"And Kindly Remove Your Pelvis..." Comics! Sometimes They Are A Lot Like Last Time But Newer (John Carter pt.2)!

Photobucket  My name is John Kane and if my instructions have been honoured then what now assails your minds will be a continuation of the unfeasible events that occurred when I persisted in following the course of John Carter comics into the current Century. It is not for such as I to grant such an endeavour any merit for such a task can only fall to those who suffer the results. My chore has ended and yours has only begun...

WARLORD OF MARS #1 - #14 (of an ongoing series) Art by Stephen Sadowski, Lui Antonio, Edgar Salazar Written by Arvid Nelson Coloured by Adriano Lucas, Shane Rooks, Maxflan Araujo, Marcello Pinto Lettered by Troy Peteri, Marshall Dillon Based on the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Dynamite Entertainment, $3.99ea (except #1 which was $1.00))


Previously on 'An Old Man Talks Uninformed Shite About Comics No one Cares About' I discussed comics from 1952-3 and 1972-79 and went on about changes in comic storytelling between the '50s and the '70s. But only in a general way; not in a way that's going to suggest the presence of any original thought or anything. I was pretty happy to report that comics had come on a bit in terms of technique but what about by 2010 when this Dynamite series began? That'd be roughly 60 years since the Jesse Marsh Stuff and, say, around 30 years since the DC/Marvel stuff ended. Those numbers making up in roundness what they lack in precision, somewhat akin to a large boned gentleman's reflection in a fun-house mirror.

Photobucket Mars circa 2010.

It takes this series 9 issues to adapt A Princess of Mars. That's a fact. Another fact is the same ERB book was adapted by Dell and Marvel in one issue. Okay those adaptations are hardly the most elegant of things but they are certainly entertaining and have momentum. So, no, they probably aren't as rich an experience as reading the novel but they are quite a good experience as far as reading a comic goes. To pack all that stuff into one issue some pretty brutal choices have to be made about what to include and where the narrative emphasis should lie. Even though the Dynamite series has room to sprawl about the place like a boneless teenager choices have also been made. I haven't read the original ERB novels but thanks to this pointless task I have set myself I have now read no less than 5 (FIVE!!!) comic book adaptations of A Princess of Mars. None of these are exactly the same in either events or tone. In every case decisions have been made.

Photobucket The Incomparable Dejah Thoris circa 2010

Tellingly the Dynamite series is touted as an "expansion of the sci-fi classic". So the fact it takes a whole heck of a lot longer to cover the same ground as previous adaptations is unsurprising. What is surprising is the time taken to get John Carter onto Mars. In the Dell series JC is on Mars by p.2, in the DC series he's there on p.5 while the Marvel series starts with him already there up to his cute tuchus in trouble! In 2010 (now sit down and have someone nearby ready to call the emergency services before you read this next bit) John Carter manifests on Mars on the 1st page of the...THIRD issue.

The only real reason to stick with a series clearly sold as being about a man having robust frolics on Mars for three issues in which his frolics are neither robust nor Mars-based is if you are a fan of ERB (or pulp) already. So, yeah, pretty much two of my least favourite modern tendencies (as in suicidal) in comics: no attempt to appeal to new readers and decompression. Stylistically this latter would be the biggest difference to have occurred in the 60 some years separating the Dell and Dynamite material. The boon of having plenty of room to spread any artistic wings is pissed away due to a lack of inclination to do so in a way which is constructive and a maddening tendency to prevaricate. But it's okay for modern comics to do that because the audience isn't going anywhere is it? Well, I guess I'm looking at different sales figures because that audience certainly seems to be going somewhere.

Photobucket Mars Action circa 2010.

(About decompression. Now, I'm aware that decompression can be a valid literary device but I am also aware that the term is often invoked in order to lend legitimacy to what is clearly better described as taking the piss. Language is quite a powerful thing and I think it is time we reclaimed "decompression" from those who abuse it to the furtherance of fluffing up both their own and their audience's egos. Next time you see the word 'decompression' try mentally replacing it with 'taking the piss'. I think the results will delight you! (Note: unless you are a diver in which  case I suggest you stick to 'decompression'.))

Photobucket John Carter circa 2010.

