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THE EYEBALL MUST BE OBEYED.

§ April 3rd, 2019 § Filed under question time, retailing § 3 Comments

Going to keep this super-brief (no, really, I mean it this time) to give my peepers a rest, so let me just answer a couple of questions.

Allan wrenches out the following

“*looks at Mike’s twitter feed* Is…is that the same shirt you wore for your previous eye surgery? Do you have a lucky eye surgery shirt?”

He is of course referring to this photo, which is probably about as stoned-looking as you’ll ever see me, since the anesthesia and other assorted chemical-goodies they doped up with really threw me for a loop this time.

…Anyway, yes, that is indeed the same shirt I wore for the previous two operations. I was instructed to wear a “loose-fitting, short-sleeved shirt” and that was the loosest-fitting, shortest-sleeved shirt I had available. Also, it’s kinda oldish and worn out, not unlike its wearer, so I wouldn’t mind if, say, blood or eye-juice got squirted on it.

In response to my “new shelf at the store” post, philfromgermany imports the following question:

“The wall display look amazing. Are these mostly for trades? Do you leave the new books on the wall for a week or longer before filing them away?”

The big, long wall rack is for the periodicals (though I do have a couple books up there)…I tend to leave stuff up there for a month before filing them away, though I have enough space to keep some items up for longer if I wish. (For example, I’ve been keeping all of Doomsday Clock up there, and until just recently I had every issue of the new Uncanny X-Men series on the new comics shelf as well.) In general, the week’s new releases are on the top two rows, and the previous month’s (or so) books are on the bottom four.

The trade paperback shelves (which I was adding to with that bookshelf I just built and took that picture of) are on the opposite wall, though I have a three-leveled table near the front center of the store where I try to put all the new weekly TP and graphic novel arrivals. After that they get moved to the big bookshelf (that looks sorta like the comic racks) where they’re displayed front facing, then eventually movied to the regular bookshelves, spine out. Though some books of particular interest are kept on front-facing display (like Saga or the Star Wars books).

Matthew wonders

“Do you have a quarter/dollar/clearance section for back issues and trade paperbacks? If so, how do you decide what goes in it?”

I do! I didn’t take a picture of it, but I have a small table up near the register that holds a few long boxes of bargain comics (usually stuff acquired for cheap…or just dumped on me…in collections, or excess leftover stock, or material I just don’t think I’ll be able to get a premium back isue price for at any point in the near future). On the three-leveled table I mentioned previously, I have a section of bargain trades and graphic novels, usually items I got on clearance from one of my distributor’s regular discount sales.

OKAY ENOUGH QUESTIONS, Mike’s Eyeball needs to rest. I’ll be back Frieday…IF THE EYEBALL WILLS IT.

And the expletive of choice was “Shazbot.”

§ February 22nd, 2019 § Filed under question time § 6 Comments

Well, you know what, I’m so close to the end of the questions here that I’m just gonna go ahead and wrap things up. I’ve kept you nice folks who asked them waiting long enough!

Tom Cherry pits the following against me

“If NANCY ever crossed over with PEANUTS, do you think Sluggo and Pig Pen would be friends?”

I feel like Pig Pen would be one the regular walk-on weirdos that Nancy and Sluggo would be all “whoa, check this oddball out!” for a one-strip gag and that would be it. There wouldn’t be any animosity as such, but probably not someone Sluggo could connect with.

In fact, I’m having a hard time picturing any Peanuts character comfortably fitting into the Nancyverse. They’d all be annoying creatures to N&S. I mean, maybe Peppermint Patty…I could see Sluggo having something of a crush on her, while Nancy is totally put off by how pushy she is. …HOLD ON, LET ME GET MY FANFIC WRITIN’ PEN

• • •

@misterjayem spells out the following

“Will either of the Big Two ever again have continuity that stretches all the way back to 10 years ago?”

Well, here and there DC and Marvel make references to things that happened in the Long Ago Times of, like, 2002, or whatever, but I think the cohesive shared world continuity thing with a long history is a relic of the past. I feel like this is something they’re trying to do with Doomsday Clock, and restoring that sense of a lengthy continuity, but who knows if this will work any better than anything else?

Probably the best strategy, and probably the one that’s primarily being followed, is “we’ll access continuity and history when we need it,” and just otherwise do their own things without worrying about it. I mean, if anything, I wish they’d worry less about maintaining a consistent “universe” — that’s how you get all this rebootery.

• • •

BRR chills me with

“As a purveyor of back issues, would you like to see more editor’s notes*? They seem to disappear as a more ‘cinematic’ story style took hold, and I remember those notes occasionally driving a search through the local stores’ long boxes to get the rest of the story.

