Tag Archives: Collected Editions

Upgrade or Downgrade? Black Orchid Deluxe hardcover

4 Dec

by Mike Hansen

Black Orchid Deluxe HCI hadn’t intended to do another Up-or-Down so soon, but I’ve gotten several requests for more, and since they’re easier to do as I’m organizing my comics and cleaning up my place, why not?

As I’ve mentioned, in the late 1980s-early 1990s DC Comics was on to something truly special. Few publishers at the time were turning out classic after classic (Dark Horse is the only one that comes to mind) and, though I was too young to appreciate it at the time, DC proved beyond a doubt that comics post-Watchmen/Maus/Dark Knight Returns were validated as true literature.

One of DC’s earliest projects to demonstrate this was 1988’s Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, one of their first U.S.-published comics works (along with The Sandman). A strange, short tale about unintended consequences and beauty in a violent world, Black Orchid was the first story to reveal the sophistication of Gaiman’s later self-contained works (his early Sandman stories were strange, cliffhanger- and superhero-populated affairs) and McKean’s sense of story-as-design he later applied to Arkham Asylum and Cages.

Black Orchid TPB 1st printing

The 1993 trade paperback (1st printing). Note the DC logo blotching an otherwise beautiful cover.

THE GOOD: The 2012 oversized Deluxe hardcover edition of Black Orchid is Continue reading

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Upgrade or Downgrade? Animal Man Omnibus

2 Dec

by Mike Hansen

Animal Man OmnibusOkay, this is gonna be a quick one, since I’ve been away… I’ve been recovering from a rather inconvenient surgery (minor skin cancer, fortunately quite curable), so apologies for my infrequent posting over the last few months. One of the few things I’ve been able to do easily over the past several weeks has been to FINALLY organize my comics collection, so expect a lot more stuff in the near future. Onward!

The Animal Man Omnibus is 99% perfect. The story contents remain an essential touchstone for mainstream comics’ transition to more mature and deconstructionist material, and made Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, All-Star Superman, New X-Men, Doom Patrol, Batman, JLA, etc.) one of comics’ biggest names. (John Byrne did a fun, goofy take on a main character that knows it’s a fictional comic-book character in Sensational She-Hulk, which was published at about the same time as this Animal Man material – but Byrne’s mastery of old-school, 1960s/70s-inspired comics storytelling hasn’t received the same accolades as Morrison’s innovations.)

Secret Origins #39 cover

A missing Animal Man piece that’s finally been reprinted.

THE GOOD: This book features Grant Morrison’s entire run on Animal Man, including Animal Man #1-26 and a story from Secret Origins #39. Morrison took a ridiculous character (a guy in orange tights who gains the powers of animals) and built the perfect story around him, one that breaks down the entire idea of the role of superhero stories. The story is a must-read for anyone who appreciates a mature take on the frankly immature superhero concept, and has a permanent place in comics history.

Extras include all Continue reading

Marvel Omnibus reprints are coming!

4 Mar

by Mike Hansen

Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus 1 cover by Alex RossI’ve been waiting for an opportunity to share some news about Marvel collected editions, now that I’m a researcher on some of them. Just a few minutes ago, Marvel Senior VP of Sales David Gabriel announced that some of Marvel’s most requested Omnibus hardcovers are being reprinted:

For now we’re going with: Uncanny 1 FF 1 ASM 1 DD. Miller 1 These will start to appear in the June previews.

Daredevil by Miller & Janson Omnibus red-black coverTranslation:

Uncanny X-Men (by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, & John Byrne) vol. 1, Fantastic Four (by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby) vol. 1, Amazing Spider-Man (by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko) vol. 1, and Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson will all be reprinted this year.

This is a Big Deal because most of these have already been reprinted before (unlike most Marvel Omnibus volumes, which tend to appear and disappear: and if you missed it, you’re paying big bucks for a secondhand copy).

