Thursday, December 29, 2011

Market Spotlight!

Haven't done one of these in awhile, let's see if I remember how to do this.  Oh yeah, I guess I just riff on secondary market stuff I've noticed recently.

Here's an interesting one, and - brace for it - this has nothing whatever to do with trade paperbacks!

So I'm ambling about the closed comics listings on eBay, because that's where the real learning is done; wandering about, poking one's nose where it doesn't belong, for no other reason outside of curiosity.  Whilst ambling I discovered this listing, where some crazy bastard actually dropped $62 on a beat up copy of a counterfeit comic book.

Now, these things can get a little dodgy.  No way of knowing if any money actually traded hands.  Just because the listing closed, doesn't mean it really closed.  But there's every good chance that this actually happened.  What makes it extra head scratchy is that right now you could probably make an offer and score on this fully authentic Cry For Dawn # 1 in a much more attractive 9.4 grade for about $150. 

I just can't get over that sale, because it has absolutely nothing going for it.  Sure it's beat to shit, but at least it's fake....  I'll pop for $50 on that all day long!  What the hell where they thinking? 

Some other items catching my attention:

MPD Psycho Vol 6
ISBN:  1593079966
SRP:    $10.95
Amazon Min:  $80/$80

In point of fact, volumes 3-7 of this series all seem to be out of print and scrambling toward some degree of profitability, at least on paper.

I have a hard time trusting this.  Part of the problem is that I've never made one nickel on reprinted manga in my life, so there's the novelty of it.  Part of the problem is that this feels spiritually akin to some of the all ages digest scenarios that have burnt me several times in the past.

I've seen J2 digests and Mary Jane digests climb for the stars on Amazon...but I've never been able to capitalize.  Whatever the min is, some items just don't seem to command more than half cover price.  The audience will simply do without rather than pounce on an expensive book.  Now, I'm rational enough to recognize that what happened with Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane two years ago has little to do with what I can expect from MPD Psycho material now.

If you look at the closed eBay listings on the series, there's no heat there, either.  I don't trust it, is what I'm saying.  Having said that, the SRP is $11, so if this thing is for real, you're looking at margins north of 7:1, and that's awfully tempting.  Awfully tempting.  If you can find this thing laying around your LCS, I might snap it up and see what happens if you dangle it for $50.

She Hulk Vol 7:  Here Today
ISBN:    0785129660
SRP:      $14.99
Amazon Min:   $18/$25

This whole series has been kind of a rock star this year.  I've had multiple sales on Volume 2 and especially Volume 9 recently.  So it comes as no surprise to find Here Today poking its nose out for a whirl at profitability.

It's not unusual to see prices cycle, but I've noticed that this whole She Hulk business has been particularly volatile.  A few days ago this looked like an even juicier peach.  It's still pretty good, though.  And the only reason why the low "new" condition bid is sitting at $25 is because your not-so-humble scribe is under-selling the book right now trying for the quick flip.

Let's talk about that for a second.  There's several schools of thought on maximizing profits, but I'm in the "when in doubt, get your money and get out" school.  I picked this up today at Hot Comics from the 50% off shelf, which means that I got it for about $8.  Now, my book is brand new in very nice condition.  I'm looking at the Amazon listings, and the lowest of the used is sitting around $18, but there's a nice sounding "like new" book at $20.  The lowest price on the "new" chart when I got there is about $40.

First impulse for many is to slap it up there at $39.99 and let it ride, and that's not a terrible plan.  What I did is calculate what a 3:1 would look like, calculate my ability to replace the book, and gauge the volatility involved, and how confident I was about selling the book in the higher echelons.

What I did was post it for $24.99 looking for the quick turnaround.  Am I selling myself short?  Perhaps.  I don't have a history with this book, so mostly I'm dealing with unknowns.  But at $24.99, I'm making a nice margin, and there's another copy sitting at Hot Comics for $8 if I need it.

"Why didn't you just buy both", says Faithful Reader?  Because I'm not in the business of getting in deep with any book until we have a relationship, and I have every confidence it will be waiting for me if I need it.  Yes, even after publicly announcing it.  I have six readers, and none of them frequent Hot Comics.

The strategy is:  get in dirt cheap, make a nice margin, plow it into the next thing.  That book that looks so pretty on Amazon with the $80 price tag on it is doing you no favors until somebody pulls the trigger on it.  It's all a loss until you sell it.  That book you bought for $10 and flipped for $30 goes into the next thing and makes another $20, and another $20, and it doesn't take long before those boring little trades are completely outshining that $80 book collecting dust on your shelf.

Having said that, the wise Gamer also makes distinctions about perennials and the truly scarce.  You don't blow out your copy of Batman: Legacy because you can't replace it.  I can find another copy of She Hulk Volume 7, easy.  I can't drive to the LCS and expect to find X-Men: Zero Tolerance sitting there.  So when I've got something good, scarce, with a history, then yes I'll make my customer pay for the privilege.  But I don't think I'm ever going to lament making $15 off a She Hulk volume, ever.

Starman Omnibus Vol 1
ISBN:  9781401216993
SRP:    $49.99
Amazon Min:   $45/$45

Obviously you're not making money on this right now buying at full retail.  Not yet, in any case.  But do any of you remember when the Batwoman: Elegy HC was sitting at cover price and I told you it was going to $60 in six months?  Well, I lied.  It got there in three, because min for a new copy is up to $56 and will continue to climb.

Same thing with Starman Omnibus Volume 1, which now appears to have gone out of print, and let the feeding frenzy begin.  This is legendary stuff in an attractive format, and I don't see this going out of style...ever.

DC may go back to press on this at some point, but I don't see that happening in the near future.  It's a thick book with a smallish but fervent fan base.  DC is not going to trip over themselves to reprint this, and in the interim, profit city.

It's a steep investment at full retail.  Do I think this book hits par ($100) or better by this time next year?  Yeah, I do.  If this is resting at your LCS, watch the market and don't wait too long.  Worst case scenario?  You've got about 12 hours of the best damn reading you'll do all year.  Starman is something special.

Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor signed edition
ISBN:   9781607064831
SRP:     $124.99

I mention this because I pre-ordered one from Amazon for about $65, and I can't imagine an easier called shot.  Rise of the Governor is the first in a trilogy of Walking Dead prose novels, and Skybound is offering a limited quantity of signed editions in a handsome little slipcase.  The regular HC is regularly priced at $25, the deluxe slipcased edition is $75, and the signed edition retails at $125.

I don't think it too controversial to claim that the Walking Dead property has some legs.  I don't know how many copies were signed, because there's no way I'm breaking the seal on my copy.  I do know that there will always be more people looking for this than have it.

I don't know if I advocate spending full retail on the item, but luckily, you don't have to.  This is still available for around $75, and I believe it's a steal at that price.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ryan Lee and his Pillows are in need of your help!

Good friend and fan of the show Cody Carey made this hilarious video about the fate of Ryan Lee's pillows.  We love it when fans do stuff like this for the show.  Thank you so much for making us both laugh harder than we have in a while and also thank you for grossing us out a little.  We can only hope that people respond to this and help Ryan's poor pillows before it's too late.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Market Spotlight!

How about a trio of Marvel books, and an interesting case study this week?

