Friday, September 30, 2011

Chronic Review: Rachel Rising # 2!

Rachel Rising # 2
Abstract Studio
Script/Pencils:    Terry Moore
(Basically) 18 pages for $3.99

Rachel Rising is the story of a girl who wakes up in the ground.  She's pretty, she's pretty sure she's dead, she's pretty sure somebody made her that way on purpose, and she's pretty sure she wants to figure out who did the deed.  It's a horror mystery, and as horror mysteries go, it seems to be a pretty darned good one.

This is all Terry Moore, of course, because everything is what he does.  Robyn Moore (I'm assuming his wife?) is listed with a publisher credit, but the rest is Mr. Terry Moore, and you just don't see that much these days.  Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon, yup.  (If he's not doing everything, it's awfully close)  Dave Sim, sure, but he's not monthly at this stage in his career, not that I'm suggesting he should be.  You crank out the longest sustained narrative possibly in the history of can work at your own pace without hearing any bitching from the Layla Miller of podcasting.

My point is that I can't help but hold a reserve of respect and admiration for Moore's work, because what he's doing is very rare and I have to assume arduous.  That probably shouldn't play into how I perceive the narrative on the page, though.  I shouldn't, but I think it does.  I'm just announcing that fact as an attempt to play fair with the reader and announce my probable bias, and you can do with that what you will.

So we have poor dead Rachel, or do we?  At least some folks can see her, and when they do, they claim she isn't Rachel.  And we don't know for sure that she's dead, but she pretty much has to be.  Rachel doesn't think she's dead, though.  She doesn't behave much like a ghost, either.  She can get inside her Aunt Johnny's car and physically grab him, for example.  She's got scars around her neck.  Nothing is exactly clear at this point, which is precisely as it should be in the second installment of a murder mystery, or you've failed at the mystery part.

Aunt Johnny is a bit of a nut, and in fact everyone in the comic is eccentric in some way.  When Rachel first visits Johnny at the Underwood Mortuary, he presumes her to be a figment of his imagination, yet has a lengthy conversation without a blip.  Over in the B plot there's a little girl named Zoe.  I won't ruin how deep her eccentricity runs, but I will say you might be surprised how creepy a grade schooler can get with nothing sharper than a roll or plastic wrap.

Rachel Rising is quirky, character driven, surprising, and ominous.  These are all good things to be.  If I were to nitpick, I might critique the actual volume of content presented.  The first page is mostly black, with a woodsy silhouette and an Edward Munch quote.  The back page was essentially credits.  In between 18 pages of black and white story.  I think $3.99 is a lot to pay for 18 pages of narrative, but if you put it on the satisfaction scale, I wouldn't say I felt cheated.

Rachel Rising # 2 introduced the character of Aunt Johnny with some depth and craft.  We know a lot about his world view, and how the relationship between he and Rachel works and has worked in the past.  We know that he does embalming work, and from him we know several discomforting historical facts about where Rachel was buried.  Every nugget of every panel feels like it has some portent to the bigger picture, and as I passed through the panels I found myself making a mental inventory of flash facts to fill in the blanks for later.  It's a good comic that makes you do that, and an efficient one.  Plenty happened in the "limited" space available.

Do not mess with Zoe.  Trust me.
It's hard to tell right now what the B plot with Zoe has to do with the A plot, but it certainly provided a stunner toward the end!  The danger in writing an extended mystery is to allow the reader to feel that things are dragging, that the "real action" is further down the road, and that time is being wasted with filler until the main course is served.

Not so in either of the first two issues of Rachel Rising.  As I read this title, I don't get the sense that these issues are dangled empty carrots in front of a one trick pony.  The pony appears capable of doing tricks every month.  I'm trying right now to compare it to something, and I'm having difficulty.  May, perhaps?  I'm thinking of May because it's mostly about people, but there's an undercurrent of skin crawling involved.  The comparison doesn't feel quite right, though, probably because none of the menace is emanating from Rachel herself.  For now.  Anything feels possible in this book, which is solidly horror without question, but not a strictly gruesome.  Nothing is allowed to quite feel "safe" in this comic, if that makes any sense.  And if that's your brand of chills, than you need to ask your retailer to order Rachel Rising, because unfortunately the odds are good they aren't doing it otherwise. 

- Ryan

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Market Spotlight!

It's been too long, Cabin Weekend really derailed blogging and my prep for Chronic Insomnia # 205.  Oh well, on with the show!  Some items that have recently caught my attention:

Conan HC Vol 0:  Born on the Battlefield
ISBN:     159307980X
SRP:        $24.95
Amazon min:    $45/$80

This is a really strong opportunity, because these Conan books fit a very predictable pattern, and there's a history of earners from this particular line of books.  It's the usual story, where a niche but fervent audience seeks out the best and most desirable material.  Hardcovers are nice but expensive, which works in a Gamers favor both ways.  People want the material the most, but retailers are less apt to order it, because it entails more financial risk.

If you've got an exceptional copy, I don't think $75 is out of the question, which puts you in that very cozy 3:1 profit/entry ratio I'm always looking for.  I really don't even mind 2:1 on this one, for a couple of reasons.  First, I'm extra confident I can make a sale on this product.  Secondly, I think the odds are good that even if I'm 2:1 now, I'll be better than that by Christmas.

Here's a little tip:  come holiday season, your higher priced items pop with ease.  It's often necessary to slash prices in summer, but when somebody absolutely has to have that deluxe signed Spawn slipcase for their husband, they will pay the going rate for fresh, quality product.

Just as an aside, your earners now for that Conan HC series are volume 0,1, and 4.  Volume 4, Hall of the Dead is especially in demand right now.  I think you can score $100 or more with that book currently.

JLA Titans: Technis Imperative
ISBN:           1563895633
SRP:             $12.95
Amazon min: $15/$40

I haven't sold this book yet, so I'm not sure if I trust it yet.  It certainly looks good on paper, though.  It's certainly got age in its favor as a 1999 release.  Many items from the mid-to-late 90s eventually crawl into some form of profitability.

