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Not what I was expecting.

§ June 19th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

So if you follow me on the Tweeters (and why would you…er, wouldn’t you) you probably saw this entry where I point out a couple of comics of note that recently came into my possession. Namely, the original Avengers #1 and the original X-Men #1, soon to go up for sale!

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have them around (as well as the second isues of both, also acquired)…it’s early superhero Marvel, about as “key” as a “key” book can get, and they’re not in…half-bad condition. But the thing is…I’ve had ’em before. I’ve seen plenty of copies of both of these over the years. Not saying I don’t appreciate them or having them around, but I always like it when I find something brand new to me…not necessarily rare or expensive, but something elusive. Something I’ve never seen in person before. Something like this Barbie and Ken comic from 1962, based on the toy doll line:


That’s issue #2 of the five-issue run from Dell. I’ve seen pictures of them, but have never actually held one in my hands. Far as I can tell, given the state of my still-healing eyes, it’s nicely illustrated, and Barbie has very much a “doll” look to her, natch:


Don’t know if there have ever been reprints of these on better paper at some point, but the art could use a better showcase than decaying old newsprint.

But still, amongst the ’60s war books and Superman issues and those early Marvels, it was certainly nice to discover this unexpected treasure.


I’ll say it was a surprise!

Gonna party like it’s 1989.

§ May 22nd, 2019 § Filed under batman, collecting, retailing, this week's comics § 2 Comments

So I haven’t said a whole lot about new comics and mags lately, mostly because, due to current eyeball issues, I can’t really read comics and mags at the moment. As such, I’m building up bit of a backlog of recent goodies at home, on top of the backlog I already had, for me to attempt to plow though once my peepers are in order. Therefore I’ve been trying to be a little pickier about what I set aside for myself, though sometimes I can’t resist a certain special something.

What I definitely don’t need to be taking home for eventual reading are those magazines with articles and interviews about comics past, like Back Issue…a fine publication, but it just takes me forever to get 1) to them, and 2) through them, so I try to make sure it’s got something I really want to read about…especially right now, as who knows when I’ll finally have good enough vision to properly absorb them.

That said, they just got me for two issues in a row. The previous issue, #112, had a special focus on “nuclear heroes,” with a cover and feature on DC’s Firestorm, a character whose comics I very much enjoyed throughout the 1980s. I always like learning more about the comics I read as a somewhat-younger Mikester, so that’s how they got me there.

Issue #113, the one pictured above, came out this week, with its focus on the 30th anniversary release of the first Tim Burton Batman film, and all the Bat-hoohah and goings-on in the comics industry at the time. As some of you may recall, because I keep bringing it up, there were two major events I had to deal with shortly after I first entered the world of comics retail way back in September of 1988. One was “The Death of Robin,” and the phone calls and large number of walk-ins we had involving that. The other was, of course, that very Bat-film, and the huge explosion of interest in comics that ensued.

I talked a lot — and I mean a lot — about this film and its impact on the business about a year and a half back (here are links to that particular series of posts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 — and that is a whole lot to take in, but at least check out Wayne’s anecdote at the end of post #9. Trust me on this). But anyway, this issue of Back Issue is hitting the double-nostalgia chord with me…not just learning more about the Bat-comics I read at that time, of which, like most comic fans around then, I read a bunch. It’s also reminding me of a simpler time of comics retail, when I was just a teen, or barely out of my teens, manning a register and shuffling around comics and, okay, it’s not that different from what I do now, but I’m also paying the bills and placing the orders and just plain keeping the doors open. Not like back then, when I just had to focus on ringing up custmers and talking about comics and reading comics without also worrying about owning an actual business. I miss those days sometimes…but overall, I prefer what I’m doing now.

THE EYEBALL MUST BE OBEYED.

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

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

Allan wrenches out the following

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew wonders

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

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

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

But seriously, buy lots and lots of comics from me.

