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Yes, I know the Impossible Man is also Mr. Mxyzptlk, this post is already complicated enough.

§ July 29th, 2022 § Filed under dc comics, marvel, multiverse talk § 6 Comments

In response to your many emails, comments, Tweets, phone calls, faxes, certified letters, numbers stations broadcasts, and telegrams, I will discuss the upcoming 30th Anniversary “Death of Superman” comic, probably next week in my usual timely “ripped from yesterday’s headlines” fashion.

But today, we’re back to the Marvel mutliverse! When we last met, I was talking about two specific questions that had some to mind regarding it. In that post I was curious as to the origins of the designation “Earth-616” for Marvel’s “main” Earth. That was something I’d been wondering about for a while.

The next question is one that popped into my head relatively recently, which is “does the Marvel Multiverse have a specific Earth for the heroes of DC Comics?”

The answer it seems is “no” — it looks like the idea is that Marvel’s multiverse and DC’s multiverse are two separate multiverses, comprising part of a larger Omniverse, if you will. I mean, it’s something like that…a little handwaving to create a mutually-beneficial metafictional construct that ensures one company isn’t a specific subset of another company’s milieu. That said, as per DC’s Multiversity, there are a couple of Earths with characters obviously based on Marvel properties. And Marvel of course has their Justice League analogues the Squadron Supreme, but each of the main Marvel and DC Universes remain separate from each other’s multiverses.

Sort of.

I was perusing the Wikipedia list of Marvel’s multiverses and there is an Earth-7642 where both Marvel and DC’s characters live and can crossover with each other. So Superman/Spider-Man, Batman/Hulk, all those intercompany events where, like, Superman’s all “ah yes, I’ve heard of this Spider-Man fellow out in New York” but the two characters never got around to meeting before…that’s this Earth.

This is presumably separate from those between-company events where characters specifically travel between universes in order to meet, like in Superman/Fantastic Four. I’m assuming in this case it’s presumed that Superman is traveling from the prime DC Universe to the prime Marvel Universe. Unless each universe has an Earth with their company’s characters that spefically cross over into the other company’s universe, versus the regular “prime” Earths doing so, and does anyone else here have a nosebleed or is it just me?

I probably should mention Earth-9602, Marvel’s designation for the alternate universe created when the Marvel and DC universe were merged together during the Marvel Vs. DC mini-series. That’s the Amalgam Universe, effendi, where Iron Lantern and Spider-Boy hang out, probably never to be seen again.

Now on the other side of the aisle, Doomsday Clock, which all of you out there read and enjoyed, posits a future intercompany event between Marvel and DC. The couple of caption boxes describe the perfectly named “Secret Crisis,” mentioning the non-copyrightable name of Thor and references a “green behemoth,” presumably the Hulk and not, I don’t know, the Impossible Man maybe. I’m assuming this is supposed to represent another breach between the main Marvel and DC multiverses, though it could be a specific Marvel Earth within DC’s own multiverse…it’s vague enough. It might even be that Marvel-inspired Earth from Multiversity. Who knows.

I’m making this more complicated than it already is, and I’m sure you’re as sick of the world “multiverse” and I am of typing it. And look, I know I didn’t even mention Access, the character created specifically to travel between Marvel and DC. Or that Earth-7642, Crossover Earth, also has other characters that crossed over with Marvel, like the Archie characters.

So to reiterate: from all appearances the Marvel and DC Multiverses are each their own thing, and do not exist within each other’s multiversal array. Each universe contains analogues of the other’s characters, however Marvel has an Earth where all characters of all the companies coexist. But some stories explicitly use a multiversal crossing of some sort to allow Marvel and DC to team up.

I think I’ve got that right. If I got any of that wrong, please send all corrections to pal Ian.

Before Marvel started cataloging all these separate Earths (more of which I’d like to talk about…I’ve got questions about the Earth where the Marvel LEGO video games take place), the Watcher in What If? #1 wasn’t even sure where that first Superman/Spider-Man hoohar took place:


…though to be fair, he didn’t say he didn’t know, just that doubts exist as to what universe that meeting belonged. It’d be just like Uatu to not tell us. …Actually, it wouldn’t be, this dude blabbed a lot in this series.

