Monday, April 17, 2006

Comics not worth the money

I already mentioned it twice already so it´s high time to elaborate a little more. When I say " comics not worth the money " I don´t mean bad comics. We all know that sometimes you make a bad judgement call and what you thought would be the new Watchmen turns out to be the new Youngblood. No, what I want to write about are comics that had the possibility to be really great comics. Or even worse : comics that are really good but because of the production quality are not worth their money.

The first one on the list is the AVENGERS FOREVER trade of the miniseries by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco. While the miniseries is maybe the best Avengers series ever written and drawn and a comic you should own the trade paperback is really horrible. Now I have to say that I worked in a printing company four over seven years. I am familiar with the secrets of Heidelberger six color printing machines and everything that can go wrong with the printing, binding and the production of printed goods in general. So while I never paid any attention to the printing quality of comics when I started my comic reading career that changed over the years as comics began to get more expensive and my knowledge of printing expanded. One of the printing errors that comics had very frequently in the eighties ( everybody who has comics of that period knows what I´m talking about ) is that the colors are not placed correctly over the inking. When comics are printed on offset printing machines you use four different printing plates : a yellow one, a red one, a blue one and a black one. The four colors have to be placed correctly to get a perfect, complete picture. Now in the old days when comics were produced with lower product quality there ocurred more printing errors and sometimes the colors were all over the place. The red was an inch too the right or missing. Or sometimes the colors were placed correctly but not in place with the black one. So you would get a fine white line between the inks and the colors ( in german this is called a Blitzer ) and this used to be a thing of the past. But in the Avengers Forever trade this happens on 90 percent of the pages. Not on just a few but on almost every page. And that´s not only in one of the trades but in all I have seen so far. It´s even worse in the new printing Marvel did on better glossy paper. Normally you would destroy such a poorly produced comic but someone in Marvel´s quality management department was sleeping that day.

Well, if you are in America and you want the complete story in one trade your only option is to buy the older one ( if you can find it in good condition ) and that´s it. If you are living in Europe and don´t need to get it in the original there are more options. Buying the german version is not one of them, because in Germany there is no trade of the storyline. AVENGERS FOREVER was released here in six bookshelf issues containg two issues each with a bad translation and one cover had a printing error ( the one with Captain America kneeling before the Avengers statue ). So you should only buy it if german is the only language you speak and there is no chance in hell that you will ever learn another language. If however there is this possibility or you already speak spanish then there is hope for you. Most people in Germany go to Spain for a vacation at least once in their live and like in America you have to go to Disneyland once in your Germany that is for most people the Ballermann in Mallorca. Which therefore must be the german version of Disneyland only with more beer, no cartoon heroes and more bikinis. So if you are on vacation on Mallorca stay sober for one day and try to find a comic shop. If you are in Barcelona just go to NORMA COMICS or the comic section of FNAC ( a big shopping mall at the ramblas ). FORUM released a hardcover book containing the complete miniseries with a nice introduction, the whole appendix and even some original pages. It is printed on nice glossy paper and on the copy I own there is only one printing error on one page. And for the price of 18 EUROS ( which is roughly 18 Dollars ) it is a steal !

The second one should not be on this list. No, really. JLA / JSA VIRTUE AND VICE written by Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer and illustrated by Carlos Pacheco ( again ! this seems to become a pattern ) is a comic milestone. A really good comic with superb art. The difficulty with crossover books and especially crossovers of two superhero teams in particular is that you have to give every member his five minutes of fame. But in this comic it is pulled off so effortlessly and with such ease that it´s just astounding. And it has a really nice depiction of Power Girl ! Printed on good glossy paper it is a comic I flip through at least once a week just to look at the cool pictures. There is only one problem : I bought the hardcover when it came out and when I opened it on New Year´s Eve to read it - it broke. On the first page of the comic it broke. I paid 25 bucks for it and when I wanted to read it for the first time it was ruined. I had to put tape on it to keep the pages from falling out. Now I don´t know if that happend with more copies ( the other ones my comicshop had showed the same defect ) but if you pay 25 bucks that is not what should happen. There is a german hardcover of the comic available which has a decent translation but the paper quality is not as good as the american edition and priced at 20 EURO it is just too expensive for my taste. If you need to read it in german that´s okay but again - if you have the opportunity pick up the spanish edition. It has the same paper as the german edition but with a much lower price of 12 EURO. So if you are traveling in Spain you can get two wonderful hardcovers by Carlos Pacheco for 30 bucks. Man, I just love to buy comics in Spain.As a side note I looked for the hardcover of the Superman / Batman story ABSOLUTE POWER and when I opened it it already had a slight crack in the same place. Maybe that´s a general problem with the binding of the hardcovers at DC.

Number three on this list is THE CHRONICLES OF CONAN VOLUME 9 RIDERS OF THE RIVER-DRAGONS from Dark Horse comics . Now when I first heard of Dark Horse comcs plans to release the old Conan comics with a new coloring I thought : " Yeah, another comic nobody needs. " but when I held the first one in my own hands at a comic convention I just had to buy. The coloring looked soooo good. So what the f-word happened to Volume 9 ? The coloring is really appalling, on some pages you can´t even see the inks clearly and it is just horrible. This comic can give you nightmares. The coloring is even worse than in the old comics you can find in dollar bins. The comic is priced at 16,95 dollars and although I got my copy at the comicshop for 10,90 EURO I still feel like I got shafted. I have been buying the new editions so far but if the coloring is not better in the next one volume 8 will be the last one I will buy....because I missed it.

Last but not least on the list is the IMAGE ANNIVERSARY HARDCOVER and it is the only comic that is not on the list because of the production quality but because of the content. Planned for the tenth anniversary of Image comics and released much later ( as is one of the traditions at Image ) this comic is definitely not worth the 24 bucks 99 I paid for it. Of the four stories done by the original Image founders only the Erik Larsen story is worth it´s money. The story Erik Larsen himself never wanted to tell ( the secret origin of Savage Dragon ) is the only highlight of the book. The second story by Todd McFarlane is not even a real comic story. It is told with blocks of text with a few pictures between them. No thought balloons, no captions and no speech balloons.And the only purpoes of the story seems to be to retell Spawn´s origin and to use Miracleman. The third story by Marc Silvestri has nice art but it is just part of a story with the only purpose to serve as a prelude to the Cyberforce / JLA crossover ( which came out before this comic ) and to lay the groundwork for the new Cyberforce series. The last one is the Shadowhawk story by Jim Valentino which also didn´t really thrill me. So this hardcover was also a great disappointment. If you are a Dragonfan you might think about buying it ( preferably with a discount ) but if not don´t bother. For an anniversary comic this one had more of a whimper than a roar.

So that are the first four comics on my list that I ended up regretting buying. Next we will be talking about good comics and comparing the different editions of TOMB OF DRACULA. Until then : Never surrender or yield to despair.

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