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The cowl stays on.

§ February 19th, 2024 § Filed under batman, dc comics, publishing § 23 Comments

Last time, jmurphy brought up

“But the good news is that LCE #51 is being reprinted full size.”

And indeed they are! The Limited Collectors’ Edition #51 treasury edition from 1977 is coming to shelves in a facsimile edition next month, collecting together theh original Ra’s al Ghul saga by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams. Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano.

The only image I can find on the distributor sites for this facsimile is the one I posted above, showing its original cover. I’m hoping the cover is reproduced authentically, and not “retouched” as they did with 2004 reprint of DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #6 (original / reprint). Or (ahem) “recolored” as some other Adams reprints have been.

I realize I’m probably worrying for nothing, as DC’s facsimile editions of late haven’t had that much after-the-fact fiddling and are presented more-or-less as originally printed. (Though to be fair I haven’t really taken that close a lot to see if the Golden Age facsimiles, like the Superman #1, are the redrawn versions that appeared in the early DC Archives).

The big change of course is getting the material on nice, white paper, versus the newsprint of the originals. Of course, yes, I’ve commented before about the dissonance about seeing work that originally lived on newprint suddenly being all bright and shiny, but having it on those nice, big treasury-sized pages will certainly be welcome and much easier on the ol’ eyeballs.

This will be, I think, DC’s first reprint of a treasury duplicating the original format, versus the treasury-sized hardcover edition they did of Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (which is Peak Neal Adams Superman in my opinion). There was also a smaller “deluxe edition” hardcover published at the same time, with a new Adams cover and extra bonus material not included in the larger facsimile. I don’t know if the smaller book was given the “recoloring” treatment. Anyway, that story needs to be seen at full size, so I’m not sure why you’d want that “deluxe” version anyway.

But back to this Ra’s al Ghul treasury, which is probably about as good as this particular Bat-villain ever got in print form (outside the frankly demented and evil and great usage in the Batman Beyond cartoon). The treasury includes his first appearance and conflict with Batman, including the famed shirtless (but not cowlless) sword fight:

…and c’mon, if anything deserves to be reprinted on bigger than normal pages, it’s this.

With any luck this facsimile will do well enough to open up more reprints of DC’s treasuries (and spur Marvel along to do the same). It’s obvious why they started with this one (Batman drawn by Neal Adams, duh), but it’d be nice if they brought the Superman Vs. Wonder Woman story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez back into print — it did get a treasury-sized hardcover reprint a few years back, but man, it should always be available.

And personally I’d like some of those Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer treasuries just to get more Sheldon Mayer in my life. Not really holding my breath for this to happen, honestly.

I hope future treasury reprints, if any, will focus on the ones with new stories that have only appeared there, versus reprinting books that contain reprints themselves. Not to say that something like this Adams Batman collection isn’t worthwhile, and nice to have on Big Ol’ Pages, but I’d rather have any new material from these show up in its original dimensions rather than being shrunk down.

As someone who likes Ralph Snart, I would have appreciated that.

§ February 12th, 2024 § Filed under publishing § 12 Comments

I’ve written before about my nostalgic perusal of the magazine racks whilst shopping at the grocery store. I still do it, every Sunday evening (my usual hunting-and-gathering time) though the selection doesn’t change a whole lot between visits, and usually it’s only publications like this:

I mean, no offense to anyone out there into coloring cat farts, ready to frame, and I know there must be a few of you since this is Volume Freakin’ Eleven, but I just don’t swing that way, friends.

But every once in a while I spot something that at least gets me to pick it up and flip through it as I decide whether or not to take it home, like some Lord of the Rings mag that’s been on the rack there for a while. But this past Sunday I spotted this (one of the two copies left, so I’m presuming it must have sold at least a few copies) and had to get it:

At last, I have the Ultimate Guide. Sorry Scott McCloud, this is what will finally help me understand comics.

Okay, I make fun, but I honestly haven’t done much more than skim through it so far and it looks…you know, at least surface level sufficient in covering comic book history. It’s certainly not going to be so granular as to explain why Bob Kane sucks or how come the whole “Quack-Fu” thing in the Howard the Duck comic was a multi-layered parody/social commentary versus just another duck pun in the film, but for someone just dipping their toes in, it may whet their appetite.

The tiny heading at the top of the cover reads “Hollywood Spotlight,” a brand name that’s also brought you similar mags about the Transformers and the A-Team and various Marvel movies, so that’s the impetus for this publication. It’s for the reader who’s seen the superhero films and maybe wants to learn more about the source material, which, you know, isn’t a bad thing. The timing maybe is a little bad, given the superhero movie market is, if not dying, then at least stumbling around a bit coughing blood spittle into its hands (I mean, we’ll see how Deadpool & Wolverine does), but there’s always someone discovering these characters via the films that do exist and this mag might make a good primer.