Hulk/Thing: Hard Knocks
ISBN:  0785115765
SRP:      $13.99
Amazon Min:   $22/$30

This is a bit dodgy, as it barely scrapes 2:1 at full retail.  I can't imagine a super strong demand for it, either, but then again I am staring at a 2:1 so I guess we're experiencing a little interest.

This is a classic example of Marvel squeezing a little extra out of the turnip by turning a 4 issue mini into 4 issues plus an old reprint, and not even a particularly in demand Hulk/Thing barney.  (It's Marvel Superstars # 1)  I think they would have been better served by throwing in Fantastic Four # 12, or # 112, but what do I know.

I would avoid paying full retail for this unless it goes higher, but I'd feel pretty safe with a discounted copy.  I can't see Marvel going back to press on this, so supply should stay relatively scarce.

She Hulk Vol 9:  Lady Liberators
ISBN:  0785141146
SRP:      $14.99
Amazon Min:    $22/$38

Of course we've already observed a couple of these volumes pop from the Slott end of things.  It wouldn't surprise me to see the entire series enter a comfortable place of profitability.  It reminds me quite a bit of the Nightwing phenomenon, where a second tier star with a cult following hits that sweet spot where a niche crowd is looking for the material, but not in droves to spur a new edition.

If the copy is in nice shape, I'd advocate paying full retail for Lady Liberators.  Don't panic if it cycles down, either.  Nightwing does the same thing, bouncing up and down.  Target a reasonable price and let the market catch up with you.

Daredevil: The Devil Inside & Out Vol 2
ISBN:   0785122419
SRP:  $14.99
Amazon Min:   $26/$54

We've seen quite a few of the Bendis volumes dry and up then shoot for the stars, and now it looks like Brubaker is taking his turn.

The thesis is pretty strong on this line.  Quality run, quality creative team, demand should stay very strong for this book.  Decent chance your local retailer has a copy of this laying around, and it's an easy buy at $15 and below.

Morning Glories Vol 1 HC
ISBN:   9781607064305
SRP:     $39.99
Amazon Min:    N/A

Image has recalled the original print run for the book, because one of the pages was erroneously issued with no dialogue.  Some of the biggest sources are complying with the recall.  Amazon is waiting for the corrected editions before distributing product, and the same goes for DCB Service.  A good portion of the smaller retailers will send the error books back as well.

Some, but not all.  I was able to score a copy of the "bad" edition this afternoon.  It will be uncontroversial to assert that the error editions will be the most scarce.  What's unclear is whether that means anything regarding the value of the book.

Similar problems have plagued items like the first Bendis Daredevil Omnibus, and the the old Captain America: Classic Years slipcase collection.  Both of those items are quite valuable, but I haven't noticed any consistent premium placed on the scarcer error editions.

The secondary trade market is in its infancy, though.  Just because there's no premium now doesn't mean that future collector's won't be making those distinctions.  I'm not suggesting that you run out and back up the truck on a stack of $40 hardcovers waiting for the market to catch up with you.  But for me, I'm a card carrying Morning Glories fanatic, and I'm pleased as punch to have the original edition in my collection.  Anything else is just gravy.

- Ryan

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chronic Thanksgiving Special: Home Game!

We covered this story in the opener of Chronic # 213, the Thanksgiving Special, but you really need the visuals in order to properly enjoy it.

In this case, a picture is worth a desire to leave the planet.  This is Oneal Ron Morris, dispenser of creative cosmetic surgeries.  If you want your booty to look like this, Mr./Ms. Morris would be more than happy to inject your ass with cement, mineral oil, and Fix-A-Flat for only $700.  Wow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Market Spotlight: There Are Limits!


As loyal Gamers and readers of the blog already know, I've been sending out shipments of trades to CGC for grading each month.  It's a bit of an adventure, because nobody is really doing this outside of myself.  I'm blazing the trail here, and discovering that yes, there are limits.

What have I learned so far?  There is debate in the CGC Towers about what tier to place the trades in.  I tried to do the right thing, by the way, and sent multiple emails to the address given on the CGC website explaining what I was considering and asking for guidance.  I received no response to any of these emails.  Not a "we don't do that sort of thing", not a "I'm not sure, but let me dig into it and get back to you".  Just... nothing.  To be fair, any time I've sent an email requesting info or a correction on an order, I've received a response within 24 hours.  But until they had my money, nobody over there was interested in what I had to say.  Not sure if those two concepts are related or not.  But they might be.  Just maybe.

Under Siege:  Maximum beefiness allowed
I've sent in each of my shipments under the regular "modern" tier of grading, ($17/book) the same tier you'd use to process any comic published after 1980.  The first four times I sent books in for grading, nobody batted an eye.  The fifth shipment, I received an email claiming my books were too big, and that they'd be processed under the "magazine" tier.  (slightly more expensive at $23/book)  Then I got a backtracking email a few hours later stating that there was no problem, and that they'd be happy to slab my books in magazine sized cases for the regular modern price.

I've been experimenting with the sizes of the trades, searching for capacity.  The first batch I sent was mostly super thin stuff that I couldn't imagine anybody objecting too, and have been pushing the thickness barrier up ever since.  I thought for sure I would hit it with Avengers: Under Siege, which is kind of a beast.  They graded that, slabbed it, and sent it back without blanching.

This time, though, they graded Green Lantern: Power of Ion, and then decided they couldn't fit it into a slab.  I know they graded it a 9.6, because I saw it posted on the web site on my order page.  So, if you want to know if your trade is slabbable, just plunk it down next to Power of Ion and you'll have your answer.  Anything thinner than that should be good to go.

It costs to make these mistakes, by the way.  I didn't get a refund for that book, nor would I consider asking for one.  They provided the service, and I sent in a pretty ridiculously sized tome.  I consider it a "buyer beware" situation of my own creation, and just part of the cost of doing business.

I also sent in my best copy of the Spawn Capital Collection, a nice limited piece offered only to specific retailers and signed by Todd McFarlane.  CGC is not really in the signature verification game unless they have their own people peering over the creator's shoulder as its signed, though, so my book says "T McFarlane written in marker on first page".  I don't know why, but I find that adorable.

They're in a tough spot on that one, actually.  Those books are a known commodity, so there's no reason to suspect foul play or a ghost signer.  Everybody understands that Todd signed those books.  If they didn't think it was signed, my book honestly should have been sent back with a green "qualified" label, because it had been written on.  I'm glad they didn't do that, by the way, because that green label is pretty much a death sentence to the perceived value of the book.

I do wish they had stated what color the "T McFarlane" was written in, though.  I have two copies - one is signed in green, the other in red.  It's possible that one of those signatures is significantly more rare than the other, and should probably be reflected on the slab.  I could have asked, I guess, but I didn't.

I think it's more important to note the edition of the book, but the CGC graders do not make those distinctions.  The year of publication is listed, so one could ostensibly determine edition based on that information, provided that the book didn't go to press multiple times within the calendar year.  If I could make one change in the way CGC does things with trades, I'd request they list the print edition on the slab.  On the whole, though?  I'm more than satisfied.

