The Myth Of All Ages

The talk-back section at industry-watching website ICv2 has been abuzz over the past week about the contentious issue of how few ‘all ages’ comics there are. Some retailers take time out to decry mainstream superhero comics as being too violent and over-the-top for young readers, and anything actually aimed at children as being “too kiddy”, meaning that it’s for the youngest kids while ignoring grown-ups who might want to introduce their kids to the material in the first place. The issue of location also cropped-up, with retailers in the bible-belt complaining that what flies as all-ages in one store might not in another (which while in general is perfectly accurate as a statement, I just can’t think of how that applies to the comic books under discussion today… anything labeled ‘all ages’ in comics is generally entirely kid-safe).

At The Beguiling where I work, we’re notorious for carrying challenging, risqué, and adult material. It’s how we built our name. But we also do a solid business in comics for children, in all kinds of formats. We work with school and public libraries to develop age-appropriate collections, and we have kids of all ages in here all the time. I’m also personally quite fortunate to have worked with all kinds of experts in reading material for children. One of those people is Mr. Scott Robins, a children’s publishing industry professional and blogger at Good Comics For Kids currently studying to be a librarian here in Ontario. He ran a blog called “All Ages” for a little while, talking about comics for kids, and this was how he capped off his very first post back in 2004:

“Have you ever looked at the word ‘shoe’ so many times that it just doesn’t look right anymore? I’ve called my blog “All Ages” to hopefully do just that — diffuse its meaning and steal that term away from everyone who uses it. Considering that every aspect of children’s publishing is so extremely focused when it comes to AUDIENCE–who the book is for, there’s very little use to the term ‘all ages.’ It’s totally noncommittal. I know this issue will come up again and again but I just wanted to put it out there to get the ball rolling.” – Scott Robins

So Scott thinks that, right out of the gate, the term ‘All Ages’ is a farce—it means nothing. I’m going to agree with him here, as it’s a term most often used within the comics industry (full of hucksters at the best of times) to try and sell the same product to as wide a range of people as possible, specifically college-aged and grown men who still read superhero comics. That and in circus tents, where ringmasters bellow “Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages!” hoping to engage that special part of the brain and heart that retains its childlike capacity for wonder. It’s a nice thought, but really it’s designed to put asses in the seats and keep them there. It’s a con, that term, and the idea of it is at best outmodded. I would love to order 10,000 copies of the same comic or book every month, instead of 10,000 copies of varying quantities of different books–it would make my life much, much easier. But that isn’t the industry we’re in, we’re in one of micro-niches, trying to hold the tide against the internet which is an industry of nano-niches; information and media customized down to the individual and their specific mood at any given time. Anyone who wants ‘all ages’ anything may as well go looking for a unicorn–all ages never existed. Arguing otherwise is naive.

Let’s instead use the term “Family”, as in “Family Entertainment”, or products and media designed for kids and parents to participate in together. I like the idea of that. I mean, I’m totally cool with material being designed explicitly for children as well, and for ‘children’ as an audience to be subdivided between babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, kindergardeners, early-readers, etc. etc. Go to a bookstore some time, look at how they divide the books into 2 year age gaps until you get to be 11 or 12. That’s the reality of contemporary media. But there is a market for family material. Sitcoms, movies, board games (family game night!), broadcast sports, those sorts of media that are participatory, shared experiences. One-to-many, instead of one-to-one. Books, generally, aren’t like any of those things. Oh sure, there’s reading aloud to kids, which is something that generally tends to disappear after the second or third grade. For the most part, reading, and especially reading comics, has been a solitary pursuit, not a family one. Comic books have not historically or even recently (through the 70s and 80s) been a ‘family’ product; comic books were a niche product with an age- and gender-targeted audience, that happened to bleed up and down and sideways a little.

In the 70s and 80s, according to retailer Joe Field of Flying Colours, “more comic titles used to be accessible to a much wider audience of all ages without having to write down to younger readers and without having to be over-the-top for older readers.” This is a true statement, and a balanced one I think–but I think you need to consider the time period as well. It’s worth noting though that looking backwards from the mid-80s, there was considerably more of a mono-culture in North America–far fewer entertainment options in general, fewer genres of popular music for example. There was music that was played on the radio and music that wasn’t, often with clear divisions down age, gender, or even racial lines… Some of the retailer and reader proponents of the idea of All Ages lived not just through the 70s and 80s, but the 50s and 60s too. Entertainment has become both more diverse and more complex–complex in delivery if not in content–since the birth of comics in the 30s, and the rebirth of superheroes in the Silver Age. It’s a different time.

Many of the retailers at ICv2 in favour of ‘all ages’ comics attack the violent over-the-top superhero comics of today for being for adults, even though they’re not particularly ‘adult’. I’d agree with that, because honestly most commercial comics are crap anyway, there’s nothing particularly literate or adult about most of them. But the thing that can’t be argued is their complexity, complexity often in lieu of any real literary or artistic merit. If there’s a lot going on in the story, even if it’s all awful, it must be adult! If there’re a lot of lines on the page, even if the work is awful, it must be accomplished! If it’s a 50-part crossover it must be literary! What we’ve had in superhero comics, and this matches most entertainment, is an increase in complexity. And flat-out, that sort of complexity is what’s demanded by readers of superhero books. They clearly don’t care if a work is mature, or literate, or even good, but Goddamnit if it isn’t complex, if it’s simple or straightforward or (Lord help’em) FUN, then that sucker is going to get cancelled as quickly as humanly possible. ‘Fun’ comics aren’t mature or literate or sophisticated; ‘sophisticated’ things are respected; comics crave respect from the world at large; divorced, hero’s wife kills her best friend and we all cry about it. No one is as defensive about their chosen hobby as superhero readers, and anything that lends them legitimacy is defended… vigorously.

Which brings us to the next generation of superhero readers, what this is really all about. Because this whole kerfuffle isn’t about ‘comics for kids’ or ‘all ages material’ or any of that. If a mom brought her daughter into the store and wanted the comics she read as kids, which might be Archies, Romances, etc., we’d have no trouble grabbing something appropriate off of the stands. Archie still publishes, there and dozens of new romance manga out every month. There are lots and lots of books and comics coming out for kids, all the time, even if you live in the bible belt. This is about certain readers, and certain retailers, wanting to introduce very specific comics to young kids. The language hints at it:

“When a man walks into our comic store with his 8 to 10 year-old kid and wants to buy some comics like those he read as a kid–SupermanSpider-ManBatmanFantastic Four, etc.–we have a real problem.  We have no new comics to sell him.  The kid line of comics from Marvel and DC may be for kids, but they aren’t like the comics in the 60s and 70s and 80s that anybody could read.  They’re aimed directly at young, little kids.  Meanwhile, the regular comic lines contain material that simply isn’t appropriate for kids that age.” – Rembert Parker “Reader Copies”

(As an aside: Rembert is bending the truth more than a little. Read my description of “Marvel Adventures” below.)

Now let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. I’ve seen this happen myself, and with both moms and dads and daughters and sons, when it comes to getting kids some comics. Sometimes it’s because the parent liked comics as a kid and wants to share that with their children, sometimes it’s because the teacher told them it’ll get them reading. Sometimes it’s just to keep them quiet on a long car ride or plane trip. But the only time I’ve ever encountered someone who wants to buy their kid a comic exactly like they read as a kid? Die-hard superhero fans. It’s that defensiveness again, not only are superhero comics awesome and modern mythology and whatever, but they’re the only comics that they want their kid reading. I’ve seen some pretty appalling behaviour too, parents outright refusing to buy a young reader something they’re actually interested in (Simpsons, Disney, NARUTO) because the parent used to Looooove Spider-Man as a kid and hey you liked the movie didn’t you champ remember we saw all three come on get a Spider-Man comic. It’s upsetting, but it’s how they choose to raise their kid and that’s fine, I’m not going to be paying their therapy bills.

If my dad had tried to introduce comics to me this way, by the by, I probably wouldn’t be here blogging this right now. If he had tried to foist THOR (the comic he liked as a kid) on me at 8 years old, I can guarantee that I would’ve hated it. I didn’t like superhero comics at all until into my teens, and at 8 years old it was TRANSFORMERS & G.I. JOE that brought me to comics, and I saw them on the newsstand, and I knew them because I saw them on TV and I had the toys. My brother didn’t like my comics either, he wasn’t that much of a fan of Transformers of the Joes. He did, however, like Archie’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES comics, because he saw them on TV, and had the toys. We’re only 3 years different in age, but it’s a big enough generation gap that he had stuff that was just for him, and he loved it. 3 years apart, not 20 or 30.

So let’s really, really narrow this discussion about “all ages” comics to what it really is: Superhero Fans Want To Buy Superhero Comics For Their Kids That Are Simultaneously Exactly What They Read As Kids AND All New At The Same Time. They want all the comics on the stands to be ‘safe’ for children, while still engaging them on an adult level like all of the other media targeted at adults. They want the stuff they read as kids and teenagers in the 70s and 80s (or hell, the 60s) to be the same as what’s published today for their kids. They will accept no substitutions, and most importantly they need it to be CANON. That’s right, even if the Superhero comics meet every other criteria, they can’t take place in their own “universe” or be the “for kids” version (even if it’s for ‘all ages’), it has to be part of the 616 or DCU continuity or else it isn’t ‘real’. Superhero fans want validation for their tastes and interests, just like the OCD football dad who couldn’t make it to the NFL and is going to live out his dreams in his son. Exactly the same sentiment, but without a million dollar paycheck at the end of ‘reading superhero comics’, so waaaay less pressure.

And that’s what Retailers, older retailers in particular, want to sell them. Because it’s what they read, and it’s what they know, and they have the same nostalgic feelings for and biases towards that material.

