The Spock/Jaws crossover we were all waiting for.

§ March 9th, 2020 § Filed under collecting, eyeball, sterling silver comics, video games § 5 Comments

Okay, I’m back, barring any further shenanigans. Quick update on the eye…still a little cloudy, but it’s very close to being clear and I suspect I’ll be back to whatever passes for normal in short order. Then it’ll probably be time for the other eye to go south on me again. Sigh.

Next…I did my jury duty service Monday. Waited around all day, wasn’t called in as part of the three different groups of jiuror pools pulled into courtrooms. Free for another year, hopefully!

Before that…the previous Friday, a construction crew behind my shop, building an addition to the restaurant, somehow managed to cut through the shop’s internet and phone lines. THAT WAS DELIGHTFUL. And of course the repair crew showed up Monday while I was at jury duty, where they managed to fix one of the problems and not the other. Hopefully we’ll get that final problem fixed Tuesday. Here’s hoping. …I had workarounds for both services, so the shop was still able to function, but…bleah.

In addition, since my vision hadn’t been that great in my good readin’ eye, leaving it difficult to read any print comics, I availed myself of the DC Universe app and my iPad to read some of the digital comics they had available. And that’s how I, at long last, finally read Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman run. I actually read the first four or five issues when they were originally released, but for some reason didn’t keep with the series. It’s the usual combination of serious war stories, thoughts on what it means to be a good person, and outrageous/weird/grossout humor, mixed in with Mr. Ennis’ general and hilarious contempt for superheroing (the exception being Superman, natch…and maybe Catwoman). Interesting that the title caaracter has been left mostly untouched outside of the creators’ work (though I seem to recall there was a New 52/Rebirth/whatever namecheck).

Anyway, it’s a good series, even if I kinda had to cover the screen now and again whilst reading it in the juror waiting room.

And one last thing…at long last, my Blip collection is finally on its way to becoming a thing, with the acquisition of issue #5 in a recent purchase:

It has all the latest and hottest tips for playing Zaxxon, which is good because I’m terrible at it.

Blip was Marvel’s short-lived video game comic-sized magazine from the early 1980s, of which I owned one copy originally, but had since discarded and now of course I wish I had back. But as I recall, the series hadn’t been terribly popular at the time, and just kinda stunk up the back issue bins as unsellable stock. But it was also the first place a comic book version of Mario from Donkey Kong (and likely other video game characters) appeared, making those particular issues quite the pricey items. This issue just has a Tootsie cameo on the cover, which frankly should make it a collectors item all by itself.

Anyway, send me your spare Blips. I might even pay you a nickel or two for the more notable ones.

Checking in.

§ March 6th, 2020 § Filed under low content mode § 1 Comment

Vision is continuing to clear in my left eye, but still not back to full usability. Thanks for your well-wishes and your patience. I *should* be back to normal posting next week, maybe, depending on what’s going on with my jury duty.

Thanks for reading, pols, and I’ll be back soon!

Low content mode for a while…

§ March 1st, 2020 § Filed under eyeball, low content mode § 8 Comments

…as my left eye (my allegedly “good” eye) had a little more bleeding, and it’s a little too rough on me to try to do extensive typing with only my diminished-vision right eye to check for typos. So let me rest the week and we’ll see where I’m at around Thursday or Friday. Or maybe it’ll all wash out right away and I’ll be back on schedule. Who knows?

Also, on March 9ths I’ve got to go in for jury selection, so I may not have a post for that day…and depending on whether or not anyone actually wants me on a jury, that may affect my schedule afterwards, too. I’ll keep you posted.

And I’m sure I’ll be griping on Twitter about stuff, so you can always find me there, or you can drop me an email.

Talk to you soon, pals.

“Welcome to Walt Disney’s Progressive Ruin.”

§ February 28th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, retailing § 8 Comments

So the follow-up to last week’s release of Batman #89, which nobody had enough of because everyone decided they needed it after orders were locked down, was this week’s Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #3, which also experienced a huge amount of demand that wasn’t there prior to its orders being solidified.