As I type this, the money seems to be tucked into the high end of the condition spectrum, which is not unusual. If I saw this at my LCS in really nice shape, I'd feel comfortable paying cover.  Hell, I'd feel comfortable paying cover for just about any TPB in great shape from 1999.  They're hard to find, and increasingly preferred collectibles.  I snap up any old collected edition if I see if its in pristine condition, because I'm pretty sure I'm going to retire on my CGC graded editions.  More on that in a bit.

Doom Patrol Vol 4:  Musclebound
ISBN:      1401209998
SRP:        $19.99
Amazon min:    $35/$40

So, we covered The Painting That Ate Paris a couple weeks ago, and that has certainly worked out.  I bought a copy of Volume 2 a few days ago for $18, posted it for $50, and it sold inside of six hours.  It's really quite odd that DC has let these modern classics go out of print, but I certainly advocate taking advantage of the situation for the (I'm guessing) brief window of opportunity available.

The thesis is pretty simple.  Doom Patrol is a Grant Morrison favorite.  It's probably never going to land on the Diamond Top 300 chart again, (unless somebody makes a movie?) but a steady stream of emerging Morrisonites are going to be interested.  If they can't find the book at their LCS or Barnes & Noble, it's feeding frenzy time.  And that's what we've got going right now.

Musclebound is currently sitting at around the $40 mark, which is only 2:1, but I think it's such an easy sell right now it's probably worth it.  Again, check in periodically to see where supply is at on Amazon.  If things really dry up, I can see something like this commanding $100 until DC finally wakes up and goes back to press.

My Retirement Fund
I've been experimenting with sending books to CGC for grading.  When I started, I wasn't even sure that they'd accept them, and I was deathly afraid that they'd reject anything thicker than a four issue collection.

What I've discovered is that CGC readily accepts trade paperbacks, and the holders are able to deal with some fairly thick editions.  I'm not crazy enough to send them anything as extreme as say, X-Men: Zero Tolerance, which is thick as a phone book.  But I sent them Avengers: Under Siege, which is a bit of a monster, and they graded it without complaint.

I should honestly keep my mouth shut on the issue, because I'm giving away some pretty powerful milk for free, while simultaneously creating my own competition.  The problem is that I am in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, a Maven.  So I just can't help myself.  I'm going to retire on the profits secured sending my high end trade paperbacks to CGC, and if you're smart, you can as well.

It's really a perfect storm of opportunity.  When released, these books were not perceived as collectible, and as a consequence very little survives of any age that isn't dog-eared.  Just sitting on a shelf is often hard work for these books.  The perception of TPBs has shifted to the point where it's obvious to anybody paying attention that they are the preferred format of a strong and growing segment of the comics market, and they are just now beginning to ascend as collectibles.

Start cherry-picking now, folks.  Anything old with sharp corners, a nice spine, and lays flat will work.  It's better if it's a Batman book, and it's better if it's a first print/first edition.  I'll say this about my grading results from CGC - they're very fair, and I'm a tougher grader than they are.  I used to feel bad about posting my trades on Amazon as "new" unless they were pristine.  What I recognize now is that I shouldn't have been selling those books, I should have been grading them.

I just sent my four best copies of Miracleman vol 1-4, and earned a pair of 9.6 grades, one 9.4, and one 9.2 for my copy of Olympus.  Now, Miracleman is a pretty known commodity at this point.  It's also well known in 2011 that the TPBs are even more scarce and collectible than the floppies, because the legal issues appear to have halted the printing press on more collections.

But if you look at the CGC census, you'll notice that Miracleman # 1, which is not particularly scarce, and not particularly valuable, has been graded no less than 460 times.  The first collected edition, Dream of Flying, has been graded a grand total of 4 times.  Friends, Romans, Gamers - we are WAY ahead of the curve on this one.

I've just received my copy of Dream of Flying back with a CGC 9.6 mark.  I don't really know what that's "worth", because the market is in its infancy.  I know this - if you offered me $1,000 for it, I wouldn't take the money.  Mind you, I'm not claiming I could get more for it at present on the open market.  Frankly, I think the open market is currently too stupid to know what it's looking at.  I'm saying that I think it's worth far more than $1,000 in less than 10 years, and it's harder for me to find a high grade copy of that book than it is to keep the one I've got.  But it can be done.

Keep looking for those shiny, perfect little trades.  Get them graded.  Nobody else is doing this right now, bless their hearts.  Now is the time.  Happy hunting!

- Ryan

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chronic Review: Swamp Thing # 1

Swamp Thing # 1
DC Comics
Script:     Scott Snyder
Pencils:   Yanick Paquette
22 pages for $2.99

Let's open with the stock of the soup: the new Swamp Thing is more keenly interested in Alec Holland than it has been since "The Anatomy Lesson", and that's going back about 30 years.  The man and the creature are separate, at least for now.  There is a Swamp Thing, it isn't Alec Holland, (at least for now) and he claims he never was Swamp Thing.  If we're going with the Alan Moore revamp, (and we certainly appear to be) that's all correct and expected.

In the New 52 edition, Alec Holland woke up six weeks ago cold and alone in a swamp six weeks ago.  He's currently doing construction work, which is a curious choice for a botanist. These are tough times, though, and Holland appears eager to let his past go.  Sort of.  The past has a way of creeping up on you, and while Alec might prefer in some part of his brain to leave everything behind, he's got a bottle of his completed bio-restorative formula, and he's left with odd reverberations of an attraction to a white-haired woman he's never met.  Plus, his Swamp Thing connection makes him important enough to earn a meeting with Superman.  Membership to Club Weird has its perks.

Here's some things I loved about the new Swamp Thing:

Plants Are Dicks
It's the little things that count.  Snyder has Holland describe the quietly violent nature of plants.  They choke out other plants.  The invade, they take over, and they pillage just as aggressively as any animal.  They simply do it with a lot less noise, so it tends to go unnoticed. 

These are the tiny gifts that Scott Snyder offers up in all of his work, and it pays off on two levels.  Directly, as you read it, it makes the book more interesting.  Does it work to strap cabbage to an arthritic knee?  Hell if I know.  But I bet it's at least plausible, and it's the kind of thing a botanist might think of that I would not.  It's called world-building, and it's called establishing voice, and that gets me to the second benefit.