Again, I’m sympathetic. I want to sell more of the same product to the most possible people, rather than fewer copies of different products to those same people. It’s just good business sense. I also think it’s nothing short of ridiculous that “Captain America” and “Spider-Man” are titles intended for people in their 30s and older. Really, it’s insane. “Captain America”. Say that out loud. It’s a great read, but it’s also an international espionage book with dark art and weird mind-rape stories intended for an audience of 30+ year olds. But? That’s the industry. That’s the complexity demanded by the readers of those books, of the accumulated 50 or 60 or 70 years of history of these characters. Any and all attempts at simplifying the stories, making them less violent, less intense, less convoluted, more accessible, all of it is met with howls of outrage from long-term fans. If their problem isn’t that they’re doing it (de-marrying Peter Parker), it’s how they did it (de-marrying Peter Parker) or why they did it (de-marrying Peter Parker). The current audience for superhero books is getting Exactly What They Want from superhero books; sales have been more-or-less consistent or on the upswing for going-on 5 years now. You can argue that they’re “narrowcasting” but they’re making a hell of a lot of money doing it.

So, ultimately, all of the furor and despair is for nothing: These retailers are, by and large, trying to service a clientèle that is, if not unserviceable, then almost not worth bothering with. Selling nostalgia is possible even profitable. Validating that nostalgia is much harder. I understand that it’s tough when that love and nostalgia is why you got into business in the first place, to turn around and put the business before your personal preferences. It’s something I struggle with myself all the time. But let me reitterate: It’s not real, and these isolated and unreasonable customers aren’t worth the aggravation. There are lots of good comics for _actual_ kids out there, and they come in more formats than floppy comic books. There are far, far fewer comics for grown-ups trying to remember exactly what their own childhoods were like. Do the simple business math.

That said, I’d like to address the specific comments made by Michael Tierney of “Collector’s Edition” Comics in Arkansas, as his concerns differ slightly from the main thrust of this article, but I think they further illuminate a lot of the issues at hand:

“I’m glad that Jay has success with the current mix of content, and with “dozens and dozens” of All Ages titles.  Chances are that some of those “dozens” of books aren’t considered appropriate in every market.  There’s probably a big difference between the Bible Belt, where Buddy and myself operate, and other markets with different demographics… The fact is, in my market All Ages titles massively outsell Mature Readers Only titles.  While there are Mature Audience books aplenty, they just don’t sell for me.  This is why having more All Ages material is so important to me, and others in similar markets.  It’s what we can sell.  But we’re only getting “dozens” of them.  And that isn’t growing our businesses… And please, let no one confuse All Ages with Kiddie Books.  Kiddie Books simply don’t sell for anyone.  No reader likes to be talked down to.  All Ages simply means “accessible to All Ages, and entertaining to All Ages.”” – Michael Tierney

First off, if the challenges you face as a retailer are that the type of product that you are selling is by-and-large too extreme for your conservative community, then you have a much deeper and more fundamental problem with your business model than you may think. If you can’t grow your business because the product you sell is unsuitable to your community, diversify, or get into another line of business, for your own sake.

Secondly, I don’t need to tell you any of this as you’ve been in business for many years, but it needs to be said: Marvel Comics has been publishing a line of comics called “Marvel Adventures” (previously Marvel Age) for the better part of 5 years now. These are specifically “all ages” comics in the exact method you’ve demanded, which is to say comics intended for every age. Not written for kids, but written to be continuity-light, fun books with good art and solid stories. The only thing they aren’t is “in continuity”, and the only person that should matter to? An established fan, not a new reader coming into the shop for the first time. These comics sell exceptionally poorly, less than 10,000 copies a piece through the Direct Market. A year ago this time there were four books in this line–now there are two. Honestly? They’re good books with almost-no-audience in periodical format, but we do gangbusters on the sales for the digest collections. Conversely, the top selling Superhero comic books in the industry right now are about evil aliens violating corpses, and bringing those corpses back to life in order to kill more people. It may be that the tastes of the market for the product you’re selling don’t match up with the specific interests of your community. It may be that the number of books that you’re demanding is untenable, and the number of books that fit your criteria that currently exist is all that the market will bear. It may be that The Hulk ripping Wolverine in two was put right onto the cover of a graphic novel this year, because that is what readers of The Hulk and Wolverine want to read, and not the Hulk vs. Wolverine ‘dust-ups’ of the 70s and 80s.

Thirdly, your poor attitude of describing books you don’t like as “Kiddie Books” is probably doing more to hinder the sales of those books than any perceived lack of merit in the content. “Kiddie” books are some of our best sellers, in collected formats. I would strongly recommend that you as a retailer, and other retailers that share your feelings, really look at how your own biases and prejudices about some comics colour the way you sell them–or don’t sell them, as the case may be.

Finally, I really do sympathize with your desire for more salable product, and to grow your business; I think most retailers want to be making more sales, making more money, and growing their investment. I also understand the need to vent, particularly when given a convenient target to vent at, like an off-handed comment that you might be out of touch with the industry because of your complaints. I like to vent, I like to pick easy targets. But realistically, you haven’t presented any evidence whatsoever that what you’re asking for as a retailer from publishers like Marvel and DC (and let’s be honest with ourselves, you really only care about Marvel and DC with this rant) would work. Books like the ones you are asking for tend to get cancelled. Publishing more of those isn’t going to do anyone any favours.

So, that’s my piece said. Let’s stop asking for All Ages books, because they aren’t ‘real’ and the ones that are? No one wants them. Making more existing books “kid friendly”? Well the industry doesn’t seem to be responding to that either. Let’s let those few parents so drowned in their own nostalgia that they can’t see past the end of their comic collection, let’s let them go, and hope that their kids get into comics through the net, at school, at public libraries, through their friends, and then come back to comic book stores and buy the stuff that they might ACTUALLY want to read. I see it happen every day and I’m happy to do it. Just like I’m happy to work with and sell to the parents who truly love comics, and want to share the joys of reading and the medium with their own kids–even if it isn’t exactly the same thing that they want to read themselves.

– Christopher
Edited slightly at 11:15pm, for clarity.

TORONTO: Abby Denson’s DOLLTOPIA launch next Friday

Abby Denson’s DOLLTOPIA Book Launch and Party!
Featuring Abby Denson and Matt Loux
Friday, October 16th, 2009, 6pm-8pm
@ The Central, 603 Markham Street (Next to The Beguiling)

Mini-comix Queen Abby Denson will be releasing her new full-length graphic novel DOLLTOPIA this fall, and The Beguiling and publisher Green Candy Press are teaming up to throw a party!

DOLLTOPIA is the story of a group of dolls that are tired living the factory-set, cookie-cutter existences that their owners and makers have laid out from them… and revolt! They seek DOLLTOPIA, a place where a doll can be a doll. It’s a mature rumination on the nature of identity, individuality, and making a mark in a society that tends towards sterility and monoculture, told in the style of a Todd Haynes biopic.

The evening’s event will include a reading and presentation from Abby Denson on DOLLTOPIA, the official release of the graphic novel from Green Candy Press, and Abby’s even been bringing awesome gourmet cupcakes to all of her tour stops for everyone who attends! Also joining the evening presentation will be Abby’s good friend and graphic novelist Matt Loux! Matt is the author of the Oni Press graphic novel SIDESCROLLERS (which fans of Scott Pilgrim will enjoy!), and his most recent series are the (really, really good) young readers graphic novels SALT WATER TAFFY. The third volume is the brand new The Truth About Dr. True, and Matt will be signing copies and presenting from this work!

The event is a bit of an early one, starting at 6pm right next to The Beguiling at THE CENTRAL, on the main floor! Hopefully you can come out for the event!

– Christopher

Toronto: Comics & Graphic Novels @ The Word On The Street

Hey folks! If you’re in Toronto this Sunday, September 27th, might I humbly suggest you mosey on over to Queen’s Park to enjoy THE WORD ON THE STREET literary festival? It’s an annual literary event, held simultaneously across 5 cities in Canada, and it puts books of all kinds—including comics and graphic novels–in giant tents on major city streets, to engage the populace. It’s a great idea, with a solid execution, and myself and The Toronto Comic Arts Festival are proud to be back for a third year sponsoring the Comics and Graphic Novels tent. We’ve got a full day of comics programming ready to go, including signings, panels, readings, and more.

Here’s a brief outline of this year’s programming, and I hope we see you out this weekend (oh and please feel free to repost):

11:00am-11:15am: All about Comics & Graphic Novels: A brief introduction.
Hosted by Christopher Butcher.

11:15am-12:00pm: Creating comics with Owlkids!
Featuring CTON (Clayton Hanmer) and Brian McLachlan.
Bonus: The first 200 kids 12 and under that attend this panel will receive a gift bag filled with great comics!

12:00-13:00: Creating Comics and Raising a Family: Finding Balance.
Featuring Jim Munroe (Sword of My Mouth), Tara Tallan (Galaxion), and Claudia Davilla (Luz: The Girl of Knowing).

13:00-14:00: No Rules, No Budget, All Fun! How and why you should make comics!
Featuring Georgia Webber (gangLion), Ruth Tait, and steflenk (The Haircut)

14:00-15:00: Graphic Memoirs – 3 New Works.
Featuring Tory Woolcott (Mirror Mind), Lesley Fairfield (Tyranny), and Adam Bourret (I’m Crazy)

15:00-16:00: Sequential Presents: Oh, Canada. Surveying The Landscape of Canadian Comics.
Featuring Bryan Munn, Salgood Sam, Brad Mackay, and Kevin Boyd.

16:00-17:00: Sequential Presents: Three New Comics set in Canada
Featuring readings by Willow Dawson (100 Mile House), Jeff Lemire (Essex County), and Evan Munday (Quarter-Life Crisis).

17:00-18:00: WEBCOMICS
Featuring Andy Belanger (Bottle of Awesome), Faith Erin Hicks (War At Ellsmere), Emily Horne (A Softer World), Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics), Kean Soo (Jellaby).

For full programming descriptions and stuff, check out The Word On The Street website at


– Christopher

I Am Cynical (Orange): The DM won’t end with a bang, but a whimper.

cynical_8I’ve been working in comic book stores for a long time, 15 years this year.