And unlike Batman #89, which at least had a chance at being ordered in reasonably high quantities, Hell Arisen #3 was, at least in these quarters, ordered pretty close to the bone, for pull lists and to accommodate numbers sold on the shelf for issues #1 and #2. Probably not a lot of extras of those floatin’ around, I’d imagine. Batman‘s got a shelf life beyond its initial week of release, the presumably concluding mini-series to an event that, despite its title, was definitely around for like eight or nine years, ain’t going to be picking up a bunch of brand new readers, so I’m presuming orders were very conservative.

But it’s an early appearance of a new character, or characters, I’m not even entirely sure, so I don’t even have to check in on the eBays to see what usually happens when short supply meets high demand. (Remind me in about six months or so to check in there and see where values may have settled.)

The next big, well, milestone, I suppose, will be Batman #92…specifically, the “cardstock variant cover” illustrated by Artgerm, for which I’m already receiving requests. Finally, DC found a way to get people to want to pay a dollar more for these cardstock covers. It was supposed to be the variant for #94, but DC, smelling a buck anticipating current demand, pushed up its release. And I’m just going to post a picture of it here so I don’t have yet another giant wall of text on my site:

Okay, Joker’s new partner in crime, that’s all well and good, assuming 1) DC learned its lesson regarding the abusive relationship Harley Quinn was in with the Joker (and to be fair, it looks like they have, at least with HQ’s modern portrayal) and makes Punchline more of an equal, and 2) any issues with Orientalism can be avoided, making the character part of a commitment to diversity rather than surface level fetishism.

Okay, okay, bit early to be dumping this much heaviness onto a brand new character that’s barely shown up. I may be a bit soured on the whole thing because of the sales situation, so maybe I’ll feel a little more positive about the whole thing once there’s a little distance. At the very least, the comic market can use a little excitement once in a while just to keep things interesting, even if it makes my grey hair just slightly more grey.

And speaking of going more grey, it’s going to be tricky ordering this cover for #92. I’ve got preorders, which helps, but am I going to get much additional walk-in traffic for it? It’s far enough in advance that everyone can order as much as they want of it right now, but if there’s plenty of supply, the sort of demand that would come if copies weren’t plentiful may not materialize. I can see some stores getting stuck with piles of this issue, and I need to make darn sure I’m not one of them.

• • •

In other news, in the wake of former copublisher Dan DiDio’s departure, I’ve been seeing online, and hearing from the occasional customer, things like “Is Marvel buying DC?” or “is DC licensing their characters to Marvel?” or “is DC going to get shut down if their next event doesn’t pay off?” …And all I can think of is that long ago issue of Comic Shop News, either an April Fools issue or maybe their issue #50 or maybe both, that had a fake headline and story headlined “MARVEL BUYS DC.” I still have a copy around my house, somewhere…probably should have found it before writing this post, but oh well, you’ll just have to take my word for it. Anyway, that sort of rumor has been going on a long time, even long before that issue of CSN. And interestingly, I don’t recall such prevalence of the reverse rumor, DC buying Marvel, even when that seemed like an even greater possibility during Marvel’s lean years prior to the Disney buyout.

Anyway, it’s all horseshit. DC licensing characters to Marvel makes no sense, since Marvel has no publishing advantage over DC, really, and besides, Marvel’s already licensing out their own characters to somebody else to publish. The major thing Marvel has over DC is its movies, which all tend to be successful and have consistent cultural traction. Despite that, DC’s movies on the whole do make money, aside from a few underperformers, and it seems unlikely Warner Bros. would wish to endure “Marvel Studios Presents SUPERMAN.” I see WB continuing to try to make money with DC, rather than giving it up for someone else to make money, or canning it entirely.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that someday Disney won’t buy Warner Bros. and merge Marvel and DC together at some point, but Disney’s eventual acquisition of everything is inevitable. We shall all be one with The Mouse.

Oh, and my guess for who’s replacing Dan DiDio as co-publisher, assuming Jim Lee doesn’t become sole publisher or that someone at Warners installs someone in the position? …Brian Michael Bendis. Put me in the office pool for a dollar, please.

