Some days I wish I could just go back to posting funny panels in my synopsis of some out-there 1960s Jimmy Olsen comic.

§ April 20th, 2020 § Filed under pal plugging, retailing, sir-links-a-lot, sterling silver comics § 4 Comments

Hot off last week’s presses, some news came down regarding funnybook distribution in our near future. First, Diamond Comics announced that it was looking at a mid-to-late May date to start shipping product out to whatever stores still remain. Nothing nailed down just yet, and I still think it’s really going to depend on the large comic markets like California and New York will be doing in regards to allowing regular retail to resume.

And if that’s not enough, DC Comics has decided not to wait on Diamond, and is instead going to send out at least three weeks of their new comics through a couple of alternative distribution points. It’s not a heavy load of books coming over these three weeks, which is good and bad, I guess. Good in that I’m not being asked to put out a lot of money when not a lot of money is currently coming in, and bad in that there’s not really enough here to goose immediately mail order shipping from customers wanting their new books. But then, you never know..maybe after all three weeks have come and gone there will be enough to get some folks to call in, I think.

Anyway, the books being shipped had their orders cancelled through Diamond, so I had to place new orders for everything. I had to think hard about those orders, given that I’m not going to have the off-the-rack sales as my store will still be closed to the public at least through all three of those weeks. BUT will they sell off the rack once I’m able to open again and people try to catch up? I don’t know…best to order conservatively for now and reorder if I need to.

It’s…a weird time to be a comics retailer. Or any kind of niche retail business, for that matter. The one advantage I have is that comics are escapism, and boy do people want escapism right now.

I’ve been doing…okay, as far as business goes. I’ve had several phone and email orders, and I’m at the post office pretty much every day gettting stuff sent out. I’m not making the money I was, but with Diamond’s invoices paid off, and my rent paid for the next month, I don’t have the same expenses either. (And my planned purchases of that new DC product won’t be very dear either.)

In an odd sort of way, aside from the weird existential dread of awareness that a plague roams the land, working along in my closed shop has been, well, relaxing. Processing mail order, typing old comics into this online spreadsheet for folks to pick from and buy, listening to podcasts as I work…it’s all a bit therapeutic. Which isn’t to say I’m not looking forward to being able to swing my doors wide open again.

So it looks like an interesting month up ahead for my shop, and every shop. Going to try to not let it stress me out too much. And if it does…I’ll just play around with piles of old comics, and all will be well again.

In the meantime:

Don’t forget, I’m still taking orders and want lists and whathaveyou, as well as still doing these packs of 30 random comics for $20 postpaid domestic! Help me clean out my backroom!

Also, over the weekend, one of my regular customers brought me a comics-themed facemask made by her mother! The downside is that you can’t see my quarantine beard that I’ve been growing for the last few weeks. But that’s the price I pay for high fashion!

And so long as I’m being Sir Links-A-Lot again, let me point you at my shop’s website, its Facebook, its Twitter, and its Instagram. News regarding my store’s status during our current situation can be found there…and here on this site, for that matter.

Thanks for reading pals, and stay safe out there. KEEP WEARING THOSE MASKS, even if they’re not as cool as mine!

What do you mean your toothpick boxes don’t say that?

§ April 17th, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 2 Comments

Just to follow up on last Wednesday’s post…a whole lot of folks talking about back issues being priced on the fly as they’re brought up to the counter, which seems…like a lot of work, frankly. There was one shop I occasionally visited down in the Los Angeles area that did that, but the prices were usually very reasonable so I didn’t mind so much. But still…egads. Better to price it once and be done with it so there’s no confusion later.

Granted, that sometimes did result in what we called at the old place of employment “senility deals,” where something that had been sitting in the bins for a while had an old, cheap price that didn’t reflect the hot, expensive price the comic recently acquired. We’d honor the marked price, of course, and then immediately check that there weren’t more of that particuliar book in the bins.

That’s not as much of a problem as you’d think. If it was popular enough to see a sudden increase in price, chances were we were moving copies of it anyway, so we were always refreshing the stock with updated pricing. (This of course is a different issue from brand new comics being tagged as “hot investments” by apps and websites, resulting in unexpected sellouts day of release.)

Probably the most extreme example of the old job getting stuck by the “senility deal” was around the time of the 1989 Batman movie, when suddenly everything that even sort of looked like a bat from a distance if you squinted a bit was in huge demand. One day one of our regulars was digging through the 50-cent boxes when he yelps for joy and exclaims “hey, look what I found!” as he holds aloft a copy of the 1970s Joker #1.

This was a comic that, pre-Batman ’89, you could barely give away. I’d bought my own copy for a dime at a convention sometime the year or two before. But, post-The Batmovie-enning, prices on that comic shot…well, maybe not sky-high, but definitely more than that dime I spent, and very definitely more that the 50 cents we had it marked at. Anyway, it was your pal Then-Low-Man-on-the-Totem-Pole Mike who had to fish through the bargain boxes to pull out any more instances of that funnybook to return it for regrooving repricing.

