Thursday, January 05, 2006

Friday Inventory Control

Welcome to 2006, everyone.

Man, it feels weird typing that. I saw them land on the moon in 1969 and I knew, I knew that by 2006 I'd be shuttling around in one of those George Jetson hovercars, probably on my way to work at my job in the first lunar colony. It sucks massively that this is not actually true.

Oh well. Another year gone by, another year's worth of comics accumulated. I had to buy two new storage boxes in 2005, a long one and a short one. And I added another layer of crates to the improvised bookshelf that holds comics in trade paperback; six rows of six high now, instead of five. So however many that holds is how many funnybooks we acquired. I guess it won't hurt to take a look back and figure out what was money well-spent and what wasn't. The other Greg does this once a week but I'm too afraid to examine the actual worth of my purchases more than once a year.

Some were new and some were old. In fact a great many of them were old. The new layer of crates was largely to accomodate the new Essentials I bought, and the boxes were mostly to hold the Marvel black-and-white magazines I have been stalking shows and eBay for. But we all know I like 70's Marvel. What else was there?

Let's just go down the pull list. Some of these are getting crossed off when I go in to the comics shop next time. I've been putting it off, because like all mainstream comics fans, I have a touch of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and can't stand to break up a run, and so I tell myself the bad stuff's going to turn around... but screw it. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to prune this list, because a lot of it's crap.

Bat Books. When I was a kid, back when dinosaurs walked the earth, there were two ways to differentiate comics fans. One was DC vs. Marvel. The other was whether you were a Batman guy or a Superman guy.

I have always been a Batman guy. It was the Adam West TV show that got me interested in comics in the first place. Even when I "wasn't reading comics any more," I checked in with Batman, because, well, just because. The Bat stuff always made it through, whenever I did one of these periodic purges. I was there for the Schwartz editorial reign, the Giordano years, Len Wein's tenure, the O'Neil era, and now we have Bob Schreck running the Bat-office. How's he doing?

Right now on my pull list we have Batman, Detective, Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, Gotham Knights, Gotham Central, Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman and the Monster Men. Already dropped All-Star Batman and Robin and Journey Into Knight, and skipped that County Line thing entirely. Of the ones left, I hear Batgirl and Nightwing are ending along with Gotham Knights,, which saves me the trouble of cutting them because they were next to go; damn but those books have just gotten BAD. Gotham Central is also ending, which makes me very sad.

That leaves just...Batman, Detective, Robin, Birds of Prey, LOTDK and Monster Men, Matt Wagner's mini-series. That's manageable. But really my feeling is that the ancillary books are running rings around the main books. I like the format of LOTDK, revolving writers and artists with a single story to tell that they tell as well as they can and then get out. I wish more regular superhero books would try it. BOP is always a reliable good time, and though it took a little longer to get through that Brainiac subplot than I would have liked, the book seems to be back in a groove. Wagner's thing I adore unreservedly. So those three are safe from the Hatcher ax.

It depresses me to admit this but the main books, especially Batman and Detective, are looking pretty bad lately. Even Robin is perking up a bit under Willingham's scripting, though, as with most of my DC picks, it's hard to tell how good or bad the book really is when it's saddled with a lot of Crisis Crossover Crap. Don't think I've forgiven Willingham though; "War Crimes" was a goddamned crime in and of itself. Making the compassionate Dr. Leslie Thompkins a killer was a spectacularly wrongheaded idea on any number of levels, not to mention being the most tasteless thing done with a regular character in a Bat book since 1-800-KILL-ROBIN. Still, though, he's done some good things in Robin and he's a hell of a lot better than the guy he replaced.

The two main Bat-books suffer from the same disease that plagues most mainstream titles these days. They never seem to GET anywhere or RESOLVE anything. Lapham's "City of Crime" thing in Detective ran 12 issues, not counting interruptions, and what was it about, really? Batman fights some bad guys made of mud? Did he learn from this experience? Did anyone? Nevertheless, it's done now and if the book is going to go towards the LOTDK (Is that one getting canceled too? Seems like I heard something like that) style of format I'm okay with it. Only please, shorter arcs. A year is too long.