Some of you may be wondering about the speed of these transactions.  The regular modern tier claims a 20 business day turnaround.  That's not been my experience.  It's actually about a two month wait, although things seem to be speeding up a bit lately.  Word on the board is that things bog down during convention season, and that the wheels churn more quickly from October-January.

There's quite a bit of venom to be had on the member forums, almost exclusively directed at CGC for their turnaround times.  Many of them have a legitimate gripe.  Think about this - for books older than 1980, your cheapest option is the value tier.  You can't send in anything that could be expected to trade at more than $150, and you have to send in a minimum of 30 books.  At $23/book, you're sending CGC more than $700 after the shipping costs, and the stated wait is 40 business days.  It is now November 22, and they're just sending out value books they received on July1.  If I sent somebody $700 and had to wait six months for my service....I'd be pissed, too.  Especially when the sign says it's a two month process.

But the thing is...where else you gonna go?  Gonna send those books out to PGX?  No, I didn't think so.  Unless Robert Overstreet wants to set up shop as competition or something, I don't think CGC really has to care what their constituency thinks, because they are The Man.

- Ryan

Monday, November 14, 2011

Market Spotlight: Results Edition!

Welcome to your 8:1 profit margin

Rather than look at "new" findings and looking at future profits, I thought it might be instructive to focus on actual artifacts that sold for actual profits.

So for this column I printed out everything I've sold on Amazon since my last Market Spotlight entry on November 7.  I'm also listing (when known) what I paid for the book in question, and the source of the book.  It's a very small sample size, and we're heading into the height of Christmas book season, so sales are slightly more brisk than they would be in say, May.  The point is that this list certainly doesn't tell the whole story on book scouting by any stretch.  But it might tell some kind of useful story.

November 8, 2011

Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey
Purchase Price:  $5.00
Source:    $5.00 box of trades at Fallcon
Sold for:  $27.99

November 10, 2011

Classic Gambit
Purchase Price:  $2.00
Source:   Half Price Books clearance rack
Sold for:  $14.99

X-Men: Blinded by the Light
Purchase Price:  $7.50
Source  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold for:  $34.99

Art of Hack Slash
Purchase Price:  $13.99
Sold for:  $39.99

Batman:  Shaman
Purchase Price:  unknown
Source:  unknown
Sold for:  $29.99

November 11, 2011

Essential Conan
Purchase Price:  $7.00
Source:  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold For:  $29.99

November 13, 2011

Purchase Price:  $3.50
Source:  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold for:  $17.99

Hellblazer: Hard Time
Purchase Price:  $9.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For:  $29.99

Green Arrow: Straight Shooter
Purchase Price:  $3.60
Source:  Lone Star Comics
Sold For:  $19.99

Countdown to Final Crisis Vol 4
Purchase Price:  $10.00
Source:  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold For:  $34.99

Invisibles Vol 2:  Apocalipstick
Purchase Price:  $19.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For:   $37.99

November 14, 2011

Batman: Venom
Purchase Price:  $5.00
Source:  Comic Collector Live
Sold For:  $39.99

Secret Six: Depths
Purchase Price:  $14.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For:  $34.99

Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation
Purchase Price:  $14.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For: $34.99

Looking at the results from the past couple of days, you can see illustrated many of the points I keep hammering on.  It's hard to sell an expensive book.  People are very willing to drop $20 or less, less willing at $30, but still doable.  The highest price realized was $39.99, and that's fine, particularly when you're able to score that copy of Batman: Venom for only a fiver!

Incidentally, we're getting to the time of year when wallets will loosen up a bit, and you will be able to move those deluxe high-end hardcovers.  But even in the midst of that Christmas buying season, it's pretty easy to see that your money is made buying material dirt cheap and then trying to flip it in that $20-$30 range.  You turn the product over, and then you funnel it into more product.

Yeah, I might have been able to squeeze another $5 out of a book or two in this list.  But then again, maybe not.  You're not doing yourself any favors letting that book collect dust on the shelf for a couple of bucks.  Turn it over and keep that machine rolling!  How much sense does it make to hold onto a book for an extra $5 when you could have turned it into new product that generates another $10, or $30?  I check my listings about twice a month and do some surgery, slashing prices to meet the "new" market.

Not every book is going to be a grand slam.  Sometimes you may end up selling a book for less than you paid for it.  Take your lumps and dump that liquid capital into something that will earn you some money.  You do yourself no favors waiting for that dead end to cycle back.  Granted, higher end product requires a little patience to find the right buyer.  But if you're still sitting on that book you bought a year ago waiting for a miracle, you're making a mistake.  Purge it, and generate somewhere else.

You can also see the benefits of diversifying your sources.  Work those conventions, hit the used book stores, cultivate multiple online sources.  Look to hit that sweet spot of 3:1 as much as possible.  Unless.  I'll settle for 2:1 on material I know I can move.  I had already sold a half dozen copies of Invisibles: Apocalipstick, so I was perfectly confident in a relatively quick sale.  In that case I'm happy to pay $20 for a book that will sell for $38.  But even that involves some risk, because the day DC goes back to press - poof!  You're stuck with what you've got at way less than cover.  This is why I trickled them out, and never had more than 2 on my shelf at a time.

The total for all items came to $428.86, but understand that Amazon is getting about 20% of that.  So my actual take is something like $343.09, and that's not profit, that's revenue.  Adding up purchase prices, I get about $115.59, but I just don't remember where I got Batman: Shaman from or what I paid for it.  It might have been from Lone Star, in which case it would have been in the $12 range.  It might be a straggler from a large Batman lot I scored ages ago, in which case the cost would be under $5.  Whatever I paid for that book, I'm still solidly in that 3:1 sweet spot for the whole lot.

Total profit?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of $215-$220, which is high for me but not completely out of control.  Can you quit your job and do this instead?  Probably not.  Maybe if you expanded your game outside of TPBs you could do it.  Can you sell enough books to subsidize a really nice comic collection?  Yeah, I'd say you can.

- Ryan

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Idle Thoughts!

I think I've been going through my version of a mid-life crisis off and on since I was about 23 years old.  I've been thinking extensively about death lately, most particularly my own.  Not because I get some kind of macabre satisfaction out of it, and not because I'm suffering from acute fear of it, either.

Right in the tit hole, John
I've been considering my own demise because I consider a lot of things, and I've always been drawn naturally to those subjects that other people just don't, or more to the point won't think about.  Denial is for pussies.  Give me the rough stuff, every time.  One of the better ironies of life is that nobody gets out alive, and as for the rest, well...I have my own theories.  Theories being all we have, of course.  If you value your safety, you will not approach me with any "but Colton Burpo knows what happens after death" kind of gibberish.  Fuck him and John Edward in the tit hole.  Charlatans and sideshow barkers are anyone who tells you they can pierce that veil. 

Nobody knows, which is simultaneously disconcerting and wonderful.  Your life would lose a great deal of its luster were it not in question.  Trust me on that.

No, I'm not going to last forever, which is fine.  Or is it?  On the Myers-Briggs chart I come out as an "NT", or Rational.  That means a lot of things, but mostly it makes me one of those assholes with his head in the clouds, looking at the "big picture", and finding microscopic faults with everything and everyone.  I'm a prime source of irritation for those around me, but if it's any consolation, nobody feels the cuts of my own analytical blade more than I do.