Related: at one time my former boss was partnered up with someone else in another town, and he ran the old paperbacks section while the other fella ran the comics. And every year when the new price guide came out said fella would reprice everything in the shop, and would let folks know (either verbally or through signage) “prices marked on back issues may not be current.” Frankly that seems like overkill…too much work to avoid losing literal cents, in most cases?

I don’t know…seems to me making sure everything’s priced ahead of time would be the path with the least hassle. What if somone comes up to the counter with a foot-tall stack of back issues to buy? “Yeah, come back in a couple hours while I grade and price these.” Yuk, no thanks. I’ll take the risk of someone getting a copy of Marvel Triple-Action #2 at the two-year-old marked price of $3.50 instead of the current guide’s price of $3.75.

So let me address a couple of your comments from the last post…and speaking of which, I had to slightly edit a couple posts so that a specific store wasn’t called out. I know, everyone tried to be careful about it, I just, um, needed it to be a little more careful. Didn’t mean to step on anyone’s toes about it…hope y’all understand.

Anyway, yer comments:

Dave-El rocketed here from a distant planet to ask

“Of course having a treasury edition reprint of Action Comics#1 is not the same as actually having Action Comics#1. But I’m wondering (and this making me feel very old contemplating this) but those treasury edition reprints are very close to half a century old. Do those treasury edition reprints have any significant value themselves?”

Oh you get they do! Treasury editions are always in high demand around these parts, and because nobody who bought them were able to store them in a way that didn’t result in damage, nice copies can be particularly dear. Even those Famous First Editions reprints, once sold in bulk in discount stores when I was a kid (circa 1980 or so) can be quite pricey.

Like I said, in nice condition. I’ve sold plenty of coies in the Good to Very Good range for $3 to $6 each. But really sharp copies can command higher prices than that, and I don’t have ea price guide at home to tell you just how much, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that a mint copy of the Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag sells for approximately ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

And Damien puts the dog down to type

“I had the treasury edition of Superman 1 without the cover given to me by a neighbour and I genuinely thought he’d accidentally given me a valuable thing. I was 9, so I had an excuse.”

Hey, don’t feel bad. The “Famous First Editions” were exact reprints of the original comics, aside from the size, with that extra new cover wrapped around it identifying as “HEY THIS IS A REPRINT.” Apparently enough people were stripping off that outer cover and trying to sell what remained as the real deal that the Overstreet guide actually put a notation in their listings describing this scam. I don’t know if it’s so common now, or even how common it was then…but you know how all toothpick boxes have the warning “NOT FOR USE IN EYEBALL” because almost assuredly someone out there had stuck a toothpick in his or her but probably his eye*? So I’m pretty sure at least one person tried to sell a coverless copy of a Famous First Edition reprint to some hapless chump, and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling comic book collectors.

* Yes, and tried to sue, hence the warning so the toothpick manufacturer can say “look, we warned people not to do that!”

You get to retell stories you’ve already told once you’re an old person like me.

§ April 15th, 2020 § Filed under how the sausage is made, retailing § 13 Comments

Okee doke, finally going back to this question posed by Twitter pal Tim (which I first mentioned in this post):

“Best example of people overvaluing comics which they were attempting to sell to you (another excuse for you to reference the Death / Return of Superman)”

When I first brought this up, I mentioned I had a specific story in mind that I’d discussed before, probably on this site, certainly on Twitter, and most definitely on Alan David Doane‘s “Comic Book Galaxy” site, where I wrote a monthly column entitled “Mike Sterling’s Behind the Counter” about a decade ago. Look, I had a logo and everything:

Now as it turns out, on the old version of Progressive Ruin, I had a sidebar link to an index page linking all the articles I wrote for the site. That particular piece of HTML still exists, but only the latter half of the articles are archived here. For reasons I no longer remember, the other half were still linking to their original spot over on CBG which no longer exists. And of course, the story I wanted to tell was in the very first column I wrote for that site.

The good news is that I did go and save copies of all those pages directly from CBG before it went down, so back-ups of those earlier columns do exist, and with, you know, the extra free time everyone seems to have nowadays maybe I can get all those earlier columns back up for you to enjoy. Or “enjoy,” as the case may be.

Anyway, that whole preamble is just to tell you that I’m totally just cutting-and-pasting the story Tim’s tweet brought to mind from that old column to this current post. So, here’s Younger Mike with Browner Hair and Working Eyes to tell you about the day someone had an old Superboy comic to sell:

A few years ago, I received a call from someone claiming to have a copy of Superboy #1 in absolutely perfect condition, and that he wanted to bring it in to sell. “Which one?” I ask, since there have been several Superboy #1s on the stands over the years.