Fantastic Four Omnibus 1 cover by Alex RossI’m excited for a couple of reasons: One, because these four contain the most memorable and iconic material that Marvel has ever published; and Two, because these are some of the best-quality books that Marvel produces: the reproduction on the classic material is usually stellar, and the packaging (paper, binding, size, etc.) is of very high quality. Plus, since these are among Marvel’s earliest Omnibus volumes (from 2005-2007), this is an opportunity to pay a reasonable price for a better package (as these printings will have sewn binding that allows the book to lay flat without gutter loss, unlike some early printings).

Uncanny X-Men Omnibus vol. 1 variant coverThis is why I dig the Marvel Masterworks Fan Site: you never know when something cool is going to be announced to fans.

Save your pennies…

(My only question is: which covers are they going to use? The last time these were offered, both versions were reprinted – but the most recent Omnibus reprint (New X-Men by Grant Morrison) used completely different cover art…)

Sales charts and the lies they tell

8 Jan

by Mike Hansen

Michael Jackson Thriller zombiesNow that comics shops have only one nationwide distributor that carries the major U.S. publishers, it’s easy to look at Diamond’s sales figures and assume they’re pretty accurate. Except that Diamond adjusts the numbers for comics with various sales-incentive schemes, and doesn’t release figures on returns or overseas sales.

There are ways of tracking actual sales to customers (not just to retailers). The music industry used to certify Gold and Platinum albums based on how many albums were shipped to stores, not how many sold to customers. Then along came SoundScan, which revealed that a lot of so-called hits were getting returned unsold to the record labels.

Bookstores have a similar program called BookScan, but it doesn’t cover Walmart or book club sales, among others.

A friend shared with me a recent New Yorker article about the top-selling albums of all time, worldwide. It turns out that Michael Jackson’s Thriller didn’t sell anywhere near a hundred million copies, as Sony Music (remember them?) has claimed. Here’s the actual top ten sales (click on the article link for more):

1. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”: 66,200,000
2. Soundtrack, “Grease”: 44,700,000
3. Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon”: 44,200,000
4. Whitney Houston et al., “The Bodyguard”: 38,600,000
5. The Bee Gees at al., “Saturday Night Fever”: 37,200,000
6. The Eagles, “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975”: 36,900,000
7. Bob Marley, “Legend”: 36,800,000
8. Led Zeppelin, “IV”: 35,700,000
9. AC/DC, “Back in Black”: 35,700,000
10. Shania Twain, “Come on Over”: 35,400,000

We already know Continue reading

A tribute to Karen Berger and Vertigo

4 Dec

by Mike Hansen

Even though this news was expected for a while, it’s still a gut-punch now that it’s happened.

From today’s DC press release:

Karen Berger, Executive Editor & Senior Vice President of DC Entertainment’s Vertigo brand, has announced she is stepping down from her post after nearly 20 years at the helm of the award-winning literary imprint. She will remain on through March 2013 where she will be assisting in the transition to a new leadership team which includes veteran staffers whom she has mentored over the years.

First off: congratulations to Ms. Berger for her decades of amazing work in comics. She remains one of the best working comics editors (along with Bob Schreck, Diana Schutz, and a very short list of others). Few editors in comics history have had such a range of success or depth of influence. I’m eager to learn where she lands and what she does next: the sky truly is the limit.

I owe a lot of my evolution as a comics reader to Berger and the Vertigo line. For most of the 1980s, I was a Marvel zombie. The only reason I branched out of superhero comics was thanks to Archie Goodwin’s Epic Comics line at Marvel, with Groo the Wanderer and Elfquest first getting my money only because of the Marvel name on the cover. Those titles led me to search out other non-superhero material, and by the end of the ’80s I was a dedicated reader of titles like Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Aliens, and more.

But as wonderful as those titles were, at that point there were still few comics titles that had the literary aspirations that I was unknowingly missing. There were plenty of other terrific comics out there, but many of them were still seen as “underground” at that point (like most of Fantagraphics’ amazing output), and I was still a few years away from finally discovering essential material like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Matt Wagner’s Grendel. But the Vertigo line arrived at the perfect time, as an antidote to the Image Comics revolution that led to often poorly written and edited Image titles, and several years’ worth of even worse Image ripoffs from Marvel and DC.

