Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chronic Review:  And Then Emily Was Gone # 1
Comix Tribe

Script:     John Lees
Pencils:   Iain Laurie
Color:     Megan Wilson
Letters:   Colin Bell

Emily is a delightfully weird little horror comic.  The story is set in the Scottish isle of Merksay, and the boogeyman of the piece is a local spook named Bonnie Shaw.  When parents get jammed into a corner so bad there's no way out...ol' Bonnie Shaw will appear and offer them a solution.  All he asks for in exchange is the couple's child.

Emily tells her best friend Fiona that she know it sounds crazy, but she's seen Bonnie Shaw.  Emily is so convinced of this, she tells Fiona that she's leaving the island.  Meet me tonight, and we'll leave together, says Emily.

So Fiona shows up at the meeting place and waits for hours.  Nobody shows.  And then Emily was gone.

This is not the kind of story the police are likely to take seriously, at least not the regular police.  So Fiona visits Greg Hellinger, who used to be impossibly good at finding missing people.  That is, until he started seeing monsters everywhere.  Now he mostly huddles into his apartment without pants and tries to drink the monsters away.  He hasn't had a good night's sleep in five years, but you can see why Fiona might think Hellinger is useful.

And that's the crux of the hook.  It's one of those stories loaded with unreliable narrators, so you're never quite sure what to believe.  There are a couple keys to making a story like this work.  One is to build real characters around the madness - if the madness doesn't "pay off", it doesn't matter because the human element is enough to draw you in.  In my opinion, Emily neither excels nor fails at that element.

I would say that the leads of the story (Fiona and Hellinger) are fairly flat...but with some plusses.  Lees did not go over-the-top with Hellinger's character, thankfully.  He's clearly suffering from depression with a side of suicidal tendencies, but that's to be expected when you've been seeing monsters for five years.

Fiona shows some hints that there might be more than just a little girl lurking beneath the surface.  Very subtle hints.

Subtlety is the second element that a good "is there a supernatural element here or not?" story.requires.  Here, Emily does excel.  Emily is gone, so the only witness we have to the Bonnie Shaw part of the story is Fiona.  All of this could plausibly be in a couple people's heads.  Teenage girls run away all the time.  

Except.  We do get to meet Emily's parents... and something is definitely sideways with her father Gordon.  He's mumbling cryptic nothings fit for a psycopath, and he's building a box with ornate Cthulhian symbols on it in the basement.  There's something in that box that he needs to show his wife.  We'll get to see it next issue....

About the art.  We need to talk about the art.  I'm a bit of a cave man, so Iain Laurie's loose pencils don't do it for me.  My rigid perceptions prefer the glossy, illustrative style of a Jamie McElvie, where it looks like the pencil has been gliding across the page like Oksana Baiul.  Laurie's pencils look like they were scratched into the page with an awl.

The proportions are not true to life, (Fiona's eyes are usually right next to her ears) and most people in the book have very weird overbites.  Maybe it's an Orkney islands thing?  I don't know.  I think it's a funny Iain Laurie thing. The loose pencils are not a deal-breaker for me, and to be fair I don't think I'd want a Jamie McElvie drawing this story.  It's not about glamorous, super-hot, L.A. people.  It's about weird backwoods Scottish peasant people.  I don't know who I'd put on here.  Matt Wagner, maybe?  Yeah, he'd be good.

The point is that I'm a cave man, and you probably aren't, so you'll be fine. If you're a horror fan that found yourself enjoying movies like Insidious, Let the Right One in, or May, I think it very likely that you enjoy this comic.  This is not a gory monster comic.  We don't see Bonnie Shaw in this issue, and we may never see him.  That's perfectly fine, in my opinion.  The mystery/suspense elements shine, and that's more than enough for me.

I recommend the book, and really doubt your local comic shop ordered many (or any) of these.  If you want to see how the series turns out, ask your shop to order it for you, and use your Jedi mind powers to make them rack a few extra copies as well.  This comic deserves to be seen by more people. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Market Spotlight:  Pedigree & Prototypes

David Lyon posted this on the wall, and he makes some important, salient points about my last Market Report on Big Hero 6 strategy, so I thought I'd share it here and respond:

"I agree for the most part on Big Hero Six (sell soon, etc etc). However, I AM a bit cautious about saying that the early issues won't raise in value because of lack of ties and emotional connection to the film. Why? Because the precedent has been set with the GotG movie. Marvel Super Heroes 18 abso-freaking-lutely SKYROCKETED in value, even though Yondu was the only movie attachment to the original team, and that status was pretty well known for a while. Case in point, about 5-6 months ago, I sold a NM unslabbed copy for $550(!!). Probably would've gotten more if I graded it."