“Oh, it’s the very first one…from the 1940s. And it’s in pristine condition!’

Well, I tell him to bring it in and we’ll take a gander at it.

The next day, a couple comes in carrying a briefcase. They identify themselves as the people with the Superboy #1, and gingerly place the briefcase on the counter. Popping the latches, they open the case and carefully lift the comic out.

It’s a Superboy Annual #1, from 1964. Still a nice item, not as rare or expensive as the original Superboy #1, but still not a shabby item to have around. That is, it would have been nice to have around, if not for the fact that this “perfect condition” comic had no cover, and had been so waterlogged at some point in the past that it was now pretty much a solid brick. We tried to explain to the couple, as nicely as we could, that the comic wasn’t the title they thought it was, and it didn’t matter anyway since it was in completely unsellable condition.

Well, they were pretty darn mad. They thought we were trying to pull something over on them, perhaps supposedly trying to get them to part with the book for a pittance…even though we were making it quite clear that we weren’t interested in buying. Angrily, they grabbed up their comic, shoved it back in their briefcase, and stomped out of the store in a huff. For all I know, they’re still wandering from town to town, getting increasingly upset that all these comic shops are turning their noses up at such a “great item.”

That’s gotta be at least 20 years ago now that this happened. I bet they’re still wandering the Earth lookin’ for buyers. Or maybe there was a bitter divorce, with the greatest acrimony saved for the battle over who was going to keep this priceless heirloom. Who’s to say.

If you know this story already, I apologize. For the 70% or so of you out there who don’t have my every online utterance memorized, I hope you enjoyed that story. Granted, it may not entirely fit Tim’s request, as no specific anticipated costs were noted by the hopeful sellers, but it’s pretty safe to say they weren’t expecting a Rip Taylor-esque $1.98 if they were lugging the damn thing around in a briefcase.

And that’s probably the apex of my “people hoping for more than what they were offered” stories. I mean, it happens all the time, of course…people walk in (or used to walk in, before The End Times) thinking their comic is worth millions, and are shocked when they get offered $10. Most people understand, once “condition” and “demand” are explained to them, but it’s so commonplace it’s hardly even stands out any more. Even with the Death of Superman issue, one of which I have in the case right now, the customer is usually all “I remember when these sold for $300!” before selling it to me for, like, $15 or $20.

More common is when comics show up in collections with price tags from other shops/sellers…and not current or local sellers, usually, but tags on things that had been in storage for a while, that sort of thing. I wrote about a couple examples here, where some shop apparently only saw the price of “$24.00” for every price guide entry.

Another example is that there’s someone at a local flea market who sells old comics in decaying, yellowing polyethelyne bags with felt-tip pen prices written on them (the bags, not the comics) that are laughably out of bounds. Could be these bags were reused from previous, actually expensive comics (not likely), or that the prices were deliberately inflated so that when he actually had them priced at $2 or whatever, buyers would think they’re getting a real bargain, or they’re just streaight up invented. I have no idea what the story is.

Oh, there’s another thing that happens once in a while that I just remembered. It’s the personal collection where someone’s already gone through all the issues and assigned prices to them by affixing sticky notes to each bag (or directly on the comic) with their estimated price scribbled thereon. Sometimes the prices are the mint ones, sometimes they’re the lowest marked price in the guide (and occasionally even that’s too high), and sometimes, again, they’re just made up out of thin air. I understand the impulse to do it, to make sure they’re at least somewhat informed before attempting to unload the stash, but the prices almost never have any bearing on whatever offer is eventually made.

As to a couple of your examples:

William Lynch serves up the following

“There’s a guy in our coin club who keeps trying to convince us that his 1990s Pizza Hut X-Men giveaways are worth a mint.”

That’s a weird sort of collectible, in that it seems like it should be something that’s rare, valuable and in demand. It features big name characters, it’s in a non-standard format and it comes from a non-traditional comics venue. Surely these are hard to come by and command high prices! Except nobody cares, really. No comment on the actual quality of the books, but…I don’t know if it’s because of the nonstandard format, or because they come from a period of X-Cessive X-Men stuff being available everywhere, but they’re almost impossible for me to move. For a while they were even getting dumped on me in collections, and I have a stash in the backroom still, waiting for the ones in the main room to sell and require replacing.

• • •

Michael Grabowski hands over this

“…In the mid-80s my uncle gave me a bunch of fair (or less) condition late 60s Marvel Annuals. One of them was X-Men Annual #1, published in 1970. I loved those comics and that gift, but they are long gone. He now insists that it was a mint condition X-Men #1 which he regrets having given to me.”

Ah yes, the imaginary expensive comic. I get that every once in a while. The folks who insist that they have a “first Superman comic” or something back at the house or in their grandma’s attic or whatever that they swear they’re going to find and bring in. Well, okay, it’s been a long time since this was a commonplace occurrence, but 15, 20 years ago I seemed to get it all the time, to the point where it was a kind of running joke. No idea what they actually had, unless it was one of these treasury edition reprints from the 1970s.

