Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Madness....It Must Stop!

Before we get going, I just want to say that I can't demonstrate my points without getting spoilery in this column.  So if you don't want to know who the impostor Superman is in the new Future's End comic, don't read this.  For the rest of you, pray continue by clicking "read more", down and to the left.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chronic Review: Astro City - Through Open Doors

Scripts:    Kurt Busiek
Art:         Brent Anderson
Collects issues # 1-6 of the Vertigo series

I had never read an issue of Astro City before diving into Through Open Doors, which represents the 9th volume of the series.  This comic has always worn a badge of critical acclaim, but I've dodged it to this point because I'm generally not into analogues.  Why bother with a half-assed imitation of something when I can wait for a quality creative team to tackle the real thing? 

I do find exceptions to this line of thinking.  The Authority is worthwhile, and that makes no effort to disguise the fact that it's a Justice League commentary.  I really loved Danger Unlimited, and that's not even a commentary.  That was just John Byrne doing more Fantastic Four without the rights to the original property.

So when I started hearing podcasters and pundits talking about Astro City in special reverent tones, I decided that I would test drive the first volume when it got collected.  So here we are.

My quick capsule review is that Astro City is worthy of all the special reverent tones whispered about it.  Here's how it works and why it's a cut above your standard comics fare:

Astro City is Aptly Named

Every other comic on the rack is focused on a character or a group of characters.  Nothing wrong with that, by the way, I'm just stating the facts as they lay.  Astro City is about Astro City.  There are characters that tend to recur more than others, and characters more prominent than others.  That prominence is entirely determined by their importance to Astro City the community, however.

That approaches pushes the focus out into a web of interconnections instead of funneling it all into a specific person or a group.  It's a very different different style of writing and reading, it stands out, and pleasantly so.  Astro City is populated with a host of super-powered folks, and naturally those concerns tend to drive the plots.  It's hard to talk about Metropolis without mentioning Superman, right?  At that same time, Metropolis is much more than Superman.  Superman has no real purpose or meaning without the Jimmie Olson's to save.  Astro City is constructed in such a way that it can't forget that.  Ever.

So while Superman gets a requisite amount of panel time, (he's The Samaritan in Astro City, and Busiek plays him perfectly) three of the six issues in this paperback feature characters with no super powers at all.  The longest running plot in the arc consist of two issues spotlighting a call-center employee who feels she needs to atone for a call-routing mistake.

Your typical comic would flip Busiek's script and deal mostly with the Honor Guard mixing it up with the Skullcrushers.  The tip that brought them to the enemy base may not even get a mention.  Perhaps the call-center employee would receive a pat on the head for a panel.  In Astro City, the meat of the issue are a couple of victims of the Skullcrusher's violence and the call-center employee who feels responsible for their suffering.

Astro City exposes the "weakness" of most superhero comics by offering the reader more layers of the action.  The Big Two superhero books carve out the frosting off the cake, and it is sweet, to be sure.  Astro City lays out the full spread, and then holds the camera on the table until everyone is done eating and reminds you that somebody has to clean the table when the patrons are done.  Then it takes the camera back into the kitchen and shows you the cooks.

That's a different kind of storytelling.  You might be wondering if Astro City turns this back in on itself and becomes banal and dull.  Not at all

Astro City is Also a Mystery Cult

The A plot of the book is centered upon a set of doors in the sky hovering above the city.  Eventually a Celestial-type pops out of the doors and requests a liaison from the regular populace to teach him about the culture. Once the liaison gets the Celestial up to speed, more contact, sharing, and negotiating should follow.

Nobody is quite sure what to make of the situation, including the reader.  Not even the Samaritan seems to be a threat to the new Visitor, and that's a bit scary.  On the other hand, when he first appears the Celestial gets his volume wrong and has to fiddle with his Mother Box before continuing his speech.  So clearly this guy is not omnipotent!



