You may be thinking, "Yeah, you haven't done a blog post in over a year." Or at least, that's what you were supposed to be thinking. Instead, you're probably saying, "Umm, you posted already today. What gives?" You see, the first post sort of just happened.
Oh, I wrote it, and scheduled it for some distant day, but I totally forgot about it. I was planning on writing this post for today, which marks the 10th anniversary of my debut appearance as a blogger on Comics And...Other Imaginary Tales.
Even though the blog has sort of morphed into a private Facebook Group these days, it's still pretty important to me and I routinely go back to the well and resurrect links to old posts I remember writing. It was a big part of my comic (book-centric) life for a number of years and I enjoyed the creative expression. Although, I can't imagine how I ever had time to write every week for so long, was ready to take a break, was ready to try again, and now just glad it still exists out there like an old friend.
Anyway, I loaded up the site this morning, ready to compose something new, and the Ant-Man Marvel Masterworks review was up...brand new today! Foiled by time-travel! Past-me is awfully tricksey.
With today celebrating such a momentous occasion, I wanted to ruminate on the current state of my comic-book reading, collecting, etc. The hope is that by self-examining my own behaviors and habits, I may arrive at some new conclusions on what to continue doing and what to do next. After all, I'll be hitting 50 this coming May and I want to be "redeeming the time" well. While I'm not given to New Years Resolutions, I have been slowly retooling my pull list lately, moving toward some changes. [more after the break -- sorry no photos, but plenty of links]
I'm still a subscriber at my local comic shop (LCS), the beloved (and often unnamed in my missives) Cosmic Comix and Toys of Catonsville, MD. They're moving in a couple of months and it'll be a change (and farther from home), but I've enjoyed my weekly Wednesday visits there, whether brief or long. In the past year or so, I think I've bought more new comics than ever before, but ended up reading less. I'm blessed to be able to sell all my Marvel digital codes to a friend in Australia, which is a huge cost savings for me. I also list stuff on ebay to sell, when I'm done with a series or have abandoned one. When I do get around to reading my books, I usually enjoy them quite a bit, but often I pick reading the latest Marvel Masterwork or Omnibus over reading the newer material. Those books come out on average, monthly or bi-monthly, so they take up quite a bit of my budget. Then there is time spent building LEGOs, watching TV (just finished episode #690 of Dark Shadows), and living regular life (work and family). Don't misunderstand. Family is prioritized, but this is about my leisure time.
There are plenty of great comics being published today or that have recently been published. Let me list a few:
- Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl (MARVEL)
- Symbiote Spider-Man (MARVEL)
- House of X/Powers of X (MARVEL)
- X-Men (MARVEL)
- Excalibur (MARVEL)
- Tony Stark: Iron Man (MARVEL)
- Avengers: No Road Home (MARVEL)
- Batgirl (DC)
- Hawkman (DC)
- Superman Giant (DC)
- Basketful of Heads (DC)
- Once & Future (BOOM!)
- Klaus: Life and Times of Joe Christmas (BOOM!)
- Family Tree (IMAGE)
- I could probably list more, but I'm behind in my reading....
The quality of comics remains high, mostly. But every so often, you just scratch your head and wonder what were they thinking? (re: Fallen Angels [MARVEL]) I'm also wondering if the rise of more digital art is making comics harder to read for these aging eyes*. I'm enjoying a lot of these newer artists though.
*I picked up a copy of Looney Tunes #250 (DC) and the art seemed like it needed to be bigger; it was a strain on the eyes and we're talking "simplified" cartoon drawings. It's like they drew it on a tablet and then scaled the image down for a panel, when it should have been fit for a page. It's something I'll have to monitor.
The newer comics are really good, but there are some significant problems at least for me. They are too expensive. They don't hold their value well. There are too many of them. And the variant covers just make things worse.
At $4, $5, and $6+ on average for each issue, the trip to the comic-shop feels like making a mortgage payment (or paying your water bill). I can see an early bird movie for $6, enjoying 2 hours+ (hopefully) of entertainment. I can pay $10 a month for a streaming service and get hours or days of binge-watching bliss on old and new material. A $20 LEGO video game can take 60+ hours to complete over months of small increments. Comics by comparison take maybe 5 to 10 minutes to read. I know its situational on how fast you may read your books, but regardless of your chosen speed, the time value of your money is extremely small. Certainly, choosing a comic streaming service would be economical, but (proudly and still holding out for as long as possible) I don't have a cell phone and I hate reading comics on the screen, unless it is one of Thom Zahler's WEBTOONs or Steve Conley's The Middle Age series.
And reselling or flipping your books on ebay, it's like dumping money down a hole. I noticed a drop in my regular sales last year and suspected that my listings weren't being seen, when lo and behold ebay starts offering the ability to advertise your listings for a fee to achieve better performance. The State of Maryland started to take their taxes out of my sales, something I didn't realize until recently. The final value fees are usually 10% for ebay and 3% for paypal; these are applied to the full price including your shipping costs. My shipping is generally $8. To make the listing competitive you have to really keep the list price low or it won't move at all. Bottom line, it's very difficult to break even and it's inconsistent at best. For now, it's all I've got (or familiar enough) to work with, but oh what a pain! Needless to say, unless you happen to have the latest "hot book", it'll help recoup some of your cost, but it's doubtful you're really "making money" in the endeavor. I'm usually trying to spin the comics into cash to spin the cash into HCs, Funko POPS! or LEGOS, but ideally, I'd like the ebay sales to be supplemental to my budget, rather than essential.
