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Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Five More Ways to Annoy A Comics Store Employee On New Comics Day
1) Come in and ask me if we have any books with pictures of "really cool looking devils." Explain that this is for a tattoo. Yes, that's right, there's nothing I like more than having personal responsibility over what people choose to have indelibly etched into their bodies. The corrollary to this is to come in to the store and demand to go through every comic book we have with the "Harvey" logo on it so that you can find that one, perfect image of Hot Stuff you want to get tattooed on your ass.
2) Stand in front of the table at the front of the store with the big sign on it that says "All of these comics are $1.00" and ask me "How much are these comics?"
3) Less than an hour after we've opened, ask me what I thought of a big new theatrical release, like, say "Spider-Man 2". Bearing in mind that I was here two hours before we opened to prepare for the new comics and unpack them and put them out for sale and that I have a nearly hour-long commute to get to work in the first place, and it takes me at least an hour to get ready for work. So when, exactly, did I have time to go see a movie this morning, hmm?
4) Walk into our store. Look at our three tables holding 24 long boxes full of comics. Look at the 33 short boxes full of comics on the shelves behind the counter. Look at our six floor-to-ceiling book-cases, and our one half-size book-case, each filled to the bursting point with graphic novels and trade paperbacks. Look at our back-wall, which is nothing but the last months worth of comics, representing what is probably about 95% of all the comics solicited in Previews. You won't know it, but all of this probably makes up less than half of our total stock. When I see you taking all of these comics and graphic novels in, and I know it can be quite over-whelming the first time you see it, and I ask you if there's anything I can help you find, get really shirty with me because, apparently, we "don't have a very wide selection of comics."
5) Be one of the (many) people who packs up shipments at a Diamond warehouse who is seemingly incapable of actually putting the correct number of items we ordered in the boxes making up our shipment. When you even manage to get the items in the boxes at all, that is.
Edit: On #4 that should be 3 tables with 24 long boxes each for a total of 72 long boxes, and that should be 330 short boxes behind the counter. Not 33. It's 11 shelves with 30 short boxes each. I'm not quite sure how I forgot the zero...
I'm still absolutely sick to death of having to think about comics. I think it was dealing with all the Free Comic Book Day stuff last week and assigning myself the task of reading and rating all of them before the event in question (look for my biased and unfair comments on Friday!). So, on to more pleasent topics. Namely, an over-view of the various musical treasure troves I've been sharing with my customers and co-workers over the last couple of weeks.
Echo and the Bunnymen: This is the recent re-issue of their self-titled album. It's got all the things that make a pseudo-goth act great: clangy guitars and pretentiousness. The bonus tracks on this particular album don't have much to recomend them unless you're the big Echo and the Bunnymen fan. This was purchased mostly out of nostalgia, and I was rather surprised to see that, while the album still holds up okay, my tasts have moved on a bit since this was released.
The Polyphonic Spree: The Beginning Stages of: A classic. Gets played a lot around the store. All the people with taste enjoy it and we get asked about it quite a bit.
Sigur Ros: (): Actually, all of the Sigur Ros albums get played fairly often. They're good back-ground noise, but they reward careful listening.
Robyn Hitchcock: Uncorrected Personality Traits: One of the few performers everyone in the store can agree on. Between us we probably have just about all of his works on hand. I like this one because I've got a thing about "best of" type releases. I like the over-view of an artists work that they provide, and I like that I don't have to wade through the half of the album I almost inevitably don't like to get to the songs I do like.
Best Of: Siouxsie and the Banshees: Again, I like this kind of thing. And it's goth music that gasp-shock-horror is remarkably unpretentious. Okay, it's a little pretentious, but I always get the feeling that Siouxsie and crew were primarily concerned with making good music, and they just happened to be pretentious people to begin with so it carried over a little. Most goth acts are going out of their way to out-scene all the other goth bands and I can't stand that kind of nonsense.
Ashley Macisaac: My favorite right-wing kinky gay Canadian fiddler. It's his latest, self-titled album, but I have all of them and they always get played regularly. Celtic fusion tends to go over well with an audience that's allready predisposed to have an interest in genre works. The guys on the game side borrow his work quite often as well.
Franz Ferdinand: Yes, they do live up to all the hype. I'd just about given up on rock music. I was so tired of self-important "rockers" doing commerical alternative and top 40 dreck and pretending that they were doing something new and unique. And Jet and Darkness did nothing for me, though I can see why people like them. But this...this is exactly what I needed to restore my faith in rock.
Donovan's Greatest Hits: Don't ask me to explain it, please. I just like it.
Eartha Kitt: Purrrfect: Another good career over-view for the greatest Catwoman ever. I like music that's incredibly dirty but doesn't sound incredibly dirty because no one's bothered to keep up on their old-fashioned euphemisms. So I put this on, and people will comment on how nice it is to hear wholesome, family friendly music...and Eartha, that dear old lady, is sining about how she'd "never dream of making the team"...
The Hidden Cameras: The Smell of Our Own: I don't know how to describe the music. Superficially, it's similar to the Polyphonic Spree. I don't know if that's a new genre of music or not. But it sounds great, and it's gayer than a gay thing that's gay, and I need to listen to that sometimes.
Mum: Summer Make Good: Again, in the vein of another band. I've described it as "Sigur Ros, only more pretentious." So, naturally, I like it.
The Wicker Man Soundtrack: More pseudo-Celtic music, only this time it's made up folk songs and sinister incidental music and it's dirty, dirty, dirty. As all good folk music should be. And again, no one catches on to it because no one bothers to actually listen to the lyrics when they're shopping, and they don't bother to learn archaic dirty words.