Anyway, thanks to Twitter pal WormDrive PRO, we have these samples of letter column concern in regards to that first Superman/Spider-Man team-up from Amazing Spider-Man #158 and #159 (1976):


I don’t know what the ultimate resolution or response was to that editorial “what do YOU think?” but boy, that letter writer sure was mad about the guy logically bitten by a radioactive spider and thus given spider powers meeting an alien arbitrarily sent from an exploding planet. I suppose it’s a tribute to Marvel’s construction of a shared universe that some readers would get so upset about the intrusion of elements that would seem to disrupt it. I mean, it’s only just a comic book, they should really just relax…the very idea that maybe the two companies just wanted to have some fun and see what happened when they paired their heroes (and also make a ton of cash in the process) was a distant second to the threat that the Marvel Universe might be “diluted” by this most unnatural contact.

But the question was eventually answered. It’s Earth-7642. There you go, long ago letter writer, that’s the solution. See, wasn’t that easy?

The neighbor of the beast.

§ July 26th, 2022 § Filed under marvel, multiverse talk § 8 Comments

So it turns out you folks had a lot to say about their funnybook multiversal experiences. In true Progressive Ruin fashion, where YOU Are The Content™, I will do a post covering your comments, but in the meantime, lemme type a few words about Marvel’s various universes.

When I got to thinking about what my first experience was with multiverses in comics, my mind immediately gravitated towards DC. It ’twas DC what rode that parallel universe horse to exhaustion, making it a huge part of their fictional milieu. Not that Marvel didn’t fool around with parallel Earths an’ such as well (probably most notably earlier on with the Squadron Supreme. But as I reflected on this, it likely turns out my very first encounter with multiverses in comics was that very first issue of What If?. I wrote about that comic at length a few years back, so I’ll just say here that the Watcher giving a everyone a crash course on alternate realities in that book pinned down the concept for me at age 7, probably long before I was wondering why there were two Supermen in this DC comic, and why does one of them have gray temples?

There were a couple reasons why Marvel’s multiverse had come to mind recently. I mean, I’m sure in general it’s just the overall Disney-generated zeitgeist infecting pop culture at the moment, courtesy their movie/TV vectors. But I started wondering about two things.

First was “why is Marvel’s ‘main Earth’ called Earth-616?” I mean, like, why that specific number? This is something I’ve kind of wondered about since first coming across that particular designation in a 1983 Captain Britain story by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. Or rather, seeing some panel reprinted somewhere, since a U.S. reprinting wouldn’t happen ’til the mid-1990s. Here it is from the U.K. Marvel comics magazine Daredevils #7:

I was of two minds. One, that “616” was a known alternate for “666,” the most evil phone number prefix. I thought maybe “Alan Moore was making some kind of sly comment on the Marvel U.” by calling it that. My other idea was that it was simply a larger number given to Main Marvel Comics Earth, indicating it’s just an Earth, not the Earth, in contrast to DC’s “Earth One,” “Earth Two” etc.

I’ve actually wondered about that for a while, and finally sitting down to do some extensive research (i.e. looking it up on Wikipedia) it turns out…both are possibilities? Frankly, I feel like Alan Davis’s explanation that the previous writer on the feature came up with the term as, I had guessed, an implied criticism of Marvel’s superhero shenanigans, carries a little more weight. I don’t know if that writer, David Thorpe, ever used it directly in his stories or were just background he created for the series that were passed on when he left the book. Anyway, this archive of the old Marvel blog goes into detail, direct from Davis’s mouth.

Now, the second question about Marvel’s multiverse that I’d been pondering…will have to wait for Friday! Thanks for reading pals…and if you have more info or opinions about the above, please feel free to leave a comment. I always like hearing from you all.
 
 

Special thanks to Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull of Earth-Prime, for his help with this post. Also thanks to…somebody, maybe Neil Gaiman I think, for the title of this post, from whom I shamelessly stole it.

“Money? Oh, no thank you.”

§ June 20th, 2022 § Filed under marvel, retailing § 5 Comments


The last time we had a comic book tie-in to the Fortnite video game, we were mostly caught offguard by its immediate and immense demand from customers, mostly from lots of new faces who wanted the codes inserted into the issues for the game. The end result was reports of shortages and price gouging, lots and lots of desperate phone calls looking for the comics, and DC reprinting the issues multiple times.

In the usual comic marketplace, second (or later) printings don’t see anywhere close to the same demand as the first printings (except sometimes from speculators who from all appearances randomly pick certain reprints as being “valuable” and snap ’em up for eBay sales). However demand for DC’s Batman/Fortnite reprints remained very high, often selling out as quickly as the first printings.

