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The House of Lollipops.

§ June 23rd, 2021 § Filed under publishing, retailing, this week's comics § 6 Comments

Thanks to reader/mad genius Paul for sending this mock-up of what could’ve been for a Sterling Silver Comics retailer exclusive variant!

Following up on my discussion about that very topic from Monday, I’d actually pulled up an email I received from A Comics Publisher in response to an inquiry I’d made along these lines. Without going into a whole lot of specific detail, let’s just say my buy-in, just for the minimum copy purchase of the exclusive variant, would have been in excess of $10,000. That doesn’t count other minimum orders for the regular cover or other variants of your retailer variant, or for paying for the actual artwork by the artist.

Basically, it’s a lotta scratch…not undoable, entirely, but certainly an investment that would require some first class hustling to make that cash back. Which could be a problem in case you got a cover that didn’t grab the attention of the sort of folks who look for exclusive variants like this. But, to be honest, the way the marketplace is right now, seems like anything that has any form of scarcity is automatically in demand.

Anyhoo, something to think about the next time the opportunity arises.

But speaking of “scarcity,” apparently the latest issue of Usagi Yojimbo, #20, is “in demand” due to it being a first appearance of a character whose name I bet most of the people looking for it couldn’t even tell you. My distributor decided, alas, that this would be one of the comics they’d be shorting from my order last week (there’s usually a few every shipment). I figured that would be that, given it’s temporary hotness and all spare copies eaten up by reorders, I’d have to wait for the second printings to come along so I can get copies for customers who actually want to read it. Somehow, though, miracle of miracles, my replacements showed up! I mean, sure, half my Fireflys are missing and several of my Marvel Voices: Pride shorted or damaged, so it’s always something.

As to the Marvel Voices: Pride comic, it surprised me a bit by including select pages from Alpha Flight #106 (1992). In case you forgot, that’s the comic where Northstar finally just straight up said, after years of subtle-ish hints, “yeah, I’m gay.” Which was, granted, a pretty big deal, and demand for the issue warranted a second printing. But this was also at the height of the whole “gotta be EXTREEEME” art thing, and…yeah, it certainly looks a bit jarring side-by-side with more current art styles. Hey, gotta start somewhere! (Also, did they ever bring back Major Mapleleaf from that story?) (Yes, I know that was a nickname of Alpha Flight’s Guardian at one point.)

I should also note that my comments sections here on Rogressive Pruin occasionally take on a life of their own. So, if you ever wanted to delve deep into the origin of the word/sound/expression “vootie,” well, your day has come.

A correction and a couple o’comics.

§ March 31st, 2021 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, this week's comics § 3 Comments

So to add to my Superman: Birthright discussion on Monday, the writer of said book, Mark Waid himself, dropped on by to clarify/correct some of my assumptions. Primarily, that Birthright was indeed intended to be the new “official” Superman origin, but was eventually decided that yet another version, the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank Secret Origin mini, would be the new official origin instead. Least ’til, you know, they changed it again.

Anyway, here’s a period article with an interview with Mr. Waid about Birthright being the “official” origin, which was declared so late in the run due to the Super-books being “still somewhat in flux” when the series began. While I was correct in that the state of Superman’s history at that point was a bit mushy and open to revision, as I said in my last post, my assumption that Birthright was a planned out-of-continuity story that eventually ended up in continuity despite itself was incorrect.

So, when you reread that last post of mine, disregard my poor use of Birthright as an example for my thesis. I think my overall entry there is correct, in that if you leave any ambiguity to the canonicity of a story involving DC or Marvel characters in what appears to be their familiar milieus, the default position of a certain subset of fandom regarding that story is that it’s part of official continuity. And that the emphasis, especially by DC, on continually trying to establish what is their official continuity only encourages the behavior.

Not all fans do this, of course, but like I said, I’m still getting customers asking me if Three Jokers is, you know, Real Joker History and, well, what can you do. “It is if you want it to be!” I’ve answered more than once, and I don’t know if that helps, really.