§ March 29th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 8 Comments

So one of my tasks at my shop last week, which I needed to get done before my next (and hopefully final) eyeball surgery next week and would have to restrict certain types of strenuous activity, was assembling and installing a new shelving unit to hold more graphic novels. Now I figured the hard part would be building the actual shelf in question, which isn’t so much “hard” as it is “time-consuming,” but still, I DOOD IT:

I believed the easy part would be moving the preexisting shelves and insterting this new one between them. Well, as it turned out, when I had the Gigantorack built for the new comics, along with another similar rack for graphic novels, the graphic novel track and the other bookshelves were all bolted to the wall by the builders. As such, it wasn’t simply a matter of just taking some books off to lighten the load and then shoving everything over, but getting them unhooked from the wall first…which took some doing since I didn’t have the appropriate or correctly-sized tools to remove the fasteners they used. (I mean, it couldn’t just take a screwdriver, that would be too simple.)

Anyway, it’s done now, with the assistance of a helpful customer (since me using any kind of tool is usually an invitation to disaster or perhaps self-maiming). I now have more space for graphic novels and trade paperbacks and thick comics or whatever you want to call them, though I’ve already made good progress abhoring that vaccuum and getting those shelves filled up via the subsequent refiddling of the stock.

This does tie into something I’ve been thinking about of late, which is the matter of space. I’ve been spending the last several months getting a lot of those boxes of old comics in the back processed and priced up, with lots more to go, requiring me to find places to put them. The three large metal shelving units I have behind my counter hadn’t had their topmost shelves utilized, so I finally threw some boxes on top there and began the giant game of Tetris of resorting and reorganizing and relabelling all those bins, both behind the counter and on the floor.

Well, by “Floor” I mean “the two wooden tables that also hold back issues, but are accessible by the customers. Now is probably a good time to put up a picture so you can see what I’m talking about:

When I first opened, I didn’t have anything on the bottom part of the tables. I hadn’t even really filled up the tops of the tables…I used half of one table to hold comic supplies. Now I’ve expanded the back issues to occupy those bottom sections…mostly “Misc. Publisher” slots rather than individual titles, which I try to keep up top. So there’s like “Misc. Image,” “Misc. Dark Horse,” etc. I do have a number of magazine boxes underneath as well which are more a mix of boxes for individual titles (like Mad or Savage Sword of Conan) along with, like, “Misc. Marvel Mags” and that sort of thing.

The part of the table on the far left of the picture is my “new arrivals” section, where recent acquisitions (either from the back room or from colections) are priced and put out, where they’ll hopefully sell before I have to film them away in their regular sections. Those get flipped through all the time, so I do more quite a few out ofthere…my back-issue oriented customers know to poke through those boxes on a pretty regular basis.

This is a very long way of me saying that “thinking about space” has been a preoccupation of mine of late. I still have room to expend in the back issue bins…I’ve got space on the shelves behind the counter still, there’s plenty of slack in the boxes on top of the tables, and I can probably fit more boxes underneath that one table if I decide to stow the comic supplies elsewhere. But once all those spaces are filled — then what?

I could move to a larger location, which I’m not anxious to do…a lot of work was put into making this store look nice, with new flooring that I don’t beleive would come easily with us. Plus, I like how close I am to local conveniences, like, say, the post office, which is a two minute walk away and facilitates the amount of mail order I do. I could knock out part of one of the back walls…the back room is divided in two

The perpaps preferable option is doing some interior remodeling…the back room is essentially divived in two, and if we knocked out part of the divider wall between the front and the back, I could use half the back room for more retail space, while still having the other half for storage. It would take some work and some definite rearranging and some new flooring (since the floor in the back is all concrete) but you know, it’s not impossible.

But this is a long ways off, I think. Or maybe not, given the amount of back issues that have been processed for sale lately. It’s not an immediate concern, at any rate, but it is something that I always have to think about. Unless you guys suddenly rush in and buy lots of stuff from me…that’ll leave me with plenty of growing room then!

I’m telling you, Marvel fans back in 1974 really wanted that Shanna the She-Devil stamp.

§ March 11th, 2019 § Filed under hulk, retailing, wolverine § 5 Comments

So since opening up Ye Old Comics Shoppe in Camarillo, CA, available seven days a week for your funnybook purchasing needs, one of big surprises I’ve had in my acquisition of collections was just how many copies of Incredible Hulk #181 I’ve come across.