This is good to talk about, because David is 100% correct about the Guardians situation:

1) Marvel Superheroes # 18 has seen significant increases since the movie announcement
2) Those characters have almost nothing at all to do with the movie itself

Yondu is in there, sure, but other than the blue skin bears almost zero resemblance to the source.  The mohawk is all wrong, and the attitude is completely backwards.  I won't ruin too much for you, but they got Michael Rooker to play Yondu, and he approached the character as a Space Hick.  The comic book Yondu is kind of a quiet, dour, altogether too serious dude.  Movie Yondu is searching the galaxy for Ned Beatty so he can plunder his ample backside again.  

So...if the Guardians have shown us that a movie can spur value increases even if the movie attached is similar in name only, why am I worried about connections with Big Hero 6?

The answer is pedigree, and the prototype phenomenon.  The Guardians of the Galaxy have always been B-Listers on their best day, but they do have a history.  They've been around the block a few times, they've hooked up with the Avengers a few times, and they were an integral part of the Korvac Saga.  The Korvac Saga is legendary. 

Comic Baymax
The Valentino series ran 62 issues, which is a pretty good sized run.  A grand epic by today's standars, actually.  And Valentino is a founding Image guy.  The Guardians don't have the resume of a Batman, that's for sure.  Ask 100 people on the street what they can tell you about Charlie 27, and you'll get 100 blank looks.  The team does have some meat behind it, and some historical weight.  There was (some) ambient interest in that property, though, and then a movie launch stacked more interest onto it.

When we're talking about  Big Hero 6, we're talking about a single appearance nobody cares about in an Alpha Flight book nobody cares about, eight issues of worth of mini-series, and a one-shot reprinting five of those eight issues.  Your Big Hero 6 "omnibus" contains nine obscure comics.  They've never carried their own ongoing title.  Not only do
Movie Baymax
civilians not know or care about Big Hero 6, most ardent comics fans couldn't name a single team member outside of Sunfire or Silver Samurai.  

Apart from this movie...there is nothing there for Big Hero 6.  That's why I think the visual/emotional connection matters more for that property.  There's nothing else in the culture letting us know these characters even exist.  Since the movie is largely defining the property, I think it matters more that the perceived source comics line up properly.

My other concern is the "protoype" phenomenon.  All things being equal, first appearances rule the day.  But collectors are a fickle lot, and sometimes they organically decide that certain appearances are "true", and others aren't.  And by the way, these definitions can change relatively quickly.

My go-to examples on this is Sgt Rock.  Our Army at War # 81 features a prototype "Sgt Rocky" character, and that book does pretty well on the secondary market.  Overstreet lists a NM value of $8,500 on that comic.  There was a long time when most considered that his first appearance.  

Over time, though, the War Book folks determined that the real foundations of the character weren't established until Our Army at War # 83, "The Rock and the Wall".  So now that comic leap-frogged # 81 and now commands $15,000 in 9.2 condition according to Overstreet.  In reality, if you actually had a 9.2 I bet you could get $20K for that, easy.  The point is that it's definitely possible to back the "wrong horse" in situations like this, and it can cost you money.  Big Hero 6 isn't going to cost you Sgt Rock money, but still.

Now, nobody can perfectly predict how the collecting community is going to feel about anything.  Maybe they take to the original Sunfire & Big Hero 6 without a hitch and it works like a standard first appearance. I could be wrong about all of this.  The other thing to clarify again is that prototypes aren't worthless - they just pale compared to whatever the community designates as the "true" first appearance.

What I have discovered in my old age is that most humans make their decisions entirely on emotion.  I worry about those obscure comics holding value when the characters on the page look almost nothing like what appears on the screen.  I think the resonance might fail, and it's disconcerting enough that my cautious nature is shouting at me to pull the plug on the earliest of the Big Hero 6 material.

