You Read These With Your Eyes! | August 1st, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

Brandon: What up crackers! This week, I’ll be doing things a little bit differently for ridiculously selfish reasons. In addition to the regular picks we hand out in this weekly showcase, I’m also going to mark THINGS that the comic book industry has seen fit to get me as birthday presents. Seriously, this week of books seems to be tailored to make me happy.

PICK: ANIMAL MAN #12 & SWAMP THING #12 (DC Comics)

After circling each other since the launch of the New 52, Animal Man and Swamp Thing finally team up to stop a common enemy from taking over! Will they succeed? Whelp, considering these issues lead us into the big Rotworld storyline that kicks off in October… probably not. But we do know these books will be awesome. Jeff Lemire has been knocking it out of the park on Animal Man and Scott Snyder has done a similarly stellar job re-inventing Swamp Thing. Having both those dudes working together on something this big can only mean good things! It also means I need to catch up on Swamp Thing – I managed to fall a couple issues back in the midst of all the amazing books out there right now. Seriously, there’s an embarrassment of riches out there right now. Speaking of which…

PICK & PRESENT: HAWKEYE #1 & DEFENDERS #9 (Marvel Comics)

In what I can only assume was a move coordinated to give me the happiest of birthdays, Marvel is releasing Hawkeye #1 and Defenders #9 tomorrow! Which means that not only will I get a brand new instalment of the craziest Marvel book on the stands, but I’ll get my first taste of Hawkeye, which I’ve been waiting for with baited breath ever since the teaser that told us all about the re-teaming of Matt Fraction and David Aja on a brand new ongoing. If you’re not familiar with the Fraction/Aja team, that’s perfectly okay. They worked together at Marvel fairly early on in Fraction’s tenure at the company alongside Ed Brubaker, re-inventing Iron Fist for a new generation. That book was rad as hell and took Danny Rand’s quite convoluted history and boiled it down to the core of what makes him awesome: he’s a kung fu billionaire and he has rad, pulpy adventures. (Side note: if you have yet to experience the pure joy that is The Immortal Iron Fist, head out now and procure yourself copies. Do this. For your health.)

Fraction and Aja are looking to rejuvenate Hawkeye in a similar fashion, casting the character in a Rockford Files type show within the Marvel universe. The stories presented will be a mix of done-in-ones and short arcs that build on top of each other, giving readers quite a bang for their buck with each outing – and with Aja drawing, it’ll look slick as hell. Whether you like Hawkeye, or hate him, check the series out.

And Defenders… well, come on. You have Fraction telling a tale that rivals Kirby’s craziest, with Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton destroying the art. I’ve just paged through this issue, and oh my god you guys, just you wait until you see how shatteringly good everything in this issue is. I’m pretty sure taken in a concentrated dose, you will be able to impregnate dudes with just a touch. But only dudes.

PICK: HIGHER EARTH #3 (Boom! Studios)

The SHUMPHRIES comes back to Higher Earth right where he left off – with our erstwhile heroes facing down a big fucking dinosaur! Because that’s just how this planet hopping books works. Just when you think things can’t get crazier, they do, in astonishing style.

With each issue, we become more and more aware of the revenge plan at the core of the book… and in this issue, we catch a glimpse at just what is facing our heroes, and holy wow, is it a twist. As always, a great read that more need to be reading. I need this to go until Sam decides it’s time to stop, not truncated before its time. Please make this happen. Thank you.

PRESENT: TMNT ULTIMATE COLLECTION HC Vol 3 (IDW) & ARCHIE ARCHIVES VOL. 6 (Dark Horse/Archie Comics)

Two beautiful archive books feature two sets of my favourite characters. Both run $50 American, but WHAT OF IT. The Archie books are particularly gorgeous, and when you slide the slip cover off, the actual hardcover itself is styled like an old Riverdale High yearbook. So cool.

PICK: AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #10 (Marvel Comics)

Kelly Sue DeConnick returns to the stands this week (again!) with the second part of her Captain Marvel/Spider-Man team-up tale! There’s airplanes! Quips! Jet packs! The Dodsons! Missiles! Giant robots! Awesomeness! Everything you could possibly want in a comic and more! And hey, what’s this we heard about you not picking up a copy of Captain Marvel when it came out a few weeks ago? Don’t you realize how disappointed we all are with you? We’re all prreeeeeeeetty disappointed. Get on that, please.

PICK & PRESENT: BEASTS OF BURDEN – NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH (Dark Horse Comics)

New Beasts of Burden comics come once every never, and to have it happen on my birthday? Again, it’s like Dark Horse knows. You guys are grand.

Anyway, for those out of the loop, Beasts of Burden is the kind of book that will make you weep from inadequacy. You’ll read the words, look at the painted art, drink in the story, and you’ll swiftly realize that there is no way you’d be able to pull of anything this spectacular. The series is about a group of animals on Burden Hill, who solve paranormal mysteries… and generally keep us safe from some terrifying Hellboy style monsters. It’s a book that’s equal parts sweet and horrifying, and it. Looks. Beautiful. Try this one shot out and then head back to your store for the hardcover collection of the gang’s previous adventures. You’ll be glad you did.

PRESENT (BACK ORDERS): PINOCCHIO – VAMPIRE SLAYER VOL. 3 & SONG OF ROLAND (Slave Labor Graphics & Conundrum Press)

And finally, two very different projects to round out my week. These ones are back orders, as I gave up my copies to those in need… but that doesn’t mean I’m not champing at the bit to finally read them! The first is the third installment of the far-better-than-it-should-be Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer series, featuring everyone’s favourite wooden puppet in adventures that would make Buffy proud – both in terms of killing vamps, and in terms of tone. The series is quite Whedon-y and deserving of your love.

On the other end, there’s the Song of Roland, the english translation of Michel Rabagliati’s latest Paul book. The series features Rabagliati’s alter ego Paul, chronicling different periods of his life, this book focusing on the life and death of his (and the character’s) father-in-law. As I have done before, I fully expect to be in tears at least once during the course of reading this book, from either laughter, or sadness.

(BONUS POINTS: If you’re looking for something else that’s far-better-than-it-should-be, then you need to check out Helen Killer – the untold story of Helen Keller’s secret life as an assassin/bodyguard after she’s given a machine by Alexander Graham Bell. I know it was on Comixology… maybe it still is? Go look!)

These are five way more than five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

Me vs The Angry Mob: Meeting Halfway

Do you think that I'm funny?

There are three kinds of weekly comic shop customers.

