Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Answers to a hypothetical question: part 2

Some time ago, Scipio, at The Absorbascon, asked some hypothetical questions about you would do if you owned your local comic book store. Inspired by this, I've answered them. The answers will be posted over the next few days.

What would you do for the employees and what would you have the employees do for you?

At first I would have very few employees as they are a drain on initial revenues. You should only employ people once you are confident you can afford their salary for a year with getting into debt. Obviously I would try and pay competitive salaries (whatever that may be for comic book guys). I would give a discount on books in the store. I would also have a commission system – if they generate customers for the store I would pay a bonus of some kind (definitely no “Employee of the Month” stuff though). Definitely make them feel that they would benefit from the stores’ success.

You should also be thinking “What can my employees do for me?”

For example, the sort of people who would want to work in comic book store will have access to the sort of people who would want to buy comics – a ready source of business. Incentivise them to introduce their friends.

Comic fans are some of the most readily upsold people in the business, because they love the medium and wish that they could spend more on their hobby. I can only use myself and my friends as an example. You go to the till with 5 comics for that week and end up leaving the store with ten. All it takes is someone at the till to say “Did you know XXXX came out this week – it’s really good”. If you get it right once, people will trust your recommendations. Make sure your employees are knowledgeable.

Similarly, staff need to be incredibly courteous and friendly. If you really want to make your comics venture a success then you have to treat it seriously. I once visited the Harpoon Brewery in Boston and ended up at a talk from the MD originally intended for a group of visiting high school kids. He said something which has stuck in my head since – “If a consumer has a bad pint of your beer they will not come back for 2 years. And they will tell on average 12 friends”. That’s 24 man-years of revenue you’ve lost from one bad pint.

I was in Manchester recently and hunted down the Forbidden Planet there. The new comics were very cheap relative to normal UK prices. However, when I tried to engage in conversation with the till guy he was not very forthcoming and more importantly he made me feel unwelcome. If I was living in Manchester the £100/$180 I spend on comics every month would be taken elsewhere, even if it was more expensive.

I do not know nearly as many people as I would like who are into comics. The internet has been great in getting into touch with a community of like-minded people. If for some reason you don’t believe me go to your store and say something like “OMAC is crap”- people will stop and join in. They will even be late for appointments to get their point across! For some people, the staff at the shop can be people’s only contact with someone who loves comics – make sure they do not feel self-conscious and make them feel welcome. I guarantee that this will translate into increased sales more efficiently and easily than any advertising you could do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Answers to a hypothetical question: part 1

Some time ago, Scipio, at The Absorbascon, asked some hypothetical questions about you would do if you owned your local comic book store. Inspired by this, I've answered them. The answers will be posted over the next few days.


What would you change?

I go to several comic shops, predominantly in London. I have visited 70+ shops the country and the world (Ireland, USA, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium amongst others), as well as attending 12 comic fairs a year. Consequently I will have to speak generically and try and take the best from each.

If you want to have a successful comics shop, and have competition in the area, then you have to compete on price. I get my comics from Orbital on Charing Cross Road when I am in London because if you subscribe to over 20 comics a month (including miniseries) then your dollar rate drops from 65p to 60p. So, you get this trend where people who would normally subscribe to 15 titles a month subscribe to 20 because they are chasing a discount and feel that they can try out new titles. Looking at current buying trends, most DC fans will already be buying 5 comics a month regardless (4 Countdown miniseries + Return of Donna Troy). It really is easy for people to upsell themselves from 11 to 20 comics – I’ve seen it with my own eyes!

A successful store covers all of the bases. This is why the Forbidden Planet Superstore on Shaftsbury Avenue still has comic business even though Orbital round the corner is cheaper – because people can go there and pick up books, DVDs, Manga, T-shirts, Toys and Comics in one visit.

The layout of most comic book stores needs work. I appreciate they may not be able to afford more space, but I feel they would benefit from a less cluttered approach. Why should the layout of a comic book store be any different to the layout of a “regular” book store? Spacious and clearly labelled areas are important. This will not be for the benefit of existing customers but will help generate new business.

You need a substantial back issue collection, or more importantly you need to make regular customers believe you are the go-to man for obtaining back issues if you do not have them in stock. If you do this you will build up priceless relationships with key clients which will only grow. Remember that salary inflation tends to beat price inflation so a small customer now will potentially be a big customer in future. Have periodic sales to generate business.

Your graphic novel stock must be better than the local bookstore, and the bookshop should know this and recommend that customers head there if they want something – book shops in England recommend each other if one is out of stock of something. People may well may make bookstores their first stop as they are nicer, friendlier places to visit but once they set foot in your shop you should have captured their business forever, as you will be more knowledgeable.