Okay, let me say something about a couple of comics that came out this week:

I didn’t keep the cover pictured above…this is one of those “retailer incentive variants” that I have to order a certain number of the regular covers in order to receive. But you think I’m gonna pass up posting a kickass Beta Ray Bill pic by his creator, Walt Simonson, on my site? Heck no.

Anyway, the entirety of my Thor reading is as follows: the Walt Simonson run from #337 to #382 (plus the couple of fill-in issues in that run, which were also great), whatever stories were in the Origins of Marvel Comics books, and the Lee/Kirby “Search for Galactus” issues that pal Cully let me borrow once. Nothing against Thor, and I know some later runs of Thor are very highly regarded, but my brain decided “That’s All The Thor I Need” and that was that, I guess.

When I opened my own shop a few years ago, I gave up my Thors (not Cully’s Thors, I returned ’em, honest) to the back issue bins, which was a good idea because boy did they sell well. As they should, because they’re beautiful and perfect, but “Fanboy Mike” is a tad annoyed at “Retailer Mike” as I kind of miss having those. But hey, I figured at the time I could always pick ’em up in reprints one way or another.

So basically I haven’t been involved in Thor comics for a while. Then why pick up Beta Ray Bill #1? Well, the work of Daniel Warren Johnson for one, who is writing and drawing this book and it looks fantastic. I’m not one for two-page spreads in comics nowaways, but Mr. Johnson throws in a couple of them in this issue and I know I really like a comic when that doesn’t bug me in the slightest. It all feels like a natural extension of Simonson’s rendition of the character without being an imitation of his style, in a way that previous efforts with the Beta Ray Bill have not.

As someone who, as I just told you, hasn’t been immersed in recent Thor comic shenanigans, there wasn’t a steep learning curve for getting caught up to speed on recent Asgardian events. Johnson does a good job naturally slipping in the necessary exposition to establish the world of the book and the premise for the series.

Yes, it is, nominally, a tie-in to the “King in Black” event currently happened at Marvel, but it barely counts, a “Red Skies” type of crossover where a Surprise Guest Monster shows up to wreak havoc in Asgard and oh, he’s all King in BLack-ized or whatever they call it. Could easily just have been Special Surprise Guest Monster all on his lonesome and the effect on the plot wouldn’t have been any different, really. But if it gets more eyeballs on the comic, then we shall let this pious fraud pass.

What I’m saying is that Beta Ray Bill is just as good as I’d hoped it would be, since seeing preview pages a while back. As someone actively not looking to pick up new series right now due to my immense funnybook backlog caused by eyeball issues, I snatched this one up with no regrets.

Young Hellboy is a fun, cute series, the second issue of which is out this week. Young Hellboy runs into a Golden Age-style jungle girl on a mysterious island, and seeing HB as an overly talkative, hyperactive child is always entertaining. With the forward motion on the “current” Hellboy timeline effectively ended with, um, the end of the world, it’s nice that we’re still getting “flashback” Hellboy stories. “Hellboy may be dead but his cash flow lives on,” as the Dead Milkmen said (slightly paraphrased). Even knowing the eventual end point for the Hellboy Universe, the sense of impending doom doesn’t weigh too heavily upon these stories…I mean, not that particular doom, anyway.

It’s a nice reminder of what Hellboy was, back before the plot overtook the premise and everything was pointing to The End, versus just the big red guy smacking monsters around and shooting (badly) at demonic foes. Or, as in this series, swinging on a vine and shouting with glee. As I said, fun and cute.

Did they stop drawing them prior to this? I’d only been checking sporadically.

§ March 12th, 2021 § Filed under superman, this week's comics § 11 Comments

So let’s celebrate this Friday with the fact that Superman (pictured here)

…doesn’t have those cuff-rings or whatever at the end of his sleeves.

