Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ugly American # 29: More powerful than a loco in-law?

My home base in icy Minnesota is becoming something of a comic book hotbed. A couple years back Gary Dahlberg’s untimely death brought us the Twin City Pedigree, one of the most pristine Silver Age collections on the planet. Dahlberg had a gig at a book store, so he got first crack at the comics before they even hit the shelves. He was cherry-picking mint books before anybody knew what an Overstreet Guide was.

Someday my collection of certified trade paperbacks is going to raise some eyebrows as well, but that’s a few years down the road. I’m just letting you know now, though…it’s coming.

But in the now, we’ve got David Gonzalez. He likes to buy houses on the cheap, fix them up and flip them. So he buys a little fixer-upper in Elbow Lake, MN for $10,100 and starts knocking walls out. That’s where he finds a copy of Action Comics # 1.

These days, you’re probably going to insulate your walls with a little Owens-Corning pink stuff that will make everything but your insides itch for three solid weeks. In 1938? You stuff the walls with comic books. Crazy, huh?

But it gets crazier. The book is in remarkably good condition, all things considered. It’s been sitting inside a wall for about 70 years, for crying out loud. Vincent Zurzolo of Comic Connect is convinced it was a solid 3.0 before Gonzalez made the tragic error of showing it to his in-laws. After a violent game of “keep away”, the back cover rips and becomes detached at the bottom staple. So when it finally gets to CGC, it comes back a 1.5 grade. Zurzollo is calling it a “$75,000” rip. I think he might be too conservative on that estimate. I think if I’m David Gonzalez, I’m spending most of my comic book proceeds on hiring a contract killer. But that’s just me.

Right now the Gonzalez copy of Action # 1 is up for auction at Comic-Connect, bidding closes on June 11. As I type this, the current bid is $137,000. Gonzalez says that he’s only slated to receive 50% of the proceeds, which sounds fairly absurd to me.

I can see why he might go that route – Comic Connect is an extension of Metropolis Collectibles, a reputable firm with a history of achieving record-breaking sales on that specific book. In order to get top value for the comic it really needs to be certified, and it helps to have somebody with connections to line up a serious buyer. A book like that attracts a certain number of crazies, also potential fraud.

It’s one thing to send in your copy of Amazing Spider-Man # 300 to CGC, (membership fee + about $20 will get that done) and quite another to submit the premier Golden Age comic. I doubt that David Gonzalez was even aware of CGC prior to discovering his copy of Action # 1, so it’s tough for him to know what to do. The problem is that there are “fair market value” price limits on submitting books, and CGC is going to want 3% of that fair market value to grade it.

Even at the extremely conservative estimate of $100,000 raw, that still means it’s going to take $3,000 to get that thing graded. Now, if Gonzalez had enough liquid assets to buy a house for profit, I’m betting he had enough on hand to grade it himself. But he’s still out of his wheelhouse, so I can understand wanting to farm all of that nonsense out to a pro.

If I found that book inside my wall, I wouldn’t have had enough in my couch cushions to get it graded myself. Actually, I think my house was built in about 1980, so when I get around to smashing all my walls in with a four pound sledge, I’m likely to find some ratty copies of the Micronauts, which doesn’t sound quite as exciting. But if we’ve learned anything from David Gonzalez, it’s that houses are just really big, really fun piƱatas. You kinda have to just take a literal whack at the superstructure and see what kind of prizes are inside.

Were I Mr. Gonzalez, I think I would have written an email to Buddy Saunders over at Lone Star Comics. Standard commission on those auctions is 10%. You may not get a record result, but then again, maybe you do. The Lone Star folks have some reach as well, and you don’t really need much of a hard sell to get people interested in the first appearance of Superman, do you? Especially not one with such a spicy provenance - who wouldn’t want to own the copy of Action # 1 featuring rips from an insane aunt-in-law? That’s not just history, that’s a conversation piece.

