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Alas, no Bloodshot Bellywash.

§ March 8th, 2024 § Filed under promo, valiant § 6 Comments

So my dad’s clearing out the wine cellar at his house, and next to his cask of Amontillado, he uncovered this particular bottle of spirits:

That is a bottle of Darque Brew, a beer distributed as a promotional item by Valiant Comics in the early 1990s. The label features Master Darque, one of Valiant’s villains.

Here’s a closer look at the label:

And here’s a pic of the label by the cap, where you can see it was produced by the Capital Brewing Company:

Now the real mystery of this bottle that was in my dad’s possession was…where did it come from? I mean, yes, the obvious vector here is me, the son what worked in the comics business for more decades than is likely healthy. But he didn’t remember me giving it to him, and I certainly didn’t remember ever having it in my possession.

I remember my former boss Ralph having a bottle of Armstrong Ale, another Valiant Comics beer featuring one of the stars of Archer and Armstrong. He had the bottle stashed away in the back of the shop for years and years and I’m sure I saw it about a million times just in the course of my work days there.

When I think of Valiant’s beers, which to be entirely honest is not something I dwelt upon with any regularity, what I think of is that Armstrong Ale. If you’d asked me in the last few years how many different beers did Valiant release in the ’90s, I would have said just the one. I had no recollection the Darque beer even existed until my dad showed me this bottle.

Anyway, I brought up this Darque Brew to Ralph, saying both my dad and I were puzzled as to how he got it. Ralph replied “yeah, it came to my store addressed to you, so you kept it and gave it to your dad since you don’t drink alcohol!” I absolutely have no memory of this ever happening. But Ralph was a little half-annoyed that I got it, since he wanted it to go with his Armstrong Ale, so that mild annoyance kept the memory stuck in his mind, I suppose, whereas my near-immediate passing along of the Darque Brew probably flushed it out of my short-term memory right away.

Another mystery pretty much solved by the fact that my brain’s capacity for comics trivia does in fact have its limits. Think I’ll probably go ahead and let Ralph have this bottle to finally complete the set. Oh, and I should note there was more Valiant Comics beer produced in 2016, it seems.

For some additional info about the original Armstrong Ale, here’s an article that features pics of the packaging and inserts that came with the bottle.

“Decidedly Different.”

§ July 1st, 2022 § Filed under promo § 6 Comments

A couple of DC comic promotional stickers, sent out for retail use in 1981:

Seemed awfully…well, permanent if used as intended, particularly given the small timeframe the items advertised had. Once Justice League of America #194 was on the stands, the poor retailer had to scrape this sticker off whatever surface she’d pasted it to. Unless a new sticker was just placed over the old, or the sticker was taped up and the adhesive back was eshewed entirely.

Anyway, these made it unused and unstickered, for forty years. Let us applaud their endurance.

It’s not a standee, it’s Armageddon.

§ April 20th, 2022 § Filed under promo § 6 Comments

Straight out of 1994, it’s another rescue from the old shop! A promo item for the Marvel/DC intercompany crossover for Batman and Punisher:

It’s the first of the Bat/Pun crossovers, featuring the version of Batman from the period where Bruce Wayne was out of commission, this dude Azrael took over, and, well, it was a whole thing. It was followed a few months later by a second pairing, this time with Original Flavor Batman. Now it’s been a while since I’ve read either of these, but I was never quite a fan of the Azrael stuff, and I do like how John Romita Jr. draws these characters, so the latter probably gets the nod from me.

I forgot to measure the standee before I packed it up for shipping (yes, I sold it, I’ve got mouths to feed) but it’s about a foot tall, and maybe two or three inches deep. Here’s another shot showing a bit of the depth of the item:

It’s a tiny bit worn, with some tanning on the back, but frankly I’m surprised it’s survived intact over the past thirty years of kickin’ around comic shops. To be fair, I’m surprised I’m still intact after thirty years of kickin’ around comic shops. I think this Batman/Punisher standee handled the passage of time better.

“And whatever comics you don’t buy, they’ll become…dead stock! HEE HEE HEE HEE!”

§ April 6th, 2022 § Filed under promo § 2 Comments

Another goodie from the old shop…an unused Gemstone Publishing/Russ Cochran counter dump for their EC Comics reprint line, dating from the late ’80s/early ’90s I believe.

Of course you’d want to buy comics from this display! How could you say “no” to this face?

Magic is green…and so is Mike’s shirt.

§ April 4th, 2022 § Filed under low content mode, promo § 2 Comments

Another low content mode partial week…sorry gang, them’s how things work sometimes. Was feeling under the weather Sunday evening, and ended up sleeping instead of blogging. That seemed to do the trick, as I’m doing better now, but I also woke up about midnight realizing “oh dip, the blog.” So, here’s More Stuff from the Old Shop, like this 1983 Comico Comics mobile promoting the Mage: The Hero Discovered mini series by Matt Wagner on one side:

…and Evangeline by Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt on the other:

It’s a beautiful piece of comics promotional material, still in nice shape even after nearly 40 years. I can still picture it hanging in the store when I was but a mere customer, and then afterwards, following my ascension into comics retail, being on display in the store’s office. I think it may be intended for sale, but forget that, I’m hanging it up in my shop.

Anyway, yet another very early morning doctor’s appointment Wednesday, so I’ll probably have another relatively easy-to-assemble post featuring another comics promo item that day. Back to my verbose self on Friday…thanks for understanding, pals.