Thanks to a well-marketed launch effort, I gave Vertigo a shot for the same reason that I’d given Epic a shot years earlier: this was a major effort at non-superhero comics from one of America’s biggest comics publishers (though DC, like Marvel, was and is focused almost exclusively on superhero properties). I tried almost all of those initial Vertigo books (Sandman, Death: The High Cost of Living, Shade the Changing Man, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Enigma, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Hellblazer), and after that first month of eye-opening work I never looked back. (It probably helped that Vertigo debuted right as I was transitioning from high school to college!)

The sophistication and quality of the Vertigo launch led me to try many other publishers’ non-superhero comics in a way that Marvel’s Epic never had (probably in part because of my age and the era): Bone, Strangers in Paradise, Madman, Sin City, Cerebus, Beanworld, The Crow, Flaming Carrot, The Dirty Pair, Milk and Cheese, Martha Washington… it was a whole new Golden Age of comics, and Vertigo opened my eyes to it. (I was lucky to live near a comics shop that carried virtually every comic published every month – it was a great time to be a comics reader.)

And oh, man – the titles that Vertigo published over the years: The Invisibles, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, We3, Fables, The Unwritten, 100 Bullets, Y: The Last Man, Stardust, Kill Your Boyfriend, Seekers: Into the Mystery, The Filth, Goddess, reprints of Moonshadow and Blood: A Tale, and so many more blew my mind over and over. I am absolutely filled with gratitude for Berger, her impeccable taste in comics, and her talent at mentoring other editors to maintain the line’s quality.

DC tried creating Continue reading

Comic-Con Report, Part 1

18 Jul

by Mike Hansen

Comic-Con

Comic-Con (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

Now that I’m getting over the worst case of Con Crud I’ve ever contracted (congestion, fever, sore throat, the works), I can start talking about my trip to Comic-Con. This was my first year attending with a free Professional badge (see? I’m a Real Writer), and I was able to crash at a friend-of-a-friend’s condo, so this may have been my least expensive Comic-Con yet.

Unlike previous years, I wasn’t there to work a booth or shop for deals – I was there to get a publisher for the stories I’ve been writing for the past several months. I know I haven’t talked about them much publicly yet, but after seeing how one or two projects got announced with possibly similar premises, I want to ensure that I’m not accused of ripping off anyone. (But hey, ideas are cheap – it’s the execution that matters. So hopefully this is a non-issue.)

Comic-Con remains Big. Really Big. Not only is the entire convention center completely filled, but there’s off-site programming at nearby hotels, and a lot of media companies have sponsored (and taken over) nearby areas: Cryptozoic Entertainment opened its own downtown retail outlet, Cartoon Network turned the Children’s Museum and nearby playground into an Adventure Time area, Disney built a huge Frankenweenie walk-through tent, the History Channel built a huge barbeque area to promote its shows (and give out free sausages!), Microsoft took over the second floor of the Hard Rock Hotel to promote X-Box games (and give out free T-shirts), SyFy took over a whole restaurant, and (most important for me and my friends) a nearby bar hosted by CNet and Gamespot offered free drinks to Con-goers in the afternoons. There’s nothing quite like trying to learn a new videogame for the first time while getting buzzed.

As I mentioned earlier today, I stayed the hell away from all of the “hype” panels – any panels that were promoting comics, movies, TV shows, or whatever got skipped. As awesome as it can be to see your favorite stars in person, or watch some exclusive footage before anyone else, I don’t have the time nor patience anymore to stand in line for hours for something I can read about or see later. There’s just too much other stuff going on at the same time. Comic-Con’s about making hard choices.

I heard this story about the world’s greatest baseball-card find on the radio on the drive down to San Diego. I’ll never make a discovery like this: I’m already aware of pretty much everything I’ve got, and what it’s all worth. Fortunately, this knowledge allows me to make some good deals. I never pay full price, because I am a Cheap Bastard.

