Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Comics on a budget...

A bargain at double the price!

As I stated in my last entry, I have a twenty dollar a week budget for comic books. What did I buy this week? Let's take a look and find out.

First off, I passed on the Incognito double issue containing reprints of issues one and two. I mean for God's sake, this series is only three books into its run and already we have a second print variant cover of issue number one and now a reprint "special" of issues one and two. C'mon! Talk about milking the cash cow...

I took a look at D.C.'s new Vertigo title, The Unwritten. I liked what I saw and with a price tag of only one dollar I decided to give it a try. Once I got home and read the book I was glad I'd decided to take a chance and picked it up. I'd be willing to read this book for a few more issues and see if it becomes file worthy. Not bad, not bad at all...

I also picked up issue four of R.E.B.E.L.S. and with every passing book this title just gets better and better. This is good science fiction and a fine comic book. Seriously, if you're not reading this book you need to find the first three issues and give it a read.

I also picked up B.P.R.D. and as always enjoyed a good read. I am really looking forward to the third arc of this story line. I'm also so pumped for 1947 and Witchfinder.

Nothing else caught my eye, so I didn't buy anything else...

I spent eight dollars of my twenty dollar budget and tucked twelve dollars into the petty cash fund. H-m-m-m... Could there be an action figure in the near future?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This is how I do it...

I'm ready for the Rapture.

Every Wednesday I walk into my local comic book store with twenty dollars in my pocket. (Hey times are tough and money is tight.) I look for the titles I think are going to give me the most bang for my buck and I refuse to go over my twenty dollar budget. No, I don't always get every book I want, but I do manage to acquire a good number of pretty decent books. Whatever I have left over of my twenty dollars when I leave the comic book shop comes home and goes into my petty cash box. (I use that money to buy back issues or trade paper backs.)

Having a twenty dollar a week comic book allowance has forced me to make some rules about what I will or will not consider purchasing when it comes buying time. The easy rules; no crossovers whatsoever, books costing $3.99 or higher, annuals, black and white books and no movie titles.

(1.) Crossover events rarely live up to their advance hype and half the books involved in them almost never have any major role in the story being told. Crossover events rarely manage to get the books out in chronological order. I hate that! Crossover events get none of my money.

(2.) When cigarettes reached the four dollar a pack price tag I quit smoking. I've yet to see a comic I feel is worth a consistent four dollar an issue expenditure. Have you? I'll make an exception for a really good book once in awhile, but four dollar titles hold no ongoing spots in my pull file.

(3.) Annuals, how many have you ever read that just rocked your world? How many annuals con you count on your fingers right now and truthfully say, "Man, those are classic books!"? Yeah, that's what I thought. Annuals are for suckers who don't read comics on a regular basis and think they're getting a really good book because its thick.

(I consider most Christmas books to be a mutant form of the annual.)

(4.) Black and white books are okay in very rare instances. I just don't think there are enough artists who understand how to do it right. Rendering a book in black and white is art form within the art form of comic books. Not everyone can pull it off and I hate seeing a black and white book that is nothing more than uncolored pages. (Yes, you can tell the difference.) Black and white books lack artistic consistency and I think they're best when done as a one shot only now and then. As a general rule; black and white books show a lack of confidence in a project. It's a cost cutting method that minimizes investment risk and maximizes potential profit.

(5.) I hate movie title video games and I hate movie title comic books. I've never been satisfied with either, ever. They never get the best of either genre, comics or video games. We're talking second rate artists, designers and writers at best and the only thing they ever seem interested in is capitalizing on whatever hype surrounds any given movie.

So what do I spend my money on? First off, stand alone titles. I like self contained books that don't force me into spending money on other titles just to make sense of the book I'm currently reading. Next, I like the short four and five book series. Right now they deliver bang for the buck because they get a good story up and running fast. If you're like me and buying comics on a budget the short run titles give you a wide variety of goodies to enjoy and also let you familiarize yourself with a lot of artists and writers. Yeah, if I find someone I like, I start looking at other pieces of their work. Short run titles make it easy to clean out a pull file too. They kinda do the job for you...

