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I’m totally posting this without telling Employee Aaron first…

§ October 3rd, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron § 3 Comments

…but if he didn’t leave his doodles just hangin’ around the store, I wouldn’t add my own scrawlings to them and then post ’em on the internets:

That would be my little addition ruining Aaron’s drawing, in the right hand corner there. …WE MAKE A GREAT TEAM.

I was going to write about San Diego Con news, but here are some Swamp Thing sketches instead.

§ July 25th, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron, pal plugging, swamp thing § 2 Comments

So I was not having a good time of it at the shop at one point last week, and Employee Aaron left me a Post-It Note sketch to cheer me up:

Yes indeedy.

And I’ve posted pics of these before, but the originals just showed up in the mail and they’re absolutely fantastic and I wanted to scan ’em again and show them off:

These are from internet chum Dan, and you can see more samples of his art over at his Tumblr (like Omac vs. Omac or totally awesome Metamorpho), and I’m guessing you can probably contact him through there for commissions of your own.

And before you ask…yes, I’ve been bugging both Employee Aaron and his lovely wife, who is also a talented artist, to start taking commissions. I’ll let you know as soon as they do…and it’d better be soon.

Also, this is the greatest thing out of this year’s San Diego Comic Con.

Please do not block the manga rack.

§ May 8th, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron, free comic book day § 7 Comments

So yesterday I witnessed the joining in holy matrimony of Employee Aaron and his former-fiancée-now-wife Kempo. Yup, it’s finally done…the two of them are hitched but good. And I saw it with my very own eyes. Now they’re off on their honeymoon, and I hope those crazy kids have a good time.

Yesterday was also Free Comic Book Day…and “Spoil the Post-Credits Scene of Thor for Mike” Day, but let’s not get into that…which, as I’ve mentioned before, meant that I had to take off for an hour or two to witness the wedding shenanigans. Which also meant shedding my usual in-store fancy dress for even fancier dress, and if you were lucky enough to pop into the shop in the late afternoon after my return from the ceremony, you were greeted by this handsome bastard:

Yeah, that’s right…drink it in. (Thanks to pal Kevin for taking the pic and working his halftone ‘n’ caption magic upon it.)

As for the FCBD event itself…it was certainly wall-to-wall people nearly the entire day (including the couple of hours I was gone, I’d been told), and the prepared prepacks of freebies, of which I’d put together a lot, and I thought would easily last us ’til I got back to the shop about 3-ish in the afternoon…were entirely gone by the time I’d returned. We ordered huge numbers, and still we were run nearly dry of the 2011 offerings. We had leftovers from previous years that were put back out, plus I ended up grabbing some of the recent $1 reprint books from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and others to throw on the freebie tables as well.

If you want to check out some of our set-up, pal Andres (who helped out most of the day, and stood in as Fake Mike while I was gone) took a few pictures of the prepping-in-progress. …And yeah, we had a handful of mighty stacks of a few freebies from previous years, for some reason. Ah, well, it happens. At least those stacks are somewhat smaller now.

Ultimately, once again, assisted by a small in-store graphic novel discount sale, we made back the money spent in purchasing the FCBD books, and pulled in a profit besides. Plus, I got to see a handful of old customers I haven’t seen for a while, lured in by the siren call of the free funnybook, and that was nice.

I don’t know that I have any specific “FCBD Report” beyond this, given that when I was at the shop, I was mostly fielding question from folks looking for back issues or graphic novel recommendations, while Andres and a few other brave souls handling the distribution of the freebies. No problems, no hassles, just a lot of comics given away and a lot of happy customers.

Of course, like every year during FCBD, there’s always somebody who wants to go through the porn comics. Doesn’t it figure.

But anyway, the Free Comic Book Day madness is over, and now I can look forward to a nice, relaxed Sunday at the shop, where we’ll just be having…a Magic the Gathering prerelease tournament?