Le Pop 2: A German compilation of the best of contemporary French pop. I like French Pop. It's got a distinct sound, it's fun, it's bouncy, and it doesn't sound like anything else. It's probably the hardest for other people to listen to though. My French is just about good enough that I can understand the gist of most of the songs, sometimes. But lots of people, even when they don't actually bother to listen to lyrics, have some sort of hang-up about listening to music that's sung in another language. It offends their sensibilities for some reason. They should be glad I don't bring in more German techno.
Morrissey: You Are The Quarry: It's been awhile since the king of mope rock put out an album this good. The last few albums were just the big fella cruising, doing his same shtick for his same audience, fully aware that he could release an album of musicians tuning up while he made self-pitying comments in the background and it would sell to his fans. So it was surprising, and a welcome releif, that he actually went ahead and put some effort into a release. I like the political content of this album, it lightens the mood a bit.
The War is Over: The Best of Phil Ochs: Actually, there's usually one of many Phil Ochs albums with me when I go to work. Sometimes there are several Phil Ochs albums with me. Perhaps my favorite musician ever, was Phil. Lyrically gifted, politcally aware, fantastic word-play, clever arrangements. All the stuff I dig.
Robbie Williams: Escapology: Or "Sing When You're Winning" or "Swing When You're Winning" or "Millenium." Robbie gets played a lot at work as well. I like his blend of pop. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is and it doesn't apologize for being what it is. And he's got a nice voice on top of being dead sexy. Really, he's the perfect pop star.
Ultimate Dolly Parton: Another great career over-view. I like Dolly. It would be my secret shame, but I find nothing to apologize for. She's a gifted song-writer, has a terrific voice, loads of charisma, and is very, very smart. Again, a pefect pop star.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Fantastic songs on this soundtrack. They blew me away when I first saw the movie. They convey the story of the film, but they don't fall into the trap of being purely narrative or "of their time" that most soundtrack songs fall into. Great, great stuff.
And, As Always
Lots and lots of mix CDs: The two people who should probably not, all things considered, have access to CD burning technology, are me and that dastardly varlet Mike. We spend probably more time than is healthy scouring the net for rare, out-of-print, unusual, free, new and just plain weird songs and music. Clearly, the practice has warped our minds beyond repair.
I'm really, really, really just absolutely sick of thinking about comics right now, so I decided to kill my brain cells with on-line movie trailers instead this week-end. Here are my totally unfair and biased reviews, split up into the categories of: Films I'd Pay Full Price to See, Films I'd Pay the Matinee Price to See, and Films I'll Watch on Cable, Maybe, If Nothing Else Is On.
Pay Full Price Alien Vs. Predator: It won't be good. Oh God, it won't be good. But if it's a "dumb fun" movie, the kind of thing where I can just turn my brain off for 90 minutes and enjoy watching things go explodey, I'll be happy.
Cellular: And technology makes a whole new genre of action-movie possible. The cast and the premise is intriguing. And it looks to have put a little more thought into the set-up than your average genre movie.
The Corporation: Looks to be a timely film about how screwed we're all getting by the increasingly small number of multi-national corps which are controlling more and more commerce and media, and how they really feel about us.
Strayed: Techine's films are always worth a look. It's material he's touched on before, but he's good at it.
Suspect Zero: A serial killer targeting serial killers. I suppose the idea had to occur to someone at some point.
Matinee Kinsey: I like Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. The subject matter alone suggests the potential for an at least entertaining film. But the trailer doesn't give me any clue as to the kind of movie it is; drama, biography, comedy, what?
De-Lovely: I don't generally have much interest in bio-pics, but the cast is good and the soundtrack should be amazing. It's interesting to note that while the trailer here hints at Porter's sexuality, it's the full focus of all the television ads I've seen.
Ocean's 12: It's Soderbergh and it's Clooney. But, again, actually giving me some clues about the film other than "all the cast has returned" might have been nice.
Constantine: Uhm...yeah...You never know, it might not competely suck...
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle: This type of comedy is extraordinarily hit or miss with me. Either I'll love it, or I'll want to cause physical injury to everyone involved with it. That being said, some strange part of me is glad to see that the two leads are Asian. Some other part of me suspects that will keep a lot of people from seeing the film.
The Grudge: And the Nu-Horror trend officially is over. I'd still like to see the original, and this still looks intriguing enough for me to check it out...but casting Buffy in a role that might actually require some nuance? Please...
Exorcist: The Beginning: Not quite enough material in the trailer to form a full opinion. They seem to be selling it on: remember how much you liked the first movie, and forget about the second and third. Still, if they manage to pull it off, it's been awhile since we've seen a good movie with Satan as the bad guy.
Cable, Maybe Door in the Floor: When was it decided that "drama" was synonymous with "tedious and self-important?"
Little Black Book: A movie about a nosy, distrustful woman who invades her boyfriends privacy out of her own sense of inadequacy and paranoia. And this is a comedy?
A Series of Unfortunate Events: Never read the books. Never even been tempted to read the books. The books struck me as a shameless attempt to cash in on the Harry Potter phenomen by cranking out hack-work. The film strikes me in much the same way. And the presence of Jim Carrey, hamming it up inappropriately, makes me think that you'll have to pay me to get me to see this dreck.
Vanity Fair: Lord spare me from Reese Whiterspoon movies...
Sleepover: Just watching the trailer made me feel like a dirty old man...
Losers #13 by Andy Diggle, Jock and Nick Dragotta, from DC/Vertigo:
Currently, this is probably my favorite Vertigo title. Funny, politically hip, subversive, loads o' action. A great "comic-book" read which doesn't rely on grown men in tights hitting each other to be entertaining. And unlike most other titles, Diggle is able to write a first issue of a storyline that serves as prologue, as well as moving the meta-plot forward and put enough action and plot in the story for it to be entertaining on it's own.
The Witching #1 Jonathan Vankin and Leigh Gallager, from DC/Vertigo:
I'm under standing orders to buy anything featuring magic-based characters for Pete. I actually ended up liking this. It looks like it could be a somewhat naughty, less than reverent take on the magical corners of the DCU.
