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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.

Yes, I know “semi-unique” doesn’t really mean much of anything.

§ November 6th, 2020 § Filed under question time, this week's comics § 5 Comments

So I read the original Savage Dragon mini-series back in ye ancient tymes, in my samplings of the early Image Comics releases. (For the record: read Spawn ’til about issue 20 or so, wasn’t interested in Youngblood (sorry, Rob!), found WildC.A.T.s incomprehensible, Shadowhawk was…well, it wasn’t normalman.) I thought Savage Dragon was probably the best of the bunch, but I didn’t follow it past those initial installments, for reasons more to do with my personal budget than anything about the book itself.

Now as it turned out, of all the Image books, it was ol’ SD’s creator Erik Larsen who the the greatest staying power, writing and drawing all 252 issues, and counting, of the title…evening including doing an extra issue to kinda/sorta “replace” an issue of the run done by a guest team. (Details here.) It’s a incredibly impressive run by a single creator, who’s maintained his personal vision on this book, and isn’t afraid to really changes things up on a regular basis.

All of which makes me wish I’d kept reading from the beginning, but What Can You Do? I’m glad it exists, I’m glad Larsen’s able to do this on his own terms, and I hope he’s able to do it for as long as he wants.

Now since that initial mini (and I think the first issue of the monthly series), I haven’t picked up very many of the series. There were one or two specials along the way, where Mr. Dragon would occasionally cross over with characters of interest (like Megaton Man, Destroyer Duck, or Marshal Law), and I think I glommed onto a Free Comic Book Day issue or two, however many there were.

At long last, I’ve had another reason to pick up an issue, this time an actual issue of the series rather than a spin-off, as it intersected with a couple of my interests. Pictured above is the second printing of Savage Dragon #252, released this week, with a cover image of what should be obvious inspiration. Now, I may not as big a Peanuts fan as some of my friends, I still do love them enough to be properly amused by this cover and want to have a copy for myself.

the other interest of mine this comic tickled is “comic strip parody,” which fills this publication. Dick Tracy, Calvin and Hobbes, Little Nemo…even Tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds. Who parodies Tumbleweeds in this, the Never-Ending Year of Our Lord 2020? Well, Erik Larsen dood it, right here in this funnybook. That’s all I need, friends, and this book is at home, waiting for my full perusal. Looks like it’s stand-alone enough so I hopefully won’t be too lost with any specific references to regular continuity. But the cover alone is fun bit of parody and, as they say, worth the price of admission.

• • •

Now you folks had a lot to say in response to Monday’s post, and I do want to address more of what you all said soon, which I have a little more time and energy. But let me at least say something in regards to this question from Thelonius_Nick:

“You’ve mentioned ‘local market conditions’ several times on your site in the past. Are there really back issues that might be systematically more common in one part of the country than another? Not just a random issue here and there for whatever reason, but something structural, like maybe Flash is all over stores in Oregon because they like track there?”

I have to admit, “local market conditions” is more of a caveat, an acknowledgement that my own personal experiences in terms of comics retail and such are not necessarily universal, or perhaps unique, or semi-unique, to whatever it is I’m doing. It’s not really exact knowledge of what’s going on here, there or anywhere, but it’s my assumption that there are countless variables involved in retail than can affect sales or demand for certain products in one place that may not be duplicated elsewhere.

Now admittedly, there can be a sameness across the retailing board regarding certain trends…ask your local funnybook slinger if he has plenty of copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1 floating around, and watch him/her/them sigh deeply. Or maybe there’s a shop that is just swimming in copies of Last Ronin somewhere, wishing he could get rid of them. That would be a difference in local market conditions!

I remember talking to a shop owner in the Los Angeles area sometime around…1990, I guess, where he mentioned he couldn’t move any copies of Legion of Super-Heroes. I was like “whoa, we sell lots of those!” which 1) probably shouldn’t have rubbed the poor guy’s nose in it quite like that, and 2) clued me in to the idea that not everything sells equally everywhere.