Sales on the series did become less frenetic eventually, as retailers were able to adjust their orders on the first printings of issues 3 (I believe) and above after seeing demand for the first two issues. As such, eventually there was plenty to go around (particularly in areas like mine where there is a high incidence of comic shops) and the desperation to track down these comics decreased. Plus, there was the hardcover release that not only collected all these comics together, but also included a code for all the items previously offered as well as a bonus item.

When the later printings came into stock, the primary thing I was asked about them was if the codes were still included. That these were reprints made not a difference to most of these customers, only that they could still get these game codes. As I recall, the people who did want first prints were almost exclusively existing comic collectors. The new customers, the ones that entered the shop to get added material for their video games, they couldn’t care less what printing it was so long as the codes worked.

Which brings me to the Marvel Fortnite: Zero War comic.

This was a slightly slower burn than the Batman/Fortnite book, at least for me. Probably several reasons for that, like being the second major publisher out of the gate to do this gimmick. Also, that initial order numbers were probably much higher this time, resulting in more copies to meet demand (again, especially in locales like mine where there are plenty of comic stores). My own order was…pretty high, but on its Wednesday release I began to think “uh oh, I may have made a mistake” as sales were not encouraging at first. That changed quickly, and by the weekend they were gone…and I’m still getting calls for them.

That I’m still getting calls now even after what I presumed would be a much higher print run and much higher local availability tells me demand likely exceeds those Batman sales. Maybe it’s just more people want “Spider-Man Fortnite” (which is how I’m hearing it referred to) than Bat-Nite, maybe it’s that we’ve had a year or so for awareness of “codes can show up in comic books!” to percolate throughout Fortnite fandom. Regardless, demand for these comics is still being driven by the inserted game codes, nearly all these new customers citing the codes are reason for their purchase.

Which is why it is exceedingly baffling that the second printing for this first issue will not contain the code. Quote from the solicit: “PLEASE NOTE THAT EACH SECOND PRINT ISSUE DOES NOT CONTAIN A REDEEMABLE CODE TO UNLOCK A BONUS DIGITAL COSMETIC IN FORTNITE.” (EDIT: originally used other solicit info which was vague; this is the info from the Penguin Random House solicit)

Now it’s possible I missed and/or forgot the announcement that only the first printings would contain the code. I’ve had a lot on my plate lately, so I wouldn’t put it past me to have overlooked it. I still ordered lots of the first print #1, so I did okay. And all the solicit for the first printing said was, quoting again, “Each first print issue contains a redeemable code to unlock a bonus digital cosmetic in Fortnite!” Doesn’t explicitly say “not in the reprints!” but, well. Again, could’ve missed that notice.

Still doesn’t make this any less stupid a decision. It’s the codes driving these sales. The vast majority of people buying these, in my experience, was the codes for the game. If they’re reading these comics at all, it’s a secondary concern. Nearly everyone who asked about the Batman reprints asked if there were still codes. When I suggested that the first issue of this Marvel series would be reprinted, I was asked “would it still have the code?” Nobody is going to buy this to keep up on the story.

BEFORE YOU COMMENT/SEND IN EMAILS, I know I’m making some blanket statements here. There are always exceptions. As a Twitter pal noted to me, maybe the reprint is for “the discerning gamer whose only in it for the lore.” And I’m sure that’s the case. I HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT NOT EVERYONE IS BUYING THIS FOR THE CODES (OR SPECULATION).

But most are. As was also pointed out, maybe the decision to omit codes in reprints might not have been Marvel’s decision. Or it could have been Marvel’s strategy to get higher orders on first prints to avoid having to do reprints. I have no idea. But it’s a regrettable decision that’s going to disappoint a huge new audience coming into comics, even if only fed in by a gimmick…but that’s still money that a tiny industry like comics can’t afford to lose the trickle-down from a business that makes some real cash.

If only it were cheap enough to put logos/UPCs/prices on an acetate overlay and leave the artwork alone for every comic.

§ May 18th, 2022 § Filed under advertising, marvel § 8 Comments


So I’ve been processing a lot of back issues lately, as I’ve had several collections (or several boxes from the same collection, in some cases) showing up at the shop. And as I do so, I’m flipping through books and checking conditions and making sure there are no missing pages and such, where occasionally I’ll find an image that amuses me. Out comes the phone, a picture is snapped, and I’ll throw it on Twitter or Instagram or whathaveyou.

Above is one of the pics that struck me, mostly in the ol’ nostalgia bone as I remember seeing that particular house ad in comics I was reading in the early 1980s. Specially 1983, and I think I saw it in the actual Thing series, and I presume the ad ran elsewhere but it was in The Thing where I’ve only seen it. I’m sure one of you kind folks out there will more early ’80s Marvels under your belt will let me know.