Conan #5 by Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord, from Dark Horse:
Sorry, to much of a geek to offer much criticism of this title.
Wanted #4 by Mark Millar and JG Jones, from Image/Top Cow:
It took four issues, but as I suspected the story is moving a bit beyond "nasty people doing bad things just for the sake of it." Personally I find that basing almost all the characters on old DC villains is kind of distracting. The only reason I can think of for it is that Millar had a proposal in at DC that got turned down, so he just shopped it to Image instead after changing the names. Either that or it's some sort of twisted in-joke meant to make the reader feel special for "getting it." Anyway, it bores me in what is otherwise a fairly good book.
303 Preview by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows, from Avatar:
Just enough material to whet my appetite, which is as it should be. I really shouldn't buy these sorts of things, but hey, it gives me some pretty Jacen Burrows art to look at until the actual series starts coming out.
Kinetic #4 by Kelley Puckett and Warren Pleece, from DC/Focus:
Glaciars melt faster than this story is progressing, so why do I still like it? The characters aren't particularly likeable for that matter either.
Authority: More Kev #2 by Garth Ennis and Glenn Fabry, from DC/Wildstorm:
It's wrong, and it's evil and it's also hilarious.
Astonishing X-Men #2 by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, from Marvel:
Well, at least it looks pretty. More offensively ham-fisted metaphors on the gay=mutant angle, a complete misunderstanding of Kitty Pryde's personality, and in fact just about everyone seems somewhat out of character. About the only good point here beside the art is the return of Lockheed, which of course is handled in a slap-dash, deus-ex-machina fashion.
Excalibur #2 by Chris Claremont and Aaron Lopresti, from Marvel:
They're fucking kidding, right? A Magneto "imposter"? Who escaped detection from four telepaths and Logan's senses? And just happened to look exactly like him and have the same powers? Fuck, I expected them to crap all over Morrison's run as soon as possible, but not quite this soon...they could have at least given us a year before springing the "Magneto is back from the dead" card on us again.
Dorothy #1 by Mark Masterson and Greg Mannino, starring Catie Fisher:
This is a great, intelligent, original updating of the Wizard of Oz story told with a mix of CGI and photography. It's clever, funny, and gorgeous to look at. Here Dorothy is a precocious goth/punk girl running away from her dull dirt-farming Aunt and Uncle in a lterally gray Kansas. Oz, from the brief glimpse we see, has clearly seen better days but still manages to retain some of it's alien mystique that made Baum's books so appealing. Previews and copies avaiable from the web-site, and I'd suggest you grab it.
Five Ways to Piss-Off a Comic-Store Employee on New Comics Day
1) At twenty minutes until we open, start shouting at me through the door. Never mind that I'm clearly in the middle of a huge pile of boxes trying to finish counting and putting away the 15-20 (or more) packages of new material we just got in. When it finally becomes painfully obvious that you're not going to get the hint that I'm ignoring you and I walk over to the door to see what exactly your freaking problem is, don't ask me if I can check to see if we have a back-issue you're looking for if you want any reply from me other than "We open in twenty minutes."
2) When the store is full of customers, and I am clearly busy helping about a dozen people, answering the phone, and ringing up people at the register, ask if you can see the back issues behind the counter. After I get a box down for you, ask to see another box. And another. And another. And so on until I've hauled down about 20 boxes for you to poke through while I'm trying to help all the other people in the store, answer the phone and ring up people at the register. Out of all those boxes, buy one 85 cent comic.
3) Ask me if I can get you a chair. So that you can sit and read the comic books, in the aisle, in the middle of a busy store, instead of purchasing any. I dare you.
4) Call the store, on what is usually either the busiest, or second-busiest, day of the week and ask me for the phone number for one of the neighboring businesses. Or for their hours. Or if that store that's across the street is still open or what, because, y'know, they're not answering the phone and clearly the best way to get an answer for a query of that nature is to call a completely seperate and unrelated business in a completely different field.
5) Ask me if we carry comic books. Better yet, ask me if we carry comic books as some sort of ironic "joke." To top it off, get hysterically angry at me for not finding the joke I hear every SINGLE FREAKING DAY hilariously funny and original.
Still playing catch-up from the week with no computer...
Outsiders #13 by Judd Winick and Tom Raney, from DC:
I'm still not sold on the concept of ink-less pencils. Raney pulls it off better than most who have tried, and he's able to give the characters some weight and dimensionality that is missing in most of the other inker-less books. But the real appeal of this book for me has always been Winick's jokey, "I'm so clever" dialogue, which amuses me greatly.
Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink #0 by John Kovalic and Christopher Jones, from Dork Storm:
It's a gag comic, and some of the jokes do tend to fall a little flat. Personally, I don't think it's as good as PS238, Dork Storm's title about the school-age children of super-heroes, but this is still a fun little take on the tropes of the genre and worth checking out.
Mary Jane #1 by Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa, from Marvel:
Marvel, like Archie, seems to be under the misaprehension that if something looks a little bit like a manga title, than people who buy manga titles will be interested in it. Well, this has been on the racks a week and the only people buying it at our store our adult men who already buy everything with Spider-Man in it. Granted, I'm sure Marvel is intending this to be sold in bookstores as a TPB, but my instincts are telling me that this probably has a little too much super-hero nonsense in it to appeal to the teenaged girl demographic that Marvel is pursuing. Which is a bit of a shame, all told, because this actually isn't too bad. But I still think Emma Frost is the book Marvel should be pushing on teen girls. Except, of course, they'd need to scrap those horrible Greg Horn covers...
Runaways #16 by Brian Vaughn and Adrian Alphona, from Marvel:
The identity of the traitor is revealed (a concept which strained credibility in the first place...not a single parent was capable of recognizing their own child's handwriting?) and it really should be no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Now the question is, was this just another ruse to lure the adults into a false sense of security, or just what it appears to be?