“* e.g. ‘Way back in Avengers#28!!’-ed”

Sure I would! Even more than just for storytelling clarity and sending people to my extensive back issue stock availble now at Sterling Silver Comics, located in the heart of beautiful Camarillo in Southern California, but for the connection between the creators/editors and the audience. Those editor notes made it seem like pals were sharing a cool story with you, that you were in a fun club where you got to enjoy these adventures with other like-minded people. The letters pages added to that feeling as well…when you bought a comic, you weren’t just buying that month’s tale of Spider-Man, but you were getting a piece of the real world community that built around reading that comic.

I might be romanticizing this a tad, but those little touches went a long way to making someone feel welcome in the worlds you were presented in these weird little booklets.

• • •

Robcat steals my heart, and my cat, with

“Ok, question. As a shop owner and collector and a guy who spends A LOT of time around comics, have you ever lost a substantial amount of money by accidentally damaging an issue of something yourself? Spilled coffee on Amazing Fantasy 15, opened a package containing Journey Into Mystery 83 and ripped the cover, that sort of thing? Not to wish you ill will or anything…”

Can’t say I’ve really done anything like that with comics, as such. I’ve had some close calls…just last week, when I was breaking down the new comics, I had pulled a water bottle out of the fridge that I hadn’t realized had been in there maybe a little too long, and when I opened it, the partially frozen state of it causes water to kinda explode out of it, just barely missing the stacks of new comics and the boxes of customer pulls I had out. That could have been a disaster of epic proportions.

Oh, and there was that time, early in my comics retail career nearly 30 years ago, when we were moving from the old store to a larger location across the street, that I accidentally dropped a short box filled with Golden Age books, spilling them all over the pavement. Thankfully, they way they slid out of the box kept them from experiencing harm, but still, nobody tell Ralph I did that.

The worst thing I did, also at the previous place of employment, that resulted in actual damage, was when I was moving some boxes or something around, and somehow forgot there was a big, fancy ceramic Spider-Man statue (one that also included, like, three or four villains of his) just out of my sight. Yup, ended up knocking it to the floor and smashing it to pieces. I felt the bump, heard the crash, froze, and softly uttered your favorite expletive of choice. As it turned out, the statue was basically given to us for free by someone just clearing their house of stuff, back before Marie Kondo made it cool, so no actual expense was lost. We lost the money would could have gained from selling the thing, but, well, at least nobody was mad. Your pal Mike got off scot-free that time.

Anyway, that’s all the stuff I’ll own up to. I have no idea how those boxes of Marvel Comics Presents caught on fire, and besides, you can’t prove anything, there were no witnesses.

• • •

And that’s it! Finally, all the questions are answered! Thanks for contributing, everyone, and I’ll probably open the floor to more questions soon. Or you can just ask me whenever you’d like…we’re pretty casual around here.

If you register that domain name, please use it for good, not evil.

§ February 20th, 2019 § Filed under question time § 6 Comments

I bet you thought I forgot! You folks still have some questions I need to answer, so let me knock a couple out before this new medicine I’m taking knocks me out:

William Burns fires me up with

“Are all these monster mega digital comics sales making it harder for you to sell trade paperbacks?”

I’ve got to be real honest here…I haven’t the foggiest. I’m sure there must be some diverting of monies from physical copies in my shop (well, everyone’s shops) to digital alternatives. I mean, it’s not like folks stick their heads in the door, announce “I’m not buying the Unicycle Tragedy: The First Decade trade paperback from you because I’m getting all the issues for eight cents each on UpYoursSmallBusinessOwners.com,” then rush off into the darkness, laughing. Well, okay, there’s that one guy back at the old shop who came in on New Comics Day, looked around, and loudly asked the room “where I can download all these for free?” but maybe that’s not quite the same.

So…yeah, I can’t really say. I know a lot of my customers use the digital codes in their comics to supplement their reading, but they’re still coming in and buying comics. I’m sure I’ve lost customers over the years who decided that they preferred to just get everything digitally for shopping and storage convenience, I’m also sure there are plenty of folks who just get all their goodies online, period, and never thought about going to a store…do they count as lost sales, or are those sales that would never have happened in the first place, from people who never would have considered buying a comic save for being able to click a button and suddenly have it available on their devices?

That’s a lot of words for “I don’t know,” I realize. I hope I haven’t suffered too much attrition of this sort, and can only hope I continue keeping the customers I do have happy and freshly replenished with actual printed-on-paper comics on a regular basis.

• • •

David has this goliath of a question

“Realizing that Progressive Ruin is pretty much a one-stop shop for all the comics info I need, I do still like poking around the web reading other sites. Do you have any favorite websites for comics news/reviews/reporting? It seems so bleak out there.”

I’m glad I’m keeping you up on all the early 1990s crash-era news that you can use, David! But as far as other comic news sites…I don’t really have a particular one that I regularly look at. Comics Reporter is probably the best for the most wide-ranging of comics news from all parts of the industry, and…well, I’m sure you’re aware of all the more mainstream-y sites for comic news about The Big Guys, though at some places you have to sort of pick it out from amongst the movie/TV news and listicles.

