Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ugly American - Why Do Comics People Hate Comics So Much?

One of my least favorite archetypes of the comic book realm is the Self Loathing Pro/Fan. No matter how many ground-breaking works are produced, no matter how deeply the medium penetrates popular culture and consciousness, there remains a segment (a significant segment) that just can't stop apologizing.

What's disturbing to me is that as the medium has grown out of its self-imposed, Wertham-inspired, artificially fabricated juvenile stage, ignorance about what comics are and what they accomplish seems to be getting worse, not better. And the bulk of this ignorant rubbish isn't coming from without, but from within!

The people who should know better about comics know the least. The people who owe the most do the most damage. Here are three items I've bumped into in just the past thirty days:

Alan Moore tells BBC News "Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched onto it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal."

When the Metro had the gall to ask Nic Cage if doing animated features connected with his well-documented interest in comic books, he replied "Look, the truth is I'm not obsessed with comics. I don't read comics as a 49 year-old man. Not that there's anything wrong with that but I have other interests that are more in tune with where I'm at right now."

Vivek Tiwary is the writer of "The Fifth Beatle", a much-acclaimed biography of Brian Epstein. I recently listened to an interview in which he declared that his comic book is definitely not a comic book. "There's nothing comic about it", Tiwary explains.

I feel a bit weary having to explain this stuff 20 years after Scott McCloud published Understanding Comics, but apparently we need a refresher course, so here goes -

Comics are a medium, not a genre.

What does that mean? I think Neil Gaiman summed it up best, so I'll paraphrase him and say that comics are an empty glass, and you can fill it up with anything. It's just words and pictures, folks. You can do whatever you like with them, there is nothing inherently "mature" or "juvenile" about them. We've seen plenty of both ends of the spectrum.

Comics are simply a method of delivering information, usually in story form, because human beings are Story Machines. It's what we do, it's who we are. What would your reaction be if I said to you "Yeah, I'm 42 years old for crying out loud, I don't watch television any more." That would sound absurd, wouldn't it? When do you get too old to read novels?

These are just story delivery mechanisms, containing a wide variety of material amenable to "all ages and tastes" as Strange Adventures would put it. This is demonstrably true for all mediums, including comics, not that you'd get that idea from the nonsense pouring out of the medium's most notable figures.

Let's start breaking this ridiculous propaganda down, starting with the Alan Moore stuff. A few words about the credibility of Alan Moore as regards comics in general and superhero comics in particular - he has none.

That little BBC diatribe about "emotionally subnormal" superhero comics readers began with the admission that he hasn't read a superhero comic since he finished Watchmen. That was what, almost 30 years ago? If he hasn't looked at a thing in thirty years, how is he able to justifiably comment on it?

Alan Moore is the guy who wrote Lost Girls, in which he decided that what the world really needed was our favorite fantasy literary heroines penetrating each other with kitchen implements. So when Moore wants to opine about others "emotional normality", I'm not sure he's dealing from a very strong hand.

The real point is that he's demonstrably wrong about all of it. All of it. In the first place, to talk about "superhero comics" as though they're all the same thing is aggressively stupid. I'm not even talking about the wide diversity of comics material available, I'm talking about the incredible variations between Marvel superhero books sitting next to each other on the same rack.

Yes, Green Lantern is doing very different things from Chris Ware's Building Stories. But also, Hawkeye is doing very different things from Cable & X-Force. Young Avengers bears absolutely no resemblance to Avengers: Endless Wartime in terms of appearance, themes, target audience, or tone. To speak of superhero comics as a single thing with a similar focus is to speak from a position of profound ignorance.

Let's talk about the concept of The Superhero for a moment, shall we? Let me break your brain here and point out the obvious - there is nothing inherently mature or juvenile about them. Superheros are just symbols, shortcuts to pointing at things greater than ourselves. They are a convenient method of increasing stakes, elevating drama, and capturing the imagination of the audience.

If you want to talk about power and responsibility, Spider-Man is a good way to do that, because he's got heightened power, and therefore heightened responsibility. It's a good shortcut, or at least it can be. It certainly has been for a good portion of Spider-Man's existence. Spider-Man and his power set are a tool, a vehicle to get an audience to pay attention to stories and life lessons, because the extraordinary elements are fun and exciting. How is this a problem, exactly?