Free comics and no-longer-free men.

§ May 6th, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron, free comic book day § 2 Comments

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, you may have heard, so drag your carcass into your local participating funnybook store and ask for…nay, demand…your free comic books!

Pal Dorian has his annual report on what’s hot and what’s not for FCBD, and Chris “The Simsinator” Sims picks the best and worst for this year.

I mentioned before that my favorite this year was probably Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse from Fantagraphics, featuring some classic newspaper dailies by Floyd Gottfredson. And Drawn and Quarterly’s John Stanley’s Summer Fun reprints a nice selection of Stanley’s work, including a Tubby story and a Nancy story (but alas, no Sluggo aside from an appearance on a puzzle page).

Bongo Comics Free-for-All includes Simpsons stories by Sergio Aragones and Evan Dorkin, so already you’re in for some good readin’. Plus, it leads off with a Ralph Wiggum story, and I know you guys like the Ralph Wiggum. Pretty sure this is all reprinted from previously-published comics, too, but it’s a solid assortment.

Marvel provides an all-new story featuring Captain America and Thor, by the Thor: The Mighty Avenger creative team of Roger Landridge and Chris Samnee. Cap and Thor fight Loki over the Holy Grail, and it’s fast-paced, light-hearted, and a lot of fun.

Elric: The Balance Lost from Dark Horse (by Chris Roberson, Francesco Biagini, and Stephen Dowler) isn’t really for me, since I’m fairly indifferent to the character, but I can recognize this as a nicely done effort. The story gives a brief overview of just what Elric’s deal is, and the back-up material presents a look at Elric’s funnybook history, along with some sketchbook pages.

If you’re looking for this year’s Owly freebie, he’s featured in one of the stories in Top Shelf Kids Club, along with a short Johnny Boo story by James Kochalka and other kid-friendly strips. Worth a look.

The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators/Top 10 Deadliest Sharks flip-comic is a bit peculiar, but I’ll bet kids will love it. Bloody shark attacks and fightin’ dinosaurs? Of course they’ll love it. Anyone over the age of 10 might not be quite as into it, however.

Pal Ian gets his own FCBD flip-book, with Darkwing Duck and Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, featuring his scripts, being this year’s freebie from Boom! Studios. If you wanted to see what Ian’s been up to since he stopped blogging and started doing something productive, here you go!

Dark Horse went the flip-book route as well: one side has Criminal Macabre, which doesn’t really do anything for me, but the other side, Baltimore (another of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola’s supernatural suspense properties), is a short and pleasantly-creepy vampire story.

While I’m glad Archie does a FCBD book every year, it seems like the art in this year’s installment is a bit…rough-hewn? I guess? I’m not a regular Archie reader nowadays, given my preference for Archie material from the ’60s and earlier, but do current Archie comics usually look like this? I mean, it’s bright and colorful and I suppose it’s appealing enough, but it’s not really a patch on Dan DeCarlo’s work. But then, what is?

DC’s Green Lantern Special Edition is a bit unfortunate…one chapter from the Green Lantern “Secret Origin” storyline, and a brief preview of the Flashpoint event that doesn’t make it look very appealing. DC’s other book this year, the Young Justice/Batman The Brave and the Bold sampler, is better, more due to the Batman half than the Young Justice half. Though, given the apparent popularity of the YJ cartoon, this will probably go over well with kids.

The Tick comic for this year is 7 pages of comics, and the rest text-heavy encyclopedic entries for the cast, which seems like an odd choice to make. But who knows, maybe someone will be intrigued enough by one of the entries to ask for more comics featuring that character. And there is that portion of the comic-reading audience that loves detailed character rosters like this.

Overstreet Guide to Collecting Comics 2011 – once again, point of the day successfully missed. Lots of people writing about things that I don’t know anyone coming into shops to get free comics is going to care about. But again, you never know what’s gonna trigger someone’s interest in comics.