When a writer takes the time to do a little research and then applies it to the story in an organic fashion, it heightens the ability of the reader to fall in.  Ultimately, comics ask a lot of its victims.  We are required to take some astonishing leaps in order to invest in these wildly improbable situations and characters.  What we need to get over that believability hump is to have faith that there is a conductor at the wheel, a skilled driver with an objective in mind and the goods to get you there.  Neil Gaiman is the best I've ever seen at presenting the presence of a skilled conductor.  Nick Spencer has some of that in him.  Scott Snyder's even better than Spencer, though.

Plants are dicks.  We know this because Alec Holland teaches it, in his thoughts and actions, and it's seeping through the tone of the book, which is in point of fact, quite dark.

This Is A Moore-Inspired Horror Book

Swamp Thing resides in the DCU proper now, but make no mistake - this is a Vertigo horror title.  It's a horror book, and a worthy successor to what Alan Moore laid down before in terms of tone and sophistication, and style.

The comic opens with expository captions that cut to the tone of the action, not the plot.  There's a malevolent wave of foreboding tension throughout, where Swamp Thing stands as a tiny buffer/conduit plugging a massive dyke of vegetative ass whup.  Snyder even apes Moore's old technique of mirrored transitions.  A red maelstrom inexplicably picks up a mastodon skeleton as the captions read "no good".  A panel later, Alec Holland pitches a piece of timber while declaring it "no good."

  Like Animal Man, Swamp Thing knows exactly where its legend was born.  Back when Alan Moore was changing the way modern mainstream comics were written, Swamp Thing wore the crown "Sophisticated Suspense!" on its brow.  That's what Snyder is aiming for with this title. 

Yanick Paquette Makes Everything Beautiful
I generally don't comment on the art, because I don't feel qualified.  So really all I can tell you is that I found everything between these covers to be....beautiful.  Strikingly so.  Even the ugly stuff is beautiful.

Some of the facial storytelling is eerily life-like.  I don't know if Paquette is using photo reference or not, maybe his imagination is photo-reference quality.  The people in these panels feel "real", for lack of a better word, with the exception of the Superman bits in the middle of the book.  I do know that Paquette is knocking out these visuals on a Cintiq, though.  How do I know that?  Because like all self-respecting comic book aficionados, I listened to him explain his process on episode # 162 of Where Monsters Dwell.  But I digress.

Swamp Thing is smart, creepy, and lavishly illustrated.  The first issue made plants interesting, for God's sake.  I want to know why animals are dropping dead in clumps, I want to know why supernatural forces are interested in mastodon skeletons and torturing scientist at the dig.  I'm interested in the new relationship between Alec Holland, Swamp Thing, and where the heck Abby might be.  How can I ask for more than that?

- Ryan 

Chronic Review: Green Lantern # 1!

Green Lantern # 1
DC Comics
Script:      Geoff Johns
Pencils:     Doug Mahnke
22 pages for $2.99

Where to start with these?  I've got a lot of muddled thoughts about the New 52 books, almost all of them are positive, which causes me some consternation.  Partly because I'm never comfortable being comfortable, and partly because it sometimes feels to me that I'm letting some things slide for DC that I'm not for Marvel.  Perhaps it's best to just talk about the book at hand and then bring in the background noise as it seems warranted.

Truth is I loved Green Lantern #1, warts and all.  I brought some baggage with me as a previous reader of the Old Green Lantern book, and some of it got in the way, but none of it was deal-breaking for me.  Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

Carol Ferris Has Done An Abrupt About Face
During Blackest Night and the Green Lantern War that followed, I was really impressed with the way Johns was portraying Carol.  Yes, she was in that ridiculously revealing Sapphire suit, but inside...she was evolving into quite the badass.  When Hal would make whiny little overtures at her, she would tell him to take a cold shower.  While everyone else was riddled with doubt and whinging about what to do about all these damn Black Lanterns and power battery entities, Carol Ferris took charge, took command of her corps, and generally positioned herself as the character most worthy of respect in the title.  That was then.

This is now, and this is Carol Ferris claiming she hasn't slipped the ring on her finger since returning to earth, and doesn't plan to.  And this is Carol Ferris getting over-emotional on dinner dates because Hal asked her for a co-sign on a car loan instead of her hand in marriage.  That's not just different...that's a character arc diametrically opposed to her path just 30 days ago.  It's probably a less interesting path, too.  I liked Bad Ass Carol.  A lot.

So what to do about it?  I guess the question is: what is the social contract we signed off on?  What did DC promise us, and have they fulfilled said promises?  My understanding is that DCs offer was a new beginning with a limited offer on prior continuity.  The base contract was:  overhaul.  We're starting a new ground floor, and letting everybody in.  As a bone to the rather tweaky and inbred established audiences, they promised that certain old elements would remain in canon.  In particular, Green Lantern was cited as a book that would maintain much of its continuity, including Blackest Night and such.

So if an established reader wants to feel betrayed by this overtly contradictory character portrayal, I honestly couldn't fight them on it.  If it feels to you like the contract has been broken, you have a legitimate case.  I like to read reviews over at the Savage Critics, and for most of the new DC books you can just feel the pain of Brian Hibbs peeling off the screen.  "Waitaminute - you said you were keeping these stories intact!  How the hell does this work?"

So I understand the sentiment, even if I don't share it.  And I don't share it.  I rationalize it like so - to me, the main thrust of the new contract between DC and its readership was a fresh start.  They spun a story of kept continuity so as not set an already irascible pack of miscreants over the top with rage.  I'm sure some elements of the old continuity are still in place, but frankly, I don't give a damn if they are or not.

The Difference Between Marvel and DC
Here's the critical difference between my perception of DCs continuity "gaffes" and Marvel's:  intent.  I think Geoff Johns pulled a switcheroo on Carol Ferris because this was the place to make a fresh break, it was a place intended to serve as an introduction to new readers, and I believe those changes were made to make a more compelling/traditional romance between Hal and Carol.  Now,  I may not be in love with that change, but maybe Johns is correct.  Maybe it's more interesting for that new audience to see a Carol Ferris that still isn't a complete pushover, but it is obviously pining for the guy.  It's more of a Moonlighting vibe than what we were getting before, which was a Carol Ferris who really didn't appear interested.

