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The House of Lollipops.

§ June 23rd, 2021 § Filed under publishing, retailing, this week's comics § 6 Comments


Thanks to reader/mad genius Paul for sending this mock-up of what could’ve been for a Sterling Silver Comics retailer exclusive variant!

Following up on my discussion about that very topic from Monday, I’d actually pulled up an email I received from A Comics Publisher in response to an inquiry I’d made along these lines. Without going into a whole lot of specific detail, let’s just say my buy-in, just for the minimum copy purchase of the exclusive variant, would have been in excess of $10,000. That doesn’t count other minimum orders for the regular cover or other variants of your retailer variant, or for paying for the actual artwork by the artist.

Basically, it’s a lotta scratch…not undoable, entirely, but certainly an investment that would require some first class hustling to make that cash back. Which could be a problem in case you got a cover that didn’t grab the attention of the sort of folks who look for exclusive variants like this. But, to be honest, the way the marketplace is right now, seems like anything that has any form of scarcity is automatically in demand.

Anyhoo, something to think about the next time the opportunity arises.

But speaking of “scarcity,” apparently the latest issue of Usagi Yojimbo, #20, is “in demand” due to it being a first appearance of a character whose name I bet most of the people looking for it couldn’t even tell you. My distributor decided, alas, that this would be one of the comics they’d be shorting from my order last week (there’s usually a few every shipment). I figured that would be that, given it’s temporary hotness and all spare copies eaten up by reorders, I’d have to wait for the second printings to come along so I can get copies for customers who actually want to read it. Somehow, though, miracle of miracles, my replacements showed up! I mean, sure, half my Fireflys are missing and several of my Marvel Voices: Pride shorted or damaged, so it’s always something.

As to the Marvel Voices: Pride comic, it surprised me a bit by including select pages from Alpha Flight #106 (1992). In case you forgot, that’s the comic where Northstar finally just straight up said, after years of subtle-ish hints, “yeah, I’m gay.” Which was, granted, a pretty big deal, and demand for the issue warranted a second printing. But this was also at the height of the whole “gotta be EXTREEEME” art thing, and…yeah, it certainly looks a bit jarring side-by-side with more current art styles. Hey, gotta start somewhere! (Also, did they ever bring back Major Mapleleaf from that story?) (Yes, I know that was a nickname of Alpha Flight’s Guardian at one point.)

I should also note that my comments sections here on Rogressive Pruin occasionally take on a life of their own. So, if you ever wanted to delve deep into the origin of the word/sound/expression “vootie,” well, your day has come.

Oddly, no Amazing Spider-Man covers featuring photos of Steve Ditko.

§ May 21st, 2021 § Filed under obituary, publishing § 1 Comment

So y’all had some good suggestions for nice photo covers in the comments for Wednesday’s post, which I appreciate. I especially appreciate Rob Staeger’s reminder that Sandman Mystery Theatre had photo covers for its entire long-ish run, certainly an unusual accomplishment in modern comics. Or this cover noted by BobH with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

But here comes customer Sean with a comic I wasn’t aware of…Stan Lee cosplaying as the Black Rider on issue #8 of that title from 1950:


You can Read More About It here on this Stan Lee site.

I mean, just gaze helplessly into the steely stare of Stan the Man, all masked up before it was cool:

Speaking of ol’ Stan, Eric brings up the Marvel Fumetti Book from 1984 that has him on the cover:


Thanks to the Bullpen Bulletins in every Marvel mag, plus stuff like the in-house news/previews ‘zine Marvel Age, and just the general editorial shenanigans at Marvel since the get-go, the staff and creators at Marvel were more or less known personalities by the readers. Thus, a collection of photo gags starring the folks behind the comics was something they could probably pull off. I wonder if DC could have done something similar at the time? Maybe a bunch of photo-gags starring Wolfman and Perez, or Curt Swan hanging out with Superman (I mean, in “real life,” not in the story in that last panel here), or Alan Moore terrifying the suits around the DC offices…that sort of thing.

Of course prior to that was Fandom Confidential, a photo strip that ran in The Comic Reader and Comic Buyer’s Guide. But perhaps we’re going a little astray from the simple pleasures of just plain ol’ comic book photo covers. Like this one, which isn’t weird at all.

• • •

Also wanted to note the passing of David Anthony Kraft, publisher of the wonderful Comics Interview magazine, as well as the writer of several swell comics (including, very briefly, some of the original ’70s Swamp Thing). Mark Evanier has some nice words to say here. My condolences, of course, to his family, friends, and fans.

This is all somehow Nicéphore Niépce’s fault.

§ May 19th, 2021 § Filed under publishing § 16 Comments

So in the comments section for my Gen 13 post, folks started talking about photo covers on comics. I don’t have anything in particular to say about photo covers, though I suppose I could note how of all the too-many variants for Dynamite Entertainment’s Vampirella, Bettie Page, and Red Sonja, it’s the “cosplay” photo covers that move the most for me. (And no, not just for prurient reasons, I promise.)

I can’t think of a whole lot of other photo covers of late, but I have the memory of a goldfish who has pretty bad memory even for a goldfish, so don’t depend on me. I can think of some of Marvel’s movie tie-ins and variants with movie stills.