Now those are harmful inclinations but they are hardly unique to this comic (which is why they are so especially infuriating) and to judge this series on those grounds alone would be unfair. It's not a bad little series. There's evidence that some thought has gone into the presentation of the material. The narration is presented in a typeface akin to that in a words-alone book, there's some attempt at supplementary material intended to evoke the "true story" aspect of the original novels and the choice to up the ante on the tits'n'gizzards has clearly been made at an early stage. And, like a Calot returning to its own vomit, it's this I'd like to look at again.

You could be forgiven for believing that I am some kind of sweaty one-handed reader who won't be satisfied until all comics resemble nothing so much as a fiesta of fur and quivering meat but this isn't the case. I just think you should show commitment to things. Commitment is a big thing in my household. I know my Incomparable partner is always trying to get me committed. Particularly after reading one of these things.  But although there is more gore and more nekkidery than in any previous iteration of this here ERB IP, it's all a bit half-assed. People like the nudey-roo aspect to this stuff so: John Carter does at least have the (in)decency to be swinging in the wind initially, the incomparable Dejah Thoris is unlikely to suffer from rashes due to her detergent,  and then there are those "risque" covers. But... John Carter has to contort himself comically to avoid a glimpse of his carrot and taters, the incomparable one is too often shown quailing or threatened and those covers are censored.  There just doesn't seem to be much point to it really. If you're going to get down there then get down and roll around,  I say. After all, it isn't as if Dynamite are in thrall to the demands of the ERB estate is it? Which reminds me:

Photobucket Martian irony circa 2010.

There are three different artists throughout the course of the book so far. Initially it's Stephen Sadowski and I'll just say that if you're having cowboys in your book it's probably best get people who can draw hats on people's heads. I know it's not the easiest thing in the world and even Lovely Lou Fine wasn't very good at it, but still. Sadowski crops up later on and hilariously depicts the incomparable Dejah Thoris wearing more to bed than at any other point in the series. Sadowski's photo derived work bookends the contributions of Lui Antonio who has a nicely blocky approach that's kind of sub-Art Adams. It's clean, nice art but, unlike Art Adams, a little light on the details and Antonio has a tendency to give JC a big vein on each arm suggesting nothing so much as sword wielding phalli. Which could be entirely intentional but is surely unnerving. Salazar crops up in the later issues and I really don't like his brittle line, lacking as it does any confidence in itself and lending the book a hesitant and scratchy look. (Pulp should never be hesitant.) On words Nelson does a decent job. It all bustles along, things happen and it's entertaining enough with even a glimpse of humour here and there ("Kiss me, you Calot!"). He really earns his money with the second arc which is a kind of murder mystery without JC but starring his son and is, thus, about as satisfying as tuning into Scooby-Doo only to find it's an episode all about Scrappy. Still Nelson manfully manages to keep it rolling along and through into the latest issues where unfortunately, for this reader, his solid work is unable to distract from the eye-prickling art. Overall, since most of my quibbles and carps were aimed at modern comics generally rather than this one in particular, the series is OKAY!


WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS #1 - #9 (of an ongoing series) Art by Carlos Rafael Written By Arvid Nelson Coloured by Carlos Lopez Lettered by Marshall Dillon Based on the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Dynamite Entertainment, $3.99ea)


Ah. Yes. Another tendency in the modern genre comic scene is to milk that IP teat until it is sore. So here we have a solo title for The Incomparable One. These tales are set before John Carter turns up so The incomparable one is only a mere slip of a girl at this stage, probably barely in her 5th Century. Oh yes, from reading all these books I have learned that Martians are born from eggs, mature quickly and age slowly, live to be about 1,000 years old (unless someone stabs them or they are eaten by some of the more agile fauna) at which point they go off and commit unassisted suicide by the River Iss (a kind of more brutal Dignitas). Unsettlingly this means John Carter has shacked up with some old crone who lays eggs. This makes John Carter possibly the only fictional character who engages in procreation with a geriatric, suicidal monotreme.

Photobucket "...(s)he's an egg-laying mammal of action!.."