When I see DC making changes now, I interpret them as making a clean break in an attempt to reach new people, and I am all in on that.  When I see Marvel send Wolverine to hell and none of the 13 other books he appears in each month seem to acknowledge that, I see it as a group of editorially lazy fucks who know they can get away with it.  Perhaps I'm naive about all of this, but that's my perception.  Rationally, I recognize that much of DCs promises regarding kept continuity were empty, counter-productive spin.  But emotionally, I don't feel betrayed because idea was, duh, this is a New 52, and sometimes Carol Ferris is going to act in a blatantly contradictory manner so we can play a more traditional "will they/won't they" romance game.  Here's what I'm looking for out of the New 52 books - are they interesting?

And Green Lantern surely is.  Hal's been de-ringed by the Guardians for conduct unbecoming, (never mind that his conduct saved everyone's asses) and he's doing even worse back home.  Ferris can't insure him so he's out of a job, the bills are piling up, and it's not easy to gear down to Coast City cruising speeds when you've been in space protecting sector 2814.

Hal simply doesn't fit in anywhere any more, as evidenced by Hal's very heroic dive from a 7th story window to save a damsel in distress.  The damsel being a paid actress, of course.  Hal didn't save anybody, he just cost a film crew their take.  I think it's appropriate to look at a scene like that and say "Aw, C'MON, MAN!"  There is suspension of disbelief, and then there's this.  But you know what?  It's incredibly unlikely, but it was also fun.  The point was to demonstrate how Hal's Space Cop instincts just don't serve him well as a regular Joe.  Mission accomplished.

While Hal Jordan is getting drummed out of the corps, Sinestro is being shoe-horned back in.  He's essentially forced to recite the oath on a plank, and sent back to his home sector to regulate.  What he finds is that his Yellow Lantern cronies have been subjugating his people, not providing order.  This will simply not do.

So what we're left with is a new playing field where Hal is in pariah mode, and Sinestro is in similar straights, and the only people who can really relate is each other.  And Sinestro's got a plan (of course he does) to put both of them back on top, if Hal will play ball.  He almost certainly will, and because of that, I'm instantly excited about not just Green Lantern # 2, but probably the next six months.  This is fun.  This is what comics are supposed to be.

Notice that the juice doesn't lie in a banner across the top of the book, or a character death, or a ridiculous resurrection, or tying into other titles, or some manufactured eventy type villain.  The juice, as always, lies inside the natural repercussions of story action.  When you've got two enemies disgraced and marginalized by the same group of bureaucratic ass hats, sometimes they put aside their differences to fuck shit up together.  Now that's a story. 

- Ryan

Friday, September 16, 2011

Market Spotlight!

You're not getting $22.50 for this

OK, let's see what money-making goodies are currently crossing my mind's eye.  I think we'll start with:

What To Do With The New 52?

DC has certainly hit the beast with a cattle prod, haven't they?  Titles are selling out, disappearing, and hitting the secondary market for some occasionally attractive numbers.  And not just the big guns, either - I don't think it's out of bounds to say that the books carrying the most buzz right now are Animal Man and Batgirl, at least in terms of under-ordering and market activity.

We have to be a bit careful here, though.  I don't recommend looking at the Bleeding Cool charts and backing up the truck for a metric ton of Animal Man books.  That book did close at $22.50....once.  It was an isolated moment of some poor bastard's madness, or perhaps a toddler got hold of the keyboard for a moment.  I can't explain why that happened, but I know it isn't consistent.  Can you reasonably expect to sell some of these books for $8-$10 at the moment?  Yes, Virginia, you can.

But again, I would caution any kind of major exposure, because I'm not in love with the long term values on any of them.  Is it conceivable that history will look fondly on something like Action Comics # 1?  Certainly.  But will we perceive it more fondly, than say, Grant's JLA # 1 from 1997?  Is it a bigger deal than say, the John Byrne revamp from 1987?  I think the answer to both questions is "no", and I can pick up perfect copies of JLA # 1 for less than $10, and I can score all the John Byrne Superman # 1s I want in mint condition for about a buck.  There's too many copies available to achieve any kind of critical mass in my opinion.

Having said that...if you put a gun to my head and said "pick one investment opportunity out the bunch", I would instantly choose the Justice League # 1 digital combo pack.  The print run on Justice League # 1 is going to be sitting pretty close to 300,000 copies before all is said and done.  Estimated copies of the first print combo pack?  15,000.  That's relatively scarce, and what's more than that, it represents the first ever example of "same day digital" from DC comics.  That makes it scarce and historically significant, and that sounds like a reasonable investment opportunity to me.  It's a no-brainer at the $4.99 suggested retail, and I honestly wouldn't be opposed to paying the current going rate of $15 for a copy.

Long story longer, if you want to try and find one of those Green Lantern error copies at your LCS and buy 1 for cover price, knock yourself out.  But I wouldn't sink a ton of money into buying multiple copies of New 52 books, the risk/reward just isn't there.  These are for reading, I think, and huzzah for that.

Elephantmen: War Toys - No Surrender
Image Comics
ISBN:  1582409803
SRP:     $9.99

What a delicious little morsel this book is!  It's got all the makings: a cult hit with a strong niche following, a fairly consistent shipping schedule on the monthly book to drive interest in the collections, and a dirt cheap entry point should you find one hanging about your local comic shop.

It takes $45-$50 to buy a copy of this book on Amazon in any condition right now.  Even with no discounts, you're looking at a minimum of 4-5X on your investment, which is exceptionally nice.  I haven't found one, so I can't vouch for how quickly to expect a turnaround.  But Starking's work on Elephantmen is widely acclaimed, so I don't see the material going out of style, nor do I expect it to go back to press immediately.  Perfect.

Ion Vol 2 - Dying Flame
DC Comics
ISBN:     1401215513
SRP:       $14.99

There are actually quite a few books featuring Kyle Rayner that do very well in the secondary market.  If I were to name the most underrated champions of the secondary trade market, I would give you Dick Grayson and Kyle Rayner.  So it really didn't shock me to recently discover that the second volume of the Ion series was commanding close to $40 in used condition, and $50+ in new.