Your best bet may be a curated social media feed…like, following the Twitter accounts of companies and creators that you want to keep tabs on, or Instagrams, or the nightmare realm of Facebook, and so on. Generating your own news site may be the way to go.

• • •

Chris Gumprich spends his question on

“If you could bring back one cancelled title that did NOT start a muck-encrusted mockery of a man, what would it be and why?”

Hoo boy, not even sure where I would start. I was thinking ‘Mazing Man but feel like that’s so much of Its Time that bringing it back would just feel weird. Maybe leaving it as the short-run 1980s book that it was, keeping it a special thing that was here and gone and didn’t wear out its welcome, would be the best.

So I’m going with Atari Force, which had a terrible name but was an amazing comic. Imaginative and beautifully illustrated, and I was really bummed when it got canned. I think some of the characters (like Martin Champion) are straight up owned by Atari (or whoever owns the Atari IP now) so I don’t think DC could bring it back as, I don’t know, Syzygy Force or something and continue their adventures. But it would be nice!

“(That counts as one question because I only used one question mark.)”

YOU NE’ER-DO-WELL

* * *

AN ADDENDUM TO THE RECENT END OF CIVILIZATION POST: I’ve been informed by Matt from Moment of Cerebus that there is in fact a House of Cerebus comic coming in early 2020! You can see the schedule here. …You know, I did see that list at some point recently…guess I missed that title or (more likely) I just forgot! Well, I look forward to seeing House of Cerebus, and totally hope it’s the parody of #92 I’ve been waiting for!

“Save vs. hemorrhaged eye.”

§ December 7th, 2018 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

Let’s get a few more questions answered here, before I go under the knife and I’m away for the week:

Cassandra Miller foresees

“Who’s right about the Lucky Dime, Magica or Scrooge?”

Ooh, a good question. The Lucky Dime AKA the Number One Dime is, of course, the first dime Uncle Scrooge ever earned, which Magica De Spell believes has imbued it with some mystical essence she could exploit for her own nefarious purposes. As I recall, Scrooge’s own belief in its “magic” comes and goes depending on the story, but in general it’s a highly personal symbol of the wealth that followed.

Given that the main “canon” of Scrooge, as presented by Carl Barks, tends to generally hew towards the “real” mundane world and away from more fanciful explanations, I would say that Scrooge is more correct, more or less. It’s true that “magic” and “luck” and other weirdo stuff exists in the Duckiverse, and there are times when Scrooge is parted from his Lucky Dime and suddenly everything just goes to hell for him, but I would say Scrooge’s fortune arose without any supernatural advantage from ownership of that dime. It simply served as an inspiration for Scrooge, and any of his difficulties that arose from losing said dime were likely psychological in nature, losing an old crutch he depended on to support his financial endeavors.

I’m sure there are comics and TV shows and such I haven’t read that directly contradicts the above, but I think the ultimate answer is, as always, “depends on the needs of the plot.”

• • •

Skyintheairwaves swoops in with

“Mad Magazine has been a ‘thing’ that has seen many phases and highs and lows. But it has a place in so many of our consciousnesses.

What has been the heyday of Mad for you?”

Kind of like how the “Golden Age of comics” is described “whatever you were reading when you were a kid,” what I think of when I consider the definite era of Mad is what I read in the 1970s and very early ’80s. I still think of issues from, say, 1984 as “those newer Mads.” Pretty sure this was during the publication’s era of its largest print runs, so just by sheer numbers this may be the definitive version for most people, featuring the classic cartoonists and features that comprise the Platonic ideal of a Mad.

I was exposed to earlier Mad, mostly thanks to an uncle who passed his copies down to me…but mostly still within the ’70s, from the earlier part of the decade as opposed to the latter half where I was getting my hands on them, but were still mostly the same (but with more gags about Nixon and hippies). It was when I got my hands on the occasional copy of an early ’60s era issue, where it was like “Dave Berg’s art looks different, and where are the Marginals, and why are there weird jokes written in the margins instead?” — they just felt slightly off to me. Recognizably Mad, just not my Mad.

• • •

Rob Staeger stages the following

“What novel that has never gotten a comic book adaptation do you think deserves one?”

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. I mean, like, the whole thing. The trilogy, the prequel, the follow-ups, the novels from other Asimovian franchises that tie in, the whole enchilada. You thought the comic book adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand was a mountain of a project? Wait ’til you get a load of this. In some parallel universe, adapting all of Asimov’s novels into comic book form is the sole purpose and publishing concern of Positronic Comics, Inc.

• • •

Andrew Davison sneaks in with

“Do you visit other comic book establishments to see how they do things? What disguises do you normally use? A rubber mask, a la Mission Impossible, or stage makeup and wig, a la 50’s Batman?”

