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Floors sticky with X-Men comics.

§ October 15th, 2021 § Filed under publishing, question time, retailing § 7 Comments

So in answering Alan’s question about what the comic industry might have been like with the success of superhero (read: Marvel) movies, I completely missed the forest for all them cut-down-to-print-Unstoppable Wasp trees. Chris V points out

“I’m pretty sure that if the superhero movie craze was a flop, Disney would have never bought Marvel and Marvel Comics may be on the verge of bankruptcy by 2020, if not already bankrupt before 2020.”

Er, yeah. Marvel was pretty much selling office furniture to keep the lights on in the mid-1990s. There was a very good chance they would have been dead and gone without income from films, and as has been said, “as goes Marvel, so goes the comics industry.” The comics market as we know it might have survived, but almost certainly it would have changed drastically. Well, drastic for people like me working in direct market retail, not so much for all the manga being sold through regular bookstores I’d imagine. At the very least, I wouldn’t have that giant cardboard Groot standup in my store’s front window.

There was also a lot of talk in Wednesday’s comments about what Disney could and should do in regards to helping direct people going to their Avengers movies into stores to find Avengers comics.

There are a couple of things to note about that. First, there’s the thing I said in Wednesday’s post, and that I’ve said plenty of times before: reading serialized comics is pretty much a lifestyle choice. It requires coming to a shop on a regular basis to pick up each new installment. (Or, heaven forfend, if you’re getting them digitally, it requires accessing them on your tablet/phone/whatever and keeping up with them.) That’s not necessarily a habit that comes naturally to people who aren’t already in a comic book reading mindset.

The other issue is another I’ve pointed out from time to time, that for most folks, all the superheroin’ they need is about one movie every few months. They don’t need a regular print diet of of Thor when a Thor movie every few years does ’em fine. They might enjoy paging through a single comic as a novelty, but they’re not going to set up a pull list or anything.

THAT SAID

…there is a non-zero percentage of folks introduced to comics via the movies who do become comic fans. I know. I sell comics to some. We’re not going to get an influx of millions into comic shops because people liked Ant-Man, but we’ll get a few people. And a few is better than none. Maybe some fraction of those will become weekly regular funnybook fans. Maybe some will just pop in to try out a graphic novel or two on occasion (or maybe even once). Or maybe they’ll just become aware there is such a thing as comic book stores, and they’ll know where to go when they need comic-related stuff (for gifts or whatnot).

Disney itself doing anything to directly help comic shops beyond not shuttering Marvel’s publishing division entirely and giving the IP to the merchandising department is, well, unlikely. Like I said in a comment in Wednesday’s post, they’d be more likely to open their own Marvel-exclusive comic stores. And by “more likely” I mean “when pigs fly above a frozen-over Hell.” Any cross promotion between theaters showing superhero movies and comic shops will have to be done on their own. I’m sure some folks have had success giving away comics at theaters, but I’m just imagining that much more stuff for those poor theater employees to clean up off the floors between showings.

A couple things Marvel tried to do to get some of that Marvel movie audience to pay attention to the comics: one was a short X-Men comic in the July 2000 issue of TV Guide:

…and I gotta be honest, I don’t recall that working very well, mostly just being derided a bit. And though I know I read it, I don’t remember anything about the comic itself beyond thinking “this probably isn’t a good introduction to the X-Men.” Ah, well.

The other thing Marvel did was create the “Ultimate” line of books, basically giving fresh starts (and the occasional goatee) to their mainline characters for anyone new to the medium.

I don’t know how many new-to-comics readers they acquired, or if they just gave already-committed Marvel fans more books to read per month.

This all sounds sorta bitter and negative, and…well, okay, maybe I am being so. But all this isn’t to say outreach via movies and such does no good…just probably not as much good as you think it would.

Not to mention we never would have had Frank Miller’s The Spirit movie.

§ October 13th, 2021 § Filed under question time, Uncategorized § 13 Comments

Okay, let’s take another question, this time from the ever eternal Alan David Doane:

“Hey Mike!”

Hey!

“How would you assess the effect on comic sales and/or the general direction of the industry in the wake of 20 years now of spectacularly popular superhero movies? Would comics retailing look any different in a world where the Sony and Fox Marvel movies and the MCU had no more impact than David Hasselhoff’s SHIELD TV movie?”

Y’know, I never did ever see that Hasselhoff Nick Fury show. Most I ever saw was a promo still with the Hoff in an eyepatch. I’m sure I missed a vital cultural artifact.

Anyway, Alan, I’d been thinking about your question ever since I saw it posted. It’s a tough one.

My initial kneejerk response would be “barely any effect at all.” It’s not like everyone who saw, say, Iron Man suddenly ran into shops to start reading Iron Man comics, pushing its print run into the 20 millions and making it the most successful American comic book of all time. Heading to the shop once a week to pick up your new funnybooks is, as I’ve said many times before, a lifestyle choice, a commitment to following the serialized adventures of the characters you like, plus associated spin-offs, etc. For most people, for whom one Marvel movie every few months is all the superheroin’ they need, that level of involvement is a pretty big ask.