Sometimes folks would ask “what would you give me for [old comic I totally have at home, no foolin’]?” and we’d say “probably a lot of money…bring it in!” and of course we’d never see that person again.

• • •

And a couple of you brought up the dreaded “cat pee” comics, which is an entirely different problem. Usually we didn’t even get to the point of discussing money, we’d just say “plese remove these from our presence, they do offend the olfactory senses” or words to that effect.

On par with the awfulness of cat pee was the time at the previous place of employment we somehow ended up with a collection that had been kept in, of all places, an airplane hanger. The wonderful smell attached to said comice we were told was plane fuel. …For all I know, those are still being aired out. So kids, keep your comics away from cat pee and airplanes, and especially from cats flying planes.

• • •

Speaking of cats, Robcat slinks in with

“I am actually more interested in the flip side. You ever find anything really valuable in what people thought was probably all junk?”

Hoo boy…I think the closest I came was at my own shop, where someone brought in a shoebox full of old comics and on the top of the stack inside was Adventure Comics #247, the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, which I’d never actually had as a comic for sale either at the old job or at my current one. Now the other comics in the box were pretty good too (mostly Batman comics from the same period) but a major key book like this sure stood out from the rest of the bunch.

A story I once heard (and now I can’t remember if it was my old boss Ralph or our late, lamented customer Bruce) involved the cleaning of a garage stuffed with old junk and newspapers, and finding, tucked into one of those newspapers, a mint copy of Captain America #1, the 1940s one with Cap slugging Hitler. (And if either Ralph or Bruce called it “mint,” it was definitely mint.) Needless to say, the garage cleaning slowed to a crawl as now suddenly everything was searched, every box, every drawer, every remaining newspaper, for similar funnybook treasures. …Of course, that Cap comic was the only one found.

For another story of surprise finds, please see this comment from Tenzil Kem.

• • •

If you read this far, you’re probably home by now, so let me leave you with this: speaking of things I’ve talked about before, in reference to our recent discussions about Pariah from Crisis on Infinite Earths, please enjoy this old post of mine.

I Googled “comics pariah” and all I found was a picture of me.

§ April 13th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

Got a lot to get through today, but first let me note that yes, your favorite comic shop owner…me, I’m talking about me, smart guy…was interviewed for this New York Times article about the impact of the coronavirus on the comic book industry. Now, you might be able to read it for free or not, ain’t entirely sure how that whole set-up works, but hey, I’m ihn the Times, spreading some of that fake news you’ve all heard about. It’s an interesting article, and I think the writer did a good job making me sound like I know what I’m talking about, for which I’m grateful.

Okay, now let’s finish up what I couldn’t finish on Friday, my responses to your commments on this post about characters what may have some long-term staying power.

The extremely positive Yes! said

“DC sort of hit a wall in New 52, having to spend the a lot of stories attempting to reintroduce everyone. There’s been a lot of fun new ones like Bunker and Super-Man. But karma insists that for every Gotham Academy there’s must be a Green Team.”

Hmm, that’s something I hadn’t considered, that the focus was on retooling what already existed for current audiences versus trying to get new concepts out there. I do agree that the New Super-Man was a very fun title, but I don’t know if we’ll see that character again, or if we do, it’ll be in the same tone as in his own series.

“I bet soon Pandora will end up like Harbinger, a forgotten footnote to confuse future TPB readers.”

Remember when we were all excited about trying to find Pandora’s “Where’s Waldo?”-esque appearances in the early New 52 comics? Anyway, I suspect we’ll see Harbinger in a comic again before we ever see the return of Pandora.

Funny thing about Harbinger, and the other two Big! New! Star! that popped up in Crisis on Infinite Earths:

…is that they pop up now and again to this day. Well, maybe not this exact day but you get my meaning. So they’ve beeen around for 35 years, two of ’em even made it into live-action TV shows…I think they’re qualifying as long-lasting, if not houshold name, characters.

I was also looking them up on Wikipedia to see what’s up with them, and it turns out they sure died a lot. People just loved killin’ ’em off. And I noticed that for a couple of them, Pariah and Lady Quark, they would get kiled, then show up later alive in another comic with no explanation other than “the writer/editor forget to check. Or in Pariah’s case, killed, revived, then show as still dead later. Anyway, thought that was interesting.

Oh, and despite being around for as long as she was, I was looking up Lady Quark to see if she’d made any appearances beyond Crisis and that issue of DC Comics Presents and lo, she was a big part of L.E.G.I.O.N.….a comic that I read and really enjoyed. She was just that memorable, I guess.