One time, very early on, a fella that used to shop at our store opened up a store in a neighboring town (long gone…the store, not the town). Just out of curiosity, I popped in to take a look and see what was goin’ on, but not with any specific plan to see what his display or marketing strategies or whatever. Later we heard that he was talkin’ up the fact that “oh yeah, a guy from the other store checked me out, they must be worried!” so I kind of put an end to that.

In the years since, particularly on the rare occasion I was out of town, I’d drop by other stores, mostly to shop for myself, and to some limited extent to see what they’re carrying and how it’s laid out and sometimes think how lucky our customers were they weren’t shopping at this store. Haven’t done that in a long time.

Nowadays, if I’m going to other shops, they’re usually shops run by people I actually know, and if I’m there, I’m either doing some horsetrading, or just saying “hi,” or picking up some of my UPS shipment from Diamond that got misrouted to the wrong comic store (which happened at least once in recent months). Thus, I’m otherwise occupied and not really there to steal…comic secrets. Or…am I?

• • •

philfromgermany drops in the last question for today

“Considering the TWERPS shout-out you must have at least a passing knowledge of pen & paper D&D and their ilk.

“Have you ever read any Knights of the Dinner Table and if so, who’s your favorite character?

“Is it selling at your store?”

Phil is referring to this post, where I dropped in a reference to Twerps, the simple and bargain-priced role-playing game that used only one die, and utilized characters with only one stat (Strength). We sold quite a a few of these at my previous place of employment, though I wonder how many sold because people just wanted the small-sized 20-sided die included with the game.

While RPGs aren’t my particular passion, I do have some familiarity with them simply from my years of carrying large stocks of them at the old job. Plus, I sold a lot of vintage gaming materials on eBay when they showed up in collections (some of which you can see in this site category). I don’t do anything in new gaming materials currently at my shop, but I wouldn’t object to dealing in more of the old items. I always found those fun.

Knights of the Dinner Table does sell at my store…not a lot, but it has its fans. If I had to pick a favorite character…well, Brian is just so hilariously single-minded when it comes to gaming, but Bob is just plain bonkers. It’s hard to choose!

• • •

Okay, pals, don’t forget I’m taking the next week off from the site following my eye procedure, so I’ll see you on the other side!

“Not to be morbid,” he says.

§ November 28th, 2018 § Filed under question time § 5 Comments

So I need to get back to your questions, but first, let me address the one left for me recently by JohnJ on this post:

“The two versions of Sgt.Rock #400 cover prompt me to ask you this question, have you ever had a customer who preferred newsstand covers versus direct market? Someone who thought that what was in the UPC box made a substantial difference to the comic?
I know one retailer who thinks newsstand covers triple the price on back issues and wondered how you stood on that difference.”

By and large, I don’t think there’s a significant difference. If there is a difference in price and collectability, it’s generally the result of something other than just the UPC code or lack thereof. Like, cover image differences (such as the Spider-Man/Mary Jane wedding issue, though honestly I haven’t looked at compared prices/demand on those in a while). I think some of the early Image releaes had newsstand editions that were a little harder to find in the direct market (like Spawn and WildC.A.T.s ) with UPC codes and, I believe, different paper stock on the covers. There was a little demand for those once upon a time (particularly the non-foil covered newsstand edition of WildC.A.T.s #2) but I haven’t had anyone ask about those lately.

I mean, I don’t know…it hasn’t really come up too much, and I’ve sold a lot of back issues to a lot of people over the last three decades. Aside from situations like the above, where there’s an actual difference between the two versions, I haven’t had anyone just wanting the covers with Spidey’s face in the little white box instead of a bunch of lines and numbers. But, you know, to each his own.

Okay, back to the salt mines! ExistentialMan gets existential, man, with this:

“So, you’ve been doing this comicbookin’ retail thing for quite a while now. Although it’s clearly kept you virile, young-looking, and famously wealthy, I’m curious about your plans for the future and, eventually, retirement. I’ve ssen a number of retailers retire over the years (most of them very successfully). Do you envision calling it quits at a certain age?”

Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever straight up retire, unless my business suddenly becomes The One Comic Book Store Left Standing and I’m suddenly carrying away buckets of cash to the bank. Instead, I suspect I’ll keep my hand in, turning over day-to-day operations to a trusted employee, or robot, while still drawing income as the evil taskmaster of the business. I can’t imagine I’ll be behind the counter forever and ever until…well, not to be morbid, but I want to go off to that great Comic Book Convention in the, um, let’s say Sky in the comfort of my own bed, not sprawled out over a pile of X-O Manowars I was in the process of bagging.

• • •

Dave Carter asks Yet Another question:

“As a comic shop owner, what do you see as the biggest challenge for your retail establishment over the next year? Over the next five years?”