That said…it’s not as if the movies or TV shows have had no effect. People have come in looking for comics…not in that they became regular customers with pull lists or anything, but sometimes they’ll have seen some superhero media and want to see a little more in its original stapled-paper context. The most popular trend of late is folks looking for anything Wandavision-related, so of course all those trades are out of print. Luckily I had plenty of back issues featuring Vision and/or the Scarlet Witch to satisfy those cravings.

Another phenomenon I’ve noticed is old comic readers returning to the fold after decades out of the hobby, specifically citing the prevalence of superhero media for their comeback. Not being able to swing a dead Uncle Ben around without hitting something broadcasting a Marvel movie at you can’t help but remind some folks of the comics they thought they’d left behind. I’ve had more than one customer who’d once collected in the ’90s (including a few to whom I used to sell) tell me the Marvel movies got them poking through their old comics out in the garage or wherever, and the next thing they knew they were back haunting Ye Olde Comick Shoppe every week.

And plus, there’s just general increased awareness of comic books and their characters out there in the “real” world now. I didn’t expect to live in a time where grandmas knew who Rocket Raccoon was, but here we are. But that awareness means more people seeing comic books as an entertainment option…maybe not a regular every Wednesday thing, like I said above, but I’m certainly more likely to see a parent pop in with a kid looking for a Black Panther comic than I ever was in the previous decades I’ve been in this business.

So my initial kneejerk, and somewhat cynical, reaction of “nah, made no difference” is wrong, in that the business did see benefit from the films and TV shows…just not in the way that we comic book lifers are used to interacting with the medium. Also, personally I keep judging things by how the 1989 Batman film really shoved people into comic shops in droves, which is a mistake. That was a faddish influx caused the film’s novelty which went away almost as fast as it came. The slow and steady influx of new readers and returning fans is, I would think, a healthier reaction. A gradual build of interest and goodwill is better for the industry as a whole.

How would comics retailing look in a world without these successful Marvel movies? Well, I imagine a lot of the effects I just noted would not have come into play. Certainly no one would recognize my giant cardboard Groot cut-out in the window…in fact, that cardboard Groot wouldn’t even exist!

As far as other effects for retailing…hard to say, really. Fewer shops due to less demand/awareness of comics? Fewer comics published for the sole purpose of tying into the movies, even just barely? Less tail wagging the dog, with characters avoiding arbitrary change to more closely resemble their multimedia counterparts?

This is something that’ll require a little more pondering, I believe. Maybe look for a part two of an answer down the line.

Thanks, Alan…and if you want to submit a question, just drop it here in the comments and I will get to it!

Not mentioned in the post: the Christmas-themed Tank Girl window painting we had in 1991.

§ October 1st, 2021 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

Hey, I’m bugging you, the folks what still read the blogs, for your comic industry/medium/hobby related questions…put ’em in the comments for this post and I’ll get to them! Well, eventually!

For example, that accursed will richards (as Dr. Doom would call him) says

“Hi Mike, hope the peepers aren’t giving you too much gip.”

Holdin’ together so far!

“I just wondered if you’d had much interest in British Comics (other than 2000ad/Dredd) in the shops you’ve worked in? Thanks”

The 2000AD family of publications and characters do cast a long shadow over the American comic business. If you ask your average comic reader to name a British comic, yeah, chances are they’d say “Dredd.” Possibly Britain’s most mainstreamed comic book character in the U.S. is a British satire/parody of the U.S., which is somehow fitting.

Once the “British invasion” of the 1980s happened in the comics industry, it felt like your general comic reader perhaps got a little more interested in where all these English folk came from, and you started seeing folks trying to track down, say, Alan Moore’s work before he turned up on Swamp Thing. (Not at all pulling from personal experience for this by the way, says the fellow with the full set of Maxwell the Magic Cat.)

There was some increased interest in the UK comics magazine Warrior, for example, the source of Marvelman AKA Miracleman comics that Eclipse started reprinting in the 1980s to huge success. Warrior would feed other U.S. reprint series, like Laser Eraser and Pressbutton, which had a slight following at our shop as well.

Should note now, better late than never, that this isn’t going to be a comprehensive cataloging of every comic with British content that turned up around this time. Just trying to focus on the big ones, and boy howdy Miracleman was one of the biggest ones.

A little bit later at our shop, we stumbled onto a British magazine that a mix of comics and prose articles about music and other pop culture. Several of the strips inside tickled our respective fancies, making us fans of artists like Philip Bond and Jamie Hewlett. In particular, we became big proponents of one of the mag’s stars, the character of Tank Girl:


That’s the first issue from ’88 pictured there…unfortunately, we didn’t get in on the ground floor there. Deadline had been around a year or two before we realized what a goldmine of cartooning it was. I eventually made the drive down to this one store in Los Angeles and made a deal with the folks there for many back issues of the series, going back to that first issue. Just through word of mouth we turned a number of our customers onto the mag (and especially Tank Girl) and we now had quite the demand for this material.

