Hobbies

I finally wrote a blog but can’t think of a title so… Comics!

IMG_7269I’ve started a new blog so many times this year that it’s laughable. In the end, I don’t complete it, I don’t follow through and I regret letting another week, month go by without posting. I hope to change that today. I have been recovering from the mental abuse at the hands of a former employer. One of the most damaging things that happened to me during that time (2016) was an attack on my love for comics, comic cons and pop culture.

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I was so damaged and depressed from the whole thing that I considered walking away from comics all together. That though, is in the past. I had a transition year in 2017, I got a new job, a new car, changed states and have been in therapy. It’s 2018, I’m doing way better and I’m finding my old self; more importantly though, thanks to encouragement from my spouse and my doctor, I kept collecting comics. As things improved for me mentally, the joy I got from comic books returned. I decided to skip attending a comic con this year, instead focusing on my collection, my new job and my new home in New York.
IMG_7273So what have I been reading? Lots of stuff, though I’m still behind in my reading by about 2 months…it happens. I loved the crazy over the top fun of Shirtless Bear Fighter, from his love of pancakes and syrup to his weakness of having clothing put on this comic tale had me laughing and ready to read more. What could go wrong with wrestling bears, family drama and a tragic love story? Plenty of puns and laughs galore, Shirtless Bear Fighter remained on my pull list until the end of its limited run.
Rock Candy Mountain; man I did not see this intriguing, hilarious and action packed comic coming at all. Since my move to NY, I have yet to find a good comic book shop to call my own, for me this means new comic book day waits until I travel back to PA to visit my old faithful comic store. IMG_7292If a comic sells out and I neglected to put it on my pull list, I’m out of luck. The first issue of Rock Candy Mountain sold out at my shop, however thanks to one of my Twitter comic bros, I have a copy; signed by Kyle Starks no less. Imagine never losing a fight, any fight but specifically hand to hand combat. Imagine having this unique talent during World War II. Imagine what kind of deal was made to gain said talent. The devil has arrived to collect, can he take on the world’s toughest hobo? So many great one liners and just down right entertaining, Rock Candy Mountain rocked my world. IMG_7290There are tons of new books out that I am looking forward to reading here are a few on my pull list. Mark Millar moved his wildly popular franchise to Image Comics and I have to say Patience Lee looks fantastic in Kick-Ass. Definitely #BlackGirlMagic! I’m not sure that Robert Kirkman will ever be able to repeat his success from the Walking Dead however he is writing a new series called Oblivion Song. IMG_7291It’s on my list of books to read and I’m hopeful that it’s just a good comic. I tend not to pass up anything with Jeff Lemire’s name on it so Gideon Falls is in my read stack as well. Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl release the most amazingly stunning book I’ve seen since Monstress. Isola is a visual masterpiece that I felt compelled to own once Image Comics recommended it for Studio Ghibli fans. I have yet to be disappointed in any comic book written and drawn by Terry Moore (my hope is, I never will). A new chapter in Strangers in Paradise; I’m on board for that. I’m still reading and enjoying these old faithfuls: Monstress, Descender, Harrow County, East of West, Saga and of course The Walking Dead.

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The Joys of Blank Covers

Back in the day, liking an artist’s style of drawing meant asking said artist to either sketch IMG_6163something over top of a comic cover or to create something on poster board.  In the early 2000s, Dynamic Forces, a company IMG_6162 who bills itself as the top producer of limited editions and autograph memorabilia; used to offer something called “remarked”covers. These were comic books with small sketches from a significant artist. Said covers could range in price from $50 through $100, depending of course on the artist and popularity of the character.

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Sean Chen rocked this Wolverine.