That said, like I noted above I haven’t read it yet. The Golden Age and the Silver Age of comics each get about three or four pages apiece, I see an article about horror comics and Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent and the Comics Code, a thing about event comics like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars, and so on. The focus is of course on Marvel and DC (with a handful of movie stills to remind us of the final evolved form of comic books, natch), though there a feature on indie comics, a sidebar about Maus, and, well, back to DC with Watchmen and Dark Knight. Can’t wait to read what they say about Alan Moore.

Hey, here’s a bit about Gail Simone and “Women in Refrigerators” which is not something I expected in here. And of particular interest to me is this article about the ’90s market crash, ooh yeah feed that into my eyeballs. “Origin of Image Comics” is in here too, which I always said was “Marvel artists leave Marvel to create their own Marvel,” but it looks like this article goes a little deeper into that.

It all wraps up with “How Comics Took Over Hollywood,” likely without the addendum that, um, not so much anymore, but overall it looks like a very general overall approach to comics history. I don’t know what they’ve got wrong yet, and they’re covering a lot of ground for a ~100 page magazine, so certainly Your Favorite Topics undoubtedly got short shrift (“no 10-page examination of Ralph Snart, c’mon“). But it appears to do what it’s meant to do, give someone who knows all these “Holy Classic Characters, Batman!” from their media adaptations at least somewhat of an idea of where it all came from. Hopefully that’ll be enough to get them to at least look deeper into the parts that only get passing mentions.

Oh, and I’m afraid to say one of the first full page images in the mag is of Bob Kane posing with a Batman painting I’m sure he claimed he painted. SPOILER: he didn’t.

The one with the gannet.

§ February 9th, 2024 § Filed under marvel, publishing, variant covers § 9 Comments

Well, this is certainly something.

I know, I’m a little late to this polybag party, but boy howdy what a weirdly pandering idea that’s only going to contribute to the idea that kids aren’t welcome to modern superhero comics. Which is okay, I guess, because kids got their own stuff goin’ on, and aren’t likely to be interested in Marvels outside of Miles Morales and Deadpool anyway.

Basically, Marvel has announced that they’ll be releasing a comic, Blood Hunt #1, where apparently you won’t have to hunt far for that blood as a “Mature Readers” version of the title with all the gore and violence you crave will be presented in an unexpurgated fashion. Meanwhile, they’ll also produce a censored “general audiences” version of the same book that won’t sell. The naughty version, naturally selling for a buck more than its bowdlerized counterpart, will be sealed in a polybag for that extra attention from parents who already think superhero comics are all too violent for their kids anyway.

Perhaps I sound a little annoyed at this.

Now chances are pretty good this series will go over like a thing that doesn’t go over very well, and the whole “pay that extra buck, see what the butler saw” gimmick will drop off the face of the direct market. Or everyone will decide “I don’t want the stupid version made for babies, gimme that explicit content” and it’ll sell like gangbusters and suddenly every Marvel comic has a polybag. (Then Marvel can push the “pure and innocent” unbagged variants and charge more for those.)

I was put in mind of Marvel’s publishing…let’s say “strategy” in regards to their initial attempt at doing Miracleman. In this post (and please excuse my optimism that new stories were “close”), I noted that they were polybagging Miracleman issues despite the content usually not warranting it. My assumption was that 1) it was a mature readers book under the Marvel logo, and thus should be hidden from theoretically innocent eyes, and 2) by polybagging every issue, when they got to the “birth” issue it wouldn’t stand out as the only polybagged one.

And also there’s 3) the hoped-for sales boost by providing the lure of the forbidden by sealing the contents away, which didn’t work and sales continued to plummet because nobody cared.

There is a chance this may not be the case with Marvel books, though, particularly ones set in the mainstream Marvel universe, under the Marvel banner, in a standard comic book format, and not shoved under some distancing mature-reader label like “MAX” or “Epic” or “Star.” (Yes, Star, that Heathcliff was a freak.)

As I said above, the main problem with this is the perception from parents in my shop that all superhero comics are “violent” and “gory.” I always try to tell them “there are plenty of kid-friendly superhero books.” But seeing this on the stands…well, okay, it’s just the one so far, but it’ll be more of a problem once Marvel starts cranking out more of them. Or, to be honest, folks tend to home right in on the very thing you’d prefer they didn’t notice, trust me on this. But this isn’t going to help dissuade the notion that superhero comics are scary and gross. (I mean, sure, some are, but not all of them!)