Ultimate Spider-Man #61 by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, from Marvel:
Two issues in...and nothing has happened. And, honestly, naming a character Ben Reilly is the sort of in-jokey nonsense that I thought was supposed to be anathema to the Ulitmate line.
Ultimate Fantastic Four #7 by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen, from Marvel:
Ellis returns to bill-paying work. Again, suffers slightly from Marvel's current habit of "all-prologue" comics, but Ellis manages to throw some new ideas into the FF concept, largely along the lines of the actual physical implications of the changes wrought on their bodies. Immonen's art is superb, as always. Still, I'm not entirely sure I'm going to be able to take this version of Dr. Doom seriously.
Plastic Man #7 by Scott Morse, from DC:
Pure anarchic comedic genius.
Ex Machina #1 by Brian Vaughn and Tony Harris, from Wildstorm/DC:
It's clever, it's original, and it has a point-of-view. It's not afraid to make the main character unlikeable and yet he's still engaging and compelling as a character. All-in-all it's an impressive first issue and is worth picking up.
Seaguy#2 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, from DC:
Well, I think it's safe to say that, based on the first issue, I didn't see any of this coming...I'm picturing some sort of Orphic odysessy for the third issue, but I'm sure it'll be something else completely and brilliantly out of left-field instead.
Challengers of the Unknown #1 by Howard Chaykin, from DC:
More Chaykin is always a good thing. I loved this. Unashamedly, dispropotionatly loved this. I loved the introductions of the charactrs, I love the ultra-paranoid right-wing news channel as unreliable commentary on the action, and I love Chaykin just being Chaykin. Utterly brilliant and gorgeous comic. The highlight of last week, without a doubt.
Boy Trouble #5 by Various, from Boy Trouble Books:
The usual problem with anthology titles is their uneven distribution of talented and interesting creators. There were only a couple of pieces here that really didn't do much for me. What's most frustrating is how the gay comix scene seems to have dried up quite a bit over the last couple of years. It's getting harder and harder to find good work.
Also purchased, also good: Adventures of Superman #629, Monolith #5, Justice League: Another Nail #2, Gotham Central #20, She-Hulk #4.
Strange: looks like Dr. Strange is being essentially rebooted. Couldn't care less.
Black Widow: another Black Widow mini (or is it an on-going...I can't tell anymore with Marvel). Couldn't care less.
Hulk & Thing: see Strange and Black Widow.
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Daredevil/Elektra 2004: Y'know, all these OHOTMU books are doing is convincing me that I haven't missed anything by not reading the last 20 years worth of most Marvel titles.
And do we really need yet more Elektra and Bullseye series? Hasn't just about everything that can be done with those charactes already been done, repeatedly, to the point of tedium?
Gee, a Bush in the White House, a war in Iraq, and marvel publishing 2099 titles...it's like the last ten years never happened...
Madrox should be fun. The character's concept opens up so many interesting potentials. And David may not be a great writer, but he's a consistently good and entertaining writer.
Nyx #6: why are they even still trying to get this out? Just give it a quiet mercy killing and be done with it.
X-Men titles: the preview for Excalibur #2 convinced me that Marvel actually stopped publishing all X-Men titles after Grant Morrison's final issue. If you see any X-Men titles on the shelf, you're almost certainly hallucinating. Whatever you do, for God's sake, don't attempt to read one of them...
Amazing Spider-Man: so, Straczynski has already messed up Spidey's origin, made the existence of Spider-man redundant with the "return" of Uncle Ben, and now looks set to undo the Gwen Stacy death in some way...is it just me, or does this guy just not understand why Spider-Man works so well as a character (and I don't actually like Spider-Man...)
Marvel Age Hulk: FINALLY!!! A Hulk comic I can actually sell to kids! But this really should have been out at the time the Hulk movie came out...instead of the 25 cent comic featuring an attempted rape in which the Hulk didn't actually appear...yeah, parents were real pleased when they took that one home...
Avengers titles: Just can't bring myself to care...Frankly, I'm half surprised they're even still publishing any Avengers titles.
Warlock by anyone other than Jim Starlin=bad idea. Warlock by Jim Starlin=not very good idea anyway, but still better than Warlock by anyone else.
She-Hulk, despite it's problems, is rapidly turning into the best book Marvel publishes...and dig that cover
Batman titles are in the middle of a long, multi-part cross-over. Wake me when it's done. Too bad they have to drag Gotham Central into it as well...
The Loeb/Sale Batman collaborations are slight, and that's about the most generous appraisal of them I can give. They're not bad, but after I read one I have a hard time remembering anything significant about what I just read. And the "mystery" angles tend to be painfully obvious and unsuspenseful. So, I'll probably wait for the trade on Catwoman: When In Rome, so as not to break the habit I started with Long Halloween. I'll probably pick up Challengers of the Unknown Must Die as well.
The Superman titles seem to be mostly the same-old/same-old. I can't wait to tell people that the new Superman villains are named Sodom and Gomorroh.
Superman: True Brit will be an interesting case. The fact the John Cleese has second-billing should probably be read as an indication that his involvement is minimal. And the selection of Byrne as artist is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he has a clean, accessable style which will probably appeal to this book's intended audience of people who don't normally buy comic books (this book has "big push in Border/Barnes & Noble written all over it...and if DC don't do that, they're too stupid to live). On the other hand, his work is so damned boring I seriously doubt any new or regular readers will be found as a result of this books publication.
Adam Strange should be entertaining. Diggle has yet to fail on that score. And it'll be nice to see what has happened to DC's space characters. They always tend to be forgotten about as soon as their titles get cancelled.
Teen Titans and the Teen Titans/Legion Special both seem like attempts to tie up as many loose ends from the current Legion series as possible before the lastest re-launch hits that title. Legion always strikes me as one of those books that's doomed to sell to the same audience that's been buying it for the last 20+ years, and no one else. I don't see how another reboot will help, especially since I'm not convinced Waid's audience is as big as everyone else seems to assume it is.
