Tuesday, January 06, 2015

End of the Essential, start of the Epic ?

We´re starting off a new year so I thought about how to best kick off things in 2015. But since nothing really groundbreaking occured to me let´s continue where we left off : me talking about old Marvel comics.

I also want to use this post to do a bit of comic pimping since I know that so soon after the holidays most people are burnt out of spending money.

Which probably has something to do with all the Christmas presents you buy. I have to say, I think this year I gave away some really neat presents and although I didn´t get everything I wished for it all leveled out in the end. My philosophy for Christmas is more akin to boxing in the regard that I expect to get - at least - as good as I give and with a bit of help I achieved that. And when I say help I mean getting some presents for myself. Because we all do that. Now, come on, don´t deny it. We all do.

Anyway, normally I don´t list the Christmas presents I got but since it ties into Today´s topic I´ll make an exception. Because I don´t want a certain reader to think I´m bragging. And to tell you the truth mostly it´s too depressing to list my Christmas presents but this year was pretty good. I got the book ZOMBIES FOR ZOMBIES and a new edition of BATMAN - DAS ERSTE JAHR from my sister. I always get some weird books from her and mostly it´s hit and miss. Not that it´s bad stuff but since she´s not so much into comics like her brothers it´s very much like a lottery. Okay, as a quick example : one year we all got Discworld novels. Terry Pratchett is a bestselling author and I love the movie, animation or comic adaptions of his books. But I just can´t read his stuff. I tried his books a few times and I don´t know what it is I never make it through the first chapter.

So the presents are not bad per se - I bet a lot of people would love to get Terry Pratchett books as presents - it´s just more that I´m spoiled. I have already leafed through the zombie book a little bit and it does seem to be quite funny and entertaining. And although I already DO own a copy of the german version of BATMAN : YEAR ONE ( from ComicArt ) it has seen better days. So it´s nice to have a back up for when it finally falls apart.

So with my sister I concentrate on the gifts I get for her. And this year I hit a bit of a snag because I can´t remember what I got her last year.

Usually it´s the latest trade from Azarello´s WONDER WOMAN run ( she loves that book ), one or two trades from Stephen King´s DARK TOWER comics ( she´s also a big Stephen King fan ) and something else comic related preferably with the Legion of Super - Heroes or the X - Men. But like I said, I don´t remember what I got her for Christmas last year. I was already thinking about coming up with a clever plan to sneak into her house to get a list of all the comics she already has but as I´m more of a invalid couch potato than a ninja the only other option would have been to ask her husband to do the undercover stuff for me. So instead I got her the first 3 trades of Marvel´s adaption of THE STAND ( in german ). I already had the second and third trade in german and just had to buy the first one. As a compulsive comic collector it always bugs me when I have some trades in german and some in english especially if one version is on hardcover and the other one in softcover. So this was also a chance for me to upgrade and I already found the second hardcover AMERICAN NIGHTMARES on the PANINI message board for a reasonable price.

I also wanted to give her the DVD of Nick Knatterton´s complete cartoon series but since one of my brothers told me she would probably not enjoy them as much as me I gave them to myself as a present. To level this out my sister got the DVDs of CHARMED I originally bought for myself. THALIA was selling their backstock at seven EUROS per piece and since they are usually more expensive I grabbed all they had left. CHARMED is one of the series where I have watched a lot of episodes ( mainly after season three which is when Shannen Doherty left the series and Alyssa Milano became the main hottie on the show ) but I never got around to buy it on DVD.

The only problem is that I later found out the reason why THALIA got rid of all their backstock is that there are now new editions of the DVDs.

So far all the seasons of CHARMED had only been available in two parts and each part was priced between 10 and 15 bucks. But now there are new editions where you get one full season in one set and the price is between 13 and 15 bucks. So you can´t sell your old DVDs because the new DVDs are cheaper. Even with the discount from 10 EUROS to 7 EUROS I paid more for the DVDs then I would have at MÜLLER. And those are only half a season so now I have to try and find the other parts somewhere.

But back to my presents. From my younger brother I got the first two trades of GUARDING THE GLOBE which is a series I always wanted to read. It´s not as good as INVINCIBLE but it´s still in the Invincible universe and the art by Todd Nauck in the second volume is really great.

I wanted to get an omnibus for him but since he still hasn´t read the ANNIHILATION OMNIBUS he got the latest AXE COP and SUPERGIRL trades.

SUPERGIRL is one of the few good titles DC still puts out but I think with the upcoming DOOMSDAY and RED LANTERN crossovers ( where it looks like it´s that time of the month for Supergirl ) this will be the last trades I give away as presents. The fourth one was already very difficult to read because so much of the story took place in other titles and I don´t think it´s going to improve from here on. The same goes for the art because I´m not sure if Mahmud Asrar will continue on the book beyond this point.