Although there is derision about having them, cards bring in the kids and so they can be the lifeblood of your store. A good retailer friend of mine survives by them.

If you are a local store your aim should be to be the first choice location for gifts for birthday’s and Christmas. Kids love superheroes – stock things that parents will buy and that they can afford. Then make sure that people know this through the local media/other cost-effective publicity.

I’m not sure how people will react to this suggestion, as at first it may smack of some kind of sexism but I think it has merit. Get girls to work in your store. It is one of the realities of life that sex sells, and the sort of people who frequent comic books stores will enjoy the female contact. Scratch that, every heterosexual male I know likes attractive women! Timid females making their first foray into the world of comics will also appreciate a girl working in the store too. Obviously employ her on merit though – she has to know something about comics! I went into Jim Hanley’s Universe when I was in New York last year and there were two attractive girls working in there. It just made for a different environment, and when you are selling identical product positive differentiation is key.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Who drew all the Batmen?

Some chants heard following Mr. Jim Lee around the streets of Bristol at the 2003 UK Comics Expo:

"If you all love Jim Lee
All love Jim Lee
All love Jim Lee clap your hands"

"Jimmy Lee, Jimmy Lee,
Jimmy Jimmy Lee
When he’s got a pen
He draws Batmen
Jimmy Jimmy Lee"

"Jim Lee is our Leader
Jim Lee is our Leader
La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la"

And, best of all, to the tune of Que Sera Sera:

"Jimmy Lee, Jim Lee
Best artist you’ll ever see
Works exclusively for DC
Jimmy Lee, Jim Lee"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

If you all love Jim Lee clap your hands

Here’s the aforementioned Batman head-sketch that Jim Lee did for me at the UK Comic Expo in 2003:

Watching him draw is an absolute joy. He knocked this out (steady!) in about two minutes. Some circles are laid down on the paper, and then from out of nowhere Batman appears! Remember that this was midway through his ‘Hush’ run, so he must have already drawn several hundred Batmen and Catwomen by the time I got this done on Sunday afternoon.

This photo was actually taken by a couple of guys who had been asked by an American who maintains a fan site of Jim’s art (can’t remember which one – possibly Art of Jim Lee) to document some of the sketches.

Mr. Lee is a true professional. Like Mark Buckingham he seems to be very grateful for the success he has had and is willing to go out of his way to show his appreciation to the fans. Thank you Mr. Lee for making this fanboy happy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'll "Gotham Central" you!

I was upset that DC weren’t at this year’s UK Comic Convention.

It meant that I couldn’t threaten Bob Wayne and Bob Schreck with death if they cancelled Gotham Central, as I did in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

I missed the DC presence this year. It’s the only thing there that makes you feel like the publishers care about their British audience. We would have the preview of that year’s DCU output in what would have been the weekend’s most attended panel.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bat-Mac vs. Mr. T

A story from Bristol's Comic Expo 2005 (the UK’s smaller, friendlier, not taken-over-by-the-Hollywood-er version of San Diego)

This year, AP Comics released a new Mr. T comic, written by Chris Bunting, drawn by Neil Edwards,
and with the man himself as Creative Consultant. If you’re not reading it, do so!

I purchased the limited Expo edition of Issue #1 of this fabulous tome early in the day for fear of it selling out, went off to try and assemble an entire run of Kyle Rayner comics and then returned to get it signed by the creative team (sadly, Mr. T couldn’t be with them that day).

I noticed that Neil Edwards was sketching for the fans. All of them were of Mr. T, but his detailed, meticulous style meant that he was taking a while, and I had to disappear to attend a panel with Brian Bolland, Alan Grant and Mike Smith. I apologised for having to leave the queue but said I would be back later to hassle him.

A slight aside now which may explain how we reached the end result. Spider-Sam and I have a running joke which developed during UKCAC 2003, with Guest-of-Honour Jim Lee in attendance. It actually began when we observed that the autograph queue for Mr. Lee on Saturday morning was not moving. I suspected at first this was due to people taking entire runs of X-Men for him to sign, and indeed there were such people taking the piss. However, the reason at the time was that he was sketching. It may seem strange to anyone reading this, and seems strange to me writing it, but at the time I couldn’t believe that an artist would produce a free sketch for anyone who asked for it. By the end of the convention, and after sketching solidly for two days Jim was knocking out headshots of Batman in under 2 minutes, but at the start he was spending 30 minutes on a sketch and some of the pieces he produced were unbelievable.

We started to wonder how far this could be pushed. What if you asked for a sketch of yourself? Could you ask for a sketch of yourself as Batman. Could you ask for an entire comic with you in every panel? This reductio ad absurdum caught on and has become les mots justs for describing the sometimes ridiculous requests that fans put to these poor guys on their days off!