So I've been under the knife all day, pruning thoughts, comparing where I've been to where I am.  Wondering if it measures up, "it" being my accomplishments, I suppose.  Wondering if "I" measure up, meaning my practical positive impact on my environment, I suppose.  I don't know that I do measure up, but the good news is that (a) there is still (a continuously depleting cache of) time, and (b) it could be worse.  This is my version of health, hope, and optimism by the way.

Sometimes it's difficult to even know what one is.  If you dissect yourself logically, there isn't a cell on you that was there even seven years ago.  I'm not the same man I was, no matter how you approach the concept.  Attack the physical or the ineffable, I make decisions now that would be inconceivable to 23 year old Ryan, whom I now consider an idiot of the highest caliber.  I admire that kid's stones, though, I'll tell you that.

As I dug deeper, though, something of a core emerged.  The machine may have gotten more complex, and it might operate differently, but it's possible I've always been the same machine.

Let me tell you who I am.

We used to take trips down to New Ulm every couple of months to visit my grandparents.  It was a two hour drive or thereabouts, it felt like it took a week to get there.  It was the 1970s, mind you, I didn't have a phone that could download cartoons or a television housed in the headrest in front of me.  Mostly I just had motion sickness to entertain me.

I did bring some toys with me to pass the time once we got there.  When I was a young child, I loved to do jigsaw puzzles.  I quickly outgrew the simple puzzles with the fat pieces and moved on to the colorful 100 piece puzzles featuring cartoon characters by the time I was three years old. 

Puzzles were attractive because they were simultaneously creative and scientific.  Puzzles have rules, and strategies.  Ultimately, they always make sense - the corresponding shapes will fit together.  If it's not fitting together, it aint the puzzle that's broke, it's you. There are clues in the colors, or the borders.  If you know what you're building, (if you can see the picture) you can use that information to make productive choices.  If you have discipline and can perceive correctly, you can take a giant goddamn mess and create a picture of Pink Panther besting Inspector Clouseau.

I remember one particular trip I brought a Pink Panther puzzle with me and set up my puzzle board in a side hallway near the spare bedroom so I wasn't blocking the path to the bathroom.  My dad custom built my puzzle board, and it was one of my prized possessions.  I don't know what kind of wood it was, but it was super smooth on the puzzle building side, and had a little texture on the floor side.  Knowing my dad, he did that on purpose because a little friction on the floor side would help keep the board from moving if place on carpeting.  Holding still is a plus when doing puzzles.

My puzzle board was also covered with Star Wars stickers.  I think you got one sticker in each pack of Star Wars cards, and I had a lot of those.  If I got a "double" of a sticker, it went straight onto the puzzle board.  Bam!  I wish I had that puzzle board now, actually.  But I digress.

So I finished my Pink Panther puzzle, and then I decided to do it straight away again.  I turned it into a next-level game.  I had done the puzzle a number of times, so my "victory" wasn't in question.  Completing it wasn't the goal in more - I decided to absolutely master it.  So I put myself on an internal clock, and vaguely began timing myself, and testing to see how quickly I could finish.

I'd been at the same puzzle for hours, though, and after awhile folks started to notice that I wasn't a dumbass kid taking forever to do one puzzle, but instead was a psychotic dumbass kid rifling through the pieces like a frenetic compulsive, and was getting to the point where I wouldn't make a wrong move and was assembling the thing inside of five minutes.  My aunt began to time me, and begged other folks to watch.  Which they did.  And against their better judgement, some were mildly impressed.  But underneath that, they thought I was a bit odd.

And that's who I am, and who I've always been.  Trapped in my own little world, marshaling my own pocket of skills into some kind of scientific/artistic nirvana.  And a little weird.

The good news is that I'm mostly OK with that.  There's something to be said for branching outside of one's pocket nirvana and affecting a better change for those around you.  I heartily endorse that concept.

Not important, but it's what we got
But here's the deal - you can't fake it.  You can branch the nirvana out of the pocket, if it allows, and you're able.  It's more important that you find that "one thing" that Curly was talking about and run with it, for you.  Because the truth of the matter is that we are living on the ass end of the Orion-Cygnus arm in the ass end of a low rent galaxy.  If the universe were a party, we would not be dancing.  We wouldn't even be a discarded plastic cup.  We would be a tiny sliver of a tiny speck of dust on the door jam. 

So even if you cure cancer for all humans for all time, I have some good news and some bad news.  The good news is, you cured cancer for all humans for all time.  The bad news is that there are about 200 billion stars in this galaxy, and about 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe.  There is nothing going on here that is meaningful in the big picture. 

Now, that can be depressing, if one is overly tied up in ego, and drama, and selfishness.  We're just not that important.  The silver lining is that such a realization can also be quite liberating, because it takes some of the pressure off, doesn't it?  And in the end, even if you are on the ass end of the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way, sometimes the most important thing in the universe is whether or not that hot chick you really clicked with last night will call or not.  You've got the best of both worlds if you want it.

This has been a very long way of rationalizing my largely irresponsible and socially awkward interest in comic books.  It's just another interest, another pocket nirvana for me to explore.  There are more than 100 pieces to factor in, and they don't always fit.  But it's still fun, and there is a sense that I might master the concept if I show discipline, and there are certainly colorful characters involved.

It's my thing, (for now) and I'm not faking it.  And I'm a little weird.  When I die, I suspect that a small handful will remember me fondly, and also probably lament that I didn't spend more time with more prudent pursuits.  And that's fine.  I also bet that many of them will wish that they had spent a little more time in their pocket nirvana on their own journey, instead of marching to some other's orders. 

And that's life.

- Ryan

Monday, November 7, 2011

Market Spotlight!

It's been overlong since I've done one of these, mainly because I'm having trouble finding anything new that really looks enticing.  Uncanny X-Force # 4 is completely out of its mind right now, that's for sure.  But that was Rich's homework, not mine.  What I should probably do is either talk about some really powerful "old" material, or get into some next-level thinking on the actual nuts and bolts of selling.

Instead, I'll just talk about these tepid little tomes:

Black Panther: Bad Mutha
ISBN:  0785117504
SRP:    $10.99
Amazon Min:  $20+

Not exactly a barn burner at the $20 mark, and I don't imagine the Reggie Hudlin era is remembered as a high point of the character's progression.  In the long term, I think I like Priest's "Enemy of the State" better than this as an investment.

But in the now, the initial investment isn't that much, and if it spikes up from here, the margins look pretty darned good.  I've had good success finding a couple copies for around $5 as well, which takes a lot of the risk out of the equation.  Again, not my favorite find in the world, but I bet I make some money on this one.

Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green
ISBN:  1401215076
SRP:     $12.99
Amazon Min:   $20/$30

I've had much success with a wide selection of Green Lantern books, although this is the first simmerings I've observed from the "Corps" camp.  Can't say I fully trust it, yet, especially when Amazon doesn't even have it listed correctly.  (It's in there now as "darker" side of green) 

But it doesn't seem crazy for this to be riding the coattails of the well popular Geoff Johns books. (none of which do well in the secondary market as trades because they keep up with supply)  If you can dig one up in the 50% range in nice shape, it's tough to imagine losing money on that.