In 2009, The Marvels Project issue one was published. With this book Marvel introduced a card stock semi-blank cover. We collectors snatched them up. The potential was limitless, with the open space on the cover, one could get their very own commission piece. Add CGC‘s offering to authenticate the artist signature/drawing and a whole to market of original art is born. Marvel seized on the popularity of the blank covers and began issuing them whenever a significant issue number came up. DC moved a bit slower but eventually they too offered card stock blank cover to their comic lines. Today, most of the comic publishers offer a blank cover to entice collectors during a relaunch or exception comic book issue.DSC_0324

What does this do for us collectors? It gives us the opportunity to get awesome customized covers by our favorite artists. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and negotiating with several of my favorite artist for blank cover commissions. The covers end of being some of the best pieces in my collection and I proudly display them in my comic cave. Here are some words of wisdom based on my experience soliciting artists for commissions.

Not all artists are the same. Some artists are very careful with comics and attempt to give

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Some of my many commissioned covers.

the requester an amazing piece. The artist offers several options for the commission and has reasonable pricing. Whats more, these artist truly enjoy what they do and love sharing that enthusiasm with their fans. Matt Kindt, Terry Moore, Nick Dragota, Charles P. Wilson III and Matteo Scalera are names that easily come to mind. They were great people to talk with and to request commissions from. There are more out there like these guys and it makes this hobby all the more enjoyable with each experience.

Some artist are jaded and believe anything they sign or draw will end up on eBay for an exorbitant

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Matteo Scalera was wonderful. This is one of my favorite pieces.

amount of money. Because of this mindset said artists charge a large fee for anything requested. Some artist just don’t care about their fans and care even less about the art you just commissioned. These artists are wrapped up in their own world (in some cases with good reason cause they can f-ing draw amazing things but still…) which mean you get what you get good/bad or indifferent. I once prepaid an artist for a full body sketch commission of Superman. The sketch didn’t arrive until six months after the con. Even more insulting, it wasn’t the commission I requested. So, I shifted my preference to sketch covers instead.

One time prior to a con I planned to attend,  I worked with an artist for a commission. We discussed pricing and pose type DSC_0325for the blank cover, I was excited. He let me know that he wanted payment prior to starting the commission. I agreed. This was months before the comic con where we would meet so I wasn’t too worried about the timing, however that artist sent me daily email reminders for payment. I paid a month in advance and provided one of my favorite blank covers (to my regret I only had the one). Immediately after paying the artist, I stopped hearing from him. I priority mailed the blank cover we had discussed and asked the artist to let me know when he received it. I heard nothing from him. I sent one additional follow up message, hoping the book arrived on time and in good condition. I didn’t get a response from DSC_0322the artist until a week out from the con. He said he finished the commission but that he lost the blank cover I provided so he used something he had laying around. Needless to say, the blank he provided was not the limited edition I sent. Lesson learned; only provided a collectible to an artist you’ve worked with in the past and trust or you risk getting burned. I intentionally don’t mention names of the folks I’ve had bad experiences with on purpose. I admit however that I praise those with whom I’ve had good experiences because they were really nice to me and as it turned out great people to meet. Win/Win

Some artist have brokers who do the negotiating for them. These middlemen provide the basic information needed, such as cost of commission, method of commission and wait list is there is one. The plus side to this is you know whether or not you are you are the commission list, you know the cost of said commission and there’s some guarantee that the commission will be done in a timely manner (usually during the con) so you get your piece right away.

The drawback to the middle man is you don’t usually get to build a rapport with the artist you admire. Too the middle man doesn’t give a crap about you or your admiration at the fan, he or she see you as a number, a customer someone they have to deal with on behalf of someone else.

DSC_0326Okay all that said and done, let’s talk about blank covers and commissioned art. I try to keep a variety of blank covers on hand so that when an opportunity presents itself, I’m ready. Most of the character’s I like are creator owned, but that doesn’t stop me from using any of the big two’s covers for my commissions.

Oh and I should also note that thanks to CBCS, there  is a way to get a commission cover drawn and certified outside of attending a con. The lovely folks at CBCS offer a service whereby the artist signs a statement and mails the comic directly to the CBCS office.

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The unique style of Talent Caldwell.

I’ve used this service for Charles P Wilson and Janet Lee, it was a godsend and my comics arrived to CBCS in good condition. It is a good idea to check with both the potential artist and CBCS for instructions on how to use this method.