Not as long as many of the “lifers” I’ve met during that time—the men and occasional women who will retail comics and pop-culture ephemera until the day they die or quit in disgust—but long enough. Long enough to remember the Direct Market of comic book specialty stores the way it was before Marvel, Heroes World, and Diamond. The way it was more-or-less since it’s inception, before immense greed and short-sightedness closed 2/3s of comic stores in probably 3 or 4 years.

I wasn’t terribly invested in comics retail at the time, I was too interested in comics as a medium. The Invisibles! JLA! Sandman! Awesome. The bits and bobs of ordering, sell-through, inventory tracking, I learned all that on the job. I also learned to fear the collapse of comic book stores—and the loss of my job—there too. In the second year I’d worked in the comic book store, when Marvel bought Heroes World distribution and pulled their comics from every other distributor over the space of a few months, I have to admit that I just didn’t really grasp all of it… But I knew enough to know that if my store stayed open, things would be very different.

In a little over a year we were getting all of our comics from Diamond—who had until that point never distributed in Canada at all. All of the local distributors (previously the Kings of Comics) were reduced to selling comics supplies and diversifying into sports cards, magic, RPGs, and mountains of old comics stock. When they didn’t go out of business entirely (owing a lot of people a lot of money, I found out years later). The industry had been through a major shift, a number of stores closed up shop in the Toronto area. We stayed open (though there were quite a few lean weeks there), and I learned what it feels like to wonder if the comics will be coming out next week or not.

The thing about all of this is that during this time I spent a lot of time on the internet. A Lot. Listening to fans bitch, to retailers bitch, to publishers and creators bitch. The comics industry was a cacophony of bitchiness, and I jumped in guns blazing. Through it all, the one big narrative through in the discussion, was that it was somebody else’s fault. A fan buys 5 copies of X-Force #1, and then becomes disillusioned 12 months later when he realizes the books are shit and never going to be worth anything? The Retailer’s Fault. A retailer orders 100 cases of fucking Warriors of Plasm Trading Cards + Binders and can’t sell one? The Publisher’s Fault. Publisher sales drop through the floor across the board? The fans fault. DEATHMATE BLACK? God Has Forsaken Us. And the industry collapsed in on itself.

It’s about 15 years after all that nonsense today, and things seem “stable” but really, that’s just a convenient lie that we’ve all bought into. Things aren’t stable, behind the scenes (and sometimes spilling onto message boards and websites) people are very worried. Fans, Retailers, Publishers. Distributors. But the thing that to me is the most disconcerting and heralds the biggest change? Diamond Comics Distributors drastically raising their order minimums. They did this a few months back. This action has shaken a lot of publishers out of the industry, and it’s meant some pretty bad things for a lot of people. But really, and realistically, The Previews catalogue is not any better or of higher quality than it was a year ago. I am reminded of this the last Tuesday of every month, when I race through that thing at break-neck speed, It’s just as tough a slog with most of the same bright spots as before. Hell, 100 pages each of Marvel and DC is more than enough to depress you on its own. But what the increased order minimums have really done is make my job as a retailer much more difficult. Why? Because of the things have been taken out of the catalogue that I have to go hunting for. Let me give you the example that prompted me to post this in the first place:

Last month, a customer asked me for Cynical Orange Volume 8, a manwha title previously published by ICE/Kunion, and picked up by Yen Press a year or two back. I checked my computer, and saw that we’d never received Cynical Orange Volume 8, despite my customer’s insistence that it was out. According to the YEN website? It was in fact released. It just never got offered through Diamond. So we didn’t have it.

Now I want to point something out here, something that’s really, really important. This customer is asking for a title that isn’t a popular one for us. It’s called Cynical Orange, for heaven’s sake. It’s a Korean shoujo title, which from a sales point of view? Not the strongest seller. But this customer is not just a customer for Cynical Orange. This customer buys, on average, 10-20 different new manga from us in a month. She does this because our prices are good, because we get things in in a timely way, and because we carry everything. We’re competitive, timely, and comprehensive, and so she comes here and spends a few hundred bucks a month, every month. And now, we’d missed a volume of her favourite manga, that she saw on the shelves at one of our competitors. Not another comic shop of course, but of Borders, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, Indigo, our real competitors, big box retail chain stores. What happens to us when we’re not as competitive, or timely, or comprehensive? Any one of those? We lose the sale. And we MIGHT lose all of the sales.

Of course I assured her I’d have it next week, got on the phone to any number of other distributors who actually carry Yen’s full line, and ordered it there. Got it. She’s a happy reader.

Here’s the thing: This wasn’t something that had been offered and then cancelled. We get little reports from Diamond when something we ordered from Diamond isn’t coming out. We then use that information to track down the item through another source (if it’s still coming out) or to disappoint a customer (if it’s not). This is something Diamond simply never solicited, despite soliciting other books from that publisher. This was, and I mean this in “comics retailer terms” and not to be too hyperbolic, but this was chilling. What else had I missed from Yen? From other publishers? Was I serving my customers or had I dropped the ball?

Of course the next thing I did was go through the Diamond catalogues for May, June, July, and August, and tried to figure out WHAT ELSE I was missing by ordering Yen’s books through Diamond. It was a good handful of books. Despite Yen being an imprint of the single largest publisher of books in the world, Diamond wasn’t carrying them all.

So Then I cut all of my orders of Yen Press books from Diamond. I’ve started ordering Yen Press through alternate distribution arrangements. It turns out that now I get Yen’s full line, I get them on time, and for more-or-less the same price as Diamond. It means another hour of work gets piled on me every few months, and it’s certainly not as convenient as just ticking more boxes on the massive Previews order I have to do anyway. But it means that I can still serve my customers, and keep them in my store, where I want them to spend money. I can do my job as a Direct Market Comic Book Specialty Store by going outside of the Distributor of the Direct Market of Comic Book Stores. You gotta admit, that’s pretty fucked-up.

It means that Diamond is losing that money. It’s no great shakes, admittedly, a few hundred dollars a month retail, more when it’s something big like James Patterson’s Maximum Ride or Svetlana Chmakova’s Night School. But I’m not going to be comparing and contrasting orders between two or three sources because of those sources is dropping the ball—my time is too valuable for that nonsense. I’ve talked to other retailers who, forced with the same conundrum, simply stop ordering lines like this altogether, letting the sales go to other comic stores, or chain stores, or the internet. That’s money out of Diamond’s pocket too.

What happens when Direct Market retailers can’t trust Diamond to keep them stocked?

For us, it means going elsewhere with surprising frequency. It means that the Direct Market has started to fade, losing relevancy, immediacy, its massive buying power and its ability to be heard. Instead of comic book retailers asking Diamond to bargain with pubs on their behalf for the common good, it becomes up to those same retailers to bargain for themselves with the great big publishers of material. It gives rise to direct market retailer organizations like COMICSPRO, who are attempting to fill the gap left by Diamond but honestly, I’ve never really found we had much in common with the concerns they’ve expressed publically.

I feel like it was Diamond’s (thankless) job to stabilize the Direct Market following the Marvel/Heroes World clusterfuck. I feel like, once stabilized, Diamond decided it was their job to maintain the status quo of distributing Marvel and DC Comics—and their closest imitators—to stores and retailers who’ve never really been educated on how to stock or sell anything else. Has there been a self-publishing success story like Bone since Diamond assumed control of the Direct Market? Could their be? My feeling is, institutionally, no. I feel like Diamond closed that door, and now the radical innovation (and radical success) happens entirely online, in webcomics. Which as I’ve mentioned before, doesn’t generally help me as a direct market retailer.

I’ve said this before, but: The idea of the direct market really is great, a specialized comics distribution network that caters to thousands of stores with a specific interest in them? Sign me up! Unfortunately, the actuality of the DM stopped living up to the ideals of the DM a long time ago.

With the back of the catalogue shrinking every month, the front of the catalogue bloating more and more to maintain the illusion of stability or “growth”, and extrapolating my own ordering practices of pulling orders away from Diamond, I feel like we’re just about done with the notion of a “Direct Market”. I feel like in the very near future, Diamond will exist as a mechanism to on one side distribute graphic novels from their clients to bookstores (Diamond Books), and on the other to distribute superhero comics to comic book stores (Diamond Comics), and everything else will exist through other distribution channels, or working direct with the content producers themselves. I feel like we’re 75% of the way there now.

And I admit, I’m pretty cynical. But honestly? With Amazon best-seller lists, and New York Times Graphic Novels Bestseller lists, and the popularity of manga, and graphic novels, and the big movie tie-ins and the rapid-fire collection of superhero stories into graphic novels, and THE INTERNET in all its forms (pirates especially), one day we’re going to look around and realize that no one really cares about the notion of a “Direct Market.” Everyone else will have moved on to the idea of graphic novels as a mass-market medium, available in all kinds of formats, from all kinds of venues.

Except the lifers, like me.

– Christopher

The Bromance is Over… for Marvel

The most hilarious thing I’d seen solicited in months was the “Marvel Bromance” trade paperback.

39950712I remember it being solidly mocked amongst my blogging peers, as is anything Marvel tries to do that is hip, because Marvel is not hip. They are at best occasionally ironically hip. But they seemed to at least understand that, on this trade, because the solicitation text is a winking, knowing, funny piece of writing:

If This Be Bromance–! Marvel’s greatest buddies take the spotlight in this one-of-a-kind collection, and it’s male bonding like you’ve never seen — as Cable and Deadpool swap stories, Wonder Man and the Beast share a plane ride, Spidey and the Human Torch battle back-to-back, Wolverine makes a bet with Nightcrawler, Black Panther and Everett Ross lay their feelings on the line…and the Warriors Three set sail for fun! Plus: Captain America and the Falcon, Iron Man and Jim Rhodes, and more! Be here as Marvel says, “I love you, man!”

But it did get some… coverage… in the larger not-just-wonks blogosphere as well, as MTV’s Splash Page ran a pretty straight-up piece on it.

Alas, it appears that the Bromance is over.

