Sunday, July 19, 2009

Originally posted on my myspace blog on 10/10 &18/2008

I am a Marvel Masterworks addict. I cannot get enough high end hardcover reprints! My wallet and bookshelves (and my wife) may have differing opinions, though.

There seems to be an annoying trend on the highways and byways of Michigan... the slow driver. While they were confined to the right lane in ages past, they now seem confident with their sloth, braving the third, and even second lanes on I-75. Why would someone be on the road at 6:30 in the morning if they didn't have somewhere to be, i.e. work, school, etc.? Do they have some psychotic compulsion to impede my progress? It's all I can do to avoid playing Spy Hunter with my car anymore! Please drive at least the posted speed limit, people! The freeway should be like the Autobahn, where the slow and weak of the herd are carved up by the wolves. Worse still is the trend of people that sit there after a signal changes. What, is the light not green enough for you people? Move! 

You know what else drives me nuts? DVDs. Everything is a collector's edition, a director's cut, definitive, etc. Why can't we just have a standard consumer's edition? I just want the movie as it was shown in the theatre, no stupid menus, no deleted scenes that 9.99 times out of 10 were cut out with good reason. Not every movie is so important that we need a making of type thing, or the theatrical trailers. Worse still is what I call the Lord of the Rings syndrome, where the same movie is re-released countless times, first as a 2 disc, then an expanded 3 disc, then in 5.1, trilogy box set, Blu Ray... enough! I am done. I don't buy DVDs (except South Park seasons) anymore. Besides, this year's 7.2 will be next year's 9.3, and Blu Ray will give way to some other 'endgame' technology that will require yet another purchase and upgrade. It's all vanity, people! I still watch VHS tapes that I own. I refuse to upgrade if I already bought it. Fight the power!

I review things in an untimely fashion because A) I buy only trades and hardcovers and B) my backlog typically is 5-6 months deep, so when you figure out that a trade comes out some 5 or so months after the regular comic, and my backlog is like 5-6 months, we're looking at 10 or more months after the fact for my reviews. Still, this is a *Spoiler* free zone. Nothing is worse than an asshole who blurts out the ending or pivotal plotline reveal.

I have a couple of extra cents to spare, so I shall give y'all my few cents on a couple of topics.

1. Homage covers. They suck! I am tired of seeing parodies/ homages every month in Marvel's solicitations. The thing that made those images so iconic was the fact that they were new. Sure, those Marvel Zombies covers were fun at first, but Incredible Hercules and Thunderbolts riffing on classic covers is pointless.

2. Crossovers. These helped to drive me away around '89/'90, and while Marvel has gotten smarter by not making it necessary to buy 60 comic books to understand the core mini-series, there are simply too many of them, one after another, after another, after another. I don't know, maybe the kids love them, if there were indeed kids who read comic books. At $3.00 a pop, not too likely.

3. Availability. I want to see comic books as a whole thrive. With all of these movie adaptations raking in the cabbage, logic would dictate that comic books would see a nice sales spike. While the industry as a whole is healthier than it has been in years, it is nowhere near where it should be. Today's "big titles" sell 100k. 15 years ago they would have cancelled a title for selling "only" 100k. The only places that you see comic books are in comic book shops (the direct market) and mass market bookstores. They need to get comic books back into 7-11s, supermarkets, etc. That's where I got my first taste, when I would beg my Mom for them while she was shopping. Newsstand sales would not threaten the direct market, as the Direct Market always got their issues first anyways. It would serve to introduce kids to the medium. People my age, and maybe a little younger, were the last generation that actually bought comics as a viable entertainment medium, as opposed to the niche hobby that it has become. People blame video games, the Internet, etc., for the decline of comic books. I blame availability and...