Putting the Little Endless book in hardcover will hopefully increase it's price and shelf-life to the point that DC will consider keeping it in print, as it's turned out to be one of the more requested and scarcer to get Sandman tie-ins.
So, Crossgen is apparently no longer a going concern, if the rumor mill is anything to judge by. I know it's been at least four weeks now since they released any new books, so hearing that they've filed for bankruptcy doesn't surprise me in the least. What has caught me somewhat off guard is the reactions I've seen on-line, which have mostly ranged from "about time" to "hooray, the evil witch is dead."
But here's the thing: Crossgen's books filled a niche in the market that no other publisher was really exploiting. The majority of their books were what I would call "adventure fiction." Similair in tone to super-hero comics, but different in execution and style. And at our store at least they sold well. In fact, they sold significantly better than a good portion of Marvel and Image titles. Because there's an audience for "adventure fiction." Mostly these are people who have out-grown super-hero comics, but aren't really interested in most indie books. This audience doesn't want art-comix, or alt-comix, they value art over writing and won't even consider buying something that isn't in color or on slick-paper. They want something that looks like what they think a comic should look like, but they don't want men in tights hitting each other. They want the comics equivalent of a Hollywood action/adventure moive. And that's largely what Crossgen gave them.
My major concern now is: what happens to those customers who want that type of book? Again, to use our store as an example, a good number of our Crossgen customers only bought or mostly bought Crossgen titles. Some of the titles produced by Wildstorm, Vertigo and Dark Horse could fill that gap, but my gut instinct is that most of those customers are going to slowly drop out of the comics buying habit. So I can't help but think that Crossgen going away is a "bad thing" for the comics industry over-all, as Crossgen did manage to bring in new readers and brought back readers who had left comics earlier. And I realize that our store isn't neccessarily typical in the first-place, what with us actually bothering to carry Crossgen titles in the first place, but if we lose customers over this I'd imagine that most comic-book stores would lose at least some customers over this as well.
Family situations have kept me off-line the last couple of days, and will probably keep me off for a few more. So here's something to entertain you in the mean-time. This is about the oddest disconnect between comic title and comic content that I can think of:
There's been some talk lately of "whose fault is it if a reader doesn't like a work? The authors or the readers?" It all vaguely reminds me of arguements we'd get into at school about where meaning in a text lies: does the author create it, does a reader bring it to the text, or is it somehow coded into the text itself, independant of both author and reader? Being the ecleticist of the class of 1998 I usually argued that it was the mix of what an author intended, the cultural biases the author didn't intend, and the reader's concious examination of the text informed by their cultural bias. So basically, everyone was right in a way, except for the people who subscribed to the Stanley Fish school of literary analysis. At which point I was generally denounced as a traitor to the cause and forced to buy the next round.
Which brings me, indirectly, to this book. I've been thinking of picking it up for awhile, since the stylized, almost cartoony art appealed to me. I was curious as to how the disconnect between the style of the art and the tone of the story would work. And I have no complaints about the art. It's inviting, though perhaps a little too clean and friendly for the story at hand. The only real weakness I spotted was that all the women are the same, just wearing different wigs. For example, in one scene the main character receives a call about a book for her having arrived at a bookstore. The next scene is two women robbing the bookstore. But we don't realize that the woman wearing a cheap disguise isn't the first women until she...takes off her wig. It's remeotely possible that this was a deliberate stylistic choice given some of the developments of the story, but it's a common enough weakness in comics artists that I'm not prepared to give Brizuela the benefit of the doubt.
Now as for the story...well...maybe it's my fault. Charlotte Rampling is a retired cop stalked by an escaped serial killer. Maybe. There are so many disjointed flash-backs and dream sequences and characters who may or may not have multiple personalities it's hard to be sure what's real and what's not. In the hands of a more capable writer that would be fine. But Ricketts fails to provide a base-line "reality" for the story for us to measure the flash-backs and dream sequences and what nots by. I'm still not certain if the last scene in the book is meant to be a flash-back to the killer pretending to be insane or Charlotte now in therapy and developed psychosis of her own. And if it is Charlotte in the end, the thought occurs that everything that has preceded that scene was Charlotte's delusion all along. Again, this is not helped by the fact that all the women look alike and I can't tell if that psychiatrist at the end is meant to be the same one that was apparently killed earlier in the novel or not.
And that isn't to mention the plot-holes. To cite one, several pages are devoted to Christian missionaries discovering a crime-scene. But they apparently are never dispatched by the killer or report their finding to the police. The police instead discover the scene through an improbable clue. So why was the scene with the missionaries included at all? The gaps in logic and casuality make for a very frustrating read, and ultimatley unsatisfying. Complex and ambiguous storytelling is all well and good, but the mystery genre tends to be very unforgiving of those sorts of things when they aren't done well.
Well, thanks largely to me personally complaining to our Diamond rep about the inexcusability of the "packing errors" we've been getting lately, they emergency shipped some of our missing books to us, so we did at least get the Batman books and the final Global Frequency in on time for our week-end customers.
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Spider-Man 2004 by Various, published by Marvel Comics:
Wow...I thought the X-Men OHOTMU they did was bad...all this book tells me is that I'm glad I never really wasted my time reading any of the Spider-Man books to have been published over the last 20 years.
Witches #1 by Brian Walsh and Mike Deodato Jr, published by Marvel Comics:
...I only got this because Pete has a thing about magic-based characters, I swear...It's not so much that it's a bad comic. I've seen bad comics before, it's no big deal. It's just so...dumbly bad...that I'm struck speechless by the whole thing.
