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“Leaps and bounds” — I see what you did there.

§ February 13th, 2019 § Filed under fantastic four, marvel, promo § 8 Comments

From Marvel Comics Retailer Spotlight #16 (August 1990), here is the hype for the Walt Simonson/Art Adams “New FF” run on Fantastic Four #347 through #350:


In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what the first issue looked like:


Now, it’s been a long time, and I think in 1990 I was still in the “huh-yuk, I’m a’sellin’ comic books!” starry-eyed haze and not worried overly much with the behind-the-scenes ordering hoohar that the boss concerned himself with, so I probably didn’t know at the time that this first issue was in fact returnable. (Returnability is only occasionally afforded to retailers on certain books today, but it was a real rarity back then.)

As it turned it, it sold extremely well, eventually going to a second printing (also not a very common occurence in those long-ago Young Mike days). I know we didn’t have much backstock on it, and we’d buy back copies as they came in collections. This was quite the popular item for some time after its release, and even still today gets an inquiry from curious fans here and there.

It’s an interesting look at the cross-promotion and sales strategies used for a comic that one would think would almost sell itself anyway. This was during the big 1990s comics boom, so something like this seemed like it was almost guaranteed to outsell the Bible anyway, but even in those times when the gold poured out of the rivers and the oil flowed freely, no one was going to take any chances. Even dragging in ol’ Fin Fang Foom and referencing the rest of the Marvel Monsters to get that crowd (you know, “them”) shows the extent of hype for this book.

The listing of each guest star and why he’s of import is certainly a sign of the times, when any of these characters popping into any book usually meant at least something of a bump upward, if not necessarily in rack sales, but at least in retailer order numbers. It may still sorta be true today, but not nearly to the extent it once was, a combination of readers being a little choosier with their comics money and the fact that “Special Guest Appearances” of “hot” characters are no longer the huge sales pull due to overuse and overexposure. Wolverine’s “sales power,” once taken for granted as shown here, is no longer the sure thing.

I think most interesting to me is the characterization of this storyline as a “fill-in,” which I think maybe surprises me a little. It never felt like a fill-in, like some inventory story or reprint pulled out of storage thanks to the Dreaded Deadline Doom. I mean, it was the same regular writer and a special guest artist…it may have interrupted the main storyline, but it didn’t feel intrusive (like a fill-in in the Simonson run a couple of issues later, which was…okay, but it was a real case of “well, I guess this’ll do ’til Simonson’s back”).

Anyway, this is one of those few cases where the publisher was all “better order lots of these!” and being correct. It was quite the item, and stil is today, thanks to fans with long memories or a deep interest in comics past. Also a rare encouragement to stock up for later back issue sales, which you don’t see too much of anymore. (I think Crossgen was the last company to really push the “better have back issues for new fans!” thing.)

But as far as that advice to place copies of this comic “all over [our] comic racks” — yeah, I know one of Marvel’s publishing strategies was (and maybe still is) to make a retailer fill up his/her shelf space with all the Marvel product they could possibly carry, and crowd off everyone else. I mean, I get it, they wanted copies of this next to Ghost Rider, etc. However, I’m pretty sure we just had them up on the rack under “Fantastic Four,” and it seemed to do fine.

One last note…as to this being the Punisher’s “most unique” role…yeah, I think there’s a challenger.

Why isn’t “Smile…Doctor Doom Loves You” still in print?

§ February 6th, 2019 § Filed under marvel, merchandise § 5 Comments

So please let me know if you’d like me to put in orders to Pacific Coast Distributors for you on any of these items from their August 1984 catalog (click to expand):

Any room,” you say? I say every room! Redecorate the interior of your house solely with mighty Marvel banners!

I remember seeing these banners around the old shop back when I was but a mere customr, and then eventually selling the last two or three still languishing about the backroom when I was doing the eBay thing for that same shop a couple of decades later. The one I remember specifically is that Alpha Flight pennant. I bet that Spider-Man one will still sell great today.

Now these things:


…Sure, it’s a little more common knowledge nowadays who the “X-Men” are* but I can only imagine how the mundanes reacted to the whole “Mutant Maniac” thing. …By the way, do people still refer to non-nerdy folk as “mundanes” or is everybody too infected with nerdiness now to be separated out? Gobble gobble one of us, and all that.