Thanks for chiming in, Mr. David Lyon!  We got a little deeper into the weeds on some relevant market stuff, so I thank you for prompting that. 

Market Spotlight Report:  Sunfire & Big Hero 6

Sunfire & Big Hero 6 have been speculator darlings for some time now, for lots of reasons.  Tops on that list being the fact that the property has an animated feature from Disney coming out in late fall.  Disney is a powerful horse to be hitched to, and the creative team is helmed by the Man of Action folks.  In the comics community, we know them as crazy bastards like Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, and Steve Seagle.

Man of Action is responsible for stuff like Ben 10, the Ultimate Spider-Man Cartoon, and Avengers Assemble.  They know how to transition comic book material into other quality media.  So Big Hero 6 seems like a pretty strong play on paper, and the returns have already been solid.  Alpha Flight (2007) # 17 is the first appearance, and that trades for around $40-$50 in nice raw condition.  The first issue of the initial mini-series sells for similar figures.

Those books do not have particularly large print runs.  These were niche books, and hitting right smack in the "we don't overprint any more" era of Marvel.  Again, on paper this has all the makings of a long-term speculator bonanza.

Having just watched the trailer for the upcoming movie...I feel like The Move is to cut bait on everything before the 2008 series and sell for whatever you can, as soon as possible.  Judging from the trailer, your POV character is Hiro, with his trusty balloon robot companion Baymax.  They're both great, but they bear little resemblance to those early Marvel issues.

In the Sunfire mini-series, Hiro wears glasses, appears a little older, and cobbles together guns to fight off secret agents.  Baymax is absolutely unrecognizeable as the same character.  In the trailer he's a dopey, harmless looking balloon blob.  In the comic, he looks like a giant angry lizard.

If you squint really hard, you can trace the lineage back.  Both Hiros are smart kids that program an artificial sidekick to take care of them.  I'm not suggesting that these early Big Hero 6 books have no future value.  I'm saying that when a kid comes out of that Big Hero 6 movie, the best case scenario is that they are very excited about what they saw.  When that kid gets to the early Big Hero 6 comics, he or she won't recognize the Hiro and Baymax on the covers, and they won't give a flying fig about no damn Honey Lemon or Sunfire.

So why would anybody pay big money for characters they can't emotionally connect to the thing they actually like?  Answer: I don't think they will.  I think the earliest issues of Big Hero 6 are not good long-term plays, and I would get out toot sweet.

Things get a little more interesting when you get to the 2008 mini-series by Chris Claremont and David Nakayama.  The Hiro and Baymax from that series visually "feel" much closer to what's going on in the trailer.  I think the movie audience might find some resonance in that series.  These books also do quite well in the current secondary market.  No single issue from that series approaches the $50 mark like Alpha Flight # 17, not even the first issue.  I have seen complete sets of the five issue series go for $100, though.

Should you sell those right now and avoid getting burned?  Hmmmm....I don't know for sure.  I'm fairly risk averse, and this feels like risk.  If I had one set of the 2008 Big Hero 6 series, I would get out now and make sure I'm in the black.  If I had multiple sets, I absolutely positively would sell at least one set now, and if you really believe the audience will feel that emotional connection between comic/movie, you can hold on to the rest for greater gains.  It's definitely something you should be thinking about now if you're holding this material for profit.

Other Books That Have Recently "Popped"

Hellblazer:  Phantom Pains

John Constantine has been a big earner for me in my history as a book scout, and I expect the upcoming TV series to increase those earning opportunities as demand outpaces the already limited supply.  Hellblazer is a perfect secondary market machine. It maintains a fervent, dedicated fan base, but that base is never large enough to entice DC into quick reprints.  Eventually DC does go back to press, they always do.  But there are often extended windows on huge chunks of the Constantine library.

Right now Phantom Pains is sitting directly in Crazy Town.  I recently posted a copy on Amazon for $80...the next in line for the "new" category is $225.  Now, I'm not suggesting that you're likely to ever sell that book for $200+, but I will say that listings don't get to that level unless the supply is severely stripped.  If you see this in your LCS, it's an insta-buy.  There are lots of Hellblazer titles that can make you money right now, (India, Laughing Magician, Roots of Coincidence) but that's the one I'd be most interested in.