Yeah, I’d hit up Saunders and offer him 15% commission instead of the usual 10% if he fronted the grading fee. I don’t see him saying “no” to that arrangement. Having a copy of Action # 1 is a pretty good draw for your monthly auction. And from my end, a 15% commission sounds a little better than a 50% one. I guess it’s all gravy, though, considering Gonzalez got the whole house for 10K and is going to make at least 5X that on the insulation alone. Only in Minnesota!

Thor # 344

While we're talking market stuff, I thought I’d mention The Mighty Thor # 344. Folks who follow this stuff are claiming that Malekith is the Big Bad of the new Thor movie. Of course, you know how that turned out for Iron Man 3! So, we’re taking all of this with a grain of salt for now.

Another caveat – chasing down movie villains isn’t always as much fun as you might think. I remember when the first Ghost Rider movie came out, there was intense interest in Daredevil # 270 featuring the first appearance of Blackheart. Well, that lasted about five minutes. Today that copy of Daredevil is suitable mainly for lining your hamster cage.

What I’m saying is, if you can find a copy of Thor # 344 in your LCS for a couple of bucks, you might want to grab it and strike while the iron is slightly tepid. In NM shape, I think it’s reasonable to expect that comic to fetch around $15. I would do that as soon as humanly possible, because I don’t believe that window lasts very long. So do it. Worst case scenario, you have a Thor comic by the legendary Walter Simonson, and that’s never something to complain about.

If you do have something to complain about, you can do so by commenting below.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ugly American #28: SpringCon for Hitler!

While Mike & Remy were busy dominating the East Coast Comics Expo, I was busy in Minnesota dominating the MCBA SpringCon. Or to be more accurate, I was busy being dominated. Now, sometimes I have to pay extra for that with certain social engagements, but it was not really what I was looking for out of my convention experience.

So, SpringCon starts at 10am on Saturday. I and a couple of my friends get in line around 9:45. It’s raining a little, but we’ve got an umbrella and spirits are high. I pay my $12 admission, a lady slaps a bracelet on my wrist, smiles, and says nothing.

We walk in there and start taking the place in, Tom spots the Half Price Books booth on the far end of the building and we start wandering toward it at about quarter impulse power. Next thing I know, I’m catching some angry shouting out of the corner of my ear, followed by louder and angrier shouting. I turn around and discover that the world’s biggest asshole is puffing up on my friend Wally about being “a fan”, and is now bum-rushing me to give me more of the same.

Now…a few words about working retail “security”. I’ve been in that business for about a decade now, so I understand it from both sides. I understand the headaches of dealing with unruly and self-entitled patrons, and I also know that if you’re even a little competent at the job, you begin with respect. In the immortal words of Dalton:

“Be nice….until it’s time to not be nice.”

Well, nobody at the MCBA thought it wise to show their aggro little bouncers Roadhouse before the event. Something else the fine folks at the MCBA missed – the part where they train the staff to direct their customers where they want them to go, or post any kind of signage, or I don’t know….put up some fucking stanchions making a path upstairs where they want to house the chattel prior to 10am.

How difficult would it have been to have the person taking your money say “Hey, head upstairs and get in line until we’re ready to cut everybody loose at 10am.” That seems like a fairly simple thing to implement. Or not. How are the shouting gestapo going to get revenge for their bad high school experience if we tell them what we want?

But it gets better. Once the yelling stopped and actual English entered the equation, we went upstairs without so much as a backhanded comment. And believe me, a good backhand seemed justified. On the second floor I can see the masses in the back of the room, and I can see some folded tables in front of me. I was handed a little “goodie” bag when I paid at the front, door, but I carry a messenger bag with me to any Con I attend so I can have my hands free.

You can probably guess where this is going. I casually stop for a moment to put my goodie bag inside of my messenger bag, and wouldn’t you know it before I can even get the satchel open, there’s more shouting coming at me from forty yards away. I’m talking furious, piercing shrieking. Something about how if I don’t immediately get in the back I’m going to be the last person on the show floor. I couldn’t exactly tell, because I think most of the yelling was in actual German.

