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Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Knocking it back
Now Playing: Bob Dylan theme time radio

One thing you can't get on subscription (or in some smaller stores) are back issues

You're going to want back issues if you start reading and collecting comics seriously. You don't want holes in your collection and, if you're a fan rather than just a hobbyist, you'll want to read the earlier stories first. Even with the fashion for retconning, there are themes and plots developed over a series; having the older books from a series fills in the gaps in more ways than one.

What constitutes a back issue though? Catwoman has been around since 1940 but, with her many revamps, those earliest stories have little or no bearing on the character as you see her today. Batman #1 is a collector's item more than a back issue. And a 'back issue' for a character can't include a first appearance in someone else's title. Can it?

The long running Cerebus the Aardvark can be said to have back issues as it is one diverting arc running over years. It is either the character or the series that can be said to have back issues, not the auteur nor the publisher. Which is not to say you won't hunt down back issues that feature a certain run on a book.

But it isn't just the vintage of a book that determines its back issue status. Archie Comics Digest is hardly a 'back issue' if its stories are stand-alone. It's not as if the characters age, so the emphasis is on gags, not development.

Generic titles and generic books confuse the issue as they have back-up or short stories that start and finish at different times. There are golden age cases of the feature character swapping with the fashion or the times, sometimes losing a place in the book altogether.

Generally however I'd class Valiant as having back issues


Posted by berko_wills at 1:55 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 1 January 2009 1:46 AM EADT
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Sunday, 23 November 2008
Cool dark place

What do you do if your country is lacking in comics middlemen? What if they don't carry your favourite? Or they do but sell out before you get there? Or take forever to get in? Don't worry, friends, there's a solution. No local merchant is required when there are subscriptions available from the publishing company direct.

This is fine if you're following one company's titles exclusively - and I've been mainly DC and mainly Marvel at different points in my life - but becomes less convenient if your pull list includes She-Hulk and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Many subscription deals ask for a minimum order and you could find yourself adding a series that you wouldn't otherwise buy. And it doesn't allow you the flexibility of dropping or picking up a book at your own discretion.

But it does make you a subscriber. Listen for the postie, won't you.


Posted by berko_wills at 12:03 AM EADT
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Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Duty free
Now Playing: the Fugs

Chances are your first comics were bought for you. You liked what you saw and started spending your own pocket money. At some point you routinely bought 30-60 comics a month once you were working your first temp job and, with that and all the new music, it's a wonder you ever found time for romance. Still, real sex proved a better diversion and the trips to the comic book specialty shop were conducted inbetween and with not quite the same geekish resolve.

Then, when responsibilities arose and other priorities took the place of (gasp) penny dreadfuls, your actual consumption dropped down to a half dozen or less, enthusiastically followed. You grabbed rare moments of pleasure in second hand book stores. The narrowing focus forced you to take a more critical eye over your collection. Not to sell anything off, necessarily, but decide which stories you prefer, which characters you like to read about, which issues are best to collect, which writer and artist is working on that particular run..

But you're not the only one buying comics, and that's just as well. They were originally only sold in milk bars and drug stores. This meant that only the most popular titles would be widely available, as rack space was limited. Even in newsagencies there would be a representative sample of action, romance, teen humour, war and western (depending on the era) so this, with a lack of specialist expertise on the part of the proprietor and a lack of investment in watching for related titles to complete a crossover saga (for example), made the rise of the comic shop inevitable.

And, yes, a 'newbie' could venture into a comic store and find a welcome. But without those other vendors including the books among their stock, there may never have been enough customers to keep them in print. 

II

You can tell the comic book buyer by other means, perhaps, but not strictly by the titles they purchase at any given time. Walk out carrying Amazing Spider-Man and you could be buying it for your nephew, casual purchaser who likes the films, casual purchaser who'd rather read that than some of the other rubbish on the stand, Spidey fan of old, Marvel zombies of yore gnashing your teeth determined to keep the collection complete but not exactly liking it. Walk out carrying Concrete or Bone and you're in a cooler store. Maybe one that has maraccas and goathair scarves hanging from the walls.

If you're as indiscriminate - or should that be broadminded - as I once was, you'll happily sample the more esoteric offerings along with the mainstream purchases.


Posted by berko_wills at 12:02 AM NZT
Updated: Friday, 14 November 2008 2:15 PM EADT
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Sunday, 12 October 2008
Opening the seller
Now Playing: Psycroptic

You get your amateurs and your professionals in any business. It starts with the schoolyard comic swap and winds up in a comic warehouse. Pretty soon your hobby has become an expensive or lucrative (depending on which side of the counter you happen to be) pastime and you're there with your reserve price for that near mint edition Exciting Comics #1 .