Additionally, CBCS has added to the services they offer for authentication, you can have your comic signature authenticated or certified as original “art”. The difference here is the comic isn’t graded, it is authenticated, encapsulated and labeled ‘original art’. Good stuff in my opinion.

Comics are awesome

Since November 2016, my social media has been overshadowed by politics. I feel I would be remiss if I ignored what’s happening from the executive branch in Washington DC so I’m not apologizing for the attention I give politics on on my twitter page.

Still I look at my stack of funny books and smile knowing they bring me some measure of happiness. So here is a current pic of the comic cave. IMG_5988I’ve a lot of books to put away. In the mean time here are some of the awesome titles I’m currently reading. Oh and I also collect Funko Pops, I specifically like exclusive. Though I’ve been in love with #StrangerThings since it’s release so I indulged myself with these awesome toys.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Gail Simone’s Clean Room since issue 1. It’s been funny, dark, scary and brilliant all at once. The main character Astrid Mueller is amazing but I admit my favor is Killian who I see as a total badass. Clean Room is comprised of nightmares, death, dreams and redemption. Standing between us and certain annihilation is Astrid and her army of rooks. I’ve tweeting about this comic since it first appeared in Previews. Not one issue has been disappointing. It’s full of twists and turns, heroics and betrayal. I admit I’m in love with this book and will collect it until Gail doesn’t write it anymore.

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I love a good mystery and murder mysteries are my favorite. So of course Matt and Sharlene Kindt have roped me in with #DeptH. I’ve blogged about this comic before and my praise still stands. This books is amazing. An advance science team is living on the ocean bottom while exploring and discovering it’s many mysteries. During routine exploration and analysis a portion of the under water station explodes. There is only one casualty of the explosion…the smartest man on earth. Enter Mia, a scientific genus in her own right; to investigate the suspicious death. Was the explosion just a freak accident or is there more sinister plan in effect? Mia suspects everyone including her own brother, for when it comes to this investigation, she will get to the bottom of who killed her father in this suspenseful tale.

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Wildstorm is a new book I’ve been reading, written by the great Warren Ellis. I’ve only read issue 1 but I admit this comic has all the makings of something grand. Here are a couple if pages that I enjoyed from the book. I will definitely be reading issue 2.

There’s no comic more full of rich charaters and all things fantastic than Monstress. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda immerse the reader in a fantastical world of witches, beasts and spirits set to a steampunk backdrop. Everyone has a angle and none is more driven to achieve her goal than Maika Halfwolf. She has and will sacrifice any and all to get answers to her mother’s mysterious death. This comic is Anthropomorphism done right with an opulent array of diverse characters. There’s something for everyone small cats with three tails, large cat in business suites, wizards who sprout wings, pirates with shark crewmen, its eye-candy for the mythical soul.

When I’m not reading comics, but still want some comfort, I snuggle with my 4 year old.

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21 Comics that are better than DJT or How I spent inauguration day 2017

Rather than give the media any of my time this day, I chose instead, to spend my time in the comic cave reading some of my favorite comics. Some of the comics held a special political meaning for me while others were just plain fun to read. In any case, here’s my list:

img_58221. Wolverine vol. 3 “Old Man Logan” Issues 66-72
Mark Millar can have my money; I will throw it at him if he keeps writing great stories such as this. The premise: Logan has long since given up the Wolverine mantle and lives life on a post-apocalyptic frontier as a pacifist farmer. Enter Hawkeye with the promise of adventure, mayhem and some much-needed cash. img_5823

2. The Killer vol. 1
An assassin with no moral compass is available to the highest bidder in this tale of espionage and murder. Matz and Luc Jacamon provide an in-depth look at a man who operates in the shadows of the underworld, who kills without mercy and never asks questions.

img_58163. Granville vol. 1
Scotland Yard, chief inspectors and world domination on steampunk steroids. Granville is s tale of conspiracy and government covers up shown through the lens of anthropomorphic splendor by the talented Bryan Talbot. img_5819