Oh, wait, I forgot about IDW, which uses photo covers all the time, especially for Doctor Who and Star Trek. Why, way back in 2007 I complained about making the photo cover the ratio variant instead of the regular cover. Why use a drawing of Young William Shatner when you can slap that handsome mug on all your covers and make a mint. Ah well, What Can You Do? In later years a lot of those photo covers from IDW have been freely orderable, some nice, some, um, a little awkward:

Now there’s no way I’m going to do a comprehensive history of photo covers just off the cuff right this moment…I mean, Turan says this is (maybe) the first superhero photo cover:


…and sure, I don’t doubt it. Looks like they did a good job on the costume. But I was trying to picture DC doing photo covers from, like, the Batman movie serial and how amazing that would’ve been.

But there were plenty of photo covers to be had in the 1940s and 1950s,especially when celebrities were involved:


I think my favorites, though, and I don’t see enough of them passing through my store, are the romance comics with photo covers:


I would love (appropriately enough) to be able to put together a collection of these for myself. Especially Young Brides…there’s Jack Kirby in them there hills, friends!

I’m sure the photo covers (particularly for the romance comics) were there to make the comics look like their slightly more respectable magazine cousins. And the ones with celebrity photos would of course attract fans. Plus there’s the simple matter of photo covers just standing out on the rack…when you’re looking at that beautiful gory layout and see line drawing after line drawing, the sudden appearance of an actual picture of a real human is going to grab your eye. Photo covers were the foil/foldout/hologram gimmick variants of the mid-20th century. Why, if Death’s Head II & The Origin of Die-Cut came out in 1951, I’m sure the cover would featured models in some elaborate costuming!

Anyway, I should note the one cover that seems to come up a lot, one that seems to be fairly common and that even some of you cited at me: 1985’s Amazing Spider-Man #262:


I always thought the cover design was funny, in that it’s got that “SPECIAL ISSUE” blurb across the top, and literally the only thing “special” about this comic was the cover itself. Not slamming the comic or anything (I mean, it’s Bob Layton, it’s fine), but as I recall (and yes, I bought this off the stands at the time because of that cover) it was just a typical Spider-Man story. Not like Aunt May joined with the Venom symbiote, or that Mary Jane pulled off her red wig and revealed she was Gwen Stacy. That cover did its job…it got you to pick up that comic. It sounds like it worked on a lot of you out there as well. Marvel did several photo covers in the ’70s and ’80s (the Dazzler and Spider-Woman are stand-outs, but I have a personal favorite).

Let me wrap this up with possibly the greatest photo cover of all time:


Just your reminder that DC’s Vertigo imprint at least partially owes its existence to Wes Craven and that movie. Far as I’m concerned, that’s a celebrity photo cover for all us Dick Durock fans.

So let me ask you…what are your favorite photo covers?

In my headcanon, Beanish is somewhere in Dark Nights: Death Metal too.

§ April 30th, 2021 § Filed under publishing § 6 Comments

So you may remember from (cough) nearly a year ago when I was writing a series of posts on intercompany crossovers (as linked here: 1 2 3). My intention was to write one more post on the topic which I never got around to doing, mostly because I feel like I hit bit of a stumbling block. I had in the back of my mind that the fourth post was going to be about the Eclipse Comics series Total Eclipse from 1988 and the First Comics series Crossroads, also from 1988. Must’ve been something in the air that year.

Anyway, when I actually thought about it for a second, I remembered “oh yeah, those aren’t intercompany crossovers, they’re intracompany” featuring characters they alone publish, more in line with, say Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars or Crisis on Infinite Earths. Why I had these two series linked in my brain with the others, I wasn’t sure at the time. But, y’know, I think I have more of an idea why now. I’ll get to that in a moment.

So let’s talk about this Total Eclipse mini-series:


Gotta be honest, haven’t read it in a while, so I have no idea how well it all holds together. I do have a vague sense that, um, it wasn’t the most readable thing in the world, though you had some top talent working on this book. Gorgeous Bill Sienkiewicz covers, Marv Wolfman and Bo Hampton on the main story inside…the book had a solid pedigree.

My personal primary interest in picking up this series was the involvement of Miracleman, whose part in the story eludes me at this late date, even after flipping through my copies pulled from the What’s Left After Putting Everything Else in The Store Mikester Comic Archives. He’s here and there participating in the action and hanging out with the other superhero-type characters and probably giving us a preview for how strange it’s gonna look when Marvel finally starts using the character in the Avengers or whatever.

Of note is a back-up Miracleman story in Total Eclipse #4 by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who were the follow-up creators on the main Miracleman title after Alan Moore and John Totleben departed. This was the issue that continued to have back issue sales life long after the series was over, at least while Miracleman was still an ongoing thing and before it vanished into history, never to be seen again except for that brief blip at Marvel a few years back, and whatever the hell it was Todd McFarlane was doing with him in his Spawn comics. It used to have something of a premium price attached to it, though it was hardly in short supply (at least at the time), but that doesn’t seem to be much the case any more. I mean, on eBay someone’s had some luck selling them for $9 a pop, but using the keyword “Gaiman,” no “Miracleman” in sight.

The other major reason I picked up this series was the character Beanish from Tales of the Beanworld, who plays a surprisingly heroic part in the story:


His involvement springs from a direct tie-in in the main Beanworld comic itself, where Beanish, the artist, goes on a near-spiritual journey outside of his home of Beanworld into the greater universe. Beanworld creator Larry Marder (who actually drew Beanish in Total Eclipse explains the bean’s involvement here. There is a cute moment when Beanish is back in his own comic and he’s trying to explain where he’s been and all he can say is “yeah, it’s pretty complicated,” with a Beanworld-style illustration of a superhero representing his thoughts on everything.

