“Kryptonite…well, maybe a little more.”

§ October 11th, 2023 § Filed under superman § 8 Comments

So I had a copy of this comic fall into my hands the other day, Action Comics #485 (1976):

…which caught my eye as it was the Whitman variant, and would be worth a little money if this copy hadn’t been around the block a bit. But still, it’s nice to see, with its Neal Adams cover reminiscent of Adams’ cover for Superman #233 (1971):

And reminiscent it should be as the Action issue is a reprint of that Superman issue. Despite having run across plenty of copies of that Action over the years, I never bothered to look inside as I figured “just a reprint of Superman #233, move along.”

But this time I did look inside, and lo and behold, there’s a new framing sequence by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Josef Rubenstein:

Three pages at the beginning, which segues into the reprint of the the older Denny O’Neil/Swan/Murphy Anderson comic after Superman is zapped by a weapon in the intro:

…and we see the then five-year-old classic tale of the End of Kryptonite, an attempt to revamp the book by both removing the story crutch of that deadly mineral and depowering Superman slightly:

And then Flashback Over, as Superman awakes and defeats the bad guys in the last page (with one new panel drawn at the bottom of the last page of the reprints as a transition).

As you see, 1971’s Superman #233 is the issue where Clark Kent moves over the WGBS to be a TV reporter, a change to the status quo that’s still active by the time the story’s reprinted in Action a few years later. Unlike the whole “end of Kryptonite/Superman is weaker” business which, I believe, was over and done with fairly quickly. In fact, it’s a little surprising this story was chosen for reprinting as that particular shake-up to the Superman mythos was unshook as fast as it was. But still, it gave them a reason to run another variation of that Adams cover, a popular and eye-catching image, and it’s a good story regardless.

And I’m glad I took a peek inside the comic this time and found some surprise new-to-me Curt Swan work. We’re not getting any more new art from him, so it’s good to treasure what we have.


§ October 9th, 2023 § Filed under indies § 4 Comments

So like I was talking about in this post from last week, I find myself trying to pick between reading a lot of comics and getting the backlog cut down, or reading a single graphic novel in that same time.

Well, I finally decided to pick up Kate Beaton’s autobiographical graphic novel Ducks:

…and I’m only halfway through, but I definitely lost time Sunday evening reading this volume, looking at the clock, thinking “oh sure I’ve got time before I have to go” and then checking again and realizing “oops, I’m late.” That’s probably a sign of a good book, right?

It’s the story of Beaton’s post-college jobs in the Canadian oil fields, which she took to pay off student loans. It’s both fascinating in the details of the work she’s doing, and harrowing in the casual sexism and harassment a young Beaton has to face. It’s densely told, usually lots of panels per page, but it never feels cramped. And for my long-suffering eyeballs, the lettering and the black and white art are both crisp and easy for me to read.

Usually one should finish a book entirely before giving a recommendation, but even at the halfway point I feel confident telling folks this is one worth getting your mitts upon. I’ve long enjoyed her shorter humorous works, and I’m finding her longform dramatic storytelling to be just a compelling.

Yes, I know this isn’t every Nancy book.

§ October 6th, 2023 § Filed under nancy § 5 Comments

So Ray asked

“Do you have a link or anything to the full strip that includes the nightmare fuel panel?”

Well, I immediately went to my shelf and pulled down my copy of the strip reprint book Nancy’s Dreams and Schemes, published by Kitchen Sink Press back in 1990. I mean, the strip would obviously fall under that particular theme, right? But I didn’t see it at first glace, and I realized “oh wait, I sourced the scan on that Sluggo Saturday entry,” where I reminded myself it was from 1988’s The Best of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy. (That book was gifted to me by pal Andres, which is why he’s thanked in that post…but I haven’t seen Andres in years. Where are you, Andres?)

Anywhere, here’s the strip with the panel in context (note I couldn’t get a clean scan of the last panel, as that was too close to the gutter there, and look, I like you Ryan, but I’m not breaking this book’s spine for you):

Oh, Bushmiller, you scamp!

But looking through Nancy’s Dreams and Schemes and Best of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy put me in mind of two things.

First, the Bushmiller (and Company) original strip I own is in Dreams and Schemes, which I’d forgotten!