The first is the kind every shop adores – the kind that curates a pull list, provided to the shop in order to ensure the timely delivery of every book they are looking for. These customers are the bread and butter of any comic book store, and should be duly compensated for their patronage. Not only do they come in regularly and provide the base of funding a shop needs to continue functioning, but they also do a sizeable chunk of a store’s job, giving a glimpse at what books might hit, and what might miss from their diligent run through Previews. A lot of stores say “thank you” by handing out a discount as way of payment – a small bit of cash that trickles back with every purchase. Others give out free bags and boards. Whatever the means, it’s important to let these customers know how much they are appreciated in a way that goes above and beyond. Don’t ever mistake “basic customer service” for what should be additional perks for the regular clientele – if you do, the chances of you growing your customer base are next to nothing.

The second kind of weekly customer is the speculator. They’re the folk who come in once sell-outs or Hollywood deals are announced in order to make a fast buck. For the most part, these folks are harmless. The worst damage they do is to their own pocket book. After all, if there was easy money in comics, all the shop owners would be rich. And they’re not. Even some of the smarter ones make a few shitty decisions and find themselves without a store to call their own.

The other bit of damage that these customers commit is producing a diminished shelf stock for those who were going to read and enjoy the series. This can be mitigated well enough through ordering first issues to compensate for the speculators – which can be a tricky prospect in and of itself. It’s hard to gage what bait the sharks will go for, but after a while, you’ll be able to spot a few tell tale signs, and you should do okay. The fun comes in playing the system that the speculators are trying to play themselves. Most are too short sighted to realize that the pop comes from the immediate demand for the product, and not the long term gain. Take for instance, the big Walking Dead #100 fever. With nine different regular covers for order (and a incentive copies floating about), the speculators were going crazy trying to nab each and every cover. Some of the late comers are still trying to do so, having missed the initial release. But consider this: with the enormous print run of the issue, each one of the regular covers is now available in similar quantity to every issue that preceded it in the past year or so. They are available in abundance. That’s why we sell all of our new releases at cover price. Sure, we can be jerks and raise the price of some key “sold out” books right away, but in the end, that leaves us with disgruntled customers, and we don’t want that. We would all like you to be very gruntled, if you will.

Finally, the third type of weekly customer is the haphazard purchaser. They are the people who come in once a week, grabbing piles of varying thickness from your shelves with what seems to be little rhyme or reason, once a week, every week. These folks are in your store for… well, for various reasons. Some have shitty primary comic shops that frequently miss orders or don’t anticipate for their customers’ taste. Others feel as though their taste changes too frequently to open a file properly. Some just like the thrill of the hunt. The thing that unites them is a steadfast refusal to create a pull list for you shop.

The folks that don’t open up a file in your shop can be quite frustrating. Often times, it’s hard enough guessing what to order for your regular customers, and speculators, while hard to predict, are usually consistent enough with their purchases that you can make a good guess at what to put out on the shelf. The non-file folks are tricky because they are just so unpredictable. Part of your ordering needs requires an intimate knowledge of what other shops in your region are ordering – and that’s never going to happen. Their (and let’s face it, sometimes YOUR) mistakes often send folks orbiting ever outwards from their primary shop, searching for whatever comic they were interested in getting that week. Their purchase at a shop combined with a loyalty to another makes it difficult for both to get their numbers right. One shop won’t be able to account for a sale in their next round of orders, while another will see a sale that will stop once the other store smartens up and adjusts their shelf copies to match demand. Both will end up losing money, which kinda sucks… but what can you do? You can’t really account for what the other shops are doing, you can only account for what you are doing.

Now, the folks who buy randomly just because… well, there are ways of taming those kinds of customers. A lot of their erratic behavior comes from not knowing what they like. The reason why they jump from title to title normally comes from a lack of a good hook. A good shop will go out of their way to find something that a random customer will adore, and from there, a base of titles can be built. Finally, the people who go on the hunt for the sake of hunting… well, they can’t be cured. Or rather, they are rarely cured. These are the kind of folks who aren’t swayed by the fact that they could be saving a few extra dollars if they just opened up a file – the high of finding something is more powerful for them. The best you can do is offer the best experience you can, and hope that you become their primary starting point. If you can do that, you can more easily predict sales, instead of relying on the run-off from other shops.

Of course, all of this requires a modicum of help from the customers in question. A shop can do everything in their power to get a person the comics they want, but if they refuse to be of any assistance, then there’s nothing you can do. For years, I’ve been dealing with customers who get snarly when we’re out of a certain book. On the very odd occasion, I would point the blame at myself, but more often than not, the people complaining are people I have tried to get books, either by outright recommending it to them in the weeks or months before, or begging them to open a file with us. I’m a very big proponent of the idea that stores are primarily responsible for obtaining a knowledge of what their customers want – but that only goes so far. If a shop has done everything they can to make sure you’re well taken care of, only to be greeted with dismissal, then it’s your own damn fault for missing out on a book. Both sides of this coin, the retailer and the customer, often heave blame back and forth, trying to make it a black-and-white argument of “who should’ve done what”, but really, it comes down to this: a shop can only do so much, and a customer can only do so much. If a customer comes in regularly, and ignored, then you’re not going to know what they want. You’re not going to know their tastes. Similarly, if you’re in a shop week in and week out, and they ask you about opening a file, or even just putting one book on a list in order to make sure you’re not missing that comic ever… and you repeatedly turn them down, honestly, they’ve done all they can to serve you. There’s absolutely a halfway point, a give and take that needs to occur, for all sides to be happy. If you can find this balance, as a consumer and as a retailer, the business will flourish, as well as the industry.

So let’s get out there and sell some comics, yeah?

C!TB’s Best of the Week | July 30th, 2012

We’re back, baby!

After missing last week’s Best of the Week due to a crippling bout of vacation, we’re on the job and ready to tell you the things you liked, or at least should have.

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

EEE-UHHHH EEEE-UHHHH

Grim Leaper #3 surprised me.  The series’ first two issues presented an interesting idea: a twisted love story about two souls trapped in a cycle of death and reincarnation, trying to connect.  And for those first two issues, it was a sprawling, frequently exciting story, but even as Lou and Ella connected, I found it difficult to connect, myself.  Then the third issue arrived, and I just about had a panic attack.

No, I’m not joking.  A big part of Issue #3, like in the whole series, is death.  This issue features Lou and Ella connecting once more and, after a surprising bit of honesty between each other, they try to break the dread of not knowing what will happen and take a proactive approach to their fates.  But things go wrong.  And I freaked the hell out.

Behind its elevator pitch, Grim Leaper surprised me with how deep it is willing to get.  Issue #3 not only moves the plot forward, but tackles issues like fear, self-honesty (if it’s good enough for Hamlet, it’s good enough for COMIC), the experience of dying and all those primal fears.  For those keeping track at home, it was at this point that the room started getting claustrophobic, I started hyperventilating and had to take a few laps around my home while convincing myself that death is still a ways off.

