Monday, March 31, 2008

I Blame Jefferson Davis

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week -- or just don't really pay attention to comic books in the first place -- you'll have heard about the recent ruling awarding Jerry Siegel partial copyright ownership of Action Comics #1. (For the record, I fall pretty much in the same camp as Valerie D'Orazio and pillock.) While the case speaks to the specific concerns surrounding Superman, a number of folks have begun looking at the wider implications for the comic community of such a ruling. What I have not seen discussed is the even broader issue of economic favoritism by the U.S. government.

The United States, for those who don't know, gives more or less equal legal status to citizens as it does corporations. Microsoft, as a company, enjoys almost all of the same legal rights as I do, with the notable exception of voting in elections. They can own land, they are innocent until proven guilty, they're not subject to illegal (i.e warrantless) search and seizure operations, etc. On paper, they operate about the same as I do. The difference, though, is that I earn about 1/1000 of what they do annually. (And, yes, I actually did the math.) And the American way of government favors the larger and more powerful, i.e. the wealthy.

I think most Americans have that much sussed at some level. Ernest and Julio Gallo have more clout in Washington, D.C. than I do because they are able to throw more money around. Money is power, pure and simple. Those who win aren't who's right, but who can afford the best lawyers. I'm frankly amazed that the Siegel family was able to get this much of a victory in the case (which, truth be told, is still a far cry from what they should get).

But one of the reasons our government works that way is because it is so centralized. Cities and states have very little power, compared to the federal government. If a wealthy individual or corporation wants to hold sway in political or economic policies, they can funnel all of their money into one conveniently centralized location. It's easy to grease the palms of politicians if you only need to do that with one or two people. While I don't know to what extent DC and/or TimeWarner contribute to the goings-on in our nation's capitol, their larger, more-money-than-your-average-citizen status means they often benefit from the legislation that other corporations "suggest."

Contrary to popular opinion, the American Civil War was not about slavery. Yes, slavery was an issue, but the central reason for the War was how centralized the U.S. government should be. The South favored a more decentralized approach, preferring that individual States had more power, while the North put the focus of government in one location. When the Southern states decided that they wanted more self-control and less regulation, they seceded and formed the Confederacy of the United States, electing Jefferson Davis as their President. (The John Tenniel cartoon at the left, by the way, features Abraham Lincoln facing off against Davis. It was originally published in the May 18, 1861 issue of Punch. Davis' shield here is depicted with the original Confederate flag, a design that was scrapped a few months later in favor of the more commonly known battle flag.) It was Davis who then ordered the attack on Fort Sumter that launched the Civil War.

Now, had the South won the War, they would have naturally promoted a decentralized government, which would inherently be more difficult to work with in regards to passing legislation that would favored larger corporations. Not impossible, certainly, and it would not have had a direct impact on Northern states, but it would have at least set a precedent for making things a little easier on the little guy. Yes, Siegel and Shuster grew up in Ohio and took their idea to a New York publisher, so it's not unlikely that they would've been gotten the shaft in exactly the same way that they actually did. But if Confederacy were around and in a greater favor of individual rights* their example might have given those two kids from Cleveland an inkling at least of something better that might be out there.

* I know the South doesn't exactly have a stellar record when it comes to individual rights with their history with slavery, and Jim Crow laws, and enforced segregation, and everything else. But the North had their focus on Big Business and Industry. Individual rights were an afterthought to Corporate Rights. The North's insistence on freeing the slaves was less a concern about ethics and morals, and more a concern about economics. While black folks were "free" in the North, there was no less bigotry and racism there. So when I say the South had a greater emphasis on "individual rights" than the North, I say that in terms of government interference. The North did grant freedom to a wider number of people, but it was a more limited freedom than what was available in the South.

Now, yes, I'm being totally superficial by even suggesting that Jefferson Davis is exclusively to blame for the American Civil War. It's about as silly as saying the War was just about slavery. But if there were a situation in which the North had not won and thereby solidify their belief in a bigger, centralized government, Siegel and Shuster might not have had to have lived their entire lives in poverty and obscurity. They might not have spent much of their lives in court, just trying to earn back a small portion of what was unequivocally their creation. They might have actually been able to live the "American way" with which their creation is allegedly tied.

What Do You Do With A Drunken Batman?

A lady friend of mine emailed last night about her discovery of a drink called "Batman" made from Dr. Pepper and grenadine.

When I went to look for a picture of said drink online, though, I stumbled across several different recipes for a Batman, including: a mixture of gin and an energy drink with lots of ice, and a mixture of orange juice and grenadine with a slice of orange.

What strikes me is that none of the recipes I saw seemed particularly potent, with relatively little to no alcohol content. Plus the frequent use of grenadine would make many of the concoctions fairly brightly colored. Now maybe it's just me, but I would figure that any drink called a Batman would be pretty stiff and do a fairly good job of knocking you on your ass. So why name a drink after the caped crusader if it's about on par with a Shirley Temple? And why name a brightly colored drink after the dark knight?

Of course, these ponderings are coming from a guy who doesn't drink anything more powerful than Mt. Dew, but I'm still curious about what thought processes went into choosing the name "Batman" into such a relatively weak drink.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Magazine Fame For The Friends Of Kleefeld

I've had some friends make appearances in national magazines that are on the stands now! Check out...
Valerie D'Orazio
The Occasional Superheroine and Friends of Lulu President gets profiled in Geek Monthly #14!
David Gallaher
The "Zuda strongman" gets written up as one of the breakout comic creators of 2008 in Comic Foundry #2!
Paul Horn
The original Cool Jerk has some of his artwork highlighted in Wizard #199!
Congrats, guys! All well-deserved.

And, hey, if you're a friend of mine and haven't told me that you're gaining national fame and recognition, well... you need to share the joy!

Take That, Evanier!

Check it out! Michael C. Lorah recently interviewed John Morrow for Newsarama about Kirby Five-Oh! and John mentions me by name, but not that Mark Evanier guy who thinks he knows something about Jack Kirby. I mean, just because he's written the most exhaustive/definitive biography of the man, that makes him some kind of expert or something? Please!

John knows the score, though. You can't give that Kirby stuff away by itself, but you put my name on it... FWOOSH! The stuff will go flying out the door! Thanks, John, for being able to recognize that.

The book is due out on April 23. You can order your copy here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why I Hate Iron Man

Iron Man's been in the news a lot lately, largely thanks Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. And it's been bugging the piss out of me because, simply, I hate Iron Man.