Just moments ago I got a press-release about a very familiar sounding project, with a more conventional title and solicitation text with all of the winks and knowing edited right-the-fuck-out.

The Buddies of Marvel Take Center Stage in Marvel Super Hero Team-Up
The best buds of the Marvel Universe come together in the explosive Marvel Super Hero Team-Up collection featuring an all new cover by Jorge Molina as featured on MTV!  An all-star list of creators including the likes of Stan Lee and Chris Claremont deliver the mighty men of Marvel uniting to battle evil, save the day and…win some bets?! Captain America, Iron Man, Jim Rhodes, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Deadpool, Cable, Nightcrawler and more get the spotlight as their friendships are put to the test!
Marvel urges retailers to check their orders on Marvel Super Hero Team-Up, as the collection generates mainstream press and significant buzz.  Which guys get along best in the Marvel U?  How do super heroes really hang out when not fighting crime?  Check out all the answers in the testosterone-filled Marvel Super Hero Team-Up!

The Buddies of Marvel Take Center Stage in Marvel Super Hero Team-Up

The best buds of the Marvel Universe come together in the explosive Marvel Super Hero Team-Up collection featuring an all new cover by Jorge Molina as featured on MTV!  An all-star list of creators including the likes of Stan Lee and Chris Claremont deliver the mighty men of Marvel uniting to battle evil, save the day and…win some bets?! Captain America, Iron Man, Jim Rhodes, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Deadpool, Cable, Nightcrawler and more get the spotlight as their friendships are put to the test!

Marvel urges retailers to check their orders on Marvel Super Hero Team-Up, as the collection generates mainstream press and significant buzz.  Which guys get along best in the Marvel U?  How do super heroes really hang out when not fighting crime?  Check out all the answers in the testosterone-filled Marvel Super Hero Team-Up!

MARVEL SUPER HERO TEAM-UP TPB (JUN090651) [solicit info removed]

A quick check reveals that yes, in fact “JUN090651” is the item formerly known as “Marvel Bromance”. Apparently the word… and concept… of Bromance was just a little to hip for the room and we get a “team-up” collection. We also get all the kitsch taken out of the solicit, and the phrase “testosterone-filled” added in. Maybe that was the copy-writer’s revenge for having to dull-down the original solicit?

Here’s the thing that I find the most intriguing about all of this though, the press release I received doesn’t mention anywhere that this thing used to be Marvel Bromance. I mean, they’re mentioning that the book got coverage “on MTV”, but the reason it got any coverage at all is because it was called Marvel Bromance. Seriously. Here’s the quote from MTV:

Given MTV’s history with covering great moments in “Bromance” history, Marvel wanted to give Splash Page readers the first look at the never-before-seen Jorge Molina cover to “Marvel Bromance.”

Marvel tried something different, got some decent press coverage for it, and then… totally balked and tried to pretend it never happened. They did implore retailers to “check their orders” on the book though, without mentioning that they never ordered a book with this title, or why it got all of the “buzz” that they’re touting. It’s almost like Marvel panicked or something.

I hesitate to draw any conclusions from this, I mean publishers change the titles and descriptions of already-solicited books that have received good media coverage all the time. This  could just be Standard Operating Procedure, right? But the more I look at these decisions, the more I feel like the whole thing feels a little bit… queer?

– Christopher

Japan 2009 – Village Vanguard Kyoto

Hey folks, sorry the updates have been slow… Internet access hasn’t been that frequent, and we’ve actually been travelling quite a bit. So far we spent 3 days in Tokyo, went to Nikko (beautiful), up to Sapporo on Hokaido (awesome!) and I’m writing this from our hotel in Kyoto. It’s kind of an intense travel time. Anyhow, whilst walking around today we tripped over one of my fav stores from my first visit–Village Vanguard. It’s described as a “cool book store”, with lots of cool items, young-people culture, books, manga, and more. So I figured I’d just post the pictures I took there, today, and not bother with any sort of timeline this time out. I’m also going to try WordPress’ “gallery” feature here to save me some time… Let me know what you think!

Village Vanguard Kyoto: Photos by Christopher Butcher









Click to view the gallery:

– Chris

Update: DMP books still exclusive, sort of. – FINAL UPDATE

Update 2, Final: So I am flat out wrong. But it’s still really interesting. Check this: I received the following statement from Michelle Mauk, listed as production/graphic design at DMP, but is the acting PR person at the moment. This clarifies the situation immensely:

…I’m actually writing about your blog post today about DMP going direct and breaking off exclusivity with Diamond, and I’m hoping you can actually correct it a bit. We’re still exclusive with Diamond, and they are still our exclusive distributor. However, we are allowed to distribute direct to retailers returned books from Diamond which the rights have reverted back to us. So titles on DMD Direct are allowed to be distributed by us, since they no longer fall under Diamond’s exclusive contract. I apologize if the email from DMD Direct wasn’t clear enough-we will rectify that in the future.

If you could please clarify your blog post-I would very much appreciate it.


Michelle Mauk

So a few things:
1) That is the first time I’ve ever heard of that happening–Diamond returns no longer being considered exclusive releases. I didn’t even think this was a thing. So, this is kind of fascinating in and of itself. 

2) This contradicts earlier information I had received, which led to some supposition-making on my part. Since this is an official statement though and the previous info was unofficial, I’m going to go with what this one says. I apologize then if my earlier message caused any consternation at Diamond or DMP; I was acting on the best info I had at the time.
3) That said, the newest book that is available for sale from Digital Manga Direct was released in April 2009, which isn’t a very long time to have been on sale and then returned.

4) This is still kind of amazing. Publishers selling bookstore returns is nothing new, but liquidating inventory direct to retailers that Diamond is no longer stocking? Huh. This is a better situation than a few years back, where Diamond had signed Viz to an exclusive but hadn’t actually put all of Viz’s books into the star system so there were a bunch of books (mostly PULP stuff) that simply couldn’t be ordered. Now if Diamond isn’t going to stock a DMP book, at least there are options for Direct Market retailers to get a hold of them–and a discount that makes it worthwhile to keep them in stock. But I do think it’s fascinating that DMP is building up a relationship with direct market comic book stores and indy bookstores, outside of Diamond.
5) I still stand by my belief of an exclusivity sea-change in the next 6 months. 
– Chris


Update: I’ve been informed that DMP hasn’t terminated it’s exclusivity arrangement exactly, but it still offering its books to retailers. Not sure what this means to be honest. Will let you know when I do.

I’d been hearing rumblings that things were about to start changing with regards to Diamond exclusivity contracts, but the just-received e-mail I’m looking at still came as a surprise.

Without replicating the e-mail exactly, I can say that DMP/DMD/June Manga/Akadot Retail (they have about 10 different devisions I think) have seemingly cancelled or allowed to expire their exclusive distribution agreement with Diamond, and are now distributing/selling their work directly to established comics/book stores at discounts much higher than Diamond was offering on the same titles, and they’re doing so from a new retailers-only website, According to the website:

Welcome to Digital Manga Direct!!! We are now here to service your needs. We are an independent Manga publisher who has recently obtained the rights to distribute these titles on a ‘direct sales basis.’ This obviously eliminates “Joe Distributor,” thus affording us the luxury to offer you substantial discounts and savings. In addition, you can open an account and place an order right online. There are no minimum orders. 

This allows for fast processing and rapid shipping. Please browse through our great catalog of available titles.

It then directs individual buyers (i.e.: Non-retail accounts) to DMP’s online sales storefront.

I’m going to be honest here, I never understood why DMP went exclusive with Diamond. It’s just ridiculous–DMP has probably the best-developed online sales presence of any publisher in comics, let alone any manga publisher. They ship out thousands of customer orders a month, of all shapes and sizes. Why they would to cut-off retailer sales (which are usually easier orders to pull, bigger orders with more copies/volume means less overhead) when they’re shipping stuff anyway? I get why VIZ went exclusive actually, they were getting out of the shipping/fulfillment business entirely, letting their bookstore distributors Simon & Shuster handle everything. But DMP? I can only imagine the deal that Diamond offered them was really good–and that it’s no longer worthwhile.

Now here’s the big question: Do I think that other pubs will start doing the same? Hell yeah, but only if they’re not distributed to bookstores by Diamond Books… This is because they need the bookstore distro, and breaking a Diamond Comics Exclusive might seriously damage that relationship. I actually can’t think of any pub with a Diamond Book Distributors deal that isn’t also exclusive with Diamond Comics. Hm.

Anyway, fascinating change to the DM today, and just the start of what I feel will be many large changes to “the direct market” in the next 6 months.

– Christopher

Bad Book Design: Bandai takes top honours


Sooooo…. I know that manga fans can be a little “finnicky” when it comes to the condition and design of their books. They want the sizes to match between editions. I appreciate that… I know a bunch of folks were caught way, way off-guard when Viz did a line-wide switch of the size and design of their books a few years ago, to keep up with Tokyopop. Heh, poor bastards, collecting Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2 for 10 years, only to have the last 20 volumes show up in a new format… But it doesn’t stop there! So Viz switched from the big-size to the Tokyopop size, then they changed their corporate logo from the old downward-pointing-triangle VIZ logo to the new (current) VIZ MEDIA logo on the spine of all of their books… 6 volumes before the end of their release of Ranma 1/2, making it almost impossible to have a complete set of Ranma 1/2 with the same spine designs. The best though is that, since then, they’ve changed the spine design AGAIN removing the old “action” logo and replacing it with their new stylized ‘V’, but so far as I can tell not every volume is available with the same spine design, because of the differences between printings.

If you’ve got even a little bit of the old OCD, that’s gotta be killing you. If I didn’t think Viz were above such things, I’d ALMOST think they were doing it on purpose, just to make their readers crazy. Actually, the way in which that drives people crazy is one of my secret favourite things in comics…

But that’s a 36 volume series, released over 15 or 16 years. We’ll… we’ll cut them a little bit of slack. But seriously, what’s Bandai’s excuse for changing the design of a current series they’re releasing with almost every volume?


