I woke up one morning and had a dream... Could I own every single issue of Detective Comics, Batman and all of the other subtitles in the Gotham universe?
Insane? Stupid? Inspired?
This can only end in obsession and financial chaos.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The Batman Quest: The Haul September 2011

This month the buying got out of control. Basically, I went to the Manchester Con, with one tactic: Burn as much cash as I could afford. There was also a lot of really good deals on the Bay that needed to picked up. Definitely over a hundred comics have been picked up this month, and I truly don't want to know the exact amount for fear that I might actually invoke a bit of buying guilt.

Also, I managed to get myself sidetracked, in a classic bit of impulsiveness, I decided that my collection actually ought to be enhanced with another completed series (I reasoned and justified, that it takes a really special kind of guy to try and pick up all the Animal Man books). So I went on a bit of a rampage trying to pick them up as well. Stupid, and a total waste of cash. But hey, life is to short not to try these things.

Impulsiveness. A dangerous villain to this Batman Quest.

There's definitely more than this, but these are the highlights:

Batman: 591-599, 607, 642, 654, 683, 684, 688-690, 712
Detective Comics: 510, 512, 513, 519, 538, 540, 541, 573, 802-805
Gotham Knights: 40-46, 56-58, 60-71
Batman & Robin: 18, 20-26
Azrael: 32-34, 49, 65
A shedload of Catwoman volume 2 and Robin.

Next month will be a bit more reserved and then I'm planning for another binge in November.

Well, that's the plan!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Gotham Event Reading Order: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul'

This crossover is 'The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul'. Published in 2007, a time when Carlos Tevez was only hated by one half of Manchester (ahem).

Haven't read this yet, and up to the point where I picked up the Grant Morrison written Part 4, I wasn't even aware that Ra's had been killed. Oh well, I'm sure it will become all very clear when I get (and read) Every damn Batman comic ever published.

Prelude- Batman #670- prelude
Part 1- Robin #168- part 1
Part 2- Nightwing #138
Part 3- Detective Comics #838
Part 4- Batman #671
Part 5- Robin #169
Part 6- Nightwing #139
Part 7- Detective Comics #840
Epilogue- Detective Comics #841

Buying Comics on the Internet Part 2

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Incognito Comics (click here to feel the awesomeness)... happily turning nerds into geeks since 1989.

I discovered these guys by chance, and thought I'd do a trial run at the start of the year buying a few Miracleman books. And was very impressed.

Then I noticed them again at the London Market Place Comic Mart a few months later. The lady running the stand was so lovely and patient (because of too much hardcore thrash metal, I was struggling to hear- long story!) that I was able to get a bit of a deal on a serious key book. This was just after she politely, and expertly, dealt with a rather odd, slightly disturbed social misfit (At a comic mart. Who would have thought?) who was complaining about something extremely trivial. So, these guys went from being just an impressive internet operation to being one of my favourite traders in the UK.

To give you another example how cool the guys are at Incognito, I can give you the example of the Manchester Comic Con. On the website, you will notice that they adveryise as to what events they plan to be selling their wares. You will also note that their inventory is astoundingly humongous, and it isn't cricket to assume that they will carry everything they stock to any advertised event. However, I was cheeky enough to ask them to bring an order with them to Manchester, so that I would pay for it upon collection. What was cool, was that they happily agreed, therefore avoiding the p+p costs (or shipping in Americanish). A final touch was also made, that warmed my inner retailer, they warned me as to what type of stock they planned to take to the event (which was manga), so if I wanted any more to give them a Heads Up.

I'm fully aware of the 'add-sell' at play in this interaction. But they were so pleasant at it, that I feel not a shard of bitterness. And if I was feeling wealthier, they would have had me hook line and sinker. If I felt wealthier now, I'd go mental with a credit card on the site right this second.

In short, these guys are a joy to deal with. I'd love to visit the shop.

- They have a truly wonderful website. And it works
- Grading is at play. As it should be with some of the stock they carry.
- Bruce Campbell works there ("It's a trick. Get an axe")
- Great range of stock, especially old stuff.
- The Packaging that they use is impervious to all types of man-made disaster.
- All guys working here seem to be professional and polite.

