Sunday, September 13, 2015

Essential shelf life of a comic collection

Like I said there are a few things about my new bookshelf that I couldn´t get into my last post so let´s just continue. Like I already mentioned, the plan was to put all the ESSENTIALS on one shelf and all the SHOWCASE PRESENTS on another because there were a lot of those on my desk.

( Doc Ock marrying Aunt May - not as creepy as having sex with M J )

When you have read comics as long as me ( roughly forty years now ) your comic collection is scattered all over the house and there were some of those in my old bookshelf but most ESSENTIALS were in a cabinet.

Now my reasoning was that if I put all the DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS and MARVEL ESSENTIALS in the new bookshelf there would be a lot of free space in the cabinet where I could then put all the single issues I put aside to re - read or read for the first time like Tom DeFalco´s and Paul Ryan´s marathon run on FANTASTIC FOUR where Reed Richards and Doctor Doom kick the bucket that will be featured in an upcoming DEATH IN COMICS post, Norm Breyfogle´s PRIME for Malibu Comics or the second volume of THE FLASH that were also part of the big piles of comics on my desk.

That part did work out but I soon discovered that I had much more ESSENTIALS than SHOWCASE PRESENTS so I made one shelf just with ESSENTIALS and one shelf with the rest of the ESSENTIALS and all the SHOWCASE PRESENTS. But it´s only natural that I have more ESSENTIALS than SHOWCASE PRESENTS because - at least in my opinion - the Marvel stuff is always a good investment while the DC reprints depends heavily upon if you have a nostalgic connection to the title in question or not.

( the Luck Lords were the mystery villains in the first story of Mark Waid´s and George Perez´ run on THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD from 2007 )

And that´s no DC bashing on my part. It´s just the fact that when Marvel started out they had far better writing and art than their distinguished competition. The stories by writers like Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman or Gerry Conway were much better, their heroes were not as two dimensional as the rest of the caped community and they still hold up to what is written Today. If you compare it to the current output from Disney I´d even say it´s superior. Yes, there are still a handful of titles worth reading like DAREDEVIL but for the main part you just bury your head in shame if you don´t outright want to kill yourself afterwards. There is a reason why most of my Marvel reading nowadays is old stuff and every time I have finished another ESSENTIAL, MARVEL MASTERWORK, Epic Collection or one of the pocket books from Panini UK I always have the same thought : It´s not that difficult. Why can´t the writers of this day and age write a decent story ? And what happened to editors who were supposed to read the stuff before it sees print ? Who knew something about the title and all of the characters that appear within its pages ?

But let´s not dwell on that and come back to comparing the ESSENTIALS to the SHOWCASE PRESENTS collections which gives Marvel an advantage since they started in the Bronze Age. Okay, technically Timely started in the Golden Age but those are not the comics you find in the ESSENTIALS. 

( back then Marvel made horror comics instead of horrible comics )

For newer comic readers this may seem like a brilliant plan to put the comics that were more interesting for a select number of comic collectors in the more expensive MARVEL MASTERWORKS hardcover collections.

The truth is that the MARVEL MASTERWORKS collections were already part of Marvel´s publishing program and they included Golden Age comics like THE HUMAN TORCH, the first CAPTAIN AMERICA series, Atlas Era horror mags or the monster comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby but also comics with an appeal for a broader reading audience like AMAZING SPIDER - MAN, UNCANNY X - MEN, AVENGERS, HULK, FANTASTIC FOUR or THOR.

( is there a bi - sexual subtext to these contests of strength in THOR ? )

The problem was that not many comic fans are willing to pay 50 - or nowadays 75 - bucks for a hardcover even if the pages are meticulously restored and re - colored and the book contains a lot of extra material.

And a lot of comic readers don´t have that kind of disposable income where you can spend 75 bucks on just one book. Even if you don´t take advantage of the sort of price cuts you can get at online bookstores like amazon or Thalia where you can probably get two omnibus books for that money or something between 6 and 9 trade paperbacks. For some people 75 dollars is their entire comic budget for one month and they would rather spend it on 3 hardcovers or 5 trades than on one single hardcover. 