Anyway, that’s just a few of the FCBD offering coming out this year. Like I noted above, check out Dor and Chris for more detailed overviews. And if you want to read more about the actual process of Free Comic Book Day, just read my posts tagged “Free Comic Book Day” and watch history unfurl before your very eyes!

• • •

Reminder: employee Aaron and his lovely fiancée Kempo are getting married tomorrow as well, necessitating my brief departure from the shop and my fervent hope that nothing disastrous happens during that time. At the shop, I mean. Not at the wedding. Though I hope nothing disastrous happens there, either. However, former employee Jeff will be at the wedding, too, so who knows.

Everyone out there, please give Aaron and Kempo your best wishes for their wedding day, as I certainly do. Also, I totally plan on calling Aaron repeatedly during his honeymoon to ask him ridiculous work-related questions. “Hey, do you remember what Superman’s secret identity is?” You know, stuff like that.

We could use shredded copies of Deathmate for wedding confetti.

§ April 20th, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron, free comic book day § 7 Comments

So I’m pretty sure we’ve got the majority of the Free Comic Book Day comics in our hands by now…huge stacks of boxes awaiting my sorting into age-appropriate bags (explanation here) once I have some free time the shop.

Sorry, had to pause for a moment while I laughed. And then cried. A lot.

Anyway, I think all we’re waiting for now is the Darkness freebie and some of those Green Lantern Heroclix I was poking fun at a while back. Hopefully they’ll pop up on the invoice for next week’s shipment, and not on the invoice for the shipment the week after Free Comic Book Day.

For those of you who don’t know, Free Comic Book Day is the first Saturday in May, which, by the way, also happens to be the day Employee Aaron marries his lovely significant-other Kempo, despite my efforts and substantial bribes to get Aaron to change the date. And since neither he nor Kempo want to move the ceremony to the shop, I’m going to have to leave the store for a while to attend the wedding.

Not sure of how I’m going to have this worked out, exactly, but the wedding is relatively close to the store and I should only be away for a couple of hours. During that time I will be calling upon the talents of pal Andres to be Substitute Mike and handle the comic-related inquiries and requests in my absence, so that the other employees at the shop who are more familiar with the games end of the business will have at least one comics expert on hand to keep things running smoothly. (Well, Ralph should be around, too, hopefully.)

Regardless, this will the first Free Comic Book Day where I won’t be in attendance the whole time, and thus I expect to find only a smoking crater in the ground where the store used to be upon my return from the wedding.

As for the comics themselves…I may do a little more comprehensive overview of this year’s FCBD offerings a little closer to the actual day, but so far I think my favorite book is Fantagraphic’s Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson. Yes, a collection of comic strips from 1935 is my top pick for this year. Go figure.

• • •

I would like to note the very sad and untimely passing of actress Elisabeth Sladen, who was best known as the loyal companion Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who. Her performance of the character spanned decades and Doctors, originally appearing with the 3rd and 4th Doctors in the 1970s, and returning for the 21st century revival of the series. Eventually Sladen and her character spun off into The Sarah Jane Adventures, a popular adventure show aimed at younger viewers.

She was a woman in her 60s starring in her own sci-fi action-adventure show, and that’s pretty awesome.

So long, Elisabeth.

Taking a bit of a break from blogging today…

§ February 9th, 2011 § Filed under buttons, employee aaron, howard the duck § 5 Comments

…but here’s a Howard the Duck button Employee Aaron made for me recently:

The thinnest of silver linings.

§ January 27th, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron, retailing § 13 Comments

And so it came to pass that we did sell out of our new Fantastic Four issue, not to passers-by driven into our establishment by a fancy press release and the promise of earth-shattering change, but mostly to regular customers, most of whom were already readers of the book and just wanted the latest installment, uninterested they were in the publicity shenanigans that surrounded it.

