Quick Thoughts on DC Rebirth: 7/13 & 7/20 Shipping Dates

Aquaman3

I dropped almost all DC books a few years back during the New 52.  The new takes on the characters were not, for the most part, particularly appealing to me.  I won’t judge the books as bad, they were just not stories that were interesting to me.  I’m not a “native” DC guy.  My entry into comics was via Marvel.  I came to DC 6 years after I started reading comics and my entry was via Warlord, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Green Lantern.  So, as you might expect, I have a soft spot for Hal Jordan, but my other two “entry points” are no longer actively being published by DC.  I read DC non-stop for 37 years or so before abandoning them during the New52, so it was not a short-term relationship, it was kind of hard for me to drop the titles, but it was time for me to go.

I was extremely excited after the Rebirth one-shot and was looking forward to getting back on board with DC.  Unfortunately, very few of the Rebirth titles have been clicking with me.  I have 3 solid “Yes” titles vs. 9 solid “No” votes.  I’m on the fence about 4 more.  Most of these titles shipped over the past two weeks (I don’t have the books that came out today yet), so let’s have a look at the latest couple of weeks:

Action Comics #959: 4/5 – I’m a bit on the fence with this one.  I’m digging having the “real” Superman back, and fighting his ultimate foe, Doomsday.  That said, the art seemed rushed/incomplete on several pages.  The bi-weekly shipping may be taking it’s toll on how this book looks.

Aquaman #3: 4/5 – This one made it onto my Pull List.  I’m enjoying both the art and the story in this one.  The mixture of politics, action, and terrorism themes make this seem semi-relevant to real life, but in a way that is not off-putting, at least not to me.

Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey Rebirth #1: 4/5 – Julie & Shawna Benson did a decent job on weaving “catch up” info in with a new storyline and I enjoyed the art by Claire Roe.  That said, I am really displeased that The Huntress has been turned into a female version of the Punisher with a crossbow.  It’s that last part that make me on the fence about this title.

Batman #3: 4/5 – I thought this was the best issue of the series so far, but given that issue #1 is one of my least favorite Batman comics of all time, it was a pretty low bar to exceed.  I think Tom King is a fine writer, I just do not care for his take on Batman.  This is my last issue of this series.

Detective Comics #936: 4.5/5 – I’m really liking how the team is coming together with Batwoman in a leadership role.  That said, they’re probably going to lose me after the 1st arc because this is getting pulled into a crossover with Batman & Nightwing (2 titles I do not read).

Flash #2 – No review *DROPPED SERIES AFTER #1*

Green Arrow #3 – No review *DROPPED SERIES AFTER #1*

Green Lanterns #3 – No review *DROPPED SERIES AFTER #1*

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps Rebirth #1: 4/5 – I enjoyed this one, and I’m a sucker for Van Sciver’s art.  This one is on my Pull List, as I’ve really got a long history with Hal, so I’m giving this one a go.

Hellblazer Rebirth #1: 3/5Moritat’s art seemed inconsistent across this issue.
I also did not care for the inclusion of Wonder Woman, Shazam & Swamp Thing. They seemed shoe-horned into the story and served no purpose other than to provide a cameo that might get a Super-Hero completist to buy the issue.  Finally, the funny little symbols that substitute for swearing got on my nerves. Either swear or do not swear. Don’t do this silly middle ground.  Based on this issue, I’m not going to be continuing with this series.

Justice League #1: 3.5/5 – The story jumped around a lot.  I can appreciate wanting to highlight the various team members, but it made the story seem choppy.  Also, fully on me, but I missed the issue where Wonder Woman got the ability to run around wielding lighting bolts, so that was kind of unexpected.  I’m also not a fan of “global Cataclysm” stories in a shared universe like DC, because when the huge global problem goes completely unmentioned in every other book it just feels strange to me.  Likely not something that bothers a lot of other people so it won’t be a barrier to entry for most people.  This is actually a decent book to read if you are only going to read one book from DC, since writer Bryan Hitch does not seem to bother with worrying about closely matching up with the continuity in the other books and kind of does his own thing.

New Super-Man #1: 3.5/5 – I really disliked the main character (in his civilian identity).  I suspect Gene Yang is going for a redemption type of story arc here where the kid stops being a creep eventually, but that’s not a story arc I’m particularly interested in reading.  Good art, OK story, nothing intrinsically bad here, just not something I cared for.

Nightwing Rebirth #1 – I felt like I had walked in on the middle of something and the story failed to engage me. Too much continuation from stuff I did not read and too little stuff that onboarded me and made me want to read this moving forward.  Pass.

Wonder Woman #2: 5/5 – My absolute favorite of the Rebirth titles I’ve read so far.  I loved the Year One story in this issue and loved Nicola Scott’s art.  I’m also a big fan of how Greg Rucka is telling 2 parallel stories (Nicola Scott art in even issues and Liam Sharp art in odd issues) to work with DC’s bi-weekly shipping schedule so his artist’s don’t need to rotate off in the middle of a story arc.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Posted in Collecting, Comic Collecting, Comics, Current Comics, DC Comics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SDCC Not About Comics? Not Hardly!

I had a wonderful time at San Diego Comic Con International 2016… it was my 27th year at the show.   But, whenever SDCC gets mentioned there are a host of people on the internet who  come out of the woodwork decrying it as “not about comics”.  “It’s all Hollywood!” they say.  Well, I hate to break it to these people but that’s just not true.