Those little cuffs were the last vestiges of Jim Lee’s awful redesign of the Superman costume for the New 52 relaunch nearly ten years ago, which I presume were held onto stubbornly by DC editorial as they reverted all the other changes wrought upon the superclothes. I wrote about the problems with the costume here, and I hope it gets across the idea that it wasn’t a purely reactionary response to this new outfit in a “we fear change” Garth-from-Wayne’s-World sort of way. There were genuine messaging and conceptual issues with the costume, as well as basic aesthetic ones, as to why the redesign was so roundly rejected.

Anyway, if the cuffs come back next issue (or in Action, ignore this post. …And the comic itself felt like a reverting of tone to the pre-Brian Michael Bendis era. I do have to say every time I see Lois ‘n’ Clark’s super-son Jon Kent, there’s always the tickle in the back of my mind “so when are they going to decide to get rid of him?” Not because I dislike the character, but because his presence feels like a bending of the Superman premise perhaps just a tad too far, and sooner or later someone at DC (or someone in the Warner Bros. organization higher up than anyone at DC) is going to ask that everything in the franchise be changed back to how it was.

Or, you know, just have it all ended entirely and the Superman family of characters are handed over to the toy division for proper exploitation. Either or.

Look, Starfire’s hair is long, but let’s be serious here.

§ February 26th, 2021 § Filed under this week's comics § 21 Comments

[SPOILERS ahead, mostly for Generations: Forged]

So this story (detailing the rise to power of the Hulk as “The Maestro,” ruler of a future post-apocalyptic Earth as detailed in the Future Imperfect mini-series) involves The Pantheon, a superpowered team allied with ol’ Jade Jaws back around the early ’90s. That Future Imperfect comic I mentioned paranthetically also dates to the early 1990s. Now, I bought those comics new, so I certainly remember the stories and the characters, despite being (urgh) nearly 30 years ago, but it surprises me just a little that a follow-up being published now is doing as well as it is.

Now I say only a “little” surprised if only because 30-year-old comic stories aren’t necessarily as hard to get your hands on as they used to be. Marvel’s trade/hardcover program, even as haphazard as it is, has managed to keep writer Peter David’s work on the Hulk relatively available, including the issues involving both the Pantheon and most of the Maestro stuff. And that now thrice-noted Future Imperfect series has been reprinted plenty of times, including a relatively cheap one-shot released around the time the first Maestro mini was released last year. Oh, did I not mention that the Maestro pictured above is in fact the second issue of the second Maestro series, since the first one did so well?

In addition to physical reprints, I’m reasonably sure (even though I don’t personally have the service) that the relevant issues are all available on Marvel’s digital comics subscription service. So, you know, fans can catch up there too if they missed all that stuff the first time, because “I wasn’t born yet” or whatever lame excuse these young punks have.

The Maestro himself has popped up now and again in Marvel’s books, including a revisit by David to the character in later issues of Incredible Hulk, there was a tie-in mini to Secret Wars in 2015, I’m pretty sure the character’s popped up in a video game or two…basically, he’s been part of the landscape.

Now the Pantheon, those folks have been missing from comics for a while, so I wonder how many folks had to scramble to the Wikipedia page to find out who they are? Or how many readers just took it in stride, getting enough backstory they needed from these new comics by themselves, and were fine? I’m always curious about that sort of thing. I’ll read new comics and think “I’ve been reading comics for over 45 years, I know what’s going on, but can new readers catch on?” Seems like jumping in and hanging on to the latest issue of a funnybook was easier to do back in ye olden tymes of my youth. But also in my youth I didn’t have the variety of resources to inform me as to what I missed as people do now.

Anyway, just thought that was interesting enough to blab about it on my site for a few hundred words. …Oh, was the comic any good? Yeah, sure, David does a good job fitting it all in with his other Hulk work, and it all feels of a piece. Makes one sorry he ever had to leave the book in the first place (and second place, when he came back for a year), as he clearly had more stuff to say about the character. But then, we wouldn’t have had the other nice work occasionally done on the character since then, so I guess it all works out.

So, Generations: Forged. [REMINDER: spoilers.]

