will be Batman #92…specifically, the “cardstock variant cover” illustrated by Artgerm, for which I’m already receiving requests. Finally, DC found a way to get people to want to pay a dollar more for these cardstock covers. It was supposed to be the variant for #94, but DC, smelling a buck anticipating current demand, pushed up its release. And I’m just going to post a picture of it here so I don’t have yet another giant wall of text on my site:


Okay, Joker’s new partner in crime, that’s all well and good, assuming 1) DC learned its lesson regarding the abusive relationship Harley Quinn was in with the Joker (and to be fair, it looks like they have, at least with HQ’s modern portrayal) and makes Punchline more of an equal, and 2) any issues with Orientalism can be avoided, making the character part of a commitment to diversity rather than surface level fetishism.

Okay, okay, bit early to be dumping this much heaviness onto a brand new character that’s barely shown up. I may be a bit soured on the whole thing because of the sales situation, so maybe I’ll feel a little more positive about the whole thing once there’s a little distance. At the very least, the comic market can use a little excitement once in a while just to keep things interesting, even if it makes my grey hair just slightly more grey.

And speaking of going more grey, it’s going to be tricky ordering this cover for #92. I’ve got preorders, which helps, but am I going to get much additional walk-in traffic for it? It’s far enough in advance that everyone can order as much as they want of it right now, but if there’s plenty of supply, the sort of demand that would come if copies weren’t plentiful may not materialize. I can see some stores getting stuck with piles of this issue, and I need to make darn sure I’m not one of them.

• • •

In other news, in the wake of former copublisher Dan DiDio’s departure, I’ve been seeing online, and hearing from the occasional customer, things like “Is Marvel buying DC?” or “is DC licensing their characters to Marvel?” or “is DC going to get shut down if their next event doesn’t pay off?” …And all I can think of is that long ago issue of Comic Shop News, either an April Fools issue or maybe their issue #50 or maybe both, that had a fake headline and story headlined “MARVEL BUYS DC.” I still have a copy around my house, somewhere…probably should have found it before writing this post, but oh well, you’ll just have to take my word for it. Anyway, that sort of rumor has been going on a long time, even long before that issue of CSN. And interestingly, I don’t recall such prevalence of the reverse rumor, DC buying Marvel, even when that seemed like an even greater possibility during Marvel’s lean years prior to the Disney buyout.

Anyway, it’s all horseshit. DC licensing characters to Marvel makes no sense, since Marvel has no publishing advantage over DC, really, and besides, Marvel’s already licensing out their own characters to somebody else to publish. The major thing Marvel has over DC is its movies, which all tend to be successful and have consistent cultural traction. Despite that, DC’s movies on the whole do make money, aside from a few underperformers, and it seems unlikely Warner Bros. would wish to endure “Marvel Studios Presents SUPERMAN.” I see WB continuing to try to make money with DC, rather than giving it up for someone else to make money, or canning it entirely.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that someday Disney won’t buy Warner Bros. and merge Marvel and DC together at some point, but Disney’s eventual acquisition of everything is inevitable. We shall all be one with The Mouse.

Oh, and my guess for who’s replacing Dan DiDio as co-publisher, assuming Jim Lee doesn’t become sole publisher or that someone at Warners installs someone in the position? …Brian Michael Bendis. Put me in the office pool for a dollar, please.

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.

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