I purposely typed “Elf with a Gun” as much as I could in this post.

§ February 24th, 2020 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 8 Comments

So there I was, pricing up a bunch of old issues of Defenders, as one does when one owns a comic book store with lots of back issues and also have at least temporarily working eyes, when I noticed something. The current Overstreet price guide, the 49th annual edition, has this as their listing for the latter part of the series:

What stood out for me were the notations for that classic weirdo Marvel character “Elf with a Gun.” I couldn’t recall seeing that particular information being in the “Defenders” guide listings before, so I went back to the 46th annual edition, which I happened to have sittin’ around the shop, and behold:

Yup, no mention of Elf with a Gun. When I first discovered this, I was quick to blame comic blogs and their fascination with funnybook esoterica bringing something like Elf with a Gun to slightly more widespread awareness (for which Dave-El willingly took the fall with his 2018 post on this very character).

But actually, if you compare the two scans, it’s clear that the newer guide has greatly expanded its content notation for many of the issues listed there, so it’s not just Elf wtih a Gun who gets special attention. And let’s be honest, it’s one of those bizarre things that deserves to be singled out, one of Steve Gerber’s stranger flights of whimsy to appear on the printed page. (And before anyone says anything…yes, I know the price guide listings excerpted above are for the later non-Gerber Elf with a Gun appearances…look, those just happened to be the issues I was pricing.)

Anyway, if you want to learn more about Elf with a Gun, and who wouldn’t, really, go read Dave-El’s post. He’s got it covered.

One other thing I noticed, aside from the whole Elf with a Gun thing, is th eapparent price drop from the 46th edition to the current 49th edition of the guide. Mostly $4 in Near Mint before, now only $3 a pop. One of my Twitter pals (whose tweets are protected, so I won’t directly quote him here) suggested the proliferation of digital availability bringing prices down, or even the possible negative impact of the Defenders TV show that had aired on Netflix. I mean, I have no idea…sure either of those situations could have been factors, or maybe there’s just less overall demand/trade in back issues from that period, causing a depression in reported sales from submitting retailers. When I have some free time (har har) maybe I’ll do a little spotchecking and see if there are any other examples of relatively cheap/small demand books getting similar price reductions.

Anyway, just a little something I noticed while doing my job. How many other jobs require investigating historical attention to, and pricing of, Elf with a Gun comic book appearances? Probably far more than you can imagine.

In conclusion:

Someone put out a video talking about how Man of Steel #2 (1986) is a hot collectible…I’ve got dozens of those to move.

§ February 21st, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 2 Comments

So I had a work dream the other night, in which I was explaining to someone that the demand for a random issue of Amazing Mary Jane was so through the roof that they actually pulled back all the copies intended for newsstand distribution to meet the needs of retailers in the direct market.

Now 1) that’s not how any of that works, and 2) ha ha “newsstand distribution,” but I think that I had a dream like that at all tells me that trying to stay ahead of the almost seemingly arbitrary and unpredictable floods of requests for specific issues of comic series. Or specific variant covers. And almost always at the last second, long after the orders have been locked in and it’s too late to get in any reorders.

The latest example was just this week, when word got out that a new character (“Punchline,” a new Harley Quinn-esque lady partner for the Joker) was to appear in Batman #89. Now, it’s more of a cameo, really (like, half her face in one panel, if I saw correctly) but that was enough for the YouTube videos and the “hot comic” phone apps to push the comic into stratospheric demand.

Those of you who’ve been around these here bloggin’ parts a while may remember this post of mine, in which I try to explain why ordering for a limited series is different from ordering for an ongoing series, in terms of deciding how much back stock you’d want on hand for future sales to readers new to the series. An ongoing series would probably require slightly deeper backstock, as theoretically you could have people looking for the first, second, etc. issues for years on end. A mini-series you might want just enough back stock to meet needs for the duration of the series, and perhaps a little after. There are exceptions, of course, but in general that would be the respective cases.