First, so the ultimate goal of Generations was to do the same thing to Batman that the mostly forgotten Doomsday Clock attempted to do with Superman…establish that the character has existed for decades in this universe, and that he continually gets updated/rebooted/refurbished/whatever as the universe undoes its regular restarts. Or, you know, something like that. I guess having Superman be established as essentially the center of the universe wasn’t enough, they had to make sure Batman was along for the ride…when Superman and the universe are rebooted, so is Bats, and I guess presumably everyone else they’re in contact with. I think I’m understanding that ending properly.

Second, if, as the recent Death Metal mini established (and Generations ballyhoos itself as being “from the pages of…” that series, the connection’s there) that all the characters remember all their histories across the reboots, then I presume Batman can draw a straight line from being that guy with the cockeyed Bat-ears in the 1930s to fighting Clownhunter today. And also teaming up with Scooby Doo, I refuse to disallow that from continuity.

Third, for being the “big event” we were promised for a long time back when Dan DiDio was still at DC, it seemed…like not enough, really. I know plans were curtailed somewhat, but I swore there was going to be more after this second installment and it looks like just a hardcover collecting the two issues (and the one story from Detective #1027) is all that’s coming.

Fourth, the idea that when Starfire flies, that’s literally a giant stream of hair flowing behind her, and not artistic license to show how fast she’s flying or anything, is bonkers. Did you look at New Teen Titans and think “boy that’s a lot of hair trailing behind her, like hundreds of feet worth” or did you figure George Perez was just using the imagery to dynamically and symbolically present her flying power. Because seriously, that it’s her hair is a plot point in this comic. Like, there’s a chunk of that long stream of hair left behind for other people to find. Anyway, that was my stupid reaction to the comic.

I did like the comic, in case you were wondering. As I said last time, this was the most Dan Jurgens-est of comics, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s comfortably familiar super-heroing, somehow evoking the crossover events of old while still incorporating the “universe redefining” aspects of the new events. And in retrospect, two extreeee-sized issues of this was probably enough.

• • •

I do plan on returning to the trading card pricing topic of this post from Monday…that was going to require more time than I had for blogging this week (hence only the two posts) but I’m not done with it yet.

Thanks for reading, pals, and see you Monday.

But not my beautiful golden mane of hair.

§ January 6th, 2021 § Filed under this week's comics § 8 Comments

[Some minor SPOILERS, particularly for the end of Death Metal, below.]

So Generations: Shattered is the Dan Jurgens-est of comics, fitting as Mr. Jurgens is one of the writers and surprise, Booster Gold is also prominently featured. As is a return to some “Death of Superman” stuff, which, as I’m sure anyone who’s read this site for any length of time will realize, is always welcomed by me.

Anyway, this is all very…I don’t want to say “old fashioned,” or “retrograde,” or anything like that, because that maybe feels a little dismissive at best, insulting at worst. Let’s say it’s more “traditional” in tone when compared to other recent-ish crossover events, which tend toward the edgier and more self-aware (like, oh, say, Dark Nights: Death Metal, which I’ll address in a moment.) It’s a basic “we must gather heroes to fight the menace” story, with the twist being that the heroes come from alternate and seemingly incompatible time streams (versus “from across the multiverse,” as in the obviously-inspirational Crisis on Infinite Earths).

Again, not a bad thing. Not a bug, but a feature that this comic feels like a plain ol’ dopey comic from the ’80s or ’90s, uncomplicated and plainly told without a drop of irony or the previously mentioned self-awareness. Well, maybe a tad of the latter, as I believe the stated purpose of the Generations event, prior to its being pushed back for some apparent retooling, was to pin down a definitive timeline for the DC Universe. As such, as I’ve said before about many DC crossovers, the event is about the DC Universe itself, and I’m guessing the larger purpose of redefining parameters for this fictional world is informed what would otherwise be a good guy vs. bad guy punch ’em up.

But it’s easy to ignore the metatextualness of it all and just enjoy it for what it is. I mean, I wish it wasn’t $9.99, but that’s the way of the world now, I suppose.

