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Mid-February Stream-of-Consciousness

[Pardon the lack of usual nice formatting and such…I’ll never get this posted if I try to go through and do my usual formatting. Plus, this isn’t a fancy post…I just started typing, and this is the result. For now.]

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve found myself a BIT more active posting stuff over on the Facebook Page, though.

I feel like a lot of the “fun” in comics has disappeared for me. I’m less and less inclined to go to the comic shop…and I’ve actually skipped weeks here and there lately…as there’s nothing (even on my pull list) out in a given week that I’m planning to buy…or I’m behind on reading so not gonna read the issue immediately even if I buy it…so no particular rush to get to the shop.

I’m less and less interested in NEW comics…and increasingly frustrated with the likes of Marvel and DC both for their single issues, be it pricing, numbering, or whatever.

Marvel keeps renumbering every couple years such that numbers don’t mean squat anymore–they might as well just add a “subtitle” of the year to their books, and start fresh at #1 in January for any quasi-ongoing/recurring titles. Say, Deadpool 2016 1-12 for this year. Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth 2016 1-4 if they do a mini-series. Amazing X-Men 2016 1-12. All-New X-Men 2016 1-12. Etc. Then they can do Amazing X-Men 2017 #1 next January. New year, new “season.” If they squeeze out 18 issues in a year, just add to the count. If they run over the calendar year, keep the year of #1 on the book, so at least when one looks at back-issues, they can know which iteration of the title (with the same Marvel logo, same title logo, same creative team, and umpteen variant covers) any given issue belongs to.

DC hasn’t seemed to know what to do with Superman…and the only thing right now that REALLY interests me at all is Superman: Lois and Clark…but heaven knows if that’s even going to continue past “Rebirth” this summer. Though its concept is good, I’m not even entirely sure how much I’m enjoying it…versus clinging to it as the sole chip of bone thrown to me as far as continuing stories of a Superman resembling the one I grew up on.

Variant covers, “chase” covers, “chase” CONTENT, renumbering, high prices, lack of continuity (or sense of continuity)…it all just discourages me at this point and leaves me grumpy.

It’s hardly a wonder to me that the vast majority of my graphic novel purchases for ages are all volumes collecting older “classic” stuff…largely 1990s material, with some stuff back to the 1980s, and some into the early 2000s.

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Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying

I finally "pulled the trigger" recenty on several Batman volumes I’ve been planning on ordering. Over the last couple years, I’ve been gradually "upgrading" to newer editions of stuff I’d had, as these newer ones are far more comprehensive than the half-hearted volumes that were originally put out…or just simply have more content per volume, look better, etc.

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The one I was most looking forward to was Batman: A Death in the Family. This is one of the stories of my youth, and while I don’t truly "get" the merging of A Lonely Place of Dying into this, noticing that Batman Annual #25 was (supposedly) included definitely had my interest.

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I do like the minimal cover. It’s simple, but very, very telling…the image is haunting, shows the violence of Robin’s death, and is such an iconic image, filled with layer and meaning to me.

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The back cover is less to my liking. It fits with contemporary volumes, of course, but I liked the back of the original edition better…or at least, the original’s inclusion of the original cover images.

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According to the (back) cover of the book itself, the volume contains 10 issues. The 4-issue A Death in the Family story, the 3 Batman and 2 The New Titans issues that make up A Death in the Family, and the Batman Annual. "and also includes the 2006 follow-up story from BATMAN ANNUAL #25" .

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The indicia also would support that, citing the individual issues, with no wording such as "material from" or "excerpted from" or anything indicating truncation or abridgement.

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The volume’s table of contents begins to paint a different picture. It’s been nearly a decade since I actually read the annual, so I’ll be darned if I could remember the title of the story. But given the whole Superboy Prime and "punching reality" and all that, causing stuff to change, it would not be inappropriate for that issue’s title to BE "Alternate Ending." The pattern the table of contents uses lists the issues’ contents as their chapter of each story and the original issue numbers. The issues are included in full, no abridgement/etc.

But if one pays attention to the page numbers and the BIOGRAPHIES section below…notice the Annual is 270…but then the biographies are the VERY NEXT PAGE.

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The sole inclusion from Batman Annual #25 is one. single. PAGE. And it’s not even reprinted as a page the way the entirety of the rest of the volume reprints the pages, this is intended to show AS a page from something else.