As I said when I posted this pic on Twitter, I was amused by the crosseyed, slightly-annoyed Blushin’ Ben Grimm in the smaller cover on the left, logo pushed down low on his brow. Also I wanted to note that it was a shame the actual image in the larger “more room” design was never used for a real cover. What a cheery face to have starring back at you from the racks.

Of course over the years Marvel found new ways to encroach on the available cover image space:

…including going back to the retro banner briefly in the late-ish ’90s:

But for the most part nothing was as bad as this early ’80s favorite:


I’m sure worst examples can be pulled from comics history, but boy that bicycle ad sure annoyed me as a kid.

Worse still is


…but I’ve already gone on about that.

“Overly talky” versus a book that had Chris Claremont writing for it.

§ May 16th, 2022 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, dc comics, marvel § 9 Comments

So back in Ye Olden Dayes of this blog, when I wrote about specific comics, all I had to do was dip into the Vast Mikester Comic Archives and pull out a copy of the book I wanted to discuss. “Ah, yes, fetch me that copy of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #106, would you Jeeves, that’s a good chap,” as I reclined into my Marc Newson Lockheed Lounge Chair, quill in hand, ready to pen the latest enthralling installment of Progressive Fancypants dot com.

Well, that changed when all thoughts of fancypantsness went out the window as I opened up my own comic book store, and the Vast Mikester Comic Archives became The Dismal Dregs once I gave over my personal stock to shop stock. Now when I want to discuss a particular book, it’s either one that I came across at my store, one I can pull images from DCUniverseInfinite.com, or I can bum pics off a pal, usually Bully.

It’s particularly frustrating when the books I want to discuss are definitely ones I bought off the stands at the time of release, and long since given up to the shop, such as 1985’s Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men from Marvel Comics:

and Heroes Against Hunger from DC Comics:


Produced during that time pop culture remembered that Africa was having some problems, these were fundraising comics to aid the fight against starvation. Honestly, I don’t know how much money was raised by these projects, given each had a price tag of $1.50, so the wholesale price was about half that (unless there was a different discount structure in place for these particular books, which is possible), and unless those distributors also donated their share of the profits…well, that wasn’t much per issue going to charity. It’s a little better once you multiply that portion of the cover price by however many copies were sold to retailers (for which I have no info, so I’m gonna make the rough estimate of about 300,000 for the X-Men book, and half that for the DC one), then maybe you’re talking some real money. Maybe not “We Are the World” money, but not nuthin’, either.

I’m sure some enterprising person out there already crunched all those numbers and I’ll hear about it shortly, but that would take some kind of “internet search engine” to locate something like that. I’ll have to ask my man Jeeves to look into it. Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

No, what I’m here to talk about is the impact these books had on me, and possibly also on cultural awareness overall (as far as “comic book fandom cultural awareness” goes on something like this). And all this came about because I was processing a collection the other day that had a copy of the Marvel benefit book. That in itself isn’t terribly unusual…copies of this title show up in collections all the time, far more frequently than the DC counterpart, which is why I presumed earlier the vast disparity in printruns.

But whenever I get a copy, I poke through it and marvel (so to speak) at the creative teams they put together for the short vignettes within…usually only two or three pages long by a specific creative team. There is a bare thread of a storyline connecting everything, but the real meat are the small character bits each short provides, as the various X-Men face personal, emotional challenges. Harlan Ellison and Frank Miller presents Wolverine rising above his savage instincts, Chris Claremont and Brian Bolland have Storm confronting her various self-images, Stephen King(!) and Bernie Wrightson have Kitty face off against…well, hunger (there’s more to it than that, didn’t flip through it agin to refresh my memory, but boy that “Good God, let’s eat!” still sticks with me). And then there’s this, which I took an askew shot of at the shop to post onto Twitter:


…contrasting Magneto’s Holocaust survivor background with the future he may bring about with his battle for mutant superiority over the common folk. I mean, Hitler shows up on this page to praise Magneto, it ain’t exactly subtle. It’s Alan Moore in a very rare bit of Marvel work (his only new post-UK work for the company, I believe), drawn by the underground comix legend Richard Corben. Not shown (except a bit in the last panel of that page there) are the great rotting corpses that only Corben could create. It may very well be one of my favorite bits of X-Men comics.