If you want to remain anonymous or small time then just offload a few of your doubles on eBay or, if you fancy competing against an established, if niche, market then you're better to specialise. King's Comics and Comic Kingdom leave no room for jesters on Sydney real estate, The Land Beyond Beyond being long gone and the Phantom Zone further west.

Who says you need a shop though? You can operate from home by mail order or, assuming you're not a luddite,  put up a webpage. You can sell random 'finds' after you've read them, through an ad in the local paper, or via a free online classified. If you're feeling generous, you can leave the occasional crumpled comic in the backpacker's hostel [card with web address discreetly stapled to the inside back cover optional].

If there are comics you just want to get rid of, sell them at jumble sale or fete.

If you want to sell the art of Gary Frank or the stories of Peter David, you need to have an organised supply. Their output must still be available at a competitive price as they are working artists but constructing a sales showcase around their work is another matter.


Posted by berko_wills at 2:02 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 18 October 2008 2:44 AM NZT
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Saturday, 13 September 2008
Interactive
Now Playing: Robots in Disguise

As much as comics and games have a symbiotic relationship, each borrowing and profiting from the other, I don't know that extends to saying they have interchangeable talents working on them.

What would you have gotten Kurt Schaffenberger to do, drawing in games? His Superman art is, strangely for an action character, suited to depictions of down home folk. It was an era that a modern Lois was referring to when she mock derisively called Clark 'Smallville'.

There again, there will always be work for skilled and versatile artists and Schaffenberger was of the old school who worked where he could find it. Comics loss would have been games's gain if he had been young enough to engage with the fledgling behemoth.

And as for writers, they observe similarity of plots for both media. A protagonist making his/her way through the landscape, encountering obstacles, battling adversaries. The 'story' is not one with an excess of diversions or personal reflection. But then think of Bruce Jones run on Incredible Hulk. Another overt action character here used in introspective psychodramas unsuited to a gaming scenario. 

There's probably even a school of thought that says that the best characters in games are the ones with cool powers or who operate within a challenging and interesting terrain

 More the characters of comics than the characters of books.

 

And still some things don't translate.

Posted by berko_wills at 2:21 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 21 September 2008 5:57 PM NZT
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Thursday, 4 September 2008
Palate
Now Playing: Grizzly Bear

Thanks to Johan for rescuing me from a rare case of writer's block. My gaming expertise petered out some time round the era of Galaga and Elevator Action.

It's safe to say that, even at their peak, comics could not compare to the $57 billion video game industry. It's more in the vicinity of $700 million, which is still alright when you consider how many times the death knell has been prematurely rung on the medium but scale.

 That being the case, game creators also stand to make greater profits than comics creators. Though, balanced against that is the fact that a much larger team works on the top line games now. And they spend a longer time in development; there's more money exchanging hands in the chain from developer to final consumer here than in any comparable commercial artform, with the possible exception of motion picture production.  But there's no accounting for taste so let's move on.

Gamewriters and artists are an 'increasingly essential component' to the finished product/artwork but are they work for hire? Well, they have a union.

Games designers and gamers are nonetheless enamored of comic book concepts and, no doubt, comic sales will be fleetingly boosted by each comic-based game that becomes popular. And why wouldn't the people who work on a game project take an interest in their 2-D compatriots.

Common to both media is the fact that yer basic mass produced item (count the print run) at its final stages is wrapped in plastic and put on a shelf. Every so often, regardless of the development costs or time invested, a Gameboy game will end up with the same ugly Texta markdown - on the plastic bag if you're lucky - as the cheaper and less widespread comic book that went off the boil, or was overstocked.


Posted by berko_wills at 3:43 PM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 6 September 2008 5:06 AM NZT
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Sunday, 31 August 2008
Good to the last drop
Now Playing: Paula Fuga
Hi mate,
 
Well this is what I have so far. I think it needs some notes on hand-held, computer games, platform or console games (is there a difference?) and games for mobile phone (if that's not covered by hand-held)
 

 

Games are now the biggest of all entertainment media and, like the other popular media, they use comic book iconography extensively in their layout and interaction.

The two did not start as a natural fit. Parlour games are self-contained and more about the possible and immediate, though you could extract some amusement from trying to get guests to guess that you're Light Lass.

Board games are a different matter. Before the advent of electronic games, these were the closest pattern to a typical comic book story. A card game has its rules and the queen of diamonds is an entity of a most prescribed kind. In either media, you have 'characters' and you can certainly replace chess pieces with characters from Deep Space Nine, but the movements and abilities are not affected by the character you choose.
Though there have been various board and card combinations, board games are not about gambling on an outcome but of pursuing a quest. A game as rudimentary as Snakes & Ladders is along this line. Ultimately they lead to the rise of Role Playing Games, or RPG, and the open-ended adventuring that would be increasingly dominant in console games as the technology developed.

