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A special big stuffed thanks to Bully the Little Substitute Bull…

§ June 13th, 2022 § Filed under Bully, pal plugging § 2 Comments

…for filling in for me last week when I had health stuff, family stuff, all kinds of stuff keeping me from my regular blogging shenanigans.

I apologize in advance to anyone expecting more Bully and only getting me here. I’m not quite as little or bull-ish, though I am a bit on the stuffed side, but I hope you folks will stick around as I go through the usual nonsense I’ve been delivering here for over 18 years now.

If you want to keep up with Bully’s happy trails throughout the internet, you can visit his long-running website Comics Oughta Be Fun! as well as his equally fun Twitter feed.

Thanks Bully, and always remember:

The internet is now a little more stuffed.

§ January 7th, 2022 § Filed under pal plugging, question time Comments Off on The internet is now a little more stuffed.

First, the big news:

…Yup, just like the little stuffed fella says right up there, Bully the Little Stuffed Bull’s blog “Comics Oughta Be Fun” is back in action after being shuttered for a bit. The primary focus is currently “Today in Comics History,” but boy, Bully has an endless variety of goodies to give you under that theme. So pop by, say “welcome back Bully” and tell him his pal Mike sent you!

And some site news here: my variant cover-age is going to be on hiatus for a couple of weeks as I start looking back at your comic industry predictions for 2021 (and a reminder: I’m still taking your predictions for 2022!). I received a lot of predictions last time, so it may take me a bit to get through them all, but I’m looking forward to it!

Before that happens, let’s see if I can’t polish off a few more of your questions:

Rob S. steals the show with

“Does your store have a convention presence? (In normal times, that is.) If so, what goes into prepping & transporting inventory for a con?”

Not as such, since I’m pretty much a one-man operation here, though I suppose I could wrangle one of the Legion of Substitute Mikes into running the shop while I manned the table at a show. But…I’m not really much into working cons, frankly. I don’t mind attending them, on the rare occasion when I do, but I don’t want to have to stand there all day watching people around me having fun while I have to work. Sometimes it’s easier to just stay at the store and let anyone attending a local convention come to me, as they invariably do.

Since I’ve opened my shop, at the very few local conventions we’ve had (which have been…not top tier, from what I’ve been told by attendees of same) I’ve had folks passing out flyers for my shop, so, you know, there’s at least that. And in my days at the previous place of employment, the shows we worked required picking out a selection of back issues to bring with us (the pricey case comics, the more popular “hot” stuff, some oddball stuff just to show some variety), tossing them into our respective vehicles, and hauling them over. And then…stand at the table working while watching other people have fun.

• • •

Smicha1 smacks me with

“Well this is a two-part question not two questions, hope that’s okay. And they are both fairly easy to answer I hope.”

What? How dare you.

“What percent of your sales would you say comes from new-on-the-shelf comics? And not counting current comics or trades (back issues still count) what product brings in the most money? I don’t mean an individual product but more like ‘t-shirts’ or ‘Funko toys.'”

Well, I don’t know what the exact percentage off the top of my head, but I will say the majority of sales come from the new comics. That’s the big draw, especially in a store like mine that’s pretty much just comics, with no Pokemon or D&D or stuff like that. Is it half? Maybe it’s half, followed by trades and back issues.

And if I’m understanding the second part of the question, back issues would be the biggest non-new-comics-or-trades product line. But excluding comics altogether…like I said, I’m mostly just comics, so I don’t have many other product lines to sell. I suppose “toys” would be the one, which would include Funko Pops in my mind. Perhaps between Pops and other toys, Pops have the edge. Which surprises me they’re still coming out and are still in demand, but hey, that’s fine.

• • •

philfromgermany asks some germane questions with

“Hey Mike, how are you?”

Fair to middlin’.

“Is that alt-right comic nonsense still going on?”

Oof, yeah, probably. I don’t know, I don’t try to pay any attention, which is usually easy since a number of their comics turned out to be vaporware, right? Anyway, not a thing I have to deal with on a regular basis, thankfully, and it’s not like I have customers beating the door down for this stuff.