Anyway, on the way to the talk we were banding ideas around about that sketch we could ask for, purely for Neil’s benefit as he was probably bored of doing head and shoulder shots of Mr. T. Suggestions included asking for a sketch of the A-Team with me as Hannibal, Spider-Sam as Murdoch and Naz as BA, a sketch of me as Mr. T, a full-body shot of Mr. T. as Batman, or an four-part miniseries entitled JLA/Avengers/A-Team. However we soon came up what we thought was the ultimate request – me beating Mr. T in an arm-wrestling competition. We giggled away at the thought of asking for this, but we knew deep down it wasn’t going to happen.

We returned to the main hall after the talk and went straight to the AP Comics arena where Neil Edwards recognised me and asked what I would like drawn.

I said: “Well, I’m sorry to ask as you’ve probably done him to death today, but I’d like a sketch of Mr. T. please…

(slight embarrassed pause for me to pluck up courage)

“…or, as my mate suggested, me beating Mr. T. in an arm-wrestling competition. Chortle, chortle”

From the way he reacted I thought that Neil also appreciated that this was intended in jest, so I stood there trying to chat up the attractive girl next to me while he put pencil to paper.

I then started to notice him looking up periodically. At first I thought that this was to make sure I was paying attention to him, or maybe that he also was eying up this honey, but it soon became apparent that he was actually eyeing ME up! My heart skipped a beat as I realised what was going on, and sure enough he soon delivered to me the greatest work of art in the history of everything. It even showed me looking cool and Mr. T (replete with biceps five times the size of mine) perspiring!

I ran to find Spider-Sam and Naz, who couldn’t believe their eyes, but at the same time weren’t at all surprised that I had managed to blag this!

So that’s the story of why I now have an A3 sketch of me beating Mr. T in an arm-wrestle by Neil Edwards, artist of the Mr. T. comic. I’d like to thank Naz for planting the initial seed for the idea, Spider-Sam for egging me on, and the flower girl by Temple Meads Station for providing me with some brown paper and sellotape to protect this priceless masterpiece.

One day I will prove to all you cynics out there that this actually exists with some photographic evidence, but it is currently in a hermetically sealed vault hundreds of miles away. Excuses, excuses, I know, but at least that gives you all a reason to keep reading!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Who says comics aren't educational?

The world's greatest heroes take on their greatest enemy yet - more dangerous than Doctor Doom, more insidious than the Green Goblin - it's Childhood Obesity!

POW! Take that, Overweight Fan-boy!
Now why don't you get adverts like that in comicbooks anymore? Anyone else remember Spider-man and Power Pack saying no to sexual abuse?

I think we've all learnt a little something from that.
Brilliant. But what have we got in this months comics? It's all just adverts for video games and trading cards. Where's Captain America telling me not to do drugs?
C'mon Doctor Strange, is binge drinking bad or not? How else am I meant to know?

I was unaware! UNAWARE!

Friday, August 19, 2005

So long, suckers!

At the end of today I go on Study Leave for two and a half weeks. Once upon a time this meant “study leave” i.e. come back a fortnight later having used the time productively and read the post-Crisis DCU. Unfortunately, now I have to get my arse into gear. I have one exam to go to obtain my professional qualification and the associated pay, promotion and, more importantly, extra comic-buying power that that brings. Finally I can get that first appearance of Annex!

In the meanwhile I leave you in the capable hands of Spider-Sam, who will be skilfully entertaining you all (or, most probably, himself – he likes to entertain himself) with his unique brand of outstanding achievements in the field of excellence.
Failing that, I have anticipated my departure and got ahead on my writing (unlike Kevin Smith), so these will be unveiled as Spider-Sam sees fit.

I’m going to leave on this upbeat note:

I have a phrase.

When I’m walking around London, especially when I have guests with whom I am doing the tourist thang, I will sometimes look up at the incredible buildings, wander through the beautiful parks and gardens or just spot a tramp urinating in public and loudly exclaim “I f***ing love London.”

In similar vein there are times when I just stand and stare at my copious long boxes of bagged and board gems, or I have just finished a brilliant issue of some title which rewards my years of temporal, emotional and financial investment in the medium; maybe I’m walking back from a comic shop having picked up this week’s offerings, or perhaps someone has just placed a comment on my blog and I feel privileged to be part of a great international community of like-minded individuals. When things like that happen I want to stand atop the tallest building and proudly exclaim:

I f**king love comics

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ultimate Super-Villains

DAMN YOU, La P’tit Folie! Your gorgeous French cuisine meant I missed the start of Ultimate Super-Villains on Sky One.