The biggest thing is just trying to maintain sales in the face of publisher shenanigans, as relaunch after reboot after renumbering erodes consumer confidence. Plus, the rising prices of the periodical format is always going to be an issue…I don’t think the periodical comic is going away, or even really on the verge of changing that much, but I feel like folks are really at their limit as to how much they’re willing to spend for a single issue. And I don’t think the Big Two, especially Marvel, are ready for a trade-only model. Whatever change that’ll happen is going to be a rough one to ride out.

Aside from that, there are the more practical concerns…rising costs of simply running the business (rent and utilities ain’t goin’ down), increased competition from new shops, an economy that’s all over the map, the fragility of my own human body…you know, cheery stuff like that.

• • •

Patrick Gaffney pours out

“Who can drink more? Thor or Hulk?”

We know, from our studies at Stan Lee University, that the madder Hulk gets, the stronger he gets, so there’s some sort of energy source that exists within him to fuel this increase in his capabilities. Like, there’s this giant radioactive engine inside him, powered by that long-ago Gamma Bomb burst, that flares hotter with Hulk’s emotions. I believe the Official Marvel Universe Handbook has noted that “there could be no upper limit” to this rise in strength. So, as his anger increase, the radiation-borne effects in his body increase, generating more energy, and presumably anything the Hulk would have consumed would probably go toward feeding this upward output. Thus, assuming Hulk is in an agitated enough state, I could see any drink he imbibed being immediately converted to bolster his physical abilities.

But then again, Thor is magic, which could supersede my 100& entirely scientific explanation. So let me go to the fallback answer…”depends on whose comic the drinking contest appears in.”

That X-Men cover never fails to make me laugh, because I’m a bad person.

§ November 16th, 2018 § Filed under question time § 8 Comments

Sorry, was too pooped to post these last few nights, but here I am again, still alive and mostly aware. Let’s dip back into your questions from a little while ago:

Hooper Triplett doubles down on

“Outside of nostalgia and/or habit, why should I buy single printed issues instead of digital or print collections?”

Well…yeah, sure, that’s a good question. It all comes down to personal preference, I suppose, though there had been the economic reason of a periodical not lasting long enough to get a trade because of the perception that people were waiting for the trade and thus didn’t get enough sales to keep going. That was a tricky balance (Fables always stood out to me as one of comics that seems to maintain the right measure of “people reading the monthlies” vs. “waiting for the collections”). I don’t know how much digital downloads have affected that particular division, if those sales would be enough to subsidize the continued printing of physical copies of a title underperforming in the direct market.

Anyway, trying to pick one format over the other strictly for economic reasons (both the publishers’ and your own) is beside the point: you need to read comics in whatever way is preferable and convenient to you, naturally. I personally prefer having the monthly (or biweekly, or semi-annual) magazines in hand, as they’re just easier for me to read and enjoy in smaller doses, versus waiting for an eventual collection to plow through (though I don’t mind those for older material). And my brief dabblings in digital make for a novel experience, but I just like having the actual comic in hand when I have a choice.

So read ’em however you like, Hooper! Just be sure to buy plenty of them from me.

• • •

Kirk beams in the following

“Where did your love of Swampy & Sluggo begin & do you also love Sgt. Rock ( please say yes )?”

I shared the origin of my Sluggo love way back when, back when I thought I was going to end my Sluggo Saturday posts. In short: a friend turned me on to Nancy and Sluggo in particular, and I hope over the years I turned some of you on to them as well.

My love of Swamp Thing came about through a combination of finding a couple of issues of the original series in a used book store (oddly enough, not Wein ‘n’ Wrightson issues, but these two), and this very early Nickelodeon program I discussed here about five years ago (which did feature Wein ‘n’ Wrightson). That’s pretty much where it all began!

And yes, don’t you worry…I do love Sgt. Rock comics as well. Didn’t read nearly as many of those as I should, but I did have a few scattered issues and a digest reprint and that one team-up with Superman. I specifically remember buying this issue and this one off the racks at the local convenience markets.

Always found Sgt. Rock comics to be well-illustrated, usually short, punchy self-contained stories, that ran the gamut from tragic to heroic to sometimes a tad preachy but generally just preachy enough. They were essentially the Platonic ideal of A War Comic, and it’s a shame that specific kind of book is missing from the stands.

King of the Moon crowns me with

“Greatest hero who got their powers from a space wizard horse:
Alex Power, Julie Power, Jack Power or Katie Power?”

I’m gonna have to say Katie, because she’s the Power Pack member featured on this, the greatest X-Men cover of all time:

They should get Skottie Young to finish up Big Numbers.

§ October 31st, 2018 § Filed under question time § 12 Comments

Here I am with more unsatisfying answers to your inquiries:

Gareth Wilson reaches new frontiers with

“Which comic book had the best stories about exploring new worlds?”