• • •

Carlos has designs on me with

“I was curious how well Savage Dragon does at your shop/in the area? I have a sub & enjoy it, but don’t see it on shelves of other shops I visit (in TX). It seems that back issues are hard to find and getting pricy because people are now trying to complete the run. Thanks!”

Savage Dragon, going on for over a couple decades and still by Erik Larsen, God bless ‘im. It hadn’t sold for me at the new shop in a while, aside from pull lists, but I’m beginning to get a little more interest lately. Not a lot of copies, mind you, but at least there’s some interest where before there was none.

And yes, the back issue market on this series is pretty off the wall. I suspect sales at most stores are like at mine, with very small rack sales and the majority of copies going to pull lists. With such small print runs, if an issue is missed then it’s to the eBays to look, where the sellers are not kind in their pricing. I know my pal Cully missed a copy at his local shop a while back, and was calling all over (including my store) trying to find it so that he didn’t have to pay the buck wild price being asked for it online. (He eventually bit the bullet and paid a sliightly less than buck wild price for it.)

But I’m all for the Savage Dragon series. One creator doing the same book forever…just imagine if Rob Liefeld had stuck with Youngblood the same way, for the same length of time, and how amazing that would have been.

• • •

MisterJayEm dashes out this question:

“What do you recommend to uncles(52) looking to buy comics for their precocious nieces(7) and nephews(4)?

“It’s hard to peruse those books without looking like a possible creepo, so I prefer to have a plan before I approach the kiddie section of the funny book store.”

If you’re just talkin’ plain ol’ floppy stapled comics, I always recommend the Scooby Doo books for kids. Those are top notch, fun, and likely recognized by children as they never quite seem to go away, despite it being it as old as both of us.

For a four-year-old, Scooby Doo may be a bit wordy, so some of those comics by Art Baltazar (like Tiny Titans) may be cuter and a litle more accessible. Or there’s Owly, which is wordless, but still good and fun comic booking.

• • •

Michael Grabowski slaloms down the following

“I snagged the last copy of the new Usagi Yojimbo comic this week at an LCS. It got me to wonder: does a retailer such as yourself like selling out completely of a title like that during the first week or would you prefer to order enough to have, say, 2 or 3 left over for more occasional customers to discover?”

Ideally, I’d like to have exactly one copy left of everything I order at the end of the sales cycle to go into back issues. Of course, it doesn’t work that way, usually, but I try to cut it as close as I can.

But the answer to your question is basically “it depends.” Some comics die once they’re not longer visible on the comics rack and in the back issue bins. Those I want to sell out of completely on the shelf, whether it’s the first week or over the month. I mean, I suppose I wouldn’t want them to disappear entirely on the first week so that folks who don’t make it in every Wednesday get a chance at them, but there are a few titles where I’m good with them clearing out fast to make room for other new books. Again, it’s a case by case thing. Sometimes I want them to stick around a bit, sometimes I want them to clear out and get out of my hair, sometimes I want a copy or two for back issues, sometimes I don’t want any in the back issue bins because no one will ever buy them there.

Does that make the monthly comic order complicated? You bet it does.

• • •

And BRR freezes us out of the latest batch of questions with

“Would you consider doing an update to your classic 2005 post on best mailing practices? I would be interested in a permalink at your store’s site, perhaps with a sponsored link to your preferred bag sealing scotch tape alternative. Unless this is a trade secret to be kept from competitors and comics distributors.”

Good gravy, was it that long ago? Long enough that flat rate shipping in the envelope was only four bucks? But yes, maybe some updating is in order, as I do tend to ship comics a little differently now (using some of those solidly built comic mailers that Diamond offers, plus more emphasis on heavier protective cardboard, and more box shipping with bubblewrap). None of it is a “trade secret” or anything, but some common sense and a desire to have comics shipping to me the way I ship comics to others.

That post, by the way, was inspired by my own ordering of a run of The Minx off eBay that was shipped to me in the most ridiculous way possible. And the fella was going to charge me some bonkers amount for shipping that I told him “hey, that’s bonkers.” I wish I’d taken a picture of the box they were sent in…or rather, “boxes” as it was some giant monstrosity cobbled together from multiple containers. For eight comics. Well, I guess they did show up intact, so who am I to complain?

