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Friday, September 30, 2005
Count Yourselves Lucky
I'm in a bit of a rush, so I thought I'd add another episode to my ongoing catalog of Wildcat and Power Girl being bitchy to one another. Pound-for-pound, that's your best comedy value in comics!
Just be glad I didn't share more of Pete's Folsom Street Fair pictures...
EDIT: Yes, I know comments are acting wonky. As near as I can tell it's on Haloscan's end.
Diamond sent us a box that contained nothing but a single copy of the most recent issue of Hot Moms. If we had our books shipped, instead of picking them up, that would have seriously pissed us off.
As usual, an insanely large order meant a much higher than normal amount of shortages.
The second wave of Alex Ross Justice action figures came out. The Black Canary figure looks like a guy in drag. But the Batman is probably the closest you're ever going to get to a DC Direct Adam West figure.
It is always, always the day when we're short-handed, short on time and have an insanely large order to unpack and sort that all the "high maintenance" customers decide to come in. And never one at a time. Always at the same time.
Showing the Kingdom Hearts manga to our "we only buy Disney comics" customers had much the same reaction you'd expect to get from shoving a crucifix in a vampire's face.
Speaking of manga, I'm not quite sure what to make of the customers who buy manga titles devoted to fan service, nude bathing scenes, panty shots and other assorted t&a features, who then go and buy something like Yotsuba or Princess Tutu or Cardcaptor Sakura, or some other little girl focuses title.
Seeing a nude photo of one of our male customers in the latest issue of Tarot made me straight. I've got absolutely no desire to ever see another man naked ever again.
The focus in this issue is on the Scarecrow, as he relates the story of his origin to Dorothy in an effort to keep her mind focused on reaching the Munchkin city before she succumbs to the poisoned serpent bite she received last issue. The Scarecrow is here a far more tragic figure than is usually portrayed, and his back-story also provides many vital and useful clues as to just how different this version of Oz is from the traditional portrayals, and how it got that way, while still leaving plenty of mystery for future volumes. A quite neat trick is performed in this issue, actually, given the "brainless" nature of the Scarecrow and hence his unreliability as a narrator. It's never quite clear, precisely, what did happen or what it all means.
As usual, the appearance of the comic is simply beautiful, with an excellent blend of photography and digital effects that puts the book far above the stiffness and posed nature of most photo-comics. And the writing is excellent as well, with a good blend of sass and lonesomeness from Dorothy, and the Scarecrow's simple yet generous nature coming through clearly.
Ballast by Joe Kelly and Ilya
This short, breezy action comic has much to recommend it. Ilya's art has an attractive blend of harsh, angular features for the main character, Mason Krokus, and a softer, more rounded world around him. It gives him a strong contrast, setting him apart, visually communicating his outsider nature. The story is also an intriguing prologue to (presumably forthcoming) Ballast series. We are led to believe that Mason is simply a mercenary or assassin for hire, before the revelation is made that, no, Mason is actually compelled not to kill, due to a contract with a supernatural being. Simply put, whether or not Mason can keep his promise not to kill determines whether or not the world is destroyed.
It's a strong and promising premise, though if it has a flaw it is in that it's not quite clear whether Kelly simply trusted his readers to draw the correct implications from the story as to the nature of Mason's role and the identity of his supernatural watch-dog, or if he didn't feel the need to clearly explain it because it is addressed in the ample supplemental material that follows the story. In either case, it's a nit-pick on my part, and it didn't distract from my enjoyment of the story. And when a continuation of the story appears, I am interested in finding out what happens next.
Hip Flask: Mystery City by Richard Starkings and Jose Ladronn
Jose Ladronn is one of those artists that I've been aware of for some time, but never really took the time to look at closely. I'm glad I did this time, as his work on this comic is simply beautiful. It's very much in the Euro-comics tradition, as exemplified by magazines like Heavy Metal back in their best days. It's a mix of smooth lines and complex details that draws the reader in and invites exhaustive examinations of the breathtaking visual panoramas.
The story, however, was a bit frustrating. Lots of material is introduced here, from a mysterious figure in a military prison, to a time travel experiment gone wrong, to the rapid escalation of a gang war, but before any one of those story threads can fully develop, the book is over. I wasn't frustrated by the lack of background information on any of the characters, as I trusted that should I want to learn more about why there are half-animal people running around a futuristic Los Angeles and why they don't like each other, the information is contained in one of the Hip Flask comics that were previously published. I'm intrigued by all of this, but I don't know if I'm intrigued enough to pick up the story in discrete chunks, when a trade compilation would yield a more satisfying experience.
Gunpowder Girl and the Outlaw Squaw by Don Hudson
Don Hudson's western adventure focuses on two female outlaws who don't particularly like or trust each other. It's a brisk, fast read that keeps the action going, but still takes the time to get into the heads of the leads and show the reader where they came from and why they do what they do. They're both thieves and killers, but their circumstances and their period made them what they are, which makes them both sympathetic and their decisions, as bad as they may have been, understandable. They are also, it's worth noting, not that much different from those who claim to be on the side of "law and order," with the added benefit that neither the Gunpowder Girl nor the Outlaw Squaw are cruel or sadistic. It also, thankfully, avoids becoming a cutesy "girl power" story.
Hudson's art is exceptional. The action scenes are clearly depicted and easy to follow, and his figures are emotive and expressive. Body language and facial emotions are well done and recognizable, and the characters all have distinctive looks and mannerisms that make them easily distinguishable and unique. All in all, this is another welcome addition to the burgeoning recent resurgence of western comics.
Full Moon Fever by Joe Casey, Caleb Gerard and Damian Couceiro
The central premise of Casey's and Gerard's comic, werewolves on the moon, is alone enough to make me favorably inclined to it. It's lucky, then, that the comic is actually quite good. It is well within the tradition of AIT output, the short, high-concept, "blockbuster film in comic form," and your tolerance for that, necessarily, will go a long way towards determining whether or not you find value in this comic. But not every comic needs to be a masterpiece. Comics can be fun, and that's what this book delivers. The story is unpretentious and gets into the action almost immediately, and then keeps that momentum going until the very end, pausing only briefly to insert some necessary exposition.