Huh. That’s the kind of vague-ish question I occasionally get at the shop that sounds like it should be easy to answer but…I don’t know, can be hard to nail down sometimes. Taken literally, as in “going to new planets in outer space in a sci-fi type way” there are plenty of anthology titles published over the years with weird alien landscapes and critters and situations. Classics like Weird Science or Mystery in Space, or newer (er, relatively speaking) comics like Alien Worlds which pretty much has it right in the title there. For comics with more of a continuing narrative, there’s Black Science from Image, with folks bouncing from dimension to dimension. And there’s Legion of Super-Heroes and the various permutations of Star Trek, I suppose, though those would be far more superficial a take on the “new worlds” thing.

Oh, there’s Stellar from Image, too…I’ve only read the first issue so far (picked it up because I love Bret Blevins’s art) but that looks like it may be up this particular alley as well.

I’ve sure there are others that will come to mind after I hit the “PUBLISH” button on this post, but that’s probably a good start, I think!

• • •

Matthew suggests:

“…Maybe write about some never-to-be-finished comic book stories/series. (And not just Sonic Disruptors.)”

Sonic Distruptors was one of those comic series I was enjoying but got cut down in its prime…and I swear I saw a news blurb in the comics press at the time that a one-short or graphic novel or whatever was going to come out wrapping up the series, but of course that didn’t happen. I’ve written a little about it on this site in the past, but look to pal Andrew and his post for the best take on the situation.

Grimjack is another one I’ve mentioned before, where the forward progression of the story has halted. It wasn’t so much cut off mid-story like Sonic Disruptors — there was an ending to that final storyline — but more was definitely planned, continuing the ongoing Grimjack saga. It’s unusual in that there have been newer mini-series featuring the character, but they were essentially flashback tales involving the “classic” Grimjack and not the Grimjack that he had eventually evolved into.

And of course there was the Helfer/Baker Shadow, and Eye of Mongombo which I talked about way back in the very beginnings of this site, so I’m sure all the links are kaput by now. I seem to recall that cartoonist maybe emailing me or leaving a note in the now-deceased Haloscan comments that he planned on bringing the title back to finish it up, but I never saw that he did. Too bad.

Let’s not forget 1963, which is like the patron saint of this sort of thing. Or Big Numbers, which hadn’t really grabbed me as of its second and, as it turned out, final issue, but I was looking forward to to reading through ’til the end anyway. I’d also love to see more of Journey: Wardrums, too.

I was kinda digging this adaptation of the Illuminatus Trilogy, too, but they didn’t want it to finish. You know…them.

More recently there was that Badger revival, which far as I can tell never put out its last issue.

There are no end to series that never reached their intended conclusions, of course. What’s nice is that there is the occasional happy ending, play on words intended, with new collections of previously unfinished comics. I’ve talked about the Puma Blues hardcover before. I thought I talked about the Border Worlds volume on my site here, but I guess I missed it…but that book adds a new 30-page chapter that, despite the publisher’s description, doesn’t exactly conclude things, but is at least more of a stopping point than where it left off before.

So, you know, it’s possible that some of these interrupted comics can get the conclusions they need. Well, maybe not 1963, since it seems unlikely that particular band will ever get back together, but sometimes I think about stocking a complete 1963 hardcover that I’d have to reorder on a regular basis and I get a small tear just in the corner of my eye.

That was more than one question, but I had joke answers so I’ll let it slide.

§ October 24th, 2018 § Filed under indies, question time, retailing § 5 Comments

Let’s tackle another one of your questions! BRIAN, YOU’RE UP:

“1. What is your name?”

Michael Ricardo Anatoly Sterling.

“2. What is your quest?”

“3. What is your favorite color?”

Squant.

“4. Probably something that you’ve discussed before, but I’ve missed it, but I’m curious how you go about sorting back issues in the age of constant reboots and New Number Ones (including volumes that slightly change the name on occasion and then change it back). Being a fellow child of age of long runs, where a title might have hundreds of issues to be put in the bin together, I’m curious how it’s done differently when major titles aren’t aiming at Major Anniversary Issues.”

I did go into some detail about this just under a year ago, when pal Cathy posed that question to me. The short answer is basically labeling new title dividers with names and dates to identify series (for example, “Venom [2018 series]”). That admittedly does make the back issue bins appear a bit cluttered, particularly since a lot of these series (especially at Marvel) tend to run short and get relaunched anyway, making for smaller sections, but that seems to be the best way to avoid confusion.

There are a handful of titles where I just haven’t separated out the newer series from the older series, partially from no huge demand (or simple lack of backstock) for a specific title, or not wanting to put yet another title divider on the table, or just sheer laziness. But on the whole, more information is better for customer awareness than less information, so I do try to properly I.D. everything.

Not everything gets its own title divider, of course. I do have, like, an “X-MEN MISC.” section for the piles of mutant mini-series or short-run titles…though sometimes something graduates to its own section. And sometimes if there’s a small run of something related to a longer running title, I might just put the smaller run in the back of the box of the main run…like putting Groo Chronicles in the back of the Groo the Wanderer section.

It can be a real…well, I don’t want to say “mess,” but it certainly is some work keeping on top of it.