All right.
Platform- What the game is going to work on. Anything that can play games is a possible platform(eg. "So what platforms will Splinter Cell be on?" "It will be on XBOX 360 and PC." So basically anything from PlayStations to PCs to Game Boys.
Platform Game- All games need a platform to process the data, so what is a platform game? Remember Mario? Banjo-Kazooie? Conker's Bad Fur Day? All of them fall in the genre of a platform game due- in the simplest terms possible- to a lot timing jumps between... platforms! So a platform game and a games platform are two completely different things.
Console- The same as platform bar one major difference. A console is something that's primary use is gaming. A PC will never be considered a console. A mobile phone is not a console. Everything else is a console, including handhelds.

No-one takes mobile gaming seriously. The pads are made for calling, the screens are small, and most importantly nobody makes good games for them(where's the market, yuppies who want a distraction while they wait five minutes for the bus?) Handheld gaming on the other hand is as big as gets. The Nintendo DS is by far the most popular console to date, and there are no signs of that changing.

Oh and you'll find RPGs are much, much more common on PC. The most dominant genres on consoles are FPS'(First-Person-Shooter) and Action games at the moment. In the past it was platfromers, and driving games have been popular forever. While there are many RPGs on consoles, I would never say they were dominant in any way. PCs are the birthplace and home to most RPGs and RTS'(Real-Time Strategy).
This has been changing quite fast recently due to the sheer popularity of consoles, which continues to rise dramatically(PCs... not so much).

Holy crap I'll stop there, I could go for days! Not sure what you're going for with this, but any questions you have I'll be happy to answer, I could have gone ten times deeper into most of the things above, but I don't want to kill you with boredom. So far though it's amazingly obvious you don't play games by reading that post.
Oh and 'computer games' is just another term for the medium(usually used by people who know nothing about video games), 'video games' is the common term.

[Johan v. 2008]


Posted by berko_wills at 10:08 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 22 November 2008 11:59 PM EADT
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Sunday, 18 May 2008
All dolled up
Now Playing: John 5

Not to enter gender stereotyping for one moment but toys involve utility and interaction. We don't just want Spidey, we want his webshooter as well. Can those batarangs stick into the wall?

Dolls are different. You dress them up, you prop them in a seat and serve them tea, you tell them stories. They don't have to move out of their boxes but they do like nicer on the dresser.

My son's Darkseid doll stands atop my stereo but most doll owners prefer a figure less stern and prepossessing.


Posted by berko_wills at 3:28 AM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 22 May 2008 11:08 AM NZT
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Thursday, 8 May 2008
Plastic wrapping

Comic book afficiandos take an ambivalent approach to toys. There's a need to separate a late adolescent cum adulthood appreciation for the men and women in tights from an earlier childhood love for toys. This is done by giving them a different name and keeping them in their boxes as collector's items.

Calling them toys is okay if the character is a fighter but is a funny animal or buffoon but that's subjective; it depends how seriously you treat Megaton Man vs the Tick

The funny thing about this is that the characters that are most likely candidates for "non-toys" are also the most fun to play with: heroes and villains, their weapons and accessories. Think about it. You each take a figure and pretend to battle each other. That works. Yet they're called action figures and never see action - they're mounted on the mantlepiece or stored away in a trunk.

 


Posted by berko_wills at 12:52 PM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 11 May 2008 7:26 PM NZT
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Sunday, 13 April 2008
Club

Coprophagia and necrophilia are all good and well but comics are ultimately an entertainment medium. One with a broader palate than either activity construes.

A medium with a loyal legion of fans will persist so long as it can hold its demographic. While fandom is an amorphous beast, within it lies the subset: the fan club. While one can talk about being a 'comics fan' in general (or a hentai fan or fan of cartoon robots), fan clubs have a more specific agenda and narrower focus. To whit, you can have a fan club for a series or a character; for a writer or an artist. Members of a fan club get together to discuss the latest developments, and projects, in their favourite series, characters, or creative talents' lives. If you're brave enough to declare your love for Fatty Arbuckle then it's easier to do so in a room full of likeminded people. Though comics may not push the envelope (or soda bottle) in quite the same way, a passion for a less popular figure risks derision in the wider fan community. And that's where fan clubs come into their own. 

Still, and I realise the irony implicit in stating this within a blog devoted to comic books, there is something in the fan club that suggests meetings in a treehouse. But if one can have a Desperate Housewives Fan Club..


Posted by berko_wills at 5:49 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 15 April 2008 4:13 PM NZT
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