SDCC

What people need to realize is that comics are a niche interest.  Given a choice between focusing on celebrities, movies, and people in costumes vs. comics and comic book creators, the media is going to go with the flash every time.  Even among the comic fans I know, they go to some comic book panels, but they also split their time and attend/enjoy Hollywood panels and stand in lines for exclusives toys.  It is the ‘nature of the nerd’ to embrace all of these things.  On the other hand, the 90% of the attendees who are JUST there for Hollywood and toys don’t have any interest whatsoever in comic book related panels.

So it’s true that from the outside looking in SDCC can appear to be all Hollywood, cosplay, and people standing in lines for panels featuring celebrities or lines to buy show exclusives.  People love that stuff.  Some (most) attendees likely come to SDCC just for the non-comics stuff.  But for the show to be “not about comics” it would have to be the case that there is not comic book content there for people who are actually looking for comic book content.

Guess what?   Because the Comic Con International folks are not-for-profit and are comic book fans at heart, they make sure there is a TREMENDOUS amount of comic book content for the people who want it!!  Other cons?  I have gone to many where there might be 4 or 5 pure comic book panels at the entire event.  SDCC had over 200 comic book related panels this year, more than 50 every single day of the show!  There were hundreds of comic book creators there interacting with their fans.  There were literally millions of comic books for sale on the show floor; old and new, mainstream, indie and small press alike.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: Every person going to this show can have a completely different experience.  It speaks to both the breadth and depth of content at SDCC that there are so many options for attendees.  Want Hollywood?  Tons of that!  Like books without pictures?  They’ve got you covered.  Sci-Fi?  Cosplay?  Video games?  Cartoons?  Check, check, check. check.  And Comic books.  More comic book content than any other convention in existence.

To demonstrate the tremendous amount of comic book content at SDCC I decided to spend my con doing comic book related things and ONLY comic book related things.  In doing so I skipped a bunch of panels with friends that were non-comic related but I had a great time in attending my comics-oriented choices.  In fact, at many points I had 2 or 3 comic book panels I’d have liked to attend at the same time.   By the end of the convention I attended 25 comic book panels, I’ll run down the list and you decide if these sound like things I could have done at a show that is “not about comics any more”:

PeterDavid + Inkpotl

Peter David with the Inkpot he was awarded with at his panel

Thursday:
1) Spotlight on Peter David: I’m a long time fan of the “writer of stuff” and he has written many definitive comics runs I have enjoyed, including my favorite Hulk story of all time “Future Imperfect”
2) Spotlight on Howard Chaykin: One of my favorite writer/artists who I have been following since the late 1970s.
3) The Business of Creativity: Can Comics Find the Balance? Paul Levitz gave a very informative panel on the business behind the comics with some insights into the ins and out of both traditional corporate-owned comics and other models.
4) Image Comics: Creating the Zeitgeist: with Chynna Clugston Flores, Kieron Gillen, and Marjorie Liu.  I learned that Chynna was one of the key influences for Kieron Gillen.
5) Making the Leap to Creator-Owned Properties: Wendy & Richard Pini, Mark Shultz, Terry Dodson, Frank Cho.  Wendy & Richard were rightly credited for being creator-owned/self-publishing pioneers for their work with Elfquest and the creation of their own publishing house WARP Graphics.


6)  IDW’s New Formats for Classic Comics: covering their Artist’s Edition line, Library of American Comics, and Yoe Press, I was happy to hear that we’re going to be getting Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four as an Artist’s Edition next year, in what is the 100th anniversary of Kirby’s birth.
7) Vertigo: Covering their existing series, as well as announcing a few new series.

Fabio+Gabriel

Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba accepting the Eisner for ‘Two Brothers’

Friday:
8) Spotlight on Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Archie’s CCO and writer of Afterlife with Archie & Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  If you told be 5 years ago I’d have these 2 Archie books as some of my top favorites I’d have told you that you were crazy.  But this guy did it.  I’m an Archie fan.
9) The Official Aspen Comics Panel: I’m digging the new series Revelations, probably in part because of co-writer Josh Fialkov, one of my favorite comics writers.  And everyone attending the panel got a nifty Lola XOXO art book.
10) Walt Kelly and Pogo: I’m always interested in learning more about characters from before my time that are particularly revered and considered influential by so many creators.  Hosted by Mark Evanier (I learned his girlfriend is Walt Kelly’s daughter), foundational fan and comics journalist Maggie Thompson, film reviewer Leonard Maltin (who is a huge Pogo fan), artist Scott Shaw!, and comics historian Michael Barrier.
11) Twisted Roots of Comics: Pulp Magazines and the Birth of the Modern Comic Book: Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson (author and granddaughter of the man credited with creating the modern comic book, as well as the founder of DC) as well as Michael Uslan (noted author, film producer, comics historian, and teacher of comics)
12) An Hour with Terry Moore: Say no more.  This man is one of  my favorite comics creators.
13) IDW Publishing: The Main Event: A focus on IDW’s future plans, there were a LOT of ROM fans in the audience…  Everyone in attendance got a free copy of Rocketeer Adventures Treasury Edition.  Some really great stories reproduced in this oversized comic.
14) 28th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: The Academy Awards of comics.  You don’t get more comic-book focused than this event.