If you are a huge fan of the character or the artist or if it contains one of your favorite stories you might be able to swallow the hefty price tag but for most comic readers it´s not a big option. I myself own four MARVEL MASTERWORK books of which the first one contains an Avengers story I always wanted to read and I just grabbed the chance when it was offered at amazon at half price. I found the second one also at half price at the used books section of amazon and I bought it because it contains possibly the best Fantastic Four single issue of all times, FANTASTIC FOUR 51.

The third MARVEL MASTERWORKS in my collection contains one of my all time favorite Fantastic Four stories - period - and with the last one I opted to get it instead of buying the second UNCANNY X - MEN omnibus hardcover because the price for it at amazon is just ridiculous and it also contains PHOENIX : THE UNTOLD STORY and a Phoenix story from BIZARRE ADVENTURES issue 27. Furthermore it gives me the opportunity to get the new DAYS OF FUTURE PAST hardcover which also contains three issues of EXCALIBUR. It´s a shame there still are no hardcover collections of that brilliant series by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis available and you have to rely on such books like MARVEL VISIONARIES : CHRIS CLAREMONT or the X - MEN : INFERNO CROSSOVER omnibus book to get some issues.

But back to the MARVEL MASTERWORKS : they were too expensive for most readers so Marvel came up with a way to make the titles that were interesting for most of their readers available at a reasonable price.

Even if the big phone books were only in black and white it was a cheap way for readers to get a lot of Marvel content, Marvel got to make money selling old issues all over again, it had no effect on the back issue market - at least no negative effect - and for those who were willing to pay more there were still the MARVEL MASTERWORKS. And besides getting money for their bestsellers like SPIDER - MAN, AVENGERS or FANTASTIC FOUR they could also make series that were only interesting for readers of certain genres available in this cheap format like WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, FRANKENSTEIN, KILLRAVEN or TOMB OF DRACULA. Especially the last collection has benefitted greatly from the black and white reproduction, presenting for the first time the brilliant art combo of Gene Colan´s pencils and Tom Palmer´s inks without the technicoloring of that time. 

Of course the greed has brought Disney to cancel the ESSENTIALS in favor of the new Epic Collection line but so far the price is the only epic thing.

After arranging the ESSENTIALS and the SHOWCASE PRESENTS on the bookshelf there was some free space so I put the Epic Collections there since they are going to continue where the ESSENTIALS left off, although in some cases they will reprint material that was already included in ESSENTIAL form. But the thing is I only own three of these new trades because there is the problem with the gutter in all three of them. For DC it´s the omnibus books where they never can get it right, for Marvel it´s the Epic Collections. Now if this was a small independent publisher in his first publishing year I could maybe forgive such an faux pas but not with one of the the two biggest comic publishing companies. Marvel is just producing trade collections for a far too long time NOT to know that when you produce a thicker trade you have to calculate more gutter so you can open the book and read the comic without problem. It is not acceptable that I can´t really open any of my three Epic Collections without trouble.

There have been already three or four trades I would have added to my collection if it weren´t for the expensiveness and the problem with the gutter. Because I won´t spend 30 or 35 bucks on a comic I can´t read even if they have finally acted on what I write on this blog and started collecting Ann Nocenti´s and John Romita Jr´s criminally underrated DAREDEVIL run in this new format ( publishing date January 26th 2016 ).

And speaking about reading : one of the reasons for getting the new bookshelf was to have quicker access to my comics and not having to search that much for the various series, so I have also put the trades of series like THOR or FANTASTIC FOUR with the ESSENTIALS volumes according to the reading order. With some I just have one or two of them but with AMAZING SPIDER - MAN I got to volume 7 before I somehow lost interest. One of these days I have to look for the remaining ones and at least PETER PARKER, SPIDER - MAN number one which contains the Spider - Man stories by Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan I remember from my youth.

I also put all the Biblioteca Marvel and the Panini UK pocket books with the ESSENTIALS or better in front of them since that way you can still see which trades are behind them. The last few months I have added quite a few of the UK pocket books because I like to put one or two in my comic orders to get an even numbered saldo. I´m a bit strange like Adrian Monk in that way. And speaking about strange : I just got SHATTERED BY THE SHOCKER which contains the second issue of AMAZING SPIDER - MAN by Condor when they started publishing the series in Germany after the long hiatus of Williams Verlag. Initially I thought it was the first issue but then I remembered that was the one where Spidey is attacked by his old foes.