When discussing these on the Twitters pal Andrew noted that his younger brother still had a “Follow Me to the Secret Wars” bumper sticker on this car. As I said to Andrew, given its current non-awareness by the general public, I can imagine the uninitiated seeing that and thinking it’s some kind of political statement or somesuch. Or, like, some conspiracy-minded talk radio thing. It can serve multiple purposes!

And I was serious about the subject line. That Doctor Doom sticker needs to make its comeback, especially if this image of ol’ Vic were used on it:


 
 

* A story I’ve told before, but worth repeating: one of my earliest experiences in comics retail was, sometime in the late 1980s, someone calling the shop alarmed that these X-Men books she just heard about were “X-rated,” hence the name. “No, lady,” I replied, “the 1990s aren’t here yet.”

Be glad this wasn’t a lenticuilar cover.

§ October 12th, 2018 § Filed under marvel § 2 Comments

Just a brief reminder that I’m still taking your comics-related questions right at this post here, so feel free to chime in. I plan to start addressing them Monday, but keep adiding to the pile as you’d like!

In the meantime, let us contemplate this West Coast Avengers cover from 1986:


…in which Marvel celebrated its 25th anniversary by featuring portraits of characters on the covers, framed by a parade of other Marvel properties. I always found this cover to be a little…off, somehow. I know I had a particular coworker who always got a good chuckle out of it. I came across it again at my store the other day while processing some back issues, and decided to share the wealth on Instagram…but don’t wory, I have here for you, too:


“Hi Clint!”

Anyway, that’s some image…but my favorite of this specific line of covers is still the Barry Windsor-Smith pic of the Thing. And about ten years later, DC would do their own variation of that cover scheme. (Engendering this response, of course.)

This is like the exact opposite of those early Marvel panels where it’d be a picture of the Earth with, say, Mr. Fantastic’s dialogue in a word balloon pointed right at it.

§ June 25th, 2018 § Filed under marvel Comments Off on This is like the exact opposite of those early Marvel panels where it’d be a picture of the Earth with, say, Mr. Fantastic’s dialogue in a word balloon pointed right at it.



image from Sub-Mariner #37 (May 1971) by Roy Thomas, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

“BLOGGER SHALL NOT KILL BLOGGER.”

§ June 5th, 2018 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, marvel, miraclemarvelman, retailing § 2 Comments

It’s been a long week for me already, and it’s only Monday night/Tuesday morning as I write this, so…well, let me just cover a couple of things:

First, regarding the seeming scarcity of Miracleman #15 that I was discussing when last we met, a discussion with pal Andrew on the Twitters put me onto the Google search for any print run information. This site here seems to have come up with what they call a “rough estimate” of 37,000. Not sure entirely how they came by that number, but it seems reasonable enough to me, given the publisher, the time period, and so on. Now, how many of those copies are still extant, or even in circulation, I’m not sure…that website labels this particular comic as “common,” and I suppose, despite the relative difficulty in the past of turning up copies in stores, there always seem to be plenty on eBay, and I suspect after all this time the number of people looking for it has declined, while the number of available copies have perhaps increased. I mean, I’ve seen two copies pass through my store within the last year or so, while is quite the improvement over the past decade or three of my observations.

Second, speaking of rare comics:


Definitely the first time I had one of these in my hands. Was looking forward to having that iconic cover in my case, but didn’t have it in my possession nearly long enough…like, a few hours at most? Anyway, it’s off to a happy home, but it was neat to have it around at least for a little while. There was an original Hulk #6 in the collection too that also sold, but alas, didn’t have time to take any pictures of that one. As per usual for the original Hulk series, it was a little worse for wear…I bet some mint copies exist somewhere, but never among the many copies I’ve seen over the years. Ah well.

Third, I may again be a little light on content this week, for which I apologize. Still more health things I’m addressing, but I should have another post on Thursday, and then with any luck, a new End of Civilization post next Monday. There, I’ve typed it, I’ve gotta do it now. THAT’S BLOG LAW.

I can only presume that my mailman just sighs and shakes his head every time he has to put something in my mailbox.

§ March 21st, 2018 § Filed under marvel § 4 Comments

EDIT: Update at end of this post!

So here’s something I got in the mail the other day:


…what appears to be a genuine Marvel No-Prize (which is, for those of you who don’t know, the long-running “award” of sorts sent out by Marvel to the fans for various reasons, and is always comprised of an empty envelope). I’m pretty sure this wasn’t sent by Marvel, as that looks like my old friend (and former coworker) Rob’s writing on the front of the envelope there, so the full story of this particular item is yet in my future.

