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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!


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!”


“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?”


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!”


“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.


• • •

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.

I looked up “reductionism” on Wikipedia and now I’m an expert, obviously.

§ December 14th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

Hey, let me tackle a few more of your questions:

John Lancaster casts the following at me:

“Can you make sense of a non-reductionist view of theoretical entities? Please convey your answer in the form of a cipher.”

The thought of, for example, explaining Sluggo by imagining his soul, inferring his wants and desires and his “lit-ness,” rather than simply observing his stubbly head and his patched jacket and drawing conclusions from those alone…well, it all falls apart when one realizes there is nothing theoretical about Sluggo. He is as real as you or me. …Oh, a cipher. Well, “[picture of a garden slug] – O” and all that.

“Oh, and who would win in a fight; Zeep the Living Sponge, or Color Kid? Darn, that’s two questions – just worry about answering the first one.”

Oh, sure, now you tell me.

Zeep, the original “Dial H for Hero” version: loses to Color Kid

Zeep, the character from Hero Hotline: totally beats Color Kid. …Look, I don’t explains ’em, I just reports ’em.

• • •

ExistentialMan questions my existence with

“If you could break down your comics hobby (as a reader, collector, retailer, whatever) into discrete phases, what would they be?”

Hmm. I think you mean “chronologically,” rather than “concurrently compartmentalized,” I hope, since that’s easier to answer. For the latter, there’s a lot of “wow, this comic sounds terrible” versus “then again, it’s probably going to sell great, better order lots” (and variations thereof) happenin’ whenever I’m doing the monthly comics order.

Chronologically, I was a reader first, getting scattered issues of various comics as a very young Mikester. It was probably Star Wars that turned me into a “collector,” wanting to pick up every issue as it came out as opposed to an issue here and there as I’d happen upon them. A trip to stay with cousins down in San Diego shortly thereafter revealed to me their own large and organized comic book horde, which inspired me to organize and keep track of my own gatherings.

I was never much of a condition hound on my own books, so I didn’t get into that aspect of being a collector, for the most part. I did upgrade the occasional old Swamp Thing comic if the one I had was particularly worked. And for a very brief period of my collector phase I did dip my toes into the “investor” thing, picking up a comic or two with the expectations of turning them over for Big Bucks later. Anyway, that was stupid and of course it didn’t work out, and I quickly stopped doing that. Because it was stupid. Like I said.

And then in ’88 I entered comics retailing. The end.

Well, okay, it didn’t end. In fact, if anything, each segment built upon the other. I was a reader, then I “collected” (i.e. put some effort and care into gathering and storing these comics) while still reading them. And now, as a retailer, I still read and collect them, so it’s all merged together now. Though “collect” is kind of the wrong term at the moment, given I never seem to find the time to sort them properly at home any more.

• • •

Mike Loughlin has the last lough with

“Congratulations, DC has decided you are the perfect writer to helm The Muck-nificent Swamp Thing!(NOTE: I don’t work for AT&T/DC and the preceding sentence is a bald-faced lie)! You even get to pick an artist and a back-up feature starring a mystic and/or horror DC property. Which artist and character do you choose, and who would you choose to draw the back-up? Since those three questions fit into one inquiry, it looks like one question to me. If you disagree, feel free to discard the part about a back-up.”

Ooooh you sneaky Petes with your multi-part “single questions.” YOU’LL ALL GET YOURS but I’ll probably answer ’em anyway because I’m a soft touch.

So, I get to write a Swamp Thing comic, eh? Either Swamp Thing’s Adventures in Time and Space or Swamp Thing’s Good Time Jamboree, I haven’t decided which. As for artist…well, I would pick my Close and Personal Friend, the increasingly hirsute Matthew Digges, based on this drawing he gave me a while back:

…or if Matt’s not available, I’d ask Francesco Francavilla, because I’ve been looking at a Swamp Thing drawing of his as wallpaper on my store computer for the past six years and his art is great.

Back-up: would have to be “Stanley and His Monster,” with shared art chores by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. Jaime would draw Stanley, Gilbert would draw His Monster. You’re already picturing this in your head, and are amazed at its perfection.

Though come to think of it, “not enough” and “all over the place” describes this blog, too.

