Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review- SPIDER-MAN: THE DEATH OF JEAN DEWOLFF

SPIDER-MAN: THE DEATH OF JEAN DEWOLFF (Marvel, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Peter Parker, The Spider-Man #107-110, 134-136 (cover dates October, 1985- March, 1988)
Writer: Peter David
Artists: Pencilers- Rich Buckler (#107-110) and Sal Buscema (#134-136) with Inking by various artists.


The year was 1985. The summer was hot as Hell, and since my family was poor we did not have air conditioning. It was in this hot, humid setting that I read issue 107, and that feeling of oppression still resonates every single time that I read this issue. I bought it off the spinner rack at the 7-11 by my house an as 11-going-on 12 year old kid. I pulled out my original comics to compare to the remastered versions found in this hardcover, and was surprised to see that my 108 and 109 were Direct Market versions. The first Direct Market comic book shop within walking distance of my house opened up that summer, and so I must have bought those two issues there before returning to 7-11 for 110. It was during the spring of 1986 that I started buying comic books exclusively at comic shops, since they came out three whole weeks ahead of newsstands like 7-11.
My original issues from 1985.
 Peter David was a newcomer to the comics scene, a fact that I was unaware of at the time. He had scripted a handful of self contained, mostly unremarkable issues in both this title and Amazing Spider-Man, but it was with The Death of Jean DeWolff that he hit the big leagues, at least in my opinion. It was dark, way darker than any Spider-Man comic book had been. Certainly darker than any I had ever read at that point, and I loved it. Comics getting edgier and darker were fresh and new in the '80s. Now they are stale and old. I can see a modern comics fan picking this up now and shrugging their shoulders in indifference since comic book deaths are a dime a dozen.

Rich Buckler's artwork is gritty and hard edged. It has held up very well nearly 30 years later. Sal Buscema's artwork was wretched on the sequel, though. I liked Sal's '70s output as a kid, but even as a 14 year old reading #134-136 off of the stands I could tell that this was phoned in, workman like art. Sal Buscema is a good storyteller with good layouts and panel composition. He understands the medium and how to make it work. He just didn't put any effort into these issues. He has done good work after these issues, further cementing my opinion.
One of the few spots where the recoloring doesn't work well.
Comic book deaths are now a cliched sales gimmick, but they still carried some weight in the mid-80s. This was hard hitting and coarse to me as a kid. My fun, lighthearted Spider-Man was nowhere to be found in 107-110. Bear in mind that this predates Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. There was a groundswell of darker comics at this time, only nobody seems to ever mention this arc when they have that conversation.
Original comic book of same page for comparison. 
 The addition of the sequel from #134-136 was the impetus for me to upgrade from the Spider-Man: Wizard Masterpiece Edition hardcover which featured the main arc. That book was an upgrade from the original Spider-Man: The Death Of Jean DeWolff trade paperback. While these three issues are vastly inferior to the original arc they are a nice sort of bonus feature. The steep decline in nearly all current Marvel titles circa 1988-89 are what caused me to eventually drop all comics as 1989 gave way to 1990. If I were buying only new comic books today, the situation would be identical. Luckily for Marvel they are cranking out plenty of books of vintage material to drain my wallet month in and month out.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Marvel/SPIDER-MAN-DEATH-JEAN-DEWOLFF-PREM-HC/FEB110659

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Marvel/SPIDER-MAN-DEATH-OF-JEAN-DEWOLFF-TP-NEW-PTG/NOV120792

The OCD zone-The late, lamented Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcovers were a sort of junior Masterworks line. While they weren't quite the “Blu-Ray” version of these issues like you would see in a Marvel Masterwork, they are still have decent production values at a reasonable price.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Back cover of the dustjacket minus trade dress (itself a fully rendered version of the cover of #109). (1 page)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5. The original color palette is maintained for the most part with only a very minor deviation here or there. All in all it could be marginally better but most sane folks would never notice.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Sweet smelling toxic ink Chinese printed on (possibly made with) virgin Amazon rainforest tree-sourced coated stock paper with a slight sheen.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, 6 stitches per signature. The book lays mostly flat.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review- THE STEVE DITKO OMNIBUS VOL. 1 STARRING SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN


THE STEVE DITKO OMNIBUS VOL. 1 STARRING SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN (DC, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Shade,The Changing Man Nos. 1-8, Stalker Nos. 1-4, and selections from Cancelled Comics Cavalcade No. 2, Ghosts Nos. 77, 111, House of Mystery Nos. 236, 247, 254, 258, 276, House of Secrets Nos. 139, 148, Mystery In Space Nos. 111, 114-116, Plop! No. 16, Secrets of Haunted House Nos. 9, 12, 41, 45, Strange Adventures Nos. 188, 189, Time Warp Nos. 1-4, The Unexpected Nos. 189, 221, and Weird War Tales Nos. 46, 49, 95, 99, 104-106 (cover dates May, 1966- April, 1982)

Writers: Steve Ditko, Michael Fleisher, Otto Binder, Dave Wood, Jack Oleck, David Reed, Jack Harris, Len Wein, Paul Levitz, Steve Skeates, Sheldon Mayer, Robert Kanigher, George Kashdan, Joe Cavalieri, Arnold Drake, Robert Ingersoll, Stan Timmons, J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Barr, Steven Utley, Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and David Allikas

Artists: Steve Ditko with Inking by Sal Trapani, Mike Royer, Ernie Chan, Wayne Howard, Wally Wood, Vince Coletta, and Gary Martin


Steve Ditko is among the greatest comic book artists of all time. Anyone who created/co-created Spider-Man (and his colorful rogues gallery) and Doctor Strange has cemented their place in comics history. Having said that, the material that comprises this book is almost entirely culled from his, shall we say, less than illustrious era, the mid-70s to early '80s. 
While his contributions to the various Horror and Science Fiction titles are great, Shade,The Changing Man and Stalker leave a lot to be desired. His artwork is still solid and full of all of his idiosyncrasies that we all know and love, but the writing on those two titles straddles between tolerable and terrible. Stalker especially sucks, a weak concept with even weaker execution. If I ever reread this book I will skip these clunkers and make a beeline to the good stuff.
While I am glad that this material has been compiled in a collected edition, the idea of this book is better than the experience of actually reading it. Still, as a Ditko fan who strives to own his complete output in collected editions it is an essential part of my library, substandard presentation and all.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/DC/STEVE-DITKO-OMNIBUS-HC-VOL-01-STARRING-SHADE/APR110208

The OCD zone- DC released this during a period where they decontented their books across the board after consulting Direct Market retailers. Out were quality paper and binding, in was cheap paper, glued binding, and no shrinkwrap, all done to make books “more affordable”. These practices were penny wise and pound foolish. This book feels chintzy and weights about as much as a pack of cigarettes. Those of us who are connoisseurs of high end collected editions thumb our noses up at subpar products like this that try to pass themselves off as high end books.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction by Jonathan Ross. (3 pages)
DC likely uses first semester community college students who just learned how to use Photoshop to recolor these pages. 
Linework and Color restoration rating: 3 out of 5. While the linework would get a 4.25, it is the horrid, amateur hour recoloring that sinks this book. Lazy airbrush gradients instead of hand colored blends are the order of the day in DC books of classic material. It is harsh and sticks out like a sore thumb to my eyes. I would honestly rather read this stuff in black and white phonebooks than in an improperly colored book like this. While the spirit of the original publications is maintained the blends kill it for me.
A fine example of the horrid recoloring. I feel a stabbing pain behind my eyes when I look at this. 
 Paper rating: 3 out of 5. The paper is basically really thick mando paper, which is a slightly thicker and less acidic version of pulp paper. Hardly the type of paper that one would expect to find in a supposedly high end collected edition like this. It looks like real pulp paper.
Many DC collected editions fans are also binders, which means that they take their floppies and have them custom bound in hardcovers. DC's inattention to detail has earned them the nickname Defective Comics in collected editions circles (credit of term- Aussie Stu from the Masterworks Message Board), leaving many fans that map out and bind their own books. Since they are accustomed to crappy paper in their books they have lower standards for their hardcovers, even going as far as to defend DC's subpar practices like the toilet paper used in this book as well as...
Binding rating: 3 out of 5. ...the glued binding used in this book, which results in both tight gutters and the book not laying flat. Everybody wins!
Hardback cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. While the casewrap has a quality lamination, it's design is so ugly that it makes this book feel even cheesier than the materials used in the cheap boards on the hardback. I would take a picture to show you the horrid design found under the dustjacket but I would prefer to spare you the terror. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Adventures in eBaying.