I feel like those are the two Big Ones when it comes to customer interest in British comics. Not to say there weren’t other British comics and graphic novels and such that had a following at our shop (I personally was a huge follower of Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus and related comics) but outside of the 2000AD family, Miracleman and Deadline were the main attractions. I mean, we did try The Beano for a bit, but I don’t think our clientele was ready for anything quite that British!

Oyling the mind with questions.

§ September 29th, 2021 § Filed under question time § 26 Comments


It’s been almost exactly a year since I’ve thrown open the floor to questions from the audience, so I suppose it’s time to do it again! Plus, I had one of those days at the shop the have left me not wanting to think too much about funnybooks during my free time today, so I figured I’d just ask you folks for content ideas when I’m more in a mood to talk about comics.

If you (yes, you) have a question or general topic of discussion for me, preferably in reference to the comics industry, throw it into the comments here and I’ll get to it…in relatively short order, maybe.

The most important rule:

ONE QUESTION PER PERSON, PLEASE

I’m old and weak and can only take so much strain, so no giant lists of questions, please!

Thanks, pals, and as always I look forward to whatever responses you have!

Seeking your input on variant covers.

§ April 16th, 2021 § Filed under question time, variant covers § 37 Comments

Look, I spent a long time putting together a post about the retail impact of variant covers, and it’s not quite coming together and it’s too late to keep polishing it and I know I’m leaving stuff out. SOOOOO…I’m gonna save it for Monday, and do a little consumer polling today.

Thus, my questions to you are:

  • What makes you buy a variant cover?
  • Do you buy multiple covers for the same comic? Regularly, or just on special occasions?
  • Do variant covers turn you off from buying a comic?
  • Do you mind paying more for a variant cover (whether it’s a buck more for DC’s cardstock covers, or higher premium prices for those incentive ratio — i.e. 1/10, 1/25, etc.– variants)?
  • Have you ever been tricked by a variant cover featuring a character or situation not in the comic itself? (Like, grabbing one of those Deadpool anniversary covers thinking Deadpool would be inside?)
  • Have you bought variants for comics you don’t regularly buy because of their “theme” (like, again, you’re a Deadpool fan and you wanted all those covers)?
  • Anything else about variant covers you’d like to say?

Please leave responses in the comments…you don’t have to answer all the questions, and you can be anonymous if you want (if you leave your email in the comment form, I won’t out you, I promise). You can even email me, too (at mike at progressiveruin dot com) if you’re more comfortable with that.

Thanks, pals!

The bidding war for the issue where a tied-up Veronica tried to throw a bowling ball at Superman’s dead body was intense.

§ January 4th, 2021 § Filed under question time § 12 Comments

So, how’s the new year been going for you so far? …Er, really? Ooh, that’s too bad. Well, let’s see if I can cheer you up with some good ol’ comics blogging as I finish up your questions this week before I start into looking at your 2020 predictions.

And let me remind you again that I’m still taking your 2021 comics industry predictions. This year I finally remembered to submit my own predictions into the mix, so we can all laugh at how badly I do a year from now. Plus, I took a screenshot and posted it to the Twitters so no one can accuse me of cheating (via editing my post after the fact) in the unlikely occurrence I get a hit!

And now, THE QUESTIONS:

Damien puts the dog down to ask

“Hi Mike, I was wondering what your favourite comics lie is. Which completely untrue rumour pleases you the most?”

You know, I’ve been thinking about this one ever since you posted it, Damien, and…boy, I’m not really sure I can land on a specific one. I mean, the supposed Shadow special was one (discussed in this ancient linkrotted post) since it turns out there was no way that was ever actually happening. And then there was the occasional “Marvel Buys DC” rumor that…honestly, I’m not sure if that was ever taken seriously (my main exposure to it being an April Fool’s headline on Comic Shop News decades ago).

My problem is that I tend to be very skeptical about anything I hear word of mouth, so obvious rumors and hearsay tend to just go in one ear and out the other and I don’t retain any of them. HOWEVER, maybe I can counter this onslaught of boringness on my part by relating to you one of the earliest comic book rumors I recalled hearing in person.

This was very early on, just as I’d discovered the very idea of comic book stores, and long before I forged the chains I wear in life. I was at a store, not the one I would later be employed at, buying Swamp Thing comics, natch, when one of the employees told me “oh, yeah, I heard the Swamp Thing series is about to go bimonthly.” The significance of that being, of course, “bimonthly” was the step just before “getting cancelled,” which bummed me out a bit.

Now I have no idea if that was true at the time or not…could very well have been, as Saga of the Swamp Thing at that point was at about issue 18 or 19 or so, and knowing from what former boss Ralph had told me, at least at his shop sales were in the dumps. Of course Alan Moore would come on as writer with issue #20, and along with Steve Bissette and John Totleben and others, the book’s fortunes would turn around, never be demoted to bimonthly status, and last a good long time.

