Tuesday, 31 May 2011
It's been two weeks since I publicly declared my intention to own every Batman comic.
And I have discovered a few things... And I'm sure that this blog will have more in depth Blogs about these issues on future occasions. They'll probably be a lot better written too...
- Although there will be a few books that I don't think I'll ever be able to get my hands on whether they are exceedingly rare or ridiculously expensive, I'm still going to have a damn good go at it. I've been collecting other comics for years and love finishing older series, so when I decided to embark on this endeavour I knew exactly what I was getting into.
- Amazingly, I think that this Quest is very do-able without leaving the UK especially those published after 1960. I think that this is mainly due to the popularity of the Batman comic books especially around the time of the Batman TV show. In fact, the only decision I have to make is whether I refuse to accept Batman comics that are known as 'pence-variants' (it appears that many issues were published directly for the UK market, and where the price was there would be the sterling currency as opposed to the dollar), or if they have to be authentic cents-variant. Before 1960? That's going to be very fun, I think.
- Do I care for the condition of the books? Well, yes. Up to a point. If its the only opportunity that I can get issue 12 of Batman- and it is in Fair condition, and it's a proper bargain, then chances are I am going to buy it. If that same copy is hopelessly over-priced then I will walk away, and try not to regret my decision too much. I know, I've touched upon this already, but CGC slabbing may take a lot of risk out of the collection, and these will have to be bought at various times.
- There are way too many Batman mini-series, Versus crossovers, and one-shots. Now, I've already decided to start collecting annuals (which are a pain unto themselves), I think I should make it a rule that unless all these auxiliary titles have a direct influence on the core Batman continuity, then I'm going to avoid most of them (until, I inevitably flip-flop and reverse this bold stance on the basis that I am a completest).
- Should I put a limit as to when the run stops? Will this ever be problem? I'm thinking that DC will eventually press the Re-Boot button eventually (you could argue that the start of the Re-Boot occurred when the Gaiman written 'Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader' was published) should I stop then? Or at another point? Decisions, decisions...
- Space... Spacial issues are definitely going become troublesome. I reckon, that at the very least, a sizable chunk of Batman comics are going to take up twelve longboxes. Also, these boxes will have to be different sizes to hold the various sized slabbed and mylar covered books.This itself, doesn't take into account that longboxes are inherently ugly things. Can I present these things in a cooler, stylish more interesting way? There are loads of options, but not all of them look, well, cool.
- Add to that, I'm already starting to get double issues. Only because I forget what I have, and that in order to get comic (a), I have to buy them as part of a set involving (a+b). Question is do I keep them for their covers, or should I flog them in order to subsidise the exercise?
Ultimately, there is only one time limit and that is when I am unable to breath. So critically, that means that I must sustain a decent level of fitness, avoid excessive amounts of wine, watch my diet and avoid alleyways.
Because if there is one thing that Batman has taught me is that bad things happen in alleyways.
Friday, 27 May 2011
So there I was in Warrington. I've never been to Warrington before. And I'm sure that nobody else that lives south of Stoke has either. In fact, the only thing anyone in the UK knows about Warrington is that there is a fairly decent Rugby League team. So in a nutshell, not many. Thing is I will have to go back. When I have a lot more time and a lot more cash.
Millennium Comics sits at the end of an indoor market. It looks totally out of place in a place full of old school greasy spoons, sweet shops, and proper butchers (that deal in imperial measurements, as God intended).
But what a back issue selection. Almost deceptively so. This was almost as good as the London haul as it filled in a lot of holes that needed to be filled (if John Wagner was walking about, then it would have on a par!). The owner tried giving me a hand, routing out longboxes on a Thursday- which is probably a UK dealers busiest day, which was kind of him.
Should you live in the Rugby League country (and believe me, we know when we do) and you have a collection that needs to fill a lot of holes, a trip to Warrington Market is recommended. So what did I get?