4. ...the price. Comic books are too damned expensive for kids. $3, now going up to $4 per issue. In these economic times? Get out of here. No 4 year old kid's Mom is going to throw $4 on the counter so that junior can tear apart a comic book. I have a solution, though (don't I always?). Increase the page count. A current comic is 32 pages, 22 or so of which are story. Increase the page count to either 48 or 52 pages, the bulk of which would be ads to help defray the cost. Increase the ad revenue, you could lower the cover price to $1.50 or $1.75. Maybe spike up the story page count to 26 or 27 pages. Or lower the grade of paper used. Not every title requires slick magazine paper. Pulp paper worked fine for years until computer color separations became the norm. Still, DC uses lower grade paper to a degree. I think that these solutions could help save the industry from becoming a strictly graying hobby.

Collects Y: The Last Man Nos. 1-5 (cover dates September, 2002- January, 2003)

Y: THE LAST MAN VOL. 2: CYCLES (DC, 2003)Collects Y: The Last Man Nos. 6-10 (cover dates February- June, 2003)

Collects Y: The Last Man Nos. 11-17 (cover dates July, 2003- February, 2004)

Collects Y: The Last Man Nos. 18-23 (cover dates March- August, 2004)

Collects Y: The Last Man Nos. 24-31 (cover dates September, 2004- April, 2005)

Collects Y: The Last Man Nos. 32-36 (cover dates June- October, 2005)

Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra rule! I am, for the most part, a Marvelite, but a friend loaned me the first trade to read. I enjoyed it so much that when he offered to sell me the first six trades so that he could upgrade to the hardcovers I jumped at it. You know that a series is compelling when you think about what is going on for a good twenty minutes or more after you finish an issue. What would I do if I were the last man on Earth? I can't say that I would be quite as honorable as Yorrick if I were single!

GRIMM FAIRY TALES VOLUME 1 & 2(Zenescope, 2008)

Collects Grimm Fairy Tales Nos. 1-12 and Grimm Fairy Tales 2007 Annual (cover dates June, 2005- September, 2007). 

This is a really good series by Zenescope that everyone should check out. These are adaptations of the original, gruesome Grimm Fairy Tales presented in an ongoing anthology format. This hardcover collects the first two softcovers, and rather than call this Vol. 1 hardcover, it is Vols. 1 & 2 hardcover. Bizarre.


Collects The House of Secrets Nos. 81-98 (cover dates September, 1969- July, 1972)

This was the sister series to House of Mystery, and has lots of Silver Age greats contributing to this series: Gerry Conway, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Bernie Wrightson, Len Wein, Don Heck, and Gil Kane. Like every other 'phone book' out there, I wish that this series was collected in full color hardcovers, but I'll take what I can get. This series is most famous for 1971's issue 92, which featured the first appearance of the Swamp Thing. I am really a sucker for old Horror comic anthologies, and wish that Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, etc., would crank out more of these.


Collects Captain America (Vol. 5) Nos. 31-36 (cover dates December, 2007- May, 2008)

I have a secret to share with you: aside from the stray issue during the '80s and the Golden Age Masterworks, I was never much of a Captain America fan. Sure, I had the old War and Remembrance trade that collected the whole of the brilliant Roger Stern/ John Byrne era in all of its glory, and I have always enjoyed Cap as an Avenger, but he always seemed too cheesy and jingoistic when I was growing up for me to ever give him a fair shake. I bought the Civil War crossover trade and was completely blown away. Then the Ed Brubaker Omnibus came out, and, lo and behold, he did something that I thought was nigh impossible: he made me into a Captain America fan. Yes, it sucks that he had to kill Cap, but I'll be damned if this isn't the best title out there right now. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have crafted a complex and intriguing tapestry of plotlines, with unexpected twists and turns becoming the norm. Their take on the character easily ranks right up there with the very short-lived collaboration of Stan Lee and Jim Steranko or the aforementioned brilliance of Stern and Byrne. I cannot recommend this title enough, so what else do you want me to do, buy it for you for Christmas? Go out and get it already!

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