Folks….I’m just trying to put one bag inside of another on a convenient flat surface for a grand total of 30 seconds before I queue up with the rest of the Pod People. What is with all the fucking yelling?

The three of us line up in back. Nothing has been prepared or organized, mind you. They’ve got a few hundred people snaked around some pillars in an ad hoc manner. No stanchions, no tape on the floor…you can imagine how much angry barking it took to make that fly. Actually, I didn’t have to imagine it, because a couple minutes after we got in line, there was more shouting from the SS about moving to my right. The din wouldn’t stop until I moved about 8 inches that direction. You think I’m kidding, but I have witnesses. All of that absurdly over bloated rage? That was over 8 inches. I’ve been in the building for a total of less than five minutes and have now been verbally assaulted on three separate instances…..OVER NOTHING. Congratulations, MCBA. You really know how to show a gal a good time.

All of this abuse was for my benefit, mind you, to keep me out of the rain. Please don’t try to help me in the future, MCBA. Not your forte. I was perfectly comfortable outside with an umbrella to protect me from the rain. Who was going to protect me inside from the Fourth Reich?

Once the clock struck 10 and I could deal with the vendors instead of the wardens, everything was fine, of course. Half Price Books is always my first stop, and usually a significant money-maker for me. Not so this time. There was very little in the way of desirable out of print material, and what was there was marked up, not down. I saw an ex-library copy of the Buffy: Spike & Dru trade for $15. That’s a nice book in even average condition, but an ex-library copy is barely even a book. When they’re asking a premium on something that’s been checked out 350 times and is wearing an ugly library sticker on it, I think it’s safe to say that my TPB-selling-cat is quickly escaping its bag.

What I lacked in TPBs at Half Price I more than made up for in Bronze Age gems from Comics4Less, however. What a fantastic business model that crew has! They had about 50 long boxes set up, and 90% of it was bronze-to-modern beauties for $2 a pop. No wall books or silver age keys, but they did have a few long boxes full of some hotter material for $5 a book.
This wasn’t a pile of the usual garbage, either. You know what I’m talking about – the endless sea of post-unity valiant, return of the Supermen books, the piles of Brigade…blech. If you had holes in your collection for that early New 52 stuff? You could have filled a lot of those in for $2 a throw. There was a ton of 70s-90s Amazing Spider-Man available, even some of the rarer end-run issues from the first volume. Alan Moore era Swamp Thing? Check. Bronze Age horror and war titles? Check.

I filled in major gaps of my Master of Kung Fu run (now about 2/3 complete) and Power Man/Iron Fist run, (now about 85% complete) it was all around NM and dirt cheap. And because everything is the same price, there were no annoying price stickers to mess with. I’m the type that just can’t deal with a price sticker on my bag. So when the books come home, I either have to burn an afternoon trying to peel the damn things off, or I have to throw those bags/boards away and use my own. Long story longer, I like everything about Comics4Less.

The big score of the Con was the Layla Miller commission that Doug Mahnke did for me. Readers of this column might remember that I stole Monster Mike’s sketchbook idea during HalCon. Mike is collecting sketches of Supergirl for his daughter Kara. My story doesn’t tug on the heartstrings quite as much, but I sure get emotional about it.

My favorite comics character is Layla Miller from X-Factor. So whenever I go to a Con now, I try and have my favorite artists add their spin on Layla to my book. What’s funny to me is that I’ve got three of them now, and not one of the artists even knew who Layla was. (Somewhere Peter David is frowning and doesn’t know why) Here’s the tip though, folks – if you carry a printed picture of the character for reference, most artists are happy to oblige. Some of them even prefer drawing a figure out of their wheelhouse. If you were Doug Mahnke, would you really want to draw another Hal Jordan?

Actually, he might. But I didn’t ask him to do that. Once I showed him my book, Mahnke’s response was basically “She’s just a woman with an “M” on her face? Pffft, I can do that.” And he did. I think it turned out exceptionally well.