Beanish (or at least, multiples of him) is featured on the cover of Total Eclipse #4 in glorious Sienkiewicz-vision:


…and even better, he partners up with Miracleman, making them the World’s Finest team…sorry, Bats and Supes!


(You can find other outside-their-book appearances of Beanworld characters listed here.)

Kinda paging through the comics here again after so many years, I find that the only things grabbing my attention are the appearances of MM and the Bean (coming this summer to CBS), as I don’t have any particular attachment to most of the other characters. Well, except Destroyer Duck, he’s in here too. Oh, and Mr. Monster shows up. And the Heap. And Ms. Tree. But otherwise…I don’t know, man, I just read it for the characters I liked, which is how these crossover events getcha.

Speaking of which, why did I link this in my mind with intercompany crossovers, which clearly this isn’t? The most obvious reason is that none of these characters were really intended to team up with each other…they were mostly all in their own separate “universes,” for the lack of a better word, with their own genres and storytelling styles and such. They might as well had been published by multiple companies. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The interesting effect of a crossover is the intermingling and, well, “smoothing out” of all the characters involved. In other words, regardless of how they’re portrayed, scriptwise or artwise, in their books, by being pulled together into one story by another creative team they are all essentially unified in look and voice. Curt Swan Superman, Don Heck Wonder Woman, and Rick Hoberg Batman all become George Perez Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman in Crisis. Their disparate characterizations and dialogue all get filtered through one writer’s voice. At Marvel and DC, that’s one thing, where, at least in the superhero universes, everyone’s working in the same milieu.

But with a company like Eclipse, where the point is the variety of creators and genres and styles…cramming it all together into one book, with one artist providing most of the art (I mean, good art by Bo Hampton, with various assistants (with a few presumably working on their own characters like Marder did). The wide variety of art and personality is minimized to a specific vision. Which is fine, but what made some of those characters readable were their creators, and outside that context they can lose a little something.

(I believe the still-unfinished Image United tried to address this issue by having respective creators all do their own characters, but, um, I think there may be a reason why the series is unfinished.)

At least Beanish still shines through in all his weird little bean perfection. Okay, it’s not Marder’s lettering in his word balloons, but I can let that slide.

…So I was going to look at Crossroads from First Comics today, too, but surprise surprise, I went on a bit. I’ll tackle that event next time…promise I won’t take a year to get to it!

A correction and a couple o’comics.

§ March 31st, 2021 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, this week's comics § 3 Comments

So to add to my Superman: Birthright discussion on Monday, the writer of said book, Mark Waid himself, dropped on by to clarify/correct some of my assumptions. Primarily, that Birthright was indeed intended to be the new “official” Superman origin, but was eventually decided that yet another version, the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank Secret Origin mini, would be the new official origin instead. Least ’til, you know, they changed it again.

Anyway, here’s a period article with an interview with Mr. Waid about Birthright being the “official” origin, which was declared so late in the run due to the Super-books being “still somewhat in flux” when the series began. While I was correct in that the state of Superman’s history at that point was a bit mushy and open to revision, as I said in my last post, my assumption that Birthright was a planned out-of-continuity story that eventually ended up in continuity despite itself was incorrect.

So, when you reread that last post of mine, disregard my poor use of Birthright as an example for my thesis. I think my overall entry there is correct, in that if you leave any ambiguity to the canonicity of a story involving DC or Marvel characters in what appears to be their familiar milieus, the default position of a certain subset of fandom regarding that story is that it’s part of official continuity. And that the emphasis, especially by DC, on continually trying to establish what is their official continuity only encourages the behavior.

Not all fans do this, of course, but like I said, I’m still getting customers asking me if Three Jokers is, you know, Real Joker History and, well, what can you do. “It is if you want it to be!” I’ve answered more than once, and I don’t know if that helps, really.

Okay, let me say something about a couple of comics that came out this week:


I didn’t keep the cover pictured above…this is one of those “retailer incentive variants” that I have to order a certain number of the regular covers in order to receive. But you think I’m gonna pass up posting a kickass Beta Ray Bill pic by his creator, Walt Simonson, on my site? Heck no.

Anyway, the entirety of my Thor reading is as follows: the Walt Simonson run from #337 to #382 (plus the couple of fill-in issues in that run, which were also great), whatever stories were in the Origins of Marvel Comics books, and the Lee/Kirby “Search for Galactus” issues that pal Cully let me borrow once. Nothing against Thor, and I know some later runs of Thor are very highly regarded, but my brain decided “That’s All The Thor I Need” and that was that, I guess.

When I opened my own shop a few years ago, I gave up my Thors (not Cully’s Thors, I returned ’em, honest) to the back issue bins, which was a good idea because boy did they sell well. As they should, because they’re beautiful and perfect, but “Fanboy Mike” is a tad annoyed at “Retailer Mike” as I kind of miss having those. But hey, I figured at the time I could always pick ’em up in reprints one way or another.

So basically I haven’t been involved in Thor comics for a while. Then why pick up Beta Ray Bill #1? Well, the work of Daniel Warren Johnson for one, who is writing and drawing this book and it looks fantastic. I’m not one for two-page spreads in comics nowaways, but Mr. Johnson throws in a couple of them in this issue and I know I really like a comic when that doesn’t bug me in the slightest. It all feels like a natural extension of Simonson’s rendition of the character without being an imitation of his style, in a way that previous efforts with the Beta Ray Bill have not.