Superheros are not a new thing, by the way. If you shit on those comics, you must also shit on Homer, Ovid, Mary Shelley, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Do you think Alan Moore and his little cadre of Fuzzy Bunnies would dare utter a disrespectful syllable about the Gita? Never would they ever, because they are intellectually dishonest.

The only difference between The Authority and those ancient mythological texts are temporal. It's the same types of hyper-sigils offering shortcuts to the concerns of the authors/readers of the day. Does that sound immature to you?

So when Nic Cage says that he doesn't read comics any more because he's 49 years-old, I don't know what the hell he's talking about, and neither does he. When did he get too old for stories? He certainly doesn't seem opposed to making money on them.

I mean, wasn't that Nic Cage I saw recently butchering the character of Johnny Blaze in those Ghost Rider movies? I guess he's decided to he's too old to read the books, but his elevated sensibilities were perfectly capable of turning a good character into an Elvis clown caricature. I guess when you get old and wise enough, you're ready to be in tune with Elvis clown caricatures. Oh, and cashing big fat checks. Don't forget them! That sounds intellectually consistent and pregnant with integrity, doesn't it?

So, you'll forgive me if I don't hang on every word of Nic Cage's regarding the merits of the comic book medium or the superhero genre. It's just amazing to me that these comics have provided him with those big, fat, Hollywood checks and in return he publicly loathes them. "Not that there's anything wrong with that" is transparent code for "something's wrong with that."

Why can't he just shut his mouth, or simply admit that he doesn't read the books any more? There's no crime in that. I just don't understand the purpose in perpetuating the ridiculous myth that people outgrow comic books. The appropriate response to that question should have been - "You know what, I'm a poseur now. Haven't read the books in years. The end." I guess he just wanted that quiet comfort of showing everybody how much better he is than them, and how "above it all" he is. Consider me unimpressed with that.

I don't think Vivek Tiwary is in that "I'm better than you boat" when he claims his comic isn't a comic. To be perfectly fair, I'm not sure what his intentions were with that comment. It's possible it was just a joke, and he meant that since Fifth Beatle isn't a humor book, it wasn't "comic" in nature.

Maybe, but I don't think so. I think he was juxtaposing his purely biographical work against his (entirely false) notion of what comics are - Sunday paper funny strips and juvenile superhero power fantasies.

I'm not angry with Tiwary, I honestly think he doesn't know any better. My issue is that Fifth Beatle is an exceptional work, it's gaining the kind of media attention that could help expand the comics customer base, and I feel like he's out there debasing the medium in general and promoting his book as an outlier of quality in a sea of childish dreck. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Just as an aside, I know that somebody out there is going to play Word Cop on me and say that Fifth Beatle isn't a comic, it's a true "graphic novel" because it's an original long form work and not a collection of previously serialized material. Congratulations on that, I guess, but a graphic novel is just a longer comic. The Fifth Beatle is a comic book. Sorry.

Comics are just words and pictures, people! Sometimes they're good, sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the subject matter is sophisticated and mature, sometimes it's not. If you want to decry bad comics because they're that I say "fine", and also "duh". But this thing where we pillory the entire medium or even the superhero genre as though it's all the same.....wake up! Maybe read what you're pooping on before you comment, and get it right. Go read McCloud, then read it again.

I find it particularly repulsive that the worst offenders of false comic book propaganda are those who have profited the most. Where is the gratitude? Where is the love? Consider it my fervent wish that we in the comics community make this our New Year's Resolution:

Let's get informed and stop hating ourselves. Please?

Also; did you know that 'The Ugly American' is now available as a 'Beautiful Chinese' product? Head over to the Wear Monsters Dwell swag page at Society 6 and pick up your very own TUAR mug.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ugly American 2013 Year in Review: Comic Book TV!

Walking Dead
I haven't watched an episode of Walking Dead since Season 1. I don't even know what season the show is currently on, or whether it is currently on, or could it be on hiatus right now?

I don't know, and I don't care. Why don't I care? If I'm being honest, I pretty much loved every episode of Walking Dead from the first season. Loved em'.

I can't explain why I don't care, I'm way into horror, and I'm way into comics, and I have nothing but fond memories of the Walking Dead shows that I did see. But if you asked me:

"Ryan, would you rather watch a new episode of the Walking Dead, or this documentary on Olivia Newton John?"

I don't know what I'd pick. I'd probably go with Olivia Newton John. I'd be interested to know what the set was like on Xanadu, or the pitfalls of working with a young, pig-headed John Travolta. Plus, I want to get physical, physical, let's get into physical with her. 'Cause I'm Old School.