Here’s the thing about not having these comics readily accessible in my collection any more. I have to depend on my memories of having read the books. Yes, I said I get the Marvel book in collections all the time, but I’m not spending time to flip through each copy that shows up. It was only the other day where I thought “you know what’s good? this Moore/Corben sequence” and decided to take a picture of it so I could say so on the Twitterers. Many of the images and events of this comic stick in my mind clearly, nearly 40 years after I first saw them. That emaciated Kitty Pryde, Wolverine standing triumphant, Storm in her various guises, a guilt-ridden Magneto. I don’t remember a whole lot else from the comic, but those have been living in my brain a very long time.

Now let’s take the DC book. Similar in structure to the Marvel comic, it’s made up of short 2-3 page sequences each by a different creative team, strung together into a semblance of a story. I have two primary memories of this comic, which I definitely bought and read at the time.

The first memory is of a review I read of it in, well, probably has to be Amazing Heroes. Basically the complained about the inconsistency of the writing, specifically citing that Lex Luthor’s characterization would change from segment to segment. An inherent problem, I suppose, in having this many writing cooks in the kitchen.

The other memory was of Luthor weeping when put face to face with starving people. I mentioned that scene online, and it was Twitter pal BobH to the rescue, snapping a pic of that very moment:


As BobH pointed out, that’s by Barry Windsor-Smith and Catherine Jones, an impressive art team by any measure. He also mentions Bernie Wrightson inked by Mike Kaluta (wow!) and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez inked by Jerry Ordway (another shot from BobH):


A look at the credits shows lots of other impressive (and weird) combos. I mean, Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson! Curt Swan inked by John Byrne! Walt Simonson inked by Steve Leialoha! (That one’s gotta be weird!) C’mon, Kirby is in this! There’s a lot of what should be some spectacular work in here.

I just don’t remember any of it. Nothing from the book stuck, except that one image of Luthor. (Which I liked, by the way…I always preferred the “yes he’s a bad guy but not a complete monster” pre-Crisis Luthor to the nigh-irredeemable post-Crisis Luthor we’d get only a couple of years after this.) Otherwise my mental image of the book was that it was…cluttered and cramped, overly talky and not as visually memorable or striking as the X-Men comic. The DC one even had its own Big Name Horror Writer in Robert Bloch, for a sequence also drawn by Wrightson, and hand-to-God I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it.

Not to say the X-Men book totally ruled and the DC one drooled or anything. The former had a bit by Mike Baron/Steve Rude, a creative team I normally like, which I looked at briefly in the copy I had at the store and gosh darn if I could tell what was going on. And frankly the DC book sounds a lot better than I remember, but I still feel like it does just sound that way, that something in the execution made it a less memorable offering that the Marvel release.

Lot of words to throw at you to essentially say “I remember one book more fondly than the other” but this is just one of those things I go through as an older fan who’s had a lot of comics pass through my hands. Interesting in that both Jim Starlin and Wrightson were involved in creating the storylines for both.

Anyway, I put this here so that I can maybe get some feedback on the books, about what I’m not remembering, about what was outstanding about the DC book that should be remembered as well as those top-flight stories from the Marvel comic. But I have to be honest, it’s gonna be hard to beat that Magneto strip.

EDIT: Everything old is new again! I just reminded myself that I wrote about these books on the site before, because of course I have! Here I am talking about the Marvel one, and here’s DC…more images (and some linkrot) for your perusal!

I’d like to see Marvel Vs. DC get reprinted someday as well.

§ February 21st, 2022 § Filed under dc comics, marvel, publishing § 12 Comments


So as I’m sure you’re aware, JLA/Avengers is finally getting a new printing via the comics industry charity Hero Initiative, with all profits going to it. That is, all profits from direct distribution to retailers, but more on that in a second.

What’s putting folks out about this particular minor miracle, which saw Marvel and DC work together for the first time in years in order to allow this republication to happen, is that so few copies, relatively speaking, are going to be available. There’s a printing cap of 7,000 copies, for reasons I’ve seen here and there on the internet ranging from “that’s all we can get printed with the time and resources available” to “lawyers, man, whatcha gonna do?” No idea what the actual answer is, beyond the fact that Hero Initiative probably didn’t sign on to keep the book in print forever, so a max print run had to be set somewhere.

And as you also know, the legendary Mr. Pérez recently announced that he’s stricken with a terminal condition, with only months to live, hence the rush to get this book out while he can still see it. It’s nice that Marvel and DC were able to come to terms to allow a charity reprinting of this series, for which I presume “neither of us are getting the money from this so we’ve got nothing to fight about” helped things along.