So yeah. The comics made me happy, the original art I scored made me positively glowey, but unfortunately I think I’ll always remember this particular event as “SpringCon for Hitler”.
How was your weekend? You can tell me by posting a comment below. You could also tell me how awesome my Doug Mahnke Layla Miller sketch is. I won’t mind.

PS: Doug Mahnke pronounces his last name” MAN-key”

PPS: Doug Mahnke thinks I’m fairly insane

PPPS: He might be right

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ugly American # 27: Iron Man 3 Review!

So, I went to see Iron Man 3 starring Robert Downey 2 yesterday. ( ©Remington J. Osborn Industries, Inc. 2013) Before we move on, I’d just like to point out that I fully intend to spoil the crap out of everything. So if you don’t want that, then stop reading.

I saw it in 2D, because I finally learned my lesson on 3D after The Avengers – why would I pay more for a slightly less pleasing visual experience? Answer: I don’t any more. I also went with very little in the way of expectations. Because I haven’t spent the last six months in a sensory deprivation chamber, I knew that this instalment featured Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. I don’t read news or study trailers of movies I know I’m going to see, because I’m savvy enough to understand that parsing the prelude has two possible outcomes:

• I’m wrong about stuff, in which case I was unduly excited about any positives my imagination created and unduly worked up over stuff that didn’t actually make it into the movie. The former breeds disappointment and a sense of being cheated, while the latter breeds bitterness for the entire period up until the actual viewing of the movie. None of that increases my pleasure.

• I’m right about stuff, in which case everything I’m right about is no longer spontaneous or fresh, and can only “meet expectations” at best. This produces an experience equivalent to opening a Christmas present you already knew about in June. Oh boy. How exciting. None of that increases my pleasure.

So for those of you feeling a little bamboozled after dissecting the Iron Man trailers every time Marvel Studios yanked your leash with a few more scenes to pant over….well, you bought your own pain, there, didn’t ya? Cause what you were expecting was a gargantuan battle for the ages between Iron Man and Mandarin.

What you weren’t expecting was a remake of Mr. Mom.


Yes, that’s right, Mr. Mom. You know, the one where Michael Keaton played a very successful businessman and alpha male. Extenuating circumstances caused him to separate from all of those things he was really good at and obsessed over. He becomes a mental basket case. The character arc here is to reach inside and become a better man with a new identity forged in the fires of relationships with kids. The far more mature wife still sort of needs to be saved from a lecherous baddy in the third act, but she doesn’t need nearly as much help as he thinks she does. In the end, the family unit is stronger for the man realizing that he can maintain competence without sacrificing intimacy.

And there you have it, that’s Iron Man 3, only this time Guy Pearce gets socked in the nose by Gwynneth Paltrow instead of Terri Garr blasting Martin Mull in his mug. Oh, there is another key difference. Because the folks at Mr. Mom didn’t have comic book fans to consider, they just told the story and didn’t have to try and swindle you into thinking a funny little addict was really an evil mastermind. But no, Marvel Studios is still comics at heart, so they bent over backwards to make sure you were “wrong”, regardless of the cost.

Let’s pause here and let me clarify a few things. To be fair, the cost of losing The Mandarin wasn’t terribly high, in my opinion. I say that because all of the Ben Kingsley scenes were terrific, whether he was the television construct Mandarin or the actual goofy Trevor Slattery. When Kingsley switched between the two characters mid-sentence, I nearly stood up and clapped it was so wonderful. Yes, it does cheapen the menace of the movie a bit. The Killian character wasn’t a total catastrophe, though, Guy Pearce was good.

It goes deeper than that, though. Remember in the first movie when Tony first gets captured in Afghanistan, and there’s that bit about the Clan of the Ten Rings? The Iron Man franchise has been promising us comic fans that we were getting an Iron Man/Mandarin tilt from the beginning…and now that all turned out to be bullshit. This is in lock step with the current Marvel business model. We’ve paid for out tickets three times, and now that it’s effectively done, Marvel is able to point at us and say “Fuck you, we fooled you!” Which is great. Congratulations. You won, never saw it coming and you made a lot of money in the short term. Why is it that Marvel “winning” always involves a bunch of pissed off regulars?