So I'll give Walking Dead a solid C, sight unseen. Does that seem fair? No. No, it doesn't. There is no "fair" here at the Ugly American. There is only Zuul.

I watch Arrow episodes all the time. I call the show "Melrose Arrow", because that's what it is. It's a big fat Melrosey, Falcon Cresty ball of superhero soap opera.

I'm not particularly into Green Arrow, because he's generally portrayed as a tedious little lefty, which doesn't impress me. And I'm not a fan of soap operas, either. I should never, ever watch an episode of this TV show at any time. And yet, it happens a lot. Every time I get done finishing an episode of Arrow, I think to myself:

"Why do I watch this show?"

And then I sit down a bit later, scroll to see what's on the DVR and then gleefully exclaim:

"Oooh, an episode of Arrow!"

And then I watch it. I watch Arrow differently than you do, by the way. Every time they flash back to Ollie's tour on the island, I just hit the fast forward. Do not care. What's extra awesome is that it never interferes with my ability to absorb or appreciate those things happening in the present. No never, not once. All of those island scenes could have been scrapped....should have been scrapped.

Look, you're not Lost, OK? I'm not entirely sure that Lost was Lost. Just forget the flashbacks and concentrate on showing me guys without shirts, will ya?

Season 2 of Arrow is significantly different. Last year, Mr. Queen had a list of people his father didn't like, and his solution was to bury arrows in those people's faces until they stopped breathing. I was never quite sure how to feel about that. It seemed a little ballsy, and a little real, and I liked that.

If you were on a crusade to clean up your city, you'd probably do better just using your money to run for office and changing things straight up from the inside. But if you were to eschew that option, then the move is not to punch the villains in the solar plexus and wind them. You perforate their faces with arrows until they stop moving. That's reality, and that was season 1, and that felt.....unsatisfying, somehow.

This year, Ollie does his best to not kill anybody, and for a really stupid reason. It's some guilt-ridden jag he picked up in an epiphany over Tommy's dead body. I don't think the realization is earned, and it doesn't really make strategic sense... and I totally like it way better now that he doesn't kill people. I"m becoming a walking contradiction in my old age, I think. I just like the show better when he's not a murderer, even if it makes no sense.

This is a show of hot people doing hot things, and if you can just accept that fact and lay down for it, you're probably going to be OK. If you want to watch Stephen Amell with his shirt off, I totally understand. He's no Jensen Ackles...but he'll do.

I'm in it for Felicity Smoak. That girl is adorable. They have a running bit where she's constantly slipping double-entendres that betray her burning lust for Queen. It shouldn't work, but it really does.

Katie Cassidy is actually so hot it's annoying. What makes it worse is that her character is a train wreck with no redeeming qualities. I'm not interested in her waffling on relationships, I don't buy her leaning the other way as the ultra competent legal eagle, and I super don't care about her booze or pill intake.

Most of the people in the show are irritating, really. I should probably hate it. It's got a pretty strong sense of purpose, though. It's committed to its action elements, and they are strong, in my opinion. I skooch up in my chair and get primed every time he picks up that bow and overdoes his mascara. The fighting is great, (aside from those ridiculous super-strength effects) and especially in season two they've done a good job of ending on cliffhangers and escalating the plots.

The plots aren't particularly good or compelling, though....there's a lot of Occupy/99% excrement in the Sebastian Blood "Save the Glades" plot, and Summer Glau's talents are utterly wasted on sneering in board rooms for the "Corporate Raiders" plot. These things are moving forward, though. It's all very kinetic. That's what probably saves Arrow, I think. You may not agree with all or most of the choices, but it knows what it wants to do and then gets very kinetic with it.

I'm giving Arrow a B+ for its action and sex appeal. There's no real spiritual substance or quality about it, so I have hard time giving it an A. But it's executing its nonsense with aplomb, so I'll tip the cap as far as I can on that.

Agents of SHIELD's not terrible. I feel like that's the only review anybody needs, but we all just keep gnawing away at the show trying to figure out exactly why it isn't fulfilling in any meaningful way.