Batman & The Monster Men

I've been waiting for this to pop for ages and eventually I'm always right.  This is not a tough thesis to crack - Batman is the most powerful force in out-of-print trades, and Matt Wagner writes a helluva Batman story.  Wagner handles the art chores on this one as well, so...double bonus!

This is an easy sell at $40 in nice condition, and as recently as last week your Amazon min for a "new" copy was over $100.  It would not surprise me to see a book like this trading at that level.  Wagner is a strong name, and Batman is the strongest brand.

Let me clarify that a bit.  Any volume of the Walking Dead is going to sell more copies than Batman & The Monster Men.  The difference is that Walking Dead is also going to stay in print, precisely for that reason.  If DC ever allowed Watchmen to go out of print, that would be a $100 book inside of a month.  Nosebleed prices happen at a magical little sweet spot between Some People Really Like This and We Don't Want To Print 5,000 Copies Because It Will Take Us Three Years To Sell Them. 

Scarlet Spider Volume 2: Lone Star

You've got a window right now on this book, and it just might be sitting at your LCS collecting dust.  This series had a decently sized cult following.  People liked the Yost concept ("All the power, none of the responsibility) and they really liked the Ryan Stegman art.

There are four collected volumes of the series, but the second has gone out of print.  Amazon mins for nice copies are trading for $40+, and there's a possibility this could go higher.  The bad news is that the Scarlet Spider series is cancelled, which makes it less likely that current readers want to go back for old volumes.  The good news is that Dan Slott is about to roll forward with "Spider-Verse", which will feature nearly every spider-character in some fashion or another.  It's going to be big, and if Kaine gets the right kind of spotlight, it could definitely drive more people toward this book.

The problem these days is that the newer material carries a pretty hefty SRP.  A copy of Lone Star at cover price is going to run you $19.99, which is a fairly steep investment if you conservatively figure a sale at $40.  If your shop is running a sale or you have a nice discount, there is room for some good profit on that book right now.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rapid. Fire. Reviews.

I read a metric ton of comics worth talking about.  Because of the volume, I'm going to attempt efficiency.    When I start to go long....tell me to shut up!

The Auteur # 5.

HOLY SHIT.  I want to write many paragraphs on Auteur.  I may at some point.  For now, let me just sum it up thusly...this is the series of the year for me.  There are a few months for something to knock it off the King of the Mountain, but it would have to work awfully damn hard.

We talked about Auteur a couple of times on Chronic Insomnia, always in a positive light.  Auteur kinda dresses itself up as an untamed stallion - the spectacle is refreshing, but in the end it's hard to know what to do with pure chaos other than smile, clap, and move on.  Auteur is absolutely NOT a mad stallion, and it is not chaos.  I hesitate to use the "G" word, but I'm calling it a work of subversive genius. I think it's best to read Auteur and be surprised about what it's doing.  So for now, I'll say no more.

Black Market # 1

Black Market is not genius, but it is pretty entertaining.  It's also a very rare jewel in the comics scene - it does not bend the knee to the Bunny Briar.  The hook is that medicine has discovered a potential cure-all in the form of superhuman DNA.  Our POV characters are involved in extrapolating said DNA from said supers....whether they like it or not.  They incapacitate, capture, and violently rob DNA from largely innocent victims.  You understand why some of these regular folks would want to do that, but they're portrayed as total dicks.

The obvious parallel here is stem cell research...which would lend itself toward poking at the Religious Right.  That's not actually how the book operates, though.  It's functioning more as a bitch-slap to the lazier end of the 99%, believing they're owed something from the exceptional just cuz.  That makes it extra interesting to me, although I would have to say that stripped of the political score-keeping, Black Market is just middle-of-the-road in plot and character. 

Sinestro # 4

Echhh, what a waste.  I love Sinestro the character very much, and he spends a lot of time tripping over interesting things that are never properly explored.  As a small of Sinestro's core elements is a fierce loyalty to all things Korugar.

So he's been introduced to a handful of his own people, once believed lost forever.  There's a lot to be mined from interacting with those folks and deciding what to do with them.  If you wanted to, you could really paint from the current Palestine/Israel canvas.  That would take giant brass testicles, so one might eschew that option and just add depth to the character by having him really get involved with these people's lives.  My point is that he just carries these people around like inanimate trophies.  There's plenty of juice there, but it's just ignored.