Last but not least I got an amazon gift certificate from my older brother after the birthday fiasko which I will hear about for the rest of my life.

The thing he got from me was the JACK KIRBY`S FOURTH WORLD - OMNIBUS VOLUME 1 hardcover which I had to get at an online shop so I had to order it ahead of time. I wasn´t sure if it would arrive in time so I also got ESSENTIAL THOR volumes 1 to 3 but the Jack Kirby omnibus got here before Christmas so the Thor Essentials will probably become his birthday present. He likes everything Kirby but I think the omnibus I got him for his last birthday didn´t thrill him too much. The Fourth World stuff is more up his alley and he already told me how great the book is.

Now you might ask what I did with the amazon gift certificate. Well, not too long ago I pimped a whole bunch of bargain priced comics but since I already ordered most of the good stuff there was not much left for me.

Really, where reading material is concerned I really can´t complain. I´m halfway through the Celestial Madonna Saga, I still have to read volume 5 of ALL NEW X - MEN to read as well as volume 3 of SWAMP THING and volume 8 of MAN OF STEEL. Besides that there´s the THANOS ANNUAL and the INFINITY REVELATION graphic novel not to mention TALES OF THE BATMAN - DON NEWTON and the IRON MAN by David Micheline, John Romita Jr and Bob Layton omnibus. So ..... time for a victory dance !

Also I didn´t want to use if just to get comics that I would order anyway since Christmas is the one time of the year where you go for the special stuff. Which for me meant looking for another omnibus, preferably from Marvel since DC still has problems with the binding of the omnibus books.

Longtime readers know that I have a big hankering for the SECRET WARS II omnibus but since it´s not available from amazon I have to buy it at an online store which means I probably have to wait until I have won the lottery before I can order that. So what I got instead was the X - MEN : INFERNO PROLOGUE omnibus which I mentioned in my Christmas post about Marc Silvestri´s X - Men . Normally this goes for 125 dollars but I think I picked just the right time because it was at 82 EUROS and it´s back at that price again but I ordered it when the price was at 75 EUROS.

Which was a really good price if you keep in mind that I covered some of it with the gift certificate ( my brother isn´t that generous ). But what I really want to talk about is the OTHER book I put into this order which is ESSENTIAL HULK volume 1, still available at amazon.de and currently priced at 7.50 EUROS. That´s a really good price for a 20 dollar book.

Now there were some ESSENTIALS in my last post about bargain books at amazon and you might be wondering why that is. Well, like I wrote the last time - and I was able to get comfirmation on that in the meantime - Marvel or rather Disney is ending the ESSENTIAL line in favor of the new Epic Collection line. A lot of comic readers seemed to have problems with the ESSENTIALS because of their lack of color but I liked the format. As somebody who has delved a bit into inking I always savor the opportunity to see inked pages and in the case of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer´s TOMB OF DRACULA I even prefer the black and white version to the regular version. With some books the inks are so strong you don´t need color.

Other reasons why I liked the ESSENTIAL line is that it is a cheap way to read a lot of comics, especially comics that were not collected before.

In some cases it was because they were fringe books about third stringers like Son of Satan, Brother Vodoo or the Living Mummy. Of course there were other books that were more mainstream like KILLRAVEN or IRON FIST or main titles like FANTASTIC FOUR or SPIDER - MAN but a lot of the stuff was either out of print or only available as MARVEL MASTERWORKS. I just recently got my first volume of that line and I have to say without the hefty discount from amazon I would not have been able to buy it. I mean a 260 plus pages hardcover for 32 EUROS is at my pain threshold for prices but normally this book goes for 70 dollars. Who can afford that ?

Sorry, but 70 or 75 bucks is what I normally expect to pay for an omnibus. Which are even more expensive going for 100 or up to 125 dollars lately. Okay, the page count is higher going from 600 or 700 pages to 1000 or even over 1200 pages for some of them but with the X - MEN : INFERNO PROLOGUE it is just over 800 pages with the 125 dollar price tag. I know the MARVEL MASTERWORKS have gone up to 70 dollars after they included more pages but even before that 50 dollars per book was a steep price.

So while some comic readers might be thrilled to get some new trades in full color it´s not such great news for us comic fans who don´t have a huge comic spending budget. Now since I haven´t gotten any of the Epic Collections yet I can´t comment on the quality but the price is already in the prime category. According to Disney the reason for ending the ESSENTIALS was basically one guy saying : " These stories have to be in color. " but in my opinion it´s all about the Benjamins and I´m not talking about everybody´s favorite blue - eyed Thing, Benjamin J. Grimm here.