Another thing is that I’ve taken to pricing first issues on certain comics maybe a buck or three above the guide value. I can put a full run of U.S. 1 in the new arrivals boxes, someone will come along and snap up that #1, leaving me with the rest to languish. If I’m going to sell one and not the rest, I’d better get better value for the one I do sell. I’m sure not everyone does that, and I’m also sure some folks price ’em up even higher than I do. More of them local market conditions.

Or some days, maybe it’s just raining. A local weather condition that affects the local market condition.

Okay, that’s just me being silly. But you provide several other examples in your question, Mr. T. Nick, and all of those are just as valid. You never know what can mess up or bolster sales. That’s what makes this business so fun! Or “fun,” as it were.

Actually, only ’til 1 in the morning this time.

§ October 26th, 2020 § Filed under archie, question time § 5 Comments

Once again, getting a late start on the ol’ question thingie, plus I have plans for a Tuesday post here (WHAT!?!? GASP!) so let’s take a look at a couple of easier (i.e. “Mike won’t be typing ’til 2 in the morning”) inquiries here:

William Burns is on fire with the following

“Now that Big Bang Theory is receding into the mist of yesteryear, do people still do that “Where’s Sheldon” routine in your store?”

Come to think of it…it has been a while. And it’s not like 1) it’s been all that long since the series wrapped, and 2) it’s not like there’s not some cable channel that seems to be Big Bang 24/7, so it shouldn’t be out of our collective memory (no matter how hard some of you are trying to forget it, I know). I suppose it can at least be partially attributed to fewer casual passerby dropping in just to say their BBT remark that I’ve never, ever heard before and move on without, you know, buying anything, due to the whole Captain Trips bug currently ravaging the globe.

You might be inclined to believe that this is something of a relief to me, and to a certain extent, it is, as part of me was getting a little tired of hearing it. But on the other hand, as I’d said before and probably bears repeating, these folks weren’t coming in to say these things in a disparaging manner…they were actually amused, or happy, to see that such a thing as “a comic book store” actually existed, like the one on the television show they enjoyed so much. And as far as I’m concerned, anything that makes The General Public associate “comic book store” with positive feelings is just fine and dandy with me. Believe me, I spent plenty of years dealing with people who’d rather be doing the backstroke through the sewers than crossing the threshold of a comic shop, so I welcomed this shift in perception.

• • •

Daniel T tees up this one

“What back issue would you most like to own but know you never will? (And I don’t mean, like, a 9.0 Action #1. Something that is theoretically attainable but unlikely due to JUST being out of your price range or because it’s just hard to find one.)”

Please, a 10.0 Action #1! DREAM BIG, MY FRIEND.

Okay, seriously…I wrote on this site a long time ago (and frankly, I’ve been doing this site long enough that it’d probably be easier to note things I haven’t written about) about how lucky I was that I started reading comics when I did, which meant I got in on things on the ground floor that would later be harder to piece together (like Eclipse’s Miracleman. Or, something that occurred to me just the other day in fact, how lucky I was that I got into comics before the current wave of rebooting and relaunching beginning with Crisis on Infinite Earths, that I had a better sense of what had come before, and what changed after, as it was happening rather than trying to figure out what the hell happened decades after the fact.

As such, pretty much anything I was interested in reading over, say, the last thirty years, I bought new off the shelf. Anything earlier than that I was interested in, I was able to pick up at generally reasonable prices. For example, I’m glad I completed my run of all the original issues of Doom Patrol when I did, back in the early ’90s, paying what was probably only a fraction of the price I’d have to dole out today. Or getting most of Turok Son of Stone, including the earliest Four Color issues. Or buying all those Comic Reader fanzines at a dime a dozen.