So that’s the rumor that had the biggest impact on me early on, which I remembered for probably obvious reasons. Probably not as interesting as “I heard Stan Lee once TPed Mort Weisinger’s house,” but what can you do.

• • •

Thom H. ahsks

“What is one change you’d make to the comic book industry right now to improve it?”

No more pointless relaunches with new #1s. Hey, got a new creative team coming onto the Avengers? They start with issue #78. Don’t like it, tough cookies. Let’s rebuild some consumer confidence that the titles they’re reading won’t just be cut down at the drop of a hat and reintroduced with a likely too-expensive new first issue. C’mon, customers are getting really tired of that shit.

• • •

Matthew Murray calls me on the carpet with

“You did a bunch of posts a couple of months ago about intercompany crossovers after I asked about them, but I think you promised one more post about them that you never got around to?”

So Mr. Murray is talking about this series of posts (1 2 3) and I swear to God I haven’t forgotten. I just…had an idea for a fourth post in the series and just never sat down to hammer it together. As a hint, it’s going to be more about the crossover events within the companies, tying together disparate elements of their titles that weren’t really of a shared universe kind of thing and making them meet each other anyway. Like, your Total Eclipses and your Crossroads and yes, your Doomsday Clocks. I think the main issue was that I never got around to pulling some of these out of what remains of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives to refresh my memories a little. And I’m not sure I have the right angle on this yet, anyway.

I do promise to get to it this year, honest!

• • •

skyintheairwaves flies in low with

“Hey Mike! If you could create a line wide crossover for Marvel, what would your idea be?”

Huh. Well, look, it’s going to be Man-Thing centric, of course.

As I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you, Man-Thing was created by an unnatural amalgamation of science and magic to protect the Nexus of All Realities, located in the Florida Everglades in which ol’ Manny resides. Anyway, some bad guy comes along and tries to take over the Nexus and use it for nefarious means, requiring Man-Thing to team up with all the various characters of the Marvel Universe and everyone comes together to stop this dude, whoever it may be (maybe that demon Thog who used to pester Man-Thing? Or was he another version of Mephisto?). Journeying into different realities and alternate Earths, you know, all that jazz.

So the upshot is that somehow Man-Thing is restored back to his normal human form, and the big twist is that the magics of the Nexus, which require a guardian, transform one of the Marvel heroes into the new Man-Thing. Of course, it’s only temporary, and Ted again becomes Man-Thing once the powers-that-be at Marvel decide enough’s enough. …I vote for Night Thrasher. I mean, what’s he been up to, lately. That way the new Man-Thing can ride around on his kick-ass skateboard.

• • •

Robcat asks the purrfect question with

“Have you ever picked up a comic and felt that way about a new (to you) character (or artist or writer) where you knew you needed more right away? Or maybe as a store owner you’ve seen it?”

Not to keep going back to the same well…but I think it was Alan Moore. His Swamp Thing. blew me away, and I had to get my mitts on more Moore. Not that there was a whole lot available in the U.S. market at the time Saga of the Swamp Thing #20 came out, but plenty certainly followed and I kept my eye out for all of it.

Oh, and Swamp Thing just in general, but that was even before Moore. But I don’t think I needed to tell you that.

I can’t think of specific examples with customers, but it’s not uncommon for someone to buy a comic or graphic novel, then have them show up the next day looking for more of the same. And of course I’m happy to provide!

• • •

Adam Farrar closes in with

“What’s the oddest/most obscure character/thing someone has told you they’re a completist for? Earlier this year you helped me get an issue for my Blackwulf collection but there’s gotta be weirder wants. (I need for there to be weirder wants.)”

Nope, you’re the weirdest. What’s up Adam, you weirdo.

Nah, I’m just kidding. My old pal and former employee Rob used to collect Archie comics that featured bowling on the covers, and there were a lot more of those than you might have imagined. Had another customer who didn’t care for Superman and thus collected Superman comics where he was dead or dying on the cover. Yes, he had a field day when “The Death of Superman” came out.

Then there was a guy who would pick up lots of different comics and ask me about each of them “are the ladies tied up inside this comic?” Aaaand…hey, to each his own, man, let your freak flag fly.

• • •

Chris Bowden…um, bows…in my den? with

“As we’re around the same vintage when it comes to the early days of our comic appreciation – what Bronze Age characters From the big 2 have you always liked, but feel they didn’t receive the spotlight They perhaps deserved? I’ve always liked Ragman from DC in his original incarnation as a sort of blue collar Batman, I hate the recent mystical role he’s been place into. From Marvel I’ve always loved Jack of Hearts as a powerhouse that never received much respect, I suspect the artists just didn’t want to draw that costume!”

Ah, you’d get along well with fellow Jack of Hearts aficionado Andrew.