You can always tell what kind of comic market a certain country has by the amount of cheap comics that are available whether in black and white or pocket book format. And if some of them are sold over the newsstands.

As somebody who has lived for quite some years here in Germany I can tell you that we are at the upper echelon of possible comic prices. There are no cheap comics available here - period. There never was anything comparable to the ESSENTIAL or SHOWCASE PRESENTS books in Germany and also no cheap black and white pocket books even though PANINI is the main distributor here and they have big success with their BIBLIOTECA MARVEL line in such countries like Spain, Italy and France. Okay, one of their arguments is possibly that after the horrendous pocket books by the Condor Comic Verlag pocket book editions  didn´t have much hopes of success because most comic fans were angry. But most of Today´s comic readers read tons of mangas in that format and I guess if you asked them about this their only response would be : " What´s a Condor Comic ? "

Of course this does not explain why there are no cheap comic editions in the ESSENTIALS or SHOWCASE format available but what I heard most from comic companies is that comic readers in Germany don´t want cheaper paper or black and white comics. Which I can´t believe since I know there are quite a lot of sales of ESSENTIALs and SHOWCASEs here. There is also the argument that cheap comics don´t sell which was refuted by the success of the distinctive Comic Libraries by the FAZ - which were pocket books for 5 EUROS - or BILD Zeitung - which were big hardcovers for the same price. Now whenever those two editions are brought up in discussions with comic dealers or comic publishers their main argument against it are that those could only be done by working with a big successful newspaper. Which cannot be repeated exactly why ?

Fact is that in Germany comic companies always want to dictate what comic readers have to buy and at which price and at the moment there is only one comic collection sold for a reasonable price at newsstands and it´s not instigated by PANINI Comics but by the french company hachette.

I have mentioned this collection before but for those that haven´t read those posts ( or have already forgotten ) it´s a collection of hardcovers that include six to eight issues from a series and the first book was sold for 4 EUROS, the second one for 9 EUROS and all following books for 13 EUROS. Which in Germany is still a pretty good price for a hardcover.

Now coming back to the Epic Collections, like I said I haven´t gotten one of the trades so far and I don´t think that´s going to change in the near future. Because lately I have been going for hardcovers for stuff I already have in single issue form and it´s something I want to read over and over. For that a nice hardcover is just perfect. With comics I don´t already own I sometimes go for the trades but the cheaper option were the ESSENTIALS. Now concerning the hardcovers with the high price of the MARVEL MASTERWORKS I rather see myself buying some omnibus books. The price difference is not that big and the page count is three or four times as high. And the Epic Collections are not really thick so I don´t get a lot of issues with them. They are not really cheap so I don´t save money. And they are in color but so are the single issues I already have.

Now Disney says they want to start with runs that have not been released before or are out of print. Which I find hard to believe because all issues in AVENGERS EPIC COLLECTION : THE FINAL THREAT are also in the THE PRIVATE WAR OF DOCTOR DOOM and THE BRIDE OF ULTRON hardbacks.

Which may be one of the reasons why THE PRIVATE WAR OF DOCTOR DOOM - a 30 dollar HC - is still available for 11.50 EUROS from amazon.

Amazon is making way for the new trade collection line and is getting rid of their stock of books that contain the same material. In the case of the ESSENTIALS there is the short term bonus of getting some volumes at a discount price but in the long run there goes one way to read comics cheap. Okay, you might argue I just picked one trade at random and drew conclusions for the whole line. So let´s look at some other epic trades.

JUDGEMENT DAY collects the AVENGERS issues that were already collected in the ASSAULT ON OLYMPUS hardcover, the AVENGERS ANNUALS that are part of THE CONTEST, the first X - MEN vs AVENGERS mini series and the EMPEROR DOOM graphic novel. This one is a real hodgepodge and while some parts of it may be hard to get most comic readers already have it.

Now I´m ready to give them the benefit of the doubt because you could argue that this is the only part of the second John Buscema AVENGERS run that´s not available in trade and that most of the issues in BEHOLD THE VISION come after the second Avengers omnibus. But this stuff has been released in the MARVEL MASTERWORK editions as well as all the issues from EARTH`S MIGHTIEST heroes which are also included in the first Avengers omnibus. Yes, maybe Disney also wants to get rid of the MARVEL MASTERWORKS line in favor of the omnibus books but I highly doubt that because they just raised the prices from 50 dollars to 70 dollars per book and that´s not something you do when you want to discontinue a line. Also, Disney is not a company that is known for saying no to money.

There are some interesting parts of the Epic Collection like CAPTAIN AMERICA : DAWN`S EARLY LIGHT which has the first issues by Mike Zeck but also the John Byrne run, probably one of the most reprinted comic runs in the entire Marvel history. No idea why it had to be included here.