4. Wild’s End
The country side of England is quiet, peaceful and full of fire from the sky. An unassuming retired community is terrorized by an invader from out of space. Afternoon tea will never be the same thanks to Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard.

img_58155. Mind MGMT
Matt Kindt takes us on a journey of mind control, secret societies, political espionage  and world domination. We are all being controlled, convinced that what we see isn’t really happening and what’s happening is beyond imagination. So, what’s to stop an investigative reporter from blowing the lid off the whole thing? img_5820

6. Just a Pilgrim
The world burned and took mankind with it. Staying alive is a daily goal, eating a decent meal is a distance second. Still, the Pilgrim isn’t phased, for he had a purpose and a guide through the good book. Will anything shake is faith? From the brilliant mind of Garth Ennis, prepare for the end is nigh.

img_58177. Proof vol 1 “Goatsucker” Issues 1-5
The government has a secret program used to address unnatural phenomena where ever it occurs. In this world created by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo, Big Foot has a name, wears a suit and fears nothing as he protects mankind.screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-8-39-24-pm

8. Superman: King of the World
Superman takes over the world in a power grab to protect the innocent and thwart evil. Karl Kesel shows us what can happen when the man of steel takes over as ruler of Earth.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-8-42-02-pm9. Y the Last Man
Brian K. Vaughan is no stranger to a well written saga (see what I did there?). In Y, we learn that a disease has wiped out all species with the y chromosome. Well except Yorick Brown, who wakes up and finds he is the last man on earth. How will the survivors, all women receive him?screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-19-26-pm

10. Rotten
It’s the wild west; guns, horses, cowboys, hold-ups and zombies? This comic was written back when a non popular vote president took office during the 2000s. Mark Rahner and Robert Horton pull no punches with political satire and familiar zombie faces.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-22-01-pm11. Mystery Society
When Nick and Anastasia when the lottery, they pursue their dreams. They chase down conspiracy rumors, thwart the government and break into Area 51. What fun! Nick and Anastasia’s antics are beautifully illustrated by the fabulous Fiona Staples and wonderfully penned by Steve Niles. screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-25-45-pm

12. The Cape
What happens when a loser learns his childhood blanket posses super powers? He turns his life around, rights wrongs and fights for justice right? No that’s not how Eric does things. Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella take us on a dark ride of vengeance led by a man with super strength and the ability to fly.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-26-44-pm13.  Astonishing X-men vol. 3 “Gifted” Issues 1-6
Cyclops forms a new team of X-men to watch over mutant youth. The team’s first assignment, stop an alien holding human hostages. Oh and a mad scientist has come up with a cure for the mutant gene. Joss Whedon writes the return of Kitty Pryde with style and flair.screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-18-22-pm

14. Rachel Rising
Go out for a night on the town and wake up in a shallow grave with a noose still tired around your neck; thus the beginning of Rachel Rising by the illustrious Terry Moore. Its a murder mystery and so much more as Rachel tries to find her killer while fighting the likes of Lilith and Malus.

img_582115. Superman: Red Son
In 2003, Mark Millar penned an elseworld story that imagined a baby Kal-El landing in the Ukraine during the age of Stalin. Comrade Superman is an easy pawn for a communist regime. screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-30-05-pm

16. All Star Superman
There’s nothing like a Superman comic written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quietly. Clark/Superman is oh so human, so compassionate, he shows his vulnerabilities, offers his powers to Lois and makes the ultimate sacrifice for a stranger.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-30-42-pm17. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
A tragedy in their home forces a family to relocate to an estate in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. Soon it’s discovered there are forces in play that manipulate everyone associated with Key House. It’s the ultimate fight between good and evil, thanks to Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-33-50-pm