But like I said, only 7,000 copies are going to make it out to the world with this printing, minus however many copies get damaged during distribution to retailers. One would hope that DC and Marvel are currently looking at the frenzy this limited availability is causing and are reconsidering any future publishing plans regarding this title. I know there’s some hoohar over profit-sharing on this book, to the point where not publishing it at all and making no money on it is somehow preferable to getting it out there and making at least a little money on it. I’ve said in the past that my solution is just let each publisher release their own trade paperback of JLA/Avengers (or Avengers/JLA for the Marvel book) and keep all profits from their own publication. But I’m sure there are legal/financial reasons from even that being able to happen.

Anyway, all I know is that I’ve been deluged with requests for this book, and I’ve started a first-come/first-served waiting list. For once, the people who actually want the book to read and enjoy were in reasonably early, while the Usual Suspects with the eBay auction listings all ready to go are a day late and a Bitcoin short. But make no mistake, this book is going to be flogged at some sky-high prices the second it’s out. Way to honor George Pérez, guys.

But because there is a limited quantity, and order allocations are almost certain to occur, it is very possible the only person on the list I’ll be able to provide for is the first one who got his name on the list. It is actually very possible, depending on how other stores place their orders, that I get zero copies. If enough bastards out there type “7000” into the order slot on the distributor website to get max allocations, maybe there won’t be enough left over for anyone else.

I’m guessing I’ll get at least the one copy, though. I am ordering a larger number of total copies under the assumption it’s going to be reduced. I was guessing that I’d likely only get about 10% of what I ordered and placed numbers accordingly, but I’m beginning to think 10% is highly optimistic. I also don’t want to order too high, then hear “oh, we’ve upped the print run, everyone’s getting every copy they ordered!” and then I’m stuck with all 7,000 copies. Er, I mean, someone is stuck with that many, I certainly didn’t order 7,000.

Ultimately I hope Marvel and DC do see that people want a nice collected edition of this beautifully-illustrated goofy mess of a comic. The amount of love Pérez put into this comic shouldn’t be forgotten by history or kept out of the hands of fans new to the hobby. I mean, right now the Justice League and the Avengers are at what may very well be their height of cultural awareness (admittedly for drastically different, and not always good, reasons). Strike while that iron (man) is hot.

I am glad it’s back, even for as small a print run as it is, but I’m hoping this leads the way to more copies of it from Marvel and/or DC.

P.S. I always wonder how much negotiation when into things like that cover above. “Superman has to be taller than Captain America.” “Okay, fine, but Cap is standing in front.” “We’ll give you that, but the Atom has to be standing on his shield.”

P.P.S. When reading a few online articles about this, came across one site giving a brief history of Marvel/DC team-ups and saying

“…Doomsday Clock noted a future Marvel and DC crossover called Secret Crisis, but it’s not certain if this is actually in the works.”

NO, IT’S NOT IN THE WORKS, it’s just something Geoff Johns threw in there while making his point about Big Crossover Events. Not saying it can’t happen, especially after Disney buys Warner Bros., but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intended as an Actual Thing in the Works.

P.P.P.S. Variant cover-age Monday posts are returning, they’re just resting for a moment.

Does whatever a variant can.

§ April 26th, 2021 § Filed under marvel, retailing, variant covers § 10 Comments


So in the summer of 1990, these came along: the first issue of what we referred to as the “adjectiveless Spider-Man, a new ongoing series drawn and written by the immensely-popular superstar artist Todd McFarlane. If you were a fan of McFarlane’s art, it was absolutely a visual tour de force, giving you the most McFarlane-est of McFarlane Spider-Man art. The writing was…well, I think in retrospect ol’ Todd got grief way out of proportion to his actual scripting skills. Perhaps he wasn’t the most talented wordsmith in the world, but for a goofy ol’ Spider-Man comic, it was fine. I’ve read plenty worse, I assure you. And while the opening captions to issue #1 took the brunt of the derision, it was turned into a wonderful piece of audio by my old pal Andrew and thus, how can I ever feel anything but love for it?

But look, we’re not here to talk about the contents of these Spidery-Sam books, we’ve come to poke sticks at the variant covers! Of the 1990s Big Variant Cover Hoohas, Spider-Man #1 was the first, with two differently colored covers (one printed with in green and black, the other black with silver ink), and then two additional versions with each cover sealed inside a polybag with “COLLECTOR’S ITEM!” printed all over it. Note the “Legend of the Arachknight” blurb, clearly referencing DC’s Legends of the Dark Knight #1 and its multiple covers.