This was the sort of program that describes Bullseye as “the hired hitman enemy of sightless superhero Daredevil” and informs us that “Syndrome sets out to slay all the caped competition”. There’s some much alliteration here that Stan Lee must have been one of the scriptwriters.

However, it was surprisingly accurate and fused a large amount of comic source material with the more accessible Film and TV personae of the characters. Their treatment of Lex Luthor is a good example of this. They described his reinvention in the comics as a “machiavellian industrialist, white-collar criminal and even President of the United States”. As comic book source material they used a number of Golden Age, Silver Age and more recent comics, including to my surprise the cover of “Lex Luthor: The Unnauthorised Biography”. Also of note was use of the phrase “DC Universe”, which brought joy to my heart.

As you’ll see from the list below they have juxtaposed comic and non-comic villains, which I enjoyed seeing. I have often thought that if people realised the fiction they love (Star Wars, The Matrix, The Bible etc) contained elements identical or not far removed from the comic book world they would show greater love towards the medium. Sadly the intended audience of this program will not be the sort who will make this link, but we can still hope.

An eclectic mix of celebrities and comic insiders added their sound-bites to this thoroughly entertaining and well-produced program. They included (in no particular order) Stan Lee, Lou Ferringo, Avi Arad, Ian McKellan, Todd Mcfarlane, Ben Affleck, Mark Hamill, Dan Gould, Vivica A. Fox, Roger Englund, Hal Sparks, James Cameron, Linda Hamilton, David Hayden, Suzan Colon, Cesar Romero, James Earl Jones, Michael Uslan and Joe Quesada (I did mean soundbites!).

What confused me was that Joe Quesada appeared at the end of the show talking for 10 seconds about Darth Vader, yet had no thoughts (or, more probably, none were broadcast! No scratch that, I meant no thoughts!) on any of the Marvel villains. Similarly Michael Uslan (Executive Producer of Batman Begins) was an expert on Darth Vader but not the Riddler, Penguin or Joker.

Here, for your perusal and discussion, is the list of the top 18 Ultimate Super-Villains:

18. The Clown (Spawn)
17. Bullseye (Daredevil)
16. Syndrome (The Incredibles)
15. The Mummy (err… The Mummy)
14. Magneto (X-Men)
13. The Bond Villains (James Bond)
12. Dr. Evil (Austen Powers)
11. Chucky (Child’s Play)
10. Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man)
9. Doctor Doom (Fantastic Four)
8. Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street)
7. Batman Villains (Riddler and Penguin)
6. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)
5. Green Goblin (Spider-Man)
4. Lex Luthor (Superman)
3. The Terminator
2. The Joker (Batman)
1. Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Any disagreements?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I feel like Ultimate Super-Villains tonight

For those of you reading in the UK I thought I’d post a reminder that tonight on Sky One is the first of three specials of looking at the Ultimate Super-heroes, villains and vixens. Here’s the spiel from Sky’s website:

Countdown of the 20 most fearsome and notorious bad guys from the past 60 years of screen productions, including contributions from the antiheroes' creators

I find these programs quite entertaining – it is quite obvious we are in an age where the public find our world fascinating, yet don’t want to admit it to themselves. They have to be weened into it though movies and celebrity endorsement. I’m looking forward to seeing how many factual inaccuracies will lead me to shout at the TV - I've already spotted one in the blurb above!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Homer: Stop the madness! Start the movie! Lisa: Maybe we should try to calm Dad down. Bart: I prefer to egg him on.Hey Dad,has the movie started yet?

I’m being encouraged by Scipio to purchase the comics shop.

This is how these things happen. It’s how I bought my decks, which currently lie unused hundreds of miles away in a friend’s bedroom. I suggest an idea to myself, get egged into it by others, then talk about it so much I feel I have to carry it through, because I now have an oral contract with everyone who I discussed it with.

There is a difference though: Cost of decks £360. Cost of comic shop £50,000. Cost of future revenue from resigning from very well-paid current job – Priceless.

It’s quite ironic because, if I won the EuroMillions lottery, or found a few million pounds in the street that had fallen out of the Queen’s pocket, or had bet £100,000 on Exeter City to beat Doncaster Rovers 2-1 in the second round of last season’s FA Cup at 11-1 odds, then I would buy this shop immediately as it is exactly the sort of thing I have said I would love to do with my time – read, talk, buy and sell comics all day.

The more I think about it, the more I want to throw caution to the wind and just do it.