These are the fun little touches that define a good or great series - the devil is always in the details.  This guy's power is not in question, so adding the foibles adds depth.  That character is very hard to pin down.  He seems mostly benevolent, but we never really have access to any conversations with his liason, (more on that situation in a bit) so its impossible right now to say what his intentions really are.  We have no clue what info he's actually getting from his assistant, or what the objectives are.

In the sixth issue, an Astro City mobster also negotiates his way behind those doors, and steals a Macguffin with potentially disastrous consequences.  It's hard to know how to interpret the Celestial's response to that development.  He may have set the whole thing up as a test, and it's a little creepy.  Who is this guy? What's the game plan?  What's he doing behind those doors with the liaison?  We don't know.  Yet.

But somebody might!  I haven't talked about the Broken Man yet, and he's integral.  Every now and again a purple-skinned man appears and talks directly to you.  He tells you what you're are and are not supposed to read and investigate in Astro City.  He tells you that there is something out there called an Oubor, and that he wants NO PART of it.  He chastises you for getting too nosey and potentially drawing the Oubor's gaze.  It's kinda trippy.



This purple person calls himself the Broken Man.  We learn some things about him (against his protestations) that make him a bit of an unreliable source.  And yet...maybe he knows more than anybody about what's going on.  The Broken Man appears to have psychically nudged Ben Pullam to volunteer to act as the Celestials liaison.  Possible so that the Oubur couldn't see him behind those doors.

The Broken Man seems to be the one choosing for us what elements of Astro City we are exposed to, all in a labyrinthine plot to....I don't know...save Astro City from the Oubur?  The vignettes seem random, but Busiek and the Broken Man are promising that these things are all folding in on each other.

The good news is that the "slice of life" stuff is so good, it almost doesn't matter if the Mystery Cult stuff pays off or not.  If it does pay off....this comic could enter legendary status.

Astro City Has a Ton of Great Characters

Astro City # 4 is one of the finest issues of a comic I've read this year.  Martha Sullivan was born a telekinetic, but she just doesn't have the will or temperament to be a crime-fighter.  In the space of a single issue, Busiek walks us through Sully's development as a person, and what life for a regular folk with super-powers might look like, including all the perks and dangers.

It really is remarkable how much character track gets laid in this one issue, and this is also probably a good entry-point to talk about Brent Anderson's art.  Astro City is built on wondering how the superhero phenomenon would operate in real life.  How would a JLA call center actually work?  What would a world of intermingling gods look like?  And the answer is that it would probably look exactly like Brent Anderson draws it.

Not every person with super powers would look like a model.  I think that the design and rendering Anderson creates is critical to buying into the world.  The Brent Anderson Martha Sullivan allows me to just fall in, because I feel like I know who that woman is, and it's pitch perfect.  That's a no-nonsense woman who has lived some life and has some Kathy Bates in her.  If you have to fight your way into believing in her, Busiek can't get where he wants to go.  So I think a good portion of the verisimilitude I attribute to Busiek is actually Anderson, and I just don't have the tools to consciously recognize that.

Anywho.  In the Astro City tradition, Martha gets a full back story, a chance to grow, and a resolution to her plot in the same issue.  You've got your steampunky Dame Progress, and the Cake Walker, who by all rights should be stupid and instantly rejected, but you can't.  Because somehow this creative team makes you believe it fits in this world, and it all just works.

Astro City is unapologetically a super hero comic, but it's an exceptionally layered and sophisticated one.  For those of you pining for something like James Robinson's Starman book, this is an excellent tonic.  I'm giving Astro City a strong recommendation.

Monday, September 15, 2014

NYCC:  Ones to Watch

Superfan David D asked me to make a list of books to hunt for in the bargain bins at New York Comic Con, so that's what I'm going to do.  It won't be a comprehensive list because that would constitute 1,000 pages, and it's difficult to know what any particular convention is going to sport for inventory.  Even vendors you've seen before can spin on a dime if the same old same old hasn't been working for them.