Damian Couceiro's art is certainly worth mentioning as well. His use of shadow, and heavy black inks, goes a long way towards establishing the mood of the comic. It creates a subtle mood of menace and mystery, with the werewolves only half-glimpsed or concealed in shadow for many shots, making their full-panel appearances even more effective. And his werewolves are truly excellent, possibly the best I've seen in comic form. The action scenes are chaotic, and occasionally a little stiff, but the chaos, I think, adds effectively to the overall atmosphere. His figures are, perhaps, a little too alike, though he does a good job of making facial features distinctive and unique. All together, this comes dangerously close to being a perfect comic by my standards: clever concept, strong pacing, good writing, and effective art, without any pretension or aspirations to be anything other than an entertaining read. (Oh, and for the record, this was not a review copy. I paid my own damn money for this book, and every penny was well-spent.)
Young Magician Vol. 1 by Narushima Yuri
I picked this up more or less on impulse. It was a light week at the store, manga-wise, and I was in the mood for a horror story in a shojo vein. I'm not quite sure whether or not that was what I got. If it's a horror story, it's not very scary or thrilling. If it's a mystery it's not, well, mysterious. It's certainly very pretty, and has plenty of gore, if that's your thing, but the gore doesn't seem to lead to a stronger story or sense of danger. It mostly seems to be there to be shocking. The set-up could have come from any number of other titles: mysterious boy with no memory of his past faces a fateful destiny that is broadly hinted at by other characters, who themselves are not very well fleshed out. In short, it's an uninspiring beginning and reeks of many of the usual manga cliches.
And yet, despite that, I liked it well enough. The author's notes heavily imply that the tone and direction change somewhat starting in the second volume, and it's not at all unusual for a manga series to take a volume or two to work out the story and direction. There's certainly no indication of the surreal bent that The Wallflower takes from it's initial volume. So, I'll give the series another volume to impress me. This is one of the occasional drawbacks of reading manga. If I give an American comic two or three issues to draw me in, I'm only out about $12 if I decide I don't like it. With manga, that total is more like $20 to $20.
Chikyu Misaki Vol. 1 by Iwahara Yuji
With Tuxedo Gin drawing to a close, I think I've discovered my new "insufferably cute" manga to obsess over. This story of two young girls who befriend a shape-changing lake monster immediately drew me in with its charming and innocent artwork and its simple sense of fun. What's even more impressive is that while the story begins to take a darker and more serious turn even in this first volume, that strong sense of innocence is still carried over and heightened. As we have already so strongly bonded with the main characters, we feel genuine concern for them as we begin to realize the challenges that are in store for them, challenges that they themselves are still unaware of. It's a very strong and compelling opening volume. And it even does away with what would be the first major stumbling block. In any other series, the girls attempts to keep the true nature of their new "pet" Neo a secret from the adults would take up many, many volumes, perhaps even becoming the entire focus of the series. Here the problem is addressed before the end of the book, with the girls sensibly revealing the truth to the adults rather than attempt to concoct outrageous lies. Frankly, I loved this book.
Comics With Staples
Desolation Jones #3: The pace slows down considerably in this issue, as Jones spends much of this issue talking about porn with the daughter of his client. It feels, slightly, like a hiccup in the momentum of the story, but it speaks volumes about what is becoming a central theme of this series, namely the importance of connections between humans and the damage of emotional isolation.
Fell #1: I was slightly skeptical of this book, not having been terribly impressed with any of the previous work I had seen from Ben Templesmith, but this is truly an excellent book, probably the highlight of Ellis' recent work, and Templesmith's moody, muted colors and distorted figures add to the tone and mood immensely. It's hard to see the story working with a different approach to the art, in fact. It's a haunting, utterly effective and compelling story, with just the right amount of Ellis' cynical bite to keep it from becoming maudlin or overly tragic.
Supreme Power: Nighthawk #1: I only bring this up because I think it helps illustrate one of my usual observations about how gay people are portrayed in Marvel comics (namely, not well). And so while Marvel is being praised for it's portrayal of gay and lesbian teens in books like Runaways and Young Avengers (for effectively writing the lesbian out of the book in the former and making coy jokes in the latter), I think it's worth pointing out that Marvel also published this book, which portrays prison rape as a kind of poetic punishment, but also devotes a four page sequence to two effeminate "fruits" tricking in a bathroom before one is (presumably) killed. It's essentially a four page long fag joke that ends with the death of the homosexual so popular in dramatic stories.
The Bakers #1: This comic is beautifully illustrated, genuinely funny, and attractively designed. I shouldn't need to review it, or tell you how great it is. You should simply be running out to buy it yourselves.
The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin #1: Garth Ennis truly hates and despises super-heroes, and it shows. It also makes for very funny and surreal piss-takes on the genre. That he also manages to include a genuinely compelling and complex character in Kev, whose growth (or lack of) is ably chartered in his series of Authority specials and minis makes this even more enjoyable.
Nodwick #29: I find immense enjoyment and humor in Aaron Williams' work, particularly in his ps238 series (the second trade paper-back of which, To the Cafeteria...for Justice! was recently released and is well worth your attention), but this issue of his fantasy series felt like a mis-step. I don't follow any of the various "pixel" comics, so even by the standards of a gamer-centric humorous fantasy series this felt overly in-jokey. Plus, the pixelated versions of the characters are merely hard to look at, especially given page after page of them. And sense the larger plot of the series isn't advanced in this issue at all, it made for a very frustrating and disapointing (and eye-straining) read.
Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1: To say that this issue was better than the Green Lantern: Rebirth series is probably the greatest understatement it is possible for me to make. And while it has far too much Guy Gardner for my taste, and too much time is spent tying this into to all the other things going on in the DCU right now, the comic actually pulls together nicely and serves as a satisfying introduction and prologue. What it could have used, however, was a stronger indication of what it is prologue to.
Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1: Reimagining the New Gods in an urban sci-fi/horror setting, remarkably, works. To be blunt, I've always thought the New Gods hokey and dated. They've never really worked outside the melodramatic original Kirby stories, and I frankly never really found them that effective then either. But I like what we see of them here. They feel more grounded in a recognizable reality, while still retaining an air of cosmic mystery. If anything, Morrison manages to reinstill some of the cosmic mystery and alienness of them. And anything that moves the Black Racer away from a knight on skis (which I'm still half-convinced was a joke on Kirby's part that nobody got) is a good thing.