- Uh, none. Except they use polystyrene loose fill in big boxes of expensive comics. Which is totally understandable. However, when you're not expecting them in the box, and then they burst free all over the carpet, sofa and the cat you will curse (C'mon that really isn't a justifiable complaint, is it?).

There you are. As good as it gets, as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Buying Comics on the Internet Part 1

Okay, So I'm currently restricted to a handful of places where I am able to buy comic books. This is totally due to the remote geographical position I now live in. My new comic book dealer is based in Lancaster (and this is directly aimed at the new students about to hit Lancaster University: Buy Comics From First Age Comics at the Assembly Rooms Market!) and he's really excellent. And then I have a few other options, but these are based on total luck, whether they have anything that tickles my fancy.

The other option is the internet. Now eBay is the usually the best outlet for all UK back issue collectors. And by and large it is wholly gratifying experience. Although there are a few other dealers that specialise selling back issues online.

The first one I want to deal with is BackIssueComics.co.uk (click here).

When you look and play around the BackIssueComics website you are destined to think that a lifeform lower than a amoeba has designed the site. Also that same lifeform obviously couldn't be bothered to alocate enough cash towards any bandwidth. It's fair to say that if you happened upon this website, and didn't know any better, you'd think that when you handed over you credit card details you'd be getting a phone call from your bank. The conversation would probably be along the lines of...

"Sir, can I take a few details...

"Is something wrong?"

"Sir, are you currently buying Cristal?"

"Crystal, what glasses?"

"Cristal CHAMPAGNE. At £150 a bottle. Like the entire British allocation..."

"No. That's ridiculous!"

"We thought so, but some Nigerian fellow is trying to do so- all over London. With your credit card."

Yes, it's fair to say that invoking trust is the website's core foundation.

Fortunately, before I get sued for defamation, this is a genuine site that I have used a number of times over the years. And believe me, this incarnation of the website is a vast improvement on the old one.

And who are the guys behind this site: one of the biggest players in UK Comic Book retail, Forbidden Planet International. Obviously they belive the internet is a fad...

First the positives.
- The stock is pretty new
- It's very reasonably priced, indeed there are some bargains should you trawl through the site enough.
- And when they turn up are well packaged, and won't cost the earth either.

- Sheer amateaurism. I once got a telephone call saying they actually LOST my credit card details, that went through their secure server. And then actually asked me if I would mind just giving them again to someone random, over the phone! (Yes, I still have the angry email exchange!).
- No guarentee that they are 'Mint' as they won't grade their books. Although that really never bothered me, it might other customers.
- Can be Very Slow. I usually expect three weeks for them turn up.

So there you are. Worth a look, you might get that random comic you've been after.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Holy First Appearances!!!

Batman #635- The first appearance of one of my favourite villains in Batman, that has appeared in the last few years, The Red Hood.

Of course the term 'Red Hood' has a history in Batman. For example the most famous use of the identity, according to Alan Moore's 'Killing Joke', was that under the scarlet helmet was the man who became the Joker. I'm sure that there will be other 'Red Hood' identities throughout the Batman titles, it's just I haven't seem them yet. It's just that this Red Hood looked permanent.

It was the unveiling of this 'Red Hood' which was brilliantly done. After a lot of teasing, and tweening, the man under the mask turned out to be a re-incarnated Jason Todd! I was truly surprised when I read this bombshell in the collected Trade Paperback two years ago. Seems that you can be blown up and return from the Dead. Only in comics...

There are many reasons why I liked the presentation of the new Red Hood. And the main one was that this was a fully developed, well thought through characterisation of Jason Todd. Here is a character that has a highly skilled method behind his madness, as all good villains must have. Crucially, though, it is the foundations of Jason Todd's rebellious, careless (Jim Starlin's work on Todd in the 1980's was particularly strong) Robin that are fully built upon. There is a logical purpose, that Jason Todd, as The Red Hood, now lives by.

Here is a villain that Batman cannot like. The Red Hood is a crazed homicidal maniac in The Punisher mould (and The Red Hood is not even presented as a full-on villain, until later story arcs). However, because of the personal history between the characters there is a sense of responsibility that shines through their subsequent meetings, which adds a complexity to the straight-forward-Batman-gets-the-badguy story.