That's not to say that you can't make predictions and plan ahead, though.  I know that when I go to a convention of any size, I'm going to run into a swath of Hellblazer overstock and piles of Chronicles of Conan.  I can make money on several books from both series, so it pays to have your game sharp before you ever step onto the floor.

Obviously you can't know everything, but I would say it behooves one to get familiar with old reliables like Batman and Nightwing before you go.  What's selling right now?  These situations are fluid.  I really like Batman: Scarecrow Tales, but I was shocked to find out how little it's trading for at the moment.  I've sold copies of that book for $60-$80, but as I type this I think it's tough to drag $30 out of it in the best condition.

It pays to have this at the top of your head before you ever start flipping through the long boxes.  Study the big earners and pay close attention to condition breaks.  Some books only make sense to buy in nice shape. Yes, your smartphone has all the answers, and most conventions offer some form of complimentary wi-fi access.  There are a couple problems with relying on that, though.

Problem number one is that there are going to be 90 million other people with smartphones in the venue, and it's difficult to squeeze out a good signal most of the time.  Problem number two is that most vendors don't want to see you staring at your Amazon app counting up how much profit you're going to make on their measly little $5 trade, likely a loss for them.

So you'll have to decide what kind of relationship you want to have the vendors.  I generally don't check the phone while I'm digging, because it's bad form.  I'm careful now about purchasing multiples as well.  When you bring four copies of a book to the dealer, you are announcing to the dealer that you know their stock better than they do, and that you're going to profit at their expense.  

I'm not saying I never buy multiple copies any more.  I do.  What I generally do is pick the nicest copy of the clump, and if I decide I need more, I'll come back later.  Sometimes there are multiple folks taking cash at a booth, so I can buy the same books twice and nobody is the wiser.  Most people do not remember what an individual customer purchased the day before, so I can buy my multiples the day after without rancor.  You run the risk of another book scout snapping them up on you, of course.  Some people reading this may think it silly to even sweat this stuff, but there's an old saying in poker:

"Pigs make money, but hogs get slaughtered."

If you get too aggressive and open with your profiteering, a vendor can simply shut off the spigot on you.  They can reassess their entire stock, cherry-pick it, and leave nothing but chaff behind.  I did this 2 years ago at C2E2.  A guy had long boxes full of gold, and I started grabbing 4 copies of certain titles.  Now he's suddenly interested in his stock.

The guy looks at my pile and says "These are out of print, aren't they?"

Then he starts rummaging through his stock and cherry-picking the good books out of the chaff.  That sucked. If that's how he felt about it, why didn't his lazy ass figure out what he was carrying to begin with?  I don't know, but that's life.

Anywho, this is a tiny list of items that I find likely to be available for cover or much, much less at the New York Comic Con.

Farscape Vol 1: The Beginning of the End of the Beginning
ISBN:  9781608866212
SRP:    $9.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $40/$50

This is my favorite book in the world right now because it is dirt cheap and easy to sell.  Full retail is only $10, and I've been getting 4-5X that with ease.  At the Baltimore Con I found multiple copies at $5 or less.

It's possible that I'm actually selling these a little short.  I'm sort of artificially down at the $40-$50 level, and after that it jumps toward $100.  My thing is, when I get a book for $5 and I can sell it for $40, I'm not going to let it lay around for six months hoping to gouge out $80.  I'm going to sell it for $40 quickly and plow that into other earners.

This is the perfect storm of culty goodness.  It's a well-loved series, and the comics are co-written by series creator Rockne O'Bannon.   Certain brick-and-mortar shops may not have a Farscape audience, so they try and blow these out. Merry Christmas!  I don't know how Boom! is going to handle the license, but unless they go back to press soon, I think many of these Farscape books are going to be worth watching.

Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green
ISBN:  9781401215071
SRP:  $12.99
Amazon min for used/new:  $36/$46

Geoff Johns lifted the whole Green Lantern franchise out of obscurity on sheer force of will. Alannis Morrissette would call that irony, but it's not.  It's poetic, not ironic.  None of the Johns Green Lantern books have ever earned me a nickel, because DC prints enough to sate the demand.