What we get instead is more nonsense about emotion colors and things that counter-act emotion colors, (still not clear when "willpower" became an emotion exactly, but I'm willing to let that go) and posturing, and an incredibly pedantic love/hate relationship with his Green Lantern daughter.  And look, next issue he talks to Hal! (The cover would have you believe this issue is about that.  It's not.  The cover is a liar head) Which admittedly will be far more entertaining than anything that's happened in the first four issues, but man.  Talk about going back to the whip a little too often.  This comic should be a lot better than it is.

Grimm Tales of Terror # 1

On the other end of the pool, here's a comic a lot better than it should be.  Zenescope gets a bad wrap for it's shameless cheese-cakery and empty contents.  I have dropped trow and pooped on these comics myself, mainly because I find the interiors of Zenescope books tend to pale when compared to the covers, and I generally find the stories to be empty calories.

I don't know if they're just putting their best foot forward for a new # 1 or if this comic is indicative of the current Zenescope, but I was delighted by Tales of Terror # 1.  The unnamed narrator may look like a giant whore on the cover, (we have to sell these things in a tough market, dig?) but inside she's dressed tastefully, speaks eloquently, and genuinely seems to have her shit together.

The story inside was competently executed on all counts.  They're updating classic horror stories the way they updated fairy tales in the flagship book.  This comic puts a fresh twist on Poe's "Telltale Heart", which in this case means blending it with Stephen King's "Boogeyman".  Are they re-inventing the wheel?  Probably not.  This played out like an above-average episode of Tales From the Darkside, and jinkies, I'm in for that as long as they'd like to publish it.

Weird Love # 2

Man, this book is great.  If you just can't tolerate one more second of the bullshit-dripping 21st Century and it's obsession with avoiding hurt feelings.... you MUST buy this comic.

Craig Yoe is pulling the most bizarre gems from the romance genre, much of it from the pre-code era.  The standout in this issue was absolutely "Too Fat For Love", which is exactly what you're thinking it's about, and even more awesome than you're hoping it is.  The ending is so absurd you just want to punch yourself in the face, and by the way, that's precisely what I want out of these comics.

In the horrifyingly stifled modern era, every one of these stories comes off as so fresh, unashamed, and honest.  I never want this to stop.

Armor Hunters # 1

I worry about Valiant now, and I was dreading this when I saw the solicitations.  I don't really want Events out of Valiant, I want them to continue to be Valiant.  That means the Events are born from the consequences of the rich characters and their decisions, not some impossibly obvious title that sounds suitably violent and action-packed. It smells like money-driven desperation from a distance.

Once I got a good close sniff, though, I was pretty much worried about nothing.  The Armor Hunters themselves are coming from a little out of left field and not from an established place, I guess, but that's no crime..  The hook is that galactically speaking, X-O armors are not neutral tools that can be used positively or negatively.  X-O armors are giant assholes that always end up taking over their hosts and ripping shit apart.  So the Armor Hunters are bad asses devoted to wiping these things out.

Needless to say, Aric is not going to buy into any of that, and he isn't going to just hand over his good skin.  That's way more than enough to hang a nice event on, and it does so while strengthening the X-O mythos in a new way.  I still worry about Valiant, because the sales aren't there.  The quality, though?  That has been remarkably consistent.

PS:  I bought a chromium cover for this issue, and I apologize for nothing. 

Devilers # 1 (Dyanamite)

Dynamite is clearly trying to re-make a piece of themselves in the image of Image with their new "creators unleashed" line.  That's not the worst idea in the world, actually.  I never really understood the licensing angle myself.  You're going to pay licensing fees on top of the creator costs and then sell 6,500 copies of Duke Nukem or whatever?  I don't know where the profit is hiding in that arrangement.  But I digress.

UPDATE:  I guess this is how you find the profit - you get yourself a pony license and then sell half a million "fun packs"

The Devilers are not a licensed property, but a bunch of new demon-hunters from the mind of Joshua Hale Fialkov.  Go, Creators Unleashed! The gist is that The Vatican cut a literal deal with The Devil to keep Hell out of earth.  Since The Devil is not really a reliable dude, he welshes on the arrangement and the expected sort of global level hijinx ensue.