And poor ol’ Employee Aaron, who did his darnedest to avoid spoilers, staying away from the internet, averting his eyes from the news, only to to take a phone call at the shop Wednesday morning whereupon he heard this:

“Hey, do you have that Fantastic Four comic where [name of FF member who allegedly kicked the bucket] dies?”

Oh, Aaron, you and your youthful dreams of a spoiler-free zone! Not in the hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners world of comics retail, my friend!

We did receive another phone call or two inquiring about the issue’s availability, but otherwise…no huge deluge of demand. Just another busy New Comics Day, selling plenty of funnybooks. Also, a photo was taken of me wearing deely boppers, and who knows when and where that’ll turn up, Andres.

In yesterday’s comments, reader Alex asked

“Is there ever an effort at the store to capture more of the potential audience during stuff like this, by say, pulling up a box of dollar bin FF issues, or ordering a few extra reprints of steady selling, intro friendly trades?”

No, if only because past experience has shown that, in general, non-comic-readers who just come in on that one day for the item they saw about on the news will not buy anything else. In this particular case, we didn’t see any new faces this time around anyway, so it would have been a moot point.

A caveat: past experience has also shown that on the very rare occasion a media-driven customer actually returns to the shop after that Hot Item: Day One sales date, sometimes that means they’re slightly more open to the idea of comics as Entertainment Option rather than Means of Putting My Children Through College, Someday. It doesn’t happen very often, but often enough that it’s worth the effort to put on the top hats, polish up the monocles, and be on our best behavior, in the hopes that any of these new faces will remember that nice shop with all the funnybooks and maybe, just maybe, return to us when the need arises.

So, ultimately, at the very least hyped media events and Free Comic Book Days and tie-in movies remind people out there in the real world that comic books and comic shops still exist, and sometimes that’s enough.

I’m a difficult person to work with.

§ November 19th, 2010 § Filed under employee aaron, gelatinous cube § 15 Comments

Mike: “I understand this new Dungeons & Dragons comic is actually supposed to be pretty good.”

Employee Aaron: “Yeah, it really was.”

M: “So are there any gelatinous cubes?”

EA: “Sorry, Mike, but no.”

M: “How ’bout displacer beasts? At least one?”

EA: “Not one.”

M: “Okay, fine…mind flayers?”

EA: “No.”

M: “Beholders. There has to be a Beholder in this comic.”

EA: “There sure isn’t.”

M: “This is a Dungeons & Dragons comic, right?”

EA: “Right.”

M: “Just checking. Is there any point where a character has to save vs. petrification?”

EA: “What? No, of course not.”

M: “Are there any instances of a gnome using his infravision?”

EA: “None noted.”

M: “Are there any bards?”

EA: “Are there ever any bards?”

M: “Point taken. …Does anyone detect traps?”

EA: “Nope.”

M: “Does a magic user gather material components in order to cast Magic Mouth?”

EA: “Not that I noticed.”

M: “Does a thief manage to do quadruple damage on anyone using a sneak backstab attack?”

EA: “Not once, no.”

M: “Does anyone, at any time, use a ten foot pole?”

EA: “No.”

M: “Are there any morale checks made to see if a character’s followers desert or not?”

EA: “…What?”

M: “Are any limbs severed as the result of rolling a natural 20 during a sword attack?”

EA: “How would that even work in a comic?”

M: “So does a character tell another character ‘I do not want to be in an adventuring party with you, as I am Lawful Good, and you are Neutral Evil?'”

EA: “That’s not something that happens, no.”

M: “Does anyone put on a cursed ring and suddenly exclaim ‘oh no, I have suffered an irreversible loss of three points of Constitution?'”

EA: “I can safely say this didn’t happen.”

M: “Is there any kind of kobold attack?”

EA: “No….”

M: “Does anyone shout to his comrades ‘this creature can only use his ranged attack once every five rounds — let’s go!’ at any time during a battle?”

EA: “No.”

M: “Does any character have his or her soul cast into The Void as a result of drawing from a Deck of Many Things?”