It was kind of nice to take a trip down memory lane by reading those crazy stories again from that period when Doctor Octopus roamed the streets as a bum because he was haunted by the ghost of Hammerhead and the Spidermobile was out to kill everyone´s favorite wallcrawler.

Those are my kind of stories and one of these days I have to do a post on artist extraordinaire Ross Andru who doesn´t get nearly the credit he deserves from comic fans for his contribution to the Spider - Man canon.

And with that we are once again at the end of Today´s post. I know that I haven´t talked much about DC´s SHOWCASE PRESENTS collections and why I think that most of them are not for the broad reading public but there´s just too much stuff about The Legion of Super - Heroes and The Justice Society I want to write about to use it as an addendum to this.

Recently my interest in the Legion has been rekindled thanks to the new collected editions of THE GREAT DARKNESS SAGA and THE CURSE and I have decided to continue reading with the AN EYE FOR AN EYE and THE MORE THINGS CHANGE trades. I just hope DC doesn´t loose interest with this run and SOMEDAY starts reprinting the Keith Giffen run as it´s ONLY the best run ever of the Legion. Well, according to some people since I haven´t read it. Anyway, there is more than one Legion - centric post coming in the future ( no pun intended ) and my only regret is that I did not buy the deluxe hardcover of THE GREAT DARKNESS SAGA when I had the chance because the deluxe hardcover of THE CURSE is just too sweet.

It´s like I always say : you regret not buying comics more than you regret buying shitty comics. Because if you buy a comic and it´s not good you lost some money but maybe you can sell it again or give it away as a gift.

But when you don´t buy a comic when it´s a bargain you can never pay full price for it. At least I can´t. If it is still available. In some cases you may have even lost your opportunity to buy that particular comic forever.

But what about the Justice Society ? - he said with a fearful shiver in his voice. Blame fellow blogger Terry Hooper for opening that can of worms.

After reading his post Justice Society of America - It USED To Mean Something ! I remembered that I never got around to getting the new trades which collected all the crossovers between the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America back when they were on two separate earths. One of the reasons for that was that the part George Perez did is not that easy to get. As I said earlier you most regret not buying certain comics and one on my list is the CLASSICOS DC : LA LIGA DE LA JUSTICIA DE GEORGE PEREZ book Planeta DeAgostini published in Spain the last time I was there. Only I didn´t know that it would be the last time for a very long period. In my defense I have to say I spend my money on the first volumes of Marv Wolfman and George Perez´ NEW TEEN TITANS which in hindsight was a brilliant move since it covers the first omnibus edition from DC which is a book binding nightmare from all I have seen. It´s also not hard to believe if you see the binding on the second and third of THE NEW TEEN TITANS omnibus. Or on the ORION OMNIBUS BY WALTER SIMONSON. I think the only omnibus where the book binding is good is the new WONDER WOMAN BY GEORGE PEREZ hardcover and there the paper cutting is messed up. I´m just glad I get to read it for a decent price since I bought it when it was offered for 55 EUROS.

Anyway, the George Perez issues ARE available in hardcover through the DC COMICS CLASSICS LIBRARY but they split it into two books so you have to pay 40 dollars for six issues on each of those books. Sorry, but I usually pay around 35, 40 EUROS for a Marvel omnibus which contains around 30 issues. So paying 80 bucks for 12 issues is just ridiculous. There are of course the new trades available in english AND german and naturally the german editions are more expensive. The good part about the german edition is that they are also available in hardcover, the bad part is that they are also very expensive. The german comic market is still mainly a collectors market NOT a reader market. So I decided to go with the US edition but of course the part with the George Perez issues is out of print or sold out at most comic shops. I have now ordered the JLA / JSA trades from Thalia which lets me use at least one my eleven percent off coupons I always get with my comic orders. Last night I was looking for stuff that I could spend those coupons on when I found out that THANOS VS HULK and THANOS : THE INFINITY RELATIVITY by Jim Starlin are finally out. Yay !

I have not read the THANOS : THE INFINITY RELEVATION original graphic novel and the THANOS ANNUAL until now and when I have those two I can finally read the whole story in one sitting. Some people have said that Jim Starlin is just going through the motions in this story but that still has to be better than ninety-nine percent of Disney´s actual comic book output.