Now, maybe it’s not as surprising as the one and only time a copy of this showed up in my shop, but given the rather higher profile of this Hulk #181, being the first (full-length) appearance of Wolverine, it still amazes me every time I see it.

One thing about these #181s that I’ve been getting…more often than not, and I mean a lot more often than not, they have the Marvel Value Stamp cut out of ’em. (Read more about the Marvel Value Stamps right here!). This promotion of Marvel’s is the bane of many a dealer in old comics, as we gotta page through Marvel issues of a certain vintage and make sure that damned stamp hadn’t been cut out. And here’s the weird thing…about 98% of the time, when I’m checking most Marvels that have these stamps to make sure they’re still intact, they are. But when I’m checking Hulk #181s, the stamps are cut out, like, 90% of the time. It’s like those kids back in ’74 knew I was going to try to resell these. “Let’s stick it to that 5-year-old Sterling kid who’s gonna try to make a buck off these in about 4 decades or so!” Anyway there’s a reason why I made that #181 joke in this post.

Anyway, the thing about Hulk #181 is that they sell very quickly, stamp or no stamp. I’ve yet to have a copy in the store overnight, in fact. I either move it on eBay immediately, I call someone up on my list of Folks What Want the Fancy Books and they dash in and buy it, or a lucky walk-in grabs it. Good thing it sells so fast, because (gulp) I sure do spend a lot of money on these, and would like to recoup the cost right away (and make some much needed profit besides).

I’m bringing this all up because about a week ago I had another copy of Hulk #181 oome into the shop. And the reason I don’t have an actual picture of that copy of the comic I acquired (instead linking to the Grand Comic Database instead, just in case you needed a reminder of what this comic looked like) is because almost immediately after handing my guaranteed-good business check to the seller, completing the transaction of ownership over this back issue, I had someone in the store say “I’ll buy that!” Just as quickly as I’d acquired it, it was gone. Nice when a collection purchase turns out like that.

I did say “collection,” because there was more than just the Hulk #181. There was also Hulk #180, which I did take a picture of:

And if you don’t happen to know the significance of this comic…the reason I specified #181 being the first “full-length appearance” of Wolverine is that he appears throughout that entire issue. #180 is in fact his real first appearance, in the last panel of the final page of the book:


BONUS: reference in caption to Hulk’s green butt. You’re welcome.

Anyway, this issue doens’t have quite the demand the follow-up does in the collector market, despite literally being the character’s first in-story appearance. In one of the few times back issue demand actually makes some sense, the comic with the awesome red-background cover that actually features Wolverine, and contains Wolverine throughout the issue, is in much higher demand than the one where he pops up just in one panel on the last page, Hulk butt talk in the caption or no.

And this specific copy I acquired…hoo boy. Not only was the value stamp in this one missing as well:


…but some young person had gone scissor-mad with power after clipping the coupon, and trimmed a segment out of one of the center pages as well:


I had no real confidence in selling this book…well, okay, that’s not true. The ol’ Canucklehead’s panel was still intact, and you know, there’s always someone out there looking for this, regardless of condition, if it’s priced right. …Amd priced right it was, because I also managed to sell this very quickly. Not as fast as the #181, but still, it moved out the door faster than I expected.

It’s nice to get the big ticket items like this and turn ’em around almost immediately. It definitely helps subsidize the cost of the other items in the collection which aren’t as pricey and aren’t in nearly as much demand, and thus may sit around in the boxes a little longer. Which isn’t to say they’re turkeys, by any means…they’re just not Hulk #181. Or even #180. But it’s still, like, Kirby Tales of Suspense and that sort of thing. They’ll sell.

That’s one of the fun parts of owning a comic shop…never knowing what’s going to be in the next collection that walks in the door. I mean, sure, it’s usually a run of Team Youngblood or something, but once in a while, you get a nice surprise. Even if it does have the Marvel Value Stamp cut out of it.

“Complains too much about online reviews – TWO STARS.”

§ March 4th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments

So late last year, I receiving the following online review for my business in one of the usual places one finds reviews for one’s business:

“A quite [sic] little place in Oxnard. Pretty good food. Good service.”

