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Oh great, I’m going to have to make sure I have both the direct and newsstand editions of all my Swamp Thing comics.

§ November 30th, 2018 § Filed under batman, collecting, retailing § 3 Comments

So I may have been a little quick to dismiss the whole “direct market vs. newsstand editions” thing from the other day. Let’s start with this comment emailed to me by Reader John:

“I wanted to add another distinction in the direct market vs newsstand discussion. It’s my understanding that some collectors (or perhaps they’re speculators) prefer newsstand copies released after 1988 or so because of a belief that the newsstand copies are rarer and thus more valuable (especially in higher grades since those tend to get mangled on the racks as you pointed out on Twitter). You can see this in the asking prices of auctions for Spawn #1 on eBay.

“Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that whether a comic has a UPC or an ad/Spidey head in a white box on the cover can affect the value of that book. For that matter, I also think that the presence of a jewelry ad insert should not add value to a comic either, but apparently some collectors do.

“Interestingly, there is one small subset where a logo instead of an UPC is considered more valuable by certain collectors. In the mid 90’s, after DM copies had UPC’s, DC did some multipacks sold outside of the direct market. The comics included in these had a DC Universe logo in the UPC box. I once had someone offer me $100 for an issue of pre-Zero Hour Legionnaires (I don’t think it was even one of the Adam Hughes covers, but I might be wrong.) just because of that logo!

“Off the record, I took his $100 and used it to purchase several mid-grade silver age Adventure issues.

“Thank you for taking the time to read this!”

Some of these points were also brought up by other commenters on Wednesday’s post, and Thelonious_Nick pointed out this page on the Mile High Comics site which goes into detail regarding their handling of newsstand comic pricing. And the reason I even mentioned it on Twitter in that link I edited into John’s comment above was that, totally coincidentally, one of my regular customers brought up the very topic to me at the shop, mentioning how newsstand editions are often harder to find in higher conditions due to poor customer handling and/or lack of attention from the sellers, as opposed to stores run by annoyances like me who are all “AUGH! Don’t bend the comics!”

As John noted, I just haven’t had that much experience with folks specifically looking for newsstand editions versus the direct market editions (specifically those just differing in their UPC codes or lack thereof). That’s just a clientele I haven’t noticed over the years, and as I’ve repeatedly reminded any of you who happen to glance my way, I’ve been doing this for many, many years. Okay, it could be collectors are seeing those out on the sly, not cluing in your pal Mike that’s what they’re after in the off-chance I’d decide to bump up the price on said books (…who, me?). But after all this time I figure at least someone would put in a request like that, pulling a comic out of the bins and asking “do you have the newsstand version of this?”

Also brought up in the comments by Nicholas is the fact that sometimes the direct market editions of certain comics would have some extra art ‘n’ such in the UPC box, replacing the missing UPC code. Usually it would be filled with company-promoting slogans like “The New DC! Stop Us Before We Kill Again” or “Have You Read This Crossover Yet? C’mon, What, You’re Too Good for It?” But as was mentioned as an example, Todd McFarlane would often fill the UPC box with extra bits of art, which could make the direct editions a little more appealing to the Spidey fan.

This has given me something to think about, or at least pay closer attention to, as you might imagine. I’ve spent a long time with the assumption stuck in my head that there’s no real difference between the two versions if the only difference is the presence of a UPC code. Well, I guess that isn’t necessarily the case. I don’t know that I’ll be going through and raising prices on my newsstand variations, but at least now I’m a little more aware of the phenomenon.

• • •

I saw discussion here and there online that it’s the 30th anniversary of the whole “Death of Robin” call-in-and-vote Batman thing, and I just wanted to point out that this was the first major regular-public-attracting comics event I had to deal with from behind the counter, rather than as a the mere mortal comics fan I was just a few mere weeks prior. I think I’ve spoken before about how I don’t have quite the recall of this hoohar that I do of the not-that-much-later “Death of Superman,” but I certainly remember the phone calls and the concerned walk-ins and so on. Speaking of newsstand versus direct editions, the version of Batman #427 had the phone number to call to vote on Robin’s fate, and the newsstand edition didn’t. Either version still flies out the door, regardless.