Batman Villains Secret Files & Origins 1998 & 2005
Batman: No Man's Land... and the Hero is missing (one shot)
Batman: No Man's Land: Ground Zero (one shot)
Robin 3: #6,
Shadow of the Bat Annuals '94 & '97
Batman: one million, 560, 575, 604, 629,
LOTDK: 169, 172, 177-184
'Tec Comics: 711, and 525 (already have this but I wanted another 'cos I love the cover)
Azrael: All the annuals (yay!), 27, 52, 54, 57, 60, 61, 97, 99,
Nightwing: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 29, 30, 50, 52, 55,
Good times, good times!
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
To be honest CGC has changed the game at the top end of the hobby for the better, it insures that a VFN- copy of 'Tec #27 is actually a VFN- copy. I've been caught out a couple of times by Ebay sellers who claim that a copy of the book is NM, but when I receive the book and assess the thing, it is nowhere near NM. Although this hasn't happened to me yet, I dread the day when I spend £50 on a book only to discover that the book value is actually worth less than £10 when it lands on my doorstep.
The only gripe with CGC is that the cases are just too bulky, the bumph on the label too boring and that the case is just horribly plastically ugly. But, why does this matter to me?
If I spend, say, a grand on a piece of original art, I will spend another thirty on a frame, to make the piece of art protected and to make the it look even cooler when I'm hanging it on a wall. In short, I want to show it off in the best possible way. And this leads me to this point...
I bought this a few years ago because I loved the original book, and quickly discovered that there was an even cooler cover to the variant issue. Luckily I found it on the Bay, and picked it up. When I get to organise the obligatory Comic Room in my house this will be hung on the wall, with a number of others. The problem here, though, is that this hunk of plastic that protects the book actually detracts the power of the cover.
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
When The Dark Knight Returns was released in 1986, I'm pretty sure Batman fans were blown away by it. I know, I was when I read it the first time almost sixteen years ago. I was blown away when I read it again last month. It was really influential too, Frank Miller had ushered in the serious-as-a-Jim-Gordon heart-attack, Grim and Gritty onto the Gotham world which a defined the Bat-books that is still seen in today's books.
To me, it is a masterpiece. There is an argument that it is not perfect, figuring out how a certain villain died took absolutely ages to figure out. And I once lent it to a friend who gave up on it due to the tiny captions and there was 'too many pictures'. But I find a lot in this book, from themes, symbolism and mad crazy ideas. I love the concept of Superman as an earthbound god who becomes a villain for no reason other than Batman decides he should be. I love the T.V. style debates. I love the Ronald Reagan cameo. It's freaking just awesome.
Regardless of owning numerous copies, having read it dozens of times, I have never had them on floppies. That was going to have to change. I found that they are widely available, but guaranteeing the best condition that I wanted at the right price I was willing to pay was the problem.
Why buy it right now? Well, I figure that after over 25 years, these first print books are going to be harder and harder to come across in NM. I've got no proof to back up that theory, but please allow me to excuse this indulgence! Ultimately though, if I don't scratch this from the wishlist (which it has been for the last four years) shortly, then I'm probably going to find it harder and the more expensive the book will be the later I'll leave it.
I know that I don't really need these books- it's more of a compulsion to own them- but I think that by having them will help me complete my collection and therefore, make my life a lot happier. And c'mon, this is DKR. It's that goddamn important.
And then this morning, I received a parcel this morning. And I got them. And I smiled. A lot. My life feels a lot more better right now.
Sunday, 22 May 2011
I have loved, and collected, a lot of things Ennis has done over the years: Preacher, Hitman, Punisher and now The Boys. There is one problem I have with the guy though: Its not the gratuitous language, or the graphic violence, or even the lack of taste: nor is it the trademark heroes in trenchcoats. No, it's because I think that while Ennis publicly dislikes writing superhero stuff, he seems awfully good at it. So much so, I would really like to see a long Garth Ennis' Batman run.