In my opinion, this particular emperor has no clothes because it's all formula and no vitae. I don't think anybody actually cares about any of's just checking things off lists:

obligatory Marvel easter eggs - check
obligatory Whedon-speak - check
obligatory dour bad-ass characters - check
obligatory "whacky" smart characters - check
obligatory flawed characters with "hearts of gold" - check
obligatory soft hearts growing out of their comfort zone - check
obligatory overlap with recently released film - check

And it just goes on and on and on like that. I never feel as though the writers are putting anything of themselves on the page. I never feel as though the show feels willing or able to take any creative risks, or pull any tricks for the sheer joy of it. I never get the feeling that any of these episodes was ever built on the foundation of "Wouldn't it be fun if we did something like this?"

Agents of SHIELD is a victim of our expectations. It dutifully checks all of them off a list, and by doing so fails at each because of the transparent nature of its false face. Its an expensive card from Hallmark with no personal notation - it's expensive, it looks right, it satisfies the minimum requirements of the social contract....but it has no soul. You set that card on the TV for a couple of days to keep up appearances, but really you just want to throw it straight in the trash where it belongs.

There's nothing unprofessional about an expensive Hallmark card with nothing personal scribbled inside. It's not terrible. But that's the best you can say about it.

I don't know if I blame Marvel or ABC or anybody else for producing that patchwork quilt of focus group fodder. That show has to be expensive to make, and I'm sure Marvel feels that there is a lot riding on it. If SHIELD succeeds, it could open the door for a lot more cash cows. If it fails, you run the risk of closing minds and shutting doors. It may not be rational, but I'm sure Marvel is desperately concerned that a SHIELD flop plants the idea that "comic books might work in movies, but they can't sustain a weekly audience" in executive's minds.

When the stakes get that high, you either go for broke or you play it as mathematically safe as possible. That's what Marvel did here. Like I said...I can't blame them, but the results are predictably uninspired.

On the plus side, Chloe Bennet is ridiculously hot.
I call her Chloe Wang, because we go way back, of course. And if I'm going to be perfectly fair, I do tend to enjoy the relationship between Fitz and Simmons, even if we've seen that playbook run 1,000 times before and know exactly where it's all going.

I'll give SHIELD one other nod - Peter Macnicol was absolutely fantastic as the Asgardian poonhound in the "angry stick" episode. That character resisted most expectations. I wish the show would do a little more of that.

I still watch the show when it's on, usually. Sometimes a couple of episodes will stack up before I can summon the energy to plow through them. It's definitely not something I anticipate. But it's not terrible.

Because it isn't terrible, I'm giving Agents of SHIELD a straight C. Because Joss Whedon is attached to the project, I also hold out hope that there could be a swerve down the road that redefines things. Maybe? Right now it looks like a C, though.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ugly American 2013 Year in Review

2013 Book of the Year: Hawkeye
Marvel Comics
Scripts: Matt Fraction
Art: David Aja, Francesco Francavilla, Annie Wu, Matt Hollingsworth, others

Every time I get done reading an issue of Hawkeye, I set the book down with a puzzled look on my face and state out loud:

"I can't believe Marvel is publishing this comic book."

I kinda mean that in all the pejorative ways you think I do. I have a complicated relationship with Marvel comics. I respect their ability to make short-term profits while simultaneously pouring kerosene all over themselves and fumbling with matches. They produce wildly entertaining comics for the most part, and attract the best talent in the industry.

But finding Hawkeye at Marvel Comics is like discovering a 4 Michelin star chef at a Mos Eisley tavern.

It just doesn't fit. This is a "superhero" comic in which the superhero will wear anything except his costume, and balks at folks even mentioning his alter ego. It's a superhero comic that firmly believes that an Event is when Lucky the Pizza Dog gets his own issue.

It's hard to describe exactly how Hawkeye transcends Pop Art into Art Art. Easier just to show you, maybe. A great deal of the book is built upon the insanely complicated relationship between Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, who also carries a bow and the Hawkeye name. Here's a scene from issue # 13:

It's almost impossible to get at all the subtext buried in that little bit of elegance, but I'll try to unpack a bit of it.

Clint is a broken man with a good heart. He never actually means to do harm, but he can never be bothered to curb his impulses enough to avoid it. Particularly when it comes to women. He knows he ought not get involved with Kate, who is far too young for him. It feels sort of inevitable, though. He won't stop himself - that's his history, and he's still an emotional child.

As the physical adult and card-carrying Avenger, Clint is in the....I don't know, authoritative position? But here Kate is playing the part of wife, or maybe even mother. For most basic human interactions, (in this case they're preparing for a neighbor's funeral) Kate is actually in control.