As someone who, as I just told you, hasn’t been immersed in recent Thor comic shenanigans, there wasn’t a steep learning curve for getting caught up to speed on recent Asgardian events. Johnson does a good job naturally slipping in the necessary exposition to establish the world of the book and the premise for the series.

Yes, it is, nominally, a tie-in to the “King in Black” event currently happened at Marvel, but it barely counts, a “Red Skies” type of crossover where a Surprise Guest Monster shows up to wreak havoc in Asgard and oh, he’s all King in BLack-ized or whatever they call it. Could easily just have been Special Surprise Guest Monster all on his lonesome and the effect on the plot wouldn’t have been any different, really. But if it gets more eyeballs on the comic, then we shall let this pious fraud pass.

What I’m saying is that Beta Ray Bill is just as good as I’d hoped it would be, since seeing preview pages a while back. As someone actively not looking to pick up new series right now due to my immense funnybook backlog caused by eyeball issues, I snatched this one up with no regrets.


Young Hellboy is a fun, cute series, the second issue of which is out this week. Young Hellboy runs into a Golden Age-style jungle girl on a mysterious island, and seeing HB as an overly talkative, hyperactive child is always entertaining. With the forward motion on the “current” Hellboy timeline effectively ended with, um, the end of the world, it’s nice that we’re still getting “flashback” Hellboy stories. “Hellboy may be dead but his cash flow lives on,” as the Dead Milkmen said (slightly paraphrased). Even knowing the eventual end point for the Hellboy Universe, the sense of impending doom doesn’t weigh too heavily upon these stories…I mean, not that particular doom, anyway.

It’s a nice reminder of what Hellboy was, back before the plot overtook the premise and everything was pointing to The End, versus just the big red guy smacking monsters around and shooting (badly) at demonic foes. Or, as in this series, swinging on a vine and shouting with glee. As I said, fun and cute.

Daniel’s Progressive Ruin.

§ March 29th, 2021 § Filed under dc comics, publishing § 11 Comments

Unlike my hope at the end of the last post addressing Daniel’s comment about DC and the rebooting and the continuities, I do in fact have yet another early morning appointment waiting for me as I write this the night before it. I believe that’s the last of said appointments for a while, the timing of which is unfortunately a necessity when one has a seven-day-a-week job. So let me be quick like the bunny in these responses:

“For me, the DC characters are strongest when they’re in a perpetual state of reboot and/or Elseworlds variations. Seeing a young Batman meet the Joker for the first time in stylistically and narratively different ways each time is infinitely more interesting to me than seeing 80-year-continuity Batman meet the Joker for the 368th time in their ongoing history.”

Nearly, urgh, 20 years ago, the mini-series Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid, Leinil Yu and Gerry Alanguilan was released, retelling the early years of Superman’s life. It wasn’t intended to be part of regular continuity; rather, just a fresh interpretation of Superman’s origin by a talented creative team, unburdened by the need to be tied to anything else DC was doing with the character.

I suppose what happened was that the story told in Birthright wasn’t distinct enough from mainline continuity…not branded “Elseworlds” or whatever. Not the fault of the creative team, of course, but the Superman story post-Crisis and post-Zero Hour had perhaps become nebulous enough, and distant enough from the mid-1980s John Byrne reboot, that Birthright somehow came to be considered part of the “official” origin. I believe it was this story that reintroduced the Silver Age-y idea of Lex Luthor living in Smallville when he was young, effectively de-aging the Byrne version (who’d already been de-aged via clone/deal with Neron shenanigans that I’m not going into here) from being decades older than Clark Kent to maybe only being a few years, at most.

EDIT: Please check the comments for some clarification from Mr. Waid his own self.

Daniel, I think ideally, for the purposes of DC’s maintenance of a superhero universe, having the “in-continuity” stories is fine. And your idea of having varied tellings and retellings of stories featuring the characters that don’t have to be shoehorned into that continuity is great. Does Batman: Three Jokers fit into the official, current Batman history? Will it ever be referenced outside of a Three Jokers sequel? Probably not. I know I spent a couple of posts picking at the continuity details of this story, but, really, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It’s a standalone story you can enjoy (or not enjoy, as the case may be) as in-continuity, if you’d like, or outside of it.

Part of the problem is that DC’s constant obsession with “fixing the universe” in most of their Big Events reemphasizes the idea that Continuity Matters, that all the pieces need to fit and be consistent. So when stuff like Birthright and Three Jokers come along, which (at least in the former, can’t say for sure about the latter) aren’t intended to be part of regular continuity but aren’t immediately identifiable as being separate from it, the readers can get it into their heads that they’re supposed to consider these stories are part of the Official Big Picture. I mean, if Batman’s not, like, a pirate in the story, or Superman’s rocket didn’t land in Norway, which is what DC has essentially trained its readership to look for when considering if a story is, biggest quotation marks ever, “real” or not.

Look, I know most people aren’t worried to this extent about their comic book stories. I read (and am still reading) the Superman comics from the Byrne reboot ’til today, and I can draw a more or less unbroken line from what happened then to what’s going on now. Is everything entirely consistent? No, of course not…it wasn’t even before the whole Flashpoint/New 52/Rebirth hoohar. Does that bother me? Nah, not really. I tend to go on about some of the inconsistencies here on this site, but more out of amusement than outrage. As a wise philosopher once almost said, “it’s just a [comic book], I should really just relax.”

