marvel comics

Stan Lee & Video Games?

Now don’t get me wrong, I do enough conventions to see Stan about 4 times a year lately, but my favorite story is from way back when, as a Gamestop manager, at our yearly conference. Gamestop conventions are like mini versions the old style E3′s with guest speakers and companies showing their new games and products, combined with days of training and product pushing from company reps.

Right around the time X-Men Legends came out they were demoing the game at the Activision booth and as a treat to the managers, they brought in Stan Lee for us to meet and greet. This being my first time ever seeing him in person I really wanted to meet him (even then he was kinda olderish and I wasn’t sure if I ever would again) so I waited in the long line for an hour or so. When I finally got closer I could see Stan was setup with copies of the game box art inserts that he could sign and accompanied  by a assistant as well.

The assistant’s job apparently was to make sure that our names were taken, written down and spelled correctly to streamline the process. So I get to the assistant, they write my name down, and pass it to Stan when my turn comes up. Stan looks at the paper, looks up at me with a smile and says, “I know how to spell Steve!” The only response I could muster was, “Blame your assistant, If you can spell Excelsior, I’m pretty sure you can spell Steve!”

He smiled a Stan smile and handed me my little autograph, and I went on my way. Not the most amazingly crazy story, but hey, we each  have our own, and I’ll remember it forever.

Meeting Stan Lee

pittsburgh comic conStan Lee changed my life. It’s that simple. I have been going to cons for years and, for whatever reason, I have never really been nervous around any of the celebrities. Stan was different. When I was living in Pittsburgh, I found out Stan Lee was coming to the annual Pittsburgh Comic Convention. This isn’t exactly a large show and had been shrinking each year…in my opinion. The idea that Stan was going to be in the city I lived in and to a Con I’ve been going to for over a decade was too exciting. The convention created a special ticket that ensured the purchaser one object sign by Stan. I bought two for myself! There wasn’t any thought what so ever what I was going to have Stan sign.

spider-man save the date signed

The Save The Date for my wedding that took place the year prior was a modified (by artist and friend Mark Welser) panel from the famous Amazing Spider-Man #50. You know…”Spider-Man No More”. Spider-Man and Marvel Comics meant so much to me that I included that panel in my wedding, the most important day of my life. I wanted Stan to actually touch something that was intrinsically part of my life. This was a real bridge to what he created and my life.

The second item I had signed was my copy of Fantastic Four #51. He had often sited this as HIS favorite story he ever wrote and I think that’s pretty powerful. I wanted to get that signed for my friend Jason’s son, Alex. I wanted one of his first comics to be a landmark comic written by and signed by Stan Lee himself. He should lord that over his friends when he’s over! That should be enough to make you king of the playground, right?

marvel comics signed jack kirbyMeeting Stan was brief but impactful. He signed the comic and said “This is a great book, are you sure you want me to write on it?” I was flummoxed. I said,”…uh…yeah.” Next came my over sized save the day print. Stan looked at it for a second and that was my opportunity to gain composure and engage. “That was the save the date for my wedding, Stan”, I said. He looked right at me and I figured I could get one more sentence in before I was told to move on. “Your comics have been so important to me that I wanted you to be part of my wedding.” Stan Lee, the closest I’ve come to a mythic person, looked right at me and said, “I wish I had a chance to get some cake from your wedding!”. I laughed, he said thanks, and I actually don’t remember walking the next few feet. Apparently, my friend Steve got a picture of us talking but I was so focused on this interaction I wouldn’t have noticed a bomb going off. There is no one on the planet that I could meet that would impress me more. The only thing I would do differently would be to have figured out a way to record video of the interaction because I would watch it over and over.

signing pittsburgh convention 2009

Marvel’s Newest Chapter

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Marvel Now is here!

Between October 2012 and February 2013, Marvel is providing a new Marvel Now title to pick up each week. This is not a reboot, just a jumping on point for new and lapsed readers to pick up these books. New number one issues, new costumes, and new status quo these comics should be approachable and get you hooked.

Many have been released already and I would like to grade what has come out so far. I’m going to skip Marvel Now! Point One and A+X for now and go right into the books that matter.