Take Legends of the Dark Knight #91-93, probably the only Ennis take on the Dark Knight (except as to what happens in Hitman...), and the pure awesomeness of it all. The Ennis checklist is thoroughly ticked off here (gun carrying badasses- check, trenchcoats- check, Vietnam veterans- check), and the tale he tells is definitely top quality Gotham-in-drug-induced-peril stuff. The villain of the piece, the psychedelic Doctor Freak, is so dangerously twisted that I'm honestly surprised that he hasn't made a mainstream return (or maybe he has, and I've not picked up the book) in the Bat universe. In short, I adore these three issues.
Also, lets not forget the art of William Simpson, who lays out the expertly. You can really tell that the artist is having some fun here, especially during the various LSD vision scenes.
If you see 'Freakout' on Ebay or in a comic shop, pick 'em up. I don't think they've ever been collected in TPB, which is a shame. Because everyone needs to know about Alfred Pennyworth's magic mushroom experience.
I've encountered this problem before when trying to finish James Robinson's Starman run, where the last block of books I needed were the last years worth. I got very, very lucky then, as I found most of them in a charity shop in Lancaster (And while I'm ranting about this problem, I'm still waiting to get my hands on the last ten issues of Sandman Mystery Theatre, and this has been on my wishlist for what seems like forever).
And what has this to do with my Batman Quest? Well, I'm of the opinion that finishing the spin-off books like Nightwing, Catwoman and Azrael will actually be a bit of a challenge to find. Need proof?
For the March '97 issue of Azrael #29, 34090 copiers were sold by Diamond Distributors to comic shops.
By Azrael #62 (January 2000) these sales had fallen to 24235. And, if you want any hint that DC were aware of the drop-off they changed the title to Azrael: Agent of the Bat a year or so before.
By the last Azrael #100 (March 2003) it was down to 15260. I know that these aren't Miracleman #15 figures, but I'm going to assume from now that this trend will be right across the Batman line. I just know that there will be a random book, in a random spin-off line, that is going to take me years to finish the title. Therefore, when this book was waiting for me in the post, I felt totally justified snapping it up.
Of course, I am even closer to London which takes about an hour on a train. And in the last 3 years the comic dealers there have made more and more money out of my need to buy comic books. It's gotten so bad that I have developed a strategy as to where I need to go and what I want to spend. Now, if I was to blow decent cash on trophy books I would visit 30th Century Comics in Putney and Krypton Komics in Tottenham, trouble is with these guys are quite a lot out of the way getting to and from the centre of London and I have to be in a serious mood to be spending the extra coin.
I'm moving away from the south shortly, and I decided that the last London haul (for what might be a long time) should be one where I pick up the most stuff I could get for the best price, and this would utilise the second strategy. That means getting into Paddington station and then take the tube straight to Leicester Square to visit Orbital Comics.
Orbital appears to be changed a lot in the last 3 years, and I think the first time I went there would've been in the old shop, when they moved into a much sexier site off Great Newport Street. Before laying into them too much, I will state for the record that I believe that Orbital is the finest comic shop that I have visited in the UK. Why? It just feels that somebody somewhere has thought about how a comic shop should look in a retail world of soft lighting and cool merchandising in the 21st Century. Nowadays, I get the impression that they are slimming down the amount of back issues that they carry as well as the fact that they don't have as many of the high end books they used to. Also, sadly, they very don't seem to have new stuff appearing in the back issue boxes (which has all ways astounded me as they have loaded longboxes underneath the main merchandise which must be exclusively opened for comic marts). This is a shame because the visit I made today meant that I was unable to spend a bean in there, and believe me I tried.
Walking out, I head north, past Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Avenue (few back issues held here!), and move up to to World of Comicana... But it doesn't seem to be there. I mean there is a comic shop on the site, and it seems to be manned by the same geezer that ran Comicana. Wow, we have a new shop called A Place in Space. And boy-oh-boy, after a lick of paint and a serious re-fit, what an improvement. I genuinely felt sorry for the guy who ran Comicana, it was poorly lit, stank of rotting cardboard, and it was freezing in the winter. As a result it, was never a particularly nice place to shop, but after a refit and lots of newer merchandise I was able to fill a few spaces in my Batbooks, as well as those in other collections.