Unfortunately the reality of this series is entirely more conventional than the preceding would have you believe. (Pulp should never be conventional). Illustrated in a sub-Frank Cho style the art is clean and cartoony. Although both male and female Martians are both dressed quite minimally it's clear that The Incomparable Dejah Thoris is dressed more minimally than most. Since these stories are solid little genre adventures in which the main novelty is the fact that the lead character is a capable and independent lady equally comfortable politicking or shellacking they sound quite progressive. Progressive for mainstream genre comics anyway. Sadly this is somewhat undermined by the fact that The Incomparable Dejah Thoris is continually contorting herself to display her assets to their best advantage. This can be overlooked in action scenes due to their physical nature but the  talking scenes are somewhat undermined by her tendency to present herself like a horny ape to some invisible suitor.  The series is, however, in no way the kind of sordid disgrace that mainstream genre comics featuring partially robed ladies are inclined towards and is entertaining in a lurid and daft way. And in Pulp that is OKAY!

WARLORD OF MARS: FALL OF BARSOOM #1 - #2 ( of Four) Art by Roberto Castro Written by Robert Place Napton Coloured by Alex Guimaraes Lettered by Simon Bowland Inspired by the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Dynamite Entertainment, $3.99ea)


Or Palping The Teat Part Two. This comic is is set "100,000 years before John Carter arrived on Mars." That's ludicrous. Which is a shame as the thrice-named Napton delivers a decent three stranded pulp narrative that is only slightly undermined by decompression and generic dialogue.  Roberto Castro is a bit too cross-hatchy for my tastes even going so far as to edge into Liefeldian which, since I am not one of those youngsters with their elder-baiting Liefeld-revisionism, is not a good thing for me. It's EH! which is not something that a spin-off title needs to be. What with WoM:DT and this we can see the third fatal tendency of the modern marketplace in full effect: dilution of the IP, over-saturation of the market, cutting off your nose to spite your face, call it what you will it's not good. Now Dynamite are publishing Not-Tarzan comics I am waiting with bated breath for Cheetah: Year One! filled with all the shit slinging, nit picking, teeth baring and frenzied humping fans of chimps all over the world have come to know and love. Seriously, "100,000 years before John Carter arrived on Mars." Christ.

JOHN CARTER OF MARS: A PRINCESS OF MARS #1 - #5 (of Five) Art by Filipe Andrade Written by Roger Langridge Coloured by Sonny Gho Lettered by VC's Cory Petit Based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Marvel Comics, $2.99ea)


This was by far the best of the JC comics I read during this expensive and time consuming exercise in senseless self-flagellation. Roger Langridge's script is fast paced (JC's already on Mars when it starts), packed with well paced incident, brief suspensions of action to allow for the smaller, quieter scenes to occur and it's also a little bit tongue-in-cheek. It's good stuff but the humour doesn't quite sit right. In the merit column it does allow John Carter to actually appear to possess some form of personality. Such a thing hasn't really been in evidence in the comics prior to this. Pulp heroes not being noted for their rich (or indeed any) characterisation I can't say I'd really noticed until Langridge offered up an alternative. Usually John Carter is in love with Dejah Thoris, good at killing stuff and, er, generally upbeat. Here John Carter has a sense of humour as well. However, he appears to have Roger Langridge's sense of humour; which is okay as Roger Langridge is a funny man but isn't okay because, unless I missed something, Roger Langridge isn't a Virginian gentleman of the 1860's. So when John Carter makes jokes about mints on pillows, giving only his name rank and serial number or uses a particularly legendarily bad chat-up line it does tend to ruffle the reader's immersion in the doings.

Photobucket Mars circa 2011.

Mind you, the flashback sequence is brief and none too clear. It could very well be that the intention was to leave Carter's earthly origins vague to allow just such humour to be possible. It may be that I brought an ungodly amount of prior John Carter comics to bear on this series and got the wrong end of the stick. If I did, I apologise and I do at least concede that Langridge's humour is actually funny, which is probably the most important thing really.

Photobucket The Incomparable Dejah Thoris circa 2011

The series also dodges the problems with gore'n'genitals by opting to go the clean-cut route. This turns out to be a wise decision. The incomparable Dejah Thoris is well covered and so it is easier to believe John Carter is in actual fact in love with her as a person rather just in love with having her fine caboose ride his cock horse. That's nice. I can do romantic too. I can. Stop laughing.