So this is the CODE GEASS series of manga, based on the popular anime series. It features designs by CLAMP!, it’s pretty popular, you know? I bet it was a coup for Bandai to get this series. And what do they do with it? Well, geezus, look at it. Out of 8 books there, only 3 of them have the same trade dress. Code Geass: Suzuku changes entirely between volume 1 and 2. Code Geass: Lelouch actually matches up for 1 and 2, but the entire design changes for volume 3, including the logo for the book itself! The next two books are the novels, and they don’t keep a consistent trade dress with the line, or even with each other. I mean, things can be “off” in the design stage, but look at the way the Bandai logos (almost) match up but the STAGE x graphics don’t… The designer is just totally asleep at the wheel. Then we get the next manga, which is (I believe) the most recent in the series: Code Geass: Nunnally. It has a different logo treatment again, and the volume number is now IN the logo, rather than in it’s own graphic or matching up with anything. And the spine text is a different treatment too.

These books have been released monthly since October 2008. Either the designer is getting fired after every book and destroying all of his files and stealing all of the reference copies each time, or this is the single most unprofessional design and editorial team in manga.

But wait, it gets better. Let’s check out another Bandai release: Eureka 7.


No digital trickery here. This is actually the vooks in order. Volume 1 is clearly labeled volume one. Then volume 2 has a completely different spine design, and NO VOLUME NUMBER. I promise you, that is actually volume 2, we didn’t just grab like a random novel or something and slide it in there. Here, I’ll show you:

eureka7_vol2_600pxAt least they thought enough to, you know, put the volume number on the front of the book, even if it’s not on the spine. But that’s pretty powerfully stupid. But the best part?

Scroll back up to the previous picture. At the end of the volume 1-6, there’s a second series, “Eureka Seven: Gravity Boys and Lifting Girl”. It’s got a tiny little subtitle, but it’s there, and a clearly-placed “Vol. 1” And then right next to it? Why, that’s Eureka Seven: Gravity Boys and Lifting Girl Volume 2, except it’s missing the subtitle, making it look exactly the same as the regular series. 


It’s really the second series volume 2, but because the first series volume 2 is fucked up AND this one is fucked up, this one looks like the first series volume 2… Which creates no end of problems for people looking for it on the shelf, or in the overstock. Again, these books are coming out more-or-less monthly, which means it’s really just a total lack of interest… and quality control… on the part of the folks at Bandai. They’re a major international publishing company working in a variety of media. This is kind of embarassing?

This was brought to my attention by Parrish, today, as he sighed drammatically about how fucked up this is. So I decided to blog his misery! Attention employees: your sadness is fodder for my blog. Thanks!

– Christopher

Liveblogging The Previews: May 2009 PART 2

And now, to the dulcet tones and beeps of Underworld’s Rez/Cowgirl, we shall commence liveblogging the second half of the Previews Catalogue. What does this mean, by the by? Well as I flip through the pages of the May 2009 Previews catalogue (for items scheduled to start shipping in July), I’m reading descriptions of the books, checking our order history and our sell-through of previous issues, and then figuring out how many copies I’m going to order. What you’re seeing are my honest, off-the-cuff reactions to the books (and attitudes…) found in your average issue of Previews. Ready, let’s read!

12:44pm: Page 178 features this month’s WIZARD solicit, which, again, looks like it’s being designed by the Previews staff rather than at Wizard. I really do think they’ve finally fired everyone at that magazine that they could…? Anyway. This page is notable because one of the features of this issue of WIZARD is: HOW TO GET YOUR GIRL TO READ COMICS, which is delightful in a late-90s internet article sort of way. The best, BEST part? The afformentioned “girl” in the little photo accompanying the article is carrying copies of: 6 Superhero books, Sin City, Y The Last Man, and… can’t quite make out the top one. Against a wall of high-priced back issues. So, yeah, this photo is not doing the article any favours. I’ve long-since grown past the need to read Wizard just to be offended or upset at bad content, but I’m really kind of anxious to read this one, just to see if it “lives up” to the photo.

Of course, I’m actually cutting orders on this issue as sales are sliding badly on the magazine…

12:52pm: We are continuing to sell out of Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss, which is kind of surprising… We’re also continuing to do the same with Terry Moore’s ECHO, which is less surprising, but I’m going to be honest, I really thought the first trade paperback would’ve killed the issue sales. Nope! It seems people want to read Terry Moore as soon as they can get him. Good for him.

Process Recess Vol 3 Cover. Art by James Jean.

12:59pm: PROCESS RECESS 3. The 3rd in AdHouse’s release of James Jean art-books. The first two have sold right-the-fuck-out and are going for ludicrous prices online. This third one apparently collects sketchbook work, new paintings and illustrations, all kinds of cool stuff by M. Jean. We’ll be ordering a bunch.

Cover Image to the right, click for (much) larger.

EDIT: Oh yeah, check out James Jean’s blog for more info on this, it’s nifty: 

1:20pm: So, Page 188 shows us that Antarctic is now designing their own section of the Previews catalogue… With, I think, utterly disastrous results. I appreciate that it’s good to be able to control the size and presentation of your books–good for you, seriously. But? This is a jumbled mess. No center-of-interest, doesn’t lead the eye, and the blue hackground makes it basically-impossible for me to write my little numbers for what I want to order next to the solicit. :-/


As you can see, the only thing that really stands-out is the PRESIDENT EVIL title treatment, and even then, it’s a little difficult to make-out as Barack Obama (although really what else could it be…).

Yeah, guys, seriously this is not doing you any favours whatsoever. Look at like… catalogue layout sometime or something. Or figure out some way to layout your info better, because this is terrible.

1:36pm: I’m kind of having guilt pangs about not ordering this terrible fucking Obama/Resident Evil ‘parody’, because I know it will sell off the rack, but it’s just conceptually awful, like the terrible Barbarian comics probably will too. But no one has preordered them so I just don’t want them on the rack, I’d like to stand for something, you know? 

Anyway, I am conflicted. But I am not ordering them. If someone really wants one they can do a special order. 

1:39pm: So APE Entertainment’s The Trouble With Katie Rogers (p190) looks kind of neat. A contemporary romantic comedy in graphic novel format. We have a healthy balance of men and women shopping at the store, I’m curious if something like this will do well for us, or if it really is a bookstore thing. I’ll give it a go. (Nice MySpace page too, actually). 

Oh, also on this page is Zeke Deadwood: Zombie Lawman from SLG. I’m actually not “sick” of the Zombie thing yet, and this looks pretty good, played for laughs. Looks like a sort of Westerns versions of Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse. We’ll give this a solid order, hopefully it works out.

1:45pm: So all of my questioning is for naught, it looks very much like the Mouse Guard series has finished, and at Archaia to boot. Now here comes the second graphic novel collection, Mouse Guard Volume 2: Winter 1152.  I imagine it will do well for us.

I think I saw someone, maybe Mike Sterling, wondering aloud on his blog as to why the sales on the single-issues of the MOUSE GUARD series had dropped through the floor at his store. I think one reason why might be that the solicit for this collection promises “a new epilogue”, which, considering the series just ended this past week, is kind of unfortunate. I don’t subscribe to the idea that putting new content is “screwing” people who bought the singles–I did when I was a little younger but now I realize that you get what you pay for. You paid four bucks and issue for 6 issues of a comic, and you didn’t mind doing so at the time, you probably got $4 of enjoyment out of that book, epilogue or no. But seeing stuff like this happen? It does make customers less likely to support serialization, it does erode customers faith and interest in a series, and when you make it a selling feature that the pretty new hardcover contains a bunch of stuff not in the smelly-old issues, it makes me as a retailer reconsider my approach to ordering your single issue comics. Not just from this creator, but from this whole publisher.

So, you know, as a publisher you can do whatever the hell you want, it’s your business. Just know that there are reprecussions.

1:56pm: The ASPEN MLT INC. publisher pages look an awful lot like advertisements, but it turns out those are the solicitations, and the only ones at that. Meanwhile, flipping along, the AVATAR solicits look a lot more like solicits than advertisements (although the Anna Mercury 2 #2 spread was a little confusing at first). Still, one looks like it is imparting information, the other is drowning in graphic elements, headlines, logos, and tiny tiny text. It’s pretty easy to figure out which is more successful.

Muppet Show #1 cover. Art by Roger Landridge.2:17pm: I know they’re “just” licensed books, but I’m kind of shocked to see that the first wave of trade paperback collections of Boom’s THE MUPPET SHOW, THE INCREDIBLES, and THE WORLD OF CARS got almost no play at all in the catalogue. We’ve done very well with the single issues of all of these books, Very Well, and the treade paperback collections (at a friendly $10 price point) are going to do gangbusters for us, I think? Maybe I’m wrong on this, but we’re definitely investing in them at the store… We’re doing progressively better with kids material and this is really solid looking stuff.

2:41pm: Similarly surprising? No special-attention paid to Cartoon Books’ solicitation of the limited-edition RASL HC (P222).  Limited edition oversized HC of Jeff Smith material… you’d think that Diamond would be all over that. I mean, I know it’s not going to sell BONE HC numbers, but we’ve been doing really well with RASL. Again, I’m all over this collection, particularly for the long-haul collectors that are going to want this (very) limited collection, but might not have the pocket-money on hand to do so now.

2:46pm: Also on page 222 is Jack Moriarty’s THE COMPLETE JACK SURVIVES from Buenaventura Press. Originally published in the venerable RAW magazine, this collects every Jack Survives strip in a lovely 11×14 package, in full colour. I’m only very casually familiar with the material, but it’s spoken-of very reverently amongst my artcomix friends, and anything out of RAW is obviously work at least a look.

3:20pm: I know this is going a little slower than usual today, but man, things are a little intense at work here today. Lots of stuff in the air. Sorry.