Birthquakes sure make a fella thirsty.

§ March 23rd, 2022 § Filed under promo, valiant § 1 Comment

Sitting in the backroom of the old shop, unseen for decades…a promotional water bottle and a folder of press releases for the 1995 Valiant Comics event “Birthquake.”

“I can see you!”

§ February 18th, 2022 § Filed under promo, undergrounds § 8 Comments

So the other day my former boss Ralph brought in another box of comics for me to sell in my store on his behalf. He had emailed me a list of the books ahead of time, and as I was perusing it I spotted a title I didn’t recognize. “CCA Comix” was the name, and by the use of the term “comix” I presumed it was some kind of underground.

When Ralph showed up, I asked about the CCA Comix, which I had thought maybe, because of those initials, it was a book critical of the Comics Code Authority or somesuch. But no, what it was, was this:

…a short comics pamphlet on the importance of tree conservation and the usages for paper, particularly for the purposes of packaging. The “CCA” in the title stands for “Container Corporation of America.”

When Ralph was telling me about the comic, he described the art as a cross between Ernie Bushmiller and Robert Crumb, at which I point I said “yes, I’ll be keeping this.” And looking through it…I think that’s a fairly good description, though maybe more George Hansen than Crumb, if I may split hairs a tad. The actual art is by Bob Zoell, a creator of fine art of some note.

This panel stuck out to me right away, being the fan that I am of self-referentialism:

This is the first page of the comic, for a more representative sampling:

What’s wild about this comic is that Ralph had said he couldn’t find a trace of it in a price guide or online. I looked in the Grand Comics Database and it wasn’t there (so I suppose I, as a card-carrying but not terribly active contributor to the site, should fix that). I even used the Internet Wayback Machine to check the old site to see if it was listed there (even though this is more an educational giveaway comic that looks like an underground than an actual underground) and didn’t spot it there either.

I meant to ask Ralph if he’d checked one of the newer underground price guides in addition to the original Jay Kennedy guide from the early ’80s (yes, the prices are out of date, but the info is usually still good). I’m guessing he had, but I wanted to double-check. Anyway, neither of us searched The Entire Internet looking for this, so if someone spots a reference to this comic out there in the wild, please let me know.

EDIT: Reader John added a link to this PDF in the comments, featuring the following blurb from a 1977 industry newsletter:

Interesting that the copyright date in the comic itself is 1975, but here it is being plugged in late ’77. Took a while to print? Maybe they had a bunch still sitting around after that initial ’75 distribution? …And yes, they spelled it “Slugo.” How dare they.

Extra pressure to be wild in your headlines when Atlantis is an actual, real thing.

§ November 25th, 2019 § Filed under death of superman, promo § 6 Comments

So Customer Andrew gave me a copy of this Superman promo flyer from 1993, featuring supposed pages from the in-universe tabloid newspaper National Whisper on the front and back:

…which then opens up into this poster promoting the debuts of all these replacement Supermen:

While I’m sure we had this at the previous place of employment way back when, I can’t directly recall this particular piece of marketing, at least in this format. The center “poster” existed in similar form in a much-larger color poster (one of which I believe I have in my stacks of ancient promo stuff at the store now). I do have to wonder about the phrasing “your local club location” — that’s throwing me off a bit.

Plus, I feel like the “National Whisper” segments appeared as pages within the actual Superman comics theselves as part of an issue’s story pages. Could be wrong, and didn’t think to check to remind myself. I know those pages look familiar, but apparently the flyer itself isn’t one I recall well, if at all, so that’s why I”m guessing those pages showed up in one of the comics. I’m sure one of you can tell me, else it’s off to the salt mines to haul out my Superman comics to look into the matter.

On a related note, in response to last week’s discussion about the new Death of Superman: The Wake trade paperback, Dario had this to say:

“FYI that particular Death of Superman series has its own continuity. It’s a tie-in to an animated film, which uses the New 52-style outfit.”

You know, despite my watching all the direct-to-DVD/BluRay movies DC puts out, with their new shared quasi-New 52 continuity, it never crossed my mind that the comic was connected to these. But, it makes perfect sense, and DC had done it for their Suicide Squad cartoon, with a digital-first mini-to-trade written by Jeff Parker and Cat Staggs.

Still haven’t read The Wake yet. I’M GETTIN’ TO IT

Anyway, I like these in-story peeks at what journalism (or “journalism”) is like in a superhero universe. Of course superheroes would be the primary focus of these things, with gossip and rumors and such, since superheroes would likely be the ultimate celebrities…I mean, sure, [Your Favorite Performer]’s pretty cool ‘n’ all, but can s/he fly? (Newstime was another little more thorough, presenting a full magazine in the style of Time and Newsweek…you know, hence the name “Newstime”).

There are more comments to that post I want to address…but that’ll wait ’til next time, pals.

And now, my favorite comic book promo poster of all time.

§ February 15th, 2019 § Filed under promo § 5 Comments

Straight outta 1994, this promo poster made me laugh at the sheer chutzpah of it:

…and I absolutely 100% do not mean that in a bad way. I admire the salesmanship at work here. “Hey, you know that impossibly-hot superstar artist? Yeah, this guy is just as amazing, so get on board!” More power to ’em, I say.

I know, that was a lot of promo material in your faces here over the last couple of weeks. I’ll try to have a little something different next time, I promise…unless I find more cool promo posters, of course.

“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.

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