• • •

Okay, that’s it for the most recent question-fest…it’s on to 2021 predictions on Monday! Thanks for reading, everyone!

The terror that autographs in the night.

§ January 5th, 2022 § Filed under employee aaron, pal plugging § 3 Comments

So former employee Aaron posted this on his Twitters the other day…some signed/remarked copies of the Boom! Studios Darkwing Duck from a decade or so ago.

Scribbled in the darker cape area was a message from the writer, pal Ian Brill:

“Aaron – tell Mike to go easy on you!” it says. I’m sure everyone will be unsurprised to learn that I did not in fact go easy on former employee Aaron. In fact, if Aaron is reading this now…GET BACK TO WORK.

Hopefully you won’t mind a very, very tiny NSFW image.

§ November 17th, 2021 § Filed under pal plugging § 2 Comments

My response to Twitter pal Chance’s tweet about NFTs inspired another Twitter pal, kinneyrick, to take matters into his own hands:

Anyway, we’re all hilarious, thank you for noticing.

“Art is any Swamp Thing you can get away with.” – Andy Warhol (paraphrased)

§ April 14th, 2021 § Filed under pal plugging, swamp thing § 2 Comments

Look at these cool drawings customer Sarah gave me a little while back! The first is of that mossy gentleman Swamp Thing:

And the second is of a critter from the “Rotworld” storyline from the New 52 era…sorry if I don’t recall his/her/its name, as I haven’t committed that particular run to memory:

Pretty cool, right? Thanks to Sarah for gifting me with these fine pieces, and you can see more of her work at her Instagram thingie.

Okay, so I have been to a Piggly Wiggly.

§ October 14th, 2020 § Filed under collecting, pal plugging § 5 Comments

So let me issue a correction, as my dad took great glee in calling me at the shop Monday afternoon to cheerfully let me know I was filthy, filthy liar for claiming, as I did in the subject line to that day’s post, that I had never been in a Piggly Wiggly grocery store.

As it turns out, I had been in a Piggly Wiggly, in an Alabama location in early 1976 as we made our way cross-country in a U-Haul truck, making our move from Centreville, VA to Port Hueneme, CA. It was there, my dad informed me, that I obtained a ball (or “egg”) of Silly Putty. And I do remember that Silly Putty quite well, , stretching it, shaping it, bouncing it around, and using it to pull pictures off of comic books…specifically, this issue of Weird Wonder Tales #15:

…and mainly from the story “The Man Who Owned The World!” by Denny O’Neil and Tom Sutton, with which I was particularly fascinated.

In addition to all that fun I was having, my dad also informed me that I got Silly Putty all over my clothes, all over his and Mom’s clothes, in the cabin of the U-Haul truck, around the various hotel rooms, on Alabama’s state bird the northern flicker (AKA the yellowhammer), possibly on the Alabama Crimson Tide’s defensive tackle Bob Baumhower, and who knows what and/or who else. So a big thanks to Piggly Wiggly for providing us all that entertainment 44 years ago!

• • •

Going to recommend a podcast episode here, from Twitter pals Sean42AZ and garaujo1: it’s the latest episode of “The Never Ending Reading Pile,” in which they discuss Alpha Flight, with a special focus on issue #29, the One Right About When The Creative Teams of Alpha Flight and Incredible Hulk Swap Books. It’s long, yes, but engrossing, and the two fellas dive deep into the series as a whole and discuss just what was going on behind the scenes to enable this creative team switcheroo. I don’t listen to many comic podcasts, but this one is certainly worth your time.

• • •

Will look at more of your questions next time. Thanks for reading, pals.

Don’t think about the math.

§ June 24th, 2020 § Filed under pal plugging, this week's comics § 9 Comments

Alas, it has come to pass on this, the occasion of his seventh birthday, that Bully the Little Bull Stuffed with Love, is bringing his website Comics Oughta Be Fun to a close after fifteen years.