Dan Clowes

Dan Clowes (on right)

Saturday:
15) March: Featuring Congressman John Lewis: Volume 3 just came out completing the trilogy.  Volume 2 won an Eisner for best reality-based work the previous night.
16) Spotlight on Daniel Clowes: Another of my favorite creators.  His Eightball series is brilliant.
17) Overstreet: 46 and Counting: A panel of long-time fans and Overstreet advisors (including patron saint of fandom, Maggie Thompson) talking about what the guide has meant to them as fans over the years.  Founder of CBCS Steve Borock was also there to chime in a bit from the monetary angle of comics collecting, though he too kept most commentary fairly fan-oriented.
18) Archie Comics Forever: 75 Years of Storytelling: Archie is hot right now, putting out some of my favorite comics, both in their ‘horror’ line as well as with the revamped Archie (by Mark Waid), Jughead (by Chip Zdarsky) and Betty and Veronica (by Adam Hughes).  Hughes was on the panel along with the Archie top brass.  Everyone in attendance was given a copy of the Franceso Francavilla variant cover edition of Betty&Veronica #1
19) Spotlight on Jamie McKelvie: Excellent examination of Jamie’s career in comics.
20) Oddball Comics Live!: Scott Shaw!’s annual celebration of bizarre comics covers, with a running commentary.  Highly recommended for anyone who has not seen it before, fell flat this year as it was covering material Scott has presented previously, so it felt like a rerun to me, down to the jokes he was telling about the covers.  I LOVED it the first time or two I saw these same covers/jokes, not quite as special after 4 or 5 times.
21) That 70s Panel: Host Mark Evanier talks with classic comics creators Howard Chaykin, Paul Gulacy, Elliott S! Maggin, and Marv Wolfman.  Lots of comic history and insider stories.

Some of the covers examined at this year’s “Cover Story” panel

Sunday:
22) Jack Kirby Tribute Panel: The annual celebration of the King of Comics!
23) Spotlight on Matt Fraction: This guy is hilarious!  If you ever have a chance to see him do a panel, jump at it.
24) CBLDF EC Lives! Live Art Jam:  Watch as artists draw sketches using a projection system that shows the work come to life as the drawing progresses, they also talk about their drawing process and give out their drawing tips and tricks.  At the end of the panel they auction off the sketches to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  Theme this year was EC comics (horror, suspense, sci-fi, war).
25) Cover Story: One of my favorite panels year in, year out.  5 covers, chosen at random, are put up on the screen and the artists discuss what they like (or don’t like) about them, as well as a bit about their artistic process that was used in creating them.  This year’s artists were: Jonathan Case, Howard Chaykin, Paul Gulacy, Scott Shaw!, Babs Tarr

In Summary
You can see I attended a lot of panels about comics.  I met and personally chatted with ~50 comic creators both after panels in the hall as well as at their booths down on the show floor.  SDCC not about comics?  Hardly.  That said, you can easily have an SDCC experience totally devoid of comics if you choose to.  On the other end of the spectrum you can have one that is 100% comic-books, like I did, if you want to.

March

Crowd outside the ‘March’ panel

I waited in line 1 time:

  1.  The March Panel with Congressman John Lewis had about 200 people lined up when I got there 40 minutes before it started (it was the 1st panel of the day on Saturday).  This was at least half consisting of the 3rd & 4th grade classes of a local school and their chaperones.  By the time the panel started the line had doubled in size and every seat in the room was full during the panel.

That said, if you want to go to any of the Hollywood panels or the BIG panels from Marvel/DC, be prepared to wait in line because those are the same panels that the other 95% of attendees ALSO want to go to.  There’s an advantage to being focused on mostly creator-owned comics and comics history types of panels.  No lines.  That’s in addition to hearing stories and inside stuff you’ll probably hear nowhere else.  The Hollywood stuff is cool, but it’s nothing you’re not going to be able to find on the internet probably almost as soon as the panel is over.

The one thing that is a fair criticism of SDCC is the difficulty people have in getting tickets.  More people want to attend than there is space to accommodate.  The majority of those people are primarily pop culture fans who don’t read comics, but revel in the things that are derived from the IP created in the comics.  This is a bummer to the comic fan who wants to get a ticket but you have to ask yourself before you throw a stone: If you got a ticket would you attend a “pure comics” con track like I did, or would you want to slide in some panels where you get to see the premiere of the trailer for that latest cool movie or TV show.

SDCC has grown to include these other things because comics fans typically ALSO like these things, but in doing so they have also opened the door to hordes of people who ONLY like those ancillary things.  For my own part, I am fine with the Hollywood content.  It does not affect my convention experience.  I’m really happy that SDCC continues to offer up loads of comic book content for those of us who want to partake of it!

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Posted in Abstract Studio, Archie, CBLDF, Comic Collecting, Comic Con International, Comic Cons, Comics, Comics Art, Comics Collection, Comics Creators, Convention, Current Comics, IDW, Image, Jack Kirby, SDCC, Vertigo Comics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Comic Book Day 2016: A Comic Fan’s Holiday…

I’ll say it again…I LOVE Free Comic Book Day.  It’s my favorite holiday of the year.  Comics are a big part of my life.  I wouldn’t have a collection of over 102,000 unique comics (and I’ve read almost all of them!) if I didn’t really love comics.  So a day when they give away FREE comics…  What could be better?  Answer: Not much!

