Monday, January 23, 2012

Market Spotlight:!

Let's start with one of the craziest goddamn things I've ever witnessed in my time as a Gamer:

Batman: Black Mirror HC
ISBN:  140123206X
SRP:      $29.99
Amazon min:  $45+

 This book JUST CAME OUT.  The listed launch date on Amazon is December 16 and yeah, that sounds about right.  We're talking about a single month on a Batman title from a fairly significant comics publisher - and it appears completely out of print.

It's not available.  Amazon is out of its stock.  Barnes & Noble says it has some, but it also has that "usually available in 1-2 weeks" nonsense attached, which would read "don't hold your precious breath" if it were at all honest.  Instocktrades?  Nope.  None at Lone Star or Mile High, either.

If you want this Batman book, the one that came out a month ago, you have to go to the secondary market.  IDW thinks that's fucked up.

I just don't understand it.  I mean, I guess people might be finally catching on to the idea that Scott Snyder is putting down a seminal run.  I guess the New 52 might have a few extra people interested.  But how would that catch DC by surprise?  We didn't know people would want the really good Batman book???  It not compute.

At any rate, I"m not suggesting you back up the truck if you see this on your LCS shelves, but then again, I'm not suggesting you don't.  My assumption is that this is is a hiccup quickly remedied.  But ah, my assumption is that the thing wouldn't be effectively out of print 30 days after launch, either.  So my predictions are a bit lacking.

This I do know - Black Mirror is a fantastic read, I believe it ages well, and I'm certainly glad that I got a copy.  If for some reason DC doesn't go to press on this again in short order, this could be a huge earner.  This whole situation.....I've never seen anything like it. Stay tuned!

Dead Space # 1-6
Image Comics
SRP:   $3/per
Going rate for the set:  $50+

In 2008 Image went to market with this as a prequel story to the video game.  Said video game is pretty popular, the print runs on this are extremely modest, and this is that classic wheelhouse situation where a niche audience really needs something it can't easily find.

Because print runs are so tiny, the odds of you finding stacks of these at your LCS are not good.  On the other hand, I went searching for Dead Space issues a few days ago and found 1 full set and 2/3 of another, all for cover price or less.

This is significant because the going rate for complete sets of the Dead Space mini is $50 or better.  If you can score the Dead Space Extraction one-shot (previously featured on Market Spotlight) you can sometimes reach $100 for the works.

Those are nice margins, and it's good to break out of my continuous "TPB or bust" mindset.  There's lots of earners out there, especially in little niche markets like Dead Space.  Take this next book, for example....

Art of Dead Space HC
ISBN:   0811866122
SRP:   Free (declared $10 value)
Amazon Min:  $45/$250

This adorable little hardcover (it's practically the size of your wallet) was given away for pre-ordering the Dead Space video game at places like Game Stop, Best Buy, or Game Crazy.  It came with a pair of 3D glasses, and it's important to have them intact and included for collectors.  And if you're selling this thing for $50 or better, you can bet your ass you're selling to a collector.

I just bought one of these on eBay for $13 and flipped it for $50 the very same day I posted it.  This is what the pros call arbitrage.  I almost feel guilty pulling shit like that, but whaddyagonnado?

The key is to think outside the box.  I stumbled upon this when I discovered the Image Dead Space comics doing well.  What else is out there for Dead Space that I can sell?  I ran a completed search on eBay for Dead Space and just started looking for things that appealed to me.  That hardcover looked interesting, so I typed it into Amazon.  Oh look, min is $50, that's interesting.

And listen, these are always experiments with some degree of risk.  I believe in it now, because when I sell something quick like that it shows active interest.  At any rate, it's a strategy to add to your tool box.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chronic Review: Whispers # 1!

Whispers # 1
Image Comics
Script:    Joshua Luna
Pencils:  Joshua Luna

Whispers is about secret hearts.  Inside we're all at least slightly damaged goods, sad to say.  Each of us shows a brave face to the world, but the inside monologue is a plague of nagging doubts and insecurities.  Blaine has access to other people's secret hearts, and he is learning to give those hearts a nudge in whatever direction he chooses.

Blaine:  OCD with astral projection and girl issues. Score!
Pretty high concept, pretty intriguing concept, and a pretty ballsy concept for Joshua Luna's first solo effort. 