Bully (with the assistance of his pal John, who helps Bully type since he’s too small to reach the keyboard) has been one of the purest delights of the comics internet, with an endless library of comics and a staggering knowledge of the artform. Always presented with good cheer, enthusiasm, and delightful humor, Bully was a dependable break from the sarcasm and cynicism that too many others (including myself) often utilized. To read Bully was to read joy, to remember why it is we all love comic books…and we all do remember why, even if it’s buried beneath layers of accumulated mental crud caused by industry shenanigans and less-than-great publications.

Bully was also a good friend to me, personally, and I’m glad to have known him…oh, and his friend John too. More than a handful of times have I asked Bully for production assistance on some post I was trying to put together, and he always came through, bless his little fuzzy heart. And of course he occasionally found time to razz me a little:


Anyway, I am sorry to see Bully wrap up his blog, but am glad we were able to enjoy it for so many years. And of course, despite me continually talking about Bully in the past tense here, he’s still around on Twitter as one of the very few good things on that platform. And, if I know Bully, I’m sure he’ll find even more ways to continue reminding us that comics oughta be fun.

Here’s to you, Bully and John, and please, always remember:

• • •

So, in a minor tribute to Bully’s long internet efforts, let me talk about a couple of fun comics right now! It’s the stunning return of the “This Week’s Comics” category, after being years behind on purt’near everything due to my ongoing eyeball situation. Well, while I still have eyeball issues to contend with, I have been able to get actual prescription glasses, thus allowing me to finally start trying to catch up on my funnybook reading. Oh, and also work and drive and stuff, I guess.

I’m not entirely behind…I did attempt to at least keep up on a couple of titles during those brief periods I could see well enough to struggle through a comic armed with a pair of dollar store reading glasses. And one of those titles was Immortal Hulk, a new issue of which comes out this week:

This continues to be the best comic Marvel is current publishing. Hulk-as-horror-comic is a natural interpretation of the character, one that’s been touched upon many times in the past but not for the extended examination that this series has provided. Psychological and body horror mixed together with nightmarish interpretations of Hulk’s enemies and allies, combined with the overarching existential dread that always lurks behind every plot twist and character moment in this book. It’s lotsa fun, honest!

Ol’ Sam Sterns, The Leader, the fella what got super-strong brains from gamma radiation instead of the muscles the Hulk received, is the focus of this issue, though perhaps you guessed that from the cover. We see the history of the character, from his beginnings to present day, and if you’ve read Hulk comics for way too long like I have, you definitely recognize some of the stops the narrative makes along the way. Certain events are recontextualized for the overall themes the book explores, particularly those of life and death and resurrection, and it’s all endlessly fascinating.

It was recently announced that the series is wrapping up with issue #50, and while it’s disappointing to have one less good comic to read, it is good that the creative team will be given the option to conclude the story on their own terms. Of course, we’re all gonna feel sorry for whoever takes over the Hulk next.

Should note that this is the work of regular series writer Al Ewing, while quest-artists Butch Guice and Tom Palmer fit right in. I hardly noticed the difference.

A confession: aside from Action Comics #1000, I haven’t read any of the recent 80th Anniversary specials DC has released. I want to read ’em, I have a copy of each of them, but, well, I refer you a couple of paragraphs back where I complain about my eyes yet again.

But gosh darn it the Green Lantern anniversary special came out today, and while I have working eyes and good glasses I was going to read the darn thing. And read it I did.

First, of course I was going to go for the ’60s cover variant, with the go-go checks and the swell art by Doug Mahnke and David Baron. I think they did a good job differentiating the different decades represented on the covers…I didn’t even have to look at the small print in the corners to figure out which one was which. (Unlike the Joker anniversary covers from a couple of weeks ago, where…maybe the ’40s one looked like it was trying to evoke the 1940s?)

The contents are a good read as well, starting off with a pleasantly done Alan Scott story that addresses the origin of a particular aspect of that version of Green Lantern. (Will note that seeing Doiby Dickles, the Golden Age GL’s sidekick, being called “Derby” feels so terribly weird to me.) And I know y’all like to kick Geoff Johns around, but his contribution is a simple character piece with an amusing payoff. The rest of the book is enjoyable as well, with nice bits featuring Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, Sinestro and Kilowog, plus a story where the other GLs talk about Guy Gardner…it’s a good piece, but a tiny bit distressing, which you’ll see when you read it.