18. Stuff of Legend
Into the Dark to rescue the Boy, a group of toys and his pet dog venture to fight The Booegyman. Mike Racist, Brian Smith and Charles P Wilson compose a melancholy tale of courage and betrayal.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-37-19-pm19. 30 Days of Night
It’s a vampire’s dream, a remote town full of warm blood and no sunlight in sight. All that’s needed is to cut off all communication inside and out and let the feeding begin. A master of horror tales Steve Niles hones a vampire narrative for the modern age; Ben Templesmith aptly provides the images.screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-36-51-pm

20. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 “Long Way Home” Issues 1-4
Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty bring us the eighth season of everyone’s favorite vampire slayer. Buffy is operating in a world full of other slayers yet the threat of world annihilation has not lessened. This comic picks up where the television show left off.

img_581821. RASL
On the surface, Jeff Smith introduces a character that appears to be a raging alcoholic art thief who has the means to travel between dimensions of earth. Who is RASL and how did he come upon The Drift?

All in all it was a day well spent.

Ahh the smell of Speculation

I try not to speculate about comics as I was one of many who was burned during the 90s bad girl foil limited edition variant cover shenanigans. I remember when Image had a few titles and Todd McFarland was still writing and drawing comics. That said, each Wednesday I check out Comic Book Scalping for shits and giggles.

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Image from Comic Book Scalping December 2016

Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by finding something interesting to add to my hunt list. Other times, I’m tickled to find that a comic I own is a hotly sought after item with high resale value. Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 10.07.10 AM.pngTake for instance this blurb about #GothamCitySirens. I had no idea it was so popular among speculators. Why? Because there’s going to be a movie with the same title, staring Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. For me, it feels a little bit like The Walking Dead boom all over again (granted on a small scale but still). I picked up the variant back when it first hit the shelves because I liked the way J.G. Jones draw the ladies. Even if the suggested speculation price is inflated, any price over the $5.99 I paid is a bonus.

 

Many of the comics I like to read, turn up on this speculator’s list of books to look for; case in point “Postal” by Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill.

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Image from Comic Book Scalping September 2016

Oh yeah and last week when I finally got to my local comic shop and discovered that I had 2 copies of the recalled issue of Saga… imagine my happiness! Seems I will soon be sending a group of books off to CBCS for grading!

Yes, I have been living under a rock as I was not aware that Skybound now has a quarterly subscription box service. If I had the spare cash, I would definitely sign up for this. Here is a link to the cool write up in Comic Book Scalping Skybound MegaBox.

Depth of Dept. H

Having been and still am a fan of Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT, I was IMG_3947quick to add his latest creation to my monthly comic book pull list. Honestly it didn’t matter what the comic was going to be about, Matt and Sharlene Kindt’s names were on the cover, I couldn’t pass it up. The truth is, I would have snagged the first issue of Dept. H no matter what…because it’s a murder mystery. In addition to being a Kindt fan, I’m also not one to pass up a well scripted “who done it.” I cracked the cover of Dept. H and dove right in.

IMG_3948This comic has all the wonderful earmarks of an intriguing murder mystery: strong female protagonist, death under unusual circumstances, isolated list of suspects and everyone involved has personal history with the investigator. As I read through the pages, IMG_3949I imagined an atmosphere similar to that of “The Abyss.” As expected with a Kindt title no page goes to waste (sans advertisements). The front cover is used to describe the unique details of Mia’s deep dive suit. The back cover provides publisher and creator details.

 

I, for one, am looking forward to learning all about the crew of Dept. H, a science research facility located at the bottom of the ocean. Even more important, I want to know who and why someone would kill the smartest man on earth?  Issue two hits comics shelves May 18th, join me.

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Comic Diva’s Favorite New Comics from 2015

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I love comics. I’m down with the reading, with the collecting, and sometimes the speculating. I’m reflecting on comics that I really enjoyed in 2015. Oh, there were “tons” of them, and I can’t write about every one of them, so I narrowed the list to share the best. These were my guidelines:

I have 119 books on my 2015 “Pull List”; the majority of them are NOT DC or Marvel. The 2015 “Pull List” includes books from Boom Studios, Valiant, Image, Vertigo and Dark Horse. There are some smaller press books on the 2015 “Pull List”, though I admit the spectrum isn’t very broad. The books on this list have a release date within the year of 2015, despite the printed cover date. Also, I don’t include re-launched titles that start over with issue 1, because this is too gimmicky for me.  That’s it.  Ready?