Contrary to what it may appear to you readers out there in Internet land, I am not independently wealthy. I tend to dump a number of these books that I have read and reviewed here on this blog on eBay several times a year. I try to keep my collection at a svelte 1,200 or so hardcovers and softcovers. I use the money from these auctions to buy even more books, some of which I will sell if I am underwhelmed by them so that I may buy more books, so on and so forth, ad infinitum. I have been selling on and off on eBay since 2001. In that time I have dealt with honest, legitimate collectors as well as a few scam artists. The overwhelming majority of users on eBay are honest folks who pay promptly and are a pleasure to deal with. This post will deal with some recent crackpots and lowlifes, seeing as how nobody cares to read about the guy/gal who paid for their item(s) quicker than I could send out his/her invoice.


First I will tell you a tale of a guy who scammed me but good. See, I never used to enter tracking numbers on eBay, mainly due to laziness. I always kept my receipt with the tracking numbers, figuring that the number with the ZIP code next to it would suffice if something ever came up. Well, for once in my life I shredded my receipts in a timely fashion, including the one from the Post Office by mistake. A few weeks went by after this round of auctions and I pitched my slips with the tracking numbers. I had considered the auctions to be all wrapped up.
Three weeks later I get an email from this guy. Asked me if I had a tracking number. I replied no, I must have misplaced it. Now all of a sudden he never got his book. We went back and forth and he filed a claim against me with eBay, who ultimately sided with this lowlife scumbag and gave him his money back. It was only 35 bucks but it's the principle of it. If you are such a loser that you are willing to steal for a paltry 35 bucks then you are a lowlife.
I sent him an email congratulating him on successfully ripping me off and that I hope that he chokes on the book. Fucker. In all honesty I hope that he trips and that the sharp corner on that massive hardcover pierces his heart and he dies slowly.

I almost never deal with international bidders. For some reason they are loonies, I shit you not. I will change this (now blocked) user's account and my own name. I will be Kris while this person will be known as captain_crazypants.

His emails will be bolded, while my replies will not. It all started with an email from this guy that went like this:

Dear Kris,

Hello! I want two Astro
City hardcovers - Confession and Dark Age one. Do you have some buy-it-know price for them?

- captain_crazypants

Which I ignored since it was clearly listed as an AUCTION without a Buy It Now option. I received this not even two hours later:

Dear Kris,

Or maybe you'll give me some discount if I'll buy a lot of your books (including confession hc, dark age hc and shining stars hc) :-)

- captain_crazypants


My reply, hours later after looking up his feedback profile and seeing it says Russia:

Dear captain_crazypants,

You do understand that I do not ship outside of the United States, correct?

- Kris

Dear Kris,

Of course, I have an American address in CA

- captain_crazypants

This is where I got nervous and cancelled the bids and blocked him.

Dear Kris,

Please, allow me to bid on your items. You can see my US address (Torrance, California) in my profile. Thanks.

- captain_crazypants


Dear captain_crazypants,

Goodbye.

- Kris

Dear Kris,

I respect your decision, but honestly I don't understand what's wrong with my account. I had no problems with American sellers for 1,5 years, my reputation is clear
and I use shipito warehouse in Torrance, California, US for the items accepting. What's up?!

- captain_crazypants

Dear captain_crazypants,

You send me an email asking for a buy it now on what is clearly an auction. You then send another email before I responded demanding a discount. I have been selling for 13 years and my vibe on you is that you are a problem bidder. Thanks but no thanks.

- Kris

Dear Kris,

So the problem is you didn't noticed that I have an American address so you decided to ban me? Ok lol. Good luck with your auction

- captain_crazypants



Then I magically got bids from a new user with a feedback of 1 on an account created that same day, so I sent him an email. I will refer to him as captain_crazypants2.


Dear captain_crazypants2,

If this is member captain_crazypants, I sincerely hope that you are not trying to cause trouble.

- Kris

So I went and cancelled the new bids and banned him with his new identity.

Dear Kris,

Hello! As I can see bidding history, you cancel all the bids that exceeds some existing sum. So my theory is you're raising your reputation selling items to your friends for a small sums. Am I right?

- captain_crazypants2


Dear captain_crazypants2,

Nope. But I also know a problem eBayer when I see one...such as one who creates a brand new account with a 1 feedback on it the same day that I cancelled bids and blocked a troublemaker who was trying to dictate terms of my auction to me. I have a low threshold for this sort of thing.

