Baltimore Comic Con 2016: Comics Still Reign at this Con


Baltimore Convention Center

Living in California, I’ve been to many cons in the western US, but had never been to an east coast convention before, and I had heard nothing but good things about Baltimore and Heroes Con from  east coast friends.  My job had me, in a pleasant coincidence, working in Annapolis, MD on the Monday thru Thursday  right before the Baltimore con this year, so I thought: “I’m in the neighborhood, I should stick around for a couple of extra days and check out this convention!” and I’m certainly glad I did.  I’m going to describe my experiences, all positive, along with a few cautionary notes and suggestions to the people running the con in this Blog.

Comics still take a very visible front row seat at this convention, which is a rarity at “comics” conventions nowadays.  Many cons spend much more energy and devote much more panel and floor space to things that are Hollywood related or general pop culture, because those are things that draw in bigger audiences than the comics themselves.  Walking around and overhearing snippets of conversation over the course of several days, I got the feeling that there are definitely more “pure comics” fans, by percentage, than at other cons I have attended.  I heard a number of people talking about print comics; about issues and stories they had read and enjoyed, past and present, as well as their desires to “buy comics”.  One person I overheard was very focused on this, saying he only came to this show to buy comics, and WOW!  There were lots of comics dealers at this show to sate this individuals desire for comics.

On the flipside of that, there were also plenty of people whose conversations focused more on the media gusts and other pop culture topics, with little focus or interest in comics.  This is certainly not a bad thing, but the cautionary note is this:

I have been attending the San Diego Comic Con since 1990.  That con used to be focused on comics.  Over time, they shifted in public perception because Hollywood, video games, etc. took up more and more of a visible role, to the point that now to those on the outside looking in, SDCC is no longer a comics oriented show.  On the inside, for those who love comics, this can be seen to not be the case.  There are just as many comics dealers at SDCC (if not more) than at Baltimore, it’s just that they only take up a fraction of the show floor as the other stuff has taken on a life of its own.  The number of pure comics-related panel content at SDCC dwarfs what is available in Baltimore, there are 10x the number of comics panels at SDCC.  But even with all this content, people still say SDCC is “not about comics”.  This is the trap you fall into as a convention organizer when you start ramping up the number of Hollywood celebrities.  It’s the best way to grow attendance and it is ALSO (unfortunately) the best way to shift the focus of your convention away from comics.  This is not a knock on Baltimore Comic Con, but a warning as they spend a lot of energy promoting actors like Sean Astin, Candice Patton, Hayley Atwell, and “the guy who played Hodor on Game of Thrones”.   San Diego was once right where you are, and they let this get away from them.  If you genuinely want to be the “comic lover’s comic con”, don’t let this get away from you too.


Baltimore Comic Con Yearbooks 2012-2016

Baltimore does a superb job promoting comics artists.  The most creative way of doing this is their yearbook with lots of attending artists contributing an illustration focusing on the theme of the year, which was Archie comics this year.  They still had the books available from previous years, so I purchased them back to 2012, and each one is a fabulous artifact.  The creativity then gets taken up a notch by their concept of a scavenger hunt for artist’s signatures.  If you get 20 signatures in the book, you get 2 of 5 prints of images that didn’t make it into the book.  If you collect 40 or more signatures you get all 5 prints.


Baltimore Comic Con Archie scavenger hunt prints

Always up to a challenge, I collected 43 signatures and got the full set of prints.  The good part is that those people participating in the scavenger hunt have to talk to a lot of artists.  I spent hours completing the task because I chatted with most of the artists.  Sometimes if they were deeply involved in a conversation with someone else I’d get the signature and move along, but for the most part I talked to most of the artists.  I had great conversations with Carla Speed McNeil, Ramona Fradon, Howard Chaykin (I learned he used to have a home a few exits up the freeway from where I live!), John K. Snyder II, David Peterson, Barry Kitson, Mark Wheatley, Mark Waid (who told a great story about going back to the visit the house he grew up in only to be asked if he was a “revenuer”) and more!   I ended up getting sketches or other artwork from a number of them:


Avengers preliminary art by Barry Kitson


Wonder Woman sketch by Ramona Fradon


Sketch cover by Franco

“5 minute sketch” by Barry Kitson


Vision & Scarlet Witch by Katie Cook


“Carpool Buddies of Doom” sketch cards by Rafer Roberts

I have no doubt that I’d not have had the same interactions with as many artists had I not been doing the scavenger hunt.  When I got to Barry Kitson’s line he was doing free “5 minute” sketches, where he’d have a clock running.  He was also doing $60 head/torso and $130 full body sketches which were awesome with not only full inks, but also full color!  While in line I watched him do a fabulous Judge Dredd as well as an awesome Star Sapphire.  He spent 30-40 minutes on each paid sketch.  I would have gotten a paid one, had I not felt sorry for all the people waiting in line, making them wait an extra 30 minutes or more, so instead I bought some of the preliminary artwork Kitson had for sale while contenting myself with a 5 minute sketch of Cap (see above).  If I go to another con that Kitson is at, I’ll make a point of going to his table straightaway to get a full blown sketch.  Another cool thing (for me) was being recognized by another person in line: “Are you in that video on YouTube for having the World’s Biggest Comic Collection?”; which provided a topic for conversation for quite a while as people around me in line asked questions about comics storage, organization, and interfacing with the folks at Guinness.  Only the 3rd time I’ve been recognized by someone for this, so it’s still a novelty for me.


Similarly, when I was at the Valiant booth, complimenting Fred Van Lente on his latest series Generation Zero, Valiant’s Director of Sales pointed out to Fred that I was the world record holder and given I’ve read about 100,000 comics in my lifetime, I have some legitimate context when declaring a comic among the best that I’ve read.  A Valiant fan standing nearby got very excited hearing this and wanted to take a picture with me…you can see that he’s inordinately excited to meet me.

In addition to my interactions with artists and other fans, I dove into what Baltimore seems to excel in…diving through the bins of back issues at numerous dealers.  Even with a limited back issue budget that prevented me shopping for any of the key issues I was lacking, I was still able to score quite a few nice books to fill in gaps in my silver age DC collection for very reasonable prices.

I also picked up one of the X-Men issues I was missing (the last new issue before the title switched to reprints) as well as an EC comic that I got for $9… and I couldn’t pass it up at that price.


…finally, I found some wonky books in a $3 box.  The only one of these I had seen before was the 1st issue of The Peacemaker, which is frequently featured in Scott Shaw’s “Oddball Comics panel at the San Diego Comic-Con.  Peter the Pest is a Marvel humor reprint title that I had never even heard of, and I loved the guy playing with action figures of Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, and others on the cover of Charlton Premiere #3.

Bottom Line
Baltimore Comic Con is a great show for people who love comics, with offerings for people into general pop culture as well, though I hope that stays at the current level and does not rise up and turn this show into a clone of many other cons that have grown by including Hollywood celebrity at the expense of comics content.  If you like old comics there are plenty of back issues to buy.  If you’re a fan of comics art, there are LOTS of artists to meet, talk to and buy prints, sketches, comics, etc. from.  If you enjoy trying new things Baltimore has one of the most comprehensive Artist’s Alley sections I’ve ever seen with a lot of up-and-coming creators who have all kinds of new and different works for sale.

If you’re a comic lover anywhere near Baltimore this show is well worth your time.

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Bob’s Top 10: San Diego Comic Con International 2016

SDCC by Night

Outside the Convention Center at night

I did so many great things at Comic Con International: San Diego this year!

I went out of my way to focus on comics and only comics, so I had a different experience than almost anyone else there, since even the most die-hard comics fans generally mix some Hollywood action into their convention experience.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, I like the Hollywood stuff as well, but after 27 years of attending the convention I find that most of the “show exclusives” end up in boxes in my garage and the Hollywood panels reveal information that I’m able to see on the internet, and it’s not like I’m being invited to have one-on-one interactions with any of the celebrities.  Being seated several hundred yards from them in a massive room where I can only see them on the big screen in the room is not much better, for me, than just watching them on a screen after the convention.

Comics panels, on the other hand, are typically much more intimate affairs with anywhere from 30 to a hundred or so people in the room (as opposed to thousands).  The ability for direct interactions with the panelists is a very real thing.  I was able to ask questions and get real responses (not just a ‘stock’ answer approved by a marketing department) in a bunch of the panels I attended.  I talked to comics creators after their panels in the hall, or at their booths/tables and was able to thank them for the entertainment they have provided over the years.

