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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.”

whynotboth dot jpeg

§ October 9th, 2020 § Filed under comic strips, publishing, question time, Uncategorized § 10 Comments

So this got brought up in a discussion I happened to witness between Twitter pal Ben and another person, and decided it was something I needed to acquire for my own self. May I present to you, from the co-creator of Twin Peaks, the creator of Eraserhead, and the guy what did that one Dune movie…a collection of David Lynch’s comic strip The Angriest Dog in the World:


For those of you unfamiliar with the strip, each installment is a series of the same panels (an introductory caption box, three panels of the Angriest Dog growling and straining at the chain in a yard, and a final panel of the same scene at night. Only the dialogue balloons of someone speaking off-panel change. A look at the Wikipedia page will give you a sample strip.

Anyway, this book is not in any way a comprehensive collection of the strip, which had run for about ten years. This is a short book, presenting only a very few strips, each one separated by a page that’s black on one side and white on the other. It’s more of an art piece than anything else, purposefully strange in the way you’d probably expect from anything that would come from David Lynch. It’s a handsome looking item, measuring 11 inches wide by 5 inches tall, 36 pages plus covers. A neat curiosity, but if you’re waiting for the Definitive Compleat Angriest Dog Hardcover Set, I’m afraid that’s not yet a thing. There was a previous collection, now out of print, but I don’t really know anything about it. Strips were also reprinted in Dark Horse Comics’ Cheval Noir a couple of decades back.

You can find this new book at Rotland Press.

• • •

FROM THE QUESTION POST, Paul asks

“What is your reaction to Gerry Conway’s recent screed?”

What Paul is referencing is this message [WARNING: pop-up ads my blocker didn’t block, which locked up my machine for a minute] from longtime comic writer/editor Conway in regards to improving the comics industry. His idea is basically for Marvel/DC to cancel everything, repurpose properties into books aimed at a younger market and get ’em into bookstores/grocery stores/movie theaters/anywhere that’s not a comic shop, and cater to the older fans with occasional trade paperbacks with new material.

I mean, this isn’t a new idea, and the fact that the best-selling comics in the U.S. are in fact books aimed at kids. I mean, DC and Marvel both had their eyes pop out of their heads shaped like giant dollar signs when they saw how well Raina’s books were doing and immediately started their own line of reasonably successful young reader graphic novels.

Now my response is a bit biased, as I’d see this drastic of a plan as being the end of comic shops, or at least comic shops as we generally know them. Eventually DC/Marvel/etc. will have to come up with some kind of format for their regular titles that’s more cost effective in regards to size and cost and so on. Probably a shift away from the periodicals to a regular trade paperback format, but I don’t think the market is quite ready for that yet.

That doesn’t mean that Conway’s idea of getting comics into other retail spaces isn’t a good idea. Of course, you’d have to convince these other retail spaces to consider even carrying comics, assuming whatever format these will be in will be at a price point that’s profitable enough for these other venues to be worth the hassle. And frankly, I can’t see movie theaters wanting to deal with them…I’m picturing a few months of theater employees having to clean up The Book Corner because folks are just standing around reading grpahic novels while waiting for the movie to start, and tossing them back on the shelf haphazardly, if at all, when showtime starts.

But whatever they do I don’t see any real reason to “kill all the comics” in order to do this. Can’t see why there can’t be a parallel to get graphic novels into new places and getting the regular monthlies, or whatever they eventually become, into comic shops. Or everything just goes to digital, leaving print for eventual collections of that material, or throwback releases for a niche collectors market, which the comic book industry already kind of is but you get my meaning.

Basically, everyone has ideas on how to “save comics,” and Mr. Conway’s isn’t any better or worse or even that much different from what’s been proposed. The big trick is getting other industries to cooperate with any of these schemes.

Look, Marvel’s Golden Age reprints are this whole other deal which I didn’t get into here.

§ July 31st, 2020 § Filed under marvel, publishing § 13 Comments


Not too long ago I purchased a copy of the above comic for my shopMarvel Super-Heroes #1, from 1966, reprinting what was then a few relatively recent-ish comics from the publisher.

But of course, in 1966, most fans didn’t have the option of strolling on over to ye local comic book emporium to peruse the stacks and fill in gaps in their collections. Not to say there weren’t avenues to find old comics…there were stores here and there that had some, and you could always try mail order, but for the average comic book reader the newsstand was their source, which meant just the latest releases. So, if you had an interest in a particular character and title, and came to the property a tad late, these reprints held a lot of appeal.

Both Marvel and DC cranked out the reprint books throughout the 1960s and 1970s…the work was already paid for, and just sitting around in the archives, why not get it out there again? And it was, perhaps, easier to sell to an audience that tended to refresh every few years, meaning this old stuff was hitting new eyes.