I'm not in love with any of these characters yet, but the stakes are high, things are moving, and there might be a really good book in here somewhere.  I like the tone.  It's not quite as footloose as say, Buckaroo Banzai, but neither does it take itself too seriously.  That feels about right.  If the price point stays at $2.99, I might stick around to see if it's going somewhere.  These reviews are getting too long.  Doh!

Supreme: Blue Rose # 1

Lately I like to tout Fiona Staple's Alana as the sexiest woman in comics.  Turns out, that is incorrect.  Turns out, the sexiest woman in comics is actually Tula Lotay's Diana Dane.  That's not the reason to read this comic, but it certainly is a reason.

I had to catch up with Supreme on his wiki page in order to glean what I needed to get within 30 miles of whatever the fuck is going on here.  If that sounds unkind, let me be clear - I really, really enjoyed this issue.  It's simply not one of those vaunted "great jumping on points."  If you're familiar with the Supreme mythos, my assumption is that you'll find this a shockingly sophisticated, welcome addition.

PS:  Warren is back with a vengeance and taking different paths in his newer work.  You can still catch a strong scent of the old dialogue for sure, but also twists.  This Diana Dane voice....I don't believe we've gotten that from Warren yet.  I'm in for the series, and also glad that this isn't pretending to be an ongoing.  It's not pretending to be an ongoing, is it?  This should just be a wonderful little thing that lives on its own in one trade paperback.

Nightbreed # 3

I have a fondness for these characters, so I've been enjoying this a great deal.  If you don't know or care about Boone or Peloquin, I can't imagine you giving a shit about what goes on here.

On the plus side, one of the Midianites has a bunch of babies hatch from eggs, and the torch/pitchfork wielding yokels are given pause in their murderous intent when one of the babies begins reciting The Lord's Prayer.  Yikeez.  So I think on some level Clive Barker would be proud.

The Woods #3

A bunch of high school kids get spontaneously transported to an alien world.  They are given some non-verbal cues to enter this Thicket of Impending Doom.  A scant few do take on this challenge.  The rest retreat into the school and start recreating those old Stanford prison experiments.

If you thought you were going to like Morning Glories and then dropped it after 7 issues because it was just getting too deep and too might want to try out The Woods.  It has a lot of similar interests, but the path is far more straight, and the engine is moving more quickly.

Afterlife With Archie # 6

We take a break from Riverdale and catch up with Sabrina, who of course got the ol' gulag from her aunts when she resorted to dark sorcery.  So what's up with 'Brina these days?  Well, she's being constantly harried and pyschologically tortured by the most Cthhulhian agents of all - HP Lovecraft and Arthur Machen themselves!
 I won't ruin any more of the surprises in this comic, but they are big, and they are bold.  If the objective was to make me interested in the upcoming Sabrina series....mission accomplished.  Every time I think this series can't get better, it taps me on the shoulder and says

"Hey.  I'm better".

Then I smile and remark inwardly to myself

"I can't believe that Archie is actually producing this comic.  We are going to remember this for ages."

And that's a good thing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thor (1998) # 22
Market Spotlight:  Thor Girl

I've been thinking about possible plays on the recent Thor news.  However one might feel about the scenario, it's received a good dollop of media attention, and it's taking over a really strong title for a furlong.  Whoever that woman carrying Thor's hammer may be....she's not a nothing.  For better or for worse, in the short term she's A Thing.

Here comes the fine print advisories:

What I'm talking about here is reckless speculation.  I don't know anything about the future contents of the Thor title.  Even if I did know that, it is grand hubris to believe one can predict exactly how the market will respond to any given stimulus.  This play I'm sharing with you is thick with risk, is what I'm telling you.

I'm telling you to consider rustling through the longboxes of your local LCS for appearances of Tarene.  Her first appearance is Thor (1998) # 22, by Dan Jurgens and John Romita, Jr.  She's got a moderately interesting and convoluted backstory that includes cosmic-level abilities, a magic hammer, connections to Thanos, and a brief stint as something called Thor Girl.