Good writing always wins out over fine art for me. Yes, I do enjoy a well illustrated book, but I really enjoy well written prose and well handled story elements. I look for depth to a story, cardboard characters performing cliched actions just don't cut it for me. If characters aren't fleshed out, if plot lines are predictable or completely lacking in some cases I'm just not interested in wasting my time on pretty drawings. (No matter how well rendered.)

Now, based on these and other criteria here's where my money goes.

(1.) Dark Horse gets the lion's share of my comic book dollar because their books are affordable. They also offer a large number of short series titles showcasing work by some of the best and brightest artists and writers working in the business today. They also have enough long run titles like, B.P.R.D. and Goon to give me a regular running title each month.

(2.) D.C. comics gets the next share of the pie. Between Wildstorm and Vertigo I've always got a nice short run series to read. I must say I'm growing fond of The Mighty and R.E.B.E.L.S. too. Both are proving to be keepers.

(3.) Marvel gets almost nothing from me. I just think they're doing everything wrong and apart from Criminal and Incognito they're not involved in anything I consider worth reading.

(4.) Alternative small press titles are gobbling up more and more of my comic book dollar. The books tend to push my envelope for price, but sometimes they're worth it.

Times are tough and money has go a long way. Bills, food on the table and family come first. You can still collect comics, but you need to be smart about it. This is how I do it.

(This week I purchased, The Mighty and Demon Cleaner. $13.00 went into the petty cash fund.)

The Mighty - D.C. Comics

A Flawed Hero?

One of this Wednesday's biggest surprises for me was issue four of D.C. Comics, The Mighty. I like a story that unfolds like a exotic flower. As petals open more and more details emerge slowly revealing a blossom rich in color and subtle details. Issue four made me want to see more of this flower unfold. Which surprises me because I really didn't think I'd care much for this book.

Issue one was the much hackneyed radioactive accident turns normal guy into the super powered do-gooder who becomes the savior of mankind origin tale. (How many times have I read this story in my lifetime?) The book certainly didn't impress me, but my local comic book store guru, Jason, swore the book had legs so I stuck it out for a couple of more issues.

Issue two still didn't do much for me even with the death of the kid at end of the book. (Yeah, I'm a heartless bastard.) I wasn't even affected with the poor lonely super hero shtick who just needs a friend storyline. I mean come on, this guy was turning out to be as cliched a character as any I've ever seen. Let me tell you, this title was losing my interest fast and I was seriously considering jerking it from my pull file.

Issue four starting unfolding and the story began to blossom. Did you catch Alpha One's lie about the number of people trapped in the chemical plant fire? Have you noticed how often he saves the ladies? Did you notice him leaving a dead female behind in the fiery wreckage to replace the live one he snatched from the tragedy he created? Yeah, something ain't right with this guy...

Demon Cleaner lived up to my expectations too. A guy starts summoning demons from Hell and serving them up as tasty treats in his restaurant? What the Hell? I'm starting to become a real fan of Miles Gunter. He's got something to say and I like the way he's saying it. He makes me laugh...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My pull file...

Big time fun!

A good pull file is one that constantly evolves to incorporate new titles. It also requires pruning to remove the dead limbs from an otherwise healthy reading tree. I've been looking at a number of titles lately, some I've been thinking about adding to my pull file and a few I've decided it's time to weed out of the garden to make way for healthier additions.

First off, I've decided its time to weed Fathom from the garden. I've given this title six issues and it just bears no fruit whatsoever. Aspen books are so pretty to look at, but I'm a reader too and pretty pictures just don't cut it for me. Snip...

I think I'm going to add Rapture to Fathom's spot and hopefully add a bit of vitality to my file. Earth abandoned by both super heroes and super zeros. Lovers separated by a continent willing to do anything to be reunited. A mysterious being laying the mantle of responsibility on a young woman. Does she choose destiny over love? So many tasty story elements...

Incognito stays right where it is basking in a prime ray of sunshine filling the garden with an almost tropical array of color. Three books into the run and I'm hooked like a junkie on the good brown heroin. I don't care who you are, you need to be reading this book. (Criminal too.)