The book is filled out with several pin-ups, including a great image of Guy Gardner by Joe Staton, the very fella who helped usher him back into the DC Universe back in those long-ago 1980s. The back pages are a mini-who’s who of the various Green Lanterns, human and otherwise.

Anyway, both of these are fun comics. As they oughta be.

The archnemesis of Rolling Stone Boss.

§ May 15th, 2020 § Filed under pal plugging, swamp thing § 4 Comments

Speaking of Swamp Thing showing up in places you wouldn’t expect, I was speaking to longtime ProgRuin reader Wayne (buy his books!) and he let me know that for seemingly inexplicable reasons, the retro-TV channel MeTV has a Swamp Thing shirt available for sale in their online store. I already own that particular design, natch, but it struck me as odd as well, since as Wayne and I thought, Swamp Thing‘s various video incarnations (old non-sweary TV show, cartoon, movies) don’t seem to be candidates for their usual programming. I wondered maybe it had something to do with the Svengoolie program, which specializes in presenting horror movies of, shall we say, varying quality, though I imagine I would have heard from about a million people if Swamp Thing made it on there.

But after some extensive Googling, it would appear…maybe we were wrong about Swamp Thing not sharing a channel with Columbo, Gilligan and the Skipper, and Barney Fife. (Though wotta crossover that would be, right?) Doing some searching, it seems that the older Swamp Thing live-action show was part of MeTV’s “Red Eye Sci-Fi” lineup. There are even a couple of articles I found on MetTV’s site from 2017 discussing the series, such as their “8 Muckracking Facts” or their motivational posters. Look, apart from anything else, at least those articles gave me the term “Moss Boss” for ol’ Swampy, and for that alone we all owe ’em.

No idea if Swamp Thing is still on MeTV, or even rerunning anywhere. Half surprised it hasn’t turned up on the DC Universe streaming service yet.

I don’t know how much of the show any of you have sampled. It’s…well, there are lots of episodes, so if you’re into it, lucky you. I own the DVDs, and have owned them for years, but still haven’t watched them all the way through. It’s…rough going at times, and not because “oh my they changed this and that and the other thing from the comics,” but because it’s just a hard show to watch. Everybody does their best, but it’s just kinda muddled and occasionally off-putting. Now granted it’s been a while, so maybe I’m just being harsher on it based solely on my fading memories more than the actual experience, but it’s just one of those things I never find time to revisit.

Anyway, if you’ve been in need of a Swamp Thing shirt for a special occasion, here you go. It’s a nice design, recommended for all formal events and gatherings, once we start having those aqgain.

Some days I wish I could just go back to posting funny panels in my synopsis of some out-there 1960s Jimmy Olsen comic.

§ April 20th, 2020 § Filed under pal plugging, retailing, sir-links-a-lot, sterling silver comics § 4 Comments

Hot off last week’s presses, some news came down regarding funnybook distribution in our near future. First, Diamond Comics announced that it was looking at a mid-to-late May date to start shipping product out to whatever stores still remain. Nothing nailed down just yet, and I still think it’s really going to depend on the large comic markets like California and New York will be doing in regards to allowing regular retail to resume.

And if that’s not enough, DC Comics has decided not to wait on Diamond, and is instead going to send out at least three weeks of their new comics through a couple of alternative distribution points. It’s not a heavy load of books coming over these three weeks, which is good and bad, I guess. Good in that I’m not being asked to put out a lot of money when not a lot of money is currently coming in, and bad in that there’s not really enough here to goose immediately mail order shipping from customers wanting their new books. But then, you never know..maybe after all three weeks have come and gone there will be enough to get some folks to call in, I think.

Anyway, the books being shipped had their orders cancelled through Diamond, so I had to place new orders for everything. I had to think hard about those orders, given that I’m not going to have the off-the-rack sales as my store will still be closed to the public at least through all three of those weeks. BUT will they sell off the rack once I’m able to open again and people try to catch up? I don’t know…best to order conservatively for now and reorder if I need to.