Photobucket Mars Action circa 2011.

The violence is good and violent but not overdone. Thanks to Filipe Andrade's fine work the fight scenes are more suggestive than ham-handedly bloody. In fact Filipe Andrade's work on this is pretty great. It's like the designs on an Ancient Greek vase have come to life and started running around and having smashing adventures. It is visually stylish and arresting work that nicely embodies the archaic nature of both the setting and the source material itself while being visually inventive enough to appear startlingly fresh, particularly in comparison with the somewhat familiar styles of art present in the other modern day John Carter books. Filipe Andrade - I like him!

Photobucket John Carter circa 2011.

I was expecting the least from this one given it's origins but it just goes to show that you should always go on the talent rather than the publisher. (I have no idea why people have a loyalty to particular comics publishers. It baffles me.) Langridge rarely disappoints and continues not to here and Andrade is a lovely discovery for me. It isn't my ideal JC comic (That would be: cover by Corben, words by Lansdale, art by Veitch. Thanks for asking. Took you long enough.) but it ain't half bad. In fact I'll go up to VERY GOOD!

JOHN CARTER: THE WORLD OF MARS #1 - #4 (of Four) Art by Luke Ross Written By Peter David Coloured by Ulises Arreola Lettered by VC's Cory Petit Based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the screenplay JOHN CARTER by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon. (Marvel Comics, $3.99ea)


This one I regret to inform all is a blatant cash-grab that takes up four issues with what can generously be described as one issues worth of content. That's not to insult the creative team who I am sure enhance the lives of everyone they come into contact with. They've clearly been given the thankless task of providing a prequel to a film which by the very nature of the premise it is prequelling cannot actually feature the main character of said film or even allow the supporting characters to meet even though their adventures must have some connection. The real interest thus becomes seeing how Peter David will negotiate this thankless task. He has a good stab but the unavoidably inessential nature of the material is never in doubt, which really spoils the reading experience. Luke Ross' art is odd because he's really good at the bits that don't involve humans. He's got a nice thick line with a lovely crayon like effect that lends life and vigour to creatures that are clearly only of the imagination. Alas, his humans are stiff and overact and his landscapes are just photographs with minimal effects. Look, I'm tired of John Carter now so let's just say it was AWFUL!


So, 60 some years of John Carter comics there. I guess I should draw some conclusions? Up to 1979 there's one defining characteristic of the JC comics. The people involved seem to be having fun. Whether it's Jesse Marsh amusing himself by drawing works of art on the walls of his backgrounds, Sal Amendola outstripping his talent with his ambition or just the prurient purple prose of the Marvel stuff fun is clearly being had. It's an inclusive kind of fun, too.

There's less of this in the 21st Century stuff. Less enjoyment in both the form and the content. A lot of the time it just reads like it was work, a job. Which it was, of course. But equally so was the earlier stuff. That's why the Langridge/Felipe series seems so much brighter than all those series surrounding it. Heck, I'm sure everyone involved in all these comics had fun. There are probably interviews where they stress how much fun it was, how it engendered an almost obscene thrill to be involved in the expansion of his venerable ERB IP. There are always interviews alike that, about everything. What there aren't a lot of are comics that actually feel like they are interested in reaching out and including the audience in that fun. Look, I don't really know what pulp should be but I think it should be fun. Thankfully Roger Langridge and Felipe Andrade at least seem to agree.


Now that I have fulfilled the instructions of my delusional relative and allowed the clearly addled fruit of his stunted tree of a mind to fall before your eyes but one task remains to me. For I shall tell you now that he directed that I remove his body to Yorkshire without embalming and that he be laid in a Mylar bag of unfeasible dimensions upon an acid free board of card of similar size, therein to be sealed with tape. Clearly the man was a fool of the first order but I did as bade and can testify with a true tongue that, to this day, although his body has yellowed around the edges somewhat he remains, these many years hence, still Mint to Near Mint. Remarkable indeed.

Yours very sincerely


Have a good weekend, all, and remember to read some COMICS!!!

Wait, What? Ep. 61.2: Fat Kid Loves Cake

Photobucket And here we are with part 2, just as promised: McMillan! Lester! Cassard! Acero! Questions! Answers! More after the jump!