As a single page, this SHOULD HAVE been included between A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying. Given the Annual itself came 17-some years later, it would make perfect sense for it to be reprinted after both original stories. It seemed like a BONUS inclusion to the volume, to give us the original story, the followup, and then the revision, the revisitation that bridges the original stuff and contemporary stuff with Red Hood and such.

This is absolutely misleading, and had I known, if it had registered that the only difference was that this volume is 2-in-1 without the actual Annual in full, I definitely would NOT have bothered with this! I already have the original individual volumes, neither of which contains the Annual that was published those 17ish years after, and I’d thus prefer those.

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The art itself is basically the same on this new edition, it’s the words/fonts on the cover that is different. The art is centered on the new one and basically in full, while it’s off to the side on the original, wrapping slightly to the back. The original edition maintains the logo from the comics the story appeared in, as well as the story logo of A Death in the Family from those issues.

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Personally, my ideal back cover is a mix of the original and the current…I would include the original cover images, but use the current text describing the story(ies) contained.

My original edition is the sixth printing or so, and quite beat up from numerous re-reads and being with me for over 20 years. Ditto for the Lonely Place of Dying volume.

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Here are the two original editions. They show their age, and are far from anything resembling pristine condition, as they are two of the oldest volumes in my entire collection. That can also be seen below with the prices of both books…

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I think the first printing of A Death in the Family may have had a $3.95 cover price, but I’m not certain. Obviously the sixth printing has the $4.95 cover price. Which, with at least a couple of the issues being oversized/extra-length is not bad at all.

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A Lonely Place of Dying was 3.95. That’s five issues, including two issues that I believe were "Direct Market only" for basically $4. The cost of one single issue of what seems to be the majority of what both DC and Marvel put out these days heading into 2016. Granted, a quarter-century or so gap in time, but still…

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Above: the back-cover text from A Lonely Place of Dying.

Given the gap between the two stories–Batman #s 430-439–and having Batman: Year Three (which I do not believe has ever been reprinted/collected) as well as The Many Deaths of the Batman (which was reprinted ages ago into a skinny, tiny little volume), I would think a much larger volume would be called for. Tim Drake is technically, officially introduced in Year Three, and that story also involves and has ramifications for Dick Grayson, then-Nightwing, who also played a major role in A Lonely Place of Dying. At minimum, I would expect Year Three to be included, as it also addresses Batman’s deterioration after the loss of Jason, which makes Tim’s arrival all the more poignant and sets things up FOR the latter story.

For that matter, in "losing" A Lonely Place of Dying as a title/book being folded into other stuff, I would think it’d fit quite well in a Robin volume…perhaps as the first few issues of the volume, then the story from Detective Comics where Tim’s mom died, and the (I believe) 3-parter from Batman that led into the first Robin mini-series. That’d make a handsome 12-issue volume; include the Robin mini and it’d be a strong 17 issues. That’d leave Robin II and Robin III to fill a respectable 10-issue volume, before picking up with the ongoing Robin series from 1993-on.

While this post is all over the place…ultimately, if you do NOT already have both A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying, I would definitely recommend this volume. Just be aware that it does not ACTUALLY contain the Annual that it misleadingly suggests it contains.

The content–the stories themselves–are very much worth it, and two very key stories in the 76+ year history of the Batman (and Robin)!

Batman v Superman Toys in the Wild [SPOILERS]

While I was happy to finally–months after “Force Friday”–see an actual assortment of new Star Wars figures, after enjoying looking at the various figures and finding myself slightly dismayed to not find Rey…I happened across what I initially thought was just another random Batman toy from the generic-ish Batman line of DC figures.

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But then I noticed a now-familiar logo at the top and realized this was a toy from the upcoming Batman v. Superman film due out in the spring. And along with Batman himself (in “Electro-Armor!”) there was a Superman.

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And they both talk and have sound effects…WHY Superman would ever have any kind of need for artificial WINGS is beyond me, though. And I get the “Heat Vision” but this toy just makes no sense to me with the lights on the chest (besides the S-shield).

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Pulling the indicator on the back of either figure deploys the “action wings” and activates the voice/sound stuff.

I’m really not impressed with either figure…but then, I’m not the target audience for these at all…they seem geared for the younger crowd.

These seemed roughly the size of those 12-inch barely-articulated “titan” figures that are usually about $10. I couldn’t find a price for these (and the price-scanner came up “please see associate”) but I’d guess these’ll probably be in the $24.99-$29.99 range due to talking and their size.

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Then there were what appear to be the “regular” figures for the line. I’m very disappointed in these because I’d far prefer the 3.75″ scale…but they probably want to differentiate these from the higher-end “Adult Collector” figures that seem to have become the identifier for the 3.75″ scale of late.