Batman, on the other hand... grrgh. Oh, how this book is annoying me lately. I want to love it. I do. I am almost always a guaranteed Batman sale. I'm a shameless BatSlut. I admit it. But Winnick's stories here I have grown to hate even more than I hated Jim Starlin's tenure on the book, and that's some serious hate. It's bad enough that arcs don't resolve so much as just stop or trail off, or that Batman is always acting like a jerk; but all the Bat-writers are doing that lately.

No, it's that Winnick's stories are DUMB. And it's always the same villains. Black Mask and the Red Hood, who I guess is really Jason Todd. Hard to tell, though, because he wears a mask under his mask, and yet he tells anyone who will listen who he really is. What the hell's THAT all about? Is this supposed to be mysterious or something? Well, it's not. It's D-U-M-B.

I think this one's getting cut.

Other DC books. JLA and JLA Classified are safe for the moment: of the two, I like Classified better, that Warren Ellis arc was the most fun I've had reading about the League since Mark Waid finished his run. Before the Crisis Crap got out of the gate it seemed like JLA was doing a Classified-style format with rotating creative teams, anyway, and if they go back to that I'll be happy. They do it in Classified as well and I'll be twice as happy. I approve a great deal of limited short runs and stories that finish. (I suspect they won't do it in JLA now that they have Classified, though. Pity.) Anyway, I'll stay with these.

Green Lantern gets to stay because in my youth the Hal Jordan Green Lantern was my third-favorite character, after Batman and Spider-Man, and I had to give this a try. I'm thinking "so far so good" on the new book. Tough test-pilot Hal was always my favorite incarnation, and I think Johns seems to be having fun now that all the Rebirth repair work is behind us. I'd like to see a little more of Hal in his regular cvilian life but it's early days yet, and anyway that's just being nitpicky. Bottom line: I enjoy this so I will keep reading it.

Hawkman, same basic assessment. Good enough to keep, but I'll like it better when it's crossover-free. This is the first version of Hawkman that I've liked well enough to stay with after sampling, and a lot of it is because this one is largely doing what my friend Kurt Mitchell has always said DC should do with Hawkman -- lose the sci-fi angle, push the reincarnation and history stuff instead, and give him a personality. I'm not crazy about the character leaving the book now that these things are finally being done, but I think I'll give the Hawkgirl version a chance. They earned themselves a little goodwill from me.

Adventures of Superman. Axing this one. I wanted to love this one too, really I did. I liked a lot of things Greg Rucka did, especially with Clark Kent -- he gave us a Clark Kent that was nerdy, he had Clark actually reporting, he showed the Kents acting like real married people (I LOVED the stuff with the in-laws) but he lost me with the Ruin storyline dragging on and on, especially since there was less and less Clark. The Mxyxptlk interludes were an irritant (yes, yes, every 90 days, we get it, you OCD nerd, get your fan obsessions out of your writing) and then he really screwed it up with "Sacrifice," a story I loathed utterly. I hear the book's changing hands after Crisis but it's too late. Don't care who's coming in, I have All-Star now and that suits me fine.

And, finally, Infinite Crisis. Yeah, I buy this thing. I skipped OMAC and Villains United and Rann-Thanagar and whatever other preludes, but this one I fell for out of sheer curiosity. It's shameless nerd pandering, it's impenetrable to anyone not steeped in DC lore and it exemplifies a lot of the things I think DC is doing wrong... but, you know, Johns piqued my interest when he had Batman bracing Superman about how uninspiring he is lately, and he owned me when he had Golden-Age Kal-L crabbing about how joyless the DCU is. This little bit of self-awareness makes me think that maybe, just maybe, this mini-series is setting up a reboot that echoes the sweeping do-over the original Crisis was supposed to be... only this one is resetting the tone of the books, cheering them up, so to speak. I would LOVE IT if the editorial goal of Infinite Crisis was giving the finger to all those surly kids that think DC superhero comics should "grow up" by embracing the same aesthetic sensibility as the Resident Evil video game. That would rock my world. Those guys have run superhero comics long enough.