Err…maybe when the student loan is paid off!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Free Comments Day IV – Rann-Thanagar Baseball Match

Not qualified to talk about Baseball in any way (Anyone for Cricket?), this post has less merit than most. It exists simply to:

  1. Document for my own amusement my suggestion that the Rann-Thanagar War be decided by a baseball game, in the style of The Greatest Story Ever Told
  2. Direct Spider-Sam’s (and anyone else's (please comment and let us know you have visited!)) attention to said series of posts over at The Comic Treadmill and demand that they read them.
  3. Remind everyone that The Blog Cave is a loyal supporter of Thanagar (I'm upset the blogosphere has gone quiet on this front recently). As Marie Antoinette once said, “Let them eat Mace”.

Fist of Fun

Last night I went to see Richard Herring in his new Edinburgh Festival Show "Someone likes Yoghurt".

I was pleasantly surprised by the following sentence:

"Jesus was great. He had a lot of cool superpowers. We could do the Graphic Novel - then there would be the spin-off movie"

Brilliant! If however you think that's sacrilegious, do not, I repeat DO NOT, go and see
Stewart Lee!

Free Comments Day III - Green Spanner

As I've said before, I frequently post comments at one of my favourite blogs, The Absorbascon. As you may also be aware, I believe that Kyle Rayner is the one, true Green Lantern.
Recently, Scipio (keeper of the Absorbascon) has been running a series of articles pointing out that Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern, is a a sexist pompous, overconfident jackass.
I agree. And I told everyone so here.
Except I embarrassed myself by getting my facts wrong. Stupid Hal.
However, it did result in me writing inadvertently something brilliant which shall become a motto for me as Batman takes a panning in the DCU over the next few months, under the watchful-eye of Bat-hater Geoff Johns:
Batman is merely misunderstood. It's a man's game and if the other "heroes" can't hack the pace, that's their problem.
I'm going to keep telling myself this as Batman's ego continues to take down everything so many have worked so hard to build. As Wonder Woman says in an upcoming issue, "When you have the wisdom of Athena, self-delusion is difficult, but not impossible.”

Friday, August 12, 2005

Comedy of errors

As to what should be in the sequel to Batman Begins, well surely the next one has got to have The Joker in it? And it's fairly obvious which classic Batman storyline they should use too:

Free Comments Day II - No Rob in Batman II!

Scipio @ Absorbascon posted this a while back (Monday June 27th 2005):

“The Absorbascon does not shy away from the tough issues of our time. Should Robin be introduced in the next Batman film and, if so, who could play him? Oh, I know what some of you will say. It's stupid and unrealistic to have the Dark Knight saddled with a kid in a red, yellow, and green circus costume. Hmm...okay, I'll grant you that. But it's also stupid and unrealistic to dress up like a bat and fight crime using rope, smoke bombs, and boomerangs, yet Batman pulls that off pretty well, too. Do you want a cinematic Robin? What should he be like?”

Bat-Mac @ The Blog Cave most definitely does not want a cinematic Robin, at least not for a while. The following lines of hyperbole elaborate on why I think this is a ridiculous idea:

Second film: Introduce Robin
Third film: First Robin becomes Nightwing and Batman gets a new Robin
Fourth Film: New Robin dies. Batman gets revenge, but in the process breaks his back
Fifth Film: Batman uses time off to launch satellite to spy on all metahumans (who have been introduced in 50 concurrent films) and recruit an army of Robins to do his bidding, whatever that may be
Sixth film: One Year Later

There should be no Robin in the second film. Why do they have to keep introducing new characters in these films? Is it because people are already bored by characters which they have seen on screen for a maximum of two hours? The way it’s done takes up too much time and detracts from a good plot.

Now that Batman is established, they should explore his development into uber-Batman, which was neglected in this film, probably because it’s difficult to do an interesting montage sequence of someone becoming a great detective. My ultimate Batman film would make the world realise why he is the greatest thing of all time ever. Remember, this is a man who:

1. Fought off the White Martians (JLA: New World Order) leading to Superman dubbing him “The most dangerous man alive”.
2. Can learn a language up to intermediate level in a 6 hour flight (Batman: The Death of Innocents – The Horror of Landmines)
3. Took down the JLA (JLA: Tower of Babel and again (kind of) in The OMAC Project)
4. Has no problems slugging Superman with merely a reinforced glove and some ‘hypersonics’ (Batman#612)

…to name but a few object lessons (as Jesus would say) of his brilliance. In no other media outside comics, apart from of course the animated series, have I seen Batman evince any of these qualities.

However, Scipio seemed to think that the only way to do this was via the following storytelling device. He said, in reply:

“Strong point, Mac! So in essence you're saying the movie should follow the standard pattern for a villain intro story:
1. Hero meets villain for first time and loses, but, educated by the experience, is better prepared for the next time.
2. Hero encounters villain, stops theft, but villain escapes. Inspired, hero formulates a plan for capturing the villains.
3. Hero encounters villain, succeeds in capturing him thanks to newfound experience and plan.”