In short, if I can ever be short, DC has its readership used to the idea that continuity is paramount, and therefore every story has to “count.” Thus, doing stories that aren’t necessarily in continuity can become difficult to distinguish as such unless they contain gimmicks that decidedly make them outside the main storylines. Thus, anyone really bothered by this sort of thing, which isn’t everybody, I know, but it ain’t zero people, can find things to be confusing.

“And I think that this is part of DC’s brand management problem. I believe that there are just as many people like me who love the excitement and variation of reboots as there are people who prefer (and want to perpetuate) the never-ending 80-year soap opera. And any attempt to go in one direction or the other will inevitably alienate the other audience.”

I know DC has been messing with branding logos on their comics to identify which “family” their books are in, with a general “DC Universe” for those without specific categories. Maybe a general icon that means “YES, THIS IS IN WHATEVER OUR CONTINUITY IS NOW.” Which is its own problem, because then maybe people wouldn’t buy the one-offs and minis without the logo because they’re outside continuity? You see the difficulty. I think just ending the Big Event reboots, and changing things as necessary in the comics as time goes on, without making a big deal out of it, is the best solution. If DC stops making such a big deal out of continuity, maybe readers will too. Well, some readers, anyway. I’ve been at this too long, I know better.

I don’t know. I think folks should just read the stories they like and if they want to think some story is or is not part of the larger picture, then go to town, friend. In my personal head canon, those stories where Alec Holland’s brother “cures” Alec, followed by Swamp Thing teaming up with the Challengers of the Unknown and Deadman are all still part of the character’s history, and nobody’s gonna tell me different.

We interrupt this program with an important bulletin.

§ March 26th, 2021 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 3 Comments

Well, hoo boy, more big news for the comics business as Marvel signs an exclusive deal with Penguin Random House to distribute their comics and books an’ stuff, beginning in October.

Diamond Comics, the distributor that’s had the exclusive distribution rights for nearly three decades, has announced that they’ll still be carrying Marvel product as before, if retailers prefer continuing to buy from them. However, Diamond would be essentially just be a large customer of Penguin Random House and reselling to stores, likely meaning an adjustment in discounts, and I’ve no idea what the timing will be like. Would Diamond get them early enough to redistribute the books to retailers in time for New Comics Day? Or will that point be moot if Marvel follows DC’s lead and picks another day of the week to be NCBD?

From what I’ve read, PRH, which I’m condensing it to because I’m already tired of typing it out, will offer a standard 50% discount to retailers on new product, which is less than what I’m getting from Diamond. However, PRH will also be offering free shipping, and no reorder fees, so that more or less balances out.

In addition, the ugly truth is that I expect shortages and damages to be reduced as well, which I’d gladly give up a percentage point or two in wholesale discount terms in exchange for product showing up on time and in sellable condition. My DC shipments from their new distributor, Lunar, have been virtually error-free…if I’ve reported more than a half-dozen problems total since receiving shipments from them last year, I’d be shocked. And it’s almost always “you sent me 49 instead of 50 copies,” that sort of thing. Only once did I have a significant issue (all my standard cover copies of Future State: Harley Quinn #1 got missed, but replaced right away).

By comparison, I’ve had problems with my Diamond shipments nearly every week. There are the minor mess-ups, like a book or two getting damaged in packing or in transit, which happens. But there are the times when books get missed entirely and I have to wait a week (usually) or two to three weeks (ugh, sometimes) for replacements. And more than once in the last few weeks, sometimes replacements can’t be found and I just get credit, meaning I’m off to eBay or other stores to beg for copies. Or buying directly from the publisher (like I had to with a recent issue of Taarna), which makes me wonder why I can do that and my distributor can’t. And God help you if that book you’re trying to replace on your own is The Random Hot Book of the Week As Decided by Speculators, like that Daredevil #26 I never got that was going for $20 a pop on eBay.

Now, I can only imagine the stress caused by the combination of massive amounts of product and whatever effects COVID has had on the processing/packing end of things. I need to be more understanding, but at the same time it’s a real pain to be invoiced for things you can’t sell. Maybe fewer Marvels passing through the system will ease the load and improve fulfillment? Or will the loss of that income keep us exactly where we’re at? I don’t know.

I know I can gripe about Diamond a bit, especially when something inexplicable (uh, just a single Comic Shop News instead of the full bundle?) or gross (is that a piece of chewed-up gum in this box?) happens. But honestly most of the time I’ve had a good relationship with them and they’ve treated me well, and on occasions when I’ve been especially screwed (like that time half my boxes disappeared in transit) they got replacements out to me within a couple of days.

Basically, I don’t want them to go away. But I am okay with having more competition in the distribution side of things, which, with any luck, will improve everyone’s service. Yes, that means more bills to keep track of, and more order forms to fill out, but it beats digging ditches (apologies to any ditch-diggers reading this who love their jobs). It also means learning a new online ordering portal, I’m sure (Lunar’s took a bit to get whipped into shape, and even still has a bit to go).

The competitive stakes are especially high on Diamond’s part, as some of their biggest remaining clients (like Dark Horse, IDW, and Archie) also have preexisting relationships with PRH. It probably wouldn’t take much for them to slide their product lines over from one company to another.

