Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mark Evanier Hates Me

Well, maybe "hate" isn't entirely accurate -- it's probably wholly inaccurate in fact. But I do seem to perpetually fall below his radar even if I just up and down, waving my arms.

Several years ago, I did send him an e-mail about researching comics and comic art. He responded, politely, that there's absolutely no money in, and that there wasn't a lot of room for new "players" financially speaking. Further, it would be unlikely that I would really be able to uncover anything new; the big stuff's been discovered already, and there's already some very talented and well-connected people looking into what hasn't been.

Not one to be discouraged, I kept pursuing my growing interest in comic book research and came up with some intriguing, if obscure and relatively minor, discoveries. I wrote some articles about them and they were eventually published. ("The Buttons of Doom" and "The Legend of the Origin of Galactus" in Jack Kirby Collector numbers 38 and 44 respectively.) Spurred on by some light praise from editor/publish John Morrow, I started doing some more research and came up with the idea for a regular column for JKC. John liked the idea and "Incidental Iconography" debuted in JKC #40.

In the meantime, Mark was plugging away on his various projects and, from time to time, mentioned on his blog the status of his definitive biography of Jack Kirby. At one point, he noted that he needed some volunteers to proofread portions of it, but they had to be extremely well-versed in the histories of comic book characters. I immediately fired off an e-mail, citing my work on FFPlaza, the Marvel Chronology Project and JKC.

No response.

I figured he probably got quite a few volunteers, and it wouldn't have surprised me to learn that he already knew several of them and how much knowledge they already had. I could easily have been an unknown quantity for him, and he didn't want to "risk" anything by showing people he didn't really know. Fair enough.

Then, after having had several "Incidental Iconography" columns published, I started work on one focusing on Mr. Miracle. "Say," I thought, "Mark was working pretty regularly with Jack at the time AND he admits to having come up with a new color scheme for the character. I should try to get some info directly from him." I fired off an e-mail asking him some relatively quick questions about the Mr. Miracle's coloring.

No response.

Mark came up on his blog a day or three later, and made some kind of general apology for not posting to his blog more, and that he had some deadline crunch. Okay, I can totally understand. So I e-mailed him again after he said his deadlines would pass, reiterating that this was for JKC and I really just wanted to get the facts straight.

No response.

I held off from submitting the article to the very last minute, and had to leave in some kind of note that I had tried contacting Mark, but he was unavailable. (Which I'm sure seemed odd to many people since he had a "Jack F.A.Q.s" in the very same issue.)

Well, maybe he's got some heavy spam filtering software on his mail program and he didn't even get the message.

I mentioned yesterday how I was looking for information/confirmation about the death of Ernie Schroeder. I also e-mailed Mark and asked if he could A) post some notice on his blog since he usually notes that stuff anyway, and B) provide some more information about it, hopefully, from closer/better information sources than I have. I even used a different e-mail account to send the message, on the off chance that he had a spam filter catching my previous ones.

No response.

It's well over 24 hours after I sent him the notice. Not only have I not received a response (which I didn't really expect anyway) but his blog has been updated five times with no reference to Ernie at all. FURTHERMORE, he did include a notice about the death of a minor celebrity that very few people outside L.A. would even know.

A couple of slights I can understand; I've missed e-mails before on occassion, and there was sufficient enough reason at first to not respond. But at this point, I have to think he's making an active point of avoiding me and/or my e-mails. I don't know what I may have said or done to cause that, but I think there's too many instances of being snubbed to not take it personally.

I just don't know what I could've done or said that would cause him to not respond like that. I'm sure he doesn't read this blog and probably not FFPlaza.com. I don't think I've ever said anything that significant in JKC, so I'm just left sitting here confused as to why he "hates" me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ernie Schroeder?

I just caught news that Ernie Schroeder passed away recently, but the one piece I saw didn't list what the cause was or even when he died. It only gave a brief biography and mentioned that he passed away sometime in 2006.