When I wrote that back in 2007, we didn’t quite yet have the marketplace we do now, where titles end and relaunch with new #1s whenever, I don’t know, a character gets a new haircut and now suddenly everything is New and Different! In 2007, while relaunches had happened, of course, it wasn’t the norm it is today. Any title can stop and relaunch with a new #1 at any time, and when that new series starts, demand for back issues of preceding series will drop off. I can still sell plenty of the original Batman series, but New 52 Batman, once a hot commodity, barely moves now that it’s been supplanted by Rebirth Batman.

The end result: everything gets ordered as a mini-series. Just enough back stock, if any, to meet demand right now, and hopefully not be stuck with more than a copy or two, if any, of each issue when the eventual relaunch comes. Even something like the current Batman, which is nearing issue #100, which even somehow managed to change writers without a new #1, you kinda still feel the need to order close to the bone because you can no longer plan on the long term health of its sale of back issues.

And the end result of that end result: if something suddenly and without sufficient warning becomes “hot,” there’s not going to be an excess of stock floating around to meet that excess demand. I know this exact thing happened with Batman, judging by the increasing desperation of phone calls throughout my Wednesday from folks trying to locaste copies. Pretty sure most people were caught off guard. I had so many phone calls prior to that Wednesday from customers asking for that very issue that I opened my doors on New Comics Day with no copies of this issue for the rack. And I order a not-insignificant amount of Batman comics. Even at a limit of one per customer (sorry, you don’t get 10 copies, guy on phone I’ve never spoken to before) I was plain ol’ outie.

I realize I’ve typed about this sort of thing in the past. And I’ve said before…I’m glad to see some excitement in the direct market, and you can enjoy the hobby however you want to enjoy it. But things aren’t like they were back in the early ’90s, when you had to have reasonably deep stock for purt’near everything to meet current and future demand. “Surprise” titles like Batman #89 is usually met by stores who ordered just enough for their weekly pulls and the usual rack sales.

I mean, sure, I’ve been doing this a long time, I sometimes can properly anticipate higher than normal demand for certain comics. For example, I ordered extra copies of the J. Scott Campbell cover for Star #1 from Marvel, and was rewarded by a quick sellthrough. But then, I also ordered extra on the Gwen Stacy #1 with the Campbell cover and sold pretty much all of its variants except that one. Oh well.

You can also try following the same apps/sites/videos the customers do, assuming they give you enough lead time to adjust your orders. And assuming all their hot comic suggestions work out, which all of them won’t. And if you can stand watching a YouTube video with someone talking about what future comics will be investible without getting a nosebleed.

Or you can just order what you need to order, as trying to second guess what comic will be “hot” or “collectible” is a quick way to fill up your back room.

Spoilers mostly for “Clone Saga,” I guess.

§ February 17th, 2020 § Filed under death of superman, question time § 16 Comments

So in answer to my late-night lament that I was comin’ up empty for blogging material for today, Twitter pal Tim posted the following:

“You’re on a desert island, with only one of the following to read:

1. Age of Apocalypse
2. Clone Saga
3. Knightfall / Quest / End
4. Death / Return of Superman”

I responded to him briefly there, before realizing he was actually suggesting a blog post idea to me, because I’m a dummy with a 5-second attention span.

The idea of “Desert Island Comics” is one that’s been discussed plenty of times, I’m sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever really nailed down what would be my choices should I ever 1) be able to afford a cruise ship ticket, 2) actually slip my chain and get away from the shop long enough to take that cruise, and 3) survive whatever sufficient disaster would occur that would let me live and also let me get my comics to shore unwaterlogged.

Ideally my top choice would be “every Swamp Thing comic, with “every Groo comic” and “every Love and Rockets comic” tied for second place, though I supposed Tim’s postulated island reading would be restricted to specific storylines/events rather than the whole series enchilada. So…I guess the “American Gothic” storyline from Swamp Thing, because Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben, and also early Constantine, and also it’s just rad.

BUT ALAS that’s not an option offered up by cruel, cruel Tim. What he does offer me are four iconic ’90s multi-title events, which, for the purposes of deserted island enjoyed, each have the virtue of containing many, many pages of comics with which one may occupy one’s time. But in terms of reading enjoyment…welllll, let’s look at them in order.