All this is to say that if any story can inspire that kind of physical reaction, it is probably a Very Good Comic That You Should Read.  For making me confront my own mortality for a good ten minutes, I’m happy to award Kurtis J. Wiebe and Aluisio Santos the Brush Your Shoulders Off Award for Excellence in Jigga-ness. (J)

THE 99 PERCENT OF MY HEART

If you’ve been keeping track of the site, you’ve probably noticed that Archie Comics have been doing a lot of crazy-balls things lately. This week’s slice of strangeness? The “Occupy” movement hitting Riverdale. Now, with Archie’s publication schedule and lead time, this is falling a scooch out of the news cycle, but daggit if this isn’t an amazing comic. First, you have the script from writer Alex Segura (yes, the same fellow what did the Archie Meets KISS comic from earlier this year) which manages to wobble on that fine line of conveying the Occupy movement without being preachy or judgmental about it. Honestly, I would challenge you to tell me what Segura really thinks about the issue. And further, the art is quite a treat. As always, the gang fits the Archie style, but this time around things are a bit more stylized by new Archie artist Giselle, who brings just a touch of manga influence, as well as a heap of expression. All in all the issue merits our Geraldine Grundy Memorial Award.(B)

Better than alllll the rest

This should come as no surprise, but…

And then they yiff?

I’ll say it again: John Carter: The Gods of Mars is a limited series that I think a lot of people missed out on because they missed out on the John Carter movie because it was promoted so poorly I am still genuinely shocked five months after the movie opened [Ed. Note: I actually thought it had been longer because I distinctly remember seeing the movie when it was below zero and there was snow on the ground, but hey, that’s Canada for you].  And it kills me, because this is a series that embodies so much of what I’ve loved about science fiction since my father first turned on Star Trek and gave me his copy of Dune.

The first issue of The Gods of Mars had a moment that summarized my feelings about the genre, and in the issues since, the team of Sam HumphriesRamón Pérez and Jordie Bellaire have told a planet-spanning adventure that matched – if not surpassed – the scale of the movie.  The issues since have been full of big, devastating action and bold characters, brought to life by Pérez and Bellaire‘s incredible art.

There is no simpler way to put it: The Gods of Mars was probably the most gorgeous book on the stands last week, as it was every week it was released.  The art is so expressive, with elastic facial expressions and Pogo-esque environments, brought to life by Bellaire‘s incredible colours.  Have you ever seen a science fiction story that left you wondering why everything looked so much like Los Angeles or Vancouver?  In The Gods of Mars, that isn’t an issue, as Bellaire‘s colours are so otherworldly they almost glow.  Nothing looks like this comic.  Nothing feels like it.

A special note needs to be made about Pérez‘s layouts, which are as wild and inventive as they capture.  Instead of the industry standard layout that draws the eye in rows from left to right, in several instances in John Carter: The Gods of Mars #5Pérez uses double page layouts to guide the reader’s eye in a path through the page, winding in every direction, never once being hard to follow.  It’s a tough feat for any artist to pull off and the fact that Pérez does this so seemingly effortlessly is astounding.

All this comes together in an adaptation of a classic story that’s viscerally entertaining.  Everything evokes a flash of emotion, from John Carter’s wolfish grin, a burst of explosion, a heartfelt reunion or a crushing setback at its very end.  The Gods of Mars, like John Carter before it, ends with sadness, separation… and hope.  It’s melodrama in the most classical sense of the term, brought to the present by a talented team.  I hope you’ve been reading this, or that you seek it out.  It could remind you, like it has me, why we love these stories so much.

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

Speed Me Deadly: Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 2

I'm sure everything will work out for everyone!

[Ed. Note: Our friend, author and lapjacking enthusiast Andrea Speed, loves Breaking Bad.  In fact, she loves it so much that her enthusiasm convinced James to watch it, and now he’s a much sadder person because he watched it all over two weeks and has now realized how tenuous all of this life actually is.  Thanks, Andy!  So when Andy asked us if we’d want to publish her episode-by-episode thoughts on the show’s final season (the first half of which started airing on Sunday), we jumped at the chance. Son, you’d best believe there are spoilers.]

[Ed. Note #2: Apologies for the delay in getting this one up, everybody!  It was delayed due to my (James’) vacation, and the next instalment should be up right on time next week.]

Breaking Bad, Episode 502 – Madrigal

How do you do it, Walt? Just when I think you’ve reached the peak of dickishness, you find a way to be a bigger dick. I kind of admire that, even as I hate you for it. It’s almost a superpower.

But what can I say about the opening, which is a brilliant piece of black comedy? I don’t know what “Franch” could possibly taste like, but I pray to the great Cthulhu that the fast food overlords never get a hold of such a powerful, disgusting weapon, or society is as doomed as poor Mister Schuler, who finds a way to commit suicide with an emergency defibrillator as the police knock on the bathroom door. The flush of the automatic toilet could be mistaken for laughter or applause. But what a last meal, huh? All the chicken nuggets you can cram down your piehole!

But Mr. Schuler is just a distant part of Gus’s financial network, a network that Walt probably doesn’t know exists. Or at least he doesn’t know now. Will he soon?

The first scene where Walt continues his dickishness is his decision to close the ricin cigarette plot line, as Jesse can’t let go of the fact that he doesn’t know where the poison is, and he’s twisting himself into knots worrying that some innocent is going to pick it up and accidentally kill themselves. So Walt, with an eye for detail that seemed a bit perverse, makes a replica of the ricin cigarette, only he saves and hides the ricin capsule (did anyone get a Chekov kind of feeling? The first scene has established the weapon – does this mean it will be used before the final act?) and replaces it with one full of salt. He then helps Jesse tear his place apart, looking for the ricin cigarette. Jesse finds it in his ubiquitous Roomba. (And I laughed when it first showed up, humming in the background. It almost deserves a credit.) Then Jesse breaks down and cries over the fact that he almost shot Walt because he thought he had it and used it, and Walt comforts him, in a scene that made me want to beat Walt to death with his own shoe. Bastard, bastard, bastard! You kill Jesse and I’ll … well, I have no idea, and he’s a fictional character and I can’t touch him. But damn it, I will be mad! This manipulation of Jesse is just beyond the pale. I mean, this isn’t the first bad thing Walt has done, or the worst, but it’s clear he’s using lies upon lies to manipulate the people in his life – Jesse, Skyler – who may have a fraction of a feeling for him, and he doesn’t care. At the end of it all, that’s the worst thing. He must know he’s behaving monstrously, but he doesn’t care anymore. He doesn’t have a single scrap of guilt left. At this point, he might be worse than Gus.