Welcome back Jason Todd, the Batman universe is a better place for you being back in it.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Big Event: Death in the Family

When Denny O'Neill took editorial control on the Batman books, he would become responsible for some of the most important story lines that have ever affected the Batman character. The bravest moment, of probably two that he made, was asking the Batman readership whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, should be killed off.

Yes, it was a publicity gimmick, described by O'Neill as 'The Great Robin Experiment', and it really, really worked. I'm old enough to remember it getting a segment on 'John Craven's Newsround' (a kid's news show on the advert-free BBC, for those who don't know), which meant that this event went mainstream all over the world. The 'experiment' was decided by a phone poll, and the results were 5271 to 5434. The result: a paltry 72 votes decided that a teenage boy (true, a brilliantly written fictional one) should be beaten to death and then blown up. The only people that treated this event as a wake, were the Batman editorial team, who ordered food so they could await the final result in the DC offices.

So, the main event of this Starlin/Aporo storyline (which had showed Batman and Robin fighting the evils of child pornography, atomic terrorism, African famine, crazed Islamic dictators and corrupt charities) was that Jason Todd had to Die.

It's the consequences of Jason Todd's death that are more interesting for me. It was how this death would be used as a narrative device for the next twenty years. As O'Neill noted in 'From The Den', part of the success of Batman was because there was also a Robin. And this formula had successfully worked for over fifty years. By pulling apart the Batman and Robin team it would allow writers to explore a 'back to basics', lone Dark Knight but by doing this it might alienate a section of the readership. Recognising this the many writers were clever enough to make Jason Todd's death as an additional emotional factor for Bruce Wayne journey into the dark night. So that Batman was now haunted by another ghost to avenge on the mean streets of Gotham City. In short, new emotions, new stories, new possibilities! Great decision!

However, decision doesn't reflect in the actual monetary value of the comic book. While I am quickly closing in on the completion of the Denny O'Neill era of Batman, this is one of a handful of books that I felt I had to pay a little more for (which, at this point in the Quest, is very rare). Fortunately, I picked it up for a paltry fee at a comic mart. This was surprising, as it proved to me that the market value of this story has not responded to this massive event in Batman folklore. Yet, I do think that in future years, as these books will become rarer to find on the open market in NM condition, I predict they will rise in value as the market corrects itself. Regardless, of the telephone gimmick, I truly believe that this storyline is still very, very important. So if you're a collector of Batman (like me) then snap this storyline up as soon as you can.

Don't worry though, Jason Todd may have died, he did recover. In the science of comic books it is possible to recover from being bludgeoned with a crowbar, and then blown to smithereens. It just takes a few decades to do it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Holy First Appearances!!!

Batman #417, the first appearance of the KGBeast.

Published way back in 1988, while the 'Evil Empire' of the Soviet Union was starting to implode into several states, the writers of Batman decided to ignore this historic event. They had a better idea: Create a villain that is a die-hard communist villain that is hell-bent on killing the President of the USA! Such a nasty piece of work has now become a key book in the Batman folklore. Comrades, I give you the KGBeast!

The presentation of this hardcore character, is still a bit baffling for me as you will note from the cover from a few issues later. While The KGBeast is definitely a formidable, super hard bastard (he cuts his own hand off at one point to get away from the Bat!) and very well trained, it is the politics that makes for the interesting subtext in his 'Ten Nights of the Beast' debut (which I'll probably come revisit at a later date).

However, there is a little bit of (what're the words, ahem) sexually deviant involved with the costume that doesn't quite fit well with the doctrine of Marx and Engels.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Quest Attacks Carlisle

Carlisle is a strange, small city. And I mean this in a good way. An English town where the accents are sometimes slightly Scottish, slightly Geordie, and sometimes, old-school Cumberland. When you drive around the city it dawns on you that this is somehow a wealthy place to live. When Cumbria was constructed in the seventies, Carlisle was made the administrative centre which was odd as it is really about as remote as it is possible to be.

Why am I boring you with this nonsense? Well, Carlisle is home to a comic shop, Imagination Station. Yes, I know if you Google this information, you'll be as suspicious as I was. With no internet footprint whatsoever, or even a listed telephone number, I had decided that an investigative road trip was in order.