George RR Martin's Hedge Knight TPB
ISBN:  0785127240
SRP:    $14.99
Amazon Min:  $????

This one is kind of an intriguing, disgusting mess.  I've actually sold the hardcover version of volume one for a profit before.  Martin's got a little heat on him now with the success of the Game of Thrones HBO show, so the thesis on this one is actually strong.

But again, this thing is a mess.  The listings on Amazon are all over the place.  There's a book club version of this, which is bad, because that generally means a much larger supply lying somewhere latent and waiting.  It's a little dodgy to figure out where exactly to list the damn thing, even with an ISBN, and prices are spotty as well.  Near as I can tell, nobody is selling this for less than $30 right now.

I did see a corroborating sale on eBay recently, where some poor bastard apparently gave up $75 for a copy of this book.  More than one witness tends to make the story sound more plausible.  And to be fair, even a giant latent supply doesn't necessarily kill the profit. Not sure that I did better with anything last year than Cowboys & Aliens, which had an absolutely monster supply behind it.  I was buying multiple copies from Instocktrades for $2, posting them, and then selling them for $20-$35 overnight. 

Long story longer, I think you can make money on this book, but I would be awfully wary about sinking money into multiple copies.  I think supply can catch up on this quite quickly.

- Ryan

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Best of Times/Worst of Times: Cinematic Storytelling Part 2!

OK, so...Cloak & Dagger: Spider-Island doesn't really have anything to do with Spider-Island.  You would not get that notion from the "Cloak & Dagger: Spider Island" banner, or the legion of guys in Spider-Man costumes littering the cover.  This is called "button-hooking" the audience, and it does not add value to the package.  In fact, it's a giant dick in a disadvantaged orifice.

Oh, some will look at the trim and claim I'm hyperbolizing.  Yes, there are spider mutates mucking about in the background of the series.  Dagger even fights some for a little bit in issue # 1 before she decides she'd rather be going to her community college course.  That's how important Spider Island is to this series - Dagger actually engages with it and then basically says "This is boring the shit out of me, I'd rather do homework."  So if you dropped your money down looking for events to flesh out what Dan Slott is doing over in Amazing Spider-Man, then Marvel willfully lied to you and stole your money.  Now that's value!

No, the story has nothing whatever to do with Spider Island.  This is about Nick Spencer re-defining Cloak & Dagger, physically and thematically.  The catalyst is one Mr. Negative, who is burdened with a prophecy that Dagger will be the death of him. 

Spoilers ahoy now - he captures her, uses some kind of mysticism to invert her powers and turn her into a darkforce wielder, and then Cloak shows up to save her, and somewhere in the process he turns into a light wielder.  So they make out, their powers flip-flop, and then Mr. Negative just leaves her alone.

Now, that may be all well and good.  Maybe.  It's a very weird anti-climax that Negative just lets her go, although that weirdness is at least acknowledged in the script.  It doesn't necessarily make the story feel more satisfying, though.  It feels like most everything in Marvel feels like these days - narrative check kiting.  "I know you didn't get what you were looking for in this story, kids, but that's because we've got the REAL big thing coming up next!"  And then the next "real big thing" comes along and fails miserably as well, but just wait until that next one, folks, when the SUPER real big stuff happens!  Pfff.  I'm not amused.

Which isn't to say that nothing happened in the series.  Parts of it were quite entertaining.  I enjoyed the new takes on both Ty and Tandy, they felt more like real people than they have in, well, ever.  Switching the powers/roles of the duo is, I suppose, a "big thing" potentially.  Mr. Negative was sort of refreshing in that he's smarter than your average bad guy bear.  I'm not saying I've never seen this before, but often the best guys are truly evil while still maintaining a strict sense of honor and use next-level thinking more than brute violence.  Peter David is the king of writing these villains.  And to be fair, I think the end of the book, where Spencer goes for the slightly more difficult emotional ending carried by tenderness?  I think that worked.  Basically.

But it was all overplayed, there wasn't enough in it, and it took me about four minutes to read.  And this is where the devil's advocates begin to rant "Ah man, it took you four minutes because you're not stopping to appreciate the art and pause to absorb everything and let it sink in!"

To which I reply:  it took me four minutes to read because there twenty pages of content, and by my count nine of those were either splash pages or double splash pages.  That's bullshit.  No story is that big.  If cracked the galaxy in half, you don't need nine splash pages to do that.  A couple of crazy New York kids switching their super-powers definitely don't need nine splash pages.

It's gets to the point where I can't even really guess the purpose any more.  Here's the first splash page of the comic, which is really nothing more than just changing scenery:

What is the point of that?  Can you even see anything in that shot?  Yeah, spiders are running around, we get it. What was so important there, that it required 5% of the entire story space?  There is such a thing as the Law of Diminishing Returns.  The splash page, near as I can reckon, is a trick in the artist's tool box to lock in on a key moment in a story or character's progression.  It says "big" by being physically larger, showing more detail, using a greater percentage of the story space to give a dynamic moment a chance to be all that it can be in relation to the rest of the text.  That's what it's supposed to be.

The above panel is....just a change of scenery.  We already know things got dark.  We already know there are giant mutated spiders running around.  Nothing is at stake, and nothing is amplified because none of the figures are large enough to exhibit any detail.  To me, this is inexcusable, even it weren't over used. 

But it is.  A large number of panels for a page in this comic is five.  The scene where Ty moves in to save Tandy from the darkness?  Big scene, sure.  But it takes up six pages, five of which are either splash or double splash pages.  Four of them amount to a pair of "making out" double splashes.  It's too much, man, and it's overdone. 

And then you've got three pages of post spit-swapping pillow talk, followed by a fourth splash page:

It's pure self indulgence.  It's writers thinking that every one of their scenes is a shining pearl in the annals of the medium, and nothing less than a full panoramic view will suffice for the legendary shit they're putting down.  It's artists who are more in love with their secondary market re-sale value than the story their telling.  The pin-ups look good.  Mostly.  But you get to the end of the comic, and most of what happened:

A) Had nothing to do with Spider-Island, in direct opposition to all promises and marketing
B) Didn't particularly make sense given the motivations of the villain as portrayed in the series
C) Seems built entirely to erase all drama within the series in order to point to the next series
D) Takes a few scant minutes to plow through

Just to reiterate, I don't think Cloak & Dagger: Spider Island is a bad story.  I think what's there is enjoyable.  But it feels light, and inefficient, and self-indulgent.  A thing can be good and still be over-priced, and that's exactly what Cloak & Dagger is.  Unfortunately, that's what a lot of comics in 2001 are.

- Ryan

Friday, November 4, 2011

Best Of Times/Worst Of Times: Cinematic Storytelling!

Right now is the absolute best and worst time to be reading comic books, for a myriad of reasons.  The best books I've ever read in my now 30+ year career in reading these damn things...I'm reading now.  And yet it never fails that each week I find my blood pressure rising and throwing something down in disgust.  Sometimes I'll declare the same comic genius and also throw it down in disgust at some point in the reading process.  