So we shall see what results from all this brouhaha. It’d be nice if PRH could somehow get Marvel to tamp down the #1 relaunches and variant covers. That’d get everyone celebrating.

It’s an Eniac, Eniac on the floor / And it’s selling like it’s never sold before.

§ March 5th, 2021 § Filed under publishing, retailing, self-promotion § 7 Comments


So anyway, here we are, in this post Bad Idea Comics release-of-Eniac-#1 world. You’re probably been hearing about it on the comic news sites or on your TickingTocks or whatever, or you may even have read about the company and my participation in it on my very site about a year ago. But in short: comic publisher produces new comics, available only at a select number of stores around the world.

But Eniac #1 is out now, like I said…when they announced they were going to use Diamond Comics to distribute their books, I was sweating it a bit, given the number of boners they’ve pulled of late regarding books just straight up not showing up and not having the stock to replace them. With initial orders on Eniac being only partially filled with first printing due to orders being much higher than anticipated, and the balance with the black-logoed “Not First Printings,” if my order of first printings didn’t show up I suspect there’s no way I’d be able to get replacements. Especially with my shipment arriving a day later than normal this week, which would mean being the last in line calling in my shortages.

All that worry was for naught (at least for Eniac, no so much for that order of Oingo Boingo comics I was highly anticipating which didn’t manage to make it into my shipment) and a Bad Idea time was had by all at the shop. Bad Idea provided a special button, pictured here:

…to be given to the first person to actually purchase an issue of Eniac in the shop. And that person was Jessica, pictured here on the store’s Instagram.

And there was this personalized video provided by the publisher, where Eniac writer Matt Kindt his own self extols the viewer to go to Sterling Silver Comics for your copy:

I had a lot of mail order customers for this comic, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given the relative scarcity of retailers carrying it. Walked over to the post office Thursday morning with a cart full of packages, in fact, and it’s a good thing I restocked my cardboard comic mailers for this very purpose. So all in all…with lots of folks excited about the book, with plenty of new faces coming into the store looking for it, and plenty of copies sent across the country, I’d say Eniac #1 was a success for me.

Of course, the question remains if this demand will continue for future issues of the series, or for other titles from the publisher. I did have at least a couple of mail order people who requested #1 tell me they weren’t interested in #2, which is a shame and I hope they change their mind if they read it (and that’s a big “IF” which I’ll talk about in a moment). However, far more customers asked for all issues of Eniac, if not “all Bad Idea,” so that’s a good sign at least for continuing sales.

…So you know how over the last week or so I’ve been talking about speculation in comics, and how new collectibles are almost being forced into having value given that actual rare and valuable comics are in even shorter supply than normal.

Well, guess what happens when something that may actually be (at least regionally) scarce enters the market? Folks lose their minds. When I poked in on eBay early today I was copies of the white-logoed first print listed at hundreds of dollars. Just checking now the black-logoed second prints are at $30 or more. The freebie promo comics ballyhooing the Bad Idea line, the very ones I’m still giving away for free at my front counter, are getting listed at $10 a pop on average.I even saw one of the buttons listed with a Buy-It-Now of $470 (with “free shipping,” gee how generous). And yes, I checked, there have been sales on these at around there prices. Well, maybe not the button. Yet.

The official sales agreement retailers entered into with Bad Idea specifies that they can’t sell the comic for more than cover prices for the next thirty days, so presumably most of these eBay sellers are individual buyers trying to make a fast buck on the New Hot Thing (I know I had more than a couple come buy their copy today.) What’s interesting is that another stipulation is that retailers could only sell one copy per person, which has me wondering about the seller I just saw with the 2nd print listed at $29.95 and 28 sold already:


Either this seller is a comics retailer, or friends with a comics retailer and selling them on his behalf, or a fella who walked into his local shop 28+ times with a large variety of disguises and questionable accents.

I know Bad Idea frowns on this behavior…this announcement on Twitter (which I also received via email) telling everyone they bounced a seller from the program permanently for violating these rules was a clear warning to other stores. But of course that’s not going to stop individuals from doing whatever they want with their copies.

…Following that tweet from Bad Idea is some spirited discussion as to whether or not that enforced cover price is a good idea, or if retailers should be allowed to take advantage of the current secondary market, and some grumbling about the “one-per-customer” rule. I didn’t have any complaints regarding the latter…a few customers tried to buy more than one, but were completly understanding when I told them they couldn’t. Thank goodness, I didn’t feel like getting screamed at in the middle of my store.

To be honest, I had my questions about the pricing thing, as I thought the “Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price” wasn’t an enforceable fixed price, but one that could be freely adjusted as the situation warrants. Hence, you know, back issues pricing. But I took a look at the FTC website” and found this bit of business:

“If a manufacturer, on its own, adopts a policy regarding a desired level of prices, the law allows the manufacturer to deal only with retailers who agree to that policy. A manufacturer also may stop dealing with a retailer that does not follow its resale price policy. That is, a manufacturer can implement a dealer policy on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.”

…which I feel like probably covers Bad Idea’s situation, allowing them to set a price. However, please note I am no Legalese Expert, so maybe someone can help clarify.