So, a lot of the back issues I was seriously interested in picking up, I picked up. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a few white whales out there I wouldn’t mind getting my mitts on. Now, luckily, being in a comic shop most of my time, there is a non-zero chance something I’m actively interested in obtaining will float on in…for example, this Showcase issue introducing Dolphin. I’d been wanting one of those for years, and, whaddaya know, there it is. And stuff like that has happened then and again…an issue of Yummy Fur I’d been missing forever finally turned up, and that Virginian one-shot from 1963 came into my store not all that long ago. Oh, and I was gifted a new-conditioned copy of the original “black and white” Love and Rockets #1 as a store-warming present from Jaime Hernandez his own self, so I was able to scratch that off the list!

But there’s the stuff I would like, but expect will never make it into my hands. I mean, it’s not impossible, but not terribly likely. I’d sure like an authentic Cerebus #1 for my run of that series, but I’m going to have to be satisfied with this recent reissue, I imagine.

I actually had a chance at Four Color #178, the first appearance of Uncle Scrooge McDuck, when my former boss had one at my former place of employment, waaaay early on in my comics retailing “career.” I just couldn’t spring the, what, $175 or whatever it was at the time, and I’m sure I couldn’t spring the thousands of dollars that same copy would bring now. Well, not spending that kind of money and expecting to keep it, at any rate.

But I think the big one I would like to have, which, unlike those other two, I don’t think has ever been reprinted, is Jughead’s Folly, a single issue released in 1957:

I’ve actually read a copy of this that someone brought into the other shop long ago, but it’s been such a while that I don’t recall that much of it. But it’s basically Jughead (perhaps my favorite Archie character) as Elvis Style Rock Star, and it’s pretty amazing. And hard to find. If one came into the shop, I would totally throw money at the person selling it until it was mine, all mine, yes, my precious.

Though I wouldn’t thumb my nose at a run of Jughead’s Fantasy, either.

I just make the same gag with googum’s questions every time.

§ October 23rd, 2020 § Filed under question time § 23 Comments

Getting a late start on the ol’ blogging tonight, so let me see if I can answer a couple of your questions right quick:

Bruce Baugh breaks in the following

“From time to time, Marvel and DC would launch a series that stood on its own, then later fold it into their regularity continuing – I’m thinking here of the Eternals, Omega the Unknown, and such. If you could pick a series now embedded in a larger continuity (regardless of whether it began that way or not) and pull it out to be its own stand-alone thing for ever after, what’d you go for?”

It’s funny, that when you ask this question, I immediately thought of the reverse, in that I’d love to see the cast of Atari Force returned from licensing purgatory and given a home in DC Universe proper. Dart in the Suicide Squad? Babe in the Teen Titans? Martin Champion working for S.T.A.R. Labs?

Hmm, the S.T.A.R. Labs thing could be the vector for getting Atari Force into the mainline DC continuity (whatever that is). With some minor rejiggering (and some relettering/art touch-up of the originals) we could have S.T.A.R. Force, with the team originating with a future version of S.T.A.R. Labs, trapped in the current DC Universe after a time travel mishap. …If I recall correctly, Dan Jurgens took characters from the outside-continuity Sun Devils sci-fi mini and brought them into his Superman comics, so there’s some minor precedent.

Anyway, it’s a moot point, since I believe all the Atari Force I.P. is owned by whoever it is that owns the Atari brand now, and no longer under any control by DC. But it’s nice to think about.

And that wasn’t your question anyway. What would I extract from the larger DC and/or Marvel continuity to be its own thing? Maybe DC’s Warlord, Mike Grell’s sci-fantasy weird adventure comic which began as its own non-DCU property and, eventually, particularly near the end of the initial series run and after, was merged into the larger shared universe. It’s very possible I’m remembering that timeline incorrectly, and aside from some short bursts here and there, I wasn’t a regular reader of the title. But whatever connection there was I don’t think was ever that strong, and removing Warlord from the DCU would do any harm, aside from losing a team-up where he and Green Arrow could compare their similar beards:

Oh, and also Jack Kirby’s New Gods should stand apart from the DC Universe, if only to keep comics folks who don’t understand it from, like, diminishing Darkseid with overuse outside his original context. If that means making the surprise villain of “The Great Darkness Saga” Terra-Man, well, what’s gotta be has gotta be.