I'd only recently "discovered" Schroeder and I'm sorry to hear he passed away. But since I've only seen notice of his death in exactly one place, I wonder if it's mis-informed. I kind of doubt it since he would be about 90 now, but still...

So, does anyone have any solid news on him?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Best Kirby Cover

I was reading through some back issues of Jack Kirby Collector and saw they once ran a "What's you favorite Kirby cover" feature on the regular contributors and various comic professionals. This was shortly before I became a regular columnist for the magazine and, consequently, I wasn't asked at the time.

But I started wondering about what my favorite Kirby cover actually is. The only ones that really stand out are things like Fantastic Four #1, Amazing Fantasy #15 and Avengers #4. Not so much for the actual cover designs, but for the contents that are contained inside.

So I thought some more and realized that most of the Kirby imagry floating around in my head are interior pages. Sometimes a figure or a panel, but mostly full pages of story art. It dawned on me that I was reacting to Jack's art in pretty much the same way he created it: he put all of his power and dynamism in the story itself, while the covers were largely afterthoughts. The man was a storyteller, not an artist. It wasn't (in Jack's mind) his job to come up with an iconic image that represented the whole of a story he just wrote. So his covers aren't quite up to the levels of power that were seen in his stories.

That said, I took a more conscious look through many of Jack's covers to see if I could find one that I really thought worked better than others. I eventually decided that Tales of Suspense #80 is pretty cool. I like the way the lightning (or whatever) is eminating from the Cosmic Cube there, and the torrent of activity in the background is well-designed to make for a relatively neutral backdrop that still conveys significant information.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Blue Man Group

I think it was about four years ago that The Wife and I visited Chicago. While we were there, we saw a performance by the Blue Man Group for the first time and I was quite thrilled to partake in the truely multi-sensory experience. What struck me in particular was the incredible blending of entertainment with social commentary. They were adept, I thought, at providing an enjoyable experience through their performance while simultaneously giving things for the audience to think about. Further, the audience was bombarded with so much information during the performance itself that one couldn't help but reflect on it afterwards -- you didn't have time during the show. What that does is allow people to think about the subject more than if they had simply provided some sort of straightforward message.

For example, if I told you that we, as human beings, have a dizzying array of information at our disposal and that it's too the point where it's impossible to realistically filter in all of, but only, the portions you want, you'd take that idea, think about it briefly, and either start to process my next statement or start formulating a counter-opinion. In the show, however, the BMG are ostensibly giving a performance so your attention is focused on what they're doing. You are able to catch the messages that are in the show, but only just. They fly by so quickly in relation to their performance itself that you don't have time to even process the idea, much less store or counter it. Consequently, you're predisposed to thinking about it later at such time when you can mentally devote yourself to the thought.

Now, I bring this all up here because this is a small group of people who A) have something to say, and B) know how to say it to great impact. Further, they do it in a very iconographic and visual way -- with their uniform, asexual, and simplistic appearance. So I'm wondering if they've considered tackling comic books as a medium for their messages, or if a publisher has ever approached them to publish a Blue Man Group comic?

Now, there certainly would be some challenges with such an endeavor. By its nature, a comic book reader has much more control over the speed of information than a person attending a Blue Man Group performance. The Blue Man Group, while they do work in storytelling into their shows, tend NOT to have a cohesive over-arching storyline in a traditional sense. While not mandatory for comic books, it is certainly the norm and probably what a majority of readers expect.

But I think it should be obvious that they do a visual that would lend itself to comic books, and I don't think it would be difficult to adapt some of their ideas to the form. Hey, if you're a comic book editor reading (though I have no reason to believe any right-minded editor would!) why not give them a buzz and see if there's any interest?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mirrormask

The other night, I was running through a Target to pick up some sundries and happened across the DVD version of Neil Gaiman's and Dave McKean's Mirrormask. Now, The Wife is actually a bit of a fan of Gaiman in the first place and The Jim Henson Creature Workshop, who she's also a fan of, did some work on the production as well. So I picked it up for her.

We just sat down and watched it tonight, and I have to say that I was impressed. But not in the way I thought I'd be impressed.