§ November 25th, 2020 § Filed under question time, retailing § 4 Comments

So a new issue of Spawn is out this week, and if you’re aware of the comic at all, you know they’ve been doing the multiple-cover thing for quite a while now. I mean, which is fine…well, not “fine” in that the reliance on multiple covers hopefully to boost retailer orders upward is likely indicative of a weakened marketplace, but rather “fine” in that “it’s not like they’re the only ones doing it.” And anyway, each issue of Spawn has its three, four, five or so variants every month.

A while back, for the release of Spawn #250, I wrote a bit about its sales, how it was essentially a pullbox-only title with few rack sales at my previous place of employment, and that at the new shop was beginning to show some signs of increased demand.

And in the six years since…well, it’s complicated, especially of late. On average, sales on the book for me are higher than they had been. It’s no best-seller, but it’s a solid middling title and there ain’t no shame in that. It has a consistent readership that picks it up each and every month and that’s great.

But on top of the consistent monthly sales, for which I can plan and order, there’s the complicated bit. I’ve written before about the current wave of comics speculation, spurred on by phone apps and websites and YouTube videos, which invariably results in a notable increase of demand the day of, or perhaps the day before, the release of a speculated-upon book. Too late to place raise orders, so not enough of the item is available…but if there were time to place reorders, then there’d be plenty of the item available, and thus no speculation.

Spawn, with its various covers, has been the target of investment-minded folks of late, but almost always for just one of the covers. And there’s no way to predict which one will the the one ahead of time. Well, maybe a little ahead of time, as a couple of my regular pull list folks for Spawn specified they wanted cover “C” of the new issue, and that feels like a good sign that’s the one I’m going to be hearing about on the phone for the next few weeks.

So that’s the trick…order what I need, order a few extra for rack sales, and get ready to hear about the one variant that you sell out of right away for a while, least ’til the next issue arrives. The only consistent thing about the excess demand for the series is that there is consistent demand of this sort for every issue. Maybe not every cover of every issue, but I can always depend on thinking “rats, shoulda ordered more of that one” in my late Wednesday afternoons.

• • •

A little more comment catch-up:

Allen M notes that he’d like to hear me on a certain podcast, and, well, that stirred up old podcasting feelings of my own that I’d have for a while. In fact, it’s baked into this site, with a subdomain that I created 17 years ago and with which I never did anything.

I do think about it a lot, though, especially since it’s easier than ever to put one together now. Main issue is…me. For all the typing I do here, I’m not a particularly good extemporaneous speaker…either I don’t say enough, or I’m just kind all over the place. As I noted before, the phrase “edited for clarity” in this interview with me is carrying quite the load.

On the other hand…I do have to speak off the cuff to customers all the time, expounding on whatever query they’ve made the mistake of asking me, so I have some practicee talking about comics. (“Some practice” = “oh, only about 32 years worth.”) Maybe a podcast isn’t an entirely lost cause for me after all…I have a format semi-figured out, and even have theme music that I’d, ahem, “borrow” from some friends of mine (well, okay, I’d probably ask their permission eventually). We’ll see if that’s something I think I can consistently do, with the time I have available and the minimal skill set I’d bring to it.

Plus side, you get to hear my malodorous — er, mellifluous voice. Minus side, you’d get to hear me say “uh” a lot while I read you my sponsors’ ads for underwear and mail-order mattresses.

I have been on podcasts twice before…I mean, aside from sending in annoying questions to my pals over at War Rocket Ajax. A very long time ago Kid Chris…remember Kid Chris? You know, this guy:

…and his pal Dafna (yes, this Dafna) had a podcast called “Bispectacult,” one episode of which featured an interview with yours truly. It was part one of two, but alas part two never escaped the labs and I can only assume my presence killed the show. I’d link, but no trace of the site and/or the podcast itself seem to remain online, not even on the ol’ Wayback Machine thingie (far as I can tell).

One podcast I managed not to kill was Look at His Butt, a William Shatner-centric podcast that featured my droning monotone going on about my Trek fandom. That was (egads) eleven years ago, but as you can tell by the link, the podcast is still available for your listening pleasure! (And Look at His Butt is still going strong…episode 283 just came out a few days ago! And I still listen to every installment!)

So…more podcasts in my future? We’ll see, if either I do my own or I somehow sneak onto someone else’s podcast in disguise so they don’t realize it’s me.

“Now I am become Dilton, the destroyer of worlds.”