Also I’m being reminded of another time publishers tried this sort of thing, when Aircel offered “adults only” and “general audiences” versions of Barry Blair’s Leather and Lace. As I said there, given the overall look ‘n’ feel of even the supposed general audiences version, there was no way in hell I was going to sell that to kids. I’m hoping history doesn’t repeat itself with this newest iteration of the gimmick.

To be fair, a superhero fight scene would probably have a pretty strong smell.

§ January 8th, 2024 § Filed under indies, publishing, this week's comics § 6 Comments

So I picked up a copy of the normalman 40th Anniversary Omnibus, reprinting in full Jim Valentino’s mid-1980s parody comic series from the mid-1980s. I believe this is the first color reprinting of the introductory back-up stories from Cerebus, as well as the story from A-V in 3-D, presented in color and non-3D. I also believe this is the first color reprinting of the concluding chapter, normalman 3-D in a non-3D format. I appreciate that, given it’s a little harder for my eyes to do 3D in print properly anymore. (These 3D stories have been reprinted in non-3D in previous black and white collections, from Slave Labor and from Image.)

Also featured is the crossover story from Journey #13 by William Messner-Loebs (presented in the original black and white by Messner-Loebs’ request). Other material, such as the later normalman specials from Image, ads, strips produced for conventions, unused pages, and the like round out the book. Sadly not included is 1997’s Max the Magnificent:

…a spin-off starring a character normalman runs into during the course of his adventures. The comic also features an appearance by normalman‘s Captain Everything, which makes it especially odd that it doesn’t make the cut.

Now for the most part, this is a nicely done book…the reproduction of the art is very sharp and clear. The original mini-series and 3D special, however, have been relettered, which…frankly, isn’t an improvement on the original lettering. Maybe in the earlier issues, where the lettering is a little less polished, it is a step up, but in these cases I would always prefer the original, with the lumpier handdrawn word balloons and occasionally funkier typography. However, it wasn’t that distracting, and especially for my eyes it made for an easier reading experience.


I understand there may be production issues where the art just has to be relettered. It happens, I get it. But it seems like every time relettering like this is done for reprint works such as this, misspellings and such slip in that weren’t in the original printing. As I recall, this happened with Image’s initial reprintings of Matt Wagner’s Mage: The Hero Discovered, and with those strange black and white collections of Jim Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey from Slave Labor Graphics.

And it happens here, in this delxue volume of normalman I’d been wanting to see for years. Granted, for a several hundred page book, it’s not a whole lot, maybe a half-dozen or so errors that I’ve noticed, but they are still pretty distracting.

For example, from issue #1, here’s the original word balloon:

And here it is with an inexplicable word change:

From issue #10, the original panel:

And how it appears in the omnibus, with a couple of extra typos (for “imbecile” and “my”):

And here’s the one that really stood out to me, for what should be obvious reasons…from issue #4:

And here is it in the omnibus:

(Also, making “Or Mister Monster” the same size lettering does alter the gag a little.)

There are more examples (including at least one word balloon in the omnibus that I think has either misspelled a word or left a word out entirely, I haven’t checked yet).

This is just in the original normalman story, which is all I’ve read of this omnibus thus far. I don’t believe the other material has been rejiggered in this fashion. Plus, as I’ve said, it’s only a few of these errors that I’ve noticed, and I’m hoping they’ll be fixed in later reprintings. I should note that the Journey issue reprinted here has not been relettered.

As soon as I saw these, I did pull out my copies of the original series, actually kind of hoping the mistakes were in those. Somehow it would have been slightly less annoying if these were faithful reproductions of original errors, though undoubtedly I would then be complaining about “why didn’t they fix that?”

I am glad I have this book. I mean, mistakes happen — What Can You Do?™ — and given this hardcover was solicited with a first print run of only 1,500 copies, maybe like I said they can quickly fix these issues for new printings. It’s a classic and funny work that deserves to be in print, and I just want it to be in the best possible presentation.

Sometimes having a full run of Amazing Heroes pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

§ December 22nd, 2023 § Filed under publishing § 6 Comments

Joe asks if Bloodshot #1 (discussed last time) shipped the same day as Superman #75, which you may recall is the “Death of Superman” issue mentioned so rarely around here.

And I’m afraid I have to say…I don’t recall. My memories of Death of Superman Day revolve primarily around “oh shit look at that line out front” so any recollection of other titles released at the same time have fallen to the wayside. But they were released around the same time, but whether it was the same time, I can’t tell you. The Comics Database has an exact date for the Superman book, bit that Bloodshot does not. Ah well.