I want to stay clear of the clichés. It can be done given a serious script and a concerted attempt to move away from a formulaic superhero film (which Batman Begins attempted in its first half but soon degenerated into stereotypes and the obligatory clean wrap-up). The fact the Joker will be the next villain is an excellent opportunity to do that and showcase all of the Bat’s talents, not just his amazing ability to beat the crap out of everyone on the planet (at once).

No idea how to make a blockbuster film out of it though! Maybe we need a less commercial, “Arthouse” (ArtCave?) Batman to give us a glimpse at the cinematic potential of the World’s Greatest Superhero. Or maybe we should just accept that, at the end of the day, these are comic book characters, and as such they were not created to be feasible properties in other media. I look forward to a life of progressively better but still flawed films that I can moan about (but not the good moaning!), right here… in… The Blog Cave!

FF Omnibus Volume One... Get your FF Omnibus Volume One...only ???

Buy it!

Bid now - there's only one day left!

(This is not my sale by the way - I've already got a copy - but I can personally vouch for the seller)

Comic Shop... Get your Comic Shop...only £50,000...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Free Comments Day I - I am the Two-headed Stepson of the Old School

I recently had my first foray into the world of So So Silverage recently, and read their post entitled “I am the Red-headed Stepchild of the Old School”, (go here then scroll down)

The post talks about how different things are when your oldest memories are all post-Crisis.

Brilliant stuff (as I commented on the blog, in fact) - they've articulated perfectly what I yearn for - a day when millions read comic books and they made "silliness" a fine (and fun) art.

I do disagree with some of the points. While it’s great that there are some remnants of the Silver Age comics have moved on. That was (I conjecture) part of what made it so great – the familiarity yet freshness when compared to the Golden Age. So I’m happy that Barry is dead and Wally is the greatest and that the Corps disappeared for a while, providing adequate showcasing for Kyle as the one, true Green Lantern.

Part of the jealousy is the feeling I get that back in the day people looked forward to new comics coming out, and couldn’t wait for new comics day. This went away as more and more unimportant, contrived tripe was being churned out by the Big 2.

Luckily DC are making Thursdays (in England) fun again. But regardless, I too wish that the Composite Superman was part of my childhood memories... (Sigh).

Free Comments Day

I’ve recently taken to plundering posts for this site from comments I’ve made on other blogs.

I take the process of commenting very seriously. In fact, given the time I will spend ages crafting perfect psycholinguist masterpieces. However, the brevity of the comment medium, and the need to make it relevant to the post, mean many of the themes you develop do not get the exposure they deserve.

Therefore, I’ve decided to release this creativity into the open. Get ready for “Free Comments Days”!

Night posting, deserves a quiet night

I'm awake now, thanks to a 45 minute phone call from a friend who is wandering the streets of East London (and miraculously he is still alive) at 4:00am.
I got my copy of FF Omnibus Volume One Alex Ross variant cover today, and it looks fantastic.
So fantastic that I've not opened the cellophane to actually look inside the book! However much DVD comics take off, I hope there will always be a place for magnificent tomes such as this, especially at the magnificent price we got it - a mispricing by and an eagle-eyed spot by me meant we picked it up for £12.99 (RRP £60 approx.)
Apparently this edition is limited to 1500 copies. Wish I'd bought more to give as presents. Note to self: next time, buy at least as many copies as Narinder does!
Just call for Four. But right now, I'm just calling for bed!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Avengers get down, boogie, then Assemble

I read New Avengers #8 this week. What's more, I very much enjoyed it. Nice art by Steve McNiven - very dynamic, and the characters had more expression on their faces than when David Finch drew them in the first 6 issues. Yes, all very good.... except for this splash page shot featuring the New Avengers, the Fan Four, the Astonishing X-Men team and the Inhumans* that occurs near the end.

Click the picture to enlarge it.

*Oh, and Doctor Strange too. And Namor's there as well. And, of course, there's some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at the back. Annex is probably just off the page too.

Now, is it just me or are some of these people in very peculiar poses, even for comics? Particularly seeing as how they're meant to be standing casually, offering help to another character.

Why's Wolverine got his claws out?
What's Spider-woman doing with her hair?
What are Spider-man and Beast meant to be standing on?
Why are Cyclops and Emma Frost pouting?
Why on Earth is Kitty Pryde stood like that? It can't be comfortable.