In the end I opted for ordering the CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS trades that I couldn´t get from amazon from Thalia because at first I ended up with an order for more than 150 EUROS and I had to reduce it. I was a bit bummed out that I just could use one of my coupons with each order. At first I was afraid that I could not use the coupon for ordering books which is what I usually do at Thalia because there had been a mail stating that there was some kind of law that forbid Thalia to give discounts on books but apparently that was not the case. It would have been better if I could have used all three coupons on one order because that would have meant a bigger discount. Naturally it was only after I finished ordering that it came to me that 11 percent off doesn´t care about how many books I order. In any case it might be better if I have to cut my order into three parts. The only downside is that if I want to order more books I have to place the orders before the first order has arrived because that always takes up to two or three weeks when you order books online from Thalia.

That´s one of the things I don´t like about Thalia and the main reason why I buy so many comics via amazon. With Thalia the books are always listed as available and then you get an e - mail that the books are not available, they have to be re - ordered and that takes up to three weeks. And in some cases it turns out that the book you ordered is not available anymore. Anyway, when the books from Thalia have arrived I will have to get the other trades from amazon but I´m already excited to read all the famous Justice League of America / Justice Society of America crossover stories I remember from those SUPERMAN TASCHENBUCH and SUPERMAN PRÄSENTIERT : GERECHTIGKEITSLIGA SONDERBAND I read as a kid.  

And THAT´S my final word on this post. I´m not sure if I brought my point across better than in my last post but it´s time to wrap things up for Today. This time around I have written more about Marvel stuff than about DC stuff but as the next post on this blog will be the big finale of my Hollywood edition of casting the Justice League of America movie ( which I had posted before but decided to put on the back burner because of the birthday posts of Salma Hayek and Beyonce ) I´ll call it even.

Okay, one quick thing before the video section. Some readers might think it´s not very realistic to get 9 trades for 75 EUROS so I made a quick scoop at amazon´s bargain section and although there are currently no bargain books that interest me I made a shopping cart. I picked FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE with art by P. Craig Russell, AVENGERS WORLDS with the issue by Dale Keown, HULK - BANNER D.O.A. , CHRONICLES OF KING CONAN 8, ACTION PHILOSOPHERS 2, EMPOWERED 4, ORDINARY by Rob Williams and ZENITH PHASE 2 which brings us to a total tally of 76.53 EUROS. Okay, this is slightly more than 75 EUROS but the last two books are hardcovers not trades so it would be possible. And that´s a shopping cart that usually will cost you more than 125 EUROS ( I couldn´t find the second ACTION PHILOSOPHERS TRADE anywhere so it´s more than that ). Yes, there is some Marvel stuff in there but with FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE, ACTION PHILOSOPHERS 2, EMPOWERED 4 and ZENITH PHASE 2 there are some high caliber books among them which I bought myself. 

Since this post was about no specific topic - except comic collecting - there are no links and we start with COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR a documentary about the history of comic books hosted by Frank Gorshin, best known for playing the Riddler on the 1960s campy Batman tv show.

Some months ago I posted a video with Darth Vader, here is the original song he plays, Hootin´ the Blues by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

I talked a lot about Marvel Essentials in this post and one of the essential Marvel / X - Men stories is the DARK PHOENIX SAGA which will be covered in comicbookgirl19´s EPIC HISTORY X - MEN VOLUME 2 which is available on Vimeo On Demand. You can see the first ten minutes for free here. 

Please support comicbookgirl19 because I want to see more such videos from her. Yep, this is totally selfish on my part so what ? She makes THE BEST comic videos on YouTube - period - and we have to keep her going.

One of the characters that has already gotten three ESSENTIAL volumes as well as his first Epic Collection with a second one on the way this November is Moon Knight. Here is a video that explains why he is so cool that also references his involvement in the time travel story ( during the five minutes that Moon Knight was an Avenger ) that was reprinted in the second AVENGERS WEST COAST omnibus which I still haven´t read.

This is usually the part where I pimp a cartoon but Today I´m leaving it up to the Nostalgia Critic to explain Hanna Barbera´s genius Tom and Jerry.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best

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