The story is essentially about a girl who has the typical types of fights with her parents -- her mother mostly -- and then somehow slips into a dream-world that's composed almost entirely of her drawings. Along the way she discovers that an evil twin of sorts has taken her place in the real world, and is ripping up the drawings and destroying the dreamworld and everyone in it. So the girl has to save the dream-world and return to the real world, all the wiser for the journey.

Now, I was expecting to be wowed by Gaiman's story. And, quite frankly, I wasn't. It was structurally and thematically pretty close to The Wizard of Oz. I was kind of expecting to see some cool Henson studio creatures. There were a couple that bore Henson hallmarks, but there were largely periphery characters without much screen-time. What I was NOT expecting -- certainly not expecting to be impressed with -- was Dave McKean's designs.

Oh, I've seen Dave's stuff before and I thought he was talented and all. But I was surprised here because much of his work was translated -- and translated very well, I might add -- to three dimensions. The art team working on the film did an incredible job interpretting what Dave had put down on paper, and bring it to life. All sorts of wonderous designs and sketches -- they were certainly evident in the designs the girl tacked on her wall, but they were also floating throughout the entirety of the dream-world.

Excellent, excellent visual treat. The story's not bad either, but the film's much more worth watching for the eye candy.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Too... Many... Options...

I had lunch this afternoon with a friend of mine. He lives in the area where I work, and suggested a small mom-n-pop type shop tucked away in an older strip mall. So we met there and talked about this, that and the other. And we stepped out and he suggested we stop next door to look around for a bit, since I like comics and he likes baseball cards.

I had seen the place as I've been driving home from work, but it looked like a trading card shop, so I was surprised that he mentioned that they had comics. We walked in and, sure enough, the place was littered with old trading cards. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer... It also had a good collection of trading card games, like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc.

But then I glanced towards the back, and saw the wall was lined -- almost to the point of wallpapered -- with old comics. And, as we meandered towards the back, I saw the usual assortment of statuettes, action figures, long boxes, and new comics. The back half of the store was a bona-fide comic book shop!

Now, we didn't have long before we had to go back to our respective jobs, so I didn't get a proper look at their selection, but I found it incredibly surprising that there were TWO comic book shops within five or ten miles of each other for a relatively suburban area. I would expect that, for an area that really isn't THAT crammed with people, there wouldn't be enough support for two separate comic shops. Especially since I know that there's ANOTHER one -- the shop I used to frequent -- only about 15-20 minutes north of the both of them!

I see this as a positive sign that the comic industry is doing better. More sales of individual comics generally translates to more shops. More shops translates to more differentiation. More differentiation translates to more selection and better service. Overall, it's a win/win for everyone.

Provided that the shops are well managed, of course!

Now, the down side is that I'm going to have to go through this second nearby shop and drop even more cash on back issues they have in stock! But, you know, that's a problem I'm happy to have right now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Curse of the Pym Particles

Okay, so WAAAAY back in the days of Marvel comics, Dr. Hank Pym discovered something he dubbed "Pym Particles." A person using Pym Particles could change their relative size becoming either very small or very large. Several characters have used Pym Particles over the years to become super-powered. But let's take a moment to look at what's happened to some of them...

Clint Barton -- Became Golaith II in Avengers #63. Killed in Avengers #502.

Bill Foster -- Became Black Goliath in Power Man #24. Killed in Civil War #4.

Scott Lang -- Became Ant-Man II in Marvel Premier #47. Killed in Avengers #500.

Erik Josten -- Became Golaith III in Iron Man Annual #7. Died in Thunderbolts #47.

Rita DeMara -- Became Yellowjacket II in Avengers #264. Killed in Avengers: The Crossing.

The only characters I'm aware of that have used Pym Particles and haven't died have been Hank Pym himself and his ex-wife, Janet van Dyne. Pym, though, has gone schitzo on several occassions, and Janet has gotten smacked around quite a bit over the years -- including by her then-husband (Hank) and her best friend (She-Hulk).