I realize after all this I haven’t said anything about the comic itself, which is mostly because my comic readin’ time at home has been curtailed a bit, combined with my slower reading nowadays because of my eyeball troubles. But it’s a striking book with that deep red cover and thick cover…it grabs your attention, certainly. It’s on the read list for tonight…I’m looking forward to it. Here’s hoping future releases generate equal excitement. The industry sure could use some…even if the shadow of speculation is in tow.

• • •

Over on the Patreon, I’ve added another short audio bit, this time discussing the delivery of new comic shipments. It’s fun doing these, and it’s even fun to go through with the editing program and cut out the “uhs,” the swallows, and that notification noise my phone made while recording.

I’m glad to be able to start providing some new content over there again (only $1 a month to get it all!). I’ll also be restarting Swamp Thing-a-Thon again soon, and I should have another sample entry, my coverage of issue #1 from the 1970s, up here on this site this weekend.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon.

Bringing out notably entertaining retired series.

§ February 5th, 2021 § Filed under publishing § 23 Comments

So Twitter pal OneWordLong spends a few more words than that asking

“Q: I’ve always harbored a low key ambition to collect/read all the Malibu-verse books. I remember liking the printing and art as I flipped thru them in the day. But would they scratch that ‘lets read a Comics Universe’ itch?
I appreciate your thoughts. thank you.”

I was thinking about this since the question was posed, and was all ready to go with a discussion with what little I could recall of the Ultraverse, Malibu’s superhero universe imprint that launched in 1993. But then I remembered “oh yeah they had a superhero universe type thing that preceded that.” (I mean, aside from their brief stint publishing Image Comics, of course.)

Now I gotta be honest…my exposure to the initial Malibu-verse line was fairly limited, beyond, you know, racking and selling the things at the shop I worked at. Nothing against them in the slightest, or against the people making them (disclosure: I know Dave Olbrich, co-founder and former publisher of Malibu, and have had friendly dealings with other co-founder Tom Mason), but the 1990s were a pretty wild time for comics publishing and I could only pick and choose so much to read.

I will tell you one that, somehow, I just learned now (or had learned before and forgotten in the ensuing decades) by looking things up on the Wikipedias is that the initial “Malibu-Verse,” as represented by The Protectors (pictured) and its handful of spinoffs, were in fact revivals of now public-domain superheroes originally published by Centaur Publications in the 1940s. You know, had I realized that at the time, I may have been more inclined to stick my nose between the covers of some of those books.

Eventually Malibu ran a crossover storyline called “Genesis” (not to be confused with) that roped in some other of their titles into an attempt at a shared universe thingie (including Dinosaurs for Hire by the aforementioned Mr. Mason, a rudely funny comic), and despite this attempt at broadening the line (plus promotional POGs!) the line was effectively supplanted by Malibu’s launch of the Ultraverse in 1993.

As to scratching that “superhero univesre” itch, OneWordLong, you’ve probably gleaned already that I can’t speak too much to that. I mean, it all looks fine, and given its relatively short existence, it probably wouldn’t be too much of a burden to find them all. I liked Dinosaurs for Hire, but that’s a later added-value insert into the Malibu-Verse, and probably not what you were thinking about. But at the very least, get your mitts on the one with the die-cut hole through the entirety of the book (kinda the more precise version of this cover enhancement).

Now Ultraverse…honestly, I thought this was what you were referring to, OneWordLong, and given the breadth and depth of the line compared to its predecessor, surely you can understand why one would stick in one’s memory over the other. This was a much more ambitious project than the Malibu-Verse, with Big Creators and hologram covers and all sorts of those 1990s comics publishing shenanigans. It was a lot closer in style, I think, to the Marvel and DC comics that readers were more accustomed to, so even just beyond the number of releases it was bound to gain a little more traction in the marketplace.

Like Malibu-Verse, I didn’t sample a lot of it, but I did read a couple of series. There was Prime, a take on the Captain Marvel/Shazam dynamic where a boy is able to turn into an adult superhero (which had some nice art by Norm Breyfogle) but in retrospect perhaps reads a little differently now that we know of the extracurricular activities of one of the writers. It actually was a pretty good book, I thought at the time, about childhood conceptions of adulthood and heroism, but…yeah, it’s hard to revisit now. There were later issues not involving that writer, however.

I also enjoyed Sludge, of course, given it was another take on the Swamp Thing/Man-Thing type of character, with the bonus that my favorite Man-Thing scripter Steve Gerber was the writer. Again, been a while since I’ve read these (but they’re still there in the collection, waiting for that far-off day when I’ll have free time), but I remember enjoying them. One quirk about the character that I remember is that, due to his injured mental state, he’d mix up words in his head…like thinking “I gotta smash that doily” instead of “I gotta smash that door” — you know, like that, only better written because I’m no Steve Gerber.

Oh, and then there was Rune, featuring one of the Big Bads of the Ultraverse. The series primarily grabbed attention due to the work of Barry Windsor-Smith, but interest wore thin once he was off the book (which is a terrible thing to say given that the follow-up team did fine work, but the people wanted BWS, who’s a tough act to follow).

There was a lot of interesting stuff under this imprint, and if you’re looking for a weird short-run superhero universe to get into, OneWordLong, this might be a little more what you’re wanting versus the previous Malibu-Verse. Unfortunately, with Marvel’s buyout of Malibu, the end of the Ultraverse gets tangled up in the Marvel Universe, which likely causes the thread to be lost, or at least diluted in relation to whatever shared universe the U-books were putting together. (And given that current owners, Marvel, seem unlikely to bring any of the Ultraverse properties back*, there’s at least a definite end to its existence.)