IMG_2632Giant Days
I have really enjoyed some titles from Boom Studios. Their IMG_2347solicitations are truly unique, ranging from kid-friendly to mature, and much between. I really love the YA drama of Giant Days, and–honestly– some of the funny antics showcased in the book truly remind me of my college youth. Dating, roommates, drama IMG_2433fields, lost love, and secret crushes are all tackled in this engaging, ongoing series by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. IMG_2346Included in the mix are strong young women who push at social stereotypes, acknowledge self-doubt, and develop strong personal character. Initially solicited as a six-part mini series, Giant Days’ success was rewarded when the creative team was asked to extend the series to 12 issues. The comic was so popular that it’s now an on-going series with an updated creative team. I’m in it for the long haul as I find Giant Days too much fun to pass up.

 

IMG_2633Harrow County
When I first read about Harrow County in Previews, I immediately added it to my regular pull list. IMG_1623I instantly recognized this comic book was going to be something I’d love to read. Young Miss Emmy has a mind of her own and a soft heart for the dark souls that inhabit the creepy places of Harrow County. She can speak to the haints (haunts), and what she says to them is typically motivating, if not compassionate. Have a ghoul IMG_1626kicking up a fuss in your attic? Emmy will gladly quell the behavior. Just know, she’ll do it by letting the ghoul know it’s welcome, and by inviting it to stay put. Emmy has a strong streak of “right” versus “wrong”, and she condemns those that would use her for something evil. She adheres to the “live and let live” motto, even if it does not always work out for her. The writer, Cullen Bunn solidified his space on my “read everything” list when he penned “The Sixth Gun.” IMG_1399He truly is a fantastic writer and I’m a happy fan. I first came across the artist, Tyler Crook, while reading WitchFinder (another Dark Horse favorite). Tyler’s drawing style and color blends match so perfectly with Cullen’s words that their joint work has uncanny flow. They’re a creative combination paired in heaven, I say.

IMG_2634Postal
Eden, Wyoming is an intriguing place. It’s a layover town full of criminals. IMG_0515Throw in several random acts of violence, a dirty FBI agent, a postman with Asperger’s, and dark family secrets, and you have the backdrop for the comic Postal, written by Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill, drawn by Isaac Goodhart. Mark is IMG_0516the local postman with Asperger’s. Actually, he’s the only postman in town. Mark pays attention to who gets what in the mail, and reports this information to the mayor, who “just happens to be” his mother. By way of post, the mayor collects the town secrets and uses what she knows to keep everyone in line. When things don’t go her way, the mayor calls in the sheriff. Can you guess with whom the mayor’s having an affair? Postal is more than family drama though,IMG_0835 the series is on issue… and so far what readers have learned about the townspeople is: there’s a former meth dealer in residence, a cheating federal agent on-site, the murderer of Mark’s sister on the loose, and a suspected child molester in hiding. Oh yeah! There’s so much going on, so many sub-plots in this comic, I can’t help but keep reading it.

Coming in Part 2: Head Lopper, Chrononauts, and Descender. (By the way, feel free to leave me a comment or drop me a line about your favorite comic book from 2015. I welcome the discussion.) ****Update****

I would have loved to continue this discussion but truth is, I let the time slip past me. With that understanding, here are the books I really enjoyed in 2015:

  • Descender
  • Chrononauts
  • Head Lopper
  • We Stand on Guard
  • Dark Corridor
  • Paper Girls
  • Clean Room
  • Black Magick
  • Monstress
  • The Goddamed
  • Toyko Ghost

Leaving Megalopolis

IMG_2452Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Writers: Gail Simone
Artist: J. Calafiore

Super heroes no longer fight crime, protect the public or seek justice. Instead, all the super-beings in this world have been infected with a virus. A virus that turns them against the people they once protected, and whom they now hunt for sport. Carnage and death ensue.IMG_2453

The story starts with a lone police officer walking cautiously down a deserted city street, chaos and destruction is all around her. What follows sets the tone for the story: a human body falls from the sky and splatters on the ground in the officer’s vicinity. Leaving Megalopolis is a tale of survival in modern America. A small band of people attempt escape the city limits while being dogged, if not herded, by murderous capes and tights.