It did remind me of the much-ballyhooed Alien vs. Predator #1, that upon its release in 1990 it barely sold for us at all. I think it may have been because there was another big release that same week (perhaps Spider-Man #1 with its variations and polybagged editions), or maybe because the logo was a pale green against an orange/yellow background that was barely visible. (The pic of the cover at the link above appears to have been contrast-adjusted slightly, as I assure you that’s not what the coloring on that logo looks like.)

As an aside, I looked at the “Coming Distractions” for that period in Amazing Heroes, which gives the on-sale date for Spider-Man #1 as June 19th, but for Aliens Vs. Predator #1 it simply says “ships in June.” So, I can’t confirm they came out on the same day, but there’s a chance they did and my memory hasn’t completely degraded.

In both cases, Bloodshot #1 and Aliens Vs. Predator #1 ended up selling fine, even if in the case of AvP I think it may have been from customers seeing #2 on the rack and wondering what happened to #1. But perhaps I’m inventing that memory. As I’ve said many a time, had I realized that 1) I’d still be in the business 2 1/2 decades later, and 2) that I’d be writing about my experience sin the biz constantly, I’d have taken better notes.

• • •

So we’re leading into Christmas weekend, and you’re not reading this, you’re out there fighting the crowds doing your last-second shopping or you’re trying to get everything done at the house to make it festive or you’ve bunkered up trying to avoid all this nonsense. However you spend the holiday, I hope it’s a safe and happy one. I may post something on Monday for Christmas, we’ll see how my Christmas Eve goes.

Thanks for reading, pals.

Like they all aren’t facetious.

§ December 20th, 2023 § Filed under 1990s Sins, publishing § 16 Comments

Back to the Most 1990s Comic discussion…as a reminder, my personal pick for the title is X-Force #1 for both artistic and marketing reasons. But, you folks have brought up some good contenders, so let us continue with Tom W and Marvel’s The Age of Apocalypse event (1995):

In my very long-ago pre-internet days, I did a little write-up on the announcement of this event for one of the BBSes I frequented. I can’t recall exactly what I said, all these years later, but I vaguely recall saying something along the lines that this was a drastic attention-getting stunt to grab the readers they could during what was a very apparent industry downturn from the salad days of just a couple years prior. Or if I didn’t say that, I should have.

This was one of those “alternative timeline” stories, where via some time-traveling shenanigans the Marvel Universe finds itself drastically changed, and all the regular X-titles were replaced for a few months by mini-series set in this milieu. For example, Wolverine became Weapon X, Generation X became Generation Next, and I’m not sure what was turned into Gambit and the X-ternals but that series was there too.

Tom describes the comics as containing “characters that are naught but grimaces and cool, endless splash pages of distorted, indecipherable anatomy [and] barely-there plotting” which may be the case, but it certainly sold well at the time and sold out of the back issue bins for quite a while thereafter. They don’t move quite as much now, but the chromium-covered X-Men: Alpha and, to a lesser extent, X-Men: Omega, which bookended the event, still sell fairly well.

As an embodiment of 1990s Comic Sins, I’m not sure how to categorize this. It is, as Tom noted, an attempt to latch onto then-current trends of comic book storytelling popularized by Image and its other imitators. My initial sarcastic idea was to put it in the “Hello, Fellow Kids” category, but to be honest, Marvel’s own form of 1990s excess was at this point well into its own unique style. And, y’know, it wasn’t all completely terrible, to be fair (here’s Chris B for the defense). So maybe let’s file this under “Forget Everything You Know” for its parallel universe stuff. But I’m open to suggestions.

• • •

Roel notes a few contenders, but let’s go with the one he specifically emphasized, and that’s the slightly infamous Extreme Justice (DC, 1995-6)…also noted by Rob S farther down in the comments:

As Roel says, “it looks like DC Comics badly cosplaying Image Comics,” which makes me want to place it in the aforementioned “Hello, Fellow Kids” category. More so than pretty much any other Marvel or DC book I’ve seen, Extreme Justice tried to emulate the, as it says on the tin, “extreme” art style that all of Today’s 1990s Youth were into, and cargo cult-style hoping that would draw in the big numbers that Image was, or at least had been, receiving. It only lasted a year and a half, so clearly it didn’t.

I’d only read a couple of issues of this series myself, and that was more than plenty. The most egregious of this title’s transgressions was its reworking of Booster Gold, who’d been generally a genial and occasionally goofy character, into whatever that is pictured on the cover I posted above. He was refitted with an armored costume, which I remember had one reviewer asking “if you’re going to be armored, why would you leave the top of your head exposed” which seemed like a good question to me.