Oh, right, Yes! still has more to say:

“(Chris Kent seems in retrospect to have been a dry run of sorts. He didn’t get a ton of negative response if I remember correctly. I wonder if that gave DC the confidence to try a more permanent introduction)”

For those of you coming in late, Chris Kent was a Kryptonian child Supes and Lois were raising until he ended up trapped in the Phantom Zone and out of the series.* I glossed over a whole lot there but that’s basically it. But yes, Yes1, maybe it wasn’t a direct tryout for giving Lois and Clark a kid of their own, but maybe the mostly positive response helped influence the decision.

There’s precedence, in that there was a “Supergirl” wished into existence by Jimmy Olsen in Superman #123, not long before the actual Supergirl showed up in Action #252. (There were other “Super Girl” type characters in the Superman comics prior to that one, but that one in Superman #123 felt like more of the dry run for what was coming.)

• • •

BK Munn lets me know

“The only reason I know Skaar is the Hulk and the Agents of SMASH cartoon show, which is still on one of the kids channels here.”

Oh, okay, that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that. So Skaar is still getting some usage somewhere, if not (current, that I recall) in the comics. Marvel and/or Disney lets no IP gather moss, I guess!

• • •

And just to acknowledge a couple of you jokers, yes, perhaps my phrasing it “Damian Wayne, the son of Batman and the current Robin” is a tad ambiguous. LOOK YOU KNOW WHAT I MEANT

• • •

So for next time, I’ll finally be covering Tim’s long-ago Twitter question regarding Twitter pal Tim’s query about folks overvaluing comics they were trying to sell. I’ve got a couple of specific examples that I’ll be covering, so I hope to see you back here on Wednesday. I mean, what else are we all doing, right?

* Cassand’s comment made me go look it up, since I couldn’t remember, and yup, there was a new version of Chris Kent who shows up during DC’s “Rebirth” initiative.

Sluggo Saturday #135.

§ April 11th, 2020 § Filed under sluggo saturday § No Comments



from Tip Top Comics #195 (February 1956)

First thing to go is the luxurious mane of golden hair.

§ April 10th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 2 Comments

So let’s wrap up this long week (it is Friday, today, right? I’m not 100% sure) by looking at your responses to Monday’s post. As a reminder, I was responding to the question “what new character introduced in the 21st century do you think will have staying power?” or words to that effect. And anyway, I totally forgot to bring up the new Batwoman, introduced in 2006, and certainly a distinct version of the character from previous iterations. I mean, she’s got a TV show now and everything.

So, to your comments:

I was wondering about that dinosaur what’s in the Runaways comic and whether it also appeared in the TV show adaptation, and BRR informs me

“I’ll blissfully ignore the possibility the question is rhetorical. The dinosaur is in the show!”

Not rhetorical at all! I genuinely was curious.

Chris G notes

“The funny thing about Jon Kent is that it wasn’t all that long ago that Lois & Clark had essentially adopted another super-powered Kryptonian teen. But nobody ever mentions Chris Kent these days!”

This is true…the whole “Chris Kent” thing occurred prior to the Flashpoint rejiggering of the DC Universe, and now that the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois have been moved into current continuity, he typed even as he realized how nonsensical that all sounded, that means those events are part of the current Superman’s past. …Except with the said rejiggering, both Flashpoint and whatever Rebirth was, the argument could be made that the Chris Kent stuff was made never was at some point, which is why he’s not brought up.

Or who knows. Maybe Bendis will bring him back and suddenly Lois and Clark will have two sons.

Matthew brings up some possibilities for new characters with staying power:

First mentioned are X-23 and Quentin Quire, and…yeah, probably they’ll be around for a while. X-Men characters I feel like have a better chance of sticking around or at least not being forgotten. The X-books always seemed like a franchise that wasn’t afraid to dig into is own history on a fairly regular basis for new subplots and story ideas. If X-23 goes away for a while, I’m sure she’d be back in some for or ‘noter sooner rather than later.

“Would the current version of Groot count?”

That’s a tricky question. The Wiki entry says that it’s a different Groot, but…part of the same species, maybe? I feel like there’s some continuity of existence between the two. By the standard we’d been going with, in which a prexisting superhero name/concept can be introduced with a new person under the cowl and be considered “new,” then this new version of Groot is a new, distinct character. WEIRD BUT TRUE

“The characters people have mentioned tend to be superheroes, are there any supervillains people think will stand the test of time.”

Think I’ll save that one for a future post. It’s a much harder question, I think!

“And yes, I have seen Simon Baz recently. He was in the Lego DC Super Heroes blind bag minifigure series released in January. Why him? I have no idea.”

There are worse fates than achieving a form of immortality via Lego!

Aaaand…let’s wrap up on Monday, because once again I’m dead tired (hey, it’s hard work running a store that’s closed!) and just can’t stay up any later to finish this post. Yeah, I know, back in my blogging prime i’d be up ’til 4 in the morning making sure I had one of my 7-day-a-week entries ready for the world. But, you know what they say, blogging is the second thing to go.