The place you want to be as a trade flipper is that 3X or better factor, and with the SRP at $15, we're sitting in a very comfortable spot with Dying Flame.  I think this one is an insta-buy, because the track record here is very comforting.   

Happy Hunting!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chronic Insomnia # 203: Enik's Post Game Wrap Up!

Greetings and salutations from the Land of the Lost.  I am Enik, mutant sleestak genius, and having just shuffled the pylons to catch the latest Chronic Insomnia podcast, feel compelled to clarify a few trifling matters.  Ryan Lee is quite correct in describing me as a lamentable figure - I spent a significant portion of my day observing my sleestak brethren bugger a shockingly large number of fruits and animals.  He was quite incorrect in classifying me as fiction, however.  To paraphrase Descarte - "I blog, therefore I am".

While my Earl Gray steeps, I shall annotate and elucidate upon the Peter North Corneas episode:

Peter North
Ryan claims to have the "Peter North of corneas".  Born one Alden Brown, and Canadian at that.  He's a legend in the porn industry, or at least so I'm told.  I have no experience with such tripe and filth, and have certainly not dialled up Mr. North's scene in "Dickochet" with the pylons three hundred and eighty seven times.  I know that for sure.

And I absolutely did not watch it with a sedated and semi-nude Holly Marshall, either.  What do you think "acquitted" means, people?  Appalling that you'd even bring it up, really.

Fuckin right, they do
Panda Poop
In what passes for credible journalism on the show, Mike and Ryan also delved into the recent scientific breakthroughs discovered in panda feces.  Turns out the bacterium found in panda scat is exceptionally adept at breaking down plants and wood fiber into basic sugars.

Contrary to the wrongheaded hosts of Chronic, this does not mean you should sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal.  It means that it may prove to be a better biofuel alternative to ethanol, which the hosts would recognize if they weren't busy fantasizing about panda obsessions with Timothy Olyphant.  Absolute rubbish.  All panda test groups to date have shown that they clearly prefer Ian McShane.

Ben Wa
Not actually a person.  Simply another case of Ryan talking directly out of his rectum.  In fact it's well known that "Ben Wa Balls" were created by Richard Gere, who paid Booster Gold to plant them back in the 13th century so as to avoid suspicion about their true origins.  True story.

Hot, for a human
Meg Coburn
Mira Sorvino was really hot in Replacement Killers, and she did play a white collar crook forging passports.  Somebody alert the press, Chronic Insomnia got something right.  Tastes vary, of course.  I far prefer to watch an old episode of "V", or perhaps Species 3.  Call it my reptile bias.

That whistling in the background would be my tea.  I suppose I'll sit down with a cup and try to ignore my sleestak brothers performing their own experiments with bear poop.  I wouldn't call what they're doing science, though.  No.  Not science at all.

Perhaps we'll meet again, friends from another world, when we discuss a future episode of the World's (and perhaps multiverse's) Most Absurd Comic Book Podcast.....

-  Enik
Mutant Sleestak Genius, and keeper of pylons

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Whatever happened to....?

 A couple of ponderings knocking around the ol' skull this afternoon.  The first one was -

Whatever Happened To.......


You remember Nonplayer, of course.  Took the comic book industry by storm in April, or at least as much storm as moving 8,869 copies can produce.  (Another estimated 5,956 on the second print)  People were excited about it.  And to be fair, the excitement was warranted.  Nonplayer is a gorgeous looking book, the script was competent plus, and the whole thing had the stink of a runaway train about it.

Nonplayer bought Nate Simpson a Russ Manning award at the Eisners, and it also garnered the attention of Warner Bros, who bought the film rights to the project and handed it to Roy Lee and David Hayden.

And to be fair a second time, Simpson warned us all that it was going to take some time for the second issue to come out.  Fine.  But five months?  Does it take five months to produce a 20 page comic book?

I don't know how long it takes to produce a comic of Nonplayer's caliber.  I'm sure it takes a great deal of time and effort.  According to Simpson himself on Nathan Edmondson's discussion board, it takes 12-13 hours of each hair-tearing, teeth-grinding, stomach-churning scramble of a day.  I'm no mathologist, but if it's been five months, and he's working five days a week, that means that Nonplayer # 2 has absorbed about 1,250 man hours.  And not only do we not have the book...we don't have the solicitation for the book.  It almost seems like he would have better spent his time creating something less arduous, like a suspension bridge.  More money in that, too, I'd wager.

I know I'm not supposed to care.  I know that I'm supposed to ask myself if I want it done on time, or if want it done right, and should just feel lucky that I live in a world that might someday grace me with another issue of Nonplayer.  I just don't do what I'm supposed to do, is all.

Because all I can think about is all the momentum lost, and how the industry could have used a nice runaway train these last six months, and all the revenue the retailers lost not having those issues to sell, and all the questions they had to answer about where that kick ass MMO comic book went.

I'm rational enough to recognize that Nate Simpson is his own man and responsible for his own interests, not mine.  He certainly doesn't owe me anything, and I'm not so far gone that I imagine that he's "holding out on us" as some kind of punishment.  I'm sure he's an upstanding cat doing the best he can and all that rot.

Here's the thing.

It's're sitting around at a house party with your crew, and everything is going swimmingly, and suddenly somebody starts gushing about this guy that somebody else knows, and maybe he's on the football team or something, and everybody is now inexplicably excited about this dude.

And so you move the party over to that somebody's house, and your people are way too excited and tripping over themselves for this football cat that nobody even really knows, and there's some real energy in the room... but you're not even sure it's warranted, and sure as shit five minutes later the football guy has split to go to some cooler party you clearly aren't invited to, and now you've shot your entire evening drooling over the hint of some random dude's phantom popular aura and wondering what the fuck happened.  And you feel like you've embarrassed yourself a little bit, and demeaned yourself.

You think to yourself - do we really lack self-esteem to the point where we instantly gush and melt for anybody coming down the pipe who feel's "bigger" than us?  We gave this guy an Eisner, announced him the Second Coming after one issue and then he splits? 

That's what the whole Nonplayer thing feels like to me.  Which is, admittedly, sophomoric and reductive.  But there we are.  More importantly, can anybody point me in the general direction of Nonplayer # 2, because it's starting to feel like cryptozoology over there, and I'm wondering what these folks over at Warner Bros. think they're going to film.