§ November 23rd, 2020 § Filed under archie, question time, records § 13 Comments

As per my wondering if there were any Archie atomic bomb covers from the “Atomic Age” era, along comes longtime reader Paul with his meticulously hand-crafted piece of speculative comical-booking:

Yes, yes, if it were “Atomic Age” it would be ten cents not twelve, but c’mon, what’s two cents between friends? But boy, that’s a comic I’d read in a heartbeat.

So anyway, I’m getting myself all discombobulated answering questions left on my most recent questions post and then answering questions and comments left for me in response to those answers and I promise, I’m reading everyone’s input and will reply to what needs replyin’. Between busier evenings, the frailty of the flesh and some new health type stuff (not COVID, not serious, don’t worry…just a tad dear) my bloggin’ time is somewhat impacted. But I’m not going anywhere, and the people MUST BE ANSWERED so I’ll get around to it all in short order.

Speaking of which, let me go back to my post about the “Omaha” The Cat Dancer record where P.J. left the following inquiry just a few days ago:

“Hey Mike, not sure if you’ve covered it, and it’s comic strips, not comic books, but are you familiar with the floppy record that was packaged with one of the Doonesbury collections in the mid-80s? Don’t ask me to recall the name of it. I had it as a kid, not sure what ever happened to it.”

No, in fact, I’m not, and I had…well, still have, actually…a full set of the Doonsebury collections starting from that very first one, just called Doonesbuy, until well into the 1990s, maybe even early 2000s. Can’t say for sure why I fell off at that point, but boy I was sure into the strip for a long time.

And I have to say, I don’t recall any flexidiscs. Not saying there wasn’t one, as there very well could have been one, but I never came across any in any of the volumes I own. It’s possible that there was a special edition of strip reprints containing material I already had in other books which could have had a record insert, and I passed on buying it. That Action Figure! collection, which came with, as the title would suggest, an action figure toy of Duke (and I definitely bought that!).

Googling “Doonesbury flexidisc” just brings up the “Billy and the Boingers” record that came with a Bloom County collection. But it did lead me to the Wiki entry on Doonsebury which told me about some actual musical releases (a single and a full LP) with songs by the strip’s character “Jimmy Thudpucker,” and now I guess that’s on the ol’ want list now too.

So, no, P.J., I can’t think of a Doonsebury flexi, but I’m sure if someone reading this knows about one, we’ll hear about it in the comments! I hope there is one, honestly!

Well, technically, I’m Silver Age.

§ November 13th, 2020 § Filed under collecting, question time, retailing § 9 Comments

So Matthew asked last week sometime

“Speaking of the ‘copper age,’ What years and terms do you use to define different eras of comics?”

Which, you know, fair enough, since I’m very vocally not a huge fan of that very term “copper age,” which still to my ear smacks very much of a marketing term generated to make back issues of Nomad sound rare and collectible.

I’ve gone into detail on this before, actually also in response to a query from the very selfsame Matthew, in this post from last year. Actually, I’m glad for the chance to revisit that post becuase just the briefest of glances revealed some pretty awful typos (which I’ve since fixed), and more to be found, I’m sure. I’m guessing this was written during one of my “cloudy vision” periods, of which there have been too many. But I presume most of you got the gist of my typical too-long foray into the nomenclature of comic ages then, despite my obfuscated spelling and word use.

But to defy tradition and provide a more succinct answer to this most recent query, let me say to you, Matthew, that I use “Golden” and “Silver” frequently, and “Bronze” less so. However, as we get farther away from the period supposedly defined by “Bronze,” i.e. circa 1970 through 1984, I find my incidences of usage increasing, perhaps identifying a psychological barrier against acceptance. “Why, there can’t be an ancient sounding ‘age’ for that period…that’s my time frame!”

A naming of ages is, almost by definition, a matter of historical definition, and one tends not to think of a time lived through as being “historical,” no matter how long ago, in truth, that time may be. However, I suppose, 35 to 50 years on, I must bite that bullet and accept that the range of years is thusly dubbed.

As has been pointed out by some, including me in that very post from last year I linked above, some distance is needed to fully appreciate the characteristics of the industry’s behavior before one can really begin to divvy up specific eras into “ages.” I go into a little detail at the end of that post about what I think the current “age” might be called [attention Allen M, who brought this up last week], but we’re still way, way too close. So long as it isn’t “the Final Age,” a joke I’ve made at some point in the past here or on Twitter, though truth be told I’m only about half-joking.

Okay, I clearly didn’t defy any ProgRuin traditions with that answer, so let me move on to another response to last week’s post.