Speaking of lots of money, I haven’t sat down and figured out what it would cost you to have collected every installment of the latest Dark Nights series and tie-ins, but given they were all $4.99 to $8.99 apiece (except for the $3.99 Justice League issues), I suspect the answer isn’t one anybody’s going to want to hear. Now, most of them were good, which eases the burden at least a tad, but as someone pointed out to me, well, somewhere online, this is only going to encourage Dark Nights 3, This Time Everything’s $9.99 A Pop.

The upshot of all these Dark Night shenanigans is, once again, more multiverse to play with, which is fine, I mean we’ve been there before, DC’s always tryin’ to roll back that old devil Crisis on Infinite Earths, but it doesn’t hurt to kinda reestablish that again. Oh, and that all the characters “remember everything” and I can’t wait to see the implications of that, if there are any. Sounds maybe a little Hypertime-ish, and probably like Hypertime it’ll be misused or ignored. Will this mean that Superman will remember hangin’ out with Hocus and Pocus and their cynical rabbit? I hope so.

This “Future State” event, which is replacing DC’s regular titles for the next couple of months, feels maybe like a bit of bad timing? The industry, and the economy in general, are not in positions to give people reasons to not spend money. Interrupting your ongoing comic book series with apparently unrelated sidestories smacks of that Convergence event from a couple of years back to me, and boy did people actively skip most of those.

Now “Future State” seems like maybe it’s a little better thought out this time, in that plot elements introduced in these minis may feed back into the regular monthlies (which seems to be the case with this Swamp Thing series, from what I’ve read in interviews). I initially had a negative reaction to these comics, in that I had a number of customers explicitly tell me they weren’t interested, but then, in the last week or so, I started getting folks stated that they were, and thus maybe things will work out anyway. Price points are a put-off ($5.99 on Superman of Metropolis, $7.99(!) on The Next Batman), but one of my previous naysayers did backslide a bit on the $3.99 Wonder Woman one, so there’s hope. Particularly if the regular ongoings do reference these Future State books, which could mean some back issue sales down the road.

You know, in case you ever wondered why the hair of comic shop owners goes grey.

Oh, the comic itself…it’s fine, interesting. Extrapolates from earlier comics where Swamp Thing builds additional, sometimes almost human-like, bodies, which has me wondering if the other swampy people we see in this comic are all ultimately just aspects of his mind or their own autonomous beings. There is a line of dialogue in which Swampy notes that their emotional knowledge is “borrowed” from him, but I think it’s ambiguous if that knowledge is copied from him or literally his brain entended into their beings. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Wouldn’t be the first time. Find out next Swamp Time, same Swamp Channel, I suppose.

Yes, I know he doesn’t really turn into Mr. A.

§ November 18th, 2020 § Filed under this week's comics § 7 Comments

It’s interesting how DC can’t seem to get away from their shared-universe navel-gazing in their events, where everything is a Crisis and the very nature of the universe in which they exist is at stake. I’ve gone on before about how DC has, time and time again, tried to make that Crisis on Infinite Earths “never not was” as they try to put all the pieces back to the way they were, or at least find viable workarounds (like “hypertime”).

Not to say Death Metal isn’t entertaining, because it is. Tossing all the pieces of the DCU into the air, and printing however it falls to ground. Okay, there’s a little more planning to it than that, but if we’re going to have constant explorations of how the DC Universe works, at least let it be entertaining like this.

I would like to thank whoever decided to change the Batman Who Laughs’ dialogue from red-on-black to white-on-black, so that my beleaguered eyeballs may more easily read them. And while I get DC’s glad to have a hit on their hands, maybe for their next Dark Nights series (and there will be one, surely), maybe have fewer $5.99 one-shot tie-ins? While, again, they’ve all been entertaining, the constant onslaught of them is beginning to bum people out. I mean, find a way to squeeze all this into the main series, somehow, honestly.