I don't know.  I hope that somewhere right now Nate Simpson is finishing up formatting Nonplayer # 6, and is about to start soliciting the rest of the series tomorrow.  I hope he puts in the last touches to lettering tonight and just writes a response to this blog post that simply states "FACE!", and then it becomes a top ten selling title as it finishes monthly.  I genuinely would like all of those things.  But right now, that whole situation is just a bit perplexing.  

Speaking of perplexing, whatever happened to....

                                                                         .....Simon Oliver?

You remember Simon Oliver, don't you?  He's written plenty, but I will always remember him as the guy who did The Exterminators.  It was pure Vertigo, baby - dark, edgy, smart, gross, punchy,  with odd characters doing unexpected things in a plot that was infinitely more complex than you'd think bug killing could possibly get.  It was clever, it was well researched, and it kicked ass. 

And then....nothing.  Well, almost nothing.  There was word that Showtime was buying the television option in 2008, but I've heard nothing since.  And then a little digging showed me that Mr. Oliver did one of those much-ignored and oddly-sized Vertigo crime books with Jason LaTour called Noche Roja.  (Guess what I bought today?)

Incidentally, it's worth the effort to demand your retailer order Loose Ends from 12 gauge.  They won't order it if you don't demand it, either.  If you like crime books at all, what Jason LaTour is putting on his Loose Ends pages is just stunning.  Hard to explain unless you read it, but the whole thing feels....raw.  And alive.  But I digress.

My point is that I think somebody at DC needs to remember Simon Oliver's number and have him pitch something.  That's way too big a talent to just let fall through the cracks, and it feels like DC is ready for some of that edgy, punchy, clever stuff right now.

- Ryan

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chronic Insomnia Post Game Wrap-Up!

My favorite Superman story.  Ever.

It was our second show back from vacation, I was sick, and there were about 3,000 things I'd like to change about last night's show, but there you go.  Lots of twisted tongue action, (kinda like Luke with his sister in Empire) a host of factual errors, and frankly, too much anger. 

I actually had two other "news" items tucked into my copious amount of notes, and I just couldn't do it.  It was just going to be more bitching and vitriol, and I was sick of hearing my own rancor, which tells me that an outside audience should be about ready to vomit.  I'm not sure I've ever done that before.  When you get sick of  hearing your own whining, I suppose that's nature's way of saying "shut the fuck up, now."

One thing I don't regret bitching about was the Comics Conspiracy boycott of Grant Morrison over the "GD" sound effect in Action Comics # 1.  They've since back-tracked and apologized to Morrison, which is all well and good, but how does something like that happen in the first place?

How in the world are you in the business of selling comics and don't understand subtext enough to know that when a guy gets hit with a tank shell, he might just be grunting through his teeth?  Why would Grant Morrison have to explain that to you?  This would be the equivalent of a gas station owner boycotting Snickers bars because they keep giving him indigestion, and the President of Packaging/Distribution calling him up and explaining that "you have to take the wrapper off first, because if you eat the wrapper it makes your tummy hurt."  It's that level of absurdity that has me with my thumb out again so my Space Brothers can come pick me up, because I'm clearly not meant to share space with that dude, am I?

It's bizarre, and it's something I would ordinarily try to dismiss as something endemic to said shop's proximity to the ol' Mason-Dixon line.  But I read a strong piece today over at IFanboy by Josh Flanagan detailing similar outrages in decorum and good sense by other comics retailers, and these were all representing that bastion of culture, the north east.  So I guess we're all a bit mad and backward, and that's negative, and not really what I wanted to talk about today.

I've said before and it bears repeating that the success or failure of the DCnU will not be declared until much further down the road.  Whatever happens today with print runs and sell-outs, it means nothing if the hype is just hype and the same inbred batch of customers are buying 1/3 the volume six months from now.   I would say the earliest we could even consider rationally judging the situation would be January.  That's probably three months too soon, but I would harbor arguments, at least.  Right now, we know next to nothing.

But I know this - if the "New 52" were to somehow against all odds create a critical mass and tip some buzz into an actual positive phenomenon...this is what it would like like.

It would like like massively upped orders, then sell-outs, then re-orders, then more sell-outs.  It would sound like people talking about the comics in a spirited manner, whether good or bad, because that would mean the unthinkable - that comics actually mattered.  It would mean that somewhere buried inside the dross of recycled old crap we're getting in this "New 52" are some fresh takes with a brass sets of genitalia.

And I think we're getting all of those.

You can't argue with the sell-outs, because nobody needs a second print unless the book is actually making it into a customer's hands, and other customers are actively asking for the product.  I don't have an accurate buzzometer, but I've got my ear to the ground and my eyes on the blogosphere.  People are talking about the new DC products, and they are excited about many of them.  Some of these excited people weren't around last month.  Feel that tingle in your nethers?  That's new blood tingle.  Been a while since you felt that one innit?

I can't claim that I'm in love with every aspect of DCs new line.  I really, really, really, wish that Justice League and Action Comics were $2.99 books.  If you're going to chase long-term growth at the expense of your short-term margins, go whole hog, I say.  And I don't think that every comic coming out of the new epoch is an Eisner nominee, either, but how could anybody expect that?  It's absurd.

What I was looking for were some comics with balls, where creators were free to run with some wild ideas, and I feel like we're getting them.  Historically, Tony Daniel's scripts haven't blown my skirt up, but that Detective # 1 was not a rote effort.  That thing had a set of balls.  Action Comics # 1 is wonderful.  Is it for everybody?  Somehow I doubt it, but they'll have George Perez over on Superman for a different take.  Action has aggressive, fresh balls on it. 

The DCnU has people buying comics, talking about comics, and dare I say...anticipating comics.  These books are "hot", they're drying up, there's a reason to rush to the store on Wednesday.  What's going on with Batgirl???  Is it a Gail Simone thing?  Is it a Barbara-Gordon-out-of-the-chair fascination thing?  I don't know - but whatever it is, it's real.