JSA Classified #3: I'm enjoying this series a great deal. Why? Because it's funny. It's tongue in cheek and silly, yet still stays within the tone and setting of the DC Universe. And Amanda Conner's art captures that feel perfectly. It's simply a fun comic, and doesn't apologize for that.
What Chris said. I was prepared for a big-ass manga week, and the sheer amount of stuff still caught me off guard.
And that's not even factoring in the much larger than usual number of Marvel comics that are shipping this week, either. I glanced at our Diamond invoice total, and it was the largest I remember seeing in years.
I also made an observation while running through the cycle sheets: there is an inverse ratio between the number of variant covers of Lady Death and the number of copies we actually sell. That is, the more variant covers there are, the fewer copies we end up selling over-all.
I just discovered that Immortal is out on DVD, so I moved it to the top of my Netflix queue. And here I was, still waiting patiently for a US theatrical release.
I've also been watching a fair number of horror films on Netflix lately. The most recent one I watched and actually enjoyed was Madhouse. On the one hand, I never need to see another movie in which changing the film speed is used to denote the presence of the supernatural. On the other, I thought the film actually mostly worked as a thriller, with an ending that veers dangerously close to the much maligned, and deservedly so, "twist" ending, but manages to make a certain sort of sense to the preceding events. A good, enjoyable, low-profile thriller.
So, I was digging through my referral logs over the weekend, mostly in an attempt to hunt down ISP numbers to block the insane amount of referral spam I've been getting lately, and I noticed a significant number of traffic from Google's image search. And not pointing to any one particular post, just lots of image searches that led to my site. So I back-tracked some of the searches, and it turns out I've got lots of people coming here looking for pictures of male comic book characters with their clothes off.
I hate to disappoint people...
Travis Morgan, the Warlord. Featured most recently in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, and one of two male comic book characters to make Lady Death look over-dressed.
>Hello, Mr. Dorian > >I'm a comics fan and doing a search about the book "Third Testament" >(it was announced for August and I'm still waiting for its release), I >found this comment in your blog: > >http://www.postmodernbarney.com/archive/2005_06_19_postmodernbarney_archive.html#111937855987271852 > >"HK Comics >Third Testament doesn't look at all like an attempt to cash in on The >DaVinci Code, oh no." > >I did another search and it appears that the Davinci Code was released >in March 2003. > >Well, for your information, the first volume of the European series >"Le Troisieme Testament" was published in July 1997, the 2nd one in >November 98, the 3rd in November 2000 and the 4th and final volume of >the tetralogy in July 2003, as you can see here: >http://www.bedetheque.com/index.php\?S=23 > >So I'd like to see you rectifying your dismissive comment about this >comic in your blog. Thanks. > >T-- F--
Dear Mr. F--,
Thank you for the informative e-mail. However, I do not feel it is neccessary to go back and address a statement I wrote in June because, frankly, I still stand by my inital assessment that the reason the book is being published in English is because HK Comics wants some of the very lucrative "DaVinci Code" money to be spent on their products. Honestly, they would be foolish not to, given what an obscenely bloated cash-cow the book has become.
As for your concerns that my statement was "dismissive," well, yes, it was supposed to be. It was what some people call "a joke." Perhaps you have heard of them?
Again, thank you for your e-mail. In the future, however, it might be in your best interest to simply not read my site, for fear that it might once again inadvertantly offend you. Thank you again, Dorian
(I get, on average, about one of these a week. Usually I just ignore them. But I'm in a lousy mood and this guy was the lucky one who pissed me off enough to not only get a response, but get it posted here.)
First, the important stuff. Recently added to the side-bar:
Center of Gravitas: good, funny stuff from the GayProf. Gumpop: The tagline is "comic books are totally the new indie rock" and that about sums up Sophie Yannow's site beautifully.
Also, here's another clicky for you all to look at. Someone actually drew my attention to this a few weeks back and now I've forgotten who, but Starship Dimensions is the site to answer all your sci-fi scale questions. Such as: which is bigger, the Death Star or Unicron?
The only thing you need to know about in the Marvel solicitations for December is Punisher: The Tyger, by Garth Ennis and John Severin. It's a story of Punisher-Lad, the adventures of Frank Castle when he was a boy! Well, maybe not, but the gist of it is essentially that. Now, the thing about the Punisher is, he really only works when you write him one of two ways. Either he's a crypto-fascist revenge fantasy, or he's a subtle parody of the same. He doesn't really work as a super-hero with a gun or a raving lunatic. Most of the Marvel Knights series by Garth Ennis fell into the subtle parody category, but when the book switched over to the Max imprint, Ennis dropped the humor and made it about extreme violence and turned it into a slightly more earnest knock off of Mack Bolan than it had been previously. But, the one shots like Punisher: The End, Punisher: The Cell and even the mini Born were all really good. So I'm hoping that Ennis keeps up that trend of good minis and one shots and almost undreadable ongoing series.
A customer came in yesterday looking excitedly for the second trade of Astonishing X-Men. She was thrilled with the art and the "complexity of the characters." So I had Mike recommend Grant Morrison's New X-Men books to her. Of course, what I was thinking was: "If you liked that warmed over rehash of Claremont's run from thirty years ago that substitutes bitchy one-liners for character development, you'll love this X-Men comic that's actually good."
Feeling rather dull and listless today, so I'll just spout random utterances until it's time to go to work...
Yesterday both the Kammandi Archives and Marvel Masterworks: Captain Marvel were released. As I said at the time, it's almost as if Marvel and DC were in a competition to how many works that don't need to be made available in a hard-cover format they can churn out.
The Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files is almost worth getting just for the fact that it maintains that the Brotherhood of Dada (my personal favorite DP villains) are still in continuity. --Speaking of which, once Byrne's Doom Patrol series is cancelled, DC writers and artists are just going to pretend it never happened, aren't they?
I'm not one to normally recommend the title, but the last two pages of the most recent Batman: Gotham Knights is already one of my favorite comic book sequences.
Chikyu Misaki from DC's CMX line appears to be very good. Cute art, cute characters, an actual story in the making, and a nicely absurd premise. These are some of the things I look for in manga.
So, flipping through the most recent Essential Ghost Rider I realized I may have to change my assessment of the Ghost Rider film trailer from "terrible and by the numbers dumb action movie" to "improves upon the source material." I mean, I can sort of see someone enjoying these comics in an ironic, so-cheesy-it's-fun kind of way, but nobody actually thinks this stuff is good, do they?