Granted, I'm not a big fan of any of the marvel pantheon these days, but I've never liked Iron Man. I remember reading various Avengers comics I picked up from the library when I was a kid, and not liking way back then. It took me a few years to figure out why, though: he's a non-character.

The curious thing about super heroes is that one character can actually be believably portrayed with two identities. Batman is not the same character as Bruce Wayne. Bruce Banner is not the same character as the Hulk. It's not a rule that any superhero with a secret identity has to be portrayed with two identities (Captain America is pretty much the same character as Steve Rogers) but it's an acceptable conceit of the superhero genre.

I've seen this turn people off to given characters. My buddy Dave, for example, hates Spider-Man. Not because he's an arachnophobe or doesn't like the costume or whatever, but because Peter Parker is just a big whiner. The wise-cracking, self-confident Spider-Man is discarded because he's part and parcel to the neurotic, self-absorbed Peter Parker. Dave can't stand that and it doesn't take much for him to get him off on a rant about how annoying Peter Parker is.

But my problem with Iron Man is that there's no character there at all. Tony Stark, yes. Definitely some interesting things going on with him as a character. He's got the constant struggle of doing what's right versus doing what's going to make him some money. He's a recovering alcoholic. The whole origin of the Living Laser is a great concept, because it speaks to how Tony Stark runs his business and has any number of real-world parallels.

But Iron Man? Nothing.

When Stark dons the Iron Man armor, he generally (depending on whether or not his identity is publicly known this week) drops his Stark persona so people won't be able to figure out his secret identity, but he doesn't replace it with anything. He just goes out superheroing with no real impetus, and no real style. He's a walking ray gun, but without the Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon for readers to relate to.

A few years back, a poster left a story springboard on a message board to see what kind of ideas people would come up with. His springboard was simply a one page splash of Iron Man flying toward the Baxter Building thinking, "I wonder why the Fantastic Four have requested the services of Iron Man?" I thought about that for a bit, and it started to really bother me. Why would the Fantastic Four contact Iron Man for anything? I could see Mr. Fantastic calling up Tony Stark to bounce technical ideas and theories off him, but Iron Man...? The only things Iron Man brings to the table are repulsor rays and rocket skates. There's absolutely no reason the FF would need Iron Man for anything.

Go back through the history of Iron Man stories. There are indeed some great stories in the Iron Man mythos, but look closely at them. They're great stories, in part, because they focus on Tony Stark, not Iron Man. Even Iron Man's origin is more about Stark finding a way to outwit his captors than it is about Iron Man blowing up some Commies (or whatever they've been ret-conned into these days). Iron Man is a non-entity. A bunch of transistor-powered (wink wink nudge nudge) circuitry encased in a red and gold shell. The interest factor is in Tony Stark, and Iron Man is just his two-dimensional "heavy." I think you'd come up with an infinite array of better stories if you simply began having Tony Stark carry a gun.

Which oddly means that Iron Man is ideally suited to be the star of a major motion picture. There's plenty of room for loads of special effects without having to be burdened by troublesome character traits like, say, character. I really can't imagine why Hollywood didn't jump on this sooner.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Comic Art, Harbinger & Newfangles

Maggie Thompson was at the forefront of comic fandom in the early 1960s. She and her (later) husband Don were most definitely considered two of the biggest Big Name Fans (BNFs) of the time, and they continued to have a strong influence on fandom for years to come, and Maggie is still the senior editor of Comic Buyers' Guide.

Over on Maggie's web site, she's begun posting scans of her old fanzines. She recently added Newfangles #1-10 from 1967-68. Those issues strike me as particularly interesting, as they cover not so much comic news, but comic fandom news. It includes changes of addresses, fan obituaries, and the like. Issue #3 notes the birth of Don and Maggie's daughter, Valerie. This overall direction is strikingly poignant because it really speaks to the heart of what comic fandom is about: namely, a community built up around a shared interest.

Comics are enjoyable. I can sit down and read the latest adventures of the Green Lama or Groo or Doktor Sleepless or whomever, and be entertained for however long it takes to read through that story. But when I come online to discuss those stories, or hang out in a comic book shop beyond just purchasing those issues, I do so for the human interaction. The superficial shared interest in comic art is just a bridge to forming an emotional connection with other people. I'm more interested in, for example, David Gallaher as a person than as a writer. I'm more upset that I can't share any more conversations with Gregg Allinson than I am that he was no longer contributing to my web site.

I think all creatures have something of an us/not-us mentality when it comes to social interactions. There's something primeval about wanting to be with other beings similar to ourselves. Whether that's defined as our colony of ants, instead of another; or male versus female; or whatever -- there's some biological function that wants us to hold close similar creatures while pushing away dissimilar ones. (This is essentially where racism comes from.) But, using our allegedly higher reasoning powers, we're able to make more distinctions based on less obvious criteria. Intellectually, emotionally and psychologically, I'm more similar to a black woman living 250 miles away working in a completely different job role than I do to the white guy sitting ten feet away who has the same educational background and career I have in the same department of the same company. Superficially, the white guy is more similar to me, but in all the ways that I would consider significant, he's not. I've defined him as "not us" while I've defined her as "us." My connection with her is considerably more powerful than it is with him.

This is underlying purpose of fandom: to identify those less-superficial characteristics that we share with others, to allow us to connect with them in a deeper and more meaningful way than whatever physical attributes we might have in common.

So go check out what Maggie's been posting. The names and places are probably irrelevant to you, four decades after the fact, but it's easy to see the connections that she and Don were facilitating in those pre-Internet days of fandom. Oh, there were still disagreements and flame wars and even legal disputes back then. But I've rarely seen the purpose of fandom so much on display as I have in those issues of Newfangles.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Impressions Of The One

I had the semi-unusual experience of growing into comic books just as they were being re-defined. In the early- to mid-1980s, readers saw powerful new ideas in the medium that have gone on to become "must read" books for comic fans. Maus. Watchmen. The Dark Knight Returns. As I was just beginning to explore the medium of comics, though, these were curiously not as groundbreaking since they were (to me) just as new and innovative as what John Byrne was doing on Fantastic Four or what Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom were doing in West Coast Avengers. My lack of experience in comics meant that everything was new and exciting.

But Rick Veitch's The One stands out.