“Age of Apocalypse” was the alternate timeline/universe thingie involving the X-Men, which primarily resulted in all the X-books being put on hold briefly while mini-series featuring new versions of the X-characters existing in whatever this parallel reality was. In concept it’s an interesting idea, and I know people enjoyed it just fine, and it certain sold well…but I’m just generally not an X-Men guy. Nothing against them, really, but it’s just with very rare exceptions am I interested in reading any of their books. I mean, sure, I read it for a while in the ’80s, came back for Grant Morrison’s run, and I’ll still go to bat for the X-Men/Micronauts mini. But, aside from that, I just don’t have any interest.

Yeah yeah, I know, “but Hickman’s X-Men is really good!” I’m sure it is, and honestly I was tempted, but I’m so far behind on everything else I didn’t want to add too much new to the “will read eventually” pile.

Okay, next is the dreaded “Clone Saga,” in which it’s revealed that the clone of Spider-Man that popped up in the ’70s and supposedly died was in fact not dead, and has come back to make the then-current line of Spider-comics unnecessarily complicated. Oh, and it also turned out that it wasn’t the clone that supposedly “died” in that ’70s issue, but rather the real Spider-Man and we’ve been reading the adventures of the clone all this time since. Yup, the fans loved that little revelation. That plot twist got untwisted right quick, of course, but if I recall correctly it did such a number on the Spider-books that Marvel did their first of too many relaunches for Amazing Spider-Man, just to clear the stink of what had come before.

I know there are plenty of readers who grew up with the Clone Saga stuff and enjoy it plenty, but again, just not for me. My Spidery tastes are more Ditko-esque in quality, though I have a soft spot for late ’70s/early ’80s Spider-Men, which is my own earliest newsstand exposure to the character. Now as a Desert Island Comic contender, it has possibilities simply through the sheer number of titles and plot permuations to keep one occupied, but I don’t know how much I would actually enjoy it.

Now “Knightfall” etc., the Batman event where he’s put out of commission and a new fella with much less crimefighting restraint takes over, had my interest as it was coming out, at least for a bit. Another thing in concept that was interesting, with a point to make (“so you want Batman to be more violent? Here’s why you don’t want that”) but it just felt like it draaaaged. The “Knightfall” bit was fine, but just couldn’t get into the rest of the event. Didn’t help that I was just plain bored by Azrael. Just really couldn’t care less about him.

Some nice Kelley Jones work in there, though.

Which comes to the conclusion that probably surprises no one, that the whole “Death/Return of Superman” thing would be my Desert Island Comic choice. It still holds together, it’s a real faster-than-a-speeding-bullet progression of the serial particularly as we neared the climax of the “Return” segment. It is filled with a lot of great art and fun writing that very much entertained me as it was coming out, and still entertained me upon subsequent rereads. And in fact, just thinking about it again makes me want to dip into it one more time. Someone find me a deserted island for me to reread this!

Oh for the days when I used to be referred to as “Get on Down Disco Dynamite.”

§ February 14th, 2020 § Filed under legion of super-heroes, superman, what § 5 Comments

So pal Brook (the very one who clued me in to the Hulk single) dropped by on Wednesday after perusing the vinyl record selection at the weekly flea market a town or two over. One of this acquired goodies was the following item, courtesy the year 1978:

And behold the back cover, if you dare:

A closer look at the back cover blurb:

…and if the song title “Lois Gets on Down” didn’t get you to buy this record, surely the idea of “Superman grooving out of sight” would do the trick.

Brook was good enough to let me borrow the record for the week, and…yes, it’s pretty amazing. A number of the songs are disco versions of movie theme music (and I didn’t realize there was another disco version of the Star Wars theme aside from Meco’s, though thinking about it I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised…and the two versions are awfully close). And if you’re wondering, “Mountain Funk” is a disco-ized version of “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

I’ve linked to a couple of the songs on this record already, but here’s the main attraction…the disco-enhanced recording of the John Williams theme from Superman: The Movie. You’re welcome. And be sure to stick around for the weird vocalizations (surely done by those kind women on the album cover).