2016 was the 15th year of Free Comic Book Day, and I’ve been there for every one.  Every year I have tried my best to collect up and read every one of the FCBD offerings.  I usually succeed, but Have to go around to a bunch of shops to do so.  For the last few years my task has been made much easier by local shop Nuclear Comics, because owner Kenny Jacobs does not limit the number of comics to 2, 3, 5…whatever.  He lets customers take as many different FCBD book as they want, with the stipulation that they actually READ them.  This makes for a bit of a line of people wanting a big pile of books.  This year it started at around 3am with a few dedicated comic lovers.  I usually would get there around 7am and be 20 or 30 people back in line, but the line would grown and be VERY long by the time the shop opens at 9am.

Nuclear FCBD setup

Free comics table setup at Nuclear Comics; Laguna Hills, CA

This year I didn’t need to hit any shops to get my FCBD comics fix.  Diamond sent me a full set of the 50 books for review purposes, I got them a couple of weeks ago.  I have read and reviewed ALL 50, and the reviews are posted on the ComicSpectrum review Blog.  Here’s a quick run-down:

I started on Thursday May 5th (the earliest day that I was allowed to post reviews by Diamond) with reviews and guidance on all ages comics:
FCBD 2016: All-Ages Gold Comics – Bob’s Burgers (Dynamite), Simpsons (Bongo), A sampler including Lumberjanes, Goldie Vance, Mouse Guard and more (BOOM!), Camp Midnight (Image), Pokemon (Viz Media)
FCBD 2016: All Ages – Younger Kids – Grumpy Cat (Dynamite), Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie), Spongebob (Bongo), Strawberry Shortcake (IDW), DC SuperHero Girls (DC), Hilda, Akissi, & Fantasy Sports (Nobrow), Pink Panther (American Mythology), Dream Jumper (Graphix Spotlight)
FCBD 2016: All-Ages Adventure, Humor, Science…Something for Everyone – Awake (Action Lab), Dark Lily & Friends (Space Goat), Howard Lovecraft & Stan Lee’s The Unknowns (Arcana), Oddly Normal (Image), Junior Braves of the Apocalypse (Oni), Science Comics (First Second), Legend of Korra & How to Train Your Dragon (Dark Horse), Sanjay and Craig & Harvey Beaks (Papercutz)

On Friday, May 6th I focus on comics for older (Teen+)  readers:
FCBD 2016: Gold Books – Serenity, Hellboy, & Aliens (Dark Horse), Doctor Who (Titan), Rom (IDW), Suicide Squad (DC), Archie & Jughead (Archie), and a sampler of titles, including a prologue to 4001 AD (Valiant)
FCBD 2016: Something A Little Different – A sampling of stores focusing on free speech (CBLDF), Mooncop and other comics from Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly), The Stuff of Legend (Th3rd World Studios), We Can Never Go Home & Young Terrorists (Black Mask), Love and Rockers (Fantagraphics), March (Top Shelf)

On Free Comic Book Day, May 7th I finished the 50 with:
FCBD 2016: Action/Sci-Fi/Fantasy – Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises (Darby Pop), a sampling of comics from the lab, all ages to more mature (Z2 Comics), Spectrum, from the web series Con Man (Automatic Publishing), Lady Mechanika (Benitez Productions), and a look at the future in the World of Aspen (Aspen Comics)
FCBD 2016: Costumed Heroes & Anti-Heroes – Civil War II, Avengers, Captain America, & Spider-Man (Marvel), Grant Morrison’s Avatarex (Graphic India), Mercy Sparx, The Badger, & Squarriors (Devil’s Due/1First Comics), The Phantom (Hermes Press), The Tick (New England Comics), Judge Dredd and more (2000 AD)
FCBD 2016: The Final Five! – Assassin’s Creed (Titan), Street Fighter V (Udon), Attack on Titan (Kodansha), One-Punch Man & My Hero Academia (Viz Media), Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace (Gemstone)

Now back to FCBD in the shops.  I have heard people say “my shop does not participate because they are a small business and cannot afford to give away comics or have a sale”.  It’s certainly true that FCBD comics are not free to the shops.  Each free comic you take is something that the shop you got it from had to pay a small amount for.  Not as much as they pay for a regular retail comic, but it was not free to them.  Discounts for shops will vary based on the number of FCBD books ordered and other factors, so there is not a set price every shop pays.  Every small business person needs to decide how to run their business and that includes how to promote their business, how to drive sales, and how to manage their working capital.

NuclearFCBD

Nuclear Comics; Laguna Hills, CA

Shops can leverage FCBD and turn it into their best sales day of the year.  Get people in with creator appearances, sales and free comics.  Build good will, create new customers, and blow out dead stock turning it into working capital.  The closest shop to my home, Nuclear Comics had a huge blow out this year.  In addition to the FCBD comics, the owner, Kenny Jacobs, gave away 31 long boxes (comprising over 9000 comics) of dead stock he had accumulated over 20 years of business.  This is stuff that normally could have been in a 25 cent or 50 cent bin, but he would have gotten rid of a fraction of it.  Instead, he moved a TREMENDOUS amount of comics into the hands of fans, freed up a LOT of storage space for things that he can actually sell, and built up a bunch of customer good will.  There was a lot of stuff still in the boxes when I got to them around 2pm, but the 31 boxes was down to about 10 at that point.