I'm fairly certain that I didn't read the book as it originally came out. In dragging my father to comic shops, he had begun picking up unusual titles which I would only read much later, after I had read and re-read my own superhero books dozens of times. The comics of Dad's that I would read were largely ones that were superficially, at least, known to me. Basically, superheroes and science fiction. And I largely read them in precisely that capacity. Watchmen was originally for me another superhero story. I distinctly recall that the only bit of that story that really struck me as innovative at the time was when Ozymandias revealed his secret plan after he had already implemented it, making some comment about not being a B-grade villain from an old serial. Most of the other commentary and sub-texts were lost on me.

Eventually, I got around to reading The One, it's covers making some fairly obvious commentary on the nature of commodity comics. I expect I was a little older than when I had read Watchmen and I was able to grasp things a little better. It was also more of a commentary on current events, as opposed to historical ones, so I was more aware of what was being commented on.

I haven't read the story in probably 20 years now, but as I recall, the gist of it was that the U.S. and Russian governments had created super-powered beings in their (then) ever-escalating Cold War. These superheroes were then manipulated by their respective governments to coerce them into waging war against each other, eventually wiping out nearly the whole of mankind, leaving the two super-powered beings to become the next Adam and Eve. (My apologies to Veitch if I'm mis-remembering things, or glossing over significant plot points. Like I said, it's been two decades since I've read it.)

At the time I read the book, I had a youthful outrage at anything resembling "The Man" and The One just provided more "evidence" that the government was wholly untrustworthy, and was clearly working against the best interests of mankind. There was also a sub-plot concerning religion, which ended in the book by suggesting that those who follow an organized religion were mindless leeches clamoring to become part of a giant monstrosity. My growing cynicism latched on to that aspect as well, reinforcing the distrust I had of organized religion.

The book was, by and large, was very cynical itself and it encouraged my own cynicism. (Not by itself, mind you. Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Heavy Metal, Shatter, and many other comics helped.) But The One was the first comic that really struck me as being more than what the superficial story was about. It was the first comic that, to me, read AS social commentary. It was the first comic that had a real impact on how I thought about the world.

Now, looking back on it, I can't speak to how elegantly Veitch did this. I'm actually tempted NOT to re-read it, because I suspect that it may have been a bit heavy-handed. (How else would a self-absorbed, ignorant teenager pick up on the sub-texts of a comic book about two super-powered agents beating the crap out of each other?) I rarely see mention of the book anywhere these days, so it certainly didn't cause a particularly notable stir in the industry. At least, not a long-lasting one.

But for me, personally, it opened my eyes to what a comic could be in a way that Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were unable to do. It was the right book at the right time for me, and I still remember it with some degree of reverence. So, even if it's not mentioned in the same breath as those other highly-regarded books, it at least sits alongside of them for my 15-year-old self.

The Camelopardus

If I were to contribute to a comic anthology whose theme was "giraffes" there's absolutely no way I'd come up with anything even half as clever as this...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Capt. America, Weight Conscious?

It's pretty common knowledge that wearing vertical stripes makes you look thinner/taller, while wearing horizontal stripes makes you look shorter/fatter. The reason for this is that a person's eye, when seeing stripes will follow along the path of the stripes and perceive the direction of the stripes as longer than it actually is. It's a fairly common trick of the eye, and fashion designers often take advantage of this notion of a person's eye following lines to accentuate and/or hide certain features of a figure.

Which makes me wonder why Captain America wears vertical stripes. I mean, the American flag's stripes are horizontal, so what other reason could he have for choosing vertical ones other than to make himself look thinner? Is he just one of the many legions of overweight fanboys?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kirby In 3-D

Rand Hoppe recently posted all of the original layered art files for page 10 of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Captain 3-D. Personally, I find it absolutely fascinating to see how these pages were built in the days before Photoshop -- and how it was really just a manual version of the same process.

Electric Company Spidey Covers

So I was watching some old clips of The Electric Company on my lunch hour and saw a few spots featuring Spider-Man. As many of you may remember, the "Spidey" stories on Electric Company couched all of his adventures within the context of comic books. The introducing song ran over a clip of someone opening a Spidey comic, the episode itself was framed within a comic book panel, and the series ending with the closing of the comic.

Something I noticed in watching the clips was the artwork used for the covers...

Obviously, these two covers were mocked up specifically for the show (I like how, in that second one, the artist clearly ran out of room on the page and twisted the heck out of Spidey's leg to get it all on the cover) but they should look familiar to long-time fans of Amazing Spider-Man and/or John Romita and Gil Kane...

Now, my question comes up with this next cover, which is obviously a bit more generic and was used for multiple show introductions...
The image looks familiar to me, certainly, but I'm sure part of that comes from regularly having watched The Electric Company in my youth. Was this based on/copied from some general promotional Spider-Man art, or is this a cover that I simply don't see anywhere? I'd be curious to know this image's origins, as well as what other covers were used as visual springboards for the show.

UPDATE: Corrected one cover image and credit, based on Jeff Gutman's comment. Thanks, Jeff!

Hilary Sycamore On Color

Hilary Sycamore discusses a bit on color theory as it pertains to comics, and why she stopped wearing yellow cellophane on her face.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fantastic Four #555

What the hell was that?!? I didn't recognize ANY of the characters as the ones I've ever read before, and (as much as I normally like Hitch's artwork) I barely recognized them visually either.

Not to mention that the characters aren't very well identified within the book, even with the lazy-writer's paragraph introduction at the beginning. Oh, and there's a couple of noticeable plot holes and some bizarre leaps in story logic. And, of the several crowd scenes, both inside the book and on the cover, there was exactly ONE black man.

The storytelling was weak, both from a visual page-to-page perspective as well as with regard to the overall structure. The initial framing sequence was poorly written and seemed out of place. The splash pages were decidedly unimpressive, and the layouts of the other pages didn't seem to make much sense.

I'd have to rank this down there with the "John Harkness" issues as one of the worst FF issues ever. The only -- and I mean only -- thing that keeps me from dropping this like a hot rock is that I've got almost a quarter century emotionally vested in these characters. And, if the book doesn't show signs of improvement in the next issue or two, that won't be enough to keep me around.

Catwoman On NPR

Yesterday's All Things Considered had a character profile on Catwoman.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tintin On Torchwood

A discussion of Tintin on this week's (well, "this week" in the U.S.) episode of Torchwood...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Buy Robert Beerbohm's Comics

I'm liberally swiping this from The Comics Reporter, but Robert Beerbohm was at the forefront of the Direct Market during its fledgling days, and has remained a significant force in the industry since then. Somehow, I don't think either Robert or Tom will mind me repeating this verbatim...
Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide Advisor and Historian Robert L. Beerbohm, long-time compiler of the Victorian and Platinum Era comics sections, needs an assist from those in comics fandom who have enjoyed his work in documenting some of our long-forgotten early history of the origins of the American Comic Book.