I once had what I thought was a surefire way of getting an actual from-Marvel No-Prize for myself a few decades back, in the 1980s, when it seemed like No-Prizes were just given out willy-nilly. Sometimes No-Prizes were given out for coming up with some clever explanation for what appeared to be an in-story mistake or some other kind of error. I found such an error in Marvel’s in-house “fanzine” Marvel Age, where an article was given the wrong page number on the table of contents. Turning to that page actually brought you to a picture of Doctor Doom, and I had some kind of elaborate and “funny” and possibly No-Prize-worthy idea that this was in fact a cunning ruse by ol’ Vic Von, to trick people into gazing upon his visage and falling under his thrall, instead of finding a sneak peek of Wolfpack or whatever that article was in the TOC.

Anyway, never mailed it in, so I lost my chance at my non-reward…but I guess getting this in the mail makes up for it. Thanks, anonymous benefactor who is probably Rob!

EDIT 3/23/18: Okay, it wasn’t Rob, but another friend who mocked up a No-Prize envelope and mailed it to me. That sneaky guy!

I sort of preferred Marvel using “Distinguished Competition” as a nickname for them.

§ November 27th, 2017 § Filed under collecting, marvel, retailing § 7 Comments

Occasionally the One Remaining Comic Book Distributor in the U.S. will run some deep discount sales on stock for retailers, and recently they unloaded a bunch of Marvel’s Omnibus editions and Marvel Masterworks volumes for prices ranging from “well, that’s a little less than normal wholesale” to “whoa nelly that’s cheaper than a cheap thing that’s cheap.” So natch, I loaded up on a few items for the shop and offered them at discounted prices, and everyone’s happy.

I’m especially happy, because a couple of the items offered were of particular interest to me, and at the ridiculously low sale price I picked them up for myself. One is the Howard the Duck omnibus, including the entire original series (including the couple of later issues released around the time of the movie), his previous appearances in Man-Thing comics, that one treasury edition, and something from Foom magazine that I haven’t looked to see what it is yet. I’d actually been on the lookout for discounting on the HtD book after getting my giant-sized Man-Thing omnibus on the cheap a while back.

Now, I have an ulterior motive for this…primarily, getting these reprints in a nicely-printed permanent edition frees up the actual comics from my collection, allowing me to put these out for sale in my shop. You’ll notice that post about the Man-Thing omnibus went up around the time I was beginning to open my store…well, suddenly, I had full runs of two Man-Thing series, a bunch of issues of Fear, some Giant-Size Man-Thing, and other odds and ends I was able to turn around for the most part. It more than covered the cost of the omnibus, and provided some sorely-needed store-opening cash besides.

Thus, theoretically, I should soon have a full run of Howard the Duck plus Asst. Materials for sale in the shop…though I 1) already have a number of those issues in the store right now, acquired from other collections, and 2) I kinda wish I kept those Man-Things now that they’re gone. Logically, I have all the stories, so I don’t really need them, but there was some small measure of sentimental value to them. Plus, omnibuses are a lot harder on the scanner if I need to grab any images out of those comics.

But hey, that’s life, so I’ll get those Howards into the shop regardless.

The other book I acquired for Low, Low Pricing from that recent sale was the Marvel Masterworks edition of Not Brand Echh. That’s another series I have all the issues for…in fact, this was the first series I completed a run for that had come out (almost) entirely before I was born. (Not sure about the last issue, with the May 1969 cover date…given cover date shenanigans, it may have actually come out just prior to or during my birth month of March ’69.)

Now it’s been a while since I’ve read my run of it, but getting a hardcover volume with the artwork printed on paper that isn’t slowly turning to dust has inspired me to dip into this zaniness again…as, you know, time permits, since I’m constantly behind on reading everything. And what I’ve read so far is very funny…very early Mad Magazine-ish in that every square inch is filled with a joke of some kind, and all the more remarkable that it was the very creators of the comics themselves doing the parodies. Yes, it’s the dreaded “Official Parody” that should be toothless and boring, but Not Brand Echh often reads like Stan and Jack and the rest of the gang blowing off some steam after toiling away at the Marvel Universe for so long.