Second, all those nice Fantagraphics strip collections are out of print, and appear to be staying that way.

And, unsurprisingly, they’re going for a premium on eBay. Which is a shame, I was hoping for more volumes past the third one, but ah well.

Still available, however, is How to Read Nancy by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden, which features Bushmiller’s artwork:

And while not by Bushmiller, the first three volumes of John Stanley’s Nancy are still available:

The collections of the recent Olivia James Nancy strips don’t appear to still be available from Diamond, but I suspect you can still get them from real book distributors.

And this Nancy Big Little Book from the 1940s?

Definitely out of print. Don’t even bother.

In which I complain about reading too few comics.

§ October 4th, 2023 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, nancy, this week's comics § 5 Comments

So it’s been a while since I’ve done just straight up reviews of the new comics on this site, which is primarily because I don’t tend to read the new comics during the week they’re new. Either I’m reading things well ahead of time (as the Marvel and DC books usually show up at the shop a week before their on-sale date), which is rare, or I read them well after release, which is more likely.

My eyeball troubles during their initial phase, when my vision was cloudy or just blacked out entirely, kept me from reading more or less anything for about a year and a half. I was able to read text on my computer screen by enlarging fonts, doing high contrast white-on-black colors, etc. But comics were a no-go for a while. And while I still continued to accumulate books to read during this period, they went unread for quite some time.

I’ve got quite the backlog, even with deciding to give up on some titles to thin out the stack. Adding to the problem is that now I’m able to read again, I’m not reading as quickly as I used to. And this is just comics. I’m not even bringing the prose books I’ve gathered up recently into this.

I’m trying to make time to read comics and get through these stacks. I have entire series that I’m eventually going to have to sit and buzz through their runs. I just did this with Ahoy Comics’ Second Coming and The Wrong Earth, and Howard Chaykin’s Hey, Kids! Comics! is up next.

Graphic novels are kind of a roadblock in this process, in that I could read 1 graphic novel or I can read (x) number of comics in that same period of time. Again, I read more slowly than I used to, so it’s a real decision to make.

But it’s no decision at all when Bill Griffith gets a book out:

I mean, of course I’m going to read a biography of Nancy creator Ernie Bushmiller. It’s a dense retelling of not just Bushmiller’s career, but of the history of comic strips in general, going into details of the business from Bushmiller’s era. It’s not as emotionally devastating as his previous biography, Nobody’s Fool, the story of real-life pinhead Schlitzie, but watching Bushmiller’s rise and developing his methods of operation are both compelling and exciting.

There are several asides, from Nancy and Sluggo themselves (using redialogued Bushmiller art), and from Griffith himself, making appearances as the curator of an imaginary Nancy museum. Certainly strange, certainly fitting given the comics being discussed.

Good book, well worth spending the time absorbing this work. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested not just in Nancy and Bushmiller, but in the business of strips.

I do love the cover, taken of course from one of Bushmiller’s more nightmare-inducing strips:

…which I of course used as a wallpaper on my original flip phone, and also appeared in my Sluggo Saturday feature. (I see someone else out there is using the “Sluggo Saturday” name — ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES.)

The book does bring up his use of assistants of course, which I was aware of even when I bought this original Nancy strip a few years back. Like I said in that post, even so it was nice to have something produced under Bushmiller’s watch. And seeing that period of Bushmiller’s career in Griffith’s book, it was nice to think “I have something from this point in his life.” It’s a solid, real connection to this story, and in its way, maybe Three Rocks is as affecting as Nobody’s Fool, at least to me and my personal minor link to Bushmiller.

The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty-One.

§ October 2nd, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 5 Comments

Back to Ye Olde Favorite ’80s Comicks Polle for our latest entry:

The Tick (New England Comics 1988-1995)

I’m a’gonna get the shameful confession out of the way first. I…never really got into any of the Tick comic books or its many, many spinoffs beyond the initial issues by creator Ben Edlund (those cited in the heading just above).

I know, I know, don’t yell at me. People loved the Tick, as per my observations as a humble funnybook seller over the decades. Folks didn’t just get one series and skip the others…they bought all Ticks, all the time, as fast and as many as were published. Even recently, after I acquired a giant pile of Tick back issues for the shop, they remain regular sellers. (Wither new Tick comics? More on that in a moment.)