Of note is the fact that the black bagged variant had no price printed on its cover, but instead had a $2 price tag on the bag. Gettin’ ya for an extra quarter there. The green bagged edition still appears to be the regular $1.75 price, though I could have sworn both were $2 at the time. Hey, it’s been thirty years, I forget things. However, for that extra quarter, you were buying a comic that was genuinely a variant in that the actual cover had a printing variation. But if it were removed from the bag, technically the collectible would be “incomplete,” so just being a variant in and of itself wouldn’t be enough, I’d thought. But just checked the eBays and someone there is trying to sell one of unbagged, cover-priceless versions of that black ‘n’ silver variant for $70, but I don’t know if that’s within reason or simply “high hopes.”

And yes, there’s also the bagged newsstand edition, with a UPC code on the cover instead of the Spidey face in its place. Can’t forget that. Plus there was the gold-inked 2nd printing, and the platinum edition and newsstand gold edition that you can read about here.

At any rate, we definitely sold a boatload of things…just stacks and stacks, with plenty of folks grabbing multiple copies. This was, of course, back in the day when you ordered heavily on a first issue, as, if successful, the series would go on for a long time and there would always be customers looking for that first issue in the future, because surely no publisher would be dumb enough to relaunch a series with a new #1 every year or two. In these days of direct market frugality, where everyone’s ordering as close to the bone as possible, it’s hard to imagine actually having that much stock on anything new, much less having speculators look at said stacks and view them as investible material. Compare to today, where speculation depends on pouncing on titles ordered at low-ish but reasonable numbers, creating and taking advantage of that additional scarcity in an already thinly-spread marketplace.

At the time, my previous place of employment had plenty on hand. Of the two regular covers, at least…my boss thought the polybagged-editions were “stupid” and refused to have anything to do with them after the sold out. Just wouldn’t buy them from collections, that sort of thing. Eventually we did get two that showed up in a collection that we just sort of ended up with, so out into the back issue bins they went. I think that was the one exception.

My personal thought on those bags back then was that they would eventually do damage to the comics inside, as they aged and broke down and decayed on the comics themselves. In recent years I’ve had my hands on those polybagged Spideys in my own shop, as well as other prebagged comics of that decade, and it doesn’t appear as it this has been the case. Whether that’ll change in the decades to come…well, of course it will, it’s cheap plastic, it’s gonna break down eventually. Whether that’ll happen soon enough for any of use to care, I don’t know.

I’d said the McFarlane Spider-Man #1, and the rest for that matter, were plentiful at the time. Not to beat that poor old dead horse some more, but after thirty years and shops vanishing and new shops cropping up and old back issue stock going away and all those copies purchased but then those were either not well cared for or simply thrown out…it’s very possible the available stock left in the world is at least somewhat lessened. Add to that the younger customers who weren’t around or too wee to be buying these off the racks, and are discovering them now. Regardless of the reason, these Spider-Man comics are currently in high demand, at least for me. I just can’t keep the darn things in stock.

And do those variants make any difference to buyers now? Not that I can tell. I haven’t had the quantities on hand to make a clear judgement as to whether there’s a consumer preference for the green cover or the black cover, but both (and the gold reprint) sell nearly as soon as I price them. This is, I think, one of those cases where cover variation is playing no real part in sales. It’s all “early McFarlane art,” or “it’s a #1 for one of the main Spider-Man series,” or “it’s a major Marvel #1,” period, all of it pushed along by a not-insignificant number of current speculators.

Next time: weekly X-Men variant covers…advantageous!

Look, Marvel’s Golden Age reprints are this whole other deal which I didn’t get into here.

§ July 31st, 2020 § Filed under marvel, publishing § 13 Comments


Not too long ago I purchased a copy of the above comic for my shopMarvel Super-Heroes #1, from 1966, reprinting what was then a few relatively recent-ish comics from the publisher.

But of course, in 1966, most fans didn’t have the option of strolling on over to ye local comic book emporium to peruse the stacks and fill in gaps in their collections. Not to say there weren’t avenues to find old comics…there were stores here and there that had some, and you could always try mail order, but for the average comic book reader the newsstand was their source, which meant just the latest releases. So, if you had an interest in a particular character and title, and came to the property a tad late, these reprints held a lot of appeal.

Both Marvel and DC cranked out the reprint books throughout the 1960s and 1970s…the work was already paid for, and just sitting around in the archives, why not get it out there again? And it was, perhaps, easier to sell to an audience that tended to refresh every few years, meaning this old stuff was hitting new eyes.