This was a real try-hard of a book, and I’m not going to blame the creative team as they were likely following an editorial edict to “MAKE THIS COMIC KEWL.” In fact, the previously used “Kewl Style” category is probably where this should land, even if that doesn’t seem strong enough. The near-manic desperation of it probably overlaps with my somewhat facetious “Hello, Fellow Kids” category, so let’s give it that one too I mean, why not.

• • •

Joseph brings up Valiant’s Bloodshot #1 (Valiant 1993):

…which he compares to the slightly-fancier-covered (and already discussed) Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 from the same company. This would probably just go into the general 1990s Sins “Gimmick” category, with its chromium card glued to the cover there. But as 1990s comics go, this isn’t…quite the offender as other titles have been, or at least it isn’t seen in quite the same like as that Turok first issue.

According to the Valiant Fans site, it had a print run of about 850,000 copies, which some publishers would push their favorite auntie into an industrial shredder to get those kind of numbers now. But that’s only about less than half of Turok #1, which feels slightly more ubiquitous. Not that Bloodshot #1s aren’t hard to come by (I think I have three in my store right now), but if I recall correctly sold quite well at the time and continued to sell as back issues afterward.

So I’ll probably stick with the “Gimmick” category for this one. As 1990s comics go, this wasn’t quite the burden on the marketplace as others have been.

• • •

JohnJ brings up the dreaded “Chesty Cap” image drawn by Rob Liefeld:

JohnJ mentions not being able to find the cover this is from, but it’s actually from an ad if I recall correctly, that ran on some back covers here and there. An ad for what, exactly, I don’t know…a convention or a mail order house or some damned thing, I don’t particularly feel like delving too deep in Liefeldity right now. (But this cover is pretty close.) Also, apparently there’s a new explanation for why the drawing…looks like that going ’round, decades after the fact, but again don’t really want to entertain RL too much.

The actual Captain America comics Liefeld briefly worked on didn’t feature anything quite as extreme as the above image. Not saying they were good, but they at least weren’t as epically…let’s say “fanciful” as that pic.

Now in its own way this is about as iconic a representation of what 1990s comics were all about as any actual comic you can think of. It’s not a specific comic, though, so I should likely exclude it from categorization. I’m not even sure what category I’d put on it if I did. “The Rob Liefeldest,” perhaps?

• • •

So that’s it for that this time around. I’ll address more of your suggestions soon…but in the meantime don’t forget to give me your 2024 comic industry predictions!

I’m just winging it with the category names, I hope you all realize that.

§ December 4th, 2023 § Filed under 1990s Sins, publishing § 18 Comments

Continuing the discussion of “Most 1990s Comic” with more of your nominees, starting with a couple of comics that, in fact, weren’t nominated but just mentioned by LouReedRichards:

Well, okay, technically LRR only mentioned the second print of Fantastic Four #371 (Marvel 1992) with the red cover:

…which, yes, when photographed correctly, the details on the front cover do show up to some extent, like in the white cover. But under most practical circumstances the cover is unreadable, as LRR says. I mean, yes, if you pick it up in your hands and take a closer look, angling it in the light, you can make it out, sure. But as a cover, it fails in easily and quickly expressing information to anyone just looking across the rack. It does succeed in standing out (“oh hey what’s that big white square between Excaliber #58 and Fish Police #3?”) so it attracts attention by being an anomaly.

Anyway, I probably don’t need to tell you how covers work. I was trying to think of a “1990s Comics Sins” category for this one, beyond simply “Variant.” “Self-Defeating Variant” maybe in that you can’t read the cover…but like I said, it stands out regardless of anyone immediately knowing what it is (beyond awareness of any pre-publication hype) so it succeeds in that regard. Sigh. At least it’s not something they attempted very often (though the “gravestone” overlay on Amazing Spider-Man #400 deluxe edition would be of the same ilk).

• • •

Brought up by Chris and a couple of other folks, Deathmate is certainly about as 1990s as it gets, teaming the characters of the immensely popular Valiant Comics with Image Comics. Ordered in droves, sold in dribbles, the series was an immense flop, leaving retailers who ordered huge numbers stuck with unsold stock.

Now in my mind when I asked “pick the most 1990s comic” I was thinking “single issue” more than “entire series,” but I see I didn’t make that explicit. But if we had to pick a single issue from the run, it’d be a no-brainer to single out Deathmate Red, from 1990s champ Rob Liefeld, which shipped months late and after the rest of the series, even the final “Epilogue” issue, was published.