The Hickman House of X/Powers of X series was absolutely amazing. Afterwards, it spawned 6 new X-titles. I got them all to start with, but quickly fell behind in my reading. Some books ship more than monthly. I had to read 25 issues to catch up. For the most part I liked them, but that was a significant commitment. Who has that kind of time? I'm down to only two now. Then you have these almost monthly Marvel mini-events that consist of 8 or 10 books with tie-ins. I got the Annihilation Scourge books at the same time the 2099 books were coming out. It just isn't sustainable. I'm trying hard to only buy what I truly enjoy or have time to read, rather than getting them all to hopefully resell when I'm finished.
Variant covers are a nemesis. The best covers are usually the variants, and hopefully not the more expensive kind. My LCS does a pretty good job at stocking up with and pulling for me the versions I want, but sometimes I have go home with my second choice, thinking that might hurt my sales. Just knowing that something is out there that you can't have, or having to choose the best one, it's annoying and doesn't have anything to do with the content of the book! Looking at others' ebay sales, I think variants are the driving force of the secondary market. I can't begrudge anyone or even publishers on how they strive to stay afloat, but collecting comics for cover art seems "wrong". I wonder how bad it is for the retailers that are stuck with the bad covers or the more expensive but not moving good covers. It should be enough to have the book in stock, but it isn't.
Here's where things are pretty darn amazing. Well, unless you're a DC fan. My go-to site for knowing and preparing for the latest HC or trade releases is Collected Editions, which contains previews and a release schedule. I buy my HCs from InStockTrades,which usually sell the books at 50% off the first week, then 42% thereafter. It's a huge cost savings and I never would even think of buying them at full price.
The Marvel Masterworks are hitting my sweet spot of late 70s/early 80s, collecting some of my favorite stories. For example, the Hulk one coming out in August has one of the greatest Hulk arcs ever (#223 thru #229). It's going to be amazing! They just got to the first Miller DD issue and are starting John Byrne's epic FF run too. Now both of those have been collected previously, but here we're getting the best reproduction possible and things never looked so good and clear. If only the light didn't reflect so much on the page!
Marvel Omnibuses are trickling in slower these days, but the stand-out is Marvel's Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan volumes. The quality is top notch with loads of extras. They just started the Peter David run of the Incredible Hulk, which I missed due to cash flow problems (buying too many LEGO Movie 2 sets on clearance), but ridiculously, they don't include issues #329 and 330 (one of which is a Todd McFarlane issue). Now I'll have to pay $12 more for it, but I know I'll get it eventually. I have the originals, but like getting a new comic, getting a new hard cover gives you more of an excuse to read those stories again.
On the DC HC front, its a mess. They solicit a book and then cancel it, only to re-solicit it again, usually with a new title or trade dress. I dumped my JLA omnibuses when I found out volume 3 wasn't coming out (and it would have gotten me to Firestorm joining the team). I'm still hoping they'll eventually finish the Brave and the Bold Bronze-Age series. They finished the Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash books, but nothing has been mentioned about reprinting the Bronze-Age tales. The Absolute Swamp Thing HC series is amazing with moss-feeling fabric, but people complain about the new coloring. I didn't have issues with it. I'm sick of their creator themed Batman collections, I just want a long run of stories, say by year 1981, 1982, etc. Instead we get the Gene Colan issues, the Marv Wolfman issues, some of which probably overlap. I am hoping we still get the Marshall Rogers Mister Miracle book.
Then there are the facsimile editions, full reprints with ads. The DC ones use better paper, but the Marvel ones are still nice. I was so excited to get Incredible Hulk #180 this week. Now I can just put this one and #181 right in my missing key-issue holes of my Hulk collection. So far, I've been getting all the DC ones. You already know the stories are good. I love them. Related to these are the dollar books that both Marvel and DC put out. They have new ads, but sometimes it might still be good to have a reprint of a particular story, although the trade dress for the Marvel books changes with the current theme (like Annihilation or Criminally Insane). Still, if you had young kids that you wanted to share comics with, this is the way to go. Cheap and good!
Overall, I prefer the older material to the newer books. It's just like comfort food for me. And rediscovering old favorites is super enjoyable. I'm at an age where I don't remember all the fine details, even in movies, so rereading or rewatching, is almost like a new experience. I could forego new comics completely and I'd have plenty to read, but I still want to get both for now.
I still have a goal of upgrading some of my Back Issues or filling in some classic runs that will likely never be reprinted.
Comics-related Media and Merchandise
From LEGO sets (the new DC mini-figures are terrific), to action figures, to Funko POPS!, movies and TV shows; it's a great time to be a comic fan. My problem is that I like too many different things, so A LOT appeals to me. I just got the new Marvel Collector Corps Funko POP! Mystery box, an amazon subscription, for this month, which was FF themed. It contained a cool Mister Fantastic and Human Torch variant, plus a T-shirt, and a pin. The best thing is that you can now skip boxes you don't want. So I look online for spoilers to see if I want to pay the $30 or not. This time I did, but now I want a lot of the other figures.
I really enjoyed the CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths cross-over with Flash and Legends of Tomorrow remaining my favorites, although Arrow was really good this year too. I'm excited for any new Marvel TV shows on Disney+, if they're anything like the Mandalorian, they should be awesome. There's just so much stuff to watch. We just finished The Witcher, Cobra Kai season 3 should be out soon, and I'm still loving Dark Shadows so much with a CW sequel in the works. If these aren't all related to comics, they often end up being with tie-books and such. TV watching definitely interferes with my comic book reading.
Well, I'm getting tired, and there's no guarantee this will even be read, but it was still fun to get some thoughts down. It really is true that "less is more". I need to focus my spending better to the point where I actually read most of what I get and get what I want to keep. And then have enough left over for other cool things that I like, such as music or toys.
Well, as they say on The Prisoner (now streaming on Amazon Prime), "Be Seeing You", maybe next year.