It’s…a weird time to be a comics retailer. Or any kind of niche retail business, for that matter. The one advantage I have is that comics are escapism, and boy do people want escapism right now.

I’ve been doing…okay, as far as business goes. I’ve had several phone and email orders, and I’m at the post office pretty much every day gettting stuff sent out. I’m not making the money I was, but with Diamond’s invoices paid off, and my rent paid for the next month, I don’t have the same expenses either. (And my planned purchases of that new DC product won’t be very dear either.)

In an odd sort of way, aside from the weird existential dread of awareness that a plague roams the land, working along in my closed shop has been, well, relaxing. Processing mail order, typing old comics into this online spreadsheet for folks to pick from and buy, listening to podcasts as I work…it’s all a bit therapeutic. Which isn’t to say I’m not looking forward to being able to swing my doors wide open again.

So it looks like an interesting month up ahead for my shop, and every shop. Going to try to not let it stress me out too much. And if it does…I’ll just play around with piles of old comics, and all will be well again.

In the meantime:

Don’t forget, I’m still taking orders and want lists and whathaveyou, as well as still doing these packs of 30 random comics for $20 postpaid domestic! Help me clean out my backroom!

Also, over the weekend, one of my regular customers brought me a comics-themed facemask made by her mother! The downside is that you can’t see my quarantine beard that I’ve been growing for the last few weeks. But that’s the price I pay for high fashion!

And so long as I’m being Sir Links-A-Lot again, let me point you at my shop’s website, its Facebook, its Twitter, and its Instagram. News regarding my store’s status during our current situation can be found there…and here on this site, for that matter.

Thanks for reading pals, and stay safe out there. KEEP WEARING THOSE MASKS, even if they’re not as cool as mine!

Maybe I can pay for the weekly comics shipment with toilet paper and bottled water.

§ March 16th, 2020 § Filed under cranius, pal plugging, retailing, swamp thing § 4 Comments

So I expected some kind of dropoff in business this weekend due to the coronavirus, but surprisingly sales remained within their usual range, if not, perhaps, slightly above what I estimated. Now it could be people coming in and loading up on reading material for their sequestering, or that the full impact of what’s going on hasn’t quite settled in (though that’s hard to argue if you’ve seen the state of any grocery stores in the last couple of days), but so far, I’ve been doing okay.

Now whether that continues as everything continues to shut down and more people decide to stay home, I don’t know. Or it could be that folks are just in initial panic mode and that perhaps behavior will begin to normalize as the realization sets in that the world isn’t ending just yet. Again, don’t know.

It’s a level of uncertainty that I’m not particularly enjoying, as I’m sure most people out there are also experiencing. “How do I make money if I don’t work?” “How do I make money if no one is making money to spend at my store?” “How do I make money if people stop going out to shop?” It’s pretty rough. I have to worry about paying my rent, paying for the weekly Diamond invoices, paying myself so I can pay my regular expenses, oh, and saving up for a tax bill that I didn’t think I was going to have up until about two weeks ago. If money stops coming in, then I’ve got no money to go out, and that will be that.

Like I said, business has remained relatively steady, and it could be I’m worrying too much. Could be I’ll ride this out just fine, pinching pennies here and there, taking in few collections, while income is still coming in, even at slightly reduced levels. And I’m still doing mail order, and have offered my local customers the option to ship their books to them if they would rather not make the trip. But if things cut off entirely…well, my landlord and Diamond and my various utilities will hopefully be understanding.

Sigh. Anyway, so it’s not all doom and gloom, let me show you this pic that pal Matt Digges gave to me as a birthday present this weekend:

Heck yeah that’s Arcane and Cranius from Swamp Thing! And you guys know I loves me some Cranius.

Okay, let’s see what the week brings us. Hopefully things will get better, we’ll all start trying to lead normal (if health-conscious) lives, and panic rushes on grocery stores will subside. I mean, I certainly hope they do, I’m runnin’ short on paper towels.

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