FreeComics

I focused on comics that either didn’t look familiar to me or I knew I didn’t have (Brutal Planet, Highway 13, Nuos, Lethargic Lad, Wildflower, and more) and then I also grabbed some comics I knew were good reads and knew that I’d be able to give them to people who would enjoy them (Bad Dog, The Field, Barry Ween, Knights of the Dinner Table, Finder, and more).  I ended up with about 100 comics from the “free” boxes.

They also had the cross-promotional idea to give out coupons for a free slice of pizza at the pizza place in the same strip mall.  Customers got a free slice and probably bought a soda or 2nd slice while they were over there.

And then there were the sales with stuff from 25% to 75% off.  I went right for the $1 comics, which were all indie comics that were no longer moving in his shop.  These had their initial sales and the number of people who were asking for these after the initial sale period was very low, so if not dead stock, at least on life support.  I picked up comics I had skipped the first time around from Avatar (God is Dead, Code Pru, Providence), BOOM! (Big Trouble in Little China, Bill and Ted Go to Hell, Klaus, Lantern City, Lumberjanes), Dynamite (Blackcross, Swords of Sorrow, Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris), Oni (Blood Feud, Hellbreak, Stumptown), Valiant (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, XO Manowar) and more…. I ended up with 138 comics in total.  Even though these were $1, as I browsed these racks for about 90 minutes making my selections, only a handful of people even bothered to browse these comics, since most were not familiar to them.  Every now and again a person would look at a comic and then put it back.  I engaged a few in conversation…”What kinds of stories do you like to read?”  I pointed people at Mouse Guard, Bob’s Burgers, various Valiant titles, some Conan or Red Sonja, and more.  Several of them then went away with some $1 comics in hand, but left alone, the indie rack was a lonely place.

But there was brisk business in the super-hero and Star Wars comics that were mostly 25% to 30% off.  And the Collected Edition shelves were in constant use, being restocked constantly the entire time I was there (a couple of hours).  I saw lots of people buying copies of the Civil War TPBs and other familiar properties.

And creators….They had different ones cycling in all day.  When I got there Amy Mebberson was doing cute drawings for little kids.  In general, there was a festive atmosphere and I saw LOTS of kids and families in the shop and almost everyone was buying something.  The entire time I was there there was a line at the register, sometimes longer, sometime shorter, but they were ringing up sales all day.

A comic shop owner might say “How can I afford to give away comics on Free Comic Book Day”?  If you do it right, how can you afford NOT to?

So, another FCBD is in the history books.  I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the good folks at Diamond for sending me a set of comics for review.  I’d also like to thank Kenny Jacobs of Nuclear Comics for being a shining example of how to do FCBD right.  You did a great job and made a lot of people happy, Kenny!

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Posted in Comic Collecting, Comic Shops, Comics, FCBD | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give Your Mobile Devices Heroic Power

Powerbank

Companies have been marketing everyday items to fans by slapping a picture of their favorite hero on things for pretty much as long as super-heroes have been around.  Superman and Batman have been around since the beginnings of super-heroes, so they’ve had their image and logos splashed across more stuff than pretty much any other heroes.  So it should be no surprise that with the recent Batman v. Superman movie we started seeing a new crop of items with these iconic heroes displayed on them.  Say what you will about the movie, which has its fans and detractors, the enduring power of the Batman and Superman images cannot be denied for fans around the globe.

And I personally think the combined Batman v. Superman logo is really cool…

But the important things to me are whether the thing that has my favorite hero on it is:
(a) useful
(b) looks good

When I was asked if I’d like a couple of these devices, manufactured by Emtec, sent to me for review, I jumped at the chance.  First because they met criteria “b”, they LOOKED cool to me.  The second question was going to take a little use to determine…how did they perform compared to other similar items without the cool super-hero imagery?

I’m pleased to report that they held up quite nicely against other similar devices I own. Let’s look at them one at a time.

 

16 Gb USB 2.0 Flash Drive
This is available with both the classic combined logo, as well as a images of both Superman and Batman, either individually available or in a 2-pack.  I chose the logo, like I said above, I think the combo Batman/Superman logo just looks cool.

As far as performance, I’ve been using this for a couple of weeks while traveling around and it is performing similarly to any other USB 2.0 flash drive I’ve ever owned (and I’ve had a LOT of these things).  16Gb is a decent amount of space and the USB 2.0, while slower than the newer USB 3.0, is OK for transferring files around from one place to another.

Thumbs Up! This one is pretty much a “buy it if you think it looks cool” item.  It work indistinguishably from any other flash drive I’ve ever owned.

Power Bank - 3-4 Top

5000 mAh Power Bank
This one took a little more evaluation, but I’ve put it through its paces over the last few weeks, using it both around town and on a couple of business trips I’ve taken.

For comparison sake, I own power banks similar to this from Jockery and Anker, so I had some direct points of comparison when evaluating this device.  Before I get into details, my quick summary is as follows:

Emtec: Good charging speed for mobile devices, but did not perform well in charging an iPad.  I really like the slim design and 2 ports for charging 2 devices at the same time.  This is about the same size and thickness as my Samsung Galaxy S5 and fit right in my pocket with the phone while I was charging it.  it comes with a short flat cable that worked great and was compact for those “charges on the go”.  The one thing I couldn’t evaluate (yet) is how this is going to perform over the long haul.
But, the fact that this is light, 1/4″ thick, and has a compact cable has made it my new “go to” device for charging my phone.  Based on my experience, I would not recommend it if you need something to charge your iPad.