There's several layers to this story, which is partially about Blaine exploring his new found abilities from the ground floor, partially about his managing his obsessive compulsive disorder, and partially about his managing his relationships.  Inside of issue one, we're introduced to a complicated and competitive scene with his ex-girlfriend and her circle, a broken relationship with his mother, and a potentially dangerous connection with an ex-ex-girlfriend. 

That's quite a lot to pack into an intro!  None of it feels cramped, mind you, not that one need be worried about one of the co-creators of The Sword.   It all looks gorgeous, too.  There's a Luna style, and if that's what you like, that's what you're going to get.  Having said that, I certainly remember The Girls, and the art I'm looking at in Whispers is more complex and more beautiful. 

I particularly enjoyed this little experiment with light and shading, as the trees cast a shadow over Blaine and Lily:

It's striking, no?

Lots to like about Whispers.  Your basic superhero story assumes powers and pinpoint control.  Blaine has no clue what he's doing, and he's figuring out the rules with the reader.  He's got limitations on his controls, and all conclusions are guesswork at this point.  There's more drama in that, and a good choice, I think.

The juice of the story rides on a dirt simple question - "If you could push the thoughts of anybody you knew toward whatever end you liked...what would you do?"  If Luna can provide answers that surprise, show the inevitable pitfalls without preaching, the book should be very good.  We're not that far yet.

To be great, not just very good, the secret hearts need to ring true.  I don't know if that's the case in issue one.  It's an admittedly tough wire to walk, crawling inside the human soul, cutting out all the bullshit dressing and showing how people really think inside where nobody is watching.  The scene with Blaine's mother in particular felt  Slightly disingenuous.

In terms of nailing the internal dialogue in a manner that makes one believe his character can actually pierce people's souls, Whispers gets a C.  In terms of delivering an intriguing concept packed with story in an attractive looking package, Whispers is an A.  It's early, but it's looking like we can chalk up another solid win for Eric Stephenson and Image.

- Ryan

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chronic Review: Prophet # 21!

Prophet # 21
Image Comics
Script:    Brandon Graham
Pencils:  Simon Roy

The new Prophet arrives with a certain amount of simmering heat, which is not unheard of these days.  It seems like just yesterday 27, or was it Nonplayer that was going to take over the world with its hype before it was ever born?  Neither is a bad comic, but neither has ascended to reach admittedly unrealistic lofty expectations, either.

Always start the day with a puked up stimulant
So consider me skeptical before I've even cracked a page of this, especially considering that the new "would be messiah: comes from the house of Rob Liefield and Extreme Studios.  I read the 9 page preview on CBR, too, and was nonplussed.

Here's what Prophet is, stripped of as much preconceived baggage as I can muster - singularly pure science fiction.

Comics do fiddle and fumble with sci-fi occasionally, with all the skill and dexterity of a 16 year-old with a peach fuzz moustache in the back of his Chevy Citation.  Ordinarily it's an excuse to dress up sophomoric sex play in a different costume, more an exercise in exploring a different brand of the same old fetish than actually delving into a different genre.  Even a book like Y The Last Man, an outstanding achievement, is more interested in its fiction than its science.  Prophet is a book likely to make Asimov proud.

 The foundational premise is dirt simple.  John Prophet has been asleep beneath the earth for centuries, and the story picks up as he awakens.  His mission is collect tools and allies in an apocalyptic future to begin the human race anew.  His first big picture objective is to reignite the G.O.D. satellite.  In order to do that, he has to whack a lot of weird creatures in the face with his axe, snack on what's become of the human race, and have sex with even weirder creatures than those he axed in the face.

There are more ideas per page than one normally bumps into during a modern comic book's reading. Graham has obviously spent some time thinking about tech, how it works, making it more biological, then taking it further into the bizarre and xenobiological.  He's thought about what's populating his future earth, and the politics of that.  He gives it to you in a manner that demonstrates he knows what he's doing as the author, and trusts you to know what you're doing as a reader.

Post coital bong hit - sexy!
This Prophet is much more than an imported hot artist and a guy with padded head gear, dig?  If Liefield's goal was to launch the property as a message saying "This is NOT your father's Extreme Studio"....mission accomplished, sir.