So I'm thinking that this might not be a coincidence. Maybe Pym has gone over the deep end and is actively having these people killed. Maybe the earliest deaths might have been "real", and that got Hank thinking about getting rid of the remainder of his "competition." After all, the three most recent deaths were caused by people who were considered friends/allies of the victims, and who all were well-acquainted with Dr. Pym.

Lots of story potential here, I think...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cheater Post

Hey, it's time for another edition of: Sean Can't Think Of Anything To Say So He'll Just Post What Comics He Bought...





Annihilation: Ronan #3
The ONLY reason I bought this is because I just found out that a minor FF character (Lyja) has a one-panel cameo in it.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky
I stumbled across this in the shop today with a $2.50 price sticker on it. I don't know if the story's any good, but you can't go wrong with cheap Bernie Wrightson art!
Civil War #4
I've actually kind of been enjoying the whole "Civil War" storyline, despite some radical character re-works that totally clash with established continuity.
The Cubes, Set 2: Joe
Okay, it's not really comic-related, but the shop had him in a discount bin for five bucks. Since I work in a cube farm now, it was impossible to pass up!
The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M #3
As I've noted here repeatedly, I enjoy different takes on Alice in Wonderland. This one has been especially enjoyable so far, and I only wish that the full novel that this comic stems from is published here in the U.S. soon.
Nextwave #8
Warren Ellis continues to make this a delightful read. The Mindless Ones replacing Americans is a poignent, if cynical, social statement that I heartily approve of.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cultural Capital

I mentioned the other day that I'd seen the phrase "cultural capital" in reference to comic book collecting. I've been thinking about the notion since then.

The basic premise is that, within the realm of comic book collecting (and certainly other areas as well -- but I'm just focusing on comics here), fans use cultural capital as a method to determine social hierarchy; cultural capital being the knowledge and wisdom that one accumulates within the realm of the industry. For example, a newbie to comic collecting probably doesn't know the long histories of various characters and, by this cultural capital theory, s/he would be low on the social totem pole. Someone who's been reading for several years and knows the whole history of Spider-Man from Amazing Fantasy #15 onwards is higher up the food chain. The person who knows the whole history of the Marvel Universe is higher still. Comic book creators, because of their "insider" knowledge rate higher than anyone else, but still have their own internal hierachy. So a Mark Evanier or a Tom Brevoort still rates higher than, say, a Chuck Austen or a Robert Kirkman. So the notion of "keeping up with the Joneses" is more a matter of being more in the know than the next guy, rather than simply making more money and spending it conspicuously.

One of the things that's had me frustrated (for lack of a better word) is this feeling that I'm not as well-known/respected in the comic book community as I'd ideally like. And when I started thinking about how much cultural capital I have -- relatively speaking -- it occurred to me that there's another parallel here with "traditional" capitalism. Namely, that I'm trying to compare my fan-based capital with professional capital. I developed FFPlaza.com, I'm on the Board of Directors for The Marvel Chronology Project, I've had letters printed in at least a couple dozen comics, I was named "Comics #1 Fan" by Diamond back in 2002, I've got a regular column in The Jack Kirby Collector... but all of that is trumped by being a professional in the industry. Matt Brady (to pull out an easy example) makes a living writing about comic news. He's in the industry. Peter Sanderson and Will Murray are effectively back to being fans, but they both were in the industry for several years, still trumping me.

So can I really increase my cultural capital without going pro? Well, sure. And I think I'm already doing that by reading as much as I can realistically get my hands on. And I throw out the odd proposal here and there to try get a few things published. But I don't know that I can reasonably weigh my knowledge of comics against those who are in the field. It's not a fair comparison, not unlike a college dropout trying to compare his/her salary to Bill Gates'. It's an apples and oranges situation.

And, yes, I fully recognize that this entirely my ego talking here. How well-known I am to the comic book community, ultimately, is a means to feed my sense of self-worth, which I'm obviously not really getting from other venues. But it's still an interesting aspect of my place in the overall comic community, and I think it's worth examining.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Making Comics?