See you guys then.

I will never get tired of referencing Cool Points…sorry Brian.

§ April 8th, 2020 § Filed under question time, sterling silver comics § 8 Comments

Okay, being quick about this because I started late and I need my beauty sleep:

I recently started throwing the store‘s back issue stock onto a publicly accessible Google sheet, which you can see at this link here: Did it for what should be obvious reasons, plus I seem to have some extra time to work on such a thing. Anyway, I only just barely started (three boxes down, several dozen more to go!) but if you see anything on there you like, give me a call or drop me a line. Or ask me for anything else you’re looking for, I wouldn’t mind.

This is just a quick and dirty way of getting inventory in front of eyes too distant to see it all in person, which is working okay as is. But the spreadsheet format will allow me to export the data and import it into a more useful interface, I’d imagine. Something to worry about after the current crisis is under control, and I’m not in so desperate a need to move product.

Also today I was going to respond to this tweet by Twitter pal Tim:

“Best example of people overvaluing comics which they were attempting to sell to you (another excuse for you to reference the Death / Return of Superman)”

who inspired my post on the 3rd. Well, one, I still need to cover your responses to my second post on the matter, and two, my best example is a story I’ve told on this blog before, and I wanted to come up with more examples but brain no work good when it’s this tired, so I’ll try to save it for Friday or Monday. Anyway, 100 Cool Points to anyone who remembers what story I’m talking about.

Now I’m sure some of you have seen examples over the years of folks thinking their comics were worth far more than they were. It’s not uncommon, and you can’t really blame most people for it, especially after how many stories they’ve heard about the first Superman being a million dollars or whatever. But if you have any particularly weird or extreme examples I’d like to hear them if you’d care to drop them in the comments section. I’m sure I’ll end up discussing them in that aforementioned future post on the topic.

Okay, that’s enough, I’m hitting the sack, and also going to bed. Be back Friday!

Prepared for the complaints from the world’s biggest Martian Manhunter fan.

§ April 6th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 8 Comments

So when we last met, I was discussing what new, 21st century character had the best chance of standing the test of time, of still being an active presence in certain publishers’ outputs in the near and/or far future (assuing comic publishers still exist, of course). My idea was that Miles Morales would be the one, with Ms. Marvel (the stretchy one) a close second.

But some of you folks had your own suggestions, and I thought I’d look at a couple of them:

Tim says Marvel’s Runaways, debuting in 2003, is — are? — a contender, and I think that’s fair. Teen heroes who discover their parents are supervillains is a pretty good hook, and likely will appeal to young readers for a long time. Plus, they got a TV show which can only help but increase awareness of the property, though I know literally nothing about the show and how closely it may or may not hew to the source material. Like, is the dinosaur in the show? I have no idea.

Randal says Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and I actually like that idea a lot. First appeared in 2001 in a decidedly adults-only comic book series (Alias, no relation to the TV show of the same name), she was a private eye in the super-heroic Marvel universe, and she herself was apparently a former superhero. She sort of represents the one of the most effective “mature” takes on the Marvel Universe, and as a representative of that particular angle on the publisher, she’ll probably stick around.

Paul suggests thse two: Miss Martian and Skaar. I mean, it’s possible, but I don’t see them being major characters…which is fine, there are plenty of long-lived characters who aren’t headliners. Miss Martian is from the Teen Titans, so she’ll likely always be part of their history, and she has close ties to the Martian Manhunter, one of DC’s most enduring second-stringers. And she’s in the Young Justice cartoon, so she’s made the jump to media adaptions, which never hurts.

Skaar, on the other hand…he’s tied to the “Planet Hulk” storyline, which is a popular one, but as we get farther and farther away from that story, Skaar (the son of the Hulk and some alien, I fergit) seems less relevant and more complicated to explain. Again, probably never really a headlining character, but given Marvel’s propensity to keep everything that happens in continuity, Skaar will likely still pop up now and again at points in the future.

MikeyWayne brings up Damian Wayne, the son of Batman and the current Robin. I actually thought about this, but..well, here’s the thing. Batman having a biological son, and Superman having a biological son, in current DC continuity, does not seem like something that’s gonna last. Now my personal wish is that DC doesn’t reboot their continuity yet again but we all know it’s coming sooner or later, and all it takes is a new editorial voice in charge saying “I don’t want our characters to have kids” to do away with them. That said, I think the idea of Damian Wayne is a good one, and the way he was introduced, and the way the character’s been handled and how he fits into Batman’s world, gives him at least a fighting chance to survive whatever reboot is coming. There’s no guarantee, though, and I feel like “son of Batman,” and definitely “son of Superman,” are concepts that will be the first to go when DC rolls back the odometer on their fictional world.