I think 90% of the people going to see the film won’t register the bait-and-switch as an issue, because they don’t have anything invested in 40 year-old comic stories. That Clan of Ten Rings stuff? The vast majority don’t remember and don’t care. So again, the cost wasn’t terribly high. But there was a cost.

The second thing I wanted to clarify is that I think it’s a fairly interesting and ballsy thing to turn the third act of your superhero magnum opus into a Mr. Mom remake. These days I sometimes prefer an ambitious failure over a well-executed piece of expected cookie-cutter filmmaking. And I don’t think I consider Iron Man 3 a failure at all, really. Because of the film’s conceit, it necessitated a lot more screen time with Robert Downey out of the suit, and all of that is fantastic. He’s incredibly charming, and there was some value in watching Stark try to solve problems without using the armor as a crutch.

On the flip side, I don’t know that I ever fully bought into the concept that Tony Stark, or any other sane person would actually go that route. I had a hard time digesting the idea that Tony would spend so much time mucking about a prototype Mark 42 suit that didn’t work when there were clearly 900 other fully functioning suits available. And by the way, if that army of armors was available to him at the end, why didn’t he just call one or three or seven of those suits to help him from the start instead of dragging his broken suit through the snow with a length of rope or something that inexplicably sprang up from out of nowhere. Why go through the process of storming the castle with jury-rigged equipment from Home Depot when he could have just called in the cavalry at any time?

The answer, of course, is that it wouldn’t have served the story. We needed that time for Tony to be externally vulnerable but building strength internally. We needed that space to build up a rapport with the little kid. And as you’re able to let the logical stuff go, the emotional stuff resonates pretty well and there were a ton of laughs to be had. Well, for me at any rate. I was in the theater with about eight other people, and I was the only one making a sound about anything. So I made a bit of an ass out of myself being the lone gunman of guffawing, but there were lots of funny moments in that movie.

And lots of maddening ones, too. Operation: Clean Slate? Really? The lesson is just to blow all that shit up? Ridiculous. Ridiculous and irresponsible. Also, I think if I saw one more suit of Iron Man armor fall completely to shit because something tapped it, I was going to scream. I can build Lego structures with more stability than Tony Stark assembles his combat armor. Embarrasing.

So yes, Iron Man 3 giveth and taketh away. This will sound bizarre, but I’ll tell you the moment that sold me on the movie forever. When Harley tells Tony about his father abandoning him, Tony’s paraphrased response is:

“Yeah, that happens sometimes, but you don’t have to be a pussy about it.”

First of all, it’s a really funny line. More importantly, in a world increasingly devoted to the worship of victimhood, I applaud anybody with the balls to suggest sucking it up and moving on. And that’s what those two do. Tony’s got anxiety attacks, and Harley has a bullying problem and daddy issues, and it could have been all too 21st Century Bunnified. But nobody crawled up into the fetal position and took a bunch of medication. They problem-solved. They acknowledged the hurt and pushed through it. These are tenets the Ugly American can get behind.

So yeah, Iron Man 3. Is it what you were expecting? Hell no. Will you laugh a bunch of times? Damn right. Does it make some interesting and also baffling choices? Check, and check. Is it a good film? Ehhhh….yes? Yes, I think it is. But if I’m going to watch that story, I think I’ll just go back to the original, when it was called Mr. Mom.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ugly American # 26: FCBD Edition!

File this in the “duh” category, but I love Free Comic Book Day. It’s really a minor miracle, when you think about it. Unusual that the publishers ordinarily obsessed with wringing the last nickel out of their current base have the prescience to see the value in using that loss leader as a gateway to future sales. At least once per year they do, anyway. Unusual that so many retailers (many of whom don’t seem to understand that these are products meant to be sold, not just stocked) go above and beyond to push for a real event.