Sort of. She plays the part of the young adult can see her growing in that "fake it until you make it" way as the issues go by.. She's still a very young woman, though, working her way through confidence foibles and stumbling through a lot of bad decisions. Her pursuit of Clint being one of those bad decisions.

We'll blame Clint if and when that relationship does take an inappropriate turn, and we probably should. But Katie flirts as well. I remember a scene where Clint is packing boxes, and asks for tape. Katie hands him a Scotch tape dispenser - part of that was her being passive aggressive, but part of that was school girl flirting. Do you have a lot of comics in your stack that can build an indelible memory out of packing boxes? Do you have a lot of superhero comics doing that for you?

So there's Clint and Katie getting dressed for a funeral, figuring out how to love each other the best they can, taking turns pretending to be the adult of the situation, balancing their needs to rely on each other with their physical desires, wanting the best for each other while simultaneously waiting for the inevitable calamity.

That's not a quippy piece of pop art...Fraction routinely aims for Art Art, and he nails it in this book again and again and again. Depth. Subtext. Emotion.

There's enough emotion in that scene that Clint can't take it, and has to bail. "Great, now I got another thing to worry about I never worried about before", he says, tugging uncomfortably at his collar.

What he's actually saying is "You taking care of me feels too good, and I don't love myself enough to accept that, and I know this ends with me hurting you any I'm going to skip right to it and say something to break the spell right now." So he does. And it works. He hurts her enough to cut the tension, she leaves in a huff, and he feels like crap.

And that's Hawkeye, the Ugly American 2013 Book of the Year. I can't believe Marvel publishes that comic book, and I can't believe it's a big seller, but kudos to us for recognizing that great stories don't necessarily have anything to do with Thanos trying to take over the universe. This is a special comic, and my greatest hope is that it frees up Marvel to allow creators to take more sophisticated chances.

And please don't misunderstand - I'm not going all froofy on you, here. Not every book has to be Hawkeye. I just like the idea of living in a world where we can rack Hawkeye in with Amazing X-Men and Marvel just trusts that we're capable of handling a variety of approaches.

Other Great Books In No Particular Order

Saga, Image
Another book very comfortable with subtext and sophistication, but dressed in the gaudiest of genre trappings. It's also a book very comfortable with uncomfortable things. Like the child sex trade. Or just regular sex. Or debating the value of "pulling the wagon" for the 99%.

To be honest, Saga is basically the best porn on the stands. The problem with most porn is that it gets so excited about being able to give you the sex that it forgets there are other things in the world, and so it comes off as obsessive and unbalanced. Saga is as dirty as life is, and that's pretty dirty, thank God!

Fiona Staples is a marvel, just in case you weren't aware. I could look at Alana all day long. Don't be surprised if this comic takes the top spot in 2014.

Nowhere Men, Image
This is such a weird little gem. Nowhere Men is supposedly about a world in which science is the "new rock-n-roll", and it does pay some attention to the ramifications of a world in which science is infected with celebrity. It's "Fab Four" scientists are by far the least interesting characters in the book, however. It's possible that the enigmatic Mr. Walker might buck that trend, but we never really see him "on camera", and the only things we know about him are what we learn from other people's perceptions.

It's also possible we never get to see Thomas Walker, and Stephenson just holds him as a legend and a MacGuffin. He's doing the same thing building up Peter Panic, who we've also yet to meet on the page. I'll say this for Nowhere Men - it implies a very large, very strange world. Eric Stephenson builds in a lot of magazine-style interviews and advertisements and such that are just spot-on, lots of fun, and really help you feel immersed.

What else to say without ruining it? I don't want to say much about the plot itself, best to just go and read without too many preconceptions. If you like science fiction with a dollop of horror, this is perfect. If you liked X-Files, yes, come on in! If you like reading creators that take chances telling big stories with big worlds, you should absolutely spend the pittance it will take to buy the first Nowhere Men TPB. Retail is $9.99, and you can certainly find it for less. I don't know exactly where this is going or whether it will pay off. I don't know if the ever-slowing production schedule is going to bog this into oblivion. I do know that the Nowhere Men comics that came out in 2013 were more interesting than 93.8% of what's out there.

Ballistic, Black Mask
This is another science fiction gem from something called Adam Egypt Mortimer and a guy you may have heard of named Darick Robertson. You probably haven't heard of Ballistic, though, largely because it came from Black Mask publishing. I bet your LCS just spaced it.