Out of A Place of Space, I wandered towards the British Museum and went to Gosh! Comics. Always, I head past the graphic novels and descend downstairs to the Back Issue department. Gosh! is a bit odd, as their back issues policy is keeping the amount of back issue stock low yet the quality of the books are high. If anything is there too long, then they knock it down to a £1 or 50p. This was how a load of Nightwings and Detective Comics were snapped up and I didn't have to break the bank.
And then I went upstairs and something quite special happened. I overheard a few blokes chatting about a documentary they were doing. As a natural response, and knowing that media types frequent Gosh! (rumour has it, Gosh! counts Jonathon Ross as an owner) I rolled my eyes until I heard a familiar voice. A low, Northampton accent bellowed across the store. I walked past the three middle aged men, and I look at them individually. Could it be? I put my comics on the counter, I look at the cashier, he looks at me. I look at him as if to say that's him isn't it, and he looks at me as if to say yeah it is, and he's kind-of-a-regular. I look down at the counter Dodgem Logic is spread over the counter. I pay for the books. I get butterflies in the stomach, and I take a step back. Bear in mind I've never 'marked out' to this extent before, I decided that this is an opportunity that couldn't and shouldn't be missed.
I politely wait until the three men stop chatting and then I make eye contact with one of the most important creators in comic history. What should I say, what should I say... Have you seen Mallrats when Brody goes absolutely postal upon finding that Stan Lee was at his Mall? Well, I'm British we don't do that, I had already decided that I wasn't going to randomly buy a copy of Dodgem Logic and get the great man to sign it as that would be incredibly crass. I move forward and I offer my hand and I say:
“I just want to thank you for all the enjoyment that you've given me over the years.” And he takes my hand shakes it and tells me that he thanks me for being very kind! And then the Great Beard leaves the shop and seems really happy that this skulking 33 year old man has marked out in a totally understated way.
As I leave the shop, a couple a moments later, it dawns on me: I've just shaken Alan Moore's hand. I've met Alan Moore. And I've personally expressed gratitude to one of the most important comic book creators in the history of comics. Alan Moore. It's Alan Moore. Yeah!!!!
A trip up the Northern Line, I get off at Camden Town and to Mega City Comics. Cool shop, managed to refrain from spending £6K on Amazing Spiderman #1, and bought this trips earliest books for today's Quest Batman 428 and 429 for a coupla quid. Now I get to find out if why the readership of Batman at the time ordered the hit on the Jason Todd. And, that was the end of the haul!
So, what did I get:
Batman: 428, 429, 474, 554, 555, 556
Tec: 720, 721, 825, 826, 827, 829, 830, 831, 832, 833,
Shadow of the Bat Annual #1million
Legends of the Dark Knight 1992 Annual
Nightwing: 21, 26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 39, 49, 51,53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60
Azrael (v1): 8, 9, 18 and 55
Azrael (v2): 1
Robin 3: Cry of the Huntress: 4 and 5
Check em out...
This haul was excellent as I hoped it would be as I knew I wouldn't be in London for a long while, although that wasn't the best bit of today. Shaking Alan Moore's hand was.
(originally this was published on the 14/5, but I somehow deleted it!)
I'm sure everyone has already seen this viral promotional shot of Bane from 'The Dark Knight Rises'. For me, this looks quite cool. Question I have is whether the characterization by Tom Hardy will be to grunt like a brainless thug or speak intelligently in a Latin American accent?
Thursday, 12 May 2011
The oldest and one of my pride and joys in the comic collection so far: Batman 181. The first appearance of Poison Ivy. It's amazing how the character that appeared in this book evolved into a totally different animal, or maybe plant-based-lifeform, in less than thirty years.
Didn't take me long to go Burt Ward, on this blog... But as these are key first appearances I hope you'll let me off!
Here we've got Batman 232, the first appearance of Ra's Al Ghul, and Detective Comics 411, first appearance of Talia Al Ghul.