Books I really do need to sit down and write reviews on: Full Moon Fever The Passion of the Keef Young Magician Queen Bee Coyote Gunslinger Girl Hip Flask Capote Dead West
Moving on to Netflix...
I really wish the system would stop trying to get me to rent The Dish. I hate hitting the "not interested" button, preferring to use it to try and train the program to stop recommending films with actors I dislike, but I'm really not interested in the film and it keeps coming up on my log-in page.
I started watching the Lost first season discs and, well, damn. It's good, isn't it? Maybe not Homicide good, but still one of the better beginnings to a TV show I've seen in a long time. I think I want to get a few more discs in to see if they maintain the quality before decided whether to just go ahead and buy the damn set for myself or start watching the second season. (Yes, I know, already missed the premiere...that's what repeats are for.)
I didn't expect to like it, rented it anyway, and ended up really enjoying Nine Dead Gay Guys. It's almost like a gay version of Snatch, done on a tight budget. Very absurd and occasionally surreal crime comedy. And any film featuring a character called "The Desperate Dwarf" and featuring the "really hard Red Bull test" as a plot point has to have some appeal.
On the other hand, I'm slightly disappointed that they apparently only have the edited version of Bear Cub available to rent. Given the number of what are, essentially, heterosexual soft-core porn titles in their catalogue, it's frustrating that they chose not to carry the unrated version of that film. (Not that I was only interested in it for the nudity and sex! I just hate watching something when I know it's not what the creators intended me to see.)
Dark Horse I don't have any confidence in these Harlequin manga titles at all. I think one of the reasons why romance themed manga titles have done so well is precisely because they're not like Harlequin-style romance novels. This reeks to me of trying to cash in on a trend, and I don't think our customers are going to go for it. It's hard to do an accurate order on the second volume of Lady Snowblood when the first still hasn't been received yet. I'm going to drop the order a little, just to be on the safe side. Reiko the Zombie Shop looks just odd enough to have potential. Apparently it's been so long since we got in a new volume of Oh my Goddess that I no longer have accurate ordering info. And it's a title that's been on a surprising upswing in popularity lately, due mostly to the influx of new sailors at the local navy base. But will they still be stationed here by the time this new volume ships? These are the kinds of local factors you have to take into consideration when ordering from Diamond.
DC Tower of the Future looks like your fairly typical manga fantasy. I think we can safely go with conservative orders on it. Young Magician turned out to be a surprise hit for us, so I'll bump the orders up slightly. We've actually seen increased demand for what I guess you could call the "violent, socially irredeemable" CMX titles. I don't know if that's necessarily the market DC wants to pursue with their manga titles, but in our neck of the woods it's what selling. And about half their line could be charitably described in those terms.
ADV Lagoon Engine Einsatz and Angel Dust were both originally serialized in Newtype, and both are one-shot books. We actually don't have terribly good luck with the one-shot books. One of the appeals of manga seems to be that the stories go on for some time. So we'll go slightly conservative on these orders, because I do think we'll probably sell them thanks to the Newtype connection.
AIT Five Fists of Science actually has me looking forward to it. Just the thought of JP Morgan leading a cabal of evil scientists is almost enough for me. Heck, I wouldn't mind reading a book about Jaye P Morgan as the head of a group of evil scientists.
(Just an aside here, but I can't be the only person going through Previews in preparation of turning in Diamond orders and wondering what we'll order that won't actually ship because of Diamond's new policies, can I?)
Bongo You know, I want to be snarky about the fact that the Simpsons comic is basing an entire issue on the "spin-off" gags from one particular episode of the show, and how that's indicative of the insular nature of many of the gags in the comic...but I know it's going to be one of the few issues I actually buy.
Dynamite Red Sonja #6 is scheduled to ship in November. Number two hasn't shipped yet. The phrase "who do you think you're fooling" immediately comes to mind. When you make Image and Marvel's shipping schedules look realistic, it may be time to take a good look at your company and the way it does business.
Dementian We got a preview packet for Nothing Better at the store, and story-wise it's not my thing, but I quite liked the art. I can see it appealing to fans of Strangers in Paradise and other "slice-of-life" comics.
Devil's Due We can't keep the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance comics in stock. It's mostly been gamers, not comics fans, buying them. I've taken a look at them. I still like the D&D comics DC put out years ago more. I can't wait for Lost Squad to actually ship, so that people will stop asking me if its out yet...
Digital Manga Edu-Manga: Helen Adams Keller is getting at least one copy ordered, simply because the inclusion of Astro Boy into an educational comic sounds utterly insane. Kimi Shiruya: Dost Thou Know looks like it's the kind of thing that our yaoi fans will like. I'm really feeling the urge to be much more selective in my yaoi purchases. Specifically, I'm avoiding anything that looks like it has too many willowy under-age boys for my taste.
Fanfare/Ponet Mon I'm sure Chris will be disappointed to hear this, but I think we're going to have to give a pass on Japan as viewed by 17 creators. Our anthology sales are driven by our indie buyers, and they're still largely resisting manga. Plus, at $25 for 256 pages, that's money that could be spent on two more books with a better chance of selling.
Ice Kunion Antique Gift Shop looks like it has potential. And it's got that pretty look that tends to do well for us on the mystery type mangas. Heavenly Executioner Chiwoo on the other hand, well...I half-suspect it'll do well for us too, but it also strikes me as a very...odd title.
Oni It's a good month for Oni. Local, Strangetown, Northwest Passage and Off Road will all be getting my money.
Planet Bronx Productions Tales of the Closet gets the long-awaited trade paperback treatment, and I'm glad I noticed it now, because I think I forget to leave a note on the store order forms that I wanted a copy.
Rebellion I'm glad to see that Nikolai Dante has survived DC's purge of European comics, as I really quite liked the first two volumes.
Speakeasy Go to page 319 of Previews. Look at the ad for Butternut Squash. Do I want to know why two midgets are about to spray cheerleaders with a hose? I'm going to be getting Strangeways. It's werewolves in the old west. Of course I'm going to get Strangeways.
