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So if this year is Marvel’s 80th anniversary, that means their 25th anniversary in 1986 was 55 years ago.

§ September 25th, 2019 § Filed under marvel § 19 Comments

Not to get all Inception on you, but I’m going to address some comments made to a post where I was addressing your comments from a previous post, before returning to responding to more comments from the initial post. Got it? Good.

Anyway, I wanted to say just a few words about Marvel’s (or editor-in-chief Jim Shooter’s) “New Universe” publishing initiative, in which on the event of Marvel’s 25th anniversary (counting from the publication of Fantastic Four #1) they were going to introduce a whole “new universe” (hence the name) of superheroes completely unrelated to the shared world with Spider-Man, the Hulk, etc. The tagline was that this would be “the world outside your window,” with a somewhat more realistic take on what supeheroes would be like and what impact they would have on the society and people around them. Even the time scale in which the comics operated was “real time,” with a month passing in story time between each monthly issue. (Not sure how long that was kept up, to be honest.)

This dovetails nicely with a post I made recently about “realism in superhero comics, and I’m sure much of New Universe’s inspiration was informed by the success of Watchmen and Squadron Supreme. Star Brand, the one NU title I followed all the way through, had several examples of this sort of thing, such as pointing out a superhero costume wouldn’t really hide one’s identity very well, or the main character getting lost while flying around…little things, but details that commented on that nature of the genre.

Like I said, Star Brand was the one I kept on with, though I liked early issues of D.P. 7 (a superhero team) and tried out an issue of Merc or two. Star Brand, being the work of the NU creator Jim Shooter, would probably be the title that most exemplified what the whole imprint was about…at least in my opinionl, since as noted I didn’t really read too many of these titles. But it did try to tell a superhero story in a different and unconventional way. The hero’s “costume,” as such, was kinda drab, the hero himself wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, as I recall…at the very least, he was a flawed human and no paragon of perfection. He even flew funny, in an upright, “standing” position instead of the usual “one fist forward” Superman pose. Even when John Byrne took over the book for the final few issues, and it began to look like a somewhat more conventional superhero comic, it still underminded the genre here and there, even if seemingly biting a particular plot point from Miracleman.

Even the trade dress of the comics was unusual, at least for the initial couple of years, with each cover framed in a black border, like they were in mourning for something. It gave everything a sheen of solemnity, that this wasn’t some flashy comic with dudes punching each other. It was something different, something somber, with dudes punching each other realistically. Or perhaps the more obvious interpretation was that black frame was a window frame, tying back into the “world outside your window” concept…you’re lookiing through your “window” at the New Universe that’s outside it.

The imprint was shaken up a bit with The Pitt (not to be confused with, well, you know) in which “the world outside your window” was distanced from the New Universe with the destruction of Pittsburgh. And then that was follwed by The Draft™ and then The War™ and my sense was that emphasis was less on keeping the New Universe “realistic” and more “something customers might keep buying.”

Anyway, the imprint eventually came to an end, with the last issues of the series reading “# [x} of a [x]-Part Limited Series,” which was sort of clever. And that was that, ’til elements of the New Universe started to creep into the regular Marvel Universe (a crossover that was once verboten). It started with some stuff in Spider-Man 2099 and in Quasar early on, and continues even today, with reboot series and character appearances and such.

I don’t think the original New Universe was a bad idea…kinda beat the big rush to everyone starting up their own “new universes” a few years later during the Big Comics Boom/Crash. And I think, in a way, the “Ultimate Universe” was a continuatino of the idea with marginally more realistic/deconstructive takes on the standard Marvel heroes. Of course, it ended the same way, eventually petering out with shake-ups to the premise and then getting folded into regular Marvel Universe continuity. But what probably did the New Universe in wasn’t necessarily the execution, but the rejection of Marvel fans to buying new Marvel comics that weren’t part of the regular Marvel universe they’d been following. I mean, sure, the Ultimate Universe books did fine at first, but those featured the familiar characters…this was a whole new batch of weirdos and unless they were going to fight Wolverine at some point, why bother reading them?