Now, that first Tick series launched around the same time I started working at the local comic book store, and was also attending college. I didn’t start buying it from the beginning, despite the fact 1) I was always looking for new and weird offbeat books, 2) I always checked out the black and white comics for idiosyncratic visions, and 3) I liked comics that were funny.

But it took a college pal, Ray, who also worked just down the street from the comic shop and would buy comics from me occasionally, to turn me onto the book. Just hanging out between glasses one day, Ray asked me if I’d been reading The Tick, and after I said no, he regaled me with a handful of funny bits from the comic…enough so that next time I was at work, I decided to try it out.

And it was a good decision. That first series, under Edlund’s pen, was a wild ride of a superhero parody, starring a mysterious, oversized, “nigh-invulnerable” dude in a blue costume with antennae fighting crime in his own peculiar way. Eventually accompanied by Arthur, his moth-costumed pal who, as far as I remember, only went by “Arthur” as his superhero name.

Tick started as a mascot created by Edlund for the New England Comics store, appearing in newsletters until graduated to its own full-sized comic. (And I mean “full-sized” as it was printed at “Golden Age” size, larger in dimensions than other not-as-funny comics on the stands.) It ended up being enormously popular, with multiple Tick series (Karma Tornado starting during the initial series’ run) following by Many Other Hands. And that’s not counting spin-offs like Paul the Samurai and Man-Eating Cow.

Look, a lot of great people worked on these other non-Edlund comics. I admire the craft and consistency and willingness to just continue keeping Tick on the shelves and in front of people. But…what tickled me about those original Ticks didn’t seem to be in these other releases. Probably a “me” problem, since humor is very subjective. Again, don’t yell at me, please.

Now, if you want to read the Tick…well, nothing is currently being published, and the Tick offerings for recent Free Comic Book Days have even dropped off of late. On the plus side, a lot of Tick comics and trade paperbacks reprinting those comics have been unleashed over the years, so there should be plenty of these out there to track down. The most recently available book, brought back into print on occasion over the last few years, is a trade paperback reprinting the Complete Edlund stories (plus the Psuedo-Edition #13, produced to provide the thirteenth issue Edlund planned but never did).

I didn’t list all the series and reprints and variants and whathaveyou here just because there are so many. My suggestion is try out the Edlund material first, and if you like that, ignore cranky old Mike’s opinions and try out some of the spinoffs, which most people like just fine.

Should also note the media spinoffs, including a well-regarded animated series, a beloved single season of a live action show starring Patrick Warburton, and a couple seasons of a more adult-oriented but still hilarious Amazon Price series starring Peter Serafinowicz. Oddly enough, I loved the live action shows (more the Warburton one than the Amazon one), but I never warmed to the cartoon. Look, I know that makes me a weirdo…the path I follow is not an easy one.

Another lazy post.

§ September 29th, 2023 § Filed under publishing § 15 Comments

So another night where things got away from me…I do plan on the next installment of the Final ’80s Countdown, which I’ll try to get to next week. But in the meantime:

Sean asked about the alternate history Spider-Man comics published in Mexico, post-Gwen’s death. Apparently Mexican fans, and the folks making the comics, weren’t having it, so they continued along with new stories where Gwen didn’t get thrown off a bridge by the Green Goblin and then get killed when Spider-Man grabbed her in mid-air, snapping her neck. This article in the Guardian tells you all about it (and even interviews the original artist of those stories).

It’s brought up in the article, but it is very surprising to me that an English translation hasn’t been released in the U.S. But then, Marvel has so much Spidey stuff produced in the U.S. to pull from for trades and hardcovers, the added expense of hiring a translator to redo all the text may be enough to put them off. So I guess y’all better start hunting the back issue bins to put together your own run. I think in the 35 years I’ve been selling comics, I’ve seen an issue from this series…maybe twice. So good luck!

Mike Loughlin notes that Wizard said about pricing foreign edition comics

“…The UK edition of the ’60s Avengers comic was worth less than the US edition.”