“I’m a collectible!”

§ November 26th, 2018 § Filed under retailing, Uncategorized § 1 Comment

So anyway, I was just Googling around (“mike+handsomest+comic+shop+fella”) when I happened upon this:


Yes, that’s a back issue catalog that I put together and mailed out way back in ye olden tymes of my funnybook selling days at Ralph’s Comic Corner. And that’s all it was…despite being described as a “catalog/fanzine” in the list, and despite Bully’s wishes for inclusion of my Swamp Thing fan-fiction, it’s just titles, issue numbers, grades, prices, and where to contact us to purchase said items.

That had almost completely slipped my mind that we even did that. I am curious about the 1990 date on it, however…I seem to recall assembling this catalog from the files we used to list comics on our then-fledgling website, but 1990 seems awfully early, considering the World Wide Web was only available for surfing in 1989. Maybe I’m thinking of a second mail order catalog we put together? And assuming that seller there has the correct date listed, of course.

The actual domain name “ralphscomiccorner.com” was acquired in 1998, according to the WHOIS data, and that sounds about right. But prior to that, we just had our 5 megs or whatever of webspace with our local internet provider. I remember we were all pretty proud of securing our space online with that initial website, and had a big banner printed out with “http://www.fishnet.net/~ralphs” hanging in the store, extolling all our customers to go visit. I seem t remember we were one of the first comic shops to have a web page…Ralph has often said that at the time he went looking to see what other shops were doing, and he had trouble finding any, so we must have been up and running on the web quite early. Exactly how early, I can’t recall, though.

I’m sure I still have the original files for this catalog on a floppy disc somewhere…the problem here of course being “a floppy disc.” I did back up a bunch of floppy files to CDRs and DVD-Rs, but these didn’t seem to make it. It’s a bunch of documents for the old Mac desktop publishing program Ready Set Go, Version 4.5, so I’d probably have trouble opening ’em up anyway with whatever nonsense I have on my computer now. But I could at least look at the file creation dates and figure out just when I did this thing. Oh, if only I was blogging back in the early ’90s, but I was too busy being EXTREME.

Oh, and I keep meaning to mention the format of the catalog…at the time, old pal Rob and I were still doing the comics ‘zine thing, mostly in the format of 8 1/2 by 11 inch pieces of paper folded in half and stapled, with a thicker outer cover (as seen here). So, we were old hands at making up little booklets like this, and the catalog was essentially in the Wood-Eye format, only with fewer naughty jokes. Yes, I do believe some paste-up was involved…printing out the listings page by page, cutting ’em up, pasting them into our work copy, and then taking the whole shebang to the local printers and begging them to make it look purty.

So anyway, that’s that…I’m tempted to ask Ralph if he still has the mock-up so I could borrow it and print up a whole bunch more copies and make my fortune in the fanzine market. But I will ask him if he can remember when we first put up our earliest website…the online web archive only started saving webpages sometime in the mid 1990s or so. My own early website, Progressive Ruin 1.0, is archived starting in 1999, but my “What’s New” page (essentially a proto blog) started in ’96, so I’m still not sure how far back the store’s page went.

But there you go…if you want any early examples of my comics writing, it’s yours for around $50 at that link at the beginning of this post. A bargain at any price!

I mean, technically this would be graded…what, Fair? Poor? It’s certainly not coverless.

§ November 22nd, 2018 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments

So on Wednesdat a gentleman came to my store to show me this comic which he’d acquired from an estate sale:


He had no luck identifying it, or finding it in a price guide, or in online auctions. Asking around, he was advised to take it to me, which was nice to hear, frankly, and boy, it puzzled me, too. You can follow my progress in this Twitter thread, where I put the word out to my online pals if they had any info on the item, but let me present to you in slightly less confused fashion what I observed about this item.

First, that’s a Mike Vosburg image, which I’ll give you a better look at here:


I wasn’t a watcher of the Tales of the Crypt HBO show, but I learned that Mr. Vosburg worked on the program, providing ersatz Tales from the Crypt comic book covers for use in the episodes which would reflect that installment’s story.