The new Prophet is interesting and challenging and different, and those are all good things.  Lots of people are wetting themselves over this book, which is a sentiment that I understand but don't share.  I think the spark I'm missing is in the art.  I'm sure I'm in the minority on this, and I'm sure he was appropriately chosen as part of the "not old Extreme" gambit.  I guess I just can't help but wonder how astonishing this would all look if they had gotten the next Wally Wood for it.  Wally Woods don't grow on trees, I guess.  (yes, I recognize that was a horrible thing to type in all ways)

I suppose the final assessment for me is that Prophet has a lot to be proud of, and I'm glad it exists.  This is certainly not what I was expecting, and that's an achievement all its own these days.  But in terms of freshness, vitality, world-building, it any better than Stokoe's Orc Stain? 

I don't think so.  Maybe the take away is not to dismiss Prophet but to re-assert Orc Stain as something worth keeping around?  I think for comic fans looking for something different, you've got a new, worthwhile flavor to sample in Prophet.  And for pure science fiction fans, you ought to be in love.

- Ryan

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Project: Enlightenment!

Fyodor Dostoevsky:  The Mad Russian

Project:  Enlightenment

No question about it, the old man has slipped into quite a state of arrested development.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with reading comics, and in fact, I heartily endorse them.  Even those scandalously horrible (gasp!) superhero comics.  I know.  What a positively ghastly assertion!

Comics are fine, but man can not live by comics alone - except I pretty much have been, for far too long.

It's making, not stupid, that's not it.  It's making me one-dimensional, inflexible, less fit for mental duty.

So in an effort to become more of the Renaissance Man I was meant to be, I have decided to read at least one book book (not a comic book) per month.  Incidentally, Renaissance is pronounced REN-uh-zonce.  It's not pronounced ren-AY-zonce.  If you pronounce it with the hard "A" sound, you are hereby instructed to punch yourself in the balls, because I'm not there to do it for you.  If you don't have balls, substitute your baby box.

To produce the Renaissance Man, I came up with Project: Enlightenment.  Some of you are inwardly grousing about how "those are two different eras, jackass."  You are also hereby commanded to punch yourself directly in the balls.  Pretentious pricks, all of you.

The point is to pick a number of authors, genres, and time periods.  They don't have to be texts likely to be covered in a college lit course, but it would sure help.

Here's the deal - the brain is a machine that operates on synaptic highways.  You can (and do) train your brain to run down certain tracks.  The plus side is that the brain gets very good rolling down those synaptic highways.  The bad news is that you're allowing large swaths of your gray matter to atrophy.  Part of the difficulty in kicking something like heroin is that an addict has trained their brain to define pleasure inside of some very narrow streets.  Nothing else quite translates, at least not in the beginning of the recovery process.

Same thing with learning and thinking.  I've funnelled a far too large concentration of synaptic firing into a tiny little four-color box.  There's some variety inside the medium, of course.  You flex different muscles reading 100 Bullets than you do reading Comic Book Comics.  But still.  I think you get the point.  I need to reach outside of my comfort zone before my brain box turns into a 98 pound weakling capable of only dissecting Superman stories.

To that end, Project: Enlightenment is designed to break out of Comic Book City and into a wider world.  I'm a really weird English major in that I've never read or been interested in reading any of The Canon.  Time to get to it in my old age!

I'm not prescribing myself strictly to the classics, whatever those actually are.  The idea is enjoy the process, not torture myself.  The books need not be fiction, but I like fiction quite a bit, and I'm weak there.  So I've picked out a few entries such as:

Notes From The Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky
It seems to me that my iconoclastic and anti-authoritarian impulses should mix with the Mad Russian nicely.  I'm going to find out one way or another.

The Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
It's Black History Month, so it seemed like an appropriate and intriguing choice

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
No, I've never read it.  Yes, I'm ashamed of that.  Seems about perfect for Halloween month.

Other titles I'm considering for the Project:
Atlast Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Hell's Angels - Hunter S. Thompson
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein
The Magus - John Fowles
The Man Who Was Thursday - GK Chesterton
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
Common Sense - Thomas Paine

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?  I'm open to suggestions.  Pitch me a classic that you've particularly enjoyed.  It works especially well if you can attach a significance to a particular month, although that's certainly not a requirement.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Even Jedi poot in their pants.

Ryan saw this on AOTS and had to share it with me.  Now I'm sharing it with you all.  This is the base kind of humor that seems really funny at 1:30am after doing two hours of show.  Please Enjoy!  I know we did.