- Kris

Dear Kris,

First of all, eBay rules doesn't restrict to use a few accounts (with some restrictions), secondly, you're cancelling not only mine bids, but other's bids too. And it is really weird situation, man. I simply can't imagine any other reason for doing it.

- captain_crazypants2

Dear captain_crazypants2,

0 feedbacks get cancelled. Second, opening up more than one account is easy to do. Third, you are wrong. If I were selling books "to my friends" I wouldn't do it this way since eBay and Paypal skim 15% off the top, dude. I don't deal with troublemakers, and judging by your reaction, I nailed it.

- Kris

Dear Kris,

Its funny to hear that I'm a troublemaker because you're the first guy ever saying this thing to me. I spend huge amount of money for comics every month and have really good HCs collection, but OK, you don't want any money from me. I see. Maybe it's simply because you don't trust any guys outside of US or something like this. I don't know what to do in this situation.

- captain_crazypants2

Dear captain_crazypants2,

Howsabout go away?

- Kris

Now here is where it gets real interesting, and confirms my gut feeling on this guy. He does an information inquiry on me with eBay using his original account, but his real name matches up to his user name on his second account. I can spot these nutjobs a mile away.


Dear and ,
This message is an automated reply to a request made by
captain_crazypants
This contact information may be used only for resolving matters related to eBay. Any other use is strictly prohibited.
The information contained herein has not been checked for accuracy; users are responsible for entering their own contact information accurately. If you receive information which you believe to be erroneous, please let eBay know.
Contact information for captain_crazypants:
User ID: captain_crazypants
Name: HIS REAL NAME WAS FEATURED IN HIS captain_crazypants2 HANDLE!!!
City:Moscow
State:default
Country:RU
Phone: ***************************
Contact information for Kris:
User ID: Kris
Name:Kris
City: ***************************
State: MI
Country:US
Phone: *************************
Thank you for using eBay!
Ana D.
eBay Customer Support

So you want to know what happened after this? The successful bidder was a brand new account with 0 feedback who paid nanoseconds after the auction ended and had a California mailing address! The thing is that his real name was different than the one on either of his other accounts. So the moral of the story is that the fruitcake probably got his book and I (as of this writing) haven't heard back from him. Psycho.



This isn't the only time where I have recently dealt with an international crackpot. Take this one, for example:


Dear Kris,

hi, are you sure that you don't want to ship internationally? because I would be very happy to buy this book from you.

thanks

- international crackpot

This guy had a long bidding history and high feedback, so I thought what the hey! The book was listed as $209.99 Buy It Now with free shipping in the US.

Dear international crackpot

Yes. $239.99. Add $30 to cover international shipping. Free shipping in the US.

- Kris



Dear Kris,

ok, so $239,99 would be the total for the book + shipping?

just asking, have you any other rare hardcovers like marvel omnibus or dc absolute or even idw artist editions that you might consider to sell me?

thanks

- international crackpot



Dear international crackpot,

The 239.99 includes shipping. I added 30 for international shipping because it is free shipping in the US.

- Kris



Dear Kris,

ok, no problem, just to know.

so no other books to combine with this one?

Thanks
international crackpot


Dear international crackpot,

How many are we talking? Because this is where it gets tricky and why I don't deal with overseas shipping. Sometimes it can be $75 for a few books, sometimes less. I kept getting burned. What do you have in mind?

- Kris

I had 41 books for sale at this time, including many Marvel and DC Omnibus books which were out of print.

Dear Kris,

I don't know how many, it depends if you have titles which I'm looking for, here's my wishlist of marvel omnibus:

Avengers
Daredevil by Bendis vol 1
Golden Age Marvel Comics
Howard the Duck
Immortal Iron Fist
John Carter warlord of mars
Punisher by Ennis
Spider-man by McFarlane
Thor by Simonson
Thor by Strackzinsky
Uncanny X-men by Claremont & Byrne vol 1 (1st print)
X-Men by Lee & Kirby Vol 1-2


thanks
international crackpot


Dear international crackpot,

I am not selling any of those.

- Kris

I wasn't offering ANY of those books for sale in my current lot of 40+ books. Jesus tap dancing Christ, people! Why do international sellers always have to have an angle? Buy my shit, don't buy my shit, but don't fucking bother me with this sort of nonsense.

And that, folks, are what I like to call ADVENTURES IN EBAYING!