Another trade where they fumbled the ball is FANTASTIC FOUR : INTO THE TIMESTREAM. Instead of taking the chance and putting both parts of this story - the AVENGERS and the FANTASTIC FOUR issues - into one trade so you can read it as it was meant to be read they just put Simonson´s FANTASTIC FOUR issues into the book. Along with some other stuff. In their defense you have to say that probably nobody at Disney knows that one story was written in two different books. " What do you say ? It´s the same writer on two different books ? So it is one story in two parts ? And what is this crossover thing you talk about ? People really buy many books just to read one story ? Man, we should capitalize on that and maybe turn it into an annual event. " Man, those greedy Disney people are so stupid.

FANTASTIC FOUR : ALL IN THE FAMILY doesn´t exactly collect the best Fantastic Four material but I guess they wanted to have it out there because it comes directly after the John Byrne omnibus 2. There is some stuff in these trades that I have pimped myself like STREETS OF POISON on Captain America and especially with IRON MAN where the first part of Tony Stark´s descend into alcoholism after his short brush in DEMON IN A BOTTLE is collected in THE ENEMY WITHIN. There are also two trades that collect both ARMOR WARS stories, the second one even has the complete run by John Byrne ( his name DOES come up a lot in this post ).

My last comments on the Epic Collections by Disney is that there are two trades I may buy and the first one is WOLVERINE : MADRIPOOR NIGHTS.

Among other stuff this contains the first 16 issues of Wolverine´s first regular series and it´s something I haven´t read before ( mea culpa ). I´m not sure if this material deserves the hardcover treatment and since I´m not that interested in the issues that I might go into the catacombs of my comic shop to look for the back issues I might just get this one.

The other Epic Collection is THOR : WAR OF THE PANTHEONS and the reason why I might just get this one although I already have all the single issues ( as well as the Alone against the Celestials story in trade paperback and the War against Set part in a spanish hardcover ) is that after writing so much about the period after Walter Simonson´s run on THOR I realized that it´s one of my favorite parts of the book. Yes, I´d have liked it more if this would have been in a hardcover or if they had started after issue 400. But maybe there will be another trade that covers those issues. My brother always says that I buy too much stuff I already own but it would be nice to have it all in one nice trade. It´s much easier to write these Thor posts if I have the reference material handy and the hardcover IS in Spain and who knows when I can go home to pick it up.

If you are also on the fence about this here are some preview pages of the Thor trade. The reproduction looks nice but I´m not sure if I need it.

To wrap things up : I don´t know where things are going this year but it seems comics will be more expensive than ever. Yeah, what else is new ?

So, we talked a lot of comic books and prices and nearly not enough about the INCREDIBLE HULK by Sal Buscema. I thought this would be a great chance to go into a great period of the book but it seems there were other things on my mind. We will cover the stories in ESSENTIAL HULK 7 in a future post and if you haven´t already ordered it don´t wait too long.

Before we come to the videos of this post here is the short link section. For those who have not read enough about the new Epic Collection line here´s an interview with Marvel´s SVP of Sales David Gabriel by John Rhett Thomas on the MARVEL MASTERWORKS RESOURCE PAGE. Also since this is a new year some of my readers might have expected a post about the best comics of 2014. But since I mostly read old comics this year and the other series are always the same I skipped that. In any case you can find the most exhaustive list selection of best of on TRADEPAPERBACK .

Our first video is for all the people who want to dip their toe into comics because they have seen a few movies and it could be very helpful. There really should be more of these out there. Anywhere, this comes from ADVENTURES OF A COMIC NEWBIE, a new comic vlog I found and it explains the difference between single issues, trades and graphic novels.

My next video ties in with the Thalia videos from my last post. Another spanish music icon from my youth is the great, late PERET here with his most famous song BORRIQUITO in an almost psychedelic clip. Mas que tu.

As far as obscure music clips go the song Sakin Gelme by MAZHAR FUAT ÖKZAN is probably my no va mas. I don´t know anything about the band and it´s the only turkish CD I have. I saw the clip one night on the turkish tv station we could get at that time which I watched quite a lot because they had a game show called PASSAPAROLA with a really hot dance troupe.

Anyway, at night they played pop clips and at first I thought it was a new music video by Genesis until I realized they sang in turkish. I liked the clip so much that I watched the turkish tv station for weeks until they repeated the song. I taped it - yes, back then a VCR was the top electronic recording device - so I could write down the name of the song and the band so one of my turkish friends could get me the CD.

And since I could not possibly finish a post without some 80s animation here is the complete ROBOTIX series from 1985 for your viewing pleasure.

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