[A bit further below I show photos of a figure that could be construed to be a spoiler for the film. Stop reading now if you don’t want to see spoiler-type stuff regarding Batman v Superman]

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Remembering Detective Comics #606

My first-ever Batman comics were Batman #439 and Detective Comics #604. While looking back I can remember how little “sense” Detective 604 made to me at the time, #606 (my second issue of the series, having missed #605) left QUITE a mark on me, as well as really informing my sense of the then-current Batman. The real sense of true time having passed somewhere between comics my Grandpa’d shared with me and these brand-new ones I was reading.

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For one thing…Batman at a grave marked R.I.P. ROBIN…with a GHOST of Robin? Ok, from Grandpa’s comics, Robin was Batman’s buddy, his partner, whatever. He was like Batman, he was one of the main characters…but apparently between those comics and this, he’d DIED???

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WAS only a kid.

Time had definitely passed. Stuff had HAPPENED. Whoever this Clayface Four was, she could only mimic Robin…who Batman obviously has regretful memories of. And the shadows to the imagery…that was truly effective!

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Yeah…apparently Batman had been defeated, at least in The Joker having stabbed Robin to death.

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As the issue progresses, a glimpse into the past…an event tragic, traumatic, hurtful, impactful, in Batman’s past…

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More hurt, more violence that he couldn’t stop…

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Obviously not the brighter, more “fun” Batman I’d seen in Grandpa’s comics. And sure enough…Robin–dead. Though at the time I had no clue who Barbara Gordon was, or that that was her, or The Killing Joke, etc.

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Obviously…a number of villains in Batman’s life. Crazy, colorful madmen, all of whom wouldn’t mind hurting him, killing him, that he’d not permanently stopped. I sure did not know Killer Cros until years later, and probably was only vaguely familiar with Riddler and Penguin.

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…and QUITE a cliffhanger. I had no idea who this woman was–Looker–but this image, of a mad/insane Batman, driven there by the sheer horror of everything he’s faced, of the violence and failures (and no references to Zur En Arr)…obviously I knew he “got better,” but it would be several years before I’d acquire the “missing” 2nd and 4th/concluding chapters of this story. Meanwhile, the main Batman title moved on to A Lonely Place of Dying, a new Robin, I let comics go for a short time, and then returned the summer before the Death of Superman stuff.

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I was too young at the time to fully grasp deeper “meta” elements in comics…particularly ongoing, continuous stories with characters such as Batman, that will never–TRULY–be allowed to permanently change, die, etc. But at the time, this was a grave image, and I remember truly considering the danger Batman was in, and that there wouldn’t be a guarantee of his victory (particularly after seeing all his failures!). I also know at the time I had no sense of who this was, that this was a key, crucial character in the Batman story, as opposed to just some officer.

Over the years, I gradually filled in the gaps. I learned OF stuff, gathered more detail and confirmation of the Joker having KILLED Robin…and then got to read the story itself in a book from a nearby library.

It wasn’t until over a decade after this issue that I got to read A Killing Joke first-hand. Outside a backing-board “trading card” from a 3-pack of comics (ubiquitous-ish in the early 1990s at department stores like Hills), I didn’t even know of the Outsiders until a group the Eradicator was part of in a new title in the mid-’90s.

And the issue had an ad that also stuck with me through the years, showing that time had passed, and giving the far-younger me something else to chew on: more than one Robin? This one hadn’t died? That meant that the dead Robin was at least a 2nd one!

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I would love to have a poster of this image. Along with The Mud Pack and A Death in the Family, the story this ad is for–A Lonely Place of Dying–is one of “the” Batman stories of my youth, in my introduction to comics, prior to Knightfall. I imagine I’ll cover A Lonely Place of Dying in the near future.

Last Week’s Mega-Haul – Week of December 09, 2015

last_weeks_haul_1209fIn the wake of a seeming random 50% off sale that rolled into a “Black Friday Week” sale at the local comic shop (that saw stuff go from 50 to 60 to 70 to 80 to 90% off on successive days, the remnants wound up as “Dollar Table” items.

And as is usually the case, for the price, I was more than willing to buy a few extra things beyond “just” my usual comics for the week…

And consequently, I more than doubled my library of RPG supplement books, while making the “regular” new comics seem prohibitively expensive by comparison, certainly an extremely poor value compared to the bargain table stuff.