DMP BOOKS is changing the size of some of their manga? I think I missed this announcement, but going through their solicitations today (starting on P237) it looks like they’re doing some of their books at B6 (a format more-or-less unknown in North America), which measure 5 1/8″ x 7 3/16″, or thereabouts… which is a little smaller than the current “TOKYOPOP SIZE” favoured by the majority of the comics industry. They’re doing the rest of their books in the A5 size, which measure 5.875″ x 8.25″, or slightly smaller than their current size of manga. Basically their entire line is changing size over the next few months. I… assume this is to cut costs? But I’ve got no idea.

I hope that the effect of this is minimized when it comes to changes in size between volumes of the same series, because comics fans of all ages, genders, and sexual proviclivities, FUCKING HATE IT when the spines don’t match up on their manga.

Just saying.

3:29pm: I had kind of thought that Big Questions #12 by Anders Nilsen (P243) was the last issue of the series, but the solicit makes no mention either way. I am greatly, greatly looking forward to a collection of this series… though these individual issues are just gorgeous too. Hopefully any collection will include all of the colour paintings and things. But of course, it’s D&Q, so that’s probably very likely…

Speaking of D&Q, THE JOHN STANLEY LIBRARY: NANCY VOL 1 is also solicited this week. I have to say I kinda dug the old-school repro on their recent Melvin The Monster collection… The feel of reading old comics is a much nicer one, to me, than the feel of reading badly-computer-recoloured comics with digitally altered linework. I hope I’m not in the minority? I’d much rather see this kind of reprint, when good-quality copies exist to shoot from (or be fixed with minor tweaks).

6:15pm: Okay, let’s try and power through to the end of the Previews, shall we?

Page 245: I’m always pretty excited about new work from Fanfare/Ponent-Mon. Their new graphic novel YEARS OF THE ELEPHANT is something of a departure for them, a European work with no Japanese connection. I got to see a preview of this one at the New York Comicon this past winter, and it’s a really unique work. It’s nicely drawn, in pencils mostly, though a bit sketchy sloppy at times. The solicit calls it “rudimentary” but it has a classical cartooning kind of feel. And the nature of the story, about a many who’s sort of slowly and humourously losing his mind after his son committs suicide, it takes a while but it definitely grows on you as you flip the pages. I have no idea how something like this will be received in North America, quite honestly. As far as I can tell it’s at least partly autobiographical, and personal tragedy memoirs tend to find their audiences more often than not. But it really is a strange book… One that I’m personally looking forward to, particularly considering that Editor Stephen Robson has the foresight to pick up strange-tale-of-personal-tragedy Hideo Azuma’s DISAPPEARANCE DIARY and it was fantastic. I figure this one is at least worth a shot.

Page 246-247: Fantagraphics’ acid-trip orange-and-purple spread is certainly eye-catching, and the info is laid out in a professional, easy-to-read way. It’s just that the overall effect is sort of hideous. But anyway, good books in here. The one I’m most immediately interested in is the TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE hardcover collection, collecting the first four issues of the series, and now in full colour. THRIZZLE has been an easy single-issue sale for us since its debut, I imagine this handsome new hardcover will do similarly well.

For the classic strips guys, there’s another volume of POPEYE. For the art guys, there’s a third JIM FLORA art book. For nerds, there’s THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS CRITICISM OF THE 21ST CENTURY. Pretty solid month for Fanta.

Page 252: It’s not often that authors tend to really get behind the graphic novel adaptations of their work, but Tim Hamilton’s graphic adaptation of FARENHEIT 451 features an introduction by Bradbury himself, quite a coup. The $30 price tag is surprisingly high, but then so are the expectations on this one if the advance press I’ve seen is anything to go by.

Also on this page, Kevin Eastman releases his (competing? complimentary?) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Anniversary collection. the TMNT 25TH ANNIVERSARY BY KEVIN EASTMAN (kind of a fuck-you-title, isn’t that?) features Eastman’s fav Turtles stories, some of them in colour for the first time. That’s kind of interesting? But the big turtles release is a few pages away still.

Page 253: RICHARD STARK’S PARKER: THE HUNTER adapted by Darwyn Cooke. What can I say? This looks pretty darned amazing. IDW let me know that they sent me a preview of this one a few days ago, but it hasn’t shown up yet unfortunately. I was hoping to have read it before I could just unequivocally recommend it, but since I can’t I’ll have to just say that it’s PROBABLY the best new book in the Previews this month and you should pick it up. If you’re not sure, there’s tons of great preview/interview stuff online, and if just reading the first 20 pages doesn’t convince you I dunno what will

Hey IDW guys: Maybe I’m blind here, but why isn’t that PARKER preview linked off of your frontpage? I actually couldn’t find it on your site, had to google it.

Page 270: Alright, here you go. It’s the first 540 pages of Eastman and Laird’s TMNT from the 80s, in black and white (11 issues plus the four ‘micro-series’ issues) for $30. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: THE COLLECTED BOOK VOLUME 1 SC. I am definitely going to take one of these home with me. I’ve read a bunch of these through random reprints and stuff, but I think I’d really dig reading these all at once. Hell, SOMEBODY did… And it’s been one of our most-demanded trade paperback collections for years…!

Page 278: The long-anticipated Jeff Smith TOON BOOKS entry drops in July. LITTLE MOUSE GETS READY seems to be in the format of their youngest-reader stuff, like the Silly Lily books, and it looks great. I kind of felt like the Silly Lily books had a lower vocabulary for the 4-6 year old set, and this one seems like a book that you read-to a child, rather than one they can read on their own? I’m not an expert or anything, but I’d be curious to know who the age group is for this one. Either way, it’s lovely looking.

Page 280: The kids comic series THE STUFF OF LEGEND got a bit of buzz following Free Comic Book Day, so I’ll give the first issue a decent order, see if it will pick up a following in our store. It seems to be in Mouse Guard format, so I guess they know who they’re going-after audience-wise.

Page 282: Long awaited D.N. ANGEL VOLUME 12 from Tokyopop, and no a whole hell of a lot else. BISENGHAST VOLUME 6, possible the last “OEL” title that TP is physically publishing, actually, that’s kind of news too. 

Page 284: For those of you who read my earlier bitching, the LENORE: NOOGIES color edition is here. 128 pages for $24.95.  Also this page is the second collection of Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele’s SURROGATES, FLESH AND BONE, a prequel to the first trade and, conveniently enough, the upcoming movie. Also from Top Shelf on the following page is a new printing of SURROGATES VOLUME ONE, and an omnibus HC collecting one and 2, for people that need to own things in HC.

Page 286: Speaking of Darwyn Cooke, Twomorrows solicits MODERN MASTERS VOLUME 23: DARWYN COOKE to coincide with THE HUNTER. A 120 page collection of sketches, rare art, and illustration. Generally the Modern Masters series of books are snapped-up by the fans of the creators they cover, this one will be no different. Actually, that’s not true; thanks to his huge fanbase and a hometown crowd, we’ll probably just add a zero to the end of whatever number we ordered on volume 22 for this one.

Page 292: So this year Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A DRIFTING LIFE shared the top prize for the Tezuka Cultural Prize for manga. It shared it with Fumi Yoshinaga’s series OOKU: THE INNER CHAMBERS, and the first volume of that series drops this month from Viz. If it’s half as interesting or well-done as A DRIFTING LIFE, it’ll be a must-buy for sure. Yoshinaga is the author of ANTIQUE BAKERY and FLOWER OF LIFE amongst many other fan-fav almost-yaoi titles, and more of her work will certainly be appreciated.

Okay then, I think we’re done for this month. Thanks for reading, hopefully next month will go a little more smoothly.

– Chris

Liveblogging the May 09 Previews – Part 1


Oh look, we’re liveblogging the Previews again this month! It’s actually not due for 5 whole days, so expect a slightly less-manic, but hopefully no-less enjoyable look at all of the comics and graphic novels being solicited by Diamond Comics Distributors, scheduled to begin arriving in stores in July 2009. I’ll be updating this every few minutes as I get to the next thing I wanna talk about… and I really will try and mention page numbers this month, if you wanna play along at home…!

4:09pm: FWIW, these aren’t awful covers this month, just sort of meh. But we have more unsold copies of Previews this month than in the last 12, both actual copies and percentage ordered. Apparently Spider-Man versus Doctor Octopus and a random skull just aren’t that interesting?

4:18pm: Page FS-1 has an article with the title EXTREME MOMS. Italics in the original title. What? Ah, I see, I have opened this to the wrong side. That is my fault.

4:19pm: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! IS OVER! I guess this is the final month of Diamond advertising their big event. I guess there’s no way anyone in comic industry could say they didn’t KNOW about it, anyway…

On to page 2…  Wow, those Final Fantasy IX figures are hideous. Like, I know they’re in the sort of “Chibi” style that the game was in, and this is all about accuracy, but I even like the character designs and I would definitely not buy these. Awful… The Chibi versions of the FF VII, X, and XII figures on the opposite page look much cooler.

4:36pm: Whoa, rush of customers. Sorry about the delay there. So this month’s Editor’s Note (p7) from Marty Grosser is all about… Mom. Geez, what a bunch of momma’s boys. I love my mom (but not as much as I love your mom), but it is weird to see the editor of Previews telling my to make sure to call my mom on Mother’s Day.

Anyway, the editor breaks down every mother in the world to one of two types, either “The Terminatrix”, who is “the stereotypical mother” who threw out all of your comics, or “The Source”, who got you started on comic books. VIRGIN OR WHORE! CHOOSE, READERS OF PREVIEWS! VIRGIN OR WHORE!?

Actually, I got one better for you Marty. “There is only one woman in the world. One woman, with many faces.” There’s your reductionist argument, courtesy of The Last Temptation of Christ. They’re both Virgins AND Whores. Or Source Terminatrixes. Terminatricies? Either way, lame editorial Marty.

4:55pm: Shit we’re not even to any of the actual books yet. Anyway, Page 9 is an interview with ROMAN DIRGE, the “Featured Creator” of the month. For all of you industry watchers wondering about the Lenore creator leaving SLG for, of all places, Titan Publishing (in the U.K.), here’s a fun quote from the interview with Mr. Dirge.