When grading these books, I needed criteria. The best criteria would be Marve’s own, in my opinion. I’m using a 1 to 5 star rating with 5 being the best. Here is what I am looking for:

1. Approachable to a new reader. Could anyone who liked the recent Marvel Movies pick this book up as their first comic and enjoy it?

2. New status quo. Is this new enough to warrant this new labeling and reboot?

3. New cover designs. Covers will be less dogmatic (logos always on the top) and look more like movie posters.

4. New looks. We have been promised new costumes for established characters.

Round 1

Uncanny Avengers #1

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The first Marvel Now book is also suppose to be the flagship title.

This book marries the popular Avengers and X-Men franchises in a book that directly follows AvX. Cyclops’s words really got to Captain America on the Avenger’s attitude towards mutants. This team is the result. The team members chosen for this team are really deliberate. Choosing Havok as the leader of the team really works for me because it gives the character a chance to rise to the next level. Scarlet Witch has the most to make up with the mutant community. Rogue, on the other hand, has historically had a problem with the Avengers (attacking them in her very first appearance). Cap and Thor make the team legitimate and Wolverine has been set up as the new Professor X.

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That’s the team that has to take on a renewed threat of the Red Skull. Like this team, his agenda is a logical merging of mutant-related issues post AvX for this Avengers villain. In fact, his hatred of mutants is so obvious it’s surprising it hasn’t happened before. My biggest problem is that there have already been publishing delays on a book that is suppose to be the flagship to this initiative. Cassaday’s art is perfect for this book and will contribute to a great trade paper back. Here’s hoping the delays don’t hurt interest in this book with all the new first issues premiering.

Approachable:

If you have not read AT LEAST AvX, this story makes no sense. A lot of these characters are not introduced in this book. This might work well for lapsed readers (who have at least read House of M) but readers new to comics would be lost.

New Status-Que:

This book has a mission beyond fighting super villains. They are also trying to work on human/mutant public relations. That’s something new for an Avengers book. Adding mutants to the roster, however, is something the team has done since issue 16 of the first volume.

New Cover Designs: 

With all the variants, it makes this less cut and dry. That said, almost ever John Cassaday cover looks like a blockbuster movie poster. This should be the benchmark for Marvel Now covers. These should sell books.

New Looks:

Everyone’s costumes look similar to their iconic looks but slightly streamlined. Thor’s fingerless gloves and spiked wristbands look weird (am I the first to notice?). I’m going to go out on a limb and admit that I really like the revamps to Havok, Scarlet Witch, and Rogues’s looks. Streamlined without looking like New 52 armor.

All New X-Men #1

marvel now comicsThe premise of this story really threw me when I first heard about it. Time travel and the X-Men is not a new plot device. Days of Future Past and The Age of Apocalypse hinge on the idea of time travel and it’s affect on mutants. Characters like Bishop and Cable are both long standing time travelers within the X-Men camp. That said, the idea that Beast would travel back to the beginnings of the X-Men to change his present has the potential for very large implications to the Marvel Universe.

Could this be a way to get a New 52 style reboot to the X-Men universe? We’ll have to wait and see. This book covers three different camps statues quos quite well. The Jean Grey School of X-Men reacting to Cyclops new outlaw X-Men as well as the original team in the past. The connection to all of these teams is Beast. He is really the soul of the X-Men now and was possibly most affected by Cyclops’s AvX decision and rejects him the most.marvel now uncanny x-men

This book really shows the status quo change for the X-Men by introducing Scott’s “Uncanny X-Men” team and goals and how they fit into that of the Jean Grey School’s. Beast’s revelation on his mutation, how he traveled through time, and where it goes from here provide enough mysteries to have readers needing to pick up the next issue. This is another example of a post AvX book that picks up right where that series left off.

Approachable:

Another book that comes our of AvX. Actually, this book comes out of AvX Consequences. You don’t know how things got like this without those books. However, there is so much exposition from different angles that you know what’s going on and you know what’s at stake.

New Status-Que:

This is actually the first appearance of Cyclops’s new Uncanny X-Men Team and what they are about (AvX Consequences is like a prequel). Besides that, the idea that the original team is going to interact with this era feels BIG in what could happen.

New Cover Designs:

I feel that these are traditional but also well composed covers. Besides the first issue wrap-around, the upcoming covers don’t really tell you much about what’s happening in the books.