I know it was part of the shared universe from the get-go, via Jimmy Olsen of all characters, but it should have just all been one solid run, from beginning to end, by Kirby, over and done when he concluded it, and that was it. This means losing Simonson’s Orion, which would be a hard blow, and some of the wilder stuff Morrison did, but SACRIFICES MUST BE MADE.

Over on the Marvel end of things…hmm, that’s a little trickier. Just to keep it simple, so I’m not typing all night, let’s say Ghost Rider. Yes, Johnny Blaze. Make that a standalone horror comic, instead of putting a literal damned soul chained to a demon in the middle of a bunch of superheroes who don’t really lift a finger to help him.

Oh, and Tomb of Dracula, too, which was a moody horror-action comic that was chugging along just fine ’til “Guest-Starring the Silver Surfer.” And then we had to wonder “why aren’t the Avengers stepping in to take care of this immortal blood-sucking monster?” I’m sure it was addressed at some point in larger Marvel continuity, but it still seems weird.

If you disagree, please send your letters of complaint to pal Ian. Thanks.

• • •

googum googummed

“What comic event series left you holding the most stock, and do you still have it?”

Let’s end this session on a depressing note as I bring up the specter of the Secret Wars series from a couple of years back, where the main series itself sold fine, it’s just the too-many tie-in mini-series launched to coincide with the event that tanked. I ended up dumping most of them in the bargain bin, though I still maintain most of a short box of bagged and priced back issues in case anyone specifically comes in looking for them. Which they do, surprisingly.

The recently completed Empyre was not exactly flying off the shelves either, but I did manage to move most, if not all, my copies of the main series from 2 on, but was stuck with a few too many variants for the first issue. The tie-in minis weren’t nearly as numerous, though several were planned that were canned, and the ones that did some out did…okay. This is certainly informing my orders on the forthcoming “King in Black” event at Marvel, which also has a main mini and a handful of tie-in minis which I’m ordering close to the bone.

I mean, none of these are a patch on Deathmate, of course, but my dealings with that series was at another shop and a lifetime ago. I don’t think I have even a single issue of Deathmate in my store right now.


Look, I’ve never been to a Piggly Wiggly.

§ October 12th, 2020 § Filed under batman, question time, retailing § 13 Comments

Okay, let me follow up briefly (ha, you know how that usually goes) to some of the responses to my last post. Regarding the idea of getting comics into supermarket checkstands, it was pointed out that’s a lot easier said than done, given that 1) Archie digests were basically grandfathered in (hence that brief deal Marvel had with them to get their digests distributed into your local Piggly Wiggly), and 2) there’s a stupid amount of competition for that immensely valuable space. Marvel and/or DC aren’t exactly going to be able to march right in there. (Y’know, without cutting a deal with Archie again.)

Also noted is that putting comics into anything other than a bookstore environment is likely not going to work out. Department stores are, in general, allotting less space for books and magazines these days, and even if they did, there’s no real care or curation going on there. No guarantee you’ll see your comics on a regular basis (as Brad points out, a new run of Disney comics are pretty tough to find), or even at all (I never did see any of these DC Giants at Walmart).

I suppose it doesn’t really matter so much…as long as they’re there, they’re visible, and kids show an interest, and the sale is made, the job is done. These sources can act as feeders to places like actual bookstores and even a comic shop where there would be ample supply of related material and (hopefully) a knowledgeable employee to help them along. Which is ultimately the goal of this sort of distribution.

Thom H. asked, in response to my assertion that comic shops may not be ready for a switch from a periodical model to a trade based model:

“Is this because there are so many readers of the periodicals still around, and they wouldn’t make the switch? Or comic shops wouldn’t be able to handle the change in format? Or some other reason? I’m genuinely curious because I can’t decide how I feel about the idea.”

I’m probably being a tad bit shortsighted, admittedly. I’ve heard of stores that have made that change, at least partway, focusing more on the book end of the comics market versus that weekly Wednesday (and now a little Tuesday, thanks DC) bump.