I don't think we're near done with these little rushes, either.  Wait til' something really under the radar catches hold.  I'm looking at Nathan Edmondson on Grifter, or Josh Fialkov's I, Vampire to catch fire and really start some shit.  Don't sleep on Fialkov, folks, he's for real.  Go read Echoes and tell me he's not for real. 

When we get something really obscure to catch, then it's going to get crazy.  You get a couple of the "lesser" titles to bring some heat, and the perception is that anything from DC could be the "next big thing", and then you've got the equivalent of a gold rush.  It's not identical, but the feeling I get from DC now is akin to that feeling we had for Valiant in 1992.  It was the feeling that something pertinent was happening, that we were on the ground floor of something important.  There's a warning there somewhere, I suppose.

Do I worry about too much of the hype settling on dollar figures instead of narrative attraction?  Some of you will find this strange, but you're damn right I am.  In that Flanagan piece, there's a comic shop asking $6 for brand new copies of Batgirl # 1.  That is an institution that does not know its history.  And don't these people know that if they really need it today they can get it for $3 all day long on ComiXology?  I guess that's probably a secret well kept in a house that sells new books for double cover.  Fuckers.

Yeah, the jury is still out, and this is not a perfect beast.  How is Schrodinger's cat doing in that box right now?  I don't know.  We've got a few months left before that contraption's contents are known.  But here's the thing.  While it may not be possible to declare the DCnU a win yet, it would have been possible to declare it a loser this early if the initial reports were down and the water cooler effect were nil. 

But that's not the case.  If the DCnU were a miracle...this is what it would look like, sound like, feel like.  My favorite Superman story I've ever read?  That would be Action Comics # 1.  The one that came out on Wednesday.  Even an incredible bastard such as myself can find comfort in that, and some long needed hope for the future.

-  Ryan

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Market Spotlight!

Totally an earner, eh.

Alpha Flight Classic Vol 1
Marvel Comics
SRP:    $24.99
ISBN:    0785127461

This volume collects the first 8 issues of Alpha Flight, as written and pencilled by John Byrne.  Really good stuff, actually.  Sort of revolutionary at the time in that it was a team book which rarely if ever featured the entire team.  Members were dispatched as skill sets dictated, or luck sometimes played a part.  Sometimes Puck would just get into it with hospital staff.  These things happened in the 80s.

The point is that Amazon min on this book is currently sitting at around $50, which makes it pretty attractive at full retail and full-on Aurora attractive for less.  I like the long term prospects on this book.  I just don't see Marvel going back to press on this book.

The Maxx, Volume 1
SRP:   $17.95
ISBN:   1401201245

This one is a little weird. I can tell you that the first editions of The Maxx were produced by Image, (2 volumes worth, to be exact) but I can't tell you what those volumes are worth.  Or are they folded into the Wildstorm prices?  As much as I like to pretend I'm an expert on these matters, I just don't know.

I do know that as I type this prices on used copies of the Wildstorm edition run at $25+, and really nice copies cost you $50 or more.  So if you find one in NM, you've got lots of room for profit at full retail.

I'm not surprised to see this spike.  This property made it to MTV, for crying out loud, and Sam Keith has a distinctive style.  I can see a niche crowd wanting these forever.  My suspicion is that there is a premium on the original Image editions, or at least there should be.  The good news is that since they're older, if you should find them at your local comic shop your entry point will be more, not less.  No way to lose on this one, near as I can tell.

Authority Vol 6 - Fractured Worlds
SRP:     $17.95
ISBN:     1401203000

Amazon min for this book is at $45.  I've made plenty of money on Final Orbit, so I tend to trust this a little more than the average anomaly.  Maybe the new Stormwatch book pumps more interest into these Authority books?  Stranger things have happened.  I certainly advocate paying full retail on Fractured Worlds.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chronic Approved: Savage Dragon # 173!

I got my DCB Service box on Friday, read most of them today.  (Couldn't wait to dive into FF, that got read the instant I got home from work)  What is it today, Labor Day?  Is that why I'm not getting mail?  Whatever actual day we're supposed to be celebrating, I hope yours is going better than mine.

I got sick.  So I'm a bit off, I have zero patience, and it feels like my higher faculties are missing at the moment.  I doubt I'll have anything of import or insight to share, which is just as well.  Spacey angry posts can be good, too, I suppose.

I read a lot of pretty good comics today, the theme seemed to be a packet of well-intentioned but very much self aware books; Batman, Inc. # 8, Xombi # 6, and Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker # 6.  Each is very aware of how clever they are, to be specific.  And this can be a good thing, and I wouldn't suggest that any of these comics constituted bad storytelling. 

The best book nobody read
I rather enjoyed Xombi # 6, matter of fact.  That book has a signature energy, a kind of child-like exuberance rarely seen from well, anyone or any thing these days.  Xombi # 6 featured a sisterhood of blood mummies with two hearts, cloaks made from spiders still crawling about their handiwork, and each carrying a moon blade with 28 different side effects.  Depending on what phase the moon is in, a strike from one of those blades might remove memories of loved ones.  That's what John Rozum brought to the table every issue of this woefully under appreciated series.  Frazier Irving's art was always off the charts, too.  I don't even understand art and I know what he's doing to special.  We didn't order it, so we don't deserve it, I guess.

Batman, Inc. was interesting, but this one was probably the most "in your face" with how cutting edge it desperately wanted you to understand it was.  Lots of virtual threats in cyber space, with Batman again showing how far out of the box he's become with his crusade against crime.  And it is smart, to be sure.  The art, quite odd and fascinating.  For me, the package as a whole didn't land.  We'll blame it on the bacteria raging through my system.

Like Playboy, read it for the articles
And once again, I enjoyed the back matter in Butcher Baker 300% more than I enjoyed the main contents.  I did enjoy the fact that Casey is elevating the Jackie Gleason Sheriff's role into something closer to formidable, and pushing Butcher toward something more zen than cro magnun.  But mostly it was a lot of experimental psychedelia, and a lot less fun than we've been having. 

The back matter, of course, was worth the price of admission.  And in this installment, mostly Casey describes his comic book reading rituals as a teenager.  I wish I could have had 20 pages of that, frankly.  Matter of fact, I think if Joe Casey were to attempt something along the lines of Morrison's Super Gods, I would pay $20 for that without a twitch.  Just - bam! - give me that, right now. 