Identity Disc #1 by Robert Rodi and John Higgins, published by Marvel Comics:
You know, I've liked Rodi's prose novels. I've even liked most of his comics work. But he must have needed to make a house payment quickly, because so much of this book screams out "rush job to try and capitalize on that other book with the word Identity in the title." And doesn't it rather telegraph how the book will end when you use a variation of the set-up from The Usual Suspects as your prologue? Speaking of which, is it asking too much of Marvel books these days that the first few issues of a new series be something other than "prologue" to the action. I mean, take Secret War...two issues in, and what's the most interesting thing that's happened? The characters got on a plane?
Fallen Angel #12 by Peter David and David Lopex, published by DC:
Everybody seems to be talking about this book lately. I've been enjoying it since the beginning. It entertains me. But it's certainly not "complex" or "ambiguous" or any of the other reasons that people have been citing for why it's not selling better. It's not selling better because it doesn't have an "X" or "Super" or "Spider" or "Bat" in the title.
Globabl Frequency #12 by Warren Ellis and Gene Ha, published by DC/Wildstorm:
Late, but worth it for the Ha art. As far as story...well, it's Global Frequency. If you're not familiar with the concept and style by now, what rock have you been living under?
Dangerous #2 by Various, published by Sin Factory:
One story that's rather sweet, and remarkably PG13-Rated for this publisher, and one story that's damn sexy, if a little shakily drawn. Me, I'm just glad someone is publishing porno comics that aren't of the "very, very specific paraphila" or "naked people stabbing each other" schools.
Demo #7 by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, published by Ait/Planetlar:
The figures in this issue are much more abstract. It's depersonalizing, making everyone anonymous and interchangeable. It's ideal for soldiers. You don't want to think of the enemy as individuals, and you don't want your own soldiers to think of themselves primairly either. Which makes John's inability to shoot to kill all the more striking by contrast. And another interesting detail: the money John brings home is smudged. Bloodmoney, perhaps?
And as an aside, the all Demo rack I put up last week is doing it's job well. We've already sold out of several issues again. Now that it's not just me pushing the book on people, but that scoundrel Mike as well, more people are paying attention.
Idenity Crisis #1 by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales, published by DC:
I'm of two minds on this sort of thing. On the one hand, sometimes I question the use of super-hero characters in more mature stories. On the other, when those stories are done well it can work magnificently. This is off to a good start. We're given a good over-view of several characters, sketched out well without going into too much detail. And unlike most other "all-prologue" first issues, this one carries with it a real sense of urgency. After all, if this series starts out with the death of a major character, and the story is still being set-up, where is it going to go from here? So, like I said, I'm of two minds. Further issues will be neccessary before I can make a definative ruling, but for now I'm leanind towards this beinga good series. Anything further than that is speculation.
And I can't believe they killed the Crimson Fox!
Also purchased and worth reading: Bite Club #3, Fables #26 and Rocket Raccoon. They're all good, but you should have known that already.
In 1987, Uncanny X-Men #218 was published. It contained a last-page revelation that a Brood space-ship had crashed on Earth, the only surviving witnesses being former X-Men Havok and Polaris.
One year later, in a three-issue story running through Uncanny #s 233-235 the X-Men finally get around to dealing with the threat of the Brood. In typical Claremontian fashion, ominous hints are dropped that "this is not yet over."
Over the next couple of years the Brood pop up once or twice to harry the X-Men. These appearance usually seem to co-incide with the release of a new film in the Aliens series. I have no idea why...Anyway, in 1998, fully 11 years after the beginning of the story-line in which the Brood arrive on Earth, the X-Men finally deal with the not-at-all-similair-to-the-monsters-in-a-popular-Sigourney-Weaver-movie creatures in a two-part mini-series titled, originally enough, X-Men: The Brood.
For the curious, in this series we are told exactly how much time has passed in the Marvel Universe since the Brood first came to earth. About one year. Yes, that's right, "The Fall of the Mutants", "Inferno", "Acts of Vengeance", "X-Tinction Agenda", "The Muir Island Saga", "X-Cutioner's Song", "Fatal Attractions" and about a dozen or so other cross-overs all took place within a one-year period.
And people wonder why it took Grant Morrison basically scrubbing every-thing that came before and starting fresh to get me to read X-Men comics again.
Uncanny X-Men #445 by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis, published by Marvel Comics:
No, no, I'm sorry, but Claremont doesn't get to use Alan Moore characters, even the bad ones. That needs to be a rule, I think. And why do the X-Men even bother keeping Sage around, when every single villain they run across is able to mind-control her.
Alpha Flight #4 by Scott Lobdell and Clayton Henry, published by Marvel Comics:
Is there a point to this book? Is anything happening? Other than to renew the copyright, why is Marvel even publishing this?
Ultimate Spider-Man #60 by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, published by Marvel Comics:
This entire issue is a prologue to the next storyline. Carnage isn't even in the damn thing except for the cover. And as I've said before, if you removed all the little tricks Bendis is fond of for padding out stories, this issue would be about half as long as it actually is.
Ultimate Fantastic Four #6 by Brian Bendis, Mark Millar and Adam Kubert, published by Marvel Comics:
The whole enterprise feels rather anti-climatic and pointless. And, took about twice as long to tell as it probably should have. God forbid Marvel publish anything that won't fit into a 124 page trade paper-back. Does their printer give them some kind of discount for using that particular page count? Is that why every single damn thing published by Marvel lately has to be written in six issue arcs?
Rich Johnston's Holed Up #2 by Rich Johnston and Gonzalo Martinez, published by Avatar:
Should have been a one-shot. What was kind of humorous in the first issue is just one-note and tired in two. By three the concept will probably have worn out it's welcome alltogether.
Misery A Go Go by Mark Crnolatas, Douglas Paszkiewicz and Randy Crider, published by AAA Milwaukee Publishing:
Comics seem to be experiencing a vogue in "sick" humor comics. This isn't as good as Deep Fried or Prison Funnies, nor does it have the manic energy of Battle Pope, but at least it's not as bad as the inexplicably praised Angry Youth Comix, a book that offends me not for it's sophmoric attempts to be shocking but because it just isn't funny. This book is just sort of ok, on a par with the publishers other products.