I’m excited to be working with Titan. It tugged on the heart-strings to leave SLG Publishing after having such a long relationship with them. I have nothing but love for them, especially their founder, Dan Vado. He gave me my start in the industry and it was like family. I regret how we parted ways. Without SLG, I’d rpobably be asking you what kind of cheese you want on your sandwich and if you want the combo meal. Titan has a lot of things planned for me.” – Roman Dirge

Huh, so apparently the parting was not pleasant. Kudos to Dan Vado for keeping it under his hat, if that’s the case. I haven’t heard a bad word about Mr. Dirge. I’m in support of creators going for the best deal, and if Titan offered Dirge a good one, then sure, what the hell. But it seems like the first part of Dirge’s statement, and the second part, they’re a little incongruous? Like “These guys at SLG are family and I owe them everything! Can’t wait to start working with my new pub!” Is that a platitude? Is that the dictionary definition of a platitude? Hmm.

It’s not an either/or proposition, I’m aware, and I know these guys are friends and I’ll likely take some heat for this, but: I was a huge Jhonen Vasquez fan a few years ago, and I still appreciate his work a great deal, but I have never… ever… understood the appeal of any of Dirge’s work. It seems fantastically lazy. It seems like you start with Vasquez’s JTHM or SQUEE, which are literally bursting at the seams with creativity and ideas, tons and tons of them, and then you take an issue of that and stretch it out into 13 issues of Lenore. But to be fair, you take a single panel of a children’s book and put it on 10,000 stickers and you end up with the utterly-vacant Emily the Strange, so. It’s sort of like the Matterhorn of talent, with Vasquez perched on top and everything else sliding rapidly into the abyss.

At any rate, this month Titan is offering a full-colour edition of Dirge’s Lenore: Noogies. I’m certainly not complaining about the money we’ve made off of Dirge’s work; it sells. But I wonder if exactly the same stuff will sell, to the same audience, again (his work just isn’t that colourful even with ‘full colour’). And hearing that the ‘breakup’ was full of regret and it’s only been… what, a year? That doesn’t make me say “I CAN’T WAIT TO SUPPORT THIS DUDE’S WORK!”

Perhaps I am in the minority.

5:20pm: Alright! Comics! P.24 has STAR WARS: INVASION, which features a bunch of characters that look exactly like a cross between Aliens and Predators attacking the post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars Universe! Luke Skywalker using crazy Force-Powers to take on hybrid Aliens/Predators (but not really)? I can see some nerds definitely being into that.

Jo Chen cover too. Nice.

5:24pm: The new BPRD series featuring art by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba drops this month. Lovely. Not sure if I’ve entirely forgiven them for their Casanova April Fool’s Day prank. Also “The Witchfinder #1”, a new Hellboy spinoff series.

5:29pm: So I guess I understand why the solicitation for Guy Davis’ The Marquis: Inferno trade paperback doesn’t mention anywhere that it’s a collection of all of the perviously-published material, i.e.: The trade paperbacks “Danse Macabre” and “Intermezzo,” but it’s still pretty crappy of them not to mention that. It’s a great deal, a 336 page trade of very strong comics material by Davis, who’s really found an audience for his work thanks to BPRD. And it’s got a new sketchbook and Mignola intro. It’s a great, worthwhile book. But hiding the solicit info is amateur hour, seriously. I had to track down an interview with Davis at CBR to figure that out. It should be in the solicit, period.

5:34pm: THE GOON versus DETHKLOK from Metalpocalypse. Alright, 37 pages into the Previews, I’m calling it: This will be the most under-ordered comic book of the month. Oh and they’re relaunching Creepy too, which is weird. I have no idea if there’s an audience for a black and white horror anthology, but hey, new Bernie Wrightson art.

5:45pm: DH has got a brand new black and white crime-fiction anthology called NOIR (p41), dropping… September 30th. Well, at least they’ll have plenty of time to hype it up. I think it’ll need some hype too, It’s not the kind of thing that generally sells gangbusters (I think FLIGHT is probably the exception), but look at the list of creators on this thing… Azzarello, Brubaker, Grist, Lapham, Moon & Ba, Phillips, maybe a dozen or two more. Everyone doing any critically acclaimed crime/noir fiction stuff, except maybe Darwyn Cooke, in one book. It should sell itself, but I feel like it’ll be an uphill battle… I hope they promote the hell out of this.

5:52pm: New Gilbert and Mario Hernandez series! Citizen Rex #1 coming monthly, starting the first week of July. Nice.

5:55pm: Conan drops “The Cimmerian” as the subtitle this issue. Or at least the solicit does, hopefully that’s just for the solicit.

5:56pm: Here on page 47 we’ve got a solicitation for “3 STORY: SECRET HISTORY OF THE GIANT MAN” by Pistolwhip and Super Spy creator Matt Kindt. I totally had not heard that Kindt was doing a graphic novel for DH. I guess it makes sense, it’s a full-colour book and Top Shelf’s full colour stuff is pretty rare in general. Hmm. Anyway, this one will be out September 23rd. If Matt (or anyone really) is reading, send me a preview, I’d love to see what this is all about.

6:00pm: Awwwwwwwwwwwesome. Dark Horse is reprinting the fairly-hard-to-find PICTURES THAT TICK, a collection of Dave McKean’s short comics stories. I suppose this comes alongside their reprinting of pretty-much every other comic he’s done save Mr. Punch, including the resolicit of CAGES a month or two back. V. Cool. I never owned this one–a friend had it and I read it 2 or 3 times–and am looking at adding it to my collection this September. I can only imagine a few dozen of my customers feel the same way. And it’s only $20 too, what a steal. We’re going to order a ton.

6:23pm: DC Comics! Alright. Geez, that took kinda forever, didn’t it? Sorry, it’s a busy comic day. I just spent 25 minutes helping the cutest guy ever. Like Seth Rogan but cuter (and taller). Good day at the comic store. Yessss.

So what do we have? Another 1 in 250 copy variant on Blackest Night #1. I appreciate that DC is getting behind this one in a big way… Free Comic Book Day, two years of build-up, all of that. But again, this is a program that rewards large retailers and encourages small retailers to take potentially very unhealthy positions on books. Man, if I’ve heard the rumours about Diamond being in a cash-crunch because of the number of comic stores closing (and not paying their bills…) then SURELY DC has heard the same thing… and yet they’re encouraging stores to drop an extra 500-600 bucks to nab an “incentive” cover. Or they’re just shutting those customers out entirely. This is the worst thing in the comics industry right now. The Worst.

6:34pm: … and it’s weird because WEDNESDAY COMICS might just be one of the neatest things in the industry right now. Get top talent to do the stories they’ve always wanted with their favourite characters. Pope, Allred, Azzarello & Risso, Gaiman, Dave Bullock, Kyle Baker, Gibbons and Sook. Tons and tons more. That’s just cool, you know? I feel like this one will be a little underordered as well, but I appreciate them taking a risk on format, and on great creators and off-beat stories. We’re going to be supporting this one, at least for the first month or two of issues (it’s a weekly), and hopefully it lives up to all of its promise.

7:02pm: So I’m actually at page 81 and haven’t had anything else to say. Still busy (I swear it’s attractive-man day here at the store…) but also the DC solicits are pretty boring! Actually!

7:05pm: I heard from a customer, I think? I think it was a customer. Anyway, I heard from someone today that McDuffie was finally let go from Justice League. No disrespect intended to McDuffie, he seems like a nice guy, but it was pretty clear he fucking hated that job. I mean, whatever, people don’t like their jobs, but you can only complain about how fucking broken the book is and how your hands are tied, in public, for so long, before Dan DiDio reads his e-mail. You know what I’m saying? That dude seems like a biiiiiiiiiiiit of a control freak, I can’t imagine he’s reading McDuffie complaining about a scene needing to be re-written at the last minute and the scene being clumsy because of it, and DiDio steps back and goes “Yeah, shit, good point man. We really gotta get our act together here at DC!” 

Dan DiDio doesn’t seem like that kind of guy is all I’m saying.

To The Extreme.

7:10pm: So… JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE #1. The James Robinson Justice League series that is now a mini-series. Well… sure, why not, whatever. Maybe it’ll be good? I like James Robinson, and Batwoman, and the blue-skinned Starman dude. Sounds like a winner to me. Has he given the interview where he says that his creativity was brutally compromised on this series so I shouldn’t bother? Or is he gonna give that interview AFTER the series has come out, so we understand why we were unhappy? I guess I know why people wait for the trade.

7:27pm: Happy to see a new printing of Absolute New Frontier.

7:29pm: Alright, here we are, page 105. NORTH 40 #1 by Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples. Really lovely, understated piece of cover art. Sort of a mysterious premise. Tentacle monster on the cover (tasteful!). Looks good. I’ll check this out.

7:37pm: So it looks like DC is doing a hardcover collecting the first two Tom Strong collections (p111). I actually liked those first 12 issues a lot, some often-lovely art from Chris Sprouse in there, great big pulp concepts, very human stories. I never bought the collections for this (I used to have the issues), but I can see adding this to the shelf, the whole series in 3 hardcover volumes. Cool.

7:42pm: Huh, how about that. A gay lead character on the first page of the preview for GREEK STREET #1, from Peter Milligan. I’m sure there’s an obvious joke there but I ain’t gonna make it, I’m just happy to see any gay character in a comic book, they’re so underrepresented (and poorly represented when they do make an appearance!). GREEK STREET #1 is also one of Vertigo’s $1.00 first issues. I really dug THE UNWRITTEN #1, and the $1 promotion made me more inclined to give it a read, so cool beans. I’ll give this one a heavy order too, hopefully get a whole bunch of people hooked on it.

As for what it’s about? Apparently it’s a gritty-crime-update of Greek Mythology. Done and done.