My favorite panel so far into my rereading is this one…it’s specifically mocking the Fantastic Four storyline where Dr. Doom tricks Silver Surfer and steals his powers, but the way Stan ‘n’ Jack exaggerate Doom’s strategy of “pretending to be nice” is hilarious:


The more I look at this panel, the more I think there’s no way on God’s green Earth that anyone could have come up with a funnier book for Doom to be reading than “Butterflies I Have Loved.” I don’t know why that puts a stupid grin on my face every time I see it, but good gravy that one panel alone is funnier than entire issues of supposed humor books I’ve seen of late. Those Lee and Kirby kids, they’ve got some talent.

The actual title of the comic itself, Not Brand Echh, is charmingly dated as well, reminding us of a simpler time when products would be advertised in comparison to competing items, but the competitors would be described as “Brand X” or something similarly obfuscatory. You know, not like today, where commercials are basically “BURGER KING SUCKS, EAT AT ARBY’S” or something equally straight-forward. “Brand Echh,” of course, was Marvel’s nickname for their crosstown rivals DC Comics (putting a Mad-esque twist on “X” for the grosser-sounding “ECHH”), and when the title of the series was combined with the blurb just above it (“Who says a comic book has to be good??”) the cover of every issue was a slam at their competition. That’s…got my respect. I think the closest DC ever got to lobbing that ball back into Marvel’s court were some Marvel parodies in Inferior Five, though there were other minor gags/references in various DC titles here and there. (Wasn’t there a direct swipe at Spider-Man in Legion of Super-Heroes? Maybe someone can remind me.)

And now that I have this book, a run of Not Brand Echh should be making it into the “New Arrivals” back issue bins at the store as well. If, of course, I can convince myself to bring them in.

“It is also worth your while to rack this issue as part of (or near) your ‘Acts of Vengeance’ display.”

§ November 6th, 2017 § Filed under marvel, retailing § 3 Comments

Still going through old boxes of comic book promotional material of decades past, and one item I found was a Marvel Comics retailer letter with suggestions on how shops could market a particular comic book to its customer base. The comic in question: The ‘Nam #41 (February 1990):


This of course is the issue of the ongoing mostly real world-ish Vietnam War comic that guest-starred Marvel super-heroes. Now, it’s not as egregious as it may sound…the premise is that a U.S. soldier in Vietnam imagines how conflict would go if Iron Man and pals were around, and, you know, a guy imagining what that would be like is at least within the realm of possibility. It’s not like, say, the Punisher showed up or anything. So the premise doesn’t really break the main conceit of the book, that it’s a dramatized “realistic” retelling of the war, from the points of view of the men on the ground.

Of course, in execution, it likely plays out differently. In context of “this is all in a fella’s imagination” it may be, but it’s still pictures of superheroes fighting in the Vietnam War in a comic that had eschewed that sort of imagery.

Anyway, whatever, that’s fine. If they needed the occasional story like this to goose sales a bit (and I’m assuming sales might have needed bit of a boost) so they could keep telling the superhero-free stories they wanted to tell…I mean, sure, knock yourselves out. But what I wanted to mention briefly were the sales tips in the above scan. I’d posted this pic initially on the Twitterers the other day, and as Bully, the Little Shelving Bull, pointed out, “Put it near What If? so nobody can find it!” appears to be one of the suggestions. Frankly, that sort of racking strategy would probably create more confusion for sales…”Hey, why is The ‘Nam in the Ws?”

The suggestion that bothers me the most, however, is the idea that retailers should tell customers “hey, that Sgt. Fury comic with Captain America is worth a lot now, wink wink, nudge nudge,” implying that surely this comic will be a highly sought-after expensive collectible in short order as well! (Recent sales on eBay: one copy at 99 cents.) If you’re trying to convince customers to buy a comic for its possible investment opportunity…well, I never ever ever do that. Partially because I want people to read and enjoy their comics, but mostly because I don’t want someone to buy three dozen copies of something on my investibility precognitive knowhow, only to have said items turn out to be a bust and suddenly the buyer’s back in my shop with, like, one of these.

Also, that Sgt. Fury comic is from the mid-1960s, and features an early Silver Age appearance of Captain America. Not quite the same as a boom-period comic with reworked Romita Sr. drawings, when it comes to demand.

• • •

I do plan on going back to that post about the Boris the Bear variants/flyer, so keep your comments there comin’, if comments you do have!

She ain’t wrong about the Phantom Stranger.