Thor (1998) # 33
Thor Girl makes her first appearance in Thor (1998) # 33, with a lovely cover by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove.  First appearances generally rule the day, but the cover for Thor # 33 really pops, and gets more to the heart of the public fascination.  If Tarene does indeed pick up Thor's hammer, these issues become instant magnets for the reactionary set. 

Why?  Is there any chance we're thinking about this character a year from now?  Three years from now?  Possible, but highly unlikely.  This is the kind of volcanic explosion I'm happy to cash out on and then duck out of the way.  In the hands of Jason Aaron and company, it is possible the new Thor has legs, (pun mostly intended) but history is working against her.

What If (1989) # 51
It's entirely possible that the new Thor has absolutely nothing to do with Tarene.  Even in that case, I can see a potential window for these books, especially Thor # 33.  Remember back when Marvel was teasing that star logo around Fraction's Punisher War Journal book?   The whispers in the dark decided that Punisher was going to take on the mantle of Captain America, and suddenly What If # 51 went from a $1 dust
collector to a $40 must-have. 

We're talking about a book that was strictly outside of continuity and didn't have a damn thing to do with the actual narratives at work.  When people get worked up about a thing, logic takes a holiday.  If the new Thor is a girl, those Thor Girl books may see a sharp spike whether the mystery woman is Tarene or not.  For a couple moments, at any rate.

Upon reflection, I guess the risk I'm advocating is pretty minor, because I don't advise throwing a whole lot of money into it.  The odds are good that your local shop either A) Doesn't have these books or B) They will have them available for $2 or $3.   I don't like the idea of paying more than $5 for these at any point, but your tolerance for pain may be greater than mine.

Still, it wouldn't surprise me at all if these were $25-$50 comics in October.  If you want to take a little risk and try to get ahead of this thing, Thor # 22 and # 33 are cute little lottery tickets.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

If you think she's Thor.....I can barely sit down!

So, Marvel was pretending to have news today in that adorable way they always do - by spouting meaningless hyperbole and lies.  In case you missed it, Thor will be a woman starting in October.

Except, she won't be Thor.  Can't be Thor.

Thor is not a mantle, or a title.  It's a guy.  Thor is a person.  Yeah, he might be Asgardian, but I think we still have to call him a person.  It's not an separate identity.  "The God of Thunder" is his separate job title.  Somebody else, perhaps even a woman, could be that.  Well, technically she'd be a Goddess, and wouldn't that send The Bunnies into a tizzy?  Might be worth it just for that.

Thor is a guy, and he has a magic hammer.  The hammer's inscription says this:

"Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

Marvel's press release is interested in the "he" part of that inscription, because in 2014 you are contractually obligated to be obsessed with gender relations at the expense of all logic.  If logic were in play, they'd be more worried about the "power" part of the inscription.

So keep up with me now....even if you lift the hammer, you don't get to BE Thor, you get to possess the POWER of Thor.  If you grab my spatula, you don't become me.  You stay you, except now you need to wash your hands.  Because I know stuff about that spatula that you don't.

But that's not how Marvel is spinning this. They're saying this mystery woman IS Thor, which is patently stupid.  Marvel says a lot of stupid things.

As an example, editor Wil Moss says "This Thor isn't a temporary female substitute - she's now the one and only Thor!"

This tells me one of three things:

A)  Wil Moss is a dirty, dirty liar
B)  Wil Moss is not in any way familiar with comic books
C)  All of the above

I suspect it's C, but I'll believe any of those options.  Marvel likes to pretend that there's overlap between the movie audiences and comic book readership.  The instant that Hemsworth bloke comes back to the theaters as Thor....the uterus is goin' bye-bye. 

Marvel says this is one of the most shocking and exciting changes to one of the "Big Three" (Cap, Iron Man, Thor) in history.  They're wrong.

This is just the transparent implementation of two agendas:

Agenda # 1:  Get a new # 1

God forbid we have a title run for three years consecutively.  The strategy is now is to pray they can keep a title afloat for 8 issues.  If it won't die on its own in 20 issues, time to actively kill it.  This is not "exciting", it's tedious and reckless.

Agenda # 2:   Pander to Bunnies For Good Public Relations

Marvel openly admits the move is designed to attract female readership.  Apparently, women are only capable of being interested in reading about other women?  This is a good thing to say publicly, because if you just repeat the same tired nonsense about a lack of "strong female leads" and readers "needing to find themselves in the comics", people still clap when you finish.