Really, this episode is all about Mike, though. Mike knows Walt is trouble, and tells him that to his face when Walt proposes a partnership. But then things happen that pretty much force Mike to change his mind. He gets asked by a woman named Lydia, apparently a silent partner in Fring’s operation, to kill people who know about her, in what is a very funny and telling scene – she tries unsuccessfully to go all clock and dagger with this, and Mike is having none of it. Mike is also questioned by the DEA about his role in Fring’s business, leading him to a tense but amusing interrogation scene with Hank and Gomez, that also serves as a convenient exposition dump. He walks away, but he walks away knowing that the DEA has closed his granddaughter’s bank account, financed by Fring, and that it’s probably just a manner of time before they get enough of something to bring him in. Then Lydia goes behind Mike’s back, hiring one of his men to kill the people on the list, the job he refused to do, and he’s forced to shut it down. First by killing the friend  who was supposed to kill him, and then by going to her house to kill Lydia. The latter is an especially tense scene, because we don’t really know what Mike is going to do. He’s already killed one of his men, so killing her would be nothing, even with her daughter in the house. But given his obvious love for his granddaughter, would he do it with her in the house? In the end, Mike makes a decision that feels like a huge mistake – he calls Walt and tells him he’s in.

Is he really? Or is Mike plotting out a grander play? One thing’s for sure, and that is Mike exists completely in Walt’s blind spot, and Walt doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know Mike’s real reason for going in on this business, and it’s unlikely he’ll tell him. Is Mike the method of Walt’s eventual downfall?

And that final scene between Walt and Skyler was just skin crawling, so we can cap the episode with more loathsome behavior by Walt. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m rooting for Mike. Tick, tick, boom.

Andy’s Line of the episode: It’s really hard to choose, but Mike has to take it, because it seems Mike always takes it. There are many in the running, but his weary, “I guess I’m coming to you,” is not only a chuckle, but a good encapsulation of the character himself. He is tired of this shit, and he is tired of stupid people with their warped notions of who he is and what he does. He could have also said this to Walt by the end. The runner up? The writer who came up with the nightmarish but scarily feasible “Franch”.

Utility Player of the Episode: Jesse’s Roomba. I’m smelling spin off. Can’t you just see it? A buddy sitcom starring Saul and Jesse’s anal retentive Roomba. It’s the Odd Couple for a new generation! Or not.

Um, Actually… | July 26th, 2012

Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

Um, Actually…

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

———-

Britaney (@britl) asks: Will Jaymesrobit be answering Q’s next week? And how could you allow me to forget to ask UM, ACTUALLY questions? You monster!

James: Sorry to disappoint you, Bhrit, but I’m back and ready to answer your questions myself, without the need for a performance enhancing robit.  Plus, apparently, 5 minutes after last week’s column was done, the JAYMESROBIT and BRANDONBOT started… uh… living out some internet fantasies.

Brandon: Yes. Internet fantasies.

———-

Britnay continues: I like when you guys post pictures in the column. Can you please draw (by hand) and post a picture for me?

James: Well, I know how much you love unicorns and smut, so I whipped something up for you.

You asked for it, I was happy to oblige.

I want to remind you: you asked for this.

Brandon: I’m not sure I know how to properly work Danica’s scanner without stealing her computer for a bit so I did something in Paint.

We’re the best.

———-

Jay (@jayrunham) asks: Who has better hair: Nathan Fillion or Mark Ruffalo?

James: The way to find this answer is simple, Jay: a style-off.  I officially challenge and invite both Mr. Fillion and Mr. Ruffalo to contact us and participate in a gruelling hairstyling decathlon spanning five days, four cities and at least two examples of a grown man being gently reminded that his sexuality is a moving target.

(An owner of messy hair myself, I predict that Mr. Fillion’s classically-coiffed approach to make the perfect oil-vinegar appeal.)

Brandon: As an Edmontonian, I feel that I legally have to answer Fillion (but secretly wish to run my fingers through Ruffalo’s locks).

———-

Nadia (@trinighyul) asks: What is a huggle?

James: Some context for the other readers: last night, I mentioned that despite my general belief that the English language is an ever-evolving creature and that the creation of new words is its greatest strength, I can’t help but think that using the words “foodie” or “huggle” is a stab-able offense (“sassy” and “fanboy/girl” are also in this family).  Because of that, I can’t in good conscience actually define the term here for you, Nadia, so you’ll have to google it yourself.  I will, however, explain that it’s generally a term used either by teenagers or grown-ass men attempting to be supportive “nice guys” in a way that generally comes off as condescending as hell.

Brandon: I’m assuming it’s something like a Popple or a Wuzzle.

———-

Danica (@danicahere) asks James: How was your trip last week?

James: Danica, it was lovely.  I got to catch up with family I don’t see as often as I would like, as well as swim in the Pacific for the first time in almost 20 years.  Consequently, I was also reminded of why I love every single thing about the ocean.  The main purpose of the trip, however, was to go to my friends’ wedding in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, and it was pretty perfect.  The ceremony was brief and emotional, held in a grove of trees outside that was decorated with white bunting and wildflowers.  Watching my friend Michael put his arm around his new bride and kiss her on the side of the head, I have never been more happily at peace or incredibly jealous in my life.  The reception featured great food, better wine, a bluegrass band and some new friends, which is to say it was perfect.  No exaggeration: if I was going to plan my own wedding, it would have been pretty much exactly what Megan and Michael did, but now if I did it would be crass plagiarism.Thanks a lot, you monsters.  PS: it was lovely to see you and I wish you exultant happiness for the rest of your lives!

Full disclosure: I enjoyed the wedding so thoroughly that I decided it would be a good idea to sleep outside, without any tent or a blanket that covered my feet, and the next morning, when I first saw the happy couple, they were actually surprised when it turned out I was chipper and suffering no ill effects whatsoever.

The rest of the trip involved meeting some friends in Portland, a trip in one of Vancouver’s boat taxis and a couple of nonfiction books about baseball.  It was the best trip I’ve taken in years, even if I was delayed a combined six hours on the round trip driving the I-5 between Seattle and Olympia.  Seriously, Washington, what the hell?

Brandon: It wants to destroy you James. Andrea Speed is the first horseman in your own personal apocalypse. 

———-

Danica continues: Brandon, why did you leave the kitty litter bag on the kitchen counter?

James: I’m just going to interject here quickly to let you know that I have been waiting four months to get this question.  When I first proposed to Brandon that we do a letters column, what I didn’t tell him is that my number one goal was to eventually turn it into a place where you two would discuss private, minor relationship things in a public arena of my own creation.  This is the part of the week where everybody silently questions why they tolerate me.

Brandon: Because Jim refuses to take it out herself? Yes. I will blame the cat. Like men do.

———-

And with that, we arrive at a special treat: a Scott Williams Meta-Lightning Round!

Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: Obvious set-up to a joke you’ll discard?

James: That’s just the sort of thing a filthy Torontonian would do, Scott.  Speaking of which, I am absolutely loving the Oakland Athletics’ trouncing of the Toronto Blue Jays this week, including their 16-0 victory last night.