If there's an over-arching, primary, 600-pound-gorilla-type-problem in the industry currently, it's the problem of value.  It's hard to scientifically clarify what we mean by a comic with that exhibits good "value", although having the page count to flesh out the stories does help.  I think we can all think of shorter comics or even back-up features that have entertained and earned the cover cost, and I believe we've all read longer works that didn't pay off with a visceral response.  Which had greater value?

I suppose we know it when we experience it, but also I think lost in the potential nitpicking is the very obvious and demonstrable claim:

Today's comics are the least efficient and most expensive comics in the history of the medium.

With very few exceptions, there are no comics that leave one feeling they've received good value - even the comics one enjoys.  I'm going to talk about two examples I read this evening; Last of the Greats # 2, and Cloak & Dagger: Spider-Island # 3.  Here's the thing.  I genuinely enjoyed both books, and in fact, I thought what was there in LOTG was pretty fantastic.  But here's the other thing:

This is Charles at the end of his presser, explaining to the world that the last remaining great is perfectly willing to fix the world as they know it, but he's going to require a serious adulation commitment.  Then he walks away from the mic.

Now, I'm not a complete rube.  I intellectually understand an attempt at poignancy when I see it.  But what does that PAGE, and what is pictured above is an entire PAGE of the LOTG # 2, actually accomplish?  I imagine that Joshua Fialkov sees us slowing down our eyes and fully digesting this, his most dramatic of all moments.  Because he has ordered Brent Peeples to fill a largely empty page with a microphone and a grim, statuesque figure, we are now understanding the true and pregnant implications of the people's decision.

And you know what?  If this kind of thing happened in a comic book series once every six months, these little tricks might have that kind of power.  The problem, or one of the big problems, is that today's writers think every little scene they write is the BIGGEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED IN COMICS.  That scene where Charles walks away from the mic is actually a waste of everyone's time.  We only get twenty pages a month to move these forward, gents.  You can't waste them with a line of dialogue and a smear of blue watercolor for a background.  That's a waste of time, and a waste of my money.

This scene to me is even worse:

What is the point of the first three panels, and why couldn't that have been conveyed in one panel, about half the size used?  Here's the story beat: the angry child is running away.  That's it.  Why does that require 70% of a page to illustrate?  We're not breaking new ground here or pushing the medium forward.  This is a waste of space, a waste of my time, and a waste of my money.

Comics are not television or movies, and I dearly wish they'd stop trying to be.  The juice in comics is what happens between your ears between the panels.  It's about connecting dots, not throwing still shots of film cells on a page.  Take this gun scene, as an example:

Charles is depressed. We know this.  It's fine to re-establish that, to show a grim despondency and set the scene emotionally again.  But why do we need a play-by-play of the gun inching toward his head?  "Sad look with gun on table" + "gun at temple" in next scene is more than enough for us to get the idea.  These panels don't need to be that big, either.  Not to tell the story.  

My conclusion upon finishing Last of the Greats # 2 was that it was an outstanding little chunk of a story I'm enjoying very much...that I also overpaid for.  And this one was one of the $2.99 books!  I didn't clock myself reading it, but completing the issue took closer to five minutes than ten. 

Joshua Fialkov is a smart writer.  He's not afraid to cut to the heart of the dark part of human nature, but he does it with some elegance instead of hitting you with a sledge hammer.  Last of the Greats has an outstanding hook - dirt simple with lots of layers.  I don't want to ruin anything by just blurting out all the plot details, but issue # 1 had me flip-flopping on where I invested my sympathy twice, and then at the beginning of the second issue, the remaining Great pulls a maneuver that makes you question everything again.  

A child is fed to sharks at some point, and its not just for Mark MillarianFialkov is good to the point where it pays to think about these things, because you can bet he has.  It means something.

This is a story with both theme and purpose, something more comic books should take note of and do likewise.  I really enjoy this story.  

But does Last of the Greats # 2 have good value?  No, it does not. It has better value than a dull comic of the same length, width, and efficiency, but that doesn't mean it's a good value.  Not enough happened.

And this isn't an isolated occurrence.  In the same pile I read Fialkov's I, Vampire # 2.  Also a good book with a wicked hook.  Star-crossed lovers in an unhealthy supernatural co-dependent relationship, ready to take the vampire nation to the next level, in inevitable opposition with the superhero community.  But if you break I, Vampire # 2 into its basic ingredients, what you have is a lot of poetic posturing, one vampire fight where the protagonist in never in any actual danger, and the realization that Mary set him up for it just to make life tougher for him down the line.  It could have been done in five pages, easy.  In the golden age, it probably would have been done in two pages at most.

And I'm not positing that we need a return to the golden age by any stretch.  Not enough sophistication there to satisfy modern sensibilities.  But neither do we need a page to show a many walking away from a microphone, either.  Surely there's a middle ground in there somewhere?
It's self indulgence of the highest order.  It's the assertion that these scenes are all of such magnitude that each sublime moment must have a double splash page for the masses to properly digest the galactic implications.  It's absurd.  

But Fialkov is by no means alone or the worst of his kind.  No, the King of Self Indulgence is the divinely conceived Nick Spencer.  And I'll show you how Cloak & Dagger: Spider Island # 3 blows the doors off LOTG in terms of inefficiency when next I pontificate at you.

- Ryan

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chronic Insomnia Secret Formula!

What do you get when you mix the whacky Charles Nelson Reilly....

With the equally whacky Sally Jesse Raphael?

Click "read more" for the startling answer!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Market Spotlight: Halloween Edition!

Well, it's just about Halloween, which means it's about time to bust out that Crow DVD and see what Eric Draven is doing.  It can't rain all the time, I know that for sure.  Love that movie.  Love it!

You know what's better than a sack full of tiny Butterfinger bars?  Making some damn money off your horror trade paperbacks, that's what!

Dracula TPB
ISBN:  1883313007
SRP:     $13.95
Amazon min:    $15/$50

Once upon a time Topps made comic books, and as I recall the X-Files books were pretty darned good.  And they had Lady Rawhide in all her bondagey goodness, carrying a whip and what-not in case Zorro got out of line.  Those were the days.

They also adapted the Dracula movie starring Gary Oldman.  Don't ever say that guy can't act - he almost made us believe he was attracted to Winona Ryder, for crying out loud.  Roy Thomas did the adaptation, it was almost required in those days that if you had an adaptation, that you must shackle Thomas to it.  Which wasn't a bad idea, really.  The guy could write and that Star Wars thing worked out pretty well.

The point, finally, is that the collected edition is fairly scarce, particularly in nice condition.  I would pay up for a really nice copy, but I'm looking for 50% or more before I pull the trigger on something well loved.  There's money to be made there, though.  You have to be patient on a book like that, give it time to breathe and find a home.  The market is there, but it's niche.  There won't be 1,000 hooligans banging down your door for a twenty year old collected adaptation of a disappointing film.

Resident Evil: Collection One
ISBN:    1563895722
SRP:      $14.95
Amazon Min:    $33/$60

I've had a lot of success selling this book.  Flipped it about a half dozen times, and I don't think I ever got less than $50 for it.  Long ago there used to be a Resident Evil magazine, and this collection reprints stories from the first four issues.

It's one of those books that is legitimately scarce.  Resident Evil also has a more rabid and well-populated following than say, the Gary Oldman Dracula movie, which helps.  Apparently those video games are huge or something.