• • •

ThomH dares to inquire

“I like it when you discuss old independent comics that I’ve never heard of (a la Jupiter most recently).

“Anything else you’ve read and enjoyed but maybe not talked up on the blog in a while (or at all)?

“I’d love to be pointed in the direction of something interesting, wacky, weird, or just plain awesome.

“Thanks!”

Oh, don’t thank me yet!

I suppose one old indie title I really liked that I’ve never really mentioned here is Ralph Snart Adventures by Marc Hansen.

It has a slightly convoluted publishing history involving multiple series…and going back to the previous question, at the previous place of employment I had them all filed in the same section with notations on the price tags as to which series was which. And, if you pulled up the title divider, I had written on body of the divider which issues comprised which volume of the series, as the price guides at the time had it all messed up. …Probably should’ve made sections for each series, but what can I tell you.

But the series itself…it’s kinda sorta an anthology title with our titular hero as the recurring character in a variety of wild, usually contradictory, adventures from issue to issue. The thread pulling everything together is that Snart has, well, been driven nuts by the pressures of life and is stuck in an asylum, while his brain generates strange and fantastic scenarios in which he may engage. The set-up is a little…well, the idea of “this guy is crazy and his crazy brain invents crazy stuff!” is perhaps not the most sensitive portrayal of mental health issues, but me describing it is probably worse than actually reading it in context. So blame me, not Mr. Hansen.

Anyway, the story functions on two levels…the internal fantasy life of Mr. Snart, and the “real world” shenanigans, mostly revolving around nefarious forces trying to harness the unusual imagination power of Snart’s brain…I seem to recall at least one cliffhanger where his brain has actually been removed from his body! Don’t worry, it gets put back (SPOILER).

If you can get around the set-up, the comics themselves are pretty funny, and Hansen has this great, lumpy cartooning style. It’s been a while since I’ve read ’em, and of course writing about it here makes me want to read them again. Like, you know, I have time. Ah, well, I still have them…didn’t give those up to my store when I opened it up!

If you do seek out Ralph Snart comics, keep in mind that there are some non-Hansen issues…The Lost Issues is all non-Hansen, so avoid. Also, the black and white Volume Two that ran 9 issues is reprinted in color in the first nine issues of the 26-issue long Volume Three. You can find previews of various issues here, along with some extensive descriptions that would probably give you a better idea about this series than my meandering typing here.

• • •

Okay, more questions answered next time, probably! Add more to the pile if you’d like!

I think “The Violence and the Vulgarity” was my prom theme.

§ October 22nd, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing, question time, retailing § 3 Comments

I’ll get back to the topic of extended breaks in ongoing series (1 and 2) shortly, but I wanted to get a couple more questions ahead if at all possible:

William opens the gate to the following:

“Let’s talk about that evergreen topic, The Bat Penis.

“Maybe I’m cynical, but it seems like the image was provided just to garner controversy (and sales) for that issue. The image does not play into the plot, and is basically superfluous. It’s only there to either satisfy the kinks of the creators or stir up word of mouth and demand, which if it was the latter, it did magnificently.

“My question is this. I know you touched on this briefly in your post on the subject, but, as a retailer, do you feel that DC left you out to dry in this case. I am old enough to remember the Friendly Frank’s raid when it was current events, and while a lot of things changed since then, a lot of things stayed the same. I know the book was advertised as mature readers from the get go, but it seems DC didn’t let retailers in on just how ‘mature’ the book really was. And there is a difference between ‘expletive-laden’ mature readers and ‘Let’s look at the Batwang’ mature readers, and parent would be far more upset if the latter landed in their kids hands.

“I’m just wondering if you wish DC was more upfront about what the mature content was beforehand or if it didn’t really make a difference. I’m not a censorship guy, but an informed retailer can better avoid any potential legal entanglements that might cause. I’m curious on your opinion on the matter.”

So I’ve been watching that new Titans series on the DC Universe streaming channel, and…well, if you’ve been following my Twitterings, you’ve probably seen a few of my comments on the show. Overall, I do like it, but it does inspire a bit of eyerolling when they lay on the violence and the vulgarity. Especially in that one scene from the premiere episoide, the one that made it into the pilot, with Robin, um, expressing his opinion about his former crime-fighting partner. What I tweeted was

“Yes, in context Robin’s ‘F Batman’ line is totally gratuitous and tacked on as the buzz-creating ‘everyone will talk about this’ free advertising moment it was meant to be.”

Okay, maybe when they were writing this scene, they were simply intent on making this as “adult” and “gritty” as possible, and that meant the occasional f-bomb…but they still put that scene into the trailer, knowing full well that would engender some controversy and get mouths yappin’ and fingers typin’ about this new TV show.