New Looks:

Costume revamps have yet to come into play in this book. It seems like come of these characters will be getting new looks eventually (Cyclops’s Magneto style helmet) but it won’t be happening in this series first.

I must say this is one of Marvel’s better looking one sheet teaser. I would have to rank this one up there with the Captain America teaser. I can’t wait to see the trailer tomorrow! It’s one of the bigger movies coming out next year that I’m looking forward to.

I have also tossed in pics of the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and Iron-Patriot… I mean “War Machine” (Don Cheadle). Feel free to post your thoughts and concerns for the upcoming film.

* Update – The first trailer is up. What do you think?

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Click Here To See The First Trailer

First Appearance and Origin of Spider-Man’s first sidekick, Alpha.

Nick  talks about Amazing Spider-Man #692, the 50th Anniversary of Spider-Man issue.

President Captain America Chooses His Cabinet

By now many of you have heard that the Captain America of the Ultimate Universe is going to become President of the United States in his respective universe in Ultimates #15. If you don’t read any of Marvel’s Ultimate books I can tell you that…things got pretty bad for the United States. It’s post-war landscape that was decimated by Mutants and Sentinels. This United States has lost states to succession and things look pretty grim.

Click on any of these images to see how it goes down.

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Ultimates #15
(on sale 9/19)

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Cap takes the Oath of Office

Captain America president

Cap is a very different kind of President

My question to everyone is, if you could pick a super hero presidential cabinet dream team for Captain America…who would you pick? It can be any super hero (no villains…it’s America!) from any universe living or currently dead (who are American Citizens).

Here’s my picks

Secretary of State US Agent
Secretary of the Treasury Ozymandias
Secretary of Defense Red Hulk
Attorney General Daredevil
Secretary of the Interior Swamp Thing
Secretary of Agriculture Superman
Secretary of Commerce Booster Gold
Secretary of Labor Luke Cage
Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mid-Nite
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development John Stewart
Secretary of Transportation Cloak
Secretary of Energy Iron Man
Secretary of Education Professor X
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Punisher
Secretary of Homeland Security Batman
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Agree disagree? Who are some or all of YOUR picks! Let me know below!

Episode 17 – Recommended Reading

Hi everyone! Episode 17 features our guest Jason Juniewicz. We go over storylines that we feel deserve more attention. The intro song is Mute City F-Zero by Power Glove.
We picked:
  • Marvel 1602
  • Teenagers From Mars
  • Transformers Autocracy
  • Spider-Man: The Other
  • Chew: Taster’s Choice
  • Joe the Barbarian

Marvel 1602

comics reviews podcast

Here’s a review of Marvel 1602.

Teenagers From Mars

The story that inspired this comic is the public hearings against the comic book industry that led to mass comic book burnings. Watch this clip to see how crazy things got:

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Trade Paperback Cover
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Interior Art

Transformers Autocracy

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Autocracy #1 Cover

Autocracy Interiors

 Spider-Man: The Other

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Cover of Spider-Man: The Other

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Morlun

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The “Death” of Spider-Man by Morlun

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Chew: Taster’s Choice Trade

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Interior Art

Joe The Barbarian

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Cover of the Trade Paperback

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Interior Art

by Colin McMahon, owner of Pittsburgh Comics

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Retailer Brian Hibbs did a Tilting at Windmills Column yesterday about variants

Bleeding Cool reported on a interview Diamond did with Marvel’s SVP Sales, David Gabriel

A few weeks ago I think I mentioned during a podcast that I was giving up on reaching for Marvel variants because they pushed me too far and it was no longer worth the effort.  Both of these articles made me want to further explain my position.

A caveat up front: Variant sales are not guaranteed. Just because there is a 1:100 variant, it does not mean that that is a guaranteed $100 or $50 or $25 sale. I see a lot of comments on the articles that “a retailer can recover the extra expense by selling the expensive variant.” Not necessarily.

Over the years, Marvel has developed a pattern where, in order to be able to order a variant cover or get a special sale price, you have to exceed you order number of some prior book. My favorite is when you need to order more copies of #4 than you did of #1. Rarely do books sales go up between 1 and 4. 99% of the time they go down.