As far as other Bronze Age-y characters go…I always kind of liked Marvel’s Scarecrow, the mystery of whom really captured my imagination after reading this comic as a seven year old Mike. I know he popped up a few times here and there around that period, but I would have been down with an ongoing Scarecrow title, particularly in the style of the Marvel horror books at the time. I mean, just imagine, Giant-Size Scarecrow.

I looked him up on the ol’ Wikipedia to see what was up with him, and apparently he did show up in Doctor Strange and such later. However, because there’s a Marvel super-villain called “Scarecrow,” they changed his name to “Straw Man,” which is some bullshit if you ask me.

Another character I’d pick is the Grim Ghost, who had a whole three issues from the ill-fated Seaboard/Atlas publishing line in the ’70s. There was a brief revival in later years, but aside from Spawn basically snagging his origin, not much has been done with him. In fact, I’d say a lot of ’70s Atlas could use some refurbishing and revival, which might happen, I’d imagine, if this frankly bonkers movie deal results in anything. (And also beyond Atlas’s The Scorpion becoming Marvel’s Dominic Fortune.)

• • •

@misterjayem tweets

“How ya feelin’, Mike?”

Well, I had another laser treatment in my left eye on the 31st, getting it in there before the insurance turns over. That didn’t feel great, but my eye’s doing better now. And that wisdom tooth extraction from a couple of weeks ago really threw me for a loop…friends, don’t wait ’til you’re in your fifties before getting that wisdom tooth yanked, because boy does it not want to come out. My jaw still aches, but it actually does feel a lot better than it did.

Otherwise…doing okay! Thanks for asking!

• • •

Definitely Not Mike Sterling conveniently inquires

“Any fantastic promotions or incredible deals currently being offered at Sterling Silver Comics?”

Why, thank you for asking, Definitely Not Me, Mike Sterling, the Person Writing this Very Post! I am still offering my Cheap Comic Bundles (30 for $20, 75 for $45), details for which you can find right here on the store’s Instagram account. Help me clear out some backstock, keep the funds coming in during our delightful COVID times, and get a bunch of cheap reading! (Prices include domestic shipping, please inquire for shipments outside the U.S.)

Also, honestly, that wasn’t me who posted that. But if I’d thought of it first, I probably would have! I’m not too proud.

• • •

DONE AT LAST! Thanks everyone who contributed a question, and hopefully you found some satisfaction with my answers. I always appreciate you folks chipping in and helping keep me on my toes with various topics I may not have come around to writing about on my own.

Next week, I’ll probably start getting into the 2020 predictions, so prep yourselves for that. Thanks for reading, everyone, and I’ll see you later this week.

Okay, not that Big Lie comic, but everything else.

§ December 30th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

A couple of things: don’t forget to give me your 2021 comic book industry predictions! Give me something to write about at length in January of 2022!

Also, thank you for keeping your discussion about Wonder Woman 1984 civil. I know it’s a movie that’s inspired a wide range of opinions, and I’m glad you folks are will to have friendly disagreements about the flick. So long as we all agree Frank Miller’s The Spirit is the best superhero film, of course.

Okay, let’s see if I can knock out a few more of your questions:

First, Allan Hoffman is on, man, with this inquiry

“Hi Mike!”

Hi!

“What are your thoughts on Valiant? Since they came back in 2012 they, more than any other company, seem to have been on a see-saw of highs and lows in terms of output and popularity. How do they do in your store?”

I was a big Valiant fan early on, not quite early enough to have bought the Nintendo-inspired video game comics, but I was in on the ground floor for this new superhero universe former Marvel honcho Jim Shooter was masterminding, combining new creations with revived characters from 1960s Dell/Gold Key. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though I think once Shooter departed things started to…not be quite so enjoyable any more, shall we say. And once the relaunches/reboots started happening I was pretty much done with them.

But I think Valiant remains a good brand with good properties, though I feel like Solar and Magnus Robot Fighter, two of the ’60s revivals, may have had their last hurrah during those ’90s runs and feel a bit past their expiry dates. That said, those older characters (along with Turok and probably others I’m forgetting) no longer being part of the shared Valiant universe feels…weird. But that’s just because I’m old and hate change. And I sometimes wonder if these older properties being unmoored from the larger Valiant universe hurts their viability as well…like, if being part of a larger thing boosted interest in these older properties initially, but on their own no longer have that extra “oomph” to keep them going.

Of course, a big part of Valiant’s success was coming out at the right time. While bit of a slow burn at first (I still remember having a stack of Harbinger #1 on the rack that didn’t sell, at all) eventually Wizard Magazine picked up on the company as the new Hot Thing, and Wizard‘s popularity and Valiant’s popularity sorta spiraled upwards together. Plus the investment craze was still going strong at the time (also helped along by Wizard) so snapping up any “key” issues of Valiant releases was a regular pastime amongst the comicnoscenti. Remember when Magnus Robot Fighter #12 was in huge demand, what with introducing Turok into Valiant an’ all?