• • •

DK sneaks in two picks, which I’ll allow because I like DK, starting with

Doom Force Special #1 (DC Comics 1992), by Grant Morrison and a host of artists, including Keith Giffen and Mike Mignola on that great cover with an all-timer of a gag. As a representative of the 1990s, I don’t know if it would be my go-to example, but it is directly addressing what was going on in the industry at the time, a not uncommon tack taken by other books of the era, so I suppose it can get its own 1990s Comics Sins category. “Parody” is a pretty wide net, including some publications of…varying quality, but I think it fits here.

DK’s other “real” choice is Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 (DC Comics 1992):

…part one of what would be a multi-part crossover event that runs through all of DC’s annuals for the year, ending in The Darkness Within #2. That would put this in the “Events” category, I suppose, but I think what stands out about this comic outs it more firmly in the “Cover Gimmick” section. It’s that twice-damned plastic jewel glued to the cover on the “direct market” edition, the thing that sticks out and puts a good diamond-shaped dent in the comic right before it in the storage box unless precautions are taken. (I think I put a backing board in front of my copy of this comic to ease said pokiness.)

As gimmicks go, this was…pretty out there, actually gluing a three-dimensional object to a cover. The only other comic I can think of that tried something like this was Sin #1 (Tragedy Strikes Press 1992) with its Band-Aids (or “Adhesive Bandage Strips”) but at least those are flatter than that gem. (Come to think of it, I should look at the condition of my copy of Sin to see if the glue has eaten through the paper yet.)

Anyway, that gem probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It is kind of neat, but still, what a thing to do.

• • •

Okay, let’s wrap this up for today with Customer Sean, who submits

New Mutants #98 (Marvel 1991), the introduction of Deadpool, drawn by the inimitable (or overly-imitable) Mr. Liefeld. That cover is certainly representative of a certain type of comic, a bunch of Kewl Characters standing around with Kewl Names.

For a 1990s Comics Sins category, maybe “Introducing a New Character,” perhaps? I mean, unlike other 1990s comics that would fit in this category (such as those series of annuals from both DC and Marvel introducing new folks) Deadpool actually caught on. Granted, it was more due to its handling by Other Hands than in its initial appearances, but still it’s not a bad visual, and the name “Deadpool” at least feels more like a name appropriate to the character.

Is it a Symbol of 1990s Comics like we’re talking about here? I feel as if its more recent position as a “hot” “collectible” comic that commands high prices is what I more immediately associate with this book. New Mutants #98 is absolutely Of Its Time, but it’s maybe evolved past that to be more representative of more recent industry shenanigans.

• • •

That’s plenty of my typing sticking into your eyes today. We’ll continue later in the week after a certain special something tomorrow. Thanks for reading, as always!

You’re going to see “Marvel” a lot in this post.

§ December 1st, 2023 § Filed under 1990s Sins, publishing § 7 Comments

Well, I’m not sure how I’m going to do this. I don’t particularly want to start another series of posts in the middle of wrapping up the “Favorite ’80s Comics” thing and you know my Variant Cover-age is still technically unfinished. But what the heck, let’s at let’s look at what you’ve got to say about what single comic book is the most 1990s.

As a reminder, I’m starting with the idea that X-Force #1 as the most symbolic of the comics industry of the decade, with both its artistry and the cynical marketing ploys of the publisher. I’ve written about the title once or twice and you can read more about what I think of the title there, if you are so inclined.

So let’s start off with none other than the dreaded, the infamous, the vastly-overordered Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 (Valiant Comics, 1993) as first suggested by Matthew and seconded by several others:

Now have I talked about this comic before on this site? Friends, I have a category specifically for Turok. You can click that link and see what I’ve said in the past.

But, in short, Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 is a very good example of retailers thinking past performance is indicative of future results. In this case, Valiant was a “hot” company in the early ’90s, goosed along by Wizard Magazine, with demand being high for both new and back issues, sometimes commanding huge prices. When it came time to place orders for Turok #1, it seemed like ordering high was a safe bet, not only because it was a new Valiant first issue and sure to sell, but because it was another revival of an older popular comic book character

And lots were ordered Lots of lots. I know at the shop where I worked at the time, we got an awfully robust pile of them. Again, in an effort to keep this reasonably succinct, I’ll just to the spoiler and tell you that this comic did not sell up to expectations. As I’ve said before, the comic actually sold pretty well in-store, at least for us, but just not anywhere near to what was ordered. A lot of retailers ended up dumping these in their bargain bins. Others…went to more extreme measures.

So let’s put this comic in the “Overordering” slot of 1990s Comics Sins, I suppose. It also had a gimmick cover (a chromium card attached to an embossed background) and while the gimmick was part of the problem, and perhaps fed into the hype that fed the orders in turn, “Overordering” is what this comic represents, at least to me.