Brandon: I think that’s embarrassing for everyone involved. Except for maybe the As, and also James. So basically, it’s you, me and the Blue Jays, Scott. Why is it so cold here?

———-

Scott continues: Out-of-context reference to something you don’t quite know how to respond to, inspiring some other tangent?

James: Not today, old man.  You’ll have to tune in later for my 1500-word piece on me buying a new TV.

Brandon: Spoiler alert: I come over at least once a week to watch something rad on it.

———-

Scott goes on: Serious question engendering insightful answer about the nature of a serious issue in comics readership?

James: Actually, I’ve decided to give up comics forever, just to spite you.

Brandon: Women, amitire?

———-

Scott’s AIDS-riddled pre-corpse moans: Opportunity for you to make a reference to questioner having AIDS?

James: I think I might have peaked early.

Brandon: You should also stay away from hairdressers who worked on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. They will give you fAIDS.

———-

That’s it for the eighteenth installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 30 – Why Is Coolio There?

We're trouble.

It’s Wednesday!  James is back from vacation and ready to do a podcast!  Let’s get weird.

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its wares.

Episode 30 – Why Is Coolio There?

This week, the boys are back in the saddle after James spent nearly a week in the mysterious land known as America!  After they catch up on what they’ve been up to recently, the boys talk about their new favourite children’s TV show, Gravity Falls, as well as have a lengthy discussion about why The Dark Knight Rises was a great movie, how thematically and emotionally tight it was and why the people claiming it’s not a good Batman movie are probably (objectively) wrong.

Warning: The discussion of The Dark Knight Rises is full of spoilers.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to have the entire plot and ending ruined for you, skip from 16:15 to 42.30 and come back to that part once you’ve seen the movie.

Seeing as how James’ vacation meant they missed posting a Best of the Week on Monday, the boys also run down their favourite comics of last week, including Captain Marvel #1Journey Into Mystery # 641, Daredevil #15 and Saga #5.

Download the episode here or subscribe through iTunes.  If you want to subscribe the old-fashioned way, insert the following text into your audio program of choice (in iTunes, click “Advanced,” then click “Subscribe to Podcast”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

You can also find all the episodes to date on Libsyn’s site here.

As always, check us out on on Twitter at @blogaboutcomics@leask & @soupytoasterson!

You Read These With Your Eyes! | July 25th, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

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Note: Before we start this week’s recommendations, we have news of a book that will not be on the stands this week.

Batman Incorporated #3 will be held for a month, in deference to the recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. Comic shops will be receiving copies of that issue this week, but have been urged to keep it off shelves until late August. That said, if you stumble across a copy (because let’s face it, there are some lazy and/or unscrupulous shops out there), please refrain from blabbing about the contents on the internet. People will want to remain spoiler free until they can get their hands on a copy. Thank you.

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 ARCHIE #635 (Archie Comics)

I’ve never been shy about my love of Archie Comics. When you walk into the store and linger around the all ages section long enough, chances are I will accost you with my ideas on the whole Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle. If you happen to stumble across a copy of the Life with Archie collections in which he marries both of the girls and say the words “wait, he married both of them??!”, then you’re pretty much mine for the next half hour or so.

Despite my love/hate of the main character, I love hanging out in the town of Riverdale. I love the residents, despite the fact that everyone seems to be cool with Archie traipsing about with at least two ladies without much consequence. (Seriously, stop by the shop. I done got OPINIONS.) But more than all of that, I love it when they do something truly insane, such as crossover with the rock band KISS or do a spoof of Jersey Shore which involves Mr. Lodge yelling at the kids for speaking jibberish when they start talking about the “Riverdale Shore” gang. (That story ends with Hiram getting a faux hawk, and it’s delightful.)

In this issue, the gang tackle the whole “Occupy Wallstreet” deal with a bitter split that sees the haves vs. the have-nots, with an amazing cover by Jill Thompson. Yes, that Jill Thompson. The story is a done-in-one (they have to clear the decks so they can up the ante with next month’s even more insane offering, which sees the cast get gender flipped) and should be worth a pop-in.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #690 (Marvel Comics)

I’m just gonna’ say it: Dan Slott’s Spider-Man stories are the best that I have ever read. I will concede the point that I didn’t start reading comics until the early ninties, and didn’t start buying comics personally until the first issue that Ben Rielly “officially” became Spider-Man, but I believe my point stands. There’s been about 20 years in between my start with Spider-Man and now (oh sweet god why did I just say that what what what happened to all the TIME) and a whole lot of Spidey books have come out in those years. These are quantifiably the best that I’ve read.

This issue is the third part in a four part Lizard story, which follows up on the whole “Doc Conners is dead” thing that happened in the book a little while back. While that past story is referenced, Slott doesn’t bog things down with continuity. He uses the past to build new things, but never concerns himself with the minutae, and gives the reader all they need to know to continue on without incident. He also writes each issue as though it’s someone’s first, so even if you’re coming in the middle of this story, you can pick up this issue and be perfectly fine. Of course, if you can find the past two issues, that would probably get you the best experience, but really, it’s not required. If you saw the Spider-Man movie recently, and wanted more (like I did), then this is your best bet.

DEBRIS #1 (Image Comics)

The creative team behind Green Wake is back, and they’re bringing a new kind of strange with them!

While Green Wake was very much a murky take on some kind of twisted purgatory, Debris is a brighter book – even if the book doesn’t sound like it has much room for brightness. The story takes place in the future when the planet has been covered in garbage, doomed to decay and rot until its dying days. Then, these giant monsters start popping up, destroying what’s left of humanity. Which is not good. But hey, earth (or part of it) is getting a protector… and she looks pretty rad. The pages shown of this look amazing, with a bright palate (contrary to a lot of doomed-future stories) and big, crazy action. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since the demise of the aforementioned Green Wake and can’t wait to see what Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo have in store.

(Spoiler alert: it will be rad.)

NATIONAL COMICS: ETERNITY & THE UNDERWATER WELDER (DC Comics & Top Shelf Comics)

It’s a Jeff Lemire sausage party this week! Not only does the new issue of Justice League Dark come out this week, but two bigger projects are also hitting the stands. First up, a one shot with artist Cully Hamner reinventing Kid Eternity, into the new DCU. The last incarnation of this character was given a foundation by Grant Morrison (which is a great read that’s still in print through DC’s Vertigo imprint), so once again, Lemire has some big boots to fill – but hell, he’s doing that job with no problem over on Animal Man and is rocking Justice League Dark with its roster of more Vertigo-esque characters… so whatever. The guy’s got this.