Apparently the Al Ewing/Joe Bennett run is ending at issue #50, so we only, what, seven, eight months to go? Well, plus tie-ins to events like “King in Black” and whatever other one-shots they’re gonna get in before the end. And I can’t help but wonder how Marvel is going to follow this series with a new Hulk #1. Well, okay, we know they will, but this series has been such a bull-in-a-china-shop when it comes to the character’s premise, its twisting about of the Hulk’s multiple personas in a horror context, that’s been so excellently done that’s it hard to imagine where one would go after that. I mean, they have to, Hulk’s not going away, but as good as this run is, I am sort of excited to see what comes next. I’m pushing for some sort of domestic comedy.

Look, my pal Weshoyot drew a story in this, so you should pick it up. I’ve known her since she was a kid coming into my previous place of employment, and over the ensuring years she’s become a wonderfully talented artist. So glad to see how much success she’s achieved, and look forward to seeing what she does next.

Boy, this is a weird comic. I mean, aside from the fact that there are ads in this book and one moment, you’re in someone’s idea of the Watchmen universe, and the next you’re nose-deep in a Snickers ad. Previous Watchmen knock-offs have had ads in them, I realize, but it seems somewhat more egregious in this title. Particularly that Snickers ad, I swear to God it gets me every time I’m reading a DC.

Anyway, the comic is basically about “What If Steve Ditko Actually Became Mr. A?” and I was amused at first but…I can’t exactly say it’s mean-spirited, but the inspiration it takes from Ditko’s actual life feels just a tad disrespectful. Part of me finds it oddly interesting, part of me is like “yes, we get it, Ditko was kind of an oddball, quit piling on.” Also, this doesn’t really feel like something that should be a twelve-issue series, but who knows, maybe “Kack Jirby” will show up to punch Nazis or something.

Well, what can I tell you, I missed out the first time, so I’m jumping on now. Whether they’ll actually manage complete reprinting of the entire series issue-by-issue is something of a longshot, but hopefully there are enough 1) people like me who missed out and didn’t get trades for whatever reason, and 2) completists who are buying every variant cover for every issue, I suspect there’s a non-zero chance of reaching the end.

That said, I think this is a good package, with plenty of backmatter notes on the making of the issue before you. It is also kinda weird to be reading this in serialized form when, while not having read it as such, I have flipped through enough of the comics as I unpacked them out of the shipping boxes to have at least a mild appreciation of what had been going on, so actually reading the comic now gives me, to say the least, a little more understanding of the nuances of storytelling. You know, like that splash page of Rick shouting “We ARE the walking dead!” which, if there is any justice in this fallen world, will have every letter in that balloon a different color once the reprints reach that point.

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.

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!

Like anyone’s going to want to cut up their comics.

§ September 30th, 2020 § Filed under batman, collecting, this week's comics § 7 Comments

So in Monday’s post, I linked back to an ancient entry on my site regarding the insertion of flexidiscs into comic books. I warned this particular entry was rife with dead links, but I should probably have noted there was some dead information there as well.

2004 Me stated “we can pretty much forget about seeing comics with flexidisc inserts ever again” given that record players were on the way out. Well, 2020 Me knows that actual vinyl records have made a resurgence…and never really went away in the first place, though it feels like they’re more of a “thing” now. Could be I’m just more aware of it, after inheriting a large-ish collection of LPs from my grandparents and purchasing a brand new record player. And buying new records. And haunting local thrift stores for any album donations. And maybe taking in some Nipsey Russell records at the shop for store credit.

At any rate, Records Ain’t Dead, and neither are flexidiscs being distributed in funnybooks, and I had claimed. Reader Matthew was first in the comments to note

“Post York #1 (published by Uncivilized Books) in 2012 and Hip Hop Family Tree #12 in 2016”

and I do remember taking preordeers on that Hip Hop Family Tree specifically for the inserted flexidisc.

And then BKMunn pointed in the direction of this now sold-out comic from a musician that included a flexidisc.

I guess there’s still some life in the ol’ flexi just yet. Now if we can get paper/cardboard discs on comic book back covers that we’d have to cut out, like we older folks used to do as kids with cereal boxes, that’d be great. There’s a gimmick I coiuld get behind. GET ON IT, um, I don’t know, VAULT COMICS I guess.