7:49pm: So my friend Paul was so repulsed by the cover of Hellblazer #257 (p119) that he appeared to be flustered with anger. It’s… it’s not good, he’s totally right. I like Bisley, but. Yeah. At any rate, I think I said at the time “Well maybe they’re going for a lurid pulp-novel thing. It’ll work in context, once you get like, the right cover elements up there. Make it look like an old pulp-novel!” But as the date approaches, I grow more unsure. I guess we’ll know on July 22nd, but until then… Yeah. Not the best Hellblazer cover, that’s for sure.

8:02pm: As I skim quickly, so quickly, over the terrible DC Direct section, I just want to give props to all-around lovely guy Mike Sterling at Progressive Ruin, who takes the time to mock the most egregious bits of nerd ephemera solicited in the PREVIEWS catalogue every month. He calls his recaps THE END OF CIVILIZATION, which I think is an incredibly appropriate title, actually. Unfortunately he doesn’t tag or categorize his site, so far as I can tell, so linking to those posts is a little tough. But here’s a few workarounds:

The May ’09 End Of Civilization (The Previews you’re reading about now!)
The June ’09 End Of Civilization 

Mike also has a fairly-regularly updated list of his END OF CIVILIZATION posts on his right-sidebar, you can check those out for hours of hilarity. It’s the sort of hilarity where you cry a little. 

Okay, next…

8:16pm: IMAGE! Okay, new Mice Templar series (p139), Savage Dragon hits 150 issues (p141), and… here we go! ARMAGEDDON NOW: THE BEAST #1 (p142) featuring some dude desparately digitally painting over top of Rob Liefeld’s pencils, to try and make them look better. This is great. You know why? Because when you put A REALISTIC SHEEN on top of CRAP, it brings out EVERY FLAW. Liefeld’s stiffly-posed action characters on a sliding background, leaping in the air? It’s bold and graphic and, whatever, it looks like “comic book” art. It’s got a lot of energy and not much else. But when you render the fuck out of that, and colour it all brown and put it on top of a painted background and make it “realistic”? That’s when you notice OMG THE CHARATERS ARE ALL HOVERING 6-12 INCHES OFF THE GROUND. Like he can’t draw a character running, fine, everyone knows that, but when it’s “superheroey” it doesn’t matter, it’s just a cool pose. But when you try and make it REAL, then we get into distressing Uncanny Valley territory. Oh, snap, I got it. Rob Liefeld’s ARMAGEDDON NOW is the uncanny valley of comic books. AWESOME. Someone put that on the book jacket please. Here’s a shitty photo with my phone camera, so you can understand what EXACTLY I am talking about:


Seriously. That panel.. (actually, shit, that’s a FULL PAGE SPLASH of those two dudes, hahaha). “RARGH! LET’S FLOAT SLOWLY TOWARDS THE ENEMY WHILE SHOOTING DUDES IN THE HEAD!” If the actual dialogue was “RARGH! LET’S FLOAT SLOWLY TOWARDS THE ENEMIES WHILE SHOOTING THEM IN THE HEAD!!!” I’d be way more inclined to be charitable.

As it is, I am ordering zeh-ro of this clunker.

Oh, and, just so you don’t think I’m being totally vicious, we did order the similarly-awful Armageddon Now original hard cover, and have yet to sell it. But I’m still being totally vicious.

8:37pm: So I guess I officially don’t understand Dan Brereton. After pulling his NOCTURNALS books from Oni (…and I think Dark Horse too? No?), then self-publishing a nice omnibus collection of some of his older work, he is now at Image with the second collection of his work, meaning that there’s an orphan self-pub’d vol-1 HC floating around out there… and about 75% of all comics retailers are seeing this omnibus collection NOCTURNALS VOLUME 2 (p150) for the first time, cuz now it’s in the Image section. With no accompanying relist of volume 1. Which means 75% of retailers are just gonna skip this, because they “can’t get the first volume”. It’s tough out there for creator-owned work, I know that. I’ve got ENORMOUS sympathy for Mr. Brereton, and I really like NOCTURNALS too. But I look at something like this and just shake my head. I don’t get these decisions at all. 

(I just checked Diamond and the first HC omnibus is “Out Of Stock, No Back Orders”).

8:47pm: New printing of Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders’ FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE this month. That’s nice. (p152). Oh, also a new volume of INVINCIBLE, which was solicited BEFORE the previous volume had come out. And! AND! All of the issues contained in this trade? Totally already printed. Will actually ship on time! Thanks for living up to your promise Mr. Kirkman, we’re selling a shitload of your books.

9:00pm: I’ll give Kevin Smith this: I can’t see the word BERSERKER (p168) without singing Would You Like Some Making Fuck BERSERKER quietly to myself. So, score one for him?

9:12pm: Hey, Marvel’s got a new HALO series! (p.4) I actually laughed at that. Good for them! Keep running up that hill, Marvel.

(That was for you, Naudi.)

oz_89:15pm: Looks like The Previews Pages in the Marvel Previews are a little out of order this month… At any rate, nice cover on Wonderful Wizard of Oz #8 (p.17).

Actually, I did want to say that I think that Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of their most thoroughly-conceived, well-executed stories in a very long time. Eric Shanower and Skottie Young have done a great job at adapting the story for new audiences, and it’s sold very well here at the store. Good job all-around.

9:21pm: I’m gonna be honest, I’m still pretty out-of-the-loop on the superhero front because of TCAF and Anime North and all that. So Dark X-Men: The Beginning (p.21) has this header that says UTOPIA TIE-IN! and I have no idea what the hell that’s about. Cloak and Dagger are in this and Dagger has an X-Men logo over top her va-jay-jay. 

Okay, flipping the page, it seems UTOPIA is running through Uncanny X-Men and Dark Avengers, both of which are written by Matt Fraction. That makes me feel a little better I guess. So that Dark X-Men: The Beginning is one of those interminable side-stories that don’t affect the plot in any way that Marvel likes to pump out? Okay, good, I know how to order those at least. And I just assume I order the Fraction stuff as normal, maybe with a little bit of a bump because there isn’t, generally, a 100% overlap between Uncanny X-Men and Avengers readers. See! This is how I figure out how to order everything! This column isn’t just pointless snark, you’re learning how retailers think!

9:26pm: You know it’s 9:30pm on a Friday, we should all be out drinking. Just saying. 

9:30pm: So am I reading this right? Spider-Man is getting married in Amazing Spider-Man #600? (p.42) Like I said, I’m out of the loop, but didn’t they undo all that shit like… a year ago? Or is this like how Archie is about to get married, as in, not real?


Also, is it just me or is the anatomy on Spidey’s shoulder in this Quesada cover totally fucked up? It looks like he’s got a shoulder wedged between his bicep and chin, and another on his back where his back and arm meet. Any thoughts on this from any artists reading? Cuz… cuz it looks pretty wonky.

9:45pm: So Incredible Hulk #600 threatens to unleash the secret of who The Red Hulk actually is. That’s pretty cool. We’ve been doing well with that series, and the recent switchover from Thor’s reboot numbering to the new-numbering went alright. Although a big part of that is keeping a strong creative team. Let’s peak ahead and see who’s on Incredible Hulk #601… Van Lente and Pak? Huh, apparently they’re launching this as a new ongoing, not as a replacement for the HULK series (which has issues 13 and 14 next month). That’s… weird. It’s probably difficult to be a Marvel fan and keep your collection in order? I am glad that is not my problem.

9:48pm: Haha… That’s great. Immortal Iron Fist has a spin-off: IMMORTAL WEAPONS (p.53). Sort of like team-Iron Fist. Featuring FAT COBRA in the first issue. Big-ups on Fraction for introducing that character, and for everything he represents.

9:50pm: So this month we see the debut of IRON MAN: IRON ADVENTURES based on the new 3d animated cartoon. I actually caught an episode of that and thought it was alright… Decent animation, engaging-enough story. Good character designs. Unfortunately the writer and artist on this are “To Be Announced”, so I can’t tell if this is comics or just frames from the show blown up and printed. As such, I’ll order low and try to reorder, I guess. The cinemanga-type comics just don’t do well for us. 

9:51pm: I’ve got no comment on Marvel Divas #1. I don’t really know who it’s for, and I don’t think IT knows who it’s for either. Low order.

9:53pm: Okay, wait. So they’ve got the HULK series with the Red Hulk, and they’re launching an Incredible Hulk ongoing featuring Skaar, Son of Hulk, but they’re… also going to keep the Son of Hulk series going? Really? Are there really enough fans for this, for 3 ongoing Hulk series’? Cuz I don’t think they shop at my store.

9:57pm: So it looks like it’s the end for INCOGNITO (p.79) with issue #6… and I couldn’t be happier! I’m always happy when stories have endings, that this is going to be a great book for the bookshelf and a strong seller for us. Hopefully it gooses the sales on CRIMINAL as well, which should start up again soon. I kind of wonder if, on some level (not the only level obv.), INCOGNITO was a six-issue advertisement for CRIMINAL… You know, all these guys reading Marvel comics, hanging out on message boards, they probably hear how great CRIMINAL is but, let’s face it, they only ever read the superhero books. So even though it’s published by Marvel, even though it got relaunched with a new #1 issue, they’re probably going to pass. But you take all the bits that make up a great CRIMINAL story-arc, and you put superhero-masks on all of the characters, and maybe that’s enough for them, to meet them half way so they realize “Hey this is pretty good!” I mean, the Marvel: Noir stuff sort of dilutes the brand, but really, our INCOGNITO sales are great, higher even than CRIMINAL, and I’m hoping… not just hoping but banking actually… that when CRIMINAL comes back in a month or two, we’ll see higher sales across the board. And we’ve got 4 trade paperbacks to sell them too.

Here’s hoping, eh?

10:06pm: And we’re done. For tonight. 

Not that I’m not enjoying myself, but it really IS 10:00 on a Friday night, so at the very least I’m gonna go and grab a drink. We’ll continue the dissection of the May 2009 Previews catalogue with… THE BACK OF THE CATALOGUE… on Monday morning. Thanks for reading, feel free to comment in the comment section!

– Chris