I know what you're thinking: "Really, Jeff? Again with the exclamation points?" But some of you are thinking: "Cassard and Acero? What are they doing in this brief-yet-already-overheated blogpost?"

And the answer to the latter is, "why, they are the winners to our second Wait, What? contest!"

That contest, announced right before we went on vacation, was to pick a Hitchcock movie to be adapted into an ongoing comic series, tell us who would work on it, and the most widely lauded part of the ongoing run.  We got a lot of really great responses for this and chose both Dylan Cassard and RJ Acero as our winners for coming up with some exceptionally thoughtful books we would both kill to read.  Graeme is mailing them each a copy of Marzena Sowa's memoir Marzi, illustrated by Sylvain Savoia and published by Vertigo, and you can check out their award-winning entries below the podcast embed.

As for that embed, here is the second part of episode 61, concluding our discussion about Marvel, and moving on to some other topics including why Ed Brubaker's Fatale might have ended up over at Image; the secret of Mark Millar's success, and questions from Twitter and our recent Savage Critic thread, with answers covering topics such as Wolverine And The X-Men #1, Shonen Jump Alpha, the revival of Rob Liefeld's Awesome Studios (such as, for example, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy's Prophet, which is where this post's image comes from), X-Factor, and much more.

Wait, What? Ep. 61.2: Fat Kid Loves Cake

We didn't quite have time to get to all the questions so if you don't hear yours, don't worry.  We'll have it asked and answered in Ep. 62, we (mostly) promise!

And now for those winning entries!  Here's Dylan's, which he presented as a recent article he'd just read (and which had me fooled up to a certain point):

North by Northwest
"Getting There From Here"

In 1959, Martin Goodman managed to secure the rights to an adaptation of "North by Northwest” for Atlas in hopes of publishing something that didn't have a funny animal or Jerry Lewis. Stan at the time, was in desperate need of an artist. Joe Maneely would have been his original choice for a project like this, but now Stan was at a loss. He hesitantly passed it to Jack Kirby who turned in a character sketch of Cary Grant, which Stan deemed "too ugly for human consumption." On a lark, Jack passed the project off to Don Heck. Stan was so impressed with the way Don drew Cary Grant he later said in the letters column of issue #7, "Don Heck must be having lunch with Cary Grant on a regular basis, but I don't know how he could with all the comics he's drawing." The reception to the book was lukewarm at best, and Stan Lee's adjustments to the ending never sat right with Hitchcock. And it was canceled after issue 10. The adaptation rights lay dormant in the Marvel offices for over 20 years.

But all that changed one unseasonably warm day in the winter of 1974, Steve Engleheart marched into Stan's office and demanded to write the continued adventures of Roger Thornhill. Stan was skeptical at the time and was still pretty ticked about the Dr. Strange/Sis-Eneg debacle, but as Stan put it, "Englehart had a way of pitching an idea as though I'd already thought of it."

Engleheart's following series (penciled by Frank Brunner) chronicled the journeys of Roger Thornhill through the Marvel universe as he was consistently mistaken for Kang the Conqueror, M.O.D.O.K., The Mindless Ones and even (at one point) Spider-Man by Peter Parker himself! The public loved it, and issue #9 (the Doctor Bong issue) was the top selling issue on the stands setting the all-time comics sales record of 2.5 million copies. Which was not overtaken until Spider-Man #1 in 1990.

After 11 issues, it seemed like the creative team had started to lose interest with the initial concept. After a prolonged and contrived battle with the entire Kree race landed Roger Thornhill in the Pacific Northwest, Roger smoked peyote with a Native American shaman and realized he had lost touch with America and "needed to find out WHERE it truly was." (a lofty if vague goal to be sure) Englehart took Roger across the U.S. visiting every landmark and tourist trap that Steve had read about in a travel brochure he had picked up at a used bookstore one weekend. (Brunner has said that issue after issue he kept remarking, "I can't believe they are paying me to do this!")