Tokyopop Ark Angels just screams of magical girl cliches. Dreaming I have hopes for, as Queenie Chan does have a strong following, and I've noticed that, lately, internet buzz for manga titles and creators has equaled increased sales. Whereas before our customers were apparently paying no attention to manga news on the internet. The solicitation for The World Exists for Me reads, in part: "In the past, the devil R received his invincible powers from 'The Book of S&M'..." and then there's something about paper dolls and a shot of a girl in a lacy mini-dress which will show off her panties if seen from another angle. So...I think I can hazard a guess as to the general tone of this series. Tokyopop says it will appeal to fans of Princess Ai and Alchino...funny, Alchino didn't strike me as a fan-service comic.(Edit: never mind, misapprehension corrected) Tsukoyomi-Moon Phase: Doesn't look terribly exciting, doesn't look bad either. See, if it looks good, bad, or has been out long enough to have a sales history, my job's easy. Stuff like this I just have to guess on. If I could get half the people who try to sneak read Psychic Academy when they think we're not paying attention to actually buy it, it'd probably be our best-selling manga title. What is it about this title that makes people want to look at it, but not buy it? Is it just t&a?
Viz The final volume of Tuxedo Gin ships, hopefully. I half suspect it may be late, as 14 still hasn't shown up, and it seems like 13 just came out. Zatch Bell is selling, but slowly. Meanwhile, I can't keep Full Metal Alchemist in stock. The second volume of Monster is solicited, and volume one still hasn't shown. I'm not going to drop orders, but it would be nice to know if my numbers for volume one were a) too low, b) too high or c) just right. I'm not sure if I'm going to be getting the collected editons of either Crimson Hero or Nana for myself, as it looks like I'm more or less resigned to buying the monthly Shojo Beat. I'm going with more optimistic order numbers for Nana, as I think, of the two books, it has the stronger potential to sell on its own. And we've had plenty of requests for "new Ai Yazawa" material from folks who don't want to buy Shojo Beat.
Yaoi Press I've mentioned before how having a good, easy to navigate web-site with lots of previews is important for comic publishers these days, particularly when it comes to manga. Yaoi Press has a great site. Unfortunately, some of the material doesn't look very good. We're now actually at the point with the amount of yaoi-themed comics that I've got to pick and choose which ones I think our customers will like. Yaoi Hentai is a no-brainer. Our yaoi fans will like it. Of the rest, Pinned and Enslaved by the Dragon look like they have the best chance of attracting our customer's money. I've also noticed that Prisoner of the Immortal seems to be the book that Diamond is pushing in their retailer materials.
And, this is another aside, but looking back at my order numbers for books scheduled to ship in September, and reflecting on the fact that we haven't had any big manga weeks so far this month, that only leaves next week for the bulk of Viz and Tokyopop titles to ship. So we may find ourselves buried under a mountain of manga at the shop next week. Which is why I really wish Viz and Tokyopop would space out their releases a little more.
Gotham Central finally gets down to resolving the question that only a handful of people were really worried about: is Jim Corrigan related to Jim Corrigan?
And for its 50th issue, Will Pfeifer brings Catwoman into mind-wipe territory, with a proposition that's actually fairly intriguing and would work well to reconcile many of the inconsistent bits of Selina Kyle's back-story.
Crisis on Multiple Earth's: The Team-Ups collects a big batch of non-JLA related cross-Earth cross-overs, including the stories that laid the ground-work for James Robinson's revelation that Starman and Black Canary had an affair. And gee, remember those bygone, innocent days of yore when that was considered controversial?
Hard Time Season Two launches, and surely I can't be the only one growing weary of volumes of comic books being referred to as "seasons?"
JLA Classified: Cold Steel: Okay, I thought the whole point of the JLA Classified label was so that there wouldn't be anymore prestige format minis and specials. But apart from that, why is it that I look at this picture, all I can think is "Oh no! The Mega-Morphs are spreading!"
Man, does Jonah Hex look good. Man, do I want to like Loveless, but am utterly failing to overcome my general apathy towards Azarello's work...
And, this is more of a general DCU observation, but I actually find myself strongly curious about what exactly Donna Troy plans to be doing in deep space with all the B- and C-Listers.
That Best of the Spirit trade gets solicited, and I may try to pick that up. I like Eisner, and I like the Spirit, but the Archives were just too damned expensive for me.
Moon Child has the kind of pitch that makes me hurriedly shove books back onto the shelf when I'm browsing in the sci-fi/fantasy section of my local chain bookstore. "Jimmy and Shona must rescue the magical lost girl before war breaks out between the kingdoms of the humans and merpeople." Gag, gag, gag.
The world ends in Tom Strong. The newest Top Ten mini also comes to a conclusion. After perusing our preview copy of #2 earlier today, I do have to say that people who passed it by in a snit because "it's not Alan Moore" are missing out on a damn good comic.
Testament may be good, or it may be awful. At this point, based on hyperbolic solicitations, it really could go either way.
Mike will want this, to go on the shelf next to his Alfred action figure. It's his "older men I can pose any way I want" collection...
DC Direct finally jumps on the "mystery figure" band-wagon, and finds a use for the Who's Who name in a toy-line. Actually, these mystery figures tend to sell well for us...when it's a known property and the price point isn't too high. If these stay under $5 we can probably move a bunch of boxes of them. Any higher than that, and we're probably looking at shelf-warmers. Shazam is the only one I really like, though I could live with Batman.
The last day of Kid Chris at ye olde comic shoppe went out not with a bang, but with a whimper. And that whimper was Kid Chris, curled up into a fetal position in the corner.
It's all my fault, you see. I was joking with him early in the day that it would be a fitting conclusion to his tenure if all the really, er, "high maintenance" customers decided to come in that day.
Oops. I really do need to learn not to make jokes like that. Those that didn't show in person ended up calling. It was almost a parade of, er, "colorful" personality types in and out of the store all day long.
It's hard not to see Brian Wood's new project as a follow-up to Demo. The basic structure is essentially the same; a twelve issue, episodic series with a discreet focus for each issue. The only significant change in this case is the inclusion of a protagonist, Meegan McKeenan, who will appear in each issue. She's the sort of naive yet cynical, world-weary and shallow teen character that Wood writes well. In the hands of another writer, that character type would probably come off as precocious, yet Wood is skilled enough to capture both the budding maturity and the lack of actual experience that epitomizes the teen years.
Ryan Kelly's art is also exemplary. His characters are very expressive and "act" well. He's able to capture sometimes very subtle expressions and communicate them very clearly to the reader. He's also very good at capturing mood and pacing, a very important feat in this story in particular.