Anyway, if you want to learn about what happened to the original Valiant, and how Turok #1 was a big part of that…well, I have a whole category on my site devoted to it. SPOILER: the actual name of the category may give away the shocking secret.

The newest iteration of Valiant seems to be doing well overall, though at my shop they only have a few, if devoted, followers. Some of the mini-series, like Britannia and Divinity, seem to do a lot better for me than the continuing revivals of X-O Manowar (probably my fave of the originals) and Bloodshot. At least they seem to appeal to a wider range of readers than “people who remember Valiant from the ’90s.”

That sounds harsher than I mean it to be. I have no qualms with modern Valiant as a whole, and their retailer outreach is excellent. And it’s possible my particular arrangement of clientele isn’t interested in what the company is offering. That happens…every store is different, and something that sells great for me may not for someone else, and vice versa. But I’m glad it’s out there, keeping these interesting concepts going.

• • •

Isaac P laughingly asks

“What is your favorite non-Swamp Thing work by Rick Veitch?”

BAM:


Crazy-ass space retooling of Moby Dick with Veitch’s beautiful art and complete strangeness…this was my first encounter with his work, as serialized in Epic Illustrated, and his comics have bent my brain ever since.

Sometimes Tuesdays are like that.

§ December 23rd, 2020 § Filed under low content mode, question time § 4 Comments

Ah, apparently I had the wrong Spider-Man TV show theme song in mind when writing my response in the last post. What Chuck V. was referencing was the version of Spider-Man on the educational television program Electric Company:


As such, thusly amend my response to “Spider-Man came from the Children’s Television Workshop Labs, a hideous mutation that could never remove his mask nor speak in more than nonsense sounds.”

Anyway, this is a reminder to give me your comic industry predictions for 2021, shop small stores like mine when you can if you’re still buying for the holiday season, and most importantly: be safe out there.

Sorry, not much of a post today, but I had bit of a day Tuesday and I’m not up a real post. But I’d like everyone to enjoy their holiday best they can (where applicable) and we’ll get together again next week to see out this year.

I’m basically that Barbie with the “Math is hard!” sound clip.

§ December 21st, 2020 § Filed under question time § 8 Comments

Gonna try to get through the rest of your questions before the end of the year! (And don’t forget…I’m looking for your comic industry predictions for 2021!)

Chuck V. vents

“Where was Spider-Man coming from?”

I believe Mr. V. is referring to the classic theme song from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon, in which the lyrics extol the comings and going of Spidery Sam thusly:

“Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!”

and

“Hey there, there goes the Spider-Man!”

So in the second line, one can presume he is either returning to wherever he originally came from, or perhaps this is the “coming from” origin point for a following iteration of looking out, here he comes. Now that second line of thought could lead us on an endless chain backwards through time, with Spider-Man always coming from a place he was previously seen going from, over and over again, leading to an eventual “if God created everything, then who created God?” quandary. Thus, let us focus on the first possibility.

One can be facetious and declare “why, Spider-Man AKA Peter Parker came from his parents, Richard and Mary,” but we know that is not the spirit in which the question is posed. I can offer some strong possibilities from where Spider-Man appears, but this will not, and can not, be a comprehensive list, and I appeal to the reader’s understanding why this is so.

In the earlier part of his career, Peter Parker, as Spider-Man, would most likely have come from three distinct places. First, the home he shared with his elderly Aunt May. Second, from Midtown High School, where he was a student. Third (and this is a combination of sources, please indulge me), either from the Daily Bugle offices themselves, where he worked as a photographer, or whilst on the job as a photographer for said institution.

Later in life, things remain mostly the same. Instead of his aunt’s home, he could come from his swinging bachelor pad or his shared domicile with wife Mary Jane Watson (when the marriage was status quo). Instead of Midtown High, Empire State University, either as an undergrad, or pursuing a graduate degree in biochemistry. The Daily Bugle and his responsibilities therein remain a constant. Plus, of course, he wold still return to Aunt May’s home to make sure she’s doing well, because he’s a good nephew.

As I said, this is not comprehensive. The character’s sixty year history provides for a multitude of variations and alterations that can’t be covered here sufficiently. But it’s safe to say he was swinging into action from being called away from home, school, or work. Or a date. Probably plenty of dates. Or he was just webbing his way across New York on patrol. I mean, you’ve seen the cartoon, right? He was clearly swinging on a web attached to a low-flying plane or a blimp or something.

• • •

Dave mysteriously asks

“Did you get the CDs I sent you?”

Why, yes, I did get the (cough) “CDs” you sent me. Definitely compact discs. Containing music. Not any other kind of object. Certainly not something that has to be held at subzero temperatures, in a lead-lined box, which must avoid any sudden shocks or impacts. JUST CDS.