Ballistic is a delicious little imagination bomb that can't be stopped. A lot of comics writers get very precious with their ideas, as if they're only going to have about five in their whole life. So they dole out the good ones one per issue, or one per arc. Adam Egypt Mortimer trusts his Muse, because he lets a brain bomb rip about every other panel.

This comic looks great, and it's kinetic at a level rarely attempted, much less achieved. Pick up an issue, any issue, and tell me you aren't instantly infected by Ballistic's charms!

Afterlife With Archie
Can you even imagine how good this comic would have to be to crack my Best of 2013 list while shipping only two issues?

You'll never believe how strong a horror story this is until you pick it up and experience it. Whatever your feelings about the Archie universe might be...I'm telling not discount this comic until you've had a chance to see it for yourself.

I'm awestruck at how adeptly Aguirre-Sacasa was able to integrate lame little Riverdale into a straight horror story, and the Francesco Francavilla art is to die for.

Harbinger has now solidified itself as the best of the Valiant Universe, in my opinion. Most of the Valiant titles are strong, so that's significant.

I don't hear many people talk about Josh Dysart as an ascendent talent. That's a mistake. Between his work on Unknown Soldier and now this, Dysart's work is just smarter and edgier than than the pack. Whatever Dysart puts his name on...that's a mandatory test-drive for me at this point.

What shines on Harbinger are the characters and the twists that recharge the plot. You do not know what's me. You do not know what character is going to be driving the A plot at any given moment, because Dysart knows and loves them all so much, there's no choice but to take turns. Toyo Harada is now one of the more interesting characters in the medium, as well.

Avengers Academy was a standout surprise treat this year. Superior Spider-Man is so, so good...why can't they sell that for $2.99? I would ride horses through the streets with a trumpet announcing to the world how good that book was if they just charged a reasonable rate.

East of West has supplanted Manhattan Projects as my go-to Hickman fix. That thing is raw ambition. It suffers for its lack of a rooting interest, but the assholes are certainly interesting, and the scale of that book defines epic.

Snyder and Capullo's Batman is prime cut, and never fails to entertain. When this generation remembers Batman and his supporting cast, it will be Snyder's Batman they remember. The only other DC book that stands out in my mind was Injustice: Gods Among Us. When creators are allowed to do what they want with the toys, good things happen. Tom Taylor did some remarkably fun things with those DC toys.

That's my very brief take on the best of 2013 - which books were your favorites?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ugly American: Market Spotlight Edition!

It's been awhile since we've stooped to worrying about profit around here. I start to feel wrong if we don't sully ourselves with greed from time to time, so here goes.

I'm typing this on Cyber Monday, which isn't really a thing, it's just something we're told is a thing, so we bend over and make it a thing rather than "miss out" on something. Mostly we miss out on things that actually are things (i.e dignity, self respect) with that kind of neurotic mental gymnastics. But on the plus side, I made 8 sales on Amazon today, which is pretty robust even by the Ugly American's lofty standards.

I even sold a book to James Tynion IV this week. I won't tell you what it was, because you never know who reads this damn column, and for all I know the book was a gift. So we're going to keep that info on the down low. Tynion writes Talon for DC Comics, if you didn't know.

So that's my brush with fame this week. Not nearly as impressive as attempting to boot Tom Fowler out of the Foggy Goggle because you're having an art event... but that's pretty good for me.

I've been upping my game, folks, gearing up for the Christmas selling season. I recently went on a research rampage, complete with a Rocky theme-laced montage in my head. Did you know that Ebay refuses to show more than 10,000 auction results on a search? I was unjustifiably proud of that little feat. Did you beat testicular cancer? Pffft. I did enough research that an auction site turned off the faucet on me. How am I still single? A world wonders.

Point being, I have a lot of market info banging around in my brain right now, and will now share a few bytes of it. Why? Because I care about you. You know another comics blog that's going to help you earn some money for your insane Christmas shopping this year? Didn't think so.

Word on the street is that AMC is feeling the loss of Breaking Bad and looking for a real ass kicker to pick up the slack.

Enter Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher. Now, we've heard this song and dance before, as far back as 1998. The difference this time is that shadowy sources are claiming that AMC have ordered a pilot. When people start spending money, you know they're serious. It's certainly no guarantee. Global Frequency actually got their pilot made, it was good, and the show still got scrapped. But this is looking like it might actually happen.