Speaking of good deals Continue reading

Hey, it’s a Brand New DC NEW 52 survey

22 Jun

by Mike Hansen

Frankenstein (DC Comics)

A New 52 character. Also a metaphor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m back, folks!

Looks like DC Comics has stuck with Nielsen to offer another online survey – go here and let them know what you think of the New 52 so far. I just took the survey, and I was happy to let DC know what it’s doing right or wrong.

One thing to watch out for: “Orange Ivy” is the fake title this time. Make sure you mark that you’ve never heard of it, or you won’t be able to take the full survey.

A couple of thoughts on the survey:

Once again, there is no option for indicating that a customer purchased print comics from an online comics retailer. Some of the questions about going to a comics shop and making impulse purchases or whatever don’t really apply if some of the comics were preordered online.

Also, the survey did not ask any detailed questions about the characters, story, or creative teams – there was one question about how important these are to me when I buy comics. I suppose DC doesn’t want its readers second-guessing the always-fine decisions made by its editorial staff.

Anyway, check out the survey – and feel free to let me know what you think…

More Links Catch-Up (Walking Dead, Superman, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon, D&D, etc.)

14 Jun

by Mike Hansen

CBLDF

CBLDF (Photo credit: badlyricpolice)

Sorry about the lack of posts yesterday – I’m hammering away on some comics story proposals to pitch to publishers in the coming weeks. I’ll be sharing more info about them in the future. In the meantime, I thought you’d dig these stories:

Awesome story about a kid who asks a comics retailer, “Are you Superman?”

After moving their channel numbers, Dish Network has threatened to stop carrying AMC’s networks next month. That means no more Walking Dead and Comic Book Men (among others) for millions of people. Click here to tell Dish what you think about this.

The CBLDF gives a quick take on the mother who complained about an Alan Moore comic at a library being available for teens. (While I’d call Neonomicon one of Moore’s more “adult-oriented” comics, I’d never suggest that teenagers aren’t mature enough to handle “mature-readers” comics – after all, I happily read Elfquest, Groo, Swamp Thing, Sandman, and Hellblazer as a kid – all of which had nudity, sex, and/or “graphic” violence…)

Now that the Avengers Continue reading

Free rare Neil Gaiman comic available from Steve Bissette (offer ends TONIGHT)

9 Jun

by Mike Hansen

Sweeney Todd TABOO PD cvrI’ve ordered mine. If you want it, you should order right now

Comics legend Steve Bissette (of Tyrant, Taboo, and Swamp Thing fame) has a special offer at his online store: with every purchase (no matter how small!), he will include a free copy of the 1992 Sweeney Todd Penny Dreadful, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Michael Zulli, originally included in the now-very rare Taboo #6. I’ve never seen a copy of this myself, though I’ve searched for it for 20 years – so there’s no way I was going to pass this up.

Mr. Bissette asked me to spread the word about this offer, which I’m happy to do! As he posted yesterday, this offer is in its final hours – at midnight TONIGHT, unless he runs out of copies before then – so if you want a really cool and rare piece of ’90s comics history, go place an order now! There’s a lot of great stuff available, from Tyrant (one of the most acclaimed self-published series of the ’90s) to Taboo (one of the greatest horror comics series ever, containing the first chapters of From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell) to many other terrific books.

From his announcement (sample page in the link):

This genuinely rare Gaiman & Zulli gem was originally offered in 1992 as a pre-order special with all pre-ordered copies of Taboo 6. It was available only through Direct Market distributor pre-orders of that Taboo volume, shrinkwrapped with Taboo 6 all initial shipments to retailers. That was the one and only time the Penny Dreadful was made available to the market.

Since only a few thousand copies of Taboo 6 were preordered, this exclusive Penny Dreadful is among the rarest of all Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli‘s 1990s comics/graphic novel creations. Continue reading

LOTS o’ Links (May 30 2012)

30 May

by Mike Hansen

Jack Kirby with Avengers cover

Hail to the King, baby.