I like to think that I do a fairly good job of keeping up with the comics industry. Not just Marvel or DC, mind you, but the industry as a whole. I'm generally not totally oblivious to the status of Red Sonja even if I don't read the title, or what Matt Wagner's been up to after his second Mage series.

But this weekend, I was passing through a bookstore and saw something called Making Comics by Scott McCloud. Totally new to me. I picked it up and flipped through it. Looks like totally new material. Not really a sequel to Understanding or Reinventing but something not unlike a how-to.

On the one hand, I'm really pleased that Scott's put this out. I like studying the form of comics often as much as the comics themselves, and the more I understand the actual construction, the more I can enjoy the finished result. I've found that I have a much deeper appreciation of good movies after having spent some time studying writing techniques and good storytelling principles.

On the other hand, I was totally blindsided by the news of the book's publication. Further, after doing a few quick searches online, I didn't realize that McCloud's on a fairly substanial book tour to promote said book. How is it that I totally missed any news on this before now? Sheesh! These are the types of things I should really be on top of, and I'm just completely not on top of them.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kirby Research

Today, I'm working on my next "Incidental Iconography" column for The Jack Kirby Collector.

Typically, I start by looking at the theme the editor has proposed for the issue and choosing a character to focus on that somehow ties in with that theme. Sometimes I have some idea of characters I'd like to examine first, and try to put them in tie into a particular theme.

One of my criteria, though, is access to artwork. I'm sitting here in Ohio, my editor/publisher is in North Carolina, the Jack Kirby Museum is based out of New Jersey, and Lisa Kirby lives out in California. So unless I want to rack up huge airline bills, I'm stuck with essentially whatever's in my personal collection and the bits and pieces of artwork I can find online. So sometimes I simply can't do adequate research on a character and I'm forced to choose another. (I was somewhat stuck in that position when I opted to do a piece on Mr. Miracle.)

But I usually find at least a couple of pieces to start with and fire off a note to my editor that I'll be working on such-n-such character, and he might start tracking down various pieces of art when he starts to work on the issue. What I find infinitely fascinating, though, is that I'll start looking at the body of artwork that I have and start putting it in some sort of order. And I start seeing things that aren't really obvious looking at the pieces individually. Sometimes extremely subtle things. But the pieces, when looked at collectively, tell a story unto themselves. I dare say it's not unlike a filmmaker trying to put together a documentary. S/he has a basic outline to start with, but as more footage becomes available, the story starts unfolding in unexpected ways.

This morning, I began writing about Herbie the robot. I had a basic outline of what I wanted to touch on and some basic points to make. But in looking at the various artwork, I saw some profound things about Jack's designs on the whole that I would never expected to see.

But to read exactly what those are, I'm going to have to let you wonder until my article is actually published! Be sure to check out Jack Kirby Collector #47 due out at the end of October.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Comics are NOT for kids

I started reading Jeffrey A. Brown's Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans on my lunch hour today. I only read the first chapter so far, which basically serves as an introduction. (You know the old addage: "Tell your audience what you're going to say, say it, then tell them what you said.") I found it interesting that he struck on some good points early on, but had some presumptions that weren't so well-founded.

I like that he brings up the notion of "cultural capital." It's not a concept I see used much in relation to comic book research, and I think that it's something that needs further exploration. (Hopefully, I'll see more on this in later chapters of his book.) Further, Brown notes how curious it is that, for as much analysis has gone into other media, comic books have comparitively little. He blames that, in part, on the notion that comics are historically a kids' medium and weren't given much respect from the academic community accordingly. Here's where I start taking issue with him.

Yes, comics were looked down upon as the bastard child of "real" literature for many years. But that started getting thrown out the window in the 1960s when colleges started teaching classes around Marvel comics. (Not just literature classes, either! Art, philosophy and religion as well.) By the mid-60s, Stan Lee was fairly in demand at graduation ceremonies and the like. Much has been written about how the 1970s saw social relevance brought into comics, notably with Denny O'Neil's Green Arrow stories and Marvel's non-CCA-approved issues of Amazing Spider-Man. The 1980s was all about bringing gritty realism into comics following the lead of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. And this whole time, comics are also being looked at as an investment with the potential to reap huge financial rewards.