FCBD is important to me. I go to multiple venues, and I pay attention to what’s going on when I get there. There are lots of ways to skin the free comic cat, and I’m always interested in how different shops handle that. I want to know if interest in the event is waxing or waning, expanding or sinking into apathy. I scout out the registers and exits, to see how many people are also spending cash, and how many are just sucking off the free teat. Mostly, though? I want to see how many new faces are in the house, and how many of them are kid faces.

I’m happy to report that in the Minneapolis area, FCBD is bigger than ever. My “home base” at this point is Hot Comics in New Hope. I got there around 2pm, they had been open since 8am. The place was PACKED, and the line was snaking around the store. Lots of kids in there. LOTS of kids. Recognized almost nobody, which was very promising. Noticed a lot of questions from newbies, and there were actual staff there to act as sherpas. And everybody in that joint was spending money.

At Hot Comics, they gave you plenty of reason to spend money – 50% off back issues, 30% off trades, 25% off toys and apparel, and 20% off the expensive “wall books”. That’s aggressive. That’s how you put your best foot forward, though. You had the option of just grabbing some free books off a display table…by the time I got there it was bare except for Marvel’s Infinity and the Valiant offering.

If you made any kind of purchase, though, Hot Comics had pre-packaged bags with about a dozen books inside. There were two flavors, a kid’s pack and an adult’s pack. Very smart. I took the adult bag, and it was loaded with everything I was looking for, most especially that Oni FCBD edition with Roberson’s Strangers (already trading for $10-$15 on eBay, for crying out loud) and the Dark Horse flip-book with Gerard Way’s Killjoys. There was lots to like, though. Some lovely painted art in the Top Cow Aphrodite IX comic, and who doesn’t like Judge Dredd or Atomic Robo, particularly at the bargain basement price of free?

I’ve been to HCC on Black Friday and for big sales, and I’ve never seen activity in that joint like I did today. I can’t imagine what it was like when the doors first opened! Here’s the part that impresses me, though – there is absolutely no way they could have anticipated getting slammed quite like they did. But I got my full pack of free comics, and they were in no danger of running out when I left.

It’s tough to be a comics retailer in 2013. You’d like to order through to the moon, but this stuff is non-returnable. Granted, for FCBD you’re only on the hood for the shipping…but paper is heavier than you think. In this case, Hot Comics did the right thing and really sold out on this event, making sure everybody was happy when they left. I hope they made a billion dollars and a thousand new customers, because they earned it today.

I got everything I was looking for out of the FCBD offerings in one stop, loaded up on a pile of Harley Quinn back issues, bought a nice copy of Authority # 1 for $4 and a less than NM but still perfectly awesome copy of Uncanny X-Men # 141 for $9. Days of Future Past, people! Fantastic.

Next stop was Twin City Comics. By the time I got there around 3:30pm, there was little left but crumbs for the FCBD books. I got there pretty late, so it’s partly on me. It’s a little weird to me that not even the DC “Last Son of Krypton” book was available, though, usually the Big Two books are in plentiful supply. I would have liked another copy of the Oni and Dark Horse comic, but them’s the breaks.

While the free books ended up being a mild disappointment, the not-so-free books offered up some unexpected scores. I went digging through the back issue bins, the sale was a “buy two, get one free” offer. I’m pretty familiar with the stock at every LCS in my area, but out of the corner of my eye I see a copy of Batman Adventures # 12 at the front of a strange box of kids comics below the regular back issues. I’ve never seen that material at TCC before. Maybe I just missed it?

Sure enough, I see a VF copy of Harley Quinn’s first appearance in comics with a $5.50 price tag! That would be a fine jackpot on its own, but after peeling back a couple of issues I see another copy, this one in NM 9.2 condition with a $5.00 sticker on it. I can get $75-$80 for the one, and around $100 for the other. And I got the really nice one for free – thank you, Free Comic Book Day!

Next on the list was The Source in Falcon Heights, easily the biggest shop in Minnesota. I knew it was busy long before I got inside, because the place was so crazy busy I had to park three blocks away!