Most die-hard NxNW fans site these 3 issues as when the series achieved transcendence and became something wholly different from anything the medium had offered before. And most likely would never return to again. Shortly after, Englehart left Marvel and the series was continued by Roy Thomas who wanted a "back to basics approach" with Roger being mistaken for different Marvel characters while trying to live his everyday life. A slew of fill-in writers plagued the book as Roy was busy with his EIC duties, and it was eventually canceled after issue 26.

Since then, there have been many attempts at revivals. Alan Moore penned a story in Daredevils that many Moore enthusiasts site as his best prose piece, and Todd McFarlane attempted to buy the rights from the Hitchcock estate in the late 90s but it amounted to little more than a toy of Roger Thornhill covered in thorns. Fan letters still drop in the Marvel office mailbox from time to time, and not a Comic-Con goes by that Joe Quesada doesn’t drop hints that there may be more new adventures from Roger Thornhill, but it is truly doubtful that any will recapture the magic of Brunner’s lovingly rendered sunsets casting a warm glow over Englehart’s conversations between Roger Thornhill and the waffle slinger at Louie’s Chicken Shack.

And here's the entry from RJ Acero who, since we didn't specify whether to use living or dead creators, stuck to the living:

Rebecca - written by G. Willow Wilson, art by Frazer Irving. I have to admit, the idea of Irving illustrating Manderley burning to the ground has me pining for this to happen. As an ongoing, I see this series as the travels of Mrs. Danvers (whom in our story, survives the fire) as she joins various households as a maid, leaving broken marriages in her wake. Think of her as a dour, older, feminine version of Tom Ripley. I think Ms. Wilson would be perfectly suited for writing the painful, surreal doubt that wives would face at the hands of Mrs. Danvers.

Rear Window - written by Greg Rucka, art by J.H. Williams III. The continuing adventures of Mr. & (now) Mrs. Jeffries. They travel the globe as Jeff is on assignment. Holing up in hotels in exotic locales. Jeff constantly in a different cast, and Lisa in the "latest" fashions. I would love to see the formalist flourishes that Williams could come up with for the inevitable "spying on the neighbors" scenes. Rucka seems capable of providing detailed assessments of Jeff's assignments and certainly has the chops to interject some interesting plot twists. And most importantly, he would write a strong Lisa Jeffries.

The Wrong Man - written & illustrated by Steve Ditko. Henry Fonda as Job by way of Ditko. Practically writes itself. As an aside, this may be the saddest sad sack film ever. Don't get me wrong, there's great craft on display (obviously), but the plot just gets darker and darker. The epilogue could not pull this one out of a nosedive.

Vertigo - drawn by Sam Kieth, written by Dave Sim. Two comic titans with diametrically (?) opposed views on women, working on an adaptation of a film that has some severe issues with how it portrays women. This would either be complete genius or a murder/suicide.

North by Northwest - written by Grant Morrison, art by Frank Quitely. I'm not quite sure why, but this makes sense to me. Think of All-Star Superman #3, where Lois is gifted Superman's powers. There is something about the dynamics of Clark & Lois' relationship that resonates with how I see Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall. And I want to see Quitely draw people on top of different monuments every month.

The Birds - written by Warren Ellis, art by Jill Thompson. This would basically be an ongoing series where every arc tells of a different town (different time period?) that comes under siege by birds. I think Ellis could really drive a series where the only constant is an unspeaking antagonist, and the central mystery goes unexplained. After reading Beasts of Burden, there is no question in my mind that Thompson is a perfect fit here.

Psycho - written & drawn by Ba & Moon. This ongoing would be a travelogue where at the conclusion of every story our protagonist(s) find themselves at the Bates Motel, and their demise.

Pretty great, right? Congratulations to RJ and Dylan, and our thanks to all our entrants!

Wait, What? Ep. 49: The Speedo Mistake

Photobucket Hmm, that number is remarkably close to 50, isn't it?  Although who can really say, considering the crazy numbering scheme we (by which I really mean I) have cooked up for us.  Seeing as it's also our 93rd entry on iTunes, and all.

Anyway:  Comic Con! Captain Britain! Ed Brubaker! Peter David! Marvel: Season One! Exclamation Points!  All of these things and more get their devil's due in this installment of Wait, What?, already loitering about on iTunes, or ready and eager to be listened to by your demanding ears, right here, right now:

Wait, What? Ep. 49: The Speedo Mistake

As ever, we hope your enjoy and thank you for your indulgence!  And now, if you excuse me, the cycle starts anew and I have like, ten minutes, before we start recording the episode that may or may not count as fifty.