I feel like Marvel’s reprints may have had more of a hook, however. DC’s stories were, by and large, standalone items, where, outside of their out-of-continuity “Imaginary Stories,” all the toys were put back in place by the tale’s conclusion, no matter how scattered or destroyed they may have been during the course of the plot. There were exceptions at DC, of course…the Legion of Super-Heroes springs to mind, and the status quo of Supergirl changing from “Superman’s Secret Weapon” to “Supergirl Reveals Herself” (ahem) is a fairly significant alteration to the premise. But a Superman story is a Superman story is a Superman story…if you read one Superman adventure, you don’t feel like you’ve missed any backstory, any twists or turns or surprising revelations.

In Marvel’s case, their superhero comics had adopted a more soap-operatic strategy. Stan Lee often ballyhooed Marvel’s “illusion of change” in their comics, but the subplots and relationships felt like they built on what came before, that there was forward progress being made with each character as they lived what seemed like, well, not “realistic” lives, but at least suspension-of-believable existences. This made you want to know what had come before, as coming in on issue 34 of, say, Amazing Spider-Man, will make you want to know what happened in the previous 33. You feel like you’ve skipped ahead to the 34th chapter in a book with 33 previous chapters (oh, and a prologue in Amazing Fantasy #15), and who knows how many chapters left to come. (Answer: this is one hell of a long book.)

Thus, the great appeal of Marvel’s reprint lines. You get those early chapters, maybe not in precise order, and not always in the same reprint title, but with some perseverance one could piece together earlier storylines. You could see beginnings of character relationships, early clashes with recurring villains, where those subplots had traveled prior to the more recent installments. Plus, in the 1960s, with Marvel’s new superhero line having only started a few years earlier, filling the gaps back to the beginning and getting the whole story probably seemed somewhat within reach.

The interesting thing is, in the modern marketplace, a lot of those early reprint books remain affordable, especially in lesser conditions. The copy of Marvel Super-Heroes #1 sold for $15, and I had several copies of Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics (don’t forget that apostrophe!) that sold from $1.50 to four or five dollars. Still have fans today trying to fill in those early stories, looking for the foundations on which the Marvel Universe was built. And doing it the old fashioned way…hunting and collecting and piecing it together. Sure, you can buy trades with the stories in order and on nice paper (assuming they’re in print), or even (gasp) digitally…but what’s the fun in that?

I explain the Cerebus Bi-Weekly image eventually.

§ July 27th, 2020 § Filed under cerebus, publishing § 14 Comments

Okay, so about a week ago we were talking about comic book reprints. Specifically, sustained reprintings of entire series or runs, which was brought up because of the forthcoming “Walkin’ Dead in Living Color” series that’s about to be unleashed on us on a biweekly basis. Did I mention last time that it was going to be biweekly? Yup, boy howdy it’s biweekly, a thing that seems…less supportable in the modern marketplace unless it sells for under $3.99 a pop, so I am reconsidering my opinion on whether it’ll be around the full eight years to complete the series.

And I just logged into the Diamond retailer site to check…the first issue (with its multiple covers, natch) is indeed $3.99. Well, gotta pay for them fancy colors, I guess.

Matthew notes

“Kirkman already did a Walking Dead reprint project with The Walking Dead Weekly in 2011. It reprinted the first 52 issues of the series weekly for a year after the TV show premiered.”

I…completely forgot about that. I mean, we carried them all at my previous place of employment, but I don’t think I’ve had a single copy of it turn up in any collections or whatever since I’ve opened up my own store. Like Matthew says later in his comment, print runs seemed to be well under 4,000 copies each in the latter portion of the run, so I suppose it doesn’t surprise me that I haven’t seen them around much. I seem to recall them selling relatively well…not huge numbers, but pretty close to sell-outs and moved reasonably well as back issues.

I suspect the main reason for the low numbers was the availability of the trade paperbacks, which would likely be the preferred method of catching up on a series that suddenly rose to prominence in the public eye and may have started to attract readers who weren’t normally comic book consumers. I mean, yes, sure, there are always a few folks who are driven to comic shops by something they saw on TV or in movies who want the “authentic comic book experience,” which means buying a stapled monthly off the new arrivals rack, but most folks interested in catching up would probably prefer the bigger chunks they can pull off the bookshelf instead of trying to piece it together issue by issue, either through the weekly reprints or the certainly now pricier back numbers of the originals.

Which is why they’re emphasizing the fact that this new color Strolling Fred series is not…well, here, let me pull the direct quote from the solicitation:

“This deluxe, definitive presentation of the story in full color will NOT be collected any time soon, so these single issues will be the only way to experience this.”

And I imagine this will last until sales start plummeting because people coming late to the color series will not be able to find the early issues, which will be long out of print, or they will find them but at greatly inflated prices. Unless there’s a plan in place to keep everything in print for the duration, which, c’mon, let’s not kid ourselves.