…and that was likely true at the time. But Wizard died off before the weird, almost frantic drive to find “hot” comics that afflicted collectors starting not all that long ago, and driven to extremes during the height of society actually acknowledging a pandemic was happening. Things not as hot before were a lot warmer now, including international “variants” of American books. It was, and still is, a weird time, what can I tell you.

Sean also asked if I could get into the alternate version of various characters like the Captain Atom and the Shadow published in Australia. I didn’t have to resond, but in swoops Chris B with some Aussie comical info.

Here’s one, as s sample:

I don’t know…Casual Day for the Shadow isn’t really that great of a look.

Computers make everything easier!

§ September 27th, 2023 § Filed under publishing § 3 Comments

Well, I’m left with almost no time to post at the moment because I spent the evening trying to figure out how to reset the password on my desktop Macintosh. Wasn’t getting “reset password” options on the login screen, and it took forever to find help online that wasn’t specific to 1) laptops, 2) phones, and 3) older Macs. Oddly, the password I’d been using forever (bad idea, don’t do as I do, kids) suddenly stopped working, and I’m not sure why. (When I had to reenter the old password later, after the reset, it worked fine.)

Anyway, all is good now unless it happens again tomorrow, but we’ll see. But I’ve changed the password to something a little easier to deal with, so nobody tell anyone that it’s now “seanmageeanisastinker,” okay?

All that said, I wanted to thank you folks for all the great comments you’ve been leaving lately. I do read every one, and I appreciate the civil discussion.

I’ll try to address a couple of questions from last time here.

First, JohnO asks

“Question regarding overseas reprints…what if it is a reprint of a key issue from the UK/Australia? Are those also ‘cheaper?’ Obviously, they go for less than the original but how much more are they able to sell for since they are in English? Thanks and keep up the great work.”

I actually got into this a couple of years ago, where the answer at the time was, in general, they were worth about the same, if not more, at least for the UK editions. The ones I was speaking of back then were essentially identical to the U.S. versions, likely printed at the same time, with only the cover priced altered. (There were some comics that were the U.S. editions, just ink-stamped with a UK price, which are priced as normal per their condition including said stamp.)

Basically, if they’re the same book otherwise, the cover price being printing in a different denomination doesn’t change things much, usually. When I had those Silver Age Marvels with the printed UK prices, I had no problem moving them at current U.S. market pricing.

Jim Kosmicki suggests

“I’m not in comics retailing anymore, but this really strikes me as a put it up on eBay and let the market price it situation, depending on what you have invested in it already.”

It is tempting, and I’ve done so in the past, but I’ve really been shying away from using eBay for selling of late. However, I feel like the fees are getting more and more burdensome there, and would rather avoid it if at all possible. I do still have a few things on there for the shop, but it’s mostly things I’m trying to unload that I couldn’t sell locally. This particular comic I’m pretty sure I can sell in-store without giving a giant megacorporation a quarter of my take.

And will richards responds to JohnO by noting UK reprints of U.S. comics don’t sell for a whole lot, which reminds me I should make a distinction in my own response to JohnO above. I was talking about straight-up UK editions of U.S. books…not “reprints,” like that Superman/Batman book from Germany, which is a whole separate publication reissuing previously-published stories from the U.S. which will is talking about. Yes, the UK-specific reprint mags containing “key” reprint material don’t sell for as high premiums, but can sell for a bit depending on exactly what it is. Having, like he said, the first appearance of Wolverine in a UK reprint is enough of a novelty to get those prices pushed upward.

Okay, here’s hoping to no computer problems before the next post. Thanks for reading, pals.

Destined to have been put in a Snyder film.

§ September 25th, 2023 § Filed under batman, dc comics § 11 Comments

So I’m always processing back issues at the shop…I have enough old comics just sitting in the boxes in the back room that I can probably spend the remaining few years of my life just bagging and tagging funnybooks for sale. Usually it’s a pretty quick process and I don’t get held up on any single item, puzzling over what I’m going to price it. But once in a great while, I hit bit of a roadblock that’s got me wondering.