Some of the titles had followings, at least for a while, after the imprint’s demise. Still had people looking for Mantra (about an ancient male warrior trapped in a modern woman’s body…given our modern increased sensitivity toward transgender issues, not sure if that’s aged well or if it even relates), Firearm (written by James Robinson), and Lord Pumpkin (a more horror-edged comic). Exiles was interesting, a team book that had been solicited for further issues, but surprisingly killed off in issue #4 to, I guess, show how new and unpredictable the Ultraverse was (a publishing trick that was equally annoying many years later when The Walking Dead pulled that same nonsense).

Oh, and there was the team book Ultraforce, where (good news) early issues had George Perez art, but (bad news) were written by that writer I didn’t name who also worked on Prime. So, you know, up to you if you want to deal with that.

And there you are, OneWordLong, simultaneously more and less information than what you were looking for. I don’t know which briefly-existing superhero universe you would prefer, but you can either pick the one with the cover die-cut into the shape of the hero’s head, or you can pick the one where a version of the #0 of one of their titles came with a VHS copy of an original movie based on the series. I ENVY YOU NOT THE CHOICE, MY FRIEND.
 
 

* Unless Disney finds out about them, of course.

Low Contrast Mode.

§ October 16th, 2020 § Filed under batman, eyeball, publishing § 15 Comments

So as many of you know (and I mostly can’t shut up about) I have had some eye trouble over the last couple of years, which has (among other things) interfered with my ability to read comics. Slowing me down at first, then, now and again, stopping me entirely.

While I’m still having the occasional bout of clouded vision, it’s a little less often, and my sight is pretty much as good as it’s going to be. My left eye is mostly good, my right eye is somewhat impaired, and my prescription glasses do help quite a bit, and I’m functioning more-or-less normally. I do have bit of a problem dealing with low contrast writing and images, but I’m adjusting best I can.

As my vision has stabilized, I’ve attempted to catch up on all those comics I’ve been accumulating but not reading. For example, I just finished reading something like 20 issues of the current run of Daredevil this past week. And I’ve done similar bulk-reads of titles trying to get current (and stay current as each new issue comes out).

One of the tools I’m using to read comics I’m behind on is the DC Universe digital library. While I do have print copies of the books I’m reading via this method, this actually makes it easier on the eyes to have larger (and sometimes clearer) panels that I can read a little more quickly than their on-paper counterparts. (And yes, I know I can get free digital copies of several Marvel titles, I’m just too lazy to go through the process of typing in the codes printed in the back of the books.)

Mostly I use my iPad mini to do the DC digital thing…my parents had ended up with a couple of free ones after buying a pair of iPhones, and gave one to me, which was nice. I have half-considered buying a larger iPad for my funnybook perusing, but that can wait for now. But I have used the DC Universe app via my television to read some material when certain troubles arose, in this case being the 2018 mini-series The Batman Who Laughs.

“Trouble you say?” I’m sure the three of you what still read the blogs are asking. Yes, the trouble is the very thing I’ve been having difficulty with ever since this particular evil Batman was introduced…his goldurned black-on-red word balloons:


It’s…not easy for me to make out in print comics, and even reading it on my iPad, zoomed in as much as I’m able, was a pain in the rear. I made it through an issue on my pad, and then opted to try reading it through my television instead.

That did the trick…blowing it up nice ‘n’ big on a large flatscreen made the red-on-black balloons a tad easer to discern. But apparently this mini-series realized it was being far too lenient on me, and unleased its secret weapon: RED ON GREY TEXT:


Man, there’s, like, almost no way I could have read this except for being blown up on a flatscreen, and even then it was a struggle. When I was doing screengrabs on my computer for this post, I found I couldn’t make them out, and I have a pretty good-sized monitor for my desktop computotron.

I eventually muddled through the series (I ended up enjoying it, despite everything), but man, I have a real distaste for these novelty-colored captions and word balloons. I think Swamp Thing’s black-on-orange dialogue is about as far as I’m willing to travel, and even that isn’t quite as legible to my peepers as it once was. If comics are going to continue to do that sort of thing, either bold the text more, or use higher contrast colors (the Batman Who Laughs seems to have white-on-black balloons in current appearances, which is a vast improvement).

And in short order DC Universe (when it becomes the digital comics only DC Univesre Infinite) is going strictly to tables/phones/computers, dropping TV support. I’m sure there are workarounds, but it won’t be as convenient as “selecting the app on my Roku” easy, so I may be losing that option for reading other comic lettering in this style.

Okay, okay, that’s enough waving my red-tipped cane at you publishers. I just hope they take things like “readability” into consideration when they do stuff like this.

I do have one more question arising from my Batman Who Laughs reading: what was the Gotham street planning commission meeting like that resulted in putting up an actual damn street sign that reads “Crime Alley?”


I mean, yeah, sure, it’s Gotham, this is probably the least crazy thing the city’s government has done. However, even assuming there are no businesses or residents on this particular stretch of road, surely anyone located nearby would be all “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO OUR PROPERTY VALUES?”

I always figured “Crime Alley” was the nickname inhabitants of Gothan had for the road, I never realized it was an officially sanctioned street name. Though I suppose we’re lucky millionaire socialite Bruce Wayne didn’t insist that it be called “My Parents Are Deaaaaaad Way.”

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