That I think was an intentional usage of unexpected “mature” content to garner attention. I honestly don’t think Full-Frontal Bruce in Batman: Damned was the same situation. I don’t know the specific reasons why they decided to include that image (if the creators were interviewed about that topic, I haven’t seen it) but my guess is that they took this new “mature readers” “almost anything goes” imprint at DC to heart and, well, went for it. I could see ’em saying “mature imprint, huh? Let’s see if THIS gets past the editor” and then a while later: “oh dang it did.”

I don’t think I was blindsided by the image…I knew it was a mature readers title, and granted, the image itself it relatively minor…silhouetted, almost easy to miss, not like other popular comic book penises like Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan. His Lower Manhattan just popped up (heh) in DC’s Big Event Series Doomsday Clock, and seems more like a thing (ahem) than Batman’s deal. I think exposed wedding tackles fit well within the subject matter covered by the “mature readers” label. Now if there were explicit close-up images of Tab A being inserted into Slot B, that’d be a different story…one likely published by Avatar or Boundless.

I don’t think I felt legal problems were potentially a threat here…I mean, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund still exists for a reason, but the naughty Batman comic probably received more jokes about it on late night talk shows than actual complaints from concerned citizens. Raina Telgemeier’s publisher probably receives more letters from uptight parents about her graphic novels per week than the whole of DC does all year. Superheroes are “mainstreamed” now, and I think enough people have been exposed to tie-in media where Batman says “shit” or where Deadpool gets, um, rogered roundly, or where Robin says “fuck Batman” that the idea of an adult-oriented comic book isn’t quite the foreign idea it once was. I’m not saying problems wouldn’t, or don’t, happen, just that Batman: Damned probably wasn’t going to open those particular floodgates.

Not that I shouldn’t be careful, of course. Keep the Bondage Fairies off he kids rack an’ all that.

File under “death, beaten to.”

§ October 17th, 2018 § Filed under publishing, question time § 16 Comments

Following up on the last post, where I answered Paul’s question about “longest publication gap” in a series, I feel like I may have confused the issue a bit. So let’s clarify:

THE PRODUCTION DELAY: what I think Paul was specifically referring to, where an ongoing series, which is intended to continue or complete, experiences a huge unintended delay between issues. Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, with its years-long pause between issues, is my go-to example of this, though there are plenty of others (like Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, or Camelot 3000, or anything in the Dark Knight Returns ongoing saga).

THE RETURN FROM THE GRAVE: where a series totally ends, and is not intended to continue at the time…but the title is later revived and continues the numbering. Seems like such a foreign idea now, where any given comic book series seems to have a new #1 every few months or so, but there was a time when the Golden Age Flash series would end at #104, and a few years later, after the introduction of the Silver Age Flash, said series would be resurrected beginning with issue #105. Those “Blackest Night” one-shots which purported to be, like, issue #48 of the canceled Power of the Shazam series and whatnot, would fit in here, as well as those new issues of long-canceled Marvel titles (like Power Pack #63). Ghost Rider #94 would probably fit here, too, since as far as anyone was concerned at the time, #93 was the end of that series, and it wasn’t like there was an editor impatiently waiting nine years for script pages to come in so they could wrap the title.

THE INTENDED SPORADIC RELEASE: where there are extended gaps between issues, but more from design than because of any particular delays in production. I’m pretty sure something like Zap Comix would go here, where it was just released as the participants came together to produce it. (Unless Zap was intended to be monthly, in which case hoo boy did they blow it.)

There are other permutations and variations, but I think those are the big divisions, there. The recent Miracleman reprints probably span a couple of these categories, and some of the longrunning Disney comics which nobody thought would go away for long but definitely stopped publishing at times ’til a new publisher put ’em out again. but I think I’ve created enough headaches splitting these funnybook hairs like this.

Separate from all that are the aborted series, where an issue or three came out and then never continued. I mean, sure, this happens all the time, but it’s relatively unusual from Marvel and DC. Daredevil: The Target is one fairly high profile series that got out one issue and then vanished, never to be seen again except when we dug out our unsold copies of that first issue to return them to the distributor for credit. Or something like Sonic Distruptors, which I liked, but stopped at 7 out of the intended 12 issue run.

But I think what we’re specifically talking about is the first category: the comic that did eventually complete in the format and numbering in which it was intended, just with excessive pauses/delays in the release schedule, and never officially intended to be over and done with. Like Ronin with a much delayed final issue.

That’s the spirit in which I took the question, and sorry if I confused the topic initially. You all had interesting (and some extreme) examples of extended gaps in comic series publication, mostly of the resurrected title kind, which would probably be an all new post just by itself! DON’T TEMPT ME

So, with all that in mind…what’s the record production delay in a comic that did eventually publish an issue after said delay? And again, not meaning a revived title that picks up the numbering, but rather has everyone involved going “holy crap, is this book late.” Excluding Ghost Rider #93/#94 for reasons noted above, would that Spider-Man/Black Cat mini, with 3 1/2 years between issues, be in the top spot?

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