In this case, it’s a copy of Superman und Batman (or just Superman according to the indicia inside), a German comic published in 1968:

This issue features a fairly important story in comics history, the introduction of the modern version of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). The original English edition was released with a cover date of January 1967 (so likely very late in 1966):

Most striking of course is the color change, from the dark background on the U.S. version, versus the bright white background on the German edition.

Pages inside are good ‘n’ bright. with all the text machine-relettered verus hand printing:

And here’s the back cover because what the heck, I scanned it so here you go:

The original sells for several thousand dollars in good shape. But what of the German reissue? I’ve sold lots of non-English translations of older American superhero comics over the years, and in general they’re priced relatively low to move as more novelties than anything else.

Now, comics in Spanish do well since I live in an era with many speakers of it. But the few German comics I’ve had sit around a bit, but this one may be the exception.

Now, the original Detective #359 can sell thousands of dollars, depending on condition of course. But a reprint of a (cough) “key” story released overseas? This is taking some research as to what the potential price would be, but it’s going to take a while. In the meantime, thought I’d show it to you, because it’s pretty neat!

Also, the title should more accurately be Superman und Batman und Flash, because between the stories featuring Supes and Bats was this Flash story:

“Hey Zack, what’s up.”

Just ramblin’ about the past.

§ September 22nd, 2023 § Filed under collecting, dc comics § 17 Comments

I miss being able to flip open a comics ‘zine and seeing a pure and simple news blurb like this:

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like reading about scandals and shenanigans in the comics industry as much as the next guy, but it’s…just nice where the item is entirely “this dude got a job on this comic.”

And whatta comic it was:

I bought this new off the rack in 1981, where 12-year-old me was still learning about the back continuity of DC’s heroes. And Tales of the Green Lantern Corps went deep into the history of that particular franchise. Between this, reprints of older stories in DC’s digests, and seeing that Golden Age/Silver Age GL team up against Krona on the early Nickelodeon show Video Comics, I knew pretty much everything I needed to know about Green Lantern.

I really ate up that stuff as a young Mikester, trying to find out about the histories of all these characters. It’s probably why I really appreciated Roy Thomas’ work on DC’s Golden Age characters at the time, as that fan feared no footnotes, exposited every exposition. I loved it all. Now, going back as Old Mikester, approaching it as storytelling versus an educational textbook, that early ’80s Golden Age material doesn’t go down quite as smoothly, but I’ll always appreciate the lessons of Roy ‘n’ pals.

Those aforementioned digests helped a lot too, reprinting from DC’s vast back catalog in themed releases…”here’s the Justice League one, here’s one with a bunch of secret origins, here’s one with Batman villains.” I grabbed those whenever I could. Even if they weren’t necessarily “educational” in the sense of explaining pertinent details of the past, it was still fun to see these tales of yesteryear, and even so E. Nelson Bridwell (or someone) usually had a small text piece providing historical context for the contents.

Sometimes the digests were like mini-graphic novels, like this one which included this whole “Batman – Murderer!” storyline. Or this whole “Warlord versus his arch-nemesis Deimos” one.

And then, going back to supplying some background to their currents series, there’s that one pictured to the right…a digest focused on the Justice Society, released shortly after the debut of of Roy Thomas’s Golden Age-centric All-Star Squadron, It not only featured an origin of the Justice Society, but also included the first Per Degaton story, a character that would again rise to some prominence during the ’80s.

Look, I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up when I started writing this post…it’s just that seeing that ancient news blurb made me nostalgic for a simpler time as a comic collector. One where I actually did wonder who was going to write/draw what title, and one where I still eagerly awaited any glimpses into the past either via reprints or flashbacks.

news blurb from Comics Feature #9 (1981)

Joe Matt (1963-2023).

§ September 20th, 2023 § Filed under obituary § 5 Comments

Indie cartoonist Joe Matt has passed away, and boy, I was sure into his comics when he was (semi-)regularly putting stuff out into shops. His series Peep Show (as well as the accompanying strip collection of the same name) really took the burgeoning autobiographical comic book genre of the period to its extreme, leaving no personal foible or blemish unrevealed. It could have been unbearable in other hands, but Matt’s appealing illustration and humor kept you reading no matter how low he depicted himself going.

I’m sorry that he passed away as young as he did. My condolences to his family and friends. So long, Joe.

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