Not a great chance that it's sitting at your LCS, but I could definitely see somebody cycling this through Half Price books, and neither the customer nor the retailer will have a clue that their fingers are dancing on Gamer Gold.  I like this book at full retail in almost all conditions, and I'd be very surprised if it ever goes back to press.

Thing From Another World:  Climate of Fear
ISBN:  187857485X
SRP:      $15.95
Amazon min:     $87/$150

This one has cycled quite a bit in the past.  I've sold this book for as little as $15, and as high as $80.  Depending on condition, I think you could probably get closer to $100 for the book as I type this, and that probably has a lot to do with the fact that there's a new movie out prequelling The Thing.

This is a Dark Horse collected edition, I've read it, and it's actually kind of fun to see the further adventures of McReady.  I'll tell you one thing - it's tough to find a copy of this that hasn't been abused.  Certain books just don't lend themselves to NM, and I don't exactly know why all the time.  Like the Elfquest Reader's Collection series -what the hell happened to those?

At any rate.  I advocate picking up copies of this right now in almost any condition at full retail, and I advocate paying up for a copy if it's really shiny.  Remember, though, this one cycles.  That movie sheen is coming off sometime soon.  I think the book stays profitable, but not crazy profitable for much longer.

EC Archives:  Tales From The Crypt Vol 1
ISBN:    1888472553
SRP:       $49.99
Amazon Min:   $130/$185

Tales From the Crypt - how are you going to get any more Halloweeny than that?  This is a great series, and this is a great book, particularly if you can find it sealed.  Often times the big ticket hardcovers are very profitable, but they take longer to move.

Not so with this little beauty.  When I've found it new and sealed, I can't keep it in stock, even when the price tag eclipses $100.  I would say that over the last 5-10 years, the demand for the EC material has softened a little, but it's still incredibly strong.  This book is not going out of style, and an easy purchase even at the steeper investment rate.  The tough part is finding it.  Duh.

Cheaper Deeper Sleeper:  Faust Communion Edition Vol 1
ISBN:    N/A
SRP:      $12.95
Amazon min:  ???

Faust is an odd duck.  David Quinn and Tim Vigil self-published Faust at the tail end of Ye Olde Black & White Explosion, and it was part Wolverine, part Twin Peaks, part Ron Jeremy.  It was boobs and blood in an era where people could actually be titillated by such things.  Seems sort of precious now, with its adorable psychodrama cuttin' people up riffs.

Oh, and they made it into a completely intolerable film, too.  Do avoid that.

I'm probably being unduly unkind to the work, which was relevant and daring when it broke, and honestly ought to be remembered with fondness.  The "communion" editions are just TPBs, nothing more, nothing less.  The first edition collects the first three "acts" of Faust.  (do you see how precious it all was?)  They're quite difficult to find in any condition, and I've never laid eyes on one in near mint.

If you want to know just how scarce it is...try finding a good listing for it on Amazon.  I'm pretty good at this stuff, and I can't seem to find anything I trust.  eBay is not exactly a road map either.  Tough to find a listing that actually closes, and the few listings you do find are usually at price gouging rates.

It's a niche product, and the print runs make it pretty attractive.  If you have this laying around your LCS or find it at a convention, I bet you can get it for cover or less, and I certainly think it's worth that and then some.

- Ryan

Monday, October 24, 2011

Some Thoughts On Watchmen 2!

Some Thoughts On Watchmen 2, And Other Irrelevancies I Probably Shouldn't Encourage With Further Analysis

Rich Johnston is really going pedal to the floor with the Watchmen 2 bit over on Bleeding Cool, which I have no issues with.  He's there to chase hits, he's not hurting anybody, and the damn story may end up being accurate on top of it.

My issue, if I have one, is that the whingers are going to come out in full force and be wrong about everything again.  And DC, being the new DC that pays attention to its constituents and sometimes makes decisions based upon their moronic peasant thinking, particularly if they look good in a Batgirl suit and publicly embarrass them, might actually enact changes based upon said whinging.

The principal objection will be that The Watchmen is far too pure and holy to be debauched by mortal sinners with supplemental material.

This is, of course, absolute rubbish.

Don't get me wrong, I adore The Watchmen, warts and all.  "Fearful Symmetry", in my opinion, is a tour de force in narration and structure that no comic book has surpassed before or since.  Yes, we have the Watchmen to thank for comics now able to concern themselves with whether or not a character's cock works.  Let no man claim that I don't give the work its due, and in fact, Quincy and I produced a low rent cable access program extolling the virtues of Watchmen when the movie came out.  I respect it, kay?  OK.

Let's be clear about this - there is no work so pure and holy that it can't be added to.  If that sort of thinking were valid, why did DC not put a cork in Batman after the Dark Knight Returns?  Equally lauded, and holding up as equally canonical.  You don't stop making Fantastic Four because they made "This Man, This Monster."  Thank all that is sublime they didn't!  A signature work or an inspired effort does not mandate retiring the concept.  Do you quit telling X-Men stories after Days of Future Past?  That's just silly.  You'd never know it to listen to the rank and file bitch about it, though.

If you think about it, there should be far more rancor over producing more Batman work post DKR than producing Watchmen work post-Alan Moore.  Break it down to its basic ingredients, and Watchmen is just a bunch of patently obvious analogs of throw-away-two-bit Charlton characters trapped in a story largely ripped from an episode of Outer Limits.  That's the pristine virgin we can't sully with prequels by Darwyn Cooke?  Save me the robe tearing, oh ye Pharisees.

The truth of the matter is that this is a corporate entity with a commercial product, and the only real question is why it hasn't been exploited prior to this.  Or rather, that's the obvious and wrong-headed question.

The real question is:  Why can't we seem to break out of this unhealthy and overblown infatuation with nostalgia?

My problem with Watchmen 2 isn't the idea the idea that DC would dare to "piss" on the Moore legacy.  Urinate away!  My problem is that they can't think of anything new to do.  We've 52 "new" books out now, and not one of them with a fresh character or concept.  It's all twists on crap we've seen before.  And yes, some of the twists are entertaining.  Fine.  Where's the new?

Part of the responsibility rests with us, the knobs.  We tend not to buy things we haven't seen a billion times before.  I think the larger share of responsibility rests with cowardly and greedy publishers, who are loathe to take a risk, and even more loathe to cough up a couple of extra pennies paying royalties on new creations.  Give Mark Millar a few points on his intellectual properties and see what he can do for you, will ya?  But no, Disney/Marvel and Warner/DC want it all.  So if you're a comic book writer or artist, what is your incentive to create the Next Big Thing?  You have none.

Or at least, you have none at Marvel or DC.  This is why you see a lot of juice and energy heading over to Image.  This is why you have Morning Glories, Last of the Greats, Echoes, Green Wake, Chew, Butcher Baker, Non Player (sort of), Who Killed Jake Ellis?, Skullkickers, and Witch Doctor turning heads over at Image. Did I miss any?  I bet missed more than a half dozen.