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Along with a randomish-ly purchased Munchkin issue (reviewed the other day) and the latest Constantine: The Hellblazer issue, I got a couple other X-Men volumes at cover price…and largely cleared out the gaming books from the bargain table.

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Considering Lensman had a steep sticker price…and was here for “only” $1…absolutely worth checking out. The FantasyCraft volume also looked interesting, and for $1…and its sheer size and being a hardcover? Certainly worth getting. And the D&D book…ditto. Then, of course, would be a shame to pass on the Civil War volume for $1, if I’d ever wind up with the main volume. And for $1 apiece, the Smallville books were a no-brainer…particularly my being on a relative Superman kick of late.

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And then because they were there, and it’s D&D and only $1 so why not?…cleared out the D&D supplement volumes.

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I definitely remembered seeing the Dragon Magazine Annual volume a couple weeks earlier and being mildly curious…an Annual for a magzine, published to fit right in with other supplemental volumes…definitely cool! (I’m a fan of such things!)

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And Eberron is a name I’m familiar with from sometime down the years… and then Menzoberranzan and Dark Sun are both names I’m QUITE familiar with from the Spellfire game from TSR back in the early days of collectible/trading card games.

All told, including the NEW comics, and tax, I paid slightly less than what any ONE of these hardcover supplement volumes would have cost at cover price. This spoils me, though, on the notion of buying additional volumes…but certainly “weights” things toward D&D Fourth Edition over any of the others!

Crisis 30th Anniversary Edition: Acquired

When I first got into comics, it was via Grandpa’s old Silver Age stuff. When Mom bought me my first few brand-new comics, I knew there was a LOT of stuff between Grandpa’s comics and what I had in-hand (if only the 3-400-some difference in issue numbers!). It would be several years before I learned of the existence of the major story that “split” the continuities…for much of my time as a comics person, DC could be referenced as “Pre” and “Post” Crisis.

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It was at least another decade before I ever actually READ the story myself, getting it first-hand…and that came sometime after reading Wolfman‘s novelization of the thing.

I think it was another couple years before I finally acquired a copy of my own…of course, I was happy at the time with the edition I got–with the Perez/Ross cover.

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Then, just last week I happened across a 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. I recal seeing something about it, so its existence was not a surprise…but seeing it for myself, it was just this beautiful volume, and though I’d intended to hold off at least a couple weeks, I opted not to put off ordering it (justifying it as a birthday present to myself).

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This new edition is an oversized hardcover, and dwarfs its earlier paperback edition…length, width, thickness.

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The physical size is accounted for with the price…this weighs in at a hefty $49.99 cover price (to the paperback’s $29.99 most of a decade ago).  This certainly makes the paperback the better value solely for the story…but I am quite happy with my purchase (I was able to order the volume for 45%-off that cover price).

This is a volume that definitely illustrates where I feel DC is by FAR Marvel‘s superior when it comes to pricing stuff. Where DC‘s far physically-smaller paperback is a whopping $20 (60%) cheaper than its massive, oversized hardcover counterpart…I can’t help but remember my shock at seeing the similarly-paired editions of the Planet Hulk volumes. The hardcover was $39.99…while the paperback was a mere $5 cheaper at $34.99. If $5–barely more than a SINGLE-ISSUE COMIC–is all the difference, then for me it’s a no-brainer: I’ll pay that slight bit more for the superior edition. (While generally speaking, such a $20 difference would certainly prompt me to stick with paperback).

I suppose the next thing is for DC to publish several oversized hardcovers collecting the Crisis on Multiple Earths series…which would certainly have my interest!

TMNT Toy Acquisitions (Early December 2015)

While I’ve little interest in “variants” of the turtles themselves, and over the past year haven’t cared for any of the new characters I’ve come across…the more recent Dimension X figures based on the most recent season grabbed my attention.

I’d determined that I was definitely interested in the new Triceraton warrior Mozar, and the latest version of the Fugitoid, which I’ve had from the previous two major TMNT lines.

Last week, I came across Mozar and grudgingly purchased the figure…several days later I came across the Fugitoid, and did so with that as well.

Knowing I was already interested in these, and fast-approaching Christmas (where the last several years Christmas-time and a number of weeks after have left a gap in toy sections for the basic TMNT figures), I didn’t want to open myself to having seen these and then spending ages hunting them down, where I’d come across other toy-purchase-temptations I shouldn’t be spending money on.

So, unlike the TMNT Toys in the Wild…these two TMNT toys were recent purchases, added to my collection.

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