It's probably not. I'm probably going to get my hopes dashed. But I'm interested enough to go along for the ride.

Marvel books. Not too many on the list here in the first place. Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Pulse, and the Ultimate line. Amazing is on the bubble; I will wait for "The Other" to play out, though I'm not real hopeful. Let me just take this opportunity to say: Writers? If you want to change the direction of a superhero book, you know, it's okay to just DO it. I really don't need a twelve-part crossover story justifying it, honest. In fact those stories mostly piss me off.

The Pulse is a book I picked up because I like the idea of it, same as Gotham Central; real people in a super world, super people in the real world. But I think Bendis has lost the thread of it. And it moves too slow. This one's gone.

FF I started buying again with Waid and Wieringo and fell in love with all over again, it was the same kind of fun I remembered from my youth. I was suspicious of Stracynski, especially with his recent Spider-stuff getting on my nerves so much, but his first arc won me over. This can stay.

The Ultimate books, I am enjoying. There's not much else to say other than that, they're not particularly innovative or groundbreaking or anything; but they are fun superhero melodrama and I like them, and the art is pleasant to look upon. The end. So far so good. They can stay.

Other books. Tom Beland's True Story Swear To God is one of the best books out there today. Period. No way am I giving that one up. And Astro City is what it is, it's not for everybody but I like it. It continues to be beautifully drawn and the stories are still exquisitely constructed. I don't know that I enjoy it on a visceral level like I do other books, but I admire it. It's an intellectual treat of sorts, and a visual one. It stays.

Trades, well, I probably will keep going with JSA, Daredevil and Queen and Country. They read better that way and the price is manageable, though JSA is getting a little high. Conan I will follow through the end of the Busiek run and then we'll see. Reprints of things I like I will doubtless keep getting, especially Doom Patrol by Morrison and the Showcase and Essential volumes. Though I think I'm going to start getting them cheaper, online. Used, if I can. Sorry, regular pull-list comics shop.

And there you have it. Jeez, I'm exhausted. I don't know how other bloggers do that kind of inventory once a week. I think I'm going to go lie down now.

See you next week!

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Anonymous John DiBello said...

Good stuff. I liked your analysis.

I find it always helpful every few months...maybe quarterly, certainly at the beginning of a new take assessment of the books I'm buying and make some tough decisions. "I haven't enjoyed this book for months, why am I still buying it? Drop it." Result: I'm spending less money but enjoying my purchases more.

I went over to the dark side this year of "waiting for the trades," especially on Marvel stuff that seems to come in collected editions a month or so after the storyline has finished. My wish list is littered with forthcoming Marvel TPBs of Ultimate comics, The Other, Daredevil, FF, etc. i just couldn't justify laying out three or four bucks a month for 22-ish colored pages when I could pick them up half a year later in a format I can put on my bookshelf and save 30% off at Amazon. Yep, I'm killing the comics industry and the comic book store industry. But I've got to economize. And the ironic thing is--sometimes when those TPBs come out, I finally decide I don't really need or want 'em. Saves me more money.

I went on vacation over Christmas and didn't get into a comic book store until this week, so yesterday's purchases were three weeks of comics for me. In the past I might drop $25-30 a week on comics before I changed my buying patterns. This time: three weeks worth of comics for a little under $16.00.

2006: the year I continue to stop spending so much. I hate that one of the targets is my beloved comic book industry, but I've been buying the things since 1980 and have poured thousands of dollars into it. Is it too much to ask that I get better value for my money than a two-minute read for four bucks?

1/06/2006 08:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

It's hard to break up a run, but when you do, it feels sort of liberating. I remember my first "break up:" after Peter David's "last" Hulk comic (#467), I couldn't decide whether or not to drop the book. I'd bought the last 12 or so years worth of Hulk comics, and didn't want break up the run.