I attended 25 panels and did lots of other stuff so it’s hard to boil it down to just a top 10, but people seem to like Top 10 Lists, so I’m going to give it a shot:

WicDiv Cosplay

Jamie McKelvie & Kieron Gillen with Wicked+Divine cosplayers

10. Spotlight on Jamie McKelvie
McKelvie was joined by his long-time collaborator Kieron Gillen who served as moderator/interviewer as he led us through McKelvie’s early days, breaking into the business, artistic influences, and musical influences (since music plays such a key role in many of their projects).  It was fascinating to get the behind-the-scenes view of a creator I’ve enjoyed for so long, and seeing the two of them interact it was clear they were great friends as well as collaborators.  After the panel they posed in the hall for pictures with the people in attendance cosplaying as characters from their current fan-favorite series The Wicked+The Divine, and they were genuinely nice and unrushed with their fans.


Overstreet: 46 and Counting Panel

9. Overstreet: 46 and Counting
This panel started off on a bit of the wrong foot with a video featuring lots of comics dealers talking about the Overstreet Guide and how it helps them make money by seeing what they can charge People who know me know that the monetary aspects of comics collecting are not my favorite thing.  There’s nothing wrong with making money off comics, it’s just not my thing, and I would not enjoy listening to an hour of talk about how to make money off of comics.  Thankfully, as soon as the short video was over and the panelists started talking, they really focused on the comics fandom aspects of the Overstreet Guide.  Using it as a reference tool to see what issues and series existed, what were key events, what were reasonable prices they would need to pay to get a comic for their collection.  They reminisced about the early days of the guide and coming off the “wild west” days of not really knowing what was out there and what were reasonable prices to pay.  There were stories of dealers who would take a guide that was a few years old with them when going to buy collections (so as to pay less) but always having the latest one for when they would sell.
I must admit that I have always been leery of dealers who charge at or above maximum prices, but that’s basically how we see rising prices/values.  If there are recorded sales above guide price, then the guide rises to reflect those prices, so dealers are always looking to test those limits of how much fans will pay to get that desired collectible because it will raise the value of their stock for future sales.


Bob with Maggie Thompson

The highlight of this panel, however,  was meeting Maggie Thompson afterwards, having a short chat with her.  I read The Comics Buyer’s Guide (edited by Maggie and her late husband Don) for over 20 years and particularly enjoyed it when it was in the old “weekly newspaper” format that came to me via the mail.  This was our ‘internet’ for fandom before there was an internet.  I’d read the letters column ‘Oh, So?’, Peter David’s ‘But I Digress’, Bob Ingersoll’s ‘The Law is a Ass’, and Tony Isabella’s ‘Tony’s Tips’ column, and many more.  Meeting Maggie and letting her know about all the comics joy she brought me over several decades was the highlight of this panel for me.  I truly consider her to be the patron saint of comics fandom.

Matt Fraction

David Brothers (moderator) & Matt Fraction

8. Spotlight on Matt Fraction
For early on Sunday morning, Matt Fraction was certainly “on”.  The man brought his A game throughout the panel, animated and engaging with the audience.  Jokes and witty quips throughout, he was extremely engaging as Brothers took us on a tour of Fraction’s comic history.  Getting behind-the-scenes on seminal works like Hawkeye and Casanova, as well as his side of working with Howard Chaykin on Satellite Sam (a series that everyone should have a look at).  If you ever have a chance to see a Fraction panel, jump at it, this guy has it down.

Twisted Roots

Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, Gerard Jones, Nathan Madison, Brad Ricca, Michael Uslan

7. Twisted Roots of Comics: Pulp Magazines and the Birth of the Modern Comic Book
A wealth of comics history knowledge on this panel: Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is co-writing (with Gerard Jones) a biography of her grandfather, the man credited with creating the modern comic book, as well as the founder of DC); Gerard Jones among other things, wrote Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book; Nathan Vernon Madison is a scholar who wrote Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books; Brad Ricca is author of SuperBoys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; and Michael Uslan is a producer of the Batman movies and was the first instructor to teach an accredited course on comic book folklore at any university, he has also written a number of comics and has an autobiography called The Boy Who Loved Batman.
You just cannot get this amount of sheer information about comics most places, listening to these folks talk about the origins and history of comics for an hour was a real treat.

Shadow 1936
The highlight of this panel for me was when Michael Uslan pointed out that the Batman story in Detective #27 “Case of the Chemical Syndicate” is directly lifted (the plot as well as some dialogue and captions duplicated word for word) from The Shadow pulp, November 1936: “Partners of Peril”.  Spot illustrations from the pulp are also lifted for some panels of the comic (with Batman in place of The Shadow, of course).  So….Batman’s 1st appearance is partially plagiarized from a Shadow pulp!  I did not know this!