And, most importantly of all, on the far right of the picture, why oh why is Karnak jiving?!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Le geek c'est chic

As I must have said before to many people on many occasions (or possibly just to the same person many times over), if I had the money to support my eccentricities I would choose to wear just one outfit: A smart suit, a slightly tatty long coat with many pockets, and a comfortable pair of trainers. This outfit I would have in multiple copies so that I could wear it every day and for every situation.
No more worrying about what to wear every day, and I'd gain a degree of infamy with a recognizable style I could make my own.

Imagine my delight and frustration, in equal measure, upon learning that this is now the chosen outfit of Doctor Who.

Dear BBC, now that my image has been usurped, and on the streets of my chosen hometown of Cardiff no less, can I expect a be getting a royalty cheque in the post soon?

And he looks better in it than I would, the time-travelling bastard.

Star War: The Backstroke of the West

Okay, I know it's unforgivably lazy to just have a blog entry linking to someone elses blog, and I had promised myself I wouldn't post here until I had time to write a proper entry. But this really is too funny not to make sure that Mac and the loyal reader are aware of it:

Mis-translations from a direct english translation of the chinese interpretation of Star Wars III.

"I am more more than any hero's geologic change's strong and big."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I'm reading as fast as I can

At what point does a reference to another story spoil a reader’s ability to appreciate that tale? I’m not sure if I’m going to come to any conclusions on the matter – I’ll present various viewpoints on the matter and see where that gets us.

I read an interview that Brad Meltzer did with Newsarama which is posted on his site. He had this to say on the matter:

“I can give anyone JSA - it's a great book and very enjoyable, but they're never going to get the enjoyment until they read the fifty years of back history and know all the players involved. It's just impossible.

I gave my wife Dark Knight, and she loved it, but when Miller wrote, "And Hal left for the stars," she didn't know who Hal was. The line was lost on her. It doesn't take anything away from the book, but on some level, that's going to be the limit of her enjoyment.”

I agree with this on some level, and it’s borne out by my own personal experience. I read Identity Crisis with a (now ex-)girlfriend. Adjectives used in the description of the security technology used in Sue and Ralph’s apartment include “Kryptonian” and “Thanagarian”. It did not spoil her enjoyment of the story that she didn’t know what these exactly meant. Also, she was intelligent enough to interpolate between Kryptonian and Thanagarian and conclude that the latter must also refer to an alien planet with advanced technology. Writers should not feel constrained in what they can use fearing that some readers will not understand it – comics is one medium where we should not pander to the lost common denominator. Isn't this depth one of the reasons we were drawn in all those years ago.

Meltzer and I part company as I do not think you need to have read every Batman story ever published to have a complete enjoyment of current issues – merely every Batman story since Crisis!

Backstory has often been cited as a barrier to entry in the comics world. Indeed, this was one of the big drivers for the creation of the Ultimate universe. Ironically of course, 6 years on this universe has its own continuity and cross-overs and mini-series dovetailing into the ongoing which are beginning to reduce the accessibility.

We’re not the only medium to have large volumes of backstory. In England we have programs to pacify the chimps which populate this beautiful land. They are called “soaps”. Some of these soaps have been running for 20 years, yet everyone I know who watches them (I know a lot of chimps!) has not been watching for anywhere near that long. In fact, they aren’t even too bothered about watching every episode.

Ultimately we’re in the hands of the writer, and their skill at story-telling, specifically crafting a story which dovetails in and out of other storylines without making readers feel like they have to read everything. But in a sales-driven world, I can’t blame them for trying to upsell one issue off the back of another – people are always trying to supersize your meal.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I’m a bit tied-up at the moment

What part of “shared universe” seems to confuse some comic fans?

I’m just read this, and the comments from the nerderazzi, on Newsarama. I would post a reply there, but I’ll just be told that I suck. I can take that, but can’t be bothered with it. That negativity has to be a partial cause of what’s wrong with our industry.

There a number of issues which fans are unhappy with, and I will address these over the course of the next few days. The first to get the righteous treatment is “Why are there so many cross-over tie-ins (which I have to buy)?”

The DC Universe is a shared universe. If big events happen in one corner of it, then those events will and should impact all other relevant parts of the universe. That is the fun of reading comics – the interaction between different characters that all exist in the same world.

Personally, I think DC have treated the current situation incorrectly by even pointing out that the issues tie-in to miniseries. This is not your father’s cross-over. Remember the days of the annual event, where a miniseries would run for a period and regular titles would tie into it under some pretence. Here we are talking about cross-universe events, happening simultaneously which involve every character. The stories are too big to tell in mini-series, and their ramifications need to be explored in the individual titles. If not, they risk degenerating into what the naysayers hate – mindless marketing stunts!