And as for this story...the narrative trick of running through potential outcomes of decisions and random events has been done so many times, in so many formats, that it's rapidly approaching cliche. It almost works here, as Meegan's musings on the potential outcomes of her decisions display her overall callowness. Every potential outcome ends in an overly dramatic fashion, until she ultimately acts on the decision to essentially run away. In other words, in the context of this particular story, the method sort of works, if you take it as an expression of how Meegan's mind works. As a general narrative device, however, it's a little off-putting, and can easily come across as Wood simply trying to be clever. The story is strong enough that hopefully a careful reader will get past that, and the series as a whole promises to be good and well worth checking out.
The first issue of Local is scheduled to be in stores November 9th, and it's not too late to put in an order at your local comics shop for it. It should appeal strongly to fans of Wood's previous work, particularly the more down-to-earth issues of Demo, and to fans of realistic, "slice of life" comics.
A quick perusal of our back-stock at the store provides a list of words that never need to appear in any comic book title ever again, presented here as an actual comic book title: New Captain Dark Death Victory Blood Justice Man Adventures
Looking at Previews in preparation of finishing up the manga order numbers reveals that only in the context of comic book fans are magazines such as Rue Morgue, Gothic Beauty and Fortean Times considered "General Interest." Also, only in context of comic book fans is FHM not considered to be an "Adult Themed Magazine."
I don't know whether to be annoyed, insulted or both to discover that my local cable provider requires me to enter my "adult content unlock code" every time I want to watch something on the Logo network.
I'm continually surprised by the fact that people think Mike is the nice one, simply because he has a more highly developed super-ego than I do when it comes to stating opinions on-line. Trust me on this one folks, I'm much nicer than Mike. I get to hear his opinions unfiltered at work every day. Five minutes of what Mike really thinks, and all doubt as to who the nice one is will evaporate.
Oh, and apparently comics bloggingis dead. And once again, no one sent me the memo. Is this something we're all supposed to be discussing in one of those interminable and frustrating "cross-blog" conversations, or are we actually secretly glad that the hive-mind like "blogosphere" has evolved into something more interesting and entertaining than everyone discussing the same damn thing ad nauseum?
Well, they weren't entertaining at the time. But now I get to write about them on-line. It's my own brand of passive-aggressive vengeance.
Me, answering the phone: Hi, [Store's Name], how can I help you? "Yes, I'd like to buy some of the items you have listed on e-Bay." Were you the winning bidder in one of our auctions? "No, I want you to end the auctions early so that I can buy the items directly." I'm sorry, but we don't do that. If you're interested in purchasing the items, you need to place a bid in the auction. "Well why won't you do it? I do this all the time with people selling things on e-Bay." For one thing it's an unethical business practice, and for another it violates e-Bay's terms. "So what if I offered you $10,000 dollars for them, would you end the auctions early then?" Are you going to offer me $10,000 dollars for them? "No." Then let's keep this conversation confined to reality, shall we? "So, what is it going to take to get you to sell the items to me directly then?" Tell you what...call me back after the auctions are over, and anything that doesn't get bid on, I'll entertain an offer for. "But everything I want to buy has already been bid on!" Oh, well, then I'd suggest trying to out-bid the current high bidders. Good-bye.
"Excuse me sir, but how much are you asking for a near-mint copy of Stupendous Insect Fellow #200?" Let me check...$80. "And what does The Guide say a near-mint copy is worth?" Let me look that up...$90 "Will you accept $70 for it?" Actually, I have a very-fine copy for $70. "No, I want the near-mint copy for $70." So...you want me to sell a book that we're already charging less than The Guide price for, for the same amount we're asking for a lesser condition book? "Yes. Will you?" No.
"Does anyone ever actually buy any of the adult comic books?" Yeah, all the time. In fact, sales on the Eros books help subsidize the less profitable Fantagraphics titles. "Okay, sell me a bunch of Eros books then."
"So, did they kill Hawkman or what?" "So, are they introducing a new Hawkman?" "So what happened to Hawkman?" "Is Hawkman dead?" "Why didn't they give us any advance notice that they were going to kill off Hawkman?" "If Hawkman's dead, why is he running around in JLA and Rann-Thanagar War?" Because. They. Didn't! Kill! Hawkman! It's just another god-damn storyline tease!
"I'm looking for some comics for my kids." Sure, what were you looking for. "Marvel super-hero ones. But, not any of the new ones. I only want the ones that are okay for kids." (Actually, we get this quite a bit. What people mean by this is "Comics written after I stopped reading them are not appropriate for children, because I simply assume that is the case. And I'm certainly not going to let the guy who sells comics for a living offer any input on what my kids may or may not enjoy." The funny thing is, we can always tell when these people stopped reading comics, by what their cut-off for "appropriate" material is. So if they stopped reading comics in 1968, nothing from the seventies on up is okay for kids. If they stopped in 1982, anything more recent than Secret Wars is right out. It's another symptom of the "my children should be nostalgic for my child-hood" thinking that comes up whenever the conversation drifts towards comics for children.) So...which super-heroes in particular, then? "Iron Man and Frank Miller era Daredevil."
I think that's the only time in my life I've heard a Frank Miller comic described as being for children...
I can't remember the last time we were actually able to unload all the boxes and get everything organized and ready before we opened the doors, yet somehow we managed it yesterday.
It was a remarkably snark free day, as well, apart from the previously mentioned discussion of what a new issue of All Star Batman foretells for the next week or so of online comics discussion. Mike kept pointing out pages and dialogue he was certain were going to anger people unreasonably. I saw stuff in comics that will almost certainly anger people too, particularly Kirby purists, but it was in a book that doesn't come out until next week, so you'll all have to wait until then to get your ire up.
Which isn't to say the day was completely free of aggravations. A not insignificant number of items were missing from our shipment. I also discovered a new variation of "reading the comic when you have no intention of buying it," namely "tracing pictures out of the comic when you have no intention of buying it."
Highlights of the week were probably Full Moon Fever and the new Keith Knight book, The Passion of the Keef. Oh, and a bunch of super-hero comics came out too.
Speaking of which, I finally finished reading the comics that came out last week, and I've noticed a glaring and improbable continuity error in one of the Seven Soldiers books:
Lies! A damnable, dirty lie! There's no possible way Ted Grant lost to a match to a one-eyed mook who hangs out with a freakish super-genius baby!