§ November 4th, 2016 § Filed under collecting, gaming, marvel, pal plugging § 5 Comments

So longtime internet pal PTOR reminded me that he did a pretty thorough job a few years back covering that Dr. Strange calendar I featured in Wednesday’s post. He’s an huge Dr. Strange fan — you know, one of those guys! — and I of course recommend that you check out his post about that great old calendar.

And what better day than today, opening day (more or less) for the new Doctor Strange movie, starring that one person and co-starring that other lady! Anyway, word is that it’s pretty good, if very Marvel-formulaic…I saw someone on Twitter (I forget who) say something along the lines of “don’t worry about any spoilers…at this point, what about these films will surprise you?” But if you enjoy Marvel movies, and I generally do, here’s another one to watch.

And with that stirring endorsement, let’s move on to some other topics:

  • Tomorrow, November 5th, will be the second anniversary of the opening of Sterling Silver Comics, my little comic shop that could, located in the heart of Camarillo, CA. I’m still here! I’m still selling comics! They haven’t run me out of town yet! Thanks to all you folks out there for your support, financial, emotional, and otherwise. I’m still growing the business, but things have been going fairly well so far. Not filthy rich yet, but I’m sure that’ll happen at some point in the next four to six months.
  • You may remember my discussion of a recently acquired iPad and my particular strategy vis-à-vis personal back issue collecting. Well, when I went to purchase the recent Boo! anthology (which I’m linking to again because in the first version of this post I stupidly left out the link), I also decided to grab the first issue of Kamandi, which has been a ridiculously giant hole in my Jack Kirby reading for far too long. They had the first couple of dozen issues up there for 99 cents a throw, and with the upcoming Kamandi Challenge being a must-buy (since I adored the previous DC Challenge), I figured it wouldn’t hurt to grab an issue every other week or so. It’s not like I wasn’t familiar with the concept, but “knowing about a Jack Kirby comic” and “having a Jack Kirby comic straight-up just punch you in the face” are two different things. It’s a fun read, as I’m sure most of you know already, and the suicidal despair felt by Kamandi, as he’d rather die and take everyone with him instead of living as a pet in a world of intelligent animals, was a much darker turn than I was expecting. That Kirby fella, he knows how to get your attention. Looks like I’ll be picking more up in the future…and trying very hard not just to buy them all at once.

  • And no, they don’t have the ’60s Metal Men up there yet. That I probably would buy all at once.
  • Another thing I downloaded just last evening was the new DC Legends game. Ah, what the heck, it was free, and I guess Swamp Thing is in it, so hell, why not. I mostly avoid mobile games because I have this terrible fear that I’ll inadvertently make in-app purchases and suddenly I’m in for $500 of, I don’t know, Swamp Thing tuber upgrades and extra power rings. That actually doesn’t appear to be an issue here, though after playing through the introductory screens I’m still not 100% certain what’s going on and what everything means, since I’m old. But some of the animations are pretty neat, and the “cut-scene” dialogue is amusing (“You only show up when we’re all screwed!” Zatanna says to the Phantom Stranger at one point), and it’s fun to touch the screen and watch things explode, in case you’re wondering where my brain is at right about now.

Seriously, I’m thinking about blowing up that Ernie Chan one and putting it up as a poster in the store.

§ November 2nd, 2016 § Filed under marvel § 3 Comments

So I found this diggin’ around through some boxes in the backroom, trying to track something else down:

drstrange1980cal
…the 1980 Occult World of Dr. Strange calendar. Marvel put out several calendars in this format, with a nice piece of full-color art for each month, while the days for each month are filled with art, photos, gags, creator birthdays, and other bits of trivia and silliness:

drstrange1980cala
These old Marvel calendars are great, and I spent a few minutes Tuesday morning whilst waiting for the UPS truck and the weekly funnybook delivery taking a few photos of some of this calendar’s details. For example, I think I laughed out loud at this particular entry from July 27th:

drstrangecalernie

Oh, Jim, someday you will:

drstrangecaljim

I don’t think I noticed the gag in this one ’til I scanned it and blew it up real big. That may be more an indictment of my eyesight than of the calendar’s print job:

drstrangecalditko

As a California native, I wholeheartedly agree with the bow-laden centaur:

drstrangecalroy

This, however, seemed unnecessarily mean-spirited:

drstrangecalauntmay
And just think, as old as they were then, they’re about 36 years older now! Have some respect for the elderly, Marvel, geez.

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