EA: “Uh-uh.”

M: “This is going nowhere. Let’s go back to the basics. …Is there a dungeon in this comic?”

EA: “Yes!”

M: “Now we’re onto something. Is there a dragon?”

EA: “Well, not exactly.”

M: “Oh, so there’s, like, a wyvern.”

EA: “No, no…there’s a dragonkin in the story. Well, maybe, he kind of looks like one…sorta dragony.”

M: “A dragonkin. What’s that?”

EA: “A half-human/half-dragon. You can play as one in D&D.”

M: “No, I’m sorry, no player-character monsters in my campaign.”

EA: “Now, Mike, a couple of these things you’re asking about were in the #0 issue.”

M: “I’m going to need all of these things in every issue.”

Yesterday was the Monty Python reference, today is the Firesign Theatre one.

§ October 14th, 2010 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, employee aaron, pal plugging, retailing, sir-links-a-lot, watchmen § 5 Comments

So Wednesday I had a customer ask me where he could find the Black Freighter comic book, as seen in the Watchmen film. “Only in Watchmen, my friend,” I told him, but I’m still really surprised no new comic-format tie-ins to the film were released. A “replica” Black Freighter comic would have been kind of neat, and perhaps not as…off-putting to the purists as, say, a Nite Owl & Silk Spectre mini-series. Well, there was that fan-made attempt at reconstructing the comic from its excerpts in Watchmen. But I suppose the Black Freighter DVD that was released made an actual comic book release redundant.

…Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m about a year out of date with this Watchmen movie tie-in talk. Look, I’ve been out of it for about a week, and this guy really did ask me this yesterday. I gotta work with what I got, man.

Also, pal Brandon passed this link along to me, and I was going to put it up as one of my sick day posts, but a quick Googling showed that it already made the rounds on some of the comic news sites. But, eh, what the hell…a song about Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl. It ain’t too shabby.

And in all my griping over the last few days about my painful dental issues, I see I never did mention that poor ol’ Employee Aaron managed to get one of his toes broken. No, no, not as a result of a cruel and unfair punishment meted out by me for violating one of our draconian workplace rules. This time. He was doing something at home, like, I think, saving a bunch of nuns and orphans from a buffalo stampede, when he tripped and fell, and, whoops, there goes the pinkie toe. So Sir Aaron Limps-a-lot is staggering around the shop, I can’t talk to anyone because my cheek has swollen up into a hot, painful lump the size of a Ford Festiva, and Ralph has pneumonia, dengue fever and the yaws…we’re a fine bunch.

Speaking of Watchmen, and not speaking of all us sick crew, as I was trying to find that Black Freighter reconstruction, I came across this photo of (presumably authentic) Watchmen film props for the Black Freighter comic and the Tijuana Bible. The user who uploaded that image has other Watchmen items from the film, including some of the magazines…that New Yorker would be a neat item to have.

In other news:

  • So former employee pal Sean‘s band, The Kill Junkies, just released their first album Steamroller which is available from Amazon in that convenient MP3 format. It’s more metal than a really metal thing filled with metal, so it may not be for gentler ears, but Sean’s a swell guy and I’m happy to support his creative endeavors.
  • And now…NAKED SUPERMAN AND BATMAN (safe for work, from a Code-approved comic)! I find the jar containing the brain of the Gorilla Boss (visible in one of the panels) to be simultaneously creepy and sad.
  • I am slowly…very slowly…almost too slowly…going through and tagging my older posts, and the most recent effort was made tagging most of my Watchmen posts. Now you can more easily find my writings on that particular topic, including the single greatest Watchmen post to ever appear on any comic blog, ever.

Behold my mastery of graphic manipulation.