Sometimes the tie-in will affect the whole issues, and sometimes they will be less significant, but writers should not feel like they cannot use an element of another story and feel like they have to concentrate on it. For example, when Superman is attacked by an OMAC, in Superman 217, that was not the focus of the tale. And it served a purpose – I now believe that these OMACs are monitoring and testing the meta-human population. At the end of Teen Titans #23, Doctor Light is whisked away by Deathstroke and Ravager to join the Society – I have seen evidence of the Society in action and now their expansion is more believable.

If fans don’t like what is going on, then they have several choices:

Stop reading continuity comics: Perhaps you like comics, but are disgusted by not being able to read Batman stories that are not sullied by the appearance of Green Arrow or Zatanna. Well read Legends of the Dark Knight, a generally out-of-continuity title that deals predominantly with stories set in the fabled “Year One” period. Or All-Star Batman and Robin. Even Detective Comics is currently running “City of Crime” by David Lapham, which is a stand-alone pre-War Games tale. Then of course there are the hundreds of Graphic Novels of stand alone material (e.g. Batman Black and White) which you may not have read. Plus at any one point there are at least two miniseries or One-Shots coming out that while (sometimes) part of continuity are certainly written as stand-alone stories (e.g. Dark Detective).

In fact, if the DCU is that offensive then read a Vertigo title, or move over to a more manageable universe.

Don’t buy titles which you deem unnecessary: I think DC are doing a great job recapping important story elements that occur in other titles- just look at Prelude to Infinite Crisis. A large amount of the current controversy surrounds the use of the Superman and Wonder Woman titles to tell a four part storyline that bridges OMAC Project Issues 3 and 4. However, the first pages of OMAC 4 are a recap of what has happened.

In this case I don’t deny that it would have been advantageous to read these stories. However, at what point does a reference to another story spoil a reader's ability to appreciate that tale? (Probably a discussion for another time before I start ranting about that too!)

Overall, just buy the titles that you like. If you hate what is being done, then a threshold is soon reached where the annoyance you feel is greater than the happiness you get from buying the comic, in which case see above, or stop buying altogether – the medium isn’t for you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Here Because Bat-Mac Demanded It

Well, thank you for your exceedingly warm welcome Mac!

For some reason it made me think of this:

After so much build up I can only hope that as a character I'll prove to have as much longeivity as Annex has.


Only the use of one of my favourite movie poster quotes of all time could honour the arrival of a new resident (spelunker?) to the Blog Cave in the required fashion.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I've give you the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Sam.

He's Web-tastic!

Sam's affiliations are mainly to the House of M, and he has also read a couple of good comics in his life! Just kidding. If you want a Marvel vs. DC slagging match, click on any random article on and pan down to the comments.

Instead Spider-Sam and Bat-Mac will pull-off the first truly great inter-company cross-over! Welcome to the Samalgamac Universe!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Geoff Johns hates Batman

It's quite clear to everyone that Geoff Johns hates Batman:
Green Lantern- Rebirth: John Stewart says (to Bats): "Why are you always laying into Hal? Is it because you work on fear, and he was the man without fear". Oh, and Hal smacking Batman in the face!

JSA 67: Doctor Mid-Nite's narration of the events of Identity Crisis: "Mr Terrific is a leader. By the time the funeral was over he'd thought on several ways the murder could have been conducted, even some Batman hadn't thought of"

Flash 214: Green Arrow says "Sue and Ralph just wanted to help people without the need for a Bat-signal"

In Issues 17-19 of Teen Titans the team gets flung 10 years into the future and meet their future selves who have gone a bit "fruity". Tim Drake has now become Batman and uses a gun (the one that killed Thomas and Martha Wayne). Robin absolutely depises his future self, especially the fact he has become Batman. This underpins all of Johns' abuse. There's even a line where Superboy says "Batman sucks. You rock". Whatever that means. At then end Tim is debating whether to talk about recent events and decides to thinking "I stop thinking like Batman... and start thinking like a Titan". I know this is Robin acting completely out of character and the whole thing is Johns' fault.
There are plenty more examples. I'm scared how bad the Dark Knight is going to come out of "Infinite Crisis". Just like the plotlines have been simmering for years, so has Johns' hatred of Batman...

The Evil that Smith does

Where's Daredevil/Bullseye? My wallet wants to know.
Still undecided as to whether I will continue supporting the project (if they ever see the light of day). I suspect not, and pick the issues up cheap at a fair, as Smith doesn't deserve my cash after this level of unprofessionalism.
While we're blame-storming I want to have a go at Marvel. How can you release a mini-series without ensuring that all the parts will be brought out on time. Issues sometimes ship late (Superman/Batman being one example) but by weeks, not years.
I'm going to stop now before this becomes more of an unstructured rant.
Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Hmmm... DC...