• • •

Andrew evilly asks

“This tomb holds Diophantus. Ah, what a marvel! And the tomb tells scientifically the measure of his life. God vouchsafed that he should be a boy for the sixth part of his life; when a twelfth was added, his cheeks acquired a beard; He kindled for him the light of marriage after a seventh, and in the fifth year after his marriage He granted him a son. Alas! late-begotten and miserable child, when he had reached the measure of half his father’s life, the chill grave took him. After consoling his grief by this science of numbers for four years, he reached the end of his life.

“How long did Diophantus live?”

HOLD ON, NOBODY TOLD ME THERE’D BE MATH. Okay, I got as far as translating this into something resembling algebra (1/6x + 1/12x [and so on] = x). I figured out the common denominator and got the equation down to x = 75x/84 + 9 and I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to do with it at this point. Junior High School/High School Mike probably could’ve breezed right through it, but I’m old and do all my math on machines, and any algebra I do now tends to be very basic. So yes, I looked for a solution and saw at least I was on the right track. Once I saw how it was done, I was all “oh yeah sure, of course” but really all this taught me is that I need to brush up on my algebra.

I SPENT A LOT OF TIME ON THIS, ANDREW. WHILE ON PAIN MEDICATION.

• • •

Chris G gets me with

“What’s your take on the Mark Millar run of Swamp Thing?”

A while back I was asked to rank the creative teams on Swamp Thing, and in part two of those posts, I basically said Millar’s run was probably fourth in line, behind Wein/Wrightson, Moore/Bissette/Totleben etc., and Rick Veitch. I liked his emphasis on the “monster” part of Swamp Thing, as he became increasingly more powerful and more alienated from humanity. I think it’s one of Millar’s best comic book runs, and hopefully we’ll get a good collection of it someday.

• • •

Will sez

“Hi Mike, I hope the eyes are healing well.”

Hanging in there, more or less! Between my eyes and my teeth, it’s like, as pal Nat told me the other day, “your entire head is falling apart!”

“My question is kinda twofold – being a Swamp Thing completist, what’s the oddest/most obscure/most surprising comic you’ve ended up buying just cos Swampy’s in it, and secondly, what’s the best comic you’ve bought that you wouldn’t otherwise have bought, again just because it had it had your mucky mate in it? Thanks.”

Well, I’m not quite the completist I used to be (the Convergence hoohar put me off, and while Swamp Thing is more involved in this “Endless Winter” event, I’m just picking up the tie-ins associated with titles I’m already reading).

Most obscure or odd comic I bought because of a Swamp Thing association was, in fact, a parody comic, one I had floating around at the previous place of employment without realizing a Swamp Thing spoof lurked within. I wrote about Mighty Mites Vol. 2 #2 at the time, which not only featured a take-off on Mr. Thing, but also contained an appearance by the real Mr. Monster! Yes, I said “real,” what of it. Probably the closest we’ll come to fulfilling the promise of the Amazing Heroes cover at the end of this post.

Now, the best comic I wouldn’t have otherwise bought if it weren’t for ol’ Swampy…? That’s actually harder than you’d think. The easy answer would probably be 1970s Challengers of the Unknown, which picked up the Swamp Thing storyline following the demise of his first series. It was an oddball book, which also featured Deadman, with work by Gerry Conway and Keith Giffen (and Bernie Wrightson himself inking a single flashback panel!). That was a fun run of books…I wasn’t really a Challs fan, so I wouldn’t have picked this up if it weren’t for Swamp Thing.

I don’t know if that counts, since it was basically a book starring Swamp Thing. For a book I just picked up because of a cameo, I think this issue of Super Friends is a contender. It’s not even really Swamp Thing, just a guy at a costume party wearing a Swamp Thing outfit who is magically transformed into Swamp Thing. I mean, it’s E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon on creative chores, how could it not be charming?

• • •

Wayne Allen Sallee sallies forth with

“Mike: what single comic (or related item)do you hold on to for no good reason? […] You must have something that it is easier to just keep in a box than get rid of and right away find out you could have given it to X or Y?”

I do have a lot of comics at home still that I feel like I don’t particularly need to keep, but there’s no point bringing them to the store because they’re not going to sell, and I don’t really want to throw them into the dollar bins either. So they just sit in my boxes at home, awaiting to be entombed with me in my pyramid when I finally pass from this world.

But I I think, if I had to pick one oddball item in the collection, it’s a copy of Defenders #98 autographed by Don Perlin. My old friend Rob gave that to me for some reason, and hey Man-Thing‘s in it, so that’s nice. I don’t really have too many (if any) other Defenders in my personal collection, but I just keep hanging on to it, because 1) it’s a gift, and 2) hey, Don Perlin signature, that’s neat.

But “give away” any of my comics? Give away? BITE YOUR TONGUE, SIR.

I mean, I like Frank Miller’s The Spirit movie, and you’re still reading this site.

§ December 16th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 6 Comments

I’m gonna do some more of your questions, if that’s okay with you:

Andrew-TLA sends me on an adventure with

“You, for whatever reason, suddenly find yourself the opportunity to launch your own line of comics. What genres do you choose, and what five creative teams do you hire to run them?”