I read the first two non-David Hulk issues, said "nuts to this," and didn't buy another Hulk comic until Paul Jenkins began his run. It took truly crappy comics to break my OCD tendencies, but I've overcome my need for completion.

Judging by the level of criticism on the web, 2005 was the year of stamping out fanboy OCD.

1/06/2006 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Good article.

Totally agree with you on JLA: Classified and Hawkman. (Hawkman was probably the most underrated DC series this year, IMHO.)

As for other comics, might I recommend Fell?

1/06/2006 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous kag said...

(Word verification vuggnz. Where a title goes after fugly?)

I'll do a mini version of the same exercise.

Dark Horse: Stick with Conan until the new writer, then decide. BPRD/Hellboy stays. The manga trades (Osagi Yojimbo included in this category arbitrarily) stay, but no pickups from the dying Super Manga Blast.

DCU: Seven Soldiers is ending, which eliminates half. LSH stays, unless Supergirl (which one?) destroys the balance. Manhunter gets one OYL issue, then decision.

Wildstorm: Desolation Jones, Planetary, Ex Machina. All stay. ABC is almost done.

Vertigo: None of the recent new series has grabbed my interest. Lucifer is ending. Fables, 100 Bullets, and Y can stay. Hellblazer gets a 4 issue tryout under the new writer.

Image: Flaming Carrot, Fell, Down, A Distant Soil, Hawaiian Dick. That's an average of 1.5 books a month, right? Stay.

Marvel: Down to Powers. Stays. Take a look at nextwave/newuniversal/whatever.

Oni: Scott Pilgrim, Queen & Country, Local, Polly & the Pirates stay. Continue picking up whichever OGNs look good.

Viz: Ranma is ending, I think. Phoenix stays. Trying Monster and Read Or Die.

Everybody else: seem to be moving to the web and trades. Keif Llama is ending, but Howarth will probably start something new. Avatar owes me final issues on Yuggoth Creatures and Hypothetical Lizard; maybe in 2006?

1/06/2006 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

You don't want to stick around for the Jamie Robinson "OYL" story? I haven't read Batman in years but Jamie Rob's return will see me purchasing at least the first few issues.

1/06/2006 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

"I approve a great deal of limited short runs and stories that finish."

Me too. This one of the reasons I am fannish over Grant Morrison, because he does this in all of his WFH stuff. I like the serial format and all, but I want there to be some kind of closure at the end of a storyline. I prefer stories that are going somewhere as opposed to one creative team hanging on tooth and nail to a series as long as they can, like Chris Claremont and Peter David seem to do, although I can see why you'd want to keep a gig for as long as you can instead of just telling your story and getting out like I prefer.

"Let me just take this opportunity to say: Writers? If you want to change the direction of a superhero book, you know, it's okay to just DO it. I really don't need a twelve-part crossover story justifying it, honest. In fact those stories mostly piss me off."

Me too again. Which is why I had no interest in something like Green Lantern: Rebirth or Infinite Crisis long before the bad reviews poured in; if you want a shiny happier DCU or two fisted test pilot Hal back, give me a call when you've set that up. I'd prefere if they just jetisonned the shit that doesn't work without a second thought instead of explaining it in minute detail, but that's just me.

1/06/2006 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Matt Butcher said...

I understand what you mean about flying in Jetsons hovercars. I thought so too by this time. Think of all the scifi shows that have taken off by the year 2000: Buck Rogers, Lost in Space, Star Trek's Khan, etc. I was hoping!

I agree entirely with your idea of a creative team story arc. I think many fans are headed that way in what they follow--follow the creative teams. How can a Bat-fan possibly afford all those books? How can a DC fan possibly afford all those books? I put on my cut list other good stuff that I probably should be reading instead.

1/07/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I don't really have a cut list because I tend to stop buying stuff I like on a whim and decide to pick it up via trades, E-Bay, or in back issues later. And if I'm unsatisfied by a book, I tend to drop it pretty quick. Astonishing X-Men was the last one to meet that fate, which is amazing, considering how much I loved the first arc.

1/07/2006 09:10:00 PM  

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