It's all rubbish.  I just watched "The Strain" premiere, and my favorite characters are the old Jewish guy with the sword cane and that Ephraim dude's partner with the CDC.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not an old Jewish man.  If a couple of young toughs entered my pawn shop and tried to rob me, I would wet myself, not take a knife to one of my assailants and force the other to surrender his weapon.

I have zero in common with the CDC woman.  She doesn't look, talk, or act like me.  I like her just fine, but she's not really what's drawing me into the story.  I like the plot and the heightened drama of the story.  I like the "how in the world is the human race ever going to get out of this pickle?" angle.

So either I'm an outlier, or this whole business of needing to find oneself in the story is overplayed.

The mistake here is in assuming that women wouldn't like the previous issues of Thor: God of Thunder, a premise I reject entirely.  This stuff always sounds good at first blush.  It seems reasonable that Marvel should want to accommodate female readers by showing them a character to identify with.

The problem is that in their effort to placate The Bunnies and show everyone how Not Sexist they are, Marvel shows their true sexist colors.  Women don't need a pair of breasts on the page to get engaged, they want what a everyone else wants.....a good story.

And the truth of the matter is that Jason Aaron has been telling really, really good Thor stories that just about anybody can enjoy regardless of plumbing.  Why would you feel the need to dangle a ponytail in front of women as bait?  The book doesn't require it. Women like Thor just fine! Don't take my word for it, Comic Book Girl 19 will tell you all about it.

That should be the news!  Why ISN'T that the news??? Hey ladies, did you know that comics are fantastic and all that mythological garbage about rampant sexism is complete bullshit?  That should be the message.

Instead, Marvel tries to trumpet this ridiculous marketing scheme as some engine of social change.  They're trotting their "strong female lead" out there like they just found The Loch Ness Monster or something.   I'm strangling the next person I hear utter that absurd bullshit about a lack of strong female leads.

Because when you think about it, these are the only strong females carrying their own book right now:

  • Ms. Marvel
  • Captain Marvel
  • Cassie Hack
  • Shutter
  • Hinterkind
  • Princess Ugg
  • The Princess from Princeless
  • Bold Riley
  • Lazarus
  • Veil
  • Queen & Country
  • Everything that ever has been and ever will be written by Greg Rucka
  • Wonder Woman
  • Rat Queens
  • Supergirl
  • Batgirl
  • Batwoman
  • Brian Wood’s entire X-Team
  • Pretty much everybody driving Wicked + Divine
  • Catwoman
  • She-Hulk
  • Black Widow
  • Myriad Birds of Prey
  • Red Sonja
  • Courtney Crumrin
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Rachel Rising

You know...just those, and about 57 others that simply didn't spring immediately to mind.  Those are just the women driving their own titles.  That's not even scratching the surface of the strong female supporting cast like Storm, Sue Storm, Lois Lane, Anna Maria (Spider-Man), Mary-Maria (Archer & Armstrong), Maria Hill (SHIELD/SWORD), Kitty Pryde, Valkyrie, Sif, and we could go on for days and days with this stuff.

The question is agency.  Women need to be portrayed as making decisions in their own lives and taking actions to achieve those choices.  Let me ask you you know of ANY female character in ANY comic that isn't doing that?  Not only are comics not sexist in 2014, they are so actively Not Sexist that it's difficult to find a character with a uterus and an ounce of real vulnerability.  At this point women are kicking all asses, all the time. That's reality.  And that's fine, but then what is gained by pretending otherwise?

Yes, Zenescope has issues.  Yes, Vampirella's costume is deliciously absurd.  I'm not blind. I don't see these as crisis level problems, though.  There is nothing wrong with sexy women being sexy.  The problem arrives when that is all they are allowed to be.  I just ripped off a list for days of women that have more going one for them than attractiveness.  Can you name five that are limited to sex objects?  I rather doubt it.  Take a whack at it in the comments if you like.

My final judgement on Mystery Uterus Thor is that I trust Jason Aaron enough to believe that the stories will be good, so I'm not going to melt down about it.  It is depressing, though, to see all the wrong angles get all the headlines, as per usual.

PS:  Not that it matters, but it's Angela.