Next, I noticed that the cover image was in fact a separate piece of paper glued over the cover of the comic, which was a copy of Vault of Horror from the Russ Cochran reprint line (#4 from 1993, specifically…thanks, still visible copyright info on the inside front cover!).

The most curious thing about the comic was that, affixed into the middle of the book, was an extra page featuring a sequence of panels that clearly were not in the style of the classic EC comics:

Now, my initial thought was that the comic was some kind of print sample used by the publisher, maybe, or a prop from the TV show. However, looking at some of the episodes online, Vosburg’s cover illustrations were usually presented as being pages in a dusty tome the Crypt Keeper would open and show the audience, and not as an actual comic book.

Posing this observation to my Twitter feed, it was pal Plastic Soul what gave the fateful clue in his response, suggesting that it was used in Demon Knight, the Tales from the Crypt spin-off feature film. And sure enough, looking at a not-great copy of the opening sequence on the YouTubes, I determined that, in all likelihood, this comic I’m holding in my gentle and dainty hands is the very same one used in the movie:

Freeze-framing the video, the comic pages definitely match up between the film and the item in my possession, with the clincher being the end bit where the extra page of art is shown leading directly into the film’s story.

Now, I suppose some EC Comics superfan may have cobbled this together on his own, printing out the pic from Mr. Vosburg’s website abd doing his/her own mock-up, but that seems unlikely. Also, given what details I know about where the comic was obtained, I’m pretty sure this is The Real Thing. The current owner of this comic should be forwarding some documentation to me regarding his purchase of the item, so I should have more details shortly. Which I’ll need, since we’ve come to an agreement that I’ll be selling this for him. So watch the eBay skies!

One interesting note: the extra page of art is attached to and covering up another page of extra art. It seems to show more ore less the same sequence of events, just with some different staging. Wish I could get a good picture of it without tearing pages, becase I guess in a weird kinda-squint-right way this is a previously undiscovered alternate take for the film! Okay, it’s just production art, but hey, you didn’t know about it!

Anyway, this is one oddball item to have just fall into my lap like this. Definitely a unique piece of EC Comics history.

ADDENDUM 11/22/18: I received a comment elsewhere from someone who’s confused two different prop comics that are featured in the film. The comic in my possession is the one that appears in the first few minutes…as pictured in the GIF above, the pages are flipped, landing on the newly inserted artwork which then leads into the movie proper. There is a second, different, prop comic that appears much later in the film, featuring other inserted Vosburg pages, which you can see at the bottom of this page. I don’t have that second comic…it’s probably being held by my evil alternate universe counterpart, the one with the goatee.

ADDENDUM 2: Oh, and the comic apparently came from this estate sale.

“Knowing which flaps to fold in, in which order” is pretty much advice for everything in life.

§ November 12th, 2018 § Filed under retailing § 6 Comments

So I was putting together some of those fancypants comic book short boxes for display…you know, the ones with the graphics printed on them as opposed to just the plain white boxes you normally see…when I got to thinking.

I’ve noticed over the years, the many, many years I’ve been at this, that when someone first comes across a comic box for the first time in its flattened form, it can be a little puzzling to figure out just how to assemble it. I mean, okay, it’s not like the Hodge conjecture or anything, but it can be easy to start folding the wrong bits first during a first attempt at putting one of these boxes together.

Anyway, the thing I was thinking about, beyond “I wonder how many hundreds, if not thousands, of these boxes I’ver personally assembled over the years,” was “how did people out there first learn how to make one of these?” And thus, I attempted to discover the answer using that most solid of statistical tools, the Twitter poll:


As you can see (or maybe not see, as I’m still trying to fix the images-not-loading-in-RSS-feeds thing…will be working again soon, I hope!), the majority of respondents openly lied informed me that they puzzled out these cardboard contraptions on their own. Only a third as many had to have somebody show ’em, and a just a bit less than that don’t know how to do it at all (more on that later).