And elsewhere, Lemire is returning to Top Shelf with The Underwater Welder, his follow-up to the award winning Essex County. Taking place in Nova Scotia, this is a quiet story about a new father who is finding the pressure of fatherhood to be more than the pressure of his regular job of… well, of being an underwater welder. Beyond that, I’m sure we can expect a touch of strangeness from Lemire (all of his stories usually feature a twist on the more fantastical side of reality), but even if such a twist is absent, the read should be great. He’s a guy who can just nail any emotional beats he searches for. I legitimately expect to cry before I close the book. No foolin’.

ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #13 (Marvel Comics)

And finally, Sam Humprhies kicks off his solo run on this series with his first contribution to the Divided We Fall banner of stories. Previous to this Washington has been destroyed, Texas has declared itself to be its own nation, and a bunch of the south has been given away by the US government to the Sentinels that control them. And things are only going to get crazier from here. Stop on in and check out what SHUMPHRIES can do! (Psst: he can do amazing, Magic Mike type things.)

These are five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

Names, Titles and Faces

01. Recognizing a face is easy. Combining that recognition with a name is harder. When I was younger, I was  convinced that there was nothing more powerful than the use of names, that the act of recognizing and being recognized was a very potent thing. After all, a person could simply nod their head in your direction to let them know you’ve been noticed. Plying the name meant something more. You were not only recongized, but appreciated and remembered. You meant something, and that was special. Admittedly, my subscription to this belief came with the fact that I was dreadfully shy and could rarely find the courage to actually speak to people outside my immediate group of friends. Even then, I had a strange phobia of using names, often opting for the vague “hey you” for the more personal greeting. I felt that it would betray certain emotions, felt as though whatever thoughts or feelings I was trying to hide would lay naked in the inflection. I had to believe that names were powerful, because if I didn’t… well, then I was just a sad, scared kid who was too afraid to talk to people… and wouldn’t it just be more poetic if I had some kind of reason?

Years removed from that time in my life, I fully realize how ridiculous I was being – even though I still carry the remnants of old issues in the form of a general unease when it comes to naming names. I still believe that names are important, that they carry a certain power within them, but time has dulled the blade and dampened the vibrations into something resembling sanity. I still differentiate friends and comfort levels with variations of names, call signs, and generalized terms, but as a grown ass adult, I’ve purged the head nod from my repertoire.

Actually, strike that. The high school jock nod is still acceptable in situations such as the following.

02. You have to earn a title. You can claim one without the work, without the effort, but at best you will receive eye rolls when you proudly proclaim your self-imposed title, and at worst, you will be ignored completely.

The only title I have earned in my life would be that of Mr. Manager. It’s not very auspicious, I guess, but it’s quite important to me. Through a bout of hard work, I sent my self from being an employee at a comic shop, to running the big show. I control money, I control orders, I am the frontline against the masses. I do these things well. Often in my line of work (or hell, in retail in general), a person will just be given the roll of a manager, if only because they’re is an availability, and they want it. You can tell when a person hasn’t earned a thing, it’s written all over their performance. It’s quite important, when you consider a title, or even when you’re offered one, to contemplate what that title means. I know when I was offered the job, it came with a warning. As a general employee, you’re afforded a certain bit of rope. You can screw up a little bit. You can slack off a bit more. If you just want to be an employee, that track is available. As a manager, things are expected from you. Blame falls to you. And ultimately, your failures mean a whole lot more than that of a random employee. If you accept a title, you better damn well be ready for it, because the consequences are steep. That’s a bit of reality that doesn’t always trickle into the world of comic books. Titles are often swapped without much attention payed to the price attached. This is understandable. The people that appear on the pages of comics aren’t real. At most, they can be based off of people who exited or have existed, but the result is always a fictionalized construct, a polishing of events in order to present something that’s quantifiably entertaining. A mantle can shift due to editorial edict or because a copyright or trademark must be maintained, rather than personal choice – and again, that’s fine. However, it makes efforts like Captain Marvel shine all the more brighter, when a dose of reality mingles with the fantastic.

03. The scene occurs right after the big opening fight. Carol Danvers and Steve Rogers are having a bit of a chat about recent events, when Steve brings up the point of Carol’s title, pushing her to drop the Ms. Marvel moniker in place of Captain Marvel. Carol is initially resistant.

“Captain Marvel wasn’t his name,” becomes a refrain of sorts in Steve’s urgings. He punctuates that with strong staccato notes detailing achievement. She’s led the Avengers. She’s saved the world a countless number of times. It’s a title that she’s earned more than several times over, and everyone but her seems to know it. The trick, as always, is convincing yourself that you’re worthy of such a thing. Past that, if you’re willing and able to accept the responsibilities attached with it.

Does Carol take the name? Well, spoiler alert, the name of the book is Captain Marvel – so it’s safe to say that she does. The point of the scene, and much of the book isn’t to raise doubt, but to show how Carol is Captain Marvel, even if she needs some time to accept it. With each brush stroke added to her character, from her air force background, to her relationships with various Marvel superheroes to her abilities as a quite regular friend, she proves herself a hero time and time again – which means that for the long foreseeable future, I will be three dollars poorer when each of these issues hits the stands.

Good thing that’s more than worth it.

04. I would be remiss if I closed things without mentioning the book’s fantastic creative team.

Kelly Sue DeConnick is a favourite of ours – and this issue is a stunning example of why. The character work is amazing, and the conversations and patter are some of the best in comics today. The Carol she conjures up here is quite wonderful too – you can identify her as a person, remarkably distinguished from all others in the book, and most superheroes today. Her history is well represented, and much like history in the real world, has an effect on how she carries herself through the world, and on the decisions that she makes. The characters surrounding Carol are quite wonderful too. Beyond Cap and Spidey, who are already quite established in this world, the supporting players in this book all vibrate with an energy all their own. It makes for a wonderful read.

And the artist on this book, newcomer Dexter Soy, is quite wonderful too. His style was something that I didn’t expect when I opened the book, having grown accustomed to the art I was seeing from the Dodsons and Ed McGuinness and Jamie McKelvie. That said, it works wonderfully. The action is very kinetic when it needs to be, and he’s quite adept at hitting the quieter notes with a subtle touch, filling panels with body language that translates well to the story beats. When Carol doubts herself, for instance, you can see her slouching a little, and looking down. When she accepts the mantle, you see her do it with power and poise. It’s all quite wonderful.

If you missed grabbing this comic, we highly suggest you go out and remedy this. First prints might still be on the stands, and second prints are on the way. Don’t miss out!

Um, Actually… | July 20th, 2012

Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

Um, Actually…

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

 ———-

Hey nerds! James is off to Portland for a few days, so this week’s UM, ACTUALLY will be a little bit different.

Now, when I couldn’t make it into the C!TB Sex Blimp HQ to answer some questions, James constructed the BRANDONBOT to take my place and answer questions. Whelp, I don’t quite have the technological skills that he does, so I asked friend of the site and frequent UM, ACTUALLY question asker Brittney Le Blanc to help me make a thing. Let’s see if it works.