Last month’s Previews kind of did me in. It was the end of AvX and the beginning of Marvel NOW! These 2 things made my head hurt and caused me to give up.

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AvX #4 Variant by Patrick Zircher

AvX Consequences:

  • #1 1:20 variant
  • #2 1:25 variant
  • #3 1:30 variant
  • #4 1:40 variant
  • #5 1:50 variant

So, if someone wants all of the variant covers to this series, I need to order 50 copies of #5. Looking at history, the point 1, 2 and 3 of Fear Itself sold about a third of what Fear Itself sold for me. I was selling 100 copies of AvX through the first 5 and it has dropped since then. #10 only sold 73.

50 copies of Consequences #5 is very unrealistic. And since I can’t get the last variant, there is really no reason for me to bother worrying about any of the others.

So, I ignored the variants when ordering this one.

Uncanny Avengers #1.

The first Marvel NOW! book.

Olivier Coipel's variant comic books

Olivier Coipel’s Uncanny Avengers #1 Variant

It has 11 variant covers!
Blank (order more than AvX #5 – 101 copies for me)
Avengers Var (101 copies)
Uncanny Var (101)
Deadpool Call Me Maybe Var (101)
Pichelli Var (101)
Young Baby (101)
Acuna (1:50)
Granov (1:75)
Coipel Var (1:100)
Coipel Sketch Var (1:200)
Cassedy Sketch (1:300)

Unless someone tells me that they want all of the variants, how do I order these? If AvX won’t be selling 100 copies for me at the end, do I bother ordering high to get the ones that I have to order 101 for that will just sell for cover price?  And how many of each of those do I order?

Because for most of those, the sale of the variant will take away from the sale of the regular cover.  So if I sell 25 variants, my potential sales of the 75 regular cover I am expecting suddenly becomes 50 and I’m left with an extra 50 copies of a $4 book. And as Hibbs says, I have already spent far more time thinking about how to order this that I should have to. I should just order the 75 I think I can sell and move on to other things.

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Iron Man #1 Joe Quesada Sketch Variant

In the new Previews here’s what I am looking at:

  • Avengers #1 – 4 variants
  • Indestructible Hulk #1 – 6 variants
  • Uncanny Avengers #2 – 2 variants
  • All New X-Men #1 – 5 variants
  • All New X-Men #2 – 1 variant
  • Iron Man #1 – 6 variants
  • Iron Man #2 – 2 variants
  • Thor God of Thunder #1 – 6 variants
  • Thor God of Thunder #2 – 1 variant
  • A + X #2 – 3 variants
  • Captain America #1 – 6 variants
  • X-Men Legacy #1 – 3 variants
  • X-Men Legacy #2 – 1 variant
  • Fantastic Four #1 – 6 variants
  • FF #1 – 4 variants
  • Deadpool #1 – 3 variants
  • Deadpool #2 – 1 variant
  • Avengers Assemble #9 – 3 variants

So, for 18 books, there are 63 variant covers, 81 covers in all. I’m sorry, but that’s insane.

What are your variant buying habits? How much are you willing to pay for a variant you REALLY want?

Let me know below in the comments section.

So which kind of comic book reader are you? Do you have a “pull list”, which is actually overkill because you’re at the door to greet the guy who opens up your local comic shop every Wednesday so there’s no chance anyway that you’d ever miss any of the 7 variant covers of the newest X-Men #1? Or do you scoff at those fanboys because they have to wait a month between issues while you just have to wait for the omnibus edition that weighs 11lbs but at least you have a single volume that contains the entire story? Along with the character design sketches, the script of issue #1, an interview with the writer, a cover gallery, and a word-for-word transcription of the international phone call during which the writer & artist decided which color the hero’s sidekick’s cape should be.  Or… are you both?