Okay, you may have noticed a couple of problems there, I mean, aside from the typo. First, my comic book store isn’t in Oxnard. It’s in Camarillo, which is next to Oxnard, but it is not Oxnard. Also, while one could perhaps allow for the most generous interpretation of “good food” to mean “oh, yeah, there’s good food at the restaurant next door” or “that meatball sub Mike was eating looked pretty delish,” I’m going to presume that, in conjuction with the follow-up comment, they meant that I served good food. The “good service” note probably wasn’t specifically about me either, despite being 100% accurate.

At any rate, it’s pretty clear someone made a mistake and placed a review for some eatery or ‘nother on my listing. Also, it was a three star rating, a middling review (though it sounds like they liked whereever it was they were actually reviewing just fine), which dinged my average a smidgen. I replied to the review noted that it seemed to have been left in error, but never got a response. It took complaining to the platform to get it removed…which itself took a couple of months, but with the amount of traffic they’re dealing with, I understand.

I don’t generally worry about reviews of my store. I was more bemused by the situation I described than anything else. But I realize that you just can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had some very kind folks leaving positive reviews of my shop in various places, which is gratifying and showing that perhaps I’ve somehow learned to do a comic shop right after three decades in this industry.

But I’ve had some middling reviews, too, and part of my job as Business Owner is to address those reviews, especially when they don’t leave any comments beyond a star rating. I tend to read “3 stars” as “good, but not great,” which is, you know, reasonable, but I would like to know what it is specifically I did to not earn higher, if a comment wasn’t left. I always try to be nice and polite when responding, asking what I could do to improve their experience, etc. Have yet to hear back from anyone, but, well, what can you do. I mean, other than try harder, that is!

The reason I’ve been thinking about this lately is that someone dropped a two-star review on me, and again, with no explanation as to why. Just “here you go, two stars,” which…I don’t know, man. I don’t recall anyone being particularly unhappy with me of late. I have had a recent influx of people looking for role playing game stuff, and perhaps this was from one of these folks (“Didn’t carry product line that was never promised or even implied by business that it carried – TWO STARS”). I left a response, again asking “what specifically did you dislike? How can I improve,” but I don’t think I’ll get a reply to this one, either.

At least this person appears to have actually been to the store…I looked at the reviewer’s profile just to make sure it was a real person who’s visited the shop and/or dealt with me, and not one of those folks that firehose reviews all over the place to improve their “Top Reviewer” ranking or whatever — had one of those a while back, whose review has since been deleted — and judging by the pattern of places rated this person at least appears to have been in the area. But I have no idea why the reviewer didn’t like my shop, or me…how can anyone not like me, I’m adorable. Wasn’t shy about leaving very specific comments about other reviewed businesses, but all I’m left with is my assumption that the person objected to the fact that I carried comics.

Reminder: I said I “generally” don’t worry about reviews. But this one stuck in my craw a little, as perhaps you were able to tell. It just leaves me wondering. What did I do? Did I do anything wrong? Was there dissatisfaction with my available stock or back issue pricing? Or was it something entirely out of my hands? I did have to shut the store down for one day without warning due to some post-surgery complications…maybe the reviewer came by that day and dinged me for that. I don’t know.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll get a response and find out. And please do not contact that person on my behalf, should you happen to see the review…I do not want to be one of those guys that “sics” readers/followers on others. Everyone’s entitled to their informed opinion! Like I said, you can’t please everyone, and that’s okay. So long as I’m doing my best.

I know that’s a lot to type about something that I’m claiming to be ain’t no thang, and to be really honest, it doesn’t bother me. I presume one of the reasons you (yes, YOU) read this site is for some insight on the day-to-day stuff that goes into running a comic store. One of the things i have to do is, well, respond to customer concerns, and maintain some kind of control and/or interaction with my online presence. That includes social media, online sales, and, of course, reviews of my store. It’s just a thing I gotta do, and hopefully you gleaned some useful info from all this.

If nothing else, when you have to leave a middling to negative review for anything, at least leave a brief comment saying why, if you can, just so the reviewee has something to work with. Positive reviews are self-explanatory, I think, and probably don’t need commentary, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy reading “Mike is great! I wish he’d adopt me!” or whatever. But if someone isn’t happy with their experience with me or my shop, I’d like to know a reason.