Like I said, putting these boxes together isn’t enormously difficult, so it doesn’t really surprise me that the first option was the one that received the most votes. But I’m still surprised that the “someone showed me” result was so relatively small. Just from my experience selling comics and related accessories for decades, the next question after someone asks to buy their first comic box is usually “how do you make this thing work?” And that’s not a criticism or a comment on their skills or anything…I perfectly understand that a person may decide from the get-go “rather than waste time trying to figure out how it works myself, I’ll save the effort and just have this nice young gentleman with the flowing mane of beautiful blond hair show me how to do it properly right off.”

And really, it’s no problem. It’s just a matter of knowing which flaps to fold in, and in which order. Someone responded to my poll, noting they learned from the box itself, which had printed instructions, something I forgot to consider since I hadn’t seen one of those in years. I don’t know…for some reason, I was picturing this as arcane nerd knowledge, passed down in oral tradition from learned experts to the gathered supplicants, who would then teach the skill to the generations that follow.

That last option, about still not knowing, isn’t a huge deal. Some people may not store their comics in boxes, or don’t have enough comics to even fill a box, or may not be comic collectors at all, and just answered my poll because they follow me on the Twitterers and decided to show me a kindness. I mean, the poll’s range was largely biased toward comic fans, as most of the people on Twitter that follow me and aren’t Russian spy-bots are also people who are into comics.

Which of course doesn’t mean there aren’t collectors who don’t know what to do with these boxes. I noted to someone on Twitter that I’d seen my fair share of boxes where whoever tried to assemble it started off with the wrong fold or flap or whatever and just decided to give up and duct-tape the thing into a box-like shape. And someone working for another comic shop on Twitter verified that they’ve also seen the dreaded “held together by tape and probably a lot of cursing,” so it’s likely a widespread phenomenon.

Anyway, just one of those thoughts that goes through my head when I’m at the shop putting together my one millionth comic box. …Okay, maybe “one millionth” is exaggerating a little, but not by much.

I do eventually start talking about comics.

§ October 29th, 2018 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, retailing § 1 Comment

So…feeling a little more…secure while visiting my site? Well, I certainly hope so, after the trouble I had Saturday trying to get my SSl certificate in order here. Anyway, if you are on my site, and not just reading through a feed reader of some sort, if you look up to the address bar in the browser of your choice you’ll see Progressive Ruin Dot Something or Other now has a little padlock symbol on display. No more “this website isn’t secure” warnings when you visit or try to leave a comment! Your personal information is no longer captured by me and sold to Rufus T. Firefly in the distant land of Freedonia!

A few days ago I installed one of those SSL thingies on my store site with no hitch whatsoever, so I decided, during a brief lunch break on Saturday, to do the same for ol’ ProgRuin. And of course, instead of being a quick install, my images broke, then my page wouldn’t load right, then I somehow managed to lock myself out of my site with no way back in, blah blah, other dumb stuff. “You know just enough about computers to be dangerous” a programmer friend once told me years ago…and while I’ve learned my way around the computatrons a little more since then, I certainly proved her right that Saturday afternoon.

Anyway, if you tried to access my site that day, you may have had a problem or two getting in, but it’s all fixed now, and I’m sure no other problems will crop up ever again. ‘Course, part of the issue I was having is that my site is nearly 15 years old, and there’s a whole lotta patchwork in the backend of things…don’t look at my FTP directory, it’s hideous. Plus, my htaccess file, that bit of programming where I try to block out hotlinkers and junk traffic, is a mile long and cobbled together from my own typed-in additions and whatever things my WordPress plug-ins put in there. (Part of the problem with the images is that while I allowed my progressiveruin.com domain access to my image files, I forgot to allow access to the “https://” version of the site. Oops.)

Anyway, it’s done, and my site is more or less secure. If you’ve bookmarked the “http://” version of the site, it should automatically forward to the secure version. I have a couple of straggling HTML pages separate from the main blog that need some adjusting (not this one, which is now secure as well as perfect), but otherwise you should see that little padlock wherever you go the site, reminding you that your credit cards are all safe with me, so just send in those numbers whenever you’d like.