So, Diamond has apparently raised the minimum purchase order amount on the titles they carry. I say "apparently" because, despite being talked about on new sites and gossip columns, I've yet to see an official statement from Diamond about this change in policy. But then, since I only work in comics retail, I guess Diamond doesn't see how this can affect me at all. What this means is, in short, that unless titles receive a certain number of orders, totaling about $1500 wholesale, Diamond won't carry those titles. Yes, even if they solicited them.
I've got very mixed reactions to this. On the one hand, there is an awful lot of crap in Previews, and anything that cuts out some of the dead weight is probably good for retailers and smaller publishers. Of course, Diamond didn't do that for them, Diamond did this for Diamond. Because now Diamond won't be carrying the titles that they lost money distributing. On the other hand, I'm already sick of customers getting antsy because a title they ordered is running late, or got shipped to east coast stores before west coast stores, or bookstores before comic book stores. I'm not looking forward to explaining to them that the book they ordered isn't available to comic shops with Diamond accounts because Diamond didn't feel that enough people ordered them.
So, I see lots of things happening in our shop because of this. For one, I'm going to have to be much more aggressive about getting our customers who buy and enjoy independent and small press titles and graphic novels to buy Previews and pre-order books. Because we can't count on testing out small press books with small orders anymore. I also foresee us ordering from smaller distributors like Cold Cut and Last Gasp more often.
I also strongly suspect that small publishers who were hovering at or below Diamond's old cut-off amount will end up raising their prices in order to meet the new cut-off amount. I think we're probably looking at the death of the $3 price point for small press books. I think we're going to see many more books solicited at the $4-$5 price point.
And I'm not saying Ribic is a racist, let's nip that little objection in the bud right there. I'm actually more struck by how boldly he traced over a Bill Ward drawing. But...yeah, something about that picture just really bugs me.
Speaking of...interesting artistic decisions, Dara at Ferret Press has started a new regular feature, Monday Morning "Guess the Artist". The first installment features the real Fathom.
I was looking forward to this, as the presence of Franka Potente makes this one of a select few horror films that I could have gotten Pete to watch with me. She stars as Paula Henning, a brilliant med student who adores her grandfather, a legendary anatomist, and despises her father, who tossed away a promising career to run a small clinic for low-income families. After receiving phenomenally good test scores, she is accepted into a prestigious graduate anatomy program, the same program her grandfather used to run. She quickly begins to suspect, however, that there is something sinister going on at the school, and uncovers evidence that a group calling itself the Anti-Hippocratic society has been performing unethical medical experiments on the college grounds, including the dissection of living people.
The script and direction are both by Stefan Ruzowitzky, and I'm frankly surprised that this wasn't his first film. The film is geologically slow, even beyond the slowness I've learned to sometimes associate with German films. The film is almost half over before Potente must face anything more hazardous than student pranks and the logical disbelief in the Anti-Hippocratic society that her classmates display. The film also seriously miscalculates by revealing the identity of the killer too soon, as well as his motive. He's not the coldly calculating amoral scientist the film's set-up would suggest. No, he's just a sociopath, taking advantage of the coldly calculating amoral scientists to get his jollies killing people. The film also wastes a good deal of time in a lot of needless shuffling of Potente back and forth between locations. She leaves the school, only to turn around and return to the school. Where she knows a killer he is. She escapes from the killer, only to be immediately recaptured by him. The only real stand-out performance in the film is Sebastian Blomberg's Caspar, and he doesn't even get anything particularly interesting to do until past the films half-way mark.
At a certain point in the film, I was just waiting until one of the villains was linked to the Nazis. With the rather obvious direction and predictable red herrings the film was throwing out, you knew it was only a matter of time. But then, it could have been worse: I could have decided to rent Anatomy 2 as well...
The Card Player
When Dario Argento is really on his game, he makes some of the best suspense films around. When he's off his game he makes painfully unwatchable garbage. This is somewhere in between. It's no Opera or Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but then it's no Phantom of the Opera or Trauma either. Stefania Rocca stars as police detective Anna Mari, who while working at her desk one day gets an e-mail from the man who claims to have kidnapped a missing woman. If the police play video poker against him and win, she'll live. If not, or if the police lose, she'll die. What follows is an hour of watching people play video poker while mumbling about indistinct clues, followed by thirty minutes or so of an actual Argento film.
The idea of a serial killer taunting the police with games is vaguely clever, but the choice of game here leaves much to be desired. Poker isn't particularly exciting to watch other people play, video poker even less so. And there are a lot of long scenes of watching people click buttons to play video poker. There's also a lot of very, very stupid police work on display. No one ever thinks to ask why Mari was sent the e-mail, since she apparently wasn't connected to the missing girl case. No one ever thinks to ask how the killer knows about the poker prodigy helping the police win games. No one ever thinks to ask how the killer knew where Mari lived or that she was the "Sara" he was chatting with during the video poker sessions. It's not until the killer reveals that (Spoiler Alert!) Mari was the real target all along, that any of the characters acknowledge what the audience must have figured out sometime during the film's first thirty minutes.
There are times when it almost doesn't feel like an Argento film. It lacks his usual touches. None of his usual cast appear. There is a black-gloved killer, but he is mostly glimpsed in grainy web-cam footage. There is no false lead misdirecting the audience to the killer's identity, no secret from the past returning to haunt the present, no vital clue hidden in some song or picture. There is one interesting visual flourish, the only real point in the film at which I really did feel like I was watching an Argento film. Mari is trapped inside her house with the killer, and Argento films the scene at night, using only natural moon-light shining through windows and curtains, to light the scene. It makes an almost pitch-black composition, leaving only barely lighted areas in which quick flashes of movement are seen. And it works. He manages to pull it off and make the scene watchable and compelling, despite the audience not really being able to see anything that's happening.
When the tranny in a thrift-store wig is the normal person in your group, your little coterie has gone way beyond the boundaries of "charmingly eccentric" and are deep into "freaking weirdo" territory. And I'm not making fun of the tranny. As I said, she was the most level-headed and well-socialized member of the group. It's her friends that have made me realize that there's a whole other level of strange behavior from comic fans that I wasn't previously aware.
Other highlights of the day included:
The born-again Christian gamers trying to convert people in the store.
The yelled conversation about anime, including why it's "immoral" for copy-right holders to try to protect their copyright. Not loud. Not enthusiastic. Talking to the person standing less than five feet from him as if she were fifty.