• • •

Tenzil Kem, Esq., bites off more than I can chew with

“I get the argument about the ‘rarity’ of newsstand comics vs. direct market, although I’m not sure if newsstand copies from the 70’s/80’s are truly that much rarer (since, as you know, print runs were hundreds of thousands of copies and available widely back then). I think the argument is stronger for comics from this century, such as DC New 52 newsstand issues with the higher cover prices, but I still don’t know that it should translate into higher valuations.”

Oh, sure, I’m not sure I was clear on that, but yeah, with comics from when newsstand distribution was still a major thing, there really shouldn’t be much of a difference, if any, in secondary market pricing. It should be restricted to more modern releases, though, as I noted in that post, I’m not a fan of that sort of pricing behavior anyway. I understand the impulse, but it still feels like making a collector’s item out of nothing for no really solid reason. (Like, as you say, the price differences on those DCs, but even then that’s bit of a stretch).

Now look, when it comes to collector’s markets, it’s the money that talks, not me, and history will side with whatever makes some people’s wallets fatter while I walk the streets with my sandwich board filled with tiny scrawled handwriting. I’m sure eventually I’ll fall into line if the back issue market leans in that direction, but rest assured I’ll be making passive-aggressive complaints about it on whatever Nazi-free microblogging platform eventually replaces Twitter.

“For that matter, I don’t like the inflated back issue pricing on comics with Mark’s Jewelers ads, and I have several of those that my grandparents bought me from the Fort McClellan PX near Anniston, AL.”

Yeah, that’s been a thing for years, but I think tradition has won over any objections we might have had. To be fair, if a comic came with some kind of insert, and that insert is removed, then that comic is not “as new” and should be graded accordingly. While I think advertisements should be treated differently from inserts more directly related to the comic book, or comics in general (like, say, trading card inserts that Marvel would occasionally include in their books throughout the ’90s), the problem of “where is the line drawn” does begin to creep in.

The imperfect analogy that immediately comes to mind is the usual comic grading policy of “age is not an issue.” A comic from the 1940s is held to the same grading standards as a comic that came out last Wednesday (or Tuesday, if it’s a DC). Otherwise you have to create sliding scales for what is considered “mint” or whatever for multiple time periods, and frankly, that sounds like an enormous pain the All-Star Squadron. With that as precedent, one can perhaps see where trying to distinguish between the kinds of inserts would eventually turn problematic, and it’s simply easier to apply the same pricing/grading rules to any comic with any insert.

As a side note, you’d think having the stiff-paper trading card inserts or jeweler ads would create a wider prevalence of these comics being in higher conditions with less spine creasing. Let me tell you, friends, that this is not the case.

“I’ll go full grumpy old man and complain about Canadian price variants and British price variants because I feel those are just “rare” here in the USA.”

An issue I recently experienced when I acquired a large number of 1960s Marvels and DCs from a lady who’d spent her youth in England. The DCs were all stamped with ink impressions featuring the price in, I don’t know, ha’pennies or whatever was goin’ on there, but were otherwise as distributed in the U.S. with the American prices printed thereon.

The Marvels, however, were printed with British pricing replacing the U.S. pricing on their covers (for the most part…there were one or two that also had to be stamped). I wasn’t quite sure what to do with these in regards to back issue pricing…especially as some of them were quite the in-demand books (such as the first appearance of Black Panther).

Did a little research, consulted with former boss Ralph, and eventually decided to just price ’em up as normal. I mean, these weren’t new, different foreign editions produced specifically for their markets. It’s the exact same contents, exact same covers and ads, the only difference is that the U.S. price was swapped out with another price at some point during the printing process. This minor cosmetic change might increase demand as “a variant,” might decrease demand as “a repint” (which I don’t think it is), so I just split the difference.

“With all of these examples, I think sellers are just trying to justify why someone should pay more for their specific copy, but the market seems to be looking for rarity wherever it can find it.”

As I’d noted…or rather, as a customer brought to my attention and I shared here, as older comics become less available folks are looking for reasons to make newer, more common comics into collector’s items. Even with brand new comics, as almost any “first appearance” that turns up in a recent release inspires the purchase of multiple copies, even when more often than not any increased value that accrues is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than any indication of organic widespread demand. Investors create the scarcity that increase the demand from those who need the issue and couldn’t get it because investors bought them all. Artificial rarity…those who forget the ’80s are doomed to repeat them.

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