Jockery: Good charging speed for mobile devices and able to charge an iPad.  Heavier and thicker (about 7/8″) than the Emtec, the Jockery power bank always felt like a tiny brick in my pocket.  I’ve had this one for over a year and it still works like the day I got it, so it definitely has staying power.

Anker: Similar in size and weight to the Jockery, the main drawback to this one is that it stopped holding a good charge after about 6 months of use.  The a couple of the charge indicator LEDs also stopped working around the same time it stopped holding a solid charge.  This is a device I’ll be trowing out now.  I had kept it as a backup to the Jockery, but now that I have the Emtec, it will be my “go to” charger, the Jockery is my backup, and this one is not needed.

Emtec Power Bank Charging Details
Here are some details of the charge tests I ran on the Emtec power bank, I would run my Samsung Galaxy S5 down to 15% power before charging:

The phone charged up to 100% in 2 hours 20 minutes, while I continued to use it heavily during charging.  This brought the power bank from 4 full bars of strength down to 1.

The phone charged to 100% in 2 hours while  not being used, this brought the power bank from 4 full bars down to 2.  I ran the phone power down again and performed a 2nd charge, again not using the phone during charging and it charged up to 93% before the power bank ran out of juice…so I almost got 2 full charges out of it.

I repeated these tests a number of times over the past few weeks with roughly similar results.  I can get almost, but not quite, 2 phone charges out of a fully charged power bank.  Less if I’m using the phone during charging, but that is to be expected.

The Emtec power bank performed very poorly charging my 4th Generation iPad w/Retina display.  This is a WiFi model with no 4G.  When the iPad was down to a 10% charge I plugged it into a fully charged power bank.  after 4 hours it had made it up to 33%.  After 6 it made it to 46% and the power bank ran out of juice.  I tried this a 2nd time with similar results, before giving up and concluding that if I want a solution to charge my iPad, this Emtec power bank is not the right choice.

Thumbs Up! (for phones) If you’re looking to charge a phone and want a slim, light, power bank that looks pretty cool, the Emtec is a great choice.

Thumbs Down (for iPad) I’m not sure if it was just the device I was trying this out on, but it worked very poorly for me with an iPad.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Building a Rack System for Comic Long Boxes

IMG_4403

Photo credit: Bob Bretall

I’ve talked about Comic Houses and Drawer Boxes that can  be bought specifically to hold comics a a fairly efficient way, but this time around I’m going to talk about building a racking system to hold comic long boxes.  I love the Drawer Boxes, but by the time they came around I already had hundreds of long boxes that I didn’t want to throw away, so I wanted a method of holding all those boxes.

There are a couple of reasons to make a racking system:

  1. If you stack long boxes one on top of another, the bottom row will begin to crush under the weight of the ones above if you go higher than about 4 boxes.
  2. It’s difficult to get at the comics in the bottom row….this basically means you need to remove all the boxes on top, which is time consuming and tiring.
  3. It’s a really bad idea to leave comic boxes sitting directly on the floor.  If there is a spill/leak it is going to attack the bottom row of boxes. A rack will hold the bottom row up off the ground.
  4. Use a strong material because comic boxes full of comics are HEAVY.  I recommend steel, and not thin steel either.

 

I needed to take into consideration that I wanted something

  1. I could build myself fairly easily
  2. Would hold long boxes
  3. Was preferably made of steel because most wooden shelving will bow under the weight of all those comics over time

I searched around various hardware stores, considering and rejecting a number of units, mostly due to one or the other of two reasons:

  • The shelves were not deep enough, so would not hold long boxes.  I needed something deeper than 18 to 24 inches, which seemed to be very commonly available shelving depths
  • The shelves were not adjustable enough in their levels.  I wanted to be able to get as many shelves vertically as possible without wasting a lot of empty space between the boxes and the next level of shelving

Ultimately, I found a customizable racking system at Lowe’s Home Improvement.  These were heavy gauge steel racks where you bought the side racks in the depth/height you wanted, added the rails that connected the two side racks horizontally, and best yet, the shelves themselves were a heavy gauge steel rack that could just be dropped into place. Here are what the rack sides & beams look like in the store:

The only trouble I had was that they only carried a 24″ depth of the rack sides in the store, but I was able to custom order a 30″ depth.  So to build each unit, here is what I ordered:

  • 2 rack sides, 96″ high by 30″ deep
    (I have 2 units that are 72″ high instead of 96″)
  • 10 rails, 48″ long
    (other widths are available and can be used)
  • 10 steel racks, 24″ wide by 30″ deep
  • 5 center support bars, 30″ deep (optional, but I wanted the extra stability/sturdiness)
IMG_4386

Photo Credit: Bob Bretall

I decided, to maximize the vertical space I had available, that I would do the bottom 2 racks where I would stack boxes on top of one another and then do the top 2 racks that were only 1 box each.  It’s fairly easy to move 1 box to get at a box underneath, and when it is low, that is also pretty easy to do physically.  This allowed me to get 6 rows of boxes in, with the option of putting a 7th row on the top.  Though actually, I keep Rubbermaid bins full of toys & action figures on the top.  You will also notice that I secured heavy gauge plastic sheeting to the sides and rear of each unit just to make them a bit more enclosed, since they’re in my garage (that does not get too hot because of the insulation, nor does it get moist, because I live in a low humidity part of California).   Here are some bar code photos that may help anyone wanting to locate these items, but I make no guarantees, since it has been many years since I built these things.