Jason mentions Robbie Reyes, the current Ghost Rider, and…okay, I don’t really know much about Robbie Reyes, aside from that he was the version of Ghost Rider that appeared on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). I am…not familiar with this iteration, but it seems like the franchise always returns to Johnny Blaze, the original (demonically-possessed, motorcyle-riding) Ghosr Rider. Maybe he’ll be around as one of the many hosts of Ghost Rider, such as how Danny Ketch is used now. So Reyes will be around, sure, but as a footnote is Ghost Rider’s ongoing history more than a draw on his own.

Okay, hang on, only a couple more: Thom H. sez, he sez “Young Avengers,” given their possibility of making it into the movies. That’d do it, I think. Plus, they have “Avengers” in the name, and people seem to like that. I mean, in the real world, not in the comics. And Isaac M. brings up “Amadeus Cho,” boy genius in the Marvel Universe who was also briefly the Hulk…probably another supporting character who’ll always be dragged out whenever they need someone to fill that said “boy genius” role in the story, or whenever they put all the smart people in one room, as they sometimes do.

But as Steven R. says, once they make it into toy form, that’s a good indicator that they’ve got legs. Not that Toy Biz’s figure for Albert really helped him along much, but the point is taken.

Well, okay, “staying power” can mean a lot of things, I guess. I was thinking “prominently in the public eye” when I settled on Miles, but “occasionally popping up in the comics” is also not being dropped into the dustbin of history. Even if Damian Wayne and Jon Kent get retconned out of existence, there’s always gonna be somebody trying to bring them back in some form or another. Once created, they’re hard to uncreate, especially if the characters are part of Big Two superhero universes where no obscure character stone is left unturned for long.

Not on the list: Punchline.

§ April 3rd, 2020 § Filed under question time § 13 Comments

So Twitter pal Tim asked

“Is there any DC / Marvel character which has debuted in this century which you think has / will have significant staying power?”

I have a terrible memory for new characters and when they first showed up…there are one or two examples in this post where I Wiki-ed up their initial appearances and I was like “they’ve only been around that long?”

Anyway, I started to do a little research to see who came on the scene in this century (which of course began on January 1st, 2001, don’t @ me) when a couple of examples occurred to me right away.

Now the proper thing to do in answering a question like this is to go through some of the possibilities, discarding this one and than for whatever reason before finally revealing at the end who I think it is, but I’m just going to straight up tell you it’s Miles Morales:

He first appeared in 2011 as a replacement for Peter Parker in Marvel’s defunct “Ultimate” line, before somehow or ‘nother making it over into the main Marvel Universe, where he co-exists as Spider-Man with the other fellow.

One could perhaps argue that this isn’t a “new” character as such, since obviously the superhero aspect of the character preexisted. It’s like asking if the Wally West Flash is a new character, or just a continuation of the concept that began with the Barry Allen Flash (who was himself an altered version of the Golden Age Flash).

But all I can tell you is that kids really have taken a liking to the Miles Morales character, especially since the Into the Spider-Verse movie. I had them specifically requesting “Miles Morales comics” as opposed to “Spider-Man comics” or “comics with that new Spider-Man” — they’re asking for Miles Morales by name. Not to say the “Spider-Man” part isn’t important, since you read superhero comics for the superhero stuff, naturally, but I think that’s a significant difference in the way kids are approaching these characters. I mean, I never had people coming in asking for “Peter Parker” comics. Well, aside from the comics actually called Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man, but you know what I mean.

Now part of this may simply be because these requests are being made in this way because asking for “Spider-Man” isn’t precise enough any more…they have to specify which Spider-Man and saying “Miles Morales” makes it clear which one they’re talking about. But regardless, kids really like Miles, thanks to getting goosed along by the film, and I think has the potential of being around for the long haul. Yes, he could be just a passing phase, and maybe someday just a footnote in the overall history of Spider-Man, but honestly I hope not.

One of the runners-up, and probably having better claim to being a new character despite having an old name, is Ms. Marvel:

Like Miles, Kamala Khan is another teen hero character that appeals to younger readers, and has had some book market success with collections of her adventures. She’s also a headlining hero who happens to be Muslim, giving her a unique position and perspective in the Marvel Universe. This is the character that really surprised me to find out she’s only been around since 2013…feels like she’s been part of Marvel for much longer! If I remember correctly, there’s going to be a live action version of her popping up somewhere (or, if not, surely it’s inevitable) which, like Into the Spider-Verse did for Miles, will almost certainly boost her popularity. I know she’s popped up in some well received shorts with Spider-Gwen and Squirrel Girl and such. I feel like she’ll be around a bit.

Which reminds me…would Spider-Gwen (or “Ghost Spider” as she’s called now) be considered a “new” character? I mean, Gwen Stacy’s been around since the ’60s, but this superhero version of her is a recent development. I think, though, the distinction is that Miles and Kamala are new characters using old names, whereas Gwen is an old character (or a version of an old character) using a new name. Anyway, it’s my blog and I make the rules, so there.