Howard Chaykin

6. Spotlight on Howard Chaykin
Chaykin held the microphone and just walked around out by the audience.  No moderator, this was pure Chaykin.  The man is extremely talented and seems to be his own harshest critic, but is very entertaining to listen to.  From his earliest days to his latest work, as well as working with other professionals and publishers, Chaykin covered it all in a very entertaining hour.

Chaykin art

Original Art by Howard Chaykin purchased by Bob

Chaykin also slid in a plug for his table down in Artist’s Alley.  Everything he was selling was original art, even the above pieces that might, on first glance, appear to be character studies or sketches.  Chaykin explained that he likes to do the figures like this and then composite them together with backgrounds and textures in Photoshop nowadays.  He’s clearly a master of design and I love the way he draws clothes.  In fact, he admitted that he doesn’t like to draw skintight costumes and would much rather draw ‘regular’ clothes.  I also got the scoop on the tape you will frequently find on his original art.  It turns out that he uses Scotch Blue matte finish tape for corrections (there are also green and red varieties of the tape, named based on the color of the boxes they come in).  The Blue, he explained, is great at taking his pencils and inks.  He’ll often use it in areas (faces, hands, etc.) where he wants to get some detail just right.


5. Kickstarter Dinner
While not on the formal SDCC schedule, I was invited to a Kickstarter dinner where they were getting together backers and people who had run successful Kickstarter campaigns.  It was an information gathering/sharing event held at a very nice restaurant in the Gaslamp district.  Being a backer of well over 100 projects, holding the Guinness Record for largest comics collection, and being on the Press list for SDCC combined to get me my invitation.  I was seated between Jimmy Palmiotti, who has run a number of very successful Kickstarters for original comics, and Scott Rosenberg, Chairman & CEO of Platinum Studios and (in 1986) founder of Malibu Comics.  There were a number of other artists, writers, publicists, etc at the dinner and it was fascinating talking to them all, but I had the most fun with Jimmy and Scott.  I have a lot of respect for Jimmy’s body of comics work and we chatted about a lot of it, as well as completely non-comics related stuff.   Scott started out in comics by running a mail-order business when he was 13!  He’s a huge fan of comics and we had great fun talking about all kinds of comics.  I think he was surprised that I could rattle off so many titles from Malibu, Adventure, Aircel, and Eternity that I had read back in the day.  I loved the Ultraverse titles before Marvel bought the company and swiftly ran the Ultraverse into the ground.  I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to network with all the people who were at this event.

4. Hanging out with Friends
This one is a recurring favorite for me year-in and year-out.  Typically in the Top 5, save for the really outstanding moments at con that make me go “WOW!”  I’m always amazed that with the sheer number of people at this convention that I always seem to bump into a number of people I know on the floor.  Given that I was only on the show floor for a total of less than 4 hours Thursday thru Sunday, I’m amazed that I bumped into anyone, but actually spent time with 5 or 6 people, putting my “bump into” ratio around 1.5/hour.  Add to this attending panels with people I know (thanks to Comic Con’s MySched app, I can see friends schedules and they can see mine) and then having dinner with people I now every night, I was truly blessed to have so many folks to spend time with.

Kirby Panel

3. Jack Kirby Tribute Panel
Mark Evanier, long time friend of the Kirby family and Kirby historian/biographer, opened up the panel this year with a sentiment I have expressed myself in the past, only to be shouted down by Kirby zealots (to be clear, I have been shouted down by the zealots, Evanier was not, there was an odd silence after his opening monologue).
So what did he say that was so packed with truth, yet sop potentially controversial?  In a nutshell (I’m paraphrasing, but have the general gist of his message intact, I believe):
“Jack Kirby now has co-creator credit on all the things he created with Stan Lee.  His name is on the movies and in new printings of the comics.  Whenever there is a collaboration of two creators it generally says ‘created by X and Y’.  There is not a percentage attached on who created what parts or who created more than the other.  It is quite clear that the characters created by Jack and Stan were created by both of them.  At this point there is nobody who could accurately attribute a percentage to either one, so let it stand and accept the ‘created by Lee & Kirby’.  Kirby fans have got to let go of the vitriol they typically direct at Stan Lee.
There was certainly more than this in his talk to the audience, it went on for at least 5 minutes and he quoted various people he had spoken to who had worked at Marvel back then who all agreed that both men had contributed to the characters.  For my own part, I only have to look at the characters themselves.  The things created by Stan & Jack are unique.  They are not like the things Stan created outside the collaboration with Jack.  They are not like the things Jack created by himself or in collaboration with others.  There is a certain spark in the Lee/Kirby (or Kirby/Lee) creations that does not exist elsewhere.  They are collaborative creations and worrying about the exact percentages to attribute to either man is not only unknowable, but also kind of a waste of time and energy.
Later in the panel, during the Q&A session, a man asked the question: “What percent of the various characters do you think Jack created?  He created more than Stan, right?”  Evanier, nonplussed, responded “You weren’t here at the beginning of the panel, were you?”  No, the man was not.  Evanier gave an abbreviated retelling of the “Let it go!” speech and moved on.  BRAVO, Mark!!