Gotham after Midnight has finished its run. I had such high hopes for the series, but it fizzled out about book three and never recovered. I'm not sure what to add in its place yet. Aliens? Predators? I just don't know...

Books like that are basically Cowboys versus Indians stories. The planet Earth are the cowboys and the aliens are the Indians. You get a lot of: "Quick, pull the community into a circle!" "The Aliens have got little Billy!" "Pesky gray varmints.". You can take any Zane Grey story, turn the horses into spaceships, Indians with bows and arrows into aliens with ray guns and replace cowboy hats with space helmets and you've got an Alien or Predator best seller. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, I just like my science-fiction with a bit more substance.

I'm looking real hard at Demon Cleaners. I loved Yeti versus Vampire (What there was of it. Thanks, you bastards at Diamond.) and just want to give Miles Gunter and Victor Santos a little love. I'm a sucker for humor...

Citizen Rex and rapture are going into the pull file for sure. Witchfinder is a given, as well as 1947 and War on Frogs #3.

I don't know...

Any other recommendations?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Witchfinder - Darkhorse Comics

Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels

Does it get any better than Mike Mignola? The body of work he's produced under both the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. banners is simply incredible. I'm not just talking about his skill as an artist either. Mike Mignola has become a formidable story teller. To paraphrase a story from the bible, "Every man at the beginning brings out the good wine; when everyone is well drunk, then the box wine; but you have saved the very best brew until this moment."

I can't think of any other words to best describe Mike's work right now. Have you been reading Hellboy: The Wild Hunt? Did you happen to catch Hellboy: The Crooked man? These books are story telling at its best. It has been a long time since I've read a comic book that just made me sit back afterwards and go, "Wow.". Mike's stories are just amazing right now and right up there with the best anyone is producing at the moment. Mike makes me go wow with almost every book he's producing these days.

Are you reading B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess? So far this story has sent me back to the boxes and has me rereading every single Hellboy and B.P.R.D. book I own. Mike is about to produce a really big wow moment. I can feel it coming and I'm just chomping at the bit for the story to unfold. Mike's taking his work to the top of the mountain and stretching the boundaries there in search of new plateaus. He is in every sense of the word, a creator. I am continually amazed by the variety of supernatural themes in Mike's work. He understands the regional flavors of myth, folklore and superstition from around the world and uses these ingredients to create a rich buffet of story lines.

Mignola's universe is filled with such a diversity of the occult; He gives us samplings of Nazi techno evil, Appalachian witching, Russian folklore and at times even a dash of the old God's of Lovecraftian horror. I never know what I'm going to get when I enter a Mignola story and I like that about his work. And you'd best be on your toes in Mike's world too because characters die. Sometimes in lightning quick and brutal manners. It makes his stories scary because I care for the characters in his books and knowing they are in continual peril makes turning every page an adventure in horror. Turn too many pages and blam, somebody buys the farm. I like it!

For every character he kills off Mike always seems to have another body waiting in the wings. Lobster Johnson, Roger the Homunculis, Captain Benjamin Daimo and others have come and gone in the Mignola universe. I have celebrated their lives and mourned their passing. And every time a character I've loved has been taken from me and I'm sure mike's world will be diminished, he introduces someone new or fills in the background on a character seemingly mentioned in passing and then forgotten. Enter Edward Grey.

We've seen glimpses of Edward Grey, but never a clear look. Until now. We know he's a nineteenth century occult investigator and he's worked for the Queen of England. We have a couple of other pieces of information, but nothing that gives us a real understanding of the man and his like. That is about to change with the upcoming series, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels. Yeah, I can hardly wait. But at the same time I'm a little scared too, because I'm starting to get this eerie feeling that someone is going to die. And I'm starting to think it might be someone big too because Mike is also giving us B.P.R.D. 1947 too.

Something big is coming in the Mignola universe. Forces are at work the likes of which I don't think we've ever seen before. If your not reading B.P.R.D. or Hellboy right now your missing something real good. Don't say I didn't try to tell you...