This is the best part, though. As I get near the entrance, I see a father and three boys coming out, and every one of them has a smile plastered on their faces. The kids look between the ages of 8-12, and they all have what appear to be packages of Hero Clix. The oldest boy is jumping up and down and says “That was awesome, dad!” Then the middle kid is tearing into his Hero Clix before he even gets to the car and says “Let’s get this party started!” That is an actual thing that came out of human’s mouth when I went to The Source today.

Now, I don’t want to over-dramatize this, but that’s incredible. And I don’t even care that they didn’t seem to be directly interested in comics. (Dad certainly had his pack of free comics in tow, though) Do you know how many people read comics because of Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons? I don’t think it’s too out of whack to suggest that 20% of the whole constituency got there in just such a manner. So if those kids are into Hero Clix, and I dare say they are WAY into Hero Clix, then we just won. Because someday, when they’re ready, they will need a new place to put all that love. And if we keep the torch burning with FCBD events, the comics will still be there when that time comes.

Once I got in, I headed straight to the back and discovered that they had also created pre-packaged bags of free comics, also in kids/adult varieties. With my adult pack in hand I hit the sales floor, where everything was 20% off.

I came a cat’s whisker from snapping up a Rocketeer Artist’s edition. It was ticketed at $149.99, which my phone tells me would have come down to about $120. A very fair price, but unfortunately the box had a really unattractive groove hacked into it. If I’m going to drop $120, I don’t want the book looking like it got into a fight with Danny Trejo. I also spied an Ame Comi Harley Quinn mini-figure there last week, but it was gone today. Sigh. That’s the price you pay for not getting to the sale until after 5:00pm. The good news was that I was tripping over children the entire time I was in the store. There were an insane number of people in general, but a shocking number of them were still in grade school. Very inspiring.

I have a rule that I don’t enter a comic shop without buying something. It’s a pretty easy rule to follow. I settled on a nearly pristine copy of Tomb of Dracula # 33 for $8 after discount. I’m totally in love with anything from the Bronze Age at this point, with the horror and war books at the top of my list. When I was growing up, I wanted nothing to do with either. Now, if you show me a nice copy of Werewolf by Night, I can’t help but smile. Or any cover that Mike Zeck drew. But I digress.

When I got outside, I peeked inside my Source bag of free comics and was simultaneously impressed and disappointed. There was only current FCBD comic inside, and was the Infinity book that I already had two copies of. I was really expecting to find another assortment of FCBD books like I got at Hot Comics. Also in the bag were a trio of the $1.00 DC “After Watchmen” books, and a copy of Starcraft # 1. So in terms of retail value, I got way more “bang for my buck” from The Source. I would much rather have had my choice of FCBD material, though. Ah well.

Incidentally, that Infinity book was sort of an odd duck. On the plus side, I sure do like looking at things that Jim Cheung draws. That part was good. The story does some strange things, though. It mostly centers on those weird alien guys that bookend the Avengers movie. Apparently, they are genetically engineered parasites called “Outriders”, and at least some of them work for Thanos.

I can certainly see the benefit in adding depth to the movie mythos. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a few people went to see that Avengers film. Unfortunately, there’s a series of “then” and “soon” and “47 minutes ago” time-shift cues that unnecessarily muddy the narrative waters of what should have been a dirt simple progression. Also, the outriders don’t really do much apart from posture and say mean things to aliens you aren’t familiar with and don’t care about.

Finally, the issue closes with a nebulous phantom of a future threat you don’t understand and aren’t invited to feel anything about. Ghostly Outriders seem to be touching Marvel characters on their heads. What does that even mean? I suppose it’s meant to be a mystery, and I’m intended to be intensely curious about the whole thing. Mostly now I just look at these things and say “would somebody please tell me what the fuck is actually going on here?” I don’t think that’s the goal, but that’s the result.

I’m not going to dwell on that, though. I’m going to dwell on all the energy I was feeling in those local shops today, all the great comics I got for free, all the great comics I got for cheap, and all those excited kids I saw today. Let’s get this party started!

PS: Please do tell me about your FCBD experience by commenting below.