March Panel

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

2. March: Featuring Congressman John Lewis
John Lewis is AWESOME.  He is a National treasure and I wish everyone would read his March Trilogy and learn more details about the Civil Rights movement, from the lunch counter sit-ins all the way up to the 1965 events in Selma, Alabama and the signing into law by Lyndon Johnson of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Hearing Congressman Lewis speak is inspirational.  His co-creators Andrew Aydin (the man who convinced Lewis to make this graphic novel trilogy) and artist Nate Powell were pretty great also.
I sat next to several 4th grade girls who were at the convention as part of a field trip to see this panel and meet the Congressman.  They had all read Vols. 1 & 2 of March in school and were able to speak about it with me.  They were all going to get copies of Vol. 3 after the panel at the IDW booth.  That these books are part of school curricula is wonderful.  That kids are learning this stuff should be applauded.  That there is a teacher (and a school principal and school district that allow it) bringing kids to comic con to meet John Lewis is something I’d never have dreamed of as a kid.  This year’s panel was fairly similar to last year’s panel, but still inspiring and I still loved it.  Now that March is complete, it may be Lewis’ last year at comic con, so I’m glad to have been able to hear him speak.

Barrowman at Eisners

John Barrowman hosting the Eisner Awards

1. 28th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards
There were a number of reasons that this made my #1 spot this year.  It combined elements of a number of other favorite things all into one star-studded evening celebrating comics best.  The Eisner Awards are the Academy Awards of Comics.  While there are not a lot of standard super-hero comics nominated (in much the same way that summer blockbuster action movies are typically not a strong presence at the Oscars) there were a lot of deserving nominees.  I had read a decent percentage of the nominees and feel that the ones I had read were all well-crafted and great examples of the comic book art form.


Bob, Trev, and Conan at the Eisner Awards

Now let’s add in the friends element.  I was invited to sit at one of the tables in the VIP section; reserved for sponsors, nominees, and their guests.  My ticket in was Conan Saunders from, and I’ll thank him again for inviting me to his table!  Conan was at the show alone this year and shared his half-table with a friend of mine, Trevor, who knows and lives near Conan in Texas, as well as myself and tow other friends Andrew and Lisa.  We got a fairly decent buffet dinner and decently close seats for the show.  We chatted the evening away over dinner before the show and between presenters, as well as after it was over.  The table seating made this an Eisner ceremony to remember.

John Lewis Eisner

John Lewis accepting his Eisner for best Reality-Based Work

The ultimate?  At the end of the ceremony, as we were walking out of the ballroom, we walked right by John Lewis, who was standing with several other people getting ready to leave.  I stopped and congratulated him on his Eisner, at which point he turned to me and shook my hand engaging me in conversation.  I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed March, how inspirational I found him, etc.  He’s very good at making you feel you have 100% of his attention, if only for the minute you’re interacting with him.  I’m sure this has served him well in his career as a politician, but it’s no less impressive when you experience it first hand.  I’m a bit (a lot?) starstruck by the man.  He has helped make so many changes to this country for the better and his work is far from done.

Comic Con International: San Diego 2016 (aka San Diego Comic-Con, aka SDCC) was an awesome experience for me as a comic fan.  I’m sure it was awesome for many other people for many reasons, and there were probably others who were just turned off by the lines, the crowds, or any number of other personal reasons that didn’t really affect me.  Personally, after 27 years I’m still loving this show.  The challenge in getting tickets is the one real problem that can manifest itself at any time and prevent me from continuing my attendance streak, and if/when it does, I’ll be sad.  Until then?  It’s a show I look forward to every year and I really believe it’s the number one comic-book oriented show anywhere.  If you want comics and comic book content, and look for it, you’ll find FAR more here than anywhere else.

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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


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: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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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.


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

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

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)

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

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.


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: 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 , , , , | 1 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.


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.


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: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Give Your Mobile Devices Heroic Power


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: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Building a Rack System for Comic Long Boxes


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)

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.


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: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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