Cryptic message being left by co-workers, none of whom could remember who wrote it or why. These messages would contain lots of information, but none that was actually needed. Like one that contained a name, a phone number, and the title of a comic. And? Did this person want to buy? Sell? What? And as is the wont of my co-workers, no one could remember whether or not they were the ones who wrote the note in the first place.
This winner of a conversation: "Do you have any Western Cowdude comics?" Hmm, let me check. No, we don't have any at the moment. "So, where would they be?" Well, if we had any, they would be in this box. But at the moment we don't have any. "Do they still make them?" No, they haven't made them in about forty years. "So when do you plan on getting some new ones in?" ...Unless someone has a collection of them and brings them in to sell to us, we won't be getting any. "So do you have any Western Cowdude comics?" ...? Uh, no. Sorry. If we had any, they'd have been in this box which I just checked for you. (Five minutes later, to one of my co-workers): "Do you have any Western Cowdude comics?"
And this was all combined with the normal Wednesday crush and the normal Thursday crush. So, yeah...one of those days.
(postmodernbarney.com) presents: The People Kid Chris Got To Deal With While Dorian Got Caught Up On Inventory Related Tasks!
People who wanted to know how much their "really old" Spider-Man comics are. The ones with the "holographic" covers.
How can you tell your comics are worthless? They say "collectible" on the cover.--Kid Chris
People who kept describing the Rock-N-Roll biography comics as "ragin!" Without any detectable irony.
People looking for war comics to send to soldiers in Iraq.
I'd think the last thing they'd want to read is a war comic. They'd probably like some rock comics more.--Kid Chris
People who wanted to negotiate the prices of bags and boards.
Customers who "help" put back issues away, who of course put them in no determinable order whatsoever.
People coming in and using Wizard as a shopping guide, then getting testy when we happen to be out of whatever book Wizard says is "hot" this week.
People arguing with him about the actual content of comics. "Hey, I'm looking for a comic, it came out in the mid nineties, it's about this girl with like demon wings and she's got a little demon pal and she fights demons." Kid Chris: Darkchylde, maybe? "No, that's not it. I think it might be called Darkness." KC: No, it's not Darkness. Here, this is Darkchylde, it came out about ten years ago, it's about a girl with demon wings, she has a little demon pal and she fights demons. I'm pretty sure this is probably what you're looking for. "No, that's not it."
(As an aside, I'm now desperate to know how many other comics came out in the mid-90s about girls with demon wings and demon sidekicks who spent all their time fighting demons, since he couldn't possibly have been looking for Darkchylde...)
The other one he got was: "What's the name of the first Sin City book?" KC: Well, the current edition of the trade is The Hard Goodbye. "No, I'm pretty sure it's just Sin City." KC: Uh, we have it right here, it says on the cover The Hard Goodbye. "Well, then that's not the first one. Do you have the first Sin City comics?" KC: Actually, the first Sin City comic ran in Dark Horse Presents. "No, it was just in a comic called Sin City."
People looking for Sin City and 300, getting testy when they find out we're a)out of 300 and b)only have a limited selection of Sin City trades in at the moment. Especially when it's obvious that the people asking for 300 only care about it because a movie is coming out (they tell us this, by the way. "It's going to be a movie, I want to get it before it gets expensive!"), and a good number of the people looking for Sin City are "artists" looking for stuff to trace. And, I half suspect, people looking for tattoo designs. "I want Nancy on my back!" "So...you want me to cover your back with black ink and only leave a couple of white spots that vaguely suggest a female form?" "Yeah!"
(And, as an aside again, why is it that the sudden interest in Frank Miller isn't translating to any of his, you know, good comics? Why are people only asking for Sin City, 300 and occasionally Hard Boiled. Why isn't anyone asking us for Martha Washington comics? Hell, I'd even settle for people asking for Daredevil, but as it is I've had customers insist that Frank Miller never worked on any superhero comics...)
What with all the "outraged" letters to Young Avengers over the implied relationship between Asgardian/Wiccan and Hulkling, and even with the knowing references to their relationship that Heinberg keeps putting in other character's mouths, it would be nice if Marvel had the guts to just actually have both characters come right out and say, on panel, that they're a couple. As it is, with the coy references, it's a bit like watching Harry Hamlin in Making Love doing his "I'm a writer, I have to be open to new experiences" speech, rather than just come out and say he likes to have sex with men. (And if my guess as to the nature of Hulkling's powers is correct, namely that he is all or part Skrull, it's only giving Marvel a further out. "They're not a gay couple. They're an inter-species couple!")
Comics that seem to attract more than their fair share of the "read but don't buy" crowd: Metal Gear Solid Street Fighter Darkstalkers Anything X-Men related Robin Nightwing Inu-Yasha Psychic Academy--the problem with "readers not buyers" on this title has actually tempted me to take it off the shelf and only bring it out for people who specifically request it.
The buying habits of the mint-hounds: I'm opening up this discussion to other people who have, at any point, worked in comics retail. The mint-hounds, the "particular" buyers, the high-maintenance customers...you know the type. They pull every comic off the shelf to carefully inspect the spine on each one for tiny imperfections. They won't buy back issues in anything other than "gem mint" condition. Is it just me, or are they always, to a man, Marvel comics buyers? I never have anyone worrying about the condition of Silver Age Superman comics, but boy-howdy, that copy of last week's Wolverine had better look as if it was never touched by human hands. Is there something about Marvel fandom that attracts these sorts of obsessive types? And does anyone else have any customers that they suspect are buying certain back issues, not because they want them, but because they don't want anyone else to have them?
Stories I couldn't make up if I tried: "Excuse me, but where are your Fantastic Four comics?" Well, the new ones are on the shelf right here, and the older issues are right over here. "Oh, no wait. These aren't what I wanted. I want the Fantastic Four comic books." These are the Fantastic Four comics. Was there a particular one you were looking for? "No, I just want the comic books. These all say 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine' on the cover. I don't want a comic magazine, I want a comic book."
"Do you have any comic book boxes?" Sure, I have lots of comic boxes. Did you want a shorter box like the ones here on the counter, or did you want a longer box like those on the table? "Is that what they all look like?" Well, yes. They're all just white card-board. "Oh, I don't want anything like that. Don't you have anything that's a little more chick-friendly that would look good in my house?"