Even with the advent of digital comics on top of the trade paperback market, there’s still much to be said for original issues.  For the most part, they are still the first place that you’ll see a story.  They are still the most important format for the secondary, collector’s market (altho’, jeebuz, after they go out of print, those Marvel Omnibuses could give a mint copy of Action #1 a run for its money).  If you’re merely curious about whether or not you’ll like a book, it’s still a great way to explore what’s out there, rather than committing $19.95 or more to a trade paperback.  And dammit, it’s fun to wander into a comic shop on new book day and see that wall of new issues, each one brimming with possibilities.  I’m also of the mind that certain creators gear their work toward the monthly format, to the point where the experience of reading issues one at a time is different with a purpose.  Layered, dense stories like the iconic Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns read well in a single volume – you can appreciate the big picture and it’s easier to connect the dots that the writers laid out.  Then other writers who I enjoy, like Brian Michael Bendis, are easier to swallow in small doses.  I love his first New Avengers series, but it’s hard to imagine wrestling with 500 pages of the team as talking heads debating whether or not to beat up Norman Osborn.

The annual Free Comic Book Day event is one of many ways that stores help to fire up the fan base.

The more I planned for this article, the further convinced I became that the pros & cons of each reading practice are too many to mention.  So I will prioritize.  Between the digital format on nearly any hand-held device, and collected editions that sell for almost half the price online, I fear for locally owned comic book shops.  If it were any other commodity than an artistically driven one, this would be progress.  But the camaraderie, the sharing of tastes and ideas, and the community that comic shops provide for us, let’s face it, socially awkward types, should be valued.  Name any other product that promotes art and the imagination on a regular schedule andthat requires you to come out in person, select it, and purchase it.  That element combined with the monthly schedule are fairly unique.  This, above any desire to follow the latest story lines and own the hottest new issues, is the reason to support the single issue format.

In defense of collected volumes, I’m utterly selfish.  I love the way they look and the security of knowing that I’ve got the whole world in my hands.  They’re convenient to buy and convenient to reference, even if they’re not convenient to read (who wants to put money on how long it’ll take for someone to release an unabridged dictionary-style stand marketed for nerd use?).  As one who used to be a collector but is now almost exclusively a reader, I enjoy the fact that I’m more likely to read an omnibus multiple times – so much so that it almost makes me forget about the intimidating cost and limited printing practice.  An aside to any marketing researchers from Marvel or DC who are reading this: You would have all the money that I put aside for Hot Toys figures if you just kept your omnibus editions in print!

What can I say? I like having my cake and eating it too.  I’ll always buy at least a few monthly books, cause I’ve gotta be in-the-know.  I’m too impatient to wait for a story to end before I get to enjoy the journey.  But I’m also a big enough nerd that I’ll get sucked into buying trades and hardcovers whether I read the original books or not.  I expect that for at least one more generation, this will continue to be the case for a lot of you.  And by then, economics will probably have changed the landscape of the comic book market for all of us, regardless of our reading habits.

1st App. of The Gibbon

There are so many D-list characters in comics, but when I really have to think about it, one in particular comes to mind. The Gibbon!

The Gibbon was created by Stan Lee and John Romita and first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #110. Martin Blank (aka The Gibbon) was born a mutant with ape like agility and reflexes. After learning about Spider-Man, Martin Blank goes looking for Spider-Man to offer a partnership as “The Gibbon”, Spider-Man laughs at Blank’s appearance and power, which means that Spider-Man created this villain in a way. Martin Blank has been laughed at all of his life, and this was the last time he was going to stand for it. Kraven the Hunter takes interest in The Gibbon, giving him a “special herb” that unleashes more of Gibbon’s animal instincts. The Gibbon goes after Spider-Man but is eventually defeated.

The Gibbon has made few appearances after Amazing Spider-Man #110. In issue #246 of Spectacular Spider-Man, The Gibbon joins the “Spider-Man Revenge Squad” (aka The Legion of Losers). Other members of the team are The Grizzly, The Kangaroo, and The Spot.  In this issue, Spider-Man actually lets them win because he feels bad for them. After robbing a bank, The Gibbon and The Grizzly decide that they no longer want to be criminals. Spot and Kangaroo do not like they’re decision and fight with Gibbon and Grizzly. Gibbon and Grizzly win the battle and take the money back to Spider-Man and quit crime.

I actually love this character mainly because he tries to hard to be something that he isn’t. The Gibbon isn’t quite a villain but he isn’t quite a hero either. He is just a character in the middle of all these super humans, that isn’t quite sure what or who he wants to be. Plus, this is the first time I really feel bad for a villain, only because he was trying to be a hero, but Spider-Man had to laugh at him. Man, Spider-Man, good work with that one! Responsibly, much!