• • •

Next up is Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 (Marvel, 1990), as suggested by Chris B:

I wrote a lot about this comic in my Variant Cover-Age series, and let’s not beat around the bush: the 1990s Comics Sin here is clearly “Variants.” Particularly the entirely pointless “bagged” variants…bagged not because they contain a trading card or something, but simply bagged to have another version of the comic to sell. The one pictured above even cost a quarter more, because…they could? The green bagged one cost the same $1.75 as the unbagged copies, so the black one…had no cover price printed on the actual cover, so that cost 25 cents more, I guess.

There are sub-categories for this particular comic, such as “Comic Built Around Hot Artist” or “New #1 for Established Character” (distinct from “Relaunched with New #1,” if you’ll allow me to split hairs). But “Variant” I think fits the best, a cynical ploy by a publisher to get collectors to buy multiple copies of the same book, for (in the case of the bagged versions) the least of reasons.

• • •

Here comes ScienceGiant with his excellent contribution of Spider-Man Maximum Clonage Alpha (Marvel, 1995) with its chromium cover:

My initial instinct was to put this in the category of “Gimmick Cover” (as opposed to “Variant”) since, I mean, look at it. Well, the pic above doesn’t really do it justice. You have to see it in its full shiny metallic glory for the full impact.

But it’s not just the fancy cover that makes it 1990s. It’s that it’s part of a “Big Event” (in this case, the ever continuing Spider-Clone Saga, that in some ways is still going on even now). I can see my category idea falling apart already, but “Gimmick Cover” and “Big Event” seem to be hand-in-hand here as far as 1990s Comics Sins go.

• • •

I think Thom H. has an interesting entry here that he explains quite well, Fantastic Four #375 (Marvel, 1993):

Again, the scan doesn’t quite get across the shiny foil-y bits of the cover, but I think you get the important points. To wit, per Thom H.:

“A lesser-known but equally offensive example of ’90s excess: Fantastic Four #375 (prism foil cover featuring shoulder armor, giant guns, an unnecessarily ‘sexy’ costume, and multi-pocket jackets).

“Once ‘kewl’ ’90s style has infected comic book’s first family, I feel like it’s truly reached its zenith.”

Yeah, that about sums it up. (Though I have to point out “375th anniversary,” just to be pedantic.) I think the content here is more important than the gimmick (or is it variant…did the newsstand cover have the foil highlights too, I can’t tell from the scans), so this would probably go in the “Kewl Style” category.

To be fair, it’s more about the accoutrements and the clothing than the actual artwork, which is by Paul Ryan and is perfectly fine. We’ll be getting to another “Kewl Style” category member shortly where the art itself is the key to its submission.

• • •

But not too shortly because that’s it for today. We’ll continue back here on Monday. Thanks for reading and participating, pals!

The Progressive Ruiin Swimsuit Special remains an unrealized dream.

§ November 27th, 2023 § Filed under publishing, zines § 4 Comments

Just a reminder: reader Daniel pointed out that, which had featured search engines for Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journal, has been greatly expanded. Now it includes Wizard, Hero Illustrated, Comics Interview, Comics Scene, Comics Feature, Marvel Age, FOOM(!) and The Comic Reader(!!!).

The Comic Reader database is the one I’m most excited about, being a huge fan and collector of that particular ‘zine. This search engine covers issues #75 through the end of the run, #219, with some scattered earlier issues.

When looking at the Amazing Heroes page, I noticed in the little rotating cover gallery they have there a cover from the post-Fantagraphics era of the magazine, when it was acquired by another publisher. Now when I went to look this up on Wikipedia, that article claims the title was obtained by Personality Comics, but “nothing came of it.”

Except something did come of it…Personality (under its Spoof Comics imprint) published at least two issues of new(?) Swimsuit Specials in 1993 (numbered 4 and 5), like this one:

And there were at least four issues of Amazing Heroes Interviews published in 1993 from “Amazing Heroes Publishing,” which I am presuming was another imprint of Personality:

I don’t have these on hand…I seem to recall looking at these at the time and thinking “…nah” (hence the “borrowed from eBay” images)…and I can’t find a lot of info on them online aside from finding sale listings. I think the interviews are new…doing a search on some specific phrases from the Walter Koenig interview only turns up references to the later magazine, not the original Fantagraphics series. And speaking of which, many online sources refer to the interview mag as “Fantagraphics,” though that doesn’t look like their trade dress. Maybe someone can set me straight.

So there you go. Despite Wikipedia’s assertion, another publisher did use the “Amazing Heroes” name, if even justr briefly. Perhaps amending the reference to “almost nothing came of it” would be more appropriate.