Well, I’ll tell you what, that reason probably isn’t “making money.” But here, I’ll give it a shot…but five genres? Surely there aren’t that many!

Let’s see…let’s start off with “superhero” as this is comics we’re talking about, and as we all know “comics” = “superheroes.” Anyway, I’d pick Don Simpson to run this end of it, as I desperately miss Bizarre Heroes and Megaton Man and if I’m going to publish superheroes, I want ’em weird. …I once described Bizarre Heroes either on this site or somewhere as “what if all the stuff that happened in ’60s Marvel books took place in the same comic,” and boy that series was fun to read.

Next up, let’s say “science fiction.” Hmm. Gimme some Jeff Parker and Frank Quitely on that action. Mr. Parker for his light, breezy style (which is what I want from my science fiction adventure comics) and Mr. Quitely because his art is gorgeous and well-suited for spacey-type stuff.

Then there’s “horror,” naturally. I’d say we put my close personal friend Karla Pacheco on the typewriter for this, as anyone who knows her understands she’s more than capable of cooking with some real nightmare fuel. And on art chores…how ’bout Jim Woodring? There ain’t too many artists better at disturbing imagery than Mr. Woodring. Pacheco and Woodring…have I endangered the world by positing this most unholy of pairings? Eh, probably, the world deserves it.

For the fourth genre of books, “humor,” I would of course pick Sergio Aragones. Just give the man a monthly comic to do whatever. Also, I would pick up the reprint rights for all his previous comics and get them back into print, because it’s a crime that stuff is all unavailable. Hey, you know, so long as I’m dream-publishing.

The final genre is, as you probably already surmised, “Popeye,” truly a genre unto himself. Gail Simone on scripts, for her seemingly effortless balance between seriousness and sillyness, and for art…Art Adams. Boy, what a Popeye comic drawn by Art Adams would look like. I don’t care if the book would end up being an annual, it’d be worth it.

So, any of you rich investors out there, give me a call.

• • •

Eric points the camera at me with

“Speaking of Cerebus, how do you personally handle separating art from the artist? It’s a question I struggle with and I find my own takes sometimes vary, case by case.”

Yeah, that’s a good question. “Case by case” is a good way of dealing with it. Like, can I ever read a comic by Gerard Jones again? I enjoyed his Green Lantern, loved Green Lantern: Mosaic, and really liked The Trouble with Girls. Man, I even have comics he signed for me when he did an appearance at my former place of employment.

Finding out what he’d been up to later doesn’t mean I didn’t read and enjoy his comics before. But it certainly casts a pall over even thinking of revisiting them now. That’s definitely a case, at least for me, of not being able to separate the art from the artist.

Now compared to that example, John Byrne having cranky old man opinions on his message board doesn’t seem quite as bad as it did years ago when I swore I’d never mention his name on my site again. Doesn’t mean his opinions were any less dumb, it just means that when I look at his work, I try to enjoy it simply in the context of the work itself and try to forget, years after he drew this issue of Fantastic Four, he actually typed onto a website that he thought blond Latinas looked like hookers.

It’s a problem that permeates pretty much everything nowadays, but at the same time I don’t want to fall into that “stick to playing basketball, shut up about politics” mindset which is pretty stupid in its own right. People have the right to speak their mind about topics that are important to them, regardless of whatever their job may be and whatever their relation to you is, whether it’s a literal relation, like an uncle going on about whatever he heard on Fox News while everyone else is trying to enjoy Thanksgiving, or you just relate to them via what they produce, be it some form or entertainment or product. But you have to decide, is what they’re saying enough to turn me away from however I’m interacting with them or their work?

I’m comparing two different things here, I realize: a person committing an actual crime versus someone being dumb on the internet or whatever. It’s not an easy topic and one I can’t resolve here on my silly funnybook blog. I really can’t get more specific than what you said, Eric: take it case by case. Everyone is flawed in this fallen world, and only you can decide for yourself if those flaws (whether they’re actual flaws or differing opinions) are enough to turn you off, or if you can just kinda not pay attention to whatever nonsense they’re spouting. Ask some of the more aware fans of The Mandalorian how they’re dealing with it. Mostly I just kind of sigh.

Also, I used to be really into Dilbert, but man that guy, enough was enough.

Anyway, I’m not sure if that was much of an answer, Eric, and I don’t really address how I, as a cisgender white male, can overlook or shrug off bad creator opinions that can be far more impactful on other folks. Just wanted to note that I know that’s an omission from my response and it’s a consideration of which I personally need to be more aware.

• • •

A BRIEF CONTENT NOTE: I am getting a wisdom tooth (and one or two others) yanked on Friday, and expect I’ll be out of commission for a couple of days. One of the members of the Legion of Substitute Mikes will be running my shop, but my online presence will likely be greatly diminished over the weekend. I have a post ready to go for Friday, and with any luck I’ll be back on Monday. Any emails or comments sent my way will be dealt with then. Thanks for reading, pals, and everyone be good to each other.

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