After eleven years of building the most concise widely-read historical synopsis of the comic strips true roots in America dating more than 160 years ago, he finds himself in need very soon for dual hip replacement operations. He has been told by a doctor the joint sockets are deteriorating at an accelerating rate. If he does not get this accomplished this year, the operations might not be able to be successful.

Long story short, he has been told any where from $60 to 80,000 per side to be healed in America, but over in India, the quote is only $8000 per side plus air fare. This has turned into a no-brainer after he realized one in every seven Americans is without access to covered health care.

No charity is requested. If you like his comics history work, you can help him get back in the game simply by purchasing a few books from his list of 12,000 pre-1980 comic books and related items on his web site

Or, from his web site, you can also click to his eBay store BLB COMICS with a slew of high grade as well as mid grade comics collectibles.

If just 400 of you Scoop readers take heed of this plea, spending just $50 at his web site, he can reach his goal.


An insurance policy he was paying on to HMO Aetna was arbitrarily canceled by them, citing undisclosed pre-existing condition due to his having been a passenger in a 1974 comicon-bound van outside Houston, Texas pile up documented in Dark Horses anecdotal comics encyclopedia Between The Panels under the heading On The Road.

While also suffering a slightly cracked skull, broken nose, cracked shins and impacted teeth which all mostly healed back in the 70s, ultimately what is doing him in now was the impact points of his hip joints in that accident.Seems the impact point cartilage wore off at a faster rate over 30 years, leaving bone on bone at various points, which is quite painful at times.

Beerbohm's first comicon was Houstoncon June 1967 where he turned 15 at the show. He has sold comics at every San Diego Comicon since the first one in 1970, the same year he also began a yearly trek to Phil Seulings legendary July 4th weekend New York City shows. He lost count after 1000 shows some time ago.

He went from 30+ comicon shows around the country a year up through 2007 when his hip joints finally gave out at that years Chicago Wizard show. In 2006 eight shows, in 2007 just three, this year the jury is still out.

By August 1972, he co-founded what became Comics & Comix in the San Francisco Bay Area with the late, fondly missed John Barrett and Bud Plant. Robert joined in with them following a conversation he had one-on-one on an early Sunday morning with the late legendary Will Eisner had the geniuss second comicon appearance at Multicon in Oklahoma City June 1972.

Eisner told Beerbohm when the talk moved over to what steps could be taken to try to save the comic book, then undergoing horrendous cover price increases following the fallout of the glut brought on by the Batman TV craze of the late 60s, that one way was to plant comic book stores near college campuses, then an unheard-of idea.

With that first store at 2512 Telegraph Ave in Berkeley just a few blocks down from UC-Berkeley, they thought they could sell a lot of alternative creator-owned comix then known as underground.

Within six months they hosted the first Bay Area comicon Berkeleycon 73 in the Pauley Ballroom in the ASUC Building on campus, site of many earlier Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, etc concerts. Many thousands came thru to check out the new comix. The fabled Tom Reilly pedigree collection of some 4800 NM/M Golden Age comic books surfaced at this seminal show which Comics & Comix was blessed with acquiring almost 7/8s of the entire score. Robert is trying to finish up the chapter on this legendary collection for the upcoming pedigree book.

Bud and Robert were also housemates in San Jose in those years then when the phone call came in from Phil Seuling informing them he had just cut a deal to be able to ship Archie, DC, Marvel, Warren comic books from Sparta, Illinois. Phil offered the west coast to Bud at the time, but Bud turned him down, preferring then to concentrate on all the proliferating smaller press material, especially those comix containing Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, Richard Corben, Vaughn Bode and a host of other talented comix creators. Out of all this energy, the Direct Market had been birthing and Comics & Comix was right in the middle of it all.

That was a long time ago in that galaxy far far away. He profusely thanks each and every one who responds to this.

Comic Book History in America is 166 years old now. Beerbohm is eager to get back on the road setting up at shows around the country while also continuing his on-going quest to learn and share with all collectors and scholars more Secrets Behind the Origins of The Comics Business in future Price Guides.
I've never met Robert personally, but I have communicated with him via email on a few occasions. He's genuinely a nice guy and knows a LOT about comics. He cares about the industry on the whole, and generally carries an incredible assortment of quality books.

Friday, March 14, 2008

How To Make A Dark Horse Comic

Dark Horse recently put up on their web site a script-to-thumbnails-to-pencils-to-inks-to-colors-to-letters presentation of the first six pages of Serenity: Better Days #1. While the portions after the pencil stages are pretty common, and the script isn't that uncommon, I particularly like seeing the thumbnail sketches and how those change going to the pencil stage. (Pay close attention to page three.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dave Stevens As Cultural Capital

I was in my Local Comic Shop at lunch today, browsing the new selections. Being a Wednesday, it was (not surprisingly) crowded but, being a relatively small store, that was still only 8 or 10 people.

One of the regulars was talking geek (something about DC's current books -- I wasn't really paying attention) and finished his dissertation of fanboyishness to a largely disinterested crowd. He then fired up his next topic of conversation: the recent death of Dave Stevens, which he evidently learned about through Newsarama and, for the benefit of whomever might not know, provided a short biography of the man as it related to comicdom and how tragic it was following so closely on the heels of the death of Steve Gerber.

The thing that struck me was the patron's attitude. Now, he certainly wasn't disrespectful of Stevens or his work, but he wasn't particularly remorseful either. He presented the information not unlike a newscaster might -- factual, but emotionally removed. He was certainly informed about Stevens and his work, but largely (it seemed) through the relative commercial success of Rocketeer. Indeed, most the subsequent discussion centered around the movie and Jennifer Connolly's appearance in it. But, as Mark Evanier pointed out in his obituary of him, the movie did little for Stevens financially or creatively. The "success" which Stevens achieved with the movie was largely assumed and not realized. The population of this LCS was clearly pretty ignorant of Stevens, I suspect, in large part because he wasn't a creator that was associated with a DC or marvel property.