Imagination Station, Carlisle's Comic Centre, is upstairs above a charity shop and seems to pride itself on it's anonyminity, and this is a truly, brave thing. As a business, it seems to be doing very well- thank you very much, and that's not to be sniffed at in the UK retail market. I'm serious, you could walk past the front door over a thousand times, and ignore the cardboard sign, that sits above the doors advertising what lies inside. No sandwich board outside, no sign next to the door, no green hulk painted on the side of the building, take a look at the Streetmap picture (CA3 8HJ, for you SatNavers). Squint, a bit and you'll see what I'm talking about.

As you enter the front door, you are heralded by a large sign of where you are on the left hand side. Then you go through another door, that approaches a staircase (here, is where you're more than likely to break your ankle as the base of the stairs is a below the flooring level) and as you go up the stairs you trigger a doorbell, just after you head past a 'don't run on the stairs' (which you can't as you're probably suffering the effects of a broken ankle) sign, and then you start noticing wonderful Jim Lee posters!

Limping inside the shop there are three main rooms, of which only the main one was actually for customers, and these are where all the new releases sit. The first thing that strikes you is that you can tell that this is a long running shop that has adapted to it's dominant DC clientèle (according to the owner nearly 90% of his standing orders are DC). Green Lantern, Superman and 'DC52' posters are everywhere. The two side rooms, however, caught me attention because there are loads of alluring longboxes, and these were sitting in 'Staff Only' areas.

There's a host of wonderful signs to customers. 'CASH ONLY' the most blunt, and another blaming the rise in oil prices as to why Bags, Boards and Boxes, have risen in price. I got the impression throughout the visit that the regulars were like feral beasts that would regularly besiege the owner on random occasions (I could fit in a joke here about the Scottish, but that would be a cheap shot). So it was either these signs, or waving around a big pointy stick at them, I wondered?

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect going to Carlisle, so I gambled by bringing my wish-list, and I got lucky. I told the owner straight out that I was after back issues, noted that he had loads, and asked what his protocol was (hell, you never want to piss-off a comic shop owner by just piling in- manners, may help you get a deal!) in getting at them. So he takes my list, and I tell him which ones I have prioritised upon, and less than ten minutes I'm standing at the counter chuffed that I had just filled a number of annoying holes in the collection. As back issue prices go, they were an average of £2 a pop (London, is still the cheapest place I've found to pick up back issues...), but I didn't care, I was happy. Then for the next twenty minutes we talked shop. And especially about the mayhem of the DC52. That the inevitable result of Diamond sell-outs is that it will annoy all of the fanboys who originally claimed to boycott the DC52, only to change their mind a week before the event (so watch for the venomous, putrid bile, by the unwashed geek minority to hit the internet over the next couple of weeks, focusing on DC52 availability).

So to conclude, Carlisle is still in middle of nowhere, and yes: Imagination Station does exist. And it's pretty good, just watch your ankle, as you go up the stairs.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Batman #713- The End?

That's the last of the Batman Volume 1. First published way back in 1940, with a history of important key issues, cool stories and brilliant entertainment. And now without dispute, the most prominant title in my collection. I suppose life goes on, and all of that.
I thought I'd pick it up 'fresh' as these last issues tend to go up in value (although, I really never understand why), fortunately I fell in love with the awesome cover when I saw it on CBR, and just knew that I had to pick it up.

Cool, huh?

As a collector, I am selfishly thankful for DC unintentionally putting in a conclusion for my near four thousand comic buying frenzy (no more to get after the DC52!). Although I am sure going to miss this 1940 incarnation of the 'Batman' title, I genuinely hope that by pressing the reset button on every single title, they actually inspire (and corrupt) a new generation of comic collecting hobbyists.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The August Haul

Results are as follows...

Batman 577 to 581, 584 to 590, 602, 713
Detective Comics 728, 747 to 752,
Gotham Knights: 50 to 55,
Batman Incorporated 8
Gotham City Secret Files & Origins #1
Huntress volume 2: 1, 3,

What with the other things that I have been up to this month, his has been a really quiet month. Around 30 comics get added to The Batman Quest. There has been a focus on bridging gaps in the B(1940) and 'Tec, which are coming on nicely...

Sure, there are a few other things that are finding their way to me via eBay, but they won't get counted as being as part of this months tally, but that seems to be the way of least resistance right now!

I think that there will be some caped crusader vengeance next month...