NYCC: The Dream

One of the big downsides of being sick is that you sleep a lot, but you're not really sleeping WELL -- tossing and turning all night long, waking up in pain, and the latest one, now that the antibiotics have started to work, the pain in the tonsils has switched to a sinus drip in the back of the throat, so that sleeping at night is sort of like being slowly waterboarded in your sleep. Joy.

But, last night I finally had like 6 solid hours of REM sleep, and what do you know I dream about a comics convention.

Actually, it was more like New York City itself had been turned INTO a giant comics convention, because my dream took place nowhere near the Javitts.

The first bit I remember (because I think it had been going on for a while before then) is that Peter David and I were coming back from some sort of CBLDF event (I was on the Board of the CBLDF for about 2 years, a while back), and we were meant to go to something in (of all places) Connecticut, so Peter went to go get his car, while I waited in the nearby park (I think it was Tompkins Square Park). While I'm there I'm hailed by Bryan Talbot, who, for some reason, is walking around with Piers Morgan, and a 12-year old boy with a british accent and mohawk wearing a name tag saying "Phillip Tan" (?!?!!?). I hang out with them for a few minutes before I realized that I've totally lost wherever Peter is supposed to meet me.

A car pulls up with several of my customers in it (including Shelton Yee, who used to own a comics shop in SF many years ago), and they offer to drive me around the park to look for PAD. Of course they take the wrong turn, and just as they pull away we get stuck in horrible midtown traffic (yes, we've shifted that far in dream logic) because there's an Iron Man float coming down the street to promote the movie.

In the rear view window, I see a distant PAD waving frantically, so I hope out into traffic, and dodging cars (including the Speed Racer cars, and a procession of vehicles from the new Indy movie), make it across the street, where I am now in Washington Square Park, except that it has these long ramps added around the edges, with another "level" of park added. This additional level is Escher-like.

I'm trying to puzzle out how to navigate this when The Joker runs past, gassing people in the park. Batman then comes running, and kicks the shit out of him in front of me. Blood and teeth everywhere. I then see Dave Sim (circa 1989), Jeff Smith (current), and Rob Liefeld (!!) (circa Gap Commercial) and ask them if this is a promotion for the film, and Dave tells me, kind of archly, that no, Batman is real and has been running around New York for weeks, where have I been?

"Well, I'm trying to get to Connecticut," I say. Oh, that's where we're going, the three of them say in chorus, in the same voice, and then Tzipora walks in the door of the room where I'm sleeping and I wake up and there's no more.

At least my throat has stopped hurting.

I'm now going to go back to sleep, because my NYCC sounds more fun than the real one!



Marc-Oliver addresses the numbers behind Fallen Angel, and makes some points that I probably should have made more succinctly. (and, for the record, no I don't think PAD and I are "fighting" or anything -- I think this has been both a civil and productive discussion)

It's Monday, and I still have to do this week's invoicing, and finish the sub form, so, thanks to the flurry of message board posting this weekend, I don't think there will be more reviews until Wednesday with the next cycle of books. Sowwy.


In response to Peter David

(in response to http://peterdavid.malibulist.com/archives/001891.html) Dear Peter,

I don’t really know the finer protocols of blogging yet, so I’m sending a copy of this in e-mail to you as well as putting it up on my blog. (http://www.comixexperience.com/savblog/savblog.html) It just seemed presumptuous to assume you’re reading mine, or that the “greater blogosphere” will somehow notify you. And I didn’t want to respond in the “comments” section since you “called me out” on the front page, nor just send you a link.

In the interest of clarity, feel free to run this in full or part on your site (http://peterdavid.malibulist.com/) (I know you know that, I’m only talking like this because it’s bloggy and in public.) if you choose to respond.

Right, so, I’m definitely not the smartest retailer in the country – I’d probably go with Jim Hanley on that particular point – I’m just the loudest.

I like the Direct Market system – I think it’s incredibly efficient in what it does well, and I think it is reasonably barrier-free to entry (though not, necessarily success – which is a different beast) for the newcomer, at least when compared to other artistic forms.