Further, the patron who brought up the subject was just as ignorant for, I'm sure, the same reason. He brought the subject up, not because he felt that comic community was dealt a tragedy in the loss of Stevens, but rather because he could laud himself into the spotlight as the local source for the most up-to-date news and information in comicdom. He was creating cultural capital for himself and trying to raise his perceived importance in fandom by being more knowledgeable than the next guy. [begin sarcasm] He is the guy who reads Newsarama almost daily! He is a man who knows his comic books! He is clearly the master of comic book knowledge in this store! [end sarcasm]

Now, granted, in some form, we're all trying to present ourselves in a more positive light and raise our social status. There's some part of my brain that says, "I can show myself as more important than I really am by blogging about comics." While that's not my primary motivation, I can recognize that it is a factor in what and how I write. But it bothered me in this instance because the patron's interest in Stevens' death was almost exclusively limited to raising his own importance. He didn't seem concerned about Stevens' work, the family and friends who lost a loved one, or even the business speculation that's bound to occur in this new time in which no new Stevens work will be produced. He viewed Stevens' death as simply a means to make himself look smarter than the rest of us.

Now I could've jumped in at any point to add any number of details. I could've said something about his work on the Tarzan newspaper strip, the costume designs he provided for The Flash TV show or the general helpfulness he provided to an aging Bettie Page. But that would've been just as disingenuous since I'm not that particularly well-versed in Stevens' work either, and those details are things I only picked up yesterday myself. I think Stevens' work is gorgeous, to be sure, but he was never a creator I followed or had much emotional attachment to. Any discussion of the man or his work from me really does nothing but show that I'm more knowledgeable about him than your typical comic book fan.

Believe me, I understand the desire to develop your own cultural capital and become a big fish even in the relatively small pond of a LCS. But I also think it ought to stem from a genuine interest in the subject at hand, rather than a tangental interest that only serves your ego. I try to blog about things I care about, not whatever the current hot topic happens to be. Sure, sometimes I'm going to become excited about something topical, but the fact that it happens to be topical is irrelevant compared to my interest in it. Not only does using Dave Stevens' death as cultural capital make the person using that information seem shallow, but it's disrespectful to the man who devoted so much of his time to being the best artist he could be.

Serenity: Better Days #1

If you're a Browncoat, don't even bother reading this review. Serenity: Better Days #1 has everything you loved about Firefly and Serenity including a very-much-alive Hoban Washburne and Shepherd Book. Stop right now, and go pick up a copy.

Now, for those of you who aren't already fans of "the Verse" I'll start with the introduction for the TV show and this comic...
After the Earth was used up, we found a new solar system and hundreds of new Earths were terra formed and colonized. The central planets formed the Alliance and decided all the planets had to join under their rule. There was some disagreement on that point. After the War, many of the Independents who had fought and lost drifted to the edges of the system, far from Alliance control. Out here, people struggled to get by with the most basic technologies; a ship would bring you work, a gun would help you keep it. A captain's goal was simple: find a crew, find a job, keep flying.

As is implied, the book's protagonists aren't always exactly on the right side of the law and the story starts with them robbing an art exhibit. The run afoul of a security robot that's not unreminiscent of RoboCop's ED-209s. They're able to not only elude the robot, but capture and deliver it to a buyer who points them to a hidden cache of money as payment, which turns out to be quite a bit more than they were expecting.

The first thing I'd like to point out is the artwork. Will Conrad handles those chores here, much as he did for Serenity: Those Left Behind. Early in my blogging career, I pointed to Conrad's work on that book in highlighting the difficulty in moving TV and movie properties to an illustrated medium like comics. I can't say if he got used to drawing the actors that brought Joss Whedon's creation to life, or if he simply improved his drawing ability, but the likenesses of the actors here in Better Days is remarkable. (I was particularly struck by the close-ups of Gina Torres on page 5 and Jewel Staite on page 18.) Conrad was able to convey the actors' likenesses very effectively throughout the book, often using a surprisingly limited amount of detailing.

As far as the story goes, I think just about everything a new reader needs to know is included in the issue. While not every character relationship is fully explored here (an almost impossible feat, given the size of the cast and relatively few number of pages to work with) there's enough for a reader unfamiliar with them to understand the basics. There's also the use of Chinese for various exclamations and cursing that, like in the show, probably adds a lot of color when properly translated, but is unnecessary to get the basic meaning across.

There's also several nods to the show's continuity with references to Simon Tam's first boarding of Mal's ship, Jayne's status as a legend in Jaynestown, and the like. These don't have enough of an impact on the story to really impact the story or distract from it for the uninformed, but they act as nods to long-time fans who are well-versed (pun intended) in the continuity of the property.

If there's any real fault to be had in the book, it's that there seemed to be a few lines of dialogue that might not read easily to newcomers. The overall language structure in the show relied fairly heavily on inflection, dialect and the overall delivery. Since comics have no sound, that portion of the story is absent and readers need to fill that in mentally. Those who have seen the show will have no problem "hearing" how every bit of dialogue was intended to be spoken. Malcolm Reynolds "sounds" like Nathan Fillon here. Jayne Cobb "sounds" like Adam Baldwin. But without those audible reference points, new-comers might have to re-read some of the dialogue to really understand how it's supposed to be read. There're only a few lines like that, but it might be distracting enough for some people to rate the book a notch or two lower than they otherwise might.

For me, though, having been a fan since the airing of the very first show, the book was immensely satisfying. Not only does it allow me to visit the Verse once again, but it does so with the same eye towards good, solid storytelling that Whedon had in the original.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Templar, Arizona

Personally, I'm not generally partial to long-form, serial comics online. I think the extended stories are too involved for the short snippets that get posted at whatever given interval. That said, I have run across a few that I do enjoy when I can sit down and read a large block of it at once. Templar, Arizona has now been added to my short list of said webcomics.

I actually stumbled across it the other day and began reading for the most unusual (for me) of reasons: I found the design of Reagan (at right) to be downright sexy. Yeah, a bit trashy, but Charlie "Spike" Trotman does a phenomenal job, I think, of depicting Reagan in a way that exudes her self-confidence and femininity through only a few elegant brush strokes. It didn't take me long, either, to realize that Trotman's skill in depicting characters was not limited to Reagan's sexiness. Ben's insecurity, Gene's obliviousness, Thutmose's self-acknowledging caveman attitudes, Ra's anger... each character is extremely expressive, thanks to Trotman's deceptively simple linework. But that's only what caught my attention initially.