Not so with some of the satellite titles.  There is money to be made with some of the Green Lantern Corps books, essential to the hard corps fans but not printed in great numbers since it's perceived as an ancillary title.

I love Dark Side of Green because it's only $13 even at full retail.  Many vendors fire their remaining GLC stock into the 1/2 price bins.  I really like Dark Side at the $6.50 price point, because I know I'm going to sell it for 6-8X that, and it won't take 48 hours to flip it.  If you see this book for cover or less, it's an insta-buy.  GLC: Recharge is nice, too, but not as nice.

Hellblazer: The Laughing Magician
ISBN:  1401218539
SRP:    $14.99
Amazon min in used/new:   $30/$95

Hellblazer has been quite the money machine for me in my career as a book scout.  Batman is # 1 with a bullet, but other than the Dark Knight I think I've sold more Constantine tomes than anything else.  With the NBC series launching you might think that now might be the best time ever for Hellblazer trades in the secondary market, but you'd be wrong.

What's happened is that the NBC series has prompted DC to go back to press on new editions of the Hellblazer series, and that has helped to keep prices stable and sane.  The people that are interested in the character are getting their hands on the books.. Honestly, that's a good thing for the long-term health of the industry, so I applaud that.  I can't be a disgusting pig of profit if nobody reads these things, so bravo to DC for recognizing that Constantine needs to be largely available.

Not every book has received a new edition yet, though.  Top of the heap right now is the Laughing Magician.  In my experience, it's very easy to find dealers who don't know what they're sitting on blowing these out for $5 a book or half price.  If the book is nice shape, Laughing Magician is very easy to flip for $60.  So if you find one for $5, (I snagged one for $4 at Baltimore) you'll be the one laughing - all the way to the damn bank.

Nightwing: The Great Leap
ISBN:  1401221718
SRP:    $19.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $90/$130

Nightwing is a beast in the secondary market.  His fan base is dedicated and willing to spend.  I don't have enough data to prove the case, but in my anecdotal experience this is another property driven by interest from women.  I see a LOT of female names on the invoice when I sell Nightwing material.  I don't think they're all buying them as birthday gifts for their boyfriend.  Chicks dig the 'Wing.

There are a ton of earners starring Mr. Grayson, and many vendors know about the older ones.  You are unlikely to find a copy of Rough Justice, Hunt for Oracle, or Year One laying around the bargain bins.  (If you do, buy all means employ an insta-buy strategy)

I'm amazed at how many profitable Nightwing trades are left in the 50% boxes, though.  The strongest play of the newer generation is Great Leap, from 2009.  Prices are in serious nose-bleed territory.  Sometimes things sit in the nose-bleeds and don't actually sell.  You can sell a copy of this book for $80.  Easy.

It's a good thing, too, because full retail is $20.  That's pretty steep. If you can rescue one from that $5 box, that's quite a bonanza.  You should also keep an eye out Lost Year and Renegade.  I promise you, somebody is going to have all of these available for way under retail at NYCC.  


Deadpool Corps Vol 1:  Pool-Pocalypse Now
ISBN:  0785148256
SRP:  $16.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $95/$100

The big money in the secondary market is always on the niche satellite, never on the big shiny object.  Deadpool is an institution now, the Wolverine of the new millenium.  Most of the Deadpool proper trades don't do a bloody thing on the secondary market, because Marvel prints enough to books to soak up the extraordinary demand.

The Deadpool saturation has all these little spin-offs lurking about now, and many of them do not have print runs able to support the demand.  So you have this Deadpool Corps volume trading for close to triple-digit prices.  It's hard to make par ($100) in the trade market, but this might be a place to do it.

You should also have your eyes open for Deadpool Corps Prelude, Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth Vol 1 Head Trip, and Deadpool Team-up Vol 3: BFFs. I didn't find any of these at Baltimore, and was a little surprised.  I bet that somebody hits big on these at NYCC.