§ September 16th, 2010 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, does mike ever shut up, employee aaron, market crash, retailing, siegel & shuster, sir-links-a-lot § 8 Comments

So anyway, I did this as a quickie gag for a couple of friends in email, and the files have been sitting on my desktop for a few days, so what the heck, here you go:



Just grabbed the pic via the Googling, so hopefully I didn’t offend anyone with my repurposing his/her scan. It was for the purpose of creating a better world, my friend.

Anyway, in other news:

  • Regarding that panel I posted yesterday…I felt a little funny picking out a panel by freakin’ Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, for a bit of good-natured mockery. I mean, it seems almost sacrilegious, doesn’t it? Anyway, that panel was from a strip called “Federal Men,” which ran for quite a while in the various iterations of early Adventure Comics. You can read descriptions of some of the stories here. A reprint collection of these stories would be interesting, but I’m not holding my breath.

    By the way, speaking of sacrilege: here’s reader Todd with his slight reworking of the panel:

  • Tom Spurgeon has some commentary from one of his readers about comic pricing and buying habits. In particular, there is some discussion about the likelihood of someone spending more than $20 a week on comics in the late 1980s. As someone who entered the high-finance world of funnybook retailing in the late ’80s, I thought I’d supply a brief bit of anecdotal…well, perhaps not “evidence,” but it may be of interest.

    Starting about the mid-’80s, and off and on through the late ’80s, our shop had a box of overstock and/or deadstock comics by the register with a sign on it that read “FREE COMIC WITH $20 PURCHASE.” And, it is my memory that the $20 level was originally picked because 1) it wasn’t a price level that was normally breached terribly often by the majority of customers, but 2) it was close enough to what a significant portion of customers were spending that the hope was that they’d plop another comic or two on the pile to hit $20 and qualify for their free comic.

    Now…and please consider, I’m working off decades-old memories here…I believe that we had some, but not a lot, of customers slapping on additional comics to get to twenty bucks, but that eventually we had enough people already buying twenty dollars’ worth of stuff without going back and grabbing an extra book or two that they got their free comic anyway. And, eventually still, sometime around the big Batman movie-fueled boom, we did away with it completely. (I suppose we could have just raised the price level to, say, $30 or $40 for the free book, but at the time rivers of cash were flowing through the direct market and thus, perhaps the need to encourage additional sales in that fashion was no longer as strong.)

    Later, we briefly did a “spend $50, get a free poster” thing along these same lines, which I’m pretty sure was in the post-market crash years of the mid ’90s. And that tells me that, even though the high-livin’ days of the boom were long gone, the customer base that remained was spending far more on average than they had pre-boom, so that $50 now seemed like the just-above-average typical sales level that seemed achievable.

    My memory was that was more about clearing out old poster stock than hoping people would hit $50, which, like what happened with the $20 level, is something people gradually started doing anyway.

    Wish I remembered more details about these things. Should’ve kept better notes.

  • Speaking of our retail past: Chris Sims recently concocted this Comics Alliance article about comic book bumper stickers, and in the comments section to it, someone mentioned our old “U.S. OUT OF LATVERIA” stickers that we had at the shop. [NOTE FOR MY DAD, WHO READS MY BLOG: Latveria is the fictional country that the Fantastic Four’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Doom, hails from.] Now, I tried to respond to said comment with a link to a post on my site featuring said sticker, but alas, the CA comment machine does not like linkity-links, so instead I’ll post that link here.

    And before you ask: no, I don’t have any more. Sorry, kids.

  • More Comico history: the transition to color printing, including some early and neat-looking coloring guides for a page from the original Mage series.
  • Pal Dorian does terrible things to an old DC subscription pitch. TERRIBLE THINGS.
  • Employee Aaron’s fiancée Kempo whips out her 2010 San Diego Comic-Con report, with lots of photos of the two of them eating meals.
  • I’d noted something on my Twitter the other day, and thought I’d repeat it here: you know what I’d like to see Christopher Nolan name the third Batman movie? The Caped Crusader. That’d be pretty awesome, right? Yeah, I knew you’d agree.

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