But as it stands now, it’s the arrival of the new comic books that drives most customers into stores. Now if suddenly the only way to get stories of your favorite characters is to buy a $14.99-$19.99 trade paperback of new material once every four to six months, then I suppose several people would make the switch. But the frequency of visits would decline, I’d imagine…instead of coming in monthly for Green Lantern comics, now it’s every few months for the new paperback), and yes, prices may go up but without as many people buying as many comics on a frequent basis…well, basically, there’d be a lot of economic adjustment on both the retailer and the customer’s parts to continue this hobby.

Short answer: I don’t know what would happen, but it would involve change and after 32 years in this business, change gives me the stomach-tumblies. But I’d figure a way to make it work, because what else am I going to do at this point? Get a real job?

• • •

Okay, let’s try to tackle a couple more questions before I hit the sack, and let me tell you, that sack has it coming:

Dean puts me on double secret probation with

“Since you e opened your own shop., what’s the oddest/most random request for a back issue you actually had in stock?”

That’s a good question…I don’t think I’ve been hit with any particularly wild requests, though. I think having someone ask “do you have Reagan’s Raiders

and lo, I had it.

Not to say I’ve not had people amazed that 1) I’ve heard of the comic they’re asking after, and 2) I actually had a copy, but I don’t think it’s been anything especially strange. Had one fella just falling over himself in surprise that I had any copies at all of Too Much Coffee Man, for example, but that’s not really a weird or funny answer, I think. I guess Reagan’s Raiders is the one that comes to mind. Sorry, I’ll try to remember if there was anything else!

• • •

Tim conjures up this question

“Do you, like me, think the Joker is played out as a viable character?”

I think he’s overutilized, especially right now (what with an extended storyline in Batman wrapping up, a prestige series currently in progress, and a couple other oversized Black Label books running or just wrapped up). Plus we had a high profile movie featuring the character not too long ago, back when there were still movies, and other mass media appearances of the Joker tend to cast long shadows. So yes, there’s more than enough Joker to go around of late.

But does that make him less viable? The Joker is Batman’s arch-nemesis, the literal embodiment of the world’s chaos that Batman seeks to bring to order. That, I believe, makes the Joker eternally viable…as long as there’s a Batman, there will be a Joker, to be really on the nose about it. But how can we miss the Joker if he won’t go away, and having Joker always appearing in something on the new comics rack makes his appearances less special, have less of an impact, and that does lessen the viability of the character. Batman: Three Jokers should stand out more than it does as A Special Event, but instead it’s Yet Another Joker Comic.

Maybe it’s nostalgia feeding this feeling of mine. I remember reading one Joker story as a kid where he seemingly dies at the end of the story (a boat he’s on blows up, and Batman’s all “is that the last we’ll see of the Joker?”). I knew full well the Joker wasn’t dead, but I was looking forward to his next appearance where I presumed there’d be an explanation of how he got out of that one. However, when he eventually popped up again, no dice. We just swung back into the next Joker adventure.

Now I bring that up partially to register a complaint from Young Mike about comics continuity, but mostly to point out I had to wait for a follow-up Joker story. It had to have been a few months, at least. It kept me wondering, and anticipating his return. But today, you kids have it easy, what with a Joker in every other comic.

Well, Joker is immensely popular, and he sells comics, so I see why DC wants to use him as often as they do. But maaaaybe spacing out the appearances a bit might make those Joker stories a little more special. I mean, c’mon, when was the last time we had a good Tweedledum and
Tweedledee story? Let’s give them their time in the sun with a multi-parter already.

whynotboth dot jpeg

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

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

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

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

You can find this new book at Rotland Press.

• • •


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So long as the comic doesn’t feature Dr. Doom crying.