There is still inspiration over at the Big 2.  Hickman's Fantastic Four and Simone's Secret Six are achievements in storytelling.  But there is a disproportionate amount of creativity in the Image books, and I don't think you need an engineering degree to figure this shit out.  They have a financial incentive to innovate, and the creative freedom to make it happen.  Boom!  Magic.  I'm not suggesting that DC shelve whatever its doing in those "Panic Room" meetings and go with an Image style incentive program.  It doesn't have to be all or nothing?

But why is it unthinkable to allow a creative team to share 10% of profits on new properties, at least for purposes of licensing and multi-platform options?  I don't have a problem with comics companies going back to the well periodically to dust off an old favorite, but there is such a thing as the law of diminishing returns, and I'd say the sales data has been reflecting said law quite clearly.

If you want to go back to 1986, there is a diamond in that rough.  And it isn't Watchmen.  It's this:

Yeah, that piece of crap!  No, the answer isn't to relaunch Spitfire.  Leave all that shit alone.  Learn from the mistakes of The New Universe - it was underfunded, undertalented, and rushed.  Summon the testicles to keep the core tenet - let's try something we haven't seen yet.  Because we're so creatively inbred right now we're starting to produce little other than Wrong Turn babies.  I will not be purchasing or picketing Watchmen 2.  I'm just waiting for something that isn't steeped in the past. 

- Ryan

Friday, October 21, 2011

Market Spotlight!

Thank you, FallCon!

I posted that picture of Fantastic Four # 45 not because of some Market Spotlighty kind of called shot (although like most key silver age books, it's certainly not a bad investment) but because I picked this up at FallCon last weekend, and I'm absolutely in love with it.

Comic Conventions, even ones in Minnesota, are still great places to find crazy good deals if you have discipline and a plan.  I found this book in a dealers "Everything in this box 50% off!" box, and the comic itself is somewhere between Fine and Very Fine condition, leaning heavily toward Very Fine.  Current Overstreet value?  Somewhere between $100-$150, depending on what grade you actually decide the book is in.  I bought it for $35, and couldn't be happier.  It's a nice book, complete with that intoxicating "old comic book" smell. 

What else did I get that I adore from that trip?  I bought a copy of Batman # 244 in Fine condition for about market value, (I paid $26 for it) but to me that's still a steal.  It's my favorite of the Neal Adams Batman covers - how are you ever going to go wrong with shirtless Batman?  I also picked up a very well loved (I still put it at VG) copy of Detective Comics # 371.  I don't know why, but I'm suddenly interested in Batgirl and Supergirl.  I could not rationalize this if you gave me a week to think about it and a cash prize.  Sometimes these things just happen.

So at the moment, my new pet project is to score a copy of Detective Comics # 359 (Batgirl's first appearance) in around VF condition for something approximating current market value.  It's not as easy to do as you might think.  Old books, particularly old DC books, are exceptionally tough to find in even Very Fine.  And when somebody has a book like that, and they know they can't easily replace it, they charge a premium.  Some would say I have a skewed view of market value, and that I should just pay up for it.  Poppycock.  What I'm seeing is a lot of "Buy It Nows" priced over the moon, waiting for a sucker.  I'm not a sucker.  I will find that book at a reasonable price, because I always win in the end.  It just takes diligence and discipline.

So why Detective # 371? It's an early Batgirl cover, and what a delicious piece of Americana it is!  "I've got a bigger problem, gents, a run in my tights!"  Absolutely priceless.  If you just love comics, you can buy fantastic issues like this dirt cheap in lower grades.  I bought my copy of Detective 371 for $4.  That's a bargain, for sure.  There was a time when I would blanch at anything under VF and consider it roach.  These days, I don't mind as long as I'm not paying up for it.

I've even turned the corner on writing on books.  That used to be a deal breaker for me if the book was marked in any way.  Now it almost seems to add character if it's not overpowering.  Nah, these days my deal breakers are tears and books that are loose/detached at the staples.  If the book has been folded in half and creased all to hell, my finer sensibilities are not affected.  But if there's a 1/4" piece missing from the corner of the cover, or the comic is detached at the top staple, it no longer feels like a comic book to me.  I'm not saying it's rational, I'm just saying that's how my brain works at the moment.  Anywho.

What's drawn my attention this week? 

Catwoman Vol 2: Crooked Little Town
ISBN:   1401200087
SRP:       $14.95
Amazon Min:     $30/$57

I've been watching this simmer for some time now, and I'm not 100% sure that I trust it yet, never having made a profitable sale on it to this point.  But it's got a couple of things going for it, not the least of which are scripts by Ed Brubaker and pencils by Darwyn Cooke.  This book is never going out of style!

The character also has a little heat on it what with the oh so scandalous Bat-sex going on with the new 52 and all.  I don't think that's what is causing the book to pop, but it certainly isn't going to hurt it.  I would advocate picking up a copy in NM or better shape, even at full retail.  I'd be a little more leery of the gently used copies, and as always, watch for new editions to crush your profits instantly.  I could definitely see DC going back to press on this at some point.

Wonder Woman:  Warkiller
ISBN:    1401227791
SRP:       $14.99
Amazon Min:    $13/$30

This is what happens when absolutely everything goes into collected form.  Nothing wrong with Gail Simone's Wonder Woman, and there will always be a niche audience for any work, including this one.  But Wonder Woman was not exactly burning up the charts in floppy form, and needless to say the collection was not mega-ordered.  Or ordered at all in most cases.

The result is that while Warkiller looks less enticing on paper, I trust this more than I trust Crooked Little Town.  There are about twenty total copies of this available on Amazon, and the book is just over a year old.  I can't see DC going back to press on this, because I can't imagine it was much of a moneymaker the first time.  My guess is that this is a book relatively easy to sell at $50 by this time next year...if you can find it.

Sleeper:  Batwoman Elegy HC
ISBN:  1401226922
SRP:     $24.99
Amazon Min:  $22/$25

This one's not quite ripe yet, but I can see the kaboom coming and I wouldn't wait.  To be clear, we're talking about the deluxe hardcover edition, not the soft trade paperback.

It's sitting right at about retail these days, but the supply is drying up, and this has "major earner" stencilled on it in bold type.  Has any artist been as highly regarded as JH Williams?  Kirby for sure, maybe Neal Adams.  I just can't imagine a world in which this book isn't easy to sell at $60 or more in the next six months.

Pick it up when you can find it sealed, while you can.  I don't do called shots often, but I'm very comfortable with this pick.

Deeper Cheaper Sleeper:  Green Lanten # 54

Green Lantern # 54 is widely available in dollar boxes across this nation.  It's on my radar now because I think the concept of  "women in refrigerators" is (for better or worse) deeply ingrained in the comic book psyche, and it all started here, and I don't think the world at large has caught on about how historically important this comic really is.

Women in refrigerators is a buzz phrase, and a movement with plenty of traction in today's comics landscape.  The reason you hear as much whinging about the DCnU as you do is directly attributable to that concept, and it all started when poor Ron Marz thought he'd add some drama to GLs life having him stumble upon his girlfriend's corpse next to the milk.

Think about it - is this comic any less relevant than Iron Man # 128, "Demon in a Bottle"?  The cover is surely more memorable, but in terms of its impact on comics, I think Green Lantern # 54 has it crushed.  Is it worth picking up out of a dollar box?  Yeah, I'd say so.

- Ryan