It also has a large number of semi-professionals in business (on all sides) because of that relative barrier-free nature.

So if you tell me that there are stores out there that are turning down legitimate preorders, I’ll shake my head and say “Wow, sounds dumb,” but I’m not going to doubt you. However, I strongly believe that the number of “good” stores HAS to be high if only because they’re still in business, and comics are unforgiving to idiots.

Now, let me get the “bad part” out of the way. I carry FALLEN ANGEL, and I do so beyond subs. I don’t believe I have sold out of more than 1 of the 14 released issues. And our sales have steadily eroded until they are down to, for the last 5 issues, 1 copy preordered by a sub, and 1 rack copy sold. I’m still ordering 3 copies, mind you, even though I have pretty good proof that last copy is not selling and is a waste of my $1.13. That’s the kind of store I try to be. We ordered 1 copy of the trade. Haven’t sold it.

You, I think, know the problems as well as I do – the book was misbranded from the get go by being part of the “bad girl” line or whatever it was called, I’ve already forgotten. The book also didn’t, tonally, fit the DC bullet, and you couldn’t get a Vertigo branding. Retailers (AND CONSUMERS) make their snap judgments and often stick to them despite contrary evidence. FALLEN ANGEL is neither fish, nor fowl. And that’s not a problem you’re going to be able to overcome in most circumstances.

I think trying to move the trades is probably a fine idea – many series find life in trade and if you can increase the velocity of trade sales, I’m sure DC will take note.

What I need to ask you is why you don’t have a list of “Peter David Friendly” stores? You’ve certainly done retailer write-ins and things in BID, so you should have had a good database to work from without even doing any real research. Why aren’t you, say, on the Comic Book Industry Alliance (www.thecbia.com) forum, talking directly to a large number of the “better” (ugh, smarmy sounding!) retailers? I think announcing this kind of plan on the internet like this will probably get a fairly anemic response just because most stores probably aren’t checking your website (much much less check mine, though!)

Look, there’s only 3500 stores, and 90% of your business is going to come from 10% of them, so you (and every creator, mind you) should be proactively figuring out who “their” stores are. And working with them, from the before the launch, to maximize their sales.

That’s what you have to do on non-traditional books, because retailers are skittish, and justifiably so if they don’t clearly understand WHO they’re going to sell the book to.

Bob Wayne will probably call me to yell for suggesting this in public, but what you really need to do is some targeted shipping. Diamond, for a fee, can ship a, or multiple, promotional copies to, say, all stores that ordered 2 or less copies of the latest issue, but did order [whatever you think you should be comparable in audience to], that kind of thing. Costs money, of course, to do that, but that’s really the only way to establish to the disinterested retailer that there are potential sales he or she is losing.

Personally, I don’t think it would work – I think the market’s mind is pretty well cemented on FALLEN ANGEL, and that your only real chance is to reposition the book. Rename it, possibly, rather than the “season 2” route – get some buzz going from BEFORE the launch, let “your” retailers directly know what the book is and who to sell it to, and what’s going on.

I would particularly caution against seeing emails like you printed as being directly indicative of an actual lost sale. For example, the guy on vacation – he didn’t see them, so he’s writing to let you know... but he’s not a customer for Modesto. There may not BE a customer in Modesto. I mean, fiscally, I should have cut my “extra” rack copy of FALLEN ANGEL months ago. Maybe the stores in Modesto have hit that point as well and made the other choice. I don’t know, and while I can see why you, as a creator might be suspicious, let’s have a little innocent before proven guilty, yes?

There’s also, might I add, a goddamn lot of comics being published today – we’re a “full line” store, but I don’t stock but maybe half of the comics listed in PREVIEWS. It’s not POSSIBLE to carry 100% of them and do it well. I don’t even think it’s possible to carry all of that, and do it badly!

I guess what I’m asking is, in the face of hundreds of new choices each month, and thousands of SKUs in backstock, can you ACTUALLY FAULT a retailer who decides that he doesn’t perceive an audience for one book or another? Especially when even you will admit Mistakes Were Made with the Launch?

I hope that’s some food for thought.