My point is that comics haven't really been exclusively for children for several decades now. And if people keep trying to say that they have been, then the industry will always be viewed as just on the verge of maturing. Sure, comics are still evolving, but they matured decades ago. It's 2006. Isn't about time we bring our perceived baseline up to reality?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nomad Collected

Every month, the big comic book companies send out solicitations for their upcoming comic books to generate interest (and hopefully sales) in their various titles. These solicitations are generally for about three months out to give retailers sufficient time to go through every publisher's listings, send in their orders, and still have enough time for the publishers to actually print as many as are needed.

Now, an interesting facet of comic marketing is that the national bookstore market is much, much larger and requires a greater lead time... I think somewhere closer to six months. What bookstores then do is throw the publishers' information in their databases and, even if you still don't see the books on the shelves for another six months, you can order them well in advance if you ask someone sitting at a computer terminal in the actual bookstore.

OR...

You can have more direct access to their lists by simply hitting the company's web site. Amazon has their process streamlined so things tend to show up there before anywhere else, and I just learned (through MarvelMasterworks.com) that Marvel's releasing a collection of the original Nomad storyline from Captain America #177-186. I've had those individual issues on my want list for a little while, but they were far enough down that I didn't want to spend an inordinate amount of time hunting for all of the issues. And I certainly didn't want to shell out a lot of cash for them either! Amazon's got the collection for sale for $16.49 -- less than $2.00 an issue. Plus you don't have to spend any time hunting.

I do so enjoy when publishers put out materials that I want to read.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Gods Omnibus

I just read over at Newsarama that DC's Georg Brewer is currently working on a "New Gods Omnibus" that will collect Jack's entire Fourth World saga in four hardcover volumes.

A year or two back, I went out and picked up the various black and white trade paperbacks that reprint the individual titles Jack was working on. I just got the "core" books and skipped on Jimmy Olsen because... well, I'm not keen on seeing them in black and white. They were intended and designed to be printed in color, and I think NOT having the color makes them look like they're missing something. I don't have many of Marvel's Essentials series for the same reason.

(On a side note, the Essentials books I do have are the first two Tomb of Dracula volumes. I thought those would be okay to view in black and white largely because they're by Gene Colan, whose artistic style is based more on the tonal qualities of the pencil than the definitive strokes of a brush or technical pen. I'm reminded of an editor's quote from years ago: "The trick is to present raw Gene Colan. Pencils only." His artwork always seems to lose something when it's inked. But even though the Dracula stories are inked, they still convey much of his original intent, I feel, and they stand up relatively well in the Essential line.)

But now, I'll have the opportunity to see Jack's storyline somewhat closer to how he laid it out. The books will (likely) be printed in chronological order in color, and they're talking about including both his introductory Jimmy Olsen stories and his Hunger Dogs finale; neither of which I've read. Regulars to this site will know that I have a GREAT respect for Jack and the sheer volume of work he produced makes it difficult to get my hands on all of it. But even though I'll be essentially buying these stories for a second time, I have the feeling that it will be very much worth it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fantastic Four Cartoon

I'm sitting here watching the second episode of the new Fantastic Four cartoon. I tried to withhold judgement after just the first episode, but the second episode did nothing but confirm my initial impressions.

I want to ask why no one can get the FF right outside of the comics, but I know the answer to that already. It's because there are too many people putting their own spin on the characters into each story. Any character is perceived and interpretted differently by each individual viewer. We might see/hear/read the exact same story, but I might notice a character's inner resolve most prominently while you might notice their strength of character... subtle differences, to be sure, but enough to color how you and I define the character. And what about the next guy who just notices the physical characteristics?

So with a cartoon, you have a group of writers contributing to a script, which is overseen by a lead writer and later interpretted by a series of actors. The director chooses which interpretations s/he likes the most and uses in the show. And a slew of animators try to follow the lead of a character designer when trying to depict facial expressions and physical manifestations of mood.