Leaving Megalopolis focuses the human mind and how it behaves under extreme duress, and that is exactly what you get in this dark tale written by the illustrious Gail Simone. IMG_2456The story is jammed packed with all kinds of delicious details. All the action takes place within the city limits, and there’s a hidden twist at the end. (No spoilers!) Plus, we learn about human will, self-sacrifice, personal loss, treachery and redemption.

Cool Factor:
Can you speak, move, or breath quietly enough so as not to attract the attention of a killer with super-hearing?IMG_2455

Format:
Hardcover, Trade paperback

We Likes the Comics, We likes the Grading

There are two “camps” of comic book collecting:  those who slab and those who don’t. I readily admit, I am in the first group and I’m perfectly happy to stay put. “Slab” or “slabbing” is collector slang for “comic encapsulation,” otherwise known as “grading.” Since 2000, impartial thirty-party comic book grading has been available thanks to Certified Guaranty Company, known in the industry as CGC. IMG_1232Several knock-off/bootleg grading companies have emerged, but none of the CGC quality… until last year. More recently, Comic Book Certification Services (CBCS) launched, and CGC finally as a worthy competitor. I have used both grading companies and, to be honest, I like them equally. CGC corners the market; they have been around for 15 years and are an industry icon/standard. CBCS IMG_0530was founded by some of the folks who started CGC. They have a similar business model and offer competitive services to CGC, except they offer less expensive service. One last plus to CBCS is the general public can submit comics to them directly, whereas CGC requires either a paid membership or submission through a third-party.

Okay enough about that. So you have decided you want to submit your books to CGC or CBCS. You believe you have a rough idea regarding the potential grade your comic(s) will earn, so you pack up your book(s), ship to one of the graders, and wait the 6-8 months it takes for your submission to go through the grading cycle.

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Screenshot from ComicsPriceGuide.com

Why have your comic book graded? Because it increases the value of your comic and thus increases the value of your collection. Here’s an example:

In 2003 The Walking Dead sold for $2.95. By 2015, the inaugural issue is worth $1,600 raw (not slabbed). A 9.8 (near mint, slabbed and graded) copy of The Walking Dead Issue 1 is valued at $4,300. I say no more.

You have submitted what you believe to be near mint books expecting a grade between 9.6 to 9.8. Low and behold your book(s) returns to you and–to your surprise– with a lower grade than you anticipated.

IMG_1732As I’ve mentioned in my “about me” post, I am a collector/hobbyist. Therefore, the joy of the hobby comes first. Value or speculations of “it might be worth something/it’s a good investment” comes in a limp second. I like slabs. I think slabs look awesome on display, and I do like that graded comics add value to my collection. Feels like a win-win. I preface the following with “I am not a professional comic book grader,” I am offering my advice on the topic just to share.

I have self-submitted over 100 comics (okay that’s not a lot, but still). I have received grades that range from 9.6 to 9.9. During my early submitting days, 9.6 appears to be my average. Over time, however, I have learned to really pay attention to the physical details of the books I submit and have improved my average to 9.8. Though, admittedly, I have seen a lot more 9.9 than I expected (let’s hope that trend continues).