JAYMESROBiT: WHY IS IT COLD WHAT TERRABLE PLACE HAVE YOU BROUGHT ME BEEP BOOP

 ———-

Joey Christian (@Joeyiam33) says: nice voicemail last night.

Brandon: I know I phoned you. It was crazy. You have my number. So call me maybe.

JAYMEROBiT: BEFORE YOU CAME IN TOO MY LIFE I MISSED YOU SO BAD

———-

Chris (@chrisinedmonton) asks: if you guys were a crime fighting duo which of you would be the sidekick and which the hero?

Brandon: Between myself and James? I would say that I would be the sidekick, if only because of my crippling fear of making decisions. All a villain would have to do is lock James and Danica in rooms in different locations and ask me to choose one and hey wait typing this probably won’t get me hit ha ha oh god what have I done.

JAYMESROBiT: I AM THE TV’S WAYNE KNIGHT

———-

Jay (@jayrunham) asks: Who would win in a Zoolander style walk-off between Superman and Hulk?

Brandon: Jay, c’mon. This is bullshit. Which Supes and which Hulk? From the comics? From the movies? And in both cases, which versions? I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’re asking me if Mark Ruffalo could out walk Christopher Reeve, which is not only insensitive, but also a little bit racist probably. You should be ashamed, Jay. ASHAMED.

JAYMESROBiT: I CORDIALLEE INVITE YOU TO BLUE STEEL MY DONG

———-

Jay continues: What would a conversation between these two sound like?

Brandon: “Parents dead? Yeah, I been there.”

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: Given the opportunity as a guiding creative force, what comics property would you retool/reboot/relaunch?

Brandon: Hrm. You know, I haven’t thought about this kind of question for a very, very long time. For the most part, I’m pretty happy with what’s on the stands these days… but given my druthers, I probably wouldn’t retool a property, so much as create an awesome line of all ages comics. Not comics for kids, but for everyone. I would probably get Nate Cosby to edit it, because that guy is the business and put together books like Thor: The Mighty Avenger for Marvel – which is still the best Thor series I’ve ever read. Yes, even Fraction’s version.

Over at DC, I would probably run with a Lois Lane series set when Lois was a teen, and it would play out like a Nancy Drew or Scooby Doo type teen-mystery-in-the-DC-universe types series. Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones would be able to return to their series of Supergirl stories set in grade school. There’d be a cool Captain Marvel book that would taste a bit like Harry Potter, what with all the being an orphan and the magic and talking animals and whatnot. Oh, and a comic series based on the Super Best Friends Forever shorts, and a Batman book that would look and feel like the original animated series, and a Wonder Woman book by, oh, let’s say Colleen Coover and uh… yeah. Things like that.

As for Marvel, whelp, I would… well, I was going to say I would get them to have an all ages Spider-Man book, but I think Dan Slott has that covered pretty well. Something like Thor: The Mighty Avenger would be back in action, and oh! Oh! Mystic would start coming out again. Actually yeah. Just… unearth all the rad concepts both companies have to play with in other genres, and play with them. Probably with the emphasis on reaching a different audience via the internet. Make a dedicated app that doesn’t have the MARVEL or DC label as the top billing (like Vertigo) and pump out things for a large audience, in a space where it won’t get drowned out by the torrent of other content. That’d be what I would do, given half a chance.

JAYMESROBiT: THE JAYMESROBiT REBOOTS ONCE A NITE IN ORDER TO MAINTANE HIS SEXY DOMINANCE

Scott continues: Also, was there any reboot/relaunch/retool that you, as a reader, objected to? Were you eventually won over?

Brandon: This is a hard question for me to really get my teeth into, because I can barely wrap my brain around the concept of personally objecting to a re-whatever anymore. The closest I came recently was the time news hit that Michael Bay was pushing the alien Ninja Turles angle, and I felt a tinge of discomfort. Later in the week, when I was talking to the guy that owns our chain’s other location, he brought up the topic, and I told him I didn’t know how I felt about it.

“It’s really challenging my stoic take on things,” I said, “Like when the G.I. Joe fans and Transformers fans were flipping shit over their movies, I always tried to tell them that everything was okay, that their childhood was still intact. But then I heard about the Ninja Turtles stuff, and I felt bad about it. I dunno.”

“I know what you mean,” he replied, “It’s like when they came out with that stupid kids cartoon back in the day. That was the worst.”

Which I took offence too, because that show was my jam back in the day. Granted, whenever I have watched it recently, I recognize the fact that it is not a show of quality… but dammit if it didn’t enrapture me back in the day, and send me into fits of laughter today. And dammit, doesn’t that count for something? I’m a fan of the Turtles. I’m a fan because of something people thought was stupid, just like how there are youngins out there who fell in love with Star Wars after watching the prequels, or fell in love with G.I. Joe and the Transformers from watching the movies. Just because a reboot isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean it’s invalid – it just means you had your thing, and now they’re looking to expand the audience for the franchise. And that’s fine.

That said, I suppose I haven’t been enjoying Suicide Squad from DC – a shame if only because Secret Six was great, and what little I’ve been able to read of the John Ostrander penned Suicide Squad books have been amazing. But again, this new version is expanding the fan base, and I can’t really fault that.

JAYMESROBiT: HEY GURL I WAS BILLT WITH ATTACHMENTS WAIT WHY WAS I BILLT WITH ATTACHMENTS

———-

Andrew (@andrewhorton) asks: Will there ever be a Hex reprint/GN, even if it’s digital only?

Brandon: Probably if and when DC manages to brush the dust off of the last multimedia Jonah Hex attempt, and finds some success with it on, say, and HBO or an AMC. Or, you know, never. DC’s not so good for re-publishing the weirder stuff.

JAYMESROBiT: I WILL SHOW YOU DIGITAL ONLY IN MY PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Brandon: Shoot. Looks like the JAYMESROBiT is stuck, so we might as well wrap this up. Until next week!

That’s it for the seventeenth installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

Me vs. The Angry Mob: The Digital Marketplace in a Physical World

Do you think that I'm funny?

In the city of Edmonton, there are 11 different comic book stores. On top of that, there are several other stores that also do a bit of comics, from the gaming shops, to card shops to tattoo parlors. If you’re a comic fan in the area, you pretty much have your pick of where you want to go – and even if your mobility is limited, you still have access to at least one shop that should be able to meet your needs. This is not normal.

More often than not, if you’re a comic book fan, you don’t have much of a choice in where you’re getting your comics, or how. Beyond Edmonton, there are maybe five other comic stores in the entire province that aren’t housed in Calgary. Those hypothetical (and admittedly, unempirical) five shops will be part of a rotating roster that will come and go as the business start up, shudder briefly, and fail – either due to a lack of response, or a lack of business acumen. By and large, much of the general population doesn’t have a good local source for comics – and sometimes even when they do, the service is less than satisfactory because… well, where else are you going to go?