The story of Templar, Arizona is essentially a slice-of-life piece centered loosely around Ben, a young and inexperienced writer who's a recent transplant to the city. He lives in a run-down apartment building with some neighbors who've managed, thanks largely to Reagan, to barrel their way into his life. The city and much of the culture there are fictional, but not so far removed from reality that they might not be mistaken for one another.

Clearly, I found the artwork is eye-catching, but a few things about the story really stand out for me as well. First, this alternate culture and its subcultures within the story are fascinating. They seem very real and organic; it's hardly surprising that some readers have assumed that they really did/do exist. In fact, it's almost surprising that they don't. (I mean, a pottery place that doubles as a coffee bar? Why hasn't anyone actually started one of these?) It showcases, I think, what an excellent grasp Trotman has of American society.

Her dialogue is equally telling. All of the characters have a very natural language, and speak as much to their character as to telling the story. On several occasions, she drops us into a conversation already in progress and, like any real conversation we might step into, it takes a little while to catch on to the topic but, once having done so, puts the earlier portions of the conversation into an understanding perspective. Trotman doesn't force readers the story, but lets it unfold in an extremely organic way. We see this world of Templar, Arizona in almost the exact same way that Ben sees it. I think it's difficult to pull that off convincingly, but Trotman repeatedly does so with apparent ease.

I'm glad to see that the first chapter of this story has gone into print, and it's clear that Trotman's earned every award her comic's been given. I don't know if she's able to make a living exclusively off Templar, Arizona yet, but I highly recommend throwing some love -- if not some cash -- her way to encourage her to do more of this. Brilliant stuff!

(Oh, and for the record, I still think Reagan looks sexy despite her being loud, obnoxious, boorish, crude, argumentative, nosy, and generally intolerable.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Culture Of Perfectionism

So I'm looking around in Second Life for some avatar skins. Nothing elaborate, mind you, just a kind of generic male body that'll provide a little more definition to my avatar. A little arm and leg hair, decent fingernails, that sort of thing. And here's what I find...
It's a conventionally attractive male body, sure, but that's just about all I found. Almost every body had a shaved chest and six-pack abs, and basically looked like they stepped right out of a comic book.

Now I don't think I look bad with my shirt off -- I've got a little definition in my obliques and my pecs -- but certainly not the type of body that gets drawn in your typical superhero comic. But looking for an avatar skin that even vaguely resembles my body has proved difficult, to say the least. And that gets me wondering.

A lot has been made of how women are portrayed in comics. All tits and ass. Thighs bigger than their stomachs. Breasts that simply defy gravity. And I'm not about to deny that that form of sexist thinking exists in comics. But, you know, the men are generally portrayed in a more idealized concept too. Look at Mr. Fantastic -- he spends ALL of his free time conducting science experiments in the lab, and yet he somehow still has time to do enough crunches to wash clothes on his stomach? Even with incredible genes, he's more likely to be built like Dr. Octopus.

So the question is: how much of the characters we see in comics is sexism, and how much is simply catering to a socially accepted ideal of perfection? Granted, women are portrayed more uniformly than men in comics -- we have documented proof of that. What I'm trying to bring attention to is that that might not all be sexism.

We are bombarded every day with images of the "idealized" male and female bodies. We're told by the media what we're supposed to look like. Now there is some scientific evidence that suggests that there is some genetic predisposition to certain physical attributes; that "conventional" attractiveness is in part encoded into our genetic makeup. Most people can recognize that at least at some instinctual level, and who is or is not attractive can generally be agreed upon by large groups of people regardless of race or background. (No one, for example, finds Alfred E. Newman attractive -- none of his features are symmetrical.) TV, movies, print ads, etc. all want to make their product(s) more attractive and they often do so by associating themselves with people who can also be generally be recognized as attractive as well. "Our product is desirable in the same way this attractive person is."

I think, to some degree, that holds true for comics as well. Publishers want to make people find their characters attractive and they therefore often use facial and body types that are readily identifiable as attractive. Without their superhero costumes, how different do Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan and Ray Palmer really look? Prior to the Silver Age, how many of any male heroes differed visually beyond the color of their hair or the individual style of the artist doing the illustration?

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to dismiss the sexism that does pretty clearly exist in comics and the comic industry. That's certainly an issue that should be addressed, and I applaud the intentions (if not always the methodology) of the women who vocalize their displeasure at the situation. And I'm definitely not saying that men should stand up and holler from the rooftops about how unrealistically men are portrayed in comics.

What I am saying is that maybe the primary issue isn't so much that women and/or minorities are portrayed in a limited manner, but maybe the central issue is that publishers are catering too much to an idealization of the human body, and aren't really taking the time, or putting forth the effort, to consider anything beyond that culturally accepted ideal. Maybe it's that comic book creators should stop reflecting what's on their movie and TV screens, and should start looking out their window to reflect what's out in the real world. And maybe if they start doing that, the additional sexism would start to take of itself.

Of course, I might be totally off-base here, but it sure as heck wouldn't hurt if we could convince more comic creators to be a little more diverse in all of their work, right?

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I'm sure you've seen at least a couple stories in recent years in which new super teams were created using either historical figures and/or characters from the public domain. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Five Fists of Science are probably the most well-known in comic circles. Personally, I kind of enjoy these types of stories if for nothing else than the twists and interpretations of the originals. So I was pleased to track down a copy of the Necronauts trade paperback recently.

The book collects the story originally serialized in 2000 AD from around 2001. The team brought together for this story includes Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. P. Lovecraft, and Charles Fort. The story revolves around a collection of "Sleepers in the Void" who thrive on the souls of the recently deceased and, through Houdini's unintentional actions, are bent on taking over Earth. Not surprisingly, the good guys win in the end, but at the expense of Houdini's life (allegedly the real reason he died) and Lovecraft's sanity (which then led to his writing his Cthulhu mythos).

What is initially, and perhaps most significantly, striking about the book is Frazer Irving's art. He puts a lot of emphasis on light and shadow but, interestingly, he does so with a great deal of linework. The results frequently seem very stark and highly contrasting, but a second glance reveals the large amount of intricate linear approach he actually takes. It's somewhat similar to the horror work of Bernie Wrightson, but with less emphasis on edge lines.

What's also note-worthy about the art is that Irving maintains excellent likenesses of the four major characters throughout the story. They're all immediately recognizable as the historical figures from virtually every image of them in the book. A tough feat under most circumstances, and that Irving was able to capture their likenesses using this particular style is doubly impressive.