Collectors are noticing. This summer, you were able to grab copies of Preacher # 1 in stated NM for $25-$50, and a CGC 9.8 was in the $200-$225 range. As of this week, raw copies in NM have been selling for between $200 and a staggering $385! I also watched a Preacher # 1 in CGC 9.8 achieve a $649.99 closing price.

A few years ago DC produced some $1.00 comics in conjunction with the Watchmen film release. They were supposed to function as cheap gateways into other DC material for folks who liked the Watchmen movie so much they just had to find other comics.

I'm not sure that ever happened, but I do know that I just watched the $1.00 Preacher: Special Edition comic sell for $17.00 last week. Not sure how replicable that is, it looks like an outlier. On the other hand, it's only going to cost you a buck to stash that away and see if the AMC show really takes off. There is precedence for this underdog reprint kind of thing working. Remember when Walking Dead Weekly # 1 came out and you just laughed at it? That's an easy sell at $25, and often goes much higher.

I'm pleasantly surprised to hear the AMC pilot news. The Walking Dead contains violence and some dark/mature themes...but there's nothing incendiary built into the concept. The 21st Century loves its false piety, political correctitude, and heaping piles of bullshit. Preacher is NONE of those things. If they build the show with the comic's foundation, (and why option the property unless you want the foundation?) there will be angry letters. Oh yes, there will be letters. I will be very curious to see what happens then. Other than me clapping and jumping like a six-year-old at his birthday party, that is.

New 52 Hardcovers
Have you noticed how hard it is to find most of the Volume 1 New 52 books in hardcover? They're gone, baby, gone. DC is lagging on going back to press on these, and the results are surging prices in the secondary market. Here's some current Amazon mins for HCs in new condition:

Justice League Vol 1: Origin $60+
Aquaman Vol 1: Trench $60+
Wonder Woman Vol 1: Blood $50+

Batman & Robin: Born to Kill looks poised to be the next big winner, and the Detective Comics Vol 1 seems legitimately scarce and simmering as well. Batman books in particular have a habit of becoming solid earners in the secondary market - it will pay to keep an eye on those books.

There's always a danger that DC could go back to press at any minute, and that instantly smashes the profit potential, at least for new material like this. It's pretty weird to me that DC wouldn't have scads and scads of the Justice League HCs available. Your creative team on that book is Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. They are running the publishing firm. How in the world do they let their own work lapse out of print? Very weird.

Journey Into Mystery TPBs

Here's a bulletin for you - the ladies love Loki. Tom Hiddleston does more moisturizing in one hour than aloe vera does all year. If you have a uterus, you looooooove Loki. As you should. I'm right with you.

Now, the ladies don't necessarily love all Lokis equally. What they really love is Hiddleston, of course. There isn't really a direct Hiddleston corollary in the comics, but the Keiron Gillen young Loki is in the heart-throbby ballpark, and certainly seems to be sufficing. That's where the Journey Into Mystery stuff comes in.

So young Loki shows up in Journey into Mystery # 622. That might be one to have. Did you know that Marvel produced a variant of that issue with Tom Hiddleston on the cover? Huh. If you like money, I might look into that one. Seems like it might have a future.

In the here and now, though...some of the Journey Into Mystery trades are rather scorching. It's the even numbered volumes you're looking for:

Journey Into Mystery Vol 2: Fear Itself Fallout
Journey Into Mystery Vol 4: Manchester Gods

I sell a lot of books, and you kind of get a feel for how desperately hot certain books get by how long it takes to sell them. I've had three copies of Manchester Gods now, and when I price them competiively, (within 5% of the current min) they don't make it more than an hour or two. That is a RABID fan base, and I attribute it largely to women.

Women are a powerful force in the comics economics landscape. You won't hear that from any comics creator or the pundit sites, because nobody claps when you speak truths like "women actually do haves some agency within the medium". You only get to hear clapping when you say "women are oppressed and sad creatures, and we should all be sad for them."

Here's some truth for you - The Harley Quinn Phenomenon is exceeded only by Batman and Spider-Man, in my opinion. That's women that are driving the Harley Quinn bus. There are men on it, but the women are driving it. About 38% of them are applying eye shadow while driving said bus, and I'm not into that. But they're doing it, and I'm making money on it, and yay!

Long story longer, JIM Vol 2 is a $50 sale in nice condition, and JIM Vol 4 is a super easy $60+ sale. These books could be sitting in your local comic shop right now! Go and conquer!