So the other thing I did on Saturday, aside from thinking “well, maybe I can move my blog over to pogressiveruin.com,” was the Halloween ComicFest, one of the various special comic days during the year trying to expand the success of Free Comic Book Day to other parts of the year. And I did manage to have a pretty good turnout…had a line of folks waiting outside the front door when I opened, which is always a good sign, followed by periodic waves of business throughout the day.

In general, I don’t order huge numbers of the Halloween books, since the turnouts for this event aren’t really a patch on FCBD. But I do, and did, get quite a few people in, Saturday (the official day of the event) and Sunday, so I try to have enough on hand. In some cases, like for this year’s Ms. Marvel book, I ordered a lot extra just to have ’em around as giveaways in the future.

As it turned out, I burned through the majority of the books I had this weekend, with only relative handfuls left over. Even that Ms. Marvel issue was nearly wiped out. You may have noticed above that I gave away these comics on Saturday as well as Sunday, and that’s because the timing of the Halloween ComicFest is always so…peculiar. I mean, “Halloween” is in the name, so it always takes some explaining to establish that, no, the event isn’t necessarily on Halloween, but on the Saturday just prior to it. Yes, it says the actual date on the promo materials, but it also clearly says “1ST SATURDAY IN MAY” on the Free Comic Book Day info, and I’ll still get folks coming in on May 1st looking for the freebies.

What I end up trying to do is, while not overloading on the giveaway comics, try to order enough to actually carry me through to the Halloween day itself. This time around I could be a tad short…but then, Monday and Tuesday usually aren’t blockbuster days, so the supply I have now will likely be little changed by the time Wednesday rolls around and business picks up again.

In the end, it was a lot of fun, and I gave away plenty of comics, and made some good sales, too. Like Free Comic Book Days have been for me since the beginning, the event paid for itself. Even had a few folks show up in costume…at least one Squirrel Girl made it in that day!

So, that was my Saturday. Lots of customer traffic and folks happy with their free goodies, and computer travails. I know which I prefer on any given business day.

Featuring Norbert the Narcotics Bobby.

§ October 26th, 2018 § Filed under retailing, undergrounds § 4 Comments


So pictured above are four issues of The Fabulous Furry Freak Bros. that I purchased from a gentleman at my store on Thursday. They’re not in very good shape…they’re intact, but they are very worn. I’ll generally buy most underground comix regardless of condition — well, within reason — just because undergrounds can be hard to come by, and I always have customers for them.

These particular Freak Bros. were of interest, though, as they were published in the United Kingdom…if you look closely, you can see the UK price on the covers, and maybe the Knockabout Books logo and/or text there. Sometimes the price was printed as part of the cover, and sometimes it was a small round sticker affixed directly over the original cover price, as was sometimes done in the U.S. Whether in this instance it’s covering a U.S. price or another UK price, I do not know. The copyright info on the inside covers also reflect their UK origins.

Wish now I’d taken more (and better!) pics of these items beyond just a representative image to throw on the Instagrams. But I still have ’em at the shop, should you like to drop in and inspect these items in person, hint hint. C’mon, it’s not that far of a drive, if you’re, y’know, on the same continent.

So there you go…my “weird thing that walked in the door” for the week. …Did I tell you about the weird thing from last week, this Li’l Abner comic with the amazing cover? Well, check out the pic of that, too, and that’s all I have of it now, beyond my fond memories, because that cover sells itself, and brother, it sold.

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.

MIKE VS. TWITTER.

§ July 23rd, 2018 § Filed under big red cheese, blogging about blogging is a sin, retailing § 9 Comments

So the other day, a small gag occurred to me that I felt I should post on Twitter, and that gag was this:


Those of you who know me, or have at least read me for a while, know that’s a very Mike joke for me to make. Anyway, I thought it was cute, a silly gag, not a great one, that maybe my Twitter pals would get a chuckle out of, given most of them are comics-savvy and would understand the joke.