Or maybe it was the execution. A couple of them were pretty bad.

Now this all started prior to my entering the world of comics retail in 1988, so I don’t know what initial sales/customer reaction was like at the shop. I’ll have to ask former boss Ralph when next I see hiim…or maybe I can finally start going through these stacks of ancient invoices he passed along to me for research purposes, now that my eyes are a little more up to the task.

In the meantime, you should at least read John’s comment explaining his Spitfire #1 collection.

Maybe if the Champions showed up in the Life of Pope John Paul comic.

§ September 6th, 2019 § Filed under all star batman, marvel, retailing § 7 Comments

So Marvel’s been teasing an upcoming series/event/thingie that involves a murder, prompting folks to draw comparisons to DC’s recently concluded murder mystery even comic Heroes in Crisis. Which, you know, fair enough…there’s no shortage of times Marvel’s copied something successful of DC’s, and DC’s copied something successful of Marvel’s. I’d just mentioned Marvel Comics #1000 a few days ago as a very recent example.

This time around, the general assumption seems to be that Marvel is biting DC’s recently concluded mini-series Heroes in Crisis, which also centered around a superhero-related murder mystery. I saw the reaction online from here and there wondering why Marvel “didn’t learn from DC’s mistake,” why they would model one of their own projects on something their competitors did that was “bad” and a “disgrace” or whatnot.

The answer, of course, was that Heroes in Crisis, despite what anyone may have thought of it online, despite what perhaps you thought of it…it still did very well. Sold well enough for individual issues to go into multiple printings to meet demand. And just from personal experience, many of my customers were really into it and greatly anticipated each succeeding issue. It had a base of readers who did like it quite a bit.

Despite online grousing, was well received by the comic buying public. Of course other companies would take inspiration from it. It has nothing to do with how good or bad you might think the actual story is — and personally, I thought it was 5 pounds of story in a 30-pound bag, with good intentions but questionable results — it made money, which is the most important metric for publishers.

Reminds me a bit of that classic Batman comic book series y’all liked so much, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, nearly every issue receiving an enormous amount of derision online. And yes, and I even said this at the time, as I recall, at least at our store it was one of the highest-selling, if not the highest selling comic for that period. Outsold X-Men, the other Batman titles, Amazing Spider-Man, several others…lots of people hating on it online, but someone was buying it. And it wasn’t all bloggers picking up copies to scan and mock on their sites.

Anyway, if you find yourself wondering why a publisher puts out this comic or that comic, or why they’d emulate someething their competitor did that you didn’t care for…it’s all about the…Washingtons? Lincolns? I don’t know your youth slang of today. But you get what I mean.

It did get me thinking a bit about different publishers mimicking the sales strategies of others. Especially after reading this week’s new issue of Doomsday Clock — only one issue to go, where hopefully the previous 11 issues of set-ups and mysteries will get resolved in a normal-sized comic and not an 80-giant giant like it seems it will require.

But despite that, what I was thinking was what Marvel-published work that had previous been standalone, but also highly regarded, would be the equivalent of DC’s ,cite>Watchmen? And, would also be highly inappropriate to mix Marvel’s modern superhero universe with it. Most of the things I was thinking of were either under the Epic imprint and not technically owned by Marvel…like an Avengers/Moonshadow crossover or something…or like The ‘Nam, but that had a Punisher appearance of all things, so I guess that was kinda done.

Marvels doesn’t really count, because that’s just the regular Marvel Universe, told with a then-fresh viewpoint and art style. Unless Marvel took a month to have all their titles transform their contents into Marvels-a-likes. We did have Marvel’s anniversary celebration of that series with tribute variant covers, so we got kind of a taste of that, with mixed results.

So anyway, if you think of a good one, let me know.

I wonder if he still wears them?

§ July 19th, 2019 § Filed under marvel § 2 Comments

Your timely celebrity reference for the day:

I’m just the right age to have that running “gag” about the purple socks stuck in my head to this very day.

from Fun and Games Magazine #3 (November 1979)

“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


§ 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.

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