§ October 7th, 2020 § Filed under question time, this week's comics § 10 Comments

Let’s see if I can get through another one of your questions today, but first let me recommend the new comic book from Ahoy called Penultiman by Tom Peyer and Alan Robinson:

Now, I’m still way behind on many comics from the last couple of years, as I touched upon last time, and in fact spent a good part of last night reading about 15 issues of the current Daredevil series by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto and their pals (verdict: it’s good). So basically I’m not looking to add anything more to the teetering “to read” stacks. Buuuuut I’ll always take a peek at a new Ahoy Comics release, and I like writer Tom Peyer, so ah what the heck, throw it on the pile.

And read it I did, as anything new I take home I’m not behind on I am trying to read right away. It’s very good, drawn in a nicely clearly and appropriate Silver Age-y style by Robinson, which my poor ol’ eyes appreciated. It’s primarily about the relationship between A Superhero and his robot duplicate assistant, and I don’t really want to get into it any more than that because I don’t want to spoil anything. You get a tiny hint on that cover I posted above, but there’s more to the story that definitely plays on the very basics of, well, let’s face it, Superman, for whom Penultiman is a definite analog.

Speaking of which, the first page is a nod of sorts to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, introducing the title character in a similar fashion. So just buy it already…it’s great. Two thumbs up from Mike’s eyeballs!

• • •


Rich (who had a brief cameo in Monday’s post) coughs up the following

“Do you think the real-world pandemic, the need for social distancing and masks, and the blunders on the part of multiple national governments in dealing with this crisis will soon be commonly depicted in comics, as well as in TV shows and movies based on same? In other words, do you predict we will see characters OTHER than superheroes and supervillains wearing masks in comics and onscreen for the foreseeable future–and, if so, how profoundly will this change the storytelling landscape?”

I suspect we’ll get comics specifically about COVID-19…I mean, know we are already, via webcomics and small press stuff and the like. But I presume you are asking about the major comic publishers, and whether we’ll see, like, Jimmy Olsen wearing a mask and whatnot, or Iris’s dad Joe wearing a mask in the FLash TV series. (Is Joe even still around? I’m about three seasons behind on that show, too.) And, like, Image or somebody from the front of Previews probably has a “Live in the Time of COVID” semi-autobiographical mini in the hopper.

But as far as other regular titles referencing the pandemic? I…generally don’t think so. I mean, I think recent issues of Savage Dragon have, but I don’t believe we’ll be seeing incidental civilians in, like, The Avengers in PPE. Except, of course, if they decide to do a Very Special Episode of Your Favorite Superhero Comic where they talk about the pandemic or at least some kind of symbolic representation of same. So no, while I’m sure the virus is inspiring plenty of small press/indie work, the ongoing fictional milieus of superhero comics will likely not incorporate it as any part of “the world outside your door!” type of storytelling.

Unless this goes on for another, oh, say, year or two, in which case, all bets are off. But with superhero comics in particular, the pandemic’s inclusion would raise the “World War II” question…if the world’s at war, and the Justice Society of America exists, why don’t they just go capture Hitler? Like, America’s got Superman, Green Lantern, the Spectre, and Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt…they’d have WWII wrapped up in a hot minute. And that requires a lot of in-story handwaving and explanations why our super-pals didn’t put an end to things (like Hitler having the magical Spear of Destiny, which kept the JSA from getting their mitts on him…can’t recall if that’s a Golden Age thing or something Roy Thomas or someone cooked decades after the fact).

In essence, if you had the pandemic as a presence in the Marvel Universe, for example, why wouldn’t Reed Richards have, if not a cure, at least some invention that would stall infections until a cure is found? You’d have to do more handwaving to explain why Reed or some other Marvel U. smartypants couldn’t help, and frankly given the offense it could cause, especially after so many folks have died already, it’s probably best that DC and Marvel and whoever else don’t put themselves in that position.

I could totally see one of the companies doing a one-shot out-of-continuity special to raise awareness…well, okay, sure, we’re all pretty aware of this disease already, I know. But some kind of charity book, featuring heroes addressing the coronavirus, maybe packaged with a specialty mask…that’d be somethin’, I think.

So Rich, I think my answer is “they won’t, unless they do, and I think Savage Dragon already did.” Glad I was able to nail that down definitively for you!

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