I feel like Marvel’s reprints may have had more of a hook, however. DC’s stories were, by and large, standalone items, where, outside of their out-of-continuity “Imaginary Stories,” all the toys were put back in place by the tale’s conclusion, no matter how scattered or destroyed they may have been during the course of the plot. There were exceptions at DC, of course…the Legion of Super-Heroes springs to mind, and the status quo of Supergirl changing from “Superman’s Secret Weapon” to “Supergirl Reveals Herself” (ahem) is a fairly significant alteration to the premise. But a Superman story is a Superman story is a Superman story…if you read one Superman adventure, you don’t feel like you’ve missed any backstory, any twists or turns or surprising revelations.

In Marvel’s case, their superhero comics had adopted a more soap-operatic strategy. Stan Lee often ballyhooed Marvel’s “illusion of change” in their comics, but the subplots and relationships felt like they built on what came before, that there was forward progress being made with each character as they lived what seemed like, well, not “realistic” lives, but at least suspension-of-believable existences. This made you want to know what had come before, as coming in on issue 34 of, say, Amazing Spider-Man, will make you want to know what happened in the previous 33. You feel like you’ve skipped ahead to the 34th chapter in a book with 33 previous chapters (oh, and a prologue in Amazing Fantasy #15), and who knows how many chapters left to come. (Answer: this is one hell of a long book.)

Thus, the great appeal of Marvel’s reprint lines. You get those early chapters, maybe not in precise order, and not always in the same reprint title, but with some perseverance one could piece together earlier storylines. You could see beginnings of character relationships, early clashes with recurring villains, where those subplots had traveled prior to the more recent installments. Plus, in the 1960s, with Marvel’s new superhero line having only started a few years earlier, filling the gaps back to the beginning and getting the whole story probably seemed somewhat within reach.

The interesting thing is, in the modern marketplace, a lot of those early reprint books remain affordable, especially in lesser conditions. The copy of Marvel Super-Heroes #1 sold for $15, and I had several copies of Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics (don’t forget that apostrophe!) that sold from $1.50 to four or five dollars. Still have fans today trying to fill in those early stories, looking for the foundations on which the Marvel Universe was built. And doing it the old fashioned way…hunting and collecting and piecing it together. Sure, you can buy trades with the stories in order and on nice paper (assuming they’re in print), or even (gasp) digitally…but what’s the fun in that?

I’ll tear off those sketch cover overlays to get a sale, I don’t even care.

§ July 13th, 2020 § Filed under marvel, retailing § 6 Comments

So over the last couple of days I’ve been grading and pricing a big ol’ pile of Thor comics spanning over the last couple of decades. Some of them reminded me of that period of Marvel (mostly improved now) where the covers were just generic images of the hero, indicating nothing of the story inside. It’s like Marvel was resigned to the idea that the only people buying their comics were the people who were going to buy their comics anyway. They might has well have had a generic of Thor on the front and just changed the issue number with each new release. (Amazing Spider-Man had a problem with that, too.)

Well, this new variant cover style, debuting this week from Marvel, has me wishing for the Good Ol’ Days of “Cover #14 in A Row of Spider-Man Swinging on His Web” —


Um…that’s not terribly inspiring. I saw some folks online (and one of my customers, who called me Sunday to ask about these) saying they thought this was just a fill-in graphic, holding the space in various catalogs and online databases. But nope, that appears to be the actual cover.

This was probably information that was revealed a while back, but I’ve been otherwise occupied and didn’t follow up on this whole “On Sale Wednesday” variant stuff after first seeing them as line items on an order form. I don’t tend to order a whole lot of Marvel’s “free to order” variants anyway, since most folks just want the regular cover, so I shouldn’t be stuck with too many of these. I did mention on the Twitters that maybe these’ll be like the “sketch” cover variants, with just an extra wraparound cover stapled over the regular cover. If that’s the case, and the “On Sale Wednesday” covers do end up not selling, I can just tear off the overcovers and vee-ola, Regular Cover Amazing Spider-Mans for sale!

And anyway, what exactly is the point of these? Marvel thumbing its nose at DC because DC changed their on-sale day for new products to Tuesday? A reminder to customers “hey we’re putting out new comics again, come get them every Wednesday unless the shipping company delayed the package or the distributor shorted the retailer copies.” Not sure how much of a burn it is in the former, and, well, kinda preaching to the converted in the latter. But here’s Yet Another Variant™ to order, because goodness knows there weren’t enough already.

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.

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