Well, for some reason, this tweet has received more “retweets” and “faves” than anything I’ve ever posted on the Twitterers before, outside of my contributions to Fake AP Stylebook. I don’t know if it counts as “going viral,” but by my supremely low standards it’s at least a very minor virus, perhaps only a slight infection. Regardless, it’s received far more attention than I would have thought..perhaps because of the timing with the release of the Shazam! movie trailer (more on that later in the post).

As per usual, whenever something I’ve written makes it outside the usual circle of “People Who’ve Learned to Tolerate Mike and His ‘Writing,'” I get to hear from people who don’t seem to..quite get the humor, which, okay, in all fairness maybe they’re trying to be funny back at me and I’m too lame to grok their superior hilarious commentary. Like, there seem to be more than a few folks who appear to believe that I’m…actually going to do this to some poor bastard stuck behind a window selling tickets? C’mon, son, I’ve worked retail for a living for decades, I’m not going to do that to my counter-jockeying brothers and sisters.

Then there’s the one fella who seemed to get, like, pissed off that I didn’t seem to realize that the Big Red Cheese isn’t actually called “Captain Marvel” anymore, but “Shazam,” thus invalidating my gag. Look, pal, read this post from about three years ago (near the middle somewhere) where I complain about the name change at length. TL;DR version: if they had to change the name, they should’a called him “Captain Shazam.”

There were some actual funny responses, which I always appreciate. Pals Ian and Myles were tuned into the same strange frequency with their replies:

(excerpt of the accompanying image…see his tweet for the full thing)


And this response made me MAL (“MAL” of course being the popular internet acronym all the kids use for “Make Audible Laughter”):


But Angel pretty much sums it all up with:


Oh, Angel, my friend, my blog here is pretty much my 15-year-long effort at trying to annoy as many people as possible. That tweet’s only the very tippiest-tip of that iceberg.

To those of you sick of seeing that tweet pop up in your feeds…I’m very, very sorry. And I’m sorry that it’s here again on my personal blogging website that you’ve surfed to on the World Wide Web.

• • •

Speaking on being annoyed on Twitter, someone drive-by hit one of my tweets on the whole “Wedding of Batman” thing (which I wrote about on my site here and here), where I said I felt for the stores that ordered huge numbers on #50 expecting the event but getting no event, while simultaneously being relieved that I appeared to order the exact number. Said drive-by-er’ reply was, in effect, “looks like you should have ordered more, dummy” with an excerpt of some article from somewhere talking about how that issue of Batman sold anyway, regardless of how things turned out. Of course, he went back into my Twitter timeline, past my own follow-up tweet where I stated “yes, of course it sold, it’s #50 of Batman, dur hey” so he could snark at me.

Well, let me tell you something, my retailing expert friend…I ordered a good number of these Batman #50s. Didn’t go overboard, didn’t have any kind of in-store event planned or anything…just lots of copies to put on the shelves. I had plenty pulled aside for the pull list customers, I had lots of walk-ins, I had plenty of phone calls from folks desperately seeking copies…and after that initial week or two of sales were over, I had exactly one copy left. That one copy, as I type this, is still on the shelf, even after having a particularly healthy and busy week at the shop…probably one of the biggest non-Free Comic Book Day weeks I’ve had this year. Lots of people coming in and out the door, calling the shop, etc., but none of whom needed that last copy of Batman #50 on my rack.

Basically, I ordered Batman #50 almost perfectly. I had almost the exact number of copies I needed to meet immediate demand. Now, that’s not to say someone won’t rush in demanding any and all copies of #50 when I get into the shop on Monday, but for the initial sales window for a new comic (which is primarily its first week of release), I exactly, save for that one remainder, met my local demand. So, no, person on Twitter I muted almost immediately because you seriously cheesed my crackers, I didn’t need to order more, because I ordered just right, thank you very much.

Sorry to go on about this, but the one thing that really makes me angry regarding store stuff is when other people, especially people who don’t know what they’re talking about, try to condescendingly tell me how to do my job. Also, when people seal their comic bags with tape. SO. ANGRY.