Amalgam Age of Comics: Marvel Collection
ISBN:  078510240X
SRP:  $12.95
Amazon min in used/new:  $65/$90

The Amalgam books are hard to find now, partly because they're relatively old. (for the TPB game, 20 years is actually quite old) Another reason is that Amalgam was a hybrid experiment crossing DC and Marvel characters, and those two companies simply do not get along like that any more. I can't imagine a world in which the Amalgam material ever gets reprinted, and for that reason I get very excited when I see these trades.

Sure, the actual comics are mostly terrible.  Mostly.  But they were also fun, a unique stamp on a bygone era, and there is a niche crowd committed enough to the material to pay good money for these.

The good news is that when you do tend to stumble on an Amalgam trade, the vendor likely has no clue about its real value and has dumped it in the $5 box.  They've been staring at it for 20 years and just can't take it another day.  Scoop them up and say thank you!

When I find these in nice shape, I get them graded and stow them away.  Stuff that will never see print again smells like retirement money to me.  But I'm kind of crazy.  Your move is probably to buy them for $5 and flip them for $60.  Also be on the lookout for the Return to the Amalgam Age Marvel, and the Amalgam Age DC Comics collection. I tripped over a couple of these at Baltimore, and I'm betting there will be a couple laying about in New York as well.

Wolverine Legends Vol 5: Snikt!
ISBN:  0785112391
SRP:  13.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $20/$55

Irish Mike McLarty would probably hunt me down if I didn't include this little gem. The catalyst here is the Tsutomo Nihei work.  The style feels a little too manga for the mainstream American audience to really grab hold of it, but a rapid subset really, really wants that.  This is the cauldron from which booms are made of.

I've actually seen this book trading for much higher than it is now.  I've sold this for as much as $80, usually I get about $60 for it.  I never have to pay much to get it, either.  Full retail is $14, but when you do see it, it's generally being sold by somebody who can't find a buyer in their local market and thinks it's garbage.  I got one at Baltimore out of a $5 box.  I'm going to get $50 for it, I promise you.

Gargoyles:  Bad Guys
ISBN:  1593621930
SRP:  17.95
Amazon min in used/new:  $145/$221

Something is going on with the Gargoyles property, and I don't know what.  The old Marvel material is spiking a bit, and crazy/bizarre things are happening with the Slave Labor Graphics trades.  I'm sure part of the equation is just the microscopic print runs.  Gargoyles have not been a huge property in years, and Slave Labor just can't be printing even 1,000 of these, can they?

A piece of me hesitates to put this on here, because I've never actually sold one.  Hell, I've never seen one!  But I did see a copy of Gargoyles Vol 1: Clan Building close for $250 a few weeks ago on eBay.  I can't seem to sell one of those for even $100, but still - something must have happened that kickstarted this price movement.  Usually these things happen on the heels of a movie announcement, but I haven't heard anything - have you?

The bottom line is that if I saw a copy of this book, I would pop on it instantly even at full retail.  There might be $200 hiding in there!  Kids books tend to get dumped into bargain blowout bins, as well.  If you find one of these at 50% off, there's really no risk at all.  Same holds true for Gargoyles: Clan Building.  I don't know what the market really thinks of that book, but I'll certainly pay $5-$10 to find out.  

There's quite a bit of profit in the kids bins, if you know where to look.  You know those Teen Titans Go! digests you always see lying around the comic shop collecting dust for $6.99 retail?  Well, Volume 1: Truth, Justice, Pizza! is a $40-$60 book in nice condition, and Volume 4: Ready for Action is a $30-$40 book as well.  I can make money on all kinds of Darkwing Duck trades, and the Darkwing Duck/Duck Tales book Dangerous Currency wins me $60-$80 all day long.  If you see these at NYCC, they are likely sitting lonely in a $5 box.

So.  Not a comprehensive list by any means, but these are few of the juicier opportunities from a variety of publishers.  Happy Hunting!












  





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 example...one 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 convoluted...you 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.