While the artwork alone is extremely well done, the story too is well crafted. The plot flows along very smoothly, and the dialogue works very well. Each character has his own voice and is uniquely tied to the story -- it would not be the same story if, for example, Lovercraft was replaced by H. G. Wells or Houdini by Howard Thurston. It's a very tight story, and holds together exceedingly well. I don't know how much editing was done in the collecting process, but it also reads very smoothly as a single story for having been originally written in a serialized format so it does not at all force the reader to stop and start with recaps or abrupt cliffhangers.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with the book. It easily falls in the same category as League and Fists both in terms of concept as well as quality. It's a shame this hasn't received more attention, as it's something I'd be eager to see more of.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Proof Vs. Big

Well, a good chunk of the state was hit with a snowstorm last night and today, leaving the roads pretty treacherous. Which meant that my original plans for the day went out the window. On the plus side, I was able to put a dent on some of the reading that's been piling up and that included the first five issues of Proof and the first trade paperback of Perhapanauts. Both titles follow vaguely along behind Hellboy with the notion of the paranormal investigating the paranormal.

The lead character of Proof is a Bigfoot that goes by the assumed name of John "Proof" Prufrock. He's joined up with these paranormal investigators in the hopes that he'll stumble across more of his own kind. His partner, Ginger Brown, is a former FBI agent and their first case is tackling a Chupacabra that disguises itself in the skins of its victims. The latest recruit to the team is Elvis Chesnut, a former sheriff whose mother was killed by said Chupacabra.

Perhapanauts concerns a team consisting of a telepath, a ghost, a Bigfoot, a Chupacabra, and a man who evidently can slip between dimensions at will. Their first mission concerns a Chimera that seems to have popped up in a Massachusetts factory. Both the Bigfoot (called simply "Big") and the Chupacabra ("Choopie") have been zapped with an evolvo-ray, and are pretty savvy to new-fangled technologies.

Superficially, there are few note-worthy differences between the two. Proof himself is the only paranormal creature undertaking missions, while the Perhapanauts crew is primarily supernatural. Further, they also have access to more advanced technologies like jet packs and time machines. Proof and Ginger are limited to technology that you might find in today's FBI.

There's a fundamental divergence in the two series concepts that I think is worth pointing out as well. Perhapanauts seems to take the basis that all of the old legends are essentially true. (That Big and Choopie are team members are only the result of their being hit with the evolvo-ray.) Proof does more to challenge the legends and assumes that some aspects of the myths were taken out of context or exaggerated. Interestingly, it's Perhapanauts with the lighter tone even though it stays more true to the nastiness inherent in the old tales of monsters and blood-suckers. This is also highlighted in the differing artistic styles -- Proof is filled with more solid blacks, heavier lines, and a darker color palette.

I liked the adventure aspect of Perhapanauts. It definitely has a lot of action and visceral excitement that might make it a good segue book if you're looking to move away from traditional superhero fare. That said, I actually liked Proof better because it did more interesting things with the storytelling itself. Several issues actually had different, but intersecting, stories and there's a fair amount done with non-linear storytelling. And where Perhapanauts has more characters with a lot of quick identification, but that quickness is because of some reliance on stereotypes. I expect that those stereotypes will fall to the wayside in further stories, but Proof seems to take a different approach by making the fewer characters more unique up front. I'll continue to read Perhapanauts to see the characters evolve out of their stereotypes, but I'll continue Proof to see who I've already met.

Both books are worth taking a look at. While a quick summary might suggest the two of them are very similar, I think each takes the basic idea in a very different direction and provides very different reading experiences. And that the comic market today can support both books as well as Hellboy (at least so far) is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Kirby: King Of Comics

It should come as little surprise that I'm a fan of Jack Kirby. I grew up on his creations, and I'm thrilled today that I can contribute in any small way to his legacy. So it should also come as little surprise that I've been eagerly awaiting Mark Evanier's Kirby: King of Comics since he announced it some time ago. (As I recall, he unofficially started it at Jack's funeral when Roz Kirby asked, "So when are you going to start writing Jack's biography?" To which Mark replied, "Well, now, I guess.") Of course, the danger with such a long lead time is that it can build up one's expectations to a level that's too high to realistically achieve. Fortunately, Mark's generally pretty self-deprecating and usually works overtime to ensure that no one ever expects more from him than they might expect from a sixth grader.

In any event, I got my copy of Kirby: King of Comics this week, promptly ripped off the cellophane and started flipping through the large volume. The first thing that pops out is, not surprisingly, Jack's artwork. The book is filled with pencil sketches, inked production art, and reproductions of his printed work. Not to mention a number of photos. But each piece of art often takes up an entire page, making Jack's dynamic page and panel layouts explode past the very borders of the paper itself! People have long talked about how Jack's characters were too big for the confines of a comic book panel, and here shows that they're frequently too big for a comic book too! Each page of art comes across something like a Roy Lichtenstein painting... only more impressive.

You know the cover to Captain America Comics #1, right? With Cap leaping across the room and knocking Hitler's lights out? I have never seen it look as awe-inspiring as I have in this book.

"But, Sean," you might say, "I've seen Jack's artwork before. Unless I really want to scrutinize his work, why should I get this book?"

A fine question, which I shall answer by way of anecdote.

I first became aware of Jack Kirby through his creation: the Fantastic Four. As I began reading about the FF every month, I slowly learned about how they were created back in 1961. And as I realized how huge of an impact Jack had on the development of the characters and their world, I began reading more about him. At some point, my interest shifted from the characters to the creator. I began to recognize that, no matter how much I learned about the FF, their adventures were decidedly finite and quantifiable. They had appeared in precisely so many comic book stories, and that was it. Jack, on the other hand, was a real person who seemed to have a pretty interesting life himself. And while his life here on Earth was finite, it seemed that there was much more that could be learned about him.

Now, you've read a Jack Kirby comic book before, haven't you? And, even if you didn't like his illustration style, I think you'd be lying to yourself if you didn't admit that the story was powerful and crackling with energy. Jack couldn't draw people standing around talking without imbuing them with limitless verve. The reason he could do that is because that's what his life was like.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting he put on tights and shot laser beams out of his eyes or anything. But his life was a never-ending battle for truth and justice. When he felt slighted or wronged, he fought for his rights, regardless of how much the odds were stacked against him. He was physically a small man and carried around a kind heart, but if you attacked him or his family, you could bet you'd have your keister shoved into the nearest garbage can before you knew what hit you.

Art imitates Life, as they say.