Below is a close-up of one of the shelves, before boxes.  The photo at the top of this blog shows the racks all filled with long boxes.

IMG_4387

Photo Credit: Bob Bretall

Hopefully this will be of some help to people wanting to build a racking system for their long boxes.  You can modify this advice if you’re storing short boxes, of course, as that would open a lot of options of shelving units that are shallower than 30″.  The main concern then would be the adjustability of shelf height.

I tried to capture as much specific information as I remember and hopefully this will be useful to some collectors out there.  Remember:

Keep your boxes off the ground whenever you are able!

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Neal Adams Made Me Do It…

When I posted the news article about January comics sales with Marvel doubling DC’s dollar and unit shares some people commented that this was deserved because DC was terrible and putting out lots of bad comics.  I ended up disputing this, pointing out that just because you don’t like a comic does not mean it’s bad.  This is kind of a hot button for me.

People who follow ComicSpectrum know that I’ve cooled off on DC super-heroes of late, I don’t get many at all (currently just Green Lantern Edge of Oblivion & Legend of Wonder Woman).  But people should also know that I don’t consider them to be “bad” comics, just stories that don’t appeal to me.  I also try to keep trying them to see if my opinion will turn around on them.  I buy up piles of them when I see them in sales bins at comic shop or conventions and give them a read (I did this a few months ago with a lot of Convergence comics).  I’ll also grab some new issues off the rack every month or 2 just to see if my opinion has changed at all.

This past week there were a few comics with Neal Adams variant covers that caught my eye (sold at my comic shop at normal cover price).   Adams drew some of my favorite GL/GA stories of all time, so I thought I’d pick these up and give them a try since it’s been a while since I have read either title.  Knowing full well that the cover was not an indication of the interiors, but just an image used to sell a comic, I went into the comics with as open a mind as I was able to.

I was not impressed (just an opinion, not a statement of quality).  But I learned some things.

GL48 panel

CREDIT: DC Comics

Green Lantern #49 – Somewhere along the line Hal Jordan seems to have ended up with a gauntlet full of Green Lantern rings, a penchant for wearing a long duster coat and developed a really crappy attitude.  I can guarantee that there are people who love this take on the character, some probably consider it to be the best Green Lantern they have ever read.   I am not counted among those people.  This is not even recognizable as “my” Hal Jordan.  Reading this makes me feel about the same as I felt when they had Hal go nuts, become Parallax, and kill off the GL Corps.  The motivations behind this were subsequently “fixed” by Geoff Johns but at the time, I was definitely not liking the GL comic.   I feel the same way reading this and it’s a great example about DC telling stories about their iconic heroes that I have no desire to read.  I’ll try it again after the next reboot.

GA48 panel

CREDIT: DC Comics

Green Arrow #49 – Last time I read Green Arrow, it seemed like DC was desperately trying to make the comic as similar to the TV show as they could.  That went out the window somewhere since I’ve last tried the series.  Apparently Oliver has been infected with something called ‘Lukos’ that seems to be a DCU version of lycanthropy (but not tied to phases of the moon).  He spends a good portion of this issue “wolfing out”.  Another case where in the interests of storytelling they are diverting both from the classic take on GA as well as the newer TV version.  Hopefully it’s working for some readers, but not my cup of tea.   I won’t be back any time soon.

CONCLUSION:
The Neal Adams variant covers were very successful at getting me to buy a copy of these comics.  Technically my purchases won’t affect DC’s February sales tally since those numbers were set based on what the comic shop ordered.  Whether I bought these comics or they ended up in a remainder bin, the sales at DC’s level remain the same.  But what is more telling is that I won’t be back next month to buy another issue.  They succeeded in selling me a couple of single issues based on the cover images and failed to hook me as a continuing reader.

Some people will argue that this is just fine.  DC is telling the stories they want to tell and I’m just not in the target audience.  I completely agree with this.  I don’t think DC has any obligation to create comics tailored for me as a reader.  In fact, making comics that appeal to a much younger demographic is a wise move on their part.  That said, based on the objective comic shops sales data as reported by Diamond, these books are not tearing up the sales charts.  GL #48 came in at sales position 49 for January, I think some of that is based on inertia of people who have just always bought Green Lantern.  GA #48 didn’t even place in the top 100, and Arrow has a very popular TV series.

Ultimately, whether they put out comics I personally enjoy or not, DC needs to do something to capture the hearts and minds of a wider readership with at least a decent cross-section of their titles (outside of the Batman franchise).

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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New Super-Hero #1s – Jump On or Jump Off?

All-New Marvel

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Have you though about how marketing drives super-hero comics nowadays? Every time a change happens, it seems to spark a new #1 issue.  There was an article on-line with comic retailers bemoaning the fact that comic sales were waning due to the spate of reboots & relaunches.  They say that the new #1s serve as much as a jumping OFF point for existing readers as they do as a jumping ON point for new readers.