I was trying to think of DC characters that have had equal impact, and I’m sure I’m overlooking some. There’s Jessica Cruz, who is another new character using an old name (“Green Lantern”) but I think is distinct enough in her own right. First appearing in 2013-4 (initially as a villain of sorts) she’s popped up in other media, a strong element in any comic book character having staying power, but I don’t think she’s hit that same level as Miles or Kamala. (And has anyone seen the other Hot New Green Lantern Sensation Simon Baz lately? Hello, Simon? Write in, would you?)

We’ve also got the Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle (yet another legacy character, first appearing in 2006) who seems to be pretty well received whenever he appears, particularly in other media (most recently in the Young Justice animated series). I feel like he’s different enough from his similarly-named predecessors to stand on his own as his own unique superhero. I think of the newer DC heroes, he’s got a good chance at sticking around a good long while.

Look, I know this is hardly a comprehensive list of new Marvel and DC folks, but I think these are four good strong characters, which despite all reusing names and/or powers of those who have come before, are each different enough to be considered “new.” And it probably says something that the new characters that do have some staying power build on past creations, whereas brand brand new characters fall to the wayside, but that’s an essay about the marketplace I’m not about to start writing after midnight (as I’m typing this) so let’s end this with me asking you to tell me what new Big Two characters from the 21st century I forgot.

Any excuse to reuse that GIF I made back in 2006.

§ April 1st, 2020 § Filed under batman § 16 Comments

I’ve mentioned before on the site that one of, if not the very first, Big Event What Got Real World News Coverage I had to deal with upon entering the world of comics retail in 1988 was the Death of Robin. Or “A Death in the Family,” which was the actual name of the storyline.

In case you need reminding, that was the series where at the end of the second issue of the story (at least in the direct market versions) readers were asked to actually phone in and decide if Robin lived or died after having the Joker do this to him:

I wish I could remember more specific retailing shenanigans I experienced at the time regarding this event, aside from vague memories of phone calls and walk-ins wanting to know more about Robin’s impending doom, but this was a while ago, and “Mike writing about comic events on computers” was still a few years in my future after discovering BBSes.

But, I was reminded of all this after watching a recent episode of “DC Daily,” which is the weekday news/discussion show on the DC Universe streaming service. The topic of discussion was this very storyline, being discussed in the context of celebrating Robin’s 80th anniversary, and given that the guy on the panel that they usually joke about being the “old man” of the group is a decade and a half younger than I am, I think most, if not all, of the participants here, didn’t experience this story until well after it was published.

Which is fine, doesn’t make me feel old at all, no sir/ma’am/other, but it feels weird to me to have this just be something that was always an established part of the character. Like, it’s some odd bit of history that you have to unearth after the fact, rather than something that you and everyone you know that was into this same sort of thing experienced together as it was happening. “Yes, Mike, tell us more about the passage of time and how new things become old things,” I know, I know, but it’s always a strange experience to listen to people experiencing something (or describing experiencing something) for the first time after the fact, that you yourself lived through first hand.

(As an aside, I’m experiencing the same sensation listening to this very funny podcast where a couple of folks are experiencing the Star Wars movies and associated nonsense for the first time. Sometimes it can be immensely frustrating and I get all worked up over them calling Jawas “droids” or whatever, but that’s more a comment on my own obsession. It’s a good lesson in “not everyone is as overly involved in the same dumb things you are.”)

The one thing the DC Daily panel brought up, that I can’t really remember for sure from the time, is that general fan reaction to this particular Robin, who was the second Robin Jason Todd, was not positive. That for some reason people didn’t really like Jason and that putting him on the chopping block for the public to decide was pretty much proof that he was not liked.

My general recollection was that, in the issues leading up to his death, Jason Todd was being written in a way to make him seem…at least darker, if not less heroic. I think the issue just before the “Death in the Family” storyline had a bad guy fall to his death off panel, and it’s strongly implied (in other words, “straight up taken as read”) that it was Jason who caused his demise. It felt like he was being written in a way that would make readers glad he was gone.

But prior to that, I don’t recall much negative response to the Jason Todd Robin. I wasn’t a regular reader of the Batman titles at the time, so maybe there was some pushback against him in the letter columns, but I don’t have any memory of there being any open disdain for the character in the fan press. He was originally around for only, what, five years? Doesn’t seem like long enough for some kind of hate-campaign to build up around a character that I thought was a mostly indistinguishable replacement for another character in those pre-wide-access-to-the-internet days. Not like the hate that built up around Damian Wayne when he came on as the new Robin years later, before everyone realized he was in fact awesome.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve come to ask you all, if you’re old like me and actually read mid-1980s Batman comics. Did you dislike Jason Todd…I mean, before they were deliberately writing him as a jerk near the end there? Or were they writing him as a jerk prior to that? What was going on there?

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