The comic that struck me most today was Savage Dragon, though.  It all started with a throw-away gag that Larsen planted in a newspaper Malcolm was reading:

Now that's funny to me, all day long.  It's a nice example of a way in which comics work that most mediums do not.  You could certainly do that in South Park, for sure.  But South Park's entire game is centered around pushing boundaries and doing what established mores say one should not.  I don't think it's commentary on marketing/advertising, or anything dull like that.  I think Erik Larsen just thought that was funny, (he's correct) it's his book, (he's also correct about that) and so he just did it.  You can still do stuff like that in comics.  For a little while, any way.

I'm always a little back-and-forth on Dragon, I think because I'm not really the target audience.  What I ultimately find appealing is this sort of weird paradox where things are wide open, free, and it doesn't take itself too seriously, and's very respectful to it's players.  The book is crazy, but there's never any winking to the audience about how silly all of this is.  We're meant to care about the characters and the events that shape their lives.  Erik Larsen certainly does, and there's no Deadpoolian playing to the crowd to subvert the drama.

But make no mistake, the book is crazy.  The "big bad" of this issue was a red-faced behemoth named "Mr. Glum", for god's sake.  But then again, inside of that Larsen was playing with the negative side effects of fame and image, and the burden's of legacy.  Of course the bulk of the action was spurred by Mr. Glum wanting to go on a kind of "date night" cheeseburger run in another dimension with his partner, who is pretty hot and really shouldn't want anything to do with a would-be-world-conqueror with a red stone face. 

And it all would have gone off without a hitch, but Mr. Glum forgot to bring money, and couldn't remember what American dollars looked like well enough to pass off his illusion.  So he dined and dashed, and Malcolm Dragon proceeded to dispense with culinary justice.  Naturally, this will almost certainly cause Mr. Glum to try and take over the planet somewhere down the road.  It's just...crazy.  But it's a good kind of crazy, and it's the kind we don't see enough of in comics. 

Larsen didn't write that story so he could sell a "Mr. Glum Attacks" crossover event six months from now.  He obviously did it because he thought it might be interesting and develop the characters a bit before they got to punching each other in the face.  And once again, Erik Larsen is right.  It was fun, and it is interesting.  And with the poop joke included, this month's issue of Savage Dragon is absolutely certified as "Chronic Approved".

- Ryan

Friday, September 2, 2011

Market Spotlight: Battlefields!

Let's take a look at a few items that have grabbed my attention this week starting with...

Complete Battlefields Vol 1 HC
Dynamite/SRP $29.99
ISBN:   160690079x

This is where Garth Ennis' heart truly lies - with tales of soldiers and war.  Battlefields operates as kind of an anthology of war stories, and they've been received fairly well.  Stories included in this volume; Night Witches, Dear Billy, and Tankies.

As usual, the hardcover demands a premium because it's perceived as a superior product, and the higher price point tends to create lower orders/re-orders, and therefore less supply to soak up the niche demand.

Right now it takes about $75 to buy a copy of this book in any condition.  I picked one up on Wednesday and flipped it for $70 within 24 hours.  So demand is pretty strong, and should stay that way.  Ennis is a brand name, and it seems unlikely to me that Dynamite would go back to press on this, but I've been wrong before.

She-Hulk Vol 2:  Superhuman Law
Marvel/SRP $14.99
ISBN:    0785115706

I've actually been waiting for these to pop for some time, because Dan Slott's run on She-Hulk is regarded very warmly.  These books are in a perfect little zone where a pocket of Slott fans are always going to be digging around for material, but not so many that I think Marvel will be rushing back to press on these trades.  That is the sweet spot!

As I type this, She Hulk Vol 2 is trading for about $30 in nice shape, and around $20 for a well-loved copy.  With a SRP of $15, it's pretty tough to make money on this book right now unless you find something near perfect, but I would be very comfortable grabbing those near perfect copies at full retail.

She-Hulk Vol 4:   Laws of Attraction
Marvel/SRP  $19.99
ISBN:  0785122184

Hey, look, She-Hulk.  Laws of Attraction is in a similar boat, but the current demand is not quite as strong, and the investment is steeper, so it's slightly less attractive at the moment.  Right now Amazon has min offers of $10 for used copies, and $25+ for newer material.  Since your full retail entry is $20, that's not where you want to be.

So why mention it?  I mention it because there are many methods of grabbing these books at below retail, like auctions or Half Price books.  You may be able to squeeze some money out of these books now if you can scout out a good price.

More importantly, I've seen this kind of thing many, many times before, and I don't think we've hit the ceiling on these volumes.  This smells like a Punisher Knights Vol 6 situation, where prices cycle a little bit, but never seem to dip below $30, and often climb to $50.  If you wait to buy these She-Hulk books at the ceiling, I think the stuff at your LCS is likely to be gone.

I don't advocate this often, but I think it's a solid play to "overprice" a really nice copy at $40/$50 and let the market catch up to you.  VF or worse, deal them for what you can, when you can.

Doom Patrol Vol 2: The Painting That Ate Paris
DC/SRP $ 19.99
ISBN:  1401203426

It's really a bit odd that this is spiking over cover price, because Grant Morrison is a very known commodity, and DC is usually quite good at keeping its "evergreen" series in print.  And yet, right now on Amazon it takes $25-$30 to snag a copy, and none of the reliable sources I know of for this kind of material have anything in stock.  Weird.

Obviously there isn't much room for profit this second if you're paying full retail, but I mention it because again, it's possible to score books for less than retail, and this bears close scrutiny.  Eventually, DC will figure this out and go back to press for another edition.  But in the interim, there may be a tiny window where this thing really goes crazy.

When you've got a strong property like this, (Morrison's Doom Patrol is a genre classic) people will pay whatever it takes to land a book when the bug hits.  Pay attention to prices over the next month or two on Amazon.  There may be a copy or two laying about your LCS right now.  (Frankly, if they're serious about selling comics, there damn well ought to be) When this hits $50+, it's an insta-buy, and probably an insta-sell.  Again, you have to be careful, though, because DC will bring in more supply at some point.

Happy Hunting!

- Ryan