So by the time the show gets aired, a few dozen people have easily had their input into the show and any vision that the original creators (in this case, Stan and Jack) may have had has been interpreted and re-interpreted so much that they may as well be new characters.

I know all this at a conscious level, but it never ceases to surprise me just how much distortion happens.

At the end of the show, I grabbed the remote from The Wife and removed the automatic timer I had set up to turn the show on when it airs.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Revisiting Old Books

I've been re-cataloging my comic collection off and on for the past few months, using the online database ComicBookDB.com. It does an excellent job, I think, of allowing me to include all the information about my collection as I deem fit. Plus, it's online so I can access that information from just about anywhere. (For those who might be wondering why it's taking so long, I've recorded around 5,500 individual issues so far, and I know there's plenty I haven't touched yet.)

But the reason why I'm writing about it today is that I've found it interesting to recollect the stories as I'm tagging them in the database...

"Yeah, I remember I got Marvel Team-Up #126 on my birthday. It had that cool Hulk vinette."

"Heh. I remember finding that copy of Bring on the Bad Guys in that used bookstore just off campus."

"Hey, that was one of those Superman issues I found in the back of a file cabinet when I was working at Kenner."

What struck me as particularly odd is that The Wife has told me that this is much the same type of feeling many women get about shopping in general. The whole buying experience is one that not only includes the obtaining of an object, but also the circumstances and feelings associated with it. Each issue in my collection has a memory attached to it -- maybe when I got the issue, maybe where I first read it, maybe who gave it to me -- and those memories can sometimes override the actual content of the book itself.

Just an unusual observation.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Comic Shop Surprises

So I swang by the comic shop today around 12:30 to pick up my new books. As I mentioned yesterday, I was concerned that I'd have trouble seeing the racks for the gamers. I was pleasantly surprised to see, though, that the shop in fact has a back room specifically for the gaming crowd. Aside from a couple of gents who walked past me to get to the back room, I pretty much had the front of the shop to myself. (The owner was there as well, but I was the only customer out front.)

One of the interesting things about going to a new shop is finding the unique things they do. Today, I found a "Bargain Toy Bin" in the corner. I poked my head and saw several Marvel Legends figures sitting in there, still in the packaging. I looked a little closer and saw they were from the recent Onslaught series. I looked even closer and saw they were priced at only $5 each! A second or two later, I realized that the owner had sliced the side of each of the packages, pulled out the Onslaught piece and built the extra figure, which he was then selling separately. The rest of the figure/packaging was in tact, though, and since I was only interested in getting Pyro anyway, I picked him up for a lot cheaper than I thought I'd have to!

Next to the "Bargain Toy Bin" was a long box with all of the shop's leftover Free Comic Book Day books. Still free. Since I missed this past year's event (my then-regular shop did have some of the Marvel and DC books left by the time I got there the following Wednesday, but nearly all of the indie publications were gone) I did a quick flip through and found a couple of interesting-looking indie books I hadn't seen. If I weren't on a tight schedule, I would've gone through the box more closely to see what else may have been in there.

I can't wait to see what other treasures might be buried in the other corners of the shop!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Comic Curse of a Holiday

As many of you are likely aware -- at least the Americans among you -- Monday was a federal holiday: Labor Day. It's a day we're intended to honor those working classes by taking the day off and relaxing a bit. Of course, that only applies to those of us who work in offices -- all the stores and restaurants are still open, so your retail level workers get shafted. But one of the groups that does get a day off are those people who work for the U.S. Postal Service.

And, as a comic fan, that means all of the shipments of new comics are delayed by one day. New Comic Day is pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday, while everyone works twice as hard during the week to catch up with everything that could've gotten done on their day off, had they continued working through it.