What the series does have going for it, aside from, you know, the novelty of color, is backmatter. Series notes, commentary, abandoned plotlines, etc., which will be of interest to the Stalking Ted completist. And, of course, would be a way to get those fencesitters who aren’t necessarily enthused about color, but may be attracted to the idea of learning more about the series, so, you know, completists, like I said.

What this reminds me of a little is Cerebus Bi-Weekly. Now, I own every volume of Swords of Cerebus, reprinting the first 25 issues of Cerebus, and including extra commentary by Dave Sim as well as new cover art and a short story original to the collection (or originally printed outside the series, like the “Silverspoon” strips from the Comics Buyers’ Guide). When I got into Cerebus in the mid-1980s, around issue 70 or so, I started buying the back issues, but decided the Swords books were good enough for the earliest installments, and focused on buying 26 on, to wherever I started picked them up new off the rack.

(Okay, fine, I went to the Grand Comics Database to try to figure it out…issues 74 and 75, the Jaka issues, were the first I’d read, thanks to pal Rob, and I think it was around 79 to 81 when I started buying them new. But I, as they say, digress.)

So anyway, I had the stories, with extras besides, from those early issues. I didn’t need to buy the Cerebus Bi-Weekly series, reprinting each of the first 25 issues in order…but what they had that the Swords of Cerebus volumes didn’t were the letters pages, and editorials, and extra features, and whathaveyou. It was a full reprint of the contents of the original, and since part of the appeal of Cerebus was the occasionally rolicking letters page, and just he whole package in general, it was nice to get a replica of that experience. And thus, I ended up buying all 26 issues of the series (with #26 reprinting some of the material that appeared in Swords of Cerebus, as well as several “Single Pages,” a feature that ran in Cerebus Bi-Weekly that presented work from various cartoonists).

In short (like anything I do on this site is ever short) I double-dipped on stories I already had because I wanted to get my mitts on the extra material. (Note I didn’t buy the follow-up High Society reprints, as I already had the original issues…but apparently the reprints also included sketchbook pages, which in retrospect I would have been interested in seeing. Ah well.) Perhaps the extra material in The Technicolor Dead will grab folks the same way.

Like I mentioned, I’ll be picking it up only because I didn’t the first time ’round, and it’ll be interesting to see if they follow through on doing the entire series (and by the time it’s done, I’ll be 60 years old or purt’near — ack). Also, the solicitation says this is the “definitive” version, meaning they intended it to be color from the start, so I’m buying it the right way, not like all you suckers who bought it in black and white. Hey, don’t get mad at me, I’m just reporting the truth!

Okay, more on the Marvel reprint stuff next time, for anyone I didn’t manage to just alienate right now.

I wonder what the chances are for Walking Dead II: Walk Deader #1 coming out by 2025?

§ July 20th, 2020 § Filed under indies, publishing § 12 Comments

The big news over the weekend was the announcement that The Walking Dead cook series would be returning to the stands in a new biweekly reprint series…in color.

I was pretty sure something like this was going to happen…I predicted it here once or twice over the years, but honestly I thought they’d just go with colorized trade collections. I suppose a new color reprint comic book series might help get folks back into the habit of visiting comical-type bookstores again, what with the effect the real life plague has had on business.

Now I expect Robert Kirkman will see this project through to the end…though I do think the possibility of sales on the reprint series falling os low that they’d switch over to doing color trades only. I know the press release states “no trade collections for a while,” but we’ll see what happens if and when circulation drops to precarious levels.

This is nearly 200 comics they’ll be reprinting (I’m assuming the various specials will be included), and I’m wondering what the exact market for these will be. Walking Dead completists, sure. And there’ll be the investor-types who’ll probably want multiples of the first issue, and will want the color editions of whatever “key” issues turn up. There are the folks who didn’t read it the first time, either because it was in black and white, or they just up and missed it. Personally, I may pick up the series myself, since I skipped it initially but had enough interest in it that I’d poke through the occasional issue. We’ll see.

New editorial backmatter will be presented in each book, which may get the old readers to pick it up again, at least for a while. But 200 issues of something you’ve already read, even if it’s now in color, at twice a month over the next eight years, is kind of a big ask. I imagine sales eventually are going to depend heavily on those readers who hadn’t read it before, plus a handful of those old Walking Dead fans who cannot resist the new colorized temptation. It’s gonna start big, I’m sure, but I’ll be selling single digits on these by the time 2028 rolls around. Aaaand I’m sure by that time the trades will have started coming out.

Anyway, this is some project, and like I said, I’m surprised they opted for the comic book format versus the trade. Now to start pestering Dave Sim about Cerebus But Now in Color #1.

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