Back to your question, then. The actual biography of Jack Kirby, as written by Mark Evanier, reads like a Jack Kirby comic book. You read through a Kirby comic, and your head is filled with grand characters and powerful imagery going through the most amazing adventures. And even when there's some down time in the story, you can still tell that the engine's revving in the background, waiting for someone to let loose the brakes. That's how Mark's bio of Jack reads. It comes across almost more as an adventure novel than a biography, with great characters and snappy dialogue.

Don't mistake my meaning there. Mark never really makes light of the more serious aspects of Jack's life, but the book reads like a biography of Jack should read. It's almost larger than life, and gives the man the respect often only reserved for the likes of Winston Churchill or John Kennedy. It's only appropriate that Jack's biography take on the tone of the serialized stories he spent so much of his life creating, and I only mean to pay Mark the highest of compliments by comparing this book to one of Jack's comics.

Some of the details and anecdotes were new to me, so I expect most people will find the information itself interesting and original. Between the incredible pages of art, the incredible characters and great story, it's hard not rate this extremely highly. Jack Kirby was the lead character of his own comic book and, while no one could even hope of capturing the true grandeur of his life, Mark does a stellar job.
No one did comics quite like Jack. And no one did them better. In light of Jack not having drawn his own story in comic book form, Kirby: King of Comics is as close as anyone could hope for.

Of course, now Mark's got me that much more eager for the "real", more-information-than-you-can-hope-for, only-dyed-in-the-wool-Kirbyphiles-apply, monster biography of Jack that Mark has talked about doing more specifically for the comic fan market!

Only Vaguely Comics Related

Viper Comics is hosting a t-shirt design contest over at Sketch86. (And there ends the comic book connection.) A design that I submitted -- seen at right -- is one of the finalists and I'd like to ask YOU to surf over and vote for it. Why? Because it'd be kind of cool.

(I know. I know. Totally shameless. But, hey, it's my blog after all!)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The Wednesday lunch hour found me, as usual, perusing my Local Comic Shop. I picked up the handful of new books I was looking for, and found a cheap copy of Rick Spears' Dead West in a discount bin. The shop owner, taking a quick break from the usual chaos of New Comic Day, pulls out a decent-sized cardboard box and places it on the counter.

"Hey, Sean! You might be interested in some of this."

"What's that?"

"It's an old customer's file. We'd been holding books for him for a while but he seems to have disappeared. He never comes in any more, and we haven't been able to get a hold of him. I told him that I'd keep pulling his books for six months and his time's up now. He was getting some off-beat stuff you might be interested in if you want to pull anything out of here."

The box in question had maybe 200-300 fairly new comics from the past several months. There was a good mix of indie publishers, plus a handful of marvel books. I rifled through the box's contents and pulled out any titles that looked interesting. Once I had a stack of six or eight titles, running from one to six issues each, I looked through those books a little more carefully.

Sure enough, there were two titles that, on closer inspection, looked pretty cool -- one of which I had never even heard of before.

The owner was appreciative of being able to get rid of what otherwise would be fairly dead weight and gave me an extra 5% discount. It just struck me as an interesting and novel way to deal with what must be a recurring problem at comic shops across the U.S.

The 1,2,3 Meme

I picked this meme up from Henry Jenkins...
  1. Look up page 123 in the nearest book
  2. Look for the fifth sentence
  3. Then post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.

With that, the nearest book to me at the moment is Comics & Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics. The sentences in question are from "the good duck artist" Carl Barks, corresponding with Donald Ault:
I admit, though, that after years have passed and my original "vision" has faded from my memory, I see my paintings and drawings much as you do -- as being exactly like I must have intended them to be.

What did I imagine my characters were doing between the panels? For the first time I realize how deep and complex the creating of comic book stories really is.

The next nearest book is Jumpstart Your Marketing Brain by Doug Hall...
Focus your advertising message on providing relevant yet unexpected news about your brand. Mindless humor, video gimmicks, outrageous shock, and esoteric philosophy is for Hollywood movies, not capitalist advertising.

Great advertising is easy.

The overall messages here (at least as I see it)? If you remain true to yourself and your convictions, you and your work will be respected and live on. The seemingly most simple work is often the deepest, most complex, and most profound. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Of course, now I want to see this bad boy of a meme tackled by Jim Roeg, David Gallaher, Richard Bensam, and (of course) anybody else who wants to give this a shot.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Spider-Man's Ass Whipped By Wesley Willis

I was recently alerted to the musical talents of the late Wesley Willis (who you can read more about here). The short summary is that he was something of a cult phenomenon from the Chicago area and churned out hundreds of songs with simple, but memorable, lyrics and melodies. As this is a comic-related blog, though, I'd like to bring one song in particular to your attention:
I Whipped Spider-Man's Ass (2.1 Mb MP3)

And, really... who wouldn't want to whip Spidey's ass these days?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Strange Encounter

I stopped by a not-exactly-local comic shop the other day and found myself picking up a number of oddities that my own LCS did not have. But as I was browsing, an older woman came into the store and asked the clerk for some assistance. I overheard most of the ensuing conversation and she peppered the clerk with questions, and helped her sort through the racks of new comics and back issue bins.

She started off with some questions about Countdown. Basic questions, really -- what the story was about and that kind of thing. Clearly she had heard something about the series in a passing conversation or possibly a news report, and it had piqued her interest. After hearing the short explanation, she proceeded to inquire whether or not that shop had all of the 40-some issues published so far. She and the clerk proceeded to rifle through the back issue bins, pulling out every issue of the series for her.

This went on for a little while and, not surprisingly, 52 came up as they continued talking. She then proceeded to ask about purchasing all of those issues as well. In the period of maybe 15 minutes, she'd racked up a tab of over $250 without getting anything particularly valuable.

The woman was evidently 67, and had been a fan of many of the DC superheroes back in the 1950s and 60s, but hadn't bought any new comics in many years. I never did hear where exactly she heard about Countdown but the idea intrigued her enough to find a comic book shop and dive back into the hobby headfirst. She also set up a pull list to ensure that she got the remaining issues of Countdown (as well as have a repository for the handful of back issues the store did not have on hand) and actually offered to leave her credit card information on file.

If she wasn't so involved with the clerk while I was there, I'd have been sorely tempted to quiz her to find out just what in the world prompted her into the shop that day. I mean, isn't this EXACTLY the type of thing publishers want to happen, but have yet to figure out a way to regularly capitalize on?