• • •

Oh, right, I was going to say something about the Shazam! trailer. Don’t have much to say, really…looks like it’ll be fun, despite my issues with Cap not being called “Cap” anymore. Also, it’s very much the “modern” take on the character, where Cap…er, Shazam is simply Billy in a grown-up body, as opposed to the “classic” version where Billy Batson and Captain Marvel were more or less treated as different people, and even referred to each other as such. Well, I suppose the classic version might have been a little too strange for modern audiences…the Big-starring-Tom-Hanks formula would more likely meet modern expectations for this particular premise. But I’ve gotta say…seeing Billy shout “SHAZAM!” and then transform…that was pretty great to witness in live action.

I’ve got a few old Captain Marvel entries from, egads, 2005 that I’ll need to clean up and link back to in a current post, so someone remind me to do that before the movie comes out.

“Coverless Plus” isn’t a real grade, but IT SHOULD BE.

§ July 18th, 2018 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 3 Comments

So the other day one of my regulars dropped by with a comic book he’d purchased via mail order, and he wanted my opinion on its grade. It was sold (and indeed, the backing board was marked) as a “9.0,” which works out to be Very Fine to Near Mint in Overstreet Price Guide terms. (It should be noted that this was not a Professionally-Graded-Sealed-in-a-Plastic-Slab comic, but a “raw” (as collectors’ cant would have it) funnybook in a mere bag and board in common use amongst we mere mortals.) Anyway, I gave the book a quick once-over and had to break the news that, given the few spine creases, a couple of which were color-breaking, plus some minor rounding/softness at the corners of the spine, this couldn’t be in VF/NM. At best, maybe a low Fine, or perhaps a VG/F if I hadn’t had my Diet Coke that day. (And since I haven’t had a Diet Coke for a few months, that comic’s darn lucky I didn’t grade it Coverless Plus.)

It sounds like he’ll be able to return it, which is good, but this particular interaction did make me feel a little better about my own grading abilities. It’s…not something that comes terribly easily to me, probably the part of the job that feels most like “work” (aside from the whole “taxes” thing, and having to deal with Ian). Mostly, at the previous place of employment, I didn’t do much with the “grading and pricing back issues” thing. That was left to my old boss Ralph, mostly for the sake of consistency in grading standards and price levels, while I mostly focused on…well, everything else regarding said backstock. I’d check for missing issues, pull stuff out of the back, bag ’em and tag ’em, put ’em in alphabetical order in the To Be Priced boxes, and after Ralph priced them all up, I’d put them all away in their appropriate spots. If someone wanted to know a grade on a certain issue, more often than not all I’d have to do if flip the comic over, look at the sticker on the back where Ralph placed the grade, and then happily reply “Sir, this copy of Saga of Crystar Crystal Warrior #6. guest-starring Nightcrawler of the X-Men, is in VF- condition!” and that would be that. I certainly wasn’t unaware of comic conditions, and could do some general grading, but it just wasn’t my main thing at that shop…someone else did that, while I attended to other duties.

Now that I’m sailing alone on the seas of comics in my own ship…er, store, I can’t depend on Ralph to do that for me anymore. Which isn’t to say I don’t bend his ear once in a while whenever he drops by to ask him some grading questions whenever I find something that stumps me And sometimes he tells me “huh, I’m stumped too,” which makes feel a little better that someone with a lot more direct experience in comic grading can get a bit thrown on occasion. There are so many different things that you weirdos do to your comics that the variety of wear and damage and, um, engine fuel smells, and…er, beginnings of essays that Overstreet’s grading guide never dreamed of, that even old hands need to do a little guesswork and interpretation to put your dime down on a specific condition. It can take a lot of effort, and a not-insignificant amount of concentration, but as time goes by, I think I’m getting better at it. Plus, I find when I do a whole bunch in a row, I get into that “grading groove” and start knocking ’em out at a more reasonable pace.

Don’t get me wrong…grading can be a challenge at times, but it’s still “Mike gets to look at old comics all day and call that his ‘job'” so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. And as I said, my skills are improving…I’m a long way from calling that comic with the holes punched with a pen through the center and the tape and the missing back cover a Very Fine Plus. I know now that’s clearly no better than a VF.

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