Normally, this only means that I have to wait an extra day to read my new books, but this week is a little different. I've just noticed that at my new shop, they normally hold HeroClix tournaments at noon on Thursdays. Physically, it's not a very big shop so I expect that it will be completely jam-packed for that hour, making shopping noticeably more difficult. I may have to shoot for a REALLY late lunch tomorrow to try to avoid the crowds. I could, I suppose, just swing by after work, but the later I delay in getting on the road home, the more traffic builds up and the longer it takes for me to end my work day. And with a 45-minute commute already, I'm really not keen on extending that any longer if I can avoid it!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Comic Book Contests

You know what the world needs more of?

Comic book contests. (In case you didn't guess that after reading the title of this blog entry!)

There need to be more opportunities to coax people to become interested in the hobby. World Famous Comics has had several contests over the past few years, but there are two problems with them: a) they generally require a fairly high degree of artistic talent, and b) they're often only tangentally related to comics. I've seen where a handful of comic shops have their own contests -- raffles, giveaways, etc. -- but the problem there is usually one of reaching a good audience. It's great for the folks who already frequent the shop, but no one is going to happen across information about it unless they walk in the store or hit the shop's web site, and it's also generally only good for people who are actually near enough to stop in the shop anyway. No, what we need are more contests online that anyone can enter and have just as good a chance of winning as anybody else.

Over at FFPlaza.com, I just finished up a contest tied in with the Who Wants to be a Superhero? show. It got a bit of attention for my site and the show and I just spoke with the winner of the contest who was quite pleased to have won. Now, the problem with that contest is the same as World Famous Comics' contests: it's only tangentally related to comics.

MarvelMasterworks.com frequently teams up with Tales of Wonder to offer free Masterworks and Archives books, which is great, but it seems a little infrequent. I just found out I missed the deadline on their last contest by just a few days. My local shop just had a raffle event to celebrate their third anniversary, but I couldn't actually swing into the shop over the weekend to participate. Diamond had a great contest for Free Comic Book Day a few years back (which, I might add, I won!) but they haven't repeated the contest.

But think of how cool it'd be if someone could sign up at, say, Amazon.com or someplace big like that and win one or two hundred dollars worth of comic book loot. Maybe a grab bag of Marvel, DC and Dark Horse stuff. Get folks interested in the wide range of great material that's available out there. Can you imagine getting a Fantastic Four Masterworks, The Spirit Archives, and maybe a couple of Hellboy or The Goon TPBs? Tell me that wouldn't be cool!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tales of the Crypt Documentary Review

I received from The Wife for my birthday Tales from the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television. It's a documentary about EC Comics and, on the whole, fairly well done. Plenty of interviews with Al Feldstein, Mark Evanier and a bunch of other folks knowledgeable about the industry and/or EC in particular.

What struck me was that it was a very professional documentary. I had expected it to be filled with love and great reverence for the medium, but lacking in professionalism. In point of fact, the documentary was very well put together and, with a running time of about 56 minutes, clearly done with an understanding that a more in-depth, long-running piece would bore casual viewers and impart no new information for EC devotees. What I've found particularly clever is that they've included a number of the original, full-length interviews with Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Marie Severin, Jack Kamden, Russ Cochran, Bob Overstreet and George Romero. I've only watched a few of the interviews so far, but they're a wonderful addition to the basic documentary.

Overall, I think it's an excellent purchase for both EC fans and comic fans in general.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bill Mantlo Tribute Status?

I was recently reminded that, back in May, I had heard of a tribute book for Bill Mantlo tentatively titled Mantlo: A Life in Comics. It was intended to feature interviews and commentaries by folks like Keith Giffen, Al Milgrom, George Perez, Roger Stern, Herb Trimpe, and Marv Wolfman and the proceeds would be given to Bill's guardian, who would use the money to benefit Bill.

Bill was a talented comic writer, if you weren't aware, and fell victim to an accident that's left him unable to write. (I don't have details handy, but I want to say that he was struck by a car and suffers severe permanent brain damage.) I didn't grow up on Bill's stories the way many other fans did, but reading them in retrospect, I can see that he was indeed very talented and gave a lot to the comics industry.

In any event, I haven't heard anything about the book since May and was curious if anyone had any new information on it. Is it still moving forward? Has it been cancelled? Anything?