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Okay let’s grade some comics – amateur style. Dirt and oil from your fingertips can cost you grading points in the end. I recommend using gloves while you assess your book. I have experience with cotton and latex. Both types of glove seem fine, though I recommend staying away from latex gloves that have powder in them, as this substance can be introduced to your comic and it will cause damage. IMG_1744To properly assess your comic, you must be able to view the front and back of the book. If bagged and boarded, remove your book (be gentle). Good maneuverable lighting helps with assessment, as changing light angle can show defects or discrepancies. Have a clean work area to perform your assessment, and get right to it. First, look at the corners of your comics. Are the corners crisp or blunted? If one or more of the corners is blunted, not at a point, points are deducted from the grade. Be very critical. It is better to assess your book lower than to assume a higher grade. Next, look at the spine, and pay attention to the staples. Are there any creases in the spine? What about staple tears, including those from the printer? Again, small dents and dings cost points, and any blemish can make the difference between 9.8 and 9.4. Okay, so you’ve looked at the corners, reviewed the spine. Now, lay the book flat and determine if there are any scuff marks on the cover. IMG_1745Once you assess the outward condition of your book, give the pages a flip, and do so from cover to cover. Here you are looking for folded page corners or manufacturer defects. If the book looks sharp and clean, give it your best grading guess. Remember, be critical. If you think it is a 9.8, consider 9.6. If you think it is a 9.9, consider 9.8.

What’s the point to all this? Having an idea of the potential grade of your comic should assist you in making the decision to invest in grading your comic book.

I applied this assessment method to this reprint of The Walking Dead. I’ll post a follow up in about 6 months as to the grade it received. IMG_1746

*** UPDATE *** January 2016 ***
The above comic has just arrived from CBCS. It was graded 9.8 and I am quite pleased. And for the record it took a little over 4 months, that some great turn around time I say!

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My Love Hate Relationship with Variant Cover Comics (more like love)

IMG_1464As a modern comic collector, I am bombarded with new and fresh comics each week. The conundrum in collecting is deciding what I want while trying to maintain a budget. Then, some hot, new, creative team introduces a “must have” book, and–just to spice things up–the publisher offers a kazillion variants. The completest in me wants very badly to have every issue of the new Archie relaunch AND every one of those awesome Star Wars covers issued by Marvel. Some books are issued as “1 in 10” variants or “1 in 25.” There are “1 in 50,” too, and so forth and so on. Add to these “1 in…” are special interests variants like Ghost Variant, Phantom Variant, Loot Crate Variant and Hastings Variant. Sometimes, to encourage high order numbers, publishers allow retailers their very own special variant unique to their store!

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Publishers aren’t just issuing variants for comic release dates. They are also doing special limited (debatable) print runs for specific comic conventions, such as San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, or any of those Wizard World conventions. This means the market is duly flooded with variant cover comic books as far as the eye can see. Some variants really are extremely rare; like those 1:100 and 1:200, and especially those 1:300. Some variants are limited by print run, as only 500 copies are made. That’s it. Five-hundred. All these different approaches to printing a comic book means a collector has the potential to be inundated with… too much. And, can you imagine what it must be like for the retailers? What about all the stock that doesn’t sell?

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So here’s my love/hate: I like variety and I enjoy having the opportunity to see artistic vision, one artist versus another. And, I–like many other collectors–want that rare book that might be worth money many months (years) from now. But, I realize there is a down side to this hype. Variants cause an extra layer of speculation in this hobby, and that speculation can turn some collectors off. What’s hot now may fizzle out later, and what I paid a premium for today may not be worth cover a few months from now. This means if I don’t want to get burned I have to be discerning.

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I recently stumbled on to this website and found myself wishing I had more money. I am a sucker for really unique variants. I mean, I want something more than just the black and white variant. I will pursue variants by specific artists, people I like, such as: Charles P. Wilson III or Fiona Staples and I’ll pay whatever is the asking price. Honestly, if I didn’t impose my own restriction on variant purchases I would go broke trying to own them all. As I recall, the Archie relaunch had about 20 different covers. Some were amazing and some, well acquired taste. If you are a Godzilla fan, there were over 100 variants issued by IDW. That’s like a short box of comics all for one issue.

Update just before posting, the awesome variant subscription service Four Color Grails has closed. This saddens me as I really enjoyed their enthusiasm for the hobby. I feel lucky enough to have gotten some of their books. RIP 4colorGrails.

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