Also, if I may add, speaking of that cover…Twitter pal Rob pointed out that the nice young lady on the right of the image bears some semblance to Saturn Girl and her ’70s swimsuit costume, and darned if Rob’s not onto something. And I’d bet one can of Billy Beer that there was someone at that same disco dressed like Grimbor the Chainsman.

Gleaming the cube.

§ February 12th, 2020 § Filed under gelatinous cube § 4 Comments

Okay, so I don’t have my Nancy and Sluggo Pops yet, but this release may mollify me somewhat:

Hokey smokes it’s a Gelatinous Cube Pop, apparently a convention exclusive but perhaps available at select retailers, says the linked article. Well, they darn well better select me, America’s Most Beloved Fan of Gelatinous Cube-Related Stuff.

Anyway, that’s pretty wild, but what I’m most astonished by is the fact that the possibility of this actually being A Thing never occurred to me. Particularly after having a Mind Flayer Pop come into the store. And I just checked…there doesn’t seem to be a Beholder Pop either…not even the Beholder knock-off from Big Trouble in Little China.

Not that I need any more tchotchkes in the house. Pop-wise, I have the various Swamp Things, and Popeye, and recently took home a Galactus. That should be plenty, but I’d definitely make room for a Gelatinous Cube. …And a Nancy and/or Sluggo, of course. I mean, honestly, what’s the hold up? Are they tied up by other licensing agreements? C’MON ALREADY

Be pretty wild if he did return as The Outsider.

§ February 10th, 2020 § Filed under batman, publishing § 3 Comments

[SPOILERS for recent events in Batman comics]

So I think none of us who are devoting any minimal amount of thought to the apparent death of Alfred are thinking “if” over “when” in regards to the character’s eventual return. It goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway, that a vital part of a franchise like this won’t be out of the picture for very long. Now granted, Alfred isn’t entirely indisposable — the only indisposable part of Batman is “dude what dresses up as a bat” — but he’s certainly an expected part, and certainly noticeable in his absence.

Anyway, I was thinking about Alfred’s death (and the on-panel death seemed to be about as definite as these things get) and how DC would eventually bring him back, which inspired me to slap together this poll for the Twitters:

Before I get into the results, let me talk about the choices I included. “Never actually dead” is pretty self-explanatory…some kind of fake-out or ruse or clone or whathaveyou, leaving him alive but out of the picture somewhere. This is pretty much the deal with the whole “Death of the Human Torch” story.

The second option, “Magic/science shenanigans” covers things like the Lazarus Pit, or Herbert West-style reanimation, or, well, clones, I guess, so there’s bit of a grey zone between this and the first option. I suppose the Death of Superman would fall under this, though if I recall correctly there was maybe a tiny, tiny bit of life in him so maybe he wasn’t entirely dead and now you’re beginning to see the choices aren’t nearly as cut and dried.

Option three is again, probably self-explanatory…if you don’t know what a reboot is, I refer you to the past decade or two of Marvel or DC comics. But if you need a specific example, perhaps the Legion of Super-Heroes rebooting itself out of a painted-in corner during Zero Hour.

What’s interesting about the results is that “Reboot” was the choice that garnered the most votes in a relatively short amount of time. It’s probably the most cynical of the choices, but not unwarranted by the publishing strategies of the Big Two. It speaks to a lack of faith in publishers providing a satisfying resolution to a story, or committing to any significant changes or plot developments. The Reset Key remains a looming threat.

In my mind, the other two options, “never dead” and “shenanigans,” feel more likely. In chatting with Brian Cronin, who noted that the death of Alfred was perhaps a top-down decision at DC, has me thinking that the ultimate goal will of course be the big “RETURN OF ALFRED” to-do in the Bat-books, or across the DC Universe line, with all the attendant tie-ins and such. A wild plot/character development now lays down the groundwork for a big payday later, everyone hopes.

Now I suppose it’s possible this now just the new status quo at DC, along with Batman having a biological son, or Superman and Lois having a son, but even those are only permanent ’til another reboot passes through. …Perhaps a good follow-up poll would be asking “when?”

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