None of this really has a bearing on the intrinsic quality of the comics.  Opinions will differ, they always do, but I am having more fun reading some of the new Marvel titles today than at any point in the past 15-20 years.  For me personally I think Marvel is putting out a lot of great books.  Other people have dropped Marvel declaring it “bad” because what is being published is not to their personal taste.  (NOTE: I’m going to concentrate on Marvel because I’ve tried a bunch of DC’s new titles and there is not much that I care for.  I won’t say that it is “bad”.  All I can say is that it’s not my cup of tea).

 

The thing is….there is a loud minority of people that drop books when any event or reboot happens.  But how indicative is this of the market in general when overall sales still seem to go up.  I have heard many people say they would not pick up and try a book until it had a #1 on the cover because they wanted to get in at the start (even though many #1 issues are just continuations of the previous series, but it tricks people with the #1 fetish into trying a series).  Maybe the sell-thru of these #1 issues is not great and comic retailers are eating a lot of these copies, but sales DO go up.  As long as slapping a #1 on the cover or doing an event results in increased sales for the publisher (and it has accomplished this pretty much every time it’s been done so far) the publishers will keep doing them.

It seems like for every 1 person who drops a series because of a reboot, they sell 2 or 3 copies to someone else…..The dark side of this is many of these sales don’t stick around for very long, decreasing every issue, which is why publishers hit the reset button and restart with a new #1 after a short run a lot of the time.

The elimination of “long time readers” as a concept is something Marvel & DC have been working on (unintentionally, it would seem) for a number of years.  Restarting series so frequently over time has pretty much eradicated the practice of being a long-time reader with the exception of a few die-hard fans.
CONSIDER: I was reading most of the main Marvel/DC books for 30 years straight and when they started rebooting them to new #1s left and right I dropped a great number of them.  I no longer had a complete run to maintain when they ended the volume I had been getting for decades and started over with a new #1.  It helped break the collector mentality that had me back every month buying every single issue just so I “had them all”.
 


Die-hard fans who keep buying their favorite series through all the relaunches are people even MORE die-hard than I was… and I bought more than 50,000 Marvel/DC comics over the course of 40+ years (one at a time off the rack, no bulk buys of long boxes).  But with frequent relaunches they have re-trained me to only buy a book when I like the current creative team/story…..which is actually a GOOD THING…for me.  I would suggest that it is possibly bad for them in that they are no longer getting an automatic sale every month from a reader who is in the habit of automatically buying every issue of Batman or Captain America or whatever month in and month out.
 

The thing is, when I was in my teens and twenties (this was the 1970s and 80s), that’s really not how people I knew read comics. They followed the hero and collected a series. Granted the creative teams were not the revolving door affairs they are today, but most people seemed to be in it for a longer haul. Someone (I include myself here) collected Captain America. Not “Cap by creator X”. Not “Cap until the next #1”. Not “Cap until they kill/depower him. Not “Cap only until they bring in some other guy as Cap”.
Cap 180
In the “olden days” BIG stuff happened and there was no need to reboot the comic to a new #1. And fans pretty much just kept reading the series they were reading in spite of, or maybe because of, the changes.  Occasionally they would even try radically new stuff.

I kept reading Captain America when Steve Rogers gave up being Captain America and adopted a new costume and name (Nomad)…no reboot to #1.

Cap 181
New guy dons the Captain America costume….no reboot to #1
Cap 183
New Captain America killed….no reboot to #1
Cap 184

Steve Rogers back as Cap…no reboot to #1….and I just kept buying it, month after month…  All without the benefit of restarting at a new #1…

 

Now almost every big change seems to come with a decompressed story, each of the story ideas shown above that took an issue or 2 to explore have been repeated now taking years to tell each story beat.  Then there is usually a reboot to a new #1 when each new story beat comes along. The effect is that sticking with a series does not seem to be normal for readers today. Readers have been trained to read a run for a short time and when the creative team changes or a story beat comes along that they are not immediately in love with, they drop the book.  Maybe they’ll come back with a subsequent change, maybe not.  But one thing is for certain, whatever the change was, it will be re-done or undone within 6 to 24 months.

 

Maybe a fickle readership is all for the best. It means publishers have to keep doing stories that EARN their readership.  On the flip side, maybe that’s why publishers are continually making big splashy changes and pandering for attention with deaths, resurrections, costume/gender swaps, and all manner of other things.  Chasing a sound-bite or some other mention in the mainstream media that they hope will draw in new readers (to replace the ones they are losing with the changes).

 

I’m not really sure if it’s good or bad for the comics industry.  Time will tell.  I do know that clearing books off my pull list when I stop ABSOLUTELY LOVING them opens up slots for me to try many new and different comics (in many cases from publishers OTHER than Marvel/DC).  How many people are just walking away from comics altogether when they get tired of Marvel/DC super-heroes?  That is what will really determine the long-term health of comics…  If the comics medium can retain fans and transition them to other types of stories when the fans burn out on super-heroes then the industry can thrive.  If it contracts, hemorrhaging readership, that will definitely not be good.

So do I jump on or jump off??   I’m mixed. Sometimes it’s a jumping on point, other times I use it as an opportunity to drop a book. Over the years I have definitely switched from collecting characters/series to collecting creators/stories.

Hopefully things will work out in a way that allows the industry to thrive.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Bob Bretall (bob@comicspectrum.com)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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