Scratch by Sam Kieth, published by DC:
There are two kinds of Sam Kieth fans. The first eagerly look forward to any new work he puts out, digging on his utterly unique vision and style. The second come into the store, say their big Kieth fans, and when I show them his newest work look at me with an expression of abject confusion and say: "Wolverine isn't in this? Never-mind." I dug this a lot. And putting werewolves in a book is a great way to get me to at least check it out (werewolves and penguins...if any publisher out there ever does a book about werewolves and penguins it's going to be real hard for me to not like it).
Batman Adventues Vols. 1 & 2 by Various, published by DC:
I bought these mostly out of curiosity. I like Batman, but I generally don't care for the monthly books. Pete got to read these first and he loved them. I was maybe a little less enthusiastic, but this are still quite enjoyable. There's a lot less moral ambiguity to the characters when they're done in this style, and the personalities are more sharply defined. It's almost the Platonic ideal of "The Batman" or "The Joker" or "Two-Face", not the muddled-by-sixty-years-of-continuity versions you get in the DCU.
Also purchased: Hard Time #5, Y: The Last Man #23, Swamp Thing #4 and Girl Genius #11, all of which are good, but I have difficulty thinking of anything more critical or discerning to say about them.
And it's not a comic but I picked it up as well, Video Watchdog #108, which continues it's look at the career of French horror/fantasy film-maker Georges Franju with an interview with the man himself, as well as good reviews of new DVD releases of some of Roman Polanski's and Dario Argento's older films. Polanski is hit-or-miss with me, and I'm still not sure if The Tenant is a brilliant chronicle of one man's descent into madness or just a muddled mess. And Argento, ah, he can do no wrong...except for that horribly ill-conceived version of Phantom of the Opera with Julian Sands. We'll just pretend that film never happened.
I promise the usual, only midly evil, snarkiness will return soon. I have mean things to say about the new Doctor Who companion in a forthcoming post. There, see, you can all feel superior to me...I like Doctor Who and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Let me make a forced analogy by way of introduction. There's a certain type of person who listens to jazz music. He doesn't listen to it because he enjoys it. He listens to it because there's a certain cultural cachet to being a "jazz fan." This type of person listens to jazz because he understands that other people will tend to think that jazz fans are arty, cool intellectuals, and more than anything else, he wants to be an arty, cool intellectual too. So he will make a big show of letting as many people as possible know that he is a jazz fan. He will talk loudly, and at length, about all the jazz concerts and festivals he has gone to. He will spend outrageous sums of money on obscure recordings and back-catalogs of musicians who are only remembered by music historians. And, perhaps most importantly, he will take every opportunity that presents itself to denigrate other genres of music and the fans of those genres.
We generally call these people “posers,” though I personally find the phrase “self-consciously hip” tends to describe them better. This type of reader spends a lot of time trying to make other people realize how cool and interesting they are. For them, the actual quality of the work isn’t as important as which company happened to release it. For this type of reader, incomprehensibility in a work is actually a plus. They like autobiographical comics a lot, because for some reason they’re really able to identify with self-important people who think that the entire world gives a damn what they think (yes, I do have a web-site, why do you ask?). They like works to be “important” as it gives them the opportunity to look disdainfully at anyone who has the audacity to complain that they didn’t understand it “Well, of course, you wouldn’t” is their victory cry, their proof that they are the hippest of them all. Fortunately, this type of reader has, for the most part, either left comics for other terminally pretentious mediums now that Raw is no longer being published, or writing reviews for The Comics Journal and can therefore be safely ignored.
(Of course, this is not to say that “complex=bad”. Good writers and artists are fully capable of creating multi-layered, intellectually stimulating works of quality. Alan Moore and Grant Morrison are the first examples that spring to mind. Their work rewards careful reading and deep analysis. Coincidentally, these are the two writers whose work I most often hear complaints from super-hero fans about. For super-hero fans, complex most certainly does equal bad. To everyone who says to me “I don’t understand Rock of Ages” I can only respond: that says more about you than it does about Morrison.)
Related to the posers, but not quite the same beast, are the indy scenesters. These are people who have mostly crossed over to comics from some other, well, scene, usually music scenesters, goths and emo kids. Their sole criterion for a comic is that it not be a super-hero book. It could have been printed on recycled paper towels at Kinkos, on a printer running out of toner, on black paper to boot, and they won’t care because it’s just one more accessory that they need to complete their look. To be fair, they generally do enjoy the work they buy. But their standards for quality are woefully low. And they have an unfortunate tendency to look for the next hot thing before their friends do so that they can tell everyone that they were into it before it became popular. It is with some sense of shame that I confess that when I was their age (they’re always young as well) I was just as guilty of placing a work’s “indy” credentials or value as a prop above its merits. Unlike the posers, who are generally a lost cause, these kids will hopefully grow out of this phase and learn that quality really does matter.
And lastly, there are the people who just sort of miss the point. They’re the people who insist that Spawn is an indy comic, on the grounds that it’s not published by DC and Marvel. Well, that statement is only partly correct. Marvel and DC, as the two largest publishers of super-hero fiction, not to mention their corporate identities, certainly qualify as “the mainstream” in super-hero comics. In the sense that the book is not published by Marvel and DC, something like Spawn can maybe be called “indy” by the broadest possible definition. But one of my personal pet peeves is that what comic-book fans call “mainstream” is the opposite of what everybody else in the world calls “mainstream.” For the rest of the world, super-heroes are this strange aberration of a genre, not quite sci-fi, not quite fantasy, not quite pulp. To the rest of the world, “mainstream” means “designed to appeal to the widest possible audience.” By that token, books like Spawn, Savage Dragon and Witchblade are about as far from the mainstream as you can get, designed to appeal primarily to people whose emotional maturity stopped somewhere in early adolescence.