On a related note, recently comics writer Gail Simone asked on her Twitters for comments from her lady followers about guys who were welcoming and open to them regarding their “nerd interests.” I was pleasantly surprised to be mentioned twice, from longtime customer Jo:

“I was welcomed by @mikesterling who let me, as a child, enjoy comics and feel safe in my LCS. And as I grew and my tastes changed, he always knew to keep issues of Titans and Nightwing waiting for me. We would laugh and talk and discuss. Please go and support him if you can!”

…and from other longtimer, Weshoyot:

“That would be @mikesterling when he worked at a local comic shop. He was ways inviting, helpful and encouraged me to put my own Kinko’s copied comic in there. He now runs his own shop. Stand up guy. One of the good ones.”

I’ve known both these great ladies since they were but wee tykes, and it makes me very…well, emotional to know that they grew up with these kindhearted memories of me. God knows I’m not perfect, and I’ve made dumb mistakes, and probably more than earned the occasional two-star review at times…but reading these nice words from Jo and Weshoyot make me think that somehow during all these years, I managed to do okay.

Seriously, you should’ve seen the numbers he ordered just on Robotech.

§ January 28th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 2 Comments

Okay, I said I was going to dn epilogue to the 2018 prediction posts, where I go back and comment on any comments you folks may have left on them…but looking back, I don’t really have anything to add. So, you folks out there go back to the last post, and use the links there to go read the comments everyone left. And thanks to those of you who did leave comments…always appreciated! Remember, early 2020, we’ll do all this again! …Yes, I know you can’t wait.

So today, let me tell you about the latest thing from comics retailing past I’m just beginning to dig into. My former boss Ralph recently gave me a sizeable pile of his old distributor order forms/catalogs dating from the early to mid 1980s. That’s prior to my jumping to the other side of the counter in 1988, where I’ve pretty much been ever since. As such, this is a compelling and educational look at the industry from a very interesting time, when the indie market was really beginning to take hold, when “hot” books were changing the way retailers dealt with their orders, when companies were beginning to change things up a little with stuff like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Dark Knight.

I’ve had these for a few weeks, but I’m starting to take a closer look at them now. Of particular personal interest to me is that many of these booklets have Ralph’s original order numbers written in them. I can look at some of these numbers, compare them with my memories of what we used to have in the back room there, and think “wow, that many copies sold?” or “hoo boy, that number was a mistake.” And believe me, some of the numbers ordered were immensely high, borne of a time when the market may have been a bit more robust, and when of course Ralph’s shop was the only game in town. And by “town” I mean “the entire county.”

On an even more personal note, it’s a bit of an…odd feeling, I suppose, looking at Ralph’s order for Amazing Heroes #96 and thinking “hey, I bought one of those copies he ordered!” I mean, starting in the early ’80s I was pretty much there every week, so I can literally think that about a lot of things in these catalogs, but for some reason the Amazing Heroes and Comics Journal listings were the ones that got me. Go figure.

A brief perusal of the catalogs brought up at least one solicitation for a comic by a noted cartoonist that I don’t think was published, at least under that name…more on that in a future post once I find that solicitation again, and do a little more research. And plus there are distributor news items, telling you things like “Cmelot 3000 ship dates are pushed back” and “Frank Miller’s Ronan [sic] will be a six-issue mini-series.”

What I really am looking forward to reading, however, are the columns where ordering advice is given on several titles from a number of publishers. Here’s an excerpt from a bit about the DC books:

I’m just picturing Diamond trying something like this now, and how the publishers would almost certainly quail about it. But anyway, I love stuff like this…preses my “fanzine fanboy” buttons something fierce. And go easy on the person who wrote this…yeah, I know “order based on your previous sales” barely counts as advice, you’d think, but some folks needed to be told that. And who knew about Mask? Maybe it could have taken off, don’t act like you were all certain about it.

And there you have it…a lot of material for me to data-mine, as time and eyesight permit. I look forward to going over these, and I hope you enjoy whatever info I can pull out of them over the next few whatever-increment-of-time this project will require.

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.

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