• • •

Anyway, speaking of thirty years ago, I’ve been monitoring your responses to my quest for the most 1990s comic and I do plan on addressing the ensuing shenanigans there. I personally still think the ’90s remain Rob Liefeld’s world, and we were just living in it, though I waffle a bit on which comic is the most representative. I said Youngblood at first, but am now leaning toward, teeth gritted and my contorted footless body backed by speedlines, towards X-Force #1. It’s the perfect storm of both artistic and marketing…let’s say “qualities” of the time.

But you folks are bringing up some compelling arguments for other books. Like I said, I’ll get back to this and crown the ’90s King eventually (which may go to my choice, because this is my website and I’m a jerk) but keep on chiming in with your thoughts. I always appreciate them.

Yes, I know a buck each for Brigade is too much.

§ November 20th, 2023 § Filed under 1990s Sins, publishing § 30 Comments

So I related this story on my Bluesky account (follow me there if you can, and I have a couple of spare invite codes if anyone needs ’em) where a customer came in looking for a present for a friend of his. Said friend was described as a “big collector” of comics during the ’90s, and wanted to find a special comic that would essentially symbolize that time in this person’s life.

Well, of course the initial thought that ran through my head was to run to the dollar bins and pull out a full run of Brigade, but I couldn’t do that to a complete and presumably innocent stranger. Plus, of course this customer was looking for something “giftworthy,” so we’re probably looking at a single issue of a comic that was a tad more substantial (i.e. dollar-iffic) than some random ’90s thing that was better off as a tree fished out of the Boxes of Misfit Comics.

My next thought was something like Spawn or Youngblood, both titles that in their own different, yet surprisingly similar, ways were emblematic of the excesses of that particular partial decade prior to the market’s Big Crunch.

But before I could voice these suggestions, my customer spotted an item that fit the bill perfectly, a special comic that is near and dear to my heart. Yes, friends, it could only be one thing:

Yes ineedy, the Death of Superman, Superman #75, rears its head yet again. After a couple of questions from the customer (“Is it the original? Is the bag sealed?”) I had me a sale and he had him a piece of 1990s comics history.

Anyway, after telling this story (in a much-truncated less-that-300-characters fashion) I posed the following question to my Bluesky pals: “what would you pick to be THE most 1990s comic book?”

I had quite a few responses, including one or two for books like Starman, which, you know, while definitely good, I’m not sure that’s exactly what I was looking for here. I mean, yes, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that very nicely done, high quality comics were in fact published, but I tend to associate (as I said earlier) publishing excesses to the earlier part of the decade, and “the stink of desperation” to the latter. Perhaps unfortunately, for having lived through it as a funnybook seller, my perspective is a little more cynical. Which is on me, admittedly.

Perhaps my question is better phrased “what most exemplified the” (here’s that word again) “excesses of the era?” The “Death of Superman” issue is certainly one aspect of it, the immense hype and overwrought demand for a “collectible” item. Which would also apply to, say, Youngblood #1, where a talk show appearance the night before release drummed up business for a comic that…mmm. perhaps was not the medium putting its best foot forward for an audience that normally did not buy comics. (And I wonder how many of these new folks, if any of them even bothered to look inside, still picture that as what all comics are like.)

Now I had some good suggestions for other titles, like pal Ian dropping Darker Image #1 on us (a title that promised big things but ultimately never made it past that first issue). Or stuff like X-Men #1 or X-Force #1, selling millions of copies on the basis of multiple covers or card inserts, representing the gimmicky methods publishers used to push comic sales above and beyond and reasoable (or healthy) expectation. (And I don’t need to tell you the multiple cover strategy is still in play today, on much smaller scales but for basically the same reasons.)

Or titles like Alley Cat, part of that small trend of basing comics around models/actresses, who would often have their pictures featured on the covers. (A precursor to the modern trend of “cosplay” covers, I think.) No less a personage than Rusty Shackles brought up the comic based on the mostly-forgotten Barbi Twins, for which I owe him my revenge.

But I think, personally, it comes down to pretty much any comic by Rob Liefeld…Youngblood, or X-Force #1, or Deathmate Red (another suggestion), or titles like that. It’s what I picture in my head when I think of my 1990s toiling in the comics mines, in between slinging POGs and wondering what these new Magic: The Gathering cards were all about.

I’ll ask you the same question: what is the most 1990s comic? I don’t mean “what’s your favorite 1990s comic” — I’ll get to that question eventually, when I’m done with my ’80s countdown — but what comic do you look at and think “yeah, this is what the ’90s comic industry was like, for good or for ill.” Please let me know in the comments.

Meanwhile, please enjoy this 1993 cable access comic book show I found on the YouTubes. WARNING: the DC Comics commercial at 11:55 will give you an aneurysm.

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