Much of this changed has changed in the past few years, with the introduction of devices that can be used to read comics digitally, and services like Comixology that allow that content to be delivered to one place without much fuss or muss. (Not to mention the several “less-than-legal” options that exist for the less scrupulous.) Suddenly, access became… well, not easy, but easier. Before, it took a bit of locational luck – now it’s a matter of access to the technology and the cash to make things so.

As the digital market has grown, there have been quite a few growing pains. We’ve discussed various aspects of this on the site from the experience of a reader, to the experience of a retailer. Quite recently, that latter part has changed – in that comic shops have been given the option to sell digital copies to customers themselves. The implications of this are quite wide-ranging, and I don’t have a hope in hell in navigating all the various nuances given my limited range of experience and singular point of view – but I can tell you what I think all of this implies.

Months ago, when we first spoke to writer and white boy afro spokesperson Sam Humphries, he spoke about the realities of self-publishing and distributing his own work – including what the vague pie chart of Comixology money looks like. He said that if readers couldn’t find a physical copy, and wanted to support the book, the best way to do so, would be to buy the book through Comixology’s website, and not through their iTunes app. The reasoning is quite simple: if you buy the book through Comixology proper, Comixology will take their cut, the publisher will get their share, and somewhere down the line, the creators will get some cash dollars. In the case of Humphries’ book Sacrifice, with him being the publisher, the pie looks a little different, but at the end of the day, that is incidental to the larger point. Buying through Comixology means the creators get more money. Buying through the iTunes app means Apple will take a bite of the money pie, leaving everyone else with a little bit less. Now with the price of comics, that “little bit less” seems like a pittance, but money’s still money – and every little bit counts.

Now, with the introduction of retailers to the mix, things get muddied a bit further. Depending on which direction a retailer goes through (and granted, they could do both if they really wanted to, the pie looks even slimmer. If a shop sets up with Comixology, they will receive a small portion of whatever is sold through their Comixology “storefront”. This is akin to the iTunes deal, in which another cut would mean less money trickling down.

Using another method – the soon-to-be-launching Diamond Digital way – a store will be able to sell comics through Diamond by either printing off download codes for in store use, or using a “storefront” powered by iVerse. Beyond the inherent ridiculousness of the “buy a digital copy in store” program, this method not only splits the profit pie between a store, and an app, but it also mixes Diamond in, necessitating a bigger chunk of pie lost to creators.

What these situations present – at least to myself – is a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, they are modeled off of the business model that currently exists, one in which store fronts are used to maximize distribution, in a way. Despite their monstrous growth this year, Image books wouldn’t be selling a fraction of what they are doing without physical locations pushing physical copies of their books. I won’t argue against the fact that the current physical copy distribution system is broken – it absolutely is and will continue to be broken until it shudders and dies. Still, without the access and awareness stores provide, the books wouldn’t move. Without people to sell the books, they would be sitting in warehouses (or in data clouds), unsold and unloved. What the proposed digital store fronts offer is a means by which a store can make digital work for them the way that selling physical comics works for them – in exchange for a bit of a push, we receive compensation. With this mindset, I can almost justify the creation of a bit of webspace designed to sell comics through my shop. However, at the end of the day, I really don’t think that’s an option I can legitimately consider.

As much as the digital market is a response to new technology, it’s also a response to a broken system. Before digital came around in a viable (and legal) format, the comic book industry was in a bit of a downward spiral. While I would argue quality has been on the increase within the medium, that quality was often not reflected in quantity – and that was causing problems. The factors that contributed to this downward spiral are many, and certainly not limited to the distribution system, but I would say the majority of the blame could be placed on the shoulders of the means by which comics were getting out into the world. While there was a time when limiting dispersal to a “direct market” seemed like a good idea, the positive effects were decidedly short term and always doomed to failure. While the limitation of product from newsstands certainly caused a boom in the creation of comic book specialty shops, it created the means for a lack of access when things began to die down. As shops closed down (and continue to close down), the limitation becomes a burden. And furthermore, in what world does limiting your market garner a long term increase in sales? When your product is only available exclusively through certain channels, the audience reached will always be smaller. The digital platform does away with much of this nonsense, bringing books to the masses. And honestly? I believe that a lot of the recent upswing in sales has come about from the companies embracing a less-than-physical presence in the marketplace. Each of the big comic publishers can show you information on how both markets seem to be feeding each other, allowing the industry a modicum of growth and strength.

Admittedly, a physical retail store entering into the digital system doesn’t quite complicate the matter of access, so much as it pulls money away from the profit pie. That said, let’s go back to the part where the physical and digital markets tend to be feeding each other. Publishers will tell you that this is the case, and I can personally tell you I’ve seen the effects of this in my own shop. Because of the way the physical market place is set up in Canada, there are times when I will sell out of a book, and the shortest window I can restock would be something like 8-14 days, if I can restock at all. If I’m out of a book, I will definitely encourage people to try some of the other shops in town, or I will send off a message to my other location, asking if they have any copies. Barring that, I tell them, if they really can’t wait, they should absolutely buy the book digitally. It gets them the content now, and will support the industry much in the same way buying a copy in my store will. Every single time I do this, I will follow up the recommendation with another: I explain to them that if they love the series, they can come back and buy physical copies, to let this thing they enjoy take up space in their life, whether that be in the form of a collected edition, or single issues. In many instances, I’ll offer them a discount upon their return. This, I am comfortable with. This, I can manage. In this way, I believe that I am supporting the structure in a way that bolsters stability and pumps more money to the corners of the industry that could use the money, rather than seeking to clink a few sheckles into my own personal digital penny jar. Additionally, I don’t have to go through the hoops of pushing them through a very specific bit of webspace, or more ridiculously, printing off a code for a customer to take to a site and enter in at a later time. Digital access should be cleaner, and dammit, it shouldn’t involve so many middlemen. One is bad enough, but much like pushing your product through Diamond, it’s often the price you pay for exposure – and if Comixology is going to take on part of the risk by paying to digitize your content for consumption, then they deserve to be paid for that as well – just as comic shops should be compensated for taking a risk on product they will not be able to return, in order to make some folks some money. But there’s a line. There’s a place where it just becomes too god damn ridiculous, where it mirrors the broken model of distribution a little too much to be of any good to anyone. And while this situation can and will certainly change in the future, for myself, I am quite happy with my place, and my stance on the digital market place, using it as an essential tool to get more people reading, but not at the expense of those creating the product.

Arbitrary as that idea might be.

Regardless, I’m done thinking about this. It’s making my brain loop into knots, so it’s time to stop talking, and start selling.

Until next time…

(Keep fit? And have fun.)