Luckily for all of us, and in direct opposition to the status of the super-hero fan, the vast majority of indy readers don’t quite fit into any of these categories. They mostly represent the people who have out-grown super hero comics (more or less, there’s no shame in enjoying quality super-hero comics as an adult, so long as you acknowledge that the quality super hero work is few and far between) but still enjoy the medium as a whole. I salute those brave souls, going into their comic book stores, week after week, searching for comics with something to say, the talent to say it, and the sense to not try to use people in tights hitting each other as the way to say it.
Because it means that instead of having two days a week where I'm either at work early or leaving late, I have one day where I'm not only there early but I have to leave late as well.
On the plus side, Diamond finally got our Demo re-orders to us, so I was able to make a mini-section on the rack for the first five issues. This required me to take IDW's Shield comics off the rack, which was no major loss as interest in that title seems to have dropped off dramatically after the first issue, despite the huge glowering face of Michael Chiklis staring at everyone on the wall above the comics. Or maybe because of the huge Chiklis face. Making a Demo section moved copies immediatly, being a big advertisement that yes, we have it in stock, after selling out of every single issue to have been released so far. With any luck, we'll need another re-order by next week.
Now if only we could get Diamond to stop this "Which DC book will we not ship this week" game they've been playing. This week it was Y The Last Man. Last week it was Cartoon Cartoons and the week before Wonder Woman. If they decide not to send us Identity Crisis next week I fully expect our Diamond rep to drive the emergency shipment up to the store himself, because this is getting old.
I also had the chance to see the new Chris Ware edited McSweeney's. I have strongly conflicted feelings about McSweeney's. On the one hand, I generally like most of the content of any given issue. On the other, I tend to find the whole enterprise itself just a tad pretentious. Add Chris Ware to the mix and I thoroughly confuse myself. I tend to not be a big Chris Ware fan on the whole. Visually it's interesting and occasionally it's amusing, but I find it more than a little self-important and repetitive. The fold-out cover on this issue, for example, is a better idea in concept than in execution. And everytime I see Ware complain about where bookstores shelve his work I can't help but think he should be glad that there's enough demand for his work for bookstores to even bother carrying it, especially given the space on shelves his books tend to take up. So, flipping through this issue I saw about a 50/50 split between good work and not very good work that people will say is good because it's in McSweeney's.
And finally, I looked at DC's list of forthcoming releases. First thing that stands out: DC actually bothers to publish a variety of material aimed different audiences. Unlike, say, their cheif competitor, who seems content to sell nothing but super-hero books to the same audience of aging fans they've been selling to for the last ten years. Anyway, Golden Age Sandman Archive Vol. 1 will get my money as this is one of the archives I've been wanting to see for some time, being, as it is, one of the few genuinely good Golden Age comics. I may also get the Superman: Man of Tomorrow archive, as I have much more interest in the Silver Age Superman than the Golden Age Supes. I suppose odds are still against a Lois Lane archive, though. More Sandman Mystery Theatre trades are good too, and I expect I'll have little to no trouble selling those, especially if they reprint the first trade. Adventures in the Rifle Brigade is a no-brainer, sales-wise, though I wonder what possessed them to collect Blood. Doing My Faith In Frankie at manga-size, at a low price-point is probably the smartest move I've seen from DC in awhile. "Feels like" manga and "looks like" manga on material that is actually good is a smart way to get the audience you're pursuing to look at your material. I'm not familiar with any of the Humanoids books they plan on publishing, save for the Milo Manara book. I never thought I'd see the day when DC would be publishing a Manara book. The 2000AD books may be a hard sell, as we have very few customers interested in 2000AD stuff in general. That DC seems to be putting out quite a few works by people currently or recently doing work for them may work in their favor. It couldn't hurt. And maybe now that Red Razors is coming out Mark Millar will shut the fuck up about this supposed embargo against his work at DC. Between that, Red Son, the Superman digests and the always in print Authority trades, I don't see any shortage of material with his name on it coming out from DC.
Remember a couple of days ago when I was wondering if DC's back-log of children's material could sell in an over-sized format? Well, I was at Target the other day to drop off some film for processing, and I did my usual circuit of the store to see if there was anything that 1) I could use and 2) was cheap, when I passed the toy aisle and saw, there on the end-cap, a bunch of over-sized "Marvel Age" trades collecting issues of Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man. Only, I say "collected", when what would be more appropriate would be "highly edited and apparently bowlderized." See, each of these books is, maybe, 96 pages long, at most. But they each purport to collect 6 comics worth of material. With a standard page count on the ultimate titles of, what, 20-22 pages, that's a good chunk of material taken out. SRP on these things: $4.99. Or, roughly 1/2 to 1/3 of the price of an Ultimate trade at a comics store.
Now, I think it's important to note that this were being displayed in the toy aisle, not the books or the magazines. And they are cheap enough to be seen as disposable, yet large enough and thick enough that parents, once they get over the shock of "they still make comic books?", will see them as value for their money. And they certainly looked well-read. At least, the copies in the front of the display looked well-read. But the displays were still full. I discreetly inquired as to how long this material had been out and how it was selling from a clerk and was met with blissful ignorance that the store even carried such things. And I was then told that if I was looking for comic books I should try, well, the store I work at in fact. So, I have no way of telling if the damn things are actually selling, or just being mauled by kids in the toy aisle before being discarded.
And on a related note: I have always maintained that you can tell how well a product is doing by how many copies of it a store manages to keep in stock. Of the X-Men toy-line, all this store had in stock was the Gambit action figure. Lots and lots of Gambit action figures. And lots and lots and lots and lots of Spider-Man 2 toys and Shrek 2 toys and Harry Potter toys...