• • •

Okay, I didn’t read a lot of new comics this week (been watching I, Claudius on DVD and streaming the final season of The Good Place now that it’s finally made its way to Netflix) but boy howdy did I read Batman: Three Jokers #2. I won’t go all into it like I did with the first issue, but suffice to say that the art by Jason Fabok (both interiors and all those covers) is still spot on. The story…welllll, this is one of those comics that feels like a ten pound load in a fifty pound sack. A lot of this probably could’ve been taken care of in a single 48-page special or, you know, a two-parter at most.

The majority of this issue is concerned with the ramifications of events from the last issue, so there’s lots of interpersonal drama and a set-up for either a big reveal next issue (placing this firmly in out-of-continuity territory) or a big reset button (making it in continuity or whatever passes for it now). I mean, whatever, it’s fine…not as important as it wants to be, and it’s kind of sweet that it’s trying so hard to tie itself to the look ‘n[‘ feel of The Killing Joke. I know some online hay was made out of a shot of a couple of manilla folders, one marked “missing criminals,” and the other marked “missing clowns,” and c’mon, there’s kind of a weird ridiculous beauty to that.

• • •

Still taking comic artform/business/whathaveyou questions to answer here in the coming weeks, so just drop one into the comments at that post if you can!

At two comics a week I should be caught up decades after I’m dead.

§ July 15th, 2020 § Filed under this week's comics Comments Off on At two comics a week I should be caught up decades after I’m dead.

So the thing about the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen series by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber is that it seamlessly merges the 1960s “anything goes” sensibility from Jimmy Olsen stories from that period, with a more modern storytelling style that’s more palatable to current tastes. Nonlinear presentation of chapters, a surprisingly dense amount of plotlines, and an excellent punchline (not to mention a huge change to the relationship of Jimmy to another character, which I hope sticks) all make for a very satisfying reader.

Speaking of the denseness/Nonlinearity…due to my eyeball health issues, I had to put off reading most comics for…well, many months. So when it came time to start reading again, I had a pretty good stack of Jimmy Olsne to read, so all the weird twists and turns of the plot remained fresh in my mind as I went from issue to issue, in a way that they may have not had I been reading this once a month as it came out. The bite-sized chapters into which each issue was split made it easily consumable, but I’m sure this is going to make one satisfying lump of funnybookin’ once it gets all collected together under one cover.

Another book that evoked a prior era for me was Immortal Hulk #35 by Al Ewing and guest-artist Mike Hawthorne. I mean, yes, we’re still in the “Hulk as Horror Comic” phase of the character, but it feels very ’70s/’80s to me, especially with the classic Savage Hulk making a personal appearance to be thanked by a community he saved. Plus we get a bit of business where Banner and said Savage Hulk have a “face to face” discussion in Banner’s…well, their…mind about trying to coexist. It’s a thing we’ve seen before in Hulk comics, and the point is even made in dialogue that it’s been done before, but something about the way it’s done in this story. More emotionally adult, less melodramatic…a resigned Banner conceding to an angry and upset Hulk that they do need to work together…it’s affecting in a way that it hadn’t been before.

The horror aspect of the book is downplayed slightly, but the suspense is definitely there, especially in that aforementioned sequence with Hulk visiting that town to receive thanks from the populace. You keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, especially in the context of this series where a really awful thing can happen at any time. I said this reminded me of older style Hulk stories, but in those if a situation like this went bad, Hulk would just shout “BAH!” and jump away, not really hurting anyone. But now, in these modern stories, you just know something terrible is about to happen. And…does it? Look, I’ve already said too much, but I’m sure you can probably figure it out.

One thing I liked was the first page, text with illustrations catching you up what was up with Banner and IDing some of the other Hulks you’re likely to come across. I’ve been keeping up with Immortal Hulk best I can during the eye-enning, but having a little primer to jumpstart the memories is quite welcome, particularly in a story that can have its own set of twists.

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