The best links I’ve come across in the last few days/weeks – bookmark and read at your leisure:

The Bonfire Agency has put its money where its mouth is, and created FanPan, an online consumer focus group for comics readers. Sounds interesting.

The ONLY Avengers film review you need to read.

Possibly the most important comic you can buy and/or download this year: STEAL BACK YOUR VOTE, from one of America’s best investigative journalists (whose work towers over the often-shoddy reporting of U.S. corporate media). Check it out.

Since I’ve been talking about bonus features, here’s something everyone should know about DVD bonus features. Mark Evanier shines a light on something rather messed up about multimillion-dollar movie studios.

On a related note, here’s a horror story of how Warner Bros treats the translators of Harry Potter novels around the world. They’re even not invited to the film premieres, even when their work is used for the films without credit or payment. Classy.

Would WB treat J.K. Rowling the way DC treated Alan Moore? (Or just their translators?)

Did you know that the first appearance of Batman has rarely been reprinted in its original form? Most “reprints” are actually an edited and REDRAWN version of the story – see this post for a dramatic comparison of a few panels. Ugh! (If you want to read the real deal, it seems that the Batman in the Forties trade paperback is the only recent reprint of the actual original.)

Nice interview with Matt Wagner on his final Zorro story arc – Wagner remains one of the best writers (and artists) in comics, and his Zorro work is one of the best things Dynamite’s ever published. I recommend it for, well, pretty much everyone.

Have you seen this adorable story of how Marvel created a deaf superhero to convince a child to wear his hearing aid? Big points to Marvel for this one.

In the wake of the Avengers movie’s success, Image publisher Eric Stephenson republished his essay on Jack Kirby.

Legendary Marvel writer/artist Jim Starlin (whose work was credited in the Avengers film) had to buy his own ticket. And didn’t get any money for the use of his work. Sigh.

A surprising profile/interview with Stan Lee (who, unlike former freelance Marvel writers and artists, gets $1 million a year for life from Marvel) actually got his take on creators’ rights. Here’s another interview with Lee along the same lines.

Here’s Chris Roberson’s full interview with the Comics Journal in the wake of his departure from DC.

Batman in the Forties TPB cover

The only place to read the REAL original Batman story?

The CEOs of Disney (which owns Marvel) and Time Warner (which owns DC) were each paid millions of dollars last year. I wonder how much the creators of the superheroes they own made.

This is old news at this point, but the comments thread of this piece on Before Watchmen at The Beat is well worth reading – lots of comics pros have things to say, including Toby Cypress, Stuart Moore, Ed Brubaker, and Kurt Busiek.

Former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter has a lot to say about the “shared-universe” concept and a new business model for work-for-hire. Can it be done? I dunno, but it raises some interesting ideas. (This post is also the last of a series reacting to brilliant futurist Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing, the best must-read website on the planet) and his ideas about using technology to share ideas and work. Obviously, I recommend them, too.)

A just-released German Donald Duck reprint accidentally misused the word “holocaust.” Oops.

An Iranian cartoonist was recently sentenced to 25 lashings for daring to draw a member of Iran’s parliament wearing a soccer jersey. Dear Iran: Go fuck yourselves.

A Swedish manga translator was put on a sex-offenders list and forced to lose his job and “manga expert” title for owning comics that were ruled “child pornography.” This, of course, does not do one damn thing to protect actual children from actual offenders. Good job, Sweden.

Steve Bennett has the most interesting take I’ve seen yet on the “gay people in comics” issue:

Why now?  Because we’ve undoubtedly reached the tipping point where homosexuality has become so ubiquitous in American life if it’s absent in popular culture its noticeable.  And as to why comics?  Because comics are, hopefully, still a part of mainstream American popular culture, and to be that it was to reflect reality… even if there are people who reject it.

This ties in to something that drives me nuts about most movies and TV, which is the continuing near-absence of minorities besides “token” characters with race-based dialogue (“Aw, hell no!”). And, of course, there’s the Bechdel Test